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

Memorandum by Ministers

Memorandum by Ministers.

Ministers, in referring to the Governor's memorandum of the 4th instant, expressing a fear "that an impression prevails in some quarters that the present war is carried on for the profit and gratification of the colonists," are prompted by their desire to meet His Excellency's wishes rather than by any sense of the necessity of rebutting imputations so vague and so indirect.

Ministers feel that they might safely rely upon His Excellency's sense of justice for their defence. They are not aware that any difference of opinion has existed between His Excellency and themselves regarding either the advisability of taking decided action in the country between Taranaki and Whanganui, or regarding the ends sought to be obtained by such action. They believe that on these subjects there has been a free interchange of opinion between His Excellency and his Responsible Advisers, and that such consultations have in no case resulted in any difference of opinion. Ministers would undoubtedly have preferred that His Excellency should, after visiting the Southern Island, as proposed by them, have arrived at Wellington and Whanganui, if necessary, about the time that Lieutenant- General Sir D. A. Cameron commenced his operations there, and they at the same time proposed that a member of the Ministry should accompany the General to Whanganui, in the hope that such a course might facilitate any peaceful overtures on the part of the insurgent Natives. The Lieutenant-General, however, considered that the Governor's presence in Auckland was imperatively required, and finally did not adopt the proposition that he should be accompanied by the Minister for Native Affairs, considering his presence unnecessary.

It is possible that these circumstances may have given rise to a supposition in the minds of some persons, ignorant perhaps of the Proclamation of the 17th of December, 1864, that the Lieutenant- General Commanding, being without the presence of any high civil authority, became involved in hostilities which might have been, avoided. Ministers, however, cannot assent to this view. Had they seen any probability of successful negotiations resulting in the submission of the hostile tribes, they would have pressed their original proposition. His Excellency is well aware that the country between Whanganui and Taranaki has long been a focus of sedition and fanaticism. There, in 1854, was held the meeting of Manawapou, at which death was decreed against any Native who should sell his own land to the pakeha; thence issued armed bands of marauders and plunderers during the Taranaki war; thence, up to the present day, issue organized parties of fanatics who traverse the Native districts throughout the Island, parading the cooked Heads of Europeans,—in one instance, it is said, leading captive with them two British soldiers, and in at least one case adding cannibalism of the most disgusting character to their other crimes. Ministers will not dwell upon such facts as that all communication between Taranaki and Whanganui has been long prohibited by these tribes; that the mails have been stopped; that, a mail steamer having been wrecked on the coast, neither military nor civil authorities at the nearest port could have access to it by land; that this district is the refuge of Native criminals, as was shown in the case of Henare Tahau, who escaped thither after attempting to murder a Native woman. More recently, Mr. Hewett, a much-respected European settler, the Native Assessor Rio, and other friendly Natives have been murdered; a European road party fired on, and the progress of Her Majesty's troops resisted by force of arms. The loyal Natives of Whanganui have been threatened with the same destruction as Europeans. The gallantry with which they have defended themselves and their European fellow-citizens will be fresh in His Excellency's memory.

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Ministers cannot but admit that it would have been for "the profit" of the colonists if the Lieutenant-General Commanding had found it possible by vigorous action so to carry on war in the head-quarters of fanaticism as to have insured submission, and thus put a stop to a rebellion which has incalculably retarded the progress of New Zealand, which has depreciated the value of property throughout the country districts of the Northen Inland, and which has placed both Islands of New Zealand in a state of the gravest financial embarrassment. They muse also admit that the colonists, the friendly Natives, and all who desire the welfare of this colony, and of its inhabitants, whether of Native or European origin, would derive "gratification" from the establishment of law, order, and peace in the place of anarchy and the most degrading barbarism. Ministers would further state that, though they believe that the repression and punishment of the rebel tribes of this district, and the opening and occupation of their country, is an absolute necessity—regard being had to the safety of the neighbouring settlements, and the peace of the Island generally—they, nevertheless, have advised His Excellency to oppose the demand of the Lieutenant-General for reinforcements from England (nor will they advise any operations to be undertaken which may involve the retention of Imperial forces in the colony), and submit their opinion that a colonial force of Bush Rangers and Cavalry, united with the loyal Natives, whose interests are identified with those of the colonists, will be sufficient to undertake and execute all operations that are requisite.

The expression of these opinions will probably sufficiently rebut the insinuation of improper anxiety to retain the troops for the "profit" of the colonists. Further, Ministers will content themselves with requesting that His Excellency will inform them whether on any occasion they have offered him advice which might fairly appear to have been dictated by any disregard for the true interests of Natives, or any undue desire to obtain land, even for legitimate purposes of sale or colonization. Ministers, in tendering advice to His Excellency, will at all times, as heretofore, be ready to state their reasons and objects in so doing, and will do so in writing whenever he may require it.

Fred. A. Weld.

Wellington, 20th March, 1865.