England and the Maori Wars
Chapter 9 — Governor v. Ministers
Governor v. Ministers
1 But cf. W. P. Morrell, Provincial Government in New Zealand, p. 133: “Sir George Grey used his authority … to oppose with all the stubbornness and ingenuity at his command the extensive confiscation schemes on which the ministerial plans were based.” Grey, as we have seen, was not opposed to the principle of confiscation, but it seems unlikely that he wished to confiscate more land than did his ministers.
The Wellington correspondent, in a letter of October 14 published in The Times on December 15, said: “The question as to who is guilty of the neglect that led to this escape has been fiercely debated in the Auckland press. Ministers declare that Sir George Grey alone is culpable, while Sir George declares that none but his Ministers are.” The correspondent went on to refer to the dispute between ministers and the Governor as to the conclusion of peace. “Certainly no man could be more unpopular than Sir George Grey now is, both among colonists and natives. The Assembly would instantly petition for his recall, and if the Home Government are wise they will anticipate such a measure by an early withdrawal of His Excellency to some other sphere. Unfortunately, Sir George is not the man physically he was a few years ago, and is not equal to the government of a disturbed colony like this, unaided by a popular ministry.
“The debates in Parliament on the guarantee proposed by Mr. Cardwell last July, and the instructions to Governor Grey contained in the papers laid before the House of Commons, have filled the colonists with dismay. The manner in which Mr. Cardwell and the other members of the Government spoke out for the colonists is gratefully acknowledged, but the condemnatory tone of independent members and of the greater portion of the London press has excited considerable indignation. The British public can have no conception of the drawback which war is to our progress. The land we are accused of coveting would be dear at an immeasurably less cost than the mere money which the war has already absorbed…. When everyman in Middlesex from 16 to 40 is marched about its streets and encamped upon its commons, or on those of an adjoining county for weeks together, and every man from 40 to 55 is employed keeping guard or doing some kind of military service, leaving the ordinary daily duties of life to be discharged by Government employees, old men and incapables, then will the Home page 229 Government have some conception of the hardships which the New Zealand colonists in the Northern Island have had imposed on them, and learn how ruinous a method war would be of acquiring land, and how preposterous is the suggestion it has indulged in that it is to the colonists' greed in this direction that the present New Zealand war is owing.”
Commenting on the correspondent's defence of the colonists, The Times, in a leading article on the same day, said: “Our grievance is expressed in the simple fact that an army of 10,000 British soldiers is maintained at the Antipodes for the support of a policy over which we have no control. We do not deny that the colonists suffer also. We dare say the picture drawn by our correspondent of the drain upon the settlement is by no means exaggerated. But these wars are not of our making, and it is hard to convince people here that they are entirely the making of the Maoris, however injudiciously those savages may have been treated.”
On November 7 Gamble referred to the escape of the prisoners from Kawau: “The escape of these men at the particular time it took place was very unfortunate; for there was no knowing to what extent it might encourage the Waikato and other tribes to which they belonged to continue in arms, in addition to the still greater danger of the whole of the Northern natives, hitherto loyal, being drawn into the strife.” Gamble discussed the refusal of the Colonial Government, “which was essentially a war ministry,” to assent to the Governor's offer of terms to the Maoris and their resignation. They were holding office until the meeting of the Assembly on November 21. “The Governor has meanwhile himself published a proclamation which allows the natives, except those implicated in certain murders, until the 10th of December next to come in and submit, ceding such territory as may be determined on by His Excellency and the Lieutenant-General Commanding. Concerning the success of this proclamation in inducing the natives to submit, there is much contrariety of opinion, but it is to be regretted that it could not be published earlier, when its success would have been more general and immediate. Now, though the favourable time for active operations has arrived, none can be undertaken for a month, but page 230 until the danger in the north1 is past, the large numbers of troops at present at Otahuhu, near Auckland, though inactive, are in the most convenient position, and ready for any emergency that may arise.”
