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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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become more advanced in population, wealth, and social
progress, and get experience in the working of their
separate political institutions, it is not very improbable
that the attempt to form a General Assembly would
embroil the whole of them in discord and dissatisfac-
tion with each other, and with the parent State. The
four new colonies would be swamped by the two older
penal ones, and, as public opinion at present exists,
they could not agree upon the locality and measures
required by a General Assembly."

The first to take action in the colony on the new
Constitution was Mr. J. Morphett, who submitted to
the Governor a series of resolutions which were
published in the Government Gazette, as the Council
was not then sitting. These resolutions affirmed
that "it is essential to the welfare of this colony
that the Imperial Parliament should, in framing a
Constitution for South Australia, adopt the principle
of municipal government, adhering, as far as the
different ages of the two places would admit of it, to
the form and system of the Government of Great
Britain ; " that is, a Governor and two chambers, one
in the nature of an Upper Chamber with hereditary
members nominated by her Majesty, and a Second
Chamber to consist of members elected by the people.

These resolutions were added to and amended in a
committee of the Legislative Council, and at the same
time emphatic motions were passed against the
proposed federal scheme, on the ground that it was
inexpedient, inasmuch as there was a great dis-
similarity in the pursuits and interests of the several

1849.] "MAKING A NATION." 245

provinces, that the overwhelming preponderance the
larger provinces would have in the Assembly would
be greatly injurious to the lesser, and that there was
no point, so far as could be seen, upon which benefit
would accrue to any of the provinces by the establish-
ment of such an Assembly.

Out of doors the views of the colonists took this form.
They were grateful to Earl Grey, Mr. Hawes, Lord
John Kussell, Mr. Labouchere, and the members of the
House of Commons who had brought in the Bill, and
so far as the concession of a representative govern-
ment for South Australia was concerned they hailed
it as a wise, liberal, and comprehensive measure. But
they drew the line there, and protested vigorously
against a General Assembly of the Australian colonies,
or a federal union, as unconstitutional and endanger-
ing colonial independence, and maintained that, as
they were prepared to bear the whole expenses of their
civil government, they had a constitutional right to
regulate, by means of their representatives in council, the
mode of raising and appropriating the colonial revenue,
free from all control of her Majesty's Treasury.

The discussions on the formation of a Constitution
were varied by lengthy debates on roads and road-
making, as a Eoad Bill passed through the Legislature
at this time, and a Central Board was appointed for
carrying it into effect. We shall not, however, concern
ourselves with details of the ordinary course of legisla-
tion in this place, but proceed to tell the whole story
of the new Constitution.

The rule of Sir Henry Young was an era of pro-
gression. Settlers were now more or less settled-
prosperity had set in and the colonists, losing sight
of their own immediate and personal interests, were
now directing their attention more than they had ever
done before to the good of the colony as a whole, and
to the duty of " making a nation." They could not have
had a better leader than Sir Henry Young a man of
broad mind, liberal views, great intellectual capacity,
and withal a thorough friend to free institutions.


The somewhat unpopular rule of his predecessor,
Major Eobe, had not been an unmitigated evil. It
aroused in the colonists a determination to stand
together and fight for their political rights, and it
awakened, even in the most indifferent, a spirit of
sturdy independence. The times were ripe for action,
and with the Hour came the Man.

Ideas were developing apace. As the time drew
near to elect representative members for the new Legis-
tive Council, the advocates of popular, or democratic,
principles strained every nerve to obtain as large an
infusion as possible into the new body of the element
they considered most essential to their own welfare.
An " Elective Franchise Association " was formed, with
this astounding platform universal suffrage, vote by
ballot, annual elections, no property qualification for
representatives, and no nominee members! Later oil
in the year the " South Australian Political Associa-
tion " was formed, and in a short time it had branches
in various parts of the colony, its programme being
mainly the advocacy of universal suffrage and the
ballot. The formation of the association marked an
epoch in the political history of the colony. From the
first it excited a powerful influence, which increased as
the years went on, and many elections in some of the
most important constituencies were decided by its
action, the conservative element being threatened, if
not with extinction, at least with paralysis of its

