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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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throughout the colony to obtain employment for them,
there were, on the day the Legislative Council met,
800 Irish female immigrants lodged and rationed, either


in the rural depots or in town, as against only 27
English and 18 Scotch. At other times there had been
as many as 1100.

Additional accommodation had to be provided, and
the expense of this, with maintenance, reached nearly
25,000 in one year, " an amount," said the Governor,
" which I propose to charge against the immigration
moiety of the land fund, on the ground that all expenses
and rations of an immigrant from the time he leaves
England^ till his absorption in the general population,
are as justly chargeable against this fund as the cost
of his rations on board the vessel which conveys him
to these shores." Special representations were made
to the Home Government, urging the necessity of a
total discontinuance, for a considerable time, of Irish
female immigration.

There was no ill feeling on the question of nationality,
although it was determined in some quarters not to
give any encouragement to immigrants from Ireland,
which was not equally extended to natives of England,
Wales, and Scotland. There was ample room for all
who could work as agricultural labourers, miners,
mechanics, or in any kind of industry, and it was a
simple matter of fact that, although 9111 immigrants
were landed in the first three quarters of the year,
scarcely any of them remained unemployed except the
women from Ireland.

It was some years before the matter was settled.
The Colonial Commissioners in England paid very little
regard in those days to remonstrances from the colony,
and as the land fund had been prolific, the Com-
missioners continued to pour thousands of Irish immi-
grants into the colony. A select committee, appointed
to report on excessive female immigration, stated that
the total excess of females over males in 1853 was
679 ; in 1854, 1604 ; in 1855, 2829. Of the adult
single females who arrived in 1855, 851 were English,
217 were Scotch, and 2981 were Irish !

'It was a curious fact that at this time, although
there were many hundreds of women out of employ-


ment, the greatest difficulty was experienced in obtain-
ing a really good domestic servant.

Eventually a check was put upon the undue supply
of Irish female labour, and an agent, with a salary of
500 a year, was appointed by the colonial Legislature
to assist the Commissioners in the selection of suitable

An amusing incident in connection with this subject
was narrated by Sir Eichard MacDonnell some years
later in a speech delivered by him at the Royal Colonial
Institute. Eeferring to the fact that in one year the
Emigration Commissioners in England sent out 12,000
emigrants, he said " his hearers might fancy how much
the difficulty of the position was augmented when he
told them that of the above number no fewer than
4004 were able-bodied, single ladies. He questioned
whether any other man than he ever had previously
such a number of single women thrust upon him. He
confessed that he had never been so embarrassed. He
did what he could for them ; built them barracks,
offered to pay their fare, and all expenses to any
employers willing to take them off his hands, for he
was sorry to have to add that they were occasionally
very unruly. Now, as women in a state of rebellion
are not so easily dealt with as men, he might mention
that by a happy thought they were on one occasion
reduced to obedience by the cooling effects of water
from a fire engine." *

One of the greatest series of events under the im-
portant administration of Sir Eichard MacDonnell
was in connection with the framing and passing the
Parliament Bill. On the llth of August, 1855, a
Gazette Extraordinary was issued containing a despatch
from Lord John Eussell with reference to the South
Australian Parliament Bill, from which it appeared
that Sir Henry Young and his advisers had mis-
conceived the intentions of her Majesty's Government
in granting certain enlarged powers to the local

* "Proceedings of the Koyal Colonial Institute," 1875-76, vol.
xii. p. 203.


Legislature. The Bill, therefore, was not taken as an
expression of the wishes of the majority, and as it was
supposed that the colonists, if allowed the opportunity
of arriving at a free and independent decision as to
what they considered the best form of constitution
for the colony, would reconsider and amend the Bill,
it was recommended that such opportunity should be
given by the dissolution of the elective portion of the
then existing Council.

