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

E N Z B       
       Home   |  Browse  |  Search  |  Variant Spellings  |  Links  |  EPUB Downloads
Feedback  |  Conditions of Use      
  1864 - Gorst, J.E. The Maori king - [Chapter XV]
Previous section | Next section      


[Image of page 300]



The King and his party, on their return from Hauraki to Ngaruawahia, stopped to hold a Runanga at Te Kohekohe, where their young relative Wiremu Te Wheoro was administering "law and order" as a Queen's magistrate. Finding that a design had been made for building a wooden court-house at the village, they seriously warned Te Wheoro not to persist in such an attempt. Several of them had a joint claim with him to the land, and were resolved to interfere and stop the erection of the building. The Runanga and the resolution were reported to Sir George Grey, who determined to proceed with the building, regardless of threats, and to make not a mere court-house, but a defencible barrack for a native police force.

The design was to imitate the policy of the Maori chiefs themselves, by enlisting a body of native youths, who were to be lodged in the barrack at Te Kohekohe, disciplined, drilled, and gradually and cautiously made use of, to suppress dangerous offenders like Whakapaukai

[Image of page 301]


and establish a real system of law and order, at least in the more loyal region of Lower Waikato.

Sir George Grey was anxious to have a similar force enrolled in the Upper Waikato, at Otawhao, but it was represented to him that any such attempt would inevitably provoke the hostility of the Maories, who would promptly suppress the institution so soon as its object was apparent. In consequence of these representations, the plan was so far changed, that instead of a police-station, an industrial school for young men and grown-up boys was substituted, which would be at once a trap to catch the King's soldiers, and might be made into a station for an effective force at some future time. There was no doubt that the design would be, sooner or later, seen through by the King party, and that a law would be passed forbidding young men to join the school. Sir George Grey was, however, of opinion that the offer of good food and clothes would be a sufficient inducement to procure disobedience of any such injunction.

The execution of both these projects was entrusted to me, as I was at that time in charge of the Lower, as well as the Upper, Waikato District.

The first plan never proceeded further than the preparation of timber for building. In New Zealand, where sawn timber can be bought only in the large towns, and where the expense of carriage is very heavy, it is a matter of economy, before erecting a building, to saw the timber required, on or near the spot. All the

[Image of page 302]


sawyers in the neighbourhood of Te Kohekohe were employed for several months in preparing large quantities of timber for building barrack-rooms, &c., within the stockade at Mangatawhiri and the Queen's Redoubt; and when this task was finished, they had to drink out the wages they had earned before they were willing to work again.

But at Otawhao it was possible to begin the experiment at once. A Mission-school was already there, with an estate of about 200 acres attached, called Te Awamutu, and this was given up by the Bishop of New Zealand, and the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, to the Government, to enable the plan to be carried out with the least possible delay.

The objects which it was hoped might be attained by a school at Te Awamutu were:--

(1) The exhibition before the eyes of the Waikato natives of the advantages to be derived from the British Government. That it might be seen, especially by the young men, the most dangerous class in the native community, that the Queen's Government was able to give physical comfort and civilization in exchange for the barbarous independence still cherished by them.

(2) The training of a class of men, upon whose fidelity the Government might rely, and out of whose ranks native officers might be afterwards selected.

(3) The organization of a body of disciplined young

[Image of page 303]


men, accustomed to obey, who might be used as police, and furnish the Government with an instrument for really establishing "law and order" in Maori districts.

The chief fault to be found with this scheme was, that it ought to have been begun twenty years before. At that time the natives wished to place themselves under our authority, and would have joyfully accepted us as masters. Even so recently as ten years ago, they had proved their desire for civilization, by giving to the Crown an estate of 800 acres, upon a promise that an industrial school and a hospital should be erected. For the fulfilment of this promise they had waited in vain. Before the time had arrived at which it was convenient for us to remember and keep our promises, their zeal for improvement had cooled. Some months before the new school at Te Awamutu was proposed, they had announced that, ten years having elapsed without the erection of that school and hospital for which they had given the land, they considered the grant void, and should resume possession of their property.

