The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Auckland Provincial District]
Though the Cyclopedia of New Zealand makes no pretensions to being a history of New Zealand, and though its primary object is to present the world with a description of the Colony as it is to-day, it yet undertakes the responsibility or giving some account of the earliest days of each province. This special duty is undertaken in the hope of showing how much the New Zealanders of to-day are indebted to the Colony's founders; and with the object of perpetuating the names of the brave pioneers, and familiarising in the minds of the present generation some of the many acts of noble sacrifice which were necessary in starting this Colony on the course of prosperity in which it now travels with well assured feelings of certitude.
Auckland may be termed a transplanted town; and, therefore, that a fair start may be made with her interesting history, it is necessary not only to hide from the imagination all the conveniences and developments of beautiful Auckland as she appears today, but to visit the embryo capital in her nursery at the Bay of Islands. This must be done, for Auckland, though under another name, was certainly founded at “The Bay.” Yet it would be improper to confuse the birth of Auckland with that of her fostermother, the town of Kororareka, now called Russell, for that was the nursery from which Auckland was first transplanted.
The foundation of the little settlement of Kororareka might be claimed as the founding of the country; but certainly not of the town of Auckland, inasmuch as Kororareka is there yet; and still less of the province of Auckland, for that was born in the early fifties and died in the mid-seventies.
For the birthday of Auckland there was a large choice of dates, as in the case of other settlements. Wellington, for instance, has choice from among the following:—The 16th of August, 1839, when the “Tory,” the pioneer and official ship of the New Zealand Company, arrived off Cape Farewell in search of the most central and suitable harbour for the company's head settlement; (2) the 20th of September following, when the “Tory” entered Wellington Harbour; (3) the 25th of the same month, on which day Colonel Wakefield completed the purchase of all the lands surrounding the harbour; (4) the 3rd of January, 1840, when the “Cuba,” the Company's survey vessel, arrived in the newly purchased harbour; (5) the 20th of the same month, when the first genuine passenger ship, the “Aurora,” arrived off the Wellington Heads; and (6) the 22nd of January of the same month, when the passengers, about 150 in number, were landed in the newly-acquired territory. Of these dates, Wellington, with a modesty quite uncommon in Cook Strait, chose the last.
First Stone Building In N.Z. Built 1833.
Oldest Wooden Building In N.Z. Erected 1815.
Kerikeri, Bay Of Islands.
Of this long list, Auckland chose the earliest, and persistently calls the 29th of January “the Anniversary of the Colony.” Wellington as persistently calls the 22nd of the same month “the anniversary of the Colony.” Now, sixty years later, the point is still in dispute, with the result that no day is acknowledged by the Colony as a whole. And certainly there seems to be abundant reason for rejecting the dates of both claimants. Neither the arrival of a batch of immigrants in the harbour of Wellington, nor the arrival of Captain Hobson in the harbour of the Bay of Islands can in any sense be held to constitute the birth of the “Colony” of New Zealand. New Zealand became a colony on the 3rd of May, 1841, on which day the Lieutenant-Governor of the New South Wales dependency, became Governor of the independent Colony of New Zealand, by virtue of her Majesty's proclamation, which he that day publicly read. As nothing can have a birthday before its birth it seems clear that the “Colony” of New Zealand can go no further back than the 3rd of May, 1841.
Many anterior dates might be celebrated as common to the whole country. The discovery and landing of Captain Cook, the landing of the first missionary, the arrival of the first British resident, and the actual annexation by New South Wales, were all interesting events common to the whole country.
But while anniversaries which are celebrated variously in different parts of the Colony cannot be correctly termed either colonial or provincial, they are important as the anniversaries of the chief towns, which are celebrated by a holiday within each district; and as Auckland celebrates her anniversary on the 29th of January and counts from 1840, that will be a convenient date from which to give a brief outline of her early history.
On the 29th of January, 1840, then Her Majesty's ship “Herald” arrived in the beautiful harbour of the Bay of Islands, the object of the visit being the conveyance from Sydney to these shores of Captain William Hobson, R.N., who had been intrusted with most important duties, on the execution of which hung the fate of these interesting islands. It is admitted on all sides that the anxiety of the British Government respecting New Zealand, which found expression in the delegation of Captain Hobson, had arisen from the action of the New Zealand Company in energetically preparing to occupy this country with enthusiastic colonists of a very high order. But, unfortunately, this anxiety was somewhat slow in manifesting itself, with the result that Captain Hobson was on the scene at least half a year too late, the pioneers of the New Zealand Company having started three months, and having arrived at their destination nearly six months before him.
This tardy action was not from want of notice, or because of any hurry in the arrangements of the Company; for the project of colonising New Zealand by a body of private individuals had been discussed with the British Government for more than two years, the negotiations being commenced during the reign of William IV. That the Imperial authorities had seriously contemplated colonising New Zealand, either by the old method of a private company, or by direct official occupation, was evident. A British resident had been here some years, and Captain Hobson was, even at the time the negotiations were opened, in these waters in command of his Majesty's ship “Rattlesnake,” making reports of the country to the Home Government. Yet, in the face of all this, the original New Zealand Association was informed in December, 1837, after many months of weary waiting, that, if the members would form them-selves into a registered company, that company would, on certain necessary specified conditions, be granted a charter of incorporation similar to those which had been granted to companies which had originally colonised America.
It took the promoters nearly two years to form and register their company, not because of any lack of share-holders, but because the Association originally formed was in the meantime endeavouring, by the machinery of a special Empowering Bill, to obtain the co-operation of the Imperial authorities in preference to undertaking the work of colonisation without such valuable aid. When at length the Company was formed and the charter applied for, the applicants were told in effect that they had missed their chance, and that no charter would then be granted. Neither would the Government co-operate with the Company as at first suggested.
The Company, therefore, decided to work independently of the Government, and no doubt bitterly regretted the two years spent in that kind of fast and loose play over the refusal of privileges which it was probable the authorities had no power to grant, in view of the fact that the Crown had waived what sovereignty it had ever claimed over these islands.
Pressing on its work, the Company determined to treat the New Zealand natives as a nation whose people, by virtue of possession, had the recognised right to deal with their own lands. The British Government saw no way of objecting to this, but, of course, knew well that what a private company could do, could be still better done by an accredited representative of the British nation; and, therefore, Captain Hobson was sent out to do for the nation, what Colonel Wakefield had in band for the Company. But before purchasing any lands from the natives, Captain Hobson was to endeavour to get the Maoris as a nation to recognise Her Majesty's sovereign authority over the whole or any parts of the country which they might be willing to place under Her Majesty's dominion.
Why all this see-sawing took place, which resulted in such divided instead of united action, can never now be definitely page 65 known; but some indications of the causes, may, perhaps, be surmised. It has been said that the promoters of the New Zealand Association controlled about forty-two votes in the House of Commons; and, on the other hand, it seems fairly evident that some of those promoters had enemies, if not among the members of the Government, at least among leading members of the Government factions, who were also adepts at wire-pulling. Certain it is, very rapid changes of front were made by the British Government; and it is not clear, that these changes were induced by any action of the intending colonists. Whatever may have been the cause of the disastrous bungles, there can be no doubt that the bungles were disastrous, or that the whole cause of colonisation was very prejudicially affected thereby. The present object, however, is neither to dwell regretfully on the past nor to attach blame to anyone; but this explanation of the circumstances leading up to Captain Hobson's appointment is offered as an indication of the nature of the uncommon difficulties with which, from the outset, that most estimable ambassador had to contend.
Immediately on his arrival Captain Hobson invited all the resident British subjects to meet him at the Kororareka Church, and there the next day (the 30th of January) he acquainted them with the objects of his mission. There, too, the Proclamation declaring that the boundaries of the Colony of New South Wales had been so extended as to include New Zealand, and that Captain Hobson had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the newly-added portion, was read in due form. A second proclamation, read at the same meeting, stated that Her Majesty, the Queen of England, did not “deem it expedient to recognise” any titles to lands in New Zealand purchased from the natives, but that a Commission would be appointed to decide the equity of all such purchases and to recommend to the Crown for confirmation such as might be considered fair and reasonable. It further declared that all purchases made after the date of that proclamation would be absolutely null and void.
By what authority the Queen of England did all this is a point quietly ignored; and in view of the facts that the rights of sovereignty acquired by discovery, had some years before been waived by the British nation in favour of the natives and true possessors of the country, and that up to that time no rights or sovereignty had been resought, much less recovered, it would have been difficult for Captain Hobson to show by what recognised authority the Government of England, on the 15th of June, 1839, extended the boundaries of New South Wales by including therein the country whose independence had been repeatedly acknowledged; and it would have been as difficult for him to show by what legitimate authority he was there reading those proclamations. What the effect of those proclamations would have been or what their value, if the native chiefs had declined to cede their sovereign rights, when so asked a few days later, are other knotty questions. They are, however, of little importance now, inasmuch as the chiefs did sign away their sovereign rights, when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi; but the morality of securing sovereign rights from uncivilised natives, and then proceeding to disallow and repudiate the prior acts of those natives may be questioned. But the Commission was appointed and great alterations were made in the areas said to be the rightful property of private speculators; and whatever absence of legal right there may have been was similarly bridged over. Though the speculators had, on the one hand, to give up a good deal of territory to which they laid claim, they had, on the other, a benefit, the value of which they were not slow to perceive, in having confirmed and indefeasible titles to as much land as was considered fair value for the money or goods given in exchange for the larger areas.
Just a week after Captain Hobson's arrival—on the 5th of February—the famous Treaty of Waitangi, which stands as good to-day as ever it did, was read to a large number of chiefs and others in meeting assembled. The Rev. Henry (afterwards Archdeacon) Williams acted as interpreter, and it was very carefully explained that the Treaty proposed to invest all the sovereign rights of the natives of New Zealand in the British Crown, and that, in consideration thereof, that Crown would extend to the natives all the rights and privileges of British subjects, prominent and paramount among which would be their undisturbed possession of their lands, and the power to deal with the same at such times, and on such terms as might be agreeable to them. But one important limitation of that power was made, by which the right of preemption was vested with the new Government.
With the timely and judicious assistance of these two, however, even the expectations of Captain Hobson's sanguine nature were more than realised, for after the korero on the 5th of February, he left the natives to consider the provisions of the Treaty and their attitude thereto until the 7th, when, it was arranged, he should meet them again. The clear day thus given was, however, not required, for on the morning of the 6th, the chiefs intimated their satisfaction with the provisions of the Treaty and their willingness to sign at once. On that day twenty-six important chiefs signed the Treaty, and this act was recognised by all the parties as ceding the right over a large though not very clearly defined portion of the North Island.
