1846 - Fitzroy, Robert. Remarks on New Zealand: in February 1846 - Chapter VII: 1846

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  1846 - Fitzroy, Robert. Remarks on New Zealand: in February 1846 - Chapter VII: 1846
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After reviewing the past occurrences, one is naturally led to consider what errors may be corrected, --what future alterations may be beneficial to New Zealand.

The main question, the foundation indeed on which every consideration must be based, for half a century to come, is-- the relative situation and disposition of the two races.

New Zealand is not a country in which the natives can retreat as the white man advances. Having no extensive back country, as in America; and the habits, even the existence of many tribes being dependent on free access to the sea shore, they cannot be considered in the same light as the aborigines of continents. (On this point, as well as on the tenacious tenure of land, I insisted particularly, in my evidence before a committee of the House of Lords--in 1838).

The native question, as it may be called, being supposed the principal, as well as the primary subject to be kept in view, it seems advisable that matters of temporary importance (such as fiscal or police arrangements) should be so managed as not to cause irritation or jealousy. Much, very much, may be effected by rigid justice; --the natives having the practical as well as theoretical privileges of British subjects, when those privileges are favourable to them; but being allowed the full consideration due to ignorance and their peculiar habits when brought under the arm of English law. This may sound too much like undue partiality: it is in strict accordance, however, with the treaty of Waitangi, and--it may be added--with truly equitable conduct.

Perhaps there is not in any part of the world, a race of men, who, taken as a body, have a keener sense of injustice, imposition, or personal indignity.

An old tattooed chief, though smeared with red ochre, wrapped in a dirty blanket, and with feathers stuck in his head, like Rauparaha, Ranghiaiata, Kawiti, Teraia, or Heuheu, will

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be found as keen a lawyer (in native usages and common sense) and as proud a democrat as may be met within the precincts of Westminster. You may reason with these men, and may convince them, if you have justice as well as truth on your side; and further, you may move them out of their intended course, if not against their self-interest; but, to drive--to coerce them--will be most difficult.

Witness old Kawiti, who argued thus: Before my children were killed by the soldiers, I fought for them; now they are all gone, I am no longer of any use while living; therefore I must fight till I die. 1*

To govern New Zealand according to the pre-conceived theory of legislators who could have known but very little of that country, still less of its aboriginal inhabitants, --is found to be impossible, without destroying numbers of its population; which God forbid. The endeavour to fit to New Zealand a theory so generalised as to suit scarcely any country exactly, is as unpromising an attempt as was that of Procrustes. Whether urged forward by private speculation, or by the disinterested motives of the British government, such a plan must fail in practice. I allude particularly to the theory of colonising New Zealand according to what is usually called the Wakefield system; --and to all the ruinous delusions which have arisen out of a continued endeavour to force that system into practice in a country unfit for its adoption.

This injudicious attempt led to the formation of the New Zealand Company; and the proceedings of that company obliged the government to interfere, and to try to to carry out a legalised system, --similar in principle, though differing essentially in practice. In the proceedings of the government there has been no wilful deception, there has been no breach of faith, there has been no moral error. The home government has acted on the highest and purest principles; but it would be unreasonable to suppose that in arrangements for so peculiar a country as New Zealand, unlike any other, there should not have been misapprehensions, if not serious practical errors. The actual consequences are that the colonisation of New Zealand is stopped: that the company is unable to continue its operations with the least prospect of success as a commercial body: and that the British government has a problem to solve which will require more time, more trouble, more men, and more money, than most people are willing to believe.

All the difficulties of the New Zealand question are greatly

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increased by the distance from England, as well as by its total dissimilarity to any other colony. Some of the difficulties which were felt by Spain, in governing her colonial empire, are now pressing on the British government with respect to the colonies; although the integrity of personal character, and the freedom of the press, prevent those greater evils which became so notorious in Spanish America, notwithstanding the unremitting exertions of that excellent tribunal, the council of the Indies. But the effects of distance are being lessened yearly by improved means of communication: and, if the home government will but listen as readily to the opinions of respectable residents in the colonies, as they naturally attend to the voices of those who join in parliamentary debates, it will be impossible that misapprehensions of much consequence can exist long, or that difficulties should arise, which perseverance and talent will not find means of overcoming. After objecting so decidedly to a particular system of colonisation, it may be expected that some other plan should be suggested as preferable. I am fully aware how well the Wakefield system has appeared to succeed in South Australia, how numerous and influential are its advocates, and how carefully a committee of the House of Commons considered all the details of the Land Sales Act of 1842. 2 Nevertheless, I will venture to submit that the present circumstances of New Zealand require a less artificial, --a more natural mode of proceeding. Money capital will not be employed for many years in the interior of the island; but there are thousands of active men, accustomed to labour, whose means of maintenance would be very much improved by having each a few acres of that land, to which they might be allowed to raise a valid claim merely by cultivation. Such men would soon raise surplus produce, and become enabled to consume manufactures. It may appear that the more natural method is, to let those buy from the natives who can, provided they are actual settlers, and will conform to certain conditions necessary for the public welfare. Proof of fair purchase, conformity to regulations, and undisturbed possession, after surveying the boundaries, 3 should be followed by a grant from the Crown.

