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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Waharoa, Wiremu Tamihana Te

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Waharoa, Wiremu Tamihana Te (William Thompson), the Maori kingmaker, was the second son of Te Waharoa, the great chief of the central districts of the North Island of New Zealand. His name was originally Tarapipipi, but in embracing Christianity he was baptised as William Thompson. He succeeded his father in 1839, and was concerned in many conflicts with the Europeans through his espousal of the Maori king movement, of which he was the main promoter, hence his title of kingmaker. As he explained in his admirable letter to the Governor of New Zealand in June 1861, "the reason why I set up Potatau as a king for me was, he was a man of extended influence, and one who was respected by the tribes of this island. That, O, my friend, was why I set him up—to put down my troubles, to hold the land of the slaves, and to judge the offences of the chiefs." In March 1861, at the request of Bishop Selwyn, he opened negotiations for a peaceful understanding without result. In Jan. 1863 Wi Tamihana had a conference with Sir George Grey, who had just been appointed to his second governorship of New Zealand, at Taupiri. He explained the King movement. It had long, he said, been in the minds of the Maoris, and he hoped that under the King good laws, approved by the Governor, would be made. He asked the Governor if he were opposed to their king, and he received the memorable reply, "I shall not fight against him with the sword, but I shall dig round him till he falls of his own accord." This was thought a decidedly menacing reply, but Wi Tamihana still tried to avoid war. He went to Mr. (now Sir John) Gorst at Te Awamatu, and advised him to leave the Waikato, where he had been appointed resident, and had started a school and newspaper. The chief believed, as Mr. Moss says, in the school himself, but began to fear that they "might be some of the spades with which the Governor was digging round their king." Sir George Grey at this juncture decided to rescind the purchase of the Waitara block, which had been the cause of so much trouble between the whites and Maoris. This policy was, however, adopted by his Ministry too late, as war had again broken out, much as it was deprecated by Wi Tamihana, who made repeated attempts to restore peace. At length, disgusted by the atrocities of the Hau Haus, he made open submission to the Government, On May 25th, 1865, with sixty of his chiefs and people, Wi Tamihana met General Carey by appointment at Tamahiri, near the present town of Hamilton, and formally tendered his submission, which was accepted in a kind and complimentary manner by the English general. Wi Tamihana then wrote on the fly sheet of a letter produced at his request by one of the aides-de-camp, "I have made peace, as witness my coming into the presence of my antagonist, the General. The laws of the Queen shall be the laws of the King. (Signed) Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa. The following year Wi Tamihana presented a petition for inquiry into the causes of the Maori war, and went to Wellington to give evidence before a Parliamentary select committee on Maori affairs. He was conveyed to the capital in a Government warship, and was treated with marked consideration by the members of the Legislature. He died on Dec. 28th, 1866, and may be regarded as one of the noblest embodiments of Maori magnanimity with which their colonisation of New Zealand brought the British race in contact.