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The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future

John Williams

John Williams.

John Williams Hipango, a chief of the Nga-ti-tua mango hapu, was the most influential native in the Wanganui district, for although, nominally, Hori Kingi Te Anaua ranked as the head, Hipango was the directing spirit of the tribe. He was the greatest landed proprietor of all the Wanganui chiefs, his claims extending fully seventy miles up the river, and as many along the coast; at the same time, he was most liberal in bestowing portions to those chiefs who had none.

From his earliest acquaintance with the European, he became his friend, and continued to be so to the end of his life. One of the first to embrace Christianity, on its reaching Wanganui; he was made a teacher, and proved himself an exemplary one, always using his influence to support the Missionary, and repress the heathenism of his people.

In 1846, when the Taupo natives and Mamaku with his tribe made a hostile raid upon the infant settlement, the little community applied to Hipango and the Putiki chiefs for help; they responded to the call, and garrisoned the town, until two hundred men, under Captain Laye, were sent for ts protection; they then surrendered their trust into the page 253 hands of the military. The Europeans acknowledged the protection they had received and the preservation of the place, by giving their defenders a public dinner.

During the following year the family of the Gilfillans were barbarously murdered, in retaliation for the supposed intention of the Europeans to murder an old chief. Hipango, to prove that his tribe had nothing to do with it, volunteered to follow the murderers, who had retreated up the river, and capture them; there were six of them, Hipango’s party numbered the same, being all determined men. Though the others had twenty-four hours’ start, they were overtaken, and after a severe struggle, in which both canoes were upset, the capture of five was effected, the sixth having previously landed and reached his tribe. In returning down the river they were fired at, but succeeded in safely reaching the town and giving up the prisoners to the authorities; having in less than twenty-four hours paddled nearly sixty miles, without stopping for rest or refreshment.

Hipango continued to live most consistently until the beginning of 1855. When it was known that I purposed to visit my native land, the Maories were anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity of sending presents to Her Majesty, and selected Hipango to be my companion, providing him with ample means to carry him to England. We touched at Sydney, which, being the largest and best-built town he had ever seen, struck him with astonishment. He visited Mr. Marsden’s house at Parramatta, with deep interest, as having been the residence of the man they viewed with the greatest reverence, from his first bringing the Gospel to their land.

When we reached London he was struck with the continuous stream of life which rolled along its streets; at first he could not conceive how such a multitude could be fed; this led him to examine the shops as we passed along, and when he found how abundantly they were supplied with all kinds of food, the surprise was transferred to the source from whence it was derived. The general exhausted appearance of the land further astonished him; he exclaimed, what clever men the farmers must be to obtain such supplies from so poor a soil.

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Whilst we were in town a vessel arrived in port which had been recovered from its crew, who had mutinied, by the instrumentality of eight New Zealand sailors in it; they seized the crew, put them in irons, restored the vessel to the captain, and safely worked it, under his direction, to England. In return they were sent to the Sailors’ Home; when the circumstance was known to the Church Missionary Society they informed me of it, and on the Sabbath, accompanied by Hipango, I gave them a service in the chapel, which was probably the first in Maori to a native congregation in London, or even in Great Britain. Hipango afterwards paid them several visits and had prayers with them. He took a deep interest in the London Jews’ Society, and endeavoured to convince those of that nation who were under instruction, of the truth of Christianity, and with such earnestness that they were deeply interested in him; afterwards, when several were baptised, they particularly desired that he might be present.

Hipango was much shocked by the open violation of the Sabbath which he noticed in the streets, and tried to convince a woman who was selling oranges, of the sin she was committing, and with such effect that she shed tears; he obtained tracts on Sabbath-breaking which he distributed.

