[This book was digitised from a printed copy held in the SIR GEORGE GREY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS at AUCKLAND LIBRARIES.]
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"I much wish, that more was known in England about the real position of the Maoris and the Missionaries; and this can only be gathered by persons living, as we have done, in contact with them so long, and having no prejudicial interests to serve. I am more convinced every day, that as long as the present system is continued, the Maoris will not be improved, and no one is more anxious for their welfare than I am."
Extract from a letter to the Publisher.
E. CHURTON, 26, HOLLES STREET.
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J. BILLING, PRINTER AND STEREOTYPER.
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THE LAND QUESTION.
WANGANUI, MARCh, 1844.
DEAR -- --,
ON our arrival at Port Nicholson, in December 1840, some of us having heard from many accounts, that Wanganui was a most eligible district, and would be surveyed, and possession given in three or four months, determined to go thither, waiving our right of choosing elsewhere, on condition that the Company would guarantee us a town, as some compensation, with a quarter acre to each section. We were led to this determination, --although purchasers of second series or country lands, which were understood to be either in the immediate vicinity of Wellington, contiguous to the first settlement or block of 110,000 acres, or in any other of the Company's possessions, either at that time, or subsequently, to be purchased, --on finding that the country around Wellington was, from its mountainous character, totally unadapted (excepting small districts, which would be required for the holders of first series,) for cultivation, and that so small a portion had been surveyed, that years must elapse before there would be any chance of our obtaining any land in that district.
On February 27th, 1841, a large party of the principal landowners arrived at Wanganui, expecting that about one hundred sections would be given out, according to advertisement, on the 18th of March; but we soon found that so little progress had been made in the surveys, that there was no chance of any being ready for some months.
I need not enumerate all the annoyances, discomforts, losses, &c, we had to endure during the period that intervened--the want of houses was the greatest, as, of course, no one thought of being at the expense of putting up one at the exorbitant rate the Maoris demanded, when he did not know how long he might
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possess it; so we did the best we could, living in tents or in large houses, ostensibly lent us by the Maoris, but completely under their control, subjected to every sort of depredation, not only from them, but from a worse set, who at that time were very numerous in Wanganui, the sawyers, convicts, surveyors' men, &c.
My own sufferings and losses (in consequence of the wreck of the Jewess, which event, detained me nearly five months from Wanganui) with the loss of your house, &c, will, I think, be long remembered by both of us.
In September, a number of sections were given out; but by this time the Maoris had become aware of the increased value of land, and began to raise disputes about giving it up, many saying that they had never sold any; others, that the portion sold, only consisted of a small one, including the town reaching to the sea, being nearly all sand hills. Some, who acknowledged the sale of the land, denied the sale of the timber; and any person wanting a log, had to pay a blanket for permission to cut it; this, of course, greatly enhanced the value in their opinion, and many would not sell their land at all.
Besides these obstacles to the quiet possession of our sections, the Maoris began to have disputes among themselves as to who were the real owners of the soil, and all sorts of claims were urged to prove the right; some as having been the original possessors, others by right of conquest--by marriage--gifts, &c.; so that it was quite impossible to say which party had just claim to it. The party who claimed by conquest, were those who had got most of the payment (for, as usual, there had been a rush, and the strongest had got nearly all); these having little interest in the land down here, were willing to give it up to us, but the other party, having by this time firmly settled themselves here, 1 denied their right to do so; and no man was foolhardy enough to expose himself to the certain consequences which must have followed any attempt at occupying his land.
The latter party, however, expressed their willingness to sell their land, after reserving a large, and the most valuable district; and application was made by the settlers to Col. Wakefield, for the purpose of procuring some further payment for those Maoris, who were either not present at the first purchase, or had received nothing.
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Col. W. promised that further payment should be made; and we waited in full expectation that a few weeks would see us in quiet possession. In the meantime, more settlers arrived; more sections, on paper, were given out; we had, most of us, got a house of some sort; the refuse of our population had gradually taken their departure; and Wanganui, instead of being considered as the most abandoned place in New Zealand, (which, however, was a distinction to which I deny it was ever entitled to,) began to be more justly appreciated, as its climate, soil, and natural advantages began to be more generally known. This was about January, 1842.
Soon after this, disputes with the Maoris became more frequent in all the settlements; further payment was required for all the land said to have been sold, and large tracts in every district were entirely disputed; the Company's titles began to be considered worthless, and Government to be looked to as the party that was to settle all disputes.
Mr. Spain was to enquire into every claim, and decide upon it. By this time the Maoris had formed most extravagant notions of the value of the land--talking of ships, horses, cattle, and casks of gold, as very trifling affairs, and every Maori had, by this time, some claim to the land in question. 2
Col. W. now refused further payment, until the decision of Government was known.
In June, some more sections were given out, making, with what were previously chosen, about 270; this was all that had been sold in this district.
The town sections were also given out--the town consisted of 2000 quarter acres--the Company choosing alternately with the sectionist; thus depriving us of the best half of what was chosen, and reserving the entire remainder of a town, to which, by the terms of our land orders, they had no claim whatever, as the very place where the town is fixed, might have been chosen by a settler having an early order.
Most of us who had any money left (I need not remind you that doing nothing is rather expensive in a colony) set about building on our town sections; many giving up all thoughts of going into the country.
Mr. Spain was expected daily. He arrived here in April, 1843.
When Mr. Spain left, it was generally understood by us, as
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well as by the Maoris, that his decision would be made in two months at farthest.
The Maoris shewed a disposition to allow some of us to go on our land, and several persons took advantage of their consent, and went. In some cases, they met with no interference, principally, I believe, because they were so far from the town; --one gentlemen and his wife went so far that they were, after some months, found by the natives of the next river who laid claim to the land, and after being there the worst part of the year, and digging, fencing, gardening, were obliged to give up and return here; --in others, the annoyance was so great, that the parties immediately gave it up, or, as one or two have done, remained to be worried out of their lives by the Maoris who have settled themselves all around them. Poor D. is one of these. He has now a pah, containing sometimes 300 natives close to his house; they bully him to death. Only the other day when he was from home, a party of Maoris came in and obliged Mrs. D. to cook some food for some visitors who had just arrived; and last Sunday week, some young vagabonds shot three of his fowls with bows and arrows, and he dared not retaliate; they are continually abusing him for not ploughing more land, saying they shall want it soon, and he must plough it ready for them.
You know what prevented us going up to Motongonga, but I think you will agree with me that it was, perhaps, as well we did not. I think our friend Mawai would have found a "flaw in our lease."
In July, 1843, the terrible affair at Wairau took place; this, of course, upset everything, and nothing could be done "until the new Governor arrived."
In January, 1844, Capt. Fitzroy arrived; it is, at present, impossible truly to see his intentions, but, from what little opportunities we have had of judging, he seems to lean entirely to the Maoris.
He says they are to keep their pahs, cultivative grounds, and burial places. I do not see either the expediency or the justice of this; --their pahs they care very little about, they are most of them poor affairs, many of them if burned down one night, are rebuilt the next day, and in situation they are not particular, they frequently desert them entirely, and build one somewhere in the neighbourhood; besides, a great many, particularly in this place, have been erected since, and because white men have come here; the same will apply to their potato grounds, which they cultivate for one or two years, and then leave. What, therefore, can be the use of giving these up to the Maoris,
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who do not want them, and, perhaps, depriving a settler of ten or twenty acres of the best land in his section?--we are not informed how these gaps are to be filled up. Of what use is the Motongonga section to me, if they are allowed to keep the pah at the mouth of the creek?--there was not a house there when I chose it. As to their burial grounds, I really do not know what they are; I confess I never saw one that could be dignified with the name.
In regard to our future progress, I am really puzzled how to form an opinion.
If we can put any trust in what the Maoris say, we shall be right enough; but who can trust a Maori's word?
They say that as soon as they are all paid, they intend to go up the river, only reserving the Putiki pah and the valuable country adjacent, and only come down here occasionally to fish and trade with us. But their notions of payment are so ridiculous, that I do not know how they are to be satisfied; and if they are now paid, I greatly fear that in consequence of the imperfect knowledge we have of the real owners, and from the crafty nature of the Maoris, in a few months the same disputes will arise, as fresh claimants start up to endeavour to screw something more out of the too easily yielding Pakia. 3
This will only be put an end to, by greatly and quickly increasing emigration, or by the presence of a military force, which may keep the Maoris in awe.
But at present I see no prospect of either of these arriving, so I intend to get out of it as soon as I can.
Yours, Dear-- --,
MISSIONARIES AND DEVILS.
WANGANUI, MARCH 30th, 1844.
I shall, no doubt, be accused by persons unacquainted with the subject (as those in England assuredly are) of prejudiced or interested views, when I state it as my belief, that the Missionaries have done very little, if any thing, towards the improvement either of the civil or moral condition of the Maoris.
That the cessation of wars and cannibalism may be attributed to the influence of the Missionaries, I will not entirely deny; but I think the former may also be traced to the fact, that at present almost all the Maoris have muskets, and as I believe them
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to be naturally a cowardly race, they are really afraid of being killed, as the keeping at a distance, and the time taken in loading, gives a man more leisure to reflect upon the chances of death, than the fierce rush and onset with tomahawks or clubs, the ancient weapons. I am also convinced, that both war and its attendant cannibalism would soon have ceased, on the occupation of the country by whites, although no Missionaries had been among them.