Lands now belonging to the Crown, or rather to the public,

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which are yet unsaleable because of their remoteness or critical situation, might be granted, in small lots, to actual settlers on such allotments, after they had gained the good will of the natives in their neighbourhood sufficiently to warrant their erecting cottages, and cultivating ground. 4 In this way the hardier labouring men might become pioneers of civilization in the interior. Their example would have its effect gradually, while the natives would not be jealous of their superiority, or their numbers--during the infancy of the colony.

But these men must, for many years to come, be beyond the reach of efficient physical protection from government; in which, however, they would not differ from hundreds of our countrymen who have been and are still living among the natives, actually under their laws, --however favoured or exempted from many penalties or punishments in consequence of their being white men, and therefore ignorant of native usages. 5

There will be such difficulty in effecting the sale of Crown lands in New Zealand for many years to come; and there will be so much reluctance to emigrate there from Great Britain, that a regular supply of immigrants may rather be expected from the adjacent Australian colonies, whence adventurous young men are continually moving.

Every additional white settler, located and cultivating in New Zealand, is not only a productive member of the community, (and therefore beneficial to the parent state as well as the colony, by his demand for manufactured articles for which he gives produce of the soil)--but he adds to the strength and influence of the colony: he sets an example to the native: and he pioneers the way for future colonisation on a larger scale, very inferior certainly, but still analogous to that which is progressing so wonderfully in North America.

I have said that there are now some hundreds of white men living entirely among the natives of New Zealand, under their law. These men are more or less settled: many have native wives: some have large families. They speak the language, and have no uneasiness as to their security. They are effecting a silent but perceptible alteration in the native character. In the Waikato district, where there are many of these men, cultivation is much on the increase among the natives; 6 their newer huts, are higher and better: their habits are im-

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proving; they have even a few water mills to grind their corn, 7 which they are growing in such abundance that if peace be not interrupted, the traders will be able to buy up good wheat from them at little more than two shillings a bushel. 8 Now if there were at this present time, some thousands of such hardy adventurers scattered over the country, not living together, but dispersed so as to be everywhere dependent on the natives themselves for protection, (which would ensure their quiet conduct,) the gradual change effected by their means might be general; but this is only a supposition, mentioned merely to illustrate the idea, that New Zealand requires a generation or two of pioneers whose industrious labours will not only maintain themselves and their families in that productive country, (without perhaps seeing money for months together), --but will prepare the face of the land for a much more numerous multitude than it has yet borne in its most populous time. In short (strange or even absurd as it may seem to supporters of the Wakefield theory), I would suggest that land should there be made as cheap, and as easy of attainment as possible.

There is another material consideration in connection with this subject. Emigrants now prefer taking their money with them and buying land which they have seen, rather than trust to other persons, or to a lottery, and after a long passage find themselves in a strange country where they cannot discover their expected property; or, if discovered, are not allowed to occupy it: but are obliged to return home; or work for others as common labourers.

These questions with respect to New Zealand are now become so complicated, that it will be far better, in every point of view, for the government to meet the whole case of that colony comprehensively rather than to temporize in detail. The New Zealand Company might have a place in history by the side of the South Sea Company; 9 and money should not be spared in rendering at least a considerable part of that country safe and habitable for colonists, who while benefitting themselves and the mother country, would also improve the condition of the aboriginal natives.

By means of money employed judiciously; and solely by the government; this entangled question--this problem may be solved: and the two races may yet live amicably. But while

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there is an irresponsible commercial body, whose object is selfish and local, operating either as a middle-man between the government and the colony, or as an officious helper of the government, for the sake of its own advantage, there can be no peace or confidence.

