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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 15

A Tale of Horror

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A Tale of Horror.

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OON January the 9th, 1875, the celebrated letter—the first of a series—entitled, "A voice from New Zealand," appeared in the Peoples Journal, published in Dundee. That letter literally sent a thrill of indignation over Scotland. On the 25th, a libellous letter professedly from the pen of James Adam, an Emigration agent, was published in the same newspaper. It was no reply to my letter, but only a gross slander upon my character, and an insult, a gratuitous insult, to a sensitive lady. Of the appearance of that letter, the readers of the Otago Daily Times had been characteristically apprised by its Edinburgh correspondent; that scribbler had been previously sub-editor of that journal. He was also the initiator of the weekly paper, called "Passing Notes," which has ever since formed a vulgar feature of the Dunedin. Times. In due course, the letter re-appeared in the Otago Daily Times, and met with a prompt reply and denial from me. But, alas! too late for the peace of mind of the lady, now laid low. The base insinuation that a highly refined lady had been compelled to wash the clothes of my political foes for a subsistence was a worthy emanation from the brain of an emigration touter.

The coarse insult, however, went like a poisoned arrow to her extremely sensitive heart; she became a totally changed being. Tidings soon after came to her ears of the demise of her mother, her father having shortly before died. Letters from her father's trustees were received from Victoria. One of her brothers visited Dunedin, and after his departure, in place of sending a power of attorney to secure her property, she was prevailed upon to go over personally. I never saw the letters sent her. All was kept religiously secret from me. She was daily in close communication with leading citizens, lay and cleric. For three months, my home was being daily turned into an abode of misery and unhappiness; its contents were being daily diminished; to remonstrate was the signal of strife; and thus for the sake of peace I submitted patiently to the despoiling of my goods, and to all possible and conceivable personal insults both within and without my home.

Matters were daily waxing worse and worse. Still I held my peace and exercised my soul in patience. I could not divine the cause of such a strange transformation of character. It turned out at last that she had been frequently, almost daily, closeted with certain influential people, lay and cleric. She had been strongly urged to leave me. Indeed, often was she waylaid by certain spiritual advisers whenever she took her usual walk abroad. To quit her home and forsake her husband was represented to her as a clear duty. A page 2 separation was urged as a matter of religion and conscience. The most atrocious calumnies were circulated about me. Her mind was agitated between two emotions. Piety towards God arid devotion to her husband contended mutually for the mastery. Her reason began to waver on its pedestal. Her passions became inflamed by pernicious counsels. Her imagination brooded over fancied grievances, and her temper became soured, and her mind exasperated, so that she became an entirely changed creature. She would weep, chide, laugh, and frown alternately. At length through the ghostly and ghastly counsels of her advisers, she finally left Dunedin on the 5th July, 1875, having been escorted to the steamer, at the Port, by her much esteemed pastor.

On that fatal day, I had left homo rather early, and after having registered and posted a letter to Macmillan's Magazine, headed "Twenty-one years in New Zealand," I went out to the country, and, lo! on my return I found my house desolate; everything had disappeared except my library, which had been secured in permanent glass cases. I will not, indeed I cannot, describe my feelings on that occasion. Language breaks down under the pressure of affliction. The very curtains and hangings of the windows had been removed; the work was done shortly and decisively. What a night of agony I passed! I was left without furniture, and penniless. I had to sell all my books, and every week for the first year after her departure, accounts of debts contracted flowed in upon me, and I had to liquidate them for fear of giving publicity to my tragic bereavements and personal misfortunes. I believe now, most firmly, that she had been advised to pursue such a course and that facilities had been offered her to contract debts in order to place my feet fast in the net. Considering what I have had to undergo through the hellish machinations of secret enemies since the day of her funeral, I have ample proof that nothing is too wicked or atrocious for vile persons to accomplish; but, such violent dealings shall one day descend upon their own doomed heads. The public was exasperated against me all over the colony on account of my revelations in the old land. I had to sell all my books to keep the wolf from the door. I may here mention that this was the third time I had been forced to part with my library of well-selected books. I was left dreary, cheerless, and forlorn; comforter had I none. Nevertheless, I resumed my studies, and kept up a con. stant correspondence with the home newspapers. A few months thereafter I received a parcel enclosing my article to the English Magazine with a letter of thanks from the editor, who was reluctantly constrained to reject it on account of being much too personal for his pages. Here is the letter:—

"Macmillan & Co., Publishers to the University of Oxford, 29 and 30, Bedford Street, Covent Garden, W.C., London, Oct. 5, 1875.

