The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44
Chapter I. Discovery and Settlement
Chapter I. Discovery and Settlement.
he mild winter of New Zealand, and the first of the genial spring months there, in the year 1769, had passed, when Captain James Cook, in command of the old collier barque Endeavour, was beating to windward off the coast of the North Island. He had left Tahiti in search of the mainland, the great terra australis incognita, which was believed by the philosophers of the day to exist somewhere in the southern hemisphere, as a counterpoise to the vast expanse of water in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. On 6th October he sighted land, 'Young Nick's Head,' so named from the boy, Nicholas Young, who first descried it from the mast-head; but failed to enter into friendly communication with the Indians, as he called the natives, page 6 all coloured races being then so designated. New Zealand was inhabited by numerous tawny-coloured tribes, each having its peculiar name, their own generic name for the whole race being Maoris. They had a tradition that they originally came from the Sandwich Islands. They were a handsome, muscular race, bold, intelligent, and warlike, the tribes spending their time in constant hand-to-hand battles among themselves for the mastery, which usually ended in the vanquished being killed, roasted, and eaten by the victors. They used with deadly effect the mere, a short and heavy hand-weapon, formed with much toil out of some hard and compact stone. Those made of semi-translucent green-stone (nephrite) were highly prized, and took the place of a sceptre or mace among the chiefs as a badge of authority. They possessed large war-canoes, excavated with infinite labour out of the solid trunks of large trees. The high projecting stems of these rude vessels were richly carved in spiral designs, after the manner of their tattooing. A party of them in their canoes had the audacity to attack the boats of the Endeavour, when they were fired upon, and several of them lost their lives. Every attempt at conciliation failed, and Captain Cook stood away to the south without obtaining the supplies he desired, for which reason he named the place 'Poverty Bay.' It is now well known as a productive district with a thriving township named Gisborne. In prosecuting the remainder of his voyage, he discovered Cook's Strait, which separates the North from the South Island, and he made a partial survey of the coast of the latter island. On 30th January 1770, at the inlet which he named Queen Charlotte's Sound, he took formal possession of the country for the use of his sovereign, King George III.
To Captain Cook belongs the honour of first determining the insular character of New Zealand. Tasman, a Dutch navigator, who had seen the land in 1642, when three of his men were killed by the natives in Massacre Bay, Nelson, never landed. He named the country Staaten Land, in honour of the States-General of Holland, in the belief that it was part of the great southern continent. The name was changed to Nova Zealandia the following year, Zealand being at the time the principal maritime state of the Dutch. No ship, so far as is known, visited the country between Tasman's discovery and Cook's first voyage in 1769. Cook, four years after in a second voyage made a more careful survey, and put a few pigs on shore, which became speedily page 7 acclimatised. Their descendants in the mountainous back-country still afford good sport to the hunter, and their curved tusks are kept as a trophy. The wild boars are usually known by the name 'Captain Cooks.' There was a singular dearth of land-animals at that time in the islands. The fine rivers with which this well-watered country abounds were almost destitute of fish, excepting eels, a favourite food of the Maoris. Birds were numerous, some of them peculiar in their nature, such as the wingless Kiwi, and the Kakapo or ground parrot, both of which are nocturnal in their habits. The remains of the Moa, a gigantic bird, computed to be fourteen feet in height, which have been found in various places, occasionally with skin and feathers attached, lead to the inference that these huge creatures roamed about in the uninhabited interior at a comparatively recent period. The total absence of snakes and venomous reptiles, and the scanty fauna, have raised a presumption that the islands never formed a part of the Australian continent, from which they are 1200 miles distant, and separated by very deep water. The reports of the fierceness and cruelty of the natives, who had massacred several defenceless crews of merchant vessels approaching their coasts, effectually prevented any constant efforts to trade with them, and for many years after Captain Cook's discovery there was no attempt at settlement. The South Sea whalers used to land and refit at a few places, and the Wesleyan body made a praiseworthy effort in the way of missionary enterprise; but the British government steadily refused to have anything to do with a country of such bad repute, now one of the richest jewels of the colonial crown.
