Volume 79 1970 > Volume 79, No. 4 > The introduction and diffusion of firearms in New Zealand 1800-1840, by D. U. Urlich, p 399 - 410
THE INTRODUCTION AND DIFFUSION OF FIREARMS IN NEW ZEALAND 1800-1840
The far-reaching influence of the introduction and use of firearms on the various facets of Maori life and culture in the early nineteenth century is one of the most commonly accepted and asserted beliefs in the literature on New Zealand during this period. In view of the significance of this innovation, a systematic analysis of its introduction and diffusion is worth while.
The present study is structured on work done currently by diffusion theorists in geography. Thus the conclusions of Torsten Hägerstrand, one of the most noted workers in this field, are examined in order to analyse their applicability as a model for the diffusion of an innovation.
Hägerstrand postulated three stages in the process of diffusion: 1
An overall examination of the process involved in the introduction and diffusion of firearms in New Zealand shows the following three periods to be broadly representative of Hägerstrand's stages:
DIFFUSION OF INFORMATION ABOUT FIREARMS
During the period of initial contact with the European which roughly coincides with the proto-historic era 1769-1835, Maori preference for western goods varied so that different things were the object of popular demand at different times. From approximately 1810 onwards firearms - 400 began to figure as a most desirable article of trade. 2 Their possession became the overruling passion of the Maori in the following three decades. The mania was summed up by George Clarke, a missionary in the Bay of Islands, in 1825:
The great and grand cry of the natives is who will supply us with muskets, lead and powder . . . For a musket a New Zealander will make great sacrifices, he will labour hard and fare hard for many months to obtain his musket, in fact it is his idol he values it above all he possesses, he will not only part with his slaves for one, but even prostitute his children to diseased sailor [sic] for one of those instruments of destruction. 3
The appreciation of firearms, however, did not occur simultaneously over all parts of New Zealand, for demand must be preceded by information and the diffusion of information was inevitably a gradual process. The first Maoris to learn the value of firearms were those in the northern districts that experienced early and continued contact with European traders and whalers. From approximately 1791 onwards sperm whalers began calling for provisions in the northern harbours. After 1807 most of the vessels called at the Bay of Islands.
Maoris on the coastal areas of both the northern and southern districts visited by Cook, De Surville and du Fresne had assuredly much earlier experienced the effectiveness of firearms. The Maoris of the southern districts, however, lacking the renewed contact with the Europeans at the turn of the century, retained the initial reaction of awe and terror of muskets well into the second and third decades of the nineteenth century. The several Ngapuhi firearm raids made from the Bay of Islands and Hokianga after 1818 became the principal disseminating agents of information to the southern districts of New Zealand.
Once Maoris were familiar with the innovation, the same pattern of demand, ranging from an acute desire to possess firearms to saturation point, repeated itself in the various districts of New Zealand. Generally the direction of this transition was from north to south.
EMERGENCE OF THE PRIMARY INNOVATION CENTRE 1807-1820
This period witnessed the introduction and the localised diffusion of firearms in some of the northern districts of the North Island (Figure 1).
By 1810 firearms had been introduced to the Bay of Islands, Whangaroa and the North Cape. The first mention of firearms in the hands of the Bay of Islands Maoris was in 1809. The supercargo of the City of Edinburgh which had arrived in the Bay in March 1809 requested from some friendly Kororareka chiefs the loan of their muskets for the defence of his ships. 4 It is possible, however, as Shawcross maintains, that the first trade for muskets began any time after 1806. 5
The Whangaroa Maoris definitely acquired muskets in 1809 from the- 401 - 402
ship Boyd whose crew they massacred. 6 Possibly, however, their first muskets were obtained a year or two earlier. When Captain Wilkinson of The Star discovered the harbour in 1807, the Whangaroa chief Tara is said to have sailed away with him in quest of firearms. 7
The North Cape also became, at an early date, a point of entry for firearms. By 1812 the Maoris there were engaged not only in trading for these but had fired the ones they already possessed at the crew of the ship trading with them. 8 The trading propensities of the Aupouri tribe at the North Cape, noted by King and D'Entrecasteaux in 1793, no doubt continued into the first decade of the nineteenth century and extended to the whalers who were operating in the then popular fishing ground off the Three Kings. It is therefore reasonable to include this area among those possessing a few firearms by 1810.
Even at this early stage diffusion from innovation centres occurred, although on a local scale. The “neighbourhood effect” operated in the case of Hokianga, a district possessing tribal and kinship ties with the Ngapuhi on the east coast and the interior. The early mention of firearms, probably to the extent of one or two used by the Ngati Korokoro tribe of Hokianga in 1808-9, suggests a diffusion from either the Bay of Islands or Whangaroa, 9 as ships did not call at Hokianga until 1820.
By 1820 the introductory stage in the north had been going on for over a decade. In the beginning of this period there was a clustered distribution of a few embryonic innovation centres. By the end of it, however, only one of these, the Bay of Islands, had developed into a primary innovation centre (Figure 1). About one-sixth of the warrior population of this district possessed arms. This figure is based on the evidence of McCrae 10 in 1820 who claimed that the Maoris here had 500 firearms among them, and William Williams' estimate of 3,000 warriors for the Bay. 11
North Cape and Whangaroa on the other hand showed little progress after the initial period of introduction. In 1820 a chief from the North Cape could muster only twelve guns for his fighting party of 200 men (i.e. a ratio of 1:17). 12 The ratio at Whangaroa was even lower than this. Dr Fairfowl, a member of Cruise's expedition in 1820, said that the whole stock of muskets at Whangaroa did not exceed five. 13 In the light of what Cruise had to say of the two tribes resident here this seems an underestimation. Cruise implied that the Ngati Uru, because of the terror they displayed at the superior number of twelve muskets in the hands of an enemy war party, possessed muskets, but fewer than twelve—at a guess, four. The other Whangaroa tribe, the Ngati Pou, on being asked to show their muskets, easily named and enumerated them. This - 403 was probably the stock seen by Fairfowl. With a warrior population of some 220 14 the ratio would stand at approximately 1:24.
Therefore, unlike Hägerstrand's model of a number of growing initial centres, there was instead the emergence of only one whose development was probably at the expense of the other initial acceptors. Whangaroa lost popularity with European traders after the Maoris there massacred the crew of the Boyd. The North Cape lacked a harbour. On the other hand the superior harbour facilities of the Bay of Islands and the willingness of the natives to trade gave this district the ascendancy.
EXTRALOCAL DIFFUSION FROM PRIMARY INNOVATION CENTRE 1821-25
During this period firearms were introduced into most of the southern districts of the North Island. After 1820 the Bay of Islands became a propagation centre for districts beyond the Ngapuhi tribal boundaries (Figure 1). With a ratio of 1 :2 in 1821, 15 muskets had become sufficiently abundant to become an object of inter-tribal trade. The growing number of firearms in the hands of Ngapuhi warriors also increased the frequency and scale of their raids on the southern districts. From 1821 onwards it became increasingly obvious to Hongi Hika's enemies and other tribes to the south that the preservation of their tribal mana, indeed their very survival, depended on a similar acquisition of firearms. Lacking similar trading opportunities with the European, the south had to rely on supplies mainly from the Bay of Islands. After 1821 there occurred the strange phenomena of tribes but recently defeated by the Maoris of the Bay of Islands sending envoys, sometimes by invitation, to the homeground of their conquerors to trade for firearms.
First Muskets for Tamaki, Kaipara, Thames and Kapiti
By 1820 the Ngati Paoa of Tamaki and the Ngati Whatua of Kaipara and Manukau had acquired their first muskets. The missionaries Butler and Marsden were greeted at Mokoia (Panmure) in October 1820 by the firing of a musket. 16 In July of the same year Marsden had experienced a similar salute from the Ngati Whatua of Kaipara when three muskets were discharged. 17 A Ngati Whatua chief claimed that their first muskets came as prizes of war from the Ngapuhi about 1820. 18 Their stock however was negligible; for when Hongi Hika attacked Ngati Paoa at Panmure in 1821, this tribe had only eight muskets among 1,000 warriors. 19 Ngati Whatua was variously reported in 1825 as having two, 100, and a number of muskets. 20- 404
Ngati Maru at Thames had no firearms when Hongi attacked the Te Totara pa in 1822. 21 However, Isdale's claim that the Thames Maoris had already acquired a few muskets by 1819 is plausible as the principal chief of this tribe was away on a warlike expedition to the south when Hongi attacked. It is likely that the Ngati Paoa and Ngati Maru did not obtain their first guns from the Bay of Islands but direct from Sydney as their principal chiefs had been there in 1821. 22
The first guns at Kapiti on the south-west coast of the North Island were, however, obtained from the Ngapuhi. Te Rauparaha, the Ngati Toa chief at Kawhia, accompanied the northern Maoris on an expedition to Taranaki in 1819. The few muskets given him by the Ngapuhi were taken to Kapiti when he and his tribe migrated there in 1821-22. 23 This is an example of the occasional jump of an innovation over a very long distance leading to the later creation of a secondary centre. 24 From 1823 onwards, Te Rauparaha developed Kapiti as an entry port for casual traders 25 so that by 1825 the small Ngati Toa tribe of 340 fighting men had a higher ratio of guns to fighting men than any other tribe south of the Bay of Islands (Figure 2).- 405
First Muskets for Waikato, Rotorua, East Coast, North Taranaki and Tauranga
The Bay of Islands likewise acted as a propagation centre for the first supplies of firearms to Waikato, Rotorua, the East Coast, North Taranaki and possibly Tauranga in the early twenties.
