The Maori King
Chapter XVI — Tataraimaka
In October, 1862, a great national meeting, to which allusion has been already made, was held at the Ngatihaua village of Peria, to which invitations were issued several months before. Sir George Grey himself was asked to attend the meeting by several Waikato chiefs; but Wiremu Tamihana did not join in the invitation. He and the principal men of Ngatihaua did not wish the Governor to attend, because Maories from distant places would be present, the language would be very free, and things might be said in the Governor's presence that would affront him, and put their hospitality to shame.
The meeting was a very large one, attended by the tribes not only of Waikato, but of Tauranga, the East Coast, Napier, Whanganui, and Taranaki. The subject which the meeting had been specially called to discuss was the everlasting Waitara. The general opinion of the Maories on this point was, that no arbitration could take place so long as the troops remained in possession of Waitara, and of those other plots of native land which were claimed under Hapurona's treaty of peace. As long as the Government persisted in keeping possession of the land in dispute, it was right, in their opinion, to refuse every offer of arbitration, and continue to hold Tataraimaka as a material guarantee for the restoration of that which was their own. The difference between what Sir George Grey proposed, and what the Maories would accept, was small, but very important to both sides. It was the old question of nationality in a different page 206 form. If both parties withdrew from Waitara, the investigation would have the aspect of an international conference; but to allow the Governor to remain in possession, was to acknowledge the Queen's sovereignty—to submit as subjects, not to treat as an independent people.
The Bishop of New Zealand, who was present at the Peria meeting, tried in vain to combat this zeal for nationality, which overpowered all other considerations. The first encounter occurred on a Sunday. Wiremu Tamihana had preached to the assembled multitude in the morning, on the text, ‘Behold how good and joyful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity;’ and had illustrated the doctrine by relating the benefits produced by the union of the Maori tribes, once constantly at war, into one brotherhood under the Maori King. The Bishop, learning of his discourse, which had produced great effect on the audience, preached in the afternoon a different sermon from the same text, urging the great necessity of union between the Pakeha and Maori races, and pointing out the impossibility of such union, unless they agreed to submit to one law and one sovereign.
In the course of the discussions which took place during the following days, the Bishop asked for an opportunity of addressing the Assembly, which the head chiefs readily granted him. In his speech, he urged and besought the Maories, especially Wiremu Tamihana and Matutaera Potatau, whom he called upon by name, to agree to a settlement of the Waitara dispute. He further pointed out the suffering and ruin which the hostile occupation of Tataraimaka inflicted on the innocent men, women, and children, who were so unfortunate as to be its owners; and declared, that as he had stood up before the British Government, and protested against the Maori widows and orphans being deprived by force of their rights, so he now protested against the Maories'wrong, in retaliating upon Pakeha widows and orphans in the same fashion.
The Bishop's arguments, though heard with attention and respect, and though supported by several Ngatihaua chiefs, who stood up and boldly declared themselves on his side, could not alter the general resolution of the meeting. Some effect, however, was produced on Wiremu Tamihana himself. A fortnight after the meeting, he rode over with his followers to Kihikihi, and publicly demanded from Rewi and Wiremu Kingi, that an page 207 investigation should be made into the title to Waitara in the manner which the Government had proposed. Wiremu Kingi refused. A stormy discussion ensued, in which Rewi and all the Ngatimaniapoto supported Wiremu Kingi's refusal; and ultimately their opinions gained the day. Tamihana, thus baffled in his first attempt, next demanded that Tataraimaka should be given up to the owners. This demand was, however, as obstinately opposed as the former one. The resolution of the Ngatimaniapoto was immoveable. Wiremu Tamihana could effect nothing without an open quarrel. Such a breaking up of the league would sacrifice Maori independence, which Tamihana, in his love of his country and fear of Sir George Grey, was not prepared to do.
After this failure of Tamihana, it was evident that, sooner or later, one of two things must happen: either Waitara must be exchanged for Tataraimaka, or the war at Taranaki must be renewed. There always was, and perhaps even now is, a way out of the native difficulty—I mean, the acknowledgment of the Maori King, as a Sovereign independent of the colonists, but under the Queen's protection—but to that the New Zealand Government had never been willing to listen.
