New Zealand Methodist Church OnLine History
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John Whiteley
Land Sovereignty and the Land Wars of the 19th Century

     1 The Beginning
     2 A Decade of Progress
     3 Earl Grey's Despatch
     4 Background of the Dispute
     5 The Protests of the Wesleyan Missionary Society
     6 Conclusion to the Years at Kawhia
     1 Background to the Taranaki Land Situation
     2 First Impressions and Actions
     3 Governor Gore Browne in Taranaki
     4 Whiteley, Supporter of the Government
     5 Whiteley and other Wesleyan Missionaries
     6 The Wesleyans and the Church Missionary Society


The following work was originally written as a research essay presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Master of Arts degree in History at Auckland University. I chose the topic as the result of reading a sentence in Keith Sinclair's book. The Origins of the Maori Wars. In a comment on the situation in Taranaki he wrote that Whiteley was a collaborator of the government. This did not sound like the Whiteley I had been taught about, the man who had selflessly served the Maori people for over thirty years, who had died at the hands of a Maori war party, and whose death was mourned by both settler and Maori. I was anxious to find how Sinclair came to the belief that Whiteley was indeed a collaborator with the government so with the support of my Tutor I commenced research on the topic of Whiteley's attitude towards the ownership of land.

Original documents. Journals, letters, minutes of meetings, are often most revealing. Documents relating to the Wesleyan Mission in New Zealand are no exception. They reveal, among other things, that the missionaries found it impossible to separate their work from the politics of the day. In 19th. Century New Zealand the burning political issue concerned the ownership of land. Almost from the beginning of the Mission missionaries were drawn into disputes over land, and when the Land Wars erupted over the purchase of the Waitara block the missionaries found it necessary to take sides. The Wesleyan missionaries and some of the Church Missionary Society missionaries chose to support the settler position.

Recent Waitangi Tribunal decisions have brought home to New Zealanders, some for the first time, the unpleasant fact that Maori people in Taranaki and elsewhere suffered many injustices as settlers sought to acquire land. John Whiteley was a participant when the first of the injustices in Taranaki were perpetrated. To recognise this does not deny his selfless service in the cause of the Gospel, nor the commitment he made which in the end cost him his life. It shows him as a human being, caught in very difficult circumstances, who made decisions which with the benefit of hindsight were questionable.

There are those who believe that we should forget what happened in the past, and concentrate on the future. I am not one of them. I do not believe it is possible to ignore the past. The work of the Waitangi Tribunal and the response of the government, are healthy, and we as a nation need to continue the process of discovery, and where possible, reparation. As for the nation so for the Church. Our spiritual ancestors were present at the beginning of our Nation. They actively encouraged chiefs with whom they had some influence to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. They were also present when other events which determined the course of the nation took place. We are rightly proud of our Church's part in the signing of the Treaty. As we struggle to develop a just society in our land it is helpful to know the part our spiritual ancestors played in making the country we have inherited. I trust what follows in this book will in a small way help the process.

Graham Brazendale