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Captain William Hobson RN (26 September 1792 – 10 September 1842) was the first Governor of New Zealandmarker and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Early life

Hobson was born in Waterfordmarker, Irelandmarker, the son of Samuel Hobson, a barrister. Some sources put his year of birth in 1793. He joined the Royal Navy on 25 August 1803 as a second-class volunteer. He served in the Napoleonic wars and was later involved in the suppression of piracy in the Caribbean. He became a Midshipman in 1806 and some seven years later was a First Lieutenant. He was promoted to Commander in May 1824. In December 1834 he obtained a commission from Lord Auckland to the East Indies on HMS Rattlesnake.In 1836 he was ordered to Australia and arrived at Hobartmarker on 5 August 1836 and at Sydney 18 days later. On 18 September 1836 HMS Rattlesnake left for Port Phillip District (later Melbournemarker) conveying Captain Lonsdale and other officials to the new colony. During the next three months Hobson and his officers thoroughly surveyed Port Phillipmarker, the northern portion of which, by direction of Governor Sir Richard Bourke, was named Hobson's Bay, after Hobson. His ship was involved in the founding of Williamstownmarker. He was offered the position of Superintendent of the Bombay Marine at a salary of £2000 a year, but he had taken a liking to Australia and was a candidate for the governorship of Port Phillip, although the salary was not expected to be more than £800 a year.

In 1837 he sailed to the Bay of Islandsmarker, New Zealandmarker, in response to a request for help from James Busby, the British Resident, who felt threatened by wars between Māori tribes. He arrived on 26 May 1837 and helped to reduce the tensions. On his return to England in 1838 he submitted a report on New Zealand to propose a trading system and a treaty with the Māori to obtain land.

Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand

At the time, the British government recognised the sovereignty of the Māori people, as represented in the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand of October 1835, which had been organised by Busby. Hobson was appointed Lieutenant Governor under the Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps (ratified on 30 July 1839) and British consul to New Zealand (confirmed on 13 August 1839). He was issued with detailed instructions by Lord Normanby on 14 August 1839, giving reasons for intervention in New Zealand and directions for the purchase of land "by fair and equal contracts." The land was later resold to settlers at a profit to provide for further operations.

Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islandsmarker on 29 January 1840 (which is celebrated today as Auckland Anniversary Day) with a small group of officials, including an Executive Council consisting of the Colonial Secretary Willoughby Shortland, Colonial Treasurer George Cooper and Attorney-General Francis Fisher. The Legislative Council comprised the above officials and three Justices of the Peace.

Treaty of Waitangi

Upon arrival Hobson almost immediately drafted the Treaty of Waitangi, together with his secretary James Freeman and Busby. After obtaining signatures at the Bay of Islands, he travelled to Waitemata Harbourmarker to obtain more signatures and survey a suitable location for a new capital (he also sent the Deputy Surveyor-General, William Cornwallis Symonds, to other areas to obtain more signatures). After suffering a stroke on 1 March 1840 he was taken back to the Bay of Islands, where he recovered sufficiently to continue work.

On 21 May 1840, in response to the creation of a "republic" by the New Zealand Company settlers of Port Nicholsonmarker (later Wellingtonmarker), who were laying out a new town under the flag of an independent New Zealand, Hobson asserted British sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand, despite the incompleteness of the Treaty signing. He sent Willoughby Shortland and some soldiers to Port Nicholson on 25 May 1840, and the council of the settlers was disbanded. Their leader, William Wakefield, later travelled to the Bay of Islands to pledge allegiance to the Crown. His suggestion to make Port Nicholson the capital was rejected in favour of Hobson's plan for a new town on Waitemata Harbour, to be named Aucklandmarker after the Earl of Auckland.

On 11 July 1840 the French frigate L'Aube arrived at the Bay of Islands on its way to Banks Peninsulamarker as part of the settlement plan of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company. Hobson immediately sent two magistrates to the area to establish the British claim to sovereignty by holding courts.

Near the end of 1840 the Port Nicholsonmarker settlers sent a petition to Queen Victoria calling for Hobson's dismissal over his treatment of them. Hobson responded on 26 May 1841 to the Foreign Secretary.

Governor of New Zealand

In November 1840 the Queen signed a royal charter for New Zealand to become a Crown colony separate from New South Walesmarker. Hobson was sworn in as Governor and Commander in Chief on 3 May 1841.

Hobson travelled to Wellington in August 1841, where he heard the complaints of settlers and selected magistrates. He then visited Akaroamarker to settle the French claims. Back in Auckland, he had some difficulty with the Māori and his government was ridiculed by journalists in Wellington and Auckland. He responded by closing down the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette. With his government low on funds, he resorted to issuing unauthorised bills on the British Treasury in 1842. Hobson faced opposition from the "Senate clique" radicals who sent a petition to the Foreign Secretary to have Hobson recalled. One of Hobson's last actions was to declare an Auckland Anniversary Day, to mark the anniversary of his arrival in the Bay of Islands.

Hobson suffered a second stroke and died on 10 September 1842, prior to being recalled from office. He was buried in the Symonds Street cemetery in Auckland.

References



The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography cites:

  • Hobson, W. Papers, 1833–1846. MS Papers 46. WTU
  • Moon, P. Hobson: governor of New Zealand, 1840-1842. Auckland, 1998
  • Orange, C. The Treaty of Waitangi. Wellington, 1987
  • Scholefield, G. H. Captain William Hobson. London, 1934
  • UK Parliament. Correspondence and other papers relating to New Zealand, 1835–1845. In Irish University Press series of British parliamentary papers. Colonies: New Zealand. Vols 3 & 4. Shannon, 1970


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