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White Wings Vol II. Founding Of The Provinces And Old-Time Shipping. Passenger Ships From 1840 To 1885


page 9

If it had not been for the enterprise and spirit of adventure shown by the men who in 1839 founded the New Zealand Company, New Zealand's history might have been very different, for it was the wholly unauthorised expedition sent out by them that forced the hands of the British Government and compelled it to take the steps that ended in Britain assuming possession of the islands. There were some very determined men on the directorate of the Company, many of them being quite important personages, and not used to having their wishes ignored in the way the Government persisted in doing. While the authorities were humming and ha-ing, the directors of the Company fitted out an expedition and sailed away for New Zealand. That was in 1839.

As a matter of fact, a colonising company had been formed so far back as 1825, the idea being to establish in New Zealand a factory to secure ship's spars and manufacture flax, and a ship, the Rosanna, was despatched to New Zealand in command of Captain Herd, but through mismanagement, or some other cause, the venture was not a success, the Company losing about £20,000. Eight of the directors of that Company were on the directorate of the Company formed in 1839. The British Government was antagonistic to the colonising idea, but a month after the Company despatched its pioneer vessel the Government extended the boundaries of New South Wales so as to include New Zealand—not then British territory at all—and Captain William Hobson, R.N., was despatched as Lieutenant-Governor "of any territory which is or may be acquired in sovereignty by Her Majesty" in New Zealand.

As all students of our history are aware, there was a good deal of friction between Hobson and the heads of the Company at Port Nicholson, but that is a matter rather outside the province of the present subject, which is a connected story of the ships that brought the first settlers to Wellington. In compiling the story I have been fortunate in obtaining invaluable information from Mr. Horace Fildes, of the Post and Telegraph Department, Wellington, an indefatigable student of Old New Zealand. He has rescued a lot of most interesting facts connected with the beginnings of colonisation in the Dominion, and I am glad to be able to pay this tribute to his industry and acknowledge his disinterested kindness in placing his material so unreservedly at my disposal.

The attitude of the British Government to the Company was that no Government could view with complacency a body of its own subjects proceeding to a foreign country to purchase large tracts of land, and to establish a system of Government, independent of the authority of the Government of the country to which the aforesaid body belonged. To this challenge the Company threw down the gauntlet, and despatched the ship Tory, with an agent, to purchase land from the natives. A fast, well-built craft of 382 tons, she was armed with eight guns and small arms for all the ship's company, and filled with ample stores and provisions, and goods for page 10 barter with the Maoris. She was manned with a picked crew, and in the forecastle there were, oddly enough, a Maori and a native of the Marquesas Islands. Captain E. M. Chaffers, R.N., a skilful navigator, was in command, and the total number of people on board was thirty-five.

Head and front of the New Zealand Company was Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, and it was his brother, Colonel William Hayward Wakefield, who was head of the Tory expedition, his title being Principal Agent. Other members of the party were Mr. Edward Jerningham Wakefield (son of the founder of the Company), Dr. Dieffenbach (naturalist), a draughtsman, a surgeon, and an interpreter in the person of a Maori named Neti (originally written Nayti), who had been taken to France in the French whaler Mississippi, and afterwards arrived in London, when he was taken into Mr. Wakefield's household at Chelsea.