The Maori King
Chapter IV — The Revolt
When the English first began to settle in New Zealand, they had little reason to fear that the natives, who were continually quarrelling and fighting among themselves, would ever become united, and therefore formidable. Before our arrival, the Maories lived in a state of continual warfare; and the first use made of the newcomers by the Ngapuhi tribe, among whom the earliest settlers planted themselves, was to obtain from them a supply of guns and ammunition, with the help of which they invaded Waikato, and drove their ancient enemies with great slaughter to the upper districts and hills. Lower Waikato remained for long afterwards an uninhabited wilderness, the former inhabitants not daring to return to their ravaged homes. After a time, the Waikatos also obtained guns and powder; they could then encounter their enemies on equal terms, and, after several bloody battles, the Ngapuhi invasions of Waikato were discontinued. Disunion was exhibited not only in battles between distant tribes; even in the same village, and amongst near relations, there was rarely unanimity on any one subject. Maories are, in their opinions and sentiments, the most independent people in the world, and exhibit an individuality which would delight Mr John Stuart Mill. I have known laws passed at Kihikihi or Rangiaowhia, at an evening runanga, prohibiting the sales of pigs and potatoes to Europeans, followed next morning by a rush of old women to Otawhao to dispose of the forbidden articles; and instances are numerous in which one thoroughly resolute page 40 and obstinate man, or even woman, has defeated the intention of a whole war-party. From people of this sort Europeans, united and civilized, had nothing to fear, unless some extra-ordinary accident should combine the discordant factions.
There was great variety in the modes in which the progress of colonization affected tribes and individuals, and also in the light in which they regarded the conduct of Government; but the ultimate effect produced was uniformly a strong discontent, and a desire, amounting to a passion, for separate and independent nationality. The cause of what is called ‘the king-movement’ has been much disputed among New Zealand politicians. The fact is, that there has been no single cause. Different sentiments attracted adherents, who joined in the scheme with different views; and as one set of motives after another was in the ascendant, the character of the movement itself was continually changing.
Wiremu Tamihana and the Ngatihaua tribe, who were the first to set up Potatau as king, declared that they did so to supply that want of government which has been described in the last chapter, which they severely felt. In a letter written to Colonel Browne, in 1861, to defend his personal conduct in regard to the king-movement, after mentioning various tribal wars which he had stopped, Tamihana writes: ‘I thought that a great house should be built as a house of assembly for the tribes that were living at feud in New Zealand, and would not cleave one to the other. The house was built—it was Babel. Then I applied my thoughts to seek for some plan by which the Maori tribes should cleave together and assemble together, so that the people might become one, like the Pakehas. The Ngatipaoa were invited, and they came to me, and joined the talk for good. Afterwards the Ngatimatera were invited, and they came; afterwards the Ngatiwhakaue were invited, and they came; afterwards the Ngatiwhanaunga were invited, and they came. However, they were mere meetings; evil still went on—the river of blood was not yet stopped. The missionaries behaved bravely, and so did I; but the flow of blood did not cease. When you (Colonel Browne) came, the river of blood was still open, and I therefore sought for some plan to make it cease; I considered how this blood could be made to diminish in the island. I looked at your books, where Israel cried to have a king to themselves, to be a judge page 41 over them; and I looked at the word of Moses, in Deuteronomy xvii. 15,1 and at Proverbs xxix. 4,2 and I kept these words in my memory through all the years; the land feuds continuing all the time, blood still being spilt, and I still meditating upon the matter. In the year 1857, Te Heu3 called a meeting at Taupo, at which sixteen hundred men were present.4 When the news of this meeting reached me I said, “I will consent to this to assist my work.” I began at those words of the Book of Samuel viii. 5, “Give us a king, to judge us.” That was why I set up Potatau, in 1857. On his being set up, the blood at once ceased, and has so remained up to the present year. The reason why I set up Potatau as a king for me, was because he was a man of extended influence, and a man who was revered by the people of this island. That, my friend, was why I set him up. To put down my troubles, to hold the lands of the slaves, and to judge the offences of the chiefs, the King was set up. The runangas were set up; the magistrates were set up; and the Faith was set up. The works of my ancestors have ceased; they are diminishing at the present time. What I say is, the blood of the Maories has ceased.’5
It was not, however, the bloodshed in war only that made the urgent necessity for some kind of law. The teaching of Christianity had destroyed the old barbarous customs of tapu, and all the superstitious reverence for priests and chiefs, which had supplied the place of law and government; but neither the missionaries nor the Government had been able to substitute a better system in the place of that which had been pulled down: thus the natives were left in a state of absolute anarchy, where every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Europeans of the lowest class settled among them, enjoyed equal licence, and—far out of the reach of magistrates and police—sinned with impunity, propagating all sorts of evil among their native neighbours.
