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New Zealand Revisited

Chapter XIII — Change of Policy

page 223

Chapter XIII
Change of Policy

In June, 1862, before the Governor and Ministers went down to Wellington to meet the Assembly, I was pressed by the Government to visit Auckland for the purpose of having a personal interview with Sir George Grey. I was at first reluctant to fall in with this proposal, because while they admitted the truth of all that had been said in my official report, they met it only with mild expostulations and persisted in making no change in the method by which Waikato and other native districts were to be administered. I replied, therefore, that I had nothing new to say, and that if the Government disagreed with the opinions that had been forced upon me by what I had seen in Waikato, as to what ought to be done, it would be better for them to accept my resignation at once.

While I was thus awaiting positive instructions, a very comic incident occurred at Kihikihi which illustrated the state of affairs in the district. The Runanga of Kihikihi had stopped the Napier mail, owing to a quarrel with the Rev. J. Morgan, the postmaster, as to the pay to be received for carrying the mailbag through their territory. Ngata, a tall chief with a merry face, who had fought like a lion at Taranaki, and was eager to fight again, undertook to carry out the page 224decision of the Runanga. But through the astuteness of the postmaster, the Napier mail slipped past several times in bags that were going to Taupo, Rotorua, and elsewhere. This made Ngata and the Runanga so angry, that the prohibition was extended to all mailbags whatsoever, and notice thereof was given to the postmaster. The next mail man tried to traverse Kihikihi by night, but Ngata, who was on the look-out, pounced upon him, and carried him, bag and all, before the Runanga. The assembly gave the mail man some tea, set up the bag on end in their midst, and sitting round, held a solemn conclave thereon. It was resolved that Mr. Morgan, the postmaster, should be fined £ 5 for breaking their law and attempting to overreach them, and that the bag should be retained until the fine was paid. Ngata rode down next day to Te Awamutu, to tell Mr. Morgan of the sentence, and used all his power of persuasion to induce him to pay the £ 5, but in vain. It was, of course, quite in Ngata's power to have seized property to the value of £ 5, but he had too much respect for Mr. Morgan to do this, so the Runanga detained the mailbag, which was only stuffed with newspapers, the letters having passed through safely in the mail man's pocket. "Yes," said Ngata, "It is quite true, we are much worse than we ever were before. We are showing off our independence."

The Government having finally decided that I should go into Auckland, I there became the page break
Photo by Russell & SonsSir George Grey

Photo by Russell & Sons
Sir George Grey

page 225subject of the extraordinary powers of personal persuasion which was one of the remarkable characteristics of Sir George Grey. He agreed with the conclusions drawn in my report, and in the opinions formed of the general condition of the natives. He not only persuaded me to go on in the native service, but inspired me with great confidence in himself and the measures he proposed to take. He disclaimed any responsibility for what had hitherto been done in Waikato, and hinted that he agreed with me in thinking Mr. Fox and his ministers a set of old women; and it ended by the whole Waikato district, both Upper and Lower being placed under my charge, with the provision that I was to take all instructions from Sir George Grey himself. I had repeated interviews with him during the week. He first wanted to establish a police force at Otawhao similar to that of Reihana at Whataroa, but I told him it was madness to think of such a thing, as Rewi would immediately suppress it by force, and the plan was changed into the establishment of a technical school, which would serve as a trap to catch the King's soldiers, at which a number of useful trades should be taught. At Kohekohe, the settlement of Te Wheoro, our one reliable officer in Lower Waikato, a strong native police force was to be enlisted and drilled. This police force would be able to take up and punish all malefactors in the district so soon as it was properly formed and disciplined. A smart little page 226four-oared gig for conveying the Commissioner up and down the river, manned by a crew of Maori boys, was to replace the slow native canoes. This gig never came into existence; the idea developed itself into a menacing river steamboat.

