CHAPTER VI. THE TWO FLIES.
[Image of page 274]
THE TWO FLIES.
"As the Pakeha fly has driven out the Maori fly;
As the Pakeha grass has killed the Maori grass;
As the Pakeha rat has slain the Maori rat;
As the Pakeha clover has starved the Maori fern,
So will the Pakeha destroy the Maori."
THESE are the mournful words of a well-known Maori song.
That the English daisy, the white clover, the common thistle, the camomile, the oat, should make their way rapidly in New Zealand, and put down the native plants, is in no way strange. If the Maori grasses that have till lately held undisturbed possession of the New Zealand soil, require for their nourishment the substances A, B, and C, while the English clover needs A, B, and D; from the nature of things A and B will be the coarser earths or salts, existing in larger quantities, not easily losing vigour and nourishing force, and recruiting their energies from the decay of the very plant that feeds on them; but C and D will be the more ethereal, the more easily destroyed or wasted substances. The Maori grass, having sucked nearly the whole of C from the soil, is in a weakly state, when in comes the English plant, and, finding an abundant store of untouched D, thrives accordingly, and crushes down the Maori.
The positions of flies and grasses, of plants and insects, are, however, not the same. Adapted by nature to the infinite variety of soils and climates, there are an infinite number of different plants and animals; but whereas the plant depends upon both soil and climate, the animal depends chiefly upon climate, and little upon soil--except so far as his home or his
[Image of page 275]
food themselves depend on soil. Now, while soil wears out, climate does not. The climate in the long run remains the same, but certain apparently trifling constituents of the soil will wholly disappear. The result of this is, that while pigs may continue to thrive in New Zealand for ever and a day, Dutch clover (without manure) will only last a given and calculable time.
The case of the flies is plain enough. The Maori and the English fly live on the same food, and require about the same amount of warmth and moisture: the one which is best fitted to the common conditions will gain the day, and drive out the other. The English fly has had to contend not only against other English flies, but against every fly of temperate climates: we having traded with every land, and brought the flies of every clime to England. The English fly is the best possible fly of the whole world, and will naturally beat down and exterminate, or else starve out, the merely provincial Maori fly. If a great singer--to find whom for the London stage the world has been ransacked--should be led by the foible of the moment to sing for gain in an unknown village, where on the same night a rustic tenor was attempting to sing his best, the London tenor would send the provincial supperless to bed. So it is with the English and Maori fly.
Natural selection is being conducted by nature in New Zealand on a grander scale than any we have contemplated, for the object of it here is man. In America, in Australia, the white man shoots or poisons his red or black fellow, and exterminates him through the workings of superior knowledge; but in New Zealand it is peacefully, and without extraordinary advantages, that the Pakeha beats his Maori brother.
That which is true of our animal and vegetable productions is true also of our man. The English fly, grass, and man, they and their progenitors before them, have had to fight for life against their fellows. The Englishman, bringing into his country from the parts to which he trades all manner of men, of grass seeds, and of insect germs, has filled his land with every kind of living thing to which his soil or climate will afford support. Both old inhabitants and interlopers have to maintain a struggle which at once crushes and starves out of
[Image of page 276]
life every weakly plant, man, or insect, and fortifies the race by continual buffetings. The plants of civilized man are generally those which will grow best in the greatest variety of soils and climates; but in any case, the English fauna and flora are peculiarly fitted to succeed at our antipodes, because the climates of Great Britain and New Zealand are almost the same, and our men, flies, and plants--the "pick" of the whole world--have not even to encounter the difficulties of acclimatization in their struggle against the weaker growths indigenous to the soil.
Nature's work in New Zealand is not the same as that which she is quickly doing in North America, in Tasmania, in Queensland. It is not merely that a hunting and fighting people is being replaced by an agricultural and pastoral people, and must farm or die: the Maori does farm; Maori chiefs own villages, build houses, which they let to European settlers; we have here Maori sheep-farmers, Maori shipowners, Maori mechanics, Maori soldiers, Maori rough-riders, Maori sailors, and even Maori traders. There is nothing which the average Englishman can do which the average Maori cannot be taught to do as cheaply and as well. Nevertheless, the race dies out. The Red Indian dies because he cannot farm; the Maori farms, and dies.
