1864 - Gorst, J.E. The Maori king - [Chapter IV]

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  1864 - Gorst, J.E. The Maori king - [Chapter IV]
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WHEN the English first began to settle in New Zealand, they had little reason to fear that the natives, who were continually quarrelling and fighting among themselves, would ever become united, and therefore formidable. Before our arrival, the Maories lived in a state of continual warfare; and the first use made of the new comers by the Ngapuhi tribe, among whom the earliest settlers planted themselves, was to obtain from them a supply of guns and ammunition, with the help of which they invaded Waikato, and drove their ancient enemies with great slaughter to the upper districts and hills. Lower Waikato remained for long afterwards an uninhabited wilderness, the former inhabitants not daring to return to their ravaged homes. After a time, the Waikatos also obtained guns and powder; they could then encounter their enemies on equal terms, and, after several bloody battles, the Ngapuhi invasions of Waikato were discontinued. Disunion was exhibited not only in battles between distant tribes; even in the same village, and amongst near relations, there was

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rarely unanimity on any one subject. Maories are, in their opinions and sentiments, the most independent people in the world, and exhibit an individuality which would delight Mr. John Stuart Mill. I have known laws passed at Kihikihi or Rangiaowhia, at an evening runanga, prohibiting the sales of pigs and potatoes to Europeans, followed next morning by a rush of old women to Otawhao to dispose of the forbidden articles; and instances are numerous in which one thoroughly resolute and obstinate man, or even woman, has defeated the intention of a whole war-party. From people of this sort Europeans, united and civilized, had nothing to fear, unless some extraordinary accident should combine the discordant factions.

There was great variety in the modes in which the progress of colonization affected tribes and individuals, and also in the light in which they regarded the conduct of Government; but the ultimate effect produced was uniformly a strong discontent, and a desire, amounting to a passion, for separate and independent nationality. The cause of what is called "the king-movement" has been much disputed among New Zealand politicians. The fact is, that there has been no single cause. Different sentiments attracted adherents, who joined in the scheme with different views; and as one set of motives after another was in the ascendant, the character of the movement itself was continually changing.

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Wiremu Tamihana and the Ngatihaua tribe, who were the first to set up Potatau as king, declared that they did so to supply that want of government which has been described in the last chapter, which they severely felt. In a letter written to Colonel Browne, in 1861, to defend his personal conduct in regard to the king-movement, after mentioning various tribal wars which he had stopped, Tamihana writes: "I thought that a great house should be built as a house of assembly for the tribes that were living at feud in New Zealand, and would not cleave one to the other. The house was built--it was Babel. Then I applied my thoughts to seek for some plan by which the Maori tribes should cleave together and assemble together, so that the people might become one, like the Pakehas. The Ngatipaoa were invited, and they came to me, and joined the talk for good. Afterwards the Ngatimatera were invited, and they came; afterwards the Ngatiwhakaue were invited, and they came; afterwards the Ngatiwhanaunga were invited, and they came. However, they were mere meetings; evil still went on--the river of blood was not yet stopped. The missionaries behaved bravely, and so did I; but the flow of blood did not cease. When you (Colonel Browne) came, the river of blood was still open, and I therefore sought for some plan to make it cease; I considered how this blood could be made to diminish in the island. I looked at your books, where Israel cried to have a king to them-

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selves, to be a judge over them; and I looked at the word of Moses, in Deuteronomy xvii. 15, 1 and at Proverbs xxix. 4, 2 and I kept these words in my memory through all the years; the land feuds continuing all the time, blood still being spilt, and I still meditating upon the matter. In the year 1857, Te Heu Heu called a meeting at Taupo, at which sixteen hundred men were present. When the news of this meeting reached me I said, 'I will consent to this, to assist my work.' I began at those words of the Book of Samuel viii. 5, 'Give us a king, to judge us.' That was why I set up Potatau, in 1857. On his being set up, the blood at once ceased, and has so remained up to the present year. The reason why I set up Potatau as a king for me, was because he was a man of extended influence, and a man who was revered by the people of this island. That, my friend, was why I set him up. To put down my troubles, to hold the lands of the slaves, and to judge the offences of the chiefs, the King was set up. The runangas were set up; the magistrates were set up; and the Faith was set up. The works of my ancestors have ceased; they are diminishing at the present time. What I say is, the blood of the Maories has ceased." 3