The Colonial Ministry which had just gone to Wellington were not consulted and knew nothing about these schemes, and Sir George Grey licensed me to spend the money of the colony on these objects without stint, and without limit. Both establishments were to be under my superintendence, and after the school at Te Awamutu had been set going, I was to come down the river, and establish myself at the Queen's redoubt where the military authorities would supply artisans, and everything necessary for the Kohekohe building. I thought the whole affair was like muzzling a mastiff—it was a question whether the creature would or would not fly at you while you were doing the job. Sir George said he did not think the Upper Waikato would interfere, and whenever you felt downhearted in your work a little medicine would always set you right. I never met another man in my life so cool and quiet in conversation and so energetic in action. When the rough plan for the police station at Te Kohekohe was laid before him, he looked the paper over and drawled out in a soft voice, "Yes, I think we'll begin to carry this out to-day," and then he put on his hat, and walked me straight off to General Cameron, to ask him to let the engineer officers so modify page 227the plan as to make the police station easily convertible into a defensible block-house.

After the new policy for Waikato was settled, I had an awful journey home, the river was sweeping down in a great flood, and all the little tributary creeks had become swollen too. At Taupiri I found my horses had bolted, so I borrowed two of Mr. Ashwell's for myself and the Maori lad who was with me, and then we started off on a bright moonlight night, hoping, late as it was, to get home. Alas! when we reached Mangapiko, not two miles from Otawhao, we found the bridge swept away by the flood, and so swollen was the creek that the cold and lateness of the hour made us afraid to swim, and we had to pass the night in a Maori house instead of a civilized bed. The next week was passed in changing houses with Mr. Morgan, as there was no possibility of doing anything towards establishing a technical school at Te Awamutu until we had full control of the school buildings. It was not pleasant to give up the clean neat little cottage, which we had made so comfortable, and go into a large tumbledown house; nor did Mr. Morgan much like turning out at a week's notice from the place where he had lived for twenty years, but he generously said he would be no obstacle to anything which might be for the good of the natives. Most of the dwelling-house was in so crazy a state that it would have to be pulled down and re-roofed, but the school buildings were fairly sound, and could be adapted page 228to their new purposes. Out of doors, everything was in a dilapidated condition, the fences were broken down, the garden covered with weeds, and all approaches to the house poached up by pigs, bullocks, and horses. The very night we left our house at Te Tomo it took fire, and was within an ace of being burnt down. Bricks were so scarce in the district that people were constrained to build chimneys of wood, lined with mud and tin plates, and it was in a chimney of this sort that the fire began. All the skilled witnesses declared it must have been smouldering for days. It broke out after Mr. Morgan had gone to bed, and if he had not rushed out and chopped down the side of the burning chimney with an axe, the whole house would have gone. Happily the weather had been so wet that the shingles on the roof were damp, or all Mr. Morgan's exertions in chopping could not have saved the place. Carpenters and sawyers were set to repair the schoolhouse at once, only the fire caused a good deal of delay, because everybody had to work to repair that house first.

All the girls and little boys were sent away from the Mission School, and only four or five of the biggest boys kept, and it was announced that only big lads would be admitted in future and would be taught trades. The design was at first approved by Tamihana and the peace party, but was opposed by Rewi and the war party; but they all had a suspicion that the operations at Te Awamutu were only a blind to keep them page 229amused, while Sir George's preparations for war were going on. "Formerly," said the old men, "when we wished our young men to go to the mission schools, we were told that their lips and tongues had grown too stiff to learn English, and little children only were accepted; now the lips and tongues of the young men have suddenly become flexible, and they are invited to go to school at Te Awamutu where they will be turned by the Government into policemen."

No attempt was made to prevent the development of the school by any forcible measures, though its danger was soon apparent to most of the Maories; but many of the Runangas in the neighbourhood promptly passed laws forbidding any young man to go to the Awamutu school. I had pointed out the certainty of this being done to Sir George Grey, and expressed my doubts whether good food and neat clothing would tempt young men to disobey. Sir George Grey laughed at me, and said he knew the Maories better than I did, and that the school would rapidly fill. We began at once to give bread or biscuit and tea morning and evening, and pork and potatoes every day for dinner. There was room for twenty lads at once, and twenty more in three or four weeks' time. By the end of the summer our building would provide accommodation for 100, and we should then be in a position to set the Runanga of Kihikihi at defiance. The King sent a message from Rangiaowhia, where he was on a page 230visit, to tell me how desirous he was to be friends with the Government, though he was afraid to express his real sentiments for fear of offending the Ngatimaniapoto, and further to say he had set his heart on a little trifle, namely a pair of epaulettes, and to beg me to get him a pair from Sir George Grey.

