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

Chapter XIV. — Maori Policy.—Proposed Federation of the Pacific Islands

page 102

Chapter XIV.
Maori Policy.—Proposed Federation of the Pacific Islands.

"The primal duties shine aloft like stars;
The charities that soothe and heal and bless
Are scattered at the feet of man, like flowers."

"Down the dark future, through long generations,
The echoing sounds grow fainter, and then cease,
Till like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,
I hear once more the voice of Christ say 'Peace!'

"'Peace!' And no longer from its brazen portals
The blast of war's great organ shakes the skies,
But, beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of love arise."

The records of New Zealand for some time after the end of Heke's war exhibit the difficulties and dangers to which the early colonists were continually exposed. The native chiefs, fearing the growing influence of the pakeha, and smarting under the rapacity of the earth hunger so constantly shown by Europeans, carried on a scattered and desultory war. But the Governor proved himself more than their equal. He utilised his forces in making-military roads, and in this way gained easy access to many of the Maori strongholds. His plans in this respect were submitted to the Duke of Wellington, by whom they were highly approved. He swooped down like a hawk upon the great chief Rauparaha at Porirua and carried him off in the Driver to Wellington, where the page 103grim old chief was sent on board H.M.s. Calliope as a state prisoner. His swift strokes, falling like bolts from the clouds, paralysed the native warriors. Incidental outrages—sometimes murders—still happened, followed always by punishment. At length, in 1847, the colony for the first time felt the blessings of complete peace.

Other matters, however, called for attention besides war with the Maoris. In the interesting preface to his "Polynesian Mythology," Sir George Grey says:— "I soon perceived that I could neither successfully govern nor hope to conciliate a numerous and turbulent people with whose language, manners, customs, religion, and modes of thought I was quite unacquainted. In order to redress their grievances and apply remedies which would neither wound their feelings nor militate against their prejudices, it was necessary that I should be able thoroughly to understand their complaints. And to win their confidence and regard, it was also requisite that I should be able at all times, and in all places, patiently to listen to the tales of their wrongs or sufferings, and, even if I could not assist them, to give them a kind reply, couched in such terms as would leave no doubt on their minds that I clearly understood and felt for them and was really well disposed towards them.

"Although furnished with some very able interpreters, who gave me assistance of the most friendly nature, I soon found that even with their aid I could still only very imperfectly perform my duties. I could not at all times and in all places have an interpreter by my side; and then often when waylaid by some suitor, who had, perhaps, travelled on foot two or three hundred miles to lay before me the tale of his or her grievance, I was compelled to pass on without listening, and to witness, with pain, an expression of sorrow and keenly disappointed hope cloud over features which the moment before were bright with gladness, that the opportunity, so anxiously looked for, had at length been secured.

"Again I found that any tale of sorrow or suffering, passing through the medium of an interpreter, fell much more coldly on my ear than it would have done had the person interested addressed the tale direct to myself; and in like manner an answer delivered through the intervention of a third person appeared to have a very different impression upon the suitor to what it would have had coming direct from the lips of the Governor of the country. page 104Moreover, this mode of communication through a third person was so cumbrous and slow, that, in order to compensate for the loss of time thus occasioned, it became necessary for the interpreters to compress the substance of the representations made to me, as also of my own replies, into the fewest words possible; and as this had in each instance to be done hurriedly and at the moment, there was reason to fear that much that was material to enable me fully to understand the question brought before me, or the suitor to comprehend my reply, might be unintentionally omitted.

"Lastly, I had on several occasions reasons to believe that a native hesitated to state facts, or to express feelings and wishes to an interpreter which he would most gladly have done to the Governor, could he have addressed him direct.

