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

Chapter LVII. — Native Feeling For Sir George Grey

page 450

Chapter LVII.
Native Feeling For Sir George Grey.

"Take care, away the sword.
States can be saved without it"

The native kings and chiefs of the Pacific had learned to look on Sir George Grey as their natural guardian and adviser. His correspondence in this direction is as instructive as it is interesting, and it is full of pathos. Savage princes, menaced by the French and German officers, appealed to Grey for advice without reserve. Through him many of them more than once prayed to be admitted within the sacred circle of the British Empire. And although this great privilege was denied, they yet approached him when in peril or fear, as their protector.

Thus Malietoa came. After the English Government had refused to accept those beautiful islands of Samoa, Bismarck made no secret of his intention to annex them as German colonies. In great distress, the Samoan King, from beneath the shade of the cocoa palm and telea tree at Apia, penned a humble letter to his illustrious friend, the erstwhile Governor of New Zealand. He set forth his sad predicament. In simple language he told all his fears, and asked by the memory of olden days, and by Grey's love to the native races and their chiefs, that he would spare time to guide the King and people of Samoa in their deep perplexity.

The advice which, in reply, Sir George tendered was at once full and precise. Well aware of the grasping and overbearing nature of the German, awake to the iron determination of the Chancellor in page 451his colonising plans, he laid before Malietoa the two methods which could be adopted in the face of a certain German aggression. The King might resist by force, or he might submit to superior power and appeal under God to the great nations with whom he was in treaty, including Germany herself.

As to resistance, he merely spoke of it to remark that it would mean destruction to Malietoa and his people, while affording an excuse to Bismarck for the occupation of the islands as a conquered territory. The only safe course was that of non-resistance. Careful to avoid meeting force by force, Malietoa must patiently endure insult and injury, trusting in God and in the justice of the nations.

Sir George explained the jealousy of Germany, England, France, and the United States towards each other in the matter of annexing new territory in the great southern seas. He added that public opinion in all civilised nations was ever becoming stronger to resist wrong, and that, if Samoa refused to enter into an unequal conflict and appealed to the great powers, Germany must ultimately yield. Even should the Germans carry him personally into captivity, he must still be patient.

Malietoa received this advice with gratitude. In 1887 the Germans carried him off a captive. Then what Sir George had predicted came to pass. England—to her shame—did not venture to interfere. Prince Bismarck had threatened Lord Salisbury that if she opposed Germany in Samoan colonisation Germany would aid France in Egypt. But America stood up boldly. The States were firm. Germany should not have Samoa. Justice must be done to the Samoan king.

Malietoa was restored, and this failure in Samoa seems to have been the prelude to Bismarck's fall. Sir George Grey was indignant at the conduct of the German Chancellor. He was surprised as well as pained by the attitude of the English Government. The Samoan episode taught him a new truth. It convinced him that the real and efficient guardianship of the English-speaking races was transferred from Britain to the United States. Henceforth it seemed to him the redress of human grievances and the defence of human freedom must be sought, not in the Councils of London but in those of Washington. He perceived that in the future, if any community or State, especially if it were of English origin, desired protection it page 452would turn across the waves of the Atlantic to the great nation of the West for help rather than to England. For in that young and vigorous Republic, untrammelled by continental interests, and ambitious for the leadership of the nations, there were wisdom to perceive and courage to vindicate the claims of universal justice, and the blessings of universal liberty.

The feeling of the Maoris towards the Government of the Queen was generally that of a fixed and steady loyalty. Even when the king movement had become settled and organised, there was liot, until a fierce and bitter war. had been waged between the races, any desire to throw off paramount allegiance to the Crown. The king was looked upon as a sort of provincial superintendent, and as the provinces made their own laws, which were submitted to the Governor for his assent, so the king natives desired to make their laws, and submit thern also to Her Majesty's Representative.

It was not until fire and sword had been earned through the Island that the fierce passions of the Maori tribes caused them to throw off all sense of loyalty, and to assume an absolutely independent position.

It might be supposed that when the forces of General Cameron and General Chute had overpowered the scattered bands of the natives the rebellion was suppressed, and the authority of the Crown restored. This, however, was not the case. When the Imperial troops were withdrawn a sort of tacit peace was inaugurated. The Maori King still existed, and his authority was supreme in the centre of the North Island. A line was drawn called the Aukati. Within that line the Queen's Writ did not run, and for many years Europeans only crossed that fatal boundary at the peril of their lives.

Thieves, murderers, criminals of all sorts, once within that pale were safe from pursuit. No police, no armed colonial force dared to penetrate save secretly and at night.

But in all other parts of the two Islands, save in the so-called King Country, the chiefs and people were nearly all loyal to the Crown. They returned members to the New Zealand Parliament, they prosecuted their claims in the English courts, they transmuted their communal titles to land to the ordinary freehold known to English law.

page 453

To both, king natives and loyal natives there was but one Queen and one Governor. To this day, when the inhabitants of any kainga or the garrison of any pah welcome Sir George Grey, the cry is still the same—"Haeremai, Haeremai, Haeremai te Kawana, Kawana Kerei" (Governor Grey).

In the year 1876 a great law suit was decided in Wellington, in which the Honourable Henry Russell sued the Government—through the Government printer—for libels upon himself and the great Maori chiefs of Hawke's Bay, published in the columns of a paper supported by the Government, called the Waka Maori or Maori Canoe. After a long and interesting trial, a special jury gave a verdict against the Government for £5,000 and costs.

The proceedings had been of intense interest to the natives. Numbers of chiefs had assembled in Wellington to witness the result. Old war-scarred veterans were there, who had never before seen a European town. Chiefs who had led their tribes to battle in the far North, in the King Country, in Wanganui, on the East Coast, Hawke's Bay and Taranaki, scores of whom bore visible traces of the conflicts in which they bad fought side by side with our best and bravest, had assembled to be witnesses of this legal battle, where the rifle, the bayonet, the tomahawk, the spear, and marae gave place to logical argument and the strife of tongues. With the result they were pleased beyond measure. Their loyalty and good faith were unanimously testified to by a pakeha judge and jury against the then Government of the colony.

They could no longer indulge in the ancient feasts of the conqueror, but such an occasion could not pass uncelebrated. A great banquet was given. Many hundreds of guests—Maoris and Europeans—sat down to a well prepared and appointed dinner. Enjoyment and triumph shone upon every Maori face. The meats were well cooked, the beer and wine abundant. If the feast lacked something of the fierce element of vindictive triumph, which forty years before it would have exhibited, yet there was enough of the intoxicating influence of success to fill the native heart with pleasure, and tinge each cheek with a darker flush.

According to European custom, toasts were proposed. To the first health all Maoris and Europeans rose, and with respect and pleasure drank to "Her Majesty the Queen." The next toast was page 454that of "The Governor." No sooner had the toast been given out than the Maori chiefs, with one spontaneous impulse, sprang to their feet, and with a great cry, shouted "Kapai! Te Kawana! Te Kawana Kerei!"

The Governor at this time was the Marquis of Normanby. But the Maoris, true to their nature, had forgotten that there was, or ever had been any but one Governor. With gleaming eyes and heaving breasts, the chiefs and warriors who had followed Grey in war, and listened with child-like reverence to his Voice in council, swept aside all mere formalities and went back to the earnest and living times, when in their simple faith the Queen was their immediate Sovereign, and Grey was their Governor and Father.

It would be impossible to adequately describe the enthusiasm, the fire, the abandonment of the native chiefs, as with one accord and roars of acclamation they toasted "The Governor—Governor Grey." It was useless for the Europeans to tell them "The Governor—The Marquis of Normanby." All efforts were futile. The Maoris did not seem to understand the correction which was attempted, and louder and still louder rose the shouts, "Kapai! Te Kawana! Kawana Kerei!"