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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

VIII. Schools and Churches, Etc

VIII. Schools and Churches, Etc.

In the different provinces there are different Education Acts, which cannot be spoken of at length. In some there is help given both to national and denominational schools, while in others it is given only to national, and those churches which wish denominational are left to provide such for themselves. So far as the writer knows, the truths of religion are more or less taught in all the schools. The schools are quite as numerous as could reasonably be expected in a new country. Most of the towns are better provided with the means of education than larger towns in Britain, and even the country districts are tolerably well provided. For the country schools there is sometimes a want of well-trained teachers, and thus unsuitable men, who think any one can teach, occasionally get themselves appointed. But these things will rectify themselves ere long, and they will be helped in this by the action of the Government examination boards. In Dunedin a university, with four professors, has been established, and though it may lack the prestige of time-honoured institutions, such as Oxford and Edinburgh, Cambridge and Dublin, the teaching may be quite as effective so far as, with such a (temporarily) limited staff, it can be carried on. This institution may hereafter be affiliated to the New Zealand University, to establish which active steps have been already taken by the Government of New Zealand. As a rule, those who go to so distant a colony, and not a few of whom have in various capacities been over a great part of the earth's surface, are more intelligent than the average population in England or Scotland, and are more keenly alive to the advantages of education. From the mixed population, too—English, Scotch, Irish, with a sprinkling of other nations—a town of 2000 people is very different from many a village of the same size in this country, where the inhabitants are all one set, pervaded by the same ideas, and the half of whom have never been fifty miles away from home. This is attested also by the demand there is page 24 for newspapers and magazines of all kinds. In addition to the immense number of these that come in from the home country, Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin, Christchurch, and Nelson have daily, weekly, and bi-weekly papers, and perhaps a monthly or bi-monthly magazine. Even the smaller towns have always one or two weekly or bi-weekly papers.

In regard to churches, there is no Established church of any kind in New Zealand. All are self-supported, though they are sometimes aided to a small extent by societies in this country. There are the same denominations there as in Britain, save that the Presbyterian Church, though under two organisations, is virtually one and undivided. The Church of England has most adherents over all the colony, except in the Scotch colony of Otago, where the adherents of the Presbyterian Church are much more numerous. The Wesleyans and the Roman Catholics have also a very considerable number of adherents. It would be desirable that the home churches should give rather more sympathy and aid in men, and sometimes, in the case of new settlements, in money. For it is generally very difficult to set up the means of grace in such places, although, when wisely set up and administered, they are upon the whole tolerably well supported. Above all others, the Scotch churches would need to show more wisdom, and much more energy and liberality.

Nearly all the churches in New Zealand have flourishing Sunday-schools in connection with them—institutions which, when managed with wisdom and vigour, go a long way to promote religion and morality.

There is much less crime in New Zealand than in a corresponding population in this country, and very much of what there is arises from drunkenness. The civil and criminal law is substantially the same as in England. For judicial purposes the colony is divided into districts, each presided over by one of the Judges, of whom there are five, including the Chief-Justice. An assize is held in the chief town of each province for the trial by jury of any civil or criminal cases which may prove beyond the jurisdiction of the inferior courts.

I cannot do better than close these brief notes by quoting part of a speech made in 1870 at a public meeting in London:— "In the year 1867, the population was 218,000; it is now 240,000. In February last year, 687,000 acres were under crop, and the colonists possess 9,000,000 sheep, 300,000 head of cattle, and 65,000 horses. The population have also 600 thrashing-machines, 700 reaping-machines, 12 steam-ploughs, and 28 steam-harrows; they produce annually 4,000,000 pounds of butter, and 1,300,000 pounds of cheese. The value of their page 25 export of wool amounts to £1,500,000. Their export of gold to £2,500,000, and of other products to about £500,000. When it is remembered that all these exports are produced by a population of something under 240,000 persons, I think it marvellous, and it promises much for the colony."

Of course, the exports, &c., are larger now, as is also the population.

Further, Carl Ritter, the eminent geographer, said, as early as 1842, in enthusiastic language, "That New Zealand seems destined, before all other countries, to become a mother of civilised nations. Fertile and well-watered alluvial plains are there awaiting the enterprising settler, the virgin soil on which he founds a new home, a land blest with the most genial climate, where he has but to battle with and subdue the wilderness, to reap the never-failing fruits of his labours."

We may quote also from "New Zealand: its Physical Geography, Geology, and Natural History. By Ferdinand von Hochstetter, Professor of Mineralogy and Geology at Vienna. Stuttgard: J. G. Cotta. 1867." He went as naturalist with the Austrian Expedition in the Novara. He says: "New Zealand bears the most resemblance to the mother country, by virtue of its insular position, its climate and soil, and the whole form and structure of the country. It lies towards the neighbouring Australian continent, like Great Britain towards Europe. Blest with a genial oceanic climate, so admirably suited to the Anglo-Saxon race; with a fertile soil, well watered, and splendidly adapted to agriculture and farming—with a manifold coast-line, suiting perfectly to the notions and habits of the first maritime nation of the world; it is a country without dangerous animals, without poisonous plants, but rich in mineral treasures; a country where horses, cattle, and sheep thrive, where fruit, grain, and potatoes grow most abundantly; a country adorned with all the charms and beauties of grand natural scenery; a country which can easily support a population of twelve millions—which promises the bold and persevering emigrant a lucrative and brilliant future—such a country appears, indeed, destined before all others to become the mother of civilised nations."

"a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills: a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates: a land of oil-olive and honey: a land wherein thou mayst eat bread without scarceness; thou shalt not lack anything in it: a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayst dig brass."

page 26

Since this tract was in type, the following letter has been received from the agent at Plockton, Lochalsh:—