While we were on these friendly terms, a dinner was given by the chiefs of Rangiaowhia, to commemorate the King's accession, to which all Europeans were invited. At the request of the natives I took the chair and was supported by Te Paea, the King's sister, Wi Karamoa, Taati, and other leading chiefs. The dinner was served in European fashion, and was excellent; roast beef, preserves, tarts, and bottled ale were in the bill of fare, and everybody behaved in the most decorous manner. After dinner, there were races, and other athletic sports. I ran a race with the General of the King's army, and was beaten by a head. A day or two afterwards the whole party returned the visit, and dined at Te Awamutu, and as a pledge of friendship and goodwill they wrote to the Governor inviting him to a meeting in the Waikato district. The news of these festivities, when it reached Auckland, was received with great indignation, and one journal wrote an article saying that if ever a man deserved to be hanged for high treason, Mr. Gorst was that man; but by the same post I received a letter from Sir George Grey expressing his approval of all I had page 231done and especially of the tact with which I had allowed myself to be beaten in the race by the King's General.

A discussion at this time arose amongst the King party about religion. A Runanga had 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 Church of England and the Wesleyans were friends of Governor Grey, staunch in their allegiance to the Queen, and persistent in using a form of prayer for the Queen, even to the length of supplicating that she might vanquish and overcome all her enemies, including, of course, the Maories themselves. The argument was held by the Runanga of Taupo to be convincing. They sent letters to Waikato recommending all persons to change from the Protestant to the Catholic religion. A report was circulated that King Matutaera had 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 church at Te Awamutu for about six consecutive Sundays, where he page 232repeated the responses, the 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, and offered a house and land. At last the Catholic party gave way and agreed that the priest was to be stationed at a village a few miles from Ngaruawahia. An article was also published in the Hokioi, the King's Gazette, to explain that he had not changed his religion but had merely replied when asked whether he approved of the Roman Catholic faith, "I approve of all religions in the world," which, the paper observed, was the right sort of thing for a sovereign to say, who had subjects of different creeds.

In the meanwhile the establishment at Te Awamutu was being organized with every prospect of success; every applicant for admission was referred to those already in the school, to make full inquiries as to the management and discipline, and told he would be received and treated in the same way upon the one condition of obedience. Every one in the school was clothed, lodged and fed in plain, but wholesome and civilized fashion. Clothes and bedding were regularly inspected and kept scrupulously clean. A schoolmaster was appointed, who taught reading, writing and arithmetic to all, and besides this, each young page 233man was employed for five hours daily, in one of the various mechanical trades carried on within the school. Thus each had an opportunity, not only of acquiring a sound elementary education, but of fitting himself to gain a livelihood, by practising some handicraft taught at the school. The trades carried on were those of carpenter, blacksmith, wheelwright, shoemaker, tailor and later on printer. A few were employed in agriculture, and in tending cattle and sheep upon the school estate, some as their regular occupation, and others as an occasional change from indoor employment. English artisans employed as teachers were chiefly men who had been living in the neighbourhood and were familiar with the Maories and their language. Most had previously been exercising their trades for the benefit of the district, and the only difference was that they were now more systematically at work and were instructing native apprentices. The Maories of the district had, therefore, to resort to the Government establishment for the repair of their ploughs and carts, and for their shoes and clothes. The demand for all these services was far greater than the supply, so there was a prospect of being able to employ a great number of Maori apprentices in every department with certain profit. Even Rewi and Tamihana themselves visited the school. The latter extended his patronage so far as to be measured for a pair of trousers, for which he paid £ 1 in advance, but Te Oriori intercepted them on their way to Matamata, page 234and was so charmed with the fit that he refused to part with them, and told Tamihana he would agree to take them as a present. Even old Porokoru became a customer of the tailor's shop; he had a long white calico gown constructed, as an outfit for a summer journey to the south, and returned after three months' absence, with the garment yellow and unwashed, but assuring his friends that it was the most comfortable dress he had ever travelled in. He wore nothing else and I do not believe he had ever taken it off. I don't think that Porokoru's idea of a suitable dress for bush journey was in itself a bad one. The country was, in those days, too new for trousers, and the attempt to wear them entailed constant mortification. A blanket, tied with green flax to the pommel of the saddle, was all the luggage with which a Maori encumbered himself on a land journey. His travelling dress was adapted to the country, being usually a blue checked shirt. His trousers, if he had any, he carried tied round his neck. Thus he was quite ready for swamps, rivers, or any other obstacle that came in his path. Once, in attempting to ford the Mangatawhiri creek, my horse got so deep into the mud that I had to get off and help it out; a pair of nice clean corduroys thereby became coated above the knees with black slimy mud, and had to be taken off and washed out in the Waikato. This compelled the adoption for the rest of the day's ride of the Maori costume, which proved so cool and airy, and so page 235convenient for the fording of rivers, that I became a convert to it.

