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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Chapter V. — Immigration

Chapter V.


If the Government, instead of spending the hundreds of thousands of pounds, as has been the case in the past, in bringing people to the colony, would advertise throughout Great Britain that the Government of New Zealand offer to all good immigrants paying their own passage to New Zealand six months' or twelve months' work with a comfortable home immediately on their arrival, and afterwards to place them on a small farm of their own, on the perpetual-lease system, assisting them to the extent of £50 per family, I think there would be no difficulty in getting thousands of good farming men to come and settle here. Had such State farms been in existence during the years 1887 to 1890, instead of lamenting our departed ten thousand, with about a quarter of a million of money, and a reduction in the revenue of about £60,000 or £70,000, the country would have been in a flourishing state, with an additional five or ten thousand small farmers. I am fully aware what has thrown this grand country into its present unfortunate position. It was not the money borrowed, but the way it was misapplied. What is required now to advance the colony is more borrowed money. First of all see what the money is required for, and then use it for that purpose. Mr. Gladstone, speaking in Dorsetshire in 1889, says, "Every Englishman is attached to his home, and it requires a great deal to make him leave it voluntarily, and as to his going involuntarily, it would need a return to the cruel and horrible process which some thirty or forty years ago was applied to a portion of the population of Ireland to force the people to leave their native country." Then the question arises, How are they to be kept at home? The agricultural labourer, as he is commonly called, has a strong desire to attach himself very closely to the land. To induce him to attach himself more closely to the land should be a great object of public policy, and is the duty of all statesmen of all parties. Until lately there was no local authority that could be trusted for the purpose of taking the important trust connected with the attainment of this object. I rejoice, therefore, to think that the reason exists no longer. By the legislation of last year we have seen brought into existence an elective authority which is extended to our counties. This principle of local freedom and local self-government which has been enjoyed for some time will be of immense advantage. We can look to what are termed County Councils for the purpose of encouraging page 10 and accomplishing under reasonable conditions and limits this access to the land. Local freedom and local self-government is one great aim of the scheme. That also is the great aim of this scheme. If the results should prove as my calculations show, in five years the Government would be in possession of sixteen farms, well stocked, in good working-order, and free from debt. I then propose that the Government hand over these farms, stock and all complete, to the local-governing bodies of the districts they may be in, to be enjoyed together with any other endowments such local bodies already possess.

To explain my scheme, I propose four farms in each of four districts, as, for instance, for the North Island, suppose one was at the Waitara, one at Hamilton, one at Gisborne, and one at Whangarei. If such farms were in existence, on the arrival of immigrants they would be taken direct to such farms, and so escape the fleecing that hundreds have received; and the few pounds and other valuables they brought out with them would help them to form a comfortable home after having worked six or twelve months at a State farm. If men were ever such good farmers in the Old Country, six or twelve months at a State farm would be of great advantage to them. I would that every man who is able had as much land as would be sufficient for the maintenance of himself and his family. How are they to come into possession of such? Not, I hope, by a wholesale confiscation system, such as that proposed by Henry George, but by an Act of Parliament prohibiting the sale of any more land. The Government should not sell any more land, but should become the purchaser of all lands that come into the market from time to time in trust for the people. By that means the Government would soon become the possessor of most of the land, without force or injury to any one. No person to whom the State has to give assistance should be allowed to sell out his improvements until he had been a bonâ fide settler five years, and then he should only be permitted to sell to some one who was going to become the occupier immediately on vacation of present holder. Thus the land would always be under occupation and cultivation, Then the country must be prosperous. Why do I advocate perpetual lease? In order that large blocks of land shall not fall into the hands of capitalists; also to prevent people from becoming paupers. Men may be drunkards or gamblers, but if they hold their land on perpetual lease they can neither gamble nor sell that by which and from which they and their families must live. Mr. Gladstone, in the speech I have quoted from, says, "Look across to France, and see the millions of holders of small portions of land who, by the raising of fruit, vegetables, and flowers, raise themselves to a position of comfort and independence, and add wonderfully to the wealth of the country." In the struggle for existence there are numerous failures of people in all trades and callings, who, in times of depression, would feel they had a claim on the State farm, and that by going there they were not paupers. page 11 These farms would be homes provided by the people for the people in want, and every one who was able would be found something to do whereby he would earn as much as he would cost to keep. And those who cannot work it is the duty of the State to keep. As this scheme proposes to provide for the wants of these colonies, and as Herbert V. Mills's book is a good and well-worked-out reform for the prevention of poverty, I beg leave here to introduce a small copying from his book. "You ought to see the beggar colonies in Holland," said a friend to Mills; and so he did. This is what Mills says of it: There is, first, the relief of the poor at Fredericksvord. This is a private philanthropic organization, which consists of an agricultural colony extending no less than sixteen miles from extremity to extremity. Here the poor are received voluntarily. It is a privilege to live there. There is next the relief of the poor at Veenhuizen and Ommerschans; these are also enormous colonies, both of agriculture and manufactures. Here the poor are sent by Magistrates, compulsorily. It is intended to be educational in its influence, but to be also a disgrace to live at the "beggar colonies" of Veenhuizen and Ommerschans. Originally these two colonies were private charitable institutions like Fredericksvord, but in the year 1859 they were taken over by the Dutch Parliament; and an Act was passed in 1870 which gave strict orders to the police to arrest all beggars. After his arrest the beggar must be taken before a Magistrate, who sentences him to prison for a period varying from two weeks to three months, after which he must go to Veenhuizen or Ommerschans for two years. The effect of this law is that it is almost impossible now to find a man or woman begging in the streets of any town in the Netherlands. The Magistrates seem to have a certain amount of discretionary power in regard to the term of imprisonment, but none in regard to the length of time to be served at the beggar colonies afterwards.

Mr. Mills says, "I found men of every rank of society enduring the restraints of compulsory labour at Veenhuizen for being idle beggars. For the most part, the beggars do not like to be anywhere else but in these colonies. Attempts are made to give them a new trial in the ordinary ways of life, but very few avail themselves of the offer. Every week the men are paid a small wage by way of encouraging them to work. It is not intended, in any sense, to be a remuneration for the work done. They all receive the bare necessaries of life, and, in addition, a wage, which varies according to skill and industry from 7d. to 1s. 8d. per week, two-thirds of which they may spend in luxuries, which are not otherwise obtainable on the estate, but one-third is kept back for them on the day of their release, so they may not go into the world again without money for their immediate wants. The utilisation of the labour of beggars has converted an enormous estate from a wild waste into a garden—from a deserted plain into a home of industry, and, strange to say, a home of contentment. One man, a gardener, clever at his work, had been sent to Veenhuizen no less than fifteen times page 12 for begging. Colonies of that class are much better than the workhouse system of England. We endeavour to make the life of a pauper a life that no man would submit to unless under absolute necessity." These are the exact words of my guide, spoken as he led me through the parish workhouse. And again, "The theory of the workhouse is that it is to be a place made intentionally uncomfortable."

It is acknowledged by every member of every Parliament in New Zealand that some great change is necessary for the relief of the poor and unemployed. It is also acknowledged that it is the greatest and most difficult problem every Government has to contend against. I claim that my plan of State co-operative farming and storekeeping will at once and for ever settle that great problem, and I ask the reader to give it a full and careful consideration in all its details as worked out. Herbert V. Mills says the beggar colonies of the Netherlands are better than the workhouses of Great Britain. And State farms are certainly much better than the beggar colonies of the Netherlands. In my next chapter I will deal with the various kinds of employments, and technical educational training of our children and orphans.