At Hokianga, on the 12th of the same month a good deal of opposition was exhibited, and here there was no Waka Nene to repeat the seasonable speech made by the ever-friendly chief of Waitangi. Captain Hobson, however, was himself equal to this occasion. Charging one of the principal objectors with being influenced by some white man, unfriendly to the best interests of both races, the gallant Captain called upon him to speak his own sentiments like a man. The chief gracefully admitted the impeachment by pointing out his prompter and calling upon him to speak up for himself. Captain Hobson listened to the man's excuses and then, in a masterly speech of a few words, silenced the whole opposition. Assisted at Hokianga by the Wesleyan missionaries as he had been assisted at Waitangi by the Anglicans, Captain Hobson secured his second complete success, and was enabled to declare the Queen's rights of sovereignty over all the country lying between the North Cape and the 30th parallel of south latitude. This included the island as far south as the present township of Dargaville. The good offices of Captain Hobson in obtaining further signatures to the Treaty were then interrupted by illness; but in due course all the principal signatures were obtained, and on the 21st of May, 1840, the Queen's sovereignty was proclaimed over the whole of the North Island. In the meantime, Captain Hobson had to consider the important matter of the choice of a capital. That this matter was lying heavily on the mind of the Lieutenant-Governor may be inferred from the fact that even before the provisions of the Treaty were made known he had enquired from the Rev. Henry Williams, as to a suitable site for the seat of Government. Asked whether the Bay of Islands would be a suitable position of the capital, Mr Williams objected to those shores as being too confined, too generally occupied by Europeans as well as natives, and too far from the centre of the island. The faithful missionary then went on to suggest the shores of Waitemata and Tamaki rivers as being free from all these objections, and possessing features of rare excellence, there being “a vast extent of fine country without an inhabitant.” On the 21st of February, 1840, Mr. Williams accompanied Captain Hobson on H.M.S. “Herald” to the noble harbour of the Waitemata, to point out the many advantages of the locality. Speaking of this trip in his early recollections, Mr. Williams says:—“His Excellency was not long in pointing out the spot, the present site of Auckland, seeing immediately its various advantages. I was despatched to Maraitai, to communicate with and collect the natives of the Thames and around. On my return to the ship after four days, I met Captain Nias in his boat, coming to meet me and the natives with me, who informed me that on Sunday morning Captain Hobson had been disabled by an attack of paralysis, and considered that he was not able to hold his office, and had determined to sail for Sydney. On my seeing Captain Hobson, I suggested his not determining so immediately to relinquish his office as Governor of New Zealand; that I would guarantee quarters on shore, either at Paihia or Waimate, but recommending Waimate as being more quiet. The ‘Herald’ returned to the Bay and Captain Hobson was conveyed to Waimate to good quarters at Mr. Davis's house, where every attention was paid to him, having the presence of his own surgeon and secretary. After remaining at Waimate some months, Captain Hobson so far recovered as to resume his duties in the Bay, and finally founded the ‘City of Auckland.’”
Notwithstanding this prompt recognition of the beautiful isthmus, however, Captain Hobson, before finally deciding on the present site of Auckland as that of his capital, selected a “Capital City” site at Hokianga, and called it Churchill, and another, which he named Russell, at a place about four miles from the old town of Korcrareka. It seems pretty certain that for some time after his unfortunate attack of paralysis, Captain Hobson was unable to resist all the pressure brought to bear upon him by rival interests, and to this the sudden changes may in some measure be ascribed. At Churchill the Lieutenant-Governor never settled, but at Russell he had Government offices fitted up, and himself occupied the residence of Captain Clendon, the American Consul, whose estate he had purchased for the site of the capital. Within three or four months after Captain Hobson's arrival in the Colony regular ferry boats were plying between Kororareka and the new capital of Russell. It was, however, a short-lived glory; for all the time arrangements were in process for the purchase and settlement of the lands of the Waitemata.
That there were not greater difficulties experienced in the purchase of the site may be attributed to the greater power of Government in the estimation of both the natives and Europeans, and to the sagacity of Captain Hobson. Though there were no inhabitants nearer than page 67 the Maoris of Orakei Bay, from whom the site of Auckland was bought, long before Captain Hobson had set his delighted eyes on the spot, a company had been formed in Scotland called the New Zealand Manukau and Waitemata Company; and this company claimed very considerable areas on the shores of both these harbours. The claim of the Company rested on the alleged purchase of these lands in 1836 by a Sydney merchant, named Thomas Mitchell. The alleged purchaser died during the same year. In 1838 the Scottish Company was formed, and in due course this portion of Mr. Mitchell's estate was acquired from the widow and the trustees. Captain Symonds, whose name is perpetuated in that of a main Auckland thoroughfare, was a director and the principal New Zealand representative of the Manukau and Waitemata Company, yet Captain Hobson managed to secure the good offices of this gentleman, first in getting the signatures of the Manukau and Waikato chiefs to the Treaty of Waitangi, and afterwards in purchasing from the Maoris the site for the new capital, notwithstanding the circumstance that the lands so bought must have included a good deal, if not the whole, of the territory to which his company laid claim—probably an erroneous claim. That Captain Symonds had the authority of his company behind him in assisting Captain Hobson to the best of his ability, was never questioned; and, had the lives of these two captains been spared, even a few years, the Company, doubtless, would have reaped its reward. As Deputy Surveyor-General of the Colony, to which office he was appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor, Captain Symonds would, no doubt, have been a warm friend to his Scottish Company, but his life was cut lamentably short, while he was on an errand of mercy and heroism, by the sinking of a boat in the Manukau harbour on the 23rd of November, 1841. Less than a month before that date about twenty-seven settlers arrived in the Manukau under the auspices of Captain Symonds's Company, and though the right of purchase was disallowed, other and more distant lands were given them. Though no other settlers followed under the Company's auspices, it was not till ten or twelve years later that the Association agreed to accept about 1900 acres of land in an out-of-way part of the district in settlement of all claims. Whether Mr. Mitchell really did bargain for any lands on the isthmus can never be known. No mention of the sale was made to Dr. Campbell and his party, who, ignorant of Captain Hobson's prior visit, endeavoured, on the 30th of April, 1840, to possess themselves of the coveted territory. That they did not succeed was due, not to any question as to the power of old Kawau and his sons to sell, but merely because one of the sons had taken umbrage at a remark made unintentionally by one of the party. The whole story is graphically told by Dr. Campbell in his interestingly written book “Poenamo.”
When Captain Symonds purchased the site of the new capital, it was in its larger features the same lovely spot that it is to-day. From Mount Hobson—so named from its being the first of the volcanic hills ascended by him—the Lieutenant-Governor had, on his second visit, been charmed into a passion for the wonderful picture. From the same summit, still earlier in the history of the selection, Dr. Campbell and Mr. Brown had received impressions to be effaced only by death; and its fitness as the site of a great town was acknowledged by all who had seen it. It was impossible to resist the conclusion that the narrow and beautiful isthmus possessed so many advantages that nothing could possibly be better as a site for the capital of the infant colony. It is true that Wellington has since been declared more convenient from being more central; but at that time Wellington was practically the southern extremity of settlement, and apparently suffered from drawbacks similar to those which had put the Bay of Islands “out of court.” The very fact that the lands of Port Nicholson had been apportioned out to Europeans, was in itself sufficient to condemn Wellington in the estimation of the Lieutenant-Governor, who, above everything else, wanted a site where he could sell land, and thus for the time fill the Government coffers and thereby release the colony of New South Wales from the necessity of providing its dependency which the cash needful for carrying on the government.
Auckland was named in honour of Lord Auckland, the Governor-General of India, who is credited with having taken much interest in the colonisation of New Zealand; and Eden being Lord Auckland's family name, the connection was maintained by naming the principal and nearest volcanic hill “Mount Eden.”
The preparation of Auckland for the removal to it from Russell of the seat of Government was set about in earnest by those to whom the work was deputed, and the busy scene was quietly watched by others who were ready to enter heartily into the work of colonisation. Prominent among the latter were Dr. Campbell and his partner, Mr. William Brown, who had been in various parts of the Hauraki Gulf for the best part of the year, patiently waiting until the location of the capital should be announced. In the meantime they had purchased the pretty little island of Motu Korea, soon to be known to every Aucklander as Brown's Island. This purchase was made after the Lieutenant-Governor's Proclamation that all such purchases would be null and void, yet though initial steps to make the purchase null and void were taken, they were not followed up; and if “Poenamo” consisted only of the chapter devoted to this little episode, it would still be an interesting book.
The surveying of the town and other matters concerning the first sale of land occupied about seven months; and on the 19th of April, 1841, the speculators and bona fide settlers were offered the first opportunity of securing land on the shores of the Waitemata with a clear Government title. The announcement of the sale, which was first advertised for the 8th of March, attracted a large number of buyers. About forty acres were disposed of and the upset price was twelve shillings and sixpence per perch, or £100 per acre, but the prices realised averaged more than £550 per acre. A list of the purchasers, with areas and prices, appears in “Brett's Early History,” and among the list are the names of a few who are still well known in the land.
At this time Shortland Street marked the boundary of the foreshore. The tides rippled where the Post Office now stands, and the buildings of the South British Insurance Company stand on what was then a swamp or bog, through which ran a small stream which at high tide was backed up as far as Durham Street. Shortland Street, therefore, at once became the most popular street, and allotments therein brought high prices. The principal streets were surveyed a chain wide—with Queen Street still wider in parts—but they were so few and far between that the owners of allotments had to make additional streets for their own convenience; and the allotments were in all cases so small that those owners were considered liberal who set aside ten or eleven feet each, so that a street twenty or twenty-two feet wide might be made. It seems inconceivable that with a fine area which was practically limitless, the authorities should have permitted the formation of such streets as High Street, O'Connell Street, Vulcan Lane, West Queen (Swanson) Street, Durham Street, and far too many others. Yet the idea of widening them to meet the demands of the everincreasing traffic is either never entertained, or banished as hopeless. High Street, with its foot-wide footpath, and a road-way too narrow for two vehicles to pass in comfort, must have cost much more through waste of time than would have purchased the property to treble its width, and yet such an act would treble the value of the remaining property. Great opportunities are yet within the reach of the people for beautifying and rendering more useful the old business part of Auckland.
While Auckland was being secured, laid out and sold off, New Zealand was occupying the very serious attention of the British Parliament. In July, 1840, a Select Committee was appointed to enquire into matters respecting the colonization of New Zealand, and early in the following month, after taking a mass of evidence from Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield and nine others, it presented its report to the House of Commons. Among other things set forth in the report, it was stated that, in the opinion of the Committee, New Zealand should be detached from New South Wales and created a separate Colony. The charter giving effect to this suggestion was signed by Her Majesty on the 10th of November, 1840. But even had news travelled slowly in those days, so it is not very remarkable that such good news as this should have taken within a fortnight of six months to reach the people of New Zealand.
In the meantime the Lieutenant-Governor had continued at his new seat until January, 1841, when the whole of the Government establishment was moved; but it was not until the 13th of March that Captain and Mrs. Hobson made their official landing, and were preceded to Government House by a band, said by Dr. Campbell to consist of one fife and one drum. On the 29th of the following month the documents arrived authorizing Captain Hobson to declare New Zealand a separate colony with himself the Governor of it; and on the 3rd of May the ceremony was performed with befitting display. The charter also defined the methods of conducting the affairs of the colony by the Governor and two Councils—the Executive Council of three, and the Legislative Council of six, exclusive of the Governor, who was, ex officio, a member of both Councils. The first session of the Legislative Council met on the Queen's twenty-second birthday, and as all the needful Government appointments had been previously made, the affairs of the newly created colony were by that time in full swing.
Those who bought land at the first Government sale were not slow to make the most of their opportunities by reselling, either cut up, or in the original allotments. The very first day after the sale, Dr. Campbell bought “Logan Bank” in Jermyn Street, where he subsequently built the house now occupied by Mr. C. V. Houghton, the Auckland manager of the New Zealand Shipping Company; and many who cut up their sections nearer town were enabled to sell at considerably advanced prices.
There was an outery raised for a sale of country lands, in the hope that farming and the production of foodstuffs generally might thereby be encouraged and stimulated. With beef at 1st 4d per pound, and potatoes at eight shillings per hundred weight, the temptations to embark in farming were fairly strong. A sale of “suburban sections,” “cultivation allotments” and “small farms” was advertised for the 1st of September, 1841. The “suburban sections” were situated where Parnell now stands, beginning at Mechanics' Bay; they varied from three to five acres and were sold at prices ranging from about £100 per acre to less than a fourth of that rate. Purchasers with an eye to business immediately subdivided their sections, the pioneer in this enterprise being an Irishman named Robert Tod, who christened the place Parnell, and advertised “choice villa sites.” The “cultivation allotments” were located in the neighbourhood of the Khyber Pass Road, a good deal further from the heart of the capital; but as the same enterprising Mr. Tod was a purchaser of these also, it is not likely that they were all used for the market gardens for which they were intended. They were of about three acres each, and sold for an average of about £13 per acre. The “small farms” ranged from a little under five acres each to about five times that size, and were located between. Newmarket and Onehunga, along the Manukau Road. These ranged from a little over £2 per acre for the larger sections to nearly five times that price for some of the small allotments. About six hundred acres of land were sold at the second sale, about fifteen times as much as was disposed of at the first sale, yet the returns were less than a fourth or those netted for the smaller but more central area.
