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'The Trail Of Waitangi' - The Treaty

(iii) The Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

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The following is an extract from Henry Williams paper "Early Recollections", starting with Captain Hobson's arrival in New Zealand :

"..I was at the Waimate, ...and on the night of 30th January (1840), I was called up by a messenger from the Bay to say that Captain Hobson had arrived in the Bay as Governor of New Zealand, and that he wished to see me as early as possible.

In the afternoon, I went on board H.M.S. "Herald," and was met by Captain Hobson, to whom I expressed my gratification that he had arrived to put an end to the great excitement then existing in the purchase of lands, caused by the sudden influx of Europeans arriving by every vessel from the Colonies.

At this date we had not received any intimation that the [British] Government were contemplating any movement towards New Zealand, though much correspondence had transpired in consequence of the proceedings of the New Zealand Company. Captain Hobson had not been twelve hours at anchor before the Europeans commenced using most infamous and exciting language to the natives: - that the country was now gone to the Queen, and that Maori were taurekareka [slaves].

On the 4th of February, about 4 o'clock p.m., Captain Hobson came to me with the Treaty of Waitangi in English, for me to translate into Mäori, saying that he would meet me in the morning at the house of the British resident, Mr Busby; when it must be read to the chiefs assembled at 10 o'clock. In this translation it was necessary to avoid all expressions of the English for which there was no expressive term in the Mäori, preserving entire the spirit and tenor of the treaty, - which, though severely tested, has never been disturbed, notwithstanding that many in power have endeavoured to do so.

On a careful examination of the translation of the treaty by Mr. Busby, he proposed to substitute the word whakaminenga for huihuinga, which was done and approved of. A fair copy being made by myself, I was requested by Captain Hobson to read and explain the same to the meeting of chiefs in a large marquee prepared for the meeting, at which was a large assemblage of Europeans. In the midst of profound silence I read the treaty to all assembled. I told all to listen with care, explaining clause by clause to the chiefs; giving them caution not to be in a hurry, but telling them that we, the Missionaries, fully approved of the treaty, that it was an act of love towards them on the part of the queen, who desired to secure to them their property, rights and privileges. That this treaty was as a fortress for them against any foreign power which might desire to take possession of their country, as the French had taken possession of Otiaiti.

Hone Heke [nephew to Hongi Hika] was the first chief who signed the treaty, telling the people he fully approved, as they all needed protection from any foreign power, and knew the fostering care of the Queen of England towards them. He urged them to sign the treaty. Certain chiefs under the influence of the Popish Bishop and priests stood aloof, and there was some opposition to the protection of the Queen. Captain Hobson expressed to me his fears, lest they should not sign the treaty. I cautioned him against showing any anxiety, but advised him to recommend it for their consideration, and say that he would meet them in three days to hear their decision. Some interruption was given by certain Europeans.

There was considerable excitement amongst the people, greatly increased by the irritating language of ill disposed Europeans, stating to the chiefs, in most insulting language, that their country was gone, and they now were only taurekareka. Many came to us to speak upon this new state of affairs. We gave them but one version, explaining clause by clause, showing the advantage to them of being taken under the fostering care of the British Government, by which act they would become one people with the English, in the suppression of wars, and every lawless act; under one Sovereign, and one Law, human and divine. The people, on being dismissed, after many had spoken, to consider this grave question, were requested to re-assemble on the third day to declare their views, as the question was for their own benefit, to preserve them as a people.

On the following morning, the 6th, the chiefs asked me why there need be any further delay, as their minds were made up, and they were desirous of concluding at once and returning to their respective places. I communicated this desire to Captain Hobson, who immediately landed and met the chiefs in the hall of audience, the large tent erected for that purpose, and business was resumed at 11 o'clock.

In the course of a few minutes, the French Bishop, attended by one of his Priests, passed forward to the side of Captain Hobson, and requested, .."that the natives might be informed that all who should join the Catholic (Roman) religion should have the protection of the British Government." Captain Hobson, with much blandness of gesture and expression observed, "Most certainly," and expressed his regret that he had not made known his wish earlier, "as your desire should have been embodied in the treaty." Catch the idea! This was to be a stipulation between the Queen of England, and the natives of New Zealand! At this date, Captain Hobson was under the delusion that the Roman Catholics carried the sway amongst the Mäories. Captain Hobson, after his reply to the Romish Bishop, requested that I would explain the desire of M. Pompallier to the chiefs.

I observed to Captain Hobson, that I presumed the same protection would be afforded to all. He said "Certainly." I asked, "What need then such an announcement, if all would have protection alike?" Captain Hobson observed that, as the Bishop wished the communication to be made, he should feel obliged by my delivering the same to the meeting.

I accordingly commenced, but could not proceed, finding that it was somewhat of a tough morsel, requiring care. I therefore took paper, and as this very grave announcement was for the benefit of all, I wrote as follows, taking the various Missions in their order of establishment in the country...

'The Governor wishes you to understand that all the Mäories who shall join the Church of England, who shall join the Wesleyans, who shall join the Pikopo or Church of Rome, and those who retain their Mäori practices, shall have the protection of the British Government.'

This paper I handed to the Governor, who passed it to the Romish Bishop. Having perused it, he said, "Oh yes, that will do." I then read out this document, which was received in silence. No observation was made upon it; Mäories, and others, being at perfect loss to understand what it could mean. M. Pompallier then rose, bowed to the Governor, and retired from the meeting.

After some little discussion and trifling opposition, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and the meeting dispersed.

No chief raised any objection that he did not understand the treaty, though some held back under the influence of the Romish Bishop and his priests.".....

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