Object #1021167 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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25 February 1870
My dear Fox
I dont know that I can add anything worth your reading, to the short tale that is told in one official letter by this mail. We have tried hard, but have made not the least impression on the Government. They are very civil, but have clearly made up their minds finally, and so far as we can judge, mean to take away every soldier from every Colony.
The curious part of it is that as far as Canada is concerned no one seems to care a bit about the troops being removed. There is not a sound to be heard of remonstrance from any one connected with that Dominion, and so, though there is an actual insurrection in the Red River settlement, and the Dominion is threatened with secession there, no one seems to care/astraw on either side the Atlantic. Public opinion, therefore, on the general question there is none: and it is, I think, not too much to say that if it were not for New Zealand one would never hear the Colonies mentioned.
We came over here under circumstances very adverse to any success. In the first place Ministers here, besides their majority as a party, have had their position enormously strengthened by many events even since Parliament assembled. Their enemies said it would be impossible for them to devise a satisfactory Land Bill for Ireland: but instead of this being the case, their measure has received all but universal praise, and will certainly be passed without much alteration. The education Bill has been equally successful, and other social reforms promised have put the people in good humour. But
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their great triumph has been in the reduction of expenditure. With or without scruple as to claims, they have been cutting down on all sides, and will show, it, is said, diminutions and savings to the extent of several millions. In the face of such things as these, any Parliamentary pressure upon Gladstone would be impossible even if there were any party to oppose the Cabinet. But Lord Cairns resigned the Conservative leadership the other day, Lord Derby has just refused it from his party, and the Conservative host has no chief, especially as Lord Salisbury, the only next possible man in the Lords, is at daggers drawn with Disraeli. So that the Ministry is supreme, and, to make matters worse, Lowe our great enemy is master of the situation.
I believe if it had not been for Lowe we might have succeeded. Bright's unfortunate illness has deprived us of support should certainly have had: Cardwell, we had full reason to believe, was with us about the temporary detention of a regiment, for he distinctly drew a comparison between the Cabinet's objection in which he concurred to a permanent retention of 1000 men, and the "very different thing" of a merely temporary aid: and we might have gone on from one to the other, making a little way, if Lowe had not been there. We hear that his colleagues mistrust him but they cannot do without him at the Exchequer: numbers of Gladstone's supporters in the House cordially hate him and make no secret of it, yet dare not move. The majority is so assurred and the luck is so strongly with them, that many a man who would gladly be revenged on Lowe is obliged to be quiet lest he should be left out in the cold.
I believe Lowe played a deliberate game, as well. as
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Lord Granville; and that orders of October were hurried out the moment they heard by telegram there were to be Commissioners coming, expressly in order to be able to say (as they all have done) "It's too late, the troops are gone."
Lord Granville tried to induce us to go into other subjects. But we declined, until the troop question should be settled; and now that I fear we must give up all hope about that, I am very much puzzled as to what we ought to do. The Act seems expressly to make any action on our part about a Defence Force contingent on our getting an Imperial regiment for it speaks of such a force as being "in addition" to Imperial troops: but I did not remember these words, and cannot feel sure they were intended by the Assembly to prevent absolutely the raising of a Colonial force here if we failed in the troops. But independently of this, I confess I see no use in going on with the Colonial regiment unless we get the other. We can get as many men as we are likely to want out there, if Te Kooti is really done for as the telegram by Galle two days ago says: and as our only object in getting the 70000£ authority was to meet the reproaches of the Imperial Government if they utterly abandon us we can afford to let them reproach us as they choose.
We (F and I) shall look with extreme anxiety to the reply you make to the October dispatch. Now or never is the time to have no "phrases". You know how entirely I go for the maintenance of the conversion, but even it may be bought too dear. At any rate the moment has come when we shall either have to submit unconditionally to the Colonial office, or to declare that we wont accept such a position as the English Government places us in. We must say whether we will have
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the Maori King recognized or not and although I am one of those who would go to extreme lenghs in favour of letting Waikato have a separate Government, I hope you none of you will ever be seduced into that recognition which the Colonial Office wants. We had a very interesting discussion on this point with Ld Granville, Rogers and Monsell being present. We told him we were having a case prepared to lay before Sir Roundell Palmer. He said that was all right, and he would give us the assistance of the Law officers of the Crown, if we desired it. But when we told him that our object was to determine whether the advice he gave in October was one which could be lawfully followed, he seemed very uneasy We said that it was clear one of two things would come out. Either we had the power to abrogate the Queen's sovereignty, or we hadn't: we could not suppose such a point had escaped him; but we would prefer enquiring for ourselves; meanwhile would he say what he thought about it? He replied that if we would profound a scheme of recognition, the Imperial Government would do everything to give it effect; for instance, if Parliamentary action or an Imperial Act were requisite, one would be got. But then Rogers interposed that it had never been intended for a moment to surrender the Queen's sovereign rights: and then we said that within the scope of our authority under the Constitution we had over and over again offered to give the King reasonable status, but without success, as he wanted his independence to be substantially recognised, and would not be put off with shams. Then if the despatch did not mean such a recognition what did it mean?. We fixed him with Sandford's reply to Sir George Grey, and asked him to read it "affirmatively" instead of negatively as it was put; and then ho wd see that Sandford had really said the "Maori King was to be recognised among such tribes as
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chose to have him; the shadowy words nsed in the October dispatch being there converted into express declaration. We asked whether supposing Parliament were asked to pass an Act for such a recognition, Lord Granville was prepared to insert clauses not merely for the Waikato men, but authorising the recognition of similar "maori authority" in other parts of the N.
island. If so, in what districts, under what conditions, and with what securities to the English colonists? If not, why an exceptional grant to Waikato? And so on. He had a touch of the gout, and I am afraid wished us anywhere but in his room: yet it would be unfair not to mention his studied courtesy and civility. He seemed to have had an idea, from the guarded way we spoke a first, that we really meant to propound some scheme of recognition, and (unless I am much mistaken) they all seemed to snatch at it; but when they saw our drift Lord Granville told us with a little asperity that we seemed only to have raised the question in order to argue against it. We said plainly, that such a recognition of Maori authority as (until lately at any rate) the King required would never be granted by the Assembly; that it would be an outrage on our allies and all the neutral tribes; and that however it might suit the writers of a dispatch to suggest such a thing, they would themselves find it just as impracticable as ourselves to give the suggestion practical effect.
It would take volumes to give you any idea of the talks we have had with people of allsorts, highest as well as nobodies. But we have been complimented on speaking very temperately and quietly, and there are many people most anxious to serve us. Chief among these is Lord Carnarvon. I cannot tell you ow he has behaved to us; what interest and sense of responsibility he feels. Of course he tells us we
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were our own enemies when we refused his offer. But he is so convinced of the injustice of leaving us to get out of the scrape for which the Imperial authorities is jointly answerable; that he means to raise the question in the Lords immediately. We as Commissioners shall be, in a few days, on the verge of the ditch we foresaw. No one dreams of any party action being possible, and Carnarvon will most carefully guard against its being supposed to guide him: but we shall have to choose between telling him to hold his hand, or going into it cordially with him. He had a private conference with Lord Granville two nights ago in the hope that remembrances from a former Colonial Minister made as a private friend, would have some effect: but without avail. Our course ahead is full of troubled waters on every side, and I hope we steer through them with discretion: but I confess I dont see my way. It is useless, absolutely useless, to try and turn Lowe: but we mean to go to Gl
adstone, not thinking the Colony would be satisfied with us unless we went to the Premier before giving up the game; and so next mail we shall very likely have more interesting news to give you than any that goes now.