1 ‘Thou shalt in anywise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee which is not thy brother.’
2 ‘The king by judgment establisheth the land.’
3 [c. 1790–1862. The leading chief of the Ngatituwharetoa.]
4 [The meeting was held in late December 1856 and apparently continued into January 1857. (Reported by Governor Gore Browne in despatches of 17 December, 1856, No. 130; 27 March, 1857, No. 32; GBPP, 1860/2719.)]
5 AJHR, 186:, E-1B, p. 19. [This quotation—like many in The Maori King—varies considerably from the published letter. Often Gorst gives his own translation.]
1 [Pakeha-Maori, a European living with (and perhaps as) the Maoris.]
1 From 1850 to 1861, 6,000,000 acres of land were bought from the Maories in the North Island for £160,000 which is at the rate of 6 2/5d. per acre. AJHR, 1861, E-1K.
1 [Until 1853, Crown land was sold at £1 per acre; thereafter, under an Order-in-Council, at 10s. per acre, or 5s. for poor land.]
Takerei, the greatest landed proprietor in Waikato, when asked by a Committee of the New Zealand Assembly to give an account of the origin of the ‘King movement,’ replied as follows:—3
3 AJHR, 1860, F-3, p. 109. [Takerei Te Rau-Anaanga (1816–78) of the Ngatimahuta tribe.]
4 The English word most nearly corresponding to ‘mana’ is ‘power’. [It also has the connotations of ‘prestige’ and ‘influence’.]
It must not, however, be supposed that all natives desirous of stopping the further sale of land became adherents of the King. The desire was almost universal Land-leagues existed out of Waikato, and before the ‘King movement.’ Wi Kingi of Taranaki was head of an independent land-league,1 and only joined the King, in 1860, to get the help of Waikato in the Taranaki war. Waata Kukutai, of the Lower Waikato,2 who has always professed loyalty to the Queen, and is now our ally in the Waikato war, is as strongly opposed to selling land as Rewi Maniapoto or Wi Tamihana; but the Maori King-league having always proclaimed the prevention of land sales as one of its chief objects, and possessing a strong physical force to support the principle, is naturally looked as to by those who wish to hold back land, and has therefore a strong tendency to absorb them into its ranks.
1 [It is true that in Taranaki, and elsewhere, Maori nationalists attempted to form land leagues, but these efforts were unsuccessful until the election of the Maori King. The King movement was a ‘land league’. There seems to be no evidence to support the notion—which was population the eighteen-sixties—that Wiremu Kingi was the head of a league. See K. Sinclair, The Maori Land League (Auckland, 1950), and The Origins of the Maori Wars Wellington, 1957).]
2 [Waata Pihikete Kukutai, a Ngatitipa chief and a government assessor.]
3 [(1823–98), Under-Secretary of State for Colonies 1857–8, 1859–65.]
At the same time, the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, to whom the question of the right of Maories to exercise the elective franchise was referred by the Duke of Newcastle,1 was:—‘That natives cannot have such possession of any land, used or occupied by them in common as tribes or communities, and not held under title derived from the Crown, as would qualify them to become voters under the provisions of the New Zealand Constitution Act.’2 Thus the Maories were shut out from all share in the assemblies to which, as they well knew, many of their friends, including the Bishop of New Zealand, declared they had a right to be admitted. The native race has never been unwilling to accept guidance and instruction from white men, whose superior knowledge in mechanical arts and in the science of law-making they admit and admire; but to become a subject race, and accept the whites as dominant over them, was felt to be a degradation to which their savage independence could not stoop. They will never submit to the Colonial Government of New Zealand until the colonists alone, without help from England or Australia, shall prove themselves masters in the field. In imitation and rivalry of the colonial assemblies, meetings were held in various parts of the country, at which their own interests and their relations to the white race, were discussed.3 They wished to remind the framers of the New Zealand Constitution of their existence, and they did so by setting up an independent King.
1 [5th Duke of, (1811–64); Secretary of State for the Colonies, 1859–64.]
2 AJHR, 1860, E-7.
3 [The first such inter-tribal meeting met at Manawapou, in Taranaki, in April 1854—a month before the first General Assembly. These Maori meetings were not merely imitative, but grew out of the tribal runanga.]
