But in this case, alas! there are twelve men,
Who will, I fear, but teach us what it is
To make th' attempt-This way of cutting short,
Is gall and wormwood, not to be endured...
In late 1831 John Bellinger was embroiled in a controversy over land titles. The Colonial Times referred to the matter in the issue published 28 September 1831:
A Correspondant has favored us with the following: - Some observations were some time since made in the Colonial Times, on the subject of certain locations with premises erected on them, being able to be reclaimed by the Government, on account of informality of title. One of those cases appears of particular hardship. Mr. John Bellinger, (Proprietor of a farm at O'Brien's Bridge,) has been in possession of a location which he purchased, and on which was erected a building. The allotment was granted by Lieutenant Governor Collins, to George Clark, a Marine. It then fell into the hands of Sergt. Macauley, and afterwards to Robert Evans. The latter again sold it to Mr. Bellinger, who erected on it several other buildings, which of late years have brought in a rental of £50 per annum. During Lieutenant Governor Collins' Administration, let it be remembered, it was only necessary for a person to ask for a location, and it was given to him, possession being, as we are now told by the Lawyers, the only real claim we have on landed property, the Government in those times naturally encouraged building and industry, and allotments were granted to any body who would undertake to erect buildings thereon; in other words, the Colonists were then similarly situated as at the present moment, save that to obtain the same allotments, it was then not necessary to pay enormous fees to the Survey-office for forms of titles which we are told are not worth the paper they are printed on. The location now alluded to, is situate in Liverpool Street, just at the bottom of the Rev. Mr. Bedford's garden, and it appears that it is the opinion of the Reverend Gentleman, that the allotment in question would render the Parsonage much more desirable. Mr. Bedford's friends therefore are extremely anxious to investigate the claim of the proprietor. A report is in circulation that the Rev. Gentleman has actually obtained a grant of Mr. Bellinger's location, and consequently if the new claim set up can be maintained, Mr. Bellinger must sustain serious losses. In all probability , as the present occupier is not versed in matters of law, and the proprietor thinking himself secure, by 18 years possession, he may have neglected to attend to forms, but surely equity will not suffer that any man shall be dispossessed of property so long held, and which was actually paid for, and that property be given to another man on his mere asking for it, without the cost of a farthing. If it should be otherwise, one half of the property of the Island is held on a very precarious tenure.1
On 5 October 1831 the Colonial Times followed up on the story in their editorial as the issue had inspired some correspondence. John Bellinger and Bernard Walford decided to present their own version of events in the 12 October 1831 edition:
To the editor of the Colonial Times
SIR - In reference to the observations made in your Journal 28th Sept. and 5th Oct., relative to our property in Liverpool-street, we wish to put you in possession of the real facts of the case.
The land in question was located upwards of 20 years ago, by Governor Collins, to a man of the name of Clark; the latter sold it to a Mr. Macauley, Sergeant of Marines, who disposed of it in exchange to a man of the name of Robert Evans, Private of the Marines, from whom, I, John Bellinger bought it, and paid for it. I have now had it in my possession 18 years, and various buildings have been erected upon it. Some years since, I sold a part of it to Mr. J. Molloy, who sold it again to Mr. Bernard Walford, who now possesses it, and who means so to do, unless turned out by force of arms; and he shall be a strong man who turns me out. We have both had notice from Mr. Stephen to give up possession, as we understand, to the Rev. Mr. Bedford, who so long as 6 years ago offered me £100, although I had refused £500 for it, telling me that if I did not take that sum, Government would deprive me of it. Mr. Stephen has since told me the same thing, adding that Mr. Bedford told him I had agreed to take the £100, which Mr. Bedford well knew to be not true. Under these circumstances, we both feel perfectly satisfied, that no Jury will ever give a verdict to turn us out, either in favor of the Rev. Mr. Bedford or any body else.
Bernard Walford was born on Norfolk Island in 1801, the son of Barnard Walford and Jane Molloy. The Walford family were members of the first embarkation from Norfolk Island aboard the Lady Nelson on 9 November 1807, destined for Van Diemen's Land. Barnard (also known as Bernard) Snr. in 1828, "...presented a memorial on behalf of his Jewish bretheren to the Lieutenant-Governor praying for a piece of land to be used as a Jewish burial ground." Ironically, he became the first person to be buried there.3 Bernard Walford Jnr. had purchased the land from Molloy, who in turn had purchased it from John Bellinger.
