A Confiscation Policy
The determined nature of the Maoris' hostility caused widespread discussion of the possibility of confiscating their lands as a deterrent. The colonists incurred considerable criticism in later years for adopting this policy, and it is therefore of importance to note that, writing to the Duke of Newcastle on December 17, 1863, Sir George Grey said: “I ought to mention to Your Grace that I believe I was the first to recommend the forfeiture of lands by those natives who took up arms against us, and I did so for the following reasons:—Because such a proceeding is in conformity with their own customs. It will affect lands of those who have forced us into war, and leaves secure to the native owners who have remained at peace their large landed possessions in other parts of the island.”1
That Sir George Grey
, with his intimate knowledge of the Maori character, should have believed that confiscation of lands would be effective in subduing opposition is surprising, especially as that opposition was based on a policy of retaining all Maori lands for the Maori people. It was on July 31, 1863, that the New Zealand ministers, in a memorandum signed by Alfred Domett
and presumably suggested by Grey, formally proposed a policy of confiscation: “The Gold Fields of Australia and Otago have attracted to these colonies a large number of men in every way fitted to supply the population required—men hardy, self-reliant, accustomed to a bush life, expert in the use of fire-arms, and as a body, fully impressed with the maintenance of law and order. Many of these men, tired of the digger's life, are looking round to establish for themselves a permanent home and only require the inducement of the offer of a suitable locality and liberal terms to select the
Northern Island of New Zealand.… It is impossible for the District of Auckland to bear for an indefinite length of time the strain to which it is at present subject. A great proportion of the whole population is now under arms. It is now difficult, and will soon become scarcely possible to procure the necessaries of life. Bakers, butchers and others, who are required to supply the daily wants of the community, are actively engaged in militia and volunteer service.… Homesteads have been laid waste, houses pillaged, unarmed men and boys brutally murdered in cold blood in the immediate vicinity of Her Majesty's Forces; a battle has been fought, a large escort attacked and almost overpowered, and skirmishes have been of almost daily occurrence, entailing a serious loss in killed and wounded.… Nothing will tend so much to confirm the allegiance of the doubtful and prevent their latent disaffection from taking the form of open hostility as some sharp punishment speedily inflicted upon the Waikato. If we wait for the arrival of reinforcements from England, the opportunity of trampling out the insurrection before it has kindled the whole country will be lost.”
Ministers expressed the view that one of the results of the policy would be that the colonists, with a satisfactory and permanent peace established, would cheerfully fulfil the promise made by the General Assembly to undertake the responsibility for native affairs.… “There will be amply sufficient land left them (the Waikato tribes),” ministers added, “for all useful purposes.… The present will be the first occasion on which an aboriginal native of New Zealand will be deprived of a foot of land against his will, and we feel assured that it will be the last.” To counteract the preponderance of male settlers, ministers stated that they had arranged with the Superintendent of Auckland to expend money on the introduction of women imigrants as soon as they could be safely introduced.1
On August 29, 1863, Grey transmitted a memorandum of his advisers containing the details of a plan for the introduction of 5,000 men, who were to hold 50-acre farms of land on military tenure, having first performed military duties in
the colony for such period as the Government might require their services. Grey stated that the plan was based upon that which he had adopted in British Kaffraria. “The land upon which it is proposed to locate these military settlers it is intended ultimately to take from the territories of those tribes now in arms against the Government.”
