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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

[No. 13.]

No. 13.

His Excellency Lieutenant-Governor Hobson to His Excellency Sir George Gipps.

Reporting Disturbance between American Seaman and Pomare's People. Government House, Russell, 15th June, 1840.


I have the honour to acquaint you that on the night of the 4th June a report was conveyed to me that a desperate disturbance had taken place between some seamen and the people of Pomare's tribe at the pa, about three-quarters of a mile from this, on the banks of the Kawakawa. My informant was the mate of the ship "Achilles," who told me that a sailor had escaped to his ship badly wounded, who stated that he and other seamen on shore had been attacked by Pomare and his tribe, that ten or twelve men had been killed, that two masters of American ships had been detained as prisoners, and their boats had been dragged to the top of the hill.

This alarming account being in some measure confirmed by the report of firearms at the pa, induced me to request Captain Lockhart to send forward a small detachment of troops, with directions to the officer in command to fire a rocket if a reinforcement should be required. It appears by Captain Lockhart's report, a copy of which I have now the honour to enclose, that appearances induced the officer to make the concerted signal; that a reinforcement was sent; that on the arrival of the troops the Natives retired, and immediately consented to give up the boats; and that the report of men page 23having been killed, and two shipmasters having been made prisoners, was a mere fabrication. An affray certainly took place, in which the seaman who fled to the "Achilles" was the principal instigator, and was the only white man who received any injury. One Native was slightly hurt.

At daylight on the morning of the 5th I despatched a letter to Pomare, to desire his attendance here. In obedience to my summons, he made his appearance at 10 o'clock. It may be necessary to inform your Excellency that Pomare is one of the most powerful and influential chiefs in New Zealand. He is connected with Rauparaha, in the South, and with many high chiefs in the Thames and at Kaipara, and any misunderstanding with him might involve us with them all. Feeling that we had been placed in the wrong by the violence and misconduct of the seamen, and by the unsteadiness of a few of the soldiers, as reported by Captain Lockhart, it gave me no small satisfaction to find that Pomare was only desirous to exonerate himself of all blame on the occurrences of the preceding night, stating as his excuse for seizing the boats the provocation he had received, which was sufficiently gross to have occasioned with less enlightened Natives, or at another period of New Zealand history, a scene of bloodshed and destruction; and, so far from feeling resentment at the firing of the soldiers, which he was well aware had happened without orders, that he expressed himself thankful for their interference, saying they were the means of saving many lives by preventing the sailors from burning down the pa, which had in fact been threatened, and would have been attempted had not Captain Lockhart restrained the infuriated mob by whom he was surrounded.

In consequence of exaggerated reports a number of chiefs collected at the pa. I availed myself of the opportunity of assembling them and holding a meeting, at which I mentioned that Pomare might have avoided any collision with the sailors if he had in the first instance informed me of their riotous behaviour; and I explained that my object in employing military was to preserve peace and order by restraining the refractory, whether Native or European. The temper of the meeting was in a spirit that I could have wished; all seemed thankful for the measures I had adopted, and sufficiently over-awed by the promptitude with which they were executed. Pomare has since applied to me for some soldiers to preserve the peace, and promised if I would keep the white men in order he would answer for the Natives. I have on two occasions since employed the mounted police at the pa. Pomare gave them lodging and fed them liberally. The effect of this termination will be felt both here and all over the country. Pomare has shown that he has a proper respect for our power; and the fact of his expressing no resentment at our interference will satisfy the Natives that he was the aggressor.

I have been thus particular in detailing this affair to show your Excellency and Her Majesty's Government the very frail tenure by which peace is maintained with the Native population. A mere drunken brawl might have involved us in a war with half the country. I know it was a dangerous experiment to send military amongst them in the night-time; but it is equally necessary to be firm and prompt as it is to be courteous and forbearing, and if my information had been true inertitude would have been criminal. As this matter has terminated I feel convinced that it will greatly tend to strengthen the influence of Government. The inference to be drawn from these occurrences is that an augmentation of the military is absolutely necessary; it must never be overlooked that the Native population are a warlike race, well armed, and ever ready to use those arms on the slightest provocation.

I have, &c.,

W. Hobson, Lieutenant-Governor.

His Excellency Governor Sir George Gipps, &c.

Captain Lockhart to His Excellency Governor Hobson.

On the Affray between Seamen and Natives. Ohiato, 6th June, 1840.


I have the honour to inform you that having received your Excellency's orders through Ensign Cookson, I embarked a party of twenty men to quell a disturbance between the Natives and some American sailors at Pomare's pa, on the night of the 3rd instant. On arriving there I found the Natives assembled near the chapel with firearms, on which I deemed it advisable to send for a reinforcement. On the appearance of the military the Natives proceeded to the farther part of the pa. I marched the men to that part of the fort where the Natives had, in a row during the course of the day, dragged two whaleboats belonging to American vessels. As I could not induce the Natives to take the boats to the place where they came from, I protected the boats' crew while they did so. On returning to our boats some of the Natives were seen crouching in the scrub above us. An alarm was made by a mob of armed drunken sailors and civilians that the Natives were making an attack. Some of the civilians cried "Fire! fire!" and fired several shots in the direction of the Natives. In the shouting and disturbance which ensued, I am sorry to say three or four muskets were fired by the soldiers without any orders from me. On account of the darkness I could not detect who the particular men were. Luckily no injury was done by the firing.

I have, &c.,

R. Lockhart,
Capt. 80th Regiment,
Commanding Detachment.

His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, Captain Hobson, R.N., Russell.
P.S.—I should also observe that the reports of several persons having been killed, and of two American shipmasters being detained as prisoners, were mere fabrications.