26 SEPTEMBER 1863, Page 8


IT is a very common practice of the Confederate organs in this country to dilate on the social contempt and hatred with which negroes are regarded by Northern Americans, and to contrast the condition of black race on the continent with that of " the petted and protected A frican " of our West India Islands. They who have had any personal intercourse with West India planters or their relatives will probably think that by the term "petting and protecting," these gen- tlemen stigmatize the giving to the negro of simple justice, which, except on compulsion, they never would have granted, and still grudge. In our Colonies, however, the whites are almost exclusively men of some education and position, and their contempt for the inferior race is not, therefore, shown with quite the same coarseness as that of the lower classes in the United States ; but it is quite as real, and as many persons of colour have now risen to positions which put them quite on an equality with whites, its manifestation is become infi- nitely more intolerable and infinitely more unjustifiable. As an instance of what men of this latter class have to endure at the hands of their European colleagues, we shall narrate, as concisely as possible, the history of Hr. Alexander Fitzjames, late Acting Chief Justice of Sierra Leone.

A native of Trinidad, Mr. Fitzjames was called to the Bar by the Benchers of the Middle Temple in 1847. Ile re- turned to his native country and there enjoyed a very con- siderable practice - but in January, 1854, an unhappy ambi- tion for place seized on him, and, backed by a recommenda- tion from Governor Lord Harris, he applied for the vacant post of Queen's Advocate at Sierra Leone. The application was unsuccessful ; but in that salubrious colony Queen's Advocates are frequently wanted. A vacancy again occurred in October, 1856, and a third time in October, 1857. Mr. Labouchere, perhaps alarmed by this mortality, at last ac- ceded to the prayer of his half-caste petitioner. Three successive Governors of Trinidad had warmly recommended him, and the last, Governor Keate, spoke of him as " a most respectable and estimable man, a member of the Board of Education, and in every way deserving of a favourable con- sideration being given to his request." Early in 1858 this man of " mixed blood " landed in Sierra Leone as Queen's Advocate.

Soon after, Governor Hill, C.B. wanted leave of absence, and Mr. Fitzjames was appointed Acting-Governor in his absence. While the Queen's Advocate was Colonel Hill's locum teams, certain slavers were taken, and considerable bounties became due to the Governor. Mr. Fitzjames and the colonists generally seem to have thought that these bounties fell to him, but it turned out to be otherwise. Mr. Fitzjames seems to have allowed' himself to use very unmeasured lan- guage aniono.° his private friends in consequence, and there can be no doubt that this came to the ears of Colonel Hill. Each now accuses the other of personal ill-will, and we are disposed to think that each is in the right. When, soon after, Chief Justice Carr requested leave of absence, Governor H ill was with some difficulty induced to appoint Mr. Fitzjames to fill his place, and wrote to the Colonial Secretary that he only did so because there was no one else whom he could appoint. The legal knowledge of the Queen's Advocate was not in doubt.

