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Historical Records of New Zealand Vol. II.

Mayhew to Secretary of State

Mayhew to Secretary of State.

Consulate of the United States
Bay of Islands N.Z.
February 21st 1842



I have the honor to transmit to you the Consular Returns of Ships touched at the Port and Fees* received at the Consulate from 1st January [? July] to 31st December 1841. The Accounts of monies received and paid at the Consulate on account of the U.S. Government are necessarily postponed in their transmission owing to the Continued absence of J. R. Clendon Esq Consul at the seat of the British Government, distant about 120 miles, of the Legislative Council of which he is a member. The British Government have now assumed the entire Sovereignty of these Islands and have enacted laws and levied Imposts peculiarly harassing to our Citizens and most destructive to their Commercial pursuits, whilst they offer the most marked protection to their own commerce.

Many of our Countrymen are extensively engaged in general mercantile pursuits—some in the valuable Timber trade of the Country and others in that very important branch of our Com-merce the Whale Fishery—for carrying on each of which, lands page 621 have been purchased from the Chiefs and establishments erected at a great outlay of capital but H.B.M. Government here have passed laws which they declare to be now in force, by which they assume to the Queen of Great Britain all lands purchased of Native Chiefs prior to the Treaty with the Natives and during the acknowledged Independance of the Islands of New Zealand, giving to the purchasers only so many acres of land as they may have paid for to the Native Chiefs at the rate of Five Shillings sterling per acre and reserving to itself the right of resuming such portions as it may require; whereas it is too well known that the foresight, talent and industry of our Citizens have given the sole value, as far as it regards the Natives, to the Lands they may have purchased and which the Chiefs to the present time are willing and anxious to confirm to them, declaring (now that they know the intent of the Treaty a copy of which has been forwarded to our Government) that their signatures were obtained without their understanding its purport.

The destructive effect of many of the laws passed here on our Commerce is too general to detail, the duties imposed on produce of the United States varies from Ten to Five Hundred per Centum ad valorem, which our citizens have been and still are compelled to pay even on stocks imported and in hand previous to January 1840 the time of Assumption of Sovereignty by the British Government, a proceeding so manifestly unjust that it is hoped some reparation may be sought for them at the hands of our Government. I must add that after careful examination of the accounts I estimated the loss of one American house alone, on American produce imported previous to any Duties being levied, and depending on the good faith of the acknowledged Independance of these Islands, to be at least $2500 caused by this measure.

Our whaling and shipping interests are deeply affected by the loss of rights and privileges long enjoyed by those engaged in that lucrative undertaking, inasmuch as Establishments on shore exclusively American can no longer exist and numerous Citizens hitherto, fully and profitably employed must either sacrifice their hard earned property or serve where they should be masters — those of our ships which for the last 30 years have frequented the Ports of New Zealand to refresh, refit and whale as being the most central and best adapted to their purposes of the South Sea Islands are now forced to abandon them on account of the prohibition to the disposal of any of their cargo, the assumed possession of all the Timber lands by the British Government, their leaving the repairs of our ships at their mercy and the inferred exclusive right to the Fisheries page 622 within three leagues of the land formerly enjoyed by all Nations.

I am compelled to address you at length regarding the interests of our Countrymen as I find that the Consul has received no instructions from the Government at Washington as to our relative position here with the British Government, and that in his letter he has only cursorily referred to it or to its establishment, which has now been in progressive operation for two years.

I have the honor to be


Your most obedient servant

Wm. Mayhew

Vice Consul.

* These are not given, being matters which do not concern New Zealand.