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KIANDRA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

FULL TEXT OF LETTERS AND CHARGES AGAINST
GOLD COMMISSIONER COOPER

CONSTABLE NEWMAN'S CHARGES

On Saturday last, Mr. Paul Patrick Newman, for fifteen months a member of the Southern Patrol, and for six months stationed in the district of Kiandra, preferred the following charges against Mr. Sub-Commissioner Cooper: -

1. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having, since he has been in sole charge of the Kiandra Gold Field, neglected to assert his authority as a Magistrate, and of having unlawfully and unjustly abused his power as such Magistrate. I declare, and will prove, that since he has been in sole charge of Kiandra, law and justice have been laughed at and despised: that a lawless mob, composed of the very lowest class on the gold field, have held indisputable sway and authority; that this mob, unchecked by Mr. Cooper, have been in the habit of committing the most brutal, cowardly, and murderous assaults upon helpless unoffending men; that these illegal acts have been committed with the knowledge and sanction of Mr. Cooper; and, finally, that neither he nor the police under his charge have ever exerted the powers committed to them by law for preserving peace or the maintenance of order.

2. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having, while I was a member of the Police Force stationed on Kiandra, informed me that the before-mentioned mob were about to assault and beat a miner named Samuel Hawkins (before a stranger to me), for having written a certain letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, complaining of Mr. Cooper’s illegal acts, and of having ordered me to keep out of the way, and not to interfere, while the same assault and battery was being committed; and also of having, when I informed him that the said Samuel Hawkins had been beaten, laughed at it, totally omitting to bring the offenders to punishment.

3. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having written a letter to a certain storekeeper on Kiandra, named Michael Bourke, directing him to get certain ruffians under his influence to assault and beat a certain resident of Kiandra named John Cohen, a jeweller, because the said John Cohen had sought legal assistance to relieve him from a fine he believed to be illegal and unjust.

4. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having employed the police to spy into the private affairs of certain residents of Kiandra, who had rendered themselves obnoxious to him by their protests against his illegal conduct as a Magistrate and a Commissioner, in order that charges might be trumped up against such persons, and thereby to enable Mr. Cooper, acting as such Magistrate as aforesaid, to sentence such persons to lengthened imprisonment; and also of having employed the police to gratify his malicious, vindictive spirit.

5. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having directed me, a policeman acting under his orders, to procure certain miners to assault and beat a certain Charles Dixon, the printer and publisher of the Monaro Mercury, because the said Charles Dixon had, in such paper, published an article headed “Scenes on Kiandra,” reflecting on and ridiculing Mr. Cooper’s conduct as a Magistrate and Commissioner.

6. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having suspended me from my office as a member of the Southern Patrol, without possessing any power or authority whatever for doing so, purely to gratify a malicious policy.

7. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having, while at the Crackenback Gold Field, in the month of January 1861, demeaned himself in a manner that for ever deprive him of the name of gentleman.

8. I accuse Mr. Cooper of having, on the same occasion, in the last place mentioned, been guilty of an act of deliberate fraud.

(An earlier document included the following text: “Mr Sub-Commissioner Cooper on or in January, 1861, walked through the diggings in a state of drunken nudity, speeching to a drunken mob, after having shouted for some thirty to five and thirty pounds worth of champagne, which he subsequently refused paying for, threatening to fine Rawson for sly-grog selling in case he was requested to pay, and instructing the police so to do.”)

9. Finally, I, Paul Patrick Newman, upon my oath make this solemn declaration, and solemnly and sincerely declare that I bring forward the above charges and accusations against Mr. Cooper without any malicious or vindictive feeling. It is true that Mr. Cooper, on the 2 nd November, 1861, thought “fit” to suspend me from my office as policeman; but that suspension being invalid has entailed little or no injury on me. And I conscientiously declare, that long previous to such suspension, I had resolved to do what I have now done; and it is from no wish to revenge myself that I now accuse Mr. Cooper, but solely and entirely from a sense of duty, and disgust at the infamous manner in which he has abused the authority and disgraced the dignity of his position.

