1856 - [Campbell, John Logan] Politics and Politicians Dissected - [Text] p 3-16

E N Z B       
       Home   |  Browse  |  Search  |  Variant Spellings  |  Links  |  EPUB Downloads
Feedback  |  Conditions of Use      
  1856 - [Campbell, John Logan] Politics and Politicians Dissected - [Text] p 3-16
Previous section | Next section      


[Image of page 3]

Politics and Politicians.

"If my own watch goes false, it deceives me and no one else; but if the town clock goes false, it deceives the whole parish."
- - - - - DEFOE.

"Madness in great ones must not unwatched go."
- - - - - SHAKSPERE.

THE affairs of this Colony seem careering to a crisis--on our future, "darkness, clouds, and shadows rest;" but looming in that future are thick-coming events. The political atmosphere is charged with explosive materials, and ere long the tempest will burst upon us, as may clearly enough be seen by any politician who, having eyes in his head, can see an inch beyond his nose. Questions to be settled are numerous--some of them dangerous. There is the Maori, or Native question, which none of our responsible Ministers have yet answered in an intelligible manner, but which, unanswered, is a never-to-be-dried-up source of vexation, and which the Colony must answer, sooner or later, quite intelligibly too, on peril of its own existence; the Seat of Government question, a ticklish one, as matters now stand; the Best Mode of Peopling the Colony question; the Land question; the Real Responsibility of Ministers and Representatives question; with many another question, minor, perhaps, but scarcely less important, I think, than those enumerated.

Official wisdom leaved us in the dark, not as regards who shall do, but what shall be done. Party combinations have failed, and party politicians are fast losing the confidence, and with the confidence the respect, of the public. Richard Cobden, when vainly demanding the repeal of an odious Corn Law, warned the Parliament and the people of England that their state vessel was drifting on to confusion, without rudder or compass. I, Peter Plume, warn the Parliament and people of New Zealand, that if they do not, and quickly too, put their political house in order, it will topple down about their ears.

In this Colony there is plenty of elbow room. For centuries to come its people will not be compelled to tread upon each other's heels, much less be reduced to the harder necessity of eating off each other's heads. Hitherto, no disciple of Malthus has found out that we have a surplus population; or, supposing him to have done so, he has kept the discovery to himself. By-and-by, perhaps, some learned Malthusian may help us to conclude that population everywhere, and at all times, has a tendency to press upon subsistence;

[Image of page 4]

and that to prevent the growth of a surplus population by various means--painless extinction of unborn infants among the rest--is the wisest possible statesmanship. But at present, in these fine regions, the means of subsistence do not fail to man. Quite on the contrary, it is man who fails to the means of subsistence. Land, capable of supporting more millions than there now are thousands upon its surface, is ours, or speedily might be. Plenty of land, abundance of water, pleasant salubrious climate--although, I admit, neither so very pleasant nor over salubrious as that of the happy valley where, according to veracious travellers, people could not die--what but brains can we need for all the purposes of social action and political development?

Wise statesmanship would soon set us to rights. It happens, however, that precisely that kind of statesmanship is at a discount in our Colony; political science here resolving itself into political chicanery, and the powers that be into political charlatans, whose marvellously absurd esprit de metier suggests the spirit no less internse or sage of him who, for the beleagured city, recommended a fortification of leather, and whose eternal palaver makes one suspect they came from those funny parts where men's tongues occupy all the space originally intended for their brains.

Dean Swift used to say government was a very simple matter, and lay within the capacity of many heads. Our politics show either that the witty Dean was wrong in supposing the administration of public affairs so easy a business, or the capacity needed, however small, does not lodge in the head-piece of certain grave and potent New Zealand notabilities. Everybody has heard of people with just enough of learning to misquote, and actual circumstances quite plainly indicate that the said notable politicians, or if you please political notabilities, have just enough of talent to mismanage. Genius they cannot be denied; but alas! a genius for blundering is scarcely less injurious than no genius at all. Their arrangements for general confusion have been so wise that New Zealand at this moment is perhaps the worst governed, and, therefore, least flourishing, of all British Colonies.

Five years since, the Messrs. Chambers, of Edinburgh, in one of their admirable "Papers for the People," said:--

"New Zealand offers a combination of advantages presented by few other regions in the world. It is admirably situated for purposes of commerce; its configuration and the nature of its coast afford equal facilities for trade; its climate is all that a native of Great Britain can desire; its soil, with some inconvenient characteristics, is abundantly fertile; it abounds with timber, with many important minerals, with coal and water; it produces all the grains and vegetables known in these (the British) islands; it is in the neighbourhood of great fishing grounds; it is the natural metropolis of the Southern Ocean, and thus, with every natural advantage, there only remains to crown it with prosperity the continued application of British energy.

[Image of page 5]

"The value of New Zealand consists rather in its soil, its climate, its position, and its commercial capabilities, than in its natural productions. The indigenous fruits of the earth are few, and not important; while those that have been introduced render it one of the richest countries in the world. It does not yield, indeed, spices or camphor, or all the luscious delicacies of the Oriental orchard; but it affords the growths of Europe, and that which will purchase from the neighbouring East every rarity its inhabitants could desire to enjoy.

"Few regions in the world, in comparison with the extent of coast line-- about three thousand miles--equal New Zealand in the excellence and abundance of their harbours. Here a commodious, safe, and central rendezvous is offered to the vast shipping trade of the Southern Seas, including myriads of islands, many of them the most fruitful in the world. It might form the entrepot of commerce between the Indian and Polynesian Archipelago, and will probably, when its affairs have been settled liberally, become, as many orators, writers, and economists have prophesied, another Great Britain in the Austral Ocean."

Who that in 1851 read this somewhat highly coloured, but still generally accurate, account of New Zealand, could expect in 1856 to find New Zealand rank amongst the least flourishing and worst governed of all British Colonies. Without doubt, our affairs once liberally settled, this Colony will be another Great Britain in the Austral Ocean--will realize the prophecy of my Lord John Russell by becoming the capital of the British Empire in Australasia. But what climate, what amount or quality of soil, what combination of natural advantages, can avail against the all-withering influence of corrupt and stupid legislation? No where better than here can be found illustration, rich and rare, of that line old apophthegm-- 'Party is the madness of many for the gain of a few.' In their contests with each other, our political parties set no bounds to political passion, and seem wonderfully impressed with the importance of invective, considered as an element in the composition of every sound argument. Certain Kilkenny cats are said to have devoured each other without leaving unswallowed so much as an inch of tail. One might imagine certain politicians who figure conspicuously amongst us were resolved upon a similar process of mutual destruction. They dispute incessantly, and as Nero fiddled while Rome was burning, these notabilities talk while the Colony is going to ruin.

But amidst their din of words it is difficult to hear the still small voice of truth. Newspapers are supposed to be admirable organs of public opinion--purest possible channels of pubic information, and clearest imaginable reflex of public morality. Well, the New Zealander, in a "leader" of May 21st, contains the following in reference to Mr. Fox and his Progress ministry--

"Of the 33 members who have taken part in the late divisions, 16 supported the Sewell Ministry, and 17 voted in opposition to them. The former are united by principles, the latter have been brought together by a series of accidents,

[Image of page 6]

and have no principle in common. At the head of the latter is Mr. Fox, the present premier, who, if anything at all beyond what convenience dictates, is something even more than an ultra-provincialist.

"We have yet to see what will be the success of the Ministry in the House. Their intellectual weight can be nothing; for the only man amongst them of any acknowledged talent is Mr. Fox, who, unhappily for himself, has brought with him from Wellington this character:-- 'That he came up to try his luck in the scramble for place under Responsible Government; and should he be successful, it will excite no surprise if his ultra-provincialism becomes considerably modified--indeed, it would probably be found, in such circumstances, he would be as strong an advocate for centralism as he had previously been for ultra-provincialism; should he be disappointed, of course he will return to his old quarters in the Provincial Treasury, a stronger ultra-provincialist than ever.' How thoroughly Mr. Fox appears to be understood where he is best known!

"What may be the numbers which the present holders of office may find ready to support them when a division involving some important principle shall take place, we are both curious and anxious to see. We can hardly believe that a majority of the House of Representatives will be found willing to support a Ministry destitute of all the qualities which are calculated to inspire respect. At all events, we feel assured that the representatives of the people of New Zealand will not long tolerate a Ministry associated but for the convenience of obtaining office--held together by no common principle--and who treat consistency as an altogether unnecessary qualification in those who seek the highest offices in the state."

