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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By the end of 1844 Octavius Hadfield was too ill to carry on his work, and he was carried in a litter by some of his Maoris to Wellington. So began his long sojourn in bed at the home of the St. Hills. It was indeed regarded as his deathbed. Quite early in his illness Bishop Selwyn wrote to a friend—"I fear our dear friend Mr. Hadfield will have passed away by the time this letter reaches you." In another he actually remarks that he must get back for "poor Hadfield's funeral."

To move forward to his actual death, some 60 years later, the Marlborough Press, in an obituary dated December 14, 1904, after commenting on this illness, continued—"But Mr. Hadfield's grip on life was most tenacious. Illnesses that would have killed another could not kill him. More than once since then has he been given up by the physicians, but he simply wouldn't die. An intimate friend remarked on one occasion, as the result of former experiences, that he never would believe Bishop Hadfield was dead until he heard the earth drop on his coffin without remonstrance from within."

He was desperately ill, and in great pain, but he did not die. His role during these years was more that of statesman than missionary. He was consistently consulted on the affairs of the country by the leading men of the land, including the Governor. Sir George Grey was the third governor to rule the country, and was proving stronger than his predecessors in handling the affairs of this young colony. When in Wellington he paid frequent visits to Hadfield's bedside, learning from his wide knowledge of the country and its people, and seeking advice.

Bishop Selwyn, whenever he visited Wellington, was constantly with him, and at each visit seemed continually surprised to find Hadfield still alive. From his bed he seemed to be aware of the pulse of the whole country, feeling any change in temperature, any deviation from normal. The Rev. Cotton, Bishop Selwyn's secretary, wrote a letter on December 8, 1846, during a visit to Wellington. "On Tuesday I went to Mrs. St. Hill's, whom you may remember I liked so much on my former visit. Mr. Hadfield is still the inmate page 52 of her home and she is as kind and attentive to him as if he were her brother. . . . His influence is greater than can be expressed. He does more to preserve the peace of this district than all the soldiers, etc. Though his body is weak, his tongue is sound, as the Maoris say, and he hears through his Maori teachers who continually visit him all that is going on among the Maoris, and the mere fact of his presence in Wellington has, as I have heard from several parties, more than once prevented an attack on the town."

As Hadfield gradually regained a little strength he wrote many articles and letters, he compiled a new edition of the Maori Catechism, and he read and read and read. Bishop Selwyn, Sir George Grey, William Martin, Henry St. Hill and any others who possessed libraries were kept constantly busy trying to provide Octavius Hadfield with an endless supply of books. Especially he read of metaphysics. In a newspaper article when he resigned the Primacy at the age of 80 it stated—"Metaphysics has always been his passion, and among metaphysicians he has looked perhaps on Dean Mansel as chief master, though he is familiar with most authorities in that department from Hobbs to John Stuart Mill, and could possibly, even now, give an accurate analysis of Kant's 'Critique of the Pure Reason', if any one among us had sufficient learning and ability to understand it."

He spent much time on the questions of land titles. Land titles were making grey-haired men of those trying to deal with them. The pre-emption clause of the Treaty of Waitangi, whereby only agents of the crown could buy the land, was causing headaches amongst both pakeha and Maori. The Government agents were buying whole districts at a time, paying little and leaving the Maoris without land on which to live, and causing the settlers much dissatisfaction at the greatly increased price at which it was then passed on to them. Often too the settlers did not get the land they had chosen. Apart from that the intricate pattern of Maori ownership of the land was headache enough. The Maori lived a communal life; the tribe, not the individual, owned the land. Therefore, before the land could be bought, the assent of dozens, or perhaps hundreds of people had to be obtained by the already harassed official.

In the meantime there were many troublous happenings in the country. In the north a chief named Hone Heke was causing endless trouble at Kororareka, persisting in warlike activities and abuse of page 53 the pakeha. Heke's grievance was that the flagstaff at Kororareka was the symbol of the slavery of the Maori people to England; he also insisted that since the seat of government had moved to Auckland, trade and commerce had also moved with it, leaving the Bay of Islands a virtual backwater. This last was fairly true and the Bay of Islands is still a virtual backwater today, except in the holiday season and apart from its fishing fame and citrus growing. Heke's actions in repeatedly cutting down the flagstaff did not remedy the matter. It did cause unpleasant nuisance value though, and eventually loss of life. Having cut down the flagstaff four times, Heke then attacked Kororareka, killing the soldiers in the blockhouse and driving the inhabitants from the settlement. Having established authority in the place, Heke then allowed the people to come and collect their possessions from their homes, his men even assisting in carrying goods to the boats. Later Hone Heke was brought to heel by the military and life became more settled again. But to Henry Williams in particular, and to other missionaries in the area, it was an unhappy time.

