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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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made the allegations."

The Government carried their point, but it was
afterwards generally admitted that it would have been
better in every respect to have acted on the representa-
tions of Mr. Angas and the few others who held the
same views.

The whole case was difficult and delicate throughout,
and was dealt with in a manner which did not reflect
great credit upon the chief actors in it, and brought
upon them the severe censure of the Imperial Govern-

The colonial Parliament took upon itself the grave
responsibility of removing Mr. Boothby from office,
and he at once declared his intention to appeal to the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ; but illness,
brought on by ceaseless vexation and anxiety, super-


vened, and on the 21st of June, 1868, his death termi-
nated the controversy.*

We must now go back to the year 1857, to the close
of the first session of the first South Australian Parlia-
ment. It had been one of peculiar interest and im-
portance, and had accomplished an amazing amount of
work, notwithstanding its endless discussions. Twenty-
seven select committees had been appointed, seven by
the Legislative Council and twenty by the House of
Assembly, while forty Bills had been introduced,
twenty of which passed both Houses.

During the year the federal movement between the
colonies occupied much attention out of doors and in
Parliament. It appeared that the Australian Associa-
tion in England had addressed her Majesty's Govern-
ment on the subject, and a draft Bill had been
prepared, providing for the federative union of the
colonies, to embrace such objects as lighthouses along
the coast, railways, navigation of inland rivers, a postal
system, and other affairs in which the colonies were
collectively interested. Select Committees inquired
into the subject, and did not report dead against it ;
but the idea of federation was altogether unpalatable
to the majority, and the matter was for the time being
allowed to drop.

One step of a federal character was, however, taken
by the Parliament this session in levying a tax upon
the landing of Chinese in the colony the Celestials
having adopted the plan of disembarking by thousands
in South Australia and walking overland to avoid the
" head money " levied in Victoria on all such arrivals
in that colony by seaboard. Some of these visitors pro-
ceeded up the Murray, but the large majority were
landed at Rivoli Bay or Guichen Bay, where they
obtained guides to conduct them to the Victoria gold
diggings. The landing tax was considered by the
majority as being mainly for the benefit of the sister
colony, but it was denounced as illiberal, and was, after

* Quoted from the " Life of George Fife Angas," pp. 377-380.


a time, repealed. It served, however, to illustrate some
of the difficulties that must attend federal action.

On the 28th of December, 1857, the colony attained
its majority. In many respects it was the most
eventful year of its history, and it is not a little remark-
able that it should, while in its twenty-first year, have
been entrusted with the entire management of its own
affairs by the introduction of responsible government.
There were other coincidences of the year. The first
pile had been driven for the erection of a jetty at
Glenelg, the first landing-place of the early settlers on
the mainland ; the first wire of the intercolonial tele-
graph for connecting South Australia with the neigh-
bouring colonies had been fixed; the railway had been
opened to Gawler, one of the largest country towns.

Notwithstanding all the drawbacks of infancy and
they had been many and severe the colony stood in
a strong, vigorous, and healthy position at the age of
maturity (reckoning according to the years of man-

The population, in 1857, was estimated at 109,917 ;
the land alienated from the Crown from the foundation
of the colony was 1,557,740 acres, the purchase money
amounting to 2,045,324 lls. ; the quantity of land in
cultivation was 235,965 acres ; the number of horses,
26,220 ; of cattle, 310,400 ; of sheep and lambs,
2,075,805 ; the value of imports, 1,623,052 ; of exports,
the produce of the country, and mainly cereals,
minerals, and wool, 1,744,184; the number of flour
mills was 70 ; of manufactories, 226 ; of post-offices,
110 ; of letters passed through the post-office, 934,550 ;
of newspapers, 849,946 ; number of day schools, 167,
with 7480 scholars; number of Sunday schools, 192,
with 10,576 scholars ; places of worship, 300, with
accommodation for 50,000 persons ; births, 5183 ; mar-
riages, 1218 ; deaths, 1304.

