TO HIS EXCELLENCY COLONEL GORE BROWNE
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TO HIS EXCELLENCY COLONEL GORE BROWNE, GOVERNOR IN CHIEF OF THE COLONY OF NEW ZEALAND.
Sir, --I have been recommended by authority which I am bound to respect to publish the following lecture, inasmuch as it has been thought to throw light upon a subject the true understanding of which is of vital importance to the prosperity of this Colony, that is, the mutual relations to each other of Land, Labour, and Capital.
I the more readily acceded to this recommendation because it affords me an opportunity of expressing my views upon the Governmental Institutions now existing in New Zealand; and I take the liberty of addressing the following observations to you, because I believe that with you more than with all other men together rests the power of putting an end to the Anarchy which, I from the beginning foresaw to be the necessary consequence of those Institutions; although I must confess that the degree to which they have demoralized the Colony, and impeded its prosperity, far exceeds what I could have imagined.
If there can be an impartial judge of the character and conduct of our leading men; of the nature and tendency of their measures; and of the effect of those measures upon the moral and material well-being of the community, your position of Governor under a system which is called "Responsible Government" peculiarly fits you for the office of an impartial judge. And I respectfully submit it to your Excellency, whether the time is not now come when the public weal requires you to communicate your judgment on these questions to those who have the power to put an end to the evils under which this Colony is now groaning.
The constitution under which the Colony is, in theory, supposed to be governed, was avowedly intended to afford to the Colonists the full advantages of representative Institutions, or what is loosely called Self Government. It retained however to the representative of the Crown the rights and duties which belong to that branch of the British Government.
I am not aware that Self Government, literally, ever existed in any British Colony, save in those established by the Pilgrim fathers in North America. Overlooked or forgotten by the Mother Country, those men were left to elect their own Governors, and to frame their own Institutions of Government, and Self Government succeeded with them, because they were men whose every thought and every action were directed and controlled by an abiding sense of their responsibility to God. It succeeded in a community where the toils of office could not be sweetened by the acquisition of wealth and patronage; and in a state of society where power and vain glory had no scope for their operation.
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But it never has succeeded, and never can succeed, in producing the true ends of Government--the peace, safety, and well being of a community, where the majority are neither under the control of religious principle, nor trained in the knowledge and practice of their duty to God and to their neighbour; and where the emoluments and patronage of office are sufficient to excite and gratify the ambition of men covetous of money, and of vainglory.
What has been called "Responsible Government" in a colony is Self Government, that is the Government of the Majority, in other words, a pure democracy. There is indeed a nominal Governor not elected by the people, but appointed by the Crown, but in all matters which are supposed not to affect imperial interests, the will of the majority governs. But let us see what Lord Brougham says of this system or "notion" as he calls it of Government.
"A notion sprung up at one time which was very much encouraged by Lord Durham and his Council which goes by the nam© of 'Responsible Government.' If I were to say that I clearly understand what is meant by the term, I would be arrogating to myself a degree of perspicacity to which I have no right; I should moreover be invidiously placing my intellect in contact with that of my noble friend at the head of the Government.
"The principle of Responsible Government is this, that whosoever governs a Colony (and it is not confined to Canada) is, if I understand it at all--but my noble friend Lord J. Russell not being able as he says to understand it, I may be excused if I mistake, however I believe it to be, that whoever governs a Colony, he shall be bound to choose as his ministers whomsoever the legislature of the Colony is disposed to give its confidence to. And further, whatever be his opinion of their conduct, so long as the confidence continues he cannot remove them. Now if it be supposed that this is a copy of the constitution of the mother Country, there cannot be a greater mistake. The Ministers in this Country are the organs of the Crown. They are responsible to Parliament, and not merely responsible, but they hold their offices at the good will and pleasure of Parliament. But the principle is one of give and take The Crown has the choice of selection, and dismissal, and the Parliament of refusal; and therefore both Crown and Parliament have a somewhat similar, though in cases of irreconcilable differences, not unequal influence.
"And here Mr. Bentham made a great mistake when be wholly neglected the operation on both parties of the fear of differences producing a collision, and describeD all balances and checks as only bringing Government to a standstill; for he did not consider that the Crown will give up a little not to bring things to extremity with the Parliament, and the Parliament will give up something not to bring matters to extremity with the Crown. But in the Colony we are told to regard as the English Constitution, one which gives the whole power to one party in Parliament and leaving nothing to the Crown. This is called "Responsible Government"--well then
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our Ministers gave them (the Canadas) Responsible Government --that is to say gave them the power of naming the Ministers, who though appointed by the Governor, are voted by the Assembly, and are kept as long as the Assembly please to keep them, and to make them the instruments in their hands of executing their designs.
"Such is the construction put upon Responsible Government in the Colonies, and Lord Elgin I see has put this construction upon it; indeed but for such a construction nobody could even have dreamt of appointing Mr. Lafontaine." -- "Hansard's Debates " vol. cvi, 19 th June, 1849, page 460.
Lord Elgin after his return from Canada said that he had "succeeded" by what he called "a dignified neutrality" but whoever will take the trouble to look a little beneath the surface, will find that this dignified neutrality amounted to nothing less than an abdication of the functions of Government.
We are told by an authority to which we all bow, that Governors are appointed of God to be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well. Lord Elgin's dignified neutrality committed the interests of Her Majesty's Subjects in Canada to men notorious for their crimes, because, by arts which only such men can use, they obtained a majority in the Legislature. He gave the sanction of his authority to their acts, because they were the acts of the majority, whether right or wrong! And in a public despatch he described one of their measures, to give effect to which the Queen's sanction was necessary, as indefensible, and yet recommended Her Majesty's Ministers to advise Her Majesty to give it her sanction.
In the House of Lords be moved for statistical returns to shew the immense progress of Canada, in population and material wealth, under "Responsible Government." He might with as much truth have imputed the progress of a youth to manhood to the vices and crimes which resulted from the connivance of tutors and Governors who preferred their own ease to the performance of the duties entrusted to them. The progress of a Colony of civilized men, planted in an unoccupied Country with a fertile soil, is like that of youth to manhood. Such a community possesses an inherent energy, which scarcely any amount of bad government can repress. The progress of Canada was in spite of "Responsible Government," not in consequence of it.
