THE REPRENTATION BILL
PUBLIC MEETING IN 11ATTRAY 8 THIS EX HALL. There was a large attendance at Saturday night’s meeting, the hall being crowded. The Mayor said that immediately on receipt of the requisition asking him to call the meeting he set about doing so, and found that the only hall that was vacant was tho one in which they were met. lie had very little to say with regard to the business for which tho meeting was called, hut would leave that to Sir Robert Stout aud other gentlemen—particularly to Sir Robert Stout, who knew as much about this Bill as any other person in the colony, and perhaps more.— (Applause,) Before calling on Sir Robert he would read a telegram which Mr Fish had requested to be read at the meeting : “ Mark Cohen, who is own. correspondent to the Wellington ‘Post,’ wires that Journal tonight that your telegram to me is overcolored. Is tiiis so ? He says you have called a meeting in the smallest place you can get, and that any expression of opinion thereat will not reflect public opinion. He says Dunedin does not object so much to the quota, and suggests that present members are only desirous of retaining their seats. Does Mr Mark Cohen fully represent public opinion in Dunce in, or does he not?’— (Daughter.) It was entirely for the meeting to answer the qrcation, Sir R. Stout was received with prolonged applause. His address, slightly condensed, was as follows Mr Chairman and gentlemen,—l think it was an Athenian legislator who enacted that any citizen who in a time of civil disturbance remained neutral should lie punished, and I believe that in any civil dispute wc ought to exercise our rights as citizens, and if we do not the whole State is injured. 1 do not expect to find people unanimoua on all the phases of the representation question, because men view it, like any other question, in different ways, but I do expect that those who have an opinion in f.vor of the Bill will be able to do better than its supporters in the House, who have not used a single argument in support of it. I ask any present who support it to say something it favor of it, and give us some argument in favor of this monstrous measure.—(Applause ) This Bill strikes at the root of every principle of local government, and of every democratic principle for which Liberals have fought for centuries. If I understand democratic government, it is that ono man should count for ono—for one, and no more—(applause)—and any Government that attempts to clothe people with special privileges strikes at the root of good government, and is, I|believe, sowing the seeds of anarchy and rebellion. T wish to tell you how this question of quota came into tho Bill. It is necessary to do this, for I notice that Mr Moss seems to he under the impression that I proposed 18 per cent, as the difference between town and country. I did nothing of the sort. That was carried against my wish. I will toll yon what my Bill provided. I said that no Representation BUI was right or just or honest unless it was based on population. Representation meant that the people should he represented and nothing else. I said, how ever, that there wore scattered districts in i.lm colony, large areas where there were few settlers, and where there was a want ol means of communication and an inability on the part of the people to come to any kind of unity—and something needed to be done to moke up temporarily for that defect of want of people. I proposed, therefore, that where there were less than five people to I,COO aeios 21) per cent, should he added, and that whore there were five anil not more than trn people to 1,000 acres 15 per cent, should lie added, and that was all. I said that as population increased this percentage must v .uish from the Statute Book, for these areas wonln get peopled by more than five and ten to 1,000 acres, and therefore as population grew there would be no quota. Tnat was my proposal, and it was hired on the ground that if the districts were too large it would not give a full representation to the people of the outlying dis-* tried u and it would put to great expense candidates who had to canvass the outlying districts. How did tho 18 per cent, quota get into the Bill ? An amendment was moved by Mr Richardson, the present Minister of Lands, that this should he struck out, and that 20 per cent, should be ul’owtd to certain country districts, and this was carried ; and I look upon it as a sort of revenge that has come upon those who voted with Mr Richardson against me on that occasion that some of them are now among the atouewallcrs.— (Laughter.) 1 objected to that amendment and fought against it, and for eight weeks declined to bring on the Bill; and because I stuck to my objections I was accused of treachery—it was said that I did not want tho Bill to be passed, and two of the papers in Dunedin said I was not fighting for a principle. I think the people now see what I was fighting for—(cheers)— and if the people had stood by me then there would not now have been any stonewalling nor need of public meetings to protest against the Bill and ask for justice.— (Applause.) Now what docs this Bill propose? It does not propose to treat the country people and the people in the outlying districts as one class and the fown people as another class, If that had been proposed I could have understood it. But this Bill has no principle underlying it. The Premier and his party have simply ticked the card to see how the majority went, and said “ We will go with it.” There is no theoretical principle underlying tho Bill at all. It proposed that tho four large cities—Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin—should have one-fourth of their population disfranchised. That is what the Bill means ; and it allow’s towns like Napier, Nelson, Oamaru, Timaru, and New Plymouth not to bo touched and not to bo affected. Can it be said that there is practically any difference between tho inhabitants of Caversham and the inhabitants of Oamaru ? Do you think that the Oamaruvian is more intelligent than *he resident of Caversham ?