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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4

Abolition of Provinces Bill [speech in the House of Representatives, Sept. 9 1875]

page 273

entirely upon the force of their rotes. They believe that Providence fights with big battalions, but that has not always been the case, and I do not think it will be the ease on this occasion. At Marathon a small body of Greeks—a small and compact phalanx—repelled hordes of Persians; at Thermopylae, a very small band indeed kept back the whole strength of the same empire; and, in more modern times, Frederick the Great, with small resources and few men, successfully for seven years kept back Russia, Austria, and France; and it will be a very hard matter indeed if with our small band we cannot keep back the heavy majority of the Government. Kinglake's "Crimea" is a very favourite work of mine, and there are two descriptions in it which have often taken my fancy. One indeed, has formed with me a rule of conduct. He relates that on one occasion Lord Raglan sent out a very small party to do some particular field work. This party was very much annoyed by a single Russian gun. They did not know what to do; they could not go on with their work, and they did not like to retreat; so they telegraphed to head-quarters for instructions, and the instruction came in two words—"Fight it." They then got out an English gun, levelled it themselves, and at the very first shot knocked over the Russian gun, and without further trouble they finished their work. I think that is a most excellent rule of conduct for every man to adopt—when he meets an enemy, instead of running away, fight him. The other description that struck me so much was that of the great Russian column, massive, powerful, overwhelming, going thundering down upon the little thin red English line, apparently about to be overwhelmed; but this thin English line fires its rifles at the front of it and on its flanks, and at last the compactness of the great Russian column is shaken, its massive bulk is seen to quiver. It bulges on one side—it heaves on another—and at length it is dissipated over the plain. I think if we compare the strong phalanx of the Government forces to the Russian column, and this small Opposition to the red English line, we shall very soon see the column shivered and shattered, and scattered to the winds. Sir, this Bill is of a very peculiar and complex description. The very title itself, which we are now discussing, requires a vast amount of consideration. There are authorities on the subject who will tell you that the title of a Bill is not a small and inconsiderable matter, but one of very great and material importance. I will just read a few lines from Cushing, who is a great authority on these matters, and the House will see that the title of a Bill is of much greater importance than many honorable members think :—

"The title of the Bill has been deemed of so much importance that in some of the States it has been made the subject of constitutional enactment. Some of them provide generally that no law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title; that no law shall pass containing any matters different from what is expressed in its title; and the Constitution of Indiana declares that if any subject shall be em braced in an Act which shall not be expressed in the title, such Act shall be void only as to so much thereof."

When we apply these principles, what position are we in? Why, the very supporters of the Government are not satisfied with the title. There is the honorable member for Grey and Bell, who tells us that instead of being called "A Bill for the Abolition of the Provinces," it ought to be called "A Bill for the Consolidation of the Provinces," which is an entirely opposite thing. Then, this Bill not only contains the principle of abolition, but it also contains two other most important principles that no person could have the slightest idea of from reading the title. It contains the principle of Centralism—such a principle as has never been heard of or thought of before in this House; such a principle as has always been scouted whenever mentioned, and such a principle as the people of this colony, from one end to the other, will not, I am certain, allow, and will never be satisfied with when they discover that all the revenue collected in their districts is to be sent to Wellington and monopolized by the central Government: they will, I have no doubt, take the extreme course of stopping those funds. Who can suppose for a moment that the people of two such places as Auckland and Dunedin will allow their funds locally collected to be sent to the general Treasury, and be at the disposal of the Treasurer for the time being ? That, I think, is one of the main reasons why the public generally object to this Bill, and I am perfectly certain that the more they see of it the more objectionable it will be to them. Then we have not only the principle of abolition and the principle of centralization, but we have also an entire change in the finances of the country. I say, if there were no other reason, that is a sufficient one for appealing to the people and asking them if it is their desire that so radical a change in the finance of the colony should be made. Something has been said about the Government making an arrangement with the Opposition as to future proceedings in regard to this Bill, but I may tell them there is no one in the House tonight who is authorized to make any arrangement; and therefore I think they would be wise to report progress, and then, before our next meeting, come to an understanding with whom an arrangement can be made; for they may depend upon it that we are sitting in permanence now, and in permanence we shall continue to be until some mutual understanding is come to.

Mr. Stout.—I did not intend to speak on this question, because I might be accused of doing what I believe has been done in this House—namely, talk against time. I may say, as far as I am concerned, that I have not attempted to talk against time on any question which has yet come before this House, and this morning, for it is now about one o'clock, I do not intend to talk against time. I have, with more trouble than I usually take over my addresses, sketched out for myself the order of certain remarks I intend to make, though, unfortunately, I have only had during the last four or five hours to prepare myself. The first question I intend to discuss Vol. XVIII.—35. page 274 is, Is it lawful to talk against time ? I do this because I know it will be said that the Opposition, in not. allowing this debate to conclude, and in not allowing the Committee to proceed to the consideration of the various clauses of the Bill, will be guilty of what has been characterized as factious opposition. In reference to that, I may say that the Committee are guilty of on breach of any law, they are not infringing any Standing Orders, or no doubt the Minister for Public Works would call attention to it. In saying that the Opposition are not guilty of the breach of any law, I mean the law in the wide sense of the word. Of course the law of Parliament is, after all, the custom of Parliament; and therefore, in taking the course they are now adopting, the Opposition are not only not infringing on what I may term the Standing Orders, or the statutory enactments, regarding the order of business in Parliament, but they are not infringing on the well-known custom of Parliament. I confess that, as far as this question was concerned, before I could agree to stop here this morning to see this matter out, at least until half-past two o'clock, I took the trouble to go through the Journals of the House of Representatives, to see if I could find any precedent for the course of opposition we are going to adopt, and especially if I could see if such precedent had been sanctioned by the majority of Ministers who now sit on the Government benches; and I am glad to state that I found various precedents for this course. I find that on the 30th September, 1868, Mr. Fox moved,—

"That, in order to afford the of people the colony an opportunity of expressing their opinions on the unsatisfactory condition of Native affairs, or the provision to be made for the suppression of Native disturbances, and on the organic changes in the constitutional and territorial divisions of the colony which have been contemplated by the Government, it is expedient that there should be an immediate dissolution, and that the writs should be issued without delay on the close of the session."

