Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/370

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

severe enough to force him to abandon the expedition. A voyage to the Mauritius restored his strength, though for the rest of his life the spear wound troubled him. Still bent on exploration, he sailed from Perth in 1839 with thirteen men and three whaleboats to explore the west coast north and south of Shark's Bay. The party was well equipped, yet met with even greater disasters than the first expedition. After discovering the Gascoyne River they found that the bulk of their stores, which had been placed on an islet off the shore, had been spoiled by a hurricane. When they endeavoured to return to Pertli by sailing along the surf-beaten coast, want of water forced them to try to land through the breakers. Both boats were wrecked. With but a little salt meat, damaged flour, and arrowroot left, the party-started on 2 April to march on foot three hundred miles to Perth. Grey walked into the town alone on the 21st, so haggard that friends did not recognise him. The whole of his company had either flagged or lain down by the way utterly exhausted, though all but one were saved by rescue parties promptly sent to search for them.

The courage, endurance, and humane care for followers and natives, which were the best qualities displayed by Grey, in these unlucky journeys, recommended him to Lord John Russell as the right man for the difficult post of governor of South Australia. That colony had been founded in 1836; yet, owing to mismanagement and a partial and blundering application of Gibbon Wakefield's land theories, its settlers in 1841 were still crowded in and near Adelaide, where they had been idling, bickering, speculating in town lots, entertaining one another with champagne and tinned meats and preserved vegetables, and producing next to nothing. To provide employment, Grey's predecessor, Colonel Gawler, had erected a costly vice-regal residence and public offices, and, to meet this and other outlay, had drawn bills on the imperial treasury, which were dishonoured. By rigid economy Grey, who took the reins in May 1841, reduced the colony's expenditure, which had been 170,000l. the year before, to S0,000 in 1843, and drove the townspeople to the work of cultivating the land. His life was threatened and his household boycotted, but gradually his firmness prevailed. The home government lent the colony some necessary moneys, and the settlers began to grow food. The discovery of copper at Burra Burra and elsewhere made an end of depression, and when in October 1845 Grey was shifted to New Zealand, it could be claimed that the clouds had passed away from South Australia, and that in no small degree his good sense and resolution had brought about the change. He had shown humanity to the aborigines, interest in education, and opposition to religious ascendency.

An even harder task awaited him. In New Zealand the mistakes and misfortunes which had marked the birth of South Australia had been repeated, and to them had been added an unsuccessful war with a portion of the native race. The troops in the colony were but a handful, and the war-like Maori tribes, if united, could have swept the settlers into the sea. Grey reached Auckland in November 1845 to find confusion and despair. The colonial office, however, supplied him with the men and money which they had withheld from his predecessors, and the capture of the pa (stockade) of the insurgent chiefs, Heké and Kawiti, soon gave peace to the most disturbed districts, though petty hostilities dragged on for some two years in the Wellington province. Grey cleverly seized the well-known chief, Rauparaha, believed to be secretly the instigator of strife, and detained him in honourable captivity. By employing the natives on wages at road making, by ostentatiously honouring friendly chiefs, by discountenancing land-grabbing, and encouraging industry among the Maori, Grey was able to gain remarkable influence over the race. He purchased large areas of their land for settlement, but refused to sanction any infraction of their treaty rights. It was partly for this last reason that he took the responsibility of refusing to put into force the constitution sent out to him from Downing Street in 1848, under which self-government was to be granted to the New Zealand colonists. Though the settlers bitterly resented this, they prospered under Grey's autocratic rule, which lasted until December 1853, when he was sent to govern Cape Colony. Before departing from New Zealand he had shared in drawing up the free constitution finally granted to that colony, a noteworthy feature of which was the establishment of six provinces with large local powers.

In Cape Colony Grey was successful in averting a Kaffir invasion on a large scale by capturing certain of the chiefs in a fashion somewhat similar to the seizure of Rauparaha. Afterwards, when starvation and disease had broken the strength and spirit of the Kaffrarian tribes, he dealt kindly with them and gained their confidence. At the same time he strengthened and extended the colony by the introduction of the German legionaries and other German settlers. To aid this work he twice pledged his private credit, a step