HC Deb 21 August 1860 vol 160 cc1639-49

Order for Second Reading read.


I wish to state to the House that it is the intention of the Government not to press this Bill any further. We do not doubt that if there was time for the fair and full discussion of the measure we should succeed in removing the objections which are entertained to it by many hon. Gentlemen. But considering the state of the Session and the attendance of Members it would hardly be fair on the part of the Government to ask the House to go on with a measure which will certainly require careful consideration, and which, in the opinion of many persons, involves important principles of colonial legislation. The object of the Bill was to protect the interests of the aborigines of New Zealand. We are of opinion, however, that the powers which the New Zealand Constitution gives to the Crown of making regulations bearing upon the interests of the aborigines will, if properly used, be sufficient for the purpose we have in view; and if it should appear that those powers are inadequate it will be then for the Government at some future time to have recourse to legislation on the subject. Under these circumstances I apprehend that the House will think' we have exercised a sound discretion in not pressing this Bill further during the present Session, and I beg, therefore, to move that the Order of the Day be discharged.


was sorry that he could not in this instance adopt the old and excellent maxim de mortuis nil nisi bonum. Both personally and politically he had great reason to complain of the conduct of the Government on this question. He had listened to the speech of the noble Lord and he found in it no ground for the withdrawal of the Bill, which might not quite as well have been known to the noble Lord a week ago as it was at that moment. He had left Worcestershire that morning for the special purpose of opposing the Bill. He had previously addressed a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury in which he had stated, wholly irrespectively of party considerations and in perfect good faith, the reasons why he thought it was the duty of the Government not to press this Bill, and begged to be informed whether it would be necessary for him to come up to state his objections. In reply the Secretary to the Treasury, who, by his request, had shown his letter to the noble Lord, said the noble Lord felt bound to proceed with the Bill. In consequence of this he had deemed it his duty to come up to town, at considerable personal inconvenience, to state his objections to the measure; and now he was told at the eleventh hour that, at this period of the Session, and with this skeleton House of Commons, the noble Lord did not mean to press it. He thought he had reason to complain of the Government for not malting up their minds sooner upon this subject. He was disposed, however, to believe that there wore other reasons than those assigned by the noble Lord which induced them to give up this Bill; that they had discovered that even in the present state of the House they would not be able to pass a measure which was opposed to all the principles upon which our colonial policy had of late years been conducted. Moreover, upon coming up to town in order to oppose this Bill he found a paper which had been recently issued, and which bore strongly upon the question involved by this Bill. It was a despatch from the Governor of New Zealand, enclosing a paper which had been drawn up by the Bishop, the late Chief Justice, and Mr. Swainson, a person of very great authority on such a subject, and which pointed out the very great objections to which the Bill was liable. That paper was received by the Colonial Office on the 10th of August, and was ordered to be printed on the 15th; and yet on the 17th the Secretary to the Treasury informed him that he must conre up to town, as the Bill would be proceeded with, although it was inconceivable how any public Department could think of pressing the measure after receiving the despatches he had referred to. It appeared also that on the 2nd of July there was to have been held a meeting of the Natives, and the Governor himself stated that he had summoned the Legislature to meet in August further to consider this subject. If the Colonial Office had ventured to press this Bill behind the back of the colonists, without their knowledge, and against the opinion of almost all the colonists now in England, it would have been an unwise and objectionable course. He was confident that if the noble Duke the Secretary of State had been in England, and had seen the despatch from the Governor, he would not have Ventured to press the Bill. As the Bill was to be withdrawn, it would be unnecessary to comment upon its details, but he could not refrain from saying that it was open to most serious objections. It would have created an irresponsible Council to act concurrently with the constitutional Legislature of the colony; and he thought that every one who considered the subject must be persuaded that the action of two such bodies must have produced constant ill-will and collision, and would have created bad feeling between the colonists and their Governor, between the colonists and the Imperial Government, between the European settlers and the Natives, and must have tended to retard that amalgamation of the races which every wise and benevolent statesman must be anxious to promote. He rejoiced that the same mail which would take out the intelligence of the introduction of this unwise and imprudent measure would also convey the news of its tardy and ungracious withdrawal. The Bill would have met with opposition from men of all parties in that House, who repudiated it as wholly inconsistent with the liberal principles upon which our colonial legislation had of late years been based.


said, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had much to complain of in the conduct of the Government in apprising him that it was their intention at the time the correspondence passed between the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary to the Treasury, to proceed with the Bill. Why was the right hon. Member absent from his place in that House? The business of the borough represented by the right hon. Member surely was not so vast as to require his presence for many days together, and certainly it did not prevent his being in his place in that House whenever there was going to be a gala day or a party "set-to." The right hon. Gentleman had not considered that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was not always a free agent, nor that he was frequently much tossed about in his arrangements through the length to which the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman was drawn out on those special occasions when he occupied so much time in addressing the House. He (Mr. Hadfield) honoured the noble Lord for having introduced the Bill. He believed it was calculated to confer great benefit upon the colony, and was perfectly prepared to have given the noble Lord his independent support. The right hon. Gentleman, had given advice to the noble Lord, who was a great listener, and was always ready to receive advice, particularly from the Conservative side of the House. He (Mr. Hadfield) would also venture to give his Lordship a little advice. It was—"Don't listen to the Bishops." The duty of the bishops and ecclesiastics was to instruct the wild people of the colony in Christian doctrines, and in the principles of morality, and, so long as they did so, he would say, "God bless them mid their efforts"—but they did not adhere to that principle. They had meddled in politics; and to that he (Mr. Hadfield) was on principle opposed. We had quite enough of ecclesiastical quarrelling in England, and he trusted it would not extend to the Colonies.


