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England and the Maori Wars

Chapter 9 — Governor v. Ministers

page 227

Chapter 9
Governor v. Ministers

The Wellington correspondent of The Times, in a letter of September 14 published on November 17, 1864, said that the motive of the Tauranga natives in agreeing to sell much of the land left to them arose “from the wish to abandon New Zealand and settle at one of the South Sea Islands.” “The terms accorded to the Tauranga natives,” the correspondent added, “have been everywhere regarded as lenient, and this leniency has been attributed by some to the influence of recent despatches from the Home Government and to the debates in Parliament, on the strength of which Sir George Grey is supposed to have coerced his ministers. Such, however, is not the case. The proportion proposed by Ministers to be confiscated was much less—far less than the Governor thought sufficient to be of use in deterring others;1 and it must not be forgotten that the Tauranga natives are the last that have come into the field, and so far from being guilty of atrocities to the wounded or even maltreating the bodies of the dead, they have acted bravely and honourably throughout.” In a postscript of September 17, the correspondent reported the escape of the Maori prisoners from Kawau on September 10, and referred to the lack of restraint they had enjoyed there. On one occasion in the previous month six or eight of the prisoner chiefs had manned the lifeboat and taken the Governor, some officers, and their ladies for a pleasure trip round the island. “Without arms this party visited all sorts of out of the way nooks, leaving the boat to the charge of the natives, who if they had chosen might have made good their escape, even if it were not in their power to

1 But cf. W. P. Morrell, Provincial Government in New Zealand, p. 133: “Sir George Grey used his authority … to oppose with all the stubbornness and ingenuity at his command the extensive confiscation schemes on which the ministerial plans were based.” Grey, as we have seen, was not opposed to the principle of confiscation, but it seems unlikely that he wished to confiscate more land than did his ministers.

page 228 have done serious mischief.” On December 3, 1864, The Times, commenting on a brief telegraphic message that the escaped prisoners were fomenting rebellion, expressed the view that the escape would not be “altogether displeasing to the war party at Auckland.”

The Wellington correspondent, in a letter of October 14 published in The Times on December 15, said: “The question as to who is guilty of the neglect that led to this escape has been fiercely debated in the Auckland press. Ministers declare that Sir George Grey alone is culpable, while Sir George declares that none but his Ministers are.” The correspondent went on to refer to the dispute between ministers and the Governor as to the conclusion of peace. “Certainly no man could be more unpopular than Sir George Grey now is, both among colonists and natives. The Assembly would instantly petition for his recall, and if the Home Government are wise they will anticipate such a measure by an early withdrawal of His Excellency to some other sphere. Unfortunately, Sir George is not the man physically he was a few years ago, and is not equal to the government of a disturbed colony like this, unaided by a popular ministry.

“The debates in Parliament on the guarantee proposed by Mr. Cardwell last July, and the instructions to Governor Grey contained in the papers laid before the House of Commons, have filled the colonists with dismay. The manner in which Mr. Cardwell and the other members of the Government spoke out for the colonists is gratefully acknowledged, but the condemnatory tone of independent members and of the greater portion of the London press has excited considerable indignation. The British public can have no conception of the drawback which war is to our progress. The land we are accused of coveting would be dear at an immeasurably less cost than the mere money which the war has already absorbed…. When everyman in Middlesex from 16 to 40 is marched about its streets and encamped upon its commons, or on those of an adjoining county for weeks together, and every man from 40 to 55 is employed keeping guard or doing some kind of military service, leaving the ordinary daily duties of life to be discharged by Government employees, old men and incapables, then will the Home page 229 Government have some conception of the hardships which the New Zealand colonists in the Northern Island have had imposed on them, and learn how ruinous a method war would be of acquiring land, and how preposterous is the suggestion it has indulged in that it is to the colonists' greed in this direction that the present New Zealand war is owing.”

