The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
The following notes and memoranda furnish an historical summary of a remarkable case (not quite unique in New Zealand unfortunately) in which certain unconstitutional and barbarous practices prevailing before our liberties were gained, have, after the lapse of centuries, been revived and insidiously interwoven with modern procedure to the detriment of free institutions.
In 1878 I received a Commission as a Judge of the Native Land Court of New Zealand. On that occasion Mr Chief Judge Fenton, of the Native Land Court, while urging Ministers to favor a gentleman of his own recommendation, violently opposed my appointment without any assigned reason, under threat of resignation. The Government, however, was not to be intimidated, nor did it sufficiently appreciate the danger of the impending resignation, as my appointment was made notwithstanding the utmost effort of the Chief Judge, who implored the Colonial Secretary, almost as a matter of personal favor, to prevent it. Judge Fenton did not carry out his threatened intention, probably because, unlike two other resignations to a subsequent Cabinet, it might have been accepted.
It had been my unwelcome task, not long before my appointment to the Judgeship, officially to report as Land Purchase Officer for the East Coast certain unusual phases of action in, and in connection with, the Native Land Court, as they affected unfavourably the extensive and valuable page 2 purchases that I had made on behalf of the public in that district. (Vide Report, Appendix A.)
This report offended the Government of the day, of which the present may be deemed a continuation, and they refused to produce it in Parliament when challenged by the Opposition to do so, their own followers in the Assembly being responsible for the leakage of its contents. They refused because it stated that certain persons (whom it may be observed were oddly enough partisans of the Government in and out of Parliament) were advantaged, and the public interest disadvantaged, by the unprecedented action of the Native Land Court in the East Coast District during 1875-76, the years under report.
But not only were the Government offended, as after the presentation of my report I experienced the most bitter hostility from the local judge of the Native Land Court, who was countenanced, it was said, by the Chief Judge in the struggle against me. Eventually a Select Committee of the Legislative Council, sitting from the 27th August to the 9th September, 1877, inquired into the whole matter, and condemned certain actions of the judge reported by me as "a wholly inexcusable proceeding, and that the strong censure of it which was expressed by the Government was clearly deserved by Judge——." Of myself the Committee reported: "Mr Wilson had been employed in various ways by Government; he had, in your Committee's opinion, acted at Poverty Bay with the evident desire to serve the public interest, and has been described by the permanent head of his Department (Mr Under-Secretary Clarke) as a zealous and hard working public servant." (Vide Report of J. A. Wilson Removal Committee, Parliamentary Proceedings, Legislative Council, 1877.)
Entering the Land Court Department with these surroundings, I carefully endeavoured, in the interest of the public, to work harmoniously with the Chief Judge in all matters pertaining to the administration of the Court. This may be seen by my correspondence, and the character and tone of my letters, telegrams and memoranda, all our communications having necessarily been in writing, as I was stationed away from the Head Office throughout the period of my Judgeship. I adopted this course of conduct for my own safety in a Department in which, the law notwithstanding, meetings of the Bench for the regulation of procedure were obsolete, and the dictum of the Chief Judge had page 3 become practically absolute. (Vide correspondence, Appendix B.) I would not, I determined, permit myself to be goaded into resistance no matter what provocations I received, and they were many, or what indignities I bore. (Vide Appendix C.) On two occasions, however, Judge Fenton stepped beyond the bounds of his administrative domain, and on these I declined to recognise the legality of his attempt at coercion. Once when he demanded my historical notes, and again, when I was required, without meeting of judges and assessors, as provided by the Act, without opportunity to consult my brethren, without explanation, or reply to inquiries made by me concerning them, to sign immediately by deputy certain proposed rules for the Court, half of them (the Circuit of Court System) unworkable, as they appeared to my mind, and as the result proved; the rest imposing a tariff on native surveys manifestly "ultra viries."
I may add, "that the former were brought into force by the Chief Judge's proclamation, and proved worse than a failure, for they became a laughing-stock to the country. As for the latter, they could not be sustained; nor were they revived after their unsoundness had been demonstrated, and I had shewn that the Court possessed no statutory power to enable it to move in the direction proposed by Mr Chief Judge Fenton. (Vide correspondence, Appendix D.)
