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New Zealand and the War.

Chapter VIII

page 181

Chapter VIII.

Impolicy of risking a War at Taranaki.—Policy of the Government as officially explained. — Hostilities: by whom commenced.—The Natives blamed for not appealing to the Law. —Result of the War.—Future Policy.

The more the subject is considered the more remarkable appears to have been the blindness of the authorities in plunging the Colony into war. Unless the character of the New Zealanders has been entirely misrepresented, it would not have been consistent with the maintenance of his position for a Maori Chief to submit without resistance to be driven with his people from the land they were occupying, and to see their claims openly disregarded. Nor, looking to the character of the Chief of the Waitara, his power and influence, and seeing that in the presence of the assembled people he had distinctly declared that Waitara was in his hands, and that he would not give it up; that he had formally, and in writing, declared that the land belonged to the whole of the people, and that page 182 it would not be given up, never until he died—was it probable that he would quietly acquiesce in being driven from the land? Nor is it easy to see how the proceedings of the authorities, in taking possession of land by military force before it was ascertained that all who had the power to sell were willing to sell, were considered to be necessary for the maintenance of the Queen's supremacy. Looking to the nature of the Taranaki country— to the amount of force available for the purpose— and to the jealousy with which the Natives regard any infringement of their territorial rights, it is certain that neither the time, the place, nor the occasion was well chosen for a collision with the Natives, either with a view to prove the justice of our rule–to establish the prestige of our power—or to maintain the supremacy of the Crown.

The grounds on which the Local Executive justified their proceedings have been frequently explained. In his speech to the General Assembly in opening the session of 1860, after referring to the attempt of William King to prevent the sale of the Waitara, it was declared by the late Governor, that he “felt it to be his duty to repel this assumption of an authority inconsistent alike with the page 183 maintenance of the Queen's sovereignty and the rights of the proprietors of the land in question.” In opening the following Session, he informed the Assembly that, “in the policy which he had pursued with reference to the affairs of Taranaki, his object from the first had been to secure peace by putting an end to the constantly recurring land feuds which for years had maintained barbarism amongst them.” In afterwards offering terms of peace to the Waitara Natives (April, 1861), he declared that he did not use force for the acquisition of land, but for the vindication of the law and for the protection of her Majesty's Native subjects in the exercise of their just rights. In the exposition of his motives, given by him immediately after the event, he informed her Majesty's Ministers that “he had insisted on this comparatively worthless purchase, because if he had admitted the right of a Chief to interfere between him (the Governor) and the lawful proprietors of the soil, he should soon have found further acquisitions of territory impossible.” He was informed, and he doubtless believed, that the Chief of the Waitara had no legitimate title to a voice as to the disposal of the land in question. He declared that any page 184 recognition of such a power as that assumed by William King would be unjust to both races, because it would be the means of keeping millions of acres of waste land out of cultivation. He doubtless expected, too, that if the purchase were completed, it would probably lead to the acquisition of all the land south of the Waitara River, which was essentially necessary for the consolidation of the Province, as well as for the use of the settlers. Believing, too, that the Chief of the Waitara would not venture to maintain his assumed right, and that by making a mere demonstration he should be able to confer a solid benefit on the Colony, the late Governor, supported by the advice of his Ministers, hastily, and without adequate preparation, proceeded to dispossess the actual occupants of the land by military force. A somewhat similar proceeding in Cook's Straits, nearly twenty years ago, drew from the then Colonial Minister the most grave condemnation. In that case, a civic magistrate, armed with a regular warrant for the apprehension of Te Rauparaha, and supported by a numerous body of armed followers, finding that Chief unwilling to surrender himself, ordered his party to advance. Shots were fired by page 185 both sides, and many valuable lives were sacrificed. “So manifestly illegal, unjust, and unwise,” said Lord Derby, “were the martial array, and the command to advance, that I fear the authors of that order must be held responsible for all that followed in natural and immediate sequence upon it. I know not how to devolve that responsibility upon the Natives; they exercised the rights of self-defence and of mutual protection against an imminent, overwhelming, and deadly danger. Revolting to our feelings as Christians, and to our opinions as members of a civilized state, as was the ultimate massacre, it is impossible to deny to our savage antagonists the benefit of the apology which is to be urged in their behalf. They who provoke an indefensible warfare with barbarous tribes are hardly entitled to complain of the barbarities inseparable from such contests.”