As these sentiments of the Waikatos were well known, it was the opinion of many that it would have been more prudent to try the experiment of enrolling a police force, or collecting the young men into an industrial school, in some other district, where there would be less risk of being interrupted in the work by jealous fears and hostile attacks. There is no doubt that such

[Image of page 304]


criticism is just. Had any one desired to irritate the King party, and obtain a ground for quarrel with them, no better places than Te Awamutu and Te Kohekohe could have been chosen for establishing schools and barracks.

To the Awamutu scheme, which appeared to the natives, at first sight, an act of pure benevolence, free from any sinister motives, a large number of the Waikatos were, at the outset, highly favourable. Many youths at once made application for admission, and others said they only hesitated because they could not believe Government promises, until they saw them fulfilled with their own eyes.

But this confidence on the part of the Waikatos was very short-lived. Not only were they alarmed by the report of what was to be done at Te Kohekohe, but the rumour of a new plan of Sir George Grey caused nearly as much excitement in Waikato as the original announcement of the Mangatawhiri road. The Governor told some Waikato chiefs, who visited him in Auckland, that he was going to send for a steamer to navigate the Waikato river; and when they assured him that the entrance of the vessel would be resisted by force, and that they should certainly fire upon her, he replied that his steamer should be one that no shot could pierce--that he should sit quietly reading books in the cabin while they fired upon her, and should take the rattling of their bullets against her side as a great compliment

[Image of page 305]


to himself. This announcement, when made known to the other natives, was everywhere taken as a distinct proof of that intention to make war, which most Maories had attributed to the Governor, from the day when he condemned the Maori King at Taupari. These reports put an end to their hesitation about the proposed school at Te Awamutu. It was evidently part of the same scheme for reducing Waikato, and must, therefore, be inflexibly resisted.

The existing buildings of the old Mission-school furnished room for not more than twenty-two persons, and in order to provide accommodation for a hundred, the number it was intended to enlist, it was necessary to purchase trees from the natives, and have timber sawn. The King was then at Rangiaowhia, with a large gathering of the Waikato and Ngatimaniapoto tribes. The proposed school was discussed. The feature of the plan which most alarmed them was, that children and young boys were not to be admitted. "We often wished," said one speaker, "to send our young men to the Mission-school. We were told, 'No; they could not learn the Pakeha's language--their lips and tongues were too stiff.' Now there is a change; the lips and tongues of the young men have suddenly become flexible, and they are pressed to go to school." They did not doubt that some hostile design lurked under the apparent benevolence; and it was resolved that no timber-trees should be sold, so that it would, at least,

[Image of page 306]


be impossible to enlarge the existing building. The King and the whole assembly then adjourned to Hangatiki; but no sooner were their backs turned, than certain natives, who cared more for money than the King's commands, offered trees for sale. The offer was accepted; six trees were bought, of which four were felled, and sawing commenced.

At the Hangatiki meeting, the subjects of the Awamutu school and the Governor's intended steamer were again discussed; when Rewi and the Ngatimaniapoto strongly urged that it would be by far the safest course to expel the Government officer from the district at once, by force; and as the arrival of a steamer would render Ngaruawahia no longer safe, they tried to persuade the King to retire to the hills, and fix his capital at Hangatiki. To this hostile policy, however, the Waikatos would not consent. The fact of the land at Te Awamutu being Crown land was held to justify the Government in stationing any person they chose upon it; and the steamer might prove but an empty threat. It was therefore resolved to oppose the school by those lawful and peaceable means which had proved so successful in the case of the magistrate. Great was their indignation, on returning to Rangiaowhia, to find that a sale of timber had actually taken place. A resolution was immediately passed, to take back, at least, the two trees not yet felled; but when it was represented to them that such conduct would be stealing, they re-

[Image of page 307]


scinded the resolution and gave up the trees, though at the same time they again made a law that no more should be sold. The law, however, could not be enforced. The Waikatos of Rangiaowhia, and even of Kihikihi, persisted in selling timber; though, at the latter place, the Ngatimaniapoto expressed strong indignation, and a stormy Runanga was held over almost each individual tree. Sawing proceeded steadily though slowly, and the plans of the Waikatos for stopping the building failed.

