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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While in England Bishop Abraham decided to accept a post at Lichfield with his old friend Bishop Selwyn. Hadfield was again asked to become Bishop of Wellington, and this time he assented. On October 9, 1870, he was consecrated in St. Paul's by Bishop Harper, the Primate of New Zealand. Many people, for various reasons, had felt it was high time Hadfield was removed from the coast and from his essentially strong sphere of Maori influence there. The Evening Post, writing before the consecration, on June 11, declared—"Apart from his unfortunate Maori proclivities, the Bishop-elect is a most estimable man."

Writing to his sister Amelia on February 1, 1869, just after he had moved into Wellington, and while he was only acting as Commissary for Bishop Abraham and was expecting to return to Otaki at the end of the year, he commented—"Strange to say I am doing a little in Wellington among the English. Many people fancied that the line I had taken in reference to Maoris would have prevented my having any influence with the English: but I find people very civil, and my sermons are valued more than I think they deserve. This may result in good, and I may perhaps obtain sympathy and co-operation in my Maori plans."

During all of his Bishopric Hadfield kept in touch with the Maoris of Otaki and other places and especially he gave all the help he could to the Maori clergy, but on outside matters he tried hard to hold his peace. In fact, almost three years before he became Bishop he wrote to Charles on December 3, 1867—"I have had my say. I very seldom speak or write now." The Marlborough Press, writing on December 14, 1904, after his death, stated—"We have heard it said that he was appointed on the distinct private understanding that he was henceforward to eschew politics. For those were days in which on Maori questions, feelings ran high, and Archdeacon Hadfield—a strenuous fighter always for what he deemed right—had had some stubborn passages of arms with Cabinet Ministers and Governors. As Bishop he did eschew politics."

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He makes mention of the Cabinet Ministers in a letter to his sister, Amelia, on July 30, 1860, while he was in Auckland waiting to appear at the Bar of the House. "A month ago I had the honour to be the most unpopular man in N.Z.; but I find there is a reaction: even the Prime Minister today stepped out of his way to shake hands with me, and the Speaker of the Legislative Council left his card for me."

And just nine years later, on June 10, 1869, during this first year in Wellington, he wrote to another sister, Maria—"Just now the New Zealand Parliament is sitting. Some of the members consult me when they are in difficulties: but I am thoroughly tired of giving my opinion about any colonial matters. They now see that many of my predictions have come true."

Wellington was growing rapidly at this time. A town of some 12,000 people, there were many shops and houses, offices and schools, ships in and out of the busy harbour. As Bishop, Hadfield still had much travelling around the province. At home, social obligations became a part of the day's work. Writing to Charles on May 10, 1869, this over a year before he became Bishop, he described a social function. "I do not think I have written since the Duke of Edinburgh was here. I met him at dinner at Government House the day he arrived. He talked to me a little about Maoris. I was pleased with him. It was rather amusing (after being regarded as a rebel) to be invited to a select party (only Cabinet Ministers and Mr. Superintendant and the naval Captains besides me) by the Governor. However as you may imagine I was not much elated."

An Education Act was passed in 1877, making schooling free, secular and compulsory. Hadfield bitterly opposed the omission of religion, but the feeling of rationalism abroad in the country carried the day. Speaking to his Synod on the matter he stated—"I will merely impress upon you that the duty of the Church must ever remain the same, which is to afford a religious education to all who have been admitted into it by Holy Baptism. . . . There is no intermediate position between religious education and irreligious education. . . . But the time cannot be far distant when the flagrant injustice of what is now proposed will be self evident to every careful thinker that the law if enacted will have to be repealed. Take for instance the case of Roman Catholics alone. Whatever may be now thought, it cannot long be deemed just or fair to tax them for the support of what they cannot conscientiously avail themselves of."

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As he read of the final passing of the Act he must have thought of the time some twenty years before when he and many others had attended a wordy and heated public meeting, lasting through several weary nights, to discuss this matter of education. It had taken a long time for the Act to reach its conclusion. It was after the passing of this Education Act that Hadfield began his fight to save Wanganui Collegiate School from being taken over by the State.

