The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars
B. — new zealand spectator, nov. 3. — To the Editor of the New Zealand Spectator
new zealand spectator, nov. 3.
To the Editor of the New Zealand Spectator.
Will you allow me to offer a few comments on a passage occurring in Mr. M'Lean's evidence given in the House of Representatives. It is this—“I believe that most of the difficulties and opposition which has been met with in pursuing this purchase have originated entirely with the anti-land-selling-league. This league I first heard of as having commenced at Otaki. The natives of that place assured me that they had very good advice on the subject, and that they had resolved not to dispose of any more land to the Government. This league kept gaining ground for some years, until a general meeting took place in the Ngatiruanui country, where the natives pledged themselves not only to sell no more land, but to take the life of any one who should attempt to do so. This meeting took place about seven years ago. It was also resolved at this meeting of natives that they should entirely repossess themselves of lands already alienated by them, and drive the European settlers into the sea. The subsequent murders, involving the deaths of Rawiri, Katatore, and others that have taken place at Taranaki, have been the result of that league and the confederacy at Manawapou, and there is very little doubt that the settlement of New Plymouth, since the formation of this land league, has been in a very perilous position.” In reference to this language used by Mr. M'Lean, the Rev. Samuel Williams, who perhaps is as competent as any one to give an opinion on this subject, thus writes in a letter addressed to the Southern Cross, and republished by you, Sir, in your issue of October 6th:—“I cannot refrain from expressing my utter astonishment at seeing certain statements made by the Native Secretary—statements made by one who is looked upon as an authority.” He may well express astonishment at such statements made by one who is not only looked upon as an authority, but who is actually the governing head of the Native Department, whoever may be its ostensible one. The remarks contained in Mr. William' letter in reference to Mr. M'Lean's assertions are so clear and definite, and so thoroughly refute them, that it seems superfluous to add anything to them. But there are some points raised by Mr. M'Lean that compel me to offer a few further comments on his allegations.
Mr. M'Lean asserts that most of the difficulties and opposition which have been met with in purchasing Waitara originated entirely with the Anti-Land-Selling-League. It is unfortunate that Mr. M'Lean did not afford more information about this league, to which such powerful influence is attributed. He says, indeed, that he first heard of this league as having commenced at Otaki. He avoids committing himself by saying positively that it did originate at Otaki. But, assuming that he meant this to be inferred from his language (if he did not, it fails in the object for which it was advanced, namely, in connecting me with the movement), I must treat the insinuation as though it were an assertion page 46 of a fact. Still he makes no attempt to trace it in its development form this its assumed cradle. He, however, goes on immediately to say, that this league kept gaining ground for some years, until at a general meeting it attained what certainly looks like considerable maturity at Manawapou; and that the resolutions adopted by the meeting were—“not to sell any more land”—“to take the life of any one who should attempt to do so”—“to repossess lands already alienated”—“to drive the European settlers into the sea.” He very coolly adds—“This meeting took place about seven years ago.” Now a few questions naturally suggesting themselves in reference to this league, which openly resolved on taking such serious steps as those just enumerated, are—Where are all the Chief Commissioner's reports about this league? What course did the Government, when Mr. M'Lean reported to it the existence of this league, and the resolutions agreed upon at the meeting in question, adopt? What steps did Governor Wynyard, and subsequently Governor Browne, take in reference to it? What measures, during these seven years, since it attained the alarming maturity which it is said to have reached at the Manawapou meeting, have been introduced into the General Assembly, in order to check, if not to crush it? Were Sir George Grey's regulations for preventing the sale of fire-arms and ammunition made more stringent with a view of averting or lessening the threatened danger? Was the British Government distinctly informed of all these particulars before it guaranteed the loan for the purchase of native lands?—and, before the 58th Regiment was withdrawn? And, lastly, was any investigation recommended by the Chief Commissioner for the purpose of ascertaining the causes which led to the formation of this league? Such, I say, are some of the inquiries which might be expected. But to leave such inquiries, which I very much fear would receive no satisfactory replies, I feel more inclined to ask—Does any one believe that such a league ever existed? Did the Chief Commissioner, when he made the statements as to the existence of this league and the resolutions adopted by it, believe them—believe that there was a word of truth in them? If he did, then all I can say is, that he is fairly entitled, like his native acquaintance just before alluded to in his evidence, to claim connection with Hawea o te Marama (the Man in the Moon).
What I now assert, and until proof is adduced to the contrary by those who can show where this imaginary league exists, must continue to assert, is, that there is no such league, and that there never has been any such league; that the whole story is an invention, a fabrication, an imposition; that it either is a fiction, or the Government is chargeable with gross negligence for never having taken steps to put down a conspiracy having objects so clearly avowed and so dangerous as Mr. M'Lean states them to have been seven years ago. But I am quite sure that no proof can be adduced to the contrary. It may be suggested that I am ignorant of the subject. But, until the questions I have asked above are satisfactorily answered, there is such a primâ facie appearance of incredibility about it, that the charge of ignorance is bardly worth refuling. But Mr. M'Lean is debarred from making such an objection, because he has stated his belief that the league commenced page 47 at Otaki, in which case no one would be more likely than Mr. Williams and myself to have some knowledge of this league; but we both assert it to be a fiction.
