William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman
But the problem that overshadowed all others was the war with the Maoris, which had begun in 1860 and was still dragging along in a desultory, inconclusive and expensive fashion. This war had already caused the downfall of several ministries and damaged many political reputations. In the course of eight years there had been no fewer than eight different holders of the portfolio of Native Affairs.
On the whole (says Gisborne), looking back to the seventeen years from 1853 to 1870 I do not think that there is any other country which during that time presented in kind apart from extent more difficult political problems for solution by public men, and comparatively speaking was so severe a test of statesmanship.2
This observation by so competent and accurate an observer as Gisborne should constantly be kept in mind. It is no exaggeration to say that at the period when Rolleston entered politics New Zealand was passing through the greatest crisis in her history.3 It was not that her statesmen were inadequate or lacking in courage, but that their problems were quite unprecedented and far more complex than any that their successors have had to face.
2 History of New Zealand, p. 167.
3 See Harrop, England and the Maori Wars.