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The history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) online

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constrained to lay the matter before Lord Glenelg.
The principal complaints were that he had retarded the
progress of the surveys by interfering with the sur-
veyor-general ; that he had assumed some of the
powers delegated to the Eesident Commissioner ; that
he had incurred expenses without authority, and that
he had suspended and discharged a number of public
officers without sufficient cause. The letter addressed
by the Commissioners to Lord Glenelg concluded by
stating that "however much they might respect the
rank of Captain Hindmarsh as a distinguished officer
of the British navy, they were compelled by a para-
mount sense of duty respectfully to recommend, on the
several grounds which they had endeavoured to explain
to his lordship, that he might be immediately recalled
from the government of South Australia."

Pending a reply, several of the most influential
friends of the colony met in London to discuss the
position, and a deputation waited on the Secretary of
State in reference to the appointment of a new Governor.

The choice of the Commissioners fell upon Lieutenant-
Colonel Gawler, a distinguished officer under the Duke
of Wellington in the Peninsular campaign.

No sooner had the Commissioners completed their
arrangements with regard to the new Governor, than
they received a series -of grave complaints against the
Resident Commissioner, and somewhat hastily t they dis-
missed him from his office,* and having experienced
the evils of divided authority in the colony, the Board
submitted that henceforth the office of Resident Commis-
sioner should be merged in that of the Governor. In this
Lord Glenelg concurred, and later on Colonel Gawler
was gazetted Governor and Resident Commissioner.

In June, 1838, the news reached the colony of the

* It may here be stated that during the administration of
Captain Grey inquiries were instituted relative to these charges,
resulting in a complete exoneration of the Resident Commissioner,
communicated to him by Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the


recall of Captain Hindmarsh, and a large number of
the colonists at once presented him with an address
expressing personal attachment, and regretting his
loss as " a colonist who had in so many instances set a
bright example of patient self-denial and energetic
exercise of manly accomplishments." In the course of
his reply to this address, Captain Hindmarsh read as
follows :

" I receive your expressions of attachment in the
same sincerity of feeling with which I believe they
are offered, and I assure you that the regret I feel
deeply at this moment is influenced less by the political
change to which you refer, or by the reflection that
such change has been effected by unworthy means, than
by the necessity I am under of leaving you for a time
to vindicate my public conduct and justify in England
my administration of the government of the province.
The share]which a Governor of South Australia possesses
in conducting the new experiment in colonization is
so small that under no circumstance can he be justly
responsible for its result. That responsibility rests
with the Colonization Commissioners, to whom the
charge of working out so peculiar a constitution is
entrusted. The principle, though novel, is simple, as I
believe it to be sound. Its successful practical applica-
tion, however, depends, not on the Colonial Government,
but on the integrity and ability of the individuals
entrusted by the Colonial Commissioners with its
development, and it must be to a deficiency of those
qualities alone that anything approaching failure ought
to be attributed. . . ."

Captain Hindmarsh left the colony on the 14th of
July, in H.M.S. Alligator, for Sydney, intending to
proceed from thence to England. It was evident that
he anticipated a return after he had made his defence
in England. Those most opposed to his administration
never doubted that to the best of his judgment he had
endeavoured to promote the welfare of the community,
and with this conviction he was confident that he
could make a fair representation of his proceedings


at head-quarters. And there is little doubt that if
he had been so situated as to have been able to act
on his own responsibility and exercise an independent
judgment, he would have proved a much more success-
ful administrator of the affairs of the infant colony.

He was appointed Governor of Heligoland in 1840.
In 1849 he received the war medal and seven clasps,
and other honorary distinctions, for his long and dis-
tinguished services in the navy. In 1851 the honour
of knighthood was conferred upon him, and in 1856
he returned to England, where he died, on the 29th of
July, 1860, at the advanced age of seventy-eight.


