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SIR G. GREY AT CHRISTCHURCH.

CHEiSTCntrBCn, May 7. Tho meeting held m the Tuam Btreet hall this evening, under the auspices of the Working Men's Political Association, to hear Sir Georgo Grey's lecture on political topics, was one of tho largest political gatherings held m Christchurch. Tho building was densely crowded, over 2503 persons being 1 present. The Mayor occupied the chair. On tho curtain rising and showing Sir George Boated on tho platform, loud and prolonged cheering burst forth, which was renewed when Sir George Grey roso to speak. Sir George Grey said that for tho first time since a memorable election he had tho honor of nddrossing those who then rendered him so great a service. Tho universal opinion of those who fairly considered the question was that ho was truly and justly tho Member for Christchurch. (Cheers.) The loss of his scat had not deprived him of his place m tho House, nor impaired his power to do thorn good. The limo would come when tho record of that transaction would be oxpungod from the recordßof the House. (Applause.) Nonoofthe speeches yet delivered on the political situation totiched tho real point at issue, so as to impress it on all men's niindß. The Government m particular had groatly neglected their duty m not laying beforo the people a full and clear statement of their pslicy. In order that the people of Canterbury and the working men might understand their roal position, ho would lead them back to far distant times. If they considered the way m which this district was colonised, they would sco that at that time the seeds of many future evils hod been sown. Before that, when great misery prevailed throughout England and Europe, and there was a deep sense of the evils of the system of land tenure, people wero striving their utmost to ' emigrate to new hinds. Those evils wera now groatly augmented, and people more than ever were pouring into new countries. British statesmon then took a " fad " to found colonies like those of ancient Greece, but thoßO oolonies consisted oach of only one city with a little land around it, and thoro wore only two classes — freemon and slaves — a fact those statesmen overlooked. Tho Greeks wero a very religious people, and m point of all things, except justice to slaves, their religion was good. Whon Canterbury was founded tho chief men saw that they had no slaves, and so they made laws whereby laborors wero to continue laborers for a certain timo m ordor to supply tho labor done m ancient Greece by slaves. This was dono by fixing such a price on land that no poor man could got land for a con■idorablo time and until he could replaco himself m tho labor market by another slave whom ho brought out. When the colonist first came to tho Middle Island it was almost depopulated by tho raids of North Island natives. Ho was then Govornor and tho British Ministry about 1849 announced to him that a. groat opportunity had offered for benefiting tho British people, and that they would got a vote from Parliament of £10,000. This was to bo spent m buying a block of land, which wns to bo out up and Bold, and the proceeds applied to buy another pieco, anything loft over boing spent on public works. This was to bo repeated till the wholo ialnnd vraa bought. Thi» utonej camo from tho peoplo— from the British taxpayers i — and thoroforo it bolonged by right to tho people. Tho rioh men of England, who believed that they wero the class born to rulo dovisod a plan for colonising Canterbury m tho interests of thoir own class, and made the prico of hind as high as possible, and so as to keep the labor market supplied, thoy iixod tho prico at £2 per aero, and then said, " We are going to found anothor England with rich and poor, and with an established church." Thoy made an arrangeraont that no mad should buy an ocro of land unless ho gave £1 to tho Church. Tho Canterbury Association got 250,000 acres granted to thorn for the Church, and woro ablo to keep tho poor out of tho land they came to Book. Tho Association having gob this advantage obtaiuod

