1853 - Savage, H. Circular to the President, and all the Members of the Canterbury Association - PAMPHLET PUBLISHED IN THE COLONY, BY THOMAS CHOLMONDELEY, ESQ. p 1-4

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  1853 - Savage, H. Circular to the President, and all the Members of the Canterbury Association - PAMPHLET PUBLISHED IN THE COLONY, BY THOMAS CHOLMONDELEY, ESQ. p 1-4
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--Incedis per ignes
Suppositos cineri doloso.

MY DEAR MR. GODLEY, --When Mary Queen of Scots asked John Knox "who he was, to put himself forward in the great matters of her realm?" he answered, "Madam, a subject born within the same." If I am asked, "Why I take upon me to discuss Canterbury matters?" I answer, "Because I am a Canterbury colonist." I take the liberty of addressing this letter to you personally; not so much as the agent of the Canterbury Association, but because your character has taken some hold upon us all. Indeed, the agent is, long ago, lost in the man. As a member of the same political party in New Zealand, as an inhabitant of the same colony, I may venture to write openly to you, without any great show of apology for being ignorant of much that I cannot be expected to know,--and I may be allowed, in short, to exceed the narrow limits which conventionality would otherwise prescribe to the very slight acquaintance existing between us.

Starting from this position,. I will begin by avowing candidly that I deal solely and only with known facts--generally received impressions; admitting too, that while my conclusions are not extempore, recent circumstances have tended to draw them out.

It is unnecessary to remind you that public opinion is as yet undeveloped amongst us. We have materials for it in plenty, but it is not as yet sufficiently advanced in growth to be able to work with such unhesitating exactness and speediness of execution as in the old country. We are liable to be surprised into silence, and to remain for months in a state of speechless hesitation, till some one shall take upon himself to say that which hundreds have long had trembling upon their lips. Our nervous dignity requires the spur before it will start; nothing comes; and now, having waited as long as I dare, I mean to try whether this spell can be broken or no.

First, let me be permitted to glance at the condition of the Canterbury under-

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taking from its beginning. They enter so far into the history of our times, that a critical investigation of the theory of the Canterbury scheme might furnish matter and title for an interesting and considerable pamphlet. Enough, at present, to declare my conviction that the theory was not the simple outgrowth of one idea. Internal evidence fully satisfies me that an attempt has been made to unite two distinct views into one theory. The spirit which evolved the letter to Mr. Gladstone, and the Minute of May the 24th, is to be carefully distinguished from the spirit which elaborated such details as the first pasturage regulations.

A singularly beautiful but purely abstract idea has been married to the very clever, but somewhat unscrupulous, experience of a practical worldly mind. Thus Thought was united to Fact, and the Canterbury system was the result, soon to unfold a singular likeness, and a no less singular contrast, to the well-known features of each of its parents. The thing gathered shape: a site for a colony was chosen; noblemen were canvassed; rooms hired; clerks engaged; an act of parliament sketched out, passed, and re-passed with emendations; land orders were sold; ships were chartered; promises and engagements made; the best platform orator in England was at once retained, under the title of Bishop-Designate; religious speculation grew hot and zealous. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, lands were surveyed, and works were begun. You, my dear sir, were heard of first at Wellington, and then at Lyttelton. You immediately headed the Self-Government party, little dreaming that you might in no long time have the alternative before you, either to abandon such principles, or perhaps to carry them out in opposition to the great Association whose representative here you are. When the first ships arrived, no time was lost; a great press of business was quickly got off hand. Who that was then at Lyttelton can ever forget that delightful and exciting time? those long cloudless summer days, when we first began to build sod cottages, to carry boards upon our shoulders, when we first had to rough it, when we grumbled and laughed in a breath, and really did a great deal of work. Then came the organization of a Colonists' Council, which, if it be only regarded as a debating club, with Mr. Brittan for chairman, must always command respect. Goods of every description were soon seen up at Christchurch, in spite of the Sumner bar, and those who had been too clever to believe in the capabilities of our capital, were obliged to read a coffee-house recantation. The pasturage question was next handled. It was satisfactorily adjusted by setting aside, or rather evading, the absurd regulations framed in England. But why need I go further? Suffice it to say, that we managed our own affairs as far as we were allowed, and that so far we managed them successfully. And I can truly say, that a year's intercourse has established a confidence between the Canterbury colonists and yourself, which it would require not a little to break down. This is a picture not the less flattering because it is faithful. Now for the reverse.

