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CLENDON, James Reddy
United States Consul and early settler.
A new biography of Clendon, James Reddy appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
James Clendon was born at Deal, Kent. He became a London merchant and shipowner in association with his brother, John Chitty Clendon, and began trading to New Zealand about 1828. In 1830 he visited the Bay of Islands in the City of Edinburgh, bought land from Pomare at Okiato, a few miles south of Kororareka, and settled there in 1832 in partnership with Samuel Stephenson. His business prospered, and his friendship with Pomare, Nene, and other chiefs made him one of the most influential Europeans in northern New Zealand.
Captain Clendon exercised more power in the lawless thirties than did the Resident, James Busby, for he was actively in touch with the Maoris and the European traders and settlers of Kororareka, whereas Busby was cut off at Waitangi and too preoccupied with writing letters. When the Residency was attacked (April 1834), Clendon sponsored a petition from the settlers asking for military protection, but this was not afforded. He fell out with Busby in 1835 when he, Thomas McDonnell, and others tried to prohibit the sale of spirits which were causing havoc in Maori society. When Baron de Thierry claimed New Zealand as his kingdom, Clendon supported Busby's efforts to form a confederation of Maori chiefs, and witnessed the Maori Declaration of Independence (28 October 1835). During the tribal wars at the Bay of Islands in 1837, his intervention along with that of the Rev. Henry Williams saved the lives of many European settlers, and eventually brought about peace. The Bay had become the regular resort of American as well as British and French whalers and traders, and in 1839 Clendon was appointed American Consul, holding office till April 1841. This did not prevent him from rendering the fullest assistance to Captain Hobson in negotiating for the recognition of British sovereignty, and he was one of the witnesses to the Treaty of Waitangi (6 February 1840).
In March 1840 it was decided to form a temporary capital at the Bay of Islands, and Felton Mathew, the Surveyor-General, selected Clendon's property as the most suitable site. Clendon demanded £23,000 for it, but eventually agreed to sell for £15,000. The property comprised 380 acres, a dwelling house, a large store, two small cottages, and sundry other buildings. £15,000 was not dear compared with the speculative prices then prevailing, but Governor Gipps repudiated the deal, and Clendon received only £2,250 in cash and 10,000 acres of compensation land at Papakura, nominally worth 1s. 6d. an acre but unsalable in the depressed market of 1845. He complained that he was very much the loser, forgetting that Okiato too was almost valueless by then.
In 1840 he was made a Justice of the Peace and became an ex officio member of New Zealand's first Legislative Council (1840–44). He served as police magistrate at the Bay of Islands during Hone Heke's rebellion, and his reports throw much light on the conduct of the war and the condition of the Maoris. One of his letters in the National Archives, Wellington, still contains samples of home-made Maori gunpowder, reminiscent of Governor Grey's prohibition of the sale of arms and ammunition. He later held various other offices – subtreasurer, registrar, police inspector, and customs collector at the Bay of Islands and at Rawene, where he resided after 1861. He continued in business till the end of his life, but latterly his affairs became involved through extending too much credit to his customers. He died at Rawene on 26 October 1872.
by James Rutherford, M.A.(DURHAM), PH.D.(MICH.) (1906–63), Historian, Auckland.
- Clendon MSS, Auckland Public Library
- C.O. 209 Series, Public Records Office, London (National Archives, Wellington).