England and the Maori Wars
Chapter 4 — Prelude To Grey's Return
Prelude To Grey's Return
On November 26, 1860, Governor Gore Browne had forwarded to the Colonial Office an act to establish a council to assist in the administration of native affairs, entitled the New Zealand Native Council Act. “When the Constitution Act was framed,” the Governor wrote, “sufficient provision for the performance of its engagements by the Crown (namely that it should act independently as guardian of the Maori race) was not made.” (The Colonial Office comment in the margin consisted of one word: “True.”)
“It has for some time been evident,” the Governor continued, “that the existing relations between the Governor and his responsible advisers on the subject of native affairs are not satisfactory. I believe that there has been little or no difference of opinion between myself and Mr. Richmond, the Minister for Native Affairs, for whose ability and integrity I entertain the highest respect, but the responsibility for native affairs has rested entirely upon me, while, with the exception of £7,000 a year (the appropriation of which I cannot alter without the consent of my advisers), the power of the purse, which is all but absolute, has been altogether in the hands of ministers. This has been an unequal and unsatisfactory division.”
Though the Act was recommended by the Governor, Chichester Fortescue, the Under-Secretary of State, said he could not bring himself to think that it should receive the Royal Assent. “It looks and sounds as if it were a concession to the Imperial Government, while in reality I believe it would be a concession by the Imperial Government in the matter of native administration. It creates indeed a ‘Native Council’ to be appointed by the Crown, and provides £2,350 a year for its support. But it carefully avoids associating the Council with the Governor. It gives the Council no initiative. It subordinates it to the ‘Government’—that is, the Ministers page 127 of the day—in all its action, and it only concedes to it administrative functions ‘in special cases and at the instance of the Governor in Council,’ that is, with the consent of his Ministers. Add to this that it is declared in the Preamble and in the Resolution of the Assembly, that the object of the Bill, and the condition under which it is passed, is ‘that the control and ordinary departmental administration of Native Affairs shall be placed under responsible Ministers,’ and I think it will be evident that the Governor will have, under the proposed system, nothing like the amount of personal control and action in native affairs that he possesses at present. You will observe also that the Native Council under the Bill has no power whatever of legislation within native districts, nor of granting Crown titles to natives.
“Now, if the effect of the Act be to make a further transfer of power in native affairs to the Colonial ministry, it seems to me that the present is the worst possible moment for such a concession. First, because it will appear to the natives that the Queen is delivering them over to the rule of the ‘Pakeha’—at the moment when the latter are flushed with victory, and confident in their strength, under the protection of the large force which will then be present in New Zealand. Secondly, because our only chance of bringing the Colonial Government and Parliament to any terms upon the native question lies in making the amount of the Imperial payment for the expenses of the war and the amount of force to be retained in the colony dependent upon the arrangements for the administration of native affairs, to which they may consent, and above all upon their liberality in providing founds for that purpose.”
The Duke of Newcastle wrote: “I find it quite impossible after a very careful consideration of the Ordinance and the accompanying documents to advise the Queen to assent to it…. It may be that when responsible government was given to the colony it was impolitic to attempt to exempt from its operation the management of native affairs. It may be that the natives would be more liberally treated under the operation of this Ordinance…. Such are not the immediate questions…. In the face of the Treaty of Waitangi this Ordinance cannot be sanctioned without injustice and bad faith to the natives. page 128 They have never been consulted as to its provisions, and those provisions deprive them of that which they believe is their best security as given by the Treaty—the direct protection of the Sovereign of England. Without their consent such a change would be looked upon by them as indicative of evil intention by the settlers even in times when the two races were living together in peace.—How much more so now when war has kindled vindictive passions in each and when the natives must be persuaded that they will be utterly crushed by the action of the Assembly backed by an English Army. I firmly believe the result of sanctioning this measure would be to raise the whole of the tribes in armed opposition to our rule—the maintenance for many years of a large force in the colony at the expense of this country—and perhaps finally the extermination of all the more warlike portion of natives.” The Duke ordered that the despatch withholding assent to the Bill should be written “in a reasoning rather than dogmatic tone—putting forward shortly all the objections without disputing the abstract advantages of the plan, but mainly resting my decision upon my inability to reconcile it with entire good faith to the natives—and concluding by the promise of sending out by the next mail counter propositions.”
