Title: Octavius Hadfield

Author: Barbara Macmorran

Publication details: 1969, Wellington

Digital publication kindly authorised by: G. H. Macmorran

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Octavius Hadfield


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At the time of Octavius and Kate Hadfield's wedding in May, 1852, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, son of Te Rauparaha, was spending fifteen months in England. "His object in going to England is to see for himself what civilisation is," Hadfield wrote when warning his family there of Tamihana's arrival. "He knows so little of English I am afraid that he will not profit very much, but he may learn it on the voyage. . . . He has always lived very consistently and is a right thinking man. He is not by any means one of the best and most consistent Christians, but I believe him to be a sincere Christian, and he has done very good work by invariably using the influence which his rank gives him for good. He has always been remarkably civil and attentive to me, and is one of my most staunch supporters on all occasions." Although Tamihana was one of the two young chiefs who had travelled north in 1839 to ask for a missionary, he does not appear to have had the character or the mana which could have been expected in the son of Te Rauparaha. Hadfield never rated him as high as many other Maoris on the coast.

On his return he did not get on well with Hadfield. His early religious zeal seemed lost in the complications of civilisation. He began to drink heavily, and he advocated die setting up of a Maori king which Octavius Hadfield was very strongly opposed to. And for Hadfield there was a more personal grievance, for although Tamihana had accepted the hospitality of his family while in England, on his return he announced at a public meeting that the C.M.S. had lost all confidence in Hadfield since he had been made an archdeacon. Presumably Tamihana did not know that one of Bishop Selwyn's arguments in persuading Hadfield to become an archdeacon was his wish to show the C.M.S. that he put confidence in their missionaries. Anyway, it took many months of waiting before a rebuttal of this statement arrived from England, and in the meantime Tamihana and his followers gained much ground.

In 1854 a measle epidemic swept the countryside. In a letter to England, July 19, 1854, Hadfield wrote—"The Maoris were ill by hundreds at a time. Our medical man at Otaki was of great service, page 84 and the deaths there have been few. But at other places there have been many deaths. ... I found the population of whole villages laid low, and without the necessary supplies. In some homes all were ill, and there were none to fetch water or light fires. ... I have for many weeks been attending measles patients, especially our schoolboys, who were all laid up with it, also Samuel Williams, who suffered very severely, so that I was not surprised to be taken ill with it while I was in Wellington. ... I have been unfit for any work for nearly three weeks. Kate and our little boy were laid up at the same time in Otaki." Travelling into Wellington, where he contracted the disease, he had found untold misery in a village en route. Reaching the town he had sent back a medical man, and food and medicine. While ill himself he was nursed once more by Anne St. Hill until Kate and her small son, Henry, who had recovered more quickly than Octavius, travelled into Wellington so that Kate could help with the nursing. The St. Hills' home was on the north eastern corner of Hawkestone Street and Tinakori Road, the latter being known as the start of the Karori Road in those days. S. C. Brees has a drawing of the house in "Pictorial Illustrations of New Zealand". The area is now part of the new motorway into Wellington.

In 1853 Rota Waitoa, of the Ngatiraukawa at Otaki, was ordained in Auckland, the first of his race to enter the church as a deacon. Two years later Bishop Selwyn took Riwai Te Ahu to Auckland for instruction, and in 1856 he too was ordained a deacon. Riwai returned to Otaki where he was Hadfield's faithful assistant until his death in 1866—Rota spent his years in the church working in Auckland and the East Coast. In 1856 he visited relatives in Otaki, and as Hadfield was ill at the time he and Riwai took the services in Rangiatea, Rota preaching and Riwai reading the prayers. Hadfield wrote to the C.M.S.—"It was highly gratifying ... to have my place supplied by two of my early converts, the only two Maori ministers in New Zealand."

* * *

Sam and Mary Williams left Otaki in 1854, reluctantly for they were very happy there, to found Te Aute College in Hawke's Bay. Sir George Grey had spent two years trying to persuade Williams to make this move, and had offered him both land and money. Sam Williams was very popular among the Maoris and had page 85 been asked to move to various other districts before Grey went to work on him. So Octavius Hadfield lost his greatest assistant and friend in the district, and Kate lost her brother and sister-in-law.

