Perry Responds to SMH Comments

Original Correspondence. The Gundagai Case.

The Sydney Morning Herald

18 February 1845


In your comments of Saturday last, upon my communication relative to the Gundagai question, you say that you think I have made the Government side of the case no better than it was. Upon reading the extract of my instructions to the surveyors as printed in the Herald, I should have been disposed to agree with you; but having given the subject much consideration, and having referred to my originals, and to all the public correspondence on the subject, I am induced to adopt the language of another powerful organ of public opinion, as employed on a different occasion: "The cause is a good one, and shall not fall to the ground for want of an advocate." - Atlas, February 15.

You state that had you followed your own judgment as to the relevancy of the extract from the instructions to the main point, you would have dispensed with a considerable portion of it as superfluous.

You might indeed have dispensed with all but one paragraph. But you have drawn an inference from those instructions, which are designated as elaborately minute, and not from the report of the official survey made under those instructions, that "such report and not the selection of individuals upon their own knowledge of the country was the groundwork upon which the Government adopted Gundagai as the site of a township, and sold allotments in that character."

Reverting to my own observations, I do not perceive any trace of the report in question - I merely said I called for one. In fact no report was furnished.

You also observe that, "it is evident from the above letter of instructions, that the selection of private individuals upon their own knowledge of the country was not considered by the Government to be sufficient evidence of the fitness of the place for a township." I undertake to prove the contrary.

A typographical error (which I perceive has been corrected) reverses the case, and gives the whole force of the argument on your side of the question. The word "detailed" has been printed "detached."

Now the order for a detailed survey of the ground selected by private individuals, on their own knowledge of the country, would lend to the inference that the Government had adopted the site, and merely required the details thereof to complete the arrangements; whereas the order for a "detached" survey on both sides of the river to the distance of two or three miles above the crossing-place would induce the belief that a change in the site was contemplated by the Government, and this remark applies with equal force to another observation to the same effect, viz., that "the Government very properly declined to act upon the selection of such persons."

I think I have made out my case, that the Government adopted the selection, and that that adoption was not from the report of the official survey, the details being required to enable the head of this department to adapt to the natural features of the ground the usual subdivisions and appropriations in such case enjoined by regulation.

The only point that remains to be cleared up is as to the responsibility involved in the signature of approval of the plan, and upon which much stress has been laid.

The site having been adopted according to the selection of private individuals, as indicated by their occupancy of the ground, and all other circumstances taken into consideration, it was necessary that the details, not of the ground but of the subdivisions and appropriations, should be approved merely for the purpose of proclamation and record, and these details and appropriations are all settled by very stringent regulations, in order to ensure the observance of which the plan is required to be marked as approved, and then copies are deposited in the public offices for the purpose of reference and record. I shall not encumber the case with any further observations, but trust to your candour in admitting the value of the correction of the error above referred to.

I am, &c., S. A. Perry.

[Note.óWe think, even yet, that Captain Perry has neither disproved nor materially weakened the main facts - that the Government sold the allotments at Gundagai as those of a township; that experience has demonstrated them to be utterly unfit for any such purpose; that this discovery has been officially reported by the officer of the district, accompanied by his recommendation that the original site should be abandoned, and a new one selected on higher and safer ground; and that the Government are therefore bound in common honesty, to say nothing of liberality and sound discretion, to exchange the spurious for a genuine article. -EDS.]