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Letters on the Present State of Maori Affairs

From Mr. Fitzgerald — To Aterea Puna, — And All The Tribes

[ko te tohutoro i roto i te reo Māori]

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From Mr. Fitzgerald
To Aterea Puna,
And All The Tribes

Christchurch, January, 1865.

To the Maori Tribes,—

I received at Auckland the letter which accompanies this, and I replied to Aterea Puna that when I got to my home 1 would answer it. I do so now. My friends, I do not know Aterea Puna personally, but his letter states that it is written for all the tribes; to all the tribes, therefore, should be my answer.

There is no one who has grieved more truly over all this sad war than I have, for I have all along thought that it arose, not out of any wish on the part of the English people generally to rob the Maoris of their lands, or out of any desire on the part of the Maoris generally to conquer the English and drive them into the sea; but this war has sprung out of those mistakes and misunderstandings on both sides which arise where two races, having different languages and different customs, are becoming gradually mixed up, and are unable to interpret their mind fully one to the other. You say that the Maoris are still ignorant of the cause of the war, and think that it arises out of the desire on the part of the Pakehas to take Maori land. My friends, all men are not good nor are all men very bad. There are bad and good of all races and tribes under the sun. There are some page 36bad English who do wish urgently to get the Maori lands, and there are some bad Maoris who would wish to see the English destroyed and to get back the whole islands for the Maori people. But I fear you Maoris have unfortunately come to think that not only a few bad men, but all the English, and even the Government, have been actuated by an avaricious desire to obtain your lands; and a great many English believe that the Maoris generally are anxious to destroy the English settlements; and so all our actions on both sides are misinterpreted the one to the other, and the two races are standing in fear and suspicion one of the other, and the voices of "Love, Religion, and Law"—the voice of old Potatau who, being dead, yet speaks to you from his tomb at Ngaruawahia, have been drowned in the clamor of fighting and the groans of dying men.

I was in England when Governor Browne took the Waitara, and when I came back to New Zealand I read and heard all that had taken place; and I said—Governor Browne has done a very wrong action. Then I began to write in a newspaper, the Press, and I went into Assembly and began to speak, for I saw that out of that great mistake made by Governor Browne great trouble would follow to both Maoris and Englishmen. But, my friends, if Governor Browne was very wrong, William King did not act rightly. For if instead of resisting Governor Browne's wrong-doing by fighting, William King had appealed to the law, he would have got back his land, and Govenor Browne would have been punished. But when the Maoris resisted the soldiers by force, fighting began and the law could not be heard. Again, when page 37Governor Grey would not listen to the words of Thompson, but took the troops to Tataraimaka, he did not do a wrong thing, because the land was ours; but I think he did a foolish thing, and a wrong thing too, not to settle the Waitara question first of all as soon as he came back to this country as Governor. Governor Grey acted foolishly—but, my friends, what shall we say of those who killed the soldiers at Oakura? You say they were not guilty of murder. I will not argue about words. Maoris, even King Natives, have told me that they have thought it was murder. But, was it right? What evil has not come of it? I think Governor Grey was very foolish to take the soldiers there, but the Maoris were a great deal more wrong to kill them; for out of that work has come the whole Waikato war, and the death of so many brave men on both sides, and the loss of all the Waikato country which the Governor has taken, and will keep. Besides which, what could I and your other friends amongst the English say, when that attack was made at Oakura? The people said;—"See, the Maoris are determined to fight and kill us, we must conquer them." And what could I say? That wicked work at Oakura stopped the mouths of all the friends of the Maoris. When we spoke for you no one would listen to us after that. And it was said, "If the Maoris will shoot our soldiers in that way, they will certainly attack Auckland. Waikato agreed to that work at Oakura; Waikato must be punished." And so the war began. What could we your friends say? You stopped our mouths. My friends, why should we speak of the past? It is gone like the sun of yesterday.

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"Let the dead bury their dead." Or if we think of the past, let us think only of those things in which we have learned to love and admire each other: for were not great gifts sent to yon by God by the hands of the Pakeha?—the religion of Christ, and the various productions of our arts, which have helped to raise you from the state in which you once lived, and will yet make you a rich and powerful and civilised people. Is it not better to think of that? And for us—is it not better for us to think of the long years in which we lived amongst you in peace and charity, and of the kindness and hospitality which you shewed to us when we were yet few in your land? I think, too, with admiration of the noble and gallant way in which your chiefs and people have fought for what you thought right, and of the courage and endurance you have displayed, which will be honored by all brave men for ever—for the brave of all races are brothers. Were it not better, my friends, rather to think of these things than to dwell on the mistakes and misunderstandings of the past, which we can never recall, and which have caused these deplorable wars under which we all suffer? But it is our duty rather to look to the future, which God ever places in the hands of men to act in. Is this war to go on for ever? And when peace is made, are those causes of separation of our two races still to remain which will bring upon us new wars in the future? This is what the wise and good on both sides must consider.

