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 4


Whereas the fact that James Busby was the author of the Littlewood Treaty must have been known or at least suspected by some leading historians, even before the document was deposited with the National Archives in 1992, this morsel of highly significant information was withheld from the public.

To state that the leading treaty historians and document experts didn’t arrive at this conclusion by 1989 or 1992 is difficult to accept.

In 1989 Beryl Needham was promised that handwriting experts at Auckland Institute and Museum would attempt to identify the author of the document. The receiving officer there, Mr. Thwaite, had even speculated over the counter that William Hobson might have penned it.

The National Archives’ spokespeople announced publicly in 1992 that they were going to subject the Littlewood Treaty to handwriting analysis to determine its author. If the document was, indeed, the final English lost draft, then the first choice of handwriting needing to be looked at and compared was that of James Busby.

So, didn’t even one of our leading experts bother to take 5-minutes out of their day in September 1992 to check and see if Busby wrote the Littlewood Treaty? After publicly speculating about the document qualifying as the long sought after, final draft of the 4th of February 1840, didn’t someone carry it into the Constitution Room and lay it side-by-side with the 3rd of February, last surviving, English treaty draft for handwriting comparison?

In the list of long lost documents, there was no other one that could, conceivably, be of greater importance to New Zealand historians or legislators than this one. Everyone had wanted to find this particular document for over 150-years, when it finally turned up on the doorstep of the National Archives of New Zealand in 1992.

How could the Auckland Institute & Museum historians not have known, in 1989, that the Littlewood Treaty document was in the handwriting of James Busby?
At Auckland Institute & Museum Library there are large quantities of Busby related material, to the order of about 7-boxes of his handwritten letters and reports. Also there’s one of Busby’s pristine condition, rough drafts of the Treaty of Waitangi languishing there. The draft in question is, as expected, written on J & J Town Turkey Mill 1838 watermarked paper, just like Busby’s later, corrected draft of the same day (3rd of February 1840), which is found amongst the 12-pages of rough draft notes in the collection of the National Archives.

A mere 5-minute comparison of handwriting, between the treaty draft on file at the Museum and the Littlewood Treaty, should have been all that was required by a handwriting expert to ascertain, or at least strongly suspect, that the same author penned both documents.

By the time the year 1992 rolled around, major new legislation had been put in place related to what the treaty, supposedly, said or meant. The process had, effectively, started in 1975 with the Treaty of Waitangi Act, which was wholly based upon Busby’s Articles of February 3rd 1840. The Preamble of the treaty was discarded shortly after Geoffrey Palmer introduced his, “Five Legal Principles”, which allowed for radical reinterpretation of the treaty. The Preamble began to quickly slip from view and didn’t feature in the Lange government’s publication “Crown Proposals for the Settlement of Treaty Claims”. It was, subsequently, not included on the etched glass panels displaying the treaty at Te Papa Museum. This loss of our treaty Preamble fomented an outcry from the committee set up to report on submissions related to Crown Proposals for the Settlement of Treaty Claims, who wrote:
‘This committee is shocked to read that Appendix 1 excludes the Preamble to the Treaty of Waitangi. Insofar as the Treaty of Waitangi is this country’s founding document, the Preamble is its “essence”. The Preamble is an integral part of the Treaty, which should not be omitted, as it outlines the Crown’s intentions’.

If ever we needed to locate the final English draft of the treaty, in haste, it was now!

So, how hard was it, really, to determine if the Littlewood Treaty was in Busby’s handwriting?

The top section shows part of Article I of the Littlewood Treaty, dated 4th of February 1840 and the bottom section shows Article I from Busby’s first attempt, rough draft of the 3rd of February 1840, held at Auckland Institute & Museum. An appended note with the 3rd of February draft says:

‘draft of the Articles of a Treaty with the native chiefs submitted to Capt. Hobson 3rd Feby 1840’.

The appended note is in Busby’s handwriting. It’s evident that this 3rd of February sheet never actually went to Hobson, but that the somewhat more refined or improved copy, which is now found amongst the 12-pages of rough draft treaty notes held at the National Archives, is what was ‘submitted’.

This 3rd of February copy, shown above, certainly preceded the version in the National Archives’ collection, as this one has many more corrections and crossed out words that don’t appear in the somewhat-improved draft that followed it. The Littlewood Treaty of the 4th of February represents the natural progression, development and refinement of Busby’s two earlier attempts at writing a treaty on the 3rd of February 1840.

