Copy of a Despatch from the
Right Hon. Edward Cardwell to Governor Sir George GRey.
From your Despatch No. 53, of the 6th April last, I collect that some difference has arisen between yourself and your Ministers respecting the proper mode of dealing with the 183 Maori prisoners taken at Rangiriri, and the tone of your despatch leads me to the conjecture that, if your Advisers had concurred with you in adopting a definite and generous course of action with regard to these persons, the resistance to Sir Duncan Cameron by the Natives at Orakau might, in your opinion, have been less desperate, some loss of life avoided, and the completeness of the success enhanced.
On this I think it necessary to observe that, while I fully recognize the general right and duty of the Colonial Government to deal with matters of Native policy properly so called, I consider that while active operations are being carried on under the conduct of Her Majesty's officers, and in the main by Her Majesty's military and naval forces, it is for the Governor personally, as representative of the Imperial Government, to decide upon the fate of persons who are taken prisoners in the course of these military operations; and although, before adopting any such decision, I should wish you to obtain the advice, and if possible the concurrence, of your Ministers, I do not consider that concurrence indispensable. But, subject always to the positive laws of the colony, I hold you entitled to determine, and I look to you for determining, whether such prisoners, or any of them, shall be released on parole or otherwise, or whether they shall be kept under such control as may legally be applied to them as prisoners of war, or whether they shall be handed over to the civil authorities to be dealt with as criminals. I shall therefore be fully prepared to support you in case you should have thought it necessary, with or without the consent of your Ministers, so to deal with these prisoners as in your opinion the public interest may have required.
As I understand that your opinion has an especial reference to the good effect which measures of generosity would have upon the military operations of Sir Duncan Cameron, I make no doubt that, in forming that opinion, you have been fully acquainted with the views of Sir Duncan Cameron, and of the grounds on which those views have been arrived at.
Governor Sir George Grey, K.C.B., &c.
I remain, &c.,