[Image of page 591]
Williams' attitude to the Waitara purchase, the immediate cause of the Taranaki war, was the same as that of Hadfield, Selwyn, William Martin and William Swainson--the Taranaki settlers were acting in defiance of the Treaty of Waitangi and looking with an 'evil eye' at the disputed land. He thought the government's attitude indefensible and feared that the hostile feeling growing up between the two races would not be easily eradicated. In June 1861 he wrote to Governor Gore Browne that the Maoris were convinced that their land was to be taken from them by force, and he particularly attacked 'the pernicious habit' of land commissioners in accepting land from one or two persons without consulting the tribe. He quoted a letter written to him by the principal chief of Te Paneiri:
A man . . . goes up to Auckland and sells the land, and the first thing the owners hear about it is the land is gone .... "Pay your money in the presence of the tribe to whom the land belongs, that you may obtain it with a clear title." 1
Williams felt that both the Land League and the King Movement reflected a genuine Maori uneasiness over the manner in which government was purchasing land. He was critical of the truce of 19 March 1861--'a sort of peace'--which temporarily ended the Taranaki war.
'We are at this time', he wrote to the C.M.S., 'on the very brink of a precipice ... if the natives . . . hold to the king movement, or if . . . the Government should not make those concessions which a large proportion of the community think they ought to make, redressing the grievances of which they [the Maoris] have just reason to complain, and should rush headlong into a renewal of hostilities, . . . they will have not merely Waikato, but probably the greater part of the natives of the northern island joining in the conflict; not carrying on an open conflict, which disciplined soldiers could easily dispose of; but retiring to the fastness of the country, from whence they could send out small parties to harass and destroy all the outlying settlers from north to south.' 2
This was a prophetic letter. Later that year he wrote to the Parent Committee in the same strain:
[Image of page 592]
When we look back upon the history of the early land transactions of the New Zealand Company, and then to the extraordinary course which has been pursued by the present land commissioner ... it is indeed no matter for surprize that a land league should have been formed, and that, as communication passed from tribe to tribe, the determination should have become general. The wonder is that the natives throughout have acted with so much moderation. 3
There was a deal of sympathy with Taranaki and Waikato tribes, but the East Coast and Poverty Bay Maoris were as yet unwilling to be involved -- Waikato was by no means their natural ally. After the opening of the church at Whakato in 1863, a band of Waikato Maoris who were present tried to get from Rongowhakaata an expression of solidarity with the King movement, but Anaru Matete who chaired the meeting gained more local support for his assertion that there was no unity except under the Gospel and no sure foundation but Christ. As the war in the Waikato continued, however, the neutrality of the Waiapu diocese was eroded. When Williams visited East Cape in April 1864 he found that 150 Ngati Porou had already gone to Waikato and that some of these had already been killed at Orakau. Renewed hostilities in the Waikato, Maori attacks on outlying settlers, and the increasing support for the King movement from his own Maoris caused Williams to adopt a different attitude towards the war. He ceased to criticize the method of government land purchase and took his stand on clause 1 of the Treaty of Waitangi--British sovereignty must be maintained. He accused the Roman Catholic priest, Father Garavel, of baptizing members of Ngati Porou who were 'King Maoris', and thus of inciting the Waipu district. He began to see the war 'as a direct effort of Satan to check the progress of Christs kingdom', and from this concluded that, 'If Satan is working, he has been permitted to do so for an object. Gods purpose will be carried out, his glory will be the result.' 4
This premise that 'Gods purpose will be carried out' was basic to all Williams' thinking. For the moment he was convinced that God's purpose was that energetic measures were to be taken by government forces against Waikato and the King movement generally, and that 'rebellious' natives should not only surrender their arms, but that their lands should be forfeit as well. The continuing, despairing fierceness of the Maori fighting spirit, however, caused him later once more to question government policy. God's purpose could not be in error, only man's interpretation of it. He conceded in 1868 in a letter as near to despair as Williams ever went that it was just possible that God had not been on the side of the British forces and that Maori land confiscation was in defiance of his purpose for New Zealand. 5
[Image of page 593]
Meanwhile Maori sympathy for what appeared more and more to be the common cause grew. Government had not made prior to 1865 any extensive land purchases at Poverty Bay or on the East Coast, 6 but Dillon Bell reported when he investigated early European claims at Poverty Bay that the local Maoris were not only averse to selling any more land but actually wished to repossess themselves of the land that they had already sold to settlers:
. . . they adopted a course quite novel; namely that of repudiating their sales; commencing with the claim of the Bishop of Waiapu which I had always understood to be disputed by nobody. 7
The leader of the 'repudiationists' was the Ngati Kaipoho chief Raharuhi Rukupo (Lazarus), who told Governor Gore Browne on his January 1860 visit to Poverty Bay that the Maoris there did not recognize Queen Victoria's claim to rule over them and that the lands which the early settlers had obtained from them should be returned. Once fighting had broken out again in Waikato, Poverty Bay settlers somewhat injudiciously told the local Maoris that land would be taken from 'friendly' and 'hostile' natives alike. The feeling grew which Williams, although he was allowed to speak at the runanga 8 found difficult to counteract that 'It is better to fight while we have strength remaining, and to die like men.' 9
In September 1864 Colonel Whitmore visited Turanga. Maoris were willing to listen to him but they also made it clear that they had no wish to join the government forces. It was a delicate situation. Williams tried to make Maoris understand that his business was with neither King party nor government as such, but with the Gospel. But it did appear as if sides were being taken. Bishop Selwyn, Archdeacon Brown and Robert Maunsell were all acting as chaplains to the British forces, and John Morgan at this time was more effective as a government spy at Otawhao than he was as a missionary. Another interpretation was now being put on the Gospel message. At the Waiapu Synod of 1865 held at Kawakawa during January, Leonard Williams wrote that accustomed as he and his father were to Maori courtesy and hospitality, it came as something of a shock to be treated uncivilly by some of the people. The idea was expressed that missionaries were simply clearing the way for European occupation of the land:
The party in front is clearing the way; the party behind is dragging along the newly shaped canoe. 10
[Image of page 594]
At the end of 1864, Anaru Matete, once Williams' right hand man at Waerenga-a-hika, urged his young men to accustom themselves to handle firearms and to dance the haka.
The Pai Marire (Hauhau) invasion of Poverty Bay in March 1865 was peaceful. According to Jane Williams' estimate the first party from Opotiki did not number more than 40; a few days later about 120 arrived from Taranaki. At first only Te Whanau a Kai of Te Aitanga a Mahaki recommended that the Williams' family should leave, the majority of Rongowhakaata said 'remain quiet which means we will stand by you'. 11 On 12 March, 200 Rongowhakaata marched up in an orderly body, all under arms, to defend the mission. The following day the man-of-war Eclipse showed up with Bishop Selwyn on board; rumours had reached Auckland that Bishop Williams had been captured by the Hauhau and was likely to share Volkner's fate. 12 At this stage the local Maoris, although wishing to avoid bloodshed, seemed steady in their support of the mission, so the Eclipse sailed for Opotiki to secure the release of T. S. Grace who had also been captured, and then returned to Auckland. The Pai Marire followers first made their base camp at Waikohu, about 12 miles from the mission, and a few days later shifted to Taureka which was only 3 miles away. March 14 began ominously with a haka, and from then on support for the mission dwindled as Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga a Mahaki fraternized more and more with Pai Marire. Perhaps Bishop Williams made a tactical error in not that day taking a firmer hold of proceedings. The following extract is from his Diary.
March 14: Natives had a display of olden times and these wretched miscreants had their display also .... The wretched Kereopa then made a long speech wh. was directed very much to me & in conclusion proposed that I should make peace with him. I felt it was necessary to answer him, but as the natives had settled that Anaru [Matete] & their principal persons should speak, I kept back our own party that we might not takahi 13 their arrangements. This Kereopa again got up & after him a diabolical wretch the nephew of Horopapira. I looked round for our natives to complete their own arrangements & in the meantime food was brought & immediately afterwards there was a general confusion & Rongowhakaata I found were inviting these miscreants to go to Whakato. We returned home & I was told that Te Whanau a Kai are intending to receive this new abomination & that there is a general fraternizing with the wretches. I wrote a very strong letter to the Runanga and Leonard wrote another . . . After this came Ngaitahupo to ask to have their money returned. 14 To this I replied that I did not know in the present state of things whether I
[Image of page 595]
should remain--that if I did not, they should have their money, but that otherwise it would remain for its original object. Went to the Runanga after tea, when the natives generally were very pouri 15 at the aspect of affairs, especially Rahuriri. He said to me, "You will not go--I will send these people away myself."
But hakas had been danced, food had been shared, the karakia of Pai Marire had been listened to, and even if local Maoris had been mystified by some of the rites, they understood and joined in the lament,
"mo te iwi tu kiri kau, motu tu hawhe"--for the people who are stripped naked, and for the islands reduced by half. 16
The subsequent actions of Raharuhi Rukupo, Anaru Matete and Hirini te Kani, illustrate the irresolution of Rongawhakaata. They were neither for nor against Pai Marire, but their neutrality was more in favour of the Maori cult than of the mission. Further reports of local proceedings were disquieting. Te Aitanga a Mahaki, who had originally made over the Waerenga-a-hika land to the mission, were now almost unanimous for Pai Marire--the tiu 17 had worked the people up into a frenzy so that they too practised 'the horrible grimaces' before the head. 18 The school Maoris at Waerenga-a-hika held a runanga and told Williams that they were uneasy about the turn affairs had taken and that he should be prepared to leave. What finally destroyed Williams' confidence in Rongowhakaata was to learn that Raharuhi Rukupo, who had earlier promised to send the Hauhau away, and Hirini te Kani had joined with Patara, one of the Pai Marire leaders, and were calling on the local settlers advising them that they had nothing to fear. This alliance, Williams wrote,
destroys all confidence. I conclude therefore to go on packing without interruption. The day has come to its close but no one has been near the place. Three old chiefs of Ngatimaru are here but they have been followed by no others .... Sent off one dray of packages to Turanganui & more will soon be ready to follow. We hear this evening that Rahuriri has joined the Paimarire, whom he is regaling with rum, also that Anaru was seen yesterday . . . intoxicated. 19
Some of the older people still remained faithful; Ruka Mokaituatini came to see the Bishop:
He is old and very lame but he had heard we are talking of going away. Poor old man he said, "I am come to cry over you", and then he began his mournful lamentation. At the end of it he said, "I have
[Image of page 596]
been told you are going, but you are not to go, you must remain quiet. You brought the gospel to us, you were the friend of many who have died ... & you must continue here till you die." 20
On 31 March, the steamer St Kilda arrived at Turanganui; Williams decided to take passage for his family by her to Napier. Packing was completed and three days later the Williams' family left Turanga.
