South Australia - Colonial: 1856-1917.
Delivery form: A-DO-12.


In 1854, the Post Office was administered separately from the Department of Telegraphs which had been created in 18??

The Wallaroo Times of 26 January 1870.

Addressing the Chairman of the House of Assembly on Thursday last, as it is conventional for a member to do, Mr Glyde said " The Chief Secretary is no more head of the Government than you are, Sir. He is not allowed to take action in any matter of which the Government is not conversant and I say deliberately and fearlessly that the Government of South Australia, in dismissing Mr. Lewis, have been actuated by unworthy and improper motives. They dismissed Mr. Lewis because he was not willing to play into the hands of the Government, as represented by the Chief Secretary, in respect to the firm of Cobb and Co., that firm having an unfair influence over the Chief Secretary. I do say, as a Member of the Assembly and as a respectable colonist, that I feel degraded by the conduct of the five men upon the Treasury benches. I feel that it is a disgrace to the colony that the Hon. John Tuthill Bagot is the Chief Secretary of South Australia at this moment."

This plain speaking elicited from the Attorney-General the retort that the Hon. Member had " either made a statement without a knowledge of the facts or one that he knew to be untrue". And the Commissioner of Public Works "regretted that the forms of the House would not permit him to characterise Mr. Glyde's statement by its proper designation". From this it will be seen that the House had been led into a discussion upon this precious postal tender business. It had been the Treasurer's duty to move that the line on the Estimates providing for Mr. Lewis' salary should be struck off, and the various speakers in the course of the long debate that followed, took occasion to consider the matter in a general way.

Ultimately the line was struck off - but such plain speaking and unmeasured condemnation will be remembered against the Ministry in future days, branding, as it does, them with a charge that nine persons out of ten in the colony believe to be true. The merits of the case will be understood by referring to the events connected with this charge in the exact chronological order in which they occurred.

The fact that the revised Estimates, containing what the Treasurer, almost with tears in his eyes, declared and vowed to be the greatest economy possible to introduce into the Public service consistent with efficiency, were placed on the table of the House of Assembly on Oct. 7, has an important bearing. These revised Estimates contain, as is well known, provision for Mr. Lewis' salary. Clearly then the Government on Oct. 7 had no idea of discharging the late Postmaster-General. Either this must have been so or the Treasurer was deliberately lying, and lying without being pulled up by his colleagues. The postal tenders were opened on Thursday afternoon September 3.

On the 4th, the Chief Secretary was very anxious to know who would have the contracts. On the 6th Mr. Lewis told him Cobb and Co. had lost many of the principal lines. On the evening of the 7th, the Chief Secretary took the classified schedule home, with the understanding that it should be returned to Mr Lewis by ten o'clock next morning. Here we may point out a most irregular proceeding on the part of Mr. Bagot. Neither he nor any other public servant has any right to take important public papers home. Such a proceeding opens the door to suspicions of jobbery and guilty connivance. On the morning of the 8th, Mr. Lewis, being anxious to have the tenders ready for the Gazette on the 9th, sent to Mr. Bagot's residence for them early, before ten o'clock, and received them with the celebrated "communicate with Hill" minute. "Advantage might arise to the Government," said Mr. Bagot, " from this communication."How Mr. Bagot could imagine this, unless inspired by Hill, we are, and have been, at a loss to conceive. Mr. Lewis would not communicate with Hill, and the old saw was illustrated. As Mahomet would not go to the mountain, the mountain went to Mahomet.

As Mr. Lewis would not communicate with Hill, Hill communicated with Mr. Lewis. On the 9th - the day after Mr. Bagot returned the schedule - Cobb and Co. wrote to modify their tender. No one can say that Bagot had shewn them a copy of the classification, but certainly the coincidence is ominous. This modification Mr. Lewis would not permit, for which he was reported by Cobb and Co. to the Chief Secretary. Thus far we have seen Mr. Bagot wishing to favor contractors,whose tender, a lump one, not being in accordance with the advertised, conditions, ought to have been incontinently rejected.

On the 16th fresh tenders for a number of the principal lines were, by order of the Chief Secretary, called. On Oct.14 these were received, and Cobb and Co.'s. lump tender was accepted. On Oct. 29 Mr. Lewis, whose services the Government contemplated retaining on the 7th, as vide the Estimates, was informed that the exigencies of the public service required his removal, and the office of Postmaster-General would be amalgamated with that of Superintendent of Telegraphs. The public prefers to believe that Mr. Lewis was not got rid of to make way for the amalgamation; but, that the amalgamation took place to get rid of Mr. Lewis. And the public more-over believes that:

A specially interesting subject cropped up during the debate, incidental, as it were, to Cobb and Co. versus the Postmaster-General. Hon. Members knew that Mr. Fuller advised Mr. Andrews to bring forward his motion of want of confidence, promising both his own and Hill's vote. When the division was taken Fuller was absent and Hill voted with the Government. Both Fuller and Hill indignantly denied having ratted and here, as before, an adherence to chronology will be of service in estimating the exact bearings of the case.

Mr. Andrews' motion was set down for December 14 - a time, it is important to recollect, when in the opinion of the country, the Government would eat the leek and retain Mr. Lewis. Indeed the impression was that this would be the case on December 21 when the matter was spoken of in Parliament. Moreover, the Government organ in the press professed to think so.

Mr Andrews' motion was adjourned, and before it was called on again, the Postmaster-General's case was decided, as also was the way in which Fuller and Hill intended to vote. The non-confidence men knew that two of their number had ratted. And the public believes that the votes of the ratters were bought by the sacrifice of Mr. Lewis. Messrs Fuller and Hill denied the soft impeachment.

Curiously enough in their speeches they both have afforded us a means of testing their veracity. Mr. Hill was sorry Mr. Lewis was suspended. He had always got on with him as well any man could; had always found him a gentleman; always been treated by him as such. Unfortunately for Mr. Hill, Parliamentary Paper No. 146 describes the firm of Cobb and Co. as consisting of Henry Hill and Jasper Bingham Meigs; and on September 11, the same paper says Cobb and Co. wrote to Mr Lewis denying the accuracy of his remarks and stating that his correspondence would be forwarded by them to the responsible head of the department.

On Saturday Mr. Fuller said in the House that no Hon. Member knew who Cobb and Co. were. Parliamentary Paper 146 contains a memorandum calling upon Cobb and Co."to furnish the names and residences of each member of your firm". In reply the names and residences of Hill and Meigs were given. Either Cobb and Co. made an incorrect statement in the Parliamentary Paper or Mr. Fuller did in the House.

In the face of these facts we are not surprised to find the public professing to believe that Cobb and Co. sold their votes to the Government on condition of the man they disliked being cut adrift.

It is only necessary to add to the story that, in the commencement of the session, Mr. Fuller, then a fierce reformer of abuses, forewarned the Government that he should vote in a contingent manner. By the light of events, we begin to understand what this warning meant.

Of course all the evidence relating to this case is circumstantial but who, out of a Lunatic Asylum, would ever expect it to be any other? For the Attorney-General and the two Commissioners to demand facts in favor of such allegation is merely childish vapour. The question is not were such and such transactions actually witnessed; it is - is the narrative such as to carry conviction in the minds of reasonable people? How the country answers this question - we have already stated.