It is now well known, and was I believe stated in the House of Lords by Lords Brougham, that the authors of Lord Durham's report were Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, and another person similarly distinguished to that individual in moral characteristics, though not in Colonial politics. Lord Brougham, in the same speech from which I have already quoted, says. "The two Canadas were unhappily united, contrary to the opinion which a noble friend near me, the Duke of Wellington, field at the time; and in favour of which opinion he entered upon your Lordship's journals almost the only protest he was ever known to make, and which is one of the ablest state papers, and one of the most convincing I ever read.
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The unhappy union which was first suggested by Lord Durham, in an evil hour, was nevertheless carried into effect upon the following basis, 42 members to Upper Canada, 42 to Lower Canada, in the latter 33 French Constituencies, in the former 1 French Constituency.
The object of the Union was to put down the English spirit which existed in Canada, and to procure a majority in the Legislature for whoever would take the proper means of obtaining the votes of the French "habitans" through their Clergy, they themselves being perfectly innocent of any opinions in politics. Whatever is peculiar in the Constitution of New Zealand is I believe attributable to the author of Responsible Government in Canada, and had for its objects, designs of a similar character to those which led to the Union between Upper and Lower Canada. Sir John Pakington stated in the House of Commons, that he was assisted in the preparation of the New Zealand Constitution Act by the advice of persons interested in that Colony, and that be was particularly indebted to Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, whose suggestions where characterised by their accustomed ability. Amongst those persons, however, it is certain that there was no one to represent the interests and the wishes of the people of Auckland. In a published letter to the Duke of Newcastle, Mr. Gibbon Wakefield complained of Sir G. Grey, that by calling the General Assembly to meet in Auckland, he was defeating one of the principal objects of the Constitution Act, which was to fix the Seat of Government in a central position to all the Provinces--that is, to transfer it from Auckland, which was selected by the Queen's Governor as the Capital of the Islands, to the principal settlement founded by the New Zealand Company.
If it had been the object of the authors of the Constitution to construct a scheme of government, so complex in its operations, and so multifarious in its details, that each part of the machinery should counteract the effects of some other part, and all united should produce the incongruous spectacle of immense power expended in rendering nugatory the objects for which it was ostensibly set in motion, they could scarcely have succeeded better. On the other hand, they could scarcely have prepared a wider field or greater facilities for theorists to make expensive experiments, at the cost of the community, or for trading politicians to make merchandise of the public interests.
We have first a Governor, with an Executive Council and a General Assembly; the Upper House consisting of members selected by the Governor, the Lower House of members selected from the six different settlements. Secondly, an elected Superintendent and a Provincial Council, for each of the six settlements. The members of the House of Representatives, the Superintendents of the respective Provinces, and the members of the Provincial Councils being all elected by the same constituencies.
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The Superintendents, with the Provincial Councils, have power of legislation, limited by thirteen specific exceptions, relating to matters with regard to which the power of legislation is withheld. But any law passed by the General Assembly overrides and renders nugatory any enactments of the Provincial Councils, which may conflict with it. These concurrent powers of legislation thus maintaining a perpetual uncertainty as to the validity and permanency of laws ordained by the inferior legislatures.
Thus in a population probably not exceeding 40,000 souls, independently of the Natives, we have a Governor-in-chief, with an Executive Council, a Legislative Council, and a House of Representatives, and six Superintendents, or deputy governors, each with a Legislative Council, and most if not all of them with Executive Councils also. Each of these establishments of Government has its staff of functionaries, not only proportioned to the extent of its proper functions, but adequate to maintain its correspondence--the General Government with each of the Provincial Governments, and each of the Provincial Governments with the General Government. In addition to all which there is the expense of the Native Department, under your Excellency's exclusive control, and no end of Commissionerships under the General Government and under the Provincial Governments, as if the colony only existed for the purpose of maintaining as numerous a governing class as could, by any expedient, extract an existence out of the industrious and producing classes of the population. The unavoidable effect of these numerous establishments being to complicate and render difficult, if not impossible, the transaction of the most simple business.
To support all these establishments, the colonists are excised to an extent which, in an old country, overburdened with debt, would be thought monstrous, but in a new country would be considered absolutely intolerable, if the public press found its vocation in preaching economy, instead of being interested in maintaining things as they are. Nor is the excise only heavy, it is also most unequal and unjust. The lady's silk dress, which costs £3, pays a duty of 3d. or 4d. The workman pays a duty of 2s. on his pea jacket, which costs 15s., and 1s. 6d. on his boots. The lady's gold watch, which costs £25, is excised at the fraction of a farthing, while the labourer pays 3d. on his spade.
Thus, while the neighbouring colonies offer to the emigrant a home where taxation is scarcely felt, being confined to a few articles of luxury, here he must pay a tax even upon British manufactures, --not in proportion to their value, but in proportion to their bulk. The veriest necessaries of life, the very tools of the workman being subject to the heaviest exactions. Whoever will take the trouble to analyze his expenditure, and to reckon up the duties upon each item of which it consists, will find that a family of six persons, with an income of £200 a year, pay from £15 to £20 a year to the revenue, and that this will allow a very rare indulgence in wine or
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spirits, not to speak of tobacco. Upon families with smaller incomes, the duties fall yet heavier in proportion.
We have now witnessed four Sessions of the General Assembly. The author of "Responsible Government" in Canada having himself assisted at its inauguration in New Zealand. It is but just to say, that the first place was, as if by universal consent, accorded to him. The leading speakers were forward to admit that they had sat at his feet, and imbibed from his teachings the wisdom which they intended to devote to the Government of the colony. It was not, however, till after the arrival of your Excellency that "Responsible Government" was established in its entirety. The endeavour which was made to graft a ministry chosen by the Assembly, upon a ministry appointed by the Queen, was a failure. The latter were tenacious of office, and the former found it far from agreeable to incur the toils of office, without partaking of its emoluments. At length, the author of "Responsible Government" having been ungenerously thrown overboard by those who acknowledged that to him they owed their political wisdom, had influence enough to bring about a prorogation of the Assembly, and to oust the first ministry. The second ministry was of short duration, having been left in a minority of 10 to 21, on the first division, and the second Session was brought to an early close, --some of the Southern members having been absent for a period of five months, and none of them for a shorter period than three months from their homes. The third Session of the General Assembly was opened with the announcement that the Secretary of State "had no objection to the system called 'Responsible Government,' if such were the wish of the Assembly. But as it was understood that no political questions were to be brought forward, but few of the Southern members attended, and the sitting was short. The Session was closed with the announcement of a dissolution, and the introduction, as early as possible, of the form of government which had been "so earnestly solicited by the popularly constituted Legislature of the colony."