In his outline of the proposed despatch, Rogers wrote: “I would shew at some length that the defence of New Zealand from internal wars was plainly a New Zealand affair.” Fortescue made the following comment in the margin: “It would be dangerous to carry this doctrine too far, remembering Caffre wars.”
A long despatch—82 pages of manuscript—was prepared and printed privately at the Foreign Office on May 10, 1861. It contained the reasons of the Secretary of State for declining to recommend Her Majesty's assent to the Bill for the establishment of a Native Council in the form submitted to him by the Governor, and outlining other proposals for the establishment of a Council. The despatch was later marked “Cancelled. See to Sir George Grey 5 June.”
1 C.O. 209, 156.
1 C.O. 209, 156.
In a despatch to Sir George Grey of June 3, 1861, the Duke of Newcastle wrote: “Her Majesty's Government… feel that there is no servant of the Crown on whose resources and experience they can so entirely rely as on your own for averting, if possible, the dangers with which the Colonists and Maoris are alike threatened.”
On the draft of the despatch appears the following important Colonial Office memorandum, with the Duke of Newcastle's decision:
“Should Sir G. Grey's offer be noticed? I have avoided noticing it in the despatch to Col. G. B. because it would seem as if Sir G. Grey had been suggesting his (Col. G. B.'s) displacement.”
“Better not notice it in a public despatch.”—N.2
It is clear from this hitherto unpublished memorandum that Sir George Grey had volunteered to return to New Zealand—a revelation interesting in itself and not without value in weighing the evidence in the subsequent controversy between Grey and the Colonial Office.
2 Ibid. Cf. The Case of New Zealand, 1865, reprinted from the Nelson Examiner, in which it is asserted that Grey offered “to come and restore peace at Taranaki, with the title, we believe, of Commissioner.”
In Gore Browne's final months of office efforts were made to supply one want long felt by the Maoris—a reasonably comprehensive system of courts. On March 1, 1861, the Governor forwarded a report from H. B. White, the resident magistrate, on the working of the Native Circuit Act, 1858, in the district of Mongonui. Courts, he stated, were held at intervals of about six weeks at Whangaroa, Wai Kainga, and at Ahipara. The natives attended regularly on the day appointed. White stated that he had not encouraged the formation of an Assessors' Court. “I find the feeling of the people opposed to it,” he said. “They have more confidence in the impartiality of the European magistrates. Moreover, I found that for many years the chiefs in settling disputes always inflicted a penalty, which was appropriated to their own uses, often both parties being fined. This I found a great difficulty. On the one hand the people complained bitterly of the exactions of the chiefs, on the other the payment in the way of annual presents to the assessors did not cover their expenses…. It will be very necessary to pay these men some regular salary…. I cannot fairly state that I have met with any great success. Indeed I never expected it. But I am fully justified in reporting that some advance has been made.”
1 C.O. 209, 163. Cf. Newcastle to Gore Browne, May 27, 1861: “I cannot but feel that in some respects you will be glad to quit New Zealand. Circumstances have occurred, more especially the unfair conduct of some of the Clergy and the desertion of your old friend, Sir William Martin, which must be painful to you” (Martineau, op. cit., p. 320).
