Mr. R. Stout, M.P.C.,
At the Forbury
Mr. R. Stout, M.P.C., addressed his constituents at the Forbury School-house on Friday, 6th inst. Mr. Rutherford was in the chair. There were about 80 electors present.
Mr. Stout said that he appeared before them that evening because he always considered that it was the duty and privilege of a representative to address his constituents, in order to give an account of the trust which they had reposed in him. If it should happen that he and his constituents disagreed, then it would be the duty of such representative to retire from his position. It was more particularly the duty of a politician to meet his constituents on the present occasion, in view of the impending changes which were about to be carried out. If the Provinces were abolished he intended to retire from political life, and in such case his present address might be regarded as being his farewell speech to them. He therefore thanked them now for the many kindnesses which he had received at the hands of the electors of the Cavcrsham district. He would have to ask their attention for a somewhat longer time than usual that evening, in order that they might come to a rational conclusion on the various schemes which were at present before the public of the Colony. There was no greater curse to New Zealand than apathy on the part of electorates. Many would remember the stand taken in the year 1870 against the grand scheme introduced by Mr. Vogel; many protested against it—not that the scheme was bad in itself, but that in one involving such grave changes the people should be consulted, and calmly discuss the matter. But unfortunately they did not do so, but said, "We will have no discussion; we want the scheme, and nothing but it." This impending Abolition is the fruit of the action then taken by the electorate. Had the people shown a firm front when that change was first introduced, and told their legislators in the Assembly that they would not allow it, they would not now behold a scene in the New Zealand Parliament which was not to be found elsewhere, namely, a Parliament without an Opposition. Schemes involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands passed in a single night without criticism or discussion. This was one of the many things from which the electorate had to suffer in consequence of its not discussing these measures as they should have been. If those whom the people in Otago termed obstructionists had their way, and some scheme adopted for the purpose of securing to it its own revenue, and providing for financial separation, they would not have suffered as they had done in past years, and as they should suffer in the future. Before dealing with General Government politics he would allude to what took place in the Provincial Council during its last session. When the Council met, Mr. Reid was in office. The schemes which he brought down in reference to the proclamation of Hundreds, and also the selection of blocks of land for deferred payments, were approved of. Nothing was opposed until the Estimates came on for consideration; then a cry arose about turning out the Government. The Opposition comprised many of the members for Southland, who thought that their district was being slighted. The question at issue was not one of principle, but one of the distribution of money throughout the various districts. It was this which led to the defeat of the Reid Government. He was not going to mention names, as he always wished to avoid personalities. The Reid party, however, again returned to power, and of course they all now knew who constituted the Executive. It was unfortunate that the Reid Government should have been put out on a question in which no principle was involved beyond the mere expenditure of money, as large capital was being made out of it in the General Assembly. He need not point out to them the various bills which had been passed by the Provincial Council during its last session. There was a matter which he had opposed most strongly—that was, the introduction into the Otago Harbour Bill of the vicious principle of nomineeism. He contended that its members should be elected by the people, and not by the Government. He called for division after division, for the purpose of having the principle of nomineeism eliminated from the bill. The Provincial Council, however, was in favour of it, and it was carried. Referring to the land question, he said that he knew many who were then in the room, and who had only recently arrived page 2 in the district, were probably ignorant of its provisions and history. He would point out what had been the nature of the agitation which had taken place in reference to it. He did not intend to deal with the regulation which had been made by Sir George Grey in reference to it, but would come down to the year 1865, when the run holders' licenses having nearly expired, and the Province at that time not being in a good financial position, they offered to give an increased rent for their runs, on condition of the Government granting them an extension of their leases for 10 years, they also offering to give 3s. 6d a head for cattle, and 7d. a head for sheep, which they would depasture on the runs held by them. This was agreed to, and became the Waste Lands Act of 1866, which continued in force until 1869, when an Act termed the Otago Hundreds Regulation Act was carried. It provided that the runholder should be entitled to receive compensation at the rate of 2s. 6d. an acre, and also that the land opened should contain a certain portion of