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MR HISLOP AT OAMARU.

[By Onr. Special Reporters.!

OAMARU, September 11.

Mr T. W. Hislop to-night addres.-.rd one of the largest political meetings ever held in Oamaru. Long before the announced hour of the meeting the Public Hall was crowded to the very doors. The circle, which was reserved for ladies, was early Idled. The chair was occupied by Mr Headland, the Mayor of the Borough being necessarily passed over, as in the afternoon it had been definitely announced that he would contest the seat against Mr Hislop. On the latter making his appearance on the stage he was greeted wich applause and a few hisses. On the platform were Messrs Henry Aitken and T. H. Barr. Mr Hislop said he would ask those present, as the chairman had asked them, to accord him a patient hearing for two reasons : First, that he was suffering from a relaxed throat, and it would take him all his time to get through what he hud to say without overtaxing their hearing powers; and secondly, that of all the occasions on which he had appeared before the electors to ask for their suffrage this was the most important, because there were principles involved in the questions he should bring before them such as had never engaged their attention in the past. He would begin by reading a letter which he addressed to the Premier on the 2nd of this month. It was as follows : Duir Sit Harry,—ln view of what has taken place in regard to tho Ward mattor, I think it right to placa in your hands my resijrnition ol the office which I hold in your Ministry. I shall take another opportunity to explain the reasons which have operated with rno in taking this stop. I have to express my appreciation of the uniform kindness I havo received at your hands, and to express tho reirret I feel at partinir with colleagues who have worked 80 well for the public good.—l am, etc., T. W. HmiiOP.

On the 4th September ho (Mr Hislop) received the following letter from Sir Harry Atkinson :

