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New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A Reply to “Men of Honor and Probity Run Amok”

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

A Reply to “Men of Honor and Probity Run Amok”

Samuel Denny Street

Samuel Denny Street

A spirited New Brunswick lawyer and politician of the Loyalist generation. From the U.N.B. library.

An article was presented in this blog on July 1, 2015, entitled “Men of Honor and Probity Run Amok”. It was written in 1802, and was originally entitledA Statement of Facts Relative to the Proceedings of the House of Assembly …”. The author called himself “Creon”, but this was a pseudonym, as Creon was the ruler of Thebes in the Greek legend of Oedipus. The article was an exposé covering the last two days of a session of the Assembly. A money bill had been passed by the Assembly and forwarded on to the Governor’s Council, who had no authority to amend it. Most of the Assemblymen had then gone home and the remaining few members (not constituting a quorum) then contrived with Council to amend the bill to Council’s liking. Samuel Denny Street was the only, or one of the few, members to remain in his chair to oppose this amendment of the money bill.

Following is another presentation entitled “The Elector’s Mirror or Truth Unveiled, in a Brief Reply to Creon, Author of a Statement of Facts…”, also written in 1802 and also anonymous.

Creon had said that he was a man of observation, viewing events from the gallery during these last two days, when many of the members has gone home  to avoid great expense to the province, and no small inconvenience to themselves in remaining. The present author ridicules all of these words, and infers that Creon was, in fact, Samuel Denny Street. He accuses Street of stupidity, dishonesty, and self-interest in defending the money bill as written to profit the merchant class and to support his own claim to the Clerkship of the Assembly, for which he was paid £50.

The following is an edited version of the ‘Reply to Creon’, being only about half the length of the original.

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

To Creon, Author of a Statement of Facts, &c

Sir,

Had you fulfilled what the title of your book professes, you would have prevented the necessity of this, and perhaps taken one step towards gaining the reputation of an honest man. You have, Sir, excited many doubts in my mind; not respecting anything contained in your production, but whether anyone would so much demean himself as to make a reply.

“Facts,” Sir, which you have disseminated, but awkwardly tally with truth, which has excited serious suspicions! Substantial truth, Sir, is a thing congenial to the unprejudiced mind of man. It offers a rich repast to the ingenuous philosopher, who considers it worthy of the most laborious investigation and strictest inquiry. It is, therefore, extremely surprising, that a “man’s observation” should expect to elude the discovery of a subject of so much inquiry!

Although your mind was not cast in the common mold and, of course, could not have experienced the hardship of stupidity, yet the vast quantity of “light” which you still contain (for I know of no instance in which you have expended any) must show you, and even common minds cannot but discern, the plans of your party. Notwithstanding the artful zeal used, in order to appear clad in all the ornaments of purity; notwithstanding the cordial squeeze, the disinterested sacrifice of private considerations, the anxious concern for the public weal, the truly Christian virtue of loving your neighbor more than yourself, and the comic art of assuming a face for every scene; although to those who would see, you have given blindness, and to those who “had ears to hear” you have said “let them be stopped”. Yet truth has given optics to see through the veil, which, for seven years, has covered a multitude of sins, committed in pocketing the treasures which, upon every principle of justice, belonged to the public. To examine the history of your proceedings is like probing the inveterate sore; the further we proceed the more painful sensations are felt, by the surgeon as well as by the patient.

Your object appears clearly to be, the exculpation of the gentlemen who left the House of Assembly before they were officially dismissed, and to criminate others at the moment of election. We now behold a party of men, whose previous conduct has become obnoxious to serious suspicions, without any answer, attempting to try themselves, imagining that time would not admit a reply, by way of defense,—which lawyers call confessing and avoiding.

