The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars
The silence of the local press as to the real merits of the Taranaki war induced me to send home to England in May, 1860, a few remarks on that subject, which were published in the form of a letter to His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The letter on its return was reprinted by the local press, and became widely circulated through the Colony. Nobody here has been rash enough to attempt a refutation of a single statement contained in it. But what nobody has ventured to do here, Professor Harold Browne has not thrunk from doing in England. A little knowledge will sometimes deter from rashness, when absolute ignorance only tends to engender boldness. As Mr. Fox's pamphlet, “The War in New Zealand,” published in London, and Sir William Martin's “Taranaki Question,” have confirmed every statement of importance contained in my letter, besides establishing in the clearest way the illegality of the Governor's proceedings at Taranaki, it will be necessary that some only of the numerous misstatements occurring in Prof. Browne's pamphlet should be noticed.
* Reprinted. London: Dalton. Cockspur Street
A large part of the Ngatiawa tribe, with William King and his father at their head, left Waitara about the year 1827, for the purpose of residing in Cook's Strait. They were not induced to take this step by any actual or anticipated pressure from Waikato, as appears evident from the fact that an important section of the tribe remained behind. W. King, and that portion of the tribe who acknowledged him as their chief, after his father's death, returned to Waitara in the year 1848, to re-occupy the lands inherited from their ancestors, whic they had left in 1827. Now the question arises—Had anything occurred during the interval of these two dates to bar their return and occupation of those lands with unaltered and unimpaired rights? Governor Browne and his supporters answer this question in the affirmative; they say that Waikato conquered the country and thereby became the owners of the land; that the New Zealand Company purchased the land from certain persons resident at Taranaki, and other dwelling in Cook's Strait; and that Governor Sir George Grey forbade their return to Waitara. Nothing else has hitherto been advanced against the right of W. King and his tribe to return to the full enjoyment of all their rights to land at Waitara.
It is admitted on all sides that about the year 1830 Waikato completely defeated that portion of the Ngatiawa who remained at Waitara, and defended Pukerangiora. The Waikato were, however, very shortly afterwards repulsed by another section of the Ngatiawa led by Te Puni and others, near the SugarLoaf Islands in the vicinity of New Plymouth. Waikato never took possession of Waitara, or cultivated any portion of it. This is vaguely denied by Mr. M'Lean and others; but until they can mention the names of the persons who did-take possession and cultivate, as well as point out the particular portions of land asserted to have been cultivated by them, and specify the time when such occupation took place, their mere denial of notorious facts is not to the purpose. I was myself at Taranaki in February, 1840, that is, before the British Government was page 6 established in New Zealand, but though engaged in learning everything connected with the place and its inhabitants, I never heard of any Waikato occupation of the country. There really ought to be no doubt as to a matter of fact such as this.*
* Mr. Clark's report, written June 29, 1844, after inquiries made on the spot, concludes his investigation thus—“I believe a small party of them (Waikato) attempted to occupy land on the Waitara, but met with so much opposition from the original claimants, that they were compelled to retire.* * * I believe they never took possession of or exercised acts of ownership upon the land generally.” (Papers E, no., p.11.) This opinion is important as having been given more than sixteen years ago, by a person born in New Zealand, and thoroughly acquainted with the language, and moreover by one who was the son of Mr. Protector Clark, who had advised Governor Hobson to puchase the Waikato claim.
It follows also that Governor Hobson's purchase of the whole territory, now constituting the Taranaki Province, from two Waikato chiefs, could not impair or invalidate the rights of W. King and his tribe to their land at Waitara. The object of the transaction having been to prevent any interference on the part of Waikato in Taranaki land questions. Mr. Richmond unwarily admits this: “This deed was relied upon as, at all events, precluding the interference of Waikato in the Taranaki question.” (Papers E, No. 3, p. 33.)