When the Ngapuhi attacked the Waikato pa, Matakitaki, in 1822, the panic among the Waikato resulting from the use of guns indicated an unfamiliarity with them. The first main haul of about fifty muskets was the reward of a counter sortie by a Waikato war party on the Ngapuhi shortly after the fall of the pa. 26 A peace consolidated by marriage pact opened up trade between Waikato and the Bay of Islands. Diffusion from the Bay continued into the thirties. 27
There was only one gun in the Arawa pa on Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, when Hongi and the Ngapuhi attacked in 1823. After the fall of the pa an Arawa chief went north with the Ngapuhi to procure muskets and powder and other parties followed later. 28
Diffusion of firearms to the East Coast from the Bay of Islands followed a different pattern. The Ngati Kahungunu on Mahia Peninsula, seeking a protector, invited Te Wera Hauraki of the Bay of Islands and his entire hapu with their fifty muskets to make their permanent home in the south. The Bay of Islands chief Pomare also made a gift of a gun to the Ngati Porou of Hicks Bay in 1823 and in the same year invited some Ngati Kahungunu back to the Bay to trade for muskets. 29
The first guns in North Taranaki came from the Ngapuhi in the early twenties. 30 By 1821 the Ngati Tama of North Taranaki were able to produce a gun against the Ngati Maniapoto of the Mokau district. 31
Although there is no known record of the first guns entering the Tauranga district certainly they were not there in 1820. 32 The first documented record of a ship trading with the Bay of Plenty is in 1826 when the Caroline visited the Bay of Plenty and traded muskets and lead for pigs and potatoes. 33 A Pakeha-Maori was resident there. Considering the position of this district on the east coast it is probable that other whaling ships had made casual calls here before 1826 and that the first firearms had been obtained in the early twenties. By 1825 therefore:
DIFFUSION FROM SECONDARY INNOVATION CENTRES 1826-30
Three important developments occurred during this period. More of the subordinate centres south of the Bay of Islands became innovation centres in their own right (i.e. centres obtaining supplies of firearms direct from overseas sources). They began to operate as propagation centres also, so that diffusion was no longer the monopoly of the primary innovation centre. Secondly, saturation level was reached by the Bay of Islands, and a retardation in demand set in. Thirdly, the areas hitherto lacking firearms acquired their first supplies. This happened as a result of diffusion from the secondary innovation centres.
The development of secondary innovation centres in the southern districts was largely dependent on the commodity diversification and general growth of trade between Maori and European. Although food was still a major trade commodity, flax became increasingly important in the late twenties. The Bay of Islands was progressively less able to supply the first commodity and lacked the second, whereas certain districts in the south with reasonably good harbour facilities were able and willing to supply both.
During these five years the tribes of Waikato, Rotorua, North Taranaki and the East Coast gained their own trading centres for firearms.
Although diffusion from the Bay of Islands continued as a source of firearms for the Waikato, by 1828 this district had its own entrepot. In this year the brig Macquarie visited Kawhia harbour for trading purposes. Within two years five other traders were operating there. By 1829 the Waikato Heads had its own trader and others established themselves inland after 1830. By 1827 the Waikato had amassed sufficient arms to deter a proposed Ngapuhi attack. 34 Although the ratio of firearms was 1:14 in 1824 35 it is probable with the new trade opportunities that the ratio was 1:2 by 1830 (Figure 2).
The Arawa tribe of Rotorua, until 1830, obtained most of its muskets from the Bay of Islands, and later from Tauranga. 36 In November 1830 the trader Hans Tapsell opened up a trading centre for the Arawa at Maketu on the east coast south of Tauranga. By 1830, however, it is doubtful if the 2,000 fighting men of Arawa had achieved a ratio anywhere near 1:2.
