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Nation Making, a story of New Zealand

Chapter XXXVII. — The Land for the People

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Chapter XXXVII.
The Land for the People

Bread by sweat of Brow.—Labour the Law of Life.—The Charter of Humanity.—The True Glory of a Nation.—The Chief foundation of Greatness and Renown.—Concentration of Wealth.—Decay of Man.—Increase of Navy.—Withdrawal from Continental Complications.—Developement of Colonies.—Commercial Federation.—Confederation of English-speaking Race.—A Policy or an Idea.—English Capital in Colonies must be Invested on English Account.—Immigration Indispensable.—Neither Silly nor Greedy.—Colonies the Heritage of the English Nation.—Reckless Politicians.—Free Institutions Degraded.—Extravagant Borrowing.—Heavy Taxation.—Reduction of Expenditure or a Crown Colony.—A Policy of Drift.—Cultivation of Land a Safe Refuge.—Nation Making on Safe lines.—City versus Country.—Fertile New Zealand.—Wool, Wheat, Sheep and Gold.

Settlement on the land, cultivation of the soil, earning bread by sweat of brow are amongst the earliest foundations upon which Nations have been built in the past. In our times, notwithstanding the inventions of genius and the money combinations of schemers, labour is still the law of life. Happily for mankind, the gospel of work is the charter by which Humanity holds its dominion and secures its progress.

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If, in any nation, a schemer is counted better than a toiler, if labour is regarded as a degradation and wealth esteemed as a patent of nobility, the glory and duration of such a nation, may be regarded as vanishing quantities, which no institutions, regal or republican, can rescue from extinction.

If a people, by their inventive genius, by their commercial instincts, by their money-making faculties, are tempted, by the glittering results these qualities offer, to abandon the cultivation of the soil, which aforetime had been so great a factor in building up a race of sturdy men and thrifty, healthy women who, in the earlier stages of Making their Nation, laid the chief foundations of its greatness and renown, and direct their energies to build factories, banks and cities, and become dependent upon other countries for the larger portion of their daily bread, they are drifting onwards towards a great calamity.

Such a condition developes two results.

  • 1. The increase and concentration of wealth.
  • 2. The degradation and decay of man.

It offers a tempting prize to hostile nations. By its dependence on sea-borne food, it invites a danger, which may rapidly drift into an overwhelming disaster. It invites an attack by a great naval power, difficult to resist.

This is the condition of the United Kingdom today. It is true that the Nation, after so long and so recklessly tempting its fate, has at last decided to spend page 333twenty millions in increasing its war fleet. This however is a game at which other nations can play.

To rise a winner at such a game, England may well reckon her resources and resolve to use them.

Her policy ought to be:—
  • 1. Not the expenditure of twenty millions, but of one hundred millions, to make her undisputed mistress of the seas.
  • 2. The absolute withdrawal of England from interference with Continental politics and disputes.
  • 3. The steadfast developement of her Colonies as outlets for her capital and surplus population; as customers for her manufactured products; as suppliers of food and other raw materials.
  • 4. The commercial and political federation of the Empire, with the avowed intention of using that as a preliminary step to secure the ultimate Confederation of the English-speaking Race all over the world.

Then indeed, the English-speaking people in every clime would have assured its progress, would have provided for its safety from attack, and would have effectually secured the peace of the world, and the progress of mankind at large.

It will of course be said that this is a big policy. True. It is a policy which, as yet, may not be much more than an idea, which may be, and must be, left to the operation of the forces of opinion and circumstance, which are being developed with more than less rapidity and certainty.

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In the meantime, one of the forces is in operation,—the action and reaction of opinion between Britain and her Colonies on such questions of policy, as the beneficial location of her superabundant population in her own Colonies, instead of listlessly permitting her people to drift to the United States.

It is not that the Colonies most need the money of England. Of that, as observed in another Chapter, they have already borrowed more than they have wisely used, and have thereby imposed burdens upon themselves, not consistent with sound progress, not even with assured safety. Further investments of English capital in the Colonies must be on English account, unless all parties are prepared to face the possible contingency of the degrading surrender of our Representative institutions for a time, accept English administration of our affairs, after the Egyptian fashion, and become Crown Colonies once more.

