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Historical Records of New Zealand

[Enclosure No. 4.] — From J. Stephen, Esq., To John Backhouse, Esq

[Enclosure No. 4.]
From J. Stephen, Esq., To John Backhouse, Esq.

Downing Street, 12th December, 1838.


I am directed by Lord Glenelg to request that you will bring under the consideration of Viscount Palmerston the expediency of appointing an officer invested with the character and powers of British Consul at New Zealand.

The Islands of New Zealand have long been resorted to by British subjects, both as possessing peculiar advantages for refitting whaling ships in the South Seas, and on account of the supplies which they afford of timber, flax, and other articles of value. They have also, from their proximity to the penal settlements of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, furnished an asylum to fugitive convicts, who, associated with men left in these islands at different times by the whalers and other vessels, have formed a society much requiring the check of some competent authority.

In consequence of representation from the local authorities of New South Wales, it was thought advisable, in the year 1832, to appoint a person in the character of British Resident at New Zealand. The object of making this appointment was twofold—to repress acts of fraud and aggression practised by British subjects against the natives, and of acquiring a beneficial influence over the various chiefs; to protect the lives and property of British subjects engaged in fair trade with the natives. The officer appointed was placed on the civil establishment of New South Wales, and wholly under the direction of the Governor of that colony. Enclosed are copies of the instructions which were furnished to him by Governor Sir Richard Bourke. It has happened, however, that the authority of the Resident has from various causes proved the most part inoperative. At the same time the chiefs have severally evinced a strong disposition to place themselves under British protection. In the year 1835 a declaration was adopted, and subscribed by the chiefs of the northern parts of New Zealand, when their country was threatened with aggression by Baron de Thierry, in which declaration they set forth the independence of their page 743 country, and declared the union of their respective tribes into one State, under the designation of the tribes of New Zealand. They also came to a resolution to send a copy of that declaration to His late Majesty, to thank him for his acknowledgment of their national flag, and to entreat that in return for the friendship which they had shewn, and were still prepared to shew, such British subjects as had settled in their country, or resorted to it for the purpose of trade, His Majesty would continue to be the parent of their infant State, and its protector from all attempts on its independence.

But the existing arrangement having failed to answer the purposes contemplated in its adoption, Lord Glenelg is of opinion that these purposes will be more effectually attained by the appointment of a British Consul to reside at New Zealand. If Lord Palmerston should concur in this opinion Lord Glenelg would suggest that His Lordship should communicate with the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, in order that provision be made for the appointment in the estimates for consular establishments.

As it will be necessary that the Consul should not be allowed to trade, the amount of his salary will of course be fixed with reference to that circumstance. Hitherto there has been provided annually from the revenue of New South Wales a sum of £500 for the salary of the Resident and £200 on account of donations of provisions and clothing to the chiefs and natives generally; but as the object is one of a national character, and not limited to any interest connected with New South Wales, Lord Glenelg does not think the charge of the proposed consular establishment could probably be enforced on the revenue of that colony, but Lord Glenelg is disposed to think that it will be necessary in the new arrangements to issue a larger sum than £200 for disbursements of different kinds which the Consul might be obliged to make.

Lord Glenelg would further propose that until the state of society in New Zealand shall have become more settled, and until the relations with the native chiefs shall have been placed on a more permanent footing, the Consul should communicate direct with this Department.

I enclose, for Lord Palmerston’s further information, a copy of a despatch from the Governor of New South Wales, bearing date the 9th September, 1837, which covers two reports illustrative of the present state of New Zealand—one from Captain Hobson, commanding H.M.S. Rattlesnake, the other from the British Resident.

I am, &c.,

J. Stephen.

John Backhouse, Esq., &c., &c.