Armistice – Justices of the Peace Rejoice!

We have been marking the centenary of the Armistice. Here’s a story from exactly 100 years ago which typifies feelings throughout the land, and abroad, in 1918 –  sentiment which has been repeated all over again a century later.

November 14th 1918

Wanganui Justices of the Peace and members of the Law Society attended a special sitting of the Magistrate’s Court today to pass on their congratulations on the result of the war and to assure the presiding Magistrate, Mr Wyvern Wilson, S.M., of their loyalty and allegiance to the Crown.

Mr Louis Cohen, President of the Wanganui Law Society, said they had assembled in the midst of their gratitude and rejoicing to do honour to their liege lord, the King, and to his Worship as the King’s representative in Wanganui, and to express their loyalty and gratitude.

“Ever since the great Charter of Rights as a free people had been granted, those rights had come down to us through the ages unsullied. We, in this hour of rejoicing,” he said, “feel that great good to the world will come from our victory, a victory which was not won for ourselves but for all humanity and for the rights of others”.

Mr Judah Keesing, senior Justice of the Peace, said “We, the Justices of Wanganui, are proud of the position we hold, and we are also proud to appear before you in this Court of Justice on this great occasion – one which the world never before has experienced. We rejoice – democracy, justice and mercy have triumphed over immorality, injustice and oppression”.

His Worship welcomed the truce… “Although only an armistice has been granted, it is looked upon by all quarters as the end of fighting and the herald of peace. For the past four years this country has been engaged in the vindication of truth, honour, and justice. During the war Wanganui has been somewhat unsettled in the administration of the laws, and Justices of the Peace have been frequently called upon. That was unavoidable, owing to the absence of several Magistrates on war service. The Justices have rendered valuable assistance. Here in Wanganui, as in other centres, lawyers had also played their part in fighting at the front, and several have become officers and are, I am pleased to say, still with their men.

I thank you for your expressions of loyalty to the King and your allegiance…maintain that allegiance for the future”.

Then to end the special sitting, the familiar strains of the National Anthem, “God Save the King!” were heard in the big Court-room, singing led by the President of the Law Society. It was almost certain that it was the first time, ever, that there’s been singing in a New Zealand Courthouse… but such was the feeling and nature of the ceremony.

Abridged, Wanganui Herald.


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