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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 25. — Copy of a (Confidential) Despatch from Governor Fitzeoy to Lord Stanley

No. 25.
Copy of a (Confidential) Despatch from Governor Fitzeoy to Lord Stanley

Bay of Islands.—Military Protection required throughout the Colony.

My Lord,—

Auckland, 19th October 1844.

It was my intention to have left Auckland in Her Majesty's' ship "Hazard" on the 7th of this month, but another disturbance at the Bay of Islands obliged me to remain within reach.

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In apprehending a notoriously bad character—an Englishman named Byars—a Native woman was accidentally hurt by one of the constables and, according to the old customs of the aborigine, compensation should be given. The Police Magistrate treated the affair as too trifling to be noticed; upon which some turbulent Natives took the law into their own hands and drove away eight horses belonging to an unoffending and respectable settler named Wright, saying they would keep them until satisfactory compensation was made for the injury done, not by Mr. Wright, but by a European, to one of their relations. The annexed documents will show more in detail the nature and origin of this occurrence, which, taken by itself, is not of much consequence, but taken as additional evidence of the unsettled and lawless, if not insurrectionary, disposition of many Natives about the Bay of Islands, assumes a character of real importance.

On the 13th instant Her Majesty's ship "North Star" arrived here, on her way to Van Diemen's Land, and Sir Everard Home, with his usual readiness to forward Her Majesty's service, consented to remain until this matter could be arranged. Yesterday Her Majesty's ship "Hazard "returned from Russell (Kororareka) with the Chief Protector of Aborigines, bringing intelligence that the affair was amicably settled, but also warning me that the influence of the well-disposed chiefs is becoming weaker, and that there are designing persons at work there, whose object is to create disturbances in order to bring the English—especially the Government and the'Missionaries—into disrepute. In my last confidential letter to your Lordship I spoke of both and as intriguers. I have no doubt that the frequent and open assertions of the former respecting the British flag, and the quiet though continual efforts of the latter, have already done great mischief; and, had they but sufficient fulcrum on which to place their lever of agitation, they would succeed in their object—that of bringing about a resistance of British authority and an open unqualified denial of Her Majesty's sovereignty. Heke, Kingi, Pure and others are but tools in the hands of these designing men, who visit them and fill their minds with accounts of what England has done to the aborigines of Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales—places they know well—keeping out of view what has been done by other nations in America and Africa.

Having removed the restrictions of: the Customs establishment, and allowed the Natives to sell their land under such restrictions only as are undeniably and palpably for their own advantage, I feel satisfied that the foundation on which British authority rests in New Zealand is secured; and, by giving small salaries, with dresses or distinctive marks, to the principal chiefs, so as to, ruphold their influence as much as possible, I do not doubt that the peace of the country will be generally maintained if your Lordship will materially strengthen both the military and the naval force. I urge this the more earnestly on the attention of your Lordship, because each succeeding month brings stronger conviction to my mind of the very great political importance and of the immense value of this country.

I feel fully how apt all men are to overrate things in which they themselves are personally interested; but, my Lord, I have seen much of other countries; I have only a temporary, perhaps a very temporary, immediate interest in New Zealand; but, as a faithful servant of Her Majesty should greatly neglect my duty did I not again and again set forth in-the strongest language the extraordinary resources of this country, and the extreme importance not of conquering and exterminating—God forbid—but of preventing any hostile collisions among the Natives, of overawing evil disposed Europeans as well as Natives, and insuring the peace of the country (the only sure key to its ultimate prosperity and the preservation of the aboriginal race) by keeping such a force in sight as will completely check attempts to disturb the peace.

It is necessary I should state to your Lordship that the great danger to be apprehended in New Zealand is retaliation on unoffending persons, settlers in the interior, or at a distance from the principal settlements. Among the heathen Natives, and among many who profess Christianity, blood-revenge is still their practice, if not their law. Were a conflict to take place in which the lives of Natives were lost, in all probability the lives of persons unconnected with the affray would be taken, and a personal quarrel, or mere chance-medley, might lead to a general rupture between the races. There is no doubt that upon sufficient cause the tribes of New Zealand, however inimical to each other under ordinary circumstances, would, in case of hostilities with Europeans, unite and act in concert. The only means, under God's providence, of avoiding such a "consequence of the benevolent efforts of Great Britain in behalf of the New Zealanders, and in support of her own settlers at the antipodes, is to be most cautious in all our proceedings; to take care that our conduct and policy towards the aborigines is so undeniably correct and just (hat it will stand their most searching scrutiny; and that wo maintain so large a military force in the colony that organized resistance to it may be quite hopeless.

It is the opinion of all the military men with whom I have conversed in this colony, and it is the opinion of those who are most competent to advise with me on this subject, as well as my own, that the organization and employment of a militia would not only be useless; but dangerous; and on this account the Militia Bill which I laid before the Legislative Council, iu obedience to your Lordship's instructions, was postponed. There is so much rancorous feeling towards the Natives among some of the settlers that arms cannot be trusted in their hands unless in a case of the most extreme emergency. The fact of the settlers arming and training would alarm the Natives and destroy their confidence in our ultimate intentions, whereas the presence of additional troops does not do so while the settlers remain unarmed: the Natives understand that the soldiers are to support our law and defend our property; they are accustomed to the soldiers, and treat them not only with respect but confidence, because they have never abused the power they are known to possess. Towards armed settlers there would be a very different feeling, and, if called out, awkwardness or fear might bring on a collision, which need not occur if well disciplined troops were employed: then would follow retaliation upon the settlers. It is the presence of force, not the employment of it, that is so much required irr the present state of the colony. The good effects of the timely visits of Her Majesty's ships "North Star "and "Hazard" together with the prompt military aid afforded by Sir George Gipps have been as marked as opportune.

There are now very strong reasons for the presence of a regiment of the line and at least two ships of war in New Zealand. The speedy appearance of such a force may save years of misfortune, page 36misery, and bloodshed. The influence of the elder chiefs is impaired; some of the young aspiring chiefs are desirous of making a name for themselves, and having nothing to do, wish for war. They deride and oppose the old men and Christian Natives.

Were there a military power in the country sufficient to guarantee the safety of the well-disposed, we should, in the event of hostilities, have the majority at least of the Native population on our side, and actively our friends; but, as the case now stands, they would remain neuter. A shrewd chief, of much influence in the interior of the country, said to Mr. Shortland (the Protector), "When you have five hundred soldiers in New Zealand besides those at Auckland and Wellington, I will acknowledge the Queen's authority and act under your Governor; hut till you have strength enough to defend me against my enemies I must not take part with you and expose myself."

The greatest benefit that England could now confer on New Zealand would be to place such a force in the country as would encourage and protect the old friendly chiefs, the Christian Natives, and the well-disposed of all classes, while it would effectually prevent disturbances of a serious or lasting character. More than one ship of war is necessary, because the settlements are so remote that her visits can be but transient and occasional. The prosperity of the colony, if not its tenure by Great Britain, depends on decisive and efficient measures taken in time, before the now growing evils become fully developed.

I have, &c.,

Robert Fitzroy,

The Right Hon. Lord Stanley, &c.