The Maori King
Chapter XII — The ‘New Institutions’
The ‘New Institutions’
In the midst of the alarm caused by Sir George Grey's supposed preparations for war, the attempt to civilize the natives offhand, by the introduction of the new system of government, was urged forward with the greatest rapidity.
In the Waikato district, the only existing authority, legislative or judicial, was the ‘Runanga.’ This national institution, which at first was strictly oligarchic, the head chiefs meeting to discuss plans of war, and common people listening with awe and reverence to their speeches, had become the most democratic assembly that can be conceived. Women and children were admitted, and made their voices heard—even dogs and pigs were not excluded.
‘The Maori Court, or Runanga, was opened. Old Riwai sat as judge. The case, one of “korero-teka” (slander), was introduced, and argued by two young men as “roias” (lawyers), each having received a fee of 10s. The judge was quickly confused by them, and sent to ask me how to proceed. I replied that I was there as a spectator only, and wished to see how such cases were conducted. Plaintiff then began on behalf of herpage 159 daughter, ten years of age, whose gentle birth had been maligned, and in a screaming speech, with abundance of grimaces, demanded damages of fifty pounds, to be paid down at once. On this, loud laughter arose on every side. The child's father came forward to prove how reasonable was the demand; saying, that though the mother was a slave, he was a chief, and a great one too, and that the sum was little enough for having called his daughter a slave. He was quickly supported by aunts and uncles in abundance, who all, doubtless, thought that £50 ready cash would be a good thing for the family; and so they all stood up and chattered together, making confusion worse confounded. By this time, the two lawyers were nearly fighting, pacing about and speechifying one against the other; and the Court was about to decide in favour of the plaintiff, who had gained judgment solely through strength of lungs and impudence, when up jumped the defendant—a wretched old woman, and all in tatters. Rushing into the ring, she first divided the lawyers, then assailed the plaintiff, then abused the witnesses, heaped scorn on all the party, and justified the slander; then repeated it most expressively, and dared them to their faces. The whole Court was instantly in an uproar, like Bedlam let loose, each person siding off to his party, and every speaker grinning at the rest, and all speaking and rushing about together; when my interference was again requested by the judge. Order being restored, I took the case in hand, much to the discomfiture of the lawyers; and within a quarter of an hour, the whole evidence had been extracted, and the decision given. Judgment was for the plaintiff, but only 10s. damages; and yet all parties were pleased with the result. Even the old dame herself was content, crying out that she had never had such a sum in her life, and never should have, and they might get the money as they could. This speech was received with great applause, and a collection at once commenced, when garments and coins of various value, amounting to about 25s., were handed over, and laid at the feet of the mother, as a cure for her troubled mind and daughter's damaged reputation.’
1 AJHR, 1862, E-5A. [Henry Hanson Turton (1818–87), a Wesleyan missionary who retired from the ministry and became a government agent.]
The Runanga above described was one held in the lower part of the Thames valley. The village Runangas throughout Waikato—and, indeed, throughout all New Zealand—are of the same character. All are a promiscuous gathering of men, women, and children, held in the public sleeping-house of the village, at page 160 bedtime; in which certain individuals—not always the wisest or best—possess a prescriptive right to engross all the talk. The members never come to a formal vote; they go on talking, like schoolboys in a dormitory, till every one has gone to sleep. When there is difference of opinion, one side out-talks the other.
Village Runangas were chosen by the New Zealand Ministry as the foundation on which the ‘new institutions’ were to be built. In a Ministerial memorandum on Sir George Grey's plan of native government, Mr Fox says:—
“The Runanga, as at present constituted, appears to be little else than a gathering of the people of a particular village, or “hapu.” Let it continue so, with the limitation only imposed that none but adult males take part in its deliberations. … The jurisdiction of the Runanga should, as nearly as may be in each case, be co-extensive with the lands of the hapu or hapus of which it consists. The Runanga should be empowered to make bye-laws. … All officers, such as assessors, policemen, pound-keepers, &c., being Maories, should be elected by the Runangas, subject to the approval of Her Majesty. … Each Runanga should elect one judicial officer, the assessor. … This officer should act alone in all cases where the Commissioner is not present, subject to the periodical revision, at very short dates, of that officer.’ After speaking of a District Runanga, composed of members elected from the Village Runangas, Mr Fox continues: ‘This branch of the machinery would be new to the natives, and might not, at first, work so smoothly or intelligibly as the simple machinery of the non-representative Runanga.