In offering to the public these suburban sections and cultivation allotments, the blunders so noticeable in connection with the first sale were repeated. The streets which were surveyed and provided for before the sale were, if not very straight, at least of respectable width, but they were so few and far between that the people were soon compelled to make streets for themselves. This they were allowed to do on the most parsimonious scale conceivable, with the result that there is hardly an inferior street in any of the early settled portions of the town and suburbs in which two vehicles can pass freely without danger of collision. For all this page 70 stupidity and cupidity in the original planning of Auckland, Dr. Martin, writing in 1841, blamed the principal surveyor, Mr. Felton Mathew, who was supposed to be feebly imitating the designers of the ancient town of Bath, which is now said to have a finer appearance than any other city in England. That may be true, as it certainly is true that, taken all round, Auckland has a finer appearance than any other city in New Zealand; but, unfortunately for the fame of Mr. Felton Mathew, Auckland is beautiful to-day in spite of the idiosyneracy, rather than by virtue of the perspicacity of her first and principal surveyor.
On the 5th of January, 1842, Auckland held its first race meeting, which was under the patronage of His Excellency the Governor. On the 29th of the same month, the first regatta was held also under the patronage of Governor Hobson and in celebration of the second anniversary of “the arrival of His Excellency in New Zealand.” No mention of the anniversary of the “Colony” seems to have been made at that time; but as other Governors came and went, though the same day was celebrated, it became necessary to vary the title of the event to be celebrated. If, when that necessity arose, the change had been made so as to read “the Anniversary of the Introduction of British Rule,” the celebration might reasonably have been expected to become general throughout the colony, which for many reasons would have been preferable to the present system of each district keeping up its own day.
In March, 1842, the Supreme Court of New Zealand was inaugurated and opened, under the Chief Justiceship of Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Martin.
It may be fairly assumed, as was actually the case, that, when the second anniversary of Governor Hobson's arrival was so enthusiastically celebrated, he was at any rate popular with the people of Auckland. He it was who had founded the new capital, who had so successfully secured the sovereign rights for the nation, and who had so sedulously devoted his undoubted talents to the interests of this young Britain of the South. Under his rule, the affairs of the colony had, up to that point, been fairly prosperous. But the time was at hand when, even in Auckland, where the Government money was mainly spent, prosperity would give way to depression, and then, as now, the people were not slow to lay the blame on the shoulders of the Government which in those days, unfortunately for Captain Hobson, meant the Governor. Nowadays the Governor gets no credit for prosperity and no blame for adversity; the Premier and his colleagues, for the time being, come in for the censure, and they are generally fairly able to bear it. But in the early days, when Governors were all but autocratic within their own domains, it was generally believed that they alone could command success or court failure by making wise or unwise use of the power they possessed. To a limited extent this assumption was, of course, correct; but the ignorant muddling of causes, effects, side issues, and irrevelancies, so common with even fairly intelligent communities, led to Captain Hobson's censure for a condition of affairs which, but for his sagacity and integrity, must have been still worse. Every party in the country with “an axe to grind”—and all parties had axes in those days—was thoroughly convinced that Governor Hobson alone could provide and turn the grindstone; and the many factions confidently, sometimes impudently, made demands upon him in this regard. Truly, the position occupied by the first Governor of this Colony was pitiable. Refined and sensitive by nature, accustomed to obedience and respect by training, and weakened in bodily health by anxiety and hardwork, Captain Hobson, even under the most favourable circumstances in other respects, would have had a sufficiently trying position. But circumstances in other respects were far from favourable. Starting with a Home-implanted prejudice against the New Zealand Company, Captain Hobson was prepared for the determined opposition of the largest and most important body of colonists; and, although, unhappily, he was not disappointed in this respect, he was able to bear the abuse from Wellington, Napier and New Plymouth with creditable equanimity. But he was not prepared to be practically abandoned by the Government which had implanted that prejudice; nor was he prepared to be pecked at, worried and frequently insulted by the very people who had most benefited by and most selfishly fostered that prejudice.
When, early in 1841, the settlers of Port Nicholson petitioned Her Majesty the Queen for the removal of Captain Hobson, whom they charged with “neglect and misconduct,” the people of the Auckland district sent Home a counter petition praying that Her Majesty might graciously continue her confidence in Captain Hobson on whose wisdom, zeal, energy, integrity, and efficiency they set a very high value. In the opinion of the petitioners, the Lieutenant-Governor, by the mildness of his government, the equity of his administration of justice, and the success of his efforts for the security of life and property, had happily succeeded in uniting the European and native population, and in firmly attaching them to Her Majesty's Government. The petitioners expressed their regret that exceedingly frivolous and altogether unworthy complaints against Captain Hobson had been preferred by certain persons residing at Port Nicholson; and roundly condemned those complaints as unworthy of Her Majesty's notice.
The virulence of the one and the adulation of the other of these petitions, Captain Hobson very calmly ascribed to the same cause—the choice of capital—operating inharmoniously on conflicting interests; but when a year later, the people of Auckland turned to rend their quondam benefactor his position became painful indeed.
To secure temporary relief from the persecution of his opponents, the bitterest of whom were now among the Aucklanders themselves, Captain Hobson, early in the winter of 1842, left the scene of his unhappiness, for a trip into the interior, preferring to trust himself to the tender mercies of the Waikato, Waipa, and Kawhia natives. Prior to his departure, a public meeting held in Auckland, adopted a memorial to the Secretary of State, expressing lack of confidence in the Governor, and His Excellency was made the medium of its transmission. Unable to await with patience the result of this action, the people, though of course, not quite intentionally, adopted a more rapid and efficacious process of ridding themselves of a Governor who had in no way departed from those principles of integrity of which they had so recently adjudged him to be so worthy an exponent. Immediately on his return to the capital, the petty peckings were renewed and vituperative insults were again showered page 71 upon him. Even when His Excellency, as near the end of his career as August, 1842, was so ill that deputationists and memorialists had to be put off from day to day, no abatement of the fury was noticeable.
The culminating act of cruelty, a fitting climax for the host of minor insults, occurred at a public meeting called by the dying Governor during a temporary triumph over his malady. The object of the meeting was the adoption of a congratulatory address to Her Majesty, on some event of domestic felicity. “The Opposition,” says Brett's Early History of New Zealand, “called another meeting and adopted a separate address, which was largely signed, and this was subsequently moved at the Governor's meeting as an amendment upon the address which the Governor had caused to be prepared. This gross personal insult caused the Governor's heart to sink within him; a relapse of paralysis followed, and he died on the 10th of September, 1842.”
It is on record that between 1720 and the time when Governor Hobson first saw the Manukau-Waitemata isthmus, many a bloody battle was lost and won on that beautiful spot. Whole tribes were swept away, and, perhaps, eaten; but it may yet be questioned whether, in view of the different circumstances and conditions of the perpetrators, another deed was ever there enacted quite so coldly cruel as that final insult to one of the kindliest gentlemen who ever set foot on these shores.
In justice to the Auckland public of those days, it should be remembered that the alarming nature of the Governor's health had been imperfectly understood. The suddenness of his death caused much surprise, and it was stated at the time that a mistake in administering a dose of medicine somewhat hastened the end.
The interment took place on Tuesday, the 13th of September, “accompanied with the most striking demonstrations of respect and affection. Not a person in the township of Auckland but appeared in the deepest mourning.” In the Church of England portion of the eastern cemetery, Symonds Street, diligent searchers and keen observers may find a weedy quadrangle, in which a large, flat, old-fashioned tombstone declares that “Beneath lie the remains of William Hobson, Esq., a Captain in Her Majesty's Royal Navy, and first Governor of New Zealand, who departed this life on the 10th of September, 1842; aged 49 years.” The time is coming when Auckland and the colony generally well endeavour to atone for the past by suitably honouring the memory of this good man, whose public acts now shine with a lustre barely exceeded by that of his private character.
The commercial depression from which Auckland was suffering at the time of Governor Hobson's death, was the result, no doubt, of the inflation of the preceding two years, and the recovery was by no means rapid. Some stir was made about a month after the Governor's death, by the arrival of the “Duchess of Argyle” and the “Jane Gifford,” the first vessels to bring immigrants to Auckland direct from the Old Land. Prior to this the population of Auckland had consisted of colonists who had gained more or less experience in other parts of Australia and New Zealand, and who were attracted to the new capital with the idea of rising in importance with the district. The arrival, therefore, of immigrants who might be expected to improve the prospects of the town by settling in the country, was hailed with much satisfaction. There was no wharf on which to land them, though the town had been the declared capital of the colony for more than two years; but the mud flat in Mechanics' Bay was there, and on this 172 men, 171 women and 192 children were dropped, “bag and baggage,” to find as best they might their way through the soft mud to the twenty or thirty rough huts which had been provided on the shore for their reception. One of the few passengers who managed to land at the flood of the time, says of those less fortunate: “It was a sorry sight to see them carrying their children, boxes and bundles through mud and water up to their knees.” Though there was no wharf, some “pile and stringer work” had been done; for at the foot of Shortland Street there was, it is stated, a footbridge about a chain and a half long by about five feet wide, by which, and by which alone, the people were enabled to cross Lower Queen Street. This solitary Auckland bridge was dignified by the name of “Waterloo.” Though roads were as scarce as bridges, some attempt had even then been made to afford protection to the women and children in the event of invasion by the Maoris; and before nightfall on the day of their landing the immigrants were instructed as to the location of Barrack Point.
The expectant immigrants soon found that they had not waded through mud and water for nothing; but Governor Hobson must have smiled in his grave if he saw them trooping up, not to himself, but to Acting-Governor Shortland, in page 72 search of work pending the departure of the depression. The Acting-Governor was equal to the occasion, however, for it is said that he gave them work at a pound a week for married men, and sixteen shillings for the more or less fortunate individuals who happened to be single. The particular work in which their pent-up energies were to be let loose was the cutting down of Shortland Street. Well might the street be called after a man of such generous impulses; though, in view of the fact that, only a year before, board and lodging was paid for at the rate of £2 per week, it would have been little wonder if the poor immigrants had dubbed the scene of their labours “Short-cut to Starvation Point.” For how long they remained, or how many of the immigrants worked at Shortland Street, is not recorded; but the appearance of that thoroughfare twenty years later, or even now, would lead to the conclusion that the brave pioneers soon found employment elsewhere.
Lieutenant Shortland's short administration of fifteen months as Acting-Governor was not marked by any great revival of prosperity. Like his late chief, he was blamed for everything disagreeable that happened, though there were many quite willing to claim a full share of any credit that might be bestowed on the Acting-Governor on account of a few trifling improvements he was able to effect.
By the close of 1843, when Governor Fitzroy arrived, Auckland and perhaps other parts of the colony had improved to some extent, but there was an accumulation of troubles waiting for impossible settlement, and in regard to some of these his impatient memorialists had sent an address to meet him in Sydney. Lucky would it have been for Captain Fitzroy, and perchance also for the colony, if the memorial of the Nelson settlers which claimed more than an archangel could give them, had frightened the new Governor home again. But just as a new monarch can always be found to take the place of one murdered by his subjects, so Governor Fitzroy was ready to stand up as a target for the inky projectiles which had been so disastrous to the peace of Captain Hobson. Though the first Governor had latterly held and finally quitted office under circumstances most distressing, his tenure of the Governorship certainly began well, and for a long time he was, at any rate, immediately surrounded by a happy people. But when Governor Fitzroy arrived he was met by a deluge of addresses portraying the miserable condition of every section of the community; and yet, with an irony which he must have appreciated, all these miserable memorialists congratulated His Excellency upon his timely arrival amongst them, to share their misery certainly, but—they may have thought—possibly to relieve it. The address from the seat of Government plainly told the incoming Governor that his Treasury was bankrupt; that sundry officials with those directly and indirectly depending upon them, were suffering acutely all the ills attendant on non-payment of salaries; that land sales, immigration, and the country's commerce had all been more or less hopelessly suspended, and that general misery and semi-starvation prevailed. On all hands the people complained of the unsatisfactory condition of matters connected with the land; and the Nelson and Wellington colonists had great grievances over the Wairau Massacre generally, and the leniency of the Government towards the perpetrators in particular. The settlement of all the troubles under which the Colony groaned Captain Fitzroy confidently undertook; but his confidence was born of an inadequate appreciation of the immense difficulties he had to face. Decentralization which was the special curse of this Colony for the first thirty years at least of its existence, was at that time productive of most serious evils. The cost of governing small communities so absurdly scattered was enormous—ruinous, in fact; the possibility of affording them adequate, or, indeed, any protection against probable attacks by the natives, was hopeless; and the opportunities and means of communication and trade between the various settlements were most meagre and unsatisfactory. Auckland received little or no direct benefit from being the seat of Government, as every district expected and many received a greater sum for the expenses of Government than was contributed by way of taxation.
That he might, as far as possible, pay his way in the matter of salaries and other expenses of Government, Captain Fitzroy created paper money in the shape of debentures bearing five per cent, interest. And notwithstanding that he had been petitioned to abolish customs “restrictions in trade,” he decided to increase the duties. It was discovered that the duties cost the Government forty per cent. to collect, and the natives looked on the Customs House as an unmitigated nuisance.
Governor Hobson may have enraged the people by a too faithful observance of the duties imposed upon him by the Home Government, but Governor Fitzroy was not likely to err on that side. Not only was the issue of State paper money contrary to instructions, but the waiving of the Crown's pre-emptive right over native lands, thus enabling the natives to sell their lands to all and sundry at such prices as might be agreed upon between buyer and seller without reference to the Crown, was a direct contravention of an Act of the Imperial Parliament. Never was the fable of “The old man and his ass” better illustrated. In consideration of this waiver, which had been clamoured for by both natives and Europeans, the purchasers were to pay a tax of ten shillings per acre as the price of a Crown grant. Those who had previously bought lands at and over £1 per acre, which was the minimum allowed by the Act, complained that the change seriously reduced the selling value of their lands, while those who had clamoured for the waiver declared that the tax of ten shillings was prohibitive of land buying, and, therefore, a bar to the settlement of the country. This outcry induced the wavering Governor to reduce his tax from ten shillings to one penny.
This kind of see-sawing in such important matters was not likely to impress either of the races with an exalted opinion of the Governor's firmness; and to his deficiencies in this respect were attributed many of the difficulties which arose. Of these the Heke war at the Bay of Islands was the most important and serious.
The war, as might be expected, considerably interfered with the development of Auckland, though the population of the town and immediate surroundings was augmented by the refugees from the Bay of Islands. Governor Fitzroy gave some of these refugees suburban lands around Auckland, but page 73 many of them were too poor to hold these newly acquired properties, and very great distress prevailed. The temporary suspension of operations by the New Zealand Company had effects still more direful, so New Zealanders generally were suffering greater privations and miseries than they had ever known before, or than they have ever felt since. In the meantime Captain Fitzroy's freaks respecting the pre-emptive rights and the creation of a State currency had been made the ostensible reasons for that gentleman's recall. That he had blundered all agree, but how he was to attempt the performance of the impossible duties he took in hand without blundering, none has ever ventured to say. Some people declare that he was mad, and probably the best evidence of the truth of the assertion consists in his readiness to undertake the Governorship of this country under circumstances and conditions so thoroughly distressing. Just as things had passed their worst and there seemed a prospect of Governor Fitzroy redeeming his lost prestige by a speedy conclusion of New Zealand's first war, despatches came to hand stating that Captain Grey had been appointed Governor, and in a very short time the new Governor arrived.
The fact that the people of Wellington and Nelson made bonfires and gave public dinners to show their rejoicing at Governor Fitzroy's recall, does not necessarily prove that he had ever acted unfairly. The circumstances of the Colony were bad and Fitzroy was Governor at the time; therefore Fitzroy was, in the opinion of precipitate persons, responsible. But if it was galling to Captain Fitzroy to be compelled to hand over the reins of Government just as he expected to drive through his first triumphal arch, it was a favourable opportunity for the incoming Governor. Rapidly concluding the war with Heke and Kawiti, Captain Grey at once set to work to rectify the errors for which his predecessor had been recalled. The golden opinions which Governor Grey had won for himself in South Australia and still earlier in West Australia, encouraged the Home Government to greater liberality than had hitherto been displayed. In fact, it may be said that only with Captain Grey's accession to the Governorship did the British authorities in any sense awaken to the responsibilities of their position in this country. This enabled the new Governor to do a good deal for Auckland, which would have been quite impossible to his predecessors, no matter how much they might have wished to do it.
One of the most important things for Auckland which Captain Grey did during his first term of office was the location of the military settlers on what were for many years known as the Pensioner Settlements, of which Onehunga was the nearest and Howick the most distant. Five hundred British soldiers were provided with as many cottages, and each cottage stood on an acre of land which was to become freehold at the end of seven years of occupation, and of service in the event of being called upon; and it was further arranged that each might purchase four acres additional land at a certain nominal price. The officers were provided with houses in forty-acre allotments, with the right in each case to purchase an additional section of 100 acres. Thus Auckland was protected by an extended line of trained soldiers ready for any emergency; but so situated that they could pursue the arts of peace. As these men with their wives and families added some two thousand to the population of the Auckland district, many benefits immediately resulted. Not only did the pensioners make good use of their allotments in the production of fruit and vegetables, but in consequence of the protection afforded by their presence, immigration was greatly encouraged.
Compared with that of his predecessors Captain Grey's was a strong capable rule, and he was enabled to firmly establish the confidence of the Home Government. His success with the natives was great, and in this his wise expenditure of money among the friendly tribes was of great use. It was during the first half of his first term that the high and massive scoria walls of the Albert Barracks were erected by the friendly Maoris.
The inauguration of the New Zealand Parliament marked an epoch in the history of the infant capital. Up to that point Auckland had been but the seat or location of the Governor and his own nominated Council; but now the Colony was to govern itself, and representatives from all parts were to meet for that purpose at Auckland. Parliamentary buildings were erected and the capital acquired a new importance which had a much-needed effect on immigration. Auckland, in fact, became the leading town in the colony.
The first Parliament met for the opening ceremony on the 27th of May, 1854, during the administration of Acting-Governor Wynyard, who for about two years prior to March, 1853, had held the office of Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of New Ulster, of which Province Auckland was, of course, the chief town. The first session of the New Zealand Parliament reflected but little credit and a good deal of discredit on the colonists composing its membership of thirty-seven; and, of course, indirectly Auckland suffered somewhat from this. It was found that the constitution made no provision for responsible advisers; and it occurred to no one at that time that the British Crown had for centuries been advised by Ministries for whose existence there was no parliamentary provision; a peculiarity that remains to this day. Considering that Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the founder of the Colony, and probably the best informed man south of the equator, was a member of the Legislature, it is surprising that the new Parliament should have failed to rise immediately to a full enjoyment of its privileges. The officers composing the appointed Executive—Messrs William Swainson, Alexander Shepherd, and Andrew Sinclair—were disinclined to retire from their respective positions of Attorney General, Colonial Treasurer and Colonial Secretary; and the Parliament failed to conceive that it had power to abolish the offices. Attempts were made to add to this old Executive, but finally the Acting-Governor was informed that Parliament had decided to leave the Executive power solely to the Appointed Officers until such time as the Imperial Parliament might be pleased to pass an Act providing for Responsible Government in the Colony. In due course information came from the British Government that no such Act was needed; and on the 7th of May, 1856, the old executive retired and Responsible Government was born in New Zealand.
Some time before the Constitution was fully installed the Hon. William Swainson had written and published an excellent little book entitled “Auckland, the Capital of New Zealand,” which, in the light of later developments, proves interesting reading. Governor Hobson's selection of Auckland as the capital was more handsomely justified by the Hon. William Swainson in 1853 than by the Hon. W. P. Reeves, the able author of “The Long White Cloud,” in 1898. “Time, experience and personal acquaintance with the country,” said Mr. Swainson, “have now confirmed the wisdom of that choice.” In some other respects, particularly in his reference to the Auckland district as an agricultural country, Mr. Swainson's prophecies have not been strikingly fulfilled; but in matters past and then present, Auckland is no doubt faithfully portrayed by the shrewd Attorney-General, who lived to the end of a useful life in his favourite city of Auckland. But Auckland's patriots of to-day must be amused with some of the opinions expressed by an undoubted patriot of 1853. Speaking of the Auckland harbour, Mr. Swainson then said: “Superior as it in its useful qualities, in beauty of natural scenery it is very far inferior to the harbour of Port Nicholson. The country around Auckland being for the most part level and open, the natural features are neither bold nor picturesque. Still, the harbour is by no means devoid of natural beauty. Commonly there is an excess of wind, but not unfrequently, and in the winter season particularly, a perfect calm for a time prevails.” It seems strange that any one could have written these opinions of the Auckland and Wellington harbours. But a period of nearly half a century has seen the beautifully wooded hills of Port Nicholson almost denuded, and a thickly populated city has grown up, its denizens having little room and less inclination for tree planting; while the hills of Auckland have been “with verdure clad,” almost every house contributing its quota towards the general sprinkling of trees and shrubs. Mr. Swainson, however, does not leave his descriptions of the Auckland harbour with the sentences above quoted; he speaks in the highest terms of the occasional placid beauty of the Waitemata, “deriving its charms solely from light, colouring, and repose”; and then, as if he had penned this paragraph on one of the really very horrid days with which the monotony of calm weather in Auckland is relieved throughout the year, he goes on to say: “But this glistening calm is the sure forerunner of a storm; short-lived, like all exceeding human loveliness, the unhealthy brightness is sure, ere long, to be followed with a boisterous storm of wind or rain.” In justice to Mr. Swainson's powers of observation it may be said that the captain of one of the Devonport Ferry steamers, who has been constantly running in the harbour of Auckland for the last dozen years, gives it as his opinion that Auckland has not always been so free from storms as his own very intimate experience of it would lead him to conclude.
When Mr. Swainson wrote his book, he was able to say that the greater part of the land comprising the Auckland isthmus was in cultivation, not a stump of a tree being left on the ground. Solid stone walls and quick-set hedges page 75 were taking the place of the old wooden fences; the greater part of the land was in permanent pasture; and the country even then presented the appearance of a home-like English landscape. One half of the road to Onehunga had been macadamized, and the other half was good during the greater part of the year. With little exception, all the land on each side of the road was fenced and cultivated, and the traveller between the two harbours had houses in view the whole way. The village of Newmarket he described as almost adjoining the suburbs of Auckland, and he was prophet enough to see that at no very distant period, the opposite coasts of the isthmus would be connected by one continuous line of streets.
Even at that time, Auckland was spoken of as a borough, and it had its municipal council; but as the “borough” comprised 40,000 acres and Papakura was just beyond the frontier, it was soon considered too extensive for practical purposes. Besides houses and streets, the cattle within the “borough” numbered about 5000; and in the principal articles of food the country was considered independent of foreign supply. The value of the exports of the district from the port of Auckland, for the year 1852, amounted to £51,000, and are mentioned by Mr. Swainson as “becoming considerable both in value and in variety.” The largest item in the list consisted of two million feet of sawn timber, valued at £11,816, while kauri spars came third with about half that value. Oil (£8629), copper ore (£5225), flour (£4029), were other considerable items; and houses in frame, hams and bacon, potatoes, wheat, wool, onions, and flax all ran into four figures, though the first-named stood highest at £1622 10s. Kauri gum, which figures so largely in Auckland's present exports, then totalled £805, and gold dust, sand, and quartz made up the modest sum of £114 10s. Cordage (£550), oats (£548), cheese (£346), and butter (£110) were even in those early days numbered among exports. There were “more than a hundred vessels registered as belonging to the port, besides upwards of one hundred and fifty licensed small craft under fifteen tons.” Operations at the Kawan copper miles were then suspended, but had been resumed at the Great Barrier; and Mr. Swainson prophesied that “the mineral productions of the Province independently of its golden prospects,” would “again form an important item in its exports.”
