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Nation Making, a story of New Zealand

Chapter I. — Introductory

page 1

Chapter I.

Nation Making.—The family, the tribe, the nation.—Conquest and Assimilation potent forces in Nation Making.—Roman mode—England a great Nation Maker.—Her work in Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australasia.—Marvellous assimilative power of English race.—Causes of Colonizing success, Love of Freedom, and the secret of Self Government.—England s treatment of Native races more generous than that of all other Nations.—German Colonization a failure.—Her Despotism and Militarism.—Out of Europe, France, Spain and Portugal not Nation Makers.—Nation Making in New Zealand.—Comparison between ancient Britons and Maories.—Arms, stone implements, canoes, fortifications, agriculture, fruits, fern root.—The Britain of the North similar in physical features to the Britain of the South.—Causes of superiority of Maories to all other savage races.—Influence of Cook's introduction into New Zealand of the pig and potato.—Work, the Condition of Progress of all nations.—Luxury the Law of Decay.

Nation making is no new thing. It began in pre-historic times. Its first germ was in the family. A few families would combine in a primitive form for mutual help in toil and danger. Then probably, a man, stronger in body, with page 2keener intellect, or fiercer passions would control his fellows. The next step, would be the Tribe. As numbers increased and strength developed, struggles would occur between neighbouring tribes, who by conquest or assimilation, would be crystallized into a Nation.

So began old Rome. She developed both these forces. Upon them, Roman law and Roman civilization were founded, developing an Imperial Nation, which for long centuries controlled the then known world, and which, long after its decline and fall continued, and still continues, to influence by its laws and polity, almost every civilized country.

Amongst Nation builders in modern times the English race stands pre-eminent. More than any other Nation, England is the Mother and Maker of Nations. The Making of England followed on the lines of old Rome. Conquest played a great part. Assimilation a greater. For, though Roman, Saxon, Danish and Norman waves of conquest successively swept over England, the force of assimilation, latent in the race, absorbed them all.

Later developements tell a similar story. In every quarter of the globe British valour has won its victories. In Europe for an idea, and for the advantage of foreigners. In Asia, Africa, and America for continental areas, now under the sway of the English-speaking race. Warlike enterprises may still be required in India, to drive back aggressors, and to found, sooner or later, an Oriental Dominion, which may be guided by English principles of government, page 3but which can never be assimilated or absorbed by the English-speaking race. In South Africa, conquest probably has work to do. But the new force of Colonization and the faculty for self-government—the great modern factors in Nation Making—will yet weld South Africa into an English-speaking nation. On the continent of North America, conquest has done its work. There is practically nothing more to conquer. Colonization, self-government, and assimilation are in full and forceful operation. These three mighty agencies have already made one of the greatest nations of modern times, founded, made and ruled by Englishmen under another name. On similar lines, and by the same potent forces, Canada is making another English-speaking Nation. In the island continent of Australia, conquest has done nothing, Colonization everything.

In the first ten centuries of her existence, England presented the first great instance of the marvellous power of assimilation which now distinguishes Englishmen from all other peoples. In this, its first century, the United States has presented, and is now presenting, the grandest instance that the world has yet seen, of the irresistible force of the assimilative power inherent in the English-speaking race.

No other race has exhibited the true colonizing influence developed in so potent a manner by Englishmen and by England's eldest daughter, America. Every one of her younger Colonial children carried with them to their rude homes in the primeval forest, or on the boundless plain, the love of freedom, the page 4power to practise it, and freedom's necessary corollary, the secret of self-government.

Nor has any other Nation, dealt so fairly, so honourably, or so generously with Native races, as England has done.

Spain, Portugal and France have held large areas of new lands, but not one of them has treated the Native races fairly. Not one of them has ever founded a self-governing Colony.

Germany, stimulated by the successful colonization of the English race, not long ago made her first attempts to follow in England's footsteps. She will meet with two conditions at the outset, which raise barriers almost insurmountable, against her success. These arise from the circumstance that, not being a maritime Nation, she did not acquire lands in temperate climates, and when at last, she did move, she found all the temperate areas in the hands of other Nations, and of necessity, proceeded to obtain lands within or near the tropics. Such acquisitions can never become the homes of her people, for the simple reason, that they could not settle there in sufficient numbers, and could not fulfil the primal condition of success,—'to increase and multiply,' which is as imperative to-day, as it ever was, upon all who seek to dwell peacefully in new lands, and to weld them into a Nation.

But even had Germany had the opportunity, by negotiation or conquest, to acquire lands in temperate climes, her children have never in the Fatherland had page 5the opportunity of acquiring the practice of self-government. German emigrants have succeeded in the United States because they have been absorbed by a great self-governing nation, have in fact, in one generation, become Americans. Had an exclusively German Colony been formed in the fairest portion of the United States—California—and left to their own resources, they would have failed, because of their want of any previous training in the working of free institutions.

Therefore, a true, self-governing and successful German Colony under present conditions, appears to be an impossibility.

Germany is however steadily endeavouring to become a naval power. But until Prince Bismarck secures Holland, and mans his ironclads with Dutchmen, he is not likely to do much at sea to distinguish himself or the Nation he rules. On a parade ground the German looks well, on the field of battle he fights well; but on the sea, his military training is all against him. He may develope into a 'marine,' but into a sailor? No. His modernised Teutonism is against him.

