History of New Zealand
It is impossible to study the facts connected with the Maori race without being deeply interested in their fortunes. With whatever motive any one might undertake to write a history of the English occupation of New Zealand, he is no sooner confronted by the facts with regard to the Maoris—their polity, their laws, their sagacity, their cannibal rites, their blood-thirstiness, their heroism, their generosity, and their eloquence—than he finds that amongst them, and not amongst the invaders of their country, will be found the chief and most lasting interest of his work. He will find also that many of the hundreds of volumes written about New Zealand transmit statements originally put forward by those who had an interest in deception in order to conceal their own misdoings. But, though the task may be laborious, he will find also, by diligent search amongst authentic records, ample proof of the real facts, and of the methods by which they have been obscured or misrepresented.page vi
If, by repetition, a man may, as Shakspeare tells us, make such a sinner of his memory as to credit his own lie, how much more easily may the public embrace an error which is unwittingly propagated by those who copy in one work what they find printed in another! Fortunate is it that there have been always upright Englishmen on the spot to protest against wrong-doing. It will suffice to mention the names of three;—Sir William Martin, Bishop Selwyn, and Walter Mantell—whose voices were ever raised for the right, and whose statements will bear the strictest comparison with formal official records from time to time presented to Parliament. Various circumstances, amongst which must be included the romantic nature of the mission of Marsden, the apostle of New Zealand—the humane and tireless efforts of the Aborigines' Protection Society—the rumours of French intervention—the craft of Louis Philippe—the Treaty of Waitangi—the genius and labours of Gibbon Wakefield—the rapacity of the New Zealand Company—the blunders and faithlessness of Lord John Russell—the manly good faith of the late Earl of Derby and the great Sir Robert Peel,—and the character of Bishop Selwyn—have caused Parliamentary and other records to be peculiarly rich respecting New Zealand affairs. There is little of an historical character which may not in some form be found in Blue-books or in Hansard, but the page vii perusal of scores of thousands of pages is needful to gather the harvest, and to compare the yield with that which is to be found in general literature.
At one time it was hoped that several persons of great ability and high character, who had amassed much recorded information and had lived long in New Zealand, would combine the results and give them to the world. But that hope has vanished. I learned from one of them, who went to New Zealand in 1839, and lives there now, that on the occasion of a visit to Europe he abandoned the idea of publication, and destroyed his manuscripts. The failure of that project, and encouragement from those concerned in it, embolden me to present the following narrative compiled with a diligent endeavour to test every statement by reference to the most authentic sources of information.
No one who has explored historical regions will dare to say that he has avoided error in his own writings. It is enough if he can conscientiously affirm that he has spared no pains to avoid it. No man can presume to say that he has produced a work which ought to satisfy the critical judgment of others, or even of himself. But life is all too short to enable him to do either one or the other. All that he can do is to collect materials with care, to compare them with a strict desire to garner the truth, and to publish page viii it without flinching on any grounds of fear, favour, or affection.
It is nearly half a century since I first saw, in the house of Samuel Marsden, some of his Maori friends. Since that time I have chiefly resided in colonies not far from New Zealand, and have not willingly lost opportunities of becoming acquainted with passing events. In my researches I have been aided by many friends, and many public men. It is a grief to me that some of them have passed away, and will not see the pages enriched through their kindness; but I rejoice that their good wishes accompanied me in the labour which, as it was pursued, became more and more an imperious duty.
London, 21st November, 1882.