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

Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen, G.C.M.G., to the Right Hon. Earl Granville, K.G

Copy of a Despatch from Governor Sir G. F. Bowen, G.C.M.G., to the Right Hon. Earl Granville, K.G.

Wellington.Respecting Trial of the Hauhau Prisoners. Government House, Auckland, N.Z., 28th October, 1869.

My Lord,

In continuation of my Despatch No. 113, of the 4th September ultimo, I have the honour to report that the trials of the Hauhau prisoners from the bands of Te Kooti and Titokowaru have been completed during the past month, before the Supreme Court of this colony.

2.Your Lordship is already in possession of the opinion of the Attorney-General of New Zealand as to the political and legal status of these men, and is aware that he declared that they should be tried for levying war against the Queen; also that the learned and able Judge who presided at these trials (Mr. Justice Johnston), in his charge to the Grand Jury, practically indorsed the views of the Agent- General. I now further transmit a printed copy (corrected by himself) of the Judge's charge to the petty jury in the high-treason cases.
3.Out of the total number of nearly one hundred prisoners, more than twenty of the least criminal were discharged, no evidence against them having been tendered on the part of the Crown; while the remaining seventy pleaded guilty, or have been convicted after long and patient trials before the Supreme Court. As I have already informed your Lordship, the Colonial Ministers and I, have been agreed from the beginning that, under the peculiar circumstances of this country no capital sentence should be carried out against Natives convicted only of having carried arms against the Queen. Accordingly, all the sentences, with three exceptions,, will be certainly commuted, according to the degree of guilt of each individual, to various terms of imprisonment. The three exceptions referred to are those of' Hauhaus convicted of treason and rebellion, and found in addition to have been concerned in cruel murders of unarmed men (Europeans or friendly Natives), and of women and children; or in other heinous atrocities, generally abhorred by the Maoris equally with the colonists. In these three cases, or at all events in one or two of the worst of them, the law will be allowed to take its course. However, the final decision on the report of the presiding Judge cannot (in pursuance of the regula tions prescribed in the Governor's Commission and Instructions) be pronounced until after the formal meeting of the Executive Council, which will be held next week. It cannot, consequently, be communicated to your Lordship by this month's mail, which leaves Auckland this day.
4.It need scarcely be said that in any capital executions the aggravations peculiar to sentences for treason will be remitted. Mr. Justice Johnston is of opinion that, in the present condition of the Statute Book, he was bound to pass sentence in the following terms: "You shall be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution, and be there hanged by the neck till you are dead; and afterwards your head shall be severed from your body; and your body shall be divided into four quarters, which may afterwards be disposed of according to law." The Judge, with my sanction, stated on each occasion that this sentence would not be carried out in its terms. With regard to this point, I request your Lordship's attention to the following paragraph, which has appeared in one of the leading journals of New Zealand {Wellington Independent, 2nd October, 1879): "It is a matter of regret to almost every member of the community that the necessity of pronouncing sentence after the old form established by Euglish law had not been removed by legislative enactment. Our civilization revolts from the parallel which may be drawn between the horrible mutilations of their victims by the Maoris, which we so emphatically denounce, and the sentence of barbarous mutilation after death to which the law deliberately consigns those condemned for the crime of high treason. This was evidently felt by the Judge whose painful duty it was to pronounce the sentence, and he took care to explain to the condemned that such part of the sentence would not be carried out. Nevertheless, soften ifc as we may, it gives a handle for recrimination which we would fain avoid."
5.Mr. Justice Johnston has written to me that, with the exception of the unfortunate circumstance alluded to above, the general result of these trials has been, in his opinion, "most satisfactory;" and that "they will prove of great service to the colony, as showing the true intentions and objects of the rebels, and silencing the calumniators of the Government and of the settlers in respect of their treatment of the Hauhaus…. The real nature of the West Coast rebellion has been made manifest—Te Kooti's professed object clearly having been to exterminate the adherents to the Government of both races, and to enjoy the plunder."* Mr. Justice Johnston further writes that the prosecutions were very well conducted by the Attorney-General on behalf of the Crown; that the

* Compare the emphatic language on this point used by Mr. Justice Johnston in his charge, transmitted herewith (see the Enclosure).

page 199prisonors were ably defended by the counsel procured for them at the expense of the Colonial Government; and that the general demeanour of the jurors left nothing to desire.
6.I will transmit by the next mail full official documents, and details respecting these important trials, and a report of the final decision of myself and my Ministers on the fate of the three most guilty criminals. Meanwhile, I beg leave to submit that the above-mentioned facts and opinions, as stated by the experienced Judge who presided, would of fhemselv es be sufficient to justify the objections raised by me and others to the proposals made a short time ago for superseding the Supreme Court of the colony by the establishment of Courts-martial and other special and extraordinary tribunals for the trial of Maori prisoners. To omit many other obvious considerations, we felt, in the terms used in a previous despatch,* that "there was no reason to suppose that the Supreme Court and the civil juries are unable or unwilling to administer with a severity sufficiently deterrent impartial justice to both races of the inhabitants of this country."

I have, &c.,

G. F. Bowen.

The Eight Hon. Earl Granville, K. G.

* Governor of New Zealand to Secretary of State, No. 113, of 4th September, 1869.