Amongst those who voted for that resolution I find the honorable member for Dunedin City, Mr. Reynolds. I also find that the honorable member Sir Julius Vogel and the Hon. Native Minister likewise voted for it, as did also the honorable member for Clive. I need not go over all the names, but it will be found that what might be termed the party at present in power were the party that insisted upon a dissolution being granted; and so strenuously did they insist, that I find that they sat until nearly ten o'clock next morning, and then adjourned until seven o'clock that day. I have been to considerable trouble in respect to this question, and I found another precedent — namely, what took place in this House in the year 1864, when actually the present Speaker of the Legislative Council, Sir John Richardson, a present Judge of the Supreme Court, Mr. Gillies, and several others invaded the sanctity of the day set aside by all Christian people for religious observances, and sat at Auckland in this House on Sunday. I took the trouble to look up these things — and many others have taken place in this Parliament—to show that so far as the Opposition are concerned on unusual course is being taken. We have seen, in reference to what took place in 1868, that there were the Native Minister, the Commissioner of Customs, and the Postmaster-General approving of this course. I do not think the Minister for Public Works at that time had a seat in the House. If he had, no doubt he would have been with the majority of the present Ministry. So far as that is concerned it shows that the course adopted by the Opposition is in strict accordance with parliamentary rules, and in fact the Opposition are trying feebly to imitate a course adopted by the present Ministry on a previous occasion. But that is not the only thing to be looked at in this question. The very peculiar position in which this question has come up must be considered. What took place in Auckland was merely a question whether certain districts should have additional representation. It was not a very pressing or very important question. And what took place in 1868 was neither very important nor very pressing, compared with the question now before the Committee. In 1868, in fact, the sole question in debate was, who was to be Native Minister, and a minority of the House wished a certain gentleman to be Native Minister, whilst a majority were in favour of a different person. There was no question of principle—no organic change in the Constitution proposed. It was true there was some reference made to counties, but there was no organic change in the Constitution proposed, as is now the case. It was not an old and expiring Parliament like this, but, relatively speaking, a new Parliament, in which the minority demanded a dissolution. Surely this question is in a very different position. This Parliament expires in January. The question before the Committee is the change of a Constitution that has been in New Zealand for many years. It is a change which was not contemplated by the people at the last general election. It is a change that has been petitioned against by almost every petition that has been sent up; and if you take the meetings that have been held throughout the colony, you will find that the majority of the meetings have declared against it. All the largely attended meetings have been almost unanimous in opposition to the present scheme. The only meeting that was at all in favour of it was the one held in the city which the Minister for Public Works has the honor of representing in the House; and even that meeting, if it had been held after the last Financial Statement of the Colonial Treasurer had been made, would have come to quite a different conclusion. There is no doubt that the members of the Ministry took advantage of a local discontent in the city of Christchurch relative to license fees and other small matters of that kind; and they said, "Wo will give you something that the Provincial Councils refuse to give you, and therefore you will support our Bill;" and, perhaps, unfortunately for them that course was taken. I would further point out that not only have all the large meetings declared against this Bill, but they have made page 275 a very reasonable proposal. They say the Bill may possibly be the very best that has ever been before Parliament, but before you force it on the country you should give us an opportunity of discussing its various provisions. Now, surely this is not asking a great deal at the hands of Ministers. It is not asking, as the resolution of 1868 asked, that the minority should be placed in power, but it is simply asking that an important change of this character should be calmly and rationally discussed by the electors throughout the colony. The Opposition, therefore, in taking the action they have taken, are not only taking a course which it appears from the records of the House they are justified in adopting, but they are taking action urged upon them by the electors of the colony, who demand time to consider such vast questions as these. If I wished to quote precedents, there is a very instructive one in the British Parliament, where one of the greatest politicians England ever saw stood up for what he believed to be right and just, with a small minority against most powerful odds, and prevented a large majority having their way in the House. If we now cease the intellectual fight, as stated by the honorable member for the Hutt, and begin the physical combat, I think the Ministers will discover they have entered into a contest the issues of which they do not see. It is well known that, at the time when the Romans invaded Britain, what were then termed the savage races of Britain thought they could overcome the Roman legion by clamour and by paint. The Colonial Ministers on this occasion are adopting somewhat similar tactics. But I feel assured that no such clamour will have any effect whatever on the small but united phalanx of the Opposition. And I am sure that when the people of the colony look upon this contest, even if they look upon it as a mere contest, they will do what our countrymen usually do—they will cheer on the weak one against one that has such mighty odds. It was this very same feeling of fair play which led the British nation to think so much of even a purely physical combat: I mean in the case of Heenan and Sayers. It was this that made the British nation look with pride, I might almost term it glory, upon that small man who fought the large man simply on the ground of pluck. And so, in fighting the Government dragoons, I am sure that the colony will give credit to the Opposition for their firmness, and for their unwavering support of what they believe to be a liberty of the people, which should not be wrested from them. I would also point out. that this is an organic change which is proposed, such as never was proposed in the colony before. Even if this question had been debated at the last session of Parliament, however crudely, there might have been some excuse for Ministers bringing down this measure. But, as I put it before, there was a distinct pledge given last year that no such measure as this should be brought into this Parliament. There was a distinct pledge given, not only by one member, but by various members of the Ministry, and at different times. Sir, when we find a surprise being attempted in this manner, we are bound to say that this must be done for some end or purpose which they do not disclose, and the further proof of that is that the Ministry have not dared to submit their measure to this House, far less to the people. I say this is a most unusual course. Hero we have a Ministry bringing down an Abolition Bill, bringing down a Local Government Bill, and when they bring these Bills forward they say the system is a complete one for the colony, and nothing further is needed. But debate opens the Ministerial eyes. They discover that their measure is imperfect—that something else is required to complete it. Having discovered that it is imperfect, and that something further will be required to complete it, they promise to bring down two further Bills. So that before the Constitution of this colony can be altered, before the ten or twelve sections of the Constitution Act can be amended, we are to have a complexity such as perhaps no country ever saw. We first have the Abolition Bill, consisting of 27 clauses; we then have the Local Government Bill, consisting of 271 clauses; and then we are promised two. other Bills. This is the kind of simplification the Ministry propose. Instead of having an Act of, say, eight or ten clauses, we are to have two Acts of upwards of 300 clauses between them, and two further Bills, of the length and contents of which we know nothing. This is a most extraordinary way of simplifying the constitution of the colony. The position taken up the other night, when the amendment was moved by the honorable member for Tuapeka, was, that before the question was debated further the Government should submit their Bills to the House. Sir, that was a very reasonable request, and no Government but one having a factious majority at its back would have objected to such a course. Therefore if the Opposition prove factious, or do anything unreasonable, we have not only a precedent in the Journals of the House, but we have a precedent in the action of the Ministry this session. If the Opposition are unreasonable, they are simply emulating what I may call the noble example of the Ministers of the Crown. And the position of the Government is very different from that of the Opposition. The Opposition may do a thousand things which it would be utterly wrong for Ministers of the Crown to do, because they are invested with a responsible duty as leaders of this House. They are bound to uphold its dignity. They should not compromise that even in the slightest degree; but can any Government stand up and say that they have not compromised their position by refusing to give an outline of the system of government which is to supersede the system which has been so long in existence in this colony ? The Opposition, I maintain, are insisting upon nothing unreasonable. They are simply insisting upon the right which any Parliament can insist upon—namely, that before any important question is decided, the proposed change should be discussed in all its bearings, and that all its details should be explained before they come to a decision upon any part of it. The very section we are now considering, though it refers only to the title of the Bill, is very important, because had the motion not been made to report page 276 progress I should have moved an amendment to this effect: that, instead of the Bill being styled; "The Abolition of Provinces Bill," it should be called "The Two Provinces Act." Looking at the fact that there is to be a change in the Constitution of the colony, I would commend that idea to their consideration. I would ask that this colony be created into two provinces, and that we have a federal Constitution for those two provinces; that the seat of Government, as far as those two provinces are concerned, be in the city of Wellington, and that the debt of the colony should be fairly allocated between those two provinces, which should be left to fight their own battles. With a proper tariff, proper Customs Acts, and proper postal arrangements between them, there would still be a national unity and national life. There is a very instructive book in the library on the Federal System, which I would recommend the Government to read. There are also five volumes of "Madison's and Elliot's Debates" on "Federation in the United States," and there is another book containing Hamilton's, Jay's, and other essays on the principles of government, which would be highly instructive to the Government. Distinct reference has been made to the want of national unity and national life. When the United States Constitution was being framed the same arguments were used as have been used during this debate as to the need of a central Government to promote national unity. Precisely the same arguments were used in the Federal Convention in 1787, and I need only say that those who argued for national life and national unity without a central Government have been proved to be correct. So that, in citing the opinions of those men, I am citing the highest authority, because the State Governments in the United States are more distinct than the provinces of New Zealand. They have greater powers; and not only have they these, but they have the right to alter the law on crimes, the right of descent of property, the marriage laws, and to perform other functions which are considered necessary to a true national life. Although the State Government has the power to do all these things, the individual is known as an American and not as a person belonging to any particular State; and when any attempt is made to trample on the United States, he promptly exhibits the feeling that he will not allow the honor of the United States to be trampled upon or tarnished in the slightest degree. Now, in 1787, Colonel Hamilton argued, and the first resolution proposed was, that a national Government ought to be established, somewhat similar to the principle laid down in this Bill; and Mr. Wilson observed,—

"That by national Government he did not mean to swallow up the State Governments, as seemed to be wished by some gentlemen. He was tenacious of the idea of preserving the latter. He thought, contrary to the opinion of Colonel Hamilton, that they might not only subsist, but subsist on friendly terms with the former. They were absolutely necessary for certain purposes, which the former could not reach. All large governments must be subdivided into lesser jurisdictions. As examples, he mentioned Persia, Rome, and particularly the divisions and sub-divisions of England by Alfred."

Now, before I read the next speech, I may point out that this is just what the Opposition say, that the provinces may be preserved as distinct entities, that national life may be promoted; and not only that, but that the two Governments may work harmoniously together. That is not denied by the Government. The only question they seem at all troubled about is that of finance; and this House knows very well that, as far as the question of finance is concerned, that the United States experienced ten times greater difficulties. Yet they tided them over, and no portion of the United States is willing to give up its State Government. And so it is that Freeman, in his well-known history of and essay on the Federation of the States, mentions the instructive fact that, when the Southern States seceded from the Northern States, they wished to see adopted the same Constitution they had whilst they were with the Northern States. That was very instructive; because it showed that, however discontented the Southern States were under the old regime, still, when they came to form a new Government, they copied the old Government in all its details; they copied the Presidential form of government, the State form of government, and gave their State Legislatures as great powers as the central Government had when the North and the South were united. Freeman points to that as a strong fact, that, so far as the federated States are concerned, they are not only sound in theory, but that they have been carried out in practice with great success. It. would take too long to trace the history of federal government throughout the world. I need not refer to what has taken place in Greece, in the Netherlands, or in Germany, before the war between Austria and Prussia. I need only refer to this book on Federation, in which it will be seen that Freeman looks upon the federal form of government as being as good a form of government as the people can have. Honorable members should also recollect that in forms of government theories are of great importance. There is one passage I wish to cite upon this point from one of the greatest political economists that ever lived. It is a passage from a well known French political economist named Turgot, who sets forth the ideal that practical men should strive after. He says,—

"It is always the best with which one ought to be occupied in theory. To neglect this search under the pretext that this best is not practicable in the actual circumstances, is to wish to solve two questions at once; it is to renounce the advantage of placing the questions in that simplicity which can alone render them susceptible of demonstration; it is to plunge without a clue into an inextricable labyrinth, and to wish to investigate all the routes at once, or rather it is voluntarily to shut one's eyes to the light by putting one's self in the impossibility of finding it."

