Edwin Hodder.

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

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Port Elliot was an utter failure, owing to its insecurity
and want of accommodation. Over 20,000, in addition
to the initial cost, was " thrown into the sea," in a
vain attempt to construct a breakwater and so improve
the port, which resulted in its silting up, and at length
it was abandoned. An enormous sum was also spent
upon Port Victor, seven miles away, which then became
the port of the Murray. Almost every one who specu-
lated in the Murray trade came to grief, some to utter
ruin, and amongst them the gallant Captain Cadell ;
the Murray Steam Navigation Company was dissolved,
and the whole scheme was threatened with total collapse.
In process of time, however, as we shall see later on
in this history, the Murray river trade got into other
hands and met with varying success, but the sanguine
hopes of Sir Henry Young have never yet been fully

One subject on which there was considerable dis-
cussion in 1852, and great diversity of opinion, was the
abolition of grand juries. Under the rule of Sir George
Grey the first attempt was made to abolish them.


It was then enacted in the colony "that in order to
dispense with the attendance of the grand jury, and
otherwise to expedite the business of sessions of the
peace, all criminal proceedings before any such court
of general sessions shall be by information in the
name of her Majesty's Advocate-General." The ordi-
nance was disallowed by Lord Stanley, " but the local
authorities," says Mr. Eusden in his " History of Aus-
tralia," "persevered. In 1843 they pushed aside, with-
out abolishing, grand juries by an Ordinance . . . which
ordered that ' no person should be put upon trial . . .
unless the bill shall first have been presented to a grand
jury on the prosecution of her Majesty's Attorney or
Advocate-General and shall have been returned by
them a true bill, reserving always, nevertheless, to her
Majesty's Attorney or Advocate-General the right of
filing informations ex officio, and to the Supreme Court
the right of permitting informations to be filed.' This
Ordinance was allowed ; and, the path being smoothed,
the work of repudiating a great social duty was con-
summated in 1852 by another (when Sir Henry F.
Young was Governor and Mr. E. D. Hanson the prin-
cipal law officer), which declared that ' from and after
the passing of this Act no person shall be summoned
or liable to serve on any grand jury,' repealed the
section of the Ordinance of 1843 above cited, and made
presentment 'in the name and by the authority of
a prosecuting officer sufficient when the lives of her
Majesty's subjects were imperilled. The motive of de-
partmental convenience was thus allowed to prevail,
although some colonists were of opinion that the grand
jury system had worked well."

In 1853 there were matters pending in the Legisla-
tive Council which were to influence the whole of the
future of the colony, and to impress the name of the
Governor indelibly upon its annals.

As the time drew near for the sitting of the Legisla-
tive Council, every man in the colony was more or less
on his mettle. The great question of a new Constitu-
tion, which it was hoped would secure responsible


government and free political institutions from that
time forth and for evermore, was to be discussed, and
meetings were held in various parts of the colony to
have a " first say " in moulding opinion.

When the Legislative Council met on the 21st of
July, despatches were read intimating the royal pleasure,
upon certain conditions, to grant to the Legislature of
the province the complete control of its internal affairs
and the entire management and revenue of the Waste
Lands of the Crown.

Two Bills were therefore introduced, one for con-
stituting a Parliament consisting of a Legislative Council
and Assembly, and the other for granting a Civil List
to her Majesty.

" In framing the Bill for constituting a Parliament,"
said the Governor in his opening address to the Council,
" a principal object has been to continue the advantages
of a popular Government with those which result from
the existence of an independent body, identified with
the permanent interests of the colony, and forming
a security against hasty or partial legislation. With
this view, the number of members of the House of
Assembly is proposed to be increased, the elective
franchise to be extended, the duration of the Assembly
to be reduced from five to three years, and a more
simple and, it is believed, efficacious plan of registration
has been devised. It has been provided that the
Assembly thus constituted shall have the same control
over the revenue and expenditure which is possessed
by the Commons House of Parliament in England,
while the Legislative Council will consist of persons
summoned by the Crown, who will hold their seats for
life, and thus be independent both of the Government
and of the people. Her Majesty's Government, after
full consideration, has deemed it most accordant with
the principles of the British constitution that the
selection of members for the Upper Chamber should
be vested in the Crown. Experience has shown that,
where the principle of responsible government exists,
no permanent opposition can be maintained against


the deliberate and repeated will of the community as
expressed through their representatives ; and if these
reasonable expectations should be disappointed, a power
is reserved to the united Legislature of introducing such
further amendments in the Constitution as may suffice
to bring it into harmony with the circumstances and
wants of the colony."