My dear Hislov),—l received your resignation with [Treat regret, and fully appreciate the spirit which has induced you to tender it at this time. lam vory unwilling for you to leave the Government, and hope you will take further time to consider tho matter before coming to a final decision. In the meantimo I shall consider the question an entirelyopen one, and with all duo respect shall treat your letter as though I had not received it. - I am, etc., H. A. Atkinson. After receiving that letter he (Mr Hislop) had to take into consideration whether he should or should not take the advice given by Sir Harry Atkinson. He went to fcir Harry Atkinson on several occasions, and said that, although exceedingly sorry to part from the Government, he could not see his way to remain a member unless the interests of the country required it. If there had been any measure requiring his personal attention, or any important reason why he should retain his position, ho should have considered his public duty paramount to his own convenience; but, inasmuch as the fact of this question being before the House waß made the instrument for obstructing the business of the country, he deemed it is duty to bring the matter to a head and forward his resignation. He was there that night to explain the reasons which operated with him in taking such a decisive step. They were of seiiou3 import not only to himself, but to the whole country, for it would be no small consideration that would induce any person to forego the position he held, and he would therefore claim a patient hearing before h*> proceeded to narrate the eventa which gave ri-e to the action he took. He should like to refer to the position of the Judges as part of the judicial system of tho country. There were many misconceptions as to the position of the occupants of the judicial benches. Many persons regarded the position as they rogarded a fetish—something which no person had any right to call in question, as if it wa not part of tho institution under which we live, or as if the peisons holding the position were not resoonsible to society or to the public will. With legard to this matter he proposed to quote authorities to show that the Bench is responsible to the Constitution of the country, and amenable to rules that were founded upon justice and common sense. At all events one of tho highest authorities on constitutional govcrnmunt dues not accoi d with the views of those "sir reverend seigneurs" who constituted a Committee of the Upper House for tho purpose of sitting on him. He re ferrcd to tho late Professor Hearn, who was geuerally recognised as one of the highest constitutional authorities iu colonies, aud quoted him for the purpose of showing how he regarded the responMbil.tus of tho judicial bench. After going into the matter historically, Professor Hearn proceeds to say : "Put in any circumstance?, and on general principles, the tendencies x>f the Bench are such as to call for increasing vigilance from the representatives of the people.' Turning from a constitut onal writer if Hearn's ability, ho would next take the words of one of the wisest and unfit philosophical men wlio had ever o:cupiul the judicid bench in this colony. Naj, more, he would ray that he is not only tho mnstphilosophicaland wiseatman, but ono of the most learned and most upright Jiulgis who has evar cempifd our judicial bench; probably lie wa< unequalled on the j idicial bench of this ■ r any other colonr. He referred to Mr Justice Richmond. And what did In find him savin,' in regard to the responsibilities of the judicial beuch. He said on an occasion when hjs conduct had been called in question: "I glory in oiur liability to have our conduct investigated at any time, and look upon tl.at as a gua»antec of the purity or the admin'.stration of justice in th'a country." He repeat.»d that if they took constitutional write b Jiko Hearn and administrators of the law like Judge Richmond they found that they were agreed on this great principle: that the judicial bench as well as everything else is responsible to the people in Parliament assembled. It is only righi thjt i£ should hi so, that each part of the Constitution va-. to some extent on the other psrt3 of thac Constitution. (At this point some interruption was by an individual who had to be removed.) When interrupted, continued Mr Hislop, ho was showing that so far as the matter of the responsibility of the judicial bench towards one part of the Constitution, the very highest tribunal in the community—ho meant the tribunal which was composed of the Supreme Court Judges and tho Cuurt of Appeal—did not claim any irresponsibility; op, tho contrary, that tribunal was responsible to the Parliament, which was composed, as thoy knew, of the House of Representatives, tho Legislative Council, and the Governor, and their conduct was a fair matter of investigation by the Parliament, Now the Judges could be removed or. certain conditions and under certain circumstances by tho Parliament. It had'becs held by some constitutional writers, though it' u«4 been disputed by others, that their conduct might in the first instance be a fair matter of investigation by the Executive, and afterwards by the representatives of the peofjle and by the Legislative Council. He need' net go fully into that matter, but he wished to sho>v''t)iat tho relations of tho highest, tribunal of "we land—£hat was, the conduct of < tkcjr highest judicial oncers—was' a matter! that might ijo investigated by ,-io two Houses i of Parliament:, and that the hoJ#cr# of thoso oificen might be removed on Address by btth Houses to the Governor. He had already shown that Hearn had laid it down that the conduct of the judicial bench was a public matter requiring unceasing vigilance on tho part of the representatives of the people, and it was right that it should bo so. There was no nor/er in the community which was not subject, in Ate Cre,t instance, to the corrective influenco of" phV'o opinion, and if that wore not sufficient, the is&ue&fo of the highest tribunal in the land might bo'ty ought to bear —namely, by tho two Houses addressing the Governor. Now, below tho Supreme Court, Judges were judicial functionaries who did hold their offices in the same way an the former —he referred to the Judges of the Supreme Court, tho Resident Magistrates, and the Justices of the Peace, all of whom held office urv£er tho same tenure -namely, at the will of the The next document that Us would read was an esirqtct from a letter he had received from the AJ&ri&y-Genor&l, in answer to a requbtt of his, so thai ho Hislop) might nut before iuc meeting his views on the question in his own words, and with some authority. Sir Frederick V/hltakor wrote j

A District Judge holds his office at the pleasure of the Governor, and Was therefore virtually the saun: tenure as a Justice of tile p«ape. Supreme Oourt Judges are in a different position, boine subject to special provisions under the Supremo Gourt Act, I do not find any case in reference to English County CourS Judges, but plenty about Justices. It li the duty of the Executive to keep a strict watch over the wsnmjstratiou of justice, and to deal with any inogulariivv. A passage in Todd says: " Bearing in mind the cfcuoi,* 1 . responsibility tf Ministers of the Crown for trie «Ir;e administration of justice throughout the Kingdom." Cni again: " The Homo Secretary has a direct controlling power over tho administration of justice" The Hamo i-.eerotary in England (here tho Ministor of Justice) is responsible for the due administration of justice, and all the in-; ferior administrators arc responsible to him and he to; Parliament. The cry of interfering improperly with' tho uuministrauon of justice, as in Mr Ward's caso, is' r.cyyjufle; the Minuter of Justice would bo wrongto inlir>iii» wjtn tho administrat|ipn of justice, and it j would be mguz not to interfere with tbem when t,tfey; do wrong. You vtll repollect that recently a coatmUsion was issued to inquire into Judgollawsotfa (he i* a District Judge) conduet. Jjvpti,cea have dismissed.

