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New Zealand and the War.

Chapter V

page 93

Chapter V.

Memorial to the Governor warning him not to proceed, and showing the Rights of the Native Occupants of the Land.—Rank and Position of the Principal Opponent of the Sale.—Apprehension amongst the Natives excited by the forcible Occupation of the Waitara.—Remonstrances of the Absentee Claimants and others.—Their Petition to the Queen for the Governor's Recal.

Before military occupation was taken of the Waitara, an appeal was made to the Governor by one of the settlers, showing that William King, being the Chief of the Waitara, it was no mere assumption on his part to claim to have a voice as to the disposal of the land, more especially as many who had never been consulted had claims to specific portions of the block: urging, at the same time, that a complete public and impartial investigation* should be made, and deprecating

* “Had such a tribunal existed, there is little doubt but that the Waitara misunderstanding would have been satisfactorily adjusted. At any rate, her Majesty's representative would have occupied a more dignified position than the one he holds in the case as prosecutor, judge and jury.”—George Clarke.

page 94 in the most earnest manner the employment of military force. “It is with the deepest surprise and sorrow,” he wrote, “that your petitioner has heard that a resort to arms, in order to enforce an alleged purchase of an insignificant block of land at the Waitara, may be almost immediately expected; your petitioner advisedly uses the word ‘alleged,’ as he cannot possibly believe that your Excellency's Government would consider such purchase as a de jure or even a de facto one; much less, that they would attempt to take forcible possession of the block referred to, were they thoroughly cognizant of the real facts and circumstances. Your petitioner fully believes that a thorough and impartial investigation, with due publicity, at a full meeting of all the Waitara Natives on the spot, would elicit the following facts, viz.: in portions of that block, several Natives, whose claims are presumably unknown to the District Land Commissioner, have also, like Teira, a bonâ fide individual or private interest; while, over the whole block, rides the Tribal or public interest. William King admits that he himself has no individual or private interest in this particular block; but (which is page 95 perfectly consistent with such admission) he rightfully claims, as the principal Chief of the Waitara Tribe, and as the acknowledged representative of the great majority of the same Tribe, that the individual or private interests referred to, and also such over-riding Tribal or public interest, should be alike respected and held inviolate by the Government. Were the whole Tribe at the Waitara consenting, the title would of course be clear enough, and the purchase a good, complete, and amicable one; but Teira, so far from having the whole tribe, has only an inconsiderable fraction in his favour; while against him is arrayed the great majority, with the principal Chief at their head. Did that majority consent, William King would also consent as a matter of course, he being, in that respect, the mouth-piece (as it were) of the great majority; but until such majority do actually consent, William King's concurrence could not justly bind them, and also could not possibly be of any avail, except as a mere pretext for an unjust war like the one which is said to be in agitation.” The preceding statements contain a correct summary of the Maori unwritten law or custom of real pro- page 96 perty throughout the Island, and at the Waitara in particular. “However inconvenient such real property law may be to the Colonists, or detrimental to the Aborigines themselves, it cannot be forcibly abolished without glaring injustice, and the almost certain risk of an internecine war between the two races throughout the Colony. That war, at all times a calamity, would, under such circumstances, be also a crime. That as to the block before referred to, it appears in the highest degree objectionable that the District Land Commissioner should, directly or indirectly, decide on the title of owners—tribal or individual, absent or present, dissenting or consenting—in short, should, virtually, decide on the validity of his own alleged purchase, and finally, in order to enforce his own ex parte decision, should, in effect, have and exercise the dread power of declaring war: thus resting in one subordinate officer ministerial, judicial, and dictatorial functions. Further, it would seem that Teira's allegation of his own absolute interest—the allegation of one who has received British gold, and who believes that he will be backed by British bayonets—the allegation of one who page 97 shows himself ready, for the sake of lucre, to destroy his own tribe and his own race, and to plunge the whole Colony into unspeakable calamity—is to be accepted as final and conclusive, so as to weigh down the unanimous testimony of the great majority of the Tribe, who, unseduced by money, and unintimidated by power, are prepared to seal their testimony with their own life-blood. Here at present there is (from various reasons, too numerous to mention) a dead silence; no voice is raised at this, the eleventh hour. Your petitioner has, therefore, attempted a feeble cry; but do not, let me beseech your Excellency, despise the cause, on account of the feebleness, the informality, or the temerity of its advocates, for the cause is a good and noble one: it is not the cause of this or that individual, of this or that section of Colonial society, but of humanity and of justice.” It was not until nearly a year after the war commenced that it was publicly known that such an appeal had been addressed to the Governor before the Troops were marched into the field. The appeal, however, was made in vain. Before it reached the Governor, martial law had been proclaimed, page 98 and it was probably thought that it was now too late to recede, without compromising the dignity of the representative of the Crown: and the Queen's Troops were marched upon the ground.

