Some months after the Burwood affair, Dr Dulhunty was rewarded with one of the "plums" of office - that of Principal Superintendent of Police. The appointment was announced in The Australian on 11th May, 1827.
His Excellency has been pleased to appoint John Dulhunty Esq. to act as Principal Superintendent of Police.
It was not long before Dr Dulhunty, as chief of police, became involved in a controversy with the Press. It would appear that he was not a great success in his new role, but the events provide us with an interesting view of the administration of the law in those days
Three newspapers were functioning in Sydney at that time, The Sydney Gazette, established in l803, The Australian in 1824, and The Monitor in 1826. As the result of a piece of misreporting on the part of the Monitor, the reporters from all newspapers were excluded from the Police Court. The first intimation of dissention reached the public through The Sydney Gazette on 27th June, l827:
We must apologize to our readers for the non-appearance of the usual police reports. The interior arrangements of the new Police Office are so inconveniently contrived that our reporters have been partly excluded and, in fact, quite so, for notwithstanding the known respectability of our reporters and their entire separation from the common bulk of our general society, they have been prevented from occupying the usual seat in the court and if that is not regained or some one equally eligible the Sydney Gazette will, in future, be under the unpleasant necessity of abandoning this portion of interesting local news.
We cannot but express our surprise that any remark from any journal should have occasioned the tantamount abandonment of Gentlemen connected with our Paper.
The Monitor, reviewing events on the 19th July, threw some light on the circumstances of the ban:
In the old Police Court, the Chief Clerk of Police Officers, and the sub-clerks of Police, were accommodated with seats at a table which seats and table were defended from intrusion by a framed wainscoating all around, of some 4 ft. or so in height. Previous magistrates permitted the reporters from the three public presses to take their seats freely at this table, within the said enclosure, and even allowed them a dip or two of ink from His Majesty's inkstands, then and there placed, without indicting them for petty larceny. When the new Police Court was fitted up, the same sort of table, forms, and wainscoating gradually made their appearance from under the planes, chisels, hammers and nails of His Majesty's carpenters, only of somewhat larger dimensions consequently, there was rather more room for the accommodation of the reporters of the three public presses when they should be pleased to make their appearance thereat. Accordingly, the said parties made their appearance in due course, and ushered themselves into the new sanctum. The Monitor (ill-fated Monitor) however, by one unlucky SQUIB on the subject of reporting, caused the ejection from the new sanctum of the "Gentlemen of the Press" They meekly took their station, after this indication of the magisterial displeasure, outside the sanctum, and others on the FLOOR, writing on the crown of their hats, A LA NEW HOLLAND.
The next development was the publication in The Monitor on Thursday evening, 28th June, of a letter to the editor from one Daniel Cooper:
I beg to lay before you and the public the following particulars. On Thursday morning last my overseer, Robert Hesketh, a free man, was selling my butter in the usual manner, in Sydney market, assisted by another of my servants. About ten o'clock, I received a message from Hesketh that he was put into the watch-house. I went to the new Police Office, and found my servant already under examination, and a commissioned officer, belonging to the garrison, was giving evidence as to his offence. The substance of the officer's evidence, and of the witnesses examined, was nearly as follows. A wife of a soldier had complained to the officer early in the morning, in the market, that Hesketh had received a dollar from her, and afterwards denied having received it, and so would give her neither butter nor change. The woman complained to the officer, who accordingly went to Hesketh, and civilly asked him to give the woman what she wanted. Hesketh denied having received the dollar, and refused with a degree of rudeness to give her either butter or money. A constable then came to take Hesketh into custody, but the latter refused to go with him, saying he was a free-man, and the constable must bring a summons. However, this altercation induced Hesketh to give the woman a dollar to get rid of her, he being busy selling his butter. The constable presently came into the market, with a verbal order from Dr Dulhunty (at least he showed no warrant) to take Hesketh into custody. Accordingly, with three other constables, he collared Hesketh, and although the latter begged them to let him go, promising to walk with them peaceably, they dragged him along with great violence. The constable, in his deposition, admitted that although previously to his consenting to go Hesketh had used vulgar language, he nevertheless made use of no threats.
