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THERE are certain obligations and rights which are essential to, and inseparable from the relation of Sovereign and subject; and these obligations and rights are neither abrogated nor impaired by the distance of a province or of an individual from the sovereign authority. They remain the same in a colony which is separated by the circumference of half the globe from the seat of the central Government as in the districts which lie contiguous to it.
It is a popular prejudice that by what are called the institutions of self-government, as given by Act of Parliament to colonies of British settlement, the relations of those subjects of the Crown who have become British colonists to the mother country are so altered as to affect, in relation to them, the essential attributes of sovereignty. But it is not so. These attributes are, from their very nature, inalienable and incapable of being delegated to a subordinate authority.
All government under British dominion is the government of the Crown. The powers delegated to colonial authorities are simply for matters of local regulation, and must necessarily, like all subordinate municipal functions, be subject to the law of their delegation; and the maintenance of this law cannot be renounced without a betrayal of the highest trusts which are reposed in the rulers of empire. By the grant of representative institutions, the connection of the Colonies with the mother country is not reduced to an impalpable thread, or to a mere
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relation of sentiment, as assumed by some late theoretical writers on colonies, who have supposed that abuse of authority is its normal condition. It is the strong ligament of paramount law and ultimate authority which binds together, under one head, the individual members of one body. If every colonial question is not also an Imperial question, it becomes so in every case in which a colonial Legislature exceeds its jurisdiction, or a colonial Governor makes an unlawful or unrighteous use of the powers delegated to him, whether by the oppression of the Queen's subjects, or by an encroachment on Imperial authority. Of late years, however, the Colonial Department has so far ignored the obligations which spring out of the necessary relations of Sovereign and subject as to favour the belief that the fundamental laws of the empire are not in force in the Colonies, and that it is no part of the duty of a British Minister to maintain them there.
Notwithstanding that of all public questions those relating to the Colonies are the least attractive to Members of Parliament, it may be fairly assumed that the present condition of many of the Colonies of Great Britain is such as ought to ensure for them, in the approaching session, a degree of attention which is rarely bestowed upon colonial questions. The sacrifice of so many valuable lives, and the expenditure of so much British treasure, in New Zealand, in the hitherto ineffectual attempts to put down the insurrection of the Maories; the proposal to confederate the provinces of North America by a union which, if a judgment may be formed from the results of a similar federation in New Zealand, will not only fail in relieving the Colonial-office from its responsibilities, but bring about complications which will make the true objects of government impossible of attainment; and, more recently, the insurrection of the negroes in Jamaica; and the conspiracy of the
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functionaries of the Government of Victoria to violate the law of the Constitution of that province, may well create a desire to trace those evils to their source, and overcome the repugnance of British statesmen to investigate colonial questions.
"The system called Responsible Government," which has so extended and complicated the machinery of colonial administration as to make it difficult to understand any colonial question, has also created an idea that it is neither competent nor desirable for the Imperial Parliament to interfere with the affairs of the colonists. But the highest and most essential duties of government are of such a nature that no subordinate authority is competent to discharge them; and these duties cannot be ignored without occasioning abuses of the gravest character, the consequences of which, though first felt in the Colonies, are sure to react with double force upon the mother country.
It was expected that the system called "Responsible Government" would relieve the Colonial Department from the greatest part of its labours, but, judging from the voluminous correspondence which appears from time to time in the Blue-books issued from the Colonial-office, it may be safely affirmed that the labours of that office have increased with every concession to the colonial Legislatures; or, to speak with more precision, with every fresh encroachment which they have been allowed to make upon Imperial jurisdiction, until they have become probably tenfold what they would have been under a system that should faithfully maintain the relations which must necessarily subsist between the supreme authority of an empire and every subordinate department of its administration; with which relations the system called "Responsible Government" is absolutely incompatible. While Parliamentary debates and newspaper discussions have
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turned so largely upon the grievance of taxing the people of England in support of colonists who are so much better off than their fellow-subjects at home, it will doubtless occasion surprise, if it should be affirmed that the mischiefs of misgovernment in the Colonies are the direct results of the neglect by the British Government of the most essential of all the functions of government--the maintenance of the law. This may not only be affirmed with respect to New Zealand, but the proofs that it may be affirmed with truth are of such a nature as to leave no room for doubt upon the subject.
If these results have occasioned perplexity to British statesmen, and expense to the British tax-payer, the colonists as a body have much more reason to complain; having been sacrificed to the ambition or cupidity of speculating politicians, whose ruling idea is that the Colonies are made for government, not government for the Colonies; and who, having been allowed to usurp illegal powers, have changed the functions of government from a duty to a trade.
A searching investigation into the transactions of government in New Zealand could not fail to convince the British Government, and the British public, that the unfortunate colonists of the Northern province, who, in addition to their sufferings by the war, have been loaded with taxation and debt, cannot be left to bear those burdens without cruel injustice; nor is there any greater fallacy than that it was in their power to prevent these evils by exercising the privileges of self-government. There could be no more cruel mockery than to taunt the colonists of the Northern province with the enjoyment of such privileges, seeing that they have never ceased to protest, by petitions to the Queen and Parliament, against a Constitution which placed their affairs under the control of the leading men of the New Zealand Company's settlements.
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Such an investigation would also put an end to the assumption that it would be an economy to cut the Colonies adrift, by showing that, so far at least as regards New Zealand, the Home Government, and not the colonists, is to blame for the expenses of the war; and by leading to the inference that if their affairs had been administered under a system of government consistent with the rights and privileges of the colonists as British subjects, they would occasion no expense whatever for their internal administration; while the protection of the Colonial trade would not, in proportion to its value, cost the mother country one tithe of what is necessary to protect the trade with some foreign countries.
It is the object of the following pages to explain and illustrate the true relations of British Colonies to the mother country--a task which, in itself, is not one of difficulty--though it is impossible to avoid the conviction that it has to encounter prejudices of the most inveterate character. The false theories of the late Mr. Gibbon Wakefield, reiterated in every shape and supported as they were during many years by the unscrupulous application of his great talents, have taken such hold of the public mind as to amount almost to a superstition. It is true that his theory of an artificial regulation of the relations of capital and labour to each other by fixing what was called "a sufficient price" for waste lands in the Colonies, and restricting their occupation, and by regulating the supply of labour in proportion to the lands disposed of, has long since collapsed with the ruin of many hundred families who attempted to colonise New Zealand in the faith of so delusive a system. But his system of colonial administration, as developed in the report which goes by the name of Lord Durham, has forced its way, in the face of the profoundest conviction of its falsehood in the mind of every British statesman who has expressed an opinion
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on the subject. It is called Responsible Government but it can only be designated truly as "A PERMISSIVE BETRAYAL OF THE TRUSTS OF LEGISLATION AND GOVERNMENT BY THOSE TO WHOM THOSE TRUSTS HAVE BEEN DELEGATED."
Under the old system of colonial administration, as exemplified in the early American Colonies, British colonists enjoyed the advantages of the same mixed government, and the same Constitutional rights and privileges, as belonged to their countrymen at home.
In an able Report from the Board of Trade on Colonial Constitutions, dated April 4, 1849, the old model of provincial government is recommended in the strongest terms. It says:-- "We think it desirable that the political institutions of the British Colonies should be brought into the nearest possible analogy to the Constitution of the United Kingdom. We also think it wise to adhere as closely as possible to our ancient maxims of government on this subject, and to the precedents in which those maxims have been embodied. The experience of centuries has ascertained the value and the practical efficiency of that system of colonial polity to which those maxims and precedents afford their sanction." Every year's experience of a departure from those maxims and precedents in the establishment of a Democracy, under the semblance of British government, has tended more fully to demonstrate the mischief of a departure from true Constitutional principles. Nor has this departure been so much in the colonial Constitutions enacted by Parliament, as in unfaithful admininistration. Colonial Governors have been encouraged to look upon the Commissions they receive from the Queen, and the Instructions under her Sign Manual and Signet, as so many mediaeval chartularies, which have become obsolete by the progress of events, and which could not be acted upon without defeating the objects
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they were intended to accomplish. Whereas, in truth, it would be difficult to imagine that human wisdom resulting from extensive experience could add anything to the excellence of those instruments; and to their fitness, if faithfully acted upon, to maintain the efficiency of public administration and the security of private rights.
The illustrations of the misgovernment arising from a departure from the old models of colonial Constitutions, and from the unfaithfulness of administration, which prevails in all the Colonies where the system called "Responsible Government" has been introduced, have been drawn almost exclusively from the New Zealand Colonies, in which the leaven of the Wakefield theories has worked with its fullest force; and in which, it is not too much to say, that a disregard of law and right has been the characteristic of legislation and administration. This has been especially shown in the second part of the work, which is confined to a history of the land question.
