Letter from P. Wilson, to D. McLean Esqre. J.P.
dated 27th. April 1849.
Friday 27th. April 1849,
My dear McLean,
Last Saturday's post brought not a line from you for anybody; so that everybody was in a peck of enquiries after you; but all we could learn was that you had left Petreton on the very morning of the post day for Rangitikei. Ergo, we are all pretty sure we shall all hear from you by the mail that passes this. But in future, - or rather for the future - let me recommend you to drop, if it be but one line, to some of your friends here, by every opportunity that offers.
I am now, but only within these last few days, moving about again; and saw the old Captain for the first time for a month past, yesterday, at Court. The timber for the bridge at Henui has been down for some time past, but the weather has been so very rainy; consequently the stream so large, for this month past, that no attempt has been made to commence the work.
We are looking daily for Mr. Fox's arrival; as we are in hopes he may bring the Crown Titles down with him; for that business of Billing's and Turton's, will compel the Company to exert themselves. Turton, in my judgment, advocates the wrong side altogether; and imputes to the Court a bias in favour of Billings, which I am sure does not exist; for the plain statement of the case is this:- Wakefield, and through him the Company, repudiated the bargain which Fitz Roy made, respecting his named Block; ergo, it is due to the Government, if it considers the Block its property, the sum paid; but this has never been done, nor has the Company ever since the repudiation, lifted it. The questions therefore that were put to Halse at last enquiry before the Court, were:- Has the Company paid the Government the money which Fitz Roy advanced; or have you any document to shew that the Company has accepted the Block? His replies were negative. On what score, then, could the Court have ejected Billings, who is, and long has been in possession? Or what right had Halse to sell by public auction that which his principals have neither paid for, nor virtually acknowledged? But Turton cannot be brought to see this state of the case, but wills to
maintain, in the face of all facts, that we ought to have ejected Billings, and put him in possession. Has he joined the settlers generally in demanding the Company to put him in possession, or what I think he might have done, pro forma, have instituted proceedings against that body, on taking his money for property of which it could not put him in possession at its own stipulated time. He would have done good to all parties; but somehow or other the strangely erroneous impression that we are using the Company, - and through that, him - wrongfully. No doubt, therefore, Billings has the land secure for another crop, and may with all propriety, sue the Company. Such, at least, I should do.
I am very anxious to shew you my letter to Fox; but it is too lumpy an affair to forward per post; and an undertaking it would be to copy it out; but I think when you have read it, you will agree that I at least have justice on my side, and that I so unfold the chicanery of both Wakefield and Bell, as would make the -----(?) of the one, and the character of the other have, as the French say, a very mauvaise odeur to the world. After finishing that, which occupied several of my days of confinement, I turned to
a doggerell verse history of our war at Wanganui; and got on to the end of Canto 2nd., which however, only brings the affair down to the 5th. of June. The versifying is neither here nor there, but it affords scope for annotation, which will, in fact, constitute the actual history. I give you two or three verses from Canto 2nd, to send to old Breadalbane when you see him.
16. Nor did our civil settlers lag,
But like a Highland clan
They forth were led by Campbell true,
And they were plac'd in van.
17. So on we marched at 8 a.m.
With hearts all light and gay,
Unto Saint John's wood, where twas thought
The foe in ambush lay.
25. The Campbell and his clan likewise
Were order'd to regain
The van, with all convenient speed,
And which they did amain.
26. Now up the Pass, like kilted Celts,
They, trotting up, attain'd
The table-land above the wood,
But nothing thereby gain'd.
33. But Campbell's clan was not alone,
As eke some dozens few
Of the gallant Fifty-eight
Were mixt among his crew.
34. Balnevis, too, and Middleton,
Two gallant youths, I trow,
Were foremost on the field that day,
Where'er was ought to do.
61. And now I close my Canto Two,
With this short observation,
That, surely, tis humane at least,
To war by "Demonstration."
So much for the Chevy Chase poem of Wanganui.
