Title: Octavius Hadfield

Author: Barbara Macmorran

Publication details: 1969, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: G. H. Macmorran

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Octavius Hadfield


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The first Maori King had been elected in 1857, and his adherents had their own flag. The incident mentioned by Hadfield in his letter to the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, was the first attempt to raise the colour at Otaki. Another phase in these troubles was described by Thomas Bevan. "It was in 1861, during the bellicose attitude of the Kingite Maoris, that the Rev. Hadfield rendered services of incalculable value to this country. The Maoris at Otaki had raised the Kingite flag, drilling, and other war-like preparations, were in progress, plans for driving the pakeha into the sea were evolved, and the whole countryside was in a ferment. It was at this time that the Rev. Hadfield held counter meetings, and strongly opposed bloodshed becoming rampant in this locality. Luckily, his efforts were successful, and but for him there would have been another story to tell. No one could estimate the good work done in saving the unprotected settlers at such a time, and I cannot refrain from bearing testimony to the great sendees he rendered to humanity and to the cause of Christ. Not one word, either from savage or pakeha, did we hear in those days against him. . . . Not one inconsistent act was known of him.. . ."

A further incident two years later concerning the flag was described by Kate Hadfield. "In the year 1863 the country was in a very unsettled state," she wrote. "The Maoris had set up a King and those who followed him were called Kingites. The Government did not take much notice of the movement at first, but after a time so many Maoris joined the disaffected party that Government thought the time had arrived to put a stop to it and they issued a Proclamation saying that any of the loyal Maoris who allowed the Kingites to come to their district would be considered rebels. This was a foolish proclamation to make, as the loyal Maoris had no power to stop them—they were quite unarmed, and if they had been armed they did not wish to bring on a war. One day to the great distress of the Mission Settlement (Otaki) news was received that a party of Kingites were coming to a village half a mile from page 108 the Mission Settlement and were going to hoist the King flag. There was great consternation in the place. . . . The Missionary was away from home. ..."

Kate Hadfield decided they must have a Union Jack to fly themselves the moment they saw the Kingite flag being hoisted. Someone lent a flagstaff which was erected in front of Rangiatea. Then, as no one had a Union Jack, Kate and some of her Maori girls made a large calico flag, and Hadfield, who had returned home, with the help of a carpenter painted the design with washing blue and red raddle. "The effect was excellent," reported Kate. The next morning all the loyal Maoris assembled by the flagstaff and waited for the opposing colour to be flown. "At length the King flag was seen to be flying and immediately the Union Jack was hoisted, the wind kindly blowing it out so that it was seen to the greatest advantage, and the shouts of the Maoris subsided only to give three cheers for the Queen. And thus the Ngatiraukawa tribe was saved from being declared rebels. In two days the King Maoris left the district and returned to the North of the Island, and all was peace again."

In this year too two Kingite chiefs expressed their intention of getting rid of Hadfield from the district. Both were Roman Catholics. Hadfield tackled his own congregation on the matter, asking if anyone there wanted him to leave. No one spoke against him, and the next day the two chiefs called and apologised. Writing to Charles on September 3, 1863, he reported—"I think I told you last mail that some of these people threatened me with expulsion, and that I had defied them to meddle with me. I have occupied a much better position ever since."

The 1860's were undoubtedly troubled times. The Mission and the schools lost many adherents, due as has been shown to the unsettled state of the country, to the economic conditions, and to lack of money to run the schools. After visiting Nelson in 1862 for General Synod, Hadfield wrote—"I sometimes get rather discouraged. . . . Of late we have had everything to impede our work." He himself, after his lengthy battle of words with the Governor and Government, after his complete outspokeness in defence of what he considered right, was highly unpopular in many quarters, and the Press turned their ire and their sarcasm upon him on many occasions.