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It was not, however, the bloodshed in war only that made the urgent necessity for some kind of law. The teaching of Christianity had destroyed the old barbarous customs of tapu, and all the superstitious reverence for priests and chiefs, which had supplied the place of law and government; but neither the missionaries nor the Government had been able to substitute a better system in the place of that which had been pulled down: thus the natives were left in a state of absolute anarchy, where every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Europeans of the lowest class settled among them, enjoyed equal licence, and--far out of the reach of magistrates and police--sinned with impunity, propagating all sorts of evil among their native neighbours.

I give as an example, a detailed account of one matter which natives like Tamihana considered a grievance. One of the most lucrative articles in which the Pakeha-Maories trade is rum, of which large quantities are consumed in native districts. Maories are not slow to see the mischief which this traffic is doing; they have been taught by the missionaries that it is certain destruction to their race--and the example of the Red Indians has been held up to them as a warning. Many of the Waikato chiefs have made Strenuous efforts to keep spirits out of the district altogether. Tamihana saved his tribe from demoralization by the ingenious plan of making each European settled in his territory sign a

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bond to pay 1l. for every native found drunk on his premises. The sale of spirits to natives is forbidden by a colonial law, under a penalty of 10l.; but the law is evaded by general conspiracy. A native wishing to buy spirits arms himself with a written order from a European to a dealer to supply the bearer with so many gallons; he pays his money, gets the rum, and makes himself and comrades drunk. In a few cases in which informations have been laid either by some officious philanthropist, or by the natives themselves, when the rum has been bad (for the provincial police dare not offend their employers, the publicans, by enforcing an unpopular law), the resident magistrates have ruled that the fictitious order from a European exonerates the seller. In this way hogsheads of spirits have been sold, not only in remote country districts but in the very streets of Auckland, under the blind eyes of the law. I have known loyal natives in the employment of Government enter intoxicated into the native office and leave it unrebuked and undischarged. Soon after Sir George Grey's return to New Zealand, in consequence of fresh complaints by William Thompson of the persistence with which the traffic in rum was still carried on, an officer was sent to explain the existing law and to declare the Governor's readiness to make (as under an Act of the Colonial Legislature he has power to do) a special and more stringent regulation for the Waikato district if petitioned so to do. The message was atten-

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tively listened to by the king's runanga at Ngaruawahia, and the messenger was told that if he went back to Auckland and searched the records of the native office, he would find that years ago the Government had been petitioned by the whole of Waikato on this very subject, and petitioned in vain. A few soft-hearted chiefs proposed to write a fresh letter to Sir George Grey, but the majority said--"No; let the papers of the native office be searched. " The office was searched, memorials were found from nearly every tribe in Waikato, sent when the King movement was yet in its infancy, setting forth the evils of rum-selling, and crying to Government for help to put down the trade. Minutes were found suggesting an excellent regulation to meet the case, with written approvals by the Governor and Colonial Ministry. There the matter had stopped just short of action, and the papers had gone into a pigeon-hole. But the natives, unacquainted with our admirable administrative system, in which the gravest mistakes may be made by the most subordinate officials, thought that their interests were wilfully overlooked; and that the consumption of rum, on which the Government depends for a large part of its revenue, and many influential colonists for their incomes, was more cared for than their welfare.

It is not likely that amongst the New Zealanders, or any other people, many would be wise enough sincerely to desire order and laws, and though we cannot doubt

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that this was the real design of some who promoted the King movement, it was certainly not that of all. Many of those who joined in Waikato, and most of those who joined from tribes out of Waikato, did so because the King was to hold the lands of his adherents upon trust not to permit sales to the Crown. Unwillingness to sell land has gradually grown up amongst the natives. With some it is unwillingness to sell at all; with others it is unwillingness to sell on the terms prescribed by law. No feeling of the kind existed at the outset. Immense tracts of country were readily parted with to the earliest settlers for very trifling considerations. The land was little valued by them as soil; they cared only for the enjoyment of what we should call territorial dominion, and it was for this, and not for mere soil, which could not at that time be exchanged for money, that they fought in early days. By sale to Europeans, while Europeans were few and weak, no power or territorial dominion was parted with. The purchaser became one of the most valuable possessions of the tribe: the chief called him "my Pakeha," and the tribe called him "our Pakeha." He traded with them, procured them guns, helped them in their wars, promoted their importance, and was at the same time dependent on them for protection, and completely at their mercy. If the Englishman was a gentleman and a capitalist, he was a consumer of surplus produce, an employer of any young men who took a fancy to do a day's work, an example