Probably the greatest difference between the conditions of the Colony today and those which prevailed at the time of the introduction of representative government, is noticeable in connection with the mail arrangements. At that time the Panama mail service was talked of as a “project shortly to be accomplished.” This was to bring London, probably, within fifty days—“little more than a pleasure trip”; but in the meantime letters averaged about four months, under favourable circumstances, in reaching their destination. The circumstances, however, were favourable only when letters for Auckland were sent by vessels bound for that port. Via Sydney was not considered a bad route, but to send them by a vessel bound for any other port of this Colony was deemed fatal to all chances of expedition. “Mails for Auckland,” says Mr. Swainson, “are not unfrequently despatched by vessels bound for Canterbury, or Nelson, or Wellington; the consequence is that letters and newspapers frequently arrive here six, seven, eight and nine months old. Upon enquiry into the cause of the delay it is found that the letters in question were sent by a ship bound for Canterbury; that they remained in the Post Office there for a fortnight, waiting for the next opportunity to be forwarded; that they were then despatched in about ten days by the overland mail, and that after an overland journey of a month, they reached Auckland six or eight months after date.” This reads like a “fairy tale” in these days of almost daily mails between Auckland and the south, when Wellington is reached in a trifle over a day, the mails to Canterbury and Otago being delivered respectively half a day and a day later. In these days, even though the important public intelligence is cabled round the world in a few hours, Aucklanders are disgusted with a mail service which brings them English letters more than thirty-five days old. Yet important public matters were not wanting in those days to stir the minds of colonists. At the time of the defective postal arrangements mentioned, events were ripening for the Crimean war. The “ancients” of this Colony had no cables and fast steamers to keep them up to date with European affairs; but they had what Auckland greatly needs to-day—an overland mail to Wellington, albeit a very slow one.
Taking a copy of the “New Zealander” of the 21st of January 1852, as an illustration of the business and amusements of the Aucklanders of that time, Mr. Swainson mentions a list of items peculiarly interesting to readers of the present day. “The ‘Governor Wynyard’ steamer is advertised to ‘sail’ between Auckland and Otahuhu (on the Tamaki)”; “£100 has been subscribed as a reward to anyone who shall first discover an available goldfield in the Province of New Ulster (New Zealand.)” The Auckland cricket club proved victorious over the military, “with three wickets to go down.” “The Band of the 58th Regiment will perform in the grounds in front of the old Government House to-morrow (Thursday) afternoon, from four till six o'clock.” “The sporting world are informed that Mr. J. Codlin's bay gelding Jack is open to run any horse, mare or gelding in the country for £100 a side,” and the “Auckland Regatta is announced to take place on the 29th.” These and many other interesting items occupy three or four pages of Mr. Swainson's valuable little book in the possession of which Auckland is very fortunate.
The discovery of gold in 1852 at Coromandel caused a good deal of excitement, and probably had the effect of keeping a number of the workers of Auckland from running away to Australia; but though the discovery was genuine enough as later years have amply proved, it was long before its real value was understood. Still, in 1852 and 1853, Auckland very narrowly escaped the goldfields excitement which came fifteen years later. The failure to prove the payable nature of the Auckland goldfields was no doubt a most serious misfortune to the capital, then struggling into importance. While these fields lay neglected, discoveries in other parts of the colony drew away from Auckland the surplus population which might otherwise have been well employed, and was still more disastrous in diverting the stream of immigration. Had the discovery of 1852 been energetically followed up, Auckland might have been able to retain the seat of Government for many years longer. As it was, the real outbreak of the Auckland goldfields occurred just in time to rescue the northern capital from the very calamitous depression which had settled upon it as a consequence of the withdrawal of the civil and military patronage to which it had so long been accustomed.
How narrowly Auckland escaped the many advantages of finding the first payable goldfield in the Colony, and at the same time how variously these advantages were estimated by different classes of the community, may be gathered from Mr. Swainson's chapter on “The Gold Discovery.” After describing the discovery by Mr. Charles Ring, who still (1900) lives himself to tell the tale, Mr. Swainson says:—“The existence of gold in its natural place of deposit, in an accessible locality, and within a convenient distance of Auckland, was now satisfactorily ascertained. There were some among the community who were satisfied with the already known resources of New Zealand; others who feared that the peace of the country would be endangered if gold were found on the native lands; and many who anticipated no ultimate advantage to the material interest of the country from the discovery of gold, and no advantage, either present or prospective, on a moral or social point of view to either race of its inhabitants, from a sudden influx of lawless adventurers. By these the news of the discovery was received with but little satisfaction; but, with these exceptions, a general feeling of pleasurable excitement pervaded the whole community; and the discovery in all its phases, actual and imaginary, present and future, probable and possible, now took complete possession of the public mind. The specimens as yet discovered, indeed, were minute in the extreme; but, satisfied that they were bona fide the produce of their own soil, the people were sufficiently happy if, but with a microscope, they could detect the smallest particle of the precious metal. And never, probably, did any community enjoy a higher degree of pleasurable excitement than did the people of Auckland for several weeks after it was ascertained that native gold had actually been discovered within sight of their own doors… . Almost every eye was turned in the direction of Coromandel harbour; and numerous parties immediately proceeded to the scene of attraction, to satisfy themselves by personal observation of the existence of the golden treasure.”
But the discovery had been made on land belonging to the natives, and so it was decided that Acting-Governor Wynyard, Bishop Selwyn, and Chief-Justice Martin, with others, should visit the spot to confer with the owners as to terms for the development of the field. The reply of the natives and Mr. Swainson's remarks thereon are exceedingly interesting as throwing light on the pleasant relations existing between the races at that time and in that locality. “The first person who came forward on the part of the natives was a venerable-looking old man, Te Taniwha by name, one of the principal chiefs of the Coromandel district. He spoke shortly, but to the point: ‘Oh, son,’ said he (meaning another chief who claimed jointly with himself the Matawai goldfield), ‘let this be our motto: ‘It is well, it is well!’ These are the tokens of peace—the presence of the Governor, the Bishop, and the Chief-Justice. Ye who are here acknowledge these as your parents. My children, be not sad: it is well—all is well. The messengers of God—of truth—stand here; even the bone of that which is good. The arrangements are left to you, O Governor, the Bishop and Chief-Justice.’ The presence of this aged chief—the last of his race who can tell the tale of the white man's first arrival in New Zealand—his venerable appearance and the occasion itself, gave to the meeting an unusual interest. Though bowed down, attenuated, and enfeebled by age, the old man retains the possession of his faculties; and in a remarkable degree possesses that bold outline of head and face which formerly distinguished the chieftains of the country. There stood the last living link between the ‘Past and Present’ of New Zealand—one who, in time long past, had stood face to face with England's honoured navigator, and who still lives to tell of his visit to New Zealand; how they all thought that the ship was a large kind of whale, and that the men on board were gods; how for some time, he himself, then but a little boy, was afraid to go on board; how Captain Cook spoke little—less than the others—but took more notice of the children, patting them kindly on the head; and how he gave them the first potatoes they had seen. And now this venerable chief, as the crowning act of a long eventful life, confiding in the justice of the British Crown, comes forward to welcome the Queen's vice-gerent to the new found field of gold. When the first specimens were shown him of the page 78 gold discovered on his land, he said he should now be content to die; that he had lived many days, but that this was the brightest of them all. He did not seem to value the consideration of the gain it would be to him so much as the thought that his land—the place of his ancestors—should be the first to produce gold.”
That a good deal of enthusiasm was manifested over these gold discoveries may be inferred from the prices realised for the specimens. The first public sale of gold produced in the province was held at the auction mart of Messrs Connell and Ridings on Saturday the 10th of December, 1853, when £32 1s was the sum realised for quartz, gold dust, and flake gold at rates ranging from £3 10s 3d to £10 per ounce. Up to the time at which Mr. Swainson closed his book the reward of £500 for the discovery of the Coromandel goldfields had not been paid over; and, though he speaks hopefully of the prospects, he concludes his interesting chapter on the gold discovery with the following paragraph, which is now, as it was then, well worthy of careful consideration:—“With its great capabilities and numerous advantages, however, New Zealand will not depend either for its present prosperity or its future greatness on the discovery of rich goldfields; and the New Zealand emigrant may be told, in the language addressed by Dr. Lyon Playfair to intending emigrants to Australia, that gold in itself is only an empirical representation of actual material wealth, which really consists in the full development of all natural resources; that the country in which they intend to seek a home is full of resources still but slightly developed; that in the more thorough development of its agriculture there is wealth to be obtained; and though disappointment may attend many of those who seek only the philosopher's stone in the drifts and quartz of the gold regions, those who read God's teachings as displayed in nature will find a more sure way of transmuting valueless materials into gold, by going out with the steady desire to improve and develop the natural resources of their adopted home.”
A good picture of the capital of this Colony when it clamoured for a Constitution is contained in a paragraph, which, nearly half a century later, makes interesting reading. “The principal streets,” says Mr. Swainson, “are Princes Street, Shortland Crescent, Queen Street, and Wakefield Street. The first is a broad, straight, spacious, well-made street, on a gentle slope; and St. Paul's Church, the Treasury, and the Bank, and the Masonic Hotel are its principal buildings. Shortland Crescent, which connects Princes Street with Queen Street, is built on rather a steep ascent. It is less broad than Princes Street, but much longer. On one side it is almost wholly built upon; shops and stores are here to be found of every description, and of various form and style. No attempt at uniformity has been made; everyone has built according to his means, fancy, or the size and shape of his ground. The only approach to uniformity is in the material; with very few exceptions all are of wood. The roadway of the street is an even macadamized surface; but no attempt has yet been made to form footpaths on a general level. Some of the shops would not disgrace a small provincial town in England; though, taken, altogether as a street, Shortland Crescent is irregular and unfinished. Queen Street is the least built upon; but in other respects it is the best and most considerable street in Auckland. It is almost half a mile long, nearly level, and almost straight, and terminates at its northern extremity at a pier or quay, which runs into the harbour, and alongside of which small craft can land their cargoes. At its southern extremity it is overlooked by the Wesleyan Seminary, or Boarding School for the education of the children of the missionaries in these seas—a spacious, brick-built and substantial structure. The gaol is badly situated, and is by no means a conspicuous building; but by a diligent search it may be found on the west side of Queen Street, partly screened from view by the Court House and Police Office, which abut immediately upon the street. Several shops of superior description, two or three stories high, have recently been erected, and Queen Street, besides being the longest is certainly just now one of the most improving streets in Auckland. Wakefield Street ascends from its southern extremity until it joins the Cemetery Road, and is the newest and most increasing street in the town. Many of the houses are built of brick, and it already bears a considerable resemblance to a new street in the outskirts of a modern English town.”
Such was Auckland when it had been struggling into a position of importance for a dozen years, when it was a portion of a “borough” of 40,000 acres, when it had caught a foretaste of the gold fever, and when it was preparing to take on “Parliamentary Honours.” Ponsonby was a blank of waste land, Upper Queen Street, in embryo, and Shortland Crescent and Wakefield Street the only outlets to the east and south, and these two very rough. Wakefield Street, the better of the two, was blessed with a grade of one in eight or nine in those days; but all the omnibuses for Onehunga had to take it. Verily, Auckland's early road engineers were horse-killers of the first magnitude. No engineering difficulty whatever was there to hinder Wakefield Street being started at the foot of Victoria Street East, and finished at the top of Alexandra Street, at a level which would have served for all time, and better than any that has been since found. Wakefield Street, which Mr. Swainson mentions so favourably, is of less value and importance to-day than it was then. Indeed, the street might now be made from Victoria Street without cutting through property of much value, while the allotments abutting on a street with so sensible a grade would soon be very valuable. Whether Auckland ever will get a reasonably easy grade out of the hole in which the business part lies is now doubtful; but it had excellent chances in those days.
