The EARL of LINCOLN
said, that he was most unwilling to make such an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere), but he would ask him whether, under all the circumstances of the case, it would be right to proceed with the discussion of the New Zealand Bill at the 329 present sitting. It would be recollected that when the right hon. Gentleman moved the second reading of the Bill, he appealed to the House whether or no they would allow the Bill to pass its second reading sub silentio, on the understanding that the discussion should be taken on going into Committee. The House agreed to the proposition; but could the present be considered a fair opportunity for that discussion? The House met at twelve o'clock on Wednesdays, and adjourned at six, and he would quote an observation made by the right hon. Gentleman, at one o'clock that afternoon, to corroborate his view that the present was not a fitting opportunity for discussing so important a measure. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to the hon. Member for Stroud not to proceed with his Motion on the Irish Poor Law Bill, alleging that it would be inconvenient to raise a discussion on that matter, because the business of the day being only the Committee on the New Zealand Bill, the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury and others of the Cabinet Ministers were absent. That was always the case on a Wednesday. Unfortunately the Under Secretary for the Colonies had no seat in that House, and could take no part in the debate; but the subject was one which ought to claim the best attention of the Government. He had no doubt but that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was fully prepared to meet any objections, and had undoubtedly made himself master of the whole case; but the House would bear in mind that the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury was Secretary for the Colonies at an important period in the history of New Zealand, and he should have been present during this discussion. If the presence of the noble Lord was essential when the proposition respecting Ireland was brought on, surely it was equally so when the House proposed to settle the difficult question of a constitution for New Zealand. In 1845, when the subject of New Zealand was last prominently before the House, the discussion lasted nine nights; and he (the Earl of Lincoln) did not think that the condition of the colony was less critical, that its affairs were of more trivial importance, than they were at that period. It was proposed to suspend a constitution which had been granted after the most grave deliberation; and if, after nine nights' discussion, the House had failed in doing all that was requisite for the safety 330 and prosperity of New Zealand, how could they expect now, in the course of three hours, to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion? The right hon. Gentleman would give more satisfaction, and more effectually attain his object, if he were to appoint some night for the Committee on this Bill. The House would then commence at five o'clock, and the principle and details of the measure would receive their due meed of attention. He was confident that the House would never be able to get into Committee with the Bill this afternoon; he was confident there would be preliminary discussion—that certain of the clauses would bring on renewed discussion—and that to attempt to get the Bill through Committee that afternoon was merely wasting the time of the House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I had hoped that upon the principle of this Bill there was no serious difference of opinion on either side of the House. With regard to the necessity of suspending the constitution of 1846, after the strong recommendations of Governor Grey, I thought the propriety of such a course was generally admitted. I therefore did think that, the House being agreed upon the principle, the Committee would offer a more suitable opportunity for the discussion of the measure, than the second reading would have afforded. The second reading, although there was little difference of opinion on the principle, was not passed quite so sub silentio as the noble Lord would lead the House to suppose. There was an animated discussion, and the tone of that discussion led me to believe that the provisions of the Bill rather than its principles, would form the subject of debate. The noble Lord asks me to postpone the Committee on this Bill. I need not tell the noble Lord, who has had some experience of official life, the extreme and increasing difficulty the Government find in bringing forward for discussion and decision the many important questions which they feel it their duty to submit to Parliament. There are only two nights in the week set apart for Government business, and these nights are frequently broken in upon in a manner which no Government can prevent. The Government find it almost impossible to proceed with the many measures which the country demands and the House expects; and the Government would have been censured for neglect had they not taken advantage of this comparatively unoccupied day for the purpose of going into Committee on the New Zealand 331 Bill. I cannot agree that because Wednesdays have been usually devoted to the consideration of measures brought forward by individuals, that therefore the Government are not justified in pressing forward any public business at the beginning of the Session on that day. I hope the noble Lord will not impute any disrespect to what has fallen from me, but I do express a hope that the House will go into Committee on the Bill. I shall be happy to answer any objections that may be taken. I will give to all questions the best reply I can, and I hope the House will not refuse to go into the immediate consideration of the Bill.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that, after the strong opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he would not revive the question as to the inconvenience of discussing a measure of this nature at the present moment. He would at once enter upon the consideration of one or two points connected with the Bill, as well as of points of a collateral nature, not directly embodied in the provisions of the Bill, but of such vital importance to the well-being of the colonists and natives of New Zealand, that it would be impossible to fairly discuss the Bill without entering into a review of these points, and their bearing upon the general subject. The provisions of the Bill he found to be of two kinds—they were partly suspending, and partly enacting. With respect to the enacting clauses, although they undoubtedly did contain provisions of an unusual character, delegating all the powers of the State to a few individuals, yet as they were in accordance with the recommendations of Governor Grey, and seemed to be called for by the force of circumstances, he thought it would be better to pass these provisions. But as to the suspending provisions, he could not help feeling a wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, upon which he thought he had some claim to explanation. He did not understand why the constitution of 1846 should be suspened for a term of five years, rather than repealed altogether. In ordinary cases of suspension, when it was found necessary to step in between a law and its operation for a given period, it was always considered that the law so suspended had a presumptive title to renewal—that the reasons for the validity of the law revived in full force at the expiration of the term for which it had been suspended. But the House was not about to discuss the provisions of a constitution ac- 332 tually in existence, or which might at one time have been in force. He did not use the term in a contemptuous sense, and he was merely repeating the expression of other hon. Gentlemen, when he called the constitution of 1846 a mere "paper constitution." It never found its way into actual life in New Zealand—it was unknown in that colony except as a subject of theoretical and speculative discussion. This constitution had never been enforced in New Zealand; and how far public opinion was in its favour in that country it would be impossible to say. The House had no evidence to show that this constitution would ever be acceptable to the colonists—that it was the constitution for the people—the constitution which they would require to be revived, not to be created, in the year 1853. It appeared to him, therefore, that this would be a most inconvenient mode of fettering the future opinion of the House, by laying down the policy to be pursued at some future time, with respect to a question not then before the House. He was decidedly of opinion that the simplest, wisest, and most proper course to pursue, would be to say that the time had not arrived when it was proper to grant this constitution; and, therefore, that it ought to be repealed. The House could then, at some future time, give to New Zealand a constitution which would allow full scope to popular principles. It would be infinitely preferable for them to avail themselves of the practical experience which the next few years would confer. They would then be able to construct the constitution on the basis of experimental knowledge, instead of speculative opinions. He could not pass from this subject without again bringing before the House a subject upon which the social welfare of the New Zealanders, and the permanent possession of the colony by this country, would be found mainly to depend. He alluded to the disposal of the public lands. The question of the public lands lay so at the root of every discussion in New Zealand, that it was impossible to avoid it. It would be vain to adopt measures for the commercial progress of the islands, unless they came to a fair and equitable decision upon this fundamental matter—the claims of the natives on the public or waste lands. There was no party feeling with regard to this Bill— these were not matters of party discussion. It would be a sin against the first principles of humanity, and detrimental to its 333 peace and tranquillity, if, in considering the interests of a distant colony, and in devising measures for the happiness of a distant people, the House allowed party objects to weigh in their decision. He wished, therefore, to state frankly to the Government, in the person of the right hon. Gentleman, the difficulties which occurred to his (Mr. Gladstone's) mind in regard to it. He did not wish to commit himself finally to any positive opinion, because no man was more anxious to feel satisfied that the views of the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department in regard to this question were views calculated to promote the peace and welfare of the islands of New Zealand. He thought there could be no doubt as to what had been the understood construction of the Treaty—whether fortunate or unfortunate in the first instance he would not inquire—of Waitangi, which was conceived to regulate the disposal of public lands in New Zealand, so far as regarded the claims of the natives to land. It was well known that the natives had occupied a certain portion of the fertile lands of those islands, which they had improved by their labour. It was well known that the natives might be said to occupy another and a much larger portion of the lands of the island, which, however, they had not improved by labour, but which they used for purposes connected with the feeding of cattle, the pasturing of wild pigs, &c. These were not lands improved by cultivation, but were used by the natives in a manner somewhat beneficial to themselves, though certainly in a way very adverse to the principles of political economy. Now, when the Treaty of Waitangi was concluded, it was universally understood that the titles of the natives were to be