21. 8. 69
My dear Mr. Fox,
Many thanks for the copy of Hansard containing the debates on the Defence Question. I have read them with the greatest interest, and congratulate you most heartily on the entire discomforture of your opponents. I hear, but could searcely credit it, that their Chief manifests his chagrin, and shows the tenacity with which he held office, in that he still holds to the shell after the loss of the kernel, (viz) that his adhesive qualities extend to the Ministerial residence.
I am grateful beyond measure that that objectionable individual of the Indt. has retired from the Editorial chair, and that you have such an able and dignified exponent of your views. It is as good as a number of votes to you. Halcombe will have an opportunity of showing the stuff that is in him. Poor fellow - I was grieved to see him, knowing the talents he possessed, toiling away at work any clod could do better. I do hope and think the tide has turned for him, and the hard-up days are over.
By the way, he tells me with regard to the prisoners, that Booth has misled you as to facts. I am truly sorry, if such is the case; for, though thinking he is at times somewhat deficient in judgement, I gave him credit for honesty, and straight-forwardness of purpose.
At the capture of Tauroa, I considered he behaved so strangely, that I purpose reporting him to the Government, for the action he took. As to his going up to Tauroa with my knowledge or consent - if he asserts so, it is an absolute falsehood. He had left my position, and half an hour before I heard he had gone; and when I did hear it, I could not credit it. I was confounded, and exasperated to a degree, knowing that all my efforts, and the effect of the expedition was frustrated by his unwarrantable interference. He must have been in the Pa at least a couple of hours before I got there. Had I known his intention, I should have prohibited his going; as I told him afterwards, I considered his action ill-judged, and most uncourteous to myself, as Commanding the Expedition.
I maintain that he placed the Government in a false position, and neutralised the effect of the Expedition. I did not take Official notice of the
matter, because I thought he might have acted from zealous - though ill-considered - motives; and that if the matter had been exposed, he would have suffered; and he has nothing but his salary. and has a large family. Moreover, he expressed himself sorry that I should have taken the view I did, as he had not the slightest idea or wish to appear to interfere, or offer me a slight. On the contrary, to assist all he could, was his desire.
There seems to me to be some great misunderstanding, or worse, in this matter. I have foreborne to remark upon it before; and for Booth's sake, I would not now, but that I am under the impression you are misled, and I desire to put you in possession of the actual state of affairs.
I was the head of that expedition. I treated with Tauroa; and if Mr. Booth premised them anything, it was entirely without my knowledge, and very underhand.
Booth was nothing but a Volunteer, (so I thought.)
Tauroa and his people surrendered to me; giving up their arms upon the assurance that I would spare their lives; but with the distinct understanding
that they threw themselves unconditionally upon the mercy of the Government, to be dealt with as they might chose.
Now, you can judge for yourself, whether or no Booth has placed me in a position to form a current opinion with regard to the treatment of these people. If he has not, and you desire it, you can call upon me to report this action I took in the capture of these people, and the terms upon which I took them prisoners.
Some time ago the late Government contemplated removing Booth to the East Coast.
Here, the universal opinion is that these Districts would benefit if he were removed. I regret to say that I endorse this opinion.
And if it turns out that after all he was accusing me on that expedition, it cannot be expected I could ever work very cordially with him again.
I am very anxious to obtain a thorough knowledge of the country in Patea - explore the Patea river beyond where I captured Tauroa. Mr. McLean has said nothing about exploring Te Ngairi. It ought to be done, and the Ngatiporou ought not to be kept in idleness.
Ropata has been drunk ever since he has been to Patea.
Would you believe it - the late Government has given permission for semi-rebel tribes (I call them) to locate themselves three miles from Manawapo. Not a movement can now be made without ample intelligence being conveyed to the enemy. Can't they be ordered to remain out of that district till Titoko is finally disposed of. It would contribute much to the safety of the District.
In to-day's issue of the ''Times'' is a letter which I enclose. Mark the end of it. I send it to you, because I have reason to believe this is no idle threat; and a contingency to be taken into consideration is the disposal of the prisoners. One of the great advantages of the Troops in the Colony is one not alluded to in the Debates, but one of vital importance, and that is - a power to maintain civil authority. On some occasions it would not take much to cause the people of these districts to take the law into their own hands. Without disciplined Troops where is your coercive power?
Yours very sincerely