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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

The King Movement and War

The King Movement and War.

What is usually known as the Maori King movement, dates from about the year 1853. Very shortly after Sir George Grey had proclaimed the new constitution, the discontent of the Maoris, who saw their lands gradually drifting into the possession of the pakeha, reached a climax. A pamphlet was circulated among them, setting forth the folly of selling their heritage, and they were urged to follow the example of Naboth of Jezreel, “who died a martyr, because he would not part with the inheritance of his father.” This movement soon spread southward from Auckland, and the Taranaki Land League, which eventually developed the Maori King Movement, and caused the Taranaki war, was organised in 1854.

According to Mr. Seffern, “Tamati Renia, a zealous opponent of
A Taranaki Dairy Factory.

A Taranaki Dairy Factory.

page 29 land sales, made a tour along the coast from New Plymouth to Wellington, soliciting the co-operation of the principal chiefs. The proposal was to form a League that should be both offensive and defensive in its operations, not merely binding its members not to sell, but also prohibiting others from selling, and which should employ any amount of force it might be able to command in carrying out its measures.” At Waitara and Otaki, Tamati met with a favourable reception, and at Manawapou a great meeting was held, attended by over 1000 Maoris. A tomahawk was passed round from hand to hand as a sign that whoever broke the League should suffer death; and a Bible was buried in the earth with solemn ceremony, in order that God might witness the inviolability of the compact. The League then resolved that henceforth no land should be sold to the pakeha without its consent, that the whites in Taranaki should be limited to a narrow space adjacent to New Plymouth, and that no European magistrate should have jurisdiction within native boundaries.

The seed sown by the Maori Land League soon bore fruit, but before dealing with the Puketapu feud, and the ten years' struggle that followed, it may be well to pause for a moment to consider the nature of the European claims to such land as the settlers had been able to buy from the natives. Writing about 1860, Mr F. Carrington, for many years chief surveyor in the Taranaki district, points out that it was at the express and emphatic wish of the local natives, that the Europeans first settled in Taranaki. The remnant of the Ngatiawa, living in abject fear of the Waikato tribes, were only too glad to take advantage of the protection that the presence of the white men afforded them. “When first I visited this part of New Zealand,” writes Mr Carrington, “there were not more than fifty or sixty natives throughout the district. These few dejected beings were living immediately on the shore, close to the Sugar Loaf Islands, so that they might be ever ready to flee to those rocky islets from the impending danger with which they were incessantly threatened by their implacable enemies, the Waikatos; they existed upon fern-root and fish, without garden or plantation of any kind, and their clothing was in keeping with their servile wretchedness. No sooner had they learned, through an interpreter, the object of my visit, than in speeches and gesture I was importuned to bring white people to dwell amongst them; the whole district was abandoned—they invited me to take it, so that they might be protected from their dreaded enemies, the Waikatos, who, some eight years before, under Te Whero Whero, a leading chief, had barbarously tortured and slaughtered, dispersed, and carried away captive, the greater portion of these, the Ngatiawa people. So great was the slaughter, dispersion, and captivity of these people, that, after eight years had elapsed, only some fifty or sixty of them had returned to a point on the coast where, by nature, they could at all times be secure from surprise.”

Mr. Carrington goes on to show how thoroughly the position of affairs in Taranaki was misunderstood in England, and even in other parts of the colony. Bishop Selwyn, in 1855, had written a Pastoral Letter dealing with the native land question, and Mr. Carrington took special exception to the Bishop's statement that “a transaction which was supposed to give to two or three thousand Englishmen an absolute right to dispossess seven thousand armed New Zealanders, was concluded within a space of time in which no honest conveyancer would undertake to draw a marriage settlement upon an encumbered estate.”

“Anyone reading the above statement,” writes Mr. Carrington, “would suppose that there were really seven thousand armed natives offering resistance on the land which the New Zealand Company claimed as the New Plymouth settlement. The truth is, when I first came here, there were not any natives in occupation of the land, and not more than fifty or sixty in the whole country, who importuned me to bring white people to settle on the land, and who, in a most abject state, were existing on the coast close to the Sugar Loaf Islands. The New Zealand Company claimed for their settlement of New Plymouth, sixty thousand acres. The Government statistics, taken in 1856, show that there are now, after all who have returned, only one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two natives in the whole of the New Plymouth province, which embraces an area of two million one hundred and seventy-six thousand acres. To make this statement still more clear, I give the following comparative fact: The province of New Plymouth is larger in extent than the four English counties of Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, and Hereford, and the sum total of all the native population in the whole province is one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two. In other words, the native population of the province of New Plymouth, is not more than the population of one of our English villages, and the acres of land they hold, in a useless state, is more than is contained in four English counties.”

