The French at Akaroa
Chapter VIII. — Clearing The Wreckage
Clearing The Wreckage.
Although the liquidation of the French claims at Akaroa by the New Zealand Company's purchase removed them from the sphere of international disputes, it did not entirely eliminate from the Peninsula the element of disputed titles. Indeed, there was soon to spring up in this neighbourhood a new crop of complicated problems which a generous policy might have solved in a few months, but as a result of official neglect and official misunderstanding— not to speak of official parsimony —eight or ten years were to pass before these causes of irritation were removed and harmony once more prevailed. This, however, leads us to speak of some of the purchases in the neighbouring districts, and to some extent involves a review of another chapter in New Zealand history. Long before the Nanto- Bordelaise claims had ceased to be a disturbing page 354factor the local Government had fortunately rid itself of the old official idea that the South Island was unfit for European settlement. Its supposed rigorous climate, the turbulent nature of its inhabitants, and its remoteness from other centres had hitherto raised a barrier of prejudice against it. Time and experience had now happily dissipated that prejudice, and under Governor FitzRoy, in 1844, and Governor Grey, in 1847, the Crown entered upon a campaign of huge land-purchases in this hitherto neglected part of the colony. These purchasing operations were first stimulated by the formation in Scotland, in 1843, of an association for the purpose of founding in this antipodean colony a settlement based on Presbyterian Free Church principles, which it was hoped would act as a wholesome antidote to the stressful economic conditions then pressing so direfully upon the industrial poor of Scotland. The New Zealand Company, under whose auspices the Scottish Association proposed to conduct its operations, had but a limited quantity of land available in the Wellington and Nelson settlements. It therefore became necessary to look further afield for an area large enough to provide for the intending immigrants. The Directors of the Company were especially anxious that the chosen locality should be in the vicinity of Port Cooper, but for a second time the eligible and inviting plains behind the wooded hills of Banks page 355Peninsula were denied the favour of selection. On this occasion it was not official prejudice nor official caution that intervened, but the professional opinion of the Company's expert adviser—a striking illustration of how inexpert expert opinion can sometimes be. Mr. Tuckett, the Company's chief surveyor, was commissioned to select the site for the Scottish settlement, and for reasons which may be accepted as perfectly conscientious from such an extremely conscientious man he, after careful examination, gave his judgment in favour of the region inland from the Otago Heads. Following upon this decision and its acceptance by the New Zealand Company, Governor FitzRoy, in 1844, waived the Crown's right of pre-emption over 150,000 acres of this land, and instructed Mr. John Jermyn Symonds, Assistant Police Magistrate at Wellington, to assist the Company's agent to effect its purchase from the natives. On 31st July of the same year this was accomplished, and upon this and subsequent purchases the future Province of Otago was founded.*
* Altogether 400,000 acres were purchased for £2,400. The purchase was known as the "New Edinburgh Block."
In the meantime, however, the Ngati-Toa tribe accepted the position as they found it. They did not trouble about Ngai-Tahu interests, and after a protracted discussion they, on 18th March, 1847, agreed to dispose of the required territory, with the exception of certain reservations, for the sum of £3,000, to be paid in fixed annual instalments of £600. The block thus ceded by Ngati-Toa extended northward from Kaiapoi, through the Amuri, Kaikoura, the Awatere, and Wairau districts.* The acquisition of this tract made available for settlement one of the finest belts of pastoral country in New Zealand, which soon became the special preserve of some of her most opulent wool-kings.
* This block consisted of 3,000,000 acres, and the price was at the rate of ¼d. per acre.
While Wakefield and his friends were actively promoting the Canterbury scheme in England, Governor Grey visited Akaroa for the purpose of arranging with the representative of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company a settlement of their claims on the basis of Lord. Stanley's offer. In this, however, he was not successful, for he was unable to find any properly accredited representative of the Company in the settlement. M. de Belligny had left the colony in 1845, some eighteen months after Colonel Godfrey had promulgated his findings, and there was no one authorized to act in his absence. The Governor was therefore unable to make the arrangements which his Minister was pressing him to make in the hope of removing this comparatively insignificant yet awkward question from the category of petty international disputes.
The visit was, however, by no means unfruitful, for Grey had revealed to him the immense possibilities of these southern lands as a field for European settlement. He accordingly entered into negotiations with such native chiefs as were available, and found them in a frame of mind agreeable to a general sale of their lands. The prospect of securing, as he himself expressed it, "so vast an extent of fertile territory as an unfettered field for the purpose of colonization," page 360appealed to the imaginative mind of Grey with such force that he at once determined to realize it. He thereupon agreed with the chiefly representatives of Ngai-Tahu "that the requisite reserves for their present and reasonable future wants should be set apart for themselves and their dependants as reserves for such purpose, and that they should then relinquish all other claims to any lands whatsoever lying between the Nelson and Otago Blocks, receiving for so doing such sums as might be arranged in four annual payments." For this purpose the Governor considered that a sum of £2,000 distributed over a period of four years, " would be as large an amount as they could profitably spend or would be of any real benefit to them."
* The preliminary expedition of surveyors, accompanied by the Resident Chief Agent of the settlement, J. R. Godley, reached Port Cooper in April, 1850, and in the month of December of the same year the first body of colonists arrived, and before the end of 1851 2,600 colonists had disembarked.
This is known as the Ngai-Tahu purchase, and "Kemp's deed," although frequently attacked, remains as the official record of a transaction in which the natives parted with the greater portion of what are now known as the Canterbury and Otago Provinces, about 20,000,000 acres, for the sum of £2,000.*
* A comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding the Ngai-Tahu purchase is contained in the report of the Royal Commission set up in 1920 to investigate it, and published in parliamentary paper G.-5, Session I, 1921. The Commission recommended that a sum of £354,000 be set aside as " full compensation" to the descendants of the original sellers for the failure of the Crown to carry out the undertaking contained in the deed to set aside adequate reserves out of the block for the " future provision " of the natives. In urging the fulfilment of this recommendation in the House of Representatives during the session of 1928, Mr. H. W. Uru, M.P., put the native view figuratively: "The natives have been very patient; now we want our cake, raisins, and all."