The next person who comes on the stage is Mr. Marston, the Crown Prosecutor. This gentleman on one occasion, under very gross provocation, used very abusive language to some native women in the public street. A summons was taken out against him by the constable, and signed by Mr. Fitzj ernes as of course. Mr. Marston was highly indignant. No European had ever been summoned for merely abusing a black, and he determined to give the Acting Chief Justice a Roland for his Oliver. He went into Court and demanded in Mr. Fitz- James's presence a subpmna for Mary Anne Fitzj ames, a married woman, and insisted on serving it himself. He was assured by Mr. Fitzjames that his wife should be present at the trial, and by M'Cormack, the assistant-magistrate and a European, that the subpoenas were always served by the officers of the Court. Of course, a sqUabble took place, and the matter eventually came before the Governer. Then the secret was divulged. Mr. Fitzjames ought to have consulted a European before he signed a summons against him for merely abusing a negro, and Governor Hill, a close personal friend -of Mr. Marson, at first was actually disposed to take his part.- Eventually the summons was tried before Mr. M'Cormack, and Mr. Marston was fined 5/. We have not space or inclination to follow up the history of this quarrel.' • Of course, in all the subsequent matters both were in the wrong. Mr. Fitzjames was frequently indiscreet, and, as was to be expocted from his mixed blood, was always fancying an intention to insult him. On the other hand, Mr. Marston spared no pains to annoy his adversary and play on his irritability. Evenhis friend Governor Hill describes "his manner " as " unfortunate." On another occasion he was cast in an action for kicking a negro out of his yard, and, finally, in the presence of a Chief Justice with native blood in his veins, "evinced" " what Colonel Hill calls " proper moral courage " in challenging as Crown Prosecutor every native juror who entered the jury-box. We do not mean to say that there is nothing to be said for Mr. Marston. Trial by jury, where every twelve men will contain ten or eleven ignorant natives, and the verdict of nine jurors is decisive, is not likely to result in justice for Europeans. But this feeling of contempt for natives is a thing he does not attempt to conceal even in his letters to the Duke of Newcastle, and that feeling makes him about as fit to hold a legal appointment in an African colony as a South Carolina planter. It is, however, quite useless when two men have once become hostile to examine their conduct; both are sure to be wrong. The only question is, who was-wrong at the beginning?—and we must point out that in the police case Mr. Fitzjames was entirely in the right. If he had sent to ask a person against whom a summons was demanded whether the summons ought to issue, he would have been unworthy to occupy the post of Court Usher, much less of Chief Justice. No custom could have justified it. And we must, add that the revenge taken was some- thing inexpressibly mean. It is idle for Mr: Marston to plead the advice of his lawyer, for Mrs. Fitzjames was subpoenaed but never called. He know very well that she was not present during his row with the negroes, and that she knew nothing about it. He does, indeed, say, " I have yet to learn • that summoning any person, high or low, to-appear as a wit- ness in any. ease-can be deemed insulting." But his animus was clear from his wishing to serve that particular subpoena himself; while he was willing to let the proper officer summon his other-witnesses. We can nall his conduanothing else but an attempt' to wound this insolently impartial lawyer " of mixed blood" by insulting him through his wife.

