The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55
Evening News and Hawke's Bay Advertiser. — The Premier
Evening News and Hawke's Bay Advertiser.
As there are not wanting the most uncalled for attacks on the Hon. the Premier in the local prints, the following leader from a recent issue of the Lyttelton Times will no doubt be effective as showing how an in dependant, unprejudiced journal views that gentleman :—" Not the least important point of the late struggle in the Houae of Representatives is the position the Premier has occupied in that struggle. It was the position of a leader par excellence. The performance of his part, in fact, by the Prime Minister must force people to look back on the manner in which he has borne himself in every contest that has taken place since he became Prime Minister of New Zealand. Those who do look back will be struck by a very remarkable circumstance. They will, of course, see that when the measure before the House is one of those which Mr Stout has in his charge, he shows the closest acquaintance both with its minutest provisions as well as with its remotest bearing. That is not to be wondered at. It is the business of every Minister to be rather more than fairly well acquainted with the measures under his charge. Ministers are, however, seldom expected to have more than a decent acquaintance with the departments that come under the charge of their colleagues. "Not in my department" has been a favourite answer with Ministers from time immemorial. The unexpected is exactly what occurs when the Premier gets up to speak. If it is a question of public works, he makes a speech showing as close an acquaintance with the subject as the Public Works Minister. When the Native Land Bill is before the House the Premier knows as much about the question as his colleague, the Native Minister, and if it is finance which is the question the Treasurer finds himself supported as vigorously by the Premier, when the occasion arises, as if the Premier had never studied anything but finance in his life. Justice of course finds him in a familiar country, while telegraphs, mail services, tariff, civil service rides, and every other thing that comes into the field of Ministerial vision, give him opportunities for using his knowledge for the information of the House. Any who look dispassionately at the Ministerial career of Mr Stout, are forced to the conclusion that he is a leader who leads by virtue of his many-sided knowledge of political affairs. Small souls abound in this world. Small souls make it their business to write flippantly of the Premier, as a man under the denomination of some superior intellect. Petifogging scribes write of the astute Treasurer, who gives his order to the simple Premier. Many of the opponents of the Government speak habitually of the commanding powers of the Treasurer but for which they themselves would be very staunch Ministerialists. They are like the man in the play who, but for that "villainous saltpetre dug from the bowels of the earth," would himself have been a soldier. The Treasurer is the villainous saltpetre which prevents them from being the humble followers of the Premier, who is too simple to think for himself. The position is peculiar. Being the outcome of transparent insincerity, it need not be seriously discussed. The plan is obvious—the blackening of the Treasurer's character, the exalting of his mental ability, the depreciation of the Premier's will and knowledge. These three things form a combination which makes a policy. It is the policy of attempting to disintegrate the Government by playing off the Treasurer against the Premier. It is the policy of rousing the Premier to jealousy in order that Ministers, being set by the ears, may fall an easy prey to attack. Major Atkinson has denied in his place in the House, in the most public manner, that he is in any way responsible for the stories that float about, for the grossly unfair criticisms that are circulated, for the deliberate falsehoods that are sent from mouth to mouth, all derogatory to the Treasurer in the highest degree. It is immaterial—except to Major Atkinson, whose denial we accept—where these things come from. They come from somewhere, and they are combined with depreciation of the Premier. The object, unworthy and contemptible, is obvious. Unable to unseat the Government by fair means, the authors of these calumnies try to disintegrate the Ministry by foul play. It is painful to find a man of Mr Montgomery's political good sense and honesty of purpose ranged on the side responsible for such attacks. These tactics have failed ignominiously. They have failed because the Premier is too high minded to be influenced by appealing to feelings of that kind. The pettifoggers and the inventors, and the men too easily moved to suspicion, arid the people who prefer not to think well of any-body, and the imperfectly instructed—all appeal to a kind of character which the Premier does not possess. They are like marksmen who aim too low. The Premier laughs in their faces, and answers them with a magnificient defence of his colleagues, logical as it is powerful and just, and at the same time showing an acquaintance with every department of the public service so intimate as to preclude the idea that his judgment can be over-ridden by anyone. Logical, honorable, high-minded, defending the Government position at all points, and with all vigilance, ever ready to take up a lance to serve a colleague, invariably above the petty meanness with which he is assailed, perpetually a terror to the enemies of the Cabinet—such is Mr Stout. His enemies, who have smarted over and over again under his lash, can offer no better criticism than that he is a special pleader, and so dreadfully unfair as to attack when he ought to confine himself to defence. What Mr Stout has proved in many a well contested fight, and none more so than the last, is that in heart and brain he is made of the stuff of which leaders of men are made, and that his industry and knowledge have helped his heart and brain to make him as fit to be Premier of New Zealand as any man who has ever copied the position.