MILNER ESTATE —PORT GAWLER.
" Mr. Neales Bentham begs leave to inform his friends and the public, and particularly newly arrived emigrants, that the proprietor of the above beautiful estate, the hon. G. M. Stephen, has determined upon laying out a town upon a site which has been examined and approved of by several gentlemen of acknow- ledged experience. "The surveyors, Messrs. Hindmarsh and Lindsay, are now engaged in preparing plans of the town, which will be ready for inspection of the public in a few days, when B. N. will be ready to submit it to public competition. " As the town possesses the advantage of easy land and water carriage, and is surrounded by a fertile district, B. N. thinks himself jus- tified in predicting that Port Gawler must be- come a port of very considerable importance, and the town one of great trade, being on the grand thoroughfare to the Murray, and the northern and eastern districts of the province." Both these advertisements are puffs—written, concocted, and inserted by Mr. Stephen him- self—neither Messrs. Hindmarsh and Lindsay nor Sir. N. Bentham having seen them till they appeared in the Gazette, and the latter of course is not answerable for the "predictions" thus put into his mouth. The next puff from the same pen appeared in the Gazette of March 16. It is as follows : "Milner Estate—Port Gawler. "Mr. Neales Bentham has great pleasure in announcing to the public that the surveyors have laid out the town, and that the plans will be exhibited at his auction mart, and also at Mr. Richardson's sale rooms on Wednesday next. "The town is situated within a stone's throw of the river Gawler (called by the aborigines the "Great River"), and on the banks of two broad salt water creeks (in which fish and wild fowl abound), navigable for the largest boats at low water to the anchorage in Port Gawler. It is also watered by a chain of ponds now con- taining an abundant supply; and an inexhaust- able quantity of the finest limestone (specimens of which have been tested by his Excellency the Governor and other geologists) is found within two hundred yards of the town. "Two boats ply twice a week between Port Gawler and Port Adelaide, and a spring cart runs twice a week between Milner and Adelaide and arrangements are making for a daily con- veyance by land and water, to give intending purchasers constant opportunities of visiting this splendid property. "March 16, 1839." Now there is a happy mixture of impudence and falsehood in the above announcement. It is not true that "the town is situated within a stone's throw of the river Gawler." It is a mile and a half from that river." It is not true that the limestone was tested by the Governor, Mr. Stephen showed his Excellency a piece of limestone which he said he brought from Milner. The Governor looked at it, and told him it was the ordinary limestone of the country, and this is the entire authority which Mr. Stephen had for his impudent use of his Excellency's name, and for the fiction in which it is introduced. The story of the boats and vans going; regularly twice a week to Milner is equally fabulous. These puffs were carefully kept before the public in both journals. In our advertising columns of the 6th April we find the following: "Port Gawler—To Captains of Vessels. "The undersigned having engaged a number of men for the purpose of digging, limestone at Port Gawler, is prepared to supply any number of tons (upon i\-^.iving «'H« m-ck'* nui.ct ..< captains of vessels proceeding in ballast to the
"Yours very truly, "GEO M. STEPHEN. "George Stevenson, Esq., J.P."
"Your's in haste, GEO, M. STEPHEN.
you sound advice. "I am, &c,
I have the honor to be Sir. Your obedient Servant GEORGE HALL, Private Secretary Geo. Stevenson, Esq.
Sir. Your obedient Servant Geo STEVENSON
I have the honor to be, Sir, Your obedient servant, GEORGE HALL, Private Secretary. Geo Stevenson, Esq, North Adelaide.
neighbouring colonies, where they will find a ready market for that necessary material. " There is every facility for boats taking in as much as would be required in one day. " William Regan will also supply the inha- bitants of Port Adelaide with any quantity of lime at Adelaide prices, at one week's notice. "Orders may be left with Mr. Deacon, at Bailey's Sydney Hotel, North-terrace, or with the undersigned at Milner.