With representative institutions, Auckland's troubles over the retention of the seat of Government began. The first Parliament was called for the 24th of May, 1854, but the members of the Lower House being anxious not to start before they were ready, only an informal meeting of the representatives took place on that day. Mr. Hugh Carleton, the member for the Bay of Islands, was voted to the chair, and an adjournment was promptly made to the 26th to allow the members time to consider the important question of electing a Speaker. On the 26th Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles Clifford, was elected to that office, and on Saturday, the 27th of May, His Excellency Colonel Wynyard, the Acting-Governor, opened the session in person. The Hon. Mr. Swainson, the Attorney-General, page 79 was appointed, not elected, to the office of Speaker of the Legislative Council. The Executive Council (nominated) consisted of the Colonial Secretary (the Hon. Andrew Sinclair), the Colonial Treasurer (the Hon. Alexander Shepherd), and the above-mentioned Attorney-General, who, as has been stated, held also the appointment of Speaker of the Legislative Council. The Auckland members of the Upper House were: The Hon. T. H. Bartley, J. A. Gilfillan, W. H. Kenny, John Salmon, William Swainson, and Frederick Whitaker—six out of a total of sixteen members. The Auckland members of the Lower House were: Messrs John Bacot and Joseph Greenwood, Pensioner Settlements; William Brown, Loughlin O'Brien and James O'Neill, City of Auckland; Hugh Carleton, Bay of Islands; T. S. Forsaith and W. Lee, Northern Division; John Gray and C. J. Taylor, Southern Division; and F. W. Merriman and W. F. Porter, Suburbs of Auckland—twelve in a House of thirty-seven.
During the first Parliament but in the second session of 1854—practically the first session, the prorogation being for only three weeks—an attempt was made to have the session of 1855 held in “a more central position in the Colony.” On a division being taken, eleven voted for the removal and thirteen against it, the faithful Aucklanders being assisted by Mr. W. M. Crompton, of Taranaki. This “close shave” gave the Auckland members a fright. They had expected and feared some agitation of the kind; but hardly imagined that Auckland could count on only one outside on such a question. Even in discussing the question of responsible Government, during the first few days of the first session, some of the Auckland members showed anxiety lest that might be the thin end of the wedge that was some day to divorce Auckland from the seat of Government, and some Aucklanders would have indefinitely postponed responsible Government on that account.
When the second Parliament was opened on the 15th of April, 1856. Auckland had an additional member of the Legislative Council by the appointment of Sir Samuel Osborne Gibbes. Of the old members of the Lower House five only were returned to the second Parliament—Messrs Carleton, Greenwood, Lee, Merriman and Taylor. The new members were Messrs Thomas Beckham, J. L. Campbell and W. Daldy, City of Auckland; Walter Brodie, Suburbs of Auckland; Robert Graham, Southern Division; Thomas Henderson, Northern Division; and John Williamson, Pensioner Settlements.
This question of the seat of Government being settled for the time, Dr. Campbell went on to move—“That it is the opinion of this House that the next meeting of the General Assembly should be held in Auckland.” Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Fitzherbert moved the substitution of the words “a more central position” in place of the word “Auckland.” By a majority of three it was decided to omit the word Auckland, and Mr. Fitzherbert's amendment became the substantive motion. It having been thus resolved that the word “Auckland” should be struck out, Captain Daldy tried still to keep the session at the capital by moving that the House should not interfere with the Governor's prerogative in the matter of fixing the place of meeting. This was negatived by a majority of three. Seeing that Auckland appeared to be irrevocably “out of Court,” Mr. Merriman moved an amendment in favour of Nelson, but though the six Nelson members were assisted by one Canterbury, two Taranaki, and three Auckland members, the amendment was lost by a majority of eight. Mr. Brown, a Taranaki member, then moved to insert the word “Wellington.” Besides the Wellington members, only the mover and four Canterbury representatives voted for this amendment, which was lost by a majority of nine. Major Greenwood then made a further effort in favour of Auckland by moving the insertion of the words “such place as His Excellency the Governor may deem most convenient.” The eleven Auckland members present voted for this and they were helped by one Taranaki, one Canterbury, and three Otago members, but Major Greenwood's amendment was negatived by a majority of two. Mr. Sewell then essayed to secure a majority by moving that the session be held in “such more central place as His Excellency may deem most convenient.” The faithful Aucklanders voted as one man against this, but it was carried by a majority of five; and it was further agreed “that a respectful address be presented to His Excellency the Governor embodying the resolution as adopted by the House.” Thus ended that particular struggle but the question itself was far from settled.
Some five weeks later Governor Gore Browne was pressed for a reply to the address respecting the locality of the next session; and it was pretty confidently expected that the matter would in that way be settled. His Excellency, however, astutely replied that Wellington being the second town of importance in the Colony, he considered it entitled to the preference; but as the House had already decided against both Wellington and Nelson, he would like a more distinct indication of the wishes of the members. The Governor, in the same message, pointed out very serious drawbacks to the session of Parliament being held away from the capital and departmental offices. This re-opened the whole question; but Mr. (afterwards Sir) W. Fox, the member for Wanganui, plunged boldly into the fight by moving that Wellington should be recommended to His Excellency. Mr. Fox went on to explain that the Wellington Provincial Council, in anticipation of sessions of the General Assembly being held in that centre, had voted a sum of £4000 for the erection of suitable buildings; that there was already a very good Government House there, and that the difficulties pointed out by His Excellency were more imaginary than real. Several amendments were moved and divisions called for, Major Greenwood, on one occasion, being the only “Aye”; but none of the amendments found favour, and Mr. Fox's motion to meet at Wellington was carried by a majority of five. When the Committee reported the resolution to the House, a still further division was demanded on the question that the resolution of the Committee be adopted by the House. In this division the majority was reduced to three, because the Speaker (Mr. Clifford, of Wellington) was unable to vote, while the Acting Chairman of Committees (Mr. Merriman, of Auckland) naturally voted with the “Noes.”
The Upper House had all along been unanimously in favour of the sessions being held at Auckland, so it was evident that the Governor had some good grounds for proceeding slowly. As the Ministry contained two Auckland members—Dr. Campbell, of the Lower House, and the Hon. Mr Whitaker of the Upper—the Executive was, of course, divided, and from the first had declined to make any recommendation whatever to His Excellency. The Premier, Mr. Stafford, though a Nelson representative, was avowedly in favour of Auckland, as he could see only trouble and inconvenience as the result of moving; so it was plain that in the Cabinet there were three in favour of Auckland against two for Wellington.
At the risk of another stormy debate in the Lower House the Premier, pursuant to notice, moved the appointment of a Committee to consider and report as to the practicability of holding sessions away from the seat of Government, and also as to the question of the seat of Government itself. Much discussion followed, but finally a large majority was found for the motion, and the Committee appointed consisted of two Auckland members and the Premier, and one member for Taranaki, Wellington and Canterbury, respectively. The report of this Committee now became the hope of Auckland, and in that sense it was not disappointing. The Committee reported that it would cost £2500 extra to hold a session in Wellington; and the Governor, almost facetiously, sent a message asking that the money might be voted. The House saw the absurdity of the position and it was in vain that Mr. Fox, in Committee of Supply, moved that the Governor be reminded that the provision might be left for the next session. Though this motion was negatived by only thirteen to twelve, a much larger majority voted for the subsequent motion that His Excellency should be informed that, in view of the financial state of the Colony, the House did not feel justified in granting any money for the purpose.
So the struggle ended for that session, and next year there was no session, pending the completion of the negotiations with the Imperial authorities in connection with the Colony's loan proposals. The second session of the second Parliament was called for the 10th of April, 1858, but up to the very day of opening it was doubtful whether, out of the thirty-seven members, the requisite quorum of seventeen could be relied page 81 upon. So disgusted were the representatives of Wellington at having to come again to Auckland that the first business after the opening of the House of Representatives was the announcement by the Speaker that he had received a large number of resignations. These included the resignations of Messrs F. D. Bell, J. T. Smith, William Fitzherbert, S. Revans and C. D. R. Ward, and Dr. Featherston, all of Wellington. This left that district to be represented by the Speaker and Mr. Fox, and even the latter did not attend the session, but had leave of absence granted him on account of his work in connection with the Wellington Provincial Council. Four Nelson members, Messrs Travers, Wells, Elliot and Curtis, who also resigned, stated plainly that they had taken that action on account of the difficulty of being for so long a time cut off from their own Province; and they expressed the opinion that the seat of Government should be more central. Mr. J. E. Fitzgerald resigned from much the same cause, and three Auckland members — Dr. Campbell, Major Greenwood and Mr. C. J. Taylor—had also resigned, the first and last-named on account of visiting England.
Writs were issued for the return of members to fill the vacancies; but in the meantime the House had to work with a bare quorum. By an occurrence more amusing to outsiders than to those who experienced its discomforts the writs for Wellington did not arrive at their destination till after the date fixed for their return. The “Gil Blas” was entrusted with the carriage of them; but as that little sailing craft, after being nine days on the way, was endeavouring to make the harbour of Wellington, she encountered a storm off Cape Palliser, which drove her away over five hundred miles to the east in search of shelter under the lee of the Chatham Islands. Finally, the members for Wellington were elected; but, with the exception of Mr. J. B. Ferguson, they never attended the session, and it was generally believed that they were elected pledged not to attend. The fact that Dr. Featherston and Mr. Fitzherbert had, after resigning, allowed themselves to be re-elected pointed to that conclusion.
Towards the end of this session Mr. Crosbie Ward, a Canterbury member, moved to discover the intentions of the Government with regard to the seat of Government and the place of holding the next session. The Premier, Mr. Stafford, replied that the Government had no intentions, and with that the matter was allowed to drop. A message, however, was received from the Governor, expressing his intention to convene the next session at Wellington, and it was actually summoned to meet there on the 3rd of May, 1860. It was, however, prorogued till the 18th of June, and further prorogued till the 25th of July, when it was summoned to meet in Auckland.
A few days before the close of this session of 1860, Mr. (afterwards Judge) Gillies then a member for the Dunedin Country District, moved to find out when and where the next session would be held. The Premier said that so far as members could then see, it would be held in Wellington, and subsequently the time was fixed for April, 1861.
Notwithstanding these promises, however, the session of 1861 was called for the 3rd of June and at Auckland. It was pretty generally admitted that the native disturbances offered a very reasonable excuse for these alterations of intention. In the meantime there had been a general election and the third Parliament consisted of fifty-three members. Of the sixteen additional members, Auckland had three, while Wellington had but one, Hawke's Bay, which was represented by two members, having been separated from Wellington during the life of the last Parliament.
The Wellington members were nine days on the way and therefore late for the opening. Just a month after the new Parliament met, Mr. Fox moved his motion of want of confidence, which ended in defeating by twenty-four to twenty-three the Stafford Ministry, which had conducted the affairs of the Colony through five trying years.
Two or three weeks after the accession of the Fox Administration, Mr. Mason, an Auckland member, enquired as to what the Ministry would advise in regard to the locality of the next session. Mr. Fox replied that if the war should continue, the session would be held in Auckland; if not, in all probability it would be held in Wellington.
Questions as to the removal of the seat of Government were asked by Mr. Dick of Dunedin; but the Premier, Mr. Domett, replied that though the Government recognised the necessity for some change, no movement was intended during that session on the part of the Government. This, however, was not satisfactory to Mr. Dick, for later on he moved that in the interests of the Colony, the seat of Government should be moved to some place in Cook Strait. Speeches were made for and against, and at least two of the Auckland members said that if the seat of Government were taken from Auckland, the property-holders there would be entitled to compensation. Mr. Sefton Moorhouse, the well-known Canterbury member, hazarded the opinion that, while Auckland must always be a considerable community, Otago must be greater, a prediction which has not yet been falsified, though there are indications that Otago's present lead of ten thousand in population will not be long maintained. After much talking on both sides, Mr. Dick's resolution was negatived by a majority of one. It is remarkable that the Premier, Mr. Domett, voted with the Aucklanders, seeing that the following session he himself moved practically the same resolution.
