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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 27

The Isles of the Pacific

The Isles of the Pacific.

This is a delightful book of 224 pages, profusely illustrated, by B. Francis. The Pacific Ocean is said to cover nearly half the globe, and sketches of its emerald isles set in azure are always attractive. New Zealand engrosses 100 pages of the work. This is the most remote corner of the British Empire, and still the most nearly resembling England, in respect to its climate, atmosphere, and productions. We "have completely filled it with our own people, plants, and animals, and built towns and villages almost like those in our own land. The climate, too, is in some respects like our own, but warmer and finer, and the atmosphere is clear and bright, and the sky very blue. There is a slight dampness in the air, owing, it is thought, to the vast tracts of water by which it is surrounded, but which keeps the foliage and the grass as green as it is in England. Of all the islands in the world, New Zealand is surrouded by the largest extent of water." The natives of these isles of New Zealand are "a fine, intelligent tribe of men." Captain Cook "found them living in villages, in huts made of wood and reeds. They wore clothing woven from the native flax, and dyed with bark, and they made stone weapons, and instruments of various kinds, and cooked their food. They also cultivated their land, and made laws about property, and stored provisions against bad times. Being much given to fighting among themselves, they made forts and defences of the most ingenious kind. Though they had no written language, they had all sorts of songs and proverbs, handed down from generation to generation; and they knew and had named every bird, plant, and insect in their island. They had also names for the stars, and called the constellations from page 80 fancied resemblances to different familiar objects, such as canoes or weapons. They had various amusements and games, many of them like our own—such as flying kites, walking on stilts, wrestling, and hide-and-seek. They treated their wives well. They were cannibals, and after a battle it was their custom to kill and eat the prisoners they had taken. They had no religion, only a sort of strange mythology of their own, but they believed in a future existence."

We are told that "the fruits and flowers of New Zealand are endless in variety and beauty." Roots and seeds imported from England flourish here in great perfection. In the Northern Island, "the myrtle and scarlet geranium bloom unsheltered all the year round; and grapes, figs, and melons ripen perfectly in the open air, and oranges, bananas, and pine-apples."

Currants, gooseberries, strawberries, potatoes, grow in great profusion in the South Islands. Our flowers—"roses, honeysuckle. lavender, mignonnette, snow-drops, crocuses, and daffodils blossom luxuriantly; also, the oak, elm, and other English trees. A New Zealand forest in its native wildness is a most beautiful sight, with its infinite variety of pine trees, evergreens, creepers, and shrubs. Many of the large trees bear lovely flowers, and the ground is carpeted with them. Among the most beautiful plants are the tree-fern and the cabbage-palm; the commonest is the manuka scrub, which grows all over the island. It is something like a myrtle, and has white, and sometimes pink, blossoms. All the native trees, with one or two exceptions, are evergreen."

The Maoris ornament their heads with feathers, combs, and pearl shells. "In their ears they wear pieces of jasper or green-jade, and sharks' teeth. The women adorn their necks with strings of sharks' teeth and a particular kind of berry." New Zealand is rich in " a great variety of birds; green parrots and pigeons of various kinds; the bell-bird, with its sweet, dreamy note; the iris, or parson-bird, who wears a glossy black suit; and the New Zealand robin, who is no robin at all, but has a yellowish-white breast." We have wood-hens also, and several species of the kiwi. They have neither wings nor tails, and are covered with hair. The moa is extinct. The Maoris—a tail, well-built race—with coarse black hair, large noses and mouths, "tattoo their faces most elegantly and elaborately." They, also, " smear their faces with oil and red ochre." With respect to their superstitious rites, the tapu and muru are very singular. The tapu means that a thing is sacred and not to be touched. With regard to the muru, " if any one has an accident or affliction, it is thought a compliment and a token of sympathy to page 81 visit him, eat up all his provisions, and sometimes rob him of everything he possesses! "

Like the Homeric heroes, "when a chief died, it was con-sidered right and proper to kill a slave immediately, in order that the great man might have a spirit to attend him into another world. One or more of his wives would always make an end of herself, that she might accompany her husband."

Of course these rites are now discontinued. However, "the wives content themselves with covering their heads, howling and lamenting for days together." These lamentations and certain ceremonies and a great deal of feasting always accompany the death of a chief, and constitute a Tangi."

