The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Sir George Grey's Address to his Constituents
Sir George Grey's Address to his Constituents.
In the evening Sir George Grey, Premier and representative of the Thames, addressed his constituents in the Theatre Royal, Grahamstown, before a crowded and overflowing audience, which could not have numbered less than 1000 persons. Sir George Grey was half-an-hour late in arriving, but when he arrived, accompanied by Br Kilgour and friends, he was received with deafening rounds of cheers.
Mr W. McCullough took the chair, on the motion of Mr Greenwood, seconded by Mr Hansen, and after a pause to await the arrival of Sir George Grey he said that he was looking forward like them to the pleasure to be derived from Sir George Grey's address. To Sir George the Thames community were indebted, and should forever be grateful. He had proved himself the best friend the Thames had ever had. (Cheers). If anything were wanting to prove that such was the case they could point to the successful turning of the first sod of the Thames Valley Railway, which that day had been inaugurated. (Cheers). Sir George's interest in the Thames Harbour Bill would also be for ever remembered with gratitude by the people of the Thames. He would not detain them any longer, but introduce Sir George Grey. (Cheers).
After demonstrative applause, Sir George Grey said: Your Chairman has been good enough to say that you, as a constituency, have reason to be grateful to me; all that I can answer is I have reason to be grateful to you, for you gave me opportunity of serving New Zealand. Before I speak to you upon what are purely political subjects, I will just say a few words upon practical local matters. Firstly : Since I was returned a great deal has been done in the way of constructing roads through the country, and very great improvements have been made. I should be very ungrateful if I did not say that these improvements have been carried out by aid of your local authorities. They entered into arrangements with Government that they would endeavour to carry them out for the benefit of both races. They tried to convince the native race that their interests were identical with their own, and that it was desirable that roads should be opened up. New the Chairman of your County Council and the heads of your local bodies have faithfully, energetically, and loyally carried out that agreement, not only here, but in Coromandel also. I should be sorry in the heat of discussion to-night to have forgotten to have rendered my thanks to them for what has taken place during the last twelve months. I need hardly say that this will be great encouragement to myself and Government in endeavouring to do our utmost for a community which so willingly aids in carrying out what is for the good of all. I will endeavour to give you an account of my stewardship during last session, stating what is the proper course for us to pursue during the coming session; what are the objects which we should endeavour to obtain, and what is the system which we should strive to build up? Before entering upon this, however, I will say we have heard such language as "Grey will make a fine speech, but that is all." I don't consider you so wanting in intellect that you should be led astray by fine speeches. (Hear, hear) God has endowed every one of us with different faculties, and if a man makes winning speeches, the power is not his own, but the gift of God. Some men have one gift, and some another. Such gifts as the; have they cannot avoid using, and for those gilts and their use they are responsible. (Applause) Now persons who use such language do so most unjustly. If the arguments used are unjust, let them answer the arguments, but that they never do. Let them answer reasoning. They simply indulge in vapid declamation. Asan example of what I mean by that, I will just mention one or two facts that occurred last session. You are all aware that, in the case of Canterbury, a clause was introduced into the Bill by which 7,000,000 acres of land were given to the run holders in Canterbury that ought not to have been given,—that is, three years before their leases had expired, and those leases had been for a long term of years. On that subject an appeal ought to have been allowed to the country, but a majority in the House would not allow such an appeal. If the runs had been divided, instead of a few persons holding them, a large rental could have been derived from page 11 them. Were the children to be patient whose parents had been robbed of a chance of that kind, or were they not? (Cheers.) A large additional rental would have been obtained by fair competition in the market. If they had been reduced in their proportions, they would have been placed in a larger number of hands. A far greater number of cattle and sheep would have been carried on them; the country would have been relieved from a considerable burden of taxation through the additional revenue obtained, and by the increased commerce and trade, so that the whole community would have been benefited. Was I justified in pitying the children who were called upon to make some sacrifice to give more money to those favoured individuals, or was I not? (Cheers. I felt pity for them, placed in such circumstances. I say that I was thoroughly justified in feeling that pity, and I believe that the heart of any man who cared for his country would have felt the sympathy and pity that I felt on looking at looking at a large number of children who, I believe, are compelled to make some sacrifice which they ought not to be required to make, and whose parents, I believe, in many cases have been impoverished. I was angry at that—indignant at it; and, upon remarking that I pitied the children of the South who had been deprived of such chances, I was ridiculed. The arguments were not answers as to the wrong done, but there were roars of laughter at the speech the hon. gentleman made who "pitied the little children." I appeal to you whether