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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 3. — Sir Richard Bourke, K.C.B., to James Busby, Esq., British Resident, New Zealand

No. 3.
Sir Richard Bourke, K.C.B., to James Busby, Esq., British Resident, New Zealand.

Instructions to the British Resident.


New South Wales, Government House, 13th April, 1833.

Having received His Majesty's commands to furnish you with instructions for your conduct and guidance in the discharge of your duties as British Resident at New Zealand (to which place I propose you should immediately proceed), I have to request your attention to the following particulars:—

You are probably aware that the creation of the appointment which you hold has originated in the representations made at different times by this Government touching the acts of violence and inhumanity perpetrated on the Natives of New Zealand by the crews of British vessels frequenting those islands. The extent to which these atrocities have been carried may be estimated by the perusal of the accompanying papers relating to the conduct of the master of the brig "Elizabeth," a vessel lately trading between this colony and New Zealand. The facts of this dreaful case made it at once apparent that it was no less a sacred duty than a measure of necessary policy to endeavour, by every possible method, to rescup the Natives of those extensive islands from the evils to which their intercourse with Europeans had exposed them; and, at the same time, to avert from the well-disposed of His Majesty's subjects settled in New Zealand the fatal effects which would sooner or later flow from the continuance of such acts of unprincipled rapacity and sanguinary violence, by exciting the Natives to revenge their injuries by an indiscriminate slaughter of every British subject within their reach.

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To check as much as possible the enormities complained of, and to give encouragement and protection to the well disposed settlers and traders from Great Britain and this colony, it has been thought proper to appoint a British subject to reside at New Zealand in an accredited character, whose principal and most important duty it will be to conciliate the good-will of the Native chiefs, and establish upon a permanent basis that good understanding and confidence which it is important to the interests of Great Britain and this colony to perpetuate. It may not be easy to lay down any certain rules by which this desirable object is to be accomplished; but it is expected, by the skilful use of those powers which educated man possesses over the wild or half-civilized savage, an influence may be gained by which the authority and strength of the New Zealand chiefs will be ranged on the side of the Resident for the maintenance of tranquillity throughout the islands. An address to His Majesty lately forwarded from several of the chiefs of New Zealand, requesting the King's interference for the punishment of evil-doers, and claiming His Majesty's protection for their country, sufficiently shows the favourable point of view in which the power and justice of Great Britain are regarded by them. The reply which His Majesty has been graciously pleased to make to that address is calculated to augment this feeling. I have the honour to transmit this reply in original, and to request you will take an early opportunity, after your arrival at the Bay of Islands, of delivering it, with as much formality as circumstances may permit, to as many of the chiefs who subscribed the address as can be conveniently assembled for the purpose. You will also please to take that opportunity for delivering the presents which have been selected for them. It will be fitting at the same time that you explain to the chiefs the object of your mission, and the anxious desire of His Majesty to suppress by your means the recurrence of those disorders of which they complain. You will also announce your intention of remaining among them, and you will claim the protection and privileges which you will tell them are accorded in Europe and America to British subjects holding in foreign States situations similar to yours. You will find it convenient to manage this conference by means of the Missionaries, to whom you will be furnished with credentials, and with whom you are recommended to communicate freely upon the object of your appointment, and the measures you should adopt in treating with the chiefs. The knowledge which the Missionaries have obtained of the language, manners, and customs of the Natives may thus become of the greatest service to you.

You will proceed to New Zealand in His Majesty's ship "Imogene," commanded by Captain Blackwood, who has been requested to afford you not only protection in case of any untoward eveut, but the countenance and support which the presence of one of His Majesty's ships of war is calculated to afford as well upon your first arrival in the country as during your conference with the chiefs. I may here inform you that the Lords of the Admiralty have instructed Vice-Admiral Sir George Gore, commanding His Majesty's ships and vessels in India, to direct a vessel from his squadron to put in at the principal harbours of New Zealand as frequently as possible.

If your proposal to reside, in an accredited character, in New Zealand shall be received by the chiefs with that satisfaction which from the tenor of their address to His Majesty there is little reason to doubt, you will then confer with them as to the most convenient place for establishing your residence, and will claim protection for the persons and property of yourself, family, and servants, either by the establishment of one or other of the principal chiefs at or near your dwelling, or by placing a native guard over it, or by any other means which, upon conferring with the missionaries, you shall think it expedient to require. If you shall find it necessary to offer such chief or guard, either annually or at shorter periods, any presents of inconsiderable value, they shall be furnished on your application. You should, however, take care, in distributing these or any other presents, not to create a jealousy on the part of those whom it may not be necessary to conciliate, and upon whom, consequently, such presents need not be bestowed.

