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

Page 25

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Page 25.

"Morever it was profitable"…………

The imputation to the colonists of New Zealand of mere cupidity, which is conveyed by the sentence cited, should have been spared. It would have been well if the writer had borne in mind a sentiment of his own, "that very commonly judgments passed by man upon man arc unjust in proportion as they are uncharitable." The passage above referred to furnishes an apt illustration of the truth of the sentiment. Under the influence of his suspicions, the writer misapprehends the true relative position of settlers and Natives in respect to what is called "the Land Question." The truth is, that the desire for the acquisition of territory on the one side, and for its retention on the other side, springs from far deeper feelings than the mere love of acquisition or of property. In the extension of British territory, the Colonist sees a guarantee for the extension of British Law, and for the ultimate establishment of British Sovereignty. The Native, on the other hand, shrinking, not unnaturally, from merger in an alien race, clings to his territory as the sole security for his independence. The supposition of covetousness as the actuating motive of the colonists is as unphilosophical as it is uncharitable. It will not account for the phenomena. Witness the case of Taranaki, where the settlers, almost without a murmur, have submitted to the desolation of their pleasant homes and the destruction of their whole property, and have been ready on all occasions to lay down their lives in the present quarrel. The paramount question on both sides is one of Sovereignty and of Nationality.

How little Colonists of New Zealand desire the spoliation of the Natives was in a signal way made manifest in 1847, when on occasion of a supposed intention on the part of the Imperial Government to appropriate unoccupied Native lands, 400 inhabitants of Auckland and its' vicinity petitioned the Queen that "Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to direct that the utmost publicity be given to a renewed assurance to the Native Chiefs, that Her Majesty never contemplated and never would permit the solemn engagements entered into between them and Her Majesty's Representatives, to be evaded or set aside, but that the spirit as well as the letter of the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi affecting the lands of the Aborigines, should be most religiously maintained."

The foregoing remarks lead to another observation of great importance. Sir W. Martin evidently imagines that the British Government might take its stand with the Natives simply upon the vindication of the law, keeping itself clear of the land question as one with respect to which the motives of the Government will always be suspected. This is a misconception. The Natives of Taranaki hold the land to keep out the law. If they are unwilling to part with the land it is because they are unwilling to submit to the law. As soon as they have made up their minds to become British subjects the Land question wall cease to be.

Mr. Riemenschneider's letter to Mr. McLean in 1855 plainly shews that this is the true state of the case. The Ngatiruanui and Taranaki Tribes were not prepared to allow the Government to take any measures against Katatore and Wiremu Kingi for the slaughter of Rawiri Waiaua, but asserted their complete independence of British jurisdiction. To them the question of jurisdiction and the Land question appeared identical. If the land were ceded, the jurisdiction, they saw, would follow. If the jurisdiction were allowed, the land would follow. The very object for its retention would indeed have ceased to exist. Between a policy of entire non-intervention in Native quarrels, such as that pursued by Acting Governor Wynyard in Taranaki, and a policy of intervention to settle even Land questions, there is no mean.