So, I've been doing a bit of reading on Wikipedia about the Treaty of Waitangi and the ensuing New Zealand Wars that resulted when members of both sides broke the terms of the treaties, and I saw that one of the causes of those wars was the fact that the treaty was poorly translated into Maori, as the Maori lacked an understanding of the concept of "sovereignty" as the English settlers understood it.

This lead me to thinking about why they insisted on phrasing it in terms of the Maori surrendering their sovereignty, rather than acknowledging Victoria as their feudal sovereign - something that the Maori likely would have understood, since they seemed to have some degree of multi-layered tribal structures, with chieftains recognizing the leadership of other chieftains.

Why didn't the British just ask Victoria (or her representative, the Governor-General) to appoint a Duke of New Zealand (possibly the same person as the Governor-General of New Zealand, or someone that they can trust to manage the Maori chieftains), and appoint the various Maori tribal leaders as Counts and Barons who swore fealty to him? Maybe form a New Zealand House of Lords that they would have had seats in, and tied the land-sales restrictions aspect of the Treaty of Waitangi into the concept of the feudal fief? That would have been a mode of relationship that both the English settlers and the Maori would have understood, right?

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    Although this is phrased as alternate history, I think that this is an excellent candidate for a frame challenge and a really good answer. (hint: are there any Dukedom's outside the boundaries of the UK? (I can't remember any outside Britain). What's the difference between a Duke and Viceroy?) – MCW Feb 26 at 14:52
  • @MarkC.Wallace A Viceroy is appointed and temporary in nature as the monarchs representative. A Duke (in the UK) is a permanent and inherited title (male line only) very high within the aristocracy - but does not rule a territorial area as in continental Europe. – Mark Johnson Feb 26 at 15:59
  • @MarkJohnson - agree - but you're pursuing the hypothetical side of this; I was trying to lead to a frame challenge that would answer why the treaty chose this option rather than that option. – MCW Feb 26 at 16:03
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    @MarkC.Wallace You did ask for the difference. In this context, Duke (as understood in Europe, but different than the UK) could be subject to the authority of a Viceroy. – Mark Johnson Feb 26 at 16:11
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    Perhaps a better way to state what I was trying for is "Why wasn't the treaty done this way?" borders on a hypothetical anti-pattern. But the very historical question (IMO) is "Are there examples of treaties like X vice Y?" In this case, I think the testable hypothesis is, "Are there examples of extending feudal power in the colonial era?" – MCW Feb 26 at 19:52

I doubt that there was comprehensive intent from the UK side to be actually bound by the treaty. As such, having substantial difference between the English and the Maori version is not a bug, but rather a feature. I am not necessarily assuming duplicity of each individual Brit involved with drafting and signing the treaty, merely on the overall system level.

Treaties signed between colonial powers and non-European-(decendent) groups, which are later interpreted differently by the colonial power than by the treaty partner, and either ignored or used as a pretex for an extension of colonial rule are a recurring feature of colonialism. Conversely, I cannot think of any treaty in such a sitution which was not signed under duress and actually adhered to.

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