Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Friday 15 August 1856, page 4FRIDAY, 16TH AUGUST, 1856.
WHERE ARE THE “NINETY”?
There has been so little individuality exhibited in the legislative careers of Messrs. Hervey, Mollison, King, Taylor, Bradshaw, and Ricldell that we need occupy but very little space with them. Of gentlemen like these has consisted the rank and file of the squatting party; and, without active participation in the proceeding!) of the chiefs, they have not failed to lend themselves to the attack, and have shown a decided anxiety to secure their share of the plunder. These gentlemen have usually sat silent altogether, or only opened their lips to give a hasty expression to some squatter axiom, of which a few such words as -” pioneers,” “opening up the country,” “privation,” “risk,” “no more animal food” have formed the burden.
Mr. Hervey after a profound taciturnity of some years suddenly woke up, indeed, just as the Council was in articulo mortis, and came out so strongly, and we believe very deservedly, upon Mr. Childers on the Education question, that the friends of that gentleman had some misgivings as to the effects of the cataract of rebuke set suddenly free after being so long pent up, Mr. Hervey addresses a constituency of the Upper House in a liberal and able address, and will not only succeed in his election, but probably, having at last awakened, may do something to distinguish himself.
Mr. Mollison has spoken more fre-quently ; and apart from squatting subjects, has shown rather a patriotic and independent character. The Council Club seemed to enjoy a considerable proportion of his attention, and at the breaking up of that legislatorial restaurant he was taunted with the care he had bestowed upon the chops and pillows of the mem-bers. We must say that we have been very favorably impressed by the way in which Mr. Mollison has spoken upon one or two other things; and as a squatter representative he will be fitly enough returned again.
While among the lords of the flocks and herds we must not forget Mr. Forlongc-the true repi escntative of the old type of jquatlcr- the thorough old colonist -with all his faults, and scarcely one of liîs good qualities. Take him for all in all probably Mr. Forlonge was the most objectionable specimen of a legislator that ever entered that assembly. Passionate, unmannerly, selfish, overbearing, and profoundly ignorant of all the rules of the House, and of all precedents of parliamentary etiquette, this gentleman’s displays were at least unique in their offensiveness. He appeared, indeed, to be a sort of butt among the other members of his party, and it seemed to be their delight to cram him with some bit of nonsense, and then to get him started in his stumbling, violent, headlong career. As a joke this sort of thing might be well enough, but as a parliamentary display it was always undignified, and often humiliating. We perceive that this gentleman announces himself as hurrying back to take his seat. We trust that he may be disappointed in obtaining it ; and most religiously hope, for his own sake as well as that of the public, that he may never again set foot in it Legislature of Victoria.
Of the representative members we have now mentioned all except Messrs. Horne, Henty, Heaver, Knight, and Wilkinson.
Mr. Horne is a sensible man, a little eccentric and hasty, but independent, honest, and sincere.
Mr. Henty and Mr. Heaver have either never given the House a taste of their quality, or we have been so far unfortunate as not to have observed it. Their votes, however, have usually been on the light side.
Mr. Knight has brought forward some good Port Fairyish motions, and seemed to have a very fair perception of the duties of a local representative, so far as looking to the wants of his immediate neighborhood is concerned. He has been so short a time in the House, and taken so little part in its business, that he has given no room for prolonged criticism.
Mr. Wilkinson is almost too insignificant a gentleman to care anything about, except that after the first few months his votes have always been on the wrong side.
For some short time after he entered Council he acted steadily enough with the popular party; but from some unexplained cause he soon became convinced of the error of his ways, and has since been some of the most uncompromising Government hacks that ever sacrificed a constituency.
A glance now at the non-official nominees that kind of legislative dodo of which we have but a foot remaining! The last remnant of this singular class consists of Mr. A’Beckett, Colonel Anderson, Messrs. Highett, Russell, Riddell, Kennedy, M’Culloch, Ross, and Owens.
