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England and the Maori Wars

Chapter 10 — “Self-Reliance”

page 241

Chapter 10

The New Zealand ministers, in a memorandum of December 30, 1864, described by Chichester Fortescue as “an excellent state paper, which does great credit to the Weld Ministry,” contemplated the removal of the Imperial troops:

“There may be partial disturbances, there will be imaginary alarms, the timid and those who have largely benefited by the presence of the troops will raise the usual outcry. But it is hoped that the war in the Waikato has practically come to an end. His Excellency the Governor has, by the advice of Ministers, and, as they understand, fully concurring, issued a proclamation which is virtually a declaration of the cessation of active operations at least in the Waikato, a district [which] is now occupied by no less than 2,500 military settlers, armed, organized and capable of self-defence. The operations at Taranaki … may be carried on with a local force, which, when the troops are withdrawn, the colony must supply. Ministers are of opinion that that spirit of self-reliance which constitutes real strength, and the surest guarantee for the future of a country, would be fostered by the withdrawal of Her Majesty's Forces and by the substitution of a small colonial force, partaking of the nature of an armed constabulary, officered, equipped and disciplined with especial reference to the services it would have to perform, and to the country in which it might be called upon to act.… It is confidently hoped that when the troops are withdrawn, the entire control of all its internal affairs, native as well as others, will be left to the Colonial Government. The system of double government, has, in the opinion of ministers, been fraught with the most disastrous consequences to both races of Her Majesty's subjects in this colony.”

Reference was made to the proposal for the separation of Auckland from the rest of the colony and other alternatives— page 242 division at Cook's Strait, or into three colonies—Auckland, Wellington, and the Middle (South) Island. Such schemes, the ministers affirmed, would “dwarf the political intellect of the colony, confining it to the consideration of narrow and personal interests, whilst there is no slight security for the future of the native race in the fact that the questions affecting them and their relations with the Europeans are influenced by men beyond the reach of local passions and interest.” (Colonial Office comment: “True.”)1

Discussing Weld's programme on February 17, 1865, The Times expressed the view that it would be received with “little dissatisfaction by the great majority of Englishmen.” “Mr. Weld,” it said, “appears to think that a moderate standing force would suffice to control the Maori tribes.… For the rest he relies upon strong and well selected military posts, and, above all, on military roads. He would drive these roads straight through the districts in which the Maoris entrench themselves, not fighting except upon compulsion, but completing the road at all hazards, and paying the natives themselves for working at them, if they could be induced to do so. Then he would establish military settlements on lands to be taken from the tribes actually in rebellion, and thus by one and the same act remunerate the auxiliaries now in the field, and raise a barrier against invasion in future.”

The New Zealand ministers in a memorandum of January 3, 1865, stated that they had under consideration “the expressed intention of the Imperial Government to insist on immediate repayment of all advances to the Colony on account of the war, to withhold from it all future pecuniary aid, and to require for the future a rate of payment per man upon a greatly increased scale for all Her Majesty's Lands Forces employed in the Colony.” “If from any cause the withdrawal of Her Majesty's Land Forces should be delayed for any lengthened period, and the terms now composed by the Imperial Government insisted on,” they wrote, “ministers are of opinion that the

1 C.O. 209, 188. For a description of the separation movement, see W. P. Morrell, Provincial System of Government in New Zealand, pp. 139–44. A petition from the Provincial Council for the separation of Auckland from the rest of the colony was forwarded on January 5, 1865. It was supported by Sir George Grey, but rejected by the Home Government.

page 243 Colony will be wholly unable to bear the burden and that financial ruin will be the result.… The colony has incurred a debt of nearly three millions. It is maintaining on full Colonial pay a force of about 4,500 men, besides volunteers and militia.”

On January 7 Grey reported that “almost the entire native population at Tauranga, who recently submitted to the Queen's authority, have become infatuated under the influence of the fanatical faith which has been propagated by the false prophet who has appeared in this country, and that, abandoning all their property, they have betaken themselves to the mountains where the rebel natives are.”

