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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 73

Major Brown examined

Major Brown examined.

81. Hon. the Chairman.] We are now ready, Major Brow[unclear: n], hear anything you have to say upon the subject of your petiti[unclear: on]—I beg to put in a letter which I received from the Hon. Mr. Bryee upon my ceasing to be Civil Commissioner.

82. You put in this letter signed by the Under-Secretary of the Native Department?—Yes. [Letter read: Appendix B.]

83. Is there any other document you would wish to put in evidence?—Yes; the oath administered to interpreters. [Oath [unclear: read] Appendix C.]

84. Do you think that this bears on the question that turned [unclear: u] the other day, as to whether interpreters should to any extent constitute themselves the protectors of the interests of Nativesi?—Yes; I hold that the Trust Commissioner has that duty to perform.

85. Hon. Mr. Rigg.] That is the form of oath the interpreter takes in Court, is it not?—Yes.

86. Do you not think that it is a correct view to take of you duty, to advise a Native, or Natives, when you think they are about to be wronged?—No.

87. Hon. Mr. Bolt.] Not if you think they are about to be wronged?—No. If I thought a Native was likely to be wronged page 21 it would be my duty to make thoroughly clear to him what he was doing; to tell him the consequences of what he was doing he is not wronged if he knows what he is doing. I would not allow him to be cheated, which he might be if he did not understand what he was doing. But, if he did not understand what he was doing, then it would be my duty to bring the fact before the notice of the Trust Commissioner.

88. Hon. the Chairman.] You have put in a schedule of fees charged for doing an interpreter's work?—Yes.

89. Your actual charge in this case was £3 4s. 6d., and you say you might have charged more?—Yes; £5 17s.

90. Hon. Mr. Rigg.] Were you aware at the time she signed this declaration that this woman had not received the amount stated therein?—I believed that she, or her agent, between them had received the amount; that is the real question—whether the agent can bind the principal.

91. You believed that the money had been received either by her or her agent?—Yes; for this reason: The agent had paid £20 of it already. I naturally inferred that he had the balance in hand. But even if I had a suspicion I had no authority to ask any question. An interpreter can bring anything under the notice of the Trust Commissioner, who is specially appointed to protect Native interests. I would always bring anything which I think wrong before the Trust Commissioner, or anything which I think ought to be brought under his notice.

92. Hon. the Chairman.] We have presumed that the Government cancelled your interpreter's license, and struck you off the roll of the Justices of the Peace, in connection with this affair of the declaration of Meringa. Have you any information to give the Committee on that subject?—I received a letter that my services bud been dispensed with.

93. Was any reason stated why your services had been dispensed with?—Yes; here is the first letter. [Letter from the Minister of justice read: Appendix D.]

94. Did you reply to that letter?—Yes. [Reply read: Appendix E.

95. You wish those documents to be put in as evidence?—Yes.

96. Hon. Mr. Holt.] You point out that a receipt by the agent is looked upon as a receipt by the principal. What evidence did you have at that time that Mr. Humphries was the agent of Meringa?—She admitted the receipt of £15 from him, and she also admitted the receipt of £5 paid to her son by him as her agent. The jury recognised him as her agent. She sued him as her agent; and the jury reduced his commission by £10 because they believed him to be her agent.

97. How do you account for the fact that he was only made her agent on the 22nd of July?—I think that was done with the object of securing the additional £30.

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98. But if he was agent before that was not necessary?—I [unclear: d] not ask him, nor did I know that this £30 had been added. I [unclear: w] only before the Trust Commissioner once, when I charged half [unclear: a] guinea for my attendance. The only time I was there was when [unclear: s] was examined. That was the only time that I was required. [unclear: s] then admitted that he was her agent, and she sued him as her [unclear: agent] for this £30, or so much of it as was due to her.

99. You say you did not consider it your duty as an [unclear: interpre] to advise this Maori woman in any way as to her interest in the transaction?—No.

100. Supposing this Maori woman had been disposing of this [unclear: la] which was ultimately priced at £70. Suppose she was disposin[unclear: g] it, say, for £10, or for £5, would you not, under such [unclear: circumstan] have advised her that she was doing wrong?—That would be a question for the Trust Commissioner. I had no authority to do such thing. Besides, I am not a judge of value.

101. In the event of the price asked being so low that any body could see that an undue advantage was being taken of the woman do you not think it was your duty to inform her of that fact?—[unclear: N] it would be my duty to inform the Trust Commissioner of [unclear: it] is the protector of the Native. Referring to what Judge [unclear: Ke] said yesterday about the duties of an interpreter, when he [unclear: sta] that a Native interpreter was in the position of an interpreter to [unclear: t] person who was in the witness-box in a Court of law, the [unclear: interpre] in the case would have no power to interfere he would hav[unclear: e] power to say this woman is doing wrong. That is the questio[unclear: n] the Judge. It would be altogether out of place for the [unclear: interpre] to interfere between Meringa and the Court.

102. I understood Judge Kettle to say that, if a person in [unclear: Co] knew that the statement made by a witness was false, it wa[unclear: s] duty of that person if he could successfully rebut such evidenc[unclear: e], was his duty to do it, although he might not be called on to [unclear: do]—The interpreter could not interfere.

103. But he could call the attention of the Court to the fact?—Yes.

104. In the present case Judge Kettle stated that the [unclear: Magistr] should have had his attention called to the fact?—I could not cal[unclear: l] attention to it, as I could not tell him anything he did not know already. That Judge Kettle admitted.

