§ The Order of the Day for going into Committee on this Bill having been read,
The EARL of LINCOLN
said: Sir, if it had not been for the impossibility, upon the last occasion when this question was under consideration, of my entering upon that branch of this subject which I am most anxious to have clearly understood, I would not have troubled the House upon the present occasion. When this Bill was before the House previous to Christmas, as well as when it was proposed to go into Committee on Wednesday last, I took no part in the discussion which then arose. On those two occasions the discussion was almost entirely confined to the question of the waste lands in the colony of New Zealand, and the rights of the natives to these lands as affected by the Treaty of Waitangi, and subsequent despatches of the noble Lord Her Majesty's Secretary for the Colonies. How far this Bill was called for—how far it is necessary—are points upon which the Bill has undergone no discussion. I am not underrating the discussion which took place upon the two former occasions—I consider that discussion to have been very important, forming, as it does, a necessary part of the subject; though I cannot but regret that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) was unable to give a more satisfactory explanation with reference to the despatches of the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary. At the same time looking at the feelings expressed by the right hon. Gentleman who stands here as the representative of the Government in respect to this Bill—looking at the despatches of Governor Grey bearing on these points—looking at these despatches of the Governor, and taking into consideration the fact that the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary has not reprobated the opinions avowed by Governor Grey—I think the House should be satisfied with the explanations offered by the right hon. Gentleman. I will therefore leave this part of the question as it stands, and proceed to that portion of the Bill which affects the popular constitution of New Zealand. The right hon. Gentleman a few days ago expressed his extreme surprise that there should exist any desire for a debate on the Bill. When the Bill was first introduced—so said the right hon. Gentleman—there was such an unanimity of opinion on both sides of the House as to render discussion alto- 582 gether improbable and unnecessary. I will admit that the utmost unanimity prevailed in the House when the measure was introduced; but I attribute that unanimity not so much to the circumstance that we were about to suspend a constitution granted to New Zealand, as to the willingness of all parties to get rid of this particular constitution. It was unanimously condemned. If it was true, as had been asserted, that this constitution was right in the abstract, it must be admitted that it was erroneous in its form, and too theoretic for practical application. The constitution was universally condemned by the Members of this House, and by every person who knew anything of the subject out of it. There is a general feeling—and in this I entirely concur—that the House ought to correct what has been done wrong; but it is our duty on the present occasion to see if this is the best remedy that can be adopted. I am very unwilling to revert to any part of the debate of 1845; it is sufficient for my purpose that I commence with the accession of the present Government to office. I will simply refer to those debates, and express my ready assent to the doctrine laid down by Earl Grey, in his despatch dated December, 1846. In that despatch his Lordship expressed an opinion that the time had arrived for providing a form of representative government for New Zealand. I, too, declare myself in favour of a representative form of government—not a representative government in the first instance, but the wiser and more cautious mode of first establishing municipal institutions, which might, before long, form the basis of a representative government. And when I speak of municipal institutions, I do not wish it to be understood that I mean such municipal institutions as were given by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) in 1846. They were mere copies of municipal institutions in this country, without any regard to the enormous difference between Great Britain and New Zealand. There was no allowance made for the striking difference which exists between the manufacturing population concentrated in large towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the agricultural population scattered over the whole extent of New Zealand. I consider that the right hon. Member for Coventry, and the right hon. Baronet then at the head of Her Majesty's Government, never intended what they called municipal institutions to mean mayors, town-councils, and burgesses; 583 that these institutions were merely to form the machinery for paving and lighting; they meant something of a more comprehensive character—something which should in reality be the foundation of representative government. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth anticipated municipal institutions in this wider and more generous sense, and rightly described them as the germ of representative government. In the discussion to which I have referred, he quoted passages from the works of Burke, which completely exemplify these views. The noble Lord at the head of the Government is an authority on colonial matters; and the noble Lord stated that he considered municipal corporations as a proper and necessary prelude to a representative constitution in New Zealand; and expressly stated that it was not wise or desirable that the colony should jump at once from a state of despotism to one of the most elaborate and finedrawn constitutions, containing a number of forms hardly understood in a country such as our own. Within a very few months before the granting of this constitution which I am now discussing, so little was it desired by any one in the House, or in the colony, that a petition was presented, from which I beg leave to read a few extracts. It was dated 7th July, 1845, and the petition originated with a number of New Zealand settlers, who were then in England. After a great number of important statements the petitioners prayed that—Parliament will bestow upon Her Majesty's subjects in New Zealand, without distinction of race, some such form of government as the chartered constitution which, from the time of Queen Elizabeth down to the year 1829, the supreme authority of this country conferred upon every body of its subjects, not being convicts, who emigrated to plant a colony.And the petitioners went on to say that—In praying your hon. House to devise some means of bestowing representative government on New Zealand, your petitioners wish to express their opinion that, on account of the ignorance, both of the inferior order of the natives, and of the poorer immigrants who fly from pauperism in this country, it is desirable that the local constitution of the colony should be far from democratic, the grand point being that colonists, of whatever class, and not strangers—that is, persons having interests in common with the permanent inhabitants, and not persons coming from a distance merely to enjoy place and salary—should have a real voice in the management of the colony.Now, Sir, that the constitution granted by the noble Lord was at variance with the terms of that petition, and with the recom- 584 mendations of all who took part in the debate of 1845, is manifest. I shall be able to prove that it was at variance also with the opinions of those who were consulted by the noble Lord upon the subject. I think it is a matter very much to be regretted that, it being the opinion of the noble Lord that such a complicated form of constitution should be attempted, he should have rushed with such hot haste into it—that thus a temporary constitution has been granted—and that eventually he has interposed a long delay in the way of granting a permanent constitution by the attempt he has made to bestow upon the colony this half-American, half-English form of constitution. I regret that he should have made such extraordinary haste, with so little consideration and so little opportunity of obtaining the opinion of the Governor of the colony upon it beforehand. But, Sir, it was such a beautiful theory, that philosophers at home could hardly help admiring it. The machinery fitted so extremely well, that they did not venture to doubt its power of working smoothly; but when it came to be applied to the place for which it was intended, it was so wholly unsuitable, that it reminded one of the fine machinery of a clock applied to the rough hewing and cutting out of the foundation of a building. Instead of those localised governments which would have prepared the colony for the more refined constitution, the noble Lord attempted at once to establish a constitution which he considered might be applied to the whole colony without distinction. In the first instance, with respect to the franchise, which the noble Lord considered applicable to the whole of New Zealand, it must be observed that the country to which it was to be applied was one where there was a great fluctuation of inhabitants. It was not a country where the natives had become accustomed for a long while to the existing order of things; but a country upon which we had entered only a very few years before, and in which we had only some 14,000 or 15,000 English settlers; where that small body of settlers, too, was fluctuating from one part of the colony to another, day by day. In this colony it was that the noble Lord proposed to establish a franchise upon the basis of what is called household suffrage, but which in that country amounted to universal suffrage. It was established, too, with nothing to act by way of check. There was nothing having the form of 585 aristocracy. Anything like an aristocracy was wanting. It was essentially an ultra-democratic constitution, and there was no prestige about it, such as in older communities conciliated love and respect for established institutions. The constitution was, in fact, without any check; and how was it to be limited? Solely by the ability, or rather by the acquirement of so much learning, as would enable those who received the franchise to read and write English. Now, Sir, I must say if ever there was a plan cunningly devised to produce not friendship but hostility—not to promote but to prevent the amalgamation of the native population with the English settlers—it was this which the noble Lord was in such haste to enact. If ever there was a plan to postpone indefinitely the amalgamation of the two races—a plan most successfully to separate them—it was this. Why, Sir, we have the authority of Governor Grey, in this very book that has been laid before us, that there is not in the entire colony a single native who can read or write English. Some of them speak English, and "the great majority of the native population can read and write their own language fluently." But remember "none can read or write English." How then could this universal suffrage to the English settlers, but which deprived the whole native race of the franchise, produce anything but ill-will between the two races? If anything could excite the jealousy of this jealous people, this was the elaborate and at the same time simple scheme for effecting that object. And the noble Lord was forewarned of it. I have a paper here which proves that there were four leading colonists who were then residing in this country, who gave him reasons of a sound and practical nature, which should have made him pause before sending out that constitution, but which nevertheless seemed to have received no consideration at his hands. They dwell most strongly on the objections to these mere municipal corporations, and insist that they should be of a more governmental character. If they were intended to perform only the functions of some small municipal corporations here, and to attend merely to paving and lighting, they would fail in teaching the people the use of constitutional power; and not only would they fail in teaching the people—not only would they be ineffective—but the colony would obtain functionaries of a very inferior description. Those of the natives of a 586 superior class would decline to work with them. These parties said—We are the more impressed with the expediency of some such arrangement, because we are convinced that it is essential to secure in each settlement the services of the leading colonists as officers of its corporation, since those officers are to choose the members for the representative chamber of their provincial assembly. The colonists who are the most fit for this important trust might be unwilling to exercise it, if with its exercise were coupled the necessity of acting as common councilman or alderman of a borough, confined in its powers like those of England and Wales.And they further said—If the officers of the corporation are to perform duties such as those of an alderman or common councilman of an English town or borough, we object strongly to their having a voice in choosing members for the provincial house of