The next statement made by the Governor and his supporters is, that the New Zealand Company purchased the Waitara from certain persons residing at Taranaki. It appears that a deed of cession was executed at Taranaki, on the 15th Feb. 1840. Mr. Commissioner Spain's award of 60,000 acres was grounded on this deed. Governor Fitzroy reversed the Commissioner's decision. Governor Sir G. Grey censured Governor Fitzroy's reversal, but tacitly acquiesced in it. Governor Browne himself formally recorded his opinion in a dispatch, dated Nov. 1855, that Governor Fitzroy's reversal of the Commissioner's decision was “just and very politic.” But the particular point to be noticed in connection with this deed is, that W. King, and that portion of the tribe which migrated to Cook's Strait in 1827, were not parties to it; and consequently that their rights to any lands purported to be alienated by that deed were in no respect whatever impaired by it. It would be wasting words to make any further allusion to this deed. It is also evident, that neither Mr. Spain's award nor Governor Fitzroy's reversal of that award have anything whatever to do with W. King, whose territorial rights, whatever page 8 they may have been, were not affected by the deed to which these had reference. Before leaving this subject, it may be advisable to allude to another deed, dated Nov. 8, 1839, which purports to convey both sides of Cook's Strait to the New Zealand Company, and to which W. King's signature is affixed. It might be sufficient to say that no award was ever made by Mr. Commissioner Spain, or any other Commissioner under this deed; and that no land was ever even formally claimed under it in the Commissioner's Court. But the most complete proof of its absolute inapplicability to the point now at issue, appears on the face of the deed itself, the whole of the Waitara district, and a considerable portion of the land both to the north and south being excluded from it. (Papers E, No. 2, p. 2.)
Sir G. Grey's so-called prohibition of W. King's return to Waitara, amounts to very little. If, as has been now shewn, W. King's rights at Waitara remained in tact, the Governor could have had no right to issue such a prohibition. The truth however is that Sir G. Grey never did more than express a wish that W. King and his tribe would remain at Waikanae. This request was acquiesced in from July, 1847, till April, 1848, when they left Waikanae for Waitara without remonstrance or opposition of any kind being offered by the Government to their departure; the only question raised having been as to the removal of their arms and ammunition, which were absolutely requisite for their protection.
It appears, therefore, that nothing whatever occurred during the interval between W. King's departure from Waitara in 1827 and his return to that place in 1848 to affect his rights at Waitara, or those of that portion of the tribe who acknowledged him as their head, and accompanied him in his movements.
It may have appeared quite superfluous to have entered into an examination of the claims resting on the Waikato invasion of Waitara, and of those founded on the New Zealand Company's deeds, when the right of the Ngatiawa to reoccupy and possess their property at Waitara has been practically admitted by the Government, not only by leaving them unmolested there, but by repeatedly entering into negotiations with various members page 9 of the tribe, and W. King in particular, for the purchase of particular lands there. But the reason for examining into their alleged claims is to prevent a false impression being produced by an attempt made to place the rights of W. King on a different basis from that on which the settlers—Teira and others, are assumed to rest theirs. The distinction drawn by the Government is, that the Waikato invasion and the New Zealand Company's purchases effaced the tribal right, leaving individual or private rights unimpaired. To those unacquainted with native tenure of property this might appear important: I need hardly say that it is absured and untenable. It is obvious that these claims set up by the Government, if valid would have affected the whole tribe and all the individuals thereof—that in whatever sense it affected W. King's rights, it equally affected those of the sellers. It is clear that if the purchases on which these claims rested were valid they covered the individual as well as the tribal rights; but if they were invalid, as has been sufficiently shewn, they were worthless.
The Government documents contain innumerable repetitions of the assertion, that W. King and those acting with him have never made any claim to the disputed land. It is presumed that some meaning is intended to be conveyed by these reiterated assertions; but it is difficult to imagine what it can be. The assumption that a number of men may be forcibly ejected from land which they have inherited from remote ancestors, and which they are actually occupying, unless they send in claims to such land at the bidding of a Deputy land purchase Commossioner, is so absurd and unreasonable that it cannot deserve serious refutation. But it may be safely predicted that such an arbitrary process of confiscation, if authorized by the Home Government, will require a larger portion of the British army to enforce it than may be expected, for Maories will never submit to such an act of spoliation.
