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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After a year away from New Zealand Hadfield found on his return in 1859 that the affairs of the country had not improved. Dissatisfaction was spreading in the land. The Kingites were ranged against the Queenites, and both were unhappy with the Governor and Government. Heavily taxed and unrepresented in Parliament, unable to sell their land to whom they wished and for the prices they were offered, the Maoris felt they were achieving nothing. And the Governor, Colonel Gore Browne, was proving unwise in his policies.

The settlers too had many grievances against the Government. They were unable to buy the land they wanted. By law they had to fence their land, although the Maori next door did not. If thistles bloomed on his land the settler was fined—if they bloomed on the land of the Maori he was exempt from this law. If the cattle of the Maori broke on to the settler's property the settler paid the damages and mended the fence. If the settler's cattle went next door the same thing happened. These were small matters that all multiplied into larger issues.

There was increasing tension in Taranaki. Hadfield had been sure that there would be no bloodshed, that the matter would be settled sensibly and fairly, but as the weeks and months went by it became increasingly obvious that there would be trouble. Words flew back and forth between Wiremu Kingi Te Whiti, the Governor and the surveyors. The Press and the colonists took up the cry, urging the Governor to take the land. Tribal ownership was proving its complications. Some of the tribe wished to sell the disputed land —some did not. Wiremu, the chief, spoke for the tribe as well as for himself when he refused to sell. The surveying went on, the dispute raged.

Hadfield, unwilling to become involved, found as time passed that he could not refrain from giving vent to his feelings on the matter, and as an almost lone voice in the welter of officialdom denounced the Governor and his men, and staunchly spoke for Wiremu and his Maoris. As he continued in his fight he found page 95 others supporting him. Selwyn and Abraham, Sir William Martin, Fox, Featherston and William Swainson all eventually sided with him and supported his facts, though for some of them it took a long time. During 1859 he had three letters from Wiremu, asking him if he saw the Governor to speak to him about the dispute. But Hadfield did not want the role of mediator, and as the Governor was not in his part of the country he did not see him, although according to a letter by Abraham quoted shortly he did want to write to him. In any case, he and the Governor were fast becoming bitter antagonists, a state of affairs which he privately deplored, but which his strong convictions of justice and his outspokeness in support of them outweighed all else.

"It is lamentable to see such ignorance and folly in those who have the direction of affairs," he wrote. "I have no hope for the country so long as Col. Browne continues here."

"A man is a great fool who actually builds a wall to run his own head against," he continued in a letter to his brother, Charles, December 5, 1860, "but that is what Browne has done."

A petition asking for the recall of the Governor was drawn up by the Maoris in Otaki in 1860 and sent to the Queen. Hadfield was thought to have compiled it, although he denied this. Anyway, Browne was recalled late in 1861, and Sir George Grey reappointed, but much damage had by then been done.

Efforts to maintain peace in the land failed. The government forces began their little war in Taranaki, war against Wiremu Kingi Te Whiti and his men and women because they would not willingly sell land which had belonged to their forefathers, land which was their life and their heritage.

"Te oranga o te tangata he whenua. His sustenance is land." So said a Maori proverb, and it was sustenance not only of the body but of the mind and soul as well.

"The Governor has set fire to the ferns of Taranaki," said a Maori, "and the smoke will cover the whole island." And so it was to prove.

"I will not give up the land," Wiremu Kingi wrote to Hadfield on December 5, 1859. "The Governor may strike me without cause and I shall die; in that case there will be no help for it, because it is an old saying 'The man first, and then the land'."

Octavius Hadfield's most bitter enemies dubbed him a traitor to his country because he was siding with rebels. He was accused page 96 also of withholding information, in that he did not speak to the Governor of Wiremu Kingi's letters. But the Governor himself had had a letter from Wiremu with the same information. Bishop Abraham also came to his Archdeacon's aid in this matter, and wrote a letter to the Governor which was printed in the Souther?!. Cross, September 1, 1860.

