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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 10

Memorandum for his Excellency the Governor

Memorandum for his Excellency the Governor.

1. Ministers have received a copy of the letter addressed to His Excellency the Governor by Lord Chichester, and several other gentlemen connected with the "Aborigines' Protection Society" in London, relative to the "war which is now raging in New Zealand between the Maoris and their English rulers," on which they beg to make the following remarks:—

2. The only two points in the letter which appear to call for any remark are—First, the hope expressed that His Excellency the Governor "would avail himself of the first favourable opportunity of endeavouring to terminate the war by negociation, and especially that he would listen to any overtures of of peace which any of the natives who have taken up arms might make;" and secondly, a protest against the confiscation of the lands of the rebel tribes.

3. With regard to the first of these points, Ministers regret to state, that, down to this date, the rebels have not as a body, nor have any leading tribes, made he smallest overture of peace. At the commencement of the present unhappy struggle, they appear to have entertained a firm conviction that they could drive the Europeans out of this island, and they commenced by a desperate attack upon Auckland, the seat of Government. Early in the struggle, Thompson, who may be regarded as the leader of the rebel party, announced in writing, under his own hand, his determination to carry the war to the utmost extremity, not even sparing unarmed persons. Acting in this spirit, the Maoris threw themselves into the heart of the settled districts of the Province of Auckland, murdering and destroying the settlers within seventeen miles of the town, cutting down the Government flagstaff at the Manukau, the western harbour of the city of Auckland itself, and driving from their farms and homesteads a tolerably dense population of agricultural settlers ovec the space of some twenty miles square. So sudden was their onslaught, and so completely did they succeed in getting possession of the country close round Auckland, that it was not till after the fall of Rangiriri—five months at least after the commencement of the struggle—that they were driven back, and routed out of the wooded ranges, to such an extent that even the city and immediate suburbs of Auckland could be considered safe. Since that period they have been driven, or escaped from, one stronghold after another, till they have been compelled to evacuate the whole of Waikato proper: they have retreated before our troops to a distance of 120 miles from Auckland, and their main body is understood to be broken into two or three sections, the principal of which appears to have descended upon Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty, where, with the resident rebels of that district, they are again defying the British troops, and throwing up aggressive works within a distance of three miles of our posts. During all this lime they have not, as a body, shewn the smallest symptom of any desire to terminate the war, nor have they made any overtures of peace. On the con- page 26 trary, they continue to make the most strenuous efforts to recruit their forces by enlistment among the East-Coast tribes, whom they encourage to join them by the most monstrous falsehoods, which are circulated by express authority of Thompson and the other leaders, and by means of which they have hitherto succeeded in deluding considerable numbers into the belief that the rebellion has been successful, and that they have only to join it to see the final establishment in triumph of the Maori king. (See Appendix A.)

It is a well-known fact, that, in their intertribal wars, the natives invariably regard any overtures of peace as a sign that the party who makes it is beaten; that it is an acknowledgment of defeat. It is a matter, therefore, of the utmost delicacy to initiate such negociations, as nothing could be more fatal to the prospect of actual peace than that the rebels should be able to announce to the distant or non-committed tribes that we had placed ourselves in that position. Such tentative efforts in that direction as the Government has thought it prudent to make, have at once been seized on by Thompson as indications of weakness, and he has on various occasions encouraged his followers (and no doubt it has operated to keep them in arms) by assurances that "the Governor and General are now sueing for peace." The time, however, has now arrived when, by the fall of Maungatautari, the last of the fortified strongholds of Waikato, the conquest of that district and its inhabitants is practically complete, though the latter may no doubt still carry the war into other parts of the island, as they are doing at Tauranga. Still the event referred to seemed to ministers to afford a fair opportunity for making a general announcement of the terms on which the rebellion might be terminated, by the issue, by His Excellency the Governor, of a proclamation; and ministers have accordingly advised His Excellency to issue one, the terms of which have been settled by them after much earnest thought and discussion.

While such has been the action of the Government in reference to the rebels as a body, the door has never been closed against such individuals as might be desirous of laying down their arms, or returning to their allegiance without any personal punishment whatever. Numerous efforts have been made by the Government to induce them to do so. On the 16th of December last, immediately after the capture of Ngaruawahia (the king's palace), a document was sent to the rebels, in which their principal chiefs were invited to visit the Governor, in order that they might learn the future intentions of the Government towards them; and they were distinctly assured, under the hand of the Governor, that if the rebels would give up their arms, they would not be made prisoners, nor be in any way molested in their persons, for any part they might have taken in the present or any former war. On the 6th of January last, the Colonial Secretary issued instructions to the resident magistrates as to the course to be pursued towards rebels who might surrender, and an abstract of these instructions was circulated, and has been kept before the eyes of the natives in every part of the island. The terms have been generally admitted, at least by those not actually engaged in hostilities, as extremely fair, and a very considerable number of rebels have actually come in under the terms offered, given up their arms, and signed a declaration of allegiance.

On the 30th of March last, immediately previous to the evacuation of Maungatautari, William Nero, a friendly chief of the highest rank, closely related to the leading rebels, informed the Colonial Secretary, personally and by letter, that he had reason to believe that the rebels were desirous of making peace, but were deterred by the fear that their leaders would be hung; and he suggested that he might be allowed to proceed to the rebel camp in order to disabuse their minds of this supposition. The Colonial Secretary at once acquiesced in the proposal. (See Correspondence, Appendix B.) Nero proceeded on his mission, but entirely failed, not even an interview being granted with the leading chiefs. Two or three men of rank, whom he persuaded to page 27 come in and sign a declaration that in two days they would bring in all their tribe, left again on the following day under pretence that they would return with all those people, amounting to some 200 souls. They did not, however, even return themselves, but very adroitly contrived to thrust upon us some sixty or seventy women, children, and decrepit old men, who were a burden on their commissariat, and an impediment to their movements. This was all that was gained on our side by this well-intentioned, but certainly not very successful attempt to remove what was believed by some to be the only obstacle to the restoration of peace. It should be observed, also, that, during these negociations, Thompson, by letter addressed to Nero, affected a great desire to see peace restored. Yet, at the very moment he was writing such letter, he appears to have been organizing a new campaign.

Ministers repeat that, in their opinion, the very greatest caution ought to be exercised in pressing the natives to come to terms. Everyone who knows the Maori must know, that, even in the ordinary business of life, any exhibition of anxiety to get him to do anything is the certain way to make him hang back from doing it; his mind, cunning and suspicious beyond that of most races, inferring at once that such anxiety is a sign of weakness on the part of him who shews it, and that, by standing out, he can obtain his own terms, however extravagant or unreasonable. On the other hand, ministers have entire faith in the natural results of an actual defeat of the rebel armies enforced with prudence, with firmness, with mercy; and in such broad general principles as may operate, not on the mind of one individual here and there, but on the feelings and sentiments of the entire nation, both that part which has been engaged in active hostilities, and that which has not.

And it must be borne in mind that this latter portion of the native community is to be considered in what is done, equally with the actual rebel. It would be of little benefit to patch up peace in Waikato, if rebellion were by that to be encouraged in Cook's Straits or at Ahuriri. Waikato has been, and is, the head of the rebellion, and the neck of it must be broken there. If a final, permanent, and complete subjugation of Waikato is effected, this will, in all human probability, be the last instance which wilt occur of any combined resistance to British authority and British law. If, in our anxiety to spare the erring Maori race, we press and persuade them to come to terms before they are really convinced of our superiority, and before we have taken those material guarantees for the future which it is contemplated to take, we shall to a certainty have, at some future day, to repeat the lesson which we are now endeavouring to teach. If the present struggle should be terminated without completely convincing the natives all throughout New Zealand of the folly of trying their strength against the Europeans, and without a sufficient material guarantee being taken, new outbreaks wilt undoubtedly occur from time to time, which can only end in chronic hostility of the race, and wars of extermination. The only hope of saving a remnant of the Maori race is the termination of the present struggle by their full acknowledgment of their mistake, their full acceptance of its consequences, and submission to the supremacy of law: it will not be done by treaties of peace which might leave the impression that they are an independent people, or at liberty in any future imaginary casus belli to take up the sword.

In concluding this part of their remarks, ministers would observe that no time has yet been allowed for the results of the late campaign to bear their natural fruit It is only three weeks since the final blow was struck in Waikato, by the capture of Orakau, and evacuation of Maungatautari. The mind of the rebel cannot yet have fully realized to itself the magnitude of the defeat and its consequences; at all events it does not appear to have done so. A little patience on our side may, and there is little doubt will, enable us to reap the fruits of the late costly military operations, while, as already hinted, page 28 undue pressure brought to bear on the Natives to induce them to come to terms, or undue anxiety exhibited on our part to escape the prolongation of the war, will probably have exactly the reverse effect to that which is intended.

One thing must be borne in mind. This is not a war between two independent nations, living in separate territory, perhaps hundreds of miles apart. When this rebellion is put down, we have to govern the Maori, to re-instate him in our community, to live with him, to come under numerous mutual responsibilities, social and political. A war simply between independent nations involves no such consequences, and may be terminated on a very different basis; while its termination may be brought about by negociations which would be very unsuitable means by which to terminate a struggle of the sort which exists in this Colony.

