Extracts from a Despatch from
Governor Grey to Earl Grey.
Since I had the honour or receiving your Lordship's private letter of the 27th November last, transmitting the drafts of the papers relative to the introduction of a new Coustitution into this colony which had been printed for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, I have felt much concern lest any want of care upon my part in omitting to forward sufficiently detailed information of the circumstances of this portion of the colony should have left Her Majesty's Government in ignorance or various points which, I fear, were not under their consideration at the time they determined to introduce immediately into the Province of New Ulster a Constitution of the nature of that which is proposed. Should I have fallen into this error, the only excuse I can have to offer is that, from the tenor of previous despatches from your Lordship's department, I did not think that any change would for some years be introduced into the form of government of this portion of New Zealand and I did not imagine that, in the first instauce, the form of government now proposed would have been introduced into any part of this colony.
My reasons for entertaining the apprehensions above stated are that Her Majesty's Government will, I fear, by introducing the proposed Constitution into New Ulster, not do that which from your Lordship's despatch forwarding the charter, I understand, them to intend to do, but something different from it, and for which I believe (referring to the large number and present state of the Native population in this colony) no precedent has been established, either by Great Britain or any page 45other country: that is, by the introduction of the proposed Constitution into the Province of New Ulster Her Majesty will not confer, as is intended, upon her subjects the inestimable advantages of self-government, but she will give to a small fraction of her subjects of one race the power of governing the large majority of her subjects of a differing race. She will not give to her subjects the valuable privilege of appropriating as they may think proper the funds raised from themselves by taxation, but she will give to a small majority of one race the power of appropriating as they think proper a large revenue raised by taxation from the greater majority of her subjects of another race. And these further difficulties attend this question: that the race which is in the majority is much the more powerful of the two; the people belonging to it are well armed, proud, and independent; and there is no reason that I am acquainted with to think that they would be satisfied with and submit to the rule of the minority, while there are many reasons to believe that they will resist it to the utmost. And then it must further be remembered that the minority will not have to pay the expenses of the naval and military forces which will be required to compel the stronger and more numerous race to submit to their rule, but that, on the contrary, these expenses must be paid by Great Britain.
Before stating the reasons upon which these views are founded, I think it proper to mention that Her Majesty's Native subjects in this country will certainly be exceedingly indignant at finding that they are placed in a position of inferiority to the European population. They will undoubtedly argue, as they now frequently do, that they not only cheerfully ceded the sovereignty of their country to the Queen, but that when attempts had been made by some discontented tribes to throw off the sovereignty of Great Britain, and that at a period when, from the smallness of the British force in the country, they had apparently some hopes of success, the principal chiefs came forward, and freely gave the services of themselves and their people and shed their blood in assisting to maintain for Her Majesty that sovereignty which they had yielded to her; whilst, on the contrary, they would justly regard the European population of this portion of the colony as having been attracted here solely by motives of personal benefit, such as a desire of carrying on trade with the numerous Native population, or of benefiting by the expenditure of the parliamentary grant in aid of the civil Government, or by the naval and military expenditure.
In illustrating the reasons which have induced me to form the opinions I have stated, I will take the population returns, published by my predecessor, for the year 1845, No great change has taken place in either the European or Native population since that period: in fact, the distresses of the country induced many European settlers to quit the colony, and no corresponding immigration has taken place. With the exception therefore of the troops and naval force which have been brought into the country, the European population does not much exceed in amount that which it was in 1845, although some changes have taken place in the relative population of the British settlements from persons having repaired from one settlement to another. And as Auckland has been, as the seat of Government, the chief point of attraction, the population of that place, exclusive of the military, may perhaps be stated at nearly 4,000 souls. In 1845 the European population of the territory which would form the proposed Province of New Ulster was about 4,500 souls: the details are stated in the margin (Auckland, 2.754; New Plymouth, 1,115; Bay of Islands, 534; Hokianga, 179: total, 4,582). But in point of fact, from circumstances connected with the position of the other settlements, the only persons who would have any real share in the proposed Constitution would be the settlers in the neighbourhood of Auckland.
The returns of Native population published at the same time would give, for the probable Native population inhabiting the proposed Colony of New Ulster, about 100,000 souls, the whole of whom would be excluded from all share whatever in the representation of the country by the proposed proviso in the instructions, "that none should be capable of exercising the elective franchise who cannot read and write the English language."* At the same time, under the present system of taxation, the large Native population (which, even if it has been over-estimated by Mr. Clarke at 100,000, and is taken at only 60,000, although I believe this latter supposition is below the true amount, still forms the vast majority of the population) contributes largely to the revenue, and each year, as they continue to advance in civilization, will contribute still more largely to it, so that the proportion paid by the European will form but a small part of the whole revenue.
Then it must be borne in mind that the greater majority of the Native population can read and write their own language fluently; that they are a people quite equal in natural sense and ability to the mass of the European population;† that they are jealous and suspicious; that they now own many vessels, horses, and cattle, and are altogether possessed of a great amount of wealth and property in the country, of the value of which they are fully aware; that there is no nation in the world more sensitive upon the subject of money matters, or the disposal of their property, and no people that I am acquainted with less likely to sit down quietly under what they may regard as injustice. A great change has also recently taken place in their position: the mutual jealousies and animosities of the tribes have greatly disappeared, and a feeling of class or race is rapidly springing up, and has been greatly fomented by the efforts which have been made by designing Europeans, to obtain their lands from them for a merely nominal consideration. This feeling of nationality has been extended by many other causes. Some of their young chiefs of the highest birth, and of great personal ambition, have now received good educations; they have acquired the habit of letter-writing, which is a favourite custom with them, and they are in a constant state of movement;. so that their intercourse, and power of forming extensive conspiracies, and of executing combined and simultaneous movements upon different points, is daily increasing.
