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

Chapter XI. — Governor of New Zealand—continued

page 86

Chapter XI.
Governor of New Zealand—continued.

The Churechman.
His Relations with Bishop Selwyn.

In 1845 Mr. Gladstone, who had succeeded Lord Stanley as Secretary for the Colonies, wrote to Grey, who had just been appointed Governor of New Zealand, introducing to him George Augustus Selwyn, whom Gladstone had known at Eton. Selwyn had been for three years Bishop of New Zealand—its first and long its sole bishop —and he was already playing a conspicuous part in the affairs of the Colony. It was of vital importance that two such high officials should harmoniously co-operate on all questions where the spheres of Church and State overlapped or intersected, and Gladstone expressed the hope that there would be "a general concurrence of judgment" between two such men in all matters of public importance. The hope was realised. During the whole of both of Grey's terms in New Zealand the Governor and the Bishop thought and planned, felt and acted in unison. Seldom before had the secular and the spiritual powers been so united. When the Treaty of Waitangi was believed to be imperilled by the action of Earl Grey, and the secure tenure of their lands by the Maoris was placed in jeopardy, Selwyn strenuously concerted measures with the Governor and the Chief Justice to avert the calamity. On all things affecting the interests of the natives they were at one. It was, indeed, the chief sphere of the activity of both. During Grey's first term the Maoris formed the great majority of the population, and the immigrant white element was comparatively unimportant. Consequently, the Governor was governor mainly of the Maoris, and the Bishop was largely bishop of the Maoris.

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On the government of the Maoris the Governor confessed that he often took counsel with the Bishop.

Both being men of culture, of high talent, and of strong character, they became fast friends and close associates. More than once they traversed on foot the difficult country, some six hundred and fifty miles in length, between Auckland and Wellington, scaling mountains, fording rivers, and threading forests in company, and in the houses of Maori chiefs they were often joint guests. Together they voyaged in the Pacific. They grew to be firm allies, naturally lending one another aid in times of trouble. When the great trial of his life came—the apostasy of the Maori race—Selwyn did not forsake his old converts, but continued to minister to them in war as in peace, while Grey strove to suppress the Hau-hau movement; and when, in 1863, Grey was assailed on all hands during the Waikato war, Selwyn wrote to him urging him to "uphold the right calmly and firmly against the weakness, the impatience, and the ignorance of men." But for the interlude of Grey's High Commissionership in South Africa, their terms of office in New Zealand would have been nearly synchronous. Selwyn arrived in the Colony a few years earlier and remained in it a few months later. To the last Grey spoke of Selwyn with affection, and after Selwyn's death the tears started to his eyes at the mention of the heroic prelate's loved and honoured name.

A Church Constitution.

All his days Grey was strongly opposed to the State establishment of religion, and he reckoned it as one of his achievements that he had prevented the creation of State Churches in South Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. None the less, he was always, at least in profession, a staunch churchman, and it was only natural that, with his contriving brain and his passion for building up, he should busy himself with the affairs of the branch of the Church of England in the Colony. According to his own account, repeated by Bishop Selwyn, he was lying on a sickbed at Taranaki in the month of June, page 881852, when he drafted a constitution for the Church. There is no room for doubt about the fact. Selwyn admitted that the first draft of the constitution was prepared by Grey. "I believe I have now in his handwriting," he told the assembled Synod, the document "upon which the Church is founded." And he confessed that Grey had given the Church its "outward framework." Grey constantly claimed the paternity of the ecclesiastical, as he did of the political, constitution. His claim has been disputed, and the historian of the Church does not admit it. Touring the Australasian colonies a few years ago, Bishop Welldon was "shown in Auckland the little chapel in which Selwyn drew up the constitution of the Church of New Zealand,'' and he asserts that that church, "in its charter as in its character, still retains the impression of his mind."

Its Authorship.

To neither Grey nor Selwyn can the authorship of the new ecclesiastical constitution be plausibly assigned, at least without qualification. Ecclesiastical, like political, constitutions are not created; they are evolved, and it took five years for Grey's embryo to grow into a fully formed organism. Sir George Grey addressed a letter to Earl Grey, enclosing a copy of his draft constitution, explaining the necessity for such organization, and diplomatically defending it in advance against the possible charge of disloyalty to the Church of England. That church, fashioned by the State and possessing little of the flexibility of Nonconformist organizations, was not well adapted for transplantation. Yet a local government of some kind was indispensable, and a constitution was therefore necessary. Grey did not conceal the source of his inspiration. He admitted that his "outline of a plan of church government" resembled "in many points that which we are informed has proved so beneficial to our brethren in America." In later life he openly avowed that he had taken his model from the Episcopal Church in the United States. The letter was signed by hundreds of Anglican members. In order to carry its proposals page 89into effect, public meetings were held in all the settlements to consider the "general principles of a constitution for the Church in New Zealand." A commission or committee was appointed to frame a constitution. When we read the list of the commission,, we can imagine something of the process of evolution the institution went through. Among the clergy, besides Selwyn, there were Bishop Harper, head of the new diocese of Christchurch, Mr. Abraham and Mr. Hadfield, first and second bishops of Wellington, William Williams, afterwards Bishop of Waiapu, and his more famous brother, Archdeacon Henry Williams. Among the laity there were such men as Sir Edward Stafford, Sir Frederick Whitaker, both subsequently Premiers of the Colony, and Mr. Swainson, the very able Attorney-General of the infant Dominion in pre-constitution days. Is it credible that men of such talent and forcefulness of character, little given to passive acquiescence in any man's doings, should, in such a matter, have submissively followed another man's lead? We may be sure that every principle and every detail, every clause and almost every word, were objects of keen scrutiny and prolonged discussion. Grey may have laid down the foundation; others reared the pile. His was the sculptor's hand that deftly moulded the clay model; the others were the master-workmen who carved the finished statue.

Take it as we will, the constitution is to Grey an additional title to fame. It has won high repute. An Australian bishop has spoken of the Anglican Church in New Zealand as "the best-organized church in the Anglican communion throughout the world." In Australia, Canada, and elsewhere it has been accepted as a pattern. Some of its laws and regulations, it is stated, have been adopted by the Church of England. It was one of the earliest reactions of a colony on the Motherland.