Colonial Office comment (by W. Dealtry) was: “The memorandum of ministers…appears to me to establish conclusively the expediency of the plan which they recommend, the cost of which, I apprehend, will be borne entirely by the local Government.” The Duke of Newcastle wrote: “Upon the whole I believe the policy of confiscating the lands of the Waikatos who appear in arms against us is right, provided that it is exercised with justice and scrupulous desire not to involve the innocent with the guilty. It is not, however, free from danger. If the other tribes are persuaded that it is a new and flagrant proof of the greediness of the settlers for land and not adopted as a just punishment for murder and rebellion, it may make them desperate and aid the efforts of the King Party to effect a general rising. In conjunction with the confiscation of the rebel lands the proposed military settlement seems right. It is not likely to retain its character long, as, unlike the Cape and other countries where it has been tried, the necessity for it must soon cease. In a very few years the natives must become an insignificant minority. Sanction should be given to this measure in accordance with this minute. Its responsibility must rest with the Colonial Government for all depends on the spirit in which it is carried out.”1
The minute is a good example of the reasonable way in which the Duke carried out his duties. So keen and well-informed a critic as George Higinbotham spoke of him in his celebrated speech in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria on November 2, 1869: “The distinguishing characteristic of the despatches of that nobleman is their perfect straight-forwardness, simplicity and sincerity. He was always able to speak his mind without reserve, and at the same time, so far as I know, without giving offence on a single occasion.”2
When Domett's ministry was replaced by the Whitaker—Fox combination in October 1863, the confiscation policy was continued. W. F. Monk says1 that most writers agreed that Whitaker's policy was sound. The great objections to it, he remarks, were “its lack of definition, its absolute subjection of the natives to the mercy of the whites, and the fact that it was open to much abuse.” These were indeed formidable objections, and it is perhaps no wonder that Sewell called the “Suppression of Rebellion Bill” the “Spreading of Rebellion Bill.”
A Colonial Office minute on this measure said that it provided “that the Governor in Council (i.e. the Executive Council) may order all persons whom they may think fit to take the most vigorous and effectual measures for the suppression of the rebellion which shall appear to be necessary, and to punish and arrest for trial all persons assisting in such rebellion according to martial law by death, penal servitude or otherwise, and to execute the sentences of all such courts martial. It is based on the model of the Irish Acts of 1798, which I apprehend are hardly to be taken as desirable precedents at the present time.”
The New Zealand Settlements Act—known as the “Confiscation Act”—was severely criticized in the Legislative Council debate of November 16, 1863. Dr. Pollen characterized wholesale confiscation as politically immoral and as a financial project utterly delusive and unsound. Mr. Stokes feared that the results of the measure would be to render the natives reckless and desperate.2
The Act was characterized by Sir F. Rogers
as “a thoroughly bad one.” Fortescue was not quite so critical: “There can be no doubt of the sweeping and despotic nature of this Act, nor of the opportunities which it supplies for an oppressive treatment of the natives, if the New Zealand Government is so disposed and is not controlled. I am not, however, prepared to condemn it so entirely as Sir F. Rogers
seems to do. It was passed when war was raging in the Waikato country and when there was reason to fear it would extend to other parts of the
island—so that it was not to be expected that the Act could be so confined to the districts then actually in rebellion…. I think the Home Government may be able to secure moderation and justice through an able Governor known to take a deep interest in the Maori race and backed by a large Imperial force which cannot act without his orders. … If the confiscation is not excessive and is discriminating, I believe it will be a justifiable and wise measure [I agree… F. R.]…. I would instruct the Governor accordingly to satisfy himself of the justice and propriety of every proceeding under this Act (as well as the Suppression of Rebellion Act) and to refuse his consent to any particular confiscation of which he could not personally approve…. With regard to the part of the plan which has been most condemned by Professor Goldwin Smith
and others (tho' without accurate knowledge or close examination of the case), namely the taking of the land of innocent natives, with compensation, there can be no doubt that it is a startling provision of the law, and will require strict control on the part of the Governor.” Fortescue concluded, however, that “confiscation without this power would be impossible, except in the case of every joint owner being proved to have compromised himself in rebellion.”1
He thus showed an appreciation of the difficulties of the local Government.