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of civilized life and agricultural enterprise to the ambitious, and all his greatness and grandeur were their possession and redounded to their credit. But as the number of Europeans increased, these relations were altered; a sale involved parting with the dominion of the soil; towns sprang up, inhabited by strange and powerful white men, who neither knew nor cared for the original proprietors. If the native visited the spot where he was once lord and master, he found himself insignificant and despised in the midst of a civilization in which he did not share. The hopes of social advancement which the natives had formed when they first consented to share their country with the stranger, were disappointed. They did not fail to contrast the rapid alienation of their land with the slow improvement of their condition, and they feared that at this rate their lands would be gone before they had attained the desired equality with their white neighbours. Every function of Government seemed paralysed in comparison with the Land Purchasing Department. They were willing to sell their land for civilization and equality, but at no other price. Despairing of obtaining these boons from Government, the desire to withhold land altogether became nearly universal, in order to check the aggrandizement of that power which might hurt them as an enemy, but did not much benefit them as a friend.

Besides this deep-rooted feeling, which made almost all natives dislike selling for any price, or in any manner,

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there were particular objections felt to the mode in which land-buying was conducted. In most cases the Maories thought themselves cheated in the price. The average Government price was sixpence per acre; 4 the upset price at which it was sold to colonists, ten shillings. The difference between these sums, after deducting the expense of surveying, formed a considerable source of colonial revenue. No doubt both races benefited by the various objects on which this revenue was expended, but the benefits received were not appreciated by the untutored native mind. They only looked at it as a commercial bargain. Government monopolized the right of buying land, bought at sixpence and sold at ten shillings an acre. If they might sell direct to settlers, they might get ten shillings instead of sixpence: therefore, it seemed to them, that they were cheated by the Government monopoly. No man likes to be taken in. It is well known to settlers that Maories will let their corn and potatoes rot, rather than take a less price than they consider just. "In passing up the river," reports a Government official, 5 "I observed several large mounds, which the natives said were potatoes, belonging to Ngatinaho, which they had been taking to Waiuku for sale, but, on hearing of

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the low prices, had buried." They act in much the same manner with their land.

The immense number of conflicting claims to almost every piece of native land has already been noticed. One of the earliest settlers in New Zealand thus describes the disputes incident to a purchase in former times: 6 --"I really cannot tell to the present day, who I purchased the land from; for there were about fifty different claimants, every one of whom assured me that the other forty-nine were 'humbugs,' and had no right whatever. The nature of the different titles of the different claimants were various. One man said his ancestors had killed off the first owners; another declared his ancestors had driven off the second party; another man, who seemed to be listened to with more respect than ordinary, declared that his ancestor had been the first possessor of all, and had never been ousted, and that this ancestor was a huge lizard, that lived in a cave on the land many years ago--and, sure enough, there was the cave to prove it. Besides the principal claims, there were an immense number of secondary ones--a sort of latent equities--which had lain dormant till it was known the Pakeha had his eye on the land. Some of them seemed to me, at the time, odd enough. One man required payment, because his ancestors, as he affirmed, had exercised the right of catching rats on it, but which he (the claimant) had

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never done, for the best of reasons, i.e. there were no rats to catch, except, indeed, pakeha rats, which were plentiful enough; but this variety of rodent was not counted as game. Another claimed because his grandfather had been murdered on the land, and--as I am a veracious Pakeha--another claimed payment because his grandfather had committed the murder! Then half the country claimed payments of various value, from one fig of tobacco to a musket, on account of a certain wahi tapu or ancient burying-ground, which was on the land, and in which almost every one had had relations, or rather ancestors, buried, as they could clearly make out, in old times, though no one had been deposited in it for about two hundred years; and the bones of the others had been (as they said) removed to a torere in the mountains. There was one old man who obstinately persisted in declaring that he, and he alone, was the sole and rightful owner of the land: he seemed also to have 'a fixed idea' about certain barrels of gunpowder; but as he did not prove his claim to my satisfaction, and as he had no one to back him, I, of course, gave him nothing; he, nevertheless, demanded the gunpowder about once a month, for five and twenty years, till at last he died of old age. It took about three months' negotiation before the purchase of the land could be made; and, indeed, I at one time gave up the idea, as I found it quite impossible to decide who to pay. If I paid one party, the others vowed I