You say that “You were an attentive auditor in the gallery and had been informed Tuesday, that all the business of the session was closed.” I would ask how you had been “informed”? Had the Lieut. Governor told you? If you had it from a member it might be incorrect, for the business of Parliament is never known to be done, not even by their own members, till after a message is received from the King, or other Chief Magistrate informing them that he has no business to claim their further attendance. But, Sir, it seems by your first postulatum, that the gentlemen had done all they intended, and determined to stay no longer, let the Governor have what business he might. And, further, that they had so managed what they were willing to leave for the consideration of the other Branch, that they knew it would not be completed.

Your greatest force goes to prove, that this seceding majority expected to have rendered the remaining members incapable of doing legislative business. And it is a known fact that this money bill was encumbered with matter, foreign to its purpose of raising money, in which the Council had equal right with the House to discuss and as this majority knew it to be not only unparliamentary, but inimical to the sense of the Council, it was clearly tacked to the former to defeat its operation. It is proved by the journals of one Branch, that it was agreed, by committees from both Houses at a former session, that the House would give up their silly pretension to the right of combining in the bill, whose object was merely to raise money. But, notwithstanding this agreement, which was no more than consenting formally to be governed by law, the same old trick is played over again, to destroy the hateful money bill, in which I shall show, that most of your present clients were richly interested.

“You were told, too, that it was unnecessary for the whole to remain, at great expense to the Province and no small inconvenience to themselves,” &c. Here are true patriotism and private convenience operating to drive men from their posts, who knew much better than the Governor when their attendance was necessary.

“You, nextly, understood in part, that some great lawyers were of opinion different from some great merchants, (viz.) that any number of members could resolve themselves into a House competent to all those functions, to which, heretofore, thirteen had been thought absolutely necessary.” What a marvel this! that lawyers should be of opinion that men should contrive some way to raise money! And, as it respects the question of numbers, a greater proportion of the whole House was less, than is adjudged necessary in the House of Commons, in England. There, forty members constitute a legal quorum, and there are more than five hundred members in the whole.

Mr. S—t, the hero of your drama, and the object of much whining through the whole, for fear of his losing his fifty pounds, the chief reasoner, and I suppose the chief writer, argues thus logically; “The powers of the House were derived from the constitution, and could neither be diminished or extended by any authority but their own—that ancient usage was the only guide to the proper exercise of the powers vested in them, and was therefore termed the law of Parliament.” Poor sufferer! It brings fresh to my mind the time when he obtained this information! He got it, poor foul, while a prisoner in the revolted Colonies! How can he tell, during such a conflict of reflecting on past sufferings,….having been lately occupied in addressing the Governor for the Clerkship, and still under the apprehension of losing it,….how can he tell but that this very establishment of thirteen was one of their direct steps of rebellion? It was, in revolutionary times, practiced by those who were in open hostility to their lawful Sovereign.

“That a less number were not competent as a Grand Jury to find a bill of indictment at a general session of the peace, against one subject,” &c. The chain is admirably supported! Suppose the Lieut. Governor could not, by his writ, collect more than twelve members, at the next session; a number ostensibly judging their attendance unnecessary, but secretly intending to defeat the business of the session;—could these twelve do nothing? Must the public business of the Province be utterly neglected, because eight or ten men chose to disobey the laws, and obstinately neglected their duty for private purposes?

Whether you, Mr. Observation, are Mr. S—t too is a question, with me, of very little importance. If you be, or be not, it seems equally desirable for you to gain for both the reputation of wits; and, from the specimens you have given, I am much at a loss to determine for which you will be the more successful.

Mr. S—t observes, “Laws were not made for restraining men of honor and probity, but for persons of very different characters. What kind of characters does he allow are obnoxious to legal restraint? We see whom he excuses; men who could in legislative capacity, without breathing, violate a solemn and honorary agreement, made with “men of honor and probity,” on purpose to prevent the passage of the Revenue Bill. No! Mr. S—t, such honor and such probity need no retraining; “but persons of very different characters”, viz. those who would exact justice from crafty meanness, who would compel niggardly treachery to contribute towards the protection of its own base accumulations. The event is the same that was expected. The sweetened accents of public good, the magic cry against lawful rulers, have succeeded to impress prejudices on the minds of the weak and superficial, and while they served to conceal the real plans of the leaders of the party, they cast unmerited censure on those, who only sought the interests of the Province.

