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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Rare Volume

Minute of the Committee of Management of the Canterbury Association

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Minute of the Committee of Management of the Canterbury Association.

It has appeared to the Committee of the Canterbury Association, that the present may be a suitable time for defining, as far as actual circumstances admit, and laying down some general basis for a future more precise definition of the relation that shall exist between the Association and the Colonists. They have the less difficulty in arriving at this opinion, as they have seen with much pleasure, that, as was to be expected, the Colts have been for some time gradually organizing their own body, and thereby enabling themselves conveniently to communicate on such matters with the Committee.

This question was partially considered some time ago, previous to the completion of the Charter of the Association. For some reason, however, it was not then brought to any definite issue, and the actual state of things is, that under the terms of the Charter, if taken and acted upon to their full extent, the Association possess very large powers of regulation and control over the affairs of the Colony, not only at home, but in New Zealand. It is mainly this circumstance which gives importance to the object of the present paper, as the Committee are clearly of opinion, that the extent of the powers referred to is much beyond what it would be desirable, or even consistent with the principles of the design, that they should attempt to exercise; and they are, therefore, desirous to state in a formal manner what part of such powers they wish to divest themselves of, as far as it is competent to them to do so, on the part of the present and future members of the Association: and also to specify in what manner, and within what limits, they would propose to exercise the functions which appear properly to belong to them.

The subject seems to divide itself naturally under three beads, which require distinct consideration:—
1.The relation between the Association and the present and future bodies of Colonists, previous to the latter leaving this country. This applies in a special sense to the present or first body of Colonists, to whom peculiar privileges are reserved under the Terms of Purchase.
2.The relation between the Association and the Colonists when arrived in the Settlement, but previous to the period when they will have obtained from the Government their constitution into a separate Province, with whatever political conditions may at the time be conveyed by such constitution, but including some form of bona fide representative institutions; according to the general promise given by Lord Grey to Lord Littleton on the 31st May 1848.
3.The relation between the Association and the Colonists after the Settlement shall have been formed into a distinct Province, as above stated, and they shall thus have acquired the regular means of collective expression and organic action as a corporate community.

The first general principle which, as it appears to the Committee, should regulate the consideration of these points, is that one which has been so explicitly held out by the Association from the earliest period of its existence, namely, the principle that the Colonists shall receive from the first, as far as lies within the province of the Association, the fullest power of local self-govern- page 2 ment in their internal affairs. This principle, however, thus broadly stated, requires the obvious explanation, that it can only apply in its complete and formal sense to the Colonists when established in the Colony. Upon this view, it does not seem necessary or expedient to the Committee to attempt to lay down any binding or minute regulation on the subject of the first of the above three points to be considered,—the relation between themselves and the Colonists while still in this country. The Committee could not think it right to throw off any of the direct responsibility which is entrusted to them for the management of such matters as they ought to be as competent to decide upon as any other body in this country, when Drought before them; nor do they apprehend that any material difference of opinion is likely to arise on this point. They will of course be at all times most anxious, as they believe they have hitherto been, to act in all respects, not only in accordance with, but in deference to, the wishes of the Colonists; and they have no reason to suppose that any more precise undertaking than this would be desired on either side.

The above refers properly to the first body or bodies of Colonists. Any dealings at home between the Association and future bodies of Colonists who may be gathered together in order to go to the Canterbury Settlement, after communications shall have been established between the Association and the Colony itself, will of course be governed by the nature of these communications.

It will be more convenient to consider the third of the above divisions of the subject, or the permanent relation between the Association and the Settlement, when the latter is formed into a distinct Province or a distinct Colony, before adverting to the intermediate period referred to under the second head, when the Settlement shall be occupied by Colonists, but before they shall have acquired those privileges; inasmuch as it may appear that the system to be pursued in the latter case is a kind of modification of that to be adopted in the former.

