Project Canterbury

A History of the English Church in New Zealand

By H.T. Purchas

Christchurch: Simpson and Williams, 1914.

Chapter XIII.


Cheerful, with friends, we set forth:
Then, on the height, comes the storm!
--M. Arnold.

THE period which begins with the year 1860 presents an aspect so desolate that it is hard at first to find a single cheering feature. The prospect which seemed so bright in 1859 is quickly obscured by mist and storm. Guiding-posts are hard to find; the faces of friends seem hostile in the gloom; voices of appeal sound dim and confused amidst the moan of the tempest.

How little did Selwyn think on that autumn day in 1859 when, from his presidential chair, he looked in gladness of heart upon his four new bishops, that at the same hour a bolt was being forged by the Government in Auckland which would shatter the most hopeful of his plans! How little could he expect that, of the bishops before him, one (Williams) would be driven from his home, and another (Hobhouse) harried from his diocese; or that he himself would be mobbed and insulted, turned back on roads which he had been accustomed to travel, fired at by men who had hitherto listened obediently to his words I How little could he foresee the ruined churches, the abandoned missions, the apostacy of the tribes, or the closing of large tracts of country against himself and his clergy! How incredible would have seemed the intelligence that amongst his flock a heresy would arise which should demand the life of a Christian minister as an acceptable sacrifice!

Yet, though at first everything looks uniformly dark and hopeless, the eye comes in time to form a truer picture. Shapes of strange magnificence make themselves dimly visible; noble characters appear all the grander for the strain through which they pass; principles and ideals through stern conflict are tested and displayed. Half a century has well-nigh passed since the events took place; the chief actors have disappeared from the earthly scene; a calmer and more discriminating treatment ought now to be possible than could be secured amidst the passions of racial and political strife.

At first it seemed as though the new constitution were destined to work smoothly. The organisation and first meeting of the General Synod was followed up by the calling together of the clergy and laity of the various dioceses in local synods--each under the presidency of its bishop. In 1861 Selwyn took advantage of the newly-acquired ecclesiastical freedom to consecrate John Coleridge Patteson to the missionary bishopric of Melanesia; and this saintly man went forth to the ten years of faithful work which were to be brought to a sudden close by his martyrdom in 1871. At the end of the same year (1861) Bishop Williams called together a synod of the diocese of Waiapu, at which nearly all the members belonged to the native race, and all the proceedings were conducted in the native tongue. An opportunity was thus afforded for that sagacity in counsel and that eloquence of speech for which the Maori race was famed.

But the opportunity came too late. Maori Christianity had been left so long in an unorganised and immature condition that it had begun to develop itself on lines of its own. The march of events had brought about a situation which was only partially foreseen, and, even if foreseen, could hardly perhaps have been prevented. The subject is one of peculiar difficulty, but as it has a direct bearing on problems of to-day, an attempt must be made to elucidate its main features.

The organisation of the New Zealand Church seemed to leave no place for the rule of the Church Missionary Society. Selwyn wished it to resign its lands and its agents immediately into the hands of the general synod. The Society was not quite ready to do this, but it began to withdraw in a gradual way. It sent out few, if any, fresh missionaries to take the places of those who had died or retired, and it began to curtail its monetary grants. It had spent (according to Mr. Swainson's estimate) some quarter of a million pounds on New Zealand: it might well ask, Had not the time arrived for its funds to be employed elsewhere?

But if the white missionaries were to be allowed gradually to depart, their places must be taken by natives of the country. Year after year the Society was urgent in asking for the ordination of Maoris, not only to the diaconate but also to the priesthood, in order that the Maori Christians might have an opportunity of receiving the Holy Communion at least once a quarter. But this the bishop would not do. He was favourable to such a policy in the abstract, but he and the missionaries themselves were so much impressed with the educational and social deficiencies of even the best of the Maori converts, that they shrank from their admission to Holy Orders. Selwyn had hoped that St. John's College would have supplied him with men of higher education and more civilised habits, but his expectations had been dashed by the dispersion of 1853, and his confidence was slow to spring again.

On his return from England, he had opened a theological college for Maoris at Parnell, where the married students might live in separate cottages, and where they might have the benefit of the freely-given instructions of Sir William Martin. But none of the candidates were considered fit for Holy Orders, and up to 1860 the Bishop had ordained but one deacon beside Rota Waitoa. If it had not been for another small college which was begun by the Rev. W. L. Williams at Waerenga-a-hika, and which enabled Bishop Williams, soon after his consecration, to ordain six Maoris to the diaconate, the number of native clergy at the opening of this period would have been small indeed.

The necessity for more ordinations was the chief reason why the Church Missionary Society so earnestly advocated an increase of bishops. The establishment of the diocese of Waiapu certainly justified their hope to a large extent, for not only did Bishop Williams admit a number of Maoris to the ministry, but his example encouraged Selwyn himself to go forward more boldly. His reluctance was due partly to sad experience, partly to his own high ideals; and it would seem to afford another instance of the truth which his career so often exemplified, "The best is the enemy of the good." Some of the men who were to play leading parts in the coming time were among those whom his strictness rejected.

Chief among these was that Tamihana Tarapipipi who appeared before us in an earlier chapter. From the light-hearted youthfulness of the "bonnet" episode, this young son of the great Waharoa had passed into a grave and thoughtful manhood. After his father's death, his ability had led to his being elected chief instead of his elder brother. Together with a strong desire for knowledge there was a certain dourness in Tamihana's nature, and when he applied for admission to St. John's College, a question is said to have arisen about smoking. The rules of the institution prohibited this pleasant vice, and Tamihana would not give up his pipe. Strange to think of the tremendous consequences which flowed from that simple refusal!

Thrown back upon himself, and seeing no teacher but Archdeacon Brown, who visited Matamata from time to time, the young thinker formed his ideals alone. Experience soon taught him the necessity of law. Loose-living and dishonest pakehas brought disease and trouble among his people, while the old authority of the chiefs was weakening day by day. The Old Testament offered laws which seemed framed for his own case, and, in studying his Bible, Tamihana was struck with the important part which was played by the nationalism of the Chosen People. One verse in particular took his attention: "Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother."--(Deut. xvii. 15.) Here, surely, was divine sanction for the principle of nationalism and of kingship: might not the cure for the woes of his race be found in a unified State under an elected king of their own blood?

The ideas which were thus working in the young chief's mind were forced into active expression by the treatment he received from those in authority. Early in 1857 he visited Auckland, with the object of making an appeal to the governor for good government among the Maoris. Instead of a welcome, he received a snub from the high officials, who scornfully advised him to go home and help himself. This rebuff drove him to action. Sending messages far and wide, he convened a great assembly of the inland tribes at Rangiaohia in the Waikato. The concourse afterwards moved to Ihumatao on the shores of the Manu-kau, and within a few miles of Auckland, where the conference was at that very time drafting the church constitution. The one gathering consisted of highly educated clergy and lawyers, the other of unlettered or self-taught Maoris; but the object of both gatherings was the same, and so were the principles which both professed. A Christian law was the object of them both. Tamihana would not allow himself to be put forward as king: he proposed for that honour the aged Waikato chief, Te Wherowhero or Potatau; but he, as king-maker, was the life and soul of the movement. The kingship thus set up was a sorry enough thing in outward appearance, but its flag bore upon it the Cross of the Redeemer; its inauguration at Ngaruawahia (in 1858) was accompanied with prayers and hymns; its object was to bar out intoxicating liquors from the inland tribes, and to keep them from unwholesome contact with the white man and his ways. As Marsden had tried to found a Christian community at Rangihoua, Selwyn at St. John's, and Godley in Canterbury, so Tamihana attempted to set up a Christian State in the interior of the North Island.

