1855 - Davis, C. O. The Renowned Chief Kawiti and other New Zealand Warriors - CHAPTER IX, p 22-24

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  1855 - Davis, C. O. The Renowned Chief Kawiti and other New Zealand Warriors - CHAPTER IX, p 22-24
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The Kororareka army having been made acquainted with the resolution of Kawiti to make a bold stand, --to perish at the head of his men rather than yield to his opponents, considered it more prudent to enter the thickets of the immediate neighbourhood, whence the more dexterous in the use of the gun could act as sharp shooters, a mode of fighting which the New Zealander has adopted, since the introduction of fire-arms, and which appears particularly congenial to his feelings. We have not been able to ascertain fully the numbers that were shot down by the wide spread armies, the soldiers of which were peeping from behind the trees, and flax bushes; we learn, however, that the report of the musketry resounded through the woods, and most probably this incessant firing was the artifice employed by the parties to keep each other at bay. It should be borne in mind, that all the tribes engaged in this contest were related to one another, the desire to sacrifice human life, therefore, was not so excessive as when contending with a common foe. We have no doubt, however, but that the belligerents issued forth occasionally from their places of concealment, in order to accomplish more effectually that work of destruction which alone could satisfy their overwrought passions, the indulgence of which destroys every tie that binds man to man. "The firing" says William Hau, "commenced in the morning and continued till midnight, and during the whole of this time it rained very heavily." Cold, hungry and faint, the leaders and men became anxious to desist from sheer weariness, but the two commanders were unwilling to humble themselves to each other. At length Rewa advanced and called out, "O Kawiti, let the fighting cease." "O my children," was the reply, "if you say that we are to live, let it be according to your wish."

This temporary cessation of hostilities was hailed with unbounded pleasure by all the warriors who retired to their encampments with clamorous mirth. In speaking of Maori encampments it must not be imagined that either its defences or commissariat were such as to call forth our admiration; the former frequently consisted of a few bushes growing in a state of luxuriance from their parent earth, and the only luxury which the latter could often supply, was, the root of the wild fern, roasted, and pounded. These camps are not inaptly described by an early historian who had occasion to place himself for a night under the protection of the Chief George of Whangaroa, thro' whose instigation the unfortunate captain and crew of the "Boyd" were massacred.

The gentleman in question was accompanied by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, Minister of the Church of England, who had the honor to introduce the Gospel to the benighted people of this land, "and founded a Mission at the Bay of Islands in 1814."

"I slept tolerably well for some part of the night," observes the narrator, "and awaking at the dawn of day a scene, the strangest that can be imagined presented itself to my view. An immense number of human beings, men, women, and children, some half naked, and others loaded with fantastic finery, were all stretched about me in every direction; while the warriors with their spears stuck in the ground, and their other weapons lying beside them, were either peeping out from under their Kakahus, or shaking from off their dripping heads the heavy dew that had fallen in the night. Before sunrise they were all up, and being invigorated and refreshed by that profound sleep which health is always sure to invite, they rose with lively spirits to their desultory pursuits, and spent no time in lethargic slumbers."

In speaking of the confidence reposed in the New Zealander, even in those times of barbarism, the same authority remarks:--

"At the particular request of George, we laid ourselves down to sleep, beside himself and his wife, Mr. Marsden being on one side, and I on the other. The ground was our bed, and we had no other covering than the clothes we wore; while stretched at full length under the broad canopy of heaven, we prepared to repose and feared not to close our eyes in the very centre of these cannibals."

The intelligence relative to this new outbreak between Kawiti and Manu, soon found its way to Hokianga, and Patuone with his brother Waka Nene, the distinguished and faithful ally of the British, raised an army of eight hundred men which were to be despatched forthwith to the Bay of Islands. These persons did not break loose like a wild horde to pillage the Mission premises, as on a former occasion; nor did they tear from its grave the infant child of the servant of God, for the heavenly truths preached by those honored and devoted men, the early missionaries, had by the blessing of heaven turned many "from darkness to light," and who were in consequence, not incapable of sympathizing with the bereaved Missionary,

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blending their tears with those of their instructors at the grave of the departed one. Having witnessed the affection of the native people in reference to the circumstance alluded to, perhaps we may be pardoned for introducing here the lines composed on the occasion.

Ah! lovely babe! in Jesus' arms repose,
Secure from sin, the world, and subtle foes;
No dread convulsion now may heave thy breast,
Or mortal pang deprive, thee of thy rest;
An angel now, thy soul a hallowed fire,
And in thy hand the seraph's golden lyre;
While the assembled hosts in sweet amaze,
Fall back and listen to thy song of praise.
Immortal spirit! hast thou soared away
To yonder clime of everlasting day?
Transplanted early to a richer soil,
Where thornless roses flourish without toil
Farewell loved Charles! thou was not spared to see
The tender vine I fondly reared for thee;
Tho' other hopes may this lone heart beguile,
I'll ne'er forget the sweetness of thy smile.
We, the bereaved, would thy cold form bedew
With daily tears, and o'er thy ashes strew,
The choicest flowers that in the valleys grow,
Faint emblems of thy short career below;
But thou dost wear a wreath that e'er shall bloom,
While fragrant roses wither o'er thy tomb.

