Graeme Hunt’s Book on New Zealand Spies and Revolutionaries – Chapter Two

Scoop serializes the first 1000 words of each chapter of author Graeme Hunt’s latest book: Spies and Revolutionaries – A History of New Zealand Subversion. Click here for Chapter Two: French, Russian and Fenians

The history of New Zealand intelligence agencies and those he spied on were laid bare in a book by Auckland-based journalist, author and historian Graeme Hunt.

Spies and Revolutionaries – A History of New Zealand Subversion details how several prominent New Zealanders, all dead, spied for the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. Accusations and suspicions are exposed in front of files and information that have never been made public before. This book will clearly reignite the debate on whether Dr Bill Sutch, diplomat Paddy Costello and civil servant Ian Milner were spies acting against New Zealand’s national interest.

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CHAPTER TWO: French, Russians and Fenians

It was natural for British settlers to New Zealand from the 1830s to bring with them “baggage” from the old country in terms of prejudice against mainland nationals, especially the French and the Dutch. France had been a centuries-old enemy, strongly defeated at Waterloo in 1815, but was now a rival on the dawn of South Pacific colonialism. The Dutch, once powerful maritime rivals, were minor players in colonial issues, but had a historical connection to New Zealand due to the fact that their compatriot, Abel Tasman, had “discovered” what he called Staten Landt in 1642.1. That was all Tasman did. He did not claim New Zealand as a Dutch possession. One hundred and twenty-seven years later –– in 1769 –– an Englishman, Lieutenant James Cook, took possession of the islands in the name of King George III, two months ahead of French explorer Jean François de Surville.

Britain did nothing to back Cook’s claim for over 60 years. Although the first governor of New South Wales, Captain Arthur Phillip, had the right to include New Zealand in his legal jurisdiction after 1788, he too did nothing. A later governor, Major-General Lachlan Macquarie, alarmed by reports from New Zealand about European lawlessness and mistreatment of the Maori, issued an order in 1813 declaring that no ships would be allowed to sail to New Zealand unless he posts a conduct bond of £ 10002 and violators would be punished. He also appointed Anglican missionary Thomas Kendall as resident magistrate.

Macquarie’s powers were strengthened in 1817 by legislation from the Imperial Parliament in London, but there was no reaffirmation of the sovereignty Cook claimed in 1769. In 1819 Macquarie appointed one of the fellow missionaries of Kendall, John Butler, justice of the peace, but the appointment was more symbolic than real because New Zealand, or Maoriland3 as some missionaries and traders later called it, was still outside the British Empire.

It was up to the established Church of England to take the initiative. She had a powerful incentive to act, as France, the European power most interested in the South Pacific, was predominantly Roman Catholic. The proselyte branch of the Church of England, the Church Missionary Society, viewed Catholicism as a threat to the pagan populations of the South Seas. Thus, long before the organized British colonization of New Zealand, Anglican missionaries (closely followed by the Wesleyans) embarked on their own form of colonization – a systematic campaign to capture the souls of the “savages.”

When the chief Anglican chaplain of the New South Wales penal colony, Samuel Marsden, led the first religious service in New Zealand, at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands on Christmas Day 1814, there was no New Zealand as we know it today – no administration, no infrastructure and no rule of law. But Marsden’s action was a signal to the Colonial Office in London and to British politicians in general that New Zealand would be British and Protestant.

There was little response from Whitehall or Westminster; Britain was preoccupied with continental affairs after Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814 and was poised to help redraw the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna.

France had put the Bourbons back on the throne and joined the ranks of civilized nations. Other monarchs deposited by Napoleon were also being restored. Peace had finally arrived – at least that’s what war-weary Britain thought. (Napoleon will escape from Elba Island in February 1815 and resume the war, only to be defeated by British and Prussian forces at Waterloo in June 1815.)

Marsden and the Church Missionary Society, so far from European affairs, had no choice but to go it alone in New Zealand. They took up the challenge with zeal, and Christianity spread steadily throughout the country. The 200 to 300 Britons living in New Zealand in 1830 were much less tolerant of the “new France” that Britain had helped create. They remained fiercely anti-French and when it was learned that an eccentric French aristocrat-adventurer, Charles, Baron de Thierry, intended to establish an independent colony in New Zealand with himself at its head, they took up arms. They were not convinced that de Thierry was Protestant.

De Thierry had conceived his colonial dream at the University of Cambridge, England, in 1820 with the help of Anglican missionary Thomas Kendall, who was visiting Cambridge with warlord Ngapuhi Hongi Hika and his nephew, Waikato, officially to help compile a Maori dictionary. The plan called for the acquisition of more than 16,000 ha of land on the Hokianga to establish the colony. The price paid for the land was 36 axes and the deed was executed in 1822.

Cash-strapped De Thierry, whose parents fled revolutionary France in 1793, failed to gain British, Dutch or French support for the business, although he claimed that Britain had repudiated sovereignty over New Zealand. He was imprisoned for debt in 1824 and in 1826 was forced to flee to England to escape his creditors after the failure of a Parisian business in which he had an interest. Nine years later –– in 1835 – after having built up a military force in Tahiti, de Thierry reaffirmed his grandiose objective of becoming “sovereign leader of New Zealand”. It so alarmed James Busby, the British resident of Waitangi, and British settlers that Busby persuaded 35 northern Maori rangatira to sign a New Zealand Declaration of Independence and seek crown protection. There wasn’t much else he could do. Four years earlier, at the request of the Church Missionary Society, 13 rangatira of the Bay of Islands had sought protection from King William IV, which led to the appointment of Busby in 1833. Without administrative powers and without a police force, Busby was an ‘unarmed man-o’-war,’ able to speak harshly but unable to act.

See also:

  • Scoop News – Spies and Revolutionaries – Chapter 1: Murder in a Country Graveyard
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    Scoop is serializing the first 1000 words of each chapter of author Graeme Hunt’s latest book: Spies and Revolutionaries – A History of New Zealand Subversion.

    List price: $ 29.99
    ISBN: 9780790011400
    340p, includes index, black and white photos
    Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd www.reed.co.nz

    Released: Aug 6, 2007
    For more information, see… Reed Publishers, Spies And Revolutionaries

    ENDS

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