representatives, because, as we before stated, the best colonists will not have consented to perform the ungenial duties in order to secure the vote. But if the 'municipal corporation' possess the 'township' powers which we have above recommended, its offices would confer sufficient dignity and importance to induce the best colonists to accept them; and they, being the élite, as it were, of the general body of electors, might, without disadvantage, be empowered to select the representatives. We approach the question of franchise with some diffidence, because we are unaware how far our views as to the large local powers necessary for the 'municipal corporations' will be agreed to by Her Majesty's Government. We should, however, be unwilling to give an opinion as to what qualification would secure success to the scheme if the municipal corporations were to have only the powers of bodies which bear that name in England and Wales, because we should conceive that the functions of such bodies were totally distinct from those of choosing a representative.I will not read any farther extracts upon this point. I have read enough to show how anxious these colonists were that the municipal corporations should have a more extended form; and that if the noble Lord persisted in maintaining them in the position he proposed, there should be a differently formed constituency for the election of the elective body. The plan proposed by the noble Lord was, that these municipal corporations should be appointed by the Governor in various parts of the country, with powers like those possessed by similar bodies in England. These municipal corporations were to consist of a mayor, aldermen, and burgesses, as in England; and, as in the old corporation system in England, in some of the boroughs, the Parliament of New Zealand was to be elected by the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of the new corporations. That was to be the constitution of the two re- 587 presentative bodies. From these two councils the Governor was to elect members of the principal legislative council; and these two bodies were to elect the members of the general assembly. So that this infant colony was to commence with—first, English corporations; then two provincial assemblies; then two legislative councils appointed by the Governor; and, as the apex of this constitution, another general legislative council selected by the Government, and one superior elective assembly. The system was altogether too complicated for an infant colony. I have already alluded to what were the opinions of all practical men as to the franchise. The gentlemen to whom I have referred, who delivered to the noble Lord the protest against the constitution, declared upon the question of the franchise, that—We are of opinion that, at any rate in the existing settlements, and for the present, it would be very dangerous to extend the franchise too much by making the qualification for a voter too low, trusting to a higher qualification for the person to be elected. This arrangement allows mischievous and intriguing individuals, who have no difficulty in providing themselves with the higher qualification, to obtain the suffrages of a low and comparatively ignorant class of voters through bribery or other corrupting means.Did these gentlemen speak without experience on the subject? Did they fear without adequate reason that bribery would be tried in the form in which it exists in this country? Why, they had already found out that the evils they spoke of were not merely in anticipation, but that they already existed. And this striking example is given—an example that might excite some amusement, but from its similarity to many other scenes within the knowledge of the Members of this House:—A. remarkable instance of this occurred at the election which took place at Wellington in October, 1842, for the officers of a corporation which possessed very limited powers. Every male adult, who chose to pay 1l. sterling to have his name registered, was privileged to vote; and any voter was qualified for election. 350 persons obtained the franchise; and of course the small sum of money was paid for many of them by parties who wished to secure their votes. In one case, a committee for the election of certain persons had given 25l. to a colonist who had great influence over a number of Highland labourers, in order that he should register 25 of their votes, and make them vote for the committee's list. The leader of the opposing candidates, however, knew the laird's failing—set to drinking with him at breakfast time till he had won his heart, and then marched reeling arm-in-arm with him to the poll, followed by the 25 Highlanders, who were in the same state, and who all voted for the man who had so disgraced himself and them.588 But, after all the warning he received, the noble Lord persisted in his course. Well acquainted with the scenes which take place in this country upon such occasions, the noble Lord imports them into New Zealand, notwithstanding the warnings which were given. I shall only point out one other subject which those gentlemen objected to. They suggested to the noble Lord the extreme difficulty he would find in limiting the franchise, after it had once been given. They told him that, once conferred, it would be utterly irretrievable. They said—It is also of importance to observe there is great difficulty in restricting a franchise once established and exercised, while there is comparatively none in extending it; so that a fault on the side of fixing too high a qualification will be easily remedied, but one in the opposite direction will be almost irretrievable.But whether irretrievable or not, the noble Lord has attempted to retrieve it, as appears by the despatch to which I shall presently refer. But there is another and no trifling evil, consequent upon the haste of the noble Lord in despatching this constitution to New Zealand. A greater or stronger ground of complaint cannot be made against a Colonial Minister than that he should be guilty of anything like a breach of faith with the colonists, or that such a charge should be even colourably established against him. Now the colonists complain that they have been deceived by the noble Lord. At the time the noble Lord succeeded to power there was a body of emigrants preparing to leave Scotland for New Zealand; and with these persons it was a sine qua non that they should be allowed to try the effect of municipal institutions in that country. They were connected with the Free Church of Scotland; and the colony, I cannot help thinking, was one which was so constituted as to be likely to pave the way to a sound system of colonisation. Nothing can be a greater spur to a system of sound colonisation than for the colonists to secure to themselves those means of religious instruction and assistance to which they have been attached and which they have left at home. Well, Sir, these colonists made their preparations to leave their country in a large body, and settle at Otago, under the direction of Captain Cargill; and one necessary preliminary with them was the granting them a representative constitution. As soon as they found the Bill which the noble Lord introduced in 1846 had passed, they applied to the Colonial Office to know whether this to 589 them essential constitution would be granted to them? They received an assurance that it would be granted and sent out to them. And with that assurance they have gone. [Mr. AGLIONBY: They are now on the sea.] The hon. Member for Cocker-mouth says they are now on the sea. They have gone out upon the faith of that promise that a representative constitution should be granted to them. And the first thing they will learn on their landing in New Zealand is, that by direction of the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Office that constitution, on the faith of which they left this country, is suspended for a period of five years. [Mr. M. MILNES: Their settlement is on the southern island.] My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract says they have gone to the southern island. I am perfectly aware that they have gone to the south. But let my hon. Friend read this Bill. If he attends to the question he will know that the constitution is suspended in the southern as well as in the northern island. Upon the faith of that constitution which is now suspended they have left their country, and upon their arrival at their settlement they will find that it is all null and void. When I call this a breach of faith, and attack it as such, I do not mean to use the word in an offensive sense. But the colonists have in fact and in substance been deceived. The representations which have induced many persons to go to Otago with Captain Cargill have not been fulfilled. I know not whether the advertisement I hold in my hand, and which contains some of those representations, was inserted with the knowledge or approval of Her Majesty's Government, or by the New Zealand Company. That Company, however, is sufficiently represented in this House to be able to take care of its own interests. But these poor Scotch colonists should not have been placed in this anomalous and unfair position, whether they were right or wrong in insisting on these institutions being granted previous to their departure. Well, Sir, the constitution was sent out, and Governor Grey at once condemned it as impracticable. It was a plan which would not work; and upon the receipt of that report the Government introduced the present Bill. How does the Government deal with this constitution that was condemned before it went out—that was condemned in this country—that was condemned in the colony—for I have seen New Zealand papers in which it was condemned; and I say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite cannot contradict me 590 when I say that it was complained of in the New Zealand papers—that it was universally complained of. Well, Sir, this universally condemned constitution—condemned even by the Governor himself—what does he mean to do with it? To repeal it? No; but merely to suspend it for five years. And if I could imagine the result would be eventually its repeal, or if I could imagine that the time would be devoted to considering and remedying its defects, and finding a plan more suitable to the wants of the colony, I might be contented. But this process of mere suspension I do not approve of. It implies the approval of this constitution in the abstract. It implies that the constitution is a good one, and that it may at some future time come into operation. Now, I cannot contemplate after all the noble Lord has heard, that he can think it would be ever fit to be brought into operation. Would it not, then, be better at once to confess that the Government was wrong in sending out such a constitution—to repeal it at once—and to provide such a constitution as the colony has a right to expect? My object in proposing to repeal it is not to deprive the colony of a constitution. I think that, instead of the constitution that was sent out, one more suitable should have been devised, conferring those municipal institutions which might form a basis of free government, and prepare for the adoption of a fuller constitution. But I say it would be far better now to repeal the present one, and restore the colony to its former condition, and prepare a more suitable constitution for it. I do not know that it is necessary for me to point out the opinion of the Governor with regard to the fitness of the colony for receiving a representative constitution. He states that he knew of no circumstances to prevent the introduction of such institutions into the settlements in Cook's Straits and the Middle Island. But the right hon. Gentleman proposes by this Bill to suspend the constitution in both parts of the colony, and I do not think he has given any very valid reason for suspending it in both islands. He merely grounds his reasons upon the vague suggestion of uniformity, and thinks it would be better to suspend it in both parts than only in one. I cannot help thinking that, after all, the noble Lord thinks it himself so bad that it would be better to repeal it altogether. I am decidedly in favour of its repeal as regards the whole colony, and the immediate consideration of and granting a suitable constitution, to the southern part 591 of the colony at least, as soon as possible. In a despatch dated October 7, 1846, Governor Grey said—I am not at present aware of any circumstance which need, then, prevent the immediate introduction of representative institutions into that 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.Now I will not read those parts of Governor Grey's despatch, which treat of the inapplicability and inherent vices of the new constitution. Having expressed my own opinions I need not repeat those expressed by him, which entirely coincide with mine. But I trust this system of uniformity will not be made a ground for persisting in the present course, for I cannot help pointing out to the House that long before this Bill now before us can have possibly arrived in the colony, the constitution, bad as it is, will have been established in the southern portions. I alluded just now to the giving