1870 - Fitzgerald, J. The Self-reliant Policy in New Zealand - [Text] p 1-24

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  1870 - Fitzgerald, J. The Self-reliant Policy in New Zealand - [Text] p 1-24
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A FEW words only by way of introduction.

It can hardly be expected that the following letter will carry conviction to the minds of those--if any such there be--who view the connection between Great Britain and her Colonies solely as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. But even such persons may be reminded that compliance with the writer's suggestion will cost Mother-country nothing. It was not within the scope of Mr. Fitzgerald's argument to state--as the fact is--that England never has been called on, and in all reasonable probability never will be called on, to pay a sixpence of interest on the New Zealand Loan of 1,000,000l. guaranteed by the Imperial Government in 1863. Is there any real reason to fear that similar immunity from risk will not attend a like guarantee in 1870? To lend a helping-hand to a friend and kinsman struggling in deep water, without danger of being dragged in oneself, or even of wetting one's feet, is not particularly chivalrous. It is simply an act of humanity, with the additional recommendation of being safe--cheap--and working no injustice to others.

Granted, that such a guarantee as it suggested is, in strict theory, undesirable, and that "he that hateth

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suretyship is sure." But is this simply a question of dry scientific theory--to be treated like a mathematical problem? Is it not one which our hearts will help our heads to solve more wisely than if we apply to it only the powers of a calculating machine?

Despite the pitiless logic of his Official Dispatches, for which the noble Secretary for the Colonies good-naturedly took credit in the debate on Lord Carnarvon's motion last month, Earl Granville, like the most illustrious of his colleagues, is not insensible to arguments drawn from the fact that those who appeal to us are our "flesh and blood." Surely, it will be matter of regret if the present opportunity should be lost of proving our sympathy with them in their difficulties by something more cordial than icy floods of good advice, and of re-animating the chilled and waning affections of the thousands who--I can personally bear witness--still look on England as their home, and Englishmen as their elder brother.


ATHENAEUM, 7th March, 1870


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WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND, December 26, 1869.


I am not perhaps quite up in all that has been said of late in England on the subject of New Zealand. But your last letter, Sewell's pamphlet, and some articles I have read, have given me a general view of the state of feeling. England no doubt looks on the question as a whole, and on the voice of New Zealand as it is expressed in her public acts and ministerial declarations. I cannot but feel, however, that the whole story is not appreciated, and as regards myself, I decline to be associated with any such expressions. I adhere to the policy of the Weld Cabinet, and not to that expressed by Mr. Sewell or Major Atkinson--equally with myself members of that Cabinet, but who seem to have forgotten some features of the old programme--still less of Sir George Grey, who never accepted it or assisted it.

I am not at all surprised at the tone taken by the English Government, although I regret that it should have found expression in somewhat hard and unfeeling terms, and still more that that done should have been provoked by the language of Ministers in the Colony.

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More harm has been done by unwise words than by imprudent actions. What it seems to me has not been told, and ought to be understood, is what I will now endeavour to explain.

When Weld came into office in 1864 the Colony was in a state of deep disgust at the failure of all the predictions and all the policy of two successive ministries. We had been induced to enter upon operations of ruinous magnitude (financially) under the promise that General Cameron would complete the war, and that the confiscated land would repay the principal part of the Three Million loan. The war, however--looking at the number of soldiers employed, at the number of the enemy in arms, at the time it lasted, and the money spent, and finally at the land acquired--was the most unsatisfactory probably upon record. Then followed bitter and unseemly quarrels--first between the Governor and the Ministers, and secondly between the Governor and the military authorities; and the result was a general response to the policy of the Weld Government: (1) that unity in the military and civil government was essential; (2) that no mode of conducting the war could cost us so much as that which we had been made to spend by the military authorities over whom we had no control. Hence the policy of sending away the troops and doing our own work was adopted. Sir George Grey, however, did not assist, but put every obstacle in the way of this policy, as the correspondence with General Cameron proves. So long as the troops remained, and the Colony was subject to the large incidental charges

