[NEW ZEALAND] Autograph letter signed by Robert Torrens, to Benjamin Hawes M.P., 1847
Autograph letter signed by the political economist Robert Torrens (1780-1864). Single sheet, 180 x 105 mm. 7 Sloane Street, 1 April 1847; to Benjamin Hawes M.P. (under-secretary of state for the Colonies), explaining that enclosed is a copy of ‘the scheme for Emigration devised by Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Mr. Godley. I beg to state that I have had no participation in this concoction.’ Signed R. Torrens.
Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) had been instrumental in setting up the New Zealand Association (1837), later known as the New Zealand Company, which was intended to organise and oversee English colonisation of various settlements in New Zealand. Wakefield invited John Robert Godley (1814-1861) to lead the settlement of a new colony in New Zealand which was to follow the teachings of the Church of England, and to this end the Canterbury Association was formed in 1848 (the result of the scheme for emigration alluded to in this letter). Captain Joseph Thomas was chosen to negotiate a purchase of land from the New Zealand Company and the new settlement was named Christ Church. Godley arrived in April 1850 in order to prepare the site for the first settlers, who arrived at Lyttelton in a fleet of four ships in December of that year. Godley returned to England at the end of 1852, but his contribution to civic planning was crucial in this early period, and he is recognised as the founder of Canterbury.
Robert Torrens had published in 1835 the work Colonization of South Australia and was the major force behind the structuring of the settlement of that colony. His ideas had, however, brought South Australia close to financial disaster by the early 1840s. Torrens and Edward Gibbon Wakefield were bitter opponents in the political arena, their views on emigration to the colonies differing markedly, as the wording of Torrens’ letter boldly illustrates.
Pre-dating as it does the formation of the Canterbury Association, this manuscript document relates to the most embryonic phase of the foundation of Christchurch.