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The Lyttelton Times. THURSDAY, DEC. 14, 1876.

The retirement of Sir Donald M'Lean from the office of Native Minister is an era in the history of New Zealand. Four years ago his resignation was regarded as a public calamity, and the party which then turned out the Fox Ministry, went almost on its knees to beg the Native Minister to join the Stafford Ministry* Sir Donald, then Mr M'Lean, was too loyal to his own party, and too honest to act the part of Dngald Dalgetty, and fortunately, as we believe, for the Country, a month scarcely elapsed before he was again in his old post. The present retirement excites comparatively small notice, and is regarded without general apprehension. This great contrast of public feeling is not altogether attributable to satisfaction with the existing state of Native affairs, and to the conviction that Sir Donald M'Lean has improved himself off the face of the political earth by annihilating the Native difficulty. His staunchest supporters cannot disguise from themselves the fact that a rapid ebb of his popularity has begun, and that to some extent he is responsible for this change of public opinion. There is no doubt much exaggeration in both phases of that opinion. There always is in a reaction. Irrational praise is changed into irrational blame. It is the duty of those who try to guide public opinion to do their best to moderate both conditions of the public mind, and to persuade it to “be just and fear not.” . If statesmen could but feel that they received some reasonable apportionment of reward and punishment at the hands of the public, they would feel more heart in their work, and would do their duty better. As it is, they feel that popularity for a limited time can almost be made to order; that Independence of mind, and the disdain of cunning advice and hypocritical profession too often bring with them neglect and persecution, while charlatanry, if only sufficiently self-assertive, can with ease achieve success and distinction. Truth, no doubt, at last prevails, but, in the meantime, infinite mischief is occasioned by this fatal facility in the public mind to be imposed on by this blind rushing to extremes, and by this irregular see-saw of public men.

It is impossible justly to estimate the services of Sir Donald M'Lean, and their loss at the present moment without reverting to the special circumstances under which they have been rendered—circumstances arising from our relations to the Native race. We refer to the North Island. For 35 years we have been colonising a country occupied and possessed by barbarous, warlike tribes, whose nominal cession of it to the Queen we were first obliged to obtain, and whose title to the lands on which we settled we have from time to time been obliged to buy. These tribes were well

armed; they occupied the almost inaccessible interior; the spread of settlement on our part, the object of our coming at all, for many years was a source of weakness; and attacks on our out-settlements by marauding parties caused us enormous loss and injury, while any general combination of the Natives against us would have driven us out of the Island—at least for a time —and would certainly have destroyed its colonisation for another generation. We have had, as we stated, to buy their lands, and they regard their lands with the passionate love of a patriot for his country, and with the less sublime but scarcely less strong feelings which a noblemen orj a country squire has for hii3 family estate. But the love of gold, potent as it is everywhere, was to them the immediate means of satisfying new wants and new desires, and of enabling them to mix on more equal terms with ourselves. It naturally exercised an irresistible influence on individuals of their race. And we offered them gold in exchange for their lands. This conflict of love of land and of love of gold in their minds has been the source of almost all our Native troubles.

In this state of political and social relations between two races, one civilised and the other uncivilised, one colonising and the other aboriginal, personal influence in the government of the Natives became a necessity. A constitutional system of rule over them was impracticable. Subjugation was the only alternative, but subjugation involved indefinite bloodshed and expenditure, and the stoppage, of all colonisation for an indefinite time. Colonisation constituted our sinews of war, and therefore conquest, as a policy, was out of the question, except in the consideration of the mind militant, which fortunately was exceptional. Governor Fitzroy was ineffective in the exercise of moral influence, and impotent in the force of arms. Sir George Grey, as soon as he became our Governor, devoted himself to the exercise of personal influence, and was successful in that devotion. In the present Sir Donald M'Lean, then Land Purchase Commissioner, he had —we are now speaking of Sir George Grey’s first administration —an able co-adjutor. In the peaceful acquisition of Native land for European settlement, and in the peaceful adjustment of countless Native land questions—questions bristling with difficulties, and threatening the peace of the country—Mr Commissioner M'Lean was unrivalled. He then showed that unwearied patience, that consummate tact, that practical good sense and that personal ability which have characterised his general administration as Native Minister during the last seven years. He then gained, when hia command of money was scant, that confidence of the Natives, and that personal influence over them, which—say all that his opponents can—money alone cannot purchase, and he did so by sheer force of character. He then rendered to the Colony invaluable services, of which many now flourishing settlements stand forth as living proofs. Governor Gore Browne ill-advisedly resorted to the policy of subjugation, and, with fatal infatuation, selected as the cause of war a disputed land question. Of all responsibility for his action, till remedy was too late, we acquit Sir Donald M'Lean. He was absent, and unable, from illness, to attend to any business when the Waitara war began. Had he been consulted when the forcible occupation of the disputed land was ordered, we believe that his consent to that measure would never have been given, end that the order would not have been issued. He was too loyal on his recovery to say as much, and he sacrificed his own feelings —when their expression could do no tgood, but much the reverse—to the public service. This fact is not generally known, but a careful attention to the history of that war convinces us that it is a fact. We cannot speak too highly of the repressive faculty and the abnegation of self, which enabled him to pursue that course. Had it transpired among the Natives generally that he was opposed to the commencement of the war, we believe that we should have had the whole Northern Island in a blaze from North Cape to Cape Pallisor. As it was, in his subordinate administrative capacity, he acted with thorough loyalty to the Government of the day, and did essential service in mitigating the effects of the war by inducing the great Waikato and other powerful tribes to refrain from uniting as a body under the Maori King in arms against us. ■ Even his influence could not gain for ns active Native allies in a cause built on such a questionable foundation.

Shortly after the commencement of Sir George Grey’s second administration, Sir Donald M'Lean left the Native Department, and became Superintendent of the Province of Hawke’s Bay. As Government Agent there, when Mr Weld and Mr Stafford were in power, he gave to the Colony his gratuitous services in the suppression of Native disturbances on the Hast Coast, in the settlement of Native land questions, and in securing for us that alliance of powerful tribes in the neighbourhood of the East Gape, which then and long afterwards was invaluable to the whole Colony. Into the merits of the dispute which arose between Mr Stafford’s Ministry and himself in the early part of 1869 we do not propose to enter. It led to the cessation of his services as Government Agent, to the downfall of the Stafford Ministry shortly afterwards, to the reversal of its policy, and to Sir Donald’s seven years’ peaceful administration of Native affairs. But we must defer notice of him as Native Minister to another day.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/LT18761214.2.11

Bibliographic details

The Lyttelton Times. THURSDAY, DEC. 14, 1876., Lyttelton Times, Volume XLVI, Issue 4937, 14 December 1876

Word Count
1,408

The Lyttelton Times. THURSDAY, DEC. 14, 1876. Lyttelton Times, Volume XLVI, Issue 4937, 14 December 1876

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