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New Zealand Revisited

Chapter IX — Sir Thomas Gore-Browne

page 142

Chapter IX
Sir Thomas Gore-Browne

Tamihana's intervention at Waitara did not, it is true, make peace, but it produced a cessation of hostilities which lasted for more than two years. During this interval two Governors, Sir Thomas Gore-Browne and Sir George Grey, three successive Ministries of the New Zealand assembly, Englishmen like Bishop Selwyn and Sir William Martin, and many Maori chiefs, amongst whom Tamihana was the most powerful, all laboured to establish peace between the two races; but laboured alas! in vain. It was during this critical period that I became an official of the British Government, whether of the Imperial or Colonial Government was never exactly settled, and was employed in attempting to carry out their schemes for restoring confidence and peace. I had hitherto been known in Waikato as an independent Pakeha, and a friend of Mr. Ashwell, the missionary; but I was now to become a permanent resident in the district as an officer of Government.

All our labours resulted finally in disastrous failure. The one point to which all the Waikato natives, including Tamihana himself, firmly adhered, was the recognition of the Maori king and Maori nationality, and these we uniformly and firmly refused to recognize. The war of races which desolated New Zealand for many years, and cost page 143Great Britain millions of money and the lives of many soldiers and sailors, was the outcome. I have always thought that it was most unwise, to bring the Maori king into the quarrel, which should have been treated as a mere land dispute at Taranaki. In a private letter written at the time I said, "It appears to me very foolish not to let the Maori king alone, as there is little danger to be apprehended from him, and with a more efficient native administration he would, as Tamihana hinted, die a natural death."

Tamihana had returned from Waitara mortified and disappointed. He had gone down with the most friendly intentions, ambitious to appear in the character of a peace-maker. His intervention had been met in no friendly spirit; he had been accused unjustly of promoting war and rebellion; he had been forced into the position of a belligerent, though he had never fired a shot; and he came back under the threat of war, if he would not abandon the Maori king. The Waikatos followed him sulkily. Rewi stayed behind to hatch mischief if he could, and succeeded at last in carrying off Wi Kingi, who might, he feared, if left by himself, patch up a peace with the Governor, into a sort of honourable captivity at Kihikihi. At Mokau, the Waikatos had broken out into open complaint and had bitterly upbraided Tamihana with ill-timed and useless interference in the war. He had contrived in some way, however, to satisfy them, and had made a journey page 144round the west coast, and through the greater part of the Waikato district, to explain his policy and to ascertain the sentiments of the natives generally about upholding the Maori king. He had then settled down again at Tamahere, and had sent for me to explain his position as related in the former chapter.

After my visit to Tamihana at Tamahere, I thought it my duty to go straight back to Auckland, to report the interview to Sir Thomas Gore-Browne, the Governor. On Sunday morning we passed through Paetai on the Waikato river. There was a congregation of seventy persons, two schools, one of boys and one of girls, beautifully clean and tidy, and they sang and chanted at the Church service extremely well. After the service I rode with a Maori down the river, intending to cross to Kohekohe, but we could find no canoe to ferry us across the river. We therefore went to a village further down on the west bank, where a storm of wind and rain kept us prisoners all night. We could not find a house which had any wall to it, but the Maori built up a temporary wall on the windward side. We sat round a fire in the middle, and the whole company doffed their trousers, wrapping themselves in blankets, and there we all sat, each man with his breeches hung above his head, like a company of knights with their shields hung above them. Next day I rode about forty-seven miles into Auckland; it kept raining horizontally and with great violence, so page 145that I reached home in a soaked condition about eight o'clock at night.