agricultural land. This was not approved of by the Council, which resolved not to open any land under these provisions. Mr. Stout then sketched the history of the land legislation down to the year 1872, and the changes he desired. He had advocated that the landed estate of the Province should not be sold at all, but that they should adopt a State leasing system, as this, he considered, was the only way of effectually preventing a monopoly in land. On the occasion of his speech at Caversham last year, he pointed out some of the benefits which would result from it if carried into effect. Land was not ordinary property, as it was limited in quantity. The earth had been well termed the mother of everything, and being limited in quantity, it must necessarily be a monopoly. Great evils had resulted from it in the Old Country, and they were beginning to make themselves felt in this Colony already. The only way to avoid the evils of landlordism was to adopt a State leasing system. When he first brought this under the notice of the, public he introduced nothing new, as it had been discussed previously by political philosophers. Though he had at first met with considerable opposition in reference to it, the feeling of the people in Otago was now more in its favour. In Victoria Messrs. Higinbotham and Grant, and others, had, in the Assembly of that Colony, supported the principle of the State leasing its lands. If the electors would only consider the matter they would see that the people had the right to the use of the land, and, if put out of it, to be paid compensation for any improvements which they might have effected upon it. This was no new system, as it was carried out by large capitalists on their private estates, and when such was the case, why could not the same thing prevail in the case of the public estate? Ten years ago the flat, there, was worth but little, but it had since risen in value. This was not due to any act of the proprietors, but rather to the whole country. Why, then, should the former get the whole of the benefit? The educational reserves of the Province were also leased. If nothing were done to check the monopoly of land the result would be that it would fall entirely into the hands of the wealthy. In coming to the Colony many of them thought that they were going out of the reach of the evils of landlordism, and of lords and dukes who dictated to people how they should vote. In Canterbury, where the price of land was £2 an acre, large tracts of country extending for 10 or 15 miles, were converted into sheepwalks. He brought this land question prominently before them, because it was one of the main political questions of the day, and one which should not be lost sight of. He pointed out that they should be warned by what had taken place in Victoria on the attempt, in the time of Wilson Gray, to introduce a liberal law. The cry of Free-Trade and Protection was raised, and the land question avoided. Many squatters joined the Protectionists in order to do this He had touched on this question because it led up to something he intended to say in respect to the
And if there was no other objection to it than that it took the whole administration of the waste lands of Otago out of the hands of the people of Otago, that should of itself be sufficient to cause its rejection. He did not exalt the land revenue to the position of first place—the administration of our waste lands was, in his opinion, of as much importance to us the revenue to be derived from them; and this bill took the administration of the waste lands out of the hands of the people, and vested it in the General Assembly, in connection with which there was an Upper House that had done everything in its power to prevent a liberal land bill being passed. (Applause.) But that was not all the bill did, as he would show hereafter. It not only took away the administration of the waste lands, but introduced a most vicious system, that of allowing the people to be governed by nomineeism. He was not, as they would see, opposing this nominee system because it was introduced into the Abolition Bill. He had opposed the same thing as introduced in the Harbour Board's Bill in the Provincial Council, and because, as he stated, he would never consent to nomineeism having anything to do with govern- page 3 ment; therefore he was now simply asserting the same principle that he asserted in the Provincial Council before this question of abolition came up. Now, what did this bill propose? They might say they did not want a Superintendent and Eexcutive. But this bill provided for a nominee Superintendent; and the only difference what they had now and what was proposed was this: At the present time the people elected the Superintendent; under this bill the Governor elected him; and they would even find in the bill that there was a provision for officers in lieu of Executive officers. He (Mr. Stout) quoted the 9th section of the bill, which provided that the functions performed heretofore by the Executive officers should be exercised or performed by any person or persons from time to time appointed for the purpose by the Governor; so that it would be seen they would, even if the bill was passed, have their Superintendent left, and their Provincial Executive left; but with this distinction, that they would have no voice in their election. Therefore, this was another step on the road to this vicious system of nomineeism. With respect to the general phases of the bill, they would remember that last year, when the resolutions were introduced in the