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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Rare Volume

Probable Future

Probable Future.

What will be the future of this movement becomes a very natural enquiry. "It must be put down by force of arms," say some. This is easily said by those who feel themselves secure, within reach of garrison protection. But we have more confidence in the sagacity of those who administer the affairs of the country, than to suppose them capable of attempting any thing so palpably foolish. It is hoped that our rulers form a truer estimate of the probable consequences of such a step, than those who talk at random in this fashion. It is more easily said than done. Any attempt to suppress it by force of arms would undoubtedly create a flame that would run from one end of the land to the other, a flame that would not be extinguished, by double or treble the force at present in the country. The Natives appear to have counted the cost; they are not without suspicion that such an attempt may follow the proceedings of the late meeting. They had, in fact, been told that their flag-staff would be cut down, and much of what transpired in the war-dance was intended to be defiant. One of the old chiefs privately expressed his deep concern that the party should thus force on a collision. While it may be considered that they are sincere in disclaiming any intention to attack the Europeans, yet there are those who would not be sorry were the Europeans to attack them; and it would soon be found that the slightest act of aggression proceeding from the side of the pakeha, would instantly bring the tribes to make common cause, and issue in a war of the races.

Ruihana's reply to Potatau at the erection of the flag-staff intimated thus much. When Potatau requested his friends not to avenge his death if anything befell him from the pakehas, Ruihana said, "If any one should be killed away from here (referring to Taranaki) we have nothing to do with it, but if any one were killed here it would be otherwise."

It will be obvious to all who read the report of the late meeting, that the King movement contains within itself the elements of its own dissolution. Though it may exist for a while, page 68 and cause trouble and anxiety to our rulers, yet the probability is, that the "Pa" which Tomo wished to have finished, and which is now considered complete, will, like the Pas that typified it, tumble into ruins in the course of time.

Where bodies of men become associated for a common purpose, success depends upon their unity. There must be oneness of purpose and unity of action, at least the wishes of the majority must bind the minority, or they can accomplish nothing. But in the King party, there is little unity, either in purpose or in action. Not one subject was discussed on which there was perfect unanimity. It may be said that such is generally the case in all deliberative bodies, but then among civilized men, the vote of a majority binds the minority—but who or what shall bind the minority of a Maori runanga? A house divided against itself cannot stand. Then there is no executive, no mana. The question of a war expedition to Taranaki was discussed long and earnestly. The runanga decided that there should be no expedition for such a purpose. Potatau confirmed that decision, and absolutely commanded the war-party not to go, or, if they went, to leave their guns at home; but a large party did go to Taranakinotwithstanding, and are there now. European stores are plundered in order to obtain arms for the expedition, and the Maori king is involved in the consequences: yet he has no power to punish the rebels against his authority. True, he denounces them as "slaves and fern-diggers," but they care not for that. Now, if every man can do what is right in his own eyes—and no power exists to restrain the unruly or to punish the transgressor—the end will soon come.

The effects of the store plundering at Kawhia, and of the war expedition that went from that place, are felt there already. The prompt and decided measures adopted by His Excellency in removing the Custom-house and the settlers from that place, have had a very beneficial influence. The chiefs and the people that did not join the expedition had a meeting lately, at which they publicly expressed the disgust they feel at the conduct of the king party, and determined to have a better understanding when the war party shall have returned from Taranaki. They were discussing the condition in which they are now left. One said "The Governor wants to keep everything for himself alone. He wants us all, and all we have—all the fire-arms and all the books, all the settlers and all the ministers—all earthly and all heavenly things. He must have all, all, all, and we must have nothing. Why does he not command page 69 the sun to shine on him alone, and give light only to him? Why does he not command the clouds to rain upon him alone? "

Another said "Why does McLean still charge us with plunder? If we wished to plunder, we should not allow pakehas to keep any property, and certainly not to remove any. But we wanted fire-arms, which were brought to Kawhia for sale, and went to the store with money in our hands to pay for them."

