Papers relating to Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862), the Wakefield family, and to the colonial history of New Zealand

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of several folders built up by Geoffrey P. Taylor, containing copies of articles relating to Edward Gibbon Wakefield himself, to other members of his family, or to New Zealand and its colonial and constitutional history, and copies of letters to or from Wakefield. The copies have been made from original material held at: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington; Canterbury Museum Archives; Auckland City Library, and the State Library of New South Wales. There are also several journal off-prints on Wakefield, and New Zealand.

The folders in Box 1/2 contain: copies of articles and a printed publication published between 1840-1997; copies of papers relating to Wakefield's statement and justification of the fraudulent abduction of Miss Ellen Turner, and copy of a letter from Wakefield to Barnard Rhodes, 1853, from a collection in the Alexander Turnbull Library; copies of John Robert Godley papers relating to Wakefield, 1851-1855, held at Canterbury Museum Archives, with a listing and description of relevant papers; copies of papers and letters relating to Wakefield, 1850-1855, from collection at the State Library of New South Wales; copies of Wakefield papers, 1851-1853, and John Robert Godley and Wakefield typescripts, held at Canterbury Museum Archives, with listings and descriptions; copies of letters relating to Wakefield, 1842-1850, in the Henry Samuel Chapman papers, held at the Alexander Turnbull Library, with brief listing; copies of letters relating to Wakefield, 1840s-1852, in the James Edward Fitzgerald papers, held at the Alexander Turnbull Library, with listing and description; and, copies of letters relating to Wakefield, 1840s, in the Lyttleton papers, held at Canterbury Museum Archives, with listing and description.

The folders in Box 2/2 contain: copies of material from between 1849-1883, relating to Daniel Wakefield (1798-1856), Edward Gibbon Wakefield's uncle, and to Wakefield, in the Sir George Grey papers, held in Auckland City Library, with listings; copies of letters and articles and reports relating to Wakefield family, in the Irma O'Connor papers (Irma O'Connor was the daughter of Edward Jerningham Wakefield), held at Canterbury Museum Archives, with listing and description; copies of articles and off-prints on New Zealand colonial and constitutional history published between 1865-1994; loose or single articles and off-prints on New Zealand politics and history; and several series issues (off-prints) on New Zealand and its politics and history, published between 1955-1968.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Gibbon Wakefield was born in London on 20 March 1796, eldest son of Edward Wakefield (1774-1854), philanthropist and statistician, and grandson of merchant Edward Wakefield (1750-1826) and author and philanthropist Priscilla Wakefield (1751-1832). He was the brother of William Hayward Wakefield (1803-1848), and nephew of Daniel Wakefield (1776-1846). Edward Gibbon Wakefield was educated at Westminster School and at Edinburgh's Royal High School. By 1814, he was serving with the British embassy in Turin, and in 1820 with the embassy in Paris. In 1826 however, he was convicted - with his brother William - of tricking a wealthy heiress into marrying him, and both he and his brother were sent to prison for three years.

While he was in prison Wakefield studied colonial affairs and prepared material for publication into a work entitled Facts relating to the punishment of death in the metropolis (1831). He put forward a theory of systematic colonisation and enunciated his views in A letter from Sydney (1820), in England and America (1833), and in A view of the art of colonisation (1849). He saw a relationship between the social conditions in Britain and the notion of colonial settlement, viewing the latter as a chance for Britons to take their skills overseas under a familiar constitutional tradition and in a recognisable social framework. Land would be sold in small lots at moderate prices, with the funds gathered then being used to support further colonisation, and some self-government would be allowed. In 1834, the South Australian Association was formed with a view to founding a colony on Wakefield's principles.

In 1838, Wakefield accompanied Lord Durham, John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham to Canada and influenced the new Governor-General's Report on the affairs of British North America which proposed uniting the Canadian provinces and granting them full control of their internal affairs. In 1839, he formed the New Zealand Land Company - an amalgamation of an earlier New Zealand Association and a New Zealand Colonization Company - with the aim of settling and guiding the colony of New Zealand. His brother William would control operations in New Zealand, while Wakefield himself would direct the Company from London where he could continue to argue his case with the Colonial Office. In 1849 he founded - with John Robert Godley (1814-1861) - a Church of England settlement at Canterbury in New Zealand. In 1852, Wakefield left England for New Zealand with his son, landing in Port Lyttleton in February 1853. At once, both father and son launched themselves into New Zealand politics, with the elder Wakefield advising the acting-Governor Colonel Robert Henry Wynyard (1802-1864). In 1854 however, he suffered a complete breakdown in his health. Edward Gibbon Wakefield died in Wellington, New Zealand, on 16 May 1862.

His only son, Edward Jerningham Wakefield (1820-1879), who had written on New Zealand based on his earlier stay there, as well as politican, had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1854, representing a Canterbury constituency. He had accompanied his father to Canada in 1838, and first went to New Zealand in 1839, returning to England in 1845. With John Robert Godley, he edited his father's correspondence on the foundation of the Canterbury settlement with the title The founders of Canterbury (1868).

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Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.20. Ubaldini-Whewell. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909.

Other Finding Aids

None prepared.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D. Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.