The Maori King
Chapter XIX — The Invasion of Waikato
The Invasion of Waikato
The offensive operations carried on at Taranaki, to avenge the slaughter at Oakura, were brought to a successful issue on June 4th, exactly one month after the murder, when a Maori position beyond Tataraimaka1 was stormed and carried by our troops: many natives were killed in the assault, and many fugitives fell under the fire of H.M.S. Eclipse, which lay off the coast, pitching Armstrong shells amongst the natives on shore.
After the blood shed at Oakura had been thus duly avenged, the troops were withdrawn from Tataraimaka, the bulk of the British force was transported back to Auckland, and Taranaki was once more held by the 57th Regiment alone, while a guerilla warfare was carried on between our men and the Maories over the surrounding country.
1 [On the bank of the Katikara stream.]
1 [See Daily Southern Cross, 17, 18 June, 7 September, 1863.]
It was expected, and, I am sorry to say, hoped by many, that either the dismissal of Neri, or the seizure of Aporo, would so enrage the Waikatos, that they would attack us; but they remained steady to their original resolution, that the Pakeha should begin the war. They said Neri had gone on his own authority to visit Governor Grey, and if he had behaved impertinently, it was quite right to send him about his business. As for Aporo, a large part of Waikato, and all Ngatihaua, had condemned his conduct from the first; and though Rewi took the opportunity of again proposing war, his designs were once more defeated by Tamihana and the King.
Thus, for a whole month, each side remained in a state of suspense, waiting for the other to begin. The Maories showed what they expected, by removing the bones of their ancestors, buried at Onehunga, and carrying them to a safer resting-place, in the Waikato country; they felt certain that the day had come when they must fight for their lives and lands, and that the Pakeha would attack, so soon as his preparations were complete. Our side felt sure that the natives were only watching their opportunity, to make an onslaught upon our weaker settlements, or even attempt to sack the town of Auckland itself.
A trivial circumstance precipitated the commencement of war. The news of the Prince of Wales'marriage had reached New Zealand in May; but a later mail brought the additional intelligence, that all the Australian colonies had celebrated the event by public rejoicings. Auckland must not be behindhand in demonstrations of loyalty; and therefore, on the principle of ‘better late than never,’ the first of July was fixed as a public holiday, when the citizens were to rejoice in British fashion, by a review, by presenting dreary addresses to the Governor, by page 242 climbing greased poles, and other sports, and finally, by lighting bonfires, and illuminating the town at night. The illuminations were no great sight, but the bonfires were numerous and brilliant. They were seen from the Maori villages, in the Hunua forest, beyond Papakura and Mauku, and struck terror into the souls of the spectators. The tidings flew far and near through Waikato, that the Pakeha had made a great war-signal, and was now on the point of marching to the attack.1 In their alarm, secret Runangas were held, to discuss plans of defence or assault, from which Wi Tamihana and others, who were supposed to have scruples about murder and robbery, were excluded. Letters came pouring in upon the Government during the following week, from chiefs of the highest rank in Waikato, whose names occur continually in the course of this narrative, all warning the Europeans to be on their guard, for secret Runangas were being held, at which the most atrocious plans for misleading the General and sacking Auckland were propounded. All the writers begged the Governor to conceal their names, lest they should be sacrificed to the fury of their countrymen. The knowledge that such letters had been received reached the public ear, with due additions and variations. No one doubted the existence of a terrible plot to murder the Europeans wholesale, in the very streets of Auckland.
1 [Another version of this story was that a Maori war party, about to attack Mauku, was frightened off by the fires.]
In this state of things, the authorities felt constrained to move. They had fresh in their recollection the Oakura disaster, which had occurred because they refused to give heed to warnings from natives. Such a mistake ought not to be made a second time. Letters of the same character as those recently received had often come before, and no disaster had followed. They were, therefore, in themselves no evidence of real danger. It is, without doubt, highly probable that an attack on Auckland was proposed and discussed at war meetings. It would be strange had it been otherwise. We had often proposed and discussed an attack upon Waikato ourselves. But that the Waikatos would have crossed Mangatawhiri to assail us, I utterly disbelieve. Such an act was contrary to their principles, and could not have been carried out without a serious division amongst themselves. As a matter of fact, Tamihana and others kept Rewi from attacking Auckland, for a period of two months and a half, while the town was comparatively defenceless; and there is no reason to suppose they would have failed to restrain him when the town was under the protection of ten thousand soldiers. However, the public believed in a conspiracy, and thought that, somehow or other, the advance of the troops into the Waikato territory would protect their outlying villages from attack. Invasion was thus cried for, and invasion was accordingly decreed.
It was, however, necessary to declare some cause for the intended attack, not so much with the view of producing an effect on the Maories themselves, as of justifying the war in the eyes of the British public. General Cameron was about to advance, and there was not much time left for the manufacture page 244 of a proclamation. This proclamation, moreover, proved as difficult to compose as the celebrated one announcing the surrender of Waitara, and, like that, was not finally issued till too late for the purpose for which it was nominally designed. No declaration of war reached the Waikatos until after blood had been shed.
The reason why proclamations to Maories are so difficult to compose, and are couched in such feeble language, is, that they must conform to the prejudices of many different parties. It is, in the first place, necessary to find a formula which expresses the discordant views of the two branches of the double government; it is then necessary carefully to consider what the Home Government will say to this, what the New Zealand Assembly will say to that—whether one phrase will arouse the opposition of the clerical party, or another excite the wrath of the colonial public. What effect the proclamation will have on the natives, is not much thought of; in what light it will be viewed by the Aborigines' Protection Society at home, is a subject of long and careful study.
The proclamation to the Waikatos, after being altered and re-altered, printed and re-printed, finally assumed the following form:—
‘G. Grey, Governor. Chiefs of Waikato,
‘Europeans quietly living on their own lands in Waikato have been driven away; their property has been plundered; their wives and children have been taken from them. By the instigation of some of you, officers and soldiers were murdered at Taranaki; others of you have since expressed approval of these murders. Crimes have been committed in other parts of the island, and the criminals have been rescued or sheltered under the colour of your authority.
‘You are now assembling in armed bands; you are constantly threatening to come down the river to ravage the settlement of Auckland, and to murder peaceable settlers. Some of you have offered a safe passage through your territories to armed parties contemplating such outrages. The well-disposed among you are powerless to prevent these evil acts.
‘I am therefore compelled, for the protection of all, to estab- page 245 lish posts at several points on the Waikato river, and to take necessary measures for the future security of persons inhabiting that district. The lives and property of all well-disposed people living on the river will be protected, and armed and evildisposed people will be stopped from passing down the river to rob and murder Europeans.
‘I now call on all well-disposed natives to aid the Lieutenant-General to establish and maintain these posts, and to preserve peace and order. Those who stay in Waikato to assist the General, or move into such districts as may be pointed out by the Government, will be protected in their persons, property, and land. Those who wage war against Her Majesty, or remain in arms, threatening the lives of her peaceable subjects, must take the consequences of their acts, and must understand that they will forfeit the right to the possession of their lands guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi; which lands will be occupied by a population capable of protecting, for the future, the quiet and unoffending from the violence with which they are now so constantly threatened.
‘Auckland, July 11, 1863.’1
This date is fallacious. I met the messenger, carrying the first copies printed in the native language, on the evening of July 14th, at dusk. He was then on the road between Auckland and Otahuhu, and did not reach the Waikato until after the battle of Koheroa, which was fought on the 15th.2
While the Governor and the Colonial Ministers were thus busily engaged in the manufacture of this proclamation, which was not despatched in time to warn those whom it purported to address, and while General Cameron was hurrying on the military preparations for crossing Mangatawhiri and invading Waikato, an act, which will exercise immense influence on the future relation of the Maori and European races, was performed after the briefest consideration.
1 [For the official text, see AJHR, 1863, E-5, pp. 5-6.]
