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The Jubilee History of Nelson: From 1842 to 1892.

Chapter I

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Chapter I.

Object of Work.—Early Discoveries.—Arrival of Missionaries.—The New Zealand Company.—Arrange to found Nelson.—Terms and inducements offered.

This Work is intended to trace in outline the foundation, rise, and progress of the Nelson Settlement. It does not pretend to be a history of New Zealand. A sketch, however, of the early discoveries of the country may appropriately precede that of the early days of Nelson.

Juan Fernandez, who gave his name to the island, made so attractive to us as boys in De Foe's delightful story of Robinson Crusoe, is said to have sailed away from one of the ports on the west coast of South America in 1576, and after sailing four or five weeks in a south-westerly direction, to have reached a fertile and pleasant land inhabited by white people, well made, and dressed in a species of woven cloth. The old Spanish chroniclers, often describe people of brown complexion as white. At all events if it is not certain he discovered New Zealand, no other country answers the description given by this old navigator. The first really authentic account we have of the discovery of this country, is "The journal of Abel Jansz Tasman of a voyage from Batavia for making discoveries of the unknown South Land in the year 1642. May God Almighty be pleased to give his blessing to this voyage. Amen." We learn from this deeply interesting journal, that Tasman sailed from the road of Batavia on the 14th, August 1642, in the yacht "Heemskirk," in company with the "Zeehaen" (Sea-hen) fly boat After visiting Mauritius and discovering Van Dieman's Land, since called after him Tasmania, he steered East, and on the 13th December of the same year, he sighted the West Coast of the Middle Island of New Zealand, described by him as "a high mountainous country, which is at present represented and marked in the charts under the name of New Zealand."

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He sailed along the coast and came to an anchor in the evening in 28 fathoms of water, muddy bottom. "An old chart preserved among the archives of the British East India Company indicates Tasman's anchorage to have been about two miles to the N.N.W. of Separation Point, in Massacre, or as it now called Golden Bay." (Brett's History of New Zealand.) The bay was named "Murderer's Bay," because of an attack made by the natives on one of the Zeehaen's boats, in which three of Tasman's men were killed, and one mortally wounded.

But as Tasman had a chart in which "Zeland Nova" was shewn, it appears tolerably certain that the country was visited before his arrival in 1642. An atlas was published by William Bleau, a Dutchman, who died in 1638, in which an indistinct line of coast is shewn, with the name against it "Zelandia Nova."

After Tasman's departure on the 6th January, 1648, we have have no record of any visit to New Zealand until Captain Cook's arrival. He sailed from the Society Islands in search of a Southern Continent then believed to exist. He sighted land on the 6th October, 1769, and on the 8th cast anchor in Poverty Bay. After having circumnavigated these islands, he sailed from Cape Farewell for Australia on the 31st March, 1770. Captain Cook again visited New Zealand in 1773, in 1774, and in 1777.

The "St. Jean Baptiste," a French vessel commanded by M de Surville, visited New Zealand in 1769; and afterwards another French officer, M. Marion du Fresne, arrived on the West Coast on 24th March, 1772, and his ships were in sight of Mount Egmont. He sailed round the North Cape, and on the 11th May anchored his two vessels in the Bay of Islands. Until the 12th June he and his men lived in friendly relationship with the natives. On that day Marion went ashore with sixteen officers and men for a day's fishing—they never came back—and the natives gave their shipmates to understand that they had been killed and eaten.

In 1793, the "Dœdalus," under the command of Lieut. Hanson, visited New Zealand, and kidnapped two natives, who were carried off to Norfolk Island to teach the convicts from Home how to dress flax. But as flax-dressing was the peculiar work of the women, these two men, one of whom was a chief and the other a priest, were not of much use. It is satisfactory to know that they were sent back safely, and received some handsome presents.

In 1814 the first missionaries arrived in New Zealand. Messrs Hall & Kendall were sent on an expedition from Sydney to report on the state of the country, and the chances for the establishment of a Mission Station. They were acting under the instructions of the Rev. Samuel Marsden. After a short stay they returned to Sydney, and on the 19th November of that year page 3again embarked in company with Mr Marsden, who preached his first sermon in New Zealand on Christmas Day, 1814. The first station established by the Wesleyan missionaries at Kaeo-Wangaroa was taken possession of by Mr Leigh and his wife on the 10th June, 1823.

