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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

No. II

page 4

No. II

When the blood and treasure of England were poured forth like water to subdue the aboriginal races of these islands it was intended that the conquered country should be the heritage of the whole people of the United Kingdom; that here in a free atmosphere, unhampered by ancient traditions, there might arise a great nation of free men among whom the terrible contrasts of the extreme wealth and abject poverty of older nations might be unknown. But, firstly by cunning English Tory adventurers imbued with the idea of transplanting and rejuvenating here the obsolete and tottering institutions of the old land, and afterwards by colonial nouveaux riches, the best soil of the country was monopolised in areas equal to European principalities, and the bone and sinew of the country had to go and battle with the wilderness remote from civilization to eke out an existence, or floe from the country as a plague spot, and seek other climes whereon the shadow of the land cormorant had not yet fallen. The poet says:

"Ill faros the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay:"

Weath has accumulated abnormally in New Zealand, owing to land monopoly but it has been concentrated in the hands of the large landholders and their progeny, and the growth of the country's wealth has not been indicative of any general prosperity among the people. To exemplify the manner in which the soil of the colony has been appropriated by a few, I will give one or two instances. One man who lives in Europe, rarely visiting the colony, draws a revenue of £85,000 a year from land here. He pays but an insignificant sum in taxes and employs but a few labourers and shepherds on his runs. It is stated on official authority that there are 1140 absentee large landholders. There are 346 individuals, and 16 banking corporations and companies, who own among them 7,348,713 acres of the soil of New Zealand the unimproved value of which is £15,153,630. The Bank of New Zealand (now I suppose the Estates Company) owns a quarter of a million acres. Forty eight landholders have locked up and kept cut of cultivation 1,400,668. acres upon which they have not spent a single shilling. Sixteen hundred persons hold nearly 18,000,000 acres. Are not these appalling facts? Reflect for a moment how many prosperous families could be maintained on these 18,000,000 acres if they were available for settlement! And what an impetus would be given to trade and commerce in the cities and towns of the colony if thousands of human beings, with all the wants of civilized existence, were located on those fertile expanses, where now the solitude is unbroken save by the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle. Moreover, not content with monopolising the heritage of the colonists these Tory plutocrats have adroitly managed to shift nearly the whole cost of Government on the working classes. It is calculated that every man, woman, and child in the country has to pay £2 2s. 11d. every year in customs duties, or about 10d. per head per week. Therefore a working man married and having say five children, pays about six shillings a week in taxation through the customs. If we add to this the local taxation, by means of rates, which even if he owns no property he pays by accretions to his rent, we can form some idea how grievous is the burden under which the main body of the people are now groaning, and which is driving from our shores those who can by hook or by crook obtain the means of page 5 transporting themselves to other colonies. The system of taxation is a crying and shameful scandal. If the struggling workman with £2 a week pays about one fifth of his income in taxation why should not the man drawing £85,000 a year pay one fifth of his income also or £17,000 a year to the public exchequer? I ask you, are you, the voters of this colony, going to allow these evils to be stereotyped and perpetuated amongst you? Are you going to remain quiescent and cowed while a gang of Tory wirepullers are devising schemes to secure your permanent political helplessness and enslavement? No! Tell them in the words of Bishop Spalding, of Peoria, Illinois, U.S., that, "we will not tolerate vast wealth in the hands of men who do nothing for the people." The great orator Patrick Henry once said: "We can judge the future by the past! Look at the past! When Egypt went down 2 per cent of her population owned 97 per cent. of her wealth, the people were starved to death. When Babylon went down, 2 per cent, of her population owned all the wealth, the people were starved to death. When Persia went down, one per cent of her population owned all the land. When Pome went down, 1800 men owned all the known world. There are 10,000,000 people in Great Britain and Ireland and 100,000 people own all the land in the United Kingdom." The concentration of the land in the hands of a few necessarily ends to precipitate a nation to political and social death. The power of a plutocracy is always exerted to depress the mass of the people, and to make the rich richer. In America the people are being openly and shamelessly robbed by the plutocrats. In a recent issue of the Forum, Thomas G. Shearman shows that by indirect taxation the richest class in the United States gains upon all the other classes of the community at the rate of £200,000,000 per annum. "Nine-tenths—he says—of the rates and taxes in the Union are paid by the poorer classes. One tenth is paid by the very few and the very rich." How truly in respect of these statements might we apostrophise New Zealand and say Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur.