In August, 1846, the Imperial Parliament passed “The New Zealand
Government Act,” dividing the colony into two provinces and granting
representative institutions. It was on New Year’s Day, 1848, that the
Queen’s will was made known to her people in her youngest colony, and
Captain Grey was sworn in anew–this time as Governor-in-Chief of the
Islands of New Zealand, and also as Governor of the Province of New
Ulster and New Munster, the new division of New Zealand proper. In
the same month Major-General Pitt and Mr. E.J. Eyre were appointed
Lieutenant-Governors of New Ulster and New Munster respectively.
The exultation of the colonists over their improved status was suddenly
checked when they learned that Sir George Grey–now a Knight Commander
of the Bath–had determined to withhold the franchise from them for a
reason which seemed to him to justify this serious step.
The new Act conferred the franchise upon all who could read and write
English, which, of course, excluded the great majority of Maori. Sir
George Grey feared that, when the natives appreciated the great
power which the exercise of the franchise would confer upon the
white population, still greatly in the minority, and realised the
disadvantages to themselves, discontent would be excited amongst them,
and trouble break out afresh. For this reason he suspended that part
of the charter dealing with the franchise until he should receive an
answer from the Colonial Office to the communication he had made on the
Strong man as he was, Sir George Grey was forced to bow before the
storm of popular indignation which his action aroused. He held out
until November; but he was one, and his opponents were very many, so in
that month he wrote again to the Colonial Secretary, withdrawing from
the position he had taken up. Meantime, he gave the public a portion of
what was demanded in the shape of a provincial representative ordinance.
This came to nothing, for the Imperial Parliament was preparing a fresh
charter for New Zealand. But, owing to the time which must elapse on
each occasion before those so far divided could learn one another’s
views, it was not until the 30th of June, 1852, that the Constitution
Act for New Zealand was passed. As in those days the voyage to New
Zealand was a much longer affair than it is now, the new Constitution
was not promulgated in the colony until January, 1853, in March of
which year Sir George Grey assumed his new duties.
The Constitution Act gave representative institutions to the colony,
which was divided anew into the six Provinces of Auckland, Wellington
and Taranaki in the North Island, and Nelson, Otago and Canterbury in
the Middle Island. The Chief Executive was to be the Governor of the
colony, and the office of Lieutenant-Governor was done away with.
Each Province was to be administered by a Superintendent, whose
election the Governor had power to veto. Each Province was to make its
own laws (save those which affected the colony as a whole) by means of
an elected council. The whole colony was to be ruled by a Governor;
a Legislative Council of ten, appointed for life by the Crown; and a
House of Representatives of from twenty-four to forty members, to be
elected every five years by the people. The Governor possessed the
right to veto laws made by the Provincial Councils, while the Crown
might exercise the same right with regard to the Colonial Parliament.
The franchise included all British subjects–irrespective of
colour–twenty-one years of age and having certain very easy property
There were many more clauses, and, of course, the Constitution did not
suit everybody. Still, it was on the whole a large and liberal measure,
and time would show its working and where the need for alteration lay.
While all this was under discussion, matters were not standing still
in other directions. Emigration revived upon the establishment of
peace, and New Zealand became once more the Mecca of many a poor man’s
hopes. So firm, indeed, was faith in the future of the colony that
within three years of the cessation of trouble in Whanganui, two new
settlements had been planted in the Middle Island.
The earlier of these, Otago, was founded in March, 1848, under the
auspices of the Free Church of Scotland, itself a new institution,
formed by secession from the Established Church. The Company had a
hand in the matter; but it was now a chastened Company, and the scheme
which was drafted in view of founding Otago was not marked by such
imperfections as had marred the success of earlier operations.
The agent, in this instance, was a man whose memory is yet green in
Otago–Captain William Cargill of the 74th Regiment, retired, who
had served with distinction in the Peninsular wars, and was reputed
a descendant of David Cargill, the Covenanter. Otago never knew the
desolation which had been the lot of her northern sisters and, in no
very long time, the chief city had been founded under the reminiscent
name of Dunedin, while the Port was called “Chalmers,” after the great
leader of the Disruption.
The principle of imitation possibly influenced the Church of England
to follow the example of the Scotch seceders. Canterbury was founded
in December, 1850, under the auspices of the Establishment, and it
was Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield who obtained for the Canterbury
Association a ten years’ charter of incorporation from Her Majesty’s
Government. Moreover, land was purchased from the not yet defunct
Company, and the emigrants, who were styled in England “Canterbury
Pilgrims,” arrived in due course. As a whole, they were as fine a set
of people as ever young colony could desire. Their ideas were at first
a little high-flown; but they soon got rid of initial absurdities, and
Canterbury is to-day not the least in the Dominion of New Zealand.
Everything was going very well indeed, and men began to tell one
another that, now that the native trouble was over, there was nothing
more to be feared, nothing to prevent active colonisation, nothing
to interfere with the rapid growth of the towns already founded. One
might almost assert that New Zealand was a land without drawbacks. So
they talked and hoped and planned, forgetting all the while that they
lived–or some of them–within that sinister belt which straggles round
the globe under the name of the “earthquake zone.” They were sharply
reminded of it on the 16th of October, 1848.