Pending the arrival of the new Governor, the tem-
porary administration of affairs was undertaken by Mr.
George Milner Stephens, advocate-general, and son-
in-law of Captain Hindmarsh. His position was not
enviable. In his first address to the Council he drew this
melancholy picture of affairs : " I have to announce with
regret that there are no funds in the treasury, and that
the quarter's salaries due to the whole of the public
servants on the 30th of June last are unpaid. We
have, therefore, to fear that the tempting remuneration
held out for the exercise of ability in private under-
takings in this province, added to the distress which they
are beginning to experience from the want of money, will
induce many indispensable public officers to leave the
service of the Government. Secondly, by the departure
of the marines on H.M.S. Alligator, this province, with
a population exceeding four thousand persons, is aban-
doned to the protection of eighteen policemen, lately
embodied by Governor Hindmarsh, while there are now
twenty-one prisoners confined in the weather-boarded
building used as a gaol, and perhaps double that number
of desperate runaway convicts in the neighbourhood
of the town. At the same time, as I have observed,
there are no funds for the support of the force now
constituting our only protection, and the Eesident

1838.] ME. G. M. STEPHENS. 105

Commissioner is restricted by his instructions from pro-
viding money for such a purpose. . . . We have happily
no immediate cause to apprehend hostility from the
aborigines, or our situation would indeed be deplorable ;
but they have ere now sacrificed two fellow-creatures,
and you have too recently witnessed the outrages that
terminated in a public execution, to regard with in-
difference our present unprotected state. . . ."

The brief administration of Mr. G. M. Stephens as
acting Governor was a very successful one, inasmuch as
he was the means of arresting the progress of party
spirit and of quelling much of the strife that had un-
fortunately sprung up. From his private funds he
liberally relieved the treasury from its embarrassment
and effectually re-organized the police force.

It would be unfair to conclude this chapter without
some direct reference to the character, as a whole, of
the colonists who bore the burden and heat of the day
at this important time and in the more exciting times
soon to follow, and we cannot do better than quote the
language of Sir Henry Ayers, K.C.M.G.*

" The early settlers evinced great boldness in coming
to this country when they did, for it was no light
undertaking for men and women, with their children,
to leave the comforts and conveniences of civilization
and venture to settle in a country whose geographical
position was not very generally understood, and of
whose productive powers absolutely nothing was known ;
and it was the possession of like courage, when they
were surrounded with difficulties, which enabled them
successfully to withstand them. I have always urged
and am still of opinion that the greatest factor in over-
coming our difficulties was the sterling qualities of our

* From a lecture on " Pioneer Difficulties in South Australia," by
Sir Henry Ayers, K.C.M.G., delivered in Adelaide in June, 1891.

t According to the classification of colonists made by the Old
Colonists' Association, " pioneers" included those who arrived prior
to the 28th of December, 1846, that being the tenth anniversary
of the day South Australia was proclaimed a British colony, and
" old colonists " were those who arrived between December 28th,
1846, and December 28th, 1856.


" Taking all classes together they were a superior
sample of the people of the mother country. . . . Our
pioneer colonists had their privations, their disappoint-
ments, and their losses, which they bravely met. Most
of them were extremely capable and intelligent, possessed
of sturdy endurance and self-reliance, determined to
succeed if success were possible. In short, they were
made of the right sort of stuff, and well worthy of the
grand old country whose sons they were. It was these
qualities which enabled them to meet and surmount
the reverses with which they were environed. They
were, in numerous instances, young and recently married,
many marriages having been hastened to enable the
young people to cast their lot and try their fortunes in
this country. It is then, when men and women leave
their homes and have to found new ones, that even the
painfulness of the severance from their native land to
do so is less felt than it would be after forming a home
soon to be broken up again. It is a period, too, when
men and women feel that they are all the world to
each other, so that as long as they are together the
locality of their residence is of less consequence. It is
a time when new enterprises may be undertaken with
better hope of success, for they are then possessed of
double strength, with twice the amount of hope and
exhilaration that they have at any other era of their
existence, and there is no better period when a man
may commence a great and important or an arduous
undertaking than when he has the enthusiastic help
and tender sympathy of a loving wife.

