1857 - DEwes, J. China, Australia and the Pacific Islands in the Years, 1855-56. [Chap VII only] - CHAPTER VII. NEW ZEALAND.

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  1857 - DEwes, J. China, Australia and the Pacific Islands in the Years, 1855-56. [Chap VII only] - CHAPTER VII. NEW ZEALAND.
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I HAD certainly made a very curious and interesting voyage, but had done nothing towards my own interests. I found my wife had removed to my old dwelling on the north shore, which now, in the early spring months, was the most delicious climate in the world.

I now renewed my endeavours to obtain a Government appointment, but without success; and thus spent several months of indolent repose in this beautiful locality. I had some interest at home, and had written on the subject of an appointment in New Zealand, a country I had also a great temptation to visit. The colonies of New South Wales and Victoria were now

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placed upon a very different political footing to what they were on my arrival, having each obtained constitutions of their own. Most of the members of the representative houses had their own friends to provide for. In anticipation therefore of receiving a favourable answer from England, I determined to proceed to New Zealand, and took my passage for Auckland by the "William Denny" steamboat, in the beginning of December, 1855.

A smooth and prosperous voyage, of ten days' duration, brought us to anchor in the port, and before the town of Auckland, a distance of 1200 miles from Sydney. I was much disappointed with the aspect of this place. The dry and arid colour of the soil, and nearly total absence of trees near the town, give it a harsh and repulsive appearance. The place, however, was encreasing in size and importance. The principal street is built on a steep ascent, which is crowned by the Government offices, and commodious and fortified barracks. Many private residences are surrounded by extremely pretty gardens, where European fruits and flowers flourish in great

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luxuriance. The new Governor, Colonel Gore Brown, was absent on a tour of inspection at Nelson and Wellington at the time of my arrival, as also the celebrated Bishop Selwyn. Many natives, Maoris, were lounging about the shops, squatting down in parties on the sides of the street, and, indeed, making themselves perfectly at home. They were of a very different appearance and character to their brethren of Northern Polynesia.

The natives are of the Malay type, but of a far finer race, of vigorous and athletic forms, and naturally of a noble disposition. Even in their most savage state, they soon learnt to appreciate European commerce, arts, and agriculture; and at the beginning of this century commercial relations existed between them and New Guinea. Nevertheless it was impossible to imagine the human race fallen to a deeper state of degradation than was the case with these people, even so late as 1830. An eye-witness speaks of them about that date in the following manner:--

"A New Zealander considers ferocity and the love of war as the greatest of all human virtues.

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He administers a sort of baptism to his children, and during the ceremony forces small stones down the throats of these tender creatures, with the idea of hardening their hearts, and rendering them inaccessible to pity. Prom their earliest infancy they are encouraged to hatred, vengeance, and the most cruel acts. He alone who excels in these, is considered a great man by them. It is impossible to describe the headlong ferocity of their tempers. The smallest offence creates an ardent desire for vengeance, which blood alone can satisfy. When a native has fallen a victim to the fury of his rival, his death is like a consuming flame, which attaches itself with the rapidity of lightning to families and whole populations, who never lay by their arms until the death of the last of their tribe. For weeks together they traverse the country breathing nothing but death and carnage. Hundreds are often attacked, slain, and devoured, one after the other, by these furious cannibals. All these atrocious scenes are accompanied by others, the recital of which would make the hair stand on end. In time of peace they bring up the chil-

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dren, slaves, and other individuals they can get into their power, for the express purpose of roasting and eating them. This cannibalism is the fruit of their superstitions. They represent their god, named 'Atua,' as an invisible cannibal who takes pleasure in the torments of men, and who can only be driven away by hate and abuse. If any one is sick, they say, 'Atua is devouring his body;' and utter horrible imprecations against Atua to make him quit his victim; but with all this the proud New Zealander never stooped to adore an image of stone, and no idols have been found in the country. Their religious ceremonies are almost entirely confined to the observation of the 'Taboo.' They have a remarkable talent for tattooing the body, and particularly the face, with circular lines, which gives the countenance a horrible appearance."

Such was the state of New Zealand a few years ago; but what a change has been operated by even comparative civilization !

It is true, as is the case with all the inhabitants of Polynesia, when intermixed with white men, that they have vastly diminished in num-

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bers during late years; and should the diminution continue in the same manner, they must, in process of time, disappear altogether; still those that remain unite, with much of their ancient ferocity and prejudices, many of the most striking features of a civilized people. Since 1839, when New Zealand became a British Colony, and the native chiefs of forty-six tribes abandoned their right of sovereignty to the British Crown, the establishment of schools, the influence of Christianity, and the example of the colonists, have united to render the New Zealander a clever and active producer, and a quick and intelligent commercial calculator. With these improvements also has arrived a consciousness of what they consider the injustice they have been treated with in the purchase of lands, their own share of civil rights, and many other points on which they are beginning to be extremely sensitive; and although the old natives are aware of their own inability to occupy those prominent positions in Church and State that they see their white brethren in possession of, yet they claim these privileges for their descendants,

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who shall receive the benefit of education. They are a very proud race, and although glad to dispose of the produce of their own labour, and that at exorbitant prices, can rarely be induced to work for others at all, or except for wages equal to, or even beyond, those given to Europeans. The introduction of the potatoe into this country has been a wonderful source both of profit and convenience to the inhabitants. It forms their chief article of food and commerce, and is of a remarkably fine quality.

At the period of my arrival at Auckland matters did not wear nearly so prosperous an appearance as I had been led to expect from the descriptions I had received of this country. The favourite theory, that New Zealand was to become one of the chief granaries of Australia, was fast dissolving, and the encreasing cultivation of all kinds in the Shoalhaven and Illawarra districts in New South Wales, had very much diminished the price of the staple article--potatoes, which were now selling at Auckland for £5 the ton, whereas the previous year they were worth £15 for the Melbourne and Sydney

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markets. Commerce of all kinds was dull. Land-jobbing had always been, and was still, the chief occupation of the monied inhabitants, and the agricultural emigrant, with a small capital, either from Europe or the diggings, who had arrived here, tempted by the delusive vision of buying Government lands at ten shillings per acre, discovered too late that such lands lay either in the heart of some uncleared forest or distant waste: even if he were sufficiently fortunate to stir up the impracticable officials attached to this department, to put him in the way of becoming a purchaser; but that for any allotments within easy distance of a market, or approachable by roads, he would in all probability have to give as many pounds.

The climate is magnificent, the only drawback being the frequency of high winds. The extremes of heat and cold are unknown, and there is, perhaps, less daily variation in the temperature than in any other country; and it is supposed to be the most favourable to longevity.

After a stay of several days I made a trip of twenty-five miles into the interior, as far as Cole's

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Inn, where the forest country commences, being most anxious to witness the splendid woodland scenery of New Zealand. The first part of the road, which for about ten miles is well-made, and passes through cultivated farms; presents a succession of a rich variety of undulations, terraces, hills, and broken surfaces. The herbage is green and luxuriant all the year round. The marshy parts of the country are covered with the phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax. Upon leaving the pasture and arable lands the whole surface of the country is covered with fern of such a size and quality, that it cannot be penetrated without the risk of losing oneself, or certainly of having your clothes torn to pieces. Passing several rivers and small streams, which are abundant, we arrived at length at the little tavern designated Cole's Inn, and is situated on an arm of the sea, and on the borders of a forest. Here we found rather poor accommodation, and plenty of musquitoes, so that having no temptation to detain us in our beds, at sun-rise on the following morning, after a plunge in a neighbouring stream, I took my gun on my shoulder, and,

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together with a gentleman who had accompanied me from Auckland, bent my way to the forest.

Nature seems to have exhausted her wonderful powers in forming a New Zealand forest with trees of immense variety and of gigantic size, covered with blossom and foliage of every hue; but so matted with creepers that a man cannot move in them except on foot, and must often leap from root to root to avoid swamps and chasms. "So thick are the creepers and supplejacks," says Mr. Brees, a surveyor, "that I have often been bound up by them like the lion in the net, and compelled to call out to my men to come and cut me out with their bill-hooks. There are many mossy dells filled with leaves and branches of trees. I remember to have once slipped in making my way down a gully filled with trunks and branches, and I am certain I sunk through thirty or forty feet of vegetable matter, which might have been collecting, for what I know, ever since the deluge. All this is very romantic and enchanting, but how does it suit a farmer? Then the beautiful and meandering streams are constantly in the way, sometimes

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overflowing the banks and reducing all the level land to the condition of swamps, covered with the most inveterate flax, the edges of which are almost as sharp as a razor. Sometimes the stream is dammed up by blocks of trap rock, which refuse to wear away, and the consequence is, a basin deep enough to float a seventy-four gun ship, which it is necessary to pass round." In fact, few parts of the country can be traversed except by the tracks of the natives. No animals are indigenous to the country except the mouse and the bat. There are very few varieties of birds. Wild-fowl are very abundant, and there are no reptiles. Altogether New Zealand appears to be in so juvenile a state, that a great naturalist, who has penetrated far into the interior, says we have attempted to colonize it a thousand years before its time.

All these obstacles to penetrating the hidden recesses of the woods we found practically illustrated, and therefore contented ourselves with visiting their most practicable outskirts, and shooting a few of the large species of pigeon I before mentioned having met with in the South

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Sea Islands. We saw great numbers of them, but could not follow them far into the forest. We came across a small native encampment, where the women were cooking potatoes and some large eels, caught in a neighbouring stream, which they offered a share of to us. An old native was very desirous of purchasing my gun. They are excessively fond of firearms, and generally very good shots; but no European is allowed to dispose of any description of firearms to a native under a very heavy penalty. The same prohibition is extended to ammunition of all kinds.

Nevertheless there are few of the inhabitants that do not possess a gun or a musket; and large stores of gunpowder are said to be in their possession, that they have procured from American whaling vessels, or by other means. I lent my gun to a native, upon his promising to bring me some pigeons in a few minutes. He vanished in the depths of the forest, and shortly afterwards I heard a double discharge, and my black friend emerged from the shade with two fine pigeons in his hand. Evening was now closing

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in upon us, and we retraced our steps to our inn and our dinners, the materials of which we carried with us in the shape of delicious pigeons and eels purchased from the natives.

On the following morning we returned to Auckland by the same route we had before taken. The general character of the country is volcanic, with a comparatively poor soil, and great profusion of ferns, yet it excels most other districts of New Zealand in openness to both the farmer and the traveller, and in facilities for internal communication.

A circumstance had occurred since our departure, that caused some disturbance and unpleasant feeling in and about the town. A short time previous to my arrival a European (it was not distinctly known whether he was an Englishman or an American) had been convicted and condemned to death for the murder of a Maori woman. This murder was committed on the person of an old woman, under no apparently exciting causes, and was generally attributed to madness or drunkenness on the part of the murderer. The Governor being absent at the period

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of the conviction, and as the man could not be executed without the official warrant being signed, it was necessary to detain him in prison until his Excellency's arrival, or that communication could be made with him; a very difficult matter at that period, there being only one steamboat on the coast, in which the Governor and his suite had gone to Wellington and Nelson.

As several Maoris had been hanged at different times at Auckland for the murder of Europeans, and the New Zealander regards the lex talionis as the most sacred of obligations, they could not account for this delay in the execution of the sentence, and considered that it was the intention of the Government to let the man escape.

The tribe to which the murdered woman belonged, together with several others, assembled in great force near the town of Auckland, and the chiefs had several interviews with the acting Governor, in which, upon the matter being explained to them, they undertook to keep their followers quiet until the arrival of the Governor, but would not return to their Pahs until they

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had witnessed the execution of the criminal. This subsequently took place under circumstances of extreme cruelty, the unfortunate victim having been tortured for nearly half-an-hour owing to the clumsiness of the executioner, and to the great delight of the Maoris.

The New Zealanders have a striking eagerness to visit foreign countries, and to see with their own eyes whatever might gratify curiosity or prove subservient to usefulness. They make excellent sailors, particularly whalers. They are fond of dressing like Europeans, and endeavour to imitate them in everything. Many of them speak English well, and are fond of everything in daily use with us, such as tea, sugar, coffee, and other household luxuries. A race is fast springing up, the children of Maori women and European fathers; some of the females are singularly handsome, and the males with personal beauty combine great intelligence.

A little better government, less monopoly, and greater facility for the sale of Government lands, will tend much to the amelioration of the condition of this fine colony, which certainly holds

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out hopes and expectations to the agricultural emigrant that ought not to be disappointed.

Many of the natives possess vessels from twenty to one hundred and twenty tons burden, which they navigate themselves, and trade on the coast, and even as far as the neighbouring colonies. Some of them invest considerable sums in the Union Bank, and it is astonishing with what quickness of perception they can unravel a rather complicated calculation. No people in the world possess more bravery and undaunted courage. This we have very often proved to our cost, and in personal conflict with a European the New Zealander is generally the superior. Although greatly diminished in numbers, sufficient remain to make them a very formidable people in case of any sudden outbreak, caused by real or imaginary wrongs inflicted on them by the Government; and as a great quantity of dwellings and homesteads lie scattered and isolated about the country, much destruction both of life and property might ensue before any military force could be brought to bear upon them, and which indeed, in its present state, is

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barely sufficient for the protection of the colony. An eminent writer on New Zealand statistics thus sums up his opinion on this head:--

"The administration of Captain Grey placed the local Government upon a more secure and organized basis, and soothed for a time the murmuring spirits of the colonists, who no longer annoyed the British Parliament with their petitions. His policy towards the interests of the New Zealand Company was likewise favourable. It was confidently supposed by them and the Southern settlers, that he was using all his endeavours to remove the seat of Government to Wellington, which of course raised the ire of the Northern colonists, who saw the injury they must sustain by the withdrawal of so much Government expenditure. But any expression of their sentiments on this subject which was conveyed to him, he answered with disdain. He assumed the tone of a dictator more than of a responsible British governor, passing bills through his packed council with unseemly rapidity. He could not mend the constitution of New Zealand so successfully as he had mended

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that of South Australia. Here was a proud and powerful race of aboriginal proprietors on one hand, with the Government and New Zealand Company acting as middle men; and on the other, the broken-down, disspirited, and duped settlers, who had parted with their money without securing an equivalent in land. It was in vain that the Governor passed new acts, renewed and annulled ordinances, cajoled and threatened by turns; it was all to no purpose; 'there was something rotten in the state of Denmark!' Three readings in one day without any previous notice, and next day's Government Gazette announced that the proposed measure was a law of the land; so that the inhabitants of Auckland and the surrounding district in the year 1848 expected every day to see the announcement issued that the head quarters of the Government would be removed on the morrow to the South. If there was any truth in this surmise, the probability of carrying it into effect was suddenly thwarted in the November of that year by the earthquake at Wellington. The Governor had just time to dub himself Sir George Grey, when he

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hurried off to the scene of destruction. All was consternation and distress there. Many of the affrighted settlers had picked up what articles they could conveniently carry, and got on board the few vessels in the harbour, to take their departure for the shores of Australia. To add to the misfortunes of one shipload of these refugees, they were wrecked in the harbour before the vessel could get clear of the heads. No lives were lost, but the poor creatures were left penniless.

"Meanwhile the colonial minister, in conjunction with the local Government, had organized a protective force on an economical scale in lieu of the regular troops, whose maintenance in New Zealand was more than double what it would have been in the Australian Colonies. A body of military pensioners, bearing the name of the New Zealand Fensibles, was formed. They were located in three separate divisions, within six and nine miles of Auckland, to be ready at all times to perform any military duty in defence of the colony. Hitherto they have not been employed on active service. We hope the day is far distant, when the settlers shall have to place

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their lives and properties under the protection of that infirm and unsteady corps, against the assaults of young and able-bodied warriors, such as are to be found amongst their antagonists. The result of these measures has been the withdrawal of two regiments of infantry, a company of artillery, and a large commissariat staff from the colony. The expenditure of these troops during seven years was the mainstay of the northern settlements.

"This fact coupled with a decreasing revenue has already crippled the Government, who are continuing to issue debentures for local disbursement, and should they fail to realize the means of redeeming them, we see nothing but bankruptcy staring the colony in the face. These remarks, however, do not apply to the settlements of Otago and Canterbury."

Such was the state of things a few years ago in Auckland, and there is no great difference at the present time. The gold discoveries in the sister colonies have considerably drained it of its population. Gold has also been found in New Zealand, but in very unfavourable localities,

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and not in sufficient quantity to attract much attention; the districts also in which it was discovered belonged exclusively to the natives, and had not been sold to the Government, and they placed every obstacle in the way of gold-seekers. 1

At present two regiments of infantry are stationed in New Zealand, --one at Auckland, and its northern dependencies, and the other at Wellington, and some detached places to the south. The latter place suffered again from an earthquake in 1855, when nearly all the buildings of brick and stone were either demolished, or severely injured, and a vast quantity of property destroyed; only one white man's life, however, was lost during this awful visitation. The frequent recurrence of earthquakes in this locality must always be a very serious impediment to its progress.

Canterbury, since the price of land has been reduced, appears to be far the most nourishing settlement. The soil is excellent, and well watered. There is little or no forest, scarcely

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any native tribes in the vicinity, and the settlers are a most industrious and enterprizing set of people, and within the last few years have laid the foundation of great success and prosperity.

In the beginning of 1856, the melancholy news reached me of the death of a friend, from whose interest I expected much, and which destroyed all my hopes of an appointment in this country. About the same period also, intelligence was received of the demise of Sir Charles Hotham, whose nervous irritability of temper could not withstand the opposition his Government underwent, particularly after the proclamation of the new constitution, and it is said, brought on the attack that was fatal to him. Be that as it may, he was carried off very suddenly, and General McArthur, the senior military officer in the colony, became acting Governor until a fresh appointment was made by the Home Government.

About this period a large vessel arrived at Auckland, direct from London, with emigrants and passengers for New Zealand. Her captain intended, after landing his goods and passengers, to proceed on ballast to Shanghai in China, and

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there take in a cargo of tea and silks for England. I was offered a passage by this circuitous route, for the same amount of money nearly that it would have cost me to have returned direct from Sydney, and having no settled object in view, and plenty of time on my hands, I considered this an excellent opportunity of visiting the celestial empire, where perhaps fortune might smile upon me more favourably than she had done lately. I therefore engaged for our passage to England, with the understanding that I might leave the ship, if so disposed, in China, upon paying a certain sum for our conveyance to that country, and we made every preparation for our departure.



We finally sailed from the Port of Auckland on the 6th of February, 1856. The first three weeks of our voyage were marked by nothing remarkable. A continuation of favourable winds and charming weather rendered our approach to the equator speedy and agreeable; but once arrived in that " sunny clime, " a very different state of things awaited us. Light breezes (generally contrary), and calms of long continuance, detained us nearly a month within a few degrees north and south of the line, during which time the heat was frightfully oppressive, and the rays of the sun penetrating through the awning, and absolutely blistering the decks, left us no alter-

1   Since writing the above, gold has been discovered in the neighbourhood of Nelson.

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