In his Journal dated January 7, 1865, Deputy Quartermaster-General Gamble noted the spread of the “new Maori superstition called Pai Marire.”1 Its influence was seen in the action of Nukumaru, near Weraroa Pa, on January 25, 1865, when the Maoris made a spirited attack on the British camp, apparently believing themselves invulnerable. Gamble wrote: “Although the commencement of operations in this district (on the political wisdom of which it is beyond my province to speculate) has led to another collision with the native race, and the early termination of this protracted war may have thus become more unlikely, yet, as the great native meeting held at Rangitoto appeared to lean generally on the side of peace, and all is quiet elsewhere, it may be hoped that the hostilities unfortunately occurring here may continue to wear a purely local aspect, that they will ere long be brought to a close, and that the story of the last field of contest in New Zealand will then have been told.”2

Deputy Commissary-General Strickland's report of March 1, 1865, stated: “On the 24th and 25th January the fight at Nukumaru took place. Nothing like it has ever occurred before in New Zealand. There for the first time an army of New Zealanders, numbering not less than 600, appeared in the field, and in broad daylight measured their strength against the Pake-has. Their plan of attack is admitted by all military men here to have been very good. The work was commenced with great vigour and spirit, but resistance soon became feeble; the army of savages lost its cohesion; it was beaten by the steady discipline of the British troops, and the excellence of their arms

1 See above, pp. 216–18.

2 W.O. 33/16.

page 244 as compared with the very inferior weapons in the hands of the Maoris. They did more mischief to our army in the first five minutes of the fight than in the whole of the rest of it. Still, the result of the fight has been to raise the Maori in our estimation, and to prove to us how quickly we are teaching him the art of war.” The British force consisted of more than 900 officers and men. Thirteen British were killed, and about 70 Maoris were believed to have fallen.

A translation of a “Pai Marire” prayer, found in the village of Manutahi on March 15, was sent to the War Office: By belief in the Ruler, all men shall be saved in the day of the passing over and the pouring out of blood, lest they should be touched by the destroyer, the enemy, the Governor, and his soldiers. The many thousands of the skies shall close up the mouth of the enemy, the Governor. To you, O Ruler, belongs the power to destroy his thoughts, and the sources from whence they spring, and all his works. You alone, O Ruler, are the strong stone slung at the Governor, his works, and the thoughts of his heart. To you only belongs the power to darken his eyes lest he should see the brightness, so that his thoughts may be troubled. By your power alone shall the Governor be completely overcome, because his works are evil. Be you strong, O Ruler, because your people, like men of Canaan, are naked people, possessed of nothing. You know it. With you alone, O Ruler, is the correctness (of this). This is my earnest striving to you, O Ruler, that the heart of the Governor should be drawn forth by you that it may be withered up in the sun, not to see any brightness because he is the bad Devil of the world, the destroyer of the men.1

On February 6, 1865, Sir D. Cameron, in a despatch to the War Office from Waitotara, stated that if the Home Government approved of the objects aimed at by the Colonial Government, he recommended that a reinforcement of 2,000 men should be sent from England. On February 27, however, the War Office instructed Cameron to send home at once 5 battalions of infantry.1 On March 10 the arrest of Hauhau fanatics on the East Coast was reported.

On the same day Grey forwarded instructions concerning the payment to the Imperial Treasury of £500,000 Government debentures with a view to the adjustment of the debt due by

1 W.O. 33/16.

1 W.O. 33/16.

page 245 the colony. This was regarded by the Colonial Office as very satisfactory.

