The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55
How Things Work Here
How Things Work Here.
You had a great lecture upon politics here, and I confess it confounded me. (Laughter.) If you look at it you will find this : politics were made to consist of bamboozling your fellow-men in the Assembly, and playing upon their selfishness and cupidity if you wanted them to do so and so. That I don't agree to at all. If you look clearly at any single thing done, a single measure introduced, and take and study it, and see what it leads to, you can tell to a certainty whether at the end of so many years it will have produced a debasing or a good effect upon the population. I am going to ask you to follow me into what I will call an interesting excursion into the past history of the colony. I will show you certain things and the remedy which is proposed for them, and ask you whether if it is carried out it will not end in two-thirds of the population of New Zealand being in an absolute state of slavery. Let us try to-night to imagine ourselves transported from scene to scene. There was a Lord Lyttelton—the father of the present Lord Lyttelton—a most excellent man really. He persecuted me very much once, but ended in our being great friends. He was a good man, but a man of no judgment. He was easily led, and he was led by very wily men. He commenced to travel in Now Zealand. He was one of the great leaders of the Canterbury Association, which tried to get a third of the colony to found bishoprics of the Church of England upon a greater scale than was ever known before. (Laughter.) They were defeated. Having travelled in New Zealand, he got home to a place called Stourbridge, and there delivered a series of lectures, and said this : "On 22nd February, 1868, we got off the coast by a solitary lake called Lake Lyndore, and went with Mr. Charles Harper, son of the bishop, riding, and a pack horse going loose before us carrying our bags, over nine miles of lonely plain and hills, and sheep runs, to his house of Lake Coleridge, a far pleasanter specimen of a squatting station than Stourbridge, the lake being beautiful and picturesque, and surrounded by grand hills. Here he was living in great comfort with a newly-married wife—(laughter)—in a small but good house. It was there we had the excellent bread I mentioned. There was no church for many miles round, and Mr. Harper read evening prayers to a few shepherds and servants. The first office was eight miles off. The run was about 50,000 acres. Nominally, anyone might come in and buy any of this land over the squatters' heads, but besides that, in any of these remote places it would not be worth buying, the country squatters had what is called a pre-emptive right to buy, at the fixed price of £2 an acre, such parts of the land as they had made certain improvements upon. They asked to "spot," as it was called, these improvements in different parts of the run, the effect being that the intermediate parts were valueless without them, and these they thus secured." You were told you could not buy this land, but in the Land Office there lay these contracts giving certain pre-emptive rights, and the result was to render these great runs absolutely valueless. That is the page break first picture, and you see the necessary result of such a condition of affairs—that as population increases there would be no land for the people to go upon, no small farms, no happy families cultivating the land in different directions. You will see at once that had this system been followed great poverty must have overtaken the poor in Christchurch. I will ask you to accompany me to another scene. The Minister for Lands is in Christchurch, and there is a reporter with him. Mr. Ballance is questioned about the distress in Christchurch, and he says : "I cannot help thinking it is the way in which your Canterbury land system has been carried out." He says nothing as to its being wrong. That is the curse of the place and a large cause of the stagnatian of the town." I say we could have foretold that, I ask you whether any sensible man would not have seen it. "Men have taken up all the spare land in the back country, and stagnation has set in." Could not we have foretold that? Then he says the difficulty is to find land to answer his re-quirements. "The worst of it is that we have in Canterbury such a difficulty in finding what is wanted—that is, land." Now look at this. Mr. Ballance says this land having been taken away has been the curse of the place, and the result is the difficulty of getting land to relieve the people; yet Mr. Ballance and the other Ministers have quite recently offered to give a million acres to a foreign company, and are trying to rob you of another million of acres to give a great foreign company the power of becoming landlords in this country if they please. That is in order to get the West Coast Railway made. You will see what will be the result of a million of acres being handed over to a foreign company. I need not ask you whether you understand it or not. You must, after what has taken place before. He goes on and says, "In other provinces he is providing land for the future. I will go back to that presently. Then he goes on to say this (the reporter presses him upon this point): They all want