The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 7 (October 1, 1934)
In Vindication of the Prophet
In Vindication of the Prophet.
It is pertinent and illuminating to conclude this brief sketch of Parihaka days with the opinion of a Government official of that period. Major Robert Parris, of the Native Department, was no philo-Maori. He had been responsible to a very large degree for the arbitrary actions of the Gore-Browne Government at the Waitara in 1860, when he supported the purchase of the disputed Pekapeka block from Teira and disregarded the paramount chief Te Rangitaake. In a report to the Native Minister at the end of 1881, he wrote the following remarkable review of recent events, amounting to a vindication of Te Whiti's character and policy:
“… Those who are capable of taking an impartial view of the whole case and can admit the full right of the Maori to strive by all fair means to retain his old free mode of life and enough of the primeval wilderness of fern and forest to enjoy it in, will find in Te Whiti's conduct much that is worthy of their sympathy and respect. Te Whiti was, in fact, the representative in this part of New Zealand of the love of the Maori people for their ancient customs and ways of living, and of their dread of being hustled off the scene by swarms of strangers, and by the introduction of new conditions of life under which they instinctively feel themselves unable to compete on equal terms with the eager and vigorous newcomers in the struggle for existence. Regarding Te Whiti's position and career from this point of view, all feeling of irritation against the man for his steady opposition to the progress of colonisation must disappear, and we can properly estimate the firmness, combined with total absence of any recourse to violent measures, with which he maintained the unequal contest for so many years, and can sympathise with his hopes and understand his prophecies, however quaint their form, that in some mysterious way a higher power would interfere and protect the rights of the weaker race.
“As regards the practical results of Te Whiti's leadership of the Maoris of the West Coast,” Major Parris continued, “it is perhaps hardly too much to say that if he had shaped his course with the special intention of enabling the Government to tide over without bloodshed a period during which there was a constant risk of collision between the races—but during which the Government (from want of funds or other causes) was not in a position to compel submission without involving the country in a ruinous war—he could not have been more successful in accomplishing this difficult task. It would, of course, be absurd to impute to Te Whiti a desire to prepare the way for the final bloodless victory of the forces at Parihaka, but it should, I think, always be remembered in his favour that it is mainly in consequence of his strong personal dislike to bloodshed and violence that this happy result has been obtainable.”
That estimate of Te Whiti's ethical principles and policy and of the Maori cause would have been a sufficiently strong defence of the old patriot of Taranaki had it emanated from a consistent defender of the native race. It is all the stronger and more convincing coming from an official of the Government which attacked and imprisoned Te Whiti and dispersed and dispossessed his people. It sums up admirably the views of those who were able to take a fair-minded unprejudiced view of the Taranaki situation in the troubled Eighties.