The fact that the final English draft went missing sometime in early 1840 has caused ongoing problems and vexations, ever since, in determining the precise English wording of the Treaty of Waitangi. It stretches credibility to the extreme to suggest that, in 1992, the Littlewood Treaty document was simply shoved in a drawer upon receipt of it by the National Archives and forgotten about thereafter. Such a conclusion runs contrary to a statement by National Archives’ Chief Archivist, Kathryn Patterson, who, in her letter to John Littlewood of the 12th of October 1992, stated the following:
‘Given the inability of historians to recognise the handwriting it may be that the identity of the writer of the document will never be known. It is clearly not by Henry Littlewood. You mentioned an example of what you thought was very likely his handwriting in the family Bible. We have found examples here and have found an example of his signatures in an original roll of barristers and solicitors held by the Auckland District Law Society’.

At the time of Kathryn Patterson’s letter to John Littlewood the National Archives had held the Littlewood Treaty original for almost three months and, prior to that, the Auckland Institute & Museum had held the document for almost an entire year. Experts in both establishments, along with Dr. Claudia Orange, had, privately or publicly, speculated that the document could be the final English, lost draft of the treaty. Obviously some investigative work was being undertaken between July and October 1992 and, as a result of that probe, 1840’s solicitor, Henry Littlewood, had been eliminated as the possible author.

But, realistically, Henry Littlewood was well down the list of prime candidates, as the final English treaty draft was known to have been penned by James Busby. He had to qualify, far and away, as the frontrunner in any investigation of handwriting. Logically, it is beyond question that expert focus would have been directed, first and foremost, at Busby.

We’re led to believe that the author of the Littlewood Treaty remained undetermined until New Zealand’s leading handwriting expert of particular documents from the early colonial era, Dr. Phil Parkinson, happened upon a copy in the year 2000 and correctly, at a glance, identified its author as James Busby. Even after that dynamic but muted revelation was partially circulated in-house at the National Archives, there was still no stirring and mounting enthusiasm amongst the archives’ historians. Like old lethargic swamp turtles of The Never Ending Story, ‘they didn’t care… and what’s worse…they didn’t care that they didn’t care’.


I got involved with the Littlewood Treaty saga quite by chance. For many years I have been perplexed by the erosion of our history by recent era social engineers, who seem intent upon radically changing or discounting it. Many reliable items, recorded in our older history books, which were once common knowledge to my generation, have been lately shelved, denied or slandered into oblivion as Euro- centric. Compelling evidence of earlier human occupation, observations by the first maritime explorers or age-old oral traditions of the learned Maori Kaumatuas or Kuias have been deliberately pushed into the background as unmentionables to make way for a new, approved plastic history. There seems to be a contrived programme of blanket amnesia enveloping, mesmerising and inducing us to forget recorded regional anomalies or the once frequent mention of the pre-Maori inhabitants from our county’s more remote epochs. Our history seems to be perpetually locked into a limited scope time warp from which there is little hope of escape.

The older Maori people of my generation give me a wry smile and knowing look when I mention our, now, forbidden history, once openly discussed in my youth. Oftimes they proffer additional snippets that add yet more to my knowledge of our censored past. Unfortunately, younger Maori, many of whom have gained their knowledge of history from corporate kaumatuas, with a degree in business management or law, tend to get ruffled at some of the, so-called, culturally insensitive topics I raise or keep alive.
My advice to them is to go and talk to the learned old elders, who will tell them exactly what I’m telling them and, probably, considerably more.

In October 2003 a very irate and disgruntled correspondent named Hemi wrote scathing commentary within my archaeological discussion forum and challenged me to ‘tell the people about the Treaty of Waitangi’. I recall being patently ungrateful to Hemi for inviting me to broach that horrible subject, which in recent years has been so layered with legalese as to be rendered virtually incomprehensible.

In the back of my mind there was a vague, almost forgotten recollection of something I’d seen on the T.V. news in the early 90’s …something about a mysterious copy of the Treaty of Waitangi that had turned up amidst private family papers, as well as follow-on speculation that this could be the long sought after, lost final English draft of the treaty.

In my ensuing investigation, I found a small, almost unreadable reprint of the Littlewood treaty document, in question, within Ross Baker’s book, From Treaty To Conspiracy and was able to read a transcript of what the Littlewood Treaty said, for the first time. I had to agree with his analysis that this English version was the closest one in existence to back-translations of the Maori Tiriti O Waitangi.

