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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1929

A Review

page 45

A Review

Many valuable studies in New Zealand history have been written during the last ten or fifteen years. Each year some fifteen to twenty honours students in the four University Colleges attempt some original work, based upon contemporary records, official reports, Parliamentary papers and the newspapers of the day. Much of the work so done is, needless to say, immature, and, without considerable revision, not worth publication; but a great deal of it is valuable and should be put on record, for only by such means can the history of New Zealand be written. Unless, however, the student is so delighted with his own work and so financial that he can afford to publish it himself, it does not reach that considerable section of the public that is deeply interested in such matters. There is no fund out of which the costs of publication may be met; we have not even an official University Press. So, unless a typed copy be presented to the College Library, that work is lost so far as future students are concerned, and, from one point of view, might just as well not have been done. Fortunately, Mr. Beaglehole—or rather, Dr. Beaglehole as he is now—found in the Smith College Press, Massachussetts, U.S.A., a means of putting his work on record, and. by his critical examination of a great deal of available material, to throw some light on a much-disputed question, and one on which most previous writers have been strongly partisan. According to Rusden. the New Zealand Company in general and the Wakefield Brothers, in particular, were unmitigated rogues and land sharks, whose chief missions was to delude the simple Maori and to counteract the influence of the benevolent missionaries. According to Edward Jerningham Wakefield the missionary had "an eye to the main chance" and was ready, if it were to his advantage, to wink at some of the Company's deals. Most historians have sided with either Hobson or the Company. Dr. Beaglehole does neither. He gives Hobson credit for sincerity, but shows that he took up his position with preconceived ideas as to the Company, ideas which were strengthened by the influences which surrounded him during his first year of office. One wonders what would have been the outcome if Hobson, instead of landing at Kororareka, and remaining in splendid isolation in 1840, had repaired at once to the shores of Port Nicholson, where the first settlers in the "Aurora" had arrived a week before the Government set foot in New Zealand, and where in the first two years there were to be found some thousands of settlers instead of the few hundreds who had been attracted to the north. He had no means of learning at first-hand the conditions or the settlers of Wellington. Captain Pearson, of the "Integrity," a Sydney adventurer, who was arrested by the self-appointed magistrates of Wellington, but who escaped to carry his tale of republican tyranny to Kororareka, convinced Hobson that Wellington was a nest of disloyalists. In hot haste Colonial-Secretary Shortland, with all the small military force at Hobson's disposal, was sent off to scotch this treasonable gang. The ensign which page 46 had been adopted by the "Federated Chiefs of New Zealand," was rudely torn down from the Company's flag pole and the Union Jack hoisted. Strange to say, the officials of the Company and the settlers welcomed this assertion of the Queen's authority—was it not what they had always begged for, and what the "Little England" ministering of the day. with the energetic Secretary of the Church Missionary Society wearing out the back stairs to the Colonial Office, had always refused?

Many picturesque incidents of the first two years of the Company's settlement at Wellington are told in this interesting work. It is a book that every New Zealander should read. It shows something to the credit of Lord Normanby. Colonial Secretary in 1838—that when Hobson desired that convict labour should be used in New Zealand, his demand was refused very emphatically.

Dr. Beaglehole's literary style is admirable—flippant perhaps, but infinitely more entertaining than most of the books on historical subjects; for example, Hobson was "accompanied by a band of officers selected by Sir George Gipps for the money their absence would save New South Wales, and distinguished by their collective and almost incredible incompetence"; of Lord Stanley, "though that admirable statesmen made admirable speeches and an admirable translation of the Iliad, his views on colonization were restricted, and his sympathy for colonizing companies negligible."

A good tale is always worth telling. This is a good tale, and it is well told.—F.P.W.