GOVERNOR GAWLER AND THE PRESS.
To the Editor of the Southern Australian.
SIR- I have read the last number of the
Register with much pain and regret. On the one hand, it announces that the Government had deprived the proprietors of the appointment of Government Printers and Stationers; and on the other, showers forth such an extent of abuse against the Governor, on every conceivable subject, as proves how much of that quality had previously been compressed and kept back by personal interest. I mean, at present, to direct my attention to the enquiry, whether these parties have been unjustly or unlawfully deprived of their employments by the Governor; for this I conceive to be the only real question between them and his Excellency, however much there may be a desire - as there is undoubtedly the power - in a disappointed editor to inflict pain on his superiors, who have interfered with his schemes of profit or of am-
The first point of the enquiry, I humbly think, is, was there any actual agreement be- tween Robert Thomas & Co. and the Colonial Commissioners, which the Governor has set aside ? The statement of the former is. (corres- pondence, 5th Aug., 1840) "we agreed with his Majesty's Colonization Commissioners, to estab lish in London, the South Australian Gazette and Register, and to accompany the original expedi- dition, to the yet unknown colony, with a com- plete printing establishment, as Government printers, on the express agreement, that the government printing should be continued to us
during the term, at least, of our co-partnership. " It is afterwards said, that this agreement was sanctioned by the Chairman and Secretary of the Board of Commissioners, and by Sir George Grey, then under Secretary of State for the
Colonies. Now, I naturally ask, where is the proof of this express agreement ? I do not think it very likely, that parties who understand their interest so well as the proprietors of the Register are known to do, would accompany the original expedition to the yet unknown colony, with a complete printing establishment, as Government printers, on the express agreement" without
having that agreement committed to writing. The Governor, in answer, states,- his Excel lency has never received from any source, but your statement, the slightest intimation of the agreement which you re-assert to have been made between the Colonization Commissioners and yourselves to the effect, that you should have all the Government printing for this province, so long as your co-partnership exist- ed " " Had such an agreement, as that claimed by you, been mentioned officially to the Governor, his Excellency could not have consented to continue it in opposition to circumstances requir- ing a change or modification!' Here was room for the active editor, first,-to prove the agreement, and second-»that, it was binding on the Governor-but he remained silent;-a con clusive proof, that he had no satisfactory reply to offer. In the subsequent part of the corres- pondence, no doubt, Messrs Thomas & Co re peat the story of the agreement, and found upon it to the last,-they offer no proof of its existence however, but threaten the Government with proceedings for redress in the Queen's Bench according to the most approved form of practiced editors when they wish to split " the ears of their
But what will be thought of all this rodoman- tade, if it should turn out, that in place of there being evidence of the agreement contended for, there should be evidence to the contrary, which I humbly think there is. To the proof :
In July, 1836, when Captain Hindmarsh was Governor, and George Stevenson, Esq, his
Private Secretary, the following Minute was inserted in the Council Minute Book, the com position, of course, of the latter:
" 10th July, 1838.
" His Excellency laid upon the table, a letter from the Government printers, Messrs Thomas & Co.. which was read and ordered to be inserted,
" His Excellency said, that he corroborated in the fullest manner, the statement contained
in Messrs Thomas & Co's, letter, and he was ready to believe that a considerable loss had
been sustained ; he was also quite ready to say, that had the application been made previous to
the receipt of the notice of his recall, he would have granted it at once, and he records recom- mendation to his successor to appoint Messrs Thomas & Co. Government printers; in the meantime, he proposed, that Messrs Thomas & Co. be appointed Government printers, for the year ensuing
*' Ordered accordingly."
What the terms of Messrs Thomas & Co's letter referred to in this Minute were, we are not likely to know, as it is not recorded in the Minute : the original may be in possession of the Private Secretary of the day, and it may not be convenient to his purpose to produce it ; but it can be dispensed with-the Minute is quite enough for my purpose. In that docu- ment, Governor Hindmarsh is made to regret that the matter had not been brought under his consideration previous to the "notice of his recal," in which case "he would have granted it at once" ? but as it was, " he records a recom- mendation to his successor, to appoint Messrs Tho- mas & Co. Government printers, and in the .meantime, he proposed that Messrs Thomas & Co. BE appointed Government printers FOR THE YEAR ENSUING,-Ordered accordingly."
