Most people agree that the method adopted by the New Zealand Company
in their anxiety to acquire land might have been improved upon, but
few will deny them the credit which is theirs in the matter of actual
colonisation. They were the first to colonise systematically; they
were careful in the selection of their colonists, striving after the
finer types of manhood; and they planted settlements with extraordinary
rapidity, considering the difficulties of transit and transport.
It was the destiny of the Islands of the South to be colonised by the
people of Great Britain and, since this was so, it was best that the
infant colonies should be cared for by those capable of the task.
Australia–in part–and Tasmania suffered from the obnoxious policy
which used them as pits into which was swept the refuse of the British
people. From this fate, its terrible results, and the long purification
it necessitated, New Zealand happily escaped. That she did so was in
no small measure due to the efforts of the Company, whose powerful
Directors strenuously opposed the project in their day, just as the
humane impulse of the British had opposed it in cannibal days.
The Company were very active in the first year of their existence.
A twelvemonth after the founding of Wellington they had three new
settlements to their credit and, before two years were out, they had
added a fourth. There might have been a fifth, but, owing to the
inability of the Company to furnish titles, only one shipload of
immigrants disembarked at Manukau, and the idea of forming a settlement
there was abandoned. Manukau is six miles west of, and almost opposite
to, Auckland, to which it forms a second harbour, the land portage
between the two inlets being barely a mile across.
Afraid to purchase land without a title, yet receiving from the Company
the offer of no other in that locality, a couple of hundred immigrants
removed themselves to Whanganui, on the west coast, one hundred and
twenty miles north of Wellington. If the Company owned the land which
the settlers took up there, the latter were hardly allowed to possess
it in peace; for Whanganui was for years after its settlement in a
state of unrest, and the pages of its history contain the record of
at least one dreadful tragedy. The beautiful river–the Rhine of New
Zealand–enters the sea close by the town, forming a waterway by which
the Maori of the interior could easily approach and as easily withdraw;
a condition of things of which they took full advantage in turbulent
times. The Company’s settlers called the town they founded “Petre,” but
the picturesque Maori name has survived.
The Company presently turned their attention to the Middle Island, and
there decided upon two hundred thousand acres of land bordering Tasman
Bay and its neighbourhood. The lots were eagerly bought in England;
Captain Arthur Wakefield, R.N., a brother of the tactful Colonel, was
appointed commander of the expedition and resident agent, and two
shiploads of emigrants sailed for the new settlement, which was to be
While these preliminaries were being arranged, more immigrants arrived
at Taranaki, or New Plymouth, the “Garden of New Zealand,” where the
Company claimed ownership of sixty miles of coast by a stretch of
twenty miles inland. We saw this place when we stood with Te Turi and
his followers and gazed from afar at the snowpeak of Mount Egmont.
Hither, too, came Hongi and his conquering Nga-Puhi and, after him,
Waikato’s champion, Te Wherowhero of the red robe, who between them
made an end of the men of Taranaki, enslaving those they left alive.
Even while the new arrivals were parcelling out the land and grumbling
at the lack of a good harbour, back came the manumitted slaves, ancient
owners of Taranaki, and stood aghast to see what changes time had
wrought. Their feeble protest availed them nothing. Whether the Company
had purchased the land or not, Governor Hobson now owned it under the
Crown’s right of preemption, and the poor men of Taranaki were forced
to hide their twice diminished heads.
The ships bound for the Middle Island had by this time arrived at
Wellington, whence, after some delay, the immigrants were carried
across the strait to Tasman Bay. The native chiefs courteously received
them; but, when Captain Wakefield promised gifts as soon as the land
bought by the Colonel should be occupied, the Maori stood silent.
Had they said aught, it would probably have been a Maori version of
_Timemus exules, et dona ferentes_.
However, they professed to welcome the white men; whereupon the agent
smiled, the anxious would-be settlers cheered, surveyors were landed,
and the town of Nelson was founded on the 1st of February, 1842.
Do you who read remember how, when Hongi pressed him hard, Te Rauparaha
of the Ngati-Toa fled headlong with his tribe along a path of blood
to the south, and how he crossed the strait, and burned and slew and
ate? He is still a force to be reckoned with, this Te Rauparaha. He
is getting on in years, and lives with his tribe in the neighbourhood
of Otaki on the west, north of Wellington. But he can look thence
across the strait towards the lands he conquered not so long ago, and
dissentingly shakes his head as the Nelson-bound ships pass on their
way, while he openly expresses his disgust at the coming of so many
As Captain Wakefield parted from the little warrior-diplomatist with
the twinkling eyes and broad forehead, no prophetic vision came to him
of the fearful scene to be enacted a year later in the valley of the
Wairau, when the price of the land was to be exacted in blood–his own.
