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The New Zealand Constitution Act [1852]: together with correspondence between the Secretary of State for the colonies and the Governor-in-Chief of New Zealand in explanation thereof

Despatch from Sir George Grey to the Right Hon. Earl Grey

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Despatch from Sir George Grey to the Right Hon. Earl Grey.

Government House, Auckland, 9th July, 1849. No. 93.—Executive.

My Lord,—I had hoped by the present opportunity to have transmitted to your Lordship the Blue Books for the Provinces of New Ulster and New Munster. But that for New Munster not having reached me, I think it better no longer to delay forwarding the Blue Book for New Ulster, together with my annual report upon these Colonies.

2. In order that this annual report may be understood, it is necessary to take the following view of the present state of these Colonies.

* * * *

(Paragraphs 3 to 9 inclusive, incorporated in despatch to Earl Grey, No. 121, of the 30th August 1851, see par. 11 to 17.)

* * * *

10. The questions to be solved have therefore been, how to induce the Native race cordially to assist in the attempt to create so desirable a state of things, and how to provide the funds requisite for governing so many isolated settlements, spread over so vast a tract of difficult country, the intervals between which are occupied by so warlike a race, over whom it was necessary to exercise some control. It is worthy of remark here that the united population of New Zealand is as large as that of New South Wales has until very recently been; and that it is a population, from its mixed and peculiar elements, infinitely more difficult to govern than that of New South Wales; whilst the cost of the machine of Government is greatly increased from the number of the settlements and their distance from each other. In point of fact, the several settlements are distinct Colonies, and—both in the difference of feelings and interests of the Europeans, and of the respective Native tribes inhabiting each-differ much more widely from each other than many British colonies do. It appears, therefore, that it would be imprudent and unjust to attempt to draw any parallel in these respects between New Zealand and any other British colonial possession.

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11. In carrying out any plan having for its object the amalgamation of the two races, the following difficulties have, until recently, presented themselves:—

1stly.—Hostile encounters had taken place between the settlers and the natives in the south of New Zealand, and between her Majesty's forces and the natives in the northern portion of the country, in all of which the number of killed and wounded on our side had been comparatively so large, and the loss of the enemy so small, that they had been led to form an exaggerated notion of their own prowess and strength, and a desire of emulating the example of those chiefs, who were imagined by their countrymen to have gained great successes, had excited a spirited of exultation and dissatisfaction throughout the greater portion of the islands; so that whilst a rebellion was actually raging in one portion of the islands, it was too probable that the natives would speedily break out into similar excesses in other portions of them.

2ndly.—Disputes existed between the settlers and the natives in various places regarding their respective rights to certain lands. These disputes, relating to the personal interests of the parties concerned, created between them a feeling of hostility and bitterness which was gradually raising race against race, and which threatened ultimately to become a feeling which could only be put a stop to by the extermination of the one party or the other.

3dly.—As a necessary result of the difficulties existing under the two previous heads, the revenue had almost disappeared, and by the issue of paper money a large debt had been contracted; there was thus an absence of the funds requisite for the reestablishment of order and good government, whilst the settlers had also, to a great extent, lost all confidence in their future prospects, and were in a disheartened and desponding condition.

4thly.—A very great difficulty had been created by the Crown's right of pre-emption having been waived in favour of certain individuals over large tracts of land, and by the inordinate demands of other persons to extensive tracts of country having been entertained by the Government, the result of which was, that a party of land claimants had been called into existence who made demands so extravagant and illegal that no government could accede to them, nor did it appear practicable to make a settlement of these claims, even upon the most liberal basis, without incurring for the Government such a degree of hostility from a large number of persons as would probably exceedingly embarrass and impede any subsequent administrations.

12. In determining the line of policy the Government page 81 should pursue in reference to the first class of the difficulties above named—that is, in reference to the war which existed in New Zealand, and the rebellion which appeared likely to break out—the following considerations seemed naturally to present themselves:—

13. It appeared to be clearly the duty of the Government, in a firm and decided manner, to crush the existing rebellion, and to put down without delay any disturbances which might afterwards break out; but yet it also seemed clear that its ruling line of policy should be, not to embark in any operations in which an absolute certainty did not exist of a speedy and complete success; and rather to delay engaging in hostilities which might appear necessary, than hurriedly embark in any contest the result of which could not be foreseen.