The most satisfactory evidence of the valid purchase of land from the Natives, is the fact that a survey has been made of it, and that the boundaries have been marked out upon the ground without opposition, and without calling forth any adverse or unsatisfied claim. In case the survey is interrupted or opposed, the usual course is, not to proceed with the work until the validity of the claims has been inquired into; but in the case of the Waitara purchase, it appears to have been predetermined that the survey should be carried out regardless of any opposition that might be offered, and that the land should be occupied by military force.

A few days after the Troops had taken possession, a small party of about seventy Natives, who had been driven from the land, returned; and, for the purpose of asserting their title, and of keeping alive their claim, built a stockade within the limits of the debateable land. It was afterwards admitted by the local authorities “that no one had decided page 99 that the Pah was not built on ground belonging to persons who built it;” but the Officer in command of the Troops immediately (March 17th) took up a position before it, and sent a summons to its occupants to surrender, which, however, they would neither read nor receive. “The guns and rockets,” he reported, “now opened fire upon the Pah at about seven hundred yards, and in half an hour I moved to the right, to batter another face at shorter range, when the Natives opened fire upon us.” Thus hostilities commenced, the first shot being fired by the Troops. A heavy fire was afterwards kept up against the stockade with shot and shell, one hundred and thirty rounds being fired from the howitzers, besides the rockets. In justification of these proceedings, it has been said that “to hesitate about abstract right is to perpetuate disorder;” and it was also affirmed that “the Governor being of right the sole judge of questions respecting Native territorial claims, was justified in enforcing his jurisdiction in the only practical mode, viz., by military occupation.” Yet, assuming that the stockade was built on ground belonging to those who built it, it is difficult to see what justification can be pleaded page 100 for this deadly attack upon the Queen's subjects.

If active military operations had been undertaken in the name of the Crown, for the purpose of bringing a murderer to justice, or of repressing some serious disturbance of the public peace, or of carrying out the judgment of some legal tribunal, these proceedings would have excited no jealous apprehension in the Native mind. Nearly twenty years before, when the Natives were much more numerous than they now are, and when there was not a single company of soldiers stationed in the colony, a young Native Chief of consequence, belonging to an influential Tribe, was tried with all the solemn form and ceremony of English law, and convicted of the wilful murder of an English family, and publicly executed in the most densely peopled district in New Zealand, without the slightest disturbance of the public peace, and the justice and daring of the act inspired the Natives with respect and confidence. But when the Queen's Troops were marched to the Waitara, and when William King and his people, who for years had occupied the ground, were forcibly driven off, and the Troops were seen to take possession of land, the page 101 title to which was disputed, and which for years the Native owners had in vain been importuned to sell, it is hardly surprising that they were irritated to see their old suspicion restored, that “the Europeans would not rest until they had slain and taken possession;” that they should regard the intentions of the Government with suspicion and distrust; and that, fearing a common danger, Natives in other parts of the country should take up arms in support of William King.

The conduct of the Chief of the Waitara, in opposing the sale, had always been consistent, and his language appeared to be that of a Chief engaged in maintaining what he believed to be a rightful claim; but it was represented, by those who were anxious to acquire the land, as that of a man interposing an illegitimate authority, to prevent the true owners of the land from ceding it to the Crown; and an attempt was made to depreciate his rank and position in the Tribe. But the Native Secretary, reporting an interview with him as long ago as 1855, speaks of him naturally, and of course, as the “principal Chief of the Waitara.” “On our arrival,” wrote Major Nugent, “the page 102 whole Tribe assembled, and after one of the Chiefs had briefly stated the reports that they had heard, William King, the principal Chief of Waitara, arose and spoke for some time; and the Chiefs of a neighbouring tribe speaking of him about the same time, said, ‘William King being the head Chief of all Waitara on both sides of it, it was for himself to choose and say on which side of it he was to reside.’” And the attempt which was afterwards made, to raise Te Teira to equal rank with William King, was treated by the Natives with derision. “You say,” referring to Teira, said a Chief of Hawkes Bay, “because his genealogy was published last winter, therefore he is a Chief. What, indeed, about his genealogy? William King would never give his genealogy, because it is known throughout this island; it is not recounted. This is a thing for the common man to do, who never was heard of before. I know that man Teira, that he is a man of little note; Wiremu Kingi is their great man, heard of and known by all the Tribes; but Teira's name is Manuka—even Tea-tree—Scrub, and nothing more.” No one, in fact, can read the voluminous official documents on the subject of Taranaki without seeing that page 103 William King was always regarded by successive Governors, and by all the civil servants, as the de facto lord of the manor of Waitara. But as he was looked upon as the principal obstacle to the acquisition of the land, he had always been unpopular with the Taranaki settlers.

There is no doubt, however, that while he was residing in the South, he was considered to have done good service to the Government, and to have proved himself to be a staunch ally. After the fatal catastrophe at the Wairau, when the settlement of Wellington (then utterly defenceless) was threatened by Te Rauparaha, William King, then residing at Waikanae, had nearly 1,000 well-armed men who obeyed his orders, and to his loyalty alone was attributed the failure of Te Rauparaha's schemes; and more recently, during the disturbances near Wellington in 1846–7, he joined his forces with our Troops, and was declared by authority to have been mainly instrumental in driving Rangihaeta from the bush. But notwithstanding his public services, he received no welcome from the Taranaki settlers; and as his return to the Waitara in 1848 diminished their hope of obtaining possession of that district, his page 104 arrival was regarded by them almost in the light of a public calamity.*

Though the Waitara Natives had many sympathizers in all parts of the country, the number of Natives belonging to other Tribes who actually went to Taranaki to join them, was by no means considerable; but the feeling of dissatisfaction and distrust excited in their minds by the conduct of the authorities in taking possession of Native land by force, was almost universal. “Everything,” as Sir William Martin observed, “tended to strengthen the notion, already generally entertained amongst the Natives, that the Government cared for nothing so much as to get land. Can we be surprised that the old feeling of distrust acquired at once a new strength, and spread rapidly through the widely scattered settlements of the Ngatiawa Tribe? Nor could it be confined even to that Tribe. The sense of a common interest, a common peril, carried it onward through the country; and

* “During the two years that I knew William King at Waikanae, I always found him exceedingly quiet and well-disposed. He was always most attentive to his religious duties; and during school-hours he was constantly to be found in his place with the rest of his people, thus encouraging them by his example, and was undoubtedly a warm support to the Rev. Samuel Williams.

page 105 when at last force was resorted to, the feeling of alarm and irritation reached its height. These men, the Maories, chafe under the sense of what they believe to be a great wrong. They are bitterly disappointed. They ask why a Government, which had been constantly urging them to settle their own disputes by peaceable means, should itself resort at once to armed force? Why such force is employed, not to punish crime, but to seize land? They ask why is William King, our old ally, now treated as an enemy? Why does the Pakeha denounce without measure the slaughter of the five men at Omata, committed after hostilities had commenced, while Ihaia, the contriver of a most foul and treacherous murder, is received by us as a friend and ally? Such men unwillingly accept the answers which are too readily suggested: William King will not part with the Waitara; Ihaia is willing to sell land.”

