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107 The Dissenting theology and the Dissenting politics of Nottingham in which his close family were involved no doubt influenced Henry Williams’ worldview. He and wife Marianne (with a similar background) seemed comfortable hosting dignitaries at Paihia, from naval captains to Bishops to Governors. This was the world in which they had grown up. But if he was familiar with power he was not afraid to withstand it. In the 1840s he resisted both Governor George Grey and Bishop Selwyn, a stand which eventually led to his unjustified dismissal from the CMS.324 At the same time, deference to traditional authority was a hallmark of ‘respectable’ propertied British society. This conservative (Burkean) tendency became more prominent in response to the French Revolution. Williams’ more middling class, propertied background and his later admittance into the ranks of Anglican clergy would have reinforced respect for government authority in general. However, these factors need not obscure from view the Dissenting or Calvinist understandings of government that also formed part of his family heritage.325

Te Tiriti as a Magna Charta

The significance of Magna Charta to Henry Williams is seen in his explanation of events which occurred in September 1844. In this month he had 400 copies of the Māori version of the Treaty printed at the Paihia mission press in order to refute kōrero to the effect that Māori were made slaves of Queen Victoria by the Treaty. Williams sought to refute these claims. He recounted the

September 1844 events:

On my return from Tauranga on the 16th Sept/44 I found the tribes around under considerable excitement without exception. The Treaty of Waitangi having been declared the origin of all the existing mischief by which the chiefs had given up their Rank, Rights, and Privileges as chiefs, with their Lands and all their possessions. To meet this growing evil, I had four hundred copies of the Waitangi Treaty struck off and distributed, 324 This was primarily over his and fellow missionaries’ land purchases from Māori, an immense subject on its own.

The CMS later offered to reinstate him once they realized the allegations by Grey (supported in part by Bishop Selwyn) were unfounded. Williams also took a lead in using trust deeds to endeavour to protect Māori from European land purchasers.

325 His conception of English government and monarchy is more fully explored in chapter four on te Tiriti.

108 and for many days was engaged in explaining the same, shewing to the Chiefs that this Treaty was indeed their ‘Magna Charta’ whereby their Lands[,] Rights and Privileges were secured to them. By these means and by these alone were the fears of Waka [Nene] and all the other chiefs allayed. They admitted that the Treaty was good.326 It is quite clear from this that Magna Charta for Henry Williams stood for the protection of two distinct types of right: the first was rights of property; the second was the ‘rank’ or authority of the rangatira and its associated privileges.

These two elements appeared also in Williams’ explanation to Bishop Selwyn, in 1847, of his interpretation of the Treaty to Māori. In this letter to the Bishop he rendered part of the Treaty’s preamble as: ‘[That the Queen] was desirous to protect them in their rights as chiefs, and rights of property’.327 Similarly, Williams rendered the article two guarantee of ‘te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa’ as ‘their full rights as chiefs’, together with ‘their rights of possession of their lands, and all their other property of every kind and degree’. This explanation appeared to make chiefly rights something more than just possession of lands and property.328 In this1847 letter Williams also stated: ‘My view of the the Treaty of Waitangi is, as it ever was, that it was the Magna Charta of the aborigines of New Zealand’.329 It is apparent that Williams and the missionary body in general saw te Tiriti as preserving chiefly authority and that this would continue in respect of local or hapū related issues of property and perhaps customary law generally (except where contrary to Christian morality). This conception of the Treaty’s protection of a Māori rangatiratanga follows the historic Magna Charta, which preserved the rights of local nobility. In the feudal structure of English society, aristocracy or local gentry exercised some measure of local control as ‘lords of the manor’ over a complex hierarchy of property rights. Similarly, Williams envisaged te Tiriti as a relationship between a

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central kāwanatanga and a local rangatiratanga. To Williams, the Treaty protected both taonga (property) and rangatiratanga (chieftainship, chiefly independence or liberty).330 Williams, in his 1847 letter to Selwyn, conceptualized the Treaty as a compact between the rangatira and ‘her Majesty the Queen’, rather than an abstract Crown. He used ‘The Queen’ or ‘her Majesty’ (or these titles combined) at least 23 times in this letter, and the Treaty text rendition only accounts for 10 of these appearances. Her Majesty was head of the executive branch of government, and the Treaty was an executive act of state, so Williams correctly emphasized the Crown in his Treaty explanation. He identified the Crown with Her Majesty, and he conveyed this clear understanding to Māori at the 5 February kōrerorero: the Treaty was ‘an act of love’ from Victoria to the rangatira.331 Williams’ 1847 letter equated te Tiriti with ‘the word’ of Her Majesty, a word that ‘was sacred, and could not be violated’.332 In another part of the letter, Williams said, ‘I have always maintained to the aborigines that her Majesty’s word was sacred and inviolable’.333 In a similar way, Magna Charta was a personal covenant between the monarch and all English ‘freemen’. Williams’ emphasis on the personal relationship of Queen with rangatira follows in the footsteps of Magna Charta: the Queen herself was promising to protect Māori rights by the Treaty.

This characterisation of te Tiriti also reflects Anglican theology of church government and civil polity in which the Monarch was head of both state and church. In this sense her word was ‘sacred’. To Bishop Selwyn, Williams wrote in 1845 that the Treaty was ‘a sacred compact’ between ‘the British Government and the Chiefs of New Zealand’, as he expressed it on this occasion, adding that, ‘it was impossible that the Queen or Governor could admit of any deceit towards [the Chiefs]’.334 This supports the view that his references to the Treaty as the Māori 330 Chapter four explores in more detail missionaries’ understanding of the Kawanatanga-Rangatiratanga relationship. McHugh notes relevantly that the British, generally speaking, described their political and civil liberties in terms of a property right – something inherited and passed down through the generations – a ‘birthright’. This property-based conception is evident in the language and form of the English text of the Treaty, which assumes the appearance of a conveyancing deed. See P McHugh, ‘The Lawyer’s Concept of Sovereignty’, pp 171-172.

