Imágenes de páginas

›ccasion. He recognised the true policy of the time, and swerved not an inch from the straight path. I am not giving him the merit of the organisation of the gold-fields or their settlement in peace and good order for ten long years. That, and the suggestion of the principle upon which they should be occupied belongs to me alone. But he was quick to see what true policy required, and heeded not foolish and timid counsels, numerous as they


Mr. Hardy, in the last page of his pamphlet, does full justice to his coadjutor during the unsettled period from the birth of Gold-fields Law, in 1851, to his resignation in 1857. He says: 'When Wentworth & Co. stripped the late Chief Gold Commissioner of his mantle it fell upon one in the south country fully worthy to be invested with it; one who possesses in an eminent degree judgment, temper, good sense, and firmness, doing his duty always successfully but without ostentation, to whom the digging population would universally exclaim "O King, live for ever!"'

Forty years have passed since these words were written, forty years since the writer with his ten troopers and a comrade took official charge of the first gold-field in Australia. How just, how curiously accurate was his grasp of the situation later events have abundantly proved. He perhaps overrated the general expenses of gold-field management, doubting whether the monthly licence fee of one pound per man should be reduced, and calculating that one Commissioner and a party of police would always be found necessary for every thousand men on a gold-field. He might have lived to see in 1871 one Commissioner ruling ten thousand miners with the aid of a small detachment of police, officered by a sub-inspector and a sergeant, the licence fee reduced to one pound per annum, to be further reduced in after years to ten shillings, and but five shillings for the latter half of the twelve months. The successful establishment of gold-fields law, of which he was the unquestioned pioneer and administrator, lasted without dissatisfaction or disturbance until 1861. Then the riots at Lambing Flat' took place, the proximate cause being the unchecked influx of Chinese who swarmed over the richest patches to the detriment of the European population.

With regard to the personnel of the Gold-fields Commissioners of New South Wales, Mr. Hardy's words are noteworthy: 'I know nothing more remarkable in the circle of social facts

than this, that though the Gold Commissioners appeared amongst the diggers with the unfavourable "prestige" of tax-gatherers, they were universally popular and welcomed as the protectors and just arbiters of the gold-fields. The thousands of disputes that then arose were settled without the delay, the expense, the tedious formality, that impedes the course of justice in other places-sub Jove pluvio, in triviis et quadriviis. The witnesses necessarily on the ground and all the neighbours, the jury de circumstantibus, interested in a just decision, and present to assist at a just determination.'

In order to inspire confidence,' as Mr. Hardy well says, the administrators of gold-field law must necessarily be men whose birth, character, and antecedents were such as to command respect. No choice could have been happier than that made of the Chief Gold Commissioner and his first lieutenant, Mr. King.

Mr. Hardy, as a B.A. of Oxford, a police magistrate, and an experienced colonist, was eminently well fitted for the position. A man of culture as well as of practical knowledge, he was enabled to take a logical view of the manifold perplexities by which he was surrounded. He justified the wisdom of his appointment by the almost prophetic forecast which he made of the future of Australian gold-fields. Prompt, fearless, energetic, and unprejudiced, he was the very man for the Chief Commissioner of a gold-field in its initial stages. Mr. Essington King was no less fortunately fitted to work with and under such a chief. A nativeborn Australian, belonging hereditarily to a race of rulers, the son of a gallant admiral also Australian by birth, and the grandson of the Governor of that name, he well deserved the sympathy of his countrymen who largely leavened the toiling crowds.

Born of a family thus honourably distinguished, cool, dispassionate, and determined, he moved among the strangely compacted host an unchallenged ruler and judge. Other gentlemen held the same appointment with credit to themselves and satisfaction to the public, in the long years which succeeded the first night's camp on the creek flat at Ophir. Other laws, acts, and regulations succeeded their simple rules, as the gold won by man's industry from the Australian wilds swelled in value from thousands to millions of pounds sterling, and the great Department of Mines, with stately buildings, minister and under-secretary, geologists and clerks gradually arose. But to the men I have mentioned is due the credit of initiatory success in gold-fields

nanagement. They were the pioneers-the precursors of a line of distinguished civilians of whose brilliant administration any country might be proud. Of Harold Maclean, George O'Malley Clarke, William and Whittingdale Johnson, Captain Browne, Hamon Massie-cum multis aliis, men who in the hour of danger, surrounded by excited crowds, were cool and cheerful, and whose discretion was invariably equalled by their unflinching determination.