A memorandum of ministers rebutting the impression that the war in New Zealand was continued for the profit of the colonists was signed by F. A. Weld and dated March 20, 1865. It stated that ministers had advised the Governor to oppose the demand of Lieut.-General Cameron for reinforcements from England and that they would not advise any operation which might involve the retention of Imperial forces in the colony. They submitted the opinion that a colonial force of Bush rangers and cavalry united with the loyal natives would be sufficient for all necessary operations. Ministers thus described their defence policy: “To settle the country already held by troops; to identify the friendly natives as far as possible with their European fellow-citizens by the issue of Crown grants and certificates to them for land; and by measures generally calculated to improve the condition of the native race; to open the country by roads as occasion might serve and to secure the safety of the settlements of Taranaki and Wanganui by making a road, and by securing a military post or posts in the intervening hostile districts. Ministers believe the success of their policy to depend upon the willingness of the European settlers and those natives who live amongst them, to come forward in self-defence, aided for a time at least by an armed constabulary force under the direction of the Civil Government.” An outline of the scheme for an armed constabulary followed. It was to consist of thirty companies of fifty men each.1

The Times referred on March 13 to the debate in Parliament of March 10, 1865: “The debate on New Zealand is an epoch in the history of British colonization; itself a movement which ranks in importance with the first dispersion of the human race, the invasion of the Northern races, and the discovery and settlement of the New World. New Zealand has had the full benefit of our liberal politics, our philanthropy, our poetry, and our religion. It was colonized at that fortunate juncture when everything that existed was found to be wrong, and we could not be too thankful that we knew how to mend it. The first

1 C.O. 209, 189.

page 246 colonists were to govern themselves and were some of the most enlightened men of the age. The favourite clergyman of his day gave up all his prospects here to found the Church there. More recently an entire Church of England city has been carried out and planted in one of the choice parts of the Southern Island.… For this dear, and, we must say, spoilt child, we have done all we can and tried every resource…. The position of affairs to which we had brought ourselves by trying to give equal satisfaction to every condition of the problem is so ridiculous as even to have drawn on us the scorn of the natives.” The decision to leave the management of the natives to the Colonial Government was the only possible one.

In his journal of March 7, 1865, Gamble described the truce negotiations at Weraroa Pa and the exchange of communications. One sent out from the pa was a manifesto from the high priest of the “Pai Marire” (“goodness and quietness”) religion.1 “It is written,” wrote Gamble, “under some strange delusion about the arrival of Germans in the country. In their new superstition they make use of gibberish unintelligible it is believed even to themselves. ‘Rire rire hau’ is an illustration, and is like a terminating ‘chorus.’ Their religion is also called the ‘Hau-Hau’ religion from the barking sound with which they articulate the word.

“The friendly natives of Wanganui, flushed with their recent success, have asked permission to attack the Weraroa Pa, which has been granted. It is possible they may succeed. There is always a mystery about these native battles, which it is hard to understand. Relatives and friends are divided, and thus the friendly natives, in fighting their own countrymen, are not only on equal terms with them in knowledge of ground and other matters, but may probably bring them to reason through the influences of kindred and race. It is to be hoped that it may prove to be so in the case of Weraroa, which is a formidable work, and formidably situated. If it be defended, as it no doubt would be against ‘Pakehas,’ then the friendly natives have a hazardous task before them. The pa is on a commanding ground within the bush. It is protected on either side by a deep wooded ravine, and in its rear by a steep precipice, which at

1 W.O. 33/16.

page 247 that point forms the left bank of the Waitotara River. On its left bank the bush is interminable, and the country so broken as to forbid the possibility of military operations in that direction. Under any circumstances the capture of this position by a European force would involve a heavy loss of life, while there was no likelihood of inflicting an equivalent or any loss on the enemy, whose escape at any moment it was impossible to prevent.”

Gamble described the advance of the troops along the West Coast from Wanganui to the Waingongoro River, from the camp at which place he wrote on April 6: “In these Wanganui districts alone is war carried on, and, though it may not be immediately within my province, I cannot help placing on record that it had been better for the peace and prosperity of the country and the mutual welfare of both races, as it certainly would have been more to the interest of the Imperial Government, if the further acquisition of territory, and the other ends which the Colonial Government appear to have in view had been left to time and gradual development, instead of being prematurely forced at the point of the sword.”1

