Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars


page 29


Professor Browne speaks of the war as “at first unboundedly popular.” At first nobody knew anything about the cause of the war: the now “acknowledged lies” were believed to be facts. But Mr. Fitzherbert, one of the most eloquent and courageous members of the House of Representatives, explained what the popularity of the war meant. He said, “What we mean by war is a good market for our fat oxen and fat sheep—plenty of commissariat expenditure.” Such a war, so long as it does not come too close, is very likely to be popular. What would be the state of Europe now if nations could go to war, not only without incurring expenditure, but actually derive pecuniary profit from it. It is not many years ago that Mr. Gladstone pointed out that a great check on war would be to increase taxation instead of raising loans, that the immediate pressure might restrain warlike feelings. What would he have said to a ‘paying’ war. But as a matter of fact it is a libel on the settlers to say that war with the Maories is or was popular. The Governor's Ministers would have exhibited a sorry figure in the House of Representatives, if the question of deciding on the merits of the war had been left to the members of the Northern Island—the only persons who knew anything about it. I myself heard Mr. Moorhouse, the Superintendent of Canterbury, in his speech describe the debate on the war as “a debate wholly uninteresting to him as a member for Canterbury.”

The following is one of the strangest and most instructive parts of this controversy. Archdeacon Hadfield writes to the Duke of Newcastle: “With regard to Teira's right to sell, which is so positively asserted, and on the supposed validity of which a war has been commenced at Taranaki, can I expect to be believed in England, when I assert, as I do unequivocally, that Teira's father, Tamati Rara, through whom alone the son could lay claim to any land, as inherited by him from his ancestors, is still alive and opposed its alienation.…. He refused to sell, and co-operated with W. King up to the very commencement page 30 of hostilities. I feel that nothing I could add to this fact, would tend to strengthen the assertion I make, that the claim set up on behalf of Teira to alienate the whole block of land is altogether untenable.” Now compare with this ‘unequivocal’ and triumphant assertion not only the fact that Tamati's name is affixed to letters of Teira's, urging the Governor to complete the purchase, but also with the following uncontradicted statement of the Colonial Prime Minister: ‘There had been rumours that Teira's father, Tamati Rara, was fighting on King's side; the fact being that Tamati Rara had assisted to cut the boundary lines for the surveyor of the very block in dispute. Tamati Rara's only objection to the proceedings of the Government was, that they had not at once given him a gun to enable him to fight on the Government side. They had received letters from him, not declaring that the lands should not be sold, not desiring that the survey should be stopped, or the military occupation of the land be abandoned, but asking for a gun to fight for them.”’

This note surprises me. Professor Browne must be a very loose thinker if he imagines that the extract given from Mr. Stafford's speech contradicts one particle of my assertion. If indeed he had remembered what he had himself written at Page 15 of his pamphlet, he would have seen that Mr. Stafford referred to a survey made subsequent to the military occupation of the land, for he there informs us that only one Maori, Henri Potaka, assisted at the one attempted before the war began. How many survey lines he may have assisted in cutting after the commencement of hostilities, or in what other manner he may have shewn his zeal with a view to excuse his tardy conversion, in no way affects my statement, that Teira acted against his wishes, and that he opposed the alienation of the land up to the very commencement of hostilities. Nor does the alleged fact that Tamati's name is affixed to letters of Teira's, urging the Governor to complete the purchase, at all invalidate my assertion. I am certain that T. Rara cannot write his name. But it will be seen by a reference to documents (E. no. 2, p. 3 and 4), that when natives do not write their own names, they affix a cross. Sometimes a note is made by the writer that he is page 31 authorized to write the names affixed. I have no doubt that T. Rara's name was forged by his son, and affixed to the letters in question without his leave or consent. Perhaps Professor Browne will learn that a less “triumphant” tone is more becoming in one who writes on a subject of which he absolutely knows nothing.*

