Aureretanga: Groans of the Maoris
On one subject members of the New Zealand Parliament groaned on behalf of their Maori friends.
Throughout the New Zealand wars, which ended in 1865, the English troops were aided by friendly chiefs, who clung to the belief that the pledges of the Queen would be fulfilled, and that it was proper to aid in asserting the supremacy of the Crown, trusting to the honour of its Governors and servants.
Sir George Grey had in early years adopted the principle of contributing to the importance of chiefs who possessed no money but had hereditary claims on large tribal lands; and, when the wars were at an end, many Maori allies received pensions to which the faith of the Colony was pledged.
The subsequent up-risings of The Kooti and Titokowaru were in no sense Maori wars. The savage natures of both of them were provoked by misconduct of the Government or of its officers, and both of them were eventually crushed by the Maori chiefs, Rangihiwinui, Topia Turoa, Ropata Wahawaha and others, rather than by European forces.
Swords of honour were sent to the Caiefs as presents from the Queen, and pensions were awarded in some instances.
After Donald McLean became Native Minister there was no danger of war, or even of serious tumult or violence in New Zealand.page 142
The colonists who remembered Te Kooti's ferocious raids on the East Coast in 1868–9, and the reward, of £1000 for his body dead or alive, offered by Mr. Stafford and his friends, were not well-pleased at Te Kooti's impunity, but while he was out of sight he was not much spoken of. Early in 1883 his name was on many tongues.
An Amnesty Bill, often asked for in former years was passed in 1882. Mr. Scotland in the Upper House, while supporting the Bill, thought it undesirable that “Te Kooti and Purukutu should be allowed to come amongst us, and perhaps be met by Government officials, and have their hands shaken by those officials.”*
The honourable member was prophetic.
An English Blue Book (1883, C. 3689, p. 67) contains an account of a meeting (12th February, 1883) between Te Kooti and the Native Minister. The latter furnished the account for the Governor's information, “Te Kooti shaking hands with Mr. Bryce said, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” &c.
Which virtue was embodied in Te Kooti and which in the Minister the enigmatic Maori did not say. There was food, and then conversation, at the end of which “Mr. Bryce (ib. p. 68) walked over and shook hands with Te Kooti. After a lapse of a few minutes, Te Kooti rose and sang a waiata (song) and said, as everything is now settled, I will come and shake hands with you. He then advanced and shook hands with the party…”
Writing on the 13th February to the Governor, the Native Minister said “I think the result must be considered satisfactory.” (ib. p.
It was not considered satisfactory by some Colonists.
When the Parliament met afterwards, Mr. Montgomery said— “We can extend a free pardon to Te Kooti, the man of blood, the man guilty of the vilest atrocities. We can shake hands with him. Here is a man of peace—Te Whiti—and we are asked to extend the law by which this man can be arrested at a moment's notice, not for any new offence, but simply at the will of the Minister of the day. I say it is an outrage upon humanity.†
The relations between the Minister and Te Kooti were not in themselves perhaps deserving of remark, and I shall not comment upon them; but they assist to explain the debate which took place with regard to the stoppage by the former of pensions of the chiefs who had aided the colonists in the field.
* N. Z. Hansard, 1882. Vol. 43. p. 914. “As I have no personal knowledge of Mr. Scotland it is grateful to me to notice that in 1883, he said in Parliament, “From what I have heard of Mr. Rusden I believe him to be a good Christian and a gentleman, and I do not think he would put anything on paper respecting this Colony that he did not think was true. He may have been led into errors, and a great many historians have been. It would have been easy for him to write a popular book by praising up the country, right or wrong, but he was too honest.” N. Z. Hansard, 1883, Vol. 46, p. 481.
† N. Z. Hansard, 1883, Vol. 46, p. 158.
The extent of these stoppages was described in the Legislative Council * by one of his own colleagues.
His statement was made when Sir G. Whitmore brought before the Upper House the treatment of Ropata Wahawaha by the Government. Sir G. Whitmore† said that in the war of 1865 “no officer of European troops, and no native chief was more distinguished than Ropata Wahawaha; who from that time until 1873 had been the unflinching ally of the Europeans, and a hard-working officer of the native corps on the (East) coast.
