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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

No. 37. — Copy of a Despatch from Governor Grey to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone

No. 37.
Copy of a Despatch from Governor Grey to the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone.

Auckland.Respecting Changes in the Constitution.


Government House, Auckland, 7th October 1846.

I had the honour this morning of receiving your despatch, marked "Separate," of the 26th May last, and, as a vessel sails in a few hours direct for England, I am unwilling to lose this opportunity of making some few remarks upon the changes Her Majesty's Government propose to introduce into the Constitution of this colony; although I write under the disadvantage of being compelled to make these remarks in a very hurried manner, and with no certainty whether or not they may reach England in sufficient time to be of any use to Her Majesty's Government.

I suppose, in the first place, that Her Majesty's Government intend to divide New Zealand into two distinct colonies: whether they are both to be placed under one Governor-in-Chief, in the manner proposed in my despatch of the 27th January last, marked "Separate," or whether two totally distinct colonies are to be formed, is not material to my present purpose. I suppose also that it is the wish of Her Majesty's Government that representative institutions should be introduced into each of these colonies with the least possible delay, but that they should be so introduced as to insure, in as far as possible, harmony between the executive and legislative bodies, and thus to render these institutions available from the first moment of their erection, instead of a period of inutility and bitterness page 43elapsing, during which disputed points would be contested between the Executive Government and the legislative body, and all the really essential business of the colony would be disregarded. In this view I beg to state that I would recommend that, in the first instance, the Officer Administering the Government in each colony should be permitted to appoint a Legislative Council composed, as at present, of official members and of nominees of the Crown.

I am not at present aware of any circumstance which need then prevent the immediate introduction of the representative institutions into that colony which would comprise the settlements in Cook Straits and in the Middle Island. All questions of a vexatious nature between the Government and the settlers in that part of the colony have now been finally set at rest; and, with a considerable acquaintance with British settlements, I can have no hesitation in recording it as my opinion that there never was, a body of settlers to whom the power of local self-government could be more wisely and judiciously intrusted than the inhabitants of the settlements to which I am alluding.

But there are a number of questions connected with the introduction of such institutions which I confess I think can only be properly determined by inquiry upon the spot, such as the limits of the various electoral districts, the proportion of members from town and country districts, the precise qualification of electors, the places for polling, and questions of a like nature. These questions I think the Officer Administering the Government in that colony should be required to determine, with the assistance of a Legislative Council constituted in the usual manner. If the number of members in that Council was extended to ten, five official and five unofficial, and the members were judiciously selected, as I have no doubt they would be, the Officer Administering the Government would have the benefit of the best possible advice; and these questions of a really practical nature would be discussed upon the spot, and under such circumstances as would, I have no doubt, secure the efficient and satisfactory working of the institutions which might be introduced, and which; when thus settled, would provide a legislative body which would forthwith replace that which had previously existed.

But, with respect to the northern of the two colonies, I beg to state that, until the questions connected with the land-claims which have arisen from the grants of land extended in opposition to the opinions of the Commissioners who heard them have been finally and conclusively set at rest, I do not think that any attempt should be made to introduce representative institutions into it. I feel quite satisfied that, if such an attempt were made before these questions were disposed of efforts would be made to return representatives, not to transact the real business of the country, but to agitate these claims; and, from the number of Government servants who are directly or indirectly connected with them, from the influence of some of the Missionaries who claim such large tracts of land, and from other circumstances, I fear that a period of confusion, probably of renewed rebellion, expensive both in blood and money, must under such circumstances inevitably take place.

I would therefore recommend that, in the northern colony of the two, some period of time should yet elapse before any attempt should be made to introduce representative institutions. Probably a period of two years may suffice to settle the question to which I have alluded, and to prepare the colony for the contemplated change; but this would soon be ascertained from the reports of the Officer Administering the Government.

I should perhaps add that it is not in the least my wish to reflect upon the inhabitants of the northern portion of New Zealand, or to draw any invidious comparison between themselves and the people of the southern settlements: on the contrary, there are in the northern part of the Island many gentlemen for whom I entertain the highest respect and esteem; and I would yield to no one in my desire to promote, in as far as practicable, the prosperity and happiness of the colonists in this part of New Zealand. But, the troublesome questions to which I have alluded having arisen, and there being every probability, from the number, and character of the Native population, that disturbances may arise from them, I believe that in making these representations to you, and in basing, such recommendations upon them, I am taking the most certain means of securing the true interests of the inhabitants of this part of the Northern Island, and at the same time performing a paramount duty to Her Majesty's Government.

I have, &c.

G. Grey.

The Eight Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., &c.