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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50

General Sketch

General Sketch.

The histories of New Zealand that have hitherto been written, voluminous though they be, give a very imperfect idea of the progress of the country. They consist, for the most part, of Maori traditions and chronicles of Native wars—intrigues and feuds and bloodshed—the last struggles of a dying race that has had little influence on the present or future of the world. The history of New Zealand, from a colonizing point of view—the annals of the "coming race"—is not yet written. The only authentic record we have on the subject is the volume of statistics published annually by the Registrar-General. This is probably the most valuable book issued from the Government press; at page 5 the same time it is one of the least known and least appreciated. Although the information is not always given in the form required for a general investigation of this kind, there is no difficulty in finding the facts and figures necessary to shew the progress of settlement and trade, the nature and extent of our productions, and the channels through which our commerce is conducted. I am indebted to these statistics for the great majority of the figures given here.

The progress of settlement and trade in New Zealand is divided into regular epochs, each a condition precedent to the next one, and a necessary link in the evolutionary chain. First we have a guerilla warfare between civilisation and savagedom in the irregular trade that was for some years carried on between English adventurers from the neighbouring Colonies and the Natives of the North Island. Beyond extending our knowledge of the country, these preliminary skirmishes in colonization were of little benefit. The second stage, which is really the first step in settlement, is the pastoral age, during which the whole country was well explored and partially opened up. Next comes with a rush the great tide of gold-seekers, penetrating into every nook and corner of the land, and achieving the progress of a generation in a single stride. After the gold fever has subsided we settle down to the steady work of colonization in the time-honoured old-fashioned way, the tilling of the soil. The last stage, the one on which we are now entering, is the age of manufactures, and, as I hope to shew, it is probably the most important of all.

The sequence of these periods in the settlement of New Zealand and other countries is very remarkable. It seems as if nature had fixed a plan for carrying out the work. The gold-seeker could scarcely penetrate the wilds of an extensive country unless the squatter page 6 had preceded him; the progress of settlement by agriculture alone would be slow had it not received an impetus from gold-digging; and finally, without agriculture the establishment of manufactures would be impossible. Thus the various branches of settlement and trade create and produce others; they act and react on each other, nourishing and fostering each his neighbour in the general march of progress.