William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman
A few extracts from Parris's letters will be of interest to those who have studied Native affairs, as they at least show that no charge of lack of sympathy with the natives can be laid at his door.
On 8 November 1865, Parris wrote to Rolleston:
I exceedingly regret that a change of Ministry should have been necessary at this momentous juncture of our relations with the Maori race, who do not understand our political institutions and believe such changes a sign of weakness and a defeat of the line of policy affecting themselves, and encourages them to renew their opposition…. I sent you some time ago a letter about the Moturoa Reserve through which the south road was taken, for which the native owners were never yet paid their compensation. The natives are constantly applying for it, and fancy they are never to be paid.
Again, on 7 February 1866, Parris wrote:
Truly may you say that the state of things is very disheartening. Never since the War began have I been so disheartened as I am at the present time, the cause of which my official letters will in great measure explain. You are no doubt well aware of the trouble I have taken in endeavouring to bring the natives back to their allegiance to the Government, never for one moment supposing that, by doing so, I should render them liable to the treatment they have received during the last fortnight. Whether the proceedings are sanctioned or not by the Government, of course I am not aware, but I should hope not. I have not mentioned in my official letters the fact of Te Ua having been made prisoner at Wanganui. I reported to your office about a month ago that I had been to Opunake and made arrangements for him and the Chief Hone Pihama to stop at or near Opunake, promising them that they would not be molested there. This will page 66now be regarded as treachery on my part, and that I knew what was to take place. I assure you I feel it most painfully. Had the Government wished to have Te Ua examined, I would have induced him to go even to Wellington, without making him a prisoner for the purpose and subjecting him to military parading. Should he be taken on to Wellington and liberated there, I should be glad if you could prevail on the Native Minister to send him back to me by steamer.
You will no doubt hear glowing accounts of the General's expedition, but pause before believing them all. It is true they drove the rebels out in several places, but, as to the number killed, it is very doubtful, for many said to have been killed were living a few days ago. I have heard to-day that, since the force left Ngatiruanui, the rebels have punished that part of the native contingent which was left at Waingongoro. Two are said to have been killed and several wounded. This does not look as if they were much cowed.
If ever persecution was in force, it is now in this district. I trust not with the sanction of the Government.
Parris (Wanganui) to Rolleston, 10 August 1866:
Since my arrival here, I have had a conversation with Hori King and Aperaniko about the late occurrence at Pokaikai, which they severely censure and denounce as treacherous murder, there having been a friendly communication with the same natives by which they were thrown off their guard and betrayed into the belief that an attack would not be made upon them, so much so that they were going to bring a present of potatoes into camp the next day. A white flag and a ball cartridge had also been sent for them to choose which they would prefer, when they kept the white flag and sent back the ball cartridge, after which there was further communication, and the natives sent in word to the camp to say that Matanahira had gone to New Plymouth for me. This appears to be the only pretext for the night attack. As to the report about an ambuscade, Aperaniko, who was present with the forces, assures me that nothing of the sort occurred. Mr Booth assures me that the natives regard it as the most disgraceful thing that has occurred during the War (but they don't know all).
Many other letters couched in similar terms might be quoted. But these would require a great many explanatory page 67notes to render them understandable even to students familiar with Maori history. Enough has been quoted to show how deeply concerned Mr Parris was to secure justice for the Maoris, and to keep faith with them.