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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Condition of the Colonial Working Man

page 8

The Condition of the Colonial Working Man.

Nor can we form reliable opinions of the policy of the working class under forms of government different from our own. But "Cœlum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt." In Australasia, and specially in New Zealand, we have men, or the sons of men, who have but recently left our shores, living in a temperate climate, and governed by King, Lords, and Commons under a parliamentary and party system precisely similar to our own. In some of these Colonies, notably Victoria and New Zealand, education, which in England has been compulsory for seventeen years and free for only two, has been both free and compulsory for twenty years. Blood was shed in England forty-five years ago to win the six points of the People's Charter—Manhood Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, Vote by Ballot, Abolition of Property Qualification for Members of Parliament, and Equal Electoral Districts. Substituting triennial for annual Parliaments, as demanded by the Chartists, we shall find that New Zealanders enjoy every one of the points of the Charter.

Therefore, it is to Australasia, and especially to New Zealand, that we must look for an example of the manner in which political power is wielded by the best-educated English worker under political and climatic conditions similar to, though more favourable than, those of the Mother Country.

A vast amount of information is available to the public among the documents respecting labour in foreign countries and oar Colonies, collected by the Labour Commission, the services of whose staff will, it is to be feared, be lost to the country upon the conclusion of the labours of the Commission; but the admirable reports prepared and edited by Mr. Drage, the secretary, deal rather with labour troubles and the condition of labour than with the results of labour government. With the exception of Sir Charles Dilke's accurate work, "Problems of Greater Britain," published before the Labour party in New Zealand attained to their present power, there has, as Mr. Fairfield complains, been given to the public no complete account of important legislative acts adopted by the Colonies which are in advance of co-related Imperial Acts.

Not only do exceptionally favourable conditions exist in New Zealand, but the statesmen of that Colony have formed an exalted ideal of their duty. They think that, being possessed above other English-speaking communities of these conditions, they owe a debt to that great Empire of which they are proud to form a branch. page 9 They feel that it has fallen to their lot to make experiments in the direction in which the spirit of the age is everywhere tending.