The Maori King
Chapter IX — The Interregnum
Among Maories, the prompt execution of a plan alone commands that respect which is paid to strength: hesitation or delay, whatever the cause, is taken as conclusive proof of weakness. Nothing therefore could have been contrived more likely to remove what little respect the Maories still had for us and our proceedings than the two months of inaction during which Sir George Grey's arrival was anxiously expected by the colonists.
Diplomacy had brought the Government and the Maories to a distinct issue. The Governor had announced that unless certain terms were accepted he was commanded by the Queen to make war, and the Maories, after due deliberation, had firmly and absolutely rejected those terms. But instead of the uplifted sword falling, they were suddenly told that Governor Browne was to leave New Zealand, and Governor Grey was to reign in his stead. There is no doubt that many believed we were afraid to strike, and that as they could not be firghtened, we had determined to try to gain our end in some other way.
The task which Sir George Grey found awaiting him on the 26th September, 1861, when he landed in Auckland, was about as difficult as can be conceived.
At Taranaki actual war was indeed suspended, but not a single point at issue in the quarrel had been settled. When Governor Browne arrived in Taranaki after Tamihana's interference, he found the Waikatos gone and Wiremu Kingi in the hands of Rewi, who would not allow him to see the Governor, page 120 but finally carried him off to rejoin his Waikato allies. The great chiefs having thus gone off, the Governor was reduced to the necessity of concluding peace with Hapurona, the Ngatiawa general. The Treaty, or Convention, or whatever it was, bore the title—‘Terms offered to the Waitara insurgents,’ and was signed by Hapurona and twenty-four men, by ‘Maria, Jane, Betty,’ and sundry other women, and by several children, all of whom, according to the text of the document, had been for twelve months carrying arms against Her Majesty the Queen.1 The most important stipulation therein made was, that all land in possession of the troops belonging to those who had borne arms against the Queen was to be disposed of by the Governor as he thought fit. This land consisted of territory, between the English settlement and Waitara, defended by several block-houses garrisoned by our men. In a subsequent article of the terms offered, the Governor stated that as he did not use force for the acquisition of land, but for the vindication of the law and protection of Her Majesty's native subjects in the exercise of their just rights, he should divide this land amongst its former owners, but reserve the sites of the block-houses and redoubts, and a small piece of land round each, for the public use, and exercise the right of making roads through the Waitara district.
In accordance with these stipulations, Mr Rogan, an officer of the Land Purchasing Department,2 was sent down by Government to make a survey of the ground, mark out the properties of the various Ngatiawa owners, and lay out certain roads, and the sites of block-houses and redoubts which were to be retained.3
1 AJHR, 1861, E-1B, pp. 4–5.
3 AJHR, 1862, E-1, II, pp. 20–21.
4 [Presumably his land near the Waitara river.]
1 [A pa south of the Waitara where British troops suffered a defeat in June 1860.]
2 [i.e. New Plymouth.]
The attitude of Waikato was sufficiently described in the foregoing chapter:—their independence and their King they were determined to maintain at all hazards, whosoever the Governor of the Europeans might be.
The difficulty of making peace out of this mass of confusion was immensely enhanced by the impossibility of getting the Maories to believe any professions or promises that came from the British Government. The existence of this profound distrust at the close of the Taranaki war, is a fact supported by overwhelming testimony. ‘I should think it hopeless at the present time,’ said Sir William Martin, before the Waikato Committee, in 1860, ‘to effect anything. You must build upon confidence: and, at this time, confidence in the native mind towards Government is very small. What I mean is not that the recent proceedings of the Government have created that want of confidence for the first time, but that there is always a latent distrust of the intentions of the Pakeha, which those proceedings rekindled, and for a time increased enormously.’ 1
Every pamphlet, every speech, every report of that time, alluded to the existing distrust as the chief difficulty in any future dealings with the race. The numerous officers sent by Sir George Grey into all the native districts of New Zealand immediately after his arrival were unanimous in reporting that their statements and professions were everywhere received with incredulity; and I can personally testify that any declaration made in the name of the Government in the Waikato district was usually received with the remark—‘He maminga pea’ (Perhaps it is a take-in.)