As regards the Waitara, too, it has always been especially valued by the Native owners. “From ancient Maori traditions,” says the late Protector of Aborigines, “it appears that this land had been in possession of the tribe from time immemorial; page 106 that it is dear to them from the fact that it is the spot on which their forefathers landed when they emigrated to this country; that on this account the place is sacred ground to them, so much so that when the New Zealand Company's purchase was made at Taranaki, Wiremu Kingi's father, as head of his Tribe, and again, some time after, with his dying breath, solemnly charged his son never to give up the possession of their ancestors to the Pakeha.” “Brothers,” said a Red Indian Chief in a Council held by the Cherokees, “brothers, we have heard the words of the great father: he is very good; he says that he loves his red children. Brothers, when the first white man came among us, the Muscozins gave him ground and lighted a fire to warm him. When the pale faces of the South waged war against him, our young warriors drew their tomahawks and shielded his head from the scalping-knife. But when the white man was warmed by the fire lighted by Indians, and had fattened on Indian liberality, he became very great; the summits of mountains did not stop him, and his feet covered plains and valleys, his arms extended to the two seas. Then he became our great father. He loved his red children; but he page 107 said, ‘You had better move a little farther, lest I unintentionally tread on you,’ and with one foot he pushed red men beyond the sea, and with the other he trampled on the graves of their ancestors. But our great father loves his red children, and soon held to them another language. He spoke a great deal, but what he said meant nothing but ‘Move farther off, you are still too near me.’ I have heard many speeches of our great father, but all begin and end in the same way. Brothers, when he spoke to us on a preceding occasion, he said to us, ‘Go a little farther, you are still too near: go beyond the Oconce, and the Oakmulyo, there is an excellent country;’ he also added, ‘This land is yours for ever after.’ And now he says, ‘The country in which you are settled belongs to you, but go to the other side of the Mississippi, where there is plenty of game; there you may remain as long as the grass grows and the water flows.’ Brothers, will not our great father join us there also, for he loves his red children, and has a forked tongue.” When Captain Hobson was seeking to induce the Natives of New Zealand to sign the treaty of Waitangi, by engaging, in the name of her Majesty, that it should be for their page 108 own advantage to become the subjects of the Crown, he, too, was believed by many of them, to whom the fate of the Aborigines of other countries appeared to have been known, to be speaking with a forked tongue. “Send the man away,” said one of them; “do not sign the paper; if you do you will be reduced to the condition of slaves, and be obliged to break stones for the roads. Your land will be taken from you, and your dignity as Chiefs will be destroyed.” They had heard, they said, the history of our conduct to the Aborigines of America and Australia, and could not but be jealous of our object in seeking to gain a footing in the country. Great pains have indeed been taken by successive Governors, missionaries, and ministers of religion, and by all persons in authority, to satisfy them of our disinterested intentions: but the forcible occupation by the Queen's troops of a much valued tract of Native land excited a distrustful feeling in their minds; and, alarmed at the growing greatness of the white man, and seeing that “the summits of mountains do not stop him—that his feet cover plains and valleys, and that his arms extend to the two seas”—the Maories are becoming possessed by an instinctive misgiving page 109 that they will soon be thrust aside to make way for the insidious stranger.

Grave remonstrances against the proceedings of the Government poured in from all parts of the country, expressed in all cases with great point and force, and not unfrequently in the most touching language. “The reason why I write to you is this,” said one of the Natives, referring to the sale by Teira, “that I feel concerned for the Pakehas who are living in peace, and for the Maories also who are living in peace, lest they be dragged by his evil deeds and get into trouble, because I am certain they will get into trouble.” “Friends, companions, brothers, farewell, and abide where you are with the people of your friends, and your fathers. Listen, Rewai, and your people, and our Father Hadfield. Here is death—I mean Waitara; the Pakeha is now taking it.” “Now,” wrote the ReverendRewai Ahau to the Superintendent of Wellington, “we thought that the intentions of the Governor would not be different from those of the other Governors who preceded him. Now, we are perplexed and say, ‘Well, these are new regulations from our Queen; but we suppose that the Governor has, perhaps, been page 110 deceived by Teira and his companions, and by his Land Purchaser at Taranaki; and therefore he has so lately sent his soldiers to Waitara to frighten all the men and the women who drove off his surveyors from the land which was their property and ours, and to take it without paying us.’* * * I say, in conclusion, that I cannot find words to pacify my Tribe, that they may be no longer irritated about our land; they are very sore that the land of our ancestors should be taken without their consent. If that land should be permanently taken, it will be a permanent saying, down to future generations, that the land was violently taken by the Queen of England's Governor. And where is the help now,” he concludes, “with which the Governor requites Wiremu Kingi? Wiremu Kingi always was one who upheld the Government. He never in any way recognized the Maori King up to the time of the fighting about Waitara.”

