WHY MR FISHER RESIGNED.
THE MINISTERIAL ROW.
CHARGES OF DISLOYALTY AND
SOME SPICY. CORRESPONDENCE. [From Our Parliamentary Reporter.]
WELLINGTON, July 2,
Now that the correspondence which has passed between the Premier and Mr G. Fisher is in the hands of "the printer, and may be laid on the table of the House at any moment, it may not be premature on my part to give your readers a resumd of the same, for it will well repay perusal by those who take an interest in matters political. The dispute which culminated in Mr Fisher's retirement from the Cabinet really arose out of certain brewery prosecutions initiated in Wellington, and, as these transactions form the gravamen of the correspondence, some passing reference to them is called for. It seems that Mr Andrew Hamilton, of Micheltown Brewery, was convicted some few months ago on five informations for not entering in his books the quantity of beer delivered, and forfeiture was ordered of the utensils and apparatus found in his possession. The defendant pleaded his inability to pay more than L2OO, and alleged that, unless this amount were accepted, he would have to go to prison. The Customs authorities decided to recommend the remission of the fine to L2OO, and to direct the restoration of the brewing utensils forfeited. This was early in March last, but in a memo, to the Governor a couple of days later the Commissioner of Customs advised His Excellency to mitigate the penalty to LIOO, and Sir W. D. Jervois approved of the recommendation in the ordinary course, at the same time inquiring whether the Cabinet concurred in the recommendation, he being clearly of opinion that it was doubtful, from a perusal of the papers, whether any leniency should be shown to Hamilton. When the Premier was thus notified of the action of the Commissioner of Customs, he replied that the Cabinet were of opinion that the fine should not have been reduced in amount, and in accordance with the desire of the Cabinet His Excellency immediately cancelled his conditional approval of the remission. After conviction in Hamilton's case, and before the penalty was decided, the Customs authorities applied for permission to prosecute the Junction Brewery and H. Gilmer (of the Empire Hotel), and the correspondence which followed led to the Junotion Company admitting their culpability. Thereupon the department recommended that the necessity for an action at law might be averted, and the department be saved from the chances of defeat on technical points by the payment of L2OO in satisfaction of the offences referred to. This was represented by Mr Fisher as being unnecessarily severe, and he accused the Customs Department of making inquiries of a peculiarly inquisitorial character in connection with the case. The Cabinet then ordered a public prosecution to be instituted ; but, owing to the alleged tardiness of the Commissioner of Customs, the proper time within which the proceedings could bo begun was allowed to lapse. It would appear that the Premier then decided to dismiss Mr Fisher from his public offices. Thus much by way of preface, in order to bring us up to the stage when the official correspondence between the Premier and Mr Fisher begins, This begins singularly enough on the let April, when the Premier writes that, "after careful consideration of all the circumstances in connection with the non-prosecution of the Junction Brewery for offences against the Beer Duties Act, and, after full consultation with the other members of the Cabinet, he had, with deep regret, come to the conclusion that the Government could not defend Mr Fisher's action in Parliament, In these circumstances there was but one courso open to Mr Fisher, that of resignation." Tho letter concluded with an expression that writing it had been a most painful task to Sir Harry, and offering to withdraw it if he (Mr Fisher) " would prefer to resign upon the case as it now stood."
