Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.
Chapter VII. — The Wairau Massacre
The Wairau Massacre.
And thus in peace the Wairau lay
Unknown to strife, save for the human need,
Till coldly dawned the fatal day
Of Rauparaha's dark and bloody deed.
Amongst the many unsatisfactory negotiations for the purchase of land entered into between Colonel Wakefield and Te Rauparaha, few seem to have been so ill-defined as that relating to the Wairau Plain. Whether Wakefield really believed that he had bought it, and Rauparaha was as equally confident that he had not sold it, will never be known. Certainly, it is difficult to understand how such a wide difference of impression could have arisen between them had they both been sincere in the transaction. It is true the Colonel might have considered that the Plain was included in the purchases made in 1839, when he bargained for four hundred miles of country, extending from the 38th to the 43rd degree of latitude on the West Coast, and from the. 41st to the 43rd page 251degree on the East Coast; but he knew that the plain had never been specifically named, and in his heart he must have felt that no valid title could rest upon a purchase made as this one was; its full purport not being clearly explained by Dicky Barrett, who acted as interpreter; and the signatures of three chiefs only being obtained to the deed, when thirty thousand natives had, by native law, a voice in its disposal. That Colonel Wakefield did have some reservation, later on, about his right to the land is almost certain, for after the settlement of Nelson had been in progress for about a year he strongly opposed his brother's suggestion to include the Wairau in the district to be surveyed, partly because he considered that its occupation might militate against the success of the Wellington colony, but chiefly because he anticipated that the Company's title would be disputed by other claimants and by the natives. It would therefore seem that Captain Wakefield, the resident agent of the Company, was more to blame for the improper occupation of the valley, and for all the subsequent trouble, in the expiation of which he paid the penalty with his life. He was as conversant as the Colonel with the whole circumstances of the case, and perhaps more so, and had it not been that he had no alternative between opening-page 252up the Wairau, and acknowledging the ignominious failure of the Nelson settlement, he would hardly, in the face of so many warnings, have persisted in his high handed and injudicious course.
The story of the Nelson settlement repeats the tale of undue haste, imperfect preparations, a disposition to make florid promises and hold out inflated inducements, that was common to all the New Zealand Company's attempts at colonisation. One of the essential features of this settlement was that each settler could obtain 150 acres of rural land, 50 acres of suburban land, and one town acre; but when the most thorough exploration of the region around Blind and Massacre Bays had been made it was found that, although a great deal of inferior country had been included in the sections laid off by the surveyors, there was still an enormous deficiency in the area required to provide for all the settlers who had either paid for their land in advance, or were waiting to settle on it. Misled by the reports of some of his officers Captain Wakefield had caused it to be broadly published that there was more than sufficient land at Port Wakatu to meet the requirements of the settlement, and it was while looking round for some tangible fact to page 253justify his assertions that he bethought him of the Wairau.*
* When the expedition ships, the "Will Watch" and "Whitby," were en route to Nelson they were driven by the unfavourable wind within the waters of Cloudy Bay, and while they were beating about between the White Bluff and Port Underwood, from their decks the emigrant passengers got a glimpse of the Vernon Hills, whose slopes were then covered with long waving grass, and the sight of the beautiful pasturage filled them with admiration. But at this time nothing was said by those in charge of the expedition as to the future occupation of this rich and tempting district. It therefore seems abundantly clear that the settlement of the Wairau was a pure afterthought, determined upon by Captain Wakefield when he found it was utterly impossible for the Company to fulfil its engagements with the settlers in the immediate vicinity of Nelson.
Captain Wakefield's answer was that he intended to proceed with the survey, as he claimed the land in the name of the Company, though on what grounds it is not clear. Rangihaeata vehemently denied the sale, and backed up his protestations by a threat that if Captain Wakefield attempted to carry out his intentions he would meet him and take his head. The agent was in no way disturbed or shaken by the hostile attitude of the chiefs, but to Rangihaeata's boisterous manner he calmly replied that if any interference was offered, he would come with three hundred constables and arrest the belligerent natives. This unconciliatory attitude did not in the least assist to clear the atmosphere, for Rangihaeata went about the settlement during the next few days openly threatening every one page 255with death whom he conceived had any authority amongst the colonists if they ventured to annex the Wairau, unless they could first succeed in killing him, in which event, he said, the land would remain as the lawful possession of the conqueror. Rauparaha, on the other hand, assumed the air of the diplomat, and professed not to sympathise with the policy of his lieutenant, whom he described as a "bad man." At the same time, in his fawning fashion, he entreated the Europeans not to go to the Wairau, and begged that the dispute might be referred to Mr. Spain, the Government Land Commissioner, who had been appointed to investigate the claims of the Company, but Captain Wakefield repudiated the jurisdiction of Mr. Spain in the matter, and refused to comply with the request. The chiefs, finding that neither threats nor persuasion could shake Captain Wakefield in his determination to take possession of the Wairau, indignantly left the settlement, but as a final warning Rauparaha expressed his intention to lay the whole circumstances of the case before the Queen's Commissioner, and demand an immediate settlement of the claim.
After these animated interviews it might have been supposed that Captain Wakefield would, in his calmer moments, have seriously reviewed the position, and that against the vague and shadowy rights of the Company as expressed in the two deeds in his possession, in the first of which it was doubtful if the Wairau was included, and both of which it is certain the natives did not understand, he would have set the fact that the authenticity of these sales was being stoutly contested by the resident and non-resident natives interested, and that he would also have recognised that the whole question, having been placed in the hands of Mr. Spain, was entirely sub judice, and as such should have remained in abeyance until the court had pronounced its judgment. These considerations were, however, altogether outweighed by the desire to placate the settlers who were clamouring for their land and to prevent the exposure, of the Company's inability to perform all that it had promised. The fear that if this could not be done he would be open to crushing censure from all with whom they had entered into engagements, and the desire to rescue his own and his brother's reputation from public anger and ridicule, biased his page 259otherwise judicial mind against the merits of the opposing case, which he could scarcely even regard with patience. Accordingly he decided to act upon the impulse that moved him most, and on the 15th of April, 1843, he entered into three contracts for the survey of the plain with Messrs. Barnicoat and Thompson, Mr. Cotterell, and Mr. Parkinson. As there was a probability that the natives would evince a disposition to interfere, a special provision was made in the tenders that the contractors were to be indemnified in case of loss, and on this understanding the surveyors, with forty assistants, arrived a few days later, and commenced operations, Messrs. Barnicoat and Thompson at the Marshlands' side of the valley, Mr. Cotterell in the neighbourhood of Riverlands, and Mr. Parkinson still higher up the plain, towards Grovetown.
