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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Letter III

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Letter III.


My Lord,

It is one of the beautiful arrangements of that beneficent Providence which governs the world, that the interest and the duty, both of individuals and of nations, are generally conjoined; insomuch that in discharging the one, the other is materially advanced. It is the bounden duty of the British Government, for example, to interfere at the present moment for the protection and preservation of the natives of New Zealand by the establishment of a British colony, founded and conducted on equitable and Christian principles, on their coasts. In what way such an undertaking would promote British interests in the tenderest point, and prove highly conducive to the national welfare, I shall now demonstrate.

The group of islands known under the general name of New Zealand is situated a little to the westward of the 180th degree of E. or W. longitude, and between the 34th and 48th parallels of S. latitude; extending from north to south upwards of eight hundred geographical miles, with an average breadth of upwards of one hundred miles, and containing an extent of surface equal to that of the British Islands. The coast line, following the various indentations of the land, extends considerably upwards of three thousand miles, and probably comprises a greater number of eligible harbours, bays, and roadsteads, than is to be found along an equal extent of coast in any other page 39 part of the world. In the winter season—from May to September inclusive—these bays are the resort of the Black or Right Whale; and at a moderate distance from the land, the Sperm Whale is found, occasionally in vast herds, in the surrounding ocean. Indeed, it is a fact worthy of special notice, as indicative of the superior eligibility of New Zealand as a whaling station, that the whale caught on the New Zealand ground yields a third more oil than an animal of the same size and species caught in any other part of the world. I am indebted for this fact to a whaling captain of great experience in the South Sea fisheries, and of undoubted veracity.

It cannot be denied, however, that this branch of trade, so peculiarly important to a maritime nation, as a grand nursery for seamen, is fast passing out of the hands of Great Britain and her colonies. Of the whalers at present on the coast of New Zealand, about one hundred are American, thirty British, and thirty French. The French vessels, most of which belong to a company of naturalized Swiss merchants at Havre de Grace, are beyond all comparison the finest and the best equipped in the trade; their crews are also the most orderly and the best conducted. They are consequently the most persevering and the most successful: the Swiss Company having actually realized not less than thirty-five per cent on their capital invested, according to the information I received from a gentleman at the Bay of Islands, who had abundant means of ascertaining the fact.

Everything that enlightened policy could dictate has, in the meantime, been done by the French Government to extend and to render popular this important branch of the national industry. A bounty, amounting to about £4 per ton, is allowed in France on all whale oil procured by French whalers; and every encouragement is judiciously held out to those citizens of the United States, who are at all acquainted with the whale fishery to settle in the kingdom. A considerable number of the French whaling vessels have hitherto been commanded by naturalized Americans; one of whom, so early as the year 1834, was made page 40 a chevalier of the legion of honour by Louis Philippe, as a reward for his eminent services in that capacity, and as an inducement to his enterprising countrymen to become citizens of France. Nay, the attentions of their truly paternal Government follow the French whalers even to the distant Pacific; where a frigate and two other French ships of war have recently been cruising for their protection, as well as to conciliate the natives of the different islands they visit. In short, Great Britain has seldom had a more formidable rival on her own element, and in her own peculiar walk, than she now has in the Southern Pacific under the flag of the citizen king.

Whether the French have any ulterior views—I mean in regard to the formation of a permanent settlement either in New Zealand or in some of the other islands of the Pacific,—I cannot tell: the general impression, however, both in New South Wales and in New Zealand, is, that they have; and that 'impression seems by no means unwarranted from various circumstances which it is unnecessary' to particularize. Wishing, from my heart, the peace and prosperity of the French nation, and the extension of its commerce tenfold, I should nevertheless, for the reason I have already stated, consider the formation of a French colony in the South Seas a real calamity to the Southern Hemisphere, as presenting a serious obstacle to the progress and improvement of the human race.

Whalers of all nations will unquestionably exert a demoralizing influence on the uncivilized and heathen tribes with which they come in contact; but I am sorry to be obliged to add, on the authority of an intelligent countryman of my own in New Zealand, whose means, of information are very extensive, that of the three nations engaged most extensively in the Southern Fisheries—the British, the French, and the Americans—the influence of our own sailors on the New Zealanders is the most demoralizing: they are the most intemperate, the most disorderly, and the most abandoned. And as the trade is gradually becoming less and less profitable than it has hitherto been to the British and Colonial merchant, from this very circum- page 41 stance, the probability is that, if vigorous measures are not speedily taken to prevent it, it will ere long be in a great measure, if not wholly, engrossed by foreigners.

