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FALL OF KORORAREKA,
As the war with Taranaki and Waikato has revived certain idle statements relative to the war in the Bay of Islands District in 1845, it is deemed expedient to produce a letter written in 1847, but not published for the reasons stated.
Bay of Islands, August 1, 1863.
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THE following paper was forwarded to the Bishop of New Zealand for his approval but suppressed, under the plea that it was improper that we should submit ourselves to the judgment of a newspaper editor.
To the Editor of the "New Zealander" newspaper, Auckland.
Paihia, Bay of Islands, June 23, 1845.
SIR,--Since the fall of Kororareka, on the memorable 11th of March last, my name has frequently been brought before the public in a very uncourteous way by different persons, attributing the fate of that day in some degree to statements having been made by me, that the natives would not attack the town. As these statements are not only false in themselves, but too ridiculous in idea to obtain credit by men of character and reflection, I did not consider them worthy of my notice; nor do I feel that I am quite correct in doing so, even in this present instance. As however, you have, in the first number of the "New Zealander," in which you attempt to give a running account of the affairs of the Bay, felt it needful to state that--
"The fears of the inhabitants of Kororareka were in some degree allayed by the Rev. Mr. Williams informing them that he had seen the natives, and they had AT PRESENT no hostile intention, the inhabitants were therefore lulled into false security."
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I feel it needful to make a few remarks, and shall be as brief as possible in noticing the above quotation from your paper:--
Firstly. I deny that there is any foundation for the statement given in your paper. No information was at any time given by me to the inhabitants of Kororareka. My communication at this anxious period was strictly confined to the Police Magistrate, whom I considered as chief in command, before hostilities commenced.
My last note to that officer, on the evening of the 10th, was as follows:-- "I understand that the natives intend to make their attack on the morrow in four divisions." On the same evening G. Mair, Esq., J.P., personally waited on the Police Magistrate, and stated that the attack would be made the following morning in four or five divisions. Was it possible that information could have been given more clear and more correct?
Secondly. I deny that the natives ever said that they had no hostile intention. I ask, for what other intention were they assembled, though the Flagstaff was the bone of contention? I presume from the statement made by you, that you were ignorant of the subject you attempt to put forth. Hostilities had commenced on Monday, March 3rd, and were continued in a greater or less degree, daily; that in fact they were in active operation. On Saturday the 8th, I accompanied the Police Magistrate to Heke's camp, as a last attempt to endeavour to settle this serious state of affairs, as one man had been wounded on each side. This was my last interview with Heke. I was told by Heke that if the Police Magistrate had not been in my company they would have had his head; and if I had conducted him to Kawiti, he would have been killed. This I mentioned to the Police Magistrate, and told him he must not venture again.
Allow me to ask you, Sir, if this expression was of a hostile or a friendly character? The following day, Sunday the 9th, a party of natives came upon
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one of the distant hills, from whence they had a view of Kororareka, when a shell was directed at them from the 'Hazard.' Pray Sir, what think you, was there any expression of hostility in this, or was it out of compliment? How extremely idle is it to state that "the inhabitants of Kororareka were lulled into false security in consequence of its having been said that the natives had no hostile intention," when these expressions of hostility were reciprocal upon all opportunities.
Thirdly. I deny that "the inhabitants were lulled into false security." Every one who was in the Bay of Islands at that period, knows that the greatest uneasiness prevailed, arising from their feeling of insecurity, as the British force being so limited, could only be expected to act on the defensive. It appears very evident that Captain Robertson and his small band were not "lulled into false security," but were at their station on the morning of the 11th of March, and made the first charge on the natives under Kawiti, who were immediately repulsed, with severe loss, and fled over the hills with all expedition, and did not return during that whole day. Captain Robertson fell, severely wounded. The Flagstaff Block-house was taken possession of at this period, the guard having run out, unarmed, to take a view of the first attack. This, therefore, was the commencement and termination of the fighting of that day on the part of the natives--a space of a few minutes, say ten. All the British force retired into the stockade, with the exception of a few, in the lower battery, who received no injury.
Why the town was evacuated, is not for me to explain. I merely state that the inhabitants were not driven out of the town by the natives; they withdrew to the ships, by order of the authorities in command: and when the town was thus evacuated, the natives took possession!
That there was blame somewhere, is too evident, but I am no judge in such matters. I confine
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myself to facts, being an eye-witness, and merely state that so it was.
Sir, you may perhaps enquire how it came to pass that those violent expressions which have been made against the Archdeacon could have been made without just grounds; this I cannot explain to you. It appears evident that some apology was requisite for the disasters of the day. Every one admits there was some egregious error; it was therefore convenient to nominate the Archdeacon as the scapegoat, on whom to lay the charge of their mistakes, being the least likely to call any to account for such libellous expressions.
By these brief remarks, you will perceive that I repel any charge in the participation in the fall of Kororareka. I was there as the Minister of Peace, the Ministers of War should answer for themselves.
The highest officers in the Colony, to whom this question was referred, have expressed their fullest approbation of my services rendered at that period, which ought, I conceive, to be a sufficient guarantee to the public. I must express my perfect satisfaction in their decision, and do not see why any other person should be otherwise.
I have further to add that many persons, after the evacuation of the town, and the Natives being in full possession, on seeing me on the beach, alone with the Natives, landed, and recovered many things from their houses; and until the close of the second day three boats from Paihia, under the charge of my sons and myself, were engaged in rendering every assistance to the inhabitants in recovering their property; that in some instances I placed certain Europeans under charge of some of these rebel chiefs, to protect them from molestation while thus engaged, who also assisted in removing their things; and no injury was done to any by the Natives, though frequent shots were fired during this period from the 'Hazard' into the houses, to the imminent risk of the Europeans
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in the town recovering their property. The four soldiers shot at the Flagstaff, I brought down with my boat's crew and some of the rebel natives, and conveyed on board the 'Hazard'; and all important public papers were recovered personally by myself from the Police Office, at the request of the Police Magistrate.
I have the honour, &c.,
I was the last European on the beach at the destruction of Kororareka, urging the immediate removal of every one, as the Maoris were becoming intoxicated--therefore beyond control.
CREIGHTON AND SCALES, PRINTERS, O'CONNELL ST., AUCKLAND.
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