At first the resident natives allowed the work to proceed with but slight resistance, once or twice they refused to permit timber to be sawn with which to make pegs and ranging rods, but with the exercise of a little tact and patience these difficulties were overcome, and the work had proceeded with so little friction that before Rauparaha arrived Messrs. Barnicoat and Thompson had practically completed their contract, the others not being quite so far advanced.
Rauparaha and Rangihaeata were at Mana page 260when the news of these proceedings reached them, and they at once engaged with their English friend, Joseph Toms, to convey them and a portion of their party, in his schooner "Three Brothers," to Port Underwood, from whence they intended to reach the Wairau in their canoes. On the 1st of June the schooner and the canoes arrived at the Port, and Rauparaha, with one hundred armed followers, at once proceeded to the house of Mr. Cave, who for seven or eight years had been employed there as cooper for the whaling stations, and with whom they were on the best of terms. To him they declared their intention of burning the surveyors' camps, and for that purpose they left for the Wairau the same evening in eight canoes and a whale-boat. Their threat was duly executed next morning, when Rauparaha with thirty of his people appeared at Mr. Cotterell's camp on the Opawa River, and after stripping his huts, they burned the toe-toe grass with which they were covered, as well as the survey pegs and ranging rods prepared from manuka sticks. They then assisted the surveyors to carry their belongings to the boats, and shipped them off to the pah at the mouth of the river. Their next proceeding was to paddle up the Wairau to Mr. Barnicoat's camp, which was situated on the riverbank close to the Ferry Bridge and there page 261they re-enacted their settled programme. In these proceedings Rauparaha was very firm yet conciliatory. There was no exhibition of temper or violence towards persons or property. He simply gave the surveyors to understand that he would have none of them or their surveying there, and the sooner they returned to Nelson the better he would like it, and to this end he assisted them to remove their instruments and personal effects to a place of safety before he demolished their whares. His reasoning upon this point was most logical, for he argued that the toe-toe, having grown upon the land, was his, that he was entitled to do what he pleased with his own, and so long as he did not interfere with any of the articles brought from England, he committed no breach of justice.
* Mr. Patchett represented the absentee land-owners in the Nelson settlement.
* The late Mr. Henry Hammond, of Fairhall, was one of the men employed with Mr. Thompson. Mr. Cyrus Goulter, who was surveying with Mr. Cotterell, also returned to Nelson with this party. They were camped just above "The Narrows" in the Wairau Valley on the day of the massacre.
* This camp was situated near the junction of the four cross-roads at Grovetown, on land that is now the property of Mrs. Alex. Cameron. By the time Mr. Tuckett arrived, Mr. Parkinson, fearing trouble, but not wishing to relinquish the survey before it was finished, had divided his party into two sections. One he sent in charge of Mr. Drake, who formed a new camp on what is now Mr. Lucas' farm, but they were soon discovered and taken with the rest down to the mouth of the river. Amongst the members of this party was Mr. John Gibson, of Renwick, who was then a boy employed to look after the camp. Mr. Parkinson went down to the pah to confer with Mr. Tuckett, but sent his men higher up the plain on to land that has since been washed away by the Opawa River, where they formed a camp. By refraining from lighting fires during the daytime they managed to evade detection, and when rejoined by Mr. Parkinson they returned to Nelson by the overland route.
His request for delay was met by a command to remove his tent to the boat, and upon his refusing to obey, Rangihaeata burst out into a violent passion, and' in a torrent of invective reminded Mr. Tuckett of the warning he had given him in Nelson, ironically remarking that if he was so fond of the Wairau he (Rangihaeata) would bury him there. This insulting outburst was treated with studied contempt by the chief surveyor, page 265who quietly rebuked Rangihaeata for his ungentlemanly behaviour, telling him that he would not converse with him until he mended his manners, the reproof having the desired effect upon the angry chief. While this brief altercation was proceeding Rauparaha had remained silent, although he was evidently exercising a restraining influence upon his comrade. But he now advanced, and once more politely requested Mr. Tuckett to have his tent removed; but that gentleman still persisted in his right to remain, whereupon Rauparaha, becoming impatient, ordered some of his own people to carry out his behest, and in a few minutes the tent was struck and stowed away in the boat. Mr. Tuckett then deemed it unwise to offer further objection, and together with the two chiefs he agreed to go back to the pah.
It had been Mr. Tuckett's intention to embark for Nelson next morning, but in the night a south-easterly gale came up and blew for three days, causing such a surf on the Bar that Rauparaha advised him not to attempt to cross it. During this compulsory stay that chief was most profuse in his expressions of goodwill towards the Europeans, and by his fawning and obsequious manner created a feeling of revulsion in the minds of the Englishmen. Rangihaeata, on the other hand, left them severely alone, neither seeking page 266favours nor intercourse of any kind, and save on one occasion his isolation was complete. That exception arose from the fact that one of the men reported that he had lost a handkerchief and a bill-hook, which he had seen in the possession of Rangihaeata's people, and Mr. Tuckett at once approached the chief and asked to have the property returned. His reply was that he had some bad men as well as good ones amongst his followers, sarcastically adding that perhaps Mr. Tuckett was in the same position, but that as he had come to the Wairau to defend his own and not to thieve, if the surveyor could identify the man he would have his property back, and, failing that, he could have utu instead. The bill-hook was soon found, and here the incident ended, but the impression it made upon Mr. Tuckett was, that if Rangihaeata was more violent than Rauparaha, he was up to this point, certainly the more noble of the two.
