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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Interview with the Parliamentary Minority

Interview with the Parliamentary Minority.

The same Committee also reported a resolution expressing the thanks of the Convention to the Parliamentary minority, requesting the minority to persevere in their opposition to the Bill, and promising them the support of the country in page 20 such opposition; this resolution to be presented to the minority by the full Convention.

The resolution was as follows :—

Convention of Delegates

Assembled at Melbourne, in the Colony of Victoria, in the year of our Lord, 1857.

At a meeting of the Convention, held on the twentieth day of July, 1857, the following resolution was unanimously adopted :—

Resolved,—That inasmuch as the present Land Bill, introduced into Parliament by the Executive Council, is utterly subversive of the best rights and interests of the great body of the people of this colony, this Convention records its hearty approval of the determined and patriotic stand taken by the Minority in the Legislative Assembly in its opposition to the Government Land Bill; and, in tendering this expression of its thanks, this Convention would urge, in case the bill be persevered with, the necessity of further opposition by every means which the forms of Parliament allow; and this Convention declares, that the course thus suggested will receive the concurrence and support of the great mass of the community, whose opinions, on the present occasion, this Convention has the honor to represent.

Signed on behalf of the Committee,

J. J. Walsh,

Honorary Secretary.

Wilson Gray

, President.

The Convention desired to pay the minority the respect of waiting on them in full body, to present them with this resolution, but owing to the smallness of the room in which the minority had to receive them in the Parliament House, the minority conveyed to the Convention their regret that they were thus prevented from receiving more than a deputation, and that not to exceed thirty.

Accordingly, on the evening of the 29th July, a deputation of thirty waited on the minority in one of the committee rooms of the House of Assembly.

The following is the report of this interview which appeared next morning in the Age newspaper:—

Deputation to the Minority.

On Wednesday, between seven and eight o'clock, a deputation from the National Convention waited upon the members of the Minority in the Assembly who opposed the Land Bill. The objects of the deputation were to present a resolution passed by the Convention expressive of their hearty approval of the course of opposition pursued by the minority, and to entrust—for presentation to the House—a remonstrance against the further prosecution of the Land Bill by the Government. The deputation comprised thirty gentlemen. The members of the minority present were—Messrs Myles, Hughes, Evans, O'Brien, Brooke, Read, Humffray, O'Shanassy, Syme, Duffy, and Baragwanath.

The reception took place in the committee room belonging to the Assembly.

Mr. Wilson Gray, president of the Convention, opened the proceedings in the following terms :—Gentlemen of the Minority,—I have been deputed by the deputation of the Convention now sitting in Melbourne,—the gentlemen you see are the deputation,—to present you with a resolution which was adopted at a full meeting of that assembly. I beg now to do so. The resolution is addressed:—

To the Honorables B. C. Aspinall, D. Blair. H. Brooke, C. Gavan Duffy, G. S. Evans, J.V.F.L. Foster, A. Fyfe, J. M. Grant, G. Harker, G. S. W. Home, D. A. Hughes, J. B. Humffray, J. Myles, P. O'Brien, J. O'Shanassy, J. D. Owens, P. Phelan, C. Read, T. Baragwanath, P. Snodrgass, E. Syme, and J. D. Wood—who voted in the minority on the second reading of the Government Land Bill, in the House of Assembly, on the 10th day of June, 1857.

(Here Mr. Gray read the resolution.)

It is directed to the minority by name, taking the minority in alphabetical order; and I presume I shall be following the strict letter by handing it to the gentleman whose name—among those present—is first on the list. (He then handed the document to Mr Brooke.) Another resolution was passed expressive of the wish of the Convention to wait upon you in a manner the most respectful, as well as to show most emphatically its approval of your conduct, and it was intended that the whole Convention should attend. It is only the capacity of the room in which you receive it that has prevented the whole Convention from attending. There are, however, thirty present. It is almost impossible to introduce the deputation personally, but I may remark that there is a delegate from each of the following places :—Ballaarat, Bacchus Marsh, Beechworth, Bendigo, Brighton, Carisbrook, Castlemaine, Collingwood, Colac, Dunolly, Emerald Hill, Fryer's Creek, Geelong, Gisborne, Heathcote, Heidelberg, Kyneton, Melbourne, Mount Blackwood, North Melbourne, Ovens, Prahran, Richmoud, Sebastopol, St. Kilda, Seymour, Tarrengower, Templestowe, Williamstown, and Wangaratta. From the variety of the places represented, and the numbers that have come here, and who have sat for weeks, away from their business at great personal inconve-nience, you can estimate the strength and force of opinion represented. I have nothing to do but page 21 to introduce the body to you, gentlemen. There are one or two of the delegates who wish to address a few words to you.

Mr. O'Connor (Ballaarat) said there was no part of the duties of the Convention they could more heartily perform, or with greater sincerity, than to record the opinions of the people in reference to the conduct of the minority. (Hear.) He could speak of the district from which he had come, and the unanimous approval which the people had shown to the minority since the introduction of the Land Bill. They were perfectly satisfied that the opposition was made, not from any factious motives, but simply because they (the minority) thought that the bill, if passed, would be entirely subversive of the best rights of the people, and he could inform the minority that they would have, for the future, the unanimous approval of the people to bear them out in their opposition to the bill, which was intended to upset the rights of the colony at large. (Hear, hear.) He begged to express his own and the thanks of the community he had the honor to represent to them (the minority) for their conduct.

Mr. Benson (Bendigo) said, they appeared there for the purpose of giving the minority a vote of thanks for the stand they had made against that measure, which they considered injurious to the best interests of the community. The Convention had met for the purposes of patriotism and the good of this country, and they considered the minority had the same feelings on behalf of the country; and, therefore, they respectfully thanked the minority for the stand they had made in the cause of freedom, and the future happiness of the people of this country. (Hear, hear.) He concluded by thanking the minority: and expressing his anticipation that the result of their, and the Convention's labor, would be beneficial not only to the district which he represented, but would tend to the general welfare of the land of their adoption.

Mr. Quinlan (Dunolly) said, believing their (the minority's) time to be very valuable and very limited, and believing that the resolution just read expressed the unanimous opinion of the Convention, he would only say that what was therein expressed was fully re-echoed by the people he represented—the inhabitants of Dunolly.

Mr. Smyth (Ovens) said, on the part of the people he represented, that the whole of that district—the Municipal Council, the freeholders, the miners, to the number of 20,000—with one voice acknowledged themselves, and their children, and their children's children, under a debt of gratitude to the minority. (Hear.)

Mr. Brooke said : Gentlemen of the Convention, I much regret that any alphabetical arrangement should have made me the respondent on this occasion, because there are so many other members of the minority who have occupied a long and distinguished position in this country, and in the eyes of other countries to whom this country will naturally look for approval in this emergency. But I may be allowed to say that a common sentiment actuates every member of the minority who thought proper to oppose this Land Bill. I am quite sure that there is no member who sits on that (the opposition) side of the House but opposed it on the most conscientious grounds possible, feeling it was his duty. (Hear, hear.) After the discussion of the bill which had already occupied so many days, and which will yet occupy many more, it is a source of gratification to me, and to every one holding the same views, to find that we are supported out of doors; to find the members of the Convention, representing political opinion so largely, were with us; and to find that our efforts meet with their approval. For myself, and on behalf of the minority, I have the honor to thank you.

Mr. O'Shanassy said, as he stood next to his friend Mr. Brooke, he would take that opportunity of accepting in the most grateful manner the compliment paid not only to himself but to all the members of the minority. He differed from Mr. Brooke in this: — that he rejoiced that the Convention had addressed them in alphabetical order, as clearly showing that they were not supposed—as was said by one of the speakers—to be acting from factious motives, but opposing this bill for the simple reason that it was not conducive to the interests of the people; and that the minority on this occasion were acting upon their individual opinions, although unanimous in their opposition. (Hear.) He begged to state that no organisation of any character did exist in the arrangements of the minority; and, consequently, no greater compliment could be paid than to give them an opportunity of stating publicly that no combination existed in the minority. (Hear.) As one living a long time in this country, he rejoiced to see the meeting by convention, and the petitioning of the people; it was an earnest to him, an old resident, that public spirit was at length awakened. He expressed that he was willing to serve the people still; and he hoped they were determined to assert their rights. He would not detain them, as the time for re-entering on the discussion of this measure was drawing nigh. He could only reiterate his thanks for the acknowledgment of their (the minority's) services, and he trusted that the objects they had in view in defeating the measure would succeed. He did not think the gentlemen forming the majority in this session would concede to them all that they required; but he trusted that they might reasonably expect, at all events, that, if the Government would not defer to the opinions of the people and withdraw the Land Bill, they might rest sure of this—that no new rights should be created. (Hear.) To effect this, he pledged himself to attend and to vote most systematically against any clause that created any new right. In conclusion, he said he trusted the time was not far off when the Government would be in accordance with the opinions of the people of the country.