Commenting on the correspondent's defence of the colonists, The Times, in a leading article on the same day, said: “Our grievance is expressed in the simple fact that an army of 10,000 British soldiers is maintained at the Antipodes for the support of a policy over which we have no control. We do not deny that the colonists suffer also. We dare say the picture drawn by our correspondent of the drain upon the settlement is by no means exaggerated. But these wars are not of our making, and it is hard to convince people here that they are entirely the making of the Maoris, however injudiciously those savages may have been treated.”

On November 7 Gamble referred to the escape of the prisoners from Kawau: “The escape of these men at the particular time it took place was very unfortunate; for there was no knowing to what extent it might encourage the Waikato and other tribes to which they belonged to continue in arms, in addition to the still greater danger of the whole of the Northern natives, hitherto loyal, being drawn into the strife.” Gamble discussed the refusal of the Colonial Government, “which was essentially a war ministry,” to assent to the Governor's offer of terms to the Maoris and their resignation. They were holding office until the meeting of the Assembly on November 21. “The Governor has meanwhile himself published a proclamation which allows the natives, except those implicated in certain murders, until the 10th of December next to come in and submit, ceding such territory as may be determined on by His Excellency and the Lieutenant-General Commanding. Concerning the success of this proclamation in inducing the natives to submit, there is much contrariety of opinion, but it is to be regretted that it could not be published earlier, when its success would have been more general and immediate. Now, though the favourable time for active operations has arrived, none can be undertaken for a month, but page 230 until the danger in the north1 is past, the large numbers of troops at present at Otahuhu, near Auckland, though inactive, are in the most convenient position, and ready for any emergency that may arise.”

On October 7, 1864, Sir George Grey reported that ministers had resigned because (Sir F. Rogers stated) “the Governor had accused them of prolonging the war.” Sir F. Rogers wrote this minute: “The interest of the Imperial Government lies in an immediate pacification, even on terms which will not ensure the colonists against further trouble—so long as that pacification is substantial…. It seems to me that Sir G. Grey has thoroughly the best of it throughout this controversy with Ministers…. The bulk and emptiness of the Ministerial minutes, I think, shew clearly the absolute incompetence of the Ministry to carry on business under difficulties.”

Fortescue wrote to Cardwell: “The first thing which strikes me in these papers is the unsound and mischievous form which Responsible Government has assumed in New Zealand—the next thing Sir G. Grey's failure to improve, or to make the most of, the system of government which he found there. It is monstrous, for instance, that Mr. Fox's proclamation to the natives of March last should have been issued without the personal concurrence of the Governor…. This state of things I take to be owing partly to the system of government in New Zealand, partly to the character of the present Governor, who, not being able to do what he wished in all respects, has chosen to avoid responsibility by separating himself from his ministers and negotiating with them in diplomatic fashin, rather than endeavour to guide and influence them in native affairs from day to day by requiring constant information and taking constant part in their native administration. Some part of the blame is certainly due to the Ministers, but it is hard to believe that an able Governor, well acquainted with the country he governs and directing an Imperial army and squadron, could not have exercised a more constant and useful influence over those gentlemen, or could not, since the receipt of our despatches, have decided some of the questions which have produced all the special pleading, the clever fencing, and the pro-

1 From the escaped prisoners.

page 231 voking retorts contained in these despatches. The result of all this is that when the present mail left the colony, no proclamation had been issued to the natives to tell them the terms on which their submission would be accepted, no cession or confiscation of native lands (except at Tauranga) had been declared and the prisoners had escaped…. I should be inclined to impress upon Sir G. Grey the necessity of putting an end to discord and uncertainty if he shall not have done so already by proclaiming such terms of submission as he thinks expedient—if possible in conjunction with a Ministry, if unavoidable without one….”1

A ministerial memorandum of October 21, 1864, stated: “Ministers are placed in this unfortunate position: The Governor neglects their advice when he thinks fit and makes it appear at other times that he is suffering a species of martyrdom from the way in which he would have it supposed that he was bound by the smallest expression of their opinion.” (“True enough, I think,” was Fortescue's comment.)1 A whole volume of documents2 is devoted to the controversy between the Governor and his ministers concerning the treatment and escape of the prisoners.

On October 27 Grey forwarded a copy of his proclamation (dated October 26) notifying terms to persons involved in the rebellion. On October 31 he forwarded a report of operations in Taranaki on October 8 and 10. The Maoris had been expelled from positions at Mataitawa and Te Arei, near New Plymouth.

In a memorandum of November 2, signed by F. Whitaker, ministers said: “Of all the difficulties that ministers have had to contend with since they accepted office, one of the greatest has been the Governor's vacillation and infirmity of purpose.” In another memorandum two days later Whitaker wrote: “Unfortunately alike for Great Britain and the colonists and the natives, Sir George Grey in his anxiety about the opinions of the world and the judgement of posterity, shrinks from pursuing the wise and just policy which he himself devised as necessary to ensure a satisfactory termination of the rebellion.”3 Grey had certainly supported confiscation in principle, but he

1 C.O. 209, 183.

1 C.O. 209, 183.

2 Ibid., 184.

3 Ibid., 185.

page 232 might well have been fearful of the results of its application in the wholesale manner desired by ministers.

In a despatch of February 27, 1865, Cardwell observed “with great satisfaction that the meeting of the Assembly had brought to a close those differences between yourself and your former advisers which have occupied so large a portion of your late correspondence, and have been attended with such unfortunate consequences to the colony.” “I learn with pleasure,” he went on, “that Mr. Weld had formed [on November 24] a new Colonial Ministry, on principles which you regarded as being in conformity with the instructions you had received…. I am gratified to see that the Assembly recognize the assistance rendered to them by the mother-country and cordially appreciate the gallant services performed by H.M. Land and Naval Forces. I have great pleasure in acknowledging on the part of H.M. Government the gallant and effective services of the Forces raised in New Zealand and the spirited exertions which the colony has made to meet the very heavy expenditure which has been thrown upon it…. You rightly attach great importance to these resolutions of the Assembly. In admitting the claim of the Imperial Government to exercise a reasonable control over policy upon which the restoration of peace must necessarily depend, whilst the colony is receiving the aid of British troops for the suppression of internal disturbances, they have, I trust, re-established harmony between the authorities whose divided counsels were a cause of so much regret…. I trust that now, in conformity with Mr. Weld's proposal, plans of the land, part of the territory belonging to the insurgents and now in military occupation, which you propose to obtain either by cession or by confiscation, will be made public without delay.” Cardwell concluded by saying that instructions had been sent to General Cameron “which contemplate that he will make arrangements for sending home five regiments.”1

In a letter to C. B. Adderley, written on November 14, 1864, from Christchurch, and published in The Times on January 25, 1865, J. E. FitzGerald wrote: “If we may judge from the number of letters to The Times, and from the speeches in Par-

1 C.O. 209, 185.

page 233 liament, the inclination of the English is now to throw the whole of the odium and the blame on the colonists, and to describe them as a greedy and rapacious race, whose sole object is to destroy the natives, and to occupy the land in their room. On the other hand it seems to be the fashion to exalt the character of Sir George Grey and to represent him as standing between the natives and their oppressors and as only hampered in his benevolent designs by the greed and violence of the colony…. Whatever interest Auckland may have in the continuance of the war, with the prospect of acquiring native lands, or with the immediate gain of a large military expenditure, to the Middle Island the war has been a heavy burden without a single redeeming feature…. You can have little idea of the galling effect of that perpetual cry that Sir G. Grey is the saviour of the natives, and that to him alone the Government must look for that fair and righteous dealing which the colonists are not disposed to accord to their native neighbours. Whatever policy the colony has adopted since Sir G. Grey returned to this Government has been either his own, or has received his full assent. Nor can any distinction be made between the Governor and the colonists in the action taken towards the natives.

