British Workman " Love your enemies"

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Key Stage 5 History Student Handout
Missionaries, Colonialism and the British Workman
Love your enemies”

On page 7 of the second issue of the British Workman is an article entitled ‘War Prevented’ about an incident between the British forces in New Zealand and a Māori tribe leader’s son, Tamahana. The picture above accompanies the article with the title ‘Tamahana persuading the hostile chiefs to peace’. The article explains that the tribe leader, Te Rauparaha, had been captured by the British, suspected of supporting insurgents opposed to the British on the Islands. The local tribes, the article continues, anticipated that the son would want them to kill all the English in key settlements. However the son wants no revenge. He has converted to Christianity and refers to the English as his brothers ‘..brothers do not fight with brothers. If the English will fight, let us yet do right. Let us do according to the words in Saint Matthew “Love your enemies”…’
To understand the context of this story and the British Workman’s interpretation of events we need to understand Britain’s role in New Zealand in the mid nineteenth century.
Nineteenth Century New Zealand
Famously in 1769 Captain Cook and the French explorer Jean-François-Marie de Surville were the first European visitors to New Zealand since a brief visit by Abel Tasman in 1642.

In 1800 New Zealand was predominantly a Māori society. It is believed that the Māori people have lived in New Zealand since the fourteenth century. The Māori population in 1800 was estimated at between 100-120,000, when the European population was estimated to be in the hundreds. Inter-tribal wars during this time had a dramatic impact on the Māori population. By 1840 the Māori population is estimated to have been between 70-90,000.i

At the centre of Māori religion were the atua or gods. In Māori belief the natural and supernatural worlds were one – there was no Māori word for religion The Māori natural world teemed with gods and unseen beings and required thoughtful navigation.
The values of the Māori society were primarily communal in nature. Individuals were seen as the voice of the group. There was a rich tapestry of intricate family relationships. People saw themselves in a sacred relationship with natural world and the exploitation of natural resources was conducted under strict regimes of tapu (sacredness) and mana (spiritual authority) administered by tohunga (priests).

By the time of European arrival, Māori had settled the land, and every corner came within the interest and influence of a particular tribal or sub-tribal grouping.ii

Missionaries - Agents of virtue in a world of vice?
Christianity came to New Zealand in 1815 when the Church Missionary Society (CMS) arrived from Britain via Australia. Historian James Belich described the Christian missionaries as the 'agents of virtue in a world of vice' iii
The missionaries went to great lengths to bring Christianity and 'civilisation' to the Māori. In the early years they were largely unsuccessful for missionaries in terms of saving souls. However the missionaries were important for the Māori as contacts for trade as well as bringing new ideas. In all the missionaries had a major impact on many Māori communities. The introduction of the written word and the development of a written Māori language represented a massive change.

The Māori were keen to trade with the sealers, whalers, traders and missionaries who arrived during the opening decades of the 19th century. Māori were also very open to many of the new ideas that came with contact. Literacy introduced by the Christian missionaries became an increasingly important feature of Maori culture in the 1830s.

From the mid-1830s the printed word became a new weapon in the campaign to bring Christianity to Māori. In 1835 the Church Missionary Society printer, William Colenso, printed a Māori translation of the Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to the Ephesians. Colenso then produced 5000 copies of William Williams's Māori New Testament, and then 27,000 copies of the Book of Common Prayer in Māori . By 1840 Colenso had produced over 74,000 books and pamphlets.iv By 1842 over 3000 Māori in the Bay of Islands had been baptised.

Māori New Testament cover 1837v

The Catholic Mission to New Zealand was also as determined. In October 1842, 6000 handmade copies of the 648-page Ko te ako me te karakia o te hahi Katorika Romana (The teachings and prayers of the Roman Catholic Church) were produced.
The Māori were very interested in these publications and recognition of the printed word and literacy provided them with essential skills in order to survive in a post-contact world.

Māori Chief Te Puni being baptised by Reverend Octavius Hadfieldvi

Before 1840 Europeans arrived in New Zealand in their hundreds, in the 1840s and 1850s in their thousands, and from the 1860s in their tens of thousands. Some argued that the non-European worlds crumpled ‘under the weight of expanding Europe’. The Māori population fell from 100,000 to just over 40,000 by the end of the century and concerns were raised about the end of Māori civilisation. Māori survival was described by historian James Belich as ‘the great survival story of modern times’. vii

Historians suggest that the missionaries played a key role in the European colonisation of New Zealand and were instrumental in Britain's decision to offer Māori a treaty in 1840. This they argue opened ‘the floodgates for European settlement and changed the face of New Zealand in a way unimaginable a generation before’.viii

