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The Maori King

Chapter III — The Queen's Sovereignty

page 25

Chapter III
The Queen's Sovereignty

The claim of the Queen of England to exercise the rights of sovereignty over the natives of New Zealand is founded on the Treaty of Waitangi. This treaty was made at the Bay of Islands, in 1840, between Captain Hobson, the first Governor of New Zealand, and the Ngapuhi chiefs, and was afterwards hawked about the country to be signed by any chief who could be persuaded to do so: each man who signed got a blanket. According to the Maori version of this treaty—which differs from the English text, of which it purports to be a translation—the Queen of England guaranteed to the Maories the full chiefship over their lands and other property, and the chiefs yielded to the Queen the right of buying such plots of land as the owner might please to sell. They also gave up to the Queen the whole governorship over their lands, and the Queen promised them the full rights of British subjects. The word for chiefship is rangatiratanga; rangatira signifies a chief or gentleman, as opposed to a common fellow or to a slave. The word for governorship is kawanatanga, kawana being the Maori way of writing and pronouncing the foreign word governor. It would be out of place to discuss here the sense of making a treaty at all with a people destitute of any government that could secure the observance of conditions on their side. Those only who contrived the treaty can tell how they thought they were binding the Maories by the form gone through; and those only who explained the treaty to the chiefs who signed can tell what success they met with in teaching so page 26 complex an idea as that of governorship, or sovereignty, to savages so entirely ignorant of the thing as not even to have a word in their language to express it. It is quite certain, however, that the conditions of the treaty have not been much observed by either side. Maories have always thought their own right arms the best guarantee for the chiefship of their lands and other property; and I know of no instance, except the dubious Waitara case, in 1860, where the Governor has interfered to protect a man in his chiefship according to the terms of the guarantee.1 The Crown's right of preemption has been enforced, not by forbidding natives to sell, but white men to buy. The former have constantly sold and let land to private persons; the only checks to the practice were, the difficulty the purchaser had in getting a Crown grant of what he bought, and a colonial law, never enforced, imposing a penalty for using native land. What the Maori chiefs thought they gave up under the name ‘whole governorship of their lands,’ it is impossible to tell; but as they themselves never possessed rights of sovereignty over the people, it would be idle to discuss whether they could give such rights away. If the Queen has no more right to sovereignty than the chiefs who signed the Treaty of Waitangi, her title to the allegiance of the Maories will not bear examination. The last article of the treaty, if faithfully kept, would indeed have conferred on the British Government an indisputable claim to the gratitude and obedience of the native race. If we had educated the natives in civilization, and fitted them for the enjoyment of those full rights, as British subjects, which the Treaty of Waitangi promised, nothing would have been heard of ‘land-leagues’ and ‘king-movements.’

But no claim on the Waikatos can be founded on the treaty, for the simple reason that they never signed it. It was, indeed, taken to Waikato, and six old men put their names to it, and got their blankets. Potatau—at that time the principal chief of Waikato—refused to sign, though pressed to do so. Te Waharoa, a great warrior, the principal chief of Ngatihaua, never signed. Wiremu Tamihana's argument—‘I am chief of Ngatihaua, which is an independent tribe: my father, Te Waharoa, was chief

1 [This was how it appeared to the Governor—Gore Browne—but it would be more accurate to say that the Governor interfered to deny a chief (Wiremu Kingi) his rights. See below, pp. 89-91.]