"I think you have been misled in the matter of Archdeacon Hadfield's conduct about the Taranaki war," it read. "He told me, months back, that he wished to write to you about the state of the Maoris at Taranaki, as he had received a letter from William King; but as I then expected you at the General Assembly in February or March, I recommended his waiting till you came, and then to talk the matter over. We had no idea of the sudden coup de main your Excellency was planning, and the proclamation of martial law in the province of Taranaki came upon us before we had any opportunity of remonstrance. Both the Archdeacon and I were out of the country and on the high seas when your Excellency made the speech you allude to at Taranaki; I never saw it or heard of it till last month. But at the same time I should say that if I had seen it, I should never have understood from it that you were going to introduce a new principle in the deciding of Maori titles to land; and that you were going to ignore the tribal right of ownership, and to accept the usufructuary possession as being a title to the fee simple."

The Church Missionary Society did not approve of its missionaries being involved in political controversy, and as he became more and more outspoken in his protests Hadfield was regarded with suspicion even by them for a while. But eventually they recognised the soundness of his views, and in turn exerted pressure on British Cabinet Ministers in the matter, so that Hadfield was able to write later—"I am happy to say that it has been a great comfort to me and others that the Home Government has not approved of Governor Browne's proceedings in reference to the Taranaki war. The ablest men also in the House of Representatives have condemned the Governor's conduct in the matter. Nothing has produced such a good impression on the Maoris as this last circumstance; they see there is a power now in the country to check injustice on the part of the Governor. The Maoris of my district are all quiet and peaceably disposed; but it is impossible to say how long this will last, if they see the Government persecuting those whom they most highly respect."

page 97

Hadfield wrote three pamphlets on the Taranaki war, entitled "One of England's Little Wars", "The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars", and "A Sequel to One of England's Little Wars". Of the first one he wrote to the C.M.S. on May 29, 1860— "I presume you will hear from other quarters that the state of the country is not very satisfactory. The Maoris more immediately connected with me are quiet and well-disposed. I returned from Manawatu yesterday where I had a large congregation of 130 communicants. My particular object in now writing is to say that I have joined the Bishop of Wellington in address to the Duke of Newcastle which states our conviction as to the war at Taranaki. But as that did not fully represent my views, I wished to state them more fully. I have forwarded to London a letter to the Duke of Newcastle for publication. You will receive a copy of it. I purposely abstained from sending you the manuscript that you might not in any way be responsible for it.

I hope you will not think I have done wrong; but I feel so deeply on the subject, and think the Governor's conduct so disgraceful that I am prepared to bear any amount of blame in discharging what I consider an imperative duty in the cause of truth and justice. The letter was necessarily written very hurriedly but you may depend upon all my facts, and I hope my arguments are sound. I believe I know more on this particular subject than any other person in New Zealand."

George Clarke, Protector of the Maoris, investigated the claims to land in Taranaki before the war started, in company with the Commissioner of Lands, Mr. Spain. In his book "Early Life in New Zealand" he commented on a dispute about the rights of the absentees in this matter. ". . . and besides, Mr. Spain knew well my opinion and that of Mr. Forsaith, the Interpreter, as to the Maori law on the subject, and, what was of greater authority than ours, he knew the opinion of Mr. Hadfield."

When this first pamphlet of Hadfield's was published in England it brought forth a heated reply entitled "The Case of the War in New Zealand—from Authentic Documents", by E. Harold Browne, a professor of Divinity at Cambridge and brother of the Governor of New Zealand, Colonel Gore Browne. This in turn induced Hadfield to write his second pamphlet. He checked it with Bishop Abraham before sending it to England, and the latter could find no fault with his facts. When news of its impending publication reached page 98 the Government, Hadfield heard that the Governor and his ministers were very angry and "would like to hang me, if they could."

"The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars" begins— "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 shrunk from doing in England.. .. It is almost needless to say that I see no reason to recall or modify any expression contained in the letter which has called forth such unqualified condemnation from Prof. Browne."