Prosperous as the small beginning of the school was, the difficulty of constructing buildings for its development was very great. The Runanga of Kihikihi passed a law forbidding the sale of timber trees for the repair and enlargement of the school, and young men from joining it. The very 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 carrying of timber by the strangest stratagems. On one occasion, a man came down to tell me they had established a ring of cultivation round one of the saw pits, which carts were forbidden by a law they had made to cross, and that I should have to wait until the crops were reaped before getting out my sawn timber. I replied "that this was just, but I, on my side, was under the necessity of ploughing up a piece of Queen's land, which led to the only bridge over the Mangahoe creek and planting it with wheat so that they could not cross the river between Kihikihi and Rangiaowhia until the wheat was harvested. The next day my friend returned and said the Runanga proposed to give me a right of way to my sawpits, in exchange for a right of road to the bridge. To this I agreed, and the bargain was faithfully kept. Another chief, a great friend of Rewi's, threatened to break the saws, and when, in spite of the threat, the work still went on, page 236he drove his horse and cart to the pit on a stormy day, when the sawyers were kept from work, and carted all the sawn timber away. An express was sent off to tell Tamihana and the King of this seizure, and to demand restitution. The lawless violence of Rewi's friend was universally condemned; even Rewi had nothing to say on his behalf. Te Oriori and another chief, with a dozen followers, were sent over to order the timber to be given up, but the natives refused to obey the command. After talking the whole day, Te Oriori consented to let them keep the timber, upon paying compensation for the trees and the sawing. To this I refused to agree; I would have nothing but the timber. Te Paea, who happened to be at Kihikihi, heard the altercation, and asked what it was about. She was told. She then asked to have the disputed timber given to her, and it was impossible to refuse her so trifling a request. "Now," she said, "I shall give the timber to Mr. Gorst." She sent a messenger with a letter, to beg 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 after I had the satisfaction of showing Tamihana the disputed timber, stacked on Te Awamutu land.

The sawing of the timber for the police barracks at Te Kohekohe was delayed by a different cause. After setting in motion the technical school at Te Awamutu, I went down the river in Bishop page 237Selwyn's company to see how the sawing of timber for the police station was going on. But little progress had been made, and no wonder, for Sir George Grey, while completing the old design of the provincial government, for a road leading direct to Te Ia, where the Mangatawhiri creek joins the Waikato, had added to it a new branch which diverged from the original road when at a distance of three miles from the Waikato, and was thence carried in a direct line pointing up the country until it arrived at the Mangatawhiri some distance from the Waikato, where it came to an abrupt end. The troops were also constructing two great wooden buildings. A fort called the Queen's redoubt, capable of holding 500 men, was being constructed in the plain near the termination of the new branch of the road, and a blockhouse was being built at Te Ia, which had spoilt a beautiful wooded hill that used to overhang the river. These works had occupied all the sawyers in the neighbourhood, and when they were completed, the sawyers would have to drink their earnings, and probably try the gold diggings before they would work again. It was also rumoured that Sir George Grey had ordered a steamer to be built at Sydney, for the navigation of the river, and that he was going to build a bridge over the river, at the point where his new road came to an end. But Sir George assured some Waikato chiefs who went to Auckland that although he should not begin the latter work until the next year, by page 238which time all their opposition would have come to an end, it was quite true that he was going to send for a steamer to navigate the Waikato; and when they assured him that the entrance of such a vessel into the river would be resisted by force, and they would certainly fire upon her, he replied that his steamer would be one that no shot could pierce; he should sit quietly reading books in the cabin while they fired upon her and should take the rattling of the bullets against her side as a great compliment to himself. These words entirely neutralized the favourable impression produced at Te Awamutu and confirmed the natives in the opinion, which Tamihana had held from the first, that Sir George Grey intended to fight.

