Tuesday 26 September 1865
MONSTER MEETING AT THE EXHIBITION BUILDING.
The meeting convened for yesterday evening to be held at the Eastern Market, to support the action of the Governor and the Ministry, was held at the Exhibition Building. The change of locale was not made known until shortly before the hour fixed for the open-air demonstration, yet the Exhibition Building was densely crowded.
The chair was taken by C. Ashley, Esq., J.P. The Chairman said the meeting had been convened to adopt an address which had been framed, to he forwarded by his Excellency to her Majesty, for the purpose of strengthening the hands of his Excellency and his advisers against the aotion taken by the Legislative Council. They had not met to discuss the results of free trade or protection, but to adopt an address to the Queen in support of the Governor and the Ministry. (Cheers). It behoved every well-wisher of his adopted country to take action at such a moment in defence of a Ministry which had to the letter fulfilled all the promises made at the last election, and for whioh opprobrium and obloquy was sought to be heaped upon them. Mr John Langlands moved tho first resolution. He said, at one time it had been his intention to take no part in the struggle, but there were times when silence was criminal, and when it became the duty of every man who had the welfare of his adopted country at heart, to take an active part in its affairs. The struggle had passed a way between free trade and protection, and one of much greater importance had arisen, have a much greater influence on the nature of the country than even protection. One of the first things needful to make a free state great was not the amount of protection it possessed, but that its inhabitants were free men; and that when they made known their will plainly, and through the legitimate channel, they would be obeyed, and that no insignificant section of the community should be able to say ‘You shall not have what you require.’ The aim and end of all legislation was intended to be the greatest good to the greatest number. At the general election nearly every constituency returned, members favorable to the Ministry. Tha House at that time presented a one-sided appearance, for almost all the well-known faces on the Opposition, side of the House, with the exception of Mr O’Shanassy and two or three others, were rejected by the people. The Corner certainly was there, and intended to give an independent support to tha Ministry. They had some doubts, perhaps, that the pledges given by the Ministry would be carried out; hut they had since seen reason, to regret their suspicion, and now the Corner were found giving an active support to the Government. (Cheers.) The experience of past Ministries had been that they were fertile in promise but feeble in execution. The present Ministry had reversed that policy, and had promised little but given more than they promised. (Loud cheers.) He asked the meeting to scrutinise the actions of the present und past Ministries, and judge for themselves. The Ministry promised the country it should have a Land Bill. The Council never gave the Ministry credit for sincerity in introducing such a bill, and had, no doubt, long since ; bitterly repented of their conduct. Had the real purport of some of the clauses of the bill been understood, or, perhaps, had it been believed that those clauses would have been enforced in their i tegrity, it would have been the Land Bill and not the tariff that would have stopped the way. When the Conncil found that the bill was being carried out in the spirit of its framers, honestly, and for the benefit of the mass of the community, and for the purpose of peopling ‘the land with honest, sturdy yeomen, who were the support of all that was loyal and good, they recognised the error they had committed, and sought to remedy it as quickly as possible by getting rid of the Ministry. The Government had carried out, to the best of their ability, measures they considered calculated to benefit the country. They has, amongst other things, effected a revision of the tariff. He did not say the scheme of taxation was perfect; but it was an advance on previous legislation. The Ministry promised to reduce the duties on tea and sugar, and put it on articles manufactured in the colony; and in that policy they had the support at the general election of what was termed the leading journal, in the belief, as subsequent events bad verified, that their promises were only so many political dodges to ensnare tho electors. It was evident that such was the view entertained by the Argus, for on the return of the Ministry to Parliament with a huge majority at their back, that journal distinctly advised the Ministry that, having secured their seats, tbe best thing they could do would be to forget the pledges by which they were sent to the House and secured a majority, and recommended, that, after being firmly placed in their seats, to turn round and say ‘I deceived you, I told you I would give you this and that, but I don’t mean to do so, so just keep your seats and be quiet.’ That was the morality the Argus preached. He defied anyone to say that it was not so; but instead of the Ministry following such advice they spurned it. (Cheers). No one could tell the amount of good the declaration of such principles had done the public. It was thought perhaps that, like their predecessors, whilst professing to give ‘homes for the people,’ they would have quietly handed over the fine lands of the colony to some eight hundred individuals, instead of the mass of the people. The Ministry did not vaunt their honesty whilst perpetrating such dirty transactions as to transmute the loam around a church into nuggets of gold prostitute the commission of the peace to party ends; enter into a compact with the Victorian Association ; or, Judas, like, whilst they took the thirty pieces of silver, appeared before the public with smiles on their faces and make boast of their sincerity for the welfare of the people. He firmly believed that political dishonesty in any party, sooner or later, recoiled upon it; and the retribution inflicted upon the O’Shanassy Government at the hustings was proof that the people had not been hoodwinked with their professions. Was there any one bold enough to deny that the present Ministry had not more honestly and faithfully carried out their pledges than their predecessor ; or that the members of it, both in their public and private relations, were not infinitely superior? The action they had taken to checkmate the Council had proved a source of great bitterness. The Ministry had been accused of taking a dishonest step, and it was said there was no guarantee that the public funds might not bo fraudulently manipulated. In answer to that accusation, Ministers called in the aid of the Audit Commissioners in order to place themselves beyond suspicion. The contemptible character of the opposition the Government experienced scarcely needed demonstration; yet there were some features of it deserving of notice. Mr Wood (groans) in his celebrated freo trade speech, at St. George’s Hall, while holding briefs on behalf of the Government, virtually said to the soft goods men ‘True, I hold retainers for the Government, but I will give you a private wink; bring actions and you will all be successful.’ Fancy a man entrusted with a brief in any cause going covertly to your opponent and requesting him to go on with his action as he was sure to win it. Any honest man under such circumstances would dismiss his lawyer with ignominy. But because Mr Higinbotbam, in the interests of tho Crown, thought fit to do what any private individual would have done, take away the briefs from Mr Wood, the Argus and the free trade party raised a howl of indignation against him. He asked whether, under such circumstances as he had detailed, Mr. Wood was a fit man to bo entrusted with briefs in support of the Crown. (Cries of No.) Mr Wood might fancy he had had his revenge in the success of the action brought against the Government; but no right-minded man could entertain any doubt of his conduct. He had some respect for the legal ability of Mr Wood ; but he saw no reason why his conduct in some matters ought not to bo deprecated. (A voice : Mind what you say, or you’ll be taken up for libel.) They might take him up for libel; all that Godfrey, Tanner and Wood would get out of the action brought against the Age they might put, vulgarly speaking, in their eye. He was of opinion that the ex-Attorney-General would ultimately regret that he had anything to do with the Age, and that in a moment of pottishness he had made up his mind to give the Age what no doubt he considered a sound drubbing, but, if persisted in, it would recoil upon himself. Men very often do things in the heat of the moment, but on calmer consideration they regret, and it was only an illustration of the story that madmen were fools. If it was only on the principle of setting a thief to catch a thief, he would desire to see Mr Wood in the Legislature, for his ability as well as his partisanship were notorious ; and the more watchful the Opposition, the more earnestly would the Government be kept in the path of duty. The part he had taken to bring his Excellency into contempt by exposing the proceedings of certain persons in the endeavor to file a criminal information against his Excelloncy and his responsible advisers, could not be too strongly condemned. No language ever used, when the stump and the Eastern Market were in the ascendant, and no language used by his friend Don, the king of . democracy, went the length of the Argus, in reviling the Queen’s representative by terming him ‘one Charles Darling,’ Democracy never cast such opprobrium upon the Queen’s representative as was sought to be put upon his Excellency the Governor; and whether the phrase ‘one Charles Darling’ was fabricated or not, for Godfrey and Co. denied giving any information to the Argus, he was not surprised that, instead of publishing the information, measures had not been resorted to to summarily punish the