I had written, “What are the loyal natives to think of a Governor, who, without the least provocation, singles out this chief, distinguished through a long course of years of years for his loyalty to Her Majesty's Government, and friendship to the English, for a hostile attack?” Professor Browne observes, “It is scarcely worth while to notice the perversion in this statement, as though the Governor had attacked King, whereas King first defied and then attacked the Governor.” I pass over the vague word “defied,” as incapable by any kind of interpretation of being forced into a ‘casus belli.’ But the assertion that W. King attacked the Governor is so gross—so reckless—so absolutely destitute of a particle of evidence to support it, that I am unable to conceive how Professor Browne could have been guilty of it. He does indeed refer in a note to some rhetorical language of Mr. Dillon Bell's: but, in the first place, Mr. Bell is no authority on this subject; and even if he were, his assertion does not bear out Professor Browne's assertion: He does not say that W. King “attacked the Governor.” Mr. Bell says that W. King “made war on the Governor, by erecting armed pas, by performing war dances, by refusing the safe conduct, and rejecting the merciful summons that was sent him.” Which of these particulars was intended to be considered as the “attack on the Governor,” I am unable to surmise. There is no such thing as an armed pa in New Zealand. The pas alluded to by Mr. Bell were indefensible, and were evacuated within a few hours after troops were moved on to the land, and without a shot being fired. I cannot conceive that a so called wardance, or the refusal of a safe conduct, or a mereiful summons, can either in law or common sense be considered as an attack upon the Governor. And this loose, foolish language of Mr. page 32 Bell's, is the only ground Professor Browne seems to have for his charge of ‘perversion’ brought against me. There can be no room for doubt how the war began. A proclamation of martial law was made on the 25th of January. An attempt to survey the land was made on the 20th of February, and was resisted, but “no violence was offered.” (Governor's Dispatch, Feb. 27, 1860.) On the 22nd of February, martial law was proclaimed. On the 1st of March, W. King was requested to come and meet the Governor, but refused. On the 5th of the same month, the military took possession of the disputed land, and W. King's pas and houses were burnt. On the 13th and 14th the land was surveyed: on the night of the 15th a pa was built on it: on the 17th the pa was cannonaded.

It is to be observed that the official Maori version of the Proclamation of Martial Law was a declaration of war on all the natives of the Province of Taranaki, including even the Ngatiruanui. Upon this Professor Browne remarks—“It has been replied, that, whatever effect it may have had on other natives, King was too well informed for it to have so affected him. He had, on a former occasion, been living in a district where martial law was proclaimed, and fully understood its meaning.” (P. 16.) It is remarkable what different conclusions are drawn from the same facts, according to people's prejudices. The inference I should have drawn would have been, that as W. King perceived a wide difference in the wording of this proclamation, from that of the former one with which he had been aequainted, he concluded that something different was intended by it.

Professor Browne says, “As to the so-called coup-de-main, is it strange in any country that, when a mob resists and overawes the civil authority, the executive should call in the aid of the military? Could any one suppose that the Governor would yield as soon as the police was overpowered?” As I have already shewn, Professor Browne knows nothing at all about the subject on which he has presumed to write. No mob resisted the civil authority. A trespass was rightfully and lawfully resisted without violence—as is acknowledged by the Governor—by men on their own land. There was no civil authority resisted: no page 33 police overpowered. And let it be remembered, that this illegal coup-de-main was agreed upon nearly a month before the lawful interruption of the illegal trespass authorised by the Governor.

IV. It is necessary to notice an exception which has been taken to my explanation of W. King's reported saying that the land belong to Teira and his party. I attributed the apparent difficulty to a misunderstanding of W. King's language. My reason for this was that, as it was notorious that he had land within the block, which the Government has since admitted, and that I knew that his son had land within it, which I had myself seen, and of which W. King could not possibly have been ignorant, such a construction of his language as would not only make him tell a deliberate lie, but tell one for the sake of injuring himself and his son was inadmissible. Professor Browne says—“No doubt Maori language, like Maori ideas of property, is vague and indefinite.” There is no more vagueness in Maori than in any other language to those who understand it. My difficulty has arisen not from any obscurity about the Maori, but from its absence. If W. King's Maori words had been reported, there could have been no difficulty in knowing what he meant. The inaccurate translations officially given of the Proclamation of Martial Law, of Wi Tako's letter, and of Inia's letter, have destroyed my faith in official translations. The conversation alluded to, as reported by Mr. Parris, I consider absolutely worthless. It is simply absurd to ground upon the doubtful version of an alleged conversation the assertion that “W. King made no proprietary claim.” What astonishes me is that Englishmen should have such “vague ideas of property,” as to think that it may be confiscated on such vague assertions.