It is sad to think that he did not meet with more sympathy from the heads of Church and State. "The members of the Government in Auckland," wrote Sir John Gorst, "did not like Te Waharoa [Tamihana]. Few Europeans knew him personally, and it was the fashion to believe him insincere." At a preliminary meeting at Taupo, the Rev. T. Grace did indeed join in the proceedings, but the colonial government soon moved the governor to petition the C.M.S. for the missionary's removal. Bishop Selwyn left the Taurarua Conference to oppose the king movement at Ihumatao. The one man who saw it in a favourable light was Sir William Martin. To him it was "not an enemy to be crushed, but a god-send to be welcomed." The governor, Colonel Gore-Browne, was weak; but he felt that if he could have Sir William Martin and Bishop Selwyn on his council for native affairs, he might be able to walk uprightly. His proposal, however, was declared "inadmissible," and the well-meaning governor was soon hurried into a policy from which he at first had shrunk.

The beginning of the year 1860 found the king movement still friendly to the British rule. Its influence did not extend much beyond the Waikato country, and it was discountenanced by the tribes who lived under the influence of Henry Williams in the north, William Williams in the east, and of Hadfield and Taylor in the south-west. Hadfield's staunch ally, Wiremu Kingi te Rangitaake, had, in 1848, carried his tribe back to Taranaki, where his ancestral possessions lay, and he too kept aloof from the movement. This chief, upon whom was to turn the future course of events, still stood forth as a champion of the white man; and to him New Plymouth was indebted in 1851, as Wellington had been in 1843 and 1846, for preservation from hostile attack.

Yet this was the man whom the Government now drove into opposition and rebellion. What were his crimes that he should be so treated? In the first place he and his tribe owned the beautiful Waitara lands which lay close to New Plymouth, and a Naboth is always open to the old charge, "Thou didst blaspheme God and the king." Governor Gore-Browne, upon whom lay the direct responsibility in native matters, was an honourable man and the brother of a highly-respected English bishop; but, Ahab-like, he was brought to regard Te Rangitaake as a "rebel" and "an infamous character." And who was the Jezebel in this case? The Government of the day had much to do with the governor's decision, yet the Stafford ministry is looked upon as the ablest and not the least upright that has occupied the treasury benches in New Zealand. These ministers also (it is said) had been misled. By whom? The blame is laid upon the land commissioner, Mr. Parris, whose later reports were certainly very misleading. Yet Parris began with a desire to be fair to all parties. He also succumbed to outside pressure. If we enquire further, we come upon the ugly serpent of sectarian jealousy. Taranaki was in the Wesleyan sphere of influence: Te Rangitaake was a churchman. For the crime of belonging to the Church of England he incurred the violent enmity of a certain Wesleyan minister, who had never forgiven Bishop Selwyn for refusing to allow him to sign a church burial register. Yet this minister thought himself in the right, and could at least point to a murder which had been committed, not by Rangitaake himself, but by another Maori with whom this chief had formed an alliance. Who can judge in such a case, especially when the tangled skein is still further complicated by the action of an astute Maori whose affections had been wounded by a damsel who deserted him in order to become the daughter-in-law of Te Rangitaake? But it is no pleasant thought that the decision to seize the Waitara was made by the Government in Auckland during the very days when the first General Synod was sitting in Wellington, and that amongst the men who thus forced on an unjust and unholy war were at least two who had sat in the Taurarua Conference and had helped to shape the constitution of the Church.

The war thus begun in injustice and ingratitude, was marked by what seemed a contemptuous defiance of religion. Wiremu Kingi was slow to take up arms, and when the surveyors appeared upon the disputed land he merely sent women to drive them off. The governor summoned Kingi to come to him at New Plymouth, offering him a safe-conduct for three days. The chief replied that he was afraid to trust himself among the soldiers, and proposed a meeting on safer ground. No answer was vouchsafed to him; the three days expired on Saturday night, March 3, 1860, and on Sunday the governor began the war. Two of Te Rangitaake's pas were taken by the troops, and his place of worship burnt to the ground.

The news of the aggression spread quickly through the island. Selwyn and Hadfield sent protests and petitions to the Government and to the Queen. The war had been hurried on with such secrecy that the bishop had "heard nothing of the matter till the order was given for the troops to embark." Up to the time when the soldiers were sent to Taranaki, he was "in the most friendly communication with the Governor and his ministers." But now, by these very men, his appeals for an enquiry were spurned, and he was peremptorily forbidden to interfere between the Government and the native race.

Others beside bishop and missionaries were stirred with indignation. "The affair at Taranaki," wrote the bishop, "was announced by the government, and looked upon by the natives, as the beginning of a new policy for the whole of New Zealand." As such it was received by the king-maker in the north. Hitherto there had been little sympathy between himself and the Taranaki chief. Now they began to draw together. Patriotism and religion formed a continually strengthening bond. "It was this that disquieted the heart of Te Rangitaake," wrote Tamihana, "his church being burnt with fire." His own heart was disquieted also; and though he would not yet adopt Rangitaake's cause, he could not prevent some of the hot-heads of his tribe from going south to join in the Taranaki war. His own flag at Ngaruawahia became the rallying point for the disaffection which was now spreading through the land. Deputations from distant tribes were received in state by the Maori King; allegiance was tendered by many of those who had hitherto held aloof; lands were presented, and tribute pledged.

Amid the growing excitement, Tamihana restrained the natural feelings of his heart. "Let us not take up an unrighteous cause," he urged; "let us search out the merits of the case, that if we die, we die in a righteous cause." The kingdom was not set up for war but for peace; and the aged Potatau, who died in June, repeated with almost his last breath its watchwords, "RELIGION, LOVE, AND LAW."

The war in Taranaki lasted until June, 1861, when, through Tamihana's efforts, a kind of peace was arrived at. One missionary, at least, played an important part in the operations. The intrepid Wilson was stirred at the news that the Maoris, after one of their victories, had given no quarter to the prisoners. He therefore set out for Taranaki, and went amongst the Maori camps, urging the observance of the laws of civilised warfare. His life was often in extreme danger, but the white bands which he always wore usually secured the respect of friend and foe. After much discouragement, he succeeded in gaining the consent of the Waikatos to spare the wounded, to exchange prisoners, and to tend the sick. His old naval training gave him acceptance with the Imperial forces, and he did much to promote a better feeling on both sides.

Outside the war area, some of the tribes who were most amenable to missionary influence were brought together by the governor in July, 1860, and held a great meeting in the grounds of the Melanesian Mission headquarters at Kohimarama, near Auckland. After long discussion they expressed their determination not to join in the king movement, though they openly questioned the justice of the war. But the king-maker held to his scheme. With a profound philosophy which has hardly yet been mastered by European statesmen, he pointed to the actual existence of different and differing nations in the world. "The only bond," he said, "is Christ." Why should the Maori lose his nationality? Why should not he in his own way co-operate with the pakeha in upholding the law of the one Christ? "This upright stick," he said, "is the governor; this one is the king; this horizontal one which I lay across the other two is the law of God and of the queen; this circle which I draw round the whole is the authority of the queen which guards us all."

Nor did his actions fall below his words. Justice was administered with strict impartiality, and Tami-hana himself founded a boarding-school, which contained at one time upwards of a hundred children. In order to provide for the maintenance of these scholars, he and his sons carried on a farm at Peria. Wilson relates how, when he went on a peace-making mission to this place, and was forced to spend the cold night amongst Maoris who showed no readiness to receive his message, a hand was laid upon him in the dim dawn, and the voice of the king-maker said, "You will perish in this place. Arise, come down and stay with me." After breakfast, he found Tamihana at his plough: "The day was wet; he was soaked with rain and bedaubed with mud. The great man--for such he really is--was dressed in a blue serge shirt and corduroy trousers, without hat, and toiling like a peasant." The missionary was then taken to the school, where this Maori Tolstoi gave the children some practical problems in arithmetic, and a dictation lesson from his favourite Book of Deuteronomy.

