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

The Resident

page 13

The Resident.

In a few months misfortunes had heaped themselves upon him, and he had come out of the ordeal with his powers of physical and moral endurance strengthened. Fortune still stood by him. As if publicly designating him for his future functions, she put it in the heart of the Governor of "Western Australia to appoint him Resident at King George's Sound in the South-Western division of the Colony. He there succeeded Captain (afterwards Admiral Sir) Richard Spencer, whose daughter he was afterwards to marry, and probably the two events were connected as cause and consequence. It was at once the real start of his career as a colonial governor and the source of a lifelong subsequent grief; so closely do our joys and sorrows nestle together.

His duties in a still uncolonised district, concerned the government of the natives. Grey already held pronounced views on the subject. His sympathies with the so-called lower races were strong. During his journeys of exploration his humanity to the blacks had been conspicuous. He was now to carry his theories into practice. As a boy or, indeed, a man suffering from what physiologists term muscular irritability can be kept out of mischief only by being given something to do, so is it with savages, who are only "children of a larger growth.'' Grey set his savages to work at road-making, and, paying them at (for savages) the high rate of eighteen pence a day, he seems to have got something like continuous labour out of them. Two things puzzle one. How long was he able to carry out an experiment that has failed in so many countries, where, as at the South African gold-diggings, the savage is afflicted with incurable indolence? At this day, in the very country which Grey explored, the blacks are so incapable of continuous labour that they can hardly be got to work save at the crack of the whip, and most of the complaints that have excited the indignation of the humanitarians have arisen out of this inability. Next, what did Grey's blacks do with their eighteen pence? In North-Western Australia, at the present day, they page 14promptly part with their money for tobacco and gin, and the practice of paying them in coin has been disused. Grey claimed that the experiment was completely successful, and he made it the text of a special report to the Colonial Office on the method of dealing with uncivilised races. He was already occupied with the subjects that were to engross his attention in future years. We are reminded of Sir Arthur Wellesley who, when in military service in India, sent long reports to the East India Company in London on the government of its dependency.

In his report Grey laid down two principles, both notable in themselves and remarkable as having been carried out by Grey himself in South Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. First, the Australian blacks must be recognised and treated as British subjects in the fullest sense. District residents should be appointed, who should protect the blacks against their fellows and even against their own customs, which were to be superseded by British laws, wherever these could be applied. As afterwards in New Zealand, counsel should be retained by Government to defend them. Next, the blacks should be educated and trained in habits of regular industry. Grey was himself his own ideal resident and industrial captain.