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A compendium of official documents relative to native affairs in the South Island, Volume One.

[No. 10. Extract of a Letter from J. Stephen, Esq., to John Backhouse]

No. 10.

Extract of a Letter from J. Stephen, Esq., to John Backhouse, Esq.

Downing Street, 18th March, 1840.

With reference to the concluding paragraph of your letter of the 11th instant, I am directed by Lord John Russell to transmit to you, for the information of Viscount Palmerston, the enclosed Memorandum, containing all the information which it appears to Lord John Russell necessary or practicable to afford in answer to the statements contained in the communication from Mr. Somes to Lord Palmerston, a copy of which accompanied your letter of the 15th November last.

Enclosure in No. 10.

In the preceding letter (Mr. Somes to Lord Palmerston, 7th November, 1839), the right of Great Britain to sovereignty over New Zealand is maintained on various grounds, which it is unnecessary for the purposes of this paper to controvert, or even to notice. The answers which would be made by foreign nations to such a claim are two: First, that the British Statute Book has, in the present century, in three distinct enactments declared that New Zealand is not a part of the British dominions; and, secondly, that King William IV. made the most public, solemn, and authentic declaration which it was possible to make, that New Zealand was a substantive and independent state.

The recognition by the King, Lords, and Commons of Great Britain of the fact that New Zealand is not a part of the British dominions will be found in the Statutes 57 Geo. III. cap. 53; 4 Geo. IV. cap. 96, sec. 3; and 9 Geo. IV. cap. 83, sec. 4. The following are extracts from each of those Statutes.

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The Act 57 Geo. III. cap. 53 is entitled "An Act for the more effectual Punishment of Murders and Manslaughters committed in places not within His Majesty's Dominions." It sets forth, "Whereas grievous murders and manslaughters have been committed at the settlement in the Bay of Honduras, in South America, Ac.;" " and the like offences have also been committed in the South Pacific Ocean, as well on the high seas as on land, in the Islands of New Zealand and Otaheite, and in other islands, countries, and places not within His Majesty's dominions, by the masters and crews of British ships, and other persons, who have for the most part deserted from or left their ships, and have continued to live and reside amongst the inhabitants of those islands," &c.; and the Act then provides for the punishment of offences so committed "in the said Islands of New Zealand and Otaheite, or within any other islands, countries, or places not within His Majesty's dominions, nor subject to any other European State or Power," &c.

The Statute 4 Geo. IV. cap. 96, sec. 3, enacts that the Supreme Courts in the Colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land may try offences "committed in the islands of New Zealand, Otaheite, or any other island, country, or place, situate in the Indian or Pacific Oceans, and not subject to His Majesty or to any other European State," if such offences were committed by British subjects.

The Statute 9 Geo. IV. cap. 83, sec. 4, repeats that enactment in the same words, adding, only, that the punishment of the offence shall be the same as if the crime had been committed in England.

The recognition by King William IV. of New Zealand as a substantive and independent state is shown by the following narrative:—

On the 16th of November, 1831, a letter to King William IV. from thirteen chiefs of New Zealand was transmitted to Lord Goderich, praying the protection of the British Crown against the neighbouring tribes, and against British subjects residing in the Islands.

On the 14th of June, 1832, Lord Ripon despatched Mr. Busby as British Resident, partly to protect British commerce, and partly to repress the outrages of British subjects on the Natives. His Lordship sent with Mr. Busby a letter to the chiefs, in which the King was made to address them as an independent people. Their support was requested for Mr. Busby, and they were reminded of the benefits which they would derive from "the friendship and alliance of Great Britain."

In the month of June, 1832, a Bill was brought into the House of Commons for the prevention of crimes committed by His Majesty's subjects "in New Zealand and in other islands in the Pacific not being within His Majesty's dominions." The Bill was rejected, because Parliament could not lawfully legislate for a foreign country.

On the 13th of April, 1833, the Governor of New South Wales, in obedience to Lord Ripon's order, addressed instructions to Mr. Busby, in which New Zealand was expressly mentioned as a foreign country, and Mr. Busby himself as being accredited to the chiefs. That document throughout assumes the independence of New Zealand.

On the 29th of April, 1834, General Bourke transmitted to Lord Stanley a proposal from Mr. Busby, for establishing a national flag for tribes of New Zealand, "in their collective capacity" and advised that ships built in the Island, and registered by the chiefs, should have their registers respected in their intercourse with the British possessions. Sir R. Bourke reported that he had sent three patterns of flags, one of which had been selected by the chiefs; that the chiefs had accordingly assembled, with the commanders of the British and three American ships, to witness the inauguration of the flag, at which the officers of H.M.S. "Alligator" were also present. The flag had been declared to be "the national flag" of New Zealand, and being hoisted, was saluted with twenty-one guns by the "Alligator," a British ship of war.

On the 21st of December, 1834, a Despatch was addressed to Sir R. Bourke by Lord Aberdeen, approving all those proceedings in the name of the King, and sending a copy of a letter from the Admiralty, stating that they had instructed their officers to give effect to the New Zealand registers, and to acknowledge and respect the national flag of New Zealand.

If these solemn acts of the Parliament and of the King of Great Britain are not enough to show that the pretension made by this Company on behalf of Her Majesty is unfounded, it might still further be repelled by a minute narrative of all the relations between New Zealand and the adjacent British Colonies, and especially by the judicial decisions of the superior Courts of those Colonies. It is presumed, however, that, after the preceding statement, it would be superfluous to accumulate arguments of that nature, and the rather because they could not be intelligibly stated without entering into long and tedious details.