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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]

Mr. Edward Marsh Williams

Mr. Edward Marsh Williams, ex-Judge of the Native Land Court, is the eldest son of the late Archdeacon Henry Williams, of Paihia, Bay of Islands, whose interesting life has been interestingly written by Mr. Hugh Carleton. Mr. E. M. Williams was born at Hampstead, London, in 1818, and arrived with his parents at the Bay of Islands in the ship “Brampton,” in 1823. In the year 1835, Mr. Williams revisited England in Her Majesty's ship “Buffalo,” which was afterwards wrecked at Mercury Bay in 1840. page 276 In this connection Judge Williams relates that, in the year 1884, he visited the scene of the disaster, and obtained several relics from the derelict ship, and, although over forty years had passed, portions of the wreck were as sound as the day the ship had been launched Having returned to England for the purpose of finishing his education and studying for the medical profession, Mr. Williams was apprenticed to a London doctor, but at the expiration of twelve months, he was compelled to relinquish his studies, in consequence of brain fever, and, on the advice of his doctor, he returned to New Zealand. In 1840, when Governor Hobson arrived in New Zealand he appointed Archdeacon Williams to take charge of the celebrated Treaty of Waitangi, and the Archdeacon employed his son Edward to translate the treaty into Maori, as he was considered to be an admirable Maori linguist and well-acquainted with Maori customs. In consequence of this step, Mr. Williams was appointed Native Interpreter to His Excellency's Commissioner. Major Bunbury, of the 80th Regiment, and they proceeded in the ship “Herald” (Captain Nias) to visit the various Maori kaingas throughout New Zealand, including Stewart Island, to obtain signatures to the Treaty of Waitangi. Particulars of this tour are given in the Blue Book, published in 1840. On the completion of these arduous, intricate, and difficult duties, conducted with consummate skill, on the part of the Commission. Mr. Williams was appointed by Governor Hobson, in 1840, as Government Interpreter. Clerk of the Court, and first postmaster at Auckland, the newly-founded capital of New Zealand. Mr. Williams held these positions until 1842, when he retired to settle on the family property at Pakaraka, and in conjunction with his brother, now Archdeacon Samuel Williams, of Te Aute, Hawke's Bay, he assisted to manage and cultivate it. In 1861, he was requested by the late Sir George Grey to rejoin the Government service, and was appointed Resident Magistrate for the Bay of Islands and Northern Districts. This position he held until 1880, when he was requested by the Government of the day to retire upon his pension; but the following year he was raised to the bench as Judge of the Native Land Court, and retained office until 1891, when he finally retired into private life. One incident which occurred during Mr. Williams's early career is worthy of being recorded, as showing his intimate knowledge of the Maori character. The occasion was the murder of a shepherd named Patrick Rooney (employed by the Messrs Williams) by a native called Kihi. This man was arrested, and was being examined by the Acting-Governor, Mr. Shortland, at Kororareka, when a party of natives, numbering about 300, under the celebrated chief Haratua, arrived on the scene, to express their disgust at the atrocious crime. Their demonstrations, however, frightened Mr. Shortland, who was ignorant of Maori customs, and he sent for a small body of soldiers from Russell to disperse the Maoris; and had it not been for the tact displayed by Mr. Williams, great bloodshed would have ensued, and a disastrous blow given to the settlement of the colony at a critical period of its history.