LECTURES AND SPEECHES
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey
The rich man’s joys increase—the poor decay—
‘Tis yours to judge how wide the limit stands
Between a splendid and happy land.
Dear Sir,—I have much pleasure in forwarding for your perusal a copy of my Speech to the Electors of Hawke’s Bay, delivered at Clive on the 10th inst. If views therein expressed meet with your approval, kindly say so in the Ballot Box on the Polling Day.
Mr. Desmond addressed a meeting at West Clive last night, Mr. J. Taylor in the chair.
Mr. Desmond said:—According to the advertisement I have come before you tonight to explain my views upon public questions. I intend to do so and to give you my reasons for these views fearlessly and independently. This is the second time in my life in which I have faced an audience as a speaker, and therefore I beg to crave for your indulgence. The local newspapers are, as you know, my most bitter enemies, but, I hope the electors will not be led away by interested parties. My first speech at Hastings was misreported in one paper, and not reported at all in the others. The morning, paper, although an opponent, treated me in a more gentlemanly way than the evening one, and I thank them accordingly. I do not expect flattery from enemies, but I think I have a right, to demand what every Briton ought to expect—that is fair play. I think I am entitled to this although I am unable to purchase a newspaper of my own. I first made up mind to become a candidate in this very hall, about a month ago. I was then listening to your late representative, who was pleased to say that he hated and despised the working men's representative. My blood boiled with disgust as I listened to this man, and I made up my mind to become a candidate from that moment. I am of opinion that the great landowning and banking corporations have ruled the country long enough to its detriment and that it is high time the rest of the people should now insist upon having a turn. Before going any further I may assure you that I have not been put forward by Captain Russell nor any of his friends. I have nothing whatever to do with him. I am running alone. This rumor has been circulated by my enemies with the view of injuring my candidature. The men who have circulated this report have evidently measured my wheat by their own bushel— because they are to be bought and sold themselves, they think that I can, be the same; but they are mistaken in me, as I can assure you upon my honor that I' have told you true, and I can say no more. I have traveled over most of this provincial district. I know its wants and its capabilities as well as any man who owns 50,000 sheep, or the same amount of acres. I know the hopes and the aspirations of the large class to which I myself belong, and I know the hardships of the smaller settlers. I also know the power which the great landowners can wield, because I have felt it and I think-they have wielded it long enough. Now I propose, instead of criticizing my opponents' views, to give you my own upon various questions.
EIGHT HOURS BILL.
First, I am in favor of the Eight Hours Bill becoming law, and of the extension of the same to farms and stations. I think eight hours is long enough for any man to work. If he works more he is, in the end, dulls his thinking powers, and therefore makes himself less fit to take a rational interest in the affairs of the nation. Labor is comparatively ineffective without thought, and it, therefore, is our duty to encourage men to think and give them leisure for the same, as well as time for rational amusement. But, for all that, I do not believe in preventing men from working long hours if they are paid for overtime, although I sincerely believe too much manual labor brutalizes the man.
I do not believe in plural voting, because it is the representing at the property and not men. Under our present system, as Captain Russell said last night at Taradale, it is possible for outsiders to turn an elector against the wishes of the residents. Now, this is wrong, both in principle and practice. No man should be able to vote except a resident, and therefore one man should count only as one man.
HOURS OF POLLING.
The hours of polling might also be extended to 8 o’clock in the evening, and the day of the general election ought to be proclaimed a holiday.
Newspapers, I think, might also go free through the post, because they assist in ennobling the people, and are a great educating power when in the hands of independent men.
