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Translated by John Paton (1824-1907), the son of James Paton, a very poor but godly Reformed Presbyterian of the parish of Kirkmahoe, near Dumfries, Scotland. James, seeing that God had not called him to the ministry, had vowed "that if God gave him sons, he would consecrate them unreservedly to the Ministry of Christ, if the Lord saw fit to accept the offering, and open up their way”. Before James Paton passed into glory, he was granted the privilege of seeing three sons of his eleven children “entering upon and not unblessed in the Holy Office”. John Paton, the eldest, went to the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu) in the South Pacific to preach the Gospel to the heathen tribes there. Many times his life was in great danger, but the Lord delivered him out of all his troubles. The following letter was written by some converted tribal chieftains of the New Hebridean Island of Tanna, to the Governor (the representative of the British Monarch) in New South Wales, Australia.  



[Written at the urgent request and dictation of the Missionary’s friends on Tanna to be presented to the Governor of New South Wales. Literally translated by me, John G. Paton.]  


To the Chief of Sydney, the servant of Queen Victoria of Britannia, saying – We great men of Tanna dwell in a dark land. Our people are very dark hearted. They know nothing good.


Missi Paton the man [(Missionary) John Paton], Missi Mathieson the man, and Missi Mathieson the woman [Mr and Mrs Mathieson, a Nova Scotian missionary and his wife], have dwelt here four yams ( = years ) to teach us the worship of Jehovah. Their conduct has been straight and very good; therefore we love these three Missionaries, and the worship of Jehovah which they three have taught us, the Tannese.


Alas! a part, as it were; only three of our Chiefs, whose names are Nauka, Miaki, and Karewick, besides Ringian, Enukarupi, Attica, and Namaka, they and their people hate the worship and all good conduct like that which the Word of Jehovah teaches us and the people of all lands. These men all belong to four Villages only. They have stolen all Missi’s [John Paton’s] property; they have broken into his house. They have cut down his bananas. They have scolded and persecuted him; and they desire to kill Missi and to eat him, so that they may destroy the worship of God from the land of Tanna .


We hate exceedingly their bad conduct, and pray you, the Great Chief of Sydney, to punish these dark Tannese, who have persecuted Missi, who have deceived Missi, who have altogether deceived the  Great Chief ( = Commodore Seymour ) and the Chief ( = Captain Hume ) of the Men-of-war, and who deceived the Chief and the Missionaries in the John Williams, who murdered one of Missi Paton’s Aneityum Teachers, who fought Missi Turner and Missi Nisbet, who killed Vasa and his Samoan people, who killed the foreigners, who have now fought and driven away our three missionaries. Their conduct has been exceedingly bad. They destroy the Kingdom of Tanna , kill the people and eat them, and are guilty of bad conduct every day. Our hearts hate their bad conduct; we are pained by it.


Therefore we earnestly pray you, the Chief of Sydney, to send quickly a Man-of-war to punish them, and to revenge all their bad conduct towards Missi. Then truly we will rejoice; then it will be good and safe for the three Missionaries to dwell here, and to teach us, men of the devil. Our hearts are very dark; we know nothing;  we are just like pigs. Therefore it is good for Missi to teach us the Word and the Worship of Jehovah the Great King. Long ago He was unknown here. Missi brought His knowledge to us.


Our love to you, the Great Chief of Sydney, the servant of Queen Victoria, and we earnestly pray you to protect us, and to protect our Missionaries and the Worship of God in our land, the land of Tanna. We weep for our Missionaries. They three gave us medicine in our sickness, and clothing for our bodies; taught us what is good conduct, and taught us the way to Heaven. Of all these things long ago we had no knowledge whatever; therefore we weep, and our hearts cling to these three, our Missionaries. If they three are not here, who will teach us the way to Heaven? Who will prevent our bad conduct? Who will protect us from the bad conduct of foreigners? And who will love us, and teach us all good things?


Oh, compassionate us, Chief of Sydney! Hold fast these three, our Missionaries, and give them back to us, and we will love you and your people. You and your people know the Word of Jehovah; you are going on the path to Heaven; you all love the Word of Jehovah. Oh, look in mercy on us, dark-hearted men, going to the bad land, to the great eternal fire, just like our fathers who are dead!


May Jehovah make your heart and the hearts of your people sweet towards us, to compassionate us and to look in mercy on our dark land; and we will pray Jehovah to make you good, and give you a rich reward.


The names of us, the Chiefs of Tanna, who worship towards Jehovah:




x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.


x his mark.





“JOHN G. PATON, Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanuatu)” published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994. pp 506-508.