The scheme was regarded by the younger men in a very different light; they liked good food and clothes, and knew the benefit of learning to be blacksmiths or carpenters, and were willing enough to render the obedience which was exacted from them as the price of maintenance and instruction. A large portion of the King's soldiers at Rangiaowhia, Waipa, and elsewhere, expressed their desire to leave His Majesty's service for the establishment at Te Awamutu, and even went so far as to apply for admission. Their defection so alarmed the Runangas, that a law was passed, imposing a fine of 5l. upon any King's soldier who left the service; and extreme displeasure was threatened by the King-party against any persons who might venture to become members of the school.

Notwithstanding this opposition, however, the number of pupils steadily increased. Ti Oriori openly pronounced himself a supporter of the school. Several

[Image of page 308]


young men from his section of the Ngatihaua tribe actually entered as scholars, and, with the exception of one who went off to be married, remained until the outbreak of the war. The opposition was also much weakened by a dissension which arose amongst the King-party, and for a time appeared likely to produce an open rupture. It was a controversy about religion. A Runanga sat at Taupo to discuss the relative merits of the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. It was argued that the priests of the former religion avowed themselves to be of no country, professed allegiance to the Catholic Church and not to the Queen, and made no opposition to the Maori nationality and King; whereas the clergy of the Church of England and the Wesleyan ministers were friends of Governor Grey, staunch in their allegiance to the Queen, and persistent in using the form of prayer for the Queen, even to the length of supplicating that she might "vanquish and overcome all her enemies," which, of course, included the Maories themselves. The argument was held by the Runanga of Taupo to be convincing. They accordingly addressed letters to Waikato, recommending all persons to change from the Protestant to the Catholic religion. A report was circulated that King Matutaera had himself become a convert; and a pastoral letter from Bishop Pompallier, the Roman Catholic Primate, to Matutaera, offering to station a priest at Ngaruawahia, was printed and published. The indignation of the Protestant

[Image of page 309]


chiefs was aroused. Old Porokoru, alarmed lest he should be converted, clad himself in European garments, put on a tall black hat, and attended the church at Te Awamutu for about six consecutive Sundays, where he repeated the responses, prayers for the Queen included, in a loud and indignant voice. The Roman Catholics at Ngaruawahia were warned that, if they persisted in having a priest, the opposite party would have a magistrate; and Wi Karamoa sat down in a rage and wrote to invite me to come at once, offering a house and land.

Soon afterwards, a dinner was given by the chief of Rangiaowhia, to commemorate the King's accession, to which all Europeans in the neighbourhood were invited. At the request of the natives, I took the chair, supported by Te Paea the King's sister, Wi Karamoa, Taati, and other leading Protestant chiefs. The dinner, which was served in European fashion, was excellent--roasted turkey, preserves, tarts, and bottled ale, were in the bill of fare--and every one behaved in the most decorous manner. When dinner was over, there were races and athletic sports. A day or two afterwards, the whole party came to return the visit, and dine at Te Awamutu, and, as a pledge of friendship and goodwill, wrote a letter to the Governor, inviting him to a meeting in the Waikato district.

When the dissension thus began to grow serious, the Catholic party gave way, and agreed that the priest was

[Image of page 310]


to be stationed at a village a few miles away from Ngaruawahia; an article was also published in the King's newspaper, explaining that His Majesty had not changed his religion, but had merely, when asked whether he approved of the Roman Catholic faith, replied--"I approve of all religions in the world," which, the newspaper observed, was the right sort of thing for a Sovereign who had subjects of different creeds to say.

In the meanwhile, the establishment at Te Awamutu was carried on with every prospect of success. Every applicant for admission was referred to those who had been already some time at the school, to make full inquiries as to the management and discipline; and was then told that he would be received and treated exactly in the same way, upon the one condition of implicit obedience. Every man and boy in the school was clothed, lodged, and fed, in a coarse, but wholesome and civilized fashion. The clothes, and everything else entrusted to the scholars, were regularly inspected, and kept scrupulously clean. A schoolmaster was provided by Government, who taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, to all; and beside this, each person was employed for five hours daily in one of the various mechanical trades carried on within the premises. Thus each had an opportunity, not only of acquiring a rough education, but of fitting himself to gain a livelihood, by practising some handicraft acquired at the school. The trades carried on upon the Awamutu

