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THIRTY YEARS AGO.
The following account of the First Meeting of the General Assembly of New Zealand was given at a Public Meeting in Dunedin, by the Hon. Captain Bellairs, M.L.C., on the 27th December, 1854:--
MR. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN,--
Some explanation may, I believe, be expected from me in regard to my appearing before you this evening to give an account of my political cruise to the metropolis of New Zealand. A few of my friends have called the propriety of the proceeding in question. It may, therefore, be well that I should state the reasons they urge for maintaining that opinion, and the causes that appear to me to warrant my not following their advice. I will first, with your permission, glance at the position in which I was placed by my opinions respecting second Chambers, at the time of my unexpectedly receiving the patent of appointment to the Upper House of the first Parliament of New Zealand.
It is notorious that, for many years past, I have advocated the advisability of both Chambers of the Constitutional Legislature being elective. Apart from detail, I have long been convinced that some sort of elective process for the Second or Upper Chamber would be the best means of obtaining a really popular and Conservative body, to act as a check upon hasty legislation, and avert the immense mischief which has invariably, from time to time, arisen in countries where one Tribunal has alone had the power of acting during periods of popular excitement and delusion.
Anglo-Saxons, however, do not require argument in favor or defence of two Chambers. It is a part of their political creed to believe in them. They may, and do, differ as to the manner in which the revising House should be composed; but they never doubt the propriety of establishing some sort of dignified body who should calmly examine the proposals of the First Chamber. You may see this exemplified in their proceedings in the New World of America.
It has been my lot to meet great numbers of political characters from the States, men of all shades of opinion; but I never heard the Senate or Upper House of the United States spoken of except in terms of the highest praise. One, and all--Whigs, Democrats, Loco-focos; all agree that the Senate has, over and over again, since the
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establishment of Independence, saved the Union. All admit that in point of talent it is far superior to the House of Representatives, and that it is often the more popular Assembly of the two.
Now this, mark! is in the most democratic country on the face of the earth, and a very singular part of the business is, that this Senate is also at the same time one of the most conservative bodies known. It is so even in comparison with the British House of Lords, and yet it is elective. These are apparently anomalies, and yet are perfectly reconcilable where the circumstantialities of the case are considered. But I am digressing, and have been led away into a defence of Second Chambers, when I believe, as I said before, with a British audience none is necessary.
There can be but few present, who, some short years since, were not interested in the experiment of Single Chamber Legislation made by our volatile home country neighbours the French, and who do not remember the miserable failure which ensued. However, I will take it for granted that the necessity for two Chambers is admitted and maintained. Then the question with us was and is-- How is this Second Chamber to be obtained? Years ago, in the mother country, I both spoke and wrote in favor of some form of election. It might be after the manner of the Americans, by each Provincial Council and Upper House electing an equal number in each Province. For it must be borne in mind, that each State of the Union has its Lower and Upper House; or some better system might be devised for this colony. The detail must be left for debate at length; but the very admission and defence of this principle almost precluded me from accepting a seat in a House which was formed in a manner nearly antagonistic. That much I publicly expressed here in Dunedin, and repeatedly, at first receipt of the commission, urged my desire not to take the seat to which I had been appointed. But there were numbers in the Province who did not consider themselves represented in the General Assembly by those gentlemen who were then going up as the elected representatives of the Province. Whether those members constituted a majority or not I will not here stop to enquire. Time will show that, and before long perhaps. But on one or two questions of the greatest moment I believe that I and one of those representatives (who had been misunderstood by many, myself among the number, previous to going to Auckland) will be declared by the public of this Province to have most truly represented their real feelings. Confessedly then, and clearly, I went up more in the character of a representative than as a member of the Legislative Council. I even publicly stated that my sympathies were with the Lower House, and that I would have sought a seat in it, had sufficient length of residence in this country given me a legal qualification. To the best of my ability I acted up to the idea I have just shadowed forth, and am farther carrying it out by giving a public account of my proceedings.
Those friends, therefore, who have attempted to dissuade me from appearing on the present occasion, and upon the score that such a proceeding is lowering to the dignity of the Upper House, will please
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take note of the statement just made, which shows, that ideal or not, "de jure" incorrect, but "de facto" correct, I took up the position of a representative member, and to that shall adhere even probably to the resigning of my equivocal seat, now that my object is accomplished. And, if any refuse to recognize me as what I have made myself out to be, my answer is simply that such persons undoubtedly are not of the number I represented.
By far the greater number, however, of those who have spoken to me on the subject, have urged me to act as I am now doing. Let me now mention one fact which had considerable weight in influencing the decision I finally arrived at to attend in my place during the first session.
By the Constitution the General Assembly could not proceed to business without the presence of both Houses. Now, if everybody (necessarily nominated the first time) had refused to go because he was not elected, it is evident that the affairs of the country would have been brought to a complete stand-still. No money could have been appropriated, and nothing could have been legally done with the lands, or any other matter, till reference had been made home, which would probably have taken a couple of years. There was also this further danger to the interests of the South, that by far the greater number of members of the Upper House were likely to be named from Northern Provinces; and consequently it behoved all from the South to exert themselves to the utmost. Now this danger actually assumed a substantive form, for I was the only member of the Upper House present from any part of the vast territories south of the Nelson and Canterbury boundary line. Again, the proper course would have been for the Upper Chamber itself to revise and reform its mode of obtaining fresh members, and I much regret this was not done. The hope that this would have been done was an additional reason to me to attend the first time.
I have been induced to dwell at some length on the composition and importance of Second Chambers, because, just at this moment, it concerns my present audience a great deal more than many of them perhaps have any idea of. It is, in fact, likely to be as grave and weighty a subject as any they will have shortly to consider. This has come about in the following manner:-- When the present Constitution Act was passed by the Imperial Parliament it was never contemplated that such large powers, as are most probably about to be confirmed to the Provincial Councils, would ever fall into their hands. To use a commonly received expression in the old country at that time respecting their future, it was imagined that they would be "Municipalities with enlarged powers." The best proof of this is, that those who have been quoted in New Zealand as supporting the "Federal policy" for these Islands, have recently, in a debate in the House of Commons on Sir George Grey's policy, expressed their indignation at the manner in which he had thrown to the Provincial Assemblies powers which the Home Parliament never intended them to be possessed of. I especially allude to Mr. Adderley, who expressed
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himself very strongly indeed upon this head, and yet, as I before said, this very gentleman has been held up here as the supporter of the identical policy he condemns.
But Mr. Adderley is right. Whatever blame attaches, or may hereafter attach, for mischief which may ensue from the federative system is mainly chargeable to the late Governor, Sir George Grey. Had he called the General Assembly first, and insisted on the Provincial Authorities taking their powers from this great Assembly of the whole colony; the paralyzing division and subdivision, the bickering and confusion, which must, I fear, now ensue, would have been averted. Instead of doing his best to point out the very serious blots in the Constitution which bear on this evil, and which are;-- first, the elective Superintendency, which clashes with the fine old British Palladium of Liberty, a responsible Ministry; secondly, the possibility of both Superintendent, Provincial Executive, and Councillors sitting in the General Assembly; a huge mistake, seeing that, if numerous as in the present Parliament, they would be sure to combine for the advancement of Provincial, rather than general, interests, and thus depart from the glorious British constitutional system of the "Balance of Power." Instead of hiding these blots, if possible, and thus setting up a number of Provincial Municipalities with a form of Government endeared to Britons, which would both have preserved the dignity of each Chief Magistrate inviolate, and have kept him in order and to his proper functions, with a General Assembly composed of another set of men to act as a strong check on the possible extravagances of these municipalities also. Instead of this wise policy, he hastily called into action all the petty jealousies of provincial politicians, many of them unused to any wider range of thought than that which suffices to prove to them how any question will affect their own narrow provincial boundaries, their own particular block, their own "little platoons." Men, who feel that on their own dunghills they are observable birds, but in a larger sphere sink to nobodies.
This was all beautifully illustrated during the late session. You would of course imagine, as I did once, that it would be a great matter for Wellington to become the capital of New Zealand, where the Governor should reside, and where all the Government offices, the head-quarters of the military, bringing a large expenditure, and numerous other collateral advantages would be found. To my surprise, I discovered great coldness and apathy, in the early part of the session, on this subject. It was not till after some little inquiry that I found the clue. Then a kind Wellingtonian informed me that "His Honor the Superintendent was a very great man in Wellington now, but with a Governor present he would sink below zero, like the Lord Mayor of London, who to-day is 'My Lord,' but to-morrow, his term of office having expired, returns to the plain Mr. Alderman Snooks, the great candle maker of Shoe Lane, City. Then the Provincial Secretary is almost as good as a Prime Minister for the place now, but would have to play second fiddle if a Colonial Secretary stepped into the orchestra. And, as for the unfortunate Provincial
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Council, they would not even be able to secure the attendance of a small boy in their strangers' gallery if a real Colonial Assembly for all New Zealand met in the town occasionally. Then there is Mr. Fox (often confounded by the illiterate with the real original Mr. Fox, of whose death they are uncertain), he might, in the General Assembly, be made to 'sing small' by some Mr. Pitt or other, whereas everybody will allow there is no chance of finding an animal of that sort to refute his vagaries in the Provincial Council at Wellington."
I mention all this to show you the reason why the Wellington men in the last session were such rabid Provincialists. Of course this would not apply entirely to any place but that where the capital should be fixed, but still more or less ab uno disce omnes, the taint ran through them all. Nelson was the most sound. And this brings me to the grand question which was really paramount at the commencement of the first sitting of the New Zealand Parliament.
It will greatly conduce to the proper understanding of this vital question if we look, by way of preface, into the three great systems of Government which have ruled vast numbers of Freemen in modern times. I shall use my own form of nomenclature, explaining as I go on. There is the Centralist, the Unionist, and the Seperatist. I call the French mode the extreme of centralization. Not a thing can be done in any part of the compact Gallic territory, but like an electric shock some notification or other is felt at the centre. The people for centuries have been used to have things done for them by Government, private enterprise has thus been placed in the second rank, and men never act for themselves except, when after long suffering, they burst like a torrent, breaking its banks to commit havoc and destruction for a period, and to be recalled to order only by the iron hand of a worse despotism. Paris, like a great spider, watches every motion in the web-covered territories of which she is the metropolis, and not a movement of a human insect, however humble, but is at once pounced upon and enquired into. A century more of Municipal training, which is not now in action, would scarce suffice to bring such a people to the pitch required for the effective working of "Local Self-Government," "Representative institutions," and "Responsible Ministries." God forbid I should ever see the French system here! The American method is the extreme, on the other hand, of separation, kept together by the federal bond. This is the Federation proper, and of this I must treat at large presently. The best example of the Unionist policy is the British, which is a most admirable mean, combining the good qualities, and avoiding the evils of both the others.
It is this latter which I fondly hoped would prevail in New Zealand, and so it will, but unfortunately not just now. I regret it, I cannot say how deeply, but the separatist policy is that which will rule the land of my adoption for many a day to come. The die is cast, and none can say how long its impress will be stamped on the acts of our rulers. It may be for twenty years. It may be but ten, or it may be fifty. A long war in Europe would, perhaps, leave us a Hexarchy for the half century! And again, a bare lustrum of peace
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and prosperity might send us her thousands out of whom the political Egbert will inevitably arise to restore to us the blessings of Union as in the days of yore in Old England.
That this must come about sooner or later, I have no more doubt than that I am addressing you at this moment. It is a mere question of time. The very configuration of the country requires and ensures it. How were the present divisions obtained? By the use or abuse of what became regular New Zealand political slang phrases! One was "Geographical difficulties." Another, "Diversity of interests." And first of the latter. Who created and kept them up? Why, the New Zealand Company, and the rulers of the country. Did not the company truckle and pander to every class scheme of that arch schemer Edward Gibbon Wakefield? Assuredly they did, and the mischief, the bitterness, and the strife that has ensued, is still extant, and will ensue therefrom, must be laid at their door. Did not their paid and salaried servants keep up these diversities which had been so designedly and deliberately initiated? Certainly they did. I am speaking generally. Many of the Company's servants had the manliness to denounce the juggle when their eyes were opened, but others kept it up as if their lives depended on it.
And the Rulers of the country, the very men who ought to have done all they could to remove these "diversities of interests" and regretable distinctions! What did they towards their extinction? At all events they never tried the greatest humanizing, civilizing, and liberalizing method of all--Free Intercommunication. What did Sir George Grey towards this end--towards drawing the various settlements together and removing differences? Is he not the man who preached separation, and pleaded, ad nauseum, another of Mr. Wakefield's slang phrases, "difficulties of communication?" When he was doing nothing to remove them, and that, too, in a country in which, above all others I ever saw, it is most easy to establish postal intercommunication. In the language of the Arithmetician--Given a good powerful steamer required to find the difficulty. A problem answered by the Messrs. Willis and the New Zealand Parliament conjointly, by the one supplying the Nelson steamer, the other a subsidy of a paltry six thousand per annum, and the "great difficulty" of Mr. Wakefield and Sir George Grey, and a host of sucking colonial politicians in England, instantly vanished, together with the necessity they urged for six separate States with all the paraphernalia and expense attendant, which they, by their charlatanism, have all but forced upon this country. I verily believe, if a good handsome grant in support of steam communication had only been made a few years since, instead of keeping up a useless and lumbering brig, we should never have heard anything of the Federal and separate State system, which is now in the ascendant, and the defence of Sir George Grey by Mr. Frederick Peel and the Duke of Newcastle, on the ground of these very "difficulties," rendering it impossible to call the General Assembly sooner after the proclamation than was done, would all have been impossible. It is, however, an evil which must in the end cure itself, There are six Provinces now, The principle carried out will
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ensure sixty. Already the evidence of this is apparent. Does anyone here imagine that the people at the "Bluff" will consent to be governed by the Provincial Council of Dunedin? Of course not. The moment they are strong enough they will merely have to bellow out the old well used and successful slangisms, "difficulties of communication," "diversity of interests," "differences of origin and of opinion," &c., &c., proceed to tar and feather the first unfortunate collector of some obnoxious tax, and the ultimate Southern Province will be as good as proclaimed. There will remain nothing to do but to elect the Superintendent and Provincial Council.
In this illustrative case there are real difficulties of intercommunication at the boundary of the Otago Block. There exist a large and rapid river, a formidable gorge, and a difficult mountain track thence for many miles. It is true there is a splendid highway by sea, but that goes for nothing, as we have seen in New Zealand. Well, then there is another formidable mountain barrier to the north, and plenty of talk already of separation there, which will probably increase when the Dunedin dog tax collector returns some day looking more like a mutton bird than he ever did before. And then, what is to be done? The only thing I can think of is a formidable expedition, consisting of the Superintendent at the head of the one policeman. Seriously, however, for this is a very serious matter, what is to be done in these small communities to enforce laws obnoxious to the peculiar interests of any well filled outlying district? Where is the force to come from which must sometimes be needed, and where is the division of the country to end? A good strong Central General Government, after the example of Britain, might enforce obedience in a proper manner to righteous legislation; but these miserable village States, swayed as they are likely to be occasionally by a few exclusive bigots, who have managed to wriggle themselves into power (as they conceive it), can and will be defied with impunity. It is holding out a premium to agitation. Any busy, fussy sort of body, who will come to New Zealand now with a few score of coadjutors and purchase a property in the neighbourhood of some harbour along the coast, has nothing to do but to get a sufficient number of people round him, set up the old slang war cries, arrange with Mr. Sharp, the attorney, that he shall be Provincial Solicitor, with a snug salary, Mr. Prate to have the office of Provincial Secretary, Mr. Molasses, the merchant, to be Treasurer, and Mr. Furlong to be the Surveyor, &c., &c., &c., to the new Province "as is to be," he himself of course the Superintendent, and the thing is done. The people pay the piper, and in this way I see no reason why every little bay and indentation of the whole coast line should not, ere the before mentioned Egbert arrives, set up for a separate Province, until at last they be reduced to what the British Parliament intended from the first they should be, simple municipalities. But this, I admit, is for the present a dream of the future, a mere dream of the future.
"'Tis true, 'tis pity; pity 'tis, 'tis true."
It will doubtless be more profitable to look at the bare reality of the present.
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By both parties at Auckland the Constitution was treated as mere waste paper. Whatever the Constitution Act barred was the very thing they both proposed to meddle with at once. One set proposed to get round the prohibition by a quibble, a quirk, and a dodge. This was the FitzGerald-Sewell policy. The other thought to effect the same object in an open, but almost defiant manner; this was the Wakefield imagination. It is quite certain that if the first FitzGerald Waste Lands Bill had been passed, any one of the thirteen subjects, with which the Provincial Governments are declared incompetent to deal, could and would have been handed over to them by a precisely similar manouvre. Now this exactly suited the thorough going Provincialists, and as the majority of the House were that way inclined, there were of course spanking divisions in its favour. I did not like the Provincial theory, and consequently did not like the Bill; but I objected to it--the Empowering and Executive Bills--upon other grounds. They proposed to vest very large latitudinarian powers in an Executive to be afterwards named--powers which it is not usual in the Home country to give to a Ministry, and where I should have desired to see much more explicit, clear, and direct legislation. It was also proposed to hand over to a rank political partizan, such as under the elective system a Superintendent is likely enough to be, the appointment of officers having a judicial capacity, than which nothing can be more dangerous as tending to pollute the very fountain of justice. It was further proposed to place in the same hands powers to organize, equip, drill, and call out bodies of Militia in the various Provinces, thus leaving to the future to solve whether an equally bad use might not be made of such a force here as has been the case before now in the Helvetian Republic, even in our own day. A Catholic canton on the one hand arranging its forces against a Protestant on the other, and vice versa, without the cognizance of the General Swiss Diet, and often in defiance of them.