On October 23, 1863, The Times
supported the contention of the Sydney Morning Herald
that part of the lands of the Maoris must be confiscated to indemnify “the men on whom they have enforced the cost and labour of self-preservation by conquest.” A report from a Dunedin correspondent, dated September 18, published in The Times
on November 17, 1863, stated that “the voice of the colony has been so unanimous regarding the confiscation of the land of the rebels that it is accepted as a measure fully decided on.” “The question is, however, one of great difficulty,” the correspondent added, “for it is almost impossible to carry out the confiscation of the lands of rebellious tribes without engendering an idea among the natives generally that we are fighting for land,
and that land
is the cause of all the troubles. It is well known how jealous the Maoris are on the subject of land, and if once the opinion gains ground
among them that land is our only object, a war of extermination will certainly be the result. There is no security against such a contingency, for certain of the colonial Press do not disguise the feeling of hankering after the fertile land of the natives. In Auckland particularly is this the case, and the papers there already descant on the value of the Waikato plains and discourse with great unction on the probable transfer. It is thus the opinion is created in England of the greed of the colonists for the land of the natives, although I am quite sure the General Assembly of New Zealand would not sanction any measure affecting the deprivation of the natives of their land, other than as one of stern necessity. … The native tenure of land is so intricate that it is impossible to avoid punishing the innocent with the guilty, when that punishment consists in the forfeiture of land.” The correspondent referred to the Government's story of the reason for the abandonment of the Waitara claim, and stated that Teira
denied having made the statements attributed to him by F. D. Bell
, upon which the change of policy was said to be based. In his despatch of November 26 the Duke of Newcastle wrote: “It will be evidently very difficult to control within wise and just limits that eagerness for the acquisition of land which the announcement of an extended confiscation is likely to stimulate among old and new settlers and which if uncontrolled may lead to great injustice and oppression.”1
The struggle was now assuming a more general character and the Maoris were waging indiscriminate warfare against the white population. Incidents of the time included the following murders of settlers:
W. C. Scott, at Pukekohe on August 27, 1863;
Robert Watson, aged 15, at Burtt's farm, September 14;
Hugh McLean, at Hamilton's Farm, September 14;
Margaret Fahey, barbarously murdered near Drury on October 16.
On August 25 a sudden attack was made by a large body of natives on a party of 25 men of the 40th Regiment engaged in road making on the Great South Road. In nine skirmishes about this time ten soldiers were killed and fifteen wounded.
On January 4, 1864, Grey reported that on December 21, 1863, “most barbarous murders” were committed by a native in the Kaipara district. Mrs. Thomson and one of her daughters were murdered. Fox demanded that the tribe should give up the murderer, which they did after he had been identified by another daughter.1
Discussing the new methods of bush warfare forced on the British by the atrocity of the conduct of the Maoris, The Times
in a leading article on December 24, 1863, said: “There may be something revolting to European notions in the ambuscades which are a feature in this kind of warfare, but the ferocity of the natives, and the danger which arises from allowing bodies of them to lurk in the neighbourhood of settlers, must be the excuse for any departure from the usual practices of arms. As to the conduct of the settlers themselves, it is worthy of all commendation, and the same may be said of the people of New South Wales and Victoria, who have given all the help in their power to their threatened brethren…. A correspondent…points out the faults of our administration, and it certainly seems that there has been a strange mixture of weakness and false security.” In another leading article on January 19, 1864, The Times
said: “Nobody at home turns with any satisfaction to the progress of the New Zealand war. Laurels are won from equals, and this is a conflict with savages; laurels are supposed to be entwined with the myrtle, and this is a war of extermination…. There is no vision more delightful than that of an indigeneous race finding themselves the wiser and happier and better for the arrival of the civilized stranger, bearing grateful testimony to his virtues, and yielding a mutually beneficial homage. This is what we all want, and what till lately we had thought we had seen glimpses of in New Zealand. … The justification of the colonists must rest with themselves; and it is enough for us if they appear to be doing, on the whole, the best they can under the circumstances. But, if we choose to censure them, we ought at least to remember their difficulties. What is to be done with aborigines who neither make use of the soil nor sell it; who lay immense tracts under imaginary claims; who are so disunited that it is impossible
to conclude either a political or a commercial arrangement without it being contested by some claimant always in reserve?”
The New Zealand Ministers' plan of 1863 for disposing of native lands may be set out as follows:
- (1) Rebel lands to be dealt with thus: Left to natives, 600,000 acres; granted to Military Settlers, 700,000 acres; confiscated and sold, 1,492,000 acres (valued at £2,792,000). Total area: 2,792,000 acres.
- (2) Loan of £4,000,000, £3,800,000 guaranteed by the Imperial Government, to be employed in roads (1,000 miles); immigration (20,000 people), expenses of war and £200,000 for compensation to natives for various reasons.
Sir F. Rogers wrote this minute on the plan: “I hope the settlers will recollect that sometimes the most obstinate wars have been with tribes who were supposed to be completely broken but were driven to desperation by harsh treatment after submission.”1 The settlers, however, were in no mood to listen to the voice of experience.