There has been a great deal of talk about abolishing "local option” lately, but I think it ought to have a full and fair trial. It is right in principle because it gives the power into the hands of the people, but even in this it might be improved by giving every man—aye, and every woman too—a vote. Every man is interested in it, and I feel certain that women are even more so. I acknowledge the great evils which drink have caused to our race and are causing now, but I also know that habits which have been aged in accumulating cannot be eradicated all at once. It will take time. Sentimentalism on this question is a fraud; it is simply a question of practical politics; it is a question of raising revenue from land or from Customs duties upon drink. I am of opinion that all revenue should be raised from the unearned increment of lard,- and, that some of the Customs duties collected from things of an injurious character might be well applied to counteracting the evils which those things produce. Mr. Harding, our local great Grand Good Templar, talks sufficient twaddle about it, but I have not yet heard him advocate a land tax because suppose it might affect his 100,000 acres or so.
I am in favor of encouraging local industries and manufactures, but not by means of protection. I object to Custom duties, and especially protective duties upon principle; besides, when they are once imposed, a class grows up who are peculiarly interested in perpetuating them, and it is therefore almost impossible to abolish them. My plan is to do so by means of land, grants, and bonuses. If a great war were to break out in Europe, and our trade happened to get crippled, we would find great difficulty in supplying our own needs in manufactured goods, and therefore I think it is the duty of the people to hope for the best but prepare for the worst by assisting and encouraging home industries.
I am in favor of totally abolishing the Customs duties except upon things of an injurious character. This system of taxation is a remnant of feudalism, and it bleeds the people, like the vampire bat, without their knowing it; they are also a clog upon trade by placing a restriction upon the exchange of commodities. Victoria is a protectionist colony, yet in proportion to population,New Zealandraises more money by Customs duties than Victoria does. I believe in free trade in reality, and not merely in name, and in throwing open our ports free to the trade of the world. The Customs duties are an unjust system of taxation by pressing proportionately heavier upon the poor man than upon the rich one. For instance, when the great squatter wants oil of rhodium to entice the rabbit to the poisoned grain, it is admitted free, when a poor family is taxed one-fifth upon every pound of raisins. Again, diamonds are admitted free, when children's boots are taxed the full 1-5 per cent. Then, again, a shearer has to pay 15 per cent, upon the price of his shears, when the lordly squatter is allowed to import his sheep dipping machinery and gear free, also sheep nets. Now, is this a fair system of taxing which falls in such a manner upon the people? There is also a large number of articles which are required for manufacturing purposes, and they should certainly come in duty-free.
THE PROPERTY TAX.
Neither am I a believer in a property tax, because it presses particularly heavy upon the small settlers and tradesmen, and through them upon the working classes. The whole amount which this sham tax produces is about £250,000… £200,000 is a direct tax upon industry, the other £50,000 is paid by land, yet the value of property in New Zealand is one hundred and fifteen million, and the value of land one hundred million. This tax is also preventative of local industries in proportion to its weight, as I will show. Two men own a section in a town; one builds a factory and places machinery in it to the value of £20,000; the other man allows his section to lie idle, and so escapes taxation because the value of his plot is under £500. But the man who attempts to start a local industry is taxed upon the full value. Again, suppose two men start each with £500; both speculate in land of the same value; one is industrious and hardworking, and at the end of the year puts £500 worth of improvements upon it; around comes the property tax collector at the end of' the year, and says to the industrious man, "You have made your land worth £500 more than it was last year; we wish to discourage such men as you, and therefore I want some of that £500." The tax collector then passes on to the lazy settler, and says, ''How are you, old fellow,; I see you have left your land alone; you have taken your ease; we want to encourage you and more like you, so I will not tax you at all, because of the £500 exemption clause." It is also a tax upon capital because the moneylender charges enough interest to pay the amount of the tax.
Now men tell you we want capital, and when capital arrives we tax it. Men tell you we want labor, and when the laborer arrives we make of him a toiling, tax-paying machine. Men tell you we want trade, yet we put a heavy tax upon the exchange of commodities.