The idea of a nominee Upper House was distasteful
to the majority of the colonists, and the newspapers
had but recently informed them how it had been
ridiculed in the British Parliament. In a debate upon
the Australian Colonies Bill, the Duke of Newcastle
had said :

" The theory of a nominee Upper House arose from
the old notion of Imperial government, and from an
idea that it was necessary to bind the colonies and
the mother country together by some means other than
those of mutual interest ; that while it may be desirable
to give the colonists a representative body to attend
to their interests, they must at the same time appoint
a nominated body to attend to the interests of the
mother country. Now, it appeared to him that in
following this old-fashioned notion, the Government
were in this instance and in others, since their accession
to power, pursuing the shadow instead of the substance
of a conservative principle."

He continued : " Let them in any way provide for the
superior influence of the members of an elective Upper
Chamber ; let them insist upon a higher qualification,
either of elected or electors; let them give them a
longer tenure of their seats, or make the areas of repre-
sentation more extensive ; but let them not engraft
upon this measure of freedom and contentment to the
colony a scheme which must end in disappointment
and be the cause of future quarrel."

Earl Grey, in alluding to the want of analogy between
a nominee Upper Chamber and the House of Lords,
remarked " on the perfect absurdity of talking of a
nominee Legislative Council as an imitation of that
House. It had not," he said, "the most distant or


faint resemblance to the House of Lords, which was
an institution altogether peculiar to this country, and
which Parliament could no more create than they could
create a full-grown oak. It had grown up as part of
our institutions from the earliest times, and was like no
other body in any country in the world, and no imita-
tion of which had ever been in the slightest degree

Not only was the idea of a nominee Upper House dis-
tasteful to the outside public in the colony, but it was
also to the elective members of the Legislature, who, at
a meeting held to discuss the situation, agreed to oppose
it. The next important step was taken by Mr. J. H.
Fisher, who moved for a call of the House on the second
reading of the Bill. Before the second reading came
on, Mr. Dutton brought forward the following motion :
" That in the proposed Bill for constituting a Parliament
for South Australia, this Council is of opinion that the
Upper House Should be elective."

The debate on this motion lasted for three days, and
on a division was lost by a majority of eight, in conse-
quence of several members, who admitted the principle,
having entered into a compromise with the Government
to the effect that " a nominated Upper Chamber should
be accepted by the House, on condition that the Con-
stitution should be amended after a period of nine
years, should such be deemed expedient by two-thirds
of the members of the Lower House, and whose wishes
to that effect should be expressed in two consecutive
sessions, with a dissolution of the Assembly between."

The second and third readings of the Bill were carried,
each by a majority of five. During the progress of the
Bill through its different stages, the House divided no
fewer than eleven times.

Considerable discussion also attended the passing of
the Civil List Bill, which went through the ordeal of a
select committee. The sums suggested by it, however,
were not adopted, much larger amounts being substi-
tuted by the Council.

The debate on the Parliament Bill of 1853 was,


perhaps, the very best in the history of the South
Australian Legislature. Every man was in earnest, and
seemed imbued with the idea that in the part he was
taking he was assisting to make the whole future of the
colony. Many of the speeches might rank among the
finest specimens of oratory of the English-speaking
peoples. Although, as we shall see later on, their Bill
was defeated, not receiving the royal assent, the victory
was morally complete. Its provisions laid down the
principles, and created and shaped the public opinion
which in three years' time was to carry everything
before it with overwhelming force ; and to the Legisla-
tive Council of 1853 every colonist in South Australia,
now and for all time, owes a debt of deep gratitude, as
they were undoubtedly the fathers and founders of the
most free political institutions compatible with the
sovereignty of the mother country.

