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Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.

Te Oriori

Te Oriori.

One of the first occasions on which they came into sharp conflict was over the treatment of some Maori prisoners taken in war. A well-known chief, Te Oriori, was kept in durance by the Ministry. Grey almost pathetically pleaded with the Ministers to release the chief on parole, as he had himself released Te Rauparaha. He pointed to the character of Te Oriori, who had on several occasions acted nobly by the colonists. He spoke of the effect the imprisonment of so great a chief would have in prolonging the war. He told how he "had done his utmost at all times to promote the views of his Ministers, and wished to show that on a point where he felt so strongly a responsibility really rested on him, which gave him a strong claim on their consideration, which he hoped they would yet page 153recognise." It was all seemingly in vain. Ministers would not yield. They even flung in his face his treatment of Rauparaha as a parallel that justified their own action. Grey reported the incident to the Secretary of State, the firm and judicious Cardwell, who thoroughly approved of the stand the Governor had taken. The Governor, that great official held, was empowered to decide on the fate of prisoners of war without the concurrence of his Ministers. It was for him to determine what course should be taken. He should be fully prepared to support Grey, should the Governor decide to take action at variance with the opinions of his Ministers. And when the Governor asserted that he owed a high responsibility to the people of England, who were supplying the troops which were suppressing the rebellion, the Secretary informed him that he rightly interpreted his position. "Your responsibility to the Crown," he stated, "is paramount." Yet Grey did not and could not release Te Oriori, who was a prisoner in the hands of the Government, not of the Governor. Ministers themselves solved the problem by secretly releasing their prisoner on parole. It seemed a triumph for the Governor, but it was also a humiliation. The Ministry had not the grace even to inform the Governor of their action. It was à propos of this incident that Fox refused to publish Cardwell's despatches.