Six months after the commencement of hostilities, several of the Waitara Natives, who were then residing in the south, formally addressed the Superintendent of Wellington on the subject. “We have portions of land,” they say, “at Waitara, within the piece of land which was page 111 wrongly sold by Teira to the Governor, as well as those who were driven off that piece of land. It belongs to our ancestors. We ask this question. What are we peaceable persons, who are not joining in the fighting, to do when our lands are wrongfully taken by the Governor? Where shall we seek a way by which we may get our lands restored to us? Shall we seek it from the Queen, or from whom? We imagined that it was for the law to rectify wrongs. Up to this time, our hearts keep anxiously inquiring. We will say no more. From us members of Ngatiawa, and owners of that land at Waitara.” “Birds,” said William Thompson, “do not cry unless there be an enemy in sight, except indeed in the morning and evening. At daybreak their song is heard; and at the twilight again, but not in the daytime unless some bird of prey appears. They sit quietly in the branches of the trees and make no noise, until they see the great bird, the hawk, that comes to destroy them; then all cry out, great birds and small. There is a general cry.” (Meaning, we were quiet and should have remained so, had not a great bird disturbed us and aroused our fears.)

“Who caused the pain?” said Renata, the page 112 eloquent spokesman of the Ngatikahuhuna Tribe. “I take it to have been the Governor. Very different were the land-purchasing arrangements of former days. There was to be an assemblage; and when they had all consented, then the land should pass. All the Maories heard this from the Governor. But now they hear—eh? this plan of buying is changed, and land is now to be sold by a single individual. Sir, this is the way by which this pain, this trouble, has come upon us; it was through double-dealing that this trouble came. Had the old way continued, we should not have gone wrong; but since it has been abandoned, and attention has been paid to a single individual, difficulties have arisen. Sir, all these evils are of your doing. First, there was the wish to take our lands, and now is the accomplishment of it; for the cause (of the war) was but a small matter, and you have gone on importing Pakehas from other lands to fight with the Maories. The next thing will be, you will hide your error under the cloak of the Waikatos having gone to Taranaki to ward off the weapon raised by you against William King, whereas your opposition was made in order that you might get the land. But you say that man, page 113 William King, must let down his bristles, and pay obeisance to his Sovereign the Queen. This is the answer: Sir, what then is the Maori doing? The Maori is yielding odedience; for many years he has been listening to that teaching of the Queen's. But the Governor has made it all go wrong. Your word is not clear. Perhaps you think he is not a man, that you say he should not raise his bristles when his land is taken from him? If your land were taken by a Maori, would your bristles not rise? Give him back his land, and then if we see his bristles still sticking up, I will admit that you are right. You quote from the Scripture that children should obey their parents; quote to the Governor the other portion of the same passage, ‘Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.’”

On all former occasions of dissatisfaction, the Natives had been instructed that instead of taking up arms, and resorting to force for the redress of their grievances, they ought to appeal to the law, or seek for protection by petition to the Queen,* who, though far away, they were taught to believe is ever mindful of their interests; and several hundred of the Natives residing in the South

* See Note, ante, Chapter II. p. 46.

page 114 addressed a memorial to Her Majesty, praying for the Governor's recal. “This,” said the memorialists, “is the memorial (lit. lamentation) of us your loving children, (sighing) under the darkness which has at this present time befallen us. The Governor has unwarrantably proceeded to take possession of land of a certain Chief at Taranaki, named Wiremu King. The Governor purchased it from a Native named Te Teira; he has fought about that land, and fired upon the people of that place. They were loving subjects of yours. Their object was not to trample upon the law, but rather to retain possession of the land handed down to them by their ancestors and by their father. They did not wish to sell that land. This unwarrantable proceeding of this Governor has occasioned grief and confusion to all of us, because we know that this system is not yours; thus taking away, without cause, the land of every person, and of the orphan and widow.” An attempt was made to discredit this memorial; and in this instance those who signed it received, in the name of her Majesty, a curt and discouraging reply. But there is no doubt that it expressed the feeling of thousands; and that the loyalty of her Majesty's Maori page 115 subjects was most severely tried. “My heart,” said one of our most staunch allies, “is split asunder; half of it is with the Pakeha who was my teacher, the other is with the Maories who are my brothers,”—a sentiment which throughout New Zealand then painfully divided the hearts of the most loyal of her Majesty's Native subjects. And but for their knowledge of the fact that they had “sturdy friends,” who, both in the Assembly and elsewhere, at the risk of being charged with having forgotten their allegiance, manfully espoused their cause; and but for the belief that the Natives entertained that the Queen of England would yet redress the wrong, and condemn the policy of the then Colonial rulers, there is reason to believe that they would have been driven to make common cause, and to join in a general resistance to what they believed to be the injustice of our rule.