The French whalers are employed chiefly, though not exclusively, in the pursuit of the black whale; the British and American whalers being partly engaged in the black and partly in the sperm whale fishery. Of the extent to which both branches of the trade are pursued by the Americans, some idea may be formed from the following account of the number of barrels of sperm and black whale oil which had arrived in the United States, during the following years, copied from the New York Express of January, 1839 :—

Years. Barrels Sperm. Barrels Black.
1834 129,824 122,292
1835 175,130 125,100
1836 131,921 133,050
1837 182,567 215,120
1838 129,400 228,710

In short, there is reason to fear that unless the requisite preventive measures are speedily taken, this most important branch of maritime industry will ere long be wrested entirely cut of the hands of Great Britain and her colonies by the Americans and the French.

It appears to me, however, that if a British Colony were established on right principles in New Zealand, it might not only be made conducive in the highest degree to the protection of the natives from the demoralizing influence of whalers of all nations, but would lead to the restoration to Great Britain and her colonies of their proper share in this branch of industry. For if a few hundred families of the herring and whale fishing population of the northern parts of England, of the north and west of Scotland, and of the Orkney and Shetland Isles, were to be settled as colonists in New Zealand, and British capital employed, even to a very moderate amount, through a whaling company in London, to afford them employment in the Southern Fisheries, they would very soon get the whole of the page 42 black whale fishery of the island into their hands, and be able eventually to compete successfully with the Americans in the sperm whale fishery also, by being always in the immediate vicinity of the whaling ground. Of the population I allude to, thousands have of late years been reduced to penury from the failure of the Northern Fisheries. As colonists in New Zealand, however, they would immediately find a splendid field for their industry, and no fear of want.

As an illustration of the extent to which the black whale fishery on the coasts of New Zealand is at present carried on from the colony of New South Wales, I am enabled to state, from information obtained incidentally on my voyage home, that during the past year a single mercantile house in Sydney imported into that colony, from New Zealand, not less than seventy-one tons of whalebone, an article which generally sells for £145 per ton in the London market. Whalebone is procured exclusively from the black whale, of which it constitutes a sort of fringe along the jaws, the animal having no teeth, like the spermaceti whale. Now, as each whale affords about five hundredweight of bone, there must have been not fewer than 284 whales killed by the parties belonging to the mercantile house I refer to, to yield the quantity of bone procured by that one house. Still, however, the black whale fishery on the coasts of New Zealand has been by no means a gainful speculation generally for the New South Wales merchants : the field of operation being not only very distant, and the outfit proportionately expensive, but the merchant being obliged to depend for the issue of his stores and the general success of his speculation on whatever runaway sailors he can pick up in the port of Sydney, as the European natives of New South Wales have generally no disposition to go to sea. In short, New Zealand and not New South Wales is the proper place for the establishment of a colonial population to engage vigorously in the whale fishery of the Southern Pacific; and if a British colonial population of virtuous habits, and predisposed and accustomed to that particular branch of page 43 industry, were settled along the coasts of that island, they would infallibly, and at no distant period, engross the whole of the trade.

Besides, a virtuous European community of the kind I have mentioned, settled on the coasts of New Zealand, with their ministers and schoolmasters and missionaries to the heathen, would infallibly exert a powerful moral influence on the surrounding natives; of whom many would speedily join them in their perilous employment—manning their boats and sharing their spoils. The Now Zealanders are decidedly a maritime people. They are fond of the sea, and make excellent sailors; and they only require virtuous and industrious Europeans to reside among them to render their services in this way most advantageous to themselves and to the British empire,*

If a few hundred families of the class I have mentioned were settled in suitable localities along the coasts of New Zealand—as for instance, at the Bay of Islands, the River Thames, Port Nicholson, and Queen Charlotte's Sound, in Cook's Straits, Dusky Bay, &C., having small patches of ground for cultivation attached to their houses, they would soon realize a degree of comfort and independence which they could never hope to attain in the mother country. All the bays and roadsteads of the island abound with excellent fish of various kinds, and I have been informed by an intelligent person, who knows the country well, that there is a bank somewhere to the northward of the East Cape, on which the natives procure the largest and finest cod in the world. Even