As may be conceived, my apparent imperturbability to annoyance veiled under the semblance of authoritative administration; my action, as the author of the story of Te Waharoa, in refusing to surrender my valuable collection of Maori historical notes to enrich without acknowledgment the work of another (vide correspondence, Appendix E.); my determination not to sign upon compulsion rules that were bad in law, and appeared not to have received the sanction of my brethren, were all viewed with disfavour. These refusals, joined to the fact that my residence at Tauranga tended to the localisation of the Native Land Court, increased the irritation of the Chief Judge, whose ambition had always been to focus an automatic Bench revolving around himself at Auckland, and to ensure which end he had obtained the abolition of the late Sir Donald McLean's district system. In addition to my judicial functions, I had to discharge duties stated, by the Minister of Justice and Native Affairs, to be of more importance than Land Court work, and unconnected with it. I was the Royal Commissioner page 4 appointed under an Act of the Legislature for the settlement of Tauranga lands; the officer charged with the settlement of native reserves in the Bay of Plenty; and difficulties re Confiscated Lands in the same district to settle. In the first of these duties—the settlement of Tauranga lands—I had been directed by the Government not to leave my district upon Land Court employment until that duty should be finished. These combined circumstances all contributed, as may be imagined, to intensify and to increase the hostile disposition of Mr Chief Judge Fenton towards myself, who so far forgot himself as to betray his animus by telegraphing to the Native Minister, "Why don't you rid me of that man Wilson?" adding that his days would be prematurely shortened if the riddance were not speedily effected. However, the Minister was sufficiently aware of Judge Penton's personal feeling towards me, and neglected to respond to the passionate appeal.
In the latter part of 1879, the Government of the colony passed into other hands, and the Land Court was transferred from the Native Department to the Department of Justice, of which Mr Rolleston, an old friend of Judge Fenton's, was the Minister. Early in the following year, Mr Rolleston visited Auckland. Almost immediately after Mr Rolleston's visit, Judge Fenton resigned the Chief Judgeship, but his resignation was not accepted. He was invited to go to "Wellington, where he came to a fresh understanding with the Government, the nature of which will subsequently be shewn, and returning to Auckland, he resumed his position and his duties.
No sooner had the Chief Judge returned from Wellington than it became a matter of common rumour that I was to be deprived of my judgeship, and that judges only whom the Chief Judge approved would be retained. At this time I was absent upon a short sick leave. Overwork, and the constantly harrassing behaviour of the Chief Judge, had at length affected my health, producing for the time being a bodily condition that incapacitated me from work.
My duties, as may be easily supposed, had demanded regular clerical assistance, and for this I had constantly, but unsuccessfully applied since my appointment. The Chief Judge objected to the Land Courts contributing to the salary of a clerk, and the Native Minister was unwilling to bear the whole expense in his Department. Thus, I was more than fifteen months without a regular clerk, and during that period page 5 I was consequently obliged to work at my office until 10 p.m. four nights in the week, and this when I had been sitting in the Court all the day. In my case I had also to endure official persecution from one who understood the unenviable art, and who was in a position, moreover, to exercise it, and to whom the practice was a source of gratification. (Vide Appendix G.)
In connection with this matter, the correspondence (Appendix F.) should be read, showing how Mr Bryce, the Native Minister, ignoring all humane considerations, conceived it his duty to turn a deaf ear to me, and refused for seven weeks to reply to repeated appeals for relief, when a medical certificate, by a gentleman of well-known professional status, ordering rest to a civil servant, was handed to him. The certificate, which enjoined as absolutely necessary to recovery from overwork, complete rest from the mental anxiety and worry which my duties as Judge had entailed upon me, naming two or three months as the period required, was received by Mr Bryce from me, who, though a civil servant only, and subject as such to his power, was nevertheless morally as entitled to immunity from torture at his will as are the lower animals, to whom shelter is afforded by legal protection. The withholding sick leave by Mr Bryce, when he knew me to be suffering from cerebral symptoms, keeping me at my post immersed in brain work week after week, was the deliberate infliction of a very refined form of torture, which would have compelled my resignation if it were meant for that purpose, had I not had eight children to support, the youngest an infant six months old.
"While on sick leave I received the following telegram from Mr Rolleston, the Minister of Justice:—
"19th May, 1880."Judge Wilson, Auckland.
"Confidential Memo.—I want to know your opinion as to your position in Native Land Court and Tauranga Commission. It is embarrassing to the Land Court, that you should be employed upon other work, as I understand you will be during the whole year, and it does not seem right that the Native Land Court vote should boar the expense. "Would it not be advisable that you should resign the Native Land Court, and adhere to the other work.
This telegram, together with letters from the Chief Judge, did not give me much repose during the little sick leave that had been granted; however, I replied to Mr Rolleston, adverting to my arrangement with the Government, in the following message:—
20th May, 1880.
"To Hon. W. Rolleston,
"Minister of Justice, Government Buildings.