On October 13th, 2004, while advancing my research and in an attempt to gain a fully legible copy of the Littlewood Treaty, I simply consulted the telephone book and located John Littlewood on my first try. He, very graciously, agreed to converse with me on the subject and filled me in on details of the 1989 discovery. When I said I’d like to get a copy of the Littlewood Treaty document, John mentioned that he’d have to search a bit to find where he’d left his files on the subject. So much time had elapsed, with no further interest shown by the National Archives, that John rarely thought about the Littlewood Treaty these days. Because of the eternal silence and inaction on the part of the authorities to provide the heretofore-promised answers about the old family document, John Littlewood had long since given up waiting and had reverted to simply getting on with life.

On the 15th of October 2003 I went to John and Barbara Littlewood’s home and had a lengthy interview with them. John kindly supplied me with the first generation copy of the Littlewood Treaty that he’d been given by the National Archives in 1992 after he’d handed over the original. This I took to Reprographics Ltd and had quality copies made, along with a high resolution CD of the digital image. Upon returning John’s original the next day, he reciprocated by giving me an additional wad of archival correspondence, newspaper clippings and research documents about his great grandfather, Henry Littlewood. I returned to Reprographics and had quality reproductions of these documents made also.

Over the course of a year I was to return several times to interview the Littlewood’s or had many telephone conversations with John to clarify small points. Thankfully, he is a meticulous record keeper and has filed away all Littlewood Treaty related correspondence to or from the Archives. Since 1989 he has kept diary records of all events stemming from the discovery and his ongoing attempts to have it professionally assessed.

Later, while searching deeper into the significance of the document, I discovered the National Archives’ in-house newsletter, circulated to a very limited readership, which all-too-casually mentioned how Dr. Phil Parkinson had identified the author of the Littlewood Treaty to be British Resident, James Busby. I was absolutely astounded that such a dynamic revelation had not been taken up by the media, as Parkinson’s find pointed conclusively to the Littlewood Treaty being the authentic, long lost final English draft of the Treaty of Waitangi.

I created a website article on the subject and injected into the public arena as much as I knew at the time. This information was picked up by Ian Wishart, Editor of Investigate Magazine, who subsequently produced an article from the website material for his December 03-January 04 issue. I’d also given a short talk on the subject at M.P. Ken Shirley’s Tamaki conference on the 19th of November 2003 and had handed a CD, accompanied by printed documents, to Mr. Shirley. He promised he would raise the matter in Parliament and inform the Hon. Don Brash about this material.

In January 2004 Allan Titford, dispossessed farmer, also told the Hon. John Carter about the Littlewood Treaty, and Mr. Carter said he’d inform Dr. Brash of the find and its possible implications.

In late January 2004 Dr. Brash gave his very memorable Orewa speech, calling for equality for all the people of New Zealand. In essence he was simply paraphrasing Article II of both Te Tiriti O Waitangi and its counterpart English version, the Littlewood Treaty.

I surmised, at the time, that Dr. Brash and his research team had weighed the published evidence in the balance and had concluded that the Littlewood Treaty was probably the authentic, final English draft wording from which the Maori version was derived. The content of Dr. Brash’s Orewa speech was unprecedented, with suggestions unheard for 3-decades and, nowadays, never vocalised quite so defiantly and confidently by any political party.

Like all the rest of us, Dr. Brash was bound by laws that exist on the books or enshrined by treaty and to suggest that all New Zealanders were actually EQUAL under the law, with no special privileges or rights accorded to Maori, almost represented the ultimate heresy. This was either a very informed speech that could be backed up by unassailable points of law or it was a precarious, foolhardy course, leading to Dr. Brash’s political suicide. He touched a harmonious chord with the majority of New Zealanders, who backed him to the hilt, much to the chagrin of Prime Minister, Helen Clark.

I was convinced that Brash had an ace up his sleeve and that ace was the Littlewood Treaty, although Dr. Brash would, undoubtedly, deny that vehemently. It struck me as odd that in the two months of intensive verbal carnage that followed, with parliamentarians or the public venting their spleens and pent-up rage at what the grievance industry had done to our country, no one seemed to challenge Dr. Brash on purely legal grounds.

