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The Maori King

Chapter XI — Face to Face

page 150

Chapter XI
Face to Face

The last part of the task which Sir George Grey had come to New Zealand to perform—namely, shifting the responsibility of managing native affairs from the Imperial to the Colonial Government—was by far the easiest. In performing it he had Englishmen, not Maories, to deal with. Circumstances had luckily helped to make the change still more easy to effect.

In the last days of Colonel Browne's Governorship, the Ministry under whose auspices the Taranaki war began, was, after holding office longer than any previous Colonial Ministry, at length turned out by a majority of one. Mr Richmond, who had devoted great labour and attention to the problem of native government, was deposed, and Mr Fox1 reigned in his stead. The latter gentleman had constituted himself champion of Wiremu Kingi in the renowned Waitara controversy, and it was supposed that this circumstance peculiarly fitted him to second Sir George Grey in his attempt to settle the various difficulties by that universal remedy—the ‘new institutions.’ Mr Fox had, in the New Zealand Parliament, declared his belief that the ‘King movement’ arose out of a mere desire for law and order, and that the flag would be hauled down before any second magistrate who should attack it with Mr Fenton's weapons.

When the Duke of Newcastle tried, in the previous year, to introduce a Bill into the House of Lords, providing an

1 [Sir William Fox (1812–93), Premier 1856, 1861–2, 1869–72, 1873.]

page 151 independent Council for New Zealand, with power to advise the Governor in native affairs, such New Zealand colonists as then happened to be visiting England raised a clamour so noisy as to induce him to withdraw the Bill. When the news of this reached Auckland, the New Zealand Parliament was in session; and with all possible despatch a colonial Bill, intended to forestall any future Imperial measure, was prepared and passed. The essential difference between this and the abortive scheme was, that by the colonial Bill1 the Native Council was put under the power of the New Zealand Assembly—in the Imperial measure it had been placed beyond it. The author of this piece of colonial legislation was Mr Fox, who had always claimed for the Colonial Assembly the right of controlling the destinies of the Maories.

The offer which Sir George Grey now made, on behalf of the Imperial Government, to hand over the administration of native affairs to a responsible Minister chosen by the colonists was, therefore, eagerly caught at. It was a concession which far exceeded their most sanguine expectations. A native Council within the power of the Assembly would have satisfied them; but a Minister, who might be changed every session, and who could be therefore made to do just what the colonial shopkeepers and publicans wanted, was far better. The arrangement was at once made, and Mr Fox became the first responsible Minister for Native Affairs.2

It must be confessed that, if in the old arrangement, as regarded the possession of power without responsibility, the advantage was all on the side of the colonists, in the new one it was all on the side of the Imperial authorities. The Governor still remained absolute master of the six thousand British soldiers who kept the natives in awe; not a man could be moved without his express commands. Just as formerly, the Governor was

1 [The Native Council Act, 1860.]

2 [This paragraph is very misleading. It is plain from resolutions passed by the House of Representatives in 1860 and 1861 that the House had no desire to accept full ministerial responsibility for Maori policy, but wished ministers to administer Maori affairs, subject to the Governor's powers of initiation and decision where imperial interests were involved. Grey led the Colonial Office to believe that ministers had accepted the full responsibility whereas in their view they had merely undertaken to manage day-to-day departmental administration. The Governor continued, as Gorst shows, to make the chief decisions. These points should be kept in mind in reading Chapter XV below: William Fox had not, in fact, made the ‘offer’ which the British Government accepted. In this connection I am indebted to Professor J. Rutherford for permitting me to read an unpublished paper on the subject.]

page 152 obliged to consult the Colonial Ministry, because they supplied the money to carry out his schemes; so now the Minister for Native Affairs was obliged to consult the Governor, because the latter would not otherwise supply the physical force necessary to give effect to the colonial policy. While the colonists were nominally responsible for the government of the Maories, the Governor—who knew a great deal more about the natives than his advisers, and who was, moreover, master of six thousand soldiers—was the real ruler. The colony had enjoyed power without responsibility before: it was the Governor's turn to enjoy it now. The continuance of the double government, in which the nominal and real authority were still vested in different persons, caused constant inconveniences in the administration of affairs, and ultimately, as we shall see, a most disastrous catastrophe, which was the immediate cause of war.