A memorandum by Sir W. Martin on the Confiscation Policy and Fox's minute thereon was submitted to the Colonial Office, and Sir F. Rogers made this comment: “Mr. Fox observes that the supreme authority of every civilized people possesses the power of taking lands for public purposes—with compensation, and among these public purposes he includes in New Zealand the establishment of military settlements. This appears to me the announcement of tyranny. The extra-legal intervention of the Legislature is plainly allowable only in extraordinary cases and becomes oppression when it is applied without carefully devised rules to the ordinary operations of the country. But it is now claimed that a Legislature of settlers should practically exercise the power of taking the lands of individual natives or native families for the purpose of making them the private property of individual settlers, under the cover of ‘military settlement’—which may mean, and will in the ordinary course of events, of course, be made to mean, any settlement containing men capable of handling a rifle—i.e. any settlement whatever.”
Chichester Fortescue wrote: “Sir William Martin
is interesting and creditable to the writer. But I own he seems to me, like Mr. Gorst (in his recent book), to take a very one-sided view of the strange and anomalous relations which subsist between the two races in New Zealand. The legal status of the Maoris is that of subjects.1
It is true that the British Government had done but little ‘to impart to them (practically) all the rights and privileges of British subjects.’ But if this failure has been caused partly by negligence, ignorance, vacillation (for our sins against the Maoris have been almost altogether sins of omission), it has been caused much more by want of power and the refusal of the natives to accept the condition of the subject with all its duties of obedience. The state of things, then, which has arisen must not be used altogether against the Government and in favour of the natives, as I think the advocates of the latter are apt to use it. We must not be told, for instance, that the hostile natives must not be treated as ordinary rebels (which is true and right) and in the same breath, that it is iniquitous to take their lands from them, except under the scrupulous application of English law, because they are subjects. In the same way it seems to me absurd for Sir W. Martin first to prove elaborately that the natives are British subjects, and then to complain of the troops crossing the Mangatawhiri and to justify or excuse ‘resistance to invasion’ on the part of W. Thompson, as though Ngatihauas and Ngatimaniapotos were two independent neighbouring nations, one friendly the other hostile, and the Governor had unjustly attacked the former, making them suffer for the sins of the latter…. William Thompson
is a fine fellow and I hope he will be gently treated, and receive a different measure from that meted to Rewi. But he and his tribe must expect to suffer—and that whether we choose to regard them as subjects or foreigners—for having made common cause with Rewi and
the war party from the moment that General Cameron crossed the Mangatawhiri.”1
In a letter published in The Times on December 24, 1863, J. E. Gorst traversed the causes of Maori distrust and hatred of the Government. The duty of governing the Maoris, undertaken in the Treaty of Waitangi, had been “absolutely neglected.” There had never been a “properly organized native service in New Zealand.” The only department of native government “which had any life” was that devoted to land buying. The new value acquired by land caused the revival of “old dormant claims.” War and bloodshed ensued, but the Government “looked quietly on.” No provision was made for the education of the Maoris beyond subscriptions to the mission schools. “Most of these schools were extremely bad.” The only attempt made for many years to give political instruction to the natives was the publication of a newspaper called the Maori Messenger, “composed of such contemptible trash as alone to explain and justify the conduct of the Maoris in thinking themselves politically wiser than their rulers.” The Europeans of the lower order settled in remote districts “were as lawless as the natives themselves.” The Maoris were made to feel grievously “their social inferiority to the Europeans.” The colonial newspapers were full of affronts to the natives. “It is easier for a savage to forgive a wrong than an insult,” Gorst continued. “The Maoris have a firm persuasion, derived, I believe, from the lessons of mischievous and treacherous Europeans, that as soon as ever the white race is sufficiently powerful their lands will be seized and they will be reduced to a condition of servitude as other aboriginal races have been before. … The above are some of the grievances under which the Maoris suffer, or at least imagine they suffer. No permanent peace can ever be secured in New Zealand until one of two things is done—either the natives must be exterminated, or those of their grievances which are real must be redressed and those which are imaginary must be proved to be so to the satisfaction of the natives themselves.”
