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The Founders of Canterbury

E. H. W. Bellairs, Esq., 2, Place Hoche, Versailles. — Reigate, 11th November, 1849

E. H. W. Bellairs, Esq., 2, Place Hoche, Versailles.
Reigate, 11th November, 1849.

My Dear Sir,

—Not being well enough to write at any length, I must answer briefly your letter of the 2nd.

My object in wishing to see you, was to give you in detail the information which will follow in very general terms.

The Canterbury Association having received information that the site of its intended colony is fixed, and the survey proceeding under Captain Thomas, has resolved to proceed with its enterprize.

The first "proceeding" is to collect, and form into a body, those who have already contemplated settling at Canterbury, and to increase their number, till they shall constitute a page 138respectable colony on the move; say, labourers included, 3000 people, who would form the first expedition of colonists, proceeding from Plymouth next summer, in 25 ships.

Mr. Godley has resolved to proceed at once to the settlement as a pioneer. He proposes sailing from England on the 3rd of December, in the Lady Nugent, Mrs. Godley will accompany him. My son (the author of a book on New Zealand, and my only child) has just determined on going with Mr. Godley. I myself also, with a good many relatives and friends, have resolved on emigrating with the first body of Canterbury colonists.

The detailed accounts of the "Great Southern Plains of New Zealand," which are to be the site of the Canterbury colony, represent the spot as not merely unsurpassed, but unrivalled. These accounts come from people unconnected with either Company or Association, such as the officers of the Admiralty surveying ship Acheron; and they satisfy me that neither New Zealand nor any other colony possesses so fine a location for a new settlement. These are strong words, but not stronger than the facts.

I consider that this Canterbury colony, with its unrivalled site, its thorough previous survey, and a Godley for its pioneer, has greater elements of success for individuals and the whole enterprize, than has, or has had, any similar undertaking: wherefore I join it, and induce many relations and friends to do so.

In forming and helping to lead the first body of colonists—in getting them together, and inducing them to co-operate with method and order in all sorts of exertion that would tend to the success and greatness of the colony, and the benefit and comfort of individuals—there is ample scope for the employment of such energy and talents as I imagine you to possess: and I intended suggesting to you the expediency of your taking a leading part in this most agreeable sort of work.

In consequence of the very lively and active interest taken page 139in this matter by the new Bishop of Norwich, and Mr. Baring of Buckenham, it is likely that the county of Norfolk, which I suppose to be yours, will furnish many emigrants of the first order. Some in that county have already spoken out.

I feel confident of being able to remove the impression you seemed to have when here, that this Canterbury colony is likely to be made disagreeable by religious bigotry. You would not think so for an instant after conversing with Dr. Hinds and Mr. Baring.

If you should not be both willing and able to engage presently in the work I propose, the post of chief leader must of course be assigned to some other person. But amongst those who have sought it, I know of none so fit for it as I imagine you to be. I therefore wish you to take it: and therefore also I put the case before you in its best light. But I will now conclude by suggesting that at least you should lose no time in coming to England, and satisfying yourself, by vigilant inquiry, whether or not my scheme for you is fit to be embraced. If you would pass a couple of days or so with me here, we should be able to sift the questions thoroughly. But time presses, as the Association resolved on Thursday last to go a-head; and everybody is desirous to take as much advantage as possible of Godley's presence here in settling and commencing the process of gathering a colony.

I have omitted to say that the Canterbury Plains are now ascertained to be eminently fit for pastoral husbandry, which is the only sort, in countries where labour for hire is scarce, that yields quick and large returns. We have an interesting rough map of the settlement, chiefly open grassy plains, equal in extent to about twice the county of Norfolk.

I remain, my dear Sir,

Yours very sincerely,

E. G Wakefield.