This is not being consistent, for if you tax manufacturers the effect is to check manufacturing. Tax improvements, and the effect is to check improvements. Tax commerce and the effect is to check exchange. Tax capital and the effect is to drive it away. Tax the laborer, and the effect is to discourage him. But the whole or part of the unearned increment may be taken in taxation, and the only effect will be to open up new avenues for labor and capital; to increase the production of wealth and stimulate our national prosperity. Last night I listened to Captain Russell eulogizing the property tax, and saving it was a popular tax in the United States. Now, I deny this. It is popular, certainly amongst a certain class of money lenders and land speculators, but with the bulk of the people, it is not popular. One of the greatest American political economists is opposed to a property tax.
The unearned increment is that value-added on to land by the increase of population, and by the labors of the whole people. There is a natural order in all things, and this is the natural and just fund from which our revenue ought to be raised. It is simply stated. Taking by the community for the use of the community of that value which is the creation of the community. Sham politicians will get up and tell you it is unjust and robbery to tax the unearned increment, - but these men are usually great landowners themselves, or else the figure-head of a Maori land speculating clique. Look into the circumstances and surroundings of these men, and you will always find that their pecuniary interests are opposed to it. They are men who would like to see Hawke´s Bay one big sheep run, where the serfs could go shearing during the summer, and work in a boiling-down during the winter. Beware of these men; do not trust them; they are fooling you.
Mr. Russell was also pleased to say at Taradale that I proposed to confiscate people's property. Now, this is absurd. Taxing land is not confiscating it, and I wish to point out that the future unearned increment may be justly taken by a land tax. But to take the past unearned increment would be nationalizing the land. Because the people have not taken this unearned increment in the past is no reason to say that they shall not do it in the future. Because a man has been robbed yesterday and the day before is no reason to say that he shall be robbed to-day and tomorrow.
THE LAND TAX.
I am in favor of a land tax, because it is the most just tax which can be devised, as it only takes from the individual what he has already received from the people, and it will make those pay taxation who reap the benefit of material prosperity. All the great politico-economic writers advocate a land tax. There is J.S. Mill, McCullough, George, Professor Newman, etc. When the Liberal party was in power, andSir George Greywas Premier, a land tax was imposed, but it was repealed through the overwhelming influence of squatters and bankers. But I have no doubt it will be again re-imposed within a few months if the people will only return men who are pledged to support it. Mr. Tanner was pleased to say at Waipawa that a land tax would ultimately fall upon the working classes. I think Mr. Tanner does not understand the question when he talks like that. According to the greatest writers upon political economy, a tax upon the land is the only tax which does not distribute itself. The landowners pay it alone, out of the rent or value of his land. A land tax may decrease rent, but it will never be paid by wages. There is plenty of arguments against a land tax, but they seem to make up in number what they want in weight. Macaulay has somewhere said that if the principle of gravitation was inimical to any considerable vested interest there would not be wanting arguments against it.
I am in favor of increased borrowing to complete and extend our public works system.
Why should we not push on our railway line and connect with Wellington and Wanganui, and why should we not have a railway up the East Coast or inland to Gisborne. The land can well afford to pay for it all, but under our present unjust system of indirect taxation it is very wrong to spend millions only for the benefit of the landowners whilst the people pay the interest. But when a land tax is imposed every landowner will pay taxes according to the benefit he receives. In Sir J. Vogel's “Public Works and Borrowing“ Act there was a clause inserted for encouraging emigration, and for settling people upon the lands, and for taxing the land. But the overwhelming power of the landowners prevented those last two points from being carried out. These great squatters wanted cheap labor to shear their sheep and to wash their wool, etc., but at the same time, they wanted their lands increased in value by the public works. At the time they prevented the settlement of the people upon the lands because they knew that as the number of the farmers increased the power of wool and tallow would decline. For all that I am not a very enthusiastic admirer of Sir Julius Vogel, as I consider him to be a social fraud to a great extent.
Neither am I very favorably disposed towards Mr. Montgomery because he is in favor of separation. I think the people of New Zealand should be under one Government alone, and that our object ought to be to weld our diverse kind of people into one homogenous whole.
