Object #1012346 from MS-Papers-0032-0159
From: Letters - Francis Dillon Bell to W Fox & W Gisborne, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0159 (9 digitised items). Nine letters written from London and Dunedin, 1869-1870 (some undated)
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Office of The New Zealand Government Agency
3, Adelaide Place, King William St. London
28 January 1870
My dear Fox
We arrived at Marseille at the due date. We had intended to go to Brindisi; but when at Alexandria we got news that Mont Cenis was blocked up by snow and that it was very uncertain whether the mail would get through that way, so we came on to France.
I need not tell you we have seen people and learnt a good deal of what has been going on. But it is impossible to write about it all by this mail. In the first place we have not had a moment to ourselves, and in the next I for one have hardly been able to gather a clear notion yet of anything, and I hesitate to send first hasty impressions so long a way. You must have patience till next month, and the February mail will take you as much in the shape of news as I can possibly scrape together.
Lord Granville sent for us to see him yesterday. I do not doubt that the official letter you will get with this, will be a disappointment to you all. The first intelligence from us will have been looked for, and we give you nothing. But I hope you will see we are right. Lord Granville led the talk at once to the main issues, we were quite prepared to be told that on the one chief point of the troops Ministers had made up their minds, and that no change
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would be made in their decision. After first platitudes we had to choose the kind of intercourse we were to have with Ld Granville. He offered us the most open sort if it were to be "conversation" and confidentially kept: we might then meet on the terms of not fearing what we said. It will not need that I should tell you we saw plainly what was intended. There had been a great agitation, headed by Grey, Sewell, and others of our friends; this had taken a shape hostile to the Ministry; we, coming fresh on the scene with actual authority, might throw ourselves into it, and "bring public opinion to bear" just at the meeting of Parliament. Was Lord Granville to be on his guard against us, or not? We decided without hesitation to make such a feeling impossible. Instructed as our first duty to endeavour to renew friendly relations with the English authority, we were very glad to be able to talk freely and openly on both sides; and it is certain that we established in a very short time that kind of intercourse which, whatever it ends in, will at any rate give us infinitely the best chance of success, if success is to be got at all. These terms were obviously, however, compatible only with a present secrecy. Not that you are to suppose for a moment that this will last. We shall almost immediately be able to put so much of what takes place between us on record as we mutually agree shall be recorded; and I anticipate no difficulty whatsoever as to such agreement But to send immediately across the world the conversation we had, without the time or means for revising the accuracy of our rendering, would simply have made such a conversation as we had impossible: and therefore, as between not having it at all and having it without reporting it to you today, we could not hesitate for one
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moment. But even if there had not been made in the first ten minutes the agreement that what passed should be confidential and secret for this mail, we could not have sent you any account of what passed. In the long time we were with Lord Granville we travelled over an immense extent of ground, in a spasmodic, irregular, intermittent way. Knowing that we were able to speak without the chance of after question, we all three allowed ourselves to meander through the story we had before us; and were all indifferent whether we were exactly correct on one point, or gave a contestable colour to another.
The one object we had was to set about establishing an Entente Cordiale, and we effectually satisfied each other in doing it. Now you will easily see that an attempt to reduce such a conversation to writing and record was impossible independent of our intention not so to reduce it. Neither of us, I think, could have succeeded if he had tried ever so hard, and it is best we did not try. But this much may be said. Lord Granville showed, on the one hand, an intimate knowledge of what had been going on in New Zealand; but on the other seemed certainly struck by the presentation of this in an aspect novel to him. Whether we made an actual impression or not it would be difficult to say, considering what a reputation he has for diplomacy. Quiet, and lively at the same time, as sharp as a needle to prick a flaw, and yet without a shade of arrogance, he impressed us very much with the notion of great ability and power; but there can be no doubt, as I said, that there were phases of the relations between the Government and the natives which he had not looked at it the same light before the interview: and unless the whole Cabinet has irrevocably
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decided that come what may it will do nothing, I see as well as Featherston no ground to despair.
