England and the Maori Wars
Chapter 17 — Overtures To The United States
Overtures To The United States
Intense irritation with the Imperial Government was the primary cause of the desire of New Zealand ministers to secure a commercial agreement with the United States. The significance of this movement is more readily appreciated if we remember that the relations between England and the United States are throughout our period unfriendly, and that on more than one occasion the two countries had been on the verge of war. Moreover, all British negotiations with foreign countries had hitherto been conducted exclusively through the Foreign Office, and independent action by colonies was a new and, to many people, a disturbing departure. When the Canadian Government had negotiated directly with France through Baron Boilleau, French Consul at Quebec, for a reciprocal trade arrangement in 1862, the British Government had remonstrated with France and the Baron was removed from Canada.1
1 J. G. Gray, Confederation of Canada, p. 352.
2 Relations between Britain and the United States continued to be very strained for several years. The Alabama question was not settled until 1872.
On April 30, in a letter published on July 4, The Times Wellington correspondent wrote: “In the following letter an application has been made by the Premier to the United States Government for the free admission of New Zealand wool into American markets. This letters, taken in conjunction with a remarkable expression at the Dunedin public meeting, ‘doubting if New Zealand were still a colony,’ is sufficiently indicative that the head of the Government is not unprepared to accept the position of alienation from the Empire which, according to Mr. Fox's views, expressed in his memorandum on Lord Granville's despatch, is a necessary corollary to Lord Granville's theories as to Imperial responsibility.”
Fox, in his letter to Henry Driver, U.S. Consular agent at Dunedin, dated March 19, 1870, said: “As the first steamer which is to place in regular monthly communication New Zealand with the United States is to start on its voyage a few days hence, perhaps you will be good enough to communicate to your Government the high appreciation by the Government of New Zealand of this close intercourse with the great and powerful country of which you are the representative, and of their earnest desire for its continuance. The Government believe that the colonists of New Zealand welcome in this line not only a means of mail communication with Great Britain, but the commencement of what they hope will prove friendly relations, and, to both sides, profitable commercial connection with the people of the United States. The Government will be glad to learn that, under the circumstances, your Government will in future be willing to allow the Government of this country to communicate with them direct in matters affecting the relations between the two countries.page 379
“It has for some time been the intention of this Government, in concert with the Governments of some of the neighbouring colonies, to represent to your Government their earnest desire that a market should be opened in the United States to the wool which is one of the largest articles of production of the Australasian colonies. There are circumstances which, it is felt, should render the subject one which our Government may entertain irrespectively of the question whether or not it is deemed that immediate pecuniary profit will arise from it. The colonies are peopled by a race speaking the same language and acknowledging many of the same traditions and associations which belong to the people of the United States. For a long time to come the colonies will manufacture to a very limited extent even for home use. They will use a great many of the manufactures and products of the United States, but it is not probable they will be able to supply manufactures in exchange. They cannot therefore prejudice, but must benefit, the manufacturers of the United States. The wool the colonists are able to send will assist those manufacturers, and the wool ships will return laden with the wares and products of your country.… It may be argued that the wool might even now be sent direct, but a moment's consideration will show that, while there is a heavy duty on it, wool sent to America has not the opportunity of finding a world-wide market, which otherwise it would find if not burdened with charges of that kind, and if it were as available for sale for the use of other countries as it is in the market of Great Britain.”
The Foreign Office, since July under the control of Lord Granville, who was succeeded at the Colonial Office by Lord Kimberley, referred, in a letter to the Colonial Office of August 3, to the correspondence between the New Zealand Premier and the United States Consul-General at Dunedin. The Foreign Office pointed out “the inconvenience of departing from the rule that Colonial matters should be negotiated with foreign powers by the Home Government, except when the latter consent that the Colony should undertake negotiations on subjects of purely local interest.” “If, however, Lord Kimberley is of opinion that the present is an exceptional case arising out of the feeling of discontent in New Zealand, which, it is hoped, page 380 will pass away, Lord Granville is ready to concur in His Lordship's proposal not to take any further notice of the correspondence beyond approving Sir G. Bowen's refusal to be a party to it.” Lord Kimberley's minute was: “Say that I concur in Lord Granville's view as to the inconvenience of departing from the rule as to communications with foreign powers, but in the exceptional circumstances of this case, I think it better to do nothing beyond approving Sir G. Bowen.” The Foreign Office retained the printed copy of the correspondence between Fox and the Consular Agent. This tactful handling of a delicate situation by Granville and Kimberley averted trouble threatened as a result of Granville's earlier and less conciliatory manner.
