The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Grey, Sir George

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Grey, Sir George, K.C.B., M.H.R., D.C.L., LL.D., sometime Governor and Premier of New Zealand, is descended from a branch of the Greys of Groby, Marquises and subsequently Dukes of Dorset, and now represented in the peerage by the Earl of Stamford. He is the son of the late Lieut.-Colonel Grey of the 30th Foot, who was killed at the storming of Badajos, in the Peninsular War, was born on April 14th, 1812, at Lisbon, and educated at Sandhurst for the army. In 1829 he was made ensign in the 83rd Foot, becoming lieutenant in 1833 and captain in 1839, when he sold his commission. In 1837, in company with Lieut. Lushington, he was employed on an exploring expedition to the north-west of Australia, the object being to survey the country between Swan River and the Gulf of Carpentaria. They sailed from Plymouth in H.M.S. Beagle, and landed at the Cape of Good Hope, where they hired the schooner Lynher to convey them to Western Australia, landing in Port George on Dec. 2nd, 1837. There, after severe hardships, in the midst of which Grey showed great gallantry and endurance, they were rescued just in the nick of time by the Lynher. Ultimately a sheltered cove was discovered, and named Hanover Bay, from which point a fresh start inland was made on Jan. 17th, 1838. Hostile natives were encountered, and Grey received three spear-wounds (from the effects of which he still suffers), and was compelled to abandon the exploration of the Swan River. Making a détour inland, they discovered beautiful tropical country, and traced the course of the Glenelg River for seventy miles. On April 16th the party returned to Hanover Bay, and subsequently embarked on board of the Lynher for Mauritius, where Grey spent some time in recruiting his health. In 1839 he returned, and again started on an exploring expedition into the interior with thirteen men, the object being to survey the coast between Sharks Bay and Freemantle. A storm, however, arose, and washed away their provisions, and there was nothing for it but to put back to Perth, a distance of six hundred miles. The men, however, when they had got half way, refused to proceed in the leaky craft, and landing, gave themselves up for lost. And lost they would have been but for the pluck of their leader, who left them at a well, and pushed on to Perth, from whence he sent succour, which arrived just in time. The rescued remnant reached Perth on April 21st, 1839, in a wretched plight, and Grey departed for Adelaide en route for England, where his admirable "Journals of Discovery" were published. On April 15th, 1841, he returned to Adelaide with a commission (given him in the previous December) to replace Colonel Gawler in the government of the settlement, the latter having "outrun the constable" in promoting the development of the colony, and had his bills dishonoured by the Home Government, when he drew upon them to defray the cost of the works which he had started. By a rigid system of economy, not very pleasant for those whose position was affected by it, Captain Grey restored the balance of the finances and gained the good opinion of the Colonial Office to such a degree, that in 1845 he was appointed Governor of New Zealand, where even greater difficulties awaited him—difficulties which the imperial authorities relied (not in vain) upon his courage and statesmanship to surmount. Lord Stanley (afterwards Earl of Derby) showed his acumen in selecting him to succeed Governor Fitzroy (q.v.). Sir George arrived at Auckland on Nov. 14th. A short time previously Kororarika had been sacked by the chiefs Heke and Kawiti, who were at open war with the Government; but, by his judicious treatment of the neutral chiefs, and his vigorous operations against the rebels, Captain Grey succeeded in quelling the revolt. During the remainder of his term of office he had continual difficulties with the Maoris to settle, and was also involved in difficulty in regard to the grants of land to missionaries. On Nov. 29th, 1848, he issued an "Ordinance to provide for the establishment of Provincial Legislative Councils" as a preliminary to the granting of representative government to the colony. He desired to establish a Legislative Council, elected by the provincial councils, and an Assembly elected by the people: unicameral Provincial Councils, of which one-third should be nominated by the Crown and two-thirds elected; municipal corporations, with a £10 burgess and £5 rural suffrage for Europeans who could write and read and a suffrage for Maoris owning property worth £200. On Dec. 19th he appointed six members of the Legislative Council of New Munster. But this action roused the hostility of the colonists, who decried it as a piece of "absolutism," and in 1849 a "Settlers' Constitutional Association" was formed, including amongst its members Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Fitzherbert, Mr. (now Sir) William Fox, Dr. Featherston, and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Frederick Weld. Earl Grey, however, supported the Governor's action, and on Dec. 22nd, 1849, the royal approval of the Ordinance was given. The discontent in the colony increased; Mr. Godley joined the agitation; and Mr. Fox sought an interview with the Colonial Secretary to protest. In Feb. 1852 Lord John Russell's Government went out of office; and Sir John Pakington, who succeeded Lord Grey at the Colonial Office, brought in a bill in May by which six provinces were created in New Zealand—namely, Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Canterbury, Otago, and New Plymouth. On Jan. 17th, 1853, Sir George Grey proclaimed this Constitution Act, and on Feb. 28th he defined the limits of the provinces which had been left to his discretion, and made other regulations as to Crown lands, superintending registration of elections, etc. In 1849 he had persuaded the Home Government not to deport convicts to New Zealand. In Dec 1853 he left the colony, at first merely on leave of absence, but was appointed Governor of the Cape in 1854. There he exhibited extraordinary administrative and military capacity, breaking the back of a threatened Kaffir uprising of very dangerous proportions by his diplomatic skill, and on his own responsibility sending troops and money to India during the mutiny. The latter incident is thus described by an evidently well-informed writer: "In 1857, while Governor of Cape Colony, he was called upon by Lord Elphinstone, then Governor of Bombay, to assist in the defence of the British Empire in India; and it so happened that just at this time a part of Lord Elgin's army, on their way to Canton to punish the Chinese, touched at Cape Town. These Sir George Grey, on his own authority, directed to Calcutta, two days only after receiving Lord Elphinstone's letters, together with a part of the artillery stationed there, fully horsed, and transmitted from the Cape Treasury £60,000 in specie, continuing to forward both men and horses. Knowing the cavalry and artillery must be supplied, he dismounted his own cavalry and artillery, even taking the horses from his own carriage to keep up the supply. Vast stores of food for men and horses he also provided, and sent on a quantity of ammunition. All this Sir George Grey did without any authority from the Imperial Government, and so quickly that the troops which enabled Lord Elphinstone to hold the mutineers in check at Bombay, and Sir Colin Campbell to relieve Lucknow on Nov. 17th, 1857, were largely drawn from the forces sent by Sir George from the Cape." Colonel Gore Browne had succeeded him in New Zealand, but the native troubles developing, in May 1861 Sir George Grey was recalled to his old colony to settle the difficulty. He resumed the Government of New Zealand for the second time on Oct. 3rd, 1861, and at once set about his task of reorganising native affairs. A system of administration by runangas (or native councils) was to be introduced throughout the Maori country. The new plan was welcomed by the loyal natives and many others, but despite all the Governor's efforts, the Waikato chiefs stood aloof. Moreover, his endeavours to settle the Waitara block dispute were unsuccessful. At this time (1862) the Duke of Newcastle consented to the devolution of the control of native affairs from the Governor upon his responsible ministry, and Sir George Grey declared his intention of acting in these matters upon the advice of his ministers. On April 22nd, 1864, Sir George recommended the abandonment of the Waitara block, and on May 11th this was officially proclaimed. Unhappily, however, owing to the delay caused by the reluctance of the Ministry, the concession came too late, and war was inevitable. A party of English were murdered at Oakura, and on July 12th General Cameron crossed the Maungatawhiri, and the Waikato war began. During the whole of this campaign the Governor was involved in disputes with his Ministry, at one time in regard to the Waitara blocks, at another as to the treatment of prisoners and the confiscation of rebel lands. After the close of the Waikato war, in Dec. 1864, the Governor issued a confiscation proclamation. The war had now spread to the Wanganui region, and Sir George Grey instructed General Cameron to attack Wereroa Pa, but the latter declined, alleging that he would require 2000 extra soldiers. Sir George then assembled a force of 500 men, friendly natives and forest rangers, and personally conducted an assault upon the pa, which was taken on July 20th, 1865. This incident was the occasion of a quarrel between the Governor and General Cameron, in which the Home Government espoused the cause of the latter, who had accused the Governor of countenancing subversion of discipline. Subsequently, in General Chute's famous Taranaki campaign, an unfortunate dispute arose in connection with the shooting of a prisoner of war. Colonel Weare, an officer under General Chute, had charged the Governor and his Government with urging Chute to take no prisoners alive. Sir George indignantly denied this, and Lord Carnarvon, at the Colonial Office, while accepting his denial, rebuked him for the tone of his despatches, and requested him to withdraw them. This Sir George refused to do. At this juncture Mr. Disraeli's Government went out of office, and the Duke of Buckingham succeeded Lord Carnarvon. But