Another said "Don't talk about plunder and fighting, but go to the root—the kingitanga (the kingdom)." Here there was a general outburst of condemnation against the promoters of the king movement. "Our hearts," they said, "were all turned from these things,—we had all become pakehas,—we were all the Queen's subjects."

Takarei of Kawhia, (who made rather a violent speech at the first meeting at Ngaruawahia) began to enumerate the evils that had befallen them, and charged them all upon the founders of the Maori kingdom.

"Taihoa," said another, "Let Makuare and his party return from Taranaki,—then we shall have a meeting and see what can be done."

This meeting exhibits a reaction, and shews that there is no unity and no mana, and that the main body of the people, though they may be carried away by the excitement of a large runanga, and may appear to sympathise with the leaders, yet, when action is taken and unpleasant results follow, are ready to turn round upon those who have led them where they never intended to go.*

It does not lie within the province of the writer of these remarks to point out the course that should be adopted by His Excellency the Governor in controlling this native movement. It may not however be improper to state two or three points that demand special attention. First—The status of the chiefs should be secured by giving them a position in connection with the Government, in the administration of justice and all other matters affecting the interests of their respective tribes. Second—Native interests should be represented in the councils of the country, either by some of the chiefs or by Europeans in whom they have confidence. Third—The system of purchasing land should be revised. If page 70 some division of tribal property could be made so that each family could possess as bona fide personal property their own portion with power to alienate some, while other portions were made inalienable, the case might be met.

All anxiety to obtain land should be especially avoided. The idea that the pakehas want all the land, and intend to have it, has got firm hold of the native mind, and the earnestness that is sometimes evinced to purchase, or to lease, fosters and confirms the belief, while at the same time it creates exaggerated notions of the value of land and makes the native owners exorbitant in their demands. The probability is, if the Government were to enact a law that no land should be purchased for the next five or seven years, that before twelve months were passed away many tribes would want to sell.

A number of chiefs has been summoned to meet His Excellency on 2nd July next, when, no doubt, the matters that are now engaging the native mind, and that affect their present relations to the British Crown, will be fully discussed. It is to be regretted that the meeting is not to be more general. It is of importance to ascertain fairly and frankly the general feeling entertained by the respective tribes towards the Government: and this could only be done by a general meeting. If a large majority of the native tribes are intending to repudiate the Treaty of Waitangi, and to disregard its provisions, the sooner this is clearly undersood the better.

It is very probable that, could a general meeting of influential chiefs be convened, it would be found that while a few might be disposed to demand concessions that would be subversive of the Queen's sovereignty, a great majority would ask nothing that would be inconsistent with the supremacy of the British Crown. If they want law, it could be given them; if they wish to keep their lands, the Treaty of Waitangi allows them to do so, and they might be told that they could keep them till they wish to sell. If they won't have mails, very well: "you derive as much advantage as we do, you shall have no mails." If they want to be represented in the councils of the country, why should they not be? If they wish to take some part in the administration of law and justice, it would be to our advantage to grant it.

It is hoped that the meeting shortly to be held, though it may only be composed of the loyal chiefs, with a few of the more moderate men from the king party, will prepare the way for page 71 future arrangements, and bring these principal chiefs into such immediate relation to the Government as will tend to satisfy them that the king movement is totally unnecessary, and eventually make evident to the ultra king-party themselves, that the really beneficial objects which they have in view, may be attained by a process more easy and less dangerous than that to which they have had resort.

The appeal to reason, rather than to arms, is obviously the most economical, as well as the most merciful mode of dealing with the subject,—a mode more worthy a great nation like christian England, than to commence a war of extermination against a people in every respect so unequal to the contest. What honour would England reap by sweeping away the native tribes of this country? She could do it in the course of time, no doubt: but such a deed would bring her no glory,—rather would it dishonour the pages of her history to the end of time, and is in every point of view to be deprecated.

* Since the above was written, Rewl's return from the South has been reported. Finding he could not prevent Ngatimaniapoto from engaging in the Taranaki War, he returned. From Kawhia he has sent twenty men to bring back the Wax party, stating that should they not return, Waikato will Join the Pakehas, and leave Ngatimaniapoto and Taranaki to their fate.