Extracts from his letters to Charles during the early sixties follow the trend of his part in the Waitara war, and reveal his feelings. "I page 109 presume there will be two opinions as to the wisdom of opposing the Government in such a matter as the war here," he wrote on December 5, 1860, "but I shall have no doubt in my own mind as to what my right course is. I marvel at the lukewarmness of people who profess to love justice and hate iniquity. If I see my way clearly it is quite indifferent to me whether I obtain the sympathy and approbation of others or not. I was almost alone in this country when I raised my voice against the Governor's unjust and mad conduct at Taranaki. My assertions as to facts were denied: my predictions as to what would follow were ridiculed. . . . All my facts are now acknowledged: and all my anticipations have been realised."

On January 2, 1861, he wrote—"I have as you suppose had plenty of abuse out here—the most unscrupulous assertions have been made by the Governor and his ministry and agents: but my position is too good to admit of being damaged by such means, and my character is too well known to suffer from these. However I have not been very nice, but have refuted any insinuations or statements made by them, and have always got the best of it." This was the letter that continued with news of the charge brought against him, already referred to.

August 5, 1861, he related—"I mentioned some time ago that I had been charged with instigating the Otaki Petition for the Governor's recall. All sorts of charges were made against me, and sent hence. The Duke of Newcastle has had the candour to have the whole of it sent out to me. I think he has seen through the Governor's meanness. . . . The truth is I know no more about the memorial than you did." And he continued—"I hear that there is some correspondence in the Times between Browne's brother and you; but I have not yet seen it. . . . It will be sent to me from Wellington. I hope you will not trouble yourself to defend me, and do not care what is said about me. Time will prove who is right. I did not write so much to defend the Maoris, who are perfectly able to take care of themselves, as to save Great Britain from the disgrace in which Browne's proceedings will involve the Home Government if they support him."

A month later, September 4, he wrote—"I am very indifferent as to all the abuse I have been subjected to. It is enough for me that the cause I have advocated has triumphed; and it is well known out here, that I was the first person to move in the matter, and in fact the only one who, in the early stage of the question knew any- page 110 thing at all of the merits of the case. ... I find from the letters of St. Hill and others in England that I am supposed to have written intemperately. Perhaps so: I have not time to study the art of composition. I say what I mean in intelligible language. I cannot deal in vague platitudes when blood is being unjustly shed by a professedly Christian nation. My critics forget that I might have written anonymously, and with far greater severity than I did." His writings referred to in these letters were his three published pamphlets on the subject of the war.

On January 2, 1862, he wrote—"I am now thought a very clever fellow by people who were condemning me unmercifully last year. So much for public opinion on particular questions of which the public knows nothing."

Although Sir George Grey returned to the country towards the end of 1861, it was too late for him to undo the troubles caused by Gore Browne, though he did, in conjunction with his ministers, reverse the policy of his predecessor and declare the Waitara land sale invalid, much to Hadfield's satisfaction. The latter was not at all sure how he would be received by Grey. In his letter to Charles of September 4, he commented—"I do not know what my old friend Sir G. Grey will say to me: he may think I have handled a brother Governor rather too roughly."

In a letter dated November 4, 1861, he wrote—"I heard from Fox the other day. He tells me that Sir G.G. and he are working cordially together: and that they quite hope to work their way out of the complicated mess in which Browne had brought things, without any war. He tells me that Browne had done all in his power to prejudice people against me and the Otaki Maoris. ... I have not heard from Sir G. yet. I will not write to him first after all that has been said about me."

Grey did not visit Wellington until 1862. Writing on March 5 of that year Hadfield reported—"Sir G. Grey is expected in Wellington today. I ought to have gone to meet him, at least so my friends tell me; but as the weather is bad and I have a sore throat I shall wait a day or two to think about it. I have never been particularly anxious to force myself on the notice of Governors, but Grey is an old friend of mine: I shall see him by and by." For both Grey and Hadfield, who had been very close during the Governor's first term in the country, it must have been quite an awkward and embarrassing situation. Hadfield had certainly dealt roughly with a page 111 brother Governor, and Grey's loyalties must obviously have been divided.