in a leading article of April 27, 1864, on the debate in the House of Commons on the previous evening, said
that it could not follow Mr. Mills and Mr. Buxton “in setting the whole trouble down to the fault of the colonists: the utmost that can ever be done is to buy off one chief's alleged rights in the soil. On this being done, another starts up, to be disposed of in his turn, but only to give place to another.” Referring again on the next day to the debate, The Times
said that it had failed to bring out clearly one all-important thing—“that for some time past, at the present time, and for we know not how long a time to come, the lives of 10,000 English soldiers and more than £1,000,000 of money raised by taxes in the United Kingdom annually have been and will be under the control of the Legislature of New Zealand, which contributes not one penny to our taxes, which gives not one soldier to our army, which makes and unmakes its own Ministers, passes and repeals its own laws, and pursues its own policy, without the least reference to our wishes, our convenience, or our interests. We doubt if the whole history of the world can afford a parallel to this portentous phenomenon. … What possible benefit do the people of England derive from the most successful campaign against the Waikatos, from the most signal victory over the Ngatiruanui tribe? What does the poor man, whose sugar, tea and beer are taxed for such a purpose, receive as an equivalent for what he expends? What justification can be urged for the conduct of the House of Commons in thus delegating its own duties to a remote assembly, the names of whose members it does not know, with whose constitution it is not acquainted, and over whom it can exercise no manner of influence…. We have lost all Imperial control in this portion of the Empire, and are reduced to the humble but useful function of finding men and money for a Colonial Assembly to dispose of in exterminating natives with whom we have no quarrel, in occupying lands from which we derive no profit, and in attracting to their shores a vast Commissariat expenditure which we have the honour to supply out of the taxes of the United Kingdom, and from which they derive enormous profits…. The next Maori war must not be fought with British troops nor paid out of British taxes.”
In a leading article on Sir William Martin's memorandum against confiscation, The Times said on June 1, 1864: “If we
would prevent wars for the future, we must teach the natives that war is a losing game. They have but one possession which they value, which is their land, and this they have hitherto retained, whatever have been their transgressions against us. We cannot wonder, therefore, that it has occurred to the colonists of New Zealand to inflict upon the natives almost the only penalty of which they are really sensible, and that they have conceived the idea of making the lands of their enemies the means of remunerating their defenders.”
A memorial signed by a large number of influential people connected with the Aborigines Protection Society in England urged the Government not to pursue a policy of confiscation. The New Zealand ministers in reply said that the custom of confiscation had always been recognized by the Maoris themselves, and they did not consider themselves conquered unless their land was taken.1 The Society strongly contested this in a reply which included the following passage: “The truth is that confiscation is persisted in because the colonists want the land, and they would rather that the last Maori should cease to exist than forgo their insatiable cupidity.”2 In their reply to the Duke of Newcastle's despatch of November 26, 1863, concerning the limiting of confiscation, the New Zealand ministers said they did not feel any apprehension that confiscation could not be confined “within wise and just limits.”
On February 29, 1864, Grey reported that the colonial forces of New Zealand amounted to 4,028 officers and men, all enlisted for three years. The Colonial Office “noted with pleasure” the efforts made by the Government to provide for the security of the colony.3 On September 26, 1863, the Duke of Newcastle had reproved Sir George Grey for not stating when he applied for reinforcements that he had also made application to the Australian colonies. He had also expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the failure of the New Zealand Government to call out the militia.
In a leading article of February 6, 1864, the Taranaki Herald
wrote: “The substantial answer which England has given to our demand for help deserves the recognition and hearty acknowledgment of the whole colony; and as we were not backward in asserting our claims upon the mother-country when the question was whether we should be left unaided in the midst of difficulties and troubles not our own making, let us be as ready to acknowledge the liberality and promptness of the aid afforded, which has been far greater than we had any right to expect. There are now in New Zealand ten regiments nearly all complete—the 12th, 14th, 18th, 40th, 43rd, 50th, 57th, 65th, 68th and 70th; besides these there are two batteries of Field Artillery, Engineers, and Military Train—in all, certainly not less than 10,000 men. There are moreover four ships of war—the Curacoa, Eclipse, Esk
the crews of which, and in some cases the ships themselves, in one capacity or another, have been actively and most usefully engaged ever since they have been here; and in addition to all these it is reported by this mail that there are three more regiments under orders to come here, if not already started. Happily, too, this army (for it is now nothing less) is not wanting in the most essential particular—an able leader. General Cameron is possessed of the two opposite qualities not often found together—boldness and caution, and the rarer one in military men of his standing, of being able to adapt himself to altogether new conditions of warfare.
