Emily Bathurst; or, at Home and Abroad
Chapter X.Mr. Munro.
I have been much interested in reading various details of the affairs of New Zealand during the last few years. It is certainly difficult to form a thoroughly correct idea of the state of things there. The Government seems to have immense difficulties to contend with.E.
In what way?Mr. M.
Civilization is still young among the natives. Though much has been achieved, much more still remains to be done before this wild race can bear any comparison with the lower class of Europeans. They are still covetous and indolent, nor will they settle down to continued habits of industry, as long as their few wants are easily supplied by Europeans in exchange for commodities which cost them little labour. Among the European settlers in New Zealand some are unscrupulous and selfish characters. Their page 152only object is to make fortunes for themselves, and they violently oppose any Government which insists on protecting the natives from such treatment as the aborigines of other countries have received from preceding colonists. By local newspapers and continual misrepresentations and oppositions, such persons do all in their power to thwart the intentions of Government, and to give to the English public a false view of the state of things in this distant land. Then agents of foreign nations, who would gladly take our place in New Zealand, inflame the minds of the natives against English rule, and threaten them with the fate of the New Hollanders if England still maintains her sway over them. Communication with the mother country is tedious and uncertain, and the funds, men, and arms at the disposal of the Governor are insufficient for carrying on the necessary machinery of Government.E.
If such resolutions as those you mentioned relative to the treaty of Waitangi, page 153should come to the ears of The New Zealanders, they would not tend to allay any suspicions which designing persons may have infused into their minds.Mr. M.
And there were many ready to inform The New Zealanders fully on this subject, and to add insidious comments of their own. News circulates rapidly among a people who are always inquiring for it, and there are few who are unacquainted with the substance of the parliamentary debates in England on the New Zealand question.E.
The attachment of the natives to their lands, and the tenacity with which you have told me the chiefs regard their rights and privileges, would make them singularly jealous of any attempt to force them to part with anything which they felt belonged to them.Mr. M.
A serious disturbance took place in the southern part of the northern island, in consequence of English settlers claiming land which the natives asserted they had never Bold, and which cost the life of two page 154Englishmen. The English were clearly wrong in this affair, and the Governor, Captain Fitzroy, justly refrained from avenging their death, for which forbearance many of the settlers, who, it is to be feared, only longed for an excuse to seek the extermination or subjection of the natives, severely blamed him. There are land claims still unsettled, which, not improbably, may lead to bloodshed, and cause future Governors much difficulty.E.
Were land claims the origin of the late war?Mr. M.
No. It appears to have arisen chiefly from the unsettled and warlike character of a few individuals who, either really, or in order to compass their own ends, pretended to believe that the treaty of Waitangi reduced The New Zealanders to the condition of slaves of the English Crown. A chief, named Heki, who was a baptized person, and had been one of the first to sign the treaty of Waitangi, asserted that the hoisting of the British flag on any page 155territory was a sign that the land belonged to the Sovereign of Great Britain, and that its people had become slaves. He exerted himself to spread this opinion amongst the inhabitants of the northern part of the island, and had not the missionaries and the agents of Government set themselves strenuously to work to counteract his efforts, they would have been even more successful. As it was the greater part of the chiefs remained faithful to the Government, and determined to do their best to withstand Heki, and his colleague Eawiti, should they create any disturbance.E.
I suppose Heki and Kawiti feared that if the British power and influence increased, their power, and that of the other chiefs, would diminish.Mr. M.
I have no doubt self interest was the ground of their discontent. When the Liturgy was translated into Maori (the New Zealand language), the only change made in it was that, in one part, the chiefs, as being the rulers of the land, were prayed for instead of page 156the Queen. When, after the treaty of Waitangi, Heki heard in church the Queen's name substituted for that of the chiefs, he was furiously indignant, and asked why the Queen of England was exalted to the skies, and the chiefs of New Zealand trodden under foot.E.
What possible chance could The New Zealanders have in making head against the forces of Great Britain?Mr. M.
