England and the Maori Wars
Chapter 5 — Uneasy Peace
Before we describe Sir George Grey's eventful second term of office in New Zealand, it is necessary to outline his experiences in South Africa, which undoubtedly influenced both his attitude to native affairs and the attitude of the Colonial Office towards him. It is, perhaps, not entirely fanciful to imagine that the vastness of South Africa and its native problem caused Grey to lose something of the personal magnetism which had stood him in such good stead in South Australia and New Zealand. To travel everywhere and see everything personally was impossible, and he lost to some extent the common touch. At first he worked on familiar lines.
In South Australia and New Zealand “he had learnt to regard the Colonial Office as a pliant set of men, who were not disposed seriously to question his acts and decisions.” He decided to follow the plan which had succeeded in New Zealand—to gain an influence over the tribes by employing them upon roads and public works and by establishing schools, hospitals, and “institutions of a civil character.” He planned military settlements among the Kaffirs of British Kaffraria. In default of English army pensioners, he secured 2,000 German mercenaries who had been recruited for the Crimean campaign.
1 British Colonial Policy and the South African Republics, p. 95.
Grey quickly became imbued with the idea that federation alone could solve South Africa's problems, but circumstances could scarcely have been more unfavourable than they were in 1858 for the adoption of any scheme which involved colonial expansion. The year, as de Kiewiet points out, “opened gloomily with an increased national debt, distress following upon a recent financial crisis, rebellion in India and a war in the Far East.” Reduction of expenditure was the chief aim of the Government, and its refusal to accept the cession of the Fiji Islands showed that an increase of Imperial responsibilities was far from welcome. Bitter experience had taught the lesson that the infancy of colonies is an expensive period for the mother-country, and there was little but the faith of a few enthusiasts to combat the belief that after infancy they would set up independent houses for themselves.
Grey's grant of £40,000 a year for native purposes was reduced by half in the budget of 1858, the year which may perhaps be taken as a crucial one in his relations with the Colonial Office. It is much easier to understand later events in New Zealand when we know something of the details of South African events at this time. “Grey's outspoken denunciation of the Home Government's policy, his pertinacity in desiring to extend the sphere of British influence into the interior, his wilful independence of action, and his neglect of instructions were rapidly undermining the confidence which the Colonial Office had in him. Between the Colonial Office and its once favourite Governor there was a growing estrangement. The minutes written by the Colonial Office officials upon the Governor's despatches became angry and sarcastic, page 149 almost hostile.”1 Grey's famous despatch of November 19, 1858, advocating South African federation including the Boer republics, envisaged a self-governing dominion as we know it to-day. Needless to say, this conception was far in advance of public opinion at the time, and it is probable that in the circumstances of the time it was impracticable. We are more immediately concerned with the actions of Grey before he received the Home Government's verdict on the plan. Disregarding his instructions, he brought resolutions of the Free State Volksraad in favour of federation before the Cape Legislatures. The Home Government's veto arrived in the midst of the discussions, and Grey was recalled in disgrace.
By the time he arrived in England the Derby ministry had fallen and Lytton had been succeeded as Secretary of State for the Colonies by the Duke of Newcastle. The Duke was much more sympathetic to Grey's plans and he took the remarkable step of reinstating the Governor. Though the Duke was as emphatic as any of his predecessors that “expansion and extension of influence must not take place at British expense,” we are conscious during his term of office of a more liberal attitude to colonial aspirations. Sir George Grey, however, was not to be long in South Africa before events in New Zealand, which we have already described, led to his return there.
1 de Kiewiet, op. cit., p. 128.
Sir George Grey proceeded from Capetown to New Zealand in H.M.S. Cossack, arriving on September 26, 1861. From the ship he wrote on August 15: “The intelligence received of the terms of peace offered to the natives at the Waitara renders it probable that war must break out in some other part of the Islands.” Against this passage is the following Colonial Office marginal note: “Surely this censure would have been better delayed or suppressed.”2
In a despatch of October 9, Grey wrote: “Two of the three parties of natives we were treating with have arrogantly and contemptuously refused the terms proposed by my predecessor, and the third party have already broken the terms they seemed to have accepted.” Grey enclosed a memorandum by Fox on the Government's policy. Fox stated that in the three years following the relaxation of the ban on the sale of arms and ammunition the natives had spent a sum approaching £50,000 on them. “This may seem almost incredible,” he said. “It is a fact, however, that small parties of natives have purchased at one time whole tons of gunpowder.”