If, contrary to all expectation, your reception at New Zealand by the chiefs should not be such as to afford you a well-grounded assurance of perfect security for yourself and family, and the chance of being able to accomplish some, at least, of the objects of your mission, you will consider yourself at liberty, after all hope of succeeding by negotiation shall have failed, to re-embark on board the "Imogene" and return to this colony.

Assuming, however, that your reception will be as favourable as has been anticipated, I will endeavour to explain to you the manner of proceeding by which, I am of opinion, you may best succeed in effecting the objects of your mission. You will, at the same time, understand that the information I have been able to obtain respecting New Zealand is too imperfect to allow of my presenting you with anything more than a general outline for your guidance; leaving it to your discretion to take such further measures as shall at any time seem needful. You are aware that you cannot be clothed with any legal power or jurisdiction by virtue of which you might be enabled to arrest British subjects offending against British or colonial law in New Zealand. It was proposed to supply this want of power, and to provide for the enforcement of the criminal law, as it exists among ourselves, and further to adapt it to the new and peculiar exigencies of the country to which you are going, by means of a colonial Act of Council grafted on a statute of the Imperial Parliament. Circumstances which I am not at present competent to explain, have prevented the enactment of the statue in question. You can, therefore, rely but little on the force of law, and must lay the foundation of your measures upon the influence which you shall obtain over the native chiefs. Something, however, may be effected under the law as, it stands at present. By the 9 Geo. IV., cap. 83, sec. 3, the Supreme Courts in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land have power to inquire of, hear, and determine all offences committed in New Zealand by the master and crew of any British ship or vessel, or by any British subject living there; and persons convicted of such offences may be punished as if the offence had been committed in England. The law having thus given the Court the power to hear and to determine offences, it would seem to follow, as a necessary incident, that it has the power of bringing before it any person against whom any indictment should bo found or information filed for any offences within its jurisdiction. If, therefore, you should at any time have the means of sending to this colony any one or more persons capable of lodging an information, before the proper authority here, of an offence committed in New Zealand, you will, if you think the case of sufficient magnitude and importance, send a detailed page 4report of the transaction to the Colonial Secretary by such persons, who will be required to depose to facts sufficient to support any information upon which a Bench warrant may be obtained from the Supreme Court for the apprehension of the offender, and transmitted to you for execution. You will perceive at once that this process, which is at best but a prolix and inconvenient operation, and may incur some considerable expense, will be totally useless unless you should have some well-founded expectation of securing the offender upon or after the arrival of the warrant, and of being able to effect his conveyance here for trial, and that you have provided the necessary evidence to insure his conviction. In cases, however, where a person proceeding from New Zealand to this colony on his own affairs can give evidence of any offence committed by a British subject in New Zealand, it will be right to apprise the Colonial Secretary, in order that a sworn information may be obtained from him, upon which the offender may, if he should arrive in this colony, be immediately apprehended.

Having stated in the foregoing paragraph that the warrant of the Court might be transmitted to you for execution, I would here observe that I cau propose no other means by which you may secure the offender than the procuring his apprehension and delivery on board some British ship for conveyance to this country by means of the Native chiefs with whom you shall be in communication.

It is well known that amongst those Europeans who are leading a wandering and irregular life at New Zealand are to be found transported felons and offenders escaped from this colony and Van Diemen's Land. It is desirable that opportunities for the apprehension and transmission of those convicts to either colony should be promptly embraced. The chiefs, it is said, are well acquainted with the descriptions of the different Europeans residing in their country, and will be found able and willing to point out and secure, at a convenient time, those whom they know to be fugitives from the Australian Colonies. You will be furnished, from the office of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts in Sydney, with the names and descriptions of those convicts from New South Wales who are known or suspected to be concealed in the Islands of New Zealand, and you will use your discretion as to the fittest time for causing the apprehension and removal of such as may be within your reach, or are guilty of any offence against the peace and tranquillity of the country.

