Thursday, 9 January 2014

A Much Needed Corrective, Part IV

Final Notes and Unfinished Business

We strongly recommend to our New Zealand readers in particular that they read Keith Newman's Bible and Treaty: Missionaries Among the Maori--a New Perspective (New York: Penguin Books, 2010).  It is part of our heritage with which all New Zealand Christians ought be familiar. 

In this final post, we want to call attention to three aspects of Newman's book which are worth considering. 

The first is the deleterious role of the New Zealand Company ("NZC")--a company largely associated with Edward Gibbon Wakefield formed to promote and profit from British colonial settlement in New Zealand.  In order to trade, NZC needed to secure supply of land.  Settlers from Great Britain were offered land upon which to settle in New Zealand.  NZC actively went around trying to secure that land in order to on-sell it.  They bought it from Maori. 

The Company was not at all scrupulous in patiently working through the complex issues of buying land from Maori, where title was a nebulous concept and contentious historical reality.
  Not only were the transaction prices often ridiculously low, but the vendors the company chose to negotiate with were often not warranted to sell the land in the first place and had no justified or provable title.  Things became much worse when the British government decided to authorise the company in a quasi-official capacity--so that in its "negotiations" with Maori over land purchases the company could claim it was acting for the Crown.  Frequently, missionaries stood on the opposite side, protesting and constructively interfering with the activities of the NZC. 

In the end the company went bankrupt and its debts were assumed by the Crown, and repaid by means of a special levy upon the colonists.  This latter device was much hated, as settlers felt they ended up having to pay twice.  Many settlers believed they had been oversold, over-promised, and woefully under-delivered. 

A second noteworthy theme emerging in Newman's book  is the negative effect Bishop Selwyn had upon the missionary effort in New Zealand.  Here was a high-churchman whose propensity towards centralised, autocratic control worked against missionary and evangelical endeavour.  In particular, Selwyn remained extremely reluctant to ordain Maori converts.  After all, they did not have the benefit of an Oxbridge classical education and so how could they function as leaders in the church?  The apostolic and post-apostolic Church would have been flabbergasted.  Newman writes:
The call for more Maori teachers was getting louder, not only from the local missionaries, but also from the CMS in London.  The problem clearly lay with Bishop Selwyn and his reluctance to promote Maori for ordination or to add to the number of Maori teachers, despite the fact many were eager to take the gospel back to their own people.  It took eleven years for him to ordain the first Maori deacon, and twenty-four years to ordain a Maori priest. (Op cit., p. 273). 
Selwyn proposed rather an amalgamation of the races--but one suspects it was little more than the outworking of a paternalism not shared by the actual front-line missionaries.
(Thomas) Grace feared that the so-called amalgamation of the races proposed by many, including Selwyn, would deliver little if anything to the Maori; he even suggested that the connections so far had been "purely adulterous".  No one had heard of a European woman  being incorporated into the Maori race, but European men continued to take "one Maori woman after another as they chose to send away their former one".  Along with the "wholesale prostitution" of Maori woman in the towns "great numbers of Maori men are excluded from the hope and possibility of an honourable marriage, to the great damage of the Maori race." (Ibid.)

Finally, Newman makes mention of the deleterious and destructive effects of the growing acceptance of Darwinist doctrines in New Zealand.  These perniciously taught that white Europeans were further up the evolutionary ladder than Maori.  As the prospect of war between Maori and settlers drew near,  Darwinism
. . . had a major impact on the speed and attitude of colonial expansion in New Zealand, further fuelling the bigoted view of settler superiority.  They now used the premise of racial superiority to support the idea that "war between the races must come sooner or later", with Darwin's theory as "a burglar's jemmy to get at Maori land."  (Ibid., p. 288.)
We hope that Newman's book receives a lengthy, serious readership amongst God's people in New Zealand.  To be sure, it is not the last word.  Apart from Scripture, nothing ever is.  Hopefully, however,  there will be more research, more publications to come forth to lay aside the secularist preconceptions of our day and focus instead on what actually happened, as mediated through eye-witness accounts, letters, reports, and Maori oral history.  

Having read Newman, a deep, abiding conclusion is that there is much unfinished business needing attention. 

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