December 21, 1835 (a Monday)

Charles Darwin by G Richmond.

On this date, HMS Beagle arrived at New Zealand with Charles Darwin on board. He was not too impressed with the natives (Maori), whom he viewed with suspicion (they practiced cannibalism before the missions arrived).

I should think a more warlike race of inhabitants could not be found in any part of the world than the New Zealanders. Their conduct on first seeing a ship, as described by Captain Cook, strongly illustrates this: the act of throwing volleys of stones at so great and novel an object, and their defiance of “Come on shore and we will kill and eat you all,” shows uncommon boldness. This warlike spirit is evident in many of their customs, and even in their smallest actions. If a New Zealander is struck, although but in joke, the blow must be returned; and of this I saw an instance with one of our officers.

(…)

The first European impression of Māori people, by Isaac Gilsemans (the artist on Abel Tasman's voyage to New Zealand in 1642).

The first European impression of Māori people, by Isaac Gilsemans (the artist on Abel Tasman’s voyage to New Zealand in 1642).

Looking at the New Zealander, one naturally compares him with the Tahitian; both belonging to the same family of mankind. The comparison, however, tells heavily against the New Zealander. He may, perhaps, be superior in energy, but in every other respect his character is of a much lower order.

(…)

Whilst at New Zealand we did not hear of any recent acts of cannibalism; but Mr. Stokes found burnt human bones strewed round a fire-place on a small island near the anchorage; but these remains of a comfortable banquet might have been lying there for several years. It is probable that the moral state of the people will rapidly improve.

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