TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE LAST ATTEMPT TO SETTLE THE NEW ZEALAND DISPUTES.
IT became known, by what passed in the House of Commons on Friday last, that some arrangement between the Colonial Office and the New Zealand Company was near completion ; and from the terms in which Mr. John Abel Smith expressed his satisfac- tion at "the approaching termination to the disagreeable discus- sions which had taken place on this subject," it might have been supposed that the new plan was on the whole favourable to the great interests at stake.
It was certainly true," said Mr. Smith," that the Company had not obtained the whole of what they thought they had a right to, and what they considered essen- tial for the good government ot New Zealand. At the same time he could not forget that, in a compromise, some sacrifices must be made on either side. It was a great satisfaction to notice the tone and temper in which the recent communi- cations made by the New Zealand Company had been received by the Colonial Office. He considered that tone and temper more important than the result of the negotiation itself. He thanked the Government for the part they had taken; and he rejoiced that one intrusted with so much power as the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department had at length found that there was something graceful in concession?
Sir Robert Peel did not miss the opportunity to echo with aug- mented emphasis and curious iteration these praises of Lord Stanley— "He did not think it necessary to assure the honourable gentleman or the House, that no one was more rejoiced than he at the nature of the communications that had recently taken place between the New Zealand Company and the Colonial Department. It was a great satisfaction to him, but at the same time it was his duty, to state publicly, that whatever credit attached to the establishment of such communications was due to his noble friend the Secretary for the Colonial Department. He had stated from the first, that whatever differences heretofore prevailed, the recollection of those differences would not influence the course of Ins noble fnend. He had declared his opinion that his noble friend's past cordrt,t bad been governed solely by considerations of the public interest. awl
dared himself -pei.e ;tIk *errant that his future-ten:In'. wmild
tel.iiihir and that the ,oirespondence hich ',wren place would not have the slightest effect upon his mind, or prevent him from taking a dispassionate and unprejudiced course in his future dealings with the Company. Me had spoken of his entire concert with his noble friend in what had taken place, and of his entire consent to what had been done. It was his noble fnend's suggestion, that a gentleman of high character, whose mind was unprejudiced, who might take a dispassionate view of all that had occurred, and who was not tnixed up with the past disputes, might be brought to aid in the arrangement of this affair. That distinguished public officer Mr. Lefevre had assisted his noble friend. The general allusion which had been made by the honourable gentleman to the satisfactory communications that had taken place confirmed the assurances which he had given from the first, that his noble friend would be influenced by no other consideration than that of public interest."
These laudatory allusions raised the highest expectation as to the merits of the new arrangement ; for which the character of Mr. John Lefevre was an additional assurance. But a knowledge of the details somewhat disappoints one's hopes ; and we find from the result, that Mr. Lefevre must have performed his task of mediation under an embarrassing condition. The details are expounded in the correspondence recently laid before Parliament, and especially in a letter addressed by Mr. Hope in Lord Stan- ley's name to Viscount Ingestre, dated the 7th August.
Ministers having anew declared their anxiety to effect an ami- cable settlement of the differences between the Colonial Office and the New Zealand Company, the Directors, without abandon- ing their views as to the policy that ought to be adopted, put it to Lord Stanley, whether he would do what was requisite on cer- tain practical points, which were set forth in a letter signed by Lord Ingestre, on the 24th July. Mr. Hope's letter of the 7th August conveys Lord Stanley's answer. With respect to land-titles, the Directors asked Lord Stanley, whether Government would put an end to all remaining doubts by undertaking itself to compen- sate the Natives and secure their assent" ? Lord Stanley answers, that he will not undertake to compel "the original possessors" to give their lands to the Company ; but he proposes an arrange- ment of his own. Much of it turns on distinctions created by the officials themselves, the most material of which we will explain as we go. Mr. Spain, the Government Commissioner in New Zealand, had been employed not only as Commissioner of Land-claims, but also in certain cases as " arbitrator" between the Company and the Natives. Captain Fitzroy, and after him Lord Stan- ley, insist, not merely that both parties should consent to go before the arbitrator, but that both parties—virtually one party, the Natives—should also concur in his decision ; requiring the concurrence of one side in the decision of the judge I To that view Lord Stanley adheres. He will put the Com- pany in immediate possession of such lands as Mr. Spain has awarded in his judicial capacity, or such as lie has awarded in his capacity of arbitrator with the concurrence of both sides. In respect to further claims by the Company on lands still withheld on account of Native claims, the Governor will be instructed to cooperate with the agents of the Company " in bringing to a prompt and satisfactory conclusion the nego- tiatitili with the Natives for the purchase or extinction of their rights." These two clauses imply no departure from the very absurd and mischievous principle on which Lord Stanley, by his interpretation of "the Waitangi treaty," affects to regard the savages as occupants of the desert wild lands ; but they appear to promise, that instead of interposing in a spirit hostile to the Com- pany and obstructive of a practical settlement, the spirit of the in- terposition will be reversed. Captain Fitzroy himself had raised doubts as to the award of his own Commissioner; but, aceording to the present assurance of the Colonial Office, the award will at once
be effectuated and the Company will be put in possession of such lands.