Mr Fox, on coming into office, had proclaimed to the House of Representatives, as his native policy, that he should insist on a real ‘face to face’ negotiation with the chiefs of Waikato, with the view of removing all points of difference. The dialogue between Sir George Grey and Tipene was not enough, in Mr Fox's eyes, to redeem the pledge; and therefore, after the Taupari meeting, he did not return with the Governor to Auckland, but set off in a canoe up the Waikato river, to make good his words by talking face to face with the leaders of the King party. He was also the bearer of specific proposals from Sir George Grey for settling the Waitara controversy. A Commission was to be appointed, consisting of two Europeans and four Maories—a European and two Maories nominated by the Governor, and a European and two Maories nominated by Wi Kingi and his friends. The Commission, thus constituted, was to go to Waitara and other settlements of the Ngatiawa tribe, examine witnesses, collect evidence, and report to the Governor upon the ownership of the celebrated Waitara block. I accompanied Mr Fox upon this expedition.

The first person whom Mr Fox tried to see was Wiremu Tamihana, who, while the Taupari meeting was going on, had been waiting, with others, at Ngaruawahia to hear the result. But as soon as the news of the intended military-road reached Ngaruawahia, the whole party there assembled considered the act conclusive. Such a road, they said, could be intended for no page 153 other purpose than to bring great guns down to the Waikato river; and it was quite plain that Governor Grey was going to fight their King after all. So Wi Tamihana and his friends had dispersed and gone away, each to his own home.

Very few chiefs were left at Ngaruawahia, and the King was on a visit to the Ngatimaniapoto tribe, who were holding a great Christmas gathering at Hangatiki, far up amongst the hills. Two of those who remained behind, Patara 1 and Wi Karamoa, 2 met Mr Fox at Taupiri, and questioned him most anxiously as to the truth of the report about the road. They politely expressed their own satisfaction at his assurances of peace and good-will; but they feared some of their countrymen might be incredulous, and think the road the beginning of mischief.

Messengers were sent to Peria, to try to catch Tamihana; but they only found Victoria, his wife, who said that he had gone down to a village near the mouth of the Thames, to settle some land dispute, and she didn't know when to expect him back. So, as it was necessary that Mr Fox should deliver himself of his errand, and negotiate ‘face to face’ with somebody, there was no alternative but to heard the King and the Ngatimaniapoto among the hills at Hangatiki.

The Colonial Prime-Minister was, after a rough ride to Hangatiki, received with marked honour and respect. Somebody had ridden on before to announce the visitor; so that when he came in sight on the road which winds up the hill to the village, a guard of honour turned out to receive him. Forty young Maories, dressed in white breeches and blue coats, with stiff military stocks of cardboard, lined the road on either side, and presented arms as Mr Fox rode between. His horse was taken from him by a Maori lad, and he was ushered into the best house in the village, and asked by a handsome young woman, in good English, whether he chose roast-fowl or sucking-pig for supper. The King was lodged in a house a little detached from the village, and a double or treble line of sentries rigorously excluded all approach to his sacred person. It was Saturday night when Mr Fox arrived, and Rewi appointed Monday morning for a formal conference.

1 [Wiremu Patara Te Tuhi (1823–1910), a Ngatimahuta chief who edited the King newspaper, Te Hokioi; known also as Patara Te Maioha.]

