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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

The Tuapeka Election

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The Tuapeka Election.

Victoria Hotel, Peel Street, Lawrence,

Dear Larnach,

I caught cold in the eyes while driving about last night and one of them is in a high state of inflammation this morning. I cannot yet stand the light. I am not able, therefore, to see you, but if you conveniently could, I would be glad to see you for a minute or two. If not convenient, don't bother. I don't at all grudge you your victory; but you have to thank Rawlins for it, and the time he kept me out of the district.

Yours sincerely,

Scobie Mackenzie.


Dear Mackenzie


I am sorry to learn by your note that you are suffering from the effects of a severe cold. I shall not be able to see you, although I have some unpleasant things to say to you, as I am going to the Blue Spur. You are at liberty to form any opinion you like as to the result of the contest; but I know, had I a few page 2 more days to fight, my majority would have increased, as I would have had an opportunity, and time, to contradict the scurrilous and lying statements that you and your people had persistently circulated to my detriment. What did you do when you entered the contest a week before I had even announced my candidature? You commenced to scandalise my political reputation for years past, and when you did not absolutely lie in your statements, you only told half truths. Night and day you have carried on the same kind of abusive attacks on my political career, while I never once have referred to you, or Rawlins, on the platform. Have you ever once, in all your political addresses, given your hearers any politics or policy? No! Your politics during this contest have been political scandalmongering. In my opinion you have not fought a manly nor an honourable fight, but the fight of a political cur, and a political blatherskite. I have never stated this opinion on the platform, but I would do so if you were present, in consequence of the number of times that you have struck me below the belt. You may continue to try that style of fighting with your opponents; but should I ever again be one, you will find that I am able to take care of myself, even against unfair and unmanly play. You even, after I had announced myself, discovered that my name was not on the roll, and you wired the news to your friend in the interior, requesting him at the same time to keep it secret. You hoped to spring a mine under me on the day of nomination! Was that fair fighting? Was it manly? No! I feel very sorry that my opinion of you has very considerably changed.

Yours faithfully,

W. J. M. Larnace

M. J. S. Mackenzie, Esq.,

Victoria Hotel, Lawrence.
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Hon. W. J. M. Larnach, Esq., C.M.G.

, The Camp.


Your letter from Lawrence I only got here last night, and I need not say that I was amazed and indignant both at the tone and statements therein.

The story of wiring about your name on the roll has not one vestige of truth in it, and at first I could not even imagine what you were alluding to. Then it occurred to me it was a message I sent to Palmerston about my own name that served as the foundation of the story. A day or so before leaving I wrote to Hugh Wilson, Naseby, requesting him to see that my name was on the Waihemo roll, and that if by any chance it had got off, to say nothing about it till I got it on again. Wilson replied by wire that I would have to apply to Registrar (Gwynne) at Palmerston. I wired Gwynne to make sure I was on, and to reply to Naseby where I was going that night. Gwynne replied I was on all right. That is the story. How you got it twisted up to have any connection with yourself I am sure I cannot say. If you have any doubt about it call in at Gwynne's (who is close to the Palmerston railway station) and satisfy yourself in Heaven's name. I never for an instant inquired about your name by myself, or through another, or by letter, wire, or verbally, never thought of such a thing.

I suppose this is a sample of the foolish stories that have been going about, and which you appear to have been giving credence, though you ought to have known better.

Not one word did I say about you during the entire tour, off the platform, that was not alike fair and generous. What "my friends," as you call them, have been saying God only knows. But you might as well page 4 blame me for the egg some wretch threw at Mrs Larnach, or I you for the two some other wretches threw at my wife, though they fortunately missed.

Enough of this. What I now want to know is whether you are prepared to make me some expression of regret for the language you applied to me over this registrar story. If so I am still ready to hold out the hand of good fellowship. If not I shall of course take it as a declaration of war between us, which of course I would regret.

On the platform throughout the campaign not one word did I say that was derogatory to you or irrelevant to the issue, and I am sure that had you heard me instead of listening to the busy bodies, you would have said so.

I am going for my children to-morrow, but will be back here on Monday.

