The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, JUNE 14, 1890. WAGE-EARNERS AND THE BANKRUPTCY ACT.
Mr Justice Denniston, in common with many official and deputy-official assignees throughout . the, colony, appears to hold the opinion that Avageearners have no right to avail them.selves of the relief which the Bankruptcy Act affords",'"when," from whatever cause," they find themselves unable to pay their debts. At many meetings of creditors where the un'ortunate laborer or artisan has sought refuge under the Bankruptcy laws, he has been admonished and lectured, and every obstacle has been placed in the way. of his getting a discharge from liabilities there is not the remotest chance of his being able to meet. He is frequently told that he has been iff constant work and earning fair wages, and nothing but improvident living could have brought him to a. state of bankruptcy, Doubtless, in the majority of cases, such remarks are fully justified ; as fully justified as applied to an' improvident trader who lives beyond his means at the expense of his butcher, grocer, bakei', or tailox*. But misfortunes and perilous times sometimes overtake the wageearner as well as the trader. Sickness in his family, loss of his own health, loss of his savings in speculation, and a hundred and one other misfortunes may cause even the wage-earner in constant employment to live beyond
his income, always in the hope that, in the near future, he will be able, by rigid economy, to pay of his liabilities. For such a man as this the bankruptcy law is intended, and it would indeed be a hardship were it otherwise. There is no reason why an 'unfortunate wage earner should be compelled to stagger along year after year under a heavy burden of debt, when relief is volunteered in trading cases not half so deserving. The bankruptcy laws have, no doubt, been availed of by dishonest wage-earners, or as Judge Denniston terms them, non-traders ; but that, is no reason why the really deserving should beharrassed and persecuted, and be compelled to sacrifice the best days of their lives in the almost hopeless task to place themselves in a sound financial condition. It is not the intention of our Bankruptcy laws that they should do so. The Bankruptcy Acts have been passed into law for the relief of non-traders as well as traders ; there is no express or implied .provision to the contrary. The Bankruptcy laws of the Colony profess to provide relief for all who sign a declaration that they are unable to pay their debts, and ample safeguard is provided against dishonesty by the holding of searching public examinations as to tho causes which have conduced to bankruptcy. But we must, with all due deference to Judge Denniston and the small army \ of Official Assignees, protest against an impression getting abroad that New Zealand Bankruptcy Acts are only framed to permit of " traders " —large and small, good, bad, and indifferent— slipping through the hands of their creditors, while another Q&ss of the community, perhaps moredeserving, are denied a privilege provided by the State for their relief. It is monstrous to supoose that a trader whose estate shall pay say ten shillings in the pound, will be granted his discharge without murmur, while a poor laborer in l-eceipt of from 30s to £2 per week shall Le compelled to discharge arrears of liabilities amounting to what, in his case, is the enormous sum of .£IOO or £150. In all probability such a man as this, if the father of a family, cannot manage to save a shilling a week towards paying off back liabilities, and it is the height of absurdity—if his misfortune and not his folly has led him into debt—to attempt to coerce hi.n iiito doing what is a moral impossibility. :