And then he goes on to say that there are two questions which ought always to be kept in view—namely, what should be done, and what can be page 277 done—and that what should be done should always precede what can be done. So that in all these systems of government I say the federal government is the best form of government that can possibly be, and I find fault with the Ministry because they have no ideal whatever. They have only determined what can be done, but they and their supporters have carefully avoided saying what should be done. It is not fair that the House should be left to grope in the dark. The Government should put some definite propositions before us. The question of an ideal should not be lost sight of. As an inventor has an idea of the working of a machine before he puts it in working order, so it should be in reference to the framing of a Constitution for the colony. No man can sit down and frame a Constitution for a country unless ho has some general idea of what should be done before he attempts to prove what can be done; and I say that if the Government had formulated some ideal Constitution, even if it had been a Utopian Constitution, it would have shown that they had grappled with the difficulty, and that they were not drifting hither and thither according to the voices of their supporters. But in reference to this federal system, I have been endeavouring to show that there was some ideal set up, and let us look at those great men who formulated the Constitution of the United States of to-day. This question we have been debating is not a new question. If honorable members will look at the Madison Papers, they will see that this question has been argued out by the very ablest men America ever had. Colonel Hamilton has dealt with the question; and then Mr King spoke, and this is what he says :—"He conceived that the import of the term 'States,' 'Sovereignty,' 'National,' 'Federal,' had been often used and applied in the discussions inaccurately and delusively."And that is just what we in the Opposition say: the word "National" is misunderstood by the Government supporters. "The States," he continued, "were not Sovereigns in the sense contended for by some." So we say the provinces are not nations. "They did not possess the peculiar features of sovereignty; they could not make war, nor peace, nor alliances, nor treaties." Nor can the provinces. "Considering them as political beings, they were dumb"—in this they rather resembled the Government supporters—"for they could not speak to any foreign Sovereign whatever." Then Mr. King also further said—and this is most important—"A union of the States is a union of the men composing them, from whence a national character results to the whole. Congress can act alone without the States; they can act—and their acts will be binding—against the instructions of the States. If they declare war, war is de jure declared, captures made in pursuance of it are lawful; no acts of the States can vary the situation, or prevent the judicial consequences. If the States, therefore, retained some portion of their sovereignty, they had certainly divested themselves of essential portions of it. If they formed a confederacy in some respects, they formed a nation in others." And Mr. King concluded by saying, "He made these remarks to obviate some scruples which had been expressed. He doubted much the practicability of annihilating the States; but thought much of their power ought to be taken from them." That is, they may cease to live. Then Colonel Hamilton and Mr. Wilson made long speeches again, but I shall not take up the time of the Committee by reading them; but if honorable members wish to look at the question in a practical and not a theoretical point of view, and to compare the arguments on the question in this House, they have only to go back to the debates of 1787. It is simply a monstrous thing for the Ministry to say that this form of government is radically bad, when the United States has progressed under it far more than any other country has progressed under any other form of government. There is one thing I would also touch upon, and that is as to our constitutional form. The Ministry seem to ignore a thing that is patent to any one who has read any history at all; and that is, that no Constitution, such as that, if it be merely a paper Act, if it be a thing that has not grown out of the people, if it be a thing that has not been formulated out of their circumstances, can have any vitality. That is a very important thing which the Ministry seem altogether to ignore, and which their supporters seem to ignore. No Constitution in the country to which it is to be applied, if is to be prosperous, can be evolved out of a man's brain. A man to make a Constitution must look to the country, and to the feelings, sentiments, and customs of its inhabitants; and hence it is that Sir James Mackintosh gave expression to what is now termed a very trite aphorism. Ho said, "Constitutions are not made, but grow." This is no new thing, for Plato in his "Republic" recognizes, though in a vague way, I admit, such a thing as that we now term social organism. Hobbes, also in his works recognizes it. What is his" Leviathan" but the germ of a social organism? Ho shaped out a vast figure whose body and limbs were made up of men, and in sketching it he had evidently in view the wicker cages in which the Druids used to sacrifice their victims. Hobbes and Plato both recognized the principle that Constitutions grow and are not made; and also Spencer says that this aphorism has been taken up and reiterated by the Press as something great, simply because it has been condensed into so small a space that every one could understand it. He says, "A small ray of truth has seemed brilliant, as a distant rushlight looks like a star in the surrounding darkness." This has a most important bearing on the question, because those honorable members of the Government and their supporters who have spoken on the subject have overlooked this evil. They have exalted this principle into a species of political fetish, and as fetish-worshippers they are very superstitious, and believe that their fetish, whether it fail or not, is still capable of replying to their prayers. There is a passage in one of Spencer's essays on this subject, which I should like to read to the House :—

"A Hindoo, who, before beginning his day's work, salaams to a bit of plastic clay, out of which, in a few moments, he has extemporized a page 278 god in his own image, is an object of amazement to the European. We read with surprise bordering on scepticism of worship done by machinery, and of prayers which owe their supposed efficacy to the motion given by the wind to the papers they are written on."

Again, the writer says,—

"Kindred superstitions are exhibited by their fellows every day—superstitions that are indeed not so gross, but are intrinsically of the same nature. There is an idolatry which, instead of carving the object of its worship out of dead matter, takes humanity for its raw material, and expects, by moulding a mass of this humanity into a particular form, to give it powers or properties quite different from those it had before it was moulded."