V. Professor Browne says, that “King's party was thoroughly organized.” There is not a particle of proof advanced in support of this. Mr. Richmond makes the same assertion:— “King's preparations for armed resistance, long before the commencement of hostilities, are undeniable. He did not need to accumulate warlike stores, having always been well provided with arms and ammunition. But he prepared his pa in the bush, so that he might be ready for hostilities at any moment— ready, as he threateningly said to Mr. Parris, ‘to go to the page 34 mountains.”’ I beg leave to deny what Mr. Richmond says is “undeniable,” and must continue to do so until some proof is brought to establish his assertion. W. King's arms and ammunition became a necessity when the former officially informed him that he would afford no protection to life out-side the English boundary: they had been accumulated in order to protect himself against the “friendly natives,” as the murderers of Katatore, Ihaia and Tamati are called, and not for hostilities against the Government. He had not prepared a pa in the bush in order to be ready for hostilities. On turning to Mr. Richmond's reference to ascertain his authority for the so-called threatening language attributed to W. King, I find it is his opponent Teira with two others. I call particular attention to this, as a specimen of the loose way in which Mr. Richmond writes on an important subject. No doubt the English reader would suppose that references thus made without any comment, were made to evidence given on oath. But I have another charge to bring against Mr. Richmond; the words ascribed to W. King are never used as a threat: all that they could convey (it is by no means an uncommon expression) is—‘If I give up Waitara to you, and all my cultivable land is thus ceded, where shall I go and reside, can I live on the mountains?’ It is absolutely impossible to find any other construction in these words. Mr. Richmond's ignorance of Maori is hardly a valid excuse for such a perversion.

VI. An attempt is now being made to justify the war on the ground that the King-movement must soon have required one. Nothing in the past conduct of the Government leads me at least to place much reliance on this assumed foresight as to a coming necessity. There is certainly no official document bearing date before the commeneement of the war to indicate that they possessed it. But so far was the suppression of the King-movement from having been the object of the war, that, as I last year pointed out, the Government committed the extreme folly of attacking a loyal Chief, wholly disconnected from that movement, when it was becoming apparent to all persons moderately acquainted with Maori affairs, and possessing the least sagacity, that the movement had become too important to page 35 be any longer either neglected or trifled with. But there are positive proofs in existence to shew that at the time the war was begun the Government had no intention of extending it beyond the Waitara land question. It is hardly necessary to mention that the Governor gave positive instructions to the officer in command to confine his hostile operations to the disputed block of land at Waitara; and that he cautioned him against any attack on Waikato natives (those more immediately connected with the King-party). At the time the war commenced no proclamation or official notice had ever been issued expressing disapprobation of the movement, or cautioning natives against it. In the answer presented by a friendly tribe, Ngatiukatua, to the Governor's speech at the Conference, and officially published in the Moori Gazette, are these remarkable words:—“Hearken to us! The fault is your own. Some time ago we informed you of its commencement, and that Potatau was set up as King. You answered that you did not believe in it, and that it was mere child's play; but that if all this island were to acknowledge it (the Maori King), then you would believe in it.* * * Your fault is this: had you extinguished it (the King-movement) some time back, it would have disappeared ere this.” There is something very humiliating in seeing how vastly superior these so-called savages were in foresight to the British Governor. Their scarcely concealed sneer at his statesmanlike sagacity in saying that he would believe in it when he saw it is instructive.

