The Maori King
Chapter XV — Te Awamutu
The King and his party, on their return from Hauraki to Ngaruawahia, stopped to hold a Runanga at Te Kohekohe, where their young relative Wiremu Te Wheoro was administering ‘law and order’ as a Queen's magistrate. Finding that a design had been made for building a wooden court-house at the village, they seriously warned Te Wheoro not to persist in such an attempt. Several of them had a joint claim with him to the land, and were resolved to interfere and stop the erection of the building. The Runanga and the resolution were reported to Sir George Grey, who determined to proceed with the building, regardless of threats, and to make not a mere court-house, but a defencible barrack for a native police force.
The design was to imitate the policy of the Maori chiefs themselves, by enlisting a body of native youths, who were to be lodged in the barrack at Te Kohekohe, disciplined, drilled, and gradually and cautiously made use of, to suppress dangerous offenders like Whakapaukai and establish a real system of law and order, at least in the more loyal region of Lower Waikato.
Sir George Grey was anxious to have a similar force enrolled in the Upper Waikato, at Otawhao, but it was represented to him that any such attempt would inevitably provoke the hostility of the Maories, who would promptly suppress the institution so soon as its object was apparent. In consequence of these representations, the plan was so far changed, that instead of a policestation, an industrial school for young men and grown-up boys page 194 was substituted, which would be at once a trap to catch the King's soldiers, and might be made into a station for an effective force at some future time. There was no doubt that the design would be, sooner or later, seen through by the King party, and that a law would be passed forbidding young men to join the school. Sir George Grey was, however, of opinion that the offer of good food and clothes would be a sufficient inducement to procure disobedience of any such injunction.
The execution of both these projects was entrusted to me, as I was at that time in charge of the Lower, as well as the Upper, Waikato District.
The first plan never proceeded further than the preparation of timber for building. In New Zealand, where sawn timber can be bought only in the large towns, and where the expense of carriage is very heavy, it is a matter of economy, before erecting a building, to saw the timber required, on or near the spot. All the sawyers in the neighbourhood of Te Kohekohe were employed for several months in preparing large quantities of timber for building barrack-rooms, &c., within the stockade at Mangatawhiri and the Queen's Redoubt; and when this task was finished, they had to drink out the wages they had earned before they were willing to work again.
But at Otawhao it was possible to begin the experiment at once. A Mission-school was already there, with an estate of about 200 acres attached, called Te Awamutu, and this was given up by the Bishop of New Zealand, and the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, to the Government, to enable the plan to be carried out with the least possible delay.
- (1)The exhibition before the eyes of the Waikato natives of the advantages to be derived from the British Government. That it might be seen, especially by the young men, the most dangerous class in the native community, that the Queen's Government was able to give physical comfort and civilization in exchange for the barbarous independence still cherished by them.
- (2)The training of a class of men, upon whose fidelity the Government might rely, and out of whose ranks native officers might be afterwards selected.page 195
- (3)The organization of a body of disciplined young men, accustomed to obey, who might be used as police, and furnish the Government with an instrument for really establishing ‘law and order’ in Maori districts.
The chief fault to be found with this scheme was, that it ought to have been begun twenty years before. At that time the natives wished to place themselves under our authority, and would have joyfully accepted us as masters. Even so recently as ten years ago, they had proved their desire for civilization, by giving to the Crown an estate of 800 acres, upon a promise that an industrial school and a hospital should be erected. For the fulfilment of this promise they had waited in vain. Before the time had arrived at which it was convenient for us to remember and keep our promises, their zeal for improvement had cooled. Some months before the new school at Te Awamutu was proposed, they had announced that, ten years having elapsed without the erection of that school and hospital for which they had given the land, they considered the grant void, and should resume possession of their property.
As these sentiments of the Waikatos were well known, it was the opinion of many that it would have been more prudent to try the experiment of enrolling a police force, or collecting the young men into an industrial school, in some other district, where there would be less risk of being interrupted in the work by jealous fears and hostile attacks. There is no doubt that such criticism is just. Had any one desired to irritate the King party, and obtain a ground for quarrel with them, no better places than Te Awamutu and Te Kohekohe could have been chosen for establishing schools and barracks.
To the Awamutu scheme, which appeared to the natives, at first sight, an act of pure benevolence, free from any sinister motives, a large number of the Waikatos were, at the outset, highly favourable. Many youths at once made application for admission, and others said they only hesitated because they could not believe Government promises, until they saw them fulfilled with their own eyes.
But this confidence on the part of the Waikatos was very short-lived. Not only were they alarmed by the report of what was to be done at Te Kohekohe, but the rumour of a new plan page 196 of Sir George Grey caused nearly as much excitement in Waikato as the original announcement of the Mangatawhiri road. The Governor told some Waikato chiefs, who visited him in Auckland, that he was going to send for a steamer to navigate the Waikato river; and when they assured him that the entrance of the vessel would be resisted by force, and that they should certainly fire upon her, he replied that his steamer should be one that no shot could pierce—that he should sit quietly reading books in the cabin while they fired upon her, and should take the rattling of their bullets against her side as a great compliment to himself. This announcement, when made known to the other natives, was everywhere taken as a distinct proof of that intention to make war, which most Maories had attributed to the Governor, from the day when he condemned the Maori King at Taupari. These reports put an end to their hesitation about the proposed school at Te Awamutu. It was evidently part of the same scheme for reducing Waikato, and must, therefore, be inflexibly resisted.
