The Press. MONDAY, JANUARY 6, 1896. THE NEW AGENT-GENERAL.
We urged on Saturday that the manner in which the Government were behaving over the Agent-General-ship was a public scandal, and that they ought to take the country at once into their confidence and say what they intended to do in the matter. This morning it is officially announced that the appointment of Mr. Reeves is " confirmed." That the Government have driven off the announcement till the latest possible moment is evident from the fact that it is further stated that the new Agent - General leaves Wellington for London on the 10th inst. — that is to say on Friday next. After months of delay and dilly-dallying this is indeed sudden. It would seem as if tbe Government, having appointed Mr Reeves, desired to hustle him out of the colony as quickly as possible, and to do Mr. Reeves justice we do not believe that there is any desire for a lingering farewell on his part. He reminds us of the small boy who gets a large piece of cake at a school treat, and makes off with it as fast as possible for fear it should be taken away from him before he has had time to enjoy it.
Mr. Reeves's appointment, we imagine, will give more satisfaction to his enemies in and out of the Cabinet than to his friends, of whom we suppose he has a few. The enemies will be glad to get rid, probably for ever, of a waspish, mischievous politician, who never had any other end in view than the promotion of his own personal interests, and who has done more to create bad feeling between employer and employed during the past five years than' any twenty other agitators.' But though thoSe of our way of thinking do not loye the class of politician to which Mr. Reeves belongs, it would be absurd to denounce the appointment as a disgraceful one. Mr. Reeves is not a loveable person, being unsympathetic and selfish to a degree, yet as politicians go he is in many ways a highly respectable character. He is a more or less educated man, of abstemious habits, who pays his debts, and whose life is in all ways free of scandal. He has a good deal of ability of a kind and considerable facility of speech. He has proved himself a good administrator, having the sense to recognise the capacities of his Under-Secretaries, and to make full use of them. To send him Home as Agent-General is therefore not a discreditable act like the appointment of Colonel Fraser as Serjeant-at-Arms, and we are not sure that it is much, worse than th 9 elevation of Sir Patrick Buckley to the Supreme Court Bench. There is a good deal of the Agent-General's
work which Mr. Reeves will ba able to perform with satisfaction. But unfortunately his want of commercial knowledge and experience renders him entirely unfitted for the discharge of duties which in the future will make large demands upon tha time of an Agent-General. An Agent-General for a colony is going to be more and more an agent through whom the colony is to acquire information as to markets for its produce j and the best means of opening such markets. It is to be feared that as a representative of New Zealand coui- , merce Mr, Reeves will be found to be anything but a success. Of his ignorance of finance it is unnecessary to speak. Nor can we hope that Mr. Reeves will be able to make up for his deficiency in these respects by the exercise of personal tact and amiability of character. Previous occupants of the office have made themselves liked as well as respected, and have done the colony credit. If Mr. Reeves succeeds in getting himself tolerated among those at Home whose good opinion on behalf of the colony is worth having, he will have done as much as most of his friends expect. However, we do not wish to be too hard upon him, now that he is really going away. Mr. Reeves's opponents, j feeling that he is leaving the political ' arena of New Zealand for ever, can afford to be generous enough to I express the hope that his career as [ Agent-General will agreeably dis- , appoint their expectations, and that he may prove equal to ' the discharge of his duties. It may be regarded as certain that his tenure of the office will not b9 extended beyond the term for which he is now appointed. If the present party are in power when that term expires they will want the appointment for somebody else. If the Opposition are in office Mr. Reeves, of course, will not expect any favours at their hands. If, however, this straight-out Socialist can manage during his term of office to secure the title for which his soul longeth he will have acquired something of marketable value which, with his undoubted talents with his pen ought to put him in the way of a career of some sort or another in the Mother Country, which will spare him the mortification of returning to New Zealand.
The careers of Sir Westby Perceval and Mr. Reeves suggest some disappointing contrasts between the ambitions of the old school of colonial politicians and the young school. The earlier politicians were colonists pure and simple who hoped to end their days in the colony and to labour to the end for its welfare. The younger politicians look to a political career here merely as a dis-' agreeable step towards finding an opening in the Old World. It is perhaps human nature. The great favour in which the colonies are now held and the interest with which their experiments in politics are watched at Homo render it undoubtedly easier than it used to be for persons who have
been at all prominent in colonial politics to get an opening in English public life, where admittedly there is a larger scope for ambition and a more exciting field of action. But nevertheless the great masses of colonists who can never hope, even if they desired, to leave the colony must be excused if they regard with more affection those politicians whose aims and ambitions are restricted to a colonial career. In regard to the Agent-Generalship the present Government have inaugurated a new departure which we cannot say we approve. Formerly the post was reserved for tried and capable politicians, and while it proved a fitting reward for the veteran who had toiled through long and thankless years in the public service, the interests of the colony , were best consulted by having as its agents in London statesmen who had qualified themselves by long experience of men and affairs to represent it worthily and well. The present Ministry have used the office as a mere piece in the game of politics, and have employed it for purely party purposes. The interest of the colony at large in getting the best man available for the post has been made quite a secondary consideration. Among the so-called " Liberals," the successful politician of to-day, if success is to bs measured by the attainment of offices and honours, is much the same as in the days when power was vested in the monarch or an aristocracy. In those days such success was most often attained by toadying to the great ones, in whose hands the power was vested. Now the political aspirant must play to the gallery and toady to the class which has most votes. This is what Mr. Reeves has done with considerable success, and his reward is this office which will secure him a footing on London platforms and an entry into London drawingrooms and banqueting chambers —places where Mr. Reeves, if he would speak out his real feelings, will enjoy himself much more than in scanty gatherings of Waltham Socialists.
It must be with intense relief that Mr. Reeves feels himself possessed of this appointment, for no one knows better than he does that the days of his supremacy in Christchurch are over, and that he would have had hard work to retain his seat at another election. There is little doubt that it was the knowledge of the great change of feeling towards himself and the Government of which he has been a member, which has delayed the announcement of the appointment. But now that, after much touting, a candidate has been found for the Government, Mr. Reeves feels himself at liberty to run away. If the Liberals are still as devoted to Mr. Reeves and the Government as Ministers profess, it will be odd if their idol is allowed to depart without an enthusiastic farewell. We do not mean a banquet or a" social " —such things are easily " got up"—but a large public meeting in which his grateful constituents can fully express their feelings. At present we hear no mention of this. Is it possible that the Government wire-pullers realise that it is no longer possible for Mr- Reeves to obtain a cordial reception on a Christchurch platform ? However this may be, now that he has secured the desire of his heart—a favourable opening for a London career—no doubt Mr. Reeves himself has no objection to skulk away from Christchurch with his
tongue in his cheek, laughing at the ease with which he has made use of the good-natured and confiding Democracy whom he so cleverly beguiled.
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The Press. MONDAY, JANUARY 6, 1896. THE NEW AGENT-GENERAL., Press, Volume LIII, Issue 9306, 6 January 1896
The Press. MONDAY, JANUARY 6, 1896. THE NEW AGENT-GENERAL. Press, Volume LIII, Issue 9306, 6 January 1896
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