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Early Wellington

Preparations for Defence

Preparations for Defence.

The newly formed volunteer corps profited well under their drilling, except a troop of about 20 cavalry, composed of gentry, whose horses were not accustomed to the drums or to the banging of the sabres about their ribs. There were about 400 bayonets mustered; and a rifle corps of about 100, composed of the higher class. They were well drilled by Major Durie, the Chief Commandant of the volunteers, who received special praise for the appearance and evolutions of the latter body.

The Government brig was despatched to Auckland on the 30th June, and Dr. Evans was deputed to represent the whole circumstances to the Acting Governor.

Fig. 39A. Captain Arthur Wakefeld. R.N.

Fig. 39A. Captain Arthur Wakefeld. R.N.

Fig. 39B. Major D. S. Durie.

Fig. 39B. Major D. S. Durie.

Fig. 39C. Major M. Richmond.

Fig. 39C. Major M. Richmond.

The Government brig returned from Auckland to Wellington on the 24th July, 1843, and soon after she was anchored the reveille sounded from the bugler of the detachment of troops on board, and was answered by the different divisions of volunteers on shore.

The passengers in the brig were Major Richmond, newly appointed Police Magistrate for Port Nicholson: Colonel Godfrey, Land Commissioner: Mr. Edward Shortland, sub-Protector of Aborigines; Dr. Evans; Capt. Bennett, Engineers; Capt. Eyton and Ensign Cervantes, with 53 men of the 96th regiment.

The wooden immigration barracks of the Company were at once placed at their disposal by Colonel Wakefield as a temporary location, and there they remained for a lengthy period.

The letter here reproduced, written to the inhabitants of the settlement of Nelson on the 11th of July, 1843, expressed the sympathy and condolence of the signatories.

The original letter is in the “National Historical Collection,” and a copy is in the possession of the Blenheim Borough Council.

The writer is indebted to Mr. R. P. Furness, proprietor, for the loan of the page break page break page 123 blocks used for the reproduction of the letter and signatures, in the jubilee number of the “Express,” issued on the 21st April, 1926.

Mr. Furness' father, Mr. S. J. Furness, was born in Wellington in 1852, and started business life on the old “Independent” newspaper.

Major Richmond, soon after landing, accompanied by Mr. Hanson and Mr Spain, went to Major Durie's house to request that he would take immediate steps for the disbanding of the Rifle Corps of Volunteers under his command. And a proclamation was placarded about the town on the 26th July, 1843, warning the settlers against the “unlawful assemblage of people under arms.”

This was the third time during three years and a half that the settlers had been compelled by an emergency to meet in arms.

Two days after an amendment appeared in the paper, signed by Mr. Hanson, Crown Prosecutor, in which he stated that the offensive terms of the proclamation were attributable to him and used inadvertently.

Meetings were again held, and resolutions passed, expressive of the disgust of the settlers at the proceedings.

Major Richmond, who had been to Nelson, returned on the 6th August, and a meeting was held to concert their measures. Those present were Mr. Chas. Clifford, Mr. Henry Petre, Mr. Wm. Fitzherbert, Dr. Evans, Capt. Daniell and Jerningham Wakefield. The Government officers in the magistracy were Mr. Hanson, Mr. Spain, Mr. Mc-Donogh and Major Richmond.

The Mayor, Mr. Hunter, had died a day or two before the arrival of the Government brig, Mr. Guyton was ill in bed, Mr. Swainson away protecting the abode of his family against the encroachments and annoyances of “Dog's Ear” and the other natives of the Hutt, and Colonel Wakefield and Mr. St. Hill were at Nelson.

At the first meeting the right of the Justices of the Peace to meet as a body was established, a chairman was elected and other business was done. Representations were made concerning reports circulated that danger was to be feared at the Hutt. For there, about two miles from Aglionby, a constable had tried to apprehend a native who had been guilty of theft from a white man's house; but he had been surrounded by friends of the culprit, flourishing spears and tomahawks, and was roughly handled. Rauparaha and Rangihaeata were said to be forming a new Pa at the entrance of Porirua Harbour, and there was an assemblage there of 200 men. The Police Magistrate was asked to rescind his prohibitory proclamation as the 53 Grenadiers would be insufficient to protect their own barracks in case of a sudden attack by the natives. It was ultimately resolved that the settlers act for themselves and continue to drill.

On the 28th August a native of Pipitea Pa entered the house of Mr. Allan Cameron, when Mrs. Cameron was the only one of the family at home. The intruder opened a box and abstracted a large piece of printed cotton. When Mrs. Cameron remonstrated and attempted to take the print from him, he insulted her, and struck her under the ear and about the body. Several neighbours, alarmed by her screams, entered the house, and Mr. Bee, having sent for a constable, strove to quiet the native, and recommended Mrs. Cameron to give up the print and wait until a constable appeared. The native proceeded to the Pa, and the constable, following him, compelled page 124 him to disgorge. A number of natives were in chapel at the time, but, on hearing the disturbance, they rushed into the Pa, and casting off their blankets, maltreated the constable by throwing him down and jumping on him. On his calling for assistance, another constable and some neighbours arrived and attempted to protect him, but the natives were too numerous and drove them from the Pa. The first constable was seriously injured before he could be rescued. The native after some persuasion, was prevailed upon to go to the Police Court, but was dismissed with a caution.

This, and other matters, chiefly at the Hutt, caused uneasiness and dissatisfaction amongst the settlers.*

* Wakefield's Adventures in New Zealand.