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

No. 75. — Minute by Ministers in reference to the Governor's proposed Visit to Waikato

No. 75.
Minute by Ministers in reference to the Governor's proposed Visit to Waikato.

Auckland, 6th December, 1861.

The Governor being about to visit the Waikato district, Ministers desire respectfully to express to His Excellency their views as to the course of policy to be pursued.

The Natives whom His Excellency will meet are likely to be a very mixed body, different altogether from the northern Natives whom he lately visited. Many of the Waikatos whom the Governor will meet on this occasion will have been more or less compromised in the late transactions. Probably there will be men of every shade of opinion amongst them, from extreme partisans of the King movement to those whose fidelity to British authority has been unshaken.

The first thing in our opinion for the Governor to settle is, What shall be done? Will he enforce compliance with Colonel Browne's terms of peace enunciated at Taranaki, at all hazards—by military force if need be? Will he, in fact, march troops into the Waikato unless the King flag is pulled down—unless the Natives will permit roads to be made through their country, and restore the Taranaki plunder? It is our duty as Ministers to offer His Excellency clear and distinct opinions on these points. The responsibility to the Imperial Government will rest with him for the action taken, and to | the General Assembly with us for the advice we may give.

For our part, we think that under no circumstances would it be wise in Sir George Grey to undertake a movement into the Waikato to pull down the King flag, suppress the King movement, and enforce Colonel Browne's terms. Equally unwise would it be to hold up in terrorem to the Natives a mere pretence of such a plan of operations. If the King party or their adherents are guilty of outrage upon settlers or their property, wheresoever they may be, whether on Native or European ground; it will be then for the Government to consider the proper means to be taken. In the meantime our position should be that of watchfulness, giving the unfriendly Natives clearly to understand that any hostile aggression on their part will lead to sharp and swift measures of retaliation; though we hold it to be in the highest degree unlikely that the Natives, or any section o£ them, will be guilty of any such hostile aggression. On the question of undertaking military operations in the "Waikato country we have the opinions of Colonel Browne himself, the military authorities, and the Military Defence Committee of both Houses of Assembly, who are all agreed that it would not be safe to move troops into that district without a large increase of our military force. Sir George Grey-can himself judge whether the Home Government is likely to send additional troops, or whether he is prepared to recommend it. We, as Ministers, must say that without additional aid, particularly in the way of protection to the southern provinces of this Island, no such movement ought to be undertaken. We rest these opinions on grounds of inexpediency in a military point of view. We do not say that on other grounds we should not equally object to such an aggressive movement, as uncalled for, attended with grave risk, costly, and not likely to produce adequate results.

If it be decided not to undertake military operations against the Waikatos, we think it best to let the Natives understand our intentions. We see no good, on the contrary much evil, in keeping up false excitement, irritating the Native mind, rousing undefined alarms, stirring up against us their sentiments of pride and nationality, and probably leading the Government into a position where it may find itself unable to advance with safety or retreat with credit. Better far, in our opinion, if we do not mean aggressive war, to say so. If it be said that Government is bound by Colonel Browne's declarations, we hold the present Government free from any such embarrassment. The circumstances are altogether new, and justify a new course of treatment.

What course, then, should be pursued towards the King party, supposing them to persist in their present attitude of sulky independence? In our opinion.-they should be left as they are—treated with indifference—and, as far as may, be, regarded as in a state of outlawry. And they should be made to understand that such is the light in which we intend to regard them. We shall find means of distinguishing between friends and enemies, and the Natives will not be slow to find out that their own interests will lie in returning to friendly relations with us.

We have no confident expectation that the King movement will disappear, or the King flag be pulled down, on the occasion of Sir George Grey's visit to the Waikato; and we think that he should be prepared for that contingency. But it would be worse than an absurdity to make such a matter a casus belli. To apply to the Natives of New Zealand principles of allegiance and treason drawn from our own jurisprudence is simply preposterous. As to enforcing restitution of plunder, or compelling, the Natives to allow roads to be made through their country, it may be well to insist on these as conditions for conferring social and political advantages upon them, but very idle to make the non-compliance with such terms a ground of war.

But, at the ensuing meeting at the Waikato, the language of the Governor to the Natives who have taken part in the King movement should, in our opinion, distinctly mark the Governor's disapprobation. The folly of that movement, if regarded as an attempt to establish a distinct nationality, should be pointed out. The absurdity of their endeavour to maintain a separate Government, and the page 82 mischiefs which they will bring on themselves, and the benefits of which they will deprive themselves, should be shown to them. The opportunity should not be lost of insisting upon such-topics. Above all, we must not treat all alike, friends and foes, our old allies and those who are at the best but half friends. The language and tone should be different towards those different classes.

As regards the offer of improved social institutions, it should be made only to those who are friends, or willing to be such; and the Natives should be made to understand that the Governor does not intend to force their adoption. They are in fact a boon of great value, which should be rather granted in answer to earnest solicitations than volunteered as a new scheme contrived and peremptorily enjoined by the Governor, or pressed on their acceptance. Presented to them, in that form, they may be viewed with jealousy and suspicion.

As regards the Ngatiruanuis and Taranakis, we do not think that the Governor, in addressing the Waikatos, should speak on the subject with an uncertain voice. The Natives generally should be told, in plain terms, that the Governor means to take such security for the future good behaviour of these Natives as shall insure the British settlements, Taranaki in particular, against a repetition of hostile attack. What particular measures he may adopt for that purpose, whether the formation of roads, the establishment of military posts, or the like, will of course rest with His Excellency; but the state of Taranaki demands decisive action, and the intentions of the Government on this point ought to be clearly stated to the Natives: they should be informed that whatever the Government may determine on that subject will be carried out. Above all, we think it desirable to threaten nothing which we do not mean, and are not certain of performing; and what we do mean should be clearly stated.

As regards the financial aspect of the experiment about to be made, Ministers have already addressed His Excellency in another memorandum. They will only add their belief that the General Assembly will readily vote any reasonable sum for the proposed objects—say to the extent of the amount indicated by His Excellency—provided it feels satisfied that such expenditure will compass the object in view, namely, the permanent solution of the Native question. But it is right that His Excellency should understand the mind of the colony and the Assembly on this point. What they want is a permanent and, if possible, a peaceful adjustment of the question, with reasonable guarantees for the future tranquillity of our settlements and the undisturbed progress of colonization. They will be ready to purchase these objects at a large price. But they will not be contented with any mere temporary lull of Native disturbances; and Ministers feel bound to add that the Assembly may possibly hesitate to admit its entire liability for the past management of the Natives or its consequences, including the late war and whatever may be the sequel of events directly flowing from it.

William Fox.