Copy of a Despatch from the Officer Administering the Government toNew
Zealand of to the Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley.
Adverting to my recent visit to Kawhia, and to the memorandum of the Native Minister transmitted in my Despatch No. 31, of this date, it may be superfluous for me to add any remarks thereon; but, as sanguine anticipations are formed that our visit to Kawhia will be followed by important results, I venture to invite your Lordship's attention to some of the conditions on which those anticipations are based.
The Harbour of Kawhia, as your Lordship is doubtless aware, is nearly midway the ports of Manukau and Whanganui, on the western coast of the North Island, and opens by far the most valuable inlet in that long, often tempestuous, line of coast. Its waters cover a considerable area, and ramify up two principal channels into the surrounding hills. Those hills fold back into the interior, connecting themselves at no very distant interval with the great Pirongia ranges, which latter, after rising in some parts more than 2,000 feet, at length descend upon the lower waters of the River Waipa, and enclose that side of the great Waikato basin. Amidst and behind the hills which encompass the Harbour of Kawhia, but with easy access to its waters, the Maori King and his immediate adherents have planted themselves. An aukati, or pale of separation, which the colonist is rarely allowed to pass, having been established on the side of the Waikato, the progress of settlement and civilization from the interior of this Island is barred; and, while the Harbour of Kawhia continues closed to seaward, the exclusion of the settler and the isolation of the Natives are complete. Regarded with a view either to strategic objects or to the isolation of the inhabitants, the site is but too judiciously chosen; and this exclusive arbitrary control of an extensive and commodious harbour forms perhaps the most real, if not the only, symbol of true sovereignty held by Tawhiao.
On the other hand, it may reasonably be expected that if the Harbour of Kawhia be once again opened to shipping its shores will again become the scene of European enterprise, and that totally different relations will thenceforward arise, not only between the Natives and the settler, but between the Natives and Her Majesty's Government. I say "again," for Kawhia was formerly settled, to the reciprocal advantage of both races. Vestiges of the settlers' improvements still remain; and, after steaming a considerable distance up the harbour, we first anchored opposite a European-built house and store (now deserted), wherein a settler formerly conducted a lucrative trade with the Natives, and is reputed to have laid the foundation of a fortune which he now enjoys in a neighbouring colony.
The soil up the hill-slopes from the water's edge, while it is sometimes open and at others covered with bush, is generally productive, and not unfrequently is of excellent quality. Cattle also were visible in various directions along the shore and along the hill-sides. The Native occupiers formerly raised and brought to market large supplies, the product of those slopes, upon which occasionally are still seen traces of fencing and cultivation. Indeed, we shared the benefits of their cultivations; for shortly after the "Luna" anchored Natives appeared tracking their courses from different directions to the shore, for whom Mr. McLean at once sent one of the ship's boats to bring them, on board, and page 114who brought with them good melons of different kinds, grapes, apples, &c., lamenting only that they had no previous notice of our intention to visit them, and thus had failed of an opportunity to bring much larger supplies. But, notwithstanding their advantages of soil and climate, these Natives appeared to be miserably poor. On the Waikato side of Tawhiao's aukati the Natives are less poor; for the Hauhau, although he banish the pakeha beyond the pale, is not reluctant himself to cross that pale, or to avail himself occasionally of the settler's stores and merchandise. But the isolation of the Kawhia Native is more exclusive and more stringent. He has only the hills on one side of him, and the dreary ocean on the other. He may, indeed, command a sufficiency of food, attainable by moderate labour?fish, flesh, fowl, vegetable, and fruit; but he wants to be clothed as well as fed. Many of those who came on board the "Luna" were scantily covered; others were in rags; and one finely-grown man crouched for a while under the ship's side, and hesitated to come on board from mere shame at his ragged clothing. Another Native despondingly complained that it was no use for them to come among the Europeans, because they had no money to buy clothes. In others, the hollow cough and sunken aspect betrayed a constitution which already, before the winter is yet on, was suffering from cold and exposure. These poor people evidently felt the evils which they had brought upon themselves by their self-imposed isolation, and must needs long for those comforts which a resumed intercourse with the settlers would diffuse amongst them.