“There had been a great many instances in which that chief had shown personal devotion and courage of the highest order; and at the time of the massacre at Poverty Bay (by Te Kooti) the whole of the inhabitants of the district might be said to have looked upon Ropata Wahawaha as their protector and their shield… It was upon his (Sir G. Whitmore's) recommendation that Ropata was made a major of the Militia, and obtained the honour of the New Zealand Cross… Ropata was employed in driving the rebels out of the Uriwera Mountains under the most terrible extremes of cold and privation, passing through hardships and difficulties which he (Sir G. Whitmore) did not believe Europeans could have surmounted; until at last he stamped out the embers of rebellion, and drove Te Kooti from the Uriwera Mountains to the asylum (Tawhiao's territory) in which he had since remained, . . It was thought right by that Native Minister, who most relied on and employed his services –the late Sir Donald McLean—to show the people that the country considered these services entitled him to a sufficient pension to enable him to keep up a high position. It was therefore decided to give him £300 per annum. (The Government had interfered with the allowance thus made.) All classes of Europeans and natives had held meetings, and a very strong feeling was displayed on this subject. The chief had spoken to him (Sir G. Whitmore). He said, “Ah ! I am now useless, and I suppose I am not worth any further thought; and so I have my pension taken away; while the enemy of public order (Te Kooti), whom I was employed specially to keep down, has had a property purchased for him, and perhaps the money taken from me is devoted to that purpose.’”
Sir G. Whitmore, endeavouring “to see that faith was kept with the Maori people,” moved for “all papers in connection with: (1) the reduction of the pension or salary of the Chief Major Ropata Wahawaha, N. Z. C., from £300 to £100 per annum; (2) all papers connected with the purchase of a farm or block of land for the recently pardoned outlaw Te Kooti.”
A member of the Government (Mr. Oliver) in a lame defence of the treatment of Ropata, said, “Since my colleague the Hon. Minister for Native Affairs has been in office, he has stopped absolutely no less than seventy-four of these so-called pensions, and has reduced no less than fifty others.”
* N. Z. Hansard, 1883. Vol. 47. p. 10.
† ib. p. 8.
The Hon. Wi Tako Ngatata supported Sir G. Whitmore's motion. “He thought it was not fair to reduce the reward after the time had passed when the assistance was given for which the reward was given. And why, also, had they honoured Te Kooti, who murdered the children of both Europeans and Maoris?”
The Hon. Mr. Waterhouse declared that when he read that these allowances were to be withdrawn, “he was free to confess that it had sent through his system a thrill of indignation and grief… he had not heard this subject referred to by any one, whether a friend or foe to the Government, who had not spoken of it in terms of indignation and grief.”
The Hon. Captain Fraser said that “if Sir E. Stafford had been now Premier, he (Captain Fraser) could imagine with what scorn he would have heard any proposal to commit an act of injustice to a man who, in the hour of utmost need, came forward to save women and children from the ruthless murderer, Te Kooti. (Sir Donald McLean had introduced to him, Captain Fraser) “Ropata as one of the greatest soldiers in the colony. He was a man whom the Queen had delighted to honour; he had been given a sword of honour and the Cross, which in any other country would have carried a pension with it, as was the case with the Legion of Honour. He was afraid that the granting of a reward to the ruthless murderer Te Kooti, and acting as they were now doing to the man who had driven him into his lairs in the Uriwera country, would add another dark chapter to… (the) History of New Zealand.”
The Hon. Colonel Brett declared “that the Government had broken faith with an old, distinguished, and gallant officer. If this occurred in India, we should lose the country… Major Ropata wore the the distinguished honour of the New Zealand Cross; and were they to sit quietly and calmly, and listen when the honourable gentlemen on the Government benches said they had robbed him of a certain sum of money, and had robbed seventy others similarly? Were they quietly to submit to this injustice.”
In the House of Representatives Sir G. Grey alluded to Ropata thus:—
* The Ministry which thus dealt with pensions encountered an adverse vote on June 12th, 1884, and a general election took place. Under an administration of which Mr. Stout became the head, and in which Mr. Ballance was Native Minister, Ropata's pension was restored, with arrears. Mr. Ballance read a statement to that effect to the House. The statement showed also that the sum appropriated by the Atkinson Ministry for purchase of “land for Te Kooti” was £600.
The various deprivations of emolument to which Maori pensioners were subjected by the “policy” of the Ministry were noticed from time to time in the newspapers.
No thoughtful traveller acquainted with the traditions of the Maoris, their ancestral cult, their veneration for the bones of the dead, and the seclusion in which Maori manners demanded that those hallowed relics should be preserved, can have stood near one of the ancient burial-grounds and seen without compunction those relics scattered in fragments on the earth.
To a Maori of old time such a sight would have stirred the feelings by which an Englishman or a Roman might be moved if Westminster Abbey or St. Peters were rent and rifled, and the ashes of the dead were sprinkled like dust over the spot where they once rested in the odour of sanctity.
