The Maori King Movement in New Zealand
The chief objects proposed by the originators of the scheme are very important in their bearing on the happiness and progress of the race, are highly creditable to their intelligence, indicative of their progress in civilization, and worthy of the best energies of any people. If the accomplishment of those objects had been attempted by legitimate means—if the means employed had involved no violation of the treaty already existing between the Maori race and the British Government—if there had been no attempt to throw off their allegiance to our most gracious Queen, or to repudiate the Sovereignty ceded by them to Her Majesty over these Islands, the objects aimed at might have commended themselves to the suffrages of the best friends of the Maori race, and secured the sympathy of all those who are interested in every thing relating to the progress of mankind. But the means employed to secure the objects proposed, are so pregnant with evil to the Natives themselves, so obstructive of the progress of the country, and so perilous to all its best interests, that every true patriot must view the movement with the utmost regret, and every sincere philanthropist must deeply deplore it.
The object made most prominent in the early meetings held on the subject, was a more efficient form of Government.—“I want order and laws” said Thompson. “A King could give us these better than the Governor.” “The Governor does not stop murders and fights among us” said Paora. “A King will be able to do that. Let us have order, so that we may grow as the pakehas grow.” “At present, when two tribes quarrel about land, we murder one another and there is no power to prevent it. We want a King and laws to meet such cases, that these evils may cease.”
They did not complain of being over-governed, but rather of defects in the application of our laws to their people; they said nothing about British law being oppressive, but complained that it was not applied so extensively as they wished. These defects in the application of our laws to the Natives were forcibly represented by the Hon. C. W. Richmond, the Colonial Treasurer, in his place in the General Assembly in 1858, in introducing a “Bill to make better provision for the administration of Justice in the Native Districts.” The hon. gentlemen said, “Hitherto there has been no attempt to meet the special and local wants of the Aborigines by that kind of regulations which British citizens all the world over are allowed to frame for themselves. Between the Provincial Councils and the General Assembly the wants of the Natives in page 17 these respects have slipped through and been wholly neglected.” Thus confessing that the Natives did not complain without reason, and that their independent movements in this direction were partly attributable to our neglect. The above measure was intended to remedy the existing evil and to supply the defect, and is no doubt admirably adapted to meet the circumstances of the native tribes—but it came too late. The Natives had taken the initiative and were not willing to retrace their steps. The probability is that a desire to imitate the pakeha, together with their innate love of independence, very materially influenced them in their demand for law, and in their attempts at self-government. Whatever might be the motive, the professed object was good, and it becomes matter of regret that the desire was not anticipated so as to have left no excuse for any independent action in this matter. “If,” said an intelligent Waikato Chief, “some means had been initiated at an earlier period to give the Chiefs a status in connection with the Government and some part in the administration of our affairs, we should not have had a Maori King.”
Now, Native Magistrates are appointed by the King, who issue warrants, try parties accused of felony, levy fines, settle disputes, and enforce the payment of debts. Their decisions are generally received with respect within the King's territory, and obeyed by those who acknowledge his authority. No European Magistrate is permitted to officiate within their territory, as the following translation of a circular issued from Ngaruawhia shows:—
Four things have been determined by our late Council:—
1. That no European Magistrate shall be permitted to officiate in any part of our territory.
2. That no Native shall be imprisoned in the Gaol of the Governor.
3. That no roads shall be opened in our territory.
Four things are said to have been determined, three only are named.
Another object aimed at is the preservation of what they call the “mana” of the Chiefs. This word means authority, power, influence. It was originally applied to persons and their words or acts, not to land. A Chief whose authority or influence enabled him to gather together an army for war, was “he tangata whai mana” (a man possessing mans). Commands readily obeyed are a “kupu whai mana”—words having influence. A promise faith- page 18 fully kept and duly performed was mana—“Kua mana te kupu o te Kawana”—the Governor's word has been fulfilled. This word has of late been used in reference to land, and now we hear of the “Mana o te whenua”—(the mana of the land)—what distinct idea is attached to it, it is difficult to say. The disputed land at Waitara is claimed by the Maori King party because the King's mana has reached it—“Kua tae te mana o to matou kingi ki reira,”—the mana of our King has gone there. And wherever this mana is gone, the land is held as inalienable without the King's consent. “Kia mau te mana o te whenua” is another expression now in frequent use, i.e., “hold fast the mana of the land.” What does it mean? This is altogether a new application of the term; perhaps it has been adopted in consequence of the Queen's Sovereignty over the Island having been translated as the Queen's mana. But it certainly did not originally mean that which is now claimed for it, viz., a Chief's “manorial right.” This use of the word was not heard until this Maori King movement originated it. (See Paul's speech, p. 51.)
It is by no means clear that any such custom as “manorial right” ever obtained among the Native tribes—was either claimed by the Chiefs, or ceded by the people originally. A man took possession of territory by the strength of his arm, and rested his claim on his conquests. “Na tenei,” he would say, stretching out his arm, “by this I obtained it.” Or he claimed it in consequence of having cultivated it. What reason could exist originally for such rights? Land sales were things unknown. If land exchanged hands, it was not by sale but by conquest—by might disregarding right. Much has lately been written on the subject, in attempts to defend W. King's claims to the Waitara block. Has King himself ever asserted “manorial claims”? Rather did he not confess he had no claim. “Does the land belong to Teira and party?” enquired the Commissioner of W. King. “Yes,” was the reply, “the land is theirs, but I will nut let them sell it.” Does he not say this because the Land League says that no land shall be sold. Apropos to this subject, a Waikato Chief who was adducing reasons for the King movement, remarked, “Hoko tahae” (dishonest sales of land) was one reason. A Chief offered land to Government, and because he was a Chief it was taken for granted the land was his own, “but,” he added, “you must not suppose that every Chief, because he is a great man with a great name, is a great land owner; there are many great Chiefs who have no land, and therefore have no right to sell.” How does this accord with manorial rights?page 19
Take another fact. One man, at the great meeting lately, drew a circle around him and said, “This is mine; let no man interfere with me. I am on my own land, and shall do what I like with my own.” Another asserted the same right and declared his intention to sell what he pleased when he returned from the meeting. Did these men acknowledge the Chiefs manorial rights? Take another fact, Potatau himself sold a block of land to the Government a few years ago, and received a deposit of £50; but the sale has never been completed, because the men who had cultivated the block deny his right to sell, though he is principal Chief of the tribe, and refuse to allow him to do so. Manorial rights are imaginary rights when claimed for New Zealand Chiefs.
It was not this new thing that the King's party sought to establish, but an old thing that they sought to preserve, viz., the Chief's status, his influence in his tribe, and the national independence. They felt that the spread of European customs was fast undermining the authority of the Chiefs, and destroying their independence as a people. They thought that a King would preserve their nationality, and uphold the status of the Chiefs by giving them a position in the administration of Native affairs within their own territory.
Another subject that illustrates the native desire for independence is the great change that has taken place in their views in reference to Native Teachers of religion. A few years ago they would scarcely tolerate a Native in the pulpit. Now, Native Ministers are in request. They are not merely willing to receive them but earnestly request their appointment. That this partly arises from a wish to be independent of European influence is clear from the fact, that one or two of the leaders of the extreme party do not hesitate to propose publicly, that the European Missionaries should be sent away and Native Ministers substituted. The same feeling is evinced by the manner in which Natives constantly declare that the Pakeha's intention is to make them all slaves, and the frequently expressed determination on their part to “Whakaiti te Kawanatanga,”—to humble or put down the Government. There can be no doubt but that this feeling has been fed and fostered by the representations of some of our own countrymen, who have either wantonly or under provocation, whispered to them of a coming day when the whole race would be reduced to slavery. Nor can there be any doubt, that the feeling is being strengthened by that portion of the newspaper press that deals so much in abuse of the Maories and all who take an interest in their welfare, and which threatens them with such heavy visitations. Those disgraceful page 20 productions find their way into the country and are freely translated to Maori ears.
The main object proposed by the movement party is the preservation of their land. Their watchword is, “No further alienation of Maori territory.” To prevent this it is required that the tribes joining the league shall give over their territory to the King, to have and to hold for ever. This is done in writing, and the records are carefully preserved. (See the speeches of Tomo, p. 51, and Kopara, p. 57.)