It will be urged, that the natives must be better than before, as they are nearly all Christians! Truly as far as the name, they are--but what else? I appeal to any one who knows anything of them, whether they are one jot more moral or more civilized than their neighbours, the Devils, as the unchristian natives are styled par excellence; whether in fact, you would not sooner, at any time, trust or believe a Devil rather than a Missionary? 4
Are the women more chaste? are the men more honest? is hospitality to strangers more exercised among the latter? I must answer, No. Are they not more lying, sneaking, and extortionate? Yes.
True, they have all the Testament by heart; and if you speak to one of them about something he has done wrong, he will certainly deny it, saying, it could not have been him, for he was a Convert, and will probably quote scripture to you.
Outwardly they are, to appearance, Christians, regular in their attendance to prayers and forms of worship; but why? because they are afraid to do otherwise, for fear, perhaps, they should be turned out of the pale of the Converts, or in some way incur the displeasure and censure of their minister, whom they hold in great awe--indeed, whose influence over them is unbounded, where any thing in matters of religion is concerned.
It will be said, if the ministers have such influence over them, how is it they are no better?
I think that the reason is, that many of them are quite satisfied if the Maoris say their prayers regularly, give them a piece of land, and keep it in order for them; if they do this, they give themselves little further trouble in the matter, while the really true ministers of the gospel (and there are many such now among them) are deceived by the show of devotion of the Maoris, and believe them to be the Christians they appear to be.
The influence the Missionaries have over the Maoris is easily accounted for, being only that which the civilized and lettered white has over the rude uncultivated savage, not traceable to any superior virtue or religious feeling, but simply to the fact of their being white men.
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Thus, a minister, fully understanding the Maori language, has always been able to do as he pleased with the natives (in religious matters); and for the same reason, so has a sawyer or whaler among the Devils; and, at the present time, there are so many persons acquainted with it, that it would not be difficult to name several (one in particular will immediately occur to you) who though belonging to neither of those classes, have obtained, from their intimate knowledge of the language, and practical acquaintance with the habits and customs of the natives, as much, or probably more, influence than any Missionary.
It is clear to me that the natives do not attach any great importance to the fact of being a Missionary, 5 or how can we account for the indifference with which they put it on or off, if I may so express it, as fancy, fashion, or anger dictate; yet is not this an every-day occurrence? Is a true belief in our Saviour, and all the wondrous mysteries of the gospel, to be laid aside in a fit of jealousy? or put on because a new blanket may be got by it?
As this paper may be seen by some who would feel but little delight in their perusal, I shall not enter into particular details, but I have no doubt many instances of what I have only faintly alluded to, will occur to your memory.
I will sum up by saying, that I think the whole system is wrong.
The ministers are, in many cases, a set of illiterate, narrow-minded men, who care little for the Maoris, but manage to make themselves snug; while the really pious and well meaning are so truly zealous in their exertions, that they try to make them better than man ever was yet, or will be; being good men themselves, they are apt to look with too favourable an eye on others, they only see the bright side, their habits of life preventing them from knowing that, which to us is well known.
The mere knowledge by rote of the Testament, and the abstaining from cooking on a Sunday can never, in my opinion, make a man a Christian; and as long as the present state of teaching the Maoris exists, they will be no better than they are. But let the system of education be revised; let schools for the diffusion of the English language be opened, that the mind of the native may be enlarged by the knowledge to be obtained from a study of geography, arithmetic, and, in fact, from all those books which convince a man how little he naturally knows --teach him to know that he is something better than a talking hog, and then, I believe, you will be able to make a Christian of him, and a gentleman.
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But I will tell you more of him when I write of himself. This letter was intended to treat only of the Missionaries.
SOIL, CLIMATE, AND PRODUCTS.
Wanganui, April 2, 1844.
Being but little acquainted with the qualities and distinctions of soils, I do not profess to give much information respecting them.
Along the sea coast, from the rocks at Paripari, there is a range of sand hills and swamps in breadth from half a mile to two or three miles, then you come to fern land, which is a sort of clay, but not what I have seen at home, being harder and drier; in fact, appearing to me more like a mineral clay than a vegetable one. I do not know whether there are these different kinds, but what I mean, is, that this is dry and full of iron, while that about London is soft and muddy. This appears to be what New Zealand was made of; the other to be a deposit after England was made. The only alluvial deposit I have noticed, is one of pumice stone on the banks of this river; but I am no geologist.
This clay, when covered with fern, does not seem to improve at all; the vegetable matter left by the decayed fern is but a poor light spongy stuff, which, I think, if the fern were taken off, would soon blow away.
But when you come to the grass district it improves greatly, giving you six to eight inches of very decent mould, which turns up well, and I should think will grow almost anything.
As you approach the bush, the mould becomes richer from the quantities of decayed leaves, trees, &c.
Such however is the extraordinary nature of the climate, that, for my part, I should not be at all particular about the quality of the soil, as I believe that by a little management, you might get a very good crop of wheat out of pumice stone or sand. P's garden gives a proof of the former, and G.'s, mine, and others of the latter.
So many instances of the wonderful growth of plants may be seen on referring to the New Zealand Journal, that I shall say no more about it.
Of the climate, I can speak with more certainty; it is indeed a beautiful one, and I do not suppose equalled in any part of the
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world. It is never too hot nor too cold, too wet nor too dry, nor too calm, yet sometimes too windy; but you are not obliged to live in the wind's eye. But I will give you the months as they come, and you shall judge for yourself.
January. This is the hottest and driest month of all; splendid harvest weather; there will be perhaps one to three heavy showers during the month; I have never known the thermometer (in the shade) above 76 deg.; I think the average may be taken at about 68 deg.
February is a degree or two cooler than January, with three to six showery days.
March. Scarcely any difference on the average, but one or two raw days; thermometer at 50 deg., usually 63 deg.
April. Much the same, but nights cooler, shut bedroom windows.
May and June. Both fine, rain however on the increase; thermometer 50 deg. to 55 deg.
July and August. More rain and slight frost at night; ice rarely a quarter of an inch thick; thermometer average about 52 deg.
September. Not so many wet days, but some very heavy rains; thermometer 55 deg.
October. Still some heavy showers, but less frequent; thermometer 60 deg.
November. Much the same; thermometer 62 deg.
December. Very fine, same as January; thermometer 65 deg.
There is really very little difference in the seasons; whether in summer or winter, a fine clear day is generally a warm one, thermometer 65 deg. to 75 deg., whereas on a wet day it will mostly be 50 deg. to 60 deg.; it is seldom at any season lower than that after nine o'clock in the morning; a frosty night, such as happens from May to September, is generally followed by a clear warm day; the frosts are just severe enough to kill tomatos and such tender plants, but not enough to destroy any of the common vegetables or flowers, most of which are just as abundant and grow as freely in winter as summer.
There is little occasion for any difference in clothing all the year round, and there are few days when, of an evening, if you are so inclined, you may not have a fire to sit by, or on the contrary few so cold that you cannot do without one; with me, at any time, a rainy day is one for a fire, when the rain is over, the fire goes out, and most likely two or three doors and windows left open.
At least seven months in the year there is very little danger in sleeping in the open air, only taking care to protect yourself from the heavy dew.
Windy weather is very prevalent; I hardly know which season
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to distinguish as the least windy, --at all times there are plenty of windy days; summer, or winter, or equinox makes no difference; I think however, if there is any distinction, summer is the most windy.
The west to north winds are the most usual; it will blow from this direction with more or less intensity for several days, sometimes being only a light air, and at others amounting to almost a gale, then a light south or south-east will spring up, and continue for three to eight days; during this time the weather is almost always fine, and this time is preferred by the Maoris for going to sea to fish, as the bar is smooth, and the breeze favourable for running in.
These winds, which may be called sea breezes, commence about 10 A.M. and generally subside towards evening; it very seldom blows during the night, only in stormy weather, which is not common here.
We have a real gale now and then, mostly from the southeast, and then indeed we have enough of it; still they are not nearly so bad as many I have witnessed at home, and altogether I do not consider that there is more wind at Wanganui, than on the coast of England; further inland the wind is less prevalent.
Between south-east to north we scarcely ever have the wind. Lightning is not unfrequent, but thunder is seldom heard. I have not seen any snow, and hail very seldom, no fogs. Meteors, or falling stars, are very abundant, and some exceedingly beautiful; I have seen many larger and brighter than the planets, leaving a train behind them like a rocket.
Earthquakes are frequent, but not often severe; the worst we had was on July 8th, 1843, when I wrote as follows:
"Saturday, calm and dull; about noon it rained smartly; about 1 P.M. a slight air seemed to come from the south, then suddenly a squall of wind and rain from the north west, this only lasted a short time, when a mist, such as I had never seen before, covered the river, this soon cleared off and the afternoon was fine.
About a quarter to five a shock of an earthquake alarmed us all; it commenced with a sudden wavy motion of the earth, accompanied with a dull rumbling noise, it seemed to proceed from Taranaki, it increased for about half a minute, then gradually subsided, lasting perhaps two minutes altogether. The vibration was so great that it was difficult to stand, everything seemed to be moving in some terrible manner, the houses rocked perceptibly, and continued to do so for some time, the springiness of the poles causing them to vibrate considerably out of the perpendicular, the earth seemed to be giving way; the sensation was
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most unpleasant, it seemed as if one's heart was shook out of its place; many turned quite sick.
