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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



For many years the Native question was difficult and thorny. It was as troublesome to the New Zealand Parliament as was the Irish problem to the Imperial Parliament. It gave rise to the same bitter accusations of bad faith; it was marked by the same vacillations of policy on the part of the rulers—sometimes yielding and conciliatory, and sometimes firm and even harsh; and in each case it imperilled or ruined the reputations of many statesmen.

The reader will not have proceeded far with his study of New Zealand history before he discovered that there are two strongly opposed schools of thought on many incidents in Maori history. On the one side are the ardent philo-Maoris who can find nothing to blame in the Maoris, and nothing to approve of in the actions of successive governments. These people would be known in England as belonging to Exeter Hall, and indeed that phrase is not infrequently found in early New Zealand controversies. On the other side are ranged most of the settlers who, without regard to the causes of conflict, suffered heavy losses at the hands of Maori War parties—who saw, perhaps, their families murdered, their homes destroyed and farms ravaged. To these settlers we must add the various successive Native Ministers who had to cope with the incredibly intricate problems that arose from time to time. page 153It is significant that, though these Ministers expressed the utmost solicitude for the welfare of the Native race and in every case strove incessantly to preserve amicable relations, their good intentions were often frustrated by their own blunders or the untoward course of events. But of their goodwill towards the Native race there can be no doubt.