But the case for the settlers was by no means limited to a claim for the just completion of the contracts that the natives of their own free will had made with them. Within a very few years after the foundation of the settlement, the condition of the natives was such, that the acquisition of their land by the whites seemed to be the only way of saving them from extermination by disease and mutual slaughter. For this reason more than any other, Mr. Carrington, and those who held his views, advocated the relaxation of the terms of the treaty of Waitangi, so as to allow suitable settlers to make their homes on native land. This view of the case is well set forth in the following extract from Mr. Carrington's pamphlet on the Taranaki Land Question (1859): “Many, very many thousands of acres of land, on each side of the river Waitara, are held by some six hundred natives, who, though they reside only twelve miles from the town of New Plymouth, and have had the advantage of intercourse with a civilised community for nineteen years, yet are living in a debased social condition; their habitations are squalid and miserable, their clothing loathsome and frequently indecent, their food often disgusting, and their cultivations limited and insignificant; the immense tract of land they hold, though the “Garden of the Country,” and possessing an admirable page 30 site for a town, is rapidly becoming a prey to noxious weeds. They are jealous of selling the land to the Government, notwithstanding ample reserves would be made, and a just and liberal price would be paid them; the Treaty of Waitangi prohibits their otherwise selling, and the laws of the Government restrain them from leasing to private individuals; and
High Caste and Low Caste Maoris.

High Caste and Low Caste Maoris.

now that the country has become peopled with a diversity of characters, perhaps it would not be wise to relax these stringent laws, further than desirable public auction sales, as it would indirectly legalise controversy, trickery, and worse evils. The fix in which this, and all the other waste land is placed by the Treaty of Waitangi, is the constant theme of conversation, and the unjust and unrighteous act of keeping the country locked up, has induced jobbery, evasion, chicanery, and truckling to the natives; thereby setting at defiance the laws, and bringing into contempt the power of the Government.”

To complete the statement of the case for the colonists, the following extract from Mr. Carrington's appeal to the Governor to compel the natives to dispose of their land, will be sufficient for the present purpose: “The degraded, nay, indecent and loathsome condition in which the majority of the natives congregate and huddle in their whares and pas, alike pernicious to morality and health, the idle and useless manner in which many of them waste their lives, devising to their own detriment and fomenting discord; the secluded, isolated, and doleful way that many families of the settlers are forced to live in their forest farms, with scanty means and constant toil, prohibited the use of the fertile wasted unoccupied land, debarred society and the House of God; the inhuman treatment and angry language which I have witnessed towards poor dumb brutes, consequent from the aggravation caused by the almost impassable broken state of the forest roads, and the fearful consequences arising from these things, is the immediate cause of my submitting for your Excellency's consideration the remarks contained in this letter. It is manifest to all who are interested in the preservation and civilisation of the now remnant native race, and who are not devoid of fellow-feeling for a people page 31 wronged and grievously circumstanced, that a course different to that which has hitherto been pursued, should be adopted in regard to the aborigines and colonists of this settlement.” But no arguments of this kind were likely to appeal to the natives themselves; and at the point which we have reached in our narrative, the settlement was already overhung by the lowering clouds of imminent and sanguinary war.

After Wi Kingi and his followers had settled at the Waitara, they gradually gained wealth and importance by selling their produce to the settlers. While in exile at Waikanae, Wi Kingi had determined, so far back as 1847, to sell no land to the whites; but he was quite prepared to make a profit out of them when he could. So well did the Waitara natives succeed in this policy, that by 1854 they possessed, in addition to considerable sums of money, 150 horses, 300 head of cattle, forty carts, thirty-five ploughs, twenty pairs of harrows, three winnowing machines, and ten wooden houses. By 1859, according to Wells' “History of Taranaki,” there were in the native districts 2061 acres under cultivation, while the Maoris in the province had 218 horses, 692 horned cattle, 110 carts, 102 ploughs, forty-five harrows, and seven threshing machines. These proofs of wealth show how it was possible for the natives to support themselves during the long and arduous struggle which they were about to enter upon with the Europeans.

