NOTES. [Conflict of Interests-2, Selwyn, Grey and C.M.S. vs the Northern Missionaries]
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A Conflict of Interests--2,
In this decade, 1840 to 50--argument over land rights was the continuing fomenting issue. British government policy, in spite of delays in enforcing instructions, in spite, even, of seemingly contradictory instructions arising out of a sincere desire (within the context of British supremacy) to do the best for the 'natives', was nevertheless consistent. Once sovereignty had been obtained, land was for settlement. The question in despatches between New Zealand and Britain was simply over the best way to accomplish this with the least possible expense and disturbance.
In 1846 Earl Grey succeeded Gladstone as Secretary of State for the Colonies. He was a Wakefield sympathiser and had chaired the 1844 House of Commons Select Committee which had favoured Company rather than Maori land rights. In a despatch of 23 December 1846 which enclosed instructions for land alienation and a charter for the Colony, Earl Grey reinforced Lord Stanley's earlier instructions that the Crown was entitled to the 'waste lands' in the Colony and free to make the rules regarding their disposal. As he did before when Chairman of the Select Committee, Grey entirely dissented from the belief that the aboriginal inhabitants had inalienable land rights:
From the moment that British dominion was proclaimed in New Zealand, all lands not actually occupied . . . ought to be considered as the property of the Crown in its capacity as Trustee for the whole Community. 1
Thomas Arnold provided the ideology, '"Men were to subdue the earth: that is to make it by their labour what it would not have been by itself; and with the labour so bestowed upon it came the right of property in it."' 2 The missionaries never really challenged this ideology although Selwyn did point it out that if the '"right of property go along with labour, how can the land of savage tribes who have bestowed but little labour upon the soil, be usurped by civilized [men] from a distant country who have not laboured upon it at all?"' 3
Governor Grey was left in no doubt as to the intentions of the British government, and he was to 'avoid as much as possible any further surrender of the property of the Crown'. 4 He was also left with a free
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hand as to the time, and even the manner, in which he implemented this policy. Boundaries were to be fixed, land was to be registered and parts of New Zealand were to be set aside where native customs were to be maintained. These 'aboriginal' as opposed to 'provincial' districts would gradually recede as the natives advanced towards civilized life. There was the usual confidence in British enlightenment and supremacy in which Earl Grey seems to echo Samuel Marsden:
With the increase of Christian knowledge, of civilization, of the use of the English tongue, and of mutual confidence between the two races these distinctions of law and of legal custom will, I trust, become unnecessary and obsolete. 5
But there was still the Treaty of Waitangi, and there were still those, notably the missionaries, who saw 'mutual confidence between the two races' rapidly disappearing if the implicit terms of the Treaty, in which missionaries in particular had been the trusted interpreters, were now to be annulled. It was not the ideology that was in question; William Williams, although he was not enthusiastic about British settlement, believed that the 'Divine command' was to 'replenish the earth and subdue it'. 6 But a promise had been made by the British Government, and in good faith the missionaries had interpreted it. A petition with 410 signatures, mostly from Auckland, expressed the serious fears which the petitioners held for themselves and their families if unoccupied Maori land was thought to be the property of the Crown. The petition also queried the whole concept of 'waste' land as applied to New Zealand:
. . . every acre of land in this country, whether occupied or not, is claimed by the Aborigines, each tribe and family having its respective boundaries known and . . . acknowledged by all; and consequently there is properly speaking no waste land in this colony that can be appropriated to the Crown without purchase. 7
Missionaries were cited as unanimous that even the rumour of these instructions of December 1846 was likely to disturb the peace, and that Maoris would fight to the death to resist dispossession.
Individual missionaries, including Robert Maunsell, Henry and William Williams also protested. Selwyn and William Martin made their own protest. So too did Te Wherowhero and some other Waikato chiefs in a petition to the Queen which, expressed their dismay that the Treaty guarantees were being dismissed. The chiefs also pointed out to Grey that the Charter which had accompanied these instructions gave power to define land limits to a Representative Legislature over which they had no control, and in which they were not represented. 8
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In England, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, the Church Missionary Society and the Aborigines Protection Society, all added their denunciation of Earl Grey's instructions.