Sir,—I am obliged by your note and the MSS. accompanying it, which I am compelled to return as I find it too much animated by personality for my pages. With many thanks for your good intentions.—I am. Sir, yours faithfully, Editor. J. G. S. Grant, York Place, Dunedin, Otago."

I declined to modify my expressions, but transcribed it and forthwith despatched it to the Liverpool Albion. It was published in Liverpool, on the 19th day of August, 1876, and on that very day I received a telegram, announcing the return of the lady—now in her grave—from page 3 the Bluff. Accordingly on the 20th I went down to Port Chalmers and beheld a spectacle which I shall never forget till my dying-hour. She was completely metamorphosed. She knew mo not. Her beautiful auburn hair—that once descended in a profusion of clusters over her shoulders to her very ankles—was turning grey. Her head was stooping, and she was weeping piteously and idiotically. I brought her to my lodgings and tended her for two nights in her frantic moods, when she was bent on leaping out of the window on the first floor. On the 22nd August, 1876, after having gone through the usual preliminaries, with duly signed medical certificates, I conveyed her to the Dunedin Lunatic Asylum. During her confinement there, at my request, a kind and noble-minded lady visited her periodically and kept me in constant knowledge of her deplorable condition. She did not know me, and the sight completely upset me; so that I could not personally see a living corpse. They who would censure mo for this are strangers to the terrible operations of a lacerated heart, a wounded spirit, and disappointed hopes. Personally, however, I made periodical visits of investigation. She was well and tenderly cared for, and looked after by the kind-hearted matron and superintendent of the Asylum. At length, on the 4th December, 1878, death put a period to all her sufferings. In her case, indeed, death was a happy release.

On the 7th, the funeral obsequies were celebrated. Not a soul responded to the invitation to the funeral, save one. I was alone in the mourning carriage. We had no hands—save those of the undertaker, his men, and the sexton—to carry the coffin from the hearse to the grave. The Rev. Mr. Byng—to his credit be it here recorded—met the coffin at the cemetery gate, and performed the last sad offices at the grave.

I covered the coffin with wreaths of roses, and finally returned to the city—the world all before me, as Milton said of our first parents—but a world without a friend. None upheld my hands in that trying hour. Of the people there was none. I had to tread the winepress alone. The first Rector of the High School of Dunedin, and the Founder of the Eight Hours' system of Labour in the regions of Australasia, had no sympathizing friends gathered around the grave on the 7th December, 1878. I had spoken and written the truth, in season and out of season, and I experienced the usual wages of a witness of the truth. Nevertheless, I am able to say—truly God is good! For five years without a congenial home, without happiness, and literally encircled with enemies, God has been to me a shield, a fortress, and a refuge from the storms of persecution. I have not yet been—as was fondly and eagerly anticipated—driven from Dunedin. True, indeed, the plot wrought admirably. I have drained the cup of sorrow to the very dregs. But, though despoiled of my goods, and everything but life taken from me, I am not yet so badly off as was the benevolent founder of Christianity. Here is his own testimony of himself:—" Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man hath not where to lay his head." For three years and six months, the light of truth shone over Judea, and then it vanished away. For nearly twenty-five years, I have gone in and out amongst the citizens of Dunedin. During this long period have I kept the sacred lamp of knowledge burning in their midst. The torch of truth I have upheld at all hazards, even to the despoiling of all my goods, and the imminent peril of my life. I have been robbed, injured, insulted, and calumniated, because of my unbending devotion to truth page 4 and conscience. Matters have now been brought to a decisive crisis. At this present moment, the Government of New Zealand is under a pecuniary obligation to me, to the extent in round numbers of nearly £25,000, for redemption of plighted but broken pledges by the Otago Government. Will the people of Dunedin—the colonists of New Zealand—suffer the educational public funds to be squandered upon State pensioners and professorial sinecurists while my claims remain still unsatisfied? Will they allow the council of a pseudo-university to burlesque the sacred cause of Education? Will they permit the Board of Governors of the Dunedin High School to lavish away their money on impotency, incompetency, and inefficiency, while the First Rector is deprived of his just and well-earned rights and emoluments? I pause for a practical reply. Positively, I do not like the very remarkable providences which I have experienced. This baptism of fire I do not at all relish. I am almost frightened at these events. An ordinary constitution would have long ago succumbed under such rough, barbarous, and unprecedented treatment, as I have had personally to bear. Before it be too late, will you espouse my cause? Every feeling hath being broken. I have no home and no happiness. At this late hour I appeal to your native sense of honour, justice, and integrity. If you fail me in this, then it will be my duty—if need be—to transfer my cause, and my complaints, and my great grievances to the great tribunal of the British public. This I will, and, indeed, must do, even if I should have to beg my way to England. The Omniscient eye is upon us all, and the Providence that hath hitherto protected and directed me, will, I hope, not let go my hand in this trying ordeal. I was in Dunedin before all her teachers, preachers, professors, and politicians. Dunedin I have loved and served well. I have conferred priceless benefits upon New Zealand. Will the colonists suffer me to be driven out of it? to be trampled under foot and defrauded of my reward? Well, well, as Shakespeare says:—

