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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, February 8 (1840)


Colonial Land and Emigration Board.

For some time past the friends of colonization on sound principles have been watching with intense anxiety for some definite indication of the course likely to be pursued by the New Colonial Land and Emigration Board.
Our readers are doubtless aware that the new year's number of the Colonial Gazette contained the gratifying intelligence that Government had resolved to establish a Central Board for the disposal of waste lands in the colonies, and to superintend emigration.
This announcement was conveyed to the public in the shape of a letter from Lord John Russell to the South Australian commissioners. It seems the commissioners—nine in number, had made a formal application to Lord John Russell for remuneration, and his Lordship in reply, told them in effect that a commission of three persons for all the colonies was to take the place of one of nine persons for one. The material announcement of the letter ran as follows:—
"Her Majesty's Government having taken into consideration the highly important subject of the alienation of the unsettled lands of the Crown throughout the British colonies, with a view to promote, as far as may be possible, a well regulated system of emigration, have resolved to constitute a body to superintend that service, subject to the general superintendence of her Majesty's principal Secretary of State having the department of the colonies, and the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's treasury. With this view, it is designed to establish a Colonial Land and Emigration Board, consisting of three members. In their persons will be united the duties at present performed by yourselves and by the Agent-General for emigration; and with this view, the Queen will be advised to revoke the commission under which you are now acting, and to renew it in favour of the three members of the board to which I refer."
Before the names of the commissioners were announced, the mere transfer of the administration of the waste lands of our colonies from the colonial-office to a responsible Board of Commissioners was deemed an important step towards a sound system of colonization.
Although it was not expressly stated, it was with reasonable confidence inferred, that the principles originally propounded by Mr. Wakefield, solemnly recommended by Mr. Ward's committee of 1836, and successfully applied in South Australia, were to be carried into execution. The terms of the letter justified this inference. The letter couples "the alienation of the unsettled lands of the Crown throughout the colonies" with "a well regulated system of emigration" in such a manner as almost to exclude any other supposition than that the integrity of the Wakefield principles was to be studiously preserved. The "alienation of the unsettled lands" is to be adopted merely with a view to promote a well-regulated system of emigration. The first is the means, the latter the end; the Land Board and the Emigration Board are very properly one and indivisible.
It was generally understood that the public were indebted to Lord John Russell alone for this important step. The Downing-strect authorities, it is well known, have, from the publication of the letter from Sydney in 1829 until the present time, done all in their power—and their power in evil is unhappily great—to defeat and prevent the application of the principles; hence the letter was further valuable as an evidence of a determination on the part of a colonial minister to emancipate at once himself and the colonies, the affairs of which he is (by courtesy) said to administer, from Downing-street domination.
When men's hopes are highly excited, they are prone to dwell upon small pieces of evidence in favour of their wishes. The most trifling incident which seems to confirm their hopes is seized upon and thrown into the heap, and that pleasant and very complacent state of mind is produced which philosophers call "moral certainty," but which not unfrequcntly means no certainty at all. Two little bits of evidence of this kind have come out in reference to this commission, which really look favourable, but the value of which time must determine: for the present, let the reader take them for what he deems them worth.
The first we shall allude to is the leave-taking letter, so to speak, of the nine South Australian commissioners, in answer to Lord John Russell's letter quoted above. After excusing and apologising for their application for remuneration, the commissioners thus recommend to Lord John Russell's fostering care the principles of which they had so long been the guardians:—
"It would be irrelevant in this place to offer any comment on the Colonial Land and Emigration Board; but the commissioners would request your lordship's particular attention to the peculiar state of South Australia, (a country of greater extent than the United Kingdom,) to the principles on which it has been founded, and to the necessity of carefully carrying out those principles, not only for the sake of South Australia, but as a practice to be adopted; and an example to be followed with other colonies which are now or which may be hereafter established.
"The motives which influence this communication, are the same as those which have guided and governed the proceedings of the board for the past five years, and which have been attended with beneficial results surpassing the most sanguine expectations."
Now let it be remembered, that Colonel Torrens, one of the new commissioners, was the chairman of the board, in the name of which the above letter was written—a fact which really gives it great strength in favour of the safety of the principles under their new trustees.
The other piece of evidence is an article in the South Australian Record, a paper having a sort of semi-official connexion with the South Australian commissioners. From this article we make the following extract, which, it will be seen, is couched in a tone of authority.
