A Lull in the War—Time arrived for Political Action—Policy explained—All Parties agreed—Assent of Duke of Newcastle—Aborigines Protection Society interferes—Mr. Cardwell's Despatch—Governor wavers, and holds back—Difference with his Ministers, about Confiscation—They Resign—He eventually Confiscates for their Successors—Moral Effect of Vacillation on Natives—Mr. Cardwell's Despatch, its Effect to support Minority against Majority—The Result, the Prolongation of the War.
There was now a lull. The rebels had nowhere (except at Tanranga) laid down their arms or made any overtures for peace. But for the time at all events they were defeated. Their forces were scattered, they were driven to the hills, they had little or no food remaining, and the winter was at hand. The Colonial Government thought that the time had come when by an exhibition of firmness in taking the material guarantees against a renewal of aggression which the Governor had proposed at the commencement of hostilities, the page 147rebels would be convinced of our determination, and give up the struggle as hopeless. At all events the practical work of taking those guarantees would be effected, and impose the designed barrier against future incursion. Before explaining how this came not to be done, it is necessary briefly to refer to the policy which had been adopted by the Governor and the Colonial Legislature for the suppression of the rebellion at the period of its commencement.
The policy was this:—1st, to suppress open rebellion by military force; 2nd, to confiscate "large tracts" of the lands of the defeated rebels; 3rd, on part of these lands (particularly on the frontier) to locate a body of military settlers, enlisted at a high rate of pay, and with a grant of fifty acres of land per man. Inside the frontier to put 15,000 ordinary immigrants and their families. The object of this was both to prevent any further aggression on the settled districts, and to give the European race such a preponderance of numbers as might deter any future attempts at disturbance. 4th, to give back to the rebel natives a large portion (500,000 acres was page 148talked of) of the confiscated lands, which they should hold under Crown titles and as individuals instead of under the pernicious tribal tenure hitherto existing; 5th, to sell another portion of the confiscated lands in order to repay to the colony, and through it to the public creditor, part at least of the enormous cost which the rebellion had entailed upon it; estimated at that time at 3,000,000l. sterling, though likely now to exceed even that; and also to aid in the construction of great roads, so essential and so cheap a method of subduing and civilizing turbulent races.
This policy was propounded in the shape of memoranda by the Colonial Ministry addressed to the Governor, and which he forwarded to the Home Government in August 1863.* He strongly urged its confirmation, described it as "based upon that which he adopted in British Kaffraria."
"I feel certain," he wrote, "that the chiefs of Waikato having in so unprovoked a manner caused Europeans to be murdered, and having planned a wholesale destruction of some of the
European settlements, it will be necessary now to take efficient steps for the permanent security of the country, and to inflict upon those chiefs a punishment of such a nature as will deter other tribes from hereafter forming, and attempting to carry out, designs of a similar nature, which must, in their results, be so disastrous to the welfare of the native race as well as to her Majesty's European subjects. I can devise no other plan by which both of those ends can be
obtained than, firstly, by providing for the permanent peace of the country by locating large bodies of European settlers strong enough to defend themselves in those natural positions in this province which will give us the entire command of it, and will convince the badly disposed natives that it is hopeless to attempt either to drive the Europeans from the country, or to place them throughout a great part of its extent under the rule and laws of a king of the native race, elected by the Maori population, who would soon turn his arms against his brother chiefs, and render the Northern Island from end to end one large scene of murderous warfare; and, secondly, by taking the land on which this page 150
European population is to be settled from those tribes who have been guilty of the outrages detailed in my various despatches to your Grace. A punishment of this nature will deter other tribes from committing similar acts, when they find that it is not a question of mere fighting which they are to be allowed to do as long as they like, and then when they please to return to their former homes as if nothing had taken place, but that such misconduct is followed by the forfeiture of large tracts of territory
which they value highly, whilst their own countrymen will generally admit that the punishment is a fair and just one, which the Waikato chiefs have well deserved."*
The General Assembly met in October, and by almost unanimous votes of both houses, it adopted the policy above delineated, and authorized the raising of a loan of three millions sterling to carry it out. The Colonial Treasurer was sent home to negotiate it, bearing letters to the Home Government from the Governor, warmly supporting his mission. Im-
before leaving New Zealand, he had an interview with the Governor, in the course of which the latter said, "that he did not know that there was any difference of opinion between himself and his advisers on the subject of confiscation; if anything," he added, "he went further than they did." "In what direction?" asked the Treasurer. The Governor replied, "You would give them" (the rebels) "some of their lands back; I would not." The Colonial Treasurer then asked, "What would the people do; if they had no lands they would be driven to despair?" "No," rejoined the Governor, "that would not be the case; as other tribes in different parts of the country would give them land enough for their wants."*
The Colonial Government never had any suspicion that after all the Governor had written and said on the subject of confiscation, which was the keystone of the whole policy, any difficulty would arise about carrying it into execution. The Duke of Newcastle had given it the assent of the
Home Government, only adding some advice about moderation and prudence, for which the colonists were, of course, duly grateful. "I do not disapprove," writes his Grace, "of the principle of the measure. I think that any body of natives who take up arms against her Majesty, on such grounds as those alleged by the Waikatos, may properly be punished by the confiscation of a large part of their common property. I think that the lands thus taken may be properly employed in meeting the expenses of the war, nor do I see any objection to using them as the sites of military settlements." But when the subject was brought before the English Parliament in the ensuing session, Mr. Cardwell
, having in the meantime succeeded his Grace, this policy, which was very much misrepresented, was strongly denounced and vehemently condemned, by men whose minds had evidently been schooled by an extremely small minority in the colony. Then the Aborigines Protection Society addressed one of its famous letters to the Governor, which, it has since boasted, induced him to modify his policy. page 153
And finally came an elaborate despatch from Mr. Cardwell
written under great misapprehension, directing things to be done which were physically impossible, and others to be attempted which were palpably absurd, and which, if attempted to be carried out, could operate in no other way than to upset the plans of the Colonial Government—those very plans which the Governor had claimed as his, and to throw everything that had been already done into inextricable confusion.