His reason for referring to theHe matter* wa» because he wished, before he entered on the consideration of tho facts that it would be necessary to bring before the meeting, to rnake it quite clear to their minds what was the

actual position of those judicial functionaries towards the Government. First, with regard to the Supreme Court Judges, be had already explained that it had been laid down by the highest authorities on the subject that it was the outy of the representatives of the people to keep a vigilant watch over their proceedings; but with regard to the inferior judicial officers it was quite dilferent. They were directly responsible to the Minister of Justice, iiutead of bi-ing responsible to the representatives of the people, as were the Supremo Court Judges; and in respect to the Inferior judicial oflicers it was the bounden duty of the Minister to keep a vigilant watch over their acts, and correct them if they went outside the rules which should guide those judicial officers. Having introduced this matter in this way, he intended to thortly relate the circumstauces which had formed the basis of the opinions which had been formed upon this matter. Those present would remember—none could forget—that in April last a trial took place in Oamaru; and before relating the events as they occurred he would ask the electors to keep persons out of consideration altogether—it was not a matter of individuals at all, it was a matter of principles (hear, hear) aud he would remind his heareni that the principles that were adopted during this election were principles which had a direct bearing upon the interests of that community, and might have an rffect upon the conduct of judicial courts long after the persons more immediately concerned had passed away. For his part, be had endeavored to obliterate any consideration of parties, tie wished them to understand what position Ministers should occupy towards tho judicial bench, and that was sufficient for the electors to consider without bothering about individuals. They would remember he had said that a trial took place in Oamaru. It had been attempted to be shown that ho took a part in those proceedings, but that attempt had miserably failed. After that trial, and after he had returned from Dunedin, there was presented to him a petition for a reconsideration of the case. Christie had been found guilty by Judge Ward, and had received sentence. The petition was signal by maty people belonging to Oamaru, aomo of whom now blamed him (Mr HiBlop) for taking action upon their own representation—the action which they recommended. He did not wish to introduce personal considerations, but must say it was strange that those persons should have the effronterv to blame him for taking the steps ihey had asked him to take. The petition he was referring to made a statement, which, if true, showed that a judicial injustice had been perpetrated, and it showed also an utter misconception of the facts laid before the Court—a misconception as to the ownership of the property which Christie had appropriated to his own use. That petition was calculated to appeal to everyone sense of right. A man was said to be suffering for a wrong that he had I.OH committed; and anyone who would say that it wan not right to inquire into the c*sn with the view of affording relief, if deserved- well, he bad no right to be called a man. It became his (the speaker's) duty to either forward the petition to Wellington, thence to be forwarded to the Judge for consideration, or to forward it to the Judge himself. In coming to a conclusion on this point two considerations weighed with him: first, how it would affect himself—that was, would persons blame him, seeing that he had some connection with the case, for forwarding the petition direct? The second, was this: was it for htm to take a personal view of tho matter while an injustice was being clone ? He came to the conclusion on due reflection that the • ourageoua, the humane, and therefore the proper course to adopt was to forward it to the Judge, so th»t no time should be lost. Tho Premier was consulted in the matter, and agreed that that was the better courße to adopt. The petition then was forwarded to the Judge, with a request that he would report—not to him (Mr Hislop), but the Minister of Justice. It had been said that be (Mr Hislop) had pushed the Minister aside. That was a misconception, innocent enough in the first instance, but it became maliciously untrue when said by persons who knew the facts. The real state of aff.urs was this: that the Miniater of Justice was at this time absent from Wellington, the Premier w&b overworked, and it was a kindness to relievo him of as much work as po<sible ; and he (the speaker) had up to the time he loft Wellington been acting as Minister of Justice in Mr Fergus's temporary absence in the North. Well, as be bad said, ho forwarded the petition to the Judgo direct, and at the same time sent a letter, to which he would presently refer. No question really arose as to his act in forwarding the petition ; there was nothing irregular in that. Ho did not seak to determine the question whether the statements in the petition were truo or not, but that the Judge thould report to the Minister of Justice, who would