In many cases, so numerous were the burial places of the tribes, it would have been impossible for the march of what is called civilization to take place without inflicting pain upon the inheritors of the soil.
Many excellent public men in the colony always strove to respect the feelings of the remnants of the tribes: and by Bishop Selwyn, Chief Justice Martin, and others, efforts were made to lighten inevitable blows, and to avert sufferings which were not unavoidable.
When land was acquired by the Crown, it was usual in early days to guard against the desecration of burial grounds.
Independently of sentimental considerations, there were difficulties in clearing up questions of title, interlaced as they were between families and sometimes with tribes.
Bill after Bill was passed upon the subject after its treatment devolved upon the New Zealand legislature, and doubtless in most cases their framers were actuated by a sense of justice.
It was when a coveted possession assumed so concrete a form as the Maori Reserve at Prince's Street, Dunedin, that the moral natures of some persons could not bear the burden which justice to the Maoris would have imposed.
Prominent among those who never veiled their eyes from the light of justice was the good Chief Justice, Sir William Martin. Whether frowned on by Lord Grey in 1847, or reviled by Governor Browne's advisers in 1860,–in office or out of office—his advice was always ready when sought for, though it had been rejected with such contumely on the occasion of the Waitara war.page 146
As lately as in 1871, Donald McLean consulted Sir William (who had retired from office) as to the terms of a Bill to amend the existing Land law.
Sir W. Martin received “the best thanks of the Government for the arduous labour” undertaken, but the reward which would have been most grateful—the adoption of his proposals,—was not accorded.
To describe fully the various Native Land Acts would require a treatise. A few facts may be stated. One of the Acts (1862) waived (so far as it could) the pre-emptive right which under the Treaty of Waitangi was reserved for the Crown, and there was much conflict of opinion as to the wisdom of this step. Its validity was questioned by those who deemed that the Treaty could not in such a manner be tampered with. All the Acts contemplated proof of Maori ownership, when blocks of land were submitted to the Court to ascertain the titles.
The joint tribal title, and intricate interests derived from descent and marriage, unfortunately induced the legislature to strive to cut the Gordian knot by a proviso (1865) that “no certificate of title should be ordered to more than ten persons:” but there was no care taken that those ten persons should be trustees in a proper sense for the many scores, perhaps hundreds of persons who had interest in the land. The consequences might easily be foreseen.
An objectionable provision in one act enabled a single native to call upon the Court to deal with a claim to land, although the vast majority of the tribe were opposed to its being brought before the Court. It would be tedious to dwell on the various Acts, in 1867, 1873, 1880, 1882, 1883, and other years.
Two instances of hardships suffered will be given in these pages; but some prefatory quotations may be made from speeches in the New Zealand Parliament on the Acts, and on the manner in which they were administered.
A high official, Colonel Haultain, furnished a Report to the effect that, from the date of surrender by the Crown of exclusive power as to the sale of land, certificates or Crown Grants, up to the end of 1870, had been issued for 2,400,000 acres in the North Island. He added, “The Maoris have always been loth to part with their fertile land, and it is chiefly by confiscation that we have obtained any large tracts of really good land.”
Moreover, the Acts were not translated for the information of the Maoris, and a Native Assessor (in the Land Court) testified that the “natives would gladly read the Acts if they could get them, and there are intelligent men amongst them, well able to explain the Acts to others.” He, like other unsophisticated Maoris, objected to the enormous law-charges, and would banish lawyers from the Court, as “it was to be expected that they would prolong cases in order to get more fees.”
Donald McLean confessed in Parliament in 1871 that, in a matter affecting tribal rights, the natives ought to have been made acquainted with the law in their own language, and that they had been left unacquainted.page 147
On one point Sir William Martin, Mr. Fenton the Chief Judge in the Court, and Mr. Sewell the Minister of Justice concurred in 1871, viz., that in order to prevent the sanctioned mischief created by facilities given to an individual to plunge his tribe into litigation without their consent, it was essential to provide that there should be a thorough investigation before any title could be brought under the operation of the Court.
Dr. Pollen,* said in the Upper House in 1863, “I was present when the Treaty of Waitangi was proposed, and an attentive and anxious listener to all that passed. I heard Her Majesty's representative arguing, explaining, promising to the natives, pledging the faith of the Queen and of the British people to the due observance of it; giving upon the honour of an English gentleman the broadest interpretation of the words in which the Treaty was couched.… The ink was scarcely dry on the Treaty before the suspicions which had been temporarily allayed by the promises of the Governor were awakened with redoubled force, and I need scarcely remind the Council that from that time (1840) to this, every action of ours affecting the natives had presented itself to their eyes, and had been capable of that interpretation, as showing that our object and business in this Colony was to obtain possession of the lands of the natives, recte si possimus, si non quocunque modo. Before we talked of the duties of the natives to us in this Colony, we ought to be able to show that some of the duties which the Crown undertook to discharge to the native people have been so discharged. I ask any one to point out on the statutes of this Colony, or on the records of Native administration, any of those measures which might fairly be said to have fulfilled those obligations which devolved upon the Crown at that time.”… (N.Z. Hansard, 1863, p. 872).