The first Session of the second Assembly met in full force. The first business was to provide pensions for the retiring functionaries, in order that the Government might be placed in the hands of such members as should be able to obtain a majority in favour of their measures. Then commenced the struggle for place.
It would defeat the object of this letter, by adding too much to its length, were I to enter upon any analysis of the proceedings of the Assembly. Whoever bestowed attention upon those proceedings could not fail to be convinced that, with whatever intentions many of the members came together, no question could be decided upon its merits, which could be made to subserve the purposes of party.
The great battle field was the Seat of Government, the members for Auckland, that is such of them as could not aspire to office, and had local interests--were of course for retaining it at Auckland. Those from Wellington were bent upon removing it thither. The
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members from the other Provinces were prepared to side with whatever party could hold out the greatest advantages to their Province or to themselves. To some, the interests of either Province or any Province were alike indifferent: they were independent of local ties, being without local interests, and their votes attended the party from which they had the best hopes of a share in the good things of office.
Now the Representatives dealt with their Provinces as the second Roman Triumvirate dealt with their friends. Now the interests of the whole are sacrificed to local interests. The majority on the side of Ministers is so small, that the party in opposition is every moment on the watch to trip up the holders of office and to take their places. Under such circumstances, a due attention to the real business of the Session is impossible. The physical strength, as well as the mental energy of the members is exhausted, by four months of fruitless debates, and the Session is closed by hurrying through the Assembly a mass--I shall not say of crude Legislation--for I have not examined it all: but of what I have examined I have no hesitation in saying, that it makes havoc of the first principles of British law, which have been held sacred for centuries, and evinces that those who passed such enactments were either ignorant that they had no authority to pass Acts repugnant to the law of England, or that they disregarded the restrictions which the Imperial Parliament placed upon their powers of Legislation.
I must, however, recall your Excellency's attention to two enactments--one passed in the first, the other in the last Session of the Assembly. The Queen's Government, in the excess of its liberality, invested the Local Legislature with a trust the most important which could be confided to a subordinate authority--that is, the administration of the public lands. It is too late to ask whether a trust so liable to abuse was wisely committed to persons, scarcely one of whom was free from the temptation of perverting it to his private advantage. Indeed, of all that Assembly there were probably few with whom the administration of the public lands did not involve questions upon the solution of which their private fortunes depended. How did the Assembly acquit themselves of the trust? Without any powers of delegation, they transferred it to the Provincial authorities--that is, they divided it amongst themselves: each Province to make the best of its own share. Nor was the mode in which this was done less characteristic than the Act itself. They, a subordinate Legislature, with derivative authority strictly defined by the Act of Parliament which gave it existence, actually pass an Act to give themselves power. They usurp sovereign jurisdiction for the nonce, and pass "The Provincial Waste Lands Act, 1854," "An Act to authorise the General Assembly to empower the Provincial Council to enact laws for regulating the sale, letting, disposal and occupation of the Waste Lands of the Crown." This is the title of the enactment, and I venture to say that it is altogether unparalleled in the history of Legislation. Nor could the most
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bitter enemy of Representative Institutions invent a more cutting satire upon them.
In this way did the General Assembly discharge the trust reposed in them. The Provincial Councils of course lost no time in working so rich a mine of interest and influence, and whatever may be the result elsewhere, it cannot be denied that the land revenue of the Province of Auckland, and immigration to it, have all but ceased.
The author of "Responsible Government," did not confine his lessons on its working within the walls of the House of Assembly. The monster Tea Party at the Pensioners' Settlements will not be soon forgotten, as an exhibition of the skill with which he instructed the pensioners in the value of their votes, and excited their patriotic zeal in favour of the party who would give the "real working settler" a piece of land, on terms of "special occupation." Nor were these lessons forgotten either in the "Scheme of Policy" which framed the Auckland Land Regulations, or in the various election schemes which have since then agitated the Pensioner Settlements.
The other enactment to which I wish to draw attention, as illustrating the working of "Responsible Government," relates to a subject upon which I felt a peculiar interest. When Collector of the Internal Revenue of New South Wales, in 1830, I had contemplated the issue of a paper currency by the Government as a measure which would be most beneficial to the public interests of that colony, by affording an unexceptionable source of revenue, and providing a safe currency for the transactions of trade.
It was, therefore, with no little satisfaction that I saw such an institution established in the infancy of this colony, by the authority of the home Government. It is true that it was not managed with prudence, and that it was not profitable at the commencement; as, indeed, it could scarcely have been expected to be. But though an unpopular institution, and an object of ridicule, I knew that its principle was sound, and that its advantages could not fail to be developed in due time.
The members from Otago were, however, desirous of establishing, in that province, a Bank with power to issue notes, and one of the members representing that province, at an early period of the session brought in a bill "To enable certain Banking Companies to issue paper money."
It was said, however, (and I believe given in evidence) that an agent of the Oriental Bank, then in Auckland with a view of ascertaining the expediency of extending the operations of that institution to this colony, had declared that his constituents would establish no branch in New Zealand, while the Government Bank of Issue existed. And the Colonial Treasurer, in due course, brought in a bill for winding up the affairs of the Bank of Issue.
Your Excellency may possibly remember, that, having been in Auckland at that time, I took the liberty of calling upon you with a view to avert, if possible, so heavy a blow from the pro-
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spective interests of the colony. The members who spoke in the House, in relation to those measures, showed, one and all, a profound ignorance of the first principles of Banking. If any member was present who understood the subject, his light was hid under a bushel. The bills were passed without opposition. The Otago members returned to their homes, and the Seat of Government was secured to Auckland, and their places to the Ministers, for the remainder of the Session, and till another meeting of the Assembly.