As soon as the weather cleared the chief surveyor prepared to take his departure, but as the boat would not carry passengers and baggage both, it was finally decided that Messrs. Barnicoat and Parkinson should remain, and Messrs. Tuckett, Patchett and Moline proceeded to Nelson, although the chiefs raised no objection to the whole party remaining until additional boats could be page 267brought, or until they could be conveyed to one of the whaling stations at Port Underwood. By noon on the following day Mr. Tuckett and his companions had got well into Blind Bay, when they observed the Government brig "Victoria," under full sail, from which a gun was fired as a signal to board her. On doing so they learned that the vessel had just left Nelson, and was proceeding to the Wairau with the police magistrate (Mr. Thompson), Captain Wakefield (the Company's agent), Captain England, J.P., Mr. Cotterell, and some of the landed proprietors of the proposed settlement, as well as the chief constable, Mr. Maling, and twenty-four labouring men who had been sworn-in as special constables. The agent informed the chief surveyor that after Mr. Cotterell had arrived at Nelson and made his report, it had been decided to proceed as soon as possible to the scene of operations and arrest the chiefs on a charge of arson, a warrant having been granted by Messrs. Thompson, P.M., Captain Wakefield, Captain England, and A. McDonald, Esq., justices of the peace. Mr. Tuckett was naturally surprised and deeply grieved at this intelligence, and in antagonism to the rash and impolitic step, he informed Captain Wakefield of Rauparaha's interview with Mr. Spain, and of that chief's willingness to still abide by the decision of the court. He further pointed page 268out the great care observed by the natives not to interfere with any of the surveyors' property or to injure the persons of any of their employees. He proceeded to argue that the men on board would not number one-half the strength of the natives then at the Wairau, and contrasted this numerical weakness with the threat made by the Captain at Nelson, that if Rangihaeata interfered with the survey he would come with three hundred constables to arrest him. His impression, therefore, was that the smallness of the party would inspire confidence in the minds of the natives rather than dread, and he strongly urged that however satisfied the agent might feel about the result, prudence demanded that they should appear on the plain with such a force as would completely overawe the Maoris, and to which there would be no humiliation in surrendering. In support of his views he handed to Captain Wakefield a letter which he had received from the Rev. Mr. Ironsides on the 12th of June, the day that he had met Mr. Cotterell at the Bar, in which the missionary, ripe with experience of Maori customs, and knowing how tenaciously they clung to their rights in landed property, ventured the opinion that unless this dispute was most diplomatically handled, the result might be extremely serious. Captain Wakefield expressed him-page 269self deeply thankful for the counsel contained in Mr. Ironsides' letter and also for the advice tendered by Mr. Tuckett, with whose whole conduct he entirely acquiesced. So impressed was he with the force of the chief surveyor's arguments, that he at once went into the cabin, where Mr. Thompson was, and requested him to read Mr. Ironsides' letter, stating that from it and other considerations urged by Mr. Tuckett, he had come to the conclusion that it would be wiser to return to Nelson. Mr. Thompson was totally averse to turning back, as he begrudged missing the opportunity of giving the natives what he called "a prestige for the law" and of showing the Government the correct way to deal with such troublesome fellows, at the same time expressing the opinion that if the authorities at Wellington had dealt with these chiefs as he had dealt with Ekawa at Massacre Bay, they would have ceased to give annoyance long ago. He also stated that if they returned at that stage they would simply be laughed at by the settlers, and he was not going to put himself in that undignified position. In his determination to go on Mr. Thompson was seconded by the Crown Prosecuter (Mr. Richardson), who begged that the expedition might not be given up, as he considered it was "only a lark," and in deference to the aggressive wishes of the magistrate and page 270the pleasurable inclinations of the* lawyer, Captain Wakefield committed the fatal error of agreeing to proceed. Mr. Tuckett, still apprehensive that disastrous consequences would follow if Mr. Thompson's unwise counsels prevailed, earnestly remonstrated with that gentleman, taking up the attitude that he was exceeding his rights in proceeding to execute his warrant with an armed force. The magistrate admitted the correctness of Mr. Tuckett's premises, but he hotly resented the assumption that he intended to use the force at all. He then explained that he did not know that he would land the men. Certainly he would not give out the arms or take the force into the presence of the natives until he had first exhausted every plausible means to get the chiefs to submit themselves to trial on board the brig. Should they refuse to do so, which he did not expect, then he would investigate the charge on the spot, and afterwards decide whether he should call in the aid of the armed party or not. Had this plan of operations been strictly observed, much that afterwards happened might have been averted, but in no single particular did the magistrate follow his promised line of action, for as soon as the vessel arrived at Cloudy Bay the men were supplied with firearms and landed at the mouth of the Wairau River.
On seeing the Government brig enter the page 271Bay the Maoris had abandoned the old pah at the Bar, retired further up the plain, and next morning the magistrate's band of special constables was ordered to get ready and go in pursuit. Perceiving that his worst fears were likely to be realised, and that the magistrate would not go without the armed force, Mr. Tuckett made a final appeal to Captain Wakefield, and offered to go himself and see Rauparaha, in company with the chief constable and the interpreter, if only the men bearing arms were allowed to remain where they were. To this suggestion the Captain readily agreed, and at once put the proposal before Mr. Thompson, who also consented, and ordered the chief constable to prepare himself for the journey; but when Mr. Maling announced himself ready to go he presented such an armour-plated appearance that the chief surveyor absolutely refused to be seen in his company. He wore a cutlass at his side, a brace of pistols and a pair of handcuffs in his belt, while he carried a pair of heavy leg irons in his hand. How he proposed to get Rauparaha down to the Bar when he was both handcuffed and hobbled, is not very clear, nor did he have time to explain, for Mr. Tuckett at once drew attention to his accoutrements, and pointed out that the leg irons would have an especially exasperating effect upon the natives, while if he page 272insisted upon carrying pistols, it would at least be judicious to conceal them, and so avoid the appearance of intimidation. The magistrate at once ordered that the irons should be discarded, but also intimated that he had changed his mind as to the mode of procedure, and that he had now determined the whole force should participate in the arrest, a decision from which no amount of persuasion could induce him to deviate.
* Big bush at Grovetown.