2 [It was published on 15th July—but the battle was fought on the 17th.]
1 [One of these Maoris was Ihaka, who was partly responsible for the incident at Kohekohe. (See above, pp.170, 214 ff.) The Southern Cross (30 July, 1864) pointed out that in a letter of 17 March, 1863, Gorst called Ihaka and Mohi ‘salaried firebrands’.]
The same answer was returned at Pukaki and Ihumatao. Only one or two at each place accepted the test and stayed behind.
The fugitives were, of course, unable to carry all their goods with them. What remained behind was looted by the colonial forces and the neighbouring settlers. Canoes were broken to pieces and burnt, cattle seized, houses ransacked, and horses brought into Auckland and sold by the spoilers in the public market. Such robbery was of course unsanctioned by the Government, but the authorities were unable to check the greediness of the settlers. Compensation was promised to the sufferers; but it looked strange, in the eyes of the natives, that a Government, which was about to make war on Waikato because the chiefs could not prevent lawlessness, should itself be unable to restrain its subjects from unjust acts.
Meanwhile, the military preparations of General Cameron were completed sooner than the proclamation of Government; and without waiting for the publication of that document, which was yet under discussion, he crossed Mangatawhiri on Sunday, July 12, and, finding no opposition, proceeded to occupy the Koheroa heights, about one mile distant from Mangatawhiri, on the eastern bank of the Waikato.
The road from Otahuhu to the Waikato was thronged with armed men of every description, from the veteran British soldier to the raw colonial shop-boy, shouldering his musket for the first time. Through this martial array the refugees from Pukaki, Mangere, and other places had to thread their way, as they went over to join the enemy. They became alarmed, and with good reason. Two of the chiefs, Ihaka and Mohi, with their women, children, and young men, took refuge at a small native village, called Kirikiri, on the slopes of the Hunua forest, overlooking Papakura and Drury. There they stopped, and appeared to give up all intention of moving further. Wild reports began to be circulated. It was rumoured that the Maories meant to show fight at Kirikiri, that one hundred young warriors were collected and were building a Pa. Settlers, who had been scouring the bush to bring in cattle, had come upon their encampments; others page 248 had seen the Pa; and all were certain that reinforcements had been sent for from Waikato to enable the party to stand their ground. Counter reports were brought in, saying that the Kirikiri party were afraid to stir; that they had a number of old infirm people, women, children, and sick, without means of transport, and were horribly afraid of the soldiers who were scouring the plain below; that they were starving, and if they could but get food and some means of conveyance, would be only too thankful to be gone.
The Government were at this time becoming rather ashamed of having inflicted so much suffering on these innocent old people, and wished to get them away to the Waikato, with all possible speed and humanity. Mr Dillon Bell, the Colonial Minister for Native Affairs, was therefore specially sent out by Sir George Grey, to visit Kirikiri, and ascertain the real state of affairs, to supply the natives with food, if needed, and to make the best arrangement he could for getting them away from their dangerous vicinity to the outlying European villages. Mr Dillon Bell, taking me as his companion, left Auckland on this errand, on Monday, the 13th, the day after Mangatawhiri had been crossed. The same evening, at Drury, we met the Bishop of New Zealand, who had been spending the day with the natives in the ranges. The Bishop said that both reports which had been circulated were, to some extent, true; there were a number of sick and infirm people at Kirikiri, who wished to get to Waikato, but could not cross the forest tracks, and dared not go by road; but Mohi and the young men made no secret of their intention to come back and fight in the ranges, so soon as they had taken their old people and children to a place of safety. Next day, we went to Kirikiri. We found Ihaka, very ill, and half-a-dozen aged men, with a few women and children, in one of the houses. They sent for Mohi, who arrived after an hour's delay, with several young men, and sat down for a talk. The main-body of effective men never appeared at all.
