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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

(No. 6.) — Major Bunbury to His Excellency the Governor

(No. 6.)
Major Bunbury to His Excellency the Governor.


H.M.S. "Herald," Mercury Bay, 15th May 1840.

Since I last had the honour of addressing you I have, made an excursion in the "Trent," schooner, to Tauranga. She left the "Herald" at Mercury Bay on the 8th instant, late in the evening, and arrived off Tauranga on the Sunday following; but the night was too far advanced to attempt to enter the harbour until the following day, when Mr. Parker, of H.M.S. "Herald," Mr. Williams, and myself, went on shore at the Mission-station, where we were received by the Rev. Mr. Stack, and I was agreeably surprised to learn that most of the Native chiefs in that neighbourhood had already signed the Treaty, with the exception of the principal chief and one or two of his friends at the Otumoetai Pa. This pa we visited the same evening, accompanied by Mr. Stack: it is a very extensive fortification, and appears to contain about a thousand men. The chief who had declined signing it is a very young man, and his manner was timidly reserved, and less preposessing than most of those I had before seen. On our taking leave he made the usual remark that he wanted to consult the other chiefs, and that he would with them meet us at the Mission-station on the morrow.

On the following day he did not speak until the close of the conference, and then only in private to Mr. Williams after Mr. Stack and myself had left them, and to inquire how much he was to get for his signature. Another chief expressed some indignation, because the Christian chiefs had not, as he said, met them: I presume he meant those from the other pa, where Mr. Stack's influence was supposed to extend more than to his own, and where a Roman Catholic European residentiary and the Catholic bishop were supposed to have more influence. A third chief, the principal orator on this occasion, amused me much. After the Treaty had been read and explained to them he quaintly observed, when his signature was required, "Now, first let us talk a little. Who was the first stranger that visited our shores?" On being answered, Cook; "And who was Cook's king? Was his name George?" On my replying through the interpreter," Yes," "And who then," he continued," is the Queen? "I then informed him that King Greorge had been dead some years, as also his two sons George and William, who had succeeded him on the throne, and that the present Queen was the granddaughter of George. He then adverted to the wars of their tribes and chiefs, particularly with the Natives of Rotorua. I told him that one of the principal objects of my mission was to persuade all tribes at present at war with each other to accept the mediation of your Excellency, and to advise them to abide your decision. He objected strongly to our proposal of visiting at a future period the Natives of Rotorua; and he also observed, "If your nation is so fond of peace, why have you introduced into my country firearms and gunpowder?" He was in reply told that the effects of this trade had been much deplored by the Queen's Government, who were anxious to mitigate its consequences by substituting justice and a regular form of government in their country, and which could only be effected by giving the Queen the necessary powers, and for which purpose they were required to sign the Treaty, which had been before explained to them. He next inquired whether my Queen governed all the white nations. I replied, Not all; but that she was Queen of the most powerful of all the nations. She had, however, acknowledged the New Zealanders to be an independent nation some years ago; but that treaty had proved abortive, in consequence of; the wars of their tribes amongst themselves, and their want of union; and to themselves alone, therefore, were to be attached the evils they had endured. She did not seek the authority of white men, of whatever nation, to govern them; she sought that authority from themselves, as a spontaneous gift vesting her with power for their own good, and to avert the evils which she foresaw, were accumulating around them, by the increasing influence of white men subject otherwise to no law or control. On being told that I was a chief of a body of soldiers, and that I had served under the monarchs already named, he inquired, Should his tribe, agreeably to my request, abstain from making war on the Natives at Rotorua, would the Governor send a portion of my force to protect them? I told them your Excellency desired rather to mediate between them, and only in cases of extreme emergency would you be prevailed upon to act in any other manner; but, if your arbitration was applied for, I had no doubt but that the custom of their country would be complied with, by your insisting on a compensation being made to the party injured by the party offending. On my speaking of the sale of lands, and of the right of pre-emption claimed by the Queen as intended equally for their benefit and to encourage industrious white men to settle amongst them, to teach them arts and how to manufacture those articles which were so much sought after and admired by them, rather than, by leaving the sale of large tracts of land to themselves, they might pass into the hands of white men who would never come amongst them but to hamper by their speculations the industrious. The Queen, therefore, knew the object of these men, many of whom, I had no doubt, had counselled them not to sign the Treaty; but she would, nevertheless, unceasingly exert herself to mitigate the evils they sought to inflict on this country, by purchasing their lands herself at a juster valuation. He said it was useless now to speak of this, as the white men had purchased all their lands; but they appeared quite satisfied, saying it was very just.

Your Excellency is aware of the dilatory habits of the Natives. I therefore told the chiefs, in conclusion, that it was necessary that I should also pay my respects to the chiefs of the neighbouring pa; and I therefore took my leave of them, leaving Mr. Williams for a time to see if they would resolve whether or not to sign the Treaty. He subsequently told me that presents had been demanded, but the chief said he would not believe the word of the missionary when Mr. Williams told him he had little doubt but that I would send some blankets through him for distribution.

I afterwards visited the chiefs at the Maungatapu. Pa, all of whom had previously signed, with the exception of two, who were, I regret to say, absent with their families. We were well received. The chief, a fine, intelligent-looking fellow, named Nuka, said that he had dined but, if we would take page 29some dinner, it would soon be prepared for us. This pa and the tribe are of considerable strength and importance. I was much taken by their chief's manners; and, from the good character he bears, if any mark of distinction is ever to be shown to any of them it would be well to secure the goodwill of this chief, who appears to be well disposed to the Government.

I have deemed it expedient to enter more fully into the detail of this conference, as one which not only shows fully the general character of the Natives, but also the nature of the obstacles I may hereafter expect to meet when principles alien to the Government have been instilled by interested Europeans into their minds, as exemplified also at Coromandel Harbour. Neither will I disguise from your. Excellency my regrets that men professing Christianity should, in a country emerging from barbarity, whose inhabitants are scarcely able to comprehend the simplest doctrines of the Christian religion, endeavour to create distrust of its ministers, of whatsoever persuasion; Christianity in any shape with these people being better than the deplorable condition of many of them at present. It is not the specious professions of a religion which asserts itself unconnected with civil government which should blind us to the political disunion it creates; but rather its sincerity should be tested, by its acts and their, effects, and whether it seeks to open a new field of labour before uncultivated, or to paralyze the efforts of those who have laboured to improve the soil by establishing themselves upon it. The latter I conceive incompatible with such professions, whilst this country contains so vast a field untried, but still, it is to be hoped, reclaimable.

I have given to Captain Bateman a certificate of having chartered his schooner for eleven days at £2 10s. per diem; also for £9 10s. 8d. paid by him to Mr. Webster, at Coromandel Harbour, for pork and potatoes given to the Natives. We arrived here this morning, having left Tauranga Harbour on the 13th instant. The Native chiefs at Otumoetai Pa still display their character for strict observance of previous engagements, until outbidden by the promise of an increased premium.

I have, &c.,

Thos. Bunbury,
Major, 80th Regiment.

His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand.