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William Rolleston : a New Zealand statesman



Sir David Monro was out of politics at this time, seeking to regain his health by a quiet country life. Although he was a strong supporter of abolition he was in full accord with Rolleston's opinion on Vogel and his borrowing policy.

Sir David Monro to Rolleston, 15 July 1874:

I have been reading a speech of Waterhouse's. It is very clever and amusing. I had no idea that Waterhouse had so much fun in him. There are some capital hits in it—what a pity that Sewell left the Legislative Council. I fancy Vogel wants to drive Featherston out of his office (as Agent-General). These letters of his are exceedingly coarse and offensive and when one thinks of Featherston's antecedents and public services it is deplorable to see him bullied by such a snob as Vogel. The career which Vogel has cut out for himself I can fancy to be as follows; he will go home as Agent for the Colony and after a year or two he will endeavour to get into the British Parliament. He has brains enough to see that the time for leaving New Zealand is drawing nigh.

I am told that at the present moment the credit of the Colony is very high in England and that we can get any amount of money page 115we choose to ask for. This must come to an end before long. The Colony is living at a fearful pace which is becoming faster … there will be lots of money for everybody and the goal will be reached all the sooner….

I suppose there is no opposition and I really think there would be very little use in having one. The Colony cares only about one thing and that is money—no matter where it comes from so long as there is an ample supply.

Sir David Monro to Rolleston, 11 December 1875:

On one account, if not on more, I am not sorry that I was not in the House of Representatives last session, for if I had been there although on the great majority of questions I should have been by your side, still on the great question of the elimination of the Provinces I should have been obliged to differ from you; and I can assure you with all sincerity that having the greatest respect for your political views, and with very great admiration of the independence and honesty with which you express them in the Legislature I should have separated from you on this question with much pain….

The question of one Parliament for the Colony or ten parliaments is one that has been in my mind ever since the Constitution of 1853 was launched, and I never could come to any other conclusion than that in the multiplicity of legislation and the extreme subdivision of the colonial resources there was created a most unnecessary amount of machinery and a conflict of interests. All this appeared to me to give to the colonial parliament the character of a body compound of a number of squads pursuing local objects and rendered it quite impossible that it should exhibit those characteristics of strength and public spirit, without which a parliament is hardly entitled to any respect whatever. I have the most affectionate respect for the institutions of the old country and feel perfectly certain that its machinery of local self government is at the bottom of its strength and success in the higher efforts of legislation. But local self government as understood in England means nothing more than the administration by a locally constituted body of a law made by the one parliament of the country. Such a thing as the manufacture of laws for the British people by ten parliaments never entered I should think into the page 116head of the most locally minded British subject. I don't think there is the smallest reason to fear that we shall have a sufficient amount of local self government…. What I fear most is the bribery of the General Government and the corruption thereby engendered…. New Zealand has been demoralised by the Vogel policy. Little of its self-respect is left. Backstairs influence and log rolling and successful beggary are the influences which are invoked….

Is the credit of New Zealand nearly exhausted? I fancy that it is: and I am very happy to think that such is the case. Without borrowed money Vogel is nobody; a Samson without his locks. The collapse of that mountebank is not very far distant and his name in a very few years will be mentioned in a very different tone from that in which it is sounded at present. But alas for the poor Colony. It has an awful millstone round its neck: and will have to pay dearly for its reckless gullibility.

Vogel arrived back in New Zealand in February 1876 after sixteen months' absence. He was feted and banqueted by immense crowds and was hailed with unrestrained enthusiasm as a national hero. He resumed without question the Premiership and reconstituted his Cabinet.

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J. E. Fitzgerald, first Superintendent of Canterbury and William Rolleston, last Superintendent of Canterbury

J. E. Fitzgerald, first Superintendent of Canterbury and William Rolleston, last Superintendent of Canterbury