"Milner, April 6, 1839." Now who Wm. Regan is- whether there is such a being extant, or whether he is merely a man in buckram, we know not; but we have before us the manuscript of the above adver- tisement. It is in Mr. Stephen's hand, although as if ashamed of the miserable work, he has attempted to disguise the writing. The signa- ture "Wm. Regan" is also in the writing of Mr. Stephen. Up to this time the puffery was comparatively innocent. George Robins daily does such things with impunity—it is his business— "he lives to puff, and puffs to live"—why should not George Stephen be permitted to hoax the public after the same fashion? Had matters ended here we should have treated them very differently. On the eleventh of April, Mr Stephen fell in with Messrs. Allen and Ellis, till then total strangers to him. He proposed to sell them a portion of the Milner estate, and they agreed to look at the estate and consider the matter. He told them he was in want of money; that he was in treaty with the South Australian Bank for a loan of £1000— (the sum was £2000 for which he proposed to mortgage the whole estate) and he asked them to lend him that money, to be returned if no sale took place. They did so; but Captain Allen distinctly states that no sale whatever took place at this time —that they had not then seen the property, and that no transaction which in any way could be inter- preted into a sale took place till the 24th of the same month of April. On the 11th of April, however, Mr. Stephen states to one in- dividual that he had sold one half of the Milner estate for £10,000, but that he had not determined what sum he should announce to the public the sale had been concluded for. On the same day he informed his Ex- cellency the Governor that he had sold one half of the Milner Estate for £10,000. On the next day, Friday, 12th April, Mr. Stephens dined at the Rev. Mr. Howard's; we regret that we must, for the sake of truth and public justice, mention names of honorable and respectable individuals who are fortu- nately evidence of the facts; but we shall not bring forward the names of ladies who were also present, and who heard and repeated the conversation as an instance of Mr. Stephens' "good fortune." Mr. Stephen was there openly congratulated by Dr. Woodforde on having sold half the Milner estate for £10,000. Mr Stephen replied to this gradulation that Dr. Woodforde had been misinformed, that the sum was not £10,000, but that he had sold half of his estate for £20,000, and that he valued the whole property now at £40,000. Mr. Stephen repeated the same story a second time in the same place on the same evening. We do not say that Dr. Woodforde believed the statement: Mr. Howard thought it was said in joke, and a lady present quaintly and sarcastically remarked that " in the old country we were told only to believe half of what we heard — here, it seemed, we must believe double;" but that Mr. Stephen did state what we here report there is no doubt. Mr Stephen left Mr. Howard's late in the evening, saying he was obliged to go to our printing-office to write an official notice. He came to the printing-office about eleven o'clock, and stated, first to Mr. Thomas, the printer, then to Mr. W. K. Thomas, the foreman in the office, and in the hearing of all the printers, resent, that he had sold one half of the Milner estate for £20,000. He told Mr. Thomas that he wished that fact announced in the next day's paper, and asked for materials to communicate it forthwith to the editor, whose residences was at a distance in North Adelaide. Mr. Stephen was supplied with writing materials, and, while in the act of telling the printers of his good fortune, at the moment he was speaking the falsehood, he was writing it in the follow- ing letter to the editor :— "[CONFIDENTIAL] Friday night My Dear Sir—You may announce, if you please (as it will be to the general satisfaction of the 'Milner' proprietors) that I have sold, to Captain Allen, of the E. I. Service, and Mr. Ellis, also from India, passengers by the 'Buckingham,' half the Milner Estate for 20,000/.! They are, in conjunction with myself, going to lay out some thousands of pounds on the town if Milner, by erecting houses, a saw mill, &c., and are going to carry on agriculture to a great extent forthwith. " Bentham has sold nearly a fourth of the town in three days ! " There is no news that I can give you, but this Intelligence will do something towards the advancement of the province at home.