Two days later (April 3) Mr Fisher replied explaining that absorption in departmental duties, and not discourtesy, had caused a day's delay on his part, and adding that, as the question involved was one of such serious moment to him, he must ask to be allowed reasonable time within which to consider and decide upon the whole question. On April 4 the Premier asked to be definitely informed what course Mr Fisher proposed taking, and pointed out that, while not being desirous of urging a hasty decision, the position was one which ought not constitutionally to continue. This produced an immediate reply from Mr Fißher, to tho effect that, should any serious inconvenience result from his not taking the step which he was asked hastily to take, he should indeed feel sorry; but there were grave constitutional issues involved in his resignation, and he could not consent to allow himself to be made a means of establishing a precedent, which, becoming part of the history of Cabinets in this country, would destroy the freedom of thought and the independence of action of future Ministers. His reply would be forwarded at the end of that week. In conformity with this promise Mr Fisher tendered his resignation as Minister of Education and Commissioner of Customs and a member of the Executive Council to the Acting-Governor on Saturday, April 6, informing His Excellency that his reasons for taking this step were set forth in a letter to the Premier, and as he treated that letter as a document of the St? to he ventured to express the hope that it might be laid before His Excellency. In the letter referred to, Mr Fisher stated that it was far from his intention to avail himself of the Premier's suggestion that his letter of April 1 might be withdrawn, inasmuch as it was calculated to raise an entirely false issue. To suggest that some temporary brewery prosecutions could have created "a Ministerial situation " so serious as to necessitate the retirement of a member fiom the Ministry was the purest pretence. There were other and very much greater reasons involved in the present case, but before touching on them he wished to protest against the unreasonable desire manifested in the Premier's letters to hasten his retirement from office. When a Minister's honor was impugned perhaps the natural instinct would be to act impulsively and upon the spur of the moment, and he should have. resigned immediately on the receipt of the Premier's letter of Ist April but for two most important reasons—viz., that his Education Bill, to which he had devoted many months of care and of thought, was then in the printer's hands, and he wished to see it finally completed; and secondly, he had to regard the situation from a constitutional point, as affecting not only himself but all future Ministers. He then proceeds to say that, having in view the establishment of a precedent which will rule in future Cabinets, he cannot concede it to be the unquestioned right of a Premier to select a particular and subsidiary question in which no point of policy is involved upon which to demand the resignation of one of his colleagues. " There must be equal rights in these matters, and equal freedom of speech and action under a sense of responsibility to Parliament." He then claims to have differed from the Cabinet upon many large questions of policy, but/ he had differed,' as the Premier had '• frequently ' remarked, with great courtesy and forbearance, and having regarded the Cabinet as an impersonal' whole he ' had rigidly excluded all individual considerations. The large questions upon which at various times he had r differed with the Cabinet were (1) the composition of the Railway Board and the peculiar treatment of Mr Rae, the English expert; (2) the appointment of a Judge in succession to the late Judge Johnston ; (3) the proposed appointment of au engineer-in-chief; (4) the attitude of certain Ministers in the Gasparini matter; (5) the attitude of certain Ministers in regard to the leasing of the Canterbury runs; (6) the necessity of proposing modifications of the Property Tax ; (7) the Te Kooti expedition; and (8) the public declarations by the Premier of his views on the questions of land nationalisation and pauper farms. If asked why He did not secede from .a .Government from which he differed upon sot- many
and Buoh large questions, he answered(l) That as a unit in an impersonal whole, it was a Minister's duty to submit to the opinions of his colleagues where the point involved was not so serious as to justify his assuming the responsibility of breaking up the Ministry. (2) His most reliable political friends, whom he consulted, insisted that he should remain in the Cabinet aB long as possible, and as far as possible to represent the views that Ministers held in common. Certain other members of the Cabinet had not been content to proceed upon these principles. He did not feel called on to characterise their plan of procedure; it was sufficient for him to say that it had induced disruption. Having thus stated the public grounds on which he consented to retire trom the Ministry, Mr Fisher proceeds to deal with the subsidiary question (as he terms it) of the Beer Duty prosecutions, explaining that after Mr Gilmer (the managing director of the Junction Brewery Company) had placed himself unreservedly in the hands of the Commissioner of Customs, and offered to pay any penalty that might be imposed, in addition to the payment of any amount which the Customs officials might find to be due for deficient duty, he (Mr Fisher) asked the Customs officials in writing to state what had been the custom of the