It was about two in the morning when people were suddenly awakened
by–they knew not what. Simply, they were awakened. Some lay still,
wondering why sleep had so abruptly departed; others, suspicious of
trouble, rose and began to dress; only the few were aware of the
true cause of that untimely awakening, and these rushed out of their
dwellings and shouted an alarm. As the cries were in their mouths,
there came a dull, far-away rumbling, a shudder shook the earth, and
every house in Wellington rocked to and fro. Then people knew what was
happening, and for a time all was confusion. The earth-pang was upon
them, and folk ran hither and thither, crying aloud in their terror,
seeking aid of those who sought it as eagerly, bewailing their ruined
homes while shock after shock convulsed the earth, shaking down walls,
splitting gaps in houses and cleaving fissures in the solid ground.
From Banks Peninsula on the east of the Middle Island to the Peninsula
of Taranaki on the west and White Island on the east of the North
Island, the two “isles shivered and shook like a man in a mortal
affright.” The plains gaped, the mountains reverberated to the crash of
great masses of rock thundering down into their valleys, and for nearly
a month from the time of the first tremor this whole area was full of
Most of the houses in the Wellington district were built of wood,
though not a few were of brick, and it was discovered that those of
wood which were built upon a brick foundation resisted the shocks
better than those where only one of these materials had been used.
Wellington suffered most, losing some sixteen thousand pounds’ worth
of property, while the fall of the ordnance store there buried in its
ruins Sergeant Lovell and his two children.
This was bad enough; but, as many of us know, it takes more than an
earthquake to drive people from the land in which they have made their
home. So most folk stayed where they were, and a shock of a more
pleasurable kind presently confirmed them in their judgment.
This was nothing less than the discovery of gold. Men rejoiced, because
they knew that, with such a magnet, it would not be long ere the colony
attracted to her shores the increased population which she required for
her better development.
There was reason to rejoice over the finding of gold at home, the more
because, when news arrived of the Californian discoveries in 1849, no
fewer than a thousand colonists had emigrated thither from New Zealand,
whence so many able-bodied men could ill be spared. Two years later
came the story of the marvellous finds in the river-beds of New South
Wales and the gullies of Victoria, and the young colony suffered a
further drain of her stalwarts. Many intending immigrants, too, had
shifted their helm and, instead of keeping a course for Maoriland,
steered for one or other of the gold-bearing colonies. So people were
heartily glad from every point of view when Mr. Charles Ring in 1852
found unmistakable traces of gold at Coromandel, forty miles north of
The Coromandel territory belonged to old Te Tanewha, or “Hooknose,” the
contemporary of Captain Cook; and Lieutenant-Colonel Wynyard, Acting
Governor, would allow no invasion of his land without his permission.
Old Hookinoë, as he pronounced his nickname, proved most gracious in
the matter of cheap licences; but his land was soon exhausted, and
his neighbour, Taraia, positively refused to allow either digging or
prospecting. Five years later gold was discovered in paying quantities
at Collingwood, in the Nelson Province, and four years after that
there was a further find at Gabriel’s Gully, Otago; but it was not
until June, 1862, that Coromandel, where the metal had been originally
unearthed, was declared available as a goldfield.
Though Sir George Grey had now a House of Representatives and a
Legislative Council, he did not summon the General Assembly. He had
already applied to the British Government to remove him from a position
in which he had spent thirteen years of strenuous life–five in South
Australia, eight in New Zealand–battling with, and for the most part
overcoming, formidable difficulties; setting one colony upon the high
road to success, relieving another of many of her burdens, bringing
to her much-needed peace, and providing her with a Constitution and
Representative Government. After such a long period of arduous toil he
felt that he had a right to crave leave to rest awhile.
He left New Zealand on the 31st of December, 1853, carrying with
him the best wishes of the best of the colonial population, and the
whole-hearted devotion of the Maori race. It was not only as Governor
that Sir George had gained the respect of the Maori; his qualities as
a man–not the least of them his manliness–had won their regard, and
they admitted yet another debt. He had learned their language, and had
set down in that wonderful thing, a printed book, some of their most
cherished traditions and legends, which must otherwise have been lost
to them and to the world.
Sir George Grey being gone–having no presentiment that, as “Fighting
Governor,” he was to return to his ancient battlefields,–the
honour of opening the first session of the General Assembly fell to
Lieutenant-Colonel Wynyard, who had assumed the administration of the
Government. Auckland was, of course, the place of meeting; and there
New Zealand’s first Parliament assembled for the first time on the 27th
of May, 1854, just fifty-four years ago. The second Parliament met in
April, 1856, after the new Governor, Colonel Thomas Gore Browne, C.B.,
had assumed office.
The early months of Colonel Wynyard’s administration were marked by
a sad calamity. Measles broke out at the Bay of Islands and, finding
virgin soil, spread, like a rank weed, from end to end of the land.
Four thousand Maori died before the epidemic was stamped out, among
them old Kawiti, at the age of eighty-four. He had fought more than
one good fight against the British leaders; but this time there came
a captain he could not defeat, so he drew his mat across his face and
slept with his fathers.
As this is not a political history, it is unnecessary to deal with the
struggles of the first Parliament to shape itself and to bring about
responsible government. But it is well to remember that New Zealand
was now subdivided into six Provinces, each empowered to manage its
internal affairs; and also that there were men who from the first
saw danger in this splitting up of interests, and did not hesitate
to declare that there must be one Central Government, and one only.
Otherwise, they insisted, there must be inevitably developed a number
of small republics, each jealous of its own privileges, yet envious
of its neighbours’ success; each desiring the advantage of itself, all
careless of the general good.
It was union, not separation, which all true men desired–a union
which, while it left a man free to indulge in honest pride that his
fate had made him a Wellingtonian, an Aucklander, a Cantuarian, or what
not, should compel him to the larger boast, “I am a New Zealander!”