It is, I think, doubtful, therefore, if it would be prudent to hazard the attempt to force upon a nation so circumstanced a form of government which would at the same time irritate their feelings and, I think, insult their pride, and which there can be no doubt would separate them from the Euro-page 46peans, placing them in an inferior position as a race, and thus at once create this feeling of nationality, the consequence of which would, I fear, be so hurtful
I beg further to point out that, although I entirely concur in the advisability of compelling the Natives as soon as possible to learn to read and write the English language, and will omit no means within my power of promoting these benevolent intentions of your. Lordship, yet I think that, with a view of promoting this object, a necessary preliminary to giving such extensive powers over the funds raised by the taxation of a large Native population into the hands of the representatives of so small a British population, would be to require by law that a certain sum should annually be devoted to the maintenance of schools for the instruction of the Native population in the English language, and that some extensive system of national education should be introduced before the new Constitution is brought into operation, the permanency of which system should be secured by such a provision as I have above mentioned.
The foregoing arguments have been applied solely to the great Native population throughout, the country, and to the general revenue raised from duties of Customs; but they apply equally, perhaps, even with more force, to the Natives who would reside within the limits of boroughs, and who would be subject to direct taxation in the form of assessments, &c., which I fear might often be collected in a manner highly offensive to them, and who would speedily become discontented and exasperated if they had no voice upon the subject. The same arguments apply also equally to the naturalized Germans, who are likely to become a very numerous and important portion of the population, and who are at present contented and good citizens, whom I should be very sorry to see excluded from any privileges accorded to the rest of Her Majesty's subjects; whilst the inhabitants of the French colony at Akaroa, whom Her Majesty's Government have directed to be naturalized, will in like manner be wholly excluded from any share in the management of their own affairs, and will be placed in a position of inferiority in reference to the rest of Her Majesty's subjects.
I think it right to mention to your Lordship that even in the southern portion of this Island I did not contemplate immediately so extensive a change in the Constitution of the colony. I thought that a Council in which the Governor presided, and which was composed of official and unofficial members, the unofficial members being elected by the inhabitants of the colony, would, viewing the peculiar circumstances of the Colony of New Zealand, particularly in reference to the Native population, have been the form of government which for the present was best suited to the wants of the people, whilst I do not think it would have been in any respect repugnant to their feelings. This form of government would also, as soon as the land questions have been adjusted, suit the circumstances of Auckland, particularly if the Government were empowered from time to time to name certain Natives who should have the privilege of voting at the elections for the return of representatives.
Whatever form of government it may, however, be determined ultimately to bestow upon the Northern colony of New Zealand, I beg to suggest that it would be desirable in the first place that it should not be such as to render it doubtful whether the large Native population will submit to it; and, secondly, that, so long as the Governor has so formidable and numerous a race to control, it is necessary not only that he should have the power by his negative of preventing any measures being passed which might result in rebellion, but that he also requires to be in possession of the active power of carrying such measures as are essential for the welfare and pacification of the Native race. For your Lordship will see that under the proposed Constitution any refusal of the Governor to comply with, perhaps, very impolitic demands of the Lower Chamber may involve a stoppage of the machine of government, which will entail much evil not only upon those who return the representatives, but upon the large body of Natives who will be wholly unrepresented.
At present the Natives are quite satisfied with the form of government now existing; and as the chiefs have always ready access to the Governor, and their representations are carefully heard and considered, they have practically a voice in the government, and of this they are well aware; but under the proposed Constitution they would lose their power, and the Governor would lose his influence over them: in fact, the position of the two races would become wholly altered, and the Governor would, I fear, lose that power which I do not see how he can well dispense with in a country circumstanced as this is. The Natives are at present certainly not fitted to take a share in a representative form of government, but each year they will become more fitted to do so, and each year the numerical difference between the two races will become less striking, so that a great advantage would be gained by delaying even for a few years the introduction of the proposed Constitution into the northern parts of New Zealand.
The concluding passage of the despatch which your Lordship proposes to address to me leaves to my own discretion the power of fixing the time at which I should promulgate the new charter, with, however, so distinct an intimation of Her Majesty's pleasure that no unnecessary delay should take place in my doing so that I think it better to promulgate it with as little delay as possible after its arrival in this country; but that portion of the instructions which relates to the introduction of representative institutions into the country cannot, under any circumstances, be carried into effect for nearly twelve months from this date, upon, account of the numerous preparatory steps which, in the terms of the instructions, must first be taken. And, as I am apprehensive that any attempt to introduce such a form of government as that proposed into this portion of the colony would shortly give rise to renewed rebellion, I shall, under all circumstances, deem it my duty to refrain from giving effect in the northern portion of New Zealand to that portion of the proposed instructions until I receive your Lordship's reply to this despatch. In the meantime, however, all the other portions of my instructions shall be carried out as rapidly as possible, and no care nor exertions upon my part shall be wanting to render them as beneficial to the inhabitants of this country as your Lordship desires them to be; whilst the delay in the introduction of representative institutions for a few months will at all events so strengthen the position of the British in this country that, if Her Majesty's Government should, with the information contained in this despatch before them, still deem the introduction of the new Constitution into the Province of New Ulster indispensable, less probability will exist of extensive injury to British interests resulting from any discontent upon the part of the Natives. All my own experience in this country leads me, however, earnestly to request your ordship to advise Her page 47Majesty for the present to revoke that portion of the charter which contemplates the introduction of the proposed form of representative institutions into the Province of New Ulster.
I have &c;
The Eight Hon. Earl Grey, &c. G. Grey.
* I do not know one Native who can read and write the English language.
† Out of 67 Natives who have been employed by the Ordnance Department, 66 can write their own language, and the whole of them can read it.