Since that period I have examined the Banking returns of the Colony of New South Wales; and the injury which the prospective interests of New Zealand have sustained, by the abolition of the Bank of Issue, may be in some degree estimated from the fact, that if such an institution had been established in the infancy of New South Wales, the public revenue of that colony would at this day have, on a moderate estimate, received little short of £100, 000 a year, which is now divided amongst the capitalists who are receiving dividends of from 25 to 40 per cent, upon their Banking capital.
The evils which have resulted from the existence of two Legislatures with concurrent jurisdiction, and from the creation of numerous elective administrative officers, were in part predicted by Mr. Gladstone and other statesmen who have paid attention to colonial affairs: but no human wisdom could forecast the actual results which "responsible government," grafted on these incongruities, would produce. The General Assembly sets at defiance the Act of Parliament which gave it existence, overleaping without scruple the limits within which its powers are circumscribed by positive enactment. The Provincial Governments, in their turn, usurp the functions of the General Assembly, and throw in the teeth of "responsible government" their scorn of the endeavours of the individuals who constitute that abstract essence, to embarass the Provincial Government, and the power and determination of that government to do without them; 1 one Superintendent having brought his Council to a dead lock by foisting a twenty-fifth member amongst the legal twenty-four, sets up for himself, and spends the public money as best suits his own views.
"The government of this province," as the Superintendent's newspaper informs us, "has been carried on for six months without an appropriation act. The most necessary public works are prosecuted at the positive risk of the Superintendent."--('New Zealander,' July 8th, 1857.) What says responsible government to this? "Responsible Government" leaves it to the next Council to say whether they will sanction the expenditure, or throw it upon the shoulders of the Superintendent himself. Can it have escaped the notice of "Responsible Government" that the "most necessary public works" might be precisely those "most necessary" to secure the re-election of the Superintendent, and of such
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members of Council as would shield the Superintendent from the consequences of his illegal conduct; or that the money he has been illegally spending might be tenfold in amount what his private fortune could replace. The 25th clause of the Constitution Act provides that " It shall not be lawful for any Provincial Council to pass, or the Superintendent to assent to any bill appropriating any money to the public service, unless the Superintendent shall first have recommended the Council to make provision for the specific service to which such money is to be appropriated. And no such money shall be issued or made issuable except by warrants granted by the Superintendent."
It has been patent to all the community, that, for the last six months, the public money has been spent, and its expenditure pledged, without any bill having been passed appropriating the money for such expenditure. Here then is an administrator of the law, deliberately and systematically violating the law, for a period of six months. And I again ask what says "Responsible Government" to this? Why it, in effect says, what the Secretary of State says to the illegal acts of the General Assembly--"leave them to their operation." But does it not go a little beyond this? Has it not paid over to the Superintendent the public money which has been thus illegally expended: and by so doing made itself accessary before the fact to this systematic violation of the law? I am not in a position to answer this question, having not the least knowledge of official transactions. But from the provisions of the Constitution Act I should infer that it cannot be otherwise.
It would give me pain if, in the matter or tone of these observations, I should appear to be forgetful of the respect which is due not less to your Excellency's high position, than to your personal character. You yourself will not I am sure so far misunderstand me. I am perfectly aware that you have pledged yourself to maintain "Responsible Government," or, "Ministerial responsibility in its integrity." That is that you will ratify the acts of the ministers who have been placed in their situations by a majority of the Assembly: and I have no doubt whatever that in this you were carrying out the instructions which you brought with you from England. Nor do I doubt that you gave this pledge in perfect good faith, believing that you could thereby best promote the public interests. But it is the object of this letter to bring the truth (and to appeal to your Excellency as a witness to the truth) before those who have the power to put an end to the system of government, or rather non-government, with which the colony has been afflicted, under the Constitution Act. A system under which the administrative officers, from the highest to the lowest, instead of upholding the law, set an example to each other of justifying and upholding the violation of the law.
A British subject cannot divest himself of his allegiance to the Crown. Can the Crown be divested by its ministers of the obligation to maintain the laws of the realm, and to protect the sub-
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ject in the enjoyment of his public and individual rights by assenting to, or "leaving to their operation," Acts of the Assembly which the Imperial Parliament has made illegal? I respectfully submit this question to Lord Brougham, to whom I shall certainly forward a copy of this pamphlet. I entreat his lordship's attention, as one all-sufficient example, to the Act of the Assembly, which I have already alluded to--"The Provincial Waste Lands Act of 1854." And as an example of the invasion of private rights, I entreat also his attention to the 18th clause of the "Land Claims Settlement Act, 1856."
I will now beg your Excellency's attention more specifically to the affairs of this Province of Auckland. It is thought in England that a free press is a guarantee against mis-rule. We have now four newspapers in Auckland, but two of these are of such recent origin that we may leave out of account any influence they may have exerted hitherto. Two newspapers--the "New-Zealander" and the "Southern Cross"--have long been established. They are, of course, opposed to each other, and it might be expected that the truth would come out between them. How far this is the case will in part appear from what follows.
The period appointed by law for the Superintendent to hold office is four years. Within the period of four years we have had four Superintendents, and a fifth election is announced. The first Superintendent was a gentleman no otherwise connected with the Colony than as having been for several years in command of the troops, and as having made himself in that capacity deservedly popular. In consequence of such command he was also for a period Lieutenant and Acting Governor. His election was one proof that the Province was unfit for such a measure of self-government as to have the administration of its affairs committed to an elected officer. His chief recommendation doubtless was, that he was not a colonist, that he stood in a position to be independent of local parties. The three others have all been proprietors of the local newspapers. Those who call themselves the politicians of the Province are divided into two parties, -- one represented by the "New-Zealander," the other by the "Southern Cross": the one calls itself the Constitutional Party, the other the Progress party. These designations being much like that of "Responsible Government"; and all three very good illustrations of the lucus e non lucendo.
Those who read only the "New-Zealander" can come to no other conclusion than that the corruption of the Progress party cannot be exceeded. Those who read only the "Southern Cross" can scarcely avoid the belief that the Constitutional party is as corrupt as the abilities of its leaders can make it. Those who give an attentive perusal to both papers, will find it difficult to decide whether the public interests have suffered more from the incapacity of self satisfied ignorance (the "New-Zealander" seems to have adopted the term "uneducated government" as an honourable
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distinction) or from the ability which is acquired from education; and knowledge of the world.
Your Excellency cannot have been a mere indifferent spectator of the traffic which has been carried on in votes. No one, I am sure, can have a more just appreciation of the demoralization which it has carried into the remotest parts of the Colony. The wholesale personation and corruption of voters, or pretended voters, would be incredible, were it not that neither party attempts to deny the charges of the other ; and that each only maintains that its own party is the less corrupt of the two. Bribery and corruption of voters is, no doubt, a time-honored practice in the Mother Country, and here none of our politicians pretend to be ashamed of it. There are other transactions, however, upon which both parties preserve a discreet silence. I will request your Excellency's attention to two which have never been hinted at in either paper. The first is, that a writ was issued from the Supreme Court against the present Superintendent in conjunction with another person for a bill of £324, for election expenses, alleged to have been incurred, in 1855, with one publican in the Pensioner Settlements. This case was not allowed to come into Court, but was referred to arbitration. The second is, that a contractor lately obtained a verdict in the same Court against the "President of the Board of Works," under the Progress party, for £300 damages, in compensation for breach of contract, subject to an arbitration as to the actual damage sustained. The circumstances, as they have been stated to me, were as follows: Tenders were called for for certain works to be done in Hobson-street, at the time the late election for Superintendent was at hand. After some difficulties, which he alleged were thrown in his way, the lowest tenderer was allowed to enter into a bond with securities for the performance of this contract. But after a time the work was taken out of his hands, under circumstances which induced a jury to find the verdict before referred to. The question involved a legal point of some importance, as making an individual answerable, in his private capacity, for a contract not properly signed by him as a public functionary. But it was not noticed in either of the papers. The following circumstances may" perhaps account for such an omission. Of course I merely repeat what has been told me, upon what I consider reliable authority. But I respectfully submit it to your Excellency as a case worthy of investigation, in order that you may be able to form more definite opinions as to the mode in which the public interests are dealt with under an elected Superintendent.
The party who had obtained the contract was either on the wrong side of politics for the time, or, which is more probable, had no influence with the voters. One of the disappointed tenderers for the work in question, belonged to a class of men, who are said, by those best informed on such points, to have one-half of the votes of the Province under their control. And he was eminent amongst that influential body--a publican of the publicans--whose influence was said to be sufficient to turn the scale
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in any election ; and actually, as it is said, did turn the scale in the last election for Superintendent.
It was said that when the contract was taken from the lowest tenderer, it was given to this publican. But whether from a just indignation against those who could thus deal with the public interests, or whether he was sufficient of a lawyer as well as of a publican to "take provoking bribes with either hand and put them up," it is said that he deserted from Progress, which gave him the contract, to Constitutionalism, and turned the election in favour of our present Superintendent.
I assure your Excellency that, during my late visit to Auckland, I met with no one who affected to believe otherwise than that the extensive public works which have been carried on during the last six months, have been such as were likely to procure votes for the Superintendent and his party, rather than such as the exigencies of the public service required; nor did I meet with any one who was not of opinion that the present Superintendent had. so managed as to make sure of his re-election.
Those may believe, who can, that persons who have recourse to corruption, in order to obtain office, will administer the duties of office with clean hands. I acknowledge that my faith is not so much under the dominion of charity. They may also believe, who can, that the Superintendent has been, for the last six months, acting in violation of the law under which he was elected to office, with a pure and exclusive devotion to the public good. Let us try the question by the mode in which he discharged another public trust. The following facts have been frequently before the public:
The Provincial Council passed an Act vesting in 100 Commissioners the management of the Harbour improvements, devolving the executive duties upon a committee of seven. The first committee embraced three persons whose previous pursuits might be expected to give them some knowledge of the duties to which, they were called. One was an old ship-master and ship-owner, formerly of Liverpool; one an experienced ship-master; and the third a merchant and ship-owner. The remaining four were a baker, a farmer, a druggist, and a printer; vocations which do not usually lead to a knowledge of maritime affairs. Two propositions were before the Committee. The one was to carry out a stone pier from the point of land which extends furthest into the harbour, which was so situated that every foot the pier was advanced it would have afforded so much of greatly needed shelter to the small vessels frequenting the harbour ; and which would have been a permanent work. The other proposition was to continue a wooden wharf which had been begun some years before, and was already half ruined by the worm, from a point much more distant from tbe deep water. This wharf being so situated that, even it had been a solid structure, it would have left the greatest part of the harbour without shelter. The maritime portion of the Committee was in favour of the permanent structure; the baker, the farmer,
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the druggist, and the printer were for the wooden wharf. The former resigned their office, and their resignation was followed by that of many others of the Commissioners. The four remained in office, and carried on the wooden wharf. The printer, our present Superintendent, and two others of the four possessed property of which it is probably no exaggeration to say that the construction of the wooden wharf was calculated to increase its value a hundred fold, for without the wharf it was of no value whatever. The fourth also possessed property in the near neighbourhood of the wharf, though not abutting upon it. It would be an enquiry worthy of your Excellency's attention to ascertain how many thousands of pounds have been expended upon a structure of so perishable a character, and which, at best, could serve no purpose save that of a gangway to the shipping; and for how much less a permanent stone structure could have been constructed extending as far into the deep water of the harbour, and forming a permanent breakwater, as well as a wharf equally well adapted for every public purpose as the wooden wharf; but wanting that essential qualification of abutting upon the private property of the parties having the direction of the work.
It was stated to me, by a person who is as likely as any other to be well informed in such matters, that the Superintendent has been expending or pledging the expenditure of the public money, during the last six months, at the rate of £70,000 a-year, which is probably more than double the proportion of the revenue which would accrue to the Provincial Government during that period.
