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The Early Journals of Henry Williams

Appendix III — Land Purchases

page 484

Appendix III
Land Purchases

So much has been said about the land purchases of Archdeacon Henry Williams, and so much unjust criticism was made during his lifetime and afterwards, that the echoes are still heard. It is not possible in the space available here to tell anything like the whole story, which, because of the egocentric attitude of Governor Grey1, became very involved. In order to put the matter in its right perspective, it is necessary only to state the reasons why land was purchased, and how its purchase was confirmed by Government decision when New Zealand became a crown colony.

There were eleven reasons why Henry Williams bought land—he had eleven children, all of whom were born before there was any likelihood of New Zealand becoming a British possession, the youngest being born in March 1837. As the children grew in numbers and in age, their future became a matter of very serious concern. The salaries of the C.M.S. missionaries were very small, and prohibited the possibility of sending their children overseas for education. From his slender resources Henry Williams did manage to send his eldest son, Edward, to complete his education in England, but he suffered a nervous breakdown and had to return to New Zealand. From the very beginning of their residence in New Zealand, the education of their children was a serious problem to the missionaries, and was settled finally by establishing a school for them in the Bay of Islands. But when the schooling was over, what then?

In his financial position there was nothing that Henry Williams could do for the future of his children but to plan that they should settle on the land and earn their living as farmers. The C.M.S. was unable to make provision for adult members of the missionaries' families, but, in order to avert absolute want, contributed the sum of £10 a year with food for each child until the age of fifteen years, when a final gift of £50 for each boy and of £40 for each girl terminated the obligation. The purpose of this gift was to enable land to be purchased for the use of the children. This was in great contrast to the liberality shown in New South Wales, where the Colonial Chaplains received a free grant of 2,560 acres for each son and 1,280 acres for each daughter. The New Zealand provision was not adequate to purchase enough land to provide a subsistence for each child, and Henry Williams had to draw upon his own humble savings to purchase more.

page 485

Even this was a risky matter. Land could be bought from the Maoris, but there was no legal security of tenure. The only security was the intention and mood of the Maoris, who had the power to take the land back by force at any time they wished; but in this case they never so wished. Moreover what was purchased was poor land. which had been intensively cultivated by its Maori owners, and their practice was to use land until it was exhausted, and then to abandon it for fresh land. There were no buildings, no fences, no roads. The nearest market for produce, save the little village of Kororareka and the shipping harboured there, was New South Wales.

What was such land worth? “Parliamentary evidence proves that they [the missionaries] paid at the rate of 3s. 4d. per acre. The Government purchases, during the administration of Willoughby Shortland, Esq., were effected at the rate of threepence per acre, and his instructions were explicit not to exceed that price.”2 The purchases of the New Zealand Company averaged about a halfpenny per acre.

When the Government began to investigate all purchases of Maori land prior to 1840, the land purchased by Henry Williams for his children was reduced from 11,000 to 7,010 acres, but later this was increased to 9,000 acres. The document making this award is as follows:3

Reasons given by Mr Commissioner Fitzgerald to his Excellency Governor Fitzroy for extending the Commissioner's award in favour of the Rev. Henry Williams, having been authorised thereto by the Governor and Council.
Report on the Claims of the Reverend Henry Williams
Acres Acres
No 245 Claim for 1000 Commissioner's award 468
No 245a Claim for 3000 Commissioner's award 2292
No 245b Claim for 500 Commissioner's award 232
No 245c Claim for 4000 Commissioner's award 1813
No 245d Claim for 500 Commissioner's award 420
No 245e Claim for 2000 Commissioner's award 1785
11000 7010
The Rev. Henry Williams makes these several claims on behalf of eleven children (many of whom are grown up and settled on their land) and himself. The deeds are drawn up in their favour as well as his, therefore they may be considered, to a certain extent, distinct and separate claims. The father appears to have paid on behalf of himself and children enough to entitle them to (22,131) twenty-two thousand one hundred and thirty-one acres, according page 486 to the ordinary scale; and considering the well known character and services of the father, and the qualification of the children as colonists, I respectfully recommend to the Governor, being authorised thereto by the Executive Council, that the full amount claimed in each case be granted, excepting on No 245c, from which 2,000 acres should be deducted, leaving a total of (9,000) nine thousand acres.

Robert Appleyard Fitzgerald,

Land Office,
June 10, 1844
Approved and authorised, July 14, 1844.

Robert Fitzroy.

[Note: This grant was made by Governor Fitzroy, but issued by Governor Grey]

Briefly stated the reasons for the justness and regularity of Archdeacon Williams's land purchases are:4


They were made for his children as the only available means of providing for them.


When bought, the land had no market value except for use.


Only what was regarded as necessary for use was bought.


The price paid was very large as compared with that which was afterwards offered by the Government.


The family were maintained in possession by the Maori vendors during Heke's rebellion, notwithstanding efforts to persuade the Maori that they had been wronged.


The regularity of his purchases, and his dealings with the Maori vendors, were beyond reproach.

1 Carleton, vol II, p159ff; W. W., “Letter to the Right Hon. the Earl of Chichester.”; Carleton, A Page from the History of New Zealand; McLintock, Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, p199ff.

2 Chamerovzow, The New Zealand Question, p266.

3 See also Parliamentary Papers of 1845, p100.

4 Carleton, vol. II, p23.