Colonialism and The British Empire
Between the years 1815 to 1914 the British Empire included over 14 million square miles of territory and 450 million people. It included more than a quarter of the world's population. The phrase ‘the sun never set on the British Empire’ (attributed to a Scottish writer, John Wilson) gives an indication of the extent of its reach. Britain had supremacy at sea and took on the role of global policeman. With formal control over its own colonies and with a dominant position in world trade Britain could effectively control the economies of many countries including China, Argentina and Siam.
From the 1820s colonial reformers argued that colonies could be an asset to, not a drain on, the empire, provided their political economies were reorganised. For these reformers South Australia (which became a colony in 1836) and New Zealand were to be the models for ‘systematic colonisation’. The New Zealand Company was formed in London for that purpose.ix

The Treaty of Waitangi was an important treaty signed on 6 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, including Te Rauparaha, from the North Island of New Zealand. It resulted in the declaration of British sovereignty over New Zealand in May 1840. The Treaty established a British Governor of New Zealand, recognised Māori ownership of their lands, forests and other properties, and gave the Māori the rights of British subjects. In return the Māori people ceded New Zealand to Queen Victoria, giving her government the sole right to purchase land.x

During the nineteenth century Britain became a wealthy nation with its ports full with ships arriving with goods from all over the world. The Great Exhibition of 1851, the very first World's Fair, was a celebration of the diversity and richness of the Empire.xi

The British Workman ‘War Prevented’ Article in context
Understanding the political and economic context of the British role in New Zealand in the mid nineteenth century helps us better understand the British Workman ‘War Prevented’ article. The key message in the piece suggests that the missionaries’ goal of bringing Christianity to the country as well as British colonialisation through European settlement, would bring peace and should not be resisted. Te Rauparaha’s son Tamahana does not want to avenge for his father’s imprisonment but to resist violence and to love his enemy. New Zealand historians have since established that the Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha resisted the New Zealand Company attempts to survey and settle land he had not sold. In July 1846 British Governor George Grey took him prisoner, illegally without charge, until January 1848 while ‘Grey crushed his tribe’.  The ‘Love your enemies’ message in the British Workman therefore implies that the indigenous Māori people should accept and not resist the British religious and cultural influences imposed on them at that time. The article therefore subtly implies British superiority and the moral justification of colonization.

An 1845 pencil sketch of Ngāti Toa chief Te Rauparaha by Edward Abbott xii

This sketch of Te Rauparaha in 1847 shows himwearing a naval uniform that he was given after his arrest and detention in Auckland in 1846

Emigration from Britain to New Zealand ‘Good News for the Working Classes!’

Poster 1 1839 Poster 2 1850s

poster 1

"First Scottish Colony for New Zealand" – 1839 poster advertising emigration from Scotland to New Zealand. Collection of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.xiii

Poster 2

Each province was expected to advance through a combination of immigration and land development. While most provinces sold land, Auckland was prepared to grant 40 acres (16 hectares) of land to ‘every industrious man or woman, of good character’ as a means of attracting more emigrants from Britain.xiv

To attract workers to these very distant shores the New Zealand Company used books, pamphlets and broadsheets to promote the country as ‘a Britain of the South’, a fertile land with a benign climate, free of starvation, class war and teeming cities.

Agents spread the good news around the rural areas of southern England and Scotland to attract agricultural labourers. Free passages for ‘mechanics, gardeners and agricultural labourers’ was offered to generate interest. The first ships arrived in Wellington from January 1840. The poster (No.3) below is an example of how ‘emigration agents’ lured British workers to New Zealand.xv

From 1853 to 1870 the non-Māori population of New Zealand grew to over 250,000. Europeans were attracted to the developing wool export industry and then the discovery of gold. Immigrants arrived steadily throughout the 1850s, and then poured in for the gold rush of the early 1860s. There were three main groups arriving - assisted families coming directly from Britain; individuals from across the Tasman looking for a better life; and military settlers.xvi

In February 1874 Canterbury’s emigration agent Andrew Duncan was lecturing at Turriff in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, on the opportunities for tradesmen, labourers and domestic servants to earn good money in the province.

Poster 3xvii 1874


What’s in a Name?

This early city plan of 1840s Auckland shows just how British this new colony was intended to be. Street names – Queen, Victoria, Albert – pay tribute to the reigning monarch. Others, such as Wellington and Marlborough, recall Britain’s military heroes, and two honour New Zealand’s first administrators, Hobson and Shortland.xix


ii Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal. 'Māori - Pre-European society', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 3-Feb-15


iii 'The Christian missionaries', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Nov-2014

iv ditto



vii 'Overview of NZ in the 19th century: 1800-40', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Aug-2014





xii Steven Oliver. 'Te Rauparaha', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012

article on need for balance when teaching about colonialism







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