White Men And Maoris

Govenor Fitzroy. When Governor Hobson died, his place was taken by

his friend Lieutenant Shortland until a new Governor could be sent out.

The English people were at this time very anxious to see that the

natives of new lands which they colonised should be fairly treated, and

for that purpose they chose Captain Fitzroy to be the new Governor. Up

to this time he had been the captain of a ship and had made himself

in surveying and mapping little known shores in his ship the

Beagle, in which he had visited New Zealand on a trip round the world,

and he was therefore called to give evidence as to its condition before

the Committee of the House of Lords in 1838. He was well known to have

shown much consideration to native tribes, and his strong wish to deal

justly by them had often been shown. This was the main reason for his

appointment. He landed in November, 1843, and found the colony in a

state of great depression, the public treasury being not only empty but

in debt. For many officials had been appointed, judges, magistrates,

policemen, customs receivers and so on; and to pay the salaries of these

every one had relied on the continued sale of land.

But in 1841 there had come out the first Land Commissioner, William

Spain, who began to inquire into the disputes about land which had

arisen between white men and Maoris. Out of every ten acres the white

men said they had bought he allowed them to keep only one. This was but

fair to the Maoris, who had been induced very often to make most foolish

bargains; but the settlers ceased to buy land when they were not certain

of keeping it. Hence the land sales stopped; the Governor owed L20,000

more than he could pay, and so he was confronted with troubles from his

very first arrival.

Wairau Massacre. Just before he came an incident had happened which

deepened the trouble of the colony. At the north of the South Island,

not far from Nelson, there was a fine valley watered by the stream

Wairau, which Colonel Wakefield claimed, alleging that it was part of

the land he had bought with the Nelson district. Rauparaha and his

son-in-law, Rangihaeata, claimed it by right of conquest, and they had a

couple of hundred stout warriors at their back, all well armed with

muskets. Mr. Spain sent word that he was coming to settle the dispute,

but, in spite of that, Captain Wakefield sent surveyors to measure out

the land for occupation by the settlers. The surveyors were turned off

by Rauparaha, who carried their instruments and other property carefully

off the land and then burnt the huts they had put up. The Maoris did no

violence, and were courteous though determined. The surveyors returned

to Nelson, and Captain Wakefield induced the local magistrates to issue

a warrant for the arrest of Rauparaha and Rangihaeata. To execute this

warrant Mr. Thompson, the police magistrate, himself went in a small

vessel, and with him went Captain Wakefield, seven other gentlemen, and

forty labourers, in all a party of forty-nine, of whom thirty-five were

armed with guns.

When they landed at the mouth of the Wairau River, Piraha, a Christian

native, met them and begged them not to go on, as Rauparaha was ready to

fight, but they paid no attention, and after marching eight miles up the

pretty valley they saw the Maoris about 100 in number standing behind

the stream, which though only waist-deep had a rushing current of chilly

water. Rauparaha said: "Here am I. What do you want with me?" Mr.

Thompson said he must go to Nelson; and an irritating conversation

ensued. Rangihaeata drew up his tall form, his curly black hair setting

off a face of eagle sharpness, and from his eye there gleamed an angry

light. Behind him stood his wife, the daughter of Rauparaha, and near

them this latter chief himself, short and broad, but strong and

wiry-looking, a man with a cunning face, yet much dignity of manner.

When the handcuffs were produced by Mr. Thompson, Rauparaha warned him

not to be so foolish. The magistrates gave the order to fix bayonets and

advance; as the white men were crossing the stream a shot was fired by

one of them. It struck dead the wife of Rangihaeata. Thereupon the

Maoris fired a volley and the white men hesitated on the brink of the

water; a second volley and a third told upon them with deadly effect,

and the labourers, who carried arms but had neither martial spirit nor

experience, turned and fled.

Five of the gentlemen with four of the labourers stood their ground, and

when the Maoris crossed they surrendered. Rauparaha called out to spare

them; but Rangihaeata, mad at the loss of a wife he loved, brained them

with his tomahawk one after another, while the young men hunted the

labourers through the trees and slew such as they overtook. Twenty-seven

white men reached the shore and were carried quickly in the boats to the

brig, five of them badly wounded. Twenty-two lay dead alongside of five

natives whom the white men had slain.