The third session of the third Parliament met at Auckland on the 19th of October, 1863, and before the end of the month the Whitaker-Fox Administration was in power. On the 20th of November, Mr. Domett, the ex-Premier, moved that the seat of Government should be removed to some place in Cook Strait, and that the choice of the particular site should be left to an impartial tribunal. The resolution appears to have been carried on the voices, and on the 25th of November, in furtherance of the object, Mr. J. E. Fitzgerald, afterwards well-known as Controller-General, but then member for Ellesmere, moved an address to Governor Grey requesting him to ask the Governors of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania if they would respectively appoint one member of the Commission to determine the site on the shores of Cook Strait. The address further asked that, on the announcement of the decision of the Commission, immediate steps should be taken to effect the removal. This caused a further lengthy discussion, but it passed by twenty-four to seventeen. There was yet, however, another struggle over the financial part of the question. On the 4th of December, Mr. Fitzgerald moved that the sum of £50,000 should be set aside for buildings, and other matters connected with the removal. Some of the Auckland members thought that the town that might be selected by the Commission should provide the buildings. Finally, however, Mr. Fitzgerald's motion was passed, and thus another step was taken.
In the Upper House the unanimity which had previously existed in favour of Auckland had been undergoing great changes, and on the 30th of November an address very similar to that sent up to the Governor by the Lower House was passed by a majority of three. The Auckland members tried many amendments and worked hard to keep the capital in the north; but it is somewhat remarkable that no effort seems to have been made to leave the selection commission at liberty to recommend the retention of the capital by Auckland, instead of limiting the powers of choice to the shores of Cook Strait. Had the Commissioners been empowered to choose any part of the Colony, it is quite possible that no change would have taken place.
The question as to the meeting of the session of 1864 then cropped up, and it was decided that if the necessary buildings were not ready at the prospective seat of Government, the session should be held in Christchurch. It was, however, held in Auckland, where it was opened on the 24th of November.
In the meantime, the Site Commissioners — the Hon. Joseph Docker, M.L.C., New South Wales, the Hon. Sir Francis Murphy, Speaker of the Legislative Council, Victoria, and Mr. R. C. Gunn, Tasmania, had visited and examined the shores of Cook Strait, and had unanimously decided “that Wellington, in Port Nicholson, was the site upon the shores of Cook Strait which presented the greatest advantages for the administration of the Government of the Colony.”
The session of 1864 lasted less than three weeks, and in February of the following year, Auckland, so far as the seat of the Government was concerned, was left desolate. This was, of course, a very serious blow, and the disappointment and consequent bitterness of the people have been handed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. Aucklanders cannot help thinking that their beautiful town is the most desirable spot for the location of Government and that the removal was an unnecessary act of cruelty. On the other side it can, of course, be very truly said that the perfection of Port Nicholson as a central and most convenient harbour is a point of very great advantage to the capital of a straggling Colony like New Zealand. Seeing, too, that the sessions are generally held in the very depth of winter, Wellington has, perhaps, some advantage in the matter of comfort to legislators and others who must be in the capital during session. While it can hardly be doubted that from November to June the weather of Wellington is less agreeable than that of any other of the large towns, it is just as true that for the remaining third of the year, Wellington is less disagreeable than Christchurch, Dunedin or even Auckland, being very much milder than the southern towns, and much drier, over head, and particularly under foot, than the erstwhile capital. But Auckland winters, though wet and sloppy, are short; and, if the hundreds of officials employed by Government could have their say and be allowed to settle the matter, it is exceedingly probable that Auckland would be again the capital before another yachting season could be opened. The fact that all classes who have free choice are to be found in much larger numbers in Auckland than in Wellington is a sufficient proof of this. The removal was a sore trial to many of the Government officials; and it may be taken for a certainty that had New Zealand remained a Crown Colony up to the present, Auckland would still have been the capital. All the magnified difficulties of governing the Colony from a point some three hundred miles north of the geographical centre would have been uncomplainingly accepted by the Governors and their officials in exchange for the many delights, of living in Auckland.
But though it was really decided in 1863 that the capital should be moved to some place on Cook Strait, the Auckland representatives fought hard to retain it. The Governor, in opening the session of 1864, mentioned that, in accordance with the decision of the Commissioners acting under resolutions of both Houses of the Legislature, he proposed to immediately remove the seat of Government to Wellington; and in the Upper House a motion was made by the Hon. Mr. Tancred, of Canterbury, in favour of making the removal with the least possible delay; yet the Auckland members hung out. They stated that the change should certainly not take place till after the conclusion of the war with the natives. Major Whitmore, however, said that Wanganui would soon be the seat of war; that the removal was a concession to the Southern Island which contributed two-thirds of the whole revenue of the Colony; and that the thought the concession should be made gracefully. After two unsuccessful divisions, the Aucklanders found themselves decidedly out-numbered, and Mr. Tancred's motion was carried.
In the Lower House, Mr. John Williamson made enquiries with a view to having the 1865 session held at Christchurch, rather than at the new capital; but Mr. Weld, who then held the Premiership, replied that it was the intention of the Ministry to advise the Governor to call the Assembly together in Wellington. The fifth and last session of the third Parliament was, therefore, held at the unfledged capital. During that session very little was said about the place of holding the next; but, during the first session of the fourth Parliament, opened at Wellington on Saturday the 30th of June, 1866, some discussion took place. Members, who before the removal, thought that sessions might with advantage be held at various places, were now of opinion that there was nothing like fixity of locality, and others who had formerly supported fixity were now in favour of a peripatetic Parliament. The Upper House addressed the Governor, affirming the desirableness of permanence, while the Lower House decided that the next session should be held in Christchurch. It was, however, held in Wellington.
Auckland members were always on the look-out for a chance, however, round-about, of getting sessions of Parliament held in the old capital, and in this they were, no doubt, actuated by motives quite as worthy as those which led to the removal of the seat of Government. In 1871 Mr. Reader Wood, the member for Parnell, moved in favour of holding the session of 1872 at Dunedin and suggested that the following one should be at Christchurch, and the next after that at Nelson, but carefully concealed his opinion that, following Nelson, Auckland might have another “cut in.” By a majority of forty to twenty it was decided in the Lower House that it was advisable to hold the session of 1872 in Dunedin. However, the Legislative Council, by an overwhelming majority of twenty-three, decided that it was in the last degree desirable that the sessions of the Assembly should be held at the seat of Government; yet, nothing daunted, the House subsequently authorised the necessary expenditure. The Government, in deference to this strong expression of opinion, went so far as to send an official to Dunedin to make enquiries as to the probable extra cost of holding the session there; and the good people of the southern city were quite hopeful of their town being selected for at least one session, with all its possibilities. The Government had, however, from the first declined to hold out any hope of a change, and called the session for Wellington as usual. During that session the matter was discussed under cover of a motion of regret that the Government had paid so little attention to the expressed opinions of the House; but after a few members had ventilated their grievances, and the Government had explained that the change would have cost £5000, besides much inconvenience, the motion was withdrawn.
Sixteen years later Mr. R. M. Taylor, member for Sydenham, had the pluck, or, perhaps, the rashness, to move that the next session of the Assembly should be held in Christchurch. He had the whole discussion to himself, however, and the House, by a majority of thirty-four to twenty-one, decided that it would be more profitable to go on with the business in hand—that of going into Committee of Supply.page 84
Such is a short history of the “Seat of Government Question,” which has been continued here somewhat beyond its direct connection with Auckland for purposes of conveniently concluding it, and to afford some basis on which to form opinions as to the probability of Auckland's becoming again the capital. That these probabilities are now, and for many years will be, exceedingly small may be inferred from many facts. Wellington was chosen as the seat of Government when the population of that whole province was under fifteen thousand; when the population of Wellington, Taranaki and Hawke's Bay combined was little more than half that which the old capital could even then boast; when Canterbury's population was more than double that of Wellington; when Otago and Southland, which were afterwards amalgamated, had a greater population than that of Auckland and Wellington combined; when Nelson and Marlborough together could outnumber Wellington; when the Customs revenue of the old capital was nearly four times that of the new; when Wellington's exports for a quarter of a year totalled less than seven thousand pounds; when the fifteen vessels, which in three months visited her harbour, made a total register of under six thousand tons; when her total revenue barely exceeded twenty thousand pounds per quarter; when the Government was vigorously prosecuting a war with the natives of the Auckland Province; and when Auckland had had the prestige of possession for upwards of twenty years. No wonder that the people of prosperous Auckland could not bring themselves to believe that Wellington could possibly be chosen for the seat of Government. Under the circumstances, the poor prophency of the editor of the “Southern Cross” on the morning following the passing of Mr. Domett's resolutions, may be excused. In a leader of nearly two columns, written before the division had taken place, he said:—“The promoters of the movement desire to remove the seat of Government from Auckland, because they believe Auckland has grown rich upon the expenditure of Imperial treasure—has thriven while the rest of the settlements of the Colony were starvelings; and they think that by removing the seat of Government to Wellington, the good people of the Empire City will thrive amazingly, while we, poor wretches in Auckland, may manage to eke out a miserable subsistence as best we can… . But it is a delusion to suppose Auckland has thriven because she is the seat of Government; and it is a still greater mistake to suppose that Auckland will lose whatever benefits she enjoys from the Imperial expenditure, even if Wellington City were unanimously chosen the political capital of the Colony of New Zealand.” The poor prophecy, however, is contained in a note at the end, which runs as follows:—“Since writing the foregoing, we find that Mr. Domett's resolutions were carried in the House last night by a trick, which Mr. Stafford characterised as unfair. Mr. Fitzherbert was the operator on the occasion; and by a clever application of the rules of the House he stifled discussion, and gained the point for which the clique of which he is a prominent member have long struggled. We assure Mr. Fitzherbert and his friends, however, that Auckland will continue to be the seat of Government until the country has been pacified; and, whatever change may afterwards take place, most certainly Wellington will not be selected as the capital of the Colony of New Zealand.”
The astonishment of the people of Auckland that so poor a place should be chosen for the position of the capital was natural enough; and difficult for them to believe that Wellington would have been selected had the Commissioners been at liberty to select from the whole Colony, including Auckland, instead of being bound down to “some site on the shores of Cook Strait. Yet, seriously speaking, Wellington was the choice of a majority of both Houses, for on limiting the Commissioners to the shores of Cook Strait, it was well-known that the splendid harbour of Wellington would make its selection a certainty. Had the members of the Lower House been as independent of public opinion as the Legislative Councillors, the aid of the Commissioners would most likely never have been invited. Though Wellington, therefore, was chosen by the Commissioners as being more suitable for the capital than either Nelson or Picton, it was the site which above all others, and notwithstanding Auckland's prestige of possession, was favoured by a clear majority of both Houses of the Colony's Legislature. If, therefore, Wellington was the choice of the people in 1863, when it was a place of such insignificance, how firmly rooted must be the seat of Government now, when the population of the district is tenfold greater; when it is increasing by greater numerical additions than any other part of the Colony, and by much higher centesimal ratios than any provincial district except Taranaki, its near neighbour; when the density of its population is nearly double that of Auckland or Otago; when in imports, notwithstanding its limited area, it is barely behind Auckland and considerably ahead of Otago and Canterbury; and when the immovable property of Government forms an anchor so costly and a cable so strong that only the rashest minority dare raise the cry of “Cut the painter.” The south, as a whole, will always assist Wellington to retain the seat of Government, rather than have it moved northwards; and though Auckland has a long standing grudge against Wellington, her representatives are not likely to carry that feeling to the extent of assisting in the removal or the seat of Government to either Christchurch or Dunedin, to which for many years to come, even the South Island districts of Marlborough, Nelson and Westland must be opposed. Notwithstanding all the apparent security, however, Wellington may yet lose the possession it has so long held. The future may see such a complete network of railways over the northern portion of the South Island as to make a move to Picton or Nelson desirable in the united opinion of the whole of the South Island and a portion of the north; and, on the other hand, perfected sea and land communication, and consequent close settlement throughout the vast Auckland province, may some day see such an enormous population owning Auckland as its natural centre as to secure a return to the old site. To hold out any such hopes to the present generation would be an absurdity; but as to the dim and distant future, who knows? The wonderfully superior claims of Auckland in such matters as climate, natural beauty, available room for extension, and in fact almost everything but present fertility of soil and centrality of position, must tell heavily in Auckland's favour; and the ever increasing scope in the functions of the state may admit of Auckland gradually becoming such an page 85 important second centre of Government that the northern city, extending along both sides of a grand canal to the Manukau, may yet be the queenly capital of the “Fortunate Isles.”