page 27 before me; neither he, I nor any of my people, signed this treaty, therefore we are not bound by it’—is logical and unanswerable.
It is quite true that, since the treaty, we have always supposed ourselves to be sovereigns over the Maories, and that, until the ‘king-movement,’ no protest was ever entered by them against the claim. This is not surprising, when it is remembered that the Queen's sovereignty was, in native districts, a thing so purely ideal, that it never clashed with the self-will of the native tribes, nor even with their right to make war on each other. So absolutely was Waikato neglected, that Mr Ashwell stated before a committee of the House of Representatives, that, during nineteen years before the ‘king-movement’ he could not remember more than three or four visits to the Waikato by officials.1 The Maories have been told that the Queen was a hedge around the island to keep off the French, Americans, and other nations, who would have treated them with less humanity than ourselves. To this kind of sovereignty they never had, and have not at the present moment, the slightest objection. But sovereignty, or government, in the sense of a power strong enough to put down robbery and murder, and increase the common happiness by enforcing obedience to laws for the common good, was a thing unknown to the natives of New Zealand when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi, and unknown to loyal and disloyal alike at the present day. It was not that the Maori race did nor present scope for the efforts of a paternal sovereign. For years after the treaty, tribal wars were so common, that Tamihana describes them as ‘a river of blood’ flowing through the land. But to really govern the Maories would have been costly; the revenues of the colony were required to pay for the government and improvement of the European race; the imperial treasury had no funds to spare; and it was therefore thought most economical and prudent not to attempt to govern at all, to abstain strictly from interference in purely native affairs, and merely to purchase, by presents and pensions, the good-will of the principal native chiefs. This has gone by the name of the ‘Sugar and Flour Policy,’ because to distribute large quantities of sugar and flour was the keystone of the system.2 It may be

1 AJHR, 1860, F-3, p.49.

2 [The extent to which money and goods were distributed in this way is often exaggerated. Pensions to chiefs, for instance, in 1853–4 amounted to only £187, and in 1859–60 to £300. Cf. below, p.124.]

page 28 questioned whether it was good economy to undertake the sovereignty of the Maories at all; but, having once undertaken it, to introduce our property, women, and children into the midst of a savage and warlike race, which we neglected to civilize, was the most ruinous policy in the world. What the Government was so long afraid to attempt, because it was difficult, has now become impossible; and a lavish outlay of money, half of which, ten years ago, would have secured lasting peace, has now failed to avert a war, expensive to England and ruinous to the colony. Lest this should be thought an exaggerated account of the neglect of the British Government, I shall quote the opinions of the last two Governors of New Zealand. Colonel Browne, in a memorandum, dated May 25th, 1861, says: ‘Some of the most populous districts, such as Hokianga and Kaipara, have no magistrates resident among them; and many, such as Taupo, the Ngatiruanui, Taranaki, and the country about the East Cape, have never been visited by an officer of the Government. The residents in these districts have never felt that they are the subjects of the Queen of England, and have little reason to think that the Government of the Colony cares at all about their welfare.1 Sir George Grey, in a dispatch to the Secretary of State, dated 6th December, 1861, writes: ‘Ten years since, the urgent necessity of introducing simple municipal institutions among them (the natives) was pointed out, and the first step taken to induce them to refer their disputes to our courts. But, though various proposals have been made for facilitating a further advance towards these objects, the matter has been practically left nearly where it then was.’2 That is to say, the first step towards fulfilling our undertaking to govern was taken eleven years after the treaty, and no further step was taken for ten years more. Is it to be wondered at, that during these dilatory proceedings, the Maories got tired of waiting, and set up an independent government of their own?
During the entire period of twenty-one years nothing like a native service had ever been organized. On this subject Colonel Browne, in the minute above quoted, writes:—‘In the Hudson's

1 AJHR, 1861, E-3A [Gorst's italics].

2 Ibid., 1862, E-1, section 11, p. 36. [Grey suggested introducing municipal institutions among the Maoris in a despatch of 30 August, 1851, No. 121, published in GBPP, 1852/1475. Grey's Resident Magistrate Courts Ordinance, 1846, led to the appointment of a few magistrates.]

page 29 Bay territory, and in other colonies where the Europeans have assumed the duties connected with the government of partially civilized tribes, it has been found necessary to have officers regularly trained and educated for those duties.… In New Zealand the Government is, and always has been, unable to perform its duty, for want of a sufficient number of agents so trained and qualified for the service required of them. I am therefore strongly of opinion that the Native Department should be entirely remodelled; that a Native Service should be established.… Without some such system the Government will never be able to take its proper part in establishing institutions for the native race, or obtain any real hold upon their confidence.’ Strange words for the Governor of New Zealand to have to use twenty years after the Treaty of Waitangi. In their lack of proper agents the Government had often to send into native districts men deficient in intelligence or character, or in both, who presented most unfavourable contrasts to the many men of unblemished reputation with whom the natives were familiar as agents of the missionary societies. Indeed the missionaries have constantly rendered service to the Government as political agents, both in ordinary and extraordinary times; though they have never been willing to perform judicial and other governmental functions, which they regarded as inconsistent with their duties as missionaries. They have constantly supplied information about the feelings of the natives, and suggestions for their improvement; and have often used their influence with success to prevent disturbances. What the missionaries did not do, was generally left undone. Thus the Government was in most native districts either unknown or known only to be despised.