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attendant on the then mode of conducting military operations, it was impossible to organize or pay for an efficient Colonial force, or to commence operations in our own way. It was made a charge against Weld's Government that whilst requesting that the Imperial troops should be removed, they did not make any permanent provision for a force to take their place. The fact, however, was, that so long as the troops were in the country, the incidental expenditure by their mode of conducting war eat up all our means. And it was also the case that very heavy engagements were still outstanding with the military settlers which had to be satisfied before any new system could be inaugurated. A commencement, however, was made towards the establishment of a permanent force, which should have been perfected as the troops were removed and the settlers were placed on their lands instead of on pay. It was the next (Stafford's) Government which neglected to bring this force to perfection. In one part of the island, on the east coast, a mere handful of men, under Biggs and Fraser, and the townsfolk of Napier, under Whitmore, showed what could be done with a tithe of the machinery, both military and financial, employed by the Imperial Government. It is, however, obvious that the adoption of such a policy as that put forward by the Government of 1864, which has gained the name of the "self-reliant policy"-- required to be handled by men who had implicit faith in it, and who were determined that it should succeed.

But just at this moment a conjunction of party events threw Mr. Weld's Government out of office,

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and a government succeeded utterly hostile to the whole policy which the Colony had resolved to adopt, and from which it did not retreat. Mr. Stafford had from the very first opposed the departure of the troops, and together with Dr. Featherstone did his best to get rid of Mr. Weld's resolutions. But when he came into office he did not propose to alter that policy, and did not ask the House of Assembly to do so. He chose, however, for his Defence Minister, Colonel Haultain, who never concealed in public or in private his contempt for the whole idea. The Colony then was placed in this ridiculous position; it had formerly adopted a policy which appealed to all its most chivalrous feelings, which demanded all its energy, the success of which, as of all action in which sentiment is involved, required a strong faith in its truth and its possibility; and it placed the working of this policy in the hands of men who had denounced it as impossible, and ridiculed it as absurd. It is needless to add that it failed. The position of the Government is faithfully depicted in the correspondence with the Home Government. The Stafford Ministry seem to have thought that they were faithfully carrying out the policy to which they nominally adhered, by refusing to advise the Governor either to employ, retain, or send away the troops, whilst the whole tone of the Memoranda for the Home Government is--"Take the troops away at your peril; you have brought us into this mess--you are very unjust and ungenerous to leave us to ourselves." The result was what might have been anticipated,--anarchy and inefficiency in

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the Colonial Military department, and intense disgust on the part of the Home Authorities. I should have been astonished had the Colonial Office acceded to demands urged in such a spirit.

But you say, and I see that it is the language held in some public prints, that the Colony vaguely adopted the theory of self-defence, but refused the supplies necessary to make it a reality. I demur to this. Passing by the incidents of the struggle in the New Zealand Parliament, I say that we did vote certain large sums for defence purposes. Were they enough? You will say "apparently not," for when the war broke out in 1868 afresh, we could not for many months restrain the enemy, and whole districts were ravaged and laid waste. But the question is not only, "Was the money voted enough?" but, "How was the money spent which had been voted?" It is an undisputed fact that when the incursion of Titokowaru took place in 1868. there was no force ready to assist him. He had not, it is admitted, above eighty men with him when he began; fifty men, such as we ought to have had, would have put an end to the affair at the outset. But at this very moment we were disbanding old forces, and were compelled to enlist miserable boys who were picked up in the streets and along the quays. The slaughter at Ngatuote Manu was the result. The army had to be reorganized in the face of a triumphant enemy. The head-quarters at Patea were a scene of perpetual drunkenness and debauchery, which would have destroyed the discipline of the best soldiers in the world. Whether, then, the Parliament