The dealings with the waste lands which are, in all colonies not fully settled, the most important function of government, assumed in New Zealand new and peculiar shape, from the recognition of that country as a substantive and independent State, and the consequent necessity of procuring, by treaty with the natives, the ultimate dominion over the soil which, in all other colonies, had been assumed as incident to discovery and settlement.
The instructions of the Marquis of Normanby, when Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, on this subject were all that could be desired; and, if they had been faithfully adhered to, would have avoided every difficulty, which the circumstances of the British settlers--who, to the number of two thousand, were established in New Zealand before it became a portion of the British empire--were calculated to create. But
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the conduct of the colonial authorities, sanctioned by the Home Government, were not only a violation of those instructions, but a violation of the plainest instincts and principles of justice and right, as well as of municipal and international law. This being the case, as will fully appear in the narrative, and the results being the insurrections of the Maories, and all the deplorable consequences which have followed, it will at once be seen that it is palpably unjust to charge the colonists with the war or the expenses which it has occasioned. If the government had been a government of law and of good faith there is no reason to suppose that there would have been any rebellion. That it was not a government of law and good faith was owing to the Colonial Department of the State allowing or condoning the illegal and unrighteous acts of the colonial authorities.
It is a vain supposition that the Imperial Government can throw upon the colonists the responsibility of governing a colony as long as it remains a portion of the empire. Every attempt to do so will recoil upon the mother country, and, as has already been proved by experience, give rise to complications and embarrassments such as never could arise from an adherence to the true principles of government. The colonists are as much members of the empire as the citizens of London: subject to the same allegiance and entitled to the same protection. The sovereign power cannot divest itself of the obligations of sovereignty towards the colonist; neither can the colonist divest himself of his allegiance to the sovereign power.
While the results of "Responsible Government" have been, and necessarily must have been, similar in all colonies where it was adopted, inasmuch as falsehood and unfaithfulness must always lead to confusion, it is impossible to look upon the circumstances of each colony as similar or capable of being dealt with by an invariable rule. But whatever changes the lapse of time may
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make necessary, the British Government must be held answerable for allowing and fostering a system which necessarily led to the assumption of the powers of government by persons the least trustworthy, and the most likely to sacrifice the interests of the community to selfish objects, whether of ambition or of gain.
It may be predicated, with some assurance of certainty, that an investigation into the history of all colonies under "Responsible Government" would result in the proof that men of probity have gradually ceased to be connected with the administration of colonial affairs; that men of standing amongst the colonists, whose education and character afforded some assurance of an intelligent attention to the interests of the community, have been forced to yield their places in the Legislature to needy adventurers, who made no scruple of promising to the electors whatever would secure their election; and that no Ministry could hold office who did not make it their chief study to provide salaries and contracts for such men and their connections. Does the British Government owe no reparation to the colonial communities for the demoralisation which has resulted from the trade in Government offices and transactions, and for the ruinous taxation imposed upon them by such a system? The case of Canada is altogether peculiar. It may be wise to make preparations for the establishment of that province as an independent nation; but it would be an act of simple justice, if not an imperative duty, before withdrawing the protection of British laws and British government, to show the colonists the difference between a wise and upright administration, and the ruinous shifts and expedients to which needy and unscrupulous adventurers must resort to maintain their hold of office. The mother country could inflict no greater curse upon the Colonies than to leave them under the power of an oligarchy composed of such
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men; and matters would be much worse under a federation of the provinces. Before such a proposal is carried out in North America let the results of the federation of the New Zealand Colonies be clearly understood. No more ingenious contrivance could be imagined for depriving the colonists of all check upon their representatives, and of establishing an irresponsible oligarchy. This is not a mere supposition. It is capable of being established by the inexorable logic of facts.
A return to lawful and Constitutional administration would, doubtless, occasion an outcry amongst those numerous members of the colonial community whose cupidity or vain-glory has been fed by the oppression of the majority. But were the seals of the Colonial-office held with a firm hand, and subordinate authorities kept within the limits of their lawful jurisdiction, such persons would learn that they were under the government of the Crown, and like other subjects of the Crown must submit to the laws. When agitation and corruption should cease to lead to office and to power over the public revenues, statesmanship, as our colonial demagogues are fond of calling their intrigues, would cease to be a speculation and a trade; the Colonies would cease to occasion either trouble or expense to the mother country; and the fruits of lawful and upright government in the colonies would as surely be peace and prosperity, as the fruits of illegal legislation and unfaithful administration have been insurrection and distress.