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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

New Zealand in 1839

New Zealand in 1839.

"Early in the year 1839, I happened to touch at New Zealand on my way to Europe by Cape Horn. During my stay of ten days (in the Bay of Islands, the headquarters of the Church Missionary Society) I saw and heard of much that was then going on in New Zealand, and especially of the wholesale manner in which unprincipled Europeans, who had been living for years in the island, had been virtually robbing the natives of their lands. The hands even of the agents of the Church Missionary Society, both clerical and laic, were anything but clean in the matter; and certain, especially of the lay missionaries, were carving out for themselves regular principalities at the expense of the natives. Mr. S. for example, a lay missionary from New South Wales, had bought a large tract of eligible land from the natives, having a frontage of from four to live miles on one of the navigable rivers in the Bay of Islands, for a check shirt and an iron pot. The same functionary had another estate which he had procured in a similar way, towards the North Cape. Mr. F. a journeyman coachmaker, and by no means of an apostolic character, in the town of Parramatta, in New South Wales, when he was engaged as a lay missionary for New Zealand on the civilizing system, which was then in operation on the Society's Mission station in that group of islands, had purchased from the natives a tract of land to the northward of the river Thames, having a frontage of from 35 to 40 miles on the east coast of the island towards the Pacific Ocean. I could not learn how far back from the sea Mr. F's. land extended, or what the valuable consideration had been for this princely estate. Messrs. C. and D., who had been originally sent out as missionary agriculturists, also on the civilizing system, had selected their domains on a somewhat similar scale with those of the S. and F. estates, on the Hokianga river, on the west coast, while those of Messrs. K. and K. were situated towards the North Cape. * * * * The Wesleyan mission of the period had been conducted on a different principle, the missionaries of that communion being expressly forbidden by the fundamental rules of their Society from acquiring property in land, or from trading in any way. But one of their number having been dismissed for immorality, had become a general merchant or trader, and was one of the largest proprietors of land, acquired of course in the way I have indicated, at the period of my visit, in the island.

"When such things were done in quarters from which something better was to have been expected, what could be looked for in others? Indeed, short as my stay was in the island, I had a whole list of cases given me on perfectly reliable authority, of the most heartless villainy on the part of the Europeans in their dealing? with the natives, and of the degradation, misery, and ruin entailed upon the New Zealanders by their means."—The Coining Event, by John Dunmore Lang, D.D., A.M., Sydney, 1870, p. 377.

From the pamphlet, already mentioned as republished, I further quote:—

"Tracts of eligible land, of sufficient extent to constitute whole earldoms in England, have already been acquired in New Zealand by the merest adventurers—by men who had arrived in the island with-out a shilling in their pockets, but who had had influence enough to obtain credit for a few English muskets, a few barrels of gunpowder, a few bundles of slops, or a few kegs of rum or tobacco in Sydney or Hobart Town. * * * It is absoluteiy distressing, my Lord, to observe the effects which this system of unprincipled rapacity is already producing upon the truly unfortunate natives of New Zealand, in conjunction with the other sources of demoralization to which I have already alluded. The more intelligent of the natives perceive and acknowledge their unfortunate condition in these respects themselves; but they are spell-bound, as it were, and cannot resist the temptation to which the offer of European produce and manufacture infallibly exposes them. Like mere children, they will give all they are worth to-day for the trinket or gew-gaw, which they will sell for the veriest trifle to-morrow. Pomare, an intelligent native chief, who speaks tolerably good English, but who has already alienated the greater part of his valuable land in the neighbourhood of the Bay of Islands, observed to one of my fellow voyagers Englishmen give us blankets, powder, and iron pots, for our land; but we soon blow away the powder, the iron pots get broken, and the blankets wear out; but the land never blows away, or wears out.' * * * Pomare offered, in the month of February last (1839), to dispose of all his right and title to Barrier Island, at the mouth of the river Thames (an island of forty miles in length, with more than one fine harbour), for a small English schooner of the value of £200.The Coming Event, pp., 322-90.

The New Zealand Land Company, out of which sprang the New Zealand Company, was formed by persons who desired to colonize or help in colonizing New Zealand systematically, without injury or injustice to the natives, and on the plan of disposing of lands to individuals at a "sufficient price" to prevent undue monopoly, and to provide funds for immigration. The British Government, by refusing to sanction such a plan by Act of Parliament, and leaving things as they were, left no alternative to this Company and its colonists, but to buy large tracts of land from the natives in the same manner as the missionaries and others; but with this difference, that they reserved one-tenth of what they thus bought as inalienable reserves for the benefit of the natives who sold, and sent out a body of colonists, of a superior class, whose settlement conferred more value on the reserves than the whole land was worth without civilized inhabi- page 31 tants. They acquired, in 1839, at the cost of some thousand pounds, the rights of large numbers of natives to tracts of land on both sides of Cook Strait; comprising the present Land Districts of Nelson, Marlborough, Wellington, Taranaki, and the greater part of Hawke's Bay. But as they sold the land at £1 per acre, and spent 15s. an acre in free immigration, besides spending a little in roads, no great amount of private monopoly was created.

