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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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A Tory of the Tories. A Bad Beginning. A Royalty on Minerals
proposed. Public Excitement thereon. Mr. W. E. Gladstone
on the Position of Colonial Governors. Import Duty on Corn.
Canada and South Australia. Imposition of Royalty on
Minerals. Specimen of South Australian Oratory. Historical
Scene in Legislative Council. Unpopularity of the Governor.
State Aid to Religion. Political Dissenters. League for the
Maintenance of Religious Freedom. State Aid granted.
Return of Captain Sturt from Interior. Geological Observa-
tions of the Governor. Explorations of Mr. J. A. Horrocks.
Education Bill. Steam Communication with England.
Arrival of Dr. Short, Bishop of Adelaide.

ON the 14th of October, 1845, all conjectures as to
the successor of Captain Grey were set at rest by the
arrival in the colony of Major Frederick Holt Eobe, of
the 87th Eoyal Irish Fusiliers, who had been appointed
by her Majesty to the Governorship of South Australia.
He had at one time held the office of military secre-
tary at Mauritius, under Major-General Sir William
Nicolay, and at the date of his appointment to South
Australia he was holding a similar office at Gibraltar.
In order to obtain the services of Captain Grey in New
Zealand as quickly as possible for atlairs were in a
disturbed and critical state there Major Eobe was
instructed to proceed direct from Gibraltar, via
Alexandria and the Isthmus of Suez, to Bombay, where

1845.] MAJOR ROBE. 209

the Elphinstone was in readiness to convey him to
South Australia, the vessel then to proceed forthwith
to New Zealand with Captain Grey.

Major Robe was in almost every respect a startling
contrast to his predecessor. He was a blunt, honest
soldier, well versed in his profession, but his manners
were not prepossessing, nor had he those gifts and
graces which tend to make men popular. He knew
nothing of the art of public speaking, and this in itself
created a prejudice against him in many quarters ; he
was unfortunately a bachelor, and this, from a social
point of view, was a great drawback, as a lady should
always accompany a Governor, and take her place as
leader of society; he was a Tory of the Tories, and
proclaimed from the housetop his " aversion to popular
tendencies ; " he was an undisguised advocate of High
Church principles, and took no pains whatever to con-
ceal his abhorrence of Nonconformity.

There are many things in heaven and on earth and
in the Colonial Office which are not dreamed of in the
philosophy of ordinary mortals, and how Major Robe
could have been selected to fill the office of Governor
in " the Paradise of Dissent " will probably ever remain
a mystery. It is only just to add in this place that he
was an honourable, upright man, greatly respected in
the limited sphere of his personal friendships, and true
as steel to his -Sovereign and to the political party
whose views he was determined, if it lay in his power,
should predominate throughout the colony.

For prudential reasons Major Robe was gazetted
Lieutenant-Governor, the object being to protect Captain
Grey from any proceedings that might be taken against
him by the holders of certain dishonoured bills drawn
upon the British Government, and for which the parties
refused to take debentures. So long, therefore, as
Captain Grey retained official connection with the
colony as " Governor," he was entitled to the protection
which pertained to that office.

Shortly after Major Robe assumed the government
of the province a notice appeared in the Gazette


informing all who had claims upon the Government
that debentures would be made and issued with the
interest due thereon to the 31st of March, 1846, that they
could be obtained on application, and that no further
interest would be allowed after that date. This
intimation was satisfactory enough for those whose
claims were admitted, but its obligatory character did
not prevent those whose accounts were disputed from
subsequently obtaining the whole or a portion of the
amount due to them.