You will, of course, take every precaution to avoid the apprehension of a free person in mistake for a convict, as an action for damages would probably follow the commission of such an error. This Government will indeed be disposed to save you harmless in all such cases where becoming circumspection has been used; but it would be manifestly imprudent to incur auy considerable risk for a trifling advantage.

When any of His Majesty's ships of war are off the coast, you will request the commander to receive the convicts or other prisoners arrested by your means, for conveyance to this place; but, as such opportunities cannot be frequent, arrangements will be made by this Government for the conveyance of all such persons as you shall put on board the merchant vessels engaged in constant trade between this colony and New Zealand. I would further observe that by means of the information which you are likely to receive from the chiefs you may become acquainted with the criminal projects of Europeans before their execution, and, by a timely interference, you may be able altogether to prevent their mischievous designs, or render them abortive. In the character which you hold, you will be justified in addressing any British subject to warn him of the danger to which he may be exposed by embarking or persevering in any undertaking of a criminal or doubtful character.

You will be pleased to keep this Government fully informed of every circumstance of importance occurring in New Zealand which in any way relates to the objects of your mission, or is brought under notice in these instructions. The vessels trading between Sydney and the Bay of Islands will offer the means of forwarding your communications.

In the mauner I have now described, and by proceedings of a similar character, it mayperhaps be possible to repress the enormities which have heretofore been perpetrated by British subjects in New Zealand. It may also happen that this salutary control will not affect British subjects only, but that the knowledge of there being a functionary stationed in New Zealand, through whom the offences committed by the subjects of any other State against the people of that country will be made known to the British Government, and through that Government to the other European and American Powers, may induce the subjects of those Powers to adopt a less licentious conduct towards the New Zealanders and other inhabitants of the South Sea Islands.

There is still another form in which the influence which it is hoped the British Resident may obtain over the minds of the New Zealand chiefs may be even more beneficially exhibited. It is possible that by your official mediation the eviis of intestine war between rival chiefs or hostile tribes may be avoided, and their differences peaceably and permanently composed. It is also possible that at your suggestion, and by the aid of your counsels, some approach may be made by the Natives towards a settled form of government, and that, by the establishment of some system of jurisprudence amongst them, their Courts may be made to claim the cognizance of all crimes committed within their territory, and thus may the offending subjects, of whatever State, be brought to justice by a less circuitous and more efficient process than any which I have been able to point out. If, in addition to the benefits which the British missionaries are conferring on those islanders, by imparting the inestimable blessing of Christian knowledge and a pure system of morals, the New Zealanders should obtain through the means of a British functionary the institution of Courts of justice, established upon a simple and comprehensive basis, some sufficient compensation would seem to be rendered for the injuries inflicted heretofore by our delinquent countrymen.

Having thus explained to you generally the course of proceeding by which I think your residence in New Zealand may be conducive to the suppression of the enormities which British subjects, and those of other States, have been in the habit of committing in those islands, I have only further to observe that it will be your duty to assist, by every means in your power, the commercial relations of Great Britain and her colonies with New Zealand. It would indeed be desirable that you became the medium of all communications between the New Zealand chiefs and the masters of British or colonial vessels frequenting the coasts, and the merchants and settlers established in the islands. This arrangement will probably grow out of your residence in the country, and you should keep it in view as an important object. You will please to forward, by every opportunity, a shipping report, setting page 5forth the names, masters, number of crew, tonnage, and countries of vessels arriving at the Bay of Islands, or other ports of New Zealand, from whence you can obtain correct accounts, with the cargoes of such vessels, their object in touching at Now Zealand, and any other particulars concerning them that may be worthy of notice.

You will please to furnish the Government with occasional reports upon the agriculture, commerce, and general statistics of those islands. Under the first of these divisions you will not fail to mention the quantity of flax you may conjecture to be cut annually, and how disposed of. Under the second, I beg to call your attention to the strange and barbarous traffic in human heads, which certainly did exist to some extent, but which I am given to understand is now nearly abandoned. Should it be found to continue or revive, some legislative enactment may be necessary to prohibit, in this colony, the crime and disgrace of participating in so brutalizing a commerce.

Having already mentioned the assistance which I anticipate you will receive from the Missionaries, I have only now to impress upon you the duty of a cordial co-operation with them in the great objects of their solicitude—the extension of Christian knowledge throughout the islands, and the consequent improvement in the habits and morals of the people.

I have, &c.,

Richard Bourke.

James Busby, Esq., British Resident in New Zealand.