Some persons on a hill declared that the whole valley below rose and fell like the sea; and this must be nearly the fact, as it is quite certain, that either the flat on this side or the other has been raised two or three feet, as parts of the town are now visible from Putiki which were not before. There were some rents about five feet wide and 200 or 300 long, made between high and low water mark in the river, but they did not appear to be deep, as they were nearly filled up with mud the next day, nor was any great commotion observed in the water, which suddenly ran some few feet up the bank and then subsided, many rotten trees and branches fell, and nearly all the clay houses and brick chimneys suffered damage, a large portion of the face of Shakespeare's cliff fell in.
Altogether I think this may be considered as a pretty smart shock, and had the buildings been numerous and built high, I have no doubt there would have been a great deal of damage and probably loss of life. Mr. L., who was in Trinidad when a severe one took place, says that he thinks this was quite as bad. The Maoris say they never heard of any worse, and only one so bad; but I sincerely hope never to feel such another. We felt slight shocks during the night, and for a day or two after.
We have had a few slight shocks since, but we are pretty well accustomed to them; the shaking is little more than that produced by the numerous vehicles in London.
Low rumbling noises, are frequently heard in the air, which I have no doubt are produced by the same cause.
The vegetable products of New Zealand are very numerous. I shall not attempt to enumerate them, but I believe there is timber suited for any purpose to which the already known woods are adapted, and there are some, such as the totara, kaikatoa, ake, &c, which, either in beauty of grain, or in some other property, far surpass many of those in general use.
The trees are nearly all evergreens, but appear to me to belong to entirely different genera to any we have at home; for though we speak of white and red pine, &c, this refers to the wood not to the tree, many bear beautiful blossoms, and most of them produce berries, which are eaten by the birds and natives, some of these are tolerable, but most are too strongly flavoured with resin or turpentine for me.
There are also many small shrubs bearing a sort of fruit; of these the purapura and tutu are the best; the latter bears a small black berry hanging in long pensile clusters; these are pressed
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by the Maoris, and the juice squeezed through an old mat, some sea-weed is added, and thus a most delicious thick drink is formed; I think you can speak of this from experience, so can I; the seeds however are poisonous.
There is a very delicious plant found in swampy woods, called keakea; the young leaves covering the blossom are eaten in the summer, and the fruit (pirori) is ripe in the winter; it is only abundant every three years, which indeed is the case with several other fruits.
The pitau, a species of fern tree, is also an article of food, and so is the root of the common fern.
The Maoris cultivate potatoes of many varieties (of these there are two principal crops in the year,) kumeras, maize, taro, various kinds of pumkins, and a green melon, and a small leek. We have endeavoured to introduce many other vegetables, but with little success, the Maoris generally asking you, what they shall get for them from the whites; and if they find there will be no chance of selling them, not taking any more trouble about them.
The animal kingdom is rather limited. The only indigenous quadruped is a small rat (kiouri), formerly very numerous and used as food by the Maoris, but now scarce, from the increase of the Norway rat (poawaiki), cats (ngeru), &c.
There are certainly four, and probably more kinds of lizards; they are very distinct, one is large, about two feet long, the others small, about six or seven inches; one is a most beautiful pale green; another thicker and stouter, variegated with brown, purple, green, &c.; the third very similar to the common L. agilis at home. There are many apparently well authenticated accounts of a larger kind having lately existed in the mountains, and I think it not improbable it may yet be discovered; I do not confound this with the tuniwa, which of course is fabulous, as is the mairo, or wild man of the woods.
The croaking frogs which Mr. Polack says he heard by thousands, were, I believe, produced from the lungs of the bittern; I have never met a native who had seen or heard them.
Of the birds the most remarkable is the kiwi; but this is becoming very scarce, being easily killed by dogs and cats.
The katapo is a bird not mentioned in any of the books. From the descriptions I have had from the Maoris, I think it must be something of the Gallinaceous order; it is said to be nearly as large as a turkey, but is evidently very scarce at present.
Moho is another large bird nearly if not quite extinct; it is
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very fat; the wings are too short to admit of its flying; it was plentiful here about five years ago.
Weika is a large bird about the size of a young hen pheasant; I think it is something of a rail; it is not uncommon, but very seldom seen feeding at night.
I have seen three other rails not mentioned in the books, one is very much like Bewick's spotted gallinule.
Quails like the European are not uncommon, but local.
Some bones of a very large bird have been found near Taranaki, by the Rev. Mr. Taylor; they probably belong to an emu, which is said to exist at present, in the middle island.
These, I think, are the only land birds not mentioned in the books, where many of those described, such as woodcocks, snipes, swallows, magpies, nightingales, &c, are only to be found.
I know of five species of anas, 6 one dab chick (podiceps minor), one whimbril, three tringa, one charadius himantopus, one oyster catcher, one bittern, one egret, three shags, or cormorants, smaller than at home. These are the principal water birds, but I cannot say any are very plentiful, certainly nothing like what one would expect to find in an almost uninhabited country.
The sea birds are numerous, but similar to those seen anywhere else.
The sea fish are plentiful and various, good, bad, and indifferent, (few of the first); but persons at home, when they read, as they invariably do in books of travels, of cod, salmon, turbot, makarel, &c, &c, are not aware but what the fish are really what they are represented to be; but this is not the case; in form or in colour they may slightly resemble their namesakes, but they are frequently of entirely different genera or species, and very few are to be compared to our fish; the most abundant, the kawai, which is sometimes called salmon, and sometimes mackerel, is inferior to the most indifferent sea fish ever brought to table in England; I can almost live on fish, but two or three kawai in a season are quite enough for me.
The hapuka, some flat fish, sea eels, and some others, are pretty good fish, but the good ones are seldom caught, the bad are the most abundant.
Of fresh-water fish, in lieu of eels only, as is stated by most writers who profess to give a true history of the country, I have the names of fourteen kinds; of these, I have seen twelve, and I have no doubt there are many others; two of these, the takeki and ngauri, resemble the smelt and whitebait; the first I believe
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to be precisely similar, even the cucumber smell is the same; there is also a small crawfish.
The insects are few and not peculiar. I have seen but two or three genera which are not met with in England; the common kinds scarcely differ from those at home, but the genera and species are much less numerous; for instance, I have met with only six species of butterflies, one sphinx, and very few moths; the coleoptera are very few, the cirambyces being the most abundant. The only ones which appear to be injurious are a locust rather larger than L. viridissima in England, and the larva of a moth (noctua); the former is destructive to the growing corn, and the latter is very abundant in gardens, feeding on the blossoms and fruit.
I have seen no snails and very few slugs.
APRIL 12th, 1844.
THE River Wanganui takes its rise from the other side of the mountain of Tongariro; at first it is but a small stream, running through an open country, but this part is very little known to Europeans, only one or two having been further up than Kaiatawa, which is about one hundred miles from here; at that place it is about sixty yards broad, and gradually increases, by the addition of numerous small tributaries, to 300 or 400, which is the average breadth here. Canoes can go up four days above Kaiatawa, this may probably be about forty miles. The whole length of the river, I should calculate to be 200 miles; its course is very indirect, winding continually in small reaches, many not a quarter of a mile in length, and few exceeding one mile. From Kaiatawa downwards, until you reach Te Rimu, where the influence of the tide affects it, it is a continued succession of rapids and pools; below Pitawa, seventy miles from here, I reckoned seventy-one rapids and shallows. On this side of Te Rimu there is plenty of water (two or three fathoms at least) until you approach the sea, where the accumulation of silt, and the influence of the wind and surf, cause the water to be much shallower, and the channel very narrow; in some few parts there is scarcely six feet at low water, which is about the depth on the bar; the tide rises ten feet, so there is plenty of water for any vessels we are likely to require here for many years to come.
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The formation of locks up the river, would certainly improve the means of inland communication, and the embanking the mouth would probably deepen the water on the bar; but I fear these necessary works are not likely to be undertaken for many years to come.
At spring tides during the dry weather, the salt water flows a little above the town, but at neaps and in wet months the water is fresh.
This being nearly the largest river on the coast, a great portion of the rain in the winter finds its way to the sea through its channel; this frequently causes heavy freshets, which bring down timber of every description in amazing quantities, furnishing us with abundance of fire wood, &c, on cheap and easy terms; one good freshet will bring enough to last a twelvemonth or more. During a freshet, though the tide rises, the current is downwards:
Notwithstanding these freshets, the country is not subject to floods, as the banks of the river are (above the town) many feet above the level; from the town to the sea the banks are low, but I do not think a rise of water to their height is of very common occurrence, as it would require to rise at least seven feet above the highest spring tide, to reach my house. Now, a freshet generally affects the river here only a few inches; the highest I have seen rose about twenty inches; all last winter none reached above the top of spring tide. The only flood of any consequence on record, happened about ten years ago, when all the district from the town to the sea was under water; but the chances of so many concurrent causes uniting at once, might not happen again for centuries. First there had been seven or eight days incessant rain--this is very unusual; next, it was the top of spring tides; and last a gale was blowing from the sea, causing a surf on the bar, which actually kept back the water--this is of very rare occurrence; so I think we have little to fear from the floods, as I am not aware that any of our kitchens and wine-cellars are below high water-mark. Up the river, where it is narrow and confined by precipitous banks, it frequently rises twenty or thirty feet, and on the above occasion it was about eighty feet higher than usual.
The country about Wanganui from the sea to the town, is mostly sand hills and low level patches of swampy land; these are nearly all dry during the summer, and at all times furnish good pasture for cattle, being covered with grass, tortoi, sow-thistle &c. Near the town the sand hills are covered with low fern; this, from the continual trampling of the cattle, and rooting of pigs, is gradually giving way to a grass, which seems to be a
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similar species to that which grows on commons in England, and springs up wherever the ground is much trod on, as pathways, old pahs, &c.