It has-been a most fortunate thing that, as I have already written to you, Featherston and I have been absolutely united in our views of what we should do. Had there been any differences betweeen us, they would have come out very quickly before so practised a politician as Ld Granville, and, he must have gained an immediate ascendancy over us both. Happily our talk rolled on promiscuously, either Featherston or I taking up the thread as chance would have it, and with that confidence which depends on starting from the same platform. Lord Granville told us that one reason why the Ministers would be disposed to place reliance on what we said, and why we might rely on knowing all their minds frankly, was that we had been thoroughly looked up at the Colonial Office, and that we were both well known as friends of the natives; so that it was felt we would at any rate wish to deal generously by them.
We were much at a disadvantage by the want, on the very first occasion after our leaving you, of a telegram from Galle. The Times and all the morning papers yesterday published their press telegrams from Ceylon of the arrival of the Malta there with the Australian January mail, and of news from New Zealand continuing of a more pacific character, and especially that the Kingites had joined our forces against Te Kooti. Lord Granvelle had no telegram from Sir George Bowen; and just when we might have been able to give the true interpretation to this news, we were under the immense disadvantage of the latest intelligence being of a kind to prove that no assistance by the Imperial Government was necessary or even advantageous. It is of no use my again pressing upon you the danger, which I so constantly represented to you before we left, of letting us be
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without a telegram from Galle. We shall not be long enough in England to gain any object by renewing our petition for telegrams every mail, and if you have not already gone on sending them we cant help it. But I must say that we fully relied on having this latest news at our command
and as for the cost of transmitting it, why it will not bear a moment's comparison with the advantage it would give us, would have given us just yesterday when Lord Granville was eager to know about the press telegram's reliability, and when we were there like stuck pigs.
I have not time before the mail closes to touch on other matters, and indeed, as I said above, I couldn't give you a clear notion of them, not having one myself. In all probability, however, you will see Chapman and Sewell before the next mail reaches New Zealand. They sailed a day or two ago in the Somersetshire s.s., which you know makes fast passages; and I expect they will be with you early in April. They will tell you, since they were here during all the time and Sewell had such a great hand in the agitation himself, not only what was done but what it resulted in; and you must wait for any opinion of ours as to this result. But for my own part I am satisfied that instead of helping New Zealand, the row that there has been for some months past has done us a good deal of mischief, and would have made the Commission a great difficulty if the sudden collapse of the agitation consequent on the failure of last month's deputation to Lord Granville had not smoothed our path. If you want to make an agitation unpalatable and unsuccessful, you will try and make it ridiculous; and there is no doubt that the deputation to Lord Granville was a ridiculous failure. We had Sir Charles Rooking Carter's account of it; very funny, and I dont wonder that Lord Bury "made haste" and ran
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away from his committeemen and his society as fast as he could. Sir George Grey still keeps the ball rolling, however: he had two great meetings the day before yesterday, with letters from Carlyle and Tennyson; but the irrepressible Johnson moved amendments calling on the Queen, Lords and Commons to "resign" and the Times and other papers came out with sharp satire on the Emigration movement promoted by the Emign. League I daresay that by the time the next mail leaves I shall know something more than I do now of the ins and outs of this affair, but at present it is acting as a damper upon anything we as Commissioners may have to do about immigration to our own place.
Of course Colonel Maude has been to see us, and brought his bundle of papers and his schemes: of course Ligar late of Victoria has "offered his services" (so has the Commissionaire at the corner, an institution new to me, with his one arm, his green uniform, and his medals): and of course we shall have Bartle Frere soon. Now that Knowles is to come, we should like him quick, on account of answering applications; I have already disposed of a lot without more to do than burning them.
Gisborne's gas wont do. Morrison writes to you about it. I told Gisborne it never could be done for the money, before I left; but I hope he will be satisfied now. Nevertheless the offer Morrison has may be shaped into something before the next mail.
Clifford writes to us advising a high tone and sticking to the troops question as an indispensible first thing to be settled. We shall have lots of suggestions, and the more the merrier: only dont expect us to communicate them all to you.
Let us know at once, by return, whether you expect us to stay in England. Supposing we can get nothing from the Imperial Govt., we might as well go home at once: but, of course, we shall at any rate wait for orders after you shall have received our next letters.
Believe me always,
F. D. Bell
The Hon. W. Fox etc. etc. etc.
Letters - Francis Dillon Bell to W Fox & W Gisborne, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0159 (9 digitised items)
Series 1 Inward letters (English), Reference Number Series 1 Inward letters (English) (14501 digitised items)
McLean Papers, Reference Number MS-Group-1551 (30238 digitised items)
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