† Mr. Parris allows that he failed in his attempt to make even a preliminary inquiry. “I spent this day and many others with them endeavouring to induce them to meet Teira's party, and discuss quietly and deliberately, the claims to the block of land, but they never would consent to do it; I therefore was obliged to get information from other natives (and strange to say some who are now opposing the Government, Hapurona and others), to compare with the representations of the selling party, and the information which I obtained fully corroborated the statement of the selling party.” (Further Papers, E, no. 3 A. p. 3) The truth is, Mr. Parris had no authority to compel the attendance of witnesses: this alone would shew the true nature of the whole proceeding.
‡ The second question is, “Did the Governor do rightly in submitting the question of title to Mr. McLean. Chief Land-Purchase Commissioner?” (P. 23.) This question seems very unmeaning, it being an acknowledged fact that the consideration of title was never submitted to Mr. M'Lean till more than four months after the war began.
* This sentence is curious. The Chief Commissioner has no special authority from the Queen. Professor Browne assumes that Mr. M'Lean holds the same office as that held by Mr. Spain, and is commissioned “to investigate and determine titles and claims to lands in New Zealand.” (Page 23.) In this assumption he is quite wrong. Again, Mr. M'Lean has not held his office anything like twently years. So far from spending eight or nine months in patient enquiry, he was absent the whole time, as has been shewn, from Taranaki, having been chiefly engaged on the opposite side of the island, near Napier. He never reported that “Teira's title was undoubted,” or indeed made any report at all on the subjet until July, 1860, four or five months after the war began. This sentence, containing this extraordinary accumulation of blunders, occurs in the last page of the pamphlet.
* The whole of this “conspiracy,” by means of which Mr. Richmond first got rid of the old New Zealand Company's purchasers, and then involved the country in a war to uphold an illegal purchase from a man that was not the proprietor, is exposed in a memorial that will be presented to the two Houses of Assembly, from Augustus Abraham, Esq., Barrister-at-law.
* Professor Browne says, that I “reproached the Governor for not acting without consultation with his Ministers.” (P. 34.) There is not a word of truth in this. On the contrary, it is well known here that I have for several years predicted the disasters that would follow from allowing an individual Governor to act on his mere impulse or caprice; and have pointed out nearly five years ago in an official letter, in reply to one from the Governor, the à priori absurdity of supposing that two races so thoroughly intermixed as the Pakeha and the Maori could be successfully governed. not only on two different systems, but by two distinct authorities. In even alluded to this fact in my letter to the Southern Cross, on which the Professor has commented, but which he seems to have read very carelessly. The “sinister influence” was brought irregularly to bear on the Governor
† Professor Browne says, “As regards birth, it is proved by their respective pedigrees that Teira's is superior to King's, for his descent is strictly in the male line, whilst King's is from the marriage of a female with an unknown adventurer. The pedigrees are given in the Maori Messenger.” (Page 40.) That any one should have been such a gobe mouche as to believe the ridienlons hoeus-poeus here referred to amezes me. It is howevever satisfactory to find that the amiable Professor does not adopt Mr. Richmond's views about “beastly communism.” Hear what a disinterested Maori Chief says about the pedigree:—“Sir, what about his genealogy? This is the second proof he has given you (against himself)—his theft first, and now his genealogy. By these you may know him. W. King would never give his genealogy, because it is known throughout the island; it is not recounted. This is a thing for a common man to do who never was heard of before—for an obscure thief. You must know that this is a thing done by the lower orders.” (See App. N.)
* Mr. Bell:—“He believed that the question of Teira's title was altogether foreign to the cause of the war; and the justification due to the Governor in attempting to make a settlement. If King had come at the invitation of his Excellency when he went to Taranaki, would that have saved the war? He had expressed a great many of his views and opinions as to the first cause of the war: he had told the House that he would not advise a declaration of war; he would yield to no one in his attachment to the race, for he held many of them in the highest esteem. Would honourable members have advised the Governor, after the insult offered to him, to have come back with his tail between his legs?” (Southern Cross, Aug. 12, 1860.) There will be observed a difference between this and the report in the New Zealander. The truth is, Mr. Bell is a good writer, but a bad speaker. Professor Browne will perhaps learn from this why it is that there are so many “uncontradicted statements” in the New Zealander's reports.
I have been censured for charging Colonel Browne with an act of “flagrant injustice,” and “folly closely bordering on insanity.” I did bring against him both these charges; but I said nothing of motives. I now reluctantly give my deliberate and matured opinion that he was actuated by a motive quite unworthy of a man holding a high official position. Were anything more wanted in order to establish this conviction than the language which has been adverted to, it would be the fact that though the Governor had been in the constant habit of consulting such persons as Sir W. Martin, the late Chief Justice, Mr. Swainson, the late Attorney-General, and the Bishop of New Zealand, on matters affecting Maori policy and affairs, and had actually recommended them to the Secretary of State as members of a permanent Council, being in his opinion the most highly cmpetent persons for the purpose of advising him on such matters; and that they were all, at the time when he resolved on war, at Auckland, he was so conscious of doing wrong, so ashamed of his proccedings, and so certain that what he proposed would be disapproved of and discouraged, that he never said a word to any one of them on the subject. If the Home Governments, notwithstanding the experience gained during former disturbances, and Sir George Grey's successful government of the Colony, which recommended him to the important post he has since so ably filled at the Cape, will continue to trifle with this Colony, and imagine that a man of Colonel Browne's mental and moral stature is capable of grappling with the difficulties its government presents, of course the British people must be content to pay for such inconceivable folly. Had the warning I gave in August last been heeded, and had either new Governor, or a commission of inquiry been sent to the Colony, probably no less than a million sterling might have been saved to the heavily taxed people of England. But it was deemed necesary by the Colonial Office to supply in the first place a salvo to the pride of a little Colonial Governor. For of what account is a million of money, of what account are hundreds of human lives, of what account are the sufferings of thousands of ruined colonists, when the dignity of a Colonial Governor is at stake?page 18
I now advert to certain charges brought against me of having withheld from the Governor information contained in three letters from W. King, written to me in 1859, in reference to the disputed land at Waitara. The first of these I received in July; I replied to it saying that I felt quite sure the Governor would do nothing unjust. His second letter was written in the same month. It expressed satisfaction with my reply to the former letter, and ended by saying that the writer remembered his promise to pay me a visit here. There was nothing whatever in these two letters to create alarm: the suspicion which had existed in his mind seemed to have been partly removed. I received the third letter towards the end of December. In this the writer inquired of me, whether I knew anything about “the Governor's new plan” for obtaining land. He asserted a claim on his own behalf, and on that of other members for his tribe, to the land said to belong to Teira, for which £100 had been paid. He mentioned his suspicion that “the Governor was seeking ground for a quarrel.” He added,—“If the Governor should come to where you are do you say a word to him.” My reasons for not communicating this letter to the Governor were.—1. That I did not believe, after the very positive assurance the Governor had himself given me in the previous May, that he had either any plan for confiscating native lands or any such intention whatever.—2. That as his letters contained no description of the disputed land I could not have offered any opinion in reference to it.—3. That, however I may have subsequently been convinced to the contrary, I did not credit W. King's assertion that the Governor was seeking ground of quarrel against him.—4. That the Governor, who was in the Middle Island at the time, was expected at Wellington, where I should have seen him. As soon as I was attacked by Mr. Dillon Bell (who made his attack on me before he had even read the letters), for not forwarding these letters, I vindicated myself from the charges brought against me by him in two letters which immediately appeared in the ‘Southern Cross’ at Auckland. After reading these letters, Mr. Bell told Mr. Carleton, the Chairman of Committees, that he should never have used the language he did, had he known the real merits of page 19 the case. So far as I was able to gather the opinions of intelligent members of the House of Representatives, Mr. Bell's attack on me was considered a gross attempt to draw off attention to the real culprits—the Governor and his ministers, as well as to damage me with the House, and throw suspicion on any information I might give. I certainly never expected to hear any more on the subject, unless it were in illustration of the base unworthy tricks to which men will resort for party purposes. I consequently never wrote a word upon the subject to my friends in England. I confess, therefore, that I learnt with no little surprise that Professor Browne had stooped to rake up and circulate again this contemptible charge made by Mr. Bell, of which I certainly imagined he was himself heartily ashamed.
