William Hobson

Last updated

William Hobson
Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand
In office
30 July 1839 3 May 1841
Monarch Victoria
Governor George Gipps
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byOffice abolished
1st Governor of New Zealand
In office
3 May 1841 10 September 1842
Monarch Victoria
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded by Robert FitzRoy
Personal details
Born(1792-09-26)26 September 1792
Waterford, Ireland
Died10 September 1842(1842-09-10) (aged 49)
Auckland, New Zealand
Spouse(s)Eliza Elliott
Military career
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy
Service years1803–1842
Rank Captain
Commands held

Captain William Hobson (26 September 1792 – 10 September 1842) was a British Royal Navy officer who served as the first Governor of New Zealand. [1] He was a co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi. [2]

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Treaty of Waitangi Treaty between representatives of the British Crown and various Māori chiefs

The Treaty of Waitangi is a treaty first signed on 6 February 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs (rangatira) from the North Island of New Zealand. It is a document of central importance to the history and political constitution of the state of New Zealand, and has been highly significant in framing the political relations between New Zealand's government and the Māori population.


Hobson was dispatched from London in July 1839, with instructions to take the constitutional steps needed to establish a British colony in New Zealand. [3] He was sworn in as Lieutenant-Governor in Sydney (under George Gipps) and arrived in New Zealand on 29 January 1840.

Sydney Metropolis in Australia

Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Located on Australia's east coast, the metropolis surrounds Port Jackson and extends about 70 km (43.5 mi) on its periphery towards the Blue Mountains to the west, Hawkesbury to the north, the Royal National Park to the south and Macarthur to the south-west. Sydney is made up of 658 suburbs, 40 local government areas and 15 contiguous regions. Residents of the city are known as "Sydneysiders". As of June 2017, Sydney's estimated metropolitan population was 5,230,330 and is home to approximately 65% of the state's population.

George Gipps British colonial administrator

Major Sir George Gipps was Governor of the colony of New South Wales, Australia, for eight years, between 1838 and 1846. His governorship was during a period of great change for New South Wales and Australia, as well as for New Zealand, which was administered as part of New South Wales for much of this period. Settlers at the time were not happy with his move towards responsible government, although contemporaries at the Colonial Office found him to be an able administrator.

On 5 February 1840, Hobson met with Māori chiefs at Waitangi, where they signed a treaty by which the chiefs purportedly voluntarily transferred sovereignty to the British Crown in return for guarantees respecting their lands and possessions and their rights as British subjects. Three months later, Hobson proclaimed British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand. He also selected the site for a capital in the North Island, which he named Auckland.

Māori people Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages somewhere between 1320 and 1350. Over several centuries in isolation, these settlers developed their own distinctive culture whose language, mythology, crafts and performing arts evolved independently from other eastern Polynesian cultures.

Waitangi, Northland Place in Northland Region, New Zealand

Waitangi is a locality in the Bay of Islands on the North Island of New Zealand. It is close to the town of Paihia, 60 kilometres north of Whangarei. "Waitangi" is a Māori-language name meaning "weeping waters".

Capital of New Zealand

Wellington has been the capital of New Zealand since 1865. New Zealand's first capital city was Old Russell (Okiato) in 1840–41. Auckland was the second capital from 1841 until 1865, when Parliament was permanently moved to Wellington after an argument that persisted for a decade. As the members of parliament could not agree on the location of a more central capital, Wellington was decided on by three Australian commissioners.

In May 1841, New Zealand was constituted as a separate Crown colony, with Hobson promoted to Governor and Commander in Chief. In his final months Hobson was dogged by poor health which left him detached from political affairs. He died in office in September 1842.

Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981 with the exception of Hong Kong, which remained a Crown colony. Since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.