An article on The Diocesan Synod gives a pen portrait of Hadfield at this time, when he was deeply involved in the subject of education. It reads—"We extract the following from notes on the Synod, supplied to the Herald by a correspondent: I will not touch the merits of the subject (education) further than to say that the Bishop is getting it hot for his speech as reported. One cannot but admire my lord of Wellington. He is a fearless man who tones not one of his public utterances to meet public or private tastes; public opinion is not a feather to him. What a grand soldier he would have made; straight as an arrow he walks the street. Somewhat reserved to strangers, but in his house and amongst his family the kindest and most considerate of men or fathers. Little perhaps of the present world's life and thought remains or fixes itself in his mind, but the Classics or the fathers of the Anglican Church are stored there by volumes. The Old Testament, especially the New Testament in its Greek original, is embossed on his soul and intellect. If a Scriptural quotation by cleric or layman is used in a flimsy manner in argument, how pointedly he takes the speaker down, and the Synod back to the vitals of the question. What a power of analysis he has got, and what a grasp of logic his mind has, and how, in summing up, he, by the purest laws of logic, turns the rhetorical argument to disprove the position of a careless speaker. He is somewhat emotional at times, and may be carried away by his want of sympathy for modern movements, and where he is weak is that he would cut down what he does not believe in, instead of guiding what is good in it on an upward and onward career. He is a very much misunderstood man, and it's a pity the newspaper press write in the bitter strain which many of them do. His life of self-devotion and retirement amongst the Maoris may have blunted him to much that is modern; but no shadow has ever swept across his moral character; others might fatten and prepare for the future, but this noble high-souled churchman is untainted. Then he is a page 120 high caste Englishman which of itself is almost a sin to us democrats of to-day. All the same, failings or no failings, his nature and character lean to the side of virtue and chivalry, and really after all he only desires that our children be instructed in conscience, in soul, and in reverence, equivalent to the instruction and education of intellect."

His fearlessness was discussed in another article in the Evening Press, May 1, 1893, on his resignation. "Despite the narrow-minded and spiteful criticisms which have from time to time been published in the leading columns of the Post, Bishop Hadfield is regarded throughout the Wellington provincial district, by people of all denominations, as a singularly able, a singularly conscientious, and a singularly fearless man. His missionary life amongst the Maoris in the earliest days of New Zealand's colonisation presents a noble example of self-denying zeal, such as would do honour to any Church. He carried into the high office of Bishop the same spirit which actuated him as a missionary. He had had as his motto Duty, and he went fearlessly forward in the performance of it, regardless of the consequences to himself. As the Church Chronicle truly observes, 'A Bishop must be above popularity, and above caring for the voice of popular opinion. He is called to be a leader and ruler of men in the Church of God. He should be absolutely fearless and impartial'. This is a high standard, but it is a just one, and measured by it Bishop Hadfield must be admitted by all unbiassed critics to have faithfully fulfilled his part, whether as Bishop of Wellington or Primate of New Zealand. It would have been far easier for him to have aimed at a lower ideal, to have sacrificed duty to popularity by putting on the suave and smug manner, after the fashion of those who are all things to all men; but such an ignoble course was abhorrent to the nature of the man. A ripe scholar, thoroughly conversant with ecclesiastical law, and exceptionally well versed in the history and principles of the Primitive Church, endowed with a logical mind of remarkable acuteness, his retirement will be a grievous loss not only to the diocese of Wellington, but to the whole Anglican Church of New Zealand. Needless to add, he will carry with him, into his retirement, the heartfelt wishes not only of Anglicans, but of people of all denominations who know him, that he may be spared to enjoy for many years the leisure which he has earned by upwards of half a century of arduous and unremitting labour, prosecuted with a courage and a singleness of purpose to which New Zealand can furnish few parallels."

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His outspokeness has been thoroughly discussed, but two extracts from his own letters make further mention of it. Writing back in 1853 to his sister Amelia on July 2, he told her that Gibbon Wakefield, of whom he had a very low opinion, was in Wellington. "I believe I am to see him on Monday," he wrote. "His son called on me yesterday and said his father wished to talk with me on some matters, so I could not refuse. I am afraid of him, as I am very likely a year hence to see something stated as my opinion which may be only a perversion of something I have said. I shall be on my guard; but this is difficult, as according to my friend Mr. Godley, with the exception of the Bishop I am the most free spoken person in N.Z." This must surely be the only time Hadfield ever wrote that he was afraid.

