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

No. 33. — Copy of a Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Grey to Lord Stanley

No. 33.
Copy of a Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Grey to Lord Stanley.

A Free Pardon to be offered to the Rebels.

My Lord,—

Government House, Auckland, 26th January, 1846.

In reference to my Despatch. No.8, of the 22nd instant, in which I reported that I had, upon their complete submission, granted a free pardon to all persons concerned in the recent rebellion, and page 40that I had informed the friendly Native chiefs that they must forego any claims they might have, upon the lands of the rebels arising out of promises made by my predecessor, I have now the honour to report exactly what those promises were, and the influence which they necessarily exercised upon the adjustment of the disturbances in the northern part of the Island, which it has been my duty to carry out.

Upon the very morning that Walker Nene arrived, at-Auckland with a message from the rebel chiefs, I had been discussing the details of the terms upon which I intended to pardon those concerned in the late rebellion when they had sent in their complete submission to the Government, which it was evident they must soon have done after the occurrences which had taken place; and I. proposed to give them at once security for their persons, and to leave the question as to the forfeiture of their lands to be decided in England, merely stating that, from Her Majesty's great regard for the welfare and happiness of Her Majesty's Native subjects in New Zealand, it was certain that nothing would be more pleasing to Her Majesty than ultimately to give them a full and unconditional pardon, if their future conduct was such as to entitle them to this indulgence. The objects in my contemplation when I was considering this line of policy were, firstly, to retain some hold over the future conduct of those who, had been concerned in so many outrages; and, secondly, to show the Native population generally throughout the Islands that, in the event of their engaging in active rebellion, they would forfeit their properties, and that I would certainly for the future severely punish those who were guilty of this crime; thirdly, I was anxious that the gracious act of a free and unconditional pardon should have proceeded directly from the Queen. The effect of it would then have been greater, and Her Majesty would have been placed in a position in reference to the chiefs generally which would have been extremely advantageous to Her Majesty's honour and the interests of Her Majesty's subjects.

It was, however, pointed out to me that I was precluded from concluding an arrangement of this nature by my predecessor's instructions to Colonel Despard of the 6th June; 1845, a copy of which is enclosed, under the terms of which an assurance had been given to the friendly chiefs that the lands forfeited by the rebels would be divided amongst them, and that no land would be taken by the Government.

Upon perusing these instructions, I felt that the Government was bound by them up to the date of my arrival in the colony; but, although I had never revoked these instructions, because I was not aware of their existence, I felt that my repeated declarations to the Natives, that I would never permit them to acquire land from each other by conquest, fairly exempted me from considering myself, after my arrival, bound in this respect by any promise of my predecessor. As the rebellion had, however, been one continuous act, it would practically have been impossible to decide what lands should be regarded as having been forfeited before the date of my arrival, and what lands were to be considered as having been forfeited subsequently to that date.

In reference to the degree in which I was to consider myself bound by the promise of my predecessor, I have no hesitation in saying that I considered that promise to have been so impolitic, so little advantageous to the persons it was intended to benefit, and as one so likely to be regarded by foreign nations, and in other times, as essentially unjust, that I was afraid that ultimately no distinction might be made between the officer who made the promise and the officer who had carried it into execution because he felt himself bound by it; and I therefore determined to be in no way connected with a line of policy which I felt to be inconsistent with the course which I thought Great Britain ought to pursue.

When, therefore, Walker Nene made me acquainted with the complete submission of the rebels, and the unconditional surrender of the whole of their lands, which they regarded as forfeited, I felt that, if I retained these lands at the disposal of the Crown until Her Majesty's pleasure upon the subject was known, the friendly Natives would distrust my motives in not fulfilling my predecessor's promise that the Crown would take none of these forfeited lands, but divide them amongst the loyal Natives, and they would probably think that, in not dividing the lands among them, I was consulting the interests of the Government and not theirs. I therefore resolved frankly to tell Walker Nene that I would at once give the rebels a free pardon, and that I would not fulfil my predecessor's promise of dividing the land forfeited by the rebels amongst the loyal Natives, because I believed that my doing so would be injurious to the reputation and interests of himself and the, other friendly chiefs; for that the moment I adopted such a course every one would cease to believe that the loyal Natives had been contending for the re-establishment of peace and good order, and would think that their real object had been to obtain possession of the lands of others. 1, moreover, pointed out to him that if I did bestow these lands upon the friendly chiefs the war must become one of utter extermination, because there could be no, doubt that, as soon as the British force was withdrawn, the original possessors of these lands would attempt to recover them by force of arms, and that it would, moreover, be impossible so to divide it as not to give rise to quarrels and feuds amongst the loyal chiefs themselves. I added that, in order that it might be clearly seen that I did not refuse to give the lands to the loyal Natives from a desire to obtain them for the Crown, I would give a free and unconditional pardon to the rebels, leaving it to Her Majesty to determine in what manner the services of the loyal Natives should be rewarded; and I asked him to explain these my intentions and my views to the other chiefs. He at once assented to this reasoning, and to the policy of the course I intended to pursue, merely remarking, after some moments of thought, "You have saved us all."

I feel, therefore, convinced that the friendly chiefs will be fully satisfied with these arrangements; and your Lordship will see that in granting a free pardon to the rebels I was influenced by many motives, although I believe that, viewing the matter simply as an act of generous open policy, it is in every way entitled to your Lordship's sanction and support, and will tend to secure to Her Majesty the affection and attachment of her Native subjects in these Islands.

I have, &c.,

G. Grey.

The Eight Hon. Lord-Stanley, &c