Another article about the matter also appeared in the 12 October 1831 edition:
It may be said, with respect to the resumption of the land question by the Government, that the rubicon is now passed, for the allotment in Liverpool-street, the ei-devant property of Mr. Bellinger, and which has already been twice made the occasion of a few remarks in our columns, has not only had the hand of the Crown Solicitor laid upon it, on behalf of the Government, but has been absolutely gifted away as an addition to the residence of the Rev. William Bedford! Well may we express astonishment that such things should be, and deeply do we lament, as many others do, that in a measure so fraught with the worst consequences to the Colony at large, the Officiating Clergyman of its principle town should have suffered his worldly wisdom so to operate upon other thoughts or employments for his mind, as to be the first in acting a part so directly opposed to the mild spirit of that Gospel which he is so zealous in preaching, but alas! Man at the best is a frail and erring creature. And if, in the nineteenth century, and in the distant colony of Van Diemen's Land, we are here presented with an instance, that priests are pretty much the same where temporalities are concerned, as they were in the earliest ages of the church.4
And once again, in the same edition, 12 October 1831, in fact on the same page but halfway down the fifth column, it was noted that
Mr. Bellinger, we understand, has forwarded to His Excellency, a very reasonable memorial, requesting that a part of an allotment now in possession of the Rev. W. Bedford, may forthwith be granted to him, so that he may be enabled to have sufficient space to erect a large and commodious soap manufactory. Mr. Walford likewise intends petitioning His Excellency that a grant may be made him of about 20 feet north of his present property, so that his allotment may then be of sufficient magnitude to allow him to erect what is much wanted - a public slaughter house. It is true this 20 feet wanted by Mr. Walford will rather inconvenience the Rev. W. Bedford, cutting off as it will a large portion of his most splendid drawing room, but when a public benefit is in the balance with private convenience, we hesitate not in saying, that His Excellency will, in justice, decide in favor of the many.5
John Bellinger wrote the following letter to the Editor of the Courier, published 15 October 1831.
To the Editor of the Courier.
SIR - I beg you will correct a material error that crept into a letter signed John Ballinger and Bernard Walford, which appeared in the Colonial Times of Wednesday last. From the
manner in which that letter was written, it might be supposed that if in case of a fair trial the decision of the Supreme Court should go against me, I would not be turned out of my possessions without force of arms being employed against me. No part of those expressions belong to me, I merely furnished a detail of facts relating to the case, without mentioning anything else.
O'Brien's bridge, Oct. 13, 1831.6
John Bellinger wrote another letter, this time to both The Tasmanian and the Colonial Times, published 19 October 1831, disassociating himself from the earlier letter and Bernard Walford:
To the Editor of the Colonial Times
O'Brien's Bridge, Oct 15, 1831
SIR - I have received a verbal communication respecting the letter signed Bellinger and Walford, which appeared in the last Colonial Times, and also referring to the insertion made in the Courier of this day's date, wherein I say, that an error had crept into the letter above alluded to. The error spoken of was not on your part, but on mine, for the letter you inserted is actually a perfect copy of that I for one signed. Upon reflection, I could have wished that what I had to urge, might have appeared separately from what Mr. Walford had to say. Whatever Mr. Walford's intentions may be, I could not, with propriety, guarantee them by my signature; as on the other hand, Mr. Walford could only have the history of my allotment from myself, and therefore his signature could not absolutely guarantee the truth of what must be considered hearsay.
When I read attentively, the letter in the Times of last week, it struck me that a construction might be formed, not advantageous to a just cause; for my reliance rests upon a verdict of a Jury, and the impartial consideration of the Supreme Court; therefore I imagined by pointing out which parts of the letter referred to what I had stated, and those parts which referred to another person, might prevent all misconstruction.
I cannot sufficiently thank you for the manner in which you have supported my cause in your Journal, and I feel happy that you have now afforded me an opportunity to contradict certain rumours afloat, which are as untrue as they are malicious. It is reported that I have seen the Rev. Mr. Bedford - that he has bought me over, and that I have received One Hundred Pounds for giving up my claim. There is not one word of truth in the whole - I have had no communication with Mr. Bedford on the subject, and it is now my duty to state, that no consideration on earth would induce me to come in contact with the Reverend Preacher.; and if you will insert the following details, you will observe that I have ample reasons to shun him.
How I came in possession of my property in Liverpool-street, and how long I have held it, is sufficiently known to the Public. Six years ago, I was told I must quit my premises, because Mr. Bedford wanted them; and it appeared to me, that whenever he called on me, with reference to my location, he assumed an air of hauteur, and displayed a want of courtesy of demeanor, not very likely to make an impression on me. My surprise was also great, when I was informed by the Crown Solicitor, that I had accepted Mr. Bedford's offer of One Hundred Pounds, and that the person who had told him so, was the Reverend Gentleman himself. This I have publicly stated not to be true - that I had never said anything of the kind - and that my answer was, that I had been offered £500 for my allotment, so it was not likely that I would part with it for £100. After so solemn an assertion, you will perceive the impropriety on my part, was I again to speak a single word to Mr. Bedford.
