A Synopsis of Paul Moon’s
The pre-treaty part of New
Zealand’s history has often been ignored as a great many historians
tend to focus on what happened after the Treaty was signed. For a
more complete history please refer to Dr Paul Moon’s book Te Ara
Ki Te Tiriti, the Path to the Treaty of Waitangi.
We all know that Captain
Cook visited New Zealand in 1769 and whenever he set foot on land,
he planted a British flag. By the beginning of the 1800s sealers,
whalers and missionaries were regular visitors. By 1814 Reverend
Samuel Marsden was expressing concern over ‘wanton acts of
oppression, robberies and murders committed upon the persons and
properties of the natives of New Zealand’. Later, in 1831 we find a
Mr. William Yate petitioning Britain to make efforts to control the
unruly whalers, traders and sealers who were having a very adverse
effect on the Maori population.
Yates petition was ignored by the London based Colonial Office which
held to the official position that Britain no longer had any need
for further colonies. Although Mr. Yate was a learned man for the
times, his sexuality was in question after he was heard “giggling”
in his cabin with two other gentlemen. As a result the Colonial
Office chose to ignore what he had to say on the grounds that his
personal life impacted on his professional life in a negative way.
However, in 1833 the
Colonial Office made a small concession and appointed a young and
unpopular James Busby as the Resident. He quickly solidified his
unpopularity by choosing to live at Waitangi at a time when almost
all the immigrant population was living at Russell. His demand that
he be given 8000 troops was refused and he was largely ineffectual
in that he had no budge and no staff or troops to enforce any legal
sanction on the unruly and regularly drunk immigrant population.
In 1835 a Frenchman Baron De
Thierry (with a glorious ambition to become a King) arrived back in
New Zealand waters having visited in the 1820’s and purchased 800
acres of land in the Hokianga by striking a deal with Hone Heke.
Busby’s reaction to this was to notify Britain that a French
invasion was imminent and that he must be sent troops to maintain
British Sovereignty. Sea passage from Britain to New Zealand at that
time took 5-6 months and a return trip with an answer could take 12
months so, as an immediate ‘stop-gap’ measure Busby prepared a
Declaration of Independence which was signed by 35 (Northern) Maori
Chiefs on 28 October 1835.
Two years later this
Declaration was clearly not succeeding as the members of the
Congress of Chiefs were more intent on fighting one another than
meeting to discuss matters of sovereignty.
In 1836 Busby again wrote to
the Colonial Office seeking a Treaty with the Maori Chiefs. As
always the letter went via the penal colony in New South Wales where
the Governor of the day, knowing that the British Parliament and
Colonial Office had ruled out a Treaty, and wanting to strangle any
career aspirations Busby may have had, held on to the letter giving
the British Government time to appoint a Captain of the Royal Navy,
William Hobson, (who left school at the age of 9) to visit New
Zealand and prepare a report on the situation there. This report
arrived in London before Busby’s letter.
Another to arrive on the New
Zealand scene was Edward Gibbon Wakefield. This completely
undisciplined ‘entrepreneur’ saw an opportunity to make a sizeable
profit by buying up vast areas of land, subdividing it and selling
it to immigrants he would ‘ship’ over from Britain. In his earlier
years he had aspired to become a Member of Parliament but failure
led him to kidnap a 14 year old and marry her in Scotland. He was
jailed for kidnapping the girl and formulated much of his grand plan
while in jail.
As an illustration of his
‘salesmanship’ he had what he termed ‘Hilltop Surveying’ which meant
standing on the top of a hill and every bit of land you could see
from that vantage point was the land for sale.
To add to the evidence of
his duplicity, the sale of agreements were drawn up by a New South
Wales firm and a whaler was responsible for translating the document
into the Maori language.
‘back home’ was equally suspect. Apparently prospective settlers for
the Wellington settlement were told that the ‘Natives’ were ‘very
kind’, there was an abundance of cheap land, it was a great climate
and you could ‘grow bananas’ there. In May 1839 he sent a ship with
250 settlers to Wellington. By this time he had decided he would aim
to be the Governor of New Zealand. However, when he learned that
Hobson had been asked to prepare a Treaty his New Zealand Company
started to worry about the lands he had ‘purchased’ and on 4 January
1840, in Sydney he tried to auction 68 million acres of land (New
Zealand on has a total of 66 million acres).
On 15 August 1839, James
Stephens, head of the Colonial Office instructed William Hobson to
proceed to New Zealand to sign, as Governor, a treaty with the
‘natives’ using copies of earlier treaties with African countries as
a guide. He landed in the Bay of Islands on 29 January 1840 but even
his landing on New Zealand soil was delayed because he argued that
he should receive a 21-gun salute but was told he could only have a
17-gun salute. Upon his arrival he met William Colenso, told him his
plans and asked him to arrange for all the Maori Chiefs as far
inland as Kaikohe to attend the signing of a treaty document on 5
At much the same time he was
met by Rev Henry Williams, a resident of 18 years standing and
fluent in the Maori language, who was asked to translate the Treaty
document into Maori. Busby had offered but was politely told ‘thanks
but no thanks’.
On 1 February William Hobson
‘thought about’ drafting notes. On 2 February William Hobson took
sick with ‘paralysis’ (probably syphilis). On 3 February a draft was
completed by none other than James Busby. In the afternoon and into
the next day there was a constant stream of visitors seeing copies
(some say as many as 20) of the Treaty. On 4 February a translation
of one of the draft copies (not the original) was completed by
Williams who argued that there were some words he was unable to
translate into Maori.
On 5 February the Maori Chiefs assembled and Williams translated
English into Maori and Maori into English. At the end of the day the
chiefs were told that the signing of the treaty would take place on
7 February but shortly after there was a panic amongst the
team when some of the Chiefs
started to pack up to travel back to their tribal areas and so it
was decided that the Treaty would be signed the next day – 6
Hone Heke was the first to
sign the Treaty on 6 February 1840 but later, in May the same year,
Heke sworn enemy Kawiti signed the Treaty above Hone Heke’s
signature. Soon after, on 21 May 1840, Lieutenant-Governor William
Hobson decided that he had sufficient signatures to proclaim British
Sovereignty over New Zealand. At that time the New Zealand
population was thought to be 2000 European and 150 000 Maori.