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


page 477


The task of the writers is accomplished, a task pleasant in itself, and yet full of anxiety. Much that might have been included —incidents and adventures of different characters in many lands— has been of necessity omitted. Whether portions which have been written might with advantage be replaced by other records of Sir George Grey's busy life is a question which we find it difficult to decide.

As from the study where these pages have been written we look down upon the sunlit waters of the Waitemata, and away to the beautiful islands of the Hauraki Gulf, past the little church where Selwyn worshipped, and the walks, then unsheltered, now over shadowed by English trees, where Grey and Selwyn and Sir William Martin took counsel together in the early crisis of the history of New Zealand, memories of stories, of sufferings, and of achievements come crowding thickly upon us.

The figures of three great men stand out in bold relief; but behind them rise a vast number of loyal supporters in all that was good and true, who toiled for the peace and prosperity of their adopted country. Amid the scenes of conflict and of suffering that the early story of the colony presents, we can discern the forms of soldiers and sailors laying down their lives for her welfare, officers and men vying with each other in devotion and in courage; patriots and philanthropists, warm in heart, wide in sympathy, steadfast in endeavour for the good of their race; missionaries and other pioneers of civilisation, living laborious days, remote from luxury and comfort; Europeans and Maoris alike aiding the representatives of civil and religious authority and law. The majority of them are unknown to fame, their very names forgotten, yet the people of New Zealand will ever owe them a debt of gratitude which time cannot discharge. Their descendants may be page 478proud and feel that the do well to be proud of such ancestors. Were their names and deeds to be collected and recorded, the page on which they were inscribed would be glorious, rich in all that appeals to the noblest sentiments of man—but such a page can never be compiled.

Many of the events in Sir George Grey's life must also inevitably pass unrecorded. The work of selection from such varied materials must be always difficult. Doubtless the choice has ofttimes been decided by the personal feelings of the writers. What has been omitted would but have given a deeper emphasis to the courage and wisdom of the character we have attempted to portray.

It has been our wish without exaggeration to place Sir George Grey as an example for imitation to all those who are anxious or likely to bear a part in the performance of public duty. It is true that no man can hereafter expect to be placed in the same circumstances. In this respect his record is unique. No such epoch ever before existed, nor can any practically similar ever again occur.

But in ail positions of life, and under every varying phase of human existence, the same principles which animated George Grey, and the same faith which sustained him, may animate and sustain others, whether they be princes, born to an imperial throne, or peasants, whose hands must be familiar with the spade and plough.

If we have succeeded in reducing into order and historic progression the great events herein alluded to; if we have succeeded in showing how faith in God can sustain and strengthen the heart under perils and dangers most appalling; how a permanent and paramount sense of duty can nerve the heart Co do and to suffer all things; and how in most trivial matters, as well as events of Imperial importance, wisdom and rectitude should control both the words and deeds of public men, we shall count ourselves well repaid. And we rest contented with the knowledge that some portion of the greatness of a great life, some of the radiance which streams from an illustrious character, will be enjoyed by those who rescue from possible oblivion the record of noble deeds, and who rear for the study and emulation of generations yet to come the figure of a man at once great and simple, powerful and unselfish.