Although there was plenty of mud slinging and accusations of racism or Maori bashing, directed at Dr. Brash, no one wished to seriously address the issue of special customary rights being guaranteed to Maori in Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi, to the exclusion of all other New Zealanders. Why were the legal eagles of the grievance industry so reluctant to go there? Could it be that they didn’t want to open a Pandora’s box for themselves?


In the year 2000, shortly before paramount Nga-Puhi Maori Chief, Graham Rankin passed away he had a series of discussions concerning Northern New Zealand history with dispossessed farmer, Allan Titford. One point that Mr. Rankin made was that the official English text of the Treaty of Waitangi is radically different from the Maori version, in both wording and meaning. When Allan Titford showed him a photocopy of the Littlewood Treaty, accompanied by a legible read-out text supplied by ONZF historian, Ross Baker, Mr. Rankin commented that the wording was exactly the same as the Maori version.

It has always been a mystery to our treaty scholars that the two versions, Maori and the official English, are so radically different, especially in the view of the fact that the translators, Reverend Henry Williams and his son Edward, were such expert linguists in the Maori tongue. Henry Williams had been a hard working missionary stalwart in New Zealand for 17-years when he undertook the translation. His 21-year old son Edward, who had been virtually raised in a Maori community, was considered to be a, ‘scholar par excellence in the Nga Puhi dialect’ (See T.L. Buick, 1914, The Treaty of Waitangi, pg. 113).

The frustration of some historians over this factor of the marked differences between the two texts is touched upon by D.F. McKenzie, who wrote:
‘ is impossible to regard the Maori version [of the treaty] as quite complete, although it carries the highest authority, nor the English ones as authoritative, although they are far more explicit. Like many dramatic texts, each has been born, here maimed and deformed, on the pressures of context’ (see Hobson...Governor of New Zealand 1840-1842, by Paul Moon, pg. 109; quote by D.F. McKenzie).

Today’s official English version has words like Kingdom, Favour, Emigration, Europe, Functionary, Pre-emption, Ireland, Australia, Forest and Fisheries in it, which are conspicuous by their absence in the Maori version. It also makes no provision for any one other than Maori… and the rights of the tribe of Queen Victoria (Ngati Wikitoria) go unmentioned.

The Maori version, by consequence, provides for the rights of, ‘the chiefs and the tribes and all the people of New Zealand’ …… ‘ki nga Rangitira ki nga hapu - ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani’, (Article II). Back translations of the Maori text since 1840 have always included, ‘and all the people of New Zealand’.

Captain William Hobson travelled half way around the world with a commission from Queen Victoria to secure a treaty with the Maori chiefs of New Zealand. Maori, who had lost upward of 60,000 people in intertribal fighting during the previous 20 years of musket wars had, since 1837 especially, petitioned the British Government to come and govern New Zealand. For the British to agree to do so, they required the chiefs to cede full sovereignty, forever, to Queen Victoria; that all such ceded regions or territories become British soil and that all the people of New Zealand (Maoris and settlers alike) become British subjects, with equal rights under one law and one flag.

The chiefs, at the time, were also worried about the French ambitions to annex New Zealand and, “justly thought they had done a pretty good stroke of business when they placed the British lion between themselves and the French eagle”. (See, The Treaty of Waitangi, by T.L. Buick, pg. 281- 282, memoirs of Rev. John Warren).

The main (present day) problems related to treaty interpretation are borne out of the wording of Article II in the officially recognised, 3rd of February, rough draft English version that we use, which states that the rights guaranteed under the treaty are only for:
“…the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof”.

But that’s not what the Maori version says:
“ki nga Rangatira ki nga hapu-ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani…”[which means]… “…to the Chiefs, the Hapus [tribes or families] and all the people of New Zealand…” (Translation from the Original Maori by, Mr. T. E. Young, Native Department…1869).

Which is what the Littlewood Treaty says:
“…to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand…”

Which is what James Reddy Clendon’s 20th of February 1840 despatch No. 6 to the U.S. Secretary of State says:
“…to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand…”

Which is what Commodore Charles Wilkes’ wrote into the U.S.S. Vincennes’ letter book and, subsequently, sent in his April 5th 1840 despatch No. 64 to the U.S. Secretary of State:
“…to the chiefs and the tribes and to all the people of New Zealand…”

Which is what Gordon Brown’s back-translation, found amongst the Clendon House Papers, says:
“…to all the tribes, chiefs and all men in New Zealand…”

Which is what a very early back-translation by an unknown author (found in the Clendon House Papers) says:
“…to the chiefs, to the tribes, to all the people of New Zealand…”

Which is what J. Noble Coleman wrote in, A Memoir of the Rev. Richard Davis, 1865 pp. 455-56:
“to the chiefs, the tribes, and all the people of New Zealand…”

Which is what Prof. Hugh Kawhura’s modern translation says:
“…the chiefs, the subtribes and all the people of New Zealand…”

Treaty historian, Dr. Claudia Orange, echo’s a known fact, long-since acknowledged by experts that:
‘The original draft in English, on which Henry Williams based this Maori translation, has not been found. His original translation, presented to the Waitangi meeting of 5 February, has also disappeared’.

