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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, May 02 (1840)


The Poor-Relation Interest.

In this happy country every thing is managed—every thing determined by its bearing on some section of the community. If you have a measure of general utility to work through Parliament, you cannot stir a peg until you have weighed the various interests affected, and if you can succeed in showing that you have a clear balance of sectional interests in favour of your measure, be assured that your business is as good as settled.
When the new Poor Law came into operation, a quarterly legal periodical pronounced it good, because it had not diminished the number of briefs, and announced with undisguised satisfaction, that, as far as the interests of "the profession" were concerned, the new Poor Law had worked well.
These separate interests sometimes work against each other humorously enough. Some two or three years ago, for instance, the people of the Poultry and other narrow streets in the city, took strong measures against what they called the "omnibus nuisance." Some worthy brought a Bill into the House of Commons to restrain the "omnibus nuisance;" the inhabitants of the Poultry supported the measure by the weight of their influence, and the public might have been stripped of half of the convenience of having an unrestrained current of omnibuses from East to West, had not the "omnibus interest," or some friend of the omnibus interest, got up a counter-movement against the "Poultry nuisance." Some wag undertook to show that the real nuisance was in the narrowness of the Poultry, and that if public convenience were to be consulted, it would not lead to the suppression of omnibuses, but rather to the destruction of the Poultry—a thoroughfare quite inadequate to the traffic. The great omnibus interest, backed by public convenience, prevailed, and we think the Poultry nuisance much more likely to he done away with than any other.
Take any question which may be brought forward, and it will be found that it is ultimately decided by the balance of class interests. The general interest of the public is wholly lost sight of, and all we hear is of the worship of what Bacon calls the idols of the tribe, or class interests.
Of all these interests, that which most influences colonial affairs is what we call the poor-relation interest. Most of our Colonies furnish a considerable number of paltry places, not worth the acceptance of any man of sense and feeling; but, nevertheless, admirably fitted to the numerous tribe of poor relations attached to the train of the Colonial and Foreign Office authorities. These insignificant personages are seldom heard of themselves, but their great relation in Downing-street is their representative, and they feel every assurance that their interest is perfectly safe in his hands.
When South Australia was first colonized it was quietly hinted to the promoters that they must secure the good will of the Government by "throwing a little patronage into their plan." What was the meaning of this? Clearly to satisfy the demand of the poor-relation interest, and to neutralise opposition from them. But no patronage was thrown in, and the opposition of the poor-relation interest was fierce enough to threaten the total loss of the measure. However, after all sorts of delays, the Bill was passed, and South Australia was founded on the principle of costing nothing to the mother country, and of furnishing but few places to the poor-relation interest.
No sooner had they suffered the South Australian Act to pass, than they found out their mistake, and they have been busily employed ever since in preventing the extension of so dangerous a principle as the self-supporting principle.
It is the poor-relation interest, and nothing else, which has stood in the way of the recognition of New Zealand;-it is the poor-relation interest which is at the bottom of those pieces of meanness and dishonesty which we have so frequently pointed out; it is the poor-relation interest which will continue to thwart the systematic colonization of New Zealand, until other and more powerful interests shall overwhelm it; and powerful, indeed, must those interests be, which succeeds against the poor-relation interest. The poor-relation interest works by secret influences, and in dark places. It is intimately connected with the great chambermaid interest, and others of a similar character. It lurks in bedchambers and boudoirs, and is familiar with places where upright men scorn to enter.
Its opposition to the systematic colonization is not to be wondered at. If half-a-dozen Colonies could be established on the self-supporting principle—the principle of no expence to the mother-country—it we had half-a-dozen Colonies, the names of which never appeared in the estimates, does any one believe that the people of this country would consent to pay millions for the benefit of the poor-relation interest? They would say, South Australia—New Zealand—Natal—cost us nothing; why should Canada?-Nova Scotia—the West Indies cost us so much? The first support themselves—why should not the last? And the last will support themselves, too, but they will cease to support the poor-relation interest.
That the poor-relation interest will continue its opposition, to the systematic colonization of New Zealand must be expected, yet, as it is difficult to perceive in what manner Lord John Russell can attach himself to the class, we are „ full of hope that justice, humanity, and sound principles will prevail, and that New Zealand, in strict fellowship with South Australia, will effect the regeneration of the older, and especially of the penal Colonies.

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