At dawn next morning the camp of Rauparaha was easily distinguished by the smoke rising through the forest trees at the mouth of page 275the Waitohi Valley about four miles away. The magistrate then mustered his constables and served out to each man eighteen rounds of ball cartridge. When all-told they numbered 40 men, bearing muskets, bayonets and cutlasses, besides ten or twelve gentlemen who were without arms, the chief surveyor and Mr. Cotterell, being members of the Society of Friends, refusing to carry them in accordance with their religious principles. After a short march across the plain through the fern and toe-toe they arrived at the foot of the Tua Marina hills, and there they halted, having during the course of the journey been cautioned not to fire unless ordered to do so.
The constitution of the arresting party was not calculated to ensure success in the event of resistance on the part of the Maoris. They were untrained and without discipline, some of them were even unwilling participants in the expedition, for they had been coerced into coming by the threat that they would lose their employment in the service of the Company if they refused to assist in the arrest of the chiefs. Their arms were old-fashioned and not in the best of repair, there was a total lack of organisation, and apparently no common understanding as to who was in authority. Under these circumstances the result could scarcely have been different, page 276considering the character of the men with whom they had to deal.
* The original name of this stream was Wai Tua Marina, meaning calm, peaceful, or sleeping water
In reply to Rauparaha's enquiry as to what had brought them there, Mr. Thompson proceeded to explain to him through Brooks, the interpreter, that he was their prisoner.page 278
Rauparaha disdainfully replied that it would be time enough to indulge in such talk when Mr. Spain had made his inquiry about the land. They then strove to make him understand that as this case had nothing to do with the land, but was a charge of arson, it did not come within the province of Mr. Spain to inquire into it, but that the charge must be heard on the brig. Rauparaha declared that he had not destroyed any European property, in proof of which he appealed to Mr. Cotterell, who admitted the truth of his assertion and therefore he would not go on board the brig, but he was quite willing that the matter should be adjudicated upon there and then, and provided the compensation demanded was not excessive he would be prepared to pay rather than there should be any ill-feeling between the two races. Thereupon he was told that if he would not go voluntarily he must be taken by force, and a pair of handcuffs were produced to impress him with the sincerity of this threat. His chieftain blood was aroused by this insult, and he indignantly dared them to try to imprison his hands in such instruments and bind him like a slave. The magistrate, who was now rapidly losing his temper, began to stamp and rave, and then desired the interpreter to finally ask Rauparaha to say whether he would go on board the brig or not, and upon his still firmly page 279refusing to do so Mr. Thompson turned to Brooks and exclaimed, with a violent gesture in the direction of the opposite bank, "Then tell him there are the armed party, they will fire on them all." A native from the Bay of Islands who was present amongst Rauparaha's people, and who understood a smattering of English, told those of Rauparaha's party that an order to fire had been given, and sixteen of them at once sprang to their feet, and presenting their muskets at the magistrate, awaited the order from their chief to fire. The mistaken impression under which this hostile display had been made was at once removed by the chief surveyor and Mr. Patchetc, who walked over to them and explained that only a threat, and not an order to fire had been given, and on this assurance they immediately subsided to their seats on the ground. The altercation between Mr. Thompson and Rauparaha still proceeded, during which the former produced his warrant, which he told the chief was the "book-a-book" of the Queen "to make a tie," and that he was the Queen, again adding in high and excited tones, stamping his foot the while, that if Rauparaha did not consent to surrender himself, he would order the Europeans to fire on them. This was quickly interpreted to the armed natives by the stranger from the Bay of Islands, and they instantly page 280sprang to their feet, and pointed their muskets at Mr. Thompson and his companions as before. At this point the peace-making Puaha stepped forward with his Testament in his hand and strove to reason with Mr. Thompson, but that gentleman in his frenzy and rage pushed the native aside, and angrily called out for Rangihaeata to come forward. That chief, on hearing his name, came from behind the bushes which concealed him, and leaping into the midst of the throng, began to brandish his hatchet in dangerous proximity to the magistrate's head, meanwhile upbraiding him in a most violent manner. "What do you want with Rangihaeata that you come here to bind him? Do I go to Port Jackson or to Europe to steal your lands? Have I burned your house? Have I destroyed tents or anything belonging to you?" Such were the pertinent enquiries the angry chief made as to why the indignity of arrest should be put upon him, and as it was quite evident from his flashing eyes and bitter tones that he was in no mood to be trifled with, Mr. Patchett appealed to the chief surveyor to interfere, "otherwise," he said, "we shall all be murdered." Rauparaha, seeing that his companion's manner was not likely to improve matters, ordered him to retire and leave the settlement of the matter to Puaha and himself, at the same time leading Rangihaeata's page 281lame wife, Te Rongo, to him so that she might be under his protection. Mr. Tuckett then seized the opportunity of pointing out to Captain Wakefield that in the event of Rangihaeata's temper getting the better of him they would be completely at the mercy of the natives, seeing that their retreat had been cut-off by the removal of the canoe, and after a brief consultation with Puaha, they agreed it would be wisest to restore the means of communication between themselves and their party on the other side of the stream. Captain Wakefield took the initiative by jumping into the canoe, and with the aid of a pole shoved the bow down the stream until he found a convenient landing place on the other side. While this movement was in progress Mr. Thompson had made another attempt to place the handcuffs upon Rauparaha's wrists, and just at that moment, when the chief had indignantly wrested his hand from the constable's grasp and was bitterly expostulating against the conduct of the Queen's officers, Captain Wakefield stepped on to the opposite bank of the creek, and noticing a threatening movement towards Mr. Thompson on the part of the natives, in a loud voice he gave the command, "Men, forward; Englishmen, forward." The company at once obeyed, and four of the men who were in the front, Morgan, Clanzey, Ratcliffe and Tyrrell, page 282jumped into the canoe for the purpose of crossing over to assist Mr. Thompson, while almost simultaneously that gentleman turned and entered the canoe at the other end, with the result that she was nearly capsized, and a momentary confusion ensued, during which one of the Englishmen in striving to get in front of his companions on the bank, tripped and fell, and in the fall his gun was accidentally discharged. That was the fatal crisis, for it turned what had hitherto been only stirring drama into fearful tragedy. The natives now had no doubt that the Europeans had come to fight, and they at once returned the fire, the first volley being fatal to Tyrrell, who was shot in the throat, Clanzey and Ratcliffe being also shot by the first discharge of musketry, and their bodies fell into the water and sank to the bottom. The Englishmen returned volley for volley, and in the midst of the general fusillade Mr. Thompson and his party passed safely over on the canoe, Mr. Tuckett being the last to leave the bank on which the natives were, which he did by entering the stream, and with one hand on the canoe pulled himself through the water. At this stage of the fight the natives might easily have killed every one of the leading Europeans, for when they started to cross the stream the muzzles of their guns were no more than a few inches away from them, and the fact that page 283they were not shot must have been due to some chivalrous sentiment on the part of the natives, who, seeing them unarmed, honourably abstained from attacking them. For some ten minutes after crossing the creek Mr. Tuckett stood no more than twenty yards away, fully exposed to the fire that was being kept up by the natives and fourteen or fifteen of the European rank and file. Beside him stood Messrs. Barnicoat, Cotterell, Richardson, Patchett and Mating, the two latter of whom were shot almost at the same moment. Mr. Richardson bent over Mr. Patchett and enquired if he was hurt, to which that gentleman replied, "I am mortally wounded, I am mortally wounded; you can do no good for me, make your escape."