* Mr. Mantell's written instructions contained the following paragraph: " Much may be done by inducing the natives of very small settlements to unite in taking their reserves at one locality, and by getting them to consent to give up the smaller patches of cultivation in exchange for additional land nearer the larger ones, a liberal provision being made both for their present and future wants, and due regard shown to secure their interests and meet their wishes." At the same time there was something which Mr. Mantell called the spirit of his instructions which caused him to make anything but a "liberal provision" for the "future wants " of the natives. Mr. Mantell subsequently endeavoured to retrieve this mistake.
The natives clearly admit to have sold the whole of Banks Peninsula to the French Company. With the resident natives, chiefly at Port Cooper and Pigeon Bay, I did not think it advisable, on this account, to enter into any arrangements with regard to reserves, and knowing also that the question was at present pending between the British and French Governments. My impression is that no definite reserves were made for them by the French agent at the time of the sale, and that they continue to occupy the grounds they formerly did without any limitation whatever.
Whether or not Mr. Kemp was over-generous to the French Company in assuming that their rights extended over the whole Peninsula was for long a much-debated point. It was certainly the intention of Grey, the Governor-in-Chief, that all the native claims on the mainland, with the exception of the reserves, should be extinguished by the payment of £2,000, but in the discussion that followed he declined to commit himself to any statement as to whether or not it was at that time legitimately open to page 365Mr. Kemp to negotiate for the purchase of the Peninsula. The Lieutenant-Governor, Mr. Eyre, on the other hand, held strongly to the view that the Peninsula should not have been excluded, and that, indeed, it was not excluded, fortifying his argument by the fact that its exclusion was not specifically mentioned in the document agreed to by the natives. To uphold this contention, however, he had still to get over the awkward fact that on the map* accompanying the deed this area had been coloured green, as indicating the sphere of French interest.
The contention of the Lieutenant-Governor was naturally fostered by the New Zealand Company, but the Governor constantly maintained an attitude of studied neutrality towards the issue, and beyond a mild suggestion that perhaps a further payment of a small sum might lift the matter beyond the region of doubt he could not be induced to go. The Ngai - Tahu purchase, then, closed with the Peninsula being recognized as lying more within the French sphere of interest than within the British sphere of interest.
* After giving a verbal description of the boundaries, the deed states: "But the land is more accurately defined on the plan." The map accompanying it thus became an integral part of the deed.
One further condition was imposed, and that was that Captain Thomas's recommendation should be approved by the Governor-in-Chief and by Bishop Selwyn. This assent was readily obtained, and on 27th April, 1849, it was finally determined that the "Grand Plain," as it was then called, should become the seat of the Canterbury settlement.
(1) That His Excellency should issue to the New Zealand Company a Crown grant for such portion of the Port Cooper country as might be specified by Mm (Mr. Fox), including the harbours of Port Cooper and Port Levy, he undertaking on behalf of the New Zealand Company to compensate the Nanto-Bordelaise Company for any portion of the land that they could prove to the satisfaction of His Excellency to have been bond fide purchased by them in those harbours and to which they would be entitled under the arrangement made with Lord Stanley; such compensation being given in land in some other part of Banks Peninsula, or elsewhere in New Zealand, on the award of three indifferent persons—one selected by the local Government, one by the Nanto-Bordelaise Company, and one by the New Zealand Company—the assessment to be based on the value of the land at the date of the alleged purchase by the French Company; or (2) That His Excellency should act in the spirit of the 13th chapter of the Royal Instructions accompanying the charter of 1846, and should reserve the harbours of Port Cooper and Port Levy, and the site of the towns therein, they being absolutely necessary for the public purposes of the vast district beyond, in which the French had no claims, and which could not be occupied without the harbours.
* Vide his letter to Governor Grey, 9th August, 1849.
* Vide his letter to Mr. Pox, 27th April, 1849.
* Vide his instructions to Mr. Mantell, 9th June, 1849.
Mr. Mantell left Wellington for the Peninsula on 18th June, 1849. He first directed his attention to securing control of Port Cooper, which, as Governor Grey aptly said, had become the key to the Canterbury Plains, and without which the whole scheme of their colonization would be frustrated. Owing, however, to the bitter weather of another unusually severe winter, frequently rendering it necessary to suspend the conference, to say nothing of the keenness of the native bargaining, it was not until the 11th August that Mr. Mantell was able to report that "after long and tedious negotiations the native proprietors of the Port Cooper district (59,000 acres) signed yesterday a document ceding that district to Her Majesty, and acknowledging the receipt of £200* as final payment for all lands, &c., in that district."
* This was at the rate of d. per acre.
In like manner the native rights in the Port Levy district (121,000 acres) were, after more than a month's negotiation, extinguished for the sum of £300,* a single reserve of 1,340 acres being set apart for native use on the shores of the bay.
So far, then, Mr. Mantell's task had been a simple one, and success had crowned his efforts, for he had secured the one harbour from which the plains could be conveniently reached, with a subsidiary harbour at Port Levy, which at that time was thought to be essential to the success of the Canterbury enterprise.
* This was at the rate of ½d. per acre.
It is a little difficult to gather from the public documents what were the precise points of difference between the natives and the Government Commissioner, because the native view is not given; but Mr. Mantell has left on record a letter and a map in which he sets forth his final offer to the natives, and from which it would appear that his allocation of reserves—1,880 acres—was liberal enough so far as area was concerned. The rock upon which they seemed to split was the question as to page 373what part of the Peninsula still remained unalienated, and the price the natives should receive for what they claimed was still their own. In a letter written on 28th November, 1849, to the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Domett, Mr. Mantell relates the circumstances under which he failed to soothe the people of Akaroa into an easy compliance with his wishes. He states that throughout the conferences the natives conducted themselves, "as usual, in the most insolent and turbulent manner." Their demands extended to a block crossing the harbour, and containing at least 15,000 acres. This, they asserted, was always excepted from previous purchases; but after a careful review of such evidence as he had been able to procure Mr. Mantell declared he felt it his duty to deny their claim to such a block, the only exception from former sales having been their residences and their gardens. Mr. Mantell's original attitude, therefore, appears to have been that what land in this district was not sold to the French was purchased by Mr. Kemp, and all that he had to do was to define the French Block, lay off the native reserves, and appropriate the rest to the Crown. That, at least, is the impression one gathers from reading the published correspondence.