Various attempts at colonization were made from 1825 to 1839—the New Zealand Company being formed in the latter year.

Nelson was the second, as Wellington was the first of the settlements formed directly by this Company. A history of the place would therefore be incomplete without some description of the constitution and objects of the New Zealand Company and its method of action. Of the causes which led so soon to the decadence and dissolution of a Company which started its career with great promise of success as a commercial speculation— directed by men of high Parliamentary and social standing—all professing to be animated, as no doubt they were, by higher motives than the bare love of gain—nothing need be said in this place. They will appear in the course of the narrative of events.

The New Zealand Company was the result of the union of three distinct associations previously existing for the same object, viz., the plantation of a British Colony in New Zealand, To these united interests were added the subscriptions of a new body of subscribers, whereby the Company acquired what was believed to be ample capital for the prosecution of its object.

The earliest of these associations was the New Zealand Company of 1825; then came the New Zealand Association of 1837; and in 1838, the New Zealand Colonisation Company. The last named Company ceased to exist on the 2nd May, 1839, and the first prospectus of the "New Zealand Company," called for a time the "New Zealand Land Company," was issued to the public.

The nature of the Company was exclusively commercial; its avowed object was to employ capital in the purchase and re-sale of land, and to promote emigration—or, as the Directors put it, "the purpose of the Company as a body of shareholders is profit by means of the sale of land." But they also claimed to have more excellent motives. In their third report presented to the shareholders at their annual general meeting on the 1st May, 1841, they say that they "are persuaded that the Company has partly placed itself, and has partly been placed, by the measures of Government, in a position alike advantageous as respects its own interests, and most favorable for enabling it to carry into effect the great national object of colonising New Zealand, and they are strongly impressed with the conviction that the circumstances under which it has obtained this position, and the cordial confidence with which, in reliance upon its professions of public spirit, it has been treated by Her Majesty's Government, impose page 4upon it the obligation of demonstrating by its future measures that it has other and higher motives than those of merely selfish profit, and that whilst it does not pretend to disclaim a due regard for its own interests, it is also powerfully actuated by an enlightened and generous desire to promote to the uttermost the concurrent benefit of those who have undertaken, under its auspices, the bold enterprise of planting another scion of the AngloSaxon race in a remote island of the Southern hemisphere, and of Great Britain."

The prospectus of the Company declared its capital to be £400,000, in 4000 shares of £100 each, with a deposit of £10 per share. The Earl of Durham was its Governor, and Joseph Somes, Esq., its Deputy-Governor. The Directory included the names of men of high Parliamentary, mercantile, and social standing.

From the beginning the Company declared its intention of dealing justly and even benevolently with the natives, and in every settlement acquired from them by purchase, valuable reserves were to be made for the benefit of the original owners. It is a somewhat startling commentary upon these proposed intentions of the Company, to find it described by Lord Stanley, on the 1st February, 1844, as "an unprincipled, rapacious body, utterly regardless of the rights and welfare of the natives"—a description which it is needless to, say was repudiated by the Directors with hot indignation. There seems to have been from the beginning some hostility to the Company on the part of the Government. It was believed at first that the Company intended proceeding to New Zealand to purchase large tracts of land, and to establish a system of Government independent of the British authority. Any such intention was promptly disavowed. The Company asked for, and expected to receive the protection of British law, administered by Imperial officers. The success of their enterprise as a purely commercial speculation, depended greatly upon such protection being afforded. And it was made an early ground of complaint that whilst the Royal Charter conferred upon the Company no privilege to arm the settlers for the defence of the intended settlements, or to appoint constables for the preservation of the peace, and the emigrants had been distinctly refused permission to form a voluntary association for such objects, yet the Government took no sufficient care for the safety of the colonists, or for the prevention of social disorder.

The intention of the Company was to form several settlements. One principal settlement, to be selected so "as to insure its becoming the commercial capital of New Zealand"—and such other settlements as might from time to time be deemed expedient. In pursuance of this object, a first expedition was sent out in 1889 under Colonel William Wakefield, who was in-page 5structed to acquire as much land as possible from the natives, by the usual methods. The lands so to be acquired were to be subdivided in England upon paper, into town and rural sections, and sold there to intending settlers. Thus 100,000 acres were sold in London before a title to one had been acquired. "Those who paid money drew lots for sections unknown, of land which the Company was about to seek."—(Rusden.)