Early life

William Hobson was born in Waterford, Ireland, the son of Samuel Hobson, a barrister. [1] He was raised in an Anglo-Irish, Anglican family. [4]

Waterford City in Munster, Ireland

Waterford is a city in Ireland. It is in County Waterford in the south east of Ireland and is part of the province of Munster. The city is situated at the head of Waterford Harbour. It is the oldest and the fifth most populous city in the Republic of Ireland. It is the tenth most populous settlement on the island of Ireland. Waterford City and County Council is the local government authority for the city. According to the 2016 Census, 53,504 people live in the city, with a wider metropolitan population of 82,963.

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 and commanded HMS Scylla between 1826 and 1828. In December 1834, he obtained a commission from George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland to the East Indies on HMS Rattlesnake.

Piracy in the Caribbean Piracy in the Caribbean region from the 1500s to the 1830s

The era of piracy in the Caribbean began in the 1500s and phased out in the 1830s after the navies of the nations of Western Europe and North America with colonies in the Caribbean began combating pirates. The period during which pirates were most successful was from the 1660s to 1730s. Piracy flourished in the Caribbean because of the existence of pirate seaports such as Port Royal in Jamaica, Tortuga in Haiti, and Nassau in the Bahamas. Piracy in the Caribbean was part of a larger historical phenomenon of piracy, as it existed close to major trade and exploration routes in nearly all the five oceans.

First lieutenant is a commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces and, in some forces, an appointment.

HMS <i>Scylla</i> (1809)

HMS Scylla was an 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop of the Royal Navy. The first to bear the name Scylla, she was launched in 1809 and broken up in 1846.


In 1836, he was ordered to Australia, arriving at Hobart on 5 August 1836, and at Sydney 18 days later. On 18 September 1836, HMS Rattlesnake left for Port Phillip District (later Melbourne) conveying Captain William Lonsdale and other officials to the new colony. During the next three months, Hobson and his officers thoroughly surveyed Port Phillip, the northern portion of which, by direction of Governor Sir Richard Bourke, was named Hobsons Bay, after him.

His ship was involved in the founding of Williamstown. 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. The more recently created City of Hobsons Bay is also named after William.

New Zealand

On 26 May 1837 Hobson sailed to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, in response to a request for help from James Busby, the British Resident, who felt threatened by wars between Māori tribes. For three months in 1837 Pōmare II (Whiria) fought with Tītore until a peace agreement was negotiated by Tareha. [5] On his return to England in 1838, Hobson submitted a report on New Zealand, in which he proposed establishing British sovereignty over the islands in small pockets similar to the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. [6]


1839 document appointing Hobson as Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand. The title "Lieutenant Governor" signifies that Hobson was actually deputy to another Governor. Appointment of William Hobson as Lieutenant Governor, 1839.pdf
1839 document appointing Hobson as Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand. The title "Lieutenant Governor" signifies that Hobson was actually deputy to another Governor.

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. Hobson was appointed lieutenant-governor under the Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps—ratified on 30 July 1839 [3] —and British consul to New Zealand—confirmed on 13 August 1839.

On 14 August 1839, Constantine Henry Phipps, 1st Marquess of Normanby issued Hobson with detailed instructions, giving the British government's reasons for intervention in New Zealand and directions for the purchase of land "by fair and equal contracts". The land was later resold to Pākehā settlers at a profit to provide for further operations. [7]

Hobson arrived in the Bay of Islands aboard HMS Herald on 29 January 1840 with a small group of officials, including an executive council consisting of 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. Hobson appointed as three Magistrates, Messrs. Shortland, Johnson, and Matthew. [8]

Treaty of Waitangi

Retro Pattern Crown: Tamati Waka Nene shaking hands with Hobson at Waitangi on 6 February 1840 NZ Retro Pattern Crown 1840 Victoria Waitangi.jpg
Retro Pattern Crown: Tāmati Wāka Nene shaking hands with Hobson at Waitangi on 6 February 1840
An extant copy of Hobson's treaty Treatyofwaitangi.jpg
An extant copy of Hobson's treaty

The Treaty of Waitangi was first proposed by Hobson on his return to Britain from his first visit to New Zealand. Upon arrival in New Zealand, Hobson almost immediately drafted the Treaty of Waitangi together with his secretary James Freeman and James Busby. Busby had previously drafted the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand.

