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The interest in the Waitara is fast sinking into insignificance. It is doubtful whether a debate on the question can be got up in the House of Representatives. Event follows event with such rapidity—each succeeding act of the drama now being played out, explaining with more or less fulness the mystery hidden in the one which immediately preceded it, that even curiosity about the "new circumstances” so mysteriously hinted at in the proclamation abandoning the block, can scarcely be excited. It is rather a relief than otherwise to all parties that, in the present struggle Waitara “is well out of the way," and that no land question or difference of opinion about Maori title is mixed up with the issue now being fought out.
Nevertheless, however willing and thankful we may be that, by the exercise of ministerial legerdemain, Waitara has been got rid of, we must confess to a certain lingering desire to take a peep behind the scenes, and ascertain how the thing was done. No sooner will the Assembly be in session than all will be revealed. It can hardly be supposed that the Waitara papers will then be any longer withheld ; and though we do not
; in the least anticipate that the fate of the Government will at all depend upon the case they can make out, or that the abandonment of that block will be regarded as a good ground to impeach the Ministers, as some eager journalists suggested when first the intelligence shocked the public out of its sense of propriety ; yet, as a matter in itself of grave public importance, there are few who take interest in the political history of the Colony who will not read with eagerness the story as the parliamentary papers will tell it.
So far, but little has been written on the subject, and that little has not gained much credence. An article in the Canterbury Press, the writer of which boasts that he knows all about it, appeared on the 9th July, and though the story which he tells is, in many respects, very remarkable, and no doubt contains much which is true, it can hardly be accepted as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The writer of that article was evidently anxious to make the most of the facts which had come to his knowledge, and these he has dressed up with all the charm of style and power of language to which we are so much accustomed in the Press ; so that, what with the facts which he relates, the inferences which he shows, and the illustrations he uses, he makes the story of Waitara to reveal one of the most tragic blunders on record. He would have people believe that the forces of Great Britain had been used to turn from their houses and their cultivations a large, defenceless, and peaceable population of Natives, for no other reason on earth but to extend the limits of settlement of the Province of Taranaki. He compares the resistance of William King to the resistance of Hampden, and his heroism and chivalry to that of Garibaldi. In his eyes, William King is no rebel opposing an authority superior to his own, that the dominion
over this country should vest in the Maori and not in the European ; but a justice-loving patriot, impelled to opposition by the tyrannical and oppressive acts of the land-grasping stranger. This picture is as nearly like the truth as a brigand on the stage is like the brigand of the Apennines, or as the frontispiece to the "merry Swiss boy" is like the youthful
' inhabitant of the valleys of the Alps.
Whatever may be the truth, whatever we may think of the Waitara purchase originally, and of the various blunders that have been made in reference thereto, we are quite certain that an historical statement of the facts that have transpired will lead no one else but the writer in the Press to the conclusions which he has drawn. The position taken up by Governor Browne and his Ministers was, that Teira and his people were the sole owners of the land they were desirous to sell ; that their title
; was disputed by no one; that there was no good reason to allege against the purchase ; that William King's opposition was purely factious, and for no other reason than to resist the Queen's authority and to prevent the further alienation of land. Great stress has been laid by the supporters of Colonel Browne on the fact that the “investigation” into Teira's title was going on for a period of nine or ten months ; that during that time every effort was made to ascertain whether there were any other claimants, and that none could be found. Now, there can be very
little doubt that this much boasted investigation was all a farce. Mr. Parris was the Government agent; Mr. Parris was the Land-Purchase Commissioner ; Mr. Parris was deeply interested in the extension of the Taranaki settlement; Mr. Parris received instructions from the Goverument to y the land if possible ; Mr. Parris was the Investigator ; Mr. Parris was, in fact, Judge, Jury, Prosecutor, Counsel, and Witness, all in
There was not even so much as the formality of a Court. No particular time was fixed for this celebrated investigation. According to Ir. Parris's own showing, it consisted of nothing but occasional loose talk at a Maori pa between him and any Maori he could get hold of. This is his own statement : “I went to Waitara to have an interview with William King and his people on the subject of resuming the negociation (not investigation mind) for Teira's land. I spent this day and many others with them endeavouring to induce them to meet Teira's party, and discuss quietly and deliberately the claims to the block of land (thus admitting that they had claims), but they never would consent to do it; I, therefore, was obliged to get information from other natives.” No one need be surprised at a crop of “new circumstances” arising out of such an investigation as this ; indeed, the surprise would be if there were any other result. The main point is to ascertain what the “new circumstances” really are, and how they came to be discovered, for whatever else is known or unknown, it is clear that there has been no more formal investigation this time than there was before by Mr. Parris.
