LET fERS ON THE COLONIES—No. II.
TO VISCOUNT HOWICK, UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES.
13th December, 1830.
MY LORD—I have undertaken to satisfy you, that the mode in which the state disposes of waste land, has a paramount and universal influence on the condition and progress of new colonies.
What is meant by colonization ? It is not necessary to encumber the answer with any but the slightest mention of certain distant possessions, sometimes improperly called colonies. Malta and Hindostan are not, properly speaking, colonies of Britain.
A colony signifies a body, or successive bodies of men, who take pos- session of a waste country; and the elements of colonization are—first, Emigration, and secondly, Waste Land at the disposal of the state.
But the latter term may be converted into the disposal of waste land by the state ; for it is not the land, of which much exists at home, but the desert nature of the land, or still more, the absolute power of the state over the land, which constitutes one of the elements of colonization.
Already, then, the point in question is established by reasoning a priori ; for, if the disposal of waste land be one of the elements of colonization, it follows, inevitably, that the mode in which the state disposes of waste land has a paramount and universal influence on the condition and pro- gress of new colonies. To deny this, would be to deny that one of the elements, or essential ingredients. of a thing, forms part of the thing. One might as welt say, that the way in which a man uses his legs has not an important influence on his mode of walking. But I will not insist on the force of any reasoning a priori, however plain and conclusive it may appear. Let us appeal to facts and experience. Yet what a wide field of inquiry is opened by this proposal ! Volumes might be filled with an account of the effects produced on the couilition and progress of new colonies by the various modes.of disposing of waste .s‘d which have been pursued by. the colonizing states of modern Eu- rope. A mere statement of the various regulations for granting new land in modern colonies, without any notice of their erects, would form a book. Even, the slightest sketch of those numerous systeme or prae.- tires would ,occupy more space than the SPECTATOR will alfOrd for the series of letters on Colonial Ad:lair:4.4=U.= in general, which I propose to address to you. Bete I can do no more than hint at the extensive inquiry which you are bound to. make; unless you would deserve the reproach of ignorance as to one of the most important subjects with which an English Colonial Minister ought to be acquainted. Not less. than a thousand volumes afford very useful information on this subject. Will you read all of them ? Will you look at one of them ? The law. yer, your predecessor, certainly never opened one of those books with. a view to the inquiry hereby suggested to you. But then, look at his preposterous regulations for granting land at the Swan River ; stir. passed in folly only by those which once existed at the Cape of Good Hope, where the Dutch settlers were forbidden, in so many words, to locate themselves at a less distance than three leagues from each other I
You are about to renew or replace those regulations. Have you formed the least idea of any one principle that ought to guide you in this work—a work of as much importance to the new colony, as is the manner in which a house shall be built of imporeance to its inhabitants ?-
Your colleague, Mr. HAY, will tell you that the existing regulations are excellent. Ask for the reasons of his opinion, he will then talk to you about the propriety of encouraging capitalists to emigrate,—as if, for- sooth, the permanent abstraction of capital were not hurtful to the mother country,—as if those stupid regulations had not ceased to pro- duce the mischievous effect designed by them ; since, already, capitalists, have discovered that land in New Holland is worth nothing, without the means of cultivating it, and that the regulations in question abso- lutely forbid the existence in the colony of a class either of tenants or of labourers for hire. Mr. HAY will tell you that it is better that any body should possess the land — rather the savages and kangaroos of the country. Perhaps it is thus that he would excuse the possession of half of Prince Edward's Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, by his late mas- ter, Lord MELVILLE ; and of the other half, or thereabouts, by Lord WESTMORELAND—neither of those noble lords having either the means or the inclination to cultivate their immense colonial possessions. But if so, why not at once grant all the waste land of New Holland to the first applicant ? To do this would, you think, be preposterous. No doubt it would ; because as no one man, nor any thousand men, could cultivate the land, whilst his or their title to the land would enable them to prevent others from cultivating it, such a grant might suddenly and for ever extinguish one of the elements of colonization in New Hol- land,—namely, the power of the state to dispose of waste land. But then Mr. HAY would answer (I repeat the substance of language lately uttered by him), "We attach certain CONDITIONS to each grant ; and one of those conditions is, that the land shall be properly cultivated." I have no doubt that Mr. HAY would put forth this apology with entire good faith ; but if so, was ever ignorance greater than his ? The charge which I bring against an industrious and well-meaning person like Mr. HAY must not be left unsupported. He defends the regulations on the ground that the Government possesses the means of exacting a due observance of the condition in question. If the Govern- ment have no means of exacting the observance of the condition, he who talks of the condition as being effectual, speaks either dishonestly or ignorantly. Sure I am that Mr. HAY does not speak dishonestly; and the alternative is manifest—he speaks ignorantly—provided, as I now assume, that the Government have not, and cannot have, any means of enforcing the condition. The correctness of this assumption will be easily proved.