The Constitution Act (clause 19) enacts that "It shall not be lawful for the Superintendent and Provincial Council to make or ordain any law for the regulating any of the current coin, or the issue of any bills, notes, or other paper currency." And yet the Provincial Government (before the accession of the present Superintendent, however) actually obtained £45,000 by the issue of debentures, which, being payable to the bearer, can be considered in no other light than paper currency; besides having been, as I am informed, designated as "paper money" in more than one Act of Parliament. Where is this extravagant expenditure and anticipation of the revenue of the Province to end? The rate of interest payable on these debentures is such as might be expected from the very doubtful security the borrowers could offer. It is ten per cent, per annum, and they are not redeemable for ten years. Economy is a thing out of date. Each of our successive Superintendents appears to have acted as if it was his paramount duty to expend as much of the public money as he could contrive a means to expend.
The last project for this purpose is worth quoting. It is from the leading article of the 'New-Zealander,' the present Superintendent's newspaper, of July 1, 1857:
"We see no cause for fear that three clipper or fast sailing schooners or brigs would not secure the transit of the mails within,
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on the average, a day or two in excess of the time occupied by our steam service. 2 There are parties in the Province, we know, who are prepared to tender to put on three such sailing vessels as we have named, as soon as ever the Provincial Government is in a position to advertise the contract. The cost of such service, we have been told, will not much exceed the third of the bonus voted to the 'Denny' (£6000), or the half of that last year voted to the 'Wonga' (£4000), a saving which will be of some moment in the present state of the Provincial finances. There will also be this further compensating advantage, that, in return for a moderate bonus, the contractors can not only be bound, but will be quite ready to bind themselves, to reasonable rates both for passenger and goods traffic!!"
Happy ship owners, who live under a Government so enlightened and so paternal, as to be willing not only to change the beggarly penny a letter, for which they are by law obliged to carry the mails, into a handsome bonus of £2000 a year, divided amongst the owners of the three clipper vessels, but to give them "a moderate bonus" for carrying passengers and goods at a "reasonable rate."
The whole arrangement seems cut and dry. It is not a matter of speculation, but of knowledge. And it is to take place as soon as the Provincial Government is in a position to advertise the contract. That is, it is to be presumed, as soon as the said ship owners shall have proved that they can appreciate such liberality by bringing all the voters under their influence to re-elect a Superintendent who shows such a paternal regard for their interests. O'Connell and Raphael were mere bunglers compared with our Provincial politicians. Daniel agreed with Raphael that for £1000 --say £1000, "he should be returned for Carlow;" and Raphael paid down the money, his own money. Our Superintendent only promises to pay when they have done their part, by placing him in a position "to advertise the contract," and then he will pay, not £1000 of his own money, but £2000 a year of the public mo-
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ney, besides a "moderate bonus, " for carrying passengers and goods "at a reasonable rate! " Happy Province, to bask in the sunshine of such a Government!
There is one part of the Superintendent's letter (of 22nd June, 1857) applying for a dissolution, and a new election, which is worthy of special notice, namely, his request "that, in fixing the time for the return of the writs, a sufficient interval should be allowed, between the election of the Superintendent and that of the Provincial Council, to enable the electors of the several divisions to be informed of the result of the Superintendency election." That is, that there should be two elections instead of one, or what would be the same as one, as to expense and demoralization.
In making this request, the present Superintendent is only following the example set by the opposite party in the same circumstances, and he is therefore safe from their criticism. But what does it really mean? Of course the waste of the public money, occasioned by these frequent elections, is a trifle compared with the demoralization and the coroner's inquests resulting from them. But even this waste of money is a serious matter. I would beg your Excellency to call for an account of the actual expenses of the last election. I am afraid to state what my belief is upon the subject; but I am much mistaken if it should not appear that the recording of the votes, in some districts, has cost the public from 30s. to 40s. each vote. But, says the Superintendent, let the electors, before voting for candidates for the Provincial Council, be informed of the result of the Superintendency election. Yes indeed! Let them know what party will be in a position to reward them for their trouble, and then they will know whom to vote for. Let there be two elections. A few additional coroner's inquests are a trifle; the waste of the public money is a trifle, when it is considered that the Superintendent will have two opportunities of selecting suitable commissioners to record the votes, and to bring the influence of his office to bear upon the voters-- when, after having secured his own re-election, he will have the opportunity of packing a Council to serve his purposes.
I have done with a task, which, though I may appear to have treated it with levity, I do assure your Excellency I have not accomplished without loathing and disgust. It is not pleasant to come into contact with corruption, even for the purpose of removing it. I appeal to your Excellency for the substantial truth of my statements, and for the justness of my conclusions. I appeal to your Excellency's judgment whether, bad as things now are, it is not the inevitable tendency of the system of Government under which we are placed, that they should become worse and worse?
What, then, is to be the remedy? The remedy would be obvious enough, if it were less difficult to take men's minds off from the means, and fix them upon the end; or rather to root out the all-prevailing fallacy that the means are the end.
The Constitution of a country is the means to an end. The end is the peace, safety, and prosperity of the community. If a
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Constitution fails in producing these ends, it is a bad Constitution, whatever may be said of its "liberality." If, instead of producing these ends, it affords facilities for selfish and ambitious men to obtain power by corruption, and to employ the public money of which they have obtained the control, in keeping themselves in power, by corruption; it is a Constitution which sacrifices the public interests instead of promoting them, and debauches the community instead of securing its peace and well being. To the question whether the present Constitution of New Zealand has produced the true ends of Government, or the reverse of those ends, there can be but one true answer.
It is time, then, to abandon the systems of theorists, and political charlatans, and to return to the lessons of experience, and the dictates of common sense.
The celebrated John Locke was employed by Lord Clarendon to devise a Constitution for his Colony of Carolina. John Locke was not only one of the profoundest philosophers of his age, but a man whose purity of heart, and probity of conduct, were never even suspected. But he ha d no experience in the Government of men. His Constitution proved an entire failure; and, after it had received a full and patient trial, it was found necessary to set it aside, and to govern Carolina under a similar Constitution to those which experience had established as the most suitable for the other British Colonies in America.