Hadfield hoped, and all the country hoped, that Grey would prove wise enough and strong enough to settle the affairs of the country. But the hope was not to be fulfilled. Although for a time people clung to their high regard for this man, it was soon obvious he was a changed man. Disillusioned before his time, refused or ignored by his superiors in England, harried by the warmongers in New Zealand, and separated from his wife, he gradually slid down the slope of least resistance. More and more troops kept arriving from England; recruits came from Australia. The Maoris were edgy and suspicious, and suddenly the rich lands of the Waikato, so coveted by the people of Auckland, were the scene of musket ball and spear, of ambush and attack.

To the red-coated soldiers it was their job, and not a particularly pleasant one. To the colonists and politicians wanting the land, and to the Maori fighting for his inheritance, it was a serious business.

The Maoris were original fighters and greatly impressed their red-coated opponents. During one battle they asked for a truce in order to explain to the British commander that they had run out of ammunition, but that if the British would supply them with gunpowder and musket balls they would continue. After another fight the British troops ran amongst the Maori men, shaking hands and congratulating them on their good fighting.

But the weight of troops pouring into the country from overseas, and the armoured gunboats patrolling the rivers, began to tell against the less well equipped Maori. Eventually they asked for peace. Here again they were to be disillusioned. The terms of surrender were so hard, so humiliating to a proud people, that they renewed the struggle with a new and real bitterness.

Hadfield wrote to Charles—"I believe the Waikato war is as unjust and as unnecessary as the Waitara one, and I think the British Government will have enough of it before long. . . . This war ... as it is carried on with irregular troops is fast degenerating into butchery and murder . . . the military are pretty sick of it: they regard the Maoris as a fine, brave people, and do not like the war. . . . The Auckland people are making tools of them for the purpose of getting Maori lands confiscated for their own ends. . . ."

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Of General Cameron he did not have a very high opinion. "The disaster at Gate Pa was utterly discreditable from the military point of view," he asserted.

At the end of 1864 the Government fell and a new Coalition Cabinet came into power. Hadfield gave his opinion of this Cabinet in a letter to Charles on December 7. "Weld, the chief, is a poor fellow intellectually, a mere figure-head, a gentleman, but that is all. Sewell and Fitzgerald are men of ability and understand matters. Richardson and Atkinson are soldiers, and not much more. But Grey does not seem inclined to work with anybody. . . ."

It was a tragedy for the country that Sir George Grey, in these unhappy years of the sixties, proved so disappointing and unequal to the task of stabilising and guiding the affairs of the land.

The war, begun in 1863, came to an end at last towards the end of the decade, leaving the Maoris at a pitifully low ebb from which it was to take them many years to recover. Leaving also a legacy of hate and betrayal against their English conquerors— conquerors who, some years later, were to come to realise the injustice of this war, just as they were now realising the injustice of the one in Taranaki. There was no fighting in Otaki during these years, but as has been seen there was uneasiness and threat.

There were other events of note in the sixties. The gold rush, started in Otago in 1861, moved from there to the West Coast of the South Island in 1864. Men from all over the country were pouring into the inaccessible country round Hokitika. After much searching a track, capable of being a coach road, was found over Arthur's Pass, and urged on by the lure of gold, men in their hundreds went forth to build the road, struggling over the formidable Southern Alps in their need to link the gold area with the plains and sheltered coast of Canterbury. Men from Australia, in barks and brigs, schooners and ketches, arrived at the Hokitika bar from across the Tasman Sea, many to be wrecked on the sand-spit across the entrance of the small, wind-tossed harbour before they ever set foot in the country.