After quoting some of Browne's charges against him, and reiterating his own views, he continues—"Professor Browne seems to think it is a sufficient answer to my statement to quote some scraps from what he calls "authentic documents"; which authentic documents generally turn out to be extracts from Mr. Bell's reports of his own speeches, or it may be extracts from Mr. Stafford's speeches, or portions of Mr. McLean's statements. He seems to have no suspicion whatever that he is overlooking the most obvious rules which should guide men in estimating the respective value of conflicting evidence. In the first place, all the persons just alluded to are paid officers of the Government. As Mr. Stafford knows nothing of Maori matters, it is hardly worth while to attend to any of his statements. Mr, Bell knows very little more than Mr. Stafford; but it is always quite certain that he will take the Government side in any dispute; he is a personification of red-tape. I pass on, therefore, to Mr. McLean. He is the head of the Land-Purchase Department. He comes forward to defend the proceedings of his own department. What I maintain is, that according to the ordinary rules for estimating the value of testimony, his evidence ought to be received with caution as that of a witness under the influence of an undoubted bias and considerable pressure. Mr. Fox says, 'He was considered as merely the mouth-piece of the Governor to lay a one-sided statement before the House'. Mr. McLean has been convicted of the grossest misstatements as to facts, some of which appear to have been made wilfully. . . . Mr. Fox says again—'Some of his replies, page 99 on cross-examination, exhibited a degree of ignorance on common subjects both startling and suggestive'. ... It would be absurd to expect from him any information as to Maori tenure of land."

While Professor Harold Browne was supporting his brother's policy in England, Lt.-Col. Charles Hadfield was acting as publicity agent for the Maori cause by keeping the newspapers there supplied with news and articles sent by his brother, Octavius. So both in New Zealand and in England a Hadfield was facing a Browne in wordy battle.

Later in the pamphlet Hadfield prints a letter sent also to the columns of the N.Z. Spectator, February 28, 1861. The letter was written from Otaki on April 18, 1856, to Governor Gore Browne, in reply to one from him. In writing to the editor of the Spectator, Hadfield states that his reason for wanting the letter published is to show that the opinions he had recently advocated were not new ones.

"In accordance with the wish expressed in your communication of the 9th March, I have the honour to offer a few remarks on the present state of feeling on the part of the authorities (Maori) towards the Queen's Government and the settlers.

I must premise the observations which I am about to make, by saying that I have not of late years kept myself so thoroughly informed of the proceedings of the Maoris throughout the country as I did formerly, and consequently that my remarks will apply more especially to those in this part of the country.

(1)   There is at present no hostile feeling towards either Europeans or the Queen's Government, as such, in this part of the country, there appears to be no inclination to provoke war or create a disturbance.

(2)   There is, however, a certain kind of restlessness among some of the chiefs and leading men, which has manifested itself within the last three or four years by efforts to get up meetings in various places. And I now understand that there is a secret intention of assembling, if possible, most of the leading chiefs of the centre and southern parts of this Island, in the ensuing summer, for the purpose of raising the authority of the chiefs. The very vagueness of the object renders the movement worthy of notice, as it implies some feeling of dissatisfaction apart from any special grievance.

(3)   It is worthy of notice, in attempting to estimate the present feeling of the Maori population, that there are many young men page 100 who are grown up in a state of ignorance, being neither under the influence of religion nor under subjection to law, and who would be quite ready to take part in any disturbance which might, on the occasion of any accident, arise; and that a large number of Maoris who have been all their lives accustomed to take an active share in the management of the business of their respective tribes, and who have even been accustomed to deliberate and decide on such momentous subjects as the declaration of war or the establishment of peace, are now in a great measure left without any opportunity of employing their active minds. Should any untoward event unfortunately lead to war, it would be much more serious in its consequences than the former disturbances. The communication between the distant tribes has become much more frequent of late years; there would be more unanimity of purpose than ever there was before; there would be more unity of action.

(4) The only permanent grievance is that connected with the purchase of land. There is no disinclination on the part of the Maoris to alienate their lands. But there will be innumerable difficulties in dealing with this subject until some clearly defined principle of ownership is laid down—such a principle as shall be assented to by the Maoris as well as by the Government, and which shall form the basis of negotiations for the purchase of land. There appears to have been an entire absence of any intelligible principle as to the ownership of land on the part of those commissioned to make purchases from the Maoris in this part of the country; a consequence of this has been that sometimes the claim to ownership of those in possession, at other times that of those who were formerly owners, but who have been either conquered or expelled, is set up, as the Commissioners may imagine that the one party or the other is more disposed to sell. There is nothing more likely than this to lesson their respect for law, or to lead to disaffection towards the Government."

