MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
Tho report of the Public Petitions Committee on tho petition of Ida Prince, together with minutes of evidence and an appendix, has now been circulated. It has of course long been known that the Committee had reported adversely in every respect to the petitioner. But seeing that imputations have been assiduously made against the conduct of officials of a most important department, and one in which tho public justly place most unbounded confidence, and that insinuations have also been made affecting the conduct and motives of a most estimable lady, it is well that the public should have in an intelligible form the story out of which these imputations and insinuations have been raised. There are always to be found some who persist in believing the old saying " Where there is smoke there is fire" is of invariable application, and it is as well in the public interest that it should be clear that there is in this case no fire, and that the smoke was caused not by any action of those impeached, but was the industrious creation of a quite unjustifiable suspicion. Mr Livingston was postmaster at Blenheim, an excellent official, careful and exact in the performance of all his duties, and of a most kindly and benevolent disposition. His wife is in a lunatic asylum in England, where she was maintained by her husband, and Miss Combs, a lady of advanced aged his sister-in-law kept house for him. In the month of May about three years ago, according to the evidence, Mr Livington, when in Greymouth, found a little orphan girl in an almost destitute state, and being cruelly treated by the person in whose care she had been placed. This was Ida Prince, the petitioner. In the following September Mr Livingston came to the house of Mrs Rose and said he had brought the little girl with him and was greatly puzzled what to do with her, and asked Mrs Rose to help him. The result of this was that some few weeks after the girl was taken to Mrs Rose, stayed in her house for two days, and was then sent to reside with Mrs Linton at Wadestown. Mrs Rose then persuaded Mr Kirkcaldie to to take the girl into bis employ. Mr Kirkcaldie found that her education was so insufficient that she was useless, and Mrs Rose then told Mr Livingston and arrangements were made for her receiving the modicum of education necessary. The result was that in a little over three months Ida Prince was able to comply with Mr Kirkcaldie's requirements, and at Mrs Rose's earnest request he again took her on. Ida Prince was not strong, and in January, ISBS, as Mrs Linton was leaving Wadestown, Mrs Rose obtained another home for her with Mrs Gordon, in Wellington. Not only was Mrs Rose herself a lady of most excellent goodness of disposition, but she seems to have found exceptionally kind people on each occasion with whom to place the girl thus entrusted to her. Mr Livingston was full of solicitude for the girl he had thus taken into his care, and his letters to Mrs Rose of the 29th September, 21st, 24th and 29th November, and of the 20th December, 1888, read to the Committee, show that, to within a month of his death, he was looking to Mrs Rose as the guardian in Wellington of Ida Prince, and as his and her most kind friend. On the 23rd December Mr Livingston die.d suddenly of disease of the heart, and on the same day Mrs Rose was informed of bis death. Mr Salmon was the senior postal clerk in the chief post office at Blenheim, and in Mr Livingston's confidence. He, in company with Mr Gudgeon and Mr Franks, a junior clerk, went over Mr Livijpgston's papers at the office, the official and private papers being together, and counted and checked the money in the safe. There was no will found there, but one was produced by Miss Combs, who was legatee and exeoutrix. Among the papers Mr-Sal-mon found a savings bank book, in which a sum of, in all, LSOO stood in the name of Mr Livingston, as trnstee for Ida Prince, and a
letter in an open envelope. The letter was as follows:—"My dear little girl,—When you get this your old friend has gone to his long home. Takethebookto Mr James Warburton, and do exactly as ho tells you. Then ask Miss Warburton to allow her,name to be put instead of mine, and put the money in the savings bank again, thus—' Ida Prince. Naomi Warburton, trustee.' It will be good for you. Good-bye and God bless you. Now do a 8 I have written.—Your old friend, now dead, A. Livingston.