"The principle of selling the unoccupied lands of new countries, and of employing the proceeds of the sale as an emigration fund, for the conveyance to those countries of the skilled labour of Europe, must be regarded as the most important practical improvement which has hitherto been made in the science of political economy. It is with the highest satisfaction that we are able to announce, that this principle, which has been applied with such eminent success to the colony of South Australia, is about to be adopted in all the colonial dependencies of the Crown.
Whilst the friends of sound principles of colonization were thus congratulating themselves and each other, there were not wanting those who, with past experience for their instructress, felt considerable doubt and distrust as to the intentions of government.
"Some correspondents,"said the Colonial Gazette of the 8th of January, interested in the colony of South Australia, express alarm lest it should be 'swamped' in Lord John Russell's Board of Colonization. One says—'it is to be feared that South Australia may be un-South Australianized without South-Australianizing the others.'"
This apprehension was not altogether unreasonable. The colonial office, has, it is well known, long looked with a longing eye to the emigration fund of South Australia; and it is firmly believed, that, but for the constant vigilance of the friends of the principles made manifest to official minds through the medium of the press, the fund would long since have been violated.
For this vigilance there is now an additional necessity—"the admitted
danger," our able contemporary well observes, "may be guarded against by a little extra watchfulness on the part of those for whom the colony (of South Australia) possesses a special interest." In accordance with this view, the Colonial Gazette determines" for some time to come, to watch South Australian proceedings (meaning, of course, all that concerns the South Australian principles of colonization, and therefore all the proceedings of the new board), with more instead of less care than heretofore;" and as the task is no light one, we shall most willingly keep watch and watch with our contemporary.
A correspondent of the Colonial Gazette (22d January) de-nounces the new commission, as a trick of the Colonial Office in the most unequivocal and confident terms. He asserts that there is to be no change of system, but that the change "is one of persons only" and he thus explains the matter:—
"As you well know, the success of South Australia has always been regarded with jealousy by Mr. Stephen; and more than one attempt has been made to get the emigration fund of that colony into the hands of the Colonial Office. In the next place the emigration fund of New South. Wales is nearly exhausted through mismanagement, so, that not only was Mr. Elliot in danger of losing his place as agent for the disposal thereof, with 1000l for his trouble, but the mismanagement of the Colonial Office as to New South Wales, was about to become more than ever conspicuous when contrasted with the successful colonization of South Australia, Mr. Stephen has killed two birds with one stone. He has at last got the administration of the South Australian act into his own hands, and has provided for Mr. Elliot.
"The new board will be entirely subservient to the Colonial Office, and, though the New South Wales Fund should dwindle to nothing, Mr. Elliot is now sure of his 1000l a-year out of the South Australian Fund. Mr. Elliot's office in Scotland-yard, swallows of Colonel Torren's office in the Adelpbi—that is all. No, not quite all, for the Colonel will get 1,000l instead of 600l a-year. As for the fine talk about extending systems, and new æras, and great measures, you will learn that it is all a make-believe, for the purpose of concealing the real objects of the charge."
The Colonial Gazette, always distinguished for caution, was unwilling to admit the suspicions which its correspondents expressed. On the above letter it remarked as follows:—
"It is true that we have hoped that this measure originated with Lord John Russell, and was therefore intended for great national purposes. This hope has been stronger than the suspicions by which, as our readers will have perceived, it was accompanied, It fell in so well with our wishes to think highly of Lord John Russell's statesmanship as Colonial Minister, that we have perhaps encouraged it on insufficient grounds. Even now we are unwilling to believe the statements of our correspondents. For if these should turn out to be correct, it will appear that Lord John Russell's name has been shamefully used for a delusive purpose, and that Colonel Torrens has lent himself to the delusion."