He concluded the letter by offering some suggestions on the future treatment of the Maori race by the Government, the main one being his insistence that the Maori population must be made amenable to law and that law must be respected. He also advocated the wide encouragement of education and employment of the Maoris, and stated his conviction that all land sales had to be handled with kid gloves. He was against encouraging the influence of the chiefs, and he was against scattering the military force around the country rendering it, in his view, ineffective on every point.

page 101

This letter fairly comprehensively sums up Hadfield's opinions on the training and integration of the Maori, and of the state of the country in the middle fifties. However, the Governor did not follow his advice, and by 1861 relations between the two men were very, very strained, and the war in Taranaki was causing dismay in all the country. It is understandable that Browne was extremely angry at this particular letter being published at such a time.

In a letter to the C.M.S. on November 6, 1860, Hadfield wrote— "I have done so much to expose the injustice and folly of the present war that the local Government are prepared to do anything they can to damage me. . . . But if they can bring me into a Court of law upon some frivolous charge and have my name circulated about in connection, they trust that it will injure me on the principle semper aliquid haerit. But when I came forward to denounce injustice and oppression I counted the cost. I am, however, glad to say that the feeling of the colonists, the most intelligent at least, is that I am right."

This letter was prophetic because it would appear that Governor Browne did try to bring a legal charge against Hadfield. As he could find nothing to form one on in the big issues at stake, in spite of his insinuations, he attempted a small trap involving a few words spoken on the roadside with an old, and as it turned out half-witted, Maori whom Hadfield had never met before. Relating the affair to his brother, Charles, in a letter on January 2, 1861, he wrote—"I have been in a new danger, as a wretched Wesleyan missionary, Turton, who has abandoned his calling, is employed by the Government ostensibly as a Magistrate in this district, but really as a spy. He lately forwarded a charge against me to the Government. ... I at once obtained the opinions of the two best lawyers on the subject, who told me . . . the charge was 'silly and absurd', that the Government would only render themselves ridiculous if they took any steps in the matter. ... I have forwarded the correspondence to the C.M.S. to show what I am exposed to. ... I care but little about the tricks and spiteful conduct of those whose injustice and wickedness I have fearlessly exposed."

The letter Hadfield received from the lawyers said, in part— "The charge . . . appears to be silly and absurd. . . .Even though the Government may not move in the matter here, they will not improbably send the 'Charge' to England in further proof of the disaffected character of the Archdeacon of Otaki. To meet this page 102 contingency I think it will be well that you should keep your friends (the C.M.S.) advised upon the subject, so that if the 'Charge' should be brought out at Home the answer may be ready and on the spot." Hadfield's letter of November, 1860, must have given the C.M.S. fair warning of what to expect when some two months later they heard of this 'Charge'.

Dr. Featherston, the Superintendent of the Province of Wellington, was one of those who eventually acknowledged that it was 'an unjust and unholy war'. Richmond, the Minister for Maori Affairs, came to bid Hadfield farewell on leaving for a visit to England and said—"I was misled." During the war these two did not see matters in at all the same light. Another instance of this change of mind was quoted by Hadfield in a letter to Charles, February 3, 1868. "By the by, a day or two ago I went to see Stafford who was chief Minister during the Waitara war, and after answering my questions on business, he volunteered to talk of the Waitara war. To my surprise he allowed that the whole war was a mistake and that he objected to it, but was overruled by his colleagues. I let him go on; it was amusing. It is very satisfactory after all the abuse I got that I should have been made a kind of Father confessor for the Prime Minister."

But that was later—for the moment the war was still going on its unhappy way and Hadfield was still fighting his own battle with those who had sanctioned it. In another letter to the C.M.S. on January 31, 1861, he stated—"I am thankful to say that I am wholly regardless of the abuse heaped on me by those who know that I have been the chief instrument in bringing to light what otherwise might possibly have altogether escaped notice. I have done from the first exactly what I thought to be right. I do not myself regret a single step I have taken in the matter. ... If I have occasionally spoken strongly, it is because I have felt strongly: and I trust I shall always do both when I see injustice and oppression perpetrated."