At the beginning of 1863, Sir George Grey astonished the Waikatos, by suddenly appearing in the midst of them. He made a rapid journey from Auckland up the country, landed at Ngaruawahia unrecognized, and stationed himself by Potatau's tomb. The village was nearly deserted; the King was at Hangatiki with most of his Council, only Te Paea and a few chiefs remained behind. They came out of their houses to look at the Pakeha visitor, and to their amazement recognized the Governor. He was received with enthusiastic good-will. All the old women turned out to ‘tangi’ over him, according to the Maori fashion of saluting an old friend,1 and then began to scrape potatoes and prepare food for him and his retinue, who shortly began to arrive. Te Paea said afterwards, ‘Why did you not make the surprise complete, by taking an axe and cutting down the flag-staff? We should have refused you nothing.’ In their politeness and hospitality they would very likely have refused nothing; but Rewi would certainly have put the flag-staff up again.
1 The old native women always show affection by a sort of whimper, which is often prolonged for hours. This is called a ‘tangi’.
After talking to the people, the Governor went down the river as far as the Mission-station of Taupiri. Maori lads were sent galloping off to fetch the King from Hangatiki, and Wiremu Tamihana from Peria. Both obeyed the call. His Majesty was obliged to come from Hangatiki on horseback, a mode of travelling to which he is not accustomed. By the time he reached Rangiaowhia, the unusal exertion had made sitting on the saddle extremely painful. The King could go no further. To his bodily sores was added mental anxiety lest the Governor should think the inability to ride a pretence. The monarch, therefore, sent for a neighbouring missionary, the Rev. J. Morgan, and a native catechist, whom he requested to examine into his actual condition. They did so. They certified in due form that Matutaera could not sit, and the certificate was solemnly forwarded to His Excellency the Governor. I wish I could give the reader a translation in full of this extraordinary State document.
Wiremu Tamihana, however, being a more practised rider, was speedily on the spot, as well as many other Waikato chiefs. Rewi and those who sympathized with him did not attend. It was arranged that a conference should take place in a field at Taupiri. As soon as the Governor came into the field, at the further end of which the chiefs were clustered together, the crowd suddenly parted, and Tamihana rushed forward to the Governor, seized him by the hand, and with cries of welcome led him to the seat which had been placed for him as president of the meeting. The principal speakers were Taati of Rangiaowhia and Tamihana. The latter said that he was glad to see the Governor in person, and tell him that the work of the Maories in setting up a King was no new thing. It had not begun, said Tamihana, in the days of Governor ‘Angry-belly,’ as he irreverently termed the late Governor; no! it had begun before, in Sir George Grey's own time, while he was still Governor amongst them. The Maories had the design in their thoughts long before it was actually carried out. Sir George Grey was again asked by Tamihana, as he had been asked more than a year before at Taupari, by Tipene, whether he was still opposed to their King. He replied that he never went to bed at night without thinking what he could do to pull down the Maori King. ‘I shall not,’ he said, ‘fight against him with the sword, but I shall dig round him till he falls of his own accord.’ These words page 209 made a deep impression on the audience, and were told to those not present, and quoted as the special thing which the Governor had said at the meeting.
A case had recently occurred at Whanganui, in Cook's Straits, where an English girl, walking along the high road a little in advance of her father, was seized by a Maori who attempted to assault her; her screams brought the father to her assistance, and the miscreant made off. The police arrested the man, but he was rescued by his comrades, who declared that he was a subject of the King, and could not be tried by our laws. This story was told by Sir George Grey to Tamihana and his friends, and he charged them with being guilty of the outrage, inasmuch as the man who had done it sheltered himself from punishment under the name of that King whom they persisted in supporting. To all their arguments in favour of the King, the Governor answered by referring to this case, and at last silenced them altogether.
The next subject discussed was Tataraimaka. The Governor announced his intention of taking possession of this land. Wi Tamihana replied, that, while acknowledging such an act to be perfectly just and right, he begged for further delay, in order that the well-disposed chiefs might work upon the Maories, and persuade them to surrender the land quietly. The Governor said he had waited long enough, and should now go down to Taranaki at once. Tamihana said that also was quite just, and he offered to meet the Governor at Taranaki, and accompany him to Tataraimaka, with the object of preventing the holders from resisting by force of arms. The Governor thanked the chief for his offer, but declined his company. The party present, composed of men who supported Wi Tamihana, had nothing to say against the justice of the Governor's design; they told him they would write to the Ngatiruanui, and do their utmost to get the land surrendered in peace. Had Rewi and his friends been present, no doubt the Governor's announcement would have been very differently received.
