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The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.

Chapter XI. — Captain Grey's Arrival At Auckland. Sketch Of The Previous History Of The Colony

page 78

Chapter XI.
Captain Grey's Arrival At Auckland. Sketch Of The Previous History Of The Colony.

"Oh! pitiless race of the fierce pale face!
Hadst thou a warrant from God,
In the cold grey north to come south and drive forth
The peaceable people who trod,
By right of their birth, their own spot of earth?
Was there not room under heaven
For thy people and mine, that my people by thine
To death and destruction were given?
You came unsought, and the gifts you brought,
As Christians from over the wave,
Were greed for land, and a merciless hand,
And the fire drink that digs the grave."

On the 14th of November, 1845, the Elphinstone, after beating down the coast of the North Island of New Zealand, sailed across the Hauraki Gulf, and landed Captain Grey at Auckland. With intense interest the new Governor of the young colony beheld the striking features of this portion of New Zealand rising into view. When the ship passed by the Barrier Islands, with the bold headland of Cape Colville in sight; and when coming past Kawau (in future page 79years to be his residence), Rangitoto, Mount Eden, and the shores of the Waitemata rose slowly above the horizon—the cloudless sky above and the blue waters of the Pacific beneath —he easily understood the enthusiasm with which travellers had spoken of the scenery of New Zealand.

It was not publicly known in the colony that Captain Fitzroy was to be superseded, although rumours of such a change had gained circulation. The Governor was in Auckland. The assistance he had asked was indeed being given, but was to be used by another. No trace of disappointment appeared in his demeanour. On the contrary, he treated his successor with great kindness and consideration during the short time they were together in New Zealand.

The four days succeeding the 14th were spent by Captain Grey in obtaining all possible information as to the position of affairs in the colony. Captain Fitzroy laid before him all means of access to the knowledge he required. The Government officers, and Government papers as well, tended to throw light upon the causes which had led to the position then occupied, and pointed to the dangers ahead if prompt measures were not taken.

Captain Hobson had in 1840 assumed command under his commission, although New Zealand for the first year of its existence as a colony was a dependency of New South Wales. For a time there had been no difficulties with the natives.

The anxiety of the first Governor was aroused by the action of the European colonists, especially that of the officers and emigrants of the New Zealand Company. In November, 1840, a patent or charter had been granted freeing New Zealand from its dependence on New South Wales, and creating it into a separate colony. Captain Hobson was appointed Governor, and a Council, composed of various officials and some colonists nominated by himself, was appointed to aid him in the government.

A fatal error was, however, committed by the English Cabinet in connection with the creation of the Colony of New Zealand. The New Zealand Company was formally recognised by a despatch from Lord John Russell, and an arrangement was made by Ministers that the directors of the Company in London should co-operate with the Government in New Zealand in advancing the settlement of the colony. This step led to most of the complications, and to much of page 80the ill-feeling which afterwards arose in the administration of public affairs.

The native wars are distinctly traceable to the great power exercised, and the boundless ambition displayed by the Company and its officials. The colonists who had arrived at Port Nicholson found that the natives still claimed the land of which the Company were the alleged purchasers. The idleness and discontent which naturally followed their futile efforts to obtain land for settlement soon made them dangerous. They appealed to Captain Hobson to enforce the sales which they declared the natives had made. He refused. They complained of the Government being in Auckland, at a great distance from the place of their location. Some moved to Wanganui to get land; another party was sent, under the auspices of the Company, to Taranaki; and although Hobson issued a proclamation forbidding settlement in a place well known to be filled with warlike and quarrelsome natives, the Company's settlers landed at New Plymouth and began to build.

In 1841 lands were sold in Auckland, and a system of customs and of police made a rude commencement of political and financial institutions in the new colony. Disputes, meanwhile, arose in London between the Company and the Colonial Office, which were paraphrased in New Zealand by conflicts between Captain Hobson, as Governor, and Colonel Wakefield, with the Company's settlers at his back. Clamorous demands were still made that the Governor should place these settlers upon the land they claimed, by force. It was useless to argue that the Treaty of Waitangi bound him to respect the rights of the Maoris; that it would be an act of tyranny and oppression to take the tribal lands from the possession of the natives without the decision of a competent tribunal; and that at all hazards justice must be done. The new colonists were idle. They had paid their money in good faith in London, and they saw the land they claimed lying unoccupied and unused.

The position of Captain Hobson was most difficult. The colonists in Wellington established a Government for themselves, and it was not until Lieutenant Shortland with a company was sent to Wellington to assert the authority of the Governor with a high hand that order was restored, and a properly conducted administration settled in the future capital. In 1841 the Company in London had issued page 81a fresh prospectus, and sold another 200,000 acres of land. In August the new settlers arrived under the leadership of Captain Arthur Wakefield.

Hobson met the Wakefields in Wellington. He wished the settlers to go north to Whangarei, and promised help in the obtaining of land there. The Wakefields objected. A species of compromise was made, and Blind Bay, on the other side of Cook's Straits, was fixed upon by common consent as the seat of the Company's settlement. When the surveyors left Wellington in October but little was known of the South Island, and they were favourably impressed with the extensive fertile country at Wairau, and the green hills around it. A site for a town was fixed upon, and called Nelson; the Wairau was explored; and favourable reports forwarded to head-quarters. This led to the first serious conflict between the two races.