In 1864 the seat of government was moved from Auckland to Wellington. A new and fanatical religion, the Hauhau, spread among the people, and the first missionary ever to be murdered by the Maoris died in the Bay of Plenty in 1865 because of this new cult. The Rev. C. S. Volkner's death was a particularly unpleasant one. Hadfield wrote to his sister Amelia on April 5 of that page break
Mrs. Kate Hadfield, wife of Octavius and daughter of archdeacon Henry Williams

Mrs. Kate Hadfield, wife of Octavius and daughter of archdeacon Henry Williams

page 113 year—"The fanatics appear to have worked themselves up to a pitch of insanity, or something very like it. They have, it is said, determined to kill all clergymen. And after murdering Volkner they started off with the avowed intention of killing Bishop Williams; but the people in his neighbourhood sent them back." William Williams later left his home as a result of the Hauhau threat, and other missionaries also vacated their posts during this troubled time.

In 1866 Te Kooti was deported to the Chatham Islands on flimsy charges and without a trial. Two years later he seized a ship and escaped with his fellow prisoners, and from then on harried and harassed the pakeha settler and soldier unmercifully in the Bay of Plenty and East Coast area. Even his own fellow countrymen who had spoken against him were sought out for revenge. And with him he brought a new religion which he called Ringa-tu.

Also in 1866 Riwai Te Ahu died at Otaki, faithful to Hadfield and his church to the end. His passing left a gap; the links of the chain stretching back to the early days on the Kapiti coast were fast breaking. Kate Hadfield's father, Henry Williams, died in 1867, and that same year the gold scene moved yet again, this time to Thames in the North Island, where it did much to save the town of Auckland from a slump following the withdrawal of troops and the transfer of the Government. Near Otaki there was a murder in 1868, the first since Hadfield had lived there. As a churchman he was on the scaffold when the guilty man paid for his deed.

At the end of September, 1868, Kate and Octavius Hadfield travelled to Auckland for Synod. From there Kate journeyed on to the Bay of Islands to see her mother. While in Auckland they stayed with the Selwyns; this was the last meeting between the two families before the latter left for England, where Selwyn subsequently became Bishop of Lichfield. Henry St. Hill had returned to England before this, and had died soon after.

The 1860's had begun for Octavius Hadfield with wordy warfare, and they ended in a like manner. Land was still causing argument, and suddenly his own village was the seat of a controversy. Land in the Manawatu was under dispute, part of which he had tried to obtain some years before as an endowment for the Maori clergy. The effort had failed, but now he championed the Ngati-raukawa in their claim to the land.

The Court case, which lasted over a month, was a lively one, with tempers frequently becoming frayed, his own not least accord- page 114 ing to reports. William Fox, ex Prime Minister, now acting" as counsel in the case, in cross-examining Hadfield called him "that dignatory of the Church whose unfortunte irritability is only equalled by his inability to conceal it."

Challenged by Fox that his memory of happenings in 1840 was incorrect, Hadfield quoted from a journal of that year and retaliated —"Mr. Fox may obtain men to tell lies. He has already obtained some. But it is a dangerous game to play!" The other episode with Fox, culminating in the picnic, was at a later date than this.

Sam Williams travelled from Hawke's Bay to give evidence with Hadfield. Day after weary day words were bandied and disputed, history, both personal and general, was paraded and denied. Characters were pulled to pieces and motives questioned. Press reporters eagerly wrote their stories, sometimes losing the trend of proceedings in their haste to relate what an ex Prime Minister said about an Archdeacon of the Church, and vice versa. Land Court clerks laboriously copied in neat writing the relevant facts as they could be sifted from the welter of words. Men, women, children, blankets and dogs arrived from the surrounding districts and camped on the doorstep, waiting about day after day to have their say when the time came.

Finally it came to a close, with little satisfaction being meted out to either side. It was a difficult and exhausting case, made more difficult by Hadfield's stubborn espousal of the Ngatiraukawa claimants and non-sellers. By the end of it, in the autumn of 1868, he was regarded by many people as one of the most unpopular men in the country, as he had also been regarded eight years earlier. That he had thoughts of retiring into private life before this was shown in a letter to Charles on January 4, 1865—but he added that the Bishop always scolded him when he talked like that.