These powers, I conceive, should remain with the Crown as at Home. However, it could not be on account of its handing over too much to the Provinces that Mr. Wakefield objected to it, for he told me himself that "he hoped before he died (and he is now verging towards the last years of three score and ten) to see six separate States in New Zealand, with (not six Lieutenant Governors, but) six Governors, and a Governor-General for the whole." These were his ipsissima verba!" Now, I say it with deference as opposed to the opinion of a man of such talent and experience as Mr. Wakefield, but I think this an absurdity as applied to a country of the size of New Zealand.
I can understand that New Zealand may federate, but not with itself, which this Hexarchal scheme would render obligatory.
I can understand the colonies of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Van Diemen's Land, each of them immense territories as large as many of the larger European States, with the exception of the latter, which is an Island peculiarly constituted. I can understand, I say, that these should federate in the proper sense of the term. I can even understand a great Austral
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Band or League for the regulation of postal and tariff arrangement, and composed of all these as integral portions, which New Zealand should join, and thus federate as before observed; but I cannot understand her federating with herself, with a cumbersome machinery of Governors and Governor-Generals, and Central Congresses, and Provincial Parliaments, composed of Upper and Lower Houses, for here is what I before hinted at. If you adopt the American federal system, giving the Provinces powers equal to States, and allowing them to legislate in the same manner as one of the States of the Union, you must for safety sake copy their example of having two Chambers in each State, or you will at once fall into an error they never were guilty of, namely, single Chamber legislation. For certainly, as things are now going, your General Assembly is or will soon be reduced by tacit consent to a mere Board for the regulation of postal and tariff matters, without power, and which even in these points the Provinces will defy, either openly or secretly, as they may feel disposed.
Then you must establish a Supreme Court, without which a Federation would not be workable. It has to judge cases between parties of different States, between different States themselves. Its jurisdiction being respectively appellate or original, and you must be prepared to accept all the confusion and evil which would undoubtedly ensue from different laws on the same subject in the different Provinces. Now, I ask, is all this lumbering, complex machinery suited to these small Islands, and would not the old British plan have been far preferable. If you answer "Yes," then you would neither have agreed with the Wakefield or FitzGerald principles. But you will say, how came they, then, to disagree? I believe they need never have done so if common tact had been used when Mr. FitzGerald was forming his Ministry.
I remember an old Play in which an ancient legal gentleman always would quarrel with everybody who would not take his advice. He was made to say on all occasions, "If you like my advice, take my advice, and take it. If you don't like my advice, take my advice, and don't take it. Anyhow take my advice. Six and eightpence, Sir, if you please." Now, Mr. Wakefield's position with regard to New Zealand unquestionably entitled him to expect that he should have the six and eight, like the old gentleman just alluded to. This was not done. His advice was not asked, and he consequently placed himself in opposition and tripped up his less cautious and more youthful adversaries as they thus became. I believe good will accrue to the country out of this very split.
Before leaving the great general question of federative or unionist principles for this country, I should be glad if you would listen for a moment to the opinions of a man who has long been prominent in the liberal ranks of British statesmen, who is a bright ornament of the country that gave him birth, and who has done more towards pushing forward measures of real practical reform than most of his compeers. I mean Henry Lord Brougham. We are not yet a Federation, and
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perhaps if the people of this country be awakened in time to the evils that such a bond would bring with it, they may still avert an incalculable amount of mischief.
Lord Brougham, speaking of the American Constitution, says:-- "We have seen that this Constitution professed to lay down certain fundamental laws, which are binding not merely on the subject but on Congress itself, and upon all the State Legislatures. Hence arises the anomaly that the Supreme power is fettered: there is not, properly speaking, a Supreme power; Congress is tied up: that is done by the American Constitution which in the British is held impossible; the hands of the Legislature are bound; a law has been made which is binding on all future Parliaments. When we at first contemplate this state of things it appears to be sufficiently anomalous; and yet a little reflection will show us that it is to a certain extent the necessary consequence of the Proper or Perfect Federal Union. There is not as in Britain a Government only, and its subjects to be regarded, but a number of Governments--of States--having each a separate and substantive and even independent existence, originally thirteen, now two and thirty, and each having a Legislature of its own, with laws differing from those of the other States. It is plainly impossible to consider the Constitution which professes to govern this whole Union, this federacy of States, as anything other than a Treaty, of which the conditions are to be executed for them all; and hence there must be certain things laid down, certain rights conferred, certain provisions made, which cannot be altered without universal consent, or a consent so general as to be deemed equivalent for all practical purposes to the consent of the whole. A most extensive provision is made for maintaining this Constitution and repressing all infractions upon it, whether by the Central or the Local Legislatures. The States Courts, the Supreme Court especially, have the right, and it is their bounden duty to declare any given law which may have been made with all the appointed forms of legislation, unconstitutional as against the fundamental provisions of the Union, or as against the laws of any given State, and to refuse it all operation and effect. Thus, a law--a solemn act by the Supreme Legislative Power in one State, or by Congress itself, a statute clothed with all the legal solemnities, a law, for example, to which the two Houses of Congress and the President have given their assent, is declared to be illegal, is pronounced to be no law, is adjudged not to be binding, is treated as a mere nullity, because contrary to the Constitution; and this is done by Judges appointed to execute the law and to administer justice under it."
Now this unpleasant predicament is a certain result of the federative bond which must ensue here if the present separatist principles be carried out, as they certainly will be, should the people not interfere, and that right speedily. Lord Brougham continues:-- "Besides the other defects of the Federal Union, its manifest tendency to create mutual estrangement, and even hostility between different parts of the same nation, is an inseperable objection to it. Small communities are exceedingly apt to conceive against their neighbours feelings
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of rivalry, jealousy, and mistrust; each individual hearing so considerable a proportion to the whole society that the worst personal prejudices and passions are nourished, and the tone of the whole takes the turn which these bad passions tend to give it. If any illustration of this truth were wanted, we have only to look to the history of the Italian Republics. The Government always is influenced by such feelings, most of all in a democracy, but in a great degree also in an aristocracy, and even in a petty principality. For the rulers themselves, in such a narrow community, partake of the general sentiments even if public opinion should not sway them. Whoever would see further proofs of this position may be referred to the ancient Commonwealths of Greece. As a Florentine hated a Siennese worse than a German, or a Spaniard, or even an infidel in modern times, so of old did an Athenian hate a Spartan, or a Theban, worse than a Persian. Now the Federal Union, by keeping up a line of separation amongst its members, gives the freest scope to these pernicious prejudices, feelings which it is the highest duty of all Governments to eradicate, because they lead directly to confusion and war."
I have hitherto made repeated reference to the United States of America, almost I fear too often; but the truth is, no other instance affords so remarkable and instructive an example and warning to the people at present inhabiting these Islands. Why should we refuse to profit by the experience of nearly a century's trial of the Separatists' theory? Why should we accept a miserable brass farthing imitation of Yankee-Doodleism in its worst features, when there is so much that is good which we could copy to our great advantage? The Great Washington, Hamilton, and several other early American Statesmen, did all in their power, at the time of the declaration of Independence, to avert the evils so forcibly described by Lord Brougham; but Jefferson, Hamilton's rival, at the head of the furious Provincialists of that day, succeeded in defeating these wise proposals and introduced others, the sad effects of which are to be seen in bold relief as beacons for our guidance.
Now, however, I will go further back to parallel the state of affairs I saw up at Auckland with regard to a body of men who are playing a very remarkable part in the present political crisis. I allude to the Superintendents, and I call them a body, because in number in a House of only thirty-seven members, and with the immense patronage they possess, they were a very formidable body, formidable to the rising liberties of the people of this country. There were no less than five out of the six present, and the influence they exercised was very noteworthy. The officer administering the Government was himself a Superintendent, a position he never ought to have held. The Prime Minister (Mr. FitzGerald) was a Superintendent, and pretty handsomely he looked after the powers of his office. The people of Nelson had wisely determined that their Superintendent should not sit in the House of Representatives, but he was present in Auckland during a considerable portion of the session, as was also the Superintendent of New Plymouth, The Superintendent of Wellington was also present
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as a member of the House. I believe it was a great blot in the Constitution ever to allow these gentlemen to fill the position of representatives, or to leave their posts for the purpose of forming another estate up in Auckland, as they did; for a more dangerous phalanx than they could become I cannot easily imagine. As it was, they used to meet, lay their heads together, and what with their own members, and the numerous votes they could, for excellent reasons, command, would dictate pretty well what course they wished to be pursued.
Really the reference I am about to make to the ancient Confederacy of Boeotia will, I think, warrant the proposition I have to deduce from it, that if these pranks are to be continued we should follow so good an example.
It would be far cheaper and simpler than the present complex machinery. In the old Greek Confederacy then, there were ten principal cities, each governed by a Boeotarch, who answered as nearly as may be to the Superintendent of New Zealand. Thucidides in speaking of them, assigns to the Boeotarchs and Councils supremo dominion. These, for the Government of the whole country, met once a year, and formed what was termed a Diet. Each delegate or Boeotarch acted almost exclusively as the advocate of the special interest of the city of which he was chief magistrate. Now, this, to judge from their proceedings and expressed opinions up at Auckland, would exactly suit the ideas of several of the present chief magistrates of New Zealand Provinces. Their ultra Provincial notions would make the General Assembly a useless excrescence. How much better then and simpler not to send any members at all, but let the Superintendent for the future act as delegate to the capital for a month or two in every year. No longer stay would be required for, being a colony, we could not, even in our Diet, take into consideration the questions of peace or war, or relations with Foreign States, which occupy so much of the time of Imperial Parliaments and assemblies of independent Powers.
A very short time would suffice to settle the matters of Tariff and Postal arrangements to the full satisfaction of their Mightinesses the Boeotarchs, for I propose that they should have the title, as being more sonorous and better suited to the increased dignity of the office than the present one, which is apt to be confounded with the heads of the Police Department, and was, to my personal knowledge, expressly selected by the British statesmen who framed the Constitution Act on purpose that they might not have too conceited an idea of themselves. I say the name was carefully selected as a reminder to the holder of the office, of the kind of duties he was expected to perform. I can positively affirm that the words "Lieutenant Governor" were in the first drafts of the Act, but were thought too grand and to imply too great powers. The term "Superintendent" was finally fixed upon as indicative that even as a Superintendent of Police has to see to the efficient performance of their duties by the force under his command, and to look after the peace and order of his district or
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borough, so a Superintendent of a Province was to see that his executive did their duty, and look after the peace, order, and good government of his Province; but in like manner as it would he highly indecorous for a head police officer to be a violent party-man, so it would he in the highest degree improper for a Superintendent to be a heated partizan. It was intended that from the moment a Superintendent accepted office he should he a man of no party, even as the Queen of England is Sovereign of all parties, not of any party in particular. It was never dreamt that such office-holders should go in troops to the capital and influence the legislation of the country. Nor was it supposed possible that such outrageous proceedings, as we have witnessed here in Otago, could come to pass. That anyone holding the modest title of Superintendent should take upon himself to disperse his Parliament after the manner of a Protector; should lecture and dictate to the people's representatives in a style that would never he tolerated from the Governor of a State in America, and hardly from the President himself; should refuse to govern by the time-honored system of Britain; should laugh at responsible government; insult some members, and keep others in place, who have neither fitness for office nor the confidence of the House or people. And all this because this Superintendent has an obstinate and rooted desire to carry out a peculiar set of class principles in an absurdly small portion of the magnificent Province whore he has the honor to be Chief Magistrate.
