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An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand

Memorandum by Ministers on Native Government

Memorandum by Ministers on Native Government.

The two despatches of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated the 26th of April and the 26th of May, 1864, and numbered 43 and 65, have received the careful consideration of His Excellency's Responsible Advisers.

There are several matters in these despatches which will probably hereafter require notice, but at present His Excellency's Advisers desire to confine themselves to one point of vital and paramount importance. The despatch of the 26th of May contains the following passage: "But it is my duty to say to you plainly that if, unfortunately, their [Ministers'] opinion should be different from your own as to the terms of peace, Her Majesty's Government expect you to act upon your own judgment." Ministers beg most respectfully to recall to mind briefly what has taken place during the last two years on the subject of responsible government in the administration of Native affairs. In the session of the General Assembly held in 1862, both Houses strongly represented, in an address to Her Majesty, the then state of the colony, strongly remonstrated against being compelled to accept responsibility in Native affairs, and respectfully declined to undertake the task. Responsibility from that time rested with His Excellency the Governor, who consented to act in the spirit of the resolutions of the two Houses, until further instructions from the Secretary of State should reach him.

His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, in his despatch of the 26th of February, 1863, No. 22, in communicating the decision of Her Majesty's Government on the addresses of the Houses of Assembly, states that "Her Majesty was pleased to receive them very graciously, but has not commanded me to recall the decision communicated to you in my despatch of the 26th of May [1862], with respect to the administration of Native affairs." And His Grace further states that the Home Government has resigned the management of Native affairs, that "the relinquishment does not require the assent of the colonists to make it effectual," and that "it is completed by the act of the Home Government." His Grace then goes on to define the position of the Governor in these words: "Your constitutional position with regard to your Advisers will (as desired by your late Ministry) be the same in regard to Native as to ordinary colonial affairs: that is to say, you wall be generally bound to give effect to the policy which they recommend for your adoption, and for which, therefore, they will be responsible. I say, generally, because there remain several contingencies, in which it will be your duty to act upon your own judgment in opposition to theirs. You would be bound to exercise the negative powers which you possess by preventing any step which invaded Imperial rights, or was at variance with the pledges on the faith of which Her Majesty's Government acquired the sovereignty of New Zealand, or in any other way marked by evident injustice towards Her Majesty's subjects of the Native race. In the interests of the colonists themselves, you might feel yourself bound, under conceivable circumstances, to appeal from your Government to the General Assembly, and from the General Assembly to the constituencies, in case the policy recommended for your acceptance appeared to you clearly disastrous. You would be bound to judge for yourself as to the justice and propriety of employing, and the best mode of employing, Her Majesty's forces. In this matter you might of course fortify yourself by taking the opinions of your Ministers, but the responsibility would rest with yourself and the officer in command."

In the session of the General Assembly of 1863, being the next following the receipt of the Secretary of State's despatch of the 26th February, the House of Representatives unanimously passed the following resolutions: "That this House—having had under its consideration the despatch of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated the 26th February, 1863, conveying the fixed determination of Her Majesty's Imperial. Government to revoke the arrangements of 1856, and for the future to require the colonists to undertake the responsibility of the management of Native affairs—recognizes with the deepest gratitude the great interest which Her Most Gracious Majesty has always taken in the welfare of all races of her colonial subjects, and the thoroughly efficient aid which Her Majesty's Government is now affording for the suppression of the rebellion unhappily existing, and the Imperial establishment of law and order in the colony; and, relying on the cordial co-operation of the Imperial Government for the future, cheerfully accepts the responsibility page 97thus placed upon the colonists, and at the same time records its firm determination to use its best endeavours to secure a sound and lasting peace, to do, justice impartially to both races of Her Majesty's subjects, and to promote the civilization and welfare of all classes of the inhabitants of these Islands." The Legislative Council passed a similar resolution by a majority of 15 to 1.

A clear, definitive arrangement as to the conduct of Native affairs was then come to between Her Majesty's Imperial Government and the General Assembly of New Zealand, which it is most respectfully submitted it was incumbent on both parties to adhere to.

His Excellency's Responsible Advisers cannot, however, but feel apprehensive that the passage they have quoted from Mr. Cardwell's despatch of the 26th May may be made as capable of an interpretation subversive of this arrangement, and, if fully acted on, involve the resumption of the administration of Native affairs in matters of the most vital importance to the colony. It is clear that that passage, read alone, bears such an interpretation; but it appears to His Excellency's Advisers that the sentences following that quoted qualify it, and are intended to operate as instructions as to the manner in which His Excellency is intended to act upon his own judgment should he differ from his "Responsible Advisers. This reading renders Mr. Cardwell's despatch harmonious with, arid not, as it otherwise would be, antagonistic to, that of the Duke of Newcastle. Under his Grace's arrangement with, the colony, His Excellency the Governor has recognized negative powers, and he is bound to judge for himself as to the justice and propriety, of employing Her Majesty's forces; but he is not entitled, without the advice of his Ministers, to deal with any question of Native policy; and, if the policy they recommend for his acceptance appears to him clearly disastrous, he may appeal to the General Assembly, and from the General Assembly to the constituencies. The Governor's constitutional position with regard to his Advisers is the same in regard to Native as to ordinary colonial affairs. His Excellency's Responsible Advisers are anxious not to be misunderstood. They do not claim the right to enforce their policy with Her Majesty's Imperial troops—in this respect His Excellency has a negative power, which is not disputed; but His Excellency's Advisers do insist that the Governor has not the right to carry out a policy of his own, irrespective of his Responsible Advisers. The despatch, of the Duke of Newcastle, of the 26th of February, clearly abandons any such right, and the despatches from Mr. Cardwell cannot be accepted as reviving it.

Her Majesty's Secretary of State may fully rely that His Excellency's Ministers are animated by a just sense of the exertions and sacrifices which have already been made by the Mother-country for the colony, and that, on colonial grounds, they are as anxious as the Governor can be to terminate the present hostilities. Practically, no difference of opinion as yet exists between His Excellency and his Advisers, and they trust it may not arise; but as a feeling has arisen in the colony, since the receipt of Mr. Cardwell's despatch of the 26th of April, that it is the intention of the Imperial Government to subvert the existing arrangement as to the administration of Native affairs in some matters, and these of the highest importance to the colony, His Excellency's Advisers deem it to be an imperative duty to place on record without delay their protest against the introduction of a new form of government, under which Native affairs would be administered partly by His Excellency and partly by his Advisers —in fact, two Governments for the same affairs, which not only would not always aid one another, but which would sometimes act at cross purposes with each other, rendering it quite impossible that Her Majesty's Government could be advantageously earned on under such a system: a system far worse than that which the Duke of Newcastle pronounced a failure, and which could not but operate mischievously, alike to both Imperial and Colonial interests.

Ministers request that His Excellency will be pleased to transmit a copy of this memorandum to Her Majesty's Secretary of State.

Fredk. Whitaker.

Auckland, 2nd August, 1864.