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

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The Instructions to the Land and Emigration Commissioners.

At length we are in possession of the instructions to the commissioners. They are neither so bad as the Colonial Gazette anticipated, nor so good as we hoped, and as they assuredly ought to be. They are officially vague, so as to excite the hopes of the sanguine and justify the fears of the desponding. Read in a certain way they seem to promise an extension of the principles of colonization, yet they contain expressions which threaten the integrity of those principles, and the division of the funds to other purposes. We shall extract such portions as to unfold the intentions of the Colonial Minister.
Having stated his reasons for uniting the functions of the Emigration Agent with those of the South Australian Commissioners, Lord John Russell thus proceeds:—
"Having for these reasons thought it right that the two offices should be consolidated, I am, for the present at least, relieved from the necessity of entering into any explanation of the duties which will devolve on you as Colonization Commissioners for South Australia, because whatever is immediately necessary on that subject has already been so fully executed by my predecessors in this office, and by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, as to leave me nothing to state except that the Acts of Parliament and the instructions which have been addressed to your predecessors in that capacity, will form the rule for your own guidance.
In your other capacity of a General Board for the sale of lands and for promoting emigration, your duties may be conveniently arranged under the four following heads: first, the collection and diffusion of accurate statistical knowledge; secondly, the sale in this country of waste lands in the colonies; thirdly, the application of the proceeds of such sales towards the removal of emigrants; and fourthly, the rendering of periodical accounts, both pecuniary and statistical, of your administration of this trust. Secondly, the next topic to be noticed is that of the sale in this country of the waste lands of the Crown in the British colonies.
From the passages marked in italics it appears, that the waste lands of South Australia are to be administered as heretofore; and it further appears that the application of all monies arising from the sale of lands "towards the removal of emigrants" is guaranteed.
We pass over as much of the instructions as relates to the first head of the commissioners duties and proceed to the second head, namely—the sale of lands:—
In every colonial possession of Great Britain, in which wild and unoccupied lands have been found, one general principle of law has been
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universally acknowledged. It is, that such lands are vested in the Sovereign in the right of the Crown, and that every private title must rest upon a royal grant as its basis. To what inconvenient consequences this abstract principle has formerly been urged it is needless to explain. In latter times, and more especially since the year 1831, another principle, not less important, or in itself less clear, has been most distinctly acknowledged and inflexibly observed—it is, that the Sovereign holds the lands in question in trust for the public good, and cannot, without a breach of that trust on the part of the responsible Ministers of the Government, be advised to make to any person a gratuitous donation of any such property. It must be appropriated to public uses and for the public benefit. Of those uses the first in order are such as respect the future improvement of the colony in which the lands are situate, by the dedication of all convenient tracts to public works, such as roads, quays, towing-paths, sites of public buildings and of military defences, sites of churches, school-houses, cemeteries and places for public recreation and health. These and similar objects being provided for, the next use of the waste lands in the colonies is that of creating a public revenue by the sale of them. The appropriation of a part of that revenue to the ordinary exigencies of the public service will probably be found inevitable in every colony. Even in the case of South Australia, where the opposite principle was first maintained, the Colonization Commissioners found it necessary, after a short trial of the experiment, to apply to Parliament for an Act, which has authorised the application, even there, of the land revenue, in the first instance, to the support of the civil government; although, indeed, on condition that the sums so applied should be replaced to the emigration account, when the ordinary revenue of the colony may be adequate to meet that charge.
Without, however, digressing into a discussion which would be misplaced here, it is sufficient for my present purpose to say, that the funds raised by the sale of lands in the colonies will be applicable to the conveyance of emigrants thither, so far, but only so far as that use of the fund may be compatible with a due regard for the pressing and necessary demands of the local governments, for which no other resource can be found. While fully admitting and insisting on the principle, that the Crown lands in the colonies are held in trust, not merely for the existing colonists, but for the people of the British Empire collectively, it is perfectly consistent with that opinion to maintain that in applying the proceeds of the sales to the essential purposes of local good govern-rnent, which must otherwise be unprovided for, the real interest of the empire at large, not less than that of the colony itself, will be best consulted. I shall, however, be happy to find the colonies providing for such purposes of local government by import duties, and other means, thus leaving the produce of the sale of lands free from the promotion of emigration from the United Kingdom.
The instimation, that in South Australia it became necessary to apply part of the land fund to the expenses of government, looks very like an excuse for the violation of any such funds as may hereafter come into the commissioner's hands, and the further intimation that the land-fund will be applicable to the conveyance of emigrants"only so far as that use of the fund may be compatible with a due regard for the pressing and necessary demands of the local governments, for which no other resource can be found,"also opens the door to jobbing. If there exists a sincere desire to preserve the integrity of the principles now solemnly recognized, these clauses in the instructions will not prove any great drawback; but when we consider that Mr. Elliot is or was unfriendly to the principles, we repeat that the passages we have quoted, afford ground for uneasiness.
The instructions then go on to show the several colonies which may be expected to furnish an emigration fund, or more properly speaking, to show the few that will and the many that will not. After showing that the North American and African colonies cannot be looked to for that purpose, the instructions proceed as follows:—
