Old Marlborough. or The Story of a Province.
Chapter IX. — The New Province
The New Province.
Rise from every plain and valley,
Mountain top, and cottage door.
Every man amongst you rally
From our centre to the shore.
Let's be true to one another,
Unity is power, and strength,
Hand to hand each man and brother,
We shall conquer then at length.
From the 17th of June, 1840, the day when Major Bunbury and Captain Nias first proclaimed the Queen's Sovereignty over the Middle Island, until the Provincial Councils Ordinance was passed in 1848, no very definite form of constitutional government had prevailed in Marlborough, but when the Provincial institutions were finally set up by Governor Grey, in 1853, the whole of the northern portion of the Middle Island was included in the Province of Nelson. Under the system of representation then existing the Wairau was entitled to one representative in the Provincial Council, and Mr. Joseph Ward had the honour of being its first member. In 1858, out of a council of twenty-four, it page 393was represented by Messrs James Balfour Wemyss, Charles Elliot, and John Tinline, a proportion by no means large enough to secure anything more than the most cursory attention to the ever increasing wants of the district, but as a solatium to its settlers Mr. Wemyss was given a place in the Executive of Superintendent Robinson. For five years then, the whole of the eastern territory accepted its government with more or less cheerfulness from across the range, but towards 1858, both the fear and the sense of injustice, gave rise to an agitation which culminated in Nelson losing her fairest daughter, and in the establishment of a new province. Strange to say this agitation arose not within the district most directly affected, but within the very heart of Nelson city itself, and it was conducted to a successful conclusion not so much in the interests of the resident settlers, as for the benefit of the absentees. As may be judged by the list of pioneers published in the previous chapter, the bulk of the country in the Wairau and Awatere valleys was originally taken up by a class of cultured and educated men, whose old world surroundings had thoroughly imbued with the idea that the right to occupy the land was an inherited privilege of a few, and whom the liberalising influence of colonial life had not mellowed into even partially accepting the democratic page 394doctrine of "the land for the people." Although, metaphorically speaking, these men held the two great valleys in the hollow of their hands, they were for the most part absentees, residing in Nelson, where they formed the backbone of the Stafford party, and imparted a tone of respectability to the conservatism of Sleepy Hollow. So long as Mr. Stafford occupied the position of Nelson's Superintendent there was little danger of their political serenity being disturbed by any land legislation of a radical nature, but upon that gentleman resigning to accept the premiership of the colony they received a rude awakening when the electors rejected their nominee, Dr. Monro, and elected Mr. J. P. Robinson to the highest office within their gift; the violence of the shock being greatly accentuated by the knowledge that Mr. Robinson was a democrat and that he was surrounded by democrats who made no secret of the fact that they regarded the sheepfarmers as "fair game." That Mr. Robinson intended to place fresh imposts upon the pastoralists there is little doubt, for he raised the 1858 assessment of pastoral land from 5s. 8d. to 5s. 10d. per acre, and the prospect of "another turn of the screw," resulting in a still higher assessment of their lands, filled them with such alarm, that they at once set to work to devise some scheme by which the page 395country where their chief interests lay should be removed beyond his power to tax, or interfere with.
A New Provinces Act, under which their estates would be severed from Nelson and raised to the importance of a separate province, was the plan determined upon, and their party being at that time all powerful in the Colonial Parliament they had little difficulty in engineering it through both branches of the Legislature. Nominally the Act was intended to give relief to other parts of the colony as well as to the Wairau and Awatere, but that it was specially designed to enable the landed proprietors of Nelson to place themselves beyond the reach of a radical Superintendent and his followers, is forcibly suggested, if not entirely proved by the fact that Clause I gave them a concession that was denied to residents in every other part of the colony. Sub-section 4* granted them permission to bring the boundary of their new province as near to Nelson city as they pleased, whereas no other new province could be established unless its boundary was at least thirty-five, and in some cases sixty miles distant from the old provincial capital.
* The wording of the sub-section was as follows: — 4. No Point of the boundary line of any such district shall be within sixty miles, measured in a right line, of the capital town of any province already, or hereinafter to be established; except the province of New Plymouth, nor within thirty-five miles of the town of New Plymouth. Provided always that this condition shall not apply to any boundary line dividing territory drained by rivers falling into Blind Bay from the adjacent territory to the eastward thereof.
The importance of this concession was that without it there could simply have been no separation from Nelson at that time, because the country thirty-five miles eastward of Blind Bay did not then possess the requisite population of one thousand souls—one hundred and fifty of whom were to be enfranchised electors:—which the Act stipulated as the minimum number of inhabitants necessary to constitute a province, and therefore the difficulty was overcome by pushing the boundary sufficiently close to Nelson to include people who were perhaps better satisfied to remain as they were. In this way the object of the sheep-farmers was attained, and by this means they secured the legal power to make their own assessment of land, and to administer taxation in doses to suit themselves. That there was a selfish motive underlying their actions was amply demonstrated within a few weeks of the provincial institutions being set up in Marlborough, and it is doubtful if even after they had accomplished the passing of the New Provinces Act, they would have been successful in inducing a majority of the smaller settlers to avail themselves of its provisions but for one great factor, which in itself was sufficient to justify separation, and which was astutely kept in the forefront of the agitation by the leaders of the movement.page 397
This was the deep sense of injustice under which the resident settlers were smarting, in consequence of the continued neglect of the Nelson government to give them roads, and the callous indifference with which that body treated all their petitions for the expenditure, upon public works, of even a reasonable portion of the revenue derived from the sales of the waste lands, which, under the new constitution, had been handed over to the provinces. The Nelson Government had at once commenced a policy of extensive land sales in the Marlborough district, by which it is estimated they realised no less a sum than £157,000 before separation took place. As compared with this, they only sold £33,000 worth of land in the present Nelson Province. Under equitable conditions this sum of £157,000 would have been spent in roadingand opening up the land sold; but with the exception of about £200 spent on making an apology for a road through the Taylor Pass, every penny of it was expended for the benefit of Nelson city and its immediate neighbourhood. The Nelson authorities even added insult to injury by coolly informing the settlers that if they wanted roads they must form a Road Board and rate themselves, a course which they ultimately adopted, the Wairau Road Board, under the chairmanship of Mr. James Sinclair, levying a rate of 1d. in the £ for a page 398number of years. But this was not the whole extent of Nelson's iniquity, for not only did they rob Marlborough of her land fund and her customs duties, as will afterwards be explained, but they failed for a long time to give her residents the protection of the police or the benefits of even a primary school, nor did they think it worth their while to spend a single farthing on the advancement of the moral or social welfare of the people. Thus it may be justly said that through her connection with Nelson, Marlborough lost £247,000 of revenue, and therefore a corresponding loss in roads and bridges, to say nothing whatever of her loss in educational and commercial advancement. Under these circumstances it is small wonder that the settlers, of whom there were now a considerable number, became dissatisfied with the administration of the Nelson Provincial Council, and sought relief by the drastic process of separation.
In determining to take this step the pioneers were face to face with a serious position, for they were without roads, bridges, or ferries, and now that a large part of the lands had passed into the hands of private individuals, the provincial revenue was likely to be all too small to provide these necessary public works, without which there was little hope of attracting a population large enough to make a page 399prosperous district. Yet the fact that the smaller settlers almost to a man readily accepted this enormous responsibility, shows how clearly they were convinced that nothing was to be gained by continuing as a part of Nelson; their feelings being cogently expressed in a speech delivered by Mr. Cyrus Goulter at the Beaver courthouse on March 29th, 1859, when he said that "even if after paying the ordinary expenses of Government there was no surplus for public works, a position he could not conceive, it was at least preferable to have that money spent in their midst than to be compelled to transfer it to Nelson." Thus it came about that for the moment the opinions of the large and small settlers were in perfect accord; the one because they were afraid of injustice, and the other because they felt they had suffered it long enough, and having once determined that separation was to be their salvation, they bent all their energies to obtain it.
In his History of New Zealand Mr. Alfred Saunders has severely censured the methods by which separation was obtained, alleging that the legal number of signatures were only secured to the petition presented by Mr. Adams by appending those of dead men and absentees, and further, that no opportunity was given to the old province to point out the deception, or to refute the allegations made in the petition. But it must be remembered that Mr. Saunders is nothing if not Nelsonian, and that as the petition was a practical protest against the administration of his friend Superintendent Robinson, it is not to be expected that he would look upon it page 402with a very kindly eye. But the objections raised by Mr. Saunders are not new, they have only been resurrected by him, for at a complimentary dinner tendered to Mr. Adams on December 20th, 1859, that gentleman answered each of these very charges, which were then current, by showing that attached to the petition were the names of 180 men who were, as he expressed it, "very much alive," and that so far from taking the Nelson Government by surprise, he had left a copy of the petition with His Honor the Superintendent while passing northward on his way to Auckland. Under these circumstances, whatever motives some of them may have been actuated by, no stigma can rest upon the Separationist fathers in respect to the methods pursued by them to attain their end, and had the Nelson Government only acted as honourably towards them as they conducted themselves towards it, it may have been that Marlborough as an independent province would never have existed. At all events there was ample evidence to justify the Colonial Executive in granting the prayer of the petition, and although her public estate was scarcely better treated after separation than before it, it was more satisfactory that the money of which the province was deprived should go into the pockets of her own settlers than to enrich those living in Nelson. The elections to constitute the page 403newly-created Provincial Council were held early in the year 1860, and resulted in the return of the following gentlemen, all but three of whom were runholders :—
|William Adams||Wairau Valley.|
|William H. D. Baillie||Wairau Valley.|
|Cyrus Goulter||Upper Wairau.|
|John Godfrey||Upper Wairau.|
|William Henry Eyes||Lower Wairau.|
|Henry Dodson||Lower Wairau.|
|Arthur Penrose Seymour||Picton.|
These legislators were called together for the first time at the Blenheim courthouse on May 1st, and after the formal and official business had been disposed of by Dr. Muller, the Returning Officer, Mr. Adams was chosen Speaker, and immediately afterwards, on the motion of Mr. Goulter, he was elected to the coveted position of Superintendent, Messrs. Eyes and Dodson alone dissenting from that proposition. Mr. Goulter was then elected to fill the Speaker's chair just vacated by Mr. Adams, and thus commenced his remarkable official career, during which, with the exception of a few weeks, he never ceased to hold some public office until the provinces were abolished. Mr. Adams having accepted the Superintendency, it became necessary that he should seek re-election for his constituency, and an adjournment for three weeks then took place page 404to enable this formality to be gone through. Upon the Council resuming, His Honor delivered an address, in which he briefly but forcibly stated one of the reasons why they had decided to take the serious and important step of separating from Nelson. After declaring that he would not hold office unless completely supported by the Council, but would resign and return to his farming pursuits, he went on to say, "I very reluctantly left them, but when I saw year after year our district drained of its resources for the benefit of Nelson and its neighbourhood, I joined with others to gain what we now possess—the management of our own affairs." But Mr. Adams did more than this. He also outlined the policy which he considered it their duty to follow in administering the affairs of the province, two features of which alone call for special attention at this date. The first of these was modesty in government, and the second, a reassessment of the waste lands. He accordingly announced that, for the purposes of economy and simplicity, he would not appoint an executive, stating that the enormous expense and the absurd assumptions of the Provincial Councils were two of the main arguments against that form of government. He therefore thought it better to retain the entire executive power in the hands of the Superintendent, but shortly page 405after he found the inconvenience of this arrangement, and took Messrs. Seymour and Ward into his counsels. Concerning the second feature of Mr. Adams' official deliverance, more must be said, because in announcing his land policy he showed how convenient it was to those in authority to have "the administration of their own affairs." Prior to separation the assessment of land in the Wairau and Awatere districts had stood at the following averages per acre :—Town lands, £17 10s.; Surburban, 16s.; Rural, 10s. 8d.; Pastoral, 5s. 10d.; but now Mr. Adams made a proposal, the essence of which was that the pastoral land should be reduced in price to 5s., and that rural land should be increased to anything between 10s. and 20s. per acre; that is to say, that while the sheep-farmer was to enjoy cheap land, the difference was to be made up by compelling the agricultural farmer to pay more than he would have done had the province still remained as part of Nelson. The sophistry employed to support this extraordinary position was simply remarkable, and one wonders that a man of Mr. Adams' strong common-sense and worldly experience could have committed himself to such flimsy arguments, but the fact remains while he admitted that all the pastoral land in the province was not of the same value, he rejected the idea of a proper assessment page 406because it "entailed a personal inspection of the runs, and was therefore inconvenient." Under the circumstances he "considered it fairer to all parties" to fix an upset price at the minimum figure permitted by law, and which would apply all round, irrespective of differences in quality. The inconsistency of this reasoning was exposed when Mr. Adams came to deal with the small farmer's land, for here no amount of trouble was allowed to stand in the way of a detailed valuation being made, "and therefore," he said, "the only land I shall advise an assessment to be made upon is the timber or superior agricultural land, and this may vary between 10s. and 20s. per acre." But Mr. Adams in the rôle of a sophist was completely outdone by his Council, who, in their "address in reply," entirely concurred with him in his views regarding the uniform price of pastoral land, arguing that "it would greatly retard the growth and prosperity of the province," unless as much land of that class as possible was sold at the lowest price the law allowed them to take for it. But the opposite principle applied in the case of the small farmer, and in the concluding paragraph of their address they gave expression to this generous sentiment: "Superior agricultural lands, on the other hand, should be assessed at the maximum price, and even that, in most page 407cases, we opine to be far below its real value." After such an expression of opinion from the Council Mr. Adams had no difficulty in getting his land regulations passed, for at no stage of the proceedings was a dissentient voice raised. Even the three members who were not directly concerned in pastoral pursuits were silent, thus the first result of separation was to enable the sheep-farmers to escape taxation at the hands of the Nelson democrats, and the first requitment the small settlers received for assisting these gentry to obtain "the management of their own affairs" was an extra impost of 10s. per acre on their land, accompanied by a gentle hint that they were sorry they could not make it more.
Amongst the first legislation which the Superintendent asked the Council to take into its consideration were Bills dealing with cattle branding, stock regulations, dog nuisance, education, and roads, while upon the estimates were sums of £2880 for bridges over the Tua Marina, Omaka, and Pelorus Streams, and £1828 for roads through the Taylor Pass, and to the Wairau River. Some conception may be formed of the difficulties to be met with in constructing this latter road, when we state that in the mile and a quarter between Grovetown and Spring Creek there were no less than eighteen page 408bridges required to provide an adequate passage for the flood waters.
* The origin of the quarrel between Blenheim and Picton shows out of what small things mountains may be made. On May 23rd, 1860, Mr. Eyes asked the Superintendent if he intended to adjourn the Council next day in recognition of Her Majesty's birthday? Mr. Adams replied that, as he was anxious to push on with the business, he did not intend to adjourn. Next morning, when the hour for opening the Council arrived, the Superintendent was in an adjoining building attending an Executive meeting, and when Messrs. Sinclair, Eyes, and Dodson walked into the Chamber the only person in the room was Captain Baillie. Mr. Eyes at once called his attention to the fact that it was 11 o'clock, and in a spirit of something akin to cussedness he proposed that the Captain take the chair, and immediately afterwards moved the adjournment of the Council. There being a quorum present the carrying of this motion was perfectly in order, and just as the three conspirators were walking out, the Superintendent and his Executive walked in, and when they realised the position of affairs Mr. Adams gave Mr. Eyes a bit of his mind, and threatened, amongst other things, to remove the seat of Government away from Blenheim, notwithstanding that the petition on which separation had been granted stated that Blenheim was to be the capital town and Wairau the port of the province. Mr. Seymour's motion was the sequel to that threat.
Market Street, 1860, in Flood.
This View is taken from the Door of Mr. Macey's Studio, looking towards the Church of the Nativity, And is Probably the Oldest Photograph of Blenheim.
The debate upon this momentous question was resumed on July 24th, when, as an page 411evidence that the electors had freely taken the matter into their consideration, Mr. Eyes presented a petition against the proposed removal of the buildings, signed by 260 persons, but he was outdone by Mr. Seymour, who brought with him eight separate documents, bearing 293 signatures, and the member for Picton was further backed up by Captain Baillie, who came down from the Wairau Valley with the names of 38 settlers favourable to the proposal. The presence of Mr. Elliott in the Council betokened that the Blenheim party were going to record every available vote against the threatened injustice to their town, and Mr. Elliott not only voted against it, but in a very sensible speech denounced the absurdity of spending a large sum of money upon buildings when there was so much need of better lines of communication between one part of the province and another. But all his eloquence and his arguments fell upon unprofitable ground, for the mind of every man was already made up as to how he should vote, and when the inevitable division was taken, it was found that Messrs. Ward, Baillie, Seymour, Adams and Godfrey favoured Picton becoming the capital of the province, while Messrs. Elliott, Sinclair and Dodson were Blenheim's disconsolate minority. For some reason Mr. Eyes declined to page 412record his vote, but the decision of the Council aroused his vehement and uncompromising hostility towards Picton, which displayed itself in many ways during the remainder of his public career; in fact, so marked was this antipathy at times, that Dr. Monro was, on one occasion, constrained to declare that the only explanation he could give for such conduct was that "the name of Picton operated on Mr. Eyes like a red rag upon a bull." To have the seat of Government brought back to Blenheim, was ever the main idea on which Mr. Eyes and his party concentrated all their thoughts and all their energies, and it seemed to them that any compact was justified, any opposition legitimate which might harass their opponents, or bring about a dissolution of the Council, so that in the chances of an election, fortune might favour them, and they would go back with a majority sufficient to turn the scales against Picton. If this fact is borne in mind it will furnish an explanation as to why there were so many dissolutions of the Marlborough Council, and why the various Superintendents held office for so short a time.
After the battle of the capital had been lost and won, the session proceeded in comparative peace until its close on September 18th. Then came a period of political quiescence for a few weeks, until the general election was page 413thrown as a bone of contention amongst the settlers. Since the granting of the constitution the Wairau had been worthily represented in the General Assembly by Mr. Weld, who was already recognised in the House as a man of commanding ability and great promise. His merits had justified Colonel Wynyard in associating him, in 1854, with the colony's first premier, Mr. James Edward Fitzgerald, and at the particular date at which our history has arrived he was serving as Minister for Native Affairs in Mr. Stafford's cabinet. Considering the prestige that was attached to Mr. Weld, his honesty of purpose, and untarnished record, it may appear surprising that on November 23rd, 1860, a requisition was in course of circulation for signature, asking Mr. Eyes to become a candidate for parliament in opposition to him, but the explanation was this. Owing to the enlargement of the Colonial Legislature the province had now become entitled to two representatives, and as a large section of the Wairau people desired to be represented by a resident settler, they suggested to Mr. Weld the propriety of standing for the new district, which had been created at Picton, but as the Stafford party were anxious to capture both seats, he declined to accede to the request. The Wairau electors then determined to put Mr. Eyes in opposition to page 414him, and although the matter was at first treated somewhat lightly by Mr. Weld's friends, the result of the poll proved that the desire to be represented by a local man outweighed Mr. Weld's colonial reputation, and he was defeated by the narrow majority of four votes*.
* The Wairau thus lost the distinction of being represented by the Premier of the colony, for Mr. Weld was shortly after elected for Cheviot, and became Premier on the 24th of November, 1864, and held office until the 16th of October, 1865. Mr. Eyes supported the Fox party in the House, and it was on his vote that the Stafford Government were turned out of office.
"Now it is clear that the understanding upon which you elected me has been departed from by my acceptance of the office of Speaker, and this I cannot but regret. I believe, in the position which I occupy, I shall be able to serve you efficiently as a representative, but should you think otherwise and be dissatisfied with the step I have taken, I think it is but due to you to place your seat once more in your hands, and accordingly, if a majority of the Picton electors should signify to me their wish that I should retire from the representation of the district, I shall, so soon as this session is over, tender my resignation."
"However, he was so approached, not only by the Ministry, but by members of all parties and by influential persons outside the House, and the matter was placed before him in such a way that on grounds of public duty he did not think it right any longer to refuse."
He then proceeded to show that the interests of the district had not suffered by his occupancy of the chair, arguing that:
"While it was true he could not take part in the debates of the House, those who knew anything of the working of parliament were well aware that as many, if not more, questions were settled out of the House than in it, and the position of Speaker gave him access to official personages and a weight to his representations that an ordinary member did not possess."
At the close of his address, which dealt exhaustively with the stirring political topics of the time, Dr. Monro again referred to his acceptance of the Speakership, and concluded by saying:
"He trusted they were satisfied that their interests had not suffered from the fact of his having been Speaker. At the same time he still admitted what he had never denied, that in taking that step he had violated a promise given when they had elected him, and he accordingly repeated that if it appeared to be the wish of a majority of the electors he would return into their hands the trust which they had done him the honour to repose in him."
The candid and straightforward manner in which the Doctor dealt with the whole position is rather refreshing reading in these days of political fencing, and evidently it had its effect upon his audience, for at the termination of the speech Captain Baillie rose and page 419moved, "That having heard the explanation made by Dr. Monro respecting his taking the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives, this meeting feels fully satisfied with the course pursued, and now tenders to Dr. Monro sincere thanks for his valuable services." This motion was seconded by Captain Kenny, and on being put to the meeting, which was one of the largest ever held in Picton, it was declared by the chairman to be "carried unanimously."
