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Frank Leward: Memorials

Frank to Bampton

Frank to Bampton.

Wairapa, New Zealand, Jan. 1845.

Dear old Bam. Its a long time since I got your jolly letter telling me about your leaving Oxford and going to the Temple. I often wish I could have done something of the same sort myself for I get tired sometimes of this kind of life and I have lately lost all heart in the work and I dont seem to care whether we get on or go to smash. This country is so miserably badly managed by the people at home or at least allowed to be managed anyhow by the missionaries out here. I daresay the missionaries who came out first meant well and did to some extent civilise the natives and taught them something and the Maoris were clever enough to see it was to their advantage to learn what the missionaries had to teach them. Only these missionaries I mean the Church missionaries, for the Catholics have always been very different and have done a great deal of good in their way, petted a few of the most designing beggars page 120who were the sharpest of the lot and pretended to be converted, but as for the rest they are so simple-minded they would believe anything anyone told them and can understand as much about being Christians as an old cow does about dancing. Well these cunning beggars got to know a good deal and one of them a chief named Hongi who had a mortal enmity to another tribe that was too strong for him laid his plans very deeply. He professed to be anxious to improve his mind by going to England so the missionaries sent him home as a specimen of what they could do with the natives, they had him presented at Court, invited to dinner by the Church Missionary Society, took him to meetings and made him pray in his own language and all that. Hongi pretended to be very anxious to collect bibles for his people, and quietly kept a sharp look-out for guns and ammunition of all sorts. When he came back he armed his tribe with the best muskets he had been able to get taught the people how to use them and soon made an example of the other tribe got their land and had many a festive meal on the fattest of them, till one of them happened to get hold of one of his-muskets and shot him with it. Thats the sort of fellow the missionaries get taken in by. The fact is the Maoris are like a lot of sharp children, submissive to anyone who knows more than they do awfully quarrelsome among themselves and like children they are sometimes horribly cruel. The Europeans who came first and settled at the Bay of Islands were chiefly whalers escaped convicts from Sydney and Van Diemens Land and they were a bad page 121lot about the lowest form of beasts in human shape it is possible to imagine and they no doubt did the natives a great deal of harm and undid what the missionaries were trying to do. Then the missionaries decided to stop as far as they could all emigration whatever instead of trying to get a good style of emigrants. It is curious that the Church missionaries always seem a stupid set of men, most of them here are narrow-minded uneducated and not gentlemen at all, but they have enough sense to manage to get hold of the best bits of land for themselves privately from the natives for nothing.

The missionaries having got a good hold over the natives and enough land from them persuaded the English to recognise a few of the chiefs as an independent people while they really governed the place just as they liked themselves. If it hadnt been for the New Zealand Co. which had taken up land about Cooks Straits and has brought out a lot of emigrants of the right sort the French would have had the place long ago and made it a penal settlement and soon have turned the missionaries out neck and crop, so the missionaries really owe all they have to the Company. Then the missionaries got up a treaty they called the treaty of Waitangi the most ridiculous thing you ever heard of. It was written by one of the missionaries and most of the big words used the natives could not have had any idea of because there were no words in their language they could have been translated into. The missionaries went about the country getting the chiefs to sign it by giving them blankets and a lot of other things the regular price was a blanket a page 122signature though some insisted on some tobacco and rum being thrown in. The poor people are so childish they would give all the land in the place for a gun or anything else they happened to want for the moment. I dont believe they care a bit about the land really only they dont like other tribes to come on to their preserves.

So Governor Hobson who came to take possession under this precious treaty and the missionaries who had got as much land as they wanted for themselves, one had got 11,000 acres another 40,000 another 50,000 and some more even than that, took care not to allow any one else being allowed to buy land except through the Government, and they managed to take away land which the Company had bought from the natives and which was gradually being cultivated by the emigrants the Company had brought out. For these missionaries hate the Company like sin, because it brings decent sort of colonists to the place and Government at home backs up the missionaries in everything they do, so that the people here hate the very sound of the name of Lord Stanley. When the natives began to see the land was worth something and they could get things in exchange for it they came before a thing here the Government have set up called a Land Court with a Mr. Spain at the head of it to try whether the land had been properly bought from the natives or not and put in all manner of claims to land they never thought of before. I dont believe they had any idea of owning land beyond what they were actually using and that was precious little, though they had certain boundaries into which they wouldnt let any other tribes page 123come. You see a Maori is quite a different kind of creature to anything a white man has known anything of before. They are very quick and clever in their way and one of their peculiarities is never to grow more than they want immediately for themselves. They are not naturally a greedy race unless they are spoilt by the Pakehas and they have so few wants they are easily satisfied. A Maori lives almost entirely on potatoes and fish if he is anywhere near the sea. As soon as he has planted enough potatoes to last him for the year he wont bother to do any more work, and hes right I suppose if he likes doing nothing and doesnt care about anything besides potatoes. Some of them will go in summer down to the sea coast and take just enough potatoes with them to last the time they are away. Then they will fish and as soon as they have caught enough for the day they will spend the rest in laughing and talking and sleeping.

Ill give you a specimen of the sort of yarns the missionaries tell. There was a German traveller wanted particularly to go up Mount Cook in the Middle Island nobody had been up it before but the chief there wouldnt let him because he said it was the back bone of an ancestor of his, a pretty good sized ancestor considering it is more than 8000 feet high, unless he paid him a lot of money in gold. The missionaries got hold of this and sent home a yarn that the chief would have let the German fellow go up if he had given him a lot of bibles. One lot of land the Company had to pay for to an old chief then another tribe came and put in a claim to be paid for it because it had been theirs before the old chief page 124had turned them out and Spain made them pay for it over again then the slaves of the second tribe came and declared it was theirs before the second tribe came and made slaves of them so the Company had to pay a third time to the slaves. Another chief came down to this Land Court and claimed a lot of land that had been sold and paid for and got it too because he proved that he had killed and eaten the tribe that had been there before. The fact being that none of them would ever have thought of claiming land at all or would have made any use of it until this splendid Court was set up. This is the way the Company which might have been the making of the country is treated and the people they have brought out are being ruined. These people bought land from the Company at 20 shillings an acre and have been at work at it for some time and have turned it in many places into good flourishing farms instead of its being a wilderness of ferns as it was before they came. They are turned out now and the land is given back to the natives who had nothing to do with it before and dont know what to do with it now except to sell it over again. Thats what they call British justice.

III tell you another thing this first governor did. He made Auckland the Capital of the whole country though its right up in the North and away from all the best land and the principal part of the population Now why did he do it simply because the missionaries told him to and they told him to because they had got all their land up there and having the Capital there increased its value. You will see it only wants a right sort of page 125governor to have Wellington made the Capital instead of Auckland but I suppose we shall have to wait a long time for that.

Some one ought to take the matter up at home for a lot of fellows who were doing well here have been ruined and many have been obliged to go away after having lost all they brought with them. If the government had really wished to do good to the natives and had not been afraid of offending the missionaries they would have allowed the colonists to take up good land wherever they found it and there are millions and millions of acres of good land utterly waste now and they would always have kept a reserve for the natives along side. In this way the natives own land reserves which they ought never to have been allowed to sell under any consideration would have become very valuable and they would have learnt by degrees to cultivate their own land and I believe a good feeling would have grown up between the two races. Now at any time the Maoris may come down upon us exterminate us carry off our stock eat the friendly natives who work for us and take our land and we have no protection. You may depend upon it there will be rows innumerable between the English and the natives and very likely big wars and I shouldnt be surprised if the English get jolly well licked. This new governor Fitzroy has prevented us from even forming a sort of voluntary militia to protect ourselves goodness knows why unless he and his missionaries wish to see us driven out.

So you see old man were not in a very comfortable page 126position. I called our place the Glades in memory of the old place but its name only brings melancholy thoughts now and sometimes they are worse than melancholy. I have written a lot about this place and I don't suppose you care twopence about it but out here its all people have to think about'

Good-bye old man were getting on pretty well though its rough work—Your affectionate friend

F. Leward.