to make out, these great men, that there is no distress, and Mr. Ballance says thus, as the result of his observation,—you will see that Mr. Ballance is striving after good, but a kind of blindness has come upon him. He says thus to the reporter; "It is nonsense to say the distress here is all among the loafers. There is quiet want. Honest, sober, industrious fellows, married men with families, have come to me, and put the case so soberly and plainly that I am convinced the matter is serious." (Cheers.) There is that for you, and that is the state Canterbury is in. He says, "I have heard plenty of people here abuse the unemployed for not jumping at work at 4s and 4s 6d a day." That is what the Government had offered, and he says that he hears lots of people abusing those men; and adds, "But some of these fellows who came to me were married men with six children, 8s to pay for rent, and were dependent on odd jobs—two days out of the week idle, perhaps." That seems to have been an average, I made a calculation of that, which I think Mr. Ballance did not, because he only said he thought it hard for them to live. But if you work it out, it is this; 4s 6d. That gives 27s a week for six days' work, and 8s is the rent they had to pay. This man has a wife and six children. Take the rent away, and that leaves 19s. On the average, they lose two days a week, that is 9s. Take that away, you have 10s left to keep his wife and six children; that is 2d a day per head to each individual of that family, for food, clothing, medicines, fire, light, and everything that human beings want. (Cheers.) Very well. Now go with me again. Travelling into one of these houses of that twopence a day a-head family, think of those people I What is the food eaten, what are the clothes worn, what the firing in the cold weather, what are the comforts in sickness, what are the means for burying a dead child perishing for want of proper food and comfort? Ask yourselves is it not a pitiful thing that we as men ought not to try a remedy to put an end to it. (Cheers.) Then Mr. Ballance goes on and gives his plan for putting an end to this. Now, let us consider that. First, I think I will put this question. Are a population that have to labour, the married people with families, upon the condition of having twopence a day a-head to spend, and with that cannot go away? They have not money to pay their passages off, any means of escape—from the way in which these enormous properties are held. I ask you are they slaves, or are they not? (Cries of "slaves.") Here is the plan for their relief Mr. Ballance says he is going to take mind, he says he cannot get the land at present, although he has given a million acres away lately. (Cheers.) He says : "Small blocks conveniently situated as may be to railway, within reasonable distance of market. On perpetual lease, rent fixed first ruling prices every twenty-one years, valuation to be leased to labourers, who will be compelled by Government terms to make their homes there, will be placed in neighbourhood where there is work all round." They are to be compelled by the Government terms to live there and make these places their homes. They cannot get away or they lose it all. They are to be placed in neighbourhoods convenient to railways, and on which there is to be work all round. That is, necessarily they must go amongst these great freeholders to labour for them. They are to be more tenants; their rents continually raised. "The blocks are small, because they are in no way intended to be farmers. I do not intend that they should make their living out of these blocks. (Laughter.) Simply that, by a small system of cultivation, they shall be able to supplement what they earn in the usual way. A page break residence qualification and good character is all that will be asked, and, of course, no man will be allowed to take up more than one block." The land given to them is not to be large enough for them to earn their living on it. Stress is to be put on them compelling them to work otherwise. I do not know whether you understand me. (A voice : Perfectly.) This is the plan, "a residence qualification"—that is, that they are always to stop there—and "of good character" (laughter), and all that will be asked, and of course no man would be allowed to take up more than one block, or else, you see, he might earn his living off bis block without working. (Laughter.) "The small holders, not to be bound too stringently, are to be at liberty to sell out their rights, and to move away to take larger blocks if they can afford it." (Laughter.) Well, I ask, what rights they have? Their land is not sufficient to support themselves, and what is to become of their children afterwards but to be tenants paying rents, perhaps continually increasing, and these enormous landowners, with their property all about them. I did not tell you all that Lord Lyttleton says. I omitted, I think, to turn over. He says he visited Sir John Hall's station—30,000 acres of as fine land as there is in the world almost. And then this concerns Auckland people. Mr. Ballance goes on to say :—"The difficulty is to find land that will answer my requirements. The worst of it is that here in Canterbury it is so difficult to find what is wanted." (He had given away 1,000,000 acres.) " In other provinces I am providing for the future. The maps are being dotted over with thousand-acre blocks, to be cut up into small holdings. Married men will have the preference in obtaining them." Here in Auckland you have the power of taking up homestead lands which are freeholds, and you have the power of buying lands in many other ways—what right has any individual upon his own will to come in and withdraw from sale on the terms now existing, many of these thousand-acre blocks in the Auckland province, and dot the maps all over with them, and say "None of you shall occupy these lands except on the terms of living on them, and going there as men who must labour,"—labouring part of your time. What right has he to do that? I say none, without our consent being in some manner first obtained. (Cheers.) I firmly believe that this is in his mind a most benevolent scheme and that it never occurred to him that all the land in New Zealand having been ours, much of which having been wrongfully taken away, that these children should be living upon twopence a head a day in Christchurch. It is a reproach to US, I say, all these things taking place. It was not fair to those poor creatures who must go anywhere that they are sent to got their means of living to place them upon small blocks where they must reside, where they must labour, and from which they cannot escape. It is a mistake, and we must not allow this system to be carried out. (Cheers.) Now I am going to ask you to accompany me to another scene, and that is a scene in this theatre, an audience such as surrounds me now, perhaps some of you were here, and this is one of the most extraordinary scenes I ever heard of in my life, and you all seem to have passe it over as a thing of no consequence whatever. And the thing is this :—The Premier speaks to you here, and he says:—" We have still in our possession as a colony millions of acres of land. There is no question more practical to us than to lay down some rule to ourselves as to the lands we have shall be dealt with. As to the lands which have passed from us and been sold, that is at present out of the range of our practical politics. ('No, no.')" No politics must touch this land. Well, I think it is the very height of practical politics. (Cheers.) He then goes on, "I will tell you why. No State can afford to enter upon a career of repudiation or shake public credit. A State that is unjust will have its members unjust, and injustice in the end never succeeds. (Cheers)." I dare say some of those who hear me now cheered (laughter), "And in the end injustice never succeeds," and you cheered without thinking whether it is injustice or not. (Laughter.) The sentiment carries people away naturally enough. (Laughter and cheers.) And then he goes on, "It is misleading to those who call themselves Liberals, by setting before them an ideal out of the range of their practical grasp, when there is a question which needs all their energy and attention to carry out. (Cheers.)" These are very remarkable words, and you cheered again. I did not remark that some poor fellow called "No, no"—when I think he was quite right. He appears to have been the only one who did not cheer, and he was put down in a moment. (Laughter.) This is the scene you are looking on. Then he says "No generation has a right to partition the land, or to say to the generation following "We have decided for you how the earth's surface is to be occupied." I ask you if he tells you these lands have passed from you forever, whether they were taken wrongfully or not, and that you shan't get them. Does he say how the earth's surface is to be partitioned out? Does he tell your children and your grand-children how the earth is to be partitioned, and you shall not touch it? Is not this an evident contradiction? (Yes, yes.) I would put this to you. He says "No State can afford to enter on a career of repudiation, or shake public credit. A State that is unjust will have its members unjust, and injustice is in the end never successful. "Now I ask you—every one of these men at Canterbury have the same right that we have, we all have a right, the same right to these lands—undoubtedly in many instances page break their children have been wrongfully deprived of them,—I ask you, is there justice due to those starving children or not as well as to the rich man? (Cheers.) Has Justice her eyes blinded so that she may not see whether a man is rich or poor? I ask you whether if for those starving, innocent children, there is no justice? The earth is partitioned and gone from them forever, and it is said to them, Go and starve, be slaves, and enrich the progeny of those men who wrongfully took the land from you. Is that just? (Cheers.) Does not justice lie in two ways? Are not the scales to be evenly balanced? There are many ways in which something may be done. I believe in the English proverb, that where there is a wrong there is a remedy. If Mr. Stout is the great lawyer it is said that Sir Julius Vogel says—if he is to be our future Chief Justice, as I suppose he probably will be, it does not do for him to tell us that a wrong such as Mr. Ballance, his colleague, has seen, and that the law provides no remedy that a wrong exists, and that the law provides no remedy for the wrong. I say it does.