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A Sketch of the New Zealand War


page 1


The experiences of the Anglo-Saxon race in its relations with the Maori have always been uncommon. The Maori from the commencement practically asserted his superiority, and in many essentials has justified the assertion.

It will be remembered that in the early trading days a Maori chief always spoke of a White Man as his Pakeha (White Man). The trader's privileges were based on the Maori chief's proprietory claims. The White Man had no inherent rights. His life and property were really at the mercy of the chief. The Maori, being essentially a gentleman, wrapped this thorn deftly in rose leaves. Its existence, however, was real.

It is a fact, that Bishop Pompalier, on first landing north of Auckland, presented himself in full canonicals, mitre on head and pastoral page 2staff in hand. The Maori surrounded him, flourishing their tomahawks, and deliberately undressed him to examine into the character of his pretensions. When they came to his undershirt and drawers, His Grace the Archbishop made signs to them that good manners dictated restraint of their curiosity. They respected his wishes, but tried on all his garments. As he had exhibited much amiability and dignified sweetness, they assisted him to re-robe, and led him to their runanga-house, treating him with every consideration. The attitude of the chiefs to the Church of England missioners was characterized by the dignified respect due from great functionaries to each other. The Maori showed themselves above prejudice. This was clearly displayed in a theological discussion conducted in the Auckland district by the Maori adherents of the Catholic and Anglican Churches as to the Church of England claim of Apostolical succession and consequent authority. A great meeting was assembled in Waikato. The Maori devoted ten days to the public discussion, which was held in the open air. The astute Catholic advocate yielded the honour of opening the debate to the Anglican, as New Zealand was a British colony. He then took page 3two and a half summer days to reply. He had by him a bundle of sticks. He planted the first in the ground, christening it St. Peter, and gave a sketch of St. Peter's life and works. He followed this up by placing a labelled stick for each of the Popes in historical succession, sketching each worthy's story, and, when he came to the period of the Reformation, pointed with emphasis to the break in the Anglican line. The Maori, who cared only for the argument, gave the decision by acclamation in favour of the Catholic Church. The debate was an admirable instance of the faculty of sustained attention to discussion shown by the Maori in listening; of the power of order and concentration shown by their orators, with the force of conviction at the root of the effort; and of the acuteness of the Maori, already as great in theology as his teacher. The same capacity to excel is seen to-day in the Maori within the walls of Parliament. He is unsurpassed either as a political strategist in party warfare, in eloquence if words avail, or in reticence if mystery is likely to forward his objects. The result is, he often holds the balance of power between political parties, and whilst loudly declaiming that the rights of his race are always made subservient to the inter-page 4ests of the white people, has really for a quarter of a century escaped the payment of his legitimate portion of the land-tax, whilst benefiting enormously by the construction of railways, macadamised roads, and expensive bridges leading to his landed property at the cost of the Colony.

So well has the Maori managed editors and public opinion generally that it has been customary to say the Maori has been robbed of his land by the European. I have no hesitation whatever in affirming that the European has been robbed of his money by the Maori, under the sanction of the most approved, gentlemanly, courteous methods.

It must not be forgotten that the Maori's title to his lands was attained by conquest and occupation. There was no constitutional law to guide the Maori. He occupied by force, and defended his occupation by war. Whatever the aggressions of the Anglo-Saxons, their power to make treaties was always regulated by the constitutional law obtaining in the British Isles. A reference to The Law of Nations (Ed. 1834), by Chitty; to the Charter of Lord Carlisle; to Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Charter for Virginia; and to the Letters Patent to John Cabot, proves that England page 5had no legal sanction to make a treaty bearing the interpretation which the pressure of the Church Missionary Society and Exeter Hall subsequently gave to the Treaty of Waitangi. The true meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi as understood by the Maori and interpreted by Anglo-Saxon law and usage was that the Maori were protected in possession of all the lands they had hunted over or cultivated. In the end the Europeans were cheated into buying from the Maori millions of acres of land which the native New Zealander had never seen.

So much for the statecraft of the Maori. The missioner interpreted the Treaty of Waitangi for him: the Maori took the profit and repudiated his benefactor. In dealings for land with private individuals it is true that the Maori sometimes had the worst of the bargain, but quite as frequently the European found that when he had paid for the land the Maori seller subsidized other claimants to upset the title, and remained in the enjoyment of his tribal claim to the property after he had spent the price obtained for it in feasting his relations. It was from the beginning a case of diamond cut diamond, and as nothing could really impoverish the Maori as long as there page 6remained to him the tribal right to live on and with his own people, the chocolate-brown diamond cut the deepest. So much for the Maori in peace. I hope presently to delineate some of his warlike characteristics.