Your Lordship will probably believe that the welcome offered by them to their waters was sincere. That welcome was earnestly conveyed also, by their chiefs. Seated round the poop deck of the "Luna," they conducted their debate with the regularity of a formal runanga. The memorandum of the Native Minister gives the general course of the discussion. Suffice it for me to add that the chief Tapihana, both while replying to the chief Wi Tako, M.L.C., and on his being presented to and shaking hands with myself, declared himself reconciled; while it was repeatedly urged that the "Luna" should visit Kawhia again and again, after which it was intimated the harbour might be opened to all vessels. This assurance was confirmed in the presence of Tu Tawhiao. Nothing could be of fairer promise than was the whole bearing of that young man. His demeanour was dignified, yet modest and becoming. On being presented to myself he bid me the usual Maori salutation, Tena koe, not with the jaunty—even bantering—air often assumed by the Natives, but slowly, and in a tone of intense melancholy. He then stood before me awhile, with his right hand in mine, his head drooping, in silence, and under visible emotion; until suddenly he drew back, retreated to a bench at the side of the deck, and there sat for a considerable time between two attendant chiefs, his head bent down, his face buried in his two hands, and in silence. At length he rose, stepped forward, and again shook hands with me, after which he preserved a more assured composure. The whole conduct of the young man led me to the same conclusion as that formed by the Native Minister—viz., that Tu Tawhiao attributed to his own visit the significance of breaking down the barriers of isolation, and pledging himself henceforth to a reconciliation with the Europeans.
Upon conditions like the foregoing, it is not unreasonable to hope that the Natives of Kawhia, reduced as they have been by their isolation from prosperity to poverty, will ere long accept the introduction of those comforts which they evidently wish to obtain, and that, as ancillary thereto, the Harbour of Kawhia will be reopened to the trade and enterprise of the colonist. But that trade would almost of necessity be accompanied, if not introduced, by the locating of the colonist himself upon those shores; and it is, I believe, invariably found that the introduction of the settler among the Natives is followed by that of the Magistrate, Native as well as European, whose jurisdiction the Natives themselves become ready and eager to invoke in the adjustment of their disputes. Such relations, once established, are not easily dislocated.
The Natives have never of themselves failed of their confidence in our Courts of justice as such; and in 1861, after the first year of the Waitara war, the Resident Magistrate's Court of New Plymouth disposed of a greater number of causes in which Natives were plaintiffs than had ever been disposed of in any one previous year before that tribunal. Having regard, then, to the geographical position of Kawhia, as already described, in connection with the district immediately under the control of Tawhiao, it is not too much to expect that, if such relations as are above indicated should be established on the shores of Kawhia Harbour, the Natives from the other side of the ranges would find it their interest gradually to accept them likewise. Meanwhile it is a vital object to induce all Natives alike to resort and submit themselves to the supremacy of the criminal law of the country. The Hauhaus living within the borders of Tawhiao's district have evinced a certain disposition to recognize that supremacy —at all events as regards offenders who may come within those borders in order to escape from justice. The following example has recently occurred: An accused person, not a Native, fled from Tauranga, and took refuge within the aukati: the police boldly pursued him, and were at first threatened with death by the Hauhaus, but on explaining the object of their mission the police were allowed to search for the offender, and the Hauhaus, although declining formally to surrender the fugitive, yet gave such directions to the police that they could not miss the capture, which they ultimately effected, of their man. He was brought to trial before myself, and convicted. The Government are anxious that Tawhiao should be induced to recognize and act on the same principle in all cases, especially those of homicide, whether committed by Native or European, and whether within or without the borders of the Hauhau territory; for they consider that, if even thus much should be accomplished, the substance of sovereignty would be in a great degree conceded, the barrier between the Natives and the Government would soon disappear, and the authority of the Queen's warrant would be recognized throughout every part of New Zealand.
After observing for so many years the Natives' mode of action, I am not prone to form hasty anticipations of their improvement: they move slowly and after long deliberation, but I am hopeful that they will still yield to conciliatory treatment. I also wish to assure your Lordship that during the short time that I may administer the Government I shall abstain as far as practicable from interfering in questions of policy, whether Native or European, and shall avoid doing any act which may commit His Excellency Sir James Fergusson to this or that line of conduct. My humble duty will be to so carry on the Government, under the advice of my Ministers, that no heavy arrears of page 115business may be cast upon Sir James Fergusson when he arrives, arid to hand over the machine to His Excellency in the same admirable working order as Sir G.F. Bowen has left it. But I agree with my Ministers in thinking that, for the purposes and with the objects above specified, we ought not to delay, but should accept the first opportunity, should any occur, to improve those friendly relations with the Natives which were initiated on my recent visit to the Harbour of Kawhia.
In conclusion, I beg to apologize to your Lordship for this long and, I fear, wearisome despatch. It will probably be the only occasion for my so trespassing upon your Lordship's time. In that hope,
I have, &c.,
The Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley.