1853 - Swainson, William. Auckland, the Capital of New Zealand - CHAPTER I. THE FIRST GOVERNOR OF NEW ZEALAND

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  1853 - Swainson, William. Auckland, the Capital of New Zealand - CHAPTER I. THE FIRST GOVERNOR OF NEW ZEALAND
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The first Governor of New Zealand.

The following sketch of the Capital of New Zealand may not improperly be accompanied by a brief notice of its founder.

It may be remembered that the British Government undertook the colonization of the Islands of New Zealand with great reluctance; for, although alive to their importance, they believed that such a measure would be fraught with calamity to a numerous and inoffensive people. But when it was seen that the country had become the resort of a number of lawless characters; that an irregular species of colonization was already going on, "without law," and "fatal to the natives;" that the New Zealanders were improvidently divesting themselves of their

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territorial possessions; the British Government then undertook, but "with extreme reluctance," its systematic colonization; and, in order to avert from the natives the disasters which threatened them, and to rescue the settlers themselves from the evils of a lawless state of society, it was resolved to adopt the most effective measures for establishing amongst them a settled form of civil government. To accomplish this design was the principal object of Captain Hobson's New Zealand mission.

The duty thus imposed upon him was of no ordinary character--infinitely more arduous than that of governing an old established colony. Before a British colony could be founded in New Zealand everything was yet to be done. The sovereignty over the country was to be obtained by treaty from the natives; territory for the occupation of our countrymen was to be acquired; and the necessary machinery of civil government was to be organized and set in motion. Nor, under the peculiar circumstances of the country, was the establishment of British authority in New Zealand an easy or a popular task. Its native inhabitants are a high-spirited, independent, well-armed, warlike race. A large portion of the European population, too, consisting chiefly of indifferent characters from the neighbouring penal colonies, had long been living in a state of utter lawlessness. To curb and restrain by the strong arm of the law, where all restraint had been unknown--where every man had been a law unto himself--and to put a stop to all private deal-

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ings with the natives for the purchase of their lands, could be no popular duty for the minister of peace. Such, however, was the nature of the service in which Captain Hobson was engaged.

And what were the results of his mission? In the interval between January 1840 and September 1842, during his administration of the affairs of the colony, in the several characters of Consul, Lieutenant-Governor, and Governor, the sovereignty over the country was obtained by treaty from the native chiefs; considerable tracts of land became, by purchase, demesnes of the Crown; the machinery of government, legislative and executive, was organized and put in action; courts of law were established; and enactments were passed to provide for the administration of justice, and to adapt the English laws of real property to the circumstances of the infant colony.

At the commencement of Captain Hobson's career as British Consul, New Zealand was acknowledged to be an independent state. Its native inhabitants were a wild and lawless race; its European occupants were unrestrained by any law, and amenable to no tribunal, and had been alternately the authors and the victims of every species of crime and outrage. At the close of his administration as Governor, the New Zealanders were adopting European habits, many of them yielding a willing obedience to our laws, and generally abandoning the barbarous customs of their race; and the islands of New Zealand, so recently the land of barbarism, had become a dependency of

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the British Crown, where, by means of capital and enterprise, agriculture and commerce had taken root, and where, within the limits of our settlements, life and property were as secure as in the most civilized country in the world.

To protect the New Zealanders in their persons, and in the peaceable enjoyment of their possessions, was also made the special duty of the Queen's representative. And if the native inhabitants of these islands shall escape the fate which has hitherto attended uncivilized tribes when brought into the vicinity of civilized men, they will owe something to the inflexible sense of justice of their "Friend the Governor," who, while living, enjoyed their esteem, and won their confidence, and whose paternal government is still held by them in respectful remembrance.

Another important duty which devolved upon the first Governor of New Zealand was to decide upon the most eligible site for founding a British settlement; and impartial men who have had the opportunity of forming a judgment from personal knowledge, unite in their opinion of the wisdom of his choice.

But by the honest and judicious discharge of this duty, he drew upon himself the bitter hostility of a private association, then recently formed for planting settlements in New Zealand. Although it had been distinctly stated, before their first expedition set sail from England, that her Majesty's Government had no connection with the society described as the

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New Zealand Company, nor any knowledge of their proceedings, and that the Government could hold out no expectation that her Majesty would be advised to recognise or sanction them, yet they were disappointed that the site chosen by their agent for their first and principal settlement was not adopted by Captain Hobson for the site of the principal settlement of the Crown; overlooking the fact that the one was chosen with reference to the permanent interests of New Zealand as a British colony, while the other was selected with reference to the temporary interests, the limited means, and the present views, of a private association, whose proceedings had not then received either the sanction or recognition of the Crown. Closely followed, too, by several hundreds of their settlers, who left England without knowing in what part of these islands they would be allowed to find a footing, the leader of the New Zealand Company's exploring expedition had no time to spare for the making of his choice. Many harbours, moreover, were already pre-occupied by speculators still earlier in the field. Thus, in the selection of a site, the New Zealand Company were limited to yet unoccupied localities; while Captain Hobson, as the representative of the Crown, had all before him where to choose.