* I was much gratified at hearing the New Zealand coxswain of an English boat, in which two of my fellow-passengers, per the Roslyn Castle, and myself, were rowed across the Bay of Islands, on a beautiful moonlight night, by four of his countrymen, calling out to them in good English, and scarcely with a foreign accent, "Pull away, my lads," "Stand to it my boys." The New Zealanders, in reply, struck up their native boat-song in a sort of recitative, of which the chorus, like that of the Canadian boat song, is "Tohi, Tohi," or row, brothers, row.

page 44 the shell-fish of the island afford an agreeable article of food to the New Zealanders. Cockles are very abundant, and of excellent quality, and the muscles, which constitute a regular New Zealand dish, are much better flavoured than ours; the shell is considerably broader and of more delicate texture.

I trust, therefore, it will appear evident to your Lordship that if New Zealand is to be colonized at all, its peculiar adaptation for the establishment of a whale fishery, or rather for being the head quarters of the South Sea fisheries, ought to be regarded as a subject of primary consideration; as the prosecution of that branch of industry by a maritime population emigrating from the mother country, would not only prove an immediate and inexhaustible source of wealth to the colony, but would afford the best means of counteracting the demoralizing influence of the whalers of all nations that now visit the coast, and of promoting in the highest degree the civilization and Christianization of the natives.

The climate of New Zealand is decidedly one of the finest in the world—like that of Italy and the South of France towards the north, and like that of England and the south of Scotland towards the south; the winter, however, being milder than that of Great Britain. I was particularly struck with the glow of health exhibited on the cheeks of the children of Europeans at the Bay of Islands, compared with the pale faces of children of the same age at Sydney, in much the same latitude. It was quite remarkable. At all events, the climate of New Zealand is undeniably superior to that of New South Wales and Van Dieman's Land in one most important particular—viz., in being free from droughts and hot winds; its insular character, its chain of lofty mountains running from north to south along the whole extent of the islands, and its distance from any large continent, ensuring it a constant and copious supply of rain. Indeed this most favourable circumstance renders New Zealand decidedly more eligible for the settlement of industrious families of the humbler classes, intending to earn their subsistence by the cultivation of the page 45 soil, than either of these two great pastoral colonies; for there has never yet been a crop lost in New Zealand from want of rain, which, I am sorry to say, is not the case in New South Wales.

Whether New Zealand will ever come into extensive competition with the Australian Colonies, as a pastoral country, may admit of question. I have already mentioned that ten bales of wool, of superior quality, had recently been forwarded to Sydney, where it sold at a high price, from a missionary estate in the northern division of the northern island. There has also been a quantity of equally superior quality sent up to Sydney lately from the island of Manna, in Cook's Straits; and it cannot be denied that the abundance of water in New Zealand, which is often rather scarce in New South Wales, affords superior facilities for getting up the wool for the foreign market. On the other hand, the dryness of the Australian climate is unquestionably favourable both for the constitution of the sheep and the growth and texture of the wool.

At all events, it is to the rearing of sheep and cattle, and the growth of fine wool, that persons of moderate capital emigrating to New Zealand must principally direct their attention. It would be absurd to act otherwise. To combine with these pursuits the cultivation of the soil, or the production of grain to a much greater extent than it is pursued in New South Wales, would, doubtless, be advisable; but to neglect those peculiar means of advancement which have raised the Australian colonies to their present condition of unexampled prosperity and importance, especially in a country in which a vast extent of unoccupied pasture-land proclaims its peculiar adaptation for the rearing of sheep and cattle, would be irrational in the extreme. Besides, agricultural stock of all kinds could be imported into New Zealand, both from New South Wales and from Van Dieman's Land, at a lesser expense than even into South Australia; the westerly winds that prevail in these regions, for so large a portion of the year, rendering a voyage to the eastward of much easier accomplishment than one to the westward.

page 46

The northern parts of the northern island are certainly less: adapted for sheep and cattle than the open pastoral country in the vicinity of Cook's Straits. Towards the north the country is more covered with timber and more moist; and the improvable land, instead of being coated over with good pasture, in its natural state, as is the case generally in New South Wales, is for the most part overgrown with fern. The fern, however, never grows on bad land in New Zealand, and the quality of the soil is generally indicated by the size and strength of the fern; inferior land producing only a stunted and puny vegetation. When sown with English grasses, the New Zealand fern-land produces excellent pasture. The English clover in particular grows luxuriantly.