Major Atkinson, the Premier, is another man whom I do not believe in. He is, in my opinion, a sham politician, but he can manipulate figures until they look like a Chinese puzzle, and he seems to do it intentionally with the idea of hiding his own failings behind a mass of figures. Here is how he tried to show that the people were fairly taxed. He said the working classes paid £2 per year in taxation, the middle classes £3 10s, and the upper ten £5. Now supposing these figures to be correct, which I deny, they do not show fair taxation. If one man's income is £100, and he pays £2, a man whose income is £1000 ought to pay ten times as much, or £20, yet, going by these figures, he only pays £5. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the people. Again, the gallant Major tells us to be careful and frugal, whilst at the same, time the Saving Banks deposits had fallen away in twelve months to the tune of £75,000, and the Customs duties upon the necessaries of life had decreased 10 per cent. He must have been ironical because these figures show that the people had not the wherewithal to purchase absolute necessaries. Again, when the unemployed were clamoring for work over a year or two ago, the Government had a floating balance of £600,000 lying in the bank unused, bearing no interest. The Government did not employ any of this money in time to relieve the distress, because the Mayor and his colleagues wished to oblige their brethren, the bank managers.
Again, another member of this Continuous Government, Mr. Whitaker, who was solicitor for the Bank of New Zealand, whilst he was also Premier, acquired by various means 13,000 acres of Maori reserves. The means by which this land Was acquired—well; the least said about it the better—Major Atkinson is merely the puppet in the hands of the Banks; he is the figure-head of the concern. The bank directors stop in the background and pull the wires, whilst the gallant Major goes through the antics. Sir G. Grey described him well when he said there are wizards of the north and wizards of the south, but the wizard from Taranaki beats them all. For my part, I shall consistently vote against the present Government, and always with the Liberal party.
THE LAND QUESTION.
Now, gentlemen, I wish you to understand that in my opinion the land question is the great question, and in my opinion, all the others are of merely secondary importance. Large estates are the ruination of any country. See the misery, the blood, and the wretchedness they have caused in Ireland; see how whole counties have been depopulated in Scotland at the will of one man; see how the poor of the great towns in England are huddled together, living in misery and shame, all from the same cause.
Now, do we want to repeat these things in New Zealand? Do we want to entail upon our children the misery and degradation which are chronic in older countries? These large estates are gradually growing up around us, and as population increases, they shall have to make terms with these great landlords.
There is also a class of Maori landlords in New Zealand, and I think they should be treated in exactly the same way as the European. One law for both races is my motto.
PROGRESSIVE LAND TAX.
I am in favor of placing a progressive land tax upon all very large estates, for the purpose of compelling the owners of these ferny wildernesses to either improve or sell and play the dog in the manger no longer. This would have been done in the past if the smaller settlers had not been so easily led by the squatters. The small settlers, thinking it was their own interest, do the fighting, whilst the great run holder stopped in the background and pocketed the money. It has been said, and truly, that I am not a great landowner, that I have no stake in the country, and would therefore have no weight in the House. But you just give me a trial, and I will show you differently. Now, Sir, Lincoln Longwool has a stake in the country; he owns £50,000 a year, and 50,000 sheep, and will never give a vote without first thinking how men with £50,000 a year and 50,000 sheep will the affected by the motion.
My next subject is that of immigration. I am totally opposed to Government immigration of whatever kind. I think we ought to first settle the people on our lands, and if their circumstances improve the news will spread and attract a desirable class of settlers to come out here. Free immigration is all very well for the run holders because they are able to get the rabbits killed pretty cheaply and other things of the same kind done cheaply. What is the use of men coming to New Zealand when all the land is locked up; they have got to take any terms which the landowners like to offer them. To place a man in a country where all the land is in the hands of a few, and expect him to make an independent living, is like pitching a man overboard in the middle of the Pacific and expect him to swim ashore.
Mr. Tanner, in speaking of emigration, says he is not in favor of it at present, or in other words, he is prepared, if he gets in to assist his brethren in , flooding the labor market again, when the opportunity occurs.
