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

80

The Aborigines Protection Society.

The great object of this excellent society is sufficiently expressed by its name. It seeks for means to prevent the destruction of the Aborigines, which has hitherto invariably accompanied European colonization. Many benevolent men believe that this result is not necessarily attached to colonization. They know that colonization must proceed, and they propose to direct their attention to the problem of making it subservient to the civilisation of the aboriginal tribes.
The following is an extract of so much of their report as relates to New Zealand. We shall recur to the subject from time to time. In another place will be found a report of the latest proceedings of the society:—
The attention of the Committee has been anxiously directed to the subject, already before the British public, of the colonisation of New Zealand, and so far as the interests of the natives of that country are concerned, they cannot but watch with intense interest and vigilant jealousy the result of the Committee of Inquiry in the House of Lords. The Committee cannot but express their satisfaction that such measures of inquiry have been adopted. Anxious that the utmost information should be obtained on the subject, they deprecate any thing like a precipitate eagerness to close the investigation—to frame a report—or to introduce measures for immediate application. In the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Aborigines, dated June, 1837, it was strongly advised that the Executive Government should not give its countenance to any of the schemes for colonising New Zealand till an opportunity should have been offered to both Houses of Parliament of laying before her Majesty their humble advice as to the policy of such an enlargement of her Majesty's dominions.
The investigation made by the present Committee of Inquiry, and the information they will elicit, will all materially tend, it is hoped, not merely to guide her Majesty's Government in the adoption of measures affecting this particular case, but in awakening the attention of many of our most enlightened statesmen to the subject of the coloured races generally, and of the colonisation by British subjects of territories more or less occupied by the coloured races.
The New Zealand case appears to your Committee attended with many difficulties; for the question is not now whether any Colony at all shall be attempted there, for that question is settled by the fact of such large numbers of British subjects being already there, as to demand some legislative interference in the way of control. It will not be friendship to the aborigines to leave them a prey to the unprincipled and lawless, under the plea of the justice that might be done them by the establishment of a British Colony among them. The non-interference has now gone on too long, not to justify and demand immediate interference. Too many wrongs have been connived at, not to enforce the imperative necessity of immediately interposing some power that may check them for the future, even though it should prove inadequate to indemnify the sufferers for the past. The remarks made by the Parliamentary Committee, already noticed in reference to the South Sea Islands, appear to your Committee exceedingly just and appropriate. "Hitherto the various Governments of Christendom have respected the rights of the native chieftains; and no attempt has been made to subject the islanders to the dominion of an European state. It is impossible to approve this forbearance. Great Britain will not, it is hoped, ever exert her power to destroy the political rights of these comparatively feeble and defenceless people; yet it cannot be denied that their national independence cannot be consulted without some immediate injury to their social welfare. British merchants, seamen, and runaway convicts from our Australian Colonies, are enabled to commit crimes with impunity in the South Sea Islands, because we regard them as foreign states; while yet they are destitute of the resources by which other independent powers defend themselves and their people against outrage and wrong. The ultimate consequences are already foreseen. A new race of buccaneers will appear in the southern ocean, under whose oppression the natives will sink, while they will make war on the commerce of mankind at large."
All these remarks apply with the utmost force to New Zealand; which, from its extent, its population, the character of its inhabitants, its productiveness, and the number of Europeans already irregularly settled there, offers a theatre of dangers which no friend to the aborigines can overlook, and no Minister of the British Crown can safely despise.
Still, however, to afford protection to the natives while forming colonies among them, without compromising their independence, and involving their ultimate depression, poverty, and ruin, appears to your Committee a problem of vast difficulty yet to be solved. In no part of the world can it be expected that the aborigines should be able to compete, in agriculture, trade, or commerce, with their intelligent and enterprising visitors and settlers. The soil and the power, the wealth and the authority will inevitably pass into the hands of the more industrious, when the two races come so immediately in contact. Laws may be framed with the most benevolent intentions to protect the aborigines, amidst such perilous circumstances, from violence and ill-usage, while yet they would become the victims of the crafty, the designing, and the unprincipled, whose intercourse with them would be so studiously managed that, while the perpetrators of wrong might elude the vigilance or escape the penalties of the law, the aborigines, in the language of a celebrated Miami Cacique, quoted by Sir H. Head, in reference to the red inhabitants of North America, "would melt like snow before the sun."
Such a view of the subject does not arise out of any obviously essential defects in the proposals and suggestions the arrangements of the New Zealand Association at home. The Aborigines Protection Society is satisfied that there is much in the known public character of the members of that Association, as a body, to guarantee the honour and the integrity of their professions. The ground of their apprehensions and distrust is, the past history of colonial establishments, combined with a conviction that the spirit of competition and enterprise that must be created to insure success, cannot but effect the speedy deterioration, diminution, and final destruction of the Aborigines.
It is not the object of this Society to create difficulties in the way of emigration and colonisation. They cannot contemplate without satisfaction the extension, on just and liberal principles, of colonial establishments, under the paternal sway of an enlightened British Government, as a means of relief to the unemployed portion of our home community, and offering new sources of industry, trade, and commerce. At the same time, the Society cannot look without deep anxiety on the fate of the Aborigines in countries, which, although but thinly occupied with a native population, may be yet intended to be made the seats of British colonisation.—p. 20.

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