Contributions to the Early History of New Zealand
Introductory—The Pioneer Leaders—Emigration the Cure for Poverty —Mr. E. G. Wakefield's Theory—First Scotch Emigration to New Zealand in 1839—Public Meeting at Glasgow for Annexation of New Zealand—Deplorable State of Working People—Position of New Zealand Company.
After six years of negotiation, struggle, misfortune, and hope deferred, the successful colonisation of the Otago settlement was at length accomplished. For in 1848, on Thursday, the 23rd of March, and on Saturday, the 15th of April, the first settlers stepped from the pioneer vessels John Wichliffe and Philip Laing upon the silent shores of their desired haven. Of all the 278 souls who thus landed, but two of the number had borne the heat and burden of those six weary years—had unflinchingly fought through every obstacle in order to plant in the congenial soil of New Zealand a branch of their beloved Free Kirk of Scotland.
These two heroes of colonisation were Captain William Cargill and the Reverend Thomas Burns. Though neither of them was the author of the scheme, yet their connection with it was of the earliest and closest; and when the original promoter, Mr. George Rennie, in obedience to causes which will be described, withdrew from it his support, their adherence remained unshaken and received the reward of victory.
Should some of the incidents to be related breathe a spirit of narrowness, it must not be forgotten that the commencing scenes of this story are laid more than fifty years ago—in the stirring times of that great conflict called the Disruption, which shook the Church of Scotland to its centre. Then men fought against oppression and even persecution. Steeled by such fires, no wonder if afterwards they resented with jealous intolerance any page 2infringement of what they considered to be their rights. And thus it often happens that, whilst the facts of history are best written as they run, it may not be possible to accord them their just interpretation until long afterwards. Distance gives the best view of a landscape.
It may be interesting to note the part taken by the Scotch with regard to New Zealand emigration prior to the publication in 1842 of Mr. Rennie's well-devised scheme. Attached as they are to the "land of brown heath and shaggy wood," Scotchmen have never been slow to leave it in the cause of colonization. Hence, as was to be expected, they formed a part of that stream which was first directed to these shores in 1839 by the New Zealand Company. But only a small part, for of seventy-six vessels despatched under the Company's auspices between the years 1839 and the first half of 1847, but three sailed from Scottish ports. Excellent colonist as the Scotchman undoubtedly is, he is credited with more prudence and caution than his brethren on the other side of the Border, and such qualities would naturally induce him, before trusting himself to the stream, to linger on the bank and watch with what success his friends floundered across the water. He might, and did view with some mistrust the advances of a company or association admittedly founded rather upon commercial than philanthropic principles, and whose first essays had been discountenanced, nay, even declared illegal by the British Government. Then the oft-sailed tracks which led the emigrant to Canada or Australia at least conducted him to well-known lands of promise. What were the superior attractions of New Zealand—that Ultima Thule of the southern seas—whose sole occupants were fierce cannibals, migratory whalers and a handful of missionaries?
Long before the New Zealand Company commenced its colonizing operations the state of trade throughout the United Kingdom was greatly depressed. Under this condition all suffered with varying degrees of severity. The lower classes felt the keen pinch of poverty in hunger and destitution, those above them in the evil effects of stagnation and overcrowding. Many thoughtful people said and wrote that relief and cure were to be found in emigration only. By it the problem of poverty was to be solved, and towards this laudable form of relief both public and private charity had long freely contributed. Hence emigration societies had been formed in various large centres of population throughout the Kingdom, and page 3emigrant vessels had for years been despatched to various British possessions. Herein lay one of the great opportunities of the New Zealand Company. Indefatigable, the Directors spared neither pains nor expense to avail themselves of it, to press their claims upon the Government, and their new colonizing views upon the public.
The theory or principle upon which they worked was propounded by that most astute, most talented of men, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who during the ten or eleven short years of the Company's existence was its life and soul, its moving spirit, the deus ex machinâ. Shortly put, this theory demanded that a "sufficient price" should be paid for waste or wild land, and that a portion of the proceeds thus raised should be devoted to the formation of an emigration fund to be expended in sending out labourers or emigrants without expense to the Mother Country. This restriction of a sufficient price secured the labourer's service to his employer until the former had saved money enough from his wages to buy land, and to become in turn, if he chose, a landed proprietor himself. Wakefield and his disciples contended that this scheme preserved a due balance between labour and capital in a new colony. Under this principle, with some additions and modifications, the first settlements in New Zealand, founded by the Company, were laid; those namely of Wellington, Nelson, and New Plymouth. To the New Edinburgh or Otago scheme attaches the credit of fuller and more perfect elaboration. The same may be said of Canterbury, the last and youngest of the New Zealand Company's settlements.
In October, 1839, the Bengal Merchant left the Clyde with 161 passengers, of whom 19 were in the cabin. Accompanying them was the Rev. John Macfarlane of the Martyrs' Church, Paisley, who as the first Scotch clergyman ministered in Wellington. This gentleman's stipend was paid out of a fund provided by the colonial committee of his church. His first services were conducted in the open air by the banks of the river Hutt. Afterwards he ministered in a church built on Lambton Quay. Owing to some dissensions which arose, he left the colony in the latter part of 1844, and on his return again undertook clerical duty at Paisley.