One of his first acts was to rescind certain resolutions,
issued shortly before by his predecessor, for regulating
the disposal of waste lands, on the ground that in most
cases the regulations had operated disadvantageously to
the colonial interests. He claimed the right to submit
any lands that had passed the hammer, but had
acquired a higher value than the upset price first put
upon them, a second time to public auction, instead of
allowing them to be selected by private contract. This
measure, as a matter of course, met with considerable
disapprobation, the Observer dubbing the new Governor
as " principal Land- Jobber and Auctioneer-in-chief (by
appointment) to her Majesty. "

This was a bad beginning, but it was no fault of the
Governor it was simply his misfortune. He was a
military man of the old school, and had been accustomed
to rule and to be obeyed ; he was totally unable to
realize the genius of a rising colony or to sympathize
with the liberal views and sturdy independence of the
men over whom he was officially placed, and thus it
was that from first to last he was continually "in hot
water," and aroused the controversial spirit among the
colonists to its highest degree.

In November news was received that Lord Stanley
had made an attempt to introduce a new Waste Lands
Bill into the Imperial Parliament, containing clauses
imposing a royalty or reservation on the minerals raised,
in violation of an Act previously passed and which had
been in operation some years. The Bill was stated to
have been defeated by Lords Lansdowne and Monteagle,


who thus laid the colony under a deep obligation:
But the matter did not rest here. Lord Stanley
prepared an altered measure, submitted it to members
during the recess, and in the mean time obtained the
opinion of the law officers of the Crown, who considered
that the existing Act would bear the construction that
a royalty on, or reservation of, minerals might be
admitted; whereupon he sent a despatch to the
Lieutenant-Governor advising the imposition, forwarding
at the same time the text of the legal opinion.

The colonists were up in arms, and at once a public
meeting was called to express regret that such a Bill as
the one Lord Stanley had brought forward should ever
have been devised ; that it was an uncalled-for inter-
ference with the proper duties of the Legislative Council
as it related to the internal government of the province ;
that it was a breach of public faith under which most
of the colonists had emigrated to South Australia, and
that, if any such alteration as that proposed of the
perfect tenure under which the waste lands had
hitherto been purchased were carried into effect, it
would discourage all further introduction and invest-
ment of capital, and in other respects be fatal to the
interests and prosperity of the colony. It was resolved
that appeal should be made to her Majesty for pro-
tection, and that, until the Queen's action should be
made known, the Governor should be strongly entreated
to suspend or defer the operation of the measure.*

A little glimpse into the mental attitudes of Governor
and people may be obtained from the speeches made
when the petition to her Majesty, signed by seven
hundred colonists, was presented, with a memorial to
the Governor, by a deputation consisting of a number
of members of the Legislature, justices of the peace,
and leading colonists. Major O'Halloran was the
spokesman on behalf of the deputation, and in con-
cluding his speech he said " We yield to none in

* It may be noted in passing that at this meeting Mr. John
Baker, destined to take a leading part hereafter iu the Legislature,
made his maiden speech in public.


attachment to our Sovereign and her Crown, but we
are not prepared to bow the knee to the present or
any other minister who may be disposed to trample on
our rights or tamper with our interests."

Then uprose the Governor, cold and stern, and said

" Your memorial stigmatizes as oppressive certain
proposed measures of the Queen's Government having
reference to her Majesty's waste lands in this part of
her dominions, and you entreat me, in the event of
those measures having actually passed the Houses of
Parliament, to interpose such authority as may be
confided to me in order to frustrate for a period the
intentions of the Queen and of the Parliament. It is
barely consistent with common sense to imagine that
such large discretion would in any case be confided to
a local governor of so distant a possession of the Crown,
and you make this request at a time when it is a matter
of public notoriety that the measures of which you
complain have not met the sanction of the Imperial
Parliament. Under these circumstances you will not
be surprised at my declining to give any other reply
to your memorial than an assurance that I will at all
times feel pleasure in being made the medium of
transmitting, for presentation to the Queen, the dutiful
and loyal petitions and addresses which her Majesty's
subjects in this province may desire to have laid at the
foot of the throne."

A traveller once said of Niagara, " No picture can
give you any true idea of it ; you may paint the Falls,
but you cannot paint the roar of the waters ! " In like
manner, type may give the words of Major Eobe, but
it is impossible to reproduce the austere tone and the
irritating style in which his simplest utterances were
given. As a matter of fact, in the instance under
notice the colonists were premature ; the measure did
not receive the sanction of the Imperial Parliament,
and the Bill of Lord Stanley was thrown out. So
ended the first skirmish on the royalty question. The
great battle was to be fought at a future period.