The town is situated on the left bank of the river, about three miles from the heads; the block contains 500 acres, besides reserves for walks, public buildings, &c; it is divided into quarter of an acre sections, of which each holder of a country order is entitled to one; but as there are only 270 sections, 7 the Company get 1730 for themselves, to bring into the market at that unknown time, when Wanganui land is worth purchasing.
The site is exceedingly well adapted for a town, being almost a perfect level, only two small ridges of hills, not exceeding twenty acres, which are reserved for public gardens, intervening. The height above the river is about twenty feet, at the lower part of the town, the bank slopes toward the water, affording great facility for landing goods, &c, &c. Further up, the banks are even with the rest of the land, there are several natural drains, which will be very available some day next century.
There is plenty of water opposite, the river being 360 yards wide, and from three to seven fathoms deep.
The buildings are nearly confined to the lower bank, or Taupo quay; there are a few good wooden houses (though they certainly look like barns with chimneys to them) belonging to the Gentry !!! and a church of the same description; the rest are either clay, or toitoi.
On the opposite bank, the land rises rather steeply to the height of perhaps 150 to 200 feet; this seems to be the level as far as the eye can reach, in an easterly direction; there are at all events no hills that way; it is however a good deal broken by gulleys, mostly leading to the Purua and Putiki valleys; the further you go, the more level it becomes, it is very good land and mostly covered with grass, the gulleys with timber, it is intersected by numerous rivulets, and within three miles of the town are several lakes, varying in size from 80 acres to half an acre; these furnish a constant supply of eels, and abundance of wild-fowl; the Maoris declare they will not sell them, and I hope they will adhere to that resolution as they would otherwise probably fall to the lot of some gentleman who preserves, and we, who have not the luck to have a lake or a creek, would be deprived of our ducks. The land in this district appears to be well suited to every description of agricultural purpose, and may be considered as valuable as any in the colony.
As you ascend the river the country is more hilly; there are
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however several fine flats, of soil superior to what is usually found, with some excellent wood, and streams suitable for erecting mills upon; the hills are thickly wooded; on the banks there is a deposit of pumice stone, in some parts twelve feet deep, but it does not extend more than a few chains from the river, it is covered with thick fern.
Beyond Kaiwaike, the limit of the Company's land, the country is not very inviting for English settlers, being scarcely any thing but steep hills, varying in height from 300 to more than 1000 feet, and all covered with timber; there are however, all the way to Kaiatawa, occasional patches of flat land of the richest description, but they are too small to be of much use, many of them are splendid situations for a country residence; they are all occupied by the Maoris.
Further up, the country is represented to become open; large planes extending in all directions, and probably reaching as far as the east coast; here are also the celebrated hot springs of Taupo, Roturoa, &c. The magnificent mountain of Tongariro, rising ten or twelve thousand feet, forms one of the principal objects in this scene; this mountain is volcanic, but only gives out a little smoke, or more probably steam at present; his brother Taranaki, who quarrelled with him formerly about his wife Pianga, and shifted his quarters in consequence, most probably put his own pipe out then, as he is quite quiet now. 8 Towards the east, are the Tararua, and Rua Wahina ranges; these are high mountains extending from the interior down towards Wellington • they are capped with snow, but the timber reaches nearly to the top.
On the west side, there is a ridge of hills, about fifteen miles distant, which bound the view in that direction; I am not aware that any one has been over them, but from the appearance of the country as seen from the east, I have no doubt it is an open district, extending right away to Nga Motu, or Taranaki.
The quantity of land under cultivation at Wanganui, does not exceed sixty or seventy acres; for although we have been here more than three years, we have yet no title; the Maoris are still the owners of the soil, and they are such hard landlords, that few have ventured to become their tenants, and even those few are daily expecting notice to quit. Ewaka says, Mr. Bell's farm will make a capital kumera ground. The produce has been generally satisfactory, but people are in too great haste to get a crop, and do not sufficiently work the land beforehand; the consequence has frequently been, that the quantity reaped
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has not amounted to the seed sown; but under good management, there is no doubt the returns will be ample.
Cattle thrive amazingly, sheep promise well, and all kind of poultry &c. increase to a wonderful extent; there is no trouble in rearing the last, they promise soon to overspread the country, and I think it not improbable, that cattle will at no distant time, become wild, several have been away from here so far, that the owners had great difficulty in finding them; rabbits, will be turned out in a month or two, and no doubt will do well; two or three miles from the town, there are lots of bush pigs for any one who likes to be at the trouble of catching them; many persons however, say that good pigs are to be got, without going nearly so far for them; and of this I have no doubt, as I lost three very fine ones, about a month ago.
MAY 1st, 1844.
The number of natives on this river, may be reckoned at nearly 4000; Mr. Taylor, in May 1843, estimated them at 3243; at least, he obtained the names of that number; but I think he is below the mark, as it must be very difficult to get the exact account of all, and he has the male adults alone, at 1503. Now, as very few are without one, and many have two or three wives, and children appear tolerably plentiful, I think 4000, will be a low calculation.
This does not include the inland districts, Taupo, &c., but merely the Wanganui river.
They are of various tribes; but still in many ways connected with each other, and with other large tribes along the straits, and in the interior, with Rauperaha's tribe or Ngati Raukawa, they are less allied than with any other, and hold him as their worst enemy.
The greater number are Missionaries, 9 and many are baptized; to me, nothing can be more ridiculous, than the manner in which their new christian names are given them; thus, instead of reserving their own names, with the addition of a modern distinctive one, they are mostly confined to the surnames of the minister, tacked on to an extraordinary mixture of letters intended to represent some old Jewish name from the bible,
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thus we have Horomona Harawera, 10 Nahanarha Rewira; 11 Hakeraiha Wiremu. 12 The few modern names they have taken, are equally ridiculous, being principally, King George, Governor Albert, Bishop Selwyn, or some other connected with either the church or the government. Though to some this may appear a matter of little import, I cannot help thinking it is of great consequence, as being the probable means, of causing these people to forget their ancestry, and thus take from them one great incentive to noble actions.
Many of these Missionaries are not very particular in obeying the precepts, though all know the words of the Book. Polygamy is still not uncommon, the principal chief at Putiki has three wives, all Missionaries.
I will just sum up all about their religion, by saying, that they are not capable of knowing what is meant by it, with their present imperfect knowledge; they can read it, it is true, but that they understand what they read, I totally deny; they do not even understand the language it is written in, for all such words, as honour, glory, repentance, &c. they have no corresponding word in their language, their notions do not reach so high, their ideas are not sufficiently refined. Ask them what these words mean, and they cannot tell you; all the answer is, that it is a Missionary word, just as okiha is an ox, and pokiha a fox. But as the late Mr. Mason said, they perfectly understand the doctrine of the Trinity, though he allowed their notions of meum and tuum were not very clear, I suppose my judgment will not have much influence. That they can he made Christians, I believe, and that they may, I truly hope; but as long as the present system lasts, I am certain they never will.
Much has been said, and written, of the decrease of the native population, where the white man has come in contact with him; I am not inclined to think that has taken place here, nor even generally in the island. I cannot think that at any time, the population was very large, and if we consider the numerous wars, which were continually occurring, by which whole tribes were exterminated, we need not be surprised at it.
The frequent recourse by the women to means for producing abortion, must be a very principal reason for the scantiness of the population. This cause, I regret to say, is still in existence, and is certainly, not sufficiently condemned by those who should prevent it; although soidisant marriages with white men and Maori women are common, yet half caste children are few in proportion; and I believe principally from this cause.
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As regards natural deaths, I am inclined to think, and I found my opinion from conversation with the Maoris themselves, that they are much fewer now than formerly--a few timely doses of medicine, which is never refused, have, I am certain, saved many a life; and if they could only be induced to keep themselves clean, and not sweat themselves to death, in their filthy and abominable hot-houses, there is no doubt there would be less sickness than now.
I am of opinion, that as regards diminution of numbers, or any other evil influence, they have not suffered at all by their communication with us; it is a farce to talk of corruption of morals, when there were none to corrupt; who ever heard of a virtuous girl, between ten years old and marriage, and then only because she knew the penalty for being false to her lord? Even the very whalers, who have been denounced as everything that was vile, have helped to improve, rather than deteriorate the character of the Maori. I appeal to any one who has been in the neighbourhood of the old whaling stations, whether the Maoris there are not very far advanced before the rest, and whether the women who are living with some of the resident whalers, 13 are not far superior to those living with the Maoris, either in manners, habits, and appearance. Drunkenness has had no evil example to them, as they seem to have a natural antipathy to spirituous liquors, and wines were little known before we came. Only one of our diseases of any severity, has yet been introduced among them, and that seems in a great measure to have lost its pernicious influence here, it is seldom very severe, yields to native remedies, and is not very common among them. 14
Their pahs are situated on any available part of the bank of the river; there are settlements varying in size from two or three houses to large villages; almost all the way up, the houses are of the most wretched description, being merely a few poles, supporting a roof, and all covered with rushes or grass of a peculiar kind; the height of the walls are about four feet, to the top of the roof about six, size ten by six; there are generally much better houses in the town, but they seldom live in them, preferring the warmth, (and smell I suppose) of the smaller.
They fancy some of these places are almost impregnable, and wonder if white men could take them, poor fellows!