Lord Stanley " is gratified to perceive " that it may be in his power to confer upon the Company some further definite ad- vantages in reference to their proposed settlements at Otago and Wairarapa." Otago is the name of a harbour, with a surrounding district, far South on the Eastern coast of the Middle Island, the intended site of New Edinburgh. Here under an arrangement with Captain Fitzroy, Colonel Wakefield purchased 400,000, acres from the Natives, out of which quantity the Company were to select 150,000 acres. The bounds of the whole district are known' but to define any part of it would occupy a good deal of time in the surveying; and to obviate that delay, Lord Stanley agrees to make a grant of the whole to the Company: as soon as they can, they are to select the 150,000 acres, and as much more as they need, and to reconvey the remainder to the Government. Wairarapa is the intended site of the Church of England set- tlement contemplated by the Company : it lies to the North-east of Port Nicholson, and opens into Paliser Bay ; but its natural shipping-port is Port Nicholson, with which it must be connected by an artificial road. It is of much importance as subsidiary to Wellington, and as offering a large tract of land, extending North- wards to Hawke's Bay, which is among the finest yet discovered in New Zealand. In that valley Governor Fitzroy permitted the Company to purchase 150,000 acres; and Lord Stanley extends the limit to 300,000 acres.
With respect to further lands in the Northern Island which the Company might choose to select on account of " Mr Pennington's award," they requested, that instead of granting a conditional title, (under the unfulfilled agreement of 1843, which has become useless,) the Crown would make an absolute grant of its preemptive right of purchase , thus putting the Company in the position of bey).- r■1.-. purchasers of such lands from the Natives. Lord Stan ..es to make a grant of such preemptive right within
...e called "the Company's districts" in the Northern and Middle Island, for a limited number of years, subject to the con- dition that some proper Government-officer shall consider the terms to be reasonable : and in doing so, Lord Stanley "will waive in the Company's favour any doubts which he may himself entertain as to their strict right to a reimbursement in land at the rate of 5s. per acre of the monies they shall advance in buying up the Natives claims to any land which the Company may select." The Company have been compelled to pay additional sums for lands which they had purchased from the Natives ; and, in recent negotiations, they put in the demand that such additional pay- ments should be deemed to swell their claim for land on account of money expended under Lord John Russell's agreement of 1840: Lord Stanley, with his controversial spirit, at first was dis- posed to contest that reasonable demand ; but now, in this waiver, he abandons his adverse position. The aggregate of the grants now promised is computed to place at the immediate disposal of the Company about 600,000 acres out of 1,200,000, the assumed extent of their claim.
In compliance with a request of the Company, Lord Stanley promises that "measures shall be taken for examining into the Native title in the Middle Island, and for distinguishing on & map lands which are respectively subject or not subject to Native claims": on that point, he "has already pressed on Governor Grey's attention the necessity of ascertaining and registering Native titles within a limited period." He also offers to send out to the colony: a special Commissioner—"a properly-qualified per- son"—to assist the Company in selecting lands, defining boundaries, and judging of the reasonableness of the terms of purchase from the Natives. And further, he offers " to entertain any proposal on the part of the Company for simplifying the investigation of the amount of land to which they are entitled; and for the recog- nition without further delay of the right of the Company to a gross total quantity of land in respect of their expenditure up to the present time."
