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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 23. — Copy of a Despatch from Governor Fitzroy to Lord Stanley

No. 23.
Copy of a Despatch from Governor Fitzroy to Lord Stanley.

Waiver of Right of Pre-emption.

My Lord,—

Auckland, 14th October 1844.

In the Gazette which I have the honour of transmitting with this despatch, and the enclosed Minutes of Council, is a Proclamation respecting the purchase of land from the aboriginal natives of New Zealand, which I have deemed it not only prudent but absolutely necessary to issue, in order to prevent insurrection.

During the last two years there has been a growing desire on the part of the Natives to dispose of their own lands at their pleasure, irrespective of all interference or control. This desire has been industriously stimulated by settlers, who have not only reminded them of the Treaty of Waitangi, but have continually taunted them with being no better than slaves while the provisions of that treaty remain unexecuted. The Natives have been repeatedly told that they gave to the Queen of England "te hokonga," the "option of purchase," but that they did not, in their own language, give Her Majesty the sole and exclusive right of purchase; that the words in the English treaty, "exclusive right-of pre-emption," were not translated correctly, and have a meaning not generally understood by the Natives, who never would have agreed to debar themselves from selling to private persons if the Government, on behalf of Her Majesty declined to purchase. The attention of the Natives has also been repeatedly—I may say, frequently and purposely—drawn to the last article of the Treaty of "Waitangi, by which Her Majesty "imparts to them all the rights and privileges of British subjects';" and they have been told that while unable to sell their own land that article is not executed, and that they are no better than slaves (taurekareka) taken in war, who have not the disposal of their own lands while occupied by their conquerers.

Unfortunately the facts of the case go far to support the above assertions; and to such an extent has the feeling grown among the Natives excited in every part of the country by designing persons, some of whom are aiming at the expulsion of the Government which interferes with their individual objects, that I am absolutely certain that a serious interruption of tranquillity, tending to destroy confidence "and bring on hostilities, would be the consequence of a course of conduct different fromthat which I now believe it my duty to pursue, however startling and unauthorized such a course must appear to your Lordship until explained.

To. show further how this mischief has been fomented, and would be much increased, I have to state that a number of persons have lately subscribed a large sum as a reward for whomsoever should do most towards stirring up and informing the Natives how to act together on this subject. During my visit to the southern settlements it was intended to agitate in the northern parts of the country, in order that on my return I might find the stream of popular feeling too' strong to oppose effectually.

I have known of the existence and growth of these feelings for some time", as your Lordship is aware; but I hoped that answers might have been received by me to my despatches of April last, before taking so important a step as that of allowing the aboriginal natives of New Zealand to sell their lands with out the payment of any concurrent fee to Government.

I have ventured, my Lord, to take this step in the fullest appreciation of all the consequences. It may be right that I should individually be censured for what I have done, and even-that I should be forthwith superseded. At such a decision I shall not be surprised. But, discarding personal considerations, let me entreat your Lordship to dismiss from your mind the, thought of its being possible to maintain a pacific and friendly policy towards the New Zealanders without allowing them to sell their land to private persons. By the restrictions hitherto-imposed on this-sensitive, jealous, and warlike people in respect of trade, and the unexpected barrier raised against their sale of their own lands, a general rebellion against the authority of Her Majesty has" -been already well nigh caused; and would unquestionably be raised from one end of the country to the other, if a stop were put to the limited, sale of land to private individuals, or if the restrictions of Customs regulations were re-established.

I have, &c.,

Robert Fitzroy.

The Right Hon. Lord Stanley, &c.