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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 60. — Memoeandum by the Hon. Mr. Swainson on the Government of the Native Race

No. 60.
Memoeandum by the Hon. Mr. Swainson on the Government of the Native Race.

It has been repeatedly acknowledged that to the Imperial and not to the Colonial Government the care of the Natives properly belongs, and that the Imperial Government would not be justified in abdicating the responsibilities which rest on it with regard to the Native people. But when the principle of Ministerial responsibility was adopted no provision was made for their special government by the Crown, and on the ground not only of justice and humanity, but of policy and economy, it is important that the necessary measures for that object should be taken without delay.

Before the Constitution was brought into operation the Governor of the colony had an influential voice both in the legislation of the colony and in the appropriation of the public funds, and he was intrusted not only with the responsibility, but with the power of securing the interests and of promoting the welfare of Her Majesty's Native subjects. But when the Constitution came into operation the power of the Governor, both over the Legislature of the colony and over the appropriation of its revenues, was greatly diminished, and his influence for good, especially with reference to the government of the Native race, was materially impaired.

Though the Constitution is called "Representative" it has been decided that it does not confer the elective franchise on the Natives: they have consequently no voice in the Colonial Legislature, and at the present moment they are subject, under the so-called Representative Constitution, to the government of a Ministry in whose election they have no voice, and (saving the Native Civil List) page 61their contributions to the general reven[gap — reason: damage]riated by a Legislature over which they have no control.

It is a remarkable feature in the Native character that, while they are jealous of any interference from their equals, they are accustomed to yield a ready obedience to a really powerful chief, and, having ceded their independence to the Queen of England, they are not unnaturally impatient of being governed by their fellow-subjects. They know little, and they care less, about a Responsible Ministry—here to-day and gone to-morrow—the members of which they hardly know by name, and for whom they can have no respect. But they are for the most part disposed to yield obedience to the representatives of the Crown, and for this reason it is expedient for the interests of both races that the prestige of the Governor should be carefully maintained; and looking at the tone of a portion of the public Press, and to the amount of latent bitter feeling towards the Native race which has recently been brought to light, it is obvious that the duty of promoting their interests cannot safely be intrusted to the colonizing race, and that, if the Home [unclear: government] would not abdicate their responsibilities, measures should be taken to provide for the [unclear: government] of them by the Crown alone, to whom, and not to the English settlers, they were induced to [gap — reason: damage] their independence.

In any measures which may be adopted for [gap — reason: damage] government, the Natives would value permanence and stability; while they would be [unclear: distressfull] of "a change of system consequent on a change of Advisers." They have little conception of government in the abstract, but, to be appreciated by them, it must be distinctly personified; and, to be beneficial, it must not only be personal, but powerful and paternal; and to secure and to maintain a real influence over the Natives, it is essential that constant instruction and friendly communication should be kept up with them.

With this view of the Native character, it seems to me to be desirable that a definite line of policy to be pursued towards the Natives should, in broad outline at least, be formally prescribed, with the deliberate sanction of the British Cabinet; and that, it should be the duty of each successive Governor, on arriving in the colony, to make a formal proclamation of this policy as a deliberate message from the Crown; that each successive Governor should understand that to carry that policy into execution is the principal duty of the Queen's Representative in New Zealand, and that in the performance of that duty he may confidently count upon the support of the Crown and Parliament.

As the government of the New Zealanders has been recognized as a responsibility especially belonging to the Imperial, and not to the Colonial, Government, the Governor for the time being should be advised in the management of Native affairs, not by the Ministry representing the colonists, and responsible to the colonists, and liable to be frequently changed, but by a Council of advisers appointed by the Crown, responsible to the Crown, and holding their offices by a permanent tenure. And there should be placed at the disposal of the Governor, independently of an annual vote of the Assembly, such a fixed portion of the general revenue of the colony as may be sufficient for the maintenance of an efficient department for the management of Native affairs, for the payment of Native Magistrates and Assessors, and for the outlay which may be necessary for the gradual introduction of law and order amongst the Natives, and for their internal government in their relations with each other.