recognised, under that treaty, not only to the lands they had occupied and improved by labour, but likewise to those lands from which they derived a beneficial use in the manner he had described, even though that particular use was very slight indeed compared with what they derived from the land which was under cultivation. Governor Grey had given a very simple and just description of the footing on which this matter ought to stand, in a despatch received from him in the month of December last. He said—The position I understand to be adopted by the New Zealand Company's agent, that, if tracts of land are not in actual occupation and cultivation by natives, we have therefore a right to take 334 possession of them, appears to me to require one important limitation. The natives do not support themselves solely by cultivation, but from fern-root, from fishing, from eel-ponds, from taking ducks, from hunting wild pigs (for which they require extensive runs), and by such like pursuits. To deprive them of their wild lands for the purpose of cultivation is, in fact, to cut off from them some of their most important means of subsistence.The view of Governor Grey had been, he might say, universally understood by all who had considered the treaty. He would now frankly state the point to which his anxiety was chiefly directed. He wished to be assured that the despatch of Earl Grey, dated the 23rd of December, 1846, and the instructions appended to that despatch, so far as regarded the public lands, were in conformity with that treaty. He thought good faith towards the natives required that they should be. The House should bear in mind that the natives of New Zealand did not judge of this matter by the terms of the treaty, but by the interpretation put upon those terms by all the persons in New Zealand occupying places of authority; and it followed, therefore, if good faith was to be maintained with them, that that construction should be adhered to. He wished to see this course followed, also, because he was convinced that the peace of the island was involved in the question. He referred to the despatch of Earl Grey, in order that it might be fully understood on what his doubts and apprehensions on this subject were founded. In a despatch which was printed among the papers presented in August, 1846, Earl Grey spoke of the pretensions put forth by certain tribes to large tracts of waste land, which they "had been taught" to regard as their own. He said—It appears that you have found it expedient to admit these pretensions to a considerable extent; and, having done so, no apparent advantage could be suffered to weigh against the evil of acting in a manner either really or even apparently inconsistent with good faith. While, however, you scrupulously fulfil whatever engagements you have contracted, and maintain those rights on the part of the native tribes to land which you have already recognised, you will avoid as much as possible any further surrender of the property of the Crown.Then, in the instructions appended to that despatch, he said—No claim shall be admitted in the said land courts on behalf of the original inhabitants of New Zealand to any land situate within the said islands, unless it shall be established to the satisfaction of such court that either by some act of the Executive Government of New Zealand, as 335 hitherto constituted, or by the adjudication of some court of competent jurisdiction within New Zealand, the right of such aboriginal inhabitants to such lands has been acknowledged and ascertained, or that the claimants or their progenitors, or those from whom they derived title, hare actually had occupation of the lands so claimed, and have been accustomed to use and enjoy the same, either as places of abode, or for tillage, or for the growth of crops, or for the depasturing of cattle, or otherwise for the convenience and sustentation of life, by means of labour expended thereupon.Now, his doubts and difficulties rested chiefly upon the point that the instructions of Earl Grey appeared to confine the titles of the native tribes to cases in which it could be said of land that it had been improved "by labour expended thereupon," and did not extend to lands which natives applied in other ways to their own purposes and for their benefit. Now, he had shown that by the construction hitherto put upon the treaty, they were not justified in imposing such a limitation; but, if he understood aright the view taken by Earl Grey, in the instructions he had just read, the courts of New Zealand would be forbidden giving titles to any land except such as had been improved by labour. This was a very important matter; for, as respected the greater part of the northern colony, there was but little land likely to be available for useful purposes except what was claimed, used, and enjoyed by the natives in that slender but still real sense which he had endeavoured to describe. He would now state, as clearly as possible, what he understood Earl Grey's meaning to be; for he was anxious, if wrong, that his interpretation of the documents he had read should be contradicted. And he could assure the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) that he should be but too happy to find that the meaning was not such as he attributed to it. Earl Grey stated that they should maintain inviolable the titles to all lands that had been recognised by the colonial authorities. Now, he considered that under the provisions of the treaty it was impossible that the precise titles to the land could be fixed. A general principle was laid down, and it was committed to certain tribunals to determine the application of that principle to each particular case. The application of the principle had accordingly been determined in particular cases; in a manner, however, that Earl Grey thought improvident. His instructions in effect were, that they should respect religiously any proceeding of the kind that had taken 336 place, but that they should not consider the treaty in the same sense in future; that in future the natives should obtain tithes to land only in cases where it had been improved by labour. He was sorry to say, that this construction, which he had put upon Earl Grey's language, was confirmed by a document the existence of which he regretted on many accounts—he meant the letter of Earl Grey, dated the 30th of November, 1847, with respect to the Bishop of New Zealand. He did not at present refer to that letter in so far as it was applicable to the conduct of the Bishop; but with regard to the question of titles, he said—All that I advised was this—that the theory of the ownership by tribes of unoccupied land should not be made the foundation of any future transactions; and that what I conceive to be the rights of the Crown, that is, of the public (where no engagements to the contrary have been made), should be carefully attended to in the disposal of land wherever no property has yet been recognised.By the term "future transactions" he must understand Earl Grey, till he was otherwise distinctly and positively assured, to mean that they should adhere to the spirit and principle of his instructions, which, though perhaps open to the charge of some grammatical ambiguity in the language, went upon the principle that improvement by labour was the criterion for granting a legal title to the natives for land. In offering some remarks upon this question as respected the Bishop, he must take the liberty to make an appeal of a very distinct and emphatic description to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. They well recollected that they had some discussion on this subject on a former occasion; and, if he adverted to it now, it was not because he was apprehensive of anything with respect to the character of the Bishop, or that that right rev. Prelate would feel any resentment on account of any reproof unjustly administered to him. He believed he might confidently state that the services of the right rev. Prelate would be freely given to the Government, whether he considered himself to have been well or ill used by them; but he nevertheless deemed it his duty to refer to one point in which the right rev. Prelate had been indisputably, though no doubt unintentionally, subjected to unjust treatment. That right rev. Prelate had presented a protest to the Government, in which he expressed his opposition to the construction put by Lord Grey on the Treaty of Waitangi, and stated that he would assist the natives in assert- 337 ing and maintaining their legal rights, sanctioned by treaty. Now, a great part of the censure which Earl Grey bestowed on that protest was founded on the supposition that the Bishop published it, and made it known to the natives; and that he did so in the face of the Government. On a former occasion it appeared to him that the Bishop had done no such thing; that the Bishop, believing in the perfect consonancy of view existing betwixt him and the Governor of New Zealand, determined to strengthen the Governor's hands, by putting him in possession of a document containing an expression of his sentiments, which document might be sent to be judged of by the Government at home. Though he had no doubt the Bishop would do all in his power to assist the natives in the assertion of their just rights, yet he believed him wholly incapable of such imprudence as to publish his protest, especially at a moment of such excitement among the whole native population. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was not, on the occasion when the subject was debated, able to say that the Government had any knowledge whatever that the Bishop had published the document to the people. He did not believe that he had done so; and certainly he regarded the offence, as it had been deemed, of sending it to Government, a very different offence from what such a line of conduct would have been. He wanted to know from the right hon. Gentleman opposite whether the Bishop published that protest to the natives or not? It was not in the way of challenge that he asked this, but for the sake of truth and reason. If the Bishop did not do so, then, seeing that the censure of Earl Grey proceeded on the ground that he had done it, it was an unjust censure; and he hoped to live to see the time—perhaps it might be a few weeks, or even hours—when some reparation would be made to the Bishop for a charge which, if true, would have been serious indeed, but which, if not true, demanded the most ample explanation. The right rev. Prelate would have been content to offer no observation, had the noble Earl merely sent out instructions which were founded even on an erroneous impression, if he thought they were not calculated to carry mischief into the colony. But it appeared that on the arrival of the noble Lord's despatch there was great alarm excited amongst the people. And before proceeding further, he would pause to beg the House not to let itself think that the 338 aboriginal inhabitants of New Zealand were a feeble people, easily to be overawed and overthrown by the power of the British empire. He begged of them to remember that with regard to the lives as well as properties and comfort of their fellow-countrymen who were settled in the island, there was considerable ground for fear, in addition to the considerations of the questions of justice or injustice. He took it to be an indisputable proposition, that up to the present moment they had held New Zealand, not by the terror of their arms, or their name; not by the number of their forces, but by the good feeling and attachment of the greater number of the aboriginal inhabitants of the colony. He begged them to bear in mind, that whenever they heard of those disputes that had arisen, the quarrel had always been between a small minority of the aboriginal population on the one side, and a large majority of the same people, together with