Writing to the C.M.S. on November 30, 1868, he reported— "Nothing can be more adverse to progress than the condition in which this unhappy country has been kept by the Government. . . . There is I believe at the present moment more suspicion of the white man's motives and designs than I ever noticed before. . . . Since the commencement of this year I have found it necessary to close the Boarding school which had been in existence for 16 years. It has been the means of doing much good. But latterly it became rather unpopular (for various reasons) and besides, too expensive for the means at my disposal to enable me to continue it any longer."

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Commenting on the state of the country three days later he wrote—"When the Taranaki war began I gave it 10 years—that was early in 1860. I was thought a fool. Even now however, not one fifth part of the Maoris are hostile to the Government. . . . The Governor said to me a few days ago—'Surely you are not going back to Otaki—are you not afraid? Are there not Hauhaus near you?' They suppose all Maoris are alike. I went the day before yesterday to Manawatu about 25 miles from this, where all the English are in a state of excitement fearing some unknown danger when none really exists—building a stockade there. I laughed at them. But it does harm because the Maoris distrust us when they see we distrust them."

Although the Taranaki war ostensibly ended in the early sixties, it kept flaring up again in conjunction with the fighting in the Waikato and the Hauhau troubles. As Hadfield stated, for most of that decade there was miserable suspicion and distrust and warfare.

For many years Hadfield had endeavoured to provide for a Maori clergy. He had tried to buy land to provide the financial assistance necessary, but without success. Over and over again he had emphasised the importance of a Maori being qualified to administer to his fellow Maoris. In "Maoris of By-Gone Days" he wrote—"Here I venture to express an opinion on the value of a Maori ministry. However accurate our English missionary's knowledge of the Maori language may be, he cannot follow the working of a Maori's mind as one of his own people can. He cannot sympathise with his prejudices, or see the subject under consideration from his point of view. He reasons with him at a disadvantage. I have become more thoroughly convinced of this by what I have observed since the time I refer to; I have come to the conclusion that a Maori ministry is essential in all missions, and that to obtain such a ministry ought to be the ultimate aim of all missionary efforts."

This particular passage is from an article on Riwai Te Ahu, and leading up to it he wrote—"I especially valued his assistance at the time when the Rev. C. Volkner was murdered at Opotiki, and when the Hauhau fanaticism was disturbing the minds of many. . . . Riwai Te Ahu was much distressed at the progress made by the Hauhau superstition and the war that occurred in some parts of the country."

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In his letter of November 30 to the C.M.S. he brought up the subject too. "I feel deeply convinced that the true remedy for the distracted state of the Maori Church—that is, assuming we are ever to have peace—is to prepare Maoris to minister to congregations of their own countrymen. But want of funds is the difficulty in the way." During his long years as Bishop he continued to labour this point, and many times at Synod he attempted to raise the salaries of the Maori clergy.

Hadfield had been thirty years on the coast now, at Waikanae and Otaki, and he realised, and was well aware that many other people were of like opinion, that the time had come when he must leave his Maoris and move on to a new sphere of work. It was only a temporary move to begin with, but unknown to him at the time it was to prove permanent. Bishop Abraham visited England in 1869, and in January of that year Kate and Octavius moved into Wellington with their family, some approaching adulthood and some still babies, where Hadfield had been appointed to take charge of the diocese while Abraham was away.

So ended his years at Otaki. Thomas Bevan wrote of the effect of his departure—"When Archdeacon Hadfield left Otaki the Maoris began to fall away from the Church, and ever since the College and Church have been going back."

Certain it is that it was the end of an era: certain also that through all the troubled times his congregation at Rangiatea remained loyal to him to the end. But the church carried on under the new man, and the school continued too, even though the boarding establishment was closed. James McWilliam took Hadfield's place at Rangiatea, and was to run the Mission station, the church and the school for many years.