another concession. It was that tho Secretary of State might grant any amount of land m New Zealand to them to be u=ed m the colony. When he (Sir Georgo Grey) heard of this, it seemed to him a most dangerous thing, for by it ono-third of the revenue was to be appropriated to support a particular church. lie made a desperate resistance against this, for he thought it wrong to other churches and to the favored body itself, because the possession of such vnst wealth as would have been obtained, and has been, was sure to lead to mismanagement, and he believed also that that church was m the best position whose priests were supported mainly by tho love they inspired m their people. He was successful and so no land was granted to the Association, and the grant of tho 250,000 acres was stopped by the peoplo on the spot, though that burden was, to a certain extent, left resting on the colony to tho present time. Many leading statesmen and bishops of England supported tho Association, and he had to undergo great odium m consequence of his action. The friends and relations of those persons who bought large blocks of land m the province naturally thought they were the true governors of men, and for a- time occupied every legislative and oxeeutive post. They followed the cxamplo of their class m England by legislating for the benefit of themselves. Continued possession of power led men to become arrogant, and oventually to arrogate to themselves tho rights and privileges which belonged to the community at largo. Unless every person had an opportunity of filling any position, oven the highest, m that community, to as to lead him to develope all his powers, that community would be ono of a very inferior stamp. One set of men— ho would not say party-r-for would to God there were no parties hero — had long held all the powor m New Zealand, and as a. consequence they had become somewhat like other men who had long had all the power m their own hands. He saw that the Premier, when addressed as to the riso m the railway rates m ChriEtchurcb, had said that ho could not believe a charge of Id a bushel would be equal to 2s 6d peracre, and would ruin the trade m grain. If Canterbury peoplo could not bear this, m consequence of being mortgaged up to the eyes, the sooner they cleared out the better. Was that the way to speak to persons m misfortune? Would they clear out for men who said such things ? (No.) Banded together m ono brotherhood they would make those men clear out. (Cheers.) This treatmont of the Canterbury people reminded him of the treatmont of the Jew Philo by Caligula, and showed him that tyranny did exist m this country, against which it was time to unite. (Applause.) The present position was founded on the past. Every laborer prevented from getting his land at once was prevented from getting a choice of good land. .What was the result of preventing- a man from getting land till he could raise £3 an acre ? Could he go to a Government Bank and get an advance on that land? No, but, a person of position could do so, and then he could sell the laud to the poor, but not for £3 an acre, but at a rate which compelled the latter to mortgage his property heavily m order to pay the purchase monoy. The poo r man was thus involved m toils which :nade him almost a shave, for ho had to borrow money m order to try to get a farm which he would not have had to borrow had land been sold on a fair system, i'his w»s one great cause of the present trouble m Canterbury. Another consequence flowing from that was this : the public works system was introduced. It was not a new thing, as it had been m force on a different plan m South Africa for 15 years. In New Zealand all Crown land belonged to the public at large. Still the people had not opportunities given them of getting freeholds out of that land, which was iostcad cut up into largo estates, some of which were sold for comparatively very little. Public works were begun, on which the poor were taught it was a blessing to be employed, and which gave an enormous value to contiguous properties. These works were done with the people's money, and yet the poor people had to pay as much for them as tho rich man had, whose properties were so greatly benefited.. Tho poor men had worked and made the railway, and got nothing more than the right to pay a certain sum annually. Why did they make tho increased