These wars and rumours of wars had small effect in stopping
immigration. Most of the settlers were British; for, though no
systematic colonisation had as yet been attempted, the right of Great
Britain’s sovereignty over New Zealand had been recognised at the Peace
New South Wales being the nearest approach to a centre of civilisation,
the Government in Sydney watched the interests of the settlers on the
eastern edge of the Tasman Sea; but, because of the distance between
the two countries, the New Zealand settlers had really to protect
themselves from annoyance as best they could. The Maori, predominant in
power, found little difficulty in safeguarding their own interests.
Apart from the efforts of the missionaries, what did most to keep the
peace was the desire of commercial adventurers to tap the resources of
the country. On their side, the Maori were anxious to bargain with the
Pakeha for guns, and very soon learned that any serious breach with the
white men was followed by interruption of profitable intercourse.
The Pakeha at first took shameful advantage of the natives, purchasing
a shipload of flax for a few old muskets, while a fig of tobacco was
esteemed by the latter worth almost as much as a gun. But the Maori
were never fools, whatever else their failings, and they quickly
grew instructed in the commercial value of the articles they had for
disposal, for which they were prompt to demand a more adequate return.
The one point in which they seemed hopelessly to fail was in estimating
the value of land. This was because they and the white men approached
the subject from absolutely different standpoints, and what the Pakeha
concluded they had bought, the Maori imagined they had leased. For
the most sacred article in the creed of the Maori was, perhaps, that
precluding them from parting in perpetuity with the land which had
descended to them from their ancestors.
An abominable traffic in which the baser sort of white men engaged was
that in human heads. The marvellous preservation of the heads of dead
Maori had excited great interest among scientists, and European museums
clamoured for specimens. But the loss of the head of one of its male
members brought a peculiar grief and shame to a Maori family, for it
meant also the loss of _mana_, or reputation. Consequently, the demand
for heads greatly exceeded the supply.
But if there were base men among the Pakeha, so were there among the
Maori, and such fellows made nothing of filching the heads of other
persons’ ancestors or defunct relatives, and selling them to the
sailors frequenting the coast.
This was bad enough; but, since theft could not accomplish enough,
murder stalked upon its heels, and many a wretched slave was slain in
order that his head might grin from the shelf of a museum, or “grace”
the library of some curio-hunter.
Efforts were made to stop the disgusting traffic with its lurid
accompaniments; but the offenders were not easily reached and, had New
Zealand remained uncolonised, the Maori race might by this time have
become extirpated by a gradual process of decapitation. Fortunately, as
the white population grew more respectable and responsible, their own
sense of what was due to themselves choked off the practice.
Such a shocking story reached the ears of Governor Darling in Sydney,
that he issued a proclamation, threatening those engaged in the trade
with heavy fines and exposure in the public prints.
Theft and murder accounted for a certain number of heads; but the
conquerors in battle presently began to offer them in exchange for–as
always–guns and ammunition. In the year 1830 a tribe living on the
shores of the Bay of Plenty defeated certain Nga-Puhi, and sold
such heads as were in proper condition to the master of the next
vessel which touched at Tauranga. The brig proceeded to the Bay of
Islands–whence had come the original owners of the heads–and was
boarded by some of the natives there. The skipper, who seems to have
been drunk, appeared on deck, carrying a large sack, and the Maori
shrank back, growling and muttering, as the besotted Pakeha tumbled
out of the bag a dozen human heads. Worse was to come. Some of the
Maori present were related to those who had gone out to fight and
had never returned, and a cry of bitter lamentation arose as these
recognised the faces of their dead–one a father, another a brother, a
third a son. Others, too, knew their friends, and amid a scene of the
utmost horror, the outraged Maori, wailing, weeping, howling, rushed
over the side of the ship and paddled swiftly towards their bewildered
comrades who lined the shore, marvelling at the commotion. Drunk or
sober, the brutal shipmaster knew that he had gone too far, for he
slipped his cable and fled for his life.
When His Excellency heard this atrocious story, he insisted that all
who had bought heads from this savage trader should give them up
to him, in order that they might be returned to the tribes at the
Bay of Islands. How far he succeeded in his endeavour to soothe the
grief-stricken and offended Maori is uncertain.
About the time of Hongi’s visit to Europe a rage for land speculation
arose, and people of all sorts and conditions hastened to offer axes,
guns, and such merchandise as the Maori valued in exchange for broad
acres. How far this traffic went is shown by the official statement
that one million acres of land were “purchased” between 1825 and 1830
from the natives by Sydney speculators. Further, twenty-seven thousand
square miles in the most fertile part of the north were acquired
between 1830 and 1835 by missionaries.
[Illustration: A dreadful recognition]
News of these transactions excited in England a more active interest in
New Zealand, and in 1825 a Company was formed in London with the object
of colonising the latter country. Sixty people did actually emigrate,
and on arrival settled around the Hauraki Gulf; but no more followed;
the settlement melted away, and with it the aspirations of the Company.
“He who aims at the sun will shoot higher than he who aims at a
bush, though he hit never his mark,” quaintly says Bacon, and Baron
Charles Hyppolyte de Thierry perhaps had this apophthegm in mind when
he proclaimed himself “Sovereign Chief of New Zealand and King of
Nukahiva”–one of the Marquesas Islands.
Baron de Thierry–a naturalised Englishman–met the Rev. Mr. Kendall
and Hongi when the pair were in England, and entrusted the former with
merchandise to the value of one thousand pounds, wherewith to purchase
for him one of the most valuable areas in New Zealand–the Hokianga
district, in which flourishes the invaluable _kauri_-pine. The would-be
sovereign was greatly disappointed to learn that his agent had acquired
only forty thousand acres of this superb country, while he was at the
same time cheered to know that the immense tract had been “purchased”
at the not excessive price of thirty-six axes!
Is it any wonder that the Maori could not later realise that they had
parted for ever with their lands for such ridiculous–to use no harsher
word–equivalents? The land was in their own opinion leased, not sold,
and the leasing of land was a common enough practice among themselves,
each party to the transaction thoroughly understanding its nature.
Baron de Thierry neglected his purchase until 1835, when he drifted as
far as Tahiti. Thence he forwarded to Mr. Busby, the Resident, a copy
of his “proclamation,” along with the intimation that his “ship of war”
would presently convey him to his kingdom. The Bay of Islands dovecote
was considerably fluttered.
But Monsieur the “Sovereign Chief” did not arrive for three years, and
then he suddenly appeared in Hokianga with nearly a hundred followers.
Settlers and Maori beheld with apprehension this select company; but
when the invader claimed royal honours and nominated the master of
the vessel in which he had arrived his “Lord High Admiral,” everybody
laughed–except the “Sovereign Chief and King.”
The baron soon had reason to weep; for of a sudden came information
that Mr. Kendall’s thirty-six axes, paid for the forty thousand acres,
had been merely a deposit. One is relieved to learn this, but it
must have been very depressing news for the would-be proprietor. For
the Royal Exchequer was very low, and as the great officers of state
could get no pay for the arduous duties they performed, they promptly
resigned. So, too, did the “Sovereign Chief,” and vanished, to reappear
later, without the “purple,” in the guise of an ordinary and very
The settlement at Kororareka has already been referred to as a
place in which the orgies of white and brown justified the epithet
“scandalous.” It was not the only spot in this Eden over which lay the
trail of the serpent; so, for the sake of morality, as well as for
political reasons, the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard Bourke,
appealed to the British Government to appoint a Resident at the Bay of
Many years had elapsed between the murder of Captain Marion du Fresne
and the visit of the next French ship. At rare intervals a vessel
dropped anchor in one of the bays; but there was little sustained
intercourse. Even as late as 1834, so bitter were their memories of
the “_Wi-Wi_” (_Oui-Oui_) that the Nga-Puhi chiefs took alarm at the
persistent rumour of a French occupation of New Zealand, and induced
the missionaries to draw up a petition to the “Gracious Chief of
England,” William the Fourth, to protect them from “the tribe of
The Maori had also begun to recognise that the British Pakeha were not
over clean-handed in their dealings with them; for, in addition to the
above, they prayed the “Gracious Chief” to prevent his own people from
depriving them of their lands.
The result of this unrest was the appointment of Mr. Busby as British
Resident. He arrived at the Bay of Islands in 1833, and led off in
great style by proposing that all New Zealand should be ruled by a
Parliament of Chiefs, and that the country should adopt a national flag
to signify its independence.
The idea caught the fancy of some; the flag arrived from Sydney in
H.M.S. _Alligator_, and was inaugurated with a salute of twenty-one
guns. The Parliament of Chiefs took shape a little later, when
thirty-five hereditary chiefs declared their independence, and received
the designation of the “United Tribes of New Zealand.”
Barely a year after Mr. Busby’s appointment, a “regrettable incident”
occurred, which compelled him to assume the character of “Vindex,” in
which neither he, nor those associated with him, showed to advantage.
The affair gave rise to the employment of British troops for the first
time in New Zealand, and arose out of the shipwreck of the _Harriet_ at
Cape Egmont, Taranaki. The sailormen lodged for a fortnight in a Maori
village, and then a quarrel arose. A fight followed, and twelve sailors
and twice as many Maori were killed.
Since the Maori loss was double that of the ship’s company, the account
could only be balanced by _utu_; so the surviving whites were held to
ransom, and Guard, the shipmaster, was sent to procure the same.
Five months later, the Government of New South Wales despatched H.M.S.