[Image of page 311]


estate, were those of carpenter, blacksmith, wheelwright, shoemaker, tailor, and printer. A few scholars were also employed in agriculture, and in tending cattle and sheep upon the school estate--some as their regular occupation, and others as an occasional change from in-door employment. The English artizans, employed as teachers, were chiefly men who had been living in the neighbourhood, and were acquainted with the Maories and their language. Most had previously been exercising their trades for the benefit of the district, and the only difference to them was, that they were now more systematically at work, and were engaged in instructing native apprentices. The natives of the district had now, therefore, to resort to our Government establishment for the repair of their ploughs, and for their shoes and clothes. The demand for all these services was far greater than the supply, so that there was a prospect of being able to employ a great number of Maori apprentices in every department, with certain profit. The cost to the Government of keeping up each branch of industry diminished daily. Even Rewi and Wiremu Tamihana themselves visited the school. The latter extended his patronage so far as to be measured for a pair of trowsers, for which he paid 1l. in advance; but Ti Oriori intercepted them on their way to Peria, tried them on, and was so charmed with the fit, that he refused to part with them, and told Tamihana he would agree to take them as a present.

[Image of page 312]


The promise of implicit obedience to orders, exacted from each person on admission, was in almost all cases faithfully kept. Very few complaints were made, either by the schoolmaster and trade-instructors, of idleness and obstinacy; or by the scholars, of tyranny and injustice. The former, who at first loudly declared the impossibility of making Maori boys work, or teaching them anything but mischief, ended by as loud praises of their docility, industry, and progress in their work. A continual and almost daily inspection of all the work that was going on, enables me to testify that this praise was well deserved. The pupils, on the other hand, finding themselves happy and well-treated, and being conscious of steady progress in acquiring valuable attainments, submitted, without the least reluctance, to the restraints and discipline of the place, and were daily practised in the habit of obedience. In the main object for which Te Awamutu was established--the collection of a body of Maories accustomed to obey--there was little doubt of complete success.

The only difficulty was that of getting enough timber to build a house that would hold fifty or sixty more. The opposition of the Kihikihi natives was persistent and troublesome. The very men who, ten years before, would have given land, timber, provisions, and even labour, to establish a school of the kind, now resisted the buying, felling, sawing, and carting of timber, by the most strange stratagems. On one occasion, they

[Image of page 313]


entirely surrounded a saw-pit by a ring of new cultivations, which carts were forbidden to cross; and it was only by threatening to plough up the Government road adjoining the bridge over the Mangapiko, and to sow a crop of wheat there, so as to stop all communication between Rangiaowhia and Kihikihi, that a right of road through the ring of cultivation was obtained. A daring fellow, who was a great friend of Rewi's, threatened to break the saws; and when, in spite of his threat, the work still went on, he drove his cart and horse to the pit one very stormy day, when the sawyers were kept from work by fear of falling trees, and carted all the sawn timber away. An express was at once sent off to tell Wiremu Tamihana and the King, who were holding a monster meeting at Peria, of this seizure, and to demand instant restitution. The lawless violence of Rewi's friend was universally condemned; even Rewi had nothing to say in his behalf. Ti Oriori and another Ngatihaua chief, with a dozen followers, were sent over to Kihikihi to order the timber to be given up. A stormy meeting ensued, and the Kihikihi natives refused to obey the command; after talking a whole day, Ti Oriori consented to let them keep the timber, upon paying compensation for the trees and for the sawing. To this arrangement I refused to agree; I would have nothing but the timber. Ti Oriori could do no more, and he went away. Te Paea, who happened to be on a visit at Kihikihi, heard the tumult, and asked what

[Image of page 314]


it was all about; she was told: she then asked to have the disputed timber given to her; it was impossible to refuse her so trifling a request. "Now," she said, "I shall give the timber to Mr. Gorst." She wrote and sent a messenger to beg that I would fetch my timber which she was holding for me. "One thing," said this lady in her postscript, "I have forgotten; please give me a little tobacco." A week afterwards, when Tamihana arrived from Peria, to insist on restitution, I had the pleasure of showing him the timber, stacked upon the Awamutu land, and of informing him that the trouble was at an end.