As the bullets now began to rain down upon them thick and fast, and as several of the labourers had fallen in the vicinity, amongst them being Northam, Smith, and Burton, Mr. Tuckett and his friends retired to the foot of the ridge whither the other officers had gone with a portion of the men to consult as to the best course to pursue. Their decision was to retreat up the hill, and they called to Mr. Tuckett and the rest of the party to follow them. This act of mistaken generalship cost them dearly, for up to that time their fire had kept the natives penned up on the other side of the stream, page 284but the moment they observed the Europeans falling back they dashed into the water, and carrying their guns above their heads to keep them dry, crossed over and took possession of the trees which grew on the opposite edge, and, secure within this cover, opened a galling fire upon the Europeans, who were now hopelessly exposed upon the face of the fern-clad hill. Mr. Thompson did his utmost to steady the party by exclaiming, "For God's sake men, keep together," but his appeals were for the most part disregarded, not more than a third of the men remaining with their leaders, the rest of them retreating up the ridge and firing haphazard as they went. Captain Wakefield's attempts to instil something like discipline into the men were likewise frustrated by some panic-stricken individual rushing up and shouting out, "Run for your lives lads, run!" — an injunction which they were not slow to obey—and in an instant all semblance of organisation had disappeared. Time after time a few men were got together, but the majority of them were always utterly beyond control. On the last occasion that some of them were rallied, Captain Wakefield and Warrant Officer Howard ordered the men to fix bayonets and charge the natives, but on one of the men, who had been in the artillery, pointing out that there was no one visible to page 285charge at, the idea was abandoned, and a further retreat up the hill-side was the result of a protest on the part of the artilleryman, who declined to remain where he was "and be shot down like a crow," for the natives were still maintaining a steady fire, those who were short of bullets using pebbles as a substitute. On the second brow of the hill they met Mr. Cotterell, who was sitting down with a double-barrelled gun at his side. At the commencement of the quarrel he had been unarmed, but he now had seized this weapon with which to defend himself. He appeared deeply distressed at what had occurred, and expressed his intention of quitting the scene, but he was dissuaded from this course by Captain Wakefield, who, addressing him in most earnest tones said, "For God's sake, Mr. Cotterell, don't attempt to run away, you are sure to be shot if you do." Mr. Cotterell therefore remained with the party, but remarked to Richard Painter, one of his own men, "This is bad work, Dick."
* Some years ago the late Mr. Peake, schoolmaster at Tua Marina, while rambling over Massacre Hill, found the cutlass of a naval officer, which he believed must have belonged to Warrant Officer Howard, as from the description given of those composing the arresting party, he was likely to have had such a weapon in his possession. An old flintlock, pistol, cutlass, and bayonet, found on the same hill, are now in the possession of Mr. John Taylor. (See Illustration.)
* Te Rongo was not the daughter of Te Rauparaha, as is generally supposed, but a much more distant relative she was the widow of Te Whaiti, a nephew of Rauparaha and a first cousin of Rangihaeata, who married her because she was the widow of his near relative. The story that she was shot while standing in front of Rangihaeata, to protect him, is pure romance. She was killed by a stray bullet while hiding in the swamp at the rear of the Maori camp.
Raising the S.S. "Taranaki."
Wrecked near Tory Channel on August 19Th, 1868. S.S. "Ladybird" acting as Tender.
In accordance with Rauparaha's express orders, none of the dead bodies were mutilated or stripped, although Captain Wakefield's watch was taken by Rangihaeata and buried with Te Rongo, while one native regaled himself with a pair of white gloves, and another with a pair of silver-mounted pistols. After burying their own dead in the Waitohi Valley, the two chiefs with their followers came down to the mouth of the Wairau River, bringing with them their own canoes and the whale-boat which had been taken up by Mr. Cotterell and his men. In these they went first to Robin Hood Bay and then to Te Awaiti, where they remained a few days, finally crossing the Strait to Mana and Otaki, there to await developments.
* There died at Picton Hospital on September 26th, 1899, Isaac Wallace—a Kauaka—one of the oldest residents in the colony, having, as he said, when a young man, lived with one of the first missionaries who had visited the colony. To give some idea of his age, he had a tattoo mark on his arm testifying that he was steersman in his fifth whale-ship in 1824. Wallace was one of the party who rescued, at the Boulder Bank, some of those who escaped from the Wairau Massacre in 1843. He had been a resident of the Sound for many years, following his calling as a whaler, until old age prevented his leading an active life, and for some years he had been an inmate of the above-mentioned hospital. Deceased was reported, and with probability, to be over 100 years of age.—M. Press.
* Some difference of opinion has arisen as to whether it was a European or native crew who took Mr. Ironsides up to Tua Marina, but the evidence seems to be in favour of the latter assumption. Mr. Tuckett in his account says: "Accompanied by a few attached natives, Mr. Ironsides entered the Wairau River when the state of the weather would have deterred others less habituated in self-sacrifice. Mr. Spain immediately engaged whale-boats and crews to proceed with the party on board the brig, but the boatmen could not be induced to attempt to enter the river until the weather moderated."
Mr. Ironsides is reported to have said, "The whalers were frightened to go down on account of the heavy sea until they saw me with a boat's crew of Maoris."