To sum up my impressions of the general current of opinion, which seemed to pervade honorable members at Auckland, another extract will describe, in better language than I can use, the difference I wish to convey. Lord Brougham, after reviewing the various experiments, says:-- "In all these attempts (ancient, Dutch, Swiss, and American) it must be carefully kept in mind that there was nothing whatever of 'Representation.' There was choice, there was election, the people selected a functionary and appointed him as their delegate --that is as the delegate of the whole community--to act for it in the convention of delegates from other similar communities. He was to declare their particular will, and not consult for the good of the whole. Each member of the Federal Union was heard by its delegate, as if it had been heard by itself. He was like an Ambassador sent to treat with the Ambassadors sent by other States. He was not a Representative sent by one portion of a community to consult with the Representatives of other portions of the same community, and to devise the measures best adapted for securing the interests of the whole. On the contrary, he was an agent commissioned to watch over the separate independent and possibly conflicting interests of his principal. In some sort the interest of the whole Union was to be regarded, because it was the interest of the part which sent him to preserve the existence of the whole. Mutual protection, the origin of the Association, implied mutual aid, and in a certain degree mutual sacrifices, for the safety of the whole. In no other sense had the delegate a true representative character. This is the first and leading distinction between the ancient and modern principles.
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"The other distinction is hardly less important. The General Council or Diet had no concern whatever with the internal administration of the States which were represented in it. The only subjects of its deliberations were those matters which concerned the mutual intercourse of the different States, and their common interests with respect to foreigners and other States, or their confederacies. Each State was sovereign and independent with itself, and administered exclusively its own affairs.
"Nothing can more than this show how entirely the delegates must be considered as mere agents or ambassadors, how different their functions were from those representatives, how completely the Government of the whole Federacy differed from a Representative Government. The utmost that can be said is, that the Union was representative, quoad hoc, representative as far as the international relations of the different members and the common relations of the whole with foreign powers were concerned. In the same sense Ministers, sent to a Congress of European Powers, may be said to represent the different States in settling international questions and questions regarding other powers not admitted to the Congress.
"The Representative principle, the grand invention of modern times, is entirely different in both these essential particulars. It consists in each portion of the same community choosing a person to the share of that portion in the General Government of the whole shall be entrusted; and not only the administration of the affairs of the whole as related to other communities, on the administration of the affairs of each portion in its relation to other portions of the State, but the administration of all the concerns whatever of that separate portion. Thus the delegate from Thebes, in ancient times, or the Boeotarch, as he was called, being probably a Lord and the Chief Magistrate, in his quality of Deputy of the Diet, only represented the interests of Thebes in that Diet, and he only consulted there respecting the relations between Thebes and the other Boeotian cities, or respecting the relations of the whole Boeotian Union with Foreign States, as Athens or Sparta. But the Representative from London to the British Parliament, or from Paris to the French Chamber of Deputies, are authorized not only to consult respecting the relations of Paris with Marseilles, and of London with Liverpool, or of all England with America, or all France with Spain, but they have exactly the same authority to consult and enact respecting the police, the magistracy, the civil rights, the criminal laws of London and Paris.
"The difference here stated between the Federal delegate and the Representative does not depend upon the way in which he may regard a representative's duty with respect to the interest which he is bound to consult. Whether he is to obey the instructions of those who choose him, or to follow in the course indicated by his own judgment. Whether he is to regard himself as representing those who elect him, or the whole State, he is still vested with an authority, and exercises functions different, and different in kind, from those of the delegate to a Federal Congress. The matters, respecting which he is to consult, and on
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which he is to decide, are specifically different from those which fall within the delegates province. They include the latter, but their most important branch is foreign to the commission of the delegates That commission is in its nature somewhat occasional.
"When a treaty is in progress, when any dispute has arisen between members of the Federacy, then the functions of the Congress come into active service. But the duties of the representatives comprising the administration of internal affairs, the affairs of every portion of the community of each State in the league, are constant and not occasional."
At the risk of wearying you, I have now placed before you the difference between the Federal delegate and the Constitutional representative, and I have done this because at the present juncture a right comprehension of this extremely difficult question and a proper mastering of the distinction between the two kinds of functionaries is essential to the understanding of what passed at Auckland. For at least two-thirds of the House of Representatives appeared to me to be supporting measures which would inevitably render unnecessary the functions of the representative proper, and bring into activity the occasional Federal delegate only. The thing was not done, but that was the tendency, and the mischief to the South, and especially to small communities like Otago, can be best estimated when it is known that an Auckland member proposed that the Province of Auckland should be represented by 21 members in a House of 48 for all New Zealand, and this too was supported by Mr. Wakefield, the originator of the Separate State motion.
Otago was to retain its two, and what sort of chance I should like to know would it have in such a Congress when its interests clashed with those of the North. The idea was monstrous, and was only equalled by the treason which induced these same Southern members not to vote on the question of having the seat of Government in a more central place than Auckland.
Electors of Otago! take my advice, and mark every man who was a defaulter on the division in question, one in which the best interests of this place were scandalously sacrificed.