At the end of the officer's evidence, Dr D ordered Hesketh to be put back, saying to him in a tone of indignation what he would "teach such fellows as he to behave themselves to gentlemen" The Doctor's look and tone were peculiarly agitated and full of ire. On the woman's arrival, Hesketh was again put to the bar. By this time two other magistrates had arrived. The woman swore to having delivered Hesketh the dollar, and to the general circumstances above related; and amongst the rest, that she had received the dollar back before Hesketh was taken into custody. The first constable also confirmed this part of the statement of the woman, and in answer to a question from the Bench, the constable deposed that Hesketh, though rude, never made use of threats to anyone.
The magistrates consulted together, and Dr D. then passed the following sentence "You, Robert Hesketh, must give security to keep the peace, yourself in 50/- and two securities in 25/- each "
Hesketh asked me to bail him. I thought at first I would bail the man, and so settle the business. But it struck me that if I passed this affair over so quietly, it would encourage fraudulent persons to take advantage of butter-men, and, in their great hurry over a basket of butter, to affirm to giving such men money when they had not done so This, I am told, is a crying evil in our market just now. It struck me, therefore, I would first speak to the Bench before I bailed Hesketh.
Accordingly, I addressed the Bench nearly as follows. "I wish, gentlemen, as the master of Hesketh, to speak a few words in this matter, because it may be useful, if not in the present affair, at least in accusations of a similar kind." "Silence Sir!" said Dr. Dulhunty, in the same violent indignant tone and agitated manner in which he had threatened to teach Hesketh to behave himself to gentlemen. I did not choose to be silent, and though irritated by the manner of Dr Dulhunty, I took no notice, but proceeded with what I had to say. "Silence Sir" I'll order you out of Court!" said Dr D again, in a manner still fiercer. I replied "You may do what you please, Sir, but I wish to be heard." "I'll not hear you, Sir - I'll order you to be turned out of Court." "You shall hear me, Sir, replied I, "I am the man's master, and will be heard." "The case is disposed of, Sir, and I will not hear you." Finding myself by this time greatly irritated, I waived what I conceived my right to be heard, as being the man's master. I departed the Court. I wished to have a copy of the depositions. Dr D. said "The case is disposed of, and begone Sir!" I repeated my request, observing I was the man's master, and would pay for a copy of the depositions. Dr. D. reiterated "No, Sir, you cannot have them."
Hesketh was kept in custody during the day, was put into the watch-house at night, and the next morning sent to gaol. The reason given for his imprisonment, as expressed in the committal warrant, was for obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty, and so sent to gaol for want of bail.
I beg to observe that the committal does not tally either with the accusation, the evidence, or the sentence, The constable did not swear he had been obstructed. On the contrary, while he swore to Hesketh's rudeness, he distinctly admitted that he used no threats. (Blows were never charged upon him.)
The sentence passed was to find security to keep the peace. Therefore, the warrant of committal should have specified merely that the prisoner having been required by the Bench to give security to keep the peace, and having failed to do so, was committed accordingly.I am, Sir,George Street, June 24, l827.
Your Obedient Servant,
Immediately below Cooper's letter followed the editorial comment:
We regret to have to detail such impropriety in the conduct of the most important Magistrate of the Colony as is detailed in the above letter. The vendor of butter evidently committed no offence. The question as to whether the woman did or did not give him a dollar was a civil one, not a criminal one. Dr Dulhunty therefore had no right to entertain it, and the woman's statement should not have been made evidence, by her being allowed to sign her statement, by which it was put on record It was impertinent to the case, The Constable swore to the man's refusing to go. This was no offence in the man. The offence was with the constable, for had he taken the man into custody on such a charge as he had to make, it would have been false imprisonment.
Hesketh accused the woman of wanting to cheat HIM? His word, prima facie, was just as good as the woman's or any other person's? The woman threatened the man she would acquaint the officers of her husband's regiment with the fraudful conduct. The butter-man, conscious, apparently, of his having no intention to cheat her, told her in the coarse language of the humbler ranks of life he "did not care a damn more for soldier officers than for other folks". This was painful no doubt to the officer to listen to, and especially as that gentleman seems to have conducted himself in the affray with great mildness and discretion. But such language is no offence in law. If Dr Dulhunty presided at a Board of sentiment, the seller of butter ought to have been punished for evincing so little respect to gentlemen holding the King's Commission. But even then, the woman's boring him, and threatening him with the officers, ought to have gone in mitigation of punishment. It was, however, very ignorant in the woman to make so vain a threat. She ought to know, and indeed cannot be ignorant, that while in case of dispute in her own Barracks it is proper enough to appeal to the officers, out of the Barracks the Magistrates, or the Commissioner of the Court of Requests are the proper persons to appeal to. The woman was therefore more faulty than the man in this part of the business. It was very unbecoming in Dr Dulhunty, with a fierce countenance, to threaten the man that he would teach him "for such conduct to gentlemen". The man's conduct might be rude, but it was not illegal; and Dr Dulhunty does not sit in Court to teach the lower orders refinement of speech, but to administer English law, and to fulfil his oath, which requires him to administer the law without favour or affection, neither regarding the face of the rich, nor of the poor, but to do righteous judgement. Before a Judge, a poor man ought to be considered of as much importance as a rich man - a butter-seller as a military officer. A Magistrate is not to regard the face of one more than of the other. But Dr Dulhunty allowed himself to be impetuous, and threatened in a most un-magisterial manner the poor man, and that before the latter had been heard in his defence! He threatened a poor man for having said what in English law is no offence, and what under the circumstances it was very natural for him to say.
The sentence appears to us to be as illegal as unjust - The Constable swore distinctly that Hesketh did not obstruct him, but only refused to go along with him on his (the Constable's) ipse dixit. In what therefore did Hesketh break the peace? The warrant of committal, according to Mr. Cooper's account, does not tally with the sentence. If so, a question of damages will arise on that point alone, as to the legality of Hesketh's imprisonment But we think Hesketh has an action from first to last, and will recover damages if he chooses to try the matter. Was any oath as to an assault sworn before Dr Dulhunty, ere he sent the four constables to drag a servant in charge of his master's property out of the public market, neck and heels, as though he had committed some gross felony?
Dr Dulhunty's rudeness to Mr Cooper we can forgive, as to the personal affront, because Mr. Cooper is a man of wealth and can take his own part. But it is all of a piece, It shews that Dr. D is not the most fit for the situation, to which, in opposition to the wishes of the people, as being in favour of Mr. Healy, he has been appointed. How did Dr D know, but that as Hesketh's master, Mr Cooper had information to lay before the Court, which might either have extenuated the man's fault, or exonerated him from it altogether? Because that in our Supreme Court, it would be unseemly to offer remarks after judgement, are the summary sentences of new beginners like Dr Dulhunty pronounced at a common Court like our Bench of Magistrates (where you will hear the Justices discussing the politics of the day without whispering) to be held so solemn, and so irreversible, as never to be reconsidered? This also shews the natural temper of Doctor Dulhunty to be too rapid and violent for the deliberation and calm duties of his situation. It was the same unfortunate rapidity and want of experience and knowledge of the law, which some gentlemen possess, and which they ought to possess, before they presume to take their seat on the Bench, that induced Dr D. lately to issue warrants to apprehend a number of people at Bathurst on a charge of cattle-stealing; and who after being forced from their families and their farms to a distance of 160 miles and being kicked about from watch-house to gaol, and from gaol to watch-house, half-starved, and without bedding, were at last set at liberty for want of evidence to send them to trial.