In December, Mr. W. Giles, on behalf of the South

1845.] MB. GLADSTONE. 213

Australian Company, brought an action against the
Lieutenant- Governor for refusing to allow him (Mr.
Giles) to exercise certain preliminary land orders in
the selection of some mineral sections near the Monta-
cute Mine. The judge refused to allow the action to
proceed, alleging that the Company had not used due
diligence after Captain Grey's proclamation to the
holders of land orders in which the time was fixed
for making the selection.

At that time Mr. Gladstone was Secretary of State
for the Colonies, and as soon as he became aware that
an action had been brought against the Governor, he
forwarded a despatch to him expressing strong dis-
approbation of the course pursued. Adverting to the
refusal of the Court to grant the injunction, he said

" It is fortunate that such was the decision of the
Court. An opposite judgment might have raised many
embarrassing difficulties. But," he added, "I cannot
sanction the course which you followed in this case.
By appearing, or permitting any officer of the Crown
to appear, in defence of such a suit, you virtually
acknowledged that the head of the local Government
was amenable to the jurisdiction of the courts of the
colony which he governs. It does not follow that
because the question of jurisdiction was not discussed
on this occasion, it was therefore not decided or com-
promised. On the contrary, the absence of any such
discussion, resulting as it did from the absence on your
part of any such objection, was a clear though tacit
acknowledgment' that the asserted jurisdiction really
existed. I object to that acknowledgment, not on any
ground of mere dignity, or usage, or precedent, but
because thus to break down the barriers which separate
the judicial and administrative authorities must result
in great practical evils. The immunities of the
Sovereign in this country, and the corresponding im-
munities of a Governor in the colony he rules, exist for
the good of the people at large. If it were admitted
that you, as Governor of South Australia, were amenable
to the courts of the colony, you would of course be


liable to fine, to distress, and imprisonment at their

The despatch concluded

"I must therefore desire that the precedent which
has been established in this case be avoided in all
future cases, and that no act be done (except with the
express previous sanction of her Majesty's Government)
from which it could be inferred that you are amenable
to the jurisdiction of any court in South Australia so
long as you retain her Majesty's commission for the
administration of the government of that colony."

It is somewhat singular that Major Robe, who had
assumed the title of Lieutenant-Governor expressly for
the protection of his predecessor, should have overlooked
the position which the Governor of the colony is gene-
rally supposed to occupy, and of which his own case
furnished such a striking illustration.

Towards the end of the year intelligence arrived that
the Imperial Parliament had taken some action upon
certain memorials sent home from the Australian
colonies generally, praying for the removal of import
duty on their corn. In the debate Lord Howick
pointed out the injustice of admitting corn from
Canada free of duty, characterizing the concession as
a bribe to secure the good will of that colony towards
Britain, but admitting that the boon was a conditional
one requiring the Canadians to levy a duty on American
corn, so that the United States should not send their
produce to Britain through Canada. He urged that
there need be no apprehension of foreign grain reach-
ing Britain through the Australian colonies, as Chili,
the nearest country from which these colonies could
obtain a supply, was too far off to admit of any such
traffic being carried on profitably.

In the course of a very able speech Lord Howick

"I maintain that by refusing this concession to
Australia you are teaching Canada that it has nothing
to be grateful for. You teach it that what you have
done has not been from a sense of justice, or for the


common advantage of the Empire, but that it was a
bribe for acquiescing in the continuance of your
Government. It is like the money given by the
Roman Empire in its decline to the barbarians who
were threatening at the gates it is sure to purchase
only further demands. On the other hand, if you now
act to Australia, from which you have nothing to fear,
as you have acted towards Canada, you are showing
to your colonies generally that you are acting on the
principle of a large and liberal policy and a desire to
promote their welfare as integral portions of the British