of a temporary substitute for a constitution. When the present Government succeeded to power, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who is now Chief Commissioner of the Poor Law Board (Mr. C. Buller), was said to be about to take on himself a kind of amateur position in the Colonial Office. If such was the case, I should be almost inclined to attribute to him the production of this temporary constitution, and to think that he had, forgetting his former character of a director of the New Zealand Company, been cutting a joke after the fashion for which he was at one time so famous, at the expense of the New Zealand colony. For I never met anything wearing a more facetious appearance than this burlesque constitution, grafting as it does members nominated by the Governor on elected members in a legislative council, and forming altogether a device which seems to hold out to the colonists the semblance of representation, whilst retaining the substance of power in the hands of the Government. By the present course of proceedings, I think you are attaching a very unfair responsibility to the Governor. You place him in this position: If he thinks that the colony is unfit for any form of representative government, he is to suspend this constitution according to his own discretion—he is to 592 carry out your legislation at his discretion—so that the whole responsibility, legislative and arbitrary, is to be thrown upon him. But I think that the great objection of all is the uncertainty in which these changes will place this unhappy colony. You began by sending out a fine newfangled system, based on what I may call the ascending principle, while we are now called upon to proceed with the descending principle. At first we had a system gradually ascending through the legislation of a provincial legislative assembly, a provincial legislative council, up to a general legislative assembly, and a general legislative council, and culminating with the Governor Whereas now you are about to give the whole power in the first instance into the hands of the Governor, and to authorise him, acting with the authority of his legislative council, to grant, if he thinks fit, to those who are not otherwise entitled to it, the elective franchise to the legislative council. I am bound, however, to say that the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department appears to me to be fully aware of the inconveniences of this course which he recommends. He distinctly expresses himself to that effect in the despatches; and I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) will have some difficulty in showing that the course proposed is in accordance with a sound system of self-government—that this plan of delegating to the Governor and Council the entire authority of granting or withholding those institutions is a necessary step, or in fact is one that will not impede instead of assisting the result which we are all anxious to attain. I have already alluded to what appears to me to be the unfair responsibility that is to be thrown on the Governor. These are the words of the noble Lord, in which he alludes to the nature of that responsibility:—With the insight which former despatches have given you into the views of Her Majesty's Government, and with your own knowledge of the requirements of the community under your charge, you will be able to carry into effect these general directions, so far as their execution depends upon yourself. For instance, if when you receive this despatch you should have already constituted the provincial assembly of New Munster, the powers of that body will be inevitably arrested for the present by the operation of the Suspending Act. In that case you may consider it advisable that the legislative council should exercise the powers conferred upon it, by keeping on foot the already constituted provincial assembly, and conferring on it those powers of legislation which would belong, according to the plan explained above, to the provincial legislative council. If, no the other hand, the provincial assembly of New 593 Minister should not have been already constituted, you may consider it advisable that the legislative council for that province should contain, nevertheless, some admixture of representative members, which you may deem it best to withhold from New Ulster. Lastly, should you, for any special reasons, esteem the establishment of provincial councils premature, and that the legislative functions of the general council are sufficient for the wants of the colony during the interval which is to elapse before the charter comes into effect, you can exercise your discretion on this subject also.So that after laying down various different principles, he throws the whole responsibility on the discretion of the Governor, who is at the same time fettered with a declaration of opinion as to what is probably the best course to be pursued. Now I, for one, do not object to leaving great responsibility with the Governor; but I think that the noble Lord ought in the first instance to have left that responsibility with the Governor, with a view to his recommending what course he thought was most practicable and advantageous to the colony. What I complain of is, that the responsibility should be given in this way—in a way which may place the Governor, when these despatches are promulgated in the colony, in the position of being either forced to perform what he believes to be his duty against the wishes and views of the inhabitants, or else of neglecting his duty, in order to accede to their wishes. I began, Sir, by stating what I think are the objections to the basis of this complicated representative system; and though this matter is not touched on very largely in the Bill, yet I find that the noble Lord appears to have seen the error of his ways on the subject, and that he has entirely withdrawn this portion relating to the franchise for the municipal corporations, which had been so strongly objected to by practical men before the constitution first left this country. I find by the 5th Clause of this Bill—and here I may remark that the clause gives a most unfair and unsatisfactory power to the Governor—that it is provided as follows:—And whereas by the said first-mentioned instructions the said Governor-in-Chief was directed to divide certain parts of the said islands into municipal districts, and to constitute within such districts municipal corporations, consisting of a mayor, court of aldermen, and common council, and of burgesses possessing the qualification prescribed by the said first-mentioned instructions in that behalf; and whereas it is expedient that the said qualifications should be subject to regulation as hereinafter mentioned; be it therefore enacted, that it shall and may be lawful for the said Governor-in-Chief, from time to time, by and with the advice and consent of the said legislative coun- 594 cil, by ordinance, to depart from the said first-mentioned instructions, in so far as the same relate to the nature and extent of the qualification, and to make and ordain such other or further rules and regulations, with respect to the nature and extent of the qualifications for burgesses in the said municipal districts, or any of them, or in any particular case, as the said Governor-in-Chief, by and with the like advice and consent, may think proper; anything in the said first-mentioned Act, letters patent, or instructions to the contrary, notwithstanding.So that, as explained by the despatch of Earl Grey, which I shall now read, the power is given to the Governor of regulating the franchise itself. Earl Grey says—That franchise is vested by the charter in every male person occupying a tenement within a borough. It is now proposed to confine it to tenements of such value as the legislative council may fix as qualifying to vote. The franchise is also by the charter made subject to the following restrictions: That it is not to be enjoyed ' by any person not able to read and write in the English language.'Now, the noble Lord seems wedded to this most extraordinary provision in a rather unaccountable manner. It is the only one, I believe, of the original regulations that has not been rescinded either by the Act of Parliament or by the instructions which the noble Lord has sent out to the Governor; but instead of rescinding this provision, as I think the noble Lord would have acted most wisely in doing, he has, in order to retain it, regulated the franchise in a manner which in this country would be looked upon as most unconstitutional. The noble Lord goes on to say—I have, upon the whole, thought it best to advise not that this charter should be altered by removing this restriction, but that you should have a discretionary power to dispense with it. You will therefore be empowered to grant to such persons as you may consider to deserve that privilege, certificates that, although they may not be able to read and to write the English language, they are good and faithful subjects of Her Majesty, possessing the intelligence necessary for qualifying them to take a part in the administration of local affairs; and the possession of such a certificate will entitle the occupier of a tenement of adequate value, though he may not be able to fulfil the condition of reading and writing the English language, to be placed on the register of the borough, and to exercise his franchise.So that except as regards these two points—the amount of money qualification which is to constitute a vote, and the qualification as to reading and writing the English language—the power is given to the Governor, the representative of the Sovereign in the colony, to regulate its franchises as he pleases. He may grant or refuse licenses to vote as he pleases; and though, if Go- 595 vernor Grey chooses to exercise this discretion, there is no doubt but that it will be exercised wisely and well, still I would remind the House that Governor Grey is not immortal, and that this measure is to be carried out when a Governor less experienced is to succeed him. It is to be acted upon also, it appears, by the Lieutenant Governor of the colony, who, though no doubt a man of ability and judgment, has not had an opportunity of displaying the same intelligence and skill as Governor Grey. I think it is therefore most unwise to give such a discretion to any one man. I now, therefore, turn again to that which I believe to be the proper remedy, both for the original error and for the defects of the constitution. I return to that point with which I started, and I again repeat, that with a view to speedy and effective legislation on this subject, I think it would be far better to withdraw this Bill altogether; to bring in a Bill with a single clause repealing the Act of 1846, and then to bring in another measure, with a view to legislate on sound principles for the southern province, and ultimately for the northern province, providing for them such a constitution as would give satisfaction to the colony, and enable the Governor to fulfil the duty which devolves upon him. It is certainly not my intention to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman any amendments that should form part of that enactment, or to point out any omissions. In this course I am acting in conformity with the example set by the noble Lord, who, when he sat on this side of the House as Lord Howick, recommended the course to the House which I now take. I agree with the noble Lord on that occasion, that I think it is desirable for us when we think that what has been done is wrong to condemn the past; but that it would not be wise for any individual Member of this House to suggest what precise course it is best to take with regard to the future. I therefore confine myself simply to those recommendations that I have already thrown out, being confident that the course I recommend is most likely to attain ultimately the object at which we all seek to arrive. I feel that I have most imperfectly brought the subject under the consideration of the House; but at the same time I have this justification, that I have not made use of some of the documents with which the noble Lord has provided us, for I cannot but feel that the colony was in a very critical position at the time the late despatches were sent, and I, 596 for one, would be sorry to do anything that might complicate the difficulties that exist, instead of removing them. If, therefore, I have but imperfectly pointed out the evils which I apprehend from the course that has been pursued, the House must attribute my failure, in the first place, to my own inability, and, secondly, to my unwillingness to allude to matters which might aggravate the difficulties of the colony. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, that though I have felt it to be my duty to comment severely on the errors which I think the noble Lord committed in framing the original constitution, I have not done so in any other spirit than a sincere desire to see these errors corrected. And let me implore the right hon. Gentleman—whether he consents to my proposal or not—whether he and the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Office should on reflection consider it better to repeal this constitution rather than suspend it, or not—let me implore of them, as they value the peace of this colony, as they value the well-being of those who have left this country under the faith of the promises held out that representative institutions would be accorded to the colony—of those who have gone 16,000 miles from their homes, and who are living at this moment in a state of the greatest suspense on that subject which is most painful to all men—namely, under what system of government they are for six months more to exist—I say, under all these circumstances, let me implore of Her Majesty's Government to take this question into their most serious consideration, and not remain contented with five years' suspension of the constitution, under the belief that they may wait for these five years before they again take the subject under their notice. I do hope, as regards the interests of this important colony—which has been rightly characterised in this House as one of the most interesting that this country has ever possessed—that Her Majesty's Government will take into their most serious consideration, not this constitution, but one much more suited to the colony, and much more likely to conduce to its permanent interests and to promote the welfare of thousands who, under a well-considered and beneficent system of Government, will in future years carry to its shores the feelings and hopes of Englishmen.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I can assure the noble Lord that if I do not follow him at any length into the topics to which he has alluded in the address which he has just delivered to the House, it is from no 597 discourtesy towards him, and from no want of feeling of the great importance of the subject which he has brought under the attention of the House; but it is because I feel that many of the matters which he has introduced can be best discussed in Committee, and also because I have addressed the House before on this question; and I now feel that if the whole of our time be spent before we go into Committee, we can have no hope of making—as I trust we may be able to do—some progress with the Bill in Committee. The noble Lord adverted, in the first instance, to the land question, and said that the statement which I made on the subject on a former occasion was not sufficiently satisfactory to him. I have no wish to revive that discussion; but I am ready, if the noble Lord and hon. Gentlemen who took part in that discussion wish it, to assure them, as I am prepared to do on the part of my noble Friend, Lord Grey, that he is convinced, both from the despatches of Governor Grey, and from private letters from that distinguished person, that there is not the slightest difference of opinion between them with regard to the claims of the natives to land—that, to the best of his belief, they are acting most cordially together on this subject; and I may take the opportunity of reading an extract from a letter from a missionary in New Zealand, which has been entrusted to me by my hon. Friend the worthy Baronet who represents South Essex (Sir E. N. Buxton). It says—In my last I told you that I had had an interview with Governor Grey on the subject of the instructions lately sent out here by Earl Grey in reference to the waste lands of the natives; and that his Excellency had told me that he considered those instructions as referring only to such lands as have no claimants, and not in any way touching the Treaty of Waitangi.I wish also to take this opportunity of stating to the House, after having on a former occasion stated that it was my painful duty to say that I could not altogether acquit the Bishop of New Zealand for the course which he had taken on a question which was then under the notice of the House, though at the same time I joined fully in all that had been said of the high character and services of the right rev. Prelate—having made that remark then, I am now very glad on this occasion to express, on the part of my noble Friend and of myself, the gratitude we feel to the right rev. Prelate for the exertions which he has recently made in settling the claims to land on the part of the missionaries, 598 which were causing the greatest peril to the colony. I believe that the settlement of these claims has been effected mainly through the exertions of the Bishop, and that the dispute has now been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. I shall now address myself to the main part of the speech of the noble Lord; and, without adverting to details, I will proceed at once to what he considers to be the main objection to the course which Her Majesty's Government now pursue—I mean the part of the noble Lord's speech which consisted of a reprobation of the constitution. Now, considering that this is a Bill to suspend that constitution, I certainly do not think it is necessary to enter into a controversy with the noble Lord on that question. If the time and occasion warranted, I think I could show that the constitution is not open to all the objections which the noble Earl has raised against it. At the same time I think, from the letters of Governor Grey, that it is not fitted for the colony at the present period. That, too, is the opinion of my noble Friend. My noble Friend has been blamed for having ever sent out to the colony such a constitution. But I would beg the House to remember the very difficult position in which my noble Friend was placed. He took the Colonial Seals at the very end of the Session; and finding a strong call made for free institutions for the colony, and finding that it was the opinion of his predecessors that such institutions ought to be established, is it surprising that being thus obliged to bring forward the Bill at the end of the Session, it should be found ultimately not to be altogether suited to circumstances, which, I must say, were most complicated and difficult? But as soon as my noble Friend became convinced of his error, he at once readily retraced his steps. He told Governor Grey that he would introduce a measure into Parliament to suspend the constitution; and that very measure I have now the honour to submit to the House. And, by the way, it is remarkable that the noble Lord should have said that this constitution was blamed by every one in this country when it was sent out, and yet that another of his complaints should be that we have broken faith with a most respectable body of shrewd Scotch settlers, who went out to the colony under the faith of enjoying the blessings of this constitution. [The Earl of LINCOLN said a constitution, and not this constitution.] They, at least, were an exception to that censure which the noble Lord now believes 599 was universally felt. These Scotchmen, judging here, thought that these were institutions which they should wish to live under. [The Earl of LINCOLN: They went out after the constitution was promised, but before the details were announced.] These emigrants are now on sea, and they left this country after the constitution was promulgated; and the argument of the noble Lord was, that the present line of proceeding was, therefore, a breach of faith with them. While they were here they believed that the constitution was a wise one, and well suited to the circumstances of the country; but when they get there, and find that it was not so suited to the colony as they had anticipated, they will not quarrel with us for giving them other institutions more suited to the country to which they have gone. But I apprehend that there is no difference between the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government as to the propriety of not carrying this constitution out at present. Looking to the position of the islands with which we have to deal—to the feelings and the interests of the intelligent, warlike, and active race forming the aboriginal population, and which have been so fully set forth in the despatches of Governor Grey—I think we are all agreed as to the propriety of suspending the constitution for the present. But the noble Lord recommends that the constitution should be repealed, and a Bill embodying free institutions at once introduced. I altogether differ from the noble Lord as to the propriety of this course. I believe that the course suggested by Her Majesty's Government, although I admit it to be an unusual one, and one which gives great unconstitutional powers to the Governor, is on the whole the safest, the wisest, the most prudent, and best calculated to lead to the result which the noble Lord and myself have equally in view; namely, giving both to the natives and to the British settlers free institutions as completely and speedily as is consistent with their own safety and interests. I believe this object will be attained more safely by the means which we propose, than by those which the noble Lord suggests. It is true that we propose to suspend the constitution for five years; but we do not propose altogether to repeal it, because we think it is right that this House, having given free institutions to the colony, should not part with that power which it has over the Executive Government under its Act, and which, I think, it is due to the House to retain on 600 an occasion of this description. But I believe that the power given to the Governor and Council—for it is to the Governor, acting with the concurrence of his Council, and not to the Governor alone, that the power is given—will afford the best and safest means of preparing the population of New Zealand for those institutions. Under the powers given, the Governor can introduce these institutions as speedily or as slowly—with as little or as much of the popular element—as he thinks fit; and I think it is a wiser plan to entrust such a discretion to such a Governor as Governor Grey, than for ourselves to attempt the difficult, I had almost said the impossible, task of arranging the safest and best system for the mixed races that inhabit the colony, without any apprehension that we are furnishing not the means of peace and security, but the weapons of discord with each other. But the noble Lord said, "Give free institutions at least to the southern province;" and I think that some of my hon. Friends who are connected with the New Zealand Company, cheered the suggestion. Governor Grey certainly states that the southern portion of the colony, where the majority of the population are whites, and the aborigines few, is fit for a constitution; but, even with regard to this part of the settlement, it is better to leave a discretionary power to the Governor. By the last accounts it appears that, though peace is restored to the north of the island, it is not wholly re-established in the south. It is stated by Captain Grey that the people of the south are ripe for free institutions, but not for that form of them given by this constitution. He says in his despatch—I think it right to mention that, even in the south of the island, I did not contemplate immediately so extensive a change in the constitution of the colony. I thought a Council, over which the Governor presided, composed of official and non-official members, the last elected by the inhabitants, would in the present circumstances of New Zealand have been the form of government best suited to the wants of the people.This is just the sort of constitution the Governor will have the power of introducing immediately in the southern part of New Zealand. The noble Lord has termed it a hybrid, an un-English constitution; but it is one not unknown to our colonial policy. I do not defend it as a good permanent system of government, but it is not a bad preparation for it. I am astonished to hear the noble Lord make this objection, as I believe he was a Member of the Cabinet when Lord Stanley sent out 601 just such a hybrid constitution for the colony of Newfoundland, after he had suspended a more popular one. It is very much the kind of constitution that obtained at an early period in the colony of Guiana—it is the sort of constitution that exists in New South Wales—it is, therefore, not unknown to our colonial policy. The Bill will empower the Governor, in the first place, to increase the number of his legislative council; it is thought desirable that he should be able to surround himself with men of the best experience in the colony; the Governor and Council thus reinforced will be enabled, though not obliged, to constitute, for one or both divisions of the island, provincial councils with as much or little of the popular infusion in them as they may think fit. The noble Lord attaches great importance to the development of municipal institutions, as a fit preparation for the exercise of political rights. The Bill does not interfere with the establishment of municipalities; they will still be formed, and give the people the preparation desired. Having stated the reasons why the course recommended by the Government is preferable to that suggested by the noble Lord, which I felt bound to oppose, some other topics adverted to will be better discussed in Committee. It is of such importance that a decision on the Bill should become to immediately, that I hope the House will not delay its progress beyond the time absolutely necessary for its discussion.
§ House in Committee.
§ On Clause 4,
§ MR. GLADSTONE
quite sympathised with the anxiety expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that they should proceed with the Bill in Committee, and therefore he did not mean to trouble the House with any amendment upon the clause; but he wished to point out some things which appeared to him extremely defective in the framing of the Bill. In the first place, the Bill was defective with regard to the suspension of the constitution rather than its repeal. The right hon. Gentleman defended that arrangement, upon the ground that, having held out to the people of New Zealand the brilliant prospect of free institutions, they ought not to do anything that would tend to raise a doubt of the intention to carry that prospect into effect at the earliest possible moment. He could not say that he thought the passing of the Bill of 1846 had done much towards the carrying out of free institutions in the colony of New 602 Zealand. The principle of granting free institutions had certainly made great and rapid progress in this country; and it was the conviction of all those who were conversant with colonial affairs, that the more they examined them, those institutions, wherever there were not strong reasons of a peculiar kind to be urged against their immediate application, afforded by far the best chance for the happiness and prosperity of the colonies. But he could not think that the Bill of 1846, in the circumstances under which it was conceived and passed, and under the circumstances now attending its suspension, had really done anything to promote free institutions; but on the contrary, that it had rather disparaged them. He did, however, not rest his argument upon that alone. He thought the House could not fail to perceive, from the letters of Governor Grey, that the promulgation of the constitution of 1846 had of itself been a serious cause of danger to the peace of the colony. Great apprehensions had been created in the mind of the native population by the promulgation of that constitution. Whether it was owing to a general idea among the aboriginal inhabitants that the constitution would place power in the hands of the settlers, in a degree which would make it dangerous to them, or whether it was owing to their exclusion from its benefits by the provision with regard to reading and writing the English language as a condition for the franchise, the House could not help admitting, as a matter of fact, that the promulgation of the constitution had been a source of danger to the peace of the colony; and he was also afraid that the suspension might tend to leave some excitement and alarm still menacing the peace of the colony. And although he granted, that upon a balance of the advantages, they might wish to retain the constitution after it had been sent back, rather than abolish it, yet he confessed that, adverting to the immense importance of tranquillising the native mind, it would have been the wisest and most practical course to have repealed the Act of 1846, which was confessedly premature, and to have waited until circum- stances were ripe for the constitution. With respect to the clause which enabled Governor Grey to devise institutions that were to stand in lieu of the institutions of 1846, he did not at all disapprove of what appeared to be the intentions of the Government by this clause. They intended to empower Governor Grey to create 603 provisional institutions, into which they esteemed it probable he would introduce, so far as the southern province was concerned, some infusion of the electoral principle. He thought that under this clause the Bill threw a greater responsibility upon Governor Grey than he ought to be charged with; and, after all, this was not the measure for which Governor Grey had asked. Governor Grey had not requested the Executive at home, nor had he craved from Parliament, to have placed in his hands a discretion with regard to the whole of New Zealand; upon the contrary, it had been his object to describe as clearly as he could to the Government at home that he wished it would take a portion of the responsibility out of his hands, and by enactment would fix, to a certain extent, the course he should pursue. For these reasons he had pointed out, in several despatches, that he considered there ought to be a postponement of any perfect development of free institutions for the whole island; that for the northern division there should be a legislative council of official and unofficial members nominated by the Crown, and for the southern division a legislative council, in which, besides the official and nominated members, there should also be a certain proportion of elected members representing the people. Instead, however, of proceeding in connexion with the request of Governor Grey, they did not take the responsibility upon themselves, but they made over to him the power of deciding, upon his own free and pure motion, upon the whole question. This was very different from what Governor Grey had expressly requested; and whatever the House did, they must not think that by this Bill they were doing that which Governor Grey had asked. Governor Grey had not asked for an uniform measure with regard to the whole colony: he had pointed out a broad distinction between the condition of the northern and the southern portions, and requested the Secretary of State, and through the Secretary of State the British Parliament, to conform their proceedings to the distinctions he had pointed out. The House, on the contrary, was going to say, "We will not recognise your distinction," or, at least, "We will throw upon you the responsibility of carrying your views into effect; and if there is to be a distinction between the legislative and constitutional state of the northern and southern divisions of the colony, you alone shall make it." He (Mr. Gladstone) doubted the 604 wisdom of that course. He conceived the Government would have acted more wisely in a case like this, seeing that after all the Bill was to be a confession of impotency, if they had lent to Governor Grey the support and the stay of their own authority, for which he had asked. Governor Grey, as he had already said, did not wish to have the power which this Bill would give him. At all events the House was about to repose a great deal of confidence in him, and he did not mean to say that confidence was too great; but by means of it they would place him in a situation of greatly enhanced difficulty.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
confessed that he was unconvinced of the practicability of the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. He begged the right hon. Gentleman to recollect the circumstances under which the colony was placed at this moment, and the state of things which might exist when the Bill arrived. Governor Grey might already have promulgated the new constitution in the southern division. Supposing that he should have carried those provisions into effect, and that they were working to the perfect satisfaction of all parties concerned, how inexpedient would it be to send out a Bill from this country to overturn all that had been erected, and to substitute something else to the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants? It was much better, therefore, under all circumstances, to throw the whole responsibility upon Governor Grey, than for the Government in this country to undertake themselves to lay down institutions which after all might be temporary. All agreed they were not prepared to legislate upon that ground; but as they were now dealing with merely temporary institutions, it was much more wise to allow them to be moulded by one who was upon the spot, who was enabled to judge of the circumstances, and who knew the feelings of the inhabitants to whom they were to be applied. On these grounds he thought the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman inexpedient. Nor did he think there were any real grounds for the alarm which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed if the constitution was suspended for five years rather than repealed altogether. Undoubtedly upon the arrival of the constitution in New Zealand there was considerable alarm as to its effects on the native inhabitants; but by the efforts of Governor Grey that irritation had greatly subsided, and he doubted not that when they saw these temporary institutions es- 605 tablished in a manner likely to conciliate their apprehensions, and the circumstance of the constitution being only suspended and liable to come into operation in five years hence, the apprehensions of the right hon. Gentleman would prove not well founded.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman related to the warnings the Government had received; and the question was whether, after those warnings, they would pursue a course exactly the reverse to that which had previously been followed. In a manner the most remarkable the Government of the metropolis sent out a constitution to a colony; and he believed that constitution had never been put into practice. According to the account of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere) a Government in this country was hastily formed, and it found a considerable demand for liberal institutions, and constitutional institutions in a very distant colony. Without much consideration, and in avowed haste, a constitution was drawn out; it was sent to that distant colony, but it had never, he believed—happily for this country and happily for the colony—been put into practice, through the prudence of an extremely judicious Governor. The Government at home recognised immediately, upon his representations, the extreme absurdity for which they were responsible; and what remedy had been proposed by the Government after the warning they had received? Why, the remedy was this: it was to pursue a course exactly the reverse of that which Governor Grey recommended, and to throw the entire responsibility upon the local government, and not upon the Government at home. Everybody in that House recognised the great ability of Governor Grey; but that was an additional reason why they should assist him in every possible manner by sharing the responsibility with him, and not laying the consequences of every step upon his shoulders. No doubt, in a colony circumstanced as New Zealand was, it would be of the greatest importance to Governor Grey, in gradually introducing and watching the development of constitutional institutions, that whilst he himself personally sought to concede much to the wants and wishes of the inhabitants, he should still have the power, upon many important points, of being able to acknowlege a limited authority, and to refer to the supreme authority of the metropolis. Of all this, however, he was deprived. Astonished at the absurdity they had committed—preci- 606 pitately almost acknowledging the mistake which was the consequence of their original precipitated action—the only remedy of the Government was to select the man whom they ought never to have placed in such a painful position, and invest him with powers which would render the fulfilment of his duty, and the carrying into effect a policy advantageous to the metropolis and to the colony, more and more difficult. He must say that in this case a great effort was made by the Government to conceal and to pass over their original sin upon this question; and he thought the country was extremely obliged to the noble Lord the Member for Falkirk (the Earl of Lincoln) for bringing it forward. He could easily understand the feelings of the noble Lord in permitting the Bill to go into Committee. The sympathy of official reminiscences might have induced the noble Lord to take that course. But let the House clearly understand the position in which the question was placed; and let the people of this country understand how their colonies were managed. Was it to be tolerated that a Government being just formed, a Member of it, imbued with certain abstract and theoretical opinions upon colonial government, should make his début in his official career by drawing up with the greatest coolness what he called "a constitution," sending it to a distinct colony, and to an appalled Governor, and be saved only by the discretion and the abilities of that Governor, and by the presumed indulgence of the House of Commons from the consequences of absurdity so flagrant, and which might have been so ruinous? Do not let it be supposed that by the Bill now before them—a Bill which had excited attention out of the limited circle of those acquainted with the affairs of New Zealand—they were assisting the development of a colonial government, or in repairing the unadvised conduct of the Minister at home. This was legislation produced, and solely produced, by one of the most enormous errors that ever was committed by a Secretary of State. For his own part, he did not pretend to have more knowledge on these subjects than any other Gentleman in that House, who gave some attention to the publications distributed among them; but he honestly admitted that the name of New Zealand always attracted his attention. He knew that New Zealand was synonymous with flagrant jobbing and most ignorant administration. It was 607 only by an accident that he had stayed in the House; but when he found there was a Bill on the Paper with this title, "to suspend for a limited time the operation of an Act granting a constitution to New Zealand," which as far as he could collect, could scarcely have arrived at that colony, he thought, as it was a psychological curiosity, he would stay to hear the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to the statement of the noble Lord. What was that reply? Why, the most astounding answer that was ever made. It was an appeal to the House to hurry into Committee, in a tone and spirit which would have induced anybody ignorant of the facts to suppose that the noble Lord was merely retarding the progress of important public business. Who could have supposed that not eighteen months ago, with a new Government formed, a Secretary of State, with regard to a colony so interesting and so important as New Zealand, should have sat down in his chair, and with his pen have coolly drawn up a constitution which he sent out to a Governor, who, the moment he received it, found it was impossible to carry into effect without endangering the allegiance of that colony to the British Crown? New Zealand was a fine and most interesting colony—a colony well known to the House of Commons—a colony well known to the people of this country—not only for the advantages which it commercially gave, but by grants of public money, which, at the fag-end of the Session, were generally proposed to repair the blunders of Colonial Ministers. Some hon. Gentleman would remember how the last Session of Parliament ended—how they were called upon for a considerable vote, in order to silence claimants, who ought not to have been silenced by such considerations, but who had suffered through the maladminstration of the colony. And how did this Session of the new Parliament commence? With a Bill to suspend a constitution—a constitution acknowledged by the Government themselves to be a thing too ridiculous to defend. Why suspend it? He could only account for it upon the great principle of English law, that everything should proceed upon a fiction. They were going to introduce that principle of the ancient society of England into the modern colony of New Zealand. They were to be "governed" there; they were to have "legislative councils;" they were to have "provincial councils;" but they were, above all, 608 to be astounded by one great assumption, that there was a constitution which had been suspended. Why should they introduce into this new, this simple, and this primitive society, such a degree of "enormous lying?" Was that an ingredient necessary in a state of society of that kind? It could be accounted for and vindicated in an ancient society like ours. Not ten years ago a man could not ask in a court of justice for relief for the commission of injuries without feigning to be in a position in which he never was, and which he never could occupy; but that was no reason why such a system of falsity should be introduced into a new colony. Why should the political and legislative position of New Zealand depend upon an assumption which every one knew to be false?—the assumption that the inhabitants of New Zealand were in the enjoyment of a constitution sent out by a Secretary of State; which constitution was not in existence. Did anybody ever suppose the New Zealanders would enjoy the constitution that was promulgated at the end of 1846? Why, if the New Zealanders could profit by the institutions secured to them by this Bill, if it was not suspended at the end of this Session, everybody must give them credit for more ability, greater advantages, and more experience than could ever be reckoned upon in that crude conception, now embalmed in the legislative museum, almost unprecedented for its odious absurdity. The suspended constitution was an enormous absurdity, perpetrated by a Government who ought, at least, to have acknowledged their error. They ought to have asked the House of Commons to abrogate their blunder. They might have said, "We entered office in the most unexpected manner, and we determined to do something. We sent a constitution to a distant colony. Forget all this; and let us do what we can to effect that which is best for New Zealand." That would have been an intelligible position. It would not have been a more painful position than that which the Government occupied when they justified that transaction which last year was acknowledged in the House by the New Zealand Company. All our affairs with that colony had been of the same suspicions and equivocal character. The House might be inclined to pardon and forget past errors; but the only compensation the Government could offer was, to guarantee that the future arrangements for the government of the colony should at least be conceived in 609 a prudent and practical spirit. They were attempting by the proposed Act to save the reputation of an individual Minister. Let them save his reputation if they could by their arguments and their appeals, but do not let them drag in the House of Commons, by a fiction, to be the means of vindicating an absurdity the most gross that had been perpetrated for a long series of years, but the great evil of which was, not the mere grossness of the absurdity, but the fact of its leading the people on to future consequences, which the House would soon have to acknowledge, and again to rectify. He should have supported the noble Lord if he had called upon the House to testify their opinion upon the main question. As it was, he should support any one who would call for the opinion of the House upon it; but if no division took place, he could only say, that he had expressed his opinion upon the subject; and he knew, from what had occurred in the colony of New Zealand, that the time was not far distant when they should again have an opportunity of expressing their views with regard to it.
MR. V. SMITH
did not rise to vindicate the constitution which had been proposed for New Zealand, but he must call the attention of the House to the course which Parliament had itself pursued on a former occasion with regard to it. In the year 1846 Parliament passed a Bill giving to the Secretary of State for the Colonies the most ample power to promulgate a constitution for New Zealand, without any check whatever. In accordance with that power the Secretary of State for the Colonies did prepare the constitution which had since been sent out; but though it was printed, and laid upon the table of the House during the whole of the Session of 1847, neither the noble Lord the Member for Falkirk (the Earl of Lincoln) nor the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) made the slightest objection to it, or discovered one of those defects against which they now remonstrated. The objection which he should make to the Bill was, that it did neither one thing nor the other—that it did not give absolute power to the Governor, but deprived him of powers the loss of which was calculated to cramp and confine his action. He would recommend the Government entirely to withdraw the 5th Clause of the Bill. The 4th Clause, which they were discussing, gave a discretionary power to the Governor; but the 5th Clause gave him 610 no discretion, for he was there ordered to divide certain parts of the said islands into municipal districts, and to constitute within such districts municipal corporations. But those municipal institutions, however desirable they might be as a first step towards representative institutions, were not formed after the type of our own corporations; and he thought that a portion of the Governor's objections applied especially to those institutions. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman either to withdraw the 5th Clause altogether, or to give the same discretionary power to the Governor with regard to municipal institutions that he had with regard to the provincial legislative councils, which might very easily be effected by a slight alteration of the 5th Clause. He considered that the regulation with respect to voters, by which certain parties were to vote as a matter of right, while others were required to produce certificates of qualification to entitle them to the privilege, was calculated to cause much ill feeling and dissatisfaction. He trusted that his right hon. Friend would leave discretionary power in the hands of the Governor to avoid that. He must remember, as that distinguished statesman the late Lord Holland had said, that establishing a constitution was a work of time, and was not the invention of ingenuity. Governor Grey was one of the wisest, most discreet, and most vigorous Governors they had ever had; and he believed that the existence of the colony as a dependency of this country, depended mainly, if not entirely, upon that one man. He called upon the Government, then, not to urge Governor Grey to establish institutions of which they knew not whether he approved, whilst at the same time they left him a most odious discretion—that of granting certificates of respectability to those who were to become the voters under the constitution. He thought it extremely unfair to place a gentleman who had shown so much ability, energy, and zeal as Governor Grey had shown, in such a position.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the subject which his right hon. Friend who had just sat down had brought under their consideration properly belonged to the 5th Clause. As the matter had been brought forward, however, he might state that though the present Bill was doubtless framed upon the principle of giving a large discretion to the Governor, assisted by his Council, yet at the same time the subject to which his right 611 hon. Friend had referred was one which the House might be left to determine. It was quite true that Governor Grey did object to the municipal institutions in the form in which they were originally proposed to be introduced; but he believed that in their present form, after the modifications which had been introduced, there would be no difficulty in the way of introducing them. There were two provisions in the Bill which he thought quite met the Governor's objections. The first gave power to the Governor to grant certificates to such of the natives as he thought fit, enabling them to vote for municipal purposes; and he was also entrusted with the power of modifying the elective franchise.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, he hoped no party feeling would be indulged on this occasion, but that hon. Members on both sides would do their best to promote the welfare of this colony. It seemed to be assumed that the constitution was the work of the House of Commons; but the constitution was not contained in any Bill. The history of the constitution, he believed, was the following. A Bill was brought in, at the very end of the Session, under pressure from all sides of the House, to give a free constitution to New Zealand, and it was left to the Colonial Department to carry out what was understood to be the wish of all parties. During the recess, the then Secretary of the Colonies did devote his attention to the subject, and produced the constitution in the shape in which it had been sent out. He waited upon the Secretary for the Colonies with a deputation, and they pointed out to him the objections which they entertained to the constitution. He thought at the time that it would not work; but he was not sure that it would not have been better to have allowed it to remain as it was, with all its defects and imperfections, than to interfere with it now to the great disappointment of the settlers. It was not improbable, that in the southern part of the island all the machinery had been prepared for carrying the constitution into effect; and even if it had not come into actual operation, still it would be a grievous disappointment and vexation to all parties in New Zealand to have lost a constitution which they thought was just within their reach, and which the colonists believed would have afforded them the means of setting themselves free from arbitrary power. The settlers had all gone from this country within the last seven or eight years; and they had gone out in 612 large bodies, carrying with them their religion, their education, and all their institutions. Let them take for example the settlement of Otago, which was now in fact a Scotch colony. The distinction could not exist there, for there were not more than forty-two natives in the whole colony. So also in Nelson there was a very small fraction of natives; and in the whole of the Middle Island, which was as large as England, there were only 1,200 natives; and when they were so few in comparison with the settlers, he should not be at all afraid of extending the franchise to them. It had been said, that they had better abolish the constitution, in preference to suspending it. He confessed he thought it better, especially with such a Governor as Captain Grey, to have a clause such as this, enabling the Governor to enact as soon as he pleased what was called a "despotic Government." If ever there was a man to whom such powers might be entrusted, they might be entrusted to Governor Grey, though it must be confessed by so doing, they placed that gentleman in a somewhat invidious position. He hoped that some pledge would be given that Government would, before long advise a species of self-government. Of all the curses that ever fell upon our colonies, the worst was to be subject to constant suspense.
§ SIR R. PEEL
The right hon. President of the Board of Trade earnestly recommended the House not to waste time in discussion, but at once to resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill; but it appears to me that the adoption of the right hon. Gentleman's advice has had the effect of involving us in some inconvenience; because those Members who were anxious to offer general observations upon the question, could better have done so in the House, than upon a particular clause in Committee. I wish myself to offer a few observations upon the general question raised by the introduction of this Bill. I must confess that the perusal of the papers which have been presented to the House, has left a painful impression on my mind as to the position of affairs in New Zealand. It appears that the native inhabitants of this colony have attained to a high point of intelligence; and that they possess warlike habits, courage, and military skill, which render it most advisable that scrupulous good faith should be observed with respect to all engagements entered into with them. I heard with the utmost satisfaction from the right hon. Gentleman, 613 that no assignable difference of opinion exists between Earl Grey and Governor Grey in respect to that most fruitful subject of angry discussion, the settlement of land question. I take it for granted, that the right hon. Gentleman has received communications which assure him that no such difference exists. Indeed, in looking at the facts of the case, as presented by the papers, it is hardly possible to suppose that any difference upon so important a point can exist. The construction which Governor Grey has put upon the claim of the New Zealand Company on the one side, and on the case of the natives on the other, is printed in the papers before us. It has been published, and will be sent to the colony with the knowledge of the House of Commons—it will become notorious to the inhabitants of New Zealand; and, under these circumstances, I say it will be impossible to make Governor Grey responsible for the government of the colony if he is to attempt to put a less liberal and more limited construction upon the claim of the natives than that which he has done. Governor Grey says in his despatch of April 7—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 the natives, we have, therefore, aright 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 abruptly forced into becoming a solely agricultural people.The Governor adds these emphatic words:—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 them. To attempt to force suddenly such a system upon them will plunge the country again into distress and war.That opinion was published, and would be known by the natives of New Zealand; and, therefore, it is impossible to believe that there can exist any practical difference between the Executive and the Governor of the colony upon that point. The coincidence of opinion between the two authorities affords the happy omen of 614 the satisfactory adjustment of the question. The only observation I intend to make with reference to the debates is, that the former Secretary for the Colonies, my noble Friend (Lord Stanley) was most unjustly censured in this House for the construction which he put upon the Treaty of Waitangi—a construction which now appears to be universally adopted. In the present situation of the colony, anything which I say will be, of course, more in the way of friendly suggestion than with the view of imputing blame to the Government. Her Majesty's Ministers must be best acquainted with the state of affairs in New Zealand, and nothing could be more unwise than to embarrass their decision by obligatory advice. In my opinion, the best course to take would be, to abolish the present constitution, without raising a doubt as to the wish of this House and the Government to establish ultimately representative government in New Zealand. My opinion remains unchanged, that the colony can better conduct its own affairs through representative institutions than we can manage them for it. If there could exist a doubt upon this point, it must be removed, when we find that the Home Government sent out a constitution to the colony, the very foundation of which—the elective franchise—could not be established, because there was not a single native who possessed the qualification we required from him, namely, the ability to read and write the English language. I think, then, that the Government would have acted wisely if they had merely abrogated the existing constitution, and, to leave no doubt as to the future intention of Parliament, had inserted in the preamble a declaration that it was intended to give the colony a new one as soon as the Government had an opportunity of consulting with their Governor, in whom they justly reposed the utmost confidence, as to the principle on which it should be founded. Why not authorise the Governor to proceed forthwith to establish municipal institutions on a principle of fairness to the inhabitants of all classes? By these means you would guarantee the free expression of public opinion, and protect one class from injury arising from the undue preponderance of another. At the same time, I advise you to avoid as carefully as possible saying anything about the principle on which you mean to proceed. Wait until you get the Governor's opinion before you say anything about the principles of the 615 British constitution as applicable to New Zealand. I retain my opinion that municipal institutions, which will give the inhabitants of New Zealand large powers for managing their own affairs, by local taxation for local objects, would form the best germ for free institutions to be subsequently imparted; and I see no reason why, in many parts of the colony, if not in all, municipal institutions should not be immediately formed. The disadvantage attending the suspension of the constitution during five years is, that you leave the question in an unsettled state during the whole of that time. Would you venture to put in the preamble of the reasons on which you act, what is to be found in the information which the Governor has communicated to you? Would you say, "Whereas the Governor of New Zealand, in whose integrity and ability the greatest confidence may be placed, has represented that Her Majesty's native subjects in New Zealand will certainly be exceedingly indignant at finding that they are placed in a position of inferiority to the European population;" and whereas, "at present, the natives are quite satisfied with the form of government now existing, and as the chiefs have always ready access to the Governor, and their representations are carefully heard and considered, they have practically a voice in the Government, and of this they are well aware: but under the proposed constitution they would lose their power, and the Governor would lose his influence over them;" and whereas, "whatever form of government it may be determined ultimately to bestow upon the northern colony of New Zealand, it would be desirable in the first place that it should not be such as to render it doubtful whether the large native population will submit to it; and secondly, that so long as the Governor has so formidable and numerous a race to control, it is necessary not only that he should have the power by his negative of preventing any measures being passed which might result in rebellion, but that he also requires to be in possession of the active power of carrying such measures as are essential for the welfare and pacification of the native race?" Those are the reasons on which the Government are about to suspend the constitution of New Zealand. What, then, will be the feeling of the native population, if you hold out to them that there is a possibility of that constitution being reimposed at the end of five 616 years? Why run this risk for the purpose of applying a salve to the pride of a Secretary of State? If it be really intended to reimpose the constitution at the end of five years, what, in that case, would be the position of the colony if Governor Grey has accurately described the feelings of the natives? Let us tell Governor Grey to proceed, in the first instance, to establish municipal institutions, including within them the native population, on fair and just principles, and afterwards communicate with him as to the best mode of applying institutions to the colony on a larger scale. Tell the natives that they shall have free institutions, but do not tell them that the elective franchise you now propose for municipal purposes is that the Governor should name the electors. I deprecate the candour with which you publish these things. After telling the natives that they would have the happiness of living under the British constitution, you find that you cannot adopt the English principle, and you adopt another. You do away with what you first established, and in the meantime you substitute something else. What idea will the natives have of the English constitution, if they regard as the English constitution what you now propose? The Governor is to give a certificate of respectability. He is to determine who are to form the elective body; and for the power of "reading and writing in the English language" the Governor is to substitute a certificate of respectability, which is to decide the right of voting. I believe Governor Grey to be above the ordinary motives by which Governors are actuated. If he were an ordinary Governor he would be unwilling to give the elective franchise largely to the opponents of the Government. The qualification of natives to be electors is so far to depend on the opinion of the Governor, that they possess "the intelligence necessary for qualifying them to take a part in the administration of local affairs." The English would, by this proposed regulation, have a right absolutely to the municipal franchise, while the qualification of the natives would be made to depend on the opinion of the Governor. Do not call this the English constitution; and what I complain of is the candour of your revelations. If you give to the executive authorities the power of determining who are "faithful subjects of Her Majesty, possessing the intelligence necessary for qualifying them to take a part in the administration of local affairs," 617 I will venture to say that in nine out of ten municipal corporations you will make the elective franchise depend on the opinion of the mayor as to the degree of intelligence of the parties, and as to their qualification to "take a part in the administration of local affairs." Under such circumstances I will predict the general complexion of the elective body. I can foretell that the majority will be in favour of the opinions of the mayor. This regulation is to apply to the natives; and as to foreigners of European origin, it is stated in Earl Grey's despatch to Governor Grey that—"these settlers are said to be in general intelligent, as well as industrious and orderly, although they may not be able to read and write the English language; and, as a general rule, you will naturally grant certificates to all of this class who apply for them, unless for special reasons which appear to your mind sufficient to justify their being withheld.Is such a measure calculated to enable the natives to form a notion of a representative government? I do strongly wish that you should establish the qualification according to one universal principle. If the natives are so intelligent as Governor Grey represents them to be, and if among the young chiefs there are men of great pride, we shall have not only their courage but their pride to combat, when they begin to understand what sort of constitutional privileges have been conceded to them—when they learn that every Englishman shall have a right to the municipal franchise, and every foreigner, except for special reasons, but that the natives shall not unless they have got in their pocket a certificate of respectability. It would be better, with a view not to offend their feelings of pride, to establish one equitable rule of qualification in which all parties would be embraced. These are my general impressions, which I have stated to the House, with the view of offering my advice, and not for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, for whose difficult position I make allowance. I beg the Government to consider whether it would not be better to make some general declaration for the purpose of putting on record our feeling in favour of the establishment of representative government in New Zealand as soon as possible; to take off the shoulders of Governor Grey the in-cumbrance of this constitution of 1846; and to let him proceed at once to the establishment of municipal institutions, making in respect to them no distinction between European and native blood, but 618 dealing with the population as on the footing of British subjects.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
observed, that there would be very few who would not be able to read and write the English language, and who would be debarred from the franchise. Those to whom the question of certificates would apply were partly foreigners—chiefly Frenchmen, settled in some of these districts, very few in number—and partly aborigines. He thought that by giving his power to the Governor, the certificates would be given to every body of character. As to the more important question whether they ought to suspend the constitution, or at once to abrogate it, he still continued of opinion that it was more desirable they should suspend it. In the case of Newfoundland, where a very popular constitution had been given, and it was thought advisable afterwards to modify the constitution, the course which was taken was not to repeal the constitution, but to suspend it, and to enact a temporary constitution. In Canada, although Parliament determined to alter the constitution, yet in the first instance it was suspended. He thought the natives would have confidence in the Government of this country that they would do them justice after they had seen that the constitution had been withdrawn and suspended for the purpose of conciliating their feelings. It was scarcely to be expected that the House would refuse its assent to a Bill of this nature, having for its object the real good of the colony, and particularly when it was recollected how much the rights of the New Zealanders had been respected by this country. If the constitution were for a time suspended, the House might depend upon it that the Government would in the meantime adopt every measure necessary for securing the freedom and the prosperity of all Her Majesty's subjects in New Zealand.