I ought to pity the children or not, (Applause.) I believe the mind of any man who cared for his country would have felt such pity Then, again, this further thing took place. I had been ridiculed for speaking of the wives of the poorer colonists as ladies. What I did say was this—and bear in mind the statement was not made in the House, but at a religious meeting at which I was asked to preside—that I had entered many cottages where the influence of Christianity was such that it had softened the manners and the tones of the occupants, and I am not ashamed to make such a confession. I have been ridiculed for such statements. Laughter is no answer to argument. Ridicule undeserved is no answer to just and weighty argument. Another kind of argument used lately has been this: "Don't you be led astray by Sir George Grey; what you require is material advantage, and one great material advantage given to a place is worth all constitutional truths, or all constitutional principles. Look out for your pockets; they say that is the thing for people to do. Let them not think of their rights in these days, or what their constitution is to be, but let people see that they get a large amount of public revenue spent among them. That is what you want for your constituents," they say. To that I answer I do not believe that this constituency is capable of so acting; It is a thing to look for that you have a fair amount of the public revenue spent amongst you. I tell you, as your representative, I will take care that you have your fair share of the public revenue spent amongst you. I will make myself responsible for that whether I am in office or not. I don't believe you will be so foolish as to neglect to look after yourselves. It is for you to see that the public revenues are properly spent. Now I think you will agree with me upon that point, and those who attempt to delude you that your object should be simply to get money are not your real friends. You may depend upon it there is something beyond it if they recommend you to do that. Well, I will pass now to some other subjects. Lately the cry has been raised in several parts of New Zealand—in the North island especially, about the land being unfairly dealt with. The argument used is, that some people have rights coming to them which are not coming to the public at large. Well, now, do not be led astray by arguments of that kind. In this case a law is made, under which lands become the property of private individuals, although that law gives to every man equal rights. But if we come to some of these individuals' peculiar rights where they have the power to make a law that what has been done shall be made lawful, they say they have power to do that. Now I say any people who argue in that way are enemies to their country. (Cheers.) What does it mean? It means this, if you behave in that way you will break the law, because you assume that you have power to render the infraction of the law lawful. There is no law in this world that can give power to any Government to do exactly as they like. I say it is impossible for page 12 any Government to break the law. I say it is impossible for them to do that, and in doing so they are doing wrong to the whole community. (Cheers.) They do wrong to themselves in breaking the law. They are doing wrong to think that they can get the law broken when they like, and they are doing wrong to the community by dealing with that which they only hold as trustees. When they say they are developing a country because some gentlemen are spending large sums of money in improving it, I say it is not their money; it is your money. If I give a man one hundred thousand acres of land, you know he can go into the market and raise a large sum of money upon that. That money so raised is your money, it is raised upon your property. If labourers are employed in improving property so acquired it is not the money of the employers which is invested, but your own money given back again. (Loud cheers.) Then further consider this, to give men large tracts of country in that way you give them the power of raising enormous loans. Every one of you must know this that the value of the produce of a farm depends upon the facility of getting it to market and the means of communication. If therefore I give a man the power of determining whether roads are to be made through that land or not I give him the power of taxing every one of his neighbours about him. I give him the power of determining whether they shall get their produce to market or not. I limit the value of every man's farm who is in his vicinity—it is literally to give one individual the power of taxing all his fellows in his neighbourhood. Well, now, that leads to another point—to a subject upon which I shall have to speak to you to-night. The people who acquire these great tracts of land — I hope I make myself clear to you — (cheers) — by a law peculiar to this colony have votes in proportion to the land they hold. They may have five votes to one—that is a man owning the smallest area of property can have but one vote, while a man with a large amount in a riding may have five votes. It is possible for a man to have forty-five votes and most of his neighbours to have only one vote. Now you will therefore see that votes are not, under such circumstances, given to human beings but to acres. According to my view the vote should be proportionate to the owners of property in a district. I would not care how many acres it was; and persons thus qualified should have the power of saying we desire our property should be taxed at so much per acre. (Cheers.) I contend the majority of the people in such a district should have the power of determining what amount should be imposed per acre. (Applause.) I contend that it should not be allowed to one man to have forty-five votes, with which he may elect a County Council and all the officers. I say to give a man power to do this, is to create a governing class you will never get rid of. I should wish to make myself