THE SUN OF PEACE

The colonists had won, and men asked one another how they would use
their power. But we who have followed their story know that they
had not waited for victory to force them to a generous attitude. We
remember how in the very teeth of strife they held out their hands and
lifted four of their Maori brethren to places by their side in the
Colonial Parliament; so it is not surprising to learn that, almost
before the blasts of war had done blowing in their ears, they made room
in the Upper House for two chiefs of high rank, who were thenceforth
to bear the title of “Honourable,” and be for life members of the
Legislative Council.

If that were not enough to show the cordial mind of the white men to
their brown brothers, the Maori prisoners taken in war were treated
for the most part as political offenders and, after a very short
period of restraint, allowed to return to their tribes without the
exaction of further penalty. Exceptions were naturally made in cases
where individuals were proved guilty of actual crime; but, otherwise,
everything was done to show the desire of the colony to soften as far
as possible all painful memories, to erase all bitterness from the
record of events, and to begin the new chapter of their history upon a
page inscribed with the great words of a great man, “Liberty and Union,
now and for ever, one and inseparable.”

As the colonists had never allowed war to hinder them from forging
ahead, so, now that peace was assured, they gave rein to their energy
and saw to it that their country marched with equal step abreast of the
world’s progress. As time went on not even that sufficed, and ever and
again the old world would stop, agape, while New Zealand confidently
adopted political, social or domestic reforms, at which her grown-up
relatives were still looking askance as “new-fangled ideas,” “dangerous
radicalism,” and so forth. New Zealand has never been afraid to
experiment, and most of her experiments have proved successful, and in
their issue “come to stay,” if the phrase may be allowed.

One of the earliest products of peace was a large addition to the
population, thanks to a policy by which fifty thousand immigrants were
introduced into the colony in the two years 1874 and 1875. This policy
did not stop there; for the Government, as far as possible, found work
for the men whom they introduced, just as they are doing at this day.

Take for instance that large area in New Zealand known as “The King
Country,” where, as we have seen, the “Land League” so long had sway.
This, which includes more than a million of acres of forest-covered
land, and that high plateau surrounding old Te Heu Heu’s “ancestor,”
the smoking cones of Tongariro, is only now being reduced to
conditions which shall render cultivation possible. To this wilderness
the Government sends hundreds of newly arrived immigrants, who are set
to work upon the railway which is being carried through it.

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; and there, too, a
man may taste of the experiences of the pioneers and yet miss their
greatest hardships. For, if a settler, he works with the certainty of
return for his labour; if otherwise, he is paid good wages and is in
any case assured of food, for carts carrying bread and meat continually
traverse the bush tracks. He is free from the haunting fear that he
will awake at some grey dawn to hear the wild yells of blood-lusting
savages, or return to his lonely hut to find his wife and children dead
upon his hearth. He has no dread of beasts of prey, unlike his brother
immigrant in Africa; and he can push his way through breast-high fern
or clinging tangle of undergrowth, undismayed lest his heel be bruised
by fang of poisonous snake, the terror of his Australian cousin.

The year 1875 saw the abolition of the Provinces Act, in which many had
from the first scented danger to the cultivation of a national spirit,
and a beginning was made in the following year of the present system
of local government, the colony being subdivided into counties and
municipal boroughs. The old provincial spirit was not easily quenched,
for many were not unnaturally inclined to esteem themselves and their
own more excellent than their neighbour and his own. Still, there are
very few in New Zealand who will venture to deny that to-day is better
than yesterday, although there is at least one “fine old New Zealand
gentleman, one of the olden time,” who annually brings forward a motion
for retrogression to the ancient order of things. Such conservatism is
rare in liberal New Zealand, and has few hopes and fewer followers.

A most interesting event occurred in 1877; for Sir George Grey returned
to power, not as Governor, but as Premier. He had made for himself a
home on an island in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf, and perhaps nothing
could have been more fortunate than his presence in the Colony at a
time when the new union between Pakeha and Maori required the cement of
perfect comprehension to render it irrefragable. Among the colonists
there might be disagreement as to Sir George Grey and his policy;
among the Maori there was none. To them he was ever the _Kawana nui_
(the great Governor), the man who understood them and who cared to
understand them.

For his island home the “Knight of the Kawan” did everything which
it was possible for a man so liberal and refined to do. He loved it
and adorned its beauty with every fresh charm he could procure. He
brought thither the English rose and the Australian eucalyptus, and
when Australia shall lament the wholesale destruction of her unique
fauna, the sole survivors of the quaint marsupial order shall, perhaps,
be found in the isle of the Kawana. This charming spot is to-day a
favourite resort of holiday-makers, and Sir George Grey’s mansion,
bereft, alas! of its hospitable founder, still offers visitors shelter
and entertainment.

The eightieth birthday of this remarkable man (whom Queen Victoria
honoured with her personal friendship) was celebrated in New Zealand
with the utmost enthusiasm, and at his death in 1898 there were not
many who grudged him the designation of “The Great Proconsul,” or
cavilled when St. Paul’s Cathedral received the honoured dust of one
who was not only an Imperialist but a Nation-maker.

In 1886, Nature arose in violent mood and swept into ruin one of the
most romantically beautiful spots in the world, and the most powerful
and splendid of New Zealand’s many scenic attractions–her justly-named
“Wonderland.” This was the hot lake of Rotomahana, with its far-famed
Pink and White Terraces.

In the volcanic region between the Bay of Plenty on the north and Lake
Taupo, with its giant sentinels Ruapehu and Tongariro on the south, is
Lake Tarawera, overhung by the volcano of Tarawera, which had never in
the memory of the Maori given any sign of eruption. A river of the same
name connected the lake with the much smaller basin of Rotomahana, in
which the water was hot owing to the numerous thermal springs in its
immediate vicinity. Rotomahana was really a crater of explosion, and
the principal boiling spring, Te Tarata, descending from terrace to
terrace down to the lake, was the greatest marvel in this marvellous
region.

Upon the Mount of Tarawera were the graves of many generations of Arawa
heroes and chiefs of might; nor dared profane feet disturb their rest
for fear of the fiery dragon which, though never yet seen by Maori
eyes, kept watch and ward. At the mountain’s foot lay the sister lake,
into whose waters–green as the stone in far Te Wai Pounamou–flowed
the river, charged with a fervent message from hot-hearted Rotomahana
with his terraced fringe of white and pink, laced with the blue of pools

which in perfect stillness lie,
And give an undistorted image of the sky.

Eighty feet above the warmed water of Rotomahana was the basin of Te
Tarata, with wall of clay, thirty feet in height. Its length was eighty
feet, its breadth sixty, and it was filled full of exquisitely clear,
boiling water, as blue as the sky above the swirl of azure vapour which
constantly overhung the wondrous pool.




In the depths, far below the placid surface, sounded ever the rumble
and grumble of immense quantities of water on the boil, and the
overflow had formed a crystal stairway, white as Parian marble, to
the lake beneath. From step to step was the height of a tall man, the
breadth of each platform five or six times that measure, and every
shining step was an arc of the great circle of which the red-walled
crater of Rotomahana was the centre. Each ledge was overhung with
stalactites, pure as alabaster, and every platform held its pools of
limpid, azure water of all degrees of warmth, in baths whose elegance
would have charmed a Roman eye.

On the opposite side of the lake was the spring of Otaka Puarangi, its
tranquil blue water confined in a basin little more than half the size
of Te Tarata. Its silicious deposits used to “descend from its orifice
down to the lake,” and were scaled “by a marble staircase, so sharp
in its outline, so regular in its construction, and so adorned with
graceful borders of evergreen shrubs that it seemed as if Nature had
designed it in very mockery of the skill and industry of man.”

But on this side the silica was flushed to a delicate rose, and from
every step pink wreaths were hung, and garlands of tinted stone, and
on every platform flashed the opalescent stalactites, festooning the
ledges, midway down, or dropping from azure pool to azure pool until
they reached the golden _solfatara_[70] and the rainbowed mud.

One hour after midnight on the 10th of June, men who dwelt or sojourned
in this beautiful, dangerous region were awakened by the trembling of
the earth and, knowing what that portended, rushed from their houses
into the open to see the Mount of Tarawera rent asunder from top to
bottom, while from the gaping wound shot up a column of roaring flame,
whose capital of smoke and cloud reared itself four and twenty thousand
feet above the blazing crater–a beacon of misfortune four miles high.

Red lightning played in fork and spiral about the flaming crags or
sheeted the gloomy base, and many miles away from the convulsed
mountain streams of fire poured upon the stricken earth. Fire-balls
fell, a blazing hail, consuming whatsoever they touched, and burying
beneath their increasing weight the remains of lonely hut and crowded
native village.

When the pallid light of the winter dawn struggled through the dense
veil of falling debris, Tarawera’s mount was seen to be shivered as
though smitten by the hammer of Thor; Tarawera’s lake had risen forty
feet, the trees beside its margin buried to their tops in volcanic mud;
Tarawera’s river and Rotomahana’s lovely terraces were gone for ever,
submerged beneath an enormous mass of ashes, mud, and stone.

For eighteen hours dust and mud fell continuously, burying fifty feet
deep the entire _hapu_ of the Matatu Maori, all save nine, and raining
desolation as far as Tauranga on the Bay. Pasture land, grass and fern
were burnt bare, and the same volcanic hail which slew the birds in
their flight blotted out the food-supply and starved the very rats in
the undergrowth.

One hundred and one persons perished in this eruption, which was not
only the fiercest and most destructive which New Zealand had known
since the coming of the Maori, but was one of the most violent recorded
in the story of the world.

From year to year New Zealand strode on, giving her women the franchise
as she went, and calling upon them to help her in the conduct of
municipal affairs. She seldom marked time, and ever held her head high
and preserved a proud distinction of her own among the three and forty
colonies or dependencies of the Empire. If she once got a little out
of breath through the sheer rush of her onward march, the firm hand of
a strong man steadied her, sending her on again, _integris viribus_,
with greater speed. In Richard Seddon, a man of immense energy and
remarkable gifts, who for thirteen years stood at the head of the
State and guided her towards the high status she has now obtained, New
Zealand found her man of the hour. Fortunate, too, it was for her that,
on the great Premier’s untimely death in 1906, so strong a man as Sir
Joseph Ward was at hand to take his place.

As the nineteenth century waned to a close, the important question fell
to be answered by New Zealand–Should she, or should she not, allow
herself to be enrolled among the States of the Australian Commonwealth?
Federation had been in the air for a long time, and since 1891 it had
been recognised that it must come, and come soon,–as far as Australia
was concerned. But would New Zealand take her place among the States?

There were arguments in favour of her doing so from the point of view
of commercial and administrative expediency; but there were very many
who did not like the idea. These pointed to the thousand miles of
ocean which separated their country from the continent of Australia
as an argument against inclusion with her great neighbour, and to her
remarkable progress as proof that she had learned, and could be trusted
to stand alone.

In 1899 the question required an answer; but Mr. Seddon still declared
himself uncertain of the popular will, and in 1900 craved the Imperial
Parliament to insert an “open door” clause in the Constitution, in
order that New Zealand might enter at her own time on equal terms with
the other States.

A Royal Commission was then appointed, with the result that, after an
exhaustive discussion of the arguments for and against the proposal,
and the hearing of voluminous evidence on both sides of the Tasman Sea,
the Commission declared emphatically against the submersion of New
Zealand’s identity in that of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Australia was dubious, and Mr. Reid, Premier of New South Wales,
asked, “How long will New Zealand be able to preserve an independent
orbit in the presence of a powerful gravitation and attraction, such
as a federated Australia must possess?” No one could answer that; but
New Zealand was firm, and a reply was to some extent contained in Sir
Joseph Ward’s later declaration, “I consider this country (New Zealand)
is certainly the natural centre for the government of the South
Pacific.”

So New Zealand elected to stand alone; and, this done, the question
immediately arose–Was she, with all her natural advantages, with
her remarkable progress, to remain a mere undistinguished unit among
the crowd of dependencies, simply one colony among a number of other
colonies? The answer came as immediately–No! The New Zealanders
determined to find a suitable designation by which their country should
be honourably distinguished. What was to be that designation?

It remained for Sir Joseph Ward to answer that In May, 1907, being in
London after the Conference of Colonial Premiers, he wrote to Lord
Elgin, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and repeated what
he had urged at that historic gathering; that, “having regard to
the position and importance of New Zealand, it had well outgrown the
‘colonial’ stage, and was as much entitled to a separate designation as
the Commonwealth of Australia or the Dominion of Canada.” He further
declared that “the people of New Zealand would be much gratified” if
the designation chosen were “The Dominion of New Zealand.”

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