March 7th. 1872
My Dear McLean,
I received with much pleasure your note from Taranaki. For a big man it is wonderful how lightly you walk on the thin ice without going through, there are many New Zealand statesmen who would be glad to learn the step. I think however for many reasons that you can hardly expect any very valuable advice from me on such a "Kittle" subject as a meeting between the Governor and yourself, and the King party at Wakato; but chiefly because, although I can understand your position, and its difficulties pretty well, there may be many considerations impelling you to act in one way, or the other, with which I am not acquainted, and of which you yourself may even be but half concious, I mean that instinctive feeling which a man has who is fully posessed of all the various bearings of his position of what is best for him to do, and which he sometimes could not give a clear reason for, and yet be often times quite right. As far however as I can I will give you my opinion on the matter.
The object of the Waikatos is, as you very apt express it to "talk on general matters", that is to say they will give you any amount of vague generallities, and endeavour to bring you to particulars, by getting from you every possible concession, and advantage, and unless they succeed in this to their own satisfaction the meeting would end in nothing except
the disadvantage, more, or less, of having placed yourself in the eyes of the natives, in a humiliating position, by going to meet the King party in their own country, at their own desire before any formal peace has been made, or anything positive having been done about the murder of Todd. I believe that the Waikatoes would willingly be on good terms with us, and that they feel themselves getting, as it were, left behind in the march of events, and that they have lost their former prestige and power, to a gery great degree; but in coming to terms their object is not only to make it appear that we a the most anxious for an accomodation, and thus save their honour, but also to regain by diplomacy/losses, which they are beginning to despair of regaining by force. Now I must suppose that you are much better acquainted than I am with the present state of feeling of the King party, and as to how far they are inclined to go for the sake of an accomodation with the Government, and if, you, being in possession of more full information than I am, can see a certainty of some real advantage by the meeting, we can afford to waive the point of honour, so far as the meeting them in their own country goes but, the consideration of Todds murder cannot in my opinion be looked over, and I think that untill it has been atoned for in some way or another, to meet the King party in their own country, to say nothing else, would be impolitic. It would be easy to quietly decline to meet them in their own country under existing circumstances, and to intimate how you would
be glad to see the heads of the King party in Auckland, they would probably think over the proposition for a year or two, and if so, while thinking over it keep quiet, and you could keep watching the sign of the times in case they should not.
In answering your question I am obliged to give you my sincere opinion be worth what it may and now you have it though I believe you are a much better judge as to the most advisable course to adopt than I am.
The Ngapuhi are fighting a little about a gum field, or rather a gold field, for they can make more money out of it than at a gold digging, the title of either party to the land is only partial, but from its great value each party wants the whole, and so neither party will come into the Land Court, as they know that in that case they would only get their just rights. If a few of them are killed it will be no loss, and then they will make peace and come into Court, when tired of fighting.
The native Land Court and Maihi Paraone Kawhiti are at issue. I gave a judgement the other day dead against his high and mighty will and pleasure, and against his orders I always told you his character he is nearly insane with the opinion of his own immense importance and considers the law as only a thing to be tolerated so long as it can be warped to his own purpose, and seemed absolutely astounded when I
refused to "rub out all the evidence against him and set it down on the other side, and give the decision for him" - he says he shall, and must, and will, have the land, only a little spot, and "e kore e ora te tangata" etc. etc. I say he shall not, and if he and I are left alone I think I shall get him under in time; he may possibly be able to keep the right owners off the land as it is near his own place, but it will be satisfactory to the great majority of the Ngapuhi not of his family, to know that the decision of the law will live for ever, and that old Maihi will die off out the way, and that sooner or later the right owners will come into possession, Maihi says he will have a rehearing, or if necessary, three or four re-hearings, till he gets the land, and that at all events he will hold it. I have reported to the Chief Judge against a rehearing being granted, and if one is granted against my report, I will decline to hear it, and beg to be excused, and let some other dge try his hand. The case is clear against Maihi by his own shewing but he says that is nothing, he choses to have the land - Maihi is now the one single chief in the North who would have the notion that he could resist the authority of the Court, like all disloyal natives he is behind the times, and lives very much with his tribe apart, and is eaten up with pride and conceit of his own greatness, if he should take it into his head to murder any one he will find that the friends of the Land Court, great as he is, will be a trouble
I am half killed with continual writing, and confinement in the office from morning till night for months together, I never was intended for it, I make a passible judge in a small way but the quill driving is killing me, and I feel going down hill fast, and the assistance of a clerk would do me no good as it wd. be as much trouble to me to see he made no mistakes and explain what had to be done, as to do it myself there is also a great deal of anxiety and wear and tear in this office, for a judge of the Land Court amongst the Ngapuhi has no mere matter of form work to do, every case has to be worked out properly according to "maori usage and custom" in reality. I would have given a great deal if you had been at one of the last Courts, to have seen and heard a young New Zealand Ngapuhi, conducting a contested case for himself and others, he had been present at the hearing of the Aroha Case, and learned the proper manner of acting, from closely observing the proceedings and the conduct of the Lawyers - and I declare to you that I do not think there is a lawyer in this country who could have done, not better, but as well; his concluding speech was one of the most admirable pieces of close reasoning, eloquently delivered that I ever had heard, or met with in books, there were present a number of Europeans, several educated persons, among them, who were all perfectly delighted.
I don't want to drop the Land Court but one way or another it is killing me. I could have wished to have written to you on various subjects but I have such a quantity of writing to do that I must put it off to some future opportunity.
Honble. Donald McLean,
P.S. On reflection I think if the Ngapuhi who are fighting get killing each other too much I shall go over and see if I can stop them if I go I shall not go as judge of the land court but in my own private character as I have as much influence with them as any one else the section now fighting are my particular friends they are very intelligent polite and extremely good soldiers, and I really would be sorry if they should quite destroy each other. I hope if I do go to do some good and that it will not be considered officious or out of place my doing so.