Next morning I went to the Governor and gave him a full account of all that I had heard and said; he was very much obliged to me, as the Government had heard nothing of, or from, Tamihana since he left Taranaki. He confirmed what had been told me, that Tamihana's terms had never been accepted, and that peace had not been made. He seemed most sincerely and painfully anxious to avert the war of races which then appeared so imminent. He sent for Mr. Whittaker, the Attorney-General, and begged me to repeat before him the story I had told, and asked me to reduce it to writing, to be sent home to the Colonial Office; I believe much of it appeared in some long-forgotten Colonial Blue Book. Piripi, the teacher in the Maori school at Tamahere, a cousin of Tamihana, followed me a few days after to Auckland and told me that Tamihana had left Tamahere, and had gone far up the country to avoid the emissaries of the Government. A clerk from the Native Office was sent up with a letter, but did not see Tamihana, as he was stopped by the natives, and could get nothing to eat for a couple of days but a few potatoes, and finally had to return to Auckland without an interview or even a reply to the letter of the Government. Tamihana afterwards wrote to say he was unaware of this treatment, and much regretted it should have occurred. Tamate page 146Ngapora and several Waikato chiefs living near Auckland had an interview with the Governor, who assured them he had no present intention of an attack on Waikato. Tamate asked to have this in writing, to which the Governor assented. Sir William Martin wrote a long letter to Tamihana recapitulating the objections to the title of king, and urging him either at once to give up the name or to submit to the Queen's decision on the point.

All the troops were brought up from Taranaki with the exception of a single regiment, which remained in occupation of Waitara, while the Maories kept armed possession of a piece of undisputed crown land at Tataraimaka, some few miles from New Plymouth, which they had occupied during the war. They declared that they held it as a hostage for Waitara.

The Governor, meanwhile, drew up a formal ultimatum to the Waikatos, which was brought by an obscure native into the district and there distributed. It is difficult to exaggerate the effect of this proclamation on the minds of the natives, and its influence on subsequent events. This must not be estimated by the effect that a similar document would have on ourselves. Maories could at that time read, but were furnished with very little literature but the Bible and a few lesson books. This fresh and exciting paper, widely distributed, and carefully read at their evening meetings, where every paragraph was discussed, had an independent value as a page 147piece of literature; while, politically, it was a distinct revelation of the thoughts and purposes of the Pakeha, and helped to decide the anxious question, which was always in their thoughts, when the great war which was to deprive them of their lands would begin. The proclamation, which was entitled "Declaration by the Governor to the Natives assembled at Ngaruawahia," was to the following effect. It began by stating that at the first establishment of the Maori king, the Governor inclined to the belief that the king's supporters desired only the establishment of order, and a governing authority amongst themselves; but that he soon felt misgivings, which had been justified by the event. He had not interfered to put down the Maori king by force, hoping that the Maories themselves, seeing the danger of the course they were pursuing, and that the institution of an independent authority must prove inefficient for all purposes of good, would of their own accord abandon that course. He then enumerated the wrongs that had been committed in the name and by the adherents of the Native king:—

1.The Treaty of Waitangi had been violated.
2.Some of them had interfered between the Governor and other native tribes in matters with which they had no concern, and levied war against the Queen.
3.Others had abetted the men who committed these outrages.page 148
4.A war party had advanced to within forty miles of Auckland, to interfere with the due course of the administration of justice.
5.They had stopped the Queen's mail from passing over native land, usurped jurisdiction over Europeans and committed divers offences against Her Majesty's sovereignty.
6.The adherents of the king were at that very time using the most strenuous efforts to possess themselves of arms and ammunition, to effect their objects by intimidation and violence. "The Governor," says the proclamation, "cannot permit the present state of things to continue. No option now rests with him; he has been commanded, by Her Majesty the Queen to suppress unlawful combinations, and to maintain Her Majesty's sovereignty in New Zealand."