The celebration of Foundation Day was to have been
a brilliant affair, but a drenching rain marred the pro-
ceedings, which were to have included the affixing a
plate with a suitable inscription on the old gum tree


under whose branches the colony was proclaimed in
1836, the land on which it stood having been given to
the Glenelg Corporation by the generous owner, Mr. J.
Hector ; but the ceremony was dispensed with at that

The second session of the first Parliament was some-
what barren in subjects of general interest. A Bill for
levying an assessment on stock led to the appointment
of a Select Committee, who recommended that the
measure should be withdrawn; but, notwithstanding
this, the debate on the second reading extended over
seven days, and it finally passed both Houses without
a division. It was estimated that the revenue raised
from this source would amount to between 20,000 and
30,000 per annum ; but it was found to be a difficult
measure to carry into effect, and created a great deal of
dissatisfaction on the part of the squatters. The
annual value of the land held on lease at the time of
passing the Bill was estimated at from 80,000 to
100,000. The distillation question, and taxation
generally, were also referred to a Select Committee, who
reported that, in their opinion, a system of collecting
revenue by a duty upon imports possessed advantages
over any system of direct taxation, and rendered any
change inexpedient at that time. A total repeal of the
distillation laws was recommended, and concurrently a
reduction of the duty on imported spirits to four
shillings per gallon, and further reductions annually,
until a minimum duty of one shilling per gallon was
reached. But no definite action was then taken.

During the year (1858) a cloud "no bigger than a
man's hand" made its appearance, and before long
spread far and wide. A movement was set on foot by
the working classes to obtain, if possible, a total dis-
continuance of free immigration, on the ground that it
was unnecessary while so many in the colony were out
of employment. On the other hand, the view was
taken that the prevailing rate of wages rendered the
profitable use of capital impossible. Certainly a country
possessing unlimited resources of various kinds, and


growing food for a population considerably larger than
it contained, ought not to have been in the position
in which South Australia then was.

The matter claimed much of the attention of the
third session of the first Parliament, which was opened
in April (1859), much earlier than usual, consequent
upon an alteration in the commencement of the financial

In July a "Political Association" was formed, the
approaching termination of the existing Parliament
presenting a favourable opportunity to the working
classes for ventilating their grievances generally, and
for making arrangements for the return of members
who would defend their rights and promote their
interests. The " creed " of the Association was as
follows :

" (1) We believe the time has now arrived when im-
migration at the public expense should cease. (2) We
believe that property should never be considered in
comparison with manhood ; that the happiness and
well-being of the mass is paramount to the aggrandize-
ment of the few. (3) We believe that all citizens
should have equal political rights. (5) We believe
that members of the Legislative Assembly should be
paid. (5) We believe that all lands alienated from the
Crown and unimproved should be taxed. (6) We
believe in law reform. (7) We believe the press should
be free and unshackled."

Men are said to be almost always better than their
creeds, and the working men of South Australia, per-
haps, did themselves an injustice in issuing this bald

* On the fourth day of the session a singular circumstance
occurred in the House of Assembly, which nearly necessitated
another formal reopening of Parliament. After the ordinary
summons to the members, there was not a quorum in the House.
The Speaker, without considering that the days of meeting had not
been fixed, adjourned the House until one o'clock next day ; but
remembering that he had no power to do this, he recalled the
departing members, and a few more dropping in who had either
not heard or had disregarded the previous summons, a House was


programme. Their object was a political crusade
against the wealthier classes. Times were bad, there
was lack of employment, destitution had ensued ; dis-
satisfaction had laid a firm hold on mechanics and
artisans, and everything was ripe for the advent of the
social demagogue who had a panacea for every evil

Many meetings were held. The first resolution
passed at the first meeting was in these simple and
modest terms : " That his Excellency would be pleased
to remove from his councils the present Ministry."
Another, at a subsequent meeting, was to the effect,
"The widespread destitution is attributable to ab-
senteeism, and to the drainage of money from the
colony for immigration ; " while another characterized
a vote of 2000 for the introduction of free immigra-
tion as " a policy wanting in humanity, insulting to
the understanding of the meanest capacity, likely to
compromise the present peace and order of the com-
munity, and opposed to the future prosperity of the

Memorials to the Governor were drawn up, and
deputations appointed to present them. Sir Richard
MacDonnell was a practical man, and he dealt wisely
and well with his democratic petitioners.

"In my opinion," he said to one deputation, "the
want of the colony is the want most felt by all new
countries worth inhabiting, namely, more people to
inhabit it and cultivate the soil. The way to make
the country wealthy is not necessarily by stopping the
influx of people. I have never known immigration,
well conducted, to interfere with legitimate wages ; but,
on the other hand, an influx of inhabitants, unattended
with a corresponding influx of capