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IN a work written at various intervals during the course of a twelvemonth, upon a subject about which information is continually arriving, news may be received, even at the last moment, which makes it necessary to recall attention to some of its former statements. Such is the case in the present instance. In a very interesting letter, containing throughout matter highly creditable to the natives, written by a passenger on board the Cuba, and dated Kawia, New Zealand, 14th of February, 1840, I read the following passage:--
In consequence, too, of the willingness of the natives to work for a reasonable price, labour has hitherto been abundant and cheap. There is plenty of work for all who are willing to work, but the labourers do not obtain exorbitant wages. This is equally advantageous to the labourer and the capitalist; because when an uneducated man finds himself on a sudden able to command by two days' work enough for a week's subsistence, the novel position in which he is placed tends ordinarily to generate habits of idleness and improvidence, and he is a poorer instead of a richer man, from the very facility with which he obtains money.........
I could scarcely have had a stronger confirmation of the importance of what I have said in former parts of this address, or a more striking proof of the extreme delicacy of the question which regards the mutual rights and obligations of savages and civilized men, when brought into relation with each other.
Nothing can possibly be more frank, truthful, and benevolent, than the spirit which breathes throughout the whole of this letter. But its writer appears to
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me to be caught by the same fallacy, into which all the previous settlers in New Zealand, not excepting the missionaries themselves, have been betrayed respecting the wages that New Zealanders ought to receive.
It may clearly be inferred from the above passage that if the native labourers had been paid, as in equity they might, they would have been able to command by two days' work enough for a week's subsistence, and that they were paid no more than enough for a week's subsistence for their whole week's work; so that they received at most not more than one third of what an English labourer might have demanded, and an English capitalist would have been willing to pay for the same amount of work; and this certainly is better than their receiving only a tithe of their due, as at Hokianga and Waimate. But can that by any possibility be right in New Zealand which would be wrong in England? With what countenance may we suppose that an intelligent young journeyman shoemaker would listen to his employer, were he to address him in the following terms, when he came on the Saturday night to receive his week's wages:--
"John, you have given me great satisfaction, I have no fault to find with you: your work is of a superior order--indeed, I may say that you are a first-rate hand. All this, you may be sure, makes me take a great interest in your welfare, and the better to insure it, I have hit upon a plan which will be 'equally advantageous' to you and me. The sum that is due to you for your week's work, at the common rate of journeyman's wages, is 1l. 2s. 6d. My intentention, however, is only to give you 7s. 6d., and reserve 15s. for myself. Your advantage in this is, that you will have just enough for your week's subsistence, and no more. I need not tell you that journeymen shoemakers, especially the first-rate hands,
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are proverbially idle and improvident. I could mention a dozen instances of men who have reduced themselves to rags, and been the torment of their master and his customers, just because they could earn their 5s. any day in the week. This may be the case with you, and I wish to secure you against such a misfortune, by giving you no more than you require for your daily maintenance. By these means, I shall always have you at hand, and you will be always sober, and actively employed. This, however, will not be the only advantage to me in the little arrangement that I propose: I am a capitalist, and I wish to increase my capital; and although 15s. is a trifle to what I have at my banker's, you know that every little helps. Here, therefore, are your three half-crowns: the 15s. I shall place to my own account at Messrs. Barclay and Tritton's."
Might we not supppose that the young journeyman would reply in some such terms as the following:--
"I am very proud, sir, of the kind interest that you take in my welfare, and I sought your service because I knew that you were a good master and liked to be served by good men. But if, as you say, I have earned one pound two and sixpence, I had rather, if you please, have the whole of it myself. I know that many journeymen have made a bad use of good wages, but that is no reason why I should not have what belongs to me. It is very true I shall not want more than seven shillings and sixpence to keep me for the week; but I shall not always be as I am now--I hope one day to marry and have a family and workmen of my own. And, if not, there is such a thing as a rainy day; I may live to be an old man and past my work, or I may be laid up by sickness. I do not care to finger the money now, but I should like to have it when I want it. You have said that you have money
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at your banker's; but you know, sir, there are banks for the poor as well as the rich, and, if it was the same to you, I had rather you would place the money to my account at the Savings' Bank, than to yours at Messrs. Barclay and Tritton's."
What could we expect after this, but that the master shoemaker, whom we have all along supposed to be a man of worth and benevolence, would smile on his good-tempered and intelligent journeyman, pleased with the success of his scheme for teaching him the value of money, and giving him an extra half-crown for his civility, would place his fifteen shillings for him in the Savings' Bank?
May I not add the closing words of the Saviour in the beautiful parable, wherein we are taught our duty to our neighbour, and say,--"Go thou and do likewise."
It is a matter of the greatest importance that we should have a clear and distinct idea of the principles on which we proceed in dealing with savages, if such they must be called. There is something in their particular case which leads us to feel that we ought not to adopt precisely the same principles in dealing with them that we should in dealing with our own countrymen; but this, which is a correct impression, may lead us to wrong practical conclusions. In the case of wages, for instance, we fancy because they can easily support themselves, that we may be satisfied to pay them a third or a tithe of what we should have to pay our own countrymen under similar circumstances.