All this while I believe myself correct in stating that supplies came in very slowly from England. Road-making could only be effected on a small scale, official salaries could only with great difficulty be paid. Married clergymen were obliged to be content with huts, not always elaborately water-tight. Just then, too, another cloud made itself visible on our horizon. Fresh colonists arrived here with great expectations, but with far too slender means. They had been told (they averred) that funds were unnecessary in a new country. It became known that an extensive system of what is commonly called "touting" had been and was being practised in the Colonists' rooms, in London. Does not this look as if a short separation had invalidated the old accommodation, and upset the compromise effected between the two ideas? Are they not actually divorced one from another? Is not one busily at work in New Zealand, while the other lingers in England? I believe that the theory which was the joint stock of the two has answered all purposes of which it was capable. It is now effete, or, rather, resolved into its pristine elements.

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I am the more convinced of this, as I find it now pretty generally understood, that we may expect shortly to see a Managing Committee at Lyttelton; certain gentlemen nominated by the Home Committee to do our business here for us; and this, instead of the Managing Committee which we were certainly led to expect was to be elected by and from among ourselves, independent of any control from without, and irresponsible save to our colonists themselves. If this be so, allow me to ask with what face the Association can impose such a Board of Guardians upon us, when they have all along preached up self-government, till it has become a watchword in the settlement? what can have led them to so fatally inconsistent a step as we have now reason to anticipate? Is it, that after so long and so narrowly watching the career of the Colonial Office, the only lesson they can learn therefrom, is to caricature its mistakes? If we have been taught to resist the undue interference of Imperial authority, shall we now be invited to welcome interference which announces itself, backed by no authority whatever? Granted that the London Committee is replete with men of ability, of virtue, of generosity. We readily confess a debt of gratitude to such men, which, however, according to their own principles, can never be repaid by quietly conceding to them a power, the very essence of which tends to defeat and undermine those very principles. The constitution of the Association forbids it. Should we not rather be encouraged to do as much as possible for ourselves? If we are desirous of acting up to our original intentions, ought they jealously to keep our desires in check? There is a covenant between us. If they insist upon playing Shylock's part, they may find there is more in that covenant than they are themselves aware of. It has two sides, with guarantees accordingly. I know that I shall be accused of injustice and ingratitude of the deepest dye in expressing these opinions; but it strikes me that the following little history may be taken as a fair statement of the case as it stands between us.

There was once on a time a certain philanthropist, who by making emigration his hobby, thereby became better acquainted with the subject than the majority of his neighbours; one of whom, John by name, was desirous of emigrating to some foreign land, in order to better his condition. Our philanthropist proceeded to enlighten this man as to the best means of doing so. "My good friend," said he, "there is a certain savage island which is sometimes called Barataria, because it is governed from a distance, and in a most unconstitutional manner. I am anxious to see you settled there, and indeed a man of your public spirit will easily be able to resist the inroads of the governor (who, poor fellow, knows no better). I will assist you to repel his marauding interference in your private affairs. You shall be well backed up from the first with a sound title to the farm which I will buy for you: and since it seems advisable to retain our parochial system, &c. &c., in Barataria, I, who know the country, will tell yon how to go to work in a manner worthy of yourself. You shall place a certain sum of money in my hands, which I will promise to spend for you in a manner herein described (he gave John a bit of paper); but of course, as the money is really yours, the management of it shall really be yours also. Thus you will benefit by my experience, which I tender gratis." And John believed him, and did as he recommended. When he arrived at Barataria, he found something done, and a good deal begun. Setting to work with the money he had left, he struggled with all his heart. It grieved him to receive from his old friend many ignorant letters, and still more to get but very little of his trust money, without any account of how it went. At length, the philanthropist, whose tone grew higher and higher, despatched an overseer to take charge of John altogether. The freaks of the grisly tyrant of Barataria (who laughed at the philanthropist) now seemed light, to John, compared with this astounding act of dictation coming from his old friend. What he did, I know not. I only know that the philanthropist goes about to this day, talking of the black ingratitude of John.

