A selection from the writings and speeches of John Robert Godley
John Robert Godley
John Robert Godley.
The following brief sketch of the subject of this volume has been taken, with few amendments, from a memoir of Mr. Godley, which appeared in the 'Press' newspaper of the 29th June, 1862, published at Christchurch in New Zealand.
Of the seventeen thousand souls who now inhabit this Province of Canterbury, not more than one fourth had made it their home, when the great man who is the subject of this memoir sailed for England in the month of December 1852. Even of that number comparatively few had had the opportunity of that personal intimacy which reveals the mind and character of a man to his friends: and yet there is probably not one amongst us to whom the name of Mr. Godley is not known, and by whom it is not revered, as the founder of the Canterbury Association and of this Province of the colony of New Zealand.
John Robert Godley was the eldest son of Mr. Godley of Killigar, a gentleman of good landed property in the country of Leitrim, in Ireland, His mother was a sister of the Right Rev. Robert Daly, Bishop of Cashel. He was born in the year 1814: and was sent first to Mr. Ward's preparatory school at Iver, and thence to Harrow, where he was the successful candidate for the Sayers Scholarship in 1831. He declined to avail himself of the honor awarded to him, as he wished to go to Oxford, and in the page 2following year he obtained the Governor's Scholarship and was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford, where he subsequently obtained the Fell Scholarship, and took a second class in classics on his examination for degree in 1835.
After leaving the University, he studied for the law, and was called to the English bar. He held, however, but few briefs, regarding the practice of his profession with less interest than its principles, with which he was thoroughly conversant: that part, especially, of a legal education which bears upon the science of politics, he had deeply studied: politics, in the highest and widest sense of the term; not as applied to the dogmas of party in one country and in one age, but as involving the art of governing men under various circumstances and different social conditions,—this was his peculiar study; and that, not merely in the library and the office, but by personally observing the operation and effect of government in various countries. He travelled not only in those European States which most English gentlemen visit, but in Norway and Sweden; and a book which he published at an early age upon America, shewed how attentively he had observed men and things in the course of a visit to Canada and the United States.
His 'Letters from America,' which were published by Murray in 1844, speedily attracted the notice of political men on both sides of the Atlantic, from the ability and independence of thought they evinced.page 3
The first step which brought him into notice as a public man, was the preparation of a plan for meeting the awful crisis of the Irish famine by a large scheme of emigration. His proposal was to borrow a large sum of money, we believe about ten millions; to locate a million persons in a district in Canada to be set apart for the purpose; to charge the debt upon the landed property of Ireland, and to provide for the interest by an income tax: the income tax at that time not extending to Ireland. The proposal was explained and elaborated in a memorial to the Prime Minister, which appeared in the 'Spectator,' and was much criticized by the leading journals. It obtained the extraordinary success of being approved by men of all parties, and received the signatures of a very large number of the nobles and gentry of Ireland of all creeds, and of every shade of opinion; a unanimity very rare at that time in that country. The Minister pondered over the scheme for ten days, and finally rejected it. It was too large an experiment for a government which never really believed in the full extent of the Irish famine until it came with all its horrors on that ill-fated country. Mr. Godley proposed to convey a million souls to Canada: more than a million lay down and died, and a still larger number emigrated to the United States before that terrible crisis had passed.
Mr. Godley attended zealously to all local county business when required, as a Magistrate, Grand Juror, and Poor Law Guardian, and in 1847 page 4he stood for his county, but was defeated by Mr. Tenison of Kilronan. It may be considered fortunate for his subsequent career, that he was unsuccessful. His friends and his interest in the county were amongst the Irish Protestant and Tory party; a party in whose traditions he had been educated, but with whom, as his mind developed itself, he had little agreement in opinion, and no real political sympathy. Not that he coincided with the opposite party; but in Irish politics he was very far in advance of his age. He was violently opposed by the Catholics, headed by the well known father Tom Maguire; not from personal dislike or distrust, for he was respected by all; but because his election would have been regarded as the triumph of the Tories. As a proof of the extent to which he had won the regard even of his opponents at that period, Father Tom once said to the writer of this memoir not long after the election, "It would never do to have the county represented from Killigar, but Mr. Godley is a very able and rising man, and we will get him in some day for a borough." A remarkable homage to his influence after a bitterly contested election.
