The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78
The Wairau Massacre, June 17th, 1843.—Proceedings between Natives and Surveyors
The Wairau Massacre, June 17th, 1843.—Proceedings between Natives and Surveyors.
The Wairau Valley comprises an extent of about 100,000 acres of level land, 500 or 600 of which were in 1843 covered with wood, and the remainder with fern and grass. There were then no traces of cultivation in any part of the valley or plains, the original inhabitants and possessors being the Rangitane, who were nearly extirpated about 1832 by the notorious chief Riuparaha The few who escaped him took refuge in the bush. These lands were acquired by purchase by the New Zealand Company from the Maori chiefs, the respected owners. Some of the chiefs objected to the sale, Warepori, by name Puakawa, being the leader of the opposition, but Matangi, the oldest, and formerly the most influential of these chiefs, acquiesced and the purchase was supposed to have been effected. These lands were advertised for survey by contract, by Captain Wakefield, the New Zealand Company's agent at Nelson, in March, 1843. Barnicat, Parkinson, and Cotterell, with their men, forming in all a party of about forty, started by sea from Nelson on the 15th April, and landed on the Wairau beach on Tuesday, the 25th. There they found a chief named Epuka, with two or three of his followers, who expressed no dissatisfaction at their arrival. There were till then no other Natives in the valley but in the course of two or three days a considerable number arrived from different parts of the strait, who manifested their intention of opposing the survey in various ways. They pulled up the surveyors' ranging-rods, destroyed a saw-pit, and on one occasion seven of them, armed with muskets, passed through the station, and talked threateningly to the men left in charge. They abstained from personal violence, and towards the white men themselves appeared to entertain no unfriendly feelings, they had all along talked of Rauparaha's approaching visit, who, they said, would send the white men away. Their interruptions to the survey were complained of to Captain Wakefield.
Meanwhile, Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, being at Porirua, in attendance on the court of land claims, made known their determination to prevent the survey from proceeding, and Mr. Joseph Toms (better known as Geordie Bolts) repeatedly stated he understood from them that they would make a stand at Wairau and lose their lives rather than allow the white men to take possession of that place. Mr Spain, land commissioner, used his influence to pacify them, agreed to meet them at Port Underwood to investigate the land claims, as soon as possible after the adjournmentpage break
of his court at the end of June, and obtained from them a promise not to enter the Wairau within the time appointed, nor do anything before his arrival. Mr Toms offered to take Rauparaha and Rangihaeata in his schooner to his own place in Cloudy Bay, and keep them until he received a communication from Mr Spain. On the 28th May Mr Toms received Rauparaha and party on board his schooner Three Brothers, of which he was captain and owner, at Porirua, and, having crossed to Mana Island, where he took in Rangihaeata and about ten more Natives, making about twenty-five in all, he proceeded to Cloudy Bay. It was understood on board that the Natives were going to fight for their land at Wairau. They were armed with muskets and tomahawks, Toms himself giving them two muskets in exchange for a slave. The party were landed at Port Underwood in Cloudy Bay on June 1st. They then started with other Natives in eight canoes and a whale-boat for the Wairau, where they arrived on the same day. They appear to have been a hundred in number, and their first visit was paid to a Mr Cave at Port Underwood. The following account of their behaviour was taken from Mr Cave and communicated to the editor of the New Zealand Gazette, Wellington, by John Dorset, Esq., M.D., who accompanied the magistrates after the massacre. From the information I gathered from the whalers and the depositions taken at Cloudy Bay, it appeared to me that the Natives came fully prepared for mischief. The person on whose testimony I placed most reliance was Mr Cave, who had been resident there for the last seven or eight years, and who had been always up to that time on the most friendly terms with the chief Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, but this time he noticed a peculiar ferocity about their bearing. They asked for things in a way that brooded no denial, and seeing Mr Cave's men together they sent them off by their own boats, with the exception of Mr Barnicoat and one man, who Rauparaha allowed to remain in charge of some provisioas they had not room for. The whole body of Natives then ascended the river in their canoes. In number they at this time amounted to 98, but subsequent arrivals swelled this number to 125, of whom about 40 were women and children.