—l have this day increased the sum in the bank to L 50 0; but this sum does not belong to you, only the LIOO, which take, as above stated, with best wishes and my blessing. The L4OO belongs to Miss Warburton. Hand it to her, and show her this paper. Your dead old friend, 'A. Livingston.' August 27, 1888." The deceased knowing his death would be sudden, had told Salmon all this, showed him the letter, and directed him as soon as he (Livingston) was dead to forward the bank book and letter to Ida Prince. Salmon therefore, 6n the 24th December, put the bank book and letter into an official savings bank envelope, and addressed it to "Miss Ida Prince, care of Messrs Kirkcaldie and Stains, Wellington." Salmon knew that Mr James and Miss Warburton were in England, and in a letter which he wrote by the same post to Ida Prince expressing his regret that Mr and Miss Warburton were so far away, said he was writing them in England by next mail, and suggests that, " as some time would elapse neforo they returned, she should give the book to Mr Rose, and ask him to arrange matters for hor, or to ask him his advice on the snbjoct." Meantime Mrs Rose went to Blenheim to see Miss Combs. Sho saw Salmon, and was made aware of what was done as to Ida Prince. She informed him that Ida Prince was ill, and was not then at Messrs Kirkcaldie and Stalns's. for reasons very apparent from the letters of the deceased, it was thought by both Salmon and Mrs Rose that it was undesirable that the bank book should go to Messrs Kirkcaldie and Stains, as it would almost certainly there get into the hands of a near relative of Ida Prince in whom the deceased had not confidence. Thereupon Salmon telegraphed officially to "the chief clerk of the circulating branch at Wellington" to detain or recover and hand the envelope containing the savings bank book to " Inspector Rose." He eays he made it an official telegram purposely, so that if there was any irregularity the inspector might put it right. Salmon had a double responsibility—first, in his fiduciary relations to Mr Livingston, to whom he had promised that he would send the book to Ida Prince; and secondly, in his position of chief clerk of tho Blenheim Post Office. In the first character, he says if he had not already sent the book by post when Mrs Roso came he would have given it to Mrs Rose to take to Ida Prince in preference, and that when he heard of Ida Prince's illness he desired to prevent the book falling into hands which lie believed the deceased would not have wished it to fall into. In his official capacity he did not " recall" the letter, he practically only altered the covering address, from "care of Messrs Kirkcaldie and Stains" into "care of Inspector Rose." The letter was an official one, containing a savings bank book. It was sent by a post office official, and Mr Hoggard so regarded it. The object of Salmon was not to recall the packet, but to secure its delivery to the person to whom it was addressed—Ha Prince. It will be noticed that Salmon made no attempt to alter the destination of the letter which he had addressed in his private capacity to Ida Prince, and which went by the same post as the book. Well, Mr Hoggard, the chief clerk of tho circulating branch, got back the letter containing the savings bank book from Messrs Kirkcaldie on the 27th December, and placed it with a memorandum on Inspector Rose's desk the same day. Inspector Rose took it home when he want to lunch and gave it to his wife who had just returned from Blenheim to take to Ida Prince. Mrs Rose about three o'clock the same day took the parcel unopened to Mrs Gordon's, where Ida Prince was, and the girl being both ill and weak and much distressed at her protector's death, Mrs Rose opened the envelope in her presence and gave her the deceased's letter and showed her the bank book. Mrs Rose asserts that Ida Prince declared she would never take tho money, but that it should go to the widow, and in this she is confirmed by Mrs Barker, v/ho asserts that on more than one occasion Ida Princo in her presence expressed her wish that it should go to the widow. This Ida Prince now denies. It appears that there are no known funds for the support of the widow in the asylum. Mr Gray, than whom no man of higher character and more unimpeachable integrity is to be found in the public scrvico, says that up to the time of the book being placed on Inspector Rose's desk, no irregularity had taken place ; that apart from all the peculiar surroundings of the matter, Inspector Rose would have been wrong in delivering tho lotter to Mrs Rose to take to Ida Prince, but that in this case it was impossible to sever the matter from its surroundings, and that he could not blame Inspector Rose for what he had done, hia sole object being the immediate delivery of the letter to the person to whom it was addressed, and he paid the highest tribute to the inspector which the permanent head of a department could pay to one under him. It will be seen that tho public have nothing whatever to fear from what has been done