Rauparaha feared the vengeance of the white man. He had few resources in

the South Island, while the Nelson settlers could send 500 armed men

against him. He crossed in his own war canoes, over a stormy strait in

wild weather; weary and wet with spray, he landed in the south of the

North Island, roused his countrymen by his fervid oratory, to which he

gave a fine effect by jingling before them the handcuff's with which he

was to have been led a prisoner to Nelson. A day or two after the

massacre, a Wesleyan clergyman went out from Nelson to Wairau and

reverently buried those ghastly bodies with the cloven skulls. Not one

had been mangled, far less had there been any cannibalism.

Effects of Wairau Massacre. The Maoris were clearly less ferocious

than they had been, and more than half of them had become fervid

Christians after a fashion, but in some respects they were getting their

eyes opened. The missionaries had told them that the white men were

coming for their benefit; yet now they began to see that the white men

were soon to be the lords of the soil, and that the natives must sink

back into the position of servants. If a white man visited a Maori

village he was received as a man of distinction and entertained. If a

Maori chief went to a white man's town, he was allowed to wander in the

street; or if at all accosted it was with the condescension of a

superior race to a race of servants. The Maori blood was firing up. The

story of Wairau made them change their mind about the white man's

courage. The whalers had been hearts of daring; these new-comers had run

and bawled for their lives. The natives were anxious also as to the

result which would happen when all the lands near the shore should have

been occupied by white men, and they themselves hemmed up in the


A special interest was given to these feelings when in 1844 Te Whero

Whero gave a great feast, only two miles out of Auckland, partly as a

welcome to Governor Fitzroy, and partly as a demonstration in regard to

the land question. He displayed a lavish bounty; 11,000 baskets of

potatoes and 9,000 sharks, with great stores of other provisions, were

distributed. But when the settlers saw a war dance of 1,600 men, all

well armed with muskets, and drilled with wonderful precision, they felt

that their lives were at the mercy of the native tribes. Not one-fourth

of that number of armed men with any training for battle could have been

sent forth from the settlement for its own defence. This gave a

significance to the Wairau massacre that created quite a panic. Fresh

settlers ceased to come; many that were there already now left. Those

who had taken up farms far out in the country abandoned them and

withdrew to the towns.

Honi Heke. And yet the great majority of the Maoris seem to have had

no unfriendly purpose. When Governor Fitzroy went down to see Rauparaha

he had no more than twelve white men with him, when he entered an

assemblage of 500 Maoris. He said he had come to inquire about the sad

quarrel at Wairau, and Rauparaha told him his story while others

supported it by their evidence. Fitzroy stated that the Maoris had been

very wrong to kill those who had surrendered, but as the white men had

fired first he would take no vengeance for their death. Indeed, at

Wellington and Nelson, Fitzroy openly said that the magistrates were

wholly misguided in trying to arrest the native chief; and at Nelson he

rebuked all those who had been concerned in the affair. This gave great

offence to the white men. They asked if the blood of their friends and

relatives was thus to be shed and no sort of penalty to be exacted for

the slaughter. Many of the magistrates resigned, and a deep feeling of

irritation was shown towards the Governor, some of the settlers

petitioning the English Government to recall him.

In the August of 1844 a young chief named Honi Heke, who dwelt at the

Bay of Islands, on account of a private quarrel with a rough whaler,

entered the town of Kororarika with a band of armed followers. He

plundered a few shops and cut down a flagstaff on which the Union Jack

floated from a steep hill behind the town. There were then not more than

ninety soldiers in New Zealand, and when Heke threatened to burn

Kororarika, and do the same to Auckland, there was too good reason to

fear that he might be as good as his word, for he had 200 well-armed men

at his back, and a comrade of his, named Kawiti, had nearly as many. A

chief named Waka-Nene with his men kept Heke in check, while Fitzroy

sent to Sydney and received 160 soldiers with two cannon. These landed

at the Bay of Islands, but Waka-Nene begged the Governor not to hurry

into hostilities. He arranged for a friendly meeting. Fitzroy met nine

principal chiefs, who apologised and made Heke send also a written

apology. Fitzroy said he would redress some wrongs the natives said they

suffered, and having obtained from Heke ten muskets by way of fine and

having again set up the flagstaff he returned to Auckland.

