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SETTLERS AND SOLDIERS.
TARANAKI is the native name given to a small settlement in the colony of New Zealand. It was formerly termed New Plymouth; but the town alone now goes by that name. Its settlement took place in the early part of the year 1841, under the auspices of a branch of the New Zealand Company, which was established in New Plymouth. It is the richest and best province in the colony for all agricultural purposes, and comprises an extent of country so famed for its fertility; that it was long called the garden of New Zealand. "It contains nearly 2,200,000 acres, of which about 300,000 form a belt of the richest arable soil in the colony, extending along a coast-
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line of 115 miles. The remainder, covered with dense forest, is equally fertile, and contains but a small proportion of unavailable land. The settlers occupy about 11,000 acres of open land, and 32,000 acres of forest land; there being, in addition, about 20,000 acres of forest land in the hands of the Government, which is unoccupied on account of the insecure state of the province, and the superiority of the unpurchased open district in its vicinity."
"During the first two years of its existence it received, by direct emigration from England, upwards of a thousand settlers; and though it has received continual additions during the last seventeen years, yet its population, on 31st December, 1858, inclusive of increase by birth, only amounted to 2,850 souls." There has been a slight increase since that date.
"The native male population (including children) numbered, in 1857, only 1,751. They hold upwards of 2,000,000 acres, one-seventh of which is immediately available for the
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plough." All but a very small portion of this land remains wholly uncultivated.
At Taranaki there is no harbour, and the roadstead is exposed to the north-westerly winds, which are, however, not of very frequent occurrence. The limited quantity of land purchased from the natives, and the uneasiness felt on account of the feuds existing amongst them respecting their lands, with which they have always parted very grudgingly, has caused its growth to be very tardy. The settlers, for the most part agriculturists, working very hard, have gained but little more than a comfortable livelihood. Some exceptions (of course) may have existed, but colonial (or, at least, Taranaki) prosperity is a plant of very feeble growth. I have witnessed some striking instances of success. Men with sinewy frames and empty pockets--by dint of hard living and hard working, with no knowledge beyond how to "dig and delve"--first receiving extravagant wages for their labour--finding every facility for acquiring land, cattle, and
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sheep--they have become men of comparative prosperity, road-commissioners, legislators, and then the despisers of those whose money first gave them the start. On the other hand, I have witnessed some amount of misery-- men suffering deprivations unknown to them in the early part of their life; having but a small amount of capital, and a limited knowledge of the science of agriculture, with an inaptitude to drop readily into the free and easy, and somewhat selfish life of "old settlers," and, for the sake of peace and quietness, enduring annoyances not easily imagined by the members of social life in England.
In common with other settlements in New Zealand, Taranaki suffered depression for many years, arising from want of capital and a market; but now the increasing facilities for exporting produce to the Australian markets, and the present very fairly remunerating prices obtained by the farmers, promise a better state of things. Previous to the present
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unhappy war with the natives, it was confidently believed that a brighter day had dawned upon Taranaki, and that a career of prosperity had at last commenced.
It has long been felt that what was wanted to ensure this prosperity could only be obtained by purchasing more land from the natives. This would, doubtless, be an inducement to capitalists to seek a home amongst the fruitful valleys and verdant hills of a country, with (proverbially) "the finest climate in the world;" and their capital brought into play, would turn twenty-five miles of sea-coast line, having a varying width of iron sand, into a source of wealth, commerce and manufacture. 1 An increasing population would of itself create a market, bring down the extravagantly high price of labour, and cause internal improvements in the country, by which all the settlers would be mutually benefited. It was natural, therefore, that the settlers should have a "longing for the use of land
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which was lying useless on all sides around them, the nominal owners not being able to turn it to account."
The most frequent topic of discussion, with both natives and Europeans, was about the land; and the boasting assertion was continually made by the latter, "The Waitara will be ours before long." The progress of the settlement-- the success of any extensive enterprise-- seemed to hang on the possession of this land. It had a small harbour, and was an eligible spot for a town. Now, unfortunately, these sanguine hopes met with a repulse, by the obstinate refusal of the natives to part with their land. There was a strong feeling amongst them against the increase of the white man's territory--generated partly, no doubt, from a sense of their own decay in numbers and in power, and seeing the colonists continually increasing in both. Although formerly conquered by the Waikatos, a powerful northern tribe, and kept in a state of slavery for years, they gladly availed themselves
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of the opportunity to return to the homes of their forefathers, made secure by the presence of settlers; and fearing no longer their old enemies the Waikatos, who had consented to their taking possession of the land which, according to Maori laws of conquest, had been confiscated. "Being but a remnant of a once numerous people, disorganized and hardly acknowledging or respecting the authority of their hereditary chiefs, they were prevented by mutual discord, jealousy, and conflicting claims, from acting in concert for the disposal of their lands." Whilst but a few were inclined to sell, the majority were determined that no further alienation of their land should take place. A crude feeling of nationality took possession of the minds of the aborigines of New Zealand generally, and this feeling exhibited itself among the Taranaki natives by a determined opposition to the anxious wishes of the settlers to gain possession of Waitara. To the latter, this was the more grievous and difficult to bear patiently, because they saw
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in other settlements the extinction of native titles to a large extent.
It would be a painful and melancholy history to enter into a full relation of the native feuds, respecting the sale of their lands, or to give the details of the bitter, cruel, and savage warfare that for four years kept the settlement of Taranaki in a state of fear and jeopardy. It is little more than two years ago that the tragedy of Katatore was enacted within the boundaries of the settlement. This chief had some time before slaughtered Rawiri, a native assessor, and six others, in a dispute respecting land, which Rawiri (who, it now appears, had no right to sell) offered the Government. And it was whilst he and his followers were cutting the line for the surveyors, that the unhappy conflict took place. This was the beginning of our troubles. In January, 1858, Thaia avenged Rawiri's death in the cross-roads outside of New Plymouth, where Katatore was pierced with bullets, beaten and mangled with tomahawks, to the horror of
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the settlers and consternation of the authorities--for they were too feeble and powerless to apprehend the murderer. 2 Katatore had been opposed to the sale of land; Thaia now favours the sale, and therefore represents the interest which Rawiri shed his blood to secure for the white man, and Wiremu Kingi, with whom the Government is now at war, the opposing side.
In the beginning of March, 1859, Te Teira offered for sale his interest on a block of land at Waitara (600 acres), and in the presence of Wiremu Kingi and a large assembly of natives, placed his mat before the Governor's feet, in token of its surrender. His Excellency then declared his determination, --"On the one hand, to take no land from any native who could not show a fair title; and on the other, if such a
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title was shown, to allow no other native or tribe to interfere with the sale of land by such an owner." Wiremu Kingi immediately declared to the Governor, "Notwithstanding Teira's offer, I will not permit the sale of Waitara to the Pakeha. Waitara is in my hands. I will not give it up;" repeating thrice "I will not;" and adding, "I have spoken." He then with his followers left the presence of his Excellency abruptly. There is, however, this additional fact to be noticed, that Paoro, a native, told the Governor "that Teira could not sell the land he had offered without the consent of Weteriki and himself," and we have no evidence to prove they subsequently consented to the sale. So that, at the very onset, it does not appear clear, that Teira had an indisputable title to sell this block of land. The Governor, however, seems to have been satisfied that Teira could show an "indefeasible right" to the disputed land; and a part of the purchase-money (£100) was paid by Mr. Parris, Assistant Land Commissioner, to Teira, on the 29th
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November, 1859, in the presence of Wiremu Kingi--who then stated, "The land is theirs, but I will not let them sell it."
The Governor, acting upon the principle which he had laid down, determined to accept Teira's title; and in the month of January, 1860, gave directions to Mr. Parris "to take steps to make Wiremu Kingi and his natives aware of the Governor's firm determination to complete the purchase; and that he was to set about the necessary survey; but in case of any resistance being made, the survey staff was to retire, and he was to intimate to Lieutenant-Colonel Murray, that the assistance of a military force was necessary, who will thereupon, agreeably to instructions he has received, take military possession of the block of land, and the survey be prosecuted under the protection of the troops." Those instructions being that, in case of any resistance on the part of Wiremu Kingi, or any other native, he was to "call out the Taranaki militia and volunteers, and to proclaim martial law,"--
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"that he was not to have recourse to that power unless in his opinion it was impossible to carry out the wishes of the Government without doing so." 3
Having thus referred to the Governor's despatches to the Home Government, it will be necessary, in order that the reader may understand the circumstances which thickened in their portentous and melancholy character after these instructions were given, again to quote from "Papers on Native Affairs."
"In the month of February, 1860, the Governor writes to the Home Secretary, stating that 'contrary to the expectation I expressed in my last, Wiremu Kingi has resisted the survey of the land purchased from the chief Teira. No violence was offered, but the unsettled state of the tribes north and south of that district, and the continuance of the King Movement, induced me to take every possible precaution to prevent bloodshed, the consequences of which it would be impossible
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to see.' In another despatch (22nd March), his Excellency states, 'notwithstanding his most sanguine expectations, and endeavours on his part to avoid hostilities, a collision had taken place.' And then his Excellency arrives at the conclusion that 'the contest of Wiremu Kingi is merged in the far greater one of nationality.' In the tenth paragraph of his despatch, the Governor says, 'I now turn to what is in my opinion the real question at issue; the Maories have seen with alarm the numerical increase of the Europeans, and recognise with bitterness of heart their own decrease, and that the King Movement and the Land League are only the practical results of these feelings. And tribes, heretofore at deadly enmity with each other, have all buried their tribal quarrels, and are ready to unite to arrest the progress of the Europeans, and throw off their dominion.'"