Mr Dillon Bell told them that the proclamation, calling upon them to take the oath of allegiance, and give up their arms, was not intended as a positive order to leave their homes, as they had supposed. He had been sent out by the Governor himself, who had heard of their destitute state, to give them the choice of taking the test, and returning in peace to Pukaki; or, if they page 249 were unwilling to do so, of going unmolested to the Waikato river to join their friends, He urged the former course upon them, declaring that the Government had no wish to deprive them of their property, and promising them protection and good treatment under the Queen's rule.
Mohi replied, by thanking Mr Bell for the kindness which he had ever shown to the Maories, and specially for his generosity in venturing unarmed amongst them, at such a time, to carry a message of peace and good-will.
If Mr Bell had arrived, said Mohi, a few days earlier, with such an explanation of the meaning of the test, he and most of his comrades would have returned in peace to their homes. But now, within the last few days, a great change had taken place. The Governor had crossed the boundary, and had invaded Waikato. Mohi said he should not deceive us, but would frankly declare his present purpose. Hitherto, he and his people had strongly opposed the war party in Waikato. Letters had arrived, recounting the violence of Rewi and the Ngatimaniapoto, and they had all joined Tamihana in condemning his conduct. Rewi was utterly in the wrong. Had Sir George Grey declared that he was going to punish Rewi for his crimes, they would have sat by without interfering, and would have said that the Governor was in the right. But, instead of that, Sir George Grey had determined to punish all Waikato. He had crossed Mangatawhiri without notice, and without any investigation into the crimes of Waikato, and was at that very time in occupation of Maori land. Mohi therefore said distinctly, and he begged the Pakehas to mark his words, that they all intended to fight. He was himself a part of Waikato. The Pakehas had attacked Waikato. And he should therefore go to join his people, and live or die with them.
This speech carried an appearance of sincerity with it, as the decision to which he had come, cost the speaker the rental of estates worth several hundreds per annum. Mr Bell then told Mohi, that the cause of the invasion of Waikato was a secret conspiracy to attack Auckland and murder the Europeans. They all denied any knowledge of the fact, and asked for the names of the informants. Mr Bell said he could not give the names without the Governor's permission, which he would try to obtain. They said, if the Governor would give them evidence of such a plot, they would take the Oath of Allegiance and remain, page 250 as it would be a ‘kohuru’ (murder) on the part of Waikato against them. The old people said they were very hungry and frightened, and accepted gratefully the offer of food, and the assurance of safe conduct. Late in the afternoon, we left Kirikiri, and returned to Auckland.
At ten o'clock that night, a telegraphic despatch was received at Drury from the Governor, ordering the troops to take the whole of the party at Kirikiri prisoners. A detachment was accordingly told off, who marched to the village, captured Ihaka, the sick chief, and all the infirm men, with the women and children; and in some manner, never accounted for, allowed Mohi, the sound chief, with all his able-bodied followers, to slip through their fingers. Mohi, thus relieved of his encumbrances, and of all ground for forbearance, immediately commenced hostilities.
Ihaka, up to December, 1863, had not been brought to trial, but still remained a prisoner. While we were in the ranges, the bodies of a settler and his son, who had been killed by an ambuscade in the forest, near the high-road beyond Drury, were discovered. This was the first blood shed in the Waikato war. But this murder was never laid to the charge of Ihaka, or his followers: suspicion fastened on an entirely different party of Maories, with whom he had no connexion. On whatever ground Ihaka and the innocent women and children were taken, their capture, just after safe conduct had been promised to them by a high officer of Government, had the unfortunate appearance of a gross breach of faith.
Wiremu Tamihana wrote to remonstrate with the Governor, asking how it was that our side had not followed the example of the Maories, who sent away the Europeans from Waikato in safety, with their flocks and their herds, and all their property. ‘Why,’ asked Tamihana, ‘has the property of the Maories been plundered, and why have Ihaka and the women and children been taken prisoners?’
Before this remonstrance had been received, the war in Waikato had become general. While the messenger carrying the Proclamation was still on his way to Waikato, the sudden and unexplained irruption of the British troops had been resisted by force, blood had been shed on each side, and all Waikato banded itself together for resistance to the common foe.