The principle adopted by the Company was, in fact, to offer the land to the public by anticipation.

Colonel Wakefield selected Port Nicholson as the site for the first settlement, and was able to acquire very considerable tracts of land, extending from the 38th to the 43rd degree of latitude on the Western Coast, and from the 41st to the 43rd on the Eastern. One hundred and thirty-five stand of arms, twenty-one kegs of gunpowder, one cask of ball cartridges, night-caps, pipes, a gross of jews' harps, twelve hundred fishing hooks, and twelve sticks of sealing-wax, formed part of the consideration for the purchase.

The Port Nicholson Colony having been established under what seemed most encouraging prospects, the Company decided to send out a second expedition to find land for another settlement to be called "Nelson."

The terms upon which lands were to be acquired by intending settlers were briefly these:—The lands were offered in 1000 allotments of 201 acres each. Each allotment was to consist of three sections viz., 150 acres of rural land, 50 acres of accommodation land in the immediate proximity of the town, and one town acre. The price of each allotment of 201 acres was £300. A deposit of £30 was required upon every application. The balance to be paid upon a day of which public notice was to be given On payment of the full purchase money, each purchaser was to receive three separate land orders viz., for the 150 acres rural land, the 50 acres accommodation land, and the town acre respectively. These lands were to be severally selected according to priority of choice to be determined by lot. Three several ballots for priority of choice were to take place at the Company's house in London, and the actual choice of the allotments was to take place in the Settlement as soon after the arrival of a first body of colonists as the requisite surveys and plans should have been completed. The Company engaged to add to the 201,000 acres offered for sale, a quantity equal to one-tenth thereof, as native reserves; so that the quantity of land to be appropriated would in fact consist of 221,000 acres, and the town of 1100 acres. The Company reserved the right of purchasing 100 of the 1000 lots offered for sale, for its own benefit, at the same price, and subject to the same terms, as other purchasers. The sum of £300,000 to be received by the Company as the purchase moneys of the lands, was to be appropriated as follows viz.: £150,000 to the exclusive purpose emigration to this page 6particular settlement; £5000 to defray the Company's expenses in selecting the site and establishing the settlement; £50,000 to public purposes for rendering the settlement commodious and attractive. Of this £15,000 was to be applied to religious uses and endowments for colonists of all denominations, £15,000 to the establishment of a College in the settlement, and £20,000 towards the encouragement of steam navigation, for the benefit of the settlement, by way of bounty. The remaining £50,000 was to go to the Company for its expenses, and profit on the use of its capital. Such were the general terms upon which settlers were invited to come and assist in forming somewhere in New Zealand, but in such close proximity to Port Nicholson as was possible, the Colony, as it was sometimes called, of Nelson.

There were practically several classes of emigrants induced to come to the settlement under the auspices of the Company: first, its own agents, surveyors, and other servants; second, the intending settlers who had purchased land; and third, the mechanics and laborers, who, hoping for higher wages, short hours, and the other inducements held out by the emigration agents of the Company, had been induced to leave their homes in the Old Country. One idea of the Company was to make land so dear that it would not be easy for labourers to acquire it. Lowness of price would "enable emigrant labourers to buy land and set up for themselves very soon after their arrival, so that the amount of labour in the market would be diminished before an adequate supply of fresh hands had been procured by immigration."

The labourer was to be kept to his labour as long as was possible and convenient. It is evident, therefore, that in inducing hundreds of labourers to emigrate, the Company was bound under the circumstances to see that work was found for them on arrival. If settlement on the land was to be possible only to the thrifty labourer after a considerable period of hard work, the first duty plainly was to provide him with steady work which would give him remunerative wages. The terms upon which land could be acquired were subsequently considerably modified, as will be seen in the sequel—but not until after much suffering and hardship on the part of both settlers and immigrants. The latter suffered cruelly from the ultimate scarcity of work, the lowness of wages, and the insufficient supply of food.

The settlers were kept a long time waiting for their acres, which gave rise to claims for compensation against the Company. As much as one or two years intervened before obtaining the rural lands; their means and patience were in this way exhausted; and they had of course no work to give to their almost starving fellow immigrants, and were themselves reduced in some instances to real distress. But these matters will be developed in the course of this history.