The localities in which an agricultural population could be settled in the first instance with greatest facility, and with the best prospect of success, are the banks of the River Thames on the east coast, and those of the Hokianga, Kaiparra, and Manukau rivers on the west. On these rivers, which are all navigable for vessels of considerable burden, and especially for steam-boats, there is a vast extent of alluvial land of the first quality, which would produce in the greatest, abundance all the roots, fruits, vegetables, and grains of Europe, including wheat, maize, and potatoes, tobacco, the olive, and the vine. The potatoes of New Zealand are proverbially excellent, I mean in New South Wales: they are cultivated most successfully by the natives, without manure of any kind; they come to maturity in fourteen weeks, and two crops are obtained in the year. Wheat yields at the rate of forty bushels per acre, and I have seen maize grown by the natives with very indifferent culture near the Bay of Islands, equal to any in New South Wales. In short, all the necessaries of life, and many of its luxuries, could be raised with very moderate industry by an agricultural population in all the localities I have enumerated.

Of these localities the River Thames would certainly be the fittest for the capital of a British colony, both for the extent of eligible land in that part of the island, and for the superior page 47 facilities which it presents for communication both with its east and west coasts. A canal of not more than three quarters of a mile in length, across a neck of low land between two navigable rivers flowing in opposite directions, would establish a water communication in that part of the island from sea to sea; the natives of the east coast having formerly been in the habit of ascending the Thames in their large war canoes, dragging them across the neck or isthmus, and then launching them on the Manukau River, which is navigable for sixty miles from the west coast. That river, moreover, is, of all the three western rivers I have mentioned, the most practicable at all times for large vessels, and there is much superior land on its banks. The Hokianga River is, in like manner, right across from the Bay of Islands; the distance overland from Waimaté, at the head of the Kidi-kidi River, which empties itself into that bay, being only twenty-five or thirty miles. About four miles from Waimaté is the Lake Maipere, twelve miles in length by eight in breadth, having much arable land of superior quality on its banks. The Hokianga is navigable for large vessels for eighty miles from its mouth, and for boats for twenty or thirty miles farther. The mouth of the Kaiparra River, which is somewhat of a similar character, is about sixty miles to the southward; but the head of it is about the same distance from the Bay of Islands as the Hokianga. In short, the whole of this part of New Zealand is admirably fitted by nature for the settlement of a British colony, or rather for becoming the cradle of a great agricultural, maritime, and commercial nation; and if large bodies of free immigrants, with their ministers and schoolmasters, and missionaries to the heathen, were settled under a regular government in each of the important localities I have enumerated, I have no doubt that their influence on the natives would be salutary in the highest degree, and that both New Zealanders and Europeans would coalesce into one Christian and virtuous people in a comparatively short period of time. There are not a few instances already of Europeans forming connections with native women, which have afterwards been page 48 rendered reputable and permanent by marriage; and the offspring of such marriages will undoubtedly constitute a very fine race of men. In a native village on the banks of the Kaua-kaua River, I saw a daughter of the Chevalier Dillon, the discoverer of the reliques of La Perouse, by a native female. She was apparently about eleven or twelve years of age; and in point of form and features she had a most interesting appearance. She was barefooted and bareheaded, however, like the other natives of the village, and her only garment was a New Zealand mat.

On the banks of all the New Zealand Rivers I have enumerated, there are splendid forests of native timber, and there is already a considerable trade carried on in the island, in the cutting of that timber for exportation. At the time I was in the Bay of Islands, in January and February last, there were not fewer than four large vessels loading timber at Hokianga—one for London, one for Launceston, in Van Dieman's Land, one for Adelaide, in South Australia, and for Port Phillip in New South Wales. It is singular indeed, that all these three colonies should thus have to send for timber to New Zealand. Such, however, is the fact.