clear to you. Where one man has a right to exercise forty-five votes you give him the power to spend the money, and you create a distinct class in the community—one of whom will have the power to govern all the rest of another class, who will go hat in hand to him and ask to be employed, to get work and be paid with their own money. I say no worse attempt has been made to set up an aristocracy in New Zealand, and that of the worst possible kind. If you will search the writers on this subject of plurality of votes, you will find that they say this: "We believe in plurality of votes,—that is to say, the time may come when plurality of votes will be given; but we believe the greatest curse that can afflict a country would be to attach to that plurality of votes property and money." We believe that to do that is to secure degradation to a class for all time, and raise up a class in the country of the worst possible kind. Then they go on to say money may be acquired fraudulently, and by mean habits in various ways, and even by prudent people—often by people who have saved and accumulated money, and often by people who have no right to acquire money by the means they have used, and to reward wealth by giving it plurality of votes is one of the worst ways by which power can be acquired. These are the disreputable means by which power is acquired in the present day. They say, further, the time may come when the community will recognise some men of greater wisdom—some men of greater faculties. Perhaps, then it will be a wise thing to do. That is different from what has been done here. I am anxious you should understand that question, for it is a point upon which I page 13 shall have to speak at large with reference to my conduct last session. In round numbers I may say three quarters of a million will be taken from the general revenue and given to local bodies. You will see that this three quarters of a million belongs to you, belongs to myself, belongs to each one of you in equal proportions, and that no person has any right to a larger share than his fellow. He does not contribute more than I do—he contributes exactly the same. Why, because they have a greater extent of land or property do they expend money which has no relation to their property at all, but which belongs to all of us? (Cheers.) The whole rates of New Zealand at the present moment—I have not brought papers with me, and cannot therefore give the exact amount—are under £100,000 a year raised in rates in New Zealand, therefore the proportion which this bears to the whole expenditure may be set down at one eighth; and I say that nothing can be more unjust to my mind than that they should have the power of spending our money and contributing so little themselves. I think that you will understand that the people really contribute the revenue themselves. I now come to the Electoral Bill. You may either agree with me or not as to my action with regard to that Bill. In the old country the Government have always power to dissolve Parliament and appeal to the people. I have made the greatest search through the writings of all governing statesmen, their histories, and all that can throw light on the subject, and I find that the opinion of those authorities is this if certain circumstances take place we shall dissolve. They do not say we shall advise the Crown to do it, but they say the Crown must take their advice. They say we intend to appeal to the constituencies. They speak always with the most perfect confidence that that shall take place. I think you will agree with me, there is no possible harm in appealing to the people. I say they have always their right to dissolve Parliament, and appeal to the people. That is certainly the proper course. (Cheers). In New Zealand that has been denied to us. It is said the Governor here is to decide the question of right, and that his rights descend from Governor to Governor. That some Governors may please to allow a dissolution, and some Governors may not allow it—that is to say that New Zealand statesmen are not to be trusted with the same powers which are exercised by statesmen at Home, and we have heard here in New Zealand some members of the New Zealand Parliament say, "thank God that is the case." (Loud laughter.) I think in that they might hold their sides for laughter. They knew they had their seats for a long time. What they mean is this: that a Ministry, having a minority, shall be tried as to whether they can get a majority; and unless they can show that, they shall not be allowed a dissolution. The effect of this is not only to weaken a Ministry in the House of Representatives, but that the party opposed to the Ministry know that they will not be sent back to their constituents. No Ministry in New Zealand can be strong enough to carry measures with certainty. That has been the position of myself and my friends. Now, certainly, in the next session of Parliament- I say when a dissolution is asked for that dissolution will probably be allowed. That must be the position of any Ministry when a new Parliament is elected with power to appeal to the people. Now let us consider the constitution of the Upper House of this colony. They are a nominated Upper House. In some other colonies there are Upper Houses, but none with the peculiarities of the Legislative Council of New Zealand. Perhaps some people will say we have an Upper House as the House of Lords is in England; but there is this extraordinary difference between England and New Zealand. In England the Upper House can impose no new burdens upon the community. The House of Peers are not paid out of the public funds. If I were in England and endeavoured to impose any new burdens upon the community the Upper House could not interfere. There is no Upper House in the colonies which is paid as the Legislative Council is here. A man here is appointed in one day to the Council and immediately acquires two hundred a-year. It is not for a day but for his life. It is a pension for life. (Laughter.) I