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Letter from John Bryce to John Hall, November 11th, 1881

Letter from John Bryce to John Hall, November 11th, 1881

“Bryce to Hall, November 11th, 1881.

“The danger of retaliation in the case of burning whares [dwellings] must have occurred to every one, because retaliation would be easy. I never intended to burn, although I have thought and think that it may be necessary to destroy every whare in the village if the Maoris hold out. It would be very difficult to distinguish between the whares of the different tribes. This is the so-called Waikato quarters, and the Wanganui quarters, but of the 350 huts in the village I could not have ten identified with certainty as belonging to any particular tribe. Then again we are told that the Wanganui, &c., should be ordered to their homes. Well, I have ordered them to their homes emphatically enough, and apparently I might as well called from the vasty deep [sic].

“Then as for their apprehension and selection into tribes, people seem to think that each one has the name of his tribe written on his forehead. To show the difficulty, I may mention that yesterday I wanted to arrest Taputepeora, a Ngaruaun [sic] chief of note, and there was not a man in camp could identify him. If there is difficulty in such a case as that, consider what it must be with the 2,000 men, and women, and children, who are nobodies.… I am pointing out these difficulties, not because I think them insuperable, but that you may be aware of them and consider them when you hear of my doing things which do not altogether recommend themselves to your mind. I may be forced into a choice of objectionable courses. Consider, here are 2,000 people sitting still, absolutely declining to give me any indication of where they belong to, or who they belong to, they will sit still where they are, and do nothing else.… If I take the whole lot prisoners, as Atkinson recommends, the operation per se will be difficult, and in that case the unfortunate result will happen that the whole of their personal properties, such as drays, ploughs, &c., cattle and so forth, will be lost to them. Moreover, it is extremely probable that wives would be separated from their husbands, children from parents, and so on. Notwithstanding these difficulties, this thing has to be settled, and I am confident I can do it if I am not stopped. That the manner in which I do it will be free from objections is more than I can promise, but I hope that you and my colleagues will put the page 115 most favourable construction on things. I send copy of this to Whitaker.”

On the 12th, he telegraphed to another colleague (ib. 241):—“I have great difficulty in selecting them, although I have the services of a half-caste belonging to the Alexander troop… Mete King, if he comes, may be able to assist in this. The question is between going with their property and going without, but go they must.”