Notes on Early Life in New Zealand
In the last chapter I brought down my notes to the time when I was about seventeen years old. I was then at Turanga, with the Rev. W. Williams (afterwards Bishop of Waiapu), reading Latin and Greek, and travelling with him among tribes that had been seldorn visited, and whose know-ledge of the Pakeha was derived from what they had seen of a few scare-crow, vagabond specimens of the English people. They were savages, pure and simple, only knowing the white man in his roughest character, and, in fact, were rather appalled at our exceptional decency. It gave me a rare opportunity of studying Maori character and customs, and proved a good discipline for the unknown duties and difficulties that were before me. Of course the mere information one gained about tribal history, personal acquaintance with the chiefs, and insight into Maori ways, was something, but the best lesson I learnt was the ability to put myself mentally in the Maori's position, and to look at questions through his eyes, as well as through those of the white man. That helped me much in after years to mediate between the two races, and to stave off many a quarrel when we were quite unprepared to support our contention if it came to a trial of strength, and which, but for careful handling, would have precipitated us into serious peril and disaster, ending, perhaps, in our weak condition, by simply wiping us out altogether. I could estimate our perils better than many of my elders, and could guard against them more carefully than would have been possible without this experience.page 36
It was in the year 1840 that Captain Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands and concluded with the Northern Chiefs the Treaty of Waitangi. It is the Magna Charta of the Maoris. By this Treaty, we on our part agreed to recognize all Maori rights to properly and land, to mete out equal justice to Maori and Pakeha, and to give the natives the full status of British subjects, while they on their part agreed to cede the supreme government of the country to Her Majesty the Queen. The Treaty was executed on the 6th February, 1840, and within a few months the signatures of nearly all the recognized Chiefs in the country were appended to the document. So New Zealand became a British colony, and Captain Hobson was installed as its first Governor, subordinate for a time to the general administration of Sir George Gipps, the Governor of New South Wales.*
The other thing that precipitated the action of our Government was the formation of the New Zealand Company, and the pretensions of their scheme, which they kept secret till they had started their first vessel, to found an independent State of their own in any district that they might get the Maoris to cede to them. This Company was really the project of the Wakefield family. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the elder brother, was a man of great ability, and, one may add, of great audacity. He and Sir Charles Buller had gone with Lord Durham to quell the insurrection in Canada, and as Justin McCarthy truly says: “Lord Durham saved Canada but wrecked his own career.” On their return to England, Edward Gibbon started this New Zealand Company in 1839, making Lord Durham its Governor, and Mr. Somes the great ship-owner, its Deputy-Governor, Buller, Molesworth, Stuart Mill and others of the Left-Liberal wing supported the scheme. Wakefield himself, for personal reasons, kept his name in the back-ground, but it was well known that he wrote the very able letters which Somes signed, and which were far and high above anything that Somes himself could have done. A capital of £100,000 was raised, and 100,000 acres were sold in London before a single acre had been purchased in New Zealand, or even the site of the settlement had been determined. The Ship “Tory” was chartered and put to sea before the Government could stop her, and a brother, William Wakefield, went on board in charge of the first expedition.
Among these adventurers were several gentlemen who had been more or less implicated in the Canadian rebellion, and who page 38 had a strong feeling of resentment against the Imperial Government. They formed a very distinct element in the earliest batch of the Company's emigrants, and gave tone and spirit to the young community. There were also several retired officers of the Spanish Legion. In September the “Tory” arrived at Port Nicholson, and the series of loose purchases began, on the strength of which the Company claimed a fourth of the Northern Island, and say, one fifth of the Southern Island. William Wakefield, the principal resident agent, had been a Colonel in the Spanish Legion. Another brother Captain Wakefield was afterwards the agent at Nelson, and young Edward, a son of Gibbon, came out with his uncle in the “Tory.” They are all gone now and I would not speak otherwise than very gently of the dead, but this much I may say: William would have been a master of diplomacy if he had only had art enough to conceal his art, but he always, in any negotiation, betrayed his subtlety in scheming, and put the other side on their guard lest they should concede more than they meant to do. Captain Wakefield, at Nelson, was a brave straight-forward sailor, to whose nature the craft of diplomacy was altogether distasteful, and who was always disposed to take the shortest cut to the end he desired. Young Edward was very eccentric, and there was a certain strain of rowdyism in his composition that did more harm to himself, poor fellow, than to those against whom it was directed. He could hardly open his lips without uttering some bitter sarcasm against those he disliked, and he was not at all particular in whose presence he did so.
The new settlers; on landing, organized themselves into a government, and claimed to exercise all rights of sovereignty on the ground that, with the land, the Maoris had also transferred to them their functions of chieftainship within the alienated district. So they elected magistrates, tried cases, and inflicted fines, conducting themselves in all respects as an autonomous State. A man named Pearson was arrested on a charge of breach of contract with someone in Hobart Town, and when he refused page 39 to recognize the court and was rescued by his friends, the magistrates, as they called themselves, issued an escape warrant, while their new paper—conducted by a Canadian refugee—declared in grandiloquent fashion: “We are well pleased that the first person subjected to an assertion of law is of sufficient standing and intelligence to raise the question of our right to act under the sovereign power of the district; Captain Pearson will find that the constituted authorities of Port Nicholson have power to compel obedience.” What with the intrigues of the French and the eccentricities of the Company, to say nothing of the growing complication of our relations with the Maoris, it was time for the British Government to determine how it should deal with a country that lay too near to her Australian Colonies to be safely disregarded.
In September, 1840, six months after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, the assembled missionaries, at Captain Hobson's earnest request, released my father from his duties to the Church Missionary Society, that he might take the post of Chief Protector of the Aborigines.
It soon became apparent that the Bay of Islands was in no way suited for the seat of Government, and my father was instructed to proceed to the Thames and to treat with the natives, if possible, for the purchase of a better location. The issue was that in the end of September he bought a block of forty thousand acres at Auckland, and afterwards a still larger tract, and there the British flag was hoisted on a hill on the Southern shore of Waitemata harbour within the site of what is now the city of Auckland.
