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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

The Bribery Cases

The Bribery Cases.

In connection with the evidence relating to bribery, we would not rely on the unsupported testimony of Mrs Igoe as conclusively proving an act of bribery, although there is much in the admitted canvass of Anderson in that quarter to support indirectly his activity in the other instances; nor would we treat as less susceptible of a jocular interpretation than a serious one the interview with the shoemakers; but we must consider as important in itself, and as tending to confirm other testimony bearing on the same subject, the evidence given by Friend. He said that at an interview, which is admitted to have taken place, Anderson, following up a discussion as to the chances of the old soldiers' claims being recognised by Parliament, stated "if Mr Bryce doesn't take your case before the House next session, T will guarantee you £5 out of my own pocket." It must be borne in mind that Mr Bryce although not an elector was openly throwing his weight into the scales for Mr Watt, who was an avowed supporter of the Ministry of which Mr Bryce was a member. Anderson in his evidence stated that, after such a preliminary discussion as referred to by Friend, he said "if Mr Watt gets into the House and you can prove he does not bring the claims forward, I will forfeit a £5 note." Anderson added that Hatrick was present while they were talking about the £5. Hatrick in his evidence stated in reference to the bringing forward in the House of the claims of the old soldiers that Anderson promised "if Friend could prove that Watt didn't keep his word in that respect he (Anderson) would forfeit a £5 note out of his own pocket." page iv It will be observed that the only difference between the statements of Friend on the one hand and Anderson and Hatrick on the other, is that Mr Bryce's name is used in the one instance and Mr Watt's in the other. Of the two versions we are content to accept that of the witnesses for the Respondent, and we ask what was the representation but a palpable bribe? Friend was an old soldier with a grievance; he was a groom, and impressed with the importance of getting his claim brought before the House of Representatives, and was not above the reach of a wager,:—£5 or his case to be enquired into! It matters not that Anderson's "guarantee," or offer to "forfeit" £5, was not binding in any legal or indeed moral sense. Present success is the object to be attained in such cases, future performance is perhaps not Always considered by the person making the overture as equally important. His Honor the Chief Justice said "Friend's story was unnatural and inconceivable," but this can hardly be other than one of those mistakes which both Judges made but did not always correct in the course of their judgments, for it will be seen that the two versions are essentially identical except as to the name of the champion. The Chief Justice goes on to remark that the statement was "nothing more than Anderson enforcing his trust in what Watt would do." Well, let us take it so. Was the Chief Justice so dense as not to see that the backing with money a canvasser's trust in his candidate doing what an elector wished to be done, necessarily involves, as a first condition to the test of the matter, the return of that candidate? And this was exactly the point to be decided by the votes of the electors, of whom Friend was one. Supposing the terms capable of legal enforcement, Anderson was to pay Friend £5 if Mr Watt did not bring forward the old soldiers' claims in the House. Unless Mr Watt got there he cannot bring forward the claims. It was an inducement therefore to Friend to help to put Mr Watt in: once there Friend's claim would be dealt with or he would get £5. Is this interfering with the purity of election or is it not? It will be remembered that there is no question of credibility here. We accept the evidence on the subject adduced in the course of the Respondent's case and also the Judges interpretation of that evidence. As to the "Second Daniel come to judgment" in the person of Mr Justice Gillies, he seems to have accepted Friend's verson that it was the name of Mr Bryce which was mentioned, but this is immaterial. The same Judge went on to interpret what occurred in much the same language as his colleague; namely that what Anderson said was "a guarantee of Watt's sincerity and truthfulness," and he adds, "this is very different to saying 'I'll give you £5 if you will put Watt in.'" It is hardly credible, indeed:—to apply the Chief Justice's language to his learned brother:—it is "unnatural and inconceivable "to suppose that Mr Justice Gillies intended to be understood as meaning that a bribe must take such a coarse form. Surely his experience of contested elections does not lead him to such a conclusion. At any rate, all the English decisions (and we must apologise for mentioning them again in connection with his Honor's name) and the Act itself are quite at variance with such an interpretation of bribery. But, if his Honor the Puisne judge will reflect:—pause only one moment:—and consider that the return of Mr Watt was presented to Friend's mind as ensuring either his grievance being ventilated or the payment of £5, then, perhaps, his Honor will see that "there is something in it" after all. One more point with reference to Friend's case, and this time in respect of the remark of the Chief Justice on the evidence which was concurred in by Friend, Anderson, and Parkes:—all, indeed, who testified on the point:—namely, "Friend's admission," when questioned afterwards by Anderson in the presence of Parkes, "that no bribe had been offered to him (Friend.)" Is it come to this that page v Judges are to seize on statements of grooms that what occurred and what was before them as positive facts, was or was not a bribe? If that be so, then "fie upon the laws" of England. We have been under the impression:—we have lived under it, and have some hopes yet of dying under it:—that the duty of the Court is to decide upon the legal effect of facts, and that if certain facts amount in law to a bribe it matters nothing what other people call it. "This is Anderson's soothing syrup," and although a man is nearly killed (metaphorically) by drinking it in but says afterwards that it was Eno's Fruit Salt:—a slightly stimulating and effervescing but non-intoxicating beverage, then all the College of Apothecaries cannot be believed in testifying that it was prussic acid?