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MR SAUNDERS AT THE TOWN HALL.

Mr Alfred Saunders once more addressed the Wakanui electors, at the Town Hall, last evening, when, considering the inclemency of tho weather and the terrible state of the roads, there was a very satisfactory attendance, including a number of ladies in the gallery. Mr Thomas Bullock occupied the chair.

Mr Saunders said that since ho had addressed them in that hall important changes had taken place in the Government. The probable candidates were better known, and upon a few questions he had learned something of the views of his opponent. On the important question of precedence or recklessness of living perpetually on borrowed money, or living within their means, three candidates had since spoken, and all had expressed opinions differing from his ; but each had supported those opinions on very different grounds. Mr Richardson was a man whose opinions on such matters were entitled to much respect, but he could hardly be regarded as an impartial judge of a system in which he had taken such a prominent part. He was generally well reported—being a political friend of the Press, and a commercial friend of the Times —but in his late Stanmoro speech he was made to say, in the body of his speech, that the borrowed money had not been lavishly spent, and, in reply to questions, to admit that it had been. But the main ground on which he supported his opinions, for the future, was that the House would take precautions in the future, which they had not taken in the past. That was contrary to his experience of the House which seemed to get more fond of money scrambling every year, and less inclined to observe any restrictions made in any previous Parliament. All the other loans had been allocated, plainly enough, before they wore borrowed, but were spent without any regard to any previous allocation. Had even Sir Julius Yogel’s restrictions been attended to less of the money would have been wasted. He saw little ground for Mr Richardson’s hope that future loans would be better spent than the past. Mr Cowlishaw had argued—like a lawyer with a very bad case—that because the land had cost its owners thirteen millions, and they had spent twenty-seven millions on it, whilst it was now worth a hundred millions, that, therefore, the property of the colony had benefited sixty millions by an expenditure of twenty millions, as if there ware no other causes for the increase of value in the property of the colony, but the expenditure of borrowed money upon it. But Mr Ivess had distinguished himself in figures by quoting figures that told most distinctly against his own argument, but quoting them in such a way as to conceal their true purport. After stating, as if it were a question upon which there could be no two opinions, that “ it must not be forgotten that if it had not been for the Immigration and Public Works Policy of 1870, New Zealand would not now be occupying the high position which she holds in the list of British colonies.” He proceeds to quote figures in which be jumps over twenty years at a time, and takes care to credit his favorite borrowing years with the inoreaso that really took place without

the use of borrowed money. He tells us that between 1860 and 1830 the population of New Zealand increased six fold, but he took care not to tell them that it increased three fold in ten years between 1850 and 1860, more than three fold between 1860 and 1870, and less than two fold in the ten years of the Immigration and Public Works Policy (between 1870 and 1880). So far as these figures were concerned they condemned the Immigration policy in toto, and showed that the main increase of population was due to causes entirely independent of it. The return of exports during the same decades was yet stronger against the borrowing system as whilst they had increased between 1860 and 1870 from L 549.833 to L 4,544,682, or more

than eight-fold, they only increased in the following ten years by 33 per cent. In fact, the figures relied on by Mr Ivess to prove his assertion condemned it far more than it deserved to be condemned, and made his case far worse than it really was. The only way to borrow without demoralising the Government and the House of Representatives was to adopt the course advised by Mr Stafford in his speech to the Timaru electors in 1870. Under that system large sums of money would not be easily available for plunder either by the Government or the House of Representatives, Mr Saunders then expressed his views in favor of free trade, and said that ho could understand a manufacturing town going in for protection, but lie could not understand how a community of farmers and farm laborers could support a system in which they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. Working men would never use their votes rightly in such matters until they met together and formed unions, got a paper of their own and sent their own representatives to Parliament. [A voice ; Wo have got the Mail ] Mr Saunders : That is just what leads you so far astray. You had better see no papers than papers conducted by men who have no interest in common with you, but are quite willing to use you • as tools for their own purposes. Mr Saunders next alluded to tho proceeding of the Trades Unions in London, and the reception given to them by the Lord Mayor of London, which ho said was equally creditable to the delegates and to tho Lord Mayor. He also read extracts from the LordJMayor’s speech on the occasion to show|the relations that should exist be*