‘Ministers attach much importance to the gradual initiation of the system, by beginning in practice from the bottom, and not from the top, in the manner which the above suggestions will indicate. … Ministers would hope gradually to work up to all, or nearly all, that His Excellency proposes; but they are convinced that the development of the system must be gradual, and that great care must be exercised in securing a firm foundation. They believe that in the existing Runanga such foundation exists; and therefore it is that they seek to direct His Excellency's attention particularly to that institution, and to the expediency of making it, in practice, the point d'appui to which to attach whatever other machinery of government it may be considered desirable to organize.’
The introduction of Sir George Grey's system into Waikato was carried out in conformity with these suggestions. All native officers were elected by the Village Runangas, and no such election was ever objected to by Government. No District Runanga of select men was ever assembled.
In the Lower Waikato, most of that small party which had formerly supported Mr Fenton's schemes received the ‘new institutions’ with avidity. The duty of explaining the plan and ‘organizing’ the District was entrusted to Mr Fenton himself; but, as his engagements in Auckland forbade his remaining permanently in the situation of Commissioner, it was arranged that Mr Armitage,1 a friend of his, who had for many years lived as a settler near Paetai, should succeed, at an early date, to the office.
The first place ‘organized’ was Taupari, where Waata Kukutai was ready enough to fall in with a scheme which promised him the two things he specially loved—money and distinction. The Hundred of Taupari was constituted, and a staff of magistrates and policemen nominated, with salaries amounting altogether to £180 per annum. The Runanga of the Ngatitipa (Waata's tribe) was promptly assembled, and the manufacture of laws commenced.2 The most amusing resolutions passed were—
No. 3. ‘We agree that the Government should give us eight bullocks to plough the land with. The ploughs we have ourselves.’
No. 5. ‘We agree that the Governor should give us grassseed for our farm; but let it be clean seed—do not let there be any noxious weed mixed with it.’
2 AJHR, 1862, E-9, II, p. 8 ff.
After this exercise of legislative functions, the Runanga proceeded to exercise judicial power. A policeman's wife was brought before Mr Armitage and Waata Kukutai, charged with the offence of having written a love-letter to a young man of another tribe. After a severe examination by Waata, she was cautioned, and the police were directed to return her to her husband.
At a village called Te Kohekohe, a few miles above Mangata-whiri, a second Runanga was organized, composed of a very small section of Ngatimahuta, the tribe royal. Among these few people a sum of £180 a-year was spent. Wiremu Te Wheoro,1 the head magistrate, is a very intelligent young man, really attached by something more than pecuniary interest to our side. Wiremu Tamihana always said he was the best man we had enlisted; the rest of our officers cared for nothing more than our money. Te Wheoro was the only loyal native I was ever acquainted with, who appeared to have the slightest notion that his loyalty implied any obligation to obey. An old Maori woman, who once did me the honour to paddle me down from Meremere to Mangatawhiri for a shilling, stopped her paddle, took the pipe out of her mouth, and laughed me to scorn, when I observed to her that Wiremu Te Wheoro's tribe was loyal. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘there are some on the Queen's side—the two assessors, the two wardens, and the six policemen; but all the rest to a man are faithful to our King.’ She cast up her eyes, resumed her pipe and paddle, and regarded me for the rest of the voyage with pitying contempt.
2 [Gorst was the magistrate there.]
3 [Patene Poutama. In reporting this incident, Gorst said he was equal in rank to Rewi. At the trial of Aporo, Patene said his hapu was Ngatihauro (Daily Southern Cross, 17 June, 1863).]
1 [Marsden Clarke.]
It turned out afterwards that the chiefs of the King's party had notauthorized Patene's expedition. They admitted that his conduct was very wrong, and some of them wrote to Rewi, to keep his tribe in better order, and stop all further violence. Patene was very angry when he found that his zeal was so ill-appreciated. He said he had been trying to carry out a law which had been universally agreed to; but now that his act had been condemned, he should never allow the magistrate to be driven away, and should resist any one who might try to do so at any future time.
The chiefs who thus interfered to prevent further violence from Patene, liked Sir George Grey's attempt to establish European jurisdiction in Waikato no better than the Ngatimaniapoto did; but they determined to resist the Governor in a quieter and more effectual way. The magistrate was on Queen's land, and had a right to stay there; but they had as good a right to keep all cases out of his Court, if they could. They, therefore, enacted stringent laws in all their Runangas, forbidding, under heavy penalties, any native to sue in the European Court; and so successful was this policy, that, for six months afterwards, only one native suitor ever brought a case into Court, and he had to pay a heavy fine for doing so.
