Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 3-191 (Raw)

3-191 (Raw)

Item metadata
author,male,Deniehy, Daniel Henry,32 addressee
Newspaper Article
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Public Written
Newspapers & Broadsides
Deniehy, 1884
Document metadata

3-191-raw.txt — 8 KB

File contents

The Liberal Government which has just retired from power, however much abstract democracy it talked on fitting occasions, and however loudly it boasted of the change from the régime of Colonial Toryism to its own, on the hustings and in the Assembly, was by no means remarkable for the even-handed treatment it dealt out to high and low, rich and poor, of Her Majesty's liege subjects. The charge that for ends of its own it tampered with the administration of justice, has never yet been met or repelled. Mr. Jones, upon whom all the Honesties of Politics and the Decencies and Proprieties of Life waited as attendant genii, to carry to the Universal Public Heart as Gospel truths what, from the mouth of an honourable member of less respectability, would have been looked at as ingenious partisan sophistries, touched uniformly this state of things very lightly. Even Mr. Dalley, the parliamentary knight-warden for the late Administration, put his shining little shield into his pocket and sheathed the finely tempered little rapier of his debating canter in a walking-stick, which he forthwith proceeded to "cut" whenever this ugly fighting ground disclosed itself. Not only was what we refer to a sinister characteristic of Mr. Cowper's Government in its loftier public stages, but also when, in a purely administrative capacity, handling minor matters affecting persons poor and humble and helpless, and from whom nothing as regards the safety and comforts of the tenure of office was either to be hoped or dreaded, as from the culprits in Berry v. Lang (afterwards Lang, M.P.), and Walsh v. Oxley (afterwards Oxley, M.P.) [104]
A very notable instance of this is presented in the history of the lamentable railway accident to the late Mr. George Want, placed side by side with the facts set forth in a petition ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed on the 11th October, 1859 
The railway accident which took place in July 1858, be fresh in our readers' mind. On that painful occasion, a respectable solicitor, Mr. George Want, was - and we allude to the matter with genuine sympathy for those bereaved - killed. Various persons besides were seriously injured, and amongst others a Mrs. Frances De Courcey, a lady residing at Parramatta, poor almost to destitution, and, as we gather from the petition above referred to, supporting a large family, prior to her mishap, by her own exertions as visiting governess in Sydney and Parramatta, united with those of an elder daughter, who conducted an infant school. Her income she values as having been worth £150 a-year. She sets forth in her petition that the injuries she received were a dislocation of the wrist of the right hand, and several contusions on the head and right eye, by which her eyesight has been permanently injured and the use of her wrist impaired. She states, too, that the injuries are of a permanent nature, and will preclude her in future from following the occupation by which she has hitherto obtained a livelihood. Corroborative certificates to this effect are appended to her petition from Mr. R. C. Rutter and Mr. Gordon Gwynne, medical practitioners resident at Parramatta. [105]
Mrs. De Courcey also says that the Government, after the accident, afforded her medical assistance and other comforts, and advanced for some short time a sum of five pounds per week for the support of her family. In September last, the Government, under the impression that she would have been able to follow her professional avocations, handed her a sum of twenty-five pounds, and gave her a free ticket for the Railway for six months, and at the same time obtained a receipt in full for all claims upon them. Mr. Gwynne, the petitioner further states, told her her injuries were purely accidental, and that it was to the kindness of Captain Martindale she was entitled to anything; and that, under those circumstances, she signed the receipt referred to. Finding her health still impaired, and that she had, during her illness, lost her pupils, she applied for further compensation; and the Government paid her a further sum of twenty-five pounds, taking another receipt in full. Mrs. De Courcey owns that the payments made by the Government were under the impression that her injuries were of a temporary character. When this was shown to be otherwise, the Administration, nevertheless, on her application for further compensation, declined to make it, on the ground that she had signed "a receipt in full," but by way of charitable gratuity gave her a sum of twenty pounds, to meet her "immediate wants." 
This is the case of a person in humble life. Let us now look how the widow of the late Mr. George Want was treated. A claim was, shortly after Mr. Want's decease, made by his relict on the Government. As the sister-in-law of a leading member of the Legislative Council and one of the wealthiest and most influential legal practitioners in the country, the claim seems at once not only to have been entertained with the respect it undeniably deserved, but with an amount of empressement somewhat beyond what mere sympathy with the loss sustained by the dead man's relations need have called forth in a Minister of the Crown, acting unquestionably under melancholy circumstances, but nevertheless in the discharge of a cool business duty that connected itself with a heavy demand on the public purse. On reference, we are informed, to the legal advisers in the matter of the Government, the first question those gentlemen wished to satisfy themselves on was connected with the liability. At this stage there is good reason to believe that the claimants would have been satisfied, as they fairly might have been, we think, with a far smaller sum than was eventually obtained. [106]
But all considerations of this kind, and all legal preliminaries, were suddenly stopped short by Mr. Robertson, who at once declared on the part of the Government that the liability was admitted, and that the sole matter that remained was the amount, and this was at once placed in the hands of arbitrators, who were pleased to rate the amount of liability at seven thousand pounds, and the sum was accordingly paid. Now we do not wish to place Mrs. De Courcey's injuries on the same level with the fatal catastrophe to the unfortunate gentleman mentioned. But the utter disabling from being able to earn bread for herself and a large family, of a helpless female, fairly throwing aside any arguments in the case connected with moral suffering caused to the bereaved, must have put Mrs. De Courcey and her children in pretty much the same position qua Mr. Robertson as Mrs. Want and hers. Both were to some extent deprived of the means of living from the same cause, - one directly, by having her bodily faculties impaired; the other indirectly, but by a sadder, deeper misfortune, in the loss of her husband. But how differently the two women were treated, and how infinitely beyond any real practical disparity in these respective cases the results; Mrs. Want at once receives some seven thousand pounds, and this dealt out with a species of eagerness which, whatever the amount of sympathy, people do not often show in paying away their own money. Mrs. De Courcey has a few pounds doled out to her from time to time, Her Majesty's Government upon the occasion of each donation securing itself by a receipt in full, in a spirit of huckstering below contempt, almost eking out the bargain by throwing in a railway ticket for six months. Then, when the injuries are at length discovered by Mrs. De Courcey to be of such a character as will invalid her for life, what is done by Mr. Robertson, so eager and so prompt to admit the liability in Mrs. Want's case? Why, he repudiates liability on the grounds that a receipt for a certain small sum (twenty-five pounds) had been signed, without caring to inquire or examine under what circumstances of belief in the passing character of her mishaps the lady had signed it. Mr. John Robertson is a very amiable man in private life, as ready as most men to give his aid to a charitable work. But he will perhaps pardon us if we take leave to suspect that if a very poor and humble professional man, quite as dear to his wife and children as the late Mr. Want, and with his exertions quite as necessary to their support as his, had met with a similar fate, Mr. Robertson would not have been such a cheerfully consenting party to the paying over of seven thousand pounds of the people's money as compensation in the affair. [107]