Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Death of Bishop Patteson

The Death of Bishop Patteson. While browsing Project Canterbury, an excellent collection of primary resources on Anglicanism in Oceania, I found this account of the murder of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson in 1871. He was killed by natives on the island of Nukapu. The account was written by C. H. Brooke and it appeared in Mission Life: An Illustrated Magazine of Home and Foreign Church Work from 1872.

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica wrote of Patterson, "English missionary, bishop of Melanesia, was born in London on the 1st of April 1827, the eldest son of Sir John Patteson, justice of the King's Bench, and Frances Duke Coleridge, a near relative of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He was educated at Ottery St Mary and at Eton, where he distinguished himself on the cricket-field. He entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1845, graduated B.A. in 1848, and in 1852 became a fellow of Merton College. In 1853 he became curate of Alfington, Devon, and in the following year he was ordained priest. He then joined George Augustus Selwyn, bishop of New Zealand, in a mission to the Melanesian islands. There he laboured with great success, visiting the different islands of the group in the mission ship the "Southern Cross," and by his good sense and devotion winning the esteem and affection of the natives. He spoke 23 languages with ease. In 1861 he was consecrated bishop of Melanesia, and fixed his headquarters at Mota. He was killed by natives at Nukapu, in the Santa Cruz group, on the 10th of September 1871, the victim of a tragic error. The traders engaged in the nefarious traffic in Kanaka labour for Fiji and Queensland had taken to personating missionaries in order to facilitate their kidnapping; Patteson was mistaken for one of these and killed. His murderers evidently found out their mistake and repented of it, for the bishop's body was found at sea floating in a canoe, covered with a palm fibre matting, and a palm-branch in his hand. He is thus represented in the bas-relief erected in Merton College to his memory."

His death caused Bishop Patterson to become famous in the United Kingdom. His life increased interest in missionary work. It also drew attention to the mistreatment of natives in Melanesia. The Church of England celebrates a feast day for him on September 20th every year.

Here are some additional sources for information on Bishop Patterson:

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography - Entry for Patterson.
Bishop Patteson the First Bishop of Melanesia - Annoying music but some good details.
Life of John Coleridge Patteson:Missionary Bishop of the Melanesian Islands - By Charlotte Mary Yonge from 1875.

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