The only result that appeared to be gained by the presence of a magistrate at Otawhao, was the irritation felt by the Ngatimaniapoto at having a magistrate lodged amongst themselves, after they had threatened those tribes who should tolerate one with their displeasure.page 165
There were, of course, scattered about the villages of Waikato, plenty of discontented people, who had been somehow affronted by the leaders of the King-party. Now that loyalty had a marketable value, these men had a strong personal interest in declaring themselves upon the Queen's side. they accordingly obtruded their loyalty upon the officers of Government, claiming to be made assessors, wardens, or policemen. No advantage was to be gained by yielding to their demands; they constituted a small minority in the midst of an overwhelming hostile majority. They might, if appointed, have drawn their official pay, but they could not have made the slightest impression upon the mass of the people. So little did the chiefs of the King party care for the influence of Government assessors, that they made very little objection to assessors being appointed in the very centre of the King's dominions. It was commonly reported that all the Queen's native magistrates within the Maori kingdom paid over regularly a part of their salaries to the King, as the condition of being allowed quietly to receive the remainder. The Maories declared openly that, having formerly tried to conquer, and having failed, we were now trying to bribe them into submission. They derided equally both our attempts.
The effect of the new institutions in the Waikato district can be best illustrated by giving the history of the reduction under law and order of the Ngatiwhauroa tribe.
1 [Hona Te Kotuku]
Disappointed at the coldness with which their new-born zeal for the Queen was received, they resolved to make applications in other quarters. Hona accordingly went down to the Commissioner of the Lower Waikato, and told him that his tribe lived partly in the Upper, and party in the Lower District; that they all objected to be included in the former, but wished to be altogether in the latter. Thence Hona went on in the Commissioner's company to Auckland, to see what effect he could produce on the Government. His conditional loyalty was accepted; the Government made the arrangement desired, and Hona and his friends became salaried officers of the Queen.
1 [Taati Wareka Te Waru, a Ngatiapakura chief.]
During the whole time that Hona was a Queen's officer, he attended native meetings, visited Ngaruawahia, appeared on terms of perfect familiarity with the disaffected natives, and never, so far as I know, did the slightest service to Government in return for the salary which he received. At the outbreak of the present war, he went down with some of his tribe, and lived at a village called Cameron-town, about eight miles below Mangatawhiri; at which place Mr Armitage, who had again become Hona's superior officer, lost his life in an ambuscade. There was very grave suspicion that to this ambuscade the Ngatiwhauroa tribe had been privy. Waata Kukutai accused Hona of being accessory to the death of Mr Armitage, at which the latter took such offence, that he openly renounced his allegiance to the Queen, and went over again to the King's side.
The above story shows how impossible it was to force upon page 168 the Waikato District institutions to which the whole mass of the people was opposed. The only result was to draw a small minority of greedy and mercenary men into our employment, who could render us no other service than to make us utterly contemptible in the eyes of the disaffected but more honourable chiefs.
In fact, Sir George Grey's new scheme for governing the Maories, as carried out by the Colonial Ministry, proved in every place a total failure. The whole native population of New Zealand is, and has been for years, in a state of utter lawlessness and anarchy. Actual resistance by force of arms to our authority is confined to the Waikato, but lawlessness is universal. The great mischief of all is not that the Maories choose to be governed by a King instead of the Queen, but that they are not in any real sense governed at all. So long as each individual Maori can do that which is right in his own eyes, and break the laws of God and man with impunity, so long will peace and prosperity in New Zealand be an impossibility.
The only remedy that can ever cure the evils of that distracted colony is the establishment of some Government that can make itself obeyed. It is not the enactment of additional laws that is wanted: the country is infested with laws and with assemblies of law-makers. But the last link between sovereign and subject—a police to make the laws obeyed—is entirely defective in New Zealand, and at the present time no effort is being made to supply the deficiency. If there existed any power that could arrest and punish Maori offenders against the law, without destroying the entire race in the process, the whole difficulty would be solved.