1 AJHR, 1860, F-3, p. 74.
1 Ibid., 1862, E-1, II, p. 50 off.
2 Ibid., E-10.
The chiefs of Waikato, Wiremu Tamihana, Rewi Maniapoto, and others, were neither to be bribed, cajoled, nor coaxed into pursuing any other object than the advancement of their Maori nationality. It is true, that Sir George Grey was more feared than the former Governor; he had a character among the Maories for deep subtlety, and his visible acts were always thought to cover some deeper scheme which he wished to conceal. It was a common saying of the Maories, that Governor Browne was an eagle, that came swooping upon them from the clear skies, while Governor Grey was a rat (no offence is implied by the name), that burrowed under ground, and would come up in their midst when and where they least expected. Moreover, the Maories understood their own position far better than their Pakeha friends. They were conscious of a firm determination to page 125 maintain a separate nationality and an independent King. They understood Governor Browne's plain declaration, that the Queen had ordered him to put the King down; and they could not divest themselves of the idea that Sir George Grey was sent to accomplish the same purpose in some way different to that which Governor Browne had threatened.
But of all obstacles to the restoration of confidence, the greatest was the necessity of keeping the large body of troops sent out to quell the Taranaki insurrection waiting in the country, in case another insurrection should break out. The expenditure in the town of Auckland, occasioned by the presence of the soldiers, was so great, and was thought to be so advantageous to the citizens, that not a hint of the real sentiments of the natives on this subject was ever allowed to find its way into the public journals, and therefore remained altogether unsuspected by the people in England; neither was it likely that the Government would reveal anything which might deprive it of what all Governments so highly prize—the command of a large military force. But, in fact, the Maories asked themselves the simple question, Why are the troops remaining here? and as they could conceive no purpose except another war, they felt certain that the peace was hollow, and that the Pakeha was plotting some further attempt at coercion. Nothing short of the removal of most of the troops from New Zealand would have convinced the Maories that this was not so.
Besides the difficulties with which Sir George Grey had to contend in conciliating or conquering the tribes which had taken part in the Taranaki war, the state of the whole native population called for prompt measures of civilization and government. Actual insurrection had been confined to a small area, lawlessness and discontent were universal. Indeed, in every other virtue, except loyalty, the Waikatos surpassed rather than fell short of the other tribes in New Zealand. There was room for reform in the very streets of Auckland, where natives of unblemished loyalty defied the law before the windows of the Native Office and under the eyes of the police.
It is quite evident from the above description of the state in which Sir George Grey found affairs in New Zealand that a Governor, though possessing sole and absolute authority and a plentiful command of men and money, would have had before him a task of no ordinary difficulty.page 127
But a hindrance, with which the Maories had nothing to do, hampered the Governor in all his efforts, and was at last the immediate cause of the final breakdown. Sir George Grey had not only to persuade the reluctant natives once more to submit to British rule, and to devise a plan by which they could be efficiently governed, but also to settle finally whether the people of England or the colonists were to be responsible for administering the Government of the Maories.
When the constitution was originally conferred upon New Zealand, the native inhabitants of the country were altogether forgotten. Maories were practically excluded from the franchise and from both Chambers of the New Zealand Legislature, although no special provision was made to secure proper care for their interests.1 Since that time a continuous struggle had been going on between the ministers of the colony and the authorities of the Imperial Government—the former eager to possess full power to govern the native as well as European race, and at the same time resisting to the utmost the corresponding obligation of providing money and men for coercing their coveted subjects should they rebel—the latter vainly striving to escape from the ever-increasing cost of protecting the settlers against their native neighbours, and as unsuccessful in either providing a government for the Maories or preventing the settlers from carrying out any particular scheme of native policy they might choose to patronize.
On the colonial side it was urged that the colonists had a much greater interest in the good government of the Maories, upon which not only their property but their lives depended, than the authorities at home; that the funds for efficient government of the natives would have to come out of the ordinary colonial revenues, the expenditure of which they had a just right to control; and that it was impossible so clearly to separate the interests of the natives from those of the settlers, that they could be entrusted to the care of different departments.