in this matter. That the whole proceeding concerns a letter sent by an official under official cover, and that what was done was done not to prevent, but to secure the delivery of the letter to the person for whom it was intended. Now, let us follow the other branch of the question, the imputations on Mrs Rose. Let it be remembered that this young girl was suddenly placed in Eossession of LIOO of her own and L4OO elongiug to another persou then in England. It was necessary that some responsible person Bhould protect it. On the 2nd January Mrs Rose and Ida Prince took the savings bank book to tho post office, and there saw Mr Morris. The account was in the name of the deceased as trustee for Ida Prince. Morris explained, as he says it is required to do by the practice of the post office, the position of the account. He filled up the necessary forms for transfer of the account to Wellington, and on the expressed wish of Mrs Rose and Ida Prince, to transfer the account into the name of Mrs Rose as trustee for Ida Prince. As Ida Prince waß evidently ill, he suggested that she should sign an authority to Mrs Rose to do what was necesary for her when the transfer papers were ready. He says he himself explained everything fully to Ida Prince, and she signed the forms, as he believes, fully aware of their contents and purport. That there was no sign of anything like coercion by Mrs Rose, and that Ida Prince seemed fully and willingly to concur in all that was dono. On the 10th January Mrs Rose and Ida Prince went to Mr Gully and took with them the deceased's letter and the bank book, and asked him to advise on them. Mr GHlly read over the letter and explained fully the effect, that LIOO belonged to Ida Prince and L4OO to Miss Warburton, and he then, after hearing what they had to say, made a short will for Ida Prince, giving in general terms her money to Miss Combs in trust for the widow of her late benefactor. He explained to her that the will in no way affected Miss Warburton's L4OO, and it seems that the lotter and bank book wore left in chargo of Mr Gully. Nothing can be more straightforward and open than the course taken by Mrs Rose, and Mr Gully's namo is guarantee of complete food faith. Some time after this Ida 'rince came to Mr Gully and said she was not satisfied about the will, and with her consent and in her presence be destroyed it. On the 20th February Mr T. K. War burton addressed to the Postmaster-Gen-eral a letter complaining of what had been done, which was followed up on tho 25th February by a letter from Ida Prince to the Postmaster-General, evidently written under strong suggestion from another. On the 21st Mr T. K. Warburton went to Mr Gully and complained of the money being placed in Mrs Rose's name. Mr Gully told him that Mrs Rose would be quite willing to hand it over to any other trustee. On February 27 Mr Gully, having seon Mrs Rose, wrote Mr T. K. Warburton giving him as agent for Ida Princo and Miss Warburton explicit and formal notice of Mrs Kose'e desire to be relieved, o the trust. To
this, anil to subsequent letters calling his attention to tho matter, Mr T. K. Warburton vouchsafed no reply. On August 27, 1889, Ida Prince presented her petition to the House. The petition could not have come before a committee, more independent or less likely to be influenced by any prejudices or by Ministerial or departmental pressure. Mr T. Thompson, Mr Anderson, Mr Bruce, Mr Grimmond, Mr Humphries, Mr Joyce, and Mr Taylor make a committee which no official influence could touch. The result of a long and patient investigation, at which Mr Hutchison and Dr Fitchett appeared on behalf of the petitioner, absolutely absolves the post office officials, Messrs Ro9e, Hoggard, aud Salmon, and places on record a high testimony to the stainless and disinterested benevolence by which alone Mrs Rose was moved in her efforts on behalf of the petitioner, Ida Prince. There was never really the very faintest pretence for the insinuations made, the whole purpose of all concerned was solely to see that the LIOO was placed m safo hands for tho benefit of Ida Prince, and the L4OO kept in safe hands till such time as Miss Warburton came out to claim it. The instant that improper motives were attributed, the person who instigated them waß challenged to find a proper trustee to take over the money. That challenge was given on the 27th February, 1889. Why was it not accepted 1— * Wellington Press.' .
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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING., Evening Star, Issue 8037, 14 October 1889
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Evening Star, Issue 8037, 14 October 1889
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