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How the Treaty of Waitangi was Reinvented After 1975

By: Martin Doutré Part 2 of five

Without adequate supervision or a stringent directive to remain singularly consistent in despatching only one strictly worded English version of the Treaty of Waitangi, Freeman produced several variations. For these, he simply dipped, at will, into the 12-pages of rough, superseded and now obsolete draft notes in his possession and extracted text to make ad-hoc composite treaty versions. During February and March of 1840, he mostly used Hobson’s Preamble. Thereafter, he went through a phase where he tagged on the Preamble he, himself, had produced around the 1st of February 1840, when Hobson was too jaded and ill to attempt working out treaty draft text himself. After April 1840, Freeman manufactured at least 3 of these new treaty versions for despatch using his own grandiose Preamble, ‘Her Most Gracious Majesty Victoria Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland regarding with deep solicitude…’ etc. He seems to have been quite enamoured with this text and, possibly, wished to be immortalised by submitting this, his own literary creation, to dwell forevermore amidst the illustrious, treaty related papers of the British Parliament or U.S. Congressional archives.

James Stuart Freeman seemed to have a fixation upon providing Hobson’s superiors with English treaty texts that rose above the coarse and simple wording of the final draft. Knowing that the important founding documents of the colony were to come under the critical gaze of British lords and ladies or, perhaps, Queen Victoria herself, Freeman seemed intent upon upgrading the otherwise simplistic, crude, final English text into suitably pretentious language, befitting high stations of the realm. The more beautiful embellishments of language had, earlier, been lopped off the draft texts at the last meeting, when the final draft was severely edited-back and refined for fluid translation into the Maori language. Buick paraphrases Reverend Henry Williams in writing:

The task of translation was necessarily a difficult one, it being essential that there should be a complete avoidance of all expressions of the English for which there was no equivalent in Maori (see The Treaty of Waitangi, by T.L. Buick, pg. 113).

Seemingly, in Freeman’s view, just because it became essential to couch treaty terminology in pidgin English for translation purposes, this didn’t mean that it had to so remain when presented to Her Majesty.*

Whereas uninhibited literary licence could have no ill effect when reporting mundane events, and one could use flamboyant phrases with impunity, it was an altogether different matter when identifying the precise text of an internationally recognised treaty compact. Freeman, seemingly, couldn’t make that distinction or connection. Perhaps he thought that, if he despatched a treaty text that was too crude or simplistic in its wording, then that, by consequence, might diminished the dignity of Hobson’s office in the estimation of his superiors and reflect badly on Freeman as secretary. A man educated at Eton and Oxford was capable of much better and, moreover, the old school tie demanded as much. Freeman never showed any inclination towards providing the final draft version for despatch, but sent away a variety of other composite versions, in more dignified or highfalutin language. On a couple of occasions Hobson initialled the top corner of a treaty despatch document, which was otherwise fully in Freeman’s handwriting. Other times, Freeman simply signed Hobson’s name for him.

*Footnote: Dr. Phil Parkinson refers to: ‘the formal Royal Style (quite properly employed by Freeman, and not an eccentric case of ‘pride’ as you seem to assert) and sent to Gipps in the despatches of the 5th and 6th February and sent on the 8th February in the Samuel Winter before being forwarded to Normanby on the 19th, now at PRO CO 209/7, 13-15. (Letter to Martin Doutré, 1st November 2004). To which one must respond that, the injection of a ‘formal Royal Style’ copy into the treaty process could be considered fine, as long as that version is accorded no legal validity and, by its very existence, doesn’t nullify the original Tiriti O Waitangi contract. The internationally-accepted legal agreement, which had to be solely in the Maori language, was set in stone at the assembly on the 6th of February 1840 and can’t be tampered with or affected by Freeman trying to accommodate the perceived delicate sensibilities of royalty. If such catering was considered necessary or traditional, then it was up to Freeman to ensure that, never the twain shall meet and to isolate the contract from the poetry as two separate entities.

Once Hobson had secured a treaty with the Maori chiefs he seemed patently disinterested in what versions Freeman was manufacturing for despatch to Australia, Britain or the United States. As far as Hobson was concerned, there was only one (de facto) treaty contract and it was written fully in the Maori language. English versions were simply drafts or back-translations and no English version was ever intended, by either Hobson’s government or Shortland’s interim government, to be signed by the chiefs.