value of tho property which was enhanced by those works a present to the rich owners while they themselves remained poor ? If the people asserted their rights they would soon become landholders themselves, but if not, they would remain poor all their lives. In the North Island peoplo understood that m tho South Island people were wild with tbo Ministry because it had raised the railway rates. "Wliat did that matter to tho masses, who had no produce to be earned on them ? If they had a land tax put on , the unearned increment, which belonged to themselves, they would have tho use of the railways for a comparatively small sum and they would not feel the tax. At tho present moment the interest on loans was one and a half millions, and was I paid annually by tho 500,000 people m the colony. It was just £3 a head, and was paid to inako other people rich. It seemed to him incredible that a married man should pay £15 a year, for that was what tho average amount would bo for tuch a purpose. Tho people were robbing themselves. They- must unite. Was Auckland, Southland, or Duuedin, to bo set lighting Christchurch about tilings of comparatively no importance ? What did it signify who was m office ? Let them put nion m office pledged to put this land tax on. (Applause). The Government talked about the bounteous pay givon to tho railway servants and police, but if they took away from that pay what each man gavo to pay tho interest on tho debt to make others rich tho pay would not seem very largo then. These truths should make all of them unito to get what they" were entitled to. People were always either advancing their condition or sinking lower. The people of New Zealand would sink into the position of the English poor first, and then because the estates here were larger, and the land better, they would sink deeper and deeper, while tho power of tho rulers would increase. The energy and vigor wliv'i should characterise dwellers m a ne country, seemed already to havo been almost lost by tho people of New Zealand who permitted such things. People had said to him, " Why don't you go m for nationalisation of tho land '? " Ho would answer, " Tako tho unearned increment first, if you wish to nationalise land, afterwards, well and good." Ho believed it would como to that with a moro educated race, but he believed also that the desire to possess hind to transmit to ono's posterity, was still strong m New Zealand. It was said, why not buy up large estates and nationalise them ? But would tho people m addition to the unearned increment agreo to give tho landholders a largo sum for their land and thereby add still further to their own burdens? Why was a nation to consent to pay a littlo moro per year for holding their land than they should do nicroly becauso they had been wronged m the first instanco ? Let thorn put on a land lax first. (Cheers.) He had vainly pressed tho Government year after year to publish a Doomsday Hook, giving particulars- of all the land held by every man m tho colony. When that information wns made public ho would bo ready to see if he could work out a scheme for land nationalisation. (Loud cheers.) It was all vory well for mon like himself, who had had no suffering from want, to say that thoy could bear poverty, but tho question was how could thoso who really felt its terrible power do bo ? Hovv could anyone rcaliso the suffering he caused to another under the present system P Let thoso who agreed with him unito with their fellow-workmen throughout Now Zealand to insist on rolicf from tho burdens thoy had no ri^ht to bear. (ChooM.) Lot them say that within six weoks a decreaso should be mado m thoso burdens, so that their wives and families should riot suffer the deprivation thoy now did. In many respects freedom did not exist m this country. Members of I'arliamont had not their rights. At; tho end of last eessiou Members were not allowed to epctik their thoughts, but wcro restricted m a manner never beforo heard of. Again, from tho first establishment of tho Now Zealand Parliament to last session two days a. week woro eot apart for Private Members Bills. Now thero was ono most obnoxious Private Member, who wished ovcry man horo to htivo the eaiuo chance of becoming a lawyer as ft man had m England and m other colonies, and who wished to abolish oaths m Courts of I Justice, so that tho truth could bo epokon

