The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
[Report of public meeting held on June 5th in Alexandra Hall]
On the 5th June a public meeting was held in the Alexandra Hall to consider the circumstances connected with my removal from the Commission of the Peace and the cancellation of my Intrepreter's License. Appended is a brief report of the proceedings.—C.B.
[Report of Public Meeting."]
Mr G. Curtis proposed Mr Paul to the chair.
Mr Paul, in taking the chair, stated the object of the meeting. He wished to state on behalf of himself and those who had joined with him in convening the meeting that there was nothing of a political Ming in it, and the meeting must, therefore, not be looked upon as being antagonistic to the present Government. The meeting was called to help Major Brown to get a fair hearing of his case. It was not called to say whether the accusations against Major Brown were right or wrong, but simply to help him to get a fair hearing of his case from the Government. He then called upon Major Brown to address the meeting.
Major Brown, who was received with applause, said that he was much obliged to those who had called the meeting and had taken the matter into consideration. He felt the position he had been placed in especially in view of the positions he had held among his fellow settlers, and the part he had taken in public matters in this Province and the colony generally. It was his aim to maintain the character that he had always held. There were some present who did not know what positions he had held, and therefore, he would briefly advert to them. He had been twice Superintendent of the Province, once Colonial Treasurer, four times a member of the House of Representatives, and had been Agent here for the General Government in difficult times, when there was no telegraph, and things were left to him to decide on his own responsibility. He also commanded the district in the war time, and had fifteen hundred men under his command. To give and instance how he had to use his own discretion, he stated that when the Lord Worsley was wrecked near Opunake, Col. Warre informed him that there were three hundred men ready to go to the rescue of the crew on his requisition. He felt that the Colonel did not know the nature of the country and the Maoris that inhabited it, and as he considered that the passengers and crew would be slaughtered he acted on his own judgment and would not let the men go. Colonel Warre wrote a memorandum on the subject in which he stated that the blood of the crew would be on his (the speaker's) head. This was one of the cases in which he had to use his judgment. He could recount many more, but would not take up the time of the meeting. With regard to the matter for which the meeting had been called, all he desired was to get a fair hearing of the facts of the case to see whether he was guilty or not of the acts which had been charged against him. If be was guilty his name should be blotted out of their memories, but if he proved that he was innocent, page 14 which he was conscious he could prove, then he would maintain that good position among them that he had always held. He had never injured man or woman, pakeha or Maori, and on his reputation he would stand. (Applause.)
The Chairman called on Mr. C. F. Richmond, who was conversant with the facts of the case, to address the meeting.
Mr. Richmond said the meeting had to consider whether due consideration had been given to the facts of the case by the Government before striking Major Brown off the Commission of the Peace, and cancelling his license. [The speaker here read the correspondence that had passed between Major Brown and the Government, and which has already been published]. They would see that the charge against Major Brown was that a Maori woman named Meringa had signed a declaration interpreted to her by Major Brown, that she had received £40, whereas she had only received £20 and, therefore, the declaration was false. In fact, £40 had been paid in value to Meringa and her agent, namely, £20 to herself and £20 to her agent. They had also the letter of Mr. Joe Ward, the Justice of the Peace on the occasion of the signing of the declaration, and that gentleman, whose name every person in the room held in high honor, in the letter referred to addressed to the Taranaki Herald, said he knew the whole facts; and said he was not ashamed of the part he or any one else took in the transaction. If there was any blot upon Major Brown in connection with it, Mr Ward and the others present when the declaration was signed, having knowledge of the facts, shared it with Major Brown. Mr. Ward's opinion of the case had never been asked by the Government before Major Brown was struck off the Commission of the Peace and his license cancelled. The speaker then referred to the steps that Major Brown had taken when he was notified of his removal, etc., and, in conclusion, pointed out that all they desired was to see a fair hearing given to the facts of the case.
The Chairman stated that Major Brown was willing to answer any questions, but none were asked.
Mr. Govett then moved—"That this meeting is of opinion that so important a thing as the cancellation of an interpreter's certificate and the removal from the roll of Justices should not be done without giving the person affected the fullest opportunities of answering before some suitable tribunal any charges that may be alleged against him." In speaking to the motion he said that he belonged to a profession in which charges against its members were heard before the Judges of the land, and then one could get a fair hearing to defend himself against any accusations made. He contended that all charges should be heard before a suitable tribunal, and in the matter of a native interpreter he held that the fittest person to hear charges was the Chief Judge of the Native Land Court. When a matter of this page 15 kind was referred to a Minister, the chances were that it would not receive the fullest consideration, as Ministers were too much occupied with other business.
Mr. G. Curtis seconded the motion, and also urged that a fair hearing should be given Major Brown to answer the charges made against him.
The motion was carried unanimously.
Mr. Cock then moved—"That having regard to Major Brown's long and distinguished public services; to the fact that he has been for 40 years past a Justice of the Peace; that he was twice superintendent of the Province of Taranaki, and that he was at one time the senior officer in command of the militia; this meeting having heard the facts in connection with Major Brown's removal from the Commission of the Peace, and the cancellation of his interpreter's license, considers that a fair judicial hearing should be given to his case without delay." In speaking to the motion Mr. Cock said that he had known Major Brown from the time he left his cradle, and he had always held that gentleman in the highest respect. (Applause). If they had had a few men like him years ago, Taranaki would have been a different place to-day. (Applause). Mr. Cock then spoke on the justice of giving Major Brown a fair hearing to answer the charges made against him.
Mr. N. King seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.
Mr. Bewley, Chairman of the County Council, then moved—"That the Government be requested to constitute the Chief Judge of the Native Land Court a Commissioner to enquire into Major Brown's case, and report thereon." He also referred to the justice of giving Major Brown a proper hearing, and concluded by stating that the case had his fullest sympathy.
Mr. W. D. Webster seconded the motion, which was carried unanimously.
Mr. Richmond then moved—"That the resolutions, signed by the chairman, should be forwarded to the Justice Department as soon as possible."—Carried.
The Chairman said it would give him much pleasure to carry out the wishes of the meeting.
A vote of thanks to the chair terminated the meeting.
Thomas Avery, Printer and Stationer, New Plymouth.