HL Deb 26 July 1861 vol 164 cc1573-9

LORD LYVEDEN rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he could state to the House what Instructions he had given to Sir George Grey respecting the settlement of the tribal rights of the Natives and the payment of the expenses of the war by the colony of New Zealand. On a former occasion a noble Friend of his (Earl Grey) had expressed an opinion that the only solution of the New Zealand question was the recall of the Governor and the suspension of the constitution. The noble Duke, the Secretary for the Colonies, had, however, anticipated the former step, while he very wisely declined to adopt the extreme measure of suspending the constitution for which there was not the slightest pretence. The recall of the Governor whenever anything went wrong in the colony was a somewhat inconvenient practice. It was quite true, however, that Governor Browne's term of service was nearly expired, so that he could not so much complain of the injustice, but it should be borne in mind that Sir George Grey would not return to the colony under the same favourable circumstances as when he quitted it. He left it in a period of prosperity, and would return to it at a time of convulsion and misfortune. He left it with great popularity; but his return at the present crisis would be apt to be misconstrued by, and to excite the suspicion of, both Natives and colonists; by the Natives who would consider it a triumph, by the colonists who might couple it with Earl Grey's proposition, and look upon it as a defeat. They heard again of war breaking out; but whether there was war or peace, some definite arrangement ought to be made with the colonists and the Natives upon two great questions—namely, the tribal rights of the Natives and the expense of military operations. All the convulsions in New Zealand had turned upon the question of tribal rights, and he did not think it was as difficult as was imagined for the noble Duke to define the tribal and individual rights of the Natives, which should be respected in the sale and purchase of lands; but whether the noble Duke could do so or not, it would be far better to acknowledge altogether the tribal rights of the Natives than to have these perpetual convulsions upon a question of so difficult and delicate a nature. The other and more important question was the defence of the colonies, and that was a question which must be considered everywhere. Responsible government having been laid down as the doctrine upon which the colonies were to be governed, they must abide by it in the small colonies, because they must abide by it in the large colonies, and they must abide by it in the large colonies because they would lose them if they did not. It was important, however, to know whether, responsible government being the rule, the mother country was to pay for the defence of the colonies. We were fortifying our own coast, and the people were preparing for what he trusted would prove an imaginary invasion. It was said that the spirit of modern warfare was to strike at the heart of the empire; but might not the limbs be attacked? And if they were attacked some definite rule should be laid down upon which they might claim assistance. If such a rule was necessary with regard to foreign invasion, it was much more necessary with regard to internal convulsions. In Australia the Anglo-Saxon race had swept away the Native tribes; but in New Zealand the Natives were active and ambitious, and quite capable of offering strong resistance to what they conceived to be injustice. The settlers who went out were men who looked to acquire land for profitable investment, and to remunerate them for exile and sacrifices. The only property of the Natives was the land, and their pride in its possession equal to the oldest feudal feelings elsewhere led to collisions with the settlers. As long as the mother country paid there would be no peace. According to the Report of the Colonial Military Expenses Committee the cost of New Zealand was £104,862. Next year the cost would be double, and it would be treble and quadruple unless the mother country came to the resolution that the colonists should defend themselves. The line beyond which no assistance would be given must be laid down, and it was only owing to the unwillingness of the Ministry to face the difficulty that it had not been laid down before. He thought it important before Parliament separated to call attention to the subject, and he hoped the noble Duke would state in reply whether any rule had been laid down as to the tribal rights, and whether Sir George Grey had been instructed that beyond a certain amount the Home Government would not be responsible for the cost of suppressing internal commotions in the colony. In what he had said he did not wish to disparage Sir George Grey, for whom he felt great admiration. Sir George Grey was originally appointed when he (Lord Lyveden) was Under Secretary of State for the Colonies with Lord John Russell in 1841, solely upon his merits, in consequence of an able book which he had written on Australia He had been promoted by each successive Secretary for the Colonies, and he had received the approbation of every Minister under whom he had served. He believed that unless such in- structions as he had indicated had been given to Sir George Grey, they would be hearing constantly of commotions in a colony which should of all others be happy and prosperous.