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They have large cultivations of potatoes, &c. in the neighbourhood of the pahs, and breed a great quantity of pigs; at any place of any size, they have an eel dam, nearly across the river; the baskets are exactly like those in England: during the freshets, they take great quantities of fish, of various descriptions, these, with pigeons, parrots, &c. constitute great part of their food during the winter, when very few come down here, except on a sacrament day, or to a great feast; in the summer most of them are down here for about three months, to fish, when the quantity they take is very great; what they do not require for present consumption, they dry in the sun.
They are extremely filthy in their persons and habits, they seldom wash themselves, and will wear a shirt until it is worn out, they seem to have no pride whatever in making themselves decent, and are not the least improved in personal appearance, or cleanliness, since our arrival, although great pains have frequently been taken to instruct some of the youths in our ways, by having them in the house, and treating them in every respect as one of the family, yet this has never met with success, they have soon returned to live among the Maoris, preferring an idle life of independence, to one where there is the least show of constraint; and unless they are made sensible of their present degraded state, of which they are now unconscious, I see no chance of their improvement; indeed, they are just as fully convinced of their own superiority over us, except as regards the arts, as we are over them, and in many things will not give up their own opinions for a white man's.
I am certain that they are quite capable of civilization; their intellects are not at all inferior to ours, all they require is sufficient inducement; their wants are now easily supplied, and they will not work to better their condition, as long as they do not wish to better it; what the most proper means may be to induce them to reform, I cannot clearly say; but I think the quickest means would be, to endeavour by every means, to teach them to speak and read English; this would naturally create a desire for knowledge, and of course for improvement; it is absurd to talk about preserving the purity of their language, --of what use is it; even now the language is so garbled by the introduction of Maori English, that a person of the last century would not know it; and this process is going on so rapidly, that in a few years, it will be the oddest lingo in the world. At present the Missionaries seem to be afraid the Maoris should be contaminated by the knowledge of the English language; and so they will if they are not taught properly, as what they do pick up now, is not of the most classic description, but such as is usually
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heard from sawyers, sailors, &c.; few persons of a better description ever speaking anything to them but bad Maori, even the boys living in the house of the white Missionary scarcely know a word of English; there is however among the younger persons a general wish to learn it.
They are mostly of a lively disposition, and very fond of ridicule; a Maori is never at a loss for an answer, or repartee; though these are frequently not of the most decent description; they find nicknames for any one, where the slightest opportunity offers; they are very prone to exaggeration, and any little occurrence is magnified by them into a matter of importance. The capsizing of a canoe at sea, for instance, will cause (in words) the death of at least three or four men; quarrels are not common among them, and they generally end in words, the ladies as usual, having most of the talk; in their dealing, they are not at all scrupulous, and I believe, would beat any Jew hollow, and frequently after concluding a bargain, for a pig, for instance, will return in an hour or two, and bring the payment back, forcibly taking the pig away, and throw your blanket to you, saying the payment is not sufficient, or that the pig belonged to another person, who is not satisfied. In buying potatoes, you must be very careful, for if your back is turned they will often manage to get two or three baskets back into the canoe, yet in no case have we any redress, as the magistrates have neither the authority, power, or will, to interfere; though if a white man offends a Maori, they make him pay for it.
The friendship of a Maori should be guarded against, as much as possible; it is the most expensive in the world; they are for ever begging, they are never satisfied; they tax everything you have, from tobacco and fishhooks to blankets and guns; it is true that great promises are always made, of the handsome returns you are to get, in pigs or mats, but I should say that for all that is got in this way, at least ten times the value is given; but you know even better than I do, the value of Maori friendship; my advice is, if you choose to give, give, but expect no return; should you get any, so much the better, but reckon on none; never pay beforehand; but the best way of all, is to keep them at a distance, and I am certain they respect you the more, and treat you the better for it; this I know from my own experience, having tried both ways.
Their amusements are not very varied, and some of these are falling into disuse; the haka is among the latter, and certainly, the sooner it is forgotten, the better for the morals of the people; their songs are not much better; and though we have been told so much of the love of poetry, music, &c. in the lying books,
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I must say there is little of either in the Maori songs, and the sense is anything but akin to one or the other. They have a very favourite game, played by moving the fingers, with a peculiar muscular action, but I have never met a white man who could explain it. They are expert at draughts, and will beat a very good player; at cards their only game, is beat my neighbour, which is played in a way of their own, with any odd cards they can get. They do not gamble or play for stakes; they are good swimmers, and wrestlers, but not fast runners nor good jumpers.
The men are mostly well made, strong and active; many with fine, open, intelligent, handsome countenances, they are very little darker than an Italian, though the dirt with which their faces are generally covered, makes them appear darker than what they are; it is not true, that they have neither beard nor mustaches, though they frequently pull out the hair from their faces; but now whiskers are becoming more fashionable; their hair is almost always black, long and glossy; in a few however, it is rather frizly; I have never met any of the very dark Maoris we read of, though there may be such.
The women are very inferior in personal appearance to the men, they are much below the average height; and from the constant hard labour, to which they are exposed, from early youth, they lose much of their natural grace of figure; from carrying heavy loads of potatoes, &c. they contract a stooping gait, and their ancles become thick and clumsy; their faces are often pleasing, but very seldom pretty; a really handsome woman I never saw. I think however, that as they become more civilized, they will greatly improve in appearance, as the children are many of them very good looking, and it is owing to the severe life they lead, that they do not remain so. I am the more inclined to this opinion, from having observed, that those girls who have lived from an early age with white men, are generally better looking, and certainly fairer than the rest, which may, I think be attributed, to the absence of laborious occupations, and the easier life they lead; I believe the constant use of soap has improved their complexions; at all events, a girl who uses soap daily, has a much clearer skin, than one who anoints herself with oil and red ochre. The old women are the most filthy objects that can be imagined, Macbeth's witches are beauties compared to them; but four years in a colony strengthens one's nerves, and leads one to look upon as trifles, scenes which in England would have caused one to faint.
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PAST AND PRESENT POSITION.
MAY 20th, 1844.
I have little to add in the way of information to what I have written in my former letters. I shall, therefore, conclude by giving a short account of our past and present position, with a few notions of our future expectations.
On our first arrival here, our hopes were buoyed up by the idea that we should obtain our land directly--money was plentiful, experience (in colonial matters, at least) was wanting; we were really and truly green, even those among us who knew something of worldly matters at home, soon found we had much to learn. It is not, therefore, at all surprising, that many should have been brought to the verge of ruin by the examples they met on every side; some, but I think they were previously so inclined, have become little better than complete vagabonds; but to others, I hope the rememberance of their folly will be of the greatest service, and they will, hereafter, think of New Zealand as the school in which they learnt in the shortest time, and, perhaps, at a cheaper rate, more knowledge of mankind, than would have been gained at home in years, --may they profit by that knowledge.
At that time, Wanganui promised to be soon a flourishing place, but still not many persons came here, it had much to contend with in the envy of the Wellington people, who feared that when its merits became known, it would draw all the agriculturists from that place; then, just as people began to think of coming here, the land question became a subject of interest, and every one talked of waiting until that was settled. We have remained in this position up to the present time--the daily talk being, "only wait till the Land Question is settled, and then Wanganui must go a-head."
The question is now settled; at least, so says Mr. Spain. On Thursday last he gave his decision, after several days passed in talking to the Maoris, and trying all means to induce them to come to terms; he told them, after enumerating the different clauses of the sale, respecting the quantity of land reserves, &c, that he now offered them. £1000 in money, in full payment for the land surveyed by the whites, that if they preferred goods, the money should be laid out to the best advantage for them-- to both these offers, the chief Maori (Mawai) answered, No.
Mr. Spain then declared his regret at this refusal, and told them that it would not prevent the land going to the whites, that he and their protector Mr. Clark, bad agreed that the land must be sold, and the payment was sufficient, and that we were to have the land.
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Thus we stand at present; 15 and after four years of anxious expectation of quiet and easy possession of land, which we were told the Maoris would be almost too glad to give us, we now find that they will not sell, but that notwithstanding their refusal, we are, nevertheless, to have it--but how? that they will not give it up quietly, is certain; that possession on sufferance, which may likely be obtained, is worse than none; the only thing that remains is the employment of force and military protection. But who ever anticipated this, and who will wait for it, if by any means he can get away?--I fear that our future prospects are not very cheering, --granted however, that quiet and undisturbed possession is, at last, obtained, what will be our chances for the future? To this I answer, that if a man expects to make a large or rapid fortune, New Zealand is not the place to do it in. I believe the only article of commerce, of any importance, which may be made to compete with the productions of any other country, is the flax; and without a large export of some kind, we cannot expect to make large fortunes: but if a man is satisfied with the necessaries or comforts, and does not much aspire to the luxuries of this life, and looks forward to the prosperity of his children rather than to his own, by assiduity and perseverance, there is little doubt he will become independent, and his descendants possibly rich, but he must make this his country and leave old England for ever. But if a man has no notion of toiling like a slave that his children may be idle, and is equally content with such necessaries and comforts, he may as well stay at home; he will, at all events, have one great advantage over the colonist, that is, good society, which is at a great premium here.
So we continue to vegetate; how it is we are not killed with ennui, I cannot imagine--for a duller life than ours at present cannot be conceived; but I must say I never in my life found time hang so lightly on my hand, or was less free from care, blue devils, or sickness, than since I have been here--the days pass so quickly that you can scarcely believe that Sunday is come again, few can say with certainty what day of the week it is, and yet you do nothing--walk a few times up the beach, smoke a pipe or two, chat with a few Maoris, kill a pig, and the day is done.
