Island (Aotea) which Commissioner Godfrey herein reports to have been validly purchased by them.
18th June, 1844.
ROBERT FITZROY, Governor.
Memorandum of agreement.-The joint claimants for a portion of the Island Aotea (or great Barrier Island), Messrs. William Abercrombie, Jeremiah Nagle, and William Webster, mutually agreed this day in this house to a division of their joint claim, as shown in a plan of the island produced by the said parties before the governor, the chief protector of aborigines, and the private secretary.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE, Auckland, 1st July, 1844.
ROBERT FITZROY. GEORGE CLARKE. J. W. HAMILTON.
NOTE. Which plan was forthwith placed in the hands of the land commissioner (Mr. Fitzgerald), to be copied for reference, and on the back of three separate deeds.
1st September, 1844.
Ultimate award.-Grant to William Abercrombie for 8,119 acres; to Jeremiah Nagle for 8,070 acres; and to William Webster for 8,080 acres, issued 6th July, 1844; total 24,259 acres for the whole of which W. S. Graham, of Auckland, on 29th December, 1854, obtained a new grant as transferee from the Bank of Australasia, in Sydney, to whom the said lands had been assigned.
AMENDED GENERAL REPORT.
CLAIMS 305, 305A, 305B, 305c, 305G, 3051, 305K; William Webster, claimant.
AWARDED in case No. 305, 240 acres; case No. 305A, 250 acres; case No. 305B, 550 acres; case No. 305c, 800 acres; case No. 305G, 1,944 acres; case 3051, 1,187 acres; case 305K, 2,560 acres; total, 7,541 acres. To be reduced in the aggregate to the maximum grant of 2,560 acres.
Dated at Wellington this 18th day of December, 1843.
Memorandum.-The following cases preferred by this claimant have not yet been investigated, namely-305D, 305E, 305F, 305H, 305J, and 305L. No grant has been recommended in case 305M.-M. R.
To explain this amended report, it is necessary to state that in 1842, the Land Claims Amendment Ordinance, Sess. II, No. 14, was passed and assented to by Governor Hobson,* 25th February, 1842, whereby the limitation of the maximum of grants to 2,560 acres, fixed by the ordinance of 1841, was removed, and the commissioners were empowered to recommend grants exceeding the maximum area fixed by the ordinance of 1841.
This ordinance was disallowed by the Queen, and the notification of such disallowance was gazetted in the colony 6th September, 1843, by command of Lieutenant Shortland, R. N., the officer administering the Government, but it was in force in the colony from February, 1842, to September, 1843, and as the first commission had acted under it when making their earlier awards, it became necessary to annul these in consonance with the original ordinance of 1841, which had become revived in full force.
Captain Hobson, R. N., died 10th September, 1842, whereupon the colonial secretary, Lieutenant Shortland, became officer administering the Government until the arrival of Captain Fitzroy, R. N., who became governor 26th December, 1843, until 18th November, 1845, when Sir George Grey succeeded him.
-Thus it happened that Webster's original award of 7,541 acres was reduced to a maximum area of 2,560 acres, and all the persons to whom he had sold his Lands as fast as he had acquired them, at an average sum of twenty shillings per acre, for the purpose of extending his credit and making further purchases, were left without anything for their money, and without redress.
It may have arisen from some confusion in amending their awards as above mentioned, but it must here be remarked that the reports of the first commission on the four first claims are somewhat inconsistent, inasmuch as in each case the commissioners award to Webster the whole land claimed, notwithstanding his evidence that he had sold it or part of it, and then refused to recommend a grant to the derivative purchaser on the plea that Webster, the original claimant, had been awarded a maximum acreage. If they would not grant the land to the purchasers, why grant it to Webster, unless in the expectation that Webster would convey to the purchasers? At any rate the reports are not quite intelligible on this point, and required correction.
THE SECOND COMMISSION.
Governor Fitzroy, taking the case of these derivative purchasers from Webster into consideration, as also that of Webster's outstanding creditors, submitted the whole question of Webster's claims to his executive council, who recommended extended grants, as appears from the following minute:
[Extract from the minutes of the executive council.]
"WEDNESDAY, 10th April, 1844.
"Present: All the members.
"His excellency next brought before the council the claims of William Webster, numbered as in the margin (305, 305A, 305B, 305C, 305G, 3051, 305K), amounting to 7,541 acres, as recommended by Commissioners Godfrey and Richmond. His excellency remarked that only 2,560 acres could be granted upon each claim without the express sanction of the governor, with the advice of the executive council, in accordance with the sixth clause of the Land Claims ordinance, and requested the opinion of the council whether the commissioners should be authorized to recommend an extension of the grant.