It is said that the “new circumstances " l'est entirely on Teira's own confession. That Teira had an interview at Taranaki with Mr. Bell. That on that occasion the talk turned upon the emigration of the Ngatiawa from Waikanae, and that Mr. Bell asked Teira to tell him how it was that William King resided on the south bank of the river instead of on his own territory on the north. The reply which it is understood Teira made is very curious. He said that, in the first instance, King had fully intended to reside on the north bank, but the
people were so afraid of their old enemies, the Ngatimaniapoto branch of the Waikatos, that the tribes came to an agreement among themselves, that, for the sake of mutual protection and defence, they should all live together on the south bank; that, in consequence of that agreement, they all had lived there since 1848 ; that their pas were all built so close together on the south bank as to be in fact, for defensive purposes, one pa ; that King's people, to the number of 150 to 200, had lived there twelve years, and that they had cultivated the land on the south bank in common. He is said further to have added, when Mr. Bell asked him how it was, under such circumstances, that he (Teira) offered the land for sale without the consent of the tribes, when it was with the consent of the the tribes that it was originally occupied, that he had no reply to make that question. Now it is of importance to know the precise meaning of those words ; in ordinary parlance the meaning to be attached to them is, that Teira was “stumped.” We have, however, heard, with what truth we cannot pretend to say, that he meant no such thing, but simply that he would not answer that question then, but would take some other opportunity of so doing The conversation did not end here. Mr. Bell once having begun, seemed determined to go on ; that wonderful politician, who did his best by long interninable talking and writing to set up Governor Browne's case, seems now equally desirous of knocking it down, and having got Teira in a loquacious mood determined to pump him dry. Teira it seems then went on to relate that there were a number of other claimants besides himself to the block which he offered for sale, and that the reason he was anxious that the surveyors should measure the ground was, that each owner's piece should be laid off ; that it was a great mistake to suppose that he ever intended to sell the site of the pas at the mouth of the river, or the cultivations; and that he had always bargained for a reserve of 200 acres there. To make the whole story more wonderful, in spite of Governor Browne's fornual proclamation in the Gazette that the purchase money for Waitara had been paid, and that the land was the Queen's, he had received only £100 on account of the £600, which Parris had agreed to pay for this block.
One is positively bewildered by this story. Ones first impulse is to say at once it must be false. Yet, on the other hand, the writer in the Press is a member of the General Assembly ; he may be supposed to be in communication with, and to possess the confidence of the Government he called into being, and he himself vouches for the accuracy of the story in the main. Hints mixed up with party animadversions have appeared to the same effect in the New-Zealander. No contradiction to our knowledge has appeared in any journal, in any shape or form. Men who are supposed to be in the secrets of the Government, whisper mysteriously that it is all true; and we must confess, though too young and possibly too insignificant to have a "friend at court from whom hints can be occasionally gleaned, that we are fully prepared to find the official documents bearing out the facts as stated.
It seems almost incredible that the Government could have gone to war in 1860 about a purchase of which so little was known. But then it will be answered, they never went to war about land at all, it was a question of jurisdiction of her Majesty's sovereignty, and not at all a question about land. If this were so, why did the very same party who so applauded Governor Browne, shriek so loudly when the Waitara, about which they said so much blood and treasure had been expended, was given up? These questions involve such nice distinctions, that we had rather not discuss them here. If all this, or the greater part of this, is true, is William King a martyr, or Hampden a self-sacrificing patriot, or is he the contumacious Maori we have so long believed him to be? Supposing every syllable of this story as detailed in the Canterbury Press to be literally true, William King would still be, in our opinion, a rebel and thoroughly bad fellow. When Governor Browne, at Taranaki, asked him to come and meet him, to talk of the matter of the Waitara, he refused ; and when Teira offered the block for sale, instead of stating what his (King's) claims were, or what reasons he had for opposing the sale, nothing could be got out of him but that he would not let the land go. The Waitara to William King formed a good excuse, an excellent excuse, for resisting the Queen's authority; and to have explained the complications of the title would in no way have suited his purpose. He knew, and no one better, that if the Government became aware that the purchase of that piece of land would compel 200 people to abandon, against their will, their homes and their cultivations, and that the title was complicated beyond all conception by innumerable individual owners of pieces within the boundary, who would object to the sale, that the Governor would give up all intention of completing the purchase and have told Teira to be off about his business. That the Governor and his Ministers knew nothing of all this, we cannot but believe ; at the same time, we cannot acquit them of blame in not being perfectly satisfied of all the facts of the case before they took so decided a step as that of making war ; and especially culpable will those be held to be who must have kept back much from their superior officers, or have been utterly unfit for the position of Land-Purchase Commissioners which they held.
In all this apparently inextricable jumble and confusion, what was the present Government to do when these facts came to their knowledge? They find the very preliminaries of the Waitara purchase unsettled. Reserves bargained for, but undefined and unknown. Many proprietors claiming, where it was believed only a few existed. The most precious part which was supposed to be bought and on which the former Government proposed to lay out a town is the very spot which the seller declares he never intended to dispose of, and 200 persons formerly expelled from their locations must be prevented from returning by force. Complicated in this way beyond all possibility of unravelment, there were still greater complications in another direction. Both races looking on, anxious to see what steps would be taken with reference to Waitara ; and the Maori race ready as ever, or even more so, to get another good excuse for war. Any attempt on the part of the Government to what is called "complete" this purchase, would have been, there can be no doubt, the signal for war in all directions. Waitara could only have been secured by another Waitara war. The fighting could not have been confined to Taranaki, but would have been general throughout the North Island. Prior to the murders on 4th May, the case stood thus :-If the Waitara purchase had been gone on with, war was certain, on the worst possible ground-a land quarrel. If the Natives were really sincere in their desire for peace, provided the Government would not attempt to acquire land in opposition to their custom and against their will-peace would have been cheaply bought by giving up Waitara. If, on the other hand, the Natives meant to force on a war, no excuse should have been afforded thein ; but by giving up Waitara, they should have been placed, as they have been absolutely and completely in the wrong, in the face of their own people and the whole Colony_Church Missionaries included. It is said, with what truth we know not, that the abandonment of Waitara was determined on before those murders were committed ; if so, we state it as our deliberate opinion that the Government then came to a wise conclusion that they were fully justified in the course on which they had determined. To the reason why that determination was not at once carried into effect we can obtain no clue. For this we must wait in patience till the session.
We should be sorry to condemn the Government unheard, but no sufficient reason has been given for abandoning the Waitara after those murders were committed, for after that time all hope was gone of the pacific solution of the native difficulty. There may be political l'easons of which we know nothing. It may have had such an effect on the mind of the better disposed Maoris, that we owe at this moment peace at Wellington, Hawke's Bay, and Wanganui, to the fact that all claim upon the Waitara has been publicly renonnced. If this can be clearly shown, the justification of the Government will be complete. The question, however, now is one of existence; it is simply narrowed down to that. All men who reflect at all must be thankful that Waitara is out of the way—that no disputed title, that no doubtful purchase is now the cause of war: that blood is not shed nor treasure expended to increase the limits of a settlement, but that we fight, and fight we will, against the barbarous tyranny of the Maori, that civilisation may spread and peace be secured throughout the length and breadth of the land.
The handful here, that once was Mary's earth,
That, when she died, all recognised her birth.
“Not here ! not here!” to every mourner's heart
And when the tomb-door opened, with a start
Shouldst thou, sad pilgrim, who mayst hither pass,
Should spring come earlier to this hallowed grass,
Know that her spirit to her body lent
That even her dust, and this her monument,
Lonely through life, but looking for the day
When human passion shall have passed away,