That is exactly what is done by the Government and their supporters. The Central Government in the past has done absolutely nothing. Were I to begin to review the past administration of the Public Works policy of this Government, and to show its absolute effects—how money in this colony has been wasted by thousands of pounds—were I to appeal to other matters of detail in reference to the conduct of public affairs in the colony by this Government, I could show that this present Central Government has been guilty of as many absurdities in one year as perhaps all the Provincial Governments have been guilty of during the whole of their political existence. I need only refer to one instance. What were the Brogden contracts but a huge blunder ? Was it not a monstrous thing that a Minister should go Home and enter into contracts without the sanction of Parliament, and without the knowledge of his colleagues ? Look at the Mataura Railway, the contract for which was let to the Messrs. Brogden at some £20,000 or £30,000 more than the local contractors would have taken it at, as I am informed, and yet thousands of pounds more have had to be spent upon it. And yet this very Government which has made all these blunders, would insist upon the colony bowing down to them as a political fetish, although they have proved in the past that they cannot answer its prayers. There is another remark from the same author that I should like to allude to before quitting this point, and that is the absurdity of having a blind faith in the Government machinery. That is what I have protested against all along. If this colony has under the provincial form of government been badly and expensively governed, and if that form of government has failed to perform its functions, how are we to get rid of the blunders and expense ? Is it likely that you will get rid of them by annihilation of the Governments themselves ? You would then be simply setting up another form of government, and saying, "If you only create this new kind of government, and have faith in this new system, the result will be that all the evils which have befallen the colony will vanish." There is a passage in the works of the late eminent M. Guizot which it would be well for us to consider. He characterizes this attempt to remedy evil by law as a gross delusion—a belief in the sovereign power of political machinery. The newest political delusions we have are this Abolition Bill and this Local Government Bill of the Government. Unfortunately delusions of this kind are epidemic, and this colony is simply suffering from an epidemic which has been raging for years past in it. It is absurd to suppose that you can get rid of evils by passing Acts. That is not the way to remedy them. The way is, as pointed out in these essays of Spencer, by the education of the people. And what kind of education is it to be ? An education not merely in the three Rs, but an education of looking at the social life of a people as one whole. The English nation have of course borrowed their ideas on this subject from the eminent Frenchman, M. Comte, who first put into practical shape the science of sociology. You can only expect good government when you have a people educated to look at social life as a whole; and remember that you cannot get good government by merely changing the Constitution of the country, because the evil does not lie in the form of government. The Constitution of a country may be likened to the garb of a man, which may be brown or black or white, or any colour, and still be good if the material be good. So with a country : if its Government be pure, economical, moral, it does not matter whether it is a monarchy, a despotism, or a republic. Government, after all, is merely the concentrated action of the people, and a Government cannot long exist that acts in defiance of the people. They may, with a large majority at their back, carry measures through an expiring Parliament, but they cannot continue such a course long. They must change with the times. I admit that the people are to blame for the Government we have at the present time, because they have in the first place sent in members to represent them on a wrong principle—to support men, not measures; and not only that, but to support the expenditure of loans without looking at the vast issues underlying the Public Works scheme. If we are misgoverned, therefore, we need not look for the remedy in a change of the Constitution. The way is to insist upon the Government being pure and economical. That only will be the salvation of New Zealand. And what has been done in this House ? We have had disclosures made with regard to our finances that, if they had been made even in the New York State Legislature, would have been telegraphed all over the world, and have been held out as examples of New York State rottenness. We have had our finances so brought before the House that even the most speculative supporter of the Government must tremble for our future position; and yet in this House not a single supporter of the Government has spoken upon the finances of the country, or has ventured to look into certain transactions that have taken place—not one has attempted to draw the attention of either the House or the people to the necessity for economy or purity or care in administration. That is surely one of the strongest arguments that could possibly be used, showing that in this matter of abolition the Government is simply adopting the Napoleonic system. As Napoleon forced the people of France into war page 279 with Mexico, so that they might not look into their home affairs, so now are we forced into a war with the provinces, because the gentlemen on those benches know that there is a struggle impending upon the finance and administration of the Government. They are trying to shelve it off by taking the eyes of the people from the real evil from which this colony is suffering. I now come to the second branch of my argument, and that is whether the proposed change will confer a boon upon the people, as the Government and some of their supporters say it will. In reference to that, I may state that there is no law whatever which has fulfilled the intention and object of its framers. The reason for this is very obvious. In looking to the future we always take a coloured view. In fact, that has been recognized by almost all who have written either on legislation or political reform. I might give one example of it, which is, I think, a very useful one in dealing with political reforms. It was said that one of the great things to secure good government in England was the introduction of the ballot. With the ballot, bribery was to vanish, and no one would be found at any time thereafter voting for any representative but the best man. But the ballot, so far as that is concerned, has been an utter failure; and the Parliament of England is not much if any better now than it was when there was no ballot. In fact, the Parliament, under the ballot, has returned more Conservatives than ever; not only that, but some of the ablest men have been rejected, and the influence of beer in elections has been more pronounced than ever it was before. This is simply an argument that no piece of political machinery can ever confer the benefits that its advocates believe it capable of conferring. There are many other examples. There is that of the extension of the suffrage. The extension of the suffrage in England was also to confer great and lasting benefits on the people; but the extension of the suffrage has come, and England is no better governed than it was before. I do not say this is to be used as any argument against reform. I am only citing it as an example, showing that no reform can be secured by the mere passing of an Act. It must have its seat deeper than that; and if we wish pure and good government, we must not look to merely altering the mode of the election of members of Parliament, or even altering the Constitution of Parliament, but we must look to the education of the people, and to a slow and gradual change. In that alone lies the hope of anything like good government, or any social change whatever. This defect in political machinery was seen, I may say, thousands of years ago. In reference to the election of rulers, Plato pointed out that it could not be expected that the men of iron and of brass would select the men of gold,—that is, the best men in a community might not always be selected by a popular constituency, because to understand a man of genius aright it requires some genius. Just as in looking at a picture, to understand a painting properly, one must have some knowledge of light and shade and of drawing and colour, so, to understand even a theoretical system of government properly, one must have studied the various theories of government that have been advanced, and must have viewed them in various and divers relations. And it is on this principle that Carlyle makes so many scathing remarks in one of his works in reference to what he terms "grinding wisdom from the ballot-box." I could cite many more examples showing that from no political reform or change do we get the great effects that its advocates say will come. There is one reference in the book I hold in my hand which gives several examples where a Legislature has attempted to alter the relations of the people by a sort of per saltum legislation which has always resulted in utter failure. A question was asked—and I ask the Government to answer this question,—

"Are you quite sure your apparatus will not break down under its work ? Quite sure that it will produce the result you wish ? Quite sure that it will not produce a very different result? Quite sure that you will not get into one of those imbroglios that so many have lost themselves in ?"

Then the writer goes on to give examples—instructive examples of the failures of mere lawmaking to remedy social and political evils,—

"'Let us put down usury' said to themselves the rulers of the Middle Ages. They tried, and they did just the reverse of what they intended; for it has turned out that 'all regulations interfering with the interest of money render its terms more rigorous and burdensome.' 'We will exterminate Protestantism' whispered the Continental Catholics to each other. They tried, and instead of doing this they planted in England the germs of a manufacturing organization, which has to a great extent superseded their own."

And the writer might also have added that the attempt of English Protestants to crush Catholics and Catholicism in Ireland by penal laws had been a huge failure.

Then here is another example given :

"It will be well to give 'the labouring classes fixed settlements' thought the Poor Law legislators; and having acted out this thought, they have eventually given up the clearance system, with its overcrowded cottages and non-resident labour gangs." "'We must suppress these brothels,' decided the authorities of Berlin, in 1845. They did suppress them, and in 1848 the Registrar's books and the hospital returns proved matters to be considerably worse than before."

And will not these examples, and others I shall cite, teach the Ministry and their supporters that the change they propose is powerless to reform the evils, if such there are, which exist in a provincial form of government. Again :

"'Suppose we compel the London parishes to maintain and educate their pauper children in the country' said statesmen in the time of George III., 'it would greatly tend to the preservation of the lives of the infant parish poor,' so they passed the 7 George III. c. 39, and by-and-by, there began the 'business of child-farming, ending in the Tooting tragedy.' "Arc not," adds the writer, and I repeat, "such warnings worthy of attention?"

page 280

Now, I think that these extracts show that if the Government really expect to change the government of this colony by an Act—if they really expect that if there has been mismanagement in the past there will be good management in the future—if they really expect that where there has been was to and extravagance in the past economy will be in the future,—such an expectation can only end in disappointment. I ask them to look into the history of all those Acts that have been passed by various Parliaments aiming at some great benefit, and which have all universally failed because the framers have not seen that, before an important change can be effected in any way, you must have the people educated; that this change must come by a slow process of evolution; and it is only by applying that doctrine to social life that you can hope for any reform. There is only one other aspect of the question to which I wish to refer on the present occasion, and that is as to the fact that this Government is aiming to do everything for the people. It appears to me, from the remarks which fell from the Commissioner of Customs, that he is afraid of the people and their representatives, and thinks that the proper function of the General Government is to be a sort of controlling Government; that if there is not, as it were, some man over these governmental machines directing them, oiling their machinery, perhaps, in parts, by largesses and bonuses, and controlling them in other parts, the machinery must stop. It is the weakness of men to imagine that, but for them, the world would come to a stand-still. This is a weakness sometimes of great minds, and very often the attribute of small minds. To give an illustration, which is not mine, but that of a writer on political matters, it is just like a child going into a garden. He sees the rosebud on a bush and thinks, "This rosebud has been in the same state for several days. It ought to have been out by this time. I will enable it to come out;" and he begins with his fingers to pick at the rose-bud, thinking by that means that he is accelerating vegetation : instead of that he is destroying the flower. So with those who think there should be some controlling force set over our present political institutions. Our present political institutions, being free institutions, do not require any controlling force at all. If one wanted an illustration in reference to this matter he might consider the effect of the controlling machinery in the past. The controller of the machinery must necessarily be a despot, and yet it is proved that representative government, with all its faults, and they are innumerable, is a better system of government than the despotic form. It has been said that representative government is a great success; but a representative Government is only capable of performing certain functions; it cannot look after all the processes, as it were, of the social organism. Take for example the supply of food in a city like Wellington. A Government does not require to look after that. Men will go fishing, and butchers will bring in meat, without any Government intervention. They will perform all these functions simply from competition and private enterprise. So it will be with a large number of governmental matters. People just have to be left alone; and those men who think the State must come to a stand-still unless they interfere, and if they keep away from politics and political action, will find that the result will be highly beneficial to the colony. In reference to that, I may say a representative Government can only look after some things. That is the whole of my argument: that a representative Government cannot be a perfect success; it can only pretend as it were to watch some of the processes of the social organism. Some things will always be looked after by the Government. No elector, for example, however stupid, can fail to see the propriety of people being prevented from murdering one another. As Emerson puts it in one of his essays, there must be a certain amount of protection before corn will grow; so there must be a certain amount of protection guaranteed by the Government before there can be anything like security at all. I will only point out one thing further in reference to the specialization of functions. I will now show that if the General Government undertakes what the present Ministry is desirous of undertaking—namely, all kinds of duties—it will prevent itself from fulfilling its own proper functions. Of course, I have, in a former speech, argued that there are certain functions belonging to the General Government which should not belong to a Provincial Government, because I recognize that there should be as it were a separation of functions. Now my argument is this: that if you once give the Colonial Government too much to do, the result will be that it will do its work badly, and be unable to overtake the duty that it ought to perform. There is a very good illustration of that in an essay on Representative Government by Spencer, from which I shall cite. He says, speaking about the Government,—

"The original and essential office of a Government is that of protecting its subjects against aggression. In low, undeveloped forms of society, where yet there is but little differentiation of parts and little specialization of functions, this essential work, discharged with extreme imperfection, is joined with endless other work; the Government has a controlling action over all conduct, individual and social—regulates dress, food, ablutions, prices, trade, religion—exercises unbounded power."

