Preaching peace

Daily Reading for April 11 • George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of New Zealand, and of Lichfield, 1878

When the events at the Wairau, and the Land Question in general, had made a breach between the two races; then doors began to be shut in the faces of the natives, and language peculiarly offensive to them was in common use among the lower classes: and it became a frequent remark among them, which I have heard again and again, that, with the exception of the Government officers, and the Missionaries, and a few others, they were treated like slaves and pigs by the English settlers. The consequence of this growing feeling of contempt was a desire, widely spread through the English towns, to chastise the natives, who were then supposed to be incapable of resistance. It was then that “turbulent priests,” if there had been any in New Zealand, might have agitated the whole country by merely encouraging their countrymen to follow the impulse of their own inclination.

But, on the contrary, it will be found that the chief fault imputed to us in those days was an undue desire for peace. “Here comes that Bishop to prevent us from fighting the natives,” is a saying which I well remember, though it will scarcely be believed at the present time, when most men are agreed in the expediency of leaving the charge of their lives and property to military proxies. That I have counselled peace, is no more than saying that I am a minister of the Gospel; and this I freely confess to have done, at a time when a general gathering of the tribes could have destroyed the Colony, and when it needed no more than that we should be silent, to agitate the native people from one end of New Zealand to the other. Often has the question been asked of us, “What is the Queen going to do? Does she wish to take away our lands?” and we have steadily—and in places unvisited by Governors or officers of Government—avouched the good faith of England, and recited the authoritative declarations of successive Secretaries of State, affirming again and again the validity of the Treaty of Waitangi. If we had held our peace, without a word spoken we should have confirmed all the worst suspicions of the native people. We spoke the truth, and the result has been peace.

From Church in the Colonies, No. XX. New Zealand, Part V: A Journal of the Bishop’s Visitation Tour through His Diocese, Including a Visit to the Chatham Islands, in the Year 1848 by George Augustus Selwyn (London: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1851). Found at

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