* * * * * *

LETTER FROM J.E.G. TO THE ALPINE PIONEER
12 October 1860

Mining Matters on Kiandra (To the Editor of the Alpine Pioneer).

Sir - I request the favour of insertion for this letter in your journal. I desire to draw attention to the manner in which the miners are restricted by illiberal and injudicious regulations, and the imperfect way in which the same are carried out.

The peculiar character of the country, and the shallowness of the river beds, demand an altogether larger area than is at present allowed for claims. With regard to hill sinking, the difficulty of striking the lead, and the improved and expensive methods which might profitably be employed, should also entitle that class to larger claims than allowed by the present regulations.

Another crying evil connected with the gold fields is the appointment, by the Government, of Commissioners whose incapacity is the subject of general remark among the miners. It must indeed be a source of consolation for the miner of long experience, whose knowledge extends to every phase of mining, to see, year by year, in rapid succession, men appointed to offices of emolument, trust and responsibility over mining matters, whose capacity, compared to his own, would bear no comparison. Who more qualified to adjudicate on mining difficulties, or of bringing them to a proper solution, than one of that body, whose mining experience should qualify him for that position?

Experience seems to be regarded by the Government as of no weight or authority in selecting Commissioners, while in all other pursuits followed by man knowledge is regarded as the principle qualification. Perhaps, in no portion of Australia is greater ignorance shown by officials than in Kiandra. They appear to have been selected by the Government without any test of ability for this situation. Except Mr Cloete and Mr Lockhart - whose removal from the district was at the time, and has ever since been, a source of regret - none of the other Commissioners are able to grapple with the most trivial case that may require their attention.

If ex-members, or men of influence with those in authority, must have their sons and relations in sinecures of the state, let them by all means choose situations in which at least they can do no harm. The Government must have some inkling of the deficiency, as they endeavour to make up in quantity what the officials lack in quality - the term of office of any ministry is of short duration, and it would be well if those now in power watched the interest of that body that is one of the principle producers - in fact the chief pillar of that pedestal on which their eminence rests. It would not be an unpleasing retrospect for them to look back when their offices shall have passed into other hands, and be able to say that “while we held the sceptre, our appointments were created in justice, having in view the well-being and good government of the people.”

J.E.G.

* * * * * *

LETTER FROM SAMUEL HAWKINS TO THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12 August 1861

JUSTICE ON THE GOLD FIELDS

To the Editor of the Herald

Sir - The manner in which Justice is administered on some of the gold fields, and the arbitrary and overbearing conduct of some of our J.P.Commissioners, would, if it were generally known, somewhat astonish the public, and doubtless exercise a beneficial control over their conduct. Here upon Kiandra, for instance, are some three hundred miners, hemmed in by snow, out of reach of legal assistance, at the absolute mercy of one individual utterly ignorant of mining affairs; his decisions once given are final and irrevocable no matter how glaringly unjust they may be afterwards proved to have been. An admitted wrong is inflicted, and because an official has caused it to be perpetrated, all redress is denied to the injured party. I am a simple Englishman, and have been taught that the Crown can do no wrong, its pygmy representative in these Alpine regions has however inflicted a wrong and, knowing it to be so now, still refuses to redress it. The only resource, therefore is to appeal to the public through the press, and to the Government, through the members of the gold fields. Of both these opportunities I have now availed myself.