Captain Fitzroy lad issued proclamations permitting Europeans to purchase land direct from the Natives, on payment of a fine to Government, which was first fixed at 103. and then at ld. per acre : the Company request that these proclamations should be revoked, and that land-purchasers under them should only be allowed to re- tain one acre for every pound sterling so expended. Lord Stanley declines to disturb such purchases,—remarking.that they are "very few " ; but he says that he has sent further instructions to Cap- tain Grey, which will remove all apprehension as to the proclama- tions.
The Company urged Lord Stanleyto grant municipal institu- tions with much fuller powers than those apparently contemplated in the instructions issued to Captain Grey; with authority to le- oislate for all purposes within the municipal district—to impose all taxes but customs-duties, to possess legislative and judicial au- thority in matters of discipline short of power to deal with life or limb, and to enforce a militia-law. Lord Stanley agrees to grant municipalities possessing powers in the way of police-regulations, administration of justice, and strictly local taxation ; but he insists on the sufficiency of a militia-law recently passed by the Legislative Council in New Zealand, which is merely permissive. The Com- pany very justly remark, that a merely permissive power, which may escape enforcement, does not give a sufficient guarantee for the safety of settlers, such as they would have in a permanent organization for defence. In short, the Company desire to see " municipalities " in the widest sense of the term—self-governing bodies, like those which were the germs of the New England etates, only subject to a kind of federal control by the central Council and to a regal control by the representative of the Crown : Lord Stanley consents to give s kind of parochial board or a quarter- sessions for civil purposes. He agrees to allow a central representation, by means of a delegate from each of the chief settlements ; but "not to such an extent as to give an absolute majority of such delegated portion of the Council." This concedes the "principle " of representation, but not its substance ; for the Governor of the day—and we have seen what New Zealand Governors may be—will always be able, by nomination and removal, to make the majority of the Legis- lative Council subservient tools. We have seen, in the Court of Policy of Demerara and elsewhere, how such nominated majori- ties work. While, by the permission to send any delegates at all, the inhabitants are invited to make attempts at exercising some power of self-government, the nominee part of the Legislature is appointed palpably to frustrate and overwhelm any efficient attempt at self-government. Thus, the official members being set in opposition to the elected portion, the elected members are, ab engine, forced into an opposition against the Government ; through them the settlers are placed at war with the authorities, each party striving to snatch a larger share of power ; and thus the colony is kept in perpetual discord and hot water. Such representation is worse than a mockery ; for, however imperfect or mischievous the measures of the general Government may be, it will be said that the settlements are represented, and have only themselves to blame.
Still asserting adherence to their original views, the Company accept with gratification these concessions : but they earnestly declare, that, whatever the value of the several measures, their own efficiency, so greatly impaired by the protracted and ruinous interruption of their proceedings, can only be restored by prompt and liberal pecuniary aid ; and they demand a loan of 150,000/., guaranteed for seven years. The correspondence contains no reply on that point ; but Sir Robert Peel stated in Parliament, that it would be taken into early consideration by the Govern- ment. Indeed, this loan seems to be regarded as a thing settled in fact, and waiting onlyformal completion. Although in itself an evil, it is the only means by which any substantial effect can be given to the practical measures which Government has at length conceded. The delay of those concessions, such as they are, for four or five years, has suspended the vital functions of the Company, stripped it of its funds, and entailed upon it an in- creased expenditure for the maintenance of labourers in the co- lony, whose employments have been interrupted by the disastrous consequences of these disputes. Merely to grant the permission to do certain things now, is not at all the same thing as that per- mission would have been four or five years ago, when the Com- pany had both funds and credit, with colonizing machinery in full operation. The loan, doubtless, is indispensable to put the Com- pany in a position at all resembling the one which it occupied. Even the loan will come too late if it be postponed till the next meeting of Parliament : for six months more will be lost before a single step can be taken to repair the disasters of interrupted settle- ment—six months, at a crisis when months carry the fate of years! Supposing the loan adjusted promptly, the Company, as a trading corporation, would be restored to_ vigorous existence : but they would still be obliged to alter their plans of colonization ; for, although the exclusive possession of the preemptive right within their own districts would soon enable them to obtain