14. Indeed, delay in engaging in hostilities was, wherever practicable, obviously the first duty of the Government of this territory. No knowledge of the country, of such a nature as to enable an officer to move with certainty a body of troops even to a few miles from any of the settlements, was possessed by the Government. The number of persons who possessed a competent knowledge of the native language was so few that it was impossible to secure the services of the requisite number of interpreters. The two races had so recently been brought into close contact, that their ignorance of their respective appearance, of their language, customs and manners, filled them with mutual distrust, whilst their disputes in relation to land, embittered their feelings of hostility. It appeared very probable that as the two races became more accustomed to each other—as their knowledge of each other's language and customs increased, and as their private differences were adjusted, so would all necessity for war and conflict between them wear away; whilst, should these anticipations of a delay in military operations rendering a war unnecessary prove correct, it would clearly have been an uncalled for measure of severity to hurry on a contest with the natives. And in the case of each individual who fell in such a conflict, it might have been said that from his ignorance a man had been destroyed whom a few months' enlightenment would have rendered a good subject, a valuable consumer of British manufactured goods, and a contributor to the revenue. The loss to Great Britain by engaging in an unnecessary war would also have been great; every 100 soldiers that had fallen must have cost at least £10,000. Moreover, Great Britain, in despatching two regiments to this country, had made great exertions which it could not continue or repeat without considerable inconvenience to the public service. Yet even a very few false movements might have entailed so page 82 considerable a loss upon the small force in this country as to have rendered large and continued reinforcements necessary. It is perhaps not too much to say, that dining a considerable period of time any signal failure in an operation which had been entered upon, would have led to a simultaneous and almost general rising, the effect and cost of which may easily be conceived.

15. It was also certain that even if the anticipations which had been formed of the benefits which might spring to both races from delaying military operations had not been realised, and it had proved ultimately necessary to embark in a war, yet that each month's delay, by increasing our knowledge of the country and of the native language, and by enabling us to complete our roads and to consolidate our establishments, would be of the greatest advantage to Great Britain, by enabling it to enter on the contest with greater means and more certainty of success.

16. Mercy, justice, and prudence, all appeared therefore to point to delay as the general rule on which the Government should act. This line of policy has therefore been in all instances unswervingly pursued, and the result has quite equalled the anticipation which might reasonably have been formed; for whilst the rebellion which existed and the disturbances which naturally sprung from that rebellion have been in all instances crushed, the total loss, of all ranks, sustained on our side through so long a period of time has amounted to only 28 killed and 53 wounded; and in as far as human judgment can form an estimate of such matters, no probability exists of any extensive rebellion ever hereafter breaking out in this country; and even should such disturbances again unhappily break out, our knowledge of the country is now so much more accurate, our alliances with the natives have become so much more numerous, our military roads have been so far completed, the number of persons acquainted with the native language and customs so increased, and the natives' supplies of arms and ammunition have been so much diminished, that we should enter on such a contest with infinitely greater advantage than we formerly possessed.

17. The efforts which have been made by the Government of this country for the removal of the second class of difficulties alluded to, were of two kinds:—

1st.—The resumption of the Crowns right of pre-emption, which had unfortunately been abandoned, and—

2nd.—The adjustment of many of the almost innumerable land questions which existed. The task of resuming the Crown's right of pre-emption appeared at first to be one of great difficulty and danger; but the natural good sense of the page 83 natives, and their continually increasing confidence in the Government, have rendered its accomplishment much less difficult than was anticipated. The various steps which have been taken for the adjustment of the disputes in reference to land have been so fully detailed in the despatches from the various authorities, and the large mass of documents which have been transmitted to the Home Goverment, that it may be unnecessary to say more than that, with very few trifling exceptions, every land question in the Southern Province has been already disposed of; whilst, in the Northern Province, nearly all questions connected with lands have been also arranged, with the exception of those which, resting upon grants issued by the Crown, can only be dealt with by our Courts in the ordinary manner.

18. The measures taken to remedy the difficulties detailed under the third head—namely, the want of a revenue, the existence of a depreciated paper currency, and the failure which had taken place in the confidence and expectations of the settlers, have also all been fully detailed in the despatches which relate to these subjects. The objects contemplated by the Government in reference to these subjects, may be generally stated to have been the imposition of duties, which, by a system of indirect taxation, might raise from the native as well as from the European population a revenue which would increase with every successive step of their advancement, and yearly yield the means for their more efficient control and government, whilst in aid of and in connexion with these plans, the depreciated paper currency was partly withdrawn, and the remaining portion of it was converted into a funded debt.

19. In order to remedy, in as far as practicable, the evils enumerated under the 4th head—namely, the difficulties which had been created by the Crown's right of pre-emption having been waived in favour of certain individuals over large tracts of land, and the claims of others having been entertained to enormous tracts of country, every effort has been made to adjust these claims upon the most liberal terms, and to carry out these arrangements in the most conciliatory manner; this being, however, one of those cases in which individuals have been led to form extravagant expectations which it was impossible for any Government to realize, no efforts could probably have prevented much disappointment and bitterness of feeling ensuing, and it is probable that nothing but time can completely eradicate this evil, although from the settlement of so large a number of these claims, and from the arrival of so many disinterested persons in the colony, the proportionate number of individuals whose ex page 84 pectations have been disappointed, is gradually decreasing, and their influence, as a party, will soon cease to be felt.

