Aspects of New Zealand History



Of the six provinces set up under the 1852 constitution, five were Wakefield settlements. Two of these, Wellington and Nelson, were founded by the New Zealand Company. Most of the original settlers came from London or nearby counties. The colonization of Taranaki, initially with folk from Devon and Cornwall, was begun by a subsidiary body, the Plymouth company, which was soon absorbed by the parent organization. although in 1840 the New Zealand company at last received official recognition, a royal charter, and a Crown grant of four acres in New Zealand for every pound sterling it had expended on colonizing, it languished after these initial efforts. In 1845, following further acrimonious disputes with the Colonial Office, the company was given a large government loan on the security of its lands, but even this assistance could not save it. In 1850 it was forced to surrender its charter. A few years later the New Zealand government paid to the shareholders their original capital and a small dividend.

Colonization had proved a poor business proposition, for the demands on the company's cash had been immediate, while its antipodean acres were of only prospective value. Nevertheless, the work of colonizing on 'systematic' principles was continued by two new associations which founded Otago in 1848 and Canterbury in 1850. Both were inspired by Wakefield, that indefatigable, indomitable, insufferable schemer, who managed to sell to the Church of England and to the Free Church of Scotland the idea of establishing denominational colonies. though without religious enthusiasm himself, as one of his biographers has remarked, to get his plans adopted 'he would have transplanted the Grand lama of Tibet with all his praying=-wheels, and did actually nibble at the Chief Rabbi.'

The original promoter of the Otago scheme, George Rennie, aimed at a more broadly based settlement. He hoped that, through the promotion of emigration in general, it might be possible 'to save the institutions of England from being swept away in an uncontrollable rebellion of the stomach' - an argument in favour of colonization which had also been advanced by Wakefield. But he was himself swept away by a revolution of the spirit, at the time of the disruption of the Presbyterian Church. He was supplanted by two members of the schismatic Free Kirk: Captain William Cargill, a battered old soldier from the Peninsular. War, and the Reverend Thomas Burns, a censorious old bigot who was a nephew of the poet. Supported by the Association of the Lay Members of the Free Church, these two decided to plant a Free Church settlement where 'piety, rectitude and industry' would feel at home, and where the inhabitants as a body would form 'a vigilant moral police',. the pioneers of Otago sailed in the wake of the Mayflower.

Two hundred miles to the north of Dunedin, the new Geneva, the Canterbury Association established its colony two years later. The association consisted of a most distinguished collection of archbishops, dukes, earls, bishops, lords. Its driving spirit was a High Church Tory, or rather, Peelite, John Robert Godley, an exceedingly able convert to Wakefield's as well as Pusey's doctrines. With the Canterbury pioneers, whom Wakefield describes as 'not merely a nice, but a choice society of English people', Godley hoped to found a colony which (when he pictured it 'in the colours of a Utopia') he saw as English, Anglo-Catholic, and conservative. Were these experiments in 'systematic' colonization successful? Dad Wakefield's formula, when tested, produce the results he predicted? He did, of course, succeed in helping to establish five colonies in New Zealand, as well as South Australia, which was a feat remarkable and surely unequalled. He also had the satisfaction of seeing some of his suggestions incorporated in British colonial policy. the sale of Crown land became a standard practice. In the Wakefield settlements it was sold at a high, though not, in Wakefield's sense, a 'sufficient', price. the employment of land revenues as an immigration fund proved a practical way of diverting to the distant southern colonies part of the stream of migration which tended naturally to flow across the Atlantic.

The efforts made by the colonizing association to select suitable migrants undoubtedly influence the composition of the original population of the Wakefield colonies, though a certain number of the aged and infirm, of rogues and paupers, managed to slip by the scrutiny of the emigration agents. the disciples of Wakefield did succeed in establishing, in Otago and Canterbury, colonies with a denominational bias, though neither was ever as exclusive as their founders had intended them to be. The Wakefield companies also achieved their aim of founding colonies with a reasonable balance of sexes and with a youthful population. As C.E. Carrington has pointed out, many of the better-known figures in New Zealand a century ago, men no doubt pictured by school children as bearded ancients, were young men. In 1850, Godley and J. E. FitzGerald, tow fathers of Canterbury, were thirty-six and thirty-two respectively. Archdeacon Octavius Hadfield was thirty-six and Selwyn, nine years a bishop, forty-one. Grey, nine years a governor, and William fox, a New Zealand Company agent and future Premier, were both thirty-eight. 

