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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1

Agitation in New Zealand

Agitation in New Zealand.

It is alleged by some that the people are indifferent.—"Mr Swanson, in his place in the House said, 'The people are not agitating for a change,' But this is not correct. There may have been no agitation on a large scale in North Canterbury, but an association was formed in Christchurch in 1888 consisting of the various ministers, and prominent laymen, some of them members of the Education Board.

In Otago, an elaborate return was prepared in 1881, the result of a plebiscite, and it was found from 13,500 replies that the parents of 11,886 page 15 children answered yes, and the parents of 1,613 children answered no. The number of parents for was 4,674, and against 602; being 8 to 1."

In South Canterbury a plebiscite was also obtained, the result being even more favorable, 9 to 1. I have not at hand the result of the returns from the northern parts of the colony, but I believe they would show an average of 9 to 1 in favor of Bible reading.

In Auckland there is an Association, and a great deal has been published on the subject. An Association has been also formed in Napier. * It cannot then be urged in the face of agitation sustained for many years, in several centres, at considerable expense, that the people are indifferent. But, it will be said, as appeared in your issue of August 7, 1885, "if religious teaching of any description were allowed it would immediately arouse all sorts of denominational antipathies." That this is an erroneous hypothesis, may be seen by the result of religious teaching in Britain, and on the Continent, in the Uuiled States, and in Canada, and in others of the colonics. The elements of sectarian differences are to be found, perhaps with increased force in the home lands, and yet religious teaching has been systematically and successfully given.

The object of the measure before the Upper House was the simple reading of the Bible without note and comment. There are two positions taken up against this, which are mutually destructive of each other. The one is, that it would be dangerous, or, as appeared in the paper above referred to, trampling on the religious feelings of a minority The other is, that it is of no value in itself—a delusion and a snare—and would lead to nothing. These positions destroy each other, for if it be so useless and inane, it must also be harmless and can injure no one's feelings.

* For canvase in Nelson see page 17.