—(Laughter.) The whole principle of the Bill is bad—it is simply framed to catch votes, and nothing else. And if this were a temporary Bill I do not know that there would bo need for much fuss about it, for I believe that as time goes on, and as the democratic feeling grows stronger in the community, such a Bill would not disgrace the Statute Book for long. But you must remember what tiie Representation Bill means now. It was framed by me in 1887 to be an automatic or self-acting Bill. I take no credit for originality in the matter. It was first proposed in 1868, then by the Grey Government in 1879, and then by me in 1887. The object was this; It had been found that wherever Representation Bills came before Parliament there was usually nothing but dodgery aud intrigue to get a little taken off this district and a little put on to that district, andthi r j was a deal of what the Americans called “gerrymandering.” That meant that the Bill was altered to suit* special interests, and the representation of the people was not tho second or even the third thing that was thought of. To get rid of that, I said we would lay down a principle to be followed in framing the Representation Bill, and leaving it to independent men—men in whom Parliament had trust and confidence—to carry it out apart altogether from feeling of party.— (Applause.) This Representation Bill, therefore, is what I may term a permanent Act, and will bo self-acting after every census. It proposed to lay it down as a principle that every fourth man of tho dwellers in the large towns, and within a mile of the large towns, was to be disfranchised, It is said now that only about 40,000 people would be disfranchised, but as population increases that number will hugely increase, so that in another twenty years there may be 80,000 or 100,000 people to be disfranchised; and I ask on what ground ? Why were the smaller towns to be loft untouched? Is it on the principle of intelligence ? Do you mean to say that a man directly he gets a mile away from Dunedin can see clearly what he could not see when residing
within the mile limit ?—(Laughter.) t)o 3’oti mean to say that in mental ability and high theoretical capacity Mr Fergus, because he comes from an outlying district, overshadows everyone else? I ask, again, What is the principle underlying this Bill ? I say none. I say it is going back on all the agitation of the century. What has been the struggle ever since 1532? There has been Reform Bill after Reform Bill to get the people represented. It was only ten years ago that London returned twenty-two members, and now it returns fifty-nine. How is that increase to be accounted for, except that the: Liberals in England saw that there could be no true and free government unless it was based upon the representation of the people? To quote the memorable words of Abraham Lincoln ; “It must be government of the people, by the people, for the people,” That must be the platform on which anyone with true democratic feeling must stand; and this Bill proposes the reverse. There has not been a single argument uttered in the House in favor of the Bill, but the Government party simply say this i “ We have got the majority, and we’ll carry the Bill.” I say it is doing an injustice to the towns. It would be a bad Bill even if it stopped there, for I apprehend that the Government fails in its mission if it does not do justice to the meanest subject; but I maintain that the Bill also does an injustice to the country, in that it raises up a feeling that we are not all alike. We hear a great deal about the need for national life, and we must remember that we are founding a nation, and that we must work together as brothers for that cud ; but this Bill steps in and says that we are not brothers, we are not fellow-eitizons—it steps in and says that the dwellers in the cities and the dwellers in the towns are not to be put on the same footing; and why ? To give a temporary triumph to Mr Fergus and the Premier. What is the meaning of thia_ Bill ? I would say to yon that this Bill means something more than appears on its face. It is an attempt to introduce into our polities what happily had never been introduced into our politics before—a fight between town and country. Who over raised such a controversy ? I have been in the Provincial Council and in the House of Representatives for many years, and have never seen such a division. On the contrary, I have seen members for the towns fighting their hardest for the country, settlers, and trying to help them. In what way do the town people differ from the country settlers ? Because a town man happened to be at his store, or at his desk, or at his workshop, why should he differ from a man who was in the field, or at his desk, or at his workshop in the country ? Then who are they that are to be disfranchised ? and on what principle are they to be so treated ? Was the Bill brought in so that our merchants, our bankers, and our big lawyers should be disfranchised? Certainly not. Who are to be disfranchised, then ? I will toll you. Why did we have single electorates in the colony ? Why were the cities broken up into wards ? It was done to weaken the democracy of the towns.—(Applause.) It was so said by Sir John Hall at the time. Ho did not say it openly in the House, but he afterwards boasted that it was so. And why was this? They were afraid to ui'miit their special privileges to the votes of the citizens in the towns, lost the citizens should use their votes to dost my these special privileges. —(Cheers.) Thi- is simply an attempt, like other attempts that have been made, to strangle the democracy of the towns, and if we hud any true democratic feelings in our town and in the other towns of the colony any Ministry proposing such a thing would not remain twenty-four hours in office.