In a leading article on April 19, 1870, The Times referred to the Wellington correspondent's statement that H.M.S. Virago had sailed from Wellington Harbour with the last detachment of the 18th regiment. This news, “which would have fallen like a thunderbolt six months ago,” was, said The Times, “the actual consummation of that terrible policy which was to be the destruction of the colony and the ruin of the British Empire.”
1 See Cambridge History of the British Empire, vol. vi, part II, pp. 216–17,
1 After a meeting of New Zealand colonists in London at the Palace Hotel, Westminster, had decided to call a conference of representatives of the self-governing colonies.
Adderley, in a letter published in The Times, wrote: “I see that men are still harping on the old argument that we are page 383 asking our New Zealand fellow-subjects to carry out a war which we inflicted on them. Can they not see the fallacy involved in the word ‘we’? Was it not the Government of New Zealand just as much as ourselves at home that inaugurated the policy, and with the best intentions, which has issued in these wars? Now that New Zealand has complete self-government, can it throw the expenses incurred by its former Crown Government upon the taxpayers of England, merely because they are under the same Crown; or will these claimants propose to revive the exploded form of government, and for the sake of the cost give back the freedom?…Surely what has already occurred in New Zealand has been enough to show, what has invariably been shown by experience, that the best surety for peace is the burden of war.”
R. Torrens, in a reply to this letter, stated that the colonists did not ask the mother-country to bear the expenses of their defence, but only that the single regiment should be left in the colony at the expense of the colonists. “Can Sir C.Adderley assist Her Majesty's present advisers by producing any reasonable plea upon which to justify the present policy in affording to Canada, while not under any serious pressure or difficulty, that military aid and financial guarantee which they deny to New Zealand under the pressure of a life or death necessity?”
The Melbourne correspondent of The Times in a letter of March 28 written after a visit to Auckland and published on May 17, 1870, found a “strange indifference” where he had been led to expect to see all the symptoms of a dangerous crisis. He expressed the view that the withdrawal of the troops would expedite the return of peace. On the same day The Times said: “The proposal that Parliament shall guarantee a New Zealand loan of a million sterling is not one that can be received with unmixed satisfaction.… The Government has undertaken to recommend a guarantee of a required amount not… for purposes of war, but, on the contrary, for the construction of roads and other public works by friendly natives, as well as for the promotion of immigration. It is not to be disguised that, even thus limited, the sacrifice of principle is considerable.… Whatever irritation may have been felt in page 384 New Zealand at the peremptory recall of the last British regiment, the colonists may rest assured that the English people in approving it, was not indifferent to their fate. Had Englishmen believed that a single European life in New Zealand would be imperilled by Lord Granville's adherence to a policy, of which the colony had received many years' notice, it would probably have been impossible to carry it out. It was because Englishmen believed the very reverse that colonial remonstrances against it met with so feeble a response. The result, we are convinced, will prove that Englishmen are not wrong, and it will not be surprising if the prosperity of New Zealand should date from the year in which the duty of self-defence was forced upon her.”
On May 20 Lord Granville informed Sir G. Bowen that the Government had agreed to guarantee a loan of £1,000,000 for immigration and public works. The negotiation had been undertaken by Sir F. D. Bell and Dr. Featherston, the New Zealand Commissioners, who had telegraphed to New Zealand on May 14: “We have accepted this offer on behalf of New Zealand Commissioners, who had telegraphed to New Zealand as a measure of conciliation which will be taken throughout New Zealand as a proof of the continued good will of the Imperial Government.”
Colonel (Aftewards Major-General
Sir) G. S. Whitmore
W. Dealtry wrote: “This letter should be inserted in the Parliamentary papers in New Zealand now in Mr. Joseph's hands. It will make a very good finish.”
Bowen, in a despatch of August 1, 1870, reported that the news of the concession respecting the Imperial guarantee of a loan had had a conciliatory effect and that the House of Representatives had refused even to receive a petition praying that steps might be taken to withhold payment of the Governor's salary. “This looks like the end of the misunderstandings,” was Dealtry's comment. In his despatch in reply, dated October 24, Lord Kimberley wrote: “I have much pleasure in anticipating from these communications that nothing will occur to disturb the good understanding between the Imperial and Colonial Governments, and that the connection between New Zealand and the United Kingdom will be maintained and strengthened to the mutual advantage of both countries.”
