Land Claims

Wellington Independent 25 June 1853
To his Excellency Sir George Grey, K.C.B., Governor of New Zealand.
The Petition of the undersigned, Inhabitants of the Hutt Valley and adjacent country, and others respectially sheweth.-
Ist. That the groundwork of the measures adopted by the New Zealand Company, the Crown and Parliament, with regard to grants of land as compensation to the settlers, was an acknowledgement of the two following principles; namely, in the first place, that in consequence of the circumstances for which the settlers were in no degree blameable, the legitimate expectations with regard to obtaining property in land, which induced them to emigrate had been cruelly frustrated; and, secondly, that for such disappointment of their expectations, the settlers were justly entitled to compensation.
2nd. That in giving effect to these principles by means of grants of land free of cost, compensation was, for the most part, confined to persons of the higher classes, and the claims of the humbler and more industrious classes was entirely overlooked.
3rd. That the disappointments and sufferings, occasioned to the whole body of colonists by the circumstances which locked up the land from appropriation and settlement in the Wellington District, were more severely felt by the working classes than by their superiors in wealth and station, whose ordinary means of subsistence were not suspended by the native war, and whose property in land was ultimately recovered whilst the working-classes, who fought to recover the property of the others, lost, in many cases, the whole of their property, and were frequently reduced to a state of the deepest distress.
4th. That your petitioners complain, not merely of the partiality of the arrangements under which compensation was obtained by the higher classss, and entirely withheld from the working-classes, but also of the continuation even unto the present day, of a state of things which has precluded the working-classes from obtaining freehold property in available land for that, whilst the grants of compensation to the higher classes have been satisfied by opening the district of Rangitiki, which notwithstanding its distance from settled parts of the Province, is highly suitable for the operations of capitalists, stockowners not residing on their property, no district has ever been laid open, for selection by in such a position as to be really available for settlers of small means wishing to occupy the land themselves; and that, consequently, this Province presents the strange fact of a new and fertile country in which, after thirteen years occupation by emigrants of the British race aud nation, the proportion of freeholders is insignificantly small: whereas it is notorious that in new countries generally, peopled by emigrants whose darling object in leaving their native country is to obtain landed property, the great bulk of the inhabitants, seldom less than three out of four, and often as many as seven out of eight, are actual possessors of freeholds not less in extent than from 50 to 100 acres each.
5th. That this anomalous and uuhappy state of things, coupled with the fact of a large award of compensation in land to persons of the higher and less industrious classes, has occasioned in this province, among the working classes generally, a deep sense of their having been treated with injustice; that according to that freedom which has for more than a thousand years been deemed the birthright of Englishmen, the greatest constitutional lawyers have held that there can be no wrong without a remedy for any subject of the British Crown that until the wrong of which your Excellency”s Petitioners complain as having been inflicted on the working classes of this province shall be redressed, feelings of soreness and anger, such as injustice always produces, are sure to prevail amongst those, who have been injured; that if such feelings should be left without some real attempt to allay them by a satisfying measure of justice, they cannot fail to be represented in the legislative assemblies by which New Zealand is in future to be governed where it is equally certain that they must give occasion to loud demands for redress, and to serious discord between class interests and feeling, operating as an impediment to much needed legislation for purposes of the highest importance to the colony, and tending to lower the character of our constitutional government in the estimation of the mother-country and the neighbouring colonies; and that, consequently, it appears to be a high duty imposed upon your Excellency, to use the authority at present vested exclusively in your own hands, for the purpose of settling, and finally disposing of, this great popular grievance before the new constitution shall be called into action.
6th That you Petitioners are satisfied, not merely that the Proviso attached to Clause 72 of the Cousiitution Act, does give the Governor of New Zealand lawful authority to sette and dispose of all questions relating to compensation in land, but that such proviso was inserted in the Act for the deliberate and especial purpose of enabling the Governor to hand over the waste lands of the Colony to the General Assemby, free from the entanglements and embarrassments which belong to unsatisfied claims for compensation.
