Manuscript copy of the Treaty of Waitangi (in Māori)

CA. 1840

Manuscript copy of the Treaty of Waitangi (in Māori). Manuscript copy of the Treaty of Waitangi (in Māori)

As the nation's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi has been subjected to more intense scrutiny than any other set of New Zealand papers. Its drafting in late January and early February 1840 was a complex procedure, involving several hands. In poor health at the time, William Hobson, the British Consul, prepared notes which he passed on to James Busby, who had served as British Resident in the Bay of Islands from 1833, for embellishment and improvement. The role of Hobson's able private secretary, James Stuart Freeman, seems also to have gone beyond that of mere scribe. Reverend Henry Williams, head of the Church Missionary Society at Paihia, was asked to provide a Māori translation. He sought the advice of his son, Edward, who was deemed (perhaps a little in excess of the reality) expert in the nuances of the Ngapuhi dialect. Other missionaries in the area were also consulted. Another prominent figure in the Bay of the Islands who probably saw the Treaty in its early drafting stages and might even have influenced the wording was the trader and United States Consul, James Reddy Clendon (1800-1872).

Clendon was not himself an American. Born in Kent, he was, at heart, a loyal Briton, keen to see British law introduced to the unruly Bay of Islands region. First and foremost, however, he was a businessman. With his partner, Samuel Stephenson, he set up a trading station at Okiato (about six kilometres north of the township of Kororeka) in 1832. Supplying American whaling ships that visited Kororareka was an important part of their business. That is why Clendon wanted the consular position.

He resigned as consul in 1841. For the next twenty years, he served as a justice of peace, judge and police magistrate in the Bay of Islands. He moved to Rawene on the Hokianga Habour in 1862. It was with his Rawene-based descendants in 1938 that Auckland history professor James Rutherford, chair of the New Zealand Centennial Committee, arranged the transfer of Clendon's personal papers to the Auckland City Council.

Among these papers was a manuscript version of the Treaty of Waitangi in Māori, certified a ‘true copy’ and signed ‘Jas Stuart Freeman’. The main text was not written by Freeman, however. It is in the hand of Henry Tacy Kemp, son of the Kerikeri blacksmith and lay preacher James Kemp. The reason that Clendon had this manuscript in his possession is uncertain, but it should be remembered that the establishment of British sovereignty in New Zealand was not a single event but a process. The treaty-making was not concluded on Busby's lawn at Waitangi on the afternoon of 6 February 1840; negotiations and signings extended over several months in many parts of the country. Clendon was instrumental in persuading Ngapuhi chief Pomare II to sign the Treaty separately on 17 February 1840.

Related resources: Our manuscript collection; Te Tiriti o Waitangi/The Treaty of Waitangi. 

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