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should never have possession, and to pay all seemed impossible; so at last I let all parties know I had made up my mind not to have the land. This, however, turned out to be the first step I had made in the right direction; for thereupon all the different claimants agreed amongst themselves to demand a certain quantity of goods, and divide them amongst themselves afterwards." This account is a caricature of the state of native titles, but a caricature of that sort which gives a more truthful notion to a stranger than an exact picture.

As time went on, the task of buying native lands grew more and more difficult. Claims were made, not for the purpose of getting a share in the price, but to stop the sale altogether. Such claimants were not to be bought off by money. Natives are hard enough at driving a bargain, but are not so mercenary as the settlers generally suppose. The few who wished to sell came to be regarded as traitors to their race, to be put down at all hazards. On the other hand, it was impossible for Government to conceal its anxiety to buy, or its favour for those who were willing to sell. When the Chief Land-Purchase Commissioner became head of the Native Department, all presents made by Government came to be regarded as bribes to sell land. To offer land for sale was the readiest mode of revenge open to the losing side in a quarrel. It was in this way that the celebrated block of land at Waitara came to be

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offered by Teira to Governor Browne. Secret and dishonest sales were sometimes effected, and from this cause jealousies and quarrels became more frequent and bitter, until the absolute necessity of escaping from these destructive quarrels made all anxious to place the land under a King.

Takerei, the greatest landed proprietor in Waikato, when asked by a Committee of the New Zealand Assembly to give an account of the origin of the "King movement," replied as follows: 7 --

"The people sought a protector for themselves similar to yours. You have a Protector. They proposed to elect a King for themselves to protect them, to be a 'mana' 8 over them and their land. The idea was this--the Queen should be a 'mana' over the Pakeha and over the land which you have acquired. The same with respect to the Maori King. There should be no interference with the portions of land that had been acquired by the Queen, but only with the land which was under the Maories. A single individual should not presume to sell land, whether in the West or in the East, in the North or in the South. It should not be yielded to the control of one man. If the great Runanga of the tribes consented, then only would it be right; but for one man to sell would not be right; although the land was his

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own, it should lie with the great Runanga to agree or to object to the disposal of it. The reason for this was lest trouble should arise in the midst of us Maories and the Pakehas. This is the law that has been laid down for the land held by the Maories of New Zealand. This, that I now make known to you, is the thought of the people, that of all the chiefs of Waikato, Ngatihaua, Ngatihinetu, Ngatiapakura, Ngatimaniapoto, Ngatituwharetoa, Ngatirahungaru, and Tauranga. This was the cause of the Maori King being set up; it was for a 'mana' over the people and the land."

It must not, however, be supposed that all natives desirous of stopping the further sale of land became adherents of the King. The desire was almost universal. Land-leagues existed out of Waikato, and before the "King movement." Wi Kingi of Taranaki was head of an independent land league, and only joined the King, in 1860, to get the help of Waikato in the Taranaki war. Waata Kukutai, of the Lower Waikato, who has always professed loyalty to the Queen, and is now our ally in the Waikato war, is as strongly opposed to selling land as Rewi Maniapoto or Wi Tamihana; but the Maori King-league having always proclaimed the prevention of land sales as one of its chief objects, and possessing a strong physical force to support the principle, is naturally looked up to by those who wish to hold back land, and has therefore a strong tendency to absorb them into its ranks.