Some idea of the town and province of Auckland about the time of the removal of the seat of Government may be gained from the statistics of that time. The census of 1864 revealed the fact that the total white population of the Auckland province was 42,132—about one fourth of the present population—the males being in the proportion of more than three to every two females. The total area under crop in the possession of Europeans in December, 1864, amounted to 87,556 acres. For the quarter ending the 30th of June, 1865, the Customs revenue was, at Auckland, £49,938; at Russell, £608; at Mangonui, £470; and at Hokianga, £11. The total exports for the whole of the province during the same quarter amounted to £21,140; and sixty-nine vessels, totalling 25,887 tons, cleared outwards during the same term. Russell and Waikato had an average of one vessel each per month, and Mangonui and Hokianga had one each for the quarter. The total revenue of the province was £57,913, less than that of the Auckland City Council to-day. From the 1st of April, 1857, to the 31st of March, 1865, Auckland exported gold to the value of £33,745, as against Otago's £6,682,188. The total possessions of the province in live stock, at the end of 1864, were: 7482 horses, 113 asses, 42,294 horned cattle, and 73,151 sheep.
A glance at the Auckland newspapers of that time shows that the war was in full swing. On the very day that Mr. Domett's resolutions were passed, Captain Mercer of the Royal Artillery and several other brave officers and men were mortally wounded during their memorable attack on the Rangiriri stronghold. Had there been telegraphic communication from Mercer at that time, it is probable that the news would have caused a temporary delay in the political fight. But telegraph lines were scarce in Auckland in those days. The Rev. Richard Taylor, in his work on New Zealand, written about 1866, in speaking of telegraphs, says:—“A line is now finished, and is working from the Bluff to Wellington, thus connecting Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson and Wellington together. Auckland also has a line from the city to Onehunga.” The fact shows how the city and province of Auckland were prejudicially affected by the war. In that disturbed state of the interior a submarine cable would have been needed to connect Auckland with any other province. In the issue of the “Southern Cross” already referred to, the news from Wellington was just a week old; and the letter of the Whangarei correspondent begins with an item of intelligence nearly a month old. Otago news was ten days old. Auckland had at that time three excellent daily papers—the “New Zealander,” the “Southern Cross” and the “New Zealand Herald,” the last named being then but a week or so old. There was then no “Hansard,” but the Parliamentary debates were efficiently reported by the three morning papers; though the reports were not usually up-to-date by at least one day. A loan of £3,000,000, for the suppression of the rebellion and the introduction of military settlers, was just being negotiated, and out of this sum £200,000 was to be squeezed for electric telegraphs and lighthouses.
The steam communication was small in those days. The “Phoebe,” 650 tons and of 120 horse power, was one of the best steamers of the time. She did the running between the Manukau and the Bluff, via New Plymouth, Nelson, Picton, Wellington, Lyttelton, and Port Chalmers, and she took a month over the complete double trip. The advertisement announcing her departure at noon of the 24th of November, 1863, states very plainly that “no cargo will be received on board after noon of the 23rd.” She was timed to reach the Bluff on the 5th of December, and, leaving there the next day, was to be back in the Manukau by the 17th, there to enjoy a week's stay preparatory to starting again on the 24th of December. The “24th” seems to have been the recognised day for starting, whether thirty or thirty-one days comprised the month. The extra day, if not taken up on the way, would be absorbed by the stay at the Manukau. On the East Coast, the “Lord Ashley” was making one trip per month between Auckland and Port Chalmers, calling at Napier, Wellington and Lyttelton. The “Prince Alfred” ran between Sydney and Port Chalmers, calling at Nelson, Wellington and Lyttelton; but missing Wellington on the outward trip. This trip also occupied a month. The “Auckland” ran between Auckland and Sydney, making up the month by allowing for seven days steaming each way, and from eight to ten days at each port. Besides these four steamers there was a fifth—the fine new steamship “Rangatira,” advertised by Messrs Coombes and Daldy for Napier, Castlepoint and Wellington. She then belonged to the Intercolonial Royal Mail Company, of which Mr. John Vine Hall was the general manager. The habit which all vessels in those days had of staying a long while in port had the advantage of improving the business look of the harbour. At the time when Mr. Domett's resolutions were carried there were in the Auckland harbour, besides the fleet of coasting cutters, two men-of-war, one steamer, four ships, page 86 four barques, five brigs, one barquentine, eight schooners, and three ketches. The “vessels expected,” included a man-of-war, a steamer, five ships, two barques, a brig, and four schooners. One of the barques, the “Novelty,” was an Auckland built vessel, which had been launched in Mechanics' Bay some twelve months previously.
A striking picture of the advance made by Auckland since she lost the seat of Government is presented by a comparison of the mail notices as they appear to-day in the “New Zealand Herald” with those of the “Southern Cross” for the 24th of November, 1863. Though Auckland had been the capital of the colony for over twenty years, the mail list of that day contained only announcements respecting the early departures of mails for “Whangarei and Mangopai,” and for the “Australasian Colonies and the United Kingdom”; and this was all, though the mails were advertised much further ahead then than now.
But small and unimportant as Auckland undoubtedly was in those days, in comparison with her present condition, she was not then considered unimportant by her own prominent and experienced men. The promoters of the “New Zealand Herald,” which had just then come into existence, were shrewd business men, who had had many years' experience of journalism in Auckland; and their high opinion of Auckland's then present and future is contained in an advertisement, of which the following is a paragraph. “The proprietors are of opinion that, in the present advanced and rapidly advancing state of the metropolitan province — with its great, growing, and diverging interests—with a largely increasing population—and possessing a maritime, commercial, and agricultural position of singular stability—(the many and trying ordeals through which so youthful a settlement has passed unscathed, considered) there is more than sufficient scope for the establishment of a third newspaper.” The other two morning newspapers probably doubted the last assertion. The “Herald,” however, made room for itself, and has grown with the town and province, incorporating its older contemporaries, and getting such a hold on the people of town and country, that now no one can be found rash enough to launch even a second daily morning paper in any part of the Auckland Provincial district of 25,746 square miles. No better evidence is needed of the faithful adherence to the promise made by the “Herald” at its birth, that it would work unceasingly for the benefit of the colony as a whole, and for that of the Auckland province in particular.
When the “Herald” made its appearance on Auckland's literary stage there was much work for a devoted newspaper to perform — many needed improvements to be agitated for. There was no regular ferry service to the North Shore, and the connection between Onehunga and Mangere was by boat. The first sod of the Auckland and Drury railway was not turned till about fifteen months later—the 16th of February, 1865, when the ceremony was performed by the Superintendent of the province, Mr. Robert Graham. The City Board of Commissioners appointed to undertake the duties now performed by the City Council, had been formed but a few months. There was no drainage deserving the name, and the water supply was obtained by means of a few town pumps. Even the street formation was of the rudest description and the wharfage accommodation was very poor. The Customhouse marked the foreshore, and the site of the railway station and its neighbourhood, was a huge fever breeding mud-flat. Accommodation for immigrants was so defective that some of them had to pass their first night on the Queen's Wharf, huddled up, with their bits of luggage under tarpaulins. Houses were obtainable, but of poor quality. At the end of 1864 there were in Auckland, Parnell and Newton 3485 houses, but only 1234 contained more than four very small rooms. Tenements then occupied by high Government officials would to-day be considered too poor for an expressman. The office of Town Clerk and Secretary was linked on to a salary of £150 per annum, and everything was on a corresponding scale.
Though it can never be known to what extent Auckland—city and province—has been retarded by the removal of the seat of Government, there can be no doubt that the effects were serious and protracted. For a number of years, however, the province of Auckland much more than maintained its lead over that of Wellington. During the year 1865, in the early part of which the removal took place, the excess of immigration over emigration was, for the Auckland province, 6096, and for Wellington, 509. In the following year, large numbers continued to come from the United Kingdom, but the emigration from Auckland to the Australian Colonies was in that year very marked, and the total excess for the province was reduced to 646. Wellington's excess for that year was 294, no fewer than 140 having left for “Foreign States.” By 1871, according to a census taken in February of that year, the population of the Auckland province had increased to 62,335, while that of Wellington had merely advanced to 24,001, a rate of progress scarcely equal to that of Nelson, whose provincial population stood at 22,541. The discovery of gold at the Thames in 1867 had, doubtless, helped Auckland's population. Yet, notwithstanding that the Thames had been flourishing for more than three years, and that the capital had been located in the North Island for thirty-one years, the population of the South Island was very much greater, being 159,518 as against 96,875.
That Wellington benefited but very slowly by the removal to that town of the seat of Government, was only too well known at the time. Probably it was many years before the world generally knew that any removal had taken place. At any rate, statistics disclose the fact that in the year 1871, when Wellington had been the settled capital for more than six years, only fifty-four vessels visited the port, barely exceeding one vessel per week and the total tonnage of the fifty-four vessels was 19,543—an average of about 360 tons per vessel. It would call forth but a few passing remarks to-day if a tonnage equal to that of the whole year of 1871 were to enter the port of Wellington before the luncheon hour. In Auckland, during the same year, 250 vessels entered inwards, with a total tonnage of 101,053—an average slightly exceeding 400 tons. Auckland did more than a third of the colony's shipping for that year; Lyttelton doing a little less, and Dunedin a little more, than double that of Wellington. In imports Auckland had nearly a fourth of the whole, and Wellington rather more than a tenth. In exports Auckland's share was more than a third, while that of Wellington was about a twentieth of the whole.
By 1873, ten years after the decision to remove the seat of Government, the population of the Auckland province stood at 70,000; that of Wellington at 30,000; that of the North Island at 112,282, and that of the South Island at 183,664. By 1876 when the Provincial Governments were abolished, Auckland's provincial population was 82,763, and Wellington's 43,383—about equal to her present city and suburban population. Wellington was then entering upon a season of prosperity—a boom in fact. Though her population was little more than half that of Auckland her imports were £1,210,240 against £1,270,214 for the northern port. Auckland was suffering a depression, her imports being considerably less in 1876 than they had been in 1869. Auckland's exports for 1876 were valued at £763,795, and Wellington's at £696,689. Though Wellington suffered a sharp relapse in 1879, and has never since had a boom, her progress has been steady; and there is no room for doubt that steadiness has been the result, in no small degree, of the steady expenditure of the general Government.
The abolition of the Provincial Governments robbed Auckland of all semblance of share in the government of the Colony. Her Provincial Council had been an important body and was the object of greater interest in Auckland than was the General Assembly itself prior to its removal. Its abolition was in reality a harder blow to the town and district than the removal of the seat of Government. Railways were being constructed and the country was being opened up; the provinces were vying with each other in attracting immigration and encouraging over-sea commerce, but the further centralisation of Government in Wellington magnified the importance of that town at the expense of all other parts of the Colony. The beauty of Auckland's surroundings, the excellence of her climate and the patriotism of her people have helped her gold, gum and timber industries to fairly maintain her actual though not proportional advance of the metropolitan province; and the energy and determination of the people of Canterbury and Otago have up to the present enabled their provinces to keep ahead; but indications all point to the steady advance and ultimate lead of the province favoured as the seat of the General Government. Whether this may in the end be beneficial or detrimental to the country as page 88 a whole, it is impossible to say; but that the progress of the Auckland district has been greatly retarded there can be no doubt.
Auckland, however, has still her excellent climate, an advantage which will tell more and more in her favour, as the people of the colony become better acclimatized and freer from the British prejudice against clear skies. And she is becoming more beautiful every day; the capabilities of her soil for fruit culture are rapidly being better understood; her eminence as a manufacturing centre is increasing in a ratio, which will be greatly accelerated by railway connection with Wellington; her waste lands are being sanguinely tested for the production of superior wool and mutton, by means of furze for pasture; and her hot and cold lakes wonderland is but in the infancy of its world-wide popularity. With all these and many other unchangeable and almost uncheckable advantages, Aucklanders may complacently await developments, confident that though seasons of depression may come, their province is destined to be the home of millions of prosperous and intelligent colonists and their city the centre of a community of highly cultured men and women.