the British soldiery, on the other. And if those small minorities, opposed as they were by multitudes of their fellow-countrymen, as well as by the British, had given so much trouble, and been able to do so much mischief, let the House and the Government take care what they did that might have a tendency to excite against them the large mass of those people. In the despatch from Governor Grey to Earl Grey, dated in August last, and which was laid before the House yesterday, he wrote thus:—In reference to my despatches, of the numbers and dates named in the margin, upon the subject of the excitement which was stated to exist amongst the native population regarding the reports in circulation upon the views which were supposed to be entertained by Her Majesty's Government, regarding the waste lands claimed by various chiefs, I have now the honour to enclose the copy of a letter from Captain Sotheby, R.N., which was forwarded to me a few days since by the senior naval officer upon this station; from which it will be seen that the reports in circulation regarding the intentions of the Government in reference to the waste lands of the natives, together with the recent arrival of troops and pensioners, has created much anxiety in the minds of the natives in the northern portion of this island. I have also to state to your Lordship, that, within the last few days, I have received alarming accounts from various quarters of the island regarding the excitement created in the portions of the country most densely inhabited by the natives, upon the subject of the introduction of the new constitution into this country, and the steps that may be taken regarding the registration of their lands. I am not yet in a position which would enable me to state whether actual insurrection, upon an extensive scale, is to be immediately apprehended; but I cannot now entertain any doubt that the country is in a very critical state. I will lose no time in 339 taking such measures as are in my power to quiet the apprehensions which at present exist; and I will also delay for some time the introduction of the proposed constitution; but I beg again earnestly to press upon your Lordships the advantages which would result from in so far modifying the proposed constitution, as to leave to the Governor the power of being able certainly to promise the natives that he will enact any measures which they may request as essential to their interest, and which the Governor may also consider to be absolutely requisite to secure the tranquillity of the country. I can assure your Lordship that if the Governor's power is confined to merely being able to negative those measures which he deems objectionable, whilst he has no positively active power which enables him to do that which is essential for the interests of the numerous warlike native population of this country, whose interests will be wholly unrepresented, whilst the small European minority will have such large power of legislation, I can see no hope for the future of this country, and I fear that the prosperity which is now dawning upon it will shortly give place to scenes more gloomy than any which have yet been witnessed here. I trust, therefore, that your Lordship will so far accede to my wishes as to take care that this power is preserved to the Governor for at least the next two or three years. In order that your Lordship may see how rapidly the feeling of insecurity is now spreading, I have enclosed the copy of a letter which I have just received from the chief Ripa, warning the Government that the chief Heke is again likely to break out into insurrection.But they had the gratification of finding that in one very important part of the island the alarm and excitement had been removed in a great measure. He alluded to the Bay of Islands, where we had had amicable intercourse with the native population. Captain Sotheby stated at page 21 of the Papers presented yesterday, that—Through Mr. Meurant, they acquainted me that affairs were very peaceable in the northern districts, and no complaints to make; but said there had been a great deal of excitement on the part of Kiwiti and many of the natives, owing to a report, very widely circulated, that the Government intended to take possession of all uncultivated land, and that more troops had arrived to put such directions into execution. Previous to my arriving, Kawiti had come down with about thirty followers to Waka, to know if such was the case, as he considered it to be in open violation of the Treaty of Waitangi, and in direct opposition to what had been the view of his Excellency the Governor; but Waka eased his mind by telling there was no truth in such report, and which I most fully corroborated. They suggested to me, without seeking it, the propriety of issuing circulars in the native language to contradict it, as it was widely circulated into the interior, and parts of the country not visited by men-of-war or official persons, and where there are many Europeans only too ready to raise dissatisfaction amongst the natives. I had the honour of forwarding a letter to you relative to this matter on the 10th instant.340 On turning to the very next page they found that another chief had come down to Captain Sotheby to know whether there were any truth in the report that the Government claimed all land not under tillage, the report having excited great uneasiness and anxiety amongst the natives. And he was told—On the authority of the Governor, that such was not the intention, or even the wish, if it were practicable, of the Government, and that no land would be taken excepting with the will and consent of the chiefs, and then granting them a pension; but which kind of remuneration the natives do not seem to understand.Another chief's anxiety upon the same subject was allayed in precisely the same manner. That was to say, the anxiety of the chiefs had been allayed by the distinct assurance on the part of those who represent the British Crown in the colony that the established construction put upon the Treaty of Waitangi would be respected and maintained. Such lands as they had been using at all were to be sacred to them, and were not to be taken from them except by free sale. He hoped that without detaining the House longer he had said enough to show cause for his putting the questions he was about to put to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give him an assurance that would allay his apprehensions and fears for the safety of the islands; and he trusted he had shown sufficient reason to the House for inviting its attention to that important question. He had shown that there was an important construction put upon the Treaty of Waitangi, which was held to have secured the right of property to the natives of all lands from which they derived any benefit, however slender or remote. He had shown that the letter of Earl Grey seemed to have overset that construction, thereby exposing the Crown of England to a just and well-founded charge of breach of faith, and also exposing the colony to fearful hazard. That the consequence of that had been the excitement of fear and alarm in the colony, and the filling the mind of their able Governor with anxiety and apprehension. He had shown how that fear, alarm, and apprehension had been allayed; namely, by convincing the natives that the Treaty of Waitangi, as its provisions were commonly understood, were to be religiously and inviolably maintained; and he therefore hoped he had shown enough cause to the right hon. Gentleman to persuade him that the discussion was not gratuitously introduced 341 on his (Mr. Gladstone's) part. And he assured that right hon. Gentleman that there was no one to whom he would communicate a more lively pleasure than to him could the right hon. Gentleman give him an assurance that the doctrine laid down by Governor Grey, which would be found at page 16 of the Papers on the subject of New Zealand, presented to the House in December last, was the doctrine upon which it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to act. In the 16th page of the Papers presented in December, he found the following. Governor Grey, writing to Earl Grey, said—I should also observe that the position I understand to be adopted by the New Zealand Company's agent, that if tracts of land are not in actual occupation and cultivation by natives, that we have therefore a right to take possession of them, appears to me to require one important limitation. The natives do not support themselves solely by cultivation, but from fern-root, from fishing, from eel-ponds, from taking ducks, from hunting wild pigs, for which they require extensive runs, and by such like pursuits. To deprive them of their wild lands, and to limit them to lands for the purpose of cultivation, is, in fact, to cut off from them some of their most important means of subsistence; and they cannot be readily and uprightly forced into becoming a solely agricultural people. Such an attempt would be unjust, and it must for the present fail, because the natives would not submit to it; indeed they could not do so, for they are not yet, to a sufficient extent, provided even with the most simple agricultural implements; nor have they been instructed in the use of these. To attempt to force suddenly such a system upon them must plunge the country again into distress and war; and there seems to be no sufficient reason why such an attempt should be made, as the natives are now generally very willing to sell to the Government their waste lands at a price which, whilst it bears no proportion to the amount for which the Government can resell the land, affords the natives (if paid under a judicious system) the means of rendering their position permanently far more comfortable than it was previously, when they had the use of their waste lands, and thus renders them a useful and contented class of citizens, and one which will yearly become more attached to the Government.The land was not only valuable and important to the natives, as stated by Governor Grey, but it was secured to them under a treaty made by adequate and competent authorities. To this treaty he attached much importance. A slight expression sometimes carried more uneasiness to the mind than an express declaration of opinion; and so it was with him, with regard to a remark made by Earl Grey in his despatch of the 3rd of December, 1846, in which, speaking of the Treaty of Waitangi, he made use of the phrase, "what has 342 been called the Treaty of Waitangi." Whether Earl Grey had an object in describing the treaty in these terms, he knew not; but, for his part, he thought that, as far as this country was concerned, there was not a more strictly and rigorously binding treaty in existence, and he therefore thought it unfortunate that such an expression should have been used. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: My noble Friend merely described the treaty as the treaty known by that name.] He felt that he must really have an ally within the breast of the right hon. Gentleman himself—that the right hon. Gentleman must feel that there was justice in the claim which he had endeavoured to state as belonging to the native population of New Zealand. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman as well as himself, and, he was convinced, every one in that House, must feel the importance of doing full justice to that noble people, to whom they were so much indebted, and in whom, he would add, the Queen of England had an important body of loyal and devoted subjects.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, the right hon. Gentleman would, perhaps, make the question more clear to the House, if he stated whether his remarks referred to the north or to the south island of New Zealand, or whether he considered that the Treaty of Waitangi referred to both one island and the other?
