Anthony Forster 1813-1897
Of Anthony Forster 1813-1897
little known outside of South Australia, he was never afraid to call a spade a spade which is certainly a trait I most admire in human beings.
As part of his varied career, he was newspaper editor of the South Australian Register, he wrote the following column entitled 'Military Settlers', declaring his stand against military settlement of New Zealand and Colonel Pitt's recruitment which Anthony Forster saw as little more than a scam.
Colonel Pitts mission to the Australian Colonies in quest of military settlers for New Zealand was first entered upon in May 1864.
The scheme was then introduced under the guise of enrolling volunteers to meet a serious emergency in New Zealand. Immediate assistance was required, additional troops were demanded, and, as the crisis was evidently a severe one, the call for volunteers was not unreasonable. But nothing was said at that time about family emigration The demand was for single men, and the exigencies of the war seemed to justify Colonel Pitt's demand upon the colonies. Even then, however, the Victorian Government saw that the volunteers were required for something more than to meet an emergency.
The Treasurer of the colony, in reply to a request from Sir George Grey that the Government would assist Colonel Pitt, recorded the opinion of the Ministry in a minute, which ran as follows : —
"I observe that Colonel Pitt proposes not only to enlist militia for a temporary purpose, but also to secure permanent settlement. While desirous of aiding the New Zealand Government by allowing the removal of the troops, and indeed in every legitimate way, it appears to me that to encourage the settlement of Victorian colonists in another country is inconsistent with the policy of the Government and injurious to the advancement of the colony. I cannot, therefore, undertake that any extraordinary facilities will be rendered to Colonel Pitt in exporting military settlers to New Zealand. I trust I need not say that if there were insufficient troops in New Zealand to hold the Maories in check until reinforcements arrive, I should hold it to be the duty of the Government to aid the colonists of New Zealand at any sacrifice; but this does not appear to be the case."
Thus, as far back as August last, when this minute was made, it was held that the troops in New Zealand were quite numerous enough to protect the colonists. Since that time the forces have been largely increased, and battles have been fought which appear to have almost put an end to the war. What, then, can be the fresh cause which now induces Colonel Pitt to apply to South Australia for military settlers. If, in the height of the crisis, there was no emergency which justified such an appeal, there can certainly be none now.
It is not pretended that the British settlers are out numbered, that they are at the mercy of the natives, and that they want assistance to maintain their ground. The chances of war have been altogether in their favour, the Maories have been conquered, and what Colonel Pitt now wants is population to occupy the country. If this scheme of military settlement had been submitted at the time of its origin to the Britsh public, it would probably have induced many emigrants to turn their attention to New Zealand, especially if it had been shown that the Home Government approved of it.
But, what prospect is there that useful settlers who have already made themselves homes in these colonies will be inclined for the sake of a few acres of land to undertake the work of holding the conquered territory of New Zealand? Besides, there are onerous duties to be performed before the volunteer even sees the land which he is to possess.
Mr Dillon Bell, who dispatched the first detachment of military settlers from Victoria, said, in the course of his public address—"Remember that as soon as you land in New Zealand you are soldiers, as amenable to military laws as we who are already in arms there".
It ought to be known, too, that the land which is offered to military settlers does not belong to the Government except by right of conquest, and that the native owners, though scattered and disheartened, are still in possession. On this point Mr. Bell, whilst repudiating the idea that the New Zealand Government had no power to fulfil their contract with the volunteers, said :- "One thing, indeed, is quite true, that the Government has not at this moment in possession the land which is offered to you. The land is still in the hands of rebel natives, and we trust to you and your military comrades to hold by the force of your arms that territory which will be hereafter allotted to you by the Government".
He further explained that nothing short of this system of military colonization would protect the wives and children of peaceful settlers, and that the scheme had received the full approval of Sir George Grey.
These particulars will give our readers some idea of what military settlement in New Zealand will be. The volunteers are to hold land in the midst of a subjugated race of war like and revengeful disposition, who have themselves been driven from that land. The beginning of such a settlement will be the commencement of a series of outrages and retaliations which will last as long as the natives themselves exist. We may be certain that there will be more fighting than farming for many years to come, though in the end the scheme will be successful if the supply of settlers be large enough.
But South Australia is not the right place to seek for them. We have no large migratory population from which Colonel Pitt can hope to get suitable recruits. The class of men whom he wants are either already settled or can become so on easier terms than are offered in New Zealand. But the Auckland authorities are evidently of opinion that the agricultural element which they want in their proposed settlements is most likely to be obtained in South Australia, and so they send here after having tried the other colonies.
That the volunteers who were enrolled in Victoria included but a very small proportion of men suited to rural occupations will be seen from the following list of registered trades or callings in one of the com panies of the Auckland battalion :— 29 clerks, 1 custom-house officer, 3 surveyors, 1 seeds man, 4 farmers, 3 builders, 1 cabinetmaker, 14 carpenters, 2 shipwrights, 1 boatbuilder, 1 painter, 1 grainer, 1 mason, 2 bricklayers, 5 blacksmiths, 1 tinsmith, 2 bootmakers, 2 printers, 1 storeman, 1 storekeeper, 1 grocer, 1 chemist, 2 carters, 4 labourers, 2 teachers, 1 photographer, 1 keeper of lunatic asylum, 3 gentlemen, 8 servants, 1 ostler, and 2 without either trade or calling.
Such are the motley materials of the volunteer force which was enroled in Victoria. (see notes)
To convert these into good settlers for an agricultural country would be difficult, and probably this is the reason why Colonel Pitt has now been instructed to call for volunteers in South Australia. The fact that twenty-nine clerks can be found to enrol to every four farmers shows that the inducements to become agriculturists in a country where the land must first be wrested from the Maori, and then held at the point of the bayonet, are looked upon as of no great value by persons who are most competent to judge for themselves. To obtain a free grant of land, when the natives have been expelled, would be only a small compensation for the trouble and risk of having to keep possession of it afterwards.
The scheme, then, is not likely to meet with much favour in this colony, or to withdraw any portion of our settled population. At the same time, we have as much right to complain of the attempt of the New Zealand Government to import immigrants from South Australia as though that attempt were likely to be successful. As yet it does not appear that the imperial authorities know anything about the scheme, and we hardly think they would sanction it if they were aware of its true character.
The sole authority for the action of Colonel Pitt appears to be a notice published in the New Zealand Gazette ; and from the speeches of Mr. Dillon Bell we are led to infer that the idea of employing military settlers originated with the colonists of New Zealand, for he states that it has received 'the approval' of Sir George Grey.
Thus, the scheme apparently embodies the policy of the Local Government for permanently settling the country, and has little or nothing to do with the management of the war. Undoubtedly, the idea is a clever one, but the required settlers will not be found in South Australia.
The matter of Colonel Pitt's proceedings must be taken up by the Government and the colonists. We should be sorry to offer the slightest impediment to the emigration of colonists to assist the colonists of New Zealind in circumstances of pressing necessity, but we protest against the right of any person, supposed to be under the direction of imperial authority, to come to this colony and draft off by bribes of land persons brought here at considerable expense, for the mere purpose of saving New Zealand from the cost of maintaining a standing army.
If settlers are wanted for such a purpose they should be sought for in England, where they could readily be obtained at the expense of the New Zealand Government.
Colonel Pitt was sent to Victoria and given letters of credit by the New Zealand Government for around £ 70,000. However, the Melbourne banks would only advance £ 10,000 against the letters. Thomas Maxwell Henderson of Henderson and McFarlane was in Melbourne at the time on business and when he heard of Pitt's predicament. he went to the banks and offered them his firms guarantee of credit for another £ 15,000. He transfered the moneys so that Colonel Pitt's so called Victorian 'regiment' could sail for New Zealand aboard the company vessels. janilye
The Argus described the sight at Spencer-Street Station when the volunteers left as:
...crowded during the morning with people, desirous of seeing the volunteers start. The departure was rendered tolerably lively. Although the volunteers included may specimens of the genus 'loafer', they were altogether a fine body of men. It is a creditable fact that, ...not a single case of drunkenness was to be noticed.
In the book 'Australians leave for the Waikato War in NZ' (1863). By Scott Davidson he states;
"the man responsible for recruiting in the Australian Colonies, Lieutenant Colonel George Dean Pitt If the recruits lost their land, Pitt," assured, then so did he and that there would be no doubt of the outcome of this war. Pitt was in the colonies not just to recruit but to instill confidence in the land for service offer and by doing so, justify the Waikato War. The men wanted assurances, and received them, that the land would be there in three years time but the press and local governments of the Australian colonies had other concerns."
The photograph below shows Anthony Forster standing in the centre with journalist of the Register.