In these important respects Wakefield's system offered useful practical hints for colonizers. On the whole, however, it failed to work. the experiments in New Zealand produced colonies - but the expansion of the frontier or the form of class structure by means of a price upon land. 'Agriculture', as the writer of many a handbook for immigrants advised, 'did not pay'. Until later in the nineteenth century the only form of farming which was really profitable was to run sheep. consequently the New Zealand frontier, like the Australian, was in most provinces a 'big man's frontier'. the sheep farmer needed considerable initial capital, not to buy land, which he leased illegally from the Maoris or legally from the provincial governments, but to buy sheep, and, if he were not the original run-holder, to purchase the 'goodwill' of a sheep run. Samuel Butler, who came out in 1860 to take up a run, found that 1,000 ewes cost him 1,250 pounds. (Four years later he returned to England after doubling the 4,000 advanced  by his father.) It was generally agreed that a man needed from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds to establish himself as a sheep farmer, or 'squatter', as the pastoralists were often called, the term having become respectable and acquired a connotation of wealth, rather than of illegality, as in earlier days in America or Australia.

All of the districts where the Wakefieldians had established their settlements, with the exception of Taranaki, were pre-eminently suitable for sheep. Christchurch, for instance, was on the edge of the immense, tussock-covered Canterbury plains. But most of the 'capitalists' (few of whom had, in any case, more than a modest fortune), misled by English-experience and Wakefield's dogma, had sunk their capital in land. they lacked the money to purchase f flock as well as the experience to manage it. some of the 'capitalists' turned to sheep, but many of the early pastoralists in the Wairarapa and Wairau districts, in Scotland and Otago, were Australians. Even the Canterbury Association, almost as soon as its settlement was founded, had to let in the 'shagroons', as the Australian stockmen were called. The run-holder bore little resemblance to Wakefield's ideal gentleman farmer. He was certainly not leisured. He often led a semi-barbarous existence, for many years living in rough huts and eating mutton and damper. Moreover, he employed very little labour in proportion to the extent of his land holding. soon after the initial settlement, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago presented the spectacle, not of the 'concentration' which Wakefield desired, but of the widest dispersion, as the flocks and their owners and shepherds spread up the valleys and across the plains.  

Agriculture largely fell into the hands of those who wee meant to be agricultural or general labourers. The immediate cause was the limited number of employers of labour. In Nelson, for instance, three-quarters of the proprietors, the owners of most of the land sold, were absentees. It was impossible to prevent labourers from becoming landowners, or at least land-users, when landowning employers were so few. In the long run, however, agriculture remained the province of poor men for substantial economic reasons, the chief of which was that no extensive market lay near enough to make it very profitable. The costs of farming on the English model were, moreover, prohibitive. It cost several pounds an acre to clear heavy bush or fern, while, after an initial period of unemployment in the forties, wages were much higher than in Great Britain. In agriculture the Maoris, who competed directly with the settlers, enjoyed considerable advantages. They owned most of the good land in the North Island. hey farmed communally, and thus had no labour costs. Until the eighteen-sixties they probably produced the greater part of the food crops consumed in New Zealand or exported to Australia.

In these circumstances, the small farm of a few acres, worked by the owner, or lessee, and his family, became the characteristic unit of European agriculture, market gardening and dairying. Sometimes the family would live off their land; more often, perhaps, the men would supplement their income by casual labouring, and by other means, such as buying a team of bullocks and contracting to plough for neighbouring farmers. According to the George Grey the majority of the population consisted of these small landed proprietors. The land holdings in actual occupation tended to be of two sorts. There were very large sheep stations and very small family farms. Neither met the essential requirement of Wakefield's system by providing employment for a large class of labourers. And there was another important aspect of land tenure which upset the mechanism of '[systematic' colonization. Many settlers, townsmen in England, inclined to cling to the small towns in the colony, engaging in trading one sort or another. Almost to a man, the members of this middle-class indulged in speculative land dealing. Naturally the volume of land sales bore little relation tot he expansion of farming and gave no indication at all, as the Wakefield theory postulated, of the demand for labour.