House, he addressed meetings at Caversham and at Mornington, and then said two things which were found fault with by the Press. According to the report of his meeting at Mornington he said: "To those who said that they must believe in Mr. Vogel's sincerity when he said he would not touch the Middle Island land fund or abolish the Middle Island Provinces, he would merely ask them to remember Mr. Vogel's action in reference to the capitation allowance, which showed what political exigencies compelled Mr. Vogel to do. Mr. Vogel's proposals for the abolition of the North Island Provinces must end in there being a common purse for the whole Colony. The whole of the lands will be administered from Wellington, and the proceeds of the land will be taken to pay the Colonial debt." Now, he would prove that every word he then uttered, everything he said, had come to pass; but what did the Star say? The Star said this: "We are told that in revenge they (that is, the North Island Provinces) will never rest until Provincialism is abolished in this island. This is the bugbear held up to frighten us, and if we allow ourselves to be terrified by it we shall deserve what will inevitably follow. If Northern Provincialism is maintained, our land revenue will pass from us." So that the Evening Star was so prophetic as to say that there was no intention to abolish the Provinces in the Middle Island, and that the people ought themselves to trust to Mr. Vogel's sincerity and Mr. Reynolds' honesty, and that the abolition of the Provinces in the Middle Island would not be carried out. He (Mr. Stout), however, stated at the time that the Star was making a statement that would within a year be shown not to be a fact, and he now asked the meeting whether he or the Star had been right in their prophetic conclusions as to the future? (Hear, hear.) The Hon. Mr. Reynolds, when he came to Dunedin, stated—and, of course, that gentleman was always very careful what he did say—that there was no chance of the abolition of the Provinces in the Middle Island. In fact, Mr. Reynolds told them that if such proved to be the case, he would retire from the Ministry. (Hear, hear.) Then Mr. Reynolds was asked what guarantee Canterbury and Otago would have that Provincialism would not be abolished in those Provinces. This was his sapient reply: "The guarantee Canterbury and Otago had that their Provincial Governments would not be abolished was, that if their members, and other strong members, opposed the project, a Government could not stand before them for an hour." Therefore, they would see that the question of Provincialism was brought before the people in the Middle Island under the distinct guarantee that whatever happened in the Northern Provinces, in the South it should not be interfered with. That, in fact, was dinned into the people's ears daily by the Press, and by members for Otago who supported abolition in the North; and yet those men now came forward and said that the Middle Island people had never opposed the abolition of Provincialism. But they must acknowledge that the people had been misled on this question, and led to believe, also, that it would not affect the Middle Island people at all. He (Mr. Stout) had said this much to make them cautious of the promises of politicians. The promises of politicians were likened by an American to a Western road, which opened out broad and fair, but ultimately ended in a squirrel track up a tree. That was the type of the promises of a politician of the present day. (Laughter.) Everything was beautiful and fine; everybody was to get lollies; but when they came to guage them they were not what they protended to be. He had brought forward this matter to show that what he said last year had been fulfilled to the letter. Now, it had been admitted that the abolition of the Provinces would confer a boon on the North Island. That, indeed, could not be got over; they might cloak it and endeavour to disguise it as they pleased—the funds of the Middle Island would be taken for the benefit of the North. He did not care how the matter was put. He would guarantee to show any man who would page 4 consent to discuss the question with him—he would, he said, guarantee to show any man, by figures, that such was the fact, and some of the papers had already admitted it. He would quote from the Guardian of last year. First, the Guardian said—"There is no foundation for the rumour at all,"—namely, that the land fund would be absorbed. Then the Guardian also said—"Would it not be better for Otago to have a rich and prosperous neighbour living across Cook's Strait, than a needy and struggling one—a neighbour able and willing to buy its merchandise and produce, and foster and increase its trade?" Well, that certainly was a novel proposition—that in order to get a trade for the Middle Island they must provide the North Island with funds. Let them apply the same proposition to commercial life. Let them take, for instance, a storekeeper who started business on the flat. He had got a small trade, and his neighbours were not able to buy his groceries, but in order to enable them to do so, he went and furnished them with money. (Laughter.) That was precisely the position which the Guardian took up, namely, that the Middle Island should give money to the North Island to enable them to buy their produce. No doubt there would be plenty of buyers, if a storekeeper only furnished his customers with plenty of money. (Hear, hear.) Now, there were two views of
There was the money view and the political or theoretical view. He was willing to meet the Abolitionists on both grounds. He did care whether they took the mere money point of view or what might be termed the theoretical or political point of view; in respect to either, he was prepared to prove that on neither ground should Provincialism be abolished. Let them just look at what might be termed the money point of view. But first, he asked, were the Otago electors to look at every political question from a money point of view? For example, this Abolition Bill had not been introduced as he contended a Constitution Act should be introduced, as a form of government to be placed before the people under which they were to live. It was clogged with money questions. Here the centres of population were treated as in the evil days of ancient Rome. Whenever it was desired to carry a measure in Rome the mass of the electors were bribed by some largesses or bounties. The same thing was attempted by this bill. Municipalities were to get bribes of 20s. and road boards 40s. per £1 on the rate. This system of bribery was adopted in 1870, for Provincialists were told that if they supported the scheme 40s. per head would be given to the Provinces. Next year, however, some charges were taken over by the Colonial Government and the capitation reduced to 15s., and now, if this bill were carried, there would be no capitation at all. This was the way attempts to bribe the electorate were made. No one could read the Colonial Treasurer's statement without seeing that he had tried to bribe Christchurch in respect to the fees and fines. Christchurch did not get what Dunedin got for license fees, &c., neither had they such a large landed endowment as Dunedin possessed. The Municipal Council asked the Provincial Council to give them the license fees and other sources of revenue, but the Provincial Council declined to accede to their demands. The Provincial Council said, "You have got the city, and you can tax yourselves to maintain the streets. Thereupon the Colonial Treasurer stepped in and promised that if the Municipal Council would support abolition he would give them the license fees, &c., and a bonus of £1 for £1 on the rates. That a bribe thrown out to Christchurch and a like bribe was given to the populations of the cities. He said that that was a conclusive argument against those who said that Provincialism in Otago or other parts had been a modified Centralism put up to the injury of the outlying districts, and it was not doing the outlying districts justice. This then was the manner in which the proposal to abolish the Provinces had been introduced. It had been introduced and made a mere money question. The people had been told that if they would only support it they should get £1 for £1, the license fees, &c., forgetting what happened in connection with the capitation allowance—that this bonus for bonus must cease; that the Colony could not afford to give this bonus all round as promised; and next year they would hear of a proposed reduction, as had taken place in respect to capitation allowance. That was the bribery to which he alluded, and that was the reason why he had approached the question from a money point of view. Now let them see how the Abolition question affected them so far as Otago was concerned. Supposing the Provinces to be abolished, what would they save by it? He had already told them that they did not get rid of the Superintendent, nor of the Executive. The only thing they would get rid of by abolition was the Provincial Council; and by getting rid of the Provincial Council they would save some £3,000 or £4,000. All the present political offices must be kept up. First, there was the storekeeper; he had to look after all contracts, and could not possibly be dispensed with. He also acted as Secretary to the Superintendent. Then there were only page 5 two Executive Council clerks—that was all the staff of the Provincial Executive, and if the Provinces were abolished to-morrow, those clerks could not be dispensed with. Additional clerks would have to be employed to conduct the correspondence at Wellington. The Waste Lands Board Department, the Survey Department, and all the other departments of the Provincial Government would have to be increased, and not diminished, because of the additional correspondence that would ensue with the General Government. There was no simplification whatever of the Government functions by abolition; but, on the contrary, there will be a large increase of road board clerks, civil servants, &c., and the cost of the Government to the people would not be diminished, but increased. Therefore all the saving at the first glance—though it was not a saving—was the sum of £3,000 to £4,000 for the abolition of Provincial Councils; and he asserted that, even if it were a saving, it would be better to pay the £4,000 annually and keep the administration of the lands in their own hands. Now, what really did they lose? The appropriation of the capitation allowance was done away with. Their revenue consisted of the capitation allowance, gold export duty, gold-fields revenue (which was estimated at £8,000 only this year), tolls on roads, and their railways, and that was all; and the expenditure on roads and works, bridges, and buildings, exceeded the revenue from the sale of land. Therefore, when they heard people talking about the alleged wasteful expenditure of Provincial Councils, they should recollect that they could prove for themselves by figures that the expenditure on roads, works, bridges, and buildings exceeded the ordinary land revenue.
