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

No. 44. — Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen to the Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley

No. 44.
Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen to the Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley.

Governor Bowen's Visit to New Plymouth. Government House, Auckland, N.Z., 6th October, 1870.

My Lord,—

Referring to the information contained in my Despatch No. 123, of the 25th September ultimo, and in the memorandum from Mr. McLean enclosed therein, concerning the large meeting of Maoris recently held at Taranaki, I now have the honour to report that I deemed it advisable to proceed to that province in person so soon as the state of public business after the close of the annual session of Parliament permitted me to absent myself temporarily from the seat of the General Government. Accordingly I left Wellington, by sea, on the 28th ultimo, and landed on the following day at the Town of New Plymouth,* where I conferred with the local officers of the Government, with the principal colonists of the district, and with several Maori chiefs.

  • 2. Mr. Parris, the experienced Civil Commissioner for the Province of Taranaki, who is intimately acquainted with the Native language and customs, gave me very full information respecting the proceedings at the late assembly of Maoris at Parihaka, and the general state of Native affairs on the west coast of this Island. He assured me that the annexed brief account of the meeting published in one of the local journals is quite accurate so far as it goes, having been written on the spot by one of the eight or ten Englishmen who accompanied him to it.
  • 3. It appears that this meeting was called together in consequence of invitations issued to all parts of the North Island by Te Whiti, a Taranaki chief, who now professes (like Kereopa, Te Ua, Hakaraia, and others of his countrymen during the last six or seven years) to be a prophet of the Hauhau creed. As it is doubtless already known to your Lordship, Hauhauism, in its religious aspect, is a rude mixture of some of the dogmas of the Christian faith with many of the most savage and horrible tenets and practices of the old Paganism; while in its political aspect it may be described as a bond of union among the adherents of the so-called "Maori King" and that portion of the Maori race which has renounced at once its Christianity and its allegiance to the British Crown.
  • 4. Mr. Parris was invited to be present at the meeting (called professedly to discuss the question of war or peace with the English), and he accordingly repaired, with a few Europeans and a large number of loyal Natives, to Parihaka, Te Whiti's kainga, or village, which is situate about thirty-five miles to the south of New Plymouth. He found assembled there about twelve hundred Maoris, including delegates from nearly all the principal clans, and a Waikato chief named Aporo, who appeared as the representative of Tawhiao. The korero, or talking, began on the 18th of September, and lasted for four days. The speeches were full of the customary allegories and figures, nearly unintelligible to all but those few Europeans who arc thoroughly conversant with the traditions and character of the Maoris. The meeting separated without arriving at any formal decision, or even expression of opinion; but Mr. Parris, together with Mr. McLean and all who know the Natives best, considers the general result to be favourable, seeing that about seven hundred of the whole number present avowed themselves to be supporters of the law and of the sovereignty of the Queen; while Titokowaru, who appeared at the head of eighty armed followers, utterly failed to excite the remaining five hundred to any act or resolution of open hostility. He has again retired to his fastness in the almost impenetrable forests about forty miles west of New Plymouth, where he will be left unmolested so long as he remains quiet. Mr. Parris replied with firmness and courage to Titokowaru's fierce attacks on the English, and seems to have carried with him the general sympathy of the meeting. Of the loyal majority fully one-half were men who were recently in arms against the Queen. Conspicuous among these was Hone Pihama, the formidable chief of the Ngatiruanui clan, who fought so long and so bravely against Generals Cameron and Chute, but who attended the Native meeting held to welcome me in September, 1869, on the occasion of my first visit to Taranaki, and has since been a zealous supporter of the British Government.§
  • 5. It should be mentioned that Mr. Parris found the Natives generally to be well acquainted with the contents of Lord Granville's despatch of the 7th October, 1869, No. 115; and with the fact that a great war had recently broken out in Europe. Several Maoris said to him, Now we know the real reason why England has withdrawn her soldiers from New Zealand: she is afraid of being attacked at home." It is agreed on all sides that the presence of H.M.S. "Blanche" at New Plymouth during the meeting produced an excellent moral impression on both the loyal and the disaffected Natives: encouraging the former and dispiriting the latter.
  • 6. While I remained at Taranaki I inspected the post fortified by the Colonial Government, and held by detachments of the Militia and Armed Constabulary, for the protection of the settlers, who—as will have been seen from my former reports—comprise a total population of 4,000 souls, and about eight hundred able-bodied and armed men, scattered over an area nearly as large as that of Yorkshire, surrounded by powerful Native clans, and practically almost without communication, except page 156by sea, with Auckland, Wellington, and the other principal English settlements. Blockhouses and redoubts have been erected in the country districts as rallying-points for the men and places of refuge for the women and children. The barracks, occupied until last February by a garrison of Imperial troops and now by a detachment of the colonial forces, stand on a steep hill in the centre of the Town of New Plymouth, and have been surrounded by a stockade quite strong enough to resist the attack of an enemy unprovided with artillery. In the event of any fresh outbreak, the entire population of the town and its suburbs (about two thousand souls) would be safe within this fortified enceinte.
  • 7. From Taranaki I proceeded by the Manukau Harbour to Auckland, the real centre of the chief Native districts, which I shall revisit from this point in a succession of journeys. So far as is known here up to this date the whole Island continues tranquil, and there has been no hostile collision during the past month. Still there is much restlessness in the Native mind, and fresh meetings, like that at Parihaka, will be held during the ensuing summer (i.e., from December to March). Two members of the Executive Council are now with me at Auckland, and I shall be joined here in a few weeks by Mr. McLean, who will accompany me, in the first instance, to the meetings which will be convened by the Arawas and Ngatiporous on the East Coast.
  • 8. The monthly mail viâ San Francisco will leave Auckland to-morrow, the 7th October instant, and the intelligence respecting the condition of this country which it will carry away may be described as, on the whole, satisfactory. Still it cannot be forgotten that the permanent maintenance of peace during the next few years will probably depend upon a greater variety of chances, and on a more precarious tenure, in New Zealand, than in any other British colony. What has happened here so often may of course happen again. The disturbing elements have certainly been diminished, but they have not entirely been dispelled; and they require constant watchfulness on the part of the colonial authorities. If we look to past experience, to the nature of the relations existing with some of the Maori clans, and to the position of many of the border settlements, it must be confessed that in several quarters causes of collision may arise at any moment. In fact it may well be doubted if, in a country so situated, it is in the power of any Government, however well disposed and well prepared, to command peace. But the Colonial Government, if it cannot command peace, can and (it is believed) will deserve it, by taking care that good faith, fair dealing, and a wise forbearance are on its side. After all, the Native difficulty is a question of time. In the South Island it has long ago ceased to exist; and ten years hence (or even at an earlier date) it will have practically ceased to exist also in the North Island. Meanwhile, as I have submitted in former despatches, it is alike more politic and more humane to outlive Maori disaffection than to attempt to put it down with the strong hand.

I have, &c.,

G. F. Bowen.

The Right Hon. the Earl of Kimberley.

* It will be recollected that New Plymouth is the capital of the Province of Taranaki.

Enclosure. Extract from the Taranaki Herald of 28th September, 1870.

The so-called Maori King.

§ See Governor of New Zealand to the Secretary of State, No. 134, of 14th October, 1869, printed at page 129 of the Papers presented to the Imperial Parliament in April, 1870.

Printed at page 195 of the Papers presented to the Imperial Parliament in April, 1870.