I quote the above words, for they are the key to the explanation of the present unhappy war. The whole difficulty is in the questions
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of title, and tribal right of the Maori King Movement, and the Anti-land-selling League. If the reader would procure "The Story of New Zealand, Past and Present, Savage and Civilized," by Dr. Thomson, and also a pamphlet, "The Maori King Movement," by Rev. T. Buddle, Auckland, he will learn more respecting the bearing of this question than I can possibly convey in this publication. It is necessary to know something of the history of the dishonourable, and in many instances wilfully perverse government of the colony, to understand why the present melancholy state of things should ever have existed.
Even from the very meagre allusions above it will be seen, that the present war is ostensibly about what has been termed "a comparatively valueless block of land;" but in reality against the natives, who are said to be rebels, and "disposed to throw off their allegiance to the Queen."
It is very doubtful whether the natives have ever had any very clear idea of their obliga-
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tions to Her Majesty, or of allegiance to her sovereignty. The prevailing notion amongst the most intelligent natives is, that the Government has not dealt fairly by them--and the inefficiency of its power or authority to put a stop to native feuds, murders and bloodshed, has led them to seek to do for themselves what should have been done for them.
In the Quarterly Review for October, 1859, there is an able paper on "New Zealand, its Progress and Resources," in which occur the following very apposite words:-- "The elected King is animated by no feeling of hostility to the British rule, but a different sentiment may actuate his successor. The political future of New Zealand is certainly not so clear as we could desire to see it, and it is to be hoped that the Colonial Assembly will perceive the necessity of considerable concessions, to enable the Governor to deal in a satisfactory manner with difficulties which must increase from year to year, and even now present a threatening aspect. The appropriation of a portion of the
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revenue for native purposes, and the conferring upon the Governor an unfettered discretion in its application, would seem to be the only possible solution of the perplexing problem, how to reconcile the protection of native interests with the domination of a foreign race. The justice and honour of Great Britain are involved, and there can be no doubt that she will see her pledges and intentions fully carried out.
"If we have estimated correctly the character of this noble people, they are as sensitive on the point of personal treatment as they are jealous of any infringement of their rights. A New Zealander is ever more ready to resent an affront than to avenge a wrong. A sense of personal worth pervades all classes. They were the original and hereditary proprietors of the soil. The gradation of ranks is strictly preserved. The demeanour of a high-born chief, in whatever position he may be placed, is marked by a manly ease, a fine tact, and a lofty bearing that would command the
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admiration of the most fastidious society. The higher orders are habituated to a deferential treatment from their inferiors, and are courteous and affable in return. They are by no means convinced that we possess any natural superiority, whatever advantages civilization may have conferred upon us; and a slight, coming from one of our race, would be felt like a wound. They have their vices and their faults, which certainly are not hidden under the mask of an artificial refinement; but, in all the attributes of manhood, they are in every respect equal to the people with whom they are politically united. Secure at present by their numbers, and by the force of their character, from any flagrant attack upon their rights, may they never be exposed to a social prosecution! May no caste-prejudice spring up to alienate and repel them from our fellowship." 4
That was an anxious day with all the settlers
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at Taranaki when it was known that the Assistant Land Commissioner and the staff of surveyors were gone to the Waitara; for we all expected they would be opposed by Wiremu Kingi, and feared that serious consequences would ensue. An opposition did take place, but no violence was used. Several Maori women were assembled on Teira's land in expectation of the surveyors, and these took up the chain repeatedly, and prevented the prosecution of the work. The company hastily returned to New Plymouth, and soon the circumstance was generally made known, and at the same time that the Governor intended to enforce the survey--by the aid of the military if necessary. This determination caused some alarm; and the daily expectation of the proclamation of martial law (about which, in some minds, there was a strangely confused idea) impelled many of the out-settlers to seek in the town a refuge from dangers which seemed to them inevitable. A sort of panic gave an impulse to several, hastily to leave their
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homes, with their wives and children, their goods and chattels. This feeling soon caused the town to fill rapidly, and somewhat alarmingly. Carts were to be seen, daily, laden with furniture hastily packed, and men's minds were filled with anxiety and forebodings of evil.
It was felt by the authorities that unnecessary alarm existed, and that people were making things wear a very much worse appearance than the reality presented; and yet official circulars were sent to different districts, suggesting the propriety of the settlers determining on a place of rendezvous, or the erection of stockades in case of sudden emergency, or of any attack of armed natives. This only increased the alarm; and exaggerated rumours of the intentions of the Maories caused several homes to be at once abandoned. In two instances, the majority of rate-payers refused to respond to the wishes of the provincial Government, and they were pretty well censured for supposed want of loyalty and patriotism.