The Governor forwarded on March 1 a letter from H. T. Clarke, resident magistrate at the Bay of Plenty, containing a report of a conversation he had had with William Thompson, (Wiremu Tamihana) who, the Governor stated, was considered the most intelligent chief in New Zealand and the most influential in the King party. Thompson said: “My dissatisfaction first commenced with the loose manner in which the signatures were obtained for the Treaty of Waitangi…. Many old men were heard to say: ‘Let us go and make our mark in order that we may receive a blanket.’ I complain of the manner in which the land sales were conducted…. Then again we were alarmed at the rapidity with which the Government were buying up the natives lands.” Referring to the King movement, Thompson said: “This King was to be in close connection with the Governor to stand in the same relation to the Maoris as the Governor does to the Pakehas.” He added that they did not like all the magistrates sent among them. Fenton, he said, “separated us into two parties. He set up assessors without any references to the wishes of the people: and altogether I was dissatisfied with him.” The Colonial Office comment was: “The conversation has rather the appearance of being ‘doctored.’ Thompson's dislike of Fenton may be that Mr. F. was felt by Thompson to be breaking up his party and spoiling his game.”1
War of a much wider scope than the Taranaki campaign now began to appear inevitable. The first impressions of Lieutenant-General D. A. Cameron, C.B., on arrival, are contained in a letter to the Military Secretary, Horse Guards, from the headquarters at Auckland on May 6, 1861: “If the tribes of the Waikato should persist in refusing to acknowledge the Queen's supremacy, and in setting up a King of their own race, I shall doubtless receive instructions to carry the war into their territory. My first object would then probably be to penetrate into the angle formed by the Waipa and Horotiu rivers and to take possession of a point near their confluence called Ngaruawahia, which is understood to be the focus of the King movement agitation…. I learn from persons well acquainted with the subject that the Waikato tribes alone can bring from 4,000 to 5,000 fighting men into the field; and I therefore think that we should have a field force of not less than 2,500 Regular Infantry to oppose them, exclusive of the detachments required to guard the depôts necessary for so long a line of communications in a country wholly destitute of supplies.”2
2 C.O. 33/10.
On May 6 there were 2,172 troops at Auckland, 910 at Taranaki, 191 at Napier, 178 at Wanganui, and 279 at Wellington, in addition to 16 field officers, 31 captains, 73 subalterns, 48 staff, 253 sergeants, and 83 drummers. Discussing the extraordinary success of the Maoris in resisting the troops, The Times said on May 23, 1861: “Their strength has been found to consist in an instinctive knowledge of fortification—a knowledge at once so perfect and so true that all the skill of scientific engineering has been taxed to match it…. There is no place so strong but it must fall in time, and we can only capture a ‘pa’ by such proceedings as would bring a modern citadel to terms.”
1 W.O. 33/10. (Strictly confidential despatch and enclosures printed at the War Office, September 16, 1861.)
“We are not much surprised that the Duke of Newcastle did not close at once with this bold and slashing proposal. At the same time, we hear with satisfaction that the Government had already anticipated that part of it which consists in the reappointment of Sir George Grey as Governor of New Zealand…. The terms in which the Duke alluded to the interference of the Bishop and his clerical coadjutors were wholly unjustifiable unless… capable of explicit proof. Unfortunately we are not left to conjecture on this subject. The facts which have reached us from time to time, and which were alluded to in the debate on Tuesday, the spirit of the letters emanating from that party which have appeared in our own columns, and the candid criticism of Lord Lyttelton, no hostile critic of ecclesiastical pretensions, alike convince us that Governor Browne has had quite as implacable enemies among the Church party as among the promoters of the Land League and ‘Maori King’ movement, or the most unscrupulous members of the Provincial Councils…. No measure of conciliation, nor even the presence of Sir George Grey, will be of the least effect, so long as the Maoris can count on the support of a party who in their jealousy for tribal rights connive at open rebellion against the Crown.”
One of the most discussed writings of those who sided with the Maoris was Sir William Martin's “Memorandum on Our Relations with Waikato,” dated May 3, 1861. He wrote: “At the outset of the Taranaki proceedings this old course of communication (with Potatau and the Waikato chiefs) was not followed…. At the same time threatening intimations were current (circulated especially by the Examiner newspaper) of an intended change of the policy of Government towards page 137 the natives. A vigorous policy, as it was called, was about to be commenced…. The entrance of a military force on their soil, especially when believed to be in violation of the Governor's word, would combine the various sections of the population…. I learn from Mr. Gorst that he saw William Thompson about a fortnight ago. In conversing with him Mr. Gorst assumed that the Maori King was intended to be independent of the Queen, and he endeavoured to point out the evils which would arise from any attempt to set up a separate and independent Power in this island. William Thompson answered him promptly by act and word. He stuck in the ground two sticks. ‘One’ (he said) ‘is the Maori King; the other is the Governor.’ He then laid on the top of the sticks a third horizontally. ‘This’ (he said) ‘is the law of God and of the Queen.’ Then he traced on the ground a circle enclosing the two sticks. ‘That circle is the Queen, the fence to protect all.’ William Thompson and his party have acted very foolishly and offensively in assuming for their chief the title of King even though they use it in a sense of their own. Still I see no ground for believing that they intend to repudiate the Queen's Sovereignty.…. Any fusion of the two races under one system of government is not at present possible. The establishment of separate institutions for the native race is the only alternative and this is the very thing which they crave at our hands.”1
In a despatch of May 16 on Sir William's “Memorandum,” the Governor wrote: “I cannot believe, as Sir William Martin does, that ‘the Maoris do not aim at a system wholly separate or independent’; nor can I agree with them in thinking that ‘the so-called King movement has been, and is even now, a movement which the Government should rather welcome as a God-send than attempt to crush as an enemy.’”