A number of the leading people of Rongowhakaata came up & looked very sorrowful when they saw that there was an actual move. They spoke well but they could not do away with the evil to which they had been accessory by their want of decision. I gave them plainly my opinion, that they had placed Turanga in a very critical position & that it was a question whether the evil could be remedied .... At noon the dray with Maria & the children started and about an hour after, all our daughters & Mrs. Clarke with Clarke & Leonard & Henry. It was about 3 when Jane with Samuel 21 & I went 22
It was not a complete evacuation--Leonard, Henry and Samuel were left at Turanganui, and when Henry and Samuel returned to their homes, Leonard remained. Even so, William Williams' action, on the surface, now seems like that of a captain deserting his ship in a storm. He was a European rangatira who still held the respect of the two races. Some Europeans had already left Poverty Bay but others remained; Te Aitanga a Mahaki had not attacked the mission; Rongowhakaata although wavering and confused was not irrevocably committed to Pai Marire. One cannot but feel sorry for the old people like Ruka Mokaituatini who had welcomed Williams with such enthusiasm twenty five years before and who during those years had come to respect his judgement and value his friendship, now left to die without his ministering care.
From Williams' letters to the C.M.S. during the first week of April, it would appear that his original intention was to move from Waerenga-a-hika to Whakato, and that his final decision to leave altogether was partly at the insistence of his son and sons-in-law that if he stayed he could be an embarrassment to them. There were still rumours that the Hauhau intended to kill Bishop Williams.
'Their aim', wrote Henry Williams to Jane, his wife, 'is to commit the people to some act of violence, and then they have them. By your Fathers moving they lose their game.' 23
There was another, probably more compelling reason, within Williams' own character. To understand this one must go back to his action after
[Image of page 597]
the plunder of the brig Falco, to his attitude towards those who tattooed themselves, or in some other way fell from grace. If quiet remonstrance or more firm plain speaking failed, then he withdrew until the offenders came to their senses. There was no cowardice in this, there is enough evidence in his letters and journals to show that Williams was never greatly bothered by personal danger even though his companions often were. The God that Williams worshipped was more than the loving Father of the New Testament, he was also Jehovah, the jealous God, the God of wrath. Vengeance and retribution and judgement were also in his sovereignty, as, speaking through Moses, He had told even His chosen people: 'See, I have set before thee this day life and death and good and evil . . . But if thine heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear but shall be drawn away and worship other gods and serve them ... ye shall surely perish.' 24 This God was neither mocked nor trifled with as the people of another plain had also discovered to their misfortune. For twenty five years Williams had preached plainly the word of God to the people of Turanga, if they chose now not to listen or to favour other gods or to trifle with sacred things, it was fitting that Williams should wipe the dust of the plain from off his feet; not so much giving up a mission as ready at his Lord's command to begin another somewhere else. Jane, who owned to some apprehension at the state of things after the Eclipse left, bears out this analysis of William's feelings. He was, she wrote, 'cast down and. grieved', but 'indignant also that murderers should be received as friends'. Sarah Williams, Leonard's wife, wrote that Father was 'wounded in spirit', but also so worked up by his people's cowardice 'that he has written a letter to the chief men and so has Leonard telling them . . . they must decide whom they will serve, God or Satan'. 25 The purposes of God, however, although clear in retrospect, are often difficult to interpret in current situations. As Benjamin Ashwell had written earlier, sometimes it is difficult to know whether you are where the Almighty would have you be or not. 26 If Bishop Williams had known then that the Hauhau war was to be followed by the Te Kooti war and that the fighting was to be both bitter and prolonged; that Maori Christianity in his diocese, weakened by Pai Marire, was later to a large extent to be captured by Ringatu, it is possible he might have wondered where his duty lay. But the decision had been taken and although he wrote that it was 'a sad conclusion after 25 years of labour to be obliged thus to leave', he again took comfort from his basic belief, 'God has his own designs to accomplish and we know that the end will be his glory'. 27
For the moment the immediate responsibility of this 64 year old man was to get his family safely to Napier.
[Image of page 598]
The evening was fortunately fine and all my party lay down on the deck in two heaps of 26 feet in length. All were pretty well covered up with cloaks & I went to look at them about every two hours through the night. 28