And what follows from this want of specialization of functions ? Just what has happened with both our General and Provincial Governments—the work of both badly done. Spencer goes on,—

"In becoming so constituted as to discharge better its essential function, the Government becomes more limited alike in the power and the habit of doing other things. Increasing ability to perform its true duty involves increasing inability to perform all other kinds of action."

But the present Government wish to reverse all this and to accumulate work on the General Government. Now, I ask honorable members to notice this : the writer who makes those remarks knows they will not be appreciated by many who read them, because as yet the doctrine of sociology page 281 has not even been studied by politicians; they think all that is required to be done for the good of a country is to pass Acts and levy taxation. Sir, there never was a greater mistake. That is not the way in which the people can be educated. Therefore, as a mere process of political education, the referring of this Bill to the constituents would confer a great boon upon New Zealand. I do not care how the decision is given, because it will not only create political life in New Zealand, but it will bring the people face to face with the question—for they have never been brought face to face with it before—this important question of what is theoretically the best form of government. As a mere engine of political education, the referring of this to the constituents would do great good. If honorable members—and there are many if not all in this House able and competent to do it—would only go to their constituents, and place this matter before them in its theoretical aspect as well as its practical aspect, and ask them to consider it—to take it and calmly discuss it—they would be conferring a boon on the colony in educating the people to look at political questions from a proper point of view — confer a boon upon the colony such as not one of the Acts of this Legislature framed this year can possibly confer. What is needed in this colony ?—what is wanted in all countries—but the political education of the people ? And I repeat, if we want reform of any kind, our only hope lies in the political education of the people. It is hopeless to expect good government in a country where ignorance is in the mass. And so here. If there is ignorance in the mass about our forms of government, and about the necessity for change, that ignorance can only be got rid of by debate, by calm and reasonable discussion. The writer from whom I have just quoted knows these views are not popular. He knows that political fetishism is still rampant, and that as the Hindoo was superstitious enough to believe that by bowing down to the image that he himself had carved he could obtain some favour, so there are some men superstitious enough to believe that by forcing on a measure which they themselves had framed some great lasting effect will be conferred upon their race. But, Sir, as the writer remarked, truths of so abstract a character find no favour with Senates:—

"History at present makes no comments on it. There is nothing about it to be found in Blue-books and Committee reports. Neither is it proved by statistics. Evidently, then, it has but small chance of recognition by the 'practical' legislator."

Then, I ask this to be specially noticed, because it has a most important bearing on the question of the specialization of functions :—

"Those who know something of the general laws of life, and who perceive that these general laws of life underlie all social phenomena, will see that this dual change in the character of advanced Governments, involves an answer to the first of all political questions. They will see that this specialization, in virtue of which an advanced Government gains power to perform one function, while it loses power to perform others, clearly indicates the true limitations of State duty. They will see that, even leaving out all other evidence, this fact alone shows conclusively what is the proper sphere of legislation."

I have only one or two further remarks to make in reference to the necessity of calmness of discussion, showing that without this calm discussion one can hope for little good in any of our political institutions. It is this very calmness and clearness of discussion, which is the name almost by which Parliament is known, or rather the old name for such a House as this, which has arisen from the necessity of discussion. As Mill has pointed out, some people have denounced Parliaments, and called them mere talking shops. That is the proper recognized function of Parliament. It is not the function of Parliament merely to pass Acts without discussion, but to let men of different minds talk, and calmly debate and discuss a matter. And what is the course the Opposition are taking now? It is simply to get calm discussion on this matter. And, before I conclude, I have to congratulate this House on the calmness which has characterized this discussion hitherto. That has not always been the case in this House. When I look back upon the records of this House and to the time when, in 1868, the party to which the Commissioner of Customs belonged, and to whose action I have already referred, resorted to a talk against time, while they desired delay, and kept this House sitting until ten o'clock next morning—I find that those honorable members—that factious Opposition—were so confident, I may say, that they were wrong, and so sure in their own minds that they were not doing a right and lawful act, that they not only lost their temper, but actually the Commissioner of Customs himself had certain words used by him taken down. The words used by him were these :—"Members who are bought and sold by the honorable gentlemen on those benches." He characterized on that occasion those who were opposed to the minority as members who had no minds of their own, and who were simply bought and sold by those who were in power. That was the beginning of the debate which was inaugurated by the party to which the Commissioner of Customs then belonged, when they thought it to be their duty to keep this House sitting until ten o'clock in the morning occupied in a frivolous discussion. I am glad that, so far as this debate has yet proceeded, there has been nothing but calmness. Of course there is, perhaps, one reason for that in what has been referred to by the honorable member for the Hutt, that the Government, having been vanquished in argument, have refrained from discussion, and resorted to what he very properly termed a physical combat. It was far better for them to admit that in argument they were vanquished, than to do what some of them did on a former occasion—lose their temper, use peculiar epithets, and call each other names. But, Sir, this House has borne a high character in the past. Those who come to this colony as strangers admit that hitherto the Parliament of New Zealand has been a Parliament standing in a higher position than, I venture to say, any of the other page 282 Parliaments in any of Her Majesty's colonies. This has been admitted by all the strangers and the successive Governors who have ruled in this colony: that, so far as its Parliament is concerned, it occupies a higher standing, both as to the intelligence of its members and the conduct of its business, than any of the Parliaments in the other colonies; and I ask the Ministers of the Crown, seeing that the dignity of the Parliament has been so well maintained in the past, not to allow that prestige to pass away. If this contest is allowed to go on for weeks—and the Opposition are prepared to continue the contest for weeks if necessary—there will be a spectacle presented to the world such as perhaps no other parliamentary record can show. If this had been a fight for office, for place, for power, there might have been some excuse for the Ministry showing such a determined front. But what is there that is unreasonable in what the Opposition ask? All they desire is two or three months' delay—nothing more and nothing less. They ask that such an important change in the Constitution of the country shall be referred to the people; and, if it. is referred to the people, that the people's verdict, whatever it may be, shall be taken. I am sure there is not a member of this House, however dearly he may love the Constitution under which he has lived for many years, who would not relinquish his own views; for who are we, if the people desire change, that we should stand in the way ? But when we read the petitions laid on the table of the House; when we find the manifestations of opinion which have gone forth from all the centres of population; when we find the immense number of meetings that have been held in various parts of the colony, and when we know that these people ask for a reasonable thing—namely, that this question of the alteration of the Constitution should be referred to them for their consideration and discussion,—the Opposition feel bound to maintain the right and the liberty of the people to settle for themselves what this future law should be. I have perhaps at greater length than was necessary enlarged on this question; but I have, on the other hand, refrained from doing what I might have done—namely, taking up the time of the House merely to exhaust time. I have endeavoured, in all the references I have made, to adduce arguments bearing on the point before the House, and I ask honorable members to assist us in putting an end to this physical combat. I tell the Government that there are men in this Opposition who are as determined as they ever were, and that there are, even amongst their own supporters, members who entirely disapprove of the position they have taken up. Many of their supporters have said that they think the Government are carrying the thing too far, and that they are anxious some arrangement should be come to; that this test of physical endurance, this trial who can hold out longest, shall be brought to a conclusion. We are prepared for any consequences. We have arranged our small phalanx in such a way that, whatever means the Ministry adopt, we are prepared to meet them. If this battle is carried on for any length of time, if the dignity of the House is sacrificed, it is not the fault of the Opposition. If this had been a matter such as the Commissioner of Customs fought for in 1868, I should not be found in the position I now hold. Even if I were opposed to the Government, I should be found supporting them; but when I find a great question like this being forced forward in a way not creditable to the Government, constituted as they are, I feel bound to assist this small phalanx to have justice and right done. And when the people of the country see the Ministry backed by an unthinking majority—they are not only an unthinking majority, they are an unreasonable majority, who cannot give a reason for the faith that is in them—when I see the Ministry doing a thing like this, as monstrous a thing as a Ministry can ask a Parliament to do, to destroy the Constitution of a country that has existed for years, and not giving the Parliament an opportunity of seeing what is to be substituted for it, I say I am in every way justified in opposing them to the utmost of my power. If I were to go into history, if I were to look at the changes that have been made in the Constitution of France, I should see that in the hour when that, change was notified there was given also an explanation of that which was to replace what was about to be abolished. But here the Ministry, knowing they are backed by an unthinking majority, have attempted to force the House to pass this Bill without letting the House know what is to be substituted for the form of government which has existed in this country for so many years. Of course it is useless for me to appeal to any honorable member on the Government side, because they are so wedded to the Government that they must support them right or wrong; but I ask them if their intellect has not been utterly destroyed by their passions. I ask them to say if any Ministry in any Parliament, however large its majority, should be guilty of such a proceeding ? Is it fair of the Ministry to ask us to discuss a wide question like this without giving us every possible information ? When I refer again, as I may well do on an occasion like this, to the interesting debates that took place in the Federal Convention of the United States of America, what do I find ? Page after page full of resolutions; everything was formulated; and when any member asked that the resolutions should be postponed until he had time to consider it, it was granted to him. And I ask honorable members to consider that that Convention spent a whole year in considering that question; yet we are expected to frame a Constitution in a few weeks, to the neglect of all public business; to the neglect of what is called private business; to the neglect of matters of pressing urgency to this colony; to the neglect of matters of finance, which ought to have immediate consideration; to the neglect of those matters of administration which ought to be discussed by this House at the earliest moment. We are asked to neglect all these things in order that we may prepare a particle, a fragment of a new Constitution; or, rather, we are asked to destroy the old Constitution, without seeing what is to be substituted in its place. Personally, I have on page 283 fear to go before any constituency in the colony, however centralistic it may be, to justify to the letter every act the Opposition have taken. I appeal to that strong spirit of fair-play, which is always abundantly manifested by every British community, to say whether it is fair to treat a minority, even though it is only one-third of the members of the House, in the way the Ministry are treating this minority ? Is it fair to hurriedly discuss a subject the import of which Ministers do not realize ?—because it must be borne in mind that, when you make one important change, a dozen effects follow for every disturbance. Naturalists toll us that, if a man throw a stone into a brook or lake, the whole of the molecules are disturbed, and the force caused by throwing the stone affects the whole lake. So the waving of the hand in the air has been said to disturb the atmosphere a thousand miles away, though to a degree so light as not to be appreciable to the senses. Now, let us apply these facts to political changes. You may drop a stone into the lake of political life, and an indefinite number of circles will be originated. And yet we are asked to decide rashly upon a change of the consequences of which the Government know nothing. They will not even let us see what their ideal is in its present shape. That surely is not fair. Then, what consequences do they expect would follow, even if this measure were carried, from conduct such as this? It reminds one of those Parliaments where brute force is placed in opposition to intellect, and they foolishly expect that, because the minority is small, they will tamely submit. The Opposition would be unworthy of themselves, of the country they come from, of the name they bear, if they tamely submitted to such action at the hands of any majority. The very fact that we are a small minority reminds me that small minorities have fought before for what they believed to be right and true. It was for this that a small minority fought in the House of Commons in the time of the Stuarts, and they were proved to be right, because they threw themselves on the feelings of the people. They had to contend with a vast majority who would do nothing but what this kingly influence told them to do; but the minority fought bravely and persistently, because they knew they were fighting for the truth and the right. It was that feeling that kept them up in all their trials; and it is this feeling that has nerved the Opposition to take up the position they have taken up. They believe they are fighting for what is true, for what is right. They believe that whatever discomfort it may cause to themselves, whatever discomfort it may cause to the Ministry—and, Sir, it is an extraordinary thing that we should have a Ministry sitting here day and night while the work of the departments is being carried on by clerks: I regard that as a disgrace—the Opposition will persistently insist upon this matter going to the constituencies. They will insist upon the other Bills being brought down; and I give the Government warning that unless they consent to adopt a reasonable course, they will bring failure upon themselves. There are many of their supporters who are amazed and vexed at the position the Government have taken up. I know that it is said one of their supporters left a week ago because ho felt that the Government had taken up a position which would end in disaster; and there are many other members who are actuated by the same feeling. They will go away to their homes, and leave the question to be settled as best it may. And what is the position of the Ministry now? They are like a ship without a helmsman; and the result is that they are being driven hither and thither, thinking all the while, because they have a monster crew on board, that a helmsman is not necessary. But there are breakers ahead, and, as in the case of all ships without a competent steersman, the result, must be calamitous. Sir, I shall support the motion that you report progress.