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that the whole of his remarks referred to the north island alone, and to the north island excluding the south side of it. He might add, that he thought there was no practical difficulty in the case at all, because he believed the natives were ready to part with their claims at a very reasonable price.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am aware that strictly I have no right to address the House again, having already, in reply to the noble Lord, offered some remarks to the House on the question before it; but still, I hope the House will allow me, under the circumstances, to make a few additional observations, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he cannot attach more importance than I do to the conduct of the Government of this country towards the natives of New Zealand being characterised by the most perfect good faith, and to all arrangements entered into with them being carried out, not only in the strictest but in the most liberal manner; and that he cannot have a stronger 343 sense than I have, even irrespective of these engagements, of the Government doing everything in its power to protect the interest and to promote the welfare of these people. If anything could add to my wish that every possible encouragement should be given to the New Zealanders to proceed in their present course of conduct, I think it would be found in the last despatches from that colony, which have been laid on the table of this House within the last few days. I am sure that every hon. Member who has read the interesting accounts there given—who has observed the terms in which Governor Grey, and every person holding an official situation in the island, speaks of the disposition of the aboriginal inhabitants of New Zealand to adopt the habits and pursuits of civilised life—and who has seen how they are now working as labourers under the guidance of white men, making magnificent roads, and engaging in other kinds of labour that would do honour to any civilised country; while the tractable disposition they show, and their readiness to amalgamate with Europeans, are unexampled among any other of the savage tribes with which we are acquainted — must feel as I do on this point. The manner in which they devote themselves to trade, as evinced by the fact that there are, I believe, not less than sixty small coasting vessels belonging to natives of New Zealand, is most praiseworthy; and I am sure there is no one who can view these circumstances without a hope that they will adapt themselves to the habits of civilised life, and without feeling regret that anything should be done to estrange them from this favourable disposition, and to prevent the aboriginal inhabitants of New Zealand from presenting, as I trust they will, a favourable contrast with that which has been almost uniformly the fate of races of uncivilised men, when brought in contact with civilised men. So far, I think, hopes may be well entertained that these aborigines may be gradually amalgamated with the white inhabitants, to the infinite advantage of both races, and, I will add, to the honour of this country. The right hon. Gentleman said, that after the language used by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, on the subject of a question which has undoubtedly given rise to great irritation and great jealousy in that country—I mean the land question—he entertained apprehensions as to the course that will be pursued. I do not 344 think that the expressions which the right hon. Gentleman alluded to justify his apprehensions. I believe that my noble Friend would be quite as reluctant as the right hon. Gentleman himself not to adhere strictly to the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi, or not to concede any just claims the natives might bring forward to particular lands to which they believed themselves entitled. At the same time, I must say, that I think, for the sake of the native inhabitants themselves, no course could be more inexpedient than absolutely to affirm that a proprietory right exists on the part either of the tribes collectively, or individual members of those tribes, to the whole of the surface of New Zealand. Let the House recollect for a moment what the extent of that surface and the number of the aboriginal inhabitants arc. There are, I believe, fifty-five millions of acres of land in the two islands, while the whole number of the aboriginal inhabitants does not exceed 100,000 persons. It must also be remembered, that it is not the case in New Zealand as it is in North America and other wild countries, where the native inhabitants subsist by the chase. There were no four-footed animals in New Zealand, except a species of rats, until very recently, and, in fact, the native inhabitants never subsisted by hunting, and they could not therefore be considered to have the same interest in large tracts of land that the aborigines of North America had. Now, how can any one suppose that these 100,000 persons could have rights of property of any sort or kind over such an enormous extent of country? But the right hon. Gentleman has taken the alarm. I think he stated that he did not controvert the general and absolute truth of the doctrines laid down by Earl Grey as to the claims of the aboriginal inhabitants to the soil, as contradistinguished from those of the civilised persons congregated there; but what he seemed to intimate as his opinion was, that we having signed the Treaty of Waitangi, there were some things in Earl Grey's despatches inconsistent with the arrangement then entered into. I do not believe that to be at all the case, nor do I believe that any difference of opinion at all exists between Earl Grey and Governor Grey in their views of the way in which the Treaty of Waitangi should be carried out. If I had intended to justify the conduct of my noble Friend, Earl Grey, I should have read the very passage which the right hon. 345 Gentleman alluded to with a view to impugn that conduct. After laying down what are the abstract principles on which this question is to be viewed, and reminding the Governor of them—for it is extremely important that the Government should keep in view the general principles in carrying out the details on a matter of this kind—my noble Friend, Earl Grey, proceeds to say—It appears to me that you have found it expedient to admit their pretensions to a considerable extent, and that such policy has been attended with no apparent advantages.…. I should wish you to understand that, while I would scrupulously fulfil every engagement entered into, I would avoid any further surrender of the property of the Crown.In the "instructions" transmitted to New Zealand, on the subject of public lands, there was a clause to the effect that no claim to lands within the island, on behalf of the aborigines, should be allowed, unless it could be established to the satisfaction of the court that, either by an act of the Executive Government, or that they had occupied and enjoyed the land so claimed, which became their property by the right of labour expended thereupon. But the right hon. Gentleman said that what chiefly excited his apprehension was the last passage I have quoted. I think, however, that that passage is far from justifying the apprehensions which he expressed, and that it has a bearing of quite a different kind from what he attributes to it. He seems to think that the passage which he read limited the rights of a tribe or individual to the case of land in which labour of some sort has been expended, and that there is nothing to justify the natives in setting up a title against the Crown, or any other proprietors to any land, unless they can prove that they expended labour on that land. Now, I cannot construe that passage in the instructions in the light in which the right hon. Gentleman seems to view it. On the contrary, I think that words are introduced, showing that there are cases in which, though no labour has been expended, the local Government is bound to accede to the claims of the natives. The instructions accompanying the New Zealand charter declare that no claim shall be admitted unless it be established that either by some act of the Executive Government or the adjudication of some court of competent jurisdiction the right has been acknowledged and ascertained, or—"that the claimants, or their progenitors, or 346 those from whom they derive their title, have actually had the occupation of the lands so claimed, and have been accustomed to use and enjoy the same either as places of abode, or for tillage, or for the growth of crops, or for the depasturing of cattle, or otherwise for the convenience and sustentation of life, by means of labour expended thereupon.I dissent from the construction of the right hon. Gentleman; and I do not think the words "by means of labour expended thereupon" are to be read in the connexion suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. I conceive that the Treaty of Waitangi is a document which the Executive Government of New Zealand would be bound to take cognisance of; and I do not think that there was any intention entertained of excluding the natives from any bonâ fide claims which they could have under it, even though there were no labour actually expended on the land. But I do not think that there is any difference of opinion existing with regard to the principles on which these questions should be settled. I believe that the Treaty of Waitangi should be scrupulously and even largely interpreted. I believe that every fair claim an individual could put forward should be at once liberally conceded towards the aboriginal inhabitants; but I think that for the sake of these inhabitants themselves their claim to the whole country ought not