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 5a


Unless one views, stage-by-stage, the developing drafts, leading up to the final English draft wording, one can have no appreciation of the difficulties encountered by Hobson and other writers of the treaty. Twelve pages of rough draft notes, full of deletions, additions or rejected ideas preceding the final draft, have survived in the collection of the New Zealand National Archives. In addition to this batch of rough notes, there are 4-pages of Busby’s first drafting attempt, now found in the collection of Auckland Institute & Museum. This is what James Busby said about the drafting of the treaty:

‘Though my official character [British Resident or Consul] terminated on the arrival of Captain Hobson, I did not the less consider it to be my duty to aid him with my experience and influence; and though I afterwards declined his invitation to join his Government, yet, till the Treaty was accomplished, our relations were of the most unreserved and confidential character ... When it became necessary to draw the Treaty, Captain Hobson was so unwell as to be unable to leave the ship. He sent the gentleman who was appointed Colonial Treasurer, and the Chief Clerk, with some notes, which they had put together as the basis of the Treaty, to ask my advice respecting them. I stated that I should not consider the propositions contained in those notes as calculated to accomplish the object, but offered to prepare the draft of a Treaty for Captain Hobson’s consideration. To this they replied that that was precisely what Captain Hobson desired. The draft of the Treaty prepared by me was adopted by Captain Hobson without any other alteration than a transposition of certain sentences, which did not in any degree affect the sense’ (see Appendix to Journals, July 1861, E. No. 2, page 67).

Historians haven’t been very kind to James Busby for claiming that his draft was adopted, ‘without any other alteration than a transposition of certain sentences, which did not in any degree affect the sense’. If one reviews Busby’s 3rd of February draft, which is now considered to be the official English wording of the treaty, his statement proves to be sheer nonsense. If, however, we view Busby’s statement from the standpoint of the recently found Littlewood Treaty wording, which we are told by our leading handwriting expert was penned by Busby, and which bears the date of the 4th of February 1840, then not too much fault can be found in Busby’s recollection of events.

Perhaps Busby is minimising the contribution of others by not acknowledging that he was, to a large degree, acting only as the scribe or secretary in the concluding stages of treaty composition. Perhaps he is not acknowledging that his earlier drafting attempt had been radically modified during intensive, expert consultation on the evening of the 3rd and morning of the 4th of February 1840. Alternatively, he may well have been the primary author, editor and advisor in the last drafting session and, perhaps, could legitimately lay claim to the final draft being, substantially, his own creation, based upon his own inventiveness and ideas.

On the 2nd & 3rd of February, Busby’s made a concerted effort to expand upon some scant suggestions for treaty Articles, first appearing in the writings of Freeman. Hobson and his secretary were floundering and couldn’t seem to move much beyond two versions of Preambles. Busby, when he took over writing the treaty, launched straight into completing Articles I, II, & III. In the course of a day or so he produced a considerable amount of text, much of which was later discarded as nonessential. The main body of his writing, made up of fleshed out Articles, was used as inspiration for the final draft of the 4th of February 1840, albeit severely edited, simplified and stripped of pretentious content. Busby had also forgotten to mention the settlers in his 3rd of February 1840 draft notes. This serious omission in Article II was later picked up by Hobson or other advisors and rectified. Busby’s efforts, in giving the stalled treaty writing programme some much needed impetus, had been outstanding.

We now have Hobson and Busby’s final draft text back in the public arena, which mirrors the yet latter Maori version in perfect eloquence and balance, thus lending considerable credence to Busby’s July 1861 memory of events. His final draft was certainly accepted, ‘without any other alteration than a transposition of certain sentences [in the Maori version], which did not in any degree affect the sense’. In Hobson’s view, a central component of the treaty was to secure full rights for the settlers, equal to those of the Maori population. In an early rough notes Preamble he wrote:

‘Her Majesty therefore being desirous to establish a settled form of Government with the view to avert the evil consequences which must result alike to the native Population and to Her Subjects from the absence of necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the Native Population and to Her subjects…Has been graciously pleased to appoint and authorize me William Hobson…’

Although these first concepts or ideas were later refined and simplified, they show that Hobson’s focus was in securing rights for everyone, whether settlers or Maori residents and creating an egalitarian society under the mantel of British law.

Let’s now look at all of the rough draft notes that led up to the final English draft. It will become very clear that there is no single body of text within these 16-pages that could, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a final draft. One must remember that Reverend Henry Williams and his son Edward Marsh Williams were only the translators and not the legislators. It was obligatory that they receive a complete, clearly set out and concisely worded final draft to work from, which was free from confusing deletions or additions or any ambiguity. It couldn’t be a case of Hobson saying, ‘Sorry Henry, but me and the boys got into a barrel of ship’s rum last night and didn’t quite get the treaty text tidied up as planned…but here, take this jumble of rough notes and try to make some sense out of them…whatever you come up with will be fine, I’m sure’.

Hobson had come halfway around the world to accomplish his commission from Queen Victoria. There would not have been any last minute oversights that jeopardised his mission and the translators would have received a fully completed “final draft”. Hobson owed them that much and, as a professional, he delivered.

The Littlewood Treaty wording is the only body of text in existence that qualifies as the final English draft of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is the natural extension and further development of Busby’s earlier work of the 3rd of February 1840 or Hobson and Freeman’s rough notes that preceded Busby’s participation.


Thankfully, all or most of the developing rough notes, leading to the creation of the treaty, have survived. The majority of these (12-pages) remained in the records of the Colonial Secretary and are now housed in the collection of the National Archives.
An additional four pages, representing Busby’s first attempt at writing a treaty draft, were retained amidst his personal papers. All such documents in family custody, including his first treaty drafting attempt, were donated to the Auckland Institute & Museum.

The final English treaty draft went missing for almost 150-years, but was relocated in 1989 and is now in the collection of the National Archives. The first Maori copy made by Reverend Williams, written on an ordinary piece of paper, was last in the possession of Reverend Richard Taylor, but has been lost.

The following rough draft pages (spread between Chapters 5A to 5D) are:

1. The first four pages were written by William Hobson and represent little more than ideas for a Preamble. These pages were written between the 31st of January and 1st of February 1840.

2. The second batch, consisting of four pages were written (mostly) by James Stuart Freeman, Hobson’s secretary. They contain a second version of a Preamble and some raw, first concepts of three Articles. They, also, were written between the 31st of January and 1st of February 1840.

3. The third batch, consisting of four pages represent Busby’s first attempt at writing Articles and an Affirmation section for a treaty. When Hobson became ill. Busby took over all duties pertaining to writing the treaty. He accepted this assignment on the 2nd of February 1840 and this batch was written in the afternoon and evening of the 2nd of February or the morning of the 3rd.

4. Busby was scheduled to meet with Hobson ashore at Kororareka on the evening of the 3rd of February to decide on the “final draft” wording. The fourth batch consisting of four pages, represents a “clean copy” of Busby’s earlier rough notes. Hobson severely edited these notes to create the final draft, which was completed by the mid-afternoon of the 4th of February 1840.

These four pages of rough draft notes are in the handwriting of William Hobson. They contain, mostly, ideas for a Preamble and were written between the 31st of January and the 1st of February 1840. On the night of Saturday 1st of February, Hobson had a violent quarrel with Captain Nias, which rendered him quite ill with pent up stress throughout the next day. This illness made it impossible for Hobson to carry on drafting the treaty and he had to delegate the chore to James Busby.