Since the economy was so different from Wakefield's anticipation, the social structure could scarcely correspond to this desires; but even the original groups of settlers did not remotely resemble a cross-section of English society. Except in Otago, where most of the founding fathers were indigent tradesmen or labourers, there was, it is true, a high proportion of people of comfortable means. On board the company ships the cabin passengers, who paid their own fares, and who called themselves 'colonists', while referring to the assisted passengers down below as 'emigrants', amounted to twelve or fourteen per cent of the total passengers. They formed almost a quarter of the settlers in the first eight ships of the Canterbury Association. but by no means all of these 'colonists' stayed. It has been estimated, for example, that by 1848 only eighty-five of the original four hundred and thirty-six remained in Wellington. A similar exodus, often back to England, occurred in the other settlements. There is no reason to suppose that there was a higher proportion of people of educated middle-class background in New Zealand than in south Australia, Victoria - or Connecticut where, we are told,  there were in the seventeenth century proportionally as many university graduates as in England.

While, in the Wakefield colonies, gentlemen employers were rare, the workmen were, in any case, unwilling to accept an inferior status. From the start they not only became landowners, but formed 'combinations' to raise wages and reduce hours of work. John Robert Godley thought that within eight years the Wellington and Nelson settlers had become 'bitter, abusive, disloyal, democratic, in short, colonial'. He wondered how long it would take his followers in Canterbury to become Chartists. Another active member of the Canterbury Association, a future Premier, Henry Sewell, was shocked to find, on the day he landed in Canterbury in 1853, that the settlers were 'mightily republican'. He observed that the fashion of servants was 'to speak of their fellow-servants and labourers as 'Mr" and 'Mrs' but gentlefolks by their surnames only'. the settlers were already coming to resemble Wakefield's anathema, 'a new people', not least in their 'delight in a forced equality'. A visiting Frenchman thought insolence (which commonly accompanies inverted snobbery) was a la mode in New Zealand as was familiarity in America.

Many Wakefield 'colonists' were, of course, less tolerant or understanding; for Wakefield had fostered the idea, which rapidly became a myth, that New Zealand was a colony which, if not quite un-colonial, was at l4ast created as nearly in the image of the motherland as could be expected. The first Bishop-designate of Canterbury, an individual singularly silly, though not alone in his delusions, came out under the impression that he was going to a colony fit for the quality, not one 'where slang will be substantiated for conversation ... whee men drink and do not dress for dinner'. He stayed for no longer than a month. thee were, of course, classes, in the sense of rich and poor. In each settlement small cliques usually ran all public functions from balls to race meetings. They also managed to control political life./ But there was little of the forms or trappings of the English class system.

In 1859 Governor Gore Browne, Grey's successor, wrote:

In fact society in a Colony, though divided into sets which refuse to associate with each other, is chiefly remarkable for the absence of any order which is an object of respect - a fact racily expressed in a vulgar saying that 'every man is not only as good as his neighbour, but a great deal better.'

In settlements intended to preserve British class relations, the most striking phenomenon, among the gtreat majority of the population, was a reaction against them. There was nothing surprising about this attitude, for it had existed in a good many other English colonies. The British colonial tradition was reasserting itself, despite the plans of the nbew colonizers, Thomas Cholmonderleys, an original Canterbury settler, and one of the gentry who returned to England, believed that the new Zealanders would 'daily Americanize', but, to him, the qualities which Englishmen regarded as 'American' were, in fact, the characteristics of the British colonist:

The American is essentially a colonist, and his ways and doings express a habit of life, rough and ready, free and daring, generous but dangerous, or infinite suppleness, dexterity, and resource. He cannot be equalled for contrivance.

If most of the settlers in Wakefield's colonies had rejected his ideals, and were unashamedly '[colonial' in their attitudes, most of the others had never had any other pretensions. In the eighteen-forties 'the great promoter' gave a considerable boost to migration to New Zealand, but only during that decade did the 'Wakefield' settlers constitute a majority. Only about 15,000 settlers were brought to New Zealand in the ships of the companies and associations which tried to apply Wakefield's principles.* In 1854, a year after the last of these organizations, the Canterbury Association, had ceased to function, the European population of New Zealand was about 32,500. There were nearly 12,000 in "Auckland, the first unsystematic colony, and only 20,000 in the five planned settlements. To see these figures in a useful perspective, it is worth recalling that in 1863, during the Otago gold-rush, 35,000 immigrants arrived, mostly from Australia, in an unpremeditated mob. 

Provincial governments took over from the Wakefield organizations the task of colonizing. Most of them continued to use land revenues to pay the fares of immigrants, but the screening process was quite perfunctory. Most of the New Zealand immigrants had not been 'selected'. The attempt to establish a new type of colony was no more than an important episode in the history of migration to New Zealand. In comparison with the great random stream of migration, the contribution of the Wakefield companies was a mere trickle. New Zealand was settled in a hundred ways. some towns were 'military settlements', garrison towns. Some were laid out and sold by entrepreneurs. Others were established by a group of compatriots, such as the Highlanders who gathered at Waipu, or the Bohemians who founded Puhoi (the name of which, corrupted, is apparently the origin of the slang term 'the Boo-ay', a synonym for 'the out-backs'). Some towns grew up round Maori villages. The settlement of some districts began when a squatter drove in his sheep. And traders, missionaries, whalers, gold-diggers, or dairy farmers were the pioneers in others.

The haphazard process had a long start on systematic colonization. Auckland, a typical settlement, was the heir to Kororareka. it was, the Wellington settlers mocked, not a colony but a 'proclamation town', created by the Lieutenant-Governor's decree on a site inhabited by a few Maoris, one Scotsman, and his partner. Land speculators and labourers (many of them Irish) came from the Bay of Islands and Australia. The population was 2,000 by 1841. By 1842 a few hundred Scottish immigrants were brought out; a few more Scottish settlers retreated to Auckland from an unsuccessful settlement on a neighbouring harbour; ninety boys were sent out from Parkhurst prison; 1,700 discharged soldiers were imported to found garrison settlements in the nighbourhood. such were some of the first ingredients of the capital. Auckland was a garrison town, dominated by the presence of the Maoris and British troops, though its frontier quality was mitigated by the presence of the Government and its small groups of officials of cultivated tastes. Certainly its character was different from that of the other early settlements. In 1852 its population was thirty-one per cent Irish, as compared with two per cent in Wellington. Probably over half the population had come from Australia. William Fox, a Wellingtonian, thought it 'a mere section of the town of Sydney transplanted'.

It would be misleading to dwell further on the failure of Wakefield's plans: the character of the settlements represented a victory for the anonymous, common colonist. Why, after all, did the majority of immigrants come to New Zealand ? In this, as in many other respects, the colonization of New Zealand was a by-product of industrialism, as had been true even in the days of Australian 'imperialism', for the poverty and crime which attended the foundation of the factory had given new vigour to the transportation system. Wakefield's theories had been intended as a cure for the ills of an industrialized England. The British annexation was also an indirect consequence of the industrial revolution, for the evangelical movement, which had prompted official interest in the Maoris, was in part a response to industrial evils and found its chief strength in the middle class. The slaves were freed the year after the industrial middle class was enfranchised. In 1840, and for sixty years thereafter, the British emigrants to New Zealand were fleeing from industrialism.

Not persecution or famine but poverty and the fear of poverty were the chief stimuli of migration - that poverty or dread which, especially in the 'hungry forties', haunted the millions who were receiving parish relief; who were unemployed or 'half-employed' in the factory towns or in the English countryside in its decline. The pioneers of New Zealand were not from the highest, nor were they usually from the most downtrodden sections of British society. They were people, who, while poor, while usually from the upper working class or the lower middle class - the 'anxious classes', Wakefield called them - had lost neither enterprise nor ambition. Many of the well-to-do or better-educated settlers were driven to the end of the earth to pursuit of a dream, some new Jerusalem or brighter Albion, but, even for the middle class, unemployment or the rigors of competition were potent reasons for migration. And, among the more respectable families, poverty had scarcely less powerful allies. Whoever reads the innumerable letters surviving from the correspondence of the pioneers can scarcely fail to be struck by the frequency with which men of the middle class went to New Zealand into exile because of bigamy or bankruptcy, disappointment or disgrace.

The pioneers left failure or hardship, but not usually in despair. There was also hope. Many of them hoped for something for nothing. The Australian 'land sharks' of the thirties, like the gold-diggers of the sixties, hoped to get rich quickly. New Zealand company propaganda in England 'puffed' the colony in such a way as to give a quite misleading impression. Dr. A.S. Thomson, writing in 1859, remarked that the company settlers seemed to be bewitched: 'there was a feeling among them that they were moving with, and not away from, the civilized world'; some of them felt that 'migration was not a flight from starvation to exile but a short road to abundance and affluence'. Emigration was itself a 'spec'. The feverish speculation in land among members of the middle class, the incessant gambling in all sections of the community, were but outward signs of the universal devotion to the New World deity, Luck.