Now I have spoken so much of squatters tonight that I think; I shall say something upon the station hands. I have seen these men fed on the coarsest and hardest fare, mutton and damper to-day, with damper and mutton to-morrow for a change. I have seen these men living in a hut where no fire was allowed, going to bed on a wet cold day to keep themselves warm. I have seen them packed like sardines in a box, in rows one above another. I have seen them put oil sheets over their beds to keep the rain from wetting their blankets. I have seen the wind and rain coming in through the cracked roof, and the winter storm whistling through the rafters, as it does through the rigging of a ship. I have seen these men get up out of this refrigerating chamber with icicles hanging on to their whiskers, and I have also known of the owners of these colonial hinds gallivanting in some London ball-room upon the profits of these slaves' labor. All these things, these contrasts between, deepening poverty and increasing wealth, are principally caused by land monopoly, and the same evils are manifesting themselves here which are pauperizing the great masses of the people of older countries.
POPULATION AND SETTLEMENT.
Hawke's Bay province has not been settled thirty years, and I ask you have the inhabitants that chance to succeed in life which a colony of that age should offer. The population of the district is only now one man to the square mile, and do you think that one square mile of this province is only able to support one individual? This is absurd. But I can assure you that there is no chance of an increasing population until the land is held in smaller blocks, and until people are settled where there is now only unbroken solitude. The people must have land.
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.”
Now, gentlemen, I was to-day reading a telegram from Christchurch. Here it is—"Thirty of the unemployed were discharged to-day because they refused to work for 4s 6d per day. Arrangements have been made to ration them at 8d per day, and for providing them with sleeping accommodation.” I do not know what kind of rations 8d per day will provide, but I do know that 4s 6d per day is not sufficient to support any married man, let alone keep him in working condition. Although these things happened so far away as Christchurch, we may soon see the same things in Hawke's Bay. The essence of slavery is that it takes from the producer all he produces, except just enough to keep the producer in working condition. Now, 4s 6d per day does not even do this, especially to married men, and yet we brag of living in a land of freedom.
LAND AND LABOR.
This is also like most questions connected with the proper utilization of land, for land and labor are the original factors in the creation of all wealth. Not that I say wealth is created, but I do say that labor, by the aid of natural forces, transmutes original matter into the articles which labor requires. The man changes rough ore into steel, changes grass into the warm blanket, changes rich soil into, the baker's loaf, by the aid of magic working toil. But, mind you, first and foremost it is necessary that the man shall have access to that original matter, that is to say, to the land.
THE CAUSE OF HARD TIMES.
Shall we not say then, when we see large numbers of men in want of articles which they are willing to labor for, and are unable to do it, that the reason is that these men are prevented from getting at the original matter, the land. They have to pay an exorbitant price for the privilege of producing wealth. That price is, as well as land, value—the difference between what they get in wages and what their labor produces. The real cause of men being unemployed is to be found in the monopoly of land, no matter what interested parties may say to the contrary.
It is also land speculation that has in Hawke's Bay driven industrious settlers back into the bush to toil for a bare living, whilst there are thousands of acres of good land lying idle and unused close handy. These settlers have been compelled to swim the river to dig a well at the other side to get a drink of bad water.
THE PEOPLE TO BLAME.
You, yourselves, are principally to blame for allowing this in the past. You have allowed great squatters of the worst type to rule you to their own advantage; they have themselves’ grabbed the good land, and they attempt to pose as your friends by offering you the crumbs that fall from their table. You have the power in your own hands now, and if you do not wish to be forever serfs of territorial gods’ almighty; if you have got any of the energy of your progenitors, you will not stand this kind of injustice any longer. You will say to them with me—Wealth that we make for you, the money we earn; give us our share of them, give us a turn. If you have the pluck to say this, then return mc as your representative, and I will lead you. I once heard two squatters talking about wages. One says ''We have got them down now to a pound a week, and if we put our foot on them we may never have to pay more." "I'm doubtful," says the other woolly aristocrat, "we might do that if it was not for that confounded Sir Geo. Grey, and this free and compulsory education." This represents the feelings of the squatters to the people; these two were fair representatives of their class.
"GREAT ESTATES RUINED ITALY."—PLINY.
A great many of you have read the history of ancient Rome, and you all know how that great empire fell from internal decay caused by a land monopoly. An ancient Roman, when addressing the citizens, said "Men of Rome, ye call yourselves the lords of the world, but you do not own a square inch of its soil; the wild beasts have their dens, the wild birds have their nests, but the soldiers of Italy have only water and air." For saying this he and 300 of his followers were drowned in the Tiber, and if the great landowners had the power they would like to drown Sir G. Grey and every man who had the hardihood to tell the people the truth.
I will recapitulate, so as to thoroughly impress upon your minds the importance of taxing the land. It is the first step towards greater things in the future; it is the first step towards reform. Land tax will promote settlement, will abolish slowly the Customs duties, and thus raise wages; it will promote manufacturing and all kinds of local industries; it will promote the introduction of labor and capital; it will promote public works, and with yearly Parliaments and local government will stop logrolling; it will, in course of time, abolish the unemployed soup kitchen; it will compel the great run holders to improve or sell their ferny wildernesses; it will help to make out of a little village a great city; it will also curb the growing arrogance: of a local shoddy aristocracy; it will give us other industries to depend upon in periods of depression than wool and mutton; but above all things it would surely break the power of the great banking corporation, who is sucking the vitality out of our country. If you wish to perpetuate and intensify all the evils which I have enumerated to-night, then vote for my opponents, vote to put your hands in your pockets to keep the noble scions of a woolly aristocracy driving around in their gigs whilst you yourselves toil for a bare living.
These great land-owners have ruled you long enough to your loss. You have triennial Parliaments, manhood suffrage, and the Ballot Act, and now you have a chance to have a say in it. The people of New Zealand are like unto the cab horse who takes no account of the profits of his driver. If you have one spark of the energy of your forefathers you will now make a stroke for freedom, and fair play, and it is your duty to see that no man is handicapped in the struggle of life. These great landowners are, winking in their sleeves and whispering how they are humbugging those poor fools. They say "The many shall sow that we may reap; since voters are driven like flocks of sheep." “Britons never shall be slaves" was the song of our own people in an older country, but it seems to me that we are forgetting in this sunny clime how to sing it and act up to it.
To conclude, I can summarize my thoughts in the language of the poet who says, as I say, and as you ought to say,
Too long we've bore; the servile yoke,
Too long the slavish chain,
Too long in feeble accents spoke,
And ever spoke in vain.
Our wealth, your wealth, has, filled the spoiler's not,
And gorged the woolly crew;
But, oh, my friends; we'll show them yet,
What determined men can do.
After several questions had been put and answered, a vote of thanks was moved by Mr. Smith and was carried with rounds of applause. A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the proceedings.
Daily Telegraph, Issue 4047, 11 July 1884
Read Arthur Desmonds first speech at Hastings 5 July 1884
Will you try to get a harbor for Hawke’s Bay? —Most certainly. If elected I shall look upon it as one of my first duties. We must have a harbor, and we shall have one.
Are you in favor of the Government becoming the sole purchasers of Maori lands? —Yes; because it will be just to the Maori people, just to the Europeans, and it will abolish Maori
What leader will you follow? —I look up on Sir G. Grey as the natural leader of the liberal part; but I do not wish to pledge myself to follow any leader, as I am not personally acquainted with any of them. I shall follow the leader who will in my opinion try to do the greatest good for the greatest number.
Are you in favor of abolishing the honorarium? —No. Those who have large blocks of land may talk of abolishing the honorarium, because they wish to make Government a close corporation of monied men. The honorarium or wages is absolutely necessary if a poor man is to sit in the House at all. We should not grudge our representative the honorarium; as if he does his duty to the people he well earns it.
A vote of thanks was then moved by Mr. Smith and was carried with rounds of applause. A vote of thanks to the chairman terminated the proceedings.