do not know if I make myself clear to you on that point. Take the civil service here: You put a man, who will shortly be entitled to his pension, into the Upper House—you give £200 a year, in addition to what he gets as a pension. That gives him a page 14 position. There is no difficulty about that. In England, when they give a civil servant a pension, that pension comes from the Crown, and if he gets a further appointment he loses a proportionate part of his pension. Take my own case-I get a pension of £1,000 a-year. I wanted to get my ministerial salary reduced. I introduced a Bill for that purpose, and the House threw it out. I wanted £1,200 instead of £1,750. Well, from my pension they took £890 a-year. In New Zealand if a civil servant is put in the Upper House he nets 200 gs. added to what he will receive by his pension. Then this extraordinary thing takes place in New Zealand: in the Parliament at home, if you make a man a Peer, he not only cannot sit in the House of Commons, but he cannot interfere in any election of a member of that House, rendering himself liable to punishment if he does. Here, a person is taken and put into the Upper House because he loses his seat in the Lower House. At home, if you make a man a Peer, he must always be a Peer; but here, if a member has a chance of getting in for another constituency, he can resign his peerage, and go back to the Lower House. And he does that, I may say, shamelessly. I should be ashamed to occupy that position myself, but there is nothing to prevent a man from doing it, and then if he loses his election he goes back to the Upper House again. Now you will see really the dominant power in the country consists of some fifty members in the Upper House, each of whom is paid 200 guineas a year. There are upwards of fifty now,—I forget the exact number,—property, money, and power have got them in, neither myself nor my friends got them there, and if my friends wanted to get a majority in, we should have to get fifty-fire, each with 200 guineas a year for life. No man who wants to work the constitution properly would try to do it. The Governor himself has no power to do anything at all, although you may depend upon it that the Governors at the present time are intended for party purposes. (Hear.) Look at what Beaconsfield said—he admitted that some years ago attempts had been made by a certain section of the Colonial Department to break Up the Colonial Empire. I say no party who would attempt to do that would have any right to be put into the third branch of the Assembly. You will see that the Constitution is most difficult to work. If you expect me as a minister to carry measures as they do at home you will be greatly disappointed. I say it is in the power of any Governor to ruin any Ministry, because he may ally himself with the party opposed to the Ministry; and then it is an alliance between the Governor and a particular party. If a Ministry is weak in the House, and has not power to carry its measures, it must fall into disgrace. Well, now then I come to the question of the Electoral Bill. You yourselves must judge whether I was right or not. I am on my trial, as it were, before you. We did not want to introduce a bill which we could not carry. We had to consult our friends. We could not carry a measure against our friends. We were obliged to bring a bill in without attempting to interfere with the plural voting. We were obliged to bring in the bill in that shape which would conserve our vote. We believed, as a Ministry, that if we divided that vote the Ministry would be lost altogether. I was fully certain in my own mind that an appeal to the country would not be granted upon the question: but I asked for it. Another of my friends brought in a proposal to do away with the plural vote—that each man should have one vote, and votes be the representatives of human beings, and not of. acres of land. We endeavoured to get that carried, but it was lost. I am in favour of triennial Parliaments. I will tell you why, because if any great political crisis arises during a five years' Parliament, it cannot be dealt with during that period without a dissolution, which one Governor may give who is on good terms with the Ministry, and another in anger may refuse. I think this is a matter which ought not to be left to a decision of that kind, and that the constituencies ought not to be debarred from having a voice in every three years. I thought it was a pity to stop the constituency from exercising its voice for a period of five years. Surely it was reasonable enough to ask that the time should be reduced to three years. I was quite willing to submit to that test. I did my best to get that measure passed, but it was rejected. As you are all aware, the Constitution of the country gave the natives exactly the same right of voting as the Europeans. That has prevailed for some time. Many years ago the Legislature said the great page break bulk of the natives resided in districts where there were no polling-places, and it was said they had no franchise at all. Therefore, they said, we will allow four native members to be elected in and for those districts; and they elected four members accordingly. I have no hesitation in saying that when my opponents were threatened with an adverse vote of the House they saved themselves by keeping those four votes in hand, and they managed the whole thing upon an admirable plan. But after four years or so they would take that out of our hands. (Laughter.) This Electoral Bill, the object of which was to give fresh privileges to every one of her Majesty's subjects in New Zealand—in effect, universal suffrage—when it got to the Upper House they struck out the dual vote altogether except in respect of these four native members. That they left in. The Act went on to say that all natives whose names were enrolled as ratepayers should have power to vote if they paid their rates, and all Europeans whose names were on the ratepayers' roll should have the power of voting