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The chief cause of the younger and less thoughtful Maories joining the "King movement" was the consciousness that they were regarded by a large majority of their white neighbours as an inferior and degraded race. Even men like Tamihana, who had other and more sober grounds for their disaffection, were powerfully influenced in their conduct by this mortifying reflection. Their political inferiority had been shortly before made clear to them. A Constitution had been conferred on the colony of New Zealand, framed, as Mr. Chichester Fortescue tells us (speech in House of Commons, April 11th, 1861), "in forgetfulness of the large native tribes within the dominions to which it was intended to apply." Under this Constitution local and general assemblies were frequent, in which speeches were made, and hot discussions took place, as to how the colonists should exercise the right of governing the country. The natives were soon made aware that these assemblies were to frame laws touching matters in which they were interested, and which they would be expected to obey; for instance, in 1856, a bill was introduced to enable the Governor, in cases where Maori offenders were not given up to justice, to lay under an interdict the whole district to which they might belong.

At the same time, the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, to whom the question of the right of Maories to exercise the elective franchise was referred by the Duke of Newcastle, was:--"That natives cannot have

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such possession of any land, used or occupied by them in common as tribes or communities, and not held under title derived from the Crown, as would qualify them to become voters under the provisions of the New Zealand Constitution Act." 9 Thus the Maories were shut out from all share in the assemblies to which, as they well knew, many of their friends, including the Bishop of New Zealand, declared they had a right to be admitted. The native race has never been unwilling to accept guidance and instruction from white men, whose superior knowledge in mechanical arts and in the science of law-making they admit and admire; but to become a subject race, and accept the whites as dominant over them, was felt to be a degradation to which their savage independence could not stoop. They will never submit to the Colonial Government of New Zealand until the colonists alone, without help from England or Australia, shall prove themselves masters in the field. In imitation and rivalry of the colonial assemblies, meetings were held in various parts of the country, at which their own interests and their relations to the white race, were discussed. They wished to remind the framers of the New Zealand Constitution of their existence, and they did so by setting up an independent King.

They were still more painfully conscious of their social than of their political inferiority. To view men

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whose skin differs in colour from our own as "damned niggers," is a weakness of our Anglo-Saxon character, which proves our civilization and Christianity far from perfect. It destroys all chance of our gaining the affections of our native subjects in any part of the world; for uncivilized men will forgive any amount or kind of wrong sooner than a single personal insult. The Maories are exceedingly sensitive of any appearance of personal slight. I once heard a company of them discussing the character of a most estimable missionary, the only drawback to whose usefulness is, that he has a stomach so delicate that he cannot eat food prepared by natives. This was the very point in his conduct with which those whom I overheard seemed most impressed. Nothing can exceed the kindness and respect with which men like Sir George Grey and the Bishop of New Zealand behave to natives; they treat them as "gentlemen." The same remark applies to the superior officers of the Government, the clergy, the more highly-educated colonists, and the older settlers. But the ignorant mass of townspeople judge of the natives from their not very prepossessing exteriors, and never having had experience of the good qualities which, as all who have lived amongst them acknowledge, lie concealed beneath, give free vent to their arrogance and contempt, and speak of the Maories, both publicly and privately, with disgust and dislike. Men habitually told that they emit a disagreeable smell, are not likely to

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feel a very strong affection towards the race that smells them. I know that the petty rudeness of Europeans is so disagreeable to many chiefs in Waikato, that they dislike going into Auckland, or any of the English villages, and are very shy of visiting at English houses. Their own behaviour to strangers affords a striking contrast, not very creditable to ourselves; a chief of the highest rank will unsaddle the horse of his guest with his own hands, and either pitch his tent or give him the best house in the village to sleep in, covering the floor with freshly gathered fern and new flax mats. The women set to work to cook, or, if their own meal is nearly ready, a portion is set apart for the stranger before the others partake. Any one who in return invited one of the principal men in Waikato to accompany him to Auckland, could not fail to be shamed on the road. A shakedown of straw in an inn stable, bread and meat bought at a shop, or a meal in the inn kitchen, given as a great favour at the Englishman's solicitation, would be all the hospitality he could procure. I have heard the Bishop of New Zealand say he is quite ashamed to travel with his native deacons, men who dine at his own table and behave there like gentlemen, because he cannot take them into public rooms where a tipsy carter would be considered perfectly good society. No ordinance of Government can alter this state of things, any more than it can alter the treatment of negroes in New York, but the insult is

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not the less exasperating to those who suffer. The colonial newspapers are full of affronts, grave and petty, to the natives, not intended of course to annoy them, but to please the European readers. These all come round to native ears. The Southern Cross, an Auckland newspaper which usually advocates a "physical force" policy, used to be regularly taken in at Ngaruawahia and read aloud by a native girl who understood English perfectly. No doubt its opinions were considered to be those of the Government and the whole English race.

