Story: Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi

Te Wherowhero

This G. F. Angas portrait of the senior Waikato rangatira Te Wherowhero (later to become the first Māori king) was published in 1847. After the 1845–46 war in the Bay of Islands, British colonial officials proposed to limit Māori land ownership rights. Māori and many non-Māori saw this as a breach of te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi). In 1847 Te Wherowhero wrote to Queen Victoria asking her to confirm that the treaty would be upheld. Britain’s Colonial Secretary Earl Grey replied on her behalf to Governor George Grey, insisting that ‘her Majesty has always directed that the Treaty should be most scrupulously and religiously observed.’ The texts of both letters appear below.

Nov. 8th, 1847

Oh Madam,
We salute you, our love is great to you, we have not forgotten your words nor your kind thoughts to all the world. Oh, Madam! listen to our words, all the Chiefs of Waikato. Let your love towards us, and be kind to us, as Christ also hath loved all. May God incline you to hold fast our words, and we to hold fast yours for ever. Oh Madam, listen! The report has come hither, that your Elders (councillors) think of taking the Maoris land without cause. Behold, the heart is sad, but we will not believe this report, because we heard from the first Governor that with ourselves lay the consideration for our lands, and the second Governor repeated the same, and this Governor also, all their speeches were the same, therefore, we write to you to love our people, write your thoughts to us, that peace may abide with the people of these islands.

From your friend,
Te Wherowhero

From Earl Grey to Governor Grey.

Downing Street
May 3rd, 1848.

You will inform Te Wherowhero and the other chiefs of Te Waikato district who signed the letter to the Queen inclosed in your Despatch of Nov. 13th, 1847, No. 117, that I have laid it before Her Majesty, who has commanded me to express the satisfaction with which she has received this loyal and dutiful address, and to assure them that there is not the slightest foundation for rumours to which they allude and it never was intended that the Treaty of Waitangi should be violated by dispossessing the tribes which are parties to it, of any portion of the land secured to them by the Treaty without their consent. On the contrary Her Majesty has always directed that the Treaty should be most scrupulously and religiously observed. I take this opportunity of referring you to a letter which I have recently addressed to the Wesleyan Missionary Committee in answer to a representation on their part, also enclosed, expressing fears of intended infractions of the Treaty of Waitangi. That letter contains a full exposition of my views, both respecting the Treaty itself and also some portions of the general question as to the ownership of land in New Zealand, about which misunderstandings had arisen. I wish to refer you particularly to the explanation which I have there given of the meaning intended to be conveyed by a passage of land instructions.

I have etc,
(signed) GREY

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PUBL-0014-44
Tinted lithograph by George French Angas

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Claudia Orange, 'Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi - The first decades after te tiriti – 1840 to 1860', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 April 2024)

Story by Claudia Orange, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 28 Mar 2023 with assistance from Claudia Orange