— (Applause.) There is a want of true democratic feeling ; and what do I moan by that ? I mean that wo must exalt the State and think of the State in our every transaction ; and that we should never forget and neglect these, and that we should always look on our fellow-citizens as having equal rights ' and privileges to our own, If we had more of that feeling permeating through the colony swell a Bill as this would not have been brought before Parliament. It is because we have not yet learned the ABC of demooraey that such a Bill is submitted to the. Home. I hope the members will see that there is no fight between town and country. It is absurd even from the country point of view that the Bill should bo passed. It only meant the taking away of three or four members out of the whole House. If there had been an attempt by the town members ’ to force taxation on the country members or to deprive them of any privilege, the country members might then combine and say that they had the power and that they would stop such a thing. They could do so, for the numbers are as two to one. But it is a mistake to say that there is any combination on the part of the town against the country, and that cry has been rimed to cloak what should be the real cry. At the back of this Bill there is a feeling, worked up by Sir John Hall in 18S1, and It has gone abroad ever since, and it is this : “ We are afraid of demooraey, and we shall do all we can to keep it down, because we are afraid of it affecting our special privileges.” This is at the bottom of the. Bill and at the hack of it, and it will bo found that every Tory member in the House will vote for it, because they sec what it means If they get it passed they will then get another that will still further limit the privileges of citizens. What is the good of calling this a free and democratic country, and striving to have democratic legislation, if this Bill is to become law ? Now, I appeal to yon that I have raised no question about the Ministry or their acts at all. I might have said something about Mr Fergus and the Premier calling a meeting of citizens a “mob.” I do not blame them for doing that, and" will give my reason why. I always like a man to he straightforward and express his opinion. Mr Fergus and the Premier did so.—(Laughter and applause.) They should be honored for speaking out what they had been thinking for so many years past.—(Rene wed laughter.) I would point out how Mr Fergus voted on the Factory Bill and in reference to the eight hours legislation, and I say that Mr Fergus has never given, to my knowledge, a single Liberal vote since ho has been in the House, No doubt Mr Fergus is perfectly honest in his conviction. No person would say a Tory is dishonest or disloyal or unpatriotic. No ; they would only say that a Tory differed from them in opinion, and M r Fergus had expressed his. Both he and the Premier deserve all honor for speaking out of the abundance of their feelings when they came to the point.— (Laughter.) I will only say one or two words more, because other speakers are to follow. The resolution I have to move is as follows That this meeting protests against the passing of the Representation Bill now before the House of Representatives, as its provisions are unjust and opposed to the bests interests of the colony.” I have nothing against the Ministry and nothing to do with their policy. It would have been cowardly of tho citizens, if they had any democratic feeling or political feeling left, not to have met in the largest hall the mayor could get, and tell their members who were fighting, not for their constituents and not for themselves, but for the true interests of the colony, that they are being watched, and that the citizens would do what was done in the old Grecian games—cheer them on to tho fight, and tell them that the citizens were thankful and grateful to them for what they had done.—(Applause ; and a Voice: “Stonewalling.”) Yes, even for stonewalling; and that reminds me that I have a little to say about that, I will tell you why stonewalling is right. Some people say that a State is something like a joint stock company. I do not admit that; but for illustration it may be taken. In a joint stock company they might alter the articles of association as they pleased, but the memorandum of association—the charter—they could not alter. That was the basis of their meeting, and that was the basis of their co operation. And what is the basis of our government ? Was it not based on the people? So, if we find Parliament trying to violate tho fundamental principle of our government that each man should be treated as one—it is right to stonewall, even to the limit of endurance.—(Applause.) The people that are acting unconstitutionally are those who are attempting to pass a Bill in violation of tho constitution. Those now fighting in the minority are those trying to preserve our constitution. In this colony we are not to have a class stamped as being unequal to their fellows ; and why, I would ask again, should the town population not
be equal to that of the country ? Were they not both equal in intelligence, or where did they differ ? It is absurd in a town like this to talk of town and country, whore a man is in town one day and in the country the next. There is such an interchange between one and the other that we are not as two peoples with separate languages and separate histories, and that man who tries to make us two peoples and tries to bring divergence and dispute amongst us, and who tries to destroy the unity and tho friendship of oms with tho other, is an enemy to his country and the constitution.—(Loud and continued applause ) Mr A, Slujo seconded the resolution, because it affirmed that the Representation Bill now before Parliament was an unjust Bill. Sir Robert Stout had very clearly stated how and where the injustice came in. Upon one point especially tho injustice was very striking and to be resisted. Although the methods for obtaining the results of an election under the Hare system were, perhaps, somewhat complex, yet one was constrained to admit that the end to be attained was, at all events, one that must command some amount of respect. That end w r as an attempt to got tho electors of Now Zealand to elect the whole Parliament of New Zealand as a single constituency. That was somewhat of tho intent of the Hare system. There was a principle involved in it, but for the life of him he could not see what principle was contained in or had dictated that part of the Representation Bill now before Parliament which attempted to make a distinction between the votes of the electors in the town and the votes of those in the country. Why it should be necessary to take from the town to give to the country he did not see at all. An illustration occurred to him in regard to the method proposed. He imagined that a blanket was to be divided between two travellers—one a farmer and the other a bookbinder. A fair division was made, but it was afterwards said by the farmer: “ I am bigger than you, and want the larger half of the blanket to cover my tons. Give me a quarter of your blanket, and 1 will add it to mine.” Naturally enough the bookbinder, if be was a man of intelligence, would resent this. Not only was a quarter of his blanket asked from him, but he was also led to believe that the farmer, if he got what he asked for, would have only a quarter more than ho (the bookbinder) had. Tho townsman would feel a grievance that an attempt was being made to deprive him of portion of his right, and he would also see that an effort was being made to hoodwink and impose on him, when, as a matter of fact, the proportions stood as 73 to 125. While he expressed his gratification at seconding the resolution, he would be fair and candid with the meeting, and say that there were many portions of tho Bill which he approved of and strongly hoped would yet bo carried into law. Sir R. Stout had referred to one—the desirability of reverting to the old system in the city electorates and having the whole city as one electorate. There wore many other good points in the Bill, but at present he felt called upon to deal only with this specially objectionable one as connected with the four leading cities of New Zealand. He trusted that a sense of justice would be borne in upon the country members to see that even if they carried this measure it would never be maintained, and he further hoped that they would let justice prevail, and that the Parliament of New Zealand would totally condemn the Bill rather than allow this infernal principle to be carried.—(Loud applause.) Mr Lee Smith congratulated the meeting upon tho very unanimous manner in which they had received the motion submitted by Sir Robert Stout. They had heard enough from Sir R. Stout to nuclei stand the iniquity (,f the measure which the Government were endeavoring to thrust upon tho people of New Zealand. There were occasions when the people should rLe up and protest against their rulers thrusting anything upon them that they wished, and such an occasion had now arisen. The Government seeing the apathy with which the people of Dunedin and the people of New Zealand generally regarded political matters, had entrapped Parliament into a measure with the view of placing a greater amount of power in their hands than they had at present. The terms of this Bill were so ambiguous that Parliament for a long time did not understand it, and the Colonial Secretary himself had to go into the House and admit that a vital principle of the Bill had been overlooked by thewholeCabinet.- (Laughter and applause.) He (the peaker) maintained that the principles of a democracy should be such as could be quite easily understood by the people. As regards the present Representation Bill, however, the members of the House were getting up night after night expounding one view and then another, and leaving the thing in a political haze, which the people of the country could hardly be expected to understand. The Bill sought to attack and violate the true principles which guide democratic representation. Its clauses were subtilely and ambiguously worded, and it gave the first warning sound which possibly might eventuate in rousing a long and bitter struggle between two sections of people whose interests were identical, and whose interests it was the duty of the Government to thow were identical. For this reason those who were trying to prevent this cruel calamity by the bold and vigorous stand they were making in Parliament were deserving of the unanimous approval of that large and representative meeting.—(Loud applause.) The motion he had to submit to them that night was this—“ That this meeting tenders its grateful thanks to those members of the House of Representatives who have opposed and are opposing the Representation Bill, and urges them to use all constitutional means to defeat such an obnoxious measure,” He would ask the meeting to give the motion their unanimous approval, and three cheers for their members. —(Loud and continued applause.) Mr Mark Sinclair seconded the motion, and in doing so said there was one thing which he would like to touch upon. He had heard it stated in town that day that the gentlemen who were now the most prominent in resisting the Representation Bill were not doing so from disinterested motives. It was said that the real desire was to shelve the Bill, and thus prevent the reduction in the number of members. He maintained that they had no right to affirm such a thing as that without some direct evidence. While their representatives were fighting in what they believed was really the way to conserve their interests it was their duty to put trust in them, and to suppose that their motives were honest and pure and right. If the electors afterwards found that their representatives were not loyal to them, they need not return them to the House again, but it was manifestly unjust now to allow any suspicion to occupy the minds of the electors.
