An Open Letter to Professor Paul Moon
Dear Namesake-but-not-a-relation Paul Moon,
I have read with some amazement and incredulity your comments in “Stuff” about the Treaty of Waitangi, undated but apparently about 8th February. How different it is from the model of rigorous investigation and plain speaking in your 2008 book, “This Horrid Practice” about Maori cannibalism, its colossal scale and its enduring physical and psychological effects upon them!
Most flagrant in what you write is the claim that what “was explicit in the Colonial Office’s policy for the Treaty, was that the chiefs were only being asked to surrender their sovereign powers over settlers living in New Zealand. Māori sovereignty was to remain intact. Britain had no intention to seize Māori sovereignty.” This is just nonsense!
Now what is true is that Maori chiefs had made appeals for British protection, principally from the French and from themselves, that to King William in 1831 by thirteen Ngapuhi chiefs being an example. The British had been reluctant to act beyond the nominal appointment of Busby as British Resident in 1833. “England has colonies enough” said Secretary for the Colonies, Lord Glenelg, in 1837 but by 1839 it was apparent that action could no longer be deferred.
Captain Hobson was appointed by the subsequent Secretary, Lord Normanby,“to treat with the aborigines of New Zealand in the recognition of Her Majesty’s sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands which they may be willing to place under Her Majesty’s dominion.”
On 14th August 1839, Hobson was given his 4200 word brief, written by James Stephen, Permanent Under-Secretary for the Colonies, from which this quotation is taken.
Now what does it actually say about British intentions? Early reference is made to the “not less than two thousand British subjects ... amongst them many persons of bad or doubtful character” who had settled in the country. In fact, the Maori chiefs saw a number of benefits in their presence[i] and had they seen otherwise, they had the overwhelming strength to sweep them into the sea. However, the brief continues, to state “the impossibility of Her Majesty extending to them [the Maoris] any effectual protection unless the Queen be acknowledged as the Sovereign of their country.”
And so, in his recorded words in addressing the assembled chiefs at Waitangi on 5th February 1840, Hobson said “as the law of England gives no civil powers to Her Majesty out of her dominions, her efforts to do you good will be futile unless you consent”.[ii]
This statement is unqualified and clear and is reflected in the wording of Article First of the actual treaty: “The chiefs ... cede to the Queen of England for ever the entire Sovreignty of their country.”[iii]
By comparison your claim that “What is not apparent from the wording of this article, but was explicit in the Colonial Office’s policy for the Treaty, was that the chiefs were only being asked to surrender their sovereign powers over settlers living in New Zealand. Māori sovereignty was to remain intact. Britain had no intention to seize Māori sovereignty, not because of some sentimental altruism, but purely for pragmatic reasons.” is, in my opinion, mischievous garbage – a fabrication wholly untrue in all respects.
What is true is that the resources and manpower provided to Hobson to enforce his policies were minimal, indeed derisory, as his successor, Fitzroy, realized when forced to confront the Maori perpetrators of the Wairau massacre whom he was obliged to excuse. As a necessary interim practical step, it was necessary to allow tribal practices to continue in many areas although murder was not tolerated, murderer Maketu and others being hanged.[iv] This was a very different situation from that claimed falsely by you that “Māori sovereignty was to remain intact.”
It is high time for responsible New Zealanders to sweep away the monstrous cancer of the treaty industry which has grown up amongst us and to recognize that the so-called “Treaty of Waitangi” was a semi-formal interim document by which the chiefs, with very few exceptions, successively ceded such sovereignty as they possessed to the Queen, all Maoris were granted the same rights as the people of England and the property rights of all the people of New Zealand were guaranteed. When Hobson formally declared British sovereignty over all of New Zealand in May 1840, it had done its job and should have become a footnote to history. Your assertion that “the Treaty is wide open to interpretation” is yet more nonsense.
I conclude with your own words, Paul, with which you conclude “This Horrid Practice”: “Once their improbable or tenuous arguments have thus been eliminated, whatever remains – no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular – is bare reality, and no amount of dogged argument or of arranging facts around a theoretical edifice can alter that.”[v]
[i] See Hazel Petrie, “Chiefs of Industry”, Auckland, 2006
[ii] W. Colenso “The Authentic and Genuine History of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi” available online.
[iii] Quoted here is Hobson’s undoubted final draft of 4th February 1840 with the mis-spelling “Sovreignty” of Busby who penned it.
[iv] We reflect that the extreme parsimony in allocating so few military and police resources to Hobson on the grounds that they were needed more elsewhere was a very false economy. Had half a regiment been spared from Canada where several were posted, New Zealand history would be a very different story. The tribes soon learnt that government authority could be treated with contempt, leading to the numerous subsequent tribal rebellions – falsely named “New Zealand Wars” today – which were a heavy burden upon the infant colony with consequences all too apparent today!
[v] P. Moon, “The Horrid Practice”, Penguin, 2008, ISBN 978 0 14 3006718, p. 237.
Bruce Moon is a retired computer pioneer who wrote "Real Treaty; False Treaty - The True Waitangi Story".