Looking to the nature of the duties he had to perform, it is not surprising that he met with the most violent hostility, and that he was assailed with the most rancorous abuse. By abandoning what he believed to be his duty he might have laid the storm;

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by bending before it he might have escaped its force; but he was one of those intrepid spirits who "will either subsist by the integrity of their actions, or perish." The most strenuous efforts were made by his opponents in the colony, backed by the influence of the most politically-powerful association in England, to effect his recall, but without success; and Captain Hobson, without any powerful family or Parliamentary connections--a gentleman who by his own professional merits had attained post-rank in her Majesty's Navy--continued to be Governor of New Zealand to the day of his death. Almost alone-- looking in vain for despatches from home--failing in health--assailed with the bitterest abuse--and uncertain whether his proceedings would be approved by the ministers of the Crown--the last few months of his life were passed in a state of painful and harassing suspense.

Worn out by broken health, and by the cares of his difficult and critical position, Captain Hobson died, on the 10th of September, 1842. Had he lived but a few weeks longer, he would have been cheered by the knowledge that his general administration of the affairs of New Zealand was approved by her Majesty's Government, and that his selection of the site of the capital of New Zealand had received the sanction of the Crown. And he would have been further cheered by receiving from the Colonial Minister the assurance that, in all his transactions with the New Zealand Company, he might rely upon the support of her Majesty's Government

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against the "exaggerated pretensions" of the Company or their agents.

At the close of his earthly career, as at the close of the second Session of the Colonial Council, Captain Hobson might well have declared it to be a matter of pride "that he had had an opportunity of taking part in laying the foundation of the youngest and most distant, but by no means the least important dependency of the Crown." Probably no future Governor of New Zealand, at the close of his career, will receive a more gratifying tribute of respect from the natives than that which was paid to the memory of their first Governor by one of their greatest chiefs. "Mother Victoria," said he in a letter addressed to her Majesty after Captain Hobson's death, "my subject is a Governor for us and the foreigners of this island. Let him be a good man. Look out for a good man--a man of judgment. Let not a troubler come here--let not a boy come here, or one puffed up. Let him be a good man, as this Governor who has just died."

Removed beyond the reach of praise or blame, none will now deny that Captain Hobson had a novel and arduous duty to perform; that he laboured honestly and assiduously to discharge it; and that his services entitled him to the favourable consideration of his country.

To those who may visit the infant capital of New Zealand, a word will point out its founder's monument--


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The founders of the Southern Settlements have now also ended their career; and their colonizing operations, when faithfully recorded, will form an instructive page in the annals of New Zealand.

Taking a broad and general view of their proceedings, it must be accorded to the New Zealand Company that, but for their timely and zealous efforts, New Zealand might have been lost to the dominion of the British Crown; that they hastened the measures too tardily taken for its colonization; and that they simultaneously colonized it at various points with some of the finest settlers who ever left the parent state.

Viewed more narrowly and in detail, their proceedings are deserving of a less favourable judgment. But a record of them ought to be faithfully preserved, if for no other purpose than to point this moral for the guidance of posterity, that Colonization, to be an "heroic work," cannot safely be entrusted to a body of private, irresponsible, projectors.

With reference to the New Zealand Company's second settlement in New Zealand, their Chairman, in his place in Parliament, made this candid statement: that the settlement at Nelson did not fulfil the strict letter of the law; that the scheme of it was not well advised; and that it had not answered the expectations either of the Company or of the settlers.

And at the close of their career, too, the results of the New Zealand Company's colonizing operations generally, were thus summed up in the Legislative

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Council of New Zealand, nemine contradicente: --that notwithstanding the ample means at their disposal, the Company had ended their career without having given a single legal title, to a single individual, of a single piece of land--leaving the whole of their engagements in respect of the disposal of land, during a period of twelve years, unfulfilled and uncompleted --leaving the old colony burdened with a quarter of a million of debt--leaving no agent or representative to assist in the winding up of their affairs--and leaving the Southern Province in such a state of confusion as to claims and titles to land, that it had become essential to its progress that means should be taken to ascertain what were the engagements which had been entered into by that Company, and to provide for their fulfilment and completion by the Colonial Government, at a cost, and in a manner, which, for years to come, could not fail injuriously to affect the progress and prosperity of the Province.

It must have been mortifying to many honourable men, who joined the New Zealand Association with no other object than to aid and take part in what they believed to be a laudable undertaking, to find its governing body charged before Parliament, however falsely, with having had recourse to questionable practices in the conduct of their affairs.

But it can hardly be a matter of surprise that they who have been officially made to appear as the authors of a suggestion that a treaty, made with the people of New Zealand in the name and on the

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behalf of the British Crown, might be set aside as but "a praiseworthy device to amuse and pacify savages for the moment," should, at the end of their career, be publicly charged with attempting to deceive their own New Zealand settlers by means of a deliberate suppression of the truth.

That Association will not, however, have existed in vain, if the experience of New Zealand shall teach the Imperial Government the lesson, which they have hitherto been but slow to learn--that the work of colonization cannot, consistently with the honour of the Crown, the character of the nation, the rights of aborigines, the interests of settlers, and the welfare of the Colony itself, be safely entrusted to a body of private individuals associated together for the purpose of buying, selling, and making a profit by the sale of the waste lands of the Crown.

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