There was another reason why Mr. Godley's defeat may be regarded as a fortunate event. The fatal disease, which crippled his remarkable powers during the last ten years of his life, had begun to make its appearance, and an affection in the throat rendered the task of speaking in public, and often even in private, difficult and painful. Looking to his sub-page 5sequent career it seems more than probable that the excitement and exertion of speaking in parliament must have still further curtailed a life which was providentially preserved for a different end.
The event which probably exercised the most important influence upon Mr. Godley's life was his introduction, we believe somewhere about this time, to that remarkable man who exercised so great an influence over all who came within the sphere of his powers—we mean Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Mr. Wakefield had already been attracted by Mr. Godley's work upon America; and Mr. Godley, on the other hand, had studied with intense admiration the vigorous writings of the most eminent writer upon colonization. The result of this acquaintance was the scheme for founding Canterbury. Mr. Wakefield—whose continued ill health and long seclusion from public life entitles us to speak of him as of one who is gone*—was more than a theorist. His large practical mind was never satisfied except in the realization in action of the doctrines which it had been the object of his life to propound as theories. The foundation of the New Zealand Company, and, through it, of the settlements of Wellington, Nelson, and New Plymouth, under difficulties which probably no other man could have surmounted, was the work in which he had been engaged for several page 6years, and under which his health at last had broken down. For two years he was reduced to death's door; but as he gradually recovered something of his former vigor and energy, he lent his powerful mind and great practical experience to the scheme for founding Canterbury. The New Zealand Company, however, had fallen into irretrievable pecuniary difficulties, and was hopelessly incapable of undertaking any further operations out of its own resources. Aided by external influence, it was thought it might possibly still continue its work, because Parliament had vested in it two-thirds of the Waste Lands of the Crown in New Zealand; and it was at this juncture of its affairs that the Canterbury scheme was brought into the world. Mr. Wakefield, although no longer a Director of the New Zealand Company, had still sufficient influence amongst the shareholders to control its action; and it was owing to his exertions that the Company, even in the then desperate state of their fortunes, was induced to lend itself to the formation of a new settlement in the Middle Island. Mr. Godley, however, was the author of the particular design on which Canterbury was founded, and especially of that distinguishing feature of the colony, which required that ample funds should be provided out of the proceeds of the land sales for the religious and educational wants of the community about to be established. Mr. Godley, too, was to be the workman of the whole: and for this purpose it was arranged that he should become a Director of page 7the New Zealaud Company,—qualifying himself for that office by purchasing the requisite number of shares—and should become at the same time the Managing Director of the Canterbury Association, in order that he might conduct all the arrangements between the two bodies. But the principal part of the task which devolved upon him, and which was all his own, was the labor of bringing to the scheme a sufficient amount of influence to secure the formation of the new colony. It is a noteworthy fact that most of the working members of the Managing Committee of the Canterbury Association were his own personal friends and fellow collegians at Oxford: such, for example, as the present Earl of Devon, Lord Richard Cavendish, Sir John Simeon, Sir Walter James, Mr. Charles Wynne, Mr. Somers Cocks, Mr. Adderley, Mr. McGeachy, and some others. Lord Lyttelton was a Cambridge man, and had become acquainted with Mr. Godley later in life. But the large array of names of men of high rank and position in the country who became members of the Association, proved how widely the influence of the founder had made itself felt amongst the intellect and worth of the country, and how much confidence was already reposed in his ability to conduct this scheme to a successful issue.
During the two years in which Canterbury was being created, Mr. Godley was a regular contributor to the columns of the 'Morning Chronicle,' a journal at that time esteemed the principal authority upon all colonial questions. None who remember the state of Canada page 8at that period can forget the articles which daily appeared in the columns of that newspaper. During the same period Mr. Godley occupied a prominent position as one of that band of colonial reformers, to whom the whole group of the Australian colonies is indebted for the constitutional liberty which was ultimately bestowed upon them. Few men, not having a seat in Parliament, have been so anxiously or habitually consulted as to any policy to be pursued or step to be taken by the party to which he belonged: and his acquaintance Avith many of the leading statesmen of the day, with Mr. Gladstone, the Duke of Newcastle, Sir William Molesworth, and others, afforded him ample opportunity for urging his views upon colonial policy in quarters where clear views and sound judgment were sure to be appreciated and valued. In 1849 symptoms of consumption became so apparent that he was ordered by his medical advisers to leave England for some time, at all events for the ensuing winter; and Madeira was the place pointed out as likely to be most beneficial. But idleness in Madeira would have been a worse disease than the malady under which he suffered. Work was a necessity of his nature; and as the scheme of the Canterbury Settlement was fairly on its legs in England, and it was anticipated that the first body of colonists would sail for New Zealand early in the following spring, he was induced to go thither at once, to prepare for their arrival. He therefore sailed for the colony page 9early in December, 1849. On arrivng at Port Lyttelton he found that the whole of the funds at the disposal of the Association had been expended, indeed considerably exceeded, by Captain Thomas, the agent who had been sent out to select the site and to direct the necessary surveys for the new colony. Mr. Godley had no course open to him but to stop at once all further expenditure until he should receive fresh advices from England. There was nothing to be done at Lyttelton in the entire absence of means; he therefore proceeded in the same ship to Wellington, and remained there until the close of the year.