In 1873 Dr. Pollen was the Ministerial leader in the Legislative Council; and Mr. Mantell, who had carried a resolution in 1872 that all Bills affecting the Maoris should be translated for their information moved for a Return of the Bills so translated. Dr. Pollen confessed that the Return would be nil, and his confession was confirmed by the Return.
Nor was this all. Wi Tako Ngatata told the Council in 1873, “It is thirty years since the European came here, and there is this difference between him and the Maori, that it was the European who had the desire to rob the native:” and Dr. Pollen said “I have, myself, seen natives hovering about the streets of Auckland, who owned an estate of 30,000 acres, against which there was a surveyors charge of some £150 or £200, and I have known that estate sold for one shilling an acre to pay the surveyors. The unfortunate proprietors left the town without a sixpence in their pockets feeling that their estate had been unjustly and ruthlessly sacrificed.” (N.Z. Hansard, 1873. Vol. XV., p. 1378).
To prove how Maoris had been made “victims of licensed interpreters, land-sharks and lawyers,” Dr. Pollen cited a case of a large block of land batween Napier and Taupo. “That land (he said) was let, or purported to be let, by the native owners—for what, did the Council think?—£18 a year ! 48000 acres for £18 a year ! In the document which purported to be the lease, there was a covenant inserted to the effect that at the termination of the lease the natives should pay to the lessee compensation for every kind of improvement he might have effected upon it during the term of the lease. What did that mean but absolute confiscation of the land? But there was more to be said about this particular transaction. The clause which he had just referred to in the deed was ruled over with a black pigment of some kind as if it were meant to be an erasure. There was not the usual memorandum in the margin, showing that the erasure had been effected at the time the deed was signed; there was nothing to show when or how it was done. The whole affair seemed very remarkable. It struck him that the colour of the ink was unusual, and he took the document into a survey office, and having asked one of the draftsmen what was the character of the ink, he took a sponge and showed that it was quite possible to wipe out the erasure by simply washing it over. That came within his knowledge in his capacity as Commissioner. It was an extreme case, but it illustrated the system of fraud under the authority of the law the natives had been subjected to for years.” (ib. p. 1379).
Maoris petitioned in the same year (1873) against a proposed Land Bill—“We have suffered from mortgages, from sales of land, and spirituous liquors;… we trust you will permit our land to abide with us, for such was the Queen's promise at the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. The same promise was renewed by Governor Browne. Friend, Mr. Speaker… the Queen has certainly no desire to see her Maori people, her New Zealand subjects, live without estate. Should you nevertheless sanction these laws, then our very existence will be crucified…”
Henare Matua and his friends on the East Coast were no doubt right in saying that the Queen had no desire that they should be robbed.
That they were robbed Dr. Pollen conclusively proved; and no denials, whether on oath or in the large license of public speaking, can shake the testimony of such a witness.
It may be urged that Dr. Pollen spoke in 1873; and that, though the acts he exposed were possible then, matters afterwards improved.
Mr. Swanson, however, spoke thus in 1881 in the House of Representatives, “I appeal to every member of the Public Petitions Committee if we had not a case before us this week in which a man was given a bribe to rob and swindle the Maoris, and we actually recommended that it should be paid… I am ashamed at the grasping desire shown to get possession of the land which still belongs to the natives. Talk about equal rights! The Maoris are taxed page 149 enough, fleeced enough, and robbed enough.”* Did anyone impugn Mr. Swanson's authority? By no means. On the contrary, the Premier, Mr. (now Sir) John Hall, replied that there was “no man better qualified to speak upon the Maori representation question than his honourable friend” Mr. Swanson.
Wrong doings which cause groans among Maoris may therefore be vehemently, and with impunity, denounced in New Zealand; but if a public writer denounces them in England, Hall and his congeners are indignant.
In 1877, three thousand Maoris petitioned against a Land Bill of which Mr. Whitaker, the Attorney-General, said “the object should be, not only to have the surplus land dealt with, but to put the whole under a Crown title, whether retained by the natives or not, because it is of the greatest importance that the native title should be extinguished as speedily as possible.”