The immediate cause of the conflict was a dispute over a block of land at Puketapu, purchased by Commissioner McLean in 1854. At the request of the chief Katatore, one of Wi Kingi's friends, a portion called Tainutangi was omitted. A dispute arose as to the ownership of this section, and at last Rawiri offered it to Mr. McLean, who agreed to take it if Rawiri would cut the boundary lines. This the chief essayed to do, but he and his band of twenty-five followers were assailed by Katatore, with twenty-eight armed men, and Kawiri and several of his men were killed. The dead chief was highly esteemed by the Europeans, but the Acting-Governor, Colonel Wynyard, hesitated to interfere.

A tribal feud arose, and was complicated by the shooting of a native, who eloped with the wife of Maia, one of Rawiri's friends. Wi Kingi industriously fomented the quarrel; and in August, 1855, it was deemed necessary to send a body of troops from Auckland to New Plymouth, to secure the safety of the settlers. Accordingly, 250 men and twenty-three officers of the 58th Regiment came down from Auckland, and next month 210 officers and men of the 65th Regiment came up from Wellington. But after about sixty Maoris had been killed and 100 wounded in the feud, the natives, who had carefully abstained so far from in-interfering with the whites, declared a truce. But Katatore, who had broken away from the Land League, and had offered 10,000 acres to the Government, was accordingly murdered by Maia, who was subsequently driven out of the country, and, with the help of the whites, escaped to the Chatham Islands.

So far as the Puketapu feud was concerned, this was settled by the payment to the natives of £2000 for a block of 2000 acres at Tarnrutangi, over which Rawiri was killed. But by this time the Land League had merged itself into the general body of the King movement, and Te Whero Whero was sending emissaries among the tribes, urging them to resist the whites. In March, 1859, the Governor again visited New Plymouth, and a great gathering of the natives was held to decide whether they should come to terms with the pakehas. Several chiefs spoke favourably of accepting British authority, and in reply to an appeal from Mr. McLean to dispose of their land, Te Teira, of Waitara, stated that he was anxious to sell a portion of his block. Here Wi Kingi and another chief interfered, claiming the right to veto Teira's offer, on the ground that there was a “mana” over the land.

Major Parris, the Land Purchase Commissioner for Taranaki, made a minute investigation of the title, and having decided that the land was really Teira's property, he paid him £100 on account of the purchase money. Wi Kingi and a body of natives came from Waitara to New Plymouth, to protest against the sale, and Wi Kingi, though admitting that the land was Teira's, defiantly declared that it should not be sold to the whites. In February, 1860, Major Parris, with Mr. F. Carrington and Mr. Hursthouse, set about the survey of the purchased land; and when they were obstructed by Wi Kingi's followers, notice was given to the natives that they would be arrested if they did not desist. Wi Kingi, however, refused to give way, and so the ten years' war began.

On the 22nd of February, 1860, Lieutenant-Colonel Murray published an order placing the whole district of Taranaki under martial law, and preparations were made for taking possession of the disputed land at Waitara. But Wi Kingi and his followers had already seized it, and erected upon it a strong pa, which it was now necessary to destroy. The country settlers at once began to crowd into the town for shelter; and on the 3rd of March, Colonel Gold attacked the pa in force. It was assailed with rocket and cannon fire, and was soon abandoned. But the news that hostilities had now begun, soon gathered the Land League's supporters together. The chief Manaia cast in his lot with the Kingites, and about 1000 Taranaki and Ngatiwanui natives came down to terrorise the settlers. On the 27th of March three settlers, Ford, Passmore, and Shore were shot and tomahawked, and an expedition under Colonel Murray and Lieutenant Blake was sent down to Omata, to punish the murderers, and rescue the surviving settlers. There was an obstinate fight at Waireka, and Colonel Murray, finding his force in danger, withdrew the regulars. The volunteers and militia were thus left unsupported to face the natives, but were rescued by a party of sailors, headed by Captain Cracroft. The engagement thus ended in a victory for the whites, but it showed that the Maoris could fight; and there were at least 1000 of them well armed, and ready to fall upon the settlers, who crowded into the blockhouses, and temporary shelters erected for them, and naturally suffered a great deal of anxiety and material loss.

At this juncture, Major Parris was requested to meet and confer with Rewi, the celebrated Ngatimaniapoto chieftain. On his way page 32 back he narrowly escaped falling into a Waikato ambuscade, but was saved by the chiefs Ephia and Hone.

The natives now infested all the the outlying districts, and settlers attempting to reach their farms, or remain on them did so at their own grievous peril. Captain Brown, the editor of the “Taranaki Herald,” and Messrs Harris, Hurford, Coad, and Crann were murdered by the natives within a few months. The British troops, however, remained inactive, waiting for the rebels to make the first move. Many of the settlers' wives and children were removed to Nelson for safety, and the whole work of colonisation in the district seemed undone.

However, on the 23rd of June, 1860, a reconnoitring party of the 40th Regiment was fired upon from the Puketahuere pa, and it was then decided to attack that stronghold. Major Nelson led the main body of the assailants; and he was to have been assisted by Colonel Gold with a large force and two 24-pounders. But Colonel Gold refused to allow his force to ford the Mangaoraka, and marched back to town, leaving Major Nelson to shift for himself. After a fierce engagement, in which the fire was said by a Crimean veteran to be hotter than at the attack on the Redan, the whites were driven back with considerable loss. The news of this repulse greatly encouraged the natives, and it was thought advisable to despatch considerable reinforcements of British troops to Taranaki.

The wives and children of the settlers were urged to leave the district; but many of them preferred to run all risks in the town, which was now practically in a state of siege. The poor success of the regular troops against the Maoris had roused strong feeling amongst the settlers, and the natives soon showed a corresponding degree of confidence and boldness. A large number of Waikatos came down to the Waitara to help Wi Kingi; and early in November General Pratt, who had recently arrived from Melbourne, determined to attack the hill Mahoetahi, where the rebels were strongly posted near the Waiongona river. The hill was carried after a fierce fight, in which the Waikatos lost heavily. But large numbers of the tribe poured down towards the Waitara, eager for revenge; and in December General Pratt led about 1000 men and a train of artillery to seize the Matarihoriho pa. Here again the rebels were beaten, and retired after suffering heavily. But the result of the fight was, as before, indecisive.

To draw off General Pratt's attention from the north the Maoris again occupied Burton's Hill and Waireka, seizing the principal roads, and confining the Europeans inside the town and its stockades. It thus became necessary to send out another expedition, and there was a sanguinary conflict at Huirangi redoubt, where over fifty
A Fine Specimen Of Maori Carving.

A Fine Specimen Of Maori Carving.

page 33 Maoris, including thirteen chiefs, were killed. This action so broke the spirit of the Ngatiawa at the Waitara that they practically gave up all hope of continuing the struggle. General Pratt subsequently besieged Te Hori, and drove the rebels from a strong position. Meantime, Captain King and two settlers, Messrs Hawken and Sarten, had been murdered by the Maoris, who lost no chance of cutting off stragglers. The protracted struggle was wearing out the patience of the settlers, who had no confidence in the regular troops, and were disgusted by the vacillating policy of the authorities. Governor Browne, was replaced by Sir George Grey, and the “blanket and sugar policy” was tried upon the natives. In March, 1861, General Sir Duncan Cameron, a distinguished British officer, reached Taranaki, to find that a truce had been proclaimed through the friendly exertions of Wirimu Tamihana (William Thomson), an influential Waikato chief. Hapurona and Patuhakuriki, two of the leading rebels, accepted the terms offered them; and the Waikatos mostly returned home. But Wi Kingi and a number of the Ngatiawa still maintained their sullen hostility.
Surf Boat At Opunake

Surf Boat At Opunake

For a time, then, hostilities were suspended, and the settlement revived in hope and prosperity. The settlers were, however, much exasperated by the action of those who, like Bishop Selwyn, held that on the whole the natives had the right side of the quarrel, and the Europeans were in the wrong. A pamphlet entitled “One of England's Little Wars” was written by Archdeacon Hadfield, in which he defended Wi Kingi's claim to the Waitara lands; and Canon Stowell, of Manchester, declared that the “grasping and oppressive emigrants” had “hewed the natives up and cut them down” to serve their own ends. Such baseless and ignorant comments perhaps helped to strengthen the colonists in their determination to maintain what they believed to be their rights.

