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Since writing the foregoing pages, recent intelligence from the Colony to which they relate, adds striking testimony to the truth of what I have stated as to the rapid progress which the New Zealanders are making in the knowledge of their own rights, and the evils which the former policy of our Government have entailed upon them. From moody discontent and open expression of their wrongs and practical grievances, in reference to the land questions and commercial restrictions, they have now gone so far as to fight for a species of theoretical independence--directing their efforts, not against the settlers, with whom they are and have always been on the best terms, but against the Government alone. Three times has the staff, from which the emblem of our authority is displayed, been cut down; our troops have been faced in fair fight, and, though not beaten, the field was left in possession of the natives; who, after
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the settlers had deserted it, have burned to the ground the once flourishing township of Kororarika;--many lives have been lost, and property destroyed to the amount of 60,000l.
Such has been the fatal result of the policy hitherto pursued towards New Zealand, and the question naturally arises who is to blame for such a vast amount of ruin and misery?
The origin of disputes with the natives, and the cause of these evils, may partly be gathered from what has been already written, showing that they are mainly attributable to the late Captain Hobson and Mr. Shortland, and the explanation will be complete by going a step further back, and tracing a part of the evil to the ill-advised measures of Sir George Gipps, and the recklessness with which he carried through the council of New South Wales the first Land Claims Bill, basing it (contrary to the instructions and sentiments of the Marquis of Normanby) upon the unjust and false assertion, that the New Zealanders were wandering savages, and that they had no right to the soil of their own country. This act may certainly be termed the first false and fatal step committed in our management of New Zealand.
A share of the blame must, however, rest with the present Secretary of State, who permitted Mr. Shortland so long to carry on his reign of mischief after he had received the repeated memorials and complaints of the colonists, besides being from other sources well acquainted with that gentleman's incapacity. His lordship is also fairly chargeable for not having sent sufficient military assistance
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to the colony, after being made fully aware of such being absolutely necessary for its defence and protection. It has been stated in the House of Commons as an answer to this charge of neglect, that an extra number of troops was sent to Australia, which is true; but they were not to New Zealand, where alone they were wanted. Beyond this, however, it seems unfair to implicate his lordship in the recent disaster.
But it is still more unfair to ascribe these to the measures of Captain Fitzroy, which have been the necessary result of a state of things which he found existing when he arrived in the Colony; but which he had not the power of controlling, far less of preventing. It is most unjust, therefore, to ascribe the present disturbed state of New Zealand to his measures, and the Colonial-office show a most extraordinary want of candour and good feeling in loading him with reproaches and abuse, in order to shelter themselves from the consequences of their own neglect by first permitting the Colony to fall into a state of disorganization, and then refusing to send the necessary assistance to maintain peace and order.
As the evil, however, is already done, and cannot be recalled, it serves but little purpose to find out the authors of the mischief, and information will be much more earnestly desired as to the extent of the discontent existing amongst the natives, and the prospect of allaying and subduing it.
It has been already remarked, that the New Zealanders are eminently a thinking people, and most keenly alive to their own interests, valuing everything according to its
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practical usefulness. Such being their character, it is m the highest degree improbable that the present discontent and insubordination can spread widely among them; because all practical grievances had been removed and the theoretical independence or sovereignty which some of them are now demanding, is an object quite unappreciable by the great majority of them, and would be quite inadequate to induce many tribes to combine for attaining such a purpose.
While the character of the natives is altogether opposed to the supposition of large combinations against the Government, it, however, must be confessed, at the same time, that such sudden changes have come over them as to render it difficult to feel altogether secure of the result. Anything unjust, or even injudicious, practised towards them while under their existing excitement, might prove fatal to our present settlements in the country, and to our future intercourse for many years; and the next intelligence from the Colony may therefore be looked for with the deepest anxiety. If no fresh disturbances have then taken place, there is every reason to believe that our good relations with the natives may not merely be renewed, but positively strengthened; as it is very likely that the great majority of the influential chiefs will have discovered the evil effects produced by these disturbances, and be led to give unequivocal testimony of their disapprobation of them, and of their determination to assist the Government, if necessary, to maintain the peace of the country.
It is now sufficiently obvious, however, that a large
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body of troops are indispensably necessary for the defence of the settlers, and to preserve order; and if the power of the troops shall be confined exclusively to these objects, there can be little doubt of this being easily attained. But if, on the contrary, that power shall be employed to uphold injustice, or to coerce the natives out of their rights, there will be no peace or personal security, and the natives will combine together, and if unable to expel their oppressors, they will at least effectually prevent the colonization of the country. In particular, this result will inevitably happen, if any interference with, or restrictions upon, the free sale of their lands be again attempted, whether in the form of an open prohibition or hinderance of sale, or by the equally unjust but more deceitful scheme of taxing their lands. Absolute free trade in land and commerce has now become indispensable to preserve peace with the natives; and New Zealand upon other terms is not worth having. Besides, we have no right to it but upon these terms. The treaty of sovereignty was a fraud upon the natives; and they are not fairly bound by any of the restrictions imposed upon them by it; and, without it, we can have no right to take possession of their country. It now suits many to set up the robber's plea of the right of discovery; but this is abhorrent to every principle of justice. As well might we claim a share of some large manufacturer's surplus stock, as attempt to claim the surplus land of the New Zealander.