Rauparaha and Rangihaeta on hearing of the Wairau survey asserted their claim to the land, stating that it had never been sold with the exception of a small piece given to Captain Blenkinsop. The Wakefields, however, would not give way. They insisted on the survey being completed. A commissioner had been sent from London to inquire into the land claims of the New Zealand Company, and Rauparaha, alleging his willingness to submit to the decision of a proper court, demanded that nothing should be done till Mr. Spain arrived. At the end of the year Mr Spain landed in New Zealand, but before entering upon his duties proceeded to Auckland to gather information.

Ultimately the Wakefields declined to wait for the decision of Mr. Commissioner Spain, a conflict ensued, and thirty of the Europeans were killed. This is the historical 'Wairau Massacre' which commenced the native troubles in New Zealand.

Colonists had now begun to arrive in considerable numbers. Everywhere the discontent between the Maoris and Europeans was increasing. The Company's settlers, by petition and in various ways, violently attacked the administration of Captain Hobson, who, weak from illness, was overwhelmed with his anxieties. On the 10th of September, 1842, the first Governor of New Zealand died. The address sent by the Maori chiefs to the Queen shows the esteem they felt for Hobson's character. They asked that the Queen would page 82send them another Governor, "a good man like the Governor who has just died." Before his death Sir William Martin and Bishop Selwyn had arrived in the colony.

A short interval, during which Mr. Willoughby Shortland became acting Governor, occurred between the death of Hobson and the arrival of his successor. Disputes at this time grew in intensity between the natives and the Europeans. The colonists asserted their rights to land, and put up fences and houses. The Maoris destroyed them. These disputes culminated in one locality, as we have seen, in the Wairau massacre. Troops were sent for. The colonists were in a state of fear as to a general Maori rising. The morning of New Zealand's history was clouded over, and the country was in a condition of unrest and terror when Captain Fitzroy landed at Auckland as Governor in December, 1843.

No man ever plunged into a more veritable hornet's nest than Fitzroy entered in New Zealand. He quarrelled with the Europeans; he quarrelled with the natives. Eminently desirous to carry on his Government in the best interests of both races he armed them both against himself with invincible hostility. A man of great justice of character, of considerable reputation as a scientific man, clever in his own profession, he yet left the impression that he was a partizan, and unable even to control himself.

The officials gradually fell into the general opposition against him. Nor did he fail to arouse an enmity as deep if not deeper than that felt for Captain Hobson in the directors and officers of the New Zealand Company. To add to his difficulties, the Colonial Office, anxious about New Zealand affairs, and apprehensive of grave troubles arising there, complained bitterly.

Captain Fitzroy seemed destined to misfortune from the very commencement of his Governorship. The Treasury being empty he commenced the issue of debentures, and in so doing created without authority of law a new currency. Following upon the disaster at Wairau, in July, 1844, Hone Heke, son-in-law of the great Hongi (well known in New Zealand story), cut down the flagstaff at Kororareka, believing that so long as the English flag waved on New Zealand soil, that soil itself would be claimed by the pakeha strangers. The flagstaff was indeed put up again, and several chiefs undertook to restrain Heke, but within six months, in January, page 831845, the young and fiery chief had returned, and once more cut down his old enemy.

On this occasion prompt measures were taken to punish the offenders. A man-of-war and a military force Avere sent to Kororareka, and the flagstaff, now plated and shod with iron, was again erected. Heke, joined by Kawiti and other chiefs, attacked the town, cut down the flagstaff, iron-shod as it was, for the third time, took Kororareka, and drove the military and marines, with severe loss, on board their ships. The town was plundered and burnt by the Maoris, but so chivalrous were these people in the conduct of their warfare that they not only permitted the Europeans to take away papers and any property or jewellery that they desired, but they guarded the public buildings and the churches, and helped the townspeople to cany the things they wished to save down to the boats.

Bishop Selwyn and the missionary, Henry Williams, were permitted to search for the wounded and the dead without molestation. Selwyn, in after life, telling of the sack of Kororareka, never forgot to narrate how when he found a party of natives preparing to broach a cask of rum which they had secured, they nevertheless permitted him to turn the tap, and allow all the spirits to run down into the gutter.

The people of Auckland had been credibly informed that Hone Heke intended to attack that town and that he had two thousand resolute and well-armed natives at his back, but they also knew that Waka Nene and the friendly chiefs had stated openly that if he attempted such a step they would meet him with even superior forces, and drive him back to the forests of the north.

Reinforcements were sent from Sydney, but this only led to a still more serious disaster. After a decided repulse which our troops received in their attack upon Okaihau, in May, a force of between six and seven hundred men under Colonel Despard of the 99th, besieged Hone Heke in his pah at Ohaewai. On the first of July, in spite of the earnest warnings of the friendly Maoris, and against the opinions of his own officers, Colonel Despard ordered an assault on the pah by a storming party two hundred strong.

Tamati Waka Nene, a chief whose fidelity was never doubted, and whose courage no man dared to question, denounced the assault as page 84madness. It was, he said, sending brave men to death, and he refused either to join in it himself or to allow any of his people to take part in so hopeless an undertaking.

Beneath an afternoon sun the men, headed gallantly by their officers, rushed at the pah. A few, led by Lieutenant Philpott of the Hazard—himself a great favourite of the natives—did actually surmount the first of the three rows of defences, only to be shot down in front of the second. The predictions of Waka Nene were swiftly fulfilled. It is said that in ten minutes half the attacking force was killed or wounded. Horrified by the carnage, Colonel Despard ordered the bugles to sound a retreat. One hundred and three men out of the two hundred of the attacking party were killed or wounded.