Crescent Chambers Shortland St., Auckland
19th. Sept. 1871
Since writing you on the 7th. inst. I notice a letter of Mr. Mackays on the subject of the Native Land Act, this letter expresses very similar ideas to one which appeared in the morning news some fortnight before and which I am not sure whether I forwarded you a copy of or not I however now send you one and a copy of Mr. Mackays letter with some marginal notes of my own.
I approve of Mr. Mackays suggestions on the whole, but take exception to the provision for requiring every deed to be signed before a Justice of the Peace. In the first place it will be most inconvenient, there being many places where you cannot get a Justice and you have to pay them for their time if you take them about with you - secondly if you do get a Justice, how few would understand whether the Maori knew what he was signing, and there may be Justices who care not if he did not.
I think the "Frauds Act" ought to be repealed and something embodied in the present one to do away with the necessity for it and I would suggest that to meet the case it should be enacted that all Licensed Interpreters now holding certificates should have those certificates caneelled, and that in future no person should receive a Certificate
unless in the first place his application for same was accompanied by a recommendation from two Judges of the Native Land Court not only as to his capability as a Maori linguist but as to character and general trustworthyness, and that no certificate or License should be valid or have any effect until the Interpreter in whose favour it is granted enters himself into a heavy bond and find two sureties willing to enter into the same that he shall act in an honest manner and not be a party to any such transaction as those which the "Frauds Act" is now expected to prevent - and that he is to satisfy himself that the transaction is bona fide and just, and that the Natives have received the money and farther I would provide that all these incidents be embodied in the declaration to be made by the Interpreter. By this means I think you strike at the root of the whole evil, for Interpreters should be unquestionably respectable; by a paid License fee you would not ensure respectability hut insisting on bondsmen being found would; and why I would require a recommendation from two Judges of the Court is, to prevent anyone getting a License who had some friend at Court. I approve of the latter portion of Mr. Mackays suggestion that within a given date there should be an appeal to the Chief Judge or any Judge of the Court by the native that he has been defrauded, etc. This is the right principle; not to assume that every transaction is a fraud but if fraud does take place,
let there be a Court to whcch the sufferer can appeal and get his wrongs redressed. The present system puts every purchaser or Lessee to a great expense, and all to prove that he is not a swindler, when no one said he was, and besides the fact of instituting an enquiry unasked in relation to any matter is the fair way to encourage the Maori in a systematic repudiation of his bona fide acts and I hear than an instance of that has already taken place here. The Maoris have been learning swindling very fast these last few years the 75th. clause of the Native Land Act of 65 has taught them a good deal and the "Frauds Act" will teach them more, you cannot legislate to prevent swindling but you can legislate to find a remedy for it when it is done within a limited time as above suggested. I am convinced that such transactions as those for which the Act was passed to prevent, are the exception and not the rule in the Auckland Province; there were many transactions of a fraudulent nature in Hawkes Bay such as store-keepers luring natives into debt and getting mortgages over their land, etc., but such transactions as those could not possibly have taken place without the Interpreters being a party to them more or less, then I say that the necessity is that there should be an obligation on the Interpreter that the transaction is fair on the face of it and that he sould acquaint himself as to whether the
Native has had the money and declair accordingly.
I am not aware what there is anything more to say on the subject but as it is a matter which deeply affects both races I will write again if I should think of anything.
F.D. Fenton Eso.,
Inward letters - J W Preece, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0515 (13 digitised items)
Series 1 Inward letters (English), Reference Number Series 1 Inward letters (English) (14501 digitised items)
McLean Papers, Reference Number MS-Group-1551 (30238 digitised items)
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