Mr. Whitaker groaned—not for the Maoris but—over the difficulties which obstructed European speculators: “By the time the purchaser gets perhaps the signatures of twenty, some of the other owners may die. The consequence is that the purchaser has to go to the Native Land Court and get successors appointed. By the time these successors are appointed, other natives will be dead. All this renders the land in point of fact inalienable.”
Living or dying the Maori was a stumbling-block to some persons, and sensitive minds must deeply commiserate the woe of so important a functionary,† if when the echoes of Maori groans become faint and few, the page of history should record that they were once loud and multitudinous.
Transactions on the East Coast, which it was difficult to hush up, caused the appointment of a Commission in 1873.
* N. Z. Hansard, 1881. Vol. XL. pp. 359, 361.
† Mr. Whitaker had a special trouble about a land-claim, and complained that he was “badly treated” in the matter of a Piako Land Exchange Bill. A Select Committee investigated the case which arose with regard to claims for many thousand acres dating from an alleged purchase of land in 1839 (not by Mr. Whitaker, but by an antecessor) before the Colony was founded. The alleged purchase was not recognized, and was, in fact, done away with by Sir G. Gipps, who limited to 2,560 acres the claims which the Government would consent to sanction, founded as all such claims were upon unauthorized and unlawful transactions. The case is not deserving of lengthy comment: but one item of Mr. Whitaker's claims put before a Select Committee in 1877, is grotesque:-
Date, Nov. 15th, 1854: Purchaser (original) Abercrombie. Acres, 5000. Price, £2000. Date to June, 1876–21 years, 199 days.
Simple interest at 10 per cent £6,309 os. iod.
Compound interest at 10 per cent £15,609 7s. Iod.
I presume that if the Maori inheritors of the land ever saw this claim they uttered groans, but I have no information on the subject. They justified their reluctance to quit their birth-place, by alleging that “their ancestors and chiefs of the tribe were buried there, and they did not wish to give it up.” It may be added that the wide claims which were extinguished or reduced by Sir G. Gipps, included more acres than there were in the island.
Mr. C. W. Richmond, a judge of the Supreme Court; Mr. F. Maning, a judge of the Native Land Court; and two Maori Assessors, officiated. Maori Assessors had no voice in deciding, but they could ask questions. Their crippled position was the subject of constant complaint and of petitions from their countrymen.
It was urged that their presence might be held to imply approval of decisions from which, nevertheless they dissented to the uttermost. Some went so far as to say that they ought to have a potential voice in matters which they understood better than their colleagues.
The proceedings of the Commission occupied 256 pages in a New Zealand Parliamentary Paper.
Fraud and illegality of various kinds, secret gifts to procure signatures, deceptive doings by interpreters, appropriation of part of the alleged “purchase-money to pay off old scores for spirits,” were blots brought forward by the Maori counsel.
As it was a distinct breach of the law to apply the money to pay debts for spirits, Judge Richmond's ruling on the point may be mentioned at once as a notable cause for grief amongst all temperate Maoris, who neither indulged in intoxicating liquors, nor desired to see the heritage of their countrymen squandered by traffickers in vice, of whichsoever race.
Judge Richmond said:— “Whatever the law may say on the matter, it appeared to us (not including the Maori assessor who protested) that it would be unccnscientious on the part of a native who had received value in this shape to attempt to rip up the transaction. At all events, that the law allows repudiation, cannot make repudiation honourable or right. On this ground we determined that the native vendor was in foro conscientice debarred from this objection.… That a breach of law should be remunerated by allowing one of the offenders to break a contract is an anomaly with which it is to be hoped that the native people will not be allowed to make practical acquaintance, as it would tend doubly to weaken their still feeble sense of legal and moral obligation.
It would make the matter worse that to the Maori should belong all the pleasure and the profit while on the Pakeha would fall the whole penalty of wrong-doing. No worse lesson could be given to a people who have yet to learn that they must themselves bear the burden of their own follies and misdeeds.”
If the object of counsel for the Maoris had been to enable a Maori drunkard to recover land obtained from him in his own right, because the transaction was absolutely unlawful, Judge Richmond's contention even if irregular, would be intelligible.
But this was a case in which ten Maori owners had been registered by the Land Court. They were not personally owners, but were trustees for the tribe; for the old and for the young, for the sick and the needy.