(1) Bad luck about that horseshoe. After Lieutenant Governor William Hobson had his stroke and lay paralysed and despondent, trying to recuperate, he was obliged to hand the reins of power to Willoughby Shortland. All of Hobson’s hopes were dashed and his plans were in disarray. He could no longer figure on being present at treaty assemblies around the county where, as the Queen’s duly appointed representative, his presence could wield much influence in inducing the chiefs to sign the treaty. Reverend Richard Davis and his family were looking after Hobson at Waimate and nursing him back to strength. After about the 15th of March 1840 Hobson’s main focus was to attempt to pencil a short note to his wife Eliza in Australia, using his paralysed, but slowly improving, right hand.

At some point at the height of Hobson’s early illness and paralysis down his right side, James Stuart Freeman had placed one of his ad-hoc, composite versions of the treaty in English (Royal Style) under Hobson’s nose. This was, without doubt, while Hobson lay stricken aboard H.M.S. Herald, between the 1st and 4th of March, before Hobson was returned to the Bay of Islands from the Waitemata. Hobson attempted to add a signature using his left hand, but the result was terrible and the signature was the worst Hobson ever executed on any known document. Freeman had, obviously, written this English language treaty document up for despatch overseas, as none such were ever intended to be sent by the government for use at the treaty signing assemblies. Hobson’s abysmal signature, assuredly, rendered the document worthless and a reject, as, if it had of been sent to either Australia or Britain, the poor signature could have accomplished little else but convince Hobson’s superiors that he was too ill to fulfil the most basic physical demands of office. It’s very doubtful that Hobson would have agreed to let the document be sent anywhere, other than to the nearest waste paper basket.

It seems very likely that the document was left by Secretary Freeman near the portage* in Waitemata area and later came into the possession of Captain Gordon Brown. The captain was transporting much printed matter to Reverend Robert Maunsell, located at Waikato Heads, and passed through the Waitemata en-route to Maunsell’s station by mid-March 1840. Either by overland courier, sent by Freeman or Captain Gordon Brown’s boat, Maunsell received the defective English document well before the 11th of April 1840. Inasmuch as Brown’s boat left the Bay of Islands to go to Thames (Waitemata Harbour) simultaneous to H.M.S. Herald leaving the Waitemata to return to the Bay of Islands, it seems that the two vessels were like “ships passing in the night” and never made contact. We know the document was left at Tamaki on the 4th of March with instructions by The Secretary (Freeman) that it be taken to Maunsell at Port Waikato.

Reverend Robert Maunsell himself tells us that Freeman sent the (reject and worthless) document, which he’d personally put a lot of work into creating, to Reverend Robert Maunsell at Waikato Heads mission station. Maunsell, in a letter to the Lay Secretary of 30th March 1840 made mention that “the Secretary” (Freeman) had sent the document to him. (See R Maunsell to Lay Secretary, 30 March 1840, in ATL-Micro-MS-Coll-04-33 (CMS Archives CN/M v. 12 pp 308-309). *Footnote: The portage at Tamaki in Auckland was a thin strip of land dividing the East Coast (Pacific Ocean) from the West Coast (Tasman Sea). At this porterage boats, including small cargo vessels, were lugged, hauled or carried (porter is French for to carry) to the waters of the opposite coastal estuaries. The region of Portage Road, Auckland, is where this activity occurred. If Captain Gordon Brown was sailing, via Waitemata, all the way to Reverend Maunsell, then he was obliged to have his boat hauled over the porterage, just like William Cornwallis Symonds did with his vessels about three weeks after Brown. Of the 4th of March 1840 Treaty assembly meeting convened at Tamaki, Felton Mathew wrote to his wife: ‘Last evening we received a communication from Mr. Williams that the natives had assembled. Accordingly, at 7 this morning, Cooper, myself and Captn Nias sailed down to the place of rendezvous where the ceremony of signing the treaty (as it is called) was soon performed and we have now just returned on board at 3 p.m.’ Captain Nias makes an account of this in his report, mentioning ‘Messrs. Williams and Fairburne’ organising a meeting and his attending it with Felton Mathew and George Cooper. Freeman’s handwriting appears on this Maori treaty signed on the 4th of March attesting to the fact that he was in attendance on the day, as there was no need for him to remain on board the H.M.S. Herald. Hobson was being medically attended to by Dr. Alexander Lane, M.D. & ship’s Surgeon.

Upon the return of stricken Hobson to the Bay of Islands, Willoughby Shortland, Acting Lieutenant Governor, organised a treaty-signing programme in earnest and was choosing experienced emissaries to go to particular Christian missions, along assigned routes, in behalf of the government. The appointees were to work in with C.M.S or Wesleyan missionaries and gain their cooperation as fluent interpreters in the local tongue or dialect, at treaty meetings before the district chiefs. For this purpose, a series of treaty documents, all in the Maori language, had been prepared throughout February and most of these had been pre-signed by Hobson prior to his stroke. James Stuart Freeman, who suffered from the disadvantage of being a non-Maori speaker, had painstakingly written up the majority of these large and beautifully executed documents.

Copying the Maori language correctly must have required tremendous concentration and it’s very likely that Freeman worked from a master copy created by Reverend Henry Williams. That self-same master document is probably the unsigned treaty, presently in the collection of the Catholic Diocese in St. Mary’s Bay, Auckland. There is no record of how many treaty documents were made, but 7 large handwritten copies and 1 printed copy became the repositories of about 500 chiefly signatures from around the country. Freeman’s mistaken, orphan, English copy, which mistakenly found its way to Port Waikato, was used there in no other capacity but to accommodate the overflow of signatures that would not fit onto the Printed Maori sheet presented by Maunsell on the day.

The instructions to each government appointee were clear. Treaty presentations to the chiefs were to be solely in the Maori language, using only the official text.

Sir James Henare, the last surviving member of the Council of the Chiefs of Ngapuhi of the Treaty of Waitangi recounted, in 1987, oral history about the Waitangi proceeding’s and later hui discussion: ‘Captain Hobson arrived on the 5th at the Treaty grounds and read the clauses of the Treaty or the articles of the Treaty and suggested to the chiefs that they could have ample time, a week, to consider the Treaty and it was the Maori version that was given to them to consider’ (see Hobson...Governor of New Zealand 1840-1842, by Paul Moon, pp 104-105). This was amplified again, when Williams wrote: ‘We gave them but one version, explaining clause by clause, showing the advantages to them of being taken under the fostering care of the British Government…’

‘The instruction of Captain Hobson was, “not to allow anyone to sign the treaty till he fully understood it;” to which instruction I did most strictly attend. I explained the treaty clause by clause at the signing of the same, and again to all the natives in this part of the island previously to the destruction of Kororareka, on March 11, 1845; I maintained the faith of the treaty and the integrity of the British Government, and that the word of Her Majesty was sacred, and could not be violated. That the natives to whom I explained the treaty understood the nature of the same, there can be no doubt; ...” (Volume II of “The Life of HENRY WILLIAMS, Archdeacon of Waimate,” by Hugh Carleton, published 1877 by Wilson & Horton, Auckland). Let it be re-emphasised that every treaty copy issued by the government for presentation to the chiefs and earmarked to receive their signatures was written in, and was to be presented in, the Maori language. There were no exceptions to this rule. At early assemblies where European settlers were present, Hobson read the Final English Draft (the mother document in English from which Te Tiriti o Waitangi was translated). Alternatively, Maori were to receive and consider only the version transmitted in their native tongue. This was in keeping with the instructions expressed in Lord Normanby’s Colonial Office, guideline brief, given to Hobson before he left England (over 4200-words in length): ‘All dealings with the natives for their lands must be conducted on the same principles of sincerity, justice and good faith as must govern your transactions with them for the recognition of Her Majesty’s sovereignty in the Islands. Nor is that all: they must not be permitted to enter into any contracts in which they might be ignorant and unintentional authors of injuries to themselves*. You will not, for example, purchase from them any territory the retention of which by them would be essential or highly conducive to their own comfort, safety, or subsistence. The acquisition of land by the Crown for the future settlement of British subjects must be confined to such districts as the natives can alienate without distress or serious inconvenience to themselves. To secure the observance of this - will be one of the first duties of their Official Protector’ (See Lord Normanby’s 1839 Brief to William Hobson, The Treaty of Waitangi, by T.L. Buick, pp. 70-79). Underlining added. *Footnote: Under this strict criteria, only the Maori language treaty wording was ever earmarked for presentation to, and consideration by, the chiefs. Normanby’s Brief is explicit throughout that the whole venture is to be conducted at a high level of integrity and clearly understood negotiation.

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