The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUSEDAY, JULY 20, 1880.
The Victorian elections are now over, and the Berry party have a majority of nine out of the members of pronounced party leanings. The remaining nine, however, required to make up the number of the House, are written off as “ doubtful,” but it appears that in any case the Berry side is triumphant.
The scene in the House of Representatives on Friday evening was an extraordinary one, but the colony has come to this now, that it is not surprised at any extraordinary result if Sir George Grey has been an agent in bringing it about. Sir George rose to address the House, and, finding that his rival, the Hon. John Hall, was not giving all the attention to the address that the speaker desired, Sir George suddenly cut the flow of his oratory, and refused to proceed until the Premier, having finished reading a Mansard proof of his own speech, was prepared to give a whole-souled attention to what the gallant knight was pleased to say. For an hour Sir George remained in this “ huff,” and only proceeded when the Premier had finished reading his proof. Sir George poses as the leader of the Opposition—so does Mr. Macandrew—and the two do not seem to pull exactly in the same direction ; but, whichever of them is the real leader of the Opposition, it is palpable that Sir George considers himself as holding that position, and, full of that belief, he could not bear the idea of speaking in the House when the Premier was able to give such words of wisdom as mightfall from the leader’s Opposition lips only a divided attention. “ I am Sir Oracle,” says Sir George ; “ when I ope’ my mouth let no dog bark. ” Dozens of men have spoken in the House to less attentive ears than were the Premier’s on Friday evening, and it is quite probable that Sir George, whose oratory is now familiar, even to contempt, in the House, because of the one string on which he plays, may go too far, and find that he will have to be content with speaking not only to unwilling ears, but to as limited a number of them as safety from a countout will admit. The measure he was discussing at the time he was guilty of the childish ebullition of feeling we refer to was the Maori Prisoners Trial Bill, a measure which seems to us, in view of the native difficulty, to be a very expedient one. It empowers Government to keep the natives who committed the ploughing outrages in the North Island some months longer in prison before bringing them to trial, or to liberate them in small batches from time to time as may seem desirable. The native difficulty has been a difficulty indeed, and while it is not completely settled, there will be a danger of trouble arising. The natives now in prison are men of more or less importance amongst their several tribes, and their conduct in defying Government and going on with their ploughing in face of the knowledge of certain imprisonment, and perhaps worse following, is sufficient index that they are of a character not to be trifled with. It does not require a very vivid imagination to picture what might result from suddenly letting these men once more loose amongst their kindred, and the members of Government who have most to do with native affairs, and therefore ought to know most about them, distinctly say that they will refuse the responsibility of the situation if they are not put in such a position as will enable them to control the movements of these prisoners for the next half year or so. This Bill puts such control into the hands of Government. Such “ human race ” arguments as Sir George Grey is in the habit of using are ■ very beautiful, very sentimental, and doubtless would be a credit to the goodness of his heart, could we separate from our minds the belief that they are only diplomatic. But when we come to weigh these beautiful sentiments against the fact that Government in this Bill are dealing with natives more loyal to a hare-brained visionary chief than they are to the constituted authority of the colony—even with Friend Grey as its representative—it is quite time for the Europeans to consider safety before sentiment, and keep a dangerous article under lock and key. This is what Government desire to do. They have no wish to grind down the Maoris—they have no wish to act cruelly to any one of them. But when they fear that the liberation of the prisoners at this juncture, or the bringing of them to trial, would precipitate another row, it seems to us wisdom that they should pass such a Bill as the one now before the House, and in the discussion of which Sir George Grey wanted to be propped up to his chair to sustain the effort of standing while he held his tongue.