The 1846 instructions had left Governor Grey with a discretionary power as to when and how he would implement the British policy of land for settlement. In April 1847 he wrote pointing out to the Secretary of State that Maoris did not support themselves solely by cultivation, but by hunting and fishing for which they required extensive runs; 'they cannot be readily and abruptly forced into becoming a solely agricultural people'. What was more to the point, he stated that they would not submit to any attempt to deprive them of their 'wild lands', and that such an attempt would plunge the country into war. 9
But there was another way in which principle could be happily mated with expediency. Whereas the Maoris would resist Dr Arnold to the death, they 'cheerfully' recognized the Crown's right of preemption, and would in nearly all cases dispose of, for 'a merely nominal consideration', the lands they did not actually require. This was the substance of Governor Grey's official answer to the December instructions. 10 A nominal consideration by government should make sufficient land available provided land purchase was kept well ahead of settlement so as to prevent Maoris from getting ideas about the value of their land and from asking a higher price. With this suggestion, which Grey was already putting into practice, Earl Grey concurred. 11
Thus government purchase ahead of settlement for a 'nominal consideration', was the practical answer to moral scruples, to settler land, hunger, and to the Treaty of Waitangi.
SELWYN, GREY AND THE C.M.S.
VERSUS THE NORTHERN MISSIONARIES
Selwyn, for motives other than Grey's, had always been opposed to missionaries owning, or through their families, being involved with large tracts of land. Candidates for deacon's orders had to sign not only a declaration that they would go wherever the Bishop ordered, but one also that they would not at any time keep or own more than five head of cattle, and that their landed property would be so settled that they were at liberty to go to any station. Nor was he impressed by the missionary assertion that the land was for their children. He wanted the farms near the Waimate made over to the Society, with the mission children as 'Tenants of the Church' leasing them and paying some of their rent in produce. 12 Although he did not share Grey's
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prejudice that the land-holding northern missionaries were largely responsible for the Hone Heke war, he did feel that 'The purchases of land by the Missionaries have had a most injurious effect upon the minds of the Natives and the English settlers .... I cannot attempt to estimate the amount of evil which has been thus caused.' 13
Selwyn was determined that clergymen should not be landlords, but there was another, more personal reason for his dislike of missionary land holdings. He combined with the assured status and authority of a Bishop, all the competence and frugality of an early explorer. Austerity, communal living--communal privation some of the members thought-- hard labour, high ideals, were the hallmarks of St John's College, and 'Bishop's Auckland', possibly New Zealand's first commune, was a very different place from settlers' Auckland. Finally, Selwyn, for all his austerity, courtesy, and generosity, was a status man. He knew his position and its obligations, and he expected others to know theirs. He may even have shared Marsden's conviction that missionaries were 'very difficult to do anything with', and required 'to be held in with Bit and Bridle' till they understood their real situation. 14 He would certainly have agreed with Hadfield's observation that many northern missionaries through owning large tracts of land had been 'advanced beyond their proper station in life, and consequently presumed upon it'. 15
For these reasons Selwyn was willing to listen to Governor Grey when the latter accused the northern missionaries of owning land illegally and unjustly, and because of this, of being responsible for the northern war. Both these charges were unwarranted. The grants had been authorised by the Land Commissioners and later augmented by FitzRoy. 16 But Selwyn, a man of principle, who in other circumstances would never have hesitated to defend the missionaries from an unjustified attack, was in this instance blinded by his detestation of the land encumbrance.
The third party in this unlikely alliance was the London C.M.S. The Parent Committee had had enough of the complications and animosities aroused by land-holding missionaries, and although they had in earlier days defended the purity of missionary reasons for land buying, Governor Grey's 'Blood and money' despatch was too much. Their first resolutions, however, were moderate and gave the missionaries a wide choice of ways in which their surplus land could be surrendered. But the amount of land which a missionary could retain was to be determined upon by
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the Bishop and the Governor. There was one other circumstance which could have had an effect on the judgement of both Selwyn and the C.M.S. The establishment of a Central Committee with the Bishop as Chairman had eased the strained relations which had been developing between Selwyn and the C.M.S. over the control and location of the Society's missionaries. 'The moment I received your letter', Selwyn replied to Venn, 'I knelt down and thanked God for the joyful prospect which it seemed to open up of mutual confidence and union between us. Since that day I have gone on my way rejoicing.' 17 With this prospect of harmony between Bishop and Parent Committee, the time seemed propitious for the thorn, which land had always seemed to be in the mission's side, to be plucked out.