"In reply to your confidential memo of yesterday, for which I beg to thank you, I would say that as a Judge of the Native Land Court, I have a position and permanent employ. They were not lightly earned, nor can I consent to resign them easily. But if I have been required to move to Tauranga by a previous Government to discharge various temporary duties there, outside the Native Land Court Department, to which duties in relation to Laud Court work, I was directed to give priority, and if the Native Land Court Department is now embarrassed thereby, then I would most respectfully submit that the course to be pursued by Government, seeing I am paid from the Native Land Court vote, should be to recall me from Tauranga, paying expenses of my removal to Auckland, whither I was sent from, and to appoint another person in my stead to finish the several duties which I have been engaged upon at Tauranga. It is right to inform you that the report has been some time circulated here, by the persons probably who opposed my appointment, that I am about to be deprived of my judgeship. This alone would prevent me from resigning.
"J. A. Wilson.
In the following August I became aware that a Bill was before Parliament which might affect the Commissions of the Judges of the Native Land Court. I say might, because there were doubts on the subject which have been removed by subsequent legislation. On the last day of August I received from Judge Fenton the telegram (quoted in my petition to Parliament and in Appendix C): "The new Act is assented to and your Commission annulled." As a matter of fact, the new Act did not come into operation until a month later, when my salary ceased forthwith, i.e., four days after the Maketu Court (the last Court over which I presided) rose. When I learned that the Government considered my page 7 judgeship had ceased by the passing of the New Act, and that there was no intention to reappoint me, I visited Wellington for the purpose of obtaining an explanation, and to urge my claim to be reinstated. The Land Court being then in the Department of Justice, I interviewed Mr Rolleston, the Minister of Justice, and found him cold, reticent, and hostile. At this time Mr Rolleston had in his possession Judge Fenton's grossly false paper of secret charges and insinuations against me (vide J. 80, 2411), of the very existence of which I had no suspicion, and knew nothing until two years afterwards. I asked Mr Rolleston whether the Government considered the judgeship annulled. He replied that they did. I asked if it was intended to reappoint me. He answered that there was no such intention. I asked him what I had done, after all my services, to be so treated. Then, instead of producing the secret charges, (J. 80, 2411) as he should have done, had he had confidence in them or in himself, he said: "Tour Commission has been annulled by Act of Parliament, not by the Government. "I replied," You cannot deny that Parliament has been led by the Government to do this." Then he said, "What am I to say to a man who is in constant conflict with the Chief Judge?" I answered, "You have been misinformed. I demand an inquiry." "Oh, no," he said, "there can be no inquiry, because your Commission is annulled."
Thus the annulling of my Commission by Act of Parliament was the pivot, as it were, in the modus operandi invented to avert inquiry and punish me without trial. Here I should state that, while all the judges commissions were considered annulled by the Act, all of them were quickly returned to them, excepting to myself and two others, who retired on their pensions.
But to return to our interview. Mr Rolleston seemed hardly at ease in his seat as Minister of Justice. How should he if a spark of the inherent English feeling of fair play remained in his composition? With the paper J. 80, 2111, secreted in his bureau, and an Act of Parliament in his hand to relieve him from the necessity of the trial demanded by his victim, he appeared, doubtless, to himself, as he did to me, to be the impersonation of some Neapolitan Bomba sitting in the chair that betokens and represents all the hard-earned liberties of John Bull. After this Mr Rolleston added, "All Judges of the Land Court under the New Act will be page 8 lawyers. The Chief Judge says he must have lawyers." I replied, "You cannot find men for the work in the the legal profession; the few who are competent to undertake that description of work would not renounce their business." He asked me who the few were. I told him. Then I said I have taken the opinion of counsel, and I find that the lawyers, while differing, all agree that it is doubtful whether my commission is annulled or not. He said he had taken the law officers' opinion that it was annulled, and he should act upon that. Mr Rolleston then suggested that I should ask Mr Bryce for employment in the Native Department.
I saw Mr. Rolleston on the 13th October, before any of the judges had been appointed. Our interview was short, not more than ten minutes at the outside, for he could not look me in the face, and evidently wanted to get rid of me.