How came you to tell Grimstone that his magazine was not to be patronised here?. I take this, entre nous, to be about the last place in Her Majesty's Colonies, to encourage any literary undertaking, for our cries are not so varied as those of London, - being no more, no less, than Wheat; wheat; - Land; land; - Cattle; cattle. But everything relating to mind is in unsaleable stagnation. Your tall Irishman, Gray, I am to list to-morrow, as one of the Omata Corps; he proposing to purchase from me half a section. I have recently, too, got Parker and Pate; so that upon the whole, Paradise promises to be well-peopled. By the way, I must mention that I demand from Bell, as reparation for his offences to my majesty, and that I may not publish him to the world as anything and everything but a gentleman, two sections of Omata land, which I pledge myself to devote to the foundation of a school for the young gods and godesses of that happy region.
Your black man, Friday, is, if an honest man, one of the most incomprenhensible fellows I ever met with; but if not honest, one of the most vindicative man dingoes I ever yet had to do with. As I told you before, neither Mrs. W. nor I can trace the clew to his first cause of hatred; but we greatly ascribe its after demonstration to my having opposed his having anything to do with the races. However, be these as they may be, he was quiet for some weeks, and we went on together as strangers in the land; till of late he began a new system of annoyance. Hitherto he has persevered in keeping his fence so that my goats can go through to his ground without trouble; and of course, did, and do go and come at their own caprice from my field. But he recently invented a new dodge, which was to occasionally open his gate, and as we have every reason to believe, without however, seeing the acts, driving them out on the road. But as the animals invariably came straight to my gate, this proved no great annoyance. His latest invention was on Monday last, which was nothing less than cutting down the fine sheltering Ngaio hedge that runs along the bottom of his acre; and which was,
as I supposed, a conjoint fence. The vast annoyance of this is that I had twice cut my side of it, and was just getting it, thereby, in fine thicket order, as I have now got all the rest. Of course I instantly stopped his mischief; but unluckily, not till he had cut down four-fifths or more, thereof. This was altogether so wanton an act that Mr. Wicksteed, who was with me at the moment, advised me to bring him before Capt. King; which I resolved to do; but having to go next day to Omata, I determined to let the matter rest till I should return. On my way out on Tuesday morning, I met Mr. Harris, coming into town with his Theodolite. He expressed surprise at seeing me, as he said he had been told by William the previous afternoon, to come in and settle the boundary of our respective lands. I then gave him to understand that I had nothing to do with the matter, but advised him to go on as William had instructed him. For my part, I knew nothing of our boundaries; but from time to time ever since he bought that piece of land he had kept harping that both you and I had too much; - first, in your property having cribbed a piece of the road leading down to Mother Daw's house; and second, - in your property and mine having in like manner
shut up a road or foot-path that led across our fields to the little stream. When I returned in the evening, from Omata, I found Harris waiting for me; and his survey had indeed demonstrated that the intended biter is himself bit; for it turns out that a great part of the hedge is actually on my property; and that at each end I am about three feet within my legal mark or bound; consequently that he is the aggressor. But moreover, the foot-path, if insisted on, must come off his bit of land; that it never had a communication with the road across your field; and served merely for a passage to the well on my property and as a convenience to your property and mine. Having rated the fellow, as he richly deserved, I relinquished the idea of punishing his purse by summoning him; but yesterday went into Court that I might have him reprimanded by Capt. King. Accordingly I found him there, and that he had again been beforehand with me. But the Captain was disposed, when he heard my version, that I should make a Court affair of it; and which, from his doggedness, and the circumstance of asserting a gross falsehood, I was greatly inclined to do. However, as he promised to re-plant the hedge, and to make his other fence secure, I did not. The lie I allude to, was as follows:-
viz,- that his only object for cutting down the hedge, and this he boldly asserted to the Bench, was that the branches of the Ngaios so overshadowed that portion of his ground, that to his certain knowledge it had grown nothing for four years. Now the fact is that it has grown this very year a very good crop of maize, which Willis planted before he went away; and Willis will be able to tell you that those branches never did harm of any sort. But if they did over-spread too far, why did he not do, as he saw me doing with all my Ngaios, that is, lop them off? But this altogether fudge; and finally, upon my conscience I do believe him now to be a most false, and like all the Man-dingoes I ever did know, a most treacherous and slanderously disposed fellow. Such is my opinion, based upon my own experience. But I find he has the same, in the opinion of others. As an alien, he ought to have known better, and the sooner he gets his nationalization, so then he will be at liberty to boast of his landed property, but not one day before.