As a result, there were many—and some torrid—conferences between the Commissioner page 374and the natives. It was during these meetings that the mind of the opposing Maori was poetically expressed by Tamakeke, who in a burst of eloquence denounced the European's desire to buy and the Maori desire to sell his land. Stooping down and picking up a handful of dust and casting it to the wind, he cried, " This is how our land will go, until the Maori is left on the bare ridge which the pakeha cannot cultivate." In a final effort to induce the natives to agree to his terms—or his demands—Mr. Mantell made a proposal that the natives' title to the remainder of the Peninsula was to be extinguished for ever in consideration of their receiving reserves totalling 1,880 acres and a sum of £150. The offer of £150 was a late introduction into the transaction. It was a solatium designed to lubricate the wheels of the negotiation; it was the bait that hid the hook, the sugar that coated the pill. There are some official grounds for believing that this was not Mr. Mantell's proposal at all, but that what he wanted the natives to accept was a single reserve of 500 acres at Onuku, to which all the hapu at Akaroa were to shift and there live in common. The writer has not seen anything in his correspondence to warrant the idea that Mr. Mantell ever made any such suggestion; but of this we shall hear more later. Whatever Mr. Mantell's proposal might have been, it was immediately and incontinently rejected by the page 375natives, led by Hone Tikao,* Hone Tapu, and Tamakeke, who in the course of the korero gave the Commissioner very plainly to understand what they thought of him.
Then, says Mr. Mantell, two courses were open to me—to commence the survey of the reserves in defiance of the threatened resistance, or return to Wellington and explain personally the state of the question. In the former case a collision would have taken place to no good purpose, as the survey must have been stopped, and Mr. Carrington, who was engaged on the eastern boundary of the Nanto-Bordelaise Block, would, on attempting to resume that duty, have assuredly been prevented by the natives.
* Mr. Mantell says this man was of questionable rank, but was raised into note by a little knowledge of English, and a great amount of audacity towards the Europeans. This is scarcely fair. Tikao was known to Europeans as John Love, and as such he, with Iwikau, signed the Treaty of Waitangi, at Akaroa, when Major Bunbury visited that port. Major Bunbury describes him as being not so highly born as Iwikau, but "more richly endowed with intelligence." Had he been of questionable rank his signature would not have been accepted. He is generally described as an intelligent native who called himself "Rangatira o Ngai ti Kahu Kara." He is said to have been captured by Te Rauparaha and taken to Kapiti Island. He later visited France and acquired a knowledge of French and one or two other languages. He is reported to have been tattooed on one side of the face only. While Le Rhin was stationed at Akaroa he became a firm friend of young Meryon, the artist, who drew his portrait, for which dealers are now asking a high price. He signed " Kemp's deed " for the sale of the Ngai-Tahu Block, but saw fit to oppose the terms offered by Mr. Mantell for the purchase of the Akaroa Block.
In thus failing to reconcile the conflicting views of the natives at Akaroa and those of the Crown Mr. Mantell was, perhaps, not personally so deeply responsible. He had his instructions from the Lieutenant-Governor, and he conceived it his duty to adhere to those instructions with the least possible divergence from either their letter or their spirit. In giving evidence before the Native Land Court at Christchurch in April, 1868, he disclosed to some extent the nature of these instructions. " My instructions were," he said, "to carry matters with a high hand, and I allowed these instructions to creep out occasionally to get the land, and thereby carry out my duty."
In some cases, it would seem, Mr. Mantell's "high hand" did not succeed, and he frankly page 377told the Court what the effect of that was. Discussing the Port Levy Block, he said, "the natives were willing to sell. They wanted a great price, but I succeeded in bringing them down to the price fixed by the Government. In one case, I believe, I did not succeed in bringing them down to the price fixed by the Government, and I believe I received official censure for it."*
Negotiations carried on under circumstances such as these, where one party was deliberately minded to be unfair to the other, could scarcely proceed far upon friendly lines, and when we remember that there was displayed on the part of the Government a spirit of niggardliness as regards price, but in many cases on the part of the natives there was a deep and well-founded dissatisfaction as regards the area of the reserves set aside as a pledge of the future, we have revealed to us another reason for the alleged "insolence and turbulence" towards the "highhanded" Government Commissioner.
Each allotment which Mr. Mantell has set aside for the Maoris is about as large as one white man's resi-page 378dence. We are conjecturing who could have given Mr. Mantell his instructions so to act. Do you, Governor Eyre, think that I should tell him to reserve for the multitude a piece of land only large enough for one man? No! Moreover, the natives will not consent to it. There are many people, but a small quantity of land for them."
* Mr. Tacy Kemp, writing his reminiscences many years later, says the natives were greatly dissatisfied with the cheeseparing policy of the Government in connection with the purchase of their lands. They were prepared to meet the Government generously, and expected to be met in the same spirit.
That Matiaha Tiramorehu was right in his protest, and that Mr. Mantell was wrong in his adjustments, the latter gentleman subsequently admitted with perfect candour. He told the Land Court at Christchurch that, so far as the Port Levy reserve was concerned, he agreed to it, "because it was the smallest amount I could get the natives to accept." He then added a significant qualification to his judgments of 1849, which seems to justify Matiaha Tiramorehu's simile of the one man and the multitude: "I believed at the time, and reported to the effect, that the reserves were sufficient for the present and future wants of the Maoris. I have since believed they are not sufficient."
This open admission of an error of judgment, arising from a perhaps too conscientious desire to obey instructions, does Mr. Mantell infinite credit; and when we know that in 1856 he entered upon a valiant fight with the Colonial Office, and subsequently resigned from a lucrative position in the Public Service because the Government would not keep faith with the natives or himself by fulfilling even the meager page 379promises he, as an officer of the Crown, had made to a simple and confiding people, we are constrained to look upon his official proceedings in a more tolerant light, and conclude that he had unwittingly become the victim of circumstances, rather than one who was conspiring to victimize the natives.*
* My opinion is that the Government never intended to complete the reserves in accordance with the clause in Mr. Kemp's deed. The price paid to the natives was not to be taken as the consideration for the land. They were also to consider the value of the reserves given to them, and the promise that the Government would erect schools, and hospitals for the sick, and appoint officers to look after their interests. Although strenuous exertions have been made, these promises have not been carried out by succeeding Governments." (Vide Mr. Mantell's evidence before the Native Land Court at Christchurch, 1868.)
The inactivity which thus marked the conduct of the Governor and his officials may be explained, and, if necessary, condoned, by the fact that the French claims had by this time ceased to be a disturbing element, while the Crown had already secured for the Canterbury settlement an efficient outlet in Port Cooper. Moreover, the local Government were not then advised of what afterwards transpired to be the fact—that the Imperial authorities had included in the Canterbury Settlement Act the whole of the lands of the Peninsula, and that under that measure the Canterbury Association had the right to dispose of lands to which the native title was not yet extinguished. There was, therefore, no apparent need to infuse energy into the question of allocating a few native reserves, and so the Government dallied with the problem; they joined the natives in that pleasant little pastime so dear to the heart of the Maori, and not altogether disagreeable to some Europeans, known as taihoa.*
* Taihoa = wait a while.
* Vide his letter to Mr. Domett, 12th February, 1851.
This information, said Mr. Godley, has completely taken me by surprise, as it has always been understood by the Canterbury Association that the Crown was in possession of the whole district which they (the Canterbury Association) have been empowered to dispose of and convey. The Canterbury Settlement Act is evidently founded on the hypothesis that such is the fact, for I find that no exception in favour of native property is made in the schedule describing the land with which the Association is authorized to deal.
Mr. Godley then inquired of the Lieutenant- Governor whether such a native claim as that mentioned by Mr. Watson was recognized by the Government; and, if so, he requested that immediate steps might be taken to extinguish it, since he was bound to give possession to purchasers of any land in the Canterbury District which they might select. He was, he said, most anxious to avoid the difficulties which must inevitably arise in allocating to Europeans lands of which the natives still considered themselves the natural proprietors.
* Memorandum of 16th January, 1851.
Reply that I arranged with the natives, when at Akaroa, that they would sell this land for £200, receiving also a certain reserve, which was to be adjusted by Mr. Watson. If, therefore, Mr. Godley will send over a surveyor to Mr. Watson, and the sum of £200, to be paid by the Association, who have all the land fund of the Canterbury District at their disposal, this matter will be at once adjusted by Mr. Watson.
From this instruction to the Colonial Secretary it is abundantly clear that the Governor expected, if the native title was extinguished, the New Zealand Company must pay the compensation. This, however, the Company was not now in a position to do, for it had at last reached that stage—long delayed by many temporary expedients—when it was obliged to call, "Enough."
That the Company should obtain from the Government a loan of £136,000—in addition to the £100,000 already lent—and should pay £1,500 per year to a Commissioner appointed by the Government to sanction the expenditure of the money; and that if in three years from the date of the agreement the Company should find it page 384impossible to continue its operations its assets and liabilities shall be handed over on certain conditions to the Government.
The three years' probation terminated on the 5th April, 1850, and the Company, after an unavailing effort to obtain from Earl Grey additional pecuniary assistance, in the form of a guarantee of interest on their capital, and also a remission of the claims of Her Majesty's Government upon them for the advances already made, surrendered their charter in July of the same year, declaring themselves unable to continue their operations, having exhausted the £236,000 advanced to them, as well as the sums they had received for land in the Otago and Canterbury settlements. Such lands as were at this date under the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Company thereupon reverted to the Crown, always subject to any contracts that may have existed regarding them. Under these circumstances—tragic in some respects, yet inevitable as the result of incompetence—the interest of the New Zealand Company in the Akaroa lands disappeared as completely as did that of the French Company before them.
A position so charged with accentuated misunderstanding could not long prevail without imminent peril of a serious disturbance. Fortunately, the natives manifested a patience that was more than admirable. They adhered to constitutional methods; they bided their time, and when Governor Gore Browne visited page 386Canterbury, in 1856, they waited upon him, and urged the need for a final adjustment of outstanding claims on a basis more equitable to themselves. His Excellency became interested in their case, and moved the Native Department in the hope that it would emulate his own sympathetic spirit.
It will be necessary for you to use the utmost firmness with the natives in carrying out this award, which they should understand is final. At the same time, it page 387will be requisite to use every caution to prevent them from feeling that any advantage is being taken of the weakness of their position as compared with the Europeans at that place, and that there is no desire on the part of the Government to act otherwise than with the sbrictest justice towards them. They should therefore be informed that in the reserves set apart for their use by Mr. Mantell they will not be disturbed; that the amount of that officer's award will be paid to them; but that you are instructed to cause them to abandon the lands ceded to the Crown, as such lands are neither required for their use nor their subsistence, nor is it reasonably just or equitable that they should persist in retaining possession of them.