“I should say (with Sir W. Martin) that nothing could be more impolitic or clumsy than to allow a quarrel of this kind to spring up on a matter of language, with savages who do not half understand the significance of the term which they use (or which we use). Whatever terms they use or are allowed to use, I should hope (with Sir W. Martin) that skilful and just government would, by giving the Maoris what they want, throw the King movement into the shade. (Remember the success of Mr. Fenton's movement.) And I think that the great object to be gained by the presence of a large force is not to page 139 terrify, but to give confidence in our just intentions by shewing that the demands which we make upon the Maoris, when we have them, to a certain extent, at our mercy, are not oppressive or vindictive, but are regulated by a desire for their own well-being. My own impression is that the Maoris should not be forced to commit themselves on the King question, one way or the other, but that their minds should be diverted from it by the exhibition of the power and dignity and pay which we are prepared to give to their chiefs acting in conjunction with the Queen's officers, and that the chiefs thus set up should be gradually brought under European government by always strengthening the European influence. This is no new mode of proceeding but one which has succeeded under the most varied circumstances—with Indian Rajahs, medieval feudatories, and African chiefs. Nor, I suppose, if the Royal authority were alone concerned, would there be any extraordinary difficulty whatever in bringing the colony (in the course of years) into the desired shape. The real difficulty is to carry on this system of manipulation in the face of a body of British colonist possessing responsible government. However, the necessity of considering these questions is superseded by the appointment of Sir G. Grey.”1
On June 3, 1861, Archdeacon Hadfield wrote to F. W. Chesson, Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society: “The attempts made to represent the condemnation of the war by all the ablest men in the Colony—Featherston, Fox, Fitzherbert, etc., as the result of party warfare, are quite false; the truth being that the ablest men of all parties, who had never before acted together, united to oppose what was so grossly tyrannical. …It is quite impossible that the Aborigines Protection Society could ever have a case which more imperatively calls for their decided action…. I regret to say that since the arrival of a large number of troops, the war feeling has increased, or rather, the desire for commissariat expenditure; for I believe few or none of the settlers (except perhaps, a few new-comers) have any hostile feeling towards the natives. Bear in mind (what Mr. Fox brings out) that this war is the act of the Governor, and is supported by the Colonial Office.” The Society had already, on April 24, petitioned the House of Commons for a special commission of inquiry into the Taranaki War, and it continued an active campaign in the interests of the Maoris.
On September 12, 1861, The Times published a letter from a Canterbury colonist (probably J. E. FitzGerald), in which the justice of the war was impugned, and in a leading article commented: “There is one feature of the case which the colonist puts very clearly and in more forcible language than we should have ventured to use. It is the injustice of leaving the real power of declaring war in the hands of men who ‘fight by proxy and pay by deputy.’ Sydney Smith tells a story of a person who was so much affected by a charity sermon that he thrust his hand into his neighbour's pocket and poured the contents of it into the plate. The zeal of colonists for the honour of the British flag is apt to resemble this gentleman's benevolence.”
On September 19 The Times published a two-column article on “William Thompson, the New Zealand King-Maker.” In this article it was stated: “Thompson returned from Waitara mortified and disappointed. He went down with intentions friendly to the English, desirous of distinction, no doubt, but of the distinction of a peacemaker; his advances were rejected, he was accused of promoting war and rebellion, he was forced into the position of a belligerent, though he had never fired a shot, and he came back under the threat of war…. There is no doubt that William Thompson is at present engaged in active preparations for war. He is visiting the natives from Tauranga to East Cape, probably to ascertain what support in men and ammunition he can count upon. He still expresses a strong desire for peace, and a determination not to be the first to commence a struggle, which he is aware must end in the destruction of his race, but for the consequences of which he does not consider himself in any way guilty.” The Times page 142 comment was: “That anyone should be found among so-called savages capable of playing the part of Warwick is sufficiently remarkable, and we think our readers will agree with us, after perusing this account, that in not employing such a person as a mediator a great opportunity of pacifying the natives without bloodshed has been missed….If so important a man, after deprecating the Waitara War, and scrupulously standing aloof till he found that his presence might be conducive to peace, has at last become disaffected, it seems to argue great want of tact on the part of the New Zealand Government.”