So, a mistaken English version, based upon an early draft of the 3rd of February 1840, rather than the final draft of the 4th of February 1840, is being used to justify dubious items like: Principles of Settlement, Customary Rights, Concepts of Partnership, etc, etc.

In recent years our treaty has been transformed into something akin to a chameleon, which can change its tone to blend in and exploit any new surrounding environment. Our treaty is now called a “living document” and can mean anything that self-serving manipulators wish it to mean to suit the occasion.
Vested interests seem cognisant of the fact that a whole raft of newly clipped on alter-treaty based appendages would become null and void with the finding of Hobson’s final English draft. All of the lucrative, interpretive legalese nonsense that has built up around the treaty stands seriously threatened.

When Lieutenant Governor William Hobson shook hands with each signatory chief at Waitangi and declared, ‘He iwi tahi tatou’ (we are now one people), perhaps that was what he actually meant?
The rights enshrined within the Maori Tiriti O Waitangi are clearly for “all the people of New Zealand”, altogether and not for just a select few.

Unfortunately, the Maori version of the treaty is never used in the creation and implementation of government policy. Nowadays it’s there only to serve as a visual prop, wherein the very photogenic, irregularly shaped parchment with missing text (rat eaten), is traditionally displayed alongside the, largely, 3rd of February 1840 composite English text.
Uninformed people naturally assume that what’s on the parchment must translate to the English text shown alongside, but it doesn’t.


It is a well-known fact in ages-old international law that when two language versions of a treaty or agreement exist, the version in the native language of the indigenous population carries the most authority. We have something called, Te Tiriti O Waitangi, of which Lieutenant Governor Hobson said:
‘The treaty, which forms the basis of my proceedings, was signed at Waitangi, on 6th February, 1840, by 52 chiefs, 26 of whom were of the Confederation, and formed a majority of those who signed the Declaration of Independence [1835]. This instrument I consider to be de facto the treaty, and all the signatures that are subsequently obtained are merely testimonials of adherence to the terms of the original document’ (see The Treaty of Waitangi, by T.L Buick, pg. 162).

The ‘instrument’ that Hobson is referring to here is the all-Maori treaty wording, which formed the only [de facto] Treaty of Waitangi. Anything that did not comply with this wording, in this language, was not the treaty. Any and all of the English versions were merely drafts leading up to the creation of the Maori treaty or were back-translations of the same.

The only English text that could carry any perceived authority was the final draft from which the Maori version was translated. Even at that, the final draft was merely to show what the English authors intended and the meaning they placed on the Maori words. It was never the intention of Hobson that any English version of the treaty be proffered to Maori chiefs for signing. Without exception, all documents officially sent out by the government and earmarked for signing at treaty assemblies by the chiefs were carefully prepared, handwritten texts, solely in the Maori language. Much more on this as we proceed!

After Hobson had completed the laborious and difficult process of creating an English draft from which to translate his Tiriti O Waitangi, he seemed utterly disinterested in the English text thereafter. He printed an official Maori text, but never an official English one. As far as he was concerned, the Treaty of Waitangi compact or contact was a definitive and solitary text in the Maori language.
Despite this, anyone wishing to locate the final draft English text from which the Maori one was derived, has been able to do so since February 1840, as more than one copy existed, permanently, in available public records since that time. The American archives are in possession of three such copies and the newly found Littlewood Treaty is a fourth one.

There was never any real difficulty in ascertaining what the treaty said, or in grasping its concepts, as the equal rights of all New Zealanders, altogether, are enshrined within the Maori Tiriti O Waitangi.

The only “de facto” Treaty of Waitangi is a text in Maori. If any confusion arises in interpreting the meaning of its clauses, then clarification can be found in consulting Hobson’s final English draft text. By this means, one can fathom the intent of the authors.