This was all the satisfaction I got by a journey from Tauranga to "Wellington, made with a view to an explanation with Ministers and the clearing up of any misunderstanding, should such be found to exist. On the same day I interviewed Mr. Bryce. I still held the Royal Commission for settlement of Tauranga lands, and had the settlement of Native Reserves. I asked him respectfully what should be done in respect to my salary in view of the new attitude assumed by the Justice Department, whence I had hitherto drawn it. He replied that upon the subject of my inquiry he would take time to consider, and would communicate with me at Tauranga by letter. I was moreover directed to furnish certain detailed returns re Tauranga. I returned to my office, made and forwarded the returns to Mr. Bryce, and, without a clerk, was working off heavy arrears through absence at Maketu and sick leave, when I received a letter from Mr. Bryce, dated 15th November, 1880, dismissing me at the end of December following, on the excuse" that it is intended that the Native Land Court shall undertake the duty of dealing with the remainder of the lands under the Tauranga District Land Act, when the necessary legislation on the subject has been effected." It is to be noted that such legislation was never attempted. The letter goes on to say, "The Native Minister desires to express to you his satisfaction with the manner in which you have peformed the duties of your office, and his appreciation of the zealous and willing assistance you have, whenever called upon, afforded in native matters in your district."page 9
Thus my contract with the Native Minister, Mr Sheehan, was broken by Messrs Rolleston and Bryce (as shown in my petition, and in the evidence of Mr Sheehan in my case before the Public Petitions Committee), just as my written contract with the then Minister, the late Sir Donald McLean, in 1875, was broken by Mr Ormond, who succeeded Sir Donald in the Department. Mr Ormond broke the contract by dismissing me without cause. The report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council shows that "they had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the inquiry' before the Royal Commission had not accounted sufficiently for the dimissal of Mr. "Wilson, as communicated to him on. the 18th December, 1876." This action by Mr Ormond cost me upwards of £1000, a claim which 1 withdrew in consideration of the judgeship given to me by Mr Sheehan in 1878, he being Native Minister at that time! Mr Sheehan states in his evidence before the Public Petitions Committee of the House of Representatives, July 6, 1882, the following:—
Chairman—The petitioner (Judge Wilson) states that he was appointed a Judge of the Native Land Court by you in 1878. Is that the fact?
And he says that there was a verbal agreement made between you, as Minister of Justice and himself, to the affect that, in consideration of his receiving this appointment, he would forego certain claims which he had against the Government to the amount of £1050 6s 10d?
Yes, I told Mr Wilson that if he accepted this appointment which I offered him he would have to drop all his claims against the Government.
Do you think, then, that in taking the judgeship on those terms he gave up his claims against the Government finally?
Yes, I considered in my own mind that his claims were wiped out in consideration of his receiving this appointment.
Was there any agreement to the effect that, if the petitioner lost his situation as a Judge, he should revive his claims?
Not as far as I can recollect.
Was his appointment different to that of any other Civil Servant?
Yes, I think Judges are specially dealt with in reference to their appointments.
I wish to ascertainw hether, in the written appointment of Mr. Wilson, there was any special condition made?page 10
No, but the tendency has been to regard these Native Land Court Judges as if they were Supreme Court Judges, so far as their tenure of office is concerned.
You consider that a Judge of the Native Land Court can only be removed for misconduct or in consequence of there being a necessity for reducing the number of Judges?
Yes, but m this case Mr. Wilson was removed, and a number of other Judges were appointed directly afterwards, and I consider that was a breach of the conditions on which he accepted office as a Judge.
Was there a special appointment made in this case?
Yes, there was a district around Tauranga, which was taken in 1864, and it remained in 1878 almost in the same state that it was in 1864. The reserves were unsettled and undefined, and a block of country almost as large as from Opunake to New Plymouth was consequently lying idle. I placed Mr. Wilson there and instructed him to get the whole thing settled up within 12 months. I also made him Native Land Court Judge. Between myself and the Chief Judge there was a difference of opinion as to whether a Judge should constantly occupy the same district, or whether he should be shifted about. I held that a Judge should always remain in his own district, because by so doing he gained a great deal of information that was of great value to him in the settlement of cases, while Mr. Fenton's theory was that it was far better to change the Judge from district to district. Mr. Wilson was not long in office before he received instructions to attend another Court, but I countermanded that order, and wired to the Chief Judge to the effect that Mr. Wilson was to stay where he was. I attribute Mr. Wilson's dismissal to the fact that this disagreement existed between Mr. Fenton and myself.
Then it originated in a difference of opinion between yourself and Mr. Fenton.
Yes, I have no doubt of it. . . . Mr. Wilson was not removed for the purpose of reducing the number of Judges, because three or four new ones were appointed, and I may say that I consider Mr. Wilson was not removed for any offence of his own, but for an offence of mine.
Mr. Turnbull—While you were in office had you every reason to be satisfied with Mr. Wilson?
Yes, he was an excellent officer, and his work was exceedingly well done; and I am certain that if he had remained in page 11 office we should have had the whole of that confiscated land at Tauranga settled by this time.
Mr. McKenzie—You would not think it honorable, after inducing Mr. Wilson to give up his claim, to immediately discharge him from the office of Judge?
No, he ought not to have been removed if he conducted himself properly, except in the event of its being necessary to reduce the number of Judges.