In due course Mr. Johnson reached Canterbury. He first addressed himself to the settlement of a long-standing grievance with the natives at Kaiapoi, which fortunately he was able to smooth out, since, had he not been able to do so, he was assured the natives there would have applied all their influence to prevent an adjustment of the larger grievances at Akaroa. By June Mr. Commissioner Johnson was free to proceed to Akaroa, and on arrival there he soon discovered that his instructions were based on assumptions so historically untrue that they could not be enforced without imposing an inexcusable injustice on a people already surfeited with official neglect and bad treatment. Mr. McLean's demand "that they should abandon the lands ceded to the Crown," was the clearest page 388indication that the Chief Commissioner had but imperfectly traced through the maze of interrupted negotiation the primal fact that the disputed lands had never been ceded, nor would they be ceded till the terms of cession were agreeable to the native mind and satisfying to the native pocket. This at least was one of the earliest impressions gained by the Government Commissioner, for he found the patriarchs at Akaroa just as candid in admitting the sales they had made as they were resolute in resisting attempts to force them into parting with what they wished to retain.
Sir,—Akaroa, 7th June, 1856.
In compliance with your letter of 25th of April last, I proceeded to Port Cooper in the steamer Zingari, and after personally communicating with Mr. Brittain, the Commissioner of Crown Lands at Christchurch, and after making myself acquainted with the previous history of the land question in the province, I proceeded to page 389Akaroa for the purpose of carrying out the award of Mr. Commissioner Mantell for settling the native claims, which, from the information I have been able to gather, appears to have been that the natives should relinquish all their lands in Akaroa in consideration of receiving a reserve of 500 acres at Onuku, on the north side of the harbour, and a sum of £150 in money.*
I had several meetings and long discussions with the natives, with a view to inducing them to accede to these terms, and the result has been that they have refused to submit to them, and would rather incur the risk of being dispossessed by force, which alternative, they inform me, was given them by His Excellency the Governor.
The instructions which you furnished me with are based on the supposition that the natives are in the occupation of land which they had ceded to the Crown, whereas upon careful investigation of the case it does not appear clear that the Crown has acquired any title to the land which it is sought to dispossess the natives of, and their statements are so clear and satisfactory that they have never, with their knowledge and consent, sold all their possessions, that I am unable to adopt the course which I would under other circumstances feel it my duty to pursue, of compelling them to quit those lands, or, in the event of their not doing so, abide the alternative which had been intimated to them.Two deeds exist in the French language, purporting to convey the whole of Banks Peninsula to Captain Langlois and M. Belligny, on behalf of the Nanto-Borde-laise Company, neither of which contains any provisionpage 390for reserves for the natives of Port Cooper, Port Levy, Pigeon Bay, or Akaroa,* and it is very evident that the natives at those places, numbering at that time several hundreds, could never have made a bona fide sale of the whole of Banks Peninsula without an understanding that some portions were to be left for themselves. No doubt some natives were induced to sign conveyances giving up the whole of the Peninsula, but I am informed by old residents here that many of them were so averse to their land being sold to the French Company that they died in chagrin rather than take a share in the payment.
* This is so distinctly at variance with Mr. Mantell's letter of 28th November, 1849, and the sketch map accompanying it, that the writer is of opinion that Mr. Commissioner Johnson must have misunderstood Mr. Mantell's proposals. The sketch maps submitted by the two Commissioners also differ in some particulars.
The Nanto-Bordelaise Company's claim has never been examined before the Commissioners appointed to inquire into and report on the claims for grants of land in New Zealand, and, as that Court was directed by law to guide their judgments by good conscience and equity, we may fairly assume that it would have, on consideration of the before-mentioned circumstances, excluded the lands the natives denied having sold from the Nanto- Bordelaise Company's purchase.
The original Commissioners, however, declined entering into the case, the purchase having been made subsequent to the Proclamation prohibiting the purchase of land from the natives.When it was afterwards desired to have the question settled, the agent of the Nanto-Bordelaise Companypage 391could not be found, and Lord Stanley, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, taking into consideration the amount expended on emigration by that Company, ordered a grant to be made out for them of thirty thousand acres.
* In a subsequent letter, dated 5th August, 1856, Mr. Johnson acknowledged he was in error when he made this statement. He wrote: "I would beg to correct a statement in my report of 7th June, in which I stated that in the French deeds, executed by the natives, conveying Banks Peninsula to Captain Langlois, of the French whaler Comte de Paris, no reserves for the use of the natives are mentioned. I now find a clause to that deed attached, guaranteeing to the natives of Akaroa two reserves, being a bay on the north-east side of the harbour, which is all they wish for, and are only holding the rest of the land until this just right is guaranteed to them."
The New Zealand Company purchased the claims of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company, and, in virtue of other subsequent arrangements, whatever lands the New Zealand Company possessed have reverted to the Crown; but through all these proceedings the original question, to what extent the native title had been extinguished by the French Company, has never been decided, and, as I am directed to let the natives understand that there is no desire on the part of the Government to act otherwise than with strictest justice towards them, I am not in a position to point out to them that the Government possess lands in virtue of a sale to the French Company the validity of which has always been denied by them, and has, moreover, never been established by any competent authority to have existed.
The natives have pointed out certain portions of land which they acknowledge having sold to the French, and this is the block on both sides of the harbour now occupied by the settlers, chiefly under the Nanto- Bordelaise Company's title; the remaining parts, those at present in dispute, were, they state, by a mutual understanding between them and M. Belligny, the French Company's agent, to be left for their use, or, in other words, not to be considered as having been sold to the French.
The natives of Akaroa have furnished me with a nominal return of their numbers, by which they count 140 souls, and possess forty-eight head of cattle, besides horses, and unless an annual decrease in their numbers takes place the land offered to them will scarcely be sufficient for the subsistence of themselves and their page 392cattle. But the greatest hardship they complain of is compelling two distinct tribes, who have hitherto resided on opposite sides of the harbour, to live together, the tribe on the south side being unwilling to come over to the north and reside on the reserve there, which, they conceive, belongs to the party on the north side—and who would view them as intruders.
However unreasonable this objection may appear, it is a repugnance which all natives have to interfere with each other, and in other parts of the Islands of New Zealand the system of laying out reserves without considering local circumstances has been found not to answer.
