HL Deb 25 June 1852 vol 122 cc1291-4

begged, pursuant to notice, to present a petition from the inhabitants of the Canterbury Settlement, New Zealand, complaining of a public attack made by the Governor of New Zealand on the principles upon which that settlement was founded, and praying for the adoption of measures granting to the Colony a constitutional Parliament, elected by the inhabitants of the Colony, in place of the nominated Council at present existing. Feeling deeply interested in the prosperity of that Settlement, he availed himself of, possibly, the only opportunity that might be afforded to him this Session, of presenting this petition to their Lordships. It had just reached him, and he would venture, however unwillingly, to request the particular attention of their Lordships to its contents. The noble Lord read the petition, which, after referring to the establishment of the Settlement, set forth that fourteen ships with emigrants had arrived there in the course of nine months. He begged here to remark, that the petition had been framed about seven or eight months ago, and that since that period the thirteen or fourteen ships had increased to twenty-two or twenty-three ships. The petition stated in the next place, that the population amounted to 3,000 souls; but if the statement were now made, the population should be estimated at 4,000 or 5,000. The petition further stated, that surveys had been made—a considerable extent of land had been enclosed—the amount of land in cultivation was increasing—means were afforded for the worship of God—schools were established, and a plan for the establishment of a university was already commenced. The petitioners then stated that they had learned from a source that could be relied upon, that Her Majesty's Representative in the colony of New Zealand had, on several occasions, at meetings of the Legislative Council of the colony expressed strong objections to the principles and proceedings on which the Association was founded, and that he had forwarded to Her Majesty statements professing to convey the sentiments of the people of the Islands which were hostile to the Settlements, and praying that Her Majesty would cause all the land in the colony to be sold at the same uniform price. The petitioners declared that the memorials so forwarded by the Governor contained un-unfounded statements. The petitioners deeply regretted that they were obliged to point out the inaccuracies and misstatements conveyed to Her Majesty, and the more particularly so as the document containing them had received the sanction of the highest authority in the colony. But the petitioners declared that it did not speak the sentiments of the people of New Zealand. The petitioners further stated that they saw cause for great alarm in the attack that had been made upon them; they feared that it might inflict the deepest injury upon them, and that the public in England thinking Her Majesty's sanction was withdrawn, the sale of the lands would be stopped. They concluded with a prayer for a representative constitution, which, after the proceedings of that evening, was quite superfluous—a Bill having nearly passed through both Houses of Parliament on the subject to which it had reference. He had been anxious to read this petition to their Lordships, for the purpose of giving publicity to the statements contained in it, confirming as they did an observation he had made the other night, in reply to a remark of the noble Earl the late Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Grey) with respect to the Canterbury Settlement. That settlement had already arrived at a great state of advancement, and on no point had the hopes of the emigrants to that colony been disappointed, for they had either been realised, or were in the course of realisation. It was not true, for instance, with regard to the Canterbury Settlement, or any other Settlement in the Colony, that any serious loss had been inflicted upon them by any withdrawal of their population consequent upon the discovery of gold in Australia. Some of the newspapers, for purposes best known to themselves, had given currency to vague rumours that had reached this country some time ago, that some settlements in New Zealand were almost deserted; but that statement was without a shadow of foundation. Statements had reached this country, later than the rumours so promulgated, to the effect that, although the minds of the people of New Zealand had been unsettled by the accounts of the gold discoveries—just in the same way as the minds of various people throughout Europe had been agitated by the same cause—scarcely any persons had loft the settlements to go to the gold fields, and that there was every reason to hope that they would follow the advice of their judicious friends, and remain in the colony, for, in all probability, owing to the gold discoveries, an abundant market would be opened for their produce, which must tend greatly to their advantage. The case with respect to the Governor of New Zealand was this—This Canterbury colony was actually founded in the year 1848. The project had been ventilated and discussed in this country for a considerable time before that, but it then received the sanction of a Royal Charter, and the deliberate approval of Her Majesty's Government and of Parliament. Recommended in that way, the scheme was transmitted by the late Government to the Governor of New Zealand, and it was enjoined upon him to give that under taking every support in his power. The Governor(Sir George Grey) professed to do so—he spoke of it favourably—and for a time he appeared to support it in action; and now, three years after its establishment, in the autumn of 1851, the Governor thought fit, on a most public occasion, at a meeting of the Legislative Council of that colony, to make a deliberate attack, not upon anything the Association or the colonists had done—for if they had left themselves open to animadversion, no person would have a right to complain—on the contrary, he admitted that, in every respect, what had been engaged for had been successfully carried on; but he made a sweeping attack upon the whole of the essential and fundamental principle upon which that colony was founded. The principle was as simple as possible—it was to plant a colony whose general character should be of the Church of England, and that 1l. out of the 3l. per acre that was to be paid for land should be applied to the purposes of the Church of England in the colony. That was the whole of the machinery intended for that purpose, and it was against that principle, and that principle alone, that the Governor contended; because he said it would not be acting fairly towards other denominations to have the land dealt with in that way. The Governor also urged that there were economical objections to the variation of the price of land in the Canterbury Settlement, and in the rest of the colony. These were objections to the fundamental principles of the plan, and it was grossly inconsistent with the duty of any Governor, after three years' existence of this system, against which he had never remonstrated, to protest now against the whole principle of a measure that had received the sanction of all the authorities to whom he was bound to defer. His noble Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies had been misinformed as to what the Governor had said; and in his (Lord Lyttelton's) opinion it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government, in taking cognisance of what the Governor had done, to reprove him for making so improper an attack. Whether Her Majesty's Government had done so, or were likely to do so, he did not know, but he was glad to have that opportunity of publicly protesting against his conduct.

House adjourned till To-morrow.