Chairman—The Act only says that the appointment shall only last during the pleasure of the Governor?
Yes, and the assumption is that so long as a man does his work properly he shall not be disturbed. I may say that all Mr. Wilson's colleagues on the Native Land Court Bench were re-appointed.
Mr Sheehan's evidence is very correct indeed in all the facts it refers to. The personal animus of the Chief Judge is not mentioned, because the ill feeling of Mr. Fenton towards myself was not shown in my petition. Afterwards, when Mr. Fenton himself introduced the question of animus into the inquiry, I wrote to the Chairman of the Public Petitions Committee requesting that Mr. Sheehan might be re called, and that Sir George Whit more might be asked to give evidence. Mr Sheehan had informed me that they both were able and willing to state what appears on that head in the second paragraph of these notes.
During the months of October, November, and December, 1880, I sent my salary abstracts, as usual, to Wellington, trusting that in passing the same any alteration in them due to change of arrangement as to Department, &c., would, as is proper, be made there. Those thrice-made applications for my wages, while working for the public, have never been answered or noticed in any way to the present day, and as far as this goes, I see no mode of obtaining remuneration other than suing for it in the Supreme Court, a course to which no ex-Civil Servant should be driven.
Two months after Mr. Rolleston had informed me that I was not to be re-appointed, he demanded the seal that by law I held as a Judge. I had hoped that he would have permitted my case to be referred to Parliament for consideration—I cannot say reconsideration—and the correspondence by wire took place, as it appears in Appendix G, but I surrendered the seal under protest, which, as the law then stood, I believe every lawyer would consider to be a proper proceeding.page 12
In January, 1881, after I had ceased to be Commissioner, and after I had surrendered the property of the Government in my possession to the gentleman appointed to receive 'it, including a complete record of the titles recommended, and after the Minister had received all reports and correspondence, a demand was made upon me, by letters in triplicate, for my notes as Commissioner. These were my private property, as the Government knew. The notes were useless to me, and had the Government acted justly towards me, they should have been welcome to them. As it was, I left their letters unanswered until they should pay me my salary. Of my three predecessors, none had been asked for their notes by Government on retiring from office; indeed, two of them never made any, and none made even notes of evidence.
Here an interesting form of the modus operandi exhibited itself. It had been determined, no matter by whom, or where, to carry on the war' against me into the Commissioner's domain. To this end, from the 24th February to 31st December, 1880, ten and a half months, many marginal plans and descriptions of land for my certificates of title or recommendations were withheld without explanation, save that "there were reasons for delay." The following wire from myself to the Under-Secretary at "Wellington, to which no reply was accorded, shews this:—
27 Sept., '80.
"T. W. Lewis, Esq., Under-Secretary, Govt. Buildings.
"Great delay is experienced in. obtaining plans upon the margins of certificates for Tauranga lands from the office of Chief Surveyor, Auckland. Waikato No. 1 has been detained seven months in one or other of the survey offices, and sixteen other blocks have been delayed from two to three and four months each. "Would you kindly arrange with the Surveyor-General, that these plans may be supplied to this Department within a reasonable time after requisition is made for them, as the titles to the blocks are being unnecessarily delayed. I have asked for them repeatedly."
"J. A. Wilson,
Thus, after I had made known verbally the names of the grantees in some cases to be recommended, the return of the recommendations to the Governor was stopped, and I was compelled to resign office without making them, the with- page 13 holding the plans being simply sufficient to defeat me, so helplessly was I placed in the matter. It was an old trick in another form that had been played upon me at Gisborne (but on this occasion it recoiled upon its authors, and their friends, financially to a tune that had been little expected, many of whom had to pay and look pleasant for having their blocks fixed up afresh), and all to deprive me of the credit of my own labour, and because the Government was deaf to applications for three months' salary I had earned.
So sudden and unexpected was the action of the Government, and so unprepared was I, that I was obliged to be absent from the colony at the next session of Parliament. The following year I visited Wellington, when Mr. Sheehan kindly presented a petition for me on the 1st June, 1882.
To the Honorable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives.
The Petition of John Alexander Wilson, late a presiding Judge of the Native Land Court, and the late Royal Commissioner appointed under the "Tauranga Districts Land Act, 1867."
That contrary to equity, good usage, and to the provisions of the Statutes affecting the Civil Service, under which your Petitioner was engaged, your Petitioner without reason alleged, or complaint, so far as he is aware, of any kind, has been deprived of his position and employment as a Judge of the Native Land Court, while performing his duties as such, and that others less qualified have been placed in your Petitioner's room.
