'The Trail Of Waitangi' - The Treaty

(i) An Illegal Company is Formed to Trade in Land

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It was in 1837, about 20 years after the first few Europeans began settling in New Zealand, that an association called the 'New Zealand Association' was formed in England with the object of purchasing land from the Mäori, with the aim of selling it on at a profit to intending colonists.

The general population of New Zealand in these times was in a very unstable condition, and this had been worsened by the increase of European convicts, and by the persistant desires of some Europeans to obtain very large portions of land. Some of the Mäori also were not helping the situation, and for the sake of just having a quantity of money to spend, were selling land that they often had no title to, or even selling the same piece of land more than once to any unsuspecting or inexperienced buyers.

The same people that began the New Zealand Association had already known that the country was `ripe for the plucking', and had, eleven years previously, sent two ships out with settlers aboard. They had attempted to land in the Thames area, but were put off by hostile warnings from onshore, and failing to land they then sailed on, calling in at the Bay of Islands on 26th October 1826. They afterwards proceeded on to Hokianga on the West Coast, and there a begining was made to establish a settlement, but failure soon followed.

Various Mäori chiefs and Europeans had been aware of the intent of these people for some time, and it was of such great concern to them that they had already suggested some form of protection from the British Government against the likes of the new Association. The sequence of events that took place is clearly described in some of the early missionary writings, and one of these missionaries, Henry Williams writes the following to London in January 1838:

"...I do not hesitate to say, that unless some protection be given by the British Government, the country will be bought up, and the people pass into a kind of slavery, or be utterly extirpated [eliminated]. The European settlers are making rapid advances, and are beginning to hold out threats. Should any encouragement be given to the [New Zealand] Association, thousands would immediately come and overrun the whole country; and the natives must give way. The only protection that I can propose, is that the English Government should take charge of the country as the Guardians of New Zealand; and that the Chiefs should be incorporated into a General Assembly, under the guidance of certain officers, with an English Governor at their head, and protected by a military force [not to use against the Maori', but moreso against the corrupting influences of many Europeans!], which would be the only means of giving weight to any laws which might be established, and preserve that order and peace so much required. The natives have for many years proposed that this should be done, and have repeated their desire from time to time."

These words had also been expressed by the rest of the Mission, who, in a letter to their Society in London in July 1837, had written:

"...it is with much apprehension the Mission view the introduction of the New Zealand Association, as it must terminate in the total ruin of the people as a nation, ...As yet there is no shadow of Government in this country; each tribe, and each individual of a tribe, acts independently of every one; hence those acts of violence which are committed with impunity, and the sale of land which the natives too frequently make for the sake of a little present gain without considering any future consequences.
We therefore regard, with considerable fear, the announcement of this Association, ...as they will be enabled to purchase up the whole island without fear of opposition, and consequently claim a right of sovereignty to prescribe their laws to all within their dominions. ...The natives have, in some instances, proposed to give their land in trust to the missionaries, to preserve it from being sold by any single chief, or purchased for a nominal value by any designing [scheming] European, or company of Europeans."

The missionaries in the North were finding "great difficulties in restraining the natives from disposing of their lands", and in their attempts to prevent the Mäori from being "denuded of their possessions," several large tracts of land had been already placed in trust by the missionaries for some of the tribes in the Bay of Islands.

These actions, combined with their resistance against the New Zealand Association, were starting to bring upon the missionaries (in particular Henry Williams), many accusations from certain people in the Association. Some of the earliest of these false accusations were that the missionaries themselves were making a deliberate endeavour to hinder the colonization of the country, or that they were in the business of 'land grabbing' themselves.

At one stage there was an even greater fear in New Zealand that the British Government would actually allow the New Zealand Association to proceed, and a Mr Davis writes from Waimate in May 1838:

"What the British Government will do in the present case appears uncertain. But to deliver up a country which is not their own, into the hands of a company of men whose primary object is gain, is a crime that I trust my countrymen will never be guilty of. That something ought to be done there can be no doubt; or we shall soon get about us a lawless band, who will possess a sufficient force to take possession of the country whenever they think proper ...if the country is to be colonized, let it be done by the British Government."

This statement and others, including the very real suggestion that the New Zealand Association would "eliminate the aborigines", stirred up the Associations leaders even more, causing them to further personally attack the character of the missionaries. However, it was soon learnt that the Associations application had been rejected in the House of Commons by a large majority.

This put an end to the Association, but it then revived under a new name, the "New Zealand Company" which was formed in May, 1839 with the same objective. Bolder than the Association, and with memories of their previous failure, the Company determined to commence operations, not only without an Act of Parliament, but in total defiance of the British Government.

The Company then began despatching several vessels to New Zealand with colonists on board, and formed a settlement in Cook's Straits to which they gave the name of 'Wellington'. In this, the Company were wrong-doers, their entire proceedings being unconstitutional, and illegal. .....

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