Page images

to be the most distinguished public man who ever took part in the public affairs of a colony. But to make him out to be only so very little lower than the angels, as Mr. Froude does, is sheer nonsense.

Sir George Grey was a troublesome Governor, clever at taking a lvantage of other's mistakes, but always in hot water with his ministers, with the military, and with the Colonial Office. It ended by his being summarily removed from the Government in 1867, because the Colonial Office saw no other way of terminating the chronic and futile feud which had so long caused an ill feeling between the Colony and the Mother Country. He went home and tried to get into Parliament, but only succeeded in keeping Sir Henry Storks out; and, having offended Whigs and Tories in turn, got the cold shoulder from both. He returned to the Colony thoroughly soured, and shut himself up in gloomy solitude in his lovely island of Kawau. In 1875 he determined to enter colonial politics, and easily got a seat in the House of Representatives and the leadership of a considerable party. In 1877 he became Prime Minister, and he ruled the Colony with almost absolute power for two years. It was the darkest period in the political history of New Zealand.

Immediately on the assembling of Parliament in 1879 a resolution affirming that Sir George Grey's Ministry bad so mismanaged and maladministered the affairs of the country that they no longer possessed the confidence of this House' was carried in the House of Representatives by the largest vote ever recorded on a Ministerial question. Sir George Grey appealed to the country, but the constituencies endorsed the decision of the House, and he was compelled to relinquish the power he had used so ill. His successors found the Treasury without a shilling in it, and deficiency bills for 200,0001. were voted nem. con. for paying salaries and meeting other pressing demands of administration. The payment in London of the interest on the public debt and other engagements of the utmost importance to the public credit had been left unprovided for, and the Government had to telegraph to the Agent-General to raise a loan of five millions on any terms whatsoever. The public expenditure was reduced by an enormous sum, and a heavy property tax was imposed in addition to an increase of 50 per cent. of the ad valorem customs duties. The state of native affairs was such that a serious disturbance was only averted by the most stringent measures on the part of the native minister, Mr. Bryce, and by the most active efforts of the Commissioners, Sir William Fox and Sir Dillon Bell. The Colony was saved; but from that day to this Sir George Grey has never exercised any share of political influence.

At the next general election he only saved his own seat by fourteen votes; his nephew, whom Mr. Froude mentions, was defeated; and

his party were annihilated. His personal popularity, as a patron of literature and art, as the shadow of a great name, is undiminished; but in politics he stands alone, without a single follower. He is in chronic opposition to every ministry, and usually moves two or three motions of want of confidence every session, without being able to get anybody to go into the lobby with him. Sometimes, as was the case last session, he leaves the House himself, and lets his motion go on the voices. He is the âme damnée of New Zealand politics. Yet this is the man on whose sole, unsupported word Mr. Froude deliberately formed his judgment of the public men and the public life of this Colony; and even on less responsible authority than his, if it were possible, he calmly promulgated the astounding invention that we intend to repudiate the public debt.

It was Sir George Grey again whose jaundiced and distorted views on every topic of public interest he deliberately accepted as the views of the great body of intelligent and unprejudiced people throughout the Colony. He swallowed everything he was told holis bolus, and probably invented or imagined as much as he was told.

For instance, he makes the astounding statement that the colonial debt is thirty-two millions and the municipal debts are at least as much more. The municipal debts, including harbour loans, some of which are at 25 per cent. premium, do not exceed four and a half millions. But twenty or thirty millions more or less are neither here nor there to Mr. Froude. Neither are such statements as that representative institutions have failed in New Zealand, whereas there is no country in the world where they work more smoothly; or that nobody can buy less than twenty acres of Crown land-this on the authority of one of Sir George Grey's servants—whereas every facility is afforded for buying the smallest areas, or acquiring them without payment on terms of occupancy and improvement; or, finally, that New Zealand politicians are a set of needy, self-seeking adventurers, whereas the Colony glories in such public men as Sir Frederick Weld, Sir Edward Stafford, Sir Frederick Whitaker, Sir Dillon Bell, Sir William Fox, Sir John Hall, Major Atkinson, Mr. Rolleston, Mr. Bryce, and last but not least Mr. Stout, the present learned Premier, who is as capable and high-minded a public man as any one of those over whom Mr. Froude went into such raptures in Australia.

