Object #1021240 from MS-Papers-0032-0172

7 pages written 4 Nov 1869 by Captain Walter Charles Brackenbury in Auckland Region to Sir Donald McLean in Auckland Region

From: Inward letters - W C Brackenbury, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0172 (53 digitised items). 51 letters written Auckland (some addressed from Parnell), 1861-1876 and undated. Includes letter to Brackenbury from Samuel Harding, May 1865.

A transcription/translation of this document (by ATL) appears below.

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Page 1 of 7. View high-resolution image

English (ATL)

Copy. Private. Auckland

November 4th. 1869



My dear Sir,

Some short time ago you asked me my opinion on the Ohinemuri question, and as to the feeling of the diggers on the subject of opening up that Sistrict for gold-mining purposes. I answered you in general terms to this effect - that no doubt there was a desire on the part of a section of the Thames community to see that district opened, but that I thought there were many who considered that the Thames, as far as hitherto developed, and looking to its inevitable extension, afforded plenty of openings for the employment of the comparatively limited Capital and labour at its disposal; and that it would be a wise act, as far as the mining population was concerned, not to press the subject at present.

My reasons for saying so much, I will give you as concisely as possible:-

First - I do not believe that the individual digger has as much interest in the opening up of the Ohinemuri District, as the Capitalist, unless the leasing system is altered, to the extent at least, that no leases shall be granted for virgin land, supposed to be auriferous, until due time has been allowed to admit of its being prospected, and taken up by the Digger, under his Miner's Right.

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English (ATL)


There are at this moment, many large tracts of land, leased, which are lying, for all purposes of reproductiveness, utterly valueless; in fact, to use an old Victorian expression, being ''shepherded'', the lessees of which, are, Micawber-like, ''waiting for something to turn up'' in their neighbourhood, before they turn to with a will to work the ground. Under such vicarious action, ground, probably very valuable, will take an indefinite time for its proper development.

Second - I do believe, that as yet, the Thames District, i.e. all the lands ceded to the Government for Gold-mining purposes, (including Coromandel, which is virtually part of the Thames), requires for its proper development, a much larger amount of Capital than has hitherto been invested upon it; and that if that Capital has been found insufficient for working purposes there, it would be suicidal to attempt to work a new field without more labour and more Capital, than it at the disposal of the Province at present.

Had the same amount of capital which had been invested in Scrip, for purely gambling purposes, been employed in obtaining skilled labour, the Thames District would already have been much nearer to the attainment of that position, which it ought, and is ultimately destined to occupy, vis:- the largest reefing field in the world, than can be said of it at present. Hitherto it may be compared

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English (ATL)

to an island of quartz, surrounded by a sea of Scrip, by which, at one time, it was well-nigh overwhelmed.

Third - I do not believe it would be a wise act in the interest of the Digger, to open up the Ohinemuri District at present; and to elucidate. -

If I own a farm of say 1000 acres, and having only capital enough to cultivate 50 acres, attempt to bring the whole under crop, the consequence inevitably is, that I lose the little capital I have, and derive no benefit from it. So it is with reference to Ohinemuri.

The Thames, as far as yet accessible to labour is a sufficiently large farm for all the capital and all the labour which we can bring to bear on it at present. New ''rushes'' on Gold Fields, as a rule, are not advantageous to the digger or the State. I have known men by thousands, on the bare ipse dixit of some enthusiast, or what is worse, on the interested assertion of some chevalier d'industrie, leave profitable employment and good claims on a well-established Fiald, to run after a myth; and when such has been the case, many really good Fields have suffered a depression in consequence; from which it has taken, in some cases, years to recover; and in other cases, there has been no recovery at all. I as convinced that if this view of the case were properly impressed on the minds of the inhabitants of the Thames, we should hear little more about the necessity for the immediate opening up of Ohinmuri.

Page 4 of 7. View high-resolution image

English (ATL)

It is said that forbidden fruit is said to be always the sweetest, but the diggers have so often tasted it, and found it bitter, that I do not fear their decision in this case. They believe now, I think, in a great measure, that - ''It's best to be off with the old love Before you get on with the new.'' With regard to the land at Ohinemuri, it appears to me that as it has never yet been ceded to the Government for Gold-mining purposes, it is in a similar position to land belonging to Europeans in fee simple.

In 1853, a Squatter, named Campbell, occupied a Run on the banks of the Loddon river, about five miles from Castlemaine, in Victoria. The diggers imagined (as diggers always do) that there must be gold in his home paddock (purchased land); so one morning at daylight, they appeared - to the number of about 1500 - and commenced to mark out claims, one of which was pegged out round Mr. Campbell's doorstep. Intelligence of this was brought to the Camp at Castlemaine, and we went out with a handful of Troopers - aome 40 I believe - and required the diggers to remove, as the land was private property; telling them at the same time, that we should enforce our order, which they knew well would have been done, for we never made a promise in that direction which we did not keep. The consequence was that they quietly left - after objecting to the man's want of hospitality in not asking to breakfast 1500 men; when they came solely, as they said, to develop

Page 5 of 7. View high-resolution image

English (ATL)

the resources of the land!); and no mining took place on that ground, until a fair understanding had been come to between the Owner and the Diggers.

So with Ohinemuri. Diggers have no right in the District at present, and am much mistaken if those who are reported to be there, are there for themselves. I believe that in most cases, they are the tools of men who have more money than brains, and less patriotism than both; and they ought to be held in check, until, as in all other cases of Gold Fields, proper arrangements have been entered into.

Such arrangements are much more likely to be made, in my opinion, in the absence of pressure, and the display of too much anxiety on the subject. If I have a horse which I value, but might be disposed to part with, and I find a great number of people are anxious to get it, and are perpetually coming and sending to induce me to sell it, the natural result is that I attach, perhaps, a fititious value to the beast, and refuse to part with my Pegasus.

Ohinemuri is Te Hira's Pegasus. As to the political and strategic bearing of this question, as it affects the Government; - What the ulterior effect of the opening up of Ohinemuri may be, in affording facilities for compelling peace, and whether the persistent urging of what appears to be an obnoxious subject, to some of the proprietors of the land. be advisable; I have written only with regard to the question as it affects the diggers and

Page 6 of 7. View high-resolution image

English (ATL)

the stability and prosperity of the present Gold Field.

I am afraid I have trespassed too long on your time; but you must believe, I beg, that I have written this in good faith, and as I think, in accordance with the views of many whose opinions are entitled to consideration.

I am, my dear Sir,
Your very faithful servt. (Signed)
W.C. Brackenbury.
To:- The Honourable Donald McLean Esq. Auckland.

English (ATL)

Copy. Private. Auckland

November 4th. 1869



My dear Sir,

Some short time ago you asked me my opinion on the Ohinemuri question, and as to the feeling of the diggers on the subject of opening up that Sistrict for gold-mining purposes. I answered you in general terms to this effect - that no doubt there was a desire on the part of a section of the Thames community to see that district opened, but that I thought there were many who considered that the Thames, as far as hitherto developed, and looking to its inevitable extension, afforded plenty of openings for the employment of the comparatively limited Capital and labour at its disposal; and that it would be a wise act, as far as the mining population was concerned, not to press the subject at present.

My reasons for saying so much, I will give you as concisely as possible:-

First - I do not believe that the individual digger has as much interest in the opening up of the Ohinemuri District, as the Capitalist, unless the leasing system is altered, to the extent at least, that no leases shall be granted for virgin land, supposed to be auriferous, until due time has been allowed to admit of its being prospected, and taken up by the Digger, under his Miner's Right.

There are at this moment, many large tracts of land, leased, which are lying, for all purposes of reproductiveness, utterly valueless; in fact, to use an old Victorian expression, being ''shepherded'', the lessees of which, are, Micawber-like, ''waiting for something to turn up'' in their neighbourhood, before they turn to with a will to work the ground. Under such vicarious action, ground, probably very valuable, will take an indefinite time for its proper development.

Second - I do believe, that as yet, the Thames District, i.e. all the lands ceded to the Government for Gold-mining purposes, (including Coromandel, which is virtually part of the Thames), requires for its proper development, a much larger amount of Capital than has hitherto been invested upon it; and that if that Capital has been found insufficient for working purposes there, it would be suicidal to attempt to work a new field without more labour and more Capital, than it at the disposal of the Province at present.