In 1860 Octavius Hadfield was advised to attend the General Assembly in Auckland. In answering criticism of his replies there contained in a pamphlet by the above mentioned Mr. Richmond, Hadfield wrote a letter to the N.Z. Spectator, February 6, 1861. This letter is included in his pamphlet "The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars." He starts the letter by quoting a paragraph of Richmond's, and continues, still quoting—"Mr. Richmond pro- page 103 ceeds: 'Upon the General Assembly being finally summoned for despatch of business, on the 31st July last, Archdeacon Hadfield came up from Wellington. The House of Representatives being made aware of the strong views which he entertained on the subject of the Waitara purchase, examined him at the Bar of their House. Considering that on the 29th May he had committed himself to a public pledge that he was 'prepared to prove the falsity of all the statements,' his evidence at the bar in August, when he had had so much time to complete his case, should have been clear, definite, and conclusive'."

Hadfield himself continues—"Mr. Richmond seems to have a peculiar logic of his own, which is not likely to find much acceptance with thinkers accustomed to the ordinary modes of reasoning. If I understand him, his argument is this—that as I pledged myself in May, here, where evidence can be obtained, to prove that certair statements were false, therefore my own evidence in August ought to have been clear, definite, and conclusive. This sort of reasoning may be very satisfactory, and apparently is quite conclusive to Mr. Richmond; but it puts me in mind of Coleridge's ridicule of similar logic: 'The watchman cries, half-past three o'clock; therefore the great Cham of Tartary has a carbuncle on his nose.' What I pledged myself to do was to prove here, where evidence can be obtained, that the four propositions extracted from the official document alluded to, were false. What I promised in May I was quite ready to perform in August. Whose fault was it that evidence was not taken as to the cause and origin of the war? Was there any reluctance to obtain such evidence on the part of those members of the House whose opinions on these subjects were supposed to agree with mine? Who moved for a Committee of Inquiry? It can hardly be needful to answer these questions, or tell Mr. Richmond that it was the Ministry, who, having first professed to desire an investigation, voted against the motion for inquiry. In the Southern Cross, August 14, I see these words, 'They select Archdeacon Hadfield to give secondary evidence, but insist on precluding him from bringing up those who could give direct evidence to the same effect.' Mr. Richmond—the Maori Minister—the Member for New Plymouth— was very well aware of the weakness of their cause; and he knew that I could bring witnesses—witnesses, let it be remembered, some of whom were then in Auckland, and who are still available when the proper opportunity occurs,—to expose the injustice of their proceedings. . . .

page 104

My examination lasted four hours and a half. I was more than once cautioned by the Chairman that I spoke too rapidly for the reporters. About one-fourth part of what I said was taken down and committed to print. I make no complaint of the general drift of the printed evidence; I have no doubt that much actually uttered would have appeared in print to be mere surplusage; but when stress is laid on particular words and expressions, I must distinctly protest against the inferences intended to be drawn from these."

Richmond's "Memorandum" had been written in reply to Sir William Martin's "The Taranaki Question". Hadfield concluded his letter—"I abstain for the present from any general notice of this "Memorandum". I deliberately pronounce my opinion, formed from a tolerable acquaintance with the facts touched on, that it contains the most barefaced and disgraceful misstatements and misrepresentations that I ever saw. I can say nothing more condemnatory of a State Paper. I conclude with one word of advice to any one who, having read Sir W. Martin's pamphlet, thinks that its facts or arguments are in any way impugned or affected by this reply, that is—Read it again."