Four days later the dissolution of the Legislative
Council was announced. " The incubus of nomineeism,"
said the Register, " had pressed heavily on the natural
energies of the people's representatives, and the elaborate
and positive misinterpretation of Imperial despatches
on the part of the Executive had proved a fatal snare
to an inexperienced Assembly."

The first Representative Council was no more, and
the people were now called upon to reconstitute the
Legislature under different auspices and for greater
purposes than before. The future welfare of the colony
depended upon their action. They were not called
upon to make an ordinary law, but to elect men to
make a Constitution which should more or less
determine the nature of all laws to be subsequently

"We are laying the foundations," continued the
Register, " of a new political and social state. We are
deciding whether public opinion shall be taken as the
source of legislative authority, or whether the people
are yet to be held in the leading-strings of Imperial

The Government put forth an elaborate outline of
a Constitution Bill for the consideration of the next
Legislative Council, but the proposed measure was not
received with any degree of approval, and it was
evident that it was the result of hasty or ill-advised
consideration. Sir Richard did not press his measure,
and expressed the hope that when the new Council met
they would hit upon the form of Constitution best
suited to the country.


The writs for the election of members for the new
Council were issued on the 17th of August, and from
that time forth meetings were held in all parts of the
colony to hear the opinions of the candidates for
legislative honours.

Excitement culminated on the 20th and 21st of
September, the days fixed for the election in most of
the districts, and, as if to demonstrate the need for
the ballot, scenes were enacted at some of the polling
booths, such as few would desire to see repeated. West
Adelaide took the lead in this unenviable particular.
When from the balcony of the Exchange Hotel it was
announced that Mr. Forster was at the head of the poll,
the partisans of Mr. Fisher rushed to the balcony, with
a yell, pulled down the flags and tore them to shreds,
and then descended and charged the crowd. Police
on foot failing to scatter the rioters, " mounted troopers,
led by the commissioner of police, galloped with drawn
swords into the thickest of the fight, and the admirable
and determined movements of this body had a very
salutary effect upon the infuriated partisans, several of
whom were captured " (vide local paper).

On the 1st of November the opening of the new
Legislative Council took place, on which occasion the
new Council Chamber, handsome and well furnished,
was occupied for the first time for the transaction of
the business of the country.

In his introductory speech, the Governor alluded to
the gratifying acknowledgment by her Majesty's
Government of the rapid growth of the colony, as
shown by its recent separation from the control of the
New South Wales Government, and modestly men-
tioned the fact that the Governor of South Australia
was no longer merely Lieutenant-Governor, but held the
commission of " Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief
of South Australia," formerly held by the Governor-
General at Sydney.

It still remained the special privilege, however, of
the Governor-General to originate measures applicable
to the whole of the Australian colonies all measures,


in short, requiring as it were federal action for the
promotion of great objects common to all the Australian

When the all-absorbing question of a new Constitu-
tion came before the Legislature, the Governor, not-
withstanding the rebuff he had received in the rejection
of his first proposals, informed the Council that he still
retained the preference he had avowed for a single
Chamber only during the youthful stage of the colony's
progress, although aware that the proposition would
not meet with many supporters. But whatever incon-
venience might arise from a double Chamber, he felt it
was better and wiser to adopt those inconveniences, if
supported by public opinion and sympathy, than to
strive for the most ideal form of government in oppo-
sition to the feelings of the community sentiments
which even Lord Chesterfield would have been justified
in setting before his son.

The Governor then gave the full outlines of the new
Constitution Bill, but it soon became evident that the
Council was not very favourable to the proposed Govern-
ment measure. To avoid the rejection of it altogether,
the Government suggested a compromise, namely, that
if its second reading were carried, the Council would
not be pledged to any of its clauses, and with this
understanding the Council agreed to go into committee
on the measure.