WAIPAWA MAIL, 18 July 1884
EXTRACTS from Maiden Speech delivered at Hastings on Saturday Evening, 5th July, Mr. George Ellis in the chair.
DURATION OF PARLIAMENTS.
The duration of Parliaments is a question of most vital importance to the people. Our late representative has been pleased to say that triennial parliaments have broken down, and that five years is short enough. Now this is rank nonsense. Triennial parliaments are a great improvement on the old style, they have caused a more intense feeling to be taken in politics than before, and this is a hopeful sign of the times. When the duration of Parliament is too long the people have no control over their representatives.
I am in favor of an annual general election, because then the representative will be in thorough accord with his constituents. Besides three years is too long for bad representative to sit, and if he does his duty he will be elected every time. Thus, in having greater control over your representative, log-rolling and bribery would be forever killed.
The civil service wants re-organising, but not in the stupid 10 per cent. style. If the large salaries were reduced and some of the reduction added on to the men who do all the work, it would improve the service much. I Such men as policemen, telegraph and post office clerks are, ridiculously underpaid, whilst others get great salaries for occasionally signing their name in an illegible manner.
I am totally against federation, because I think New Zealand can run alone. We are placed by nature in the Pacific, thousands of miles from Australia; we have a different national character from Australians, and our descendants and theirs might not agree. It is not very encouraging to read the rows which federation has caused in Ireland and in the United States. I don’t defend slavery, but I wish to point out the effect of people of different traits federating. Besides, it is only a sham question got up in the interests of the employers of Coolie labor and Chinamen. I am totally opposed to tying New Zealand to the apron strings of Australia. Under federation the central authority would steadily become stronger, whilst our local power would decline, and as that happened New Zealand would lose her liberties or else enter upon a war of secession.
I am in favor of abolishing the Legislative Council, because it is simply a useless public nuisance; besides it is the height of absurdity to elect one man to represent you and then place some old identity in the position to thwart him. The only argument in favor of keeping this chamber in existence is that it prevents hasty legislation, but when yearly parliaments and local governments are thoroughly established this house will only be an encumbrance. The members of the Legislative Council are not responsible to the people, and therefore they should not be trusted by them. The money which this sham House of Lords cost might be better spent upon local government. Until the influence of the land-owning and irresponsible noodles who form this chamber is destroyed, we cannot expect the initiation of reforms of any importance. Some men are in favor of making it elective, but that would be worse by making it more powerful, whereas if it is curtailed it might as well be abolished.
It is the prosperity of the country people which makes a town grow. Hastings has yet a great future before it, if the setters are true to each other. Its prosperity in the past is directly traceable to the increase m the number of small settlers. Its present prosperity is as nothing to what it would be if all these large estates were subdivided and human beings placed upon them. Hastings is now a place where your shoddy local aristocrats leave their buggies when they go to Napier, but if there were thousands of yeomanry farmers settled upon these fertile Karamu plains it would soon be a northern Christchurch; out of a village a city would grow as it by enchantment, and sheep farming would not be alone our only industry, nor squatters our only public men. It is not necessary to point out individual instances of land monopoly around Hastings because they lie on every side wherever you look; thousands of acres of the richest soil without a home for miles, only long lines of wire fences and sheep, it is this that is the direct cause of hard times and low wages. If you wish this to be always so, then vote for the representatives of retrogression, my two opponents.
The land laws of the colony have been apparently devised to settle human beings upon the land, but through maladministration caused through the overwhelming influence of squatters and monetary rings, those laws have only succeeded, at least in this province, in placing sheep and sheep-tenders there, intermixed with the incipient foundation of a would-be aristocracy. Aristocracy is founded on the exclusive ownership of large landed estates, and we are certainly laying the foundation of one here in Hawke’s Bay; power comes first, they have already got the power, if their arrogance is not soon checked we will soon have titles, electro-plated titles certainty. How would you like to see your descendants bowing and scraping in the presence of a Baron Seinde of breakwater, fame; the immense Duke of Hawke’s Bay; or the more ancient family of the Earls of Heretaunga. This is what land monopolisation is leading us to; great wealth and deepening poverty side by side. As the great landowner becomes richer and richer, his wealth producing minds become poorer and poorer; for acres will govern, and labor be cheap, since voters are driven like flocks of sheep.