to be attended to. That they should be left immense tracts of country which they can put to no profitable use, could be of no possible advantage to them, but must obviously prove fatal to their best interests, as well as to the interests of all who should go there afterwards. I do not believe that there is any difference of opinion between Governor Grey and Karl Grey on this question. I believe that Governor Grey will carry out the instructions in the same spirit in which they were conceived by Earl Grey; and I entertain sanguine hopes that the good sense and the experience of that eminent person who, most fortunately for this country, is administering the affairs of that colony, will succeed in bringing these most dangerous and perplexing questions to a satisfactory issue. A passage has just been pointed out to me, which serves to show what my noble Friend Earl Grey's views are in the instructions which he has sent out, with regard to this question. At page 84 of the Papers presented in December, he says, in commenting on the conduct of the Protestant Bishop of New Zealand—And if the Bishop had consulted the instruc- 347 tions accompanying the charter, which were published with it, and which really contain the practical directions to the local Government, which my despatch was only intended to illustrate, he would there have found the greatest attention paid to the maintenance of everything which can be called an existing native right to land, though established in consequence of the prevalence of that mistaken theory which I have combated. The protector of the aborigines is there directed to inform the registrar respecting all lands within his district to which the natives, 'either as tribes or individuals,' claim either proprietory or possessory title; that all such claims shall be registered; and that wherever it shall be shown, either that such lands have been actually occupied by the natives, or that the ownership to such land, although unoccupied, has been recognised by the executive or judicial authorities to be vested in the natives, such claim shall be finally and conclusively admitted.And, Sir, I will observe that in the despatches which have been very recently received, and just laid on the table of the House, I find this allusion in a despatch from Governor Grey to Earl Grey on this subject. He says—These complaints, and the request for the investigation of claims, were made in the districts in which the missionaries are the principal land claimants; and your Lordship will see that Captain Sotheby states that some of the young men spoke in a most determined manner, and threatened to take the law into their own hands. Captain Sotheby's observations quite accord with all the information which has reached me from other sources; and I can only trust that my being able shortly to conclude some definite and amicable arrangement with the land claimants in the north may for ever set these exciting questions at rest.I think this passage shows that Governor Grey had a confident belief, that under the instructions which he received he would be able to bring these matters to a final and satisfactory issue. I will now proceed to make a few observations on another part of the subject, which is more immediately connected with the question before the House—the Bill on which we now propose going into Committee. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill may be divided into the enacting portion and the suspending portion. As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he generally approves of the enacting portion of the Bill, but that with regard to the suspending portion of it—that which leaves it at the discretion of the Governor to act when he thinks right in introducing the constitution either into a part or the whole of New Zealand—he is of opinion that it would be better entirely to repeal that constitution. Now, I do not think that such a course would be an advisable one. What is the situation of the House as regards this question? 348 This House deliberately and after full discussion did enact a Bill by which it gave free representative institutions to the inhabitants of New Zealand. It did happen, as was not unlikely in legislating for so distant a country, that the Governor of New Zealand expressed great apprehensions as to bringing the constitution into effect at the present moment; but I should be sorry that Parliament, having pronounced so deliberate an opinion on a point on which it is competent to pronounce one, should now take any part that would have the effect of throwing doubt on a question that was considered as having been settled. The Governor has five years, during which he may at his discretion introduce these institutions. These five years will doubtless give us sufficient experience on the matter, and in that time the whole question may doubtless come before the consideration of this House. But my expectation and hope is, that long before that period will have elapsed, the Governor will have communicated with the natives, and having taken such other measures as may be advisable, will see a proper opportunity for introducing these or similar institutions into both islands, or at least into that portion of them that he will think best adapted for the purpose. I think it is a much more expedient course to leave that discretion to him, than for this House now to repeal a measure which after due consideration they have enacted. There is one question more to which I refer with pain; but since the right hon. Gentleman alluded to it, it is necessary that I should say one or two words upon it—I mean the conduct of the Bishop of New Zealand. It is with sincere pain that I again refer to that subject. The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, asked me whether any additional information has been laid before the Government with regard to the conduct of the Bishop, and whether we know of his having taken any means for extending his opinion among the natives on the question of land? [Mr. GLADSTONE: Whether the protest was addressed to the natives or to the Government?] In reply, I have to state that there has been no information whatever received by the Colonial Government on this subject since I last addressed the House upon it. But I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Bishop of New Zealand, in sending this protest to the Government at home, distinctly announced that it was his intention to excite 349 the dissatisfaction of the natives with regard to the course which he understood the Government was disposed to take on this subject. I think nothing can be plainer than the language which he used, that he would do his utmost to inform the natives of New Zealand of their rights and privileges as British subjects, and to assist them in asserting and maintaining them; and he takes it for granted that these rights are inconsistent with the course which the Government chose to take. I beg to express the most sincere respect for the Bishop of New Zealand, for though I do not know him personally I know him from character; but I must say that, considering the important station occupied by the Bishop, my noble Friend, who is responsible for the peace of that colony, on hearing from the Bishop that it was his intention to agitate this question among the natives of New Zealand, was bound to state his opinion of that proceeding. An intention of this kind having been formally and officially communicated, through the Governor of the colony to the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, I adhere to my opinion that my noble Friend would not have done his duty if he had not told the Bishop that he thought his proceedings very wrong. And this expression of my opinion is quite consistent with the respect I wish to pay to the right rev. Prelate, for whose personal character I entertain the highest regard. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied that there is no intention on the part of the Colonial Office to interfere with or take any course upon the question of waste lands in New Zealand, inconsistent with the rights guaranteed to the natives of that colony under the Treaty of Waitangi, or inconsistent with the most liberal and fair dealing. With regard to the other questions to which reference has been made, I think the House will do well to trust to Governor Grey, whose conduct has shown how much he is to be relied upon for prudence, discretion, and firmness, the ample discretionary powers proposed to be given to him. The principle of this Bill is the suspension of the constitution of New Zealand, but at the same time to enable the Governor, at any time he may think fit, to introduce the constitution either wholly or in part. I believe that, placed as we are at a great distance from the colony, it is much wiser to trust to the discretion of one man upon the spot than it would be to lay down the precise period when it would be right 350 to introduce the constitution. I hope, therefore, that the House will not take any step which shall throw any doubt upon the propriety of that course, as was expressed when the New Zealand Bill was before it upon a former occasion. As soon as it can be done, consistently with the safety and well-being of all the races in the colony, they will receive the blessing of free institutions. If this House act in this manner, and if their intentions be carried out—as I am sure they will be—with prudence, circumspection, and firmness by Governor Grey, my firm belief is, there is the fairest prospect of your seeing the blessings of free institutions enjoyed alike by the British settlers and the aboriginal inhabitants, and that we may hope to see this valuable and important dependency of the British Crown flourish, at no distant period, as a united, a happy, and a free community.