From correspondence which was subsequently published in the Press it would appear that a section of the community were not satisfied with this mode of disposing of the matter, and a requisition was prepared for signature asking the Doctor to tender his resignation, but in the face of the complete and constitutional vindication tendered by the public meeting the agitation was a barren and abortive one, and Dr. Monro continued to represent Picton during the remainder of that Parliament. At the following general election, in 1866, he submitted himself to the choice of the Cheviot electors, by whom he was returned, and when the House assembled on June 30th, he was again elected to the Speaker's chair, a post which he honourably filled until September 13th, 1870.
While representing Picton the dignity of Knighthood was conferred upon him in re-page 420cognition of his services as Speaker, and when it was found that the circumstances of the Motueka petition precluded his occupancy of the chair for a third term, the House placed on record its appreciation of his integrity and impartiality, and presented an address to the Governor requesting that Her Majesty might be moved to confer upon Sir David some mark of Imperial approbation. After twenty-five years of active political life in the service of the colony, Sir David Monro retired to his home at Nelson to enjoy his hard earned rest, and ended his days there on February 15th, 1877, with all the laurels of an honoured and well tried public servant.
* The Railway Bill was not assented to by Her Majesty, and in 1863, on the motion of Sir D. Monro, the sum of £487 11s. 6d was voted to reimburse the province for the expense incurred in passing it. Sir David strongly commented upon the conduct of the Government, questioning their right to advise the Imperial authorities to "disallow" the Bill. Mr. Fox, in reply, stated that the Provincial Government had not complied with the conditions laid down by the Colonial Office. In 1863 another Provincial Loan Bill was passed, and again "disallowed," and an indignation meeting was called at Picton to protest against such ungenerous treatment. In 1865 the Last Railway Bill was passed, and a loan was sanctioned by the General Government, provided a sufficient quantity of land was set aside by the province, the disposal of which would be sufficient in itself to insure the reimbursement of the loan within a given period. The only other condition imposed was a satisfactory proof that the work could be completed for the amount asked for. The line was not constructed under this arrangement, but everything having been prepared in the meantime by Mr. Dobson, C.E., it was, at the solicitation of Messrs. Seymour and Eyes, the first work put in hand under the Public Works Policy of 1876, Mr. Eyes having relinquished his opposition since the cost of construction was no longer to be a provincial charge.
* As showing how the public estate was being parted with it is worthy of note that from November 1st, 1859, to June 30th, 1861, the revenue derived from territorial sources amounted to £24,221 11s. 8d., while from the ordinary sources only £1,682 12s. 5d. was collected.
On the resignation of Mr. Adams, Mr. Cyrus Goulter, who was Speaker of the Council and treasurer in the Executive, acted ex officio as Superintendent until the next page 428sitting of the Council, which took place on the 28th of the following August. After reading the proclamation calling them together, Mr. Goulter informed the members of what had happened since they last met, and announced that the first business was the election of a Superintendent. The followers of Mr. Adams were naturally anxious that one of their own party should succeed him; but when the Council assembled, owing to a sudden disorganisation in their ranks, they were not prepared to put their man in nomination, and an adjournment was therefore arranged, during which an understanding was arrived at, with the result that when the Council re-opened Mr. Adams rose to his feet, and after referring to the "soldier-like bearing" of Captain Baillie, proposed him as a fit and proper person to act as Superintendent. This was duly seconded, and in a few minutes Captain Baillie found himself elected as the second Superintendent of Marlborough. Captain Baillie was a descendant of an old Scottish family, who many generations before had settled in County Down, Ireland, and whose members had seen considerable service in the Imperial Army. His father had been at Waterloo with the 23rd Fusiliers, his grandfather at the battle of Minden, and Captain Baillie, as an ensign, had been through the Indian Mutiny with Lord Gough and Sir page 429Colin Campbell. After the battle of Chillian Wallah, at which his regiment was fearfully cut-up, Ensign Baillie returned to England and obtained his captaincy in 1854, sailing in 1857 for Nelson in the ship "Oriental." In the same year he commenced sheep-farming at Erina, and it was while living there that he entered upon his long political career* as one of the representatives of the Wairau Valley in conjunction with Mr. Adams.
* Captain Baillie was called to the Legislative Council on March 8th, 1861. He has been Chairman of Committees for over 16 years, and is now the senior member of the Council,
* Long prior to his retirement from office, Mr. Adams had acquired a pastoral run on the north bank of the Wairau River, where he afterwards died in 1884. His grave, hewn out of the solid rock, on the site of an old Maori fighting pah at Langley Dale, is one of the most picturesque spots in Marlborough,
* The result of this change was to add about £1200 per annum to the provincial revenue.
The constitution of the Council was now enlarged to seventeen members, and its personnel was considerably changed by the introduction of nine new politicians, most of whom seemed to favour a change in the seat of government, but they were not yet to reap the full fruits of their victory, for although all the members had been declared "duly elected" Captain Baillie had the best of reasons for supposing that the election of Messrs. Sinclair and Williams for the Upper Wairau was somewhat irregular, and he decided not to give his opponents a chance of carrying their point until a Judge of the Supreme Court had an opportunity of saying whether these elections were valid or not. But apart from the issue of where the provincial capital should be, there was another cause operating to bring Captain Baillie's Superintendency to an end. Having lost his old Executive through Mr. Ward's coalition with the Blenheim party, and Mr. Coulter not being re-elected, he appointed Messrs. John Godfrey and Keene in their stead. The result was a great blow to the sheep-farmers, for Mr. Godfrey at once attacked the "convenient system" of assessing all pastoral land at a uniform value, and before the next land sale was held a proper assessment was page 437made by Messrs. Baillie, Kenny and Godfrey, which resulted in a handsome increase to the revenue and a corresponding benefit to the public. But this policy naturally gave offence in certain quarters, because if it was allowed to continue, the days of cheap land were numbered, and when the new Council met on September 20th, 1862, it was clear that any hostile motion would be carried against the Superintendent. But Mr. John Godfrey, who was now a co-representative of Picton with Mr. Seymour, had carefully studied the Constitution Act, and there he found that the Superintendent had power to prorogue the Council at his own pleasure. This point he placed before his chief as a means by which he could hold the enemy at bay until the validity of the Upper Wairau elections could be tested. Accordingly, when the formal business of opening the Council had been disposed of, Captain Baillie astonished his friends and confounded his enemies by reading from a document that in pursuance of the powers vested in him by Clause 16 of the Constitution Act, he declared the Council prorogued. This step was as a "bolt from the blue" to those members who had come with appetites keen for a change of administration, and for a time they allowed their feelings to get the better of their judgment. Hotly resenting the action of the Superintendent page 438they proceeded with great ceremony to elect Mr. Gouland, Speaker, and Mr. Eyes, Superintendent, but when they returned next day they found the door of the Council Chamber locked and a notice on the door: "No admittance except on business," and as the constable in charge was a staunch Pictonite, they could not persuade him that their business was either pressing or legitimate, and so they adjourned to the bar of James' Tasmanian Hotel, where they harangued a crowd upon their own provincial virtues and their