department in dealing with breweries j where a deficiency of duty was discovered, and he was informed, also in writing, that it | had been the custom to require that the deficient duty should be made good by | destroying stamps to the amount of the deficiency. So recently as September last seventeen days subsequent to the day of the first information being laid against the Juuction Brewery the Customs Department had accepted from Staples and Co. the sum of L 49 as payment for deficient duty on seventy-three hogsheads of beer not entered in the Customs book kept by them. No prosecution was entered in that case, nor was the Commissioner of Customs consulted on the case in any way. He claimed to have acquiesced in the decisions of the Cabinet in both Hamilton's and Gilmer's cases; and as it was stated as a reason for the demand of his resignation that the Government could not defend his action in Parliament, he asked in what respect the voice of Parlia-, ment could be legitimately invoked in regard 'to these brewery prosecutions. In fact Parliament could know nothing of the details of Cabinet procedure; therefore he was not in the position of requiring the support of the Government to justify in Parliament any Ministerial action on his part of questionable or doubtful propriety. In conclusion, Mr Fisher says that, as it was clear he could not longer act with the Cabinet on many large questions, he resigned, but with this distinct understanding: that he did not admit that, in any circumstances connected with the position he occupied, he had given the Premier or the Cabinet any cause to complain of, or to be dissatisfied with, his action. It was because he felt convinced that he could no longer continue to act with the Premier for the bonefit of the colony, or in accordance with the views of a large number of the members of the Legislature who had hitherto accorded their support to the Minister, that he had decided to retire from a position which he had for some time past felt was becoming a false one, considering the wide divergences of opinion developed amongst Ministers on questions of principle, and the strong personal differences which had arisen between certain members of the Cabinet, but in which happily he had not been concerned.
In the course of a lengthy reply, the Premier, in answer to the charge of having hastened his colleague's retirement from office, points out that Mr Fiaher had acted in direct opposition to the decision of the Cabinet during the first week in March, and he (Sir H. Atkinson) oould not therefore be blamed had he acted with greater promptitude. As to the Education Bill, the Premier alleges that he was unaware of the fact that the Hill was drafted till he saw the synopsis of it published in the 'Evening Post.' This publication was most irregular and unwarrantable. The Bill was prepared by direction of the Cabinet; and, having been entirely drafted by the InspectorGeneral, it was the late Minister's duty to have submitted it to the Premier for the consideration of the Cabinet before making it public. His further action in having the Bill printed, and, after securing a number of copies, giving orders to have the type dis tributed, is also characterised as "most unusual," particularly as not one copy of the measure was supplied to the Education Office, nor had the original manuscript, which was an official record, been returned to Mr Habenß. It would, therefore, seem that it was as though Mr Fisher had wished to get the Bill finished, and not the Minister of Education. As a matter of fact, however, the written order given for the distribution of the type was not carried out. In the next place the Premier denies having violated his constitutional right, pointing out that the Head of the Government possesses the right at any time to ask a colleague to resign, and of recommending the Crown to dismiss him if he refuses, the Crown having the right to determine whether it will dismiss a Minister whom a Premier may have advised to be dismissed or to accept the Premier's resignation. As a matter of fact when the resignation, as promised, was not received on the Saturday night, he advised His Excellency to dismiss Mr Fisher on the Monday morning from all his offices, and His Excellency signified his acceptance of such dismissal. But the resignation coming to hand later the same evening, he recommended that His Excellency should accept it, a recommendation that was approved in place of that for dismissal. Sir Harry here proceeds to explain his recommendation for Mr Fisher's dismissal, in the following terms :
My reason for recommending His Exoellency to dismiss you was that on Saturday I discoveted you had made, during the last few days that you held office, such extraordinary use of your Ministerial position that I did not consider it right you should remain in a position which enabled you to deal with the public records in an improper manner. I found that you had caused to be printed at the public expense for your own übb the file of papers relating to the Junotion Brewery prosecution, those relating to Hamilton's case, and a selection from a file relating to Mr Jackman. In each of these cases not only were the papers printed, but also official and Ministerial minutes. You had 250 copies of each file struck off, and had taken them all away with you. After I discovered that you were printing official papers, with official and Ministerial minutes, for your own use, and apparently for distiibution without my knowledge, I felt that it would be a publio soandal for you to remain a day longer than could be helped a Minister of the Crown.
As to the list of larger questions upon which Mr Fisher said he had at various times differed from the Cabinet, Sir H, Atkinson alleges that this was the first time he had had the slightest intimation of any serious difference between the late Minister of Education and the Cabinet or himself upon any of these questions. Itwasquite true that in Cabinet discussions he had expressed hisown personal views; but he, apparently, after full discussion of Cabinet, had been satisfied, and had never given the Premier the least intimation that he was dissatisfied with the decision arrived at. The eight large questions mentioned are next dealt with seriatim, the Premier reiterating his denial of any knowledge of any serious difference. As to his publio utterances, if Mr Fisher disapprove of anything he said it was his duty as a colleague to have approached him aud talked the matter over. But no hint of disapproval had ever been sounded. Sir H. Atkinson then comes to the real gronnds on which he was necessitated to ask Mr Fisher's retirement from the Cabinet—namely, hb conduct with respect to the brewery prosecutions; and as this matter has a most important bearing on the whole issue I offer no apology for publishing the Premier's remarks on that head in extenso :—
You speak of these as trumpery and as forming but a subsidiary question, and, indeed, the whole object of your letter appears to be to minimise the importance of our differences in this respect, and to suggest that they were merely a pretext for removing a colleague whom we had found objeotionable for other reasons I therefore propose to tell you very plainly what my feeling iB about this matter, and to explain why I consider it important. And in what I am going to say I know that I represent pretty accurately the opinions of all your late colleagues. In one sense, no doubt, the subject matter is mean enough, and deserves all the disparaging epithets you heap on it; but in • another sense the real point at issue between us is of a gravity
which it is impossible to exaggerate, for, though a series of brewers' frauds cannot in themselves be said to form any very heroic issue, it is quite clear that in the treatment of them questions of principle may arise of a very vital character. And this is exactly what occurred in the present case. A series of gross, or, if you prefer it, trumpery frauds occurred, and it fell to you, in your official character, to bring the offendert'-to justice; or, rather by your sanction, to allow the law to take its usual course.. Instead of doing-so you interfered in one case, and in one case only, with the course of justice, and this one offender you then attempted to screen. He was not only the worst offender of them all, but also, as it turned out, a personal friend of your own. Neither I nor any other of your colleagues could approve of such an action, and we here found ourselves differing from you on a question of principle which by no stietch of language could be called trumpery or subsidiary. We felt that it would be dishonorable to sanction what you had done, and that we could not retain you as a colleague. The narrative of the Junction Brewery case is next given, and in reference to it the Premier expresses the opinion, from Mr Fisher's action, that he had practically pledged his word that no prosecution should take place. His refusal to initiate proceed, though advised 'by the Cro~n Solicitor and the Secretary to the Cistoms Department that a very flagrant breach of the Act was disclosed, is severely commented on, and Sir H. Atkinson says that so eager was the late Commissioner of Customs to have Gilmer's case settled out of Court that he wired to him (the Premier) at Wanganui that Hamilton's case had resulted in the infliction of a fine of LIOO only. Mr Fisher's claim of acquiescing in the decisions of the Cabinet, and also of working in harmony with the officers of his department in this matter, the Premier cannot admit for a moment. The officers of the department were throughout of opinion that the Junction Brewery should be prosecuted, and asked many times for the Commissioner's authority to lay an information; but, notwithstanding his declaration that all were to be treated alike, he positively withheld permission to prosecute herein, On the other hand, the action of the Cabinet had been consistent throughout. The Cabinet desired that all offenders should be treated alike, and were not prepared to grant a special exemption,to Mr Fisher's private friends, though Mr Fisher successfully defeated the desire of the Cabinet for equal justice being meted out to all by delaying the prosecution until it was too late in two perfectly clear caseß against the Junction Brewery. Such acquiescence as was claimed in- the action of the Cabinet was the acquiescence of a man who was compelled to do anything against his will. As to Hamilton's case, the Premier expresses astonishment that the late Commissioner of Customs should recommend the remission «f the fine to LIOO without consulting nis colleagues, and adds that fortunately the Governor only approved of this recommendation provisionally ] and on being informed that the Cabinet disapproved of the reduction, His Excellency was pleased to cancel his conditional approval. As to Mr Fisher's inquiry in what respect the voice of Parliament could be legitimately invoked in regard to these brewery prosecutions, the Premier tersely replies : I Bhould have thought your experience would have made the question quite unnecessary. But to remove any doubt in your mind, I may say that it would have been invoked in the usual way by some member of Parliament impeaching the conduct of the Government for showing favoritism in regard to the brewery, prosecutions; and it must bare come out upon inquiry, if not in debate, that you had, from the beginning, pe'sistently determined to. protect a personal and political friend, because he was your friend, from the consequences of fraudulent acts. Certainly it is not a matter that would have required any special action on the part of the Government to bring it before the House, as you seem to suppose.
Then, as to the general question of the alleged differences between Mr Fisher and his colleagues increasing the difficulty he consequently felt in continuing to cooperate with them, the Premier says :
If you for some time past had been troubled with these feelings-if conviction had been really growing upon you that your position was gradually becoming a false one—we have all a very serious cause of complaint against yon, for never either to myself or to any other of your colleagues did you mention a word about these difficulties; and while allowing us all to suppose that you were still on friendly terms and in substantial agreement with us, you were showing your boasted loyalty to us by distrusting us in secret, and consulting political friends outside the Cabinet abrot matters which the Premier (to whom you had avowed allegiance) should have been your first confidant. Your secret distrust jou relieved by an occasional consultation with "a man in the street." This appears to be your ideal of Cabinet loyalty. Of course, lam not denying that there were not differences of opinion between you and me and between you and other members of the Cabinet, but what I say is that they were not more serious nor more maiked than ordinary differences which inevitably arise between independent men who attempt to act together. And we were all of opinion that they had. as they arose, been amicably settled, and that the settlement of them had been cheerfully accepted by you.
Some minor matters having been alluded to, Sir H. Atkinson concludes his communication in somewhat emphatic language thus:—
I We had never .thought of your resignation as ' possible or desirable until your aotion about the brewery prosecutions. In that matter, trumpery as it was in one sense, we found that you differed from us on a question of vital importance. The course which you endeavored to take, and which, in spite of i all our efforts, you were partially successful in i taking, seemed to us dishonorable. We could not approve of a colleague's attempt, in his official capacity, to save a personal friend from legal punirihment for veiy grois and obvious frauds. The difference here was not one which admitted of compromise. As htnest men we could not sanction such a course; nor could we tnink of retaining any longer such a colleague. I cannot close without entering a strong protest against the oourse you have taken with respect to this correspondence, as both unconstitutional and highly disrespectful to His Exoellenoy the Administrator of this Go vernment. In your letter addressed to the Administrator tendering your resignation you inform him that you have written me the letter now under reply, which you term 4 document of State, and request that it may be laid before His Excellency. ' As you were aware, the Administrator was then absent from el* lington; yet I find that you had 100 copies of this letter printed at the Government Printing Office on Saturday, the day before you sent it to me; that the substance of it was published as a leader in the' Evening Post' of April 8, before it was possible for the Administrator to see it, and many days before it was possible for; me to confer with His Excellency upon the subject. lam aware that you distributed the printed copies in a promiscuous • manner, and made the contents' 6t the letter a matter of public property and pntyio comment. That you should have thought it honorable thus 'td x deal with a document still under the seal of secrecy affords a storage oomment upon your conception of the thoughts and duties of a Cabinet Minister.