331 Williams, ‘Early Recollections’, [nd], cited in Carleton, The Life of Henry Williams, vol 2, p 12.

332 Williams to Bishop Selwyn, 12 July 1847, p 55.

333 Ibid, p 57.

334 Williams to Selwyn, 20 Feb 1845, CMS/CN/0 101, reel 65, ATL (Williams copies this letter in Williams to FitzRoy, 20 Feb 1845). To Selwyn Williams wrote that he had just read ‘that triumphant document the New Zealand Journal for August 3/44. I was certainly overwhelmed with shame and confusion considering that we were betrayed 110 Magna Charta reflected the intertwining of the sacred (church) and the secular (government) in Williams’ worldview.

It was not until 1847-48 that Williams’ belief in the integrity of Her Majesty’s Government – not Her Majesty personally – really began to break down. In his July 1847 letter to Selwyn, Williams wrote: ‘Earl Grey’s [‘waste-lands’] despatch to his Excellency the Governor, which may be regarded as the warrant of extermination, I have seen, and am truly grieved to find that the Queen of Great Britain should be so dishonoured’.335 In response to this same ‘waste-lands’ dispatch, Williams wrote to the CMS: ‘I am grieved beyond the power of expression at the attempted violation of the Treaty, and must never again plead the honour and integrity of Her Majesty’s Government. This appears to be lost or never to have been possessed’.336 Busby’s use of Magna Charta needs little explanation. He referred to the Declaration as ‘the Magna Charta of New Zealand Independence’.337 This resembles Burke’s reference to the India bill being a Magna Charta for the Indians, or Samuel Romilly’s reference to the 1807 abolition of slavery as a Magna Charta for Africa. David Bogue also referred to the Toleration Act 1689 as the Magna Charta of the Dissenters.338 In these uses, the title ‘Magna Charta’ became code for the protection of personal liberties and property rights generally, and local customs or laws in particular. The 1215 Magna Charta was very much about the protection of local feudal custom, including the customs and laws of particular towns and localities.

and ruined and our cause in New Zealand lost’. This was probably the House of Commons Select Committee Report 1844, which referred to the Crown’s right to the ‘waste-lands’ of New Zealand. In his letter to FitzRoy, Williams thanked him for sending a document that had ‘allayed’ their ‘fears’ because of ‘the assurance that the Treaty remained inviolate’. Williams was keenly aware that on the faith of the Treaty depended their reputation and hence the Christian faith amongst Māori.

335 Williams to Selwyn, 12 July 1847, vol 100, MS 91/75, AML, p 51.

336 Williams to Secretaries, CMS, 15 July 1847, CMS/CN/0 101, reel 65, ATL. See also Report of Northern District Committee CMS to CMS London, 1 July 1847, (signed by H Williams as Chairman), which stated: ‘The Revocation of the Treaty of Waitangi and the mere idea of the British Government taking possession of any portion of the Land belonging to the Aborigines will have a most serious and alarming effect’.

337 Busby to Alexander Busby, 10 Dec 1835, MS 46, AML.


D Bogue, and J Bennett, History of Dissenters, from the Revolution in 1688, to the Year 1808, vol 1 (London:

1808), (http://books.google.com/books, 18 August 2009), pp 186-198. At p 202: ‘for religious liberty [liberty of conscience, assembly etc], which is one of the unalienable rights of human nature, springs out of the very essence of Christianity’. The Toleration Act allowed freedom of assembly and worship to Dissenting congregations, though not access to public office.

111 Busby’s description of the Declaration as a Magna Charta was equivalent to saying that it protected Māori rights or independence. It was none other than a Great Charter declaring New Zealand independence, which, as Busby noted, included an appeal to the King to protect this infant state. Just as Williams characterized the Treaty as constituting a personal compact between Queen Victoria and rangatira, Busby saw the Declaration as making King William IV a protector of an infant state. British protection made ‘the Magna Charta of New Zealand Independence’ effective. The other element which this Magna Charta constituted was the United Tribes or te Wakaminenga, which according to Busby, was ‘the only safe foundation upon which British Interests in this Country can be established or upon which the fabric of National laws and Institutions can be raised’.339 For Busby, the Declaration was a Magna Charta because it conjoined a benevolent British monarch with a Māori aristocratic assembly, much as Magna Charta had stabilized an England based on a compact between King and nobility. This conception captured the various elements of his thinking about Māori society and its similarities with an older British society.340

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Question (d):

What does the available documentary evidence reveal about Busby’s and Williams’s understandings of the nature and effect of Te Tiriti/the Treaty, especially with regard to the relationship between kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga?

The first section of this chapter will highlight aspects of different plans that were proposed for New Zealand in the three years prior to the conclusion of the Treaty at Waitangi. This is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion. Instead, it will summarise aspects of these plans that concerned the relationship between kāwanatanga and rangatiratanga.

This background will demonstrate the diversity of constitutional proposals. It will also locate in context the understandings of Henry Williams and James Busby on the relationship between the first and second articles of te Tiriti. Te Wiremu and his contemporaries did not perceive a tension between British sovereignty and Māori chieftainship, yet most of the recent discussions on these articles have assumed a tension. This retrospective view is partly the result of post-1840 history, in which the Crown (or settler authorities) marginalized rangatiratanga.342 Recent commentators have also imposed later nineteenth century understandings of sovereignty on 1840 discussions, which has lead to the view that te Tiriti was inadequately translated by Williams. These and other issues will be considered later in this chapter.

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