The War in New Zealand.
Serious Differences between Governor Grey and General Cameron—1. As to asking for Reinforcements—2. The War denounced by General Cameron as an "Iniquitous Job"—3. Question of Removal of the Troops—4. The Expediency of capturing Wereroa Pah—5. About Colonel Warre's Expedition—6. Secret Correspondence and Private Letters—How Mr. Cardwell disposes of the "Difficulty."
The campaign between Sir George Grey and General Cameron seems to have been by far the most "vigorously prosecuted" of any which was ever carried on in New Zealand. If those "two able and distinguished persons" had exhibited as much energy and determination in fighting the rebels, as they did in fighting each other, the war might perhaps have been brought to a much earlier termination; at least there is an old proverb about a house divided against itself, which seems to favour such a conclusion.
General Cameron immediately on receiving orders from the Governor to commence the Wanganui campaign on the 5th January, intimated "that he thought he should not be wrong in informing Earl de Grey that there is no prospect of an early reduction of the force or the military expenditure; indeed he thought that they ought at once to apply for reinforcements." On the 30th of January, having got to Wanganui, he writes, "I would therefore recommend that your Excellency should apply by the first opportunity for a reinforcement of at least 2,000 men, and for a still larger reinforcement, if, in addition to the occupation of the country between Wanganui and Patea, the road between Taranaki and Wanganui is to be opened," &c. The Governor seems to have given no reply; so again on the 8th March, the General "strongly advises
* The entire Correspondence, which extends over more than 73 folio pages, has been printed among the Assembly papers. It is C. P. P., and further papers, A. No. 4, and A. No. 4A. See also most of them just published in P. P. House of Commons, Feb. 1866.
"The reinforcements thus asked for," says the Governor, writing to Mr. Cardwell, "would page 181have raised Sir D. Cameron's force in officers and men at Wanganui alone (to open the last 16 miles of road to the Patea river,) to upwards of 6,500, and including Taranaki, to upwards of 9,000 officers and men.
"I felt it to be my duty to decline to ask for the reinforcements applied for, which I judged to be obviously unnecessary, and I did not think it right that any stop in the operations entered on should take place. Had I consented to the applications made, and had I stopped operations until reinforcements of at least 2,000 men had arrived from England, rebellions would have broken out in other parts of the island, and an enormous useless expenditure of money and loss of life would have been incurred.
"If anything could have at once alarmed and dispirited troops, it was knowing that their commander believed that they were opposed to a numerous and determined enemy, with whom they were unable to cope without being reinforced by at least 2,000 men."
It should be observed that the number above given by the Governor, "upwards of 9,000," page 182would have been in addition to some 5,000 other troops, regular and colonial, in other parts of the colony. I think the British tax-payer will quite agree with the Governor, "that such reinforcements were obviously unnecessary."
The next ground of difference which arose was this:—On the 11th January General Cameron wrote to the Governor,—"Major Greaves says one thing is very certain, and that is, that the man who sold the block had no right to do so, and it is the old Waitara dodge for getting up a war, and the consequent military expenditure at Wanganui." On the 28th January he further wrote,—"Since I have been in this part of the world I have made inquiries about the purchase of Waitotara, and have reason to believe that it is a more iniquitous job than the Waitara block. I am not surprised that the natives have opposed our road-making." I do hot know "Major Greaves," but I do know that neither he nor General Cameron can have the smallest acquaintance with the subject of native titles in general, or of the title to the particular block referred to. If the Governor has any touch of humour about page 183him, he must have been greatly moved when he was seriously told by the General, that "Major Greaves is quite certain that you are using her Majesty's forces in support of an iniquitous job." However, he simply replied, "that the expedition was essentially necessary; that the question of the possession of the Waitotara block had never entered into his calculations; and that what he desired to see was the subjection and punishment of tribes which had been guilty of great atrocities, and had instigated others to commit similar acts. Until they are put down I am sure there can be no peace or safety in this island for her Majesty's European subjects, or loyal and well-disposed natives."
But the charge made by the General was too serious to leave where it was. The Waitotara block had, by the Governor's authority, been sold by the provincial government of Wellington to a large number of purchasers, on the faith of a title guaranteed by the Crown, through whose representative, Governor Browne, it had been bought from the natives. The Governor, therefore, referred the General's charge to his ministers. His ministers instituted inquiries, intending, if they page 184found that any dispute existed as to the completeness of the purchase, to request Sir William Martin, ex-chief justice of the colony, to investigate it. They, however, could meet with no one who had a word to say on the subject; and having no complaints before them, they were entirely at a loss what they should direct any commission they might appoint, to inquire into. On this the Governor wrote to the General as follows:—
"As I am very anxious to do justice in the matter, to do my duty to the Home Government, and to keep nothing back from them of which they should be informed, I should feel very much obliged to you if you would inform me of the nature of the inquiries you made about the purchase of the Waitotara Block—what are your reasons for believing that it is an iniquitous job, and upon whose information your opinions are founded?