The natural result followed. The Governor tried to obey the Colonial Office
, and to shape a course which might make things pleasant to the Aborigines Protection Society. The ministry adhered to the policy on which they and the Governor had agreed six months before, and which had induced the Assembly to undertake the tremendous liabilities it had sanctioned. A long contest ensued between the Governor and his ministers. They tried every means in their power to get him to confiscate a sufficient quantity of land to carry out, at least, the
substantial part of their plans, and to enable them to keep faith with their military settlers. They proposed, as the least possible amount, 1,600,000 acres out of 8,000,000 belonging to the rebel tribes of Waikato and Taranaki. His ultimatum was, two small blocks in Lower Waikato and at Ngaruawahia
, containing about 160,000 acres, just one-tenth of the quantity proposed by his ministers, a large proportion of which was unfit for settlement.*
It was hopeless to attempt to effect any compromise, and the ministry, chiefly on this ground, resigned. About three months afterwards, the Governor, on the advice of their successors, confiscated blocks in Waikato and at Taranaki
, much larger in area, and including nearly all that the former ministry had advised!
As far as producing any moral effect on the rebels, this came too late. The entire winter had passed away, and we were again in the full height of summer. The rebels had grown crops and taken heart of grace. They had read in the
newspapers the letter of the Aborigines Protection Society, and Mr. Cardwell
's despatch; they had heard of the differences between the Governor and his ministers; and they said, "the Queen will not let our land be taken; the Governor is on our side; the good people in England say we are right; let us hold on a little longer, and we shall get back all we have lost." So all the attempts which the Governor had made to induce them to flagellate themselves by voluntary cessions of land as directed by Mr. Cardwell—all his proclamations of amnesty on easy terms—and even his confiscation when it came, were of no avail. The rebels prepared themselves for a fresh straggle, in which we were soon engaged in the country between Taranaki and Wanganui, bordering on Cook's Straits.
Whether it was the result of accident or whether some of a very small minority in the colony had been able to get at and influence Mr. Cardwell's mind, cannot be told. But it is certain that the leading feature of his despatch, voluntary cession instead of confiscation, was a favourite idea of such a small minority; and it was very page 156remarkable that about a fortnight before his despatch arrived in Auckland, an elaborate article appeared in one of the newspapers there, which, except that it exhibited traces of more local knowledge, might have been written with his own pen. Whether Mr. Cardwell had or had not any, communication, direct or indirect, with the small party referred to, the effect of his despatch was really to give effect to the will of the colonial minority, over the will of an almost unanimous majority. Whether it was designed or not, therefore, it was most unconstitutional, and opposed to every principle of representative Government. It was the more unfortunate, because his plan, impracticable from the first, entirely failed when attempted to be carried out; and had no other effect than to break down the accepted policy of the majority (that which the Governor had declared to be the only one he could devise capable of meeting the crisis); to check it just when it had achieved success in its first stage, and to render it impossible to give it further effect after Mr. Cardwell's substitute had proved an abortion.
That the policy of 1863 would have heen a success, that it would have been attended with the results which the Governor had predicted, I have myself no doubt, provided it had been vigorously, rigidly, and persistently prosecuted to the five main ends which I have, at the beginning of this chapter, said that it contemplated. That it never got beyond the first stage, was owing to nothing else than the gratuitous interference of the Aborigines Protection Society, and the ill-judged adoption by Mr. Cardwell of an idea altogether inconsistent with it, and opposed to the first principles embodied in it. The actions of that society and of the Minister for the colonies paralysed the Governor, infused fresh hope into the breast of the rebel, and gave new vigour to his arm. That the war became more general and has been protracted over another year, has in my opinion been owing mainly to this cause; and if the colonial creditor is now trembling for his interest, and the colony overwhelmed with new difficulties, it is on Mr. Cardwell's despatch, and the Aborigines Protection Society's action, that they may justly lay the blame.