By 1830 the East Coast, too, had experienced the trading activities of the European. In 1825 the Maoris of Mahia were scraping flax for a resident European trader. Two years later d'Urville observed a ship trading off the coast at Tolaga Bay. Shortly after this the trader Ferris - 407 arrived. However, by 1831 the Maoris on the East Coast, according to the trader Harris, had “only few firearms at the time.” 37
With the establishment of a trading station at Ngamotu near New Plymouth in 1828, North Taranaki also entered the arms race. The Maoris made the exaggerated claim that the first traders Barrett and Love brought ashore three cannon, 6,000 small arms and 6,000 casks of powder. By 1830, however, the 1:2 ratio had not been achieved; for even in 1832, when the Waikato attacked the Atiawa at Ngamotu, the latter had only 100 muskets (plus three long guns and one swivel gun) among 250 men. 38
The station at Ngamotu acted as a diffusion centre for the tribes in South Taranaki who probably received their first supplies during this period. The Urewera country also lagged behind. In 1829 the Tuhoe tribe possessed only one flintlock pistol and a flintlock musket. Their first supplies arrived in 1831. 39
Tauranga and Kapiti, during this period, became the two most important secondary innovation centres. By 1830, Tauranga had exceeded the 1:2 ratio and Kapiti had reached saturation level (Figure 2). Until 1829 at least, the nature of barter at Tauranga was pigs and potatoes in return for muskets. Henry Williams, a visitor to Tauranga in 1828, complained that “Wherever we go the constant demand is for muskets and powder. We could have filled with potatoes at either place but for the Haweis Brig which is here intoxicating the native with their destructive materials”. 40 With the arrival of the resident trader James Farrow in 1829, flax replaced potatoes and pigs as the principal exchange commodity. As well as supplying the needs of the local Ngaiterangi, Tauranga acted as a diffusion centre for Matamata and Rotorua.
Kapiti, during this period, experienced a rapid acceleration in the acquisition of firearms. Consumed by an ambition to annihilate the tribes in the northern districts of the South Island, the Kapiti chief Te Rauparaha assiduously cultivated European trade to build up his store of muskets. In 1830 the boom in the flax trade had begun, ten flax traders taking from Kapiti a total of 102 tons of flax, about one-eighth of the total exported from New Zealand to Sydney in that year. 41 In terms of the going rate of exchange this represents 255 muskets from one source. 42 Te Rauparaha boasted that by 1830 his tribe could muster 2,000 muskets on Kapiti Island alone. 43 Granted the strong possibility of exaggeration in his claim, with a total warrior force of only 400 men for the Ngati Toa (and even with the additions resulting from the taking of slaves), Kapiti had undoubtedly reached saturation level by 1830.
That firearms were the main item of trade demanded by the Maoris is amply borne out in the export figures from Sydney Port in 1830 and 1831 (Table 1). The total of £3,865 for firearms and relevant accessories - 408 in 1830 represented approximately 40 percent of the total trade of £9,591 15s. 0d. to New Zealand from Sydney (including goods to Europeans as well as to Maoris). In 1831, of the £17,349 3s. 9d. of exports to Maoris alone, £11,815 5s. consisted of firearms, etc.
The Bay of Islands reached saturation level by 1828, 44 the demand for arms dropped noticeably, and, with the development of other innovation centres in the south, there was a notable decrease in the importance of the Bay as a diffusion centre. Retardation in the primary centre had set in.
Exports From Sydney To New Zealand
Source: Historical Records of Australia, ed. J. F. Watson. XV, 737; XVI, 485.
CONDENSATION AND SATURATION STAGE 1830-35
What Hägerstrand calls the condensing stage (meaning that the innovation is now commonly known and possessed) occurred during this period. Several of the districts which had not yet reached saturation point quickly achieved this (Figure 2).
