No. 16
4th March 1866
1. I have the honor to forward a letter addressed to the Right Honorable Edward Cardwell, Secretary of State for the Colonies with a Petition to Her Most Gracious Majesty The Queen andnumerousManuscript image numerous other documents sent to me for transmission.
2. I shall endeavour to make my comments upon these papers as short as the nature of the case will permit.
3. Before entering upon it I would draw your attention to the facts disclosed by my Memorandum (herewith) dated 20th February 1866, namely, that Dr Dickson's letter to me covering these documents is dated "15th February" and the Petition to the Queen is dated"12thManuscript image "12th February" though he presented them in person on the 19th February, having doubtless forwarded a duplicate to you by one of the Mail Steamers which left this [colony] on the 12th and 15th February.
4. You will also observe that he was accompanied, and doubtless assisted in this compilation, by Mr Leonard McClureMr McClure being already known at the Colonial Office and to the late Under Secretary of State, Mr Fortescue, I need not remarkuponManuscript image upon the weight properly attaching to his advocacy of any cause he may take in hand.
5. I apprehend that it will be hardly necessary for me to occupy your time by any lengthened remarks in explanation of my conduct in this matter, or to relieve myself from the many unworthy and untruthful imputations contained in these papers.
6. A narrative of the facts will be the best answer.
7. SoManuscript image
7. So far back as July 30th 1864 questions arose as to "a Coroners" jurisdiction in this Colony, and the Attorney General to whom I referred the matter, doubted "whether it existed at all." His successor, Mr Wood, under date 10th September 1864 wrote, "I incline to the belief hinted at in Mr Cary's opinion of July 30th 1864 that the Coroner has no jurisdiction in this Colony, inasmuch as the Crown having in England (withspecificManuscript image specific exceptions) no right to nominate Coroners, the Governor of this Colony is equally disabled from doing so."
8. This reference to the Attorney General arose from the fact of Dr Dickson having, without consulting me, appointed a Deputy by the document dated 5th September 1864, of which I enclose a copy—he (the Deputy) to hold office during his (Dr Dickson's) "pleasure."
9. I was informed at the timethatManuscript image that this appointment of a "Deputy" was a virtual sale of the office by Dr Dickson to another medical man, a course which is I believe not uncommon in some of the North American Provinces where Dr Dickson had long resided.
10. I simply refused to ratify or permit any such arrangement, and so the matter stood till Dr Dickson procured his return as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and immediately introduced theremarkableManuscript image remarkable Bill of which he enclosed a copy and by which he sought to make himself a salaried officer and irremoveable. Vide Sections 2 and 5.
11. This Bill was objected to by the Attorney General as interfering with the Royal Prerogative and finally thrown out by the Legislative Council.
12. While this Bill was pending before the Legislative Council a Petition of which I enclose a copywasManuscript image was presented, signed by the Mayor, and Councillors of Victoria and 210 others, praying that the Bill might be rejected as containing "sections obnoxious to the prerogative of the Executive, to the liberty of the subject, and to the economical administration" of the law and that the duties hitherto performed by Dr Dickson should be performed by the Stipendiary Magistrate at Victoria.
13. Thus it will appear that thelegalityManuscript image legality of Dr Dickson's office was a subject of consideration before he was elected as a Member of the House of Assembly, and it will further be observed that Dr Dickson suppresses all notice of or reference to this important and most respectably signed Petition.
14. The Legislative Assembly having disallowed and reduced the salaries of various offices and the Stipendiary Magistrate having, by reason of being relieved of duties he formerly performedinManuscript image in connection with the gaol and Police ample time to hold inquests where necessary, I submitted the matter to my Executive Council who unanimously concurred in and recommended the arrangement prayed for in the Petition, to the Legislative Council, namely, to abolish an office which had no legal status and direct the Stipendiary Magistrate to institute inquiries into the cause of death where necessary—a proceeding which came naturally within his office—andManuscript imageand thus guard against miscarriages of justice arising from inquests illegally held by a man ignorant of the Law.
15. It will be observed from the Colonial Secretary's letter dated 19th July 1865 and Dr Dickson's reply thereto of the 24th July (marked F in Dr Dickson's compilation) that he (Dr Dickson) refused to lodge the Depositions with the Colonial Secretary when required to do so, or to submit them tootherManuscript image other than "the Judge of Assize", thus depriving the Executive and the Attorney General of all knowledge of the testimony upon which the verdicts were arrived at, or the sufficiency and legality of the evidence on which prisoners were committed for trial till it was too late to supply a remedy.
16. I have marked some statements and passages in the papers transmitted, alphabetically and will here shortly remark upon them.
17. (a)Manuscript image
17.(a) Dr Dickson has obviously adopted this course with a view to his complaint being in the hands of the Secretary of State probably a month before my remarks could be possibly received.
