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History of New Zealand

This scan does have some issues in that there are a number of pages are poorly scanned and some pages are not readable.  That said if you need to read some of those bad pages the First Edition is available on the Internet Archive.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3

History of New Zealand
by Alfred Saunders in 3 volumes
From the Arrival of Tasman in Golden Bay in 1642, to the second arrival of Sir George Grey in 1861 by Alfred Saunders (1896) in 3 volumes


As the first settler who landed from the first immigrant ship that entered Nelson Harbour, on the 1st of February, 1842, and as the oldest member of the New Zealand House of Representatives at the present date, I have often been earnestly requested, both by my colleagues in the House and by other New Zealand settlers whose judgment I value, to place on record something like a concise and connected narrative of the more important events that have come under my notice, in some of which, both as a settler and a public man, I have so long been permitted to take an active and a more or less responsible part. So long as I had little expectation that I should outlive so many of my contemporaries and comrades, I felt under no obligation to undertake what could be better done by more able men. But as the most promising of my comrades have, one after the > other, gone to their rest without having made any effort to place their knowledge and experience on record, and as the existing historical works on New Zealand do not, either separately or collectively, supply a complete, compendious and reliable record of the leading events in New Zealand history, I have consented at the eleventh hour to undertake a task which I may or may not live to complete, but which will, even with this volume, cover the dates about which little will be remembered by the present generation, upon which official records are not to be found, and of which little would be known to later writers who may be induced to contribute to the history of New Zealand.

I have devoted what some of my readers may consider an undue space to the only reliable early records, for which we are so much indebted to Captain Cook and the Rev. Samuel Marsden. It has long appeared to me to be a matter for regret, and even a just subject for reproach, that the deeply interesting work of those two great men should be so little known or appreciated by the present generation of New Zealanders ; and that such men have been far more honoured in Australia and even in England, than they have been in the country to which their best and their most successful energies were devoted.

To the heroic, unaided courage, fidelity and industry of Cook, which stand out in their solitary grandeur as giving us all that we know of what New Zealand and its inhabitants really were during the eighteenth century, I have been tempted to give more space than I should otherwise have done in consequence of being now able to command the grandly simple narrative of his own work in his own words. The publication, by Mr. Comer, only three years ago of Cook’s own journal in his own language, gives a new interest to the great navigator’s w’ork, and to his own unpretentious description of it, now no longer obscured by its translation into the more scholastic language of Dr. Hawkesworth. This has appeared to me to justify some account of his educational restrictions, and the insertion of some copious extracts from a journal which from so many different points of view, can hardly fail to command much interest and much veneration.

It is neither his power, his ability, nor the multiplicity of his resources which give the great charm to Marsden’s noble character. It is that heroic unselfishness and steadiness of purpose which enabled him to despise dangers, to brook disappointments, and confidently and continuously to face difficulties which very few' men would have encountered so long, so patiently, or with such complete ultimate success. I need offer no apologj for the space occupied to indicate the great work of the unselfish man who first discovered and proved how much latent worth and honour lay hid beneath the rugged exterior of the Maori character, and who made the colonization of New Zealand compatible with the preservation of the physically and mentally powerful race w ho were always so ready to die in defence of their real or imaginary rights.

To “say nothing but good of the dead” may be a motto often rightly adopted in the ordinary conversation of daily life, but is evidently not admissible as a guide for the impartial historian. A mere assemblage of panegyrics could only be contemptible if professing to be a history; and it must be obvious to all that, in attempting to w’rite a comparatively modem history, at a time when "Part of the host have crossed the flood And part arc crossing now,” at a time when the actions of the living and those of the dead often appear side by side on the same stage, the historian who writes not merely for the present day can have no right to handle the one more leniently than the other, or to allow anything but an impartial judgment to be his guide in either case. It is too commonly the aim of w'riters for the present hour to say something pleasant, and only pleasant, about every character they touch, and “verily they have their rewardbut such productions have no claim to the name of history.

Without recording any political actions of my own, or encumbering my pages with political essays in support of my own personal view’s on public questions, I have made no effort to conceal my political opinions ; as by practising no concealment as to w’hat I believe and approve, it appeared to me that my readers would be better able to decide as to whether I have or have not fairly treated those whose public opinions have, more or less, differed from my own. I have failed in my endeavours if I have not succeeded generally in leaving carefully sifted facts to tell their own tale.

It will be readily understood that the whole of this volume is occupied with that portion of New Zealand history for which the materials are more difficult to collect and far more difficult to verify than those that could be better obtained relating to the more modern periods, during which the daily cablegrams and the hourly telegrams have been systematically arranged in the columns of so many daily and weekly newspapers.

Although I have deferred this work until I find myself long past the allotted age of man and still farther beyond the prime of manhood, I am by no means tempted to underrate the importance or to lightly estimate the responsibility of the work which I have thus so late undertaken. No one can fail to recognize that even the nursery tales of King Alfred’s infancy or Washington’s boyhood are still not without their influence upon the inmates of the great countries which gave birth to those noble patriots, countries which are so evidently destined ultimately to command the empire of the world. Such being the fact, no writer of the earliest New Zealand history would be justified in concluding that a similar responsibility does not attach to the moral bearing of the incidents he may select to form the finger posts or the beacons in the future onward and upward path of this promising off-shoot of the same predominating race.

My aim has been to write a history that can be obtained, read> understood and trusted by the young and the old of all classes, of both races; in which the mistakes of my fellow colonists, as well as those of our rulers and governors have not been concealed; in which their humble but honest efforts have not been underrated; and in which truth, justice patriotism and philanthropy will take a higher place than wealth, station, ambition, talent or success.

House of Representatives, N.Z.
August 3rd, 1896.

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