The condition of "proper cultivation" has often before been attached to grants of land in British colonies. Probably the grantees of the immense colonial tracts still desert, now possessed by the Lords MRL. VILLE and WEST MORELAND, subscribed to that condition. Be that as it may, I take upon myself to state, that in no solitary instance has the condition been observed ; and I do not believe that the Government has frequently resumed possession of the land in consequence of the non- observance by the grantee of the main condition on which his land was obtained. For this apparent neglect, by itself, no Colonial Government, nor indeed anybody, deserves blame. The term "proper cultivatioa" is so extremely vague, that a hundred colonists would give a hundred different interpretations of it ; a mode of expressing the condition of a bond, blameable truly in the highest degree, but which shields from censure the person who is prevented, by that very obscurity, from en- forcing the penalty of the bond. Mr. HAY might contend that "proper cultivation" is not a vague term ; but, by so doing, he would give a strong proof of the ignorance with which I charge him.
The term signifies, in the abstract, that sort of cultivation by which the greatest produce is returned to the least capital and labour, without impoverishing the land; and here, where the markets of labour and pro. duce are not subject to frequent and violent changes, a definition of the abstract idea describes pretty accurately what experience proves to be the best cultivation. But would your colleague say that this is what ought to be insisted on, as the main condition of grants of land in waste countries ? Does he know, or is he ignorant, that in countries of which the inhabitants are so dispersed that there can be but little combination of capital and labour, the mode of treating land whereby the greatest return is given to the least capital and labour, is generally, not cultiva- tion, in any sense of the word, but the impoverishment of the land— the exhaustion of its fertility—in the shortest space of time ? Does he know that in countries where labour is scarce, roads are bad, and markets few, the mode of treating land by which the greatest return may be obtained most easily, varies infinitely with the infinite variety of degrees in which labour, roads, and markets areeavailable ; and according also to the in- finite variety in the natural qualities of unreclaimed land ? If he an- swer these questions rationally, and still contend that " proper cultiva- tion" is not an extremely vague term' when applied to most new colo- nies, then he is perfectly qualified for his office, and I am an ignorant,. impertinent meddler. In order, however, that when you discuss this matter with him, your- general inexperience may not be misled by his experience of the mere. routine of office, I beg leave to remind you that, in the regulations for granting new laud at the Swan River, the term "proper cultivation" is. not used, but that the condition attached to grants is—that cultivation "which shall be satisfactory to the Governor." Satisfactory to the Go- vernor !—that Governor: being an excellent sea-captain, but. knowing less. probably.of the_cultivatiou of land than you, or Lord Gorneatcu, or I, know of navigation,; and having, moreover, besides 100,000 acres of his own land to attend to, such multifarious and pressing occupations, that, were he anARTHURYOUNG or a Co XE in knowledge of agriculture, he could never "'satisfy" himself as to the treatment of a thousandth part of the immense tract of land over which the few colonists are scattered !
This is more than enough, I hope, to convince you that your col- league's apology for the laud regulations in the new colony, is put forth through sheer ignorance. Let us return to the main point. What are the principles that ought to guide a colonizing state in the disposal of waste land?