The war is even defended on more general ground; namely, that a war between the two races must have taken place sooner or later. This appears so silly that it is not very easy to imagine the mental state in which it could have originated, and may perhaps be though incredible in England. It is of about the same value as would be the defence of a man charged with committing murder, who should say—It is true I killed the deceased, but in any case he must have died some day or other. Even this hardly equals the absurdity of the defence set up for an unjustifiable war, because, though it be true that every man will die, there is nothing whatever to prove that war must necessarily have taken place in New Zealand. On the contrary, page 36 nothing but the grossest injustice could have forced a reluctant people to take up arms; even now, a year after the commencement of hostilities, very few have done so. A Government worthy of the name might have easily ascertained the causes of the irritating grievances of which the Maoris complained. But even these grievances, whatever they were, did not occasion the war, and might easily have been removed. A few years more of peace and conciliation would have resulted in such a large increase of the English population, and such a thorough fusion of the interests of the two races, as must have actually precluded the possibility of a war of races. War is so great an evil that no mere future probability of its necessity can justify it. A system deliberately pursued by a government with its own subjects which must necessarily lead to war, bears its own condemnation on the face of it.

VII, “In the assembly of Maori Chiefs, gathered from all parts of the island, after the principal Land-Commissioner had made a statement, the Chiefs debated the questions among themselves. At the conclusion a series of propositions were moved and seconded by different Chiefs, and carried by a majority of 107 to 3, the dissentient 3 being relations of W. King: The most important were:—‘That this Conference having heard explained the circumstances which led to the war at Taranaki, is of opinion that the Governor was justified in the course taken by him; that W. King provoked the quarrel, and that the proceedings of the latter are wholly indefensible.”’ (p. 18.) I regret to be obliged to contradict the writer. There was no such resolution carried by such a division as he asserts. The resolution was put to the Assembly but was not carried—no division took place on it. The Rev. Robert Burrows wrote to the Southern Cross (Aug. 24), “It will be seen by reference to my ‘memoranda’ that a majority were in favour of Res. II. and that therefore it was carried —not so Res. III. which is indeed the Resolution of the series, Mr. Clark (a Government officer) allows that ‘some confusion did arise, but not from opposition to the Resolution.’ He does not deny, however, that when the meeting was called upon to approve of that Resolution by a show of hands the majority did not put up their hands, and that no better success attended a second page 37 effort. Whilst therefore Res. II. was passed because a majority did hold up their hands in favour of it, Res. III. was not passed because a majority did not hold up their hands. What took place after the Chairman had ‘declared the Conference closed,’ I am not prepared to say.” What took place after the closing of the Conference is now very well known. Underhand means were used to obtain the signatures of those who had been members of the Conference to a document which embodied the objectionable resolution. Several of those who signed this, which they regarded as a complimentary address to the Governor, did so because they expected to receive payment for their attendence at the Conference so soon as this document was signed, they having heard that £3000 had been voted by the General Assembly to cover the expenses of the members. This reason for affixing their names to that paper after the Conference was finally closed has been assigned to me by several members. It is well known that there was great dissatisfaction and discontent expressed when they found themselves disappointed, more especially as they well knew that the Members of the House of Representatives are paid. It is said that the dissentient three were W. King's relations. This is not true. By tracing back the pedigree five or six generations, it may be shewn that they are connected with him; but the same process will shew that they are more nearly connected with Teira, so that Professor Browne's argument will gain little by this. It would have been more to the purpose to say that they, being the only members of the Ngatiawa present at the Conference were the only persons in a position to give an opinion on the subject. One of these men, on hearing this objection, observed—‘Does not the Governor's brother see that the same objection may be raised against his defence of his brother.’ The truth is the members of the Conference were hastily got together at a time and under circumstances when the leading chiefs could not leave their people, and consisted principally of inferior men, many of whom were paid agents of the Government. I allude more especially to those from the southern parts of the Island.