there without an appeal to a Deity, whose name it was irreverent to use m connection wiih such matte™. To repress this member one day a week was taken from the private members days, and yet no remonstrance arose from the country. Many measures devised for the people's good were thus stopped. The present Government had taunted their opponents with having stumped tuo ceuntr y, but they themselves bad since followed their example. The Premier m one of Ins tours had come to Christchurch and told the people that if they taxed themselves still more from their earliest years, they would remove nil fear of hi, friends having to support the poor m their old a»e e4£ body was to be compelled to contribute .in *a certain manner. They were not to bo allowed to invest their savings how they liked so orerv old man was to get 10s a week, a sum which he could spend m having a drink with . few of his friends on one day, and would leave him nothing for all the rest of the week iue Premier had then said that nothing was to be said to him about politics, and so nothing was said, and the Premier do doubt went off laughing at them. Major Atkinson had come a second time to Christchurch, and had told them really nothing. If there was anything to be got out of the people the Premier would come round again. With regard to the Federation Conference the IScw Zealand delegates had made the Governor perform an unlawful act, and appoint them by li,< own authority. The people should have > osen those delegates whose action was to m,: cuice the colony for all time. These deleg:. '3 when met together m Australia had draw, up an enactment about which the peopli- interested knew nothing, and had Bent it h0.._..j to England with a request for the Komi- Parliament, to make it law. True, it conta.i.ed a proviso that this law should riot come into force m any colony till assented to by the Legislature of that colony. By this means, however, the colony might have become fettered by the action of a simple majority of Parliament at any hour. He would show how very undesirable that would be There were men who wished that colored labor should be largely introduced. If they ' doubted it, let them read, the records of Parliament. Now, a great part of Australia could only be cultivated by colored labor I hereforo it was quite right such labor should be imported there. His experience had shown hiru that where colored labor prevailed tho masters got the franchise extended to theirlaborers, and made them vote for them and their own measures. Many very objectionable laws prevailed m such countries such as flogging for many offences, and a passport system, whereby any man, no matter what big color, was kept under a kind of surveillance. A great falling off m wages would also result from importing colored labor, therefore it was most undesirable that this colony" should be united with a country where the white race was likely to bo m a minority. Their cry should be " New Zealand for the Europeans." (Loud cheers.) Let them found a free country m the Pacific, where tho evils arising from a colored population would not be known. A great wroug had been inflicted on the working classes through the pre-emptive right system. In America and elsewhere the natives were permitted to se?l their lands to tho Government only. When he was Governor he had. formulated a scheme by which it would have been possible for small farms to have been obtained by the natives. This had not been accepted, however, and many very wrong things had been done by persons getting possession of tho Maori lands, some of which he might bring up again at a future time. ManY land speculators had taken advantage of the right of pre-emption to acquire large estates, often with the assistance of Government given unlawfully. His remedy was ' this, that the natives snould sell the hinds through, the Government m small blocks, and at a fair but not exorbitant price. By this means the valuable land unsold m the North Island would pass into the hands of small holders. It should be sold m the open market and fairly. He asked them to support him m this. He wished them to consider tho words of John Bright, who found that 41 per cent of the families of Glasgow lived at the "least m a single room, many of them living more than one family m one room. 37 per cent lived with two rooms to a family. He believed that less than 10 per cent of the families had more than three rooms each. Let them consider what a few people were benefited by this mass of human suffering. Their present state of civilisation permitted such .things as men, women and children having to pass the night under trees, aye, he had seen them just outside the Palace of the Queen herself. Among the Ancient Britons these people would at least have had some hut. Even among tho Alaoris such tilings would not be. He asked, seeing theso things, what had civilisation done for England? What had been done by tho system of taking the hind from the pocple for the benefit of a few ? He hold that there was no nobler object than trying to gain for the whole of God s creatures" tho benefits ho had bestowed for the use of all, but which were being used only by a few. Let them therefore unite, not setting settlement against settlement, or. island against island, but banding themselves together for what was really a religious duty, —the securing for all of the blessings they should enjoy, and the removal of those causes which now prevented their obtaining them. In answer to a question as to whether ho would follow Mr Montgomery, Sir Georgo Grey said siuee he had resigned the leadership of the Opposition, he had never sought it again, but no man should compel him (Sir George Grey) to come to terms with him to secure that man's co-operation. Ho would have what ho believed to. be right and just, or nothing at all. Ho was able to walk alone. He answered a number of other questions and on tho motion of G. Dornoy, president of the Working Men's Political Association, seconded by Mr F. Guinness, the following resolution was carried amidst a storm of cheers, only four hands being held up against it — " That this meeting having heard Sir George Grey's opinions ou the present political crisis, heartily approves of them, and considers that the future. welfare of the colony depends on the carrying out of the principles therein expressed, and recognises Sir George Grey as the most fitting leader for the purpose of doinjj so." Sir George Grey thanked them moat heartily for tho kindness extended to him, and said that though he was getting old and could not serve much longer, they might depend upon it ho would work for tho good of the peoplo of New Zealand as long as he could.

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/THD18840522.2.31

Bibliographic details

SIR G. GREY AT CHRISTCHURCH., Timaru Herald, Volume XL, Issue 3014, 22 May 1884

Word Count
3,533

SIR G. GREY AT CHRISTCHURCH. Timaru Herald, Volume XL, Issue 3014, 22 May 1884

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