It was certainly a hard case that Canada, near to
the United States, dissatisfied and rebellious, should
have the duty on her corn reduced, while Australia,
patient and loyal, with no dangerous neighbour, had
no relief or indulgence. Lord Howick had shot his
arrows at the right mark. If the colonies were integral
parts of the Empire, and not mere excrescences, what
need was there for any commercial restrictions ? And
the Australians felt and complained that whilst they
had soil and climate for the ample growth of corn, they
were checked by Britain denying them a market, and
they reasonably urged that if such a market were
allowed it would enable the settlers to consume British
manufactured goods their chief article of import to
a greatly enlarged extent.*

It must always be borne in mind that ^outh Australia
was well represented in England by able men deeply
interested in everything that concerned her welfare,
and in many cases financially pledged to her prosperity,
so that questions discussed in the colony were more

* " The singularity of the necessity for such an Act is only equalled
by the novelty of the measure itself, which is probably without
precedent, in delegating to an officer, irresponsible to the people,
the power of taxation, without limit as to the amount or time, on
the export of any article enumerated in the Act. And one can
hardly realize in the present day that a country that was reduced
to such an extremity should, after a lapse of a few years, become
for the number of its people the greatest exporters of wheat and
flour in the world." Sir Henry Ayers.


or less re-echoed in the mother country, and vice versa.
The South Australian Association, too, was still in
existence, and its members were active both in and out
of Parliament on her behalf, and through the persevering
labours of these combined forces the obnoxious tax on
corn, as well as many other well-founded grievances,
was in process of time removed.

The year 1846 opened prosperously with a balance
in hand of 50,000 applicable to the purposes of immi-
gration, local improvements, and the satisfaction of
outstanding claims. One matter that gave rise to
mingled hope and apprehension was the ever-increasing
yield of mineral wealth. In itself this was encouraging,
but many colonial interests seemed likely to suffer from
the investment of much capital in unproductive mines,
and from the withdrawal of labour of various kinds to
the new pursuit.

The question of royalties on minerals was revived on
the 5th of March by the publication in the Government
Gazette of a minute from the Governor informing the
public of the rules that had been established for the
future disposal of the waste lands of the Crown in
South Australia, by which it was intended to secure
a royalty of one-fifteenth upon all minerals raised from
lands alienated from the Crown. Major Eobe stated
that the correspondence handed to him by his pre-
decessor showed that the mineral wealth of the colony
had attracted the attention of capitalists in England to
a considerable extent, and a company in London had
proposed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies to
treat with the Government for a monopoly of all mines
in South Australia belonging to the Crown, upon the
basis of a lease, with rights of mining upon payment of
a seignorage or royalty upon the produce of those mines.
Lord Stanley rejected this proposal, but the question
of reservation of royalties with a view to the ulterior
benefit of the colony was submitted for the consideration
of her Majesty's Commissioners of Woods and Forests,
and to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commis-
sioners, as well as to one of the first geologists in


England, and subsequently to her Majesty's law ad-
visers. No objection was raised by any of these to the
proposed imposition, and as regarded the colonists
themselves, Major Eobe said in a minute to the home
authorities :

" I do not anticipate that there will be much differ-
ence of opinion amongst the colonists upon the question
of the expediency of reserving a moderate royalty on
metallic minerals when it is declared, under authority,
that the proceeds thereof, after deducting the cost of
collection, will be applied to the same purposes as the
gross proceeds of the sale of the waste lands of the
Crown under the Act 5 & 6 Viet. c. 36. Instead of
large present receipts, founded, perhaps, on gambling
speculation as to the chances or probabilities of future
results (which receipts will cease as soon as all the
mineral land has been selected), there will be. provided
in aid of a constant stream of emigration from the
United Kingdom, a growing income proportioned to the
advancing wealth of the colony. Such is the view
taken by the Commissioners and by her Majesty's
advisers, and in that view I entirely concur."

