Sept. 8th. 1868.
My dear McLean,
I fancy the Government must be not a little perplexed about the Native Question, and yet it is to be apprehended that they do not feel the full menace of the evil, inasmuch that they are at a distance from it.
We have war on the West Coast, which, although it may look insignificant, gives occupation to 800 men; and then the cost of more men. I am told, is something fearful.
At Waikato there have been for a long time mysterious threats; and the settlers there are glad to clear off to the diggings, because it is in the power of the natives to inflict serious mischief at any moment.
At Opotiki there is the same want of safety.
While on the East Coast we have every reason to expect that when planting season is over, and it becomes quite convenient to the natives, they will pay hostile visits to Turanga or Wairoa; which will seriously interfere with anything like prosperity.
The position of Wairoa is strongly put
in an article which I see in to-day's paper, signed "Military Settler", and I am able to testify to the correctness of some parts of that statement. The Block House, which is a substantial building, has been taken away from the township of Clyde, and reerected at the Military Township; where there are not more than twelve settlers living. The nearest habitation is three hundred yards from the Block House, which is secured only by an ordinary padlock and staple, which the most unpractised person may easily wrench open. It appears further that the Block House contains thirty rifles, and three thousand cartridges. In the face of this, the whole of the military force is removed to Napier, while the hostile natives, now irritated by three unsuccessful attacks upon them, are encamped in a strong fortification within a day's march of the place.
The settlers at the township of Clyde are in a most unsafe position. There is not the slightest protection for them, and no place of refuge to fly to. At Poverty Bay they are better off, because in case of alarm, there is a strong stockade at Turanganui to fall back upon; and with Patangahauti in the rear, there is no cause of apprehension for personal safety.
Some people say, --- let our operations be carried on more vigorously, and let the evil be at once stamped out. This is what we have been trying to do for the last seven years, with 10,000 Imperial Troops, 4,000 Militia, and an expenditure of £3,000,000, The object of the Government seemed to have been attained. The natives were thrashed into a state of sullen quietness, and a large quantity of land in various parts of the country has been confiscated. But after all that has been done it is hard to say what portion of that land is held by us secure from molestation. Is then the Government prepared to continue the effort to accomplish, by the force now at its command, what it has not been able to effect by the help of all the large appliances which were at its disposal some time ago, and which have now all disappeared?
I have seen, in a Taranaki Herald, of May or June 1866, a sentiment to this effect, as bearing on Patea at that early date:- "If it is to cost so much to hold the land which has been confiscated, it is better to throw it up at once," --- and the same idea was put forth at Christchurch at a large Meeting held a month ago.
This proposal is at once met with the difficulty of disposing of vested interests; --- the land which has been given to Military settlers, and that
which had been sold to private purchasers. I have no idea as to the amount it would take to cover their vested interests, but suppose it to be one million; which is most to the advantage of the country, to pay one million, and have the country in a state of peace; or to expend another three millions, and after all not attain the object aimed at?
But I see again an evil in the general abandonment of the confiscated land. Such a step would be regarded by the natives as an absolute victory, and might lead to difficulties in another direction. It would, moreover, give dissatisfaction to those who have supported the Government. They would ask, with reason, --- "Is there to be no difference between us who have supported the Government, and those who have done all they could to oppose it? Perhaps some intermediate course may be advisable, which will not fail to present itself to those who are most conversant with the subject.
But there is another view of the case which forces itself upon my notice, supported as it is by the fact that God seems to have blighted our efforts hitherto, and has not allowed us to succeed effectively at any one point. It is this. The war had its commencement at Waitara, and the country thought for a
for a long time that we had justice on our side. By and bye, when the matter is looked into, it is found to be not the case, and it is decided that Waitara shall be given up. If this resolve had been carried out, as it ought to have been, there might have been an end of the war. But Sir George Grey and his Ministers decided that pataraimaka should first be taken possession of; and this and nothing else led to the Waikato war. It was a keen sense of the wrong they had sustained at Waitara, that rankled in their minds, and hurried them on to the onslaught at Oakura; and it was the demand made for the delivery of those who had instigated this onslaught, which eventually resulted in the Waikato war. Then the hostilities on the part of Tauranga, and the Bay of Plenty, all followed in course. There did not appear to be the same justification for the natives on the East Coast to join in the war; but when I expostulated with the Chief of Tokomaru against his going to fight, his answer was, --- "We are all one people, and must join our countrymen." Let us look at the case honestly. If we were wrong at the beginning of the war, - and Governor Grey and his Ministers acknowledge that it was so, and all that since followed, is the natural
consequence of the first act, then the wrong is on our side, and ought to be put right. It is unpalatable to human nature to acknowledge an error, but it is the most honourable course, and it is better to do it with a good grace.
If the Government should think proper to take any step in the direction of adjusting these difficulties by opening communication with the natives, it will be highly inexpedient to treat with those of one locality without reference to those of another. They hang together now in a way in which they were not accustomed to do formerly. If any arrangement, for instance, were proposed with the natives from the Chathams, they would probably answer, --- "We must hear what other tribes have to say." It is better, therefore, to provide against this; and that if any step is taken, it should be of a general character,
Something has to be done; and the more speedily it is done, the better.
Believe me to remain
most truly yours
P.S. Since the above was written, I hear that the rifles have been removed from the Block House at the Military Township.
To:- Donald McLean