"These reasons and others of equal force made me feel it to be my duty to make myself acquainted, with the least possible delay, with the language of the New Zealanders, as also with their manners, customs, and prejudices. But I soon found that this was a far more difficult matter than I had at first supposed. The language of the New Zealanders is a very difficult one to understand thoroughly. There was then no dictionary of it published (unless a vocabulary can be so called); there were no books published in the language which would enable me to study its construction; it varied altogether in form from any of the ancient or modern languages that I knew, and my thoughts and time were so occupied with the cares of the government of a country then pressed upon by many difficulties and with a formidable rebellion raging in it, that I could find but very few hours to devote to the acquisition of an unwritten and difficult language. I, however, did my best, and cheerfully devoted all my spare moments to a task, the accomplishment of which was necessary to enable me to perform properly every duty to my country, and to the people I was appointed to govern."

Suddenly a new and unexpected difficulty presented itself to the Governor. The rebel chiefs were among the oldest and least civilized of the natives. In their speeches and letters they often quoted fragments of ancient poems and proverbs in support of their views and contentions. The interpreters were ignorant of their meaning, as were the young Christian natives. To a man of great determination this mystery commended itself as a question to be page 105solved. The Governor set to work to acquaint himself with the customs, mythology, language, and traditions of the Maoris and their cognate races in the South Pacific. He had worked steadily on at this great task for several years, when Government House at Auckland was burnt to the ground, and all the fruits of his toils in this and in other subjects were consumed. Nothing daunted, he began it all once more. For six years he laboured indefatigably in the intervals of other duties, and at last, having mastered his subject, published his "Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race."

From the first day of his arrival in the colony, Captain Grey became involved in contentions with European settlers on the question of the acquisition of native land. A long and bitter controversy ensued between the Governor and the majority of the old settlers and missionaries, which formed the text of despatches, enquiries, and commissions for several years. Then and since some of the missionaries declared that the information given to the Governor was false, and that there had been no complaints ever made by the Maoris against them or any of their number concerning the purchase of land. In addition to the abundant evidence given by Captain Grey in his despatches, an account published recently by the Rev. Mr. Colenso, of Napier, of the proceedings before Captain Hobson when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, proves conclusively that on that occasion several Maori chiefs accused missionaries then present of unfair and improper land transactions. Mr. Colenso speaks with authority, for he was present and made notes at the time, from which his book is written.

The first eighteen months of Captain Grey's administration were thus filled with arduous labours. The great events which have been alluded to did not prevent his attending to other duties: The interior administration of a young colony, with many settlements scattered far and wide, threw upon him great responsibilities, and constantly taxed his care and attention. The control of the Maoris when reduced to peaceable subjection demanded the most delicate treatment and his own personal supervision.

He perceived that the power of the chiefs must either be broken or enlisted on behalf of the Government, if the peaceable control of the islands was to remain with the Europeans. Not only did he page 106enrol young native chiefs in the constabulary, he also appointed the heads of the Maori tribes to be magistrates in their different districts, with fixed pay.

Nor did he confine himself to general principles of action. The peculiar characteristics of individual chiefs, and the circumstances of different tribes, gave to him opportunities, which were never neglected, of strengthening his government. One great chief refused to allow roads to be made in his territory. To a young and favourite wife of this stubborn Maori the Governor presented a horse and carriage, at the same time conveying, with assurances of his friendship, the intimation that the use of the carriage would add both to the health and comfort of his dusky bride. Without hesitation the husband entered upon the making of roads which as a chief he had absolutely refused to sanction. To utilise the present made by the Governor and to please his young wife, the old Maori warrior made a passable road through country before inaccessible.

He established schools, at which the sons of chiefs were to be educated, and made endowments for their support, which in many instances still exist. For the rapidly increasing European population he was anxious to provide all means, not only for safety, but for success and happiness as settlers. The powers conferred upon him were sufficient to enable a wise and vigorous policy of settlement to be established. Measures calculated to promote public prosperity were passed by him with the sanction of his Council. The law of England was in many respects, especially in regard to the holding and transfer of land, altered and simplified.

In June, 1848, a great calamity happened which destroyed the fruits of years of Sir George Grey's labour, and inflicted severe loss in many ways upon him. Government House at Auckland was destroyed by fire. Scarcely anything was saved from the flames. Manuscripts, correspondence, works of art, data of various sorts upon many subjects, compiled by himself, and by willing friends in all parts of the earth, were completely destroyed. In some instances things thus lost were of priceless value, because they could not be replaced. In others it meant the re-imposition of years of laborious toil.

Without hesitation and without delay Sir George Grey commenced afresh the works upon which he had been employed at the page 107time of this disaster. Messages of sympathy and condolence were received by him from many quarters. The English Parliament expressed sympathy, and passed a money vote to replace the value of plate, furniture, etc., this being the Governor's own loss. Sir Everard Home, in writing upon this subject, uses the following words: "Owen (Professor Owen) considers the burning of your house, with the collections in Natural History, as a national loss." But it was from the humble native workmen whom he had employed in the Government quarries, and who had been instructed under his orders in skilled stone-work, that he received the most characteristic and, perhaps, most welcome sympathy of all. In the kindly feelings of their hearts they wrote proffering assistance. The letters translated ran thus:—

Auckland, June the 24th, 1848.

Friend, the Governor,—

Salutations to you. Great is our love and sympathy to yourself and Mrs. Grey because your dwelling has been destroyed by fire. Had we been awake at the commencement of the fire we should have come to your aid, but we reached the place when the fire was in full vigour. Our object was to save your property. There are forty of us working at the barracks, and this is the love of us people at the barracks for you, because you are the directing, upholding, controlling, or parent of all the people. Do you hearken? With yourself is the thought relative to our building a new house of stone for you, as we have been instructed in this good work, and we know how to perform it, as we have learnt the art of building. If you consent to this will you write to us, and we will talk to the chiefs about it.—From your loving children. Written by Te Taranu for the workmen of the barracks. Concluded to our father the Governor.

Auckland, June 24th, 1848.

Friend, the Governor,—

Salutations to you. Great is our love to you. We have heard of your distress (or loss) by lire. Friend, this is the love of the people of the quarry to you. Friend, we are here pleased with you. We are willing (or anxious) that the stones of the quarry should be taken by you, so that a stone house may be built for you. It will not take many weeks to build it—perhaps one, perhaps two. This is our thought relative to the stones for you; but there must be no payment given us. This is a token of affection from the people of the quarry to our Governor. Enough.

In this year Captain Grey received from Her Majesty the distinction of the Order of the Bath. At his installation the esquires chosen by himself were his old friend Tamati Waka Nene and the great chief Te Puni, of Port Nicholson.

As may be judged by the past occurrences of his life, Governor page 108Grey was strongly imbued with that religious feeling which has controlled many of the great men who have left England to found empires in distant lands. In New Zealand, as afterwards in South Africa, he was the friend, the protector, and adviser of the missionaries and ministers of all the Christian Churches.

The name of Bishop Selwyn is indelibly written in the early pages of New Zealand history. In 1842 he came to the colony as its first Bishop, and commenced his connection with New Zealand, being then thirty-three years old, exactly the age of Captain Grey when he arrived in Auckland three years later as Governor.

George Augustus Selwyn and William Ewart Gladstone were schoolfellows in the same form at Eton, and there commenced a life-long friendship. Equal in literary power and scholastic attainments, the main contributors to their school magazine at a time when Eton flourished, they were the leaders of the leading school in England and the world. Together they roamed through the playing-fields, and together drove tandem to Sandhurst. The genius of Gladstone turned towards politics and learning; that of Selwyn to religion and athletics. Lacking, perhaps, something of the polish and erudite research which have since distinguished Gladstone, Selwyn excelled in all manly sports and in his bold defiance of wrong-doing and oppression.

When Captain Grey was appointed Governor of New Zealand, Mr. Gladstone wrote to him, using the highest terms of appreciation regarding the ability and "ardent piety" of Bishop Selwyn. The letter concludes thus:— "I must express my earnest hope that you may be able to obtain from him assistance, not perhaps the less valuable from the circumstance that he has been very careful (as I believe) to keep the Church aloof from politics, and it will increase my confidence and satisfaction in the transaction of business respecting the colony if I should find that there is a general concurrence of judgment, in relation to, questions more or less, falling within the provinces of both, between two persons whom I must esteem so highly, the one from experience and the other from reputation."

Mr. Gladstone's hopes were fully realised. The two young men, both animated by the loftiest ideas, became firm friends and allies. page 109They were one in their hatred of tyranny and love of justice, and both felt the most sincere interest in the real welfare of the Maoris as well as that of the European colonists. As we shall hereafter see, the Governor took counsel with the Bishop concerning the control and government of the natives, while the Church of England in New Zealand owed the original draft of its Constitution, not to Bishop Selwyn, but to Governor Grey.

The friendship of these two great men lasted until the death of Selwyn. In later days, each took the same interest as of old in the aims of former years. An extract from a letter written by the Bishop to Sir George Grey in 1863 expresses the stimulating advice and consolation which had so often cheered him in times past, when the struggle against wrong-doing and oppression seemed a very unequal and fruitless one:

"You may reflect," he writes, "that after all the best use of time and pains, the life most fruitful in the cause of God and of human advancement, the best for man's own nature, is that of upholding the right calmly and firmly against the selfishness, the impatience, and the ignorance of men." The personal intimacy which existed between the Governor and the Bishop, founded upon mutual esteem and respect, continued undiminished until Sir George Grey returned to England at the end of 1853, while their friendship endured till Selwyn's death. They traversed the North Island of New Zealand on foot together, from Wellington to Auckland, more than once. Together they scaled the mountains, and wended their way through the forests, swam dangerous rivers, became guests of the native chiefs, and influenced the tribes in the cause of Christianity and of loyalty to the Queen. Together they prosecuted scientific researches and discoursed in the solitude of the Maori kaingas upon forms of Government, and the plans and aspirations of men in many ages for the happiness of their fellows.

Nor were their journeyings confined to the shores of New Zealand. As fellow-voyagers they traversed portions of the great Pacific, and visited many of those islands where, amid all the beauties of tropical nature, the most savage nations of the human family are found. To many tribes and races did Selwyn and Grey go forth as ambassadors—one the teacher of a pure and exalted faith to the benighted heathen, the other tendering the sovereignty, page 110guidance, and protection of the mighty power of England to these savage peoples of the South. And beneath the tropical skies of the Southern Hemisphere, borne upon the long, sleepy waves of the Pacific, the kindred enthusiasm of their hearts pictured a future of peace, both spiritual and temporal, in those wide regions in which they had been sent to labour.

Like Heber in India, like Paul in Macedonia, like Augustine in Britain, Selwyn, in Australasia, looked forward with hope and joyous anticipation to the conversion of the heathen and the triumphs of the Cross. The aspirations which filled the heart and the mind of Grey had scarcely a prototype in recorded history. To his mind the future of the South Pacific presented a new possibility in the history of nations. The long recurrence of old-world wars and conflicts, the perennial harvests of ruin and death which had marked every page in the history of the far-off lauds, might here be forgotten and unknown. It was, he believed, possible to exclude from these seas the intervention of any foreign Power, and the intrusion of any Government other than that of Britain. To unite the islands and the people of this great archipelago under the flag of England would probably insure a continued state of peace and safety. The children of the kings and chiefs might be educated in New Zealand, and sent back to their island homes to rule their people wisely beneath the control of English law and English power. Thus civilisation would spread its humanising influence over these vast stretches of the mighty ocean. Christianity, taught and exemplified by noble and good men, such as the one beside him, would reform the character and enlighten the consciences of the islanders. Commerce with its ample blessings, would enrich not merely Australasia but Britain, and the din of warfare and the crash of arms would only be heard afar off, and with sounds as subdued as the wash of the ripple on the coral reefs.

The native races of large groups of Islands, including amongst others Tonga, Fiji, New Caledonia, Tahiti, and the Loyalty Islands were willing and anxious to come under the English flag. They agreed to receive officers appointed by Great Britain who should collect customs duties on a common tariff with New Zealand. These duties were to be applied to the payment of salaries for the officials needed, and to the maintenance of other necessary but modest page 111Government establishments. The principal chiefs of the islands had become Grey's personal friends, and many of their children were being educated in New Zealand.