2 [A member of the King's Council and a relative of Potatau.]

page 154

The guard-room adjoined the house in which Mr Fox was lodged, and the evolutions of the royal army were a never-failing source of amusement; bugle-blowing and drilling appeared to go on incessantly from morning till night. The general was a very smart young fellow, one of a party that had been taken over to Europe, a few years before, in an Austrian frigate, the Novara, which had visited New Zealand on a scientific exploring expedition. 1 He spoke a little English, French, German, and Italian, and took care to exhibit his proficiency in each in turn. He was certainly much ashamed of the ragged regiment at the head of which we had caught him; but he said it was only a little pastime to amuse himself for a short time. On Sunday, the army was paraded and marched to church, where they looked very stiff and unhappy in their tight coats and military stocks, as contrasted with their civilian neighbours in the freedom of a simple blanket. The general carried their Prayer-books to church in a bag, and served them round to the men. Towards the end of the sermon, when he caught sight of two talking and laughing, he walked down the rank and boxed their ears with his hymn-book. Most of them were very young lads: two came privately, when off duty, to say how much they wished there was a good school to which they could go. The old men did not seem to approve of the soldiery. One veteran, as he sat with his pipe in his mouth, watching their evolutions, grunted out: ‘Humph! they'll spoil them for fighting, and make them fit for nothing but keeping barracks.’

During the Sunday, Mr Fox had a ‘face to face’ interview with Wi Kingi, who coolly denied his identity. It was a common practice about that time to try to mislead the Pakeha as to the persons of the leading chiefs. They were afraid of Sir George Grey's threat that they should be taken up and tried, remembering the fate of Rauparaha. On one occasion, a Government officer was thus tricked into delivering an important message to a sham Wi Tamihana, at a place from which the real chief was far distant.

On Monday morning, everybody began to collect in the great meeting-house to listen to a speech from Mr Fox—Rewi, with

1 [Hemara, the commander of Reihana's forces. He went to Europe as a sailor; while in Austria he was presented with the press later used to print Te Hokioi.]

page 155 his protégé Wi Kingi, Reihana, 1 and all the heads of Ngatimaniapoto were present. It was a meeting of the extreme party—no Tamihana, no Ngatihaua, and but few of the moderate chiefs of Ngaruawahia. The King did not appear. It was the worst set of men in New Zealand to whom terms of peace could be offered. Mr Fox made his speech containing the usual professions of friendship, an account of Sir George Grey's intended system, and finally the proposal for an adjudication of the Waitara dispute. Rewi and all the leading chiefs sat mute, but they put a common man—an orator named Aporo 2—to reply. He fenced about in the most ingenious manner without giving any distinct pledge on any subject. He asked Mr Fox whether he did not think that Governor Browne had been in the wrong, and Wi Kingi in the right, in the Taranaki war. Mr Fox observed aside in English: ‘Why, that's exactly what I have always said in the Assembly.’ The incautious remark was overheard by a man who understood English, and politely interpreted to the assembly. Aporo then asked how a trial could take place about Waitara, unless Governor Browne, the guilty party, were present. He further inquired, whether he was not right in saying that he had conquered this concession for himself with his bow and spear, and whether our side would have re-examined Teira's right to Waitara if we had not been unsuccessful in the war. He finally said, that the questions of both Sir George Grey's new system, and the Waitara investigation, were too important to be rashly decided, and that time must be given for Waikato to consider. This broke up the meeting, and the crowds assembled at Hangatiki immediately began to disperse. The King, who had not been allowed to see Mr Fox, went off, with his army and retinue of chiefs, to pay a royal visit at Kihikihi, and Mr Fox and I rode down, with the Rev. A. Reid, to the mission station at Waipa.
It so happened that the King spent the night at a village close by the mission station, and Mr Reid, anxious to give the colonial minister an opportunity of seeing the illustrious rebel, invited his Majesty to tea. The answer returned by his secretary was: ‘Mattie is too ill to come—rather do you send us some

1 [Reihana Te Huatare, later known as Wahanui (1827–97).]

2 [At his trial in 1863 (see below, p. 240, his name was given in the Press as ‘Aparo’—Gorst was more likely to be correct than the newspapers—and it was stated that his chief was John Hobbs (Daily Southern Cross, 17 June 1863). The chief of the Ngatiwera hapu of the Ngatimaniapoto was called Hopa (Hobbs).]

page 156 pork and a little pepper.’ Next morning, as we were departing, a second royal messenger arrived to beg for tobacco.