§ CAPTAIN HARRIS
considered the absence of the noble Lord at the head of the Government a great misfortune, because he believed that if he were present and had listened to the arguments that had been urged by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, as well as by other hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, he would have seen the propriety of repealing the constitution, instead of allowing it to stand over for a term of five years. It was impossible to read the despatches of Governor Grey without seeing that he deprecated, as distinctly as any hon. Members in that House, the extended constitution at 619 present existing in New Zealand. He (Captain Harris) had been struck by one or two remarks that fell from the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, in reference to the legislative duties that had to be discharged by a portion of the colony. He could speak from an intimate knowledge and acquaintance which he had with individuals residing in the colonies, that those duties were found to work very prejudicially to those on whom those duties devolved; that they were obliged to leave their counting houses, &c, and travel several miles for the purpose of attending to the public concerns of their colony. He hoped the Government would devise some method by which such parties might be permitted to attend more to the transaction of their own affairs, as some felt the duties to be almost ruinous to their professions. He would entreat the right hon. Gentleman opposite to repeal the constitution at once. If at the end of two or three years Governor Grey should state in his despatch that he saw no objection to the restoration of the constitution, he (Captain Harris) would be very happy to give his vote in that House for its restoration. If the House, however, divided on the question now before them, he should certainly vote for the Amendment.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had indulged in a good deal of wit at the expense of the provision of the measure which regulated the qualification for the franchise, and gave discretion to the Governor in giving certificates to persons of good character, although they could neither read nor write the English language; and the right hon. Baronet seemed to think that that would be placing the Governor in an exceedingly invidious position; but if the right hon. Baronet would again refer to the papers, he would see that this power of granting or refusing the certificate was given to the Governor at this own request, with a view to the advantage of the colony. In page 49, it would be seen by reference to the despatch of Earl Grey, that this discretionary power of the Governor as to the certificates was intended as an advantage, and calculated to extend the privileges of the franchise, for after alluding to the condition that none but those who could read and write English should enjoy that advantage, the despatch to Governor Grey goes on to say—I have upon the whole, thought it best to advise, not that this charter should be altered by removing this restriction, but that you should have 620 a discretionary power to dispense with it. You will, therefore, be empowered to grant to such persons as you may consider to deserve the privilege, certificates that although they may not be able to read or write the English language, they are good and faithful subjects of Her Majesty, possessing the intelligence necessary for qualifying them to take a part in the administration of local affairs; and the possession of such a certificate will entitle the occupier of a tenement of adequate value, though he may not be able to fulfil the condition of reading and writing the English language, to be placed on the register of the borough, and to exercise his franchise. This measure will apply, as you will not fail to observe, in the first place, to foreigners of European origin (naturalised according to the colonial laws). These settlers are said to be generally intelligent as well as industrious and orderly, although they may not be able to read and write the English language; and as a general rule you will naturally grant certificates to all of this class who apply for them, unless for special reasons which appear to your mind sufficient to justify their being withheld. It will apply, in the next place, to the natives occupying tenements within the limits of boroughs; and it was with a view to these that the restriction was originally conceived. With respect to them you have recommended, in your despatch of the 3rd of May, that the Governor should be empowered from time to time to name certain natives who should have the privilege. It is the object of the additional instructions which you will receive to carry into effect this recommendation, and accordingly the granting or withholding certificates to the natives, will be a matter on whish you must exercise your own discretion.It would be seen, therefore, that the discretionary power was recommended by Governor Grey himself, and would have a tendency to extend the franchise to New Zealanders, even though they should not be able to read or write English.
MR. HENRY DRUMMOND
said, that a question of this kind, as to whether they should repeal or suspend the constitution, was one of very great importance, and it was most desirable that with relation to such a subject we should come before the natives of New Zealand with clean hands. But this country had already acted falsely towards them. It commenced with the assumption that the whole country belonged to them, save what had been purchased from them, and eventually it turned round and said that the whole islands, unless what the New Zealanders absolutely cultivated, belonged to England. It appeared to him to be as great a piece of oppression as ever was practised even by the most arbitary Government.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
thought it was impossible that the hon. Member who had just sat down had devoted sufficient attention to the subject, or he would see that his idea as to the treatment which 621 the New Zealanders had received, and the faith which had been observed by them, could not be borne out. The hon. Member had evidentally alluded to what was called the Treaty of Waitangi; but they all knew that as regarded the southern portion of the Northern Island and the Middle Island, it was not pretended that any chiefs possessing property in those districts were parties to the treaty. Let the treaty be as solemn and as absolutely binding as they pleased, it could still refer only to those chiefs who were individually parties to it; and as it was impossible to give that treaty a power to bind other chiefs, as it would be to give to an engagement made by the Queen of England a right to bind the King of France by the terms of that engagement. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had said a great deal about the constitution; but he (Mr. Milnes) could not help feeling that it came with a bad grace from one who, when at the head of the Government, refused a constitution to the white colonists of New Zealand, but who now reproached the present Government with not being absolutely inclined to include the whole native population of an uncivilised island within provisions of a constitution proposed to be granted to the European colonists there. So far as the interests of the natives were concerned, he would remark that he believed there was no instance of a native population in the history of colonisation who had been treated with the same consideration which this country had exhibited towards the native population of New Zealand. If they com-pared the treatment which the red men of North America received from the white colonists—if they compared the treatment which the Indians of America received from the Spaniards and Portuguese—they would perceive at once the different treatment which was adopted towards them as compared with that which was adopted towards the New Zealanders. There never had, in fact, been a greater attempt made to improve the condition of the natives than that which had been made in New Zealand, at the same time that the endeavour was made to raise up a prosperous English colony. With respect to reading and writing English, the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir R. Peel) would see that such a qualification for the franchise was one that could not exclude any native who wished, by educating himself, so far to qualify himself for the rights and privileges possessed by his British fellow-subjects. He ap- 622 proved of this measure, because he thought it was necessary, and because it wisely gave a wide discretion to the Governor, and a temporary transmission of power, which was calculated to be highly useful.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
wished to know what right we had to sovereignty in the part of New Zealand included in the Treaty of Waitangi, if that treaty were not held sacred? Supremacy was obtained by first discovery, or by treaty: if they wished to rely on the former, why did they make a treaty? If they relied on the latter, what became of the claim on the ground of first discovery? He regarded such a treaty just as binding as the Treaty of Utrecht; and he should always continue to hold the rights of the brown man in New Zealand in as sacred a light as the rights of the white man in other parts of the world.
§ Mr. HUTT
said, that the relation in which he stood to settlers and other inhabitants of New Zealand, was such as to render him disinclined to allow this discussion to close without making some observations upon the subject before the Committee. It was no light matter to suspend the constitution of New Zealand; but he hoped that the Government did not intend the suspension to continue for so long a period. Five years in the history of a colony was a period of greater length and importance than those who were unaccustomed to such subjects were apt to imagine. The intelligence of this suspension would be received by the colonists in New Zealand with suspicion and regret; and he did not think that this Bill would be held any consolation by them. He did trust that the Government would seriously consider, after the passing of the present Bill, the necessity of giving the British people of these islands a constitution such as they had a right to expect.
§ Mr. SCOTT
hoped, for the general sake of the House and the country, that the Treaty of Waitangi should be respected and maintained in the spirit in which it was conceived, namely, that the forests and estates of all the chiefs and tribes should be guaranteed to them collectively and individually. He would not have alluded to this subject, were it not that a person holding high official position had given expression to doctrines completely at variance with the provisions of that treaty, and were it not that their promulgation had given rise to much anxiety in the colony. The doctrines to which he alluded were contained in Earl Grey's despatch of the 30th 623 of November, 1847, in which he stated his determination "that the theory of the ownership by tribes of unoccupied land should not be made the basis of any future transactions." He contended that this determination was at precise variance with the Treaty of Waitangi; and he trusted as far as the land question was concerned, between the natives and the European settlers, that it might be made known to them that it was the intention of the Government and of that House to carry out the treaty in a fair and liberal spirit. There was also one other point to which he desired to draw the attention of the House. Much discontent and animosity had arisen between the natives and the settlers from the fact that the former were not allowed to barter their lands to any one but the Government, who having received it at the rate of twopence or fourpence per acre, would not part with it under twenty shillings per acre; the consequence of which was that the natives felt that the Crown had obtained their land at an inferior price, and that they had not been justly dealt with. In conclusion he would request Her Majesty's Government to consider well whether they would only suspend the constitution for five years, or whether it would not be better to repeal the constitution altogether, and leave it to that House to determine when there might be a more fitting opportunity to confer one more suitable.
§ Clauses 5 and 6 were agreed to.
§ The House resumed. Report to be received.