The Native Minister made use of language in the House very similar to that used by Mr. M'Lean. And during the whole of the debates on the origin of the Waitara hostilities, it was really amusing to notice how every speaker on the Ministerial side of the House, when all arguments in defence of either the justice or necessity of the war seemed to fail, immediately had recourse to the land-league. William King was called a land-leaguer (I think Mr. Richmond invented the term), and this invariably produced a “Hear, hear.” This was considered an unanswerable argument, on the principle, I presume, of omne ignotum pro terrifica. This imaginary league did more service on the Government side of the House than all the other fictions invented for the occasion put together, such as Teira's chieftainship—William King's armed resistance to the survey—or his refusal to meet the Governor before war was officially declared. The general ignorance displayed on the subject by the Native Minister and his supporters may account for, though it does not justify, the use made of this bugbear. But Mr. M'Lean cannot be excused in the same way. I must repeat, that the language contained in the passage cited above from his statement deliberately made before the Committee of the House, is the most barefaced and shameless fabrication that I ever knew to be officially made.
I shall probably be asked whether there was not such a land-league at Otaki many years ago, and whether this league did not keep gaining ground for some years until a general meeting took place in the Ngatiruanui country seven years ago. The answer has been given by Mr. Williams: “The Otaki and Manawatu natives (principally Ngatiraukawa) entered into an agreement not to sell any more land within certain boundaries, over which they had an undoubted control according to native custom. This agreement was, however, cancelled in 1852.” It would simply be an absurd and unwarrantable abuse of language to call this local agreement made for the prevention of the further sale of land—until some internal differences and disputes had been adjusted, a league. But this agreement, made for a temporary purpose, and which terminated in 1852, is the only agreement of the kind that has ever existed here. To assert, therefore, as Mr. M'Lean does, that this local, temporary agreement, which he calls a league, and which actually ceased in 1852, “kept gaining ground for some years until a general meeting took place in the Ngatiruanui country,” where the murderous resolutions already referred to are said to have been agreed upon, and that it ultimately developed itself in an anti-land-selling-league which occasioned most of the difficulties and opposition which were encountered in the attempted purchase of Waitara, is to state what is absolutely false. Mr. Williams confirms my statement; he says—“The meeting at Manawapou, in the Ngatirnanui district, had no connection whatever with the agreement entered into at Otaki and Manawatu, which had been cancelled two years before.”
I have already denied that any such resolutions as those mentioned by Mr. M'Lean were adopted at the Manawapou meeting. The attempt page 48 made at that meeting to get up a land-league utterly failed; and failed, let it be observed, through the advice of the few natives who attended form Otaki and its neighbourhood. The decision arrived at was that stated by Mr. Williams—“that each tribe should be left to manage its own affairs”—the very opposite of an anti-land-selling-league. Mr. Williams likewise correctly says—“what is called the land-league at Waitara was entirely of a local character.” It was in fact a mere temporary agreement among members of the same tribe, the actual owners of the one particular district, not to sell any more land. I have distinctly stated in my evidence (42) what the cause of Rawiri Waiaua's death was. Until my statements made on that occasion are refuted, I must decline to attribute his death, and the deaths of those persons who shared his fate, to an imaginary cause.
There may still be objections raised by persons little acquainted with this subject. It may be asked—how comes all this talk about a land-league if no league exists? Is it possible there can be all this smoke without any fire to cause it? A very few words will suffice to answer this. I believe there has been, during the last ten years, no general disinclination on the part of the natives to dispose of their lands. Purchases of several extensive districts have been made. But it will hardly be denied by any one competent to give an opinion on the subject, that very great dissatisfaction has existed (which has during the last few years increased), with the mode in which transactions have been carried on by the land-commissioners in reference to the purchase of land. Quarrels have been formented, and, as in the case of Taranaki when Rawiri was killed, and in the disturbances at Ahuriri, many lives were lost. The result has been the formation, from time to time, of separate and independent agreements in various tribes, for protesting against, and peaceably resisting, the mischievous proceedings of the land-commissioners. But I positively deny the existence of any combination, or confederacy, or league, between any two distinct tribes.
If I am asked why the Ngatiruanui, if no league existed, went to William King's assistance, I shall be prepared to answer this question when I am told why they came to his assistance when he was attacked at Waikanae in 1839.
In these observations, which I have found it necessary to make, I have abstained from all allusion to the King-movement, which notoriously originated with Waikato, and with which it is admitted William King, prior to February, had no connection whatever.
I consider this letter as a supplement to Mr. Williams's letter, which ought to be carefully read.
Your obedient servant,