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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, May 02 (1840)


A Native Military Force in New Zealand.

Sir,—In the present state of uncertainty as to what steps Ministers may take respecting the sovereignty ot New Zealand, it is incumbent on all those who have any interest in the Colony, to act as though the Government will thwart and oppose the colonization of New Zealand in every possible way. Not that I think they will do so—on the contrary, I think it very probable that before this time, Captain Hobson will have obtained the cession of a large portion of New Zealand, and that it is in virtue of that cession a dependency of New South Wales—a step towards its erection into an independent colony. Here, too, Ministers cannot be insensible to the demonstration of opinion at the City meeting of Wednesday; and I am not without hope that when the matter is brought before Parliament, a formal recognition of New Zealand as a British Colony, to be settled on the self-supporting plan, will be the result. Permit me also to say, that I am strengthened in this hope by your leading article in the fifth number of the New Zealand Journal; an article which appears to me to be utterly unassailable, and moreover, to remove every apparent difficulty.
Still we should be prepared. There can be no doubt that the French will make a footing in New Zealand. Our Government may remain inactive. The British inhabitants of New Zealand, now nearly 4,000 in number, must, therefore, not merely make their own government, but must provide for their own defence in case of French aggression; and it behoves every one interested in the colony to make any suggestion which may occur to him, as to the best mode of so doing.
Every one who has visited New Zealand bears witness to the facility with which the natives adopt the customs of civilised Europe. The plane and the saw, the adze and the auger—the spade, and even the plough, are employed by them with skill. Another feature in their habits is, their fondness for European attire, especially that which is most ornamental—the military and naval uniform. It is upon record that, when Omai was in England, towards the latter end of the last century, dressed as an English gentleman, Dr. Johnson, seeing Omai and Lord Mulgrave near each other, with their backs towards him, was afraid to accost the chief, lest he should mistake the peer for the savage. But of all the features of the New Zealand character, the love of war is the most prominent; of this there can be no doubt.
Now, what I have to propose is this:—Let the British population of New Zealand take these three features—namely, the love of war, the fondness for European dress, and the facility for acquiring civilised habits, and unite them into one whole, and what will be the result? A native army, a defensive force, sufficient to resist the encroachments of the French, and secure the British population in the exercise of their rights, and the pursuit of their peaceful occupations.
This native army should be commanded, but not wholly officered, by British. I think the companies should be, for the most part, headed by native captains—the chiefs and the sons of chiefs. The lieutenants should also be of the same class. This would agree well with the suggestions contained in the admirable paper on exceptional laws in favour of the natives, printed in your third number, as to "respect for the institution of chieftainship." The field-officers should all be British, and should be men of military experience—men capable of directing a sort of normal school of the military art for the instruction of the chiefs.
I have said the captains of companies should consist, for the most part,. of native chiefs, and my reason for having some British officers among the captains and lieutenants is, to establish a perfect equality between the English gentleman and the New Zealand rangatira; which equality should be cemented by the society of the mess-room, into tne social arrangements of which the chiefs would fall with a degree of facility, and even rapidity, which would astonish those not acquainted with their character, and their remarkable adaptation to civilisation.
One regiment should first be placed in a state of thorough efficiency. The sons of the chiefs should then be invited to join as volunteers, to be instructed in military duties. Out of this corps of volunteers the officers
of the second regiment should be drafted. The young native officers should be invited to mix with the best society in the colony, and, in short, in every respect placed on a footing of perfect equality with tha British youth. In this manner regiment after regiment might be formed, according to the wants of the colony, and the offensive means of the French.
As a step in civilisation, too, I cannot help thinking favourably of my own plan. To convert savage warfare into regular warfare is in itself a step in advance; and the restraints of discipline, to which the New Zealand character is far from repugnant, will tend to curb the barbarity which has hitherto marked the contests of the tribes.
If you see nothing objectionable in my proposal, I trust you will give insertion to my letter in your earliest number; and I am the more anxious for this, as I presume the New Zealand Journal is regularly transmitted to the Colony. I wrote my proposal to be adopted only in case our Ministers should do nothing; but even should they obey the call of Wednesday, and establish a regular colony, I see no reason against, but many in favour of, the organization of a native military force.
I am, &c.,
M. M.

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