We have had a much longer spell of bad weather than the oldest resident here remembers; hardly a fine day for many weeks past.
The "Star of China" is now lying off and on
with 40 more head of cattle; and the family of Holloway, who has been making a round of the Australian world, but has found nothing to compare with old Taranaki. He, also, is to be a settler at Omata; so that what with one thing and another, we shall have a large family there by the time we all get out, which I long for I can assure you; and once there, it is not likely a vacancy at the Hospital will bring me back again to Henui; for I should not give retirement for all the offices under the Crown; nor for all the Society in Christendom. Yet I do not mean to lead an idle, nor yet a selfish life. Yet I do hope that I may never have occasion to enter the stormy arena of politics. Wellington seems to have got into a sad state of ebullition; how it will end, remains to be seen; but there is such an opening of the eyes at Home now, as to Colonial misrule; and as to the absurdity of the Colonial Office administering to half the world, that, no doubt, there, seems to be entertained that our system is on the eve of a grand change. You need to care little for this; for I regard you as, under any system, infinitely more an indispensable than Sir George, - or all the Grey family bundled together.
Should you happen to go to Wellington, I wish
you would endeavout to get me a quarter ream of such letter paper and as near the size of the sheet in which I shall enclose this; for it is the size of my letter-copier. But take care you don't get a bluish sort that now innundates New Zealand; and which I apprehend is French manufacture, from the foreign-looking stamp on its cover; also a hundred or two steel pens; for, of these, also, I am entirely out; and so utterly out in this place, of the article that I was obliged to send to friend Woon for a few, a post or two ago.
Helen says she will see you at Jericho or back again in the Highlands talking Gaelic with your old Dominie, before she will write to you another line; and that, in short, you are nothing short of a forsworn man; so take that, my boy; and if that does not frighten you more than Rangihaeata, or all the various disaffected in and about Rangitikei, you have more nerve than most men of my acquaintance.
Cooke is now our neighbour, occupying Paris house. He is busy with his threshing Mill; and no doubt, will go on better than in the farming line; as the time he gives to his friends is not lost to his farm; for of all trades, none requires so constant superintendence as agriculture. "The eye of the master
fattens the horse" says an old Spanish proverb; and true it is. He has been laid up to-day with a cold, as many others; and no wonder, considering the splashy weather we have had. Poor old Nairn has been very ill for some time; but I hope is now on the mending order. They have got into their new home, and getting very comfortable. His crop of peaches, this year, exceeded anything of the sort I ever saw, Cooke tells me there has been a great fatality this season, both at the Hua and Waitara; but what they die of, I cannot say. Hone Ropiha, also, has been ill. I cannot get him to go to the Hospital for his physic; so physic him as usual. I cannot get that fellow Spurdle to get on with his house, but I shall see him again about it, now that I can again move about. One good to me has resulted from this wet weather. I have got my field of grass up beautifully, so that very shortly I mean to look out for a cow.
Can you send us any information, when it is likely the Compensation Land will be given out. Campbell was so kind as to send us some of our numbers, but mine was deficient of two. Featherstone undertook all this business for us; but Politics, I suppose, has put all matters out of his head.
Flight, T. King, Blashki, and Chilman, have
applied for a road to their sections; but Captain King, or Wicksteed, told me yesterday that Harris, who made the survey, or estimate, has put it down at about £500; so I suspect the Governor will hardly concede so large a sum to so few settlers.
The report here is rife that you are to be a Commissioner for the purchase of lands; that H. Halse is to superintend the Police; that the Force is to be reduced to ten men, and no Corporal; but I hear no one quoted as the authority, save and except Dorset; and I have not seen him, to enquire.
I dined with the Kings (Wanganui) yesterday. They were all well, and desired to be remembered to you. Sam is busy building a new School house; and the School is increasing, and bids very fair to answer their expectations.
Mrs. W. and Pat unite with me in kindest regards, and hoping to see you soon back,
My dear McLean,
very faithfully yours
To:- D. McLean Esq.