New Plymouth in 1857

New Plymouth in about 1857, looking south. Marsland Hill stockade is in the distance on the left, with St Mary's Anglican Church below it to the right.

When war broke out in 1860 New Plymouth was a small town. Fewer than 3000 Europeans lived in Taranaki province, nearly all of them in the vicinity of the provincial capital. Seven hundred adult Pākehā males were confronted by twice as many Māori. Only troops could ensure the settlement's safety.

Settler opinion towards Māori in Taranaki varied. Māori willing to sell land were referred to as ‘friendlies’ and deemed worthy of support. Māori unwilling to sell land were seen at best as obstructive and increasingly as rebellious. In private correspondence prominent Taranaki men such as Provincial Councillor James Richmond (brother of the Native Minister) and Harry Atkinson, captain in the Taranaki Volunteers and a later New Zealand premier, used epithets such as ‘nigger’ when referring to Māori.

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