20. But little would, however, have been accomplished if the Government had confined itself simply to an attempt to remove the various evils under which these islands were labouring. It was necessary that active measures should at the same time be taken, without delay, for the amalgamation of the two races—that the confidence of the natives should be won—that they should be inspired with a taste for the comforts and conveniences of civilized life—that they should be led to abandon their old habits—that the chiefs should be induced to renounce their right of declaring peace and war, and that the whole of the native race should be led to abandon their barbarous modes of deciding disputes and administering justice, and should be induced for the future to resort to our Courts for the adjustment of their differences and the punishment of their offenders.

21. Thoroughly to accomplish a change of this nature would require a long series of years, and a succession of generations. The utmost, therefore, that any government could hope to do was, to establish institutions which might imperceptibly but certainly lead to so complete a change of manners in a barbarous nation as was contemplated, and to secure these institutions by such laws and by such a constitution as appeared to afford a reasonable guarantee for their perpetuity.

22. The first step to be taken to ensure these ends appeared to be, to convince the natives that our laws were better than their own, as affording more perfect security for life and property, and a much more ready means of adjusting differences which might arise either between natives and Europeans or amongst natives themselves.

23. To attain these ends, the Resident Magistrate's Ordinance was passed, and Mixed Courts were constituted for the settlement of disputes between natives. At the same time a considerable number of their young chiefs and most promising young men were enrolled in an armed police force, and thus habituated to act as actual administrators in the lowest offices of the law, and were made acquainted with the practical administration of the law in our inferior Courts. This latter measure, at the time it was introduced, excited unbounded ridicule, yet probably no measure has been so totally successful in its results. The native armed police force has furnished gallant men who have led our skirmishing parties, and who have fallen like good soldiers in the discharge of their duty; and it has furnished intelligent, sober, and steady constables, whose services, under various circumstances, have been found of great utility. The actual result of the two measures combined is sufficiently attested by the page 85 number find importance of the cases in which natives were concerned which have been recently decided by our tribunals, to which until lately the natives never resorted.

24. To bring the natives under the influence of the Government, and to gain their confidence and attachment, various measures have been resorted to by the Government. Hospitals have been established in the principal districts to which both races have been equally admitted, and in which they have been tended with equal care; Savings Banks have been instituted for the benefit of both races; a considerable number of natives have been employed in the minor offices of the Government establishments; pensions have been conferred on those chiefs who, during the first rebellion, were distinguished by their gallantly, fidelity, and devotion to the British cause. Large numbers of natives have been employed on public works, and in the construction of roads, thereby securing to the colony the advantage of excellent lines of communication; whilst from the discipline maintained amongst those employed upon public works, these works formed in fact industrial schools, in which the natives were trained to European habits of order and obedience, were accustomed to use European tools instead of their own rude implements, and were thus gradually trained to become useful labourers for the colonists. The natives have also been encouraged to pursue improved modes of husbandry, to construct mills, to acquire vessels, to attend to the breeding of cattle and horses—and a newspaper is fortnightly published by the Government, for the purpose of giving them useful information and plain practical directions on all those points to which the Government is anxious they should direct their attention.

25. These various measures may be, however, said to aim only at the present improvement of the native race, and to make no adequate provisions for their continual advancement in the arts of civilized life, and for the education of the native children upon such a system that they might have a prospect of standing on terms of equality with the European race, and of understanding and speaking their language.

26. Fortunately the task of the Government in this respect has been an easy one. There existed in this country three missions, established by different Christian denominations, amongst whom there is, perhaps, an emulation as to which shall achieve the greatest amount of good. And it may reasonably be doubted whether at any period of the world there has existed in one country, amongst so large a number of men who had devoted themselves to the holy calling of a missionary, so many persons who were eminently qualified page 86 by piety, ability, and zeal, to discharge the functions of the office upon which they had entered; the result has been, that these gentlemen, scattered throughout the country, have exercised an influence without which all the measures adopted by the Government would have produced but little effect. Won by their teaching, the natives have almost as an entire race embraced Christianity, and have abandoned the most revolting of their heathen customs. Instructed by the missionaries, probably a greater proportion of the population than in any country in Europe are able to read and write; and encouraged by the precept and example of the same gentlemen, they have, in all parts of the islands, made considerable progress in the rougher branches of civilized life. The Government therefore, in establishing schools, thought it most desirable not to attempt to set up a system of its own, which might have required years for its development (during which a generation might have melted away, and an opportunity have been lost which could never be recalled), but rather to join its exertions to those of the missionaries, and to endeavour, whilst it established its own educational institutions, to render the system of the missionaries more complete and effective than hitherto. It therefore provided considerable funds which should be set apart for educational purposes, but determined that these funds should be applied under the direction of the heads of the different denominations who had missions established in New Zealand, it being provided that the several institutions which received any portion of these funds should be conducted upon the industrial system—that the English language should be taught there, and that a sound religious education should be imparted to the pupils. Provision was also made by Government for the appointment of inspectors who will examine into the state of the schools, and will ascertain that the various requirements which are imposed by the laws relating to these institutions are strictly complied with.