§ SIR E. N. BUXTON
said, that on a former occasion he had expressed an opinion that the Bishop of New Zealand was perfectly right in taking the part of the natives when he believed that they had suffered wrong; and that whether he could carry out his intentions in such a way as not to injure the Colonial Government was a question on which the House was then unqualified to decide. He now held in his hand incidental evidence that the right rev. Prelate had not, at all events, lost the confidence of the Governor. In a recent communication to the Bishop, the Governor said, "Your Lordship has often aided me in my difficult duties in this country; would you do once more to this extent?" And then the letter went on to beg the Bishop to use his influence to induce the missionaries of the Church of England to accept what the Governor considered fair terms, in reference to their grants of land; which terms they had since accepted. He must also say that the strong—perhaps he might almost say the excited—opinion of the Bishop respecting the new charter transmitted to New Zealand, was not singular, for he (Sir E. N. Buxton) had letters in his possession from missionaries belonging to the Wesleyan body, speaking as strongly as language could express it, their dread as to the new charter. He might have selected some passages from these letters; but the expressions contained in them respecting the charter were so strong, that he assured the House the Secretary of the Wesleyan body had waited upon him to request that he would not read them. None 351 of these missionaries held any land in the colony. And not only were the Bishop and the missionaries united on this subject, but other gentlemen, of the highest consideration, and of all classes in New Zealand, concurred in putting a similar construction on the charter. He had heard much of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) with great satisfaction, for he had expressed strongly, and as it appeared to him with great wisdom, the determination of the Government that the Treaty of Waitangi should be maintained fairly and liberally. All that he could have wished to hear further from the right hon. Gentleman was, that in considering the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, Her Majesty's Government would consider the meaning attached to it by the Secretary of State who desired it to be carried into effect, as well as the opinion of the Governor who carried it into effect on the one part; and by the natives who were the other parties to it. In a despatch dated August 14, 1839, from Lord Normanby, then Secretary for the Colonies, his Lordship, addressing Governor Hobson, said—It will be your duty to obtain, by fair and equal contracts with the natives, the cession to the Crown of such waste lands as may be progressively required for the occupation of settlers resorting to New Zealand."Waste lands!"—not cultivated or occupied lands. Such were the views of Lord Normanby in 1840. In a despatch dated December 9, 1840, the opinion of Governor Hobson was stated, that—The treaty must be regarded as the fundamental law of the country, and must be so interpreted as to harmonise with the other laws of New Zealand relating to like subjects.The fact, therefore, appeared that Lord Normanby expected that the Government meant to acquire no territory as claiming the sovereignty of New Zealand. Sir R. Peel, speaking in 1845, said—There is no claim here to possession of territory in consequence of sovereignty.They had the sovereignty minus the land; they gave up the land when they claimed the right of sovereignty. He trusted, then, that in dealing with the natives, the Government would deal with them according to the meaning which had always been attached to the Treaty of Waitangi. Lord Stanley, in proposing a land-tax of 2d. per acre, stated, that it was intended to apply to all lands; but the Government was not likely to tax lands which belonged to itself, 352 or to induce a forfeiture of that which was already theirs. Such was the construction put upon the treaty by the natives at the present time. From the papers just printed, it appeared that the greatest alarm had been created among the people, lest their lands should be taken from them; and, undeniably, their opinion was that there was a title on their part to the possession of all the lands in the northern island. It was notorious to those acquainted with the country, that the New Zealanders did put a value on their land; and, though they might use it only for "pig-runs," they were ready to enter into war rather than give up what they considered their own. He trusted the Government would act fully on those excellent principles which the right hon. Gentleman had enunciated, and according to the interpretation of the treaty now brought under their notice. He trusted, then, that in spite of the influence of the New Zealand Company, which was so ably represented in that House, they would act upon those principles of justice which had been so well laid down; for if they would only do that, it would be found that peace and security would be easily maintained in New Zealand.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
was induced to rise principally by the concluding observation of the hon. Baronet who had just sat down. He had the honour to belong to the New Zealand Company, of which the hon. Baronet had expressed his fears, and whose position, complaints, and claims had so frequently engaged the attention of the House. From the moment he became connected with that Company, which was not until some years after its establishment, he had seen nothing in its proceedings to make him regard with anything but pride and pleasure his joining so many public-spirited men—men of as high feeling in that respect as any in the country. He begged to inform the hon. Baronet, of whose kind feelings and general philanthropy no man had a higher opinion than himself, that he was at perfect liberty to enter upon a close investigation of the affairs of the Company; and if he did, he would find that fears had been excited and remarks made with regard to the Company by interested and turbulent persons, which were not justified by the facts. If the hon. Baronet would make the investigation, all the information in the possession of the Company should be placed at his disposal. There should be no secrecy whatever. At the same time there were 353 strong differences of opinion between the hon. Baronet and himself upon the very material point of the construction given to the Treaty of Waitangi. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone), and those of the hon. Baronet (Sir E. N. Buxton), were pointed to the conclusion that the whole of the lands in the island, without distinction, occupied, possessed, and waste, were the property of the natives as against all the rest of the world. That was, they belonged to the natives because they were born there, or because they had eaten somebody who had possessed the lands before. The phrase used in the treaty was "beneficial occupation. "He (Mr. Aglionby) toot it that in common acceptation the words "beneficial occupation" meant the enjoyment of the lands for necessary sustentation, or some practical benefit. An ideal occupation could not be a beneficial enjoyment. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, in his despatch regarding the Bishop, referred to this very point: he did not use the phrase "expenditure of labour," but "actual occupation." By "actual occupation," he did not mean, nor did he believe the noble Earl meant, to exclude from the natives' possession lands which they did not till, because there were considerable portions of land connected with the sea and with inland rivers, of which as fishermen they had the beneficial enjoyment not included in the Treaty of Waitangi, and upon which they had not expended labour. He apprehended these portions were not to be taken out of their possession. He, therefore, wished to call the attention of the House to the construction put upon the Treaty of Waitangi, the same year it was signed, and before there were any discussions on the subject. The expression in the treaty was "possessed by the natives either as tribes collectively or individually." Now, what were the people to understand by "possession?" Why, in the whole of the middle island, which was as large as England, there were not more than 1,200 inhabitants; and what did they possess? According to the hon. Baronet (Sir E. N. Buxton) they possessed the whole of that island. That, indeed, was a point openly and publicly advocated in the colony itself by those who were very well-meaning men, but ill judges of the interests of the natives themselves. Could it be supposed that the Treaty of Waitangi, supposing it to apply to that island, gave a right and title to the whole of the island to 354 its 1,200 inhabitants, to the exclusion of every other people, England having been clearly the discoverer of the place? Such an idea was not only contrary to the principles of political economy, but to the principles of religion. What was the condition of those islands, which had led to their colonisation by this country? The fact was, that from the time of Captain Cook's discovery the natives were decreasing in numbers, owing to wars among themselves, which could not be contests for territory, because they did not want it, but which were carried on for the gratification of cruel and savage propensities. Tribes were destroyed and eaten by their conquerors. It was a matter of humanity to colonise that country for the advancement of civilisation and Christianity. The conquerors left the land unoccupied. Was it to be said that, under such circumstances, the people of this country should be prevented from applying their enterprise and capital to those islands, due care being taken of the interests of the natives? Much had been done to extend education and religion among them, and they were now becoming gradually absorbed in a more civilised population. With reference to the construction of the Treaty of Waitangi, it was important to look at the language used by Lord John Russell in November, 1840 —the treaty having been made in the beginning of that year. In an official document of that date, the noble Lord used the expression, "grants of waste land to us belonging." The noble Lord evidently did not understand the treaty as recognising the whole land as the property of the natives, because he referred to large portions lying within the island as belonging to the Crown. He begged leave, before he sat down, to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the distinction which he (Mr. Aglionby) drew some time ago between the southern settlement, which was founded under the auspices of the New Zealand Company, and the northern district of the island. The observations which he then made were not reported, and he was blamed out of doors for not making them. What he said with regard to the settlements in Cook's Straits and the Middle Island were fully borne out by Governor Grey, who said, in the first page of his despatches, which formed the foundation of the present Bill—I am not then at present aware of any circumstances which need prevent the immediate introduction of representative institutions into that 355 colony, which would comprise the settlements in Cook's Straits and in the Middle Island. All questions of a vexatious nature between the Government and the settlers in that part of the colony have now been finally set at rest; and, with a considerable acquaintance with British settlements, I can have no hesitation in recording it as my opinion that there never was a body of settlers to whom the power of local self-government could be more wisely and judiciously entrusted, than the inhabitants of the settlements to which I am alluding.Without wishing to raise any discussion upon that part of the subject, he had thought it right to read to the House that testimony to the character of those settlers. He trusted the House would now proceed with the Bill.