The disputes which have devoured most of their sessional time took their rise in the disinterestedness and public spirit of this party’s demanding pay for their services; a step in direct violation to the most ancient usage of Parliament. And what is worse, a step calculated to defeat the success of that detested thing, revenue! This compelled the Council, by Parliamentary decorum, and propriety to return the bill, condescending to assure them, that if they would forward their favorite pay bill by itself, they would give it due consideration. But no! They are bent on the destruction of measures unfavorable to private interests; and to give a pleasant aspect to this determination, they pretend to the propriety of such a step, as a prerogative of which they affect to be very tenacious. The public, by this pretense, are lulled to drowse over the loss of every means of defraying public expense, or of making any improvement, through legislative aid.

Four years, out of seven, this bill is lost under the same pretext, notwithstanding His Grace the Duke of Portland, in his correspondence with His Excellency the Lieut. Governor, had given the fullest information on all Parliamentary questions, which had been subjects of dispute in the House, and by which the House had promised to be directed. But from an apparent determination in the House not to understand sentiments which crossed their depravity, though dressed in the plainest language that words would admit, His Excellency found it necessary in his correspondence, to request frequent communications, varied (as perhaps it was requisite) to the sense of the meanest capacity.

The next subterfuge is a denial of ever having seen the letters from His Grace! and the only circumstance to give the least color of truth, was, although extracts had been carefully handed to every member, (who could read) His Excellency had not made a formal communication thereof to the House. This he was requested to do, to which he willingly complied;—— and hoping that as that was their last and only rattle of amusement, they would be impelled to assume the man and the gentleman! But how seldom are those who are accustomed to do evil learn to do well! And it is religiously true that “Jack will never make a gentleman.”

The burden of your celebrated production is confined solely to the two last days of the last session; and these are subsequent to the whole transaction of guilt which required elucidation. I cannot rid myself of the belief, that many of the preceding transactions will in future be subjects of much closer scrutiny.

You do not tell us why the punctilious Mr. S—t continued to expend his ingenuity in an unconstitutional body; and no reason appears, but to watch his fifty pounds, and prevent the erasure of his name from the Optics. If the remaining members had no right to act, he had no right to oppose; for if one legislative act was illegal, every proceeding one under the same circumstances was void, from the beginning of the illegality. His fifty pounds, therefore, was as safe as though it had been locked his strong box.

The story of this gentleman’s appointment to the Clerkship, is marked with too much incident not to deserve a place in a narration of unaccountable occurrences.

Before the convention of the late session of Assembly, Mr. S—t, counting on the speedy dissolution of Mr. Heddon, the then Clerk of the House, who was extremely ill, and is since deceased, addressed His Excellency requesting the appointment. The House having convened, found, themselves destitute of a Clerk, and they immediately applied to the Governor by message for the appointment of this same Mr. S— t. But the Governor, for certain reasons, appointed and commissioned another. The loyal and polite majority refused to receive him, declaring him not a favorite, and he therefore retired The Governor then fixed on a gentleman, whom he knew £rom his virtues ought to be acceptable to all. But alas! virtue is not a badge to be recognized in pondæmonium. He also is rejected and dismissed! and the argument now is, that the appointment of Clerk is a right of the House, in which the Governor could not interfere. Only observe, two days before, they were requesting the Governor to appoint the fagacious Mr. S—t, and now deny him the right on any influence whatever! Does not this make for consistency? “Samul Denny Street, Esquire,” becomes their Clerk, and heir apparent to the fifty pounds, so fervently voted for, by himself, whose claim thereto is afterwards doubted, by reason of his spurious birth.

P.S. —It is a well-known fact, that the leaders of the party are the principal importers; and that, upon a moderate calculation, by the destruction of the revenue bill they have annually to themselves a dividend of not less than £1000; which, divided by 4, gives £500,—well worth running for!

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Written by johnwood1946

October 28, 2015 at 8:34 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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