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The district of Omata is one of the most pleasant in the province. The village was (for it no longer exists) about four miles from New Plymouth. The settlers were widely scattered over the district, and their quiet homesteads would be seriously exposed to the predatory habits of the natives, should they engage in open hostilities with the Government. A public meeting was therefore convened, in compliance with the wishes of the authorities; and it was concluded, at that meeting, that something must be done to protect property, and at the same time keep the main road from the south open to town; and suggestions were emphatically given that the best site for a stockade was the very identical spot afterwards chosen by the southern natives for erecting their fortified pah, just previous to the battle of Waireka. It was felt, however, by some of the settlers, that to raise a stockade might be the very means of bringing the natives to the spot, in order to secure so desirable an outpost, but
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the majority were in favour of proceeding immediately with the work. It was remarkable how little was volunteered in the way of money or labour towards it. The proclamation of martial law, the next day after this meeting, and the appointment of certain men to superintend the erection of a fortified place of refuge, gave at once an air of reality to the expectations of open hostilities; and the settlers began to feel how precarious the tenure of their home happiness was, when such warlike preparations were going on around them. The calling out of the militia and volunteers put an end at once to any individual option about the matter of entering into the quarrel with the natives--as all, from the age of eighteen years to that of sixty, were compelled to do so unless legally exempted. But few were able to get release from duties which were felt to ill accord with the quiet of a settler's life. A distinction had always hitherto been maintained by the natives between the settler
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and the soldier--the one being his neighbour, the other the armed enforcer of a scarcely admitted right of supremacy of Queen Victoria, who to them was an abstraction of a mighty devouring power, with an appetite never satisfied with empty acres, but always crying, and ever likely to cry, "Sell, sell," until the whole of their lands and their children's homes were absorbed by her subjects-- the white men yet to land on these distant shores from England, the seat of that power.
That distinction is now felt, by the influence of the existing war policy which has made the settlers to be parties in the land squabble, to be at an end; and the happy relation, which once existed between settler and Maori, for ever extinguished. Had it not been for the dragging of the settlers into the quarrel, to this day I believe they might have remained on their farms and in their quite homes. There was something more than mere suspicion of the intention of Government in the minds of the more intelligent and observant natives, when
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they saw the encouragement given to the formation of Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the constant rifle practice at a target; and a full realization was arrived at, on the very day that the militia was called out for active service, guns served out, and stockades commenced. This was their frequent inquiry, --"Why all this preparation? Why should every settler be made to bear arms, except it be to exterminate the Maories?" And again and again was the question put, "How much the Governor make a pay to you to fight the Maories for their land? You don't want land--you plenty land--the Governor want land?" No explanation would satisfy them, or remove the fears they entertained. Could the natives stand still and see all this preparation for war without feeling that in the future there was a dark and terrible ultimatum for them? They knew nothing of the white man's more than questionable policy that "the best way to promote peace is to be prepared for war." Their history and experience taught them that preparation was
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ever the certain antecedent of ruthless, bloody, and unsparing warfare.
I have ever regarded the subject of a collision with the natives as dangerous to the whole settlement, and likely to be disastrous to the settlers. These views were generally known at New Plymouth to be entertained by me, and I never scrupled to declare them, however unpopular they might be. On the subject of war generally, I held "peace principles," in common with many thousands of Christians; and endeavoured to impress the truth that "what is obtained by the sword, by the sword may perish." Thus far, in a general way; but of this war in particular, I hold that the madly rushing to arms to settle a quarrel which by no means at the time was made clear what it was about, was not only unchristian and unrighteous, but impolitic and dishonourable. Impolitic, as subsequent events have painfully proved; --dishonourable, first to the natives, because the promise had been made to them, "on the part of the Crown, that they should
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be one people with us, one people under one law," and "as a sacred promise" it was said of the Government "that when we use these words, conscious as we are of their deep import, we mean what we say;"--dishonourable to the settlers, because being shut out from any representative legislation on native land questions, they had been guaranteed protection, and the Imperial power had engaged to adjudicate on these matters; --and yet we are victimised by a sudden and unlooked-for participation of the experimental legislation of a new policy respecting the natives, and their King Movement and its adjunct the Anti-land-selling League.