Fortunately for us, living is cheap enough, or many of us never could have stood it so long; but I never heard of any one starving in New Zealand, and in Wanganui in particular;
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those who have got any money left, may live here tolerably well for a place like this--and if you have a good house over your head, you may be pretty comfortable, but you must be content with your own society or that of the Maoris, for there is scarcely any one else in the place to speak to, our set being very small here. I subjoin a list of the prices of a few articles, so that you may form some notice of our household expenses.
Beef, one ox killed last week, very fine, per lb. 8d.
Mutton, 1 sheep a week, per lb. 6d.
Pork, staple article, and very excellent in quality, not so rich as English pork, but far preferable for constant consumption. Pigs daily brought in by the Maoris, and for some months past sold alive at less than 1d. per lb., bought by the carcase from the whites, at 1 1/2 d., and retailed at 3d.
Poultry scarcely saleable at any price, and pigeons, ducks, &c, if you like to be at the trouble of shooting them.
Butter, fresh, per lb. 1s,
Cheese, per lb. 9d.
Fish, 3 to 8 lbs., fish-hooks, pipes, or tobacco.
Potatoes, per ton, about 12s. in trade.
Flour, per ton.. £20 to £25.
Sugar, good, (per bag, of 1 cwt.) per lb. 2d, to 3d.
Rice, do. do. per lb. 1 1/2 d.
All kinds of vegetables in our own or other people's gardens.
Most kinds of spirits and wines much cheaper than in England, but seldom quite as good.
Beer dear, but we shall soon supply ourselves.
Joe and his wife, per annum, £40, but I have no doubt many would gladly come for less.
Daily wages nominal, paid generally in trade, the golden age is past.
Maori work, such as fencing, digging, thatching, &c. reasonable enough, if you can get them to work, generally by contract, a shirt or blanket, or so much tobacco for the job.
Fire-wood as much as you like to go for, but dear if bought by the Maoris--a canoe's load being about 2s. Talking of canoes, I forgot in my letter about the natives, to say that from Pitawa to Putiki, the number of canoes of every description was nearly 700.
I remain, Yours,
YOU have asked my opinion on several subjects relative to New Zealand, and I will endeavour, as far as a three years' residence will allow me, to give it you.
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In the first place comes, I think, the "mighty bugbear, the Land Question, and the general conduct of the New Zealand Company to the settlers." I purchased my land in October, 1840, and left England the following January. On my arrival at Port Nicholson, I found, to my great surprise, that my land was to be chosen here, 120 miles from where myself and goods were landed; this, I confess, much surprised me, especially when I found that I was to get there the best way I could. I, with several others in the same predicament, waited on Col. Wakefield to know what was to be done, when we were very coolly informed, that when the land was surveyed, he would communicate with us! We had paid our money in England for land, for which at that time not a stick of tobacco had been given by the Company, and which had not been surveyed when we arrived. A sort of payment was made, which ended in a regular scramble amongst the natives, the real owners I believe getting the least portion. Of course, the natives would not yield possession, when the survey was completed; and in this wretched state has the Land Question remained here to the present day. The consequence has been, that, with the exception of that of some half dozen, who have paid the natives from their own pockets, the capital brought out, has been expended in maintaining ourselves, living in daily hope of the "Land Question being settled,"--a time which I think will be remembered by all to the end of their lives.
And what has been the fate of those who paid the natives to allow them to cultivate some small portions of their sections; they have lived in constant trouble and annoyance--their cattle maimed by the natives--their houses constantly full of men, women, and children--who, if told to go out, will tell you it is not your house, and, perhaps, threaten to turn you out! Who would live such a dog's-life as this? When a man buys land, he does not expect that he will have to risk his life to gain possession of it; to have his house, his fire-side occupied by a set of filthy, dirty, thieving savages, whenever they choose to walk in. The Missionaries have, in some instances, been of use, in partially converting the natives; but, in many instances, the name is used as a cloak to their vice; a native who has stolen any thing, will say, "it was not I, I am a Missionary," and imagine that you think him, or rather ought to think him, above suspicion on that account! The character of the New Zealander has been far too highly spoken of in all the works that I have read.
The climate of New Zealand is beautiful in the extreme, and evidently suited to European constitutions; the winters much
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about the temperature of our autumn, and the summers warm, without being oppressive. The land, is upon the average, I think, good; the expense of clearing, ranging from 25s. to £20 per acre. The town of Wanganui is, I think, well chosen; and should the place ever "go a-head," will have a very pretty appearance. The river is a noble stream, and with a little expense and trouble, a vessel of 200 tons could come up abreast of the town. A steamer would be a capital speculation on this coast, and I am much surprised, that in the present depressed state of affairs at Sydney, we have not, ere this, had one from there. Port Nicholson is a place I dislike very much, from the prevalence of S. E. and N. W. gales, which blow there, I really think, ten months out of the twelve. The harbour, certainly, deserves the character given of it, and from that, Wellington will always flourish to a certain extent, totally independent of the agricultural portion of the colony.
Mr. Spain's visit here, has ended in disappointment and vexation --disappointment to the settlers from the non-settlement of the Land Question as regards possession, and vexation to Mr. Spain, in having been duped by the Maoris. The question now seems to be capable of settlement only by recourse to an armed force. The cause of their not accepting the payment offered, I attribute to their imagining that by holding out they will get more, not to any "amor patriae," to which some, perhaps, who set by their fire-sides at home, and imagine the natives a harmless, inoffensive, honest race, may be pleased to attribute it. Mr. Spain has declared the land to be the property of the white man--how possession will be obtained, or when, time will show.
The system of teaching the natives, and of giving them Bibles and Prayer-books in their own language is radically bad; the attempt to turn a jargon, like the Maori, into a pure language, by the Missionaries, is a decided failure, and the words they have had to coin, are ludicrous samples of language making, very few Maoris understand it; and thus in the translation of the interpreters, who use the Missionary Maori, the real meaning is often not at all, and, at best, but imperfectly conveyed-- sed sat est. I know you will be angry with me for bringing this to so speedy a conclusion; but when we meet in dear old England, which, if life be spared, we will, I will yarn to your heart's content
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WANGANUI, JANUARY, 1842.
MY DEAR ----
IN accordance with your request, I proceed to give you, in writing, my opinion of the proceedings of the Missionaries in this country,
I must premise, that I arrived here in August 1839, fully prepared to second, to the best of my power, the efforts of the Missionaries, had I become convinced that those efforts were calculated to improve the condition of the native population, and prepare them for an amalgamation with the European colonists, equally advantageous to both races.
My first impressions of the effect of their proceedings on the natives were certainly favourable. We found the new Mihanere, or converts, in Queen Charlotte's Sound, able to read and write with considerable fluency in their own language, regular in attendance at school and prayers, and strict in the observance of all the forms, at least, of the Christian religion. In every other part of Cook's Straits where the new faith has spread, the rule, so far, held good; but a few months' sojourn in different parts of the coast taught us to remark that it was indeed the forms alone that they observed, and that in all the moral virtues which it is the principal object of the Christian faith to inculcate, they were by no means superior to those natives who remained firm to their ancient rites. I soon learned to compare the converts to a race of Jesuits, or rather Pharisees: --as they carried the observance of forms to an unreasonable and even ridiculous degree, (introduced new forms which they declared to be part of the Divine Law); refrained from useful labour and innocent recreation, for the purpose of pouring over their books as an imperious duty; and referred every, even the commonest every-day occurrence, to the New Testament, while at the same time they made no scruple of thieving, lying, and commiting other crimes, from the guilt of which they defended themselves on the plea that as they were Mihanere, it was not possible that they could have transgressed the laws of our Saviour.
A few instances will best explain these points in the character which the natives uniformly acquired as they became Mihanere.
At Port Nicholson, in September 1839, during the sale of that district by the natives, I frequently heard the head chief Warepori, remark that "the Mihanere made him sick, for instead of working at their plantations or canoes, or going out to fish, they were deafening his ears with their long prayers three times in every day, and three times in every night, while they spent the intervening time in practising either hymns or catechism."
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While walking one Sunday from Waitotara to this place, I offered the natives who were carrying my things, some potatoes and other food which I had had cooked on purpose on the Saturday night. They were Mihanere; and refused, alleging that "if they touched food on Sunday, before the sun had reached the meridian, they would surely suffer under the anger of our Saviour." No remonstrance could drive this chimera out of their heads, as, they said, the white Missionaries had commanded them to follow their present course.
At Te Kau arapana, twenty miles up this river, in April 1840, I was strongly condemned by a Mihanere orator for the heinous crime of smoking tobacco in a pipe, which he stated to be a transgression, of the Divine Law, as expounded by the white Missionaries!!
I need hardly bring to your recollection, Emare, the chief of Operiki, who cannot sell a pig, or fill a pipe of tobacco, without quoting the New Testament and our Saviour's name, although he is one of the greatest rascals that inhabit the banks of the river. About a year ago on missing some small articles out of a cargo which his people had been assisting me to land here, I went to him and desired him to procure their restitution. He strenuously denied the possibility of any of his tribe, who were all Mihanere, being the thief, as they could not, he said, have transgressed our Lord's commandment. On threatening him, however, with the anger of a more powerful chief whom he knew to be able and willing to protect me, two of his people made great haste to find the missing things, and laid them inside my door within ten minutes.
I considered, however, that these evils arose from omissions rather than errors, in the way of teaching pursued by the Missionaries. I am sorry to have to add, that a little further observation displayed their proceedings in a less pardonable light, and proved that some of them could only have arisen from the very worst of motives.
The Mihanere soon learnt to apply that name to themselves as well as their white instructors, while they distinguished the unconverted natives, together with all white people unconnected with the missions, by the charitable epithets of Rewera and Hurai, or "Devil," and "Judah or Jew." They soon learnt to bear suspicion, and even hatred, to anyone coming to buy their land, and especially to any one connected with the New Zealand Company. While travelling up from Port Nicholson towards Taranaki, in March and April 1840, with no intention of buying land, I was received with hardly common charity at the Mihanere pahs or villages, until I had defended myself from the grievous
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charges which, they said, the preaching of the Church Mission, had induced them to bring against me: these were chiefly, that I intended to come with white people and seize upon their land; and that -----was a Pikapo, or Roman Catholic, and therefore certain to cut all their throats and drive them to the mountains! Upon explaining to them the falsehood and absurdity of these statements, I was admitted to a share of the hospitality which is so universal and admirable a part of the primitive native custom. I need not add that at all the "Devil" pahs, I enjoyed this, untainted by the unwillingness to grant it at first. It was not in a solitary instance that I experienced this unwillingness, but invariably at every Mihanere settlement: and equally invariable was the reference, on close inquiry, to the white Missionaries as their authority for these wicked statements.
You may be led to wonder at the fact that the white Missionaries should so easily acquire sufficient influence over the minds of the natives as to make them believe these absurd stories: but it is to be remembered what childish minds they possess, and how ready they are at all times to receive and propagate with exaggeration the most foolish reports: and I have also been told by many that "they did not like Mr. * * *, who turned them out of his tent and was a pakeha riri, or angry white man, but that he had Jesus Christ in his mouth, and threatened them with his vengeance should they not do his (Mr. * * *) bidding."
It soon became evident that the Missionaries themselves had some object in this mean and disgraceful opposition: for although Port Nicholson, and the adjacent districts have been colonized by a body of persons who carried out the most philanthropic intentions of all those who have formed themselves into societies in London, for the purpose of protecting the aborigines; although the reserves for the natives, in the Company's territory at least, were most ample and most strictly observed; and although the natives of the whole neighbourhood soon became aware how great an advantage they had acquired, not only from the immense value conferred on the portion reserved for them of that land which was before not worth a groat, but also from the creation of the civilized wants which were supplied as soon as they arose, the opposition still continued from the same quarter, and is even at this day, in some places, kept up with unabated energy.
It is about a year ago, that the inhabitants of Wellington invited the natives to join in the public rejoicings held on the anniversary of the landing of the first settlers. A prize was provided for a canoe race, and a feast prepared for all the natives of the district, who were begged to amuse the white people with
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a war-dance. Nothing could be more harmless or better calculated to keep up a friendly feeling between whites and natives; yet Mr. -----, a Wesleyan missionary, who had been sent down from Hokianga soon after the formation of the white settlement, dissuaded the natives from taking any part in these public sports; and, as I have been told, by means of the most impious threats of the anger of God, should they venture to do so. At any rate, some very strong and unusual argument must have been made use of, for all those who called themselves converts, remained shut up in their pahs the whole of the day.
I need hardly quote to you the almost open misconduct of Mr. -----, the Church Missionary here, who has induced the natives to refuse the settlers possession of the land which was bought for them, and whose illicit doings will, I imagine, immediately call for some marked and public expression of disapproval from the assembled inhabitants of this place.
There can be no doubt, but that their whole object has been to obtain land for themselves, and to overthrow all those who might become their rivals in the work. I am led to this conclusion by proofs too numerous to be related, but too convincing to be doubted. I can only refer you to some which have become official papers. On referring to the "Correspondence relative to New Zealand," printed by order of the House of Commons, in May 1841, at pages 129, 142, and 143, you will find very strong evidence of Mr. -----'s land-sharking propensities, and of the reasons which induced him to calumniate his rivals in buying land.
The Mr. ----- mentioned above, had just before the affair I have described, laid claim to sixty acres in the best part of the town of Wellington, on behalf of the Wesleyan mission.
In order to support all these views, they have uniformly refused to instruct the natives in the English language, or even to print in their own anything but the New, and some few parts of the Old Testament, together with a few hymns and the catechism. They doubtless feared that the too easy communication between the white people and the natives would tend to weaken their exclusive influence, and to remove the delusions under which they strove to keep the minds of the latter.
I cannot conclude better than by comparing the present condition, moral and physical, of the converted and unconverted natives.
The former are, almost invariably, suspicious of every white man not a Missionary, uncourteous and overbearing in their dealings with us, treacherous as to fulfilling contracts by which they have ceded their lands on any former occasion; and devoid
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of any of that obedience and submission to their head chiefs which used to prove so useful in the intercourse between the white man and the native. Generally speaking, they are distinguished from the unconverted natives as rogues, thieves, and liars; and there is not a white man (not a Missionary) travelling about the country, but will spend the night at a "Devil," in preference to a "Missionary" pah. This character applies equally to those in the immediate neighbourhood of white settlements, and those who see few white men but their Missionary tyrants.
The "Devil" native, as he is charitably called, presents a pleasing contrast to the above. Frank and straightforward in his intercourse with civilized man, obliging and fair in his dealings, hospitable and desirous of friendship and civilization, the unconverted natives still maintain respect and subordination to their head chiefs; who, uncorrupted by the disgraceful instructions of the Missionaries, are always ready to influence their followers to treat the white man in good part. They have need of no commandments to keep them from stealing, as this seems with them a natural point of honour; and the few native chiefs whose pride and dignity will not allow them to fall back from a bargain for land which they have once executed, are almost without exception unconverted natives. I cannot cite a better example than the Ngatipehi tribe, who inhabit the shores of Lake Taupo in the interior of this island. They are almost all "Devils," and you must have observed, how free they were from the begging and stealing vices of the so-called converts, how ready to oblige, and how courteous and frank in their whole behaviour, not only during our recent visit to their own country, but during their passage through this settlement on a war expedition last year.
In comparing the two classes, I have of course laid down the general rule, and will not deny but that many exceptions may be found among both.
I can only conclude with my strong and sincere opinion, that unless the Missionary system is thoroughly reformed, and the Missionaries superintended by some person of tried integrity and disinterested character, while the teaching is so arranged as to combine the English language, and a knowledge of the arts of civilization, with the Christian religion, some disagreements will arise which may lead to serious consequences; and, if so, the guilt of those consequences will undoubtedly be on the heads of those men who were sent here by the people of England for far different purposes. I remain, my dear--
Very sincerely, yours,
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WANGANUI, MAY 10th, 1844.
In compliance with your request to furnish you with a few remarks upon the present state of New Zealand, particularly Wanganui, I will commence, by stating that I landed at Wellington, in February, 1842.
Wellington from the sea has a very pretty appearance. The foreground of the picture is occupied by the ships in the harbour, and the several boats passing to and from the shore, then comes the long line of shops and stores on the beach, further off are several houses and cottages scattered about in picturesque irregularities, backed by the wooded heights of the Tinakori range. Looking towards the north or up the harbour, the smoke of Pitoni is seen rising at the commencement of the valley of the Hutt, with ranges of hills on each side, beyond which is seen the still more lofty mountains behind Waikanai, called the Tararua range. The second time I visited Wellington it was greatly improved; the fire in November, 1843, had swept away many of those temporary Maori buildings, usually built by the first settlers, their places were filled with neat weather board or brick buildings.
The road from Wellington to Wanganui, after passing along the rich wooded valley leading to Porrirua harbour, proceeds from thence, over a range of high land, to the shores of Cook's Straits, at Pukarua, and thence along the beach for the remainder of the distance (111 miles in all.)
The first sight of Wanganui, as you come from the south and arrive at its bank, two and a quarter miles from its entrance, presents to the view a fine river at your feet 660 yards wide. One mile and a half further up, on the opposite bank, is situated the town, on a large flat with two ranges of small hills upon it, which approach to within 200 yards of the river. Between the ends of these hills and the river's bank, the principal part of the inhabitants reside. The river opposite the town is 260 yards wide. From the high ground opposite the town a view of the country for many miles round can be obtained. To the south and southwest the sea forms the horizon. To the westward the Waitotara point stretches out into the sea, at about twenty miles distant, forming one boundary of a bay called by the whalers Motherly Bay, because it is into this bay (at the bottom of which the Wanganui empties itself) that the female whales come to calve. To the north-west Mount Egmont rears his conical peak above the scene. Then comes a series of rugged wooded ridges forming a rough outline to the rest of the horizon. The highest point in these ridges is Taupiri or the Devil's Thumb, twenty
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miles distant from the town, bearing N.N.E. This prominent hill and Tongariro are in a line with the mouth of the river.
The district of Wanganui will comprise 40,000 acres, in a space whose greatest length will be about fourteen miles in the direction of the coast, by ten miles inland. At present it is divided as follows--
||36,800 acres, including native reserves.
|Town and Public reserves
|Land to be surveyed
|Number of sections surveyed
There have been four selections of the country sections, when the number selected were as follows:
|September 23rd, 1841
|June 6th and 7th, 1842
The town comprises 2000 quarter acre sections, out of which a section has been chosen for each country section (except for the native reserves,) and the Company chose alternately with the sectionists. The sections were chosen on the 8th of June, 1842.