I allow that if we could call them up like "spirits from the vasty deep" to do our bidding and then disappear, or if they were like those ghostly drudges who are said to haunt the kitchens and dairies of the Irish farmer for purposes of domestic utility; or if they possessed another New Zealand
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floating in the air like Gulliver's Laputa, and after toiling for the foreigner on humbler clay could mount up to a home of freedom and plenty in a region inaccessible to British enterprise:--in any of these cases we might fairly allow them to amuse themselves by doing our work for "a brightened half-penny 1," or any other insignificant consideration, without troubling ourselves to consider whether they would thereby do themselves any harm.
But since they are our fellow-men, and we have determined to make them our fellow-citizens, we should bear in mind that a process is begun and is now rapidly going forward, by which their circumstances must be altered to an extent that we cannot appreciate: they are rapidly losing all the peculiar advantages and immunities of savage life, and if we do not give them every benefit which they become entitled to on account of their approach towards civilization, what can we expect but a repetition of the same sad story of rotten maize, epidemics, glandular swellings, and extinction of native life, which has already excited our commiseration?
There certainly is an instinctive feeling that it would be unwise and injurious to pursue precisely the same course in dealing with savages which we should in dealing with our own countrymen; and this instinctive feeling is a perfectly just and correct one, and has prompted the well-wishers of New Zealand in their desire for exceptional laws in favour of its native inhabitants. But,--if we grant that some departure should be made from the principles of dealing which we adopt towards our countrymen,--for the sake of all that is righteous let it not be a departure in the WRONG DIRECTION!
A short time ago I was called on by a decent-
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looking sea-faring man, with a somewhat dejected countenance. His object was to raise subscriptions to replace a small cutter, on which he and his father had depended for the support of their families, but which had recently gone down off Lymington. The story was this:--The cutter was returning from Poole, laden with various articles of traffic. The crew consisted of the man, his father, and a boy. It was a dark evening, in the early part of the year, and there was a light breeze from the east, when suddenly they became aware of a large vessel which was close by and coming towards them. A loud cry of "Starboard," instantly issued from the little cutter, and almost as instantly larboard went the helm of the great vessel,--her prow came heavily against the side of the cutter,--she returned to her former course, and sailed on towards the west.
"Starboard," we cried, Sir, "and larboard they put the helm, and stove in our side. I saw directly that she was beginning to fill, and I called to my father to get ready the small boat, for we were going down, and we had scarcely got into the boat and pulled a couple of strokes away from the cutter, when she went down, and the water made a whirl, and went down after her."
"But, said I, could you not make the owners of the ship replace your little vessel?" "Yes, sir, we could if we could get hold of them, but they sailed right away to the west the moment they'd touched us, because they knew they'd have had to pay, and we never heard of them afterwards;--only when they'd got some hundred yards to leeward;--and then they cried out, 'We hope, my lads, we hav'nt hurt you.'"
This little incident may convey a word in season to the New Zealand Colonists: had the vessel gone
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straight she might have grazed the cutter: had the helm been put starboard she would have avoided her; but as it was put larboard she went in to her and sunk her.
We grant that you must adopt new principles in paying wages to the natives. We grant that it might be dangerous to place immediately in their power the same amount of remuneration that you would give to an Englishman; they might squander it and injure themselves with it in a thousand ways. But it will be still more certainly destructive to them to put nine-tenths, or even two-thirds of it into your own pockets. If you do, we must expect the little vessel of the fortunes of New Zealand to sink and disappear, even before its mariners have taken to their boat, or heard your farewell cheer, "We hope, my lads, we hav'nt hurt you."
The way to put the helm starboard is to establish Savings' Banks, and to deposit therein, for the benefit of the native labourers, every farthing that you would be obliged to pay to British labourers for doing the same work, except what they may require for their present necessities, and let all these matters be conducted so openly that every one may know the amount of justice you are measuring out to them, and be obliged to treat them in the same way. And let them be made to understand themselves what you are doing for them; and this practical proof, both of your goodness, and of the value of civilized institutions, will have more effect in forming their minds and inspiring them with confidence, than years of ordinary education without it.
No possible harm can ever arise from an exact knowledge of the true state of the case, and I would therefore give it as my last recommendation, that accurate statistical tables may be made of the remu-
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neration, either in money, provisions, or commodities, which is actually paid to the natives for their labour, together with the exact market price, in money, of all those articles which are in common use among them.
Indeed it is hardly possible to avoid injustice of some kind or other, unless payments in money are universally established, both for native labour and all articles of native produce, together with fixed money prices for everything the natives may desire to obtain from the settlers. For as long as hard labour and solid provisions are paid for in tobacco and blankets, it is ten to one but the natives will be willing to receive less tobacco and fewer blankets than a European would feel entitled to demand, and a colonist would be satisfied to pay.
The settler who avails himself of his superior knowledge to obtain from the native more provisions or more labour than he could obtain from a European for the same consideration, does an act of injustice, which tends, so far as it goes, to the diminution of native prosperity, and the degradation and destruction of the native race. But as long as there is a possibility of such transactions there will be some to perform them. The surest way to prevent their occurrence is to establish not only a uniform price for labour, whether performed by native or European, but also a uniform price for every article of traffic, whether bought or sold by native or European; and to make it a punishable act of roguery to sell anything to a native at a higher price, or to purchase anything from a native at a lower price, than would be demanded from or paid by a European for the same article.
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