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Violence, Gender, and Empire

“What will they say in England?”: violence, anxiety, and the press in nineteenth century New Zealand and Vancouver Island

  • Kenton Scott Storey

Corps de l’article


In British Columbia the new arrival is waited for by the crafty bloodthirsty and implacable savage, who never throws away a chance, never exposes himself to the weapon of an enemy, nor misses an opportunity of slaughter and revenge. Nothing can be expected but a war of extermination sooner or later, in which it is to be feared that the cunning, the ferocity, and the local knowledge of the Indian may prove an over-match for the superior knowledge of the white men, who number so few. [1]

In 1862, D.G.F. Macdonald took advantage of popular interest in Vancouver Island and British Columbia and published a guide to emigration. [2] This guide was based on his experiences as a commissioner with the British North American Boundary Commission. Macdonald’s narrative was unique, though. In contrast to other guides, he rejected not only the prospects of the region’s gold fields, but also the colonies’ complete potential as destinations for immigration. [3] As the opening quotation illustrates, Macdonald’s objection was based on his negative assessment of the colonies’ Aboriginal population and prediction that a war of racial extermination was imminent. [4]

Macdonald’s narrative is particularly relevant because he developed his conclusion in relation to both his personal experience and the then ongoing conflict in New Zealand between colonists and Māori. Of significance to Macdonald was the fact that the remarkable integration of Māori in New Zealand’s colonial economy had not discouraged the outbreak of inter-racial violence. [5] For Macdonald, the war in New Zealand represented the failure of humanitarian policies of indigenous administration. [6] Colonial New Zealand was a failed experiment. Citing a speech from the British House of Commons, Macdonald argued that British imperialism was intrinsically unjust. Any attempt to partner imperialism with a humanitarian policy of assimilation was “sanctimonious hypocrisy,” which merely delayed Indigenous peoples’ inevitable extinction. [7] The lesson garnered was that an extended period of cooperation between colonists and Indigenous peoples, as had occurred in New Zealand, was no guarantor of a permanent peace. Prospective immigrants to British Columbia should steer clear of the colonies’ inevitable racial conflict.

I draw attention to Macdonald’s connections for several reasons. On one level, his text functions as an example of my research’s central premise: nineteenth century British imperialists perceived British colonies within the wider context of empire and observed parallels between New Zealand and Vancouver Island. [8] A comparative analysis of colonial New Zealand and Vancouver Island, then, is not artificially premised, but a historically grounded appraisal of British imperialism. However, on another level Macdonald’s rejection of the humanitarian administration of Indigenous peoples is an exemplar of what many historians have argued was the dominant racial discourse articulated by New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s colonial populations in the late 1850s and early 1860s. [9] Macdonald’s conclusions resonate, too, with the argument in recent British imperial historiography that the 1857 Indian Rebellion signalled a shift across the British Empire against humanitarian discourses, which highlighted the crisis in India as evidence of the impossibility of civilizing non-Europeans. [10] According to this rationale, the increased incidence of indigenous violence across the British Empire in the mid-nineteenth century was paralleled by the rise of a Darwinian inspired scientific interpretation of racial difference. Both contributed to the decline in popularity of the humanitarian belief in all races’ potential for improvement.

By humanitarian discourse, this paper means the nineteenth century British belief in the potential for Indigenous peoples to achieve a measure of civilization through Christian conversion and cultural reform. This belief in indigenous potential was grounded in Christian theology, specifically the tenet that through monogenesis all human races shared a spiritual equality. [11] Humanitarian racial discourses were central to Great Britain’s successful Abolitionist movement of the early nineteenth century and by the late 1830s had become influential in the Colonial Office’s decision making. British humanitarians, particularly those involved in the Aborigines Protection Society, believed that the British state had a responsibility to ameliorate the effects of imperialism for Indigenous peoples. [12] Within the framework of wider imperial culture, humanitarians were critical of settler colonialism’s excesses, with its tendency to foreground commercial imperatives over Indigenous peoples’ rights. [13] By the mid-nineteenth century, British humanitarians had played a key role in investing the British Empire with a providential role, both to protect and improve Aboriginal peoples. Because of this, the superior treatment of Indigenous peoples had become a defining feature of an idealized mid-nineteenth century British identity. [14]

This paper challenges the broad conclusion that antagonistic racial discourses, such as Macdonald’s, had become completely dominant in either New Zealand or Vancouver Island during the late 1850s and early 1860s. While New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s colonial populations had compelling psychological and fiscal motivations for embracing antagonistic racial discourses, humanitarian philosophies still resonated. This paper illustrates the resonance of humanitarian discourses through an examination of the press of both New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s capital cities. I focus specifically on colonial presses for several reasons. Recent scholarship has shown that the press was central to colonial politics; newspapers were themselves political institutions. [15] Yet colonial editorial manifestos are under-analyzed, especially regarding the press’ characterizations of colonists’ relations with Indigenous peoples and the implications of colonial presses’ connections with metropolitan print cultures. [16] This does not mean that the nineteenth-century press has been entirely ignored. Historians of both colonial New Zealand and Vancouver Island have frequently drawn upon the press, often accepting editorial perspectives as transparent representations of public opinion. But this assumption regarding the unproblematic relationship between editorial perspectives and public opinion is too simplistic and ignores how editors’ material and political interests informed editorial perspectives. In addition, colonial editors were sensitive to their position in local and imperial press networks and crafted their editorial perspectives accordingly. An analysis and comparison of New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s presses offers an opportunity to explore the impact of local versus metropolitan influences on changing racial discourses, emulating the transnational scholarship of Tony Ballantyne and Kirsten McKenzie, whose historical narratives have pursued the webs which criss-crossed the British Empire. [17]

A Parallel Colonial Development

Both New Zealand and Vancouver Island entered Great Britain’s informal empire as a result of Captain Cook’s voyages of discovery at the end of the eighteenth century. Both regions were identified as crucial sources of strategic resources related to British national defence and as a means to augment the British trade imbalance with China. [18] Following Cook’s visit, the Northwest Coast of North America and New Zealand became frequented by a variety of European and American shipping. Similarly, European commentators classified New Zealand’s and the Northwest Coast’s Indigenous peoples as racially superior, citing their warlike cultures and excellent trading skills to differentiate them from other indigenes within European racial hierarchies. [19] Early European contact with Indigenous peoples in New Zealand and on the Northwest Coast was not only defined by the degree of Indigenous peoples’ potential threat of violence, but also facilitated its increase through the trade-related arming of Indigenous peoples with firearms. In effect, by the time official colonization occurred in New Zealand and on the Northwest Coast, local Indigenous peoples were well supplied with firearms. [20] This superior armament limited colonists’ technological monopoly and empowered local Indigenous peoples’ potential to resist British hegemony.

