§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
, in moving the second reading of the Bill for the better Government of the Native Inhabitants of New Zealand, and for facilitating the purchase of native lands, said, that the measure did not arise out of the unfortunate disturbances that had recently occurred in New Zealand, although it originated from a similar state of things as that which had led to those events. It was intended, and he hoped would have the effect of conciliating the Natives of the country, and creating a better feeling between them and the English settlers. Since the subject of New Zealand was last under the consideration of their Lordships, now some seven years ago, the greatest progress had been made by the colony. Of late years education had made great advances among the Natives, who now had accounts in the savings banks, were engaged in industrial pursuits, and were possessed of vessels in which they carried on a considerable portion of the coasting trade of the colony. He need only appeal to these facts to show the immense progress which they had made in civilization since the passing of the Constitution Act, seven or eight years ago. Concurrently with their progress the Natives manifested a strong opposition to any infraction of their rights, and for some time past they had been impressed by the fear that the settlers sought to extinguish their nationality: they dreaded a complete absorption among the colonists, and, fearing to lose the possessions which they regarded as their birthright, they showed an increasing indisposition to part with their land, even upon fair and equitable terms. They were also dissatisfied with the laws which existed for their own regulation. Comparing them with the laws under which the English settlers lived, they thought that the two 1327 ought to be assimilated, and that they were not governed under such favourable conditions as they had a right to look for. This was the feeling of the Natives. On the other hand, the colonists also had a cause of dissatisfaction. They had increased greatly in number and in wealth, and there had consequently been a growing demand for land. They were conscious, of course, of their power as a superior race, and those who had recently arrived in the colony did not evince that tolerance for the habits and feelings of the Natives which generally characterized the older settlers. In this state of things his attention had been drawn several months ago to the state of the colony, and the question arose as to the remedy which should be applied. The question was, in whose hands the power to deal with the land should be placed. New Zealand, as their Lordships knew, like most of the colonies of Great Britain at present, possessed a responsible Government, and the natural and easy plan would have been to place in the hands of that Government such powers as might be thought desirable for the purpose of producing a better state of feeling between the Natives and the settlers. But there were certain questions concerning the Natives in which the Government of New Zealand could not be considered the best medium for communication with them. The present case was an exceptional one. It almost involved a question of good faith as regarded the Natives were they to place this power in the hands of the local Government; because it was not to the English inhabitants of New Zealand, it was to the Crown that these territories had been ceded by the Natives; the Natives had submitted themselves to the good Government of the Crown, and hitherto, though occasions had arisen when they had shown distrust towards the local Government, they had reposed confidence in the Imperial Government—should they succeed in proving to them that that confidence was well placed he hoped they would be able to revive in the Natives that spirit of loyalty which had not in late years distinguished them. There was another reason why the management of the Natives should not be left to the local Government; and that was because, if quarrels arose between them, as was now unfortunately the case, and if these resulted in an outbreak, it was upon the Imperial Government that the whole expense of quelling such an outbreak fell. 1328 We had therefore, a strong pecuniary interest in measures the result of which would be to remove the cause for any quarrels. Under these circumstances, after communicating with the Government of New Zealand, it was resolved to institute a local Council, upon whom should devolve the revision of the Native laws, and the arrangements respecting the sale and purchase of Native land. It would be recollected that in the New Zealand Government Bill the management of Native lands was reserved to the Crown. No machinery existed in the Act, however, to carry that provision properly into execution; and it therefore became a dead letter, and there was a constant tendency to allow these questions to be dealt with by the local Government. It might be thought difficult to form a Council for the purpose of carrying out these measures. But there were notoriously many Englishmen living in the colony who possessed jointly the confidence of the Natives and of their brother settlers, and if this Bill passed, he thought the Government would have no difficulty in recommending to the Crown a sufficient number of persons who were independent of the constant changes of Government which occurred under the existing system, who should constitute a permanent Council, and in whose hands, so long as it was necessary, those questions should be placed. In reference to this questions of land, it might be convenient that their Lordships should know that at present the whole of the southern islands was practically in possession of the English settlers. Of the northern, 7,000,000 acres had been purchased by the colonists, and 26,000,000 still remained in the hands of the Natives. Much of this land was, of course, utterly unavailable, and of no sort of value to its possessors; but there was much that the Natives would be glad to dispose of to settlers on terms of advantage to both parties. He proposed that the Council should consist of not less than three, or more than seven persons, to whom the Crown should transfer the powers which it possessed, but which it had never yet been able to exercise. This Council would only continue a certain number of years, as its duties might be expected eventually to die out. He did not know that any further explanation of the Bill was necessary. He repeated that it had not been brought forward in consequence of the disturbances in New Zealand, although he hoped that its effect, if passed 1329 into a law, would be to arrest their progress. The Bill was drawn before the news of any outbreak reached this country. It would maintain intact the rights of the settlers, while at the same time the feelings and prejudices of the Natives would be more respected than at present. He had no reason to apprehend the opposition of the colonists to the measure. On the contrary, he believed they would view with satisfaction the formation of an independent body to make such arrangements as they must feel that the local Government, from its constant changes, was not competent adequately to carry out. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ LORD LYTTELTON
said, that, as some communication must have passed between the Government of New Zealand and the Home Government upon this subject, it was very desirable that the papers should be laid on the table, which would enable their Lordships to judge whether the measure was advisable or not. He was afraid that the effect of the Bill would be to create and keep up a constant feeling of irritation and jealousy between the local Government and the new body which it was proposed to establish—a body which would really form a separate and independent Administration in the colony, having no connection with the local Legislature, and formed by the Imperial Government without consultation with them. He believed some such legislation as that embodied in the present measure to be requisite; but he was not aware that there would be any inconvenience in delay at present, and it made some difference whether the purpose was effected by the local Assembly of New Zealand or by the Imperial authority. One of the main objects of the Bill was to enable the Natives to deal directly with the purchasers of land, and was probably deserving the attention of Parliament. There were several points of detail in the Bill which he would refer to on the Motion for going into Committee.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
explained that, according to the Constitution Act, nothing but Imperial legislation could carry out the objects of a measure like the present.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Friday next.
§ House adjourned at a Quarter-past Eight o'clock, to Thursday next, Half-past Four o'clock.