Another week, and a change seems to have been wrought in the comparative strength of the "hopes" and "suspicions" of the editor of the Colonial Gazette. Additional evidence appears to have reached our contemporary; his correspondent's statements have received confirmation; suspicion has has become stronger than hope, and the result is a long denunciatory article ou the commission. From this article we make a few extracts:—
"The new commission," says our contemporary, "carries out no recommendations, it extends no system, it gives no enlarged operation to any principles of colonization. The whole alteration consists in this— that the administration of the South Australian Act, till now confided to a special Board of Commissioners, and the superintendence of the expenditure of the New South Wales Emigration Fund, (or rather, so much of it as the Colonial Office has not misapplied to other purposes), which till now, has been confided to Mr. Elliot, a clerk in the Colonial Office, with the absurd title of "Agent-General for Emigrations," are to be jumbled together, and conducted by our board, consisting of Messrs. Elliot, Torrens, and Villiers. The new commission has no powers, no function, no jurisdiction that was not possessed before by the South Australian Commissioners and Mr. Elliot. It is strictly confined by its instructions to a certain routine, long since established; its appointment is a mere junction of two old departments that have hitherto been separate. Novelty, extension, improvement, enlagrement, either of powers or of the field of operations, there is none in the whole affair. Lord John Russell's admirers will conclude that he has had nothing to with it. So much for the grandiloquous promises of the Globe, Chronicle, and Record.
"In the next place, the striking progress of South Australian colonization under Commissioners independent of the Colonial Office, being held up in contrast with the miserable doings of that department, has recently become a subject of very sore jealousy to the Bureaucracy in Downing Street; and they will now, having red-taped Colonel Tor-rens, be able to say that South Australian colonisation is their handy-work. The public will no longer make comparisons odious to the office. This is an effect of great importance to the stool-and-desk fraternity, whose prevailing passion is official-jealousy.
"Lastly, such attempts as the Colonial-office has already made, in vain, to lay hold of the Emigrarion Fund, for South Australia, to divert it to their own purposes from the one purpose of emigration, to which it is by act of Parliament devoted, will have a better chance of success, now that the guardianship of the interests of the Colony is taken from persons, the majority of whom had no relations with the office, and placed in subservient hands. We are assured indeed, that the instructions already given to the new Commission direct a positive infraction of the South Australian Act, with respect to the disposal of the Emigration Fund of the colony. More than a fortnight has elapsed since these instructions were received, but they are still kept from the public. Colonial Office secrecy is for the first time introduced into the proceedings of South Australian colonization."
Either for good or for evil, Colonel Torrens is necessarily destined to play a conspicuous part in this commission. There are, as we have already hinted, fair reasons to hope, that his influence on the commission may be of the beneficial kind. Nevertheless, these do not seem of sufficient force to overweigh the grounds for suspicion of which our contemporary has become possessed He says:—
"Now of Colonel Torrens it is necessary to observe, that by accepting an appointment under the new commission, he was a consenting party to this change; that he was so without ever consulting his old colleagues, we believe, and assuredly without attempting to learn how the alteration would be regarded by the large and most respectable body of South Australian proprietors, by whose enterprize and capital the colony was founded; that he once took an active part in decrying, and a successful one in impeding the exertions of those by whom the South Australian principles of colonization were ultimately carried into effect; and that he has been, though unintentionally we have no doubt, a facile party to the delusion with respect to this commission, which has been practised on the public. These are not considerations which should lead us to rely on his firmness in standing up against the Colonial Office for the integrity of the South Australian system."
For our parts, we are much in the state of mind acknowledged by the Colonial Gazette on the 22nd of January. We are unwilling to believe that the appointment of this commission is a mere scheme to defeat the principles, under the operation of which, South Australia has hitherto prospered, beyond all parallel in the history of British colonization. Nay more, we still cling to the hope, that the principles in question, will be extended sooner or later to all the Australasian colonies—that South Australia is, in short, the precursor of Australasian regeneration. We are, moreover, free to confess, that Colonel Torrens' appointment keeps alive this hope. He surely must have some regard to his own character. If he had really lent himself to a delusion—if he had consented to be a party to a systematic attack on the principles of which he has so long been the supporter, there is not an epithet expressive of baseness or of dishonesty, which might not justly be applied to him; unless, indeed, he himself were deceived, in which case, he can preserve his fair name only by resignation.
Until we have proof, however, of what has been asserted, we shall take refuge in what Hume calls the calm and philosophic regions of doubt. It shall be our endeavour to preserve that state of mind until we see the instructions; now, it is understood, in the printer's hands. Until they are before the public, we shall give the commission the benefit of that doubt, and assume that the acceptance of office by Colonel Torrens is a guarantee not merely for the safety of South Australia—for that would not be enough—but for the extension of the principle to the rest of the Australian colonies. Pray heaven we may not be deceived!

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