A ministerial memorandum of August 1, forwarded by Bowen, set out: “So much has been said lately about New Zealand separating from the Empire that Ministers deem it to be their duty to ask His Excellency to convey to the Secretary for the Colonies their views on the subject. In their instructions to the Commissioners and the various memoranda which have been published Ministers have not disguised their impression that the Imperial Government adopted a line of action which was tantamount to inviting the Colony to withdraw from the Empire. It matters not what reasons may have dictated a change, page 386 it is sufficient to know that, lately, the Imperial Government have disavowed that they still entertain the policy referred to. Ministers think it right to state that they have received this disavowal with much gratification, and that, as already intimated in previous memoranda, their wish is that the communication of both Governments should be of so conciliatory and cordial a character that the ties between the two countries may be strengthened and not relaxed.”1
In his financial statement of June 28, 1870, Julius Vogel, the Colonial Treasurer, said: “Speaking broadly I contend that during the next ten years the Colony will run no risk if it commits itself to an expenditure, or a proportionate liability for guarantee of interest, of ten millions for railways and for the other purposes expressed in these proposals. After three years, supposing that extraordinary sums are required, will it be a great hardship to increase the Stamp-duties, or to have a House-tax, or an Income-tax, or some tax that will touch that lucky class, the absentees, who enjoy all the advantages, whilst they share not the burden of the hard colonizing labours without which the most favoured country on the globe's surface could not attain permanent prosperity?
Vogel stated that the Government had entered into direct correspondence with the United States Government on the question of relaxing the restrictions upon the admission of colonial wools. “We want to raise,” he went on, “a certain amount of revenue, and it is highly expedient that the revenue should be derived in the manner best calculated to stimulate local production. If imports must be taxed, let those escape lightly which cannot be produced here, and let those which need not be imported but which wealthy persons choose to consume, be made to yield a revenue…. We shall be told that these proposals will entail a tremendous burden. Granted—but they will give to posterity enormous means out of which to meet it. Every member has constituents whom he represents; and he will be justified in assuring them that the measures we propose will benefit every person in the community, from the highest to the lowest, from the richest to the poorest. They will lead the colony to prosperity, and enable it to do justice to its splendid resources.”
Colonial Office minute: “The evasion of the rule against differential duties … is one which I suppose the Imperial Government cannot contend against.” Sir F. Rogers: “I should think not. But it is unpleasant.” Lord Kimberley wrote on September 7: “What is the course which has been pursued as to differential duties in colonies? Would not this bonus hocus pocus be a violation of our treaties with foreign nations, and if it is, are we not bound to take notice of it?—though, if it can be avoided, I would rather enter into no controversy, as it is undesirable to give the New Zealanders opportunities for shewing their disregard of us.”
Sir F. Rogers stated that the British treaties with Belgium and Italy contained the following clause: “Goods of every kind page 388 which are or may be legally importable into the ports of the United Kingdom… its colonies, and possessions in British vessels may likewise be imported into such ports in Belgian (Italian) vessels without being liable to other or higher duties, of whatever denomination, than if such goods were imported in national vessels.”1
Vogel withdrew his Bill to provide for differential duties, but he was not convinced by the arguments against them and returned later to the charge.
In a letter of August 4, published on September 29, the Wellington correspondent of The Times wrote: “I am at a loss to convey any adequate idea of the marvellous change which has come over the spirit of the deliberations in the Assembly during the present session of the Colonial Parliament. It is, moreover, a change which is the clear reflex of public feeling throughout the colony, and which I can only compare to the sudden waking from a hideous nightmare to full consciousness of power, security, companionship and light. For the last ten years the colony has been spell-bound by the too-substantial phantom of Maori war, with its attendant horrors. Now the spell is broken, and, reassured by the bright dawn of peace, it rises to the hopeful anticipations of a day of earnest endeavour and great accomplishment. The appeal made by the present ministry to renew the great work of colonization has been everywhere responded to. The scheme proposed by the Colonial Treasurer has been made the subject of the fullest possible discussion in every corner of both islands during the past month. Hardly a hamlet but has held its public meeting to consider the subject, and the verdict has been almost universal in its favour.… The general tone of the debate on the financial proposals was marked rather by an excess of caution than that recklessness which too often prevails in dealing with large sums of borrowed money.
1 C.O. 209, 217. For discussion of the demand of the Australian Colonies and New Zealand for power to impose differential duties—ultimately granted in 1873—see Knaplund, Gladstone and Imperial Policy, pp. 103–21. For a contemporary discussion, see J. G. Gray, Confederation of Canada (1872), pp. 331–60.
- 1. In the opinion of this Council, the best interests of New Zealand will be consulted by remaining an integral part of the British Empire.
