The Maori King
Chapter VIII — Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa
Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa
The warriors of the Ngatihaua tribe who took part in the Taranaki war continued to be conspicuous for their reckless valour, and the extreme rashness of their imprudent leaders. Reports of disaster came, from time to time, into the Waikato, brought by wounded men returning to their villages, who joined the kinsmen of the fallen in urgently calling upon Wiremu Tamihana to fulfil his duties as leader of their tribe. At length, in the beginning of 1861, he showed symptoms of yielding to their importunity.
Wiremu Tamihana, c. 1863
Having embraced Christianity from conviction, and not from hereditary custom, and being in the habit of constantly reading the Bible as almost his only literature, he argues on religious maxims, and intersperses his writings with Biblical quotations, in what appears to us an unusual degree. It would be a mistake to suppose this the result of cant or hypocrisy. Most of the Maories are exceedingly fond of reading the books of the Old Testament, in which they find described a state of civilization not unlike their own; and though not possessed of the same critical powers as the Zulu Kafirs, they have sufficient intelligence to deduce maxims from both Old and New Testaments, which it is inconvenient to have to reconcile with the theories of our modern civilization.
The chief consideration that constrained Tamihana to visit Taranaki, was the great loss which his tribe had suffered in war, in most instances for want of a prudent leader. It was his obvious interest to endeavour to stay that slaughter of his people, which threatened soon to destroy his own influence and importance. He determined to go, however, not as a belligerent, but as a peacemaker. He did not doubt that injustice had been done to Wi Kingi in the purchase of Teira's land; and although he readily admitted that it was Kingi's duty, if he thought himself wronged, to appeal to law and not to arms, yet he maintained that the Governor's haste and rashness had forced on and commenced a war, leaving Wi Kingi no option in the matter. He felt, however, by no means certain that the Home Government would back up the proceedings of the Governor. He was aware that the Duke of Newcastle's absence in America had postponed the examination of the Waitara question, so that, after all, the war going on at Taranaki might be a useless waste of life and property. He therefore resolved to go down and propose to Wi Kingi and the fighting chiefs, that all hostilities should be stopped, and an appeal made to the Queen and Imperial Parliament. If the Queen and Parliament were willing to have the title investi- page 104 gated by law, it should be so investigated; but if they upheld what he considered the lawless policy of the Governor, it would be time enough to fight then. With these designs, he mustered the remnant of his tribe at Tamahere, and putting himself and Ti Oriori at their head, set off to join Te Heu Heu of Taupo, with the object of going down in a body to the seat of war, in direct opposition to the wishes of the Maori King, who throughout steadily and consistently opposed all meddling on the part of Waikato in the Taranaki quarrel.
The Government, during the whole of this critical period, had no officer of any kind, either resident in, or travelling about, the Waikato district, and were, in consequence, a prey to all the absurd and exaggerated stories that idle gossip might set afloat. So little did they understand either Tamihana's character or his motives in visiting Taranaki, that it was confidently believed that he was forming a deep and wide-spread conspiracy to attack the Auckland settlement; that he had gathered his tribe together for this purpose, that he and Te Heu Heu were only pretending to be on their way to Taranaki to mislead, but that when they had thrown Government off their guard, they would turn round and fall upon Auckland.1
1 AJHR, 1862, E-1, II, pp. 44–5.
The whole of the next day was taken up in talking over those Waikato chiefs who had already taken part in the war, and who, when Tamihana's pacific designs were announced, cried and shouted against him. The precise arguments by which their views were changed have never been ascertained. Tamihana's own opinion has always been, that the cause of Maori nationality, to maintain which he has made every sacrifice, is not in any way advanced by war with the Europeans. His policy has always been to make a passive resistance to our encroachments, to assert Maori independence by just and lawful acts, and to let our side, if there must be war, be clearly the aggressors. Perhaps it was this view that he urged upon the fighting chiefs. They were, no doubt, the more disposed to listen to him, in as much as all were getting tired of the war. At first it was exciting and pleasant to roam at will over the country from which the English farmers had been driven, and to push even into the outskirts of the town of Taranaki itself, pillaging houses, driving off cattle and horses, and occasionally exchanging a shot with the enemy's outposts, or picking off some foolhardy straggler. But the plunder had been looted long ago, and the war had turned into a very dull and uninteresting resistance to General Pratt's slow but certain advance up the Waitara valley. At any rate, by the evening of Tuesday they were brought to consent to Tamihana managing matters in his own way, and a message was sent to Wiremu Kingi to desire a talk, which at that chief's request was fixed for the following morning.
On Wednesday, a meeting took place between the Waikatos and the Ngatiawa tribe. The proceedings were commenced by Tamihana, who said that he was come to Waitara to tell them the opinions of the other Maories and of the ministers of religion; he had been desirous to visit the fighting chiefs, and particularly page 106 Te Rangitake, to inquire into the causes of the quarrel, and he was now quite satisfied that the quarrel was not Waikato's but Te Rangitake's.
‘No,’ said Wiremu Kingi, interrupting him, ‘neither Waitara nor the quarrel is mine: they are yours.’
‘No,’ retorted Tamihana, ‘they are yours.’
‘No, they are yours.’
‘Why look at a man,’ continued Tamihana; ‘his head is head; his hands, hands; and his legs, legs: you are the head, Waikato is only the legs.’
‘No, you are the head.’
‘Yes!’ said Wi Kingi, ‘I am the head, Waitara is mine, the quarrel is mine. There! I give Waitara to you!’
He further declared, in answer to Tamihana, that his gift was free and unreserved, and that he claimed no further voice whatever in the disposal of the land. Hapurona, the fighting general of Ngatiawa, and Epiha and Rewi, as leaders of the Waikato and Ngatimaniapoto contingents, were successively challenged, and publicly announced their assent to the gift, and their willingness to yield the unreserved disposal of the land to Wiremu Tamihana. Thus appointed sole arbiter on the native side, Tamihana proceeded to make his award—‘Waikato! back to Waikato! Te Atiawa! away to Mataitawa!1 Ngatiruanui! return to your homes! Let the soldiers be taken back to the town of Taranaki; Waitara shall be left under the protection of the law.’
1 [An inland pa just south of the Waitara river.]
2 [George Drummond Hay, a Native Commissioner.]
3 [c. 1768–1849, a famous Ngatitoa warrior; involved in the Wairau ‘massacre’ in which several Europeans were killed; seized and imprisoned (without trial) by Grey on suspicion that he was plotting against the settlers.]
As it was found impossible to persuade the chief to adventure himself into our power, it was at last agreed that his proposal should be sent by steamer to the Governor at Auckland, but the general would not consent to a suspension of hostilities until an answer should be received; Tamihana in vain urged the desirability of saving human life; the general replied that it would be a waste of time, and firing would recommence on the following morning.
On Friday our white flag had disappeared, but that of the enemy was, by Tamihana's orders, still kept flying. The soldiers entered the sap and commenced digging: no opposition was offered. They proceeded to fire upon the Maori pa. ‘Now,’ said Tamihana to the fighting chiefs, ‘do what you please.’ The white flag was hauled down and the war flag hoisted; firing continued on both sides during that day, Saturday, and Sunday. The Maories say that they did not during those days lose a man; on our own side Lieutenant Macnaughten, R.A., was killed and several men wounded. Tamihana took no part in the fighting.
Tamihana returned from Waitara, mortified and disappointed; he went down with intentions friendly to the English, desirous of distinction no doubt, but of the distinction of a peacemaker; his advances were rejected, he was accused of promoting war and rebellion, he was forced into the position of a belligerent though he had never fired a shot, and he came back under a threat of war. The Waikatos followed him sulkily; Rewi stayed behind to hatch mischief if he could, and succeeded at last in carrying off Wiremu Kingi, who might, he feared, patch up his quarrel with the Governor, to a sort of honourable captivity at Kihikihi. At Mokau, Tamihana's followers broke out into open complaints, and bitterly upbraided him with an ill-timed and useless interference in the war. He contrived, however, in some way to satisfy them, and thence made a journey round the west coast, and through the greater part of the Waikato district, to explain his policy and ascertain the sentiments of the natives generally about upholding the Maori King. After this he settled quietly down at Tamahere, hoisted a white flag, and waited for the Governor's next move. He had declined the proposed meeting at Mangere, on the ground that he feared imprisonment. He informed Europeans by whom he was visited, that they were all determined to uphold the King; that they were no breakers of the treaty of Waitangi, for neither he nor any of the Waikatos had ever signed or agreed to it, except seven old men who had been bribed with blankets to do so. He denied, however, that there was any feeling of enmity on their part towards the Queen: they had constituted Potatau their head and called him King, as a centre round which they might rally, in order that they might do for themselves what had not been done for them, namely, make laws to take the place of their old Maori customs, which were obsolete or injurious. He thought that their King should be to them what the Governor was to the Europeans; that the page 109 two races should be united by one law, and that the Queen should be a hedge around them all. At the same time they were determined not to be our subjects; they would administer English laws themselves, that is, take our laws so far as suitable to their circumstances, and carry them out among themselves without being responsible to any higher authority.
