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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 32

VIII. Prospects

VIII. Prospects

That a great and glorious future is the destiny of Otago is neither a haphazard speculation nor a baseless vision, but a well-considered opinion, warranted by and founded on the following considerations.

The physical features of the country eminently fit it for, and point to, this result. Its geographical position gives it mighty advantages for holding direct and rapid communication with almost all the countries of the Old and New World. Its conformation immensely enhances the value of its position. The extensive seaboard, and the numerous safe and capacious harbours on all its coasts confer advantages unsurpassed for successfully prosecuting maritime pursuits. Its interior structure presents few formidable obstacles for easy and speedy access to its seaports. Its climate is genial, healthful, and bracing—developing to a higher degree the vigor of the Saxon race—its soil, generous, grateful, pliable—its water supply abundant, well spread, and pure—its products are varied, plentiful, and of the sorts best suited for the necessities of its own and the inhabitants of less favoured countries—its minerals inexhaustible, embracing those most demanded by the requirements of business and the comforts of life—its botany, geology, world of wonders, will give scope for the thought of the scholar, the philosopher, and the scientist, awakening and evoking new ideas, new perceptions of the infinite—its scenery quiet and peaceful, or grand and sublime, page 67 kindle the fire of the poet and inspire the enthusiasm of the artist—its population, a fusion of the races most celebrated for honour, courage, activity, shrewdness, and endurance, is ready and willing to turn to best account the resources of the country, to read those lessons which the records of the past unfold, elevate by those flights of imagination which poesy can most effectively command, and refine and purify by the silent irresistible influence of appeals from the canvas.

The trades or occupations pursued are diverse, lucrative, muscular, and ennobling. Its merchants establishing a reputation for probity and honesty, are linking commercial connections with the foremost countries of the globe—its manufactures and industries are rapidly increasing and extending—its farmers are earnestly striving to multiply their products in number and amount—its tradesmen and artizans are zealously prosecuting their different callings—its miners are fearlessly piercing the bowels of the earth regardless of impediment—its ships and sailors are trafficking in every port—and its fishers are assiduously devoted to their hazardous employment, laying the seas under contributions.

The principles on which the commonwealth is built are liberal, developing, and safe, and its institutions have been laid on a foundation of sound wisdom and discretion. For the culture and training of its youth, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, museums, games, and industries have been provided, fostered, and encouraged, so that ere long it will provide its own staff of lay and clerical teachers, doctors, professors, artizans, and mechanics. Its judicial bench is carefully protected and furnished with judges noted for their uprightness, dignity, and independence—its professions are represented by men acute and painstaking—its statute book possesses no oppressive, partial, or class privilege enactments—its legislature can boast of many men devoted to and earnest for their country's welfare, gracing the council chamber by their oratory, and urging rapidly to the front by judicious, far-seeing, and practical statesmanship—its policy is fast peopling its lands, and affording facilities for travelling and transport—its debt, which its landed estate will pay ten times over, has been to a large extent recuperatively invested, adding to its wealth and influence, and will by judicious management lighten rather than page 68 increase taxation. It has neither army, navy, or defensive works to provide and maintain. Its native population, small in numbers, is being turned to practical account, and all its inhabitants are engaged in works contributing to its prosperity.

Reared on the experience of other lands, its institutions are for the man of low as well as of high degree. Freed from the trammels of hereditary sentiment and looked at from a clear standpoint, invidious distinctions, the errors and blunders under which older countries have been and are labouring are greatly avoided and those principles only which have been proved true and suitable are adopted. Convinced that to restrain from and repress vice is a wiser course than to detect and punish crime after it is committed, its neglected or erring youth are provided for and trained to honest industry, so that criminals will be found to be to a large extent imported, and when calamity or misfortune produce actual or impending poverty or indigence, spontaneous generous sympathy and assistance comes to its aid.

Its power, range, and adaptability to produce is unexcelled. Its products are indispensable to human existence. It is a land of wool and grain—able to produce immensely more than it can consume. The former of these staples is coming into greater demand; improved machinery and larger experience are bringing to market greater varieties and better designs in woollen fabrics which are rapidly superseding cotton goods. For a far greater number of days in the year than in Britain the growth of its pastures continues, rendering the raising of crops for winter feed for sheep and cattle comparatively trifling, thus setting free a higher per centage of acres to produce for human requirements, and the returns of the yields show very high averages of first class quality.

Its conditions for labour are liberal to a degree. The son of toil feels more of the dignity and less of the servility of labour than at home. Wages are on a high scale, and the hours for work are limited to eight—for females restricted by statute. The prospects of greatly bettering his condition are visible and fairly within his reach. The privileges he possesses are appreciated; he feels elated by them. Every position is open to him, as well as every franchise, and having none to make him afraid he can page 69 attain any dignity in the State. Greater liberty, equality, and fraternity are in practice than in old lands, and he feels a realization of the glorious sentiment of the immortal bard—

"That man to man the world o'er

Shall brothers be for a' that."

