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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

Glass House Occupants Should not Throw Stones

Glass House Occupants Should not Throw Stones.

Sir,—Although the election is over and past, yet the canaille of Mr Seymour's Committee must, jackal-like, try to knaw the bones of the unsuccessful candidate, and slander his supporters. To be sure, Mr Seymour [unclear: them] the example at the last former election. Yet it is laughable to find these low-bred suckling Seymourites prating about "Statesmanship and political economy," concerning which their effusion signed "Marina" exhibits them to know as much about such as the average Maori does about astronomy. If they must expend their energies, they should do so in a way that would bring them in cash to pay the hotel-keepers for their brandy, etc., instead of by the exchequer of the Insolvent Court. The £500 reward for burning the Government Buildings is still obtainable [meaning thereby that the plaintiff had caused the fire by which the said Government Buildings at Blenheim had been destroyed, and that the reward of £500 which was offered for the conviction of the person causing the said fire could be obtained by the conviction of the plaintiff thereof] and no doubt a still larger sum may be earned by discovering to the Bank of New Zealand who stole the L3,700 [meaning thereby the sum stolen on or about the 1st September 1864, as mentioned in the 3rd paragraph of this declaration.] The scapegoat Murdoch has been acquitted [meaning thereby that David Henderson Murdoch, who was accused of stealing the said sum of L3,700 was the scapecoat for the plaintiff.] The jury's solemn verdict declared he was not guilty [meaning thereby that the plaintiff was guilty of stealing the said sum of money.] The prizes are within their reach. meaning thereby [unclear: that] evidence to convict the plaintiff of causing the said fire at the Government Buildings, and of stealing the said

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[unclear: of] money from the Bank of New Zealand was known to exist and was obtainable.] Dare they try to earn them?—I am, etc.,


Wherefore the plaintiff claims to recover from the defendant the sum of one thousand pounds.

[In publishing the inuendoes in the alleged libel in italics as above, we do so in order to distinguish them from the actual letter, in which the alleged libel was contained.]

The defendant's plea was a general denial.

The issues were as follows:—
1.Did the defendant falsely and maliciously publish of and concerning the plaintiff the words set forth in the seventh paragraph of the plaintiffs declaration?
2.Were the said words or part of them intended to mean chat the plaintiff had caused the fire by which the Government Buildings at Blenheim had been destroyed, and that the reward of £500, which was offered for the conviction of the person causing the said fire could be obtained by the conviction of the plaintiff?
3.Were the said words or part of them intended to mean and did they mean that the plaintiff had been guilty of stealing from the Bank of New Zealand the sum of £3,7000 stolen from the said Bank at the branch office at Picton, on or about September 1st, 1864.
4.Were the said words or part of them intended to mean and did they mean that sufficient evidence to convict the plaintiff of causing she said lire at the Government Buildings at Blenheim, and of the stealing the said sum of money from the Bank of New Zealand was known to exist and was obtainable?
5.What damages (if any) is the plaintiff entitled to recover from the defendant?

Mr Conolly with Mr Rogers appeared for the plaintiff, Mr Travers and with him Messrs Sinclair and McNab for the defendant.

The special jury comprised the following gentleman:—R. Beatson, R. W. Parker, A. J. Norberg, M. Healy, A. C. J. Ward, W. Welford, J. B. Green, G. A. Smith, T. Redwood, J. B. Rayner, F. B. Ward, and A. Brown.

Mr T. Redwood was chosen foreman of the jury.

All witnesses in the case were ordered out of Court.

Mr Conolly addressing the Court said in this action Christopher James Whitney Griffiths is the plaintiff and Samuel Johnson the defendant. The defendant pleads absolute denial of the [unclear: alleged]. The plaintiff has resided in the province for many years and has for some ten years carried on business on his own account as an Auctioner and Commission agent in Blenheim. At the time o the alleged libel the defendant was the proprietor and publisher of the "Marlborough Express," a newspaper published in the disfor some 15 years past, and which has a large circulation. The action was brought to recover damages for a libel alleged to have been published in that journal in September 1879, in the form of a letter to the Editor. The letter does not contain Mr Griffiths' name. It was by implication only that the insinuations or accusations made in that letter applied to Mr Griffiths. It was not necessary for the purpose of libel that the name of the party libelled should be given, provided the libellous matter distinctly pointed to the individual. In order to show how the letter would apply to Mr Griffiths it would be necessary to go back over 10 years. In 1861, Mr Griffiths, then a very young man was teller in the Bank of New Zealand at Picton. He gave up the office in 1861, and in giving it up, handed over all cash and everything belonging to the Bank in his possession to one Murdoch. A large part of the money so handed over was after-wards misled and Murdoch was placed on his trial at Nelson for the robbery of £3,700. The principal witness against him was Mr Griffiths, and Murdoch was acquired, why it was hard to know. Murdoch's defence was that Mr Griffiths was not telling the truth when he said he had delivered the money up to him. Since that time Mr Griffiths had been living in Blenheim and had occupied a respectable position in public life. He was clerk to the Bench for 6 years, and now after these all years, he was subjected to the cruelty and injustice of being accused of being guilty of a crime of which Murdoch was innocent. In virtue of his office as Clerk to the Bench, Mr Griffiths occupied a room in the Government Buildings, which were burnt on November 2nd, 1876, and at the inquest, which was hall afterwards, and at which the plaintiff was examined, there was no evidence to show how the fire was caused but it did appear that it had originated in Mr Griffiths' office, and a verdict to that effect and that the fire was no accidental, was returned. Mr Griffiths was not the only person who had access to his office, and he was a loser by the fire. There was a lot of gossip afterwards about the fire, and some ill-natured persons said it was lighted by Mr Griffiths. Mr Griffiths had also been somewhat active in political matters and had made a certain number of enemies as politicians usually do. Two years after the fire, in the early port of 1879, a detective was brought over from [unclear: to] inquire into the matter, and a reward of L500 was offered by the Government. Mr Griffiths had never been arrested or charged with the offence. In page 3 September 1879 a general election took place for the House of Representatives, and it was a contested election in this district. Mr Griffiths was one of the committee of the successful candidate, and Mr Johnson esposued the cause of the unsuccessful candidate, Mr Henderson. After the contest a letter appeared in the Express, evidently called forth by a letter appearing in another paper at Blenheim, which was as follows:—