himself determine that matter. Having sent the letter to the Judge and a copy of it to the Minister of Justice, ho (Mr Hislop) had nothing further to do with It officially. Tho next stage at which he was brought into the matter was when he was bitterly attacked in the House, 'i'b&t arose out of a misconception as to what he had done. The subject was introduced—it was, ho thought, on the fltk August—by Mr Larnach's asking a question as to what had been done, and a debate was raised on a motion for the adjournment of the House, moved by himself (Mr Hislop). During that deb»te he explained the position and revealed all that had taken place in a perfectly candid spirit. Following upon tho motion for the adjournment of tho House came a motion by Mr Larnach, that a Committee should be formed to make investigations. The Government resisted that motion—they Baid that tho correspondence w»s before the House, and it was for the House to pay whether any irregularity had taken place. If anything was necessary to show that the Committee was not required, it would be found in the fact that the determination of the matter by the Council's Committee rested entirely upon the correspondence itself; no other facts were brought out which had the slightest bearing upon the question. There was, however, one circumstance in connection with that debato to which he would refer. Mr Ballance said that if the allegations as to Judge Ward were true, he was not fit to »it on tho Uench and ought to be removed. He (Mr Hislop) said that he would not go so far as that; he had been struggling not for the removal of Judge Ward, but to cstabli-h a principle as to the regulations by which the Judges should be guided, He did not say that because that principle had been ignored the Judge should be removed, He said that if a man unwittingly offended against any regulations which might bo laid down the offence could be overlooked ; but on the other hand, if there was a persistent refusal to adhere to thosp regulations, that was a matter that must be considered, and that principle must hold good whether the person concerned waa a Judgo of the Supremo Court or a surfaceman on tho railway. Tho next proceeding whioh took place in regard to tho matter was the constitution of a select committee by tho Upper House, Now, one would have supposed, when this Committee was formed for the very purpuso of trying a Minister of the Crown, as it were for the p'irposo of taking his conduct into consideration, that the Minister would have been consulted as to the constitution of this Committee. One would also have supposed that tho persons moving for bucli a committee would have been actuated by the ordinary fairness which regulates the dealings of one side rf the House with the other; that at least they would have consulted the persons who were affected by it; and that before sotting up the Committee they would have ascertained whether any of the persons forming the Committee were objectionable to him (Mr Hislop) or not. But nosuch thing was done, The Committee was moved for the purpose of considering a very grave constitutional question that affected the interests of the whole community in its judicial capacity. One would have supposed that ono of the highest judicial officers below thoftupreme Court Judges—namely, the Attorney-General—-would have been appointed a member of that Committee; but no such thing occurred j and how was that committee constituted '! He showed that it was largely CMnpoHod of members who had either been members of the late Administration or had been < called to the Council by them. He abked any person whe knew anything ahout the strong partisan feeling which pervaded our sombre Upper House whether a committee so constituted was likely to be a fair or impartial committee. A fict in regard to this Committer ho desired to mention, and it was this: that just affor .the evidence had been printer! tb) chairman ([ihe Hon, Mr Wilson) told, him as i. friend tfiw Itf (Mr Wilson); looked on the Judgo's conduct 03 h'jghly irregular, improper, and inexcusable, and Mr Wilson made the same stattment to other members of the House. Another member of this Committee who afterwards voted with the majority also said that ho Qonsjdered that the conduct of the Judge was irregular j that he considered that, he (Mr Hislop) had acted without any personal feeling whatever; and that ho ought to be commended for the action he had tiken. He invited the meeting, in view of the Committee's ultimate decision, to bear this statement in mind, remembering that it was made quite voluntarily after the Committee had been formed. He (Mr Hislop) had considerable difficulty in making up his mind as to whether he should appear before them for the purpose of givin» evidence. Be did not regard a committee, of tho Legislative' Council as>a fair tribunal j before whicli'.tho action of any member of the j Government ought tried, and he did not; oven consider it a fair' tribu'nal before which the, action of any judicial officer "in the country j should be trierji, because he believe T that these were matters |hat Bhould' be tried only by the representatives of the people—(cheers) and not by a body of in osponsible gentlemen, What induced him ultimately to yo before the Legis-