It is not our wish in this brief memoir to enter further into the history of these times than is necessary to explain the part which Mr. Godley took; but, as he was at the time subjected to some unkindly criticism for his long residence at Wellington in 1850, it is necessary to enter somewhat fully into the circumstances which led to it. The whole scheme of the Canterbury settlement was founded upon the idea that funds would be provided, by the sale, in England, of the waste lands in the colony, sufficient to provide for the engagements into which the Association had entered with the New Zealand Company on the one hand, and with the colonists on the other. The large sales of land effected at the founding of Wellington and Nelson, afforded reasonable ground to hope that there would be no difficulty in raising money in a similar manner at Canterbury. When Mr. Godley page 10left England it was intended that the first body of colonists should sail not later than three or four months after him; but these expectations were not realized. Some relaxation of the exertions indispensable to success appears to have taken place after his departure, and it was not until the whole scheme was on the verge of abandonment, that Lord Lyttelton brought his strong intellect and resolute will to rescue it from destruction. He became Chairman of the Managing Committee in the spring of 1850, and kept his hand on the reins until the end of the journey. The result of difficulty, however, was, as usual, delay. The day for selling the land and starting off the colonists was again and again postponed; and even when the day arrived, the funds raised fell miserably short of the anticipated and requisite amount. In this emergency Lord Lyttelton, Lord Richard Cavendish, Sir John Simeon, and others, came forward again and again, with advances out of their private fortunes, to the extent not of tens or hundreds, but of thousands and tens of thousands, to save the scheme from ruin. When we look back at those times, and ask what motive could have operated to stimulate these not foolish or imprudent men into liberality so unwonted in our commercial days—what it was, which induced men, by no means rich for their position in life, to lay down such large sums when they could have had but a very dim and uncertain prospect of any return, and when the idea of profit was never dreamt of—there is but one answer; and we page 11believe it is the true one; it was their strong affection for the man who had induced them to join the scheme, and the determination that, in his absence, he should not be deserted. The work of his life was in peril; and, be the loss to them what it might, it should not be allowed to fail for want of timely aid. There can hardly be any stronger proof of the wonderful influence which Mr. Godley had acquired over his personal friends, than this willingness to incur such large sacrifices for the sake, not even so much of himself, as of his idea. Rarely indeed do college acquaintances ripen into such noble and absorbing friendships in after life.
It was owing to these circumstances that the colonists, who were to have sailed in the spring, did not sail till the autumn; and that Mr. Godley, who, when he started, had no idea that the funds in the colony had been exhausted, found himself absolutely penniless, and without the power of taking any step whatever in furtherance of the object for which he had come to the colony. The order to stop all expenditure at Lyttelton was one of simple honesty; because every bill which he must have drawn must have been met out of the private resources of the members of the Association, or have been dishonored. Until the land sales began there was absolutely no means of knowing whether the colony would ever become a reality at all. Mr. Godley therefore saw that he had no duty but to wait; so he went Wellington, and there bided the course of events.page 12
But political inaction, when there was work to be done, was an impossibility to him. The year 1850 was an important one in the history of Wellington and of the colony. Sir George Grey, the then Governor, had two years before suspended the constitution of Lord Grey, and was virtually the despotic ruler of the colony. He was conducting the government at Wellington, and had come there mainly for the purpose of inducing the people to accept a form of constitution which he had devised, and wished to propose in the place Lord Grey's, The question for or against the proposed constitution was under discussion when Mr. Godley arrived. He at once took a strong part against it. It seemed to him a sham, and that it would secure no real constitutional government to the people. The whole vigor of his mind was lent to the work of defeating the proposal of the Governor, with what success we all know: the sham constitution was rejected, and the old form of government lasted until Sir J. Pakington's Bill was passed in 1852. In November 1850 he was called from Wellington by the intelligence that the first colonists had sailed for Canterbury in the September of that year; and he at once took up his abode at Lyttelton to await their arrival.