§ MR. CARDWELL
would not he tempted by the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down to enter into any discussion upon that long-vexed question—the interpretation which was to be placed upon the Treaty of Waitangi. Upon former occasions, when discussing that question, he had taken a different view of the subject from that entertained by the hon. Gentleman; and he wished now to say that subsequent reflection had not at all tended to satisfy him that the legal construction then adopted by nearly one-half of the Committee—with but a bare majority in their favour—was in any respect erroneous, neither had the occurrences which had since taken place in the colony tended to create in his mind the smallest impression that the practical well-being of that colony had at all been advanced by the construction which unfortunately was put upon that treaty by the majority of the Committee in 1845. But having said that, he did not think it would be right again to occupy the time of the House by entering into long legal arguments, to which justice only could be done when the House was expressly prepared to sit upon the question judicially. The question now arose in a purely collateral shape, and he thought it would be an unfair intrusion upon the House longer to occupy its attention with that Subject. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) had only interrupted the Speaker's leaving the chair for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction upon two particular points —the one a purely personal question, in which it was important to see that justice was done to a highly-respected individual; the other, a great public question affecting the destiny of the whole island of New Zealand. With regard to the first question, he regretted to say that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the 356 Board of Trade was unsatisfactory to his (Mr. Cardwell's) mind: The question was, whether or not the right hon. Gentleman charged the Bishop of New Zealand with having been guilty of creating agitation in the island, and endeavouring to excite the minds of the natives in opposition to the existing Government. The right hon. Gentleman read from the Bishop's protest the following passage:—It is my duty also to inform your Excellency that I am resolved, God being my helper, to use all legal and constitutional measures, befitting my station, to inform the natives of New Zealand of their rights and privileges as British subjects, and to assist them in asserting and maintaining them.But the right hon. Gentleman stopped short there. He rose for the purpose of reading to the House the words which immediately followed:—Whether by petition to the Imperial Parliament, or other loyal and peaceable methods; but that, in so doing, I shall not forget the respect which I owe to your Excellency, nor do anything which can be considered likely to add to the difficulties of the colony.That was the whole question. The Bishop —whether rightly or wrongly he would not then inquire; and he might argue that, perhaps, some other day—felt it to be his duty, as the head of the whole missionary body—and he believed that those missionaries even who were not under his episcopal superintendence did act with him in harmony upon that subject — to represent a particular case, and to make a protest to the Governor. If he had done it as an agitator amongst the natives, he would be the last person to vindicate him; and that was now the actual question. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no information from the colony upon that point; but he contended that there was ample negative information. The Bishop's protest was dated July. They had since received the fullest information as to the state of the colony up to the first of October, three months afterwards, and there was not one word from the Governor as to any ill-feeling having been occasioned by that protest. He considered this a most ample and conclusive testimony that the Bishop had not been guilty of the charge imputed to him. The other and more important question to which his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) had referred was, in what sense and spirit did the Government intend to carry out the Treaty of Waitangi? Did they intend to observe the treaty in the sense put upon it at the 357 time by those who made it; or were they going to break it, or to explain it away, and get rid of it by a side wind? The right hon. Gentleman, being pressed upon the point, was obliged to include the Treaty of Waitangi amongst the acts of the Executive Government of New Zealand. That was to say, that a treaty made by the chiefs on the one hand, and by the missionaries, on behalf of Queen Victoria, on the other, and in virtue of which we became possessed of New Zealand, was to be construed as the act of an Executive Government which was not then constituted. So far from being one of their acts, it was anterior to the existence of the Executive Government, and was that on which the existence of the Executive Government depended. However, the answer of the right hon. Gentleman might be taken to be satisfactory in the main; for he said, whatever might have been the instructions of Earl Grey in 1846—whether they were consistent with the interpretation which he put upon the Treaty of Waitangi or not—that was not the question—the Government highly approved the conduct of Captain Grey in reference to that treaty; that the Government were responsible for the peace of the island, and intended to act on the principles which had been laid down by Captain Grey. If that were the intention of the Government it was satisfactory, and it would go out to New Zealand as a message of peace, operating upon the chiefs as Captain Sotheby's assurance to the same effect had already operated. According to Captain Sotheby's report there had been a great deal of excitement among the natives. Captain Sotheby said—Through Mr. Meurant, they acquainted me that affairs were very peaceable in the northern districts, and no complaints to make; but said there had been a great deal of excitement on the part of Kiwiti and many of the natives, owing to a report, very widely circulated, that the Government intended taking possession of all uncultivated land, and that more troops had arrived to put such directions into execution. Previous to my arriving, Kiwiti had came down with about thirty followers to Waka, to know if such was the case, as he considered it to be in open violation of the Treaty of Wastangi, and in direct opposition to what had been the view of his Excellency the Governor; but Waka eased his mind, by telling him there was no truth in such report, and which I most fully corroborated.And again, Captain Sotheby reported:—I desired Mr. Meurant to acquaint the native chiefs, Tupe and Kururoa, of my arrival, and begging they would repair on board the ship the following morning, which the former did, and who, I 358 regret to say, appeared in a very precarious state, He expressed much satisfaction that his Excellency the Governor had sent a man-of-war to visit them, particularly at the present time, as he wished for information to know whether there was any truth in the report that the Government claimed all land not under tillage, which had created much uneasiness and anxiety on the part of the natives. In the presence of Tomati Waka, through the interpreter, I gave him to understand, upon the authority of his Excellency the Governor, such was not the intention or even the wish, if practicable, of the Government; and that no land would be taken excepting with the will and consent of the chiefs, and then granting them a pension, but which kind of remuneration the natives don't seem to understand. He said if land was required it must be paid for, but several times expressed his wish to live peaceably.That was the point upon which the question of peace or war with the natives would turn. All he wanted to know was, whether the Government was going to act in that spirit. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say emphatically that it was. If so, they would have peace in New Zealand, and he trusted that the improvements which the right hon. Gentleman alluded to towards the conclusion of his speech, might be fairly anticipated. Now, with regard to the consequences of this important question. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Aglionby), reviving some of the feeling which used to be exhibited formerly, stated that the New Zealanders had derived their title to the land from having eaten its former possessors. The papers before the House, however, stated that these natives had been able to maintain a gallant stand in action against the regular troops of the Queen; and instead of eating our soldiers when any unfortunately were killed, what said Colonel M'Cleverty?—The body of Private Weller, of the 58th Regiment, was found and carried away by the enemy, who read prayers over, and buried him at Aramoho, without degrading mutilation.As the precise question before the House was whether the Speaker should leave the chair for the purpose of considering the proposed Bill in Committee; as they had now done justice to the position of the Bishop in regard to the protest which he had addressed to the Governor; and as they had ascertained from the Government the spirit in which they intended in future to carry out the Treaty of Waitangi, he thought it would not be proper to offer any further opposition to the Bill at once going into Committee.
The EARL of LINCOLN
thought the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) 359 would see that the suggestion which he had made to the House two or three hours ago, in no unfriendly spirit, might have been wisely adopted. He (Lord Lincoln) had told him that it would be impossible to make any practical progress with the Bill on that occasion, and that it would be absolutely necessary to have a discussion on it upon a future day. They had now had a discussion; but with the exception of some incidental observations, there had been no discussion whatever upon the Bill itself. The whole debate had turned upon two very important points—one, the waste lands' question in New Zealand, and the other a personal matter relating to the Bishop of that colony; but whether it was right to pass a Bill suspending the constitution of New Zealand for five years, they had not at all considered. He intended to have addressed the House at some length upon the provisions of the Bill; but he thought it would not be convenient to commence such a discussion as that at five o'clock in the evening, when by their Orders they were obliged to adjourn at six; and, under these circumstances, he would suggest that the Chairman should now take the chair pro formâ, with the view of reporting progress; and that the discussion upon the Bill should be taken upon some future stage. He at any rate would not commence this discussion at present, but should take advantage of the next opportunity of the Bill coming before the House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
was very far from accusing the noble Lord of wishing to disturb the business of the House; but he could not consent to postpone going into Committee. He was sorry to think that the noble Lord meditated any opposition to the Bill; but he thought that any observations upon the question of the suspension of the abolition of the constitution could be made quite as well when discussing the clauses of the Bill in Committee.
The EARL of LINCOLN
objected to raising the discussion upon which he wished the House to enter in Committee. If it was the wish of the House to go into Committee he would not oppose it; but he thought it fair to give notice that, if they did so, he intended to raise the discussion to which he referred upon the bringing up of the report, and that he reserved to himself the right to move any Amendments on the report which he should find to be necessary.