While the boy who brought the above note to us at midnight waited, we wrote on the bark of the envelope, and returned by him to the printing office the following paragraph, which appeared in our journal of Saturday April 13th: " Town of Milner.—We are informed that the hon. George M. Stephen, Colonial Secre- tary, has just sold to Capt. Allen. H.E.I.C. service, and to Mr. Ellis, also from India, pas- sengers by the Buckinghamshire, half of the Milner estate, for the sum of Twenty thousand
pounds. These gentlemen, in conjunction with Mr. Stephen, intend to lay out a large sum in erecting buildings, sawmills, &c, and are about to commence agricultural operations on an ex- tensive scale forthwith. The demand for allot- ments in the town of Milner continues to in- crease. Mr. Bentham, the agent, has sold nearly one-fourth of the whole within the last three days." These facts being more fully before the pub- lic in affidavits, renders it unnecessary to pro- long this history by their re-production at length. But Mr. Stephen did not only write the above note to Mr. Stevenson, in the printing office on that occasion; he also penned the following advertisement which he directed to be inserted:— "MILNER. " Parties willing to contract for the erection of twenty cottages in the above town—all ma- terials being found by' the proprietors—are requested to send in tenders to Messrs. Allen and Ellis, under cover to Mr. Deane, Verandah Cottage, North Terrace, on or before the 24th instant. " Plans of the cottages may be seen on appli- cation to Mr. Deane, after the 18th instant. "Milner, April 12, 1839." This was another impudent puff. We know not by what authorities the names of Messrs. Allen and Ellis were used; but this we know, that their personal honor demands that a public explanation of the circumstance, and of their whole connection with the Milner Estate, should be given. We do know that Mr. Stephen had no authority from Mr. Deane to use his name; that up to this hour Mr. Deane has seen no plans of cottages, and has had no instructions or information on the subject from Mr. Stephen or any one else. Mr Deane considers that a liberty has been taken with his name and character in this matter. Happily Mr. Deane's respectability cannot be affected by the impertinence. On the next day we were informed that we had been hoaxed by Mr. Stephen, and that the sum was not £20,000 but £10,000. To the gentlemen in the Office of the Colonial Secretary, who stated this fact, Mr. Stevenson expressed himself very warmly on the folly and impropriety of Mr Stephen tricking and de- ceiving those who were inclined to be his friends; and when a few minutes afterwards he saw Mr. Stephen, he spoke in the strongest possible manner, of the bad taste and folly which that person had shown in causing us so far to mislead the public. Mr. Stephen ad- mitted to us that the sum was not 20,000l., but 10,000l.; but he said that Mr. Ellis and he had agreed not to let the people know the real price, and that they had accordingly determined to say that the sum was 20,000l. Mr. Stephen farther said that if Mr. Stephens thought it necessary he would write a letter contradicting and explaining the statement. Mr. Stevenson replied he thought it most proper and necessary. Mr. Stephen promised to do so. He did not keep his promise. Our readers will observe another statement in Mr. Stephen's note, that "Bentham has sold nearly a third of the town in three days." The town comprises above 200 allot- ments. Mr. Bentham had not then and has not since sold twenty allotments. The statement of Mr. Stephen on this point, also was untrue. The puffery, falsehood, and trickery con- nected with this pretended sale and the Milner Estate altogether became now notorious, and our contemporary having ascertained from Capt. Allen, that up to the 24th April no sale of any kind had taken place, and of course that all Mr. Stephen's statements were absolutely false—spoke his mind so freely and so justly on the subject, that Mr. Stephen thought it ne- cessary to prefer an indictment against Mr. Macdougall, the printer and proprietor of that paper for a libel. Previous to this trial coming on, Mr. Stephen made several attepts to get possession of waht he probably thought was the only evidence of the puffing with which he was now publicly charged — the note addressed to us before quoted. We declined giving it to him as he requested; but we gave a copy of it to Mr. Bernard the Advocate- general, who immediately handed it to Mr. Stephen. But it was not a copy of the note Mr. Stephen wanted; and he accourdingly ad- dressed the following letter to Mr. Stevenson on the 24th May—Mr. Macdougall's trial being fixed for the 27th of that month :— "24th May, 1839. "My Dear Sir—Having been in the expecta- tion of seeing you the last day or two, I have not thought it worth while to write before; but being desirous of shewing the note, which I wrote to you respecting the Milner Estate purchase, to Captain Sturt and another friend, I shall feel much indebted by you permitting me to have it for an hour or two, and I will return it this evening, either to yourself or Bernard.
" The bearer will wail for it." The answer returned to the above note was as follows:— "My Dear Sir—I put the note on Thursday into the hands of a friend sealed up, having copied it and given the copy to Bernard for you, not having seen you as I expected. But if the original is wanted, I shall get it this fore- noon and bring it with me t the levee for your inspection. " I am very much rejoiced you have consulted Captain Sturt, as I feel confident he will give you sound advice.