abun- dance of land, the profusion of the Government in granting lands in the districts without those bounds,—a profusion which has been excessive, and against which there is no guarantee for the future,—would establish a mischievously low scale of prices, and would prevent the Company's deriving from that source an efficient revenue for colonizing purposes. They may be prosperous as a land-owning and money-making body ; but as a colonizing body their usefulness must be seriously impaired. And how poor is this lending expedient, in comparison with the Company's pro- posal, two or three months back, when Mr. Charles Buller at- tempted an amicable arrangement, under the auspices of Sir James Graham. They would have colonized New Zealand with a revenue derived from land-sales, would have founded settlements with a chartered government and real representation on the old English model, and would have increased their capital to a mil- lion sterling in order to meet the outlay. That comprehensive and statesmanlike plan was beyond the scope of official appretia- tion : the hackneyed device of a loan is better understood. This leads us to look beyond the interests of the corporation in Broad Street Buildings, to see how the new arrangement will work for the interests of the public—how it will settle matters for the future : and the further view is not encouraging. All sections of the public suffer, and will continue to suffer. The emig:rating class will be injured by the crippling of the Company's efficiency, and by the want of system in the districts not belonging to the Company. The colonists actually settled have been utterly for- gotten by the officials. Lord Stanley has yielded much to the Company, especially in the vastly altered tone in which he ad- dresses them; but he disregards the interests of the real colo- nists already in New Zealand,—with whom, indeed, Sir Robert Peel himself did not express the least sympathy, throughout the whole of the debates in Parliament,—and the great reversionary interests of the British nation. Mr. Hope said lately, that if the in- terests of a powerful Company had not been at stake, Parliament would not have been troubled with these discussions. That is true, and it is confirmed by the present arrangements. The concessions, such as they are, are not the minimum with which the Company, acting for the colonists, would have been satisfied; but they are perhaps the maximum of what Lord Stanley could yield consistently with his own absurd declarations about municipal government, real representation, and the construction of the Waitangi "treaty." The settled colonists have suffered, bitterly and ruinously : some of them are already urging claims upon the Company for compensation ; the Company, fellow- sufferer, and not the cause of the troubles, refers them to the Go- vernment. The Company have themselves claims to compensa- tion for injury, hinted at in vague terms indicating vast and un- known amounts. And the public at home will have to pay the damages all round. The Imperial treasury is already in advance, and is on the eve of advancing more ; a nominated Council at Auckland will be unable, for very shame, to impose many burdens on the colony that a community really represented would ne- cessarily assume ; and we in England shall have to defray the cost of colonizing and governing New Zealand. But what ren- ders all this paying necessary? The attempt of the officials to bring Lord Stanley, their colleague, out of the scrape with some semblance of "consistency." That hard condition it was, as we see by the result, which must have made a man of so much intelligence and straightforwardness as Mr. Lefevre sanction an arrangement so imperfect and little worthy. With respect to the future, looking at the new arrangement as a remedy for the disorders of misgovernment in the colony, we see no principle of permanence in it. It cannot, by its shadowy substance, settle the pretensions vamped up by the Missionaries for the Natives. Even if it have some effect in that way within the Company's districts, it will leave untouched the elements of disorder elsewhere ; and the anarchy must then have its crisis in bloodshed and slaughter of the Blacks. If that impending danger be warded off, it must be by reversing, not merely evading some of the consequences of, the policy of Lord Stanley. Instead, therefore, of settling the que-fions so frequently debated last session, the ar- rangement holds out a certain prospect of more waste of the time of Parliament, more adjourned debates, more damage to the Government. For though the Company, as such, may be silenced, the politicians unconnected with it, such as the present Earl Grey, Mr. Hawes, Mr. Edward Ellice, and others, now un- derstand the subject too well, and take too lively an interest in it, to let us suppose that they will be content with land-grants and loan to the Company as a settlement of the policy of Eng- land towards New Zealand. And besides the Company, there are the real colonists, ably represented in this country, who will not fail to bring their grievances again before Parliament. Sooner or later, the whole policy of Government as to New Zealand must be changed—must be made rational and practicable ; and till that be done there will be no peace. The arrangement with the Com- pany is worth nothing to the public, except as it preserves the Company for use when a really sound policy shall be adopted.