"Come what come may,

Time and the hour runs through the roughest-day."

Nevertheless, I am still alive and enjoy excellent health and a good conscience. But, after all, what is this life of ours?—It is a vapour that appeareth for a little while and then vanishelh away. What, at the best, is frail man? Man, in his best estate, as the Hebrew oracles say—is altogether vanity. Like flower in field he grows, like grass, like fading flesh, like a passing cloud, or like the shadow's fleeting form that mocks the gazer's eye. As for riches—which we so much covet—what are they?—Dross. They take often unto themselves wings and flee away as an eagle towards heaven. Honour! what is it?—A bubble. Fame!—An empty name. As Pope says—a thing beyond us even before our death. Emphatically, nothing can endure but God and virtue. Frances is now in her grave. Afterlife's fitful fever, she sleeps well. Her pretended friends have been proved to be her bitterest foes. Their motives, aim, and end, stand now solemnly before the world. They failed in their dastardly and infamous attempt to drive me far away from Dunedin and from the colony. They did not even put in an appearance at her funeral, nor did they welcome her on her return—a very wreck of humanity. Dissappointment lowered in their wicked eyes. True indeed, they marred my domestic felicity. However, to each of them I can only page 5 say—the Lord reward him according to his works. By the great and good God, by the solemnity of the future assizes, by the terrors of eternity, I hereby publicly and solemnly wash my hands in innocence of the lamentable fate of that amiable and sensitive lady.

"'Tis God that lifts our comforts high,
Or sinks them in the grave;
He gives, and when he takes away,
He takes but what he gave."

As Emerson would say—let them now rave, she, at least, is now safe in the grave; nothing can touch her further. Her changed attitude towards me was the result of insanity superinduced by the circumstances already narrated. She is now at peace and free from all annoyances.

"How still and peaceful is the grave!
Where life's vain tumults past,
Th' appointed house by Heaven's decree,
Receives us all at last."

To impress forcibly upon the frail mind of man the supreme vanity of life, we are told in history that the ancient Egyptians used to plant a human skull in the centre of their festive board. If you are charmed with beauty—and who is not?—visit the Southern Cemetery, and look down—in imagination—into that crave; for a more beautiful figure never crossed earth's central line. When I first saw her, her auburn hair was surging o'er her lily neck like sun-rays upon snow. Her countenance was extremely soft and beautiful.

"Her blooming cheeks were dyed
With colour all their own;
Excelling far the pride
Of roses newly blown."

And this is what she has come to! If your ambition be to attain to great scholarship, and to utter the truth fearlessly and independently, behold the fate awaiting you, in the person of him who is bending down with a load of woes over the grave! Literally, I am frightened at the remarkable and even mysterious providences that have characterised my career. "These things have marked me extraordinary, and all the courses of my life do show I am not in the roll of common men." Whenever you read of the vain and insane sayings and doings of the Board of Governors of the High School of Dunedin, remember me and visit the grave in the Southern Cemetery. When you see Education degraded and travestied by the Council of the "Otago University," and her professorial pensioners fattening upon the spoils of sinecureships, remember me and drop a tear over that grave. Meanwhile, to Almighty God I commit myself and cause, and conclude this memorial in the words of England's greatest man, as peculiarly applicable to each of the malicious advisers of that lady.

To you lord Governor,
Remains the censure of this hellish villain;
The time, the place, the torture, oh, enforce it;
Myself will straight aboard and to the State,
This heavy act, with heavy heart relate.

page 6

A Voice from New Zealand.