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voted enough, is not the question. It had better have voted none, so far as the result went, for it got nothing for its money. My own conviction has always been that the supplies voted and the sums expended were ample; and that had the years from 1865, when Mr. Weld left office, to 1868, when the war was renewed, been used to create an efficient and permanent force, such as we ought to have, and such as Mr. Weld's Government proposed, the miserable disasters of that most disgraceful year could not possibly have occurred. But the anarchy in our politics was reflected, as it ever will be in constitutional government, in anarchy in all branches of the public service. Men were sitting side by side in office who held the most opposite opinions, and who had only just before been denouncing each other as fools and criminals. All truth in party, all faith in public men, was utterly gone. Our finance was dictated by powers outside Government and Parliament; our troops were organized and sent to battle under the auspices of a Minister who sneered at self-defence. This chapter in New Zealand history contains a great lesson, which may be read with instruction even in the heart of the Empire, in days when Tory Governments pass Reform Bills. The horrible calamities of 1868, the massacres, the burnt farms, the wasted country, the revival of the worst features of the old heathendom amongst the Natives--all these, and other results which I may not dwell on, flowed, it seems to me, naturally and necessarily, out of the paralysis of public life in the Colony. And such paralysis will ever occur, when a Minister

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pretends, for the sake of retaining office, to carry out a policy in which he does not believe, and when men whose principles are, if they have theretofore spoken their honest beliefs, utterly, incompatible, consent to sit at a Common Council Board.

As to the present aspect of the discussion between New Zealand and England, I should like to say a few words. I have no sympathy with Mr. Sewell's views, and I cannot conceive how he can hold them. It seems to me a paltry piece of special pleading to argue, as so many on our side do argue, that because the Governor was the Agent of the Home Government, therefore England and not the Colony is responsible for the war. As an honest Colonist, I am somewhat ashamed of such a line of argument. As a matter of fact, Governor Gore Browne's action in the Waitara case, which was the fons et origo malorum, was formally adopted by his Executive Council and by the Colonial Parliament. As a matter of fact, the war was popular in every place where it broke out. Taranaki, to a man almost, supported the Governor in the Waitara case. Auckland was outspoken in favour of the war in the Waikato. Wellington applauded, with its after-dinner ovation, General Chute's march through the Patea and Taranaki country. It is not enough to show that these things were done when the nominal power lay with the Home Government. Were they done against the protest of the Colony? Certainly not, but with its assent. The voices of such men as Sir William Martin and some few others who tried to stem the tide of popular

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feeling in favour of war, were drowned in the clamour. With what sense of honour then can Colonists turn round and throw on the Home Government the sole responsibility for these actions? But whatever was the share of the Home Government in the events which have resulted in such disasters to the Colony, did they not all occur prior to the enunciation of the self-reliant policy of 1864? I cannot understand how we can have taken credit for that bold and, as I think, wise action, without perceiving that, following as it did all the action of the Home Government upon which we now found a claim, it necessarily cancelled all such claims and condoned the policy upon which such claims are founded. It may be easy to prove, as Mr. Sewell does and as every one knows, that the Colony did very reluctantly accept the responsibility for the management of Native affairs. In 1862, when Mr. Fox proposed some very indefinite resolutions, virtually sanctioning the movement made by his Ministry and Sir George Grey during the recess, towards taking over the Native Department, he was beaten, and went out of office. In 1863, when the House met, it found that the thing had been done by the action of the Home Government, and it acquiesced, it may be admitted, because it could not help itself. But in 1864, after the ruinous adventure of the war had displayed itself, and the evils of a double Government were staring the Colony in the face in the indecent triangular duel between the Governor, the General, and the Ministers, the Colony went farther than it had gone before, and said that it would defend itself.