The departure of this vessel was marked in that way so dear to Englishmen—by a public dinner, which was held at the Trades Hall, Glasgow. The principal speakers were the Rev. Dr. Macleod and Mr. Sheriff (afterwards page 4Sir Archibald) Alison, the historian. The speech of the latter was long, brilliant, and elaborate; it reviewed the maritime and commercial relations of Great Britain, pointed out the necessity and advantage of developing the colonies which so long had suffered from persistent neglect, and drew a magnificent picture of New Zealand, so highly endowed and with a glorious future before it. He concluded by proposing the toast of "Ships, Colonies, and Commerce." It may here be mentioned that this sentiment, which was used by the first New Zealand Association as its motto or watchword, was first used by Napoleon in 1805. Glasgow and Paisley were the chief centres of the emigration movement.
Early in 1840 negotiations were nearly completed between a number of gentlemen in Scotland and the Company, whereby the latter was to cede a portion of its territory for the purpose of forming a Scotch colony. But these fell through owing to the uncertainty of the land title. Following this, and on the 15th of May, an influential meeting of bankers, merchants, manufacturers, shipowners and others was held in the Glasgow Assembly Rooms. The business of the meeting was to petition the Queen and Parliament to annex the Islands of New Zealand, to prevent aggression by the French, who proposed establishing there a convict colony, and to protect those fellow-countrymen who had already settled or intended settling in the new country. Amongst the speakers were again Dr. Macleod and Mr. Alison. Without doubt this meeting was initiated by the Company, which thus cleverly sought to strengthen its hands by drawing public attention to the general subject of New Zealand, and of the importance of emigration without special reference to its own venture and of its own claims upon the Government. And the speakers chiefly dwelt on the urgent necessity for emigration and for Government assistance thereto, either directly or through the medium of some colonizing body.
In Paisley, the home of the weavers, an emigration society which had existed for some time amongst themselves was converted into a special New Zealand one. The members sought to raise funds by public appeal and by a compulsory contribution of one penny per member at each meeting. The Rev. Dr. Robert Burns took a warm interest in this society, and an eloquent address by him at one of its meetings was published in pamphlet form, was widely distributed, and forms one of the earliest contribu-page 5tions to this department of New Zealand literature. The meetings were often characterised by very plain, bitter speaking, and by that resentful feeling which a few years later shaped itself into Chartism. In July a memorial was presented to Lord John Russell, who was the principal Colonial Secretary, begging for increased facilities for emigration, and specially referring to the advantages of New Zealand, of which they had heard so much. The workman who seconded the adoption of this memorial—which was afterwards signed by more than 3000 working-people—hoped that, in addition to a free passage, Lord John Russell would grant them a small trifle of land, were it only "for a cow's grass and a kail-yard." This evidently anticipates the advocacy of Mr. Chamberlain and other reformers for three acres and a cow. But, indeed, the deplorable state of trade and the condition of the poor at this time—1840—demanded a potent remedy. Taking Paisley as an index, in a population of 44,000, one quarter, or 11,000, were actually out of work and starving. Others were working sixteen hours out of the twenty-four in the all but unsuccessful endeavour to keep body and soul together on a pittance of seven or eight shillings a week. With what intense longing must such unhappy people have craved to leave behind them their native land with its miserable memories! How tempted one is at this distance of nearly sixty years to review the whole subject, to ask a few questions, and to speculate a little! Has emigration proved itself the panacea it was once supposed to be? Has the experiment been efficiently made during this long period? Did it not too often consist in a "shovelling out of paupers," as Mr. Charles Buller had it, and of other unfit persons, whose shoulders refused the burden of a day's work unless at a price which impeded the progress of a country? That the cry for food and work should yet be heard in a fertile country like New Zealand, whose edges are but fringed with a scanty population, indeed gives rise to grave reflection. But to return. From these and kindred societies applications were made to Government begging for relief, and for permission to partake of the benefits of that vast stream of emigration then flowing from the United Kingdom. In 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842, being the same as the first four years of the Company's operations, more than 400,000 people bade farewell to the home of their birth to seek fortune in other lands. Of this large number but 8000 turned their faces New Zealandwards, and of these but about 500 numbered page 6the Scottish contingent, despite the efforts made to attract, and the apparent desire of so many to venture to the new home. Indeed, the Government had the greatest difficulty in filling the two vessels bound from Greenock to New Zealand, for at the last moment it was found that many applicants were unfit, and of those who were accepted as suitable many shrank from seizing the proffered opportunity, and preferred to follow in the old beaten track to America. The voyage was long, the country unknown. It will thus be seen that from various causes the attempts to induce Scotch emigration to New Zealand were, down to 1842, comparatively unsuccessful.
At that time the colony had entered upon the third year of its existence under the governorship of Captain Hobson, R.N., whose seat of government was at Auckland. The Company's three settlements of Wellington, New Plymouth, and Nelson had been successfully founded, and it became almost imperative that the Directors should extend their enterprise and found a fourth. In face of the formidable opposition of both the Home and the Colonial Governments they had embarked upon a great scheme of colonization, in which large sums had been invested. To withhold their hands under such circumstances meant disastrous shipwreck, and the loss of all. Almost at the outset of their career they had abandoned to the Government all professed right and title to the lands purchased by them from the natives. This cession formed a sine quâ non, and the basis of negotiations with Lord John Russell, whereby it was agreed that purchasers from the Company should receive their titles from the Government. As matters then stood, not a settler could call those acres his own, for which he had paid and upon which he dwelt. These land difficulties were yet to be productive of violent dispute and threatened ruin, but at the time now referred to they were considered as virtually settled, or at least as tending to a peaceful issue.page break