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CURIOUS CONJECTURES. '(From Our Own Correspondent.)

Lohdon, October 31.

That poor, unfortunate Imperial Institute! It has been a ghastly fraud and failure from the first, and now, after degenerating into a sort of Second-rate music hall and tea gardens it seems in a fair way to fizzle out in inglorious smoke. The retirement of Sir John Bomers Vine has given tisa to many curious conjectures and sardonic speculations. Certainly it has began its new season very badly. The list of lectures opened with one on " The Auriferous Conglomerates of South Africa," and proved the reverse o! dull ; indeed, it furnished by far the most interesting and exciting evening that the illfated institute has ever enjoyed, although it perhaps might be questioned whether a riot and a free fight weva aiuong the scientific recreations contemplated by the founders of the institute. Many of the fellows are interested in South Africa, and are strong sympathisers with the Jameson raid. Now the lecturer, Mr Draper, although a British subject who had refused naturalisation in the Tnnsvaal, bad nevertheless taken up arms against the illegal invasion of Jameson and his fellow- flllibusfcetij. Tins was enough to make turn highly obnoxious to the Jainesoniwi gang at .the Imperial Inetitnt", who consequently took good care to attend the lecture in Btrong force with the view of making a hostile demonstration.

When Mr Roberts, M.P., tcok the chair, and ] Mr. Draper Appeared on the platfcrm beside ] him, forioas yells and hootiuges arose, mixed with cries of " Traitor," and counter-cries of , "Not; moce than yoa," "How dare you csll him a traitor." The chairmta endeavoured to restore order, but all without effceb. He reminded those present that it was not a political meeting, but this only elicited furious yelle of ■ denial, and assertions that politics were quite relevant to the proceedings. Then inquiries were shouted, " Why do you bring him here ?" and without waiting for bis iwm i the ehout followed, '* You ought to have known better." Mr Roberts once more tried to still j the tumult, tritiog the disorderly crowd that full discussion would be allowed after the paper j ! bad been read. But this was received with room, and with shout* that they wanted to put I tbe questions beforehand. Mr Robifftc, growing angry, informed the j interrupters that he would not Allow any disturbance, and that he was armed with authority ' to tjtct anybody who misbehaved. This in- ■ creased the d«r.sion of the meeting, who j shrieked out entre&ties that he would proceed to act upon his authority, and assuring him that nobody w*fl a bit frightened. Mr Roberts floiipht to soath them by reminding them that Mr Draper was an English eubject, not a very witte proceeding on his part, inasmuch as most of the ill-feeling was caused by his having, although a Brituh subject, resisted a raid which was supposed to be in the interests of Great Brifciin. Accordingly the interrupters shonted " More shame for him." .A' tec reach more dic-r lurbance the ' chairman named a certain Mr. Roger* as the ringleader, and asked him to keep order. Mr Rogers at once ep-sug to his feet furiously, and declared he' had not previously opened hie mouth, and demanded why he was to be thus insulted by being " signalised and called on by name." At l*st Mr Draper rose to read his paper, or rather to attempt this, but the hoots and yells redoubled, and the meeting refused to hear him uaiees they we>-e allowed to put some questions beforehand. The chairman replied that he would not allow anyone to nddresß the meeting until the paper was flniuhed if he h«d to stop there until the next morning. Fresh uproar followed, and not a word of tfac paper could be heard. The maloontents shouted out that Mr Draper had lived so much with the Boers that he bad forgotten his own language and thfiy could not understand him ; and some shouted, ~ ".Speak up na you did when you were fighting for the Boers." When Mr Draper tried to Bpeftk louder he w*s promptly told that the audience did not want to hear him. At last Mr Draper, after numerous attempts to make' himself beard, lout his temper in torn, and waving his arms franfcieftlly shouted to tbo - audience, " Gentlerneii, the behaviour of the Bmr<i is saperior to yours." This, if possible, produced a still more furious tempest of groans and yells. Tben one stentorian voice was heard to exclaim, "He can flourish his arms as he did again«t those poor, unarmed people in Johannesburg." The Chairman observed that those who didn't wish to hear Mr Draper could go outside,- and if tiw-.y continue 2 to Interrupt he would have then? put out.