Other organizations published misleading advertisements. In the eighteen-sixties the Auckland Provincial Council, for instance, promised each immigrant a 'free farm' of forty acr4es. The word 'farm' must have conjured up in the mind of the Englishman or Scot something very different from the reality, which only too often turned out to be an inaccessible section of heavy bushy or scrub; but the bait of free land lured thousands of migrants to Auckland. As one of the 'forty acre farmers' sand in the House of Representatives thirty years later, he came out because he wanted 'a bit of land of his own'. Cheap - or free - land was a demographic magnet weaker only than gold. The provision of free or assisted passages by the colonizing associations, the provincial, and later the central governments, must often, with restless individuals, have been the reason for migration as well as the means. No return tickets were issued.

What the average immigrant hoped for may be summed up quite simply as - a better life. He thought of it in terms of simple materialism, more comfort and money; but as Thomas Cholmondeley, that shrewd but sympathetic observer, exclaimed, 'Material, you may call it; behold, then, the material of a better world!' To achieve a higher standard of living - and of self-respect - the settlers felt that they must break away from the confines of class; but though they were filled with a pronounced dislike of their superiors, they showed little desire to pull them down. Their ambition was to equalize upwards. As Cholomondeley observed, 'the life of the poor working emigrant represents as incessant struggle to get into the middle class: he hates the individual; but he likes the position. The middle class is all in all in a colony ...' The pioneers aimed at creating a society which was classless because everyone was middle class. 

In a passage of rare honesty E.B. Fitton (who published his New Zealand in 1856) passed the following judgement on New Zealand society of the time. It could scarcely be improved. 'No person who has ever enjoyed a life in England would, I think, profess to prefer a colonial life, if he were sufficiently independent to make a selection.' But, Fitton wrote, for those who could 'find no opening' at home, New Zealand was the best place. Few people picked up gold to the street; but by hard work and with luck it was possible to 'get on', to achieve an independence and a plain comfort which most of the immigrants had not known in Great Britain. One Taranaki workman, who secured the local agency for a  polish, wrote in a letter: 'The labouring class is as well off here as the nobs are at home. ... A person has a little chance to do something in this part of the world, and that is more than you can do at home.'

On the other hand, the cultivated or fashionable visitor, like Lord Lyttelton, one of the founders of Canterbury, had often to confess that he found life in the colony dull or 'unkempt'. Clothes, conversation, or accommodation were alike cut to the standards of utility. Samuel Butler remarked the conversation of the colonists to be monotonously 'horsy' and 'sleepy', though he appreciated a certain vigour in local expression. The settlers, he learnt, said 'no feat' instead of 'certainly not'. They used many Australian or north American terms. A stream was known as a 'creek', forests or woods were merely 'bush', while the largest field could be a 'paddock'. Clothes as well as speech were influenced by American or Australian fashion. The working settler commonly dressed in a blue woollen shirt or blouse, moleskin or cord trousers, boots, and the slouch felt hats known as 'rowdy' (that is, backwoods-men's) hats. Butler called them 'exceedingly rowdy hats'.

By the fifties there were some fine large houses, mostly wooden, in each town, but many of the poorer people still lived in the tiny cottages built by the first settlers. These were constructed of wood, of cob (a mixture of clay and straw), or of 'wattle and daub', that is, a frame of sap0lings filled in with puddled clay. The roofs were of tussock, thatch, or wooden shingles. sometimes the walls themselves consisted only of raupo, a plant resembling the bulrush, or even of reeds. About a quarter of the early settlers were illiterate, while another fourteen per cent could read but not write. Few of their children received any formal education. In Nelson in 1843 only a quarter of the children under fourteen were going to school, and only sixth of those in Wellington.

Among the literate members of the community one of the chief occupations was writing letters and pamphlets was very high indeed, in spite of the indulgence in personalities. some of the colonial newspapers, such as the Lyttelton Timnes and the Nelson Examiner, achieved a most creditable standard, particularly in the editorials. The writing and publication of diaries might well be described as an industry. Most of the best New Zealand books were of this nature, being reminiscences or more or less personal accounts of life in the colony, such as E. J. Wakefield's vigorous and prejudiced Adventure in New Zealand (1845), F.E Maning's Old New Zealand (1863), or J.E. Gorst's The Maori King (1864).