In May, 1863, the truce was broken. A party of troops had been sent to occupy Tataraimaka, which the settlers claimed as their own land, justly purchased.

Though the “Taranaki Herald” had published full particulars of ambuscades set to intercept the whites, no notice was taken of these warnings. A party of nine men of the 57th Regiment, convoying a prisoner to New Plymouth, was cut on on the road; and Dr. Hope and Lieutenant Tragett were killed, with five of the men. This incident started the war afresh, and the trouble now extended to the Wellington and Auckland districts. In June, 1863, General Cameron advanced against the Kaihara pa, which was taken chiefly through the intrepidity of Colonel Warre, and the 57th Regiment. Happily, this reverse daunted the courage of the local natives, for news now came that the Waikatos had risen in rebellion, and a large body of regulars was withdrawn from Taranaki to assist in the defence of Auckland. This move naturally encouraged the natives, and Hapurona sent a defiant challenge to the Governor and the General, offering to fight them at any time or place they might fix; and parties of volunteers were organised by Captain Webster and Captain Harry Atkinson, as Forest Rangers, to follow the natives and fight them in the bush. About the same time Wi Kingi and his followers seem to have agreed that so long as they held the Waitara lands, the question of Tataramaika might be allowed to rest; but the majority of the natives kept up hostilities to distract the energies of the Government from the Waikato rebellion.

In July, 1863, a proclamation was issued confiscating the lands of the rebels; but desultory fighting still went on. In February, 1864, Mr. Patterson, a well-known settler, was shot close to New Plymouth. In March there was a skirmish at Kaitake, in which the 57th Regiment again displayed great valour. But in April the whites suffered a severe reverse at Ahahua, where Captain Lloyd and a party of the 57th, with some of the Melbourne volunteers, fell into an ambush, and Captain Lloyd and six others were killed. Their bodies were afterwards found shockingly mutilated, for the rebels at this time threw aside all semblance of Christianity, or regard for what they had learned of civilisation. They adopted the practices of “Pai Marire” and called themselves Hauhaus, thus adding fanaticism to their natural ferocity. In the same month of April the rebels made a vigorous attack upon the redoubt at Sentry Hill, but were driven off with loss; and the defeat of the Waikatos by General Cameron still further disheartened the Taranaki tribes.

During the year 1864 the Manutahi, and Mataitawa pas were taken without much difficulty; and the great pa of Te Hoei, before which General Pratt had failed, was page 34 captured almost without firing a shot. Towards the end of the year, General Cameron came back to New Plymouth with reinforcements of the 40th and 70th Regiments. He re-occupied the Tataramaika redoubt: and early in 1865 he completely routed the natives at Kakaramea. But the General had never got on well with his colonial auxiliaries, and in the words of Mr. Weld, the Colonial Secretary, he “thought fit to attribute base and unworthy motives, and a culpable disregard for the lives of British officers and men, to the Ministry of New Zealand.”

The fact was that General Camereron, like many of the Imperial officers, was inclined to attach too much importance to the traditions of the service, and to methods of warfare which were sadly in need of adaptation to the peculiarities of the irregular warfare that the Maoris preferred. As a result of these difficulties, General Cameron resigned his post in August, 1865, and was succeeded by Major-General Trevor Chute. About this time the Imperial Government complained of the expense to which England was put, by supporting so large a body of troops in the field. There were in the colony at this time, ten regiments, amounting to 10,000 men, with two batteries of field artillery with engineers; and the colony, therefore, decided to do the best it could with as little Imperial assistance as possible.

For the next two or three years desultory fighting went on, but in January, 1866, General Chute attempted a decisive movement. He marched a large force through the bush from the south to New Plymouth, and thence led his troops round the coast to Patea and Wanganui, destroying all the pas and plantations in his way. The land of the rebels was confiscated; and a scheme of “military settlements;” proposed by Mr. Domett, was carried out to protect the colonists, and to offer reasonable compensation to those prepared to risk their lives in fighting the natives. The total area of land north of the Waingongoro river was 934,325 acres, and of this, 47,800 acres were laid out as military settlements. But when their three years' service was up, and the men were able to take possession of their allotments, they mostly disposed of them and left the district. There was no regular work for the men to do, and the country was still
Urenui River.Murgatroyd, photo.