The New Zealand chiefs were delighted with these arrangements. They willingly gave endowments of land for hospitals and schools for the benefit of the children of the people of the islands. In Auckland, Parnell, the North Shore, Three Kings, Taranaki, Wellington, Nelson, Hawke's Bay, Wanganui, and other places such endowments were set apart.

The hopes of both Selwyn and Grey were destined to be unfulfilled. The innate savagery of the native character, the evil example of many of the traders frequenting those seas, and the entrance of French and German influence, always bitterly opposed to British missionary effort, defeated the plans of Selwyn. Grey's imperial views met with no favour and scant courtesy in London. Downing Street, with its usual incapacity and narrowness of view, scoffed at the idea of an island empire in the Southern Ocean, and allowed France, Germany, and Spain to get a footing there, which is now a continual cause of alarm—a perpetual source of disquiet. They looked upon Sir George Grey's plans as dreams—beautiful indeed, but fantastic, impracticable, and useless. It is of such dreams great histories are born; but to the Colonial Office such dreams as these were distasteful, and those who dreamed them were madmen.

The course of history has compelled England to carry out some of those plans, while the neglect to adopt them all has caused bitter regret. Napoleon, taking advantage of his position in regard to Russia, obtained possession of New Caledonia; and the Foreign Office and Colonial Office gave orders that he should not be interfered with.

Although the Imperial Government, with a blindness and want of foresight difficult to comprehend, had placed its veto upon the plans which Sir George Grey proposed, and which he had practically carried into effect, in relation to the annexation and government of the islands of the South Pacific, he never ceased to represent to the Colonial Office and to the Secretary for War the perils which must menace the British Empire in Australasia from the presence in those latitudes of settlements belonging to other European nations. He could not understand the denseness and stupidity which enabled page 112Downing Street to treat such vital questions with indifference and with contempt. His sense of duty compelled him again and again to direct the attention of Her Majesty's ministers to what he considered imminent dangers to the growing colonies of Australasia, and it was one of the charges against him in the official mind, reserved for the day of retribution, that, despite the ridicule of the Colonial Office and its positive opposition, Grey had continually directed attention to the necessity which existed for preserving the peace of the Southern seas and the security of the Southern colonies.

He fired his final shot in this warfare only a fortnight before leaving New Zealand. In a despatch to the Duke of Newcastle, dated from Auckland, December 15th, 1853, he stated that information had been received a few days previously from the Isle of Pines that some French men-of-war had taken possession of that island and also of New Caledonia, hoisting the French flag and establishing depots for war steamers. He then pointed out that owing to the excellence of the harbours in these islands, and from their commanding position in regard to the colonies—lying directly in the line of communication between Australia and America, commanding in great measure the routes from Australia to Great Britain, and from New Zealand to India—their occupation by the French would prove very harassing to British trade and to the colonies. He asserted that it would be impossible to find any other points in this part of the world which would enable France, in the event of war, so effectually to embarrass our commerce and distress our colonies; and that, as she had no colonial trade to protect, it was probable that the French were pursuing a line of policy founded upon the advantages mentioned above. Sir George communicated also with the senior naval officer on the Australian station, acquainting him with these facts, and pointing out the claims of Britain to the possession of the islands.

All his efforts were in vain. The occupation by France and Germany of points of vantage in the Southern Archipelago has already caused disastrous consequences, and may yet provoke a European war or detach the Australasian colonies from the British Empire.

It so happened that Sir George Grey was in New Caledonia three days after the French had taken possession. He remonstrated with page 113the French commander, who replied that his orders were specific, and he was acting in obedience thereto. Ultimately, in deference to Sir George Grey's position and strongly expressed wishes, the French officer consented to erect no buildings and to incur no large expenditure of money until a reference had been made to London and Paris, and a final decision arrived at between the two Governments. This was done, but, as Sir George Grey feared, without avail. Napoleon, confident in the hold which he had obtained upon English sympathy by his alliance with England against Russia, was pertinacious in the matter of New Caledonia, and that great island, with its smaller dependencies, finally passed under French rule.