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The Maori Race

Chapter XXIV. Modern History

page 582

Chapter XXIV. Modern History.

There is no attempt made in this volume to supply the place of a history of New Zealand. Many books are to be procured which deal with that subject in full detail from the time when authentic record properly commences, viz, with the advent of Europeans and the colonisation of the islands. The very briefest sketch of the circumstances which have tended to turn the Maoris of olden times into the citizens of a British State may, however, be of some slight service.

In 1642 Tasman sighted the Southern Alps and, entering what was afterwards called Cook's Straits, attempted to land. Daunted by the rude reception of the natives, he resumed his voyage, and after one more unsuccessful attempt to land (on the Three Kings Island, at the far north), he sailed away homewards. Captain Cook, in the “Endeavour,” was the first European to set foot in New Zealand, and his landing in 1769 was the hour of sunset for Maori independence. From the time the “Sea-fairies” touched the soil of “The White World” (Ao-tea) a slow but sure possession of the land was gained by the children of Tangaroa, the god of Ocean. Missionary and trader, gun and disease, intoxicating liquors, page 583 new modes of life, different clothing, strange customs, all had their part in making fewer and even more few, the indomitable and generous Maori people. By this assertion no slur is intended on the noble lives and self-sacrificing efforts of the early missionaries and their families; such work as theirs needs neither defence nor apology. But the effect of teaching meekness and renunciation as virtues, and brotherhood with all men as high principle, assisted the gradual influx of a race which comprised many persons who consider individual acquisition of property as the first duty of man, and who carry out this conception of duty very strenuously. Let us hope that the Maoris, having saved a remnant of their people from the early destructive effects of contact with Europeans, may survive to learn those high lessons which, in spite of our economic barbarism, our men of culture hold faithfully at heart and attempt to teach.

With occasional visits from explorers, whalers, traders; with a massacre now and then, and bloody reprisals therefore, the years went on until, in 1814, the Rev. Samuel Marsden landed in New Zealand and commenced the conversion of the Maoris to Christianity. This work was necessarily slow, and did not prevent fierce tribal warfare among the natives. Hongi Hika, the chief of the Ngapuhi (at Bay of Islands), was the first leader of note to obtain firearms, and having acquired 300 muskets in Sydney, he swept like a flame of fire through the North Island as far south as Rotorua and Poverty Bay. The suc- page 584 cess of this raid led to others by the same tribe, but they were not always fortunate, and his war-parties learned to know the meaning of the word “defeat.” Then came the time when the Waikato tribes had their turn, and swept the Taranaki country. Te Rauparaha and his men broke the power of the warriors of the south, even crossing Cook's Straits and burning the pa of Kaiapoi (Kaiapohia), near Christ-church.

During the epoch of these internecine wars the Europeans had been steadily pushing on settlement, and the British Government had appointed a Resident at the Bay of Islands. Wakefield had promoted “The New Zealand Association” in London, and its first settlers had arrived at Wellington, or Port Nicholson as it was then called. Captain Hobson appeared as Lieutenant-Governor, and annexed the country as a part of the dominion of Great Britain, the formal cession of the land being obtained from the Maoris at the Bay of Islands, but this was afterwards ratified under the signatures of almost all the important chiefs. The deed of cession is known as the Treaty of Waitangi. This document acknowledged the ownership of the soil itself to vest in the Maoris and it is the title by which they hold all untransferred lands, subject to the Royal authority as supreme.

Complications soon arose, and the Lieutenant - Governor became surrounded with difficulties. He had selected Auckland as his capital, and in the midst of his troubles died within the borders of that rapidly growing page 585 settlement. He was succeeded by Mr. Shortland, who after two years was superseded by Captain Fitzroy, a hopelessly wrong-headed man, if indeed he was altogether sane. He managed to embroil settlers and natives in a way that ended with an outbreak of war between them; the Maoris, in the year, 1845, attacking the town of Kororarika at the Bay of Islands. With the help of Maori allies the conflict was not long before it was brought to an end, but desultory fighting lasted some time longer against Te Rauparaha, in the Wellington district. The end of the trouble was brought about by Captain Grey, who was transferred from the Governorship of South Australia to that of New Zealand. Captain Grey became Sir George Grey, and by his excellent administration induced a better feeling than had hitherto existed in his mixed community. For a time all went comparatively well, and representative institutions were set up, comprising Provincial Councils and a Central Parliament.

Grey left the colony, and politics ran their usual course among the “ins” and “outs” of party government. In the later fifties a great native trouble began to gather on the colonial horizon. The Maoris of Taranaki, swept aforetime by the war-parties of Waikato, had been carried off as slaves, but had been set free through the conversion of their masters to Christianity. Returning to their old homes, the emancipated exiles found their lands in possession of white settlers, and their discontent soon wrought annoyances which ended page 586 in war being declared in 1860. Sir George Grey was recalled from the Cape and took command, but for three years fighting went on at intervals in Taranaki. In the meanwhile the Waikato tribes had been growing disaffected, and on the English attempting to make a military road in their direction they broke out in rebellion. They elected a “King” from their number in order to balance our “Queen,” and in the most gallant manner opposed the advance of General Cameron with his 10,000 troops. The war ended in the defeat of the Maoris in 1864 and the confiscation of much of the land of the tribes engaged in the struggle. In the same year there sprang up a new superstitious cult, that of the “Hauhau,” and a semi-religious war ensued, which persisted until the year 1870 marked the termination of the conflict. The ten years' period from 1860 to 1870 was the darkest time in the history of New Zealand settlement, but it had the effect of teaching each side to respect the courage and cherish the goodwill of the other.

Since that date there has been nothing of importance to affect vitally the position of the Maori people. They have grown more and more loyal to the British flag. They have acquired steady confidence in our efforts to do them justice, and they understand now that we are not the unscrupulous land-stealers they once considered us. It does not follow that because this was believed by them it was the fact. Whatever individuals may have done (and did), there was no wish on the part of page 587 the British as a people to acquire unjustly; there never is—if they can get it the other way. What was impossible for the Maori to understand at all was our notion of private property—that pleasure in getting hold of a thing or place, not so much from what we enjoy per se as from being able to keep others out of it. The delight of sharing with others freely, spontaneously, without reservation, is a savage pleasure which the European will have to re-acquire and cultivate before he can stand on a moral level with those his warped experience once taught him to despise.

In bidding farewell to my readers I have only a few closing remarks to make. It is a high compliment to any man to say that those who know him best love him most. This may be truly said generally of the Maori race. Those who dislike the native people are those who know nothing of them in reality. For a thousand acts of unselfish kindness, for unbounded hospitality, for tender care, for heroic devotion, my love and gratitude bind me to the Maori till I die. Kia ora tonu koutou, AKE, AKE, AKE!