Each town had its bards. The best of them, John Bart, the Otago Burns, has been mentioned. In Canterbury the gentry established a tradition of writing verse, whether graceful tributes to the Avon, or vigorous political skits like those of Crosbie Ward. The poet with the greatest reputation was Alfred Domett, apparently because he was praised by his friend, Robert Browning. Anthologists still make implausible attempts to discover merit in his ramshackle and prolix epic poem, Ranolf and Amobia. some of the artist were more successful than the rhymesters. Charles Heaphy and John Buchanan, two draughtsmen, produced some superb landscapes of watercolour.

For a decade or two, organized entertainment was comparatively rare. Thee were occasional balls. Regattas, ploughing matches or horse-races were held periodically, especially on the 'Anniversary Day' of the founding of each settlement. In the main centres there were small choral, literary or amateur theatrical societies. but, in entertainment as in other respects, since thee were so few 'aids to life', great demand were made on individual character and effort. In their pleasures the mass of the male population were by no means bourgeois. The colonists were very partial to a mixture of brandy and ginger beer, which was known as a 'stone fence'. Governor Fitzroy reported that the Wellington beaches were as littered with broken bottles that it was dangerous to walk there. In 1847 William Fox, a Wellingtonian, was appalled to learn that in Auckland there was one conviction for drunkenness for every eight persons. Nor was the south island more sober. In 1861 the 15,000 Canterbury settlers maintained half-a-dozen breweries, besides importing over three gallons of spirits, seven of beer, and nearly two gallons of wine per person. In Otago, too, the annual per capita consumption was three gallons of spirits. Contrary to a popular belief, drunkenness has become less rather than more common over the past century. By modern standards, the colonial towns were riotous and often brutal places. the Auckland Times in 1845 complained that the police were in the habit of beating drunks with their staffs, tying their wrists with cords, and dragging them through the streets. 

In a society in which the men tended to spend their leisure in pubs, grog shops, or gambling dens, it is scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of the women as a civilizing influence. The excessive drinking explains the tremendous fervour and strength of the women's Christian Temperance Union later in the century. To the women, drinking was the greatest of sin s. 'Temperance' was the strongest moral - almost religious - movement of the century. Of religion in general, it is more difficult to speak. There was a much greater interest in doctrinal argument than today. The evangelical and puritanical Protestant Churches were very active and vocal. but whether, as is often supposed, the general population was in any sense more religious is doubtful. In Auckland in the late forties only a quarter or less of the population attended church - rather less than in England. In Canterbury a settler remarked in 1863 that a labourer was almost never seen in church: churchgoers were 'mostly the upper and middle classes and women and children of the lower.'

There were, from the commencement of large-scale settlement, marked regional differences which provided the basis of the p0roviciancial rivalry and raillery which has ever since been a healthy feature of New Zealand life. There were social differences due to the different methods of settlement. Dunedin was more Scottish, Christchurch more English, Auckland more Australian, than most other town. The Aucklanders were slower to develop a civic pride than the Wakefield settlers, and the muddy and unlit streets of the capital drew frequent comment from southerners. Another regional distinction could be observed between the four pastoral provinces, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury and Otago, on the one hand, and on the other, Auckland and Taranaki, where small mixed farming was more usual. Ironically it was Auckland, not a Wakefield settlement, which in the forties and fifties was the chief agricultural province.

There were a striking contrast between the North and South Islands. Until the gold-rushes, most of the settlers lived in the North Island. he presence of the large Maori population greatly affected, indeed often dominated, their lives. Auckland derived much of its wealth from Maori trade. Even the local shipbuilding industry existed, in the fifties, because of Maori demand. The Maoris built the roads, helped to clear the bush, assisted in fencing and harvesting. The history of the North Island was one of race relations; the South Island story is of Europeans, their sheep, and their gold. While life in the northern provinces was disrupted by the Maori troubles of the sixties, the southerners prospered. Gold was discovered in Otago by Gabriel Read, an Australian with experience of the Californian and Victorian fields., in 1861. Within two years the population rose from 12,600 to some 60,000. Dunedin became the largest town in the country while, to the horror of the 'Old Identity', saloons billiard rooms, gambling dens and dance halls sprang up to attract the gold of the 'New Iniquity'.   