The Gazette hastened to point out that it was unable to give a correct statement of the case because Dr Dulhunty, himself, had excluded its reporters from the Police Court Howe, the editor of the Gazette had, in the meantime, complained of this treatment to the Colonial Secretary, Mr McLeay, and had been advised by him to apply to Dr Dulhunty in the first instance. Howe dispatched the following letter to Dr Dulhunty on 26th June:
June 26, l827
Dr J. Dulhunty,
Superintendent of Police, etc
Understanding that the reporters for the Gazette are in effect prevented from taking down the cases which are tried in your Court, owing to the impossibility of their hearing at the place now appointed for them to sit, I have to request that you will allow them to occupy their former seats till such time as a more eligible situation can be found for them. The reporters of this journal, unlike those from the other papers, are men of respectability, and have always been recognized as such by your predecessors, who gave them every encouragement. I am sure you will see the propriety of having correct reports of such cases as may appear before you, and I cannot doubt that you will comply with my request; and it is from this conviction that I prefer applying to you in the first instance.I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most Obedient Servant,
Receiving no reply to his letter, Mr Howe aired his grievances in an editorial in the Gazette on Monday, 2nd July, 1827:
We were very sorry to witness the Monitorial artillery that was levelled at the Head of our new Superintendent of Police, in the columns of the last number of that paper. The reason why we express .regret is simply this; because we are precluded from giving a correct statement of the transaction as it really did occur, on account of the impossibility of our reporters being permitted to get within earshot of the table, or box, whereat the details of the office are conducted. We have little doubt, had any such obstruction been thrown in the way of the gentlemen connected with our Journal, that we might have been able to give another glossary of the LIBERAL strictures which have been awarded on the occasion to which we allude. We must, however, be silent in the matter, unless we are furnished with proofs to refute the statement that has been put forth. That Dr Dulhunty, who is only new in office, should go undefended, is to be deplored, because we believe he has a desire to administer justice with impartiality and to be influenced in all his decisions by the dictates of an upright conscience.
Nevertheless, we cannot help remarking that we fear Dr Dulhunty has been ill-advised by someone or other, to whom he has lent a too willing ear. We allude to ourselves. Owing to the impracticability of our reporters hearing a word of any of the proceedings, and in consequence of their expulsion from the usual seat, we transmitted a letter to the Superintendent of Police on the subject requesting him either to take off the embargo regarding the old seat, or direct that some new one, equally eligible, might be prepared, and we stated our reasons for making this communication.
To our astonishment, from that hour to this, Dr Dulhunty has not deigned to vouchsafe us an answer! Not a common note! Not so much as a syllable, even by a Constable, of the acknowledgment of our polite communication!
We were the more astonished at this, inasmuch as it is not the manner in which superiors in office to the Superintendent of Police invariably conduct themselves towards the editor of the Sydney Gazette, who, without any great stretch of vanity, flatters himself that he has a right to be treated with the courtesy of a gentleman by a gentleman.
To Dr Dulhunty we are perfectly unknown, but even this fact should have called forth common attention, for strangers ought to interchange ordinary civilities.
Whilst the Sydney Gazette professes to advocate the measures of the Government, so long as they conscientiously perform their duties, still the editor will never allow himself to be cavalierly treated (to say the least) by a public officer. Dr Dulhunty may have different views on the subject - or he may have considered our letter an intrusion and therefore only worthy of the contempt which it has experienced. We have seen and known many Superintendents of Police, but the LAST is the FIRST that ever disregarded our communications, particularly when we professed to have for our object a furtherance of the views of the Superintendent of Police. Whether our reporters are admitted or not within the possibility of hearing, we shall not again hastily trouble the Head of the Police Office, unless we understand no insult was intended.
The letter which the Gazette had sent to Dr Dulhunty fell into the hands of a reporter from The Australian, and was gleefully published by that paper on 6th July, with the comment:
The above letter is an admirable specimen of the courtesy and respectful style in which the Head of the Police Department should be addressed on an occasion like that for which it is penned; and it is also a characteristic sample of the "veracious" in references to parties brought - quite necessarily too - before the Court.
The second subject of the writer, it might be expected, would neither be so complacent towards the Superintendent nor yet so moderate towards the "men [not] of respectability" as this the first most certainly is; and we wonder, therefore, that Dr Dulhunty did not take an alarm "in the first instance", make a low bow to the scribe, and humbly accommodate him according to his behests!
The Worshipful Bench of Magistrates have already pronounced their opinion of the merits of this letter, and it has, somehow or other, fallen into our hands, so we publish it for public information.
The Gazette replied on Monday, 9th July:
We are not at all surprised at the proceeding of our old and honourable friend1 in the publication of our letter to the Acting Superintendent of Police, Dr Dulhunty.