“On the contrary, as one of those who have ever advocated a peaceful administration of the Government of the natives, and who hailed the arrival of Sir G. Grey in the colony in the hope that his old reputed influence with the natives might be of service in winning back their confidence, I, together with others, now denounce Sir G. Grey as the sole cause of the renewal of the native war, and as having pursued a course of conduct which has destroyed the last shred of trust and confidence which the hostile tribes entertained in our faith and honour…. At the first meeting which Sir G. Grey had with the Waikato tribes he used an expression which the natives have never forgotten. He said he did not intend to attack the Maori King; ‘he intended to dig round him so that he would tumble down.’ On every occasion when they complain of some unexpected move they quote this expression. They are always anticipating some new crafty dodge on the part of the Governor. They are in a state of morose distrust. ‘Browne,’ page 234 they said, ‘was a hawk. We could see him in the air. Grey is a rat—we do not know where he will come up.’ At that meeting the Governor had talked of many things; but he said not a word of making a military road to the Waikato. Three days after he came back an immense body of soldiers were at work making the road. The natives felt that they had been deceived, and they said, ‘Do you think we are fools? Do you think we don't know that the Governor means to attack us? What is the use of his coming here and talking peace? What does he make that road for unless he means war?’ This was the language used to a friend of mine; and it proved that Sir George Grey had managed to instil into the natives at an early period an utter distrust of his pacific intentions—a distrust which the event fully justified. I will mention another fact. Sir G. Grey obtained permission to erect on some land in the Waikato, belonging to a man named Te Wheoro, a school-house and court-house. He then had a plan made of a strong bullet-proof military redoubt, capable of containing a strong body of troops. This was sent up into the Waikato, but the moment it was commenced the natives saw what was meant and took alarm. They pulled it down and threw the timber into the river. You can well imagine the effect of such an act of treachery on the native mind. And yet this is one of the acts of violence in the Waikato which is quoted as justifying the attack on that country. Yet this was done by Sir G. Grey himself, for the Prime Minister did not even know of it when I mentioned it in the House.”

FitzGerald proceeded to traverse Sir G. Grey's proceedings at Waitara, criticizing the delay in dealing with the case and the seizure of the Tataraimaka block before justice had been done at the Waitara. “How this extraordinary man can after this have contrived to hoodwink the English public into the idea that the administration of this colony has been one of peace I cannot even guess…. If you had given us full responsibility years ago and had steadily refused us all military assistance beyond your normal contribution to our defence, we should have had no war. The colony is now rapidly changing and joining in against the war. Why? Because it is suffering in its pocket. Why has my party—the peace party—never been able page 235 to carry its views? Because you deprived us of our strongest argument—that the war would not pay—that we could not afford it. You not only made war for us, relieving us of the expense for some time, but by the enormous commissariat expenditure you made it a good speculation—at all events, to a part of the colony—to continue the war.1 You give us responsible Government with the one hand, and with the other destroy all the influences by which party Government operates. You give us an enormous temptation to do wrong, and then abuse us for doing it…. The Duke of Newcastle could not have known what he was doing when he offered us responsibility without giving us the command, and requiring us to pay for, the troops. It was a farce. But it cannot go on. You must suspend the Constitution of the Northern Island, and govern it like a Crown Colony, leaving the Middle Island as a separate colony, or you must let the whole thing alone, and let the colony manage its own affairs, which I have the most perfect confidence it can do perfectly well.”

The Times, referring on January 26 to the charges made against Grey, described them as “highly coloured statements,” but accepted as valid the alternatives set out by FitzGerald: “We do not think the nation would long hesitate between the profitless offer of a mountainous land, with a war settled upon it by way of mortgage, and leaving to the Colonial authorities the management of a war, certainly the most important of their own affairs. We are well content that Imperial control should cease with Imperial interference and only wish that the person who makes the suggestion could be supposed to speak the feelings and wishes of the united colonists of New Zealand, instead of a particular party, and, at the most, a particular island.” Several correspondents disputed FitzGerald's charges against Grey, notably “An Old New Zealand Settler,” on February 6, 1865.

