To Whom Belong the Lands Wrested by Government from the Original Settlers ?
(Daily Southern Cross 6th May 1843). The Manganui Quarrel.
To understand the cause of the present quarrel, it will be necessary to state, that many years ago a considerable portion of land in the vicinity of this town, was purchased from the natives by Mr. Fairburn, one of the 'Church Missionaries,' partly for himself and his family, and partly for the mission, and the natives themselves. The motives which induced Mr. Fairburn to buy this land, have been unjustly and too severely censured by many parties most likely, because they were ignorant of the circumstances under which it was acquired.
In justice to Mr. Fairburn, it is but right that we should mention that this land was the cause of many serious and fatal quarrels among the neighbouring tribes, who each laid a claim to 'The debatable ground". In order to prevent these unhappy quarrels, it was proposed by the natives, with the consent of the mission, that Mr Fairburn should purchase the land, which was accordingly done. And we believe, as fairly bought and sold as any land has ever been in New Zealand.
The rest of its history is precisely that of all the land claims in New Zealand ; a small portion has been awarded by the commissioners and the government, to Mr Fairburn, the disposal of the remainder was left in abeyance, until a few days ago, when the government claimed it all ; and gave Mr Terry a lease of some of it, with permission to erect machinery for dressing flax together with the right of cutting flax over all the land.
On the arrival of Mr. Terry, however, he discovered that there were other parties whose permission it was necessary to obtain before he could with any degree of security, carry out his intended project. A small body of natives who where at the time resident on the land, strenuously asserted their to it ; and insisted that he should forthwith remove himself and his machinery from their grounds. Stating at the same time, that they had not sold the land to government, but to Mr.Fairburn, who alone had the right to it ; and that in the event of Mr Fairburn's claim being disallowed, the land must return to them and the other original owners. Mr Terry had no alternative but to desist from the undertaking until he should send to headquarters and ascertain the wishes and intention of government in this emergency.
One of the persons called Native Protectors, was immediately sent by government to the spot, with the view of pacifying the natives. We are not able to ascertain what steps this gentleman has adopted. The proceedings of the useful class to which he belongs, being always kept secret, until they effervesce is some such manner as they have lately done at Manganui.
But as the natives at present residing on the lands, form a very inconsiderable portion of those who have claims upon it, we think it likely that they may have been for a time pacified by a little money and plenty of promises. Of the former there is certainly little to spare from the treasury ; but the latter is the different coin of the offices of the Colonial Secretary and Protector of Aborigines.
To the final settlement of this question every man in New Zealand must look with interest ; and those who know the character of the government, and the native, with interest and even alarm. It may be true that the few natives on the spot have been for a moment pacified ; but from the history of similar proceedings in New Zealand, we are far from looking upon Mr. Terry's position as an enviable one.
Every tribe in the Thames and many of the Waikato natives, are connected with this land ; and before they submit to its occupancy by Mr. Terry, or any other than the original purchaser, we apprehend from our estimate of the native character, that the government will have to act the part of Noble, the Kaitaia chief, and with greater success than he did.
We are afraid that parties in England will not understand the merits of this question between the natives of New Zealand and this government ; and at the risk of being tiresome to our local readers, we must state, that this dispute has arisen in consequence of the partial settlement of this country by Europeans long before a British government was established ; lands were sold by natives, and bought and occupied by Europeans.
The government on their arrival, affected a very high tone of morality, and expressed great sympathy with the natives, and extreme regret for the manner in which it was pretended, the natives had been cheated by the Europeans. The consequence of this humane feeling, was the enactment of a law, declaring all titles to lands purchased from natives invalid, and the appointment of Commissioners to inquire into the conduct of Europeans in this respect with a view of judging of the fairness, or unfairness of their transactions with the natives ; in this act there was a still higher stretch of humanity and condescension on the part of the framers of the law, inasmuch as, by one of the clauses of the bill, the Queen was made the guardian of the poor native, which was easily accomplished by declaring that all the lands in New Zealand, whether belonging to Natives or to Europeans "are, and remain, Crown, or Domain lands of her Majesty, her Heirs, and Successors"!!!
In accordance with this humane act, many of the claims to land in New Zealand were examined by the Commissioners, and few of the claimants, as a matter of course, were found to have paid the natives enough for their lands ; they were consequently deprived of as much as they were found to have unfairly bought, which happened always to be the largest portion.
So far right, and it would not be a matter of surprise with any person, that if A cheated B, and B had a guardian C, would order restitution to be made to B. This would be easily understood. Let us now apply the case of A, B, and C, to be the parties in question. A is the original settler, who robbed B the native, by the finding of C, the government, the friend of poor B ; what course would justice and humanity dictate to C the government, in this case?
Every person would, of course say, to deprive A of his ill gotten property, and cause all that he had unjustly obtained of it, to be restored to the poor and ignorant B the native. But our government is, too wise and polite to act upon such a foolish and old fashioned principle as this ; they certainly find that A had in very case robbed poor B, but they are too knowing to act upon the foolish plan of giving back the property to B ; they think it is much wiser, and much better to keep it themselves. So that C. who had never paid for the land, takes it both from A and B, without any consideration or whatever.
A, the settler, was a matter of course, all along protested against the right of C to interfere in the matter ; and B, the native, for at time looked on with indifference, scarcely knowing the meaning of all this work on the part of his friend C. B however, has at length discovered the kind intentions of his false friend ; and he now joins the side of his former, but true friend A. Such is at present the position of both parties ; the natives and the original settlers, will as a matter of course, oppose the government in every attempt to deprive either of their lands.