Appointment of Captain William Hobson as Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand

Appointment of William Hobson Header Image

The document that appointed William Hobson as Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand. Archives reference: IA9 2/3 1. Click on the image to enlarge or download.

On 12 December 1838, Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for the Colonies, requested the British Foreign Office to consider appointing a British Consul to New Zealand. British Resident James Busby had already been sent to New Zealand in 1833, but the appointment of a British Consul – a representative to another sovereign country – signified a greater step towards British intervention. It also reflected the British recognition of sovereignty in Aotearoa New Zealand, as declared in He Whakaputanga in 1835.

The person chosen for the position was Captain William Hobson (1792-1842), a naval officer who had seen action in the Napoleonic Wars and was twice captured by pirates in the Caribbean. Hobson had visited New Zealand in May 1837, and his report on his trip greatly impressed Glenelg.

However Hobson did not accept the position of Consul until February 1839, as he had been hoping to receive further promotion as a senior naval officer. His appointment was finally confirmed on 13 August 1839.

In the meantime, on 30 July 1839, Hobson had also been appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand. The elaborately-decorated document above is the record of his appointment. It is signed by the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Normanby, who gave Hobson instructions on his role.

The title "Lieutenant Governor" signifies that Hobson was actually deputy to another Governor. In this case it was the Governor of New South Wales, Australia. Hobson’s authority was declared by Letters Patent of 15 June 1839, a regulation making New Zealand a temporary dependency under New South Wales. It was not until the Royal Charter was issued in November 1840 that New Zealand became an independent colony with Hobson as Governor.

Hobson died from a stroke at the age of 49, after barely two years in the position.

A full transcript of the document can be read at Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

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