Hobson headed the British signatories. Of the 40 or so Māori chiefs, the Ngapuhi chief Hōne Heke was the first to sign the treaty. As each chief signed, Hobson said "He iwi tahi tātou", meaning "We are [now] one people". [9] To enhance the authority of the treaty eight further copies were made and sent around the country to gather additional signatures. After obtaining signatures to the Treaty at the Bay of Islands (6 February 1840), he travelled to Waitematā Harbour to obtain more signatures and to 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. [10]

On 21 May 1840, in response to the creation of a "republic" by the New Zealand Company settlers of Port Nicholson, who were laying out a new town under the flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand, [11] Hobson asserted British sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand, despite the incompleteness of the treaty signing. [12] 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 Waitematā Harbour, to be named Auckland 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 Peninsula as part of the settlement plan of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company. Hobson immediately sent two magistrates to Akaroa to establish the British claim to sovereignty by holding courts. Near the end of 1840, the Port Nicholson 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.


In November 1840, the Queen signed a royal charter for New Zealand to become a Crown Colony separate from New South Wales. Hobson was sworn in by the Chief Justice as Governor of New Zealand on 3 May 1841. [2]

Hobson travelled to Wellington in August 1841, where he heard the complaints of settlers and selected magistrates. He then visited Akaroa 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. The Waitakere suburb of Hobsonville is named after him.


  1. 1 2 Serle, Percival (1949). "Hobson, William". Dictionary of Australian Biography . Sydney: Angus and Robertson. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  2. 1 2 "HOBSON, William (1793–1842) - An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand". Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. 1966. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 "Hobson's Appointment 1839 [1839] NZConLRes 1". New Zealand Legal Information Institute. 30 July 1839. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  4. Simpson, K. A. "Hobson, William". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  5. Ballara, Angela (1 September 2010). "Pomare II - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  6. Paul Moon, ed. (2010). New Zealand Birth Certificates – 50 of New Zealand's Founding Documents. AUT Media. ISBN   978-0-9582997-1-8.
  7. "Lord Normanby's Instructions to Captain Hobson 1839 [1839] NZConLRes 2". New Zealand Legal Information Institute. 14 August 1839. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  8. Carleton, Hugh (1874). "Vol. II". The Life of Henry Williams. Early New Zealand Books (ENZB), University of Auckland Library. p. 22.
  9. Orange, Claudia (2004). An Illustrated History of the Treaty of Waitangi. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books. ISBN   1-877242-16-0.
  10. "View Te Tiriti o Waitangi Online". National Archives of New Zealand . Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  11. "New Zealand Company / United Tribes flag". Te Papa . Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  12. "Proclamation of Sovereignty over the North Island 1840 [1840] NZConLRes 9". New Zealand Legal Information Institute. 21 May 1840. Retrieved 6 April 2019.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

James Busby Scottish/Australian/New Zealand wine farmer and politician

James Busby was appointed in 1833 as the British Resident in New Zealand, and became involved in drafting both the 1835 Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand and the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. As British Resident, he acted as New Zealand's first jurist and the "originator of law in Aotearoa", to whom New Zealand owes almost all of its underlying jurisprudence'. Busby is also regarded as the "father" of the Australian wine industry, as he brought the first collection of vine stock from Spain and France to Australia.

Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand declaration of independence

The Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand, signed by a number of Māori chiefs in 1835, proclaimed the sovereign independence of New Zealand prior to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

New Zealand Company company formed for the purpose of colonising New Zealand

The New Zealand Company, chartered in the United Kingdom, was a company that existed in the first half of the 1800s on a business model focused on the systematic colonisation of New Zealand. The company was formed to carry out the principles devised by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who envisaged the creation of a new-model English society in the southern hemisphere. Under Wakefield’s model, the colony would attract capitalists who would then have a ready supply of labour—migrant labourers who could not initially afford to be property owners, but who would have the expectation of one-day buying land with their savings.