New Zealand’s official entry into the British Empire occurred in 1840, while Vancouver Island became a formal British colony administrated by the Hudson Bay Company in 1849. [21] Much attention has been paid to New Zealand’s inaugural Treaty of Waitangi. [22] The treaty’s recognition of Māori title to all of New Zealand has been interpreted as a consequence of the influence of humanitarian discourses within the Colonial Office. While Vancouver Island’s colonial foundation did not feature a similar all-encompassing recognition of Aboriginal territorial rights, [23] it is important to recognize that until 1862, Vancouver Island’s colonial administration tacitly recognized Aboriginal title through the practice of purchasing Aboriginal territories prior to expansion. [24] I emphasize this point to illustrate that both New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s early colonial history featured a fidelity to humanitarian principles of indigenous territorial recognition. The differences between New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s recognition of indigenous title between 1840 and 1849 represent not only humanitarian discourses’ varying popularity within the Colonial Office during this period, but also the flexibility with which the Colonial Office matched policy to local conditions. In the late 1850s and early 1860s Vancouver Island had not yet diverged from a limited recognition of Aboriginal territorial rights. For the purpose of this paper, the most substantial differences between the two colonies relate to their colonial development and the differing humanitarian status of their Indigenous peoples. While New Zealand’s colonial population experienced relatively rapid growth after 1840, surpassing the Māori population by the end of the 1850s, Vancouver Island remained a colonial backwater until the 1858 Fraser River gold rush sparked rapid growth. [25] Vancouver Island’s and British Columbia’s European population remained outnumbered by local Aboriginal peoples till the 1880s. [26] In terms of mid-nineteenth century humanitarian development, by the 1850s New Zealand’s Māori population was largely Christianized and literate; [27] in the same period Vancouver Island’s Aboriginal population was in the initial stages of missionization. [28]

Turning to this paper’s period of interest, the colonial administrations of Governors Thomas Gore Browne in New Zealand and James Douglas in Vancouver Island were confronted with similar impediments to colonial development. Actual British hegemony over much of New Zealand and Vancouver Island was not substantive. British relations with Indigenous peoples in both contexts occurred across a cultural middle ground, where British administrators were compelled to adapt to indigenous customs. [29] In both colonies extinguishing indigenous land tenure was a fiscal nightmare, with colonists’ demands for new lands running up against a lack of funds and indigenous resistance. Mitigating the use of coercive force by the Crown in both colonies was the threat of indigenous violence.

Hugh Carleton’s Southern Cross

March 1860 marked the beginning of warfare in the province of Taranaki between the British military and Te Ati Awa Māori. The conflict ostensibly originated from Wiremu Tamihana Te Rangitake’s resistance to the sale of the Waitara Block to the Crown by Te Teira Manuka. I will not elaborate the complex antecedents of the war in Taranaki. [30] Suffice to say, Taranaki was contested from New Zealand’s inception. The New Zealand Company’s original land purchase in the region had been thwarted by Governor Robert FitzRoy, who concurred with local missionaries that negotiations had not occurred with the region’s actual Māori owners. [31] Taranaki’s original Māori population had been dislocated in the 1830s during the inter-tribal conflicts of the Musket Wars. [32] In the 1850s, Taranaki’s colonists held both the colony’s administration and elements of the local Māori population in contempt for refusing to facilitate land sales they perceived essential to the province’s development. [33] The tense situation in Taranaki was further complicated by the frequency of local Māori warfare. These conflicts often hinged upon the issue of land sales to local colonists, and contributed to colonists’ anxiety that they might be drawn into war. Ironically, the Taranaki war’s initiation in 1860 was grounded in Browne’s attempt to impose law and order. In March 1859, Browne delivered two promises to Taranaki Māori: to respect their right to self-determination in the sale of their territories to the Crown and to intercede within Māori conflicts that threatened the province’s stability. [34] The Waitara purchase was a test for Browne’s pledges. The intention of Browne’s use of military force to compel the sale of the Waitara Block to the Crown was threefold: to mitigate any escalation of inter-tribal violence, to establish actual British sovereignty in the region, and to checkmate what he perceived was the attempt of a Māori land-league to thwart land sales to the Crown. Unfortunately, Browne’s confidence in Te Teira’s claim to Waitara was ill-considered and the Taranaki war initiated a decade of warfare in New Zealand.

This paper focuses specifically on the Southern Cross’ reaction to the outbreak of war throughout 1860–1861. The Southern Cross was an Auckland newspaper edited by Hugh Carleton, a member of New Zealand’s General Assembly. It was Auckland’s second most popular newspaper following the New Zealander, and distantly trailed by the Auckland Examiner[35] The Southern Cross and New Zealander were owned by the rival politicians John Williamson and William Brown, who used the newspapers to propagate their political manifestos, often at financial loss. [36] The Auckland Examiner was owned and edited by Charles Southwell, a virulent racist whose rejection of racial amalgamation was influenced by his militant atheism. [37] I focus on the resonance of humanitarian discourses of the Southern Cross versus the New Zealander or Auckland Examiner because its editorial policy throughout the 1850s was as a staunch advocate of colonists’ rights and the ability of New Zealand’s General Assembly to manage Māori affairs in lieu of the Colonial Office’s appointed governor. [38] In contrast, the New Zealander was more clearly associated with a defence of Māori rights and affirmed the Colonial Office’s control of native affairs. [39] Thus, an analysis of the Southern Cross offers a more intriguing illustration of how and why humanitarian discourses continued to resonate in the Auckland press than could be garnered from the New Zealander, with its predisposition to support racial amalgamation.