Another important event that marked the suc-
cessful administration of Sir Henry Young was the
establishment of District Councils. In every new
colony the question of roads and road-making is a
burning one, and dwellers in old-established cities can
form no conception of the wild enthusiasm, the fiery
oratory, the impassioned earnestness displayed over a
discussion on road-making. It had been a leading topic
for many years in South Australia, during which time
the central Government had undertaken the formation
and repair of the main lines of road out of the land
revenue. But as the country became opened up in all
directions, it was found that the expense of making
and maintaining roads in the various districts could
not be borne from the same fund. On the 25th of
November, 1852, therefore, " An Act to appoint District
Councils, and to define the power thereof," passed the
Legislative Council, and gave to the various districts
power to tax themselves for the making and manage-
ment of their own particular roads, bridges, and public
buildings ; to grant timber, publicans', depasturing, and
slaughtering licences, to establish pounds for the im-
pounding of stray cattle, and so forth. Long before


Adelaide had a Corporation, municipal arrangements
and a measure of local self-government were extended
to the country districts.

"District Councils," says Mr. Finniss, "as they are
established in this colony, are but incipient stages of a
more perfect organization, which time -and enlarged
population will produce. They certainly, by their
adoption, relieved the central Government of much
odium, responsibility, and administrative work. It
would have been impossible to manage the expenditure
required under the head of roads, streets, and bridges,
to which the Crown moiety, as it was called, of the land
sales fund was applicable, without local advice and
assistance, so as to avoid the reality, or at least the
imputation, of favouritism and corruption. Local taxa-
tion, which was included in the powers given to the
local bodies, and was eventually to supply the place of
the subsidies from the general revenues, could not have
been resorted to without the intervention of local elec-
tive bodies and absolute local self-control. It would
have been invidious, if not absolutely unconstitutional,
to have taxed a particular district for the erection of a
bridge, or any other requisite public buildings, whereas
there could be no objection to leave it in the power of
a properly constituted district authority to tax them-
selves for such purpose where the benefit would be
chiefly local."

Closely allied to the question of roads is that of rail-
ways, and to Sir Henry Young has been given the
complimentary title of " Father of the Kailway System
of South Australia." So early as February, 1850, a
measure was proposed by him, and carried through the
Legislative Council, entitled, "An Ordinance for making
a Kailway from the City to the Port of Adelaide, with
Branches to the North Arm ; " and, a month later, a
private ordinance guaranteed to the Adelaide City and
Port Eailway Company certain divisible profits in the
concern. But the times were not ripe for the scheme
to be floated, and there was much squabbling among
wharf proprietors and others with local interests to


protect, so that neither of these ordinances was put
into operation. In the enlarged and partly elective
Legislative Council of 1851, afresh scheme was submitted
and carried, namely, " An Act to authorize the Appoint-
ment of Undertakers for the Construction of the City
and Port Eailway," and from time to time funds were
voted and placed in the hands of the executive body
appointed under this Act.

On the 16th of December, 1854, almost the last act
of the Governor before leaving the colony was to give
his assent to a Bill authorizing the formation of the
Adelaide and Gawler Town Eailway, and to provide for
raising the money required for that purpose.

Although, while Sir Henry Young was in the colony,
there was not a mile of railroad opened to the public,
the great battle of Locomotive v. Tramway was fought
out by him ; the sum of 400,000 was authorized under
his administration for railway purposes, together with
a further sum of ;100,000 for deepening and improving
the harbour, and so increasing the prospects of pro-
sperity for the Port Railway. These sums initiated
the national debt of South Australia.