On the formation of the Canterbury Settlement, when possession of Banks Peninsula became necessary for the purpose of colonization, Mr. Commissioner Mantell, finding that the incomplete nature of the French purchase had not by any means fully satisfied native owners of the soil, extinguished their claims over the district round Port Cooper for the sum of £200, and secured to them an adequate reserve for their wants. Port Levy was also purchased by the same gentleman for a like sum, with a similar reserve, and had the same liberal policy been at that time extended to Akaroa the natives say that all differences on the subject would have been avoided, and that they merely wish the same treatment to be meted out to them as was granted to the other tribes inhabiting the Peninsula.
I am not aware of Mr. Mantell's reasons for deviating in the case of Akaroa from the policy carried out in other parts of the province, with which the natives are so well satisfied, and can only attribute it to the fact, which appears in his correspondence, that, being "anxious to terminate a temporary commission" in which he had accomplished all that was of importance regarding the extinction of the native title to the colony page 393about to be founded, he did not devote the time necessary thoroughly to examine the complaints of the natives on the subject of reserves, and being limited in his expenditure to the sum of £150, which they would not accept, he left the matter in the state in which it now lies; but had the duty devolved upon him of specially investigating the question again I have no doubt that he would have taken the same view of the case as that which I have endeavoured to explain to you.
The natives have now offered to make considerable concessions, and to give the whole of the disputed land on the south side of the harbour, except a portion of the part on which they now reside, about 400 acres in extent, which is covered by their cultivations and contains the burial-places of their dead.
They have been born on that side of the harbour, have always lived there, and cannot be induced to remove to the north side; and if compelled to leave that place they will cross the mountains on the south side of the harbour to "Little River," a locality also much desired by the European settlers, which the natives offer to abandon in the event of their obtaining the reserve they wish; so that in fact nothing will be gained by withholding it from them.
In the event of this being granted to them, the proposed reserve on the north side at Onuku can be curtailed in extent to meet the requirements of the small tribe, these numbering about forty; and I am not certain whether the pecuniary consideration which I am authorized to pay will be required at all, as they have not entered into a discussion with me on that subject, the matter at issue being the position and extent of the reserves for their actual use and subsistence.
It is not in my power to report, except in a general way, the terms which the natives will agree to, as I have confined myself to investigation bearing on the facts of page 394the case, and have not made them aware that I have taken a different view to that which they suppose is entertained, so that, should the Government decide on other measures, I have been careful that it should not be compromised by any admission on my part which the natives might afterwards misconstrue into a breach of faith on the part of a public servant.
I much regret the loss of time that must ensue in communicating with you, but I do not feel myself justified in acting without further instructions on the subject, and I shall remain at Akaroa until I receive your intimation of His Excellency's pleasure as to further steps to be taken. If the Government shall feel disposed to alter their views from the new light which I may venture to say I have thrown on the subject, I have the honour to request that I may be empowered to lay out two suitable reserves for the wants of the natives, one on the north and the other on the south shore of the harbour, and I will take care to communicate with the Commissioner of Crown Lands for the province and avoid including any land in the native reserves over which the Provincial Government may have admitted any rights or vested interests on the part of the European population to be exercised.
I have, &c.,
John Grant Johnson,
Attention has already been drawn to the fact that there seemed to be some official difference of opinion as to whether Mr. Mantell, in making his suggested reserves, was indeed fair to the natives. Mr. Mantell's letter of 28th November, 1849, in which he categorically sets out what was his proposal, and the map page 395which accompanies it, would serve to indicate that he was at least as fair as his instructions would permit him to be; but here we have Mr. Johnson stating that after making himself "acquainted with the previous history of the land question in the province" he had come to the conclusion that what Mr. Mantell offered was a single reserve of 500 acres at Onuku and a payment of £150. This necessarily puts the whole position in a different and more unfavourable light, and provides an obvious and intensified reason for the native rejection of Mr. Mantell's proposal, since it meant that the people of Wainui must transfer their home to the opposite side of the harbour; to live among others by whom they would be regarded as intruders, as strangers, and possibly as enemies. This they would naturally and firmly decline to do, for reasons in which sentiment would play as large a part as anything else. There at Wainui their hapu had lived for longer than any living member of it could think back. They themselves had been born there and their fathers had been buried there. They were therefore bound to it by all the ties dearest to the Maori heart, and their refusal to be severed from it merely to suit the convenience of the pakeha was neither contumacious nor superficial. Little wonder, then, that if this proposal was actually made to them by Mr. Mantell, as it certainly was by Mr. Johnson, page 396neither of these ambassadors of the Government could succeed in inducing the natives to sanction a proceeding which would do violence to their past without offering any adequate advantage in the present or in the future.
Owing, no doubt, to the primitive state of the colony's internal communications at that day, and the distance of Akaroa from the seat of Government, Mr. Johnson did not receive any further instructions within what he regarded as a reasonable period, and, an opportunity of sailing in the Zingari presenting itself, he returned to Auckland, more than ever convinced by his lengthened sojourn on the Peninsula that the natives were fully justified in refusing to accept the dictum of Mr. Mantell and in resisting the demands of the Government.
At the date of his arrival at Auckland— August, 1856—the Superintendent of the Canterbury Province, Mr. James Edward FitzGerald, happened to be in that city, and, conversing with the returned Commissioner, Mr. FitzGerald learned that, subject to sympathetic treatment, there was no reason why all differences between the Government and the natives at Akaroa might not be speedily composed. He therefore represented strongly to the Governor that in this, as in other cases, delay was dangerous; that a vigorous effort should be made immediately to clear away the page 397misunderstandings, otherwise the visit of Mr. Johnson would be attended with great evils, by raising the expectations of the natives in a way that would not have been done had no Commissioner gone to Akaroa. He therefore suggested that, as Mr. Johnson had left the issues in such a favourable state, "the matter might be set at rest by any competent person on the spot, without either difficulty or expense." He earnestly solicited His Excellency's earliest attention to the subject.
That a reserve of 400 acres at Onuku, on the north side of the Akaroa Harbour, be laid off for the natives.