Sir,—In the interests of humanity, and moved by the waitings of thousands of hapless immigrants poured indiscriminately upon these inhospitable shores, I forward, by the outgoing mail, these few lines for insertion in your widely circulated Journal; About 40,000 souls have been freely imported into this colony, under the provisions of the Public Works and Immigration Scheme. By the end of the year that number shall have been swelled up to 50,000 persons. In this city a public meeting of the unemployed immigrants has been held, and certain resolutions have been passed, exposing the sad state of affairs. After pressing solicitations I consented to preside autocratically over the noisy billows of that social sea of disgust, disappointment, and indignation. About 600 men—whose wives and families were starving in a cold wooden barracks, pervious to wind, rain, hail, and snow—attended that meeting. I did my best to pour oil on the troubled waters; and, indeed, the local press, in behalf of the community, thanked me for my labours. While sympathising with the people, I tried to exonerate, as far as I could, the conduct of the authorities, but on condition that the Government opened up temporary employment to the men whom they had allured to leave their homes in prospect of bettering their condition. Sheer terror constrained the Government to open up temporary works to keep the immigrants from rebellion. But, Sir, the men were sent to crack diamonds on the road at wages varying from 2s 6d to 5s per day. They were turned out of the barracks, and the meanest hut or shanty cannot be got for a rent of less than from 10s to 15s weekly. Provisions and clothing are proportionably dear, and, to add to these evils, the winter has been very severe, and now the spring, just at its close, has been exceptionally wet, cold, and utterly unfit for out-door occupations. Tender women and helpless children in some cases were dragged "before the Resident Magistrate's Court to get a warrant for their ejectment from the Barracks." This is worse than slavery. Even a pigsty is not to be had for love or money. Is it not, sir, villanous to seduce people away from home by mendacious representations? The old land seems to be swarming with hired touters, agents, and immigration kidnappers. These men—ex-oflicials as they are—are paid to blow their trumpets and blazon forth the merits of the Paradise to which they offer to transmit their gullible victims. This country is chiefly adapted for pastoral purposes. It is intensely mountainous. A great area of it is unfit even for sheep. The best of the land has been sold. The squatter or sheep-fanner leases the rest, and holds a pre-emptive claim over any other man. The idea of ploughmen in a few years becoming freehold farmers is altogether a Utopian idea. Indeed, in many places a man in a small freehold, without roads or access to markets, would simply vegetate like Robinson Crusoe. Those who hold the land are naturally anxious to get men as cheap as they can. Hence they clamour for free immigration. This is a very peculiar colony. With a population of about 300,000 souls, it has ten Legislatures, about 400 representatives, and 4000 officials. The public debt is £15,000,000, and the nominee of the squatters, merchants, and bankers is just on his way home to raise a fresh loan of £4,000,000. So that we shah be saddled with a public debt of nineteen millions sterling in a very short time. Woe to the man who shall dare to utter a word against the powers that be and their venal supporters.

There are about 100 local rags in the shape of newspapers ready to pounce upon any one who refuses to bow the knee before the golden calf. Their combined circulation is not a quarter of the number of your own subscribers; but they are supported by the Governments, storekeepers, officials, and place-hunters.

page 7

New Zealand is a very picturesque land, and were it well governed it would be a desirable habitation for any man; but it is verily despoiled with the locusts of officialism, the caterpillars of the law, the hungry wolves of the sheep-walks, the loathsome spiders of swindling Corporations and Companies, and the frogs, moles, bats, vultures, and vermin of the ten political vestries. One can scarcely speak with composure of such a state of affairs. To be felt, it must be seen. I have been nineteen years in this Colony, and speaking humbly, I have spent on an average .£1000 a year in the diffusion of knowledge throughout the land. I claim, then, the right to know something of the ins and outs of the Colony.

