Object #1016325 from MS-Papers-0032-0016

8 pages written 2 Jun 1857 by Sir Thomas Robert Gore Browne

From: Miscellaneous native affairs, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0016 (29 digitised items). Includes a letter in Maori regarding the sale of land in the Manawatu

A transcription/translation of this document (by ATL) appears below.

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English (ATL)


If the report of the recent meeting of Natives (at the Chief Waitere's) is correct most of the Chiefs, including Potatoa, have unsaid what they said to me during my visit to Waikato on the other hand many friendly chiefs have written assuring me of their friendship and their disapproval of the election of a king. These last however desire to have laws of their own, and seem to claim power similar to that exercised by the Assembly. Should the Waikato chiefs proceed to elect a King and Potatau consent to accept the office, the example would be followed elsewhere.

It seems clear that the King will not be permitted to enjoy any of the privileges of the office. He will have neither funds nor army; nor will he be permitted to sell even the portions of land he occupies although his joint or tribal right to it might be acknowledged. It would soon appear that except in matters of no import his power among his own people would be but very little greater than that which any other important chief now enjoys.

In reference to the Europeans however the case would be different. It is very probable that the King would endeavour to obtain at their expense the renown which savages value above all things, and which under present circumstances would be essential to his supremacy. In old times chieftainship was attained and maintained by prowess in war among themselves, but that road to distinction is no longer open. Natives who may have committed offences against Europeans would however naturally look to their king or chief as their only protector; and the power and renown of the King would be most easily shown and recognised in affording protection at all risks. Such difficulties would ensure an otherwise doubtful allegiance.

Again, in the event of a crime or offence committed by an European residing on Native land, there can be no doubt the King would judge and punish him according to Native customs which would probably be very contrary to ours.

I assume then that it would not be safe tacitly to permit the election of a King; and the next question is what steps should be taken to render such an election either unsuccessful or nugatory.

I think a meeting of the whole of the chiefs of the Waikato without distinction of friend or foe should be convened, that I should attend that meeting in as much much state as can be arranged for the occasion as I believe such trifles have a powerful effect on savages. That a code of laws adapted to the present condition of the Natives should then be proposed to them, leaving out matters on which alteration in the English law is required until the sanction of the Assembly can be obtained. On the other hand the abolition of objectionable native customs should be required, and the absolute surrender to our courts of all persons accused of capital offences.

The possibility of failure in our object requires careful consideration. It is also necessary to remember that our best laid plans would be endangered if any untoward offence were to be committed by an European during the present excitement. Several of the chiefs have avowed their desire to be united under one chief in order that they might act energetically in the event of such an occurrence, and others have at various times asserted the right to punish Europeans offending against Maoris on the plea that they surrender Maoris offending against Europeans.

Taking all these matters into consideration it appears to me that the time is critical, and that much good or evil must result from the manner in which we now act, or neglect to act.

T. G. B.
Government House,
2nd June 1857.

Part of:
Miscellaneous native affairs, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0016 (29 digitised items)
Series 7 Official papers, Reference Number Series 7 Official papers (3737 digitised items)
McLean Papers, Reference Number MS-Group-1551 (30238 digitised items)

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