opponents' political vices; but although shut out from the place and symbols of office, Mr. Eyes asserted himself by publishing a Gazette and issuing his instructions to the provincial servants; but after a month's ineffectual effort to convince them that he was master, he called his party together at the Blenheim courthouse, and there on October 23rd he announced that owing to his peculiar and anomolous position he had been unable to bring any measures before them for their consideration, and under the circumstances he thought it better to prorogue the Council and seek their remedy in the Supreme Court. Thus their infant Council expired almost as quickly as it had been born, but for months the machinery of the law was kept busily in motion. Documents were passing between the contending lawyers in Picton and Wel-page 439lington, and, in the absence of other means, they were often sent from Te Awaiti across the Strait in a whale boat. At length, after six months' delay, during which time the provincial officers received no salary, and all public works were stopped. Judge Johnston delivered his judgment in favour of Captain Baillie, but as the Blenheim party threatened to appeal against His Honor's decisions, it was felt that the intolerable state of affairs which had prevailed for so long could not continue, and to terminate the deadlock the Governor once more dismissed the Council, and sent its members back to their constituents. The result of the election which followed in 1863, was a reverse to the Blenheim party, they being in a minority of five, but it was not deemed expedient that Captain Baillie should continue as Superintendent, so he quietly passed into the serenity of the Speaker's chair and left the Council to wrangle over the choice of his successor. During his term of office 51,410 acres of pastoral land were sold at an average of 5s. 2¼d. per acre, which, compared with the Nelson price of 5s. 10d., means that the province lost £1660, a result for which Captain Baillie was not so much responsible as the party with whom he worked during the greater part of his administration; for he made an honest effort to bring about more equitable conditions so soon as he page 440secured advisers whose ideas were mutual with his own, and to him belongs the credit of first establishing a proper assessment of land irrespective of the class of settler who was to occupy it. His fitness for the office of Superintendent, and the public esteem in which he was held have been admirably epitomised by a writer in the Marlborough Press, and we cannot do better in closing this reference to Captain Baillie, than by quoting the correspondent who says of him: "His honourable and gentlemanly conduct on all occasions, with his soldier-like firmness in standing to a point of duty, recommended him as one to whom we could well trust the office of greatest responsibility amongst us."
The staff of provincial officers at this time was not very large. At the inception of the province Mr. Alfred Dobson had been Provincial Engineer and Chief Surveyor, but this arrangement was found inconvenient, and in 1861 he was given his choice of offices, when he decided to retain that of Provincial Engineer. The vacancy thus created was filled by Mr. H. G. Clarke, the late Chief Surveyor and Commissioner of Crown Lands, assisted by Mr. Pickering. The clerk in the Land Office was Mr. John Allen, the present Stipendiary Magistrate, who, on the retirement of Mr. Adams from the Commissioner-ship of Lands, was appointed Collector of page 441Customs at Picton, and his position was filled by the promotion of Mr. J. J. White, who virtually held the same office until his retirement in 1891. The clerk to his Honor the Superintendent was Mr. Jeffray, and, afterwards, Mr. Leonard Stowe, now Clerk of Parliaments and Clerk to the Legislative Council, acted in this capacity.
In casting about for a new Superintendent, the Council looked for one who was known to be sound on the question of retaining Picton as the provincial capital, and ultimately their choice fell upon Mr. Thomas Carter, a comparatively new politician, who had been returned to represent the Wairau Valley, where a few years before he had taken up the Hillersden run. Mr. Carter took office on March 25th, 1863, with Captain Baillie, Mr. Goulter and Mr. H. Godfrey as his Executive, Mr. Goulter being once more appointed to his old portfolio as Provincial Treasurer. When Mr. Carter came into power, the farming industry was in a very backward state, mainly from two causes. The provincial revenue had risen to £40,000, and a great deal of this money was spent upon public works. The prices obtained by contractors were high, and naturally men preferred to work upon the roads, where the pay was large and sure, than to follow an avocation so uncertain in its results as farming. Amongst page 442other items, there was a sum of £4000 spent in completing the work at the Opawa Breach. Against this expenditure the Superintendent forcibly protested, believing that the work would never stand, but he was outvoted by the Council, who considered that the scheme would not get a fair trial unless it was completed according to Mr. Fitzgibbon's plans. To put a check upon what he regarded as a reckless waste of money, and to restrain the clamour for public expenditure upon this breach, Mr. Carter passed what was called the Opawa Breach Bill, whereby all moneys spent in future upon this work were to be charged upon the land benefitted, and the owners had to pay a special tax by way of interest thereon. This was virtually the principle of the more recent Betterment Bill, and it effectually put a stop to the expenditure by which a few men would have rapidly amassed large sums of money. Another circumstance which militated against the active prosecution of the farming industry, and which also contributed towards the high prices paid for contract work, was the breaking out of the Wakamarina diggings in April, 1864. From odd pieces of gold which had been found in some of the creeks as early as 1860, it was suspected that there might be a considerable gold-bearing area of country north of the Wairau River, and with the knowledge page 443before them of what had been done in Otago by the discovery of gold, the Provincial Council offered a bonus of £500 to anyone who could discover a payable field. A few parties had been out prospecting, but as yet with no appreciable result. But one morning as the Superintendent was riding through the Pelorus Valley on his way to Nelson, he met Messrs. Wilson and Rutland preparing a "Long Tom," by which the gold in those days was saved. They informed him that they had tried the bed of the Wakamarina River with satisfactory results, and they believed that with more improved appliances they could make excellent wages. About half a mile further on Mr. Carter met Mr. Cleyne and party felling trees and widening the road. They said nothing to him about looking for gold, and this fact had an important bearing upon the claims they afterwards made for the bonus offered by the Council. On his return from Nelson the Superintendent was informed that an exceedingly rich held had been discovered, and already signs of a "rush" on a considerable scale were making themselves apparent. There were, of course, no tracks to the scene of operations, but a good road was soon made, and everything was done by the Council to develop the field; Mr. Carter, who had the advantage of some practical experience page 444on the Californian diggings, attending to many of the details on the field in person. Lieut. Kinnersly, a retired naval officer, was appointed Warden, and Inspector Morton, of the Otago police, supervised the observance of law and order. The news of the discovery soon spread, and attracted diggers from all parts of New Zealand, and even from Australia, until the population had reached the number of three thousand souls. The field proved to be one of the richest ever discovered in the colony, and at the same time it was essentially a "poor man's" diggings, as most of the gold was picked up out of the crevices in the rocks. No absolutely complete statement can be given of the amount of gold won from the bed of this river, as many of the successful miners left the field, taking their treasure with them; but this much is certain, that in the month of June, 1864, the "City of Hobart," the "Otago" and the "Albion" left the harbour of Picton with 3393 oz. on board. In the following month the "Auckland" took away 2256 oz., and in the next September the "Claud Hamilton" shipped 961 oz., the total export of gold from the field in the first year being 24,838 oz., and in the following year an additional 8000 oz. were sent away, the total value of which has been computed at over £130,000.