But we have really been at one great disadvantage which we ought not to have been at - I mean, a total lack of information. Every one had been feeling perfectly sure we should get ample details of what was going on: you may judge of what fools we looked when the mail came in with only a scrap or two of letters and not a single newspaper. We could give no one word of information, and they had to go elsewhere for it. We were with Granville the day the mail came in, and he seemed surprised to have to give us the only news there was. There had been such expectations raised I think, about these "Commissioners", that when we were
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discovered to be ordinary mean mortals, less than the most miserable penny a liner making extracts for the New Zealander Examiner, the public admiration for the embassy sunk to that zero of respect which results from a ridiculous attitude. In like manner, when the Times published its Galle telegram saying that Kooti was done for and suing for peace the least that our friends expected was that we should be able to say if the news was true: and it has been very bitter for us to be obliged to say to Lord Carnarvon, and men like him, who are devoting time of a value infinitely great to them during Parliament, that we were entirely ignorant whether there was any foundation or if any what, for the Times telegram.
But it is no use complaining now: you wont remedy our first disgraces by any amendment hereafter. And now what on earth are we to do. We have no power to do anything real about Emigration, to the immense disappointment of every one. No one will treat with us on the chances of the Assembly next session; and we shall not be able to send you any suggestions worth anything, worth I mean the whole of the Assembly seriously to entertain. We shall gather information, and may perhaps do more, because so far as we have already gone we have really never had a moment to give to the subject, and when we go into it these possibly may shine out some light: but can you give us any power? I think we might just as well have staid at home after all. The Commission will cost a good deal of money without having done any good, and I see from the Times Correspondent's letter that already an outcry has been raised about our having come at all. In one sense the favourable news from the Colony by the last two on these mails, and especially this last telegram about Te Kooti, have been very bad for us: the tendency to get rid of a disagreeable and
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troublesome subject has been powerfully aided by the cessation of all alarm. People say, as is quite natural, "What do you go on making this fuss about the regiment for? the war is over": and certainly the complete apathy and indifference with which the "actual cautery" of the removal of the 18th has been received in New Zealand itself amply justify luewarmness on this side the ocea. But in another sense the news is good for us, because it enables us to urge that we are doing really what is for the interest of the Home country we should do, are on the right track in our treatment of the natives and may safely
assure England that if we only have the regiment we want for another year or two we shall finally part with them without fear of asking for a renewed term then. And for my own part of course I rejoice at the apparently certain end of the war if the telegram is to be believed, and looking to our own party position when the House meets do not disguise from myself that we shall have (or ought to have) it pretty much our own way.
I told you, I think, in my last letter that we should at any rate wait in England till we got your answers to our letters by this mail. If Featherston and I were free to go we should return by the very next month's steamer: for we dont see what on earth we can really do. But after your instructions about Immigration especially, we feel we are not free. You must have all through calculated that we should not be out in time for next Session, but if our Government carries its measures and especially a system of Immigration of some kind is enabled to be brought into play, we shall not after all be useless here. Only please to remember that you must let us know by return of post whether we are to remain, and what for. We shall get your
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answer, I am sorry to say, only in July; and therefore we shall perhaps have some enforced idleness; and then you must remember that we neither of us can remain for any very long time, especially as Featherston must resume his Government.
So let your instructions for heaven's sake be explicit and complete.
We have not seen the Crown Agents yet about the Conversion, but shall in a day or two go to them. Our credit generally seems good, and the news of Vogel's having placed the Treasury Bills does a service by showing confidence in us to exist in N. S. Wales, against the disservice done last mail to the letters from Victoria about the refusal to take our Bills at that place. Talking of letters, there is no doubt that very active correspondence is going on from New Zealand with the object of defeating our mission: and unless I am very much mistaken, we are receiving stabs in the dark from those who ought to hold their hand if they cant or wont help us. In all our talks with people here from the day we came, without exception, we have not only refrained from saying a single word against our predecessors in office, but on the contrary have spoken well of them and their services. I have reason to believe a different action has been taken by some of them; and at any rate there is no doubt that Whitmore has been very active (he has an uncle at the Horse Guards), for his opinion as being at this moment strongly adverse to the retention of the 18th was quoted against us by Lord Granville with evident complacency.
I must now stop as the time is just on when we have to go to the Queen's Court. I tried to get out of it, but we were assured by Carnarvon that we must go, the invitation being for a special occasion. I shall send you an account next mail of how we performed our Kotoo.
Yours very truly,
F. D. Bell
Hon. William Fox
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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