tween capital and labor. It had been circulated with much industry and perseverance that be was not the representative of the working man, though his public life had been openly devoted to their service. But there were two very distinct classes of working men, and no man could represent them both. They had, fortunately, always had a large number of working men amongst them who came to New Zealand with a view to make it the home of themselves and their children, and therefore felt interested in everything connected with the wise and prudent administration of the Government and in the permanent prosperity of New Zealand. Those were the men he was pleased to represent. But there was always a large proportion of an entirely different sort of men, who hovered about from place to place, hoping to get very occasional employment at some high price, no matter who paid it or how long it could last. Such men always supported borrowers and spendthrifts and great promisers, and were ready to go elsewhere when the effect of reckless extravagance should be felt by the colony. Such men he did not represent and never had done. He described the manner in which the Protectionists—or, as Mr Broadhurst called them, “the unfair fair”—leaders tried to get

their representatives palmed off on the working men, and the manner in which the working men expelled them from their Congress. Mr Ivess had told them that if he did not retain their confidence he would resign | but that was a Very oldfashioned promise, and one that never came to anything, as there was no means but the ballot box to prove confidence or no confidence. They might depend upon it that whether they elected him or Mr Ivess they would never get rid of thorn again until the Governor had dismissed the Parliament. Either of them would be sure to believe that they possessed all necessary confidence, and would stick to the seat. He would make them a much more practical offer than that. If the workin<» men of Wakanui did not believe in

him and would select a man of their own class that they could trust, and a man who would go to the House to serve them, and not merely to_ serve himself, he would at once resign in his favor if his opponent would do the same, and lot him go in without expense or opposition. That would be the way to prove that they were both sincere in wishing to serve the solid interests of the working men. Ho knew that he had made many mistakes in trying to serve the working classes. One was "the manner in which he had tinkered with land laws to give land to all, but in which no one had ever yet succeeded ; and another was the too easy credulity with which he once took up bir George Grey on the faith of his own promises, and had to drop him again when he found him a failure. Perhaps he was unfortunate in finding him out sooner than those who dropped him at a more convenient time. Like Mr Ivess he objected to Major Atkinson’s circular to the local bodies, but he objected to it on exactly the opposite ground. He was far from blaming any Government for con suiting local wisdom ; there was far too little of that done, and the tendency was all the other way. Major Atkinson was a centralist in everything, and would retain all power he could at Wellington, and only wanted the local bodies, who were elected by a plurality of votes, to properly support him against a House popularly elected, and to make their opinions an excuse for resisting the expressed will of the House. With so many new members it was difficult to say what Ministry should be supported by their representation, but no Canterbury man ought to rest satisfied with a Ministry in which it .had so little representation as in the present one. Parties were evidently very equally divided, and some changes would be sure to take place. Ho believed that the true Liberals of the House were trying to make a stand against any alliance with men who made a profession of noisy Liberalism to conceal their true characters which simply disgusted any party they joined. It was such man who had put France back a century in her efforts at liberal government, and with it had injured and retarded the liberty of the world. Bad despotic kings had often

served the cause of liberty and freedom, but bad untrustworthy Liberals had always been the main obstacles in the advance of Liberal measures. The manner in which Mr Pilliet had been whitewashed was a disgrace to the Government, to the House, and to everyone connected with that transaction. The Corrupt Practices Act was far from being too stringent, and men who knew the laws well and could write articles about them were not the men to be exempted from their operation. Few men would like to risk the venom that flowed from such a man’s pen, and he feaied that had much to do with the absence of all opposition to the whitewash. He now came to a difficult, and, he was told, a very dangerous subject, upon which he intended to speak very plainly, and that was the subject of block votes. New Zealand was getting to be ruled entirely by societies and individuals who managed to direct a large number of their fellow settlers’ votes, and, with one exception, they were avowedly directed for no patriotic or philanthropic object, but to promote the personal interests of a few individuals, at the expense of the whole colony. Ho did not know how many of these block votes existed, hut he knew of four, and they were all more or less mischievous and injurious to the colony. The Good Templar block vote originated with some of the bestintentioned men in the colony, and it was a great pity that such men should cut themselves off from exercising an intelligent and efficient voice in New Zealand politics by undertaking to vote for any man, however useless, who undertakes to carry out one particular object. Patriots who were ready to make personal sacrifices for the good of other were needed in more than one direction, and should vote for men of more than one idea. A great many men who would make great sacrifices of their own indulgences for the good of others, would never be content to do what they considered an injustice to license-holders, and the colony could not afford to leave such men upon such insufficient grounds. As might have been expected, the immediate effect of the Good Templar block vote was to raise up a counter block vote by the licensed victuallers, who formed themselves into a most efficient political association that had practically induced the rejection of every candidate that r the Good Tem-

plars took up, and in so doing had turned many of the very best men out of the House of Representatives. These two bodies were working one against another, and neither of them supporting candidates for their general fitness, but for their extreme views on one subject only. In that way both were practically disfranchised from any useful part in the Government of Now Zealand Then we have a few traders forming a society to compel candidates to promise to tax the whole community to provide their favorite pursuits—and they have sue ceeded in turning many a good man out of the House for standing by the great prin ciples of free trade. All these were bad enough, and calculated to lower New Zealand'and New Zealand legislators and legislation; but all of them were as nothing compared to the mischief of the block Catholic vote. Before speaking of this vote, he would like to say a few words to protect himself from the supposition that he had any unfriendly feeling towards the Catholics or any portion of the comunity on account of any differences of religious opinion. In helping to pass the Nelson Education Act in 1856, which had been the basis of all the other Education Acts passed in the colony, he had taken every possible care

to exclude everything that the Catholics could fairly object to, and as so an as the Act came into operation he had exerted hiriiself to cancel all those wretched books in our schools which contained anything of an offensive character about the Catholics or any other religious denomination. When he was elected Superintendent of Nelson, the only, addition he bad made to his predecessor’s Executive Council was a Catholic, and the present Catholic Bishop’s own brother, with whom he consulted on every matter affecting the interests of the Catholics. On the only occasion he had allowed himself to be nominated for a seat in the Ashburton Educa-

tion Board he was elected, but finding that Mr Doherty, the late Postmaster, was at the top of the rejected candidates, he had immediately resigned, on the ground that he wished to see at least one Catholic on the Education Board, and by that means secured Mr Doherty’s election. They would not suppose that he was fishing for Catholic votes. He knew perfectly well where they were all directed to go ; but he wished to prove that, whilst he condemned the action of the priestsf he held nothing but friendly feelings towards the Catholics themselves,

and whilst he protested against the direction of the votes of the New Zealanders by foreign potentates, he was sure that he war speaking in the interests of the Catholics, even more than in that of the other electors of New Zealand, however much he might offend them by doing so. New Zealand was fortunate in having a Catholic Bishop who was practically a native, and whose natural ties were all connected with New Zealand; but he was,, of course, only an officer directed by a foreign power that leaves him no choice of his own, even if his official education at Roma had left him any desire to place the interests of New Zealand before the

interests of the Church he serves. By the manifesto issued by him before the last general election every Catholic is ordered to consider the interests of the officers of that Church before any question merely affecting the interests of this colony. He had read that order when issued with much regret, and had anticipated the pernicious effect it would have in removing the most reliable friends of freedom and liberty from the House of Representatives, and introducing a lot of dummies or loose principled men in their place. An element of deception had also been introduced that was degrading the character of onr representatives below anything the colony had before experienced. Ho had no knowledge of the secret springs that were set to work, but he had seen the effect produced at the very last election in which ho had been engaged. At that election there were three candidates, who all professed themselves strongly and decidedly opposed to any approach to denominational education. The successful candidate was especially loud and clear on that pcint, yet he obtained the block vote of the Catholics, and within a few days after entering the House voted for the denominotional system he had so strongly condemned. What could they think of a system that produced such results 7 Protestants ought long ago to have risen as one man against this exercise of foreign despotism, and put it down by refusing to give a single vote to any man who was chosen as the recipient of this

block religious vote. Let no sect, however weak, be persecuted in the slightest degree ; but let no sect, however strong, dictate to the Government of this country and ride rough-shod over us in matters temporal as well as spiritual. He should now be glad to answer any questions they pleased, and ho hoped that they would ask them freely. He would be very sorry to see any attempt to suppress any question or any evidence that anyone was afraid to ask one. He knew that both candidates had friends preseat, and any appearance of unanimity would be a farce and forced unanimity would be the last thing he would like to see. He hoped that none of his friends would rejoice in the fact that no questions were put to him except those cut and dried by his own committee. These were not the sort of questions he wanted. Mr Martin asked if Mr Saunders coukd explain why Mr Sheehan, although a Catholic, had voted against the education amendment.—Mr Saunders said it was hardly his business to do that. Mr Sheehan had consistently voted for the Education Act as it stood in opposition to all other Catholics and Catholic representatives, and had told them himself in the House that he was considered a very bad Catholic.