It should never be forgotten that to the early Gold-fields Commissioners of New South Wales is due the glory of having, under innumerable difficulties, administered justice, preserved law and order, and distributed treasure almost incalculable, the whole without suspicion of unfairness, and for more than ten years withont disorder or distrust. Throughout their whole term of office the executive power of the law of the land, with but one exception, was never imperilled or weakened. No mob law, no hasty executions, dishonoured a British community. Evil-doers were punished, justice was done, crime was expiated, but strictly in accordance with British jurisprudence and procedure. While from one end of the Continent of Australia to the other, from plantations where the Kanaka under a tropic sun cuts the sugarcane to that far western gold-field of unparalleled richness where the Afghan's camel kneels—perhaps mainly for, and on account of, their strong and sensible initiatory action, English law and English justice are as strongly guarded to-day as in the heart of the great

Mother Land.



HERODOTUS is not more indisputably the father of history than is Sir Boyle Roche the father of bulls. No doubt there were makers of bulls before his day, even as brave men lived before Agamemnon; but they are not remembered, and if their bulls have survived them they are credited to Sir Boyle by a posterity generously forgiving and forgetful of his famous indictment. It is true that Richard Lovell Edgeworth, in his once celebrated Essay on Irish Bulls-of which, by the way, the only readable pages were written by his daughter-makes no mention of his still more celebrated contemporary. But then Richard Edgeworth, with all his peculiarities, was a gentleman of the old school; and in 1800 it was not considered good form to put one's acquaintances into a book. Besides, it may be doubted whether Edgeworth really knew what a bull is. Judged by his illustrations, he certainly did not. Thus he quotes as an example of a bull the blunder of the French gentleman who, in endeavouring to compliment an actress, replied to her modest self-depreciation that 'to act that part a person should be young and handsome,' Ah, madam! you are a complete proof to the contrary.' This is a blunder, a gaucherie, but it is surely not a bull. Edgeworth's object, however, was to prove that the form of blunder known as a bull is not peculiarly Irish, and, like all special pleaders, he loses himself occasionally in the refinements of his own arguments, frequently confounding the exaggeration of hyperbole with the extravagance of a bull.

But we must not press too hardly on a writer who lacked the enlightening definitions which have been supplied by subsequent interpreters from the days of Sydney Smith to those of the editor of the New English Dictionary.' The latter, by the way, comes very near perpetrating a bull himself, according to his own definition thereof. He defines a bull as 'a self-contradictory proposition; an expression containing a manifest contradiction in terms, or involving a ludicrous inconsistency unperceived by the speaker; now often with epithet Irish, but the word had been long in use before it became associated with Irishmen.' By way of illustrating the latter

ssertion, the editor quotes from the letter of a soldier in the year 702. 'These gentlemen seem to me to have copied the bull of heir countryman, who said his mother was barren.' The context If this is not given, but one would be inclined to lay odds that he gentlemen were Irishmen, in which case a very respectable ntiquity is ascribed to what the editor alleges to be only a ery modern connection between bulls and Irishmen. Sydney Smith's attempt comes nearer the mark. A bull,' he says, ‘is an pparent congruity and real incongruity of ideas suddenly discovered.' But these and all other definitions miss one of the chief elements in the humour of a bull, which is surely the unconsciousness of its author when making it. The essence of a bull is really indefinable; but, fortunately, this does not matter, for the distinction of a real bull is that it is instantly recognisable as such. And this it is which gives Sir Boyle Roche his acknowledged pre-eminence. All his authentic bulls are manifest at once for what they are. They are absurdities incapable of explanation, but needing none; verbally irreconcilable in their contradictions, yet unmistakably conveying the meaning intended. They are lucid obscurities, in which the verbal confusion is not sufficient to conceal the speaker's idea. When, for instance, Sir Boyle asserted that 'the best way to avoid danger is to meet it plump,' he only gave awkward expression in a ludicrous form to a serious truth. The bull may pass for an aphorism. Sir Jonah Barrington, atoning in this as in other cases for the inaccuracy of his facts by the shrewdness of his observation, notes that Sir Boyle seldom launched a blunder from which some fine maxim might not be extracted. Every one is familiar in the modern House of Commons with the amendments which he deprecated in the Irish one- Amendments which make matters worse'; and inspectors of weights and measures, as well as the bibulous public, have had reason before now to sympathise with his proposed bill to enact that a quart bottle should hold a quart.'

It is not a little strange, and is certainly subversive of the popular conception of him as the Fool of the Grattan Parliament, that the greater part of Sir Boyle Roche's public career was passed in the discharge of the duties of an office for which a dignified and decorous demeanour is among the chief essentials. The member of Parliament who survives in popular recollection as a mountebank and buffoon held for close on a quarter of a century the office of Gentleman Usher and Master of the Ceremonies to the Irish VOL. III. NO. 17, N.S.


« AnteriorContinuar »