A Colonial Office memorandum summarized Fox's policy thus: “To conciliate the Waikatos, but to assume a stern and decisive attitude towards the Ngatiruanuis and Taranakis,” “But,” the writer added, “if that attitude leads to hostilities, will the Waikatos remain quiet? The second paper urges that the control over native matters now possessed by the Governor solely should be made over to the Responsible Ministers, a position which it may be said the Responsible Ministers had in fact usurped previous to Governor Browne's removal from the Government.”
1 J. Martineau, op. cit., pp. 322–3.
2 C.O. 209, 164.
On December 16, 1861, The Times, in columns black lined in mourning for the Prince Consort, published a despatch from its Melbourne correspondent recording the arrival of Sir George Grey in Auckland and the expectation of peace which it had aroused: “His idea is (as I am informed) to break down the distinctions of race, to create an administration of native affairs, worked by the natives themselves with European help, and under the direct control of responsible ministers.”
Grey, in a despatch of October 10, 1861, stated that he had not complied with instructions regarding a reply to a petition of the natives of Otaki in the terms set out by the Secretary of State. Sir F. Rogers noted: “It seems to me that whether Sir George Grey is right or wrong is a matter on which it is quite impossible for the Colonial Office to judge. In such matters we must be content to see through his eyes—unless we are ready to run the risk of embarrassing him. At the same time it is almost absurd to have this very early and unequivocal intimation that wherever Sir George Grey goes he will be most unmistakably Sir G. Grey.”1
On November 2 Grey forwarded reports by J. E. Gorst and others on the state of the Waikato. Referring to the Governor's despatch, the Duke of Newcastle wrote: “This and others are only the overture to the grand opera which I presume Sir G. G. is preparing.”2
1 C.O. 209, 164. Cf. Life of Lord Norton (Sir Charles Adderley), p. 173. Lytton, writing on October 21, 1859, to Adderley about Grey after the Duke of Newcastle had succeeded Lytton at the Colonial Office, said: “I saw much in Grey that I admired … though I felt that he was a most troublesome public servant … and his haughty self-opinion and his way of dealing with public money were like those of a Roman Proconsul.”
2 C.O. 209, 164.
In a despatch of November 2, Grey said that his policy was—not to be hurried into a renewal of military operations if these could be avoided, to introduce into all possible parts of the island institutions suited to the present growth of the country, and to secure all the friends he could among the natives, “so as to reduce the number of our enemies.” Grey estimated at about £43,000 the annual cost of administering the native institutions he proposed.2 In another despatch of the same date he stated that ministers thought that the only course open to the colony was to wait until the existing native difficulty was removed, ascertain what proportion the colony must pay, and apply for a guaranteed loan extending over a period of years.
1 W.O. 33/16.
2 C.O. 209, 164. For comment on the introduction of Grey's scheme for the self-government of the Maoris on the East Coast, see East Coast Historical Records, by W. L. Williams. The Commissioner proceeded somewhat hasily to make various appointments without taking any of the principal chiefs into his confidence.” This caused “a great disturbance among the people,” the salaries being regarded by many “at money paid with a view to getting possession ultimately of the land.”
On November 28 Grey sent a sketch by a young lady who had just visited the Waikato. It showed the dwelling of the Maori King—the large ordinary reed house of a chief, with one small door and one window. Grey explained that there was not one fortified place for the troops to attack. “The contest,” he said, “if it unhappily takes place, will simply be one in which every swamp, stream, wood, and naturally strong position will be defended by men completely concealed in artfully constructed rifle-pits and breastworks.” This drew the following Colonial Office minute by Sir F. Rogers: “A young lady's sketch—one of the cloud of sharpshooters under cover of which the main body of Sir G. Grey's argument is advancing upon us.”2
In a despatch of November 3, Grey wrote: “I do not for the present deem it for the good of Her Majesty's service to carry out the publicly expressed determination of my predecessor to compel the Waikato tribes to submit to the terms, a compliance with which was specifically demanded from them on the 21st of May last.” Here followed a passage omitted from the despatch printed for Parliament: “Careful inquiries, and repeated conversations with those natives most attached to us have convinced me that the Waikato natives will not submit to these terms at present, and that any attempt at this time to enforce them by troops will instantly lead to that general war which my predecessor anticipated. For such a war no adequate preparation has yet been made, and it must under the most favourable circumstances be attended with results most disastrous to us.” Grey also said he did not propose to repeat the native conference but hoped to induce the native tribes in detail to accept the institutions he proposed.
