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Reverend John Williams

Date: 1860
Dimensions:
Overall: 305 x 222 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00044260

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    Description
    The Reverend John Williams was a popular member of the London Missionary Society who attempted to bring Christianity to the islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Williams felt he had a duty to evangelise and civilise the regions by saving souls, making travel safer and aiding trade. This engraving depicts Williams seated and wearing a white cravat and dark coloured suit during the period he acted as missionary at Raiatea. In 1839 Williams was killed at Erromanga (Tanna) in the New Hebrides while undertaking missionary work. This portrait was produced 21 years after his death and is a testament to his enduring popularity.





    SignificanceThis portrait represents a well known and very popular British missionary of the early 19th century. The work of John Williams and the London Missionary Society in particular led to greater understanding of potential trade and colonisation in the Pacific.
    HistoryJohn Williams was born in London, England in 1796, He was heavily influenced by his Baptist father and his Calvinistic Methodist mother who brought him up as a member of the Congregational Church of England (English Christians who separated from the Church of England, members of which included the Pilgrim Fathers and Oliver Cromwell)

    In 1814 he underwent an Evangelical conversion and became a member of the Tabernacle Church (Calvinistic Methodists). In September 1816 he volunteered and was accepted for missionary service with the London Missionary Society. In November 1816 the Williams along with William David Bourne (1794-1871), David Darling (1790-1867) and George Platt (1789-1865) sailed for the South Pacific to take up the position of missionaries in Tahiti.

    Williams preached throughout the Pacific, held prayer meetings in Sydney and Hobart, bought a ship, the HAWEIS, to trade between the islands and NSW, and planted and harvested sugar cane and tobacco to provide a cash crop for the missions.

    Governor Brisbane was so impressed with the work of Williams that he supplied stock and other supplies to the LMS and appointed John Williams as British Magistrate to the Pacific Islands.

    In June 1834 John Williams returned to England determined to publish his accounts of missionary activity in the Pacific, raise funds for further works and acquire a more suitable missionary vessel. In 1835 he superintended the printing of the Rarotongan New Testament. Early in 1837 he published his 'Narrative of the Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands'. On 11 April 1838, he left England in his new missionary ship the CAMDEN.

    The vessel was placed under the command of Captain Morgan, who had brought out the first settlers for the colony of South Australia in the DUKE OF YORK, and who, after a remarkable providence in the South Sea Islands, lost his vessel on the coast of Australia, and found his way back to London just in time to take command of the Society's first permanent missionary vessel.

    The CAMDEN called at Cape Town, and there the missionary band was increased to 20 with the addition of Ebenezer Buchanan, a volunteer for service in Polynesia. Sydney, Port Jackson was reached on 10 September 1838, and during the vessel's stay in Port Jackson the missionaries travelled around the colony spreading the word and collecting additional funds for their work. In 1837-1838, Williams gave evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on Aborigines, and was influential in the establishment of the NSW Aborigines Protection Society and the Auxiliary Missionary Society in Sydney.

    Returning to Sydney in early 1838 on board the missionary brig CAMDEN Williams drew considerable crowds at public meetings before again sailing off to the Pacific Islands. On 20 November 1839 John Williams was killed whilst trying to establish a missionary presence on the island of Erromanga (Tanna) in the New Hebrides.

    The remains of Williams and some of the other missionaries were taken to Samoa, and buried at Apia close to the native church. At the service addresses were delivered by the Rev. C Hardie in English, and by the Rev. T Heath in Samoan. Captain Croker requested that the marines might be allowed to fire a volley over the grave of the Christian hero, and he too wrote an epitaph: 'Sacred to the memory of the Rev. John Williams, father of the Samoan and other Missions, aged forty-three years and five months, who was killed by the cruel natives of Erromanga on November 20th, 1839, while endeavouring to plant the Gospel of Peace on its shores'.

    The CAMDEN returned to Britain and the London Missionary Society commenced raising funds to buy a new missionary vessel named after John Williams. JOHN WILLIAMS (1) was launched in March 1844 and for twenty years worked in the Pacific before being wrecked on Danger Island bear Rarotonga. Subsequently the London Missionary Society had six other missionary vessels named after John Williams.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Reverend John Williams Missionary at Raiatea

    Web title: Reverend John Williams

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