It will, therefore, be no matter of surprise to the reader, that I was not carried along with the current of opinion in Taranaki, which was in favour of war, and in too many instances expressed by a desire to thoroughly exterminate the natives! When the militia was first called out, immediately after the murder of Katatore, I refused to serve, as did also my eldest son,
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George Channing Gilbert. I was after a time legally exempted, as having been a minister of religion in England. My son was fined five pounds. We both memorialized the Governor, claimed our exemption from serving, on the broad principles of Christian truth, and were officially informed that the Government had no power to remit the fine. I believe there was some legal quibble about the Militia Act, and therefore, after a few months, the fine was remitted. When it was determined by Government that Teira's land at the Waitara should be surveyed--forcibly if resisted, and such resistance did actually take place--the militia was, after a few days' notice, called out for active service. Notwithstanding my legal exemption, I received a summons, as did also my two eldest sons, to appear at the muster of the male settlers, to be sworn in to serve in the militia until lawfully discharged from its duties. We all three answered to this summons, and met our assembled brother-settlers. On the presentation of the New Testament to
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us by the appointed Captain, I and my eldest son both objected to taking the oath, or even making an affirmation, stating that we could not conscientiously enter into a solemn agreement to take up arms and fight, as we believed all war to be unchristian and impolitic. The Captain replied, "In the fulfilment of my duty I must read to you the clause in the Militia Act applying to your refusal." This he did, and by that clause we were threatened with fines and imprisonment, if we persisted in our refusal to serve. Knowing the righteousness of our position, we were both firm and steadfast. My son Thomas (aged twenty years) had no very strong feeling about the matter, and without well knowing the nature of the engagement he was entering into, took the oath, and was enrolled as a private. It was a painful and difficult position for a father to be placed in:-- one son conscientiously refusing the oath and the service, the other as truthfully saying he did not object to the oath, although very much disliking the service. No protestations of mine
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respecting this lad would have any effect, for every one concerned in the affair was full of bitterness and wrath against me and my eldest son. I did not, at that time, claim exemption from serving, on the ground of my having been a Christian minister; and my objections were at once set down as arising from meanness, cowardice, and want of patriotism. In a letter, however, to the Commander of the militia I stated, more fully than I could with propriety in an open field and amidst a crowd of settlers, my objections, and claimed legal exemption. I was at once released, and this release rescued me from being drilled in a service so opposed to the spirit of Christianity, and delivered me from the threatened consequences of a refusal to submit.
My son George, by the great kindness of an ever dear friend, was enabled, with the full consent of Colonel Murray and that of the Commander of the militia, to proceed at once to Nelson; and so escaped the fines and imprisonment, which would inevitably have
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been inflicted had he remained in Taranaki, as nothing would have induced him to sacrifice principle, or disobey his conscience. This friend was a close neighbour, a gentleman of a Quaker family, whose delicate health obtained for him exemption from serving in the militia. These two had but a few hours to get ready, and they left by steamer, with only a carpet bag; and thus made the first disruption of ties, the nearest and dearest to me and mine.
Soon the habitual inclination to exaggerate every trifling event, led my unfortunate neighbours to the inventing or imagining the most fearful and direful calamities as approaching. Rumours of the most extraordinary character precipitated the removal of nearly all the families of the out-settlers into town, and excited the builders of the Omata and other stockades into a most persevering and constant effort to complete their places of refuge. I remained with my family, quietly pursuing our usual avocations, but mourning with a full heart over this state of things, and now
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and then having a feeble anticipation of the coming storm, giving little credence to each report as it wafted its way to our delightful and quiet homestead. Until an absolute necessity presented itself, we were all determined not to fly. There was a printed notice posted close to the proclamation of martial law (but a few yards from my fence), issued by Colonel Murray, the then sole responsible authority in Taranaki, that due notice should be given to the settlers when it was deemed absolutely necessary for them to resort with their families to town for safety. We relied on this, as did some few others in the neighbourhood.
It was singular how many people repeated everything they heard from others, no matter how inconsistent in point of fact; how some with an over-excited imagination seemed to see, hear, and feel things which did not exist; and how others again told the most unblushing falsehoods. As an example:--I one day met a settler, who said to me, "The
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Commander is going to hunt out the Maories with 300 dogs. My word, that will be better than shooting them!" No thought was bestowed on the impracticability of training the dogs, even if such a number could have been obtained, or of taken them when trained into the bush, or of the inhumanity of the whole project. How strange, that men who have an acute sense of right with regard to everything belonging to the white man, should be so utterly oblivious of the fact, that the natives are men of like feelings and passions with themselves! And again, nothing is so irritating as such falsehoods; so the authorities, in a public notice, cautioned persons against giving "public currency to rumours of danger from natives supposed to entertain hostile sentiments;" and required that "intelligence affecting the safety of the settlement should be communicated to them, and not made public unless its authenticity was fully ascertained, and the necessity for its publication quite apparent." I mention this, because
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it only tended to confirm us in the wisdom of patiently waiting on events.
I may be pardoned for giving a brief description of my homestead, its surrounding scenery, and the neighbours, with whom I shared the dangers out of which a merciful Providence delivered us. Brighton-place Farm lies about a mile south from the Omata church, on a road branching out of the main southern road. This road is continued past my house for several miles into the bush, towards the foot of Mount Egmont; but having a branch road, a short distance from my house, winding round into the main road again--the junction being at the Omata Inn. Out of this, in a straight line with the inn, there branched another road, leading in its winding course past several settlers' homesteads into the mountain road, not far from Burton's hill. On the mountain road was Ratapihipihi, a small native pah, surrounded by Maori reserve land.
