Australasia 1840: Treaty of Waitangi
In the late 1830s European land purchases in New Zealand increased dramatically, encouraging thousands of settlers to make plans to migrate there. Realizing that many of the purchases were questionable and would inevitably cause conflict with the indigenous and well-armed Māori, the British government decided to intervene. In February 1840 they signed the Treaty of Waitangi with northern Māori chiefs to gain sovereignty over the country and a monopoly on land purchasing. Additional signings were made with chiefs throughout New Zealand later that year.
26 Jan 1838 Waterloo Creek massacre▲
Following the killing of five stockmen by Gamilaraay people in separate incidents in 1837, a detachment of Sydney mounted police led by Major James Nunn was dispatched into the interior of the British colony of New South Wales. After a few short encounters, the troopers found a body of Gamilaraay at a point on the Gwydir River now known as Waterloo Creek on 26 January (Foundation Day/Australia Day), killing forty or more in a several hour encounter. An official inquiry into the deaths concluded that the police had not used disproportionate force.
May–14 Oct 1838 Jean Bart Incident▲
In May 1838 the French whaling vessel Jean Bart was burnt and its crew killed in an altercation with Māori in the Chatham Islands. In retaliation, the French corvette Heroine, accompanied by the American whaler Rebecca Sims and the French whale Adele, sailed to the Chathams in October, destroying the town of Waitangi and raiding Ouira and Whangaroa. The French attacks weakened Ngāti Tama relative to Ngāti Mutunga, helping sow the conditions for the outbreak of civil war in the Chathams at the end of the following year.
10 Jun 1838 Myall Creek massacre▲
Following the slaughter of hundreds of Aboriginal people by stockmen in the Gwydir River region of New South Wales, some forty Gamilaraay were granted refuge at Myall Creek station in 1838. In June eleven stockmen rode into the station and led away 28 or so of the Aborigines—mostly women, children, and old men as the young men were working—to be slaughtered. At the behest of the station manager, the killers were brought to trial and seven eventually hanged—an almost unheard of occurrence in Australian colonial history.
1 May 1839–6 Jul 1841 Eyre’s expeditions▲
After making money driving livestock from New South Wales to Adelaide, South Australia, Edward John Eyre embarked on a number of expeditions into the South Australia interior in 1839–40, reaching what would become known as Mount Eyre and Lake Eyre. In November 1840 Eyre set out across the Nullarbor Plain for Albany, Western Australia—a distance of some 1800 km in summer. Facing defeat when two Aboriginal expedition members murdered his companion John Baxter and made off with the supplies, Eyre survived thanks to a chance encounter with the French whaling ship Mississippi. He continued on to reach Albany in July 1841, becoming the first European to cross southern Australia.
15 Jun 1839 1839 Letters Patent▲
The British Crown issued the 1839 Letters Patent, extending the limits of the Colony of New South Wales so as to include any territory in New Zealand over which British sovereignty might be acquired in the future. This act, while not directly annexing New Zealand, allowed the Governor of New South Wales, George Gipps, to proceed in that direction. In July 1839 Captain William Hobson was appointed Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand.
22 Jan 1840 Settlement of Cook Strait▲
In 1837 Edward Gibbon Wakefield formed the New Zealand Association, which proceeded to merge with the failed 1825 New Zealand Company and plan the British settlement of New Zealand. Despite some disagreement with the local Māori over what had been purchased, the New Zealand Company established a settlement at Port Nicholson in January 1840; named Britannia by the month’s end, it was relabeled Wellington later that year. Faced with a shortage of land, the company founded additional settlements at Petre (Wanganui) and New Plymouth in 1841, and Nelson in 1842.
6 Feb 1840 Treaty of Waitangi▲
William Hobson, the British Lieutenant Governor of New Zealand, signed the Treaty of Waitangi with 46 northern Māori chiefs at Waitangi, in the Bay of Islands. Under the terms of the Treaty, the chiefs agreed to accept the sovereignty of the British Crown and the Crown’s sole right to purchase Māori land. In return, the Crown recognized Māori possession of their lands, forests, fisheries, and other properties. Following the signing, Hobson declared the annexation of New Zealand north of 36°S, before sending the Treaty around the country for further signings.