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The Making of an Anglican Martyr: Bishop John Coleridge Patteson of Melanesia

  • David Hilliard (a1)


Since the beginning of Anglican missionary activity in the southwest Pacific in the mid-nineteenth century, fifteen European missionaries and at least seven Pacific Islanders have died violently in the course of their work. In that same region, comprising island Melanesia and New Guinea, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, and the London Missionary Society [L.M.S.] have each had their honour roll of martyrs. Three of these have achieved a measure of fame outside the Pacific and their own denomination: John Williams of the L.M.S., killed at Erromanga in Vanuatu (formerly the New Hebrides) in 1839; James Chalmers, also of the L.M.S., killed in New Guinea in 1901; and John Coleridge Patteson, Missionary Bishop of Melanesia and head of the Melanesian Mission, killed in 1871. Patteson has been the subject of more than fifteen biographies (several of them in German and Dutch), in addition to essays in collections on English missionary heroes, scholarly articles, and pamphlets for popular consumption. In Anglican churches in England, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and elsewhere he is commemorated as missionary hero in memorial tablets and stained-glass windows.



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1 The standard biographies are by Mary Yonge, Charlotte, Life of John Coleridge Patteson, Missionary Bishop of lhe Melanesian Islands, 2 vols (London, 1874), and (Sir)Gutch, John, Martyr of the Islands: the Life and Death of John Coleridge Patteson (London, 1971). See also Hilliard, David, ‘John Coleridge Patteson: missionary bishop of Melanesia’, in Davidson, J. W. and Scarr, Deryck, eds, Pacific Islands Portraits (Canberra, 1970), pp. 177200 ; Armstrong, E. S., The History of the Melanesian Mission (London, 1900), parts 1–3: and Fox, C. E., Lord of the Southern Isles: Being the Story of the Anglican Mission in Melanesia, 1849–1949 (London, 1958), ch. 2. For a listing of the major works in English, see the bibliography of Hilliard, David, God’s Gentlemen: a History of the Melanesian Mission, 1849–1942 (St Lucia, Qld, 1978).

2 Mission, Melanesian, Papers relating to the Melanesian Mission with a Statement of Accounts (Auckland, 1857).

3 New Zealand Herald, 1 Nov. 1871.

4 Wellington Independent, 6 Nov. 1871.

5 [Dudley, B. T.], The Martyrs of Santa Cruz: a Sermon preached in Auckland, 5th November, 1871 (Auckland, 1871), pp. 1314.

6 Guardian (London), 29 Nov. 1871, p. 1412.

7 Hilliard, David, ‘Bishop G. A. Selwyn and the Melanesian Mission’, New Zealand Journal of History, 4 (1970), pp. 12037 ; Ross, R. M., ‘Evolution of the Melanesian bishopric’, New Zealand Journal of History, 16 (1982), pp. 12245 , and Melanesians at Mission Bay: a History of the Melanesian Mission in Auckland (Wellington, 1983); Laracy, Hugh, ‘Selwyn in Pacific perspective’, in Limbrick, Warren E., ed., Bishop Selwyn in New Zealand, 1841–68 (Palmerston North, 1983), pp. 12135.

8 J. C. Patteson to his sisters, 23 Nov. 1867, Patteson Papers, U.S.P.G. Archives, Oxford, Rhodes House.

9 J. C. Patteson to his sister Joanna, 9 Dec. 1869, Patteson Papers.

10 C. H. Brooke, ‘The finished course, being recollections of Bishop Patteson on the anniversary of his death’, Mission Life, ns 4 (1873), p. 120.

11 For the labour trade, see Parnaby, O. W., Britain and the Labor Trade in the Southwest Pacific (Durham, NC, 1964), and Corris, Peter, Passage, Port and Plantation: a History of Solomon Islands Labour Migration, 1870–1014 (Melbourne, 1973).

12 Bishop Patteson to Canon Vidal, in Colonial Church Chronicle, 24 (1870), p. 123.

13 Patteson, J. C., Memorandum to the General Synod of New Zealand, 11 Jan. 1871, Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers [hereafter GBPP], 1872, 43 [C.496], pp. 1079.