informant. In the course pursued by the Argus, the cloven hoof had been made apparent. The tactics of the opponents of the Ministry were to have what they desired, constitutionally if they could, but to have it ; and every means were being resorted to, in the falsification of surnames and in numerous other ways, to effect their object. So far, they had been checkmated, and if the people were true to themselves the victory would be certain. If the Council possessed any discernment, or could read the signs of the times, they would concede a measure of reform demanded by the public. If that were not done, they must float down the stream, carried away by the current of popular opinion. The action taken by his Excellency and the Government, in the face of the difficulty that beset them, was the only alternative. Had any other course been pursued, the country would have had everlasting reason to regret it. Entertaining these views, he most cordially moved the adoption of the first resolution, namely: — ‘ That, as the Legislative Council have adopted a memorial to the Queen, purporting to set forth the position of affairs in the present crisis, but calculated to mislead her Majesty and her Government; and as the citizens of Melbourne have always been anxious to enjoy the favor of their Sovereign, and are inspired, and always have been, with a cordial attachment to and love for her sacred person and Government, do hereby adopt the following address, in order to counteract any evil result that might possibly ensue from the misstatements contained in the memorial from the Council.’ (Loud cneers.) : — To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty. The humble petition of the citizens of Melbourne, in public meeting assembled, respectfully showeth, — That your petitioners desire to approach your august Majesty with assurances of their unalterable attachment to your sacred person and Government, would heartily congratulate your Majesty on the felicity of your long and glorious reign and on the loyalty that exists in all parts of the British empire, and fervently pray that your Majesty may be long spared to grace the throne with your benign sway. That, in the exercise of your great wisdom, you did appoint Sir Charles Darling, K.C.B., to be the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria. That his Excellency possesses the esteem and confidence of the people of Victoria, notwithstanding that a small section of the community has assailed him with opprobrium. (Loud cheers.) That the act for which he has been blamed has been approved of by the great majority of your Majesty’s subjects in this colony, as relieving from distress large numbers of the civil servants, and as being necessary to save the country from anarchy and ruin. That the Appropriation and Supply Bill was passed by large majorities in the Legislative Assembly, and was neither accepted nor rejected, by tho Legislative Council, but merely laid aside. That the Legislative Council does not, nor cannot, from its constitution, represent the opinions of the people of Victoria ; the high qualification requisite for its members (unencumbered freehold property to the value of £5000) limits very much the choice of representatives in the present altered state of the colony; while the unequal division of the colony into electoral provinces, and the high qualification also necessary for electors, give undue preponderance to certain interests, and place the colony entirely at their control. That the Legislative Assembly has only been recently elected, it being only in its first session, and therefore faithfully represents the desires and opinions of the ueople. (Cbeera.) That at the last election the policy of the present Ministry received the almost unanimous support of the country. That on election has just taken place in one of the most important constituencies of the colony, and that the Ministerial candidate was returned by a very large majority. That an election has also taken place for the Council, but which resulted in the defeat of the Ministerial candidate; That these two elections strikingly display the difference in the constitution of the two Houses, the numbers polled by both candidates in the North Eastern Province for the Upper House was 320 ; while the numbers polled by both candidates in Ballaarat West for the Lower House were 2520; the North-Eastorn Province being represented by five members in a House of 30, and Ballaarat West by two members in a House of 78. That the action of your representative and the Ministry has received the sanction and approval of a very large majority of the Assembly. (Cheers) That the Ministry of Mr M’CulIoch is strong in the confidence of the people of Victoria for the; faithfulness and honesty with which they have carried on the Government of the coantry. (Loud cheers.); That the importers are directly interested in the rejection of the Appropriation and Supply Bill, and are, therefore, making the most strenuous exertions to have the Ministry overthrown and the bill rejected. That the Land Act