Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Sedition by Example IV: C.O.B. Davis

(An ongoing series of speech deemed "seditious" and suppressed or sanctioned under our archaic sedition laws)

"Te Arawa mangai-nui", printed by Charles Oliver Bond Davis:

He whakaaturanga i nga he o te Arawa hei tirotiro ma nga iwi.

Kowai te iwi e korerotia kinotia nei?
Ko te Arawa mangai nui.
Heaha tona kino?
He tohe nona ki te whakatutu i te taha Maori.
Heaha te take i kaha ai ki te whakatutu i te taha Maori?
He pati moni, he pati kai.
Heaha tona he e kitea nei e nga iwi?
Ko tona pokanga ki te patu i nga iwi i Te Awaateatua.
Tena tetahi?
Ko te kohurutanga i a Te Aporotanga.
Tena tetahi?
Ko tena whakai ki te hopu huhuakore i te Ariki o Tauranga i a Hori Tupaea.
Meaha e mutu ai enei he?
Me whakahoki pai marire a Te Arawa ki toua tupunga mai, ki Hawaiki.

Akarana, Pepuere 16, 1865.

Or, in English:

A statement of the errors of the Arawa tribe, for the information of the people.

Who are the people that speak words of evil?
The big-mouthed Arawa.
Wherin does their evil lie?
They urge insistently violence and mischief among the Maori people.
For what reason do they persist in this mischief?
They are bribed with money; they are bribed with food.
What was their sin in the eyes of the tribes?
They made war upon and slew the people of the Awa-a-te-Atua.
What was another of their evil deeds?
The murder of Te Aporotanga.
And another?
They surrounded and unjustly seized the high chief of Tauranga, Hori Tupaea.
What can be done to end these evils?
The Arawa should be returned peacefully to the father-land whence they came, to Hawaiki.

Auckland, February 16, 1865.

Davis was presumed to be the author of the document and charged with seditious libel, on the grounds that it was intended to stir up other tribes against te Arawa (who were allies of the crown) and to "foster rebellion". During the trial it was revealed that the translation on which the prosecution was based was less than satisfactory. It was also revealed that Davis had not in fact written the document, but that its author was a high-ranking (and extremely loyal) chief who had written it after a discussion with Governor Grey himself. The jury took less than half an hour to find Davis not guilty. The actual authors of course were never charged; words deemed "seditious" when authored by a man considered to be "too close" to the natives were perfectly acceptable when their source was someone considered loyal and close to power.

(Sources: 'The trial of C. O. B. Davis for sedition', by Clem Earp, Historical Review 36, No 2 (Nov. 1988): 111--124. The English translation of the document is from The New Zealand Wars, vol 2, by James Cowan)