On October 7, 1864, Sir George Grey reported that ministers had resigned because (Sir F. Rogers stated) “the Governor had accused them of prolonging the war.” Sir F. Rogers wrote this minute: “The interest of the Imperial Government lies in an immediate pacification, even on terms which will not ensure the colonists against further trouble—so long as that pacification is substantial…. It seems to me that Sir G. Grey has thoroughly the best of it throughout this controversy with Ministers…. The bulk and emptiness of the Ministerial minutes, I think, shew clearly the absolute incompetence of the Ministry to carry on business under difficulties.”
1 From the escaped prisoners.
A ministerial memorandum of October 21, 1864, stated: “Ministers are placed in this unfortunate position: The Governor neglects their advice when he thinks fit and makes it appear at other times that he is suffering a species of martyrdom from the way in which he would have it supposed that he was bound by the smallest expression of their opinion.” (“True enough, I think,” was Fortescue's comment.)1 A whole volume of documents2 is devoted to the controversy between the Governor and his ministers concerning the treatment and escape of the prisoners.
On October 27 Grey forwarded a copy of his proclamation (dated October 26) notifying terms to persons involved in the rebellion. On October 31 he forwarded a report of operations in Taranaki on October 8 and 10. The Maoris had been expelled from positions at Mataitawa and Te Arei, near New Plymouth.
1 C.O. 209, 183.
1 C.O. 209, 183.
2 Ibid., 184.
3 Ibid., 185.
In a despatch of February 27, 1865, Cardwell observed “with great satisfaction that the meeting of the Assembly had brought to a close those differences between yourself and your former advisers which have occupied so large a portion of your late correspondence, and have been attended with such unfortunate consequences to the colony.” “I learn with pleasure,” he went on, “that Mr. Weld had formed [on November 24] a new Colonial Ministry, on principles which you regarded as being in conformity with the instructions you had received…. I am gratified to see that the Assembly recognize the assistance rendered to them by the mother-country and cordially appreciate the gallant services performed by H.M. Land and Naval Forces. I have great pleasure in acknowledging on the part of H.M. Government the gallant and effective services of the Forces raised in New Zealand and the spirited exertions which the colony has made to meet the very heavy expenditure which has been thrown upon it…. You rightly attach great importance to these resolutions of the Assembly. In admitting the claim of the Imperial Government to exercise a reasonable control over policy upon which the restoration of peace must necessarily depend, whilst the colony is receiving the aid of British troops for the suppression of internal disturbances, they have, I trust, re-established harmony between the authorities whose divided counsels were a cause of so much regret…. I trust that now, in conformity with Mr. Weld's proposal, plans of the land, part of the territory belonging to the insurgents and now in military occupation, which you propose to obtain either by cession or by confiscation, will be made public without delay.” Cardwell concluded by saying that instructions had been sent to General Cameron “which contemplate that he will make arrangements for sending home five regiments.”1