The Bill, as altered and amended in committee, pro-
vided for two Chambers, both elective one of eighteen
members, to be elected by the whole colony as one con-
stituency ; the other of thirty-six members, to be chosen
by a certain number of districts equally arranged, and
divided on the basis of population. In the Legislative
Council, or Upper House, six members were to retire
every four years, and for the House of Assembly the
elections were to be triennial. The qualification of
voters for the former was to be a freehold of 50 clear
value, a leasehold of 10 per annum with three years
to run, a right of purchase, or a tenancy of the value of
25. For the latter a manhood suffrage, with six


months' registration, was all that was required. All
voting to be by ballot. Eesponsible government was
to be secured by requiring ministers to be elected by
the constituencies, and when elected only to sit and
vote in their own Chamber. All money Bills to
originate in the House of Assembly. All official
appointments and dismissals to be in the power of the
ministry, and no Governor's warrant for the payment
of money to be valid unless countersigned by the Chief

As regarded the civil list, it . was provided that
instead of a bonus for the risk of loss of office by non-
election, a moderate annual allowance was to be made
to the Colonial Secretary, Treasurer, Advocate-General,
and Commissioner of Crown Lands in the event of actual
loss of office.

After passing through a severe ordeal, the third
reading of the Constitution Bill in its altered and
amended form took place on the 2nd of January, 1856,
and the Bill was passed.

The year 1855 had been characterized by great,
depression in trade, consequent mainly upon the dry
seasons that prevailed during the year and the one
preceding it, causing a very deficient harvest ; this
reacted on all branches of industry, and gave a
decided check to the rapid progress the colony had
been making for two or three years previously. With
the quantity of grain and flour exported, and the
shortness of the supply, fears were entertained whether
a sufficient stock had been kept in the colony to last
till the harvest; fears that happily proved ground-

The impetus given to trade by the large quantities
of gold sent and brought from Victoria in 1852-53 had
raised the price of almost everything. Land had
reached a fictitious value both in town and country;
wages had increased to such an extent as to render it
impossible to employ labour except for indispensable
and very remunerative undertakings ; and, as provisions
were still high in price, there was a strong disinclina-


tion to lower the rates in the labour market notwith-
standing the excessive supply.

During this and several subsequent years, all classes
of the community were slow to believe that, as the
extraordinary influx of gold had ceased, prices must
approximate to something near their normal rates before
the colony could again be in a stable, healthy, and really
prosperous condition. The suddenness of wealth had
induced habits of extravagance which were not so easy
to break off as to contract, and the absolute necessity
for retrenchment in affairs public and private produced
a general feeling of dissatisfaction.

After passing the Constitution Bill, the Council
might very gracefully have retired upon its honours ;
but there were still certain pressing interests of the
colony to be protected, and, with a view to retrenchment,
the next business of the Council was to institute a
searching examination into the public departments and
accounts. The public service had to a certain extent
become disarranged from the same causes which had
produced so great an effect on the community at large
the influx of capital from the gold-fields. An Estimate
Committee was appointed on the previous 13th of
November (1855), and during its sittings five several
reports were laid before the House, all of which were
adopted or received by the Council. The committee sat
seventy-five days, examined forty-nine officials and
other witnesses, and elicited answers to 6193 questions.

The investigations of the committee * excited almost
as much interest as the discussion of the Constitution.
Every department was overhauled ; every item of
expenditure was checked ; and the estimates for the
year were reduced to the tune of some 40,000. Of
course, retrenchment began in the Civil Service, as it
always does everywhere ; and a manly protest by the
Governor, transmitted in a memorandum to the Legisla-
tive Council, will be read with interest by every Civil

* The committee (appointed by ballot) was made up as follows :
Mr. B. T. Finniss, Colonial Secretary, Messrs. Baker, Dutton.
Forster, Kingston, Reynolds, and Younghusband.


Servant, in both hemispheres, who may chance to
see it :

"The tone in which the Government service has
been alluded to more than once by the committee ; the
ever-recurring attempt to drive as hard a bargain as
possible with a body of gentlemen willing to toil hard
for the sake of the country but not to be thanklessly
driven as well as underpaid the extreme economy
enforced in extensive departments, such as public works
and the police, in which another but most important
class of the community is largely interested all these
and other concurring circumstances are fast producing
results which, ere long, there may be time to deplore,
but not to remedy. There is a feeling gradually
springing up that the service, which had been a badge
of honour, is being changed into a badge of humiliation,
and in these colonies freemen, whether their station
be humble or exalted, will not brook to be looked down
on by any man or body of men whatever. Fairer .fields
for enterprise and better rewards for industry and
character are even now being sought out by numbers
who had chosen this colony as their home, and had
made her service their ambition."

The action of the Governor in sending this memo-
randum which took up several other points was
severely censured, and a vote was moved and seconded
declaring it to be " an irregular and improper interference
in the constitutional action of the House and its com-
mittees." The wording of the resolution was, however,
supposed to be toned down by an amendment " that the
Governor's memorandum contains matter which is offen-
sive to this House, and that the good understanding
between the Government and the Legislature is not
calculated to be maintained by transmitting such
documents to this Council." Happily, the Governor
was not puffed into space by this " counterblast," and
the incident is amusing mainly as showing the political
amenities of that day.

Apart from this little misunderstanding, it was well
known and generally acknowledged that the main


object of the inquiry was to secure the greatest economy
of the public money with a due regard to the main-
tenance of the public departments in an efficient and
adequate manner, and with the least interruption of
public works and matters connected with the general
progress of the colony. The Government bore testimony
to the value of the. labours of the committee by largely
adopting their suggestions.

The committee was greatly indebted to the efficient
services of the very able Auditor-General, Captain W. L.
O'Halloran, who aided them in many important par-
ticulars, and was mainly instrumental, in fact, in making
their inquiries possible.

About this time there was a mania for select com-
mittees ; in addition to the one we have referred to,
others were appointed during the session on the follow-
ing subjects : The colonial agency * the excessive
female immigration ; the distillation laws ; the treat-
ment of lunatics ; the discipline and management of
the police force ; and the proposed proclamation of the
Sydney coinage as a legal tender in South Australia.

One other measure claiming a notice on account ot
its magnitude and importance was the Adelaide Water-
works and Drainage Act, by which the Colonial Treasurer
was empowered to borrow 280,000 on the credit of
the general revenue, to bear six per cent, interest, with
four per cent, added as a redemption fund.* The Bill
was passed at the close of the session, and it is some-
what remarkable that, considering the sum proposed to
be borrowed, and the heavy taxes to which the citizens
would be subject, very little notice was taken of the
matter by the public until it was too late. It is not
impossible that, as the proposal had been so long pend-
ing, and the citizens had seen so many unsuccessful
attempts to bring it to an issue, they took it for granted
the Bill would not be passed.

But the citizens were gainers in the end. The water
supply had always been sadly deficient in quantity

* It was required also to set apart 28,000 annually to pay
interest and amount of redeemable bonds.


and inferior in quality, and they had ever before their
eyes the fear of epidemics and the risk of desolating

The session, opened on the 1st of November, 1855,
was prorogued on the 4th of June, 1856, and, notwith-
standing two or three adjournments, was the longest
held in the colony up to that time. No less than fifty
Bills were introduced, of which thirty-five passed. In.
his closing address the Governor said, "The session
about to close will long be remembered as that in
which the principles were established and the broad
foundations laid of the Constitution under which South
Australia will, I trust, long continue to extend that
prosperity which, under Divine Pruvidence, has hitherto
blessed the energy and honourable industry of her
children. I confidently expect that the extended political
power entrusted to the people of this country, and the
universal suffrage conceded by the new Constitution,
will prove, in reality, a safe and conservative measure ;
and, whilst conferring the utmost possible powers of self-
government, will render stronger and more enduring
than ever the cherished ties of affection and loyalty
which link this province to the throne of our respected
and beloved Sovereign. I have therefore felt much
pleasure in recommending that the New Constitution
Bill should receive the royal assent ; and in the event
of any of its clauses appearing to exceed the powers of
this Legislature, that an imperial Act should be passed,
ratifying the measure as far as might be judged
expedient, in preference to returning the Bill for further