But the colonists did not, nor did they agree with
the "few short rules based upon the principle of a
royalty of one-fifteenth of the produce" which the
Governor had drawn up.*

* The published regulations stipulated for a right of free access
to all mines by duly appointed servants of the Crown ; a right to
select, for free occupancy, a portion of land not exceeding a quarter
of an acre, near the mouth of any mine, for a residence or store
" for the person or persons appointed to receive the Queen's dish or
dues ; " the fight of commuting from time to time, for periods not
exceeding twelve months, the Queen's fifteenth in kind for payments
in money ; the right of recovering such money by distress ; the
reference of all questions to the Governor in Executive Council, for
decision ; the sale of land, as heretofore, with the exception of the
reservation stated; the reservation on lands open for selection
without competition ; the leasing of mineral lands for periods not
exceeding twenty-one years, such leases to be subject to competi-
tion at public auction ; the forfeiture of the leases for non-payment,
underletting without license, etc. ; the appropriation of the proceeds
from sale or lease of lands and royalties ; the fees payable for deeds,
leases, and registration.


Nor did they agree with the law officers of the
Crown, who gave it as their opinion that there was
nothing incompatible with the provisions of the Act in
the plan proposed. " The waste lands of the Crown,"
they said, " if alienated and conveyed, must be con-
veyed in the manner prescribed by the Act, but there
is nothing in its provisions restrictive of the right
which the Crown possesses to reserve to itself any
portion of its property or interests, or which makes it
compulsory to part with them."

The publication of the Governor's minute, together
with the regulations for carrying it out and the opinion
of the law officers of the Crown thereon, was the signal
for a great demonstration against the measure. On
a vacant acre at the corner of King William Street
and North Terrace a platform, or hustings, was erected,
which was crowded with members of Council, justices
of the peace, and some of the most influential colonists,
who, surrounded by a large and excited audience,
characterized the action of the Government as " illegal,
unjust, and impolitic, and, if persevered in, highly
injurious to the best interests of the colony, as it would
check the industry and exertions of the settlers, and
discourage emigrants from Great Britain."

They argued that it was illegal, inasmuch as it set
at naught the guarantees of the Act of Parliament, and
unjust, as it was in direct contravention of the original
tenure upon which the waste lands were alienated from
the Crown and thereby gave to the colony one of its
peculiar features.

One of the resolutions moved at the meeting by Mr.
E. Stephens, J.P., and seconded by Mr. J. Baker, J.P.,
set forth that "the repeated attempts of the Colonial
Office to set at naught in this colony the stipulations
and solemn engagements guaranteed to the colonists
by Acts of the Imperial Parliament are subversive of
that confidence and respect which the settlers ever have
entertained, and are desirous of continuing to entertain
towards the parent State."

A short and typical specimen of South Australian


oratory in those early days may not be out of place
here. In moving this resolution Mr. E. Stephens

" Her Majesty never had under that flag " pointing
to the royal ensign waving from the flagstaff at
Government House " a more devoted and loyal people
than she has in South Australia. Under every infliction
and every injury their loyalty has been unquestioned.
But there were points at which they felt they could,
endure no longer, and no reckless and ruthless hand
should destroy their rights or involve their privileges
with impunity, and if such attempts were sanctioned
by their rulers, nay, if they were not discountenanced
by them, their loyalty and their devotedness were
indeed endangered. It was true they had left the home
of their fathers, but they were Britons still. They had
left their native soil, but not for a foreign land ; they
had come hither to perpetuate her institutions, to intro-
duce her laws, to share her privileges, to be governed
by her wisdom, to link their destinies to hers ; but they
came also to enjoy her freedom. They came forth alone
and unaided by the parent State to a land whose exist-
ence was almost unknown, to extend the boundaries of
her empire, and by their energies, their industry, and
their capital to add another flourishing province to her
dominions. And did England out of her treasury
assist them ? Did she give to their departure pomp
and circumstance ? No. They crossed the wide waste
of waters in humility, but with fixity of purpose, to
make for themselves a home, and to found an empire

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 34)