Your Petitioner would humbly show that he has served the public zealously, faithfully, and efficiently. Early in 1866 your petitioner was appointed by the Hon. Mr. Whitaker Special Commissioner for the settlement of Native Land Claims in the Opotiki District. In 1867, under the administration of the Hon. Mr Richmond, your Petitioner was gazetted Crown Agent for the Confiscated Bay of Plenty District. In 1868-9 your Petitioner was appointed General Agent for Northern Districts, also acting Civil Commissioner at Tauranga during the administration of the Hon. Dr. Pollen. That your Petitioner's duties throughout these page 14 years, including the settlement of 440,000 acres of confiscated land, entailed larger responsibilities than usual, the same being due to the condition of continual warfare of the country where your Petitioner labored.
In the latter part of 1869 a minute was made to the Paymaster at Auckland re your Petitioner's salary, on which the Hon. Dr. Pollen wrote of your Petitioner to the Hon. Colonial Secretary, saying: "Mr. Wilson has been employed by the Government in positions of trust and importance, especially as Crown Agent in the settlement of Compensation Claims, and the location of natives on confiscated lands in the Bay of Plenty District, and has discharged the duties confided to him with intelligence and care, and to the entire satisfaction of the Government. Under these circumstances I cannot doubt that Mr. Batkin's direction to the Paymaster, which amounts in fact to an unceremonious dismissal from office of a gentleman who has rendered valuable service to the public, was given inadvertently and without full information as to the terms of his engagement."
In 1871 the late Sir Donald McLean explained and rectified the error, and appointed your Petitioner to settle outstanding land claims in the Bay of Plenty.
In 1873 your Petitioner was further directed by the same Minister to initiate land purchase operations upon the East Coast.
In 1875 your Petitioner was appointed by Sir Donald McLean, Land Purchase Officer for the East Coast, where in two years and a half your Petitioner, though violently opposed by private parties interested, purchased and leased upwards of 700,000 acres for the public of native land, of which 418,322 acres were surveyed by your Petitioner's direction, and upwards of 140,000 acres had passed the Court with titles assured to the Crown.
In December, 1876, your Petitioner was suddenly dismissed by the Hon. Mr. Ormond. Upon this a Select Committee was appointed by the Honorable Legislative Council, to inquire into the removal of your Petitioner. The Committee reported, after sitting seven weeks, that "they had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the inquiry before the Royal Commission had not accounted sufficiently for the dismissal of Mr. Wilson, as communicated to him on the 18th December, 1876. Mr. Wilson had been employed in various ways by Government, had, in your Committee's opinion, acted at Poverty Bay with the evident desire to serve the page 15 public interest, and bag been described by the permanent head of his department as a zealous and hardworking public servant . . . It seemed hard measure to a public servant to dismiss him summarily, as if he had been guilty of some gross misconduct." At this dismissal your Petitioner claimed £1,111 6s. 10d., commission and balance of salary, but no notice was taken of his claim.
In 1878 your Petitioner was appointed a Judge of the Native Land Court, the Hon. Mr. Sheehan, being Native Minister, and shortly after he was gazetted Commissioner for Tauranga District Lands. The understanding between your Petitioner and the Hon. Native Minister on that occasion was the following:—Your Petitioner to perform the two offices of Judge and Commissioner for one salary. To move from Auckland at his own cost, and to reside at Tauranga. Not to be sent upon Native Land Court duty beyond the Bay of Plenty District until after the settlement of Tauranga District Lands, to which he was to devote his chief attention, should be completed. To withdraw his money claim. All which conditions your Petitioner performed in consideration of the permanent position and employment received by him.
And further at the same arrangement, your Petitioner, at the request of the Minister (to satisfy the inhabitants of Tauranga), consented to remove a manufactory to Tauranga from the site which had been selected for it at Auckland. That your Petitioner would not have incurred the expense of the above removals, amounting to £500, had he not had every assurance of the permanent character of the employment and position assigned to him.
Your Petitioner as Judge of the Native Land Court at Tauranga, Maketu, and Opotiki during two years of duty, ordered 30 memorials of ownership; 43 succession orders; cases adjourned, 79; cases dismissed and withdrawn, 189; total 341 cases disposed of in Land Courts at Bay of Plenty. Tour Petitioner made also upwards of 80 recommendations for trusteeships.
As Commissioner for Tauranga District Lands (in this period), your Petitioner has given decisions, 36; cases dismissed, 28; total, 67 cases disposed of; and that some 15 of your Petitioner's recommendations are not in the hands of the Government, is not your Petitioner's fault.page 16
As Judge, your Petitioner has, within the same time, held a Court at Wellington, where 46 claims were disposed of upon a list of 81 cases.