First, I ask you to consider whether all these troubles have not arisen out of the fact that the Pakehas and Maoris do not live under the same law. Can two peoples live intermingled one with the other under page 39different laws? The Maoris do not live in one country and the Pakehas in another, having distinct boundaries between the two. There are indeed some districts where there are mostly Pakehas, and other districts in which there are mostly Maoris; but in most parts of these islands are not Pakehas and Maoris living all intermingled together? and do not the Maoris come amongst the English freely to trade with them, and do not the English freely go over the Maori country? Now how can two races so living intermingled one with the other live under two governments, two kings, or two laws? If a Maori and a Pakeha trade together and there is a dispute, or if they quarrel and wrong is done, how can the dispute be settled or the wrong doer be punished if there are two authorities and two laws—one for the Pakeha and the other for the Maori? Surely in such a case it must happen that the two laws will clash, and that which was only a dispute between two individuals will be converted into a collision between the two laws—in other words between the two races. Thus every petty dispute between two persons bears in its womb a war between two races.

My friends, since God has sent us both to dwell together in these islands, is it not like madmen that we should keep up a system which must be always plunging us into fresh wars?

But perhaps you will say that if you were to submit to our laws, the law would only protect the Pakeha and not the Maori—it would protect English property but not Maori land. You will say it was through fear of this you set up a King for yourselves.

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My friends, I say to you that if I thought that the effect of your living under our laws would result in injustice being done to you, and in the loss of your lands, I, though I am an Englishman, would tell you to fight against us to the last; for I know of no more glorious death that man can die than in the defence of the inheritance handed down to him by his ancestors. But I believe that if you were living under our laws, the law would protect you as it protects us, and that your property would then be for ever preserved for yourselves so long as you chose to keep it.

Let me take a case to illustrate what I mean. You say that Governor Browne took William King's land at Waitara, and burnt his pah and seized his property. Now suppose Governor Browne had said that he had bought my land instead of W King's, and had sent soldiers to take my house here at Christchurch—what should I have done? Should I have called my friends together and fought against the Governor? No; for then I should not only have been wrong to fight, but I should have been conquered. I should not have fought. I should have brought an action against Governor Browne in the Courts of Law—for a Governor can be tried before the courts in England, and the case would have been tried before a jury, and if it were proved that Governor Browne had taken my land wrongfully, he would have been made to give it back to me, and would have been made to pay me a very large sum of money, as large as the value of all the property he had caused to be destroyed. The Queen herself cannot take my land without my consent, for the English law protects the page 41poorest and meanest of her subjects against all aggression. I wish you to understand that that is the great pride and glory of every Englishman. This it is which has made the English so great a people, whose race has extended so rapidly over the world—the having just laws which protect every man's life and property from violence and wrong, even from wrong done by the Queen, or by her Ministers, or her Governor, or her soldiers. If William King had been living under English law, and had gone to the law for protection; if, instead of fighting, he had brought an action against Governor Browne, or against the soldiers, in the Courts of law, I think he would have got back his land, and Governor Browne would have had to pay him the whole value of his pa which was burnt. If whenever wrong is done (and as long as men are men, wrong will always be getting itself done in the world) men were to fight, how could the world get on? It would be filled with violence; and men would be perpetually destroying each other's property, so that people would be always growing poorer instead of richer. But when the law is placed, as it is in England, above all, and, by the common consent of all, people submit to its decisions, then only peace prevails and property is protected, and wealth and comfort increase.

We English people were once in our own country, England, as you are now, without any clear and known law. We committed violence upon one another, and avenged ourselves by tauas upon those who had done us wrong. But in the course of long years we grew out of that state of things, and elevated the law above all private authority. It took page 42us centuries to accomplish this, and we now offer to you that which it has taken us so long to build up. It has made us a great, rich, and powerful people. It will make you the same if you will adopt it. Therefore, my friends, I say to you that the first step towards restoring peace to these islands is that all its inhabitants of whatever race should live together under one common law which shall protect the lives and properties of all alike.

I have said that no one can take my land, not even the Queen, without my consent. There is one exception to this. When land is wanted for any public purpose, as for roads, the rule in England is that the Parliament—that is, in New Zealand the General Assembly—may make a law by which land belonging to any private person may be taken for that purpose. It cannot be taken for any but a public purpose. It cannot be taken from one man to give to another, but only for some purpose which will be for the benefit of all alike. For example, all have a right to travel on a public road, and it is for the benefit of all that the people should be able to travel from one place to another. The private right of the land is made to give way to the public right of the road. But in every such case the man from whom the land has been taken has to be paid the full value of the land in money. This is the only case in which land can be taken amongst the English, and then only for the public use, in order that there may be public roads along which every man may have a right to travel. How can there be any trade, or how can wealth and comfort increase, unless the people can travel freely on their business along public roads?

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But with us English, the law does not always remain the same. Laws like everything else grow old, and circumstances change requiring that laws shall be altered accordingly. The General Assembly is that great body of the whole country which makes and alters the laws. The General Assembly is composed of the Governor, the Legislative Council, and the House of Representatives. A law must be agreed to by all these three separately, before it becomes law, and is finally written in the Statute Book. Besides which, it must receive the assent of the Queen in England. Then it finally becomes law of the land, and the people obey it, and the Courts of law, the judges, the juries, and the magistrates enforce it; for the Courts of law do not give judgments of their own free will, but simply judge according to the ancient laws of the land and the new laws made by the General Assembly. The House of Representatives consists of men elected by the people to represent them in the Assembly, so that the people are governed only by those laws to which they have assented by their representatives in the Assembly.

Again, the laws are not the same in all parts of the islands, for some laws are applicable to one part and some to another; so the islands are divided into provinces, and in each province there is a Superintendent and a Provincial Council; and these make lesser laws, which apply only to the province in which they are made. The Governor, too, must assent to all these provincial laws before they finally become law. Then the laws so made are enforced by the Courts of law, the same as the laws of the General page 44Assembly; and people cheerfully obey all the laws so made because they have themselves helped to make them. Now, if the Maoris and the Pakehas are to live under the same laws, they ought all to help in making the laws. But there are no Maoris in the General Assembly, or in the Provincial Councils. This is not right or fair. If there were Maoris in all these Councils, then the Maoris would have a share in making laws for themselves and the Pakehas alike, and they would be able to take care that no injustice was done to the Maori people. If we are to live together peaceably in the same island, the Maoris ought to stand on exactly the same footing as the English, and to have an equal share in the making of the laws, and in the government of the whole country. You have a right to demand that this shall be granted to you.

But you will ask me are the Maoris to have a separate King for themselves. What do you mean by a separate King? Is he to rule over all the Maoris in all parts of the Island, or only over particular districts? It is impossible that he can rule over the Maoris in all parts, for no two people can live together intermingled one with the other, some obeying one King and some another. That would be sure to lead to fighting. But, I think the Maoris are quite right in thinking that in any part of the country in which almost the whole population is Maori and most of the land belongs to Maoris, that part should be separated off into a separate Province, and should have a Superintendent and a Provincial Council for itself, who should be able to make laws for that Province just as page 45the Superintendent and Provincial Councils do in the English provinces. The Superintendent of such a province would be the Maori King for that province, and would govern the people in it whether Maori or Pakeha, and would maintain order and see that the law is enforced, and that the judgment of the Courts of law are obeyed. You have a fair right to demand of the Queen and the General Assembly that you shall have those districts in which the Maoris still live, made into separate provinces, in which the Maoris shall be thus allowed to govern themselves. This is a sort of Maori King movement which you would be able to establish, and in which I hope the General Assembly and the Queen would agree.

But it may be said that if you sent representatives to the Assembly they would not understand English, and would not know what was going on. My friends, it is, no doubt, a great difficulty that we do not understand each other's tongue; but we must do the best we can to get over it. We shall get over it in time. But in the mean time you must select representatives who understand English, or you must have the proceedings of the Assembly interpreted to them by interpreters. It will be far better that you should be represented in the Assembly, with all the difficulty of having to understand its proceedings in a strange language, than that you should not be represented in it at all, and should remain, as now, having no share in the making of the laws or in the government of the country.

My friends, Aterea Puna's letter, which was written on the 16th November, did not reach me until December, when the Assembly page 46was sitting. It was a very short session, and nothing could be done to put these matters to rights, because peace had not been made. But the Assembly will meet again in May or June at Wellington, when I hope the Maoris will tell the Assembly what they want to have done. I think it would be much better that the Maori people should look to the Assembly, instead of, as they have hitherto done, only to the Governor. The Governor comes and goes. One Governor is here to-day, another to-morrow; but the Assembly is here for ever. The English settlers are always living with you, and they always send their representatives to the Assembly. If you too had your representatives in the Assembly you would be a part of it, and would take your share in making the laws, and would act together with us in all things.

There are then three things which I think the Maori people ought to ask for. First, that they shall have representatives in the General Assembly and in the Provincial Councils. Secondly, that separate provinces shall be made in the districts inhabited by Maoris, in which they can make laws for themselves. Thirdly, that the protection of the law shall be extended over the Maori lands, so that when there is any dispute it shall be tried by a proper Court of law, without fighting; and that the Maori shall be allowed to buy and sell and lease his lands, just like the English.

If the Maoris agree to these things, let them send petitions from all the tribes, signed by all the chiefs and people in page 47every tribe, praying the Assembly to make laws accordingly. If these laws were made, I think the cause of fighting would disappear, and all the inhabitants in New Zealand would live in peace under one law, and would grow rich and powerful together.

From your sincere Friend,

James Edward FitzGerald.

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