In England we learn the lesson of obedience to constituted authority at so early an age, that we are apt to regard it as a common instinct of mankind, and to forget that it is a lesson that must be learnt before self-government is possible. With Maories it is not so. Children, like all other possessions, are regarded as a sort of common property. If a father ventured to punish his own child, the mother's family would resent it as an affront, and probably claim some payment to atone for the offence. The parent is not absolute over the child, and therefore the child never learns to obey. I have seen little children rise up and strike their parents with the full force of their infantine page 169 rage, and the parent merely put the child quietly aside without taking any notice of the blow. At a very early age the Maori boy emancipates himself from all control, and for the rest of his life does literally that which is right in his own eyes.1
The new system did nothing to teach that lesson of obedience which was so much needed. The central power was divided, the Colonial Ministry and the Governor were independent and sometimes conflicting authorities, and the Maories knew it. No man could serve two masters, and an untutored love of independence prompted the Maories to serve neither. Moreover, they had come to look on Government rather as a storehouse of good things to be enjoyed, than as a superior power to be obeyed. If they could not get what they wanted out of the local officer, they went to the Colonial Minister, and if he was also churlish, they appealed to the Governor, and often in the end got what they asked for. No attempt was made to establish or support the authority of the District Commissioners. Correspondence of the most important kind, of which, however, the commissioner of the district was kept in profound ignorance, was carried on with natives by officials in Auckland; measures were taken and arrangements made, sometimes by the Governor, sometimes by a Colonial Minister, sometimes by the officials of the central department in Auckland, without consulting, and even without informing, the officer of the district thereby affected. Every one connected with Government desired to have his finger in the native pie, until at last the number of cooks became prodigious. I can enumerate at least a dozen masters from whom Wiremu Te Wheoro received conflicting orders in the course of a twelvemonth—yet that man still remains a sane subject of the Queen. The conduct of a district officer was usually estimated by the satisfaction he gave to the natives over whom he was placed, and the latter were most pleased by a lavish distribution of salaries and offices. A man who sought to spare the public purse, and not give money away without some adequate return, ran the risk of being looked upon coldly by his official superiors, who cared less for success than for the appearance of having succeeded.
1 [For an account of the upbringing of children in one modern Maori community, see Ernest and Pearl Beaglehole, Some Modern Maoris, (1946), especially Chapters IV and V. They found the discipline often severe but in general capricious.]
The result of this was, that the loyal natives soon became more disobedient and insolent than the disloyal. In May, 1862, Arama Karaka,1 the chief assessor of the Bay of Islands district, and one of the most loyal Maories in New Zealand, seeing that he need fear no restraint from his patrons at Auckland, deliberately took part in a native war at Whangarei, where he attacked a chief named Tirarau,2 an old friend and ally of our Government. Ihaka, an assessor, living in the Manukau, told every one in the Native Office that he would obey nobody, and that Sir George Grey was not his master; and, shortly afterwards, went with a neighbouring assessor, named Aihipene,3 to the Waikato, and openly recommended the people to attack and pull down a native police school, which the Government were building at the Kohekohe. One of Te Wheoro's policemen, on being summoned for adultery, renounced his allegiance, sent his uniform, his oath of allegiance, and his oath of office, to the magistrate, and went openly over to the King. Another policeman, who was told by Aihipene that his uniform implied that he was to obey orders, replied, ‘Oh, that's the meaning, is it?’ tore off coat and breeches in the street of Waiuku, flung his cap on the ground, and marched off in his shirt and his freedom. It was announced in the Government Gazette, that he had ‘resigned his office.’ Waata Kukutai borrowed his salary in advance from the Government in Auckland, to keep himself from going to prison for debt. The district officer was directed to stop the salary till the loan was repaid. The latter having obeyed his orders, Waata was so angry, that he wrote a most abusive letter to the Government, complaining of the underhand fraud committed upon him by the Commissioner, and threatening to resign his office. No notice was taken. Shortly afterwards, the Governor raised his salary from £50 to £150 a year, as a reward for his loyalty; and Waata, thereupon, applied forthwith to the Colonial Ministry for a salary for his wife, because the weight of public duty prevented him from growing food for her. Examples of this sort could be multiplied indefinitely.
1 [Descended from the Ngaitahu and Ngatiwhatua tribes. The incident is reported in AJHR, 1863, E-4, p. 6 ff.]
2 [Te Tirarau Kukupa, of the Parawhau hapu, a section of the Ngapuhi tribe.]
3 [Aihipene Kaihau, a Ngatiteata chief living at Waiuku. See below, p. 214 ff. This incident is reported in AJHR, 1863, E-3, p. 16 ff. It occurred in March 1863.]
No plan of native government which has yet been tried, either by Pakeha or Maori, has succeeded in teaching the good and necessary lesson of obedience. In this respect, the plan of self-government supported by Tamihana and his friends broke down, as they themselves admitted, as completely as the Governor's; though, as a means of demoralizing and pauperizing the natives, the latter was unrivalled. In short, every scheme which depends on Village Runangas as the means of teaching and enforcing obedience, must, in the present condition of the people and Runangas, break down.
The system established by the Waikatos themselves had a great advantage over the Governor's, in the existence of a better sort of Runanga, namely, the King's Council at Ngaruawahia, which Tamihana was trying to convert into a Parliament of the entire Maori nation. But an account of the Waikato government, and an examination into its excellencies and defects, must be deferred until the next chapter.