Had the same amount of capital which had been invested in Scrip, for purely gambling purposes, been employed in obtaining skilled labour, the Thames District would already have been much nearer to the attainment of that position, which it ought, and is ultimately destined to occupy, vis:- the largest reefing field in the world, than can be said of it at present. Hitherto it may be compared to an island of quartz, surrounded by a sea of Scrip, by which, at one time, it was well-nigh overwhelmed.

Third - I do not believe it would be a wise act in the interest of the Digger, to open up the Ohinemuri District at present; and to elucidate. -

If I own a farm of say 1000 acres, and having only capital enough to cultivate 50 acres, attempt to bring the whole under crop, the consequence inevitably is, that I lose the little capital I have, and derive no benefit from it. So it is with reference to Ohinemuri.

The Thames, as far as yet accessible to labour is a sufficiently large farm for all the capital and all the labour which we can bring to bear on it at present. New ''rushes'' on Gold Fields, as a rule, are not advantageous to the digger or the State. I have known men by thousands, on the bare ipse dixit of some enthusiast, or what is worse, on the interested assertion of some chevalier d'industrie, leave profitable employment and good claims on a well-established Fiald, to run after a myth; and when such has been the case, many really good Fields have suffered a depression in consequence; from which it has taken, in some cases, years to recover; and in other cases, there has been no recovery at all. I as convinced that if this view of the case were properly impressed on the minds of the inhabitants of the Thames, we should hear little more about the necessity for the immediate opening up of Ohinmuri. It is said that forbidden fruit is said to be always the sweetest, but the diggers have so often tasted it, and found it bitter, that I do not fear their decision in this case. They believe now, I think, in a great measure, that - ''It's best to be off with the old love Before you get on with the new.'' With regard to the land at Ohinemuri, it appears to me that as it has never yet been ceded to the Government for Gold-mining purposes, it is in a similar position to land belonging to Europeans in fee simple.

In 1853, a Squatter, named Campbell, occupied a Run on the banks of the Loddon river, about five miles from Castlemaine, in Victoria. The diggers imagined (as diggers always do) that there must be gold in his home paddock (purchased land); so one morning at daylight, they appeared - to the number of about 1500 - and commenced to mark out claims, one of which was pegged out round Mr. Campbell's doorstep. Intelligence of this was brought to the Camp at Castlemaine, and we went out with a handful of Troopers - aome 40 I believe - and required the diggers to remove, as the land was private property; telling them at the same time, that we should enforce our order, which they knew well would have been done, for we never made a promise in that direction which we did not keep. The consequence was that they quietly left - after objecting to the man's want of hospitality in not asking to breakfast 1500 men; when they came solely, as they said, to develop the resources of the land!); and no mining took place on that ground, until a fair understanding had been come to between the Owner and the Diggers.

So with Ohinemuri. Diggers have no right in the District at present, and am much mistaken if those who are reported to be there, are there for themselves. I believe that in most cases, they are the tools of men who have more money than brains, and less patriotism than both; and they ought to be held in check, until, as in all other cases of Gold Fields, proper arrangements have been entered into.

Such arrangements are much more likely to be made, in my opinion, in the absence of pressure, and the display of too much anxiety on the subject. If I have a horse which I value, but might be disposed to part with, and I find a great number of people are anxious to get it, and are perpetually coming and sending to induce me to sell it, the natural result is that I attach, perhaps, a fititious value to the beast, and refuse to part with my Pegasus.

Ohinemuri is Te Hira's Pegasus. As to the political and strategic bearing of this question, as it affects the Government; - What the ulterior effect of the opening up of Ohinemuri may be, in affording facilities for compelling peace, and whether the persistent urging of what appears to be an obnoxious subject, to some of the proprietors of the land. be advisable; I have written only with regard to the question as it affects the diggers and the stability and prosperity of the present Gold Field.

I am afraid I have trespassed too long on your time; but you must believe, I beg, that I have written this in good faith, and as I think, in accordance with the views of many whose opinions are entitled to consideration.

I am, my dear Sir,
Your very faithful servt. (Signed)
W.C. Brackenbury.
To:- The Honourable Donald McLean Esq. Auckland.

Part of:
Inward letters - W C Brackenbury, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0172 (53 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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