7. (sic) That in case, your Excellency should be of opinion that on the grounds of justice, of policy, and of legality, the claim to compensation for the working, classes ought to be admitted, your Petitioners would point out that it mere admission of the claim, or even the grant of land orders Authorizing the bearers to select laud, would be far from accomplishing the object in view, unless other meaaures were adopted at the same time, which your Petitioners will now respectfully indicate. There would not be equal justice in the arrangement unless, as was carefully provided for in the ease of grantees of the higher classes who have obtained Compensation, a really available district were specially set apart for the working class compensation, so that persons of that class might select without being subject to competition from the higher classes who are holders of scrip, and who, from their superior station and knowledge and their possession of leisure, enjoy greet advantages over their fellow Colonists of the working classes, in the business of choosing sections of land in the wilderness. Nor is it less necessary that the district so devoted to the purposes of working-class compensation, should be within easy reach by persons whose industrious avocations would tie them for the present to the spot where they reside, and, lastly, although persons of the higher classes may manage, without a complete and correct survey, to choose the best spots in a large district laid open for selection, this is not the case with people of the working classes, who have neither time nor money to spend in the business of exploring; so that for the latter class, a really informing survey, exhibited as a map upon paper, is an indispensable condition of justice and equality.
Bth. In asking for these arrangetnents, your Petitioners venture to remind your Excellency, that the whole grievance of the working-classes, as now laid before you, arose from the fact that the higher classes were perfectly able, whilst the working-classes were as completely unable to take care of their own interests. As, at the time when the higher classes obtained compensation, and the working classes were neglected or forgotten, so now, unless Government shall take care to protect the working-classes and look after their interests, they will suffer wrong through the natural helplessness of their position, and can have no security against it save only, in a paternal exercise of the powers of Government. Such powers have been delegated to your Excellency, by our Sovereign and Parliament and will be exclusively yours for some time to come and your Petitioners entertain a confident hope that you will take pleasure in so exercising them, as to protect the interests of a meritorious and injured class of Her Majesty”s subjects, who are for the present incapable of self-defence, and must continue to be so, until the new constitution shall give them an influential voice in the conduct of public affairs. But, besides affording protection to the injured and helpless, your Excellency by giving ear to our Petition, would satisfy the claims of justice, would heal an angry sore in the feelings of the people, would give stability to property already acquired, would avert a conflict of classes in the future, and would earn the gratitude of the whole community subject to your individual sway, as a truly conservative ruler who had given effect to the principles of justice, beneficence, and peace Wherefore your Petitioners respectfully and most earnestly pray, that your Excellency may be pleased to take the premises into your early and serious consideration.
Hutt Bridge, 17th June, 1853.
Mr. Ludlam said he had formerly advocated compensation, in money, to those who suffered in the maori war. That was the only compensation, he could approve of. He advised an application to that effect to the Provincial Council. That would involve taxation, but still he thought it the most legitimate way. He should agree to the whole petition, if the word “money” were substituted for the word “land.” All land compensation had been and always would be, a curse. If he were asked what he thought the best plan, he would propose, though he knew it was hardily feasible, an inquiry into the former compensation, with a view of taking away the unjust grants already made (cheers), No doubt they were sore at being left out but it was difficult to determine who were the working classes. There were 1100 jurymen, of whom 700 were probably working men. As he understood Mr. Wakefield”s proposal, it would require 70,000 acres of land were they prepared to sacrifice the emigration fund from so large a quantity? The colony would dwindle away. He had a good claim for sufferings himself (laughter); he had undergone fatigues, guarding property, gun in hand (murmurs, and cries of “go with Us for some land”). No; he never would accept an acre he could”nt pay for. He had no wish to obstruct compensation to the working-classes; but it should be in money, not land (loud murmurs, and cries of “won”t do.”) He had rather be taxed than see the land considered as worth nothing that was a wrong system. They should not commit such a sin because the upper classes had. (cries of “let them put theirs back”!) In many cases they ought not to have had any. He always had given them his fair opinions, and he trusted he always should. (Loud murmurs, amidst which Mr. Ludlam sat down.)