Our Constitution has been extolled for its supposed resemblance to the Constitution of the United States of America. It has its Provincial Governments and its General Government, as they have their States' Governments and their General Congress. But it is not so. The supposed resemblance does not exist. Each of the United States of America is perfectly independent of all control in its own affairs. The Acts of Congress do not override the Acts of the individual States. The President of the Union has as little to do, as the Queen of England has, with the Government of New York, or of Massachusetts. The functions of the President and Congress are entirely of a different character. They relate only to the external relations of the Union--to questions of peace and war, to diplomacy and the administration of the unsettled lands, which are considered the common property of all the States. These functions had not, and could not have existence, until the Colonies threw off their allegiance to the Mother Country, and no union was thought of till then.
With the exception of the administration of the public lands, of which it was in such haste to divest itself, the General Government of New Zealand is incapable of all those functions which belong to the President and Congress of the United States of America. Such functions are not consistent with our condition, as a dependency of Great Britain. They are incompatible with our allegiance to the British Crown. The framers of our Constitution seem, accordingly, to have been hard pressed to find an exclusive jurisdiction for the General Assembly; seeing that they
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could not give it the Sovereign powers which are exercised by its antitype, the Congress of the United States. But there could be no greater fallacy than the assumption that each of the Provinces is not as able to deal with the matters reserved for the General Assembly, as the General Assembly itself is. The truth is all the other way. Efficient legislation, in the one case, would be simple, whereas, in the other case, it is rendered all but impossible, through the Provincial jealousies, and the personal ambition of the representatives of rival provinces. No difficulties ever arose from dealing with such points in the American Colonies. Nor would there be any difficulty in New Zealand if each Province were left to the management of its own affairs. The advantages of a "United Colony" compared with "six little republics" are mere catchwords, invented and used by men who have found that they could subserve their personal interests, by creating as many public offices, and procuring as large an expenditure of the public money as possible.
The physical impediments to a real union of Auckland with the Southern Settlements are insurmountable, and are likely to continue so for several generations. No Colony planted by British subjects was ever more distinct and separate from all others, than is each of the Provinces of New Zealand from the rest. No two Colonies could have less of mutual intercourse than Auckland has with Wellington or with Nelson--because there is, in fact, no intercourse whatever, unless what has been created by the Assembling, and the return to their homes of the members of the General Legislature. £5000 a year was indeed spent in subsidies to a steamer to "create communication," as if communication could be kept up where there was nothing to be communicated.
There could be no greater mockery than to designate as "self-government" a system which places the interests of each community in the hands of persons, the majority of whom have no interests in common with that community, but have many interests which could be served by a sacrifice of its interests. This is the precise position of each of the six Colonies of New Zealand, under the General Assembly.
In more than one instance two of the American Provinces were placed under one Governor, but in no instance was there any joining or over-riding of their respective Legislatures; in no instance was the money raised in one Province, voted away, as in New Zealand, by the representatives of another Province.
I wish to say as little as I can avoid saying, about the Southern Provinces, having no knowledge of them. But of the Province of Auckland I have no hesitation in saying, that it is not only entitled to have its affairs exempted from the interference of the New Zealand Company's settlers, but that there will be no approach to good government until there shall be an entire separation of its Legislature from theirs. One-third of the money which the inhabitants of Auckland contribute to support the existing anarchy, would amply provide for its efficient Government.
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I have endeavoured to remove the fallacious arguments which have been invented in favour of our Constitution, by shewing that it does not resemble that of the United States of America; as the Constitution of a dependency cannot resemble that of a Sovereign State: and by quoting from Lord Brougham the proof that there could not be a greater mistake than to suppose that what is called "Responsible Government" in a Colony, is a copy of the Constitution of the Mother Country.
It was well observed by Lord Grey, that it would be no more possible to transfer the Institutions of the Mother Country to her Colonies, than to transplant thither the oaks which have for a thousand years been striking their roots into the soil of England, and covering it with their foliage. It is easy indeed to appoint a Governor to represent the Sovereign; and a Legislative Council to represent the House of Lords; and an elective Assembly to represent the Commons of Great Britain. But, in a young community, it is difficult to find men whose previous education and experience qualify them to take an intelligent part, --and whose pecuniary circumstances are such as to enable them to take an active--not to say an independent part in the business of Legislation. It is difficult so to regulate the elective franchise, as that men shall not become members of the Legislature who are not only totally unfit for the office of legislator, but whose sole object is to make use of their vote for the purpose of raising their own fortunes at the expense of the community.
We cannot bring to our Colonial Councils men who have been trained to the science of Legislation from their earliest years, and whose station and fortune are such as to place them above all temptation to swerve from the right path for selfish ends. Nor can we give to our Colonial Institutions the stability which those of the Mother Country have derived from the prescription of ages. All these difficulties are doubtless in the way of framing a Colonial Constitution of Government, and of administering it with success. But they have been overcome heretofore, and they may be overcome again; and they certainly afford no reason why a Colony should be saddled with a machine of Government which creates a governing class so numerous and influential as to throw the interests of the governed into the shade; or make the disposal of those interests a stake to be played for by men whom it enables to make politics a profitable trade. The very frame work of our Constitution necessarily produces confusion and abuses, and responsible government grafted upon that Constitution, makes a remedy for abuses impossible, by withdrawing all those checks to the ebullition of popular passions, or the violence of party, or the envy of rival politicians, which are the characteristics of a mixed Government, but which have been found to a greater or less degree indispensable even under the most democratic institutions.
There can, in fact, be no greater delusion than is conveyed by the words "responsible government" or "ministerial responsibility."