1 C.O. 209, 164.
2 Ibid., 165.
On November 30 Grey intimated that he had arranged to consult his responsible ministers in relation to native affairs “in the same manner as upon all other subjects, and in like manner to act through them in all native matters.” Fortescue's minute was: “I think that the transfer of the Native Department to the Responsible Ministry cannot usefully be opposed. I believe the amount of Imperial control retained by the former arrangement was more nominal than real, and while it did not prevent the Governor from really acting under the influence of Ministers, it gave them and the colonists good (apparent) grounds for calling the native policy Imperial, and war growing out of it an Imperial war. A strong Governor will probably have as much power under one system as the other and will be more likely to obtain funds. I must say that the Colonial Government and Sir G. Grey do not seem to recognize, as they ought to do, the full obligations which the present crisis in the history of the colony imposes upon them.”
1 C.O. 209, 165.
The Treasury made this memorandum: “My Lords fear that the readiness with which Sir George Grey has evinced to throw on Imperial funds charges of this nature may lead to and confirm the local Government in the spirit of resistance to the fair requirements of Her Majesty's Government which had previously been shown, and the recollection of the large debt which was thrown on the Treasury Chest at the Cape of Good Hope on account of expenditure for local objects greatly exceeding the authorized amount is calculated, they fear, to create an impression that Sir George Grey is prompt to claim for Her Majesty's Government the reputation of liberality—without sufficient calculation of the cost.”1 The sentence was long, but the verdict, if we may so express it, not unjust.
1 C.O. 209, 165.
Grey also added that care would be taken to select a good site for a military post on the banks of the Waikato in such a position as to command the river. “The post,” he said, “will be only about forty miles from the residence of their so-called King, and the Waikato River will be quite open to our attacks.” Fortescue's comment was: “I would decidedly approve of the formation of the road.” The Duke of Newcastle wrote: “Certainly! The more roads made the more probable is future peace.”1
Grey, in a despatch of January 8, reported that several Maoris who had been promised Crown grants of land on selling tracts to the Crown had never received them. “It is certainly anomalous and wrong,” wrote Fortescue in a Colonial Office minute, “that the Governor should be charged as he is by the Constitution Act (that most imperfect piece of legislation) with the sole right and responsibility of acquiring land from the natives for the use of the colonists and yet should not possess the power of giving the seller a Crown grant for a portion of the land sold, as a condition of the sale.”
The Duke of Newcastle wrote: “Two years ago I attempted Imperial legislation on native affairs in New Zealand. The House of Lords gave an unwilling assent. The New Zealand colonists in this country got up an adverse agitation. The House of Commons threatened refusal and the Bill was withdrawn. And the measure was no less condemned in the Colony, not because its purport was bad but because it was Imperial. There is no use in raising these storms again.”2 Grey was given permission to apply to the local legislature for an Act to meet the case.
1 C.O. 209, 167. Cf. The Provincial System of Government in New Zealand, by W. P. Morrell, who questions (p. 118) the wisdom of pushing on with the road. At this juncture the establishment of the post and the formation of the road do seem to have been unduly provocative.
2 C.O. 209, 167.
Sir F. Rogers, in a minute, wrote: “I should reply…that the Imperial Government had hitherto freely aided the colonists of New Zealand in their conflict with the natives, or rather had as yet taken upon itself with comparatively trifling assistance from the colonists, the expense and responsibility of carrying on that conflict; but that so long as the inhabitants of New Zealand relied for their defence upon aid furnished by the mother-country they must remain subject to the possibility that that aid might be suddenly withdrawn or diminished in consequences of Imperial exigencies.” The Duke of Newcastle said: “Commodore Seymour was quite right and this grumble is very unreasonable.”
page 158 they seem to have succeeded in adopting only the slowness and softness of this process, altogether omitting the prudence.”
By slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good,
In a despatch of March 7, 1862, Grey wrote: “In the attacks made in some newspapers upon the natives, and upon all acts of fairness performed towards them, consists at present the greatest difficulty in this country.” Writing to Cameron on April 8, he said: “The native King's party is constantly declining in numbers and influence; but on the other hand, they being irritated at perceiving this, are making strenuous exertions to maintain their ground. I believe that they will altogether fail in their efforts to do this; but the state of the island is still such as to require the most constant vigilance and care on all our parts. I am sure that any reduction of the force serving here, or the slightest false step on the part of the Government, would bring on an immediate war, which, however, prudence and a show of sufficient force, will, I believe, avert.”1 On May 8 Cameron reported that Grey had appointed him Deputy-Governor during his absence in Wellington for the meeting of the General Assembly.
