I took every opportunity of inquiring into the nature of their laws and mode of government, and I found that, in general, their method of redressing wrongs was very summary, and that their ideas of what was strictly just were, for the most part, simple and equitable. For any theft, or offence of that sort, committed by one tribe on another, the parties are called to instant account. If one native takes from another any part of his possessions, the party injured has a right to retaliate, and the party retaliated upon must not make the slightest resistance. We ourselves experienced a proof of this. Some part of our property, which we supposed had been destroyed by our late fire, we had been told was to be found in the hut of a neighbouring chief. We one day took advantage of his absence, searched the hut ourselves, and discovered our things carefully deposited therein. Thus assured of the fact, we laid our complaint before King George, who, after hearing our story to the end, replied, “Well, my friends, you must go to the hut and take away all your property, and whatever else you may find, which you may think sufficient payment for the injury you have received.” We accordingly proceeded to the chief’s dwelling, whom we found standing at his door. We charged him with having robbed us, and entered the house to seize our property. He held down his head, and seemed ashamed and overpowered at this discovery. He did not attempt to vindicate his conduct, but quietly allowed us not only to take away all that had belonged to us, but likewise a musket and double-barrelled gun, which he concluded he had lost for ever. These we had only taken away temporarily to deter him from theft in future, for a few days after we brought them back to him, to his infinite delight and astonishment.
I was frequently shocked during my residence in this country by the number of accidents which continually happened to the natives from gunpowder, and not even the saddest experience could render them more careful. We were doubtful of the strength of a French fowling-piece we had, so we loaded it to the muzzle and discharged it, in order to prove it. Some young chiefs, who saw us do this (approving of this method), as soon as they returned home loaded a musket in the same manner, and then discharged it; but not managing the affair as we did—by means of a string fastened to the trigger—the piece burst, and mangled two of them dreadfully, and we got greatly blamed for showing them what was considered so bad an example.
A few months since a native came from the interior driving a quantity of pigs to barter for powder; he obtained several pounds’ weight, and set off to return home. On his journey he passed the night in a hut, and for safety put the bag of powder under his head as a pillow; and as a New Zealander always sleeps with a fire close to him, the consequence was, in the course of the night the fire communicated to the powder, and destroyed the man and the whole of his family, who were journeying with him.