Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thierry, Charles Philip Hippolytus

THIERRY, CHARLES PHILIP HIPPOLYTUS, Baron de (1793–1864), colonist, eldest son of Charles, baron de Thierry, a French refugee, was born in 1793, apparently at Bathampton in Somerset. After some military and diplomatic service he matriculated from Magdalen Hall, Oxford, on 26 May 1819, aged 25, and migrated to Queens' College, Cambridge, on 8 June 1820, but did not graduate. At Cambridge he met in 1820 two Maori chiefs with one Kendall, and then conceived the idea of founding an empire in New Zealand. In 1822 Kendall returned to New Zealand and bought two hundred acres near Hokianga for Thierry, who based on this purchase a claim to all the land from Auckland to the north cape of the north island. He applied to Earl Bathurst, then secretary of state, for confirmation of this grant, but was met with the plea that New Zealand was not a British possession. He then tried the French government without success.

Proceeding to form a private company to carry out his plans, Thierry returned from France in 1826 and set up an office in London, where he slowly acquired some little support. About 1833 he went to the United States to enlarge his sphere of action, and thence by the West Indian islands and Panama he found his way to Tahiti, arriving there in 1835. Here he issued a proclamation asserting his claims and intentions. But the British consul actively opposed his design. In 1837 he had got as far as New South Wales. Here he collected sixty persons of rough character to form the nucleus of a colony, and sailed in the Nimrod to the Bay of Islands. Having summoned a meeting of chiefs at Mangunga, he explained his schemes and his title to the land he claimed; the chiefs refused to recognise his title, and showed alarm at his statement that he expected his brother to follow him with five hundred persons. He also made a formal address to the white residents of New Zealand, in the course of which he announced that he came to govern within the bounds of his own territories, that he came neither as invader nor despot, and proceeded to expound a scheme of settlement and administration which indicated leanings at once communistic and paternal. He stated that he had brought with him a surgeon to attend the poor, and a tutor and governess to educate the settlers' children with his own. But, despite this solemn bravado, Thierry and his party were destitute of supplies beyond the needs of two or three weeks. Ultimately, through the intervention of a missionary, one of the chiefs agreed to sell Thierry some land near Hokianga for 200l. to be paid in kind, blankets, tobacco, fowling-pieces, &c. The rest of his party were drafted into the service of other settlers, and thus his grand scheme ended in his settling down as a humble colonist. New Zealand was proclaimed a British colony in 1840. Later Thierry found his way back to New South Wales, and tried to renew his projects for a larger colonisation scheme; but he had no success, and died on 8 July 1864 at Auckland, a poor man, but much respected as an old colonist. He was married and had a family.

[Mennell's Dict. of Austral. Biogr.; Rusden's History of New Zealand, pp. 179–80; House of Commons Papers 1838, i. 53, 109, 110, &c.; Blair's Cyclopædia of Australasia, Melbourne, 1891; The New Zealander, 4 July and 16 July 1864.]

C. A. H.