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HOME > Short Stories > Five Years in New Zealand 1859 to 1864 > Introduction.
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Introduction.
The islands of New Zealand, discovered by the Dutch navigator, Tasman, in 1642, and surveyed and explored by Captain Cooke in 1769, remained unnoticed until 1814, when the first Christian Missionaries landed, and commenced the work of converting the inhabitants, who, up to that time had been cannibals.

The Missionaries had been unusually successful, and prepared the way for the first emigrants, who landed at Wellington in the North Island in 1839. A year later the Maori Chiefs signed a treaty acknowledging the Sovereignty of Queen Victoria, and the colonisation of the country quickly followed.

The seat of Government was first placed at Auckland, where resided the Governor, and there were formed ten provinces under the jurisdiction of superintendents. The head of the Government was subsequently transferred to Wellington, the provincial system abolished, and their powers exercised by local boards directly under the Governor.

The total area of the three islands is about 105,000 square miles, and the population, which has been steadily increasing, was in 1865 upwards of 700,000.

The Maori race is almost entirely confined to the North Island, and, although it was then gradually dying out, numbered about 30,000. They are of fine physique, tall and robust, and are said to belong to the Polynesian type, probably having come over from the Fiji Islands, or some of the Pacific group, in their canoes.

When first discovered they lived in villages or "Pahs," comprising a number of small circular huts, with a larger one for the Chief, mud-walled and thatched with grass or flax. The pahs usually occupied a commanding position, and were fenced round with one or more palisades of rough timber.

The Maori dress consisted of a simple robe made of woven flax, an indigenous plant growing in profusion over most of the country. They practised to a large extent the custom of tattooing their faces and bodies, and further decorated themselves with ear-rings of greenstone, bone, etc.

Owing to subsequent education and intercourse with Europeans, their savage habits have now mostly given way to modern customs.

In 1860 commenced the disastrous Taranaki war, which lasted some years, and was caused in the first instance by the encroachment of European settlers on the lands originally granted exclusively to the Aborigines. Since the settlement of this trouble, peace and prosperity have reigned, and the Maoris have become an important item in the community, many of them holding positions of trust and office under the Colonial Government.

The Province of Canterbury, forming the central portion of the middle island, was founded about 1845 by the Irishmen Godley, Harman, and others; and the English Church, under Bishop Harpur, was established at Christchurch, the capital of the Province.

Otago, in the south, was founded by the Scotch, and the free church established at Dunedin. The Province of Nelson formed the upper or northern portion of the Island.

It is to these three Provinces that the scenes of the following pages refer.

It has been said that the true and unvarnished history of any person\'s life, no matter how commonplace, would be interesting. It was not because I thought that a history of any part of my life would prove interesting to others, that I first decided to write the following story of the experiences of a young emigrant to New Zealand between the ages of 16 and 21. I wrote it many years ago, when all was fresh in my memory; then I laid it by. Now when I have retired, after a life\'s service passed in foreign lands, it has been a pleasure to me to recall and live over again in memory the scenes of my earliest life.

It may, however, be possible that the account of the adventures, successes, and failures of a lad, thrown on his own resources at so early an age, may prove of some value to others starting under similar circumstances in life\'s race; and if it in any way shows that the Colonies are a good field for a young man who wishes to adopt the life that may be open to him there, and who is determined to work steadily, keeping always his good name and honour as guiding lights to hold fast to and steer by, the story may not be quite useless.

The Colonies are as good to-day as forty years ago, better I should say, for they offer more varied openings now than they did then.

The great colonial dependencies of Great Britain were founded and worked into power by the emigrants who overflowed thence from the Motherland. These, for the most part, took with them little or nothing beyond their pluck, energy, strong hearts, and trust in God, and still they go and will go. It is a duty they owe to the mother-country as well as to themselves, and the great Colonies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are calling for more and more of the right sort of workers to join in and take their share in building up great nations, and extending the glory and civilising influence of Great Britain over all the world.

I would say to all young men in this country who have no sufficient call or opening at home, especially to those who have not succeeded in obtaining professional positions, and who wait on, hoping for something to turn up, go out while there is yet time, to the great countries waiting to welcome you to a man\'s work and a man\'s place in the world, and don\'t rest content with an idle, useless, and dependent position where you have no place or occupation. Do your plain duty honestly and fearlessly. Treat the world well and it will treat you well.

I do not, of course, give this advice to all. There are men who will not succeed in the Colonies any better than here. Some will fail anywhere. I mean the idle and lazy, the untrustworthy, the drunkard, and the incapable; these classes go to the bad quickest in the Colonies. There is no place or shelter for them there, where only honest workers are wanted or tolerated.

For the man who is prepared to put his hand to anything he finds to do, and can be trusted, there is always employment and promotion waiting; but for him who is too proud or too lazy to work, or who prefers to fritter his time in dissipation and amusement, there is nothing but failure and ruin ahead.

My advice does not apply either to those who have good prospects, professional or otherwise, in this country, and whose duties call them to remain, but to the thousands of the middle and lower classes who are not so circumstanced, and it must be remembered that the men who are specially and constantly needed in the Colonies are those of the labouring and farming classes, or who may intend to adopt that life and are fitted for it by health and will. For the artisan and the professional who can only work at their own trade or profession, the openings naturally are not so plentiful, but there is abundance of employment for them until openings occur, if they choose to occupy their time otherwise in the meanwhile.

For the young man who can afford the time, and many can, a few years\' fling in the Colonies would be the best of educations, but he should determine to see all that was to be seen on the spot, and take part in all that was doing, and not rest content only with a few days\' sojourn in an hotel here and there, or joining in the gaieties and dissipations of the towns.
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