passed by the present Parliament, introduced and administered by the Ministry, is giving great satisfaction, settling hundreds of honest and industrious individuals on the land, and thus peopling this country with a class of yeomen who will be always ready to maintain and defend the dignity of the British Crown in this portion of your empire. (Cheers.) That your petitioners are fully persuaded that this is the true cause of the opposition of the members of the Legislative Council, who are either themselves deeply interested in the squatting system, or have been returned by purely squatting constituencies. That your petitioners wonld respectfully call your Majesty’s special attention to the fact that, if the policy of the Legislative Council bo approved of, the Crown will be dependent for its supplies on the will of fifteen individuals, who are virtually irresponsible, the Crown having no power of dissolution, as in the case of the Lower House; nor can their numbers be increased, as in the case of the House of Lords in Great Britain; and that, therefore, at any moment the affairs of the country may be thrown into inextricable confusion by the freaks or whims of a few irresponsible persons, without the possibility of remedy or cure. Your peripheral do, therefore, sincerely pray that your gracious Mnjesty would disallow the prayer of the memorial forwarded by the Legislative Council, approve the action taken by your representative, and support the Ministry and Assembly in the discharge of their duties and tho maintenance of their rights. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. (Loud cheers.) The Rev. Mr Mirams, in seconding the resolution conceded that the question was not one of free trade or protection. As one of the people, he believed in government by majorities, and in manhood moro than in property. It had been affirmed that if democracy ruled, property would be jeopardised; but nothing had occurred during the present struggle to warrant any such fears. The i sult offered to his Excelloncy the Governor did not emanate from the democrats but from those called conservative class, and the beginning of the end, augured the speedy downfall of the opposition. (Cheers). The people desired that some means should be adopted to make the Council more amenable to public opinion. When the Government and the House of Commons were in accord, the House of Lords was constrained to give way, or the remedy, a creation of new Peers, would be resorted to. With a Government and an Assembly united in action, the position of the British Parliament was analogous; and the Council, like the House of Lords, must give way. It had been said the country was suffering a revolution. If it was so, it was a very quiet and orderly one (laughter) ; there were no drums beating, muskets firing, or other familiar adjuncts of European revolutions. Everything was being done very quietly, and if a new Constitution was necessary, why the sooner it came the better. The position of the Council reminded him of Mr O’Connell’s reply to an obstinate person who attended one of the free trade meetings during the Corn Law agitation. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘is a man who objects because we want to give him a bigger loaf by half than he can buy, but we will give it him in spite of him.’ (Loud cheers). As many opinions were entertained of the Constitution as any person would experience if he called in a doctor to inquire his opinion of his personal constitution. As he (Mr Mirams) had got a vote for the Upper House, he supposed he must possess some intelligence. (Laughter.) As for property, he had half-a-dozen stout boys who called him father. (Great laughter.) If it was his education that sent a representative to the Council, he might feel flattered, were it not that he was, apparently, represented for all time; since, during the many years he had been in the colony he had only voted for one representative, and he had gone to England; so that virtually he was not represented at all. He could not understand why the members of the Council or those who elected them, should stigmatise their opponents as democrats. It was democracy made them what they were, for in no other country could they have worked themselves up from comparative poverty to the position thoy now enjoyed. There was something evidently in the background which was the cause of this hostility. Ho believed it was the honest working of the Land Act which was at the bottom of it, and the determination to make the squatters pay a fair rental for the privileges they enjoyed. He trusted the Ministry would continue to receive the support of the people, and be encouraged to still greater exertions in their behalf. Mr James Balfour, of tho firm of J. Henty and Co., in supporting the resolution, said that it was an unusual thing for him to get on a platform. (A voice : Glad to get you there.) He had a great desire to abstain from politics altogether; and, in addition to that, he had been absorbed with his correspondence for the outgoing mail till within a