His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor to His Excellency Sir George Gipps.
I have the honour to acquaint your Excelleney that immediately on my arrival here I circulated notices printed in the Native language that on this day I would hold a meeting of the chiefs of the Confederation, and of the high chiefs who had not yet signed the Declaration of Independence, for the purpose of explaining to them the commands I had received from Her Majesty the Queen, and of laying before them the copy of a Treaty which I had to propose for their consideration.
Accordingly a vast number of chiefs, with a multitude of followers, crowded in from every quarter, and at 12 this day they assembled under spacious tents, decorated with flags, which had been previously erected at Waitangi by the direction of Captain Nias, of this ship.
First Levée and Native Meeting held.
Preparatory to the meeting, I had appointed a levée to be held at Mr. Busby's house at 11 o'clock, to which I invited all the principal European inhabitants, the members of the Church of England and Catholic Missions, and all the officers of this ship, and was highly gratified to find that nearly every one, either here or in the neighbourhood, favoured me with their attendance.
Soon after 12 I proceeded to the tent, supported by Captain Nias and his officers, Mr. Busby (the late Resident), the members of the Church Missionary Society, the French bishop, the officers of the Government, and all the principal European inhabitants, &c., in procession, and took my seat on a raised platform, surrounded by the gentlemen in the same order as they had accompanied me. In the centre of the area within the tents, the chiefs seated themselves upon the ground, leaving a space round them for the Europeans. The whole spectacle produced a most imposing effect.
Treaty of Waitangi read and discussed.
The business of the meeting then commenced by my announcing to the chiefs the object of my mission, and the reasons that had induced Her Majesty to appoint me. I explained to them in the fullest manner the effect that might be hoped to result from the measure, and I assured them in the most fervent manner that they might rely implicitly on the good faith of Her Majesty's Government page 15in the transaction. I then read the Treaty a copy of which I have the honour to enclose; and, in doing so, I dwelt on each article, and offered a few remarks explanatory of such passages as they might be supposed not to understand. Mr. H. Williams, of the Church Missionary Society, did me the favour to interpret, and repeated in the Native tongue, sentence by sentence, all I said.
When I had finished reading the Treaty, I invited the chiefs to ask explanations on any point they did not comprehend, and to make any observations or remarks on it they pleased. Twenty or thirty chiefs addressed the meeting, five or six of whom opposed me with great violence, and at one period with such effect, and so cleverly, that I began to apprehend an unfavourable impression would be produced. At this crisis, the Hokianga chiefs, under Nene and Patuone, made their appearance, and nothing could have been more seasonable. It was evident, from the nature of the opposition, that some underhand influence had been at work. The chiefs Rewa and Ihakara, who are followers of the Catholic bishop, were the principal opposers, and the arguments were such as convinced me they had been prompted. Rewa, while addressing me, turned to the chiefs and said, "Send the man away; do not sign the paper: if you do, you will be reduced to the condition of slaves, and be obliged to break stones for the roads. Your land will be taken from you, and your dignity as chiefs will be destroyed."
At the first pause Nene came forward and spoke with a degree of natural eloquence that surprised all the Europeans, and evidently turned aside the temporary feeling that had been created He first addressed himself to his own countrymen, desiring them to reflect on their own condition—to recollect how much the character of New Zealanders had been exalted by their intercourse with Europeans, and how impossible it was for them to govern themselves without frequent wars and bloodshed; and he concluded his harangue by strenuously advising them to receive us, and to place confidence in our promises. He then turned to me and said, "You must be our father. You must not allow us to become slaves; you must preserve our customs, and never permit our lands to be wrested from us." One or two other chiefs who were favourable followed him in the same strain; and one reproached a noisy fellow named Kitiki, of the adverse party, with having spoken rudely to me. Kitiki, stung by the remarks, sprang forward and shook me violently by the hand; and I received the salute apparently with equal ardour. This occasioned among the Natives a general expression of applause, and a loud cheer from the Europeans, in which the Natives joined; and thus the business of the meeting closed, further consideration of the question being adjourned to Friday, at 11 o'clock, leaving, as I said, one clear day to reflect on my proposal.
Second Meeting with the Native Chiefs.—Treaty signed,
At 10 o'clock this morning it was announced to me that the chiefs, being impatient of further delay, and perfectly satisfied with the proposals I had made them, were desirous at once to sign the Treaty, that they might return to their homes. The further consideration of the question had been adjourned from, the 5th to the 7th; but to have refused this request would probably have rendered nugatory the whole proceeding by the dispersion of the tribes before they had attested their consent by their signatures. I therefore assembled the officers of the Government, and, with Mr. Busby and the gentlemen of the Missionary body, I proceeded to the tents, where the Treaty was signed in due form by forty-six head chiefs, in presence of at least five hundred of inferior degree.
As the acquiescence of these chiefs, twenty-six of whom had signed the Declaration of Independence, must be deemed a full and clear recognition of the sovereign rights of Her Majesty over the northern parts of this Island, it will be announced by a salute of twenty-one guns, which I have arranged with Captain Nias shall be fired from this ship to-morrow.
In the course of this proceeding I have courted the utmost publicity, and I have forborne to adopt even the customary measure of propitiating the consent of the chiefs by presents or promises; and not until the Treaty had been signed did I give them anything. To have sent them home without acknowledgment would have been a violation of their customs, and would have given offence; I therefore distributed amongst them a few articles of trifling value before they separated.
It is my intention next week to visit Hokianga, and I hope to obtain the adherence of such of the chiefs of that district as were not present at Waitangi.
I have, &c.,
W. Hobson.His Excellency Sir George Gipps, &c.