Books on New Zealand have never revealed the shameful extent to which half-caste children, both legitimate and illegitimate, have been abandoned by their European fathers. Desertion of wives and children is only too common throughout the Australian colonies, where the ease with which a man can shift himself out of one jurisdiction into another, makes that the easiest way of getting rid of an unpleasant burden. In a native district, where there is no chance of knowing when the father means to abscond, and no magistrate at hand to appeal to for even a maintenance order, desertion is especially easy, and has been largely practised. In every village in Waikato these abandoned little half-castes are to be seen running about wild, like dogs or pigs, growing up in filth and barbarism, inheriting the vices of both races and enjoying the care of neither. What is done for them is

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not generally the work of the civilized and Christian European, but of the savage half-heathen Maori. The mother's relations give food and an occasional ragged shirt, and treat the children on the whole with kindness; but they feel the wrong and dishonour done them by the white man, and it does not increase their love and respect for the white man's race. I well remember one pitiable object--a poor, pale, stunted lad of fourteen, with wasted limbs and a hacking cough, dressed in winter time in a ragged cotton shirt--who was at work at bullock-driving and potato-planting in a village not far from Rangiaowhia, whose father I afterwards learned was a wealthy Auckland citizen and a member of the Provincial Assembly. Whether such an evil was curable by legislation or not, at any rate the cure was not attempted. In 1857, Mr. Fenton, then magistrate of the Waikato district, addressed to the Government a memorandum as follows:--"The law providing means of enforcing legal maintenance of illegitimate children by the father should be published and put in the Book of Laws. Moreover, some additional provision should be made to prevent the father leaving the country, until sufficient security is given for the regular payment of the maintenance-money. The frequency of examples of desertion, most shameless and heartless in themselves, has tended to lower the character of the Europeans generally in the eyes of the natives,

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whose clannish ideas are too apt to convert the sin of the few into the act of the multitude." 10

At the close of this catalogue of Maori grievances, I must, to avoid misconstruction, state that I am quite aware there were wrongs on both sides, and that the European race has had just grounds of offence against the Maori. My reason for not enlarging upon these here is, that the cause of the King movement, with which we have now to do, was the sense of wrong felt by the natives for what their side had suffered; of the wrongs they had done, they were, like mankind in general, unconscious. At the time the King was set up, the hostile feeling was not nearly strong enough to create a desire for war, but there was quite enough to make the mass eager for separation and independence, and to this the easy and rapid success of the King party is to be attributed.

The above were, so far as I have been able to ascertain, the feelings and sentiments floating in the minds of the natives at the time when the proposal to set up a King of their own began to be agitated. Some may have been influenced by one cause, others by another, but all tended to produce a common sense of discontent. Once possessed of a common grievance, it became the obvious interest of all to sink minor differences, and combine to assert their separate nationality. The necessity of union was industriously

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preached by Wiremu Tamihana and others, at all the large public meetings, which are frequent amongst the natives. The fable of the bundle of sticks, which, with others, has been translated and circulated, took their fancy, and was related over and over again.

1   "Thou shalt in anywise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee which is not thy brother."
2   "The king by judgment establisheth the land."
3   N.Z. Parl. Papers, 1861. E. No. 1 B. 20.
4   From 1850 to 1861, 6,000,000 acres of land were bought from the Maories in the North Island for 160,000l., which is at the rate of 6 two-fifths d. per acre. N.Z. Parl. Papers, 1861. E. No. 1, K.
5   Parl. Papers, 1860. E. No. 1, C. 3.
6   Old New Zealand. Page 76.
7   Parl. Papers, 1860. F. No. 3. 1721.
8   The English word most nearly corresponding to "mana" is "power."
9   N.Z. Parl. Papers, 1860. E. No. 7.
10   N.Z. Parl. Papers, 1860. E. No. 1, C. 3.

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