Matters continued in this condition until the early part of the reign of Queen Victoria, when a company, who had faith in the climate and resources of the islands, was formed in London for the purpose of colonising them. The British government was accordingly induced, by strong pressure, to take steps to secure the formal possession of New Zealand; and in January 1840, Captain Hobson was authorised to hoist the British flag, and to maintain law and order, first as lieutenant-governor, under the governor of New South Wales, and in May 1841, at Auckland, as governor of New Zealand and its dependencies as a separate colony. The South Island was still neglected, but the governor incidentally learning that the crew of a French frigate in New Zealand waters had orders to take possession, anticipated them by a few hours, and displayed the royal standard at Cloudy Bay on 17th June page 8 1840. The French had fixed upon Akaroa, a fine land-locked harbour in the Canterbury district. Several of the intending French settlers afterward landed there, and remained under the British sovereignty. Their families are still in the district, and loads of peaches and other fruit are grown yearly, and sent to the towns in the colony for preserving and ordinary use.
The seat of government having been fixed at Auckland, the New Zealand Company established settlements at Wellington, Nelson, and Taranaki in Cook's Strait. Afterwards, in 1848, under the auspices of the Free Kirk of Scotland, the province of Otago was founded, and then the settlement of Canterbury, as a Church of England community, was formed in 1850. The great length and narrowness of the islands, extending more than a thousand miles from north to south, precluded the colonisation of the country from any one centre. Inland communication in the North Island was also impracticable on account of its being in many parts densely wooded, and also being inhabited by numerous tribes of Maoris, generally more hostile than friendly. Numerous rapid rivers, unbridged, offered likewise a serious obstacle. The process of settlement in other colonies has been quite different. In Australia their growth has been manifested in the development of one large city, usually the seat of government. Thus Sydney became the great centre of life and commerce for New South Wales, and Melbourne for Victoria. The history of these towns is the history of their respective colonies. A large government expenditure in early days was the means of fostering the colonial capitals in their infancy. In New Zealand, with the exception of Auckland, the settlers had to rely on themselves in their little communities scattered widely apart, and hence a cluster of small independent settlements was the result; their prosperity based on their own exertions, without the adventitious aid of any foreign or transitory element. The isolation of these communities led them to examine very narrowly into their own political affairs, and in Otago an outcry, almost amounting to disaffection, was raised among the settlers against the public revenue being all carried away to the north and spent there, to their loss as they thought. The chairman of the public meeting called to take the matter into consideration, said: 'If the money had gone, a memorial should be sent after it; and the war-cry of "Send back the money" should ring till it reached the ears of parliament.' The Imperial Parliament considered it expedient to give these turbulent page 9 little states their own way, and conferred the right of self-government upon them by the Constitution Act in 1852 (15 and 16 Vict., c. 72). The General Assembly and Provincial Councils were accordingly established in 1853, only three years after Canterbury was founded. The outlying portions of the colony have thus been trained to self-reliance, and to manage their own affairs from the very beginning of their existence. Each province was so far rendered independent, under the lead of an elected superintendent, assisted by an elected provincial council. Each of these bodies assumed the airs of responsible government. The superintendent gave his speech from the throne, and then vanished to his chamber, leaving the presidency of the council to its speaker. There was a provincial government and an opposition, involving the usual struggles of the ins and outs for possession of the loaves and fishes. Excepting the administration of justice, the post-office, the dealing with the natives, and the collection of customs-duties, almost every function of government was in the hands of the provinces. In addition to the land revenue, they had a large portion of the customs returned to them, from which they had to defray the expense of the departments of the general government within their bounds. All the officials looked up to the superintendent and his executive as the controllers of their destinies, and provincial-its obtained very great local power. This system led to the anomaly of six petty parliaments governing the country, each passing its own laws; and it often happened that an enactment which was law in Otago, was of no effect in Canterbury. Among the earliest public buildings were those erected by the provincial governments for their own accommodation. In conformity with the ideas of the founders of Canterbury, who named each of the streets of their capital, Christchurch, after an English diocese, their government building was an effective Gothic structure, the Provincial Hall having a decided ecclesiastical character.