What has been spoken of as permanent relations between the Association and the Settlement, might be better described as relations which shall endure for an indefinite time; namely, as long as the Association itself shall exist. It cannot be expected or desired that this shall be an unlimited time, though it is hoped that the duration of the Colony will be so. But, even so stated, the question of these relations is evidently by far the most important one of those to be considered; and the Committee will therefore attempt to dispose of it in a more complete manner than may be requisite with regard to the other points.

Now, it is plain that the question of the local self-government of the Colonists has two aspects. It is partly between them and the Association, partly between them and the Government. Over the latter, the Association, as such, has no direct control. Lord Grey has only signified, in general terms, to the Governor of New Zealand, his desire that in due time the Canterbury Settlement shall be formed into a distinct Province. At what time this may be, and when that time has arrived, what sort and extent of political privileges and conditions it may convey, are questions which depend on various considerations, which evidently cannot be anticipated with anything like certainty. It will depend on the general progress of the public mind on the subject of Colonial politics—on the views of whoever may happen to be in power at home and in the Colony—on the Colonists themselves—and, in some measure, on exertions which the Association, or members of it, may be able to make at home. But it will, in no sense, be done by the Association; and they cannot undertake any responsibility for the attainment of an object which is clearly beyond the scope of their powers and engagements.

It is assumed, then, for the present purpose, that, at some time or other, the Settlement shall have been formed into a Province, with certain powers of self-government. It is obvious, however, as has already been indicated, that these powers must include bona fide representative institutions, though the details of them cannot and need not now be specified; for there will be no difference of opinion on this, that with any other constitution the Settlement, even if formed into a separate Province, could not in any real sense be said to have self-government. The main feature of this condition which it is necessary to keep in view page 3 at present is, that the Colonists will then have some Administration which shall be the adequate and recognised organ of communication between them and the Association; and that this will be the sole organ for this purpose on all subjects, civil and ecclesiastical, so that the Colony shall be towards the Association as one body speaking with one voice, with the single reservation hereafter stated. What this Administration or Governing Body shall be, depends of course on the political constitution which the Colony will receive, which, as before stated, the Association cannot foresee or regulate.

This being laid down, the Committee proceed to state in the broadest manner that the Association will wholly disclaim any interference with the enactment of the local and municipal laws of the Settlement when arrived at this stage. These, as far as the Association is concerned, will be left on all subjects entirely in the hands of the Colonists themselves, according to such powers as they may possess. This is meant as to the validity of any such laws. Their practical effect will, as it seems necessarily be to some extent influenced by the exercise of the functions which the Association proposes to reserve to itself; in the manner which may now be stated.

According to the view just stated, the Association may be shortly and fully described as a body selling land. It will receive 31. an acre for all the land that it may sell. Now, the Committee consider that, as must be in all such cases, the Association will be responsible for the due application of all such sums. It is a responsibility of which it cannot divest itself, and which it accordingly proposes to discharge. But, as far as relates to all expenses to be incurred within the Colony, the Committee considers that that responsibility will be adequately discharged, and it proposes to discharge it, by simply securing that so much of the purchase-money as is applicable to such expenses shall be bona fide applied to the different objects which the Association has bound itself, by its public declarations, to pursue by such means. Subject to this provision, the whole detail of such application will remain in the hands of the Colonists. This needs to be further elucidated by a consideration of the several distinct objects to which the several portions of the purchase-money are to be devoted.

One-sixth of this money is simply to be paid by the Association to the New Zealand Company for the land.

Another sixth is for miscellaneous expenses at home and in the Colony, including surveys and all works of a similar kind. The former description must of course be at the discretion of the Committee. In the latter, the Committee must hold itself bound to all payments to individuals to which the faith of the Association may be pledged; but, with this reservation, the arrangement of the details of this appropriation will be accepted by the Committee at the recommendation of the Colonists, subject to the one condition of bona fides above mentioned.