There are certain special features about this advance of the birds, beasts, and men of Western civilization. When the first white man landed in New Zealand, all the native quadrupeds save one, and nearly all the birds and river-fishes, were extinct, though we have their bones and traditions of their existence. The Maories themselves were dying out. The dinornis was gone; there were few insects, and no reptiles. "The birds die because the Maories, their companions, die," is the native saying. Yet the climate is singularly good, and food for beast and bird so plentiful that Captain Cook's pigs have planted colonies of "wild boars" in every part of the islands, and English pheasants have no sooner been imported than they have begun to swarm in every jungle. Even the Pakeha flea has come over in the ships, and wonderfully has he thriven.
The terrible want of food for men that formerly characterised New Zealand has had its effects upon the habits of the Maori
[Image of page 277]
race. Australia has no native fruit-trees worthy cultivation, although in the whole world there is no such climate and soil for fruits; still, Australia has kangaroos and other quadrupeds. The Ladrones were destitute of quadrupeds, and of birds, except the turtle-dove; but in the warm damp climate fruits grew, sufficient to support in comfort a dense population. In New Zealand, the windy cold of the winters causes a need for something of a tougher fibre than the banana or the fern-root. There being no native beasts, the want was supplied by human flesh; and war, furnishing at once food and the excitement which the chase supplies to peoples that have animals to hunt, became the occupation of the Maories. Hence in some degree the depopulation of the land; but other causes exist, by the side of which cannibalism is as nothing.
The British Government has been less guilty than is commonly believed as regards the destruction of the Maories. Since the original misdeed of the annexation of the isles, we have done the Maories no serious wrong. We recognised the claim of a handful of natives to the soil of a country as large as Great Britain, of not one-hundredth part of which had they ever made the smallest use; and, disregarding the fact that our occupation of the coast was the very event that gave the land its value, we have insisted on buying every acre from the tribes. Allowing title by conquest to the Ngatiraukawa, as I saw at Parewanui Pah, we refuse to claim even the lands we conquered from the "Kingites."
The Maories have always been a village people, tilling a little land round their pahs, but incapable of making any use of the great pastures and wheat countries which they "own." Had we at first constituted native reserves, on the American system, we might, without any fighting, and without any more rapid destruction of the natives than that which is taking place, have gradually cleared and brought into the market nearly the whole country, which now has to be purchased at enormous prices, and at the continual risk of war.
As it is, the record of our dealings with the Queen's native subjects in New Zealand has been almost free from stain; but if we have not committed crimes, we have certainly not failed to blunder: our treatment of William Thompson was at the
[Image of page 278]
best a grave mistake. If ever there lived a patriot, he was one, and through him we might have ruled in peace the Maori race. Instead of receiving the simplest courtesy from a people which in India showers honours upon its puppet kings and rajahs, he underwent fresh insults each time that he entered an English town or met a white magistrate or subaltern, and he died while I was in the colonies--according to Pakeha physicians, of liver-complaint; according to the Maories, of a broken heart.
At Parewanui and Otaki, I remarked that the half-breeds are fine fellows, possessed of much of the nobility of both the ancestral races, while the women are famed for grace and loveliness. In miscegenation it would have seemed that there was a chance for the Maori, who, if destined to die, would at least have left many of his best features of body and mind to live in the mixed race; but here comes in the prejudice of blood, with which we have already met in the case of the negroes and Chinese. Morality has so far gained ground as greatly to check the spread of permanent illegitimate connexions with native women, while pride prevents intermarriage. The numbers of the half-breeds are not upon the increase: a few fresh marriages supply the vacancies that come of death, but there is no progress, no sign of the creation of a vigorous mixed race. There is something more in this than foolish pride, however; there is a secret at the bottom at once of the cessation of mixed marriages and of the dwindling of the pure Maori race--and it is the utter viciousness of the native girls. The universal unchastity of the unmarried women, "Christian" as well as heathen, would be sufficient to destroy a race of gods. The story of the Maories is that of the Tahitians, and is written in the decorations of every gate-post or rafter in their pahs.
We are more distressed at the present and future of the Maories than they are themselves. For all our greatness, we pity not the Maories more profoundly than they do us when, ascribing our morality to calculation, they bask in the sunlight, and are happy in their gracelessness. After all, virtue and arithmetic come from one Greek root.