Mr. Wharton to Mr. Lincoln .

No. 528.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 387, of the 17th of January last, with which you inclose a copy of a communication which you received from Her Majesty’s Government, under date of the 16th of that month, in reply to the memorandum accompanying Department’s No. 350, of the 2d of September, 1890, touching the claims of William Webster, growing out of his wrongful deprivation of lands belonging to him in New Zealand.

The Department regrets to learn that Her Majesty’s Government [Page 540] have, after consultation with the law officers of the Crown, taken an unfavorable view of Mr. Webster’s claims. This is especially to be deprecated since that view appears to be the result of a misapprehension of the facts. If the facts had been correctly understood by Her Majesty’s Government, there is reason to suppose that the result of their deliberations would have been different. It has been the understanding of this Department that Mr. Webster was in reality deprived of his lands and of his claims to lands by the commissioners under the colonial land claims act of 1856. This understanding is set forth in the memorandum which you communicated to the foreign office, and is confirmed by the note of the foreign office of the 16th of January; but there seems to be an incorrect appreciation of facts when Her Majesty’s Government state in the same note that it is clearly shown that Mr. Webster in the first instance, when bringing his case before the land commissioners under the colonial act of 1856, waived his right to be treated as an alien and so debarred himself from the right to claim anything beyond what was awarded to him by that commission.

An examination not only of the memorandum submitted by this Department, but as well of the evidence heretofore presented in opposition to Mr. Webster’s claims by the authorities of New Zealand, shows that he never brought his claim before the commissioners under the colonial act of 1856. In reality he was then in the United States and was pressing his claims before this Government. At that time he had been nearly ten years absent from New Zealand, during which time the Department fails to find that he had any correspondence with the local authorities, or in any way knew of or countenanced what they did under the land act of 1856.

It is the duty of the Department to bring these facts to the attention of Her Majesty’s Government, as you are now instructed to do, since the reply to this Government’s representations—due, as it appears to be to an entire misconception of the facts—can not be regarded as satisfactory and conclusive.

I am, etc.,

William F. Wharton,
Acting Secretary.