Dunedin, Saturday, October 2, 1852.
The excitement of the past week is allayed ; but its events have left a lasting impression on the minds of all thinking men, — an impression which can only be effaced by the total eradication of the present sj>tem of government. We have been accused of using strong language in commenting on the proceedings of the Bench of Magistrates in Otago ; but what language, however strong, could exaggerate the feeling of disgust and dismay with which the late proceedings of a portion of that Bench have been witnessed by all present, except the most unscrupulous partizans; — disgust because of the utter disregard of justice displayed at the registration meeting, and dismay because of the extensive power possessed by' them, and the prominence given to their proceedings by the Governor-in-Chief. Let us mark some of the most conspicuous facts. Notices of objection to voters were delivered wholesale by one individual, whom it was clearly shown was but the j agent of others : the real objector was Mr. | Coroner Williams, acting, apparently systematically, on behalf of a despotic Governor; yet 1 Mr. Williams takes his seat on the Bench' to
decide the very claims to which he in reality t objected. That he was the principal in this matter is evident, from the fact that both his I brothers were engaged in serving the notices, j to one of whom he (from his own statement) j explained the contents of the notices. The I voters against the claimants were invariably four Government officers, and every claim that I could possibly be thrown out was rejected ; and j that, too, with an inconsistency and caprice 1 manifest to all. Thus the claim of Mr. John
Duncan was objected to on the ground of his j brother having a vote for the same premises, j/rhis was shown by law to be no objection, and the claim was admitted. Mr. Barr was objected to because he was a squatter ; the claim was rejected, although not one word is to be found in the proclamation to justify it. Mr. Reynolds was objected to as a squatter, and because other parties claimed to vote for the same property ; | the claim was admitted. Messrs. White and»j I Macandrew, partners in the same firm, claimed j j for the same premises, and were deprived of their votes. Upon what reasons ? The joint \ right of voting was admitted in Duncan's case, \ — the having no title to the land, or squatting, i was held to be a valid objection in Barr's case, I and the reverse in that of Mr. Reynolds ; yet Messrs. White and Macandrew's claims were rejected. Can any sane man give a reason for the decision ? If the absence of title was fatal to the claims, why admit Mr. Reynolds? if the joint votes, why give Mr. Duncan one? Mr. Jeffrey and several other shepherds' claims were rejected because they weie held to be not house-
[holders; yet Mr. M'Gregor and Mr. W. Millar, ' in similar circumstances, were allowed votes. ! What but the most unscrupulous partizanship ' can account for this ? Mr. Williams acted con- 1 sistently — he voted against all these claims — he said he looked upon such claims as an infringement of the rights of bona fide voters ; yet Mr. .Carnegie, his agent, objected to Mr. D. Bower \as a squatter, and the objection was sustained ; but no objection was raised to the claim of the jßev. Mr. Fenton, who holds the premises adjacent to Mr. Bower, and is equally a squatter, /occupying a less valuable property. No desire jj'to correct the roll can be alleged here. 1 Let us take all these facts in connection with the method of giving publicity to the proclamation, and at what conclusion can we arrive, but that the whole was a deliberate plan for the disfranchisement of voters not of the "right stamp ?" Then, again, look at the details of the proceedings. Who ever saw such evidence of the service of notices taken in a Court before ? The proclamation expressly states, that the claimant shall have 10 days' notice in writing, " stating the ground of objection." The date of service of any one notice was never enquired into ; objections were made to some parties that they were not householders, and when this objection was over-ruled, the Bench went into another of which no notice had been given, namely, the value of the tenement. The reason for defining the ground of objection must obviously be, that the claimant should come prepared with evidence on the points in dispute ; and consequently when the Bench took a second objection, the claimants were unprepared with evidence, and the Court guessed, and the audience guessed, and the objector guessed at the value of their neighbour's property ; and some capital guesses were made. Mr. Carnegie stated a shepherd's house could be put up for £3. One freeholder lost his vote because the Court estimated his property at £10 value, when it has since been ascertained that he refused £.30 for it but a short time since. What stronger argument could there be for the necessity of proper evidence of sen ice of these notices than Mr. Carnegie's admission that many of the claimants, objections to whom had been lodged with the Resident Magistrate, bad received no notice whatever ; somehow the notice had been neglected to be sent. What would have become of those claims bad there been no person to defend them ? The thanks of the community are due to Mr. Harris for his gratuitous exertions on this occasion. This is the first scene of the drama inside the Court. Xow for the scene outside. A riot occurs, an assault is committed, and in such a manner (kicking the shins with hob-nailed boots) by one of the panes as would make a coal-heaver blush to be accused of. And who were these 1 parties ? Just tl.e servers of notices of objection who had that morning; appeared so conspicuously before the public, the identical " Little Enemy," about six in number, who have been the bane of the settlement from its foundation. The assault was committed on the editor of