But before the year was ended Heke approached the town once more with

100 armed men. He insulted it from the hills, cut down the flagstaff

again, and then withdrew to the forests. Fitzroy published a

proclamation offering L100 for his capture, and Heke replied by offering

L100 for the head of Fitzroy. The Governor now caused a new flagstaff to

be set up, all sheathed with iron at the bottom, and with a strong

wooden house attached to it, in which a score of soldiers were always to

keep guard. A block-house or small wooden fortress was set up at a

little distance down the hill towards Kororarika. Nevertheless, Heke

said he would come and cut down the flagstaff again. Then the

inhabitants of Kororarika began to drill in order to give him a warm

reception if he came. Lieutenant Philpott, the commander of the Hazard

ship of war, came ashore to drill them, and to mount one or two cannon.

Yet Heke, lurking among the hills, contrived by a sudden dash to capture

Lieutenant Philpott. However, after dealing courteously with him, he

released him.

Kororarika Burnt. On 11th March, 1845, at daylight, Heke with 200

men crept up to the flagstaff, surprised the men in the house attached,

and when twenty men came out of the lower block-house to help their

friends on the top of the hill, he attacked them and drove them down to

the town in the hollow beside the shore. Close to the beach was a little

hill, and on the top of this hill stood a house with a garden surrounded

by a high fence. Behind this the soldiers and all the people of

Kororarika took refuge. From the rocky high ground round about the

Maoris fired down upon them, while the white men fired back, and the

guns of the Hazard, which had come close in to the shore, kept up a

constant roar. For three hours this lasted, ten white men being killed

as well as a poor little child, while thirty-four of the natives were

shot dead. The Maoris were preparing to retreat when, by some accident,

the whole of the powder that the white men possessed was exploded. Then

they had to save themselves. The women and children were carried out

boat after boat to the three ships in the harbour. Then the men went

off, and the Maoris, greatly surprised, crept cautiously down into the

deserted town. They danced their war dance; sent off to their parents in

the ships some white children who had been left behind, and then set

fire to the town, destroying property to the value of L50,000.

Heke's fame now spread among the Maoris. When the settlers from

Kororarika were landed at Auckland, homeless, desperate, and haggard, a

panic set in, and some settlers sold their houses and land for a trifle,

and departed. Others with more spirit enrolled themselves as volunteers.

Three hundred men were armed and drilled. Fortifications were thrown up

round the town, and sentries posted on all the roads leading to it. At

Wellington and Nelson also men were drilled and stockades were built for


First Maori War. But Honi Heke was afraid of the soldiers, and when

Colonel Hulme arrived from Sydney with several companies he withdrew to

a strong pah of his, eighteen miles inland. Hulme landed at the nearest

point of the coast, with a force of 400 men; these were joined by 400

friendly allies under Waka-Nene, whose wife led the tribe in a diabolic

war dance, not a little startling to the British soldiers. The road that

was to lead them to Honi Heke was only a track through a dense forest.

Carts could not be taken, but each man carried biscuits for five days

and thirty rounds of ammunition. Under four days of heavy rain they

trudged along in the dripping pathway, all their biscuits wet and much

of their powder ruined. At last on a little plain, between a lake and a

wooded hill, they saw before them the pah of Honi Heke. Two great rows

of tree trunks stuck upright formed a palisade round it. They were more

than a foot thick, and twelve feet high, and they were so close that

only a gun could be thrust between them. Behind these there was a ditch

in which stood 250 Maoris, who could shoot through the palisades in


The British slept that night without tents round fires of kauri gum, but

next morning all was astir for the attack. A rocket was sent whizzing

over the palisades. It fell and burst among the Maoris, frightening

them greatly, but succeeding discharges were failures, and the Maoris

gathered courage to such an extent that a number under Kawiti came out

to fight. The soldiers lowered their bayonets and charged, driving them

back into the pah. During the night while the white men were smoking

round their fires, the sound of the plaintive evening hymn rising in the

still air from the pah suggested how strong was the hold that the new

faith now had on the Maori mind. Next day Colonel Hulme, seeing that a

place defended on all sides by such a strong palisade could not be

captured without artillery, dug the graves of the fourteen soldiers

killed, and marched back carrying with him thirty-nine wounded men.