The situation, then, in which Governor Gaw ler found these parties, on his arrival in the colony, was, Government printers for the year ensuing, from July, 1838, if he chose to continue their appointments; for nothing can be more clear than, that the appointment of Governor Hindmarsh, under the circumstances, became a dead letter, if Governor Gawler had chosen to make it so. But he did not : Governor Gawler gave the parties a trial, as Government printers beyond the term for which they were appointed by Governor Hindmarsh ; but he never was called on to confirm that appointment, even for its limited term, much less to extend it; and in June, 1839, he gave the parties warning, that be had the power to employ whom he pleased as printers, and would exercise it if they did not conduct themselves with greater propriety. As this warning operated only for a time, in August last, they were again admonished and remonstrated with ; and, again, in October, a correspondence commenced,which ended in yheir being deprived of the whole Government busi-
To return to the tenure of the employ ment, I have already asked how it was, not such an agreement ever was made, it was not committed to writing. The want of such a document creates a presumption, that no such agreement ever existed. Then, since the first challenge, in June, 1839, more than sufficient time has elapsed to have procured a written acknowledgement from Éngland, of the existence of such an agreement on the part of the Com- missioners-but none has been obtained. It
was evidently the business of Messrs Thomas & Co., and not of the Governor to procure such a document. Here is another strong presump- tion, against the existence of such an agreement. Again-if they had been duly installed as Government printers for the term of
their contract, how did they come to accept of
and act upon, an appointment from Governor Hindmarsh for one year ? this simple fact, pats all their pretensions to a right for a longer period out of the question.
Even if their right had been such as they represent, which; in the circumstances stated, I hold to be impossible, another question remains, were they entitled to hoïd their appointment and factiously oppose the Government, without any power of removal or restraint on the part of his Excellency ? I think, even the proprietors of the Register would scarcely have the hardi- hood to answer this in the affirmative. But they might say, were we to be prevented from freely canvassing the measures cf the Govern- ment, because we were Government printers: certainly not ; but if they did perist in such free discussion as they have at times indulged
in-in the face of the repeated warnings given them by the Governor-they can scarcely he surprised, that they have ceased to he Govern- ment printers.
An amusing attempt was made in June, 1839, by Messrs Thomas and Co, to free themselves of responsibility for what might appear in their paper militating against the Government, on the ground, that "they had no control over the editorial or political department of the paper, which was
under the entire care of Mr Stevenson. Mr
Stevenson being one of the two partners of the proprietorship of the paper, I confess this argu- ment is too fine spun for me, as it appears to
have been for the Governor.
It is quite possible Mr Stevenson may think that in conducting his paper he has not exceeded the bounds of fair discussion, but the Governor is entitled to have his opinion as well as Mr Stevenson ; and as the responsible Governor of the province is entitled to control all in authority or employment under him, so as to produce har- mony of action in the whole-if any employee refuses to submit to this rule laid down for the Governors of Colonies both by Lord Glenelg and Lord John Russell, he has no remedy but to resign or allow himself to be deprived of his employment. In my humble opinion, the offendings of the Register in this respect, particularly after the warnings of 1839, were quite sufficient to have warranted the Governor to change his printers, even if the agreement contended for had been executed in the most formal manner. The case of the Milmenrura tribe, was, I conceive, one of the most unjustifiable attacks ever made upon a public functionary. The Editor's mistaken view of the effect of Governor Hindmarsh's proclama- tions induced him to believe that the Governor had committed a grand blunder, and the three fol- lowing numbers of the Register shewed how ready the Editor was to take advantage of it-if he had not been eagerly watching for some such event.
The Editor's mistake was soon exposed, and to put his Excellency and the public off their guard, be intimated that in deference to public opinion he had resigned the contest; yet scarcely a paper has since issued from his press, without malicious allusions to the subject ; and even his Honor the Judge's charge to the Grand Jury, in explanation of his views of the case could not be allowed to pass, without a criticism in the highest degree disrespectful to that learned functionary. Was it to be borne, that the Governor and the Officers of his Government were to be exposed day after day aod week after week to the sport of this Sampson in diurnal literature, while he held in conjunction with his partners, the employment and all the comfortable emolument's of Queen's printer and stationer ? Certainly not-and the colony owes the Governor thanks for having finally dis-
missed them from the office which they had filled so long, and so much to the dispeace of the colony. They may now rave at their pleasure, without restraint, but their ravings will be no longer official.
The argument addressed to the public, that the Liberty of the Press is in danger, must be seen through by any person of the least discrimination. If anything were wanting to prove the liberty, if not tbe licentiousness of the press in the province, it would only be necessary to refer to the editorial department of the last Register, and more par- ticularly to the LEX DRACONIS. I have no doubt we shall continue to be favoured with a succession of such amiable weaknesses for some
time to come.
I am, -SIR,-Yours. &c , j
19th Nov., 1840 JUSTUS.