i Six' weeks elapsed before Mr Fisher returned to the charge, and on May 31. he wrote' that, as' the Premier had informed the people of the colony, through the Press, that all the faots connected With his (the exMinister's) retirement from' the Ministry shdnld be made 'public "as soon as possible, '* he had abstained from replying earlier, but a change of tactics had resulted in a change of the Premier's intentions, and he seemingly declined to publish his letter of April 2§ except under the protection of Parliamentary privilege. Before answering and criticising his (the i Premier's) letter, however, be (Mr Fisher) desired to draw attention not only'to the Premier's change of tactics but to his change of tone on April 23. He (Mr' Fisher) was then charged with' k ' deception and dishonor," which apparently did'not exist on April 1. Thus it would appear that the charge of dishonor arising out of the brewery transac-1 ttons—not to put too fine a point on it—was pure moonshine. Though', too, on April 4 the resignation was still harped upon,'not A word was said about the brewery cases or the many moral delinquencies Which 'the Premier's vivid imagination now connected with them. The letter of April. 23, he alleges, iB composed of afterthoughts and side issues, for if his acts were surrounded by so much deception and dishonor why did OieL Premier offer to withdraw his. letter of April 1 ? Actions such as the Premier's were utterly inconsistent and indefensible, as would oe apparent to any unbiassed mind. .In the next place Mr Fisher points to tne unreasonable desire of the* Premier to-hasten him from office, and fully explains how the. three weeks were used. 6After| the* 1 first week in March, -he taya M7r: -
On Thursday, March 7, a Cabinet meeting was convened to discuss the question of the Canterbury rone, at which meeting the Hon. Mr Hiilopassailed the, Hon. Mr Bichardion in hte usual unfeeling manner, the consequence of which was that Mr Richardson returned to yon after the Cabinet meeting to say that he would no longer tolerate the'offensive manner and the offeniive language of the Hon. Mr Hialop, On Friday, March 8,1 saw yon again in your room about the brewery cases, when you informed me that you had referred the papers to the Hon. Sir F. Whitaker and the Hod. Mr "»tevens for their opinions, the resident Ministers, yon said, being divided, the Hon. Mr Mitchelson and the Hon. Mr Bichardson being in my favor, and the Hon. Mr Hiilop and the Hon. Mr Fergus being against me. I asked whetheryou would have any objection to rflyaeeing iheHon. Sir F. Whitaker and the Hon. MrS tevens, as, in my opinion, the papers required explanation, and you said you had no objection. You at once wrote a telegram to them to this effect: "Express no opinion on papers till you see Fisher." I knew ako tH»t at this time the Hon. Mr Fergus and the Hon. Mr Hialop had told you that either they or Mr Fisher would have to leave the Ministry, and that the Hon. Mr Hialop, having in Cabinet in my absence, with his accustomed bitterness, discussed the cases and the mannar in which he obose to asrame that I was affected by them, had had the unpardonable presumption to wri*e a letter to the Hon. Mr Stevens, with a view to massing his opinion upon the questions submitted to him; that is to say, behind my back he wrote a letter to the person who was asked to pass judgment upon me. I ought to say ! that m this respect the conduct of the Hon. Mr Hislpp was n>t worse than that of the other Minister, who communicated privately with Sir Fredenok Whitaker when he was asked to give an unbiassed opinion upon the case. Mr Fisher then goes on to explain that the next fortnight was occupied with his visits to Christchurch to see the Hon. Mr Stevens, and to Auckland to see Sir F. Whitaker, returning to Wellington on Saturday, March 30. On Monday, April I, he received the Premier's letter asking his resignation; so that immediately on hia return to Wellington, and literally at one day« notice, there was a desire to hustle him from office. Now, he was sure that the unprejudiced critic would see that he had had a busy, restless, and anxious month. It was true that he might have saved himself all his pains, for it had been determined during his absence from Wellington, as he afterwards ascertained, that be should be forced to retire from the Ministry, and that at this very time Mr Fergus was armed with authority to offer his portfolio to Mr J. B, Whyte in Auckland. While conceding that the brewery cases were the immediate cause of difference seized upon by some of bis late colleagues to create a rupture in the Ministry, Mr Ffcher denies absolutely that it was the actual or real origin. He next complains that on the lastday when a summons could have been laid injrespect to one of the charges against the Junotion Company Sir H. Atkinson, who was in Wanganui, attended at the telegraph office there at his (Mr Fisher's) request, bet refused to discuss the matter which he now regards as an important public question, because, as he said, he had to keep a private engagement As to the objection raised -to his being allowed to remain in office a few days to complete his departmental duties, Mr Fisber says i Had I been made aware that I had been allowed to go to Auckland on a fool's errand ; that my forced retirement had already been determined on in my absence; that the presence that I was to be allowed to go to Auckland for an impartial hearing was a deception and a sham; if, instead of all these things, I had remained in my office in Wellington, my departmental work would not have fallen into arrears, and I would have been in a po ition to resign on Ist April immediately on the receipt of your letter. But, as I have already explained, from March 10 to March 29 I was engaged upon what subsequently tranepirfd to be an absolutely futile and needless expecjtion to the Hon. Mr Stevens and the Hon. Sir F. Whitaker. Before I resigned I determined to leave no departmental arrears which should either embarrass my successor or cause the public interest to suffer. The belief is not altogether groundless that, had I left any considerable arrears of work, that circumstance would like'y have been trumped uto a further serious charge against me. As to the Education Bill he reiterates that he had already stated, and adds that it was quite in accord with Sir H. Atkinson's habitual disparagement of other men's labors that he should sneak in disparagement of his (Mr Fisher's) connection with this Bill Good or bad, every provision, every idea contained in it, was his (Mr Fisher's). It would be as sensible and as honorable to charge the Rev. Mr Habens with retaining his material, which he placed in Mr Habens's bands for the purpose of drafting the Bill, as to charge him (Mr Fisher) with retaining Mr Habens's draft manuscript. And as to the irregular publication of a pr&is of the Bill, he had some recollection of synopses of Bills having appeared many times before. Such a publication was not at all unusual; and there were instances, he believed, where Sir H. Atkinson had himself published a synopsis of a Bill to ascertain " how it would take" with the public. As to his failure to submit the Bill to the Cabinet, he Bays that he bad not received an unprecedented amount of encouragement when previously he had described its groundwork to the Cabinet; for outside the Premier, who wished to see the education boards merged into county councils—a step calculated to destroy the autonomy of the education system, and tending in the direction of Sir H. Atkinson's Hawera speech of 1884, in which he expressed a belief that a return to denominationalism was not impossible the only other member of tbe Ministry who took a distinct interest in the subject was Mr Fergus, who said that the clauses relating to the promotion of technical education were " bosh." Before leaving this subject tbe late Minister of Education bears high testimony to the ceaseless watchfulness of Inspector-General Habens for tbe public good in tbe cause of education. Referring to tbe # Premier's intimation that he had recommended the Acting-Governor to dismiss him (Mr Fisher) from the Executive, the writer regards this as a' manifestation of that vindictive and domineering spirit which has become a recognised part of Sir H. Atkinson's .character. It was a bombastic and wanton attempt to wound, which no man of, chivalrous feeling would resort to/ The resignation and its acceptance would have satisfied a person of true manly spirit, but it was not enough for a man of the cast of character of Sir Harry Atkinson. He then says:'— "" * • '"