The latter part of 1861 saw a temporary improvement in the situation. War was for the time suspended. The Stafford ministry were driven from office by the vote of one of their friends, who felt the injustice of their war policy, and--most important of all--the weak governor was removed, and Sir George Grey sent back to take his place. Past suffering did not prevent Henry Williams and his friends from welcoming one who, with all his faults, was a real lover of the native race; and the governor soon showed that he had not forgotten the mistakes he had formerly made. One of his first acts was to go off by himself to Otaki, and there to spend a day or two with Hadfield--son-in-law to Henry Williams. "Of course," writes the latter, "they were agreed upon all points." Somewhat later he called upon the patriarch himself at Pakaraka, and consulted with him as to the best means of bringing peace to the land. With generous trustfulness Henry Williams wrote, "I have every confidence in Sir George, but he is in want of men to carry out his views."

The period from October, 1861, to May, 1863, is thus interesting, as being the last occasion in our history when it can be said that the voice of the Church was really effective in guiding the policy of the country. The indignant protests of Selwyn, Hadfield, and Martin had taken effect; an enquiry into the Waitara case proved the illegality of the Government's action. The new governor tried to establish a system of local self-government among the Maoris, and to atone for the misdeeds of the past. Henry Williams described the situation with characteristic bluntness: "Of the feeling of the old ministry and their partisans, there was no mistake: 'Hang the missionaries and bishops for having caused the rebellion.' These persons are now so still and quiet you may hear a pin drop, even in the bush. . . . Nothing is now heard but 'the dear Maoris; who would hurt a hair of their heads?'"

The brief period of peace in the north brought troubles of its own to Bishop Selwyn and the Church. The second General Synod was summoned to meet at Nelson in February, 1862. On the day appointed for the opening of the assembly there were not enough members to form a quorum. For several days this deficiency continued, and the synod could not be properly constituted. The members occupied themselves with passing resolutions which were validated at the end of the period, when at last a quorum was secured.

The chief reason for the smallness of this gathering was the attitude of the diocese of Christchurch. This important part of the Church was in a state of rebellion against the constitution. None of its principal clergy had attended the synod of 1859; no representative but the bishop came to that of 1862. Its grievances were of various kinds: it found fault with the "property" element, and the "mutual compact" idea, and the unalterable fundamentals, and all the other features upon which the Auckland laity had insisted. It seemed as though the spirit of Godley had returned in all its trenchant and uncompromising churchman-ship. But the most definite of all the Canterbury grievances arose from the claim of the General Synod to own and administer all the church property in the country. Bishop Selwyn had handed over to the first synod more than seventy trust properties, which had been hitherto vested in himself as corporation sole: he expected the diocese of Christchurch to do the same. But this the Canterbury churchmen would never do. Rather than do it, they resolved to secede from the Church of New Zealand, and to reconstitute themselves on a diocesan basis. They appealed to the primate to "throw over" the constitution altogether, and to start afresh on what they considered more churchlike principles.

Such was the ecclesiastical situation for the next three years--1862 to 1865. The position was serious, and there was just the possibility of a schism. But it was hardly more than a possibility. Selwyn seems not to have disquieted himself very greatly about the matter. For there was one saving feature in the case. Christchurch could hardly set up for itself on a diocesan basis without its bishop; and Bishop Harper was Selwyn's friend, and he was loyal to the constitution. The whole synod of Christchurch might pass threatening resolutions--as it did in 1863 and 1864--but as long as Henry Harper occupied the bishop's seat they were bound to be blocked by the episcopal veto. And before the next General Synod the Church was to pass through such tragic occurrences that the question at issue could no longer command the same primary and absorbing interest.

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