At the beginning of the Taranaki war in March 1860 the Southern Cross and the New Zealander similarly justified the conflict within an humanitarian framework. [40] In contrast, the Auckland Examiner identified the outbreak of war as a consequence of the failed humanitarian administration of Māori, which had instilled in Māori an overweening racial pride. [41] According to Carleton, Browne had been compelled to defend the rights of Māori land sellers to freely dispose of their property against the illegal resistance of Māori leaders; the strength of the Waitara purchase rested in its initiation by a Māori seller. [42] Specifically, Carleton contextualized Browne’s actions in Taranaki within a humanitarian paradigm by identifying Browne as a patriarch disciplining an erring Māori minor: “None, from the very first, have been more strenuous advocates of Maori rights than ourselves — none have sympathized more heartily with the race ... none have devoted more actual labour in advocating the civilization of the race, than ourselves; yet we are now the first to admit the full force of what was said by a wise man of olden time, ‘He who spares the rod, spoils the child’.” [43]

It is important to recognize that neither the New Zealander nor the Southern Cross interpreted the outbreak of the Taranaki war to imply the inability of Māori to achieve cultural reform. Instead, both newspapers interpreted the conflict over Waitara as a crucial moment when Māori peoples’ rights as British subjects were being challenged by subversive Māori elements antagonistic to British sovereignty. [44] While the Southern Cross’ editorial perspective mirrored the New Zealander’s at the initiation of the war, over the course of 1860 Carleton’s support for the war decreased as the conflict dragged on and details of the colonial administration’s failure to investigate Te Rangitake’s right to Waitara emerged. By September 1860, Carleton recognized the injustice of the Waitara purchase:

None, saving a few of the desperate intelligentsia — gladiatorial partisans, venture to affirm any longer that the vendors at the Waitara had a clear title to the whole of the six hundred acres in dispute. No one affirms any longer that Taylor is a higher chief than King; he is long since, in spite of tinkered pedigrees, set down as a ‘nobody’ .... It is no longer maintained that the Governor acted up to his expressed intention, — namely, of never purchasing a piece of land the title to which was in dispute — an expression in which we once placed implicit confidence, directing our course accordingly, — for his Excellency has chosen out for enforced purchase the very piece of land, which, perhaps, of all others in New Zealand was overlaid with the greatest complication of disputes. [45]

Over the course of 1860, Carleton also defended the integrity of prominent humanitarians, such as Bishop George Selwyn and Archdeacon Octavius Hadfield, providing them with an avenue to express dissent with Browne’s war policy. [46] While Carleton was replaced as editor of the Southern Cross in November 1860 and the newspaper’s outspoken criticism of the Taranaki war ceased overnight, the Southern Cross did not criticize the colonial administration’s negotiated peace with Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi in March 1861. Instead, the Southern Cross interpreted the cessation of hostilities in Taranaki to enable a shift in Browne’s attention to the subjugation of the Kīngitanga of Waikato, the real enemy of British colonization in New Zealand. [47] Clearly, the Southern Cross’ editorial perspective towards the Taranaki war changed over the course of 1860–1861. Carleton’s editorial perspective mirrored the position of William Fox’s opposition party within the House of Representatives, with which Carleton was affiliated. When John Logan Campbell, Brown’s business partner, took over the Southern Cross’ editorship in November 1860, its outspoken dissent became muted, reflecting Campbell’s new allegiance to the ruling ministry’s perspective. [48] What the Southern Cross did consistently argue throughout the Taranaki war was that the colony’s representative government was the ideal agent to manage more efficient relations with Māori, and that the Colonial Office had a responsibility to subsidize and pursue the Taranaki war, which its emissary had initiated. [49] In 1861, following the cessation of hostilities in Taranaki, Campbell’s Southern Cross advocated a war policy against the Kīngitanga of Waikato, while the New Zealander supported peaceful negotiation.

Regarding the Southern Cross’ editorial perspective towards the Taranaki war, three questions predominate: what purpose did a humanitarian editorial perspective towards the Taranaki war serve, how did Carleton respond to the issue of colonists’ anxiety in Auckland related to the threat of Māori violence, and why did Carleton allow the Southern Cross to articulate dissent to the war? In thinking about these questions, it is worth reflecting on the interplay between Carleton’s political imperatives, his imagined community of readers, and his editorials’ actual representations of public opinion. I believe Carleton crafted his editorial perspective of the conflict in Taranaki to meet the demands of a diverse imagined community of readers. This audience included an Auckland readership, local Māori, and a metropolitan audience. [50] Carleton’s challenge was threefold: to popularize a partisan political agenda, to appear to be broadly representative of public opinion, but not to champion colonists’ rights at the expense of antagonizing either Māori or metropolitan parties accessing the newspaper. All the while, Carleton’s editorial perspective was formulated against a backdrop of potential violence, as Auckland’s colonial population feared the threat of violence from the Kīngitanga Māori of nearby Waikato throughout the Taranaki war.

The Kīngitanga was a Māori political affiliation which had previously elected their own king in 1858 as a symbol of their commitment to end land sales with the British Crown and implement their own code of laws. [51] Kīngitanga territory was located just south of Auckland in the Waikato region. In the Auckland press, the Kīngitanga was considered hostile to British sovereignty. In 1860, when the Taranaki war began, Auckland’s colonial population became apprehensive that the Kīngitanga might support Te Rangetake in Taranaki by attacking Auckland. It is evident from Carleton’s frequent attempts to downplay the veracity of this threat that rumours of Kīngitanga plans to annihilate Auckland were widespread and that anxiety related to the threat of Māori violence was a serious concern. [52] The following passage illustrates Carleton’s general attitude to colonists’ anxiety in April 1860:

It appears that there are some few in the town who are apprehensive of a native attack upon Auckland. They must remain so, for such are not likely to be talked out of apprehension. For our own part, we agree with the Governor’s dictum (if he did say it, for we have heard it contradicted), that we are as safe in Auckland as in London, or rather more so, for there is less chance of having one’s pocket picked. [53]

Carleton’s response to colonists’ anxiety was to downplay the veracity of the threat of Māori violence. Near the end of the Taranaki war, the Southern Cross again commented on colonists’ anxiety:

The good people of Auckland have been taking the present war very easily, and it appears to have caused more excitement in India than on the Waitemata. Of course we have had periodically little panics, and as a rule a fair supply of rumours, but the panic has seldom been a very distressing one .... The cry of wolf has been often raised, and what we have to guard against is the proverbial apathy produced by a constant succession of false alarms .... In drawing attention to these facts we desire before all things not to cause any unnecessary alarm, but merely to counteract the injurious moral effect of twelve month’s immunity from the horrors of a war. [54]

Even as this passage illustrates the Southern Cross’ strategy to downplay the Māori threat of violence to Auckland, at the same time, it indicates that Auckland’s colonial population had featured panics related to the threat of Māori violence. Also within this passage’s dismissal of colonists’ anxiety, it is intriguing to note how the writer carefully emphasized that the editorial’s focus on the threat of Māori violence was not intended to cause alarm. The implication is that the writer was concerned that simply by mentioning the threat of Māori violence to Auckland it would precipitate a panic. I would suggest, then, that the Southern Cross intentionally did not characterize the degree to which Auckland’s colonists feared the threat of Māori violence. Instead, the Southern Cross minimized the threat of Māori violence in order to alleviate colonists’ anxiety.

Similar to its handling of colonists’ anxiety, the Southern Cross’ vacillating characterizations of Auckland’s public support for the Taranaki war obscured more than they revealed. After hostilities commenced, Carleton stated, “We find that there are many in Auckland, who sympathize — not exactly with the insurgents, for they do not quite like to look that side of the question straight in the face, but generally and indistinctly with the ‘natives’.” [55] Later, Carleton noted that the opinions of colonists with knowledge of Māori culture had shifted to the demand that Māori required a stern and bitter lesson. [56] On another occasion, Carleton argued, “Public opinion is here what it always was — strongly in favour of the Maori, who have, in fact, been the making of Auckland.” [57] Tellingly, this last representation of public opinion featured in an editorial about a public meeting which occurred in Auckland on 19 May 1860. This ‘Monster Meeting’ was convened to elicit support for Browne’s campaign in Taranaki and featured a hostile attack against both Bishop George Selwyn, a prominent humanitarian who expressed dissent against the war and Auckland’s press for failing to communicate colonists’ support for the war to Great Britain. An examination of the Southern Cross coverage of this event yields insight into the origins of Carleton’s characterizations of public opinion in Auckland towards the Taranaki war.

Not only did Carleton publicly defend Selwyn at this public meeting, but in his subsequent editorial he condemned the gathering, arguing that it would be interpreted in Great Britain as a detrimental example of public opinion: “Settlers were inimical to the Natives, and that the interests of the Natives were cared for by the Government alone.” [58] Carleton then proceeded to downplay the meeting’s significance, arguing that only one-fourth or one-third of the 450 colonists present supported the meeting’s resolutions. In contrast, the New Zealander lauded the same public meeting as a positive outpouring of support for Browne, arguing that the 800–900 colonists present exhibited undeniable support that Auckland supported the war effort. [59] The incongruity between these two assessments illustrates the two editors’ divergent concerns. Carleton intentionally emphasized colonists’ sympathies for Māori and downplayed patriotic enthusiasm in order to undermine the perception that colonists’ patriotism was synonymous with antagonism to Māori interests. This was in keeping with Carleton’s political support for the greater empowerment of the colony’s representative government’s control over native affairs. During this period, Browne controlled native affairs. This situation could only be changed within Great Britain if metropolitan policy-makers believed colonists would not abuse their control over Māori. The New Zealander’s support for Browne was unproblematic, though, given its endorsement for the continued imperial governance of the colony. Both editors targeted a metropolitan audience in their interpretations of the public meeting. Each editor represented public opinion divergently to match their particular political sympathies. The interpretations of this public meeting by the Auckland press are examples of the dangers associated with accepting disparate editorial representations of public opinion at face value.

Essentially, Carleton’s editorial perspective of the Taranaki war sought to avoid what occurred with the Auckland Examiner. On 21 April 1860, the Auckland Examiner featured an editorial entitled “Blood for Blood.” In it, Southwell condemned Browne’s “wretched” Māori policy and in particular the possibility that Browne might end the Taranaki war by despatching Donald McLean, the Land Commissioner, on a peace-making mission. [60] Regarding a “potentially dishonourable peace,” Southwell asked his readers: “Does the government mean to brave public opinion?” [61] Offering his own terms for peace, Southwell stated: “Let this community stand forward and demand, as the first basis for peace, the head of Wiremu Kingi — demand it in the name of the British blood that has been shed — the blood of innocent settlers and their helpless offspring.” [62] In addition, Southwell localized the Taranaki war’s implications for Auckland by highlighting the threat which vindictive local Māori posed. For Southwell, there was no difference between Māori combatants in Taranaki and Auckland’s own Māori population.

Southwell’s racial antagonism did not go unnoticed. On 24 April 1860, Carleton responded:

A series of fiery articles or letters — the distinction is immaterial, is appearing in that journal, which, although in ordinary times they would be harmless enough, are at present, to our knowledge, productive of great evil. Their tendency is to exasperate the ill feeling which is unhappily springing up between Natives and Europeans, — too run the natives down, and, indirectly, to menace them with extermination. We presume that our co-temporary is as well acquainted as ourselves with the fact that whatever appears in the Auckland newspapers concerning the native race, is regularly translated to them .... There is a further consideration involved. We take this occasion to express our belief that if a few homesteads were fired by the natives, and the inmates murdered, all efforts in this province, to restrain the numerous and well armed European population would be ineffectual, — that a war of races, — that is to say, of extermination, would be the ultimate result. It would be, for the first time, colour against colour. [63]

Carleton’s key point was that local Māori had access to everything which appeared within the Auckland press and that antagonistic editorials like Southwell’s had the potential to inflame local race relations into open war. The implication of Carleton’s argument was that colonial editors had a responsibility to avoid antagonizing their Māori audience. Indeed, there is evidence that Māori engaged specifically with the Southern Cross and the colonial press more generally, and that Carleton included a Māori audience within his imagined community of readers. [64]

While Māori experienced limited engagement within the structures of colonial government in the late 1850s and early 1860s, they were aware of and affected by New Zealand’s press. The implications of recent scholarship regarding Māori engagement with Western culture suggests that by the 1850s Māori culture had been deeply affected through engagement with Christianity and Western economic innovation. [65] My emphasis is that when changing racial discourses within New Zealand are considered, it is inappropriate to dichotomize British colonial culture from its Māori counterpart simply because the majority of Māori communities in this period were only lightly administrated by the Crown. Records of Māori interaction with the colonial government from the late 1850s indicate that both Māori and the Crown articulated their mutual relationship within humanitarian paradigms that emphasized both the Christian underpinnings of the British state and Māori conversion to Christianity. Thus, it is possible that Carleton muted both the Southern Cross’ characterizations of colonists’ anxiety in Auckland and their patriotic fervour for the Taranaki war in order to avoid alienating local Māori, characterizing his support for the Taranaki war in a humanitarian framework in order to replicate the Crown’s own endorsement of racial amalgamation. [66]

However, “Blood for Blood’s” resonance did not end in the pages of the Southern Cross. Forwarded by Browne to the Colonial Office, it reappeared in July 1860 in a House of Lords debate over the Duke of Newcastle’s proposed New Zealand Bill. [67] There Lord Granville attributed Browne’s peace-making difficulties to colonists’ demand for “Blood for Blood.” [68] Later in October 1860, in New Zealand’s House of Representatives, William Fox, the opposition leader, criticized Browne for forwarding “Blood for Blood” to the Colonial Office as a representation of public opinion. [69] As Fox remarked:

He should have thought that his [Governor Browne’s] high sense of duty would have prevented him from selecting one trumpery newspaper, and sending it home as a true representation of the feelings and sentiments of the people of the colony .... Instead of the sentiment of the colonists at large, it was only the sentiment of one single individual in the colony. [70]

While members of the House of Representatives disagreed about Browne’s culpability, what was evident to all was that the appropriate context for “Blood for Blood” had been lost in its transmission to Great Britain. [71] It is important to recognize that commentators did not question that an example of the colonial press might be interpreted in Great Britain as a representation of public opinion. Rather, colonial political leaders were outraged that the Auckland Examiner, a particularly marginal and subversive newspaper, had been chosen to represent colonists. Their intuitive assumptions regarding the press’ representation of public opinion were justified. Browne’s despatch had never claimed the Auckland Examiner was representative of colonial public opinion. [72] Lord Granville himself made this assumption.

What I would suggest is that the Southern Cross’ humanitarian justification of the Taranaki war, its characterizations of public sympathy for Māori, minimization of colonists’ anxiety, and articulation of humanitarians’ dissent were all intentionally crafted to bridge successfully the transmission to Great Britain, and positively influence metropolitan public opinion and policy. As an advocate of New Zealand’s responsible government, more than any other member of the Auckland press, Carleton was sensitive to metropolitan perceptions of colonists’ attitudes towards Māori. If anything, Carleton’s editorial perspective of the Taranaki war employed a considerable degree of censorship, through his obfuscation of both colonists’ antagonistic attitudes towards Māori and their anxiety related to Māori violence. The Southern Cross’ metropolitan focus must be understood in light of Carleton’s knowledge that the Southern Cross was transmitted to Great Britain and his perception that Great Britain was the centre of political power. Interestingly, this concern by Carleton and other humanitarian dissenters to guide metropolitan interpretations of the Taranaki war has merited little attention. No doubt, historians’ retrospective knowledge that the Colonial Office ultimately proved reticent to interfere in New Zealand’s colonial affairs in the late 1850s and 1860s has contributed to a lack of interest regarding perceptions of the Colonial Office within New Zealand’s colonial society. Yet, what Carleton’s sensitivity to metropolitan public opinion indicates is that in 1860 he perceived the Colonial Office to have the potential to interfere inappropriately within colonial affairs. Also, this brief examination of the Southern Cross’ reaction to the Taranaki war illustrates that the Auckland press’ support for the Taranaki war was not a transparent reflection of the decline of humanitarian discourses. [73] The Taranaki war had been initiated through Browne’s ill-considered humanitarian imperatives; it was interpreted by the Southern Cross as such. To conclude that by 1861 colonists had simply embraced antagonistic racial discourses toward Māori is neither borne out by an examination of the Auckland press nor captures the multi-faceted utility of humanitarian discourses to be deployed both for and against Māori.

Amor De Cosmos’ British Colonist

In 1858, Victoria was transformed by the Fraser River gold rush. Alongside thousands of prospectors, experienced journalists and aspiring politicians travelled to Victoria where they established a local press. Between 1858–1863, Victoria featured the foundation of nine newspapers. [74] Only five survived longer than six months. By 1862, the British Colonist was reported to be Victoria’s principal newspaper, with a combined circulation of 4,000 for both daily and weekly editions. [75] The British Colonist was founded in December 1858 by the aspiring politician and former Nova Scotian Amor De Cosmos. [76] I chose this newspaper as a parallel to the Southern Cross because of its longevity, popularity, and representative nature. In particular, De Cosmos introduced a vituperative political tone to the Victoria press. Victoria’s first newspaper, the Victoria Gazette, had been founded by several Californians with a politically neutral editorial manifesto, [77] which reflected both the promising early days of the gold rush and its founders’ intention to monopolize the local press. Unfortunately, neither Victoria’s sustained economic prosperity nor the Victoria Gazette’s monopoly materialized. [78] In contrast, opposition to Douglas’ administration was a central tenet of the British Colonist’s editorial manifesto. [79] This political opposition and editorial sensationalism reflected De Cosmos’ political ambitions, Victoria’s economic instability, and the development of a competitive local press. And De Cosmos’ editorial criticism did not go unnoticed. Douglas unsuccessfully attempted to legislate the British Colonist’s closure in April 1859. [80] Subsequent members of the Victoria press emulated De Cosmos’ example.

Turning to De Cosmos’ characterizations of Victoria’s local Aboriginal population, what is particularly striking is their uneven nature. Unlike Carleton’s consistent endorsement of Māori potential for improvement, De Cosmos often characterized Vancouver Island’s Aboriginal population within an antagonistic racial discourse. Indeed, De Cosmos expressed little confidence in the potential of Victoria’s Aboriginal population to become civilized:

To engage in active and useful pursuits they will not, except some mere drudgery; and though they are possessed of ‘bone, muscle, energy and intellect,’ their habits of indolence, roaming propensities, and natural repugnance for manual labor [sic], together with a thievish disposition which appears to be an inherent characteristic of the Indian race, totally disqualifies them from ever becoming either useful or desirable citizens. The efforts of the last fifty years both in the Canadas and in the United States, where every exertion has been used to improve the social and moral condition of the native population, and redeem them from their wandering and idle habits, by the adoption of industrial pursuits, have proved a decided failure, so far, at least, as turning their ‘bone, muscle and intellect’ to any useful or practical account, is concerned. [81]

As this passage illustrates, De Cosmos’ assessment of local Aboriginal peoples’ potential for achieving a measure of British civilization was affected by his interpretation of the historic failure of humanitarians’ efforts in North America. [82] Rather than supporting the provision of Aboriginal peoples with their full rights as British subjects, throughout 1858–1862 De Cosmos sought to limit Aboriginal peoples’ freedom of movement, restrict their right to bear arms, and remove Aboriginal peoples completely from Victoria. [83] Unlike Carleton, De Cosmos highlighted rather than elided colonists’ anxieties related to the threat of Aboriginal violence. Yet, in spite of De Cosmos’ general antagonism, he still characterized demands for Aboriginal eviction within a humanitarian rationale and supported the recognition of Aboriginal title on Vancouver Island. This section seeks to understand De Cosmos’ inconsistency.

It is important to recognize the historical antecedents of De Cosmos’ editorial perspectives. Victoria featured both a local Aboriginal population and an anxiety related to the threat of Aboriginal violence well before the Fraser River gold rush. In particular, colonists experienced anxiety related to the annual migration of large numbers of Ts’msyen and Haida to Victoria from the Northwest Coast. [84] These northern Aboriginal peoples were originally attracted to Victoria in 1853 by a potlatch convened by local Lekwungen, but then returned to Victoria on an annual basis to trade and work. [85] When the Fraser River gold rush occurred, Victoria’s rapid growth also increased northern Aboriginal peoples’ economic opportunities, thereby attracting increased numbers between 1858–1862. [86] For example, in 1860, Victoria’s Aboriginal population reached up to 4,000, almost double the colonial population of 2,000. [87] This paper’s analysis of Vancouver Island is bookended by the emergence of the Victoria press in 1858 and the 1862 smallpox epidemic, which resulted in the eviction of all northern Aboriginal peoples from Victoria.

At issue for Victoria’s colonial population was the fact that northern Aboriginal peoples pursued their inter-tribal conflicts in proximity to Victoria. Inter-tribal violence often manifested itself in pitched battles. [88] As C.E. Barrett remarked in 1862, “until quite recently members of different tribes, at war with one another, would forthwith proceed to extremities on meeting, even in the streets of Victoria itself, and at the present moment the utmost efforts of the authorities are ineffectual to prevent the frequent occurrence of murders in the vicinity of the town.” [89] Douglas’ correspondence to the Colonial Office and Hudson Bay Company reveals that Victoria’s colonial population never become acclimatized to northern Aboriginal peoples’ presence. [90] Worth emphasizing, too, is that while Douglas himself understood northern Aboriginal peoples’ economic motivations for sojourning at Victoria, he perceived their presence as a grave threat to Victoria’s security. [91]

As Douglas remarked in 1856, “Their [northern Aboriginal peoples] presence inspired terror and not without cause, as there is no restraining principle in their minds, and they have no scruples about committing acts of murder and rapine, whenever there is a prospect of escaping with impunity.” [92] This comment reflects Douglas’ perception that northern Aboriginal peoples’ lack of a “restraining principle” resulted in an inability to act in their material interests to preserve Victoria’s peace. It is no coincidence that Douglas described colonists’ precarious situation in 1856 as “a smouldering volcano, which at any moment may burst into fatal activity.” [93] Douglas’ description of northern Aboriginal peoples’ threat as a natural disaster hinged upon his perception of their uncontrollable and elemental temper. Yet there was a critical difference between Douglas’ and De Cosmos’ assessment of the threat by northern Aboriginal peoples. Douglas feared that northern Aboriginal peoples might inadvertently harm Victoria; De Cosmos believed that northern Aboriginal peoples fully desired Victoria’s destruction. [94]

Until the Fraser River gold rush occurred, Vancouver Island’s available security forces were limited. [95] Douglas’ preferred strategy to manage sojourning northern Aboriginal peoples was to use what Cole Harris terms the “politics of terror” to expel troublesome tribes from Victoria whenever possible. [96] Between 1854–1862, Douglas succeeded in evicting northern Aboriginal peoples every year, with the exception of 1855 and 1860, when increased numbers made this preventative strategy too dangerous to employ. [97] Between 1858–1862, the evictions of northern Aboriginal peoples were accomplished in a piece-meal fashion until 1862. [98] In April 1862, De Cosmos exploited colonists’ fears regarding the contagion of smallpox to compel Augustus Pemberton, the police commissioner, to enact a comprehensive eviction of local Aboriginal peoples. This eviction of Aboriginal peoples had disastrous consequences, facilitating the spread of smallpox all along the Northwest. [99] When contextualizing the Victoria press’ demands for Aboriginal eviction, it must be remembered that members of the press were new to the colony and not likely aware of Douglas’ prior employment of eviction. Thus, members of the Victoria press interpreted Douglas’ reticence to evict unwanted Aboriginal peoples between 1858–1862 as stemming from hostility to eviction itself rather than his actual inability to expel northern Aboriginal peoples from Victoria given the limited coercive power at his disposal. [100]

In order to understand why De Cosmos highlighted the threat of Aboriginal violence in his demands for Aboriginal eviction, it is useful to analyze the degree of Aboriginal violence which the press reported to have occurred in Victoria and on the Northwest Coast. Looking at Victoria’s reported murder rate, the most serious measure of local crime, it is evident that Aboriginal violence far outstripped colonists’. Between 1858–1862, the Victoria press reported that 75 murders occurred in Victoria, 60 of which had been committed by Aboriginals. [101] While the majority of these murders involved both Aboriginal victims and perpetrators, the Victoria press’ coverage of murder on the Northwest Coast indicated that local colonists were threatened by the region’s Aboriginal population. [102] For example, between 1858 and 1862 the Victoria press identified 213 murders on the Northwest Coast; 183 of which involved Aboriginal perpetrators and 117 out of this total featured victimized colonists. [103]

Over five years, then, the Victoria press detailed the murder of at least 288 men and women. The Victoria press identified Aboriginal perpetrators to be responsible for 84 percent of this total, with colonists victimized by Aboriginal perpetrators 43 percent of the time. Compare this high Aboriginal murder rate with the fact that the Victoria press reported colonists to be involved in only nine murders which featured colonists as both perpetrators and victims. [104] While the Victoria press coverage of murder on the Northwest Coast was often based on rumour and second-hand reports, it is important to recognize that few murder-related reports were later revealed to be false. [105] Colonists would have been influenced, too, by editors’ statements that the Victoria press provided an incomplete assessment of actual Aboriginal violence. [106] This knowledge, in combination with the Victoria press’ description of local Aboriginal peoples’ contempt for colonists, likely exacerbated some colonists’ anxiety. [107]

My emphasis here is that Victoria’s colonists experienced anxiety related to threat of violence in a very different manner than Auckland’s colonists. In Auckland, the threat of Māori violence throughout the Taranaki war had been abstract; while colonial New Zealand has a deserved reputation for violence, there is no comparison between the Auckland press’ coverage of crime and the Victoria press. The Southern Cross paid almost no attention to Māori crime in Auckland, while almost every edition of the British Colonist featured narratives of Aboriginal crime. The Victoria Press highlighted Aboriginal crime in its demands for Aboriginal eviction, arguing that colonists were at significant risk from local Aboriginal peoples. [108] As this Press editorial from June 1862 illustrates, Victoria’s Aboriginal crime rate was perceived as an aberration within the British Empire:

For four years Victoria has suffered to an extent unknown in any civilized town in the universe from the residence of an Indian population. Time and again were the evils pointed out by the press, but no notice was taken of injunction or admonition .... How many men have been the victims of Indian assassination round about Victoria, we shall probably never know; but if we take those cases of murder that have been already substantiated in our law courts, the catalogue is the largest that ever disgraced, in comparison to the population, any civilized town. So familiarized, in fact, had the inhabitants become with Indian murders that the continued recurrence of the crime created but little excitement. [109]

A point to emphasize, though, is that the local press was not the only voice in Victoria to highlight the threat of Aboriginal violence. During the late 1850s and early 1860s, grand jury reports periodically featured in the Victoria press. Victoria’s grand juries were composed of eligible colonists chosen to sit on local court cases for quarterly sessions. One of their responsibilities was to prepare a report for Vancouver Island’s chief justice, drawing attention to issues within the purview of the local judiciary. Of particular note, between 1859–1860, five out of seven grand jury reports commented on northern Aboriginal peoples’ presence in the vicinity of Victoria, requesting that steps be taken for their eviction and better administration. [110] As the grand jury’s chairman argued in April 1860:

The Grand Jury beg to recommend that some vigorous action be speedily adopted with regard to the Indians in the neighbourhood of the town, the growing insecurity of the Esquimalt Road being daily manifested by attempts to molest passengers, which in some instances have resulted in grievous bodily harm. The frequent occurrence of strife and murder amongst the Indians calls for the adoption of immediate measures; the fact of such proceedings taking place in the vicinity of a civilized community reflecting but little credit upon the system pursued towards them. The Grand Jury also beg to call the attention of the authorities to the fact that the Indians are again commencing to form an encampment on the south side of James’ Bay, and also on the ground north of Johnson street, and would recommend their immediate removal. [111]

These grand jury reports illustrate that the Victoria press’ advocacy for Aboriginal eviction was grounded in a measure of grassroots support. Certainly, De Cosmos perceived a degree of anxiety when he described the roots of colonists’ support for the formation of a Volunteer Corps in 1861: “Some nervous, and many cautious people, impressed with an idea that we are in a very defenceless position in case of an Indian outbreak, and not having full faith in the potency of the Hudsonian institution to quell the blanketocracy — are urging the formation of a volunteer corps or the embodiment of the militia.” [112] Perhaps the most telling evidence that Victoria’s colonists experienced anxiety related to the threat of Aboriginal violence is the unanimity with which the Victoria press advocated Aboriginal eviction. [113]

Members of the Victoria press agreed on very little. But while the political manifestos of the Victoria Gazette, British Colonist, second Victoria Gazette, and Press diverged, they all wholeheartedly supported Aboriginal eviction. [114] This unanimity occurred in spite of the fact that demands for Aboriginal eviction implicitly critiqued Douglas’ administration of local Aboriginal peoples. Even beyond the fact that newspapers traditionally sympathetic to Douglas advocated Aboriginal eviction, it is worth stressing that unanimity itself within the mid-nineteenth century press was rare. Mid-nineteenth century editors defined their editorial perspectives in oppositional reference to their rivals. Readers expected to encounter contrasting editorial perspectives in the different elements of a community’s press. The Victoria press, then, was ideologically predisposed to foment division rather than consensus. That the Victoria press unanimously supported Aboriginal eviction suggests two possibilities: Victoria’s colonists broadly supported Aboriginal eviction and members of the Victoria press perceived Aboriginal eviction to be in their own material interests. I stress both factors. If either was lacking it seems likely that a member of the Victoria press would have opposed Aboriginal eviction simply to differentiate their editorial perspective.

Returning to the British Colonist, De Cosmos’ humanitarian rationale for Aboriginal eviction was the argument that local Aboriginal peoples’ improvement could not occur in proximity to colonists’ vice. [115] As De Cosmos explained: “We see no ultimate course but the removal of these poor creatures from their present quarters. Humanity demands that efforts be made to civilize them, as well as restrain them from crime, and to do this, they must be placed in circumstances of less temptation and demoralization, than those which surround them at present.” [116]

De Cosmos employed this humanitarian rationale in order to contextualize eviction in the best interests of local Aboriginal peoples. The purpose of this argument was to illustrate that Aboriginal eviction was in keeping with Douglas’ mandate from the Colonial Office to facilitate the civilization of local Aboriginal peoples. Indeed, De Cosmos frequently admonished Douglas’ failure to stop local Aboriginal violence as a failure to live up to the Aborigines Protection Society’s expectations. [117] The implication of De Cosmos’ criticism was that Douglas had failed his mandate to protect local Aboriginal peoples and had not lived up to his reputation as a superior manager of relations with local Aboriginal peoples. [118] What De Cosmos’ employment of a humanitarian discourse also illustrates is that he believed this humanitarian discourse still resonated with local colonists.

Indeed, De Cosmos likely employed a humanitarian rationale in his demands for Aboriginal eviction in order to garner broad public support for Aboriginal eviction. While this paper has illustrated that the Victoria press’ advocacy for eviction was grounded in a measure of grassroots support, it is also clear that Aboriginal eviction was not in all colonists’ interests. Local Aboriginal peoples were bound to colonists through intimate ties and economic relationships. Victoria’s Aboriginal peoples made significant contributions to local commerce and functioned as a vital element of the local labour force, as this letter to the British Colonist illustrates:

We the undersigned storekeepers on Johnson street, wish to inform you that our principal trade is with the Indian population, from whom we derive our subsistence, and that when you incite the government to drive the Indians away, you seek to deprive us of our livelihood, and of the means to pay our rent and taxes, to say nothing of our subscriptions to your newspaper, which is trying to ruin us. We feel neither willing nor able to discuss the usefulness or faults of their race, but we call your notice to the fact, that it would be far more worthy to organize some better means for Christianizing and improving them, than to drive them away merely to get rid of them; and that when you accuse them, for instance, of stealing, if you were to send away all those who are suspected of improbity, you would compel a great many others besides Indians to leave the country. At any rate we find them fair customers and good payers, whereas we have never seen you once in any of our stores. [119]

If local Aboriginal peoples made such significant contributions to Victoria’s economy, why did De Cosmos and other members of the press advocate their removal rather than articulate strategies to mitigate Aboriginal violence? A clue lies in De Cosmos’ argument that Victoria suffered from an excess of Aboriginal labour. While the common wage for colonists was $2.00 per day, Aboriginal labourers received $0.50 per day or $20.00 per month. [120] According to De Cosmos, surplus Aboriginal labour had caused a depression in local wages, making it impossible for failed prospectors to remain within the region. [121] The British Colonist’s advocacy for Aboriginal eviction, and the Victoria press’ more generally, must be understood in light of Victoria’s economic instability and colonial editors’ desire to promote colonial development conducive to a sustainable press. De Cosmos’ demands for eviction, which highlighted the threat of Aboriginal violence, attempted to mobilize some colonists’ genuine anxieties, ignoring local Aboriginal peoples’ significant contributions to Victoria’s economy, because they occupied no space within his vision for Victoria’s colonial development.

The theme which emerges is that De Cosmos’ employment of humanitarian discourses was mediated by a flexible pragmatism. An excellent example is found in De Cosmos’ changing attitude towards the recognition of Aboriginal title. Between 1859–1860, De Cosmos demanded that Douglas take steps to extinguish Aboriginal title. [122] Articulating the rationale for his demands in August 1860, De Cosmos stated:

What therefore is expected is the speedy extinction of this title. We call it the title though lawyers may quibble about an Indian title, and say there is no such thing. But still we hold that they possess an equitable title, disguise it in legal lore as you please, and that it is our policy to respect that title, which may be vested in the government now at a trifling expense compared with its value in the future. [123]

Notice De Cosmos’ reference to the contested nature of debates regarding the legality of Aboriginal title and his own affirmation of Aboriginal peoples’ “equitable title.” [124] By March 1861, however, De Cosmos’ attitude had shifted. Referencing the ongoing struggle between the Legislative Assembly and the Colonial Office over whose responsibility it was to subsidize the recognition of Aboriginal title, De Cosmos linked Victoria’s history of Aboriginal violence with colonists’ support for the recognition of Aboriginal title. According to De Cosmos:

For months and years the Indians on the Reserve cut each other’s throats every day, attacked pedestrians, fired into town; and we were told: “Don’t arrest them, or we will have an Indian war.” We did arrest them; hung one of them and now they are all as quiet as mice. We were then frightened by a bugbear. On the land question we are frightened by another: “Pay the Indians for the land or we’ll have an Indian war.” We don’t believe it. We hold it to be our best policy to pay them, to avoid even the possibility of a war. [125]

De Cosmos linked colonists’ support for the recognition of Aboriginal title with their anxiety regarding the threat of war. Citing the recent successful imposition of law and order among Victoria’s northern Aboriginal peoples, De Cosmos suggested that colonists’ anxieties were groundless, demarcating his new conditional support for the recognition of Aboriginal title. If the colonial administration could not procure the necessary funds, then local Aboriginal peoples should be settled on reserves and punished severely if they trespassed on colonists’ lands. As De Cosmos noted, “We are willing to take this course, provided we cannot buy out the title.” [126] Later in 1862, De Cosmos supported Douglas’ attempts at treaty-making in the Cowichan district, which included the recognition of Aboriginal title through purchase. [127] This last attempt at treaty-making on Vancouver Island was abandoned in 1863, following the murder of several colonists by local Aboriginals. [128]

What this brief analysis reveals is that De Cosmos’ support for the recognition of Aboriginal title lessened as the perceived threat of Aboriginal violence declined. For De Cosmos, his advocacy for the recognition of Aboriginal title was motivated by the necessity of opening the nearby Cowichan district to settlement in order to spur colonial development. It was the threat of potential violence which initially compelled him to affirm Aboriginal peoples’ inherent right to compensation for their territories. It is not surprising, then, that following the 1862 smallpox epidemic’s decimation of local Aboriginal peoples that popular support for the recognition of Aboriginal title disappeared, as the ultimate extinction of local Aboriginal peoples appeared imminent.

I would suggest that the British Colonist’s uneven endorsement of humanitarian discourses indicates that they were crafted for a local rather than metropolitan audience. Given the Victoria press’ youth and lack of regular maritime connections with Great Britain between 1858–1862, De Cosmos likely believed that his editorial perspectives did not reach a metropolitan audience and would not inadvertently affect metropolitan policy. This is not to say that De Cosmos was insensitive to metropolitan commentary on the region. He was sensitive to it. But what is missing from De Cosmos’ editorial perspectives, in comparison to Carleton’s, is an attempt to characterize in a consistent manner colonists’ relations with local Aboriginal peoples within an idealized humanitarian paradigm. Nor does one garner the impression that De Cosmos crafted his editorial perspectives with any sensitivity to Aboriginal access. De Cosmos’ characterizations of Victoria’s local Aboriginal population were not mediated by the belief that the use of an antagonistic racial discourse might itself precipitate racial violence. Rather, De Cosmos used humanitarian discourses to critique the disparity between Victoria’s local disorder and Douglas’ humanitarian mandate and to rationalize eviction in the best interest of local Aboriginal peoples. As De Cosmos’ attitude towards Aboriginal title illustrates, his employment of humanitarian discourses was pragmatic and prone to change swiftly when the threat of Aboriginal violence decreased.


In this brief analysis of the Southern Cross and the British Colonist I have highlighted the continued public resonance of humanitarian discourses and focused on divergent reactions to the threat of indigenous violence. This paper does not contend that editors’ employment of humanitarian discourses transparently reflected local public opinion. They did not. Nor does this paper suggest that colonists’ perceptions of indigenous threat were accurate. They were not. Both colonists’ anxiety and the growing popularity of antagonistic racial discourses in the mid-nineteenth century were fuelled by disconcerting colonial realities when colonists were confronted by Indigenous peoples’ capacity for resistance and the insubstantiality of British racial superiority. Much work remains to be done in delineating how editors’ self-interests, local conditions, and the tenor of colonial audiences influenced the editorial manifestos of the Auckland and Victoria press.

However, humanitarian discourses continued to be strategically deployed in the Southern Cross and the British Colonist during this period because Carleton and De Cosmos believed that they reflected the ideals of their imagined community of readers and enhanced their own political manifestos’ acceptability. It was this ideal imagined community of readers which functioned to mediate and encourage the continued use of humanitarian racial discourses as a necessary affirmation of British cultural superiority. What also made humanitarian racial discourses still attractive was that alongside their premise of racial equality, they still unequivocally reinforced cultural hierarchies. Any British commentator could claim sanctioned authority over non-European peoples simply on the basis of innate cultural superiority. The transition to more racially antagonistic discourses in colonial New Zealand and Vancouver Island simply did not occur as uniformly as has been previously assumed.

I would also suggest that the differing characterizations of Indigenous peoples in the Southern Cross and the British Colonist had much to do with both local conditions and these colonies’ reflexive relationship to Great Britain. Indigenous access to colonial press, Protestant conversion, and colonial perceptions of the British metropole’s power to influence colonial governance were important factors which seem to have provoked different reactions to the threat of indigenous violence in New Zealand and Vancouver Island. The value of this paper’s comparative analysis, then, is not that it takes for granted that humanitarian discourses resonated in New Zealand and Vancouver Island for the same reasons. Rather, a comparative analysis facilitates a better understanding of what made each colonial situation unique, in spite of their similar founding narratives. Indeed, the degree to which Carleton crafted the Southern Cross’ editorial perspective of the Taranaki war for a metropolitan audience not only illustrates the importance of pan-imperial press connections but also brings more clearly into focus the effects of the Victoria press’ isolation. Likewise, the degree to which Victoria’s social disorder affected the formation of antagonistic racial discourses in the British Colonist only becomes apparent when contrasted with the Southern Cross’ elision of colonists’ anxiety related to the threat of Māori violence. This paper represents a tentative step in the comparative analysis of changing racial discourses in New Zealand’s and Vancouver Island’s mid-nineteenth century press.

Parties annexes