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A History of the English Church in New Zealand

Heke attended the church services devoutly


Such

evidences became all the more precious in the light of outside events. The relations between the bishop and the Church Missionary Society, so far from improving, became worse. The Society had tried to make some atonement for its closure of Waimate by presenting the bishop with the printing-press, and also with a yacht (the _Flying Fish_), in which Hadfield had been wont to visit the _pas_ in the Nelson sounds. But it would not give way on the question of the placing of its agents; and on the bishop refusing to acquiesce in a divided authority, it declined to present any more of its catechists for ordination. The brothers Williams by no means approved of this policy, for to them it seemed that the bishop was more likely to know the wants of the whole diocese than could a committee in London, and they trusted his judgment entirely. Yet, a well-meant act of this very kind had already contributed to the series of events which was destined to mar the godly harmony with which the young Church of this land had hitherto been blessed.

One of the concluding tasks of the Waimate period had been the revision of the Maori Prayer Book. Archdeacon W. Williams must of course be brought from the east coast for this work, and the bishop despatched the elder brother to take his place there for the time. The step was an unfortunate one, for never was the old peace-maker's influence more needed in the north than at this juncture. The Maoris were becoming restless

under the regulations of the new government, and their discontent was fanned by Americans and other foreigners, who told them that the flagstaff upon the hill overlooking Kororareka (or Russell) was a symbol that the country had passed away from the native race, and that soon the Maoris would be reduced to slavery. These taunts made a deep impression upon the mind of Hone Heke, a clever man who had learned in the mission school at Paihia and in Henry Williams' own household to read and understand something of what was passing in the world. The American whalers had instilled into him an ardent admiration for George Washington, while the British Government had just become discredited in the eyes of all good men through the "Opium War" in China. To shake off its yoke became to Heke the part of true patriotism, and to fell the flagstaff was to strike at the symbol of Babylonish idolatry.[7]

[7] In the negotiations which followed the war, Heke addressed the British commissioner as "King of Babylon," much to the embarrassment of Henry Williams, who was acting as interpreter!

The one man who might have dissuaded Heke from his purpose was his old master, Te Wiremu, and it was just in the months of Te Wiremu's absence that the flagstaff was first cut down (Sept. 16, 1844). It was felled again in the following January, and in March came the real struggle. When Henry Williams returned to the Bay, shortly after the first outbreak, it was too late to change Heke's purpose. The die was cast. But he was still able to do much with those Maoris who had not yet declared themselves on Heke's side. By circulating and explaining the terms of the treaty of Waitangi, he won over the great chief, Tamati Waka Nene; and it was this man's force that eventually turned the scale on the British side. Williams and Waka Nene saved Auckland at this crisis, as certainly as Hadfield and Wiremu Kingi had saved Wellington the year before. But, though Henry Williams was unable to shake the determination of the "rebels," he could not withhold a certain admiration at their conduct. "It is astonishing," he wrote, "to see Heke: how close he keeps to his Testament and his Prayer Book. I am disposed to think he is conscious he is doing a good work, as, previous to his attack on the flagstaff, he asked a blessing on his proceedings; and, after he had completed the mischief, he returned thanks for having strength for his work." Right up to the eve of the final assault, Heke attended the church services devoutly, and in planning this assault he betook himself to his Bible. A strong force of military was now protecting the mast, but Heke took his tactics from those of Joshua at Ai. While his ally, Kawiti, engaged the British soldiers and marines at the opposite end of the beach, Heke himself and his party lay in ambush below the block-house. The stratagem was successful: the block-house was easily overpowered; the mast once more felled to the earth; and then the victors, having achieved their object, sat down on the hill-top to watch the scene below.


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