Around Wellington things also were unsettled. A Maori, sentenced to ten years transportation to Tasmania for robbery, was eventually reprieved from this sentence largely through the efforts of Octavius Hadfield, fighting from his sick-bed on having discovered that the man was innocent. Two white men were murdered by Maoris, and although the authorities knew the murderers, the latter had retreated to their tribe, who would not surrender them. This was followed by another murder, and then another. The European population was apprehensive and afraid to move. There was no armed force at this time capable of holding the Maoris if full scale trouble should ensue, therefore the authorities had to deal warily in these touchy problems. Rangihaeata, that savage and arrogant chief, whose supreme contempt and hatred for the pakeha he took no pains to conceal, was the leader of this murdering, harassing band of dissatisfied Maoris.

Up the coast, even as far as Wanganui, there were murmurs of unrest. Te Rauparaha, most people concluded, must be behind it all; guilty or innocent, his reputation and past history were enough to make guilt quite legitimate. The Governor realised that one way or another his absence would stay the hands of any war-mongering parties in the district, particularly those of his devoted nephew Rangihaeata.

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And so it came about that one morning in 1846, before daylight, the Governor sailed in past Mana Island with two navy ships. He then despatched a party of sailors ashore who, helped by soldiers from the nearby camp at Porirua, raided the pa where Rauparaha was living at the time, and disturbing his sleep seized him, kicking and biting, and hastily bundled him into a boat and out to the waiting ships. It was all done so quickly that the Maoris had no time to rally their forces. When they fully realised what had happened their chief was away out to sea.

The ships sailed to Kapiti. Rauparaha, helpless and inactive, gazed from the decks at his former home as they passed between the island and the mainland, over waters on which he had so often travelled in his own war canoes. The ship eventually sailed on, passed Taranaki where the old chief had rested and fought and manoeuvred his way south years before; passed Kawhia, the place of his birth, and round the North Cape.

Auckland must have seemed a bustling place to Te Rauparaha after his homes in the south. Although he had lived so near to Wellington he had very seldom ever approached that town. Now he was treated, to his surprise, as an honoured guest, though a captive one. He was allowed to live with his kinsman, Te Wherowhero, renowned chief of a huge and strong tribe in the valuable lands of the Waikato, who vouched for the good behaviour of his guest. Te Wherowhero was being wooed by Governor Grey at this time on account of the above mentioned valuable lands of the Waikato, and was living a life of ease in Auckland on his bounty, provided with a comfortable house.

The months passed; Rauparaha behaved well, and away to the south Rangihaeata, shocked and dismayed at the capture of his uncle, curbed his bitter hatred of the white man and settled down to wait for his return. It was quite a long wait, almost eighteen months, before the Governor, having never brought Rauparaha to trial on any charge, returned him to his own part of the country. In "Maoris of By-Gone Days" Hadfield commented on this episode—"Some years later Sir George Grey who had ascertained that his sympathy with his nephew Te Rangihaeata, who was in open rebellion, had become dangerous, apprehended and detained him on board a man-of-war. He did not resent this, as he knew it had saved him and his people from trouble."

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It was a big moment for the old chief when the ship anchored off Otaki beach and he was rowed ashore on his return. Hundreds upon hundreds of tribesmen had gathered to welcome him. Rangihaeata, tall and handsome, magnificent in the finest ceremonial robes, huia feathers in his hair, stood near the forefront of this sreat crowd. Thomas Bevan in "Reminiscences of an Old Colonist" stated that he witnessed this scene. "A British man-of-war hove in sight and anchored off the mouth of the Otaki river, boats were lowered therefrom, officers, soldiers and marines, in gorgeous uniforms filled them, and as they neared the shore Te Rauparaha stood proudly amongst them, attired in an admiral's uniform and carrying a sword. He was accompanied by Governor Grey and the commander of the warship. Maoris lined the shores and gave their chief a right royal welcome home. The very earth trembled with the stamping of thousands of dusky warriors' feet."