§ MR. F. SCOTT
joined with the noble 360 Lord in hoping that House would not go into Committee at that hour of the evening. The real object which they had at heart was the colonisation of New Zealand; and if they hoped to colonise successfully, they must do it on the principle of justice and equity, and must place a fair and liberal interpretation upon a treaty entered into by two distinct contracting parties, each understanding the nature of the contract into which they were entering. They were not sitting there as a court of justice to determine what beneficial occupation was; but, acting upon the spirit of the treaty which was before them, they were bound to legislate. The last despatches laid before the House told them that the natives kept large tracts of ground for the cultivation of the fern root, and that during the last year, in consequence of the failure of the potato crop, similar to that which had visited us, they were reduced to the consumption of the fern root. As to the protest of the Bishop, there was additional evidence of Earl Grey taking a somewhat limited view of what were the rights of the natives, in the judgment which was given by the Supreme Court of New Zealand on the subject, in reference to which Earl Grey, in the last despatch in reply to the Bishop, said—The able and important judgment transmitted to me in your despatch of July last, establishes on the highest legal authorities both of this country and America, that the views I expressed are those which, for nearly 300 years, have been uniformly recognised and acted on by the consent of civilised nations.That document was a legal opinion given by a judge in the country on a subject on which he was not competent to decide. It was a question between two individuals, British subjects; and then, by a forced inference, the judgment which was to decide upon the merits was brought to bear upon the general question. The great hazard of proceeding thus hastily to legislate on so important a subject, was sufficiently evinced by the consequences which had already taken place. Already an Act of Parliament had been sent out to settle these lands, and to establish a constitution. It no sooner arrived, and the Governor was called upon to enforce it, than he wrote home entreating the Colonial Office to pause before they called upon him to enforce an Act of Parliament which he felt sure would create lasting disturbance of very great magnitude within the colony. He entreated the House not to act hastily in this matter. Would it not be infinitely 361 better, instead of attempting to go into Committee at this time, on a subject of this great importance, to postpone the consideration of it until they could really learn whether the provisions of the Bill were of a nature that were calculated to serve the purpose for which it was intended? It was not merely a question whether the constitution should be suspended for five years or for a longer period; the question was, whether the colony was in a condition to receive such a Bill, and whether it would not be better to omit altogether the enacting part. On the whole, it would be better to suspend the Bill till another day.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
believed the constitution to be that of universal suffrage, checked by the qualification of reading and writing the English language; but the present was a hasty mode of proposing its suspension. It was too important a matter to be dealt with in the way which was attempted. If any proof were wanting of this, there could be none greater than the fact, that the question before the House being the second reading of a Bill for suspending the constitution, the whole debate had turned on two other questions, viz., the conduct of the Bishop, and the Treaty of Waitangi. He therefore hoped that the question might be raised in a manner more fitting the importance of the subject, and that the right hon. Gentleman would allow the discussion to take place before the Bill went into Committee.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
differed from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He did not think the discussion of the Treaty of Waitangi foreign to the Bill now before the House; on the contrary, he believed that it was raised on everyone of those clauses which related to the land question. If the question was to be settled on views of international law, some reference should be had to the laws of real property under which, for so many centuries, the New Zealand tribes had transmitted their lands from generation to generation. He thought that our character in the eyes of foreign States, and particularly in the eyes of those possessing a semi-barbarous population, was already low enough, and he was not minded to assist Ministers to degrade it still further. He should oppose the adoption of as much of this Bill as related to enactments. He was clear that upon the present state of our information this question of occupation and property, with which this Bill proposed to deal, should be determined with a due re- 362 gard not only to treaties, but to the peculiar law of New Zealand, viz., the customs of the New Zealand tribes, and the law of the English colonist. Without that undertaking he should oppose the adoption of the enacting clause of the Bill; and, to give the right hon. Gentleman time to deliberate and determine as to the course which he was prepared to follow with respect to those clauses, he should now move that the House go into Committee on this Bill this day week.
§ Motion not seconded. The House went into Committee.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, that he did not intend to offer any obstruction to the Bill or any part of it; but as to the question of suspending or repealing the present constitution of New Zealand, he would take further time to consider it; and if he felt it his duty to propose an Amendment, he would take an opportunity of giving notice of it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
objected to make the alteration which his hon. Friend proposed. Considering the distance this colony was from the mother country, five years was not too long a period to suspend the constitution. If at any time within the five years it should appear expedient to Earl Grey to bring within the constitution the whole or part of the country, he would be able to do so. All that the Bill did was to lay down five years as the maximum time during which the constitution could be suspended, without the Government being obliged to come to the House for the purpose: and he thought on these grounds that five years was a better term than three years.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
observed, that the original intention of the Government had been to grant to the southern portion of New Zealand a constitution immediately, and to the northern portion the same been after the lapse of two years. The change in this view had been caused by the strong representations of Governor Grey; but he (Mr. Aglionby) did not think that the recommendation of that officer would at all warrant the suspension of the constitution with regard to the south for so long a period as five years. There were no complaints whatever in respect to the conduct of the inhabitants of that part of the colony; they were admitted to be peaceable and orderly, and it was not maintained 363 that they were at all unfit for the exercise of the privileges which it had been proposed to intrust to them. He apprehended that, notwithstanding this Bill, there would still be a discretionary power with the Governor to curtail the period of five years, so far as concerned the southern settlements, if he saw no danger in such a course; and it would further be in his power, if he (Mr. Aglionby) understood the measure aright, to make such alterations and modifications in the original charter as he might think necessary. There could be no question that Governor Grey would exercise such a power with great discretion; and he begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman if that power should not rest with the Governor?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
referred the hon. Gentleman to the fourth clause, wherein it was stated that the Governor of New Zealand would have the power, if he should think fit, to introduce a constitution to one, while he withheld it from another portion of the colony. It had been thought advisable to intrust the Governor with this discretion, and it was a point on which it would be better to leave everything to his own judgment. It might be, that the appearance of partiality would cause great excitement, and be productive of very serious consequences to the peace of the colony; but if, without danger, a constitution could be granted to the south within the period of five years, there would be no obstacle whatever placed in the way of the Governor making the concession. With regard to the other point adverted to by the hon. Gentleman, the Governor would not have power to alter the charter, but would be able, by an ordinance of the Legislative Council, to make those Amendments which might be necessary to the good government of the colony.
The EARL of LINCOLN
thought, as the right hon. Gentleman had insisted on going into this piecemeal discussion, that he should at least not have given answers which were not borne out by the Bill itself. He sincerely regretted, on every ground, that there was no representative of the Colonial Office in that House. The right hon. Gentleman had taken his information from the Attorney General; but was he quite sure that the answer he had just given was accurate? Was it a fact that under the fourth clause the Governor of New Zealand would have power to grant to the south provinces that constitution which it was the object of the first clause 364 to suspend? He (Lord Lincoln) apprehended there was no such power whatever; under the fourth clause the Governor would be empowered to grant a Legislative Council; but that was by no means the sort of constitution which they were about to suspend. The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, was misrepresenting his own Bill. If this Bill passed, the Queen in Council only would have power to renew the constitution.
§ MR. C. BULLER
considered that the reply of his right hon. Friend to the question put by the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth was strictly correct. Undoubtedly the discretionary power of renewing the constitution was left to the Governor; that was to say, that he would be able to do so by and through a Legislative Council nominated by the Crown. Under the fourth clause it would be in the power of the Governor, at any time, being so advised, or taking it on his own responsibility, or instructed by the Colonial Secretary, by and with the advice of the Legislative Council, to constitute, by ordinance, a provisional legislative council, "to be nominated or elected." Supposing, therefore, at the end of two or three years, the Governor thought that the southern or the northern provinces were in a fit state to receive free representative institutions, under this clause, as he (Mr. Buller) took it, he would have power to propose an ordinance to his council, constituting provincial legislative councils to be nominated by him, or to be elected by the people or by the municipalities.
The EARL of LINCOLN
thought, that the right hon. Member had answered in a lawyerlike manner, and rather evaded the question. That which he desired to know was, whether, if the constitution were suspended in the northern portion of New Zealand, there was a power under the Bill to enable the Governor to establish the constitution in the southern portion? He would ask the Attorney General if it was his opinion that the first clause of this Act gave a power to the Governor to restore the constitution in one province of New Zealand, whilst it continued suspended in another. For his part, he (the Earl of Lincoln) was of opinion that the constitution was to be suspended for five years, unless the Queen in Council directed the contrary.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the noble Earl had accused his right hon. Friend of taking a lawyerlike view of the case; but in his opinion the noble Earl took a special pleading view of the Bill. 365 The constitution which this Bill proposed to suspend, provided that there should be one general assembly of the whole country, and two legislative assemblies, elected by the two different provinces. It appeared that both provinces were not equally fit for this election of a legislative assembly; and, therefore, it was impossible to have the general assembly, if there were to be but one legislative assembly elected; but the Bill went on the basis of unlimited confidence in the Governor as to giving a legislative council to either province, as he might deem expedient, the council to be appointed or elected as he thought fit, or, if he wished, some might be appointed and some elected.
The EARL of LINCOLN
said, that the first clause repealed the provisions of the Act which gave two legislative assemblies. Did the Attorney General say, that under that clause there would be a general assembly?
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
stated, that the constitution which was to be suspended, provided for a House of Lords (the general assembly), and two Houses of Commons (the legislative assemblies); the latter to be elected by the two different provinces of New Zealand. The general assembly was to be composed of members of the legislative assemblies, elected for that purpose by the legislative assemblies; and therefore, as long as there were not two legislative assemblies, there could not be a general assembly according to the constitution of 1846.
§ House went into Committee pro formâ, and resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at Six o'Clock.