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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


MANING, Frederick Edward


Writer, and Judge of the Native Land Court.

A new biography of Maning, Frederick Edward appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

F. E. Maning was born in Dublin on 5 July 1811, the eldest son of Frederick Maning and grandson of Archibald Maning, a Dublin citizen of some means. With his parents and two younger brothers he left Dublin in late 1823 in the Ardent, arriving in Hobart in May 1824 where his father took a position in the Customs Office.

Though Maning may possibly have first visited New Zealand in 1831 or 1832 with Major Henry Oakes, he did not take up permanent residence at Hokianga until July 1833, when he arrived from Hobart in the Mary and Elizabeth. Oakes followed him to Hokianga in October and obtained an option on land at Kohukohu. The older man then left Kelly (also from Hobart) and Maning in charge and went back to Hobart to raise the purchase price. But when Oakes returned to Hokianga in February 1834 the Maoris refused to sell to him, and in March the Kohukohu was bought by Kelly and Maning. Kelly soon faded out, but Maning remained for some years, trading in timber, pork, and potatoes. In 1837 he sold up and, after a visit to Hobart, settled at Onoke, at the mouth of the Whirinaki. On 3 September 1839, after being in possession for some time, he made a formal purchase of the property from Kaitoke, Hauraki, and 14 others, for £4 in cash and £80 worth of goods. At Onoke, his home for over 40 years, Maning's four children were born: Susan, in 1838 or 1839 (died Onoke, 6 March 1880); Maria Amina, in 1842 (died Auckland, 15 March 1892); Hauraki Hereward, in 1845 (died FitzRoy, Melbourne, 8 August 1923); and Mary, in 1846 (died White Cliffs, Hokianga, 15 April 1893). Their mother was Moengaroa, sister of the Hikutu chief, Hauraki.

Maning clashed publicly with Governor Hobson at the treaty meeting at Mangungu on 12 February 1840, Hobson later informing Gipps that Maning had advised the chiefs to resist the Treaty of Waitangi. (Hobson also reported that Maning had purchased “a considerable portion of land”, was a Catholic, and “the active agent” of Pompallier which was all complete nonsense.) On 28 March Maning sailed in the Superb for Hobart and, after his return to Hokianga, applied in January 1841 for employment in the Public Service. His application was coolly received. Rumours had reached Hobson that Maning was the cause of “disaffection amongst the Kaipara Tribes” and had displayed a “Tri-colored-Flag” at Kaitaia “in defiance of Her Majesty's authority”. After further inquiry, Hobson allowed that “no just grounds for suspicion” could attach to Maning, “although the circumstance of the flag still remains to be explained”. Shortly before his death Maning categorically denied to Rusden that he had attempted to dissuade the chiefs from signing the treaty and claimed that Hobson had written him a letter acknowledging his error on that point. It seems Maning had persuaded himself that the letter about the Kaipara and Kaitaia tarradiddle applied also to the Mangungu allegations. But no trace has been found of any letter from Hobson to Maning which so much as mentioned, far less retracted, those allegations; and it is significant that his brother-in-law Hauraki did not sign the treaty.

When the Hikutu took the field against Heke in 1845 Maning was a prominent member of the war party. Hauraki's death from wounds suffered in a skirmish at Waikare was a keen personal loss to Maning, who named his son after the dead chief. Moengaroa was also greatly affected by her brother's death and died in 1847. No named reference to her has been found in Maning's writings, but from the context one may assume it was she whom he described in Old New Zealand as “a fine stately, and really handsome woman”, and that hers was the lament for Hauraki quoted in War in the North. After her death, on what was probably his last visit to Tasmania, Maning arrived at Hobart in the Ganges in December 1847, with his five-year-old Maria who was to be brought up by her grandparents.

In January 1850 Maning began sawing operations in the Hokianga, the following decade being his most active period commercially. Documentation of this side of his career is scanty but a local Maori tradition that he had a store at Rangiora, in the Narrows, seems likely enough. His affairs apparently prospered and by 1863 he was “endeavouring to get out of what is called ‘business’”, though he claimed he was owed “some few thousand of pounds” by the Maoris. His brothers, Alfred Henry and Archibald Thomas, had established a shipping business in Hobart with a subsidiary company at Invercargill and an agent at One-hunga. F. E. Maning was not a partner, but he supplied his brothers with cargoes of timber. The Invercargill firm, Maning and Whitton, failed in early 1864, followed shortly by the bankruptcy of Maning Brothers, of Hobart. Frederick Maning senior died in June 1864, a recent will providing for Maria but leaving the bulk of his estate to his eldest son. Thereafter Maning financially assisted the Tasmanian branch of the family and, at his death, left a nephew, Henry Thomas Maning, as his principal heir.

In 1862 The History of the North was published, followed by Old New Zealand in 1863. Both appeared anonymously by “A Pakeha-Maori” (q.v.), but their authorship was not long a secret. Replying to a congratulatory note from Sir George Grey in February 1863, Maning claimed that Old New Zealand 'was merely written to pass some very wet days last winter”, and said that Grey would perceive he was also the “perpertrator” of the earlier work.

Maning several times toyed with the notion of entering Parliament, but jibbed at the annoyance of electioneering. In November 1865 he was appointed Judge of the Native Land Court. Two of his judgments, in the Rangitikei-Manawatu (1869) and the Aroha (1871) cases, were later published. He was also a member of the Hawke's Bay Native Lands Alienation Commission of 1873. Though forever complaining about the Land Court, Maning found stimulation as well as frustration in the work, and the descriptions of tribal warfare in his Aroha judgment are perhaps the most evocative of anything he wrote. He resigned in August 1876 and retired to Onoke. In accepting his resignation the Government expressed its appreciation of the great and important services he had rendered and acknowledged that the success of the Native Land Court in the northern part of the North Island was due mainly to him. An expert assessment of his adjudication of Maori land titles, in the light of subsequent events, has yet to be made.

Family problems marred the joys of retirement. Susan was delicate and perhaps partially crippled from birth. Maria, separated from her father as a child, had returned to New Zealand in August 1865, a young woman of modest but independent means. Of the early life of Hauraki and Mary nothing is known. In his letters of the sixties, Maning's affection for and pride in his young people is clearly evident, but this state of affairs did not last. Maria and Mary were as strong willed as their father, who quarrelled with them both. Hauraki, a handsome philanderer of much plausibility and little inclination for steady employment, was a constant worry. Though at first perhaps over-indulgent, Maning finally washed his hands of him and, plagued by tales of Hau's mounting follies, came to fear the son who had once been his pride. Finally, in late January 1880, came the breach with Susan, who by then was completely paralysed. In the grips of a nightmarish but probably groundless obsession that all kinds of malevolence were being plotted against him, Maning left her to the care of neighbours and fled to Auckland. Less than three weeks after his departure Susan died.

Despite aches and pains and complaints about landladies and other nuisances, Maning enjoyed the next two and a half years of town life. But in July 1882 he had a fall and, three months later, cancer was diagnosed. He sailed immediately for London, but on arrival was told his case was hopeless. For seven months he lingered on, and died on 25 July 1883. His body was brought back to New Zealand and, on 8 December, he was buried in Symonds Street Cemetery, Auckland.

Maning is chiefly known by War in the North and Old New Zealand. Besides official reports and judgments and a number of anonymous contributions to the newspapers, his only other published writings are a few slight pieces on Maori traditions. The manuscript of Young New Zealand, said by von Sturmer to have been “very good”, he destroyed in November 1882 in the few frantic days between diagnosis and departure for London, when other manuscripts possibly shared the same fate. But to the student of Maning and of his times his most valuable literary legacy is the great mass of letters written during the last 20 years of his life, racy in style, though tinged with bitterness.

Virtually nothing is known of Maning's boyhood. During his early years in New Zealand he was nothing if not an adventurer, as Hobson stigmatised him, while Edward Markham, who lived with him briefly at Kohukohu in 1834, called him “a double faced sneaking Thief”. (Maning's opinion of Markham is unlikely to have been any more flattering.) Certainly in his later years, both in conversation and on paper, Maning would unblushingly exaggerate and distort, at times from sheer exuberance and devilry, but on occasion, particularly in his blacker moments, with an intensity of self-delusion which was surely abnormal; and he was so unpredictable and devious, not least in his commercial undertakings, that even one of his closest friends was driven to complain that he was “but a rotten stick to trust to”. Nonetheless he had great power of attracting people to him, and retained the affection of many, despite all his vagaries. But he was quick to take offence, often for the most trivial reasons. His bête noire was Grey, who committed the unforgivable sin of cutting Maning short in a peroration on “a subject of the very greatest public importance” and who, in retaliation, was bombarded by Maning with the most astounding cock-and-bull stories. Himself much given to rodomontade, Maning's intolerance of what he regarded as humbug in others knew no bounds. When T. M. Hocken visited him in Auckland in 1881 Maning appears to have revenged himself for a rather cool proposition which the Dunedin collector had made concerning a sketch donated by Maning to the Auckland Museum. In a flood of talk Maning hinted he had been initiated as a tohunga. Hocken swallowed the bait, but was unable “to penetrate that sacred arena”: Maning's lips were sealed. The possibility that in his younger days Maning had acquired some esoteric Maori learning cannot be entirely disregarded; but this hinting at “initiation” looks suspiciously like another piece of Maning hocus-pocus.

So much about him is conjectural, not least the effect on his character and personality of the disparagement and discomfiture he suffered at Hobson's hands. Maning's longing for recognition and, one suspects, vindication was never assuaged by later success and he constantly courted flattery, though affecting to despise it. Over the years his love for the Maori, always slightly shamefaced, turned to distaste and then to hate, and the letters of his later years are studded with violent and bitter anti-Maori ravings. The one stable and lasting influence in his life seems to have been his friendship with John Webster and, latterly, with Spencer von Sturmer. After Maning's death the latter commented: “what a grand fellow he would have been, with different surroundings”. But in other surroundings the Maning of War in the North, of Old New Zealand, of the Aroha judgment, and of his letters, would not have existed.

by Ruth Miriam Ross, School Teacher and Authoress, North Auckland.

  • Sir Donald Maclean, Cowan, J. (1940)
  • Important Judgements …, Fenton, F. D. (1879)
  • Old New Zealand, Maning, F. E. (1948)
  • The History of the War in the North, Maning, F. E. (1862)
  • O.L.C. files (MSS); G. 36/1 (MSS); M. A. files (MSS), National Archives
  • F. E. Maning Letters and other Maning Papers (MSS); S. Von Sturmer Letters, (MSS), Auckland Public Library
  • F. E. Maning Letters (MSS), Turnbull Library
  • F. E. Maning Letters (MSS), Hocken Library
  • New Zealand Notables 3, Burdon, R. M. (1950)
  • New Zealand or Recollections of it, Markham, E. (1963)
  • History of New Zealand, Rusden, G. W. (1889)
  • Reminiscences of an Old Settler, Webster, J. (1908)
  • G.B.P.P. 311 (1841); 108 (1845);
  • New Zealand Herald, 28 Jul 1883 (Obit).


Ruth Miriam Ross, School Teacher and Authoress, North Auckland.