Twelve years later, on May 10, 1865, he wrote to his sister Octavia that Bishop Selwyn and Sir William Martin and their wives had tried hard to persuade him to attend Synod in Christ-church with them. He had been ill at the time and he did not go, in spite of Mrs. Selwyn and Lady Martin assuring him that they would look after him. "There was important business," he wrote, "and they were anxious for my aid as I am supposed to be available to say the hard disagreeable things that have to be said."

A further reference to his Synod days was printed in another article on his resignation. "As has been said, the Primate from the first has had great influence in both the General and Diocesan Synod. Somewhat wanting in the constructive faculty, as a debater he had always been facile princeps in the one, and has had few equals in the other. There are few Canons or Acts of any moment that have not the stamp of his impress. The Amended Parish Act is a marked exception. But it was passed in a General Synod held at Christchurch when both Bishop Selwyn and Archdeacon Hadfield were unavoidably absent. Archdeacon Hadfield stayed behind at Dr. Featherston's request, who feared a Maori rising, and wanted Archdeacon Hadfield's influence to prevent it. The result was the passing of a measure which has greatly crippled the Bishop's usefulness as chief pastor of this diocese."

Having had a very large part in forming the New Zealand Church Constitution, Hadfield was never pleased if he found any sign of attempted domination by the Mother Church in England. Addressing Synod on one occasion he announced—"It would be wise on the part of the Churchmen in England, as well as statesmen, page 122 if they would desist from using language in reference to the colonies which, though utterly impotent and meaningless for any practical purpose, is nevertheless, to say the least, more or less offensive."

Another time, after an opinion expressed by the committee of a Lambeth Conference on the subject of archbishops in the colonies had been subsequently criticised and condemned by English lawyers, he was roused to ask—"Are these lawyers not aware that English Ecclestiastical Law does not extent to the colonies, and that any opinion they may express on the subject carries no weight with churchmen here? There can be no doubt that it is competent to the synod of this province to decide this question without reference to any external authority."

Twice he corrected Bishop Selwyn, then Bishop of Lichfield in England, on matters concerning the New Zealand Church Constitution. Archdeacon H. W. Monaghan in "From Age to Age", after mentioning these two occasions, comments—"It is interesting to see Hadfield putting the Bishop of Lichfield right in matters concerning a constitution for which he is honoured as the author."

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James McWilliam, the man who had taken Hadfield's place at Otaki, wrote often to his Bishop. "The Maoris will not cut the grass in the graveyard," he reported, "and they will not let me put sheep in for fear I should sell them to the butcher and they might eat them. In the summer the grass was as dry as tinder and a danger to all the buildings. So I put in the horses, and now I hear some of the people have written to you complaining. I am very vexed with them. Would you please let me know their names and I shall call them together and give them a little of my mind."

"A Native Land Court opens tomorrow, and will bring no doubt its usual discords and evils."

"I have had a great deal of trouble in getting the piles for the repair of the schoolroom as the man who was to supply them was sent to jail for a month."

"A man styling himself a prophet has been going around this district. He pretends to have power to cure diseases and remove old tapus, stock the bush with birds and the lakes with eels. He is doing a deal of mischief. He has not been very fortunate yet in curing the sick—several have died soon after going to him."

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"The Maoris here have started a brass band and they now wish to know if they could not lead the singing with it in church. I said I never heard of a brass band and drums leading the singing in church, but promised to ask you."