One-third is for immigration, including in some cases part of the cost of conveyance of purchasers of land and their families. This question appears to be one of a mixed nature, and to be not so much between the Association and the Colonists as a body, as between the Association and individual Colonists as purchasers of land; and, again, though in its ultimate effect affecting mainly the Colony, still not properly to be withdrawn from the immediate cognizance of the Committee, as the selection and despatch of emigrants is an affair to be transacted at home. The Terms of Purchase, however, by which the Association and the purchasers of land are mutually bound, appear to supply a sufficient solution of the question. They leave the selection of assisted emigrants to the purchasers, subject to the general veto and the general regulations of the Committee. That arrangement is not to be disturbed; but, subject to it, the Committee will be prepared to give effect to any regulations which the Administration of the Colony may think fit to make, with reference to the character and description of emigrants to be provided out of this fund.

The remaining third is reserved for religious and educational purposes. The Association will deal with this on the same principle as is before stated with respect to the second division of the fund. The Bishop, and whatever inferior page 4 clergy will go from this country to the Colony, will go with a certain money payment guaranteed to them, as long as they remain engaged in the work which they shall undertake, on the faith of the Association. The Association must therefore hold themselves directly bound to those payments, as long as the conditions are fulfilled. But the Association will not attempt any particular specification of those conditions. The Bishop and clergy will be bound by no restrictions on the part of the Association as to the spiritual duties which they will fulfill in the Colony, to their relation to the Government, or to each other; nor will the Association inquire in what manner those duties are performed. They will be simply subject to the general laws, ecclesiastical as well as other, which may be in force in the Colony; and, as long as they are recognised by those laws as officers of the Church of England in their several stations, the Association will hold itself bound to continue to them the payments which shall have been assured to them on their leaving this country.

The payment of guaranteed sums to individuals being thus reserved, the regulation of all other religious and educational expenses will be left to the Colonists themselves, on the same footing that has been before described. And here also the single condition which the Association reserves to itself is, the liberty of judging whether each payment called for is for a bona fide Church of England purpose: all other questions, such as the comparative importance of various objects, being left to the Colonists.

The Committee do not anticipate any difficulty in providing an easy method by which the bona fides here required shall be ascertained, under either of the divisions of the subject in which it has been mentioned. The particular mode of doing so may be deferred for future consideration; but it is here that the reservation above alluded to, as to the single medium of communication between the Association and the Colony, should find a place. The Association may probably find it requisite to reserve to itself the right of communicating, on this one point of the application of the monies which they shall receive, with its own Agent in the Colony, or with some other third party distinct from the Governing Body of the Settlement.

The above appears to the Committee a sufficient outline of the permanent relation which should exist between the Association and the Colonists, regarded as an organic body. So regarded, or in other words, on the assumption of the Settlement being formed into a Province, as above described, the question appears to the Committee to be fairly susceptible of a tolerably complete general solution as above attempted; and they are disposed to think that the principle thus laid down will not require future revision. And this, as has been observed, is much the most important form of the general question. But the question which has been stated under the second of our three beads, that of the relation between the Association and the Colonists before they are constituted into a separate Province, though inferior in general importance, is still of very considerable importance and indeed in one main respect has an importance peculiar to itself as affecting the very outset and start, as it were, of the existence of the Settlement On the other hand, it is one which is by no means as easily brought to a complete and formal solution as the one which has been disposed of. The peculiar advantage which was found in so doing, was, that when once the Settlement is constituted into an organic whole as a Province, there will be, with the explanation above given, one single medium, and obviously the proper medium of communication between itself and the Association,—namely, the Governing Body of the Province. That will not be the case in the intermediate period: a period, be it remarked, temporary no doubt in its duration, and, as we hope, brief, but still indefinite. During that period, the Colonists will be like any other settlers in the southern province of New Zealand: they will have no corporate existence: no mode of distinct collective expression: no unity of purpose such as the Committee could recognise, as implying the deliberate conformity of the minority to the majority. That is, they will have none of these things in a formal manner. Their formal powers will be confined to their pro- page 5 portion of the civil and political privileges enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Southern Province, and will not constitute a separate whole, distinguishable from the general sum of which they will only be a part. And if the Association are to attempt to arrive in any less formal manner at the same practical conclusions which have seemed readily attainable in the former part of this inquiry—that is to say, if they are to resolve that from the time the Colonists first settle in the Colony they are to be held as capable of local self-government as when legally invested with it, and the Association are to engage to regulate their own proceedings on the same principle of conformity with the will of the Colonists, however declared, and ascertained as far as the conditions admit, as they have promised to do when that will shall have received its formal and legal capacity of expression—it is at least evident that the attempt is one in which complete success will not be so easily attained as in the former case, both in general respects, and more especially as to the degree in which it can be expected to be satisfactory to the Colonists themselves, or to the several persons and classes among them. In a legally organized body, the subordination of the minority to the majority, or of a class to the governing authority, is a matter of course, but it may not be so in the more voluntary and conventional action of such a body as is now under consideration.