The land thus given over to the King is not to be alienated without his consent. This might be all fair if the party stopped here. But they resolve that no land shall be sold within their territory, even though the owner may not have joined the league. Any man therefore attempting to sell a block of land, would subject himself to summary proceedings at war. And any attempt to take possession of the purchased block by the Government would be resisted by force of arms—as in the case of the land at Waitara. The Taranaki people, not by W. King's direction but at the instigation of a man named Erueti,* came to Waikato for the King's flag and handed over Waitara to the league—no doubt in order to draw Waikato into the quarrel and secure their powerful aid against the Governor. This is the reason assigned by the party who have gone to aid W. King, for their having taken up arms in his defence; “Our flag is there,” they say. Others of the extreme King party only wait to ascertain whether their flag reached Waitara before the Queen's money was paid or after, declaring, that if the flag was first there the land shall not be given up, but that they shall go and take it. They do not profess to claim the land for W. King on the ground either of hereditary or manorial right, but because Potatau gave it to him, because it now belongs to the land league, and because they consider he is engaged in fighting for the principles of that confederation. But does not the objection to sell land apply only to sales to the Government? Are the natives not desirous to negociate sales with private purchasers? This has sometimes been asserted, but it is a mistake. The objection does not lie against sales to the Government merely, but against all sales, absolutely against any further alienation whatever, and not only are they opposed to absolute sale but also to leasing;—the practice of leasing cattle runs has existed for some time, but they are now sending away the leaseholders and their flocks. A discussion was raised on the subject at the late meeting by a man stating that page 21 Potatau had sent down a message to the effect that he had no objection to the practice of leasing:—the discussion went against the system, and next morning Potatau's proclamation, sent out in writing, settled the question. It was to this effect:—
“Ngaruawahia, May 30th, 1860.
“Be it known to all men, that I do not approve of leasing land. Let no man henceforth say that leasing land is a work of mine. My word is this, be kind to the Europeans and do not rob the stores.“From King Potatau.”
The reasons assigned by the party for this land league are as follows: first, the frequent and clandestine sales of land by parties who had no right to sell or who were at most but partial owners of what they sold. This frequently led to disputes and often to bloodshed and they maintain that the only security against this “tahae whenua” (land stealing) is such a league as they have now formed. The fear of being left without sufficient land to sustain them has also operated powerfully on the Native mind. Seeing the rapid increase of Europeans, and the constantly advancing wave of colonization, block of land after block passing from them into the occupation of the white man, their fears are aroused. “He wants all our land,” they say, “and we shall soon be destitute.” In vain are they told by their real friends that no such result can possibly follow the colonization of their country; that the Queen would not allow them to be left without land on which to subsist. They are more really to listen to those who tell them that all their land will soon be taken away. Then the dread of being out-numbered by pakehas has had its effect, as also with many, has the love of savage independence,—the desire to have large tracts of land for pig and cattle runs, over which the herds may range without danger of trespass on the white man's cultivation, or without the need of fencing to keep them from straying. “When I go to Auckland,” said one, “I see the horses of my native friends all tethered lest they should stray; I have no such trouble.” It is much to be regretted that they should entertain such views on this subject. It must be obvious to thoughtful men, that the possession of such large tracts of unoccupied land has long militated against their progress in civilization; has fostered their natural indolence and covetousness; led to constant squabbling, not unfrequently to inter-tribal wars; and has occupied their time in talk and runangas that might have been employed in profitable agricultural operations. It must also be obvious that the extensive tracts of country claimed by small and rapidly declining tribes, can never be cultivated by them, and must page 22 remain waste in their hands. The questions very naturally arise, does Divine Providence intend these vast tracts of country to remain a wilderness, or are these parts of the earth, like other parts, to be subdued and made to yield food for man and beast? Would it not be greatly to the advantage of the owner to dispose of such portions as are not likely to be required for himself or children, and thereby obtain the means of improving his property, and of securing the instruction and example of civilized neighbours to aid him in the improvement of his circumstances?
It is not intended by these remarks to suggest anything affecting the Treaty of Waitangi. That Treaty, made in good faith, should be kept in good faith, and its provisions faithfully carried out by all parties who accepted it.
It does not fall within the objects of this pamphlet to enter into a defence of the Missionaries of this country, against those whose pens are now so ready to slander them, to charge them with disloyalty to the Queen, and to stigmatise them as opponents of colonization and enemies to the country's progress. Nor is it necessary. Intelligent and candid observers of Missionary labour will not be influenced by insinuation, nor by assertions that are unsustained by facts. It may be right to affirm, nevertheless, that the views expressed above on the subject of Native lands have not been withheld from the Natives by their Ministers. It is not forgotten that a tract was published in the Maori language a few years ago, entitled “Some Questions to the Maori People about the Selling of Land,” which, though possibly written with the best intentions, was, to say the least, calculated to unhinge the Native mind; but though there may have been a solitary exception or two, yet the Missionaries, as a body, have faithfully placed the subject before the Native mind as having a most important bearing on their religious and social progress. It may be also proper to place on record a denial of the allegations that have lately been made in some of the journals of this country against the Missionaries, and to protest against the injustice done to them as a body, by insinuations of disloyalty and selfishness. If any solitary members of the body have acted foolishly, let them bear their own burdens, but sweeping condemnation of all for the offences of one or two is manifestly unjust.