The document then went on to explain what sovereignty implied:—

1.That every man should obey the law, which guaranteed freedom to the weak as well as to the strong.
2.No man in the Queen's dominions is permitted to enforce rights or redress wrongs by force; he must appeal to the law. (What a mockery this statement must have been in the eyes of Taranaki natives, who remembered the murder of Rawiri, Katatore and many others, whose friends appealed to the law for redress, but in vain; or to the Upper Waikato, Ngatiruanui, Taupo, and other tribes, rarely or never page 149visited by an officer of Government, and having therefore no law to appeal to.)
3.That men do not enter into combinations for the purpose of preventing other men from acting or dealing with their property as they think fit. This is against the law. (To the Maories this meant "land leagues are unlawful." In themselves land leagues are no more unlawful than trades unions: but the Governor's language would include trusts, partnerships, and settlements of all kinds, in one sweeping condemnation.)
4.That every man allow roads and bridges to be made on his land, when required by lawful authority. (As the Maories had no share in the Government of the colony, this implied whenever the Pakehas might choose.)

On the other hand, the Queen had, by the Treaty of Waitangi, secured to them their lands. "By that treaty," are the words of the declaration, "the Queen's name has become a protecting shade for the Maories' lands, and will remain such, so long as the Maories yield allegiance to Her Majesty, and live under her sovereignty; but no longer. Whenever the Maories forfeit this protection, by setting aside the authority of the Queen and the law, the land will remain their own so long only as they are strong enough to keep it; might, and not right, will become their sole title to possession."

Lastly, the Governor, after promising to establish page 150order and laws among them, stated specifically his demands, thus:—

1.From all: submission, without reserve, to the Queen's sovereignty and the authority of the law.
2.From those who are in possession of plunder: restoration of that plunder.
3.From those who have destroyed or made away with property: compensation for losses sustained.

It is impossible to exaggerate the effect which the statements printed in italics, coming from the Queen's officer, at so solemn a time and in so solemn a manner, had upon the minds of the natives.

Hitherto they had cherished a hope that the Queen would sanction their native sovereign, and be his protector. "How do we know," asked Tamihana, at a public meeting, "that the Governor disapproves of our work? He never said so." Now, for the first time, they learnt that, unless they gave up their king, the Governor had no option, but was commanded by the Queen to make war on them. A question was put in the New Zealand Parliament on what authority the statement had been made. The parallel columns which follow give the words of the despatch sent out by the Secretary of State, and of the declaration which the Government of the colony founded thereon:—

page 151
Duke of Newcastle's Instructions to the Governor. Governor's Declaration to the maories.
"…I am clearly of opinion that the attempts of the Maori Land League, to prevent persons over whom they have no legitimate authority from alienating their lands, should be inflexibly resisted." "No option now rests with the Governor: he has been commanded by the Queen to suppress unlawful combinations, and to maintain Her Majesty's sovereignty in New Zealand."

The natives had the option given to them of submitting to the Queen's sovereignty, or fighting for the possession of their lands. They knew well enough the former meant submission to be governed by the colonists: but their proud spirits could as little endure the rule of foreigners as our own, especially when threatened with what they thought unjust spoliation if they refused. Is it strange that high-spirited men, like Wiremu Tamihana, chose to be free, even at the risk of having to fight for their liberty? The first copy of the Governor's declaration reached Tamihana at Te Rapa, and was read aloud by him to Rewi, Epiha, Wi Kingi and other chiefs, who were on their way to a great meeting to be held at Ngaruawahia. His audience expressed no opinion further than a want of confidence in any document proceeding from the Government. Maories from all parts of Waikato and the neighbourhood began to gather at Ngaruawahia on Monday, June 3, but it was not until Thursday that any question of real importance was discussed. On page 152that day the following points were brought forward:—

1.The taking down of the king's flag, and breaking up the league into which they had entered to keep their land.
2.The restoration of plunder, and payment for what had been destroyed.
3.What should be regarded as a re-commencement of hostilities on the part of the troops.

The first question was disposed of almost entirely by Tamihana himself, who commenced by denying that the flag had ever been intended to do away with the supremacy of the Queen as the protector of their rights and privileges. It was the badge of an agreement, made among themselves, to part with no land, and to hold meetings, which should take cognisance of and suppress evil among themselves. He detailed the good that he considered had resulted from this combination: disputes about boundaries, existing at its commencement had been set at rest; other disputes of the same kind that had since arisen had been quietly arranged; drunkenness, adultery, etc., had been suppressed, and they were now working to put down other evils also, that were still existing. He denied that the flag had ever been the cause of the Waikatos going to Taranaki, but maintained that blood relationship would have driven them, had there been no flag. He particularized the page 153relationship between some of the leading Waikatos who had gone to Taranaki and Wi Kingi. He expressed his goodwill to Europeans generally, declaring that he had never yet fought against them, but had been the means of stopping hostilities at Waitara, but he intimated that, in the event of war being recommenced, he could remain neutral no longer. He ended by saying that when the flag was set up upon any land fairly sold to the Queen, or when it otherwise interfered with the rights of the colonists, then would be the time for the Governor to interfere.

The meeting then proceeded to discuss the second point. The argument used was, that the Queen's troops had commenced the war, had attacked and destroyed Wiremu Kingi's pah, with all that was in it, had appropriated the horses and cattle, and burnt and destroyed their property; it was therefore unfair to demand restitution and compensation from them, while the Governor did not say a word about compensating Kingi. On the third head, it was resolved that the survey of any of the lands of Wi Kingi and his tribe, or the movement of troops to Mangatawhiri or to any point which would clearly threaten a hostile movement against them would be, as they expressed it, "a call to them to awake out of sleep."

The result of the Ngaruawahia meeting was a long letter written by Tamihana to the Governor. He first addressed himself to the question of the page 154right to set up a Maori king. "When I betake myself to this work, I am rebuked. Now, when I worship God I am not rebuked. This great name of God, which is taught to me, why is this free to me? While of this name of king it is said to me, 'It is not right to use it, it is a sacred thing.' Enough, my friends, it is the practice between master and slave, that though the word of the slave be right, the master will not allow it to be right. That is the reason. Look at Deuteronomy xvii. 15. Come, now, if the kings from all countries came from Rome only, thence also might one come here. But is not the Queen a native of England? Nicholas of Russia? Buonaparte of France? Pomare of Tahiti? Each from his own people. Then why am I and this people rebuked by you, and told that we must unite with you under the Queen? How was it that the Americans were permitted to separate themselves? Why are they not brought under the shadow of the Queen? for that people are of the same race as the English, whereas I am a foreigner. This island is not near to you, I am only near to you in Christ. Were all the different countries under one sovereignty—that of the Queen—it would be quite right; no one would differ, all this island would also be united to the rest. Instead of which, the nations are separated from each other, and I also, standing here in my independence, desire to have a king for myself. Friends, do not be offended; let me make known page 155my thoughts with respect to this great matter which has furnished us with a cause of dispute. Is it on account of the treaty of Waitangi that you are angry with us? Was it then that we were taken possession of by you? You are mistaken. Look at the case of two shops. The goods in one shop are sold; those of the other are not sold. Now, do you think that because of the selling of the goods in one shop, the goods of the other all went also? I say they did not go. Just so, the assent of one chief did not dispose of what belonged to another. It is a similar case to that of the two shops. What harm is there in the name that you are angry about? The great things, the sacred things of God, have been given and accepted by us—Baptism, The Lord's Supper, and Marriage. And I supposed, my friends, that God's things were for us all. My friends, why have you grudged us a king as if it were a greater name than that of God? If it were that God did not permit it, then it would be right to object, and it would be given up. But it is not He who forbids, and while it is only our fellow-man that is angry, it will not be given up. And now, my friends, leave the king to stand on his own place, and let it rest with our Maker whether he shall fall or stand. This is the end of this part of my words, and though they may be wrong, yet they are openly declared.

"I will now commence upon another subject. At the beginning of this war at Taranaki I page 156meditated upon the haste of the Governor's wrath. There was no delay; no time was given; he did not say to the Maories—'Friends, I intend to fight at Taranaki.' No, there was nothing said, not a word."