"Immediately I am in possession of this information, a full inquiry shall be instituted, and ample justice done, as the state of the country will now, I believe, shortly permit of such proceedings being carried out."
To this the General replied,—
"Sir,—It is no part of my duty to collect information for your Excellency on such a subject as the purchase of the Waitotara Block, regarding which you have ample means of obtaining all the information you require, and page 185I therefore decline entering into any correspondence with your Excellency on the subject.
"I will now, however, make her Majesty's Government fully acquainted with the information on which the opinion expressed in my private letter of the 28th January was founded."
General Cameron, when he penned this reply, did not apparently observe that the Governor had never asked him "to collect information" for him; but had requested him to state the grounds of a most serious charge which he had made, and to let him know on whose information he had alleged "that an iniquitous job had been perpetrated." Neither was General Cameron's reply in other respects exactly what might have been expected from a gentleman of his profession, when challenged to substantiate the truth of his statements.
As regards the Waitotara purchase, it passed, in revision, under my own eye, when I was Native Minister; and I have no hesitation in expressing my conviction, that there is no real foundation whatever for the allegations made on the subject by General Cameron.*
Cotemporaneously with these differences,
* See Appendix, note A.
Ultimately this Gordian knot was cut by fresh instructions from the Home Government, which restored the decision of the time when the, troops should be sent away to the discretion of the Governor, the only person who could form a correct opinion on political grounds of the safety of the step, and who ought never to have been deprived of the function.
But the greatest feud of all, and that which ultimately gave the greatest triumph to the Governor, was one which directly involved the character for military skill and judgment of the two disputants, and which, as the one was, and the other had been, a military officer, assumed a very interesting aspect.
When General Cameron advanced up the coast in February, he left immediately in his rear, and a little on his right flank, a fortified native pah, called Wereroa, supposed to be a place of great strength, and occupied by about 300 rebels. It was a post of the utmost importance, as it not page 189only commanded the General's rear, but threatened the town of Wanganui, compelling a large force to be maintained there, and it kept open the only available line of road which the rebels had between the sea-coast and upper Wanganui, where a large rebel force was still seeking the opportunity of attacking the settlement, and was actually engaged in operations against our native allies and colonial forces. The General, however, did not like the look of the pah. He wrote to the Governor on the 28th January,—
As the General would not attack the pah, the Governor proposed to let the friendly natives do it; he writes to General Cameron,—
The General, who had no faith in "friendly" natives, replies,—
And a few days after,—
The Governor replies,—
The General rejoins, with a chuckle,—
A few days afterwards, however, he writes more soberly,—
The Governor answers:—
The General now left the coast and retired to Auckland without having attempted to take the pah. Then the controversy was renewed, the Governor writing on the 19th May,—
To this, General Cameron replies,—
Remembering all that the General had said about not being able to attack Wereroa with less than 2,000 men, and that he was now at Auckland expecting his relief, these last quoted letters clearly amounted to a positive refusal to attack the pah.
The Governor now applied to Brigadier-General Waddy, who had been left in command on the page 197coast, to know "whether the instructions under which he was acting would permit of his investing Wereroa and to carry on operations for its reduction." General Waddy replied:—"I cannot undertake this operation unless I receive the orders of General Cameron."*
The Governor at last determined to take the matter in hand himself. He got together a "scratch" force consisting of 309 friendly natives (the same whose "bounce" General Cameron had derided), 139 (colonial) Forest Rangers, and twenty-five Wanganui Cavalry, in all 473. He persuaded General Waddy to lend him 400 Queen's troops, not to take part in the operations, but to parade in front of the pah in terrorem of the enemy, like Chinese wooden guns, while the colonial forces attacked the pah. 200, however, of the Queen's troops only arrived, and the Governor ingeniously added to their apparent number by leaving the tents of the colonial force standing. He then despatchedpage 199
* General Cameron denies that he had given any instructions which would prevent General Waddy from acting. Possibly it was the absence of instructions that the latter referred to. See C. P. P. 1865, A. No. 4A. p. 8.
Another serious difference arose between the Governor and General relative to the expediency of allowing Colonel Warre, C.B., commanding at Taranaki, to force his way, as he offered to do, with a column of 500 men from that place to Patea, where he might meet General Cameron on his advance from Wanganui. General Cameron received the offer with the utmost contempt. Writing to the Governor, he says,—
This estimate of the relative prowess of the natives and the Queen's troops is not a little startling, and if such views were known to be entertained by the General, it would certainly page 200(as the Governor remarked) not be very encouraging to the soldiers serving under him.
