Berry meeting

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 

Tuesday 17 October 1865


A meeting of the electors of Collingwood was beld yesterday evening at the Studley Arms Hotel, Wellington-street, to hear from

Mr. Graham Berry, one of the representatives of the district in the Legislative Assembly, an explanation of his recent conduct in Parliament. The room, which will hold about 600 people, was filled, though not crowded.
Mr. J. G. Reeves was called to the chair.

Mr. Berry was received with groans, and with slight applause. He said it was his intention to appeal to the reason, and not to the passion, of his hearers. The first thing which struck him was why the meeting was called at all. The handbills said, ” Mr. Berry will explain his past proceedings in the Assembly.” Now, as their representative, he challenged them to show an instance in which he had departed from any promise, or any implied promise, he had ever made

in Collingwood ; and if they regarded him as their delegate he might fairly say they could

have nothing to complain of, inasmuch as they had never intimated to him any course

they wished him to take. Neither as a representative nor as a delegate had Collingwood any right to find fault with him. However, he

would deal with the matter in a broader spirit.
Outside any pledge he had given, he had obtained an individual character as a representative of the protectionist cause (” oh, oh”),

and rumours affecting the representative character of a man did call for reply. He was ready, therefore, to defend the course

he had token. The real point at iesue was a certain speech he had delivered, to the effect, that he could not see that the course

taken by the Government was either constitutional or legal. (Great uproar; which was prolonged by a playful knot of electors,

wbo insisted upon calling for cheers for “free trade.”) Mr. Berry, continuing, said that if the confusion was to be maintained

he would speedily take his departure. He would leave out much of what he had intended to say; but if they were not prepared to deal with his statement reasonably and logically, he would

have nothing to do with the meeting. It was not going back too far to refer to the period when the Government first declared their intention of tacking the tariff to the

appropriation bill. Mr. M’Culloch, altogether unbiassed by any members of the Assembly

not urged on as it was reported out of doors stated to the House-” The Government have come to the determination of including the

ways and means in the Appropriation Bill, and of throwing the responsibility on the Legislative Council of rejecting the Appropriation Bill if they are so disposed.”

(Great uproar ensued here. The chairman in vain threatened to vacate his seat. Mr. Berry said he would not proceed. He knew

what was due from a representative to his

constituents, but he knew also what was due from constituents to their representative. Something like order being at length restored),
Mr. BERRY narrated how an improvised debate followed Mr. M’Culloch’s announcement, in the course of which he (the speaker)

stated that be took it that the Government proposition was, that the Assembly had a right to say how the money should be raised, and if the Council interfered then the Assembly would not spend the money. At the very initiation of the affair he anticipated the legitimate, logical, and constitutional result, that if the Council would not pass the Appropriation Bill, the Assembly would not authorise the spending of money. (Increased confusion. An allusion to Mr. Higinbotham provoked three cheers for that gentleman,

while the howling at the speaker grew more vigorous. The chairman put the question whether Mr. Berry should be heard or not, and a large majority decided that he should.)

Well, he was not to be howled down if they stopped for six hours. 
If that night was to be an inauguration of mob rule, he would

tell them to their faces that such a tyranny was worse than that of the Council. He would sooner live under the despotism of intelligent

men than under the despotism of howling mobs. (An Elector.-” Who put Mr. Barry into Parliament but the mob? What did he call us then ?”) He had advocated popular

interests for five years at his own cost and charge. He had never received a farthing from his constituents or from the Ministry,

and if any man had a right to address the people it was himself; (Groaning and hissing.)

Well, Collingwood was fur more on its trial than he was on his. If he was not to he heard by his own constituents, it would disgrace the

district, and would disgrace the cause. A reaction would soon set to, and people would prefer legal government to mob rule. He

had referred to Mr. M’Culloch’s speech. Mr. Higinbotham, who followed, distinctly laid down that it was the duty of the Government to show that the course they proposed to take was “both legal and constitutional,” and alluded also to the difficulties which had occurred in consequence of the new duties not having been authorised by legislation, though an unusually long time had elapsed from the period of their collection. Mr. Higinbotham and Mr. Michie convinced him that the proposed course in regard to the union of

the two bills was right and legal, and indoors and out of doors he urged the people to stand by the Ministry. At the same time, he protested silently (“oh, oh”), he would rather say privately, against the six months’ delay in sending, the joint bill to the Council.
This delay weakened the cause, and it led to the scandal, as-both the old and the new duties had to be levied, the people being

required to pay £100,000 which would not go into the exchequer, but must be returned to the one set of importers or the other.