In a review of Grey's policy and the war to 1864 the Nelson Examiner said: “Mr. Chichester Fortescue, especially, has from the first to last refuted any attacks on the colonists and displayed

1 FitzGerald scarcely does justice to the strenuous efforts made by the Colonial Office to induce the New Zealand settlers to finance the war for themselves.

page 236 a real knowledge of the subject in all its details rarely exhibited in the discussion of a merely colonial question. Even Mr. Gladstone, cautious as he is where expenditure is in question, thinks that the policy of the war was not exclusively that of the colony, but one which the Home Government had approved and were responsible for; and further that New Zealand was the only colony in modern history which paid a moiety of the expenses of the war in which it was engaged. Mr Cardwell, too, though sorely baited, defended the colonists against the imputation of having provoked the war.” Cardwell was criticized for regarding as still unsettled questions such as the responsibility of the colony in native affairs which had been disposed of by his predecessor. The Colonial Government could show “that it must either have, once for all, the direction of native policy, or it must put off and disavow all responsibility for that policy, pecuniary or otherwise…. There is a limit in the passive obedience of colonists to the dictation of the Imperial authorities, and it may as well be understood at home that, with respect to the New Zealand native question, the limit has been reached.”1

In a leading article on December 1, 1864, The Times said: “Sir George Grey is a most excellent and amiable man. The colony loves and respects him. Knowing him well, it hailed his return with hope and joy. It is not denied that, ever since that return, he has done his best under the most difficult circumstances. But we submit that the post requires a soldier accustomed to deal with difficult countries and with savage warfare, vested with the fullest powers, supplied with the amplest means, and only instructed to bring the war to the speediest possible end, and make some good arrangement with the natives that shall promise a lasting peace.”

The colony's “love and respect” for Grey were not obvious in several of the newspapers. Under the heading “Character of Sir George Grey by a Late Admirer,” there appeared in the Taranaki Herald of September 24 a quotation from The Press, Christchurch, of September 3. The Press referred to Grey as “that wily and treacherous Pro-Consul.” “His great and mysterious reputation as a Governor lives, not on the labours

1 C.O. 209, 188.

page 237 of his own genius, but, like the churchyard ghoul, on the buried remains of the blunders of those around him. And so this man, to whose insidious treachery as much as to any other cause is owing the renewal of the war—who came to settle the error of Waitara and left it for eighteen long months a neglected sore, festering to gangrene in the side of the Native; this man, who, under the pretence of establishing a school and court-house in the Waikato, tried to smuggle in a bullet-proof redoubt—this man, who repeated at Coromandel precisely the same blunder which Colonel Browne made at the Waitara; this man, lastly, who pledged the sacred honour of the Crown to treat with the broken remnant of the tribes at Ngaruawahia, and broke the pledge—this man, for whom the hatred of the natives is only surpassed by the mistrust and suspicion of the Europeans—cold, unimpassioned, watchful and truthless, this man will once again leave our shores, radiant with the glory of having ended a war which he never took one honest step to prevent—the hero and apostle of a peace which he took no part to bring about.” On October 22 the Taranaki Herald quoted the following newspapers concerning the resignation of the Fox ministry: Hawke's Bay Times: “There would seem to be but one opinion on the subject, and that opinion is that Sir G. Grey doesn't know what he is about, and that, to put the mildest construction upon his proceedings, he must be in a state little short of imbecility.” Lyttelton Times: “Surely the Imperial Government will not bear long with so imbecile a representative.” Christchurch Press: “Sir G. Grey has not been the minister of peace but of war. Let there be no mistake about that. From the day on which he rode back from the Waikato and pondered over the fatal truth that his influence with the Natives was gone, that man had war in his heart; and the Natives, with all the keen perception of instincts sharpened by fear—the Natives knew it…. Sir G. Grey has betrayed all who trusted him, and falsified all the hopes he raised and the promises he made.”