Owing to the influx of diggers, and those page 445dependent upon them, the population of the province doubled itself in 1864, reaching the total of 5519 souls, while the agricultural and pastoral industries had so far improved that there were now 8189 acres in crop, of which the Wairau alone supplied 5846. There were also in the province 2735 horses, 7483 head of cattle, and the sheep despasturing upon the runs numbered 456,374. The Wakamarina field was soon deserted by the majority of the miners, who migrated to the West Coast, but ever since a few persons have been "fossicking" about, and company after company have expended their capital in trying to bottom the "Gorge," one of the most remarkable claims in New Zealand. It is estimated that fully £30,000 have been spent in these attempts to test the value of this claim, about which there has been so much speculation, but the profitless nature of the undertakings may be judged from the fact that the company which did succeed in bottoming it secured 34 oz. at an expenditure of £9000. Both Wilson and party and Cleyne and party claimed the Council's bonus for the discovery of the field, but from what Mr. Carter saw and knew of the two parties on the morning that he went to Nelson, he concluded that Cleyne and his mates, having become aware of Wilson's luck, had slipped over the hill and started work in the river bed higher up. Under these circum-page 446stances the bonus was granted to Wilson and Rutland, but some concessions were extended to Cleyne.*
* On the 25th of May, 1888, the Warden reported to the Minister for Mines that payable gold had been found in Cullen's Creek by Jackson and party, the discovery resulting in the rush to Mahakipawa. Shortly afterwards gold was found in the Waikakaho Creek on the Wairau side of the range, but except in Hart's Claim no gold of any consequence was found.
The choice of the Council for the new Superintendent fell upon Mr. Arthur Penrose Seymour, who had come to the province as a young man. He had first settled on the Wakefield Downs in the Awatere, and then took up the Tyntesfield run. He had also been a member of all the previous Councils. His troubles as Superintendent began almost as soon as he took office, for he had taken into his Executive some men who, either personally or politically, were distasteful to a great many of the Council. The feeling of irritation caused thereby made itself manifest in many ways, and it required all the tact and skill of Mr. Seymour to hold his own.
In addition to this, there was a new trouble from an old source. The Opawa River, which had been flooding the district since the outbreak of the "breach," threatened to leave its bed and commit fresh havoc at a place now known as "Leary's Breach." The Council saw that if this occurred it would result in great disaster to the town of Blen-page 450heim and the agricultural district surrounding it, and they at once set to work to check its course. Their first scheme, carried out under the supervision of Mr. Sullivan, was to build up wooden crates, composed of birch saplings securely bolted together and filled with coarse gravel. These were set at different points of the river bed, and the remainder of the distance was covered by a wattle fence three feet high, backed up on both sides by big boulders. But this shared no better fate than the "crib" work recommended by Mr. Fitzgibbon at the Opawa Breach. They were either washed away in the flood or smothered over with the shingle, the net result being that about £1500 was spent, and the depredations of the water were still unchecked. The most disastrous flood ever experienced in the valley took place during the month of February, 1868. At the time many people supposed that this phenomenal deluge was due to the bursting of waterspouts far back in the ranges, but the clearing away from the hillsides of the vegetation, which previously held the water in check, together with the unusual severity of the rain storm, are sufficient to account for the inundation without supposing any such exceptional combination of the elements. For twenty hours the rain descended in increasing torrents from the South East, and then, as page 451sometimes happens, the wind suddenly changed to the North West, and for another day the leaden clouds poured out their contents upon the saturated plain. By Sunday morning the rivers were full, and by evening the valley was flooded. From hill to hill there stretched an unbroken sheet of water, which swept on towards the sea, carrying upon its bosom the dead and drowning sheep, the ripened corn sheaves, and even the goods and chattels of the water-logged farmers. These were afterwards strewn upon the beach as far as Robin Hood Bay, together with huge trunks of black birch trees, which had been torn up by the roots and hurled into the surging flood. Prior to this no black birch wood had ever been found amongst the furniture of the beach by the early settlers who went to the shore of Cloudy Bay to collect their fuel; but the vast quantities of it deposited many miles from the localities where it grew, is a startling evidence of the devastation wrought by the 1868 flood.
After the failure of the crib and crate work to curb the rivers, the next experiment was an idea of Mr. Seymour's, namely, to fill iron tanks with stones and build them up after the fashion of a breakwater. To carry out this conception the "Lyttelton" was chartered to bring a cargo of tanks from Wellington, the local supply not being sufficient; but after another page 452considerable expenditure of labour and money, this system of protection proved to be as valueless as its predecessors. These tanks were placed near the mainland, and to illustrate the havoc the Opawa River was creating at this point, we may mention that a few years after, when the stream had been turned by Mr. Redwood's dam, they were discovered a quarter of a mile out in the river-bed. Finding that all these efforts had failed, some of the settlers approached the Council and offered to build an embankment to protect their properties on condition that they were subsidised either in land or money. The result of these negotiations was the erection of the "Seymour Embankment," settlers receiving £500 worth of land on the Tyntesfield run, which they afterwards sold to Mr. Seymour. This embankment was the last protective work undertaken by the Provincial Council. On March 25th, 1874, the Spring Creek Rivers Board was formed, and in the following May the Lower Wairau Rivers Board received its constitution. Then Mr. William Douslin came upon the scene with his "log dam." Mr. Douslin was a gentleman of great energy, of an inventive turn of mind, and possessed an implicit faith in the merit of his own inventions. He had conceived the idea that a log chained between two piles firmly driven into the bed of the page 453river would successfully turn the water in any direction desired, and it is needless to say that he lost no time in bringing the invention under the notice of the newly-formed Rivers Board. One of these dams had been tried at the Hutt River, and Mr. Douslin had received an encouraging letter from Sir James Hector on the subject, and this, together with Mr. Douslin's own sanguine opinions, induced the Rivers Board to try the experiment, and they put in dams at Rock Ferry and Leary's Breach, spending altogether £1200 on this class of work. The result was as disappointing as all previous efforts to control this natural force. Huge holes were gouged out of the river bed, but the water still pursued the even tenor of its way. For many years river matters went on in this unsatisfactory manner, and the problem was as far from being solved as ever, when Mr. Charles Redwood propounded a scheme of pile and wire dams. Then the battle of the dams was waged with Trojanic force. Mr. Redwood, in true Redwoodian style, denounced the log dam as an unmitigated farce, and Mr. Douslin replied in terms equally scathing, but so desperate had the situation become that the Board was ready to try any new proposal, in the hope that something beneficial might be the outcome. Mr. Redwood obtained permission to spend £300 upon page 454his pile and wire dam at Leary's Breach. At this time the disposition of the water was such that the Opawa River had to carry more than its full share, but the first flood after the erection of this dam effectually changed the situation. So complete was the success that where an irresistible current had carried all before it, a bank containing thousands of tons of shingle had blocked the channel, and from that day the problem of diverting the water was solved. What the wire dams have done can be witnessed by anyone who chooses to visit the site of Leary's Breach. The land they have reclaimed, the old channels they have stopped, are still to be seen, and although it cannot be claimed for them that they have abolished floods, they have at least put an effectual check upon the disastrous inroads of the river. Other smaller dams were tried at various places along the river bank with equal success, and when the Rivers Board was confident that it had at last command of something that would effectually serve its purpose, it again turned its attention to the original Opawa Breach. It commenced constructing a dam in the river-bed, which, if completed, would have effectually closed the breach, and diverted the water into its original course—the Wairau River. The settlers in the Spring Creek district saw this, and, as Mr. Isaac Gifford quaintly put it to the Board, "If we page 455don't stop thae, thae'll have every sup o' water down on top o' we." This fear galvanised the Spring Creek River Board into active opposition to the proposed dam, and on July 17th, 1879, they moved the Supreme Court to issue an injunction preventing its erection. This injunction was granted in the following September, mainly on the evidence of the Chairman of the Lower Wairau Rivers Board, who indiscreetly but candidly admitted that it was the intention of his Board to put all the water back into the Wairau River. Finding themselves baffled at this point, the Board next sought to give the district relief by cutting what is now known as Forster's Channel in the year 1881, but this scheme has not been the success that was anticipated, owing more to faulty construction than anything else. Later phases of the rivers problem is a scheme to cut a relief channel at Rose's Overflow at an estimated cost of £15,000, and an agitation for the amalgamation of the two existing River Boards, this latter question being the subject of a very careful investigation by a Parliamentary Committee during the session of 1895, the report being in favour of the proposed amalgamation.