Whilst in England he was honored with a private audience by Her Majesty and Prince Albert, when the presents were delivered, and ordered by Her Majesty to be placed in her Armoury at Windsor. I took him afterwards to see the Tower of London, which greatly interested him. He was struck with the vast strength and antiquity of our castles; that of Warwick in particular, and the size of the Cedars, especially when he found that the seed had been brought from Lebanon; but he horrified the old lady who exhibited Guy’s porridge pot, spoon, &c., when she produced the rib of the dun cow, by avowing his disbelief, declaring it belonged to a fish, and not a land animal. He greatly admired our trees, and made a large collection of seeds, both of timber and fruit trees. He was much struck with the kindness received from his friends in page 255 England, and expressed a hope that he might be spared to revisit them.

On our return to New Zealand, we found war raging at New Plymouth; it had commenced, during our absence, between Rawiri Waiaua and Katotore; the former had been killed, and his tribe, headed by Ihaia, were waging war against Katatore. Being invited to visit the belligerents, and try to make peace, I took Hipango, Hori Kingi, to Mawai, and several of the other Wanganui chiefs, with me; but far from being welcomed by Ihaia, as we approached his pa he drew up his force in front, who, to our surprise, fired a volley of guns loaded with ball over our heads, and afterwards threatened, if we visited his enemy, he would shoot our horses. He appeared an illfavored-looking and unreasonable savage; and yet that man was supplied with ammunition and provisions by the Europeans, because he supported the land selling system, which the other did not. Hipango reasoned with him but in vain; after I had done the same, he said I might go and visit Katotore alone. I found that chief quite reasonable and courteous, although looking very formidable, with a huge pair of green glass spectacles on, but the object of our journey was not effected; we returned, and that war which commenced in 1856, was not terminated in 1867. Shortly after we left, Ihaia made a feigned peace with Waitere Katotore; they went to a public house, and there eat and drank together, but when the latter left, on his way home he was waylaid and murdered by that treacherous chief.

The great desire of Hipango was to enter the ministry. I therefore took him with me to St. Stephen’s School, Auckland; an institution to prepare native candidates for holy orders, then under the charge of Archdeacon Kissling, where I left him. Nothing could exceed his diligence and earnestness, night after night he toiled by dim candle-light, so that at last his sight became affected and impaired; he was then told that this would be a bar to his admittance into the ministry; this was a heavy trial for poor Hipango; he left, and the native Church lost a zealous minister, a man of page 256 intellect, and one of great influence. The Governor heard of it, and immediately appointed him to an office of considerable trust at Wanganui; he at first hesitated to accept it, stating that his heart was still to serve God in the ministry, but at length yielded. The Governor had granted him a pension previous to the termination of his first Governorship, on account of his noble conduct in apprehending the murderers of the Gilfillans; this, after his departure, had never been paid. On discovering which, the Governor caused the arrears to be given him, and with them Hipango built his house.

When the Hauhau fanatics, who met with such a signal defeat at Moutoa, had recovered from it, and returned to Wanganui with increased force and animosity, and the determination to fight their way to the town, burn and plunder every house they came to, and kill the inhabitants, it was decided by the friendly natives that their course should be arrested; they therefore went up the river, garrisoned Hiruharema, a pa little more than half-a-mile from Ohotahi, the hostile camp. Hipango was chosen their commander; he told the teachers of every place he passed on going up the river to have especial prayer offered up daily for the divine blessing; he wrote a letter to me, and all left behind, to do the same. The enemy had advanced their posts so as to reach the Hiruharema pa. Hipango, however, succeeded in gaining the higher grounds at the back, by which means he completely commanded their advanced posts, and threatened even their camp itself. The first night the enemy sent four men to lie in ambush close to his post, if possible to cut him off; they were however seen, and captured; after being kept that night, and fed the following morning, they were sent back to their people. The same thing was repeated the next night; a party of ten were secreted near his post, they also were discovered and taken, and the following morning released. Hipango said he would not be the first to shed blood. The enemy commenced the attack and four of them were killed; but when the pa was on the point of being taken, Hipango received his death wound by a shot in the breast. He page 257 did not fall, but walked calmly to the rear, gave up his gun to Hakaraia, the next in command, told him what to do, and was then brought to town, a distance of about sixty miles. He reached Putiki at 2 a.m. I was immediately called up, and examined the wound; his friends hoped it was merely one from a spent ball, which had not penetrated the ribs. They wanted to keep him where he was, and for me to attend him, but it being most desirable that he should be immediately taken to the hospital, about a mile and a half distant, we got him into my canoe and took him there, calling up the doctor as we went, who, after probing the wound, declared that he could not discover any passage through the ribs, and therefore thought it must have been a spent ball. In the course of the day two military doctors came to see him, one probed the wound, found the passage of the ball, thrust his finger into it, and finding that the lungs had not collapsed, said the ball had fallen into the diaphragm, and that the wound was mortal. Early on the following morning I was summoned with the news that he was dying; as we approached the hospital, the natives rushed out with the cry that poor John Williams Hipango was no more. In the death of this chief the settlement experienced a great loss, and the natives an irreparable one. His friends brought the body to his new house, and laid it out in state in the best room.

On the 27th, the day appointed for the funeral, his numerous European friends assembled, amongst whom were Colonel Logan, the Commander of the garrison, and several other officers, the Honorable the Native Secretary, Mr. Mantell, the resident Magistrate, with a very large number of the old settlers and townspeople. A beautiful flag, presented by the ladies to the loyal natives, was most appropriately laid on the coffin by Colonel Logan, with some suitable remarks, and when the procession was formed it was borne before the corpse, the union jack then taking its place, the flag of old England, in defence of which he lost his life. The three Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, and the Wesleyan ministers of the place, headed the proces- page 258 sion, they were followed by a firing party of the militia; after the corpse the two sons of the deceased and some of his relatives, then the Europeans, who in fact composed the chief part of the procession, the natives in a great measure giving up the whole to them as though he especially belonged to them. In the church many ladies were present; the service was read in Maori and concluded with a Maori hymn. From the church the procession ascended to the cemetery on the summit of a steep hill, a very toilsome march; several of his European friends came forward and relieved the native bearers, carrying him to his last resting-place; this act gave another proof, if one were wanting, of the high respect entertained for him. At the conclusion of the service three volleys were fired over the grave. From the summit of this hill the view of the town, the river, and adjacent country, as well as of the sea, is very beautiful; thence we looked down on that town, of which the deceased had been the friend and defender, and on all the spots he had chiefly figured in during life. It is intended to place on this mound an obelisk, which will render the grave of this brave and loyal Christian chief a conspicuous object from every part of the neighbourhood, formerly belonging to the hapu of which he was the acknowledged head.

Most of the natives were then absent at Ohotahi, which they captured, and only came back to Putiki the day after the funeral; about one hundred of them headed by Mawai first arrived, their canoes were all decked out with evergreens, and the men with fillets of the kawakawa bound round their temples, the native sign of mourning; as they marched in procession past his grave all saluted him by firing off their guns, and then proceeded to his house; on arriving at his fence they danced the war dance and again fired a volley, afterwards assembling in front of the house, where a grand tangi took place, and speeches were made.

It appears that Mawai and his followers differed from Meti and Hori Kingi in the way they should treat their prisoners. When Ohotahi surrendered, Pehi and all the head chiefs page 259 were made prisoners, Mawai wished to keep them as such, at least until the Governor’s pleasure should be known, but the others, to show their “atawai,” kindness, gave them all their liberty. Mawai wished to proceed at once to Pipiriki, according to Hipango’s plan, take that place, and make it their advanced post. Poor John when dying expressed his wish that his body should be carried there and buried, to compel his followers to take it, which is a Maori custom. The others appear to have been actuated by a good principle: instead of bringing all those head chiefs prisoners to town, and so causing them to lose their dignity, they thought by thus kindly treating the conquered, they should lay the foundation of a permanent peace, therefore they merely brought the wives of the head chiefs back with them as hostages for their good conduct, and they engaged to come down and take the oath of allegiance When Ohotahi was taken, Pehi’s wife was given up as one, Pehi kept his word; when the Governor arrived he came to see him and fulfilled his promise.