Immediately after General Cameron left for Auckland, Colonel Wane seems to have started on his expedition, marched without opposition to a place twenty-five miles from Waigongoro (General Cameron's advanced post), where he was met by Colonel Weare of the 50th regiment, and the line of coast from Taranaki to Wanganui opened from end to end, without the loss of a man, or an enemy seen, except in the three skirmishes in the months of January and March already recorded.
Two other bones of contention require notice as they have a very serious bearing on the public service. General Cameron appears to have corresponded with the authorities at the War Office by despatches and private letters, the contents of which he never showed to the Governor, though he made in them charges of the most serious character against him and the Colonial Government. When the quarrel became hot and open, and the Governor called on the General to give him copies of these despatches page 201in which, as he said, he had "traduced him behind his back;" he distinctly and positively refused to do so; and the Governor found himself in the position of having to reply to the repeated censure of the Colonial Office without having seen a line of the documents by which his conduct had been impugned. One can scarcely believe that such an un-English practice would be tolerated by two departments of the Imperial Government—the War Office and Colonial Office: but the perusal of these papers not only shows that it was so, but apparently that Lord de Grey and Mr. Cardwell thought it was the proper thing to encourage. The Governor's complaints of it are very bitter and justly so; though I should have felt more sympathy for him had I not myself repeatedly suffered and seen others suffer at his hands, by a similar practice, in his correspondence with the Home Government, when his quarrels were with the Colonial Ministry or private colonists.
The remaining topic of dispute to which I will refer, was the Governor's publication of the correspondence between the General and himself, and its communication by him to his Ministry page 202and the Colonial Parliament. Until the middle of April, 1865, all Sir George Grey's and General Cameron's letters to each other, on public and official subjects, except a very few, such as the reports of engagements, returns of killed and wounded, and the like, commenced "My dear General" and "My dear Sir George." Though in this form, they were practically official letters, and the Governor generally, if not always, showed them to his Ministers. When the Governor and General quarrelled, the Governor gave these letters to his Ministers, they were laid before the Assembly by "his Excellency's command," and printed in a voluminous parliamentary paper. General Cameron was so indignant when he found out that his letters had been shown to the Colonial Ministry, that he sent off, at a great cost to the public, an express steamer to Melbourne, carrying a supplementary mail containing his complaints to her Majesty's Government on the subject. It turned out, however, that General Cameron had already sent, from time to time, copies of his "private" letters to the War Office; and the Governor justified the course he had pursued on page 203the ground that in doing so the general had made his letters public (official?). This argument would, I think, have been conclusive, but for one fact. In the course of the previous year, when the Colonial Government were printing papers for the General Assembly, they had asked the Governor for two letters of General Cameron's which they had been shown, for the purpose of establishing a point in dispute between the Governor and themselves. They were exclusively on a public subject; but being in the form of "private" letters, the Governor declined to allow their publication, without the General's consent, which being refused, the Governor would not allow the letters to be published.* After this General Cameron certainly had a right to expect that his letters of the same class written subsequently would be similarly respected, and not treasured up by the Governor against a day of wrath, then to be converted into official documents.
I shall not further turn over the leaves of this
* C. P. P. 1864, E. No. 1, p. 4.
I have not raked the ashes of this unhappy quarrel for the purpose of disparaging two "able and distinguished persons," who, in England, are supposed to have done the State some service, but because, under those ashes lie buried the best interests of the colony. We are expected to pay 40l. per man for troops which march at the rate of a mile a day, and whose General tells us that 500 of them can be stopped by 200 Maories, and that it is useless to let them follow their enemies to the bush! When we complain we are denounced as ungrateful. Again you send us your "able and distinguished men;" we cannot get on with them; we are denounced as impracticable colonists. We reply, "Read this State Paper; you will then see who is impracticable. If you wish to know what sort of man a captain page 206of a ship is, see him on his quarter-deck. In these State Papers you may see two of your great land-captains, each on his own quarter-deck."
But perhaps the most unsatisfactory thing connected with these serious differences, is the manner in which they are disposed of by Mr. Cardwell.* One would at least have expected from him some positive decision and some definite action. If General Cameron were justified in charging Governor Grey with deliberately involving us in fresh hostilities with the natives, and using her Majesty's forces in "support of an iniquitous job," what punishment could be too severe for such conduct? If, on the other hand, General Cameron had made such charges recklessly and without proof, and had allowed his military action, as the Governor implies, to be interfered with by his political views, what sentence could be too heavy for him? Mr. Cardwell entirely shirks this plain and formidable issue, and disposes of the difference as if it was a mere matter of opinion on a point of expediency,
* Despatch of 26th July, 1865, No. 50.
* See Appendix, note B.