whether paying rates or not. Myself and my friends determined that they should not submit to it They put in these words, "Every male subject of her Majesty in New Zealand, being twenty-one years of age, and not being a Maori, shall have a vote," and that left the House to the four native members. That was accompanied by a statement made in this House, that the natives in the Upper House had arranged to pass the Land Tax, and that they ought not to be allowed to do so again. Well, I was in favour of the Land Tax myself. I believed that the Customs' Duties were already sufficiently heavy, and that the people should not be taxed or punished twice over. I contended that the Upper House exceeded their privilege in rejecting that measure—that they were a nominated body—that they had no right, and that a sense of delicacy should have restrained them from interfering in a matter of that kind. (Cheers.) Therefore I said to myself, I now believe in doing away with the plural vote. I believe in Triennial Parliaments, and I believe it is quite possible that parties in the Upper House may want to meddle, and have set us this example of meddling They do not hesitate to interfere with the privileges of the Lower House, therefore what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and I have followed the example which they gave to me. They threw the gage down. I determined in my own mind not to accept the amendments on the measure made by the Legistive Council, and I found a majority of the House coincided with me, therefore I would not accept their amendment. I believe the result will be that next year we shall get a fundamentally better Reform Bill, and that we will get it in time for the new elections We shall see that the country is divided into fair representative districts,—that there shall be no more pocket Boroughs. (Cheers.) Then I shall say you are no more a divided constituency. I recollect you had for years only one member here, and other places with less population had as many as three or even four members. We are determined that population shall carry representation with it. I believe I shall get a Reform Bill which shall do away with plurality of voting, and probably we shall have triennial Parliaments. If we cannot carry that we shall have to appeal to the people next year, and then you must decide yourselves whether you like it or not. Mind, I only tell you what my own views are, and I try to assert them with humility—I tell you that I do not like the plural vote, and I am persuaded that you will agree with me that I am right. As to triennial Parliaments, representation in proportion to population, you will have an opportunity of saying whether you like these things or not. I shall say if you do not like them you will be unwise, and I shall lie by until I get some other constituency that will like them. I now come to the Land Bill. We say that every man in New Zealand—every father of a family shall have a right of homestead, and have no tax upon it, that they shall be enabled to bring up a family and found a home to live in—that every man shall begin to pay a land tax in proportion as his property grows. Whatever structure may a be erected for the decent living and comfort of a man's family, to enable them to be brought up and to have a proper home to live in, to that extent there shall not be a tax upon a man's homestead. That a man shall be enabled to leave it to his children without a public burden upon it, no tax shall be put upon it. But the moment that a man passes beyond that boundary, he shall begin to pay a tax exactly in proportion to his property. page break We say to the poor man that, in regard to property which is merely sufficient to support himself in comfort and decency, he shall pay no tax. We will say on the other hand, to the man who holds large quantities of land for the purpose of speculation, that he shall pay not less for his land than his neighbours, and that in proportion to its extent the poor man shall pay taxes for making roads that give additional value to the land in the neighbourhood, while the owner of the land did not make any improvement whatever upon it. We say the selling value of the land without improvements upon it is that which shall be taxed. The whole theory of the Public Works Policy is that land shall be taxed. They say "we want a property tax." But that does not suit our views at present at all. I have no objection to a property tax by and bye. Let those people who have large tracts of land with speculative principles set an example, Let those people who live in England, and derive large revenues from the colony, pay their share towards the general taxation of the colony. (Cheers.) Never fear, I will get it out of them by and bye, if it is possible to do it. (Loud cheers.) And if I am out of power I will aid you at getting at those people. Let us make sure that those people who hold immense properties in this country contribute in proportion to their property—those people who hold great runs. There are large numbers of people in this colony who hold millions of acres of land, and they shall and will be got at, as will those who hold investments in public companies. (Cheers.) They want a tax on improvements. They believe if a tax were put on improvements a large number of farms in the country would fall into their hands. We say no, let every man who has land improve it to the best of his ability, but do not let him pay for the improvements which he has made upon it by his own labour. (Loud cheers.) The landowners tried to create discontent. They said you have only made a tax of one halfpenny in the pound to deceive the people I would reply, "Let us see what this tax of one halfpenny in the pound will bring in, and if we want more we have an easy means of getting it. You have a great machinery in your hands. It will be for you to use it as you like. If you want to raise greater revenue you can do it, and I believe it is a perfectly fair way for you to do it. Then this other objection was made; it was said, "Oh, you have not taken enough burthens off the people. Why do you not take more off at once?" The answer was, "We want to see what the Land fax Bill will bring in to be quite sure of what we are doing" They said, "You have imposed one halfpenny in the pound per acre, why have you not imposed twopence or fourpence?" The answer to that is, "We want to see what the Land Tax would bring in. We have taken off half the duty on sugar, and it will be very easy to take the other half off. We will gladly do so when the proper time comes. We have taken twopence in the pound off tea, and we will be delighted to take off the other fourpence when we see what will be the result of the new tax, I believe this tax at the present moment is fairer than any other tax in the neighbouring colonies. The moment we know what the land tax really does yield, we will unhesitatingly do our very best to remove the whole of these burthens from the public, under which they ought not to suffer. You will see from what I have stated that you are entitled to a reduction upon articles of consumption. We were obliged to deal gingerly with every one of these subjects, not being certain of a dissolution. But you will see next session, if a dissolution takes place, the power rests in your own hands. You become the legislators for the time. We shall lay down a programme, and you shall vote upon that; you will become the General Assembly for the time being. You now understand what I mean upon that point? (Cheers) There are some other points on which I will speak to you, and which will agitate the Assembly next session. You will have next session to determine—and this is the first time it will have become public—this matter, which will be submitted for appeal to you: Is a titled aristocracy—an aristocracy peculiar to New Zealand to be set up in this colony, or is it not? ("No.") Well that is what I want to know. I intend to resist it to the utmost. I will tell you what has taken place. In England the law is this: The Crown is the fountain of honour. The crown can make peers, baronets, knights, and every degree, and invest them with decorations, and every order that people are liable to have stuck upon them. (Laughter.) It has all these powers, but the Crown can create no new page break rank in England, and can create no new title. It tried to do it; it tried to make a life Peer without an Act of Parliament. Both Houses resisted, and it was admitted that in England, according to the Constitution, the Crown can create no new title whatever. Now the Crown determines to set up in New Zealand a new order of aristocracy. It was to be a life aristocracy. They were to be called honourable for life, but they were only to carry their title of honourable within two miles of New Zealand. Directly they went outside that line they threw it off, and directly they come back they are again honourable for life. If the Crown can create an order of nobility, it can create anything it pleases. I think you are aware they sent out to me to promulgate an order in a New Zealand. Gazette that Judges in New Zealand, on retirement, and certain civil servants were to be made honourable for life. I said I cannot put that in the Gazette, I do not think the Queen has power to do it; and, in the next place, I said, when an honour is conferred on one of her Majesty's subjects it is put in the London Gazette, and the whole world knows his name and the honour that has been bestowed upon him. I said, "I will not put anything of the kind in the New Zealand Gazette; I will not put anything in the New Zealand Gazette that will not be in the London Gazette, and you have no power to order me." (Cheers.) I tell you now that it has been conceded that these notices shall be put in the London Gazette for the future. The authorities to whom this matter has been referred have said it is right, and we intend to carry it out. To that I answer distinctly that "The Queen has no right; and I tell you the reason that she cannot do it in England, and there is an additional reason why she cannot do it in New Zealand. The only power left to the Queen upon such a subject is this: the Queen is one part of the General Assewbly, and it is said the General Assembly may make laws for the happiness and good government of New Zealand. Clearly, the creation of an aristocracy is a question relating to the good government of the colony, said further, suppose you have the power to do that it would be an act of generosity to consult the people on the subject, and if you create a separate aristocracy in New Zealand you also at the same time create a class here that will tend to separate from the mother country. I said the people of New Zealand have a dislike to such things, why not behave generously to them, and say, although we claim the power in New Zealand, we will not force it unless the representatives in the General Assembly address the Crown, asking the Crown to do so. We all know the Queen takes no interest in those matters. It would be a generous and fair thing to her subjects in New Zealand that this thing should be done by their consent and by their choice." They do not notice that. They simply say they intend to do it. They do not say that they have taken any legal opinion, but they say they are quite satisfied the Queen has the power. Now I say this, that you must not think because the Colonial Department says this, that there is any reason to believe they are right. I will give you an instance of what I mean. The Colonial Department claimed the power of creating Bishops in all these colonies, and they issued letters patent to the Bishops at home, and they made them Peers within the colonies. They said the same rights and dignities belonged to them in these colonies as was enjoyed by the Bishops in Auckland. They authorised Bishops to set up Ecclesiastical Courts, to sue people, to have people within their jurisdiction brought up and tried upon ecclesiastical questions. This was a power the Bishops had not at home. All these