British Guiana, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, the Bahama and the Bermuda Islands, Mauritius, Ceylon, and the Cape of Good Hope, all possess Crown lands of more or less extent, and might all yield some occasions for you to promote the general objects of your Commission. In Trinidad and Guiana, the vacant territory is both extensive and valuable. It is of great extent at the Cape of Good Hope, but for the most part sterile, and unfit for settlement. At Bermuda, the unoccupied land is chiefly a cedar forest, which is probably more valuable for ship-building, than to any other purpose to which it could be devoted.
Thus it appears that the Australian colonies must be the principal field for your operations. Even here, however, it will probably be found than in Van Diemen's Land the great amount of available land has already been granted. But New Holland, and probably New Zealand, contain districts which it is not possible to exhaust by any rational scheme of colonization for a long course of years.
You are aware that an essential distinction prevails between the systems observed regarding the sales of land in South Australia, and in the other British settlements in New Holland. The plan of selling at one uniform price per acre is established in South Australia, while in New South Wales and Western Australia, Government have sanctioned and adopted the plan of sales by auction, at an upset price, now fixed at 12s per acre. On a comparison of these schemes on any perfectly new field of colonization, I should have no difficulty in preferring the South Australian principle. Should new settlements hereafter be formed in the northern or southern divisions of New South Wales, it might conveniently be established there, or in districts of Western Australia remote from the appropriated parts of that colony, or in New Zealand. But to introduce the plan of selling at one uniform price in those parts of the Australian colonies, within which the method of selling by auction has for many years prevailed, would be a change of great apparent difficulty. It would be regarded with strong aversion by the existing proprietors. If the price were uniform, it is obvious that many valuable tracts might be sold far below their value, and the land revenue thereby greatly injured; on the other hand, it is urged with reason, that sales by auction expose the emigrants to vexatious uncertainty, and even to frauds, of which one signal instance has been proved in a court of justice. The whole subject, however, is one which demands careful investigation; some change in our present course I believe to be necessary. I delegate the inquiry to you, and shall be prepared carefully to weigh the resulss of your deli-berations on the subject.
It thus appears that the Colonial Gazette is not far from wrong in saying there is to be really no extension of the principles on which South Australia has been colonised. Although Lord John Russell approves of the principle on which land is sold in South Australia,—although he thinks it better than Lord Howick's plan of auction sales; yet, to introduce the better plan in New South Wales would be attended with "apparent difficulty." Thus, then, in Lord John Russell's eyes "apparent difficulty" is to outweigh certain advantage, and all that is held out to the anxious friends of sound principles is contained in the proposition that" should new settlements hereafter be formed in the Northern and Southern divisions of New South Wales, it might conveniently be established there, or in districts of Western Australia, remote from appropriated parts of that colony, or in New Zealand."
This, then, is at least satisfactory, that the colony of New Zealand is to enjoy the advantage of the principles in common with South Australia; but beyond this, there is—spite of the grandiloquent boast of the Record—no extension of the principles. Why the whole of the Australasian Colonies should not be brought within one uniform system it would be hard to say. Nay, search the instructions, and no weightier reason can be found than an "apparent difficulty." What is the difficulty?—let it be stated, —let us examine it. If it be only "apparent," it is no difficulty at all. If it be real, let it be conquered. When, however, we see the go-bye given to principles of acknowledged soundness, with reasons no better than the "Whereas it is expedient" of an Act of Parliament, who can deny that suspicion is justifiable. We ourselves happen to be sanguine, we, therefore, cling to hope, but we are hound to admit that there are strong reasons for the mis-givings of the Colonial Gazette, and but little if any thing to justify the semi-official promises of the South Australian Record.
With regard to the mode of applying the fund, the following declaration is satisfactory:—
There can be little doubt that, other circumstances being equal, the most desirable emigrants would be young married couples without children. Great anxiety is expressed on this subject in New South Wales; but it is found by experience, that, generally speaking, unencumbered people will not leave their country, and that the encumbered will; and further, that even when young couples without children have said that they will emigrate, they are the most apt to desert at the last movement, and to cause a loss to the colony. Indeed, if the same migratory habits should spring up in the countries of Australia as prevail in those of America, it might be doubted how far it would be for the interest of each individual colony to spend its funds in the introduction of that description of persons who would find it the easiest to wander; certainly it would not be for the interest of any colony which enjoyed labour at a rate at all lower than its neighbours. For the present, however, it may be taken for granted, that the Commissioners should aim at sending out young people with few children, having always a due regard to other qualifications
With regard to the last subject embraced by tbe instructions, namely, "the rendering periodical accounts," we record the following extract, chiefly because it may be necessary hereafter to refer our readers to it.
Waving this topic, therefore, I confine myself to the statement that it would be your duty, as often as occasion may require, or any new or peculiarly important question may arise, to report to me the facts of the case, and every material consideration bearing upon them, in order that I may convey to you, from time to time, the necessary instructions for your guidance.
You will further make twice in each year a report of your proceedings, exhibiting with all practical distinctness the progress of your labours—the results, whether favourable or otherwise, as far as they can be ascertained—the prospects of an increase or reduction in the sale of lands, and in the number of emigrants,—accompanied by any suggestions which you may be able to offer for the advancement of those objects, or for improving the efficacy of the institution, over which you are to preside.
In conclusion, we shall deem it our duty to watch with extreme vigilance the proceedings of the commissioners. Indeed, they must be aware that many eyes are upon them.

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