After observing that no investigation into the rights of Wi Kingi and Te Teira had been made, he went on:—

"Do you consider that this was a just war? Is it good in your opinion to give vent quickly to anger? Yes! but in my opinion, to make haste to be angry is wrong. Friends, wherein is our Governor right whom you believe in? Te Rangitake, who quietly reflected, is blamed by you, and the Governor, who hasted to anger, is supported and praised by you, hence my thoughts are perplexed in my heart, for hasty wrath has been condemned by James, who has said 'Be slow to wrath, swift to hear.' As it is, the precept in Proverbs xvi. 32 has not been carried out. Friends, it is for me, for me who am a child, to get angry hastily."

He then explained the grounds which had led Waikato to take part in the Taranaki war. He enumerated four: (1) That it was Potatau who fetched Wi Kingi back from Kapiti to Waitara. (2) That some of the Ngatiawa were blood relatives of Waikato. (3) They were fetched. They were written for by Kingi and Hapurona. (4) Potatau's words that land-selling should be stopped.

page 157

"These were the grounds of Waikato's interference. If the Governor had considered carefully, Waikato would also have considered carefully; but the Governor was headstrong, and that was why the Waikatos went to help Wi Kingi. For Wi Kingi was a man who had not been tried, so that his fault might be seen to justify the infliction of severe punishment. You mock us when you say that this island is one, and the men in it one For I look at the Pakehas who madly rushed to fight with Wi Kingi. About the murders my opinion is decided, that they were not murders. Look, it was murder when Ihaia killed Te Whaitere (Katatore). He caused him to drink spirits, that his senses might leave him. He was waylaid and killed by Ihaia. That was a foul murder. You looked on, and made friends with Ihaia. That which we regard as a murder you have made naught of, and these which are not murders, are called so. This, I think, is wrong, for the Governor did not say to Wi Kingi, and the Ngatiruanui, 'O friends, do not kill the unarmed.' Nor did he direct that the settlers living in the town should be removed to Auckland, when there was no fighting, and there stay. He knew he had determined to make war at Taranaki, and therefore he should have told his unarmed people to remove out of the way. With regard to the plunder, which you say is to be restored, listen to my opinion about that. The Governor was the cause of that. War was made on Wi Kingi, and page 158he fled from his Pah. The Pah was burnt with fire, the church was burnt, and a box of Testaments, all was consumed with fire, goods, clothes, blankets, shirts, trousers. The cattle were eaten by the soldiers, and the horses, one hundred in number, were sold by auction by the soldiers. Had the Governor given word not to burn the church and to leave the goods and animals alone, Wi Kingi would have thought also to spare the property of the Pakeha."

This letter was received as calm defiance. "All doubt," said the Governor, "is now at an end, and it is evident that if the Maories will not submit this part of the colony must be abandoned by all who will not yield obedience to Maori law, of which the aptest symbol is a tomahawk." Both sides began to prepare for war. Tamihana visited the tribes from Tauranga to the East Cape, to ascertain what support in men and ammunition he could count on. The Governor did not suspend negotiations, but it was known that unless the Maories submitted within a definite time, Waikato would be invaded. The Rev. J. Wilson was sent up to Peria, to try to persuade Tamihana to have a personal interview with the Governor. To this he at last consented, but only, he said, in order that when the time came for their being enemies, the Governor might have heard his reasons. "My words," he said, "cannot go back. All I have to say is that my words at the commencement will be adhered to. What I have to say in your presence page 159is what I said at the commencement." Even this slight concession was so unpopular in Waikato that a storm of indignation arose. Porokuru and others intercepted Tamihana, and told him he might go, if he chose, but they would hang him on his return. So vehement was the popular clamour that Tamihana was obliged to yield, and could not carry out his purpose. It appeared now as if nothing could avert an immediate war of races, when the unexpected news that Sir George Grey had been re-appointed Governor of New Zealand suspended all further operations until his arrival.