New Zealand became self-governing in 1852, but the Governor was still in charge of Maori affairs which Hadfield did not think was right. He also presided over the General Assembly and appointed members to the Legislative Council. "Our young politicians are trying their hands at the new constitution," Hadfield wrote, "and it is not an easy task to see what the result will be." That the Governor should handle Maori affairs was soon to be the cause of much trouble for Hadfield and for many others. Grey was appointed Governor of South Africa, and Colonel Thomas Gore Browne succeeded him in New Zealand. Gore Browne was not a success, and Hadfield was to be one of his most bitter critics.

Trade was good for a few years. There were two flour mills operating near Otaki, buying wheat extensively from the Maori fanners and shipping the flour out by schooner to Wellington. The Maoris here, and in other parts of the country, had taken well to the new farming methods and were doing a big trade with the increasing European population. They worked hard—potatoes and kumara, wheat and oats and barley were grown to meet the demanding market. Pork was always wanted, and flax was gathered and laboriously scraped. A rope-making works had been established on the coast at Waikawa which bought much of this prepared flax from the Maoris. This rope-making works had been started at Waikawa as early as 1844 by Thomas Bevan, whose son, also Thomas Bevan, wrote "Reminiscences of an Old Colonist."

Undoubtedly business seemed good, both for the Maori seller and for the European buyer. Soon the Australian gold-rush was to make it even better, for a while. But this flourishing business in trade began to have an adverse effect on the schools and churches. Whereas the parents had been pleased and proud to have their sons at the boarding school at Otaki, now the lure of pen and book was being over-shadowed by the lure of money, and attendance at church was being set aside for the newer pastimes of drinking alcohol, and discussing the choice of a Maori king. "The boys are willing enough to come to school," Hadfield wrote, "but the parents like to have them near themselves." Near themselves to help with the work which would earn the parents more money. An earthquake in 1854 was a further setback to the Mission, wrecking a chimney page 86 which frightened the boys in their building, and breaking down a fence enabling cattle to get into and destroy 20 acres of wheat and oats.

Land troubles were still predominant and were soon to erupt into the Waitara crisis in which Gore Browne and Hadfield were to clash. Gore Browne spent endless hours in conference with his advisers, whom neither Selwyn nor Hadfield regarded as wise men. In an effort to populate the country the Provincial Councils brought in many new immigrants, and of these a vast proportion were poorly educated and proved intolerant and contemptous of the Maori, and both unable and unwilling to learn his language. Much of the early work of the missionaries, and a lot of it had been very good, was destroyed by this combination of new factors.

The growing unrest between white man and brown over land and domination in New Zealand was being echoed in many other parts of the world. In North America the Red Indians were being shamefully treated, forced off their own fertile territories to make way for the settlers, deprived of any rights of citizenship and justice. In Central India the carefully trained sepoys had mutinied against their British masters, and were massacring men, women and children. In South Africa a Xosa chieftain, listening to the daughter of a witch doctor, had told his people that if they slaughtered all their stock and destroyed their crops, the spirits of all their thousands of dead warriors would rise from their graves and help them chase the white man from the land. Food and cattle would miraculously reappear on the appointed day, the witch doctor's daughter told them. In the ensuing famine thousands of people died, while others, weak with hunger, walked, and in some cases crawled, over the land to be saved by the white man. The Governor, Sir George Grey, the same Governor who had recently been sitting beside the fires of the Maoris listening to their tales and legends, now fed these starving African people with food he had set aside when his dissuasion of their madly fanatical plan had failed.

In the east the primitive Japanese had only recently come into contact with the west, and now the ports of Japan were open to the trading ships of the world. In Australia the Chinese pouring into the gold-fields in company with Europeans from many countries, were being heavily taxed while their white brethren were not. When they protested about this, they were told that the vast population of China made it necessary. If they were allowed uninhibited entry into Australia they would soon flood the country.

page 87

In New Zealand the wealth of the country poured in in thousands of sheep. Hardy merinos first, followed by Lincolns and then Romneys, they struggled through the rough surf on to the beaches, were driven through swamps where wild dogs attacked them, over mountain ranges and through swift-flowing rivers, sometimes round rocky coasts. They eventually reached rich pastures, in the North Island pastures scarred by the burnt stumps of thousands of trees, in the South pastures liable to see flood or fire descend upon them without warning. Scab and lung-worm and foot-rot took their toll, but still the sheep held sway as the economic wealth of the country. Unable to buy their land in the early days, the squatters had leased pastures from the Maoris without taking leave of the Government. Here the flocks had prospered, and now the squatter was so important to the country that he was issued with pastoral licences allowing him to take up grazing rights.