The chiefs present also remonstrated with the Governor against the threatened steamer. They had never objected to small boats and canoes; but a steamer was, in their eyes, very different: she could bring troops and great guns into their country. The Governor said he should certainly bring in his page 210 steamer, to save them trouble in paddling their canoes against the current; she would tow the canoes. He had no doubt that, in a very short time, they would be convinced of her usefulness, and would threaten him with war, if he proposed to take her away.
After the meeting, Sir George Grey was invited to visit Rangiaowhia and Horotiu; but he was compelled by illness to return direct to Auckland. Even after he had left Taupiri, riders galloped down the river bank after him, as far as Paetai, begging that he would return.
In fulfilment of their promises, Tamihana, Taati, and others, sent letters to Taranaki, urging the Ngatiruanui to give up Tataraimaka, and intimating that if they resisted and renewed the war, no help was to be expected from Waikato. But counter letters were sent at the same time by Rewi and other chiefs of Ngatimaniapoto, as well as by chiefs of Lower Waikato, from the Paetai neighbourhood, exhorting Ngatiruanui to hold the Tataraimaka block resolutely, and promising that any attempt on the Governor's part to possess himself of it would be regarded by Waikato as a declaration of war.
Still, however, Sir George Grey hesitated; while the Colonial Ministers, true to the charge laid on them by the Assembly, refused to give advice on the matter. At last, in the beginning of March, 1863, the Governor announced that he should delay no longer to take the decisive step. Accompanied by General Cameron, Mr Domett (the Colonial Premier), Mr Dillon Bell (the Minister for Native Affairs), and a large military force, he went down to Taranaki by sea. Battalion after battalion was then sent for from Auckland, until the bulk of the troops were once more concentrated at Taranaki.
After some delay, the Governor, with a strong military force, marched to Tataraimaka, and built a redoubt. Nothing but good-will was shown by those natives whom they met, although every person in Taranaki had expected, and many had laid heavy bets, that the party would be fired upon. The leaders returned in safety to Taranaki, and the troops were left quietly working at the redoubt. It must not be forgotten, that at this time, the country round Taranaki was entirely occupied by the stockades and redoubts of our troops. Not only were our own lands, and the disputed block at Waitara so protected, but northwards, beyond page 211 the frontier of the settlement, little stockades, surmounted by the English flag, could be seen dotted about the landscape; all situated on Maori land, which was ours only by right of conquest, and so long as we could retain possession by force.
1 [On the following incidents, see AJHR, 1863, E-2, E-2A.]
2 [An inland pa just south of the Waitara river.]
3 [See above, p. 91 n.]
While the Governor and his advisers were thus debating the well-worn Waitara question, the natives were not so quiet and inactive as they seemed. It is not Maori custom to act hastily. The occupation of Tataraimaka had taken them by surprise: the Government had so often threatened what had not afterwards been performed, that they never believed Sir George Grey would really seize it, otherwise they would have resolved beforehand how his act should be met. To fire on the party, without previous consideration, as they marched to Tataraimaka, was a measure far too rash and decisive for Maori policy.
‘Mataitawa, in the region of Taranaki, April 8, 1863.
‘To Wi Kingi, to Rewi Maniapoto, to Te Waru,1 to Porokoru, to Honi Papita,2 and to all their districts.
‘Friends and fathers. Salutations to you in the grace of God and in the shadow of our King.
‘On the 4th day of April, the Governor marched to Tataraimaka with his soldiers. His barracks are finished and stand at Tataraimaka. The determination of the people here is to wait for the word from you and from the people of this island.
‘These five tribes—Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngatiruanui, Ngatirauru and Whanganui, have sat down at Tataraimaka. The red earth has dried on the surface—the work of the people.3 The guns will shortly be firing continually.
1 A Rangiaowhia chief—Taati's father. [Hori Te Waru.]
2 A Rangiaowhia chief, and member of the King's council.
3 This means—the red subsoil has been dug up, and has dried on the surface, i.e. rifle pits are dug.
‘O Wiremu, what is your determination for your people who are in trouble here? Friend, if it were merely a canoe of wood we should know how to act; but for a canoe of men, where should we search?1
Before relating the answer received, and the next act of the Maories, it is necessary to inform the reader of events which had occurred meanwhile in the Waikato District; where, as soon as it was known that the Governor had actually gone down to Taranaki, the excitement became intense. The Waikatos expected nothing less than an immediate renewal of war. In this crisis, Rewi Maniapoto took the lead, and his violent and energetic measures will from the subject of the following chapter.
1 That is to say, if it were such a thing as a canoe that were in peril, we should judge for ourselves, but men's lives are more important.