lative Council's Committee were these circum- | stances: that he was told by a colleague, * who was a member of the Committee, ' that the Committee had determined to make an exhaustive inquiry intp the whole of the circumstances counected with thU ma'tor; that they intended to lay their report of tho facts before the Council, and that they had determined to make no report whatever , of their opinions thereon. He hesitated for some time whether he should give any evidence, until ou one occasion, after a witness had given his evidence, he met a member ofr the Committee (the Hon. Mr Buckley), in the lobbies of the House of Representatives. Mr Buckley came up to him and asked whether he (Mr Hislop) would give evidence before the Committee. He (Mr Hislop) told him his views on the subject. Mr Buckley then told him what he had heard before , —namely, that it was the intention of the Committee to make an exhaustive inquiry into the whole of the circumbtances, and that they had no intention whatever of reporting any opinion—and Mr Buckley advised him as a friend to attend and give evidence before the Committee. He (Mr Hislop) then said that on those conditions he had no objection to give evidence. He wished to point out to the metting how the Committee, when they entered on the consideration of this question, carried oat thtir functions, Tho order of reference was that "they should inquire intoand report on the whole of the circumstances that have occasioned the correspondence between Ministers and Judge Ward." Those persons who bad taken the trouble tj look into that correspondence would find that there were three matters which had given rise to it. The first was the judgment given by Judge Ward in Christie's case; tho second was the petition that had been promoted by the people of Oamaru; and the third was that Judge Ward had written a private letter, in which he sought to prejudice the defendant (Christie) in the mind of the Minister of Justice. Now, if anyone took the trouble to look at the action of the Council's Committee, he would find that not into any one of theso questions Lad the Committee troubled themselves to inquire at all, but that they went entirely beyond these matters. The first thing whioh they sought to do was to throw discredit on the Government by endeavoring to show that they, as a Government, had interfered for the purpose of doing something contrary to the prison regulations. In that tho Committee had failed miserably, Next they attempted to show that he, as an individual, had interfered with the ordinary course of justice. In that they also failed miserably. Having failed in their efforts to throw discredit on the Government in that way, they came back on the correspondence itself. He would give them a sample of the way in which this Committee went to work to get its evidence. They would remember that the point which he raised in the letter whioh he read was whether or not the Judge stood in tho relation of a debtor to this particular company. It became a matter of importance to ascertain whether the debt owing by Judge Ward to the company was a debt which was fully secured or not. and he had looked up the valuation for the Judge's land for Property Tax and local tax purposes-information that was given to the public generally—and found that the land which was security for a debt of LBSO was valued for taxation purposes at LB3O, or L2O below the debt, Of course, there was always a half-year's interest accruing. He forgot whether the rate of interest was 7 or 8 per cent., but there was to be added to the debt the half-year's Interest then due, and perhaps part of another half-year's. At all events, LSO would possibly represent what would bo due on this account at any one time. Now, it became necessary for the Committee to inquire as to tho value of this particular land. There were different persons In tho Uouse who knew its value. Perhaps some at the meeting did not know that before a member of the Lower House could be summoned to give evidence before the other House it was necessary to send a message House of Representative?. The Committee, knowing that Mr Valentine, who is manager tor a company in Southland, was well acquainted with the value of this particular land, sent a message to the Lower House in order to have him examined, as also Mr Larnach, (Continued on inside pages )

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Bibliographic details

MR HISLOP AT OAMARU., Issue 8010, 12 September 1889

Word Count
4,351

MR HISLOP AT OAMARU. Issue 8010, 12 September 1889

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