Nelson and the Taranaki War, 1860-1861 : a case-study of opinion in the South Island on the origins and nature of the Anglo-Maori Wars in New Zealand. (1969)
AuthorsChan, H. D. M-h.show all
Though the origins of the Anglo-Maori wars, their influence on Imperial relations, and their effects on the Maoris have been studied by Professors Sinclair, Dalton and Sorrenson, and by Dr Alan Ward, there has been very little attempt to study-colonial opinion on the wars, or of the effects of the wars on settler politics. Historians have not found it surprising that an aggressive policy should have appealed to large sections of the colonist in the North Isiand, but they have been more surprised both by the bellicose attitude of the South Island colonist_towards the Maoris and by the parsimonious attitude of the Southerners when it came to helping to pay for the wars with the Maoris.
The original intention of this thesis was to study the South Island opinion on native affairs .in general and on the Anglo-Maori wars in particular. I intended to attempt to trace the origins of the bellicose attitude of the South Island colonist towards the Maori back to the colonist's Victorian origins, his motivations for emigrating, and his disillusionment caused by the disparity between his expectations and the harsh realities of the colonial situation. Further, an attempt was to be made to explain the parsimonious attitude of the South Island colonists to the financing of native policy and later to the payment of war casts. Here, preoccupation with local interests and problems, and the jealous concern to preserve the provincial land funds, the symbols of provincial wealth, were seen as possible explanations. However, as research progressed two things became increasingly apparent. First, South Island opinion as an identifiable entity that could be labelled "South Island" was fast becoming submerged beneath a welter of opinions held by individuals, by local interest groups and now and then distinguishable as a provincial opinion. There was an opinion in the South Island on the Anglo-Maori wars but there was no South Island opinion as such. Secondly, the reaction of the Nelson settlers to the news of the commencement of hostilities in Taranaki and the opinion on the war expressed by the two Nelson newspapers had an edge and a quality to them lacking in the reactions and opinions discernable in other South Island settlements.
The choice of Nelson as a case-study of opinion in the South Island on the Anglo-Maori wars may also be justified on other grounds. First, unlike Otago and Canterbury, Nelson was a needy rather than a wealthy province, Nelson's land fund was relatively insignificant. Thus there is need to seek for other explanations of the opinion expressed in Nelson. Secondly, the Nelson newspapers were not only the most vocal in the South Island on the war question, but they had differing approaches to the question. Given the partisan nature of colonial newspapers the possibility arises. that the differences in approach may be explained in terms of local political conflict. Thirdly, during the period under consideration, Nelson, represented by Edward Stafford, enjoyed the possession of power in colonial politics. This suggests the possibility that opinion in Nelson may be linked with support of the Stafford "war" ministry. Therefore a study of opinion in Nelson on the Anglo-Maori wars may not only enable us to understand the bellicose attitude of the colonist in the South Island but may throw some light on the nature of the political conflict.in New Zealand during the Provincial Period.
A topic in the history of race relations or one concerning attitudes towards racial groups can be rather difficult for the non-European; especially one who was first attracted to the study of history by a need to try and understand, without bitterness, the behaviour of Europeans towards his own people in his native land during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The intention of the first two chapters is to attempt to understand the superior attitude adopted by the South Island colonists towards the Maoris by attempting to understand the mind of the emigrant and the condition of the Maori as the emigrant found him. If our view of the early pioneers is a realistic rather than an idealistic one then their behaviour and attitudes are easier to understand.
The settler in the South Island, where there was little to fear from the Maoris, was more concerned with his own progress and the problems of building a European society than with native problems. The native problems of the North Island were treated at best as a distraction and at worse as of no concern of the South. Chapters Three to Five attempt to show how one South Island community attempted to deal with a distraction that became a nuisance.
The basic sources for this thesis have been the files of the two Nelson newspapers. It is unfortunate that there is no reliable way of ascertaining the writers of any particular editorial. Further, manuscript collections were searched for letters from South Island, and in particular Nelson, residents, and for references to conditions and attitudes in Nelson.
This thesis is presented merely as a case-study-and its generalizations await testing against the experiences in other communities.