What the Colonies need more than English money is industrious men and women of their own blood. It is true that—for the immediate present—when the borrowed and expended millions have largely ceased to afford employment at high, or at any wages, have indeed resulted in throwing many industrious people out of employment, that the working classes of the Colonies are opposed to the resumption of immigration. But let borrowing cease, and the working classes and others, will leave the cities, to settle on small farms in the country, where they will be in page 335a position to provide food for themselves, for the Colony they live in, and contribute to the food requirements of the United Kingdom.

When this policy is in operation, we shall hear no more of opposition to immigration. Being no longer mere wage earners, the working classes will be more really prosperous, more truly independent, and will invite their kin across the sea to join them in these new lands. The four million people living in the Australasian Colonies, are not so silly or so greedy, as to suppose that these great countries, with a capacity to sustain a population of fifty millions, are the exclusive possessions of the handful of people who live in them to-day.

They are the heritage of the English Nation. They have been, with incredible rashness, handed over to the control of a class of reckless politicians, who have plunged every Colony over which they have ruled, into a sea of debt; and have then, by means of the borrowed millions, done much to degrade the free institutions of these young Nations into a régime of bribery and pauperism.

This reckless and extravagant borrowing in New Zealand, together with the heavy taxation it involves, has created deep dissatisfaction throughout the Colony, with the system of Government, which has led to such results. Already the cry is being raised,

'The system of Government must be simplified and its cost be enormously reduced, or we shall drift back to a Crown Colony,' which means that the administration of affairs will pass into the hands of page 336representatives of English capitalists, and that our free institutions will suffer dishonour at our hands.

Both these alternatives are before us. To-day we may, if we will, adopt the former one. But if, instead of boldly laying the axe to the root of corrupt administration, we idly settle into a policy of drift,' in a not very distant to-morrow, we may be driven to accept the latter alternative.

In the meantime, our imperative duty is to place the people upon the land. Happily the inflation and extravagance caused by the expenditure of the borrowed millions have well-nigh come to an end. Great numbers of people in New Zealand are turning to Land Tilling as a natural means of earning a living, as a safe refuge against disaster. In this direction, this Colony is resuming the work of Nation Making' on safe lines.

In these young Colonies, any forcing of the English Factory system by what is termed Protection of native industry, is a mistake and a danger. Our plain duty, our wisest policy is to produce raw materials for the English market, for which we are eminently fitted by our genial climate, our fertile soils, and by the extraordinary range of possible products, in a Colony stretching through thirteen degrees of latitude (from 34° S. to 47° S.). No extension of our cities will secure such a result. The country, and the country alone, can secure it. Our soundest and wisest policy is to settle our people on country lands, and so page 337develope its wonderful resources. In this direction, we have room in New Zealand for millions of industrious and frugal people, who will settle on their own freehold lands, and live mainly upon the produce of their own farms.

This appears to me to be a sure foundation on which to Make a Nation in these new lands.

That much has been already done in New Zealand in the direction of producing raw materials will be evident from the following brief comparative Tables of Live stock and production for 1888.

Table I.
Horses Cattle Sheep* Pigs
New Zealand. 187,382 853,358 15,235,561 277,901
United Kingdom. 1,936,702 10,268,600 28,938,716 3,815,643
Victoria 315,000 1,333,873 10,623,985 243,461
Table II.
Showing the comparative yield per acre in 1888, of agricultural products in various countries.
Wheat Oats Barley Hay Potatoes
bus. bus. bus. tons tons
New Zealand 26·37 31·24 27·26 1·48 5·45
Great Britain 28·05 37·24 32·84
United States (1887) 12·12 25·44 19·57
Victoria 10·71 22·92 31·20 1·41 4·18

Showing for New Zealand, with its imperfect cultivation, greater yields per acre, than any other page 338country except Great Britain, notwithstanding the high-class farming in force in the United Kingdom.

Table III.
Showing Quantities of principal articles (the produce and manufacture of New Zealand) exported, 1888–9.
Wool 87,077,030 lbs.
Wool used in Colony 4,079,563 lbs.
Tallow 7,358 tons
Rabbit skins 12,593,177 number
Gold 211,764 oz.
Wheat 2,745,784 bushels
Oats 2,723,102 bushels
Butter 3,631,376 lbs.
Cheese 3,731,840 lbs.
Frozen meat 63,003,472 lbs.
Kauri gum 8,533 tons
Phormium (Flax) 5,603 tons
Sawn and hewn timber 44,219,840 feet

These figures tell their own story.

They proclaim the Colony of New Zealand to be one of the most fertile countries in the world, and with a greater range of productions than any other field for emigration.

* Sheep in 1858—1,523,324.