Home‎ > ‎

A Sketch of New Zealand part 4

This story was told in the Sydney Herald over some months in 1837. The author signed them M.
Part 1  Part 2  Part 3
The author may have been Chevalier Dillon or a friend of his. The style is not of a native English speaker to my mind. Also, Chevalier Dillon also did a series of drawings which he signed M. just like the signature on these passages and he was known to be in the Tauranga district. Still, I'm no expert. Let me know your thoughts.

On Warfare.  Although the New Zealanders have very extensive stands of arms among them, and are generally well supplied with powder and ball, they are far from being expert in the use of their adopted weapon ; on purchasing a musket, however, they are very particular, and are reckoned very good judges, the double neck, capped-locks, and the main-spring having a good hold of the tumbler, are indispensable requisites; the flint they immediately turn upside down, and in loading a musket it is very seldom that they use the ramrod, while the bayonet is quite a superfluity ; the powder from the cartridge is generally dropped into the piece, and the butt end struck on the ground, the ball then follows, and another blow is given, when the piece is ready for use. About one in twenty attempts to take an aim; one eye is then shut, but more frequently both, before they fire, thus losing the aim which they had previously taken ; while the generality of them never put the butt end to the shoulder at all, but fire at random, it is therefore very seldom that they kill by fair firing, those who fall being generally struck by a chance shot that was not probably intended for them ; their usual distance of standing is from two to three hundred yards, but in some few instances they come much nearer. A rush is now and then made at their villages, which are always well trenched and fenced completely round, but never unless the storming party are fully sensible of being ten times the number of those who are inside the defenses in these cases, when the storming party is successful, the scenes of bloodshed are truly terrific, man, woman and child then fall victims to the long-handled tomahawk of the in-discriminating savage, but with all their ferocity and cannibalism, torture is seldom practiced among them, indeed, the only authenticated case that is known, was that of the death of the Mirinui of Bank's Peninsula who was taken to the Ropura at Capiti, Entry Island, by persons calling  themselves Europeans, the miserable chief was, after endeavouring to kill his own child on board the ship to secure it from slavery, hung up by his heels to their fences, and his throat having been cut, the blood was sucked from him by three of the wives of Peni (a great chief who had been killed by the Mirinui tribe), a mode of punishment more than probably instilled into them by the brutal savages who assisted them in that villainous transaction, and who even allowed the murdered remains of some of the Mirinui tribe to be cut up and salted down in the hold of the vessel, on board of which they were massacred!!

And one of these civilised white savages of the name of  * * * *, is said to have cut off the breast of a woman himself!  The barbarian is still in New Zealand, and it is to be hoped he will yet meet with his deserts. It is very impolite in Europeans living among them to concern themselves in the native wars, further than protecting their own premises if the village in which they are living happens to be attacked, for if they busy themselves too much, and the place should chance to be taken by the enemy, it is a great chance but they would lose their lives ; while from refraining in having any thing to do with their quarrels, they would most probably save their lives, but in either case are sure to lose all they are possessed of and would be stripped even to the very clothing on their backs. Previous to the commencement of actual hostilities the New Zealander is in the practice of visiting his relations and friends, and having a dance on the occasion, at which they generally agree to assist one another with all their power , the dancing is performed by the men nearly in a state of nudity, having only a piece of cotton print or a pocket handkerchief round their middle, their cartouch-box is buckled on sometimes two or three, and the musket is held by the end near the muzzle with the butt end in the air.  One of them then, who has a good voice, gives the words of the song, and after the first two or three lines are repeated they all join in, leaping at least three feet into the air, and throwing their arms and legs in all directions, and at the same time making the most horrid contortions of countenance that can well be conceived. This lasts about twenty minutes, after which they frequently throw themselves down to recover from the exertion they have undergone, while the perspiration runs from them at every pore. A thousand to twelve hundred men dancing in this way almost makes the earth tremble.

A strange tribe going on a visit to another generally performs the war-dance before them, which the other party takes as a compliment, and returns with all imaginable punctuality.  They have a very great conceit of their own abilities in warfare and think themselves quite competent to cope with Europeans, whom they barely allow to be their superiors even in civilization ; as whenever any observation is made to them concerning the beauty of the workmanship of our manufactures, they invariably reply that we are Pakia, or white men, and that if they were white men they could do the same ; and they frequently show you the manner in which they would ward off the blows of a broad-sword, for the musket in the hands of a European is nothing in their eyes ; they say we are too long in loading, and have too many forms to go through - that they could shoot us while we were looking at them ; they nevertheless allow us to be better shots singly than what they are. Alas! the conceit of human nature, they may perhaps learn better one day to their cost.