There was dismay in Auckland when this news arrived. What could be said

when 400 English soldiers retreated from 250 savages? But, on the other

hand, the Maoris had learnt a lesson. They could not fight against

English bayonets in the open, but while taking aim from behind

palisades they were safe. Therefore they began in different places to

strengthen their fortresses, and Honi Heke added new defences to his pah

of Oheawai, which stood in the forest nineteen miles from the coast.

Oheawai. More soldiers were sent from Sydney, and with them, to take

the chief command, Colonel Despard, who had seen much fighting against

hill tribes in India. He landed 630 men and six cannons; but these

latter, being ship's cannons on wooden carriages with small wheels,

stuck in the boggy forest roads. The men had to pull the guns, and they

were assisted by 250 friendly Maoris. On the evening of 22nd June, 1845,

they spread out before the pah during the gathering dusk. It was a

strong place. In the midst of a deep and gloomy forest, a square had

been cleared about a third of a mile in length and in breadth. Great

trunks of trees had been set up in the earth, and they stood fifteen

feet high; between their great stems, a foot or eighteen inches thick,

there was just room enough left for firing a musket. Three rows of these

gigantic palings, with a ditch five feet deep between the inner ones,

made the fortress most dangerous to assault; and in the ground within

hollows had been dug where men could sleep secure from shells and

rockets. Two hundred and fifty warriors were there with plenty of

muskets and powder.

On the second morning the British had got their guns planted within a

hundred yards of the palisade, but the small balls they threw did little

harm to such huge timber. The whole expedition would have had to retire

had not a heavier gun come up. This threw shot thirty-two pounds in

weight, and after twenty-six of these had struck the same place, a

breach was seen of a yard or two in width. Colonel Despard ordered 200

men with ropes and hatchets and ladders to be ready for an assault at

daybreak. In the still dawn of a wintry morning, the bugles rang out and

the brave fellows gathered for the deadly duty. They rushed at the

breach, and for ten minutes a wild scene ensued. The place was very

narrow, and it was blocked by resolute Maoris, who shot down exactly

half of the attacking party. Many of the soldiers forced their way

through, but only to find a second and then a third palisade in front of

them. Then they returned, losing men as they fled, and the whole British

force fell back a little way into the forest. That night the groans and

cries of the wounded, lying just outside the pah, were mingled with the

wild shouts of the war dance within. Two days later the Maoris hoisted a

flag of truce, and offered to let the white men carry off the dead and

wounded. Thirty-four bodies lay at the fatal breach, and sixty-six men

were found to have been wounded.

A week later another load of cannon balls for the heavy gun was brought

up, and the palisades were further broken down. A second assault would

have been made, but during the night the Maoris tied up their dogs, and

quietly dropping over the palisades at the rear of the pah, got far away

into the forest before their retreat was known, for the howling of the

dogs all night within the pah kept the officers from suspecting that the

Maoris were escaping. The British destroyed the palisades, and carried

off the stores of potatoes and other provisions which they found inside.

Governor Grey. Fitzroy was preparing to chase Heke and Kawiti into

their fastnesses, when he was recalled. The English Government thought

he had not acted wisely in some ways and they blamed him for disobeying

their instructions. They had more faith in that young officer, George

Grey, who, after exploring in Western Australia, was now the Governor of

South Australia. He arrived in November, 1845, to take charge of New

Zealand; and at once went to Kororarika, where he found 700 soldiers

waiting for orders. But he did not wish for fighting, if it could be

avoided. He sent out a proclamation that Maoris who wished peace were to

send in their submission by a certain day. If they did, he would see

that the treaty of Waitangi was kept, and that justice was done to them.

Honi Heke sent two letters, but neither of them was satisfactory; and as

more than a year passed without any signs of his submitting, Colonel

Despard was directed to go after him. Heke was at a pah called Ikorangi;

but Kawiti had 500 Maoris at a nearer pah called Ruapekapeka.

