Letter from the Rev. John Whiteley.
During the, thirty-five years I have been in New Zealand I never felt so desponding as at the present time. The war with the Natives, which began more than eight years ago, is still going on! To-day a steamer has arrived from the southern part of this province, bringing the men that were wounded in the last engagement, and the intelligence that the rebel Natives are threatening the adjoining province. Whanganui settlement is in danger, the Militia is called out, and the people are in a sad state of alarm. On the East Coast, too, things are in a very unsatisfactory state, and it is feared that the few colonial troops that were taken from thence to assist in quelling the rebellion here will have to hasten back to fight for their own hearths and homes,—those of them, at least, who have not fallen in the strife here. And in the meantime farming operations are suspended; stagnation, poverty, and despondency prevail. The object of the rebel Natives in the south is to clear that part of European settlers, doubtless intending when that is accomplished to try their hand here or elsewhere. The consequence is that hundreds of persons who would otherwise have been diligently employed in cultivating the lands of this neighbourhood have left the place, and more are going. "What is the use of expending funds and time on farms which may soon be again overrun by the rebels?" is the natural language of many, and they have gone elsewhere to seek a safer and more profitable home. Of course our numbers in this province are vastly reduced, and if the rebels come here or rise in this neighbourhood we are utterly powerless to stand against them. Our friendly Natives are puzzled, and know not what to make of it. They saw a large army of soldiers sent here from Sydney, from Melbourne, from India, from England, from "all the world" to suppress the rebellion, and that army was recalled, either because they could not do the work, or because England found out that the work to be doue was not "tika" (not right) —that is, the colonists had involved Britain in an unrighteous war; and their conclusions now are that we are left to ourselves, that the rebels will now take advantage of our deserted and unprotected state, that they will seek "utu" (payment, revenge) for all the past; and, as we failed to conquer them when we had ten thousand soldiers and all their big guns in the land, we have now no chance whatever, and of course they consider what will become of them, and ask themselves the question, What is the wisest course? If they by fidelity to us assist a failing cause, how will they stand when we fall? And they are confirmed in these views and apprehensions by the fact that the few soldiers that remain here do not help the settlers at all, but are just spending their time amongst us like gentlemen. And if our own pakeha soldiers do not help us, why should they be expected to do so? Can we gainsay this reasoning of the Maori mind among our friendly Natives? I confess I do not see how, and I fear, if they were required by necessity to be put to the test, they would say, "Your own soldiers do not fight for you: why should we?" And then, regarding our cause as having been deserted by the Mother-country because it was an unrighteous one, their next step would be to go over at once to the rebels, regarding might as right, and right as safety.
The Abyssinian expedition furnishes them with a remarkable contrast in confirmation of the views stated above. In that country there were less than a hundred Europeans in captivity: here there are many thousands of men, women, and children, as they think, at the mercy of the rebels, who can any day at their pleasure do as they have done before—shoot down, tomahawk, and carry off those who, in their daily avocations, dreamt not of a foe being near. To Abyssinia a mighty army of men and horses and elephants, with all its appliances, was sent to rescue the few: from this country the army was taken away, leaving the many to their fate, which in many instances already has been a terrible one, as widows, fatherless children, and bereaved friends painfully testify. In Abyssinia the work was page 154 completed, the captives were released, the enemy was subdued, and the author of all the evil was slain in New Zealand the case was the reverse—the army was withdrawn, the rebellion was not suppressed, the thousands were left to their fate, and the instigators of the mischief were left at large. In that country the few pakehas were sojourners in, captivity, but not expending money in making a home for themselves and their children after them; while here the thousands who have left their English homes to come to New Zealand have spent their all in expensive, continuous, and laborious efforts to fulfil God's original command to subdue the earth and possess it, and have been again and again driven from homes which they have made for themselves, and which they hoped would be their children's homes, and the homes of their children's children. For the Abyssinian expedition the British nation laudably and cheerfully contributed some £6,000,000 without grumbling or requiring one sixpence in return from those for whose sake this expensive expedition was undertaken: whereas the army was withdrawn from New Zealand before it had done its work; a debt of £3,000,000 is thrown upon the colony as the expenses of that army; the country is burdened with that debt, as with a heavy millstone about its neck; and every inhabitant of the land is taxed with the additional liability, over and above all other demands upon his strength and energy, of having to provide for the interest of this debt of £3,000,000.