The quarrel. progressed. At last Mr. Marston charged the /Wing, Chief Justice‘with giving him the lie in. open Court. Mr. Fitzjames denied the charge, and retorted that Mr. MarstoM -was habitually disrespectful. Goveruor Hill' a felt -confident that Mr. Fitzjames would not be satisfied byrhis in- dividual decision," and referred the matter to the three mem- bers of the Council, but-expressly directed them not to allow "any matter other than contained- in the complaint of the Crown Prosecutor to be introduced." Mr. Fitzjames was accordingly not allowed _ to ask the witnesses, in cross- examination, whether Mr. -Marston's manner had been habitually. insulting (a point on which the gravity of his offence, if any, entirely _depended), nor .even whether it was insulting"during that trial." One of Mr. Marston's own witnesses called his manner, in making his application, " jocular," and said that by that term he meant that it was "something disreapectfut to the Bench." The Court, how- ever, found that Mr. Marston's conduct at the time he made the application was "correct and respectful," and that he was justified in thinking that the Chief Justice had doubted his veracity ; but they added that the latter " did not intend to imply that Mr. Marston had told a lie." The affair was, in fact, a foolish squabble, and never should have been made the subject of a formal inquiry. One thing more, however, we must note. Mr.Fitzjames, in spite of the Governor's order that no one was to be admitted at the inquiry but the parties and the witnesses one at a time, went attended by his friends. Ho contended before the Court that, at least, one person to take notes of the evidence for him ought to be admitted. The Court could consider nothing but the Governor's order. " Then I suppose," said Mr. Fitzjames, " if the Governor ordered you, you would hang me without a trial," whereupon the Colonial surgeon, Dr. Bradshaw, one of the members of Council, was moved to wrath. He could not permit such statements to be made in his presence—it was a very improper remark for an official—the Governor was not likely to issue such an order, and he could not hear him ridiculed without dis- countenancing it. Most people would think that if Mr. Fitzjames ridiculed any one, it was Dr. Bradshaw. Governor Hill, however, considers this question to have been "coarse and unbecoming language." So little do we know in Eng- land how dangerous it is to take the name of a petty Colonial Governor in vain, and what a majesty hedges round a Colonel and a C.B., while he is invested with the terrible title of "the executive I" Mr. Fitzjames now appealed to the Duke of Newcastle in a letter dated 10th February, 1862. Before the mail left on the 21st, the Governor had prepared a counterblast. In the interval, a Mr. Salmon, " a young gentleman lately from England, clerk in the first mercantile house here," was found mean enough to repeat a conversation heard in a private house nearly two months before. On the 22nd Mr. Fitzjames was called on to' vindicate himself in writing from a charge of using libellous and seditious language against the Governor, and informed that the Governor would bring the matter before the Council. Ho asked three days later for the names of the witnesses against him, and a statement of their evidence— what, in a regular criminal trial, would be called a copy of the depositions. It was refused. Four days later the Council met. The Governor read Mr. Salmon's letter, and also letters from Dr. Deane, in whose house the conversation took place, and from a Mr. Seigniac, of whom the last would only say that he never listened to such conversations, but Mr. Fitzjames seemed to be abusing the Governor_ Two other persons who were present had been in no way interrogated. No witnesses were confronted with Mr. Fitzjames. They were not on oath. He had no oppor- tunity of cross-examination. In vain did he protest and ask for time to prepare his defence. He had to retire from the Council-room, was found guilty, and suspended. from all his employments until the final decision of the Colonial Office was given. Since this time Mrs. Deane has corroborated Mr. Salmon• and her husband ; but circumstances which we can- not detail have convinced us that neither Dr. nor Mrs. Deane can be acquitted of prejudice. The case, therefore, really rests on Mr. Salmon's unsupported evidence, not given on oath, and ungifted by cross-examination ; yet the sentence of the Council has been confirmed by the Duke of Newcastle. We do not mean to defend Mr. Fitzjames altogether. He seems to us to have been very indiscreet, and to have- sided latterly with the natives and missionaries somewhat ostentatiously. But he _also seems to have been' made the subject of a series of insults, which drove and were intended to drive him almost to mad- ness: Before the Council he said that " he had always been an upright, hard-working officer ' - that he felt the Governor* had not treated him- well; that he bail-discharged his duties to the satisfaction of the bar and with patient zeal ; that ho had few friends, and seldom left his house, where he often at night watered his couch with tears." This may not be very dignified language, but it has the pathos which is the natural language of a man who feels that he has been wronged and that his enemies at last have him on the hip. It may Tory well• be that a trial *mild show that he did use the- verygross language imputed to him. We fear that there is too Much reason to believe that he may have attempted- since his sus- pension to tamper with the Deanes--coloured. ,people like himself, but who, it should be remembered; seem to be distrusted on all hands. But all this, even if the truth of it were proved, is nothing to the purpose. The question-is not whether n man of the sensitive temperament of- all half- castes has been betrayed into errors or even grave faults under very great provocation, but whether he has had simple justice. The course pursued by Colonel Hill may be that "laid down in her Majesty's instructions;". but it was a grossly unjust course, nevertheless. First, he requires the accused to send in the evidence by which he answered the charge with- out communicating to him the evidence by which it is supported. Then he suspends him on mere written deposi- tions without giving him a chance of sifting the evidence, or calling the other persons who were present at the alleged con- versation. And the Duke of Newcastle upholds the Governox‘ in this conduct. There is a lamentable similarity in the con- duct of his Grace in this case, and in that of the dismissed Ionian judges. There is no despotism in the world like the despotism of a petty military Governor of an out-of-the-way colony—but when it is strengthened by the contempt of an ordinary middle-class European for black blood, it becomes the meanest and most insolent of tyrannies. It gives no fair trial, and there is, as it appears, practically no appeal.