That a reserve of 400 acres between Tikau Bay and the Wainui Valley, on the south side of Akaroa Harbour, be also laid off for the natives; and that compensation should be given to the Akaroa claimants who did not participate in the first sale, to the amount of £150, which sum is now lying in the hands of Mr. Watson, the Resident Magistrate at Akaroa, for this purpose.page 398
That Mr. Hamilton, as an officer of the General Government, who understands the natives tolerably well, is the most competent person that I know of at Canterbury to settle the question—if his services are available for this purpose—and it is necessary that the natives should understand that this settlement is final.
That the reserves should be carefully marked off and defined by a competent surveyor in the presence of the natives.
In order that no future question or dispute may arise about boundaries, a deed of conveyance from the natives to the Crown can be forwarded, together with further detailed information to aid Mr. Hamilton in settling the case, should His Excellency approve of his being appointed for this service.
The principal object in view is to effect a final and complete adjustment of these claims, so as to prevent any future revival of them by the natives, taking special care a clause is inserted in any conveyances that they may sign, involving an undertaking that they themselves shall settle any claims that may for the future be advanced.
Sir,—Akaroa, December 11th, 1856.
I have the honour to report, for His Excellency's information, that I have this day obtained the surrender to the Crown from the Maoris of their remaining possessions on Banks Peninsula.
The skill with which Mr. Commissioner Johnson's previous negotiations were conducted had left me an easy task to perform. But without the influence of Paora (Native assessor), and the principal Maoris of Rapaki, Port Levy, and Kaiapoi, lent towards the settlement of this land question, it would probably have remained open for many years to come.
The Government are indebted to the Rev. Mr. Aldred, of the Wesleyan Mission, for the kindness with which he has lent his services as interpreter, and undertaken a tedious and troublesome journey to Akaroa at a season when he could ill spare the time for it. No other competent Maori scholar can be found in this province.
The arrangement with the Maoris is based on Mr. Johnson's memorandum of 14th August last. They insisted, however, on retaining 400 acres for a reserve at Wairewa (Little River), and unanimously rejected in the most positive terms the £150* offered as payment, unless this reserve were to be made, as well as that at Onuku and Wainui.The boundaries of the reserves have been provisionally agreed to. They are to be finally decided on thepage 401ground itself, and Mr. Davie, of the Survey Department, who has been present at all the meetings with the Maoris, is to survey them as soon as the lines are cut through the forest. I shall proceed to-morrow upon this service; owing, however, to the density of the forest, the mountainous character of the country, and the necessity of proceeding by water to the several reserves, it will be necessary to remain ten days to a fortnight in this neighbourhood. The crops now standing on lands not included in the reserves are to be gathered in before any act of occupation is to be allowed to settlers.
* Subsequently increased to £200.
I request leave to call your special attention to this fact, and that you will move His Excellency, previous to signing of any Crown grants for portions of this recent purchase, to cause the insertion of a condition guarding the Maori wheat crops to the end of March and their potato crops to the end of May, 1857; or perhaps the Canterbury Land Department should be required to certify that no land so cropped is included in any Crown grants sent up for His Excellency's signature.In illustration of the forbearance the Maoris exercise towards us when trespassing on their land, I may observe that the whole of this newly purchased tract has long been let by the Crown and occupied by cattle and sheep runs, and part of it positively sold as freehold. And it is a fact worthy of notice that so early as the year 1850, when the Canterbury Association's surveyors first crossed the Ashley* (Rakahauri), the Kaiapoi natives complained to me that the land north of it had never been sold by them. The Kaikoura natives had previously asserted the same thing to me. I represented thepage 402matter officially to the New Zealand Company's Chief Agent, but until Mr. Johnson's arrival here no official inquiry into the case seems ever to have been made.
* Mr. Torlesse was greatly obstructed in 1849, when he first crossed the Ashley River to survey for the Canterbury Association. When Messrs. Hanner and Wortley first settled near Amuri, in 1851 and 1852, the chief Kaikoura was extremely troublesome to them. This was done to keep alive the Ngai-Tahu rights of ownership.
I have, &c.,
J. W. Hamilton.
The Chief Commissioner of the N.L.P. Department, Auckland.
From the nature of the settlement which consummated the efforts of Mr. Hamilton there seemed little doubt that the lapse of time and the extinguishment of the French interests at Akaroa had had a modifying influence on the native mind, for in their discussions with Mr. Hamilton they do not appear to have insisted upon the large payment for the area which in Mr. Mantell's day they had claimed as their own, and for which they hoped to be handsomely compensated by the French when M. de Belligny returned. M. de Belligny never returned, and the French interests were rapidly becoming a vanishing quantity. They therefore fell back upon the British, and, provided they were able to get their reserves allocated as they wished, then they would appear to have been careless about all else. They neither demanded compensation for the premature occupation of their lands by the European settlers nor did they, as any Europeans would have done, ask an increased capital price on the basis of that much - debated economic principle, and sheet-anchor of the land speculator—unearned incre-page 403ment. Fortunately for the Government, neither Ricardo nor Henry George came within the ken of the Maori, and so under the arrangement completed by Mr. Hamilton an area of about 80,000 acres was secured to the Crown at the comparatively small cost of £200 and contingent expenses amounting to £45.
Thus closed one of the last of the great land deals in which the natives of the South Island parted with their heritage and the home of their fathers for a number of unfulfilled promises and a sum of £21,417; and so ends what the writer has chosen to call the "clearing of the wreckage" from the Peninsula.
* Vide Two Lectures on a visit to the Canterbury Colony, 1867-8, by Lord Lyttelton.
Banks Peninsula Lord Lyttelton found to be "a large mass of beautiful wooded hills and bays with diversified views in all directions." As he stood upon the final altitude of the bush track, looking down upon the scene before him, the whole story of the French acquisition, the failure of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company, the purchase of its estate by the New Zealand Company came back to him, for he remembered that while he was a British Minister, twenty-three years before, "the dregs of the negotiation were lingering on."