said, that he had a petition to present from fourteen gentlemen of Auckland, New Zealand, who stated that the petition against the Bill came from the Southern Island, in which the Native question did not exist, and where no necessity had arisen for the services of the army and navy. He regretted the inconvenience to which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) had been put, but if he would candidly place himself in the position of the Government he would better understand the difficulty which the Government had felt in making up their minds to withdraw this Bill. It was impossible for the Government lightly to throw over a Bill thus carefully considered and introduced on the responsibility of a respected colleague now absent. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman lay so much stress on the despatch just presented to Parliament, because, in his view, that despatch was little more than a repetition of the excellent advice and information previously given by the Governor and others. He hoped the House would allow him to make a very short statement of the views with which his noble Friend the Duke of Newcastle framed the Bill, which, for the reasons stated by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, had now been withdrawn. He felt that to be the more necessary, because if there was one statesman in this country less likely than another to sanction any invasion of those rights of self-government which he had himself taken a large share in conferring upon the Colonies, that man Was his noble Friend. And yet the noble Duke was now said to have introduced into "another place," and carried through a second reading, a Bill which had been treated in some quarters as a violation of the Constitution Act, a reversal of our policy, and he knew not what epithets besides—every exaggeration and misconception, in short, that could be pressed into the service of a most active agitation against the Bill. Now, on the contrary, he maintained that this Bill—without going into the question of its expediency, or of whether the same object could be better attained by other means—was not a violation of the Constitution Act, but rather framed in its spirit, and was no infringement of the rights of self-government conferred upon the colonists of New Zealand. He knew that it was not so in intention—he was convinced that it was not so in spirit and effect. The fact was that this was not a question to be disposed of by mere reference to the axioms of what was called "responsible government." Two questions had long been disputed between the Home Government and British colonists. One was, should they govern themselves? another, and a totally distinct one, was, should they govern others? The first question had been most properly and righteously decided in favour of the colonists, wherever it had been possible. That decision had been come to once for all, and no Government would wish or venture to reverse it—certainly not the present Government or the present Secretary of State for the Colonies. But on the other question the Crown held its ground, and maintained its right and duty of protection and control over Native races and Native questions, wherever and so far as it could usefully and practically exercise such control. He had but to mention British Caffraria, Natal, Ceylon, most of the West India colonies, or, to take a gigantic example, British India itself—in all of which the Crown retained more or less control, and did not commit unrepresented Native races to the government of the settlers under the extreme doctrines of responsible government. He need not ask the House what they would think of attempting to govern Ceylon—not to say India—through a Governor who would be absolutely controlled by an Assembly elected by the universal suffrago of the Europeans alone. Well, that difficulty was keenly felt when the question arose of conferring a representative constitution upon the colonists of New Zealand. It was felt that the Natives could not possibly—at all events, for a long time to come—be included in such a representation; it was felt that it would be difficult and dangerous to govern them and tax them without giving them any voice in the matter; it was felt also that it was to the Crown, and not to the settlers, that they had ceded the sovereignty over their country; and that the Crown had, in return, by solemn treaty taken them under its protection. These considerations delayed the grant of the Constitution for several years, and when it was given they were fully present to the minds of those who framed it. He alluded especially to Sir George Grey, and Lord Grey, who both agreed and intended that the control of the Crown over Native affairs ought not to be surrendered. That principle was embodied in the Constitution Act, which was inherited and carried into law by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington). That Act contained two most important clauses, which were designed by Lord Grey and Sir George Grey as the charter of the Native race. One enabled the Crown at any time, by letters patent, to form the Native territory, or any part of it, into Native districts, to maintain I within those districts Native laws, so far as was not repugnant to principles of humanity, and to withdraw them from the authority and legislation of the Colonial Parliament. The other conferred on the Crown alone or its delegate the right of acquiring land, by purchase or otherwise, from the Natives, and of prescribing all the terms and conditions upon which that should be done. That Constitution became law, and before long the entire system of responsible Government was brought into operation in New Zealand, with the marked exception of Native affairs. On that subject an arrangement was made between the Governor and his Ministers that Native affairs should not be reckoned among the ordinary domestic questions of the colony, but should be considered as among Imperial questions, upon which the Ministry should have full knowledge of what was doing, and the right to give advice, but the real control and decision resting with the Governor, or in case of serious difference with the Secretary of State. That was embodied in a memorandum, which was submitted to the Assembly and the Home Government, and sanctioned by both, and ratified in a very marked manner by the then Secretary of State, Lord Taunton. But there was a more recent and stronger assertion of the same principle only last year, and emanating from the Government of which the two right hon. Gentlemen opposite were Members. Last year a New Zealand Act of great importance, dealing with the land question and questions of Native title came before the then Secretary of State, which also imposed the condition on the Governor that he should act under it "only with the advice and consent of his Executive Council." The Royal confirmation was refused to that Act, and the reasons given by a despatch signed by Lord Carnarvon, which asserted in very strong terms the rights and duties of the Crown. Such, then, was the state of things which his noble Friend found when he came into office. His noble Friend found it settled already by the very nature and justice, he thought, of the case, and by the decisions of his predecessors, that the paramount control over the Natives should not be handed over to the colonial Parliament—not by way of any reproach to them, or to the able and enlightened gentlemen who formed the present New Zealand Ministry—but because the Natives were absolutely unrepresented there. But something it was felt must be done; things were advancing rapidly to a crisis or a dead lock, and that in two main respects—the purchase of Native land and the Government of the Native race. As to land, the settlers cried out for more, they were increasing in number daily; the demand for land grew stronger and louder. On the other hand, the Natives had grown less and less inclined to sell—more and more suspicious and jealous of the invading race. Again, the Natives wanted more government. They complained that we called them British subjects, but did not govern them, did not keep the peace among them. So, in default of government from us, they were making various efforts to govern themselves, the most remarkable of these being the now well-known "Maori King movement." But, at all events, the "let alone" system would not do; the Crown must either give up its duties to others, or else perform them itself. With this view and this sense of responsibility his noble Friend examined what those powers were. He found them very wide in scope and principle, but not very efficient in practice; he found the negative powers of the Crown, so to speak, much stronger and clearer than the positive. The Crown, for instance, could tomorrow set apart all the Native territory of the Northern Island, and withdraw it from the legislation of the Colonial Parliament. The object, then, of this Bill, was to enable the Crown to act effectually, but only within the sphere and in execution of the duties already belonging to it, for the settlement of these Native questions. His noble Friend had no intention whatever of trenching upon the fair rights of the Colonial Legislature. As to the question, whether the Crown should apply to the Imperial or the colonial Parliament for the powers conferred by this Bill, he would not detain the House by any argument. It was a point on which there would naturally be differences of opinion. Our position, however, was clear. The Government believed that the Crown was only coming to the Imperial Parliament for legislation within a sphere already reserved to the Crown by the Constitution Act of New Zealand, and that therefore there was no invasion of the rights and privileges conferred on the colony by that Constitution. However, as things were, Her Majesty's Government would endeavour to make the best use they could of the powers already possessed by the Crown, which he admitted to be considerable, though imperfect. If those powers should hereafter prove inadequate, it would then be time to consider how best they should be improved or enlarged. Meantime, he trusted that the Governor, with his present able and temperate Ministers, armed with all the moral and legal aid which Her Majesty's Government could give them, and with the physical force which was already, or soon would be, at their disposal, might be able to prevent the horrors of civil war, to reconcile the Queen's subjects of both races, and promote the progress and prosperity of the one without sacrificing the rights and happiness of the other.