the "Witness,'* and the cause of it, as ingeniously extracted by one of the accused in crossexamination was an article in the " Witness" on the >l subject of the appointment of a Colonial Surgeon:"' but this assault had been threatened for ten dajs or so. Why was it committed on Registration day ? Mark ! there is nothing so bitter, so galling, to the majority of the Bench, and so destructive of the quiet enjoyment of their snug little discussions, and snug little sinecure berths, as the " Otago Witness." The Resident Magistrate exhibited this feeling, remarking, — " I will commit you, sir, although you are the editor of the • Otago Witness.' " Another Government officer attributed all the evils that ever afflicted the settlement to the " Otago Witness." A third uas so shocked he could not mention that journal without a shudder. It was.well known we had taken notes of the Registration meeting ; it was quite clear they would not look well in print ; a sound thrashing might make the editor change his mind ; — and here we believe lay the whole secret. We do not say that it was positively a thing planned by the usual majority, ior there are some even of' them who would not go that length, and who look upon the fighting propensities of some of its members as a disgrace to the whole body: but still, something that would have knocked off the asperities of our arguments would have been acceptable even to them. We did not get a thrashing, although an assault was committed and a fine reluctantly imposed. We will say nothing of the proceedings in Court, but the decision in the little room deserves marked attention. It is from this sanctum we are excluded ; here it is that most of the mischief is concocted ; and here upon the occasion of the late decision has gone on one of the practices we strongly deprecate. Mr. Strode the Resident Magistrate makes a statement relative to the complainant entirely untrue, and although contradicted, persists in it, to influence the minds of his fellow Justices, and does so influence some of them. Now the Resident Magistrate knows, or should know, that he is bound to try a case according to the evidence j he must know this, or he is ignorant of the form of oath administered to every juryman, and yet he retails tittle tattle in the private room that he dare not have stated from the Bench. lie could have been sworn at his seat, and have given his evidence in the case; but it would have subjected him to a cross-ex-amination, which he could not face. This gentleman's practice of giving evidence behind people's backs is well known, and needs no further comment. Another curiosity of this small room is, that although every witness except two swore to the assault being committed by Sutton, even one of the defendant's witness proved it, and the defendant Sutton, in his answer to the charge, admitted it, but pleaded provocation, yet two members of the Bench voted the charge not proved.
The next circumstance is perhaps the most extraordinary of all. A subscription list, to pay the fines imposed on the defendants is being actively carried about by Mr. Carnegie ; and we have it upon the best authority, that three Justices of the Peace, including the Kesident Magistaate, are parties to the subscription paper. Any ordinary man may subscribe to such things from a variety of motives : perhaps he may like a fight, and may not object to give a few shillings to encourage one. But for Justices of the Peace to be paying the fines imposed by themselves, — and that, too, in a case of obstructing one of their own body in the exercise of his duty, — is utterly beyond our calculation. New Munster is the name of our Province ; and the practice is something so like what might happen in Gahvay, that we rub our eyes and wonder if we are not really in Old Ireland. The next thing we shall see will be a Justice of the Peace flourishing a " shillelah," and dragging his coat on the ground as a challenge.
A timely hint may be valuable. We warn these Justices that they are sowing the seeds of trouble and discord for themselves and the half-dozen who participate with them in their peculiar views of fisticuffs. If the people are to take the law into their own hands, those parties will repent it. Had the Bench taken a proper course in the case in which one of their own body -was brought before them, imposed the highest fine, and administered such a rebuke as the case merited, this latter affair would not have occurred.
Taking a review of the above facts, we say again, what words in the English language can express too strongly the late proceedings of the Bench ? How long are we to be subjected to such a state of things, bringing discredit on our peaceful community, and giving a handle to the maliciously inclined to misrepresent us as a quarrelsome set of people ; when, in fact, the fighting is confined to some half-dozen who would consider themselves insulted if they were not designated gentlemen, but who should have been sent to Coventry long since.
By the " Scotia"' from Wellington and Port Lyttelton we have a few stray papers. We learn that Mr. Justice Stephen has so embroiled himself with the Wellington folks that we see no end to it. His extraordinary proceeding against the printer of the " Wellington Tndepent" is resented by the rest of our contemporaries as an infringement of the liberties of the press. We shall refer to this subject when we get our full files.
A Blue Book has arrived in the Colony, which completely exposes the double-dealing of the Governor, and his utter want of veracity. We have also a part only of the New Constitution Bill, from whi^h we extract one clause relating to Otago, which will solve all difficulties on the point of the Charter. The "Scotia" brings no letters: we understand they are in the- " Persia." The " Stately" had arrived at Wellington as the " Scotia"' left. She has, it is said, 10 passengers for us.
It is our melancholy duty to record the demise of W. 11. "Valpy, E»q., J.P., who departed this life on the 2<lih ult. at his residence, The Foibury. Mr. Valpy was 60 jears of age, and came to this settlement by the " Ajax" in January 18-i9. At the time of his arrival he was in extremely delicate health, but had to all appearance so far recovered that his death has taken the public by surprise. He had been ailing for the last month, but his death was not expected even by those most intimate with him; a general break up of the constitution appears to have taken place. Unfortunately, Mr. Valpy's political views were in opposition to the general feeling of his fellow-colonists ; but his private virtues, which will alone be remembered, had endeared him to all who knew him, and renders his death a source of deep regret. The remains of the deceased were interred on Thursday last at Caversbam in a portion of his own property, which, we understand, it vtas his intention to set a^ide for the site of a church and burying-ground. The solemn ceremony was attended by all classes of the community, anxious to pay a last tribute to his departed worth.
The following are the remarks addressed by Captain Cargill to the Bench after the finding in the late case of Cutten v. Sutton, Williams, and Lloyd : —
As the oldest Magistrate on this Bench, I beg leave to express my sentiments, and to warn the public with respect to a system of outrage that has been adopted by a few — a very few — persons in the community. It is with deep sorrow that I have witnessed the rise of this practice, and that, too, in a quarter where better things were to be expected. I take occasion, once for all, to say that I for one never will associate with, or countenance, any practitioner or abettor, master or disciple, of such a degrading school. Had I done otherwise at. home I should have lost caste, and I do not see that a lower standard should be taken here — a sentiment which I feel assured will be responded to by the body of our settlers of all classes.
But I go further, and say that the system itself must and shall be put down by lawful means and determined perseverance. Something to this end must also lestwith the people themselves, and they will not be found wanting..
I am no lawyer, but this much I can safely advise, — let no man take the law into his own hand, be the provocation what it may. But where assault is threatened, it is the duty of every loyal subject, who may witness the same, to prevent it if he can, and if not, to seize the aggressor by force and hand him over to the authorities. The law, indeed, does not compel such interference, except in the case of con-
stables, but it sanctions it ; and I would therefore call upon every man who has the honour and peace of the community at heart so to act, as to rid us of a disgrace to civilized men.
Another topic must be referred to, and if possible still more pain/ul than the former. A feeling has gone abroad that Law and Justice are not to be had in Otago, — or, in other words, within the walls of this Court ; — if founded in error, the error should be corrected, and if not, redress and amendment should be sought for.
With such beliefs on the part of a reasonable and intelligent community, I should say that the Bench ought either to take steps to clear itself from misapprehension, or expect in due time to be purged by a higher authority.
We have received a portion of the Bill introduced by Sir John Pakington, from which we extract the following clause relating to Otago :—: —
And whereas certain terms of purchase and pasturage of land in the settlement of Otago had been issued by the New Zealand Company before the 4th day of July 1850, and the said terms, or part of them, were in force on that day as contracts between the New Zealand Company and the Association of lay members of the Free Church of Scotland, commonly called the Otago Association : And whereas by the provisions of the said Act of the 10th and 1 lth years of her Majesty, and of the said notice given by the New Zealand Company, the lands of the said Company reverted to and became vested in her Majesty as part of the demesne lands of the Crown, subject nevertheless to nny contract then subsisting in regard to any of the said lands : And whereas it is expedient that provision should be made to enable her Majesty to fulfil the contracts contained in such terms of purchase and pasturage as aforesaid : It shall be lawful for her Majesty for that purpose to make provision, by way of regulations to be contained in any Charter to be granted to the said Association, for the disposal of the lands to which the terms of purchase and pasturage relate, so far as the same are still in force as aforesaid, and for varying from time to time such regulations, with such consent by or on behalf of the said Association as in any such charter or instructions shall be specified, and for fixing the boundaries thereof, and for enabling the said Association to transfer its powers to the Provincial Council for the Province of Otago: Provided always, that no such charter shall be granted or have effect for any longer term than Ten years from the passing of this Act; but one of her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State may at any time during the teim for which such charter shall be granted, by writing under his hand, extend the term for which such charter have been granted for such further time as in his discretion he may think fit: Provided alwa\s, that it shall not be lawful for her Majesty, by any such regulations as aforesaid, to diminish the sum now pa) able to the New Zealand Company in respect of all waste land sold under the said terms oi" purchase, unit 0 . 5 ; with the consent of the New Ze.iland Company, signified as herein before provided ; and during the continuance of such ohar'er as aforesaid, it shall notbelawfnl !*n" the "aid Gencntl Assembly to repeal or ihtcilt-'ir 1 with any such regulation 5 ? respecting lands in Otago, except with such consent hy or on behalf of the Otago Association as in any such charter or instructions may be provided, arid (so far as the rights of the New Zealand Compary may be affected) with the consent of such Company signified as hcrein-before provided; and every bill which shall repeal or interfere with any such regulations shall be reserved for the signification of her Majesty's pleasure thereon.
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Dunedin, Saturday, October 2, 1852., Otago Witness, Issue 72, 2 October 1852
Dunedin, Saturday, October 2, 1852. Otago Witness, Issue 72, 2 October 1852
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