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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 10

C. — New Zealand Spectator, Oct. 10, 1860

page 49


New Zealand Spectator, Oct. 10, 1860.

Sir,—I wish to make a few remarks on a passage contained n a Despatch of the Governor's (June 28th), commenting on a letter to the Duke of Newcastle, to which the Bishop of Wellington's name and mine were attached. It is as follows:—

" The Bishop states that the Head of the Department did not investigate the title; but his statement is inaccurate, as your Grace ma; see by Mr. M'Lean's report, forwarded in my Despatch No. 63, of 27th June last, in which the subject is incidentally mentioned."

I think a careful consideration of the documents published since the letter was written wilt remove all doubts as to the fact asserted—that Mr. M'Lean did not investigate William King's title to the disputed land at Waitara, and that the statement contained in the letter it not accurate, but that the Governor's own assertion is open to the charge of inaccuracy. When I signed the letter containing the allegation in question, I well knew what the Governor himself ought to have known when he contradicted it in an official despatch, that Mr. M'Lean not only had not investigated William King's title, but that he had not even been at Taranaki for nearly twelve months before he went:here in March last, after hostilities had commenced. I believe this fact cannot be refuted. Still these are times of much credulity: a kind of clairvoyance may be attributed to Mr. M'Lean. There are, I believe, people who even now suppose that the Chief Commissioner investigated William King's claim to the disputed land at Waitara. I shall not be at all surprised to see, after the lapse of a few months—perhaps only weeks—the same assertion again made, even in official despatches, notwithstanding the acknowledged fact that he was actually absent from the Province of Taranaki during the whole period I have mentioned above.

But my knowledge of the fact, that the Chief Commissioner do not investigate William King's title to the land in dispute, did not rest on mere report or hearsay; on the contrary, I had it on the best possible authority, that of Mr. M'Lean himself. On the 10th of March last Mr. M'Lean called on me. During the conversation that arose in reference to Taranaki, he told me very distinctly, that though he was surprised that William King had not spoken more strongly at the meeting that took place on the 12th March, 1859, he had by no means made up his mind that Teira's title was a valid one; and that he had, in consequence of this doubt, advised the Governor and Mr. Parris to use very great caution if they proceeded with the negotiation. He added that he had subsequently made some inquiries as to the title of the disputed land at Queen Charlotte's Sound and at Wellington (these inquiries, let it be observed, were made among Teira's friends and those favourable to the sale); but that he had made none at Waitara. I will not say that he expressed surprise that no reference had been made to him before the important step taken by the Governor was resolved on; page 50 but his language undoubtedly implied as much, when he attributed the absence of any such reference to him, to the probable wish of the Governor to avoid giving unnecessary anxiety or trouble during his illness.

I certainly considered this conclusive as to the fact stated in the letter, that the Chief Commissioner had not investigated William King's claim. Probably the Governor may attach a different meaning to the word "investigate" from that which it conveys to me—especially when used in reference to a native's title to land. But however that may be, in no other hypothesis can I account for his assertion, that the statement contained in his letter, namely, that Mr. M'Lean did not investigate William King's claim, is "inaccurate." I was not aware that Mr. M'Lean had ever disguised his opinion on this subject. Matene Te "Whiwhi, described by Mr. Richmond as that "influential and excellent chief," was taken by Mr. M'Lean in March last to Taranaki. On his return he told me, what he told others here, that Mr. M'Lean bad expressed his regret that the Governor should have taken such a hasty and premature step, as the forcible ejection of William King from Woitara, without further investigation,

I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, (Signed)

Octavius Hadfeld.