14th. October 1870.
I enclose you some papers which I have received from Mr. Firth. In explanation, I should say that Tom Russell told me about ten days ago, that Firth considered he had very great reason to be aggriev-ed with you; that you had made a promise to Gillies that you would have his (Firth's) letters published, but that you had failed to do so; and that consequent-ly he was left without any recorded justification against the charge that he had supplied the natives with percussion caps and ammunition. When I received the enclosed papers, it struck me that about the best thing I could do would be to see Firth himself. So I went over, and I had a cpuple of hours' conversation with him.
You will not be offended with my saying that I really think Firth has cause of complaint.
To begin with, it was an omission, not allowing him a copy of the telegram, when he received it. Certainly he had great right to complain of its being published, without any opportunity being afforded him of refuting it. Your letter in which you express
some sort of regret at the publication of the telegram, is, you will allow me to say, very ambiguously worded; and of this Firth Complains very much. You qualify your expression of regret by the addition of words which seem to imply that you only regretted the publication of the telegram, without your having previously perused it. The language employed is susceptible of the interpretation, that had you seen the telegram in the papers preparing for publication, you would still have allowed it to be published. Then, Firth's request that his defence should be placed on record was not unreasonable. I recalled your saying something to me about it, and my advising that it was not worth taking any notice of, but I was not then aware that the tele--gram charging him with supplying the natives with ammunition had been published, and that the defence he desired to make was against that charge. The charge is one of so serious a nature that it is inhuman to refuse to anybody an opportunity of refuting it. Lastly, Firth has a letter from Gillies, written in a very spiteful manner, in which he declares that you promised hin that you would move that the documents be printed an Parliamentary papers, that had you not so promised, he would himself have moved for the
printing of the documents; and no doubt you would then have been compelled to print the papers, but that it is now too late to take any action until the next session. That is something like the effect of the note, at all events; and very clearly, Gillies thinks he might make political capital out of the affair.
On the other hand, Firth is very friendly in his tone towards the Government. He says that he ap-proves our policy generally; and, moreover, he says it is a matter of very great regret to him, that the previously friendly feeling which existed between you and him for many years, should have been broken. I told him I should write to you on the whole matter; and that I was quite sure that there must be rather a misunderstanding, than anything like a desire on your part to set in ill-will towards him, or to break off those friendly relations which had existed between you.
It seems to me that you might well write a private letter to Firth - that to do so would be a good stroke of policy; inasmuch as he is quite inclined to give all his influence - which after all is not entirely inconsiderable - during the forthcoming elections, in our favour. I think you might promise him that, if you cannot get his defence included amongs t
the Parliamentary papers, you will have it published in the Gazette. In any case, we cannot refuse to forward his letters Home to the Secretary of State for the Colonies; and I beg that you will lose no time in replying to me, and in sending back the papers, together with information as to what you propse shall be done.
Gillies is anxious to obtain Major Tisdall's residence in the Barracks, for Provincial Government Offices. Is there any objection to his having it?
I am, etc.