very short time of attending the meeting; but he had, despite all, managed to snatch time to appear before them in support of their Constitution, and to let the Upper House know that the people wore the true conservatives. (Cheers.) What had the Upper House done with regard to the Appropriation Bill, when it was sent up to them from the Legislative Assembly? Why, they had not thrown it out, but they had laid it on the shelf, and so brought about a deadlock. Where, ho asked, could the members of that body find a precedent for the course they had taken? Was it in the House of Lords? Could it be said that any analogous course to that of the Council had over been adopted by the House of Lords? He thought not. (Loud cheers, cries of Never), and because they never had a tack.) As to the House of Lords never having had a tack, he was quite prepared, at the right time, to discuss the question of whether the conjoined bills sent up to the Council by the Assembly formed what was called a tack. He did not believe they did; and he had as his authority the opinion of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, who had himself declared that the joining of the Tariff and the Appropriation Bills was not a tack, in the strict meaning of the word. (Cheers.) Well, the Upper House did not throw this bill out, as they might have done ; but they quietly shelved it, and so brought about a deadlock. Some one, then, had to step in and try to settle the question as between the two parties. The Governor waited to see if a timely concession could not be brought about. But there was no wish shown on the part of the Council for a concession. What the members of that body wanted was for his Excellency to step in and dissolve the Assembly, or dismiss his Ministers, or both. Well, then, his Excellency did step into the breach, and what did he say? He told the Council that he regretted the rupture between it and the Assembly, and advised it, by conference or otherwise, to, if it was possible, adjust the differences existing between it and the Assembly. Then Sir Charles Darling waited again to see if the Council would act on his suggestion. Finding it did not, what did he do ? Why, he sent a message which told the Council that the state of affairs then existing could not continue, and that, by the advice of his responsible advisers, he had given his sanction to a step which would enable the Government to go on ; which would save the country from anarchy and confusion ; and would allow the salaries of the civil servants to be paid. (Cheers.) This was the course which his Excellency had adopted, and this was a courae, he dared to say, which had been endorsed by the whole community. (Loud and continued cheers.) Well, finding themselves foiled in their attempt to continue the deadlock, what was the next step of the Council? To adopt an address to her Majesty, virtually asking her to recall his Excellency the Governor. What efforts had not been made by the Council and the portion of the press which supported it to get rid of the Ministry? In his opinion the present Ministry was the best they had ever had. (Cheers.) They might have had Ministries as honest, but they were weak ; and they had most certainly had dishonest Ministries. Well, they now had a Ministry both honest and strong. And so it was determined that that Ministry must be got rid of. But how? Why, by assailing their personal characters. First of all Mr Higinbotham was attacked, but they could make nothing of him, as he was too honest for them, so they gave him up in despair. Mr Francis was the next, and, finding that nothing could be brought forward against his character, it was coolly advanced that he and his colleagues had quarrelled. (Laughter.) It was Mr Verdon’s turn next, and he, who was the best Treasurer the colony had ever seen — (loud cheers) — was accused o all sorts of malpractices, but equally without effect. Mr Michie was then tried, and tbe great card brought to play against him was that he was aturncoat, and had got in on the free trado ticket while he meant to advocate protection, a statement which he (the speaker) respectfully took leave to deny. Lastly, Mr. McCulloch was fastened on 1 An/iio was hammered at every day for a month, till the last insult offered him was one which compared him to David Young, and stated that he deserved hanging. (Groans.) But the Argus went further than this. On Saturday last, a partner of his (Mr Balfour) was to have taken part in the meeting in the wood market, and, because ho had announced his intention of so doing, that journal compared him to David Young also, and said he ought to havo been hung too, for taking part in what they were pleased to term a mob meeting. Well, now, who was it that used this language? Was it the flighty mob? No, it was those who put themsolves forward as the leaders of public opinion. But he remembered that the Argus had attacked another member of the Ministry. Not satisfied with vilifying those he had already enumerated, that paper had attacked Mr Grant in the most vindictive manner. It