Extracts from Hadfield's letters during these years mention some of these happenings in the country. One, dated April 13, 1846, to his family, stated—"The rebellion at the North has been quelled but affairs there are not settled on a very firm basis in my opinion at least. Down here affairs are far from settled. Two whites were murdered by two Maoris here about ten days ago."

On August 1, 1846, he wrote—"Affairs here would have taken a very serious turn had I not been able to give the Governor accurate information concerning the Maoris of this part of the country. . . . Since I last wrote several murders have been committed in this neighbourhood by a band of vagabonds—outcasts from various tribes amounting to about 150 under the notorious savage Te Rangihaeata. . . . The Government has apprehended Te Rauparaha and several others on suspicion of being favourable to the rebels. ... I have felt some satisfaction in being able to assist the Governor widi my advice as he appears a man sincerely intent upon doing what is right. . . . He has been in this part of the country for the last month, and he comes to me almost every day that he is in Wellington to ask my advice in some matter concerning the Maoris, 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 I have not hitherto 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 page 56 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 worship ping in the same house of prayer without the slightest disturbance.' Writing on the 10th September to another member of the family he referred again to the Governor's visit to Waikanae. "It is highly gratifying to me to perceive that those who have been brought to appreciate Christianity through my instrumentality have stood firm in the hour of trial and have not only surpassed my most sanguine expectations, but have quite astonished the Governor and all those likewise who had previously, from ignorance, undervalued the improvement that had taken place among them. . . . There is one young man who constantly attended my instructions from my first arrival at Waikanae, his name is Riwai Te Ahu, I may have mentioned him before, he perfectly astonished all those who are able to appreciate such a character. I confess I never saw a young man of any nation who combined every good and amiable quality with so much intelligence and energy as he does—he is beloved and respected by those settlers who know him and by all the Maoris oi this district. The Governor attended service at Waikanae, and as Mr. Govett was absent, Riwai read prayers, etc. There were about 500 Maoris present and he represented it as the most delightful thing he had ever seen. He saw that they had no means of regulating the hour for Church service and so he took off Ins own watch and gave it to Riwai, he also gave him a beautiful writing desk. Afterwards, finding that they had grown more wheat than they were able to grind he sent them six good steel mills and then promised in the course of ten months to go and stay a week with them to see how he could benefit them. He has behaved in the kindest manner to me, listening to every suggestion I make and thanking me most strongly for the information and advice which my residence in this country had enabled me to give him. Moreover confessing most frankly that I had kept him from falling into errors by correcting the misrepresentations of parties here on his arrival. . . . My dear friends here continue to attend me with their usual kindness, they are indeed delightful persons."

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Hadfield's work on the coast was being continued during his illness. In Waikanae a Mr. Govett was appointed in 1845 to fill his place, and in 1848 Sam Williams, a son of Henry, arrived to take charge of the district. He and his wife, Mary, lived in Hadfield's Otaki house.

Writing to his father on October 21, 1847, he mentioned the latter appointment. "Mr. Samuel Williams, a son of the elder Williams, who was ordained about a year ago, has been appointed to Otaki and Waikanae permanently. I am very well satisfied with the appointment and in fact did what I could to bring it about as he is a very pious and sincere and hardworking man, and having been brought up in the country is thoroughly conversant with the language and is thus a very efficient missionary. The Maoris of those places are delighted with the arrangement. I remain much in the same state as I have been. Mr. and Mrs. St. Hill are as kind and affectionate as ever. I read a great deal and write as much as the inconvenience of writing in bed will permit. I have lately been bringing out a new edition of some Maori Catechism which I have almost made a new work, it occupied me some weeks—the Maoris are delighted with it."

In April, 1848, the majority of the Ngatiawa tribe living at Waikanae left there to return to their former home near Waitara which they had left in 1827. There were too many settlers occupying the coast round Waikanae now, and, more disturbing still, there were reports of surveying in Taranaki on the land the tribe still owned there. Possession seemed the only course. "Land," Te Rauparaha had said at the start of his recital to Governor Fitzroy after the Wairau affair, "is the foundation of all our troubles." And land was to be the trouble of Wiremu Kingi Whiti at Waitara.