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When I remember the speeches made by Mr. Weld and his colleagues in that Session, I am at a loss to know what meaning attaches to words if the Parliament did not at that time emphatically pronounce its full acceptance, not only of the Civil Government of the natives, which it had enjoyed for eighteen months, and which it never renounced or protested against; but also of the burden of such military operations as might be necessary to enforce that Civil Government. There were, it is true, individuals who differed from these views; but Mr. Sewell, who was one of their official exponents, is, I think, debarred from taking advantage of arguments which he then repudiated. Standing wholly apart from all feeling which may influence the mother-country on the one hand, or the Colony on the other, regarding the question as a bystander, I should be unable to understand what interpretation the Colonial Office could possibly put on the language of Ministers and the conduct of our Parliament in 1864 other than this, that from henceforth the Colony undertook its own internal defence.

Now I am far from saying that events may not have arisen which induced the Colony to repent that decision. But I do say that no events could entitle the statesmen of New Zealand to revive claims founded on transactions prior to that settlement. The Colony has no doubt repented it. It could not be otherwise after entrusting such a policy to hands utterly incompetent to carry it out. Incompetent, I say, because they wanted the first ingredient of competency, namely, a belief that it was desirable, or even

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possible. It was only natural that the Colony, sick and irritated at the disasters of 1868, should throw the onus upon the self-reliant policy; and they were led to this conclusion by those who, having originally opposed it, were only too glad to crow over its failure, and by the friends of the then Ministers, who were ready to attribute the shortcomings of administration to the policy they had to administer. Thence the legislation of last Session and the Commissioners to England to beg for Imperial troops. You will understand that in these views I am not speaking the views of the Colony, or of any party in the Colony; but simply those of one taking no part in politics, but observing, as a disinterested bystander, events as they pass.

I perceive that you, amongst others, have taken up a passage in the end of my letter to the 'Wellington Independent,' and say that we have all given up self-reliance, only some think that the aid should be given in troops, whilst I think it should be given in money. But that is not a just way of putting it. There are two parties to the question, regarding it from two distinct points of view, and separate duties attaching to each. It is one thing what the Colony may have a right to demand; it is another what it may be fitting that the Mother-country should afford. As a general rule determining the relations which should subsist between England and her Colonies, I have seen no arguments which can get rid of the paramount duty attaching to all States to provide for their own internal defence. I cannot comprehend

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why the taxpayers of England should be charged with the cost of protecting communities oyer whose policy they have really no control, and whose conduct is dictated by Governments, independent in all but name. And let it be remembered, the question is not one, as is often so loosely said, between the Empire and the Colony, but only between the Mother-country and the Colony. The Empire has no concern in the matter and would pay no part of the cost; I mean of course the Empire at large, including all the other Colonies. Canada and India would contribute nothing to aid to New Zealand, if granted, but only Great Britain and Ireland. If indeed the whole Empire were in some mode represented, and in some mode contributed to the cost of defending the Empire in every part, as, for example, all the possessions of the United States do, as the Dutch and Spanish Colonies used to do, the case would be different. But the Empire of Great Britain has never been so organized. I cannot then see why England alone should be called on to contribute as a general rule to the internal defence of Colonies who have full power of managing their own affairs, and have incurred therefore the obligation which attaches to all governments and all communities, of putting up with the consequences of that management. Setting aside all the past history of the relations between Great Britain and New Zealand, which can only be appealed to at the risk of mutual irritation, the question now awaiting solution ought to be decided upon the general principles of policy which should govern the

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relations between the parent state and its offspring. The policy at present enunciated by the Home Government seems to me no new policy, but rather a recurrence to the earlier maxims of Government which prevailed before the conquest of the outlying portions of other European States, and the establishment of convict settlements of our own raised the Colonial Office into an important department of the State. The New England plantations defended themselves, and were proud of doing so. Those who argue that the result of that doctrine was that the Colonies progressed slowly and suffered much, forget that what the New England settlements wanted was, not external protection and defence, but population and capital. England under the Stuarts had but five or six millions of inhabitants, and could spare but little capital for colonizing purposes. Considering the colonizing power of Europe at that time, the progress of the New England States was very rapid. Every one must admit that in the cradle of those communities, and especially in the national vigour evoked by their self-defence, lay the germs of their future strength. What I, at all events, meant by the self-reliant policy in New Zealand was, that as a general rule she should undertake her own defence.