1 W.O. 33/16.
2 C.O. 209, 168.
Grey acknowledged on July 24 a despatch from the Duke of Newcastle of April 28, 1862, expressing “surprise at the want of energy displayed by my Government in not using any effort to maintain the usefulness of the militia force,” and adding that His Grace accordingly felt he had a right to assume that there were more soldiers in the colony than were required. Grey said that to enforce militia service would create a war of races. His Ministers in a memorandum stated that it would lead to a general exodus from the colony. The Governor said he proposed to create a permanent armed police force, composed of both Europeans and natives.
Fortescue, in a minute, said that it was all the same to the Imperial Government whether British settlers prospered and consumed British manufactures at Auckland or at Canterbury or at Melbourne. The Duke of Newcastle wrote: “The reason assigned by Sir George Grey is good so far as it goes. The reason of the ministers—fear of an exodus to avoid military service—is good for nothing.” The Duke approved the project of a police force.1
On August 9 Grey reported that Fox had resigned on July 27 after failing to carry a resolution affirming that the interests of the colony required, while reserving to the Governor both the initiation and the decision of questions where Imperial interests were concerned, that the ordinary conduct of native affairs should be placed under the administration of responsible ministers. A ministry had been formed by Domett on August 5, and on the evening of the same day Grey had received the Duke's despatch of May 26 sanctioning the placing of the management of the natives under the control of the Assembly.1
A very different view was taken by the New Zealand Spectator in an article quoted with approval by the Aborigines Protection Society in its journal:2 ‘We would fain have seen Mr. Fox finish his work in person. But, as he truly said, he has fulfilled the mission which was laid upon him in 1860. He has … exposed a great fraud on the Imperial Government, arrested the hand of the wrong-doer, saved the native race from extermination, rescued the European population of this island from beggary and ruin, and redeemed the British name from the stain of a crime which centuries would not have washed away.”
1 Examiner, August 23, quoted in Taranaki Herald, September 20.
2 The Aborigines' Friend, January—December 1862, p. 306.
“The King Maker” Two portraits of William Thompson—Wiremu Tamihana, “The greatest and best of his race”
“The King Maker” Two portraits of William Thompson—Wiremu Tamihana, “The greatest and best of his race”
In a long despatch of February 26, 1863, the Duke gave the views of the British Government on the question of the payment for administering native affairs. In preparing it, Fortescue said: “The despatch should be laid before Parliament and (I think) should be damaging to the colonists in public opinion—so damaging as to make the New Zealanders feel that they cannot be guilty of this gross disingenuity and paltering without suffering from it, and (if possible) to make them understand that candour will be the best policy.”
In the Daily News of September 13, 1862, Goldwin Smith wrote: “In the case of New Zealand, as of other dependencies, that which is officially styled the ‘Empire’ is patronage to a few, but to the nation expense, weakness, humiliation; while to the colony it is a protection which cannot last for ever. With danger lowering on our own shores, with the war income-tax almost hopelessly fixed upon us—with France mistress of the destinies of Europe, and trampling international rights under her feet—with the defence of the Canadian frontier on our hands—with a cotton famine to cripple our resources as well as to afflict our people, we are keeping up an army of 5,000 or 6,000 men, at an expense of more than half a million, to carry on a war against a horde of naked savages in New Zealand.”
In a memorandum sent with the Government's request for a further guaranteed loan of £500,000, Reader Wood wrote on October 20, 1862: “In applying for this loan Ministers desire to to be distinctly understood that they do not regard the payment of the militia expenses, the reinstatement of the Province of Taranaki, or roads constructed for strategical purposes, as fair charges against the Colony.” A Colonial Office marginal note read: “Monstrous. This ought to be specially noted in the despatch.”1
- (1) Extension of steam postal service from Great Britain to New Zealand via Panama;
- (2) Business in connection with second guaranteed loan of £500,000;
- (3) Settlement of accounts between Great Britain and New Zealand in connection with the insurrection;
- (4) Construction of electric telegraphs.
1 C.O. 209, 169. For a similar controversy between the Colonial Office and Canada upon the question of payment for barrack accommodation, transport of troops, etc., see Stacey, op. cit., pp. 198–9.
The Native Lands Bill, 1862, was considered in the House of Representatives on August 25. The general effect of the Bill, according to the Colonial Office minute, was “to enable natives, under certain circumstances, to alienate their lands directly to the European settlers without the necessity of a precedent sale to the Government.”1
1 C.O. 209, 170.