All this had happened while I was still at Turanga. It was in the last days of 1840 that I returned to the Bay of Islands, and in January, 1841, I took my stool as probation clerk in the native department of the Civil Service of New Zealand, age nearly eighteen. The government establishments were then being removed to Auckland, and when I got there, the city was represented by three of four rough shanties and a few hundred tents.page 40
From a little after seventeen I began to form the ambition of getting qualified to become some day a Minister of Christ's Holy Gospel. The tumult of my political life for the next few years never changed my purpose. My duties were thrust upon me by no will of my own. I could not escape them, but in my heart I always regarded them as an episode. I can see now that they were a full preparation for the work that was to come on at last. My old grind in classics, now so much forgotten, was not altogether labour in vain. Bishop Williams drilled me severely in language and logic by the analysis of Greek and Latin sentences, after the strict and literal fashion of the old Oxford School. The exercise has served me well through life, and not the least in the old complications of Maori affairs, where accuracy was often of vital importance, and looseness of expression might so easily lead to misunderstanding. With such a training and knowing Maori and the Maoris more than most men, I was not morally free, and could not resist the call to public service at a crisis when such qualifications were sorely needed in the interests of both races, though I had little notion of the cares it would entail. It seemed to spoil my scheme of life but it did one no harm in the end. My way was hedged in, and I had to face the pressing and often perilous duties of the passing hour, which someone must have discharged, at a time of experimental, abrupt and almost violent transition. It was too exhausting a process to allow one, while it lasted, the luxury of dreaming disappointed dreams. Yet through all I never let go the hope that in quieter times I might have the chance of carrying out the purpose of my earlier youth. The opportunity was in the end made for me, and I did not make it for myself. That all should issue in such a quiet course of ministry as mine has been in Tasmania, never entered into my imagination or forecast in those harrassing times, though I often prayed the old Hebrew aspiration: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then I would fly away and be at rest …. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.”page 41
Whether I deserved it or not, I soon got the credit of being a clear and careful interpreter, and for so young a fellow I was thought to have unusual discretion in all dealings with the Maoris. The time was near to test whatever might be in me.
In November, 1841, news came of an atrocious murder committed by a young Chief in one of the islets off Kororareka, in the Bay of Islands. The name of the murderer was Maketu and his victims were a Mrs. Robertson, her two children, and a little half-caste in the house. The plea which Maketu made in excuse of his atrocity was always that the woman cheated him, swore at him, and exasperated him with threats and insults. Even so, it was a barbarous and terrible revenge. There was madness in Maketu's family of a homicidal character. His brother and sister were both deranged, his aunt strangled herself in a paroxysm of rage, and his father Ruhe was subject to fits of frenzy, that made it dangerous for his best friends to go near him. Ruhe, for instance, had always a great reverence for my mother, and, in ordinary circumstances, would do almost anything she told him. But one day he burst into the room where she was with a loaded pistol, and with an impulse he could not repress, he determined to shoot her, but, with the pistol at full cock and pointed across the table to her breast, my brave little mother did not flinch (I don't think she ever screamed in her life), but with a few low and quiet words she said: “Ruhe, put down that ugly thing. I am only a woman (he wahine au). God is looking at you, and you must put it away.” Twice he presented the weapon, and dropped it at her calm and steadfast look, and then he withdrew. When the fit of madness was over, he was full of remorse. He was the Chief of a village about three miles from our house, and ever after, when my mother passed his place, he was eager to ask her to his house, and to show her every kind of attention and respect that he could think of; putting all he had at her disposal, and at a him he was delighted to be at any trouble to serve her. No doubt there was the same mad strain in Ruhe's son, though I do not mean to represent it as bad enough to make Maketu irrespon- page 42 sible for the dreadful crime he committed. Maketu made no secret of the murder when it was done, and the question of arresting him was a very serious matter to a Government hardly yet established and that had no soldiers to support its authority or enforce its laws. It was Maketu's own father who came forward and gave him up. A meeting of Chiefs was called at Paihia, and Waka Nene, Heke, Tawai, Patuone and Pomare, all leading Chiefs of the Ngapuhi tribe, discussed the situation. Heke was furious at the surrender; he would not in the least have minded the Maoris shooting the murderer, but to pass over the whole adjudication to the British Government, was, he thought, to give up his independence. But the others insisted that the young man should be tried according to the law that by treaty they had accepted, and sent a letter to Hobson, expressing their loyalty to the Queen and their confidence in British justice.