I confess, that had it been pointed out to me, that the Government wanted my allotment for some public useful purpose, I would have made no scruple of giving up possession, provided I had received an equivalent somewhere else; but I could not easily yield to the claim set up to my property by a Preacher of the Gospel.
The injury I have survived otherwise, is also very great; for had I not been kept in hot water for six years past, long ere this had premises been erected on my allotment, which would have brought me in a considerable yearly rental.
I have a son and two daughters, none of whom are of age. My little farm here was intended for, and promised to my son, after my death; and to each of my daughters, I promised one half of the premises and allotment in Liverpool-street. Having thus settled my worldly affairs to my own mind, and to the satisfaction of my children, I cared for little else; and obtained my weekly subsistence by bringing fire-wood into town. I was satisfied with my lot, and never looked with a wistful eye towards the goods of my fellow creatures. Should I be deprived of my property in town, my two daughters must be left unprovided - a long life of hard industry be of no benefit to me; and many of the respectable neighbours surrounding my farm, can bear witness to my inoffensive and proper conduct. I however hope for better things.
I have observed in this day's Tasmanian, an insertion of the letter in question, and I beg you will be so good as also to hand over this communication to the Editor of that Journal.
I am SIR, Your's & c.,
Immediately after John's letter another correspondent, although anonymous, was quoted:
To the Editor of the Colonial Times
SIR - Having perceived in your valuable Journal several observations relative to the piece of ground belonging to Messrs. Walford and Ballinger, situated in Liverpool-street, and adjoining the residence of Mr. Bedford, I beg to assure you, that considerable anxiety is felt throughout the Colony, as to the result of this matter, whether or not this piece of ground is to be made holy, notwithstanding the firmness and resolution the parties hold their title, "possession".
The piece of ground would indeed be an acquisition to the residence of Mr. Bedford. Oh! What a splendid garden and orchard could be laid out, down to Liverpool-street! What a conspicuous and magnificent entrance would that delightful - that envied piece of ground afford to the Reverend Gentleman's residence! But stop, Mr. Editor, such alas! Will never be seen. I truly lament the Reverend Gentleman's disappointment, after his seven years' labour; and at the same time, I assure you that on the part belonging to Mr. Ballinger, is intended to be immediately built a very extensive breeches and stay-maker's shop; and on that belonging to Mr. Walford, is also intended to be built spacious wine vaults, which I am convinced would in no other situation be at all objectionable by its neighbours; and more especially if it was conducted as some others are on the tick principle.
Colonel Arthur has had the administration of Government here for nearly eight years, and from the experience we have had of his upright, impartial and benevolent feelings, let me ask, is there a man throughout the whole colony, who could for one moment think him capable of taking away a piece of land from a poor farmer who have had peaceable possession of it for nearly 20 years - whose children have been born and brought up under the very roof built on this land; these sons and daughters are now grown up to men and women, married and settled into life. Are they now to live and see their poor old grey-haired parents turfed out and dispossessed of their almost little all by the mighty and dreadful hand of power? Good God! Could Colonel Arthur's well know humanity suffer him to attach his name to so destructive a document? No! he would shudder and shrink at its very idea.
He has, no doubt, treated such solicitation with the indignant refusal it merited.
I am, SIR,
Your obedient servant,
THE MAN WOT STOPS THE DRAINS UP8
The writer of the letter would appear to Bernard Walford himself, his "pen name" referring to a matter also reported in the Colonial Times in another section:
Ever since last Friday, one continued scene or fracas has been witnessed in Liverpool-street. It appears that a drain of the parsonage has for several years past been allowed by the occupants of the Rev. W. Bedford's new grant, to disgorge itself upon the premises, but in consequence of the events before detailed, Messrs. Walford thought fit to stop up the drain in question. The consequence has been, that on one side was to be seen the posse commitatis, insisting upon the re-opening of the drain, and opposed to them were, we might say in well wishing, if not in person, the whole of the Colonists. The result remains doubtful, broken heads, as might be expected, were the reward of many who dared to oppose the stronger side of the question. As the stopping of the drain will likely be discussed elsewhere, we shall wait patiently a more fitting opportunity to comment thereon.9
The action of blocking the drains to reveal the wider issue of land owenership was reported in the Tasmanian when it covered the case of Marsh v. Walford in the Tasmanian Superior Courts. The editors of the Courier felt bound to wade into the issue when they published the following article on 22 October 1831:
It is very seldom that in our editorial capacity we advert in any way to the subject of those most acceptable communications which appear in our columns under the name of advertisements, - even though they should be couched in the form of a letter to ourselves. Our attention, however has been called to the discrepancy which appeared between one in our last number signed JOHN BELLINGER, and one in the Tasmanian of the same date signed JOHN BELLINGER & B. WALFORD, some expressions in the one being flatly contradicted in the other.