The year 1851 opened with active preparations for
popular representative government, and the Ascendant,
the vessel that was to bring out the new Constitution,
was awaited with feverish anxiety. A curious story
attaches to this episode. In that same vessel Mr.
George Fife Angas, one of the fathers and founders of
the colony, and the originator of the South Australian
Company, left England to take up his residence on his
large estates in the Barossa District. It had been an
ambition of his to be the personal bearer to the colony
of the official copy of the New Constitution Act, and


application was made to the Colonial Office to this end ;
but it was found to be contrary to precedent and red-
tape triumphed, the important document being sent
from the Colonial Office in charge of a clerk, who was
instructed to take it on board the Ascendant and deliver
it into the hands of the captain. But he had gone
ashore, and as the ship was on the point of sailing, the
clerk, either through negligence or from not under-
standing the importance of the papers with which he
was entrusted, gave the package to a steward, who,
being very busy, thrust it into the nearest place of
safety. The ship sailed, and if the captain gave a
thought to the matter at all, he merely supposed that
there had been some delay or fresh arrangements had
been made. On arrival in Adelaide, the proper authori-
ties came on board to demand their Constitution and
receive it with due honour, for advices from England
had informed them that it would arrive in the Ascendant.
The captain, of course, protested that he had seen
nothing of it, and there was a great hue and cry for the
lost Constitution, until one day shortly after, in turning
out the captain's soiled linen for the laundress, it was
found, to the great amusement of every one, at the
bottom of the bag, where the steward had hurriedly
placed it for security ! *

The " Act for the Better Government of her Majesty's
Australian Colonies " was received with elaborate
explanatory despatches, followed, a short time after-
wards, by an announcement of the appointment by her
Majesty of Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, knight, to
be Cap tain- General and Governor-in-Chief of South
Australia, and of Sir Henry Young to be Lieutenant-
Governor, a title he had held throughout, but which
was now to be held upon a different tenure. It will
be remembered that it was assumed by Major Robe
for prudential reasons, namely, to prevent his pre-
decessor, Captain Grey, from becoming liable for any
of his dishonoured bills ; now it was to be held in
prospect of the federal scheme which had been pro-
* Quoted in " Life of George Fife Angas."


pounded. As, however, the Australian colonies were
not ripe "for this movement, no further steps were taken,
and Sir Charles Fitzroy never attempted to exercise
any control over his lieutenant or over the colony.

A Gazette Extraordinary was issued proclaiming the
new Constitution, and immediately afterwards the first
candidate for legislative honours (Mr. F. S. Dutton)
entered the field, followed by several other leading and
influential men. Meanwhile the Council was called
together, and the "Bill to establish the Legislative
Council of South Australia, and to provide for the
Election of Members to serve in the same," was passed
on the 21st of February. The new Legislative Council
was to be composed of twenty-four members instead
of eight as heretofore, of whom eight were to be
nominated by the Crown, and sixteen members were to
be elected by electoral bodies. And this, it was hinted,
was by no means a final measure of reform.

In the course of his valedictory address to the old
Council, the Governor said :

" As there is no probability of this Council being again
assembled, I cannot refrain from making one observa-
tion before we separate. Your successors, gentlemen,
will have a field of universal extent and of universal
responsibility, . . . yet the colonial annals cannot fail
to record that the prosperity which, with the con-
tinuance of the Divine blessing, it may be the happy
privilege of a new legislation to preserve, to develop,
and to augment, took its rise and acquired a character
of stability under the sway of the present Council.
This is a distinction and a satisfaction of which you
can never be deprived.

" It is permanently useful, too, as affording an
incentive to your successors to take care that the
public resources receive at their hands, not only no
detriment, but universal productiveness."

