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The Founders of Canterbury

Per "Charlotte Jane," 6th September, 1850. Reigate, 17th August, 1850

Per "Charlotte Jane," 6th September, 1850. Reigate, 17th August, 1850.

My Dear Godley,

—It is high time to begin writing for despatch by the Fleet; though I do not intend to give so full an account of things on this side as you will, I trust, receive by the Phæbe Dunbar, and perhaps in duplicate and triplicate by other vessels. On the contrary, I purpose confining myself page 316now to those matters on which I shall think it probable that you will not be informed by others. Some of these matters are of so confidential a nature that I wish we had established a cypher. However, I shall not hesitate to run the risk of making, mortal enemies in case this letter should fall into any hands but yours, out there, where, as it is a colony, I cannot help feeling that every body will be apt to sacrifice everything to Number One.

Apropos of that number, you will perhaps remember my criticism on Colonel Campbell, when you sent to me a long letter from him to you. I said or wrote that it was too full of Number One to please me. And so is the man. Indeed, he turns out, so far as we can learn, not only to be a mere self-seeker, but hardly a respectable, perhaps a very discreditable one: all wrong about money-matters, and very incompetent to boot. Our Mr. Brittan got too thick with him at first, and is now in danger of being the personal victim of some shindy: for the Colonel seems disposed to fight his way to the appointment which he is beginning to see that he has no chance of reaching by fair means. However, as this is for your use only, I need say no more of him than that I hope he will not go; and that if he should, you will have to keep him at full arm's length in order to avoid any disagreeable trouble. Let me add, that with all his seeming resoluteness and real troublesomeness there is a look and tone of voice which never fails to quiet him. I am afraid that, from want of knowledge of the world on Brittan's part, some false hopes have been given to him. He says to many, and once said to me, that you almost engaged that he should have the appointment of Government Officer, whatever the name may be: but he has only said this once to me, and will never say it again in my hearing, So now, you ought to know the man.

Having begun with personalities, I may as well go on with the hateful subject and have done with it. Recurring to what was said in my letter by Phæbe Dunbar about the unreality of the organization of the departing colonists, yet page 317you will find Mr. Brittan possessed of a kind of leadership and one that will not be unreal for some short time after his landing. He has deserved it by hard work, but will not be able to keep it because he wants the main faculty of leadership—disregard of Number One—and because to a considerable degree he did not acquire the position by himself, but was lifted into it, and kept in it by others—principally, be it observed, by myself, who seeing the great need of an ostensible leader, cultivated Brittan for that post because there was no other so fit for it, on the whole, after Bellairs gave up. But the elevation—the sudden prosperity—has been too much for him; and his head is very much turned. My expectation is (and I very much regret it) that he will not be three months in the colony dealing with realities, before he will be generally, as he is now by some, called Great Brittan, and be pulled off his perch by the rude hands of some one whom others will set on. His first troubles will arise from an anomaly in his position—on the one hand as Chairman of the Council of Colonists which exists for the purpose of guarding the interests of the landowners against the Association, and, on the other, as a servant of the Association. He is blinded to this danger by the accumulation of "power and dignity," reminding one in that respect of a Hobson or Shortland suddenly invested with sovereign attributes. The enclosure (marked A) is the copy of a draft which I prepared long ago at Lord Lyttelton's desire and gave to him. It expressed my opinion at the time. I still think Brittan the most useful business-man among the colonists, so far as we know them: but his incapacity to bear elevation and success (the commonest of failings) has since become so manifest that I am sure he will not be able to remain long a chief among the colonists. And now, lastly, two or three things have happened since the enclosed draft was written, which lead me to think, or rather satisfy me (for it is best to speak out), that his ruling motive is the common one of self-aggrandisement, and that he has what I have learned to call City page 318notions about the use of power, or, as you would call it a turn for jobbing: the Scotch expression is, "if you scratch me, I'll scratch you." So, now, you are on your guard. And now, further, that being done at all risks, let me add that for use in subordination, and especially for routine work, he is not only the most valuable person I have seen among the colonists, but would be valuable here in public business: Ben Hawes, without the bumptiousness of him who lost his seat for Lambeth by Jack-in-office airs: and, lastly, he has richly earned any proper reward that you can give him in the form of employment, first by much and hard work hitherto unpaid; and, secondly, by unvarying strong-heartedness when, on several, occasions, others fainted and were disposed to give up. There have been two or three crises when all depended on the sustained courage of a few (as when the 30th of April was surmounted); and on these occasions our Brittan has been invariably up to the mark.