It is further plain, both from reasonable principle and from ancient precedent, that the full attributes of self-government should only attach when the subjects of it are legally capable of it by concession from the Crown, and capable of it as a distinct whole. And, in the last place, it is clearly impossible at this time, and in this country, to say what kind and degree of approximation to such formal powers of self-government, in the intermediate period now in view, the Colony may be enabled to enjoy.

In these circumstances, the Committee are disposed to think that the best course will be not to attempt to lay down so definite a course of action on their part, as they have done with reference to the normal condition at which the Colony will eventually arrive. But in saying, in more general terms, that they will endeavour during this temporary period to shape their own course as much as possible in accordance with the known wishes and feelings of the Colonists, they still consider that it is easy to give to this declaration a much more precise and practical meaning than seemed convenient or requisite in the case of the similar statement in respect of the Colonists while in this country. The means of doing so they find chiefly in two of the existing conditions of the case,—the one is the presence in the Colony of Mr. Godley, their chief agent; the other, that which may now be anticipated, of the Bishop of the Settlement.

The continuance, for some time at least, of the former in his present position may, it is hoped, be reckoned upon; and the Committee venture to assume that he will possess the confidence of the Colonists as entirely as he does their own. A similar statement may be made as to the latter.

The Committee, then, consider that, for the purpose now before them, the outline of a satisfactory arrangement may be that they should, as the ordinary rule, communicate with the Settlement through the Chief Agent and the Bishop. The former may be referred to more especially as to civil, and the latter as to ecclesiastical matters; but they deem it best to say generally, that they should be the concurrent organs of communication with regard to all the affairs of the Colony.

But this is to be understood, not as meaning that these functionaries are to be relied upon as conveying their own unsupported views, but as expressing, as well as it can be ascertained, the general sense of the Colonial community on the matters of communication; and the Committee will take measures for requesting the Chief Agent and the Bishop to avail themselves of such means as they shall judge expedient, and as they may find themselves competent to adopt, by calling the Colonists together or otherwise, to collect and transmit their opinions and wishes on such matters. It is hardly necessary to add, that what is here suggested is not meant as if the Committee could pretend to abridge or restrain in any way any liberty of action which the Colonists, or page 6 any of them, may find themselves possessed of in the Settlement, but that it only refers to points in which the powers of the Association may be requisite or convenient to be exercised. And the Committee, without making so full a renunciation of their own Powers as in the former case, propose to act in these matters, as the ordinary rule, in accordance with the opinions so communicated to them.

The Committee are fully aware that this state of things will be a less satisfactory one than the more permanent one which they hope will succeed it. But they hope that this very circumstance will be a stimulus, both to themselves and to the Colonists, to do what they can to accelerate the arrival of the time when regularly-constituted powers of local self-government will be imparted to the Canterbury Settlement.