The motion was put and carried all but unanimously, one hand being held up against it. Mr M. Cohen asked the indulgence of the meeting while ho proposed a resolution, because he thought the resolution moved by Sir Robert Stout covered too much ground. He moved—“ That this meeting thoroughly approves of tho proposal to amalgamate the city constituencies, and trusts the members will give it their support.” He thought that no effort should be spared to have the amalgamation of city electorates carried into effect. Personally, he thought that the town party had been extra liberal in offering to give a quota of 25 per cent.—lß per cent, was sufficient—and the smaller towns should not be treated as country electorates. Mr Kimbell seconded the resolution.
Sir R. Stout explained that the reduction of members had been carried in 1887. He exceedingly regretted that it had been carried, and he hoped to see it repealed, for he thought it was an exceedingly antidemocratic step ; but he did not bring that question or the question of the amalgamation of city constituencies before the meeting in the resolution be proposed, because he knew there was difference of opinion on both these points, and he did not wish to introduce a subject on which there was a difference of opinion. He cordially approved of Mr Cohen’s motion, and might say that he proposed the amalgamation of the city electorates in 1887. Mr Sinclair replied that he was fully aware of the fact that the reduction of members had been carried, but it had not come into operation yet. On the motion of Mr J. Wells, it was resolved to forward copies of the resolutions
to tho Premier and the City members. The meeting closed shortly after 9 p.m, MEETING AT AUCKLAND, At the public meeting on Saturday evening there was a crowded attendance; It was resolved by an overwhelming majority —“(1) That this meeting views with the utmost indignation the proposal of the Government to practically largely disfranchise the four principal cities of the colony, and urges upon our representatives to continue the use of every constitutional means in their power to prevent the unjust proposal becoming law, (2) That the meeting cordially approves of the action of members who, formerly supporters of the Government, have signified their intention to withdraw that support in consequence of the action of the Government with regard to the quota proposals.” Any alteration of the Amendment Act of 1887 in the direction of increasing the number of, members was strongly protested against, and thanks were given to the Auckland members who have opposed the Representation Bill. MEETING AT CHRISTCHURCH. An immense audience attended the meeting held on Saturday. It was resolved—- “ That this meeting most strongly and emphatically enters its protest against the provisions of the Representation Bill now before Parliament, and insists that representation should be on a population basis, as hitherto, and regrets that an attempt should be made by country members to depart from this principle ; and further considers that the quota of 18 per cent, in favor of tho country distiiots is more than sufficient.” The second motion was—“ That the sincere and hearty thanks of this meeting be tendered to the members of the House of Representatives who have taken so noble and determined a stand against the proposal to alter the present fair and reasonable basis of representation.” Messrs Richard Reeves and Marchant were singled out for special commendation.
Permanent link to this item
THE REPRENTATION BILL, Evening Star, Issue 7971, 29 July 1889
THE REPRENTATION BILL Evening Star, Issue 7971, 29 July 1889
Using This Item
Allied Press Ltd is the copyright owner for the Evening Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence. This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Allied Press Ltd. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.