The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future
Chapter VIII. King Movement—(continued.)
Chapter VIII. King Movement—(continued.)
On the 2nd of March an event occurred which has given a more brutal character to the war than any which preceded it. The Opotiki natives had declined taking any part in the war, all were peacable there, and Mr. and Mrs. Volkner felt themselves quite secure, until the arrival of Father Garavel with letters from the hostile natives at Waikato; he had been permitted to pass through the British Camp at Tauranga in virtue of his sacred office, but immediately he reached Opotiki the state of the natives appeared to be changed; bitter feelings of hostility began to appear. Struck with astonishment at the sudden alteration, Mr. Volkner sought page 158 out the cause, and then discovered it was occasioned by the letters which the priest had brought; he went to him and enquired if it were true that he was the bearer of them from Waikato; he acknowledged that he was: he pushed his enquiry further, and was he acquainted with their contents? after some hesitation he assented. Mr. Volkner then candidly told him that he should feel it his duty to inform the Government of the affair. He left Opotiki with Mrs. Volkner by the first opportunity, and made the ministers acquainted with the circumstance. Bishop Pompalier was sent for and requested to summon Garavel; this he declined doing; but afterwards, the request being repeated, consented, who on his arrival was unable to give any satisfactory explanation. His co-religionists in Auckland made a collection to defray his passage to Sydney, to which port he was shipped without delay.
The Rev. C. Volkner, against the advice of his friends, returned to Opotiki with the Rev. T. Grace. A few days after the arrival of Kereopa and his party of Hauhaus from Taupo, a mock auction of his property had been held there; and immediately the vessel arrived, those two gentlemen, with the passengers and crew, were treated as prisoners and shut up together in a large house, but the Captain and his brother, being Jews, were allowed to go about as they pleased, the Hauhaus also claiming to be of the same race, Kereopa being called the chief Tiu Jew. The following morning a party of armed men came for Mr. Volkner; he was taken to a large willow tree near his church, to one of the branches of which a block and tackle, procured from the vessel which brought him, was attached; he was then told to prepare for death, and asking for a short space to say his prayers, kneeled down; he prayed also for his murderers, then, rising up and shaking hands with them, said he was ready. The natives bid him take off his coat and waistcoat, the rope was placed round his neck, and he was instantly hawled up, and almost as soon let down again, and before vitality had ceased his head was cut off and other atrocities reported to have been committed, but it is doubtful page 159 whether that of the bystanders dipping the tip of the finger in the martyr’s bloody and marking their foreheads with it, was not the extent of what was done. Mr. Grace was afterwards permitted to bury his mutilated corpse, which he did in the chancel of his own church, where it remains a lasting testimony to his faithfulness, which, was thus sealed with his blood. His head was stuck on the pulpit in the Roman Catholic Church, apparently as an utu for his having caused the removal of Father Garavel.
A ransom was offered by Mr. Grace for his life, which was refused, but afterwards they agreed to release him if the chief Hori Tupaea, then a prisoner at Tauranga, were given up in his place.
After the murder a trial of Mr. Volkner was held, apparently to justify the deed, but it appears evident that it was a preconcerted act, prior to the arrival of the Hauhaus, as one of his old flock sent him a letter warning him not to return, which, unfortunately, he did not receive. His death had already been determined upon, and this was generally known amongst the natives. At that time they had established regular posts through the interior. The Governor was at Wanganui, when an express arrived on the evening of the 13th of March, conveying the sad intelligence. On the 15th, Pehi Turoa, the chief of the hostile natives up the river, came down at the invitation of the Governor, and when he spoke to him of the horrid crime committed by the Hauhaus, it was found that he had known of it some days, and said we need be under no apprehension for the life of Mr. Grace; that Mr. Volkner had been put to death as a payment for Father Garavel, who, as he did not return to Opotiki, was supposed to have been hung for his treason by the Governor at Auckland; he further said, that an express charge had been given the Hauhaus when coming to Wanganui, to be sure and respect the priests, for they worked with them. Pehi’s declaration with respect to Mr. Grace happily turned out true, although there is no doubt had not H.M’s. Ship “Eclipse” arrived and the Captain and Bishop Selwyn, who also was on board, managed to persuade Levi to assist in effecting his escape, page 160 he would have been carried to Waiapu and Poverty Bay, where the Hauhaus afterwards went with the avowed design of murdering the good Bishop of that diocese. Elated with having shed the blood of a Missionary, they now thirsted for that of the patriarch of the Church, taking with them the head of Mr. Hewitt as well as that of Mr. Volkner. At first they were resisted by the best disposed natives, but the novelty of their proceedings, and assumption of superior power, took effect on the minds of the weaker, and gradually gave them the ascendancy.