The tribes dependent on Tauranga for their source of firearms reached a 1:1 ratio shortly after 1830. Saturation level for the Ngati Haua of Matamata was achieved by 1831. 45 In the same year Henry Williams, referring to the Ngaiterangi tribe of Tauranga, said “They spoke of their numerous guns and quantities of lead and powder; each boy had two or three and men ten”. 46
Waikato achieved saturation point shortly after. In 1832 the Waikato were able to bring 3,000-4,000 muskets against the Atiawa during the siege of the pa at Ngamotu, and in autumn of the same year the Waikato trader Marshall reported that in a muster of 3,000 or more fighting men the greater portion carried firearms. 47
The East Coast, liberally supplied with traders after 1831, had achieved saturation level by 1835. W. Williams on the East Coast in January 1834 - 409 observed that “the distribution of firearms is now become general”, and Polack at Tolaga Bay in 1835 noted that both chiefs and slaves were well armed with muskets. 48
Five years of trade through Maketu and Mokoia resulted in a 1:1 ratio for the 2,000 fighting men of the Arawa tribe of Rotorua by 1835. 49
A few districts had not achieved saturation level by 1835. These were districts which had no ports of their own, like the Urewera and South Taranaki, and/or localities which had been abandoned because they were under continual attack from enemy tribes. Such districts were North and South Taranaki and Kaipara. The Urewera reached saturation level sometime before 1840. This was the result of a trade for firearms with the Ngati Maru of Hauraki which was virtually a traffic in slaves. 50
The above analysis generally supports the three stage process in the propagation of an innovation postulated by Hägerstrand. 1807-20 coincided with Hägerstrand's first stage. In this study, however, only one of the initial acceptors emerges as a primary innovation centre. This is the Bay of Islands. This stage lasted longest. Stage two lasted for ten years (1821-30) and was the proper diffusion stage during which there was a dissemination of firearms from the primary centre to distant centres. These areas in turn became secondary propagation centres and competed with the primary centre, the Bay of Islands, which by the end of Stage 2 was experiencing a retardation. 1830-35 was equivalent to the condensing stage when firearms became commonly known and possessed and saturation occurred in most districts. Stage 3 was reached relatively quickly, so that an analysis of the incidence of the three stages suggests a slow beginning and a progressive acceleration in the acquisition of the innovation.
1 Hägerstrand 1952:366-8; 1967:133-4.
2 Shawcross 1967:170.
3 Clarke:March 26, 1825.
4 McNab 1914:127.
5 Shawcross 1967:170.
6 McNab 1914:146.
7 McNab 1914:114-15; Sherrin and Wallace 1890:150.
8 Elder 1932:81-82.
9 Smith 1910a:50-51.
10 McNab 1908:538.
11 W. Williams:January 11, 1834.
12 Cruise 1957:192.
13 McNab 1908:551.
14 Missionary Register 1827:338.
15 Kendall's Letters, 17 September 1821, estimated “not less than 2,000 firearms” in the Bay of Islands. J. Butler, a fellow missionary in the district, said “a little less than 1,000” were used in a war expedition to the south in 1821 (Barton, 1927). A figure of 1,500 is therefore deemed a reasonable one. Among 3,000 fighting men the ratio is 1:2.
16 Barton 1927:41.
17 Elder 1932:271.
18 Smith 1910a:477.
19 H. Williams 1833-40 IV:20.
20 Smith 1910a:340; Clarke, 7 September 1825.
21 Thames Star, 4 December 1937.
22 Elder 1927:356-9.
23 Smith 1910b:309; Best 1901:162.
24 Hägerstrand 1966:31; 1952:358.
25 Carkeek 1966:45.
26 Jones 1959:125; Smith 1910a:233.
27 Marshall 1836:281.
28 Stafford 1967:180-6.
29 Northern Minute Book 27, “Karetu Case”:257,282-3.
30 Best 1918:100.
31 Smith 1910b:348.
32 Elder 1932:266.
33 Heberley 1843:12.
34 Clarke: 3 July 1827.
35 Prentice 1939:95. Waikato's fighting force was 6,000. They were reputed to have sent 414 guns against the Maoris of Hawke's Bay in 1824.
36 Stafford 1967:186, 190.
37 MacKay 1966:97-98; Wright 1950:115.
38 Smith 1910b:476.
39 Best 1925:514, 363.
40 H. Williams:14 April 1828.
41 Watson 1923:240; McNab 1913:6-12.
42 Cowan 1935:137. 8 cwt flax was equivalent to 1 musket.
43 Great Britain Parliamentary Papers 1838/680:55.
44 Shawcross 1967:259-60.
45 Farrow in Aroha Case, March 8, 1871, said he obtained 7 tons of flax in 5 weeks from Ngati Haua in 1831. I.e. A possible 175 muskets (f.n. 42). By 1830 already, however, the 300 strong fighting force was described as well armed (Vennell 1939:20).
46 H. Williams:15 January 1834.
47 McNab Papers 18/104; Marshall 1873:19.
48 Polack 1838:122-23.
49 T. Chapman:26 March 1836.
50 Best 1925:518-19.