The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
[11. Ohinemuri, June 2.]
11. Ohinemuri, June 2. "Will not attend."
I was sitting at Maketu on the 1st June, in conformity with Judge Fenton's written instruction, and could not sit at Ohinemuri at the same time. Ohinemuri is 75 miles from Maketu. It was also out of my district. (See Appendix C.) I was directed to go to Maketu instead of to Ohinemuri, and went accordingly, and then I am reported for not presiding at the latter place. All mention of Maketu, and the work I did there, are entirely omitted. Yet Judge Fenton knew what I was doing at Maketu, for on the 9th June I wired him: "11 cases have passed, 2 of which were disputed. The list has been reduced with much labour from 192 to 106 claims." I was in constant communication with the authors of J. 80/2411, while holding this Court, but it did not suit them to prepare a truthful report, their object being to make it as unfavorable as possible.
Such was Judge Fenton's secret accusation J. 80/2411, a document as malicious as it was untruthful, in which, under shelter of privilege, nothing was too gross for insertion; no omission, no suppression, no misrepresentation, no falsification considered as being unfit for use. It was tendered to the Minister of Justice by one, the essence of whose function "is justice," who was paid to discharge that function; and yet the Minister of Justice, acted secretly upon the secret accusations, while concealing their existence from the maligned. We have seen by his evidence before the Public Petitions Committee, that Judge Fenton grounded his complaint against me to Ministers, upon the "return" J. 80/2411. But Mr Rolleston took an entirely different course before the Committee. He relied upon the assertion made by himself without any proof, that I had not worked harmoniously with Judge Fenton. This accusation I was not permitted by page 40 the Committee to hear, and therefore could not answer; neither was I allowed by the Committee to see Mr Rolleston's evidence. However, after the papers were laid upon the table of the House, I found, that when asked to state the inharmonious acts alleged, Mr Rolleston was quite unable to do so—and this for the best possible reason, viz., there was no foundation for the statement he made. He was asked whether be could inform the Committee who was in fault: "Whether the Chief Judge was in fault at all or not?" He replied, "I cannot say, I never went into that." And yet he has acted as though I had been accused, tried and condemned. Again he is asked, "Is it not usual when there are differences between a chief officer and a subordinate, for the Government to interfere and settle them? He answered: "These differences had merely to do with the question of amount on some vouchers, I think." (All the documents re these vouchers are contained in Appendix C.) These differences may be thus stated:—1st. For £12 travelling expenses, stopped by the Chief Judge, but ordered to be paid to me by the Native Minister, without complaint or representation on my part. 2nd. Salaries of clerk and interpreter to Opotiki Court, refused by the Chief Judge, but paid by Government who called for a report re same from myself. 3rd. Refusal by the Chief Judge of all funds for the Maketu Court in July, 1880, upon which I memorialised the Minister of Justice, as it was my duty to do. These were nice differences certainly, upon which to obtain an Act of Parliament, which should have the effect of depriving me of office. I was as the lamb below the stream, in the presence of the wolf, with this difference, that the lamb had the opportunity which I had not, of hearing and replying to his accuser.
Again Mr. Rolleston is asked, "But are we not to understand that if there was any conflict of opinion between the Chief Judge and Mr. Wilson, the effect of which would be detrimental to the public service, the Government would enquire into it and decide who was right and who was wrong?" And he answers, "Undoubtedly, if an appeal was made to them to do so." This was mockery on the part of Mr. Rolleston, for he and his friend, Mr. Fenton, wrongfully kept me in complete ignorance of their conspiracy against me. It formed no part of their plan to have an inquiry which would have spoiled their device. Had there been but the slightest chance of an inquiry resulting as they desired, it would have been instituted speedily enough; and had I but known what page 41 was going on, I should have demanded an inquiry, and petitioned the Assembly to restrain Ministers from altering the law pending inquiry, as there is nothing in the Act of 1880 that could not have been effected in the usual form of an Amendment Act. Details regarding surveys, and minor matters, should have been provided by an Amendment Act, and not by the sweeping away of the Bench and the repeal of all previous Acts.
Again Mr. Rolleston is asked by the Committee, "It appears that Judge Wilson did not follow out the orders of the Chief Judge, because he was instructed differently by the Native Minister, and the Chief Judge felt himself aggrieved and recommended that he was an impracticable man?" "It is new to me that there was a disagreement and a conflict of orders, but I knew there had been differences of opinion between Mr. Wilson and Mr. Fenton." (Such as refusing to surrender private property in the shape of historial notes.) "How far that affected Mr. Fenton's objections I cannot say, but in the meantime differences had arisen in which Mr. Wilson absolutely refused to comply with my orders. Those orders were legal. I had the solicitor's opinion on them. I would certainly decline to appoint a man who refused to obey legal orders given him, but I do not feel that I am called upon to give any reason for not appointing a particular man when those who were appointed were efficient."