The good old Bishop and his family had to flee, and take his pupils with him, to the Bay of Islands; his house was plundered, and the labor of years destroyed. His son-in-law, Rev. Samuel Williams, remained with the faithful few; strengthening them by his presence and advice, they were enabled to maintain their position until aid arrived, when the enemy was overcome and driven out of the place.
On the news of the Wakatane murder reaching Tamihana Tarapipi, he was so shocked at the excesses which had been committed, that he wrote to Colonel Greer, the commanding officer of Waikato, and made his submission to him, the terms of which were, “We consent that the laws of the Queen be laws for the King, to be a protection for us all for ever and ever. This is the sign of making peace, my coming into the presence of my fighting friend, General Carey.”
In June the native portion of the contingent garrisoning Pipiriki was withdrawn, to act against Weraroa. The step was an imprudent one, as it was only by the native portion of the force that the communication with the town had been kept open, and it left that post, which is seventy miles up the river, quite isolated.
* Though so rainy, the European Militia expressed their readiness to go. Accordingly they started, but sent back a messenger to ask for their allowance of rum. The Governor had a small number of kegs filled, and ordered the natives to carry them. They flatly refused; and though the Governor urged, they would not, saying, they were too heavy; but they were reminded that they had offered to carry a four-pounder, and the weight of the keg was trifling. The chief, Mete Kingi, said, “The fact was, they did not want the Europeans to have any spirits, that they had need of all their senses in attacking the pa, and if they drank they would lose them.” The Governor could say no more, and the Europeans went without their grog.
July 19th 1865, the hostile natives up the river availed themselves of the absence of the native militia to attack the colonial force stationed at Pipiriki. They completely surrounded the place so as entirely to cut off all communication with the town. A few bottles were picked up, which floated down the river, containing letters; some of them in Latin, and therefore of necessity very brief, as “mitte res belli”—send ammunition. When the Weraroa pa was taken, aid was given, though with some delay; two steamers and a canoe force of both races, with supplies, were sent up the river; it was then found that the gallant little band had sustained a severe attack from the enemy, and had not only held their own, but driven out their foes from several pas erected around to cut off all chance of escape to town, and make sure of their destruction. Our men were under the command of Major Brassey. When the reinforcements arrived they were received with a loud and hearty welcome, and the enemy beat a quick retreat. They were followed up to Ohine motu, where Pehi’s house and premises were burnt. Thus terminated the hostile demonstrations of the Upper Wanganui natives.
* The Government offered £1000 for the apprehension of the murderers of Kereti, but in vain.
† An instance of the sad want of patriotism may be here mentioned. It was proposed în the General Assembly to found two native provinces in the interior, where the population is entirely native. This would have been not only an act of justice, but good policy, and the best means of allaying the suspicions of the native mind as to the ulterior intentions of Government. Native superintendents would have had European officers to direct and guide them. The measure seemed to meet with favor, and there was a fair prospect of its passing, when the Auckland members, fearing if those provinces were formed it would take away a portion of the island nominally included in their province, proposed to those of Wellington that if they would join in their opposition to the measure, they in return would support them in getting the Manawatu block exempted from the provisions of the New Native Lands Act, so that the province of Wellington would have the benefit of selling it. They also proposed to the Otago members that they should join, and as their reward they should be supported in gaining some native reserves in the city of Dunedin, which they had long been trying in vain to obtain. The bargain was made, the native provinces went to the wall, the others got their several rewards and this is what is called log rolling.
At the end of the month the forces assembled together at Turanganui, and in the following month the strong pa, Wairenga ahika, near the Bishop’s residence, was taken, after about a week’s constant fighting. A hundred Hauhaus were left dead on the field and many prisoners taken; a larger number of the chiefs might have been secured had not the commanding officer, instead of taking measures to cut off their retreat, employed himself in securing the miserable loot of those wretched Hauhaus, taking the green stone ornaments from their ears when they were brought as prisoners before him, an act which caused much disgust among his men. It was a lamentable sight to see what havoc had been made in the bishop’s residence, his books scattered everywhere and trampled under foot, the furniture page 165 broken or carried off to the pa, and different kinds of machinery smashed to pieces. The natives were found to have been supplied with extremely fine powder; in general it was very coarse, and supposed to have been made by themselves.*
The force was kept here until July, being employed in hunting up and down for enemies;—when their services were no longer required, instead of being conveyed back to Wellington, from whence they were taken, they were disbanded at Poverty Bay, where they had to remain some time before a vessel could be met with, and until then had to live at a public house; thus when they returned to Wellington they were penniless. This was a case of injustice and want of feeling calculated to disgust the men; and what made it still worse was, that the period for which they had been engaged had not expired by several months when they were disbanded.†
Another similar Anglo-Maori force was sent from Wanganui to Opotiki, to act in conjunction with others to punish the murderers of Mr. Volkner. The steamers Lady Bird, Ahuriri, and Storm Bird, reached Hicks’ Bay on the 8th September 1865, the appointed place of rendezvous, where they found H.M.S.S. Brisk had been awaiting the arrival of the East Coast Expedition some days. Major Brassey, the successful defender of Pipiriki, was in command of the colonial forces; Major Macdonnell with the Wanganui native force, which he commanded, Major Von-tempsky, who expected to meet his men there, being disappointed, was yet resolved to be one of the expedition, and so arranged with Major Brassey to go as a volunteer.
* There were two native powder manufacturers, one in Waikato, another in the Nga-ti-rua-nui district; in both the manufacturer was killed by his works being blown up. For caps they bought lucifer matches, which they used for that purpose, and marbles were eagerly purchased for balls.
* Captain Hope arrested him for treason, believing he did it designedly.
Whilst this was going on an instance occurred of the strange infatuation of those fanatics; a tall Maori, wrapped up in his blanket, made his appearance on the other side of the river, and calmly walked along the beach until nearly opposite the steamer; he had no flag or anything with him indicative of intention to parley, still, however, the men thought that he must be a friendly native and refrained from firing, but as he made no sign, at last a shot was fired; immediately the Maori commenced the pai marire motions with his hands to ward off the bullets, unsuccessfully however, for thirteen were found in his body when it was brought over. Levy recognized the man as one of the leading Hauhaus when Mr. Volkner was murdered. Immediately the man fell all signs of attack ceased;—it was evident that he was one of their prophets, and that they expected he would by his power have drawn them into his hands.
The following day Major Macdonnell landed with some sixty or seventy of the native contingent, also Major Brassey with the other officers, to point out the position the native allies were to take. They had, however, commenced active warfare, and could not be restrained; they chased the Hauhaus from hill to hill, never allowing them time to settle anywhere, and when the enemy retreated into one of their pas the Wanganui natives entered with them and took the place; this spirited conduct gave Opotiki to us much sooner than was expected. One of our natives saw a Hauhau enter a house and bid him come forth; the other commanded him to go lie down and die, making pai marire signs at him, on which he immediately raised his gun and shot him.