The river divides the district nearly equally. In each division the land is broken up into valleys, taking a general direction of east and west, those on the left bank terminate on the river's bank, but the district on the right bank is divided by high flat land about three miles from the river, the valleys falling on one side to the river, and on the other they form the sources of the Karaka, Kai-ivi, Okahu and Ototaka streams, which all fall into the sea within twelve miles from the mouth of the Wanganui. The whole of the district is plentifully supplied with wood, many sections certainly have none, and few are entirely covered with timber, but generally small patches are found on the sides of the
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ridges, and in some few places exceed 500 acres in extent. Every valley has its rivulet, most of them never dry; in many places springs of the finest water rise to the surface. This abundance of water, which is general to New Zealand, gives it an inestimable advantage over its near neighbour Australia.
The sections on the left bank have the preference to those on the other, for many reasons. The soil is considerably better, the sides of the valleys are not so steep on the ridges, and at the extremity of the survey in the left, there is more flat land than on the right of the river. Again, the valleys on the left bank and their intervening ridges commence at the boundary of the district and terminate on the river's; therefore a more ready and easy access can be obtained to the sections. The soil on this side is also better, being nine inches to a foot in thickness, lying upon an impervious clay, under which is a stratum of loose gravel, then another of clay, and lastly a thick bed of blue clay containing shells of existing species of shell fish in the neighbouring seas.
The soil on the right bank is not so deep (except upon the broken and high ground in the north and north-west directions) and much more sandy. By reason of its thinness, the substratum of clay gets turned up, and this at first contains a large quantity of hydrate of iron, which is detrimental to vegetation; but after a time, by exposure, the clay falls to pieces and proves beneficial; care must be taken that not too much of it is thrown up at a time.
There is no place on the face of the earth that I know of open for colonization, that an Englishman can go to, where he can find a climate so adapted to his constitution as New Zealand. If he wishes to have the rigour of the winter abated he can find it here; he will not find the heat of the summer increased (I speak of Wanganui.) The summer's day is generally ushered in with a light land breeze, to which succeeds a stillness until nine or ten o'clock, when a light south-easter comes from the sea, increasing gently as the day advances, (thus ameliorating the heat of the sun,) subsiding towards evening, leaving the air perfectly cool and calm. The rigour of the winter months is sufficient to make a man feel the comfortable influence of a blazing fire of an evening; keeping up the remembrance of the happy Christmas times in Old England, without the pinching severity of its nature; ice is never more than three eighths of an inch thick, and that only in a very exposed situation. The only drawback upon the constant enjoyment of this delightful climate is the 'wind, the mighty wind.' The gales generally last for three days, sometimes four or five, scarcely ever longer. At Wanganui we have
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the consolation that they do not blow with the violence which is ascribed to them at Port Nicholson, neither do they last so long. Yet it is far better to have these healthy purifiers of an atmosphere, than the hot winds of Australia, the tornadoes of the Indies, or the enervating heat and closeness of America.
On the next subject of which I shall speak, I know there exists great diversity of opinion; and if I fall into error, it will not be willingly. The Missionaries and natives are so connected, that it will be almost impossible to speak of one, without mentioning the other.
The natives of New Zealand, as found by Capt. Cook, present one of the most deplorable pictures of the family of man, that can well be imagined. A beautiful country was inhabited by a race of beings, who were carrying on war with each other, not "a war to the knife," but a war for the teeth. They considered as a virtue, many vices that are common to all aborigines; honour and faith seemed not to be known amongst them, but hospitality was a constant practice. False promises and deceit they carried to an excess, which prompted Cook to say, "Never trust a New Zealander." Shortly after, the Missionaries came amongst them to teach the word of God, and shew them how to live as human beings who have a knowledge of another world. But along with them came another class of white men, who have done much harm, and more serious injury to the natives than any thing else. New Zealand, from the laxity and inefficiency of the civil power, soon became the receptacle of the most vicious and wicked of mankind. Can you conceive a more immoral or baneful class of men, than the most desperate outcasts of Sydney; these and runaway sailors, from ships which visited the harbours, spread themselves over the country, cohabited with the women, and by gratifying the avarice of the men, gained a most pernicious influence over them. Is it to be wondered that the natives should have learnt so many vices, when we contemplate what a number of these persons were intermixed with them. They saw these fellows constantly practising the most vicious and deceitful conduct towards them and towards their own countrymen. It is needless for me to give you an illustration of the fact, for it is too well recorded.
Again, how is it likely that their avarice should be subdued, when they saw those people who came to preach the gospel, and to show them truth and honesty, grasping to obtain large landed property, and there were those who were guilty of downright vice. What then was the character of the natives, as found by the present race of settlers, when they arrived here? Why a curious mixture, in which cunning and deceit were most
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prevalent, whilst here and there was found one who would act honestly. What else could be expected, from minds of untutored savages, inherently bad, increased by the example of so many bad characters, and restrained by so few good ones?
How often do we hear a man say, when he happens to be outwitted, or cheated by a native--"See what the Missionaries have taught them, what good have they done?" To the first question, I think you can find an answer, in the foregoing description; all the vices of the natives must not, cannot, be imputed to the Missionaries. That they have not always acted honestly, and given them good and proper advice, in secular affairs is well known; and it is to be hoped, that under the present administration of the church, better ministers will be put over them, as there is now a bishop, and regular church establishment. To the latter question of "what good have they done?" I ask you as a Christian, as a believer in the faith of Christ, is it not an inestimable good to have shown them, that the Redeemer liveth, and to have pointed out to them the path by which they may insure the salvation of their souls. That the natives are not so far advanced in Christianity and civilization as I had expected, is quite true; and this brings me to a most important question--In what way can they be more speedily civilized? I should answer, by teaching them English; for as long as they retain their native language, all feelings and sentiments must be expressed in idioms, that cannot convey the true sense; but teach them English, and they will then have opened to them, a vast store of knowledge, which will enable them to guide their conduct, by thoughts and maxims, of which before they never could have formed any idea. What is the use of perpetuating such a miserable jargon of fourteen letters, without beauty or literature. The sooner it is consigned to the tomb of the Capulets the better.
The opinion that they are now such poor innocent creatures, and as some say, never entertain an evil thought towards their white neighbours, is as fallacious as that the whole race are a set of wicked, deceitful blackguards. That they still retain a very great portion of falsity and wickedness is too true; but I do believe that there are those among them, who have some feeling of what is right and what is wrong.
I remain yours,
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Extracts from the Wellington Gazette.
STATISTICS OF WANGANUI.
Sectionists twenty-eight. Quantity of land claimed by them, 6,000 acres. Quantity of land under cultivation, eighty acres. Value of horned cattle, horses, sheep, and goats, £2,500. Value of buildings, £3,000. Married heads of families, seventy-two. Unmarried adults--males, forty-eight; females six. Children-- males, forty; females, twenty-six. Total white population 192.
The most striking circumstance connected with this table, is, that in an agricultural district, and a community professedly farmers, the nominal possessors of 6,000 acres, should, after three years' residence have but eighty acres under cultivation! This would evidence most culpable inactivity, were it not well known to be caused by the unsettled state of the native claims. There is not any where a community of equal number more active in the pursuit of their objects, more persevering, more capable of directing their powers to a useful end, than the sectionists of Wanganui district; and had the inducements which prompted their emigration been realized, had they been suffered to task their energies, the miserable exhibition of a cultivated rood here, and a few acres there, would not now reproach those, to whose impolicy and apathy is owing the present untoward state of things.
I have just returned from Dr. R.'s section, up the river, on which he has been at work these nine months, and has laid out a considerable sum. All he has to shew, is about twelve or fourteen acres fenced in, and some of it broken up, on which the fern is beginning to grow as thick as ever, as he cannot venture to put any crop in the ground, as the Maoris have told him, if he does they will destroy it. His house, or rather the frame of it, is standing to rot, as the chief says if he completes it, he will burn it to the ground.
Another settler, who has been on his section above a year and a half, has about three acres under cultivation; though he had cleared ten or more, the Maoris would not allow him to break it up. They bully him out of his life, they come into his house and sit down, smoke their pipes, &c. If he tells them to go out, they immediately ask him if the place belongs to him. The other day the children from the pah, amused themselves with shooting his fowls with bow and arrow, all of which he is obliged to put up with till the Land Question is settled. Mr. Mac G., who has paid the natives to allow him to settle and break up about five acres, was not allowed by them to saw up one of his
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trees for his house, though he offered a blanket as payment. Mr. Bell, who had the seventh choice in this place, arranged with the prior choosers, to let him pick out a section before the land was given out; by this means, the surveys did not hinder him, and he agreed with the natives to let him go to work on about fifteen acres of ground, which, after paying pretty high for, was carefully marked out, and every now and then the chief came to see he did not encroach on his boundary, though this land was not such as the Maoris use themselves. He has purchased a right to use about thirty acres, and that is all, as he has offered a large sum for more, but they say he has too much already for one man: he is obliged to pay a blanket for every tree he cuts in his own bush. He is obliged to allow them to come into his house at any time, though a sad bore to his wife and family. Such is a specimen of Wanganui sectionists, till the Land Question is settled.
Mr. B. has grown a large quantity of grain this year, but there seems to be great doubt at present whether he will get a market for it or not.--March 20.
Quantity of stock in New Zealand, Sept. 1843.
Q. Charlotte's Sound
Akaroa & Port Cooper
J. BILLING, PRINTER, WOKING, SURREY.