this change made no difference to the position of Sir George Grey, who would seem to have become obnoxious to the Colonial Office. On August 27th, 1867, he was recalled, and Parliament immediately adjourned as a mark of respect for the Governor and regret at his recall. On Sept. 6th an address from the Houses was presented to him, in which the hope was expressed that the Queen would reward him for his services by some signal mark of honour. On Sept. 16th the Ministry drew up a formal protest against the treatment to which Sir George Grey had been subjected, and regretting the discourteous recall of the Governor, expressed their sympathy with him. In reply to the Duke of Buckingham's comments on this document, Sir George Grey wrote: "I request your Grace to be pleased to state to the Queen that I present my duty to Her Majesty, and in receiving this notification of my Sovereign's pleasure, I beg to be permitted humbly to represent to Her Majesty that in the year 1845, a rebellion prevailing in New Zealand, I was, by Her Majesty's commands, especially sent to this country, and that when I relinquished the post in the year 1854 it was my happiness to leave it in a state of tranquillity and prosperity; that in the year 1861, a rebellion having again broken out in New Zealand, I was once more especially sent here; and that it is again my happiness, upon being removed, by your Grace's advice, from this Government, to leave New Zealand in a state of tranquillity and returning prosperity; and that I humbly represent to Her Majesty that I desire to claim no merit for these circumstances, but rather to attribute them to the blessing of Divine Providence, and to the abilities and exertions of Her Majesty's subjects who have advised me and aided me in my duties; and further, that I humbly trust that the almost unanimous voice of Her Majesty's subjects in New Zealand, amongst whom I have laboured In Her Majesty's service, will satisfy Her Majesty that I have done my utmost to promote the welfare and happiness of the inhabitants of this part of Her Majesty's possessions." Sir George Bowen assumed office as Governor on Feb. 5th, 1868, and at the end of the year Sir George Grey left New Zealand to put himself right at the Colonial Office in respect of the Weare charges. Lord Granville, however, who had become Colonial Secretary, refused to reopen the subject, and he was retired on a pension in 1872. In the interim Sir George Grey delivered addresses at the leading centres of population in the United Kingdom, in opposition to the policy then advocated by several prominent statesmen of getting rid of the colonies, and became a candidate for West Worcestershire and Newark, retiring in each case before the poll. Having returned to New Zealand, and taken up his residence in the island of Kawau, Sir George, in 1875, was elected member of the House of Representatives for Auckland City West, and also in the same year superintendent of the Province of Auckland. At this time he came forward as an ardent upholder of provincialism when the Houses had decided to abolish the provinces. He also brought forward a Manhood Suffrage Bill and a Triennial Parliaments Bill, both of which were rejected. In Oct. 1877 the Atkinson Ministry was defeated, and on the 13th Sir George Grey formed a cabinet, thus ruling as Premier a country which, ten years before, he had ruled as Governor. The beginning of the ministry's term of office was marked by a dispute with the Governor (Lord Normanby) on a question of privilege. On July 29th, 1879, on a motion by Sir W. Fox, the Government was defeated, and after the election which followed was again put in a minority, on a motion by Mr. (afterwards Sir) John Hall. Sir George Grey, who resigned office in Oct 1879, sat in Parliament continuously up to the election in Nov. 1890, when he did not offer himself. The degree of D.C.L. was conferred upon him by the University of Oxford in 1854, and he was created K.C.B. in 1848. He married, in 1889, Harriet, daughter of the late Admiral Sir R. W. Spencer, K.H., formerly Government Resident of Albany, West Australia. Sir George Grey has lately given his valuable library as a free gift to the town of Auckland. He was one of the three delegates of New Zealand to the Federation Convention held in Sydney in March 1891, having been in the meantime re-elected to the House of Representatives for Newton. At the Convention he stood almost alone in his advocacy of the "one man one vote" principle as the condition precedent of federation. He also argued in favour of the Governor-in-Chief of the projected commonwealth being chosen by popular election. After the sittings of the Convention closed Sir George Grey revisited South Australia, where the fiftieth anniversary of his assumption of the government of that colony was celebrated with extraordinary demonstrations of regard and respect. At all the leading centres in South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales Sir George addressed gatherings in favour of the "one man one vote" principle, gaining an overwhelming preponderance of popular support. His Life by Mr. W. L. Rees, M.H.R., has lately been published by Messrs. Hutchinson, London; and Mr. Brett, Auckland.