He Wakaputanga o te Rangaitiratanga o Nu Tireni
"...the Declaration was the 'Magna Charta of New Zealand'"
Declaration of Independence of New Zealand:
- We, the hereditary Chiefs and Heads of the Tribes of the Northern Parts of New Zealand,
being assembled at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands, on this 28th Day of October 1835, declare
the Independence of our Country, which is hereby constituted and declared to be an independent
State, under the Designation of the United Tribes of New Zealand.
- All Sovereign Power and Authority within the Territories of the United Tribes of New
Zealand is hereby declared to reside entirely and exclusively in the hereditary Chiefs Heads
of Tribes in their collective Capacity, who also declare that they will not permit any legislative
Authority separate from themselves in their collective Capacity to exist, nor any Function of
Government to be exercised within the said Territories, unless by Person appointed by them,
and acting under the authority of Laws regularly enacted by them in Congress assembled.
- The hereditary Chiefs and Heads of Tribes agree to meet in Congress at Waitangi, in the
Autumn of each Year, for the Purpose of framing Laws for the Dispensation of Justice, the
Preservation of Peace and good Order, and the Regulation of Trade; and they cordially invite
the Southern Tribes to lay aside their private Animosities, and to consult the Safety and
Welfare of our common Country by joining the Confederation of the United Tribes.
- They also agree to send a Copy of this Declaration to His Majesty the King of England,
to thank Him for his Acknowledgement of their Flag; and in return for the Friendship and
Protection theu have shown and are prepared to show to such of His Subjects as have settled
in their Country, or resorted to its Shores for the Purposes of Trade, they entreat that He
will continue to by the Parent of their Infant State, and that He will become its Protector
from all Attempts upon its Independence.
Agreed to unanimously on this 28th Day of October 1835, in the Presence of His Britannic
Here follow the signatures of marks of 35 hereditary chiefs, or heads of tribes, which
form a far Representation of the tribes of New Zealand from the North Cap to the latitude
of the River Thames.
(Signed) Henry Williams, Missionary C.M.S.
George Clarke, C.M.S.
James C. Clendon, Merchant.
Gilbert Muir, Merchant.
The 'Declaration of Independence of New Zealand' is a little-known document
signed on October 28, 1835 by thirty-five northern Maori
Chiefs at Waitangi
, New Zealand), and it declared New Zealand to be an independent country.
Today, this document has been forgotten (except by historian
s) and overshadowed by
the Treaty of Waitangi
, yet it is important, as without this document, the Treaty of
Waitangi would not have been signed, and British
colonisation of New Zealand may not
Why was the Declaration Needed?
On May 5, 1833, James Busby
assumed office as the British resident
in New Zealand, and he
began to work towards fulfilling the orders of his superior, Sir Richard Bourke
of New South Wales
), which were that Busby should create a political
body of Maori chiefs. This body, or Confederation
as it was to be known, was to facilitate
formal negotiations between the indigenous Maori of New Zealand, and the British, and create
good relations between the two groups.
Busby's first step was to invite twenty-five northern chiefs to Waitangi, where the group
selected a flag
for the independent New Zealand confederacy:
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This flag was used until a nautical ensign
was popularised at the end of the nineteeth century
(today's NZ flag). The design was a red Saint George's cross
on a white background, with
the top left corner comprising a black-bordered red cross on a blue field, with a white star
in the middle of each blue rectangle.
This flag was significant because (credit: Dr Claudia Orange
) the mana
of New Zealand
and therefore the mana of the chiefs had been recognised by the British crown
. A Confederation,
however, failed to emerge from this gathering.
It was a letter from Baron de Thierry
, a frenchman in Tahiti
, that prompted Busby to attempt
a confederation again. De Thierry labelled himself the 'Sovereign Chief
of New Zealand', and
said that he would shortly arrive in New Zealand with hundreds of followers, take possession
of land he had supposedly bought around Hokianga
, and set up a government. This government, he
claimed, would be recognised by the French
, British and American
governments, and that by his
actions, he was 'rescuing' New Zealand (from the British). Busby quickly warned the local Maori
and his fellow colonists (see letter below) of the baron's intentions, and within 36 hours, had called a second
'The British Resident at New Zealand, to His Britannic Majesty
's subjects, who are residing
or trading in New Zealand' (October 10 1835 - extract):
The British Resident has also seen as elaborate exposition of his Views which this Person has
addressed to the Missionaries of the Church Missionary
Society, in which he makes the most ample
Promises to all persons, whether White
s or Native
s, who will accept his Invitation to live under
; and, in which he offers a stipulated Salary to each Individual Missionary in
order to induce them to act as his Magistrates...
The British Resident has too much Confidence in the Loyalty and Good Sense of his Countrymen,
to think it necessary to Caution them against turning a favourable war to such Insiduous
Promises. He firmly believes that the Paternal Protection of the British Government, which
has never failed any of his Majesty's subjects however remote, will not be withheld from them,
should it be necessary to prevent their Lives, Liberties, or Property from being subjected
to the Caprice of any Adventurer, who may choose to make this Country, in which British
Subjects have now by the most lawful means acquired so large a Stake, the Theatre
Ambitiout Projects; nor, in the British Resident's opinion, will His Majesty after having
acknowledged the Sovereignty of the Chiefs of New Zealand in their collective capacity, by the
Recognition of their Flag, permit his Humble and Confiding Allies
to be Deprived of their
upon such Pretensions.
How did the Declaration Occur?
Upon the arrival of the chiefs (it must be noted that the thirty-five chiefs that were
present at this meeting were only represented a small proportion of the New Zealand Maori,
and were all from approximately the same area, and therefore not representitive of the whole),
Busby told them (credit: J.D. Raeside
) "there was a person from afar off who desired to be
king of the Maori people", and that the Maori should decide whether the land should be handed
over to this person and they should become slave
s, or remain free. Along with this message,
Busby provided gifts of twenty-four pairs of blanket
s and some pork
. The chiefs agreed to
sign a document of four clauses that had been devised by Busby.
Events Following the Signing of the Declaration:
Having secured the document, Busby immediately wrote to de Thierry, warning him that an
attempt to take over New Zealand would be met with resistance from a well-armed population.
Busby then expressed a wish to the NSW Governor that he would like to travel New Zealand
gaining more signatures on the document, but approval was slow in coming. The Governor was
less than complimentary about the Declaration (Busby had created this without
superior's permission), referring to it as a "paper pellet fired off at Baron de Thierry".
He also disapproved of giving legislative power
to the Maori Chiefs. British officials and
Lord Glenelg were supportive of the Declaration, and finally in December 2 1836, Busby received
permission to collect extra signatures (he managed another seventeen by July 22 1839).
Analysis and Significance of the Declaration:
Although grand sounding, the Declaration was basically exclusive to the northernmost tribes,
and the yearly meeting (at Waitangi) was so far north that southern tribes could not easily
attend. It depended on inter-tribal co-operation, which was tenous at best (inter-tribal
rivalries and warfare
were predominant, with tribes co-operating only when threatened).
No more meetings were held.
The Declaration became a complication for the British by the signing of the Treaty of
Waitangi - recognising Maori independence made annexing New Zealand improper,
and to annex the country, the independent status of the Maori would have to be recognised
or rescinded, hence the creation of the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840.