14 R.H. Codrington to Bishop Bromby, 16 Oct. 1871, in Mercury (Hobart), 18 Nov. 1871.

15 New Zealand Herald, 30 Nov. 1871.

16 Sydney Morning Herald, 7 Nov. 1871.

17 For reactions in New Zealand, see Angus Ross, New Zealand Aspirations in the Pacific in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1964), pp. 80–4, and P.J. Stewart, ‘New Zealand and the Pacific labor traffic, 1870–1874’, Pacific Historical Review, 30 (1961), pp. 50–3. Editorials from the major colonial newspapers, reports of public meetings, resolutions, and memorials are in GBPP, 1872, 43 [C.496], and 1873, 50 (244).

18 GBPP, 1872, 43 [C.496], pp. 106–7.

19 Palmer, Edwin, Bishop Patteson: Missionary Bishop and Martyr (London, 1872), p. 3.

20 Aborigines’ Protection Society, The Polynesian Labour Traffic and the Murder of Bishop Patteson: the Proceedings of a Public Meeting held in London, on the 13th December, 1871… (London, 1872); Church Times, 8 Dec. 1871, p. 539; Literary Churchman, 9 Dec. 1871, p. 512; Guardian, 3 Jan. 1872, p. 96; Mission Field, 17 (1872), pp. 62–3; Colonial Church Chronicle, 26(1872), pp. 81–7, 132-7.

21 35 and 36 Vict., c. 19.

22 E.g., ‘Bishop’s death woke consciences of men’, Melanesian Mission (Christchurch), 18 (Aug. 1970).

23 Markham, Albert Hastings, The Cruise of lhe ‘Rosario’ amongst the New Hebrides and Santa Cruz Islands… (London, 1873), pp. 14556.

24 J. C. Thurston, Diary, entry 4 Nov. 1894, Thurston Papers, Canberra, National Library of Australia.

25 Ibid.

26 E.g., Davenport, William, ‘Notes on Santa Cruz voyaging’, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 73 (1964), pp. 1412.

27 For a recent assessment, see Rowell, Geoffrey, The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism (Oxford, 1983), pp. 17580.

28 S.P.G., Journal, 19 Jan. 1871, U.S.P.G. Archives, Oxford, Rhodes House.

29 Moberly, C. A. E., Dulce Domum: George Moberly … his Family and Friends (London, 1911), p. 245.

30 Drummond, H. N., John Coleridge Patleson: an Account of his Death at Nukapu, and Description of S. Barnabas Chapel, Norfolk Island, Dedicated to his Memory (Parkstone, 1930); Gutch, John (Sir) and Pinder, John. eds, Patteson Memorial Chapel, Norfolk Island (Watford, 1980).

31 E.g., Guardian, 13 March 1872, p. 346.

32 Bishop Patteson, by ‘A Lady’ (n.p., 1872).

33 Armstrong, Melanesian Mission, pp. 124–5; Fox, Southern Isles, p. 26.

34 Samuel Wilberforce, ‘Upon the death of Bishop Patteson’, in Speeches on Missions, by the Right Reverend Samuel Wilberforce, D.D. (London, 1874), pp. 325–6

35 S.P.G., Standing Committee, minutes, 11 and 18 April 1872, 30 May 1872; S.P.G., Journal, 19 April 1872, 19 July 1872, U.S.P.G. Archives, Oxford, Rhodes House; Times, 21 Dec. 1872; Pascoe, C. F., Two Hundred Years of the S.P.G., 2 vols (London, 1901), 2, p. 821 ; ArthurMason, James, Memoir of George Howard Wilkinson, 2 vols (London, 1909), 1, ch. 5; Stock, Eugene, ‘Thirty years’ work in the non-Christian world: a brief survey of Protestant missions, 1872 to 1902’, The East and the West, 1 (1903), pp. 43862.

36 Penny, Alfred, Ten Years in Melanesia (London, 1887), p. 11 ; Southern Cross Log (Sydney), Nov. 1906, p. 62.

37 Edith Safstrom, Diary, entries 20 Sept. 1928, 20 Sept. 1930, 20 Sept. 1931, 20 Sept. 1933, in possession of Diana Smith, Adelaide, South Australia.

38 A Book of Common Prayer in Modern English, 3rd edn (Honiara, 1971), p. 41.

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Studies in Church History
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