Mr. Stevenson had now determined not to allow the note to get into Mr. Stephen's posses- sion unexamined, or without due precaution for its safety. Mr. Stephen however had con- cocted his scheme. He came to Mr. Stevenson's residence on the following Sunday morning, the 26th May, about ten o'clock, and requested that Mr. Stevenson would allow him to take the note to show to Captain Sturt, for the pur- pose of satisfying him that it was written hur- riedly. Mr. Stevenson showed Mr. Stephen the note at once, but he was determined to guard as far as possible against any trickery or alteration, and he refused to place it in Mr. Stephen's hands till he received from him a certified copy. Mr. Stephen, finding he could in no other manner get hold of the note, con- sented to this. A copy was written by Mr. Stevenson, and compared with the original by Mr. Stephen, and a certificate that it was a TRUE copy of the original as it stood at that moment, written by Mr. Stephen, placed in Mr. Stevenson's hands, while Mr. Stephen de- parted with the original in his possession. In the certified copy the figures of £20,000 are as distinctly written as they stood in the original Mr. Stephen now went to work: he took the original note to the Governor, and within half an hour or an hour exhibited it to his Excellency with the figures altered! Having accomplished this feat, Mr. Stephen of course thought him- self secure against the consequences. That he had sadly miscalculated, our readers will pre- sently see. Mr. Macdougall's trial commenced —the original note was returned by Capt. Sturt to Mr. Stevenson, who put it in his pocket without examination and returned the certified copy to Capt. Sturt. That certified copy is now in the possession of his Excellency the Governor. Mr. Stephen was put on his oath and he swore, in substance— 1st. That he had never stated to any one that he had sold one half of the Milner estate for 20,000/.; and 2nd. That he had never authorised the editor of the Gazette, to make such a statement. Mr. Stevenson's surprise, and, we may add, his sorrow, at hearing this evidence, was great. He then carefully examined the original note, and immediately discovered the alteration in the figures which had been made during the time the note had been in Mr. Stephen's possession. Mr. Stevenson thought it his duty to report the infamous, fact to the Governor, which he did the next morning, and an official investigation into the circumstances was instituted by his Excellency. This investigation commenced on the Saturday following; and was to have pro- ceeded on the Wednesday. On Monday, how- ever, Mr. Stephen was held to bail on a charge of wilful and corrupt perjury, and his Excel- lency deemed it proper to listen to the repre- sentation made to him, that it would be unfair to try Mr. Stephen officially for what was af- terwards to be judicially enquired into. Al- though this plea is in strict accordance with that humane provision of the English law which stipulates that no man shall be tried more than once for the same crime, we cannot but observe that Mr. Stephen's use of it was in- judicious. The rule is not generally made a shelter for the guileless. An individual strong in conscious [?] could never be injured by prompt investigation, and there are but few persons, we hope, under similar circumstances, who, innocent and blameless, would have quietly sat down under a grave charge, and meekly abidden " the law's delay" for restitu- tion of character and freedom from infamy. We were told by the Judge, and all the lawyers agreed with him, that whatever the amount of falsehood Mr Stephen swore to be true—how- ever damning the mural guilt had been—the legal crime of perjury had not been committed, and that therefore Mr. Stephen's guilt or inno- cence could not, in that trial, form the question at issue. They were right; Mr. Stephen as a lawyer, knew this, and yet he abides that very trial for the justification of his character. Mr. Stevenson, however, was not satisfied that the investigation should be interrupted, and the following correspondence took place on this subject : — Government House, Adelaide. 4th June, 1839. Sir—The Governor desires me to inform you that, as his Excellency perceives that an informa- tion has been laid against the Hon. G. M. Stephen, bearing directly on the subject of the pending investigation before the Governor; and as that subject has further been brought forward at length by the Gazette, his Excellency does not consider it just towards Mr. Stephen that he should be be exposed at the same time to what is equivalent to three trials for the same supposed misconduct. His Excellency has therefore adjourned the fur- ther proceedings of the investigation until future notice.