1 [The franchise, which required the possession of certain private property excluded most Maoris, but they were not quite ignored. £7,000 was reserved on the Civil List for their welfare; the Governor was empowered to decalre native districts within which the settlers' writ would not run. In 1856 Gore Browne exempted Maori affairs from the control of the responsible ministers.]
The very first colonial ministry that succeeded in firmly seating itself in power, began the agitation of these questions, and it has been kept up continuously ever since. But until Sir George Grey's second Governorship, the Imperial Government nominally retained the whole responsibility in their own hands. The Governor of New Zealand acted entirely on his own opinion in all native matters. A staff of secretaries, commissioners, and clerks, neither responsible to the New Zealand Assembly, nor removable by the colonial ministers, carried out the Governor's policy, both in the purchase of native land, and the general management of the Maories. But with all this apparent authority, the Governor had very little real power, in as much as his colonial advisers, whom he was bound to inform of everything that was done, had a most effective check on him. In the Statute which established the New Zealand Constitution, the sum of £7,000 per annum only had been placed beyond the control of the Colonial Legislature, as a provision for carrying on the Government of the natives. This sum, quite insufficient in itself to pay the expense of an effective government, including the costs of District Courts and Circuits, and the pay of the various secretaries and other officials, had besides been, to a large extent, disposed of and forestalled in the following manner.
1 Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1856, A-7.
Church of England £3,500 Wesleyan Society 2,300 Church of Rome 1,200 Total 7,000
Church of England £3,500 Wesleyan Society 1,600 Church of Rome 800 Total 5,900.’1
At the earnest request of his colonial advisers, the succeeding Governor, Colonel Browne, ‘consented to devote to the use of schools, the remaining portion of the £7,000 (viz. £1,100) which Sir George Grey had not previously appropriated to them. The Governor made this concession only because the sum was to small to be of importance, and because it had not been expended in the best manner; the salary of the Resident Magistrate at Auckland, whose duties were almost exclusively connected with Europeans, having formed one of the items.’2
Finally, the Governor received the following instructions from the Secretary of State:—
‘So far as public faith is engaged towards particular local bodies for the maintenance of Sir George Grey's scheme or otherwise, it must be strictly preserved, and you are authorized to adhere to this principle against all opposition.’3
Thus Governor Browne was left without any funds whatever under his own control, to carry on the government of the natives.4
1 Mr Richmond's Minute. AJHR, 1858, E-1A.
2 Governor's Minute. Ibid
3 Despatch of Right Hon. H. Labouchere, 16th Devember, 1857.
4 [It should be added that in 1858 the ministry agreed to pay the £7,000 for Maori education out of ordinary funds, and came to an agreement with Gore Browne as to how the £7,000 on the Civil List should be spent on administration, for instance to pay for the Resident Magistrates’ courts. It should also be remarked that the annual expenditure on Maori affairs in 1856–60 was approximately double the £7,000 reserved for that purpose. The extra money was voted by the General Assembly.]
The British Government had at last become weary of this arrangement, in which the advantage was all on the Colonial side, while the risk was all borne by them; which had, moreover, totally failed to give the Home Government any real voice in the management of the Maories. Sir George Grey was to put an end to the double government.
It is worth noticing that the contest between the different departments for the government of the Maories began just at the time when the latter were making up their minds to govern themselves. Since then, the influence of the colonists in native affairs, and the determination of the Maories to be separate and independent, have both steadily increased. At the same time, all our efforts to escape from the expensive luxury of owning a colony like New Zealand have been in vain. The cost of the strife between settlers and natives which must be either advanced or guaranteed by the Imperial Government, grows rapidly, and already forms a considerable item in the annual expenditure of the mother country.
1 [Rather, there was a stalemate: ministerial measures were opposed by McLean, while the Governor's suggestions were declined by the House of Representatives. (See Sinclair, op. cit., Chapter VII.)]