The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER. SATURDAY, AUGUST 14, 1880.
The report of yesterday afternoon’s sitting of Parliament, and the telegram from our corespondent in Wellington, show us that Mr. Wright has fired his first shot in the House. He has made several short speeches previously, but none occupying any length of time. Last night, however, he girded up his loins, and struck out right roundly at all and sundry who had attacked the Royal Commission on Railways, of which he was a member. Nor did he spare the Government itself, but fearlessly attacked what he considered to be wrong in their public works policy. He succeeded so well in his first speech of any consequence that, our correspondent tells us, he was loudly cheered by the House. The subject of railways was one on which Mr. Wright was specially strong, and any remark of his on the railway question is sure to be listened to and have weight.
Some weeks ago quite a stir was raised in the towns! ip by the discovery that, poisoned baits had been indiscriminately, and as lavishly as indiscriminately, scattered about the streets, evidently with the object of sending the Ashburton caninity to the happy hunting grounds. Numbers of dogs, more or less valuable, were sent to their last account, to the chagrin of their owners and to the consternation of the lieges, who feared that the baits, which were tidily made-up parcels of bread and butter, might prove just as tempting to innocent and unsuspecting children as they had proved to the poor dogs. Large rewards were offered for the discovery of the poisoners, but there the matter ended, and for a time “ the plague was staid.” Whether the death dealer was afraid of awkward consequences attending discovery, and this fear led him to stay his hand, or he ceased his diabolical work simply because his deadly ammunition had run out, we know not. If he stopped from fear, he has evidently taken heart again and plucked up new courage, owing to his escape from detection last time; or, perhaps, there is no feeling of fear in the matter, and he starts afresh because he has got a new supply of the drug. Anyhow, dogs are again dying everywhere, and the danger, to which children as well as dogs were exposed on the last occasion, is once more renewed. Numerous complaints have been made to us of pets having been poisoned, and the “ dog fiend” seems to have adopted exactly the same tactics as he chose on the occasion of his previous exploit. There seems to be a feeling lurking in many bosoms that there are too many dogs running about, and a little weeding out will not harm much, and there are not wanting those who rather sympathise with the poisoner’s motive, whoever he may be, in ridding the township of an overgrowth of canine fungus. It has to be remembered, however, that owners of dogs who pay their license fee are entitled to have their property respected just as much as other men, and blackguards like this fellow, who seeks the life of the pels, should have no sympathy whatever in his dastardly work, even if it were not fraught with danger to human life. Doubtless he will find, should the police by any accident run him to earth, that he has been playing with a dangerous toy, and that the ammunition he carries on his war of extermination with is not altogether blank cartridge. The R.M. will know exactly how to deal with him should he ever be unlucky enough to stand in the prisoner’s place at the Court. The most grievous part of the whole thing, however, is not the loss of the dogs—the owners will survive that; —but it is the evidence it affords of how easily deadly poisons can be commanded in this colony. When arsenic and strychnine can be got hold of at will in sufficient quantities to lay poisoned bails at every street corner, it is high time that something were done to have the law relating to the vending of poisons so constructed that every grain of drugs dangerous to human life, imported or manufactured in the colony, should be kept within control of the law, so that no fool or villain can lay hands upon it when the humor pleases him, and use it for any purpose whatever. At present, poisons appear to be difficult to obtain in small quantities by the general public, and cannot be procured without a satisfactory reason for the purchase asked and given. But the same drugs can be had wholesale, apparently, and no questions asked, so long as their destiny is understood to be a sheep station. Evidently there is a screw terribly loose somewhere.