Before returning to Auckland, Mr Fox visited Kihikihi, where many natives were assembled, including Te Heu Heu and several Taupo chiefs, who had arrived to pay a visit to the King. Matutaera and his suite were riding out of Kihikihi as Mr Fox rode in. A deputation had arrived from the Lower Waikato to say that soldiers were actually come out to Mangatawhiri, and were making the road, to the great consternation of the Maories of Paetai and other places down the river. The tribes were assembling at Rangiriri, and proposed to attack the troops at once. The King had sent off a messenger to tell them to be patient, and not meddle with the soldiers, but wait until he came down in person to see what was being done, and take care of his children.

Rewi and the Ngatimaniapoto did not seem to feel much interest in the matter. Roads and troops at Mangatawhiri would not hurt them. They were extremely jovial. A row of eels stuck upon sticks, looking like a hedge forty or fifty feet long, was roasting for dinner, and emitting a most savoury smell. Mr Fox was invited into their meeting-house, and Rewi joined issue with him there, and a tremendous discussion ensued. Rewi attacked all the past acts of the British Government with clever and unsparing criticism, exposing our timidity, selfishness, and arrogant assumption of superiority. It was a regular partisan speech, making out the worst possible case against us, but delivered with perfect temper and good humour, and well worthy of careful attention. I regret extremely that, having no notes of it, I cannot give the substance to the reader. After discussing the ‘King movement,’ we were invited to dine on eels and potatoes. Wi Kingi sat opposite Mr Fox, eating out of the same basket; they had a great discussion over their dinner, about Waitara; the former declaring that no proposals from our Government would be listened to until the troops were taken off the native lands, and the whole left, as Wiremu Tamihana had proposed, under the protection of the law. Mr Fox was then invited into his house and introduced to his wife, and they all stayed laughing and joking together for some time. Rewi, who was my neighbour at dinner, said he regretted to hear that I was going to be sent amongst them as a magistrate, because it would become his page 157 painful duty to drive me away again—why couldn't I come amongst them as a trader or a missionary?—he would gladly drive off the present missionary to make a vacancy, as he had grown quite tired of his sermons, which he had listened to for twenty years.

After dinner, Te Heu Heu began a long speech, commencing from the creation of the world, and working slowly on towards modern times, while everybody else went to sleep. At last the orator, reaching the point in the history of mankind at which he had to speak of the relations between Pakeha and Maori, went off as usual into a towering passion, and made such a noise, that all his audience were aroused thereby. Half-a-dozen of the Taupo chiefs, who hankered after the ‘new institutions,’ retired in disgust, saying with truth that Rewi and Te Heu Heu had stopped all chance of their talking to Mr Fox. They sent a message asking for a quiet interview by themselves next day, at which the ‘policy,’ with all its circumstances of salaries, &c. was explained and accepted.

Meanwhile the King went down to Rangiriri, where the Lower Waikatos had assembled in great numbers. A large flag was flying, soldiers were drilling, and the constant horn-blowing and bugle-playing gave a military character to the meeting. The King's more fiery partisans urged an immediate attack; it was far better, they said, to fight it out at once, than to wait till the Governor was ready, and then have to fight on less advantageous terms. But the argument of the moderate party was unanswerable. The Governor's road was made entirely upon Queen's land; the very principle for which they were contending was, that every man should be allowed to do as he pleased on his own land, and therefore, on their own theory, they were bound to let the Governor alone. Maories never go to war without a ‘take,’1 or ground on which to stand. In this case there was clearly no ‘take,’ and therefore, though keenly alive to the advantage the Governor was gaining, they remained at peace. It was, however, agreed by all, that whenever the Governor crossed Mangatawhiri, and so came upon Maori soil, there would be a just ‘take’ for war, and then the whole of Waikato should rise. That he would ultimately cross Mangatawhiri, the Maories, whether of the peace or war faction, did not for a moment doubt.

1 [take, root, cause.]