True; it is said that he has more land than he can use, and that it never was the design of Providence that men
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should be cooped up in one small corner of the earth when they know of plenty of unoccupied land in some other place. But is it not equally clear that the same reason would apply to the manufacturer or to any other person who might be deemed to possess any thing which he is not making a good use of in the estimation of those who covet it? It will be said these accumulations are the result of labour expended, and labour is the only legitimate index of title to possess. Then what labour, it may be asked, has many possessors of vast wealth in this country expended upon its acquisition? Or, if this is not sufficient,--what labour, or other consideration, was given for the lands which many of our aristocracy possess? Such right can be traced to no better title than the law of physical force. To this at last everything comes, and on which are based all our rights and powers of every description; and upon no other plea, disguise it how we may, can we maintain a right to appropriate to ourselves any new country whatever, savage or civilized, already in the possession of others. Nor does it make the smallest difference whether the land is cultivated, or merely used as hunting-ground, or not used at all.
There seems, therefore, only two ways by which we can get possession of a country, either by physical force, or by purchasing it fairly from the occupiers and inhabitants. The latter mode appears to me the only honest means, and I prefer it, and think our occupation of New Zealand should proceed on that alone, if we would hope for prosperity, or the blessing of God upon our efforts.
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Land is like every thing else; if there is a superabundance of it, the holders will be but too glad to sell it on fair terms; and while this can be done, who shall say that we ought to take possession of it by force, and drive the present occupants or claimants from it?
It is almost incredible that such a principle of robbery and spoliation could find any supporters in the British House of Commons in the nineteenth century, and that, too, by men professing themselves to be Christians, and some of them even foremost in their evangelical pretensions.
Since injustice and folly have now been tried to govern New Zealand for the last four years, and have been found so far wanting, let a principle of honesty, judiciously and wisely guided, be now tried, and New Zealand will be found to prosper even still more rapidly than she formerly had declined.
But there is no hope of such a desirable state of things, without giving the colonists themselves, who can alone know their own wants and interests, the management of their own affairs;--in other words a representative government,--without which the same gross misapplication of the public money, the same imbecile attempts at government, and the same recklessness of the general prosperity will continue. Without this the people never will, and never ought to be satisfied. It is their birthright, of which they cannot rightly or legally be divested.
In the recent debate in the House of Commons on this subject, while the right was not denied, the ex-
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pediency of the step seems to have been doubted, and a miserable attempt to blind its advocates was made by offering in its stead municipal institutions; in other words, giving the inhabitants of townships numbering two thousand people, the privilege of taxing themselves as much as they choose, and laying out their money in improving streets and erecting public buildings for the benefit of posterity. If the British public are deceived with such a useless measure as this, they may rest assured that the colonists will not. Municipal government is all very well to bestow upon a community where there is some source of income from which they can improve the town; but if all the money must come out of their own pockets, as it must do in New Zealand, such a measure, instead of being an advantage is a positive injury, and would be rejected by the colonists accordingly. Municipal government was tried at Wellington for a short time, but it is believed they were heartily tired of it,---but in Auckland it was indignantly rejected, notwithstanding every possible expedient of the Government to induce the people there to apply for it; and I am very sure that I speak their sentiments with my own in saying that it will still be refused, until some source of revenue is given to support the necessary expenses of such an institution. When the ordinance was last before the Legislative Council it was only passed on the solemn assurance of the Governor that it would not be, in any case, forced upon the people without their consent.
The arguments used for withholding a representative Government are weak in the extreme.
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In the first place it is said that great difficulty would be experienced in getting properly qualified persons from the various settlements to leave their avocations, and come to Auckland for a few weeks during the sittings of the Council. But there is no difficulty in this as experience has amply testified; though if there were, the Colonists will surely get over that difficulty with equal facility as would the Governor. There would surely be much more honour in receiving the appointment from the Colonists than in becoming the mere nominee of the Governor, a fact of itself quite sufficient to neutralize and destroy the confidence which his fellow Colonists may have previously entertained of his honesty and independence.
But if few individuals can spare the time and still fewer afford to pay the necessary expenses attending such an honour, it does not follow that such charges should fall upon the individual. Why should he not be paid,--and well paid too,--for the time which he thus devotes for the benefit of his fellow Colonists, and for the general good of the country? There appears no good reason why he should not, and the labour will never be well performed until this is done.
There is no argument that can be used in support of the present practice of permitting the Governor to nominate certain individuals to a seat in the Legislative Council that could not be used with greater effect in favour of a popular nomination. Then they would be in reality what at present they are merely in name--representatives of the people,--and till this desirable state of things is brought about the Colony of New Zealand will continue to be mis-
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governed and vast sums of money from this country will be expended without doing any good to the Colony.
I cannot conclude these remarks without urging upon the Government and the country, the strong claim to compensation of these most unfortunate people who occupied the township of Kororarika, and have had their properties destroyed in the recent conflict between the troops and the natives. These warlike proceedings it is well known, have resulted altogether from the misgovernment of the Colony, and is a matter in which these settlers are not in the smallest degree blameable, and being occasioned entirely by the Government, the loss ought not to be allowed to fall upon the unfortunate settlers, many of whom have had the hard-earned savings of many years swept away from them in a moment and left with the clothes merely that covered them. And their claim to compensation is still greater when it is considered that a Government officer absolutely stood over them with fire-arms and prevented them even from making any attempt to repulse the invaders, and save, perchance, their lives and properties.
London, 31st July, 1845.
STEWART and MURRAY, Green Arbour Court, Old Bailey.