Up to the time of the elections the Political Associa-
tion, the Ballot Association, and the League for the
Maintenance of Religious Freedom displayed great
activity, holding meetings in various parts of the


colony, with a view to secure representatives favourable
to their claims. Without doubt, these societies exer-
cised a considerable influence on the elections. A
committee was formed, by whom the following questions
were prepared and submitted to every candidate :

1. " Are you in favour of, and would you vote for, the
adoption of the ballot at elections ? "

2. " Are you in favour of State grants for the support
of religion, or would you strenuously oppose such a
measure ? "

3. " In the event of your being returned as our repre-
sentative, how far would you extend the suffrage ? "

4. " Would you use your utmost endeavours to obtain
the constitution of an Assembly strictly representative,
as opposed to nomination ? "

5. "As to the duration of Legislative Councils, would
you limit them to three years, or what are your views
on this head ? "

These questions were the means of eliciting consider-
able information from the candidates to whom they
were addressed, placed the constituencies in a good
position as to their men, and regulated mainly their
course of action.

The League, in a large measure, acted independently,
directing the full force of its energy to securing can-
didates pledged to oppose, tooth and nail, any State
grant in aid of religion. Some recent events in Church
circles had been favourable to the leaguers. While the
lawsuit with regard to the site of the cathedral was still
pending, popular feeling was further excited in conse-
quence of the bishop having met the other colonial
prelates and attached his signature to a minute
affirming the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, which
the Bishop of Melbourne had refused to sign. A great
public demonstration by members of the Church of
England followed, when the course pursued by Bishop
Short was almost unanimously condemned in the
strongest language. Before the storm had died away,
the elections came on, and capital was made out of the
conduct of the Bishop.


After innumerable meetings in nearly every part of
the colony, the elections began on the 2nd of July,
when the most profound interest in the proceedings
was displayed, eager crowds thronging the gaily deco-
rated polling booths, while more active partisans
paraded the streets with banners, trumpets, and

To show how successful the League had been in these
elections, it may be stated that, out of sixteen dis-
tricts, only four candidates were returned favourable to
Government support to religion.

The question next in importance was, of course, with
regard to the Constitution to be framed by the new
Council, or, at any rate, to be initiated by it.

When, on the 28th of August, the new Council * met
in the new Court House in Victoria Square, an eager
throng of spectators crowded the approaches, to witness

* The following were the first members elected for the new
Council :

East Adelaide ... ... ... Mr. F. S. Dutton.

West Adelaide ... ... Mr. A. L. Elder.

North Adelaide ... ... Mr. J. B. Neales.

Yatala ... ... ... Mr. R. D. Hanson.

East Torrens .. ... ... Mr. G. M. Waterhouse.

West Torrens... ... ... Mr. C. S. Hare.

Port Adelaide ... ... ... Captain Hall.

Mount Barker... ... ... Mr. J. Baker.

Hindmarsh ... ... ... Mr. R. Davenport.

Noarlunga ... ... ... Mr. W. Peacock.

Barossa ... ... ... Mr. G. F. Angas.

Victoria ... ... ... Captain John Hart.

Light ... ... ... Captain C. H. Bagot.

Stanley and Gawler ... ... Mr. Younghusband.

Kooringa ... ... ... Mr. G. S. Kingston.

Flinders ... ... ... Mr. J. Ellis.

The eight gentlemen nominated by the Governor to occupy seats
in the new Legislative Council were :

Mr. Charles Sturt ... ... Colonial Secretary.

Mr. T. B. Finniss ... ... Registrar-General.

Mr. R. D. Hanson ... ... Advocate-General.

Mr. R. R. Ton-ens ... .. Collector of Customs.
The non-official nominees were :

Mr. John Morphett. Mr. E. C. Gwynne.