" With the prosperity that followed our adversity I
should have liked to have been able to say that the
early settlers, who worked so diligently and struggled
so hard to sustain the settlement of the colony, met
with the good fortune such conduct merited. Alas ! it
was not so. More fortunes were lost, or missed of
making, than had been retained or secured. The
coming of general prosperity was, so far as most of the
pioneers were concerned, only the renewal of fresh
efforts more or less empty-handed."




OCTOBER 17th, 1838 MAY 10th, 1841.

Offices of Governor and Resident Commissioner combined.
Difficulties of Colonel Gawler's Position. Financial Embarrass-
ments. Resignation of Colonel Light and the Survey Staff.
Death of Colonel Light. Rapid Immigration and Unemployed
Labour. Erection of Public Buildings. Special Surveys.
Explorations. Mr. E. J. Eyre's Attempt to open up Over-
land Route to Western Australia. A Story of Heroism.
Murder of John Baxter. Board of South Australian Com-
missioners disbanded. Formation of South Australian Society.
The " Company's " Road to the Port, McLaren Wharf
Bushrangers. Massacres by Natives. Treatment and Punish-
ment of Criminal Aborigines. Missionaries. Question of
Colonial Chaplains. Arrival of Germans. A Story of Religious
Persecution Pastor Kavel. Fruits and Vegetables. Pros-
perity. A Coming Storm. Colonel Gawler's Bills dishonoured.
A Critical Time. Colonel Gawler's Defence. His Recall.
Universal Bankruptcy in Colony.

COLONEL GEORGE GAWLER, the second Governor of South
Australia, was a man of great ability, of calm deter-
mination, and withal of intense enthusiasm and vigour.
When he arrived in the colony he was in his forty-
second year, the prime of manhood. His previous
career had been adventurous and notable. Leaving the
Military College, Great Marlow, at the age of fifteen,
he joined the 52nd Light Infantry, and served to the
end of the Peninsular campaign. He was present at the
battles and sieges of Badajoz, Vittoria, Mves, Mvelles,


Orthes, Toulouse, and Waterloo. As ensign he led the
forlorn hope at the storming of Badajoz, where he was
struck in the right knee by grapeshot, and fell from
the parapet into the ditch below. Here he would have
perished but for his timely rescue by a private of his
own regiment, who laid down his life to serve his officer.
At Waterloo Colonel Gawler performed signal service
while commanding the right flank company of the 52nd
Regiment during the great charge on the Imperial
Guards, for which he received the war medal with
seven clasps. After this he was in the Civil Service ;
then he occupied the post of Governor in one of the
North American provinces for a period of three years,
and subsequently he employed his time in literary

When he was selected to supersede Captain Hind-
marsh in the important office of Governor of South
Australia, and to combine in himself the dual position
of Governor and Resident Commissioner, it of course
became necessary that new instructions should be
issued, and these were clear and explicit. Enlarged
financial powers were given him, but he was reminded
that, in principle, South Australia was a self-supporting
colony ; therefore, when the balance in hand upon the
revenue fund was not sufficient to pay accounts fully due,
he could draw upon the Emigration Fund ; and if that
fund was not sufficient, he could draw a bill or bills of
exchange upon the Commissioners ; but that no accounts
so drawn were to exceed in the aggregate a total of
2500 per quarter, or 10,000 in the year. At the
date of his appointment the expenses of the authorized
establishment of the colony amounted to 8322 12s.
The power to draw to the extent of 10,000, therefore,
the Commissioners reminded him, was in excess of the
total fixed expenses of the colony, and he was requested
to " distinctly understand that the right to exceed that
expenditure was not thereby in any degree extended."

When intelligence of the appointment of Colonel
Gawler reached South Australia, a gleam of hope,
almost amounting to exultation, took the place of


irritation and despondency. The settlers understood that
they might be ruled somewhat despotically, but they
welcomed any change from the irritation of being ruled
almost entirely by men sixteen thousand miles away (by
ship's course), for the most part ignorant of the wants
of the colonists and of the physical capabilities of the
country, and unaided by those improvements in the
communication of orders which modern science has
made known. Altogether, the position of the colonists
was one of great difficulty and uneasiness, and when,
on the 12th of October, 1838, the ship Pestongee
Bomangee, with the new Governor on board, dropped
anchor in Holdfast Bay, there went up a great sigh of
relief, as if their burdens had already begun to roll

On the 17th the Governor was publicly received in
Adelaide, about a thousand people meeting him on the
Bay Eoad, and escorting him to Government House, or
" Hut." * Here a Council was held, and the Governor
took the oaths, which he afterwards administered to
Mr. G. M. Stephens, on his receiving the appointment
of colonial secretary ; to Mr. H. Jickling, judge ; and
to Mr. E. Bernard, acting advocate-general and Crown

The reception was: enthusiastic, everybody hoping that
a reign of peace and good-will would set in, now that
they had an able and influential man invested with the
powers of Governor and Eesident Commissioner.

The routine addresses followed, but they were not
of the routine kind. There was an intense desire
among the settlers to develop the wonderful resources
of the province, in which each individual seemed to
take a special pride. They had long suffered from
delays, hindrances, and vexations, inevitable in the
circumstances, and they were eager to encourage every
action on the part of the authorities which should throw

* When Colonel Gawler went to Government House, it was
only a temporary erection of one story, with a thatched roof, the
timbers principally of native pine, procured from what was then
called the " Pine Forest," since known as Nailsworth.


open the Country more widely to capitalists and

The position of Captain Hindmarsh was, as we have
seen, an unenviable one, but that of Colonel Gawler
was much more so. The task before him was one of
supreme difficulty. The contentions, if they had not
ceased altogether, were at least dormant, but there was
a vast network of financial difficulty before him. As,
later on, we shall have to consider the whole matter in
detail, it will be well in this place to give the Governor's
estimate of the situation in his own words, written
within a fortnight of his arrival in the colony :

" I must, in the strongest manner, solicit the Com-
missioners' most indulgent consideration. I am about
to incur the heaviest responsibilities, from which I
could not shrink without endangering the finest pro-
spects of this most beautiful colony, and my duty to the
Colonization Commissioners. I find the public offices
established here much beyond the authorized number
and force furnished to me in England, and yet I am
persuaded that, with the consent of the Council, I must
not only keep, but probably increase, the existing
establishments. The surveys are altogether unequal to
the demand for land ; 21,000 acres of preliminary pur-
chases remain unsurveyed, and, of course, the great
mass of subsequent purchases unprovided for, and great
disappointment has been experienced. It is my in-
tention, with the consent of the Council, to put on
every surveyor that I can procure, until the survey
comes up, or nearly up, to the demand. The profits
of capitalists are great ; provisions, wages, and house
rent are very high ; all prosper but the servants of
Government. To retain them in their places, it will
be absolutely necessary to increase their salaries, at
least of the junior classes, to something like a propor-
tionate scale to those of private officers. My instruc-
tions permit me to draw on England to the amount
of 10,000 per annum. Within this year (1838), up-
wards of 12,000 has been already drawn ; the third
quarter's salaries are still due ; the treasury is abso-


lutely empty, and public debts to a considerable amount
have been incurred; urgent demands are made for
payment, and the credit of Government is therefore
injuriously low. The colony itself is most flourishing.
I have great confidence that a proportionately large
revenue may be raised from it, and that in many things
public expenditure may be reduced. Care and exertion
on my part shall not be spared to accomplish these
objects, but, until they are attained, I must surpass my
instructions, and look to England for considerable
unauthorized pecuniary assistance."