After this defeat, Rewi and the Ngatimaniapoto appeared to withdraw all opposition, and many of the soldiers and other lads, from Kihikihi and elsewhere, began to talk of entering the school.

The good temper of the Waikatos at this period so imposed on the Colonial Government, that they determined to spend considerable sums of money, in further enlarging and improving the Awamutu school, and in other schemes for the civilization of the natives.

It was intended to erect the long-promised native hospital, on a small plot of Crown land, consisting of about thirty acres, not yet enclosed or cultivated, situated about three-quarters of a mile from Te Awamutu. One house-surgeon was to be in constant residence at the hospital, and a superior officer, under the title of Medical Commissioner, was to travel about

[Image of page 315]


the whole Waikato district, to heal the sick, send serious cases to the hospital, and recommend measures to improve the sanitary condition of the Maories.

The New Zealand Assembly, which had been recently in session, had shown the utmost zeal in forwarding Sir George Grey's policy. They repudiated, indeed, the bargain which Mr. Fox had made with the Governor, that the Colony should undertake the responsibility of governing the Maories; and turned Mr. Fox's ministry out of office for having made such an arrangement. Another ministry was placed in office, upon the distinct understanding, that they were in no case to be so rash as to propose any particular policy in native affairs. They were to let Sir George Grey pursue what course he pleased, and were held responsible to the Assembly only for seconding the Governor, and giving effect to his wishes, so far as the interests of the colonists would allow. The New Zealand public wished to make the Governor, whom the Home authorities had sent out, Dictator. No sooner had this arrangement been made, than a despatch arrived from the Duke of Newcastle, accepting the offer which Mr. Fox had already made on behalf of the colonists, and which the colonists had just repudiated. This brought the Government to a dead lock. The colonists addressed an indignant remonstrance to the Queen, complaining that the Imperial Government had first mismanaged the Maories, until most people thought the Queen's sovereignty could not

[Image of page 316]


be established without a war, and then, when affairs were in this critical and dangerous condition, abdicated their unpleasant office, and left the difficulty for the colonists to solve. In the mean time, as hopes were entertained that the Duke of Newcastle would be persuaded to alter his decision, the Colonial ministers were sent to their tasks with the strict injunction of the Assembly not to assume the dangerous responsibility. The Governor, on his side, was equally reluctant to exercise a power which his chief in England had already relinquished. It will be seen that this double Government, of which each member refused to move first, was the proximate cause of the war.

But, while refusing to assume the lead, it was the object of the colonists to show their readiness to second the Governor's plans. The sum of money, which Sir George Grey said was necessary for native government, was voted without special appropriation, to be spent exactly in the way he might desire. An Act also was passed, empowering the Governor in Council, by proclamation, to form districts in which, under certain regulations, the Maories should be at liberty to exchange their proprietary rights to land for estates in fee simple. The friends of the Maories in the Assembly expected great results from this Act. They thought the natives would barter their independence for a Crown grant of their lands. In this, however, they were entirely mistaken. The Act was hardly

[Image of page 317]


heard of, and was never the subject of discussion, in the Waikato District. An estate in fee simple was only useful to a native who wished to sell or let his land. In the Waikato, where selling or letting was rigidly forbidden, native title was good enough. Thus the Native Lands Act, like most other legislation on native matters, served as a topic for debate to the New Zealand politicians, and as an illustration of colonial benevolence, but had no effect, good or bad, upon the Maories. Had the law been in any way forced upon their attention, I have little hesitation in saying that it would have excited great dissatisfaction. They would have asked what right the Colonial Parliament had to legislate about their lands at all. It must not be forgotten, that the zeal for Maori nationality was wider than that for the Maori King; and that the idea of possessing a right to their lands quite independent of our will, and of any treaty or engagements with us, was universal. I know a clever and well-educated young gentleman--a half-caste--to whom Sir George Grey offered a Crown-grant of the land which he held as a Maori chief. His reply was: "Thank you, I have no objection to receive a certificate of title, but I will not accept a Crown-grant of what is already mine." We ourselves have taught the natives that the land is their own, and they regard any meddling with it, on the part of the Colonial Assemblies, as an intrusive usurpation.

Previous section | Next section