Money is urgently required for building defensive forts and walls; for military and naval forces; for the civil government; and for the natives. Hitherto government has erected no hospital, --has established no school, --has constructed no place of shelter, 10 --has contributed towards the erection of no church for the aboriginal population. 11j

When a native chief asks what benefits the British Sovereign has conferred on his race, what reply can be given to him? The advantages really derived from the presence of a settled civilized government, the natives themselves do not appreciate fully, because they find that it is neither strong enough, nor sufficiently prompt to deal out the summary justice to which they have been accustomed; while it is some check upon their taking the law into their own hands. 12 This may appear advantageous to their general well-being; but in reality it generates discontent, promotes disorder and licence, and has gone far towards great disorganization among the rising generation.

The gross misconduct of some white men, --not only escaped convicts, but traders on the coast, and even young men who were educated respectably, --has often irritated the natives, and has operated unfavourably for the government, which could not punish such offences for want of legal proofs, and witnesses who could not or would not appear. Fraud was often practised--promised payment evaded altogether-- women were enticed away, and perhaps deserted--the hospitality of chiefs was abused by idle young men living at their pahs, --and small vessels were promised but not given in return for cargoes of produce. Of three stipulated cargoes perhaps two would be taken in advance; but the vessel never returned, and nothing more was heard of her, or their payment, by the natives. Such cases as these occurring frequently, naturally induce the wish for a more efficient executive power than the slow and technical English law, which in so many respects is unsuited to the present state of New Zealand.

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In 1610, Sir Francis Bacon advised martial law to be enforced in Virginia, and the colony prospered under it, from 1611 to 1619, in a surprising manner; so much so that the settlers believed their establishment secure, and scattered themselves over the country. 13

Money employed for the native population might be divided between objects tending directly to the bodily as well as the mental welfare of the natives, 14 --and objects of a political nature affecting both races, such as salaries to native chiefs 15 acting as keepers of the peace and agents of government, payment to natives acting with our troops; pay, clothing, and arms for a native corps, also for presents and for subsidies.

Expensive as this may sound, it would be a less extravagant process than attempting to reduce New Zealanders to submission by the sword, --a lamentable alternative to which we seem now to be fast approaching. Unless it is made evidently and strongly their interest to become British subjects in reality, as well as in name, no force will make them submissive while they retain life, amidst the fastnesses of an almost impracticable country, whence they can attack their opponents at any time.

The great object to be kept in view being, the peaceable intercourse of both races, without which no material progress can be made by the settler, no improvement in the condition of the native; and as the state of New Zealand for generations may depend on the conduct of Great Britain during the next few years, let me entreat those who take a real interest in that country to exert themselves speedily, and in earnest.

Few persons accustomed to consider the New Zealand Company in the light which the list of their directors ought to warrant, can bring themselves to believe that they cannot continue their operations as a commercial body undertaking to carry on colonisation in New Zealand. Under all the force of censure which may be the consequence of my presuming to give a decided opinion on such a subject, I now venture to assert that the continuance of their operations in New Zealand, however assisted by the government, must be attended

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with disadvantages and pecuniary loss; and that the sooner they cease to act, the better it will be for themselves, --for the settlers, and for the natives. My reasons are these, the company commenced operations upon the principle of obtaining land cheaply in large quantities, and selling it at a very large profit (more than nineteen hundred per cent.) Land cannot be obtained in the northern island of New Zealand in sufficient quantity, and at a price sufficiently low to enable the company to realise a profit that will even cover their expenses. To take land by force from the natives, or without the full consent of all its numerous owners, would involve in hostilities, not only the takers, but those who attempted to settle there, and their local government. Were a person in England to endeavour to enclose a common, without taking cognizance of all the claims to right thereon, in what litigation would he not involve himself! yet the company have attempted an infinitely greater and more complicated encroachment in New Zealand, where the natives resort to muskets and tomahawks, instead of attorneys and barristers.

I believe that the majority of the directors and shareholders of the New Zealand Company are to this day under a delusion, are still mystified about that country, and that the time will come when they will feel thankful that the local government took such a course in 1841-2-3-4 and 5, as saved the settlers whom they sent out to the Antipodes from still greater distress, if not from extermination.

Let not people now say: "why did you not tell us this sooner?"--Local knowledge cannot be acquired in a few weeks. Time for enquiry, for inspection, for calm comparison, and for reflection, are necessary before fixed opinions of any value can be formed. The only persons who could give the New Zealand Company accurate information previous to 1840 were the missionaries and their correspondents. They did give it, openly, in print, as well as privately in conversation. Their opinions were controverted, slighted, or despised. Now their truth has been manifested, --but how painfully--by what an amount of misery!

As one among the many who hoped that the company might work beneficially for all parties interested, I left England in 1843, prepared to co-operate with them cordially; but on arriving at Sydney, and more in New Zealand, my eyes were opened. The Wairau proceedings, as detailed by the Wellington and Nelson newspapers, which I received from Colonel Wakefield at Sydney, not only convinced me of the settlers' erroneous views, but of the injurious manner in which the operations of the company had been practically car-

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ried out by their agents, and by the colonists over whom they had influence.

