In December, 1855, George Hepburn was elected with
John McGlashan and William Smith as a representative of the western
district of the Provincial Council, which had been enlarged to 19
The writer also got
entangled with political affairs; was first elected member of the
Provincial Council for Wakari, which seat he continued to hold (with
re-elections) for ten years, four of which he had the honour to sit as
Chairman of Committees. Meanwhile he was also returned as member for
the House of Representatives at Wellington, which seat he also filled
for three years, delicate health only caused his resignation."
March 4th, 1856.
When this letter was begun
I expected to have got it away by last ship, but having a number of
business letters to write at the same time did not get yours finished.
Since then my time has been a good deal occupied with the sittings of the
Provincial Council, which was something rather new to me, viz.,
legislating for Provinces. It was a position quite unlooked for on my
part, but pressed upon me by my constituents. Our sittings lasted for ten
days, but long sederunts from 1 o’clock till 10, 11, or even 12 o’clock.
Had a strong opposition of six to contend against in all our measures,
which is generally the case on all public bodies. The newspapers will give
you all the particulars if you think them worth reading. The principal
measures were the Education and Road Bills. The first day we met we were
all specially invited by card to a dejeuner in the Superintendent’s
house, which was served up in great style. Another morning all those on
the Government side were invited to a breakfast in the house of Mr.
Reynolds, and on another evening the whole Council supped together in a
private hotel. Captain Nicol [Captain John Nicol brought the brig Gil
Blas, 175 tons, up to Dunedin on March 1st, 1856. The Provincial
Council tendered him a public dinner. He settled in Otago and died in
1877.] of the Gil Blas being our guest in honour of being the first
captain that had brought his ship up the harbour within a little of the
jetty—a thing at one time thought impracticable. The Council has voted him
£500 as a bonus to run his ship regularly for one year betwixt Melbourne
and Otago, which will facilitate our markets. The Council also voted £500
to be spent on the improvement of the roads, and £1,500 for building
schools and schoolmasters’ houses; but, as I said, the papers will tell
you all our doings in public matters.
June 28th, 1856.
After being subjected to endure a silence of upwards of
three months of what is going on either in the commercial or the
historical affairs of the world, we have at last received during the last
two weeks letters and papers in abundance. First a coastal vessel via
Wellington bringing a pretty large mail, in which we received letters from
Kirkaldy till January 29th. Then in a week after another coaster arrived
via Canterbury, bringing another large mail of eight bags—the accumulated
mails of three to four months—this said vessel being five weeks on her
passage betwixt this and the latter place, distance only 150 miles.
Contrary winds had driven her twice back from our coast (nevertheless,
these prevailing winds at certain seasons we never experience anything
like the destructive gales you seem to have at home). But those long
delays which occur in the transit of letters, both to and from New
Zealand, serve to show why letters are so long on the way. All the other
settlements in New Zealand, however, have got steam communication but
Otago. That also we expect to share in soon.
By the last mail referred to we had letters from
Kirkaldy dated November and December, 1855, duplicates of invoices and
letters received three months before, so the first came last. Mr. Douglas
in his letter of January 29th mentioned his having forwarded to London
along with his own goods some crates of crockeryware from you. This we are
very glad of, being sore run out of a good many things. We could have
wished you had sent the invoice along with his, but when the Sir Edward
Paget arrives, which we now look for daily, we expect both invoice and
goods. Being anxious to let you have a little more money, we have paid
this day into J. Macandrew and Co. to be paid you through them in bank
bills from Melbourne for the sum of £50, which sum we hope you will not be
long in receiving, as a vessel leaves this for Melbourne on Monday first.
We will embrace the next opportunity of sending you the balance of last
We observe from the Auckland papers that our
representative, Mr. Macandrew, has carried a Bill through the House of
Assembly empowering the Provinces to establish banks or carry on banking
on a more extended scale than at present. We may, therefore, expect some
branch here immediately. You cannot be wrong in sending three or four
crates of crockery twice a year, the kinds we will advise you of after.
March 14th, 1857.
I mention these things merely to show you the
disadvantage we are at in being so long in getting goods after we expect
them. Our letters, too, are still in the same position, notwithstanding
the very rapid passages made by the new company’s line to Australia; we
are as long in getting them forward to Otago as ever. The authorities at
Melbourne or Sydney won’t send the New Zealand letters any way but by the
William Denny steamer to Auckland, 700 miles from us, from which we
are sometimes two months in receiving them here, but you will see from the
papers sent you that great exertions are making in order to get the mails
delivered direct to each Province, to aid in which we have voted £2,000 as
our share of a bonus for a steamer to call here with a mail, so we expect
to be all right by and by.
In your letter you also complain about the length of
time in getting your money for what you send. I frankly admit of the
reasonableness of your complaint, and do regret it very much, knowing the
difficulty you must have in being kept so long out of it. I hope that that
also will be remedied by and by. To be sure we have now got a bank
established, but they charge us 10 per cent. for discounting a bill and
three per cent. more if we ask a bill on home, so we have not troubled
them yet in any way. What money we deposit we get no interest for, so
there is no inducement there but merely for security. We sent you lately
£100 by Mr. W. H. Reynolds of Messrs. J. Macandrew and Co., who left this
by the Gil Blas via Melbourne for Scotland, and who will pay it
over to you on arrival. He promised to call at Kirkaldy on Messrs.
Lockhart, but I forgot to give him your address, but it is likely he will
call on you also. He is on a marriage jaunt with a dashing young wife—a
great favourite of mine. Tell Mr. Lockhart to send him to you, and you
take them to see Catherine and the children.
You seem to think that I charge too much
commission—that is by doing so on the gross amount. To be sure I do—it is
the regular practice; besides, we give you a good deal higher percentage
on the goods we retail than what we would give to other importers here.
For instance, we now get crockery laid down at 100 per cent. on the
original invoice, with an allowance off for breakages, and almost all
other merchandise at 50 per cent. You will see from our newspapers sent
the great quantity of goods that Mr. Jones brings in, which he is very
anxious to sell at a moderate percentage to keep down small importers. We
don’t get half our supply from Home, so are compelled to buy from others
from whom we easily get three or four months’ credit, so in making sales
we have to do the same just as at Home. This year money will be very
scarce owing to the very low price of produce. However, we have no reason
to complain as yet.
You will see also from our papers that gold seems to be
found in the southern part of our Province—several are now working at it—
but whether it will continue to be a profitable field we cannot tell. If
it should, it will likely produce a great influx of people. People we do
need; labour is still as high as ever—10s. per day was given this harvest,
and 9s. to 10s. is very common for carpenters and other mechanics, and
house servants are scarcely to be had. The public works going on by the
Government, too, would require a great deal more hands than they can
possibly get. When you come out, there is no fear of my not speaking—there
is no difference whatever. You might very probably get the first sight of
me wheeling a barrow down the jetty to save the sixpence for shipping. If
anyone here thinks himself too high for doing anything connected with his
own business (servant maids excepted) he is a fool.
I forgot to say that collectors are busy taking
subscriptions for erecting a new church for Mr. Burns. The Halfway Bush
district has raised £200—the others not reported yet.
The first sale of land for the new town at Invercargill
took place here yesterday. The room was crowded, and bidding for quarter
acres only was very spirited. For some sections the competition was very
great, running up from £8 to £46. Altogether the sale realised £1,500 for
town sections only, so you see the people are going ahead for town
The demand for town sections of late has been
excessive. There is a monthly sale of those who are applied for, and the
competition is sometimes keen. This month there are upwards of 100
sections applied for. The price of building ground in the business part of
the town is selling at £1 per foot of frontage. One lot has been even let
at that price.