page 22

Mr. Humffray joined with his hon, friend in expressing his deep sympathy with the great work they (the Convention) had undertaken; and he believed the time was not very far distant when—if they only did their duty—instead of coming there as petitioners, they would have an opportunity of addressing them (the minority) on terms of equality. (Hear.) He thanked them and urged them strongly to continue their support; so long as they did their duty out of doors, they would find a party in doors, however small, ready to do theirs. (Hear.)

Mr. Duffy said he thought they (the Convention) had done very wisely in presenting this recognition of the efforts of the members who opposed this bill; because, it must be remembered that those resisting the aggression on the people had to bear the slanders of their enemies—(hear, hear); that the men who had endeavoured to oppose this bill had been habitually misrepresented by the journals representing the Government and the squatters. (Hear.) He thought, therefore, that this would serve to clear those misrepresentations. He had more confidence than some of his friends had expressed that this bill would be defeated. (Hear, hear.) Since it had been under the consideration of the House the elections had made a marked change in sides. (Hear, hear.) If it were defeated, it was not to be forgotten that they had not only to stop this hill, but to carry an efficient bill. (Hear.) The only road to that was to reform the Parliament. And they must not forget in their habitual earnestness and zeal on this question, that there was another. He reminded them that the question of State aid was taken up with great zeal, and many were returned to the Assembly simply on the ground of advocating it: they had been returned to that House—they had advocated it—and they had betrayed the people on every other measure. (Hear, hear.) But when returning men to that House, they must not be content that they be right on the Land Bill; they must take care that they be right on the question of Reform. (Hear, hear.) At all events, when this present measure was disposed of, the Assembly and the Convention must turn their attention to get the Reform Bill passed; to get the Government of this country carried out by the people of this country. When that was done, there would be no need of Conventions. There would be those in the House who were wanted in it. We should have the mind and earnestness of the country represented by those who had the confidence of the people. (Applause.) He thanked them.

Dr. Evans begged, with his friends who had already addressed them, in acknowledgement of the very great honor they (the deputation,) had conferred upon them in the way in which they bore testimony to their (the minority's), sincerity of conduct in opposing this land bill, to thank them. He begged leave to express his entire concurrence in everything that had been said by his colleagues. He begged to state, however, that the bill was still in committee, that they had retarded the progress of the bill, the bill was still before the House, and every prospect of its being carried by what they, (the Minority,) had termed "a tyrannical majority." (Hear, hear.) But they would still endeavor to oppose it and strike out every bad clause. This was certain that as the people were determined to oppose this bill, so were the Government determined to carry it out. It was to their (the Convention's) exertions out of doors, and the elections, that he looked for help. When their labors were ended in Melbourne, he looked to them to have what they had not now—a people's representation in this colony. He assured them that the minority would continue to do, as they had done already, their duty to the public on perfectly conscientious and disinterested grounds. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Wilson Gray then handed to Mr. Brook "the Protest (or Remonstrance), against the Land Bill, from the Convention," to be presented to the Legislative Assembly. He said it was respectfully worded, and he had no reason to doubt that it would be received. All the members of the Convention had not signed it, because there was not time for their so doing; it was, however, signed by above sixty Delegates.

Mr. Brooke said he felt much pleasure in accepting it to present to the House. But he was afraid that, it being a protest or remonstranee, he would be debarred by the the usages of Parliament.

Mr. Wilson Gray said, that though called a "protest," the body of the document would be found an ordinary petition. It was presented with a request that all the gentlemen of the minority should support it.