In reply to further questions on that subject, Mr Saunders said he was simply stating facts as they stood. There was the Bishop’s pastoral letter, which no one could misunderstand, and which plainly instructed the Catholics how they were to vote, and it would be obeyed. He could not explain why Catholics were more obedient to a foreign directory than Protestants were to their resident ministers, but such was well known to be the case and was denied by no one. No minister of any other denomination would dare to issue a mandate of that sort on political action, and if they did, their flocks would quietly resent them. (Loud applause.) Mr St. Hill: You say that Mr Ivess won’t keep his promise about resigning. What right have you to say that ?—Mr Saunders said that he did not say that, and repeated what he did say. Mr St. Hill : But don’t you think you had better speak for yourself, and let Mr

Ivess alone in his absence I —Mr Saunders said that he did not know Mr Ivess was absent, as he had attended his principal meetings, and he did not know if he was there or not. A.t any rate, the public platform was the right place to allude to an opponent, and not a candidate’s own paper. It was the oldest and cheapest promise any candidate could make. It had been made a thousand times, and had never been acted on ; and Mr Ivess was not likely to be the first exception to such a universal rule. He should be only too glad if Mr Ivess would come out in a manly way and say what he could about him, instead of filling his paper, three times a week, with all the scurlilous filth he could rake up from the lowest “ rags ” that disgraced the colony. Mr St. Hill: But why do you say that he could not find out whether he possessed the confidence of the electors or not ? Mr Saunders; He could always claim to possess some confidence. Mr St. Hill, for instance, would never leave Mr [vess, let him say or do what he would. [Great laughter, in which Mr St. Hill loudly joined.) Mr St. Hill asked if it was not a fact ;hat between the years 1860 and 1870 ;he population had been increased by nishes to the goldfields 1 Mr Saunders laid that Mr St. Hill was quite right, and t was that fact that made Mr Ivess’ igures, when fairly stated, so absurdly itroug against his own argument that the ncrease of New Zealand population was lue to the Public Works and Immigration Policy, when everyone else could see that t was mainly due to entirely different lauses.

In reply to further questions Mr Saunders said that he thought two years’ residence would bo desirable before giving a vote, and that a candidate ought not to busy himself in getting electors either on or off the roll.—He would support an Employers Liability Bill.—He would keep as much power as possible in the hands of local authorities. Both on education and road board questions he was strongly opposed to the contant tendency to centralise all power in the one General Government.

Mr Leggett asked if there was any truth in the assertion made in the Oamaru Mail , and copied into the Ashburton

Mail, that Mr Saunders had written ,a description of himself in the Otayo Daily Times. —Mr Saunders said the statement was utterly untrue, arid the conductors of both these papers knew it to be untrue at the time they inserted it. The same question had been asked him seven ior eight months ago, in the Cheviot election, and he had then stated that the assertion made in an Otago paper, and of course copied into the Mail, was untrue. He happened to know who did write that article, and if he were at liberty to state the name it was a name that would command more respect than almost any other name he could mention. They would all see at once that no man could make such a statement as that on a public platform if it were not true, as plenty of witnesses could be, and certainly would be, produced against him. Any newspaper might make a misstatement of that sort once, but it was only the two Mails, which worked into each other's hands, that would descend to repeat such slanders when they knew them to be untrue. Mr Leggett asked if the assertion in the same papers that he had spoken on one side and voted on the other, on the

Crown and Native Lands Hating Bill was true 1 —Mr Saunders said it was quite true that he had spoken strongly against the Crown and Native Lands Hating Bill, and yet had refused to vote for the removal of the Government which had proposed it. He had consulted the interests of his constituents and the colony in doing so, and would do so again under the same circumstances, as every offence of a Government was not always punishable with death. It was, however, utterly untrue, as stated in the twin Mails, that any-one expected him to vote against the Government after hearing his speech. He would read them the concluding sentences of that speech from “ Hansard,*’ and from that they would soon see that no man who heard that speech and possessed any ordinary understanding could doubt for one moment as to which side he was going to vote on. [Mr Saunders here quoted from his speech, as reported in “ Hansard. ”J A vote of thanks, proposed by Mr Simraonds, was at first met by the obstructors of the meeting with loud dries of “ No,” but after some strong expressions of disapprobation of such conduct, the vote was carried with one dissenting hand.

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

MR SAUNDERS AT THE TOWN HALL., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 657, 8 June 1882

Word Count
4,120

MR SAUNDERS AT THE TOWN HALL. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 657, 8 June 1882

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