For the moment we have digressed from the course of political events, mainly for the purpose of keeping the leading facts concern-page 456ing the conservation of the rivers as compact as possible. We will now return to Mr. Seymour, whom we left trying to restrain his Executive, and to placate his dissatisfied supporters in the Council. In neither of these departments of diplomacy did he appear to have the required success, and at last his old friend and ally, Mr. Joseph Ward, gave him to understand that if his Cabinet did not mend their ways, he and his immediate friends would go over to the Opposition, and the seat of Government would be lost to Picton. With this division in the camp, the Blenheim party seized their opportunity. They again coalesced with the free-lances of the other side, and on the second day of the session Mr. Henry Godfrey moved the following resolution: "That the Council do now adjourn until Thursday, 29th inst., at 3 o'clock p.m., and hold its next and subsequent meetings at the courthouse, Blenheim, and that His Honor the Superintendent be requested to make the necessary arrangements for carrying out this resolution." Upon this motion there arose a debate of heroic proportions. To the Picton representatives the result was almost a matter of life or death, for should the day go against them, Picton would be shorn of her glory, and what was more important, she would lose the opulence derived from a liberal expenditure page 457of Government money. On the other hand victory to the Blenheim party meant the realisation of a hope deferred for years, but never lost sight of. It meant an increase of dignity to their district, and it would also give them the supreme satisfaction of dishing their rival town at last. With these considerations to animate them, both parties lent their whole heart to the task. For days the battle raged with unabated vigour, but at last it resolved itself into a stolid "stonewall" by the Picton party, who now began to talk in selfdefence, hoping against hope that in the delay they might convert some of the weakest of their opponents. Conspicuous amongst the sturdy champions of Picton was Mr. Arthur Beauchamp, who brought to the assistance of his party a verbosity worthy of the occasion. Hour after hour he held the fort, with a dogged devotion that would have done honour to Sir Thomas Picton himself; and when he had been speaking for the best part of a day, he struck terror into the hearts of those weary ones anxiously waiting for a division, by explaining that "with these few preliminary remarks he would now proceed to speak to the subject under discussion." But physical endurance has its limits, and after sustaining a single-handed combat for ten hours and forty minutes, Mr. Beauchamp had to succumb. The fatal division could not page 458now be long averted, but before it took place, as a last expiring effort, Mr. John Godfrey handed in the following protest against his brother's motion:—
"To W. D. H. Baillie, Esq., "Speaker of the Provincial Council of Marlborough: I give you notice that I protest against your putting to the vote of this Council that part of the motion adjourning the sitting of the Council to the courthouse at Blenheim, the same being contrary to the 15th clause of the Constitution Act. (Signed) John Godfrey."
The Speaker respectfully declined to take any notice of this protest, and at last the momentous question was put from the chair, the division taken, and the Council decided by a majority of three to restore the seat of Government to Blenheim. The resolution thus passed was duly forwarded to the Superintendent, who immediately replied that the course pursued by the Council was contrary to the Constitution Act, and to the proclamation issued by him, fixing that session of the Council at Picton; he would, therefore, decline to make any arrangements as requested, and expect that the Council would remain where it was for the remainder of the term. This action of the Superintendent caused grave dissatisfaction, and several motions censuring his conduct and calling upon him to resign were tabled, and these were only defeated by his friends leaving the room and depriving the Council of a quorum. But page 459the great battle of Blenheim v. Picton was virtually over, for a few years later a treaty was entered into between the party leaders, embracing some important considerations, one of which was that there should be no further attempt to remove the seat of Government. The Council continued to hold its sittings in Picton until the dissolution in July, when Mr. Seymour's first Superintendency came to an end.
About this time Mr. Seymour had the honour of a call to the Legislative Council, where he remained an honoured and respected member, until he resigned to contest the Wairau seat in the Lower House in 1872.
The population of the province had been gradually increasing, and spreading in the direction of Wairau and Kaikoura, so that with every alteration of the electoral boundaries these districts obtained additional power in the Chamber; consequently, when the new Council met in Picton on October 23rd, 1865, there was an assured majority to carry into effect the resolution of the previous Council. After the Returning Officer had performed the formal business of reading out the names of elected members, on the motion of Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Cyrus Goulter was again elected Speaker, and he was also treasurer in the Executive. The bitter feeling prevailing between the two opposing parties had not page 460been entirely dissolved by the victory of the Blenheim section, and the last episode in the struggle was the handing in, by Mr. Beauchamp, of a protest against the Council proceeding to elect a Superintendent. Nevertheless, Mr. W. H. Eyes was proposed by Mr. H. Godfrey, and duly elected on the voices, the Picton representatives showing their contempt for the proceedings by leaving the chamber in a body. Within the next three weeks, the seat of Government was transferred from Picton, and that little town suffered a relapse from which she has never recovered. The provincial officers were quartered in temporary offices in Blenheim until more permanent provision could be made for them in the new buildings which were afterwards destroyed by fire.
Mr. Eyes opened the first important session of his Council in the courthouse, at Blenheim, on November 14th, 1865. In his "speech from the throne," he dealt most ably and exhaustively with the financial position of the province. In moderate but decisive language he rebuked the extravagance of his predecessors in office, pointing out that, although the revenue had barely come up to the authorised expenditure, a sum of £11,945 had been spent in excess of the appropriations. This would necessitate an increase of the bank overdraft to £6500, and page 461also a vigorous policy of retrenchment. The cost of the provincial service was by this means to be reduced by £2000 per year, and all public works were to cease. The Superintendent also informed the Council that, with a view to economy, he had amalgamated the office of Provincial Secretary with that of Commissioner of Crown Lands. Captain Kenny, who had held the latter office since 1862, had found it inconvenient to remove to Blenheim, and he accordingly tendered his resignation to His Excellency the Governor. His successor to this important office was Mr. James Balfour Wemyss, who had represented Marlborough in the Nelson Provincial Council previous to separation. Mr. J. R. Gard, who had been acting as Chief Postmaster at Picton, also resigned, and his appointment was conferred by the General Government upon Mr. John Bagge.