On the 24th of October, 1856, the Governor received
important despatches from England, together with the
new Constitution unaltered, which had been assented
to by her Majesty at a Cabinet council held in Bucking-
ham Palace on the 24th of June, 1856. It was entitled
" An Act to establish a Constitution for South Australia,
and to grant a Civil List to her Majesty." On the very
same day that the despatches were received in the
colony, the Governor proclaimed the new Constitution


and the appointment of the new Ministry.* Con-
temporaneous with the proclamation in the colony of
the New Constitution Act, the new Waste Lands Act
was to have the force of law, transferring to the colonial
Legislature the absolute control of the land fund. By
this Act the Crown vested in the colonial Legislature
the whole of the unsold and unappropriated territory of
the colony, and the power also to use the funds arising
from the disposal of the said lands in any way that
might seem most advisable or desirable.

The old Council assembled on the llth of November,
and the session was brought to a close on the llth of
December, having only held seventeen sittings. It
was the last session of the partly elective and partly
nominee Legislature, but the Council was not dissolved
till the issue of the writs for the election of the new
Parliament. During the short time that the repre-
sentatives of the people had been entrusted with the
partial control of the affairs of the colony, they had
worked with so much zeal and ability as to entitle
them to a foremost position in the forthcoming elections.
The members of the Executive had won golden opinions

* The new Ministry was composed as follows :
Chief Secretary ... ... The Hon. B. T. Finniss.

Attorney-General ... ... R. D. Hanson.

Treasurer ... ... ... ,, R. R. Torrens.

Commissioner of Public Works ... A. H. Freeling.

Crown Lands and
Immigration ... ... C. Bonney, Esq.

The civil list provided for the following salaries

Governor ... 4000

First Judge ... 1500

Second Judge 1300

Attorney-General 1000

Crown Solicitor and Public Prosecutor 600

Chief Secretary 1300

Under- Secretary 600

Treasurer ... 900

Auditor-General 700

Commissioner of Lands and Immigration 800

Public Works ... 800

These salaries, of course, present a striking contrast to those

fixed in the year 1836.


from the working classes, by securing the partial dis-
continuance of immigration.

Notwithstanding that so much of the time and
thought of people and rulers had been taken up in
discussing the new Constitution, the year was not
barren in results for the general good in other spheres
of action. The harvest had been abundant, and a
proportionate exportation of wheat and flour had yielded
liberal returns. The value of wheat and flour exported
amounted to the enormous sum of 528,320 13s. 4d.
Great progress, too, had been made in public works ;
the Adelaide City and Port Eailway had been opened
to the public, and the Gawler line as far as to
Salisbury ; while " railway extension " was one of the
main topics of discussion. One of the finest bridges
in the colony, to connect North and South Adelaide,
had been constructed at a cost, including its approaches,
of about 20,000. Commissioners for carrying out the
great waterworks scheme had been appointed and
operations had commenced. The lighthouse on Trou-
bridge Shoal had exhibited its warning light for the
first time, and the necessary sums had been voted for
similar beacons on Cape Borda and Cape Northumber-
land. The number of immigrants was small in com-
parison with the previous year, and, owing to the
severe censures passed on the Land and Emigration
Commissioners in England, they were of a much better

The year 1857 commenced with extensive preparations
for the election of members for the first Parliament of
South Australia. Meetings of candidates were held in
all parts of the country up to the time of the issue of
writs for the several divisions and districts, after which
time, as prescribed by the Act, no further addresses
were permitted. This " gagging " clause was roundly
condemned more especially by candidates who were

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 26 of 34)