As this subject has been brought prominently forward, it may be worth while to ascertain its real value. It is not altogether a personal question: an inquiry into its merits may throw light on collateral subjects. But I am met at the outset with a difficulty, because W. King's letters are described in diametrically opposite terms by the Government. Mr. Bell and those who agree with him, characterize the letters as documents that might have prevented war had they been in the Governor's hands; a view of them repeated by Professor Browne, who goes so far as to charge me with having “suppressed letters tending to peace.” But Mr. Richmond, the Native Minister, who, whatever may be thought of his honesty,* is by far the most intelligent man of the party, describes them as injuring W. King's case, and fortifying the Governor's. His words are:—“He thought the three letters of W. King produced by Mr. Forsaith really confirmed the case of the Ministry; for they shewed that King had no claim to make even in private.” And again: “The Hon. Member concluded by expressing his conviction that W. King's letters had fortified the case of the Governor against him.” It appears to me that these gentlemen ought to come to some agreement among themselves as to the real value and importance of the letters, before they bring such serious charges against me.
The Governor states that he had requested me to write to him on any matters connected with native affairs occurring in my district that I might consider important. I complied with his request. At the same time I always carefully avoided giving advice either to the Government or the natives about any transactions in reference to the purchase of land. * I knew that the Native Secretary, Mr. McLean and his subordinates in the land purchase department, to whose guidance the Governor had implicitly resigned himself, would certainly resent and run counter to any recommendation or advice proceeding from me on such subjects. I had for some years been endeavouring to open the eyes of the Government to their mischievous proceedings.* Still I consulted the Bishop of Wellington in January, soon after receiving W. King's letter of December, who advised me to wait, promising to co-operate with me in bringing this and other matters of a similar kind of which he had recently become congonizant, under the notice of the Governor when the General Assembly should meet at Wellington, which was expected in the following month or in March at latest. †
* Professor Browne says: “If he had come forward, as both parties had requested him, and had acted the part of a mediator, is it not in the highest degree probable that much might have been done to prevent the outbreak?” (P. 34.) That the Governor ever once mentioned W. King's name, or Waitara, or Taranaki to me, or ever requested me to mediate in any dispute, is so absolutely false, that as no reference whatever is given in support of the allegation, I am compelled to say that the passage I have cited is to me wholly unaccountable.
The ‘Southern Cross,’ (Aug. 7), said—“The Archdeacon, like ourselves placed a blind confidence in the Governor's promise not to buy any land the title of which was in dispute; and knowing of his own knowledge the points of the dispute, would as soon have expected to see His Excellency walking on his head as waging war about the particular piece of land in question.” I have already noticed the fact that there were persons at Auckland quite competent and willing to advise the Governor, but that he purposely withheld from them all knowledge of the coup-de-main he was contemplating. It further appears from his own words that he valued private communications on this subject very lightly: he say—“Private letters are full of surmises and alarms, and talk of a war of races; but I do not put faith in them.” (Disp. Feb. 27, 1860.) The following points may now be considered established:—
That I had no wish to withhold W. King's letters.
That W. King's letters contained no claim to Waitara that was not more strongly expressed in his letter to the Governor of April, 1859.
That in the opinion of the Native Minister the letters of W. King “fortified the case of the Government against him.”
That I had no reason whatever for supposing that any information I could have given on the Waitara question could have been of use.page 23
That the Governor declined to ask advice from competent persons in immediate communication with himself.
That he treated the private advice given him with contempt.
That his possession of the letters did not induce the Governor to alter his conduct towards W. King, though the letters were withheld by no fault of the letter.
That the admission, that though W. King's letter to the Governor in April, 1859, had been disregarded, one forwarded through me would have been attended to, is derogatory to the Government.
That the attempt to throw blame on me was only to draw off attention from the Governor's illegal and unjustifiable proceedings, and to weaken the force of my censure of these.