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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Treaty of Waitangi

Treaty of Waitangi,

which was made with the natives 5th February, 1840. Immediately on his arrival, Governor Hobson invited all the principal chiefs to meet him at Waitangi (Weeping Water). Great preparations were forthwith made, a suitable platform erected and sheltered by a marquee, from which floated gay bunting, and at the appointed time a strange procession marched to the place of meeting. First come the half-dozen mounted constables or police (who had accompanied the Governor), these dismounted to make fast their horses to the wooden platform. Then come two companies of marines, with knapsacks, rifles, gaiters, &c., followed by the jolly tars, or bluejackets, with wide breeches, and clothing generally loose and comfortable, the whole forming, together with the warship Herald, in the Bay, a representation of the power and organisation of the white man not before realised in these parts. The marines and bluejackets form into lines, along the centre of which, while arms are presented, walks the newly-appointed Governor, Captain Hobson, in the uniform of a commander of H.M. Royal Navy; blue trousers, with long broad stripe of delicate gold lace, swallow-tailed coat with gay epaulettes, cocked hat bedecked with more gold lace, the whole eclipsed by the full-dress sword, with its scabbard of gold. His Excellency's suite accompany him, in the persons of Mr. Busby (late British Resident), Lieutenant Shortland, R.N. (the new Colonial Treasurer), the new Police Magistrate and Attorney-General, the Collector of Customs, and two other gentlemen, all specially got up for the occasion, either in uniform or in the glories of dress coats, white waistcoats, black stocks, and bell-toppers. The procession is completed by the Missionaries of the Church and Wesleyan Missionary Societies, and several Roman Catholic Priests.

This august assembly now formally seat themselves on page 14 the platform, around which are congregated the great chiefs, who sit, according to their usage, upon the ground in front. The dresses of the Maories are various, from the flaxen mat to the gaudy blanket brought by the white man (Pakeha), and while a few have indulged in tweed suits, and others are crowned with well-worn, if not battered stove-pipe hats, the many are in full native costume of flax robes, feathers, and greenstone ornaments. A few Europeans and Pakeha Maories complete the great gathering, and all are anxious for the ceremony to commence. The Rev. Henry Williams, of the Church Missionary Society, attends as interpreter to His Excellency, who now stands up and opens the proceedings with a few kindly remarks, which are translated to the natives. The deed embodying the treaty is then read by the Governor, and duly interpreted; and forthwith the important discussion commences. One old warrior chief arises, and lays aside his finely-woven robe, appearing with a short petticoat of plaited flax, and harangues the assembled multitude in their own tongue. He describes Her Majesty the Queen as a great woman chief, living many days' sail away over the big waters, whose enormous canoes have great white wings like the wings of the albatross, which sweep the seas. Her tribe consists of vast multitudes of warriors, and peoples whose faces are white but whose hearts are strong. Her people are so clever that they can make beautiful mantles or mats (pointing to the high coloured blanket), and colour them with all the bright colours of the rainbow, or make them white as the snow on Tongariro Mountain. They have big quarries of hard black stone, from which they make hard sharp axes, swords, nails, and muskets; they have large quantities of fire arms, and great piles of gunpowder. This mighty chief has sent her warriors and her priests over the great waters to make peace with the Maori, and to offer them protection from other peoples who may come across the big waters, and who speak strange tongues, for first her people came and lived with them and taught them many things and were friendly, and now this great chief has been sent to them to make a lasting peace. She says to them by the mouth of this great chief she has sent, "Give me your land and I will give it back to you. Call me your head, and your land will remain with you." This is Kapai (good). This mighty chief will send her people, who are page 15 strong, with their belching guns, as big as the flaming torch of Tarawera, she will protect the Maori from the other white chiefs who come in their big canoes. She only asks the shadow of the land, the land itself will remain with them. They must accept her offer and be friendly. He stops in his walk, his gesticulations cease, and with great dignity he assumes his robe and his seat. Before he is fairly seated a young agile chief springs to his feet and opposes the proposition; he pictures in his figurative language the stout gnarled puriri tree (a very hard wood) with a cut made in it, into which is inserted the wedge, then whack, whack with the mallet, and the tree splits with a loud crack. So will it be with the Maori if he gives even the shadow of the land to so great a chief and so strong a tribe—they will only come and take all. Speaker after speaker follows till the day is nearly gone, and no result seems likely to be achieved. Then stands up one of the missionaries and reminds them of the long time he has been with them, and the number of friends he has made among them, and urges them to accept this good offer, which, instead of making them powerless, will add to their power. When he has finished, another chief rises, and, addressing His Excellency in a most excited manner, vows that they will never consent to part with their lands. The manner and gesticulations of this chief seem so determined and defiant that the next speaker taxes him with incivility to the Governor. Thus charged as an offender, and still excited, the chief leaps on to the platform and extends his hand in friendship to Governor Hobson. This is received with a roar of delighted mirth from the natives and loud cheers from the Europeans as His Excellency gravely rises and shakes hands with the chief, and then announces that he will allow three days for the chiefs of the tribes to discuss the matter themselves, and make up their minds. The argument that they were only parting with the shadow of the land took effect, and the next day the Governor was informed that the chiefs had come to a favourable decision.

The assemblage forthwith gathered again on and around the platform; the rolls of parchment were produced, and the celebrated treaty of Waitangi was executed with the sign manual of fifty of the biggest chiefs in the presence of 400 lesser chiefs. Of the fifty, but one, Waka Nene, signed his name; the rest affixed a cross or placed page 16 a representation of a portion of their tattoo marks instead of a signature. Subsequently the number of signatories was increased to 512 within six months, and thus British law was formally brought into force in New Zealand. It is not within the scope of my sphere to follow up the most interesting history of the gradual settlement of the country, nor to review the progress of the civilisation of the natives, and certainly not to trace the rise of the sad war between the Maories and Europeans, nor the black details and horrors of the years of its continuance. I gladly pass from the bare mention of such as these to my theme.