To this Mr. Aldrich, of Port Underwood, replies, in support of his contention that the crew was composed of Europeans: "This could not have been the case, as there were no Maoris at the Port except one young man, for whom Mr. Ironsides gave two blankets to his master, as he was a slave. I pulled up to Ngakuta in a seven-oared whaleboat and a full crew, and took in Mr. Ironsides and the young Maori, and we went down and buried the people.
* In recognition of the kindly and humane service rendered by Mr. Ironsides during this critical and anxious period, the Nelson settlers presented him with a testimonial in the shape of a handsome edition of the Bible, bound in three volumes. The gift was gracefully acknowledged by the reverend gentleman in a letter to Mr. Domett, dated from Wellington on February 20th, 1845.
* Mr Maling's body was not found by Mr. Ironsides, but, according to Mr. M. Aldrich, it was discovered in 1846 by himself and party while out pig hunting. They identified the body by the sword-belt, powder flask, and memorandum book, in which, the writing was still legible. They also found the bullet which had mortally wounded him. Mr. Aldrich says, "We hung the things on a manuka bush, and told the surveyors where to find them. We buried the remains as well as we could, having no spade or pick."
|Police Magistrate and County Judge||Mr. Thompson||massacred.|
|Crown Prosecutor||Mr. Richardson||massacred.|
|Land Agent||Mr. Patchett||killed.|
|Company's Storekeeper||Mr. Howard||massacred.|
|Passenger of Brig||Mr. Ferguson||escaped.|
|Chief Constable||Mr. Maling||died of wounds.page 302|
|Constables||Capper, wounded, lost use of hand.|
|Coster and Wm. Gardiner, killed or massacred.|
|Special Constables||Edward Stokes||died of wounds.|
|John Bumforth||lost an arm.|
|Eli Cropper, William Northam, Henry Bumforth and Isaac Smith. killed or massacred.|
|Boatmen||Thomas Pay, killed or massacred.|
|Men Engaged on the Surveys||H. Richardson||escaped.|
It would be difficult to describe the intense excitement which agitated the whole colony as the tidings of the massacre flew from settlement to settlement, and in the white heat of their anger the settlers were guilty of saying and doing many rash and intemperate things. Few of them had made themselves conversant with the whole facts of the case, and fewer still stayed to reason out the natural actions of men under the circumstances. All that they knew, and all that they cared to know, was that their countrymen had been, as a Nelson settler forcibly expressed it, "brutally butchered by a parcel of miscreant savages, ten thousand of whose useless lives would have all too cheaply purchased their survival, let the cant of ultra-philanthropists say what it will."
But this unbridled indignation was not alone participated in by the Europeans, for the natives, on leaving the Wairau, had taken with them the handcuffs and leg-irons which had been foolishly brought down by Mr. Maling to ensure Rauparaha's capture, and these were sent from one pah to the other throughout the North Island: and wherever they were exhibited the enemies of the pakeha were not slow to insinuate that when the English became numerous in the land, they would provide leg-irons for the whole of the natives. The sight of these manacles and page 304the dark hints with which they were everywhere accompanied, created bitterness and resentment against the settlers, with whom the Maoris had always lived in perfect harmony; so that before many weeks had passed away it only required a single spark of indiscretion to set the whole colony in a blaze of war. At no period of her history did New Zealand stand so much in need of firm, discreet and conciliatory guidance as in this critical juncture, and fortunately the hand of authority was strong enough to prevent the fiery brand being applied to the fern. Acting-Governor Shortland took a bold but unpopular initiative, and on the 12th day of July, 1843, issued the following proclamation:—
"Whereas it is essential to the well-being of this colony that confidence and good feeling should continue to exist between the two races of its inhabitants, and that the native owners of the soil should have no reason to doubt the good faith of Her Majesty's solemn assurance that their territorial rights should be recognised and respected. Now, therefore, I, the officer administering the Government, do hereby publicly warn all persons claiming land in this colony, in all cases where the claim is denied or disputed by the original native owners, from exercising rights of ownership thereon, or otherwise prejudicing the question of title to the same, until the question of ownership shall have been heard and determined by one of Her Majesty's Commissioners appointed to investigate claims to land in New Zealand."
"If," said one writer, "it had been the desire of its framer to hound a troop of excited savages upon a peaceable and scattered population, to destroy the remains of friendly feeling existing between the two races, to imbue in blood the hands of both, and lead to the extermination of one or the other, such a proclamation might have served its purpose."
This style of exaggerated invective will serve to show the unreasoning pitch to which even the better class of colonists had allowed themselves to be worked by the news of the catastrophe. Nor were they content with merely upbraiding the authorities in the press and at public meetings, but deputations waited upon the Acting-Governor at Auckland, urging him to take immediate steps to avenge the death of Captain Wakefield. The Nelson deputation consisted of Dr. Monro and Mr. A. Domett, and the essence of their petition was contained in the following paragraph:—
"We have no hesitation in stating that it is the general opinion of the settlers at Nelson that our countrymen who were killed at Wairau Plain, lost their lives in endeavouring to discharge their duties as Magistrates and British subjects, obedient to British law, and that the persons by whom they were killed are murderers in the eyes of common sense and justice."
They therefore hoped that impartial justice would be done, and that the penalties of the page 306law would certainly overtake those whom its verdicts pronounced to be guilty; but to this and all other petitions of a similar tone, Mr. Shortland staunchly refused to accede, and in his reply to Dr. Monro and Mr. Domett, he clearly set forth the error the settlers were labouring under when they ascribed the cause of the disaster to the performance of a duty on the part of the magistrates, and pointed out that it might be more fairly attributed to an excess of duty on the part of those officials in attempting to annex land which had never been legally purchased. After dwelling upon the criminality of those who were responsible for the fatal conflict, he proceeded to say:—
"But whatever may be the crime, and whoever may be the criminals, it is but too clear that the event we must all deplore has arisen from several parties of surveyors, without the concurrence of the local government, proceeding to take possession of and to survey a tract of land in opposition to the original native owners who have uniformly denied its sale. His Excellency therefore deems it proper to inform you that the New Zealand Company has not selected any block of land in the valley of the Wairau, nor has the local government yet received any intimation that it is the intention of the Company to select a block in that district."