Its capacities to produce and maintain are only being developed. Although its area is limited, its capability is vast. Lands now reckoned valueless, because others are more convenient, will yet prove treasures, and where one blade of grass is seen growing or one sheep grazing, three or four will appear. For minerals, its earth has only been as yet tapped, and consequently their value has not been fairly estimated. With all its combined attractions and advantages Otago is designed and fitted to be the home of a large and contented population. It has room enough to contain millions of inhabitants, and its fertility and industries can supply sufficient and to spare for their comfortable maintenance.

It has difficulties to surmount and dangers to avoid. What though it has boisterous weather and dangerous reefs along the coast? These will make its mariners more vigilant and careful. Although it has rugged mountains to pierce or climb, shifting and subtle streams and rivers to span, the greater the courage and energy required the greater the triumph. Although rulers may try to be lavish in public expenditure, they are face to face with their constituents; and the people, educated to politics, know their rights and privileges, and with a voice loud as the trump of fame can call them to account. Although seasons of dull trade and depression will come round, they but teach lessons of frugality and providence not easily forgotten by intelligent people. The lap of luxury is not where the greatest nations are reared. Adversity and hardship make the man of sterner stuff. The demands of remunerative labour, and the precocity of its climate tempt its youth at too early an age to leave the seminary for the workshop, but this temporary disadvantage will be checked by judicious legislation.

New Zealand, although divided into a number of Provinces, is a united Colony. Its constitution was framed with singular fitness for its speedy and successful establishment, and the authors are deserving of the highest consideration. The Provincial form page 70 of Government was not intended to be permanent. It had certain functions to perform, and these being accomplished, it would cease to exist. This idea has been specially kept in view by the Government of Otago. Gradually, and as the fitting time arrives, it is denuding itself of its powers. To encourage local administration is its aim, and the fact of towns being proclaimed through its length and breadth, with municipal authorities and privileges, managing their own affairs; road districts formed with representatives elected by the ratepayers, entrusted with the formation of local roads, and endowed with liberal subsidies; harbor boards to take charge of the improvements and management of the ports; river trusts and conservators for different purposes created; the management of education invested in Committees elected by the householders; and so soon as the population of sufficient areas feel disposed to form Counties or Shires, the law has already been passed providing for their erection, defining their special duties, and setting aside a specific proportion of the land revenue for their disposal. Each and all of these institutions, as they come into existence diminish the power and duties of the Provincial Legislature, and on the county system coming into operation, the remaining authority of the Provincial will be absorbed by the General Legislature. Otago occupies the foremost position amongst the Provinces, and the course it has pursued is the one indicated by the Constitution. To a greater or lesser extent, it has been adopted by the others. Hitherto this description has been pertinent to Otago, the remarks following apply to the Colony.

On these and other considerations the conclusion is come to that before the twentieth century dawns on the world the word Colony will have become honourably obsolete, and the nobler, because independent, name assumed—Nation of New Zealand—the chain not roughly severed, but gracefully unlinked—the tie not rudely wrenched, but gently loosed—and Britannia's youngest Colony will have attained its full age, and with the approving smile and hearty benisons of the Old, Young Britain will be reckoned among the nations. A nation born in a day! Within the space of a man's life, the spectacle will be exhibited of a large territory of wild magnificent country producing neither vegetable nor animal fitted for the support of civilized man; neither road page 71 nor track by which communication could be had between settled communities; with brave and war-liking cannibals its sole occupants; that country raised to the position of being well-stocked with, and prolific in, the production of every animal and plant needed for human use; opened up by roads, railways, and steamers, and telegraph, so that the cities, towns, villages, and industries thickly spread over its whole length and breadth are easily and momentarily accessible; its limited populace actively, but not oppressively, engaged in their daily labors, inviting then overwrought fellow-countrymen to join them in their vastly bettered circumstances, there being room enough and to spare for millions more. Possessing, and in prospect of the early possession of larger landed estates in both Islands—for the bulk of the Native land in the North Island, or its control, must pass into the hands of the Government—with the economically constructed and worked railway and telegraph system in their hands, yielding a splendid revenue; having no call for the creation of a standing army, the construction of a navy, or the erection of defensive works; a policy of non-intervention reciprocity, liberality, and equality being the basis of dealing with other countries—her rulers may, by a judicious dealing with the waste lands and other resources, realize an income sufficient for nearly all requirements, and taxation, direct or indirect, be thereby reduced to the minimum—probably a few light customs duties on articles of luxury or indulgence. It is admitted that the tendency of central legislation and administration has hitherto been the reverse of this course. In earlier years the great drain on the funds of the Colony was the wretched Native war, brought on for sinister purposes by leading men in the North, prosecuted with gross mismanagement, and at grievous expense, and ended with miserable results; and in addition to the war was the creation of offices held as sinecures, and afterwards rewarded with pensions. It is well known the Colonial Government has been recklessly extravagant, usurping functions to which it had no claim, appointing needless officials, and unscrupulously misspending the revenue of the country. In 1857, a leading Canterbury statesman wrote thus:—"In 1853, the General Government was to be maintained with one-third of the general, page 72 and none of the land, revenue, two-thirds of the general, and the whole of the land revenue to be the revenue of the Provinces; in 1854, the provincial revenue was reduced to one-half of the general revenue; in 1856, the provincial share was again reduced to three-eighths of the gross revenue, and a debt of £66,000 was fixed on the land revenue. The half-million loan was thus distributed—£200,000 to be fixed on the land revenue of the Middle Island, £180,000 on the North, and the remainder, £120,000, on general revenue. The passing of the Estimates is a disgraceful scramble for money by the delegates from different communities, not the discriminate judgment of Senators upon the several exigencies of the public service of a common country. I am satisfied that the House of Representatives is a body not fit to be entrusted with the expenditure of the public revenue. I have arrived at the conclusion that the remedy for these evils is a return to the constitution of 1856 in the financial system of the country. I mean that there shall be no general revenue, and no general chest whatever, but that the separate Provinces shall keep each its own revenue separately." Rather strong language to use by an ex-minister of the Crown, but similar opinions have been frequently reiterated by many eminent members within the walls of the House itself.

