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Frank Leward: Memorials

Bampton to Frank

Bampton to Frank.

Garden Court, Temple, June 20, 1845.

Dear old Frank,—Your last letter from New Zealand, written in January, was very interesting to me. My friend Charles Buller, M.P. for Liskeard, takes a particular interest in New Zealand and everything connected with it. He was one of the promoters of the New Zealand Co., and has often talked to me about it, so I took your letter round to Hare Court to show him as soon as I got it. He was very much pleased, and said it would be of great use to him in a motion on the subject he was going to bring on during the present session in the House of Commons. Buller is a clever and rising man, a pupil of Carlyle's. I suppose, by the way, out there you never get Carlyle's books. I must send you some, and mind you read them and inwardly digest; they will open up a new era in English literature.

Well, Buller's motion came on at last on the 17th. I was there right through it. The debate lasted three page 127nights. I often go to the House, and I was particularly pleased with this debate, partly because so many good speakers took part in it, but more on your account, old man. Buller spoke magnificently, and didn't spare your friends the missionaries; indeed their own chief supporters seemed to give them up as a bad lot, for whom no excuse could be made, and the present Tory Government came out of the debate anything but well. Buller went at Lord Stanley in fine style. "If for once Lord Stanley could have laid aside," he said, "that unhappy spirit of pugnacity, which has been throughout his life the bane of every public interest with which he has been brought into connection; if he could have surveyed the interests of New Zealand with the spirit of a statesman and the anxiety of true benevolence, there can be little doubt that he would have seen that, whatever were the strict legal rights of the case, this was no occasion to be splitting hairs and bandying subtleties, and that he would have complied with our request for the one simple laudable object of saving a colony from dissension and ruin."

I can't help giving you one or two more bits of his speech, which were particularly telling. Speaking of a Mr. Clarke; who it appears joined the business of a gunsmith to that of a preacher of peace, and whom perhaps you have heard of, and who, it seems, had declared the Maoris are as intelligent as the Saxons in England were, he said, "When on such authority I am gravely asked to believe that the New Zealanders, without either written language or hieroglyphic, or any single device page 128for preserving a record of past events, by means of nothing but oral tradition transmitted amidst wars that have over and over again shifted the possessions of every tribe in the islands, have preserved an accurate knowledge of the boundaries, and succession of every portion of the soil for the space of thirty generations, or eight or nine hundred years; when, on the same authority, I am asked to believe that the tribes of New Zealand, clothed in mats, ignorant of the use of any metal, feeding on rats and fern roots till Capt. Cook gave them potatoes, and scattered in filthy huts, present an aspect of equal civilisation with our Saxon ancestors when they had laid the foundations of half our ancient towns and cities, covered the land with those churches of which some still remain to excite the admiration of our architects, and divided the country into our present division of shires and hundreds and parishes, who possessed the foundations of our Parliamentary government, of our common law, and of our jury trial, for whom Alfred and the Confessor had legislated, Bede written history, and Dunstan had reared an ecclesiastical polity; when such propositions as these are gravely offered to the House of Commons, I can but admire the simplicity of my honourable friend in affording us so decisive a test of the credulity that could swallow all these monstrous fictions which missionaries have invented for the sordid purpose of making out that the natives possessed and could convey to them a freehold tenure in the land."

Then he went on to show how small a number of Maoris there were compared to the large extent of the land, and page 129broke out in a declaration of what always seems to me to be the true principle of colonisation and our excuse for occupying the lands of savage tribes. "It is preposterous to expect that the existence of such a population on portions of the soil of a vast country ought to exclude the rest of mankind from turning the unoccupied soil to account. God gave the earth to man to use-not to particular races to prevent all other men from using. He planted the principle of increase in us; he limited our existence in no particular soil or climate, but gave us the power of ranging over the wide earth; and I know of no principle of reason, no precept of revelation that gives the inhabitants of one valley in New Zealand a right to appropriate a neighbouring unoccupied valley in preference to the Englishman who cannot find the means of subsistence at home."This hit had a tremendous effect, and I thought I could detect something of Carlyle in it. At one time, when he came to speak of the treaty of Waitangi and how it was got up, and all the other rubbish the Government and missionaries went through, he denounced it all in the words of his master as "foolery, lies, and shams."

Hope your member for Southampton and under Secretary for the Colonies made a weak defence of Lord Stanley, and tired the House. The next night, a Mr. Barkley, a new member on the Conservative side, made his first speech, and a very good one too, taking the side of the New Zealand Co. against his own party, and finishing with these remarkable words, which, possibly, will some day be remembered, after the prophecy has page 130come to pass:—"Make them (the New Zealand Co.)—make them your instrument in advancing New Zealand towards that height and importance among the civilised nations of the earth, which I believe her, under God's providence, to be destined to enjoy during future ages, when, perhaps, the history, the institutions, and the language of this now mighty empire of Great Britain may be indebted for preservation to the gratitude and veneration of her descendants planted by their efforts in what now strikes some of us as a few unimportant isles at our antipodes."

The debate was not over till three o'clock this morning, and I am so tired that though I could not refrain from writing to you about it while it was fresh in my mind, I cannot write more fully about myself or my late movements since I was called. When I go to the House I get so excited by the debates, and a tremendous desire to take part in them, that I generally suffer for it the next day. I wonder whether I shall ever be making my first speech there, and if that should ever come to pass, whether I should do so well as Barkly did.

Good-bye old friend for the present, I will write again soon,

C. Augustin Bampton.