The English are the most numerous of those making up the New Zealand race. Historically, they were first in the field. Captain Cook and most of his crew were, of course, English, and the first European to settle was an Englishman. George Bruce, a marine surveyor from New South Wales who came to New Zealand in 1806 and lived under the protection of Te Pehi, whose daughter he married. The English brought Christianity to New Zealand. In 1814 Samuel Marsden sent William Hall, a shipwright from Hull, and John King, expert in rope making, to establish a mission station at the Bay of Islands, where others, mostly English, joined them. Indeed, in the years before organised settlement, the English carried out most of the pioneering work. Englishmen also took the initiative in organised settlement. The New Zealand Company was primarily an English concern which, in its early years, pioneered three settlements. With the exception of one ship from the Clyde and another from Plymouth, Wellington was settled mainly from the southern counties of England. Nelson settlers came from much the same area while the New Plymouth Association colonised Taranaki with settlers from Devon and Cornwall. Canterbury was settled by the Church of England Association, which followed the lead of the Free Church of Scotland with the Otago scheme.
The object in establishing these settlements was more than the promotion of emigration. It was a desire to transplant to New Zealand an epitome of English society, with its various gradations in due proportion, carrying with it English laws, customs, associations, habits, and manners, as well as the English political and economic systems. In short, everything would be English except the land – and the climate – and in due time it was hoped that New Zealand would mirror the social system and national character of the mother country. There can be no doubt that in this respect the English failed. Essentially, the aim of the settlers who came to New Zealand was to better themselves. The wealthy certainly tried to reproduce the economic and social system they had known; indeed they often succeeded, but at the expense of their capital. The so-called “labouring classes” had the advantage in the fluid condition of the new settlements. Their needs were fewer, their initiative was often greater, and the gaps between the classes narrowed. Thus the main condition of stability was lacking and labourers were always striving to become landowners. Even J. R. Godley admitted he had had exaggerated hopes, for what had taken centuries to build in England could not be duplicated in New Zealand in a matter of months.
The last organised settlements in New Zealand were at Feilding (the Emigrants' and Colonists' Aid Corporation, c. 1874, represented by the Hon. Colonel Feilding) and at Te Aroha, Thames district, in 1880, by a body of Lincolnshire farmers.
Today New Zealand has characteristics of its own, but it is still basically an English country, for the English strain is the largest and most important. The English have rarely found it necessary to organise and assert their race. The Royal Society of St. George celebrates St. George's Day (23 April) with a dinner and toast to England. A few of the counties have or have had their associations supported by emigrants from Devon and Cornwall, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Northumberland and Durham, and Kent.