An attempt was made to fix upon the Natives the responsibility of commencing the war; but long before hostilities commenced it appears to have been determined that William King's claim to a voice in the disposal of the Waitara should be ignored, and that his opposition, if necessary, should be overborne by force; and the Governor's page 186 advisers decided that “the case in question was as favourable a one of its class as could have been selected,” that the issue had been carefully chosen, and that the occasion had arisen, on which it had become necessary to support the Governor's authority by military force.” If their intentions had been made known to the public, it is probable that representatives would have been brought forward sufficient to raise a doubt as to both the justice and the policy of such a proceeding, and to prevent Ministers from carrying it into execution. But wishing to avoid any public discussion of the subject, their design was purposely kept secret. As to the interruption of the survey, it was managed in the least objectionable way possible; and yet, almost immediately afterwards, no breach of the peace having in the meantime taken place, the public were informed by a proclamation of martial law that “active military operations were about to be undertaken by the Queen's forces against Natives in the Province of Taranaki,” and the Natives were at the same time informed by a proclamation in the Maori language,* that the law

* “With respect to the translation of the proclamation of martial law at Taranaki into Maori, a grievous error was committed, the meaning of that proclamation having been entirely changed by the translator. A New Zealander would understand it thus: ‘Arm yourselves for the battle; and we will fight it out.’ It is, in fact, an invitation to take up arms.”—George Clarke, formerly Protector of Aborigines.

page 187 of fighting was about to commence, and that until further notice, fighting was to be the order of the day; the Troops were marched out in martial array to occupy the disputed block of land; and the land which the Chief of the Waitara and his people had occupied for years was taken possession of by the soldiers, by whom the first shot was fired. Under these circumstances it is difficult to understand, except on the principle that “he who returns the first blow begins the fray,” how it could be maintained that the war was commenced by William King.

As the Chief of the Waitara directly appealed to the fountain of justice in the Colony—claiming the land for the whole of his people, declaring at the same time that he was anxious for the preservation of peace, it is not easy to see, in the absence of any constitutional tribunal, and failing his appeal to the representative of the Crown, what remedy was open to the Waitara Natives for the protection of their interests and page 188 for vindication of their rights. It is true that, after martial law had been proclaimed, and after the Governor had determined to resist by force of arms, the Chief of Waitara was invited to come into the English settlement; and he has been blamed for not complying with the Governor's invitation. But it would seem that some time previously he expressed a strong apprehension that there was an intention on the part of the Government to seize him like Te Rauparaha. It can hardly be looked upon, therefore, as culpable contumacy on the part of that Chief to decline to come into the settlement, after it had been declared in the name of the Governor that the Queen's Troops were about to commence active military operations against the Natives of the district. Two facts, however, have since been made clear with respect to him, that long before any anti-land-selling league had been heard of in the country he had declared his determination not to give up the Waitara, and that he had no connection with the so-called “King movement,” until after martial law had been proclaimed.

It has been allowed by the promoters of the war, that the Chief of the Waitara and his people page 189 believed that they were fighting for their rights; but they have been blamed for taking up arms, instead of appealing to the law; yet it does not appear what tribunal or what legal remedy was open to them by which their claims could be judicially determined, and legally enforced. By an Act of the local Legislature, it had been declared that no court of law or equity in the Colony has any cognizance of any question affecting the title or right to or over Native lands. “The position of the Native race,” said Chief Justice Arney, in addressing the Legislative Council, “is a most extraordinary and anomalous one. They are practically without rights, for they have lately been pronounced to be without a remedy.*

* In answer to the question afterwards submitted to them by the Governor of the Colony, whether an efficient Court could be established for disposing of questions relating to land over which the Native title had not been extinguished, the Judges of the Supreme Court gave an opinion, of which the following is an extract:—

“By treating the latter in the largest and most general way, we feel justified in suggesting that a competent tribunal might be established by the formation of a Land Jury, selected by lot or otherwise from members of the various Tribes in previously defined districts, nominated by such Tribes as competent to act in that capacity, to be presided over by a European Officer or Commissioner (not being an agent of the Crown for the purchase of land), conversant with the Maori language, and assisted, if necessary, by a Native Assessor, and whose duty it should be merely to propound the questions for the decision of the Jury, to record their verdicts, and to administer oaths to witnesses.

“(Signed) George Alfred Arney, Chief Justice.

Alex. J. Johnston.

Henry B. Gresson.

page 190 twenty years of government, during which period the Colony has been advancing in wealth and legislation, all that legislation has profited, is little; he is practically beyond the protection of the laws.

“And who are this people? Politically they are a people to whom twenty years ago the Queen guaranteed all the rights and privileges of British subjects, and this Colony has been enriched and our own Government established on the faith of that guarantee. In numbers they are about one-half of her Majesty's subjects in these islands, far more than half of the population, for whose benefit the Government of this Northern Island has been supposed to be administered. True also, they have been christianized (thanks to the self-denying zeal of the missionary); as a people they have shown themselves teachable, capable of civilization, easily convinced by reason and argument, no longer generally disposed to quarrel among them- page 191 selves, not factious nor unruly: I accept the memorandum appended to these papers as an index of their domiciliary condition. It shows that they possess little to tempt the cupidity of the unscrupulous; but they do possess that one ewe lamb, their land. It is this which they love and cherish. For this they have fought and bled, and at Taranaki we now find they will still fight and bleed again and again; and yet it is in respect of this darling object of their patriotism, their property, their all, that now after twenty years of successive governments, from the direct government of the Crown to the present responsible Government under our Constitution Act, the Attorney General of England is constrained to tell them their rights can neither be recognized, ascertained, nor regulated by English laws. Their property is without the pale of the jurisdiction of the Queen's Court.”

For “Indian” read “New Zealand,” and for “Pondiac” read “William King,” and the history of our war with the North American Indians a century ago might serve to describe the Taranaki war. “The Indian war was now drawing to a close, after occasioning great disquiet, boundless page 192 expense, and some bloodshed; even when we had the advantage which our tactics and artillery in some instances gave, it was a warfare of the most precarious and perplexing kind. It was something like hunting in a forest at best, could you but have supposed the animals you pursued armed with missile weapons, and ever ready to start out of some unlooked-for place. * * * We said, however, that we conquered Pondiac—at which no doubt he smiled; for the truth of the matter was, the conduct of this war resembled a protracted game of chess. He was as little able to take our forts without cannon, as we were able, without the feet, the eyes, and the instinctive sagacity of Indians, to trace them to their retreats. After delighting ourselves for a while with the manner in which we were to punish Pondiac's presumption, could we but once catch him, all ended in our making a treaty, very honourable for him, and not very disadvantageous to ourselves. We gave both presents and promises, and Pondiac gave permission to the mothers of those children who had been taken away from the frontier settlements, to receive them back again on condition of delivering up the Indian page 193 prisoners.”* Our recent experience has proved that war in New Zealand, when it can be avoided, is not only a crime but a blunder. A warlike and high-spirited race like the New Zealanders may be civilized, or they may possibly be exterminated; but they can hardly be subdued. In the art of war they are quite equal to ourselves; in knowledge of the country they have the advantage over us; they have comparatively little to lose, and they can always find subsistence on the sheep and cattle of the settlers: unencumbered, too, with baggage, and independent of a regular commissariat, they can move freely and with great rapidity, and can always choose when and where to make a stand; and in the neighbouring forests they are sure in case of need of finding a secure retreat. If the Maories had been a civilized people and we had been the barbarians; if they had a rich capital to be plundered, or a Summer Palace to be sacked, we might have gone to war with them with a reasonable prospect of success; but being ourselves the owners of valuable property, and having a hundred defenceless homesteads open to attack, the

* Memoirs of an American Lady.

page 194 local authorities, when they declared war against the Natives of Taranaki, engaged in a ruinous undertaking. By the Chief of the Waitara and his immediate followers, the war was conducted with as much high-spirited generosity and forbearance as the most civilized nation would have shown;* but by murder, pillage, and the wanton destruction of property, the Natives from the south brought discredit on his cause. In destroying the habitations of the people, in setting fire to their corn-stacks, in breaking up their flour-mills, and in opening their potato stores to be devoured by the pigs, we ourselves also either set or followed a barbarous example.
Seeing that he was obliged to act under a Constitution which was “framed in forgetfulness of the large Native Tribes within the dominions to which it was intended to apply,” the late Governor was placed in a trying and anomalous position. To the heavily-burdened taxpayers of Great

* “William King,” said the Governor, in an official notification contrasting his conduct with the Ngatiruanuis, “William King is a Chief, and he did not make war on the unarmed and the helpless. He said his quarrel was with the Governor and the soldiers, and if the settlers did not molest him, he should not molest them.”

page 195 Britain, who have been called upon to pay half a million sterling for a fruitless attempt to vindicate his authority, the policy pursued by him may not be satisfactory; but to the Colonists his answer is complete: the authorities of Taranaki urged him to try a new system to obtain land at the Waitara: his Ministers advised him to have recourse to military force: a majority in both Houses of the Assembly expressed their approval of his policy; and from all parts of the Colony he received assurances of sympathy and support. He no doubt formed a mistaken estimate of the probable consequences of his own acts, but he is fairly entitled to the consideration claimed by Lord Grey in favour of the Governors of distant Colonies, that “in times of civil commotion they are placed in situations of so much difficulty and responsibility, that every generous mind will be disposed to put the best construction on their conduct, and to believe, until the contrary is clearly proved, that they have acted to the best of their judgment and ability.”

But if the Taranaki war has been disastrous, it has not been without some good result; it has shown the importance to the general interests of page 196 the Colony of the good government of the Native race; it has shown that the interests of the two races are inseparable; that the successful colonization of the country is possible only so long as peaceable relations are maintained between them; and that the best guarantee for the preservation of peace consists not so much in the number of our forces as in the justice of our rule. What provision shall be made for securing the fulfilment of the obligations we have contracted in favour of the Natives—what measures should be taken for promoting peace, order, and good government amongst them—to whom may the administration of Native affairs be most advantageously entrusted—are questions of which Governor Grey is now engaged in attempting a solution. Opinions no doubt differ as to the particular measures to be adopted, but all are agreed that whatever they may be, it is essential to their success that they should have the cordial co-operation of the Colonial Parliament.

It is impossible, however, to win the willing obedience of a free people simply by the sword. By a ruinous sacrifice of property, by a large expenditure of money, and after a protracted page 197 period of miserable warfare, we should no doubt be able to decimate the Maori race; but instead of rendering the remainder good subjects of the Crown, we should probably reduce them to the condition of a sullen, discontented, and dangerous class, whom it would then be impossible to govern excepting by the sword. But it would be a poor triumph for a powerful nation like Great Britain to crush by the sword a few Native Tribes, just rising out of barbarism, who, relying on our justice and good faith, have confidingly placed themselves within our power; it would be but little to our credit as a colonizing people, if we shall be unable to govern excepting by the sword a conquered remnant of the Maori race. But be just, and, as Sir W. Martin has observed, “you may easily govern the Maories.” Be just, and a moderate force will suffice. Be unjust, and a force far larger than England can spare will not suffice. Force is good if subordinate to justice, but it is a sorry substitute for it The Maori is not to be intimidated; but, like all other human creatures, he is to be influenced through his sense of fair dealing and of benefit received; he is governed by the same motives and led by the same induce- page 198 ments, as other men. Let the Maories be practically taught that our laws are better than their laws, and that our rule is better than their own; let them understand at the same time that in their relations with each other, and so far as is consistent with the supreme authority of the Crown, and with the general interest of the Colony, they may, if they desire it, govern themselves by themselves, and that we will aid them both with money and with men—we shall then have endeavoured to fulfil the obligations we have undertaken in their favour, and have taken at the same time the most reasonable means of securing their willing allegiance, and of removing any desire they may entertain for the maintenance of a separate nationality, independent of the Crown. Here, then, “in New Zealand our nation has engaged in an enterprise most difficult, yet also most noble and worthy of England. We have undertaken to acquire these Islands for the Crown and for our race, without violence and without fraud, and so that the Native people, instead of being destroyed, should be protected and civilized. We have covenanted with these people, and assured to them the full privileges of subjects of page 199 the Crown. To this undertaking the faith of the nation is pledged. By these means we secured a peaceable entrance for the Queen's authority into the country, and have in consequence gradually gained a firm hold upon it. The compact is binding irrevocably. We cannot repudiate it so long as we retain the benefit which we obtained by it.*

* The Taranaki Question.”—Sir William Martin.