The corrupt debaucher knew better than the drunken debauchee that the payment in spirits was unlawful.page 151
The innocent owners had no share in the breach of law: they had none of what the Judge called “the pleasure and the profit: “but by vilipending the law (and creating a forum which ought to be set up in Maori conscience) he gave the profit to the briber. Resolute against a decision which might weaken the moral sense of a drunken Maori trustee, he gave legal effect to his unlawful acts, and in so doing rewarded the unlawful and immoral act of the debauching and corrupt Pakeha. To him the Judge awarded the profit of the debauch. From the widow and the orphan that award may have torn the means of living.
The Maori assessor, Hikairo, protested that the ten grantees were only “chosen as trustees,” and that they were not to sell. He complained that the alleged purchase bore fraud upon its face. The evidence showed that undue pressure had been brought to bear on the trustees, “sometimes on the roads, sometimes in public-houses, some times in bed-rooms, sometimes upon the sick. I do not think this was a proper way of making a sale of land.”
Hikairo protested in vain.
On another point,—the receipt of special sums from the buyers (irrespective of their authorized fees) by the interpreters.—the Judge seemed to agree that Hikairo's objections were reasonable; but in the Heretaunga case the objection was not allowed, although the Judge said that the double functions assumed by the interpreters would have “strongly affected his mind” if he had doubted whether the sellers knew what they were doing. What would have been the result of his “mind being affected,” did not appear.
The evidence taken by the Commission was voluminous. One trustee was persuaded, without consulting his co-trustees, to assign his interest to a butcher who was to assign it to a lessee. Originally there had been an invalid lease of the land for twenty-one years, but this was afterwards converted into a valid one and devices were then resorted to in order to induce the trustees to sell the freehold.
One witness (a well known public man, and a member of Parliament at various periods) was asked whether an after-payment given to one Maori was understood to be a secret matter. He replied, “No. My understanding was that we had to pay a bribe to secure his co-operation, and the simple question in my mind, was whether it was worth doing so or not.”
Another witness (afterwards a member of the New Zealand Parliament) was asked if he paid away a sum shortly after an arrangement about Pahoro's and Paramena's claims. He answered—” £250 for a steam-threshing machine. I suspect it had been bought previously with Paramena's money.” Then (said counsel) he had the satisfaction of paying for it twice over.
“I believe so” responded the witness.*
Why did you retain Pahoro's money instead of paying it over?
* The proceedings were published in a bulky pamphlet—“Hawke's Bay Native Lands Alienation Commission, Napier 1873.
“He has never asked for it… There is a small balance of £40 or £50 still.”
Is he aware of this? “I believe he is — as much a man can be aware who is almost constantly drunk.”
One of the trustees deposed that to escape the importunity of a lessee and an interpreter, he hid himself in a willow-tree one day, and in a loft on another day, so as to avoid giving his signature; but that finding others were signing he also submitted and signed, and was afterwards told that the promised £1,000 to which he became entitled was swallowed up in paying his previous debts.
One wonders who might be described as having the pleasure and the profit in this case. The man's debts were incurred without regard to the Heretaunga land. He purported to convey the interest of others. women and children, in that land.
It is to be hoped that the “sense of legal and moral obligation” in the minds of those who obtained his signature was not weakened by the decision of the Commission.
Mr. Sheehan was counsel for members of the tribe who disputed the validity of the transaction which deprived them of the Heretaunga block.
He said, in Parliament, in 1877, that a Maori girl, eight years old, was induced to “sign a deed of mortage to secure payment of certain sums of money” and that an interpreter endorsed the deed with a “solemn declaration that he had explained the deed, and that the child fully understood it.” This, he added, “is one of scores, absolute scores” of the Hawkes Bay Transactions.
When light was poured upon some of them, the alarmed purchasers strove to effect private compositions; and it was alleged that in one case where the original purchase had been secretly arranged for £2000, a further sum of £17,500 was paid to “quiet” the title.
The Hawkes Bay transaction may serve as a sample of the manner in which families, hapus (or sub-tribes,) and even tribes, saw their birthplaces wrested from them and their burial places desecrated, in spite of the solemn guarantee of the Treaty of Waitangi which was so often appealed to in vain.
It must not be supposed that the bulk of the colonists approved or even knew of the arts of which the Maoris were victims. The plotters would not have worked secretly if they had not in some degree dreaded exposure.
In a debate in the New Zealand Parliament (on 6th July, 1886) Sir Robert Stout, Attorney-General and Prime Minister of the Colony, alluded thus to the Hawkes' Bay transactions, which included the Heretaunga affair.