Mr. Hunter.—It may be in the recollection of most honorable members that I have not as yet spoken on this question. I voted on the second reading, I voted on another occasion, and shall be prepared to vote against the Bill again if necessary. I am not a member of the Opposition; I have attended none of their meetings; but I am at one with them on this point: that this is a question which ought to be remitted to the country. I never have admitted, and never will admit, that provincial institutions have failed to fulfil their functions; but I admit that there has been a universally expressed desire for change, and the time for carrying out that desire has merely been contingent upon devising a system of government which was to take the place of provincial institutions. We recognized in years past that the difficulties in carrying out the provincial form of government were very great, but those who have had any connection with Provincial Governments must be aware that there has been a feeling of antagonism between the General Government and the Provincial Governments which has operated most unfavourably upon the Provincial Governments. I am not prepared to say that there may not have been faults on both sides, but that is the opinion I have arrived at, and I think those difficulties might to a great extent have been obviated had the Government seen in former days what they appear to recognize now—that there are ample revenues at the disposal of the colony as a whole to carry on the local and central administration. I think that, if a more liberal view of the position of the provinces had been taken some years back, the reference to the state of the Province of Auckland as being "a scandal" might have been avoided. Last year, I made reference to the position of that province in these words:—

"The northern provinces have never asked for that which they did not think they had a just claim to, and I say our claims have been generously and handsomely met by the Southern members. But those claims have not been made, and they have not been met, in that spirit which is generally understood by the term sponging. The fact of claims existing does not apply to Wellington so much as it does to Auckland; and I do think that the Province of Auckland has a special claim on the whole colony, on account of the large Native population living in that province. We page 284 came to this country — we have these people amongst us; and I think as long as they are amongst us—possibly it may not be for many years—the South should recognize that the Province of Auckland has a special claim, which, even if it involves additional expense of administration, ought to be granted."

