Address of Magistrates, Wellington, to His Excellency Governor Hobson.
To His Excellency Captain Hobson, R.N., Governor and Commauder-in-Chief of the Islands of New Zealand.
We, the undersigned, holding the office of Magistrates in New Zealand, avail ourselves of the present opportunity of offering our congratulations to your Excellency upon the independent position in which the colony intrusted to your government is now placed; and at the same time we take the liberty of offering some suggestions with regard to the future government of this colony which appear to us of the utmost importance.
We have long deeply regretted that any circumstances should have arisen tending to disturb those amicable relations between your Excellency and the settlers of Port Nicholson which, for the interest of the settlers and the honour of the Crown, it is most desirable to maintain; and we rejoice at the intelligence recently received from England, because it appears to afford the means of establishing these relations upon a firm basis, and of enabling your Excellency to rally round your Government the entire page 164British population of these Islands. We arc most anxious that any misconception that may hare arisen as to the feelings or intentions of your Excellency should he removed, and that the Government and the colonists should combine to give the utmost development to the vast natural resources of the colony. We are willing to believe that, whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the means by which this result is to be attained, there is on the part of your Excellency a sincere desire to advance the general interests of the colony, and that no sacrifice on your part will be deemed too great if it be found necessary for that purpose.
We do not presume to question the eligibility of the spot selected by your Excellency for the seat of Government in reference to the objects for which it was original chosen. If no settlement of British subjects had been established in New Zealand, it is possible that the Town of Auckland might have advantageously formed the capital of the country, and the centre from which colonization should spread. We however venture to submit that the actual circumstances of the colony must neutralize, to a very great extent, whatever advantages may belong to that position, and must render the establishment of the seat of Government there inconvenient to the Governor, and injurious to the vast majority of those whose interests it is the duty, and, we are assured, no less the desire, of your Excellency to protect. The most weighty and numerous functions of Government will in such case be exercised in ignorance of the state of three-fourths of the British population of the Islands; and, while the proceeding both of the Legislature and Executive will often be seriously impeded by this circumstance, it cannot but happen that the interests of the settlers in this district must suffer deeply from the same cause.
The recent negotiations in England between Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies and the directors of the New Zealand Company have placed the settlers at Port Nicholson in an entirely different position from that which they formerly occupied. They are no longer an assemblage of individuals irregularly establishing themselves is a foreign country, beyond the protection or control of Great Britain; nor are they squatters upon Government land, liable to be dispossessed of their property, and having no claim to recognition by Government. They form at the present moment a recognized community at least six times more numerous than any other in New Zealand, holding their lands under a title from the Crown, having contributed largely to the public revenue, and, above all, forming the nucleus of the only extensive and systematic scheme for covering with an active and industrious population the fertile wastes of the Island. The arrangements of the New Zealand Company are so far matured that within the course of the next twelve months at least five thousand additional settlers will be landed at Port Nicholson, while it is not too much to assert that within the same period not one-tenth of that number will immigrate either from Great Britain or from the neighbouring colonies to any other port. In every particular, therefore, they are entitled to expect from Government a consideration proportioned to their numbers. Especially are they entitled to expect that the local Legislature shall be established in that part of, the Island where the greatest interests are at stake, and that the members of that Legislature who are not officers of the Crown should be selected from their body. It would be invidious, and could hardly fail to result in injustice, if the community of eight thousand persons should be subject to the control of individuals selected from a population of less than three hundred, ignorant of their wants, and having different and perhaps opposite interests.
The present position of the settlers at Port Nicholson is changed, moreover, in another most important respect. A very few months since it appeared as though all communication between that harbour and the fertile districts of the West Coast must take place by water; the hills surrounding the port were regarded as impassable barriers, over which no practicable road could be carried; and thus it was assumed that Port Nicholson, whatever its other advantages, was ill adapted to form a centre from which the settlers might radiate. Recent investigations have disproved this assumption, and a road is now nearly completed to Porirua, which brings the settlers immediately upon the rich belt of land at the base of the Tararua and Tongariro mountains, including the whole Taranaki district, and watered by numerous rivers, two of which, the Whanganui and the Manawatu, are hardly inferior in importance to the Thames itself.