Yours truly,

Scobie Mackenzie

The Camp, Dunedin,

M. J. S. Mackenzie, Esq.,

Melness, Peninsula.


Your letter of the 12th inst., in reply to mine written at Lawrence, I found on Saturday evening on my return home, and I have now to acknowledge it.

The story about your having wired to a friend to see that your name was on the roll I have no doubt is correct so far as it goes, whether my name was mentioned by you, in your communication, as not being on the roll, as I have been informed by an undoubted authority, or, am I to accept your version of the matter? page 5 I may tell you plainly that, after my recent experience of your capacity for stating only part of a truth, I am not prepared to accept your assertion as a fact until I have seen my friend again.

"A lie, that is all a lie, may be met and fought outright,
But a lie that is half a truth, is a harder matter to fight."

And in this direction, and on this basis, have your platform speeches throughout the recent contest been addressed to me, with the object of injuring me in the minds of electors. You even went into my career of private life when you gleefully and continuously referred to my having been the agent of Mr Clarke, of Melbourne; to my having purchased Moa Flat Estate for him; to my having been a promoter and a director of the Colonial Bank; to my having been a promoter and a director of the National Insurance Company, and other companies, in order to show that I could not be a true liberal, or have sympathy with the working man, such was the burden of your song to the electors night after night, and also in the daylight when you bad the opportunity. Why did you not tell the electors the whole truth? That., when I did all this, I was not engaged in politics, nor did I then even contemplate ever taking an active part in them. I was first elected a Member of Parliament in 1876, and the several great political crimes, enumerated by you, had their being long before that period.

And why did Mr Clarke purchase the Moa Flat Estate? When you attempted to show the electors of Tuapeka my political unsoundness—aye, long before I was a candidate—you should have told the whole truth; I purchased Moa Flat Estate more to please the late worthy and patriotic Superintendent of Otago and his Provincial Government than Mr Clarke, the Government, at that time, being in a state of insolvency, and to oblige the Government I went to Victoria at my own expense, and I not only communicated with Mr Clarke, but with other wealthy friends in that page 6 colony. I received nothing for my trouble, nor did I ask anything. But I felt a satisfaction in having, at a critical moment, been of service to this part of the colony, in a time of monetary difficulty, that I was enabled, by knowing how to do it, to place the Government in the position to pay all wages due to working men and other employes.

You also told the electors that you voted against plural voting under Sir George Grey's Bill while I opposed the Bill. Why did you not tell the whole truth and say that when plural voting was abolished by the introduction of the "one man one vote" principle, I voted with the Ayes; and, when you first voted for Sir George Grey's measure you knew precious well that it would not pass. How many voted for the Bill altogether? About half a dozen, at the eve of a General Election, including your illustrious self.

Now, a few words more and I have done. You may take the remarks which I have written to you in any spirit you like, just as the cap fits, you may constitute yourself the sole judge; but, let me assure you, I mean what I have written; and should the result bring estrangement between us I have the satisfaction of knowing that I only did a duty I owed to myself and my good name, by defending my character against your unmanly and scurvy attacks.

Yours obediently,

W. J. M. Larnach.


Hon. W. J. M. Larnach, C.M.G., The Camp.


I only returned from the country yesterday, and found your letter awaiting me.

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Under ordinary circumstances that letter would be unworthy of an answer, so grossly inaccurate is it (for I will not condescend to use your own language) on the political points alluded to.

First, however, as to the Moa Flat purchase. If you cannot see that, after your attempts at Lawrence to tickle the ears of the groundlings by your pretence of demanding "leaps" of graduated taxation for bursting-up purposes (when even the Government have got all the graduation they wanted), I was not justified in pointing out that your whole life had been passed in assisting the process of accumulation of large estates, and was even now employed in lending money upon them, it is of course hopeless for me to endeavour to make it clear to you. The point whether you were in the House or not when some part of this process was going on had nothing to do with the matter. None but a fool would question the honourable nature of the employments mentioned, although you yourself were not above leading the people to believe, in your new-born zeal for bursting-up, that it was a crime to own an estate.