A very momentous question is now frequently asked, to this effect: What will be the state of New Zealand for the next few years? My answer to such a question would be: Unless Providence avert the impending evils in a manner which we now cannot foresee, there is too much reason to fear that it will be distracted by warfare, not only between the natives themselves, but between the white and coloured races.

Religion has lost much of the limited influence which was acquired previous to 1840. Roman catholics have entered the field which was exclusively protestant till 1838. Elements of distrust and discord have been spread over the whole island; and there is now no influence to control or unite the population. Unsettled and jealous feelings have been roused by the recent hostilities, by the arrival of troops and ships of war, and by false reports of the intentions of government. Appearances are very threatening, and I much doubt the propriety of adding to the excitement by any attempt to take land 16* by force. A little time, and a few hundred sovereigns, might save many thousands of pounds, and hundreds of lives.

The expedition to Port Nicholson, to which I referred in the preceding chapter, may be apparently successful: the intruding natives may fall back for a time: but it will hardly be safe to cultivate that land, 17 and a dangerous effect will be caused among all the aborigines of New Zealand.

An alteration was made by the executive in the early part of this year, which I cannot but regard with the deepest anxiety. The vitally important office of protector of the natives was abolished; the chief protector was offered an inferior occupation as native secretary in the colonial secretary's office, and the subordinates in the protectorate department were dismissed, or offered employment as clerks or interpreters, as future vacancies might occur.

I cannot think of this measure without the keenest feelings of regret, and the most earnest concern for the consequences.

Unfortunately, some influential members of the House of Commons have said: "Let New Zealand have more protectors of Englishmen, and fewer protectors of natives." Those members could not have been aware of the paramount importance to the colony, of the officers who, though called

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protectors of the natives, have hitherto been more efficient protectors of their own countrymen.

The knowledge of native usages and language, which the protectors must possess, and their own personal influence among the aborigines, enabled them to allay many a fast increasing feeling of vindictive anger, --to prevent many a serious quarrel. They were the eyes and ears of the executive authorities at each of the settlements, with reference to the aboriginal people; and how those authorities will contrive to carry on their duties efficiently without such assistance, I am unable to conceive. To deprive the governor, or the superintendent at Wellington, or the police magistrate at New Plymouth, of the assistance of a resident protector of aborigines, seems to me like taking away the confidential dragoman and his assistants from an embassy at Constantinople, pending intricate negociations involving immediate hostilities.

That the British government will confirm so important a change in their conduct and arrangements with regard to the aborigines of New Zealand, as to annihilate the protectorate department, I cannot bring myself to believe.

Even the Spanish government always maintained protectors of the Indians; and not only so, but by hospitals, and salaries to caciques, and by repeated instructions to successive viceroys, the council of the Indies did more on behalf of the American Indians than, after all our professions, we of Great Britain have yet done for the New Zealanders.

If the government should be so ill advised as to change its policy materially towards New Zealand, to the extent of falsifying what the missionaries, the bishop, and successive governors have solemnly asserted to be the fixed intentions of Great Britain, --the consequences will be fatal.

How those men, of unimpeached character among the natives (however slandered by some of their own countrymen), were pained while reading the debates of 1845 in the House of Commons, I cannot adequately describe.

1   He has since made peace. Will it be lasting?
2   Our settlements are so multiplied, that emigrants of the labouring class cannot now be confined to the place for which their labor was intended on leaving England.
3   This is the surest test of a valid and undisputed purchase of land.
4   Being proofs of undisputed tenure.
5   Rather a lesson to ourselves.
6   It is estimated that above one hundred thousand acres of land are now cultivated by natives, throughout the islands.
7   Steel hand mills are in much demand.
8   Sixteen shillings a quarter.
9   Of 1725. Among many points of resemblance, each company employed lotteries and great exaggerations.
10   Excepting one small building at Nelson.
11   As the Aborigines contribute materially towards the revenue, --by their consumption of manufactured articles, it may be truly said that they have a just claim to more advantages from the government than they have yet received.
12   Which they would prefer.
13   Yet even then the Indians were planning their destruction, and four years afterwards, a general attack took place, in all quarters--at one time.
14   But not lavished like the thousands of pounds formerly expended annually in Canada.
15   In Spanish America the caciques received salaries for similar purposes.
16   At the Hutt Valley for instance.
17   In the valley of the Hutt (Heretaonga.)

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