1 C.O. 209, 185.
“On the contrary, as one of those who have ever advocated a peaceful administration of the Government of the natives, and who hailed the arrival of Sir G. Grey in the colony in the hope that his old reputed influence with the natives might be of service in winning back their confidence, I, together with others, now denounce Sir G. Grey as the sole cause of the renewal of the native war, and as having pursued a course of conduct which has destroyed the last shred of trust and confidence which the hostile tribes entertained in our faith and honour…. At the first meeting which Sir G. Grey had with the Waikato tribes he used an expression which the natives have never forgotten. He said he did not intend to attack the Maori King; ‘he intended to dig round him so that he would tumble down.’ On every occasion when they complain of some unexpected move they quote this expression. They are always anticipating some new crafty dodge on the part of the Governor. They are in a state of morose distrust. ‘Browne,’ page 234 they said, ‘was a hawk. We could see him in the air. Grey is a rat—we do not know where he will come up.’ At that meeting the Governor had talked of many things; but he said not a word of making a military road to the Waikato. Three days after he came back an immense body of soldiers were at work making the road. The natives felt that they had been deceived, and they said, ‘Do you think we are fools? Do you think we don't know that the Governor means to attack us? What is the use of his coming here and talking peace? What does he make that road for unless he means war?’ This was the language used to a friend of mine; and it proved that Sir George Grey had managed to instil into the natives at an early period an utter distrust of his pacific intentions—a distrust which the event fully justified. I will mention another fact. Sir G. Grey obtained permission to erect on some land in the Waikato, belonging to a man named Te Wheoro, a school-house and court-house. He then had a plan made of a strong bullet-proof military redoubt, capable of containing a strong body of troops. This was sent up into the Waikato, but the moment it was commenced the natives saw what was meant and took alarm. They pulled it down and threw the timber into the river. You can well imagine the effect of such an act of treachery on the native mind. And yet this is one of the acts of violence in the Waikato which is quoted as justifying the attack on that country. Yet this was done by Sir G. Grey himself, for the Prime Minister did not even know of it when I mentioned it in the House.”
FitzGerald proceeded to traverse Sir G. Grey's proceedings at Waitara, criticizing the delay in dealing with the case and the seizure of the Tataraimaka block before justice had been done at the Waitara. “How this extraordinary man can after this have contrived to hoodwink the English public into the idea that the administration of this colony has been one of peace I cannot even guess…. If you had given us full responsibility years ago and had steadily refused us all military assistance beyond your normal contribution to our defence, we should have had no war. The colony is now rapidly changing and joining in against the war. Why? Because it is suffering in its pocket. Why has my party—the peace party—never been able page 235 to carry its views? Because you deprived us of our strongest argument—that the war would not pay—that we could not afford it. You not only made war for us, relieving us of the expense for some time, but by the enormous commissariat expenditure you made it a good speculation—at all events, to a part of the colony—to continue the war.1 You give us responsible Government with the one hand, and with the other destroy all the influences by which party Government operates. You give us an enormous temptation to do wrong, and then abuse us for doing it…. The Duke of Newcastle could not have known what he was doing when he offered us responsibility without giving us the command, and requiring us to pay for, the troops. It was a farce. But it cannot go on. You must suspend the Constitution of the Northern Island, and govern it like a Crown Colony, leaving the Middle Island as a separate colony, or you must let the whole thing alone, and let the colony manage its own affairs, which I have the most perfect confidence it can do perfectly well.”
The Times, referring on January 26 to the charges made against Grey, described them as “highly coloured statements,” but accepted as valid the alternatives set out by FitzGerald: “We do not think the nation would long hesitate between the profitless offer of a mountainous land, with a war settled upon it by way of mortgage, and leaving to the Colonial authorities the management of a war, certainly the most important of their own affairs. We are well content that Imperial control should cease with Imperial interference and only wish that the person who makes the suggestion could be supposed to speak the feelings and wishes of the united colonists of New Zealand, instead of a particular party, and, at the most, a particular island.” Several correspondents disputed FitzGerald's charges against Grey, notably “An Old New Zealand Settler,” on February 6, 1865.
1 FitzGerald scarcely does justice to the strenuous efforts made by the Colonial Office to induce the New Zealand settlers to finance the war for themselves.
In a leading article on December 1, 1864, The Times said: “Sir George Grey is a most excellent and amiable man. The colony loves and respects him. Knowing him well, it hailed his return with hope and joy. It is not denied that, ever since that return, he has done his best under the most difficult circumstances. But we submit that the post requires a soldier accustomed to deal with difficult countries and with savage warfare, vested with the fullest powers, supplied with the amplest means, and only instructed to bring the war to the speediest possible end, and make some good arrangement with the natives that shall promise a lasting peace.”
1 C.O. 209, 188.
Hawke's Bay Times: “There would seem to be but one opinion on the subject, and that opinion is that Sir G. Grey doesn't know what he is about, and that, to put the mildest construction upon his proceedings, he must be in a state little short of imbecility.”