The Police Magistrate at Nelson, having issued his warrant, and being informed of the number of the Natives, and of their being armed, resolved to attend to the execution of the warrant himself. Accompanied by an armed force, he expressed the opinion that such a demonstration would prevent blood-shed, and impress upon the Natives a sense of the authority of the law. It is certain that actual resistance was not anticipated, and that the moral effect of the presence of the force was wholly relied on. The page 54 men chosen were of the labouring class, and intended as a reinforcement to those employed in surveying. Many of them had never handled a fire-lock in their lives. The Government brig was then in Nelson harbour, and, at the request of Mr Thompson, Captain Richards consented to carry the party to the Wairau. It then consisted of the following persons :—Henry Augustus Thompson, Esq., Judge of the County Court and Police Magistrate; Captain Arthur Wakefield, R.N., New Zealand Company's agent for the Nelson settlement; and Captain Richard England, both Justices of the Peace; George Bycroft Richardson, Esq., Crown Prosecutor for Nelson; Mr James Howard, a warrant officer in the Navy and the New Zealand's Company's storekeeper; Mr Cotterell, surveyor, four constables, and twelve special constables. John Brooks went as interpreter, having often been similarly employed The brig sailed on Tuesday, June 13th, in the Gulf. On the same day she met the Company's boat on her return from the Wairau. With Mr Tuckett, Mr Patchett, a merchant and land agent, and Mr Bettoirs, surveyor, these gentlemen, at the request of Captain Wakefield, joined his party with the boat's crew. On the evening of Thursday, June 15th, and the following morning the party landed at Wairau, where Mr Barnicoat and his men joined them. Muskets, and a cartouch bore of ball cartridge with each, were served out to the men, and cutlasses to as many as chose to avail themselves of them. On Friday afternoon they ascended the right bank of the river about five miles. On the way they met Puaka, who was accompanied by a small party of Natives. They had been engaged in clearing land, but had been stopped, they said, by Te Rauparaha, who had gone higher up the river. They appeared alarmed at the sight of the armed force but their fears were allayed by Mr Thompson informing Puaka that the object of his journey had no reference to him or his party but that he had a warrant against Te Rauparaha and Rangihaeats on a charge of arson. Mr Thompson also explained to him that no force would be used toward them, but that they would be required to go with him on board the brig, where the case would be investigated by himself and the other magistrates. Puaka replied that the other chiefs would not believe bub what he came to make war upon them, but agreed to carry them a message to the above effect. He then went off in his whale-boat higher up Another party of Natives were met with, and a similar explanation given. It being now too late to proceed, the magistrates and their followers encamped for the night at a pine-wood called Tus Mautine, and set a watch. Their movements, it appears, had been all along watched and reported by scouts, and Mr Cave informed Dr. Dorsed that one of the spies they left behind at the pah went up with the English party, counted every man, and, a short time page 55 before the fight, crossed over the brook to his own party, gave the required information, and joined in the fight.
On the morning of Saturday, 'June 17th, two boats having been brought up, the Europeans embarked in them and went up the river a few miles. They now amounted to 49, 33 of whom were armed with muskets, one or two carrying fowling-pieces. Mr Howard had a cutlass; the remainder were apparently unarmed, but in general were furnished with pocket-pistols. When mustered, before setting out, Captain Wakefield, having called order, said to them, "Men, whatever you do, do not fire unless you get orders." Having ascended the river about four miles the party perceived some smoke issuing from a wood, and soon heard the voice of Natives, that of Rangihaeata being plainly distinguishable. On advancing they found them posted in the wood, which is about 50 acres in extent, on the right bank of a deep, unfordable rivulet called Tua Marina, which flows into the Wairau on its left bank, and is, at this place, about 30ft wide. They were squatting in groups in front of the dense wood, on about quarter of an acre of cleared ground, with their canoes drawn up on the bank of the stream. The white men halted on the left bank, with a hill, covered with fern and manuka, behind them, and sloping upwards with several brows or terraces. All bore arms, and were forbidden to cross the stream, or even show themselves until ordered. All accounts agree in estimating the number of Natives at about 120 to 125, including women and children. The men amounted to about 80 or 90, about half of whom were armed with muskets, the rest with Native weapons. At the request of the magistrates a canoe was placed across the 1st ream to serve as a bridge, by a Native called Piccamarro (Big Fellow). Mr Thompson, Captain Wakefield, Messrs Tuckett, Kjotterell, Patchett, Brooks, the interpreter, and Maling, the chief constable, crossed over. The Police Magistrate then called on Te Ruparaha and Rangihaeata. The former alone came forward,' and Mr Thompson explained that he was the Queen's representative, and that he had warrants against him and Rangihaeta for the destruction of the property of Mr Cotterell, nd that he must go on the brig with such of his followers as he chose, where the matter would be investigated. Ruaparaha said that Mr Spain would enquire into and settle the business in a ffittle while. Mr Thompson