HC Deb 15 June 1860 vol 159 cc521-8

, in rising to put a Question on this subject, said the disturbances to which he wished to call the attention of the House had their origin in the circumstance that a native chief had taken it upon himself to endeavour to prevent the sale of a plot of land in the province of New Plymouth, with which the owner was desirous to part. To such interference the Government of the colony could not, of course, submit, and martial law had been proclaimed in the province. The consequence had been that the Europeans had been brought into collision with the natives, and it being recollected that a number of the settlers were at some of the outlying positions, a force of about 265 strong, including volunteers, colonial militiamen, and some men of the 65th Regiment, had been sent out to secure their safety. The volunteers, who had been sent in advance, while the military, under the command of Colonel Murray, remained some distance in the roar as a reserve, came upon the enemy and attacked them in the most gallant manner. Being, however, in an isolated position, and being in danger of being surrounded, they sent one of their number back to Colonel Murray to ask for support. Now, what did Colonel Murray do? He stated that the volunteers had brought themselves in the difficulties of their position without orders, and he shortly afterwards took the troops home. No doubt he was acting according to the strict letter of his orders; but he did not think that was quite the way in which an officer commanding Her Majesty's forces ought to act when 140 of the finest volunteers the colony possessed were in advance and in a dangerous position. There could not be the slightest doubt that but for the arrival of Captain Cracroft and his blue jackets— who deserved all honour for their gallant conduct—these unfortunate settlers would have been cut to pieces during that night, being short of ammunition. He did not wish to cast any imputation on Colonel Murray. He only hoped the Government would call on him to give an explanation of his conduct. Having said so much on that point, he wished to state some facts as to what he believed had been the cause of this outrage. First of all there was the system of Europeans acquiring possession of land under the direct title of a native chief which a European Government would not recognize. Then, two years since, an arms ordinance, enacted by Sir George Grey, preventing the selling of arms and ammunition to natives, was repealed. He at the time put a question to the Colonial Secretary as to whether the repeal of that ordinance had received the sanction of the Government; and the reply he received was that it had become a dead letter and was inoperative, and that, therefore, there was no use in longer retaining it. No doubt the natives by various means did acquire arms and ammunition, but the Act did impose a great check on them, and the probability is if that Act had not been repealed we should not have had the arms to contend with which were brought against us on this occasion. He had received a letter from a gentleman largely connected with the colony, which stated:— The European population of that province is only about 3,000 souls. The lands are principally held by the natives, who appear to have been encouraged to resist the sale of them by Europeans of the very vilest character who have settled among them, such as runaway convicts, sailors of different nations, and others, who, preferring a life of licentiousness, have lived among the natives, and encouraged them, not only by their advice but by subscriptions, to resist the Queen's authority. A considerable sum was raised last year to support the pretentions of this rebellious chief to the kingly authority, and I regret to say that there has been large quantities of gunpowder recently shipped for New Zealand from London. This extract was fully borne out by the intelligence received by the last mail, that Sir Henry Barkly, the Governor of Victoria, had issued a proclamation against the importation of arms from Melbourne and New South "Wales; for in this instance, as in the Kaffir war, it was found that individuals in the Colonies and this country had been supplying the natives with arms to fight against us. There was another point to which he wished to refer—the difficulty at all times of employing soldiers against the natives of New Zealand. They might do very well for garrisons, but they could not be taken into the bush, serving, as they did, from the very nature of their clothing, as a mark for the enemy. The army had not taken that part in this affair which they ought to have done, the blue jackets and volunteers being chiefly engaged; but the fact was that a ship of war, a gunboat or two had much more effect on the natives than a whole regiment of soldiers; for the simple reason that they could be moved about without difficulty. He had seen in the New Zealand papers that not fewer than seventy-six waggons were required to convey the baggage of the soldiers. They could not, therefore, be of much use in that colony. Volunteers and a greater number of blue jackets were chiefly required. He trusted that at any rate the Government would declare the lands of all the chiefs who had joined in the rebellion forfeited. Without some such exemplary punishment a proper effect would not be produced on the native mind. He also hoped the Government would reimpose the ordinance against the sale of arms to the natives, which would have a considerable effect in preventing the natives obtaining ammunition. With these observations he begged to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies to state to the House the information received respecting the recent disturbances in New Zealand, whereby Her Majesty's forces have been brought into collision with the native tribes, and also what course Her Majesty's Government' intend to pursue?


hoped hon. Members would express no opinion as to the conduct of Colonel Murray before further information had been received. He was quite sure the noble Lord did not mean to throw out any imputation on that gallant officer. He had not the slightest personal knowledge of Colonel Murray, but he had seen upon former occasions that officers had incurred blame, which the House had reason afterwards to regret when full information as to the actual facts had been obtained.


was afraid he could not add much to the statement of facts made by his noble Friend. He had stated both the cause of this unfortunate outbreak in New Zealand, and the facts themselves quite accurately. As to the facts, he really could not add anything to the account they had read in the newspapers. As to the conduct of Colonel Murray, it would certainly be premature to pronounce any opinion. There had been a want of co-operation, however, between the military, volunteers, and militia, which required explanation, and he had no doubt in due time that explanation would be received. One word as to the causes of this collision between the colonists and the natives. One could not deal with these matters without being painfully conscious of the difficulty of getting at the full and exact truth and rights of the case; but, nevertheless, with the pretty full information they possessed at the Colonial Office he was glad to say there was every reason to believe that, however this unfortunate affair had originated, the New Zealand Government were in. the right. No doubt this was a critical moment in the history of New Zealand. On the one hand the colonists were rapidly increasing in numbers and power; they were longing for the use of the land which was lying useless on all sides around them, the nominal owners not being capable of turning it to account; on the other hand, these lands belonging to some native tribe or family, they had to deal for every acre of them with native owners, among whom there was often a strong feeling against the increase of territory in the hands of the white race, partly arising from the sense of their own decay in power and numbers, and the rapid increase in both of the colonists. The Governor was strictly adhering to the rule, evidently a just one—on the one hand to take no land from any native who could not show a fair title; and, on the other, if such a title was shown to allow no other native or tribe to interfere with the sale of land by such an owner. That was exactly the case which had arisen. The chief who sold this plot of land was admitted to be the proprietor of it. That admission was made by the leader of the present revolt, although he pretended to have some vague claim to it of a feudal character. It appeared that the natives themselves admitted that, even according to their own usages and notions of equity, the sale of the land was perfectly legitimate. Though the value of the plot was not very great, the question involved was one affecting the whole future acquisition of land in New Zealand, and also affecting, in the highest degree, the welfare both of the colonists and the natives. It was manifestly necessary for the colonists that they should be enabled to buy land, and it was likewise for the interest of the natives that they should be at liberty to dispose of the lands they could not turn to account, and thereby contribute to that prosperity in which they would themselves participate. Such being the case, there had been, he feared, nothing for it but to decide the question at issue by force of arms. The Government deplored that necessity. As far as they knew, they believed the Governor had acted with great judgment and vigour; and his Excellency had hopes that the disturbances would not proceed any further.


said, the circumstances that had occurred in New Zealand illustrated the wisdom of his recommendation that the Colonies should be left to provide for their own defence. 1,400 regu- lar troops, entirely paid by this country, were employed to keep the peace of New Zealand, and on the very first occasion I when they might have been of use, they had proved themselves of no use whatever. ["No, no!"] Not only were they of no use, but they did absolute mischief. They took no part in the action, but they had created a feeling of bitterness between themselves and the colonists by abstaining from action. They left the whole brunt of the day to the volunteer force. The volunteers had proved themselves capable, as far as courage and skill went, of undertaking their own defence, all that they required being increased numbers; but why were they not more numerous? Simply because the Colonies had been taught to lean upon England to find troops for them, and while that was the case they would never develope their own resources. In New Zealand we were having an exact parallel to what happened in North America when General Braddock was sent to aid the colonial militia. The moment the regular troops appeared the colonial militia broke down and became utterly valueless. In that case also regular troops had proved equally unfit to cope with native warfare. In the portion of New Zealand where the disturbance broke out there were only 50,000 natives, men, women, and children, while the number of British emigrants, chiefly, of course, adults, was 70,000. Surely, then, if the colonists were left to depend upon themselves, they would soon organize a force that would render any such native insurrections as these absolutely hopeless. Let it not, however, be imagined that the colonists would not ask for Queen's troops. They were certain to ask for them as long as the business of supplying those troops produced one of the best trades the settlers could have. But the only result of sending out regular soldiers was that they broke down the volunteer forces, strong and well adapted as they were for the purpose, while they were themselves utterly useless against the natives.


said, he could assure his right hon. Friend that, so far from the success that had been gained being due to the volunteers, that force was a mere handful; and in the opinion of the Governor and every authority in New Zealand, the safety of the lives of every European man, woman, and child in the colony depended on Her Majesty's soldiers and sailors.



thought that some observations with respect to the conduct of our officers in New Zealand ought not to pass unnoticed. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) in order to cry down the Colonial system, had been pleased to state that the British troops had not conducted themselves in that distant part of the world as they ought to have done, and the case of General Braddock had been quoted. But there was not the slightest similarity in the cases. What was the cause of General Braddock's disaster? That he would go into the woods against advice, and consequently he had his troops destroyed in a jungle. The commanding officer in New Zealand was ordered on no account to allow himself to be drawn into a jungle, and not to remain after daylight. He obeyed his orders and saved his troops, and the only thanks for his services were insinuations, in order to prove that the Colonial system was not what it ought to be.


wished to correct a very grave inaccuracy in the statement that the native population in the district in which this unfortunate affair had taken place was less than the English population. The native population of New Zealand was lately between 100,000 and 150,000, and the entire English, population from about 50,000 to 70,000; and in this part of the Northern Island the English were outnumbered by about ten to one. When the despatches came home he hoped they would be laid on the table, and he believed they would show that, however, gallantly the volunteers had behaved, the conduct of Colonel Murray had been free from all blame. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had again put forward his peculiar views about Colonial defences. He did not say that our Colonial possessions must not partly depend for defence on the military prowess of forces raised among themselves, but in the colony which had been most successful in raising volunteers the success was due to the fact of there being a considerable number of British troops in the place. In Victoria there had been 1,000, and there were now 400 or 500 British troops, and 2,000 efficient volunteer rifles, cavalry and artillery had been raised. Much of this success was due to the assistance which they had received from the officers of the regular army, and from being brigaded with the regular forces in the colony.


said, he entirely concurred with those gentlemen who had spoken of the unfairness of complaining of an officer who had no opportunity of answering the accusation which had been made against him. Colonel Murray had given an account of his own proceedings, which appeared to have been strictly in obedience to orders, but he had had no opportunity of rebutting the particular allegations made against him. He would not enter into the question of how far the Colonies ought to defend themselves, but with regard to the opinion formed in New Zealand of the value of British troops, there was clear evidence that the first thing done was to send off in hot haste to Sydney and Melbourne to get the assistance of regular troops from the neighbouring colonies, and he was glad to say that assistance was immediately rendered.


thought they ought to know who was responsible for the conduct of the operations—was it the officer in the command of the troops, or was it the officer in immediate charge of the volunteers? There ought not to be a divided command, and the volunteers ought not to be able to go where they pleased. In this case it appeared, not that the volunteers were successful, but that being rather in a scrape the blue jackets got them out of it.