None, if those forces were on the spot to oppose them; but the means of defence which Government possessed were lamentably deficient, and when Heki commenced hostilities by cutting down the flagstaff at Korararika, in June, 1844, Captain Fitzroy was obliged to send to New South Wales for troops to assist him in checking the apprehended disturbances. The Bishop and clergy flew to the spot to try and settle matters amicably, and most encouraging was their reception from the larger number of the chiefs, who dreaded Heki's arrogance and turbulent disposition; but the insurgents page 157themselves, though they appeared to submit for the time, only did so in order to acquire more strength for resistance, and shortly after again cut down the flag-staff at Korararika.E.
Surely there must have been interested persons at work with Heki to encourage him in so hopeless a conflict.Mr. M.
No doubt there were unprincipled "white men" actively at work to foment these disturbances. Both France and America are by no means pleased to see New Zealand occupied by the British, and there are also countrymen of our own scattered among the natives, quite capable of doing anything to seek to overturn a settled Government which checks their lawless habits. The debates in this country on the New Zealand subject, and certain local arrangements relative to custom duties, afforded a plausible excuse for Heki's complaints. On the 11th of March, 1845, Heki and his party took, burned, and sacked Korararika, or Russell, which is its English name, in page 158spite of the efforts of the few troops assembled to oppose them. The inhabitants escaped in three vessels which were fortunately lying in harbour at the time, and Heki retired to a fortified pah in the neighbourhood of the destroyed settlement. The buildings belonging to the English and Roman Catholic missionaries alone escaped destruction in Russell. It was then believed that the triumphant chiefs would make a descent on Auckland, but this was prevented by the union of several chiefs, Nene (or Walker), Ripa, Paratene, Taonui, and Tawai, who resolved to attack and keep the rebels in check, until sufficient force could be procured to put down the insurrection.E.
Were the rebels well armed? and how did they procure ammunition?Mr. M.
For years the great object of their barter had been to obtain fire-arms. The trading vessels, careless of the effect on the morals of the people, always came well provided with guns, as they obtained timber, flax, and other productions of the country page 159very readily in exchange for these. The New Zealanders possessed numbers of double-barrelled guns, which they kept in excellent order, and of which they fully understood the use; and at the very time when our troops were engaged against the enemy, an Englishman was known to have provided the insurgents with ammunition, though he was fully aware of the use they would make of it.E.
It is really fearful to think what people will do for gain.Mr. M.
Colonel Despard at length arrived from Sydney with between 500 and 600 men, Captain Marlow, of the Engineers, and a subaltern officer from the Royal Artillery, Lieutenant Wilmot, who had volunteered his services from the Governor's staff in Van Diemen's Land. These were joined by some volunteers from the Auckland militia, and a few seamen and marines under Lieutenant Philpotts, of the Royal Navy. The difficulties these troops experienced on their road to Heki's pah85 were very great, page 160from the rainy season, and the want of roads. The carriages which carried the guns and ammunition were continually overturning or sticking in the mud, and the fatigue to both officers and men during the whole journey was excessive. The Mission farms at Waimate supplied the troops with flour, beef, and potatoes, and the station formed a resting place for the troops on their way to the pah, and a comfortable retreat and shelter for the wounded after the attack. When arrived at Heki's pah, a battery was erected in order to effect a breach, but the guns were too light for the purpose, and much of the ammunition bad. The pah was a place of great strength, an oblong square, with a treble row of stockades ten feet high, composed either of whole trees or split timbers of the puru wood, which is remarkably hard and tough, with ditches, passages, and excavations five or six feet deep, partly covered with hurdles and matting, which latter served to protect the natives from the enemy's fire, while their own guns could take effect through loop-page 161holes. Gaining confidence from the slight effect produced by the guns and shells on his fortifications, Heki made a sortie86 on the 1st of July, and surprised one of our posts, causing some bloodshed. A gallant attack made by our troops on the pah a day or two after failed, chiefly, apparently, in consequence of a neglect of the commander's orders, who had instructed the men to be provided with ladders and hatchets, but which were left in the ravine as useless. Captain Grant and Lieutenant Philpotts were killed, and four officers wounded. Thirty-six men were either killed, or died of their wounds, and many more were wounded. At first the enemy made some difficulty about giving up the bodies of the dead, but they were all recovered at that time except Captain Grant's, which was buried in the pah, and afterwards disinterred to receive Christian burial.E.
I had no idea that we had experienced so severe a loss.Mr. M.
There was no want of gallantry page 162either in men or officers. Colonel Hulme, Lieutenant Wilmot, and many others greatly distinguished themselves, but the kind of fighting was new to our troops, and they had scarcely calculated on the strength of the native fortifications. The wounded men suffered much during their removal to Waimate, but the noise and danger of the camp made their commander most anxious to place them in safety, and an officer and thirty men were sent to protect them, as an attack was feared on the Mission station. Instead of attempting a breach, Colonel Despard now resolved to fire into the pah, as it was necessary to be sparing of the ammunition, the quantity which our troops possessed being very small. After this firing had continued for an entire day, about midnight the outlying picquets observed unusual silence in the enemy's camp, and on examination it was found that Heki and his party had evacuated the place. Several guns were found in it, and an immense quantity of provisions, principally Indian-corn and potatoes Its strength surprised page 163our troops, who, of course, destroyed it entirely. But this work occupied three days, and in some cases it took the strength of forty men with ropes to pull down one post, though much of the earth at the base had been previously dug away. Another pah, situated five miles from Waimate, was also found deserted, and was destroyed by our troops. Colonel Despard was anxious to have advanced immediately against Kawiti's pah, and to have ended the war at once, but being recalled to Auckland, was unable to carry those intentions into effect, and it was not till after the arrival of Captain Grey, who succeeded Captain Fitz Roy in the government of New Zealand, in November, 1845, that British arms were finally successful. The rebels, having rejected offers of accommodation, were dislodged from another pah of unusual strength, that of Ruapekapeka, built by Kawiti, with but slight loss of life on our side, and the insurrection consequently quelled without much effusion of blood or any subsequent sanguinary executions. Heki page 164and Kawiti escaped, submitted, and were pardoned, and it is to be hoped that the clemency exercised by Government will be rewarded by the future peaceful conduct of the chiefs, who have found by experience that it is impossible long to make head against the determined bravery and superior skill of the British.E.
Did the chiefs exercise any of their ancient cruelties on such of our troops as fell into their hands?Mr. M.
Nothing could be more striking than the change which a few years had produced in this respect. Cannibalism appears to be abolished, and though two bodies were found partially mutilated, and one soldier whom they made prisoner was said to be tortured before he was put to death, these cruel acts were perpetrated, not by the chiefs nor by the body of the rebels, but by a few heathen individuals, and they occasioned so much dissension among the rebels, that many left them in consequence. Morning and evening prayers and singing were daily con-page 165tinued in the rebel camp, and the Sabbath was strictly observed. During the attack on Heki's pah, the British troops were engaged on Sunday as on other days, while the besieged natives held their service, and did not return a single shot during the whole day. The final attack on Kawiti's pah was made on Sunday, while the heathens were engaged in preparing their breakfast, and the Christians in their Sabbath devotions. It is the testimony of one of the officers of the attacking force, and who seems to think that the principle, though a good one, may be carried too far, in which we shall scarcely agree with him, that nothing will induce the natives to do any sort of work, or even to go a journey on Sunday, if they can possibly avoid it. Nor must I omit to mention Captain Fitz Roy's testimony respecting the friendly chiefs. He says, "that not one failed to act up to his professions, and that among them a regard for truth, and a sense of honour prevail to a degree which one can hardly believe to be compatible with the page 166dirty habits and uninformed condition in which they live," and though complaints are made of some unreasonable demands and supineness on the part of the natives whilst our troops were engaged before Heki's pah, the assistance which the native allies afforded to our troops, aided them most materially in the success which finally attended our arms; and the acuteness and military skill displayed by some of the chiefs, seems to have surprised the English.
85 A Pā is a Māori hill fort erected in strategic positions to defend against enemy attacks.
86 An attack made by troops coming out from a position of defence.