I will give you a well authenticated instance of the unearned increment; A sailor being ashore in one of our colonial ports, got drunk, and during his perambulations about, dropped in to where an auction was going on; he began chaffing the auctioneer, out being unused to auction; he had against his will a township section knocked down to him for £5. He paid the money and went away to wander over the sea for another 15 years; by chance his ship called in at the same port again, and Jack proceeded to see his section; he found it after some difficulty, and it was worth £20,000. Now in equity who did that £20,000 belong to? Jack had never earned it, but the industry of the inhabitants who had raised a city around that section was the real cause of that increased value—it belonged in reality to them. This shows where the unearned inclement comes in. and you will see that it would be neither injustice nor robbery for the people to take back their own. This is an extreme instance, certainly; nevertheless it shows in an unmistakable light the operation of the unearned increment. It is the same principle which increases the value our local large estates with little or no exertion on the part of the owner.
FARMING AND POPULATION.
There is a male population in New Zealand of 200,000; of this number 71,000 are freeholders of all kinds, but of farmers or those owning over five acres there are only 31,000 or about one-sixth. Now these figures show an unnatural state of things, they show that on the productive powers of these 31,000 all the rest subsist. It is no wonder there is hard times and chronic depression when such a shameful state of things
is allowed to exist. The root of all the evil, the real cause of all our misery, is land monopolisation. The land is locked up and the people cannot get at it to produce wealth.
If you vote for me you will return a man who will fight for you and who will not be afraid to say what he thinks, who will champion the poor man’s cause at every turn and every corner, and will make the voice of long-suffering labor heard amongst its enemies in Wellington, and will make the cause of Hawke’s Bay his continued study. If you don’t return me you will do me little harm, but you will your masked enemies, and you yourselves will be the only sufferers.
A great land owner’s interest is directly opposed to the interests of labor, and if you return landowners to represent you it will be to your own detriment. The House is full of landowners, and do you expect them to study your interest instead of their own? this is manifestly absurd. It is against their interests. It is because large landowners have been your only legislators that Hawke’s Bay is so very backward in material prosperity . . . Can you never find a man of the people to represent you, or do you think that no man can be a legislator who is not qualified with 100,000 sheep?
New Zealand is a new country yet, and it has a grand future before it, but we must not be idle, because it is foolish to be standing still amidst the rush of progression. Then onward keep pushing and press on your way, unheeding the envious who would you betray, all obstacles vanish, all enemies quail, in the might of their wisdom who never say fail; for the voice of the people is the voice of God. Then let us press onward along the path of duty in raising a nation of men in New Zealand that will be the pride and boast of the Southern Seas. It is not powerful navies nor machine-like armies that constitute a state, nor capital, nor wealth, it is men, high-minded men, men who know their duties and responsibilities, who know their rights and knowing dare maintain them against those who would their rights subvert. Let us do something while we live, for life is short, and it is disgraceful to steal inglorious to a silent grave.
There are three courses for a nation to take. There are three candidates for you to vote for. Vote for one and you stand still, vote for another and you go back, vote for the third and you vote for progress—not progress for the few but progress for all.
The first step forward is a Land Tax, but mind you, gentlemen, it will not do everything at once, it will take time. It will open the way to greater and grander things in the near future. And in conclusion I hope you will recollect the history of the past and of the present, and use it as a torch to guide your footsteps in the coming struggle.
O brothers, our race has a time-honored story,
With pride we look back to the days that are gone,
Before us fame holds in a halo of glory
The scroll of our future, and beckons us on.
—My voice is for going on.
Read ARTHUR DESMONDs first speech at Hastings 5 July, 1884