But no one will argue that exceptional circumstances do not require exceptional treatment; and, admitting to the full the obligation of the Colony to protect herself, I may ask, without any inconsistency, whether it is befitting the greatness and dignity of a power, the first amongst nations, to see one of its

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dependencies crushed in a struggle either with a foreign power or by internal savage inhabitants? I say nothing about what it may pay England to do, because if there be a National duty, it must pay to do it; and a nation will lose in pocket as well as in every other way by its neglect. Put the extreme case, that the Colonists were totally extirpated or driven out by the Maories, would it, I ask, be consistent with the duty of England, or add to her prestige and power, that she should stand as a spectator with folded arms contemplating such a catastrophe? We all know that such conduct would be a proclamation to the world that England had descended into the rank of an inferior power. As such only would her voice be listened to in the councils of Europe. She would have abandoned her mission as the guardian of liberty and the promoter of civilization in the world. If then there might arise circumstances in which England would be compelled, in virtue of her own station in the world, to afford aid to a Colony in an internal struggle, the question is reduced to one of degree, and we have only to ask whether these circumstances have arisen in this Colony. I am now claiming nothing as of right on the part of the Colony, still less asking for anything as of favour; I am regarding the question as an Englishman, and as affecting the duties which attach to the position of a first-rate power in the world.

But if England were persuaded that it became her to aid the New Zealand Government to bring the war to a conclusion, the question would still have to be settled in what form that aid should be given. Not

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only in theory, but by fatal experience in this Colony, I should be led to the conclusion that to set up within the Colony a military authority separate from the Queen's Local Government, would be a most unwise plan, leading, as it has led before, to conflict in authority, paralysis in action, ruinous and ill-directed expenditure. Anything which tends to relieve the Government and inhabitants of the Colony from the sense of personal responsibility for their own conduct, must vitiate the whole action of what we call responsible Government, and must tend to corrupt and deprave the character of the people. For the chief value of free institutions lies in this, that the people who finally determine the action of the Government must suffer the consequences of that action for better or for worse. Freedom in States, as in individuals, involves its correlative responsibility. If free institutions did not, by the reaction of the consequences of a popular policy upon the people, tend to educate and to elevate the national character, I really do not know what they are worth. I greatly hope, therefore, that we shall see no step taken by the Home Government which may remove from the Colonists one particle of the responsibility for the conduct of the Government in these native difficulties.

At the same time I am bound to say that I believe the Colony is now in a crisis in which it has almost, if not quite, exhausted its power of carrying on war. There are, indeed, at this moment fair prospects of a termination of hostilities. Should they be realized, we may scrape through; but should they prove, as

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they have before proved, to be fallacious, and should the numbers of those in arms be increased--for example, were the Waikato tribes again to rush to arms--I can see nothing but very wide spread disaster. The question is one of money, and if money could not be procured, and the settlers were compelled to go en masse into the field, the only possible event would be the extermination of the Native race, some even think--I don't--of the European race. Humanity demands that matters shall not come to this pass; that the war, if war be necessary, shall be carried on, not by the whole people, but by limited organized forces under the rules of civilized war, not personal ferocity; and for this purpose money is necessary. The Colony is paying at present the utmost amount of taxation which it can bear, and I do not believe that any imposition of fresh taxes would greatly, if at all, add to the revenue. Even with the present limited military operations, the Colony is not paying its annual expenses out of its income. It is compelled every year to borrow, by Treasury Bills, in order to meet its engagements. Even if the war were to cease altogether, and our military operations were to be reduced to the smallest safe limits, the expenditure would be so great, that all the operations of the Government which are so needful in a new country--the power of colonizing the country, of settling an increasing population on wild land, the public works necessary for these purposes--all these must for some years be crippled, and the progress of the Colony delayed, equally to its own loss and to that of England. If, on the other hand,

