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Nation Making, a story of New Zealand

Chapter IX. — A New Nation on Modern Lines

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Chapter IX.
A New Nation on Modern Lines.

Savage Argonauts.—Colonists found a Beautiful Climate and Fertile Soil.—Nothing from the Past.—Everything in the Future.—'Where to choose.'—A Warrior Race.—Heathens.—Cannibals.—Patriots.—Waifs and Strays.—Missionaries.—British Sovereignty.—Treaty of Waitangi.—The Bad and the Good.—The Law considered as a Blanket.—The Maori laughs at the Law.—The Constable's baton.—The Soldier's bayonet.—Rejects the Gospel and eats a Missionary.—A Bright Beginning.—A Gloomy Ending.

WE in New Zealand are Making a New Nation on modern lines. We have had, of necessity, many natural difficulties to contend with. Primeval forests, trackless swamps, extensive plains, fern-clad hills and rugged mountains confronted us. We have inherited nothing from the savage Argonauts, who, ten centuries ago, landed on our island shores. Not one fruit; not an animal except the descendants of Captain Cook's pigs; not a yard of road; no ancient temples; not a house; nay, not one stone upon another came down to us. Save a beautiful climate, a fertile soil, resources—innumerable indeed—but hidden, we have inherited nothing from those who have gone before us.

But if we fell heir to no ancient civilization with page 74its splendour and its luxury, neither did we inherit its abuses and its decay.

We came with all modern appliances—picks and shovels, ploughs and steam engines, horses and ships, guns and Bibles and rum.

'All the Islands before us where to choose.'

No, not exactly, for we met in every bay, on every river, in every glen, in every forest, on every plain, a hardy race of men, the strongest in body, the keenest in mind which Englishmen had hitherto encountered; a race of warriors with the knowledge of children and the passions of men,—in a word—we came into the midst of the noblest race of savages that civilization has confronted in modern times.

The Maories were patriots. They loved their beautiful country. They were, it is true, a barbarian race of savage cannibals, fierce, warlike, and heathen. We found them, like all savage tribes, obeying no law but the law of force. Stubborn malcontents against all shams, yielding little or nothing to solicitation, they were ready to obey any man brave enough to take, and strong and wise enough to hold. Heroic, imitative and hospitable; they were also true hero-worshippers. Though democrats by nature, they cheerfully obeyed any chieftain with whom the Mana (influence) of courage and wisdom rested.

Then came the white man. The whalers, and other waifs and strays, whom time and circumstances brought to these shores, were a hardy breed. Brave and well armed, they brought the prestige of their race with them. They were imbued with those old-page 75fashionedideas of Nation Making that English pluck and English valour were a match against almost any odds. These lawless old rovers ruled the Maories as they have never been ruled since. They were heroes after a fashion, and in those days the Maories were hero-worshippers. They are still hero-worshippers. Unfortunately heroes are scarce in these money-grubbing times. Everybody says our fathers were heroes; but somehow we can't find the time, or the devotion—or the courage.

So we began, in this haphazard fashion, Nation Making in New Zealand.

After a time came the Missionaries. With their lives in their hands, these good men went amongst the Maories, preaching and teaching the Gospel to every creature. Curiosity, if nothing deeper, secured the new teachers a hearing. It was indeed a noble undertaking. For a while the new faith had many adherents, and some of the hardest Gospel precepts appeared for a time to be more closely obeyed than in older and more Christian lands. It is true, there were some amongst the Missionaries who had mistaken their vocation, and others who may have failed in their duty; but that ought not to prevent us from rendering homage to those faithful men who fearlessly toiled on in a good and noble cause. From present appearances the labours of these men have largely failed. The leopard has not changed his spots, nor has our modern Ethiopian changed his skin.

In this manner, we continued our efforts to Make the Nation on the lines then in fashion.

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Meanwhile England had found it necessary to acquire the sovereignty of New Zealand. She was anxious to keep out the French. She sincerely wished to christianize and civilize the natives. She had no objection to secure an outpost for the Empire. Last, and what she sought for least of all, she obtained a field for colonization.

By the now memorable 'Treaty of Waitangi' her Majesty acquired the sovereignty of New Zealand, and in consideration thereof imparted to the natives 'all the rights and privileges of British subjects.' The new sovereignty did not make much show at first. The early Governors were told to govern New Zealand on Missionary principles. Economy and philanthropy, then as now, were the orders of the day. We taught the natives reading, writing, and arithmetic—and a good many things besides. We talked much to them about the law. We made them presents, and appointed philanthropic Pakehas (Englishmen) to be their protectors. They received our money and our protection with great good will, wondering much at our liberality. Up to this point they were disposed to be very amiable savages indeed, and Nation Making went on smoothly for a time.