Although this statement will have weight with many, coming as it does from the respectable and influential organ of Methodism, it cannot be said to be redolent of the charity which thinketh no evil. If true, then, sans doute are Fox and Co. unmitigated scoundrels, on whose ugly political frontispiece can be found no redeeming feature. Of a certain Frenchman it was said, he abused the privilege of being ugly. According to the organ of Methodism, Fox and friends abuse the privilege of being scamps. What scampishness-- what scoundrelism--worse than that of brazen-faced "office- seekers, anxious to serve themselves at the expense of their country--associated but for the convenience of obtaining office, and destitute of all the qualities which are calculated to inspire respect?" A blacker bill of indictment it is difficult to conceive. Who, when asked if the arch-traitors figuring therein are fit to govern, would not be ready to exclaim-- "Fit to govern!--not to live." But we may rely upon it that neither Mr. Fox, nor the "geese" who follow his lead, as geese no Fox ever did before, are quite so bad as they are pictured by the newspaper artist in words, whose opinions may inspire respect, but whose philosophy seems borrowed from that eccentric old lady who said to an over fastidious friend-- "Ah, sir, charity is a very fine thing; but thank God, I can afford to live without it." Truth to tell, and sad indeed the truth is, here as elsewhere, political morality is morality sui generis--itself alone-- with only self for parallel, and something quite different from

[Image of page 7]

morality in general. Those who, in regard to the every-day concerns of ordinary life, shrink from falsehood, even though it be falsehood by way of jest; avoiding slander's foul breath as if it were a veritable sirocco, --will lie like mad, and quite conscientiously too, for the political clique or place-hunting coterie to which they chance to belong. Possessed by those born twin-devils, avarice and ambition, their mental vision becomes distorted, their moral sense blunted. Dealing with one of the party-

"They are to his virtues very kind,
While to his faults remarkably blind."

Dealing with one not of the party, molehill faults are magnified into mountains of crime; and virtues, palpable to all other men, are unrecognized by them--so flexible the ethics of party politicians, so delighted party politicians to sacrifice Truth on the altar of Faction! Another, and perhaps lower class of politicians, abuse from sheer love of the thing, rejoicing in it just as hogs rejoice in mire, or crows in carrion. To please such feeders on garbage thoroughly, one must be in all matters base, low, mean, hideous, and contemptible. I imagine these were the sort of people hit at by an ancient mythologist in his fable of Juno, which makes that imperious and rather ill-tempered goddess so prone to ugliness, so easily won upon by creatures in their nature revolting or contemptible, that when Jupiter went a courting, he did not, as was his wont when wooing other ladies, human or non human, assume the shape of graceful swan or handsome ox, but that of an extremely unhandsome and meanlooking old cuckoo.

Good reason have we to detest purely factious politicians--good reason to pray God, in the words of a world-famous national anthem--

"Confound their polities,
Frustrate their knavish tricks."

Good reason have all who suffer from the incapacity of rulers in bitterest terms to denounce such rulers, and complain of such incapacity.

. . . . ."For who shall go about
To cozen fortune, and be honourable,
Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.
O! that estates, degrees, and offices,
Were not derived corruptly! and that clear honour
Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
How many then should cover that stand bare!
How many be commanded that command!
How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
From the true seed of honour! and how much honour.
Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times,
To be new varnished! "

[Image of page 8]

But, while to statesmen we should look for statesmanlike qualities--while we have a right to demand from him who aspires to be the political leader of a free people ability and honesty, largeness of idea bound indissolubly up with pureness of intention, none save a furious partizan, lame in his brains as OEdipus was in his feet, can hope to improve public taste, or radically reform what calls for reform in our system of Government, by senseless, spiteful, altogether unjust assaults upon the character of public men. Their principles and policy are fair subjects of fair criticism: not so their motives, which can only be found by the Searcher of all Hearts; and, if found, might profit little.

I have shown you what high newspaper authority pronounces to be the motives and character of Mr. Fox. According to that authority, the honorable Member for Wanganui is a sordid, reckless, inconsistent, unprincipled place-hunter, of whom it might be said, though God gave him his talents, the devil directed their application.

Who believes all that? I venture to affirm there are counts in this dreadfully formidable indictment not believed in even by the pious sage who drew it. These vituperative statements should, therefore, be received, if received at all, cum grano salis. A wary politician knows that ninety-nine of every hundred such statements are just heaps of filth flung at some dreaded opponent, upon the principle that if you throw plenty of dirt some of it will be sure to stick. Usually, the falsehood of such diatribes bears about the same proportion to their truth that old Falstaff's sixteen shillings' worth of sack did to his half-pennyworth of bread. I am for liberal government. I am anxious to assist in bringing about a liberal settlement of our affairs. I am not the partizan or hanger-on of any Opposition or any Ministry; but an independent thinker, who aims at the development of Representative and really Responsible Government, through the development of sound political opinion. I care not to ask who is the better man, Fox or Sewell. No. For having made up my mind as to which of these party chiefs is the more likely to govern this incipient empire upon common sense principles, their purely personal merits I leave to be discussed, weighed, and determined by critics who can find no better employment.

The right man in the right place--that is my motto. That should be the motto of every one, and would be if governing bodies were uncorrupted, which governing bodies never can be while the multitude permit themselves like shuttlecocks to be knocked from side to side by the battledores of party. That motto embodies the highest principle known amongst men. We got it from Europe; but alas! in no part of Europe is it practically recognised. There the people are a prey to political Jesuitism, in alliance, defensive and offensive, with oligarchic misrule. There the people are cheated with "a show

[Image of page 9]

of liberty of which they ne'er must taste," and titled incapacity to untitled merit gives the law. We must take care, or New Zealand will develope into a second, but not improved edition, of Old England. Progress in the right direction should he made at once; for as regards states, most surely it is true, that not to advance is to retrograde.

Well, then, my fellow-colonists, who is the right man for the performance of the highest functions known to Government really responsible and representative? In other words, who of all the members constituting our Representative Assembly is best fitted to be Prime Minister? A clear answer to that question will, if I mistake not, make quite palpable what seems to me the only way out of our present difficulties.

We want a bold statesman--one who will not take the law from faction, but give the law to faction--one who will make a clean sweep of those cobweb enactments which catch small flies, and through which large ones break. To do our work well, he must be a man of genius as well as metal. That work never can be done by the soulless special pleader, or partizan toady of Imperialism, aided though he be by "troops of friends," devoted to place and their own interest. Like Peel the Great, he must disdain to be the slave of any faction, and like him refuse to pilot the State vessel unless the helm be allowed freely to traverse.

Party slaves are unfit to govern freemen. A parly slave gives up to party what is due to his country. He is a trimmer, an expediency-monger, an everlasting palterer in some double sense, "a closet lock and key of villanous secrets," a pimp, a truckler, and a sham. Prater, not statesman, he believes that political wisdom can get along very well without political honesty; that language should rather hide than express our thought; that to wait upon events is safer, altogether better, in fact, than to guide them; that governing means plundering; and that men on earth ever did, ever will, live very much in the manner of fish in the sea--great ones eating up the little ones.

Statesmen look for their highest reward to posterity. Fired by a noble ambition to inscribe their name on the page of history, they do great deeds as well as make long speeches. With the crowd of brainless, would-be statesmen, sworn almost to bursting by force of conceit, like the fabled frog who wanted to be as big as an ox, they have little in common. With needy, seedy, political "snobs," desperately bent on place and perquisite, they will have nothing to do. All the good they aim at is their country's. Such are politicians truly great. Such politicians were Hampden, Sidney, and Chatham on the one side of the Atlantic; Washington, Jefferson, and Adams

[Image of page 10]

on the other. Such are statesmen--none other than such can be so.

"Not all that heralds rake from coffin'd clay,
Nor florid prose, nor honied lies of rhyme,
Can blazon evil deeds, or consecrate a crime."

According to this idea of statesmanship, Nature has not been very prolific of statesmen, at least in New Zealand. We have enough politicians, I grant; but then the majority of them are talkers-- merest possible palaverers; and, what is even more distressing, they palaver so ill as to offend rather than instruct us. Their inherent affection for gabble makes them do violence to the maxim which enjoins upon us the prudence of saying nothing when we have nothing to say. These Parliamentary bores seldom, to be sure, speak at any length, but then even their little bits of speeches are scarcely endurable. Illustrious George Canning, at the height of his reputation, went to hear a sermon, and afterwards, being introduced to the preacher, said, "Sir, your sermon was too short." "Oh!" stammered the unsuspecting divine, "I was afraid of being tedious." "But you were tedious," retorted the cruel wit. This anecdote I commend to the attention of Merry Andrews in eloquence, whose frequent speeches are certainly not complained of because they are sometimes short, but because they are always tedious.