27. All these measures appeared calculated to secure a permanent and constantly increasing, instead of a scanty and superficial, civilization for the native population; and in order still further to increase the chances of success, two laws were passed, the first of which prohibited the natives from procuring arms or ammunition, and the second of which debarred them from the use of spirituous liquors. These regulations appeared stringent and likely to create discontent; but it was thought probable that, united with so many other measures of a character which were agreeable to the natives, and clearly calculated to promote their wellfare, their strong natural good sense would lead them to see that these more distasteful restrictions had originated in the same care for their page 87 welfare as had suggested the other portions of the system, and the result has justified the anticipations which were formed, as they have, without complaint, acquiesced in these regulations, and generally and cheerfully acknowledged their beneficial tendency.

28. In the course of the past 18 months the natives have, on several occasions, shown in the most striking manner their increasing confidence in our institutions, and their knowledge of the rights they have gained by their incorporation into the British Empire, by carefully considering the effect that proposed measures are likely to have upon their future welfare, and by evincing their gratitude or dissatisfaction by forwarding congratulatory addresses for benefits received, or by transmitting memorials against proposed measures to the Queen, on whose justice and desire to promote their welfare they evidently relied with the most implicit confidence.

29. The most cursory consideration of the large number of objects which the Government proposed to itself, in carrying out the system of policy which has just been detailed, must have shown that it relied upon receiving, at least for some years, considerable monied assistance from some extraneous source, until the improvement which might naturally be looked for in the internal traffic and external commerce of the colony had so far improved the revenue that it would suffice to defray the necessary expenditure of the Government.

30. Such assistance was, in point of fact, most generously supplied by the Imperial Parliament, and it hence became an important object for the Local Government so to conduct the financial operations of the colony that it might, at the earliest possible period, dispense with the assistance which was afforded to it, and thus cease to be a burden to the Parent State, which had so liberally aided it during its early struggles. This end may be said to be so far attained, that in the ensuing year the resources of the country will suffice to defray the whole of its expenditure with the exception of £15,000, if the proposed financial operations are approved of which were detailed in the despatch named in the margin, whilst, as in each succeeding year, an increase of revenue may be looked for, and no corresponding increase in the expenditure will be requisite, the amount of assistance received from Great Britain can be still further diminished in each year subsequent to 1850.

31. In order that every guarantee might be afforded that the state of prosperity which these colonies were attaining might have a character of permanency, it was still necessary that institutions should be devised which would ultimately constitute a form of Government which was likely to be adapted to the circumstances of this country, and to be satis page 88 factory to its mixed and peculiar population. It also appeared to be a matter of great importance, that continual advances should be made towards such institutions, so that their introduction may be gradual, and that they might, as it were, imperceptibly grow with the growth of the colony.

32. Such a form of institutions had already in their main outline been sketched by your Lordship, and these in their main features presented a constitution than which nothing better could be devised here, although alterations in the details appeared necessary to adapt them to this country and to the feelings of the inhabitants. These alterations were made, and the form of constitution which appeared best adapted to New Zealand was fully reported on in the despatches named in the margin, whilst several steps preparatory to their introduction have already been taken in this country, and in point of fact, with the exception that the Assemblies, instead of being elective, are nominated by the Crown; the proposed system may be said already to be in full operation in New Zealand. The great error which the Local Government is in this respect thought by one party in the colony to have committed, is, too great a delay in introducing the elective principle. It may, perhaps, upon the other hand, be urged that, looking to the peculiar condition and population of this country, it is better to err on the side of prudence, and not to incur the risk of the fearful evils which would ensue from another rebellion for the sake of acquiring one or two years earlier that which must certainly within so short a period be obtained.

33. The foregoing sketch of the policy which has been pursued by the Local Government, and the reasons upon which that policy has been based, will probably, when taken in conjunction with the various despatches which I have written upon the several subjects alluded to (and which fill up the present outline), form so complete an exposition of the recent proceedings of the Government in these colonies as will make your Lordship fully to understand the returns contained in the Blue Book for New Ulster. I can only trust I have not omitted to forward information upon any subject which your Lordship may deem important, although amongst so large mass of matter it is difficult not to fall into the error of too hastily passing over subjects which may be only imperfectly understood in England.

                     I have, &c.,

                           G. Grey.

The Right Hon. Earl Grey,

&c., &c., &c.