Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Loughnan Affair again

A slightly different account of the Loughnan affair, and the matter of The Queen v. William Pearson was printed in the law columns of the Argus (Melbourne) on Tuesday, March 2, 1847 (p. 4), and gives an even more hairraising transcription of the crucial piece of evidence that was ultimately struck out and suppressed by Mr. Justice à Beckett (the italics are mine):
Friday, 26th February. Before his Honor the Resident Judge and the following Jury:— T. Armitstead (foreman), J. Barry, T. Armstrong, R. Alexander, D. Barry, J. Arthur, J.M’Ardlie, P. Annand, J. Allen, W. Bennett, P. Anderson, and J. Allee. Lachlan M’Alister, of Tarraville, Gipps Land, Esquire, was indicted for that he being a Justice of the Peace for the Territory of New South Wales, except for the City of Sydney and Town of Melbourne, and being of a turbulent, wicked, and malicious disposition, sent to one John Michael Loughnan a certain written challenge, in the words and figures following:— 
“Tarraville, 24th July. 1846. Dear Sir, Your reply to my note of this morning, of date the 24th July, 1846, I still consider as unsatisfactory, as yours previous to Mr. M’Alister; I have, therefore, to request that you will name a friend to confer with me for the purpose of arranging a meeting between you and Mr. M’Alister. I am, Your’s [sic] truly, W. Pearson” 
and the said John Michael Loughnan having refused to accept the said challenge, the said Lachlan M’Alister, to complete his wicked and evil purpose, stuck up and placed in front of a public inn, known as the Tarraville Inn, a placard in the words following:— 
NOTICE. I hereby proclaim Mr. John Michael Loughnan, of Tarraville, to be a coward, a slanderer, and a liar. Against the peace, &c.” 
The second count charged the defendant with exciting the said John Michael Loughnan to fight a duel, to his great damage and terror. The Crown Prosecutor stated the case to the Jury. The case most lamentably failed, and defendant was acquitted.
The Queen v. W. Pearson.—The Crown Prosecutor said he should not prosecute this case. The Jury were then discharged, his Honor thanking them for their attendance, and the Court adjourned until Saturday, at 11 o’clock.
The outrageousness of this version consists in McAlister’s use of the word “NOTICE” and the concluding phrase “against the peace, &c.” by which he dressed up an already scandalous insult in the conceited disguise of an official public proclamation.

One final point may explain why Judge à Beckett contrived to make the whole problem go away. Only a little more than twelve months later, in the
Port Phillip Government Gazette (number 34, pp. 334–339) Superintendent Charles La Trobe authorized forty-seven claims to leases of crown land in Gipps Land, “beyond the settled districts.” These amounted to a compendious accounting for the possessions of most if not all squatters on the entire length of territory stretching east of Melbourne and from the Murray to Bass Strait, and all three parties to the Loughnan affair were listed, viz.
No. 24. John Michael Loughnan, per Loughnan and Taylor [his Gippsland business partner, with whom, together with Commissioner Tyers, the whole sorry episode originated back in 1845] of Emu Vale (13,000 acres, 4000 sheep);

No. 25. L[achlan] Macalister of Boisdale (57,000 acres, 3400 head of cattle or 20,000 sheep) (the property adjoining Loughnan’s); and

No. 36. Helen Pearson (now W[illia]m. Pearson), Kilmary Park [sic] (12,800 acres, 1200 head of cattle).
Beyond his dubious official capacity as a justice of the peace for territories of New South Wales outside Sydney and Melbourne, already Lachlan McAlister’s great wealth was obviously a factor to be taken very seriously, if not an insuperable point of realpolitik.

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