William Hayward Wakefield was an English colonel, the leader of the first colonising expedition to New Zealand and one of the founders of Wellington. In 1826, he married Emily Sidney, a daughter of Sir John Sidney.

Willoughby Shortland British naval officer and colonial administrator

Commander Willoughby Shortland RN was a British naval officer and colonial administrator. He was New Zealand's first Colonial Secretary from 1841, after having arrived in New Zealand with Lieutenant Governor William Hobson in January 1840. He was later President of the island of Nevis and then Governor of Tobago.

Okiato human settlement in New Zealand

Okiato or Old Russell is a small holiday spot in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) south of present-day Russell. It was New Zealand's first national capital, for a short time from 1840 to 1841, before the seat of government was moved to Auckland. The car ferry across the Bay of Islands, the main tourist access to Russell, runs between Okiato and Opua.

The United Tribes of New Zealand was a confederation of Māori tribes based in the north of the North Island.

Henry Williams (missionary) British missionary

Henry Williams was the leader of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission in New Zealand in the first half of the 19th century.

The New Zealand Constitution Act 1846 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom intended to grant self-government to the Colony of New Zealand, but it was never fully implemented. The Act's long title was An Act to make further Provision for the Government of the New Zealand Islands, and it received the royal assent on 28 August 1846.

William Swainson became the second, and last, Attorney-General of the Crown colony of New Zealand and instrumental in setting up the legal system of New Zealand. He was the first Speaker of the New Zealand Legislative Council.

1840 is considered a watershed year in the history of New Zealand: The Treaty of Waitangi is signed, British sovereignty over New Zealand is proclaimed, organised European settlement begins, and Auckland and Wellington are both founded.

MokaKainga-mataa [Te Kaingamataa/Te Kaingamata/Te Kainga-mata/Te Kainga-mataa] (1790s–1860s) was a Māori rangatira (chief) of the Ngā Puhi iwi from Northland in New Zealand. He was distinguished in war and an intelligent participant in the Treaty of Waitangi process.

Nanto-Bordelaise Company

The Nanto-Bordelaise Company — formally La Compagnie de Bordeaux et de Nantes pour la Colonisation de l’Île du Sud de la Nouvelle Zélande et ses Dépendances — was a French company inaugurated in 1839 by a group of merchants from the cities of Nantes and Bordeaux, with the purpose of founding a French colony in the South Island of New Zealand.

Edward Marsh Williams was a missionary, interpreter, and judge who played a significant role in the British colonisation of New Zealand. He was the eldest son of Archdeacon Henry Williams and Marianne Williams.

George Samuel Evans, was a barrister, editor and politician in New Zealand and colonial Australia. one of the earliest English settlers in New Zealand and for some time a Minister of the Crown in Victoria (Australia).

Agnes Busby Scottish settler in Australia and New Zealand

Agnes Busby was an early European settler in Australia and New Zealand married to James Busby, the first British Resident of New Zealand.

James Coates was a prominent pioneer settler of Auckland New Zealand. He was also a senior official within the administration of the newly-established colony of New Zealand, following the proclamation of sovereignty by William Hobson and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

The New Zealand Land Commission was a 19th-century government inquiry into the validity of claims to land purchases by European settlers from the New Zealand Māori people made prior to 1840, when New Zealand was part of the Australian colony of New South Wales. The inquiry was designed to determine who owned what land, in order to formalise and regulate land ownership in the new colony. The commission carried out its work in two distinct sections—a three-man inquiry to examine purchases in general throughout New Zealand, and a one-man inquiry run by English lawyer William Spain to investigate just those purchases claimed by the New Zealand Company. The commissions were to advise the Governor of which claims were accepted, with the expectation that land owners would then be awarded a Crown grant to their property.