“The General Assembly in its last session passed an address of thanks to the Queen; but its gratitude took also a practical form. The £3,000,000 Loan, the calling out of the Militia in all the Provinces of this island, the raising of the Defence Force, the introduction of military settlers from Otago and Australia, and the building and equipping of the steamers for the Waikato—these are the colony's contributions to its own defence, and they show that in asking for help it was not unwilling to help itself.” The Herald asked that if Grey, whose “wait” policy had failed egregiously, were transferred elsewhere, Colonel Gore Browne should be allowed to return to New Zealand. “But whatever may be done in this respect the debt we owe to England is a great one; not only for the help itself, but for the ungrudging spirit in which it has been given.”
The New Zealand ministers, in 1864, proposed confiscation of the following areas:
- (1) Of the Waikato country as far as a line across the island from Raglan to Kawhia to Tauranga, excepting certain portions to be reserved for such natives as might return to their allegiance;
- (2) Of a portion of the country of the Ngatimaniapoto tribe;
- (3) Land on both sides of the town of New Plymouth to an extent not defined;
- (4) Land north of the Waitotara River to a point 10 or 20 miles north of the Patea River, including Waimate.1
Ministers thus set out their four objects in confiscating lands: (1) Permanently to impress the natives with the folly and wickedness of rebellion; (2) to establish a defensive frontier; (3) to find a location for a European population which may balance the preponderance of the natives who occupy the rebel districts; (4) in part to pay the cost of the war forced by the natives upon the colony. “While achieving these ends they would reserve for the future use of the natives so large a portion of the confiscated land as would enable them to live in independence and comfort, and they would secure it to them by such individual titles under the Crown as might tend to elevate them above that communal system (orno system) of life which likes at the root of their present uncivilized state.”2 Cardwell, who had become Secretary of State on April 8, stipulated in a despatch of April 26, 1864, that the Confiscation Act should not apply for more than two years, that a Commission should be set up to inquire what lands might properly be forfeited, and that afterwards a general amnesty should be proclaimed except in the case of certain outrages which should be specified.
A ministerial memorandum on this despatch and one of May 26 took exception to the following passage in the latter despatch: “It is my duty to say to you plainly that if unfortu-
nately their (Ministers') opinion should be different from your own as to the terms of peace, Her Majesty's Government expect you to act upon your own judgment.” Ministers stated that they did not claim the right to enforce their policy with Her Majesty's Imperial troops: “In this respect His Excellency has a negative power
which is not disputed, but His Excellency's advisers do insist that the Governor has not the right to carry out a policy of his own irrespective of his responsible advisers…. His Excellency's advisers deem it to be an imperative duty to place on record without delay their protest against the introduction of a new form of government, under which the native affairs would be administered, partly by His Excellency and partly by his advisers … a system far worse than that which the Duke of Newcastle pronounced to be a failure, and which could not but operate mischievously alike to both Imperial and Colonial interests.”1
When forwarding the memorandum on August 26, Grey wrote: “My Responsible Advisers think that practically no difference of opinion as yet exists between the Governor and themselves. What constitutes a difference of opinion admits of question. I think that several discussions which have taken place between my Responsible Advisers and myself, regarding the confiscation of native property, the entering upon military operations and other cognate subjects, constitute differences of opinion upon important points connected with Imperial interests…. Since the direction of native affairs was originally assumed by the Colonial Ministers, a great change has taken place in this country. Then a war had recently been in appearance concluded, and there seemed ground to hope that peace between the two races might be permanently preserved. Now a very different state of things prevails. What may with justice be regarded as a civil war is raging in New Zealand. The parties engaged in this conflict are the whole of the European population and a part of the natives on one side, the remaining portion of natives on the other…. The Colonial Ministers are responsible to the General Assembly for colonial matters, but, as I will presently show, the General Assembly does not even in such matters exercise such an active supervision of control
over their acts and proceedings as the Parliament of Great Britain exercise over those of the British Ministry…. The members of the General Assembly are collected from great distances, are drawn away from their own private avocations to which they are anxious to return as speedily as possible. … The sessions of the Assembly are also not only short, but far too infrequent to enable them to exercise such control over public affairs as is exercised by the Governments of Great Britain. For instance the General Assembly met at its last session on the 19th of October, 1863, and was prorogued on the 14th of December of the same year, after a session of only 56 days, and it may probably not meet again until the month of March 1865, that is, not until after an interval of 15 months…. The present cabinet consists of five ministers, one of whom has been absent in England during the greater part of the time of the existence of the present ministry. Two other members of the ministry have been frequently absent from the capital, so that the direction of affairs, involving largely the interests of Great Britain in the employment of her military and naval forces and the expenditure of her funds, has rested at such times in the hands of the two remaining members of the ministry, who are the two partners who compose one of the leading legal firms in the town of Auckland.”