Not so FitzGerald, who has been up and down all along like the steam-engine piston. That was according to his truly Irish nature. But there are other points of disparagement which must be mentioned for your safety's sake. You knew some of his faults, and will remember our illustration (I think it was mine, but you adopted it) that he would hunt his sheep. He is nearly the most provoking man I have ever had to do with: for he combines with great and quick ability in writing and talking, and very agreeable companionable qualities, a perfect incapacity for doing business. He is immensely presumptuous, believing himself that he can do everything better than any body; and when, it comes to the doing, he is a very child. I enclose the copy of a letter from myself to Lord Lyttelton, leaving out, however, his name and what would show that it was addressed to him. It was absolutely necessary to speak this truth to him, though I think it must have hurt him greatly: for he had got to trust in FitzGerald, and the disparagement was all news. His answer is great, being simply a return of cordial thanks, and page 319the expression of a desire that the truth may be always as plainly told to him. Since that correspondence (I am writing on the 24th August) FitzGerald's utter break-down in the collection of emigrants has been remedied by great exertion and considerable cost in money: and now when it comes to receiving the people, and placing them comfortably in the four ships—a difficult job requiring particular order and patience—we are obliged to persuade FitzGerald to resign the whole matter into Bowler's hands; and ostensibly too, because Bowler and the clerks refuse to be subject to FitzGerald's wild and changeful orders. The work will be done somehow: and, on the whole, I consider the break-down fortunate, being of opinion that if it had not happened FitzGerald might have caused you infinite trouble. With his gifts of writing and talking, and his unbounded ambition, he would hardly have failed to influence the colonists for a time, if he had not been tamed by these events. And even as it is, I expect to see him, in less than three months after landing, at the head of a party at war with the Association: or rather I should have expected it if you had not been thus forearmed by forewarning. You will know him, and without his being aware of it; what is more important, without having found him out yourself and he knowing it. For as be now dislikes me cordially for having found him out without concealing my knowledge (for I have spoken to him almost as openly as I now write), so you may escape the ill-will he bears me on that account. His worst behaviour has been the endeavour to instill his own jealousy and dislike of me into others. The attempt was to some extent successful some time ago, when I was not aware of it: but time and patience do wonders—patience et longueur de temps font plus que force ni que rage—and now, except in one or two quarters of no great moment, that confidence is placed in me to which I am entitled, and which is needed yet for a while, for the good of the whole affair. Let us now change the theme, but holding still for a time to personal matters. Indeed, the founding of a colony page 320is so essentially and chiefly a dealing with people, that personal considerations must needs fill the head of him who engages in such work. I shall therefore proceed with that estimate of the character of the principal colonists which was promised in my last.

The most trustworthy man in the four ships, so far as I can judge, is Mr. Townsend, aged 64, and taking eleven children to the colony. I never heard his name till he was an intending colonist, but have since made particular enquiries about him, chiefly with the view of learning if he was fit to take charge of some youths, whose parents wished me to advise them in choosing a good guardian for them. I call him now "the Vicar of Wakefield," whom he resembles, I believe, in simplicity and goodness. His children are all good. Three sons have been ten years in the Tythe Office as clerks, and leave it with the highest character. One of the daughters is a good musician, having been first teacher at the Naval Orphan Asylum at Richmond, where the education is high. She leaves it with a high character. They are a plodding and industrious family, of excellent common sense, and proper conduct. By the death of a brother the other day Mr. Townsend's capital is trebled, but he adheres to his wise resolution of saving money by going in the second cabin. He is too old, and too much engaged with his family, to undertake any responsible office; but he is a shrewd observer of men, and altogether so considerate and reasonable a person, that I think you can hardly fail to profit by his friendly counsel, which I have bespoken for you. He is par excellence one of those alluded to in my letter of the 22nd of June, who being of a humble nature, need to be lifted in order to be in their proper position. I should add that Mr. Townsend has had good opportunities of observing others among the leading colonists.

