January 09, 2007

If the Maori hadn't signed

New Zealand as it might have been:  What if there had been no Treaty?There are a number of possible alternate scenarios concerning what might have happened had Hobson not managed to get his act together. First, Maori might have remained in control of New Zealand as autonomous tribes and political entities. Second, the British might have invaded by force rather than use a treaty of cession. Third, New Zealand might have been claimed instead by the French or the Americans. And fourth, British colonisation would have proceeded over those areas where British settlers were resident, with Maori retaining their autonomy in other areas. It is also worth noting that in the absence of a treaty, Maori would have no special rights beyond that of common law rights.

The fourth suggestion, that a limited form of British colonisation could have proceeded, would have been the most likely outcome. The original plans for a British colony included a Maori New Zealand where settlers would be provided for. In fact, the formation of a Maori governing body, a confederation legislating for both Maori and settlers under British protection, was considered as an alternate, but colonial officials later thought the idea impractical. As early as 1837 Hobson had proposed the crown assume power over certain sites in New Zealand, in much the same way that the British had established "trading factories" in India.
Comment:  This analysis applies to the American Indian situation, too. For some related analyses, see Was Native Defeat Inevitable?

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