They were still more painfully conscious of their social than of their political inferiority. To view men whose skin differs in colour from our own as ‘damned niggers,’ is a weakness of our Anglo-Saxon character, which proves our civilization and Christianity far from perfect. It destroys all chance of our gaining the affections of our native subjects in any part of the world; for uncivilized men will forgive any amount or kind of wrong sooner than a single personal insult. The Maories are exceedingly sensitive of any appearance of personal slight. I once heard a company of them discussing the character of a most estimable missionary, the only drawback to whose usefulness is, that he has a stomach so delicate that he cannot eat food prepared by natives. This was the very point in his conduct with which those whom I overheard seemed most impressed. Nothing can exceed the kindness and respect with which men like Sir George Grey and the Bishop of New Zealand behave to natives; they treat them as ‘gentlemen.’ The same remark applies to the superior officers of the Government, the clergy, the more highly-educated colonists, and the older settlers. But the ignorant mass of towns-people judge of the natives from their not very prepossessing exteriors, and never having had experience of the good qualities which, as all who have lived amongst them acknowledge, lie concealed beneath, give free vent to their arrogance and contempt, and speak of the Maories, both publicly and privately, with disgust and dislike. Men habitually told that they emit a disagreeable smell, are not likely to feel a very strong affection towards the race that smells them. I know that the petty rudeness of Europeans is so disagreeable to many chiefs in Waikato, that they dislike going into Auckland, or any of the English villages, and are very shy of visiting at English houses. Their own behaviour to strangers affords a striking contrast, not very creditable to ourselves; a chief of the highest rank will unsaddle the horse of his guest with his own hands, and either pitch his tent or give him the best house in the village to sleep in, covering the floor with freshly gathered fern and new flax mats. The women set to work to cook, or, if their own meal is nearly ready, a portion is set apart for the stranger before the others partake. Any one who in return invited one of the principal men in Waikato to accompany him to Auckland, could not fail to be shamed on the road. A shakedown of straw in an inn stable, page 51 bread and meat bought at a shop, or a meal in the inn kitchen, given as a great favour at the Englishman's solicitation, would be all the hospitality he could procure. I have heard the Bishop of New Zealand say he is quite ashamed to travel with his native deacons, men who dine at his own table and behave there like gentlemen, because he cannot take them into public rooms where a tipsy carter would be considered perfectly good society. No ordinance of Government can alter this state of things, any more than it can alter the treatment of negroes in New York, but the insult is not the less exasperating to those who suffer. The colonial newspapers are full of affronts, grave and petty, to the natives, not intended of course to annoy them, but to please the European readers. These all come round to native ears. The Southern Cross, an Auckland newspaper which usually advocates a ‘physical force’ policy, used to be regularly taken in at Ngaruawahia and read aloud by a native girl who understood English perfectly. No doubt its opinions were considered to be those of the Government and the whole English race.
Books on New Zealand have never revealed the shameful extent to which half-caste children, both legitimate and illegitimate, have been abandoned by their European fathers. Desertion of wives and children is only too common throughtout the Australian colonies, where the ease with which a man can shift himself out of one jurisdiction into another, makes that the easiest way of getting rid of an unpleasant burden. In a native district, where there is no chance of knowing when the father means to abscond, and no magistrate at hand to appeal to for even a maintenance order, desertion is especially easy, and has been largely practised. In every village in Waikato these abandoned little half-castes are to be seen running about wild, like dogs or pigs, growing up in filth and barbarism, inheriting the vices of both races and enjoying the care of neither. What is done for them is not generally the work of the civilized and Christian European, but of the savage half-heathen Maori. The mother's relations give food and an occasional ragged shirt, and treat the children on the whole with kindness; but they feel the wrong and dishonour done them by the white man, and it does not increase their love and respect for the white man's race. I well remember one pitiable object—a poor, pale, stunted lad of page 52 fourteen, with wasted limbs and a hacking cough, dressed in winter time in a ragged cotton shirt—who was at work at bullock-driving and potato-planting in a village not far from Rangiaowhia, whose father I afterwards learned was a wealthy Auckland citizen and a member of the Provincial Assembly. Whether such an evil was curable by legislation or not, at any rate the cure was not attempted. In 1857, Mr Fenton, then magistrate of the Waikato district, addressed to the Government a memorandum as follows:—‘The law providing means of enforcing legal maintenance of illegitimate children by the father should be published and put in the Book of Laws. Moreover, some additional provision should be made to prevent the father leaving the country, until sufficient security is given for the regular payment of the maintenance-money. The frequency of examples of desertion, most shameless and heartless in themselves, has tended to lower the character of the Europeans generally in the eyes of the natives, whose clannish ideas are too apt to convert the sin of the few into the act of the multitude.’1
At the close of this catalogue of Maori grievances, I must, to avoid misconstruction, state that I am quite aware there were wrongs on both sides, and that the European race has had just grounds of offence against the Maori. My reason for not enlarging upon these here is, that the cause of the King movement, with which we have now to do, was the sense of wrong felt by the natives for what their side had suffered; of the wrongs they had done, they were, like mankind in general, unconscious. At the time the King was set up, the hostile feeling was not nearly strong enough to create a desire for war, but there was quite enough to make the mass eager for separation and independence, and to this the easy and repid success of the King party is to be attributed.
1 AJHR, 1860, E-1C, p. 17.