On July 7, 1865, a leading article on the murder of the Rev. Carl Volkner at Opotiki on March 2, appeared in The Times. Volkner was crucified according to the laws of the “New Canaan” by followers of the “Pai Marire” faith, and Kereopa, the ringleader (afterwards hanged) swallowed the missionary's eyes as a symbol of the treatment he would mete out to Queen and Parliament. “Intelligence more horrible than that which has reached us has never been received, even from New Zealand,” stated The Times. “A most atrocious murder has been deliberately committed upon one of the missionaries, and this, moreover, in cold blood, with every sign of deliberation, and with all the most revolting circumstances of cannibalism. It has been committed, moreover, not by a rebellious tribe of savage natives, who had never been brought under civilizing influences, but by the very flock of the minister himself, among whom he had resided for years, and within the sight of his own house…. The source of this horrible reaction is the new superstition which we have lately had occasion to mention,

1 W.O. 33/16.

page 248 called Pai Marire, words which, with a strange mockery of the reality, are said to mean ‘good and peaceable’.… The colonists will most wisely be left to themselves to manage this war with the energy which their sense of danger and their experience will suggest to them. It is obvious, at all events, that the cumbrous operations of our regular troops have wholly failed.”1
Sir George Grey issued a proclamation against the Hau hau religion on April 22, 1865. The doctrines of Te Ua produced a frenzy among his followers, as may be seen by the Rev. T. S. Grace's account of their behaviour after the murder of Volkner: “They were eager to taste his blood, and many rubbed it on their faces. Some of his old friends took part in all this! From my own observance, the people appeared to be half-lunatic, and so worked up by their religion as to be ready for any work of the devil.” But a prophet who promises invulnerability to bullets is too readily put to the test, and it was not long before Te Ua's followers were disillusioned. As a political factor Hauhauism retained importance for some time, while as a religion it was to provide a basis for the Church founded by Te Kooti, whose reputation was based on performance rather than promise. “The missionary clergy,” as Bishop Selwyn told the Christchurch Synod in 1865, “were believed to be the agents of the Government in a deep-laid plot for the subjugation of the native people.”2 Hence the rise of new religions blending old Maori beliefs with scriptural and other teachings. Bishop J.R. Selwyn, son of G. A. Selwyn, has recorded3 that the Maori misunderstanding of his going with the troops as chaplain

1 Levy's diary of the Volkner murder is in The Times of July 19, 1865. The Wellington correspondent's account appeared on July 6. The Illustrated London News of July 29 contained an account of the affray, with sketches. A good bibliography is included in Haubauism, a thesis by S. B. Babbage.

2 In a letter to Bishop Selwyn (in the possession of Selwyn's grand-daughter, Mrs. Will Spens, Cambridge) Archdeacon Hadfield wrote from Otaki on June 8, 1865: “I am much obliged for your kind note. There could be no use in your coming here: these miserable fanatics would not listen to any one. I do not hear that they have gained any converts, but the Kingites are giving them some countenance and support…. The state of things is not pleasant and arguing with fanatics seems not very profitable.”

3 In Personal Recollections of Bishop G. A. Selwyn, privately printed, 1894.

page 249 nearly broke his father's heart. As he accompanied his father on his journeys in 1866 he was able to give a clear picture of the pioneer Bishop's activities: “With a little tent that weighed 4 lb., with some biscuits wrapped up in a craftily contrived bag which rolled up in a waterproof sheet with a spare suit, with a piece of bacon on one saddle bow, and a tin pot and a couple of plates on the other, he moved from post to post, holding endless services, visiting the sick, comforting the dying.… Again and again he used to start on Sunday morning from a post on the river thirty-five miles from camp, and ride into camp before night holding seven services on the way. But it was not only for the soldiers that he thus cared. The scattered settlers all along the line felt his love and his watchful protection. Not once but many times did he ride, at the risk of his life, to warn some outlying farmstead of an impending attack and help to remove the women and children to a place of safety.” The great Bishop, who had not been afraid to take the part of the Maoris when he believed them badly treated, saw them now in the grip of a superstition from which he could not save them. They had lost faith even in those who had spent years in their service.