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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Wellington Provincial District]

Captain Hobson

Captain Hobson, R.N., the first Governor of New Zealand, administered the affairs of the Colony from January, 1840, to September, 1842. Although the term of office was short, his duties were by no means light. Nowadays the greater part of the time of our Governors is spent in the discharge of social functions. But it was not so fifty years ago. Those were stormy times: feeling between the Maoris and the Europeans ran high, and Captain Hobson met with more opposition, perhaps, than any of his successors. Moreover, his highly sensitive nature made him feel very keenly the arrows of criticism, and it is generally believed that it was the cares of office that brought him to an early grave. Governors in those days needed strong, militant qualities, and in these respects he was deficient. When Captain Hobson arrived in the Colony in 1840 he declared Russell the Capital, but in the following year the seat of Government was removed to Auckland, where he remained till his death. Among the records of Captain Hobson's governorship, the most memorable is the Treaty of Waitangi. In February, 1840, he summoned the Maori chiefs to meet at Waitangi, and laid before them the famous document, which now bears the name of the place of meeting. This treaty was intended to serve as the basis of all subsequent dealings with the Maoris. It consists of three clauses: By the first the Maoris ceded to the Queen all the rights and powers of sovereignty over the whole territory of New Zealand; by the second the Queen guaranteed to the chiefs and to their tribes all territorial rights, subject, however, to the exclusive right of pre-emption on the part of the Crown to such land as they might dispose of and alienate; by the third the Queen was bound to extend to the Maoris her protection, and to give them all the rights and privileges of British subjects. The treaty was signed by more than five hundred Maoris, and by virtue of it New Zealand became British territory. But with the signing of the treaty, Captain Hobson's real Captain Hobson page 30 troubles began. He now became the mediator between the Maoris and the Europeans, and although he gave his whole energies to the work, it was often a difficult task to reconcile the conflicting interests of the two races. He did not long withstand the demands made upon him, for he died in September, 1842, two years-and-a-half after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. That his policy was approved by the Imperial Government cannot be doubted, and that he gave satisfaction to the Maoris is evident, for after his death they expressed the wish that his place might be filled by a man imbued with the same spirit.