I am thus particular in describing these
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Brighton Place, Omata. The Residence of the Author.
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roads and their relative position, as I shall have occasion again to refer to them. My house is pleasantly situated on slightly rising ground above, and but a few chains from the road. The country around is rather high, above the level of the sea, being for the most part open towards the shore, with several nicely cultivated farms in the distance--having cleared bush land on all sides--still with a sufficient number of reserved spots of standing evergreen trees to be a striking feature in the landscape. We enjoyed many fine and delightful views. The open roadstead with the ships at anchor, the steamers frequently passing and touching at New Plymouth, the military barracks and the flag-staff could all be seen. The white limestone cliffs of Mokau, frequently glaring in the sunlight, called to mind the chalk cliffs of dear old England--Beachy Head, and other favourite localities at "home."
"Our farm" was our pride. For nine years I and my family had toiled, far too often failing in the realization of our fondly cherished
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hopes, that prosperity would crown our untiring industry and self-denial. We had brought the small proportion of arable land, on the farm of fifty acres, into a high state of cultivation--ploughing deep--fallowing--dibbling in our wheat, drilling in our swede turnips with guano, and growing beans to a much larger extent than any other farm in Taranaki. We had a nice, pleasant garden-- fruitful apple and peach orchards, with shrubberies of native plants--a beautiful belt of bush at the back of the house, with dense undergrowth of shrub-like trees, through which numerous walks were cut; one affording a long vista looking out upon the mountain, the sea, and the jutting point of land at Tataraimaka.
Our delight, at the close of day, was to watch the setting sun at the beginning and end of this walk--the transitory twilight, the purple tinge decking the clouds, and the nearest range of wooded hills with a soft and shadowy light--the glorious mountain--the
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last object glowing with the effulgent rays, illumined in a wonderfully beautiful manner-- a portion of the firmament displaying the brightest blue--while over the whole the most delicate shades of colour seemed breathed as it were like a dissolving rainbow, whose glowing colours were intermingled, and yet singly perceptible. Alas! this display of colours continued but for a little time, then gradually faded till it vanished entirely, and the mountain assumed a pale, ashy, leaden-like appearance. This most beautiful scene it was our happiness often to witness.
Across the road, but a few yards from the entrance to my house, was the gate and path leading down a small valley to the "Swiss Cottage," the residence of my before-mentioned friend. A pleasant spot, redeemed from the wilderness! The garden, lawn, shrubberies, conservatory, and house, perfectly unique in the taste displayed, and the admirable skill exhibited in rearing the choicest and most expensive plants and shrubs; it was an
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exquisitely beautiful place. My eldest son George lived with my friend. I dare not trust myself to speak of the happy hours spent in that house, garden, and grounds--suffice it to say, they were to me as the oasis in the desert of my colonial experience.
Near to my house was Brookwood, with its park-like scenery and farm buildings, the residence of Rev. H. Brown, formerly Rector of Burton Pedwardine, near Sleaford, Lincoln. Mr. Brown was the resident clergyman of Omata. He is the head of a large family of children, with servants and labourers about him--actively useful and zealous in the performance of his parochial duties. These duties often brought him into relationship with the southern natives, many of whom regarded him as their missionary, He had not settled amongst us more than a year, and during that time had been at considerable expense in improving the estate and employing labour on the farm. It is a grievous thing that a gentleman so universally respected as
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Brookwood, Omata. The Residence of the Revd. H. Brown.
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Mr. Brown was, and is, in his parish, both at home and at Omata, should be called upon, so early in his colonial career, to experience so many trials as have fallen to his share. The firmness of Mr. Brown and family in remaining at Brookwood, notwithstanding the alarm of nearly all around, greatly encouraged me, my wife and family, to remain in our house, trusting in our heavenly Father for protection and safety.
Another neighbour was Mr. Touett, formerly a resident in the island of Jersey. With the manners and language of a Frenchman, he had been exempted as a foreigner from serving in the militia, and as such was considered by the natives. He, however, entertained the same views of the unlawfulness of all war as myself, my friend, and my eldest son; and feeling secure by the oft-repeated assurances of the Maories that he would not be touched, for fear of bringing the "French to fight them," he remained in his house with his wife and family. Besides these I have named, there
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was Mr. Somers (a German), wife and child; he was employed by Mr. Brown. Also, Manuel De Castro (a Portuguese), wife and children; James Keeler, a superannuated whaler, with his Maori wife; also, Hannah, a Maori woman, the faithful wife of a neighbour, who was then serving as a private in the militia. These all lived in singular proximity to my house, and, being neutral, were often assured of their safety.
