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The Founders of Canterbury

Lord Lyttelton. Reigate, 9th August, 1850

Lord Lyttelton. Reigate, 9th August, 1850.

My Dear Lord,

—I found Mr. Sewell in some trouble yesterday; and the occasion is disagreeable enough to call on me to write; for I am afraid your Lordship will feel, as I do, that it has become a function of mine to write or speak to you only when there is something unpleasant to mention.

He thinks that he has been misapprehended; and upon enquiry, though I have not seen your letter to him, I think so too. But I also think that he caused the misapprehension of his object and motives by not being explicit enough. Very page 308plain-speaking is always difficult when the superior is addressed. I mean the sort of difficulty which is proverbially Lurtful to princes. If Mr. Sewell had spoken out, as distinctly as the most faithful of adherents will do when he sees the need for it, he would have said that in truth there really is no such body as the body of colonists; and that he saw much danger of the proper function of a body of colonists being usurped by two or three persons, who would thus dispose of the appointments, though themselves far less fit to dispose of them than the Committee of the Association. And this is, or rather was, a fact. Two or three weeks ago, Mr. FitzGrerald and Mr. Brittan had formed or taken up the idea that the sooner Mr. Godley came home the better; and that then the sooner the whole working of the Association could be transferred to the colony, the better also. But the latter view (in which all would probably agree abstractedly) utterly disregarded the condition that there must first be a colony of people to whom to transfer the powers of the Association. The theory also disregarded the fact that the present body of colonists is unreal from its smallness and want of real organization. But in this blind way the theory was formed, and so far acted upon as to cause much jealousy of FitzGerald and Brittan among the rest who knew any thing at all about the matter. An explosion was imminent when I "had the matter out" with Brittan, who presently saw the error and great danger, and wholly abandoned the notion that he and FitzGerald were to take Godley's place and do as they pleased in the Settlement. But that notion was not abandoned by FitzGrerald (if it is quite abandoned now) until he discovered at the end of last week, that his Emigration Agency had entirely broken down in consequence (I believe, and told him, and may therefore repeat) of having been quite neglected for all these matters relating to politics and government, and the return of Godley, and a grand dream of his fertile imagination which pictured himself as the Lord Baltimore of the Canterbury Settlement. Now, Mr. Sewell was aware of these things. page 309He knew my opinion of FitzGerald's character; which is, that he is all imagination and no action—an immense promiser, quite sincerely; ready to undertake every thing, but for performance, except in writing or talking, singularly feeble and heedless: and he (I mean Mr. Sewell) had seen enough (by means of opportunities denied to your Lordship) to have formed an opinion in some measure resembling mine. He was therefore very much alarmed about this question of appointments. And I only wish that he had spoken his mind as plainly as I have made bold to do.

With respect to his own views, or rather a view for himself, I am persuaded that he came into the plan of Emigration bent upon carrying into effect his own plan of Real Property Registrations, which has been his hobby for years. On this point, I think he resembles Mr. Wakley, who would not have foregone the Coronership of Middlesex for any office under the Crown. But this is his ultimate object. Since he took, office in Cockspur Street, his mind, I believe, has been singly bent on performing what he undertook to perform with a view to the earliest and greatest success of the undertaking. And I am bound to assure your Lordship that after watching him with the greatest anxiety, I see that he possesses high qualities for varied and difficult business, and that I quite respect in him a want of personal ambition with which it is not in my nature to sympathize.

I have poured out these thoughts without any object or care but that of letting you know what I believe to be the truth: and trusting to have your pardon of the manner in consideration of my motive.

P.S.—On reading over the above and seeing how imperfectly my view is expounded, I determine to send the inclosed duplicate of a letter to Godley, intended for the next ship, together with an extract from the letter to the Bishop of Norwich by which I introduced Mr. Sewell to his acquaintance.