As at Wellington, as at Whanganui, as at Taranaki, so at Nelson
disputes soon began between Maori and colonist, the theme being
ever the ownership of the land. Words led to blows, blows to sullen
mutterings of _utu_ and, so far as the Company’s settlers were
concerned, it seemed as if harmonious intercourse and continued
agreement with the natives were outside the range of possible things.
While this bickering was going on, Governor Hobson had founded a town
at his end of the North Island. Auckland he named the city in embryo;
_Akarana_ the Maori called it; and from first to last the Company had
nothing to do with it. They were, in fact, extremely jealous of its
The site of a capital had not been selected till then. The seat of
government was where the Governor happened to reside; but a spot was
chosen at the head of the beautiful Hauraki Gulf, where the British
flag was hoisted on the 18th of September, 1840, and the Governor’s
residence established at what has grown to be the splendid city of
A finer or more charming situation could hardly have been found than
this on the right of the Waitemata, or “Glittering Water,” with the
superb Hauraki Gulf to the east, the harbour of Manukau to the west,
and waterways in all directions to the south. How wise was this choice
of a site is proved to-day by the great and prosperous city, in touch
with all the world, which now gives a home to eighty thousand of
There was clamour over the Governor’s selection. Wellington urged
its elder birth, its central position, its magnificent harbour; but
Captain Hobson abode by his choice. Russell, hard by Kororareka, made
bitter plaint; for the glory of becoming the chief city of the State
had been dangled before it, and visions of political prominence had
intoxicated it. Now that its chance was irretrievably gone, the fickle
crowd deserted it and pitched their tents in Auckland. So Russell
wilted away. Once again it was to blaze into brief, and rather ghastly,
notoriety, and then to sink into oblivion.
While these rival cities were in the making, Captain Hobson rigorously
enforced the right of the Crown to be the sole purchaser of land from
the natives, and set going the examination into purchases already made.
As usual, the innocent suffered with the guilty, and many who had
bought land in perfect good faith found their purchases diminished by
half, or altogether invalid.
These were consequently ruined; but their sufferings did not affect the
forward movement. Systematic colonisation had begun, and in the capable
hands of the Anglo-Saxon was bound to go on. A check here, a dispute
there, a few hundred ruined in the process, never yet stopped the
expansion of the British Empire, and, unless the character of her sons
changes greatly, never will.
Queen Victoria’s sovereignty over the islands was formally proclaimed
in 1840 and, before the end of 1842, eleven thousand settlers had cast
their fortunes in the colony, distributing themselves among the eight
settlements of Wellington, Auckland, Nelson, Taranaki (New Plymouth),
Russell (or Kororareka), Hokianga, Whanganui, and Akaroa, which was
The long civil war originated by Hongi was now over, the Maori were
looking favourably upon the white men, and were growing inclined to
adopt their ways and imitate their methods. Yet, though Christianity
and its milder influences were spreading, the brown men had still to
tread a long path before they reached the goal of civilisation. The
Pakeha appreciated this, and noted with apprehension that the Maori
seldom visited the settlements unless armed with the guns which the
folly or greed of commercial adventurers had placed within their reach.
Yet “ever upon the topmost roof our banner of England blew,” and, as
ship followed ship, bringing new settlers, every day saw the Pakeha
grow stronger, though the natives were still predominant.
A new country is usually “go-ahead,” but New Zealand was remarkably so,
nor has she in this respect ever fallen short of her beginning.
Within a year of her “declaration of independence,” though things were
very much in the rough, there was promise of that colonial splendour
which has since–in the short space of sixty-eight years–been amply
The difficulties were grave indeed. The land question was a source
of constant friction, and of ready money there was little or none.
Notwithstanding fairly substantial help from the mother country, in
spite of the newly imposed customs dues and the sale of Crown lands,
the new country’s imports surpassed the exports nearly ten times over.
No wonder money was scarce and, owing to the paucity of meat other than
pork, food very dear.
