Object #1016769 from MS-Papers-0032-0280

12 pages written 1 Feb 1872 by Sir William Fox to Sir Donald McLean in Wellington

From: Inward letters - Sir William Fox, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0280 (48 digitised items). 49 letters written from Wellington, Wanganui, Hawke's Bay, Marton, New Plymouth, etc, 1872-1878, and undated. Includes McLean to Fox (draft); Fox to Rogan (copy), May 1873; A McDonald, Oroua to Fox (& reply), Feb 1873.

A transcription/translation of this document (by ATL) appears below.

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English (ATL)

to be required to state specific offences on Noake's part, such as would amount either to breach of specific instructions, or what would prove some undeniable disqualification for the office he holds. The enquiry ought also to be public if Noake wishes it. It is a great imputation on a public officer to subject him to an enquiry, and his vindication or conviction ought to be before the public. In FitzGerald's case on the West Coast Gold Fields, the charges were required to be specified and the enquiry was conducted in open Court. On the accusers failing to put their charges in a specific

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English (ATL)

shape and to back them by evidence his case was properly dismissed. Cases of this sort very often do break down when investigation is public and every body hears the evidence.

My own impression is that Noake has during the two or three years he has held office at Patea, managed exceedingly well. At first he was overburdened with all sorts of offices military and civil and had very little assistance in the performance of his duty. The position of affairs was a very difficult one, between peace and war, and no one knows better than I do what the difficulties were, as you

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may remember that owing to your absence every thing was under my personal superintendance, and I gave it almost constant attention - the condition of the Coast being a subject of the greatest anxiety. Noake had very difficult cards to play, to keep things straight, with the small means at his disposal and the many conflicting interests he had to reconcile; and in my opinion he has by his prudence very greatly contributed to the success so far of the restoration of the settlement of the coast.

One thing which I think I have heard you allege against him is that he does not

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know how to manage Maories. On this I think you have been prejudiced by some of your Native officials who are not friends to Noake. During the whole time he has had the command, there have been no Maories in his district and the only duty he had to perform was to keep them out of it. On the few occasions when he has had to do this, he has acted I beleive with mildness though firmly. The charges which were made from Taranaki last year of Maories being turned out at the point of the Bayonet, I myself ascertained to he absolutely false. Any little difficulties

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which have arisen in that direction were I beleive owing to Maories having been encouraged by Taranaki people to "try it on". That was certainly the case in reference to the instances I enquired into last year.

The Middlemasses I have reason to beleive are very plausible and designing fellows, and Noake has thwarted some of their schemes either about Militia pay or other matters. The man Hirst whose name I have heard mentioned is a thorough scamp - was dismissed the Colonial Service for encouraging mutiny amongst

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his men in face of the enemy at Pipiriki, and was "in trouble again in some Military appointment for not accounting for money, which think cost him his berth. He has always been doing all he can to injure Noake as our correspt. to the Wanganui papers and in other ways.

I knew Noake for some years as a Settler and J.P. in Rangitiki. He was very much respected there, and was quite a leading man. I have the fullest confidence in his integrity, and a very good opinion of his abilities. His troop when he commanded

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them was in excellent order and several of his men who are settled there have the highest respect for, him, as I have often seen testified. The greatest defect I know in him as an official is his anxiety to see every thing about him strictly according to orders, which sometimes gives his action an air of red tape and military precision not unnatural in a Soldier.

I think you are not acquainted with Noake, or very slightly. I can assure you that he is very superior to the class of men who have been running him down, and to by far the greater number of the Colonels and Majors who during the last

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ten years have been introduced into the Government service. I can't beleive that he has wilfully done anything wrong. If he has erred in judgment that is no more than a very great many of our officers have done over and over again - but of even that except in one instance I have seen no proof.

I hope that the result of the present enquiry will he to remove from your mind what I cannot but beleive are prejudices, which if you had known more personally of Noake and of his district, would never have found their way into your mind.

I send this through Gisborne, as I wish him to

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know my opinion of Noake.