But for the Maoris, who had over the years become such proficient workers, tending pigs and cattle for the market, growing wheat and oats, fruit and vegetables for the consumption of the white man and even for export to Australia, the reward for industry suddenly stopped. The market crashed—the top price of 12/- a bushel for wheat dropped to 3/-, and they were left with rotting crops which nobody wanted. The feelings of disquiet, the murmurings that had been drifting through the country of having a Maori king of their own, took root in this suddenly idle time. Chiefs assembled at Taupo to elect their king. Tribes, frustrated by the Government's low prices for land, and thwarted in their attempts to sell direct to the many willing buyers prepared to pay much more, decided they would put a stop to selling altogether.

In Otaki the general disaffection was also being felt, but in a milder form than some localities. Te Rangihaeata, mentally at war with the white man till the end, died in 1856 after plunging into a river while feeling feverish with measles. Riwai Te Ahu returned from Auckland in the same year. While in Auckland he had sailed with Bishop Selwyn on one of his voyages to Melanesia, and had told Hadfield of finding one island there occupied by Polynesian people with whom he had been able to converse freely in the Maori tongue.

In 1857 Octavius Hadfield was ill with pleurisy, and though he continued to work after his recovery he was considerably weakened and was eventually advised to take a year's rest. It was decided the page 88 family would journey to England the following year. Five-year-old Henry accompanied his parents—their third son, Octavius, born in 1857, remained at the Bay of Islands with his grandparents. The second son, George Joseph, had died as a baby.

So, on April 28, 1858, they sailed on the Southern Cross from Wellington. Writing home to her mother during the voyage, and later in England, Kate described the events of the journey. While on the ship she gave birth to a baby daughter. "Octavius would have been very well had it not been for the cold, but he was afraid to expose himself on account of his chest and did not leave the cabin till after we had passed the Horn, which was five weeks and a half after leaving Wellington. ... I continued very, very sick till a fortnight before the baby was born. . . . Henry soon got over his sickness . . . there are 16 children besides him so that he has no lack of playfellows. . . . Now I must tell you of the 7th June. It was Sunday evening or rather early on Monday morning that baby was born. . . . Everything was so quiet, nobody knew anything about it till the next morning at breakfast, except the Captain who was sleeping in the cuddy."

Octavius and the doctor, who they liked very much, and a woman passenger were with Kate during the birth. "I long to enter a church again and to get her baptised," she wrote. "Octavius has determined to name her plain simple 'Anne'. We shall call her Annie. I do not know whether his sisters will prevail on him to change his mind, but he has a great fancy for that name. ... I begin to feel sometimes a little timid now we are so near England— going a stranger into a strange land—but that is silly of me as long as I have my husband with me."

This was, of course, Kate Hadfield's first time out of New Zealand. They had a cold trip across the south Pacific to the Horn, but after that the weather improved. The saw flying fish and shark and dolphin, and a Portuguese barque and many other ships. They fished up Florida Gulf sea-weed. And at last they sighted the coast of Cornwall, the Lizard, landmark for ships. A few days later they saw Alderney and the Casquets across the Channel, and early the next morning they were off the Isle of Wight.

This was Octavius Hadfield's childhood home, and here a pilot boat offered to take the family ashore. After a frantic rush to get ready, leaving most of their luggage on board to be sent to them from London, they embarked in the small boat and headed for the page 89 Isle of Wight. First they saw the lighthouse at St. Catherines, then Ventnor and Bonchurch. Writing from Ventnor on July 21 of their arrival there, Kate related—"Octavius got a boy to go up and tell his sister and we went to an hotel to wait. . . . We had not been there many minutes before Octavius' youngest sister, Octavia, came running in almost breathless, poor thing. . . . Next came Amelia, the eldest, and Caroline, the third. We were soon all at home and went to the house which was not far and a pretty old-fashioned house, covered with ivy and creeper, and though in the midst of a town, it is surrounded by large trees, most of which were planted by Octavius before he left England. There is a stone wall round the garden covered with ivy. I admire the ivy almost as much as anything. . . . You did not overrate the beauty of the oaks, elms, ashes, etc."

Octavius' mother had been ill for three months and was in bed. "I was quite surprised to see her look no older than she does and talk so collectedly as she does," Kate wrote. His father, Joseph Hadfield, had died in 1851.

Their infant daughter was baptised by her father in the church next door to the Hadfield home. "He named her Anne, after Mrs. St. Hill," wrote Kate. Both Hadfield's first born son and daughter now carried the names of Henry and Anne St. Hill, though in the boy's case the name derived from a grandfather, Henry Williams, and an uncle, Henry Hadfield, as well.

The day after the christening Octavius' brother Charles arrived on two days' leave from the army. Of this Kate related in a letter— "I must not attempt to describe the meeting of the two brothers or the delight of the old mother at seeing them together again. I was with her in the bedroom upstairs and she could see them meet in the garden." Charles and Octavius were two years apart in age and had always been close, so the meeting after twenty years was a moving one. Later Charles took longer leave and brought his family to Ventnor. They must have discussed many things and found their friendship unimpaired in this renewal of a family bond, for in Octavius Hadfield's difficult years ahead he wrote very fully to his brother Charles, and the latter acted as his public champion and help-mate in England.

Kate also met relations of her own in England. Just before they sailed at the end of the year they visited the C.M.S. in London. Although at this time Henry Williams had been reinstated by the page 90 Society, relations were still strained between the two. Writing from the Acasta, in which ship they return to New Zealand, Kate reported that after the secretary had talked to Octavius, "he addressed a few words to me about the female part of the work, and assured me that the Committee would always be willing to assist me. I wished very much to have had an opportunity of telling him it was impossible that I could do anything unless we had a better house, but perhaps it was better left unsaid."

Their return voyage ended in Wellington in April, 1859, just a year after they had left. During Hadfield's absence Riwai Te Ahu had been in charge of Rangiatea, with Richard Taylor of Wanganui assisting and guiding when necessary.

* * *

While in England Hadfield was present at the consecration of Charles John Abraham as first Bishop of Wellington. Hadfield himself was offered the bishopric first, and many people tried to persuade him to accept. In a letter to England dated March 18, 1857, he wrote—"There has lately appeared to be a very general wish that I should be the first Bishop of Wellington." The Wellington newspapers were so sure he would be appointed that they referred to him as "the Bishop in expectancy." Hadfield refused at once on first learning of the scheme. Later, after considerable persuasion, he wrote—"I have very reluctantly given my consent to the arrangement." But finally, partly through ill-health and partly through a wish to remain with his Maoris at Otaki, he declined.

For some years before this he had been named as the first Bishop. In an article written when he became Primate in 1889 it was stated, after relating his early work in New Zealand—"At the close of the year 1853, a vacancy having occurred in the Bishopric of Sydney, it was thought that the Bishop of New Zealand, if he would consent, might be translated to that see, Archdeacon Hadfield becoming his successor in the see of New Zealand, or, at least, in a portion of it. . . . In the following year the Bishop of New Zealand visited England, with the desire of effecting the division of his diocese, a thing which was accomplished a few years later. The first proposal was to constitute Wellington and Nelson a diocese, and that Archdeacon Hadfield should become Bishop thereof. Early in 1857 his name was sent home by the Governor to the Secretary of State, with a recommendation that he should be appointed to the page 91 new see. At the same time a new proposal to constitute two new dioceses, of Wellington and Nelson, coextensive with the civil provinces, was set on foot, and strongly supported by the Governor. Archdeacon Hadfield was designed for Wellington, but he declined to accept the appointment."

A further undated newspaper article, written some time during his bishopric, deals with the same subject. "It does not seem to be generally known or remembered that not only was the present Bishop of Wellington (then Archdeacon Hadfield) designated as Bishop of Southern New Zealand 37 years ago—before even Bishop Harper was consecrated—but that letters patent were actually made out in his favour. The Bishop of New Zealand had agreed to resign the Southern portion of his diocese, and had arranged that Archdeacon Hadfield should be the first bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury warmly recommended the appointment, which was sanctioned by the Duke of Newcastle, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the Royal Letters Patent were made out. Archdeacon Hadfield, however, much to Bishop Selwyn's disappointment, declined to accept the offered bishopric. Again he was proposed in 1857 as bishop of the contemplated new diocese of Wellington and Nelson. Ultimately Wellington and Nelson each became a separate diocese, and Archdeacon Hadfield was elected by the clergy and laity of Wellington as their first bishop. Subsequently, however, in consequence of the state of the Maori people, Archdeacon Hadfield deemed it his duty to continue his mission work among them, and therefore determined to decline consecration to the Wellington see."

Even though he refused these early offers of the bishopric he figured largely in forming the New Zealand Church Constitution. In an article on his resignation as Primate in 1893 it listed his work for the New Zealand Church. (1) "He was with Bishop Selwyn and Sir William Martin, one of the chief founders of the New Zealand Church Constitution, which, if it now seems somewhat commonplace, was, it must be remembered, evoked out of chaos, amidst a confusion of prejudices; with few precedents for guidance, except those of a far off past; and those precedents of the early centuries were, naturally, in many respects unsuited to modern times. (2) He was the leading spirit in dealing with the vexed question of letters patent."

The third item discussed was Octavius Hadfield's long fight to save the Wanganui School, now Collegiate, for the Church rather page 92 than have it taken over by the State. This was when he was Bishop. "And it is almost entirely owing to him that the Wanganui School and its endowments have not been confiscated by the State and so lost to the Church. It has been attacked several times in the House. It has always been the Bishop who has furnished the case for the defence, and who has detected and called attention to the flaws and inaccuracies of the arguments on the other side. At one time it was attacked by the most powerful Government New Zealand has ever possessed, and Sir Julius Vogel, Sir William Fox and Mr. Ballance combined their forces against it. Nothing but the Bishop's persistence saved it. Mr. Ballance lived to change his opinion, as was indeed plain from his speech when he gave away the prizes at the school, and he expressed an opinion to the writer of this notice that the school is doing a work in the way of secondary education that the Government were unable to do at anything like the same cost. It is easy now to defend a school, which from being the most unpopular, has become the most popular of institutions. But when the Bishop first fought single-handed in its defence, and for years after, he was fighting rather for a principle than for a living thing of energy and influence. To attack the school then was a cheap road to popularity; one had almost all Wanganui behind one. To attack the school now would be to attack Wanganui itself. If Sir George Grey and Bishop Selwyn were historically the founders of the school, Bishop Hadfield has been undoubtedly its preserver in the long time of its peril and disfavour, and when it becomes old enough to commemorate its benefactors, Bishop Hadfield's name will be set apart with those of its founders."

Still on the same subject, in an obituary it was stated—"On Hadfield's recovery from his long and critical illness Bishop Selwyn appointed him Archdeacon of Kapiti. The increasing number of Englishmen flocking to the colony set Selwyn to thinking out a scheme of Church government and organisation. In this task he received continuous and valuable assistance from his archdeacon, whose mind had been sharpened and widened by the study of metaphysics and Church history during his protracted and enforced idleness. It is well known that the Primate's ideas were considerably modified, both by Hadfield and such men as Sir George Grey and Sir William Martin."

Another obituary recorded—"Although he was overshadowed by the more conspicuous work of Selwyn it is well known that both page 93 in its conception and in its realisation the New Zealand Church Constitution owes very much to the sagacious co-operation of Octavius Hadfield in his various capacities of priest, rural dean, archdeacon, Bishop, and Primate. His long clerical career—66 years—coincided point for point almost entirely with the planting", the organisation, and the development of the provincial Church of New Zealand."

Yet again, in an article already referred to, written when he became Primate in 1889, the subject was mentioned. "It will thus be seen that the Primate has witnessed the whole rise and progress of the Church in New Zealand from infancy into the formation of an independent province. No man now living in New Zealand has had equal experience with him in this respect. . . . He took an active part in the drawing up of the Church Constitution, both before and at the meeting of the conference, having been consulted about it by Sir George Grey, then Governor, as early as 1850, and by Mr. Godley in 1852."

So in 1858 Abraham became first Bishop of Wellington, and Hadfield remained at Otaki. Abraham, who was a close personal friend of Selwyn's, had been in the country for eight years, all this time having been spent in Auckland. He and Hadfield worked extremely well together, and in Hadfield's troubled days ahead his Bishop faithfully backed him up, even though he must have wondered at times what he had done to deserve the unwelcome publicity his Archdeacon's extreme outspokeness caused in his diocese.