And now let me ask, Is the Maori view of the case the correct one? Correct or not, it is the view by which the Natives are influenced, and by which their conduct is likely to be regulated. When, I think of the deliverance of the Abyssinian captives, and of the emancipation of the West Indian slaves at a cost of twenty millions, and when I talk of these things with our friendly Natives, I glory in my nation and thank God that I belong to such a people; but when I think of New Zealand I am humbled indeed. Much, I know, has been said on the other side in opposition to the view given above as being, that of the friendly Maoris. It may be said that our New Zealand Parliament requested that the troops might be withdrawn. But why was such a request made? Several reasons may be mentioned. It was insinuated that the war was begun or was being continued for the gratifying of the ambition and avarice of the colonists, and, this insinuation being extensively entertained by the army, the effect was manifest, in comparative inactivity. The colonists were given to understand that the expenses of the war would fall upon them, and our Government rightly considered that the expensiveness of such comparative inactivity should not be continued. The hope was entertained that the rebellious Natives had been led to see their mistake, and that, when the way was opened for their return to friendship by the removal of the soldiers from the country, they would avail themselves of the opportunity. It was like the laying-down of arms on our part; and an invitation for them to follow our example. As a colony we felt that we could not afford to pay for an expensive and comparatively inactive army, and we hoped to be able to do without it. And it may be said that the thousands of brave men in New Zealand who bear the British name ought to Le able to cope with the few Natives who are in rebellion against us. True; but then how are they to cultivate their farms and keep the field against the foe at the same time? How are they to pay off the debt of £3,000,000, or even the interest thereof, if their time and energies are to be exhausted in an expensive and protracted warfare? The friendly Natives never approved of the withdrawal of the troops until matters should be thoroughly settled, and it is now with them a very serious question, What will be done, and how will they be affected? Some three or four months ago the friendly Natives of this district visited the rebel tribes in the south with the hope of promoting and establishing peace. This gave those tribes an opportunity of returning the visit, and they came by hundreds. But they came, not as those who are vanquished and humbled; but as those whose right it is to dictate terms and lay down the law. Of course they came without arms, and were received with every manifestation of friendly feeling and hospitality, both by Natives and Europeans. But to the appeal made to them by the authorities in the way of assertion and example, "War is at an end, is it not?" and which was responded to in Native fashion by a loud and unanimous "Ae" from the pakehas, they made a very equivocal and unsatisfactory response, and since their return war has recommenced in a most savage and murderous way by them or their friends. The impression is therefore irresistible that they came here for the purpose of spying out our weakness, and also of getting the friendly Natives over to their side. Out of deference to those by whom they were entertained they allowed us to hold our religious services in their presence, and to preach to them the everlasting gospel, but they took care to lose no opportunity of exhibiting the fascinating ceremonies of their new religion of Haubauism before the Christian Natives, and of doing all they could to persuade them it was all the same religion as their own, and vastly superior in their way of observing its ceremonies and worship. That they succeeded to a very large extent is unquestionable, and the declining interest manifested in our schools and worship is painful proof that the friendly Natives are sympathizing in a very serious degree with those who are in rebellion against us. The successes which the rebels have achieved will of course further confirm these wavering "friendlies" in their faith in the cause of those who have taken up arms against us, so that it may before long become with them a settled conviction that we are all wrong, and that they are bound by duty and by interest to abandon us.
And what have we in the whole length and breadth of our province to rely upon, in the event of a general or even a local manifestation of disaffection? Truly, the "nakedness of the land" might tempt our friends to despise and forsake us, and our foes to "swallow us up." When I visit the out-settlements of our enterprising English families, if is painful to think how very easily might all the effects of their industry be destroyed, and themselves murdered, wives and children tomahawked and devoured, without any one being the wiser till all was over. And these are the men who have to pay the war debt of three millions! O Britain! how canst thou be so forgetful of thy far-off children? But the Lord reigneth. Let this thought check my complaints, and rebuke my despondency.
"Better than my boding fears
To me Thou oft hast proved."
Thank God we have a few "righteous persons" even in New Zealand, and the Lord will hear their prayers. Our Government, our colonists, I know, are wishful, earnestly, ardently wishful, to save and elevate our Native race. May God have mercy on these infatuated rebellious tribes, "open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God!" It has been said, "The page 155Natives are fighting for their lands." But "the earth is the Lord's," and for six hundred years He has been waiting for them to "occupy." Six hundred years more may find them with millions upon millions of still unoccupied acres; and Providence indicates that now shall this portion of His earth be occupied by those who are able and willing to bring forth the fruits thereof.
Let our brave colonists, then, have the sympathies of the nation that has sent them here, and which is well able to help them here.