Samuel Marsden was the first missionary to the Maoris. "In 1808 he visited England, and laid the foundation of the Church of England Mission in New Zealand." On his way back, he made the acquaintance of Ruatara—a young Maori chief, who like other young chiefs had gone to England, and had been cruelly treated by unprincipled captains. George, one of the ill-treated Maoris, had his revenge on the captain and crew, who were murdered on their return. But Ruatara proved a real friend and helper to the benevolent Mr Marsden. On the 19th November, 1814, Marsden embarked from Sydney for New Zealand with the pioneer missionaries. They landed at the Bay of Islands, " at the spot where the massacre had taken place." The missionary dissuaded the natives from further acts of mutual hostilities, for they were fighting on his arrival.

On Christmas Day, 1814, Marsden preached the first sermon in New Zealand. The natives for the first time heard " the glad tidings of great joy! " Praise first rose up to heaven in the words of the Old Hundredth Psalm. There was a large congregation. Hangi, another chief who had visited England, and had been kindly treated, and received guns from King George, caused great trouble to the missionaries, and much carnage among the Maoris; for in his raids on other tribes "villages were burned, and hundreds of prisoners killed and eaten." The labours of Mr Williams for forty years require special praise. In 1836, the New Testament was translated into Maori, and in 1842, Mr Williams welcomed Bishop Selwyn to New Zealand. The Gospel and the Church came to subdue "the power of sin over the heart of unregenerate man."

The New Zealand Company was formed, "and sent out settlers, under the guidance of Colonel Wakefield, to buy land from the natives—to be paid for in all sorts of things which the Maoris valued more: tools, seeds, looking-glasses, clothing, muskets, gunpowder, &c." Land enough was bought in a year, page 82 and the natives began to repent of their foolish bargains; hence the subsequent wars. At last Captain Hobson hoisted the British flag, and the Treaty of Waitangi was "signed by 46 chiefs in 1840." This year also Taranaki was founded by the N.Z. Company, the settlers being mainly from Devon and Cornwall. New Plymouth is "one of the most beautifully situated towns in the world." It is built at the foot of Mount Egmont, cone-shaped, covered with snow, with sugar-loaf rocks around it. In 1844 Heke cut down the flagstaff at the Bay of Islands, and set the Government at defiance.

Troops were sent from Sydney to put down the rebels. But from this time we must really date "the beginning of the New Zealand war." True, there were a few years of peace, but "the seeds of the terrible wars of more modern times were sown" then and there. A Land League was created, "to prevent the settlers getting more land into their hands, and in 1858 a King was set up at Rangiawhia. Governor Browne was likened to the kapu or hawk, " which hovered over head, and though a bird of prey still could always be seen." Whereas, Sir George Grey was compared to the Mori or rat, " which worked underground, so that it could not be told where it went in or where it would come out." Striking comparison and true to the core; as subsequent events proved. " In 1883 the terrible campaign of the Waikato began." The bravery of the Maoris shone out conspicuously at the Gate Pah, which was defended by 300 natives against 1,700 English, with Armstrong guns. Twenty-seven were killed, of whom 11 were officers, and 70 wounded. Tamihana, the Maori chief and friend of England, established a newspaper, was a pacificator throughout, and told his countrymen on his death-bed "to stand by the Government and the law." The watchwords of this King-maker were Christianity, Love, Law. Like Cassandra, his counsels were not heeded—else there had been no wars at all.

New Zealand is famed for its beautiful scenery, fertile soil, and genial climate. Lady Baker's "Station Life" gives us "delightful pictures of the free, open-air life of the farmers and their families settled there." The forests, ferns, and mountains are splendid, so also are the lakes, hot-springs, baths, rivers, streams, plains, glens, and gullies.

"Fully a quarter of the Canterbury Province is one enormous plain of 3,000,000 acres, all divided into sheep runs, and covered with flocks and herds. The principal city, Christchurch, is built on the banks of the beautiful river Avon."

Otago was founded by the New Zealand Company, and colonised by the Scotch, on the 23rd March, 1848. In 1861 gold page 83 was discovered in Otago, and "the effect of the discovery was almost like the touch of the wand of Cinderella's fairy god-mother on this part of New Zealand. Fine buildings sprang up in the towns, gas illumined the streets, railways and telegraph wires crossed the country."

Dunedin is now the first city in the Colony, and "one of the finest of colonial cities."

The Maoris are dying off in obedience to a strange law of nature, which decrees that in whatever land the white man settles the dark native race diminishes, and as it were melts away before him."