No. 17
6th March 1866
I have the honor to forward copies of documents entrusted to me by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for transmission to "Her Majesty by the earliest opportunity."
I also transmit a newspaper copy of the debate on this subject from which you will observe thatthisManuscript image this "Resolution" was passed on an occasion when there were only six out of 15 Members of the Legislative Assembly present—and the "Standing Orders" being "suspended" for that special purpose.
I will not unless required by you to do so offer any comments upon this proceeding beyond referring you to my Despatch No [blank] dated [blank] 1866.
If the six Members, of whom Dr Dickson was one, who passed this "Resolution" desired to testtheManuscript image the "legality of the proceeding complained of, an appeal to the local tribunals would have decided the question without reference to Her Majesty.
I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient Servant
A.E. Kennedy
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
This refers to the case of the late Coroner in V.C.Id Dr Dickson, about which I passed a batch of papers to you yesterday.
ABd 17 May
Manuscript image
TFE 18 May
Manuscript image
Governor Douglas' Commission empowered him "with the advice & Consul of our said Council" to constitute and appoint Judges, Sheriff and other officers for the administration of Justice—wh offices by his instructions (SS 26) he is required to grant during pleasure only.
In 1860 Govr Douglas nominated Dr Dickson to be coroner—the apptmt is not expressed to be with the advice of his Council nor is it expressly "during pleasure."
The fees appear to have been fixed by the authority of the Govr at 10$ for an inquest.
In one case Dr D. alleged the expenses to have exceeded 10$ and was allowed to charge 20$. On this he commenced a practice of charging 20$ till he was stopped.
In 1864 Dr D attempted to appoint a deputy—the apptmt being accg to the Govr a virtual sale of the office. This was likewise stopped.
In the same year the GovrManuscript image having been advised (then or previously) that Dr Dickson's apptmt as coroner was of doubtful validity caused a bill to be prepared on the subject in wh Dr D, according to the Governor continued to introduce clauses wh wd have made him irremoveable & enabled him to appoint a deputy (i.e. to sell the office)—The clauses are certainly there.
In January 1865 the Major & Committee of Victoria & 210 other persons had petitioned that the duties of Coroner shd be transferred to Magistrates.
In 1865 he was required to give up certain papers & records belonging to him as Coroner wh he refused to do (Sept. 65) I dare say rightly.
In 1866 he was informed that with a view to retrenchment his appointment was resumed & that the duties wd be performed gratuitously by the Stipendiary Magistrates.
Manuscript image
He and the Legislative Assembly protest agst this proceeding on the ground that by the Law of England coroners can only be removed for certain specified causes (misbehavior &c) of wh economy is not one.
Dr Dickson states that his average income as Coroner is 260$ or "some £53."
The Govr puts the expense to the public at 1000$ (say £200) including fees of medical witnesses wh he caused to be jobbed.
Dr Dickson somewhere or other (but I cannot lay my finger on the place) talks of his avocations being so numerous & pressing as not to give him time to make copies of papers.
Manuscript image
It appears to me that the office of coroner as existing in England bears no real analogy to the coronership of V.C.I.—It does not follow that because coroners elected in England by freeholding ratepayers are irremoveable, coroners nominated in V.C.I. by the Govr under an authority wh only authorizes appointments during pleasure shd be similarly irremoveable. The English Law is not "applicable to the Circes of the Colony"—vide [Stephen's Bladeston?] Vol ii, p. 640-642—That if Dr D. was properly appointed at all he holds during pleasure—that the office is not one to wh it is necessary under the circumstances to apply the ordinary rules as to suspension & dismissal—that Dr D is a good riddance— probably on account of his personal character & certainly on grounds of retrenchment—& considering the precarious nature of all VCI institutions—the small value of the office and the fact that it does not require the holder to quit his other avocations (by wh Dr D. seems to be fully occupied) I think the Govr was justified in acceeding to the prayer of the Mayor & Council & in making, on his own authority, the requisiteManuscript image change in respect to the office of Coroner.
I should acknowledge these dphes citing shortly this occasion and that they enclose among other documents a petition addressed to HM by Dr Dickson in wh he alleges that the appointment of Coroner is irrevocable except on certain conditions which have not been fulfilled in his case and prays that H.M. wd be pleased to disallow the mandate under which it is sought to deprive him of his warrant as Coroner. State that Mr C does not apprehend that the appointment made by Govr D. confers on Dr D. the irrevocable interest wh he claims & sees no reason to doubt that the proposed change in the mode of performing the duties of Coroner is for the public interest—that he has, therefore been unable to advise that H.M. shd comply with the prayer of Dr D's petition.
Manuscript image
It mt perhaps be worth while to add for Govr Kennedy's benefit, that the appointment appeared to have been made by virtue of that clause in Govr D's commission wh empowers him to appoint Judges, Commrs of Oyer & Terminer &c but that it did not appear that Sir J.D. had observed the condition in the Commission that such appointments shd be made with the advice of the Council, nor the direction in the 26h clause of the Instructions.
Printed extracts from Mr Blanshard's Commission (with wh Govr Douglas's coincide) might be sent out in case they are not on record in the Colony—wh is possible.
EC 23
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
J.S. Helmcken, Speaker, to Kennedy, 2 March 1866, asking that the enclosed resolution "be forwarded to Her Majesty by the earliest opportunity."
Manuscript image
Resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly, 2 March 1866, describing the background to Dickson's appointment, service and dismissal, and asking the Queen to "disallow the order which purports to revoke the commission of the said James Dickson as Coroner."
Manuscript image
Newspaper clipping, Chronicle, 3 March 1866, reporting the debate over Dickson's dismissal.
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Cardwell to Kennedy, No. 22, 1 June 1866.