Mr. John Rush said, Mr. Ludlam”s policy was this he did not wish to see the working-man get land (cheers. “No, no,” from Mr. Ludlam); he knew that money would soon be spent and then they would have to go to work again (cheers.) Stick to Mr. Wakefield, he”ll carry it through (loud cheers, and cries of “he will”). The monopolizers wanted to see us slaves stick to Mr. Wakefield & have land (cheers). This was the first time he had ever addressed a public meeting he was proud to have had the pleasure of addressing so honorable, so industrious, & so respectable a community as that of the Hutt. (loud cheering).
Mr. Renall meant to have seconded the motion if Mr. Kebblewhite had not stepped in before him (hear). He had been the first to propose compensation for the working-classes. He did not agree with Mr. Ludlam, or quite with Mr. Rush; for Mr. Ludlam”s objection was one of principle. They were fairly entitled to compensation (hear); those who had got it had suffered nothing in comparison with them, in the way of personal dangers, hardships, and anxieties, some had been safe away, and in bed all the time (cheers and laughter). He had been in favor of money compensation at first, but after conversations with Mr. Wakefield he had thought land better. Many of those entitled could not take good care of money, and their wives and families would derive no benefit (hear.) Even if it did require 70,000 acres what of that, when the others had got 150,000 acres? His Excellency may decline the prayer of the petition but in that case your representatives will have to deal with it. What will the candidates say? How about their own compensation? (cheers,) Could Dr. Featherston, and others, who had received passage money out of the price of the land, for which they got compensation, consider that those who don”t own an acre were entitled to compensation? Could they oppose the petition? (cheers). He believed Dr. Featherston to be a fair man, and trusted he would consider this fairly (hear, hear). He (Mr. R.) heartily concurred in the petition. If its prayer were refused by the Governor, they would be none the worse off. If it does not represent your feelings don”t adopt it, but if it does, do adopt it (cheers).
Mr. Hart Udy said, compensation was desirable, but expressed stroug doubts whether, if the Governor refused them, the representatives would do them justice. Many who had received the former compensation were the most disposed to refuse it to those who now claimed it.
Mr. Potts described in detail the particulars of his own claim to compensation, as having paid his own passage out, and paid a high price for a lease from which he derived no benefit. Compensation should be, not for losses during the maori war, but for general losses resulting from want of land (hear); losses we have sustained, and are still sustaining daily. We shall go to ruin, if we continue to want land (cheers). People would not go to the diggings, if they could get land. It would be a good plan if the Government were to give 50 acres to each of those who would occupy land (cheers).
Mr. Cuudy said a gentleman had asked him, when in town that morning, what the meeting was about. He told him to get their rights (hear, hear); that they had mooted it some time, and at length asked Mr. Wakefield to help them. The gentleman told him not to be soft-soaped, it was all gammon, Mr. Wakefield won”t do it (roars of laughter). But what then (Cheers). He had lost much in the Maori war, but much more before it, and so had others in that room (hear, hear). Many had suffered privations in this colony, and boiled nikau and fern for their families (cheers). Mr. Tollemache had told him the Nelson people were entitled to compensation, but they hadn”t been barred from the land for seven years, like the Hutt people. He (Mr. C.) was better off 2 years after he arrived than now. He had been seven years deprived of any return from cultivation, on the Waiwetu for want of roads. He described his anxieties during the Maori war. He hoped Mr. Wakefield
would consider the orphan children and widows. They were dependent on other people, who had generously volunteered to take the part of fathers and mothers to them, giving them not only food, but, he was proud to say, education too (hear, hear), which he trusted he should always be able to get for his own children (cheers). The orphans and widows were as much entitled to compensation, as any. All were honestly entitled to it (loud cheers).