From the 16th December, 1850, to the 1st December, 1852, when he sailed for England, he was, in all but the name, the governor of the settlement which he had originated and formed. Such a career is not granted page 13to many in this life. Most men are but the agents to carry out the schemes of others, or are compelled to see the plans they have formed put into action by agents who but partially comprehend them. It was given to Mr. Godley to design Canterbury, and to be the agent of his own design. What he was amongst us during the first two years of the settlement, some of us remember, and most of us know by tradition. Not with coffers full, and facilities abundant, but in poverty of funds, amidst great difficulties, amidst much discontent, amidst the disappointment of many sanguine expectations, and the ill concealed hostility of a Government which appeared vexed at the additional trouble imposed on it by the founding of a new colony within its jurisdiction, Mr. Godley guided the infant for tunes of Canterbury, in the full and entire conviction of the result which must one day come.
It would be unfair were we to avoid mentioning some of the difficulties—it may perhaps be said the mistakes which he committed—in his New Zealand career. It was a matter most deeply regretted by all, that in consequence of some disagreement between himself and Captain Thomas, the first Agent and Surveyor of the Association, Mr. Godley was compelled to remove him from his office. We mention this solely for the purpose of adding that, in 1859, Captain Thomas, who was then in London, called upon Mr. Godley at the War Office, and expressed in the most frank and generous manner his regret for his share in that disagreement. The result of that interview was a complete and entire reconciliation and a long conversation, mutually inter-page 14esting to each, upon the progress of the settlement which both had so much at heart. It will be equally gratifying to the friends of both to know, that this one unfortunate difference which Mr. Godley had with any of those who served under him, was thus some years afterwards concluded in a manner so honorable to both. Mr. Godley used to mention it as one of the most thoroughly gratifying events of his life—the blotting out of the single unpleasant memory connected with Canterbury.
The first step which Mr. Godley found himself called on to take in the colony was to reverse the land regulations of the Association, as regarded the occupation of unsold land for squatting purposes. The original regulations of the Canterbury Association contemplated the occupation of the land under lease, as a privelege attaching solely to the purchasers of land. No sooner had the settlers landed, than colonists from Australia began to arrive with their flocks and herds, and to claim runs, on which to depasture their stock, after the usual Australian manner. Mr. Godley felt at once that a great practical difficulty had arisen. He had no power to grant these runs, and he plainly saw that it would be ruinous to the interests of the new-born settlement to drive away the capital and the colonial intelligence and experience which was being imported from the neighbouring colonies. He took upon him at once to reverse the regulations of the Association and to establish new ones applicable to the circumstances of the colony. But even then, he would not violate the most cherished political principle of his life page 15—the responsibility of those in power, to the people for whose benefit power is held in trust. There had been established a society consisting of all the land purchasers, which formed at starting something like a representative body of the resident colonists. Mr. Godley submitted to 'The Land Purchasers Society' a set of regulations for squatting; undertaking to put them in force, and guaranteeing the assent of the Association at home to their provisions. But he required as a condition, that 'The Land Purchasers Society' should agree to the course he proposed. The resolutions were moved by Mr. FitzGerald and carried. The terms upon which runs were to be held for pastoral purposes, were fixed to the satisfaction of the Australian squatters who had recently arrived; capital and stock continued to flow in, and the ruin, which was inevitable had the Agent rigidly adhered to his instructions, was averted. Mr. Deans of Riccarton, a very shrewd and far-seeing man, used frequently to remark that Mr. Godley had saved the colony. The correctness of Mr. Godley's judgment is evidenced by the fact, that subsequent experience and discussion have tended to maintain, almost intact, the system then established. It received its final sanction, modified in some matters of detail, when the Land Regulations at present in force were adopted by the first Superintendent and Provincial Council in 1855.