Replying on November 26, Cardwell said: “It never was intended by H.M. Government to place the direction of native affairs in the hands of the colonial administration in any such sense as to give them the control of H.M. Forces, either directly or indirectly.” He reiterated, in respect to confiscation, that no land should be taken unless Grey was personally satisfied as to the justice of such procedure in each particular case.1
On January 26, 1865, Cardwell, in a despatch to Grey, wrote: “It must be clearly understood that Her Majesty's Government do not acknowledge the obligation to carry on war at the expense of this country till the natives are so broken or disheartened as to render further war impossible.” Cardwell pursued the same policy of restricting expenditure in South Africa. A reduction of four companies in the Cape Corps had been ordered, and on August 5, 1864, Cardwell instructed
Wodehouse, the Governor, that “the shadowy British dominion over the Transkeian territory be withdrawn.” “This was not the only occasion in South African history that an unpopular intervention by the Colonial Office saved the colonists from the evil effects of ill-considered ambition.”1
Cardwell's attitude towards confiscation in New Zealand may be regarded as equally salutary.
On June 8, 1864, Grey informed the Colonial Office that ministers had published a notice to the Maoris setting forth terms of peace and stating: “This power is to be remembered—the disposal of their lands is with the Governor.” “I understand,” Grey wrote, “that in the opinion (of Ministers) they had, under the system of responsible government, a right to make use of the Governor's name personally—and then to require him to take and act on their advice, on the very point which they seemed by a public proclamation to have left to his discretion.” The marginal minute of the Colonial Office was “This appears to be a preposterous assumption on the part of the Ministers.”
The Wellington correspondent of The Times,
in a letter dated December 14, 1864, and published on February 17, 1865, wrote: “Why should not the Maori pay for his war? The Colonists say he ought for the following reasons:
- (1) The natives were the unprovoked aggressors in this revolt.
- (2) On our side it has been a war of self-defence, literally a struggle for life or death.
- (3) Unless such events are to be chronic, substantial punishment must be inflicted, and material guarantees taken.
- (4) The natives care little for loss of life and crops. Until a few years ago their whole career, from generation to generation, was a succession of wars.
- (5) They do not care for loss of territory by war.
- (6) It is consistent with their own custom.
- (7) They never consider a belligerent conquered until his territory is taken.
- (8) The war will cost the colony £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 in war expenses and in other ways.
- (9) There is nothing contrary to natural equity, moral law, or Christianity in requiring the Maori who has inflicted such loss and suffering on us to make restitution.
- (10) The land is the only source from which he can make restitution.
- (11) No real injury would be inflicted by the confiscation of ‘large territories’ of the rebels. The tribes responsible for the war number from 10,000 to 15,000 souls. They own 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 acres—they have never cultivated or used 100,000. If we took half or a third it would not be more than a just punishment, nor do more, after deducting the cost of survey, immigration of military settlers, etc., than repay the loss and suffering we have been involved in by them.”
There is something perhaps to be said for the logic of these contentions. The difficulty was that the Maoris saw the fears of many years being realized before their eyes. The lands handed down by their ancestors were in danger and they were ready to adopt any means to save them.