VIII. “All this shake's one faith in the extreme simplicity of page 38 the case, as stated by Archdeacon Hadfield and those who side with him.” (P. 36.) Professor Browne seems to argue that there must be some uncertainty as to Maori tenure of land, because many Maori speakers at the great Waikato Meeting, as well as at the Auckland Conference, were unable to arrive at a decision as to the respective titles of W. King and Teira. He fails to perceive that their difficulty, whatever it may have been, did not arise from any doubts as to Maori tenure, but was occasioned by the entire absence of facts on which to ground a decision, no investigation having ever taken place. I have already given my opinion as to what weight should be attached to the opinions of the Land-Purchase Commissioner's partizans, who formed a majority of the Conference. But allowing that there may be many various opinions given as to Maori tenure, this fact should scarcely have been deemed conclusive against the “extreme simplicity” of my view of it. Professor Browne must be well aware that to ninety-nine men out of a hundred a bundle of facts is nothing more than a bundle of facts, but that there are a few men who by careful and patient analysis can arrive at very simple laws underlying these facts. His error is analogous to that fallen into by many persons, that because Maoris cannot explain the grammar of their own language (which, of course, no Maori can) therefore it is not reducible to any fixed grammatical rules, and is devoid of any clear and definite meaning. I am told that Mr. McLean differs from me as to Maori tenure. He has himself denied this. (Appendix to Mr. Richmond's Mem. on Taranaki Question.) But however that may be, his mind is incapable of the process I have just alluded to. On the other hand it may be observed that the views on this subject maintained by Sir W. Martin, late Chief Justice of New Zealand, are identical with mine. (‘Taranaki Question.’)

IX. Professor Browne seems to think it is a sufficient answer to my statement to quote some scraps from what he calls “authentic documents;” which authentic documents generally turn out to be extracts from Mr. Bell's reports of his own speeches, or it may be extracts from Mr. Stafford's speeches, or portions of Mr. McLean's statements. He seems to have no suspicion whatever that he is overlooking the most obvious rules which page 39 should guide men in estimating the respective value of conflicting evidence. In the first place, all the persons just alluded to are paid officers of the Government. As Mr. Stafford knows nothing of Maori matters, it is hardly worth while to attend to any of his statements. Mr. Bell knows very little more than Mr. Stafford; but it is always quite certain that he will take the Government side in any dispute; he is a personification of redtape. I pass on, therefore, to Mr. McLean. He is the head to the Land-Purchase Department. He comes forward to defend the proceedings of his own department. What I maintain is, that according to the ordinary rules for estimating the value of testimony, his evidence ought to be received with caution as that of a witness under the influence of an undoubted bias and considerable pressure. Mr. Fox says, “He was considered as merely the mouth-piece of the Governor to lay a one-sided statement before the House.” Mr. McLean has been convicted of the grossest misstatements as to facts, some of which appear to have been made wilfully.* But even if he were an independent and trustworthy witness, he cannot justly occupy so high a position as his injudicious friends would place him in. Mr. Fox says again—“Some of his replies, on cross-examination, exhibited a degree of ignorance on common subjects both startling and suggestive.” If the truth must be told, it is, that Mr. McLean is an ignorant, uneducated man. He was once employed at Waihike by Patene Puhata, a native chief, as a goatherd, where he acquired some knowledge of the Maori language, which, with considerable patience and tact, has made him a useful agent in Maori matters.

It would be absurd to expect from him any information as to Maori tenure of land. As an illustration of what I mean, his answer to a question (49) in his examination is given—“What do you mean by Tribal right? I suppose it means the right of a tribe.” Mr. McLean never lived among that section of the Ngatiawa tribe which includes W. King, Teira, &c. I need only say that I lived many years in the midst of them; that I learnt from them twenty years ago their laws and customs to

* See Appendix.

page 40 tenure of land; and that I have recently written on the questions now engaging attention in this Colony, at great personal inconvenience, and with the certainty of incurring much obloquy, because I deemed it right to defend truth against error, and expose injustice and oppression.

Professor Browne says, “Mr. McLean is represented on all sides as a man of singular knowledge and experience in questions of native title and rights. Within the last twenty years he has investigated the title to, and conducted the negociations for the sale of, from 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 of acres, and in no important respect has the validity of these purchases ever been disputed.”* (p. 23). With regard to the alleged fact of these purchases not having been disputed, see Appendix. But the statement is a gross and unjustifiable exaggertaion. It is well known that the greater part of the land referred to is in the Middle Island, where there are very few natives, and consequently little difficulty in effecting purchases. But the greater part of these were made by Mr. Kettle, Mr. Kemp, and others, Mr. McLean having had little or nothing to do with them.

Notwithstanding the observations I have thought it necessary to make, it is only doing justice to Mr. McLean to say that I believe he never would have advised the Governor to adopt the course he did at Waitara, had he been consulted on the subject.