letters patent were drawn up by law officers, Crown solicitors, and law officers of the Crown, and they got £5 5s for reading those documents, or some clerk got it, I do not know which. However, these letters were said to be perfectly legal. I remonstrated with them. At one time the clergy of Cape Colony were in a similar position, and reference was made to the House of Commons, and they said the Queen had no right to do anything of the kind. I next referred the question to the legal authorities. They argued that the Queen was right, and that the issue of these letters patent was perfectly legal, but I managed to get the question brought before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Fortunately, just at the time, the Bishop had suspended a clergyman from his living, giving him a right to appeal, and subscriptions were raised—that enabled us to take the whole matter before the Privy Council. The decision given was that the Queen, having granted a page break constitution to that colony very much much as we have here, and having created a Legislature for the conservation of the peace, order, and government of the country, she could not now by letters patent issued in Great Britain over-ride what had been done, and, therefore, we got rid of the Bishops. (Laughter.) I do not mean that we got them abolished, but we got rid of their power derived from the Crown—that is we elect them, and they exercise just such powers as their congregations choose to give them. This will convince you that the Colonial Department is very often wrong. I have no hesitation in saying that the Colonial office has no power whatever to force a colonial aristocracy on this colony. And I, as your representative, possessing the powers which you have delegated to me, shall not be fairly behaving to you unless I use every means to insure that nothing of the kind shall be done in this country And I am perfectly satisfied that as soon as the Home Government find that a decided stand is taken they will give way. If I see that the country does not go with me still I shall protest, and I think you will protest. I believe this will be one of the burning questions in the next session. I now come to another question—that of the nomination of the Governor. I have told the people of this colony that they bad a perfect right to pass a law to decide upon the manner in which their Governors should be nominated. I have always held that they had a perfect right to pass a law providing that the Governor should be recommended to the Queen, leaving the Crown to make the appointment Now the Colonial Department at home have come to their senses upon that point, and they admit that the colonists have a right to pass such a law. But I say if the Colonial Legislature exorcises that power the Queen has no right to reject that law if she chooses—we know that the Queen has power to reject it. You know now that you have to pass such a law as to how your Governor shall be nominated—I think it is a great thing for you to know that the power rests in your hands to use it as you may please. (A cheer.) I had intended to speak to you on other matters, but I fear the time is late (go on)—but there are subjects upon which there is great misapprehension. The one point which I shall refer to is the question of the power of the Judges. Before last session the Judges claimed that they had the right at any time to commit any man to gaol for life for contempt of Court, and that they were not obliged to make a record of such committal. They also said that the Governor, and even the Queen, had not the power to release him. (Laughter) Some little time ago they committed Mr Barton to gaol for a month for making an application on behalf of one of his clients. The matter came before Parliament, and we found that they also claimed the right to commit editors as well as lawyers. Well, I thought this power was dangerous, and should be restrained. I thought power with regard to the Press should be limited. The Judges said, "We are witnesses of the contempt: we saw the gestures and heard the tone of voice, and we must take these things into consideration in deciding on the punishment." Therefore, it was contended that power ought to be absolutely left in the hands of the Judges, and that there should be no trial by jury in such cases. With regard to the Press, I said that they did not write the article in the Court? they did not say anything in the Court, The Judges are not qualified in deciding about this as a jury. I said that the Judges should direct a prosecution if they wish, and punish the offender, and let the State bear the cost, and the jury decide upon the matter. The result of the debate was that the majority in the House were of opinion the Judges should not be interfered with, and I think they were wrong (hear, hear), and I wish you to know it. I firmly believe this, that in the course of a few years no man will say that anyone should be sent to gaol for life, for I believe that any such power to Judges is a bad power. One Judge will imprison a man for life, and another for a month. It depends on the caprice, or, it may be in some cases, the personal animosity of the Judge. Not long ago in England the Judges had the power to torture prisoners for the purpose of wringing a confession from them. For example, there was once a lady named Margaret Clitheroe, who was a devout Roman Catholic, and she was arrested on a charge of having secreted priests at a time when they had a price on their heads. Well, as she refused to plead she was tortured, but to no purpose, and pressed to death. An investigation into the legality of torturing people was then made, and it was found that they had no power. I believe this to be the case with the New Zealand Judges. They claim from custom; and I page 19 am convinced that they have no power; and I think we should strive to remedy what I believe to be a great wrong. (Hear, hear.) With your help I will endeavour to do so. I think I have gone through the main points of what