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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

II.—The Premier

II.—The Premier.

John Hall, after passing some sixteen summers, became a humble clerk under the British Government. The taste for drawing public money thus early acquired never left him, and for about forty long years he has nearly always been a paid worker of the State. From the lowest rung of the English Civil Service he has slowly climbed to the leading position in New Zealand. He was a Canterbury magistrate—a resident—not one of the Great Unpaid. He early took an active part in provincial politics, and presently entered the House of Representatives, where his knowledge of official duties procured him a seat in a Ministry; and though Ministries rose and fell, and many men sank never to rise again, Mr Hall was ever buoyant. His plastic, feeble nature allowed him to change his mind so often and so quickly, and he was so shrewd in detecting which way the wind blew, that he had been a Minister very, very often—so frequently that I devoutly trust no other man in New Zealand history will ever follow his example. Mr Stout, in Hansard, compared him to the Vicar of Bray—a closer parallel was never discovered. Lowell cleverly Americanised the Vicar of Bray in a portrait of a man who must closely have resembled our Premier—

"(General C—is a dreffle smart man;
He's been on all sides that gives places or pelf
But consistency still was a part of his plan—
He's been true to one party—and that is himself

At last there came a time when Mr Hall was out of office, so he (very luckily for himself) went Home. His frequent changes were forgotten; he had made few enemies; so that it was scarcely to be wondered at that when the party lost their leader, Sir W. [unclear: fo] by his defeat at Wanganui, it chose Mr Hall, in default of a better. It was an unhappy choice. Mr Hall is seen to advantage man of a County Council, or of an Eduction Board, or as a member of the Legislative Council. He is very patient in wading through dreary Bills, and revels in petty details, His works unceasingly, and has an inherent, all absorbing love for trifles; but, unfortunately, his mind is not large enough to take [unclear: comp] hensive views. He lacks valor, and has [unclear: firmness] of purpose. He (the leader of the House) never leads—it is not his fault, but his misfortune; he cannot. Look at the House under his nominal guidance; his colleagues do page 3 [unclear: dey] they please; any member can frighten [unclear: an] illness. When he was asked an [unclear: t] question at Leeston, he answered, [unclear: so] -and so, but I am only one of a [unclear: ts] and must defer to the will of [unclear: my]. Mr Hall can never feel—at all [unclear: in] be never shows that he feels—himself Minister of the colony. Compare him [unclear: ford] and Vogel in their palmy days. [unclear: ber] was in or out of power he led [unclear: his]. If a Premier does not lead, his party [unclear: is] to break up. Unfortunately it would [unclear: to] if Mr Hall's mind had in early life got [unclear: e,] and that now it was impossible for change. He thinks the petty details of [unclear: e] classifying, arranging and labelling [unclear: ts] to be of far more importance than [unclear: a] a party together or carrying out large I [unclear: m]. Many years ago in the Provincial [unclear: r,] Mr Moorhouse aptly described Mr intellect as that of a man who made a hole [unclear: d] with the very smallest gimlet he could [unclear: ked] through it, and thought he saw [unclear: world]

[unclear: this] all it is not his fault, but his misfor-[unclear: e] be has no idea of size. He reminds [unclear: at] doctors tell us of those born blind [unclear: ht] have been suddenly given them [unclear: ation,] viz., that they are unable to [unclear: the] relative size of things by looking [unclear: l] Like the man in Holy Writ, they [unclear: as] trees walking."

Hall, having himself luxuriated on the [unclear: income] of a junior Civil Servant's pay, [unclear: to] remedy the evil of over-indul-[unclear: in] others, so he first helped to [unclear: u] all salaries by 10 per cent., and [unclear: t] to work to screw them down still [unclear: y] making Civil Servants pay their [unclear: lling] expenses. Surely the nation should be grateful to so thrifty a ruler, and surely it must be malignant spite which says that he wasted £10,000 on the utterly useless lengthening of a bridge on his own constituency. Surely, too, the Christchurch belief, commonly heard in the streets, that he changed the railway tariff, at heavy loss to the colony, to please constituents at Leeston, must be a canard. An appeal to the Gazette would settle it. Mr Hall has been so long in subordinate positions, that he cannot imagine himself a leader, and in all his actions seems to be seeking a ruler, and impresses one with the idea that behind the throne there is a power greater than the throne. That power is Sir George Grey. All the Premier's public utterances are governed and guided by fear of that great genius. Look at his speech at Leeston, which shadowed forth a host of charges, each and all instigated by a fear of his mighty foe. He ransacked his poor weary brains to discover and prevent any attack, and lo! the very first speech made by Sir George Grey. "You do not offer the people improved local Government," made the Premier quail and the Ministers falter. The great man spoke, and his eloquent words were as effective as the trumpets of Joshua's army before the walls of Jericho. Like those walls, the Ministry totter at a sound and are falling to ruin. Sir George evidently appreciated his power when he said that they touched everything with a "trembling hand." Though driver of the State coach through a dangerous pass, he is ever scanning the waybill instead of driving his team with firm hands. A Premier should guide—if necessary, "educate" his party, but the most pitiable of all sights is a leader less House and a disordered Ministry.