James Chalmers of New Guinea
Errands of Justice and Mercy


WHILE Tamate and his colleagues had much to encourage them in their persistent efforts to establish the gospel of peace in heathen New Guinea, they never lost sight of the fact that they were dealing with a treacherous people in whom the instincts of the savage were, at the best, only latent. In the preceding chapter we have indicated a number of the tokens of progress with which they were cheered in the year 1881, but in the spring of that same year they had sustained one of the most serious reverses yet experienced. On the 7th of March, the natives of Kalo, a village at the head of Hood Bay, near the mouth of the Kemp-Welch River, massacred four Polynesian teachers, with the wives and children of two of them, and two Hula boys—in all twelve persons.

The teachers at Hula and Kerepunu, villages in the immediate neighbourhood of Kalo, were at once withdrawn, from a fear that the anti-foreign rising might spread through the district; but when Tamate hastened to the spot, within six weeks of the massacre, he was satisfied that the trouble was a purely local one, and might be traced to the animosity of one man, Quaibo, the chief of the village community of Kalo.

Tamate did not visit Kalo itself, fearing to compromise the mission, and anticipating the intervention of the Government of Queensland, which, at the time, considered the British subjects on New Guinea to be within the sphere of its protection. He was, however, able to form some estimate of the cause of the outrage.

"I fear we are not altogether free from blame," he reported to his Directors. "The teachers are often very indiscreet in their dealings with the natives, and not overcareful in what they say; there has also, perhaps, sometimes been a niggard regard to expense on our part. A very few pounds spent at a station like Kalo in the first years would, I believe, prevent much trouble, and probably murder. The Kalo natives felt that Hula and Kerepunu got the most tobacco and tomahawks, and that their share was small indeed. Instead of our buying all the thatch required for the other stations— only obtainable at Kalo—we got the teachers, with their boys, to get it. We meant it well, to save expense. My experience teaches me to throw all I can in the way of natives not connected with our head-station. At this station— Port Moresby—for the next few years the expenses will be considerable in buildings, laying out the land, and in presents to the constant stream of visitors; but it will have a Christianising and a civiJising effect upon a large extent of country."

Tamate’s anticipation proved to be correct. As soon as the magistrate on Thursday Island had had an opportunity of communicating with his superiors, a man-of-war arrived at Port Moresby to inquire into the massacre, with a view to reporting to the Commodore of the Australian fleet. The missionaries declined to make a report, being opposed to the infliction of any punishment on the Kalo natives.

But, some months later, the war-vessel returned, with the information that the Commodore had decided to make an example of Kalo, in the hope of putting a stop to these coast murders. Tamate was sent for, and arrived at the Port on the same day as H.M.S. Wolverene. Commodore Wilson landed, and asked Tamate to accompany him to Kalo, as he had determined make war upon the village, secure Quaibo, and hang him. Tamate objected, but the Commodore pressed his invitation, upon the plea that the missionary’s presence would make it evident that the expedition was one of peace. He further explained that he should be sorry if a single shot were fired. It was quite evident that the chief persisted in his disaffection; for, some weeks previously, he had sent a message to Tamate, to the effect that he was watching everywhere, and would not be satisfied until he had the missionary’s head on his sacred place: a message to which Tamate had replied that he would visit Kalo, and would leave it with his head on his shoulders.

Consistently with his promise, Commodore Wilson gave the following instructions to his officers and men: "I do hope there will be no firing. Remember, there is neither honour nor glory attached to this business. You can shoot these savages down hundreds of yards away, and they must be close on you before they can do you any harm. Try to get the chief, make him a prisoner, and bring him off."

To cut a long story short, the village was surprised and surrounded. The natives showed fight, and after three blue-jackets had been severely wounded, the lieutenant in charge of the landing party gave the order to fire. At the first volley four natives were shot dead and several were wounded. The chief himself was the first to fall. Two natives were taken prisoner, and the rest of the combatants fled into the bush. "There was no looting, not a cocoa-nut touched, not a pig shot, and not a woman or child molested." The chief’s largest house was destroyed.

The people now manifested a strong desire for peace; presents were brought to the Commodore, and presents were given by him in return. Tamate had to confess that this punitive expedition had "a wonderful effect." "All the natives say that only a very powerful chief and people could ever act so; mingle thus mercy. with justice, show so much mercy when all power was theirs."

In this connection, Tamate has given us his valuable opinion upon the general question of punitive expeditions.

"Indiscriminate shooting down of innocent natives, burning villages, and cutting down cocoa-nut trees, I think mere barbarism. It ought never to be done by our navy. Every shot fired and every deed done by our blue-jackets and marines are acts of war; and is it right that a great nation should do such things to savages? Better far that we should suffer than that we should do wrong; and I altogether object to our navy being used in such mean service, especially when, in many instances, some of our countrymen have suffered for their own or others’ misdeeds.

Crimes have been committed by white men in the east end of New Guinea and the Louisiade Archipelago that I fear many will suffer for in the future. Already payment is being made, and the innocent are suffering for the guilty."

Before leaving New Guinean waters, Commodore Wilson proceeded to Aroma, with intention to inflict some form of punishment for the murder of seven Chinamen, which, as already mentioned, had taken place there in July of the previous year. But when Koapena, the chief of Aroma, explained in dumb show the brutal conduct of the murdered men, the Commodore agreed with Tamate that the natives had been quite justified in their action, "and that we should do the same if foreigners treated our daughters, wives, sisters, and sweethearts as those men did the native women."

Tamate thoroughly enjoyed his fortnight’s cruise on the Wolverene, and was almost tempted to accompany the Commodore on a visit to Australia, but, remembering unaccomplished work, he remained in New Guinea, and returned to Port Moresby and the Gulf.