(Confusion, and “Three cheers for the Ministry.”) The friends of the Ministry should remember that he had never voted against them, only when justifying his own conduct. He could not stand upon ceremony

in dealing with the Government. (Increased uproar.) Well, he had sacrificed five years in the public service; ho had expended £1,000 of his own hard-earned money, and a man who could not challenge these statements, and yet who would howl him down, was not a man but a brute. (Tremendous

uproar.) Nothing could have justified the course he had taken more than the behaviour

of the meeting. He felt more convinced aye, and so would the country- that the only way to secure life and property was to

keep within law and constitution. Why, there were men who would guillotine their political opponents.
(The scene which ensued here positively put an end to the proceedings.” Yelling and

groaning wera maintained, fights occurred, and the chairman appealed for fair play over

and over again. Mr. Berry was irregularly questioned for a long time in a manner of which the following may be taken as a specimen :

An ELECTOR.-Will you support the Government?

Mr. BERRY .- I will do nothing under compulsion.

Another ELECTOR.-Why did you not vote against tho Government as well as speak against them ? (A Voice.-“He dare not be a

first-class traitor.” Loud yells.)

Mr. BERRY.-That’s tho point I want to explain, if you’ll let me.

The ELECTOR.-I press the question.

Mr. BERRY. – Then you won’t get an answer.

The ELECTOR-Here’s a pretty representative.

Mr. BERRY, at length continuing his address, remarked upon the fact that the double duties were collected until after he made

the speech objected to. Finally, the tariff was sent to the Council, and was rejected. (No, no.) Technically, it was ” laid aside,” but the

Ministry and the House had admitted it was rejected. Finding this to be the case, the Ministry issued a notice that after a certain

date no money would be “legally available”
Afterwards, two Ministerial caucuses were held, at which it was proposed to resume payment. (A Voice- ” The best Ministry out.”

Cheers.) Very likely, but that was not the question before them. He had to tell them now that the speech of his which had been so

criticised, was only the public expression of views which ho had urged over and over again upon the Ministry. He took it that having

legally and constitutionally thrown the onus of tho stopping of supplies upon the Council, the Ministry were bound to loave tbo onus there, until pressure from without compelled the Council to pass the Appropriation Bill.

He had beard it said that, having supported the Ministry so far. it was cowardly to desert them at the last. (Hear, hear.) And he wished

it understood, therofore, that he had declared his views to the Government at tho earliest

opportunity. He wanted them to see, also, that the Government had changed the issue.
When the Government went into court and confessed judgment they departed from law and order, and he told Ministers this at the very

earliest opportunity. Further, as the Government had declared themselves bound to act

constitutionally and legally, they ought to have shown that their subsequent conduct could be so justified. From that day to this,

however, they had never attempted to do so.
On his conscience he bolieved that subsequent conduct to be decidedly illegal and unconstitutional. He believed also that it must ultimately injure the popular party. Conscientiously he could not give the Ministry his

support, and therefore he had abstained from voting at all. It could not he expected that he should accept the decision of so small a meeting as the expression of his constituents’ opinion. The country he believed would be with him when the facts of the case were realised, and when the

electors present came to their senses they would regret the course they had taken that evening more than any other public action of their lives. (Applause and disturbance.)
Mr. THOMAS HEALES proposed a resolution-” That after hearing Mr, Berry’s explanation this evening, this meeting emphatically

condemns the course which he thought proper to pursue in the Legislative Assembly on the

3rd inst. in reference to the Ministerial policy; and further, should he feel it inconsistent to

Support the Ministry in the course they are taking in order to secure the passage of the Appropriation Bill and the tariff, and to meet

the demands of the public service, this meeting would earnestly request that Mr. Berry at once resign his trust as a representative of Collingwood.”
Mr. CLARKE seconded the resolution, which, after several angry speeches directed against

Mr. Berry, was put and carried by a very large majority, only a dozen hands being held up against it. A number of persons (apparently dissatisfied with Mr. Berry not having obtained a fair hearing), did not vote.


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