18.(b) My statement at paragraph 7 of this Despatch shows that the assertion here made by Dr Dickson is at variance with facts and the inference he desires to be drawn from it is simply groundless.
19.(c) I think the voluminous documents I transmit are sufficientevidenceManuscript image evidence that Dr Dickson has "harrassed me and denied my authority," and that he owes it to my forbearance that he was not "dismissed" at an earlier period.
20.(d) "The Coroner's Bill" is a remarkable document which could only have passed in a House of Assembly of fifteen Members of whom no less than five are medical practitioners.
21.(e) The number of unnecessary inquests held by Dr Dickson andtheManuscript image the expense for "medical witnesses" summoned by him had become an expensive "job" which could not be controlled—the expense for inquests having increased from $155 in 1860 (when there was a much larger population) to $946 in 1864.
22.(f) Dr Dickson's services in any capacity whether paid or unpaid would be of little value from the litigious and untruthful character which he bears.
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23.(g) I have been informed that Dr Dickson sold this office on leaving Canada.
24.(h) Chief Justice Needham to whom I referred confidentially informed me that Dr Dickson had no legal status as "Coroner."
25.(i) In 1864 in view of the doubts existing as to the legality of the appointment of Coroner, the Attorney General was authorized unofficially to draft a Bill to provide for the performance of coroner's duties—theManuscript imagethe Bill so drafted was by the Attorney General placed in the hands of Dr Dickson and an understanding come to that he would bring it into the Assembly—he did introduce a Bill which was passed by the Legislative Assembly—he assured the Attorney General that the Bill so introduced was unaltered from the Attorney General's draft, the truth being that Dr Dickson had extensively altered it and so as to make him irremoveableandManuscript image and irresponsible. The Bill thus introduced by Dr Dickson and passed by the Assembly was very properly and unanimously rejected by the Legislative Council who were much fortified in their determination so to do by the Petition (copy herewith) from the Mayor and Councillors of Victoria.
26.(k) I have reason to believe that Dr Dickson did not receive any such advice. If he did why has he not enclosed copies of theopinionsManuscript image opinions of the "two leading Counsel?" If he had a legal status why introduce a Coroner's Bill—and why not establish his right before the local tribunals?
27.(m) I am constrained to say that this statement is wholly untrue—Dr Dickson made personal application to me on a special case in which he alleged he was out of pocket, had to go a long distance, and lost some private practice (which IdoubtManuscript image doubt) and he was on that occasion allowed to charge $20. He drew this special case into a precedent, and sent in his charges for $20 in every subsequent case till his fraud (for such it was) was detected and payment stopped.
28.(n) The arrangement here noted will cause a saving of probably $1000 a year to the public, and insure an effective administration of the law.
29.(o) I am at a loss to find anyreasonManuscript image reason for thinking that it is "unconstitutional" for a Stipendiary Magistrate to inquire into cases of sudden death beyond that furnished by Dr Dickson's friends in the Assembly "resolving" that it is so.
30.(l) and (p) Dr Dickson received $580 for fees in one year, besides the patronage of "medical witnesses" who sometime charged as much as $20.
31.(q) The sum of $1000 is thussavedManuscript image saved to the public.
32.(r) Dr Dickson here admits there is no local Statute legalizing his office which was never reported to or sanctioned by the Crown.
33.(s) I would have had no difficulty in finding other and sufficient reasons for dispensing with Dr Dickson's services had it been necessary or expedient so to do.
34.(t) I have had no "controversy" with Dr Dickson and the "action of the Legislative Assembly" inthisManuscript image this case unfortunately means that only, of a few Members of very questionable qualification to sit there. The "sympathy and approval of the people through their representatives" is a delusion. The contrary is the fact.
35. The concluding documents transmitted by Dr Dickson, certified by the Mayor and attested by the Town Clerk that he is "worthy of all credence" might under the circumstances beveryManuscript image very useful, but in the present instance Dr Dickson's own writings justify strong presumption of the contrary being the fact.
36. I requested Dr Dickson to supply duplicate copies of the documents transmitted and enclose a copy of his reply.
37. In conclusion I have only to express my regret that these remarks should have extended to such a length, and to assure you that in deciding that Dr DicksonshouldManuscript image should cease to perform the duties of a legally non-existent office I have exercised my best judgment in the interest of the public service and have acted throughout with the advice and unanimous concurrence of my Executive Council.
I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient Servant
A.E. Kennedy
Minutes by CO staff
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See 3768 [and] 4780.
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Mr Elliot
The Governor, who has a bad opinion of Dr Dickson, has removed him from the Office of Coroner on the ground of retrenchment. Dr Dickson protests against this proceeding, alleging that it is not competent in Law for the Governor to remove him at all. Dr Dickson was appointed by Sir Jas Douglas—then Governor. He is removed by the same Authority—viz the present Govr. There is no Law on Coroners in V.C.I. but the common Law of England on that subject is said to rule in the Colony.
The legal question arising will,IManuscript image I presume, be submitted to Sir F. Rogers.
ABd 16 May
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Sir F. Rogers
This question is necessarily one for your consideration. I hardly know at present the view taken of the position of Colonial officers. But if they are as irremovable as Judges, and can never be deprived of their places—(even for want of funds)—unless upon conviction of some offence or specific fault, it seems to me that the public interests will be greatly injured.
TFE 17 May
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Dickson to W.A.G. Young, Colonial Secretary, 15 February 1866, enclosing a petition addressed to the Queen and various other correspondence which had been previously forwarded to England.
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Dickson to Cardwell, 15 February 1866, forwarding a petition to the Queen appealing his recent dismissal as coroner in Vancouver Island and providing a detailed background to his appointment and subsequent loss of office.
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Petition, Dickson to Queen Victoria, 12 February 1866, explaining his dismissal from office and asking for redress, with enclosures.
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Copy, Douglas to Dickson, 9 January 1860, appointing him Coroner "for the Districts of Victoria and Esquimalt, and for the Districts lying adjacent thereto."
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Handwritten copy of notice from the Colonial Secretary's office inserted in the Government Gazette, 9 January 1860, advising of the appointment of Dickson as coroner.
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Printed copy of a bill entitled "An Act relating to the office of a Coroner," introduced by Dickson into the Legislative Assembly.
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Resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly, 7 June 1865, requiring the governor to submit certain returns relative to the services of the coroner and the fees paid to him, signed by R.W. Torrens, Clerk of the House.
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Kennedy to Legislative Assembly, 21 June 1865, advising that he was not in a position to supply the requested information and submitting that there was "no 'Coroner' in this Colony, having jurisdiction and that there is no authority vested in the Government to appoint one."
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Torrens to Dickson, 21 June 1865, forwarding copy of the resolution as noted above and asking that the necessary returns be submitted to the house.
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Young to Dickson, 19 July 1865, pointing out irregularities relative to claims in connection with coroner's inquests and asking that he conform to the "rules and regulations for keeping the public accounts."
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Dickson to Young, 24 July 1865, advising that he was "not conscious of any departure from rules or regulations in my possession," and including an explanation of his legal position.
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Young to Dickson, 10 August 1865, asking for clarification of the section of his letter referring to "the laws relative to the duties of Coroner in this Colony" and asking under what authority they were applied.
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Dickson to Young, 22 August 1865, advising that he referred to "the common laws of England bearing on the duties of Coroners," and describing his recent difficulty in gaining access to certain records.
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Young to Dickson, 14 September 1865, advising that he had been appointed by the governor of the colony and not by any English act or local act, and explaining why depositions must continue to be lodged in the colonial secretary's office.
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Dickson to Young, 23 September 1865, expressing regret that his "previous communications failed to satisfy His Excellency, as to the correctness of my views of my duties and responsibilities," and explaining in detail the source of his authority.
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Young to Dickson, 1 February 1866, advising that due to retrenchment the office of coroner was being disposed of, the duties being transferred to the Stipendiary Magistrate for Victoria.
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Copy of Instrument of Revocation, 1 February 1866, certified by Young.
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Resolution passed by Legislative Assembly, 9 February 1866, against the amalgamation of the offices of coroner and stipendiary magistrate and advising that "the House does not recognise the right of His Excellency to remove the Coroner other than by the usual process required by English Law," signed by Torrens.
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J.S. Helmcken, Speaker, to Kennedy, 2 February 1866, forwarding copy of a resolution "passed this day."
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Resolution passed by Legislative Assembly, 2 February 1866, asking the governor to transmit all documents "showing the cause or causes" which led to the removal of Dickson as coroner, signed by Torrens.
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Certificate of Lumley Franklin, Mayor of Victoria, 15 February 1866, testifying to the respectability of Dickson and certifying that the enclosures to his petition are all correct copies.
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Memorandum, Kennedy to [Colonial Secretary], 20 February 1866, asking for information regarding the dates that the correspondence from Dickson had been received.
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Young to Kennedy, 20 February 1866, providing the information as requested.
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Dickson to John Ash, 5 September 1864, appointing him to the office of deputy coroner.
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Petition to the President and Members of the Legislative Council from "the Mayor, Councillors and other inhabitants of the City of Victoria," no date, asking that the duties of coroner be carried out by the Stipendiary Magistrate for Victoria, with explanation, signed by Thomas Harris, Mayor, five councillors and "210 others."
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Dickson to Young, 21 February 1866, advising he did not have time to submit duplicates of his petition and enclosures.