In the month of May, a clerk of the Native Office was sent with a letter to Tamihana, reminding him that a portion of his tribe and other Waikatos had, without provocation, gone down to fight at Taranaki, and asking what compensation they intended to make for the evil they had done. Soon after the receipt of this letter, Tamihana began a reply to the Governor in vindication of the Waikato tribes, but before it was finished and despatched, a printed ultimatum from the Governor was brought by an obscure native into Waikato.
This proclamation is especially worthy of attention, because it is difficult to exaggerate its effect on the minds of the natives, and its influence on subsequent events. Its power must not be estimated by that which a similar document would have on ourselves. Maories can generally read, but are furnished with very little literature, except the Bible and a few lesson-books. This fresh and exciting paper, widely distributed and carefully read at their evening meetings, where every paragraph was discussed, had an independent value as a piece of literature; while, politically, it was a distinct revelation of the thoughts and purposes of the Pakeha, and helped to decide that anxious question which was always in their thoughts, when the great war that was to deprive them of their lands would begin.
1 AJHR, 1861, E-1B, pp. 11–12.
- (1). The Treaty of Waitangi had been violated.
- (2). Some of them had interfered between the Governor and other native tribes in matters with which they had no concern, and levied war against the Queen.
- (3). Others had abetted the men who committed these outrages.
- (4). A war-party had advanced to within forty miles of Auckland, to interfere with the due course of the administration of justice.
- (5). They had stopped the Queen's mail from passing over native land, usurped jurisdiction over Europeans, and committed divers other offences against Her Majesty's Sovereignty.
- (6). The adherents of the King were at that very time using the most strenuous efforts to possess themselves of arms and ammunition, to effect their objects by intimidation and violence.
‘The Governor,’ says the proclamation, ‘cannot permit the present state of things to continue. No option now rests with him: he has been commanded by Her Majesty the Queen to suppress unlawful combinations, and to maintain Her Majesty's Sovereignty in New Zealand.’
- (1). That every man should obey the law, which guaranteed freedom to the weak as well as to the strong. [Wiremu Tamihana must have smiled at this. Sir William Martin's pamphlet on the ‘Taranaki Question’ had informed him that the conduct of the Governor in taking armed possession of the Waitara was unlawful. Either, therefore, the Governor did not obey the law, or the law did not guarantee protection to the weak as well as the strong.]
- (2). No man in the Queen's dominions is permitted to enforce rights, or redress wrongs, by force: he must appeal to the law. [What a mockery this statement must have been in the eyes of the Taranaki natives, who remembered the murder of Rawiri, Katatore, and many others, whose friends all appealed to the law for redress, and appealed in vain; or to the Upper Waikato, page 111 Ngatiruanui, Taupo, and other tribes, rarely or never visited by an officer of Government, and having, therefore, no law to appeal to.]
- (3). ‘That men do not enter into combinations for the purpose of preventing other men from acting or dealing with their property as they think fit. This is against the law.’ [To the Maories, this meant, ‘Land-leagues are unlawful.’ In themselves, land-leagues are no more unlawful than trades’-unions; but the Governor's language would include trusts, partnerships, and settlements of all kinds, in one sweeping condemnation.]
- (4). That every man allow roads and bridges to be made on his land, when required by lawful authority. [As the Maories had no share in the government of the colony, this implied, whenever the Pakeha might choose.]