The trial was fixed for February, 1842, and it was the first Criminal Sitting of the Supreme Court in New Zealand under Chief Justice Martin, who had recently arrived from England. I do not know why, but out of some dozen capable men at hand, the Government chose me, though the youngest of them all, to act as Interpreter, on this most critical occasion. It was for the Government itself a question of life and death. The greatest care was necessary to make everything clear to the Maoris, and it was an anxious task to make them understand the meaning of our antique forms of law. There were many natives in court, who, of course, had never seen our way of procedure; they listened with intense interest, as in the presence of Maori scholars who could have corrected any mistake I might make—though they had never once occasion to do so—I explained the principle that the law assumed a man to be innocent until he was proved to be guilty; I told them, under the Judge's direction, the functions of the Jury and of the counsel on either side, and made them understand what was meant by the technical plea of “not guilty,” and such forms of oath as “you shall truly try,” or “the evidence you shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but page 43 the truth.” The contrast was so great between the deliberation of the trial and the passionate way in which the Maoris were accustomed to settle such matters among themselves, that they were struck with admiration and awe at the formality and patience of the whole proceeding, and, anxious as the crisis was, it was as a new revelation of our ways, and went far to inspire them with confidence in the desire, at least, of the Supreme Court to be scrupulously just in its administration of the law. They were much astonished at the grave process of proving a crime that was already confessed, and greatly impressed with the personal demeanour of the Judge and the solmenity which I tried to put into my rendering of his words. Maketu was hanged and his body buried within the precincts of the goal. It would never have done to give it to his friends just then, though a year or two afterwards the remains were handed over. When Justice Martin afterwards visited the Bay of Islands, the father received him sadly, of course, but without resentment, and with every mark of deference and respect. So far as I was concerned, I think poor old Ruhe liked me better than otherwise for my part in the business. It was the first trial in the Supreme Court that launched me into public life. Sir William Martin took kindly to me ever after, and poor Hobson who was now breaking down with care and sickness, was greatly relieved, and gave me warm approval and encourangement, and promised to do his best for my advancement. Sir William grew in the estimation of the Maoris, and all over the country they greatly revered him for his upright and benevolent character. His associations with Bishop Selwyn deepened their confidence and respect beyond anything that they felt for all other officials of the Government. Years after I had settled my Tasmanian relations, he pressed me pathetically to throw them up for what he considered the higher duty of coming to their help in the strait and confusion that had overtaken the country, but I was much too entangled in home interests to make the sacrifice. He retired in a few years from the Bench on account of illness, and returned page 44 to England at about the close of Colonel Gore Browne's administration in New Zealand. He died at Torquay not long after his friend the Bishop of Lichfield had passed to his rest. We are now in 1842. Mr. Spain, a solicitor who had been much engaged in the electioneering Liberal interest at home, had recently arrived from England, having been appointed by Lord John Russell to be Chief Commissioner to adjudicate upon claims to land through purchase from the Maoris, and he was now preparing to go to the South to look into the titles of the New Zealand Company. To my great surprise I was again selected to be the medium of communication between the Maoris and the Court, first as Interpreter and soon after simply as Maori advocate. I was made protector of the natives through all the territory claimed by the Company. My father had nothing to do with the appointment and feared that the post would be too difficult, but I believe that the Governor offered it to me on recommendation of the Chief Justice and the Attorney General, and at the request of others, and not merely of his own good will. I roughly reckoned my clients at some fourteen thousand souls, and knew well that a task of great difficulty and unpleasantness was before me. It was not at all my duty to make out a claim for the natives, or to try by any means, fair or foul, to upset the Company's claims, and nothing could be farther from my disposition; but I had to find out the facts of the purchase, to prove them in open court, and to see as well as I could, that the Maoris were not defrauded of such lands as they had never sold. I had also to try and effect a compromise in any case where disputed ground had been occupied by settlers who had bought their allotments on the faith of the Company at home. That was almost the hardest task in all my duty, gave me anxious days and sleepless nights, and inured me to the perils of a peace-maker when both sides were too ready to settle everything by a fight.
Before I take you into this part of my work, I should like to try and explain in as few words as possible, the essential difficulties of our position. Setting aside for the present the con- page 45 tingent and accidental occasions of dispute, there were standing causes of complication that were normal and fundamental. No mistake could be greater than the notion that the Maoris were without law in their relations with one another, or that there was any looseness in their notions of the tenure of land. On the contrary, they had very stringent laws that were not at all unsuited to their condition and the stage of social development that they had reached; they were far more conservative in observing them than we are in our modern changes of fashion or conviction; and so they were the source of great trouble to us when we tried to supersede them by our own advanced civilisation. There was, first, the (1) Law of the Blood Bond, which we see everywhere at a certain stage in the progress of nations. It is not at all the unreasonable thing that has sometimes been thought. The idea of separate and individual responsibility, or of separate possession of every kind of property, is a late product of civilisation that has no place in the earlier condition of society. What the Blood Bond was with our remote ancestors, is well explained in the opening chapter of “Green's English People,” and the explanation will do just as well for the modern Maoris as for the ancient Britons.
Green says: “Order and law were made to rest in each little group of English people upon the Blood Bond, which knit its families together; every outrage was held to have been done by all who were linked to the doer of it; every crime to have been committed against all who were linked by blood to the sufferer from it. From this sense of the value of the family bond as a means of restraining the wrong doer by forces which the tribe, as a whole, did not as yet possess, sprang the first rude forms of English justice. Each kinsman was his kinsman's keeper, bound to protect him from wrong, and to suffer with and pay for him if wrong were done. So fully was this principle recognized, that even if any man was charged before his fellow tribesmen with crime, his kinsfolk still remained in fact his sole judges, for it was by their solemn oath of his innocence or his page 46 guilt that he had to stand or fall.” No words could more exactly describe the Maori law of Blood Bond, and you can see how full of difficulty it was likely to be to us in our dealings with the race, and as it came into collision with our principle, that every man must be held accountable for his own actions alone, and not for the actions of his kinsmen as well.
A second fundamental Maori law was the law of (2) Tribal Possession. The private, separate, and exclusive ownership of land was not recognized among them, though I have seen this denied. There might be gradation in personal claims, but the consent of the tribe as a whole, or of some subdivision or group of its families, was necessary for the alienation of any part of the tribal territory. No Chief, however high his rank, could dispose of a single acre without the concurrence of his tribe. Without such a law, no tribe could be sure of its integrity, and any number of wedges might be driven into its territory. Throughout the Northern Island, and through the greater part of the Southern, the divisions of land were accurately known, and on no subject was there greater jealousy than on the invasion of each other's boundaries. It was fatal to the tribe to allow the individual, on his own mere motion, to admit a stranger to get foothold on its land. Long before the white man showed his face in New Zealand, there was a proverb among the Maoris: “He wahine he wenua, e ngaro ai te tangata,” which may be rendered in English: “For land or wife, man stakes his life,” meaning that a man, who is a man, will fight with all his life rather than be forced to surrender either land or woman. The depth of this feeling about their land, to say nothing about the wife, was greatly underrated by Europeans, and their disregard of it was, and has continued to be, the source of most of the trouble that we have had with the Maoris.
The third and last Maori law that I will notice, was the law of (3) Possession by Conquest. Most of the land held by the tribes was held by right of inheritance—but not a little was claimed to have been wrested from its original owners by force page 47 of conquest. To establish this force into a right, it was never enough to invade and overrun a given district, and even to drive out for a time the inhabitants if the invading force were then to retire from the raid. Permanent occupancy was the condition of permanent possession, and it was expressed by building pahs, making tracts of actual cultivation, or exacting a yearly tribute of the produce from the remnant of the original holders. Obviously claims of this character might be very indeterminate, and they in, fact, raised the most complicated questions with which we had to deal.
