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Notes on Sir William Martin's Pamphlet Entitled the Taranaki Question

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"The present is a land quarrel."

This opening proposition has a tendency to mislead.

It is true that the dispute as to a piece of land at the Waitara has raised the present question. But it is only one of the many instances in which a matter, apparently small in itself, has unmasked important designs. It has proved what was before only suspected, that the Taranaki and Waikato Land Leagues are not combinations to obtain an object by peaceful means, but are armed coalitions to carry an object, when other means have failed, by rebellion itself.

The question raised in the original dispute with Wiremu Kingi was one of authority and jurisdiction, and not a question of the title to a particular piece of land. Since the intervention of the Waikato King party it is past all controversy, that the contest is not whether that piece of land belongs to Wiremu Kingi or Teira, but whether the Governor has authority to decide between the two, and power to enforce his decision. It is the pervading fallacy of Sir William Martin's argument, that he treats as a question of Title that which is in fact a question of Sovereignty, and is so regarded by the Natives themselves.

The practical issue now is, whether the Natives are peaceably to appeal to the justice of the British Government for the recognition of their rights, or whether if they think those rights are infringed they are to resort to force of arms.

It is impossible to arrive at a right understanding of the causes of the Insurrection at Taranaki, without a reference to the Leagues which have been formed among certain tribes to prohibit the further cession of territory to the Crown.

In the year 1854 the Taranaki Land League was formed at Manawapou, in the Ngatiruanui Country south of Taranaki. "All the head Chiefs from Wellington to Waitara, a distance of nearly 300 miles, assembled. Five hundred were present, and much bad spirit was displayed. The result of it was, their determination to sell no more land to the Government, and to hinder any who felt disposed from doing so." (Rev. R. Taylor's New Zealand, 1855, p. 278.)— "A Confederation has been established for some years, which extends from Waitara at the north to Kaiiwi near Wanganui, one of the laws of which is that any native offering land, although his own, shall suffer death." (Commissioner Rogan, Evidence before Native Board, 1856)—"It was not many months after this meeting [at Manawapou] that a Chief of New Plymouth did offer his land for sale [Rawiri Waiaua]; and when he went out to mark the boundaries he was shot with several of his tribe." (Rev. R. Taylor, utsup.)—" This "was the origin of the notorious Taranaki Land League, which evidently contains the elements of the present King movement; which has proved so fruitful a source of dissension among the tribes of that district, caused so much bloodshed, and brought about the present collision between Wiremu Kingi and the Governor." (Rev. T. Buddle, Origin of King Movement, p. 6.)

The Taranaki Land League was closely followed by the establishment of a similar League at Waikato. The present King movement has been initiated in the Waikato district……In December, 1856, the first public meeting held to deliberate on the subject and to prepare some plan, was held at Taupo, at which several influential chiefs from various districts were present. Many proposals were made to adopt extreme measures: the most violent party advocated a clear sweep of all the Pakehas—Governor, Missionaries, settlers— all……It was decided that Tongariro should be the centre of a district in which no land was to be sold to the Government, and Hauraki, Waikato, Kawhia, Mokau, Taranaki, Wanganui, Rangitikei, and Titiokura the circumference: that no prayers should be offered for the Queen, no roads be made within the district, and that a King should be elected to rule over the New page breakZealanders as the Queen and Governor do over the settlers." (Rev. T. Buddle Origin of King Movement, pp. 6-8.)

The Waikato King party and Land League laid down a similar rule to that which had been established by the Taranaki League. "The land thus given over to the King is not to be alienated without his consent. This might be all very well if the party stopped here. But they resolve that no land shall be sold within their territory even though the owner may not have joined the League. Any man therefore attempting to sell a block of land would subject himself to summary proceedings at war. And any attempt to take possession of the purchased block by the Government would be resisted by force of arms as in the case of the land at Waitara." (Rev. T. Buddle, Ibid, p. 20.)

The insurrection at Taranaki is the direct result of these Leagues.

"The vital question with the Maori Kingites now is, whether the King or the Queen shall possess the mana of New Zealand. The Maori King Movement is the strength of the Taranaki war." (Rev. J. Morgan and Rev. J. Wilson, letters to Select Committee on Waikato affairs.)You must understand this: the war is not a struggle of the Maori with the Pakeha; it is not a war with the Missionary; it is not a war with the Magistrate; it is a war of the King with the Queen." (Wiremu Nera Te Awaitaia, a head Waikato Chief, speech to the Rer. J.A. Wilson.) "Friend, all this fighting and plundering would not have occurred had we not made a King. This is the root of the strife. It is Waikato who fight the cause of Taranaki; the men of the soil keep at a distance, they are but slaves: we fight their battles, we are the strength of the war." (Te Waru, a Waikato Chief, speech, ibid)—"The war was not merely a contention for the land at New Plymouth, but for the Chieftainship of New Zealand. Wherever the King's flag went they would follow." (Wetini Taiporutu, speech "ibid.)"I met one of the Waikato Natives and had a long quiet conversation with him; from which it appeared evident that the Waikates in reality are not interested in William King's quarrel, but have only used it as a pretext of quarrel with the Government, and to commence carrying out their plan initiated nearly six years ago (to which I referred in my work), which is the organisation of a Native polity independent of ours and if possible subversive of it: that for this purpose they have been quietly preparing, increasing their stock of arms and ammunition by every means in their power. I have come to this conclusion from long and close observation, which my constant visits amongst them have given me every facility of making."(Rev. R. Taylor, Letter to the Governor. 19th December 1860.)— "It is, however, a very great error to suppose that the war has, assumed its present proportions to support William King's title. Waikato care nothing really about his title to the Waitara. Their object is to assert and support the mana of the Maori King's flag. William King's land brought matters to a crisis, nothing more. The Auckland Province was all but the seat of war, had Wiremu Nera [Te Awaitaia] persevered to sell, and the Government had purchased, the last block offered by him between Raglan and the Waipa. The Kingites were prepared to dispute the sale. The simple question with them is, not whether the parties who offered to sell are really the only owners, but that the King flag should be respected, and no land sold within defined Maori districts without the sanction of the King party: their policy being to prohibit sales."(Rev. J. Morgan, Letter to the Governor, 26th December, 1860.)

It will, however, be satisfactory to see what Wiremu Kingi himself says on the subject. When the Waikato Chiefs and Wi Tako visited him to enquire into the truth of the matter, he said:—"The Pakeha wants our land, but this war is "about your Maori King. Do not listen to the Pakeha, but bring your flag to "Waitara. Go back and clear them out; send them all back to England." (Rev. page breakT. Buddle, Origin of King Movement, p. 38.)—And in a letter just received, addressed by Wiremu Kingi on the 14th November, 1860, to Te Kuini Topeora and others at Otaki, he says:—"I am clothed with "the dying injunction of Mokau [Rangihaeata, who died some years ago,] that is in regard to the redcoats: and this it is that I am carrying out now. "This is a word to you; Let not the Chiefs of your Runanga come to make peace. "Mother, peace will not be made. I will continue to fight, and the Pakehas will "be exterminated by me, by my younger brother Te IIapurona, and by Waikato. "I say to you therefore, let no man come to make peace or to insult me,"—(Letter from Wiremu Kingi Whiti, copied and sent up by Tamihana Te Rauparaha.)

No view, therefore, of the Taranaki insurrection could be more erroneous, none more certain to mislead as tending to place the subject on the narrowest and most superficial grounds, than that with which Sir William Martin opens his examination of the question, in the words "the present is a land quarrel."