In order that my narrative may be understood by the reader, it will be necessary briefly to allude to the fact of the Governor's arrival at New Plymouth, and the circumstances which led to a collision with the natives. An attempt was made to bring W. Kingi to terms, either to see or communicate with the Governor. When, after some difficulty, Rev. J. Whitely, a Wesleyan Missionary, found W. Kingi, and prevailed on him to admit a conference with Mr. Parris, he replied he could send his decision to his Excellency next day. Mr. Whitely endeavoured to urge the natives
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to give up their opposition to the survey--said the land would be surveyed; and if the chain was again touched whilst the surveyors were marking the boundaries, the military would fire upon them. Their answer was, "What! kill us for touching a chain--a thing that has no blood, no life!" The promised decision of W. Kingi was not considered by the Governor satisfactory; and this soon became evident to people, from the bustle in the camp.
Sunday, March 4th, was very unlike a day of rest, of devotion, and love to God and man. The whole of the day was occupied in getting ready for the troops to march to Waitara before daylight the next morning. At half-past three on Monday, a. m., the troops silently assembled-- the advance sounded, and the column marched off in slow time. Well would it have been for Taranaki, if those troops had never left their camp! For, disguise the fact however you may --that, instead of being our protectors, to them we owe in reality our difficulties, our mischances, our losses, and our doubts of a speedy
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and safe termination of the war, --the idea forces itself upon the mind, from the experience already gained, that our military establishment is thoroughly inefficient to cope with the predatory mode of warfare pursued by the aborigines. The troops reached Waitara without obstruction; and, during the very evening of their arrival, intelligence was received in camp that W. Kingi had requested an interview with the Governor. A favourable inference was drawn from this, and accordingly the guns on board the steamer "Niger" were not landed; the harbour boats returned to town with the pilot, and the "Niger" was to follow in the morning with the Governor. This intelligence tended to allay apprehensions of hostilities, and gave hope of a speedy termination of existing difficulties. The next day it was found that the natives had erected a stockade during the night. They also, on that day, stopped the provision carts for the camp, in charge of a mounted escort; but gave way before the firm attitude taken by the
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settlers who composed it. The seamen from the "Niger" were landed, and these, together with the military, proceeded to capture and destroy the pah, but which was found empty. Teira and his natives set fire to the Kuhikuhi pah, W. Kingi's place of residence, which was totally consumed. It was stated by W. Kingi's party that they would take what was in the carts in payment for their houses, which they supposed the soldiers had fired. The natives had built a pah on the direct road to the camp. Hereupon the following letter was sent by Mr. Parris to the natives:--
To the Chief who obstructs the Queen's Road.
You have presumed to block up the Queen's road, to build on the Queen's land, and to stop the free passage of persons going and coming.
This is levying war against the Queen! Destroy the places you have built; ask my forgiveness, and you shall receive it. If you refuse, the blood of your people be on your head.
I shall fire upon you in twenty minutes from this time, if you have not obeyed my order.
(Signed) T. Gore Browne. Camp, Waitara, 6th March, 1860.
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The pah was abandoned by the natives in ten minutes, and the military at once totally destroyed it.
The day on which this occurred was an alarming one for many--not so much from the real circumstances related above, but from the exaggerated accounts soon set afloat; and at the same time that 500 natives were just upon Omata from the south, to join Wiremu Kingi; and that they intended to kill all the white people indiscriminately.
A neighbouring gentleman, to whom I had promised my bullocks and cart whenever he wished to send his family to town, called upon me in the afternoon, requesting the immediate use of the cart. He reported what he had just heard, and evidently fully believed the rumours; he urged upon me the propriety of removing my family at once. I hesitated, and we went together across to Rev. H. Brown, and told him about the matter. He said, he could but consider it an exaggerated rumour; and although strongly urged by this gentleman,
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said he should not remove his family into town until he heard something more to substantiate the truth of the report. Mr. Brown took some pains to ascertain if there was any foundation in the rumour; lent his horse to a near neighbour, to ride into town to make inquiries; and went in search of natives who might know something about so large a body coming up from the south. He met with Tamati Wiremu, of the Poutoka pah, on the southern road, a friendly chief; and questioned him, but could see at once that Tamati knew nothing about the matter; and as he was quietly smoking his pipe, there could be no great cause for alarm, as this chief had been active and faithful in obtaining information respecting the movements and designs of the southern natives. Whilst Mr. Brown was away, making these inquiries, we were all excitement, and as there was not much time to consider, and the report seemed feasible, I at once apprised my wife and family of what I had heard. Not being altogether satisfied
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of their safety, as I was neither a foreigner nor a missionary, nor a recognised minister of religion by the natives--the reasons assigned by them for the determined preservation of some families whom I have named around-- and not feeling sure that my position as an advocate for peace would be understood or appreciated, the love of those near and dear to me prompted me to send my wife and girls into town. Mr. Brown very kindly lent his cart, as mine was already engaged; sending one of his sons as driver. We had no time even to put up bedding--this was sent in my own cart, after the return of my son from conveying a neighbour's family to town. And thus hastily my wife bade adieu to her home, which she and the family have never seen since, and to all appearances, at present, never will! It was a wet afternoon, and the poor creatures were soaked to the skin by the time they reached town; their bedding being wet and unfit for use that night.