Just now, the politicians most influential amongst us, and every way most considerable, are Sewell and Fox. They are observed of all political observers. Fox is described, by enemies who hate because they fear him, as an ultra-provincialist, who cannot afford to keep a conscience, but whom his party cannot afford to lose. Sewell cannot boast of being so well abused as conspicuous politicians, and above all party leaders, usually are. He is allowed on both sides, and, as it were, by common consent, to be a man of much talent and excellent temper. So high does he stand, even with the Fox party, that its organ only a few days since, with commendable candour, declared their main objection to Mr. Sewell's leadership was that his policy would have been of serious injury to Auckland. In reply to those who, we are told, look at every act and speech of Mr. Sewell's "through patent Wellington-party-coloured spectacles," the no-progress organ says "the policy of that gentleman cannot be regarded as essentially a Middle Island policy, as against the Northern Island, when the said policy is weighed in the scales of common sense and common prudence."

The great qualities of these rival politicians, if they have any, are in abeyance, and to eyes unfilmed by party prejudice, they may appear to differ so little, that their antagonism is not one of principles, but details; not an antagonism for public good, but party profit. As affairs stand, assuredly it seems to me evident that though these chiefs of party may some fine day develope into states-

[Image of page 11]

men, as the chrysalis developes into the butterfly, at present they make no sign of uncommon aptitude for the conduct of affairs; and, politically, are so very much alike that calm spectators may well exclaim--

"Strange, such difference there should be
Betwixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee!"

It seems a new version of the old story, Caesar and Pompey are very much alike, especially Pompey. Which is Pompey or which Caesar I leave to be determined by the judgment of an enlightened public. Fox is called ultra-provincialist, and Sewell is called something else. But neither of these very important and very distinguished, though scarcely distinct or distinguishable, personages has yet favoured us with a clearly defined and comprehensive policy.

The Sewell policy is a policy of expedients, so notable that to characterize it in a single word, or even a single sentence, would be difficult. Of world-famous Regent Street some one said-- "A fine street, no doubt, but it wont bear criticism--or the weather." Now, that the policy of our slightly ponderous member for Christchurch may bear the weather I am quite ready to allow, but assuredly it will not bear criticism.

A dissection of his recently delivered three-hour speech will throw a flood of light on the character of the man, and the nature of that corrupt system he seems disposed to uphold.

He commenced by reading honorable members a lesson as to the line they were bound to take in the matter of a Pension Bill, which saddles the Colony with salaries for certain officials, ample provision for whom is the condition on which we are to be favoured with Responsible Government. According to him, our representatives had nothing to do with the "final decision" of this matter, which "lay in other hands." He affirmed that "practically the question resolves into one of quantum." To me, on the other hand, it quite practically and clearly appears to resolve itself into one of principle. I, Peter Plume, contend that the final decision of every question ought to rest with ourselves; and that Responsible Government should rather have been demanded as a right than begged for as a favour.

What are Government officials but public servants? Too often they are public masters, I admit, and perhaps they have been so in this Colony. But an end should be put to the system. Ministers of State are servants of State, and if they don't know it they should be cured of their ignorance. Making Responsible Government conditional upon our pensioning a tribe of already quite-well-enough-paid officials, is to degrade and insult us.

Oh, but these lucky gentlemen "accepted their offices on the equitable understanding of their permanence." Now, what they understood may be one thing, and what the public understood

[Image of page 12]

another--in which case understanding neutralizes understanding. "Assuming the principle to be conceded, His Excellency did not wish to stop the discussion of the House as regards this question. "Liberal Excellency! --modest Sewell! A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind! If ourselves officials, we cannot but think it "equitable" that a proper provision for them is made by Imperial will the sine qua non of Responsible Government in this free Colony. "The principle had been adopted in other Colonies--New South Wales, for example, where officials received the entire amount of their salaries!!!" In Victoria, too, but not quite that amount--in fact only three-fourths. His Excellency, however, did not propose either of these for present adoption. "He considered two-thirds the reasonable amount." Again I say--Liberal Excellency! -- Modest Sewell!