These words were written, as we have said, within a
fortnight of his arrival in the colony. The experience
of a few more weeks convinced him much more strongly
that he was involved in most aggravated and compli-
cated difficulties. He found that the public offices
were carried on with scarcely a pretension to system ;
" every man did as he would, and got on as he could."
There were scarcely any records of past proceedings, of
public accounts, or of issues of stores ; innumerable
complications had arisen in consequence of the non-
fulfilment of one of the leading principles on which
the regulations made for the disposal of land were
based, namely, that " the surveys should be in advance
of the demand," complications which the letter of the
law as it stood could not by any possibility set right ;
the survey department was reduced to three indi-
viduals ; immigrants were crowding into the town, and
leaving the country districts; the principal business
was in land-jobbing ; capital was flowing out to Sydney
and Van Diemen's Land for the necessaries of life, as
rapidly as it was brought in by fresh arrivals from
England; there was a dire necessity for new public
buildings of every kind ; the gaol, constructed for eight
prisoners, always had an average of thirty persons ; in
the Government " Hut " there was not tolerable house-
hold or office accommodation ; the two landing-places,
Holdfast Bay and the Old Port, were of the most in-
different description ; the cost of transport to and from
these ports to Adelaide was simply ruinous, and in the


midst of all this, the tide of immigration was flowing
in with a rapidity which would have taxed the resources
of any young colony, however perfect its organization
might have been.

Colonel Gawler took an intense interest in the " ex-
periment in colonization " under trial, and, in spite of
difficulties, he threw all the strength of his great energy
into the attempt to make the scheme successful. Soon
after his arrival his Council was formed for the time
being, and work began in earnest. .

Amongst the first instructions sent out to Colonel
Gawler by the Commissioners, was one giving him
authority to reconstruct the survey staff, Colonel Light
and his assistants having resigned their appointments.

It will be remembered that when the dissensions
between Governor Hindmarsh and the surveyor-general
were at their height, Mr. G. S. Kingston was despatched
to England to confer with the Commissioners on the
subject of the surveys. The Commissioners insisted
upon the surveys being carried out in a particular way,
distasteful to the surveyor-general, and in the event of
his not complying, Mr. Kingston was to supersede him.
On receiving this ultimatum, Colonel Light at once
tendered his resignation, and his example was followed
by the whole of the officers of the survey staff. For
the awkward and unpleasant position in which he
found himself placed Mr. Kingston was in no wise
responsible, the action taken by the Board having been
upon their own initiative. A public meeting was held
in Adelaide, at which the overwhelming vote was in
favour of the plan pursued by Colonel Light ; but this
was not sufficient to induce him to withdraw his resig-
nation. He entered into business with Mr. B. T.
Finniss, under the title of Light, Finniss, and Co., but
Colonel Light's health had been for some time failing,
and under the irritation of what he felt to be unrequited
public services in the colony, his malady consumption
soon became fatal, and he died shortly after Governor
Gawler's arrival.*

* In his last illness his great anxiety was to be acknowledged as


On the subject of the reconstruction of the survey
staff, the Board of Commissioners wrote to Colonel
Gawler as follows :

" The Commissioners are desirous of placing, and do
hereby place, in your hands the fullest and most ample
powers to reorganize the surveying staff in whatever
manner and to whatever extent may appear to you
most expedient, in order to render it efficient, and to
remedy, as far as may be practicable, the interruption
and delay in the progress of the surveys which these
resignations have occasioned."

This unrestricted licence became the source of one
of Colonel Gawler's greatest troubles, and led in no
small measure to the difficulties which culminated in
one of the most disastrous episodes in the history of the

The possession of land, not for use or cultivation,
but for speculation, became a mania, many acting as if
the whole population of Great Britain were about to be
suddenly transferred to South Australia. As each fresh
exploring party found out the existence of good country,
the desire to purchase became almost irresistible. But
as, immediately after survey, the deposit for purchase
had to be paid, the capital of the country, instead of
being employed in cultivating the land already held
and in effecting improvements, was either sent home to
England for expenditure in emigration purposes, or to

the founder of Adelaide, and he requested that a copper plate, with
an inscription to that effect, might be placed inside his coffin. He
was buried in a vault in Light Square, where an obelisk to his
memory was erected, bearing this inscription

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 34)