But these drawbacks could not stifle enthusiasm, and in each of
the towns–now rapidly casting behind them the character of mere
settlements–growth was steady, and the energy of the inhabitants
The mineral wealth of the colony was attracting attention–iron,
copper, manganese, coal and lime were known to exist; the great variety
of magnificent timber trees promised to become an important source of
revenue, and New Zealand flax had already established a reputation
which it has never lost. The character of the land in parts was such
as led some even then to prophesy that New Zealand would become one of
the grazing grounds of the world; though it is doubtful if the prophets
foresaw the immense revenue which was to be derived later from the
exportation of meat for consumption by the hungry folk in the northern
hemisphere. With the future so rose-tinted, it is no wonder that
the shadows of the present had little power to depress the sanguine
The Legislative Council had lost no time in passing beneficial Acts,
the citizens were inclined to be law-abiding, and trade, of a sort,
flourished. The architecture in the towns was not exactly classic;
but all looked confidently forward to the time when the weather-board
house with from two to six rooms should be replaced by the mansion,
and the tiny general store make way for the splendid palace of the
merchant prince. Compare pictures of a street in Auckland or Wellington
in 1842 with photographs of the same street to-day, and admit that the
expectation has been fulfilled.
The children who had accompanied their parents to the new land were
not allowed to run wild, and education was not entirely neglected. The
power of the Press, too, had already made itself felt by the issue of
nine newspapers. These had neither the dignity nor the imposing size
of the mighty dailies of to-day, being for the most part smaller than
a single page of any of them, while one, at least, was printed in a
mangle! Yet there they were and, if most of them died, they have left
descendants to be proud of.
Keeping in view that these forward steps of the infant colony were made
within one year of her assumption of independence, that the colonists
had to struggle against real financial troubles, that, in many cases,
their claim to the land they had bought was disputed, and–most
sinister obstacle of all–that they were face to face with a proud,
intellectual, warlike race, not altogether friendly, and outnumbering
them by five to one,–keeping all this in view, is it not admirable
that those strenuous men of yesterday and their worthy descendants of
to-day should, in little more than half a century, have raised New
Zealand from a tiny colony of eight scattered settlements to a dominion
of the Empire?
We have seen how Governor Hobson opposed what he held to be the
illegal acts of a Company engineered by men not likely to take blows
“lying down.” The Directors in England represented their case as just,
and claimed some twenty million acres as fairly purchased. The British
Government accepted their statement, allowed the claim, and on the 12th
of February, 1841, gave the Company a Royal Charter of Incorporation.
The Company were jubilant. It now mattered not if grumbling Maori
should declare that their lands had been unfairly acquired, and aver,
as they did aver, that the purchases of the Company were “thievish
bargains”; the power of Britain was behind the Company, who could
henceforth defy opponents of whatever colour.
Not quite. There was Governor Hobson to be reckoned with, and his
counterblast was terribly effective. He refused–under the proclamation
of the previous year–to give the Company Crown grants for any of their
The long wrangle began again, and the upshot of it all was that,
after interminable argument, the British Government peremptorily
extinguished the Company’s title to all land acquired from the Maori,
and a commissioner was appointed to examine all claims of purchasers of
land from the Company. There could be only one result to action of this
sort. The Company fought hard for existence, but in 1850 surrendered to
the Imperial Government their charter and all their interests in the
Colony of New Zealand, and died hard after a turbulent life.
We have anticipated somewhat, for we are still at the point where the
Company received a Charter of Incorporation. But the exultation of the
Company was as nothing beside that of the young colony on the 3rd of
May, 1841, when New Zealand, till then but an extension of New South
Wales, was declared by the Imperial Government independent of the
older colony, and given permission to steer her own course through the
difficult shallows of organisation to the distant ocean of completion
In the first flush of joy at escaping from control, very little heed
was taken of difficulties. It seemed as if the infant State had only
waited for its independence in order to make a forward bound; for all
that pertained to the old order of things was, as far as possible,
The three islands were renamed New Ulster, New Munster, and New
Leinster. The Governor became Commander-in-Chief of the one hundred
and fifty men of the 80th Regiment who formed the “standing army.”
Two Councils were nominated–an Executive and a Legislative, with His
Excellency at the head of each; a Chief Justice was appointed and the
great offices of the Law filled; while the then predominance of the
Church of England was recognised by the creation of a bishop, whose see
was the colony.
