In Georgian England, along with the imperative for discovery and exploration, there were other motivations for the desire of Europeans to meet and form

relationships with ‘others’ in far-flung parts of the world, including the Pacific. Cook’s instructions on the Resolution voyage in 1769 were to seek out the fabled Great Southern Continent, and to observe the Transit of Venus. But in the course of doing so it was necessary to re-supply his ships, rest his men, to record details about the wildlife, land resources, navigational possibilities, and to gather ethnographic information about such peoples as he met. For his 1776 voyage, the Admiralty instructions required that he should:

… likewise… observe the genius, temper, disposition, and number of the natives and inhabitants… making them presents of such trinkets as you may have on board… inviting them to traffick, and showing them every kind civility and regard, but taking care… not to suffer yourself to be surprised by them, but to always be on your guard against any accidents. You are also, with the consent of the natives, to take possession in the name of the King of Great Britain, of convenient situations in such countries as you may discover… (Palliser, 1776, in McNab, 1908: 27-28).

In a similar way to Tasman, his instructions were to treat the ‘natives’ encountered in a humane way, but at the same time the dominant discourse aboard Georgian ships was that they should at all times ‘give no quarter’, and should demonstrate the superior power of their weapons amongst those who had never experienced such weapons before. This, together with the idea of giving away ‘trinkets’ to encourage ‘traffick’, indicates that whilst they were supposed to be humane, they were dealing with a ‘lesser sort’ of human who would predictably not understand value as they did. Chiefs were encouraged aboard ships, but their attempts at oratory and welcoming rituals were neither understood nor respected (at least in the first instance). Banks, on Cook’s first voyage described one chief’s welcoming oration as a “long harangue”. Their gestures were interpreted as being threatening, because what they said was not understood. Thus the rules of encounter with ‘natives’ were not any different than they were with each other: to maintain the ‘upper hand’ by

violence if necessary, and to match exchanges fairly and equally – fairly and equally, that is – according to their perceptions of value, and preferably to get the ‘better end of the bargain’. Value was the most important aspect, and excepting in cases where there was an element of bribery because they sought the social influence of chiefs, ‘native’ persons of any rank received the same ‘value’ for the same item in

transactions as anybody else. There is nothing here that acknowledges the mana either of the recipient or of the item given. Conversely, if Māori did not give ‘equivalence in value’ they were regarded as thieves and punished, by being shot at, or subjected to naval discipline by lashes:

… In one of the canoes… a very handsome young man… seemed by the variety of his

garments which he sold one after the other till he had but one left, to be a person of distinction; his last garment… black and white dogskin… the lieutenant… offered him a large piece of cloth for it… as soon as the young man had taken it his companions paddled away [the young man was shot]… what a severe punishment of a crime committed, perhaps ignorantly! (Parkinson 9/11/1769)

This is hardly different to the way that British citizens would also have been punished. Being subjects of the aforementioned philosophies that the Christian commandments should always apply regardless of the rank of the person concerned, because all humans were equal in the eyes of God. In Georgian England a person’s rank was interpreted from the clothing he wore, the way he was treated by his colleagues and servants, and so on. They therefore treated Māori persons in the same manner. A chief was identified by his clothing and bearing, which Māori would have thought

superficial and not a reflection of any spiritual superiority that they considered should be acknowledged when ‘tapu meets tapu’ in transaction situations.

One cannot ignore either, the ordinariness to British sailors of punishment by death, for theft. It was part of their culture on an almost day-to-day basis in Georgian England, even though contrary to the popular discourse on what is right and just because God considers them equals. In ports and towns, they knew in the later eighteenth century that hanging was real. Children and desperately poor people were transported in appalling conditions to New South Wales for stealing a loaf of bread24. Sailors sleeping in hammocks or eating meals in the middle decks of naval vessels were constantly reminded of the brutality of naval discipline by the cat-o-nine-tails hanging on the wall there. Therefore the fear of the savage retributive justice of ‘others’ amongst their own people cannot have been far from their minds. To some

extent also they must have become immune to ‘rough justice’.

There is no evidence either that European sealers or whalers in the early 1800’s had any differences in their ‘rules of transaction’ or of punishment, excepting that because many had met Māori at Port Jackson and crewed together on ships they were closer in rank as workmates. Some had lived ashore together, so their mutual understanding may have been greater, though this thesis shows that inter-cultural misunderstandings about transaction rituals and boundaries between Māori and European sailors


In document Between people and things: understanding violence and theft in early New Zealand transactions (Page 92-94)