Yours very faithfully,
Wm. Fox

P. S. Brannigan before he had even seen Noake took what your countrymen call a regular "scunner" at him, and behaved very unfairly and unhandsomely to him. I have no doubt it was one of those hallucinations which get possession of men in poor B's state of mind. I think Moule

English (ATL)

Wellington, 1.2.72


My dear McLean,

I saw on Gisborne's table the Commission to Major Edwards to enquire into the charges against Major Noake. I never saw Middlemas's charges, but I think the enquiry ought to be limited to such matters as can properly be considered breaches of his official duty. It would be a dangerous precedent to subject officers in the public service to enquiries of a vague character, or relating to mere questions of policy. Middlemas ought to be required to state specific offences on Noake's part, such as would amount either to breach of specific instructions, or what would prove some undeniable disqualification for the office he holds. The enquiry ought also to be public if Noake wishes it. It is a great imputation on a public officer to subject him to an enquiry, and his vindication or conviction ought to be before the public. In FitzGerald's case on the West Coast Gold Fields, the charges were required to be specified and the enquiry was conducted in open Court. On the accusers failing to put their charges in a specific shape and to back them by evidence his case was properly dismissed. Cases of this sort very often do break down when investigation is public and every body hears the evidence.

My own impression is that Noake has during the two or three years he has held office at Patea, managed exceedingly well. At first he was overburdened with all sorts of offices military and civil and had very little assistance in the performance of his duty. The position of affairs was a very difficult one, between peace and war, and no one knows better than I do what the difficulties were, as you may remember that owing to your absence every thing was under my personal superintendance, and I gave it almost constant attention - the condition of the Coast being a subject of the greatest anxiety. Noake had very difficult cards to play, to keep things straight, with the small means at his disposal and the many conflicting interests he had to reconcile; and in my opinion he has by his prudence very greatly contributed to the success so far of the restoration of the settlement of the coast.

One thing which I think I have heard you allege against him is that he does not know how to manage Maories. On this I think you have been prejudiced by some of your Native officials who are not friends to Noake. During the whole time he has had the command, there have been no Maories in his district and the only duty he had to perform was to keep them out of it. On the few occasions when he has had to do this, he has acted I beleive with mildness though firmly. The charges which were made from Taranaki last year of Maories being turned out at the point of the Bayonet, I myself ascertained to he absolutely false. Any little difficulties which have arisen in that direction were I beleive owing to Maories having been encouraged by Taranaki people to "try it on". That was certainly the case in reference to the instances I enquired into last year.

The Middlemasses I have reason to beleive are very plausible and designing fellows, and Noake has thwarted some of their schemes either about Militia pay or other matters. The man Hirst whose name I have heard mentioned is a thorough scamp - was dismissed the Colonial Service for encouraging mutiny amongst his men in face of the enemy at Pipiriki, and was "in trouble again in some Military appointment for not accounting for money, which think cost him his berth. He has always been doing all he can to injure Noake as our correspt. to the Wanganui papers and in other ways.

I knew Noake for some years as a Settler and J.P. in Rangitiki. He was very much respected there, and was quite a leading man. I have the fullest confidence in his integrity, and a very good opinion of his abilities. His troop when he commanded them was in excellent order and several of his men who are settled there have the highest respect for, him, as I have often seen testified. The greatest defect I know in him as an official is his anxiety to see every thing about him strictly according to orders, which sometimes gives his action an air of red tape and military precision not unnatural in a Soldier.

I think you are not acquainted with Noake, or very slightly. I can assure you that he is very superior to the class of men who have been running him down, and to by far the greater number of the Colonels and Majors who during the last ten years have been introduced into the Government service. I can't beleive that he has wilfully done anything wrong. If he has erred in judgment that is no more than a very great many of our officers have done over and over again - but of even that except in one instance I have seen no proof.

I hope that the result of the present enquiry will he to remove from your mind what I cannot but beleive are prejudices, which if you had known more personally of Noake and of his district, would never have found their way into your mind.

I send this through Gisborne, as I wish him to know my opinion of Noake.


Yours very faithfully,
Wm. Fox

P. S. Brannigan before he had even seen Noake took what your countrymen call a regular "scunner" at him, and behaved very unfairly and unhandsomely to him. I have no doubt it was one of those hallucinations which get possession of men in poor B's state of mind. I think Moule has a very good opinion of him. I know Marshall (Major) - Willis, and I beleive Edwards and all the other military men about think well of him.

Part of:
Inward letters - Sir William Fox, Reference Number MS-Papers-0032-0280 (48 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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