Those were the views I expressed on the 19th August, 1874, and I hold them now; and if the General Government had met the provinces in the spirit it ought to have done, that which was unfortunately referred to as "a scandal" to the Province of Auckland would never have happened. We all know that it is a very unfortunate thing for a man to be poor, and that appears to my mind to be the particular crime of the Province of Auckland. They have been burdened with a variety of undertakings; and from the position of the province, so far as I am able to comprehend it, they have not been able to raise so much from land sales as the more fortunate provinces, and it is that which has led to her present position. If a generous spirit had been displayed, that particular matter might have been put in a more favourable aspect than it had been. I would much rather not have taken part in this debate, because it is an unpleasant rather than a pleasant duty to take up time; but there is a great principle at stake,—and that is, that the rights of the people should be respected, and their wishes attended to. I am at one with those gentlemen who think this matter should be left to the people to decide, and, an appeal having been made to me to assist them on this occasion, I feel that it would have been wrong of me to have shrunk from that duty. We ought to be able to give the reasons which induce us to hold these views, and I had intended to offer a few remarks on the whole question during the debate; but it came to a conclusion on the Friday evening, an arrangement having been come to in accordance with the desire of the Ministry that the debate should conclude that night. As I have to occupy a certain amount of time on the present occasion, I may as well say what I would have said had I addressed the House on the second reading j and the first thing that occurs to me is this, that I regret the very frequent allusions that were made to His Excellency the Governor in connection with this Bill. Those allusions were not in accordance with the practice which has hitherto prevailed in this House. We recognize that we are living under a system of constitutional government. We have a Ministry who are necessarily supported by and command a majority in this House; and the Governors in the Australasian colonies occupy a different position from that which they filled years ago. They are advised by the Executive of the colony, that Executive being composed of gentlemen who are able to command a parliamentary majority. Therefore much that was said on this subject was unnecessary. I think the Governor, in bringing the Bill before the House in the way he did, would not have been adopting a constitutional course had he not followed the advice of his Constitutional Advisers. I think it is our duty to regard the Governor as a perfectly neutral person, determined to act fairly to all parties, and we should uphold him in that position. There is another matter which has been spoken of very frequently in this House, and upon which I cannot agree with many honorable members. The honorable gentleman is not present now, but that will not prevent me saying that I cannot agree with those honorable gentlemen who regard it as a gratifying circumstance that the honorable member for Auckland City West (Sir George Grey) should occupy a seat in this House. There is no gentleman for whom I have more sincere respect. I have known him for a great many years, and I recognize his great abilities. There are many members who never saw the honorable gentleman until he took his seat in this House, and there are few here who heard him speak in the early days of the colony; but those who did, and I am one of the number, were all convinced of his great abilities. But I always thought and hoped that those abilities would be displayed in a higher and more important Parliament than this. During the early part of this debate, some curious references were made to what took place in the early days of the colony. It was somewhat amusing to hear the honorable member for the Hutt, and the honorable member for Timaru on the other side, refer to the demands made for local self-government in connection with the Settlers' Constitutional Association which existed at that time. In those days I was one of the despised nominees. Nominees now are at a premium, and receive handsome allowances. I was a young man at the time, and I remember that the Governor, the representative of Her Majesty, appealed to me to become a member of the Council. I and others responded to the appeal, among the number being the gentleman who lately occupied the responsible position of Speaker of this House, Sir D. Monro; our respected Serjeant-at-Arms, Dr. Greenwood; Mr. Ludlam, of the Hutt; Mr. Seymour, of Nelson; Mr. Bannatyne, of Wellington; and Mr. George Moore, of Wellington, and others—who were held up to scorn, but against whom, from that day to this, it has not been possible to cast a reproach I merely refer to those matters because my recollection of them was stirred up by what was said by the honorable member for the Hutt and the honorable member for Timaru. There was another point which occurred to me during this debate; and that was, that much stronger language was used than is becoming in this Parliament. I think that, as legislators, as magistrates, as gentlemen, we should avoid as far as possible, in arguing out this question, saying anything which would in the remotest degree bear the construction that a resistance of the law is justified. I think such an idea should not be imported into our discussions; and yet it has been, both here and in the columns of the Press. Intemperate language is like fire; you can kindle it, but when once lighted you cannot always put it out. I think that, although we are now speaking and acting for the rights and liberties of the people, we should speak with moderation and with respect for the constituted authorities. I cannot myself speak with any degree of weight upon the legal point page 285 that has been raised in regard to this question; but there are evidently some doubts upon the subject, and these doubts should be set at rest. If this colony does not possess the power to alter its Constitution, it ought to; for I think the Imperial Parliament believes that it has given us the whole and sole control of all such matters. If, however, doubt does exist upon this point, it ought to be determined; and therefore I think the Government have been somewhat remiss in not following the advice given to them by their legal adviser. If a case had been prepared and sent Home, and the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown had been in their favour, what a strong position the Government would now occupy! It would have saved an immense amount of the discussion which has taken place. If, on the other hand, the opinion had been adverse to them, we should have had to do as we have had to do on former occasions — apply to the Imperial authorities. One would almost imagine, from a remark which fell from a member of the Government, that this is a point which may be settled before we proceed much further; that a reference has been made to the Law Officers in England either by the Government or by some other authority. If that be so, the time has almost arrived when we should be able to know whether the doubt has been solved. It would be of great importance in the present state of this discussion if we heard that an opinion was given by the Law Officers of the Crown at Home that the course we are taking could not be followed. It would be a happy solution of the question; and that is one reason why I have refrained from saying much, because I have hoped that we should have that opinion. It has been frequently said in the course of the discussion that the question has been before the people and the country for a long time; but I would point out that when the subject was brought before the House last year, the proposition was simply to abolish the provinces of the North Island. I said in that debate that such a proposition had never been thought of by the people, but the question which they had had before them was the question of total abolition. Now the matter comes before us in a different form from that in which it appeared last year; and nobody can say that, as it appears now, it is a question which has been thoroughly thought over by the Government, for we have the authority of the then Colonial Treasurer that as long as Canterbury and Otago had the necessary means and funds to carry on their work, it was not proposed to make any change in the administration of the affairs of those two provinces. Now, the question is, that all the provinces shall be abolished. Another point which arose at that time was with respect to the land compact of 1856. I know, of course, there are differences of opinion upon that subject; but I am one of those who have always thought it should be respected, whether it was entered into wisely or not. It was a compact between the North and South, and it should therefore be adhered to, and in that respect the Government proposal is in accord with my views, and I should be satisfied if it were carried out. But when we look into the matter, we see that that is not really their proposition, for they propose to take from the rich and give to the poor, and of course that means dividing the whole revenue of the colony in equal portions to all parts. In some respects, no doubt, that is a fair proposal. That, however, is not the opinion of the people in those two provinces, as may be seen from what was stated by the honorable member for Avon, when he said that the people of his province had managed their lands economically, and had, by putting a high price upon it, as it were, reserved it to themselves; consequently it was only right and fair that the revenue derived from it should belong to the province. The same remark applies to Otago. I think that honorable gentleman's argument was a sound one; and if I were satisfied that it was possible for the Government to fulfil their promises without disturbing that compact, I should be very glad to support them in their proposition; but I cannot see that it is possible. It is a question of a certain sum of money being required, and if it cannot be got in the North it must come from the South. I stated in the earlier part of my remarks that I felt myself to some extent severed from the party with whom I have acted up to the present time. I was returned to this House as a supporter of the Vogel Ministry, and also as a Provincialist. I recognized, as I said the other evening, that the maintenance of peace in the North Island was essential to the good of the country. It is as necessary for the South as for the North. When we were at war in this island years ago, it brought great evils upon the South as it did upon the North, because it threw upon them additional taxation. Therefore any Ministry, no matter of whom it may be composed, who will hold the policy of maintaining peace and endeavouring in a quiet and easy way to prevent disturbance in the North Island, will always have my sympathy. A great deal has been said about the Public Works policy, and very many members, in the course of their remarks, have stated that at a certain time these works will necessarily come to a close. I may possibly be sanguine in my view, but that is an aspect of the question which I have never believed in. We have lately borrowed four millions of money, which it is supposed will last for two years; but at the expiration of these two years there will still remain an immense amount of public works to be completed, if those which have been finished at that time are to be made remunerative. I think, therefore, that it will then be necessary, perhaps not to the same extent, but to a moderate extent, to carry on the system of borrowing, because the colony requires through railway communication from the North to the South of both islands. That I think indispensable for the future welfare of both islands; and I am not much afraid of further borrowing, particularly when I look at the revenue of the colony, and its steady increase during the last two years. The year before last there was an increase in the revenue of £312,000, and last year there was an increase upon this increase of £184,000. The former sum page 286 would pay the interest on a loan of six millions, and the latter on a loan of three millions. If, therefore, the revenue continues to increase in that proportion, it warrants us in going on to a certain extent in increasing our burdens, because we are greatly improving our property. Some remarks were made by the honorable member for Akaroa with reference to the consequences to the colony of the serious decline in the price of wool which might take place. Now, Sir, the honorable member was right to some extent; but I think he and other members who take the same view have lost sight of the fact that, if the price of wool were to fall, we are always producing an increased quantity: if a man who now produces 100 bales gets £1,500, he will be in as good a position when he produces 125 bales and realizes the same amount. The following return will show the quantity and value of the wool exported during the last eight years :—

Increase. Decreasen Year. Quantity. Value. Quantity. Value. Quantity. Value. lb. £ lb. £ lb. £ 1867 27,152,966 1,580,608 ... 1868 28,875,163 1,516,548 1,722,197 ... 64,060 1869 27,765,636 1,371,230 1,109,527 145,318 1870 37,039,763 1,703,944 9,274,127 332,714 1871 37,793,734 1,606,144 753,971 97,800 1872 41,886,997 2,537,919 4,093,263 931,775 1873 41,535,185 2,702,471 164,552 351,812 1874 46,848,735 2,834,695 5,313,550 132,224 ... ... Total for eight Years 288,898,179 15,853,559 ... ... ... ...

Retubn showing the Quantity and Value of Wool exported from New Zealand during the under-mentioned Periods.

In the year 1867, wool was valued at £1,580,608; in the year 1874, valued at £2,834,695; the increase being £1,254,087. Taking the average of the past eight years, the total increase has been £3,208,695.

It is a curious feature in such matters that things compensate each other. I have looked over the returns of gold exports for the same period, and they of course, as everybody knows, do not present so satisfactory a result. They appear to have been falling off for many years; but it is a curious thing that the falling off in the value of the gold has been almost compensated by the increase in the value of the wool. The amount and value of the gold exported during the last eight years will be seen from the following statement:—

Retubn showing the Amount and Value of Gold exported during the Financial Years 1867-68 to 1874-75.

Tear. Quantity. Value. Increase. Decrease. Quantity. Value. Quantity. Value. Oz. £ Oz. £ Oz. £ 1867-68 678,653 2,696,642 ... ... ... 1868-69 615,809 2,385,971 ... ... 62,844 310,671 1869-70 579,456 2,263,309 36,353 122,662 1870-71 619,889 2,410,946 40,433 147,637 ... ... 1871-72 662,641 2,545,022 42,752 134,076 ... 1872-73 447,759 1,732,687 ... 214,882 812,335 1873-74 415,398 1,663,761 ... 32,361 68,926 1874-75 352,902 1,408,058 ... ... 62,496 255,703 Total for eight Years 4,372,507 17,106,396 ... ... ... ...