But when it comes to the plural voting question I confess that I have a difficulty in keeping within due bounds, and it took me some time before I could believe that your remarks were due to ignorance and for getfulness of what had taken place in the past; while at the same time you would not take the trouble to look the matter up. Your statement is three-fold and in all alike grossly inaccurate. You say first that you voted for the "one man one vote" principle; (2) that Sir George Grey's Bill (from which I quoted) was introduced on the eve of a general election; and (3) that only some half a dozen voted for it and that only for electioneering purposes.

First then as to the "one man one vote" principle. You did not vote for it. Here you are evidently page 8 confusing "manhood suffrage" with the "one man one vote "principle. "Manhood suffrage" was passed by Sir John Hall before I entered the House (about /82 or thereabout) but it left plural voting behind it, white latter was only abolished by Atkinson in 1889, in the Representation Act Amendment; and you voted against this clause (as of course you had a right to do) confining everyone to one vote.

Secondly as to Sir George Grey's Bill, "brought forward on the eve of a general election." It was introduced and debated on 12th September, 1884, that is a fortnight after the opening of the first session of a new Parliament.

Now for the "half dozen" who voted for Greys Bill. The voting was ayes 25, noes 26. The Bill therefore may be said (though I did not say it) to have been lost by your vote.

Of course I could easily comment on all this in your own fashion if I chose, but I refrain from doing so, perceiving that you are in the habit only of making rash statements without taking the trouble to verify them.

As to the Registrar business it is clear to me that you lack the manliness which prompts men when they find they have made a mistake to acknowledge their error. I have been slow to break up an old friendship under the belief that remarks that escaped you were made in haste and anger after a harassing contest. But that friendship is now at an end and my patience and forbearance go with it, and this letter is the only intimation of the fact that you will get from me.

Yours truly,

Scobie Mackenzie

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The Camp, Dunedin,

M. J. Scobie Mackenzie, Esq., Melness, Peninsula.


Your letter of the 22nd inst. I found at the Post Office this morning, in reply to my last; and I am glad the circumstances in connection with the latter were of more than an ordinary character, and so warranted you in answering it.

I really do not understand your meaning when you speak of my attempts at Lawrence "to tickle the ears of the groundlings" by a pretence of demanding "leaps" of graduated taxation for bursting-up purposes. Here again you are at fault by still pursuing your Baron Munchausen proclivities. Why don't you stick to facts, and the whole truth? In none of my speeches have I ever advocated the bursting-up of large estates by the process of taxation. What I advocated, and still advocate, is not to interfere with any estate if no land is wanted for settlement; but, if land is required by the people, and the Crown has no land to satisfy the earth-hunger in any district in the colony, then it is the duty of the Crown to take from any large estate on equitable and fair terms sufficient land to satisfy the bonâ fide demands of the people; and let me say that this is no "new-born zeal" on my part, for I advocated the same policy during the general election campaign of 1890. Considering the fact that you recently stated at one of your meetings at Lawrence that "Hansard" contained more lies than any book ever published, I am not surprised that you carry it about with you, and so often quote from it, I am content to stand by and justify any vote I have ever given in Parliament during my long political career.

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In respect to what you are pleased to call the "Registrar business" you are entirely wrong in supposing that I have found I made a mistake, so far I have only your statement against the statement of my friend; and, perhaps, as usual, you have only told half of the truth, and I may assure you that you won't find me "lack in manliness" if you ever desire to question the point.

Nor can I see what good reason you had for calling the electors who were good enough to listen to me "groundlings" because they, in many cases, stood in the halls! while others you styled "wretches" for having thrown rotten eggs. Was this because they were chicken-hearted at your defeat?

If I may presume to give advice to so illustrious a politician as you, I would recommend you at any future contest to stand on your own merits, and every one has some merits. Do not abuse your opponent; the electors will judge him; always tell the whole truth connected with any statement, and for ever abandon your habit of' only telling half the truth.

Yours obediently,

W. J. M. Larnach.

Coulis, Culline it Co., Printers, Crawford Street. Dunedin.