I welcome this onportunity of explaining all that is contained in the paragraph in your letter in which youebargemewithhaving certain papers improperly printed at the Government Printing Office and distributed.' In the first place my | experience of yoii taught' me that in dealing I with'yon I had to deal with a man who played with the button'off his foil. Aekany unbiassed man to read the leading artioles in the Wellington ' Evening Press' of March 26 and 26, the information for which wag suggested 'by ; & person nofnnoonnecW with the Government,' and, the leading artioles in the 'New Zealand Times' of March 27 and 28, cf which newspaper yon are the political director and inspirer, and then ask that man to' give his impression of the nature of the case that' I should be called upon to answer. Those articles teem with falsehoods. I knew the case I should have to rebut, and I determined te provide for it. This was not a case governed by any ordinary rules of etiquette. I- printed, the papers, and they were'printed! not for my own use, but for the use of Parliament Notwithstanding' your expression of opinion to the contrary, they will be duly placed before Parliament. You say all this waß done secretly, without the knowledge of any of your oolleagur s. Am la child? I bad been made aware of the existence of the intiigue against roe, in which three members of the Cabinet were engaged, and I determined not to be caught all unprepared. I knew that you would have full access to the departmental pipers in the ease you intended to take against me, and do you think I am really such an innocent person "as to be so neglectful of _my own' interests as to leave myself in" the position of having to meet you with my hands tied behind my hack' Aimed with these papers I shall' meet yon on even terms. ' ' »•
Space will not permit of my following Mr -Fisher through his brewery prosecution defence, or on the main questions on which he claims to have suffered from the Cabinet. He denies that most of his colleagues were in favor of the appointment" ot «a English' railWay expert, in proof of which statement he points out, that when he proposed the appointment of Mr fiae as Chief Commissioner ofJLaUwavs, only Mr Mitohelson voted with him. The peculiar treatment of Mr Rae, of which he had complained, was the "constant disparagement" of him by certain members "of the. Cabinet, the object of whioh disparagement was obvious, although
the Government had in their possession at the time dooutnenta which showed that he was a most capable man, and in every respect fitted for the post. Having a full knowledge' of the contents of these documents, Sir H. Atkinson's references to Mr Rae iu his Hawera speech on January 28 were unworthy of any peraon pretending to the stauding of a statesman. In conclusion, Mr Fisher says : The substance of the articles in the 'New Zealand Times' was telegraphed to the Christchurcb 'Press' and the 'Otago Daily Tunes' by the person who is editor of the ' New Zealand Times '—a person who is in constant and daily communication with you. The substance of the articles in the ' Evening Press' was published in influential newspapers in Australia by a person in Wellington who is the Mew Zealand correspondent of those newspapers, and, while you were secretly slandering me in every direction, you think it fitting that 1 should stand tongue-tied, and with my hands bound. This is your view of what you considtr fair and honorable. If any act of mine is construed as being in any degree disrespectful to His Excellency the Administrator, I here tender to him the fullest and most sincere apology, but I will consent to submit to no lectures from Sir Harry Atkinson upon ethical subjects or upon the rightj and duties of a Cabinet Minister.
So far no reply has been forwarded to this communication, but it will probably take the form of an official memorandum attached to the papers when presented to Parliament. It will be observed that the letters, up till after the receipt of Mr Fisher's resignation, are exceedingly decorous in tone, but in the lust two communications language is used of a more vigorous nature than is usually employed between gentlemen holding responsible public positions. The question that naturally suggests itself is: What will the House do with the correspondence? For my own part, I am inclined to think that hori. members will conclude that no public advantage whatever can accrue to the colony from a public washing out of this Ministerial dirty linen, and the attitude taken will be one of indifference. Mr Fisher, however, seems determined to have the matter probed to the bottom, and will probably ask for the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry to deal with the whole question.
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WHY MR FISHER RESIGNED., Evening Star, Issue 7948, 2 July 1889
WHY MR FISHER RESIGNED. Evening Star, Issue 7948, 2 July 1889
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