The question of the defence of South Australia had
happily not been necessary to discuss until the year
1854, when the startling news reached the colony that
England, in alliance with France, had declared war
against Russia. Hitherto no sense of danger had been
felt ; the sergeant's guard of Royal Marines (the body-
guard of Captain Hindmarsh, the first Governor) had
given place to small detachments of troops generally
a couple of companies under one field officer furnished
by the regiments stationed in the older colonies.
Spasmodic efforts were made, in the time of Governor
Gawler and subsequently, to establish a volunteer
force, but without much effect, and in the year 1846
there was supposed to be in existence "the Royal
South Australian Militia Force." But this, according
to a facetious member of the Legislative Council, " con-
sisted of officers only and no troops." It was added
that the standing army of South Australia had been


for some years a standing joke, and that on one
occasion, when the force was called out for exercise, the
drill-sergeant, with great dignity and authority, gave
the word of command to the three privates who
occupied the field, " to form a square ! "

But in 1854, when the population of the colony had
risen to nearly 100,000, and when the peace of Europe
had been suddenly and rudely disturbed, it was con-
sidered time to take some serious action in case of
surprise by an enemy's privateer or man-of-war.
Accordingly, a Board was appointed to inquire into
and report upon the measures of defence requisite for
the public safety in case of nobody knew exactly what.
Of course the committee recommended as much pro-
tection as would have been practicable if Eussia had
declared war against South Australia, but out of it
came some tangible results. An armed body of
volunteers was enrolled ; 15,000 was voted for defen-
sive preparations; a Militia Bill was passed; excite-
ment ran as high as fever heat, and the Colonial
Secretary (Mr. B. T. Finniss), who was appointed
" lieutenant-colonel of the staff and inspecting field
officer," was able to report thus :

"Leading colonists joined the military movement;
men who afterwards became members of Parliament
and of Ministries, men of substance, proprietors of the
principal trading establishments in the city, served as
privates in the first muster of a South Australian armed
force, and of their zeal, enthusiasm, and martial ardour
there could be no doubt in the minds of those who
witnessed the first passage of arms and who saw the
suburban companies cheerfully submitting to the rule
of drill-masters."

Happily, in this first passage of arms, the (sham)
enemy was only butchered to make a South Australian
holiday; the Militia Act remained in abeyance; the
volunteers, with their good old Brown Besses, had some
fine exercise, and were paid for each day's attendance ;
and the seventeen thousand odd pounds spent was a
good investment, inasmuch as it was the means of


giving peace of mind to every timid colonist. Eventually,
as we shall see in the course of this history, an efficient
military establishment was formed, but not until many
years had elapsed.

On the 20th of December, 1854, the successful
administration of Sir Henry Young came to an end,
and he left the colony on that day to assume the
Government of Tasmania, bearing with him the
gratitude and the good wishes of the whole population
of South Australia.

Pending the arrival of the new Governor, Mr. Boyle
Travers Finniss, one of the earliest settlers, who came
to the colony with the surveying party in the Cygnet,
was appointed acting Governor. He had from the first
held many important offices, and commanded the
respect of all parties in the colony. There were no
events of any importance to mark the term of his
office, but the quiet, business-like, and unostentatious
manner in which he conducted the routine of public
affairs won for him universal approval.

1855.] SIR R. G. MACDONNELL. 289



JUNE, 1855 MARCH, 1862.

Antecedents of Sir R. G. MacDonnell. Unemployed Irish Female
Immigrants. An Amusing Incident. The Parliament Bill.
Election Riots. Opening of the New Legislative Council.
Depression in Trade. Retrenchment and the Civil Service. A
Mania for Select Committees. Adelaide Waterworks and Drain-
age. New Constitution Act. Ballot and Universal Suffrage.
The First South Australian Parliament. A Noble Record.
Questions of Privilege. Originating Money Bills. Frequent
Changes in Ministry. Torrens' Real Property Act. Mr. Justice
Boothby. Australian Federation. Poll Tax on Chinese.
Colony attains its Majority. Assessment on Stock. Free Im-
migration. The Political Association. The Destitute Asylum.
Labour Tests. The Working Men's Association. Defences
of the Colony. Wreck of the Admella. A Terrible Week.
Political Parties. Ministerial Programmes. Archdeacon Hale
and the Aborigines. Poonindie. Mr. G. F. Angas and Mis-
sions to Natives. The Great Murray Railway Scheme. Ex-
plorations. Sir R. G. MacDonnell on the Murray. Mr. B. H.
Babbage. A Fearful Death. Mr. Stephen Hack. Major
Warburton. John McDouall Stuart Journeys to the Interior.
Mining Discoveries. Yorke's Peninsula. Wallaroo and
Moonta. A Mining Mania. South Australian Wines. A
Review of Six Years.

