An article of mine in this week’s New Zealand Listener reveals the historical background to the New Zealand ‘Declaration of Independence’, an 1835 arrangement concocted by local official James Busby as a ploy to co-opt Maori into supporting him. Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the way it’s used these days. Have a look at the article.
Which begs a few questions. It’s odd how these old documents gain new life, generations on – elevated and made sacred in contemporary terms. Especially the ones with ‘declaration’ and ‘independence’ in their titles.
New Zealand’s Declaration is not, of course, alone in these matters. Back in 1789, amending the US Declaration of Independence and making ‘bearing arms’ a right was James Madison’s clever soft-sell way of telling his fellow citizens that they were going to serve in the militia, like it or not. Some of today’s Americans, I fear, don’t quite get it. Any more than today’s New Zealanders get the 1835 Declaration.
But that’s history for you.