Amongst other difficulties which he had to encounter and which involved him in very unpleasant duties, were those arising from the claimants to land at Akaroa, under the French Company. It was thought at the page 16time that Mr. Godley looked upon those claimants with a jealous eye, and was hard and somewhat unfair in his mode of dealing with them. The fact was far otherwise. He had simply a law to administer, and, right or wrong, he did no more than duty required of him. It was much to be regretted, that the then Governor of the colony, who knew that these claims were not defined or surveyed, and that the Canterbury settlers were about to occupy the country, neglected to send down a competent commissioner and surveyor to settle the claims before the new colonists arrived. Mr. Godley would have declared Akaroa to be a township, but he found that a special undertaking had been given by the Association to the colonists, that no new town should be laid out. The object of this was of course to enhance the value of the town lands in Lyttelton and Christchurch. Mr. Godley could not therefore break faith with the colonists; nor could he prevent the holders of rural land orders under the Association, from occupying any land not previously included in a grant from the crown, or included in a town under the existing terms of purchase: had he attempted to do so, the holder of every such land order, might have obtained damages against him in an action at law. All he could do, he did; which was to warn those who selected land at Akaroa, that there were claims of which he knew nothing, and which would, if proved to be good, take the precedence of the Association's land orders.
There was indeed, one case in which he undoubtedly committed an error: we record it, as an instance of the frank and unhesitating manner in which he ever page 17acknowledged and corrected a mistake the moment it was discovered. The Commissioner of the Government claimed a piece of land which had been selected and occupied at Akaroa, on the ground that it had become the property of the Crown by an exchange for other lands. Two or three gentlemen on returning from Akaroa, where they had been spending a few days, went into the Emigration Office at Lyttelton, and were telling the story, when Mr. Godley, who overheard the conversation from the inner room, instantly came out and said, "I am afraid that is a good claim; I had quite forgotten it." He had, in fact, in his possession a copy of the deed referring to the parcel of land in question, but it had wholly escaped his memory. The deed was at Christchurch, in the Land Office. He immediately rode over and obtained it, returning with it to Lyttelton in less than three hours. On discovering that the claim was good, he went to Akaroa, explained the circumstances to the holder of the property, and advised him to go at once to Wellington in order to see Sir George Grey, and endeavour to obtain a grant of the land from the Crown. The advice was taken, and though not at the time, yet ultimately, the application was successful. But no one regretted more than Mr. Godley, his inability to prevent the obvious unfairness of allowing the original town of Akaroa, on the faith of which the French settlers had bought small town sections, to be overrun by selections of land under the Association's land orders.
Mr. Godley's career in the colony was not a wholly unembarrassed one. The second year of his adminis-page 18tration was clouded by circumstances peculiarly distressing to himself, although little known or understood in the colony. The one great evil in colonial government which he laboured so long to encounter and remedy, was the retention of all the ultimate powers of government in the Colonial Office at home. The form of constitution in a colony might be a question open for discussion, and subject to variation in different countries and under different circumstances; but as to the powers of Government, whatever they might be, being localised, that, he conceived, admitted of no dispute or question. "I would rather," he wrote once to a friend, "be governed by a Nero on the spot, than by a board of angels in London, because we could, if the worst came to the worst, cut off Nero's head, but we could not get at the Board in London at all." The words are quoted from memory, but they are not very different from what was written. This, then, having been the point in all colonial policy upon which he had ever most earnestly insisted, it was with peculiar distress that he found the Canterbury Association pursuing a course of policy which he regarded as identical with that which he had ever most strenuously opposed. He felt that the Managing Committee in London was virtually constituting itself a new Colonial Office, and repeating in another form all the errors of that department. It would be improper, as it is unnecessary, to enter upon the question, whether he were right or wrong. We are only concerned at present with stating, what it is due to his memory to record, the views which he entertained on the subject That he page 19deeply and keenly felt this difference of opinion between himself and all his nearest and dearest friends none who knew him during the winter of 1851 can ever forget. The debt of gratitude he owed them, the generous sacrifices they had made to save his work from failure, constituted ties of no ordinary strength; but Mr. Godley was one with whom the idea of principle and duty overruled all other feeling; and when the new Bill which the Association had passed through Parliament arrived in the colony, enacting, amongst other things, that the Association might nominate a board of colonists, to exercise certain of its powers in the colony still retaining in its own hands many of those powers which he thought ought to have been localized, he felt that he could no longer conscientiously continue to carry out a policy so utterly at variance with the principles and purpose of his life. So deeply did he feel this, that he was on the point at one time of sailing for England, leaving his family here, with the sole object of trying in the course of one month spent at home, to persuade the Association to alter its whole course of policy, and to place the administration of its powers in the hands of the colonists themselves. But he could not desert his post: he therefore formally resigned his office as agent of the Association, praying them to appoint a successor without delay. It is needless to say that the Managing Committee in London delayed accepting the resignation. The Association had indeed almost completed its work. Its members were strenuously engaged in pushing on the Constiution Act for New Zealand, and they took powers in page 20that Act for transferring all their privileges and functions, as a loyal chartered corporation, to the Superintendent and Provincial Council about to be constituted in the colony. Not only officially, therefore, but by urgent private solicitations, was Mr. Godley requested to retain his office until the end of the time for which he had originally engaged to act in the colony; and he did so.