“We are to have in this country all the jobbery and disgrace which has disgraced New Zealand in the purchase of native land in the past. Let honourable members read the report of the Commission which sat at Hawkes' Bay, if they want to know what has been done in the past. It will be a disgrace to some settlers for some years to come, the way in which the Maoris have been treated in respect of page 153 their lands. (An hon. Member, No.) Does the honourable Member want me to say how the Maoris have been made drunk and made to sign deeds, how infants' names have been forged to deeds, and how men have been lodged in gaol because of the forgeries? If the honourable Member wishes me to go into that, I will give the whole facts. I know them; I know what has been proved in the Courts; I know what has been proved before Commissions. I say these cases will be a lasting digrace in the history of the Colony for years to come.”
Nor is this weighty statement unsupported by admissions of those politically opposed to Sir Robert Stout.
Its provisions proved the grasp of the Government over the Native Land Court.
The Act of 1865 had accorded to the Judges a tenure during good behaviour. The Act of 1873 had substituted a tenure during pleasure; or, practically, at the will of the Native Minister. The subjection of the judicial office to the precarious behests of the Executive Government it was proposed to continue; and when the singular function exercised by Mr. Hall at Christchurch in 1868, with regard to the Ngaitahu Deed is remembered, it must be admitted that a Member of the Cabinet might largely control the operations of the Court.
Mr. Bryce declared that the policy of the Colony had “been a very crooked one;” that in 1871 “there commenced a course of conduct on the part of agents both of the Crown and private individuals, which I think has done more to demoralize and degrade the Maori race than all our efforts at colonization can ever redeem;” that he “despaired of being able to make the House understand the terrible iniquity of the system which had been in vogue during the last few years;” that “however great the iniquity in which we, as Colonists, have been guilty, we have not succeeded in attaining the† desired end, we have not gained the reward of our iniquity;” that “the natives, as a rule, do not get the goods that are charged against them;” that (a Public Auditor had reported “that in innumerable instances monies charged as paid to natives were paid in fact to storekeepers for goods supplied” to Europeans, and “in some cases large sums were charged to natives who never had goods at all;”) and that he hoped his Bill would “relieve the Government from the miserable necessity of becoming hucksters, and being always ready, as it were, to take advantage of the necessities of the Maoris.”‡
Mr. Bryce is one of those who has voted against the maintenance of the New Zealand Hansard; but for historical purposes it is well that a record of such speeches is preserved.
* N.Z. Hansard, 1880. Vol. XXXV., pp. 267–271.
† If Mr. Bryce was correct, the Government had not been so fortunate as the practitioners who broke the law at Heretaunga, and were nevertheless enabled by the Heretaunga Commission to reap the coveted crop of their labours.
‡ N.Z. Hansard, 1880. Vol. XXXV., pp. 267. et seq.
Before the debate was resumed, the Maori Prisoners Bill of 1880, already described in these pages, was passed.
When the Land Bill was again discussed, To Wheoro complained that it guarded against none of the evils of the past, but seemed “to tie the hands and feet of the Maoris so that the Pakehas might take their lands from them.” The nominal purchase-money would be dissipated. “Part will be taken to pay the surveyors; fees of Court, and costs ordered by the Court, will have to be paid; also expenses of advertising and duties payable to Her Majesty; also an amount to the receiver of land-revenue, and five acres in every hundred; also the sum to be paid for the Crown grant, and an amount for roads; also fees of lawyers and interpreters.
“I believe that these amounts, when added together, would amount to more than the £100 from which they have to be deducted. What would fifty owners of a patch of land, sold for £100, get in return for their land?
“This reminds me of an ancient Maori proverb, ‘He with the dishevelled hair shall have nothing, while he with the fine head-dress will take all;’ which I interpret thus, the host who is at home gets nothing, he fasts while the guest has all the food.
“Observe that the land taken for road purposes is not taken to make roads through native lands, but through lands which have been sold and which have gone to Europeans. These deductions are made to form roads on lands in the hands of Europeans. Now, do you believe that Europeans would submit to a law of this sort? I think not. I believe that if you were to pass a Bill affecting thus the lands of Europeans, that would be the day when a host would come into the House as Oliver Cromwell did into the Parliament of England.”
Other Maori Members spoke, and Sir William Fox said: “I must congratulate the House upon the able manner in which the Native Members have upon this occasion addressed us. It is very gratifying to hear so much intelligence exhibited, and so much study and reading displayed.” (N.Z. Hansard, 1880. Vol. XXXVI. p. 380).
Mr. Reader Wood moved a resolution to give to the Maoris some power in dealing with their lands. “I ask (he said) whether a native of New Zealand is not, in every attribute that becomes a man, equal to the European who has come into these islands, with the single exception, of course, of acquired knowledge, and of that wretched varnish which has been called civilization? Taking man for man, I ask whether the native is not equal to the European?”