To say that the Englishmen were trespassers is the mildest way in which the case against them can be stated, especially in view of the forceful opinion expressed by Mr. Swainson, the Attorney-General at the time, who described their conduct as "illegal in its page 307inception and in every step of its execution, unjustifiable in the magistrate and four constables, and criminal in the last degree on the part of the attacking party." Writing from Port Nicholson ten days after the massacre, Mr. Spain, confirmed Mr. Swainson's condemnation of their conduct, which he declared to be "an attempt to set British law at defiance, and to obtain, by force, possession of a tract of land, the title of which was disputed, and then under the consideration of a commissioner specially appointed to investigate and report upon it." From the information he had been able to collect, Mr. Spain arrived at the conclusion that at the commencement of the affair the natives exhibited the greatest forbearance and evinced the utmost repugnance to fight with the Europeans, and his views were cordially endorsed by Mr. Clarke, the protector of the aborigines, who reported to the Acting-Governor that he was "satisfied that such an unhappy affair as that of the Wairau could never have occurred had not the natives been urged to it by extreme provocation." These emphatic opinions from men who were not only capable of arriving at a judicial conclusion, but who were impartial in the sense that they were not concerned in the catastrophe, together with the decision of the Attorney-General that no act of felony had been committed by the natives in burning the page 308huts, fortified His Excellency in ignoring the violent clamour of the settlers for revenge, and induced him even to go further and prohibit the military displays they were beginning to organise amongst themselves, under the plea that they were in imminent danger of being attacked by the natives. This prohibition was to their excited minds the crowning injustice of all; and in October, when H.M.S. "North Star" arrived at Port Nicholson, as the result of a memorial sent by the settlers to Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales, the Wellington and Nelson settlements were practically in a state of open rebellion; so much so that when her commander, Sir Everard Home, was applied to by the colonists to execute a warrant against Rauparaha and Rangihaeata for murder, he was compelled to "decline the honour" and admit candidly that he did not consider a force so necessary to put a check upon the natives as to keep in subjection the irate settlers themselves. At the same time that the settlers requested help from New South Wales, they also memorialised Sir Eardley Wilmot, Governor of Tasmania, for assistance, and he immediately sent the battleship "Emerald Isle" to their aid, but he took the precaution to warn Captain Nicholson not to land his troops unless the natives and Europeans were in page 309actual conflict; and this not being the case when the ship arrived, she soon after took her departure. In their extremity the settlers then turned to a French frigate, which was lying in New Zealand waters, but upon Major Richmond hearing of the proposal to call upon her captain for aid, he indignantly rejected and vetoed the idea as being "a stain upon the British arms."
The social and political atmosphere was still in this condition of ferment, when, towards the close of the year, Captain Fitzroy, the newly-appointed governor, arrived. It was not, however, until February that he was able to give his undivided attention to the adjudication of matters connected with the massacre, but he then spared no pains to make himself master of all the facts upon which his decision would be based. He first studied the merits of the European case, and then journeyed to Waikanae, where he landed on the 12th of February, 1844, with his suite, consisting of Sir Everard Home, Mr. Spain, the officers of the "North Star," Major Richmond and Mr. Symonds, the Wellington magistrates, and Mr. George Clarke, the sub-protector of the aborigines, and there met Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, with upwards of four hundred of their tribe, congregated for the korero, m a large enclosure in the centre of the pah.page 310
His Excellency, in addressing the assembled natives, said:—
"I have heard from the English all that happened at the Wairau, and it has grieved my heart exceedingly. I now ask you to tell me your story, so that I may compare the two and judge fairly. When I have heard your account of that dark day I will reflect and then tell you what I shall do. The bad news I have just heard about killing the English after they had ceased fighting and had trusted to your honour, has made my heart very dark, has filled my mind with gloom. Tell me your story, that I may compare it with the English, and know the whole truth. When I first heard of the death of my friends at the Wairau I was very angry, and thought of hastening here with many ships of war, with many soldiers, and several fire-moved ships (steamers). Had I done so, your warriors would have been killed, your canoes would have been all taken and burnt, your houses and pahs would haye all been destroyed, for I would have brought with me from Sydney an irresistible force. But these were hasty, angry, unchristian thoughts; they soon passed away. I considered the whole case. I considered the English were very much to blame even by their own account, and I saw how much you had been provoked. Then I determined to put away my anger and come to you peaceably. Let me hear your story."
Rauparaha then arose, and after being exhorted by several of his tribe to speak out that all might hear, he began in slow and measured tones to narrate their land troubles with the Company in the Wellington settlement, and then he passed on to the Wairau. This land, he declared, was taken away by Thompson and Captain Wakefield, and he described the visit of Rangihaeata and page 311himself to Nelson to protest against its occupancy; nor did he omit to mention the threats then used towards them by Captain Wakefield. Then he told how they had gone over and stopped the survey, and brought Messrs. Cotterell and Barnicoat down to the Bar, how they had afterwards met Mr. Tuckett, and likewise refused him permission to remain.