I was thus left with three sons, one
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seventeen years of age, the others, thirteen and eleven respectively. This panic caused the Captain at the stockade to order all the militia-men into garrison; and the families I have before-named were the only remaining inhabitants near Brighton-place. These thirty-five souls remained in their homes up to the battle of Waireka. In fact, it was ostensibly to remove them, that the troops and volunteers proceeded to Omata, and engaged in a battle with the natives, as I shall have occasion to show in the course of my narrative.
Nothing occurred at the Waitara for some days. The troops were occupied in improving the camp--clearing away the fern in its vicinity, and making themselves comfortable. We pursued our daily routine of farm-work, missing sadly the "thousand fond endearing ties of tenderness, domestic nature's best and loveliest gift, with which she well atones the niggard boon of fortune."
One day, whilst cutting beans, one lad only being with me, a circumstance occurred which,
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though trifling in itself, was yet very significant. Seeing the sheep getting through a fence near to us, I sent the boy to drive them away. I was thus left quite alone. I was stooping, cutting the beans, when after a few minutes I heard behind me a noise of some one walking among the bean-stalks. Supposing it to be my son, I did not look up from my work for a few moments; the noise ceased, and then, not seeing the boy resume his work, I looked behind me, and there saw a tall Maori with his tattoed face, upon which was depicted evident excitement and anxiety. He stood for another moment or two, and neither of us spoke.
I put out my hand, he took it, pressing it warmly, but still said not a word. I gave the usual native salutation, and after a few minutes more of silence he said, "Come to the house." As we walked on towards the house, he inquired after my wife and family, said I had done wrong in sending them away-- I need not have feared any evil would happen to them. He would "look out," or take care
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of my place, cattle, and all belonging to me; said I was right in not being a soldier--the soldiers were bad--the fighting was bad, &c. The thought involuntarily entered my mind, how easily this native might have put me out of the world by a blow, while standing behind me; and I must confess that I thought, if the natives were so savage and treacherous towards the white people as they are usually represented by their enemies, I must have escaped by the exercise of a more powerful motive than generally actuates them in a state of excitement. At the house there were other natives. We talked about the disputed Waitara land, the evils likely to arise from fighting about it; and I expressed a hope that the quarrel would be settled without shedding blood. The natives took a piece of charcoal from the hearth, drew on the floor the rude outline representing Teira's land, and the land intersecting it claimed by other natives. I asked them if they intended to fight? If the southern natives were likely to
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join Wiremu Kingi? They all assured me, that unless Maori blood was shed by the white man first, they should not fight, neither would the southern natives leave the coast for the Waitara. The natives then asked for some peaches; I pointed out to them the trees, and left them to help themselves. I busied myself about some little matters until they went away, well pleased with their fill of peaches. This little bit of good nature brought me many other customers willing enough to feast, and to have a talk about the coming "fight." How often I wished I knew their language better, that I might have entered more fully into the subject, and learnt what were really their feelings towards the white man.
I hope I do not weary my readers by dwelling so long on this subject. The most unimportant facts, however, are often interesting in their combination, as illustrative of any national feature or ulterior design. I do not think the natives at that time expected the Governor to pursue the course which he has
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done since. The question with them seemed simply to resolve itself into the right that W. Kingi possessed to dispute the sale of Teira's land; and as frequent reference was made to Mr. McLean, Chief Land Commissioner, in terms of the highest praise--and as frequent deprecatory allusions to Mr. Parris as his Assistant Commissioner--I cannot but think that all were looking to him and the Governor for a better adjustment of the cause of the quarrel than by fighting about it. It is yet inexplicable to me how the natives should be so far deluded as to suppose that the Governor, having gone so far in assuming a threatening attitude, should recede at the eleventh hour. 5
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All doubts upon the matter were settled one Saturday, soon after the circumstance alluded to above. I was at work in the potato-field, with my boys and two Maori women whom I was employing, when we heard the booming of cannon and the frequent discharge of volleys of musketry. The native women were alarmed and excited. They frequently asked me "if the fight had begun?" I soon learnt the serious news, and hurried into town to see my family, and learn more of what was likely to occur by employing such a fatal method to bring W. Kingi to terms. On the next day--Sunday--the booming of cannon and the excitement in the town all plainly showed that even the Sabbath was no day of rest or cessation from such unchristian work. As this was really the beginning of the war with the natives, and full details are to be found elsewhere, I shall content
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myself with stating, that the besieged Maories abandoned their pah, after eight hours' cannonading, and effected their escape, with how much loss of life is not known. White men were slain, others wounded, and thus again was "Taranaki, the garden of New Zealand," saturated with human blood! Land dearly bought at such a price!