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The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.


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The two great events which have taken place during the nineteenth century, and which must, beyond all others, influence the future of the world, are the rapid progress of the United States of America, and the foundation and growth of the great system of colonies belonging to the British Empire. All other matters recorded—the relative power of the nations of continental Europe; the story of their wars and rivalries— cannot alter the future course of human progress, but the marvellous development of a few communities scattered along the Eastern sea-board of the North American Continent into the mightiest and most wealthy nation that the world has seen; the extension of the colonies of the British Empire over such considerable portions of the whole surface of the habitable globe; and the establishment of numerous free and prosperous states in Canada, in South Africa. New Zealand, Australia, and Polynesia, in which the surplus population of European nations—especially of the English-speaking races, may find homes and subsistence for centuries to come, are the real factors of history for this period.

All events happening in the early period of this rapid expansion of free nations; all purposes formed by those connected with their establishment, the hopes which animated the leaders of this great movement, their actions, their triumphs or defeats, the methods by which they met and overcame all difficulties, and the destiny towards which they worked, should all be of surpassing interest to the student, to the politician, to the philosopher, to the Christian, and to the patriot.

The childhood of history beheld the sceptre of dominion swayed by the Eastern nations. Civilization, progress, and knowledge, were confined to Asia. For more than two thousand years Europe has led and ruled the world. The nineteenth century of the Christian era has seen the nations of the future spring into existence. The one portion of Europe destined to exercise influence upon succeeding generations is comprised in the British Islands, and that only as a member of a great federation of the English-speaking peoples. As the Western immigrations of many tribes laid the foundations of those new states which distanced the Asiatics in knowledge and power, so the world-wide colonies of Britain have, within the memory of living men, page 2reached a magnitude of commerce and attained a fulness of liberty before unparalleled.

Boastful though such a statement may appear, it is, humanly speaking, certain that in the lifetime of multitudes now born into the world, the English-speaking race will dominate and control the earth.

Regarding the development ot the United States, the writers of these pages do not propose to speak, and comparatively but little notice will be directed to the great group of colonies forming the Dominion of Canada.

The life and times of Sir George Grey are more particularly identified with those vast colonial possessions which loom below the Southern horizon, and are spread out in their boundless plenitude beneath the Southern skies.

The reign of Victoria, auspicious beyond precedent in history, has witnessed and encouraged the growth of the family of nations now testing beneath the shadow of the English flag. As will be seen, the connection between Sir George Grey and this immense Colonial Empire is absolutely contemporaneous with the period of the reign of Victoria. There are in the world two human beings, and two only, who from the month of june, 1837, till the present day, have been ceaselessly and intimately connected with the progress and development, the happiness and welfare of the colonial portion ot that Empire upon which the sun never sets; whose interest in the colonies has never ceased, and who have occupied, without intermission, positions of trust and responsibility in relation to them. The first is Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen—the second is her servant, Sir George Grey.

To the student of colonial history, and to all those who desire to acquire knowledge as to the destination and probable happiness of future generations, the records of a life spent in the service of humanity, and intimately associated with the foundation and establishment of many colonies, must necessarily be full of interest as well as instruction. It is impossible fully to portray the vast series of circumstances, to reproduce the volumes of correspondence, or to particularize the innumerable incidents, which have gone to make up the busy history of over fifty years of life identified with exploration, with politics, with wars, and social life in the colonial world. A task so gigantic would require time and means of access to innumerable sources of information, so wide and extensive as to preclude the possibility of a successful result. But to sketch the main features of early colonial life, to give the outline of wars between different races, of the establish merit of settled government and social institutions, of religion, of commerce, of learning, and of other leading and more prominent events which have transpired in a varied and wonderful career, is an end which may be attained, although, perhaps, not so successfully, or with such precision of outline or truth of colouring as might be desired.

But even though imperfectly attempted, yet the record of such a life and of the great principles which have been its motive power in laying wide page 3and deep the foundations of future civilization, must possess intrinsic value and substantial worth.

In that portion of this volume which deals with Sir G. Grey's administration in South Australia, we have been hampered by want of information. Many interesting papers relating to that period were either lost in the fire at Government House, in Auckland, in 1846, or presented by the Governor, together with his private library, to the people of Cape Colony.

Much that would have been deeply interesting in the records of social life, of explorations, of public works and political events, is thus beyond our reach, and our sketch of the main features of Sir G. Grey's Government of that colony will doubtless appear to many who lived there at the time, in many respects bare, meagre, and devoid of colour. In one case—that of Mr. Angas—we have unwittingly given a false impression by appearing to endorse the harsh opinion which he expressed of his colonial agent. As a matter of fact, time has fully vindicated the judgment and actions of that gentleman, which resulted in an immense increase in the value of the estate he managed for Mr. Angas.

Throughout his life Sir George Grey has felt a peculiar affection for the colony which be first governed—for its climate, its scenery, but above all, for its people, who presented a marked contrast to the usual type of settlers in a new country. To his mind there has ever appeared great similarity in character between the Puritan founders of the New England States and the early colonists of South Australia.

Conscious of many imperfections, of the omission of much that should find a place, and the admission of some things which, perchance, critics may say should have been relegated to obscurity, the writers of these pages acknowledge only two considerations:—One, to give in a connected form the incidents, the adventures, and the achievements of a life at once noble and beneficent; the other, to preserve the record of principles, of actions, and of aspirations which are likely to influence for good the youth of this and of succeeding generations. To every heart which hopes for the reign of peace and happiness upon the earth, to every mind which looks forward to the ultimate dominion of the English races in the world, and the peaceful solution of those great questions which now agitate humanity, Sir George Grey's biography will be welcome.