James Busby, T.L.Buick

British reply to 1831 Maori petition for protection

A few months back I visited St Paul’s Church in Paihia, the site of the original Anglican Church Mission.

This plaque at the gate talks about the petition by which 13 Ngapuhi chiefs asked King William IV for protection.

They had three main fears:

  • further revenge by the French for the massacre of Marion du Fresne and his crew in 1772
  • revenge by tribes (now well-armed) for the rampages of Ngapuhi when only they had muskets
  • troublesome British escaped convicts and the like in lawless Kororareka.

The King’s response was to send James Busby to the Bay of Islands to live among the Maori as British Resident.

Below is Busby’s address to the hospitable crowd of 600 Maori who welcomed him to New Zealand.

I particularly draw your attention to the second half of the address, beginning “At one time Great Britain differed but little from what New Zealand is now.”

As usual, I’ve done my best to break up the continuous paragraph to make it easier on your eyes — but clearly plain English was not yet in vogue.

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MY FRIENDS –You will perceive by the letter which I have been honoured with the commands of the King of Great Britain to deliver to you, that it is His Majesty’s most anxious wish that the most friendly feeling should subsist between his subjects and yourselves, and how much he regrets that you should have cause to complain of the conduct of any of his subjects.

To foster and maintain this friendly feeling, to prevent as much as possible the recurrence of those misunderstandings and quarrels which have unfortunately taken place, and to give a greater assurance of safety and just dealing both to his own subjects and the people of New Zealand in their commercial transactions with each other, these are the purposes for which His Majesty has sent me to reside amongst you, and I hope and trust that when any opportunities of doing a service to the people of this country shall arise I shall be able to prove to you how much it is my own desire to be the friend of those amongst whom I am come to reside.

It is the custom of His Majesty the King of Great Britain to send one or more of his servants to reside as his representatives in all those countries in Europe and America with which he is on terms of friendship, and in sending one of his servants to reside amongst the chiefs of New Zealand, they ought to be sensible not only of the advantages which will result to the people of New Zealand by extending their commercial intercourse with the people of England, but of the honour the King of a great and powerful nation like Great Britain has done their country in adopting it into the number of those countries with which he is in friendship and alliance.

I am, however, commanded to inform you that in every country to which His Majesty sends his servants to reside as his representatives, their persons and their families, and all that belongs to them are considered sacred.

Their duty is the cultivation of peace and friendship and goodwill, and not only the King of Great Britain, but the whole civilised world would resent any violence which his representative might suffer in any of the countries to which they are sent to reside in his name.

I have heard that the chiefs and people of New Zealand have proved the faithful friends of those who have come among them to do them good, and I therefore trust myself to their protection and friendship with confidence.

All good Englishmen are desirous that the New Zealanders should be a rich and happy people, and it is my wish when I shall have erected my house that all the chiefs will come and visit me and be my friends.

We will then consult together by what means they can make their country a flourishing country, and their people a rich and wise people like the people of Great Britain.

At one time Great Britain differed but little from what New Zealand is now.

The people had no large houses nor good clothing nor good food.

They painted their bodies and clothed themselves with the skins of wild beasts; every chief went to war with his neighbour, and the people perished in the wars of their chiefs even as the people of New Zealand do now.

But after God sent His Son into the world to teach mankind that all the tribes of the earth are brethren, and that they ought not to hate and destroy, but to love and do good to one another, and when the people of England learned His words of wisdom, they ceased to go to war against each other, and all the tribes became one people.

The peaceful inhabitants of the country began to build large houses because there was no enemy to pull them down.

They cultivated their land and had abundance of bread, because no hostile tribe entered into their fields to destroy the fruit of their labours.

They increased the numbers of their cattle because no one came to drive them away.

They also became industrious and rich, and had all good things they desired.

Do you then, O chiefs and tribes of New Zealand, desire to become like the people of England ?

Listen first to the Word of God which He has put into the hearts of His servants the missionaries to come here and teach you.

Learn that it is the will of God that you should all love each other as brethren, and when wars shall cease among you then shall your country flourish.

Instead of the roots of the fern you shall eat bread, because the land shall be tilled without fear, and its fruits shall be eaten in peace.

When there is an abundance of bread we shall labour to preserve flax and timber and provisions for the ships which come to trade, and the ships that come to trade will bring clothing and all other things which you desire.

Thus you become rich, for there are no riches without labour, and men will not labour unless there is peace, that they may enjoy the fruits of their labour.

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Thanks to my wonderful volunteer researcher Trina for alerting me to this excerpt from T.L. Buick’s 1914 book The Treaty of Waitangi.

You can download the whole book here.