explained that Mr Spain's 'business lay in deciding as to land claims, that it was a question of destruction of property, and had nothing to do with the ownership of the Wairau. Ruaparaha requested to have the matter decided, on the spot, and professed his readiness to make the compensation to Mr Cotterell, awarded by the Magistrates, provided their decision pleased him. Mr Thompson replied that the case must page 56 be beard on board the Government brig, whither Rauparaha must accompany him. On Rauparaha's reiterated refusal to comply with this proposal, put in direct terms to him, Mr Thompson said he would compel him. Rauparaha said he did not want to fight, but that if the white people fought he would fight too. Mr. Thompson, pointing to the armed men, threatened that he (Rauparaha) and his party would be fired upon. Sixteen Natives at once sprang to their feet, and presented fire-arms. Rangihaeats then came forward, and vehemently defied the Magistrates and their power, exclaiming that they did not go to England to interfere with the white people, and demanding the latter came there to interfere with them. The conversation became very rapid and violent, and Puaka, who, by frequently attempting to intercede seemed to have made matters worse stepped forward with a Bible in his hand, and prayed that there might be no strife. At last Mr Thompson cried out, "Captain England, let the men advance." The conference with the chiefs lasted about twenty minutes or half-an-hour. Great trouble was taken to explain to them the non-connection of these proceedings with the land claims, and every assurance was given them of a fair hearing of whatever they might have to say in defence. It was besides, explained to them that they were not now to be taken to punishment, but to trial, because Mr Cotterell had complained against them, and that the complaint must be enquired into. Mr. Thompson addressed them through the interpreter Brooks, and a Bay of Islands' Native, who was present, explained to them every word that was said. In the meantime the men left on the other side of the stream had been divided into two bodies, consisting sixteen and seventeen respectively, one under the command of Captain England, the other under Mr Howard. When the dispute was at its highest Captain England, perceiving the danger of being separated from the men should a collision arise, proceeded to the creek with the intention of bringing thenf over in a canoe, which with the consent of the Natives, was laid across it. Mr Thompson it seems, just then called to Mr Howard for his men, with some allusion to the number of Natives. "I don't care if there are five thousand of them," was that gallant fellow's reply as he led his party to the stream. In the canoe they met Captain Wakefield whom the rest of the gentlemen were apparently following, "Kept your eyes on them, my men; they have their guns pointed at us said Captain Wakefield to the advancing men. At this moment observing some movement among the Natives to Mr Thompson or the gentlemen, he exclaimed in a loud voice, and with great energy, "Men, forward ! Englishmen, forward !"—and, according to the explicit and consistent evidence of Joseph Morgan, a shot was fired by one of the Natives, which lay his comrade Tyrell deadpage break page 57
at his feet. These two men, with Northam, also killed at almost the same time and spot, were in advance of their party, and on the opposite bank of the stream, when this occurred. Mr Thompson gave orders to fire. Before he could be obeyed the Natives had fired a volley, which was instantly returned. The gentlemen were crossing the stream while this went on, Captain England, the last of them, wading through the water into which he had fallen. The firing was kept up briskly on both sides for a few minutes, but the Natives had greatly the advantage—the bushes on their side being much closer. This, and their previous confusion from meeting in the canoe, may account for the greater loss of life among the Englishmen. Immediately after crossing Mr Patchett received a shot in the left side. He leapt up, then fell, mortally wounded on the spot where he had been standing! Mr Richardson went to his assistance, and bent over him to receive his last commands. He said, "I am mortally wounded, you can do me no good; make your escape." Northam and Smith fell at this time near the same place. Captain "Wakefield, observing his men already retreating, and themselves exposed, ordered them to the hill to form. At this moment, it was ascertained that the Natives were on the point of taking to flight, when Te Rauparaha, seeing his retreat—for there is no doubt he retreated immediately—excited his men, who, raising a war-cry, darted across the stream in pursuit of the Europeans. These latter retreated, without order, in the direction of the hill. Mr Thompson, Captain Wakefield, Captain England, and Mr Howard urged them, for God's sake, to keep together, but in vain. On the first brow most strenuous eflocks were made by the gentlemen to induce the men to stand and form. Mr Howard called to them to fix their bayonets and come to the charge. They, however, kept retreating up the hill, firing as they went. Captain Wakefield, in order to prevent a further sacrifice of life, ordered the firing to cease. On the second brow of the hill Captain Wakefield said their only chance of life was to throw away their arms and lie down. He, Mr Thompson, and Brooks then again shouted kati (peace) and waved a white handkerchief. The Natives now ceased firing, and as they came up the white men delivered up their arms at Captain Wakefield's orders. The whole party seem to have gone a little further down the hill, where most of the Natives, with Rauparaha and Rangihaeata, immediately joined