The measure to which Sir George Grey refers, as the first step taken to induce the Maories to refer their disputes to our courts, was an Ordinance for appointing Resident Magistrates, to exercise jurisdiction in civil cases between Europeans and Maories, where the amount sued for did not exceed £20. There were, however, no means whatever of enforcing the decision given, at least where the Maori was the losing party. To provide for cases between the natives themselves, a number of chiefs were appointed assessors, of whom each party could choose one to sit in judgment with the magistrate. But unless, after the page 30 hearing, both assessors agreed in opinion, no further proceedings could be taken. The magistrate could only demand security before hearing the case to ensure obedience to his judgment if given.

This ordinance is evidence of the good intentions of the Government towards the native race. Unhappily very few resident magistrates were appointed in pursuance of the design, and those few were almost all stationed in English settlements. It is not so much in contriving as in executing that our government of the New Zealanders has uniformly broken down. Like Shilpi the Builder, we have regarded ‘the tongue as a constructor rather than a commentator.’

In pursuance of the Resident Magistrate Ordinance, several chiefs were appointed, with small salaries, to act as assessors. These men, being without English instruction and guidance, generally set up as independent founts of justice, and administered law with much vigour and little equity. The fines levied on their victims were often so enormous, that it was simply impossible they could ever be paid. Ti Oriori, of Maunga-tautari, whose legal acumen would do credit to Lincoln's Inn, was accustomed to assign an hour to the hearing of each case: when time was up, he promptly cut short the pleadings or the evidence, and gave his decision. In one case where his judgment was palpably wrong, the losing party expostulated after the sitting of the court, and explained the rest of his cause: Ti Oriori said he was very sorry for him, but he never allowed a case to be re-heard. This enterprising judge was very useful to European squatters in the Waikato, enforcing their claims against natives in his own court, and charging a commission on the amount. Heteraka Nera,1 who held an illegal but perfectly formal court at Raglan, whence writs, summonses, and subpoenas were duly issued, once condemned a Maori to pay a certain sum and costs. After waiting three years for the money, Heteraka waylaid the defaulter at the house of the English magistrate, whither the latter was come to receive some money, and informed the magistrate that he was about to levy execution after the primitive fashion of knocking the man down and taking the money out of his pocket. The magistrate expostulated and begged him, if quite determined, at least to wait till the man was off his (the magistrate's) land,

1 [A Ngatimahanga chief and government assessor.]

page 31 and not make a disturbance on his place. To this Heteraka consented, and accordingly this energetic judge, with two comrades, chased the recusant from the magistrate's house, overtook him, knocked him down, took his money out of his breeches pocket, helped himself to the fine, the costs of the hearing, £1 as the costs of this singular execution, and then gave him back the rest of the money. The whole story was told by Heteraka himself, in a letter asking for more forms of summons to be sent him from the native office. The Waikato was almost the only native district to which an English magistrate was appointed, but as a gentleman unacquainted with the language and ways of the natives was selected for the post, in fact, the very magistrate mentioned in Heteraka's story, the appointment was not followed by any results.1

But though the Government was unable to do anything to cure the state of anarchy which prevailed in all native districts, the progress of colonization did much indirectly to increase the evil.

The Government, having constituted itself by the Treaty of Waitangi sole purchaser of native land, was bound to do its best to supply the insatiable appetite of the rising colony. The interests of the latter plainly required that the Land Purchasing Department of Government at least should be kept in working order, and the watchfulness and criticism of the colonists secured a high degree of efficiency in this part of native government. Before the settlers became sufficiently numerous to excite native jealousy, land was eagerly sold by the Maories. It was the easiest way to acquire money, and the establishment of Europeans in any neighbourhood was thought very advantageous. But the sale of land soon began to lead to quarrels and bloodshed amongst themselves. Wi Tamihana says that they never quarrelled about their lands until we appeared as purchasers. Whether this be strictly true or not, it is clear that our readiness to buy would make land feuds more frequent and bitter. To people with territories far greater than they could occupy, land was comparatively worthless; but as soon as it became possible to exchange land for money, the value in their estimation rose enormously. Old claims were revived, former gifts disputed, and

1 [Dr William Harsant, a magistrate at Rangiaowhia until 1857; later at Raglan.]

page 32 blood was shed to secure the title to so rich a prize. For example: Pehitukorehu, an ancestor of the Ngatimaniapotos, conquered the Ngatiraukawa tribe in battle and drove them from their stronghold, Otawhao, and their lands in that neighbourhood, to beyond Maunga-tautari: so little did he value the land—many square miles in extent—of which he thus became the master, that he gave it away to his friends and kinsmen, the Waikatos of the Ngatimahuta tribe. They occupied the country, felled the forest, and cultivated without dispute for years. Some dozen years ago the Waikatos sold a few acres of their land to settlers. The jealousy of the Ngatimaniapoto was aroused; they asserted a claim to the land, re-occupied a part of it, and the Waikatos were obliged to promise that no more should be sold without their consent. Ever since that time a feud has been going on which has several times nearly broken out into open war, and the Ngatimaniapoto dispute the validity of the sale to the present day.

Afterwards, when from causes shortly to be explained, natives were no longer generally willing to allow land to be sold, it was no uncommon practice for one party claiming a piece of land to offer it to Government for sale without the knowledge of the rival claimants; and though every precaution was taken by the Land Purchase Department, there is no doubt that in some such cases sales were effected. There are several pieces of land in Lower Waikato which have been partly paid for, and are marked down in our maps as the property of Government, which friendly and loyal chiefs assert to be their property, and to have been fraudulently sold. These fraudulent sales, or at any rate the universal belief in them, increased the eagerness of the natives to assert claims to all land in which they thought they were entitled to share, lest while they neglected to do so sales might be effected by others without their knowledge.

In the very rare cases of grave offences committed against Europeans, Government was obliged to have recourse to negotiations for the surrender or punishment of the offender. In cases of this kind valuable assistance was frequently rendered by the missionaries. Potatau, who lived at Mangere, six miles from Auckland, was always consulted in the case of a difficulty in Waikato, and he could generally obtain redress.

Even in the streets of Auckland itself the natives have generally page 33 been able to defy the majesty of the law. No native could be imprisoned for drunkenness or rioting without the risk of war; and with our unarmed men, women, and children, hostages in native districts, it was a risk the Government dared not run. On some particular occasions the Governor did venture upon asserting his authority, but drunken and insolent young Maories, with whom the police had instructions not to meddle, were common frequenters of the streets of Auckland even down to the date of the present outbreak.

Having thus shown how little the most elementary duty of a ruler—the protection of life and property—was performed by the British Crown, it remains to describe the action of Government upon the education of the race, taking the word education in a wide sense, not as equivalent to mere schooling, but as including all the instruction and training necessary to fit the natives to enjoy liberty and govern themselves. There is no doubt that every act of every Government has more or less effect upon the character of the governed, but in the case of a country like New Zealand it is the duty and interest of her rulers to institute special and direct measure for educating the uncivilized part of the community. This would have been the more easy task, inasmuch as the Maories were not only willing but eager to accept our teaching upon all subjects, even long after they repudiated our authority as rulers.