Indeed, the occasion of his difference of opinion with his friends at home had passed away. The Constitution Act was passed in the summer of 1852, and arrived in the colony about August or September in that year; and it was clear to all that the Association was about to be merged in the local government, so soon as the latter should have been constituted.
When it was known that he was about to leave, he received an address, very generally signed, requesting him to stand for the office of Superintendent; but he declined—he had made arrangements for leaving England for only three years— his work was done—the colony was formed — new powers of local government were about to be entrusted to it, and he felt entitled to obey the call of family and friends, which required his presence in England. He left us on December 22,1852. Notwithstanding the hostile criticism of the London 'Times,' Mr. Godley had become known, not as a dreamer and enthusiast, as he was sometimes spoken of when the scheme of Canterbury first appeared, but as a man of practical wisdom, who could mould a theory to the exigencies of real life, page 21and could carry into effect in practice what he designed in the study.
He had not long returned to England when Mr. Gladstone offered him, unasked, a Commissionership of Income Tax, in Ireland. He was shortly after transferred to England; and, upon the remodelling of the War Office, was placed at the head of the Store Department. A fresh change found him in the Secretary's office, and before long Assistant Under-Secretary at War, which office he held, under the successive Secretaryships of Lord Panmure, General Peel, and Lord Herbert, until the time of his death.
To where beyond those voices there is peace."
His last work in life was not his least. The Report of the page 23Departmental Committee on the Military Defences of Colonies has been frequently alluded to in the public journals. As a state paper, indicating and justifying a proposed fundamental change in the policy of the empire, we have never seen the document which surpasses it: short, clear, logical, and convincing, it at once made an impression upon the country and Parliament. A Committee of the House of Commons adopted its main views, and newspapers, from the 'Times' downwards, reiterated his facts, and expanded his arguments, with as much fluency and self-complacency as if their views were original. Mr. Godley attended before the Committee in the Session of 1861, and his evidence, even to the most casual reader, is striking in the extreme.
As a writer Mr. Godley was not brilliant; he was not witty or imaginative, although he delighted in those qualities in others. His style was grave and somewhat severe, but concise and logical in thought, and simple in expression. As a thinker he was remarkable for the resolution with which he followed out his reasoning to its legitimate issues; and thus he often arrived at conclusions instantly, which other men adopt only after becoming habituated to an idea from which they first shrank with alarm. But his best writings unquestionably are contained in his private correspondence. That correspondence must have been very extensive, and must have included letters on public matters addressed to some of the most eminent statesmen of the day. We cannot but express a hope that this correspondence may some day be collected and given to the world.