* The all-absorbing topic of conversation in Blenheim about this period was politics, and the favourite spot for holding these discussions was what is now "Girling's Corner." At that time it was not built upon, but was surrounded by a stout post and rail fence, on which the debaters used to sit and "argufy," and in consequence it became known as "Politic Corner."
* Mr. Eyes at various times held no less than twelve public offices, ranging in importance from a Member of the House of Representatives to Sheriff.
† The votes at these booths at recent elections have aggregated over 2000.
During Mr. Seymour's absence the duties of Superintendent were carried out by his deputy, Mr. James Hodson, with dignity and dispatch, and upon him devolved the duty of conducting the public function at the opening of the Picton-Blenheim railway. It will be remembered that as early as 1861 this proposal had been first formulated by Mr. Adams, but it was not until November 17th, 1875, that it became an accomplished fact; having been one of the first works undertaken by Messrs. Brogden and Co. under their contract with the New Zealand Government. The opening ceremony was simple and appropriate, and was commenced at Blenheim by Miss Goulter, daughter of the Provincial Secretary, and Miss page 472Gwynneth, daughter of Brogden's representative, christening the two engines "Waitohi" and "Blenheim" respectively. A crowded train then left for Picton, where an archway had been erected, across which a silken cord was stretched, and when the engine passed through and broke the cord, the Deputy-Superintendent declared the line open for traffic. In the afternoon a luncheon was given, and a brilliant ball was held in the evening, at which the elite of the province celebrated the important event.
On his return from England, Mr. Seymour was again elected Superintendent, but this time on a popular franchise, and not by a vote of the Council. This election he contested with Captain Baillie. He also had to contest his Parliamentary seat with Mr. George Henderson, a self-made man, who by genuine ability had forced himself into a prominent position in the public life of the province, but who, unfortunately, had not the knack of attracting the people to him. Had the franchise been as widely extended as it is now, the probability is that Mr. Henderson would have been successful, but the electors were few, and belonged for the most part to the landed proprietors, of whom Mr. Seymour was a typical representative. As it was, his victory was a narrow one of 22 votes, the figures being Seymour 201, Henderson 179.page 473
Mr. Seymour had always been a quiet and unobtrusive member of the House, but his gentlemanly demeanour won for him the respect of members generally, and when the present Speaker was elevated to the chair, Mr. Seymour was, on the motion of Mr. Fox, seconded by Sir George Grey, appointed to succeed him as Chairman of Committees, and this important parliamentary post he held until 1881, when he was defeated by Mr. Henry Dodson, the erstwhile lieutenant of Mr. Henderson. Prior to his resignation from Parliament in 1875, Mr. Seymour had voted to abolish the provinces in the North Island, because he believed that they were no longer able to carry on their administrative duties without considerable assistance from the General Government. On his return he found the whole of the provinces had been abolished, and the present system of centralisation decided upon. As Superintendent, he accordingly set himself to put everything in order for the day when his office would pass away, but never dreaming that it would have such a sensational termination. November 1st, 1876, was the date fixed for the abolition of the provincial institutions, and on the early morning of that day a mysterious fire occurred in the provincial offices, which spread with fearful rapidity, and demolished the whole of the business portion of the town, page 474and thus Marlborough's system of provincial government expired amidst fire and smoke, exactly seventeen years after its institution.
The abolition of the provinces, however, did not abolish the intensity of party feeling. Everything was still conducted on party lines, and there was little chance of rosy billets, or even casual employment, unless the applicant happened to be of the approved colour. But a great external influence was at work to terminate all this political narrowness and bigotry. Sir George Grey had appeared as the tribune of the people, advocating the extension of the franchise, and when this liberal reform was accomplished, it became impossible for any party to tyrannise over the electors as had previously been done. There was then a much more independent spirit, and a much freer hand enjoyed when Mr. Dodson entered the field against Mr. Seymour in 1881. Mr. Dodson was one of Marlborough's veteran politicians, and he had been a most consistent advocate of liberal principles in days when it was not popular to be anything but conservative. These advanced views he had imbibed when amongst the diggers of Ballarat, and although he was not a polished speaker he had a rude eloquence that often carried conviction where more flowery language might have failed. It is true that in later years he page 475seemed to hold rather elastic views upon some important public questions, but his extensive experience, gained in many a provincial contest, made him one of the most skilful election engineers the Wairau has ever produced, and this may account for his being able to subsequently accomplish several radical changes from his oft advocated policy with comparatively little injury to his reputation or popularity. But whatever estimate we may have of Mr. Dodson as a parliamentarian there can be no doubt that his election was an invaluable boon to the Wairau, as it broke the bad old spell, and cleared the way for a period of greater toleration, in which men are able to look upon each other's opinions with perfect good feeling, and if their differences are irreconcilable, "agree to differ." The Picton seat this year was contested by Messrs. E. T. Conolly (now Judge Conolly) and Mr. W. H. Eyes, the former Superintendent. Mr. Conolly was then a well known and highly esteemed lawyer who had seen service as a Provincial Councillor, but he was rather a difficult candidate to run, as he scorned to use the devices of the huckstering politician, and when the poll closed his majority was only 41.
In March, 1884, Mr. Dodson was opposed by the old campaigner, Mr. Joseph Ward, and was elected by the substantial majority page 476of 237 votes. This was Mr. Ward's last political contest, and with it closed a long life in the public interest. His connection with the district as explorer, surveyor, and runholder dated from 1845, and from that time until within a few months of his death, he identified himself with all the Wairau's public movements. He was a witty speaker, a keen critic, and an uncompromising adherent to principles he believed to be right, and when he died in September, 1892, he went to his rest honoured and respected by all who knew him.
At the following election Mr. Dodson was again successful, against Messrs. George Henderson and S. J. Macalister, owing to the Liberal votes being split by his opponents. Mr. Conolly* continued to represent Picton until 1887, when he retired from political life, and was succeeded by Mr. A. P. Seymour. In 1884 Mr. J. D. Lance entered Parliament in succession to Mr. McIlwraith, as the representative for Cheviot, which then included the town of Kaikoura.
* Mr. Conolly was appointed Minister for Justice in the Whitaker Ministry, on October 11th, 1882. He was confirmed in this position and appointed Attorney-General in the Atkinson Ministry on September 25th, 1883, holding both positions until August 16th, 1884. He was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court on August 15th, 1889.
The writer having now reduced the history of the province to a period when he himself became an active participator in public events, he deems it becoming that some other pen, more free from personal interest, should continue the narrative. But while hesitating to analyse comparatively recent events, it is with pleasure that he takes a retrospective view of the past forty years, which demon-page 478strate the fact that Marlborough has a political record of which she has no reason to be ashamed, for as she was served at home by many able men, she has also sent to the counsels of the colony others who have obtained, because they deserved, the respect and confidence of their fellow-members, for amongst her parliamentary representatives there can at least be counted a Speaker, two Deputy Speakers, three Ministers and an Attorney-General; while the gentlemen who fill the responsible offices of Clerks to both Houses were former residents of the province.page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page break