A preliminary question—though hardly a question—must be deter- mined ; viz, the immediate objects of the state in disposing of waste land. These objects may be stated at once and finally, without stopping to explain them, as the greatest prosperity and the greatest progress of the colony. You will imagine that in some one of the colonies of modern Europe, for at least one short period, the Government must have adopted, in the disposal of waste land, a system deliberately formed with a view to the greatest progress and prosperity of the colony. If you know of any such system, you know more of colonization than I do ; though I have examined above one hundred practices' called systems, adopted by the different Governments of Europe in the disposal of waste land in Ame- rica alone. Had the natives of the American islands been capable of hard labour, the first grants made by the Spanish Government of His- paniola,—each of which included a grant of so many natives in propor- tion to the extent of land granted,—would have been more rational, and, putting aside the wickedness of the proceeding, far more conducive to the prosperity and progress of the colony, than Sir GEORGE MUR- RAY'S regulations for granting land in the last colony founded by Eng- land. Between these two miscalled systems, and during a period of about three hundred years, there have existed not less, I am inclined to believe, than three hundred different modes of. granting waste land. In no two colonies, and scarcely in any two settlements of a colony, was the same mode ever adopted ; whilst no one mode was ever steadily pursued in any colony or settlement. The changes of plan in most colonies have been as frequent as the changes in the person of the colo- nial governor—indeed much more frequent, inasmuch as most governors have pursued several different plans in the course of only a few years. Now, if you will take the trouble to reckon the number of colonies or settlements planted both by the states of Europe and by several colonies of those states, including the no small number which have perished, you will find my statement as to the variety of modes of granting waste land by no means exaggerated. What would be thought of an architect who, besides never building any two houses alike, should employ half a dozen different,. and often contradictory plans in building each Single house ? Colonization is an art of greater importance, surely, than architecture ; and which, being the creation of all things except land where nothing but land exists, re- quires for its due performance the highest capacity and the mo$t exten- sive knowledge. Yet the persons intrusted with the performance of this art have, for the most part, been incapable and ignorant to the last de. gree ; more especially in later times, since not even energy of character was required for obtaining a governor's salary, and with respect to the colonies of England in particular, which have nearly always been treated by the Home Government as mere pretexts for enriching the aristocracy and their dependents at the expense of the people of England. What think you of the integrity, sagacity, and diversified knowledge of a Lord BATHURST and Mr. Twiss ?—of the jockey and gambler who lately received 15,000/. a year for misgoverning, nay, for tyrannizing over, the Cape of Good Hope ?—of aGeneral DARLING, who has carefully sown the seeds of early revolt in New South Wales ?—or of that naval captain, on whosesatisfaction " as a farmer, depends every set-
tler's title to his land at the new colony in Western Australia ? It needs no conjuror to divine what you think of these men's fitness for the im- portant trusts reposed in them ; and I cannot doubt that now, when you are reminded that the disposal of waste land in our colonies has gene-
rally been left to the mere caprice of men like these, you will cease to wonder that the numerous changes of plan, in operations which ought, perhaps, beyond all others, to be conducted with an uniform regard to certain main principles.
Here I must again impress on you the paramount and universal in- fluence on the progress and prosperity of a colony, of the mode in which the Government may dispose of waste land. Think of this ; and imme. diately the conclusion arises, that frequent and violent changes in the mode of disposing of waste land, must cause frequent and violent fluc- tuations in the value of land, capital, and labour. But trust not to any reasoning of mine. Read the history of any colony where such changes have frequently occurred, and the infinite mischiefs of the system, or rather want of system, will become abundantly plain to you.
In the Swan River regulations it is expressly stated, that the mode of granting land thereby announced, will last only till the end of this year; and that, after this year, some other mode will be enacted by "his Majesty's Government." Thus, the Government deliberately provides for change, as to that of which the very first good quality is permanency. One remark more, and I have done with this part of the subject. It
seems hardly open to doubt, that if, by inquiry and reflection, or by chance, any governor had discovered the best mode of granting land—the mode that is most conducive to the prosperity and progress of the colony_ some account of that mode would have been handed down to us, if only in the shape of murmurs at its abandonment. Is there any such account, written or traditional ? I know of none; and of this I am sure, that no mode has been found so good is to be maintained by the cries of the colonists in spite of the frequent whims of successive governors. Thus, from the universal and frequent changes in this all-important proceeding of colonization, I am led to conclude that the best system of granting new land remains yet to be discovered. So .much for what relates to the variableness of the practices hitherto adopted. A slight notice of some of those practices, miscalled systems, will occupy a future letter. I have the honour. to be my Lord, Year:obedient humbleserfents