Now, anyone who carries these three laws in his mind—the law of the Blood Bond, the law of Tribal Possession, and the law of Possession by Conquest—will have the key to all our great troubles with the Maoris, from the Treaty of Waitangi to the present hour.
Our only hope of keeping peace between the races, was by gradually modifying their system until it should be merged into our principles of possession, and I am very strongly of opinion, that nearly all our contention with the Maoris has arisen from our disregard of these fundamental considerations, or from the attempt to abolish them too suddenly, and with too high a band.
Mr. Commissioner Spain was a man of solid intelligence, but with a good deal of legal pedantry about him. He was somewhat slow in thinking, very wooden in his apprehension of ways of dealing with new emergencies, steady and rather plodding in his ways, thoroughly honest in intention, and utterly immovable to threats, though he might have been softened by flattery.
The agents of the company could have got more out of such a man if they had not begun by shaking their fists in his face, grimacing to their utmost power of contortion, and defying his authority in a very larrikin sort of manifestoing.
We were not very welcome to the community of Wellington. No Government officials were at that time. Many of the settlers were sore at the coutse that things had taken. The page 48 leaven of the old Canadian rebellion was still working in some of their leading men. They had founded the settlement before the British Government had annexed the country, and to some extent in defiance of the Foreign Office. They were very jealous of Auckland, they laughed at the Treaty of Waitangi, at its engagement to respect Maori rights in property and land, and at its concession to the natives of the status of British subjects. They were vexed that the little self-governing state they hoped to found, had, as such, been brushed away by the Queen's authority, and that what they called the “sovereignty of the district” was not only hailed with inextinguishable laughter, but had been taken out of their hands, and they resented with fear, as well as anger, the appointment of a Commissioner to examine into their purchases, and possibly, to question their titles. So there was a great deal of inner trembling, and of outward bluster and protest at the opening of the Court, objections to its jurisdiction, to its constitution, and to its forms of procedure; above all, to its demand of evidence and its summoning of Maori witnesses. That was what no one could abide, and those who insisted upon it were put down at once as faddish enemies to British rights and liberties. Spain bitterly offended Colonel Wakefield at the outset, by requiring proof that the signers of the Company's deeds had the right to convey the lands that were claimed to have been purchased. It was considered as altogether superfluous, and young Edward, his nephew, made himself rudely conspicuous by interrupting the proceedings with outbursts of wrath, and with open sneers at the preposterous and ridiculous character of the demand.
From a Photo, by Angas.
Young Wakefield now attacked me in the local paper, asserting broadly that I knew nothing of Maori; that I was always prowling about the pahs; that I was helping the natives to concoct false evidence; and finally, by way of climax, he suggested that I was deliberately perjuring myself as Interpreter to the Court. That last hit was going too far. I insisted at once that the charge be disposed of, and the court refused to move another inch until it was settled. To bring the matter to an issue, I then threatened the paper with a prosecution unless they retracted and apologised, and they came out with both in the next number, but not without giving me a parting kick for my youthful presumption. The fact was that there could be no mistake about what I did in Court, for every question and answer was page 50 painfully written down by me both in English and Maori. My head aches now at the thought of the reams of paper I wrote to fulfil this requirement. The attack now became puerile and personal. I was a “raw-boned boy,” “a nigger youth,” “an uneducated stripling,” “half civilized,” and the “son of a gunsmith,” which, if true, was surely of the smallest account, but I suppose it sounded like “son of a gun.” Any stone is good enough to hurl against a man you do not like, and this particular missile would do to express contempt. Such a fashion of dealing with me only stiffened my resolution. So far as the Court, or the Government, or I, myself, was concerned, it was all like pouring water on a duck's back, and really did me more good than harm, though it was unpleasant enough at the moment. No doubt it made me very reserved and wary in my talk, and I suppose some people set it down to “sulkiness,” which I am sure it was not, but it was my only safety, in ordinary conversation, to measure my words. It is awful to live on perpetual guard and distrust. There was in the town of Wellington, at this time, a collection of three native pahs, from which the Maoris refused to budge. One of them, Te Aro, was in the most valuable part of the town, and it was of course very desirable that it should come into the Company's possession. In fact it had all been sold in London, but the Company could not give possession to the buyers. It was notorious that the people of this pah had refused from the very first to have anything to do with Colonel Wakefield's negotiations, and the Colonel had settled the matter to his own satisfaction by proclaiming that this particular pah really never had any land rights to dispose of, and that it was in fact a mere collection of fugitives, vagabonds, and slaves. When, before I came. Captain Hobson and my father visited the place, the Te Aro natives at once stated their case, and Colonel Wakefield was greatly annoyed that the Governor should have given them audience, and that my father interpreted their complaints.page 51
Some time after my work was done in the South, when things were going on badly with the Company in England, as well as in the Colony, Colonel Wakefield sent his nephew home, and on arrival in London young Edward set himself to write a book in defence of his uncle and of the Company, and professing to recount the proceedings of the Government after they assumed the sovereignty of the country. It was a very clever and a very savage book, but its sarcasm was so unrelieved, and its animus so apparent, that it did no one much harm. Some of his facts are hard to recognize, and it may be said, generally, that they take shape and colour from the spectacles through which he looked at them. Everyone who in any way had checked the Company's agents was presented in unredeemed lamp-black, and everyone who supported them was made beautiful as an angel of light. The young man spared no one on the other side from the lash of his scorn. The successive Governors, the Chief Justice, the Commissioners, the Police Magistrates, the Bishop, the Missionaries, with the single exception of Mr. Hadfield, the protesting Maoris, and even the captains of the English ships of war, were all included in his satire. But George Clarke, junior, the Maori advocate and protector, was very specially his bete noir, and he never missed a chance of giving me a cut as he passed me in his narration. Now and then he drew finely on his imagination, as when he told that I was on one occasion “pale and frightened” because I would not head an unruly mob who wanted to force on a row in the pah. However, I am not afraid that any of you would take young Edward's picture for a portrait.