"The council, after hearing and deliberating on the case, advised that the commissioners should be authorized to recommend an extension of the grant." Upon this authority the governor directed the whole of the awards in the said claims to be referred to the second commission, with an instruction to recommend an extension of the grants.
This was done, presumably, under under the authority of the ordinance of 1841, which enabled the governor in council to make extended grants in certain cases. Under this authority Mr. FitzGerald, the commissioner, sent to the governor the following memorandum:
[Memoradum by Mr. Commissioner FitzGerald.]
Reasons for extending a grant of land to Mr. William Webster: (1) By the accompanying synopsis of the land claims of Mr. Webster it appears that his outlay amounts to £7,787,13s., which, according to the valuation scale in the land claims ordinance, he may be considered as having paid for 50,904 acres; and, even limiting his outlay to the mere payments to the natives, he would be fairly entitled to 17,950 acres. (2) Considerable sales of land having been made by him on the faith of all his valid purchases being recognized by the Crown. (3) Should he not be enabled, by great liberality on the part of his excellency, to meet his engagements, even partially, he is likely to be overwhelmed with lawsuits and subjected to great losses. (4) Mr. Webster is one of the most enterprising settlers in this colony, having established a shipbuilding yard, several whaling stations, water mills, and other improvements.
For these reasons I do most conscientiously recommend for his excellency's approval that grants be issued to the undermentioned parties, upon a letter of authority to that effect from Mr. Webster:
Claim No. 305A.
Claim No. 305K.
Claim No. 305K.
Claim No. 305K.
Claim No. 305K.
John Wrenn and Jeremiah
(One-quarter of their
Peter Abercrombie (one-eighth of his purchase from
Claim No. 305K.
Claim No. 305K. Geo. Russell
Amounting in the aggregate to 17,655 acres.
ROBT. A. FITZGERALD,
It must ever remain a mystery how Mr. Commissioner FitzGerald could have made such recommendation. Ignoring the evidence taken before the first commission, and examining nothing, he takes for granted the gross amount stated by Mr. Webster as having been paid by him to the natives in respect of all his claims, including those he had withdrawn and those he had sold, and adding to this gross amount the various sums which Mr. Webster states he had spent on the lands he claimed, without inquiry whether or not they had been really spent, he treats the latter sums as purchase-money paid to natives for land, and finds the total outlay to be £7,787 138. And for this amount he estimates Mr. Webster to be entitled to 17,655 acres of land; that is to say, he estimated the land at 3s. per acre, as if it had been bought in 1837, whereas the bulk of it was bought by Webster in the last half year of 1839, when its price should have been 8s. per
Shortly stated, Mr. FitzGerald gives Mr. Webster credit for twice the amount he is justly entitled to; and, in respect of that credit, recommends a grant of land at one-half of its proper price, so that Webster obtains a quadruple award in his favour.
The whole records of the land claims court do not show any other instance where a claimant has been treated with such extraordinary liberality as Mr. Webster was under this award.
Governor Fitzroy, however, adopted the recommendations of Commissioner FitzGerald, and grants were issued on 1st May, 1844, in accordance therewith, as shown in the following table:
S. Doc. 231, pt 3-6
Synopsis of the awards made under the second commission in William Webster's land claims.
1 Sold by Webster in Aug., 1844, to F. S. Peppercorne for £125.
2 Sold by Webster in Aug., 1844, to R. Dacre, who sold to G. Beeson for £125.
3 The land in these four grants was sold by Webster, 15th Aug., 1844, to John Campbell, of Sydney, for £4,000.
Withdrawn by claimant.
Disallowed; not purchased from rightful owners.
Purchase of a small section of the island proved, but no grant recommended.
(a) To Henry Downing. (b) To Peter Abercrombie. (c) To David E. Munroe. (d) To Henry Downing. (e) To Henry Downing, 320 acres; Peter Abercrombie, 5,000 acres; Felton Mathew, 2,560 acres; John Johnson, 1,280 acres; Vincent Wanostrocht, 250 acres; Jeremiah Nagle and John Wrenn, 150 acres; George Russell, 640 acres; and to Arthur Devlin, 1,255; total, 11,455 acres. (f) Exclusive of 24,269 acres awarded to Abercrombie, Nagle, and Webster in respect of their joint claim at the Great Barrier Island. (g) Exclusive of 8,080 acres granted to W. Webster as his share on partition of the award at the Great Barrier Island with his partners Abercrombie and Nagle. (h) Of this sum only £140 108. was paid in cash; the remainder, £4,430 18., represents the value of goods given in barter, estimated, according to the ordinance, at three times their retail selling value in Sydney; the total sum paid representing an average of 58. ed. for each acre granted.