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Now what have I exaggerated or understated here? But I wish to be more particular.

I confess it would give me great pleasure to be able satisfactorily to answer such questions as the following, which bear immediately upon the doings of the Society. 1. How came the first pasturage regulations, preposterous as they were, ever to have been drawn up, in the teeth of the advice of Mr. Clifford and other practical settlers? 2. Why have not the accounts of the Association been published? Is it that the Committee may carry out to the full the assurance that "the utmost publicity will be courted, the most detailed information of its expenditure will be afforded?" (Vide Cant. Papers, No. I. p. 17.) Is the balance-sheet published in the Report of April 25, 1851, to be considered as a serious statement of accounts, or as a practical joke put upon us? How much of the fund set apart for ecclesiastical purposes has been actually spent or invested in the colony, in a manner which the colonists approve of?

Tell me, are such inquiries as these fair? Are the answers forthcoming? And is it too much to ask what they are? I might here pause for an answer.

But these very doubts remind thinking men of much that they have hitherto suppressed, deeming then conclusions unripe for utterance...... Would it not be far better that we should be our own association, at least as far as is possible? Is it necessary that land should be bought in London, and there only? Is it advisable to continue an odious system of puffing, which misleads boys and girls, and disgusts those whom it cannot mislead? Are our colonists, generally speaking, arrived at years of discretion? Or, are we to be referred to the category of those who never come of age? Can we not appoint our own officers and public men? Are our friends at home afraid that we should refuse to publish our accounts? Are the London officials so well informed about Canterbury in New Zealand? Do the conduct and preparations of some late arrivals suggest no curious inquiries? We have hitherto been told that political self-government is at the door;--why, then, are we to be so studiously kept out of the management of our own land fund? Why is a body of tutors to be appointed? Why are we to be put into commission? If we yield for one instant to such an act of faithless usurpation, we shall show ourselves unworthy of any self-government for the next fifty years.

There is still a hope that we may have been misinformed. Surely you will at length condescend to come forward and enlighten us upon this subject. You will tell us that false reports have been circulated, that the article in the Lyttelton Times was a tissue of mistakes, that the Association could not for very shame behave as we are foolishly led to imagine. You will bid us read the Canterbury Papers over again. Nay, you will in confidence assure us that had there been the slightest ground for real apprehension, you yourself would have been the first to have warned us of the danger, and to have claimed at our hands the right of leading us against all such poisonous interference, whether it come from Cockspur-street, or from Downing-street, or from Wellington, or from any other quarter. Or, on the other hand, you will admit there is a good deal of truth in what is commonly said, that a change of policy has taken place in the offices in London, that Downing-street may be in the right after all,--who knows? That you yourself are not yet a hearty convert to distant government; but still, should certain difficulties be cleared away, you put it to each one among us, whether there is any insuperable obstacle to a change of opinion? that, after all, matters may be pushed too far; that Sir George Grey may possibly be recalled, &c., &c.

But if you should not feel inclined to defend the recent proceedings of the Canterbury Association, then bethink you that you occupy a position in the Canterbury colony notwithstanding, and independent of the London body of men. You have a position yet at our head and in our hearts, and we should rejoice to see you at our head in the assertion of our independence.

I beg to remain, my dear sir, very sincerely yours,


1   "A Letter to John Robert Godley, Esq., Chief Agent of the Canterbury Association, on the Present Prospects of the Settlement. By Thomas Cholmondeley."

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