In that pleasant little piece, "The Portrait of Cervantes," a Spanish Don, asked by his servant for wages, petulantly exclaims, "Pooh, pooh, fellow! your wages are running on." "Running on!" quoth he, "running on! --yes, they are running on; but the plague on't is they run so fast I shall never overtake 'em!" Government servants, all the world over, are luckier than this fellow; for instead of having to run after their wages their wages are made to run after them. And not only are they paid for what they do, but also for what they undo, or leave undone.

Sewell called upon the House not to "stultify" themselves by refusing this one-sided bargain; and asked them to consider in what light they would appear if, after "having clamoured for Responsible Government, they were to refuse the condition on which it was known to rest." But if the condition involve dishonour--if the spirit of it is incompatible with all we know of rational freedom--if the Home Government, in imposing it, did what no Government should do--I think our having "clamoured" for Responsible Government cannot be considered a justification of their conduct, or quoted in condemnation of ours.

Responsible Government has become a necessity. Pensioning officials not required under the action of such Government is no necessity at all. On the contrary, it is simply a piece of Imperial impertinence, which we have a right to resent. Responsible Government has long been a debt due to this Colony. Making the payment of that debt conditional upon our pensioning people whose services the Colony no longer needed was impolitic, absurd, and unjust. Prove it quite constitutional--I care not. It is none the less on that account obnoxious to just criticism, or to the spirit of free institutions. Under the shadow of those institutions, we should subordinate Imperial convenience to Colonial right; carry on the business of the Colony for the benefit of Colonists; and not tolerate

[Image of page 13]

any measure, or recognize any principle, which may enable Heaven-knows-what kind of Home Ministers to quarter upon us their family or political connections.

Moreover, it is not clear that the officials, conferring pensions upon whom Downing-street sages thought proper to make an essential condition of Responsible Government, were honest, even "as the world goes," or worthy to be, for the full term of their natural lives, lodged, clothed, and fed at the public expense, anywhere but at the public gaol. In terms tolerably plain, some, if not all of them, are accused of sundry high crimes and misdemeanours. Not many days ago, the organ of Methodism bitterly complained that Mr. Fox, "who, of all other men, is not yet in a position to assume, when in Auckland, a tone of virtuous indignation," should "get up, or join in, a cry against retiring officials or antagonistic journals, and charge them with sundry grave offences against their trusts; he should take care that his past words and present actions are such as will bear the closest scrutiny--as will dare the test of the alembic of truth and consistency--and as will make his practice square with those lofty and high-sounding professions of equity, fair play, and honesty of political principle, in which he is so wont to indulge."

Without venturing to take part in this quarrel between the member for Wanganui and the sage who does editorial duty in that respectable print, the New Zealander -- which quarrel all will allow, as it stands, is a very pretty one indeed--I aver that retiring officials, accused of breach of trust, are not persons on whom to confer retiring pensions; and I, who seldom marvel at anything, do marvel exceedingly that Sewell, whose political Puritanism made him declare the Auckland atmosphere unfit for free lungs to play in, should not fear to "stultify" himself by the advocacy of that measure.

But, were these people who want pensions "as pure as air and chaste as ice," my objection to the Pension Bill would still hold; for not to the principle of pensioning voluntarily deserving but superannuated or cast-off public servants do I object, but to the principle of making our obtainment of Responsible Government contingent upon our Representatives pensioning any officials whatever. That principle will not do for New Zealand, though suited, no doubt, to the meridian of Russia, where the people have

"Nought to do with laws but to obey them,
Nought to do with taxes but to pay them."

While dealing with this vexata questio, our liberal Minister, excited, probably, by the foul atmosphere he breathed, waxed bold, in a sense quite Russian too; for, after dwelling upon the evils of "postponement" for another year of his darling project, he asked

[Image of page 14]

the assembled Representatives if they could "flatter themselves that the Home Government would give way under intimidation?" No one answered him; but nevertheless the question for an answer, aye, and a stinging one, leaves ample room. It implies truculency, than which any more ridiculous or contemptible can not be conceived. It implies that we must always knuckle under to Downing Street, whenever Downing Street is bent upon making us do so. Sewell may not believe in the divine right of Kings to govern wrong, but he evidently does believe the Home Government, in any dispute with us, must needs be right, or, at all events, as matter of course, must have its own way. The notion of the Home Government being dictated to, or coerced into the adoption of any measure, he scouts as too silly, altogether too preposterous, for serious consideration.