The New Zealand Assembly at Wellington zealously supported Sir George Grey's policy. They repudiated indeed the bargain which Mr. Fox had made that the colony should undertake the responsibility of governing the Maories, and turned out the Ministry for having made it. Another Ministry, under Mr. Domett, was placed in office upon the distinct understanding that they were in no case to be so rash as to propose any particular policy in native affairs. They were to let Sir George Grey pursue what course he pleased, and were to second him and give effect to his wishes, by making any orders in council, and supplying any funds he required. The New Zealand Assembly desired to make the Governor Dictator. But no page 239sooner had this new arrangement been made, than a despatch arrived from the Duke of Newcastle accepting the offer which Mr. Fox had previously made on behalf of the colonists, but which they had just repudiated. This brought government to a deadlock, and during the remainder of my official service in New Zealand there was a double government of which each part refused to move first, and which became in the end the proximate cause of the outbreak of the war.

The Assembly voted ample funds for the technical school already commenced at Te Awamutu, and it was further agreed that a native hospital, promised long before, should now be erected on a small plot of Crown land, consisting of about thirty acres, not yet enclosed or cultivated, about three-quarters of a mile from Te Awamutu. This land had been given to the Crown by the Waikatos for the purpose of a hospital many years before. There was to be a house surgeon in constant residence at the hospital, and a superior officer under the title of Medical Commissioner, who was to travel about the whole Waikato district, to heal the sick, send serious cases to the hospital and recommend measures for improving the sanitary condition of the Maories. This latter appointment was offered to the Rev. A. Purchas, at that time the clergyman at Onehunga, who had been a qualified medical practitioner before he was ordained. He spoke the Maori language, and understood the people page 240perfectly. After long and mature consideration he declined the proposal, on the ground that it was inconsistent with the clerical duties he had undertaken. When Sir George Grey heard of his refusal, he sent and asked him to come and see him, and in a very short interview he overcame all his hesitation and scruples, and Mr. Purchas left his presence the Medical Commissioner of the Waikato.

At the same time Sir George Grey sanctioned the establishment of a Maori newspaper, to reply to the Hokioi, of which the articles, emanating from the King's Council, were being read all over the island. It was to be published at the Awamutu school and circulated gratis throughout the Waikato; and the art of printing was to be added to the trades taught in the school. The printer was Mr. Von Dadelszen, now the Registrar-General of the colony of New Zealand, who was at that time a boy and had been taught to print at Bishop Selwyn's printing press in Auckland. Patara, a cousin of the King, and at that time one of the most influential chiefs of the Runanga of Ngaruawahia, had recently published an article on the subject of the intended steamer. "Successive Governors," said Te Hokioi, "have declared to us that the Queen, by the treaty of Waitangi promised us the full chiefship of such of our lands, rivers, fisheries, etc., as we might wish to retain. Now Waikato is one of the rivers which we wish to retain under our own chiefship. How is it, page 241then, we are told that a steamer is to be sent into this river, although we have not given our consent? Is this the way in which the treaty is observed by your side? Pakeha friends, why do you act thus wrongfully, and trample under your feet the words of your Queen?" The rival newspaper was to be called Te Pihoihoi Mokemoke (The sparrow that sitteth alone upon the housetop).

A printing press was ordered in Sydney and so soon as it could be furnished and set up at Te Awamutu, the first number of the new journal was to be published.