The first bishop, Dr. Selwyn, was a remarkable man, and it is probable
that among all the English clergy no one could have been found so well
suited for the pioneer work and rough experiences inseparable from
the lot of the first Bishop of New Zealand. He was in very truth a
missionary bishop, and his athletic youth and manhood had served to
prepare him for the duties he was now called upon to perform, which
were by no means confined to the wearing of lawn sleeves, gaiters, and
Dr. Selwyn’s Eton training stood him in good stead in the wilds,
and very soon after his arrival in May, 1842, he convinced men that
he was a man as well as a divine. Who worked with Selwyn must work
with all their might; nor did he shirk his own share. He worked with
his coat off, literally as well as metaphorically, though no man
living possessed a finer dignity of appearance and manner. Hardy
settlers, Maori inured to effort and fatigue, confessed that, when
they accompanied the stalwart _pikopo_ (bishop) on his expeditions by
mountain, bush, or river, it was their legs, not his, which first gave
out, their muscular frames which clamoured for rest, while his was as
As an example of his energy, it is only necessary to point out that,
within five years of his arrival, he founded, built, and got into
first-rate working order at Auckland the College of St. John, for the
education of youth of both races, and had already instituted those
pilgrimages among the islands which later made his name so famous and
The rejoicings over New Zealand’s improved status were barely over
before there were ominous signs that contact with his white brother
had not yet completely softened the Maori. Moreover, a dispute between
two Maori tribes, occurring, as it did, under the very shadow of the
new Executive, showed that the chiefs were not yet wholly prepared
to acknowledge the sovereignty of Britain, nor to tolerate the
interference of the Pakeha in their own quarrels.
Taraia, a chief of a tribe in the neighbourhood of the Thames river,
having successfully assaulted the _pa_ of a Tauranga tribe, cooked and
ate the bodies of two of the slain chiefs, after the old manner of the
Maori at the conclusion of a successful battle.
The Tauranga folk were Christians, while Taraia and his party were not.
Returning home, drunk with success–the Maori were not often drunk with
the products of grape or corn–Taraia and his people desecrated the
small church in their neighbourhood. The Christian congregation were
gathered together for evening prayer when, to the horror of all, two
hideous objects rolled into their midst, came to rest and grinned up at
them. They were the heads of the chiefs who had been slain at Tauranga.
Bloodthirsty as he must appear to those long since emerged from
savagery, Taraia’s behaviour at the _pa_ of Erongo was neither savage
nor illegal from his point of view. He merely claimed _utu_, as his
race had done from time immemorial, his contention being that, whatever
the law of the white man, the Maori had their own law and meant to
abide by it. He actually put his views before the Governor, who was
about to despatch a punitive expedition, and demanded by what right
His Excellency proposed to interfere in a purely native quarrel.
“Your wisest plan will be to let the matter drop,” advised Taraia,
“considering how very few Maori chiefs in the interior have signed the
Treaty of Waitangi and admitted the sovereignty of Queen Wikitoria.”
This was a palpable hit; the Governor altered his mind, and sent
missionaries instead of soldiers. Taraia readily expressed his
willingness to compensate the Tauranga people for the slaughter of
their relatives; “but first,” said he, “let them compensate me. Did
they not eat my mother?” The argument was incontrovertible, and the
dreadful incident closed.
Taraia’s defiance took on a new significance when it was realised
how many chiefs were opposed to the dominion of the Pakeha. Besides,
numbers of Maori in the north remembered the words of the dying Hongi,
and viewed with sullen disapproval the transference of so much land
to the white men. Captain Hobson had neither the will nor the power
to operate upon a large scale and so enforce submission, and his
disappointment at the failure of his hopes was keen indeed.
The Governor’s pacific demeanour pleased nobody; and even in Auckland,
where his attitude towards the Company had at first won him general
esteem, men now turned upon him and blamed his policy for almost every
disagreeable thing which happened. “He will neither allow the Company
to buy from the natives, nor will he himself buy,” they snarled; and
petitions, representations to the Home Government, and even threats of
personal violence, made the Governor’s life miserable.
He was not long so tried, for he died on the 10th of September, 1842,
and after his death some, at least, had the grace to be ashamed of
their behaviour towards a man who had honestly striven to do his best
in a most difficult situation. The Maori, with clearer vision than the
self-swayed Pakeha, saw the good that was in Captain Hobson. It is
significant that, when petitioning Her Majesty for a new Governor, the
friendly chiefs wrote, “Give us a good man, like him who is dead.”