The manuscript of the latter indeed has been submitted to us containing the identical words: about force of arms, (and other phrases prudently omitted by the printer) signed by the same hand-writing, as the one in our own columns contradicting it. Now it was very natural that Mr. Bellinger (to whom we have not the honour of being personally known) having once promulgated improper expressions, should afterwards become sensible of his error and retract them, but instead of so doing that he should come forward and point blank deny having used the words he had just before put forth, appears to say the least, most inconsistent and contradictory. As to the real merits of the matter in dispute, we forbear to touch upon them until we can obtain a more satisfactory view than the one which now looks so bad from the ex-parte statements as yet before the public.10
The case was parodied in the Colonial Times in November 1831 in a mocking scene from Macbeth:
Macbeth, Act 3rd, Scene 4. I
If it were mine, when granted, then 'twere well
I had at once the land. If this resumption
Could make the business up, and fully stop
The mouths of Walford, Ballinger, and Co.
That but the sight of seal and dangling wax
Might be the end, I'd pocket all the rest.
But in this case, alas! there are twelve men,
Who will, I fear, but teach us what it is
To make th' attempt-This way of cutting short,
Is gall and wormwood, not to be endured,
* * * * * * * * *
Besides these men, are here in double trust,
Strong both against the deed, then as their stay,
Who should against the horrid act exclaim,
Not do the deed myself? But, then this Walford
Kept public-house, beset my ears with din
Of drunkards, fiddlers, Jews harps, and such like.
So far so good -But, poor old Ballinger,
Hath brought his children up with zealous care,
Hath been so clear from th' office, that all hands
Will roar with loud and bitter tone against
The little motion of his clearing out -
Thro' town and country, quick as lightning flies,
Or, witches hors'd with broomsticks in the air.
The horrid deed will keep an even pace -
But what of that? The land I'll have,
Or quit a trade for which -----------
And fall on the other, which I left behind -
The case was heard in December but arose out of an incident that occurred on 14 October 1831, the day before the letters quoted above were written. The issue was one of assault, trespass and self-defence. Bernard Walford had boarded over a drain on the Liverpool Street property and William Bedford had sent a force of men to remove the cover. Ultimately the case became mired in the question of the lands ownership, judged to be significant in determining whether the trespass initiated an assault or an act of self-defence. The case is fully quoted as Appendix 1 to this book.
The newspaper reports are of course just a version of events, and later land transactions seem to indicate that John Bellinger retained the allotment. Perhaps the public outcry proved to be just too much bad press for William Bedford and he withdrew his application for the Government's Resumption of Title claim.
In the year after the case, on 12 April 1832, John Bellinger leased his Glenorchy Farm to Robert Cart of Hobart for the sum of One Hundred and Forty Pounds. This was paid as a Bill of Exchange which allowed Robert Cart Twelve Months to raise the capital. John Bellinger in turn could use the Bill as promised capital for his own transactions, although why he might have needed to do so is unknown.12
On 25 July 1833 John Bellinger entered into an indenture of lease and release, the effect of which was to transfer the lease of the Glenorchy property from Robert Cart to George Lorne. Where the family were living during this time is unknown, although Sarah Bellinger had already married Robert Cooling and left home. Perhaps they were allowed to live on the property but the use of the land was at the discretion of George Lorne.
- 1. "COLONIAL TIMES." Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 28 Sep 1831: 2. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8646091.
- 2. "To the Editor of the Colonial Times." Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 12 Oct 1831: 4. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8646106.
- 3. Schaffer, Irene & McKay, Thelma: Exiled Three Times Over!; St. David's Park Publishing, Hobart, Tasmania; 1992
- 4. Colonial Times [CT 12 Oct 1831]
- 5. Colonial Times [CT 12 Oct 1831]
- 6. "Classified Advertising." The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 - 1839) 15 Oct 1831: 3. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4201886.
- 7. "To the Editor of the Colonial Times." Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 19 Oct 1831: 4. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8646121.
- 8. Colonial Times [CT 19 Oct 1831]
- 9. "COLONIAL TIMES." Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 19 Oct 1831: 2. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8646127.
- 10. "The Courier." The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 - 1839) 22 Oct 1831: 2. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4201840.
- 11. "Macbeth, Act 3rd, Scene 4." Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 - 1857) 9 Nov 1831: 3. Web. 18 Jan 2014; http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8646160.
- 12. General Law Deeds: DPIWE; Hobart, Tasmania, 1832 [Vol. 1, No. 1512]