Whether the nominee element had become nearly exploded, or eligible men were shy of accepting a seat on such terms, Sir Charles Hotham did not appoint the whole number required to balance the members elected under the act extending representation to the miners. He contented himself with Doctor Owens, and despairing of the discovery of a ditto, abandoned the task of nominee-manufacture for ever.
None of the gentlemen enumerated have taken so active a part in politics as to justify elaborate review.
Mr. A’Beckett is a lawyer; with all a lawyer’s tact for straw-splitting, special pleading, and quibble. Were there such things in this latilude he would be a Tory. As the climate is not congenial to the race, he liberalises his talk, while his heart is Tory still. He has done some mischief in those old times in which
the nominee could be mischievous; but we look upon him as tolerably innocent now. The day of his mischievousness is past. He is intelligent and, in his queer, old-fashioned way, anxious enough for- the public welfare, and therefore may possibly fill the place of a worse man in the future Legislature.
Colonel Anderson is the vieux militaire with his sword turned into the crook. He is of course a Tory-all soldiers are. His leading idea is an exaggerated estimate of the chivalrous character of his idol “the British soldier.” Upon this subject the gallant old veteran becomes really eloquent about once in a quarter. Upon other subjects, (save and except the impurities of the Yarra) he either has no opinions or does not take the trouble to express them. The Colonel storms the gates of the Legislative Council under the new Constitution, but as a large squatter he is objectionable, and has little to settle against this objection.
Mr. Highett has been a legislative cipher ; he has rarely, if ever, opened his lips, and saving as counting upon au occasional division, he might just as well have been anywhere else as in the Legislative Council.
Mr. Russell has been a nominee member from first to last. He was one of the first batch, and he still rejoices in the possession of that easily acquired honor. Like Mr. Campbell, he has exhibited very decided leanings towards the Government, but, unlike Mr. Campbell, he has never shown signs of wavering in his allegiance. Were the Government as powerful as it once was, we should consider the return of so uncompromising a supporter a great misfortune ; but as it is, the days of the mischievousness of the ancient nominee have passed, and the nominee himself is comparatively innocuous. The seat sought by Mr. Russell might be filled by some one who would be more attentive to his duties, and take a little more interest in public affairs; and to him, as to many others, we must, urge the serious disqualification of strong squatting predilections.
Mr. Riddell has been another cipher. With the exception of a fe»v faint common-places in the cause of squatterdom, the Council has never been made aware of his presence, and would have been just as well without his presence altogether.
Mr. Kennedy is a good specimen of tlu comfortable landed proprietor. He does not speak in the House, but he invariably votes rightly. It was a good sign in Sir Charles Hotham that he made a marked improvement in his nominees, in sending forward men of so much independence of spirit as Messrs. M’Culloch, Ross, and Kennedy. In the comparatively snug circle of the Upper House Mr. Kennedy will probably feel at home, and assist in carrying out on a large scale the benevolent projects which on his own estate, we understand, make him a most esteemed, and popular landlord. He is rich ; unconnected altogether with squatting; and is very intelligent, well-meaning, and experienced man.
Mr. M’Culloch makes his bow to the electors of Melbourne-by »vay of making room, -we are told, for Mr. Hammill at the Wimmera. We scarcely know how the electors of the metropolis will relish the representative of the house of Dennistoun, great squatters as they are. The experience of Mr. Cruikshank would seem to indicate a want of success. But for this Mr. M’Culloch would make a very good member. We wish the Chamber of Commerce would do a little more for us in this way. Our merchants have not done their share as yet. Let us hope that under his new regime they will turn a new leaf.
Mr. Ross has also been a silent member, the more to be wondered at as he is one of our most experienced and most respected merchants, has very enlightened views upon almost all subjects, and is known in every day intercourse to be particulaily fluent of speech. It seems probable that this gentleman is beset with a certain share of that modest distrust of himself in political matters, to [which we alluded in the case of Mr. Sargood. In all other respects Mr. Ross would be a model member for the Upper House; and we trust most sincerely that before the day of election comes round we shall have a few such gentlemen, as an alternative to that array of squatters which seems likely but for this thoroughly to invade that chamber. With a perfect knowledge of all mercantile affairs, with much of the intelligence of his partner, Mr. Westgarth, and with a more genial warmth of temperament to give vigor to his impressions, Mr. Ross has many of the requisites for a very able legislator, and his presence in the Council would add considerable weight to its general reputation.
