The Ovens and Murray Advertiser 4/3/1879

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THE KELLY GANG . – We have to acknowledge the receipt of a little work just published by Mr G Wilson Hall, Mansfield Guardian , entitled “The History of the Kelly gang of Victoria Bushrangers, or the Outlaws of the Wombat Ranges .” As a colonial production, it deserves recognition for the extremely moderate and impartial tone of its contents. It is what it professes to be, “a plain, unvarnished tale,” not vulgarly sentimental enough to gratify the depraved literary tastes of the Melbourne larrikin. To this general approval we would, however, enter our decided protest against the introduction of the wretched ballads towards the end of the pamphlet. Such “leprous dstilment” is calculated to do more harm than a score of Newgate Calendars, and we fully endorse the remark of him who said “Let who will make the laws of a nation, so long as I make its ballads.” No laws will ever afterwards counteract the pernicious influence of such moral poison.


[from the Argus]

Of course at Beechworth, on Tuesday it was only natural that the legal gentlemen who appeared on behalf of the alleged Kelly sympathizers should talk at large about the infringement of the liberty of the subject involved in the arrests. Now, in our regard for the liberty of the subject, and in our appreciation of the value which attaches to a strict compliance with the forms of legal procedure, we come behind no man. But no one should let his love for either one or the other run away with his common sense. Liberty and law are intended to be blessings to society, and were never designed to confer on any scoundrel the right of bailing honest men, and escaping the punishment due to his offences. In administering the law a very large discretion is properly given to the judiciary, but there are limits beyond which it cannot go in administering the law. When, then, any law is likely to lead to a failure of justice it is the duty of the Executive to repeal that law or suspend its operation. In the present case there can be no doubt that the right of every subject to sue out a writ of habeas corpus is a great obstacle in the way of dealing effectually with the Kelly sympathizers. The police may entertain a positive assurance that A, B or C is in communication with the gang, but in the present disturbed state of the public mind they cannot, perhaps, lay their hands on evidence which would satisfy a court of justice. This has been the excuse offered by successive superintendents and inspectors of police when asking for repeated remands. If the fact that such would be the case was not foreseen before Parliament was prorogued, there can be no doubt that it was the duty of the Government to hold a special session for the purpose of suspending the right of habeas coprpus in the north-eastern district directly it became apparent. It is on account of the difficulties, we presume, which this right places in their way, that the police have consented to the discharge of some prisoners whom they must have though it it desirable to hold. Unless the police are totally unfit for their work, the suspension alluded to would have no terrors for respectable people. They would go about their business as usual unmolested, and only a few ruffians of the Isaiah Wright stamp – he has publicaly threatened the Beechwoth police magistrate with violence if he ever regains his liberty – would be kept out of harm’s was and from impeding the course of public justice. If this could be done legally, only those who think more of the forms of freedom than its substance would object. That it cannot be so done, is entirely the fault of a Government that is too indifferent or too much swayed by consideration of party convenience, to ask Parliament for the necessary powers.

Taking into consideration the whole circumstances of the case, the course the Government would take if it were actuated solely by patriotic motives is pain. It would call Parliament together for a session of day or two, and suspend the right of habeas corpus over a defined area of the colony, taking power at the same time to suspend it by proclamation outside the limits named, should the movements of the outlaws render such a step desirable. We should also like to see the valuable idea of our correspondence carried out, who suggest some time ago the wisdom of obtaining Parliamentary sanction to the outlawry of whole districts under certain conditions. There can be very little doubt that throughout the country to the northeast the sympathisers with the Kelly gang absolutely swarm. These men could not complain of such punishment, while the respectable portion of the population would suffer inconvenience justly, owing to their want of energy in bringing the offender to justice. The duty of assisting to preserve the Queen’s peace, and bringing criminals to justice, is a common law obligation resting on every one. Neglect of so important a matter should not go unwhipt of justice. It was suggested that the effect of the proposed territorial outlawry should be deprivation of arms, ammunition, and houses, within the boundaries set forth. This would not only deprive the bushrangers and their assistants of the means of carrying on their operation ? ? ? ? ? ? also put such a personal pressure on the well affected, as would, in all probability, speedily lead to the capture of the delinquents.

It is not probable, however, that Ministers will care meet to Parliament before Mr Berry’s return. They would find themselves at sea without him if questions arose outside the immense business for which the Houses had been summoned, that they are perhaps wise, in a personal sense, to regard discretion as the better part of valour. But are we, in the absence of proper arrangements, to see the gaols emptied of the murders’ friends, whose detention is necessary in the interests of justice and the public safety? We trust not. This is a case in which the Executive should exercise a wide discretion, and be ready to assume a heavy responsibility. If it should be thought advisable to rearrest the men set free, or to take any others into custody as accomplices before the Kelly gang is captured, let the Acting Chief Secretary direct the police to hold them in safe keeping, but not to bring them up at any court of petty sessions. If they sue out writs of habeas corpus, and obtain their release them immediately, and give them the option of taking things quietly, or of repeating the same operation. When Parliament ? let the first thing asked for be an act of indemnity, and we venture to say that there is not a sensible, law abiding, peace ? ? ? ? ? ? ? give his voice and vote in favor of granting it at once, no matter what party he may belong to. No doubt this would be a light handed proceeding but it would be one of those arbitrary courses which are some times essential to the existence of real liberty. When the freedom and property of quiet and respectable people are endangered by the liberty enjoyed by scoundrels under the forms of law, common sense and social ? require that the ? of ? Isaiah Wright should be ? to the well being of the ? ? the community.

DULL TIMES – No person can deny that Benalla is at present passing through a sea of troubles (we might say the North-Eastern District, but we prefer dealing with ourselves), which will require all the efforts of the inhabitants to steer clear out of. This is the third season that our crops have failed us; the storekeepers and traders generally have been compelled to give credit, year after year, to the struggling selectors to enable them to carry on, and with the hope that each succeeding harvest would be a prolific one, and they would receive payment in full for all their claims. And yet, for the third time they have been disappointed, and the cry is again sent forth, “Another year’s credit we want.” In most cases this is refused, because the Melbourne houses will not listen to reason, and insist upon having their bills paid. The natural outcome of all this is the stubborn fact that a stampede for the insolvent court has already taken place, and where it will stop, rests entirely with the large houses in Melbourne.

The merchant says, “You have received my goods, and given your bills in exchange therefore. Now we want, and must have, the cash.” The retail trader replies, “I have enough book debts to pay you even forty shillings in the pound, but, owing to the failure of crops, the farmers cannot pay, they have nothing; therefore, I cannot pay you now; but do with us as we have to do with the farmers, and your claims (with interest) will be honourably settled; refuse this offer, and to the insolvent court we must go.” The consequences will be, the assets will be swallowed up in expenses, the farmers will have to leave their holdings, and all the back money is absolutely lost. This is as plainly, truthfully, and briefly put as possible, and it were well if those interested – Melbourne firms –would take a lesson there from.—Standard.

NASTY ACCIDENT . – The many friends of Dr Wood will be sorry to hear that he met with a rather nasty accident at the Whorouly races on Friday last. While getting on to a fence to have a better view of a race than he could obtain from the ground he slipped and fell on his elbow, unfortunately breaking some of the small bones of the arm. Mr Wood, than whom no one here is more respected, is a man to whom the people of Oxley owe a great deal, and will sincerely sympathise with and heartily wish him a speedy and total recovery.

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