"After Mr. Tuckett had gone to Nelson," said Rauparaha, "we continued our planting till one morning we saw the "Victoria" (the Government brig). Then were our hearts relieved, for we thought Mr. Spain and Mr. Clarke had come to settle the question of our lands. Being scattered about on the different places on the river, we took no further notice, expecting a messenger to arrive from Mr. Spain, but a messenger came up to say that it was an army of English, and that they were busily engaged in cleaning their arms and fixing the flints of their guns. They met Puaha, and detained him prisoner. They said 'Where are Rauparaha and Rangihaeata?' Puaha said, 'Up the river.' After Puaha and Rangihaeata arrived, we consulted as to what we should do. I proposed going into the bush, but they said, 'No, let us remain where we are, what have we done that we should be thus beset? The Europeans slept some distance from us, and after they had breakfasted came on towards us in two boats. We remained on the same spot without food, we were much alarmed. Early in the morning we were on the look-out, and one of the scouts, who caught sight of them coming round a point, called out, 'Here they come, here they come.' Our women had kindled a fire and cooked a few potatoes that we had remaining, and we were hastily eating them when they came in sight. Cotterell called out, 'Where is Puaha?' Puaha answered, 'Here I am, come here to me.' They said again, 'Where page 312is Puaha?' Puaha again saluted them. Cotterell then said, 'Where is a canoe for us to cross?' Thompson, Wakefield and some other gentlemen crossed over with a constable to take me, but the greater number stopped on the other side of the creek. Thompson said, 'Where is Rauparaha?' I answered, 'Here.' He said, 'Come, you must come with me,' I replied, 'What for?' He answered, 'To talk about the houses you have burned down.' I said, 'What house have I burned down? Was it a tent belonging to you that you make so much ado about? You know it was not; it was nothing but a hut of rushes. The materials were cut from my own ground, therefore I will not go on board, neither will I be bound. If you are angry about the the land, let us talk it quietly over. I care not if we talk till night and all day tomorrow; and when we have finished I will settle the question about the land.' Mr. Thompson said, 'Will you not go? I said, 'No,' and Rangihaeata, who had been called for, and who had been speaking, said so too. Mr. Thompson then called for the handcuffs and held up the warrant, saying, 'See, this is the Queen's book, this is the Queen to make a tie, Rauparaha.' I said, 'I will not listen either to you or your book.' He was in a great passion; his eyes rolled about and he stamped his feet. I said, I would rather be killed than submit to be bound. He then called for the constable, who began opening the handcuffs and to advance towards me. Mr. Thompson laid hold of my hand. I pushed him away, saying, 'What are you doing that for?' Mr. Thompson then called out 'Fire.' The Europeans began to cross over the creek, and as they were crossing they fired one gun. The women and children were sitting round the fire. We called out, 'We shall be shot.' After this one gun they fired a volley, and one of us was killed, then another, and three were wounded. We were then closing fast; the pahehas' guns were levelled at us. I and Puaha cried out, 'Friends, stand up and shoot some of them in payment.' We were frightened because some of them were very close to us.page 313
We then fired; three of the Europeans fell. They fired again and killed Rongo, the wife of Rangihaeata. We then bent all our energy to the fight, and the Europeans began to fly. They all ran away, firing as they retreated; the gentlemen ran too. We pursued them, and killed them as we overtook them. Captain Wakefield and Mr. Thompson were brought to me by the slaves, who caught them. Rangihaeata came running to me, crying out, 'What are you doing, I say?' Upon which some heathen slaves killed them at the instigation of Rangihaeata; neither Puaha nor the Christian natives being then present. There was no time elapsed between the fight and the slaughter of the prisoners. When the prisoners were killed, the rest of the people were still engaged in the pursuit, and before they returned they were all dead. I forgot to say that during the pursuit, when we arrived at the top of the hill, Mr. Cotterell held up a flag and said, 'That is enough, stop fighting.' Mr. Thompson said to me, 'Rauparaha, spare my life.' I answered, 'A little while ago I wished to talk to you in a friendly manner, and you would not; now you say save me, I will not save you.' It is not our custom to save the chiefs of our enemies. We do not consider our victory complete unless we kill the chiefs of our opponents. Our passions were much roused, and we could not help killing the chiefs."
At the conclusion of Rauparaha's address, Captain Fitzroy desired time to reflect upon what he had just heard, and at the expiration of half-an-hour, he announced his decision as follows :—
"Now I have heard both sides, I have reflected on both accounts, and I am prepared to give my judgment. In the first place the English were wrong; they had no right to build houses upon lands to which they had not established their claim—upon land the sale of which you disputed; on which Mr. Spain had not decided. They page 314were wrong in trying to apprehend you, who had committed no crime. They were wrong in marking and measuring your land in opposition to your repeated refusal to allow them to do so until the commissioner had decided on their claim. Had you been Englishmen you would have known that it was wrong to resist a magistrate under any circumstances, but not understanding English law the case is different. Had this been all, had a struggle caused loss of life in the fight—wrong and bad as it would have been to fight in the sight of God—I could not have blamed you so much as the English. The very bad part of the Wairau affair—that part where you were very wrong—was the killing of the men who had surrendered, who trusted to your honour as chiefs. Englishmen never kill prisoners; Englishmen never kill men who have surrendered. It is the shocking death of these unfortunate men that has filled my mind with gloom, that has made my heart so dark, that has filled me with sorrow. But I know how difficult it is to restrain angry men when their passions are aroused. I know you repent of your conduct, and are now sorry that those men were killed. As the English were very greatly to blame, as they brought on and began the fight, and as you were hurried into crime by their misconduct, I will not avenge their death."
In arriving at this determination, Captain Fitzroy may have been actuated to some extent by considerations of expediency, for had he decided in any other way the reprisals of the English would undoubtedly have created a war with the natives, which the Government was not in a position at that juncture to carry to a successful issue, and therefore to have provoked hostilities with Rauparaha would have meant the obliteration of all the settle-page 315ments before the necessary reinforcements could have arrived. At the same time there was a large measure of justice in the course he chose to adopt, which in the calmer moments of to-day, must receive the endorsement of all impartial men, as it did of Lord Stanley, the Secretary of State for the colonies, immediately the Governor's decision was known to the Home authorities. In his despatches on the subject, Lord Stanley made it clear that in his opinion Mr. Thompson and Captain Wakefield had needlessly violated the rules of English law, the maxims of prudence and the principles of justice; and having thus provoked an indefensible quarrel with a barbarous tribe, they could not reasonably complain at the barbarities practised in the subsequent conflict. He was therefore satisfied that in declining to make the Wairau massacre a subject for criminal proceedings, the Governor had taken a wise, though undoubtedly bold decision. As might have been expected, the action of Captain Fitzroy in refusing to arrest the two chiefs created a tempest of ill-will against him amongst the settlers, but on the other hand the Maoris were overjoyed at the prospect of once more possessing the friendship of the pakeha, and instantly resumed a sociable demeanour towards the colonists, which, upon the advent of Captain (afterwards Sir George) Grey page 316as Governor, was gradually reciprocated by the Europeans, who in time came to recognise the folly of their fears and the absurdity of their hostile attitude. In this way the startling nature of the catastrophe, which had paralysed the efforts of the New Zealand Company and thrown a shroud over the settlement of the whole colony, began to lose its deadly effect, and the splendid scheme of setting a new gem in the British Crown was rescued from the disaster which threatened it while the scales trembled in the balance.