Our present business, however, is to make some few remarks upon the courteous conduct manifested by some person in handing over our communication to Dr Dulhunty for publication in The Australian. From the Acting Superintendent of Police we look for the consideration due to one who was, at least, no way his inferior in Society, and of whom we solicited no favour. The facility of publishing the transactions of a public Court is a recognized right, which it depends not upon the will of Dr Dulhunty, however impediments may be thrown in the way to destroy; and we will take leave to inform that Gentleman, omnipotent as he may think himself, that in making the application which we did to him we never for a moment contemplated that we were ever so remotely soliciting a favour. Had Dr Dulhunty been aware at whose instance we were enticed to apply to him "in the first instance" we have little doubt that our representation would have been differently received; as it is, however, Dr Dulhunty will find that our complaints in future shall be addressed to that quarter from which, whatever view may be taken of the propriety of our request, we are always sure, at least, of a courteous and gentlemanly answer. We scorn to offer any reply to the contemptible journalist who has published the insolent observations upon a letter in which we defy him or any other man to point out one single expression wanting in respect to the station of the individual to whom it is addressed. Our business is with principals, not with subordinates, and we therefore turn to Dr Dulhunty to enquire wherein our communication failed in that courtesy and respect to which he thinks himself entitled, and the want of which enticed him to treat it with contempt. Surely it was as courteous as the circumstances of a case, a statement of which appeared in a late number of the Monitor newspaper, and which yet remains uncontradicted? Surely it was as courteous as handing over a respectable inhabitant of Sydney (neither an Emancipist nor a Convict) to the custody of the Constables, and illegally directing a respectable tradesman to be manacled for what Dr Dulhunty was pleased to construe into contempt of Court (contempt of Court!). Really if we hear any more of courtesy we shall feel ourselves under the necessity of consulting Esop for the fable of the young crab and its mother.
We thought our observations on Monday last would have made "the galled jade to wince", but had we the least idea that they would have led to the publication of our private letter, with the accompanying remarks, or that it would have been in the least gratifying to the public, we should not for a moment have withheld it. As it is, however, we subjoin the copy of another application we have made for the information of the Police Department as a specimen of the manner in which we intend, in future, to proceed, and in order, if our letters are to be published that we, at all events, shall be first in the field, though we have little apprehension that communications to any other office under the Crown would find their way into journals which are the avowed but imbecile enemies of the administration of His Excellency Lieut.-General Darling.
The subjoined letter referred to was addressed to the Colonial Secretary:
Hon. Mr. McLeay,
Sydney July 6, 1827
Having spoken to you some short time since on what I conceived to be the exclusion of the reporters from the Police Office, and being directed by you to write to the Superintendent of Police on the subject, I lost no time in complying therewith. Conceiving myself not treated in the most courteous manner by Dr Dulhunty I wrote notwithstanding a becoming letter to that gentleman, at least what I considered a becoming letter. Although Mr McLeod, a gentleman in my employ, who officiated as a reporter, was kept upwards of two hours on the outside of the Court awaiting an answer of some kind or other, he was not honoured with any. Such contempt I thought it my duty to glance at, when the Superintendent of Police was publicly charged with a dereliction of the duty of his office, by an opposition journal, at the instance of a respectable and wealthy colonist but to which the Gazette was of course unable to furnish an answer owing to the aforesaid exclusion. By way of replying to these editorial strictures I find that my letter addressed to Dr Dulhunty has been published in this day's Australian, which is certainly no recommendation to any production; and my reporters, moreover, are still prevented from attending, so as to furnish the public with the proceedings of the Police.
I now respectfully beg leave to request permission from His Excellency the Governor, at my own expense if required, to be allowed to erect a box or desk for the reporters of my Journal and humbly trust His Excellency will not only be pleased to give directions to that effect but also order that a proper situation may be marked out with a view to giving the reporters the opportunity of hearing what passes.
As I consider the business of the Police Office in some degree connected with the character of the Government, and as it is proper that every facility should be afforded in order that clear reports might be laid before the public, I feel confident that His Excellency will see the propriety of my troubling him on this occasion; which however would not have been the case could I have been so fortunate as to have extracted a simple yes or no from Dr Dulhunty.I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient humble Servant,
This led to publication in The Australian, on 18th July, of a statement from the Sydney Bench of Magistrates:
At a meeting of magistrates held at Sydney on Saturday l4th July instant, present J.T. Campbell, Edward Wollstonecraft, F.A. Hely, F. Rossi, Richard Jones, J. Dulhunty, H.G. Douglass, A.K. Mackenzie.