The history of New Zealand is but a short one—little more than half a lifetime of a human being,—yet the historian of New Zealand, when he essays his task, will find more material for his work in the short history of this colony than that of any other southern colony can supply. The gallant pioneers of our civilisation undertook no child’s play when they attempted the colonisation of these islands. In addition to the difficulties that all pioneers have to encounter when they attempt to break up the virgin soil of a newly discovered country, our pioneers had to contend with the natives of the land. Had these natives been savages of the ordinary run, the pioneers would have been encountering a difficulty and an obstruction common to all leaders of the way in history ; but the Maoris were hot savages of the ordinary run, but savages that were at once highly intelligent, courageous, and warlike, and possessing these qualities in such a degree as no other aboriginals have exhibited. Their high intelligence is proved by the fact that at this late hour, when the white population outnumbers them in the ratio of ten to one, the Maoris are able to hold their rights .against the Government, and point out where Christian statesmen have departed from the teachings of the Great Master, whom for centuries England’s boast has been that she served, while the Maoris’ knowledge of Him is but of yesterday. Of their warlike character and their courage, those who went against the Maoris in the war had sufficient evidence, while in the matter of fortificacation the most military nation of the present age, whose armies boast of a hundred conquests, and whose ships,
ride rulers of the sea, was not above learning a lesson that she now teaches to her youth in the military schools. The relations between the Maori and European have ever been unhappy. Though conquered, perhaps, as civilised men regard conquest, the natives have never been subdued, and their spirit has never been broken. To-day they clamor for their rights, as they read them, as loudly as they did before the war, and he would be a divinely-in-spired prophet indeed who could tell whether the upshot of the difficulty between the natives on the West Coast and the New Zealand Government will be war or peace. Successive Governments followed successive policies in dealing with the natives, and the Moari question of to-day, thanks to the weakness of some administrations and the incapacity of others, is a ravelled skein that can be straightened out, if at all, only with great care and patience, and forbearance, and withal no small difficulty. But the task of solving the question must be faced, and the Government now in office are undertaking this task to the best of their ability. They sent as Commissioners to enquire into the West Coast difficulty perhaps the tw© best qualified men for the duty —Sir William Fox and Sir F. Dillon Bell. All sorts of fun, all sorts of sneers, have been poked and thrown at the Commissioners, and the Government that sent them, by that Government’s unfriends, but the task has been essayed, and the Commissioners have reported. We heard them at their appointment denounced as unfit for the position—we heard them charged with being both judges and accused when they set about the work of reporting upon the West Coast Difficulty, but whatever has been said has not prevented them from laying before the country a report on the native question which is in itself a history of the colony from 1839 to the present date, so far at least as our relations with the natives are concerned. It is not difficult to follow the facile pen of Sir William Fox in the clear, almost radiant little sketches of the several wars, and the policies pursued by the successive Governments that in turn dealt with the Maori question. . The report now before us is the second given by the Commissioners, but in it they commence at the beginning and trace the Maori difficulty from its first rise. The ground traversed by the report is wide, and in the short limits of a newspaper article it is impossible even to summarise all it says, for with no waste of words, and direct dealing with the subject, the document, exclusive of many folios of evidence taken, occupies thirty-four pages of solid foolscap print. But, leaving the early history of the Maori question, we come to the result arrived at by the , Commissioners, and we sum it up in a short extract from the report itself:— Early in 1865 General Cameron took the field, with several regiments of Imperial troops and large militia and native contingents ; and > a campaign began which lasted several months, ‘ ending in the complete defeat of the insurgent , tribes, nearly all whose people, except Te Whiti, William Kingi Matakatea, and a few 1 other chiefs, had been engaged in hostilities against us. At the end of this war in Septem- ; her 1565, the whole coast from Wanganui to the White Cliffs, forty miles north of New Plymouth, was confiscated under the powers of the New Zealand Settlements Acts. But the 1 natives were not driven from their tenitory. They were all, by very liberal arrangements of the Government, restored to a large part of their country, and continued in seemingly friendly relations with us for nearly three 1 years. Then again in 1868, in sympathy perhaps with a renewed outbreak by Te Kooti on the East Coast, a portion of the West Coast natives under Titokowaru raised the standard of rebellion, and swept away nearly all the settlements, over a space of forty miles, which had in the interval been planted in the country between Waitotara and Waingongoro. . This outbreak ended in the defeat of Titokowaru, who fled with the most part of his followers through the fastnesses of the great forest into the Ngatimaru country behind Waitara; while amongst the resident natives nearer Waitotara, the Fakakohi were taken prisoners, and the Ngarauru were removed for a time into the Wanganui district. The country between Waitotara and Waingongoro being again open for settlement, w r as reoccupied by our settlers ; and afterwards the Pakakohi and Ngarauru people were brought back and placed on reserves, defined and surveyed for them by the Government, where they have continued to live to the present day. The substantial interests of these restored natives have, in the district now referred to, been well provided for ; and, except some questions of minor consequerce, there did not appear to be much to require our intervention. It is north of Waingongoro that there still exist great complications, arising so far as we can discover from the vacillating policy of many Governments.
This extract shows where the greaterr or was made. The Chief, Titokowaru, who has recently come again into notoriety, fled with his followers into the back'bush, but through the indecision of the Native Minister they were allowed to return and use the confiscated lands at will. No reserves were marked off for them, and no provision whatever was made for their peaceful dwelling on those confiscated lands, as had been done for other amnestied tribes, and their occupation was simply winked at. Sir Donald M‘Lean was not willing to risk another war, and chose rather a policy of quiescence, still, however, holding, or at least not relinquishing the claim which confiscation gave to the Government. It was doubtless a critical time, and we do not blame Sir Donald M‘Lean for doing what he did. He could have driven Titokowaru off at the bayonet’s point perhaps, or he could have insisted on their return to the land conditionally upon their accepting well defined reserves, or he could let them alone. These three courses, the report tells us, w-ere open to Sir Donald, and he chose the last, The colony in its West Coast war had been aided by the English troops. These were now back in England, while the Native King was demonstrative in his warlike threatening, and the arch-fiend, Te Kooti, was still free. The borrowing policy had just begun, and a loan had been floated, t 0 raise which the lenders had been assured that the standard of Maori rebellion W a ? s9*y. n f° r ever - At this distance of tirne, snugly at pur firesides, with no armed savages pur hedges waiting to take a pot-shot at us, we can comfortably discuss andj criticise ||Sir Donald’s action; but we can scarcely vouch for any ojther course we would have chosen than that Sff Donald chose had we filled his shoes %t jths li me - ®ut it is from this choice of fhp same, that this trouble springs. Mr. W a ?°lh , in his last speech to the Coleridge | ©lectors, tritely said the Maori was no fool, and the Maori knows well how to take advantage when advantage offers. He knows that war is just as distasteful to the white dweller in the homestead as it is to the dusky dweller!
in the pah, and he knew it in 1865 as well as he knows it in 1880. He was not slow to seize the opportunity that Sir Donald gave, and to crawl within the proscribed boundary. He knows to-day that only at the very last moment will the whites take up arms against him, that the colony is not in a position to readily engage in any ex-tensive-movement against him, and so he becomes defiant, or at least troublesome.
In this report, maugre the sneers that have been thrown at the reporters, and the discredit sought to be cast upon them, there is more given that will tend, properly used, to enable the Legislature to avoid dangers that lie in the way, and of which no warning voice was at hand to give notice—and to point to the rectification of wrongs done to the Maoris, —and a way to pacify them, than could have been elicited, we believe, from the investigations of any other two living men. Both know Maoridom well, and their report shows that a full knowledge of its phases was at their finger ends. It also shows that they know full well where the error was made, and they are not afraid to bear what blame attaches to themselves in the making of it, to wit :
Nor are we here to refuse, as members of the Ministry of that day, our own share of the blame for having allowed a difficulty to grow up by small degrees, which has since become the unwelcome inheritance of every Government. The wisdom of assigning specific lana to the returned rebels has been proved in Taurua’s case ; nor can it, we think, be reasonably doubted that Titokowaru himself, as well as the tribes which had remained loyal, would at that moment have welcomed and accepted some definite reserves as the condition of his return in peace. Yet no impaitial man will be tempted to condemn the Government, without thinking how great were the difficulties and anxieties which beset them at the time.