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the war continues, or extends for a fresh period its dimensions, I for one cannot contemplate the position of the Colony in a financial point of view without serious uneasiness. I therefore come to the conclusion that we have arrived at a point in which it woud be a sound and wise policy on the part of the Home Government to extend some temporary aid to the Colony. But I am equally convinced that such aid may be most beneficially given in a form which shall not interfere with the higher principle of throwing on the Government and inhabitants of the Colony the whole responsibility of managing and conducting its affairs, both military and civil, and even of applying whatever aid England may think it wise to afford. If the Colonists are anxious for the presence of British troops, I see no objection to their employment, under one condition, namely, that they are placed absolutely under the control of the Queen's Government in the Colony, and are entirely disconnected from the Horse Guards except through the Governor. You may say that is not possible under the present organization of the army. It may be so. But this is the main reason why the employment of any forces except those under the absolute control of the Civil Government is impolitic.

One plan, however, is open by which all the aid really wanted can be afforded without loss to England, and with vast gain to the Colony; I mean by a guarantee of the Imperial Government to the New Zealand loans. It is, a matter which can never be sufficiently regretted that the consolidation of the New

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Zealand loans should have been attempted before the consent of England had been obtained to this guarantee of her liabilities. The guarantee on the total debt of nearly 7 millions, and the contingent advantages in the consolidation, would have been worth 2 per cent. to the Colony, and would have produced an annual saving in the debt expenditure which would have gone far to cover the whole of the annual outlay on military services. New Zealand cannot long go on without a fresh loan, and it seems to me the duty of England, looking at the question from an Imperial point of view, to aid her in raising it. But looking to the perfectly obvious fact, that the only possible means by which any substantial and permanent relief can be obtained are to be found in the enlargement--the great and rapid enlargement--of the producing powers of the Colony, I should be glad to see the Imperial guarantee to a new loan coupled with the condition that a large portion of it should he applied to the work of colonization. By such a policy England would be taking a guarantee from the Colony that wealth would be created far more than enough to meet the liability which she had endorsed. The Colony has for some years past been neglectful of this first duty of every new country; she has devoted all her energies to the war. But the very drain on the resources of the Colony occasioned by the war seems to me only an additional reason for extraordinary exertion being made to increase the resources which have to sustain such a burden. And those resources are practically inexhaustible; they want only an industrious

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population to develop them; and until we have a Government sufficiently far-seeing to adopt this as the keystone of its policy, I see no future for this Colony other than a long period of depression, until, in the slow course of time, the wealth of the country shall have increased somewhat in proportion to the burdens which have been laid upon it in the last eight or ten years. So long, however, as we continue to indulge in a miserable squabble about the special claims of the Colony arising out of mismanagement in which we have all equally shared, we shall remain impoverished here and despised in England.

But what I wish you to understand is, that it is not the case that I give up the theory of self-reliance, and only differ from others in thinking that the aid should be afforded in money instead of in troops. I think that ordinarily, and so long as we are able, we should provide for our own defence in money as well as by troops. But that when a Colony has really done all it can, and the question stares it in the face whether it can continue to protect the life and property of the Queen's subjects, and pay the interest on its debt at the same time, then, as a temporary and exceptional measure, the Mother-country being satisfied of the temporary exigency, ought to step in to arrest national disaster. The case is similar to that of a great merchant in a time of public panic, really solvent, but unable to meet temporary engagements. The Bank of England has frequently in such cases come forward with assistance to an extent far exceeding that which it would afford under ordinary

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circumstances, and has not lost by doing so. That is really our case: the drafts made on us by the war are too heavy to be borne; but if assisted to meet them now, the whole debts of the Colony will be a mere bagatelle compared with its enormous latent resources. I cannot see how it can be argued that if a Colony is really in that position, aid from the resources or rather from the credit of the Mother-country is not both right and politic. Nor do I see how assistance in such an emergency can be construed into any departure from the general principle of the duty of self-defence on the part of the Colony.

Yours truly,


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