Sir William Martin, the Chief Justice, supported Hadfield's opinions very strongly in his "The Taranaki Question", and he included in it the three letters written to Hadfield by Wiremu Kingi Whiti. The Mr. Richmond was the same who many years later confessed to Hadfield that he had been misled in the Waitara affair. By then he was Judge Richmond, and Hadfield was Bishop, and their once bitter enmity had turned into close friendship through working together on various legal matters in the 1870's. Another example of this extreme outspokeness between men with little or no lasting personal acrimony was quoted by Archdeacon Monaghan in his book "From Age to Age". Amy Hadfield told him that she remembered going for a picnic in the Otaki Gorge at which both her father and Sir William Fox were present. And she remembered that they joked and talked like bosom friends when only a short time before they had been engaged in a violent controversy which Hadfield ended by saying—"Either his (Fox's) memory is on a par with his other intellectual faculties or the falsehood must be his."

A newspaper article printed when he resigned the Primacy dealt with the same subject. "The Primate sometimes expressed himself strongly in debate, but his words, though often trenchant and page 105 scathing enough, were attacks upon an argument, and not at all upon the person who put it forward. Intensely logical, he was intollerant of the illogical, and would sometimes fall upon it with a kind of intellectual impetuosity somewhat astonishing. This was purely an intellectual act, there was no personal feeling in it, any more than an attack on a mathematical proposition in an impersonal book; but this was not always perceived by the person whose argument he was tearing into shreds. It was delicious to hear him summing up the weak points in an argument. Few flaws escaped him; they were thrown into relief; and there were not many words to spare."

Apropos of the events described in this chapter, and of others still to come, the same article continued—"He has been absolutely fearless as regards popular opinion, and has stuck to what he felt to be right amidst much gross misrepresentation. Being of an exceptionally refined and sensitive nature, he must have felt it much, though he has never shown it. This is a point in character in an age when passing public opinion is too apt to be worshipped as an African Fetish. It is well to have a man or two among us when weathercocks are innumerable."

At Hadfield's four and a half hour session at the Bar of the. House in August 1860, he was asked 89 questions, already prepared and written out by Members. He himself had no notes. Reading of it in Appendix to the Journals, H of R, 1860, one finds all his answers straightforward and plainly intelligible, though occasionally some of them become fairly curt. It must have been a sore strain to his temper, and certainly it must have been an extremely wearying business.

Mrs. Abraham, commenting in a letter from Auckland on April 24, 1860, on the part being played by her husband and Hadfield in the dispute raging on the Waitara war, wrote—"the Archdeacon is so vehement that C.J.W. has to hold him back." C.J.W. was Bishop Abraham.

Lady Martin, wife of Sir William Martin, writing from Auckland also on August 28, 1860, gave further corroboration of his strong feelings in the matter. "The paper's assertion that he (Hadfield) is fitted for the cloister rather than the world is not worded by anyone who really knows that fiery spirit; we never saw him so well as now that he has donned his armour for the battle."

page 106

One of the last questions at the Bar was—"Have you any influence with the Maoris in your neighbourhood in guiding the formation of their opinions on secular not on religious matters?" To which Hadfield replied—"I am not aware that I have any influence whatever on the subject."

At the end of Richmond's pamphlet were some 'Miscellaneous Papers,' including a letter from Mr. McLean, head of the Land Purchasing Department. This letter accused Hadfield of instructing the Maoris not to sell their land to the Government, and of influencing their minds in this matter. Writing of this to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in letters published in the N.Z Spectator in February, 1861, and in his own pamphlet "The Second Year of One of England's Little Wars," Hadfield declared—"I now state most distinctly and unequivocally, that I have never, since New Zealand became a British colony, either directly or indirectly advised, or in any way endeavoured to influence, any Maori, or party of Maoris, not to sell their lands to the Government: and that Mr. McLean's statement is a falsehood, and one, I regret to say, which the many opportunities that have occurred for explanation, render wholly inexcusable. It is frequently said that I have great influence with Maoris. Whatever the amount of my influence with them may be, it is in a great measure traceable to my systematic and rigid abstinence, during a long course of years, from any interference with their affairs or proceedings where no religious or moral consideration was involved. Whenever, therefore, I have interfered, the Maoris have been convinced that some such principle was involved. An instance in point was my effective resistance of the Maori King movement in this district in May last, which the Government had made no effort to check. I then enforced only one single principle, namely, that a treaty made twenty years ago is not now open to reconsideration."