Besides the pine, there are several species of hardwood in New Zealand that are capable of being turned into account. Of the pine there are five or six varieties that are used for various purposes; but the most valuable is the Koudi pine—a species of wood resembling the timber of the Baltic, to which it is preferred by competent judges, and admirably adapted, from its strength and straightness, for spars for ships. From the koudi pine, when growing, there exudes a gum, which may be gathered in considerable quantities on the ground around the tree. This gum has recently been sold in some quantity, and at the rate of £18 per ton to the Americans, who manufacture it into varnish, which I believe is sold in the United States under the name of copal varnish.

Of the natural productions of New Zealand, the most remarkable is the phormium tenax, or New Zealand flax. This valuable page 49 plant resembles in appearance the common flag. It affects moist situations, but is by no means fastidious as to the quality of the soil in other respects. Whether it would improve by cultivation I do not know, but it is found in sufficient quantity in its wild state to afford constant and remunerating employment to a large European population. At present it is prepared exclusively by the native women, who merely scrape off the exterior parts of the leaf with muscle shells, and then form the filaments which remain, and which constitute the flax of commerce, into bundles. When intending to use it themselves for the manufacture of their native mats they twist it into yarn, with their fingers, and then steep the bundles or hanks of yarn for some time in running water to render it soft and pliant. They have no knowledge of the loom, but they display considerable ingenuity in the manufacture of their mats, which are all knit, or woven like network, with the hand, without implements of any kind.* The natives, however, generally prefer English blankets to their own mats; chiefly, I believe, because they are foreign, and imply that they have cost the wearer something besides mere manual labour, but partly also because they find them warmer in winter. They have an exceedingly mean appearance, however, when compared with the native mat, which often suggests the idea of an

* I examined the work-basket of a native woman, a slave from the southern regions of the island, whom I saw at work on a mat for her master near the Wai Tangi or Cataract River. It contained a considerable variety of various coloured yarns, and was not unlike the repertory of an English lady, when engaged in working a vase-stand or other article of party-coloured worsted manufacture. The Wai Tangi, or "noisy water," empties itself into the Bay of Islands. It has obtained its most appropriate native name from a large waterfall at the head of the navigation—the finest for a water-mill I have ever seen in the Southern Hemisphere. I have no doubt it will be used for that purpose ere long, and as the Bay of Islands is the common reservoir of a number of navigable streams, a grist-mill in that locality might grind corn for a very considerable extent of agricultural country, easily accessible by water.

page 50 ancient Greek or Roman. The borders of the native mats, which are often really elegant, are chiefly manufactured by the natives of the East Cape and its vicinity; and it is worthy of remark that the arabesque tracery they sometimes exhibit is exactly the same as the celebrated traveller, Baron Humboldt, found on the walls of the Temple of the Sun, at Mitla, in Mexico, and as is still observable on the ancient Etruscan vases, that are occasionally dug up in the environs of Rome.

The New Zealand flax is manufactured in Sydney into whaling gear, for which I believe it is peculiarly well adapted. It makes excellent standing rigging for vessels, and has recently been manufactured into canvas for ships' sails. It could be produced in New Zealand to any extent.

It is evident, therefore, that that island will eventually be the Baltic of the Southern Hemisphere, supplying two of the great desiderata of commerce—timber and flax—and affording support and employment to a numerous and industrious European population. Iron ore of superior quality abounds in the island, and coal is said to have been found at the surface in Cook's Straits. There are indications of copper in the mountains of the interior; and on White's Island, on the east coast, which is still under volcanic agency, sulphur can be procured in great quantity. Limestone abounds in the interior, and excellent marble.

In one word, whether we regard the situation, the soil, the climate, or the natural productions and inhabitants of the country, I am confident, my Lord, there never has been a more favourable locality for the settlement of a British colony than the New Zealand group of islands at this moment affords.

It may be supposed, indeed, that in a country of which the natives have so long been represented in Europe as ferocious cannibals, Europeans would run considerable risk in attempting to form a permanent settlement. But the circumstance of there being at present a very considerable European population living in perfect security in various parts of the island, is a sufficient answer to such an objection. Cannibalism has page 51 entirely disappeared in the neighbourhood of all the European settlements; and, in their native wars, the New Zealanders uniformly respect the Europeans who are settled among them, unless the latter, which indeed is seldom the case, take part with one or other of the hostile tribes.

I have the honour to be, My Lord, &C., &C.