Out of their own countries the Frenchman, the Spaniard, the Portuguese are not Nation Makers. They have all tried and failed. Germans, under Bismarck's fostering care, have developed the instincts which distinguished them of old, and have built up an Empire which has for its chief foundations—blood and iron,—militarism and despotism. But all these count for little, in making the only kind of Nation worth page 6living in, or worth dying for—a free and self-governing Nation.

New Zealand, the youngest of England's Nation Makers, the Britain of the South, is now engaged in the heroic work of Nation Making. Her area, it is true, is small, being only a little larger than Great Britain. But this smallness of area, offers the advantage of enabling us to measure the progress of the Nation Making now going on, better than if our energies were expended on a continental area.

Indeed the Colony of New Zealand presents in many respects, a counterpart of the Making of England in old times, with the advantage that the work is going on under our own eyes.

When Cæsar landed on the Kentish shore, he found the ancient Britons not very dissimilar, in many respects, from the modern Maories, as Cook found them. The Britons, like the Maories, were divided into tribes. The one painted, (more probably tatooed) their naked bodies, the other tatooed them. Both used canoes for navigating their rivers and round their coasts. Both used stone weapons. In the Britain of the North, the people under the Druidic priesthood probably worshipped a Supreme Being, with Thor the god of war, and other inferior deities. In the Britain of the South the Maories worshipped the Atua or Controller, with Tu the god of war, under the guidance of the Tohungas or priests; whilst an inner sacred circle paid their secret devotions to 10 the Supreme Ruler.

Owing to their proximity to the mainland, the page 7Britons had partially learnt the use of metals, and some of the ruder arts of life, which even a limited intercourse with other nations brings. The Maori Argonauts had made their last adventurous voyage of a thousand miles or more, and were then isolated for seven hundred years. In weapons, the Britons had the shield, the bow and arrow, and the spear. The Maories having neither shield nor bow, presented their naked bodies in hand-to-hand encounters with their foes, and were certainly not less valiant than their better equipped prototypes. The British Chief led his tribal forces into battle with horses and scythearmed chariots. The Maori Chief rushed into the contest at the head of his warriors, naked and on foot. The ancient British fortifications, like the Maori Pahs, were earth-works, the advantage, both in design and execution,—so far as can be judged—being I think, with the latter. Both countries were originally singularly destitute of fruits. The Celt had probably only the crab or wild apple, the sloe or wild plum; the Maori had only the Tawa,*Hinau, Miro, and Karaka berries. The latter he had brought with him from Hawaiki. Both were therefore necessarily agriculturists. The ancient Briton had rye and probably oats. The ancient Maori had no grain of any kind, but he had the root of the fern, or bracken, which grew in abundance.

The physical appearance of Great Britain in Caesar's time was very similar to that of Greater Britain when Cook first saw New Zealand. Both countries were lands of mountains, plains and rivers. Both were page 8covered with forests, swamps and great stretches of bracken or fern, with grassy plains here and there. These latter, in Britain feeding wild boars and deer, whilst their grassy plains were of no use to the Maories, because, that not one four-footed animal of any kind existed, save the small native rat. Therefore, wherever there was grass in New Zealand, there were few or no Maories, save round the coasts, where fish was to be obtained. Both races, as I have said, were rude agriculturists. But the Maori had to work the harder to get anything to eat. The fern root was his mainstay, indeed generally his only food. This he had to dig with his rude Tima (hoe)—remarkably similar to the Egyptian hoe of thousands of years ago—or the Ko (wooden spade) and requiring constant and laborious work; then to roast and beat into a grey meal, for he had no quern, like the British savage.

The Maori was no hunter, for there were no animals to chase. He had to work hard to live at all, if his Kainga (or village) were away from the coast. This hard work, this constant struggle to live, which fern root demanded, I think, more than any other cause, made the Maories the strongest and most vigorous race of savages ever known. I have often ate this Maori food in a kind of porridge made from the fern meal. It is not very palatable, but it evidently was a great producer of bone, muscle, and stature, with a corresponding mental developement.

The inland waters of New Zealand were singularly destitute of fish, but in the innumerable swamps, the inland Maories found a good substitute in the eel, page 9which abounded everywhere. Immense numbers of eels were caught and dried. In their frequent migrations to the sea coast, the inland Maories brought presents of dried eels to the coastal tribes, taking back with them on their return, large quantities of dried sharks, both eels and sharks being greatly valued by the Maories as Kinakis (relishes) to the insipid fern root.

When Cook introduced the pig and the potato, the Maories fared better, but I doubt whether they did not lose more than they gained by the change of food, for, though fern root continued to be largely an article of diet till forty years ago, there can be little doubt that the decline of the race began, when pigs and potatoes became their chief articles of food. The introduction of these relieved the Maories from the necessity for steady work during most of the year, for the potato, by three weeks' labour, supplied him with a year's food. Sharks and eels required both skill and labour to obtain, whilst the pig, feeding on the fern root rooted up by itself, needed no labour whatever.

'By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread' was the primal punishment imposed on man. Like some other punishments, it was a blessing in disguise. WORK is the condition of progress. LUXURY, which is only gilded idleness, the law of decay. The muscles of the body, the faculties of the mind, the emotions of the soul, without due exercise, suffer atrophy. The man—who does not work in some way—may be said to exist—but he does not live.

* Vowels in the Maori language are pronounced as in Italian.