A notification was published in the New Zealand Gazette on the 6th May, 1884, that the foregoing grants were ready for issue. Webster received his grants for 5,000 acres and within less than four months had transferred the whole of these lands to his creditors, besides the 12,655 acress granted directly to them, leaving himself without an acre of all his purchases, and still a debtor to the Sydney
There is not anything surprising in this, for it must be sufficiently apparent from the evidence printed above in these pages that Mr. Webster had no means of his own; that he speculated for land in New Zealand with goods obtained on credit, and, in the absence of goods, that he gave the natives promissory notes for cash or promises for goods which at times he was unable to redeem; and that he was ultimately crushed by the weight of the interest charged by the Sydney merchants for cash and other advances made to him.
There yet remained two claims-305H, Tairua, and 305J, Mercury Island-on which the first commission had not yet reported; and from these Mr. Webster hoped to obtain something. No doubt that in May, 1844, when Webster gave his evidence in both these cases, he heard from the commissioners that no grant had been recommended in claim No. 305M, for he never mentions it again.
The first evidence in both 305H and 305J was taken by Major Richmond, and
after his promotion to Wellington was continued by Colonel Godfrey. In claim 305H, at Tairua, in the Bay of Plenty, the evidence taken by Major Richmond was of a preliminary nature only. Colonel Godfrey, knowing that Mr. Webster proposed to advance a claim of £2,000 against the government in respect of the cutting of spars for the Tortoise from the land claimed, noted the original papers with a minute, "This case requires caution." At Coromandel, in May, 1844, he received the evidence of Webster and the witnesses in his favour; and then removed his court to Tauranga, in the Bay of Plenty, where, in the following July, he received ample evidence in opposition, and that no purchase had been rightly concluded. He recommended no grant, and also awarded no compensation in land elsewhere for the money, £169 5s., proved to have been paid by Webster to persons not the rightful owners, because Webster had already received a maximum award of 2,560 acres.
In claim 305J, at the Mercury Island, Webster claimed 6,000 acres. The whole island, by survey, contains only 4,090 acres. Ample evidence was given to show that Mr. Webster's valid purchase was limited to a small piece of land at the south end of the island and another small piece on the northeast coast thereof, the supposed contracts being unknown; but Colonel Godfrey recommended no grant, as Webster had already received a maximum grant of 2,560 acres.
The report in both these claims was made at Auckland on the 29th August, 1844. No notification of the substance of either report was made in the Gazette. and Mr. Webster seems to say that he knew nothing of them, and also adds that no opposition was made to either of these claims. This may be so as respects the claim of Tairua, because the evidence of the opposing witnesses was taken at Tauranga; but it can scarcely be so in respect of the claim at Mercury Island, seeing that the opposing evidence was taken at Coromandel on the 29th May, at the place where his own evidence had been taken on the 23rd May, only six days previous. However this may be, when Governor Fitzroy, on the 16th October, 1844, referred the reports on Mr. Webster's claims to the second commission for a recommendation of extended grants, the reports on the three claims305H, 305J, and 305M-were included in the reference, but with a direction to the commissioner to lay them aside for further consideration, his intention possibly being ultimately to make a grant to Webster of the small pieces of land he was proved to have bought at the Mercury Island, and to compensate him for his wasted outlay in respect of the claims 305H and 305M by making him a grant of Crown lands of average value at the rate of 1 acre for each pound sterling of such outlay.
It has been necessary to say thus much on the claims 305H and 305J in order to throw a true light upon the correspondence which follows.
Whilst the governor's d cision on the above two claims was yet in abeyance, Mr. Webster wrote a letter to Mr. Commissioner FitzGerald to ascertain the decision in these claims, and in reply received from Mr. Hamilton, the private secretary to Governor Fitzroy, that letter of the 10th March, 1845, which has provoked so much comment in the report of the committee of the Senate. The correspondence, which is remarkable, is as follows:
Mr. Webster to Mr. Commissioner FitzGerald.
AUCKLAND, 8th March, 1885.
SIR: I take the liberty of writing to you to know what has been the decision on my two land claims. I believe they are No. 305H; one is the Big Mercury Island, and the other is a piece of land near the River Tairua, in the Bay of Plenty. Both of those claims was examined before Commissioner Godfrey at Coromandel Harbour, and I have not yet heard any more of them. The Mercury Island was purchased in 1838. I paid upwards of £300 for it, and have had possession of it ever since and have expended a deal of money on it: but the whole of the payment agreed on was not given to the natives, and when the claim was examined they agreed to give me a part of it for what they had received. The piece of land near Tairua was also purchased in 1838, and I paid about £400 for it, and since that I have expended about £400, for which I have never received any return for whatever. I have never heard of any dispute of the title, which, I suppose, the evidence taken by the commissioner will prove.
Your answer to this will oblige.
Your most obedient servant,
Commissioner FITZGERALD, etc.