105. Hon. the Chairman.] Do you think that Meringa was [unclear: awa] of the whole of the circumstances—that in her willingness to sign this receipt for £40 she expressed her willingness to accept the [unclear: pro] of the remainder?—She accepted the promise of £5, and she [unclear: w] willing that the £15 due to her might go to pay the expense of completing the title; and she was willing to accept the £5.

106. When you translated this declaration to her, did she acknow- page 23 ledge the receipt of £40: did she say she had not received it?—No. When she had any doubt she referred to her son for explanation, so as to make it clear.

107. Her son was with her?—Yes, her son was with her, as Judge Kettle's report says; her son and her son's wife, and I do not know who else, were there. There was a quarrel about a coffin which was to be provided for the dead man. The dead man was said to be no relation to her son, as he was a son by a previous husband. The son, who was present, refused to sanction the payment of £5 to the undertaker; he said that a box made of boards would be quite sufficient for the purpose.

108. And you put in these several documents as showing your view of the case?—Yes.

109. If on. Mr. Swanson.] As a matter of fact, was it true that this woman had got this money? It appears that Humphries was not her agent for a considerable time after. From the evidence it appears that he was agent for the buyer, and therefore it was quite natural that the money would come from him?—I have not heard that evidence.

110. It was he that got the money from Cunningham, the buyer; he did not appear to be acting for the woman till after the appointment. I want to ask you had the money been paid—this £40—at that time, for we have absolute evidence that he was not her agent?—I have not seen that evidence.

111. If you sign a thing under the belief that it is true, and it happens to be erroneous, that may not be even a moral fault, but the consequences to every one concerned may be just the same What I want to ask you is, how did you get to know or to believe that at this time he was her agent?—I have never heard anything to satisfy me that he was not her agent.

112. We have evidence of the date of his appointment?—He paid her the £5; he paid her the £15; I did not know that he was not her agent. It turns out now that Cunningham had not paid him a penny.

113. He might have been acting as agent and banker at the same time. We had evidence given by Judge Kettle yesterday that this woman would sign anything?—Judge Kettle did not go into circumstances as he would have done if he had been an independent tribunal and if I had had an opportunity of bringing evidence of my position in the matter. Mr. Williams had that privilege granted to him; he was allowed to call witnesses and examine them on oath; upon that his license was cancelled.

114. Are interpreters in the position of being Civil servants?—I think not.

115. Are Justices of the Peace Civil servants?—I think not.

116. Hon. Mr. Jenkinson.] Were you of opinion, when you page 24 interpreted that certificate, or whatever it was, that Humphries was this woman's agent?—I was under that belief.

117. Had you any evidence of it?—He paid money o[unclear: n] account, which showed that he acted as her agent, whethe[unclear: r] received the money or not from the buyer he acted as her agent. If you went to Levin to get an advance upon your wool, no matter who the buyer was, they would be your agents; if she put her property in his hands he is her agent.

118. Hon. W. Downie Stewart.] Can you state whether Judge Kettle has adopted a more strict course recently in reference to these matters?—Since he has been acting as Trust Commissioner, I [unclear: thin] so; but I pointed out that it had the effect of diminishing applications to pass these things by him as Trust Commissioner—people went to other Commissioners.

119. Do you know whether Mr. Ward understands the [unclear: Mao] language?—He does a little; he was born in the place.

120. Sufficiently well to know what is being translated?—Yes: he was perfectly aware, so he stated, of everything that was go[unclear: ing].

121. What reason did they assign for dispensing with you services?—The reason is given in the letter from the Minister of Justice.

122. Were you a candidate for a seat in Parliament at the [unclear: las] election?—No; I took no part in the election. I was not eve[unclear: n] qualified elector of the district.

123. It has been suggested that you opposed Mr. E. M. Smith and that that circumstance might have had something to do with [unclear: i]—My wife was a member of Colonel Trimble's committee to aid [unclear: hi] election.

124. Has there been any complaint of administration made agains you as a Government officer?—As Civil Commissioner?

125. Or generally?—There have always been complaints made against me in every position that I have held.

126. Has the Government ever threatened to suspend you, or anything of that sort?—Yes.

127. How long ago?—About ten years ago.

128. What were the circumstances?—A Mr. Whiteley Kin[unclear: g], grandson of a Wesleyan clergyman who was murdered in the Taranaki Province many years ago, asked me to transmit wha[unclear: t] knew to be a "bogus" telegram to a Native, telling him to meke confession of the circumstances of the murder, as a certain other Native had already confessed to everything to the Governm[unclear: ent] got the telegram forwarded, and the Government of the day reprimanded me as a Magistrate. That was the position I held. [unclear: Ther] I sent in my defence, to the effect that, when men committed [unclear: mder], they were to be treated as wild beasts, and trapped in any way and that the same thing had been done in the case of Winiat[unclear: a], the Waikato. That was the only occasion I was found fault with.

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129. Hon. W. Downie Stewart.] How long have you been a public servant?—Including my provincial services?

130. I mean your public service as a whole?—I was twice Superintendent of Taranaki—that would be seven years. During that time I was also agent for the General Government. I was also in other appointments.

131. How long?—About fiteen years.

132. I thought it was longer, from what the Hon. Mr. Mantell said. He mentioned fifty years?—My public services extend from 1851 to 1880—scattered over that period.

133. That would be about thirty years?—Yes.