In the same way each of the provinces had its own land-laws, leading in the case of Nelson to the absorption of its acres at an almost nominal rate, whilst Canterbury carried out Wakefield's scheme by charging £2 per acre, and Otago's land was never four years without a change in the law. In the early days of these governing bodies, although political contests were sometimes very keen to determine who should get hold of the reins, it often happened that the habits of the legislators were rather primitive in their nature.page break page 11
An honourable speaker in Otago, while gravely presiding over a debate, has been rudely summoned by the loud voice of an irreverent daughter to give immediate attention to a customer who refused to wait longer for his breeches. One of the councillors endeavoured to combine business with his senatorial duties by pursuing his vocation as a boat-builder outside the council chamber. When the bell rang for a division, the sergeant-at-arms rushed out and shouted from the door-step, 'Vote man, Jimmy, vote;' whereupon Jimmy threw down his caulking-iron and mallet, and ran up the steps, struggling into his coat as he went. The distance of the central government from the outlying provinces, situated as it was at the extreme end of the North Island, and the difficulty of communication, tended to enhance the power of the local governments. The first general parliament met in Auckland, 24th May 1854; Sir George Grey being then governor.
The duration of parliament was limited to five years. Steam had not then come to the colony with its magic wand, to annihilate time and distance, and render locomotion easy. The legislators from the southern island found their way to Auckland as they best could, in small coasters, taking weeks to accomplish their trip. Several of the Otago members, in returning after the session, took ship to Sydney, with which port the chief trade of the colony was then carried on, and thence proceeded to Melbourne, where they got a passage in a sailing-vessel to Otago, thus spending six weeks on the voyage, undertaken as the most convenient way of reaching their homes. One of the party was landed at the Bluff, the most southerly harbour in the South Island, twenty miles from Invercargill, and had to tramp the intervening 150 miles to Dunedin, through unknown paths amid flax and fern, and to swim broad and rapid streams at the risk of his life. Many of the rivers in New Zealand are of considerable size, the glacier-fed Molyneux alone discharging as great a volume of water as the Nile itself. The rivers added much to the risks and dangers of the early settlers before ferries were established or bridges erected. In an interesting parliamentary return published in 1869, it was ascertained that there had been upwards of one thousand deaths from drowning, being an average of at least thirty-five such accidents yearly since the settlement of the colony.
Several of the leading men in the early colonial parliaments were desirous to enlarge the powers of the central government at the expense of the provincial councils, as the best means of page 12 welding the scattered communities into one political whole, and thus to promote the growth of a nation possessing a common interest, bound closely together, and not weakened by the diversity of purpose incidental to a number of petty local bodies, each bent on its own self-aggrandizement, and viewing with jealousy the prosperity of its neighbours. The provinces generally returned the superintendents as their representatives to parliament, and it happened that the chief local politicians were usually sent along with them. These men naturally looked upon all central legislation solely from their own point of view, and they were as keen to enlarge the powers of the local executives as others were to restrict them. There thus grew up two parties in the General Assembly, the provincialists and the centralists; the one seeking to extend and maintain intact the power and authority of the provinces, and the other omitting no opportunity to clip the wings of the petty local parliaments, and to vest the whole administration in the hands of the general executive, conducting the business of the colony at the colonial capital. But the provinces in their outlying positions became subject to the same suspicion and jealousy as that entertained towards the central government. Wherever a convenient harbour existed at a distance from the provincial capital, it attracted settlers to its neighbourhood; and gradually the inhabitants of these outside districts, as they increased in number, became clamorous for a share of the money arising from the sale of the land, to be expended on roads and bridges in their locality.
