The Littlewood Treaty, The True English Text of the Treaty of Waitangi Found

Chapter: Précis 1 2 3 4 5a,5b,5c,5d,5e 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Lord Normanby's Brief

Chapter 2


In September 1992, it would have been a very simple matter to determine whether or not James Busby had, indeed, penned the Littlewood Treaty document. As official British Resident in New Zealand from 1833 until 1840, he had been a prolific writer and reporter of regional happenings. Many examples of his handwriting were to be found amongst original documents held by the National Archives of New Zealand, which establishment now possessed the Littlewood Treaty original. Yet further of Busby’s letters and despatches to his superiors in Australia or Britain were available on microfilm at all the main city centres and universities of New Zealand. Auckland Institute & Museum has about 7-boxes of original, handwritten Busby documents in their substantial collection.

The top section of this two-part picture shows part of an Article II, rough draft of the Treaty of Waitangi, produced during the day by British Resident, James Busby on the 3rd of February 1840. By that evening he was in attendance at an onshore meeting at Kororareka with Hobson and others to discuss the final wording of the treaty, such that the final English draft could be composed.
The lower section of the picture shows the handwriting found of the Littlewood Treaty, which is identified as that of British Resident, James Busby. This second section was written on the 4th of February or one day after Busby wrote the rough draft wording of the upper section. Busby had forgotten to mention the British settlers in his 3rd of February drafting attempts, but this mistake was rectified a day later and the text changed to read, ‘to the chiefs and tribes and to all the people of New Zealand’…just as Article II of the Maori version reads.

At the National Archives in 1992, the process of identifying the author of the Littlewood Treaty should have been about as simple as walking, document in hand, into the Constitution Room vault. Most of the rough, treaty draft notes’ originals are on display there, with exception to one at Auckland Institute & Museum. Expert comparative analysis was all that was needed.

Every Treaty expert knew that there were, plausibly, only three choices of authors for the English drafts of the treaty. These were William Hobson, James Stuart Freeman and James Busby. Unless there had been some, unknown radical departure from the unfolding process and our recorded history is wrong, then James Busby should have written the final draft. His own testimony on the matter, in recalling the concluding events of treaty drafting on the last day, stated that he had been the author of the document sent to Reverend Williams for translation.

Why, therefore, did Minister of Internal Affairs, Graham Lee state that ‘specialists from the National Archives and elsewhere now believed they were in for ‘a long haul’ in determining who had written the draft on paper with an 1833 watermark’?

In retrospect and given the simplicity of the research problem, the everywhere present availability of high quality original documents pertinent to the investigation, access to New Zealand’s top historians and handwriting experts lurking in every nook and cranny within the building, Graham Lee’s statement shows itself to be quite ridiculous.

Despite an expectant and long-suffering public waiting with the “patience of Job” for over 12-years for basic answers to simple questions, their public servant experts at ‘the National Archives and elsewhere’ remain forever silent on the subject.

Out of sight - out of mind.

In the years that followed the lodging of the Littlewood Treaty at the National Archives, members of the Littlewood family who were visiting Wellington decided to go and view the long-held family heirloom, but were disappointed not to find it on display. One family member, who inquired after the document to Archives’ staff, was told that they had ‘never received any such item into their collection’.

This initiated a direct approach by John Littlewood, who had become very concerned about both the safety and public accessibility of the historic document. He had been given assurances when he deposited the Littlewood Treaty that it would be professionally analysed and later displayed for public scrutiny. Although it had been on display, briefly, for a few weeks or months after it was first deposited in 1992, it then disappeared completely, never to be seen again for almost a decade.

On the 21st of September 2000, an increasingly concerned John Littlewood went to the National Archives and inquired after the document. Historian, Dr. Hank Driessen, as well as Jonathan London, Head of Preservation Services, couldn’t, initially, locate it, but the old sheet was finally found the next day and John Littlewood was photographed holding it. At the time, he was promised a copy of the photo when it was developed, but it was never sent. He was also told that the Littlewood Treaty would go on display in the Constitution room after paper restoration work was completed.

It’s difficult to know how much further restoration work was necessary, as most seems to have been completed in 1989 by the Auckland Institute & Museum personnel. Some additional removal of the defacing cellophane-tape marks on the paper folds appears to have been undertaken within Preservation Services at the National Archives, Wellington. All preservation work, however, seems to have been completed shortly after the National Archives first acquired the document.

Over a year later, in 2001, when it was reported to John that the document was still not on display, he wrote his concerns in a letter to Dr. Hank Driessen on October 8th, 2001. When no response was forthcoming, John Littlewood went to M.P. George Hawkins on the 5th of November 2001 to lodge a complaint and to express his concerns about the safety and public availability of the document. The Hon. George Hawkins, subsequently, conveyed John’s complaint to the Member of Parliament who held the portfolio for Archives, the Hon. Marion Hobbs. She wrote back to the Hon. George Hawkins on the 12th of December 2001 to assure him that the Littlewood Treaty document had, finally and belatedly, been put on display in the Constitution Room of the National Archives.

Adding insult to injury, only the front page of the Littlewood Treaty sheet, to this very day, can be viewed by the public, although it would be a very simple matter to display a photographic facsimile of the second page and there is ample room in the glass case to do so. Treaty document researchers are, as a consequence, unable to see that the old sheet bears the date of the 4th of February 1840 and, therefore, had been written before there was any Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi in existence. This all-important date also meant that a final English draft had been written one day after the officially accepted and much promoted draft wording of the 3rd of February 1840.

Moreover, researchers are unable to read the very important text of Article II, which says:

‘The Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand, the possession of their lands, dwellings and all their property’.

The public are, in addition, not informed that the Littlewood Treaty, on display before their eyes, was, in the year 2000, identified by Dr. Phil Parkinson to be in the handwriting of British Resident, James Busby.