Rut the invincible Home Government has often been "intimidated" into compliance with the wishes of Colonial Legislatures, and may, for aught that in or out of Sewell's speech appears to the contrary, under special circumstances, and for special objects, be as easily and wisely "intimidated" in the future as it undoubtedly was in the past. Home Government, when just, should be respected; but when we, in contest therewith, are clearly right, and Home Government no less clearly wrong, we should respect our own right, even at cost of being charged with an attempt to "intimidate" our would-be oppressors.

It is not, however, tyranny without, but faction within, with which we should now prepare to do battle. I will not say that the people of this Colony are crucified between two thieves, as once was said of the people of England, when their interests were sacrificed or postponed to suit the convenience of rival factions, called Whig and Tory; but nothing can be clearer than the alarming fact, that you, the people of New Zealand, are crucified between two factions. Instead of measures, we have men, who so deprecate "hasty legislation," that getting them to legislate at all is a task of some difficulty. Consider well the ignorance displayed on Monday night, the 26th ult., by both sides of the House, touching the Land Claims question, and disposition quite manifest to give it the coup de grace upon laissez faire principle. Observe with what dexterity a "majority" of honorable Members did, upon that occasion, contrive to saddle our unhappy, much-to-be-pitied Governor with the task of settling the Seat of Government wrangle. Nineteen against four declared that the next sitting of the General Assembly "be held at such more central place as his Excellency shall deem most convenient." Nineteen against four might just as well declare at once that every sitting of the General Assembly, and everything done in the General Assembly, should be determined by his Excellency, or, at least, to suit said Excellency's convenience. Indeed, I recom-

[Image of page 15]

mend this precious "majority" to take a step farther--have done with shamming, and go the whole animal, by requesting his Excellency to relieve them altogether from the performance of Parliamentary functions, and us, the good people of this Colony, from an intolerable nuisance, in the shape of Parliamentary palaver. Thomas Carlyle recommends for England a Government of the Nobler, presided over by the Noblest. I think such a Government might be tried here with advantage, if some kind wise soul would tell us where the Nobler are to be found, and who is the Noblest to preside over them. Sewell? No; certainly not. Fox? An answer to that question will be given by-and-by, when I have finished my dissection of Sewell, and the policy he proposes for our adoption.

Political parties, we are told, are inevitable. Well, I admit it. I allow that, in the present temper of men's minds, without political combinations no free legislative action is possible. But here, in New Zealand, the. "madness" of party is very mad--so utterly stark and staring that affairs are brought to a dead lock. Now, a dead-locked Legislature is a despised Legislature, and a Legislature despised is a Legislature doomed. No people will long respect authority which has ceased to respect itself. They who trifle with the political interests of a free State can only do so under penalties. The General Assembly has now been sitting something more than a month; yet we still are wondering what they will do, or whether they will do anything. This House of Representatives, and this other House, which I suppose we may call the House of Nominees, are helping us to recall the venerable joke--"John, what are you doing?" "Nothing, Sir." " Thomas, what are you doing?" "Helping John, Sir!"

Representatives cannot be excused if, instead of making good laws, or getting rid of bad ones, they employ their valuable leisure in purely personal contests for purely personal ends. The Colony needs a strong and progressive Government. No other can stand-- no other ought to stand. I admit that so far, during this session, the Progress party have not progressed in any other than crab fashion; but "sweet are the uses of adversity;" and my hope is that their recent mishaps will have made them wiser than heretofore; better prepared with a safe, brisk, thorough-going policy; every way better fitted to cope with the party of Stagnation. The Stafford want-of confidence motion, carried by a majority of one, has driven Fox once more into Opposition, and justifies the organ of his party in its opinion that "all the time" expended by honorable members in talking "has been thrown away." Reflections crowd upon me; but what I have to say as to this sudden break-up of a Fox-headed Progress Administration must be reserved for another Letter.


[Image of page 16]

[Page 16 is blank]

Previous section | Next section