Recently matters have somewhat changed. The old party leaders, with their principles, if they are worth the name, are rapidly disappearing. With the increase of population, a larger number of able minds are devoting their attention to political matters. Greater freedom of thought is being exercised. Men have been, and are, exercising themselves with the question—Why should we submit to heavy taxation for the purpose of maintaining a puppet show at the centre of Government? The Public Works and Immigration Scheme of 1870, with some subsequent measures of a kindred character, indicate a change of action to that which formerly obtained. Money has been liberally borrowed, but for the sound and safe purposes of peopling the country with suitable inhabitants, facilitating the means of communication, and inciting to greater industrial enterprise. The question naturally arises, and may fairly be discussed—Has the money so borrowed been so judiciously and satisfactorily expended page 73 as it would have been had its disbursement been made more under Provincial control? Much has been said on both sides. A reliable opinion can hardly yet be formed.

The idea of the ultimate—and, in some instances, early—independence of the Colonies of Britain is not a new one, nor is it stamped by any mean authority. Many years ago—years before New Zealand was begun to be colonized—in a discussion in the House of Peers on the State of Canada, Lord Brougham said:—"In 1838, it was considered that some means should be devised, not for forcibly separating the Colonies from the Mother Country, but for considering the question of an amicable, friendly, and voluntary separation. If a Conference were held, and it were found that there was, on the part of the Colonies, a horror of separation, such a Conference, like many others, would have no result, and the tie between the two countries would not only have continued undissolved, but perhaps strengthened, by such a proceeding. There were high authorities on this subject, such as Lord Melbourne, and the late Lords Ashburton and St. Vincent. For himself, he thought the best thing that could happen to the Colonies would be what he might call the euthanasia of colonial life, and that with perfect amity and good will between both parties, the relations of free, friendly, and independent States, should succeed to the colonial connection that now existed between this country and her dependencies." The Bill under discussion when these advanced views were uttered was simply an enabling measure, under which the Legislature of Canada might constitute the Upper House in any way they thought proper. And has not the tendency of all the action of the Imperial Government towards this Colony been towards the encouragement of this idea of independence? The Constitution Act passed by the Home Parliament for New Zealand, while laying down general principles, dealt largely in details; that Act has, both in detail and in principle, been altered and modified to a large extent by our local Legislature, without any reference being made to, or authority granted by, the enacting Parliament. Even the important question of altering the Constitution of the Upper Chamber, from being a nominee to be an elective body, could be settled by the Colonial Parliament without reference to London page 74 provided always the consent of the people was first obtained. Again, the Colonial office, as if wishing to try. the first experiment on this plucky Colony of ours, withdrew the Imperial troops from our midst, even when pur internal affairs were much-disturbed, and great fears entertained by many of the outlying settlers, in districts where the Natives were numerous, that their lives and properties were in utmost peril. The experiment was a bold one, but it has turned out thoroughly successful. It is found that, without leaning and depending on outside support but trusting; to our own firmness and courage, supported by a different policy towards the Natives than that which prevailed formerly, an almost bloodless victory has been achieved, the aboriginal inhabitants are being gradually, but surely, won to our cause, education and industries propagated largely amongst the different tribes, and order and harmony widely prevail. The few British and other war vessels that visit our coasts are welcomed more as friendly visitors, and as excitements for the period, than as, defenders of our coasts or our commerce; and the same, glorious principle of self-reliance which carried us so triumphantly through, our internecine struggle will also be sufficiently prudent, attractive, and commanding in its character to maintain our independence amongst the kingdoms of the world.

As to the form of Government which may be adopted, that will of course be left to the population themselves to determine without any Home or outside intervention. Be it Monarchical or Republican, it will be modified considerably from the great models which Europe and America present to our view. Judging from the progress of opinion in other arenas, the great efforts being made to throw off trammels on thought and action which have been respected in bygone times, the thorough breaking down of old-time sentiment regarding feudalism, together with the communism of feeling which exists amongst the Colonial brothership, the probability—nay, the almost certainty—is that New Zealand will add another to the world's Republics.