At this period, and long previous, the Maori warrior accepted the mediation of the Christian Missionary, as will be seen from a short extract of a letter written by the Rev. John Hobbs who has long, and we trust successfully, laboured among the New Zealanders, and whose benevolence, and disinterestedness, justly entitle him to that esteem he has won for himself. Mr. Hobbs remarks:-- "In a late war on this river (Hokianga) where I was required to interfere as mediator, the two contending parties paid so much respect to the Lord's day as to defer coming in contact until the following morning.

There was also a general inquiry after truth, which is a sure evidence that Christianity exerted a powerful influence over the savage mind, and this influence swayed the fighting men of Kawiti as well as those of Waka Nene. "There is now," says a pious servant of the cross, "upon this extensive river (Hokianga) a general willingness among the people to hear of the things which belong to their peace; and upon several of its branches they desire to be regularly visited, and instructed in the things of God. For several months past I have frequently been reproached by the Natives for my want of attention to their spiritual necessities, many of whom have actually employed the language of St. Paul in the tenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, 'How shall we hear without a preacher?'"

Waka Nene's avowed object in visiting the Bay of Islands with a retinue of eight hundred men. was to establish peaceful relations between the hostile parties. He accordingly landed at Kororareka, where he was received in state, a mark of respect due to so great a chieftain. In that rude procession there was not the glitter of the gold and silver lace, nor the princely crimson bordered with ermine, but there was the not inelegant bordered mat, and the feather of the albatross, waving gracefully over a profusion of jet black hair. The way in which a distinguished chief is received on state occasions, is so accurately described by the author from whose work we have already quoted that we are tempted to insert it here:--

"Immediately before we landed, the fleet of canoes being ranged abreast of each other, the chiefs recommenced their war song, and were joined by the warriors, who stood up brandishing their paddles, and making furious gesticulations. Mr. Marsden and myself were careful in observing every occurrence, and we soon discovered, that this was the signal for the sham-fight to begin. The longer they sung, the more violent grew their emotions while one of Tuatara's warriors running up and down along the beach with a long club made of whalebone in his hand, shook it at our party in token of defiance, and appeared daring them to leave their canoes. This menacing hero was suffered for some time to pass unnoticed, the fury of our warriors not being yet worked up to the proper pitch; however, it was not very long before this crisis arrived; the war song had now set every nerve in motion, and leaping on those impatient for the conflict, they pursued the insulting challenger, who took to his heels the moment they had landed. He retreated, however, only to join the great body of his brother warriors who were posted in a valley screened from our view from the skirts of the hill, and lodged as it were in ambuscade.

"The general attack was now to commence, and our warriors rushed on with such impetuosity towards the valley, that we found it impossible to keep up with them; but here, in place of being the assailants, their impatient fury was anticipated, for Tuatara sallied forth with his whole band of intrepid followers, and made apparently a violent charge into the very midst of them. The wildest vociferations of savage clamour were now heard from both sides, and Tuatara's party being bravely repulsed for the moment, were pursued by their adversaries, who with their lances and spears, seemed to threaten their total destruction. This advantage, however, they were not long able to maintain, while the others rallying with vigorous intrepidity, wheeled round on their pursuers, and obliged them in turn to look for safety in retreat. This bloodless contest appeared for a long time doubtful, victory inclining at one period to Tuatara, and at another to his adversary; when after various manoeuvres of New Zealand generalship, and much terrible fighting, though never dangerous, both sides resolved to put an end to their hostilities, in the same good humour with which they had commenced; and the opposite com-

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batants joining together in the dance and war song, brought their harmless strife to a friendly conclusion."

It is generally supposed that not only the actual fighting, but all savage displays and heathenish practices have been discontinued, -- that the tribes professing Christianity have exchanged their deadly weapons for those which are not carnal, but "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds." This is unhappily not the case; the great enemy of souls is now exerting a most powerful influence upon the minds of the native people, so much so, that the labours of their Christian instructors, seem to be, in very many instances, a signal failure. In proof of this assertion we have only to mention New Plymouth, the Bay of Plenty, Whangaruru, and other places where the natives are shooting one another down, and committing the most inhuman atrocities. Under these circumstances, it may be asked whether the present agency in operation is the one best adapted to promote the spiritual welfare of the aboriginal population. The question is indeed a solemn one, and in every way worthy of the prayerful consideration of Christian, men. "How is it," said one to a missionary, "that your labours make no impression upon the members of your congregation?" "Ah," replied the rev. gentleman, "we move in an atmosphere here which seems to deprive us of our English energy and love." This is a melancholy confession, but we cannot help admiring the candour of the good man who made it; nor can we help thinking that, if all his brethren were alike candid, but that there would be "a mighty shaking among the dry bones," and a revivifying process going on, which would cause "the wilderness and the solitary place to be glad for them, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose."

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