In a social point of view the result of a leaning to separatist principles is equally reprehensible. The same great writer from whom I have so largely quoted says:-- "Undoubtedly great public spirit may be expected to prevail in such a community, each individual of whom feels his own weight and importance, instead of being merged and lost in the countless multitude of a larger State.
"But the advantage is more than counterbalanced by the attendant evils of petty contracted ideas, which such a narrow community engenders, and especially by the restlessness which arises among all the people when each takes as much interest in the State concerns as if they were his own. There is thus produced both an over zeal, a turbulent demeanour, a fierce and grasping disposition, hardly consistent with the peace of a community; and also a proportionate inattention
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to men's private affairs, inconsistent with the dictates of prudence, and a disregard of the domestic ties, equally inconsistent with the charities of private life."
All this sounds very melancholy just now that we are about to be plunged into the very dangers so lucidly described by the great Ex-Chancellor. But it is far better we should go into them with our eyes open than blind our senses to results which must follow the fashionable doctrines of the day, so sure as that light comes with the rising of the sun. And, indeed, we shall have but little choice in the matter, and must e'en go with the torrent which is already flowing fast and furious in the older and more powerful Provinces.
I have now, Gentlemen, at some length, explained to you my views on the great question which agitated New Zealand at the time of the first gathering of her accredited politicians. You will perceive that I desired to follow in the well tried and glorious path of our forefathers in Britain, as contra-distinguished from the extreme Separatist system of America, on the one hand, and on the other, from the pernicious and liberty-destroying over-centralization of France. Any vote or opinion either in my place in the House, or out of it, when this subject was discussed, was given in accordance with this deliberately and decidedly adopted principle.
The next question in point, both of order and importance, that merits attention is, that of "Responsible Government." On this there were differences of opinion as to the manner of carrying out the principle, but none as to the necessity of adopting it one way or the other.
You will find a speech of mine in the New Zealander on this subject, which will give you my publicly recorded conviction on this matter long before the celebrated "difference" which took place between the Officer Administering the Government and his first advisers under the new system. You will perceive that I declared my persuasion that no other plan could be devised which would work harmoniously with the free institutions under which we now lived that I thought no other than the "responsible" form possible, and that I entirely separated myself from all who were inimical to it. When, however, the "difference" I have just alluded to did take place I was obliged to side with His Excellency, for the sole reason that, after calm consideration, I found he had done all he could do to inaugurate the "responsible" form, and that more was demanded of him than was absolutely necessary for a brief period, and than as a man of honor in his peculiar position I thought he could accede to.
You will observe a wide difference between this and what has recently occurred in this Province of a somewhat similar nature.
In the first instance, there were real practical difficulties in the way. In the latter, there was nothing to prevent the Superintendent from acceding to the wishes of a majority of his Parliament, and, after the immemorial custom of constitutionally governed countries calling in a ministry which would command the confidence of that Assembly.
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The next point to which I will allude is the "notice of motion" which drew from the ministry the introduction of a clause into the Waste Lands Bill, and upon which clause one of the members you sent to the House of Representatives recorded a vote at variance with the other two.
This notice was called forth by a speech or address of his Honor the Superintendent of Otago, in which he advocated a tax for the exclusive benefit of one class of Her Majesty's subjects in Otago and other objectionable class differences, a report of which reached Auckland just at this period. I cannot well describe to you the strong feeling which was almost universally expressed upon perusal of this document. I was asked on all sides, What! do your people at Otago suffer their representatives to be lectured and browbeat by such documents as these? Is this the liberal majority you have declared to us does exist in your Province? Does this advocacy of a State Church come from the Free Church? My answers were: I still maintain that there is a liberal majority in Otago--that they desire the destruction of the class scheme as much as I do, and that the true spirit of the Free Church is not breathed in that document. I will prove to you that I think this by my acts here, and I will rely upon my convictions and appeal to the people on my return.
It was evident that something decisive was necessary, for this settlement was sinking fast in the estimation of all liberal men.
My position in bringing this matter forward for solution, in the first place by the General Assembly, was, in a very humble manner, similar to that of one of England's greatest poets and patriots, the immortal John Milton, when he himself, a Presbyterian Puritan, wrote these words on the title page of one of his most glorious prose works:--
"The Areopagitica, being an apology for the liberty of the Press, occasioned by the tyranny of the Presbyterians by follies which have surrounded the name of 'Puritan' --the name of a magnificent people --with contempt." That is the great man's title page.
In like manner, but in humble guise, I said that which I said in Auckland. I did that which I did there, to free a liberal people from the slur, and a liberal church from the opprobrium, which a "little platoon" would fasten upon them.
I wished it to be distinctly understood that the proposition I before alluded to is scouted by the liberal members of the Free Church of Scotland in Otago, who are unquestionably the majority, and that it is but a narrow but active minority who uphold it. But it was to show these last that the liberal spirit of the age prevails in the General Assembly of New Zealand, and to leave them no hope of further exclusiveness that I proposed to take the sense of the Houses on the subject before us. Alas! it was such men, as the "little platoon" I have just alluded to, who made the immortal bard exclaim, "How many things might be tolerated in peace and left to conscience had we but charity, and were it not the chief stronghold of our hypocrisy to be for ever judging one another." And what else is it but "judging" another to oblige him to contribute towards the "building"
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of an establishment from which he dissents. It is adjudging him to pay a fine because he does not agree with oneself, and therefore "judging" him for his opinion.
Thank God, I am of a family who have ever protested against the injustice of dissenters paying church rates in England. Thank God, that after centuries of struggle the British House of Commons has at last decreed that they shall he swept away, even though the State Church go with them.
Having consistently denounced them there, I could fearlessly attack them here, although years of prescriptive exaction gave a gloss to the injustice there which was utterly wanting here.