In Westland the diggers were the original pioneers. In the years 1865-7 15,800 immigrants crossed from Australia to the new goldfield there. tho9usands more came from Otago or from Nelson, where gold had been found on the Wakamarina. A large proportion of these men, too, were experienced men from the Australian diggings - during 1861-3 Otago received 64,000 Australian immigrants and only 8,600 from Britain. The West coast was said to be an 'Australian community'. Its towns seemed for a century to retain something of the atmosphere of the frontier of gold - if only in their contempt for liquor licensing laws. to a lesser extent the same could be said of Thames and Coromandel, where later and less dramatic gold-rushes occurred. For some years gold was New Zealand's major export. over a century it earned nearly 50 billion in export earnings - not a negligible contribution to a small economy. but its impact on New Zealand life was much less than in Victoria or Australia in general. The influx of diggers intensified egalitarian sentiment and a fondness for gambling. Anti-Chinese prejudice can be traced to the diggings. But, by and large, the influence of the gold-rushes was stronger locally, in the relatively isolated districts of Westland and Thames and Coromandel, than in the life of the colony in general. though there were hold-ups and brawls, the New Zealand goldfields were quickly brought under legal control and the diggers were relatively law-abiding. there was no Californian anarchy or Victorian revolt. The gold-rushes have not lived on in the New Zealand imagination outside the gold provinces. What they did do was to add to the variety of New Zealand life.

the rivalry between the settlements was often vituperative, especially over the question of immigration. Among the Wellington settlers, Hobson was called 'Captain Crimp' because, having insulted them by placing his capital in the north, he then sent a ship to entice some of the Wellington labourers to help in building Auckland. It frequently happened that when an immigrant ship called at one port, en route to another patriotic citizens or 'short-handed' emp0loyhers would induce passengers to disembark by doleful tales of the conditions awaiting them at their intended destination. the Aucklanders were the most notorious offenders, but in 1859, to the delight of southerners, there occurred an incident known as the 'Otago Raid'. the wily Scots, hearing of unemployment in the capital, carried off a hundred settlers 'from the mild, temperate and fruitful North, to the frigid, bleak and snowy south', which was, so the Auckland Weekly Register alleged, inhabited only by 'the Squatters of Otago, Lords of Wastes and Princes of Deserts'.

Regional or provincial divisions largely shaped the character of political life. The Provincial Councils met before Grey's departure, but no General Assembly met until May 1854, when the Ho9use of Representatives immediately became involved in an attempt to force Wynyard, the Administrator, to grant responsible government. As a result of this dispute, in which E.G. Wakefield played a last characteristic role, first demanding responsible government in public, but then, when three members of the House of Representatives had been appointed to the Executive Council as a step towards full responsible government privately opposing it while acting as unofficial adviser to the Administrative, the central Parliament did not get down to serious legislating until 1856. In the meantime, the Provincial councils had a flying start which they were to keep for twenty years.

The '1856 Compact', which settled the financial relations of the provincial and central governments, also helped to strengthen the independence of the provinces. After provision was made for p0aying the New Zealand company debt, and for establishing a fund for purchasing Maori lands, the revenue from land sales was handed over to the provinces. The North island had made a bad bargain, for the provinces in the south island possessed great areas ready for settlement, while most of the North island was heavily wooded and was still in Maori possession. The south island provinces were enabled to advance with little regard for the interests of the country as a whole. Until late in the nineteenth century, however, most of the settlers thought of themselves as belonging to the colony of Otago or Wellington, not the colony of New Zealand.

The Provincial Councils and their Superintendents controlled immigration, education and public works. by an act of 1858 they also secured power to dispose of waste lands and determine land policy. They carried on the task of colonization. Their measures affected the lives of the settlers far more closely than most of the acts of the General Assembly. IN many spheres they experimented with legislation later to be adopted by the general government. In Otago, for instance, once the alluvial gold was worked out, there was, as in Australia after the fold-rushes, a demand for land for its ex-diggers. Otago played an important part in experimenting with a system of deferred payment which would enable the small man to purchase his own farm. The provinces served as a training ground for the country's political leaders. The demand for cheap land in Otago led to the formation of the fist radical political party in which Robert Stout and John McKenzie, Liberal leaders of later years, served their apprenticeship.

