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The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future

Bishop Monrad

Bishop Monrad.

It is singular what different characters meet in our far-distant colonies, and there, as fellow settlers, merge their former nationalities to become moulded into a new one; we have an instance of this in our little Wanganui community. Who would ever expect to meet in that Ultima Thule, one of the first and ruling spirits of the day, a man of European, if not world-wide celebrity? no less a person than the late strong-minded Prime Minister of Denmark,—Bishop Monrad!

When the King of Denmark, after the deplorable evacuation of the Dannewerke, felt that the firm and determined counsel of his minister could no longer be followed, the Bishop resigned his distinguished post, and unable further to benefit his native land, became a voluntary exile. Whatever induced him to select New Zealand as his future abode, whether the name being a kind of connecting link with his fatherland, or whatever else it might be, he is now a resident with his amiable and accomplished partner and family at Wanganui. Mind is stamped on his brow, and now that he has quitted his native land and left his politics behind, he is devoting his knowledge of oriental languages to the benefit of his fatherland in the best of all ways, by translating the Holy Scriptures from their original tongues into that of his beloved native country. We cannot but express page 261 our hopes that his clear views and political knowledge will not be allowed to remain long dormant. Denmark lost a noble spirit when the ex-Minister left,—New Zealand gained one when he landed on its shores; may the acquisition be prized and turned to account. We hailed the union of our empire with the realm of Denmark in the marriage of our Prince with a Danish Princess, as introducing new blood into our Royal Family. Let us hail Bishop Monrad’s arrival in New Zealand as introducing fresh force into our councils; this is said with no desire to their disparagement, for the senate of New Zealand will bear comparison with any of the colonial ones; but we must remember Bishop Monrad is now a colonist, and having thrown in his lot with us, we must treat him as such, and not allow his acknowledged abilities to stagnate for want of use; it would be a disgrace were we to allow the late Prime Minister of Denmark to remain buried in the New Zealand bush, but I trust to hear, long before this appears in print, that he holds one of the chief seats in our councils, which I am sure will be used for our good. I extract the following sketch of his past career from one of the serials of the day:—

Ditley Gothard Monrad, Bishop of Laaland and Falster, was born at Copenhagen, 24th November 1811. Brought up by his uncle, a merchant of Proestoe, the clergyman of the place noticed his unusual abilities, and by his exertions and aid of some of the leading citizens, he was enabled to commence his studies, which he pursued with so much diligence, as to take his degrees with first-rate distinction. He devoted special attention to philosophy and the Oriental languages; he read the Old Testament in the original, and translated the Arabian Nights into Danish for his own amusement, sometimes working sixteen to eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. His friends and fellow-students would call in to talk, and hinder him from thus over-working himself. Some of them have since become distinguished characters, as Prime Minister Hall, Count Knuth, Barfod, and the historian Allen.

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On the 3rd of December 1839, the day when Frederick VI. died, he attended a meeting to discuss the propriety of asking the new King for a constitution. That was the first time he had ever opened his mouth on politics; his speech made a great impression—he grasped the whole question at once. From that day he became one of the leaders of the liberal and progressive movement, and thenceforth he devoted his talents and energy to politics. Soon after he published political fly-leaves; but although he wrote with moderation, he still subjected himself to an action for breach of the then existing Press laws. In 1840 he was one of the editors of the “Fædrelandet” newspaper; the first and second leading articles he wrote in it were on the taxation of towns according to income, and on the public roads of Holstein. These articles excited considerable attention.

After having visited several countries in Europe, he published a work on schools in several Protestant cities, and suggestions for the reorganization of those of Copenhagen.

In 1843 he became editor of the free press organ, “Dansk Folkeblad.” He also delivered some excellent lectures on the History of Denmark since 1814. In 1846 he was called to the living of Vesternlsley in Laaland, by the influence of his friend Count Knuth; and on 23rd December of the same year he was elected fourth member of the Estates for the city of Copenhagen.

In 1848, when King Christian VIII. died and Frederick VII. succeeded, the liberal cause triumphed and a free constitution was given, then Monrad was in the right place. On the 22nd March he entered the ministry, holding the portfolio for Church and Schools; he was the chief framer of the excellent “Grund lov,” or fundamental law of 1849. In 1849 he was created Bishop of Laaland and Falster, and elected a member of the Rigsdag (Parliament), in which, with a few months’ exception in 1853, he continued to represent the Fourth Maribo District up to 1864. He was also elected to the Rigsraad, or Assembly for Denmark Proper and Schleswig.

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Bishop Monrad is a man of liberal principles, a promoter of progress and judicious reform, yet thought to lean too much to the whole State party, and on this account was entrusted to form the new ministry, to replace that of Halls, of whose cabinet Bishop Monrad was also a member. After the evacuation of the Dannewerke, Bishop Monrad showed such firmness of policy, that his administration was exceedingly popular. He was jocularly called the figure 1 in the million, the six other members of the cabinet being noughts, 1,000,000.—Extract from “Leisure Hour,” Dec. 1864.