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

Chapter XVI. — The Despatch of July, 1849

page 125

Chapter XVI.
The Despatch of July, 1849.

"Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword."

In July, 1849, Sir George sent a long and elaborate statement of the history and condition of the colony to the Secretary of State. His communications from all the colonies to the Government in England were singularly clear and well ordered. They form in themselves histories of the progress of the communities committed to his care.

It would be manifestly impossible to give at length the full text of documents which fill volumes of printed reports, Parliamentary papers, and official correspondence. Ministers of the Crown never complained either of want of information or of prolixity. All that was required to give full information was supplied: nothing superabundant or trivial was intruded.

This despatch of July 9th, 1849, was indicted for the purpose of fully informing the Colonial Office of the difficulties and possibilities presented to the Government of New Zealand. In its opening paragraphs the numbers of the European and native population were contrasted. Twenty thousand European settlers unarmed and unused to military service were scattered in places far removed from each other over islands stretching through eight hundred miles of latitude. No roads or methods of communication except by sea existed. Such places were, in truth, separate colonies. Between and around the European settlements dwelt a bold and turbulent page 126race, passionately addicted to war, and well armed, numbering one hundred and twenty thousand, a large proportion of whom were fighting men.

Peculiar difficulties existed in carrying on warlike operations against these tribes, while for the purpose of offensive warfare against Europeans, they could unite with overwhelming numbers, and secretly, at any given point. But the native character was susceptible of great improvement. The Maoris were ambitious for advancement, and intensely desirous to acquire wealth. Successful in war, even against the English troops, and alarmed by the evident determination of the European settlers to acquire their tribal lands, great difficulties existed in producing amicable relations between the two peoples.

The revenue had almost ceased, while public debts had been incurred, and the nicest care became necessary to prevent a war of races, which must have ended in signal disaster. Such a war would have entailed great loss. The Governor had to consider the wisest course to be pursued.

"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 that might reasonably have been formed, for whilst the rebellion which existed and the disturbances which naturally sprang from that rebellion, have in all instances been crushed, the total loss of all ranks sustained on our side, through so long a period of time, has amounted to only twenty-eight killed and fifty-three wounded, and in so far as human judgment can form an estimate of such matters, no probability exists of any extensive rebellion ever hereafter breaking out in the country; and even should such disturbance 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 already 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 advantages than we formerly possessed."

page 127

Sir George then proceeded to describe the measures he had taken in regard to the revenue to make the Government of New Zealand self-supporting, and the remedial legislation adopted in regard to land claims and disputes.

Passing on, then, to the active measures, he proceeded—"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 rights 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.

"To attain these ends the Resident Magistrates' Ordinance was passed, and mixed courts were constituted for the settlement of disputes betwixt 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 Governor then went on to describe the plans which he had adopted for the civilization and education of the native race,—and here he gave credit in no stinted degree to the different missionaries labouring in the colony. "Fortunately, the task of the Government in this respect has been an easy one. There existed in this. page 128country three missions, established by different Christian denominations, amongst whom there is, perhaps, an emulation as to which should do 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 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 their missionaries probably a greater proportion of the population than in any European country 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."

Entering still more at length into the questions under consideration he showed how, in the face of opposition from many quarters, and of difficulties which at first seemed insurmountable, the measures which had been adopted had proved themselves successful beyond his hopes. He closed the retrospect of the past with a forecast of the future, and outlined those plans for the government and security of the colony which afterwards found expression in the Constitution Act of 1852.