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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 63

Chapter II

Chapter II.

This land became the subject of much eager conversation; but the general opinion seemed to be that we had found the terra, Australia incognita.—Cook's Voyages.

New Zealand, in the method and manner of its colonization, stands singular and alone. No colony, ancient or modern, can be said to afford a parallel, nor even an analogy. Upon the vast sea-board of its two islands are found numerous capacious harbours. Its hills and plains page 5 and valleys lie equally stretched out between the frigid and the torrid zones, but touching neither. From the climate of the North of Scotland to that of the south of Spain or Sicily, the traveller may pass in easy gradations. Perhaps no region upon earth is so peculiarly suited to the British race as this youngest child of the great mother of nations. It has been not inaptly called "The Britain of the South." But no fair charge of egotism can be brought against the New Zealander who asserts that Nature has been more bountiful to the child than to the mother. It may take ages indeed, and generations, to produce the likeness of England in New Zealand. The ruddy orchards, the green-embowered lanes, the stately domes, the wide expanse of golden corn, the vast and intricate work of civilized life spreading over and enriching every part and portion of this country may not be seen till our children's children sleep in the "sleep which knows no waking." But by virtue of the gifts of nature New Zealand is superior to the land of our fathers. Her skies are clearer; her atmosphere more pure. Her riches, both mineral and metallic, are practically illimitable. Coal, iron, copper and gold abound. Her forests are as useful and accessible as any upon earth. The land is fertile; the seas which sweep her coasts literally swarm with fish. The rose blooms for nine months in the year. The peach, the apricot, the grape, and the melon, ripen in the open air. Snowdon and the Cheviot Hills are objects of pride, but what are they beside Tongariro, with its lofty summit for ever flaming to the reddened sky; and Mount Cook—grander in its silent majesty than even the monarch of the Alps itself. Every aspect of pictorial beauty can be seen in the two islands, and travellers who have been well nigh over the habitable globe assert that the world presents no fairer spectacle in alternation of land and sea, of wood and flashing stream, of mountain and valley, than that which may be viewed on a summer's morning from the public Domain in Auckland. And what places, not only in Great Britain, but in the world, will venture to dispute the palm of natural wonder and glory with the marble terraces and glowing tints of Rotomahana and Rotorua.

By reason of the peculiar facilities existing for colonization in different parts of the two islands this colony has been peopled in an unique way. In the extreme South a settlement of rigid Scotch Presbyterians was formed. The very names of the different settlements are sufficient to shew the orgin of the people. Dun-Edin was built within the harbour of Port Chalmers, and a hundred miles away to the South : Campelltown and Inver-Cargill speak their Scotch descent with unmistakable sound. Two hundred miles to the North of Dunedin a special settlement was formed of members of the Church of England. Here again the names are significant :—Lyttelton, Christchurch, and Oxford. There can be but little uncertainty as to their origin. In the North Island Wellington and Taranaki were both special settlements; while in the far North Albertland was settled by a colony of Dissenters—to make weight, we presume, against the Presbyterian and Episcopal influences of the South. For many years the seclusion and exclusive nature of these small communities remained unbroken, but time has worked wonders. The narrow and bigoted prejudices—the worst form of conservatism—which had begun to grow in these isolated communities was at length from various causes more or less swiftly shattered. New blood—new faces—new opinions—new pursuits—new hopes and fears page 6 forced an entrance, and established a footing. The discovery of gold—the progress of agricultural and pastoral pursuits—the spread of commerce—the birth of manufactures, and the thousand voices of the outside universe, broke rudely in upon the dull and secluded little worlds, filling the streets, the homes, the shops, and the seats of government with new people and new thoughts. But there yet remained in each miniature people a large proportion of the original constituent elements, and to this day it is easy to discern the peculiarities of their birth. Every rule, however, has its exception; and the exception to the rule as to colonization in New Zealand is to be found in its once capital city—Auckland. Auckland alone has no common article of faith; no common foundation on which to build. Its people have been thrown together from the distant corners of the earth. In strong contrast to the other colonists, in their several homes, the people of Auckland are essentially heterogenous. In the professions, in trade, in private and public life you may jostle in one short day against the extremes of character. Every changing tide of events has brought its accession of strange persons. The hangers-on of a Government remain although the Government has departed. The toadies who cringe to the great and give themselves airs to the humble, and who always infest the Government-house of a Colony are here. Here, also, are gentlemen in the true sense of the term living in some instances almost side by side with those who "Left their country for their country's good." And these last are gentlemen in comparison with some who, by reason of their being in a position of wealth, are permitted to occupy a leading position in affairs. Perhaps there never was an English-speaking community so mean and cowardly in this way as the community of Auckland. Auckland alone has no traditions. The people of Auckland alone have no esprit du corps—no public spirit. The inhabitants of Auckland are not indeed a people. They are an aggregation of individual human atoms, each one as a rule thinking only of his own miserable interests. And so they can never act together. Their representatives are true to their constituencies. They also never act together. Given any subject of importance debated in the House of Assembly, especially any subject affecting the welfare of Auckland itself, and you shall see half of the Auckland members voting on one side and half on the other. Thus she has no voice in the councils of the country. Her hands are fettered; her feet are tied. One good man representing the whole Province would be better than the sixteen members who annually go down to Wellington. He, at all events, would give utterance to the wants, the complaints, the hopes of the community. But now the sixteen are split into two factions, and "a house divided against itself cannot stand." No other community in the British Empire would endure such conduct. Auckland is rightly served. If the electors will return such men as are half the members they must expect the treatment which they experience. And if they endure with disgraceful apathy such conduct in their representatives, they will be sold like cattle to the end of the chapter; and they will deserve it.

New Zealand having been thus colonized at different points and from different sources, each little settlement became a world to itself. Separated by long distances from the other settlements, with infrequent communication, and scarcely and interchange of thought, or commerce, the page 7 Provinces silently grew. Thus nearly every settlement became the centre of a distinct Province; and so when New Zealand received a Constitution, and entered upon the era of Representative institutions, the Provinces were already in existence. At that time, and indeed for a long period afterwards, without Provincial institutions the country would have been practically ungoverned. Auckland was the seat of Government. It is in one sense a misfortune for New Zealand that she has no large central city from which—as the blood from the heart in the human body—political life-streams would flow forth to the distant members. In this colony there can never be a Melbourne or Sydney or Adelaide, and this fact has mainly contributed to that position of parties and Provinces which has made New Zealand so disunited. The Provinces have always been antagonistic, and in the General Assembly their different representatives have been accustomed to look more after the interests of the separate Provinces than the general welfare.