Ruapekapeka. Despard took his men sixteen miles in boats up a river;

then nine miles through the forest, and on the 31st December he had

1,173 soldiers with 450 friendly natives in a camp 800 yards from the

pah. It was like the other pahs, but bigger and stronger, for behind the

palisades there were earthen walls into which cannon balls would only

plunge without doing any harm. Three heavy guns, however, were mounted,

and when the Maoris sent up their flag, the first shot was so well aimed

as to bring its flagstaff down amid the ringing cheers of the white men.

All New Year's Day was spent in pouring in cannon balls by the hundred,

but they did little harm. Next day the Maoris made a sally, but were

driven back with the bayonet. Meantime, Heke came in one night with men

to help his friend, and heavy firing on both sides was kept up for a

week, after which two small breaches appeared near one of the corners of

the palisades. The next day was Sunday, which the Maoris thought would

be observed as a day of rest, but the soldiers, creeping cautiously up,

pushed their way through the breaches; a number of the Maoris ran to

arms and fired a volley or two, but before the main body could do

anything several hundred soldiers were in the place. A stout fight took

place, during which thirteen white men were killed. The Maoris, now no

longer under cover, were no match for the soldiers, and they fled,

leaving behind them all the provisions that were to have kept them for

a whole season. This discouraged them, and Heke and Kawiti saw their men

scatter out and join themselves to the quieter tribes for the sake of

food. They therefore wrote to Grey asking peace, and promising to give

no further trouble. Grey agreed, but left 200 soldiers at Kororarika in

order to keep the Maoris of the district in check.

Rauparaha. During the eighteen months while Heke's war was going

on, troubles had been brewing at Wellington, where Rauparaha and

Rangihaeata kept up an agitation. The latter declared his enmity; he

plundered and sometimes killed the settlers; and when soldiers were sent

round to keep him in order he surprised and killed some of them. But

Rauparaha pretended to be friendly, though the Governor well knew he was

the ringleader in the mischief. Grey quietly sent a ship, which by night

landed 130 soldiers just in front of Rauparaha's house on the shore.

They seized him sleeping in bed, and he was carried round to Auckland,

where for some months he was kept a prisoner, though allowed to go

about. Rangihaeata fled into the wildly wooded mountain ranges of the

interior. Once or twice he made a stand, but was driven from his rocky

positions, with the slaughter of men on both sides. At last he and his

followers scattered out as fugitives into lonely and savage regions into

which they could not be followed.

Thinking that good roads would do much to keep the country quiet, Grey

offered half a crown a day to Maoris who would work at making roads.

Quite a crowd gathered to the task, and for a while white men and Maoris

toiled happily together, making good carriage roads into the heart of

the country. But at Wanganui, in May, 1847, land disputes roused a tribe

to bloodshed. They killed a white woman and her four little children;

they attacked the town, and when the inhabitants withdrew to a stockade

they had made, a fight took place which lasted for five hours, after

which the Maoris burnt the town and retreated, carrying off all the

cattle. Two months later, Governor Grey reached Wanganui, with 500 men.

He chased the Maoris up the valley and fought them, gaining a decisive

victory over them with the loss of two white men killed. He gave them no

rest till the chiefs applied for peace, and early in the next year a

meeting was held, and the principal chiefs of the district promised to

obey the Queen's laws. The war had lasted five years, had cost a million

pounds, and the lives of eighty-five white men, besides those of perhaps

a hundred Maoris.

The English Government withdrew the larger part of the soldiers from New

Zealand; but the colonists, to make themselves safe, enrolled a body

they called the New Zealand Fencibles. They were all old soldiers who

had retired from the British army, and who were offered little farms and

a small payment. Five hundred came out from England on these terms, and

were placed in four settlements round Auckland for the protection of

that town. They were really farmers, who were paid to be ready to fight

if need should arise. With their wives and children they made a

population of 2,000 souls.

In this same year Rauparaha was allowed to go home. He was surprised at

the permission and grateful for it; but he was an old man and died in

the following year. In 1850 Honi Heke died, but Rangihaeata lingered on

till 1856, giving no further trouble.

Governor Grey dealt fairly with the Maoris. He paid them for their

lands. He hung such white men as murdered them. He set up schools to

educate their children, and distributed ploughs and carts, harrows and

horses, and even mills, so that they might grow and prepare for

themselves better and more abundant food than they had ever known