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Historical Records of New Zealand

Captain Hobson To The Under-Secretary Of State, Colonial Department

Captain Hobson To The Under-Secretary Of State, Colonial Department.

34, Great George’s Street, August, 1839.


In order to avoid any misunderstanding of the view of Government in respect of the duties confided to me as Consul and Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand, I have the honor to call your attention to some passages of my instructions upon which I beg the favor of further explanation.

To facilitate a reference to this document I have numbered the paragraphs in pencil from one to twenty, commencing at the close of the preamble.

The first paragraph, according to that arrangement, relates to the acquisition of the sovereign rights by the Queen over the Islands of New Zealand, and appears to have reference to other instructions which I may expect to receive from Lord Palmerston. Under this head I perceive that no distinction is made between the Northern and Southern Islands of New Zealand, although their relations with this country, and their respective advancement towards civilization, are essentially different.

The declaration of the independence of New Zealand was signed by the united chiefs of the northern part of that island, and it was to them alone that His late Majesty’s letter was addressed on the presentation of their flag; and neither of these instruments had any application whatever to the Southern Islands.

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It may be of vast importance to keep this distinction in view, not as regards the natives, towards whom the same measure of justice must be dispensed, however their allegiance may have been obtained, but as it may apply to British settlers who claim a title to property in New Zealand as in a free and independent State.

I need not exemplify here the uses that may hereafter be made of this difference in their condition; but it is obvious that the power of the Crown may be exercised with much greater freedom in a country over which it possesses all the rights that are usually assumed by first discoverers than in an adjoining State which has been recognised as free and independent; and in the course of my negociations, too, my proceedings may be greatly facilitated by availing myself of this disparity, for with the wild savages of the Southern Islands it appears scarcely possible to observe even the form of a treaty; and there I might be permitted to plant the British flag, in virtue of those rights of the Crown to which I have alluded.

The second and third clauses are quite explicit, but I beg to suggest that the Proclamation to be issued on my landing be drafted in this country, in order to convey exactly the views of Government, and to guard against misconception.

In the 4th clause my attention is directed to the acquisition of lands by British subjects; and in the following clause the whole power of interference is confided to Commissioners who are to be appointed in New South Wales, and who are to report their proceedings to Sir George Gipps. I do not disapprove of this regulation, but, on the contrary, am glad to be relieved from all interference in matters of dispute which would have a tendency to place me at issue with so large a number of persons over whom I am appointed to preside; but I am at a loss to know to what point I am to direct my attention beyond the mere preservation of the peace.

The 6th clause is quite understood. In the latter part of the 7th and in the 8th clause allusion is made to the Protector of Aborigines. Were the functions of this officer confined to the protection of the natives from physical injury or injustice there could not be two opinions on the subject of his duty; but in matters which relate to their general welfare he and I, with equal zeal in their cause, may entertain very different ideas. I sincerely hope that the duties of this officer may be exactly defined, and that the Government may be secured from the effect of captious opposition.

9th clause: To the missionaries may be safely confided the religious instruction of the natives; but I cannot bring myself to believe that they will consent to give any portion of the time page 752 they have hitherto devoted exclusively to that subject for the benefit of the British subjects.

In this part of my instructions I am likewise directed to interdict the savage practices of cannibalism and human sacrifice. May I request more explicit instruction on this important subject? Shall I be authorised, after the failure of every other means, to repress these diabolical acts by force: and what course am I to adopt to restrain the no less savage native wars, or to protect tribes who are oppressed (probably for becoming Christians) by their more powerful neigh bours?

Clauses 10 and 11 relate to the form of government under which New Zealand is to be colonised.

Clause 12 forbids the introduction of convicts. There is nothing I would more regret than the extension to New Zealand of the character of a penal settlement; but I do think, with every possible deference for the superior judgment that dictated the prohibition, that convict labour on roads and public works, under the direction of Government, may be most beneficially applied. At the Mauritius Indian convicts are so employed, and the great prosperity of that colony is mainly attributable to the facility of communication to all parts of the island that is thus obtained. Such will be the demand for labour in New Zealand that I despair of getting roads made without the aid of convicts.

Clause 13 relates to the Commission under the great seal addressed to Sir George Gipps and to my warrant as Lieutenant-Governor. May I request to be informed, if I have the power, whilst holding a warrant as Lieutenant-Governor, under the Governor of New South Wales, to appoint or suspend Magistrates, to embody and call out Militia, or to direct the movements of the military force? If I do not possess this power by virtue of my warrant from the Crown it will be highly essential that provision should be made by the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales to vest me with authority in these important matters.

Clause 14 provides for the appointment of public officers of my selection by the Governor of New South Wales, and refers to the establishment in New Zealand of a Court of justice and of a judicial system. I should like to be informed in this case, as in the last, whether, in my capacity of Lieutenant-Governor, I am authorised to execute or remit the punishment of criminals.

Clause 15 relates to the revenue, and recommends, amongst other duties, one on tobacco. It should be recollected that tobacco is at present almost the circulating medium, and a duty on it will bear very hard upon the natives, who indulge freely page 753 in its use. And as this people will naturally estimate our interference with their country by its first practical results, I fear they will look upon us with distrust or suspicion if they suffer any inconvenience from our enactments.

Clause 16, regarding waste lands, is very clear and satisfactory.

Clause 17 relates to the religious instruction and the spiritual wants of the British settlers in New Zealand. I trust, if it shall be found that the missionaries have already full occupation, and if, as I have before observed, they object to withdraw any part of their attention from the duties they have hitherto discharged, that an early provision may be made for these important objects by the appointment of chaplains and teachers from New South Wales.

The concluding part of my instructions is perfectly clear and explicit. There are one or two subjects that have not been noticed which I hope may still engage the attention of the Secretary of State. No allusion has been made to a military force, nor has any instruction issued for the arming and equipping of Militia. The presence of a few soldiers would check any disposition to revolt, and would enable me to forbid in a firmer tone those inhuman practices I have been ordered to restrain. The absence of such support will, on the other hand, encourage the disaffected to resist my authority, and may be the means of entailing on us difficulties that I am unwilling to contemplate.

I have, &c.,

W. Hobson.

To the Under-Secretary of State, Colonial Department.