took place last session, and given you a look at the programme for the future, and will now turn to matters nearer home. I believe that this portion of New Zealand is destined to have a great future. With the railway you will have an opportunity of developing the capacities of the district. You have a splendid water carriage, and immense water power for turning machinery. Then, again, you have auriferous deposits, which you must see are properly worked. Passing, as I hope the railway will, along the whole peninsula, so that the whole of the auriferous land can be got at, it will unite the varied capacities of the whole district, and these are many. You have at the back of the Thames a fertile country, and you must take care to have a proper harbour constructed to connect with the railway. Without a harbour your communication will be incomplete. When you have these you will possess all the necessary artificial advantages, in addition to many natural ones, and a bright future is in prospect. As I have before stated to-day, it had been said we should do our utmost to induce capitalists to come here and provide labour for the inhabitants. Of course, it would be a great pity not to allow them to come; but what they should most desire was to provide fertile homesteads for themselves, employing their own labour. There was the attempt to obtain what was termed the Broomhall settlement. We refused to have that land surrendered while the inhabitants already here wished to obtain it. At the small charge of £3,500 the claim made was surrendered and the land secured for yourselves. (Cheers.) Now, just let me make a personal application of these matters to myself, as your representative, and to you as my constituents. Supposing that my plan had been this—that, for example, I had secured on this goldfield, and between this and the Waikato, the best blocks of land I could get for myself and my friends, and then that I had got a railway made, how would you have looked upon me? Would you have felt the same sentiments in the getting of the railway for you as you would when you know that I have not an acre of land in the district, and that I have no personal interest whatever in it? Would you have felt that I had been really working for your advantage? [Cries of "No.'] I say that your bounden duty is to aid me in watching all the lands in this district, that I as your representative and you as my constituents, should see that as far as possible, these lands are secured to the public. I say again, shut your ears t the voice of the charmers who toll you, "Give us large blocks of land, and we will find employment for you." I say that in this country the thing that we desire is, that the people should have the opportunity of making homes for themselves. These are objects which you should all desire to attain; and I feel certain that those persons who aid in such a work will earn the gratitude of future times,—that many humble men, perhaps some of those who are now listening to me, by working for that object, would leave imperishable names behind them. [The hon. gentleman here referred to a statement recently published by a leading Bishop in England, depicting the terrible state of the poor in the towns.] Now, I say this, that it is your duty to take care and watch things in their beginning, and not allow yourselves to grow up in a state which will assuredly entail a future of that kind in a few generations upon our posterity. I say, that. that man who, for the sake of getting labour easily, and allows land to be improperly acquired, that he may get labour, who deprives his fellow men of their rights of obtaining land for themselves and their families, is a disgrace to the community. I say, then, let us all lay these subjects to heart; let us work to lay down a broad platform for the future benefit of the nation which we are building up here, and I am certain that we shall obtain the blessing of those who will follow us. Let me close by using the last words which I uttered in the House of Representatives: That in New Zealand there is the noblest clay existing, ready to the hand of the potter. I pointed out that the original immigrants were chosen with the greatest care, that they all came out in the prime of life, that they were of good character, men selected of good health, free from vice, who had families; and that the young men of the higher ranks who came out were some of the most distinguished families in England; that the flower of some of the other colonies flocked here, believing there was a great opening in New Zealand for such a class of immigrants. I said that here is the noblest clay ready to the hand of the potter; that there may be fashioned one of the greatest and best nations that the world has ever seen. I said this that that noble clay will be moulded by no unskilful potter; it will not be moulded in a shape which will create misery and destitution to millions hereafter to come. It will see that justice is done to itself, and any Government that attempts to pass laws of an unfair kind, creating these class distinctions that I spoke of—creating these vast inequalities of property—giving favours to certain individuals over others,—I say such a Government page 20 and such a system is rotten, and if attempted to be enforced cannot exist for a day. I say that the clay is truly noble—the clay will be moulded into a noble shape,—those potters who try to act otherwise will find that the whole population of New Zealand will cry out: Away with you; we will be moulded by no such potters as you are! (Loud applause.)
The Chairman proposed that this meeting cordially thank the Hon Sir George Grey for his admirable address, and reiterates the feelings of confidence so frequently expressed by the people of this district in him as their representative in the New Zealand Parliament.
This was seconded by Mr R. Graham, and carried most enthusiastically, when the proceedings closed with three cheers for Sir George.
Printed at the Thames Advertiser Office, Grahamstown.