Mr. J. Grainger. Major Norman Campbell.


as much as possible of the inauguration of the new

It was confessedly only an experiment, and the
Imperial Government, in its wisdom, had placed in
the hands of the members the power of introducing
such modifications as might be necessary, although, as
the Governor in his opening address observed, it was
desirable that such a trial of the present Constitution
should be given as would show that any modifications
to be proposed hereafter should be to remedy " proved
inconveniences and not merely theoretical require-

The Governor was able to report to the new Council
that the general condition of the colony was in all
respects satisfactory. The population was 63,700, ex-
clusive of 3730 aborigines. The excess of immigration
over emigration during the year was 6137. The
imports were in value 887,423, or about 13 18s.
per head ; the exports, 571,348, or more than 8 19s.
per head. There were 102 places of worship in the
colony, and 115 schools ; 174,000 acres of land were
inclosed, and 15,000 square miles of Crown land occu-
pied by squatters and depastured by sheep and cattle.
The export of wool was 3,289,232 Ibs., and the export
of copper metal 44,594 cwt., and of copper ore 8784
tons. The sum of 140,000 was named in the esti-
mates as the amount required for public works. Drafts
of various laws were laid before the members, priority
being given to the question of the continuance of aid
from the public treasury to the erection of Christian
churches and to the support of Christian ministers, the
enactment for it having terminated on the previous
31st of March, after a three years' trial.

An Education Bill, as well as measures for giving
enlarged powers to district boards, was also in the
programme for the session, whose subsequent meetings,
by the way, were held in the Council Chamber on
North Terrace.

On the 29th of August the hour arrived for which
the large majority of colonists had anxiously waited


for more than three years that is to say, ever since
the date of the ill-judged action of Major Robe when
Mr. Gwynne rose to move the first reading of a Bill
to continue " an Ordinance to promote the Building of
Churches and Chapels for Christian "Worship, and to
provide for the Maintenance of Ministers of the
Christian Religion." This was the signal for the great
battle of the session to commence ; but the opponents
of the grant were determined to make the contest as
brief and decisive as possible, and moved, as an amend-
ment to its first reading, that " it be read that day six

This was carried by a majority of three, there being
thirteen for the amendment and ten against it, the
votes of all the members, with one exception, having
been recorded on this important question. The argu-
ments of the victorious party were briefly these :

That all mankind have a natural and indefeasible
right to worship Almighty God according to the
dictates of their own consciences, and no man can,
of right, be compelled to attend, erect, or support any
place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against
his consent ; that no human authority can, in any case
whatever, control or interfere with the rights of con-
science ; that no preference shall ever be given by law
to any religious establishment or modes of worship ;
that no part of the revenue from the colony of South
Australia, from whatever source it may arise, and that
no part of the land and emigration funds, can be made
applicable to the support of ministers or teachers of
any religion or to the erection or repairing of any place
of worship.

To supply the place of the Government stipends, it
was necessary that some new machinery should be
invented, and to this end the Bishop addressed a minute
to the Church Society. In reply he received a report
projecting and recommending a constitution for the
Church, to consist of a diocesan assembly, composed
partly of clergymen and partly of lay representatives
chosen by the various Churches. This plan was


adopted, but it was found almost as difficult to frame a
constitution for the Church as the Legislature found it
to be for the colony. When at length it was framed,
the next aim of the Bishop was to obtain for it the
force of law ; but in this he signally failed, and the
whole project fell through, notwithstanding the fact
that a fresh newspaper, the Adelaide Morning Chronicle,
was called into existence to advocate the claims of the
friends of State aid to religion.

So decisive was the blow struck in that ever-to-be-
remembered Council of 1851, that no attempt has again
been made to introduce into the colonial Parliament
the question of State aid to religion, and through the
long years that have passed it has been found that the
voluntary principle then adopted was best suited to
the genius of the people. Amazing efforts were made
by all denominations to supply the religious wants
of their respective communities ; the colony became
remarkable for the number of its places of worship in
proportion to the population ; the Church of England,
which, of all other Churches, deprecated the voluntary
principle, found, on giving it a fair trial, that sufficient
funds could be raised from private sources to build
their churches and pay their ministers.