These letters must have provided both amusement and nostalgia for the Hadfield family. Apart from this frequent correspondence Hadfield visited his Maori friends in Otaki often, and if possible always attended Maori Mission Sunday there. On one of these, in a sermon preached in Rangiatea and quoted in "Maoris of By-Gone Days", he referred to the early days on the coast. "I will venture this morning to depart from my usual custom, and ask you to let me direct your thoughts for a few minutes to what the state of the Maoris of these islands really was only a very few years ago—I mean within the memory of many now living. It is true these people had some good qualities. There was nothing mean or cowardly about them: they were independent and self-reliant. They were, however, under the influence of degrading superstitions. They were cannibals. They maintained slavery in its most abject form: the life of a slave was entirely at the mercy of his master. I have known a slave killed, almost before my own eyes—killed for the most trifling offence, and this without exciting any indignation. Infanticide, when I first came among them, was practised by parents apparently without any feeling of compunction whatever. I have known a newly-born infant to be buried alive by its parents. Human life was not valued very highly. My own life was once attempted by an enraged chief. . . . This very chief, a man who had been long noted for his reckless and violent conduct, who would have taken my life without hesitation, subsequently became a devout Christian, not only helping me by his influence with his people, but becoming a regular attendant at church and at the Holy Communion. . . .

It would require but little effort of memory on my part to recall many, very many instances of similar faith in Christ having produced marvellous and lasting effects on the lives of converted Maoris belonging to that class of men and women apparently the most hardened. But it is needless to do so. I would rather confine myself to saying, that in hundreds of instances, I have known converts whose faith, and general consistency of life to the last, have satisfied me that their religion was the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. But perhaps a fact, which ought to speak for itself is, that the work of the Church among the Maoris of this diocese is—with the excep- page 124 tion of two English clergymen—entirely carried on by the ministrations of Maori deacons and lay readers; the former, whose whole time is given to their work, receive small stipends, the lay readers look for none.

I sometimes wonder why so little interest is taken in the Maori church. It ought to be regarded as a special sphere of work provided in God's providence for us who dwell in this country. . . . There is a want of intellectual apprehension of the vast difference that necessarily exists between the civilised man, brought up among a people who have been for many generations civilised and Christian, and those who, however sincere in their religion, still bear about them the marks of that barbarism and that heathenism which they have inherited from a long line of ancestors, and from which it is so difficult to divest themselves. But the Christian should endeavour to overcome such prejudice, and to emancipate himself from its deadening influence. Englishmen are apt to speak of these people as men of an inferior race, unfitted for civilisation, forgetting that a Greek—Aristotle, for instance—spoke in the same contemptuous way of the race from which we have sprung, as irreclaimable barbarians. I sometimes think we should have more respect for the Christianity of this Maori people, if we were better acquainted with what is actually recorded in history of its slow progress, and very slight influence on the lives of our forefathers before the conquest. . . . There can be no doubt whatever that the Hauhau superstition, which took possession of a large number of the Maoris, was a direct result of the war with them: it was an attempt on their part to have a religion which should be independent of the white man. It is fast dying out; but it has left evils which ought to be met and dealt with, and now can be met and remedied, unless by delay we lose the opportunity."

Hadfield wrote further on the early Maori as he had known him in "Maoris of By-Gone Days", in an article on Aperahama Te Ruru, the chief of Ngatihuia, who lived at the mouth of the Otaki river. "The most striking peculiarity of the race, which no careful observer could fail to notice, is the very great variety which is found even among the members of a small tribe. Each man thinks for himself. This may account for their courage, their self-reliance, and their independence; all these were remarkable in this chief of Ngatihuia. There is another feature of their character which is rare among savages, and which has been overlooked by many who have page 125 written of them; I allude to the fact that they were not a revengeful people. I am aware that the contrary to this has been very frequently asserted and commonly taken for granted. Their many savage tendencies had, indeed, under excitement, full scope in their wars. But when peace was once concluded revenge did not rankle in their breasts. They met their former enemies on good terms until some new cause of quarrel occurred. ... It is not my intention to do more than mark one other characteristic of the race which was very prominent in Aperahama, and which afforded me the greatest encouragement in my work, supplying as it did a basis on which to build in giving religious instruction; I mean the existence of a sensitive conscience. I do not wish to be understood as suggesting that conscience is not universal in man. But persons well acquainted with Asiatic races, especially those of India, inform us that these will tell a falsehood quite as readily as speak the truth whenever they think it may suit their purpose, and are unabashed when the falsehood is detected. This was not the case with the Maori when I first became acquainted with him. He was far too courageous and independent to tell a lie. Forty years ago both Chief Justice Stephen and Mr. St. Hill, the Wellington Magistrate, told me that they had never known a Maori wilfully deviate from the truth in any evidence they had given in court. Here I may mention this remarkable fact, that Maketu, the first Maori who was tried for murder, declined to plead 'not guilty' in court, until it was explained to him that it was necessary that he should do so to allow the proceedings of the court to go on. I am quite aware that this is all changed now. They have learnt in the Native Land Courts that those who can tell the most bare-faced lies often obtained the largest awards of land." Hadfield could not resist a crack here about the Land Courts which he had always abhorred.