In the year 1867, gold was valued at £2,696,642; in the year 1874, valued at £1,408,058; decrease being £1,288,584. Taking the average of the past eight years, the total decrease has been £4,466,744.

page 287

So that, while the decrease in the value of the gold exported last year, when compared with the year 1869, has been £1,288,584, the increase in the value of the wool within the same period has been £1,254,087, or nearly an equivalent amount. I merely bring these matters forward as one of the arguments that may be used for not taking the despondent view of the future condition of the colony which many seem to entertain. I think that is a subject which is often unfortunately introduced into our discussions, because it is our duty to place our position and prospects as fairly and satisfactorily before the country as we possibly can. That is capable of being done by a reference to such documents as I have referred to, and they do not bear out the gloomy view which some honorable gentlemen appear disposed to take. We have evidence of the prosperity of the colony in our exports and imports, and in a variety of other ways, all tending to prove that the colony is making rapid, certain, and satisfactory progress. There has been, in the course of this discussion, a very great deal of talk about the pastoral interest—large landowners, and references of that kind. Curiously enough, when I heard those remarks, I had in my mind the recollection that, as long ago as 1858, I assisted in drawing up a memorial, which I presented to the Wellington Provincial Council on the 11th of May of that year, and I think it stated the case for the pastoral interest somewhat fairly at that time, and, I imagine, equally fairly at the present time. With permission of the Committee, I will read an extract from it, as showing my views upon this matter:—

"That your memorialists are deeply convinced of the importance, and interested in the welfare and progress, of the pastoral interest; because they believe that it has been almost solely the cause of the present state of progress and prosperity of this province, and because they are convinced that any undue check or pressure upon it will be highly detrimental to the public good.

"That your memorialists have seen, with some alarm and anxiety, indications of the existence of erroneous impressions in the public mind upon this subject, such as, if brought to bear upon the Legislature, may cause much injury and injustice to the most important productive interests of the province.

"Your memorialists are willing to admit that the amount hitherto accruing to the public revenue, in the shape of rents and assessments upon land and stock, appears proportionately small, viewed by itself; but they feel bound to assert that, viewed in connection with the other features of the case, it has generally been a fair and just contribution under so uncertain and precarious a tenure as they have hitherto enjoyed.

"Your memorialists submit that the runholders have conferred large benefits upon the province in exploring and opening up large tracts of country, and bringing them into speedy and useful occupation; in the importation of stock; in keeping up the supply of food for a fast-increasing population; in producing a vast amount of valuable export; in promoting improvements; in the breeding of stock; in contributing largely to the revenue by taxes on articles of general consumption; in affording employment to a large amount of skilled and unskilled labour; in employing and civilizing the Native race; in planting farms and gardens where, but for them, would still have been a wilderness; in large contributions to the land revenue by purchases of land by beneficial occupiers; and, generally, in largely promoting the welfare of the province, especially in relation to its productive, commercial, and shipping interests."

These were the views entertained by gentlemen of the pastoral interest in those days, and those are the views which I think they entertain still. It ought to be remembered that almost the whole progress of the colony has been due to the amount of money placed at the disposal of the Provincial Councils by means of the sales of land, and it would have been impossible to have opened up the country and constructed roads and bridges if it had not been for the funds obtained in this way. Therefore I think that class of the community has been somewhat harshly spoken of on many occasions during the discussion. Reference has been made to the necessity for a change in the incidence of taxation, and I am prepared to admit that to a certain extent such is the case. I expressed my views upon this point when I had an opportunity of addressing my constituents after the close of last session; and, as I entertain the same views still, I will ask permission to read what I said upon that occasion:—

"It is quite true we owe a great deal to the General Government for what they have done in the last three or four years; but they have built upon a foundation which was laid throughout the length and breadth of the colony by the provincial authorities. It is all very well to say that the provinces are exhausted, and must die; but how have they been exhausted ? By the General Government. Many of you will remember that, when the provincial system of government was introduced, two-thirds of the Consolidated Revenue of the country was handed over to the provinces for expenditure but by one process or another it has been diminished. It is true that it was mainly caused by the unfortunate war, which compelled us to raise money at any expense and cost; but that is not an inherent defect of provincial institutions. I have yet to be convinced that when that comes, which sooner or later must come upon us—increased taxation—such taxation will be better administered by the General Government than it would be by the various Provincial Governments, or will be less unpalatable to the people than if it were in the hands of representatives locally answerable to them, and living upon the spot. (Applause.) We hear a great deal about local self-government and endowments, but, to my mind, those endowments can only come from one source, and that is out of the pockets of the people. With regard to the land fund, when this colony was first established it was recognized as part of the scheme that the land fund was to be expended in making improvements upon roads and bridges, and in page 288 opening up the country for occupation. I need not tell you, what we have all become convinced of, that unless the country is opened up for settlement it is valueless. What is the use of one hundred thousand acres of land to a man if he cannot get to it, or get anything away from it? It is only by opening up the country that you make it of value to the State and cause it to be reproductive to the holder, and indeed to the State, because it will then bear taxation."

I think we ought to guard ourselves against allowing it to be supposed that we are going to impose an oppressive tax upon property, because every one must recognize that our great object should be to encourage people of capital to come out here and invest their money in this country. If they are led to believe that they are to come out here in order that they may be made a prey of and unfairly taxed, the effect will be to deter a class of people who have been attracted during the last few years to New Zealand, and who are making it a prosperous colony. This question of taxation has cropped up on many occasions, and a great deal has been said about the burdens upon what are called the poor and labouring class. There are not many poor people, I am happy to say, in this country, and I find, from an abstract I have made of the revenue for the year 1873, that the taxes on that class of the community are by no means out of proportion to the taxes on the rest of the community. The total revenue derived through the Customs for that year was £1,044,696. Out of that I have taken the duties on articles which are supposed to bear most heavily on this class, and I arrive at the following result:—
Heads of Receipt. Amount Collected.
Tea £59,157
Coffee, Cocoa, &c 6,849
Coffee, Ground 12
Sugar and Molasses 95,179
Goods by Measurement 92,592
Goods by Weight 55,390
Ad Valorem 127,409
Other Duties not specified above 44,383

In that year our population was somewhere about 300,000; and dividing the revenue among the whole population, that will bring the taxes on the necessaries of life to about 30s. per head. I would also draw attention to this fact: that station-owners have to pay the men so much a year, and have besides to find them in provisions in the same way as we do our household servants, so that the wealthier class have to pay more than their own share of the duties on the necessaries of life, and have also to pay the duty on material and a variety of articles for fencing their property, and otherwise improving it. I think, if we look at the results of such institutions as the Savings Banks, Government Annuities, Provident Societies, and others in the colony, it will indicate that the poorer classes are not unduly burdened. Take for example what was said by a gentleman who recently visited the colony for the special purpose of seeing its suitability for settlement: Mr. Holloway declares, and I think honorable members will admit, that the working classes are not over-burthened. I say the whole evidence before us proves the contrary. No doubt there are cases of distress to be found, but happily they are very few, and those in better circumstances relieve them. We do not see persons walking about begging, and without shoes and stockings, as we do so frequently in the Home country. I think all these facts prove that the cry of excess of taxation on the working classes, has no real foundation. A great deal has been said about the difficulty of getting on with the Provincial Governments, and the way in which the provincial authorities have conducted themselves; and one member of the Government stated recently that a large portion of his time was taken up in watching Superintendents—gentlemen who are elected to their positions by the inhabitants of the provinces, and looked up to and respected by them. As was stated last night, the gentlemen who have held and who now hold these offices will compare favourably with any members of the Legislature. I believe that ever since there has been a Legislature in this colony, every Superintendent had been returned over and over again to it. It has always been recognized by the people that, as they had elected the man whom they considered best to be their head, he would be the best man to represent them in this House. One member of the Government made a sneering allusion to the Provincial Governments, and said that we had all heard of the mode of dealing with the public moneys by means of a No. 2 Provincial Account. That has been brought up in this House as an instance of dereliction of duty on the part of a Provincial Government, but is a matter which is capable of very easy and clear solution. It has often been on my mind to say a word or two upon that subject; and as I may not have the honor of a seat in this House again, and as it has been cited as one of the instances in which a Provincial Government has done wrong, I should like now to give some explanation of it. Honorable members will recollect that the year before last a number of Bills were introduced to enable the provinces to borrow money. The Province of Wellington wished to be empowered to borrow £250,000, £100,000 of which was to be spent on the useful work of reclaiming the land on which the Government buildings are now in course of construction. These Bills were thrown out by the other branch of the Legislature, and consequently the Provincial Government could not get money for this purpose. They however made other arrangements for obtaining £100,000, irrespective of the Loan Bill that was thrown out, and with the money so raised they are carrying out this very useful work, which will be a great boon to the city of Wellington in a sanitary and many other points of view. The No. 2 Account arose in this way : The Provincial Government felt that they were expending a large sum of money for the benefit of the city of Wellington, and they recognized the cry which has been so much dwelt upon in this House, that they should do something for the country districts of the pro-