- 2. That there are not sufficient grounds for believing that the people of England desire the disintegration of the empire.
- 3. That this Council regrets the course adopted by the Home Government towards the colony; but, as the causes of the dispute have been satisfactorily discussed by the Colonial Government, and as an indication of a desire to preserve a friendly feeling towards the colony has been made by the Home Government, it is undesirable to make any further reference to past misunderstandings.
“The Parliament and the country both feel the difficulty of their position. They do not wish to re-open a useless and acrimonious discussion; they are quite satisfied that the sympathies of the people of England are with New Zealand; they are not sorry, as events have turned out, that the Imperial regiment has been removed, in spite of their earnest entreaties that it should be allowed to remain; they have no wish to assert their right to protection, except in cases of extreme danger; and they have no desire to sever their connection with the Empire; and, last, but certainly not least, they are much too busily engaged in the work of reconstruction to devote much time to raking up the ashes of the past. But though the debates have been practically without result, it cannot be said that the colony at all acquiesces in the action of the Imperial Government.”
Commenting on October 4, 1870, on the resolutions passed in the Upper House, The Timessaid: “So entirely do we approve the last Resolution that we shall adopt it ourselves, and say nothing of ‘past misunderstandings’ except this—that the expression conveys the exact truth of the whole case. It was in a misunderstanding that the whole unpleasantness arose, page 390 and nothing, indeed, but a misunderstanding of the most extraordinary kind could ever have suggested the belief that any considerable or appreciable number of Englishmen desired to see a separation between Great Britain and her Colonies. No such wish was ever entertained.”
The peaceful atmosphere attained at long last was disturbed by the Franco-Prussian War, which caused considerable alarm in New Zealand. A ministerial memorandum of September 19, 1870, set out: “Ministers would be glad if Her Majesty's Government would send out 10,000 stand of medium and short Snider rifles with a corresponding supply of ammunition. The Colonial Government would be prepared to abide by the decision of the Home Government in respect of the cost, if payment should be required.… Ministers would also respectfully beg your Excellency to obtain from Her Majesty's Government explicit information as to what protection will be afforded to the Colony in case of Great Britain becoming involved in war with any power capable of attacking the colony; and also to what extent the colony would be expected to co-operate.”
Sir F. Rogers wrote: “It might be said with truth, though it would not perhaps be wise to say—that the Government could no more pledge itself to take any specific measures for the defence of Auckland or Wellington which do not contribute to the support of the British fleet than in the defence of Liver-pool or Brighton which do so contribute. But we want to be on good terms.” Lord Kimberley: “I agree.”1
On December 2, 1870, The Times said: “It is really quite refreshing in these times of alarm and trouble to turn to a subject of unqualified and even marvellous pleasantness. The New Zealand question, but a few months ago so full of embarrassments, is no longer any ‘question’ at all.… We need only say this, that affairs are looking well enough now, and that the Imperial policy, though it might have been open to misinterpretation, could not have been ill-conceived. Our proceedings have left the New Zealanders perfectly satisfied with themselves, and we trust that a brief interval of experience and reflection will make them equally satisfied with us. The best garrison we can send them is a garrison of permanent settlers; the best aid we can give them against the natives is assistance in the work which will turn prowling savages into industrious subjects. These will be engagements of mutual advantage and will serve effectually to link the Old Country and its Colony together.”
“There appear to be two courses open—either that the Imperial Government should supply adequate defence, which does not now exist, or sanction an arrangement with foreign powers that in the event of war the colony would be treated as neutral. In making this representation, Ministers desire to reiterate the expression of the loyalty of the Colony to the Crown and of their anxiety that it should always be preserved as an integral portion of the Empire.”
Lord Kimberley wrote in reply: “If a British colony is to remain neutral when England is belligerent, the following among other questions would require to be considered: Could the other belligerent be expected to recognize that neutrality? Could the people of England be content to remain under the obligation of resenting injuries offered to that colony in time of peace? In what manner and in what terms is it proposed upon this hypothesis to define the connection between the home country and the colony, to which I am glad to notice that your Ministers reiterate their attachment?”1 In replying, the New Zealand ministers said that the object of their memorandum had been “not to recommend that in the event of war this colony should be treated as neutral, but humbly to represent in the immediate interests of the colony, either that the Imperial Government should in such cases adequately defend it, or secure its neutrality.”2
This and other related topics were to be discussed over a long period, but the main question whether New Zealand should remain a part of the Empire had been settled.
1 C.O. 209, 221.
2 See Cambridge History of the Empire, vol. vii, part II, chapter x (by the present writer).