Thus, when the entire force was landed, it found Opotiki already in our hands, a series of encounters followed, which terminated in the complete conquest of that district, and the capture of many supposed to have been implicated in the murders of Mr. Volkner, Fulloon, and others. The Colonial Government constituted a military court to try page 168 them, and sixteen were brought in guilty, who were afterwards sent to Auckland, retried there, and five of them were hung.
At the termination of the war there the Wanganui force was sent home; on reaching it they were received with great rejoicing. The natives, however, were found too servicable to be left long unemployed. In the end of December General Chute arrived at Wanganui, to put down the Nga-ti-rua-nui. In January the campaign was commenced, and on the 16th Colonel Hazard fell at Okariko, being the first to enter the pa.* The General gladly accepted the co-operation of the native force; by their instrumentality his men were now initiated into bush fighting, and thus he was enabled to make rapid strides along the coast; he soon reached Waingongoro, and fought with the Kete marae natives. No prisoners were taken, or rather spared. One was brought who was pronounced to have been implicated in some murder; he was ordered to be taken away, without further trial, and shot. From Ketemarae the General decided upon going direct through the bush to New Plymouth, which his predecessor would never have attempted and General Chute would not have ventured to do without the support of the native force, who acted as pioneers; as it was the step was hazardous. It took the force nine days to do what ordinary pedestrians accomplish in three. Their provisions began to fail; a little before they got out of the forest, the order was given for a horse to be killed, which was accordingly done, to meet their necessities. The natives went on before them, and returned with supplies. On reaching New Plymouth a triumphal arch was erected, and a public dinner given the General and his men, it was a regular ovation; he returned by the coast to Wanganui, and then left. With the exception of frequent skirmishes between the Anglo-Maori contingent and the enemy, the war has so languished, that it may be said to have almost died out, although the road from Wanganui to New Plymouth remained still closed.
* This brave officer in the Crimean War was one of the first who entered the Redan.
October 6, 1866. In the beginning of October, the force under Major Macdonnell took Whenuku. They reached it in the first dawn of morning, and completely surprised its inhabitants; fire was set to their houses, which were covered with a great weight of soil, command was given to come out and surrender, some were shot in attempting to do so, and a few were saved; but most perished in their burning homes. The prisoners afterwards stated that there were fully twenty persons in one of the houses, who were all suffocated when the heavy roof fell in. What a horrid, unnatural thing is war! On one occasion the Captain was wounded, and a native shot the man who wounded him, and cutting off his ears presented them to him, who had them nailed to the side of his house as a memento, but, with better feeling, another native went in the night, took them down, and buried them.
On 9th October, the Governor came to Wanganui, and taking the writer and his son with him, paid a visit to the Nga-ti-rua-nui, many of whom then surrendered to him; this may be considered nearly his last act connected with the war. In December, he passed over the country from Maketu, Rotorua and Taupo, attended by a large native force, everywhere being received with the greatest respect. He crossed the central plains to Ranana, and thence reached the town by the Wanganui River: the first time a Governor of New Zealand had been able to cross the country from coast to coast. May it be hailed as a sign of returning peace,—and the horrors, miseries, and crimes of this war now cease, never to be resuscitated.
Such is a brief account of one of Britain’s little wars, which began, literally, for nothing that an ordinary law court could not have decided, Whether one party had a right to sell what the other wanted to buy, or not. The blood and treasure thus expended is most melancholy to think of. Britain, in total ignorance of the cause of the war, nobly advanced to the relief of her infant colony; and whether right or wrong in bestowing her aid, is still entitled page 170 to the gratitude of the colonists, for the expense incurred in their behalf;—but whilst it has paid dear for what it has done, New Zealand, also, has shared the burden, which even the confiscation of millions of acres will not remove. A large and lasting debt has been incurred, which has entailed on each settler an amount of taxation of more than £6 per head, double that even in heavily-taxed Britain.
The stamp duty has been introduced in its fullest extent. The postage is now thrice that of England; and even extends to newspapers. Nor is it improbable that, heavy as the present taxation is, it will have to be still further increased by the imposition of an income tax.