_Alligator_ with a company of soldiers on board to bring away the
prisoners. On her arrival off the scene of the disaster, Guard went
ashore, accompanied by the military, when the Maori at once gave up the
sailors. All was going well–for Guard was assured of the safety and
well-being of his wife and two little ones–when an officer, perhaps
deceived by gestures incomprehensible to him, hurled an unfortunate
chief into the boat and bayoneted him.
This wrong-headed act was not immediately followed by hostilities,
though it interrupted the progress of negotiations. Matters were at
last smoothed over, the wounded chief was sent ashore, and Mrs. Guard
and one of her children brought down to the boat. Then, as the ransom
was still unpaid, the second child was carried to the shore upon the
shoulder of the chief who had cared for it.
This chief not unreasonably requested permission to carry the child
aboard, and himself receive the stipulated payment; but, when curtly
informed that no ransom would be paid, he turned away, still carrying
the child. It is dreadful to be obliged to relate that the Maori was
shot in the back at close quarters, and fell dying to the ground with
the little child in his arms. As if this were not enough, his corpse
Following upon this tragedy, a shot was fired, by whom or from whence
no one could or would say. The _Alligator_ immediately began to shell
the Waimate _Pa_, and the troops played their part. When sufficient
punishment had been inflicted, the dogs of war were called off and the
ship sailed away.
Unpleasant as is the task, it is right that these dark pictures of
mistakes and injustice should now and then be shown, if only to
induce those whose duty brings them in contact with primitive races
to remember that the rights of man belong to the coloured as well as
to the white. It is not denied that the Maori treated their prisoners
with consideration, and it is pitiful to learn that Mrs. Guard
identified the chief who was the first to be slain as one who had
behaved with unvarying kindness to her and to her children. Nor is
there any doubt that the British disregarded every claim of justice
and humanity. Not even common honesty was exhibited; for, although the
prisoners were given up, the ransom agreed upon was refused.
The one bright spot in the whole affair was the decision of a committee
of the House of Commons, condemning the incident, and pointing out
that, while the Maori had fulfilled their contract, the British had
broken theirs. The committee might with propriety have said a good
deal more in the opinion of those whose view was not that of the chief
witness, Guard–shipmaster and ex-convict–that “a musket ball for
every Maori was the best method of civilising the country.”
These various happenings, good and bad alike, showed that the wind blew
towards Britain and British sovereignty. This was bound to come; and
come it did at last through the agency of Kororareka of all places in
Things had been going from bad to worse in the “Cyprus of the South
Sea,” and its orgies, brawls and revellings had become the scandal of
a community not easily scandalised. Law-breakers laughed at the law,
and Kororareka at last became too bad even for the Kororarekans. The
inhabitants of the better sort then drew up a set of rules and banded
themselves together under the title of the “Kororarekan Association.”
The Association approached the Resident, as in duty bound; but when
Mr. Busby would have none of them they resolved to act independently of
The Association went trenchantly to work in quite an American
spirit–tarring and feathering, riding obnoxious individuals out of the
town on rails, and purging the place of its worst elements. The scared
Resident portrayed it in such vivid colours that the Home Government
took alarm, and came to the somewhat belated conclusion that it was
time for Britain to assert the rights she had possessed by discovery
since 1769, and by the recognition of Europe since the Peace of 1814.
Another factor had meanwhile arisen which still further demonstrated
the necessity for expedition on the part of the British Government.
The New Zealand Association had been formed in 1836, but had received
little support; for it was suspected that their motives were not so
pure as they declared them to be. The missionaries hailed invective
upon them, the Duke of Wellington asserted in his “iron” way that
“Britain had enough colonies already,” and so violent was the general
opposition that the Association was dissolved.
Another Company was formed with very little delay under the title
of the New Zealand Land Company, whose Directors determined to act
independently of the Crown, and to establish settlements wheresoever
they chose in the country which Britain seemed unable or disinclined to
appreciate at its proper worth. Their ship had actually sailed before
the astonished Government were informed by the London Directors of the
intentions of the Company.
There were some big names controlling this venture. At the head of the
list stood that of the Earl of Durham, Governor of the Company and,
until just before its formation, Governor-General of Canada. Colonel
Wakefield, one of an indefatigable family, was the Company’s agent;
and the long list of Directors included the names of Petre, Baring,
Boulcott, Hutt, Molesworth, and others destined to influence the future
of New Zealand.
The Government were at last roused to action. They informed the
Directors that it was for the Crown to make colonies, not for private
individuals, and without more ado sent Captain Hobson of the Royal
Navy to New Zealand as “Consul.” He was instructed to consider himself
subordinate to the Governor of New South Wales; and he carried with him
his commission as Lieutenant-Governor.
Thus, after many vicissitudes, New Zealand found herself, in the year
of grace 1839, within measurable distance of becoming a British Colony.
But she had still to run the gauntlet of one more danger, which, had
she not escaped it, must have changed the whole course of her history.