Not merely is it important for the sake of the settlers at Port Nicholson, but we would suggest that the honour of your Excellency, which is deeply involved in the tranquillity and progress of the colony, equally requires that the seat of Government should be established at Port Nicholson. The relations between the British settlers and the Native population are at present in an undefined and uncertain state; there is no question connected with the colonization of New Zealand in which the interests of humanity are more deeply concerned, and none perhaps which is more likely to excite the attention of the British public; but it is obvious that these relations, which may be expected every day to become more complicated, cannot be superintended by your Excellency at a distance of several hundred miles, with no certain or regular means of communication between Port Nicholson and the present seat of Government. The settlers are already brought into contact with a Native population of probably twenty thousand persons. Without the presence of some controlling power which may challenge the respect and submission of the Natives, and may at the same time inspire them with confidence that they shall be maintained in the full enjoyment of their lawful rights, it is impossible to assert that the peaceful intercourse hitherto so happily maintained will be permanent. If from the absence of such a power any dissension should unfortunately arise, the presence of your Excellency will be imperatively required; but it may then be too late to cure the evils which an early residence in this place might have prevented: deep-seated distrust and enduring hostility may take the place of the kindness and confidence at present existing; and such feelings, while they would give a serious check to the progress of settlement in every part of New Zealand, could only result in the destruction of the Native population, or their being driven from the present seats of their tribes to take refuge in the mountains of the interior. Such results every humane and just man, and no one more than your Excellency, must be anxious at any cost to avoid, but no effectual safeguard against their occurrence can be found other than the establishment of the seat of Government at this port.page 165
We would further venture to suggest that the terms accorded by the Home Government to the New Zealand Company afford to your Excellency an opportunity of freeing yourself from the invidious duties of Land Commissioner, and of devoting your undivided attention to the discharge of the higher functions of government. We may even express our belief that, in according these terms, it was the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers, as far as possible without creating an absolute monopoly, to place the disposal of the waste lands in New Zealand in the hands of that Company, subject undoubtedly to the supervision of the Governor of the colony. This arrangement would place your Excellency in the most advantageous position for protecting the interests of the settlers, and for guiding the progress of settlement. Instead of rivalry, undignified if not absolutely injurious, between the Colonial Government and a private and powerful company, there would be a combination of efforts for the one great object of colonizing, in the briefest period, and in the most advantageous mode, the Islands of New Zealand. In this work there would be due subordination, the operations of the Company being performed under the eye of your Excellency; but this advantage can only be obtained by making Port Nicholson the seat of Government.
We are assured that your Excellency cannot be insensible to these considerations. We have not dwelt upon particular inconveniences to be experienced by the settlers in this district, such as the distance of the Courts of law, and the consequent difficulty and delay in obtaining justice, the want of a power for local improvements, and other similar topics, because the charter of incorporation promised by the Home Government will afford a partial, if not a complete, remedy for these wants. We have touched only upon those points which appear to us to affect the interests of the whole colony, and in which the Government is in no less concerned that the colonists. We are assured that among the whole body of the settlers at this port there is an earnest desire to witness the arrival of your Excellency among them as a permanent resident, and that all classes would unite in a cordial support of your government.
We entreat you to believe that in thus addressing you we are actuated by a sincere desire to see your Excellency's Government established upon a prosperous and permanent footing.
We have, &c.,
Henry St. Hill.
R. Davis Hanson.
George Samuel Evans.
The Governor's Reply.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your address, and to present my best thanks for the congratulations you offer on the independent position of this colony, over which Her Majesty has done me the honour to appoint me Governor.
You are pleased to express deep regret that any circumstance should have taken place tending to disturb those amicable relations between me and the settlers of Port Nicholson, which, for the honour of the Crown and the interest of the colony, it is desirable to maintain. In this sentiment I most earnestly and cordially concur, and I shall hail with extreme satisfaction any disposition on the part of the settlers to restore that harmony which you very justly observe is so highly essential for the development of the resources of the colony, and which you do mo but justice in believing I am most desirous to cultivate.
Gentlemen, I should hold it to be inexpedient and improper for me to enter into any discussion with you upon suggestions you have thought fit to offer on the future government of this colony. But I hesitate not to assure you that your interests shall not be neglected; that every measure shall be taken in strict accordance with Her Majesty's gracious pleasure, as conveyed to me by Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies; and that such suggestions as you have already offered in your address, or may hereafter offer, for the benefit of the settlers in the southern districts shall receive due consideration. I have reason to hope that when the arrangements of Government are fully complete many of the inconveniences of which you complain will be found susceptible of easy adjustment; and I will not allow myself to believe that I shall be denied the satisfaction of soon meeting the settlers at Port Nicholson on terms of mutual confidence.
I have, &c.,