The existing buildings of the old Mission-school furnished room for not more than twenty-two persons, and in order to provide accommodation for a hundred, the number it was intended to enlist, it was necessary to purchase trees from the natives, and have timber sawn. The King was then at Rangiaowhia, with a large gathering of the Waikato and Ngatimaniapoto tribes. The proposed school was discussed. The feature of the plan which most alarmed them was, that children and young boys were not to be admitted. ‘We often wished,’ said one speaker, ‘to send our young men to the Mission-school. We were told, “No; they could not learn the Pakeha's language—their lips and tongues were too stiff.” Now there is a change; the lips and tongues of the young men have suddenly become flexible, and they are pressed to go to school.’ They did not doubt that some hostile design lurked under the apparent benevolence; and it was resolved that no timber-trees should be sold, so that it would, at least, be impossible to enlarge the existing building. The King and the whole assembly then adjourned to Hangatiki; but no sooner were their backs turned, than certain natives, who cared more for money than the King's commands, offered trees for sale. The offer was accepted; six trees were bought, of which four were felled, and sawing commenced.page 197
At the Hangatiki meeting, the subjects of the Awamutu school and the Governor's intended steamer were again discussed; when Rewi and the Ngatimaniapoto strongly urged that it would be by far the safest course to expel the Government officer from the district at once, by force; and as the arrival of a steamer would render Ngaruawahia no longer safe, they tried to persuade the King to retire to the hills, and fix his capital at Hangatiki. To this hostile policy, however, the Waikatos would not consent. The fact of the land at Te Awamutu being Crown land was held to justify the Government in stationing any person they chose upon it; and the steamer might prove but an empty threat. It was therefore resolved to oppose the school by those lawful and peaceable means which had proved so successful in the case of the magistrate. Great was their indignation, on returning to Rangiaowhia, to find that a sale of timber had actually taken place. A resolution was immediately passed, to take back, at least, the two trees not yet felled; but when it was represented to them that such conduct would be stealing, they rescinded the resolution and gave up the trees, though at the same time they again made a law that no more should be sold. The law, however, could not be enforced. The Waikatos of Rangiaowhia, and even of Kihikihi, persisted in selling timber; though, at the latter place, the Ngatimaniapoto expressed strong indignation, and a stormy Runanga was held over almost each individual tree. Sawing proceeded steadily though slowly, and the plans of the Waikatos for stopping the building failed.
The scheme was regarded by the younger men in a very different light; they liked good food and clothes, and knew the benefit of learning to be blacksmiths or carpenters, and were willing enough to render the obedience which was exacted from them as the price of maintenance and instruction. A large portion of the King's soldiers at Rangiaowhia, Waipa, and elsewhere, expressed their desire to leave His Majesty's service for the establishment at Te Awamutu, and even went so far as to apply for admission. Their defection so alarmed the Runangas, that a law was passed, imposing a fine of £5 upon any King's soldier who left the service; and extreme displeasure was threatened by the King-party against any persons who might venture to become members of the school.
Notwithstanding this opposition, however, the number of page 198 pupils steadily increased. Ti Oriori openly pronounced himself a supporter of the school. Several young men from his section of the Ngatihaua tribe actually entered as scholars, and, with the exception of one who went off to be married, remained until the outbreak of the war. The opposition was also much weakened by a dissension which arose amongst the King-party, and for a time appeared likely to produce an open rupture. It was a controversy about religion. A Runanga sat at Taupo to discuss the relative merits of the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. It was argued that the priests of the former religion avowed themselves to be of no country, professed allegiance to the Catholic Church and not to the Queen, and made no opposition to the Maori nationality and King; whereas the clergy of the Church of England and the Wesleyan ministers were friends of Governor Grey, staunch in their allegiance to the Queen, and persistent in using the form of prayer for the Queen, even to the length of supplicating that she might ‘vanquish and overcome all her enemies,’ which, of course, included the Maories themselves. The argument was held by the Runanga of Taupo to be convincing. They accordingly addressed letters to Waikato, recommending all persons to change from the Protestant to the Catholic religion. A report was circulated that King Matutaera had himself become a convert; and a pastoral letter from Bishop Pompallier, the Roman Catholic Primate, to Matutaera, offering to station a priest at Ngaruawahia, was printed and published. The indignation of the Protestant chiefs was aroused. Old Porokoru, alarmed lest he should be converted, clad himself in European garments, put on a tall black hat, and attended the church at Te Awamutu for about six consecutive Sundays, where he repeated the responses, prayers for the Queen included, in a loud and indignant voice. The Roman Catholics at Ngaruawahia were warned that, if they persisted in having a priest, the opposite party would have a magistrate; and Wi Karamoa sat down in a rage and wrote to invite me to come at once, offering a house and land.
