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Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.

Organizing the Maoris

Organizing the Maoris.

He needed all the aid he could receive. His ingenious and inventive mind had already devised a plan for organizing the Maori race and making future conflicts between it and the colonists impossible. He was not the first to make the attempt. The high-minded Duke of Newcastle, the previous year, had introduced a bill to establish a Native Council, his guiding principle being that the Natives should be governed through institutions of their own, with the Imperial Government to stand as an arbitrator betwixt them and the colonists. Grey's distinctive idea, on the contrary, according to Sir Charles Adderley, "seems to have been rather to introduce English institutions among the Natives as an alternative, than to make use of theirs.'' If this were the case, it would now be considered an error. It seems to be equally in accordance with the law of evolution and with common sense to pursue the policy of perfecting Maori institutions. No others would be practicable, or would survive. As we examine Grey's measure, there does appear to be a peculiar mixture of English and Maori ideas. The North page 140Island, the only portion of New Zealand where the Maoris were numerous enough to be formidable, was to be divided into about twenty districts and each subdivided into six hundreds. The subdivision, the hundred, was, as we remember, an old notion of Grey's, in whose original constitution for New Zealand it has a prominent place; how questionable a name it was may appear from the fact that historians are still in doubt about its true signification in early England. In each district and hundred there was to be a runanga, or assembly,* and the runangas of the hundreds were to elect the runangas of the districts. The district runangas were to consist of a Civil Commissioner, appointed by the Governor, together with twelve elected Maoris. There seems to have been no attempt to create a General Native Assembly or, as the Duke of Newcastle named it, a Native Council; perhaps the unity of the Native race was held to be not yet sufficiently assured. But the district assemblies were clothed with administrative and legislative functions, to be exercised with the approval of the Governor. They were to pass measures for the suppression of nuisances and of drunkenness. The administration of justice, the organization of education, and the relief of the sick in hospitals were committed to them. The all-important subject of land-disputes, whether tribal or individual, which had been the cause of the late war, was entirely remitted to them. The sales of Native lands had hitherto been effected through the Government. Now, when the Civil Commissioner had settled the boundaries, Native owners might sell land to purchasers approved by the Government and recommended by a runanga, but not more than was enough for a farm. Chiefs were to be appointed magistrates of hundreds and other natives constables. A revenue was to be provided through the receipt of fines and fees and a house or land tax. But Grey did not expect that the revenue thus accruing would suffice, and, as in all his plans for the improvement of indigenous races, a considerable Imperial expenditure page 141was involved. In this case he estimated that £50,000 would be wanted, but this sum would cancel an expenditure of £629,000, of which the Colonial Treasury contributed £129,000. Sir Charles Adderley's account is slightly different. He says that Grey "induced the Home Government to contribute, besides their military expenditure in New Zealand, a special grant for Native improvement.'' As if to confuse the impartial historian, the colonial. Ministers asserted that the Governor, "as Imperial Native Administrator, was spending more than a million a year for the English Government." It is a fact that the high consideration in which Grey was held induced the Imperial Government to grant him liberal sums for such expenditure which it refused to other and less esteemed Governors.

This hopeful scheme might have had the effect of building up the race and healing all old sores, had it ever come into operation. It was passed through the Assembly as the "Native Districts Regulation Act." The Ministers frankly accepted it, and the Premier accompanied the Governor on tour through Native districts in order to support and expound the new constitution. First, they went to the Bay of Islands, where Grey's old friend, Thomas Walker (Waka Nene) warmly welcomed him; and there his policy was enthusiastically received. Apparently, in only one district were the new institutions materialised. At Taupiri, on the Upper Waikato, a village runanga was elected, and a village headman was appointed, with a salary; but no district runanga was called into existence. One Civil Commissioner is afterwards mentioned in a different district, but no runanga. In fact, only a beginning was made of carrying the scheme into practical operation, even in the parts of the country that were likely to be the most favourable to it, and that beginning was not maintained. It was difficult, says Adderley, to get the natives either to sell their land or to cultivate it, or in case of a dispute to resort to the new courts, or to accustom the Commissioner judicially to admit their claims. The time was ill-chosen for making page 142an experiment that might, under more favourable circumstances, have been successful. The laws were about to be struck dumb by the clang of arms.

* Another Aryan institution. Hearn, The Aryan Household, pp. 127-30.