The War in New Zealand.
A Great many persons in England are tired of hearing about New Zealand. It is very seldom that any good news comes thence; and, good or bad, it is very difficult to understand. Still, there are many who have friends and relations there; many who sympathize with the Maori race; many who have an idea that what has been going on there for some time past, means a penny in the pound on the income-tax; so that sufficient interest is felt in the colony to make any one newly arrived from it the subject of much cross-examination. "Tell us all about New Zealand," is, however, a request not easily responded to, page viunless the person who makes it is prepared to listen to a tale a good deal longer than that which the Ancient Mariner inflicted on the spellbound wedding guest; and I have been often obliged to tell my inquiring friends that unless I should write a book, I despaired of making them understand the subject. That is one reason for my taking up my pen. Another reason is, that I venture to think that many persons besides my own friends will be glad to have a more connected outline of events in the colony during the entire period of disturbance than any which has yet appeared. At present there is none. The Governor's despatches are within the reach of few; and, except when they relate to disputes between himself and the general, or himself and his ministers, are meagre and unexplanatory to the last degree. The military despatches are no more accessible than the Governor's, and scarcely intelligible to general readers, their principal object apparently being page viito enrol in the Valhalla of the Horse Guards the name of every officer who took part in a skirmish, or "stood ready to tender his valuable services, if wanted." The Times' newspaper has a very able correspondent; but the Morning Post and Daily Telegraph, and half a dozen other papers, have correspondents also, who seem to see things with very different eyes. The result is, that even those persons in England whose duty it is to study such matters, and still more, those who profess to have done it en amateur, fall into great misapprehensions, and often very ludicrous mistakes. One noble Lord, a Member of Parliament, giving a summary of events on a public platform,* misdates the arrival of Governor Grey in the colony by nearly two whole years. Another speaks of events happening at Waikato as if they had occurred at Taranaki, 200 miles away; while a third, hearing of the campaign at Tauranga, asks, "Who is this Tauranga; I never page viiiheard of him before?" Misapprehensions like these may seem of little consequence, and would he so if they existed only in private circles; but when the state of mind which they indicate is met with among those who influence the counsels of Parliament and the action of the Colonial Minister, the matter becomes serious. The noble Lord who did not know whether Sir George Grey arrived in New Zealand after the Oakura murders, or nearly two years before, could scarcely have given that attention to the subject which would make him a safe adviser. The Member of Parliament who thought that a district as large as an English county was a New Zealand chief, had probably no very clear ideas as to the origin or justice of the war. If these few pages should be instrumental in removing such misapprehensions where they exist, or in conveying information where it is wanting, I shall feel that the time spent in writing them has not been wasted.page ix
In doing so, I trust I shall not be accused of presumption. I have been a colonist of New Zealand almost from its foundation as a colony. I have been a Member of the Legislature for many years, and during a great part of the present struggle I filled the offices of Colonial Secretary and Native Minister. I have probably had better opportunities of obtaining accurate information, and observing current events in the colony than any other person, at least any other parson now in this country. It may be alleged that, as an actor in some of those events, I may have prejudices. But the same might certainly be said of any one who has had the personal opportunities of acquiring the information requisite for the task. I am not aware, however, that I have any prejudices on the subject: I have strong convictions; but convictions are not prejudices. My convictions may possibly be the means of removing the prejudices of some who have had no sufficient opportunity of study-page xing the subject. My object, however, is not to enforce my own convictions, but to state facts as they happened; and in order to enable my readers to judge of the fairness of my narrative, I shall, wherever possible, give references to authentic printed documents.
In describing the operations of the military campaigns, I have relied for the main facts chiefly on the despatches of General Cameron, or of his subordinate officers who may have reported to him. I have also referred to the cotemporary reports of the correspondents of the local newspapers, who were with the forces in the field, and were many of them professional reporters thoroughly up to their work. I am myself acquainted, more or less, with all the country in which operations were carried on, and as regards the Northern campaigns, I have visited all the places where the principal engagements occurred, many of them several times, and most of them in the company of officers who page xiwere in the engagements, and described them to me on the spot.
I do not pretend to have the smallest personal knowledge whatever of military affairs. I know absolutely nothing of "the disciplines of the wars," and am entirely ignorant whether a force should be taken into action at quick march, at the double, in line, in echelon, in fours, or deployed in skirmishing order. On these matters I have had quite as little experience as most of the special correspondents of the English press who reported the events of the Crimean war, or even perhaps as the distinguished historian of that great struggle. I have observed that when these writers are at a loss how to justify some movement which may not have ended satisfactorily, they are in the habit of saying, "no doubt it was done for excellent military reasons." When I attempt to criticise the details of the New Zealand campaigns, I confess I am very often reduced to the same con-page xiiclusion; and being entirely unable to discover any other reason for some particular step, I am compelled to adopt the solution of "excellent military reasons." It will be admitted, however, that there are many events connected with military operations on which a civilian is quite as well qualified to form an opinion as a soldier can be; and when those occasions arise in course of my narrative, I have not hesitated to express my own convictions, subject of course always to the charitable salvo in behalf of the military mind, that what I think a blunder or an oversight, may have been done for "excellent military reasons," of which I know nothing whatever.
The references which I have given are generally to C. P. P., or papers of the Colonial Parliament. A few to P. P., or papers of the Imperial Parliament. Any others explain themselves.
* Ab. Pro. Soc. Report, 1855, p. 21, at top.