AFTER a stormy and perilous voyage of unusual length,
the steamship Burra-Burra, with Sir Richard and
Lady MacDonnell on board, arrived at Port Adelaide
on the 7th of June, 1855.

Next morning the vessels in the harbour and the



public buildings on shore displayed their bunting, and,
under a salute of seventeen guns, the new Governor
landed and was driven, with Lady MacDonnell, in a
carriage and four to Adelaide, amid the enthusiastic
cheers of some thousands of the populace who lined
the streets.

Sir Eichard Graves MacDonnell, a son of the Eev.
Dr. MacDonnell, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin,
was born in 1815, entered Trinity College in 1830, took
his degree of M.A. in 1839, and Doctor of Laws by
special honorary degree in 1844. He was called to the
English Bar in 1841, but two years later he accepted
the office, then created, of Chief Justice of the British
possessions at the Gambia, where he performed useful
work in consolidating the laws of that colony, and also
found time to make extensive and adventurous travels
into the interior of Africa. Afterwards he twice
visited North America, when he travelled over Canada
and a great portion of the United States. He returned
to England in 1847, and tendered the resignation of his
office with a view to settling down at the English Bar.
But Earl Grey having offered him the governorship of
the Gambia Settlements, he returned there, and ably
filled the difficult office for three years. When visiting
one of the native kings he fell into an ambush
treacherously laid for him, and was within an ace of
being assassinated. Such an outrage on the representa-
tive of England could not be allowed to go unpunished,
and four hundred men under Major Hill, including Sir
Eichard, acting as captain of a volunteer company,
marched into the country of the enemy, and inflicted
summary chastisement. Several explorations by the
Governor into the interior of the country resulted in
extending the limits of British commerce. In 1852 he
was gazetted to the Government of St. Lucia in the
West Indies, and afterwards to St. Vincent. He was
knighted by the Queen in February, 1855, and soon
afterwards the appointment of the Hon. Mr. Lawley
to the Government of South Australia having been
cancelled Sir Eichard set sail from England to sue-


ceed Sir Henry Young in the Governorship of that

One of the first subjects to engage the attention of
the new Governor was the large number of unem-
ployed Irish female immigrants in the colony. Some
hundreds were in the depots, and it was not known
how many more were on their way out. By this large,
and in some respects unsuitable supply, the Emigration
Commissioners posed as benefactors to the colonists,
but the boon threatened to become a bane of no small
magnitude. This kind of labour was only suitable for
the country, and even there it was a drug in the market.
But circulars were sent to the stipendiary and resident
magistrates and chairmen of district councils with a
view of ascertaining how many immigrants would be
likely to meet with engagements in each district, and
the result was more successful than had been antici-
pated until an unlooked-for contingency arose. Many
of these Irishwomen preferred a town life to a country
life, and returned to the Adelaide depot on the slightest
pretext, or without any pretext at all.

Many schemes were proposed to meet the difficulty ;
among them one by Mr. E. Stephens, who suggested
that respectable settlers should be found to employ
them in any fair and suitable work for six months,
the employer to provide them with board and lodg-
ing, and five shillings per week to be paid from the
colonial treasury. But this suggestion was not carried

A remedy for excessive immigration was most
urgently needed. During the first eight months of the
year (1855), 2800 adult single females were landed at
Adelaide, of whom 2047 were Irish, or nearly treble
the total number of English and Scotch females. It
was feared that the seeds of permanent pauperism were
being sown. Despite every effort made by the Govern-
ment and by the magistrates and district councils

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 25 of 34)