Mr. Hall, the Premier, vehemently supported the Bill, but it did not emerge from Committee.
The Session, however, was by no means barren of results oppressive to Maoris, as the Ministry obtained on the 23rd July, 1880, the Act (No. 4) to “provide for further detention” of Maoris in prison without trial; on the 6th August, 1880, the Act (No. 6) authorizing similar “detention;” and 1st September, 1880, the Act (No. 39) called the “West Coast Settlement” Act, creating new offences, and page 155 setting all British safeguards of liberty at nought. These preliminaries to the Raid upon Parihaka have already been described.
Friendly expressions of sympathy uttered by Mr. Scotland, a Member of the Upper House, may be quoted here. He knew well the district of Taranaki. He asserted that there were grievances there. “A neighbour of mine, an excellent native, who never was in rebellion, who has never even visited Parihaka, a cousin of the honourable Mr. Ngatata, who can corroborate what I say, has been despoiled of everything he had, has lost 4,000 acres of land—lost the property of his father and the property of his mother. He ought to be able to live in as much comfort as I live in, and perhaps more, and it pains me to see the good-natured fellow going along the road, driving his cart of firewood into town for sale.” *
Thus could Mr. Scotland groan for his fellow-men. In the same Session, however, the Native Minister said there were “probably no grievances to speak of” in the district. His point of view differed much from that of Captain Fraser, who, in the Upper House, said of the West Coast Settlement Bill of 1880 that its “second part (creating offences) breathed the harsh and hostile spirit of a Minister towards the native race.”†
In the twelfth paragraph of a memorandum furnished on 12th December, 1882, to Sir J. Prendergast, Administrator of the Government, by Whitaker, the Premier, there is a sentence worthy of notice. It was written for the purpose of being sent to Lord Kimberley, and may be found at page 39 of the Blue Book, C. 3689, 1883.
“When laws have been made applicable to the people of the Colony the object has, in many instances, been to except the Maoris from their stringency; and there is no instance in which they have been placed in a less favourable position than the European population.”
The cynical inaccuracy of this statement is ineffable. Though a very high functionary has recently styled me a “master of language,” I confess that I want words to express the extent to which Mr. Whitaker's words might, although unintentionally, mislead persons unacquainted with the history of New Zealand.
He was one of the Ministry which in July, 1881, entreated Lord Kimberley to keep back from the British public the Governor's Report on affairs at Parihaka, although that Report had been promised, and Lord Kimberley admitted the promise while making a fresh promise irreconcileable with his first.‡
* N.Z. Hansard, 1879. Vol. XXXIV., p. 868.
† ib. 1880. Vol. XXXVII., p. 652.
‡ Vide in New Zealand Parliamentary Papers, 1882, A. 8. p. 16, Lord Kimberley's telegraphic message that he would “delay publication if possible, but that, as the papers had been promised, they must be published if pressed for.” He kept them back for more than a year.
Mr. Whitaker and his colleagues had approved the pulling down of Te Whiti's sacred medicine house, or church, as described by the Native Minister himself;† and yet Whitaker prepared a formal document to assure the Secretary of State that there was “no instance” in which Maoris had been “placed in a less favourable position than the European population.”
Was it self-deception, or some bolder quality that prompted such a statement?
I must leave the qualification to the reader.
That the statement was an erring one, no one who reads the Blue Books of 1882 and 1883 can for one moment doubt.
That Mr. Whitaker knew it to be untrue, I do not assert.
His sensibility must, however, have been probed in 1881 by Mr Mantell, who obtained some Returns in the Legislative Council concerning the Himatangi block of land. Pending examination of ownership money had been paid as rent by occupiers, and the Government which impounded the rents had, amongst other failures to do right, failed to pay over the rents to the rightful owners.
When it was found that the owners had been thus treated, Mr. Mantell asked the House to declare that payment “to the recognized owners should no longer be delayed.” Some money, it was supposed, had been paid to wrong persons.
Mr. Whitaker (then Attorney-General and in the Cabinet) was indignant. He admitted that “Mr. Mantell had stated the facts pretty well as they occurred,” but insisted that it was only “a tribal business.” Some Maoris had received something, and a portion of the impounded rents still remained in the hands of the Government. “Whether the people who were subsequently found by the Native Land Court to be owners of the Himatangi block had received their share (Whitaker) did not know.… If such matters were to be rooted out and brought up again under circumstances such as these, they could have no finality to transactions between Government and natives.”
* N.Z. Hansard, 1882. Vol. XLI., p. 438.
† Blue Book, 1882. C. 3382, p. 262.