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Life of Sir George Grey: Governor, High commissioner, and Premier. An Historical Biography.

Provincial Legislatures

Provincial Legislatures.

Yet some twenty thousand colonists, most of them belonging to a good class and not a few of them men of exceptional ability and culture, could not be kept indefinitely in a state of pupilage. Men like Fox, FitzGerald, Featherston, and Fitzherbert, like the poet Domett, the naturalist Swainson, and the geologist Mantell, like the whole body of settlers in Canterbury and Otago, were the equals and the superiors of the voters in most European countries, and were, perhaps, still more capable of governing than of being governed. Grey was well aware, to his cost, of their moral and intellectual superiority. In many a wordy battle they had shown themselves a match for the Governor and for a still greater than he, the Colonial Minister himself. That minister now authorised his deputy to introduce a measure of local government, and in the Act of 1846 he had himself furnished a pattern. That Act contained provisions for the creation of provincial legislatures and a General Assembly. The General Assembly was dropped for the time, but the Colony was ripe for the creation of provincial administrations. Physical accidents have sometimes diverted the course of public policy or affected the fates of nations. A shower of rain during the French Revolution averted a meditated rising. An earthquake in Wellington, the permanent seat of earth-tremors and earthquakes, precipitated the innovation. In October, 1850, the Governor page 79passed an ordinance establishing Legislative Councils in each of the provinces into which the mode of colonisation had divided the Colony. There were some novel and some reactionary features in the new ordinance. The franchise was liberally granted to the Maoris—at least, to those who resided in settlements where Europeans were in a majority; other electoral districts there were to be none. Leaseholders to a fixed amount and all freeholders were to have votes. Note also that there were to be nominee members appointed by the Governor for two years only; Grey had no objection to nominee members so long as they were nominated by himself. Leading colonial citizens, such as Mr. Stafford, held that the proposed reform was not radical enough. Ahead of their time, they demanded universal suffrage and vote by ballot, two elected chambers, and the removability of the Governor by address of the two houses. These proposals should have commended themselves to the Governor, who in later days advanced further still, but either the Radical in him was not yet full-grown, or else he held that a colonial constitution should not grant political privileges too much beyond those enjoyed by citizens of the Motherland. They were more satisfactory to Earl Grey, who felt that the Governor had "removed all obstacles to the establishment of representative government in New Zealand.''