The mode in which the New Zealand Government promoted the education of native children was by yearly grants to the Church of England, the Wesleyans, and the Roman Catholics, under whose superintendence schools were established. In Waikato there were three Church of England schools, two Wesleyan, and one Roman Catholic. The Government did not reserve to itself any right to control the spending of the sums which it bestowed. It was merely a subscriber to a large amount, and exercised just so much influence as was conferred by the power of withdrawing the subscription at the risk of affronting the ecclesiastical magnates. It is true that in 1858 a Colonial Act1 was passed specifying certain conditions on which the yearly grants were to continue; for instance, that the children should have industrial training, regular instruction in English, and

1 [The Native Schools Act. Some 700 Maoris (out of a population of c. 56,000) attended these government-subsidised schools in 1857–8. Cf. below, pp. 128–9.]

page 34 should sleep on the school premises. These conditions, sometimes from sheer impossibility, were not always fulfilled, and no means were used to ascertain or compel their observance. According to the Act, the schools ought to have been visited each year by an inspector, but no one was appointed to the office. The duty was several times performed by amateurs, usually gentlemen of high position in the colony, but their reports, though full of valuable suggestions, never produced action on the part of Government.1 When mission-schools were first established, children crowded into them; it was the object of each religious body to get as many as possible into their own schools, lest they should be outstripped by their rivals in the work of proselytizing. The result was that most of the mission-schools speedily became too large for the funds by which they were supported. The Government could neither give more money, nor did it dare to put a limit on the number to be received into the schools. The managers, therefore, hampered by their efforts to educate many children with little money, were obliged to screw down the costs to the lowest possible amount. Boys and girls were kept in the same school, with deplorable moral results; the girls worked as domestic servants, the boys as out-door labourers; the food given was not better in quality, and was sometimes less in quantity, than they would have got in their own villages; their clothing was ragged and sordid; their bedrooms, bare of the furniture and decencies of civilization, crowded with children, some sleeping two and three together in narrow bedsteads, others huddled in dirty blankets on the floor; and all this because the managers could not afford the luxuries of cleanliness, privacy, and better nourishment. These remarks must not be understood to apply equally to all the mission-schools. It was possible for a very expert manager, as for example the Rev. A. Reid,2 of the Wesleyan Infant School at Waipa, to counteract some of the bad tendencies of the system, but in other cases they produced their full fruits. Thus for several reasons the natives grew more and more unwilling to send their children to the schools; they were afraid of their girls getting entangled in connexions with boys of other tribes; they thought the children badly fed and clothed; they were disappointed at their being employed on

1 [One such gentleman was Gorst himself.]

2 [Alexander Reid (1821–91).]

page 35 common uninstructive work instead of learning trades; and lastly, they grew so distrustful of Government as to dread even gifts that proceeded from that quarter. The Roman Catholic priest, in order to set up a small school at Rangiaowhia two years ago, had to tell the natives that his funds came from Bishop Pompallier and not from Government.

The political education of the adult natives was provided for by a newspaper, published in parallel columns of English and Maori, and distributed gratis. Of the stuff thus circulated amongst them as political wisdom, it is impossible to speak in terms of sufficient contempt. If Maories are conceited enough to think themselves wiser in State-craft than ourselves, the dreary columns of the Maori Messenger 1 are an ample explanation of and justification for their conduct. Successive governors and colonial ministers have vainly laboured to cure the dull idiocy of this newspaper. It is not that it has been impossible to find clever men and good Maori scholars to edit it; but when it is remembered that such editor is a paid subordinate of a timid and divided Government, and that in his writings he must affront neither the King-natives nor the Queen-natives, neither the Governor nor the Native Minister, neither Churchmen nor Wesleyans, neither missionaries nor colonial shopkeepers, the incurable badness of the paper is sufficiently explained. Perhaps, after the character I have given of this journal, my readers will not think it of much consequence how it might be circulated—possibly the Native Department is of the same opinion. At any rate, most of the principal chiefs in Waikato, including the King, William Thompson, and the majority of the Ngaruawahia Council, have never been supplied with this instructive reading. On the other hand, Te Wharepu, who is also called Pukewhau, the principal chief of Lower Waikato,2 has a copy sent regularly to each name: though the mistake has repeatedly been pointed out to the proper authority, and to other chiefs, the native office addressed copies long after they were dead and buried, even when funeral sermons had been preached on them by the very paper itself.

1 [Te Karere Maori. Gorst's description of this bilingual periodical was amply justified.]

2 [A chief of the Te Ngaungau hapu of the Ngatimahuta. There was another chief of that tribe called Pukewhau living at Waitutu—which may explain the mistake.]

page 36

To promote the social advancement of the Maories, presents were made to them of ploughs, horses, and flour-mills. It may be questioned whether it was wise to give such things, rather than let them be earned by honest labour; but the policy of keeping the natives quiet by bribes to the chiefs, required gifts of some sort, and ploughs and horses were certainly better than money, which might have been spent in rum. A far more hurtful practise was to lend money to favourite chiefs, which was rarely and unpunctually repaid.1 The habit of lying was thereby largely promoted, while those who received such aid soon became pauperized, as they found out how much easier it was to beg or bully the Government out of what they wanted, than to get it by labour for themselves. It had come to be commonly observed, that, in most districts, chiefly, as I believe, from this cause, the King natives were of a much better stamp than the Loyal ones, at least as regarded honesty and self respect.

The possession of ploughs, carts, and mills, has not, on the whole, improved the character of the Maories. The effect has been to enable them to grow produce for their own consumption, and for the purpose of purchasing the few European articles they need, in less time and with less trouble than before; to abridge the hours of labour, and increase their leisure. This leisure they occupy in endless ‘runangas,’ or public meetings, at which their grievances are the chief topic of discussion. A little civilization has made them idle, and idleness has made them mischievous. These bad results have, however, been slow in showing themselves, while the material prosperity and increase of wealth were immediate and apparent. Rangiaowhia, in particular, became, many years ago, the scene of extraordinary prosperity. An English labourer was established there to teach agriculture; mills were built, carts and ploughs were given; roads were made; vast tracts of land were cleared of fern, ploughed, and covered with beautiful crops of wheat. Better houses were built—even a brick oven was constructed, to bake bread for the village. The natives, delighted with the prospect of becoming wealthy, gave eight hundred acres of their best land to support an industrial school, where agriculture, tailoring, shoemaking, and various

1 [This was not true during Grey's first governorship. Between May 1851 and October 1852, £1,506 was lent to Maoris. By the latter date the £1,119 which was due had been repaid. (Historical Studies, Australia and New Zealand, loc.cit.)]

page 37 European trades, were to be taught. A hospital, with a resident doctor, was also promised; but these promises were never fulfilled. Yet all this proved to be a mere hollow semblance of peace and prosperity. The natives grew wealthy, but were savages still; customs which rendered amalgamation with Europeans difficult remained in full force; and the lesson of submission to some sort of constituted authority had yet to be learned. About this time, from causes which will be explained in the following chapter, a deep and wide-spread feeling of discontent began to prevail among the natives; the more intelligent and thoughtful revolted against the whole system of treatment that they had received from Government; land leagues, to prevent further sales to the Crown, were proposed in many places; and a native king, who should unite all the tribes of New Zealand into one people, began to be talked of. This was a difficulty that the ‘sugar and flour policy’ could not meet. Gratitude for past, or the hope of future gifts, might keep a few chiefs loyal; but it was manifestly impossible to bribe every native with ploughs and horses, to do as Government wished him. A leader only was needed, to raise a standard of separation from British dominion, and to unite all the tribes into a national party.
The Government were warned, by one of their own officers, of the danger. Mr C. O. Davis, 1 an interpreter, who possessed the most extensive information about native doings, said, in an official memorandum:—2 ‘The natives generally consider themselves an independent nation, and not amenable to British law. They discuss this subject with great seriousness, and many of the tribes are warmly advocating the election of a Maori king, who will, it is supposed, be able to settle all their grievances, and quiet the troubles of the land.
‘It may be asked, What is being done to lessen the discontent which prevails everywhere among the native people? The influence of the missionary bodies, in regard to the Maori population, has ceased; at present it is a mere shadow. The influence of Government is daily becoming less, owing, in a great measure, to our want of system. It is altogether a mistaken notion to

1 [Charles Oliver Bond Davis (1817–87); Maori interpreter and scholar; the friend of many leading chiefs. Few Europeans knew the Maoris as intimately as Davis.]

2 AJHR, 1860, F-3, p. 21. [Apparently written in 1858.]

page 38 suppose that we are attaching the natives to us, and securing their allegiance to the Crown, by the bestowment of presents and granting loans. In most instances this is positively injurious, fostering idleness and covetousness, and causing the chiefs to lay aside that self-respect which raised them so far above the generality of barbarians.’