said, he was sorry that the right hon. Baronet should have been put to any personal inconvenience by the course which had been taken in regard to this Bill: but notice had been sent by telegraph to the right hon. Gentleman as soon as the decision of the Government was made. He supposed the right hon. Gentleman did not receive the message. The subject of the Bill was one on which the Government had felt considerable anxiety; and the circumstance that it had received the approbation of the other House, and the absence of the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Department, rendered it somewhat difficult for the Government to decide whether they should proceed with it. It was only last night, after full consideration of the means which the Crown already possessed of accomplishing the object aimed at by the Bill, without having recourse to Parliament, that they decided it would be consistent with their duty not to proceed with the Bill at present.


deemed himself recompensed for the inconvenience of coming up to town to oppose the Bill by the gratification he experienced at its withdrawal. He must protest, in one sentence, against the language of the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies, from which it might be inferred that the Government had merely dropped the Bill for the present Session, and intended to proceed with it on a future occasion. He believed it would be utterly impossible for the Government to pass any such Bill. He feared that a false impression might be created by the statement of the Under Secretary as to the reasons for abandoning the Bill. He believed firmly that the withdrawal had arisen, not merely from the lateness of the Session, but from the utter inability of the Government to procure support for it, even at a time when the House was occupied almost entirely by their own adherents. If the Crown already possessed sufficient power, what justification could be offered for the introduction of the Bill? Her Majesty ought to exercise whatever power she possessed, not through the Government at home, but through her representative in the colony. The entire local executive must be responsible to the local legislature; and two legislatures, side by side, and independent of each other; a Native Council and representative assembly on the same ground would make hopeless confusion, and must end in referring every question back to England. The policy of the measure was retrogressive and dangerous in the extreme. The hon. Member for Sheffield supported the Bill, and at the same time advised the Government to beware of the colonial Bishops, not knowing, apparently, that this measure emanated entirely from that body. The excellent Bishop and Archdeacon of New Zealand in their zeal on behalf of the Natives, had been led into this most erroneous project. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could hardly have heard with satisfaction the announcement of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Fortescue), that the colonists were empowered to govern themselves, but not to govern the Natives as part of the same community, seeing how often budgets had been disturbed by the application of that principle at the Cape—namely, that even after a colony had the gift of self-government, its internal wars and disturbances with natives were to be conducted at the charge of the mother country.


said, he entirely agreed with his right hon. Friend opposite as to the application of the principle of self-government to the Colonies in the largest sense; and was not aware that in the whole history of our policy we had ever committed any error in making that sense too large. The error had been rather the other way. The right hon. Gentleman said truly that it was very desirable that there should be no misapprehension in the colony on the subject of this Bill. He was anxious also that there should be no misapprehension, and he wished to say a single word because he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not clearly understood the effect of the speech of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to apprehend that, although this Sill was dropped in consequence of the late period of the Session, it would he reintroduced early next Session. His hon. Friend (Mr. Fortescue), surrendered none of the rights of the Government to make any application to Parliament which public duty required, but at the same time had clearly pointed out that there was no such intention as the right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to suppose, because his hon. Friend said that having abandoned this measure the Government would apply the powers of the Constitutional Act and endeavour in the spirit of those Powers to attain the object in view in concert with the colonial authorities. That was the intention expressed by the Under Secretary of State, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would see that it formed no ground for uneasiness when the declaration of the withdrawal of the Bill came to be read in the colony.

Order discharged.

Second Reading put off for three months.