4. As regards the question of the confiscation of Maori lands, against which a protest is raised, ministers beg to make the following observations:—

In the first place, it is a custom which has been always recognised by the Maoris themselves. In their wars, a conquered tribe not only forfeited its lands, but the vanquished survivors were reduced to a tributary position, and large numbers to personal slavery. The Government of New Zealand has always recognised such a title as valid. The Waikatos themselves were paid by Governor Hobson, for such a proprietary right over the district of Taranaki; and a very large proportion, if not an actual majority of the purchases of land from the Maoris in various parts of the island have been made on the basis of a recognition of this right of conquest. There is therefore nothing in the course proposed abhorrent to the moral sense, or previous habits of thought, of the Maori race (See Appendix C.)

In the second place, they never do consider themselves conquered unless their lands are taken. In previous wars between the British Government and the Maoris, which were not followed by confiscation, friendly Maoris have expressed their surprise at our moderation. "What is the good," they have said, "of taking the man ? You should have taken his land, then that work would have been finished."

In the third place, when the struggle began, the Maoris openly avowed their intention of taking the land and farms of the Europeans, when they should have driven us into the sea. It was not uncommon, even before the war commenced, for' some of the more insolent to come to a settler's house, and, after looking the place over, to say, "Ah, this house will suit me very well, that room will do for my wife, that shall be my bed: wait a little; by and bye you will see." An instance of this is within the personal knowledge of a Minister. The feeling was general among the tribes which engaged in, or sympathized with the king movement, after it assumed an aggressive character, hostile towards the European occupation of the country.

Fourthly The chief object of the Government is, however, neither punishment nor retaliation, but simply to provide a material guarantee against the recurrence of those uprisings against the authority of law, and the legitimate progress of colonization, which are certain to occur if the rebel is allowed to retain his lands after involving the Colony in so much peril, disaster, and loss. The Natives are fond of war, as almost their only source of excitement. The practice of incessant hostilities with each other for centuries, has become a second nature; and though circumstances have to a great extent suspended the operation of their military impulses for some few years, they have neither lost their skill in fighting nor their taste for it. If they can have the excitement and many advantages of a summer's campaign when it pleases them, with liberty to retain their lands when it is over, without suffering any losses except their wretched dwellings and a season's crops, while the colony is nearly broken down by the losses and cost of the war, they will not easily be deterred page 29 from renewing hostilities. Mere defeats in the field will not deter them. There must be some more substantial and material guarantee. The guarantee which the Government has proposed is to introduce colonists, chiefly direct from Great Britain, into those districts now sparsely inhabited by the rebels, and from which they make their inroads into the settled districts. It is only on the lands of the rebels, at least in Waikato, that population can be so established. But it is not, and never has been, proposed to leave them without an ample quantity of land for their use and occupation. A quantity, much larger per head than the average occupation of Europeans in this island is proposed to be set apart for them, on a graduated scale, according to rank and other circumstances. These lands would no longer be held under the pernicious system of tribal right, but as individualized properties under the security to each proprietor of a Crown grant. Ministers believe that nothing has been, or can be more pernicious to the native race than the possession of large territories under tribal title, which they neither use, know how to use, nor can be induced to use. It has, in the opinion of Ministers, been the principal cause of the slow progress, and, in some respects (particularly their physical condition), of the actual retrogression and decay of the race. And though, while the Maoris acknowledge the supremacy of a protecting Government, and professed submission to law, it was just to respect those semi-feudal proprietary rights which they declined to surrender, yet now that they have abandoned their allegiance, renounced all submission to law, and staked their all against our all, there seems no longer any reason for respecting privileges which are believed to be equally injurious to their moral, social, and political condition. In the present state of this colony, it is not a question to be argued by reference to the rights of the Maori in times past, when, as an independent people, they were recognised as competent to surrender or retain whatever power or property they might please. It can scarcely be held, that after the events of the last year, the rebel Maori is entitled to take this position. On the other hand, the struggle has become one for the bare existence of the Colony, which, though now apparently secured for the time by the result of the late campaign, but still only held by military posts, it is no less the duty of the Government to take such precaution as may prevent its being again imperilled. The deliberate and almost unanimous opinion of both Houses of Assembly determined the course of action in this matter which forms the basis of the policy of the ministry in reference to the confiscation of the lands of those who have been engaged in the rebellion. The deliberate opinion of ministers is, that to terminate the present insurrection without confiscation of the lands of the rebels, making of course ample provision for their future, would be to surrender every advantage that has been gained, and practically to announce that British rule over the Maori race must cease, and the Northern island be abandoned as a safe place of residence for Her Majesty's European subjects.

William Fox,

Col.-Sec. Auckland,