In matters of religion he was thoroughly sincere page 24and devout; indeed for such a mind, there could have been no other resting place. Had he not been a true christian, he must have been an infidel. His honest and courageous intellect could never have rested for an hour in a half faith, acquiesced in from habit, or fashion, or dread of enquiry. His religion was entire conviction, and he acted upon it consistently. But his real power as a public man he was never permitted to wield. It was as a public speaker that he was most qualified to shine; and as a speaker he was physically incapable of succeeding. The speeches he made were very few: one or two at public dinners in England and in the colony; one at Wellington, one at the first public meeting held in Lyttelton, one, not reported, on the occasion of laying the stone of the first church in Lyttelton, and one at his farewell breakfast in Hagley Park. Some of us heard these striking orations; but those alone who have been in the habit of constantly listening to the leading and most practised orators of the day, can form an adequate idea of the vast latent power indicated by these few speeches, delivered by an entirely unpractised speaker, and upon occasions generally the least favourable to elicit the highest oratorical powers. Mr. Godley's speeches, like his writings, were far from brilliant; nor did he perhaps possess that greatest of all powers in an orator—a flow of thoroughly impassioned eloquence. Whether he were capable of using the lash of satire, we do not know; he had never the opportunity to attempt it. But one quality he possessed in a degree entirely unrivalled by any speaker we have ever listened to, page 25except perhaps Mr. Gladstone—the rare quality of an earnestness not simulated: not the trick of an actor, but real and heartfelt, which carried conviction to the mind of the hearer. In simplicity of language he was no doubt surpassed by John Bright; in fluency and versatility in dealing with and adorning an idea, his most practised efforts would never have borne comparison with the copious stream of Gladstone's rhetoric. But, on the other hand, he never overloaded an idea. He was always emphatic, clear, and logical; and, to say all in one word, he was on the whole the most convincing speaker we ever listend to. It is concealed in the mysterious councils of the Highest Wisdom alone, why such great powers should have been at once bestowed and curtailed—why the mental and moral capacity should have been limited by physical infirmity. It may be that the forced suppression of conscious power is not the least important part in the discipline of a noble mind. It was certainly true, in Mr. Godley's case, that he never attained the position for which he seemed most peculiarly adapted, that of the parliamentary orator and statesman.
He had ever the utmost respect for the public press. The London 'Times' was sent to him regularly by every mail, whilst in New Zealand; and he read it, not rapidly and desultorily, but regularly and thoroughly—one paper every morning at breakfast time, just as he used to do in his home in London. But the 'Spectator' was his favorite paper, not only for its own sake, but out of respect for the opinions of its editor, the late Mr. Rintoul, whose valuable friendship page 26he long enjoyed, and thoroughly appreciated. Nothing in the landing of the first colonists gave him greater pleasure than the arrival of the presses, types, and plant, for publishing a newspaper at once in the new settlement; but he never, except once or twice, used his own pen in its pages. It was impossible, however, that the then editor of the 'Lyttelton Times,' should live, as he did, in constant intercourse with so great a mind, and of necessity in the constant discussion of every topic of interest to the colony, and should fail to feel the influence of such companionship. In the opinions advocated by that journal for the first two years of its existence, though not in its style or manner, may be traced much of his peculiar habit of thought, and many of his political views. But he loved beyond all things fairness in discussion; and upon the occasion of the collision between the Canterbury Association and the colony, to which we have referred above, when the 'Lyttelton Times' was advocating the colonial view in a series of articles, perhaps somewhat one-sided in their arguments, Mr. Godley wrote anonymously a letter to that paper, stating in forcible language the Association's view of the question. The letter was reviewed in the following leading article, and the article was answered by another letter. But, though living in hourly intercourse with the editor, and daily discussing the letters themselves with him, the latter never discovered the real author, until it was revealed to him by Mr. Godley himself, the day before he left the colony. Apart from the practical joke, which highly delighted him, he had page 27gained his object, namely, that the other side of the question should be stated and fairly discussed as the view of a third and independent party, which would not have been the case had he taken part in the argument as the agent and partizan of the Association.
Upon the arrival of the New Constitution in the colony Mr. Godley never concealed his opinion that the bill had been sadly spoiled by the provision for the popular election of the Superintendents of provinces. He had seen too much of the election of executive officers in America, and had too deepseated a love for the people, and too earnest a conviction of the necessity of their taking a part in the government of the country, not to see that the door was opened wide for the destruction of popular power by popular election. His political instincts led him to a conclusion which has since then been illustrated and enforced upon all, by the adaptation of the machinery of universal suffrage to the creation of an imperial tyranny in France, and, more recently, to the sanction of a still worse form of tyranny in the United States of America.
For the first year, until Captain Simeon's arrival, Mr. Godley was Resident Magistrate as well as Agent of the Association, and after he resigned the former office, he was always elected by the magistrates to be chairman of the Bench. His education as a barrister, together with his experience as a county magistrate in Ireland, combined to make the performance of his duties on the bench somewhat different from what is often seen in the colonies. His only page 28fault as a magistrate was, that he was too rapid for his audience; diving at once into the intricacies of a case, and pouncing upon the weak points on either side with unerring accuracy of judgment, he had often arrived at a conclusion before those interested in the case had mastered the premises. But even this rapidity in dealing judgment, which could not but sometimes create dissatisfaction, never shook the faith of the public in his entire and uncompromising justice.