The series of publications in the Sydney Gazette purporting to be strictures on the Superintendent of Police (Dr Dulhunty) having been brought under the consideration of the Bench, it was resolved that the magistrates feeling the highest indignation at the series of attacks made by the editor of the Sydney Gazette upon the Bench through their Chairman the Superintendent of Police (Dr. Dulhunty) but more particularly by that which appears in the Sydney Gazette on the 9th instant in which threats were even presumed to be held out, do determine that no reporter from the Sydney Gazette be permitted to take notes of the proceedings of the Police Court until the said editor shall satisfactorily apologize to Dr Dulhunty for such insults through the same medium in which the insult was offered.
The same day the Gazette republished all the correspondence in connection with the case but refused to apologize. Its report concluded:
In that rapidity with which we are obliged to hasten on, we have omitted to notice in its proper place that the Acting Principal Clerk in the Police Office felt it his duty, forsooth, to pass an opinion, in open court, to our reporter (Mr McLeod) upon our letter to Dr Dulhunty, observing at the time for everyone to hear, it was no wonder the Honourable Mr McLeay might consider our private letter inoffensive, since Dr Dulhunty and the Colonial Secretary were not on the best of terms! This was an insinuation that was quite unnecessary, for Mr McLeay would be the last personage in the Colony that would countenance wilful disrespect to any public officer.
Dr Dulhunty lasted just five months in the office of Chief Superintendent of Police. The Australian announced on 3rd October, 1827:
Colonel Morrisset, it is now decided, is to succeed Mr Hely in his office of principal Superintendent, Mr Hely is placed at the head of the police of Sydney and Dr Dulhunty retired. The appointment of Police Magistrate at Bathurst we should imagine would not be much amiss for Dr Dulhunty, whose farm lies in that district.
Colonel Morrisset was appointed to the position of Superintendent of Police at Sydney on 18th October, 1827, his salary, with allowances, being fixed at £860 per annum. He was notified of this appointment in a letter from the Colonial Secretary, Mr. McLeay:
His Excellency the Governor having been pleased to appoint you to act as Principal Superintendent of Police in the room of John Dulhunty, Esq., I am directed to request that you immediately assume the charge of that office and take under your immediate direction the whole of the Police establishment of Sydney as will be explained to you by Dr Dulhunty or in his absence by the Chief Clerk of the Department.
The Australian announced on 2hth October, 1827:
Dr Dulhunty vacated his seat on the police bench as principal Superintendent on Friday last. Other magistrates presided on Saturday and on Monday Colonel Morrisset filled the chair of the late Superintendent.
The Gazette had the last word:
We are not aware that Dr Dulhunty has not merited the approbation of the public and the Government for the efficient discharge of the duties of his office during the period he has filled the situation of the Chairman of the Sydney Bench of Magistrates, and we are only sorry that this gentleman should have been the first Superintendent of Police who, by illegally excluding our reporters from the Court, has interfered with the rights of the public press, and more particularly of that journal by which he, in common with the Magistracy of the Territory, has been invariably supported and defended against the unwarranted attacks of journalists whose reporters, notwithstanding, have been disturbed in their avocation. It was an error of judgement After all, however, it may not be true that Dr Dulhunty retires; though probably Bathurst would prove a congenial climate to the Doctor, as there is not a ghost of a reporter there, nor likely to be until we establish the Bathurst Intelligencer.
The next time The Australian mentions Dr Dulhunty is on 5th March, l828, to report his death - just two years after his arrival at Sydney. The term of Dr Dulhunty's stay in Australia was short, but not uneventful.
We regret having to report the unexpected demise of Dr Dulhunty who fell into an apopleptic fit whilst walking down George Street on Friday evening, and having removed to Mr Bodenham's opposite to where the accident happened, expired shortly after. This gentleman it will be recollected filled the seat of Superintendent of Police immediately before Colonel Morrisset. His remains were interred on Sunday.
On 2nd April, l828, his name appeared in The Australian for the last time:
Claims or demands of persons having any claims or demands on the Estate of John Dulhunty late of Burwood, Esq , Decd, are requested forthwith to send in their accounts and all persons indebted to the Estate of the said Deceased are also requested as early as possible to pay the amount thereof to Mr Francis Beddek, Solicitor, Parramatta.
1 Robert Wardell, Editor of The Australian