Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bruce Moon:The Power of Language

April this year (2016) will mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.  Just five years earlier, the King James Bible was published in England.  Millions of people around the world today continue to enjoy the works of Shakespeare and take comfort and advice from that Bible's words.  They can do this because those works were written in English 400 years ago and understood today.

Less than half that time in the past, Royal Navy Captain William Hobson was charged to obtain cession of New Zealand to the British Queen, given the "free intelligent consent of the natives, expressed according to their established usages" to whom he was to "frankly and unreservedly explain ... the reasons which should urge them to acquiesce."[1]  Those words are clear to us today.  As an experienced naval officer, Hobson was accustomed to giving orders to men of little education – often lives depended on it.   He will therefore have understood exactly how he was to proceed.

After several days spent in producing preliminary drafts, Hobson succeeded, on 4th February 1840, in producing a final draft in English of a document of cession which stated clearly and precisely the conditions to be agreed.[2]
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Missionaries everywhere knew full well that to convey their message to native peoples, it was necessary to explain it in the language of those people.  It was essential for them to learn that language.  Seventeen years resident in New Zealand, Henry Williams was very competent in the Ngapuhi dialect of the Maori language and his son, Edward, was considered a scholar "without peer".

They were therefore an ideal pair to translate Hobson's draft to a document in Maori to present to the chiefs for their acceptance.[3]  This they did on the night of 4/5th February.  Just one word, a minor change, was altered the following morning when it was reviewed by Busby and others.

Later that day, both documents were presented to a memorable meeting of chiefs and European settlers.  Nobody expressed doubts about their saying the same thing.  When shown both in 2000, Ngapuhi elder Graham Rankin declared that the meaning of both was the same.[4]

The recorded words of chiefs at Waitangi and elsewhere later show beyond reasonable doubt that they understood that by signing they would cede sovereignty to the Queen.  They signed.  In return, all Maoris became fully-entitled British subjects, a magnificent gift, and the possession of their property of all the people of New Zealand was guaranteed.[5]

That is all – clear and unequivocal – as when it was written 176 years ago.  Yet many people today claim the contrary, amongst them Geoffrey Palmer who went on about "Delphic utterances"[6] and stated that the treaty "is so vague that that is its primary problem".[7]  That is utter nonsense and, in my view, given his prominence, culpably wrong.  It gives an excuse to those people who have twisted the treaty beyond recognition for material gain; millions in taxpayer assets being given to them for bogus reasons which fly in the face of what the Treaty truly said.  Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand.

[1]     The Colonial Secretary's brief to Hobson, 14th August 1839.
[2]     This document has been dubbed the "Littlewood Treaty", a name used by treaty-twisters to discount it "because it was not signed", an entirely spurious reason for dismissing it.
[3]     C. Orange chooses to deny this
[4]     In fact and significantly, the Williams had inserted the additional word "Maori" in Article third because it applied only to Maoris, unlike Article second which applied to all the people of New Zealand.  This difference is clear evidence that the "Littlewood Treaty" pre-dated the actual treaty and is not a later translation from the Maori, despite the claims by Orange and others that this is the case.  All actual translations known to me include the word "Maori" or a synonym.
[5]     Provision for sale of Maori land only to the Crown was included for their protection but soon became a dead letter.
[6]     In an interview with Kim Hill, date uncertain
[7]     ABC interview, 6th March 1990.


ONZF said...

The Treaty of Waitangi gave sovereignty over the Islands of New Zealand and tangata Maori the same rights as the people of England under the dependency and laws of New South Wales between 21 May 1840 and the 3 May 1841. The Treaty of Waitangi had served its purpose by 21 May 1840 when New Zealand became British soil and was filed away where it should have remained. New South Wales extended its boundaries to include all the Island of New Zealand.

The Treaty made no laws, it just put New Zealand under the dependency and laws of New South Wales. Both Hobson and Queen Victoria did not have the power or authority to give tangata Maori special rights in the Treaty not already enjoyed by all the people of New Zealand and none were given.

Queen Victoria's Royal Charter/Letter Patent dated the 16 November 1840 separated New Zealand from New South Wales on 3 May 1841 and made New Zealand into a British Colony with its own Governor and Constitution to form a legal government to make laws with courts and judges to enforce those laws, irrespective of race, colour or creed, but under the watchful eye of Great Britain.

Any allege claims against the Crown can only be against the laws of New Zealand and not the Treaty of Waitangi. “Some have said these confiscations were wrong and that they contravened the Treaty of Waitangi, but the chief’s placed in the hands of the Queen of England, the Sovereignty and authority to make laws. It was their chiefs who ceded that right to the Queen. The confiscations cannot therefore be objected to in the light of the Treaty”. Sir Apirana Ngata, past Minister of Native Affairs, 1922.

Unfortunately, the Royal Charter, our true Founding Document and first Constitution is completely ignored by our governments and historians.

Geoffrey said...

Thank you for your penetrating observations. Language is indeed everything. It is well past time that the so-called unintended consequences of a throw-away Palmer inclusion of the 'Principles of the Treaty' in the the RMA were reined in.

It is time too that the power of the Waitangi Tribunal to make recommendations ceased being interpreted as an authority to reach a legal 'finding'.

This foolishness has gone on for far too long. So long in fact that many of our Parliamentarian seem actually to believe the tripe that they utter concerning yet another set of Principles of the Treaty. Or yet another interpretation of what the Chiefs really meant when they said, "Please Victoria, protect us from the guns of other iwi".

Anonymous said...

"This document has been dubbed the "Littlewood Treaty", a name used by treaty-twisters to discount it "because it was not signed", an entirely spurious reason for dismissing it."

There is no English language Treaty, despite the fact that 39 overflow chief's signatures were placed in the blank space at the foot of one of James Freeman's unauthorised "Royal Style" versions because the space at the foot of a printed Maori version signed at Waikato Heads had all been filled up by earlier signatories.

The Treaty that was presented orally to all signatories was the Maori language version, and it was this that they assented to, NZ's "true and only" Treaty.

One wouldb't expect the Littlewood Treaty to be signed, because it was the final draft from which the official Maori version was produced. Orange et. al. are simply being disingenuous in suggesting it can be discarded on the basis it wasn't signed.

The Treaty was a treaty of cession. Like all such, it concerns itself with what rights were to be given up to the incoming sovereign and what rights were to be protected.

Once it was signed, all Maori (not just the chiefs) became subjects (not partners) of the Crown. While an interesting historical curiousity, the Treat was now as relevant as a used table napkin after a meal. It was never intended to be a founding document, and as pointed out in the first comment above, the Royal Charter/Letters Patent has vastly more claim to being our founding document.

The Treaty of Waitangi 1840 was never intended by any of the parties to a Constitutional document. The words "partnership," "principles" and "living document" simply do not appear.

It is what we might call "the Treaty of Wellington [aka the State Owned Enterprises Act] 1986 that has given rise to all this nonsense and allowed revisionist liars to puff the Treaty up into something that it is not.

paul scott said...

Yes, the Treaty, a simple few sentences deliberately reconstructed by pontificates like Geoff Palmer.
Of course the gibberish which is the RMA, should have been rescinded in its entirety years ago.
We once had a Christchurch City Councillor who claimed she understood the RMA and could recite it off by memory. Some one actually listened to her, and she had read the thing back to front; and it made more sense that way.