When opening the first session of the third Parliament of New Zealand on June 4, 1861, Gore Browne said: “The terms offered to the Taranaki and Ngatiruanui tribes will be laid before you. Their aggravated offences can only be pardoned on their giving such tangible proofs of submission as will at once afford a means of reparation for their unprovoked aggressions, and be a memorial to themselves of the punishment due to lawless violence. The Declaration which I have made to the Waikato tribes will also be laid before you. It requires submission without reserve to the Queen's Sovereignty and to the authority of the Law, whilst from those who have arms I have insisted upon restitution of plunder, and upon compensation for losses sustained at their hands by Her Majesty's subjects, Native or European.”1 The terms of peace for Waikato were opposed by Donald Maclean and T. H. Smith, but their objections were overruled. On July 6 the Governor asked for a Royal Proclamation with reference to the insurrection “because it has been industriously circulated, and believed by the Maoris, that I am not acting in accord with the views and wishes of Her Majesty's Government…. It might also be desirable that the natives should be informed that those who join the insurgents and take up arms against Her Majesty must in future expect that their offence will be visited by confiscation of land.” Sir Frederic Rogers's comment was: “This request is practically answered by the appointment of Sir George Grey. The Maoris cannot doubt that his proceedings will be such as the Queen approves.”2
2 Ibid., 163.
The following resolution of a secret committee of both Houses in conference was adopted on July 5, 1861: “That no doubt exists that a large majority of the natives of the Northern Island, residing south of Auckland, are firm adherents of the Maori King, and that the allegiance of others of them to Her Majesty is not to be relied upon…. That the employment of a force adequate to put down speedily and effectually all resistance to Her Majesty's authority would be the most humane, the most beneficial to both races, and by far the least costly to the Imperial Government. That at all events the Commanding Officers in the several districts should be sufficiently reinforced to enable them to avoid being compelled to abandon everything to the insurgents except the garrison towns.”
The Duke of Newcastle's comment was: “I fear two things, equally to be deprecated, are developing themselves. 1st, The Governor seems to be gradually departing from his former policy and yielding to the anti-native feeling of a large number of the settlers. 2nd, There are amongst the Maoris evil spirits who mean to have a King in substance as well as in name and to resist the law…. I have already intimated that I will not advise further reinforcements and there is nothing in these papers to shake my opinion that we have done enough by sending 6,000 men, and the colony can, and ought to, do the rest.”
On August 2, 1861, Gore Browne reported that E. W. Stafford's ministry had resigned after being in office more than five years and that William Fox had taken his place. Stafford had been defeated on July 5 by 24 votes to 23, the issue, according to Saunders, being between a “War” policy and a “Peace-at-any-Price” policy.1
On August 9, Gore Browne forwarded a memorandum by C. W. Richmond, lately Native Minister, on the King movement. Sir F. Rogers made this note: “The question is in short whether William Thompson is to become a Jefferson Davis or a Smith O'Brien.”
1 See his account, op. cit., I, 438-48.
Gore Browne noted that General Cameron, “who,” he said, “had not then gained the experience which he now has,” had strongly recommended that the Waikato tribes should be called to account without loss of time. “He considered,” the Governor added, “that we had received abundant provocation, and that the Waikato should be required to submit after three days' notice. He did not then realize the difficulties attending such an undertaking and wrote officially that ‘much valuable time had already been lost in dilatory negotiations.’ I am led to believe that ere long the Middle Island will desire separation from the North, and although the demand may be put off for a time, it will be necessarily acceded to sooner or later. Advantage should be taken of any such change to replace the Provinces by counties, hundreds and muncipalities, taking care to localize the expenditure of funds derived from the sale of land.”1
2 The War in New Zealand (1860).
2 J. Martineau, op. cit., p. 320.