New Zealand and the War.
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.
* “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.
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.*
* “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.
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.’”
* See Note, ante, Chapter II. p. 46.