In the General Assembly, which met in Auckland until 1865, thereafter in Wellington, provincial jealousies exercised an influence which was usually decisive. It had, according to Sir David Monro, one of the first Speakers of the House of Representatives, 'the character of a body compound of a number of squads pursuing local objects'. Frederick Weld, who was Premier in 1864-5, said that the main question which members asked him was 'What are you going to give us to take back home to ou provinces?' Politics, said two other Premiers, J.E. FitzGerald and Harry Atkinson, on separate occasions, were nothing more than 'a disgraceful scramble' - 'a gigantic scramble' - for public money.

Thee were in the House of Representatives in the fifties, less clearly thereafter, two loose groups which were called 'Centralists' and 'Provincialists', but the labels do not appear to have been very meaningful. As in many British Crown colonies, constitutional question had to be solved first in order to determine within what framework economic or social problems should be tackled. to some extent, it is true, the Assembly was divided over the degree of authority to be given to the central and provincial governments respectively. Politicians from needy provinces, such as E.W. Stafford from Nelson or C.W. Richmond from Taranaki, sought to improve the lot of their constituents by strengthening the General Assembly. But, in this sense, 'centralism' was merely an alternative method of satisfying provincial aspirations, one which survived long after the abolition of the provinces.

In general the politics of the provincial period consisted of a confused competition of cliques which coalesced into so-called 'parties', or disintegrated, as expedient. There was in the country no firm basis for British-type political parties, no powerful vested interests, no popular radical movement. The clash of personalities was perhaps the most powerful source of political groupings. As in eighteenth-century England, the small population, the very small number of politicians, all more or less intimately acquainted with one another, meant that personal likings or antipathies tended to override other loyalties and to encourage the existence of a large number of 'independents' in parliament. It seems likely that the personal rivalries of provincial politics were carried over into colonial politics, since a large proportion of members took part in local as well as central affairs. this circumstance may go a long way towards explaining the manner in which politicians voted in the General Assembly.

Though there were no modern parties, there is no doubt about the strength of partisan feeling. Until 1870 New Zealand's history was singularly troubled. The colony's public business was debated by Victorian gentlemen with appalling ferocity. Wakefield once feelingly remarked that, in colonial politics, each man struck at his opponent's heart. to the reader of nineteenth-century parliamentary debates, the country's hi8story must often seem an endless stream of well-phrased abuse.

To what extent the property franchise was in practice democratic is uncertain. since all women and almost all Maoris were excluded, only a small proportion of the population appeared on the electoral rolls. Grey claimed, and some scholars have accepted his view, that most respectable, adult males were enfranchised. Plural voting, however, gave effective power to the property owners. It is indisputable that politics, as in Great Britain, remained the prerogative of the well-to-do. the mass of the settlers demanded not democracy but equality. Public affairs were controlled, in each settlement, and in the General Assembly, by small groups such as Captain Cargill's 'family clique' in Otago. Although some of the most influential leaders, like Julius Vogel and Frederick Whitaker, were exceptions, the country was ruled for much of the nineteenth century by a handful of the 'gentry' from the 'Wakefield' settlements. most of them set a high standard of political honesty and, apart from the 100 personal tone, of oratory. Many members of the colony's intelligentsia wee also its political  leaders. but few possessed the political ability to match their intellect or rhetoric with deeds. In comparison with later political leaders, most of them were amateurs. E.W. Safford, a man with no obvious qualification except a conciliatory manner, was Premier on several occasions for a total of a dozen years, while giving always the impression of wishing to be elsewhere. Alfred Saunders, Canterbury politician and historian, wrote of F.E. Weld that 'He ... held his unattractive office as a swallow sits in a smoky chimney, and gave both the governor and the House to understand that the slightest breath of disapprobation would drive him from (his) perch.' Modern leaders, seldom so articulate or well read (though, certainly as incorruptible) have been made of sterner stuff. As a group, the founders of New Zealand parliamentary life were good, honest gentlemen, who thought politics an unpleasant duty. it was in political life, perhaps, that he visions of Wakefield or Godley came nearest to realization.

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An extract from IN THE STRANGE SOUTH SEAS by BEATRICE GRIMSHAW,  published in London by Hutchinson & Co., 1908. 

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