them. The Natives, having shaken hands with the prisoners, who were standing in a group, loaded their guns, and seated themselves in a half-circle before them. The Natives brandished their tomahawks over the heads of the defenceless—men. Mr Thompson, observing this, said to Rauparaha: "Kati," (don't), which he repeated, and gold was offered as a ransom. While standing quietly in a group they were joined by page 58 Rangihaeata, who, having killed the wounded on his way, demanded the lives of those who had surrendered. To this Rauparaha at first objected, but on Rangihaeata calling on him not to forget his daughter (one of Rangihaeata's wives who had been killed before by a chance shot) he offered no further opposition. Standing in the midst of the Maoris the white men were easily separated. While in this defenceless condition even a thought of treachery, Rangihaeata silently glided round, getting behind each, and with his tomahawk brained them all. Mr Ironside, the Wesleyan missionary stationed at Cloudy Bay, had preceded them with two boats' companies of whalers, and discovered seventeen of the dead bodies. Captain Wakefield's coat and waistcoat had been stripped off in savage derision. The murderers had placed a piece of bread near, and a pistol was laid across the throat. The Natives and Europeans both agreed that the origin of the quarrel, in which twenty lives had been lost, was about the land, and that Rauparaha and Rangihaeata had proposed that Mr Spain and Mr Clark should settle the case concerning the land, after which they tore up the flags, threw down the poles which had been set up for marks, burnt the surveyor's house, and sent him and his men off the land. This led the surveyor to the residence of the Europeans—to the police magistrate, informing him that the Natives had not kept their word in leaving the matter to the commissioner, at which the Police, Magistrate and the constables went to take Rauparaha and Rangihaeata. The two latter did not yield to the summons—they would not go. Then the Police Magistrate called the armed men to come forward and arrest them. Just at this time a gun was fired from the Europeans, and a conflict"ensued in which several fell on both sides, and the struggle began. On 12th February, 1844, Governor Fitzrov called at Waikanae. He landed there from the H.M.S. North Star. His Excellency and suite were received by the Rev. Octavius Had field, where the meeting was held concerning the Wairau massacre. A large body of Natives, some five hundred, gathered, and wero addressed as follows by His Excellency;—" I salute you, chiefs and elder men; I wish you health; may peace be among you. I am glad to see you, I rejoice to meet you here; I have much to say to you, many important things. I have heard of all that has been done, some things good, but some very bad. When I see your Church, the work of your own hands, and when I hear from your true friend, Mr Hadfield, what progress you have made in Christian knowledge I rejoice greatly, but when I hear of the evil that has been done by some of you I can hardly believe it has been done by any of the same people—so bad is it in my sight. I have heard of all that has happened at the Wairau from the Europeans. It has grieved my page 59 heart exceedingly. I now ask you to tell me your story that I may compare the two and judge fairly. When I have heard your account of that dark day I will reflect, and tell you what I will do. "Te Rauparaha then arose. He said they was no evil intended at the commencement of the affray. Land was the foundation of all their troubles. The Europeans say it is theirs, but who says so besides themselves. The Tory came to Port Nicholson, and that was the commencement of the evil. We heard of the sale of that place by Te Warepori' and Puni. We never agreed to that sale, and we never received any payment. Who authorised him to sell our land ? The Wairau was taken away by Thompson and Captain Wakefield. When we heard they were surveying the land we went to Nelson to forbid their doing so. Captain Wakefield then said, "If you stop the surveying we will shoot you." I answered, "Well, what matter if you do; we shall lose our lives, but Wairau shall not be taken." Mr Thompson said to me," Rauparaha, spare my life." I answered, "A while ago I wished to talk with you in a friendly manner," and you would not; now you say save me. I will not save you; it is not our custom in war to save the chiefs of our enemies. We do not consider our victory complete unless we kill the chiefs of our opponents." Our passions were much excited, and we could not help killing the chiefs, continued Rauparaha.
His Excellency arose and addressed the Natives as follows :—"Now I have heard both sides; I have reflected on both accounts, and I am prepared to give my decision. In the first place the Englishmen were wrong; they had no right to build houses upon land to which they had not established their claim the sale of which you disputed, and upon which Mr Spain had not decided. They were wrong in trying to apprehend you—you who had committed no crime. They were wrong in marking and measuring your land in opposition to your repeated refusal to allow them to do so until the Commissioner had decided on their claim, I know that you repent of their conduct, and are now sorry those men were killed, and my decision is that, as the Englishmen were very greatly to blame, and as they brought on and began the fight, and as you were hurried into crime by their misconduct, I will not avenge their death. In future let us dwell peaceably without at distrust. I have told you my decision, and my word is sacred." It was in 1850 that the New Zealand Co.'s charter was surrendered, and all its interest in the Colony reverted to the Imperial Government.