Series 1 - Letters written to Donald McLean (in English)

A large series of 14,500 letters, from many hundreds of letter writers. They mainly relate to McLean's activities as a public servant and politician, but also include family correspondence and correspondence relating to the management of his Hawke's Bay estate.

Donald McLean's power and influence depended on his network of informants, allies and acquaintances throughout New Zealand. Letter writing was his primary way of maintaining the network. The letters are rich in information for local historians, biographers, iwi historians as well as for the study of interaction between Māori and Pakeha.

Letters from missionaries are heavily represented among the early letters, when McLean was part of the missionary-influenced Protectorate of Aborigines. During the 1850s the letters largely concern his judicial and land purchase activities. Two frequent correspondents in this period are his deputy in Taranaki, Henry Halse, and his subordinate in the Land Purchase Department, George Cooper.

As McLean established his economic and political powerbase in Hawke's Bay in the 1850s and 1860s his loyal political ally, John Ormond, became a frequent correspondent. Later, after he became a Government Minister in 1869, much of the correspondence is with other politicians.

The original letters are physically organised in folders in alphabetical order, by name of correspondent. However, they can be searched in various ways. Most letters have had date and name of correspondent identified, which allow searching by those particular dates or names. Many also have an identified place from where they were written.

Turnbull Library staff transcribed many of the letters in this series in the early 1950s. Where available, these transcriptions are reproduced alongside the digital image of the letter, and can be keyword searched. Please note that these transcriptions are of draft quality and words are sometimes inaccurately transcribed.

There are 14,501 items in this series, of which 4,023 have been transcribed.

A man of many hats: Two photographs of McLean, in the 1850s (left) and the 1860s.

A man of many hats: Two photographs of McLean, in the 1850s (left) and the 1860s.
Photographic Archive
Alexander Turnbull Library