Towards the close of 1881, it was rumoured that the Manu manuans were at war with Kabadi, and that the natives of the latter district were fitting out a large fleet of fighting-canoes with the intention of making an early descent upon Manumanu and other villages occupied by Motuans. Tamate determined to visit his "Kabadi friends," and, after considerable difficulty in securing a boat’s crew, set out upon 6th February 1882. Once more the Port Moresby natives did all in their power to intimidate the crew. Heni, one of the Motu chiefs, had consented to accompany Tamate, and it was probably due to his courageous action that the five rowers took their places when the start was made. To his weeping relatives Heni said, "Do not weep for me. If he lives, I live; if he is killed, I too shall be killed; but it will be peace and sure friendship."

At every stage in the outward voyage his terrified crew sought to persuade Tamate to abandon his project. The Manumanuans were equally assured that he was going to certain death, and beset his boat, praying him to return. "On no account go to Kabadi," they said; "not one of you will ever be seen again. Have they not spoken evil of you, Tamate?" One old woman, however, waded out to him, as he sat in the stern of the boat, and whispered to him, "Go, Tamate, go; the Kabadi will treat you all kindly, and not injure one of you—they are only too anxious to see you."

The old woman proved to be right. At every village Tamate had a royal welcome. "All were friendly, and glad indeed to see us, and wondered why we had not come sooner." At one chief’s village he found a Bochim indeed. The old man had lost by death his son, his daughter, and his brother. "Alas, alas, Tamate!" he cried; "had you only come sooner, before my darling son died, he might have lived; but you come long after, to weep only at his grave. Oh, my son, my son! I shall never again see you. Why did you die? why leave me so?"

The Kabadi repudiated the rumours which had been the cause of Tamate’s visit, and explained that they had been waiting long, and with fear, to know what. action the Motu tribe were to take. They accepted his appearance in their midst as a token of peace, and begged for the renewal of the trade intercourse whereby they were able to purchase uros, or earthenware pots, in exchange for the food-stuffs cultivated by them.

At Manumanu the natives came in for a good share of abuse from the boat’s crew. Old Heni warned them all to be careful in future, and never again to "cut asunder" the peace. "But for the missionaries," he said, "we should have taken everything from you long ago, and burned every house in your village." To Tamate old Heni said, as they came in sight of home, "As the sun shines, so do you. Such a thing as has now been done has never before been done on this coast, and it is only by the gospel of peace it could be done." And the crew all joined in chorus, "True, true; very true."

In August Tamate was back at Manumanu, and this time ascended the river to the district in which he had formerly visited the Dourans. But although he scoured the country in different directions, he found nothing but deserted villages, and no sign of human life anywhere. In the previous year the Koitabuans had made serious reprisals, in revenge of earlier onslaught by the Dourans, and had almost exterminated the tribe, the remnant fleeing to the hills. Where, three years previously, Tamate had seen "much life and heartiness," and had been well received by the people, he now found desolation, decayed habitations, and deserted plantations. Doura’s prowess had been completely broken; all her best warriors had been slain; in repeated raids the Koitabuans had killed men, women, and children— entirely wiping out some families. In the absence of sufficient food supplies and of native guides, Tamate found it necessary to abandon any attempt to ascend one of the spurs of Mount Owen Stanley, and he returned in disappointment to the coast.

Tamate’s last excursion for the year was made, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Lawes, to the districts of Sogeri and Tabure. The ground covered had in great part been explored on earlier occasions, and there is little record of the work accomplished.

Upon a date in 1882 which we have not been able to trace, Tamate made a short visit to South Cape, the scene of his early New Guinean labours. Only five years had passed, but there was much to hearten him in the visible improvement wrought in the condition of the people by the operations of the teachers at the station, following upon his own pioneer efforts. The cannibal ovens were gone; skulls were no longer sought as trophies of savage prowess. "Tribes that could not formerly meet but to fight, now meet as friends, and sit side by side in the same house worshipping the true God. Men and women who, on the arrival of the mission, sought the missionaries’ lives, are only anxious now to do what they can to assist them, even to the washing of their feet. How the change came about is simply by the use of the same means as those acted upon in many islands of the Pacific. The first missionaries landed not only to preach the gospel of Divine love, but also to live it, and to show to the savage a more excellent way than theirs; learning the language, mixing freely with them, showing kindnesses, receiving the same, travelling with them, differing from them, making friends, assisting them in their trading, and in every way making them feel that their good only was sought."

The reference above to travel with the natives reminds us of the fearless manner in which Tamate was wont to entrust himself to boats’ crews who were scarcely one degree removed from the pure savage.

"I remember once in a boat, in the Gulf of Papua," he told the Royal Geographical Society, "two of my crew began to quarrel; they both belonged to the east end, and when I woke up they were nearly coming to blows, and the one was saying to the other, ‘I did eat a little bit of your father,’ but this the other denied."

Great as was the advance that had been made by the aid of the Polynesian teachers, Tamate’s earliest pioneering had enabled him to realise that the native of New Guinea could preserve a certain measure of health in many a district in which the climate and general environment were absolutely dangerous for the Polynesian or the white missionary. This conviction gave birth to the determination to endeavour to raise up a native ministry at the earliest opportunity. From among the first converts at Port Moresby, volunteers were found, and in the beginning of 1883 Tamate and his colleague founded at Port Moresby the New Guinea Institution for Training Evangelists. Within three months, twelve students and their wives were under instruction, and the hope was engendered that before many years had gone the mission might be able to dispense with the aid of the Polynesian teachers—aid rendered at great cost of health and life. In this new venture, the valuable experience gained in the conduct of the Institution at Rarotonga must have stood Tamate in good stead.


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