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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 61

A Letter to the New Zealand Grain Agency

A Letter to the New Zealand Grain Agency.

The following is from a letter to the New Zealand Grain Agency, I the liquidation of which has done so much damage to New Zealand I credit. It shows how the paternal Government of New Zealand, I which deals so liberally by the banks in lending them money at 2 per I cent, interest; or, in other words, in allowing them their note issue by I payment of a tax of 2 per cent., at the same time comes down with a I tax of 10 per cent, upon the victims of the money-lenders if they allow I (?) a distress warrant to be executed against them. The bailiff who serves I the court summons also is given the right, by a benevolent Government, I to charge 15s. for service within two miles of the court-house, and is. I per mile extra beyond that distance; and, finally, if the debtor either I will not or cannot pay the money in the time given, "a man in possession" is quartered upon the unfortunate debtor at a cost to the latter of I "not more than" 6s. per day and his keep. The writer has been I credibly informed that upon a certain day in the merry month of July I last, a certain bailift left home with no less than 40 court summonses to I serve in one certain district of New Zealand! It would be interesting I to know what was the amount harvested that day by the prosperous I bailiff. "It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good,"—(that surely I must have been a wrecker's proverb). Here is the extract from the I letter above referred to:—

To the New Zealand Grain Agency.

"Permit me to congratulate you upon your sagacity, courage and courtesy. In I return for the honour you have done me in bringing my name before the public, I beg to inform you that I intend publishing some examples of your ways and manners. As regards my own affair with you, you have charged me for interest, commission and storage alone, at considerably above the rate of 25 per cent, per annum. Amount of advance, £89 5s.; interest, commission, and storage for not more than 11 months, £21 16s. 10d. 2nd. The 181 sacks received by you contained 714 bushels of barley; your receipts account only for 695 52/50 bushels. 3rd. You have charged for insurance on the value of £110, whereas the barley was not worth £90 either here or at Sydney. Do you insure against fire at the same rates? If so, pray in what office? 4th. Government exacted a tax from me upon your charges, called "Poundage" amounting to 51s.; besides which I had to pay your friend the bailiff 15s., and something also I to his mate . . . . . I have to thank you for an experience which I shall do my best to turn to public advantage. I am, yours very faithfully,

Etcetera.

page 15

It should be explained that the advance of £89 5s. was made upon 181 sacks of barley at 2s. 6d. per bushel. The condition of the barley deteriorated, and as there was no sale for it in Christchurch it was, by the Company's advice, shipped to Sydney, where it was sold at 2s. 6d. per bushel. Railway charges, freight and Sydney charges make up the balance of the £48 19s., amount for which summons was issued, and upon which Government and its servants received a tribute of over £5 or a tax of 10 per cent, upon neither the profits nor property of a farmer, but upon his losses.

The judges, magistrates, police, and lawyers are supposed to exist for the security of life and property. A man found guilty of playing with dice upon a racecourse (much more with loaded dice) is liable to fine and imprisonment). The same judge or magistrate, however, who punishes such peccadilloes, will enforce the payment of any rate of interest (especially in the form of a promissory note) from the tillers of the soil, or from their employers to the money-lenders and their agents. The former, however, is far more in the nature of a free contract than the latter. No man is compelled to go upon a racecourse or to bet; but farmers are compelled to have land, and to do so they must "go to the notary" with Shylock, and "seal there their bond" to the following effect:—" Know all men, by these presents, that whatever the price of corn and meat, whatever the seasons, be there earthquakes, be there wars, be there drought, be there floods, whatever may happen: if we, our heirs, executors, and assigns do not pay to you, your heirs, executors, and assigns on such and such a day, in such and such a place, such sum or sums as are expressed in the conditions, let the forfeit be—a pound of flesh." The notary thus makes it all safe for Shylock. He as good as says, "You give my friend the money-lender your securities worth £3000, and he will lend you ££2000. Then you shall pay him from 6 to 20 per cent, as you shall agree, and as the law permits; above this you will have to pay me, the solicitor, from 1 to 3 per cent, for legal expenses, commission, etc. If this swallows up 'the means by which you live,' you will understand that is 'the means by which we live.'" This is a very fair specimen of "Heads, I win; tails, you lose."

But the farmers of New Zealand are not children, "that they should not be responsible for engagements into which they have voluntarily entered!" "Their lands and goods are by the laws and lawyers confiscate unto the money-lenders," unless a State Bank is established, which, by reducing the rates of interest upon money, prevents the depreciation on the value of land and the undue influence of the money-lenders and their friends the lawyers in Parliament.