As the examinations of the Company's titles proceeded, Mr. Spain found himself in a position of very serious difficulty. He could soon have given his decision, and as far as the Company was concerned, it could only have been that none of their purchases was completed, and that the original negotiations had been of the loosest description, but then there were the unfortunate settlers who had purchased in good faith from the English Company in London.page 52
A precipitate decision might have raised Maori expectations and demands to the point of danger. I had to repress the Maoris as well as to keep back the Pakehas. In fact I had to stand as a buffer in madly contending interests. It was not possible to turn the settlers out of their allotments. It would have been cruel to punish them for the sins or the blunders of the Company. Mr. Spain, therefore, determined to spin out the proceedings, so as to give time for some workable compromise that would at least leave the settlers in secure and legal occupation of their lands. He simply indicated in which direction compensation was due.
The native side of the business was left in my hands, and Colonel Wakefield was to act for the Company. If we could not agree on terms of compensation, we were to refer the matter to Mr. Spain as umpire, and his decision was to be final. A long and troublesome correspondence passed between the Colonel and myself. I could not bring him to terms. The preliminary condition I laid down, that the Maoris should not be ousted from their pahs, burial places, and cultivations, he would never frankly accept, and, for the most part, our negotiations about compensation fell through. He refused to refer our differences to the umpire, and it was not till the arrival of Captain Fitzroy, the new Governor, that he was compelled to give compensation in some of the cases that were most pressing, and that could not be left open any longer without peril to the community.
Besides my duties in the Land Court, I had to watch, with the greatest care, the general course of Maori affairs throughout the Southern district, and that involved many tedious journeys along the West Coast, as far north as Wanganui and Taranake. There were personal dangers enough everywhere, but I was never very anxious, except in Wellington itself. Things were in such an inflammable condition in that town, that it would have taken very little to bring on serious disturbances at any moment between the settlers and the Maoris. There were foolish, hot headed people enough who were bent upon forcing on a conflict between the races. They thought that the natives could be intimidated page 53 by demonstrations, or cowed by bullying, and that a magistrate with a posse of special constables could over-awe any collection of “niggers” who might be disposed to give trouble. It was also a fixed notion with them that a company of British soldiers might march from Port Nicholson to the North Cape against any combination of Maoris to oppose them. There was never a more ignorant, extravagant, and dangerous exhibition of the folly of despising your enemy. The native Chiefs on their side dreaded a collision, not from personal fear of an encounter, but because they knew that it would be like the letting out of water from a dam, and that there was no measure of the destructive consequences, if once the flood were let loose. I saw clearly that our people were living in a fool's paradise, and that with the first serious appeal to force, the eyes of both parties would be opened to our relative strength, and it would be harder than ever to stave off disaster. Many a row have I nipped in the bud, with small thanks for the risk and trouble, and, indeed, to do our people justice, with little knowledge on their part of the crisis that was averted. I went from one side to the other with my life in my hand. I went daily about the town with the feeling that I was a sort of portable fire engine, ready at any moment for the cry of fire, and for a rush to put it out before it made any way. It was a pretty lively experience for a young man's nerves. Our military force in Wellington was represented at one time by less than a company of soldiers, and I remember that on one occasion the alarm was raised that there was a row at Pipitea, the pah on the North West side of the town. It afterwards turned out to have been a squabble between a white man and a Maori, in which the Pakeha struck the first blow, when the Maori turned upon him and gave him a good thrashing with his fists. The man ran into the town, yelling that the Maoris had set upon and nearly killed him; a mob was collected and the soldiers were called out, and I hastened to the spot. The soldiers drew up, with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets, on the edge of a bank, which half surrounded the pah, and from page 54 whence they could look down into the yards and houses at their feet. I rushed into the place, and to my intense disgust found that the noisiest of the Maoris who was capering about, musket in hand, and calling on the rest to follow and show fight, was my own scallywag of a boy, whom I at once knocked down, wresting the musket from his hands and kicking him into the nearest house. While this little scuffle was going on, the soldiers made ready to fire, but luckily held their hand. Some of them told me afterwards that, thinking I had something to do with stirring up the row, they meant to pot me first. I persuaded the Maori to appear at the Police Court next day. The case was dismissed in a few minutes, on clear proof that the other man had begun the assault, and, after a few words of caution to the Maoris from me, the natives retired well pleased, and the Pakehas as intensely disgusted. That was the sort of work I had to do, and you can easily understand that it was not pleasant or popular work at all.
There were other land claims of the Company that we had to investigate, at Porirua, at Manawatu, at Wanganui, at Taranake, and on the southern side of the Strait. It was difficult to get the Colonel now to attend the court, and Mr. Spain was often kept waiting, and had to threaten that if he did not attend, the examination must go on without him. The Colonel was always privately very kind and friendly to me however fiercely we might be opposed in our political contention. He went with us to Wanganui, where the Commissioner decided (I quote his words) that “the Company's claims to that district were defective to the extent of millions of acres. They only established a claim to land on one side of the river,” and even for this, they had still to compensate owners who had never been paid.