We have omitted any mention of Captain M’Mahon, who has for some time had a seat as Commissioner of Police. As far as legislation is concerned, the seat he occupied was a mere blank. He furnished a little information now and then upon police subjects, but beyond that his presence in
Council was unnoticed.
We have now, in conclusion, but to deal with Dr. Owens, that singular hybrid between digger-repre-sentative and Crown-nominee. This gentleman has furnished the gold mines with a rather puzzling topic, some of them pronouncing him a complete charlatan, some of them tracing in him much better characteristics. In spite of some lamentable exhibitions which the doctor has made of himself in Council, our own impressions are rather favorable. He may be a bit of a popularity-hunter, but in the main his instincts are, we believe, right. We do not forget the great services he rendered to the popular cause at the Ovens, during the earlier stages of the gold discovery, and when the friends of the people were not quite so thick upon the
ground as they are now. Still Dr. Owens’ proceedings in Council have certainly not tended to place him in a very flattering light before the community, and two or three times he has made most abominable mistakes. We believe that he is still trusted to a considerable extent by the diggers, and as a mouthpiece for their wants, and a channel for their complaints, he may prove useful, even if he has not taken such a position in the House as was to have been desired from a gentleman in his peculiar position.
All the members of the late Legislature have now been passed in review in the endeavor to decide what will be the contribution of that Assembly to the new Parliament. We have divided the members under three heads – those who should be returned again, those who should not be returned, and those whose claims to continued confidence are doubtful. Those coming under the first head will be found, in our elaborate review, to comprise Messrs. Haines, Stawell, Childers, Clarke, Pasley, Sladen, Fellowes, O’Shanassy, Fawkner, Sargood, Rae, Miller, Pohlman, Chapman, Strachan, Horne, Pyke, A’Beckett, Grant, Cameron, Good-man, Hodgson, M’Culloch, Hervey, Griffith, Tolmer, and Campbell,-say twenty-seven. But for their habitual silence, too great talkativeness, or some other disqualification, we should include Messrs. Ross, Kennedy, FYfe, Wills, Wheeler, Lalor, and Humffray- making thirty-four. Those who, we conceive, may very well be dispensed with, either from downright unsuitableness, or from being calculated to swell the squatter majority of the Upper House, consist of-Messrs. J. M’Mahon, Riddell, Bradshaw, Anderson, Russell, Highett, J. T. Smith, Myles, Burnley, O’Brien, Forlonge, Wilkinson, Snodgrass, and Benson-say fourteen. And those who occupy dubitable ground, to be re-turned or rejected, as better candidates may or may not offer, are-Messrs. Greeves, Murphy, Embling, Beaver, Henty, Knight, Mollison, Langden, King, nnd Owens-say ten; who, with Messrs. Nicholson, Harrison, and Taylor, absent from the colony, and Mr. Molesworth promoted to the Bench, make up the sixty-two members now fast fading from the dignity of M.L.C.-ship.
The contributions of the last Legislature to the future one, then, if the whole thirty-four tolerably eligible men be returned, and all those whose claims we consider debatable, will amount to forty-four, and we shall require the infusion of fresh blood, through the agency of forty-six new men. For this we must be mainly dependent upon local effort. Each district must be ransacked for suitable legislators, and sensible men must gird up their loins for public business, or bring the greatest possible pressure to bear upon those of their neighbors whom they may believe fitting for these important duties. The time for action is now short, but till the very day of nomination the field is freely open to all candidates ; the ballot has almost annihilated the old and vitiated system of personal canvassing, and the franchise is diffused so generally through-out a very intelligent community, as to give a very good chance of success to an eligible candidate, even if brought upon the stage at the very last hour.