Octavius Hadfield to Frederick Chesson, 3 June 1861

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Hadfield, Octavius








New Zealand

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Otaki, Wellington, N.Z.
June 3 1861

Dear Sir,

My brother, Col. Hadfield, has forwarded to me a letter from you, written to him by you at the request of the Committee of the Aborigines’ Protection Society, expressing their sympathy with me. Allow me to say that I felt very highly gratified by this assurance of their sympathy, and their approval of the part I have felt it my duty to take in reference to Governor Browne’s unjust and illegal proceedings at Taranaki.

My brother has likewise informed me of the very great interest you have taken, and the zeal you have shewn, in defending the cause of truth and justice against one of the grossest acts of tyranny and oppression. He has further assured me that you have helped to expose some of the calumnies that have been so freely circulated about me. I need scarcely say that I fully appreciate your kindness, and offer you my hearty thanks.

It is possible that there may be people in England who think that I have censured with unnecessary severity the conduct of Governor Browne. But the truth is, that I believed a great crime had been committed; and though charity would lead me to hope to the last, so long as there was any doubt, I felt that any thing but a plain unqualified condemnation of that crime would be a dereliction of duty. I have not much spare time; and I usually deal in plain, homely language. I have been actuated from the first by one motive only, that it, a wish to uphold the cause of truth and justice.

When I first endeavoured to expose the injustice and illegality of Governor Browne’s proceedings, I was, I believe, the only man in New Zealand who was thoroughly acquainted with the real merits of the case. However feebly I advocated the right cause, I have the satisfaction to know that I brought conviction to the minds of abler men. You have seen Sir W. Martin’s pamphlet. If any doubt remains in any man’s mind as to the injustice of the Governor’s conduct, after a careful perusal of that pamphlet, the fault must be his own.

The attempts made in England to represent the condemnation of the war by all the ablest men in the colony – Featherston, Fox, Fitzherbert, &c., as the result of party warfare, are quite false; the truth being that the ablest men of all parties, who had never before acted together, united to oppose what was to grossly tyrannical. The men I have named would certainly have turned out the ministry had they not taken the part they did in opposition to the war.

It is quite impossible that the Aborigines’ Protection Society could ever have a case which more imperatively calls for their decided action. I need hardly repeat what I have publicly stated as to the injustice, &c., of the war; but I must say, that if a British Governor is allowed to do with impunity with an aboriginal race what Governor Browne has done at Waitara, it will not be very easy to point out in what respect his position differs from that of a Turkish Pasha. It is, to my mind, inconceiveable that the British nation can be so unjust towards an aboriginal race; one, moreover, with which they have made a solemn treaty. I candidly confess that I feel deeply grieved for the conduct of England when I read of some of the barbarities perpetrated by men in authority in India, and by our Government in China. I fear the nation is growing callous.

Does the Colonial Office never learn experience? Sir G. Grey’s policy here was highly successful. The war policy at the Cape was disastrous and expensive. Sir G. Grey was sent to the Cape to carry out his policy there. War ceased. Peace and prosperity have existed there under his government. But his policy is abandoned here, and the old discarded Cape policy introduced here. Is this the result of wisdom or folly? In the course of two or three years after the perpetration of great crimes, and the endurance of much disaster and misery, and the expenditure of two or three millions, Parliament will insist on a return to Sir G. Grey’s policy, But who shall predict whether it will then be possible to reintroduce it?

I regret to say, that since the arrival of large numbers of troops, the war feeling has increased, or rather, the desire for commissariat expenditure; for I believe few or none of the settlers (except, perhaps, a few new comers) have any hostile feeling towards the natives. Bear in mind (what Mr Fox brings out), that this war is the act of the Governor, and is supported by the Colonial Office.

When I first took up my pen, I intended only to express my thanks; but writing even to a stranger, of whose kind sympathy I was assured, I have been insensibly led on to say more.’