“I am not yet so bald that you can see my brains.”—LONGFELLOW. For the last month, or thereby, the air has been quite sulphurous with libel, and there has been a general breathing out of threatening and slaughter. First, Stanley Bruce put on his war paint, and shook his snearin Joe’s face “20,000 times”; then the proud Champion of Roman Catholicism —■ so he would like to be called, only the adherents of that Church are not on, not to bo had—Mosely came down “like a wolf ” on your fold, but departed, afraid of the fighting editor ; and then out trotted the Borough Solicitor with a charge of libel against the champion of freedom, and I wouldn’t “be surprised to learn” that the ex-collector, now that he is a gentleman, and not a rate collector, is sotting battle in array for another pound of flesh if the solicitor should succed in having his opponent convicted. This libel case of the solicitor against the man of types has been the talk of the week, and has given rise to more libel, uttered over tea-tables, and shop counters, and bar parlors, at street corners, in railway trains, and oven in and around the courthouse itself, than our urbane and venerable magistrate could hear the evidence upon and judicially dispose of, if he sat till Christmas in that hall of justice of his—sacred to the punishment of drunks under the presidency of his Worship the R.M., and their reformation under the “charge” of the W.C.T.’s who hold Court in Good Templar Lodge assembled. In my wanderings I have heard the article of Mr. Edward Houghton denounced in anything hut measured terms, and the proprietor of the paper called names, the libellous nature of which was far more pronounced than any applied to the Borough Solicitor by the article, and hearty wishes expressed that “ he’d be properly soused ” over the case. On the other hand, I’ve heard the solicitor considerably dressed down, and designated by titles that would have put his temper to the test considerably. But then, when it takes such a lot of the R. M’s. time, and such a number of newspaper columns to settle up which is right as between the lawyer and the printer, the men in the streets may be forgiven for making many mistakes while the case is sub jndico. I do not pretend to say which is right in this matter, 1 am no lawyer ; but so far as the case is concerned I think it never would have arisen if the Borough Council had taken proper steps to define what were their solicitor’s duties when they asked for tenders for the position. It was Mr. Ivess suggested employing a lawyer for the Borough at a “ slump ” sum per annum, and if he had also suggested having a schedule of duties drawn up by one of the fraternity it would have been at once known whether Mr. Crisp bad any right to exact costs from the ratepayers. Still, I can scarcely expect Mr. Ivess to be possessed of foresight of this kind, seeing that he writes letters for nothing, and never even dreams of charging. And as he does his own legal work, and is his own advocate, he cannot be supposed to know anything about the little items of “ costs ” upon which that growth of civilisation called the “ bar ” live and grow fat. In the course of his conduct of his own case, and in dealing with Mr. Braddell’s evidence, Mr. Ivess took it upon him to say that the schedule of duties prepared by the Council for the Borough Solicitor was vague. Nobody would have taken any notice of this had he not added that it was vague—like many other things done by the Borough Council. Seeing that Mr. Ivess once thought himself the leading light of that “vague” body, and only recently had the pleasure of being very near the top of the poll for the Mayoralty, it was a graceful tribute lie paid to his own acuteness, unless ho meant us to understand that “present company was always excepted,” in regard to himself. lam sorry that ho has been committed for trial, I am equally, sorry that he did not wait for Mr. Crisp’s explanation of his conduct to the Borough Council, before bis editor’s “ let out ” at the ‘‘ particeps criminis ” appeared in print. Courage is a noble attribute of a journalist, but there is just the possibility of being foolhardy and running one’s head against a gatepoast, when charging full tilt at a too before making one’s self sure that he has played all his cards.
The hhel case had its funny side as well as its serious aspect. It showed us what was Mr. Harry Friedlander’s opinion of a rate collector. A rate collector is “no gentleman ” according to Harry. That ollicev when put into the witness box was asked in the usual way what profession he followed. He gave his reply promptly, and his whole countenance beamed with satisfaction while he did so, as if he were glad that he had been able to fulfil his contract for collecting rates, and so get rid of a disagreeable duty. “He was a gentleman now, but formerly he had been rate collector for the borough.” Am Ito understand that the character of a gentleman can he put off and on like a Sunday suit, and worn only on special occasions, and for special purposes I Is our genial Town Clerk no longer a gentleman, now that he has been appointed rate collector for the borough, and have all the Road Board clerks, and dog-tax collectors parted with their claims to be called gentlemen on assuming the duty of collecting rates ? I am afraid Harry will come in for a case of libel, too, if he don’t look out. I would advise the writer of the letter in your paper, (asking why the gambling case was heard at ten a.in. instead of at the usual hour, when the press and the public attend), and who signed himself “ One who’d like to know, you know,” to re-write his letter, and send it at once to the Clerk of the R.M. Court, for that gentleman, in giving evidence on the libel case says he never took any notice of what appeared in country newspapers. CIIISPA.
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CHISPA’S LETTER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 74, 16 March 1880
CHISPA’S LETTER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 74, 16 March 1880
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