"Did you consider Mr. O'Brien a more suitable person for the office than Mr. Wilson?"
"I did not say that."
"More pliable, I suppose? "
"Well, less impracticable. The question of pliability does not come in. The Government does not interfere with the Judges."
Now, this last assertion is made by the man who, as Minister of Justice, received and acted upon the return, J. 80/2411; one, moreover, who obtained an Act of Parliament which should have the effect of expelling me from the Bench, without trial, without accusation, by putting another in my place, and wrongfully depriving me, without enquiry, of the means of living; which means of living I had paid for by the surrender of a just and equitable money claim of upwards of £1000.
Again, was not Judge Halse interfered with by Government in 1880, in spite of the petitions of Europeans and natives at Poverty Bay?page 42
Mr Rolleston says: "I absolutely refused to comply with his orders (to surrender the seal of the Court), which orders were legal." Now, if I was a Judge on the 14th December, the day I received Mr Rolleston's wire, asking for the seal, then he was wrong in requiring me to give it up, as the law specifically directs that each Judge shall hold a seal in his custody. If I was not a Judge, and he had informed me on the 13th October that I was not, and that he would not re-appoint me, and that he had stopped my salary in September, then how could he give me an order, and how could he assign disobedience of his "legal order" as a reason for not re-appointing me. According to his own showing, Mr. Rolleston was in a position simply to make a demand. He made a demand which I hesitated to comply with, and he to to enforce, for ten days. He took a solicitor's opinion. I obtained the advice of counsel, the doubt being due to the uncertainty of what the law was at that time; an uncertainty which was removed by an Amendment Act the following session. I begged Mr. Rolleston to be good enough to permit the question re the seal, i.e., whether my commission had been annulled, to stand over until the beginning of the next session of Parliament, but he would not, and I then surrendered the seal under protest. Mr. Rolleston confiscates my property in my office by an interpretation of an equivocal piece of legislation of such a bungling character as to be unanimously condemned by all lawyers. He does this as the Minister of Justice, notwithstanding it was an action characterised by his predecessor, Mr. Sheehan, as "a breach of the conditions on which I accepted office as a Judge;" and then when I find it necessary to avoid the effects of his hostility, by seeking the best advice and following it, he, to shield himself before the Committee, because he had avoided inquiry, starts a false issue two months and a-half after he had suspended me, and endeavors to affix a stigma of disobedience on my service and character, as though I had been his servant. This is done, it will be seen, when I have no means or opportunity of knowing what he said before the Committee, or any chance of rebutting his assertions. Mr. Rolleston was no doubt very hard pushed by the Committee for having failed to make any inquiry—the evidence shews this—and he had to get out of his difficulty the best way he could, but his conduct should have been honest and truthful.page 43
Mr. Rolleston says he removed me, or rather he uses the phrase he "did not re-appoint me," on account of some disputes about vouchers which he asserts I had with the Chief Judge. Neither in writing nor verbally did I ever dispute, object, argue, complain, or make a representation—(other than signing a printed form re services performed for the Court)—to Judge Fenton or to anyone in his office about any voucher; if I had done so it would be on record in writing, for the reasons already given. Had I done so it might have been a reason for recouping me for money paid on public service, not for depriving mo of my commission.
Of course the treatment I had received from Mr. Rolleston demanded that he should profess ignorance as to my character and my services.
Mr. Turnbull asked him, "You know Mr. Wilson's character and services?"
"I have no special knowledge of them."
"In making appointments would you look to have any special knowledge about a man's abilities?"
"I know nothing about his abilities. I have always heard of him as an able man. I was in the Native Office from 1865 to 1868, and at that time I had no connection with Mr. Wilson whatever."
Now, let the reader contrast this statement purposely made to produce an unfavourable impression upon the Committee, with but two of a number of official letters received by me from Mr. Under-Secretary Rolleston while he was in office. '
No. 265."Native Secretary's Office," Wellington,
21st May, 1868.
I have the honor, by the direction of Mr. Richmond, to request you to supply to the Government a schedule of all Reserves made for friendly natives and for returned rebels in the districts in respect of which you have been acting as Crown Agent in the Province of Auckland, and also of the awards of the Compensation Court, or of lands the subject of arrangement between yourself as representing the Crown and the natives, together with such details as to extent and position as will enable them to be gazetted. page 44 I am to request you to give this matter you earnest attention.
"I have the honor to be, Sir,
"Your most obedient servant,
"Under-Secretary."J. A. "Wilson, Esq., Crown Agent," Compensation Court, Opotiki."