Urenui River.Murgatroyd, photo.

page 35 too unsettled to encourage any attempt at regular cultivation.

But after General Chute's march through the bush, the resistance of the natives gradually languished and died away. By June, 1867, the last of the English regiments was withdrawn from Taranaki; and in May, 1868, the Maoris took heart, and once more attacked the settlers on the Waimate Plains. A force was speedily raised, consisting mostly of Forest Rangers, who knew the bush as well as the natives, and were familiar with all the difficulties of irregular fighting. Major von Tempsky, Colonel McDonnell, Captain Ross, and other colonial officers, led their men capably, and though they sustained occasional reverses, the native resistance was gradually beaten down. In July, 1868, the natives attacked Turuturumokai redoubt, and though they were repulsed, killed Captain Ross and nine of his men. A strong pa at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu was captured by Colonel McDonnell; but at Ruaruru the whites were driven back with heavy loss. Major von Tempsky, the brave leader of the Forest Rangers, was killed, and with him Captains Birch and Palmer, Lieutenants Hastings and Hunter, and twelve men, while about thirty officers and men were wounded. Major von Tempsky had served all through the Maori wars with conspicuous courage and success, and his loss was severely felt.

Shortly after this defeat, Colonel McDonnell resigned his command, and was succeeded by Colonel Whitmore. But Colonel Whitmore, in November, 1868, made an attack on Okutuku pa, which turned out disastrously; and the whites lost about ten killed and thirty wounded. These successes so encouraged Titokowaru that he made a raid towards Wanganui, burning farmhouses, and causing great alarm. In the same month news reached Taranaki that Te Kooti had escaped from the Chatham Islands, and the particulars of the “Poverty Bay Massacre” horrified the colonists, who feared that the whole of the North Island would break out into rebellion again. Titokowaru was obliged, however, by want of food, to retire towards the upper Waitara, in the hope of getting help from Wi Kingi.

Early in 1869, a “taua,” or war party of Ngatimaniapoto, came from the Mokau to help the Taranaki rebels; and murdered several people at White Cliffs under circumstances of peculiar atrocity. Captain Gascoigne, his wife and children, two military settlers named Milne and Richards, and the Rev. John Whiteley, the well known and devoted missionary, were the victims. The news of this tragedy sent a thrill of horror through the district, and once more the settlers hurried their wives and children to the shelter of New Plymouth. Colonel Whitmore set out in quest of Titokowaru, and nearly captured him in the Ngaire swamp.

But at this juncture the whole course of events was changed. The Stafford Ministry went out of office, and was replaced by the Fox-Vogel Ministry, of which Sir Donald McLean was Native Minister. A truce was at once offered the natives, and they, finding that the King party in the Waikato was not disposed to assist them, and being worn out by the length of the war, willingly accepted a respite. From that time onward there was peace in Taranaki, and the only native trouble that has since disturbed the district was the obstruction offered by Te Whiti and his followers to the annexation of their lands in 1880–1.

So peace was at last established; but it was many years before the whites and the Maoris came to regard each other with any degree of mutual confidence. The settlement was still almost completely isolated. “To the south of the town was an almost impenetrable bush, which was swarming with Maoris; and to the east and west there were hordes of natives who regarded the whites with sullen looks.” There was even a temporary revival of hostilities, when Colonel Whitmore took a few troops to the Mokau Heads to exact punishment for the White Cliffs murders. But the determination of the Maori king to have nothing to do with Titokowaru, showed that the resistance of the natives was broken; and the settlers at last began to enjoy the unwonted sensation of peace. “No longer,” writes Mr. Wells, in his History of Taranaki, “no longer the reveille was sounded at daybreak from Marshland Hill to arouse the garrison, and the inhabitants of the besieged town, and to give the weary night pickets license to leave their posts for their homes and their firesides: no longer the ‘alarm’ called all men off duty to arms, to face the foe; and no longer the mournful dead march wailed out its sorrowful strains over the remains of the fallen brave.”