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Octavius Hadfield

Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to his father August 1, 1846

To his father.

Till lately, when unable to control my wandering thoughts, I occasionally ventured to wonder why I was permitted to live on in apparent uselessness; but during recent troubles here, I have been unable to shut my eyes to the fact that affairs here would have taken a very serious turn had I not been able to give the Governor accurate information concerning the natives of this part of the country, and also represent the measures and motives of Government in their true light to the natives, being the only person in whom a large body of them have entire confidence. Since I last wrote several murders have been committed in this neighbourhood by a band of vagabonds page 189 —outcasts from various tribes amounting to about 150 under the notorious savage Te Rangihaeata. The indignation manifested by the natives (i.e. nine tenths of them) of this part of the country at their conduct is very satisfactory and must be regarded as a prelude to more advanced civilisation. The only evil attending it is, that the Government here being weak, many of them have volunteered their assistance to put down the rebels and have been armed for that purpose. Though they have shown the best feeling in thus coming forward to assist the settlers and Government, my fear is that a taste for war may be revived and their recent peaceful habits be interrupted. It is however a great point gained and one for which perhaps a little present good may be sacrificed, to get them to acknowledge the importance of lending their assistance to put down disturbers of the public peace and to establish law and order.

The Governor has apprehended Te Rauparaha and several others on suspicion of being favourable to die rebels. This step will produce either a very good or a very bad effect according to their guilt or innocence. I have felt some satisfaction in being able to assist the Governor with my advice as he appears a man sincerely intent upon doing what is right. He is a clever man, but fails rather in clearly seeing his object and making every step he takes tend towards it—he wants firmness and determination. He has been in this part of die country for the last month, and he comes to me almost every day that he is in Wellington to ask for my advice in some matter concerning the natives, and as he almost invariably acts upon advice I give him I feel a degree of responsibility which is rather too much for my state of health. I am thankful that hitherto I have not had to regret any advice I have given.

The Governor told me that he landed at Waikanae last Sunday and attended divine service there; he added that the impression made on his own mind by what he saw there was such as to convince him that the effect produced by Christianity and civilisation on these people was greater than any that had been produced in any part of the world within the range of his information. He was especially struck with the fact that three days after apprehending a very important chief he could go almost alone and unarmed among four or five hundred men and kneel with them in worshipping in the same house of prayer without the slightest disturbance. As he is a man of extensive reading, and who has been much among aboriginal people, his opinion is of some value, and I confess I feel somewhat gratified by it.

Some months ago I mentioned that I had been writing a few remarks upon native usages and customs in reference to land use, and also as to the best mode of civilising and governing the natives. Though these remarks were very short, the Governor was much pleased with them, and as the twoi Judges thought highly of them, he has sent diem to die Colonial Office. They were likely to correct some erroneous ideas, and to furnish some new ones, and thus to do some good; but had I expected that they would have been thought so valuable I would have worked out the subject better. I trust diat our present disturbances here will soon end, but I am by no means certain that they will.