Wellington Sights. AUCTION ROOMS AND CHINESE. [By The Man in the Street.] FAIR PLAY,VOLUME I, ISSUE 23, 2 JULY 1894

Wellington Sights. [1]


[By The Man in the Street.]

Nothing strikes the inquisitive stranger to Wellington with greater force than the sights peculiar to its auction rooms. To convey an adequate impression of the transactions of these increasing accessories of civilization would be to picture and deplore the spread and ramifications of the dread "yellow agony" of Asia, for these rooms are in the main supported by the custom of Chinese. The fruit and small grocery trade is practically a Chinese monopoly. By virtue of their egregious propensities and cheap mode of living, they have ousted almost in toto the European vendors. Most of their stock in obtained through the medium of the auctioneers. Enormous shipments of oranges, bananas, lemons, etc., are constantly arriving ; the various auctioneers have lorries of their own, and the transfers to their rooms are expeditiously effected. Very little advertising is required. By an inscrutable system of transmission the news soon reaches the ultimate circles of Celestial proprietorship, and the streets soon become alive with hordes of gesticulating Orientals flocking along in the processive style familiar to us all. One cannot help observing their imperturbable persistency, the child-like and bland pig-looking countenances they affect, and the inward quick working of a fertile brain existing under all this fancied stupidity. The auctioneer mounts his over-changing rostrum, the cases most convenient to his tour round the room, with an agility worthy of a Batger, and starts business with a minimum of ceremony, superior quite to the necessity of elaborate "conditions." 

A perspiring and, considering all circumstances, polite attendant knocks open the lid of the first case, and the fun begins. The babel of noise abates temporarily to soar again into disagreeable voluminosity at short intervals. A fat individual, who has evidently at some period of his existence boon smitten with smallpox, leads off with a ridiculous bid, and then smiles a sickly smile, and the subsequent proceedings, in the words of the immortal Yank, "interest him no more." After this performance, nods do the work, and the "lot" is knocked down, with the option of, say, ten cases. He probably takes one, and the dreary routine is repeated. Each time a case is opened the smoking, spitting, hideous crowd jostle one another to obtain a glimpse of the state of its contents. The few Europeans present are either idle spectators, or, being in the trade, have more respect for their olfactory organs than cupidity for a bargain. Their bids are purely speculative. Occasionally women, perhaps from the country, are courageous enough to venture into the reeking throng; but then nothing will deter a woman from the scent of a bargain : the Red Indian after a scalp was not more relentless. 

These " Chinamen's auctioneers " are smart men. If they have acquired nothing else they have become remarkably proficient in identifying their clients. There is absolutely no confusion. Fung Fat does not dispute Ah Sole; the vision of the auctioneer is too unerring; he knows his "family" as well as Scotland Yard the most obscure criminal in the metropolis. Of course, there are certain rooms not devoted to Chinamen and their wares. A favourite resort on Saturday nights is the "People's Auction Rooms," in Willis street, the tutelary deity of which is one Mr. Shortt. One night occurred the following interesting colloquy with the assistant : — " What's the volume, William ? " William (after much diagnosis) "Opera Ciceronis." Auctioneer : " Ah, gentlemen, now then you musically inclined, give me a bid for Ciceo's opera." 

The Chinamen's auctioneers fatten and thrive, the Chinese fatten and thrive, and the Europeans seem emaciated and spirit broken. The prevalence of such a state of affairs is a disgrace to the Empire city ; from a health point of view it is to be deplored ; the unfailing visits of influenza have been attributed to many causes, but the right one has been passed over. These outbreaks have been known from time immemorial in Asia, and but seldom amongst Europeans, until the fell tide of Asiatic immigration set in. It is at least reasonable to suppose that filth and dirt will conduce to disease, and where would you find a filthier and dirtier race than the majority of the Chinese that infest our cities and add corruption to our nether world? 

Surely this Chinese competition, with its concatenation of horrors, is worthy the serious attention of our legislators ; before too late every means, even extreme measures, should be taken to stop this influx of inferiority. It must be manifest that their contact and intermarriage is disastrous to the preservation of the highest qualities of our race. Stockowners do not think of importing inferior breeds. Is the breed of New Zealanders to be deemed of no consideration? To compete with them we will have to adopt their mode of living ; our marriage laws and customs will have of necessity to be set at defiance. These are the concomitants of the present. To clothe these facts in less uncouth language would be to lessen the impression to outsiders. This is a national question. Even Prohibition and half million surpluses, real or fictitious, sink into insignificance. The law of nations will no doubt be involved, but the progress of the rapidly expanding evil, admits of no delay in seeking means for its arrest. 

We may buy with you, sell with you, talk with you (per post), but we will neither live with you, sit with you, eat with you. If there is over to be a United Australia, it will be caused from a study of this evil. Up then you Legislators, sink your minor grievances, and arm yourselves with the old indomitable spirit of our ancestors, the spirit of a Pitt, a Bright, a Macaulay, and grapple with the greatest evil that can befall our favoured land. Your children's heritage may go from them. The reward that you toiled for, that you heaped up a national debt for, is going from you. Better far your grand old Maoris than those scum and outcast of the east who benefit us naught. America was roused afew years back — let us profit by their action ; if we only by it secure that which is dear to English prejudice — an almighty precedent. This is New Zealand's foreign policy. If England be frightened of reprisals she will have to sacrifice her mere Eastern trade, and think instead of her flesh and blood, who are worth an infinity more. The benefits from our connection with China are far outbalanced by the disadvantages. The dictum must be "No more Chinese." If England does interpose we must speak out as Dibbs did on an historical occasion regarding Chicago. We have our own people to consider and should keep pegging away until we remove every yellow-faced horror out of the land.

  1. Wellington Sights. AUCTION ROOMS AND CHINESE. [By The Man in the Street.] FAIR PLAY,VOLUME I, ISSUE 23, 2 JULY 1894


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