But the little that these Frenchmen did in the colonizing way has left most interesting and graceful relics. Akaroa, the village at the southern end of the Peninsula, we reached almost in the twilight, a fact which was at first regretted, and yet its peculiar character was perhaps more delightfully set off by the softness of the light. Few English villages can be so pretty.page 405
Indeed, it is more like a Swiss or Rhine village, of small extent, and almost all separate houses, embedded and half-concealed in trees, and the small wooden spire of the church peeping up among them. But the striking feature is that to which I have just alluded—the intermixture of the French-built houses of the early settlers, of which there are many in the complete French style, with high roof and latticed windows, and of the utmost neatness. I do not think there are many French settlers still, but these reminiscences of southern France, in this secluded bay at the Antipodes, had a singular charm…. It had the appearance of remoteness and isolation from all mankind…. Indeed, it is said to be more than mere appearance; it is said to be a kind of Sleepy Hollow, whence no one departs who arrives, becoming dreamy and apathetic. The Resident Magistrate when he first came there said nothing should induce him to remain, but he soon became entranced, and did not leave it for thirty years. Very much, in fancy, might be imagined to apply to it from the inimitable introductory lines of Tennyson's "Lotus-eaters," and to weary mariners arriving to it after girdling half the globe:—
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
So placidly did the little settlement proceed upon its way to maturity that more than a score of years after Lord Lyttelton thus wrote of it there had been little change in its appearance, and it had lost none of that mysterious charm which so affected his Lordship's son that he declared if ever he should be crossed in love he would return to Akaroa to repair the damage.page 406
In one of my walks I was struck by a very pretty cottage garden, which, although it was well into the winter, was still aglow with flowers, so mild is the climate of Akaroa. While I was looking at them a kindly lady came out of the cottage, and seeing I was admiring her handiwork—for she it was who kept the garden in such trim order—invited me, in the kindly hospitable spirit which seemed characteristic of the place, to come in and help myself to those I liked. While I was so engaged there came to us a very hearty old lady—erect, apple-cheeked, and wearing a white cap—to whom I was introduced as being, like myself, a great lover of flowers. To my surprise and pleasure I found it was Madame de Malmanche, one of the original émigrés, and the only lady left alive to tell of the struggle of the French pioneers. Although she had been fifty-one years in the place, English, as she confessed, was still a difficult language to her, and she evidently found it a relief to relapse into French. There was a pensive music in her voice as she spoke of France, which she still regretted very much, so she said. As for Akaroa, it was une assez bonne place,† but things were very dull just then, and there was no work for the workpeople.
* The above quotation is from an article published in the Illustrated Sydney News, of 16th July, 1892. When including it in this narrative the writer was unaware of its authorship, as it was published anonymously. Later he submitted the manuscript to the Hon. W. H. Triggs, M.L.C., for criticism, and on going through its pages Mr. Triggs suddenly came upon something that had a familiar tang about it. He then saw that this description of Akaroa was an extract from an article he himself had written thirty-six years before. Needless to say, he was delighted to renew acquaintance with an old friend, and the author is equally pleased that he is thus enabled to acknowledge the source of his indebtedness.page 407
† A good enough place.
As far as I could ascertain, the French settlers had not done nearly so well as the English. While the latter went on investing their savings in buying up land and increasing their buildings, the former plodded on contented with the little holdings at first assigned to them. Consequently they were left behind in the race. The "boots" at the hotel where I stopped was an old Frenchman, well on to his eightieth year, but full of pluck and independence, disdaining the idea of giving up work, and going into any "Old Men's Refuge." He also was a laudator temporis acti.* He looked back with regret to the time when a labourer got his 10s. and 12s. per day, instead of 5s. or 6s. as at present. He could remember when a cow was sold for £25. Maintenant, he said, vous voulez une vache? Tenez!† and he held out his arms as though making me a present of the imaginary animal. In this way did he contrast the cheapness of to-day with the good prices which prevailed of yore.There are still many vestiges of the French residents in Akaroa. One of the principal streets is named Lavaud Street; Benoit and Balguerie Streets are also there, and other French names creep out in unexpected quarters. French measurements prevail in their end of the town, 12 metres being the width of their thorough-fares. There is French Farm, where a corvée from the French men-of-war cultivated vegetables for the use of their crews. Across the harbour the principal hill is named Mount Bossu, and very appropriately, as its hunch-like shape at once strikes the spectator. Now and then, in walking along the pleasant lanes which branch off from the town in every direction, one comes across a low, wooden house with no windows to speak of, exactly like those one meets in rural France. A few French names are still to be met with in the list of
* An admirer of the past.page 408residents, and in the picturesque cemetery, on one of the heights overlooking the bay, one finds numerous monuments bearing French inscriptions. Somehow the words seem to breathe an air of tenderness which is absent from our own more forced and formal inscriptions. Over the grave of a little child, for instance, I found the following:—
† Nowadays, if you want a cow, there it is!
I. H. S.
Ici repose le corps de
Marie Josephine …
Née le 20 Août, 1863.
Ange bien aimée,
Repose dans les cieux,
Souviens-toi de nous.
Here is another:—
Ici repose le corps de
Joseph McMahon de …
Né à Akaroa le 23 Septbre, 1870.
Mort le 34 Septbre, 1872.
J'irai le revoir un jour,
C'est le cri d'espérance,
Qui guérit ma souffrance
Au terrestre séjour.
Cet enfant nous était cher, mais la volonté
De Dieu doit nous être
Plus chère encore.
This cemetery was the first burial-ground consecrated in the Province of Canterbury, having been so sanctified by Bishop Pompallier in 1847. It is believed that fifty persons were buried there, but the names of eighteen only are known. page 409So, under the shade of the spreading willows on the sunlit hillside, these children of an unrealized dream were carried one by one, and laid to rest.
Their names, spelt by the unlettered muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply;
And many a holy text around she strews
That teach the rustic moralist to die.