And yet the very basis of the class Schemes attacked by me in Auckland must he injustice of this sort on the non-conformist. The only way to obviate this would he to imitate the example of old Spain; make it penal for dissenters to exist within the territories of the Schemers; expel such a miscreant as should ever alter his ideas on the peculiar views he once thought right; confiscate his property and render him a pariah and an alien. Unless this were done the first seceder would be the nucleus of agitation, bitterness, wrath, strife, dissention, and all that is unholy and unchristian. This has been the case here, and has been the case in the Old Country with the State Church, and her answer to dissenters, "If you do not like church rates, be off to America where you will have none to pay."
Does any one doubt the result?
Gentlemen, I said up in Auckland, and I repeat it to you here, it is time the unsound nature of the ground upon which these class settlements have been vegetating should be laid bare. The stunted character of their growth pointed out, and their blighting influence over the district where they exist brought to light. It is time we should recognize that these class Schemes are a rampant offence against sense and justice; that they cause theological squabbles to be brought to bear perniciously upon the policy of the country; that, in fact, they are fit only to be the "pabulum" of a class of human beings described by the great Puritan in the work I have before quoted from as "bigoted and fearful, who had rather the world went without light at all if the light came not through their casement," who are ever ready to disinter a defunct body for the purpose of fighting over its corruption, like wolves over a corpse they have rooted up.
Happily, there are few of this kind. Fortunately, wise men can see their own mistakes and admit that a body of well-intentioned theorists were disappointed in the measure of success they fondly hoped would attend their theories in practice. It has been well said that "all attempts of the kind must necessarily be experimental in the same way that all great changes in legislative policy must inevitably be experimental to a great degree but a wise theorist will be ready to retrace his steps when he finds insuperable difficulties, in like manner as a wise lawgiver will ever be ready to abandon his course when he finds that he has, without desiring it, entered upon the wrong one. What are we asserting in this, but that men are finite beings who never can calculate upon the result of their most deliberate measures?
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Nevertheless, there must be an entire absence of party feeling, there must exist no cause to warp the judgment when deciding as to success or failure. There must be no hankering after a darling pet Scheme, no defending its evidently unjust tendencies in the way that a fond mother ever takes the part of the most mischievous of her children. And, especially, there must be no retaining fee or hope of favour to be obtained by the transmigration of the spirit of the Scheme to another substantive corporation.
Now, I will not say whether all who are pronouncing judgment on this question are in a position to answer entirely free from any such bias; but, I maintain, that until they are so situate, their evidence must be looked upon with suspicion, they cannot be admitted as likely to form an honest judgment until all connection, all ties, have been severed with the Scheme at the bar of public opinion.
Fellow colonists, it was by such words and acts that I did my best to relieve you from the millstone which, from the commencement, has been hanging about the neck of this fine settlement, from the incubus that has paralyzed and weighed her down.
My great opponents were--Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, who claims the paternity of the Scheme, his son, who is therefore its brother, and Mr. Macandrew. Mr. Wakefield assailed me personally in the House of Representatives, where I had no opportunity of replying. He twisted the facts of the case as an eel does a mesh of wires, and actually asserted that Otago had been a loving, united settlement, without dissension, until your humble servant made his appearance, when it was instantly transformed into a hotbed of fever and discord. How true this was many of you now present, and the pages of the Otago News, now extant, will answer.
Mr. Macandrew took up his song in a much more judicious manner; and, considering the rotten cause he had to defend, did the thing extremely well, he deserves great credit for the talent and caution he displayed on the occasion.
Parodying the old English ditty-
"Pity the sorrows of a poor old man
Whose trembling steps have borne him to your door,"
he commenced his appeal--ad misericordiam-
"Pity the sorrows of a poor Scotch settlement,
Whose chief desire is to keep up their 'scheme,'
Whose only aim is to maintain their babes,
And keep the roaring English Lions from their door."
It really had a great effect, as all appeals to their kinder feelings always have on a true British audience.
Mr. John Cargill sat at his feet doing the part of the "old man's" poodle with his hat in his mouth ready to receive the pence, or rather, in this instance, the votes of sympathy.
Mr. Cutten, to my astonishment, took an opposite view, and growled considerably; he declared, "One might as well try to galvanize a dead frog to life again, as attempt to get any vitality out of the Otago scheme." In fact, he acted as liberal a part as any reformer could desire.
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Dr. Monro, one of the members for Nelson, a true son of Scotia, but an eminently talented and liberal man, exposed the absurdity of the attempt that was made to show that this was a Scotch and English party question. He said that to ally religion to these class schemes was to "prostitute religion," and I think he said well and truly. Really, if it were not mischievous, it would be ludicrous in these days to hear the assertion that a diversity of interests can exist in this Province between the natives of the North and South of the Tweed. After two centuries and a half of Union, at a time when the Protestant Englishman, the Roman Catholic Frenchman, and the Moslem Turk, are fighting the battle of liberty side by side, with Lord Aberdeen, a Scotchman for the able Prime Minister of Old England; we are, forsooth, to keep up distinctions which are forsworn in the places whence we came and behave in a way which was in fashion between the Ngatipaoa and the Aupouri tribes before the arrival of the European, and which they are thoroughly ashamed of now.
In conclusion, I have to say that the object I had in view in going to Auckland was, by every means in my power, to throw open this unrivalled Province to all classes of men upon an equal footing.
The break up of Responsible Government, and the fact that domestic circumstances imperatively called for my return to Nelson, prevented me from pursuing this matter to the end, but I regret it the less seeing that you will have here to give an answer to the question whether you choose to carry on a theory which never can succeed, because it was made to fit human nature rather as it should be, than as it is, or whether you will not rather accept the words of Holy Writ, and I say them with all the reverence of which my nature is capable.
"Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more, but judge this rather that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."
LYON AND BLAIR, PRINTERS, WELLINGTON,
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