Hadfield wrote in a letter that month—"I must now tell you something of my old friends the Waikanae Maoris. Through a series of blunders on the part of those concerned in carrying on the subordinate arrangements of the Government, there have been some disputes about land; the result is that last week 200 men with their families left in their canoes to return to Taranaki. ... I think the Government will have cause to regret it by and by." These last words were prophetic—both the Government and Hadfield himself were to become deeply involved in the dispute and subsequent war leading from this event.

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So the men, women and children travelled north up the coast, some in canoes and some driving their stock along the beaches. And the once large and lively pa, and the church of which the tribe had been so proud, began their swift descent into oblivion. Riwai Te Ahu stayed, faithfully attempting to keep his congregation and schools together, though little was left of them, and to preserve the church from the pressure of drifting sand which was threatening to engulf it. Hadfield's house was occupied by a young army officer stationed there, but it also wore a dejected air. The noise and the action were gone, the greatness was gone, and the shifting sand was blown a little higher every day.

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Te Rauparaha was returned to his people at Otaki in January, 1848, three months before Wiremu Kingi led his people north. Sam Williams had just arrived, and it was these two who set about the construction of Rangiatea with the wood that Octavius Hadfield had supervised being felled four years earlier.

The people of the district had moved inland from their pa, Rangiuru, at the river mouth. This was apparently done at Hadfield's suggestion—the new land was more fertile, and the village was laid out in European style. For a while it was called Hadfield Town, but the name reverted back to the original Otaki. This is where the church was built, and according to reports the work took precedence over the construction of the village and its homes. For a long time Tamihana Te Rauparaha's house, and that of his cousin Matene Te Whiwhi, were the show places of the district. Tamihana in particular became extremely English in his ways, although he apparently never mastered the language very thoroughly.

A young military officer, W. Tyrone Power, who was stationed at Waikanae for some years and lived in Hadfield's house there, wrote of a visit to Otaki in 1848—"We saw 'the old serpent', as Te Rauparaha is called, speechifying" to a Maori audience, in a wonderful costume composed of a gold-laced hat, white shirt, and a pair of boots a world too wide for his shrunken shanks, and in which, when the old gentleman got excited, he jumped and capered about in a most surprising manner. The subject of his speech was the honour and glory that would redound to Otaki from the building of the church they had in hand, and the credit that would be due to the neighbouring tribes for any supplies they might make of page 59 timber, planks, and comestibles for the workmen, hinting, at the same time, that the said tribes had better send in their gifts with as little delay as possible, or he might otherwise go and fetch them— an alternative that might in the end be disagreeable to the parties visited."

In 1849, after four years in bed, Hadfield began to recover. In a letter to his mother, dated February 23, he wrote—"The beneficial effect lately produced on my health by a new system of treatment, after all treatments had been hopelessly abandoned for years, is very astonishing. . . . After being almost entirely confined to my bed for four years and suffering during" that period almost incessant pain, living on a very low diet and passing many restless nights, I am now, except when over excited for a short time by mental exertion, almost free from it and am able to eat meat with a good appetite and walk at different times of the day two or three miles. You cannot be more astonished at hearing this than those by whom I am surrounded. When I went first to church about three weeks ago, my appearance there seemed to people who had been constantly expecting to hear of my death, like a resurrection from the grave. You can easily imagine how grateful I feel to my Heavenly Father for all his mercies vouchsafed to me. Nothing, humanly speaking, but the unparalleled kindness shown daily, nay hourly, to me during more than four years could have kept me alive, and how was this to have been expected in New Zealand. The treatment by means of which my health has so improved is what is called the water treatment." As was stated earlier, in a continuation of this letter, Dr. Fitzgerald had persuaded him to try it.

The letter goes on to say that some people think he is fitter than is yet the case, "among these the Bishop who upon hearing of my present improvement wrote to congratulate me on my recovery. But he has done more than this. He says I shall probably never be fit for active missionary work, for which my strength, in his opinion, was never adequate, and therefore proposes to put his contemplated College at Porirua under my charge and promises, if I will be the head, to find me hands and feet. This suggestion was only made in a letter, a few days ago, so that I have not yet given it much thought, but I think for many reasons, if I have strength, Otaki, where there is a concentrated population, and where among my old friends much might be done by me without much fatigue, would be my proper place. Nor do I feel qualified, in point of page 60 education, although the Bishop thinks otherwise, for such a post."

Here he quotes a further section of the Bishop's letter. " 'The report of your returning health (given by Dr. Fitzgerald) encourages me to fulfil the long cherished wish of appointing you to the Archdeaconery of Kapiti, which has been left open in the hope, however faint, that you might be able to fill the office. I enclose the letter of appointment, which I beg you to accept for my sake, and much more for the good of the Church. You have already acted as my Commissary and adviser on all occasions and this will only give a formal and legal sanction to the duties which you have already discharged'."

His own letter continues—"The Maoris are all going on well at Otaki and throughout my old district; there are still a goodly number at Waikanae. Mr. Williams is a hardworking, good man and does his duty well, so that I have had great cause for thankfulness on that head."

In a letter on May 1, he again mentions the college. "He (the Bishop) was very importunate also on another subject concerning which however I declined to give him any positive answer. He wishes me to take charge of his proposed new college at Porirua, about 15 miles from this. It is to be an institution for the education of English boys and Maori boys and likewise for teaching and training Maori young men as school teachers and candidates for Holy orders."

Later still, September 17, he wrote—"I look upon this projected College as of the highest importance, both as respects the future well-being of the Maori race and the prosperity of the colony generally. We are not rich out here, as you know, but the natural resources of the country are great. To obtain a decent subsistence is not difficult, and the Bishop, therefore, purposes to combine with the educational department an industrial system by means of which much may be done towards supporting the institution. This, if not carried to excess, I highly approve of, as it tends to impart habits of industry and co-operation, which are highly essential everywhere, but especially in a country like this."

In spite of this Hadfield made up his mind he would not be associated with the proposed college, and at the end of the year Selwyn advised him that there had been a delay in the project because of hostility by the New Zealand Company and some difficulties over the title. The college never was built and the land,

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given to the church by the Ngatitoa tribe especially for a college, became the subject of much dispute through the years. Today, although the original 500 acres are diminished because of land taken by the Government, children of the donor tribe are eligible for educational benefits from the revenues. But it is sad that the high hopes of the parties concerned back in 1849 were never realised. Hadfield was a trustee of the estate for more than 40 years, and in 1903, after many years of experience with the Otaki School, Te Aute College and Wanganui Collegiate, he said he thought it would have been very unwise to have attempted to establish the college at Porirua with the original funds at the disposal of the trustees.

As for Bishop Selwyn's proposal to create Hadfield archdeacon, the latter was equally unco-operative about accepting that. In his letter of May 1, he wrote—"The Bishop has been here lately, I saw a good deal of him. Notwithstanding my good resolutions which I mentioned in my last letter not to take upon myself any fresh duties, he made me accept the office of archdeacon. I persisted in refusing for several days but found that he was grieved at my doing so and that he had set his heart on my accepting it. I therefore was obliged much against my own wishes to comply. He said that he had always intended it, that he could not appoint any other person even if he had any one in whom he placed the same confidence as in me, because, as I was the oldest clergyman in this part of the country I had always acted for him as his Commissary in his absence and both Maori and English would still look to me for directions and advice in spite of any appointment of his—and moreover that he wished to show the C.M.S. that though they did not feel much confidence in him he put confidence in their missionaries. He added that he did not confer these appointments for any other object than that of organising the Diocese and though I had not much strength he wanted my assistance in directing the deacons and others in this part of the country which could be done by letter without any bodily exercise."

Bishop Selwyn must have had many frustrating moments arguing with his new archdeacon. Although they came from essentially the same background they differed on many points, and they were both strong-willed men.

Hadfield adds in his letter—"I am now able to do a little in various ways and see some of the Maoris of this place who were a page 62 part of my flock formerly when I first brought the Gospel among them. They have been sadly neglected, poor creatures. Mr. Cole, the clergyman of this place, does not speak the Maori language and consequently can do nothing with them, and he has a large English population to attend to. ... I have read prayers two or three times in the English church but the Dr. forbids me to preach. I must however try soon. . . . The Maoris at Otaki and the neighbourhood are going on well. I saw several of them lately and old Te Rauparaha among the rest."