In consequence of the Company's action, Captain Hobson, R.N., was sent out to negotiate with the natives for the sovereignty of New Zealand. The acquisition was nominally begun on the 4th February, 1840, by the so-called "Treaty of Waitangi," in which it was expressly provided, that the natives should for the future sell land to nobody but Her Majesty or her Representatives. Some natives of that neighbourhood signed then; and agents, chiefly Church missionaries, were despatched to procure additional signatures throughout the Islands. The arrival of a French Government expedition, consisting of a man-of-war and another ship containing colonists, caused Captain Hobson to take more prompt measures for proclaiming British Sovereignty; and New Zealand became a Colony subject to it, as a dependency of New South Wales, of which Sir George Gipps was then Governor, in 1840. Dr. Lang thus writes of those times:—

"As soon as it was noised abroad in the Colony that there was a movement in England for the colonization of New Zealand, the rage for speculation, which was then rampant in New South Wales, and could not be restrained even by the surges of the Pacific, extended itself to that group of islands; and numerous long-headed Australian colonists, either in their own person or by approved agents, entered into treaties with the native chiefs for the purchase of immense tracts of land in the islands, in order to steal a march upon Her Majesty's Government. * * * * The claims of the numerous purchasers of land from the natives of New Zealand came before the late Nominee Legislature of New South Wales, which had been authorized to make the requisite arrangements for the disposal of land in the islands, in the year 1840; and among others the claim of W. C. Wentworth, Esq., afterwards one of the Representatives of the City of Sydney in the late Legislative Council, and subsequently President of the Legislative Council under Responsible Government in 1861. Not satisfied, it seems, with being one of the largest speculators in land and stock in New South Wales, he had fixed his eyes on a principality in New Zealand; and had duly purchased, from nine of the mere handful of natives who then inhabited the Middle Island, the whole, or nearly the whole, of that island—a tract of country comprising twenty millions of acres. The bargain, or rather treaty, for the cession of this territory had been duly concluded between the high contracting parties—Mr. Went worth and a few associates on the one part, and those sovereign and independent chiefs, E Toki, E Waru, E Piti, Rauparaha, Ka Witi, &c., on the other; the deed was drawn up in due form in the English and New Zealand languages; and the parchment was signed, sealed, and delivered, in the presence of approved witnesses, by their High Mightinesses, the States of the Middle Island; to whom Mr. Wentworth had faithfully paid the stipulated number of English blankets (of the coarsest description), of Birmingham muskets (made to sell), and of kegs of gunpowder, besides a variety of other unsaleable articles from some warehouse in Sydney. Mr. Wentworth argued his claim in person before the Council, at great length and with great ability; enlarging upon the rights of sovereign and independent nations, and especially of the chiefs aforesaid, with whom he had had the distinguished honor of making the aforesaid treaty; proudly displaying his parchment with the signs manual and seals of the sovereign and independent chiefs aforesaid; and concluding by asking nothing from the generosity or charity, but demanding everything from the. justice, of England."

A Bill was brought into the Legislative Council of New South Wales for appointing Commissioners to inquire into all claims to grants of land in New Zealand; including those of the missionaries and other similar ones, those of the New Zealand Company, and that of Mr. W. Wentworth, and many others. The following is an extract from the Governor's speech at the second reading of the Bill, on 9th July, 1840.

"The injustice would be in confirming any such bargain; there would indeed be no excuse for Her Majesty's advisers, if by the exercise of her prerogative, she were to confirm lands to persons who pretend to have purchased them at the rate of four hundred acres for a penny; for that is, as near as I can calculate it, the price paid, by Mr. Wentworth and his associates, for their twenty millions of acres in the Middle Island.

A great deal was said by this gentleman, in the course of his address to the Council, of corruption and jobbery, as well as of the love which men in office have of patronage. But, gentlemen, talk of corruption! talk of jobbery! why, if all the corruption which has defiled England since the expulsion of the Stuarts, were gathered into one heap, it would not make such a sum as this; if all the jobs which have been done since the days of Sir Robert Walpole were collected into one job, they would not make so big a job as the one which Mr. Wentworth asks me to lend a hand in perpetrating; the job, that is to say, of making to him a grant of twenty millions of acres, at the rate of one hundred acres for a farthing! The Land Company of New South Wales has been said to be a job. One million of acres at eighteen pence an acre has been thought to be a pretty good job; but it absolutely page 32 vanishes into nothing by the side of Mr. Wentworth's job. * * * * It would, indeed, be the very height of hypocrisy in Her Majesty's Government to abstain, or pretend to abstain, for religion's sake, from despoiling these poor savages of their lands, and yet allow them to be despoiled by individuals being subjects of Her Majesty."

Of the Governor's speech, as a whole, Dr. Lang thus writes:—

"Sir George Gipps deserves the highest credit for the ability with which .he exposed and set aside this peculiarly barefaced and impudentelaim—setting forth at great length the practice of all European nations since the discovery of America, as well as of the United States of that country, in regard to the purchase and sale of the lands of the aborigines; shewing that the right of pre-emption was uniformly asserted by the civilizing power; exhibiting the injury and ruin that would inevitably result from a different practice; pleading also the principle which his own immediate predecessors had established, and the Imperial Government had recognised, in the case of Port Phillip; and concluding by literally overwhelming Mr. Wentworth and his notorious attempt to appropriate, for his own private benefit, the country which might otherwise become the happy home of myriads of his fellow countrymen, with a torrent of sarcasm."