If he had a little more active self-reliance, the best man of the lot would be Mr. Ward, who will take Irish letters of introduction to you. He is as un-Irish as yourself. He is most steady, good, and prudent; and a true gentleman. I page 321consider his individual success as certain: and I think him better qualified than any other body to help in conducing to yours. Latterly—just at the end—I resolved, for your sake, to open my mind to him about other people; and I intend to charge him with the delivery of this letter, and with the duty of destroying it, and a duplicate of it, which will go in another ship, in ease you should be absent

Young Worlley is too young. I see no other fault by the side of many good qualities. His success or failure as a settler will deeply affect the colony either way. I trust that he may not imbibe on the passage notions of speculation and hasty fortune-making which FitzGerald's head is full of. He needs bridle more than spur; and yet the holding in must be very gentle. His immediate danger is that of being misled by the brilliant qualities of FitzGerald, rather than infected with the sober ones of Ward. In the colony his danger will be the one most common in new communities—that of falling into the go-a-head passion.

With Mr. Phillips I am not well acquainted: but I hear from several quarters excellent accounts of his uprightness and goodness. He has been, I fancy, a little soured by disappointments, and seems rather peppery; but I have seen nothing about him indicative of selfishness or design, and my impression is that he will prove a valuable and successful settler.

I have got to think well of Willock—one of those slaves of the Church whom she never thinks of rewarding, just as, in the Navy, one sees Lieutenants wear and tear themselves into a premature grave from sheer work, without ever having a chance of promotion. They are not promoted because they deserve it more than others, being purposely kept as drudges. So Drudge Willock had no chance of preferment any where, till I, meeting him by accident just when his application for duty at Canterbury had been plumply refused, advised him to prefer himself, by marrying and going as a colonist. And the end is that he is now in office—at least on board ship.

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Young Watts Russell will be a good settler for the colony if good for himself; but I doubt. His Clydesdale stallion will be worth its weight in money if it should get out well.

I do not put this young man along with several who are sent out by their friends to be got rid of. One of the latter goes from this place, with a letter to you, I expect, from "our member." He will do no good anywhere; nor much harm to anybody but himself, being silly as well as idle and dissipated. In spite of every effort to prevent it, there are two or three downright scamps, I fear. They must be frowned and cut out of the colony, being fitter for Sydney or some whaling station in New Zealand.

5th September.

Incessant occupation has prevented me from writing latterly; and now, the ships being on their way down channel, I must be very brief.

The prospects of Canterbury are better than ever on this side. At last, the public is beginning to think that it is not merely a petty scheme of some white-waistcoated young Englanders, but a reality likely to do well. I think that there are symptoms of a sudden and important reaction in our favour. If the Committee seize this opportunity during the next few months, the thing will be done, and all their labours (the trouble and anxiety have really been immense) will be fully rewarded. If they let the opportunity slip, there will be a long stagnation: and then Canterbury Settlement must die of Finance. But I expect that all will go right: for Lord Lyttelton is always up to the mark of doing; and Sewell is a treasure. These ships away, and then I hope to see the Committee itself improved: for at present (Lord Lyttelton and J. Simeon being away) it does no good except what Sewell does. Bowler's management of the shipping has been capital: but we shall not hold him long, so bent is he on setting up as a colonist, though I think that the Grammar School and College (in prospect) are leading his mind away from Wellington to Canterbury.

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The arrival of your journal (conveyed to Adderley) has been a great comfort: for your dry despatch and private scrap to Cocks by the Cornelia had led me to fear that you were ill: and I did not receive a line about you from E. Jerningham, who, colonist-like, forgot to write in duplicate by the Cornelia. I am waiting anxiously for his letter by the Woodstock. I have not yet read your journal, being so busy and knowing that I cannot alter it; but this punishment of my curiosity is diminished by hearing expressions of satisfaction from all who have read it, and from Rintoul in particular, who, with his wife and daughter, sat up over it till two in the morning. Adderley sent it to him.

Strange to say, all the work and worry into which I have been dragged, seems rather to agree with me than to do me harm. Still I feel very much worn out; and it is my firm purpose to depart for New Zealand within six weeks after the time when I shall see Canterbury is fairly launched. The idea of stopping for the chance of participating in the settlement of the question of government, though still pleasing, has less hold of me than it had two months ago: and my present intention is only to see Canterbury safe—so safe that it would not be unsafe to transfer he Charter to the colony—and then to take my passage. If I could have my own way in all things, this time, I do believe, would come before the end of the year: and it may at all events by means of the passion for Canterbury which has just sprung up.