had not done with him yet; and he could tell the proprietors that he had not done with them. (Loud aud long-continued cheers.) Though they had succeeded that day in changing the venue of trial from Ballaarat to Melbourne, he (Mr Balfour) did not despair of seeing an honest jury of twelve men got together in Melbourne who would givo the Argus its deserts. (Cheers.) Well, who was the next person chosen for abuse by the organ of the Conncil ? Why, the representative of her most gracious Majesty — his Excollency the Governor. What reason was there for this attack, but because his Excellency had said that instead of the public revenue being locked up in the banks, the civil servants should be paid from it, and the country saved from ruin or disaster. Since his Excellency had given his assent to the Ministerial course, nine leading articles had appeared in the Argus, every one of which aimed at blasting his reputation. This was the last dodge of her Majesty’s Opposition. What was called the loading journal of the colony dragged in the mire the name of Her Majesty’s representative to serve its own ends. He was not one of those who wished to see the Upper House abolished ; on the contrary, he believed that, when it was constituted so that proper representatives might be returned, it would be a help and a safeguard to the Constitution. (Cheers.) But he did not believe in it in its present state. He did not believe in it when it put up its back to the Assembly, and utterly refused to entertain any measure intended for its reform. This Upper House had Sent home asking her Majesty to send away the Governor, and they were called together that evening for the purpose of sending home a counter petition, asking her Majesty to reform the Upper House. He would ask them to say what was the burden of the Council’s petition. The animus they bore to the Government was to be seen in every line of it. But the concluding paragraph of the Council’s address was very much to the point at issue. It asked her Majesty to take such steps as would maintain the Constitution of the colony. That was exaotly what tho Government, the Assembly, and the people wanted. They asked for a reform of the Constitution, but they also asked that it should be maintained. (Loud cheers.) Well, suppose the Queen to receive the petition of the Couucil, what wonld she do? Why, in her highest wisdom she would say, ‘I send you back your address. You ask that your Constitution should be maintained; very good — reform it, then maintain it. (Cheers.) If you can’t do that, give place to other men who will.’ (Continued cheers.) But, after all, Sir Charles Darling was not going to send this wonderful petition home by the next mail. (Uproarious cheers. ) He had asked for time to consider the course he should take. (Laughter and cheers.) It was all very well for the florid and rotund members of the Council to go to his Excelloncy on the 25th of the mouth, and say to him, ‘Here is an address we have prepared; pray send it home without delay; be good enough to post it to-night.’ This was all very well, and very good generalship, in its way, but the members of the Council mistook their man. Sir Charles Darling was too old a bird to be caught with chaff of that sort. What did he answer? Did he say, ‘Certainly, gentlemen, with pleasure ?’ No ; but he politely said to the Council, ‘ Very well, gentlemen; but your address must be accompanied by my remarks. I have no wish that you should be misunderstood; and I really must take a month to consider what I should say.’ (Renewed cheers.) Thus, by the time the Council’s address got to England, there would not only be the address the present meeting was about to adopt to rebut its statements, but there would be addresses and petitions from every city and town in Victoria. (Cheers.) Addresses which would show the home Government that the mind of the people was not tho mind of the majority of the Legislative Council. (Applause.) Cheers were then given for her Majosty tho Queen, his Excellency Sir Charles Darling, the Legislative Assembly and the Ministry, and groans for the Argus and tho Council. The resolution was then put by the chairman, and carried unanimously. Mr Burtt proposed tho next resolution, which was as follows : — That a deputation, consisting of the following gentlemen, be appointed to wait on his Excellency the Governor, on Thursday next, at two o’clock, to present the address to her Majesty just adopted by tho meeting : — C. Ashley, Esq., J.P., chairman of the meeting; Rev. J. Mirams, Rev. G. Mackie, Mr Burtt, M.L.A. ; J. Langlands, Esq. ; J. Everard, Esq. ; J. B. Crews, Esq., M.L.A. ; J. Henty, Esq., M.L.A. ; J. Balfour, Esq., J.P. ; Captain Cole, M.L.C. ; C. J. Jenner, Esq., M.L.C. ; R. Byrne, Esq. ; — Gartshore, Esq. ; Captain Radcliff, Donald Wilson, Esq. ; W. Coulthard, Esq., and J. M’Crae, Esq., M.L.C. Mr W. Coulthard seconded the resolution, which was carried by acclamation. After the usual vote of thanks to tho chair, and cheers for the Governor, the Ministry and the Age, the meeting dispersed.