Lyttelton Times: “Surely the Imperial Government will not bear long with so imbecile a representative.”
Christchurch Press: “Sir G. Grey has not been the minister of peace but of war. Let there be no mistake about that. From the day on which he rode back from the Waikato and pondered over the fatal truth that his influence with the Natives was gone, that man had war in his heart; and the Natives, with all the keen perception of instincts sharpened by fear—the Natives knew it…. Sir G. Grey has betrayed all who trusted him, and falsified all the hopes he raised and the promises he made.”
Chichester Fortescue, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, speaking at a Liberal demonstration at Maldon, Essex, on December 15, 1864 (reported in The Times on December 17), devoted much of a long speech to the state of New Zealand. He confessed, he said, that he did not believe in its being the page 238 desire of the New Zealand colonists to continue the war longer than could be helped. His knowledge of the great sacrifices they had made and were making, of the shedding of colonial blood, of the spending of colonial money, of the paralysis of colonial trade, convinced him that neither the Colonial Government nor the Colonial people would be inclined to continue the war a day longer than could be avoided.
“Could we be blamed for having assumed the government of New Zealand? Any one acquainted with the history of that colony would know that we were open to no blame on that point. Our people had already gone there in considerable numbers before we assumed the government. It was perfectly certain that these magnificent and beautiful islands, almost equal in extent to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, could not be left in the possession of a small, sparse and diminishing native people, but must have been inevitably seized and occupied by some European power. In fact, it was well known that it was a race between Great Britain and France which of these powers should obtain possession of New Zealand.1 … Let any one examine the history of our dealings with the Maoris and he would find that, however much we had failed in other respects, we had not oppressed them. … Our sins had been those of omission much more than of commission. … It was amusing to read the early despatches of some of our greatest Ministers directing the Governors to treat the natives as British subjects, and above all things to enforce law and order. The fact was the natives of New Zealand declined those privileges when coupled with the obligation of submission to law and order. … He was ready to maintain that, looking at the relations subsisting between any other European power and any barbarous race at any period of history, our rule in New Zealand would bear a favourable comparison.”
1 The French plan is fully described in England and New Zealand, pp. 94-138.
On the next day The Times said of the war in New Zealand: “It is astonishing, considering how long these operations have continued, and how voluminous are the accounts we possess concerning them, that we should know so little of the causes that originated them or of the motives with which they are carried on. We are bewildered with the intricate geography of an unsettled and little explored country, and with the combinations and divergences, the clashing and the coincidence of a number of interests, the power of which we have no means of estimating, and the validity of whose charges and counter charges we are quite unable to measure. We have the same transactions described to us by persons equally worthy of credit and equally above the suspicion of wilful misrepresentation in colours and lights so different from each other that we can scarcely recognize them as attempts to describe or to account for the same event. Who caused the war? Who has prevented the conclusion of peace? Who has an interest in the continuance of hostilities? Who was responsible for the escape of the 200 native prisoners? These are questions which we ought by this time to be able to answer, but on which we can as yet give no opinion by which we should be willing to be bound.”
The colonists' case was strongly argued by Charles page 240 Hursthouse, in his Letters on New Zealand Subjects: 1 “To hear the language of Messrs. Buxton, Mills & Co., one would almost imagine New Zealand to be some barren rock in the South Pacific where every second man's chance of a meal depended on his catching a shilling tossed from the mother-country's Commissariat Chest.” The war, he argued, was disastrous to the colonists as it dammed up or diverted the “auriferous stream of emigration.” Hursthouse disclaimed insensibility as to the assistance given by the mother-country: “With a Molesworth, a Merivale, or a Fortescue at the Colonial Office, the amount of military and financial help she has given us would have been far greater—with a Mills or a Buxton ‘meddling and muddling’ there, it would have been far less—therefore, we are grateful to Mr. Cardwell for his half loaf.”
1 London, 1865.