The roughing to which colonists, after their first arrival in their adopted land, are generally subjected is peculiarly discouraging to all classes of immigrants; but in the case of single females it is not only very hard, but it is also fraught with much danger of every sort. The demand for females is. perhaps, greater than for any other class; but the huts and wooden shanties that do duty for houses in new countries are totally unfitted for the reception of modest women, and set the decencies and proprieties of domestic civilisation completely at defiance. After landing, the females are carried to a wooden barn, and thereafter engaged by settlers from the country, and conveyed scores and hundreds of miles into the interior, where, perhaps, their nearest neighbour resides miles apart from their future home. In this home a blanket or an oppossum-rug generally serves as a screen or fence to separate the servant from the master's bedroom. In the case of males, and more particularly so in the case of females, it is almost next to impossible to leave when the situation turns out to be totally undesirable. Suppose they did leave, then they would have to walk over a desert, without roads or inns or any sort of resting-places by the way, many weary miles ere they could return to the place of their debarkation. For example, suppose Dundee was the only civilised town in Scotland, and from that spot male and female servants were to be conveyed to settlers in Caithness or Berwickshire. You are called upon to imagine the absence of anything approaching to cultivation or civilisation all over the land, save Dundee and its suburbs. Moreover, you must suppose that Dundee is a town of 20,000 people, dwelling in huts, tents, and brick cottages of two or three rooms, incapable of taking in any lodgers, and, indeed, barely sufficient to afford shelter to the permanent settlers of the town. Where, then, are new arrivals to be located P Manifestly in the Wooden Barracks, the Benevolent Institution, or the Hospital or Goal. I say the Goal, for latterly the class of immigrants that we have received had evidently been sent from the Irish and English Reformatories and Workhouses. After landing, they soon make the acquaintance of the Police Court, and then they get cheap fare and lodgings in prison. On this ugly subject about 600 letters passed between the Government and the Agent-General in London. They were presented to Parliament last session. I need not tell you that society under such circumstances must necessarily be very loose and immoral. But those who have got a footing in the country desire cheap labour, and will by all means put money in their purse—honestly if they can; but at all events they must turn over the dirty shilling. When a vessel laden with immigrants discharges her living cargo, the diamond crackers of whom I spoke are discharged, and the newcomers get a week's work at that interesting occupation. These,-again, on the arrival of another ship, get notice to quit, and thus the list of the unemployed is being weekly augmented.

Sir, I write the words of truth and soberness in the cause of suffering humanity. When I touched first these shores, I was a radical to the backbone and spinal-marrow. But, Sir, a few years in these colonies soon converted me back again to ideas more conservative. There is nothing so intolerable as beggars on horseback—purse-proud and illiterate and vulgar page 8 upstarts. Of such, in the main, is the sham aristocracy of this land composed. The better part of the people take no active share in politics here. Our Provincial Legislatures are consequently becoming more and more Americanised. Besides the nine Provincial Councils, a General Assembly, composed of two Chambers, meet for three months annually in the village of Wellington.

The majority of the members of the Representative Chamber are place-hunters. They serve the existing Ministry for a given time, and then they get permanent places and pensions. The quasi-Upper Chamber is composed chiefly of the woolly tenants of the Crown lands. With such machinery it is apparent nothing of a truly benevolent, liberal, and patriotic character can possibly be achieved. Selfishness is the Alpha and Omega of the colonist's creed. None but a colonist can really conceive the height to which avarice and greed attain to here. Government handbooks and the ephemeral travels of such men as Anthony Trollope—who spent two nights in Dunedin, during which it rained incessantly—are utterly unreliable representations of existing affairs.

But, sir, I fear I am encroaching too largely on your valuable time and space. I may, however, state that if any man should call in question the accuracy of any iota in this letter, I am prepared to forward you another, backed up with two thousand signatures. I have often been importuned to write home, but I always delayed, hoping things might take a more favourable turn. I by no means discountenance a judicious selection of immigrants on favourable terms; but the reckless system of flooding the land with paupers I heartily condemn. Just as I am going to close this note, I find that two immigrant vessels, with 500 souls on board, have cast anchor in our port. At Lyttelton, Wellington, Auckland, &c., similar cargoes are being discharged. On the occasion of an out-going mail, all the colonial papers publish fulsome summaries for home. They are utterly unreliable. Like the frog in the fable, they will soon burst in the vain attempt to improvise a nation in a day, and to impress on the old country their own fancied importance and fictitious prosperity on the strength of borrowed capital—the interest on which is always paid out of the principal. If a man is comfortable at home, there let him remain, for the prospects of getting a freehold here is an ignis fatuus. The cream of the arable soil is sold. The remnants the capitalists will have at any price. Those who boast of their farms never procured them by the sweat of their brow. They held appointments in the early days of the Colony, and invested portions of their salaries in land. Now, they boast as if they had achieved this by hard industry. No, sir, it was only by egotism and sycophancy that they got billets and rose to be men of much importance—in their own estimation at least. The People's Journal is, as its name imports, the people's friend. In that persuasion I venture to address this letter to its editor. I write out of the most perfect knowledge regarding the present condition of New Zealand. I would that I could conscientiously have written in a different strain; but a regard to truth and a clear sense of duty have moved mo, for the sake of suffering humanity, to take up my pen and write these few lines to you on the present occasion.

I am &c.,

J. G. S. Grant.

York Place, Dunedin, Otago, N.Z.,

Coulls and Culling, Printers & Stationers, Rattray-street, Dunedin.