On the other hand, the Queen had, by the Treaty of Waitangi, secured to them their lands. ‘By that treaty,’ are the words of the declaration, ‘the Queen's name has become a protecting shade for the Maories’ land, and will remain such, so long as the Maories yield allegiance to Her Majesty, and live under her sovereignty; but no longer. Whenever the Maories forfeit this protection, by setting aside the authority of the Queen and the law, the land will remain their own so long only as they are strong enough to keep it:—might, and not right, will become their sole title to possession.’
- ‘1. From all: submission, without reserve, to the Queen's sovereignty and the authority of the law.
- ‘2. From those who are in possession of plunder; restoration of that plunder.
- ‘3. From those who have destroyed or made away with property; compensation for the losses sustained.’
It is impossible to exaggerate the effect which the statements printed in italics, coming from the Queen's officer, at so solemn a time and in so solemn a manner, had upon the minds of the natives.
1 Ibid., 1860, E-1C, p. 21.
DUKE OF NEWCASTLE'S INSTRUCTIONS TO THE GOVERNOR. GOVERNOR'S DECLARATION TO THE MAORIES. …‘I am clearly of opinion that the attempts of the Maori Land League to prevent persons over whom they have no legitimate authority from alienating their lands should be inflexibly resisted.’… ‘No option now rests with the Governor; he has been commanded by her Majesty the Queen to suppress unlawful combinations, and to maintain her Majesty's Sovereignty in New Zealand.’
The second passage printed in italics has always been a favourite doctrine with the Colonial Government, by whom it has been successfully revived at the present time. Ignoring the great principles of natural justice, the Government informs the natives that the Treaty of Waitangi is the sole foundation of their right to their lands, and that, but for the obligation of this treaty, the Europeans would help themselves to land whenever strong enough to do so. This monstrous theory has always been a favourite one with English colonists; and the New Zealand settlers have now a rare opportunity, by the aid of the British army, of carrying it into practical effect. The natives had the option given to them of submitting to the Queen's sovereignty, or fighting for the possession of their lands. They knew well enough that the former meant submission to be governed by the colonists; but their proud spirits can as little endure the rule of foreigners as our own, especially when threatened with what they think unjust spoliation if they refuse. Is it strange that highspirited men, like Wiremu Tamihana, chose to be free, even at the risk of having to fight for their liberty?
The first copy of the Governor's declaration reached Tamihana at Te Rapa, and was read aloud by him to Rewi, Epiha, Wiremu Kingi, and other chiefs, who were on their way to a great meeting, to be held at Ngaruawahia. His audience expressed no opinion further than a want of confidence in any document proceeding from the Government.
1 Ibid., 1861, E-1A, p. 18.
- (1) The taking down of the King's flag, and breaking up the league into which they had entered to keep their land.
- (2) The restoration of plunder, and payment for what had been destroyed.
- (3) What should be regarded as a re-commencement of hostilities on the part of the troops.
The first question was disposed of almost entirely by Tamihana himself, who commenced by denying that the flag had ever been intended to do away with the supremacy of the Queen, as the protector of their rights and privileges: it was the badge of an agreement, made among themselves, to part with no land, and to hold meetings which should take cognizance of and suppress evil among themselves. He detailed the good that he considered had resulted from this combination: disputes about boundaries, existing at its commencement, had been set at rest; other disputes of the same kind, that had since arisen, had been quietly arranged; drunkenness, adultery, &c. had been suppressed; and they were now working to put down other evils also, that were still existing. He contrasted the good which had resulted from their combination, with the evil which had arisen from the Governor's taking soldiers to Taranaki. He denied that the flag had ever been the cause of the Waikatos going to Taranaki, but maintained that blood relationship would have driven them to it, had there been no flag. He particularized the relationship between some of the leading Waikatos who had gone to Taranaki and Wi Kingi. He expressed his good will to Europeans generally, declaring that he had never yet fought against them, but had been the means of stopping hostilities at Waitara; but he intimated that, in the event of war being recommenced, he could remain neutral no longer. He ended by saying that when the flag was set up upon any land fairly sold to the Queen, or when it otherwise interfered with the rights of the colonists, then would be the time for the Governor to interfere.page 114
The meeting then proceeded to discuss the second point. The argument used was, that the Queen's troops had commenced the war, had attacked and destroyed Wiremu Kingi's pa, with all that was in it, had appropriated the horses and cattle, which he and others kept at Waitara, and burnt and destroyed their property; it was, therefore, unfair to demand restitution and compensation from them, while the Governor did not say a word about compensating Kingi. Moreover, very little plunder was brought away by the Waikatos, who did not go to plunder colonists, but to defend their friends from the attacks of the soldiers.