Mr. Judd described the hardships undergone by himself and his wife during the Maori war.
Mr. Lansdale said there was a species of laud-smuggling, which he feared the governor”s exciseman took no notice of (hear). The smugglers of land had got the best of it, which would have best suited the working men (laughter). They were the vultures, who had snapped up 150 acres each. Those poor men should get compensation, who had wasted their labour on other men”s laud sub-let to them, and who were turned off when it became valuable (hear). He concluded by expressing his continued affection for Sir George Grey, who, doubtless, would co-operate with their representatives to do them justice as they deserved. He recommended all to sign, and declared his confidence in Mr. Wakefield (cheers).
Mr. Wakefield begged leave to administer a little more “soft soap,” to the meeting (laughter and cheers). Mr. Cundy had let out the name of the gentleman who talked about him, and had done so without improperly repeating private conversations, for Mr. Tollemache was an exception from the general rule, which forbids that private conversations should be repeated at public meetings. He was himself a sort of public meeting (cheers and laughter); he passed his mornings in instilling his political views into everybody who would listen to him, and his afternoons in walking and talking with the head of the Government. His conversations on public matters of importance were a fit subject of remark in public. As the greatest land jobber in New Zealand, he had a great personal interest in opposing this claim to compensation. If 50,000 acres in the best position were set apart for it, where would Mr. Tollemache choose? or those to whom he sold scrip (cheers). As a great dealer in scrip, he turns Mr. Cundy”s van into a public meeting (laughter and cheers). Mr. Cundy is the chairman, and reports what passes (laughter). But he may be seen elsewhere every day diligently propagating his opinions on public matters, in which he has no interest except as a land-jobber. Why does he not come into public, instead of creeping about as a political proselytiser, and meet face to face whose whom he dares to calumniate behind their backs? He (Mr. W.) called on him to do so, and if he refused they would know what to think (loud and continued cheering). He (Mr. W.) agreed with Mr. Potts that no man”s claim should be for special loss, but that every claim should be founded on the general disappointment and suffering of having come to a new country with expectations which had been held out by authority, and cruelly frustrated. It would be impossible to draw any nice distinctions, As a matter of policy, independently of the question of justice, he should not wish to exclude any one. He was persuaded that amongst the marvellous consequences of the discovery of gold in Australia, all men of our race inhabiting this part of the world would be owners of land, and not servants (loud cheers). He believed that if men of our race were longer prevented from getting really available land in New Zealand, they would go to Australia in order to share in the high profits which might be obtained in the gold fields without being a servant. Therefore as a mere question of policy, he should gladly add 50,000 or 70,000 acres to the land already granted in compensation, as a means of fixing in this province the British emigrants who now inhabit it. He was sorry to differ with Mr. Ludlam, because he believed Mr. L. had a kindly feeling towards the working classes, and he had no grudge against him for Nomineeship in the past, which he wished might be forgotten, so that no man”s co-operation in good work for the present and the future should be rejected. But he really could not understand Mr. Ludlam”s view. If the word “money” were substituted for the word “land” in the petition, the whole argument of the petition would be turned into nonsense (hear, hear). In making his own proposal, he dwells rather on the objections to it than on its recommendations (hear). He proposes what has struck his own fancy, but what he almost admits to be an impossibility. After suggesting that means should be adopted, in case the petition should be declined by his Excellency, of asking electors in other parts of the province for their co-operation, Mr. Wakefield expressed a confident hope that the aim of the petition would be accomplished in one way or other, if the people should bear in mind the maxim, that “God helps them who help themselves!” (cheers).
Mr. Hart Udy said that the Governor had been friendly to the working classes, and he hopod he would continue the same (hear, hear).
The resolution was then carried unaniniously amid loud and general cheering.