But it is futile to go on picking holes in a book which, like the Irishman's coat, is more holes than stuff. Suffice it to say that a perusal of Oceana gives us a totally new conception of how history is written. If this is the sort of work Mr. Froude produces from the utmost abundance of exact, recent, and throughly trustworthy information, from facts patent to his own knowledge, from persons in contact with bim, from events progressing under his own eyes, what are we to think of those monumental productions of his which have VOL. XX.-No. 114.


been compiled on dubious surmises and vague conclusions, drawn from ancient and abstruse documents, or from second-hand sources, corrupted or obscured by a thousand errors or misconstructions? If Oceana is his story of the Australasian Colonies in our own day, beware of his books on old countries in old times.


(Member of the House of Representatives of New Zealand). WANTEDA LEADER.

SOME fifteen years ago I was an undergraduate at Oxford, member of a college which was held to be full of intelligence, and which was certainly full of zeal for political and social reforms. With two or three of my best friends, who were no less keen than I, I used to discuss the good time coming. I will not set down here the larger visions which we loved. To us it seemed as if a fairer day was close at hand; even the bitter war in France might be no more than a thunderstorm to clear the air ; and beyond the tramp of armies and cries of battle we heard the promise of mutual help between nations, of a brotherhood of European States. But I will not write of these larger visions. Even then, though in our more sanguine moods we saw the skies already rosy with the dawn, we confessed to each other that a new Europe with a new international morality might be the work of years. We felt exceedingly prudent; we told each other (I remember well our boyish solemnity) that we were in the midst of a great peaceful revolution; we looked (how pathetic seems our innocence !) to the practical politicians of the day to lead us as fast as might be on the desired path of reform.

Fifteen years have gone, and what has been accomplished ? I say nothing of the Europe of our dreams, for which even we were prepared to wait ; but there were little obvious reforms, which the next session of Parliament was to see—and where are they? They did not excite us much; we preferred the grander schemes, the larger pictures; we merely mentioned the little absurdities which were to be put right; we told each other that all intelligent persons had been agreed about them for years, and that even the most obstructive politicians would not fight seriously in their defence. It was as absurd, for instance, that land should be hampered by the remnants of a dead feudalism as that the worthy citizen who had bought an estate in Hampshire should do homage therefor to his liege lord, and come bumping up to court with a helmet on his good bald head, and his stable retainers behind him on the jobbed carriage horses. We did believe that the time had gone by when the poor landowner, ironically so called, would be content to stand with hands in empty pockets, gazing ruefully at the squalling tenant in tail male, and telling himself that more than twenty years must yet go by before, with the acquiescence of this mottled infant, after due examination of his title for the last sixty years, and by means of an indenture made mysteriously impressive by polysyllabic mediævalisms, he could obtain some sorely needed money for a few superfluous acres.

We did believe the custom of entail was to be made at once and for ever illegal, and that land duly registered would be bought and sold by honest buyers and sellers (not vendors and purchasers any more) as easily as cabbages, and without the intervention of at least two lawyers.

This abolition of entail seemed to us a small matter, but one from which much good might come.

The impoverished landlord, we said, is forced to extract the utmost possible rent from his tenant farmers; the farmers, that they may pay the rent, are forced to pay the lowest possible wages to their labourers; while neither landlord nor tenant farmer has a penny to spare for the improvement of the crumbling cottages in which the labourers live.

Entail, we said, will be abolished at once ; landlords, who cannot afford to be generous about rent in bad years, and who cannot afford (and this was our keenest interest) to build decent cottages for the labourers on their estates, will sell to richer men, who will have no excuse if the labourers are not decently housed, as their tenant farmers, themselves generously treated when times are bad, will have no excuse if the labourers are not fairly paid. We were not afraid to say “fairly paid ;' we had freed ourselves in part, even at that early age, from the terrors of the old-fashioned economists.

Moreover, we thought that, when the buying and selling of land had become a plain matter, which any bucolic intelligence could understand, and as cheap as it was plain, a labourer here and there might become the owner of the patch before his cottage door. It did not seem a great thing to give him a chance of working for himself, when his day's work was done; but it brings hope into hopeless lives, and that seemed to us no small thing. The patch might grow, when the possession of land was no longer a mystery ; and we looked forward to seeing the difficult question of the prosperity of peasant proprietors answered for us by the slow natural accumulations of the most thrifty of the wage-earning labourers.

There were other obvious reforms which seemed to us as good as accomplished. Mr. Fitzjames Stephen, not yet a judge, was offering to codify the English law, and we supposed that his offer would be accepted. Even we allowed a few years for this great work of simplification, which would make law clearer and cheaper for all, and enable us to deny at last that justice is the luxury of the rich. A scheme, too, crept into an obscure corner of some paper for dealing with the slums of cities, and a rumour came with it that it was approved by Lord Salisbury, and some of us said that we would become Tories on the instant, if we could see prompt and resolute

« PreviousContinue »