Altogether, in two years, during two-thirds of which time your Petitioner had not the assistance of a single clerk even allowed to him, your Petitioner, as Judge and as Commissioner, finally disposed of 372 claims out of 486 brought before him. In the Bay of Plenty, your Petitioner's decisions cover 76,933 acres 1 rood 10 perches. For these duties, your Petitioner would humbly state, the public owes him three months' salary, and his thrice-made applications for the same have not been answered.
Your Petitioner was moreover charged with the settlement of Native Reserves in the Bay of Plenty, and made recommendations in respect to 140 lots at Matata and other places. This duty having been likewise performed during the period named, which does not include three months your Petitioner was on sick leave from overwork, nor the time your Petitioner was on duty at Galatea, Maketu, and other places prior to the 14th August, 1878.
When your Petitioner was appointed to his district, he found the prospect of making rapid work most unpromising. The Natives were generally hostile to Land Courts and Land Commissioners.
The first Land Court your Petitioner entered (to relievo Judge Heale, who was unable longer physically to bear the strain) he found the Court filled with men stripped and armed for fight, with revolvers, tomahawks, spears, and every kind of Native weapon, six spearmen held the door and the Sergeant of Police reported his men wounded in trying to enter. The Court was informed that blood would be shed if it proceeded with the business before it, and the Judges were thereupon turned out of doors. This state of affairs was changed by your Petitioner, and the Natives throughout his district became anxious to have Land Courts. Operations, however, were retarded at first by such a condition of the Native mind, some Courts being opened to empty benches.
Another cause that subsequently hindered your Petitioner was the want, for more than twelve months, of any clerical assistance.
But the matter that distressed and perplexed your Petitioner was the inimical character of the administration of the Chief Judge in respect to your Petitioner, felt in various ways, and for which your Petitioner had given no cause, as page 17 the records show; all your Petitioner's communications having been necessarily in writing, as he was stationed at Tauranga, away from the Head Offices at Auckland and Wellington.
Sitting in Courts, the judicial action of your Petitioner has been in accordance with the law, and with Native custom. He has conducted them diligently—sometimes in the open air in the depth of winter, for want of accommodation, and has invariable brought the same to a successful issue.
Out of Court your Petitioner, in manner provided by law, has acted as a member of a constitutional Bench of Judges, and has been the means, when the same was endangered, of upholding and preserving intact the intention of the Legislature as expressed in the first portion of the preamble to "The Native Land Act, 1873." Your Petitioner submits that the correspondence by letter and telegram, from the 10th June to the 5th July, 1879, between the Chief Judge and himself, re certain proposed new rules for the Native Land Court shows this.
Your Petitioner holds upwards of twenty letters and telegrams of thanks, confidence, or approval, received over a period of fifteen years, from seven of the eight Ministers he has had the honor to serve.
Your Petitioner trusts he has humbly shown that he has served the public zealously, faithfully, and efficiently; that he has not unfrequently performed his functions in the presence of various kinds of difficulties in war and in peace; that he has invariably adhered to the interests of the public, to his post, and to his work. He even ignored his own health in the cause.
Your Petitioner would say that, in addition to the old Judges of the Native Land Court, the following new Judges have been appointed since your Petitioner was dismissed, viz., Judges Macdonald, O'Brien, Puckey, Williams, Brookfield, Deighton, and Mair.
Your Petitioner, while sitting in Court at Maketu hearing an important case re Paengaroa North, the interests affected being of the value of upwards of £10,000, involving also the prestige by arms of the Arawa people, and the intertribal claims, intensified by jealousy, of each hapu of the same, received the following telegram from the Chief Judge:—page 18
"Jas. Wilson, Esq.
"The new Act is assented to and your commission annulled. Mr. Munro or I will come and take up the case. Please leave all papers with the clerk.
"F. D. Fenton,
On this your Petitioner announced to the natives in Court that a message had been just received from the Chief Judge, stating that the New Act was assented to, and that either himself or Judge Munro would come to finish the case.
Mita Hikairo addressed the Court, and said "This is the first time that a Court has been quietly couducted in the Arawa district, and everything is going on satisfactorily, and the natives praised the way things were being conducted. A great many of the Arawa chiefs had asked the Chief Judge to postpone the sitting of the Court, giving their reasons for the request. As this request was not acceded to, the Araws people came, and there was never such an assembly of chiefs at a Native Land Court before. This Paengaroa was one of the very special cases in which they all took an interest, because it is not merely land, but the mana of the Arawa which is at stake; and it was their great desire that this case should terminate satisfactorily to all the hapus of the Arawa, and now just as the case is coming to an end it is abruptly stopped, and will not be finished. Thus a great evil is inflicted upon us."