His article continues—"My attention was called to the fact that Maoris had sensitive consciences, and were well aware that there was a distinction between right and wrong, by Mr. Brown, a man of considerable talent who kept a store on a small island within a few fathoms of Kapiti, before the Government was established in this country. He was a phrenologist and professed to base his opinion on an examination of their heads. I was glad to have an opinion I had already formed fortified by his, but I valued it from a different reason from that which he assigned to it. He was dealing extensively with them, and gave many of them credit in perfect confidence page 126 that they would always fulfil what they promised. Their honesty in dealing which he asserted, supported by the fact that he was carrying on a lucrative business, was more convincing to me than his phrenological examinations."

Delivering a lecture on the human conscience once, Hadfield described conscience as 'a state of the human soul indicating a disagreement between the will and the law of right within, which has no office beyond the region of the individual himself.'

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Hadfield travelled extensively around his diocese during his years as Bishop, often being away from home for several weeks at a time. When he was at home he read as much as he could find time for, and wrote his sermons, a task he never enjoyed. By his own words he never enjoyed writing, though in his time he must have penned many thousands of words. Kate Hadfield and her daughters organised bazaars and ran the household and entertained many visitors. Maori friends from Otaki, when visiting Wellington, often arrived at Bishopscourt with gifts of kumara and corn from their gardens.

Kate, paying a visit to Otaki with a small daughter in 1872, had a frightening experience when the coach capsized in the Waikanae river. "Morgan was impatient to get on and tried to cross at high tide," she wrote to her son Henry. "And then the bank was very steep and instead of driving straight down he went slanting and upset us in a moment right into deep water. ... I had hold of the side of the coach, so when it went over I still kept hold and that kept my head out of water; and with the other I held Amy up. . . . There was only a little hole at the back for us to creep out at. . . . They said it looked awful from the shore, for they knew the coach was full of people and yet they could see nothing but the top out of the water, until we crept out one by one. . . Every single thing we had was soaked in salt water and had to be washed the next day."

In 1879 the Hadfield family moved to Wanganui for six months while a new Bishopscourt was being built. And during that same year Kate and two daughters travelled to the Bay of Islands for a large Williams family gathering to see the unveiling of a monument to Henry Williams erected by both the European and the Maori population.

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In 1884, after fifteen years of town life, Kate and Octavius Hadfield made another visit to England, leaving their family behind. One son, Ernest, was already in England, just out of school and preparing to enter Cambridge University. They stayed once again at the Isle of Wight, although they did visit friends and relations in many parts of England. Kate especially went sight-seeing and visiting quite extensively, and loved it all. Octavius was asked to preach in cathedrals and to lunch with the Lord Mayor, but he had come to see his family and to rest, and he refused all invitations. He was seventy now, and it was unlikely there would be another meeting between him and those of his brothers and sisters who were still alive. Charles and his wife were still there, and another brother, Henry, with whom Kate and Octavius stayed at Ventnor.

Octavius Hadfield did spend some time in London, subpoenad to give evidence in a libel case brought by Mr. Bryce, Minister for Maori Affairs from 1879-1884, against Mr. Rusden, the author of "History of New Zealand". Part of Rusden's information on Bryce's early life was said to have come, either directly or indirectly, from Hadfield, and in the court case the last mentioned gave evidence on behalf of Rusden. However, Bryce won the case, and some of Hadfield's statements in court were widely criticised in the English press.

In the northern autumn of 1884 the Hadfields sailed from England for the last time on the long voyage home.