But, with a view to harmonize the action of two different authorities in the government of the same country, it is essential that the persons to be appointed as the Governor's advisers should be men not only of character and ability, but of high and social standing, neither having nor being supposed to have any partial or undue leaning in favour of the Natives, but by their impartiality, prudence, and good sense, and by their interest in the welfare of the colony at large, likely to earn the respect and confidence of both races. Invested with the power and means befitting his position, the Queen's Representative may exercise almost unbounded influence over the Natives, and, assisted by a permanent body of advisers of high character and social standing, it is no exaggeration to affirm that, for purposes of peace and good order, the Governor would form a power in the country fully equivalent to a regiment of the Queen's troops. But the government of the colony cannot be carried on regardless of the interests, the feelings, or the prejudices of either race without detriment to both; and it should be clearly understood from the outset that a separate government is established for the conduct of Native affairs, not with a one-sided object or in antagonism to the interests of the colonizing race, but to save, in truth, the Natives from themselves, and to serve as a useful agent in promoting the peaceable and successful colonization of the country.

The influence of both chief and priest, once all-powerful in New Zealand, is rapidly decaying, and neither the new religion nor the new Government yet exercise the same degree of influence over the people; and in their present transition state the Maoris are governed with more difficulty than when under the control of a powerful heathen chief; and, until we have some better influence to bring to bear upon them, the power of the chiefs should as far as possible be maintained. With reference to the dissatisfaction which is believed to exist amongst certain of the tribes, and to the desire which is being shown, by them for a more active and efficient power to control, them in their relations with each other, I would suggest that the invitations; to the principal chiefs to the approaching meeting should be as inclusive as possible, in order that advantage may be taken of the opportunity to ascertain what amount of dissatisfaction really exists among them, what is the ground of it, and to what extent it prevails amongst them. That the occasion may be turned to profitable account, the meeting should be constantly attended by a small body of persons commissioned to represent the Government, and who, from their high standing and their acquaintance with the Native character and the Native language, may be likely to exercise a beneficial influence over its proceedings. They should be fully instructed in the views of the Government; ready to meet objections, to correct misapprehensions and misrepresentations, to explain difficulties, and to enforce what may be reasonable and just.

Before attempting to apply a remedy, the first great object should be to ascertain what is really the state of the Native mind upon the subject. Assuming the invitations to be general, and that they are generally accepted, it will probably be found that the assembled chiefs may be divided into three classes—(1) Those who, at first sight, may appear to entertain views hardly consistent with the maintenance of British rule; (2) those who may desire some better and more efficient system than page 62they have at present for their own internal government; (3) those who desire no change. If met by reason and argument, applied in a patient and friendly spirit, and assured that they may establish any system for their own internal government not inconsistent with the general interests of the rest of the community, I believe that those of the first class who may still desire to live independent of British rule may be reduced to a very insignificant minority. As to those of the second class who may desire our guidance and assistance, no attempt should be made either to establish, as to details, any uniform plan for all the different tribes, or to impose any particular system in any particular case, but rather to assist each particular tribe to organize a system which may be agreeable to themselves.

Nothing, it is presumed, in the way of legislation will be done or attempted at the general meeting of the chiefs; but it appears to be desirable that a rudimentary sketch of a simple system of Native local self-government should be prepared by persons competent to the task, to be laid before the meeting for their consideration. Much will be gained if they leave the meeting with the conviction that, whenever they desire some better system than they now possess, the Government will be ready to aid them with advice in framing it, and with contributions towards the support of Native Magistrates to carry it into effect.

If judiciously dealt with, I believe that the present movement in the Native mind may be turned to good account, and that few of the chiefs who have ever formally acknowledged it will continue to be desirous of throwing off the sovereignty of the Crown.