The facts to which I alluded are these:- A party of miners have held an official permit, fifteen months old, for a certain specified quantity of water from a small creek. They now discover that double that quantity would be an advantage to them; they therefore apply to Mr Cooper, the Commissioner, for the increased supply, telling him that – although their permit expressly mentions a certain quantity – they originally asked for, and supposed they had obtained, the larger measure. Mr Cooper granted the application from the original date, in the teeth of the written document to the contrary. Now, in order to give these parties the additional supply, it was necessary to deprive some one else of water; and our right being only ten months old, we were ordered to cut off our supply from the head of our race, nine miles in length, constructed at a great outlay of capital and labour, upon the strength of an interpretation of the reading of prior water permits. We protested, but we were forced to comply. Emboldened by success, the same parties complained that their supply was deficient, and that we still retained possession of some springs which, by the way, we were never ordered to resign. Upon this the Commissioner called two assessors, and, between them they fined us eight pounds for retaining springs which, until this day, were never mentioned. We refused to pay the money, knowing the water to be unquestionably our own. We were allowed a week to find the money, and, in default at the expiration of that time, one of our party was to be imprisoned for seven days. In the interim we telegraphed to Mr Scott, the Chief Commissioner for this place, who was absent, we received an answer repudiating the new reading of our opponent’s permit, and, consequently, confirmed our right to the whole of the water we had been deprived of, and establishing the injustice of the fine. I also discovered that one of the assessors was a partner of the chief complainant, who was no other than the manager of the Bank of New South Wales. This man, therefore, actually judged in his own cause, and awarded damages to his own partner. This is a fact that requires no proof; it is unblushingly admitted. Now any reasonable man would have supposed that after the confirmation of our right and proof of the damning fact of a community of interest, between the complainant and the assessor, that the case would have been quashed. Nothing of the kind. On the evening of the sixth day after this trial, I waited upon Mr Cooper and called his attention to the subject; he told me that the question was definitely settled, and that I had “no appeal, not even to the Governor,” I quote his own words.

On the following morning two policemen apprehended one of my partners compelling him to submit to the indignity of the searching of his person, and then thrust him into a filthy lock up, the receptacle of felons, for not paying the fine. We had all determined not to pay this money but when it became known, numbers of people volunteered to advance it, and one more zealous than the rest, actually paid it without our knowledge and released our partner.

One more case even more inconsistent than the foregoing, and I have done. Another party, of whom this same banker is also the chief, complained to the Commissioner of a deficiency of water, and demanded that, as our right was of a later date than theirs, we should supply them. Mr Cooper instantly gave us an order to turn our water out of the head of our race, and let it run into the head of the banker’s. Now, neither the banker or the Commissioner knows anything about the natural features of the country at the heads of these races, or they never would have made such a demand upon us, compliance with it being, in point of fact, physically impossible, inasmuch as it would be necessary to make the water run up hill, a feat in hydraulics which has yet to be accomplished. Still, having a wholesome dread of fine and imprisonment, we obeyed the first part of the order, and turned the water out, and afterwards endeavoured to explain to Mr Cooper the real state of the matter, and to request permission to send the water down our race, which was being ruined by the frost and choked by the drifting snow. He positively refused, and stated in his anger that as I had appealed to Mr Cloete, I should wait until that gentleman replied, and that when he did, he would inform him that he had no power over himself, and that the water should remain out of the race. He was deaf to every argument, and I am now actually compelled to turn all water out of the race for the supposed benefit of a man who never can obtain it. I challenge Mr Cooper to gainsay a single statement I have made, or to invalidate or confute any portion of my complaint.

The Press of New South Wales continually bewails the lack of enterprise and energy displayed by her miners. How can it be otherwise? If a man is foolish enough to expend his time and money upon her gold-fields, he is soon made aware of the risk he has incurred. In Victoria, his property is secure. No man can deprive him of it, and his undertakings are fostered and encouraged. Here, on the contrary, nothing is secure. One day you procure from the official in power a permit authorising a certain undertaking. Vainly trusting to the delusive document, you carry out your project, and then, as in our case, after ten months solid work, without a penny’s return, we find our permit swept from under our feet by the stroke of the pen of another official, “who knows not Joseph,” and our money and our labour is scattered to the winds.

I trust, Sir, you will do me the favour to publish this statement. I pledge my honour every word of it is true, and both can and will be substantiated on the oaths of numerous witnesses.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant

SAMUEL HAWKINS

New Chum Hill, Kiandra, August 12th.

 

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