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It is easy to understand the responsibility of an officer of rank and reputation appointed by the Crown, and depending upon the Crown, not only for that rank and reputation, which are in most instances held dearer than life itself, but in most cases for fortune also. There is here a real responsibility. The Crown may be misled by its advisers, but it can have no interest apart from those of the subjects of the Crown; and its officer may in general depend upon its support, while he continues to administer the trust reposed in him with probity and intelligence. But it would, I think, be difficult to show that any real responsibility, that is any security for good government, attaches to the organs of the Assembly. Nothing, I think, can be more obvious than this, that, whether their measures are right or wrong, their tenure of office depends upon a majority of the Assembly. They are deprived of office if, by adhering to right, they thwart the interests or the prejudices of the majority. They are continued in office by wrong doing, if thereby they can gain the support of those whose fortune may depend upon their measures. It necessarily follows that the Assembly is, or eventually will be, ruled by those who are the most expert, or perhaps the least scrupulous, in adapting their measures to the interests of a majority. The ambitious Legislator, under our Constitution, is open to two kinds of influence. He may be induced to sacrifice the interests of the whole community, which are entrusted to him, as a member of the General Assembly, not only to some selfish end of his own, but to secure the approbation of his constituents, by procuring some special benefit for his own Province.
The minister may attain his ends by offering personal advantage to the individual, or by promoting the interests of a Province at the expense of another Province, which is less numerously represented. All this may be done with less sacrifice of principle than might be supposed. The representative of a Province will naturally consider the interests of his Province as paramount: and he cannot be supposed to have any knowledge of the local interests of other Provinces which may be sacrificed by his vote. This is what "Ministerial Responsibility" resolves itself into, in its dealings with the members of the Assembly. Nor is there more security for the maintenance of right or the repression of wrong, in its dealings with the Provincial Governments. The Superintendents of Provinces are in general the most influential members of the General Assembly. In dealing with their acts, as administrators of the Provinces, the ministry can hardly be unmindful of the influence of their votes, or of the votes which they may influence, in the House of Representatives. If the ministers have a check upon the Superintendents and their Provincial Councils, in Provincial affairs, that check is counterbalanced by the influence of the Superintendents and such members of the Provincial Councils as have seats in the General Assembly. The Superintendents are elected to office by a majority of votes, and they can only continue in office by conciliat-
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ing a majority of the Provincial Councils, the members of which are returned by the same constituencies; thus affording, on a smaller scale, a similar field for the abuse of the powers of Government, to serve selfish purposes, uncontrolled by any efficient check.
The very frame work of our Government is thus contrived, as it were, not to check the abuses of office, but to afford the most extensive field of operations for such abuses. We are still subjects of the British Crown, but we are virtually refused its protection. From the Queen's highest ministers to the lowest administrator, there is no one to maintain the right, or to repress the wrong. The Queen's immediate advisers "leave to their operation" such Acts of the General Government as they cannot advise her Majesty to assent to. "Let them eat," they would appear to say, "the fruit of their doings. But they forget that, in so doing, they punish the innocent with the guilty; or, to speak with more precision, they make the innocent the prey of the guilty. Subordinate jurisdictions follow their example. The law is violated without scruple, and with impunity, by those whose duty it is to maintain it--until it seems wholly to be lost sight of that Governmental Institutions should exist for the good of the people, and not for the selfish purposes of those who have got the people's affairs into their hands.
In conclusion, I would entreat your Excellency to caution the Secretary of State against the error of supposing that the wishes of the people are represented, any more than their interests are maintained, by the newspaper press of the colony, or even by the votes of the Assembly. The numerous elections which are a consequence of our present Constitution, are a positive fortune to newspaper proprietors, by filling their columns with the advertisements of candidates; and their ambition leads them to suppress all matters of public interest and information, which might clash with their own views upon office. But, were it otherwise, the will of the majority is not the rule of right. Nor is it British Law--to which the meanest of the Queen's subjects, in all parts of her dominions, is entitled to look for protection. If good government is to exist in a British Colony, it must be by adhering as closely as possible to the institutions of the mother country, and not by the establishment of a democracy under the form of a mixed government. The executive business of the Government must be transacted by officers of the Queen's appointment. The Queen's name must be a tower of strength to those who are in the right, although in a minority. The Queen's Governor must be held responsible to the Crown, and feel that he can rely upon the support of the Crown, in maintaining what is right, and putting his veto upon what is wrong, although a majority of the Legislature may vote otherwise. This is the true honor of the Crown, and the true interest of the people. This is the true end of government, and if faithfully kept in view would content the people as well as protect them. The public safety requires that public business should not be brought to a stand by the refusal of a majority of the Legislature to vote the money absolutely neces-
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sary for the administration of the Government and of justice; and this, as well as the expense of the Native Department, would require to be provided for by Imperial Legislation, because many years must pass before the Natives can be fit to be entrusted with the elective franchise.
Whatever precautions a private individual would adopt to secure fidelity and efficiency in the selection of a trustee for the interests of his children, ought, as far as possible, to be kept in view in securing the election of trustworthy representatives. Persons who have no property of their own, should have no voice in voting away the property of others, or the election of those who will have that power. 3 It is for the interests of all--those who do not possess property, as well as those who do possess it--that the public affairs should be conducted with economy, as well as with fidelity; and this is best secured by entrusting the guardianship of the public purse to those who cannot sacrifice the public property, without sacrificing their own. A rigid economy would take the public business out of the hands of those who would be tempted to make a trade of it, and confide it to those who are interested in good government, and not in a lavish expenditure, and it would put an end to that pest occasioned by trading politicians, the enactment of useless or mischievous statutes.
The influence of the New Zealand Company, which was so long a blight upon the prosperity of New Zealand, having come to an end, and the colonies having ceased to be a field for patronage to the Secretary of State, there is no reason whatever to doubt that the transaction of the public business between the Governor and the Legislature would be carried on in a satisfactory manner to the great body of the colonists'; although it might not please political traders and the proprietors of newspapers; of whose Government the Province of Auckland has experienced enough to afford a useful lesson for the future.
Nor would the maintenance of this balance of power be more likely to lead to a dead-lock than it is in the mother country. There would be, between the Governor and the Legislature, what Lord Brougham calls "a system of give and take." Each party would yield a little, rather than come to extremity with the other party. The Governor would exercise an efficient check on the tyranny or injustice of a majority. And the Legislature, by its
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control over the revenue, could make the measures of the Governor conformable to their views of the public interest. Finally, in cases of irreconcileable difference, there would still remain an appeal to the decision of the Imperial Government.
I have the honour to be,
With great respect,
Most obedient humble servant,
Victoria,. Bay of Islands, 15th July, 1857.