I come now to one of the saddest tragedies connected with these miserable land squabbles that made an old man of me when I was just turning twenty one. There were districts in the Southern Island that were as much disputed between the Company and the Maoris as any in the North. Some seventy miles from page 55 Nelson there was a fine tract of country, known as the Wairau, and which the agents were anxious to appropriate. When we were to hold the Court at Porirua, Colonel Wakefield excused himself from attending, and sent his nephew in his place. There we met Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, who had cultivations at Wairau, and who stoutly denied that they had ever sold or dreamt of selling a foot of the ground. Mr. Spain afterwards reported: “no evidence of the purehase has been adduced by the Company's agent; there is no proof in any way that the district was ever alienated to the Company by the parties from whom that body asserts, through its agent, that it has been purchased, and I entertain no apprehension that a candid and impartial perusal of the evidence will ever lead to any other conclusion.” That was before the Wairau massacre. In March, 1843, Captain Wakefield, the agent at Nelson, had offered payment to Rauparaha and Rangihaeata for the “Wairau” lands, and in spite of their refusal to part with them, sent a party of surveyors to cut the district into blocks. The Chiefs said plainly to Captain Wakefield, and afterwards to Mr. Spain and Edward Wakefield, at Porirua, that if the company wanted to take the land, they must first take their lives, or handcuff them and reduce them to slavery. The Colonel's brother, Captain Wakefield, at Nelson, however persisted. The natives pulled up the Surveyor's ranging rods, and at last, after first removing their personal goods to the boats, they burnt down the temporary hut which Mr. Cotterell, the Surveyor, had built. The goods they said belonged to the Pakeha, and they would not touch them, but the material of the hut was their own and they did not choose that the surveyor should have it. Mr. Cotterell went back to Nelson, and laid an information at the Police Court, against Rauparaha and Rangihaeata for arson. It was the maddest of mad things that people dealing with Maoris could have done. The Company's friends seized upon the chance. Captain Wakefield, Thompson the Police Magistrate, Cotterell the surveyor, and Richardson the Editor of the local paper, with a party of about fifty started together, equipped with page 56 an assortment of handcuffs to execute the warrant, which even people in England would have considered of the most technical character. Thirty five of these poor people were armed. It is a dismal story of ignorance, rashness, hide-bound formality, and foolhardy contempt of Maori rights and Maori powers of resistance. The end was, that the natives resisted the arrest, then our people opened fire, and the issue was that nineteen of those unfortunate special constables, including Wakefield, Thompson, Cotterell and Richardson were killed. Some fell in the fight, others were captured, and when it was found out that Ronga, Rauparaha's niece, had been shot with three other Maoris in the fray, the prisoners also were killed. When the firing began and death seemed inevitable the old Chief shouted out, “Hei kona e te ra, hei koua e te ao marama—haere mai e te po haere mai e te mate.” “Farewell, O Sun, farewell thou world of light:—Come on O night, come on O death.” That was a cry of utmost stress, and no Maori loyal to his Chief could resist the appeal even to the very death. The day was the 17th June, 1843. Mr. Tuckett, one of the surveyors, escaped as soon as the firing began, and crossing the Strait on the second day after the fight to Wellington, told us as much as he had seen. The massacre of the captives was not then known. A large party of us, some seventy, immediately armed for the rescue, and went on board the Government brig, “Victoria.” Mr. Spain and I were among the number. Fortunately for us it came on to blow a heavy gale that evening before we came out of the port, and we had to anchor inside the Heads. It was a terrible night with the rain and wind and heavy sea, and the brig pitching bows under with both her anchors down and a long stretch of cable out, and I have since wondered that we weathered the gale that night at all.
In the course of the next day the gale abated, and we sailed across the Strait to Cloudy Bay. There we fell in with the Rev. Samuel Ironside, the Wesleyan Minister whom many of you know. He told us all. He had met Rauparaha crossing page 57 back on his way to Kaputi, and, with the Chief's consent, Mr. Ironside had hastened off to Wairau, and had collected and buried the dead. We went on to Wairau, buried another body or two, and then returned to Wellington.
Things were getting very dangerous now for all of us. The Maoris were exasperated at what they considered our treachery, and our own people were thirsting for revenge. Happily there was a gentleman living at Waikanae, who had great influence with the Maoris allied to Rauparaha, and was equally respected by both races, the Rev. Octavius Hadfield, now the revered Bishop of Wellington. At the risk of his own life and after a severe struggle with the Chiefs, who were almost mad at the sight of the handcuffs which Rauparaha brought with him. Mr. Hadfield managed to stop the old man's projects of immediately marching upon Wellington. I got away from Wellington as soon and as quietly as I could, and had an interview with the angry Chief, pledging all that I could to assure him that the Government would not attack him without first hearing his side of the question, and begging him to try and keep the natives quiet, until the case was investigated. Then Mr. Spain went to see him, as one who was known to be a high official, and who was deputed by the leading magistrates to give the same assurance in a more public and formal way. In September, 1843, that is, three months after the fray, Sir Everard Home came to Wellington in the “North Star,” and I went with him and Major Richmond, the Superintendent of the South, to a conference with the natives, the first of many cruises that I made with Sir Everard. We held the meeting at Waikanae. Rauparaha then said that he was doing his best to allay irritation, but the natives were kept disturbed by threatening rumours of what the Wellington people, or the Government, were going to do, and Sir Everard told him not to believe in idle reports of our intended movements against him, but always to apply to Mr. Hadfield, Major Richmond, or myself, and he might be sure that we would tell him the truth.page 58
In January, 1844, Sir Everard Home again came to Wellington in the “North Star,” bringing with him this time the new Governor, Captain Fitzroy. By arrangement, Major Richmond and I again went to Waikanae, and summoned the natives to meet the Governor. On landing from the “North Star” several hundreds of the Maoris were there to receive him, and the conference began. A chair was provided for the Governor, and Rauparaha sat down at his side. I interpreted the Governor's speech of enquiry for their version of the Wairau affray, but the natives remained silent. The Governor told me to ask Rauparaha if he had nothing to say. The old man then rose, and minutely related the whole of his story. When he had finished the Governor told them all to be quiet, while he thought over the decision that he would announce. For nearly an hour no one moved or spoke, but all eyes were intently fixed on us. Fitzroy wrote out in pencil what he had to say, read it, and then handed me the paper to interpret. It was to the effect that he thought the English in the wrong for having provoked the conflict by trying to take forcible possession of disputed land, while the case was actually under debate in the Commissioners Land Court; that they were to blame in sending an armed party to arrest the Chiefs on such a pretext as burning down a temporary surveyor's hut; and because at the last moment they had been the first to fire. He, the Governor, was deeply grieved, especially at the slaughter of the English prisoners when Ronga was killed, but looking at all the circumstances he felt that it would not be just to use the British power merely to avenge the death of those who had fallen.
After this business, I accompanied Mr. Spain to Wanganui, and then to Taranake, and the Commissioner made his award. To the surprise of Colonel Wakefield himself, and to the consternation of all who knew anything about the Maoris, Mr. Spain declared that this was the fairest of all the Company's purchases, and that they were entitled to 60,000 acres of land. The Chief, William King, at once rose, and protested that the page 59 decision was against all Maori law, and that he and his people would never submit to it. They would rather die first. For tunately the Governor was not obliged to give effect to the Commissioner's award, and mainly at my urgent remonstrance, Captain Fitzroy set it aside. Mr. Spain was, of course, greatly mortified, and, rather ungenerously, he tried to shift the blame of his decision on me, because, he said, I had called only one witness in support of the absentees, who declared that they had never lost their rights or sold them, and, still in a very illogical way as regards his excuse, Mr. Spain to the last protested that to recognize these claims was to establish a most dangerous doctrine. Many of the witnesses, whom I did not call for the purpose, stated in their examination that the rights of the absentees could not be extinguished by the act of their brethren who still held to the pah at Ngamotu; and, besides, Mr. Spain knew well my opinion and that of Mr. Forsaith, the Interpreter, as to the Maori law on the subject, and, what was of greater authority than ours, he knew the opinion of Mr. Hadfield. We had told him often enough, but he would not accept our judgement as binding upon him. I did call one witness expressly on this point, but Mr. Spain snubbed him, saying he did not believe his testimony, and adding that he could not recognize the rights of men who had been driven out of the district by war, and who did not come back to resume possession until after the actual residents on the land had sold the district to the Company. No doubt it was altogether a difficult and complicated case to adjudicate upon. It came under the Maori law of possession by conquest, and the real question was: whether or not the Waikato tribes who laid waste the country also took possession of it. They returned home after their campaign, building no pahs and cultivating no lands in the desolated country. The only remnant of the Taranake tribes who held their ground were the handful of people of the stronghold of Ngamotu, who sold to the Company. But the fugitives flocked back to the district as soon as the Waikato invaders retired, and they protested that page 60 the Ngamotu remnant had no right to dispose of the lands of their brethren, because they were not at that moment occupying them. Mr. Spain would not allow the protest, and I warned the Government that it would take an army to enforce his decision, and that it foreboded nothing but strife and bloodshed in the coming time. My argument prevailed for the time, but, a few years after, it was the attempt to force the natives to surrender a portion of this very land that brought on the Taranake War, in which the Waikato tribes joined their former enemies against us, and this again led on to the “King” movement which has not been put down to this day, though we employed 12,000 British soldiers besides the Colonial forces to suppress it. Rusden has given a fair account of my action in getting the award set aside, in the first volume of his History of New Zealand.
In June, 1844, I received instructions to go to Otago, and to assist in the purchase of a large block of land for the Scotch settlement that was then being projected. Colonel Wakefield was to act for the Company, and I for the natives, while Mr. John G. Symonds, the Police Magistrate of Wellington, was to superintend and endorse the whole transaction on the part of the Government. We took Mr. Spain with us part of the way, and dropped him at the French settlement of Akaroa, in Banks Peninsula. This settlement had been projected by a French company in 1839, after secret negotiations with Louis Phillipe, and promises of his support, while he was formally assuring the British Government that he had no designs on New Zealand. When the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, the French frigate “L'Aube” called at the Bay of Islands, and Captain Hobson entertained her officers with cordiality.
Somehow the secret leaked out that she was on a voyage to support a company of French colonists on their way to Akaroa. H.M.S. “Britomart” was in the harbour, and Captain Stanley, a brother of the late Dean of Westminster, was sent off in the night with instructions to sail for Akaroa with the utmost page 61 despatch, and to hoist the British flag. Stanley at once did so, and when four days after his arrival at Akaroa, Captain Lawand, in the “L'Aube,” put in an appearance, he found the British flag flying and a Court of Magistrates sitting, though they had no case before them. Thus you see how narrow our escape was from having a French colony in the Southern Island. The French immigrants, under one Langlois, the captain of a whaler, arrived the next day in the “Comte de Paris.” The settlers planted gardens under the guns of the block house, but made no homes. Most of them were soon removed to the French Marquesas. We found a French ship of war in the harbour. The poor remnant of the people looked very listless and unenterprising. The Nantes-Bordelaise Company sold their interests (a grant of 30,000 acres) to the New Zealand Company about the time of our visit, and before long the French colony had passed away.
When we got to Otago we anchored a mile or two inside the heads, off a native village on the eastern side of the harbour. The natives appeared to be in a miserable condition. More than in any other part of the country they had suffered by their intercourse with the very roughest of whalers and sealers, and altogether they were in a more pitiable state than any of the tribes in the Northern Island.