With the discontinuance of the Government grant
in aid of religion came a measure for the promotion
of education, providing for stipends to teachers, assist-
ance in the erection of school-houses, and other regula-
tions, the whole of which were to be under the control
and management of a Board of Education.

One clause of the Bill provided that no minister of
religion should be a member of this Board a clause
of which the Governor so highly disapproved that he
sent a message to the Council urging that it should be
rescinded. This interference the Council resented, and
carried the Bill as previously passed by a majority
of six.

Soon after this Education Bill was passed, the South
Australian Preceptors' Association was formed, its
object being to elevate the standard of education by


the improvement of the educator, and to obtain a
higher social grade for the teacher, so that the
scholastic profession should have as recognized a
position as the clerical, legal, and medical professions.

This first session of the Legislative Council under
the new Constitution was perhaps the most important
in the history of the colony, as it set at rest for ever
the question of Church and State, and it inaugurated
a system of public education which, with necessary
modifications to suit the exigencies of the times, has
continued almost to the present day. Among the less
important items of the session were the City and Port
Bail way Bill, which was passed on the 25th of Sep-
tember ; and the offering of a premium for any steamer
or sailing vessel landing mails and passengers within
sixty-seven days from Britain = 250 if landed at
Nepean Bay, and 400 if landed at Port Adelaide ; the
total amount not to exceed 5000 in any one year.

Animportant discussion also took place on the question
of annuities or pensions to Government officials. In
consequence of Captain Sturt, the great explorer, who
was also the colonial secretary, wishing to retire from
public life, it was moved that a sum should be placed
on the estimates as a suitable testimonial for the im-
portant services he had rendered by the discovery of
the colony, and to provide for his comfortable retirement
from public life.

Mr. G. F. Angas moved an amendment to the effect
that a Bill be introduced " for the purpose of granting
an annuity for life to the Hon. Captain Sturt, and
that the proposed Bill have a clause inserted in it
declaring that it is not to be considered as a precedent
for retiring pensions to official persons in South
Australia " a system, said Mr. Angas, " servile in
itself and calculated to induce improvidence." The
amendment was carried by a majority of ten to six,
and eventually the sum of 600 per annum was secured
to the gallant captain an act of liberality honourable
to the colony, and bestowed upon one well worthy of
such a token of regard.


While these things were going on in the Legislature
there were matters out of doors which threatened
mischief. The winter had been long and inclement ;
great distress existed among the working classes ; the
prices of provisions were unusually high, and few public
works were in hand, the estimates having been long
delayed. Moreover events were pending unprecedented
in the world's history, and destined to affect the whole
future of the Australian colonies.

In 1849 an emigration of the male adult population
had been threatened, when the news arrived of gold
being discovered in large quantities in California ; but
the first vessel laid on at Adelaide (the Mazeppa) only
took about twenty passengers. The exodus was
renewed in January, 1850, when two ships cleared out
for California, followed by others in February and
March, and conveying five hundred and seventy pas-
sengers in all. Happily these departures relieved the
colony of many who could well be spared. From all
the Australian colonies large numbers of doubtful
characters were drained off to the Californian diggings,
and this led the people of Van Diemen's Land to seize
the opportunity and take steps to enlist the sympathies
of the Australian colonies generally to save them from
the further transportation of felons to their shores. An
An ti- Transportation League was established in Tas-
mania, and South Australia, with New South Wales
and Victoria, were invited to join and co-operate. The
South Australians were quite ready and willing to do
this, and at once sent some of their picked men to
represent them in the League.

This League may be regarded as the first great federal
action of the colonies named. One other colony,
Western Australia, not only held aloof, but, while the
four other colonies were striving to be relieved from
the galling burden of convictism, she had servilely
petitioned for the yoke, and the first shipload had been
actually landed on her shores in answer to her prayers.
In September, 1851, the delegates from the "Australian
Conference for the Discontinuance of Transportation "


arrived in Adelaide. A crowded meeting was held for

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 22 of 34)