time there were no French colonies established in the Pacific.
Approximately 60 French whaling ships were making the regular
crossing between France and New Zealand for the lucrative
whale trade. Oil from New Zealand whales lit the lamps of
Parisian streets. A French annexation of the South Island
of New Zealand, an area a quarter of the size of France,
with only about three or four thousand Māori inhabitants,
would have been perfect for French needs.
The North Island was already well populated with British
colonists, and on the way to annexation for Great Britain.
Action had to be undertaken swiftly if the South Island
was to become a French colony.
Langlois felt that Akaroa,
on the Banks Peninsula, would make an excellent French base,
and began forming plans to take the South Island for France.
He negotiated with, and obtained signatures from 12 Ngai-Tahu
Māori chiefs from Port Cooper, whereby he bought of
most of Banks Peninsula, on the east coast of New Zealand.
According to the deed, in French, dated 2nd August 1838,
the land was bought from the Māori for a deposit of
150 French francs in goods. The remainder of the total price
was to be settled on Langlois' return to take possession
of the land. Langlois bought most of Banks Peninsula.
The goods the Māori received initially, were : 2 cloaks,
6 pairs of trousers, 12 hats, 2 pairs of shoes, some pistols,
axes and 2 shirts.
In May 1839, Langlois returned to Le Havre, in France.
He gathered together some businessmen, including the firm
Balguerie of Nantes, who were interested in the project
of colonising the South Island of New Zealand for France.
The Compagnie Nanto-Bordelaise was formed. Langlois also
succeeded in gaining the interest of the former Prime Minister
and industrialist, the Duke Decazes.
It was not easy at first to convince France of the benefits
of the Compagnie Nanto-Bordelaise's proposal, although the
Prime Minister Marèchal Soult accepted support for Langlois'
project from the start. Finally, with Maréchal Soult's backing,
representatives of the French government obtained a signature
of approval from King Louis Philippe, on the 11th December
1839. France would now have a naval base in the Pacific.
The Government subsidised Langlois' Nanto-Bordelaise project,
and lent Langlois a ship for the transportation of French
The delicate problem now was to annexe the South Island
without provoking the British, well installed in the North
Island. It was hoped that the Commissioner of the King of
France, Captain Lavaud, would simply be able to take the
South Island in the name of France, but it was decided a
more diplomatic solution would be to simply buy up land
from the Māori. Future French settlers would be installed
over the South Island, which would then eventually be claimed
However, by the time Langlois had been able to gain official
backing from France, the Māori population of Banks Peninsula
had increased considerably. This was mainly the result of
the Ngai Tahu captives returning home from the North Island.
In France, preparations for
the first group of emigrants was underway. A vessel of 501
tons called "Le Mahé" was sent to Rochefort
to be refitted for the voyage to New Zealand. "Le Mahé"
was renamed "Compte de Paris", after King Louis
Philippe's grandson, born 24th August 1838. The "Compte
de Paris" was placed under the command of Captain Langlois.
A convoy of French settlers left the port of Rochefort
in March 1840 on board the "Comte de Paris", one
month after the warship "L'Aube " had set sail,
under the command of Captain Lavaud. Captain Lavaud had
instructions to represent the French Government until the
arrival of a Governor.