The Native land question remains to be considered, and on its satisfactory solution the ultimate fate of the Maori race no doubt materially depends. The true principle of dealing with the waste lands of the colony is, of course, to acquire and dispose of them in such a manner as may be most conducive to the-permanent interests of both races, and to the successful colonization of the country. But the practice which has commonly prevailed, but without any intentional injustice, has been to obtain land from the Natives for the smallest possible price, and to dispose of it in such a manner as might seem most advantageous to the colonizing race. The natural consequences of this one-sided, short-sighted policy are now beginning to be felt: seeing their own race about to be outnumbered by our countrymen,—seeing the larger part of the territory, of which they were once the absolute masters, already in the hands of the stranger,—seeing that they have added nothing to their permanent advantage by disposing of it, but being sensible, on the contrary, of their rapidly-waning power, some of the chiefs in the central part of the Northern Island have formed a league among themselves to hold fast the land which still remains to them. And if it were consistent with the Native character to persevere steadily, for any length of time, in any particular line of action, this combination against the sale of land would threaten to prove a formidable obstacle to the peaceable occupation of the country. And the very eagerness of the settlers to obtain possession of the land of the Natives has a direct tendency to defeat their object. But, if, instead of being urged to sell their land, the Natives were positively prohibited from doing so, they would soon become as clamorous to dispose or it as they are now determined to retain it.

With a view to facilitate the acquisition of the surplus lands of the Natives for purposes of colonization. I have already suggested in a previous memorandum (6th September, 1859) that the partition of land held by them in common should be encouraged; and when the ownership shall have been ascertained after careful inquiry by a competent tribunal, and when it shall have been divided amongst them by mutual agreement amongst themselves, that it should be competent for the Governor and Council nominated by the Crown, (and either with or without an intermediate transfer from the Natives to the Crown) to issue Crown grants to each member of the tribe of his own allotted portion, either in fee-simple absolutely, with full power to dispose of it, or under such limitations and restrictions, and with such power of leasing, &c., as to the Governor and Council may, in each case, seem meet.

A grant in fee-simple to the individual members of a tribe of a specific portion of the common land would confer a title much more valuable in every respect than that which they possess while while holding the land in common under the Treaty of Waitangi. For, so long as it is held in common-by the tribe, it cannot be sold even to the Crown without the consent of all the claimants; and even when all are willing to sell, it can be disposed of to the Crown alone; and, there being but a single buyer and no competition, the price given is below the market value. But when the land is divided in severalty by grants from the Crown, each claimant receives both a better holding title and a better selling title. While he continues to hold he has the security of a grant from the Crown, and he may not only sell when he pleases, and without reference to the other members of the tribe, but he may sell not only to the Crown, but to any of Her Majesty's subjects, and obtain the full market value of his land.

By empowering the Governor thus to individualize the Native title, two important objects would be attained. Much of the land held by individual Natives under a Crown title would speedily come into the market and become available for purposes of colonization, and the Governor's power and influence over the Natives would be materially increased. But the granting of individual Crown titles with the full power of sale should, of course, only be made in localities suitable for immediate settlement, and where the Natives are peaceable and well-disposed, and should be firmly withheld within any district in which the Natives are likely to be troublesome and unruly. And there is no doubt that, wisely exercised, this power may be turned to very valuable account as a moral agent in the government of the Native race.

In a country like New Zealand, already partially occupied by an aboriginal race, it is necessary that the Government should retain to itself the power of directing the course of colonization and of limiting it to localities suitable for the purpose; and it is for this reason there are objections or a practical character, why, except under well-considered conditions and restrictions, the settlers should not be allowed to deal directly, with the Natives for the purchase of their land. But it is not easy to see on what principle we can claim to make a profit by the sale and purchase of Native land. Let the. Native owners of land themselves receive the 'full market value of it, and, after retaining the full cost of survey, &c., pay over the proceeds to the Native owners; and there is every reason to believe that page 63the surplus lands of the Natives would become available for the purposes of colonization as quickly as may be reasonably required. And, if the Natives could be induced to invest the purchase-money, or any considerable portion of it, at interest for a fixed period in Government securities, or to commute it for Government annuities, the Natives would receive a permanent advantage in exchange for their land, and the Government would have the best guarantee for the continuance of their loyalty and good conduct. But if the flocks and herds of the English settlers goon increasing until there shall be no longer land-enough to feed thorn, and if at the same time the Natives are seen to hold large tracts of land of which they make no use, the bad feeling which has "already shown itself towards the Native people will continue to spread, there will be continual danger of collision, and there is too much reason to fear that when the colonists shall have become an overwhelming majority Native rights will be disregarded, and the Natives themselves will become a persecuted people.

I have, &c.,

William Swainsox.