The War in New Zealand.
Important Events overlooked—Thompson and King Natives hold aloof—Governor Grey visits Lower Waikato—His Reception—Offer made to refer Waitara Question to Arbitration refused—Further Attempts at Pacific Solution—Governor goes to Taranaki—Determines to give up Waitara—Takes Possession of Tataraimaka—Natives murder Escort, 4th May—Governor gives up Waitara—Distinction between Governor Browne's War of 1860, and that which now commenced.
There is in England a class of persons who live, or whose cause lives, by "sensation." Their minds appear to get into a "hustings" state; they exaggerate and high-colour whatever supports their views, while they ignore or misrepresent any amount of facts which make the other way. In discussing the New Zealand question, which unfortunately they are very fond of doing, these persons generally overlook the events of the year and a half which elapsed between the arrival page 44of Governor Grey and the renewal of hostilities at Taranaki in May, 1863. They assert that the war which then commenced was identical in its merits, or, as they express it, "as iniquitous" as that under Governor Browne; and putting out of sight altogether a course of deliberate action, extending over eighteen months, which had for its object the pacific adjustment of the Waitara dispute, they assert that "we did not endeavour to make any terms with the natives, but the one thing we called upon them to do, was to lay down their arms and cease to be rebels."* The object of the present chapter will be to endeavour to show by a simple record of facts, how entirely untrue and unfair is the view taken by these persons.
* Lord Alfred Churchill, Ab. Pro. Soc. Report, 1865, p. 20.
This conduct of the Waikatos was altogether irreconcilable with the idea that they wished for peace. Sir George Grey had during his previous administration been on the most friendly terms with them; he had been most liberal towards them in the distribution of ploughs, mills and other things; he had been personally acquainted with most of the leading chiefs; and yet when he came in the character of "the good man sent out by the Duke of Newcastle to investigate Waitara, and suppress the troubles in the land," they absolutely ignored his presence in the country and abstained from all communication page 47with him. This was not the course which men of candour, honestly desiring peace, would have pursued.
I was so deeply impressed with the conviction that before any good could be done "Waitara" must be disposed of, that before the Governor returned to Auckland from Waikato, I proposed to him that I should go to the upper part of the district, see thompson and the leading chiefs of the King party face to face, and propose to them, in the Governor's name, to refer the Waitara question to arbitration before a tribunal of two Europeans and four Maories, three to be appointed by the natives, and three by the Governor,. His Excellency assented, and I went. Thompson was absent from the district; but I found nearly the whole of the other leading chiefs of the King party assembled together at Hangitikei on the Waipa river. At my request they met me in a full public assembly, and I then formally proposed to refer Waitara to arbitration, in the manner already mentioned. The reply was that Waitara had been placed in the hands of Thompson, and whatever he might decide would be accepted by page 48the rest.* I waited in Waikato several days for Thompson, and sent several messengers to places where he was said to be. At last I was obliged to return to Auckland, without seeing him; but I left a letter for him, informing him of the offer I had made to the other chiefs. At the end of a fortnight I received a reply dated 21st of January 1862 from him. It was a disingenuous and evasive document, and distinctly stated that "he would not now agree to Waitara being investigated." Coupled with his conduct towards the Governor, I could only regard this letter as proof that Thompson was playing us false, and that he was not really desirous of removing the great stumbling block in the way of re-establishing friendly relations between his people and the Government.†
* See Journal of Events, C. P. P. 1863, E. No. 13.
† See Thompson's Letter and subsequent correspondence, C. P. P. 1863, E. No. 13, p. 14, &c.
* Report of Peria meeting, C. P. P. 1863, E. No. 12.
* Southern Cross, Supplement, Jan. 1863.
About fifteen miles south of the town of New Plymouth lies the district of Tataraimaka. This district had been purchased during Sir George Grey's previous administration, in 1848 or 1849. There had never been a shadow of a doubt as to the validity of the purchase; and it had been occupied by European settlers for ten years, holding under Crown grants. During the Taranaki war of 1860-1 the settlers were driven from this page 52district by the insurgent natives, and their homesteads ravaged and destroyed. The natives had ever since retained armed possession of it. It was impossible that this could be permitted to continue; and when the Governor went to Taranaki in April 1863, he had, according to the plans he had decided on, to do two things—to give up Waitara and to retake Tataraimaka. By one of those unfortunate errors which are apt to befal those who are too much given to "diplomacy," he, for some unexplained reason, reversed the process: without even giving a hint of his intention to surrender Waitara, he sent soldiers to occupy Tataraimaka. The resident natives at first made no opposition, but they instantly sent to Waikato for orders. The orders, signed by the fighting general of the King party and other leading chiefs, were, "Begin your shooting." They were promptly obeyed. On the 4th May 1863 an ambuscade of natives attacked a small escort party convoying some carts between Taranaki and Tataraimaka, and barbarously murdered Lieutenant Tragett, Dr. Hope, and eight rank and file of the Queen's troops. The Governor page 53then committed, if possible, a greater error then, his first. With the utmost precipitation he announced that Waitara was abandoned, and that the purchase from Teira would not be completed. This step, immediately following the murder of the escort, was regarded by the natives, hostile and friendly alike, from one end of the islands to the other, as the result of fear, and an indication of unmistakeable weakness on our part. It greatly encouraged our enemies, and did more to shake the attachment of our friends than any other event which had ever happened.
I think the facts I have recorded establish beyond all question a broad distinction between the war of 1860 and that of 1863. If Governor Browne was morally wrong in provoking the former, it must be admitted that during the first eighteen months of Governor Grey's administration, no means were left untried to induce the natives to adopt a course by which the cause of contention might be amicably got rid of. The sole responsibility of the renewal of the war in 1863 rests on Thompson and the other members of the Waikato tribes, who refused our repeated page 54and most liberal offers, to refer the matter in dispute to arbitration, and who, when the Governor retook Tataraimaka, though they themselves had no personal interest in Taranaki, ordered the resident natives to commence the work of blood. Certainly those who say that "no attempt was made to offer terms to the natives, but that we called upon them only to lay down their arms and cease to be rebels," very grossly misrepresent the facts. Governor Grey never called on them to do anything of the sort during the first year and a half of his administration; he made no aggressive movement, unless by friendly argument, against Kingism; and he punished no one for participation in the insurrection of 1860. If ever the olive branch was held out in sincerity it was during that period. Had it been accepted as sincerely as it was offered, all questions of difficulty between the Government and the natives might have been amicably adjusted, all the bloodshed which has ensued might have been spared, and the two races might have continued to occupy in harmony and peace the fine country which has ample room for both.