Chichester Fortescue, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, speaking at a Liberal demonstration at Maldon, Essex, on December 15, 1864 (reported in The Times on December 17), devoted much of a long speech to the state of New Zealand. He confessed, he said, that he did not believe in its being the page 238 desire of the New Zealand colonists to continue the war longer than could be helped. His knowledge of the great sacrifices they had made and were making, of the shedding of colonial blood, of the spending of colonial money, of the paralysis of colonial trade, convinced him that neither the Colonial Government nor the Colonial people would be inclined to continue the war a day longer than could be avoided.

“Could we be blamed for having assumed the government of New Zealand? Any one acquainted with the history of that colony would know that we were open to no blame on that point. Our people had already gone there in considerable numbers before we assumed the government. It was perfectly certain that these magnificent and beautiful islands, almost equal in extent to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, could not be left in the possession of a small, sparse and diminishing native people, but must have been inevitably seized and occupied by some European power. In fact, it was well known that it was a race between Great Britain and France which of these powers should obtain possession of New Zealand.1 … Let any one examine the history of our dealings with the Maoris and he would find that, however much we had failed in other respects, we had not oppressed them. … Our sins had been those of omission much more than of commission. … It was amusing to read the early despatches of some of our greatest Ministers directing the Governors to treat the natives as British subjects, and above all things to enforce law and order. The fact was the natives of New Zealand declined those privileges when coupled with the obligation of submission to law and order. … He was ready to maintain that, looking at the relations subsisting between any other European power and any barbarous race at any period of history, our rule in New Zealand would bear a favourable comparison.”

The Times, on January 25, 1865, devoted a leading article to “The Case of New Zealand,” which it described as “a circumstantial statement of facts put forward on behalf of the colonists by some of themselves.” “The colonists proclaim

1 The French plan is fully described in England and New Zealand, pp. 94-138.

page 239 that whereas they have been absolutely without any participation or concern in the declaration of war or the policy which produced it, and have confined themselves to supporting, with much cost to themselves, the authorities placed over them by the Home Government, they are now accused by their countrymen at home of having fomented and promoted the quarrel for purposes of their own. They tell us that a policy which was none of theirs was upon the point of becoming successful when it was rudely condemned, and that they are thus left in a position of perplexity and danger with the additional infliction of a bad name and most unmerited obloquy. Such, in substance, is ‘The Case of New Zealand,’ which has been carefully composed and transmitted to this country for circulation. We give it the publicity which is desired, but we need scarcely be at pains of remarking how much more evidence will be required before a conclusion can be safely reached.”

On the next day The Times said of the war in New Zealand: “It is astonishing, considering how long these operations have continued, and how voluminous are the accounts we possess concerning them, that we should know so little of the causes that originated them or of the motives with which they are carried on. We are bewildered with the intricate geography of an unsettled and little explored country, and with the combinations and divergences, the clashing and the coincidence of a number of interests, the power of which we have no means of estimating, and the validity of whose charges and counter charges we are quite unable to measure. We have the same transactions described to us by persons equally worthy of credit and equally above the suspicion of wilful misrepresentation in colours and lights so different from each other that we can scarcely recognize them as attempts to describe or to account for the same event. Who caused the war? Who has prevented the conclusion of peace? Who has an interest in the continuance of hostilities? Who was responsible for the escape of the 200 native prisoners? These are questions which we ought by this time to be able to answer, but on which we can as yet give no opinion by which we should be willing to be bound.”

The colonists' case was strongly argued by Charles page 240 Hursthouse, in his Letters on New Zealand Subjects: 1 “To hear the language of Messrs. Buxton, Mills & Co., one would almost imagine New Zealand to be some barren rock in the South Pacific where every second man's chance of a meal depended on his catching a shilling tossed from the mother-country's Commissariat Chest.” The war, he argued, was disastrous to the colonists as it dammed up or diverted the “auriferous stream of emigration.” Hursthouse disclaimed insensibility as to the assistance given by the mother-country: “With a Molesworth, a Merivale, or a Fortescue at the Colonial Office, the amount of military and financial help she has given us would have been far greater—with a Mills or a Buxton ‘meddling and muddling’ there, it would have been far less—therefore, we are grateful to Mr. Cardwell for his half loaf.”

1 London, 1865.