Copy of a Despatch from his Grace the Duke of Newcastle. to Governor Sir George Grey
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatches Nos. 4 and 7, of the 8th and 9th of January, recommending that, with a view to remedy certain serious evils to which you call my attention, an Act of Parliament should be obtained—(1) To enable the Governor to issue a Crown title to the Natives in all cases where land has been purchased by the Government under pledge to re-grant part of it to the Native sellers; (2) to empower him to give a Crown title to Native lands which the owners desire to appropriate to the support of a Minister of religion in the district in which such lands are situated; or generally (3) to confer a power on the Governor of giving to the Natives Crown titles to any portions of their own lands.
I have learned with extreme regret that, for no better reason than a supposed legal difficulty (which, if it exists at all, ought in common fairness to have been removed long ago), a large number of Natives have failed to obtain the fulfilment of explicit promises which were made to them on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and by which they had been induced to surrender their lands to the Colonial Government. I am fully sensible how much the credit of the British Crown must have suffered by this injustice, and how much it will continue to suffer till the injustice shall have been redressed. I am not prepared to say that the case would be an improper one for the interference of the Imperial Legislature, if no other means were available for maintaining the honour of the Crown. But it does not appear from your despatch that this is the case. It appears, on the contrary, probable that the Colonial Government, on your advice, will not hesitate to issue the requisite grants to these Natives, nor the local Legislature (if necessary) to declare their validity; and under these circumstances.
I have not thought myself justified in submitting to Parliament a Bill which would appear to indicate a suspicion that the colonial authorities are indisposed to deal honestly with their Maori creditors. I concur with you in thinking that the Governor should possess the power, under proper limitations, of issuing Crown grants of Native lands, either to the Native owners generally, or towards the virtual endowment of the clergy in Native districts, or for many other imaginable purposes; and. I think that this power would probably have been given long ago it the Imperial and Colonial Governments could have agreed whether it should be exercised by the Governor alone or by the Governor acting with the advice of his Executive Council.
You will perceive by a despatch of the 18th May, 1859, addressed by the then Secretary of State to Colonel Gore Browne, that Her Majesty's Government were then of opinion that powers of this kind, materially though indirectly affecting Imperial interests, should be exercised by the Governor alone. On this general subject I shall address you hereafter. But I have at present no hesitation in informing you that, if the Colonial Legislature shall think fit to pass an Act investing the Governor with the power of issuing Crown grants of Native lands to the Native owners, or to any persons nominated by them, I shall not think it necessary to withhold Her Majesty's confirmation from that Act on the ground that the power thus conferred is to be exercised by the Governor with the advice and consent of his Responsible Ministry.
I hope that, with this intimation of the views of the Home Government, you will find no difficulty in obtaining from the Legislature such legal powers as will enable you to deal effectually with this subject.
I have, &c.,
Governor Sir George Grey, K.C.B., &c.