After a while the uo'sy crowd seemed to become tired, and Mr 'Draper went on for a few minutes, but unfortunately he happened to state thftfa certam reef was 2,000 ft below the eartin, whereupon there was a loud, outcry, " I wkh you were there, too," which produced shrieks of laughter." When- Mr Draper said that he was an. Englishman just as much as they were he was called upon to proflucc his birth certificate, and he waa told be had not & parcel of unarmed Englishmen to deal with now. When he said he always thought Englishmen treated foreigners with respect, there wai a cry, "Yen, loyal Eoglishmen and loyal foreigners." Then some of Mr Draper's sympathisers arose and cried " Turn them out," to which the othfrs responded " Come and try it on." Ac a free fight seemed impending, Sir Frederick. Abel w.ent on the platform and had a consultation with the chairman, thereby much increasing the merriment of the audience.

Immediately afterward eeveral attendants in uniform placed themselves on both sides of the platform. Mr Draper finished h'B lecture quite inaudibly and sat down amid a storm of groans. Discussion being invited, Mr Etnden, who refused to go upon the platform because he did not want to stand beside the lecturer, complained loudly that the institute should have been made use of for the purpose of allowing Mr Draper to lecture there that night. The Draperites promptly shouted "Send in your resignation."

Then Mr Francis Hart, speaking as a loyal Australian colonist, asked leave to put one question. Leave being granted, he said—" They had heard a great deal about conglomeration*," and ho wanted to know " what sort of conglomeration was a person who, calling himself an Englishman, took up arms 'against Englishmen ?" This query was greeted with cheering and waving of small Union Jacks, which had evidently been brought to the hall for the purpose. The chairman refused to allow the question to be put, on account of its personal character. A row next ensned between Mr Rogers and the chairman, Mr Rogers denouncing the chairman for singling out individuals' for his special favour and attention, as hod beea done in his own case. Mr Rogers concluded, " I have simply to tell you in the presence of this vast audience that my record is [ as clean as yours in commercial or any other matters." This produced a fresh uproar, aud a

second consultation between Sir Frederick Ab«l and the chairman. Tbe latter then declared the meeting at an end. This was a dijrnul for tomething like a free fight. Attendants suarounded the lecturer to pcoteot him from tho violence that appeared to b« threatened, and a oolli*ion took' pUce between .the Draperites and the JamesoQttes, blows being freely exchanged and n&Bal blood being drawn in more than one instance. At last, the ball was e'earod, and so ended for a time the moit disgraceful soene that has occurred at any presumably raspeotable meeting for many a day. The occurrence can hardly fail to prove another nail in tho ooffiu of tbe unlucky Imperial Institute.

It may be well to bear in mind l.hat it was at the Imperial Institute, on the occ»Mon of the Prince of Wnjea's first reception, three years ago, that the disgraceful and bl«ckguardly demonstration agaioet Mr Gladstone took pl*ce, the venerable Premier, as he was at the time, being shamefully hooted and insulted by some vulgar minded, and ill-mftnnered fellows of the institute, who thought it a fit occasion, wueu they wee the quests of the Prir.ce o£ Wales, to josulfc personally one of tbeir fellow guests. He, too, a- mao of 84 years of age, and England's most distinguished living statesman. The.«e more recent proceedings seem quite in keepiag with tho«e whica attended thu opening of the institute.

Commenting upou this scandalous row one of the movuiug papers, white admitting that it was an indiscretion on the pti't of the management of the institute to invite Mr Draper to lecture, condemns most severely the misbehaviour of those who interrupted him. An article in another paper on the inttitute concludes as follows :— " A question which we ask in all seriousness is this : When are we going to get a duly audited balance sheet of tbe finances of the Imperial Institute ? Statements of tho fiuaccinl position of the Institute, have, we know, been made by Lord Herschell at the annual meeting of the fellows. But we believe these ' statements ' have always been subject to a subsequent audit. We call for a regularly audited balance sheet of the Imperial Institute. The endowment is a great national trust, and was not meant to be worked aa a superior music ball. Lord Herschell is, we underftand, the chairman of the executive. Does he really think it right that fche public should be kept in the dark as to the finances and management of a great public institution ? "

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THE IMPERIAL INSTITUTE DISTURBANCE., Otago Witness, Issue 2232, 10 December 1896

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THE IMPERIAL INSTITUTE DISTURBANCE. Otago Witness, Issue 2232, 10 December 1896

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