Mahoe Leaves; Being a Selection of Sketches of New Zealand and Its Inhabitants, and Other Matters Concerning Them
Farewell! Jeremiah! You and I must at last part company, as the best of friends have had to do at some period of their lives, from time immemorial.
Your excellent friends, the pseudo philanthropi, (from whose kind offices Heaven protect you)! are down upon me, and I bring my sketches to a close.
Three years ago you were in the same state I knew you ten years ago, a dirty contented old man, occupying yourself with your field operations growing pork, and passing an easy contented sort of life free from care and anxiety; your people lived about you in quietness and peace, attending chapel night and morning, and leading a humdrum sort of existence, if no benefit to society at large, at least no particular nuisance.
But a change has come o’er the spirit of your dream. They have made you a magistrate; you have dream. They have been seized with a desire to try a little self-government. The runanga system has been adopted. You have been led to imagine that you are capable of great things, and your original social, moral, and political condition has undergone a complete revolution. You have mounted the rostrum and have commenced a perfect lustration. By your attempts at reform you have managed to set the whole of your people by the ears; you have embroil-page 94ed yourself with the neighboring tribes, and you have done as much to send half your people over to the rebels by your meddlesome interference, as any act the Government has done. Your potatoe fields are neglected, your chapel is all but deserted, and a state of perfect anarchy and confusion exists amongst you as a community.
In fact, your mind is off the balance, and how it is to be restored, so long as your inordinate conceit is encouraged, I really don’t know.
Your have had a law given you to administer and no means to enforce it.
If law and order were simply required, your ancient system of despotism, existing amongst and practised by your chiefs, bad as it may have been compares most favorably with your present state of self-government, and I don’t know whether, all things considered, you were not more easily managed in those days, when one voice carried the day, than you are now.
However, I won’t parley any more with you, Jeremiah! I say, good bye! I wish you all manner of good, but I fear it is only to be instilled into you by correction. Your best friends will be they that give you a good chastising.
Unless you are taught to obey law, you will never respect it; and any obedience that can be ever expected from you, must be based on the principle that “might is right” you have never known any other rule, nor have any other race of savages before you. Your utter lack of any ideas of gratitude makes kindness thrown away on you; and the manner in which you have been flattered and bolstered up of late has risen your self conceit to such a pitch as to blind you to your own self interest, always provided you have sagacity and foresight to to see it.page 95
And now with regard to these sketches en masse. I have endeavored in as amusing a manner as possible, to pourtray some scenes illustrative of the social moral, and political condition of these natives. However far I may have failed in graphic delineation of the various scenes, or in soundness of view that I have deduced from them, I have the comforting reflection that “I have set down nought in malice,” and avoided exaggeration. Where I have considered a radical evil existed, I have not scrupled to attack it.
Small as colonial communities usually are, I can hardly be surprised that in many cases I have met with the charge of personality. Had these papers merely passed through the local press, I should not have troubled myself to have taken any notice of the accusation; but as they have been so favorably received in other portions of the Colony, and in other journals, I think it necessary to rebut the charge by remarking tersely that there is not (with the exception of the paper “Parnapa”) a single real character depicted. Jeremiah, Malachi, Ezekiel & Co., may be found in almost every pah from Porirua to Kororarika, and Clericus and the Rural Dean flourish in every native settlement of any standing on the Missionary records. The whole are merely taken as types of a class, and I can only regret that they are not the most unfavorable that I might have selected.
The various scenes themselves have no essential originality,—they are but one picture drawn from the recollection of the sight of many, purged of a vast quantity of offensive features that might have been most truthfully copied.
Nothing is more simple than to make a charge of exaggeration, and it is possible that the perusal of page 96 these papers, by some who consider themselves tolerably well acquainted with the Native race, may occasion the remark that some of them are overdrawn.
Now, I would ask any one acquainted with the ordinary run of English literature, to recall the excitement that was produced in London some years ago, when Mr. Mayhew’s “London and the London Poor,” appeared in the Morning Chronicle. Many a clergyman and medical man who thought themselves tolerably well acquainted with the condition of the lower orders, was somewhat staggered to pick up the intelligence respecting a community they were constantly moving amongst, of whose real condition they themselves were perfectly ignorant.
And why? Because that gentleman threw himself amongst the people he was enquiring about as one of themselves, they were thrown of their guard a ’together, and information was gleaned from them, that the minister and doctor might have sought in vain to obtain.
And so it is in considering the Maori character, it is not necessary to identify oneself so entirely with them as to turn Maori complete, to gain the knowledge required. But were I to require information respecting the native character, habits, or condition the missionary or government official would be the very last I would ask upon the subject.
Ministerial visits, whether clerical or lay, are, so far as natives are concerned, purely official affairs. Their advent is telegraphed from stage to stage, and the role of the proceedings is carefully rehearsed. The whole concern is on the part of the natives, one piece of acting from beginning to end. No wonder then that these gentlemen after a tour through the island, form some strange opinions re-page 97specting the state of the Maories, and no wonder that those who are thrown constantly into contact with the natives in every day life, should protest loudly against the condition of the aborigines of these islands as pourtrayed on English platforms, and on the floor of the Colonial Parliament.
If the matter simply rested here it would be one thing; every man is perfectly at liberty to express his views upon any subject, provided he has common sense or reason to base them on.
Reverend and honorable gentlemen conscientiously believe what they say, I would not breathe a doubt on the matter for one moment; but unfortunately, their views transmitted to Europe, whether privately or publicly, do not lose by travelling,—and dressed up and re-produced in English assemblies, they furnish the foundation of an argument the most false and iniquitous.
Accusing the settlers of this colony who have cheerfully borne taxes, and paid them, independent of contributing private subscriptions towards all sorts of institutions for the benefit of the native race; who have patiently and calmly submitted to an amount of insult, annoyance, and provocation, which no body of Anglo-Saxons, within the memory of man ever submitted to before,—I say, accusing them of a policy of extortion and aggrandisement.
To show how far such a course of conduct has proved so deleterious to the interests of the Colony, by the prejudicial effect it has had on the Imperial Government, is not my province here; but while we look with mingled feelings of disgust and dismay, at the wretched system of bungling, and mismanagement, that has marked the Imperial policy towards this colony for so many years, we cannot but attribute a vast amount of error that the authorities have page 98 fallen into, to the mischieveous influence that has been exercised upon them, by that well meaning but excessively misguided class of individuals, known in the colonies as the “Missionary party.” Though it is due to the Missionary body themselves to say that a considerable number, especially of the Roman Catholic and Nonconformist Missions, have never identified themselves in any way with the course of conduct a considerable section of their party have thought fit to adopt.
As I was well aware that in the course of these sketches I should have to pass some severe strictures upon the party I have here alluded to, I determined in the first instance to give them the benefit of the best case I could make out on their behalf, a piece of charity that neither I, nor any one else who may have occasion to differ from them publicly, in future years, are likely to receive an equivalent for at their hands; and further, I would here observe that there are many hard working and intelligent clergymen who either are at present, or have in one way or other been connected with the missionary staff who are as strongly opposed to the course of conduct adopted by their clerical brethren, as I am.
To attempt to solve the difficulty of the Native question has not been my object. I have endeavoured to raise a solemn protest against that mistaken philanthrophy, which has been the fruitful source of all the present evils. It has most signally failed hitherto, and it is to be regretted that the plans of Governors and Ministers are still thwarted to a great extent by it.
The natives themselves are far less to blame than those who have stood forward as their champions. What antipathies there may exist between the respective races, (which I dispute to the extent that is page 99 ordinarily stated) have been, to say the least, fomented by the action that the pseudo philanthrophists have taken in native matters—utter lawlessness, rank insubordination, and pigheaded obstinacy are the prevailing points in the native character at present—these sooner or later must cause a collision between the races, and the question is simply one of time.
“Divide and conquer” have hitherto been our tactics among savage nations, where our power has not been sufficient to make war en masse; here we have a decided front shown against us by the greater part of the aborigines; our allies during the late war have been found to be utterly faithless and untrustworthy as a body, and it is only to be hoped that if war cannot be averted, it may be so conducted as to form the last, that the Colony shall ever witness, and that we may remember that the shortest struggle generally is the most merciful.
But, it behoves us, through taking a charitable view of the native character, at least to take a just one. If we take them as men, let us treat them as men; if as children, by all means act towards them as such. Hitherto we have just mingled the two, and the consequences I need not dilate upon.
The law of Nature that went forth marking the bounds of man’s power, “hitherto shalt thou go and no farther,” seems to have put its limits on the Maori; they are a declining race, whether considered mentally or physically. A century hence must see them, all but numbered with the past; Heaven knows as a nation we have done all we could to avert such a catastrophe: and with this assurance, we can look forward to giving an account of our stewardship, before a Tribunal where the actions of a nation shall be as closely scanned as those of individuals.page 100
I therefore take leave of the public, thanking them kindly for the favorable notice these sketches have received from the colonial press, and trusting that if ever I again take up my pen to follow the subject, it may be in less troublous times and in a less troubled country.