North Adelaide, June 4, 1839. Sir—I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of this date, and beg leave to request you will submit the following observa- tions which I now respectfully offer to his Ex- cellency in reply thereto:— The information laid against Mr. Stephen by the printer of the Southern Australian for wilful and corrupt perjury is in no shape connected with, and, as it appears to me, can have no bearing upon the inquiry instituted by his Excellency into the conduct of Mr. Stephen as Colonial Secretary— an enquiry, be it remembered, not instituted at my suggestion, but which his Excellency, at the close of the proceedings on Saturday last was pleased to state he had determined upon, inde- pendently altogether of the alteration (made by Mr. Stephen) in a note fraudulently obtained pos- session of addressed to me, authorising certain statements to be made in the Gazette—the identical statement made by Mr. Stephen him-
self to the printer, and to numerous other respect able persons, at the time he was actually writing and previous to his writing that note—and an enquiry, I presume, necessarily independent of the result of any legal proceedings, seeing that the investigation was avowedly commenced for the satisfaction only of his Excellency as the Governor of the province in respect of the alleged misconduct of a Government officer. It is certainly not my part to point out to his Excellency the effect of the derermination you announce to me "that the further proceedings of the investigation are adjourned till future notice," still less have I any wish to urge upon his Ex- cellency a course he considers unjust, and which might expose Mr. Stephen to the equivalent of three trials for what you are pleased to term " supposed misconduct." It may probably be felt by Mr. Stephen to be an act of commisera- tion at least to allow him to rest for a few months with so foul a stain not judicially affixed to his character—with deliberate falsehood, in ten different instances, merely proved upon him by evidence which the slightest enquiry from any respectable colonist would satisfy his Ex- cellency is in all respects unimpeachable. But I will submit to no delay. I have my own sense of right to justily—my own feelings of honor to protect; and no consideration on earth will deter me from at once taking the course I deem best calculated for these purposes. Knowing, therefore, as I do know, that Mr. Stephen has been guilty of the most gloss and corrupt perjury; that, to cover that perjury, he fraudulently obtained possession of and attempted to vitiate a document which he probably but er- roneously imagined to be the only evidence in existence of his folly and his crime; that most of his statements in relation to the sale of the so-called Milner estate are false, and calculated to mislead and deceive, if not to cheat, the public; that his whole conduct regarding it has been dis- graceful and unbecoming the conduct of an officer of her Majesty's Colonial Government; and that I am in a position to prove the truth of every assertion I have made — knowing those things, I say. I must, as a matter alike of public and private duty, expose them. My resolution is taken to do so accordingly. I must, moreover, decline to continue in the magistracy, or to hold the office of Coroner while Mr. Stephen remains connected with the Co- lonial Government of this province, and I beg leave to tender my resignation of both these offices accordingly. I also beg leave to return you herewith the in- structions to the Auditor General which his Ex- cellency was pleased some time ago to place in my hands with the view, I believe, to my sub- sequent appointment to that office. I have to request also you will be so good as return the note and other papers in his Excellency's pos- session, produced in evidence on Saturday last. Before closing this, to me, unaffectedly [?] communication, I take the liberty of [?] my sincere thanks to his Excellency for the [?] and kind treatment which I have personally ex- perienced at his hands; and I have the honor
Government-house. Adelaide, June 5, 1839. Sir—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 4th instant, with its enclosure, and I am desired by his Excellency the Governor to acquaint you, with reference [?] that the course of compelling the Colonial Secre- tary to bring forward, at an investigation, the means and line of defence which he must also employ on a trial for which the previous informa- tions have been already said against him, is so manifestly unjust that his Excellency is obliged altogether to decline it, and to accept the resig- nations which you tender. The Governor desires me to return to you, ac- cording to your request, one of the documents which you left with his Excellency, vis., Mr. Stephen's note to you of the 24th May, and your annexed reply. But, with regard to Mr. Stephen's not dated "Friday night," it is of such vital im- portance to society at large that his Excellency cannot let it pass from his hands, except to exhi- bit it in a court of justice. He therefore retains it with its partial envelope, and holds himself re- sponsible for its production whenever justice may require it.
Sir—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 5th inst., with its en- closure; and after the expression of his Excel- lency's opinion therein contained, I deem it un- necessary to urge the matter further, or to enter into any lengthened argument to show in what manner the suspension of the enquiry operates unjustly on myself, and with submission on the Colonial Government. I have also resolved to take no further step in the matter until I ascertain whether a special ses- sion of Over and Terminer is to be forthwith held for the purpose of bringing Mr. Stephen to trial, or if that event is to be allowed to depend exclu- sively upon the private prosecutor or the ordinary sessions, and thus to be suspended for several months to come. In the meantime I most willingly concede my undoubted right to the possession of Mr. Stephen's note dated "Friday night". It could not be in safer hands than those of his Excellency; but I do this on the understanding that let the prosecution at the suit of the printer of the Southern Australian fall to the ground, or the investigation instituted by his Excellency be proceeded with, the applica- tion made to his Excellency by Mr. Stephe, on Saturday last, to have that note destroyed at the termination of such investigation, and refused by his Excellency at the time, he not complied with at any future period, but the note itself ultimately delivered back to me. I would further beg leave respectfully to say that, on the same principle by which his Excellency hands the note in question, that his Excellency should demand from Mr. Stephen, and keep safe possession of that copy of the note certified by Mr. Stephen to be a true and correct copy of the original, which I returned to him in court before I was aware of the alterations made by mr. Ste- of tons (upon receiving one m-ck'* nui.ct ..< Stephen admitted in his Excellency's presence, on