In numbers, in physique, and in morals, they had greatly gone down. The very jargon they spoke in their common talk with Europeans was a strange medley of bad French, bad English and low Maori. We found them ready to sell, but a good deal out of temper. The irrepressible Tuckett, known familiarly in our expedition as “Bill Sykes,” who had learnt nothing by his escape from the Wairau massacre, would insist upon cutting his survey lines over anything that came in his way, and took not the least notice of the remonstrance of the Maoris. The Government and Colonel Wakefield together had to make him stop, and until he did so, Mr. Symonds refused to begin any negotiations. So the gentleman was not in very good humour when we arrived.page 62
With Symonds's consent, as well as Colonel Wakefield's, I started with the understanding that the whole negotiation with the Maoris should pass through my hands, and I told the natives that I should be answerable for no conditions or promises whatever, except what I myself should tell them. We pulled up in a boat to what is now Port Chalmers. It was then a little forest of Kahikatea trees, and we pitched our tents on the edge of it. The wood swarmed with pigeons, and I shot as many as we could eat, from the tent door. It is all a nest of warehouses now. The first hitch in the business was the question of native reserves. The Maoris knew too much about the Company's purchases in the North, and did not believe in making over the whole block and then leaving it to us to say what portions should be assigned to them, nor would they hear of parting with their village cultivations and burial grounds. I had a hard fight with Tuckett and Wakefield to make the reserves and put them into the deed. These proposed reserves lay almost wholly in the Peninsula on the eastern side of the bay, white, naturally enough, Colonel Wakefield was as anxious to buy the Peninsula as the Maoris were to retain it. I believe that in after years they did part with most of it. There were at this time some two or three hundred men on the ground, most of them were from different parts of the coast; there were also a few miserable looking women and hardly any children. The principal Chiefs were Tuhawaiki and Taiaroa. Contact with the whalers and sealers had taken much of the dignity out of them, and their bearing was nothing like that of their Northerly countrymen. There were some twenty heads of septs a little lower in rank. One day we crossed over with them to look at the ground which they wished to retain, and, walking to the top of a hill, Tuhawaiki asked the Colonel, Mr. Symonds and myself to sit down. Stretching out his arm and pointing with his finger, “Look here, Karaka,” he said, “here, and there, and there and yonder; those are all burial places, not ancestral burial places, but those of this generation. Our patents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, page 63 children, they lie thick around us. We are but a poor remnant now, and the Pakeha will soon see us all die out, but even in my time, we Ngailaki were a large and powerful tribe, stretching from Cook Strait to Akaroa, and the Ngatimoe to the south of us were slaves. The wave which brought Rauparaha and his allies to the Strait, washed him over to the Southern Island. He went through us, fighting and burning and slaying. At Kaikoura, at Kaiapoi, and at other of our strongholds, hundreds and hundreds of our people fell, hundreds more were carried off as slaves, and hundreds died of cold and starvation in their flight. We are now dotted in families, few and far between, where we formerly lived as tribes. Our children are few, and we cannot rear them. But we had a worse enemy than even Rauparaha, and that was the visit of the Pakeha with his drink and his disease. You think us very corrupted, but the very scum of Port Jackson shipped as whalers or landed as sealers on this coast. They brought us new plagues, unknown to our fathers, till our people melted away. This was one of our largest settlements, and it was beyond even the reach of Rauparaha. We lived secure, and feared no enemy; but one year, when I was a youth, a ship came from Sydney, and she brought the measles among us. It was winter, as it is now. In a few months most of the inhabitants sickened and died. Whole families on this spot disappeared and left no one to represent them. My people lie all around us, and now you can tell Wide-awake (Wakefield) why we cannot part with this portion of our land, and why we were angry with Tuckett for cutting his lines about here.”
The next question we had to settle was the exact boundary of the block of land that the natives were willing to sell. Except the Maori occupants of the Eastern Peninsula, and one or two small stations on the coast, there were no inhabitants in the whole district. The nearest white settlement was a decayed whaling station, about thirty or forty miles away. What is now the city of Dunedin and its surrounding farmsteads, was only a run for wild pigs. On the Eastern side of the block there was, page 64 of course, the ocean; on the Western there were the distant ridges and peaks pointed out to us and named, and beyond which it was practically no man's land. On the North the line was well known and sharply defined, but the Southern line was vague, and might easily be the occasion of dispute hereafter. I refused to take this line on the mere description of the tribe or the word of the surveyor, and, to the disgust of all but my friend Mr. Symonds, insisted upon seeing it with my own eyes, and having it carefully pointed out by a selection of the Maoris formally deputed to do so. It was midwinter, and very cold, and the prospect of more than a fortnight's tramp through the snow, carrying all our provisions with us, was not at all inviting. However, we agreed at last to make up a party comprising Symonds, Wakefield and myself, with a number of delegated Maoris, and started to mark the Southern limit. We pulled from Port Chalmers to what was then a bare and silent waste, but which is now, Dunedin.
Then we pushed on, striking first across country, and coming down to the coast.
From a Picture by Angas.
TAMATI WAKA NENE.
Just after we entered the lake the word passed that a quarter of a mile ahead there was a vast flock of wild ducks that were evidently not accustomed to be disturbed. Silence was ordered and I was sent with my gun to the bow. The crew paddled gently, and when near enough I gave the signal to stop, and we glided gently to within two boat lengths of them.
I fired both barrels, and to our great satisfaction brought down nearly a dozen. We at once pulled on shore, lighted fires, half picked and half roasted our game. It all disappeared in less than an hour after the ducks were alive; we were well supplied so long as our boating lasted. Leaving the head of the lake, after hauling the boat ashore, we struck towards the south-west, dragging wearily over long rolling downs, with here and there a small clump of stunted trees, often miles apart. We always pitched our tent near one of these clumps, for the sake of shelter and firewood. Sometimes it would rain in the night and then freeze, so that the packing of the tent next morning was like folding a sheet of tin, and made it rather an unpleasant back-load for the unfortunate Maori who had to carry it.
So we went on until we reached the boundary, and then returned by the same track, luckily killing three or four wild pigs on the journey. They were in fair condition, but with very thick skins, and had to be flayed before we could eat them. Back to Otago, I prepared the Maori deed. The block we acquired must have been, I think, a good deal over 400,000 acres. The original deed is in Maori in my hand writing, page 66 signed by Symonds, Tuckett and myself. I wrote and certified the English translation, and no dispute has ever come out of it. The document was signed by Symonds, Tuckett and myself, and by twenty-five of the leading Chiefs. The consideration was under £3,000, and the date of execution the 31st July, 1844. There have been complaints among the Maoris about subsequent arrangements, but so far as this negotiation was concerned, I have never heard from that day to this, of a single Maori putting in a claim to be compensated for rights that I had not fairly extinguished. My father purchased the site of Auckland, and several hundred thousand acres around, and the Maori deeds of transfer are in his handwriting, and in no case has any dissatisfied Maori impugned the validity and completeness of the bargain, and, considering how easy it is to muddle such transactions, I am not in the least ashamed of the part I took in negotiating for a district which was then a silent waste, but which is now the head and centre of the fair, flourishing and populous province of Otago.*
Things were now quieting in the South. Some of the worst and most dangerous questions in dispute between us and the Maoris were settled, or in the way of settlement. Some questions still remained, formidable enough, but insoluble for the present, and such as only time and patience could set right.
The last two years of incessant care and heavy responsibility had taken a good deal out of me. I was very weary, and told Governor Fitzroy that I thought myself now due for a rest, little dreaming of the fresh troubles that were waiting for me in the North.
The Governor was very kind. In a few weeks he summoned me to Auckland, and sent down a gentleman to take my place in the South.