The Conservation of Our Land Revenue
was made a great deal of; the Provinces were to be split up into shires or road districts, and the road boards were to do very much what the Otago road boards did—although he thought it would be found it meant the maintenance of main roads, too, because shire councils got no additional revenue—had to maintain the main roads. The whole revenue arising from Crown land sales was made a separate account, and out of this account the first thing taken was the interest and sinking fund on loans. That was the first charge made on the land revenue. The interest on our loans was taken out of it; the capitation allowance was formerly sufficient to pay that. The next thing that came out of the land revenue was the pound for pound on rates that were raised in the various districts. At present, 258. was paid to road boards—part was paid by the Provincial Council and part by the General Government. The £1 for £1 for municipalities came out of the Consolidated Fund. Well, that was how the land fund was conserved to them; and this would entail an endless cost on the Colony, because there would have to be separate accounts for each Province. It was the same as if the Caversham people had a large sum of money to spend on public works in the district, after the ordinary maintaining of the roads had been accomplished, and they went to all the road districts and asked where they should spend the money on various parts of the Flat. Now, the land revenue was Otago revenue, and made so by the Colonial Treasurer in his Statement. He stated that the Parliament of New Zealand was to decide where public works in Otago were to be executed, and where Otago money was to be spent. Now, that was at variance with all ideas of government, because it was allowing people not interested in the Province to decide in what portion of the Province money was to be spent. But it was said that by this arrangement our land revenue would be preserved. At the first flush they might think that the land revenue was secured, but it was the same as if they put money into two pockets and did not let one hand know what the other hand was doing. He would take Auckland, which realised from its land revenue £4,713 in 1873-4, and its interest and sinking fund amounted to £47,000. It could not pay its interest out of its loan revenue, neither would it have anything left for public works or road boards. "Oh," said the Treasurer, "that is all very well, but you must put Auckland in an independent financial position." The proposal made was something like Macawber's way of paying debts. When Micawber was in difficulty, he gave a bill; and that was what the Colonial Treasurer proposed when a Province was hard up; that Province must give a bill. The 17th section of the Act provided for the raising of Treasury bills should the land fund be insufficient to meet the land charges made on it. There were several Provinces in the Colony totally unable to pay the interest on their debts out of the loan revenue, but to enable them to do so, Treasury bills were to be raised. The Colonial Treasurer said they should be charged against the land fund, but what would be the use of that? Where was the future land fund to come from? What they were asked to do by the bill was this: That the Provinces unable to pay for their loans, &c., and give money to the municipalities to provide for education and other purposes, should obtain it from the Middle Island. He thought that, sooner than page 6 have this system of separate accounts kept up, and different expenditures, it would have been far more honest if the Government had said the Colony was to have only one purse, and that all Provinces should be dealt with alike. (Hear, hear.) It was simply nonsense to say that the Middle Island revenue was not absorbed. The land fund was just as much taken away by the bill as if the Colonial Parliament had been honest enough to say that they looked upon the Colony as a whole, and intended to put every Province in the same position. Where, then, was their gain? They only saved £4,000 at the most. But it must also be remembered that if the bill was passed they would keep the Parliament in session perhaps eight months in the year, at a very considerable additional cost. Members must be paid double, or perhaps treble, what they were paid now, because they could not expect men to go to Wellington without remuneration, unless they were men of capital. They might have two sets of men—capitalists, and political Micawbers waiting for something to turn up. (Hear, hear.) That would cost an additional sum to be voted; and in consequence of the complication of accounts, also, that would follow abolition, they would not be one whit better off—because these public works must be carried on; and there were the gaols, hospitals, and other institutions. It was simply, as he had already stated, putting the whole Colony on the same level. Those who knew anything about the history of the Colony knew that some had allowed miles and miles of the best lands to pass into the hands of a few capitalists for a few shillings. They should make those persons pay taxes if the Provinces had little revenue. He could show that so far as the bill was concerned, it conferred no boon—that it simply amounted to another way of taking their land revenue; and it would therefore have been more honest for the General Government to have said it was their intention that there should be one common purse, and that they should vote money independent of Provincial sections of the Colony. But the bill was "a sham, a delusion, and a snare." There was no boon given to the outlying districts. Did they expect the diggers were going to form road boards and tax themselves out of the rates? They had tried the county system in Westland, and had failed. The miners of Otago would have formed road boards long ago if they had so desired, and have got their subsidy at the rate of £2 to £1. Not a single digging district had formed a road board, the reason being that, they were better cared for by the Provincial Councils. Where, then was the advantage they were to get from this bill? Now, let them look at it from a financial point of view. He had the Local Government Bill there. It contained 270 clauses, but there was but little difference between it and the present Road Board Ordinance. He then commented upon the bill. There was a further view in which to look at Provincialism. It was that which had been constantly dinned into their ears, namely, that they must get the Assambly to manage their affairs because they would be better managed. He denied that such would be the case. He held that things were better managed by Governments when the eyes were continually on them. They did not expect, for example, when they got members to go to Wellington, that they would vote more in accordance with the desires of the people than if they had met in a Provincial Council. They had not that public opinion here which other Colonies possessed, and which was so necessary for the proper discharge of Government functions. The Otago journals were scarcely ever read beyond the bounds of Otago, and one only saw the other Provincial journals in the Athenæums or at hotels. They had not such a public opinion as tended to keep down those gross abuses to which all centralised Governments were liable—abuses such as had been perpetrated by the Assembly in the disposal of 200,000 or 300,000 acres of land in the North Island to a few individuals for a few shillings, and a monopoly of the finance of the Colony to one bank, that had the Colony's millions lodged in its coffers. The people seemed helpless to got rid of these monopolies. They would not get their affairs better managed alter abolition than now. It had been stated that if they had their affairs removed from local control the greatest purity would exist. The fact was, there was the greatest jobbery and corruption in the biggest Legislatures. Local Governments can manage local affairs best of all. People on the Flat did not require to call the people of Morning-ton or the Taieri to enable them to expend their road rates; but the Colonial Treasurer admitted that in the past it had been practically impossible for they General Assembly to distribute the matter equitably, and that the House had voted money in the interest of localities without any reference to the Colony's necessities. They could not abolish locality-feeling. Indeed, the Colonial Treasurer perpetuated it by keeping up the present Provincial boundaries. Referring to the other point of view in which he proposed to consider the matter, namely, in its
he would say this, that as far as Governments were concerned, there was no such thing as an absolutely perfect system. They should look page 7 at the various surroundings, such as the number of people and the requirements of the country. No one had yet discovered a constitution suitable to ail circumstances. He did not mean to assert that Provincial Governments were the best that could be had, nor the General Assembly either. Governments must grow, not be formed in accordance with theory. The Provincial Governments were more democratic than that of the General Assembly. They heard it continuously urged in favour of the General Government that it tended to unite the Colony, and create a national feeling, whereas Provincialism did not. If such were so, why preserve the Provincial boundaries, as was done in the Abolition Bill? If they desired to keep up this national feeling, why not abolish Provincial boundaries altogether? Indeed, there was nothing to prevent it being kept up under the Provincial system. An inhabitant of Vermont, Ohio, or Maine, was none the less a citizen of the United States. The States, and State Governments, were far more independent and separate than those of the Provinces. They established their own courts, and managed the whole of their civil administration, and possessed far greater powers than the Provinces. It was nonsense to say that Provincial institutions had the tendency to destroy national feeling. To do an injustice to any portion of the inhabitants of this Colony, was far more likely to do so. He then referred to Ireland as being in point, and said its government was taken away by bribery, the same as was now being done with the Provinces. Did the Irish people become national in consequence of its Parliament being abolished? He believed more ill-feeling was engendered by the destruction of it than by any act which the English Government had done in regard to Ireland. (Applause.) When the people of the Southern Island would see their revenues being taken from them, a feeling would arise in it which would do far more to destroy the national feeling and unity than the existence of Provincialism ever would. If they were to sacrifice everything to centralisation, why not carry the principle to its full extent and have one Parliament in Melbourne for the whole of the Australasian Colonies? Then, should they want a sludge-channel at the Hogburn, or a water-race at Tuapeka, they would have to apply there for it. This would simply be carrying the matter to its logical conclusion. He would ask them to look at the question from an ideal point of view. If Sir George Grey's idea was carried out, namely, that of federalism, such would lead to the highest form of government. There was a maxim in biology that if efficiency was required, it would be necessary to have specialisation of function. If they wished to make a man a good bootmaker, they did not seek to do so by teaching him other trades. If they desired to have able lawyers, they would not expect them to be doctors and clergymen as well. So, if they wanted good government, it would also require to have special functions to perform. Mr. Godley, the founder of the Canterbury Province, had even insisted upon the powers of the Legislature being properly defined. He said: "It is essential, therefore, that when the Central Legislature shall have formally abandoned certain powers to the Provinces, from thenceforward all questions of jurisdiction be referred to the Supreme Court of the Colony, and that this Court, moreover, shall be so constituted as not to be, nor even appear, dependent or partial." He regretted that the Canterbury people had not paid more attention to Godley's speeches in this discussion. Speaking on the question of the probable abolition of Provincialism, he said: "As communications become more frequent and easy, and as, in the progress of wealth and civilisation, a leisured class comes into existence, able and willing to make politics a profession, and devote their whole time to such pursuits, it becomes possible and desirable to abolish Provincial distinctions, and to centralise governmental power. The extent, therefore, to which political subdivision should be carried in any political case is quite arbitrary." That federal government was the best form, they need only look to America and Switzerland. In the former country, on the occasion of the secession of the Southern States, they adopted a system of government similar to that under which they had previously lived. It was a great mistake to suppose that one large central government was the best. The larger the central government, the greater the amount of corruption which prevailed. In proof of this they need only refer to the resolutions passed by the Provincial Councils of New Zealand. These were always marked by a much greater degree of liberality than those of the General Assembly. In theory he altogether denied that a central form of government was the best, but asserted the contrary. The mischief attending the administration of distant governments was well pointed out by Godley in the following passage:—"If I were asked what is the main lesson I have learned from my Colonial experience, I would say it was the blighting and ruinous effect of distant government. I stand here myself, the agent of a distant and irresponsible governing body, to say that I think no amount of abilities, no amount of theoretical knowledge, no amount of zeal and disinterestedness, can over approach to compensating for the enor- page 8 mous disadvantage of being without personal interest in its local affairs. It appears to me to be as indisputable as an axiom in Euclid, that 'a country governed from a distance will either be jobbed and tyrranised over, or altogether neglected.'" What was true then was also true at the present time. He would also tell them that with a central government possessing more power they would get more despotism as well. There were many other things to which he might refer, but he would now cut short, his remarks by making a few further observations upon this question. He thought, so far as revenue was concerned, the abolition of the Provinces would not result in any gain to the Middle Island, and had also pointed out some of the evils which would result from the measure being carried out. Notwithstanding what the Star and Guardian had said in regard to the abolition of the Middle Island Provinces, his warning had proved true. They could take his statements against those of the Press, with Mr. Vogel's sincerity thrown in, that if they supported the bill, they would, in return for the bribe offered them, be allowing the whole of their land revenue to be taken away from them, and power removed from their hands. The Christchurch people had supported it, so had Timaru; but the people of the latter district wanted all their own money. This idea of mixing up money matters with constitutional changes was a most vicious one. What would have been thought of it had such been done when the people of England asked for the lowering of the franchise? If they made politics merely a scramble for money, they would do more injury than all the good which national unity could confer upon them. It was degrading politics to do so. What led to political degradation in America? Simply that the Government of a State was looked upon as being a fit. object of plunder. If, instead of desiring to see New Zealand progress, they simply wished to get money from the Government, then they were relegating polities to an ignoble position. If they placed confidence in what he had said, then he would ask them to use their influence among their friends, and demand, before any constitutional changes took place, that they should be calmly and. rationally discussed. They should also demand from the Press that in discussing these questions it should defend its position upon substantial grounds, and not delude the people with the cry of "bonuses for road boards!" while at the same time their money was being filched from them. He besought them that, if they thought what he had stated was fair and reasonable, and not stretched in any way, they should think well before they consented to this inroad upon their Constitution, and which, once sanctioned, they would be utterly powerless to redress. (Applause.) He spoke for about two hours, and after answering a few unimportant questions,
Mr. Barrowman said he looked upon the abolition of Provinces as an agitation having its origin not with the people, but with the Press. Such a proposal should have emanated from the people. This was being forced on them. He then alluded to Mr. Reynolds' speech and to his declaration that the Middle Island Provinces should not be abolished, and moved, "That this meeting disapproves of the Abolition of Provinces Bill, as being a measure not in the interests of the people, nor called for by them." (Applause.)
Mr. M'Indoe seconded, and the resolution was carried without one dissentient.
Mr. Halligan moved, and Mr. Maloney seeonded, "That the Chairman be requested to transmit the resolution to his Honor the Superintendent in Wellington," which was carried unanimously.
Mr. Thomson moved, and Mr. Easton seconded, "a vote of thanks to, and confidence in, Mr. Stout, as the representative of the district," which was carried unanimously.
Mr. Stout returned thanks to the audience for the vote, and for the patient hearing that had been accorded him, and moved a vote of thanks to the chair, which was carried with acclamation. The meeting then dispersed.
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