In this dispute between Grey, Selwyn, and the C.M.S. on the one hand and the northern missionaries, particularly Henry Williams, on the other, William Williams played his customary role of mediator. He definitely supported his brother, but from comments by Selwyn, Brown, and from his own Diary notes and letters, it would seem that he also urged conciliation. William Williams was correct in asserting that Selwyn had incorrectly interpreted the Society's instructions about the disposal of the land. The C.M.S. had resolved that the Bishop and Governor should decide how much land a missionary could keep for his own use, but they did not write that these two arbitrators should decide what could be done with the surplus--here the missionaries, within fairly wide limits, were to be free. But Selwyn was determined to cut the Gordian knot which, irrespective of its legality, tied missionaries to land. He used the power given to him in the Society's resolution to insist that the northern missionaries accepted his entire jurisdiction over what should be done with the rest of their land. He wrote to George Clarke in terms which were similar to Governor Grey's letter to Henry Venn. Grey had described the missionary acquisition of land as 'unjust to the natives and derogatory to their own calling'. 18 Selwyn wrote:
Land purchases of Missionaries "have awakened the jealousy of the Colonists," have "created a feeling highly prejudicial to the Mission," have "affected the character of the Society," have in some cases, "alienated the affections of Natives from their Missionary". All this, he added, he was prepared to prove, but 'he earnestly desired to be spared this painful duty by the missionaries quiet acceptance of the Governor's proposal'. 19
The Governor's proposal was that out of the land blocks, 2560 acres for each claimant were to be surveyed at government expense and the surplus was to be restored to the original Maori owners. According to Selwyn, William Williams assured him that 2560 acres, surveyed as
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proposed into 4 blocks, would give the missionary claimants all the good land. Where Williams claimed that Selwyn had exceeded his C.M.S. instructions was in giving the missionaries only one of the options proposed by the Parent Committee--disposal of surplus to original owners. Moreover, as Williams told Selwyn, the northern missionaries had decided to make over all their land to their children, therefore they did not own any land, therefore there was no case for reference. This did not satisfy the Bishop who was determined that missionary children, as well as missionaries, should make a sacrifice. He wrote to the C.M.S. warning Venn,
If . . . you receive letters from any of the claimants expressing their intention to make over their whole claim to their children, you will understand that by so doing, they will embroil the whole question with the Government, outrage public opinion, break your Resolutions and set aside my award, and all this for no possible benefit either to themselves or their children. 20
To the C.M.S. missionaries he wrote that missionary children should learn 'to renounce the barren pride of ownership for the moral husbandry of Christ's kingdom in the harvest-field of souls'. 'There is a Christian meekness', he concluded, 'by which the Christian Missionary may inherit the earth, though he may have no other possession in it than a grave.' 21
What upset the C.M.S. missionaries was that Selwyn, like Grey, assumed that because of their, or their children's land, they had alienated the affection and trust of the Maoris. Both George Clarke and Henry Williams called on Selwyn to make good his word either to prove the charge or to defend the missionaries against Grey's attack, but he declined to do so. At one stage of the deliberations that preceded the Central Committee meeting, both Clarke and Henry Williams decided under pressure from their colleagues, William Williams included, to accept Selwyn and Grey's land proposal, but they made acceptance conditional on Selwyn's pledge to make Grey retract his accusations against the northern missionaries as instigators of the Hone Heke war. This Selwyn did not do, and Grey continued to charge and to threaten. Over land Henry Williams and George Clarke were finally willing to surrender, over honour they were not; Selwyn's basic error was his failure to appreciate that there was a difference. Henry Williams decided that the time had come to make a stand:
Should they take the land, they must take the whole. They'll take but trash--but mine honour they must not trample in the dust. 22
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He wrote to Selwyn at the end of September:
Should your Lordship have anything further to say on the subject of land purchased for the sole benefit of my family, I must refer Your Lordship to my sons ... I have no land, nor desire to possess any but the grave. I must request that Your Lordship will never again mention the subject of land to me .... I have duties to attend to and must not be hindered by the Governor . . . Your Lordship has also mentioned the necessity of our sacrificing to Public Opinion . . . I will sacrifice anything but principle, but were I to attend to "Public Opinion" I would soon be on shore. I always steer by my own compass, making a straight course. 23