Wellington is reported to have said that John Bull likes a good butcher’s bill. He has certainly got one for this little war. How many of its noble sons lie buried on the battle fields of New Zealand, brave officers and men; and, on the other side, a brave race has been nearly destroyed, and a large portion of the remainder demoralized.
Still the question may be put, Could war have been prevented? whatever were our faults and mistakes, the natives also had theirs. They were ripe for the war, and were becoming gradually more and more alienated when the evil began; it is not probable it would long have been deferred, but it should not have commenced with us. It may be asked with whom rests the blame for all the evils which have arisen. New Zealand has had four Governors, and it may be equally said of them all that they were good men and true, they did their best for the welfare of the colony, and though in many things they failed and erred, it must not be attributed to want of desire to do what was right. The same may be said of their ministers in general. Most proverbs must be regarded as true, being the fruit of experience; the following, however, has its exceptions. “In the multitude there is wisdom” A single mind left unfettered, to act according to its own judgment, has often been far more successful than when others have been united to it, especially in the beginning of a new system, where each has to learn to work in unison with the other, and page 171 this has been the case in New Zealand. A stronger instance cannot be adduced than Sir George Grey. When he was first the Governor of New Zealand, then a Crown colony, his plans succeeded; he retired with credit:—when he returned as merely the head of the colony, now possessing a constitution, the parts of which had little cohesion, each clashed with the other, and no one step taken gave satisfaction or met with success. It certainly does appear a pity the self-governing power had not been withheld a few years longer; it might have delayed the development of the oratorical powers of our statesmen, but it would have consolidated the power and prosperity of the colony, without the addition of a debt which now hangs like a mill-stone round its youthful neck.
Even this brief account of the war cannot be written with impartiality without giving offence to some, if not to all, for none have been uniformly right; good and estimable men were ranged in antagonistic positions to each other, and rather erred in judgment than desire. In war few can act as calmly as in peace, and those at a distance can see errors, which would have escaped their notice had they been on the spot. The object has therefore been to record actions, rather than examine too narrowly the motives leading to them, and leave the reader to draw his own conclusions.
The despatch written by Lord Carnarvon, in December, 1866, withdrawing the office of commander-in-chief from the Governor, virtually deprived Sir George Grey, of all control over the Imperial troops in the colony. This has had the effect of making the Governor feel his own weakness, General Chute being in fact independent of him in all military matters, he was degraded in the sight of those he was sent to govern. The good policy of such a despatch is more than doubtful: to weaken the hands of the representative of the Imperial Government, by withdrawing a power legitimately belonging to him as Governor, is in reality to weaken that Government itself: and this taken in connection with the declaration of with- page 172 drawing the Imperial forces, and only leaving such as the Colonial Government would engage to support, is not calculated to strengthen the bonds of affection between the parent state and its offspring. In fact, it is too much to expect an infant colony to do, which had already over-taxed itself to maintain this war, and incurred a debt of £7,000,000. Nor is this great amount of taxation the only evil to be feared; the raising up of separate interests between the colonies and their parent is the greatest; the weakening the bond of love and affection, and the feeling of oneness between them, is most to be dreaded. It seems to the settler that the views of Goldwin Smith, with regard to the colonies, are endorsed and being acted upon by the Home Government; and that the colonies are really viewed as a burthen by the, parent state, instead of being regarded as its glory, as well as the main spring of its prosperity; for the separation of the colonies from Britain, would be like cutting off the limbs of a body, without which all action, energy, if not vitality, would cease. The colonies of Great Britain are the feeders of its commerce, as well as the receivers of its surplus population; they are the safety valves of the state.
Nor can Britain withdraw its protection without other powers stepping forward to offer theirs. How unwise then is the striving to exact such hard terms, and in so harsh a manner, from one of the youngest and most hopeful of its colonies. Let a more liberal policy be adopted, and it will be amply repaid by increased attachment. Britain has deserved well of New Zealand, the promptness with which it furnished aid in this sad war, calls for its gratitude; let nothing be done to destroy it.