Soon afterwards, a dinner was given by the chief of Rangiaowhia, to commemorate the King's accession, to which all Europeans in the neighbourhood were invited. At the request of the natives, I took the chair, supported by Te Paea the King's sister, Wi Karamoa, Taati, and other leading Protestant chiefs. The page 199 dinner, which was served in European fashion, was excellent—roasted turkey, preserves, tarts, and bottled ale, were in the bill of fare—and every one behaved in the most decorous manner. When dinner was over, there were races and athletic sports.1 A day or two afterwards, the whole party came to return the visit, and dine at Te Awamutu, and, as a pledge of friendship and good-will, wrote a letter to the Governor, inviting him to a meeting in the Waikato district.
When the dissension thus began to grow serious, the Catholic party gave way, and agreed that the priest was to be stationed at a village a few miles away from Ngaruawahia; an article was also published in the King's newspaper, explaining that His Majesty had not changed his religion, but had merely, when asked whether he approved of the Roman Catholic faith, replied—‘I approve of all religions in the world,’ which, the newspaper observed, was the right sort of thing for a Sovereign who had subjects of different creeds to say.
1 [Gorst ran a race with the King's ‘general’ and was tactfully beaten (New Zealand Revisited, p. 230).]
The promise of implicit obedience to orders, exacted from each person on admission, was in almost all cases faithfully kept. Very few complaints were made, either by the schoolmaster and trade-instructors, of idleness and obstinacy; or by the scholars, of tyranny and injustice. The former, who at first loudly declared the impossibility of making Maori boys work, or teaching them anything but mischief, ended by as loud praises of their docility, industry, and progress in their work. A continual and almost daily inspection of all the work that was going on, enables me to testify that this praise was well deserved. The pupils, on the other hand, finding themselves happy and well-treated, and being conscious of steady progress in acquiring valuable attainments, submitted, without the least reluctance, to the restraints and discipline of the place, and were daily practised in the habit of obedience. In the main object for which Te Awamutu was established—the collection of a body of Maories accustomed to obey—there was little doubt of complete success.
The only difficulty was that of getting enough timber to build a house that would hold fifty or sixty more. The opposition of the Kihikihi natives was persistent and troublesome. The very page 201 men who, ten years before, would have given land, timber, provisions, and even labour, to establish a school of the kind, now resisted the buying, felling, sawing, and carting of timber, by the most strange stratagems. On one occasion, they entirely surrounded a saw-pit by a ring of new cultivations, which carts were forbidden to cross; and it was only by threatening to plough up the Government road adjoining the bridge over the Mangapiko, and to sow a crop of wheat there, so as to stop all communication between Rangiaowhia and Kihikihi, that a right of road through the ring of cultivation was obtained. A daring fellow, who was a great friend of Rewi's, threatened to break the saws; and when, in spite of his threat, the work still went on, he drove his cart and horse to the pit one very stormy day, when the sawyers were kept from work by fear of falling trees, and carted all the sawn timber away. An express was at once sent off to tell Wiremu Tamihana and the King, who were holding a monster meeting at Peria, of this seizure, and to demand instant restitution. The lawless violence of Rewi's friend was universally condemned; even Rewi had nothing to say in his behalf. Ti Oriori and another Ngatihaua chief, with a dozen followers, were sent over to Kihikihi to order the timber to be given up. A stormy meeting ensued, and the Kihikihi natives refused to obey the command; after talking a whole day, Ti Oriori consented to let them keep the timber, upon paying compensation for the trees and for the sawing. To this arrangement I refused to agree; I would have nothing but the timber. Ti Oriori could do no more, and he went away. Te Paea, who happened to be on a visit at Kihikihi, heard the tumult, and asked what it was all about; she was told: she then asked to have the disputed timber given to her; it was impossible to refuse her so trifling a request. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘I shall give the timber to Mr Gorst.’ She wrote and sent a messenger to beg that I would fetch my timber which she was holding for me. ‘One thing,’ said this lady in her postscript, ‘I have forgotten; please give me a little tobacco.’ A week afterwards, when Tamihana arrived from Peria, to insist on restitution, I had the pleasure of showing him the timber, stacked upon the Awamutu land, and of informing him that the trouble was at an end.
After this defeat, Rewi and the Ngatimaniapoto appeared to withdraw all opposition, and many of the soldiers and other lads, page 202 from Kihikihi and elsewhere, began to talk of entering the school.
The good temper of the Waikatos at this period so imposed on the Colonial Government, that they determined to spend considerable sums of money, in further enlarging and improving the Awamutu school, and in other schemes for the civilization of the natives.
It was intended to erect the long-promised native hospital, on a small plot of Crown land, consisting of about thirty acres, not yet enclosed or cultivated, situated about three-quarters of a mile from Te Awamutu. One house-surgeon was to be in constant residence at the hospital, and a superior officer, under the title of Medical Commissioner, was to travel about the whole Waikato district, to heal the sick, send serious cases to the hospital, and recommend measures to improve the sanitary condition of the Maories.
1 [See above, p.151.]
2 [The Domett ministry, 1862–3.]
1 [The Native Lands Act, 1862.]