Thursday, September 5, 2019
Michael Coote: Event to commemorate the death anniversary of Governor William Hobson
British naval captain William Hobson (1792 - 1842) was the first and final Lieutenant Governor (30 January 1840 - 2 May 1841) of New Zealand when it was part of the British Crown colony of New South Wales.
Thereafter he served as the first Governor (3 May 1841 - 10 September 1842) of the newly separated British Crown colony of New Zealand.
Due to the colonial governmental transition under Hobson, New Zealand avoided becoming a state or dependency of Australia.
Hobson established Auckland as his second colonial capital after evacuating Russell/Okiato in March 1841. There can be no doubt that Hobson is the founding father of New Zealand as an independent sovereign country and of Auckland as its greatest city. No other person has so singularly influenced the course of New Zealand history.
By means of the Treaty of Waitangi and general annexation of New Zealand for the British Crown, Hobson initiated the critical transformation of our country away from a lawless, primitive, isolated, thinly populated, Stone Age Maori tribal anarchy, definitively characterised by cruelty, savagery, ignorance, superstition, insecurity, expropriation, slavery, homicide, cannibalism, infanticide and internecine violence.
He laid the foundations of a modern, humane, educated, enlightened, law-abiding, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Western civilisation and liberal democracy widely admired throughout the world. Hobson set in train what New Zealand should be today in its ideal form of legal equality between "British Subjects", currently New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Hobson stood for equal rights in law and public policy.
It is often overlooked that Hobson single-handedly conceived his far-sightedly visionary reforms for New Zealand over 1837-9. In 1837 the British Resident at the Bay of Islands, James Busby, alerted then New South Wales Governor Richard Bourke of local Maori intertribal warfare. At Bourke's orders, Hobson was despatched on HMS Rattlesnake to investigate.
Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands on May 26, 1837, and thereafter travelled to other parts of New Zealand, interviewing those he met and returning to the Bay of Islands on 30 June, 1837. He subsequently wrote an expert report proposing a British Crown treaty with Maori and the establishment in New Zealand of an entity akin to the British East India Company to conduct organised export commerce.
Hobson's proposal persuaded the British government to appoint him British Consul to New Zealand and Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales in July/August 1839. Correspondingly, the successor Governor of New South Wales, George Gipps, was issued letters patent appointing him as Governor of New Zealand, making Hobson his subordinate. Hobson set out by ship from Port Jackson (now Sydney) to return again to the Bay of Islands on 29 January, 1840, in order to discharge his duties. The anniversary of his second New Zealand landfall is nowadays celebrated as Auckland Day.
September this year will mark 177 years since Hobson, the founder of Auckland and father of modern New Zealand, died of stroke complications in the city he created. Today his remains are buried in Grafton Cemetery. At least up until 1965 his death anniversary was officially commemorated but the practice seems to have fallen into abeyance.
Auckland City Early Heritage Group seeks to revive the tradition of showing respect to the Governor by convening at his grave site. The upcoming informal event will take place on the morning of Saturday, September 14, 2019. Due to parking logistics, we will first meet up at a nearby location at 10 am and walk to the site (total duration of the event approximately 1 hour). If you would like to participate, please email Michael Coote for further details: AucklandEarlyHeritage@gmail.com.
To join the conversation with Auckland City Early Heritage Group, please like our social media page here or search "Auckland City Early Heritage" on Facebook.
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