Maori political thought in the late nineteenth century: Amicrohistorical study of the document of speeches from John Ballance's tour of seven Maori districts, 1885
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis explores the nature of ambivalence in Maori political thought as expressed during John Ballance's tour of seven Maori districts in 1885. A microhistorical study of Maori speeches recorded during the tour, undertaken by Ballance as minister of Native Affairs, reveals three overlapping points regarding Maori political thought in the late nineteenth century. Firstly, despite a lack of power in processes of government and the effects of numerous land laws, Maori remained optimistic at the possibility of gaining equality, an optimism generated by the very act of Ballance's visit to Maori communities. Secondly, optimism was grounded in a pragmatic approach to state power, one that acknowledged the realities of the colonial government's positionin the New Zealand political system. Thirdly, a strongly held desire for equality, in combination with a pragmatic approach to state power, explains why Maori continued to seek solutions through the colonial government in the late nineteenth century. These three implicit positions can be seen in the greetings, criticisms and requests made by Maori leaders during the twelve hui that constituted Ballance's tour. In combination, these points suggest an ambivalence in the conceptual bases of Maori political thought in the late nineteenth century. This argument challenges existing interpretations of late nineteenth century Maori political activity, particularly the idea that Maori increasingly sought 'autonomy' in their own sphere. By adopting the approach of the microhistorian, this thesis opens a brief and unique window onto a period between the New Zealand wars and the resurgent protest movements of the 1890s, one that historians have yet to capture.