The Judge "reminded Hikairo that Chief Judge Fenton had said that another Judge would be sent to finish the case."
Hikairo.—"Nothing will be done for another twelve months."
Heneare te Pukuatua.—"I praise the Judge and the Assessor who have conducted this Court in so excellent a manner. We wish that this Court should hear not this case only, but all our cases. Oh! Judge and Assessor, you have been very patient with us, notwithstanding many questions have been asked which have delayed the Court. I cannot sufficiently admire your conducting of this case. I wish this Judge and this Assessor to finish the case."
Major Te Pokiha.—"This has been a noble Court—Kooti Rangatira. Had the Court sat on, and this case been decided against me, I would have accepted the judgment peaceably."page 19
Perenara Tamahiki.—"I praise this Court, all the hapus have praised this Court, because it has been conducted properly. The calamity that has befallen us this day is as if we had lost a battle or a pa had been taken from us. . . . . . If the Chief Judge appoints the present Judge and Assessor to finish this case, we shall be satisfied."
Rota te Wharehuia.—"I am very sorry that the Court is to close to-day, as I am afraid of the nest Judge and Assessor. I agree with Major Te Pokiha's remarks respecting the Judge and the Assessor."
Matene Tahikaraparua.—"I have supported the Land Courts a long time, I will support them now no longer. This Court has been stopped. This shall be the last of them. We will have no more Courts."
The Judge told Matene that a telegram had just been received by the Clerk, which he would not permit the Clerk to read, because it should have been sent to himself so long as he was the presiding Judge, and because the Clerk should not communicate with the Natives without the consent of the Judge. Telegram to the Clerk read in Court by the Judge:—
"Please tell the Natives that I or another Judge will be down by next steamer to finish Paengaroa.
"F. D. Fenton,
Court adjourned sine die.
This scene occurred one month before the new Act came into operation. The action of the Chief Judge, therefore, who was doubtless well aware when the new Act would become law, having but just returned from Wellington after the passing of it, would have prevented your Petitioner's judgment, which afterwards appeared, dividing Paengaroa among seventeen tribes, and would have stopped your Petitioner's Court—and an adjourned Court—to which he had refused funds from the day it opened to the day it closed, thereby running your Petitioner's Court into a debt of £175. Tour Petitioner's salary was stopped four days after he returned from the Court.
Your Petitioner humbly reminds your Honourable House, that in December, 1876, he suffered heavy loss and damage at the hands of the Government, for which he has never been compensated.page 20
Your Petitioner submits that in 1878, he was put to heavy expenses, upon the faith of an understanding which has been broken by the authorities.
Your Petitioner's summary dismissial as a Judge without accusation or inquiry, by a line of action secretly carried out, unknown to him until ripe, and then, as if he had been guilty of some great offence, driving him from the Bench, with every humiliating surrounding, has in all respects seriously injured your Petitioner.
Wherefore your Petitioner humbly prays that your Honorable House will cause full inquiry into his case, and such relief to be afforded him as may seem meet. And your Petitioner as in duty bound, will ever pray.
J. A. Wilson.
I was kept thirteen weeks in Wellington waiting on the Public Petitions Committee, which was occupied with my petition five hours on the 6th, 11th, and 13th of July. The report of the Committee was held back until nearly the end of the session, the effect being to prevent any opportunity of discussion in the Assembly on its nature or its merits. I apprehend such tactics were due to a feeling in the mind of the Committee that it was expedient to support the Government. It was by great effort, moreover, that I obtained the placing of the evidence upon the table of the House of Representatives a day or two before the prorogation. Even then a few papers were withheld, among them the telegram, "Why don't you rid me of that man Wilson." Among the papers was the following letter by Mr. Under-Secretary Lewis, in which he errs entirely, in writing of the Commission as if it were a Court of Record. And here let me say that although the Government could produce at pleasure from the colonial workshop a law to crush an individual who, in the language of Mr. Under-Secretary Lewis, "is a gentleman of great ability and considerable knowledge and experience in native matters, who always manifested zeal combined with unusual industry, and capacity," and "invariably rendered willing and valuable assistance in any matter referred to him;" and one who, according to the Hon. Dr. Pollen, "had been employed by the Government in positions of trust and importance . . . and had discharged the duties confided to him with intelligence and care, and to the entire satisfaction of the Government;" although, I say, they could and did prove themselves capable, like the page 21 counsellors of an ancient Persian King, of obtaining and applying a law to the destruction of a public servant, they yet were not able to overcome that law of nature which commands the worm to turn, in obedience to which, not with-stading all their power, I withheld memoranda that did not belong to them, and which they had no claim to demand.