said, Sir George Grey would not assume the Government until the full period of his predecessor's service had expired; although it was quite true that his appointment had anticipated that event by a few months, He (the Duke of Newcastle) thought that the consequences of sending Sir George Grey to New Zealand would not be what the noble Lord anticipated. He did not believe that it could have the effect on the Native population which the noble Lord seemed to dread, and he was quite convinced it would not have the effect on the European settlers which the noble Lord seemed to expect. Why should the Natives apprehend that Sir George Grey was about to reverse the policy of his predecessor, when the Government which appointed Sir George Grey had expressed their opinion in favour of the government of Colonel Browne? And why should the English settlers dread that their interests would be neglected when they had nothing to complain of Sir George Grey's former government in that respect? Sir George Grey was sent out as the most likely man to restore confidence to the settlers and to the Natives, and to adopt such a policy as would prevent the recurrence of war. His noble Friend wished to know what instructions were given to Sir George Grey in reference to the tribal rights of the Natives, and thought it easy for a Secretary of State sitting in Downing Street to lay down distinct rules as to those rights, so as to guide the Governor in the exercise of his duties. He could only say that, whatever facilities the noble Lord might feel for such an operation, he could not profess to have them. When he saw men in the colony of such legal eminence and experience as Sir William Martin and Chief Justice Arney, differing in toto upon that question, he felt that he should be acting most unwisely, and doing anything but furthering the policy of the Government, if he endeavoured to settle difficult questions of law in England. These matters must be left to the judgment of men upon the spot, and all that the Colonial Secretary could do was to select the best instruments in his power for the purpose. These tribal rights were not the same in all parts of New Zealand, and the Natives them- selves did not agree as to their extent. When, therefore, the noble Lord said it would be better to concede the whole, he forgot that by concession to one party they would be depriving another of privileges and advantages which they possessed. The whole question of tribal rights was most delicate, intricate, and difficult, and it should be recollected that Sir George Grey expressed an opinion, expressed by others before him, that it was most desirable some tribunal should be constituted on the spot which should decide upon them. He had stated before, and he repeated now, that the great obstacle to the constitution of such a tribunal had always been the indisposition of the Natives to submit their claims to such an arbietment. There was a greater tendency now, perhaps, among the Natives to accept such a tribunal; but, at the same time, it was doubtful whether the Natives would greatly benefit by such an arrangement, because the power of the Crown, reserved by the Constitution, had always been exercised in their favour, and a tribunal bound to give its decisions according to dry law could not make that convenient concession to the prejudice of the Crown which the Crown itself had been in the habit of doing. However, he read in the last despatches of Colonel Gore Browne, that, in anticipation of a greater readiness on the part of the Natives, he had consulted the Judges of the colony, in order to see if some plan could not be devised for the establishment of such a tribunal. The noble Lord asked what instructions had been given to Sir George Grey. He (the Duke of Newcastle) had sent instructions to him on the 5th of June, and again on the 26th of the same month on these questions, but more especially bearing on the Native Council Bill, which had been passed by the local Legislature, and had not received the sanction of the Crown. His noble Friend would see that in the peculiar position in which Sir George Grey was placed it was most desirable that he should not give full details of those instructions. When Sir George Grey was appointed on the 5th of June he was at the Cape of Good Hope. He received instructions to proceed to New Zealand with the greatest possible despatch, and would, no doubt, leave the Cape and proceed to New Zealand as quickly as possible. If he were now to state what wore the instructions which he had sent out to Sir George Grey, the report of this statement would reach New Zealand be- fore Sir George Grey, and that would obviously be placing him in a very unfair position. At the same time, he did not disguise the fact that, though he had given Sir George Grey general instructions, he had not given him any specific instructions. He had expressed opinions, but subject entirely to Sir George Grey's discretion in the application of them. In appointing a man like Sir George Grey it was not fair to him to hamper him with definite instructions, seeing that the circumstances under which they were given might have changed entirely before the time came to put them into action. He had, therefore, left a larger discretion to Sir George Grey than he should have left to any other Governor under different circumstances. As to the expenses of the war, he had stated previous to the breaking out of the war that he had come to an arrangement with the Legislature that the colony of New Zealand should pay £5 per head for every soldier retained by the Imperial Government in the colony, and that the colony should also pay the expenses of the Militia and Volunteer force. The Colonial Government had also borrowed money from the commissariat chest without any arrangement for repayment, and he had told the Governor that all payment for the local forces must be defrayed by the colony itself, and if money were advanced for the war, it must be under a guarantee that it would be repaid. He had received a despatch from the colony, stating that that arrangement had been agreed to. He could not disguise from the House his belief that the expenses of a war conducted as this had been must be paid in a large proportion by the mother country; but he had every reason to believe that the expenses of this war would be borne in a larger proportion by the colony than had been the case in any previous war of the kind. He could not agree with his noble Friend that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to lay down some definite rule as to the proportion of military expenditure which should be borne by the colonies in time of peace. The circumstances of the colonies differed very much, some required a larger military expenditure, others a smaller; some were rich, and others comparatively poor, and there was this further difficulty, that having given self-government to most of our colonies, the arrangements would have to be made in conjunction with the Legislatures. The only way in which any definite rule could be laid down would be by saying to a colony, "You must either pay for these troops or we will withdraw them," and he had not made up his mind that such a course would be prudent or advisable with regard to our great colonies. He had not seen the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, but, considering the difficulty of laying down any definite rule, he was not surprised to hear that they had left the matter very much where they had found it. He did not mean to say that considerable reductions might not be made in our colonial military expenditure, but if our colonial empire was worth preserving we must not act rashly, nor without full consideration of the local circumstances of each colony.