The General Assembly met this demand by passing the New Provinces Act in 1858, authorizing the establishment of detached portions of the existing provinces, which might have a harbour and a requisite amount of population, into new provinces with particular jurisdiction. Hawke's Bay was accordingly excised from Wellington in 1858, Marlborough from Nelson in the following year, and Otago had to submit to the loss of Southland in 1861. The number of provinces had thus risen from six to nine. While the provincial party was apparently increased thereby, it was in reality weakened. A sentiment of antagonism grew in the minds of the public against nine little parliaments, each passing its own laws, and discussing its ways and means, with all the importance of an imperial senate, and it was felt that the game was not worth the candle. The system had also a tendency to create a host of office-seekers and professional politicians, whose vagaries brought it into disrepute and page 13 prepared the way for the acceptance of a final change. The removal of the seat of colonial government, in 1865, from Auckland to the more central position of Wellington, with its commodious harbour, in Cook's Strait, aided to render the general administration more accessible and efficient. When Westland was separated from Canterbury in 1868, it was only granted the status of a county. It is admitted, however, that no plan of government could have been so admirably suited to develop at first the latent resources of this fine country, as that which was for twenty-two years so successfully pursued. From each of the provincial centres on the sea-coast, settlement extended by degrees to the interior, and enabled the various districts to progress simultaneously.
At first the life of the pioneers was a rough one. They were glad to get the shelter of a hut or whare of very simple materials. A shed built of the upright stems of fern-trees was a triumph of architecture. The fern-tree, with its beautiful and umbrageous fronds, was found in profuse variety in the native bush. In the greater part of the South Island the land was free from timber, and the settler had only to fence and commence ploughing. But in the North Island the bush had to be cleared as a preliminary to cultivation, and the bush is somewhat peculiar. Along with tall pines and other trees, the monarchs of the forest, there was a dense undergrowth of supplejacks, prickly lawyers, and shrubs of various kinds, rendering progress through the bush almost impracticable, except when following the axe. The underwood had to be cleared away before the giants of the wood could be reached, and then the hatchet did its work upon them. After a final clearing by burning, large stumps were left in the ground to decay at leisure. Small patches of cereals were grown for family use, and grass-seed sown on the rest of the land. The grubbing hoe and the spade did the work of the plough. The clearing was then stocked with cattle and sheep, and a rough, homely comfort obtained, made enjoyable by the delightful climate and the invigorating atmosphere. Many of the farms in the vicinity of Dunedin have been reclaimed from the bush. It was necessary to have the aid of sawyers to cut up the logs for joisting and flooring. These men took their work calmly in early times, and beguiled the solitude of the bush by an occasional whiff of the pipe, and a quiet talk. It is told of two musical Scotsmen, one of whom played the fiddle and the other sang, that when their arms got tired of work, they would stop for a page 14 time, the one saying in measured words to the other: 'Weel, Tammas, I think we 'll just hae a tune'.
There is an erroneous idea in Britain that these easy-going days in the bush are still the rule, that life is endured by the colonists in a rough manner, in the hope of making money and being able to leave the colony; whereas there page 15 is as much comfort and refinement now enjoyed there as in England, and without some of the drawbacks. Those who acquire or possess a competence, prefer as a rule to remain in New Zealand rather than quit it. Indeed it has often been remarked as a peculiarity in the New Zealand colonist, that he becomes warmly attached to his adopted country, and has no desire to leave it permanently. There are good grounds for this attachment. Thirty years ago, when the different settlements were founded, there was necessarily hardship to be encountered, but somehow life was pleasant to the pioneers. They felt that they had got possession of a grateful country, and they were sustained in their early struggles by the strong hope of the good time coming. For example, in Otago, the very motto of the first newspaper, 'There are pippins and cheese to come,' embodied this nope; and the anticipations then formed have been far more than fulfilled. Twenty years ago the young men on a sheep-station in the interior had to rough it.