Unfortunately, the whalers, the Missionaries and the Government began to be jealous of each other. The Government dealt harshly with the early settlers. The Missionaries said the early settlers were bad men, and coveted the land. The whalers retaliated by saying that the Missionaries wanted the land, that the Government wanted the land, and that by-and-by page 77the Government would bring soldiers and take the land.

When those reputed to be bad, said the same thing as those reckoned to be good, is it surprising that the Maories believed what was told them? From a very early period these three parties seem to have forgotten that they were dwelling in the presence of warlike race, keenly alive to the smallest sign of weakness, and ready to rule us, if we failed to rule them,

Then began to work those fatal agencies, misguided philanthropy and mistaken economy. Then, as we have seen, began those fatal dissensions, which together brought the Colony to the verge of ruin.

Last of all came flour and sugar. The more we felt our weakness, the more we talked to them about the law, and the more flour and sugar we gave them.

Unfortunately, with all our talking, with all our teaching, we never taught them to obey the law.

Now, in the eyes of the Maori, a law is not a law if it can be either evaded, escaped, or despised. He tries the law as he tests the blanket he buys. He expects his blanket to cover him; he wants it for use at his Whare (house) and elsewhere. If he finds it a worthless poor affair, he will have none of it. So with the law; he wants it to cover him—he wants to take it home with him—he wants it to be everywhere. He very properly insists that the law he is called upon to obey shall be a power, like the law of the Medes and Persians which changeth not, irresistible, not to be trifled with. He expects to find it a terror page 78to evil-doers, a praise to them that do well. If found guilty, he is prepared to go to prison if the law can put him there. If he has done anything worthy of death—though he has a strong objection to hanging—if the law is right and strong, he bows his neck to the inevitable. Let it only be the inevitable, and he submits without a murmur.

For a quarter of a century he was invited and bribed to obey the law. Mr. Justice Beckham and his constables appealed to him in vain. As a rule he has laughed at the posse comitatus. He was of course warned that the constable's baton would be backed by the British army.

In due time the British army came, and we made, on conquest lines, a further move in Nation Making. General Cameron overran Waikato with his 10,000 men, and then, at the command of 'philanthropy' and 'economy,' marched back again. Amidst endless dissensions between Governor, General, Ministers, and Representatives, we introduced Armstrong guns, steamers, rifles, and all the appliances of modern warfare; which though handled by the flower of the British army, they were brought against the Maories almost in vain. We have overpowered them—as Xerxes overpowered the Spartans at Thermopylæ—by marching over their dead bodies; and yet, though the remnant is hungry, naked, destitute, an exile from the graves of his ancestors—the Maori is not subdued.

This naked Savage from his wretched Whare (house) actually attempted to dictate terms of peace to his conquerors.

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This then was one of the results of the mode of Nation Making fashionable in England twenty-five years ago, when Colonies were despised, and the parochial policy of the 'Manchester school' was in the ascendant.

For twenty-five years the Maori tried the Law. He then told us he would not have the Law. He told us also, that he would not have the Gospel. He told us that he intended to turn back to his ancient ways. As though he were possessed, he went back to his old heathen worship, made more grotesque by bushmen's slang and snatches of Church songs and tunes. This strange medley, he called Pai marire (go gently) and Hau hau (the sighing of the wind). By way of showing his earnestness in his new fetish, he drove his Missionary teachers out of his borders, and finally ate one of them at Opotiki. Then he waited for the Law, and waited in vain, for a long time. At last, the laggard Law overtook the principal criminal and hanged him, when the crime had been well-nigh forgotten.

The people we found in New Zealand then, were savages, heathens, cannibals, tribe fighting against tribe; yet with these bad qualities the Maori was not all bad. He was hospitable, generous, and brave. Notwithstanding all, he had that in him which made the old settlers his friends. The settlers have been sorely calumniated, but they are his good friends still.

Half a century ago we made a bright beginning.

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We were full of hope, the Maories full of promise. We made them subjects, but we did not subject them. And after expending some millions of money, sacrificing many valuable lives and fighting battles on philanthropic principles, we appeared to be coming to a gloomy end. The good qualities the Maories possessed have been almost obliterated, whilst their bad ones are intensified.

Poor race of men,
Dearly ye pay for your primal fall.
Some flowrets of Eden ye still inherit,
But the trail of the serpent is over them all.

Who can look without pity upon a race once so full of promise, now so full of woe? And yet Christian teachers, the English nation, and the Colonists, have laboured hard to cast out the unclean spirit from this poor savage. But the truth must be told. We have not succeeded, for the last state of the Maori is worse than the first.