In manners Mr. Godley was not always popular: he was often very thoughtful and abstracted; sometimes, for example, going on with his writing when a stranger was waiting to speak to him, and so gaining credit for a haughtiness and discourtesy which was really utterly foreign to his whole character. But it was only those who were casually and occasionally brought into contact with him, who carried away such an idea of his disposition. To those who knew him, especially to those with whom he was intimate, he was a delightful and cheerful companion and a tender and affectionate friend. Indeed his great capacity for attaching men to him is permanently written in the existence of this colony. But for the strong personal attachment of his friends, inducing so many to make pecuniary sacrifices rarely heard of in these days, the difficulties in the way of founding Canterbury could not have been surmounted. He was generous and charitable not only from disposition but from principle; and there are not a few still here, who could tell to what an extent, and with page 29what discrimination, he used the limited wealth at his disposal to benefit those around him.
But there was one feature in his character which was not a popular one, and which he never cared to conceal or control, and that was his unmitigated hatred and contempt for humbug of every kind: whether it appeared in the form of dishonesty in money matters, or hypocrisy in religion, or of corruption in public life, or, what is still common enough with us, of vulgar pretension, it met with little mercy at Mr. Godley's hands. Honorable himself up to the loftiest strndard of chivalry, he shrunk instinctively from anything like trickery public or private in other men. Such a man is sure to be hated and feared by some, so long as deceit and fraud shall find a resting place upon earth. What Mr. Godley was to this place we shall perhaps never fully know until the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed. It is mere folly to shut our eyes to the fact that the standard of honor and of manners in a small colonial community has a tendency to fall. The tastes, habits, feelings and manners, unavoidably degenerate in a state of society where so many of the checks which custom has reared in older countries are suddenly removed. Against all this Mr. Godley's house and home was a standing witness. Men of immoral habits be excluded from his table, and in one instance adhered to the rule even where high rank would have influenced a less conscientious man to make an exception. The example and influence of such a man in so small page 30a community must have been great beyond measure. That he had his faults and made mistakes, need not be denied, but this is not the occasion on which to remember the one or record the other. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is ofttimes interred with their bones." It is our task to recall the latter. As in the Akaroa case mentioned above, he was never slow to acknowledge an error.
He had not the comprehensive intellect of a great philosopher, nor the fire and fancy of a great poet, but he had the mind of a practical statesman, clear foresight and wise judgment, with a resolute will, unimpeachable integrity, and a chivalrous sense of honor. Such was John Robert Godley, and those who knew him well will ever think that they never saw a nobler man.
Instead of scornful pity or pure scorn,
Such fine reserve and noble reticence;
Manners so kind yet stately, such a grace
Of tenderest courtesy"——
She, like her husband who is gone, could understand how the little offices of daily life become sanctified and ennobled by the name of duty. She, too, believed in the nobility of work, and what her hand found to do she did it with all her might. She left us the example, how it is possible, in the midst of harassing cares and unwonted discomfort, to be gentle and serene, and cheerful and uniformly courteous to all; and how little it needs of worldly wealth to create the purest type of an English home upon the shores of a scarcely inhabited island. Ought we thus to speak of one whose eyes these pages may one day chance to meet? or may not a separation which is probably for eternity plead forgiveness for the in trusion? Had he lived it might have been otherwise: for he ever looked forward to visiting at some future time the scene of his labors, in the company of some of those who so nobly sustained him in his work. But page 32from us now, she, too, stands separated by a gulf scarcely less wide and deep than that which he has crossed for ever.
"It is my intention to request your approval of the erection of a pedestal and statue commemorative of the services of the venerated founder of the Canterbury settlement."
"That this Council, desiring to record its deep sense of the loss which the Province of Canterbury has sustained by the death of its founder, and deeming it right to preserve for ever amongst the inhabitants of the Province the memory of labors to which it is so deeply indebted, as well as an example of worth and excellence in private life, and of wisdom and uprightness in the administration of public affairs, resolves—that a statue of the late John Robert Godley be erected in the city of Christchurch, in such public place as his Honor the Superintendent shall direct; and that his Honor the Superintendent be respectfully requested to take such steps as may be necessary to carry this resolution into effect; and this Council undertakes to make due provision for the cost of such a work out of the public revenues of the Province."
* Mr. Wakefield died at Wellington, since this memoir was written, on May 16, 1862.