On the motion of Mr. Renall it was then, resolved that Mr. Scott, Mr. Wakefeild, Mr. Renall, and Mr. Lawson Potts be deputed as a Committee to forward the Petition to the Governor, and respectfully to request his Excellency to name a time “when it may be convenient to him to receive the deputation for the purpose of further explaining the views of the Petitioners; and also to adopt such other means as they may deem advisable for giving effect to the Petition.”
A letter from Mr. Willcock was read by the Chairman, in which he declined to be a Candidate for the representation of the Hutt.
Mr. Renall asked if Mr. Wakefield would give any information about a plan for importing labour from China, which had been advertised in the newspapers.
Mr. Wakefield said that he was quite unprepared to go into the subject, but that he knew a good deal about the plan, which he described as having originated in the Province of Canterbury, where the want of labour was so severely felt, in consequence of emigration, to the diggings and the stoppage of immigration from England, that a private speculation for importing Chinese labourers from Sydney was in contemplation, when some of the leading settlers proposed to substitute for it a direct communication with China, whereby labourers of a superior class might be obtained, instead of the refuse of Chinese immigration which alone could be procured at Sydney by private traders importing men as they do horses at the smallest amount of cost and trouble. But on enquiry it was seen that a direct communication with China would be best promoted by the aid of commercial enterprise, which would lower the price of tea, sugar, and rice in New Zealand, by making us independent of Sydney for the supply of those articles; and for this purpose a communication was made to the merchants at Wellington, suggesting that they should undertake the whole operation on a guarantee of subscriptions towards the immigration of labor from settlers at Canterbury. The advertisement of the Wellington merchants proposed to let the Wellington settlers share if they pleased in obtaining servants from China. He could not at that late hour, go further into the subject, which belonged to that of the great social revolutions, whether for good or evil, which were sure to result from the discovery of gold in Australia. He believed himself that they would be for good, though it might be in no man”s power to define them at this moment; and amongst them it seemed not improbable that the great Chinese Empire, with its 300,000,000 inhabitants, the most industrious people in the world, would at length be effectually opened to the enterprise of the Anglo-Saxon race in America and the South Pacific (hear hear). It was a great and most important subject, – that of the free circulation of capital and labour throughout parts of the world which had but recently no inter-commuuicatiou, and all through the discovery on both sides of the Pacific, at this late period of the world”s history, of masses of wealth which the inscrutable ways of Providence had until now kept entirely conceded from mankind, as if they were reserved for the purpose of effecting, at a predetermined season, mighty changes in production, population, and commerce (hear, hear, hear). If they thought that, an examination of this subject would prove interesting to them, he would endeavour to prepare himself for delivering a lecture upon it at the Hutt (cheers) but in the meanwhile he wished to take the present opportunity of warning them that persons in Wellington, who belonged to, and sympathised with, the land speculators, some of them official persons, who all hated him for his sympathy with the mass of the people, and would drive him out of the country if they could, “were preparing to use this Chinese immigration matter as a handle for denouncing him as a foe to the working-classes in New Zealand (murmurs of disapprobation). But they could not keep their own secrets. He was acquainted with their schemes and he defied them (cheers). If those whom he now addressed should hear or read of his being attacked on this or any other score, he begged of them to be on their guard against the cunning malice of enemies to himself and to them, who would spare no pains in the invention of calumnies against him, with the object of depriving the working classes of such aid as he might render them in standing up for their rights, and depriving him of the aid of the working classes in his pursuit of that prosperity and greatness for New Zealand colonization which had been the darling object of his life for sixteen years (loud cheers). There woul be plenty of active and virulent misrepresentation of him, but he defied it, and called upon those who calumniated him anonymously and in private, (more especially the gentleman who talked to Mr Cundy about “soft soap”) to attack him in public, when he should be present to defend himself (cheers). They would find it hard work to make out even in appearance that he was an enemy to the working classes (cheering). A vote of thanks to the Chairman for his able and impartial conduct in the chair Was passed unanimously, with cheering, and the meeting broke, up at a late hour, about 150 persons remaining to sign the petition.

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