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Frederick Moss papers.

Identifier: MSS-Archives-A-33

Scope and Contents

Collection includes family correspondence; MSS of several incomplete books; file on the Makea Daniela trial; Cook Islands official papers; New Zealand parliamentary papers relating to the Cook Islands; notebooks; newspaper clippings; social ephemera (1876-1904).

The papers appear to have been compiled by Moss' daughter Amy and they reflect the concern of the family to refute the accusations made against their father and to clear the name of Makea Daniela.


  • 1876 - 1904


Conditions Governing Access

Not restricted

Biographical / Historical

Frederick Joseph Moss was born at Longwood, St Helena in 1827 or 1828. He was educated on the island and in 1840 travelled to South Africa, where he entered in his Uncle's business and took part in the Cape Frontier war. He later returned to St Helena to assist his father, and married Emily Ann Carew, in 1853 or 1854. In 1857 Moss returned to South Africa intending to settle in Nata, however he found conditions unfavourable, and decided to emigrate with his family to New Zealand.

Moss, his wife and three children arrived at Lyttelton on the Zealandia in November 1859. Moss opened a mercantile business selling a range of goods. With the advent of the Otago goldrushes in the 1860s, he moved to Dunedin, where he became a director of several companies and financial institutions. He founded the Otago Daily Mail in 1864, and from 1863-1867 represented Dunedin City on the Provincial Council. In 1868, after the defeat of the executive by Vogel he was attracted to the cotton plantations of Fiji, but ill health forced him to return to New Zealand. He settled in Auckland in 1873 and from 1876 to 1890 represented Parnell in parliament. For several months in 1886 he travelled widely in the Pacific Islands.

In 1890, Moss was appointed first British Resident to the Cook Islands, which had just been annexed by Britain and proclaimed a Protectorate. As British Resident, Moss was paid by the New Zealand Government. He was advised by the New Zealand Governor, on the advice of ministers, but with ultimate responsibility to the Colonial Office. However, the Cook Islands also lay within the area of jurisdiction of the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, and this double jurisdiction led to confusion. As early as 1896, the British Government was willing to transfer complete control of the islands to New Zealand, but because of the reluctance of the New Zealand Government to undertake responsibility for the islands, Moss had a considerable amount of freedom to govern as he thought fit.

On of his first achievements was the establishment of a Federal Parliament, with representatives form all the islands. The European residents had no representation, however, and this led to bitter resentment amongst some of the traders. A faction hostile to Moss was formed under the leadership of J.M. Salmon, an American married to a native woman.

However, despite relatively minor difficulties, there was no major upset until 1897, when the various disputes and discontent of the hostile Europeans came to a head with the introduction of the Federal Court Bill. The Bill, which was drafted by Moss, was an attempt to establish a higher court than the existing Arikis' (Chiefs) Court, principally to deal with cases involving non-native offenders. The British Resident was to be president of this court in the absence of any other qualified person. This meant that Moss would have greatly increased powers, and there was a strong reaction to the Bill from both European and Cook Island opponents who petitioned to have Moss recalled. A counter petition was signed by the majority of the European community who still had confidence in Moss.

In the light of these events, the Governor of New Zealand. Lord Ranfurly, sent the Chief Justice, Sir James Prendergast, to enquire into Cook Island affairs (Box 2, folder 3). Prendergast's report exonerated the British Resident, but it was obvious that Moss' position in the Cook Islands was no longer tenable and his resignation was requested in September 1898.

Moss' successor Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Edward Gudgeon, replaced many of Moss' officials with members of the hostile European party and harrassed many of Moss' former friends. An enquiry into public accounts was conducted by P. Purvis Webb, the New Zealand government auditor, who condemned careless bookkeeping during Moss' administration and disclosed evidence of embezzlement by Makea Daniela, the former Paymaster and Clerk of Government and personal friend of Moss. Makea Daniela was convicted and sentenced to a years hard labour (Box 1, folder 9). Webb's report was volubly contemned by Moss, but Lord Ranfurly refused to make any public vindication of the charges levelled, and refused to allow the proceedings to be published.

During his years as British Resident on the Cook Islands, Moss did much valuable work. He was responsible for the Federation of the island group and the setting up of a regular government. He established schools, a hospital, a customs service and materially improved the conditions of the islanders. However, the strain of his public career led to severe illness and he died at Parnell in July 1904.


0.5 metres (6 boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from the James Rutherford Estate, 1963.

Related Materials

A related collection of papers pertaining to Frederick Moss are held by the Auckland War Memorial Museum as MS 215.



Inventory of the papers of Frederick Moss, 1876-1904.
Mrs. R. Chapman
November 1971
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, University of Auckland Repository

5 Alfred Street
Private Bag 92019
Auckland 1142 New Zealand