On the third head, it was resolved that the survey of any of the lands of Wi Kingi and his tribe, or the movement of troops to Mangatawhiri, or to any point which would clearly threaten a hostile movement against them, would be, as they expressed it, ‘a call to them to awake out of sleep.’
1 Ibid., E-1B, pp. 13–17. I have altered the translation in cases where the English is too obscure to convey Tamihana's meaning.
2 ‘One from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.’
‘I will now commence upon another subject. At the beginning of this war at Taranaki, I meditated upon the haste of the Governor's wrath. There was no delay; no time given; he did not say to the Maories—Friends, I intend to fight at Taranaki. No, there was nothing said, not a word.’ After observing that no investigation into the rights of Wiremu Kingi and Te Teira had been made, he went on—‘Do you consider that this was a just war? Is it good in your opinion to give vent quickly to page 116 anger? Yes! but in my opinion, to make haste to be angry is wrong. Paul says—“Charity suffereth long and is kind; is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil; suffereth wrong.” Friends, wherein is our Governor right, whom you believe in? Te Rangitake, who quietly reflected, is blamed by you, and the Governor, who hasted to anger, is supported and praised by you. Hence my thoughts are perplexed in my heart, for hasty wrath has been condemned by James, who has said—“Be slow to wrath, swift to hear.” As it is, the precept in Proverbs xvi. 321 has not been carried out. Friends, it is for me—for me who am a child—to get angry hastily. The proverb says, It is a child that breaks calabashes; it is a child that cries for food. Both these proverbs are for children. But for you to be so hasty is, in my opinion, wrong. Rather is it for you to act deliberately, as you have an example to go by. The Word of God is your compass to guide you—the laws of God.’
He then explained the grounds which had led Waikato to take part in the Taranaki war. He enumerated four. (1) That it was Potatau who fetched Wi Kingi back from Kapiti to Waitara. (2) That some of the Ngatiawa were blood relations of Waikato. (3) They were fetched. They were written for by Kingi and Hapurona. (4) Potatau's word that land-selling should be stopped. ‘These were the grounds of Waikato's interference. If the Governor had considered carefully, Waikato would also have considered carefully; but the Governor was headstrong, and that was why the Waikatos went to help Wiremu Kingi. For Wiremu Kingi was a man who had not been tried, so that his fault might be seen to justify the infliction of severe punishment. You mock us when you say that this island is one, and the men in it one. For I look at the Pakehas, who madly rushed to fight with Wi Kingi.
1 ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city’
2 [Not the Te Whaitere referred to above, p. 91. See above, p. 88.]
‘With regard to the plunder which you say is to be restored—listen to my opinion about that. The Governor was the cause of that. War was made on Wiremu Kingi, and he fled from his Pa. The Pa was burnt with fire; the church was burnt, and a box of Testaments; all was consumed with fire; goods, clothes, blankets, shirts, trowsers, gowns, all were consumed. The cattle were eaten by the soldiers, and the horses, one hundred in number, were sold by auction by the soldiers. Had the Governor given word not to burn the church, and to leave the goods and animals alone, Wiremu Kingi would have thought also to spare the property of the Pakeha. The former first commenced that road, and the latter merely followed upon it. Friends, look you to this—one hundred horses were sold by auction; property and food wasted; houses burnt with fire; and cattle eaten by the soldiers—whose work was that? The Governor's own, for he it was that commenced the work of confusion spoken of in his declaration.’
1 AJHR, 1862, E-1, I, p. 21.
2 [Gore Browne wished to invade the Waikato, but a secret session of the General Assembly advised that there were not enough troops. (Sinclair, op. cit., pp. 234–5.)]
Even this slight concession was so unpopular in Waikato, that a storm of indignation arose. Porokoru and others intercepted Tamihana and told him that he might go if he chose, but they would hang him on his return. So vehement was the popular clamour that Tamihana was obliged to yield, and could not carry out his purpose.
It appeared now as if nothing could avert an immediate war of races, when the unexpected news that Sir George Grey had been re-appointed Governor of New Zealand suspended all further operations until his arrival.