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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 64

III.—Mr Hall's Colleagues

III.—Mr Hall's Colleagues.

[unclear: l] with the same brush as Mr. Hall is [unclear: n] Rolleston, for he, too, has been in con-[unclear: e] in subordinate positions in the Civil [unclear: e.] He held an appointment in Can-[unclear: in] connection with the education seventeen years ago, and from thence [unclear: to]. Wellington to assume the position of [unclear: a] Under-Secretary. It was probably [unclear: bibed] those principles which per-[unclear: er] now to acquiesce in the grinding sys-[unclear: tem] Mr Hall inflicts on the Civil [unclear: l]. Accepting the belief of his friends, [unclear: higher] destiny awaited him, he sought [unclear: ges] of the electors of Canterbury [unclear: to] the year 1868, and became Superin-[unclear: tendent] of that province, defeating the hither-[unclear: cible] William Sefton Moorhouse. Superintendent he remained till the abolition of the provinces, and from then until his accession to office, he received no Government, salary, spending his time in dilettante farming. I pay at once that Mr Rolleston, "honest Bill Rolleston," is an unmistakeable failure. Like Mr Bowen and others who could be named much was expected of him, but disappointment only resulted. Strangers going into the House, looking at that firm, well-set head, would expect to find a determined steadiness of purpose, not easily to be conquered. But what do we find? That Mr. Rolleston, in common with the rest of the Ministry, lets things drift and drift till they get into the state they are at present. Born of a family of professors, Mr Rolleston is a gentleman and a scholar, page 4 conscientious and hard-working over his office duties; a capital Under-Secretary, an in-valuable second-in-command; but as the head of a department there is apparent that absolute deficiency in constructive ability which is going to be the cause of the downfall of the Ministry, be it soon or late. Mr Rolleston is the most honest man in the Cabinet, and the jobbery of which some of his colleagues are so shamelessly guilty, does not occur in his department. But why should politics so dis-organise a man's morals as to permit him to sit by and tacitly concur in such flagrant jobs as must make him blush to think he is practically an accessory to them?

Crafty old Fred Whitaker, a very veteran in politics, keeps in the background. Defeated in his election by a most common place young lawyer, whose whole wits are not half a Whitaker's, and whose success was merely the glitter of the hem of Sir George Grey's mantle to which he clung, Mr Whitaker accepted office through a seat in the Upper House, of which he had been a member some thirty years before. But he does his work there well, and is in some respects a tower of strength to the Government. A master of tactics, he is missed in the Lower House. There he was a "Merlin, who knew the range of all their arts," but among the dear easygoing old gentlemen of the other Chamber he has his own way without much trouble. If he wants to get a Bill passed, it passes; but if he wants to appear to want to get a Bill passed which the Government for their own reasons want dropped, how subtly does he instil the poison that acts as he wishes it. A sound lawyer, a sensible man, an acute politician, yet he is what is not generally known—a rank Radical, and—whisper it softly!—too often a terrible thorn in the side of the Ministry, when his way towards reform is not theirs.

Mr Walter Johnston is another of our young politicians who has always been expected to "make his mark." He seldom spoke; but, like Jack's parrot in similar case, he acquired the reputation of thinking a great deal. It is now too late for Mr Johnston to take a leading part; he has waited too long, if waiting is the only cause of his never having given signs of political vigor before, if it be not inherent laziness. I was very glad to see see him chosen Minister. It is so long since Wellington town ever had any power in the Government; for men like Mr. Bryce and Mr. Ballance had opposing interests. I often wonder, if Mr. Johnston is turned out of office, how many years again will elapse ere another real Wellington man will be in power. A little while ago Dunedin had two members in the Ministry; Christchurch and [unclear: Auckl] have, for many many years, had far [unclear: m] power.

Of good Mr Dick, we need say little. [unclear: G] little boys in story-books are always dull [unclear: the] unattractive. Mr Dick is right-minded [unclear: a] dull. He never works on the Sabbath, [unclear: a] never attends Cabinet meetings when he [unclear: do] not choose. He was elected by the Bible-[unclear: the] schools party; but since he became a [unclear: Mini] he seems to have forgotten the matter. Hall is a subject neither for praise nor dispraise, and only furnishes food for wonderment how [unclear: ever] reached so exalted a position. It is [unclear: index] to the weakness of the Ministry "why he, the harmless, necessary cat," should be [unclear: th] Government representative of the [unclear: power] district of Otago.

Next under review comes the Gallant [unclear: Maj] the only man in the House at the present [unclear: time] with an exhaustive knowledge of [unclear: colo] finance; the only man in the House [unclear: capable] making a lucid ministerial statement. [unclear: H] drives his facts home with well-[unclear: sel] words and unhesitating delivery. There [unclear: is] mistaking his meaning. Splendid engines for working; but what a pitiable machine [unclear: drives]. Like his colleagues, he is [unclear: esse] a blunderer, taking narrow views of [unclear: poli] incapable of constructing a policy. Can anyone imagine greater juggling than his [unclear: p] posals now. Subsidies from the [unclear: cons] Fund must cease. But all Waste Lands of the Crown shall pay rates out of the [unclear: Consoli] Fund, which to our Treasurer seems a very different thing. But more of this on another occasion; it is only the individual who discussion new. Go and hear him debate, and you will know what bitterness means, and [unclear: y] will also learn how a hard cynical [unclear: laugh] power to make the veteran leader of [unclear: the] position turn red with rage.

The most powerful member of the [unclear: pres] Ministry remains still to be spoken of. A member more silent than Mr Johnston, [unclear: son] member whose policy has never [unclear: been] peached, whose co-operation is always [unclear: to] relied on, and whose personal following [unclear: larger], individually, than that of any of [unclear: the] colleagues. But, you say, the last [unclear: portfoli] vacant! It is, and it is the vacant [unclear: port] which is now more than anything else helping the Government to tide over their [unclear: diffcult] Oh, the obsequiousness of the many [unclear: aspi] whose votes, while the "vacant chair" [unclear: bec] them on, are safe, while those who might [unclear: t] offence at an ill selection are, while the [unclear: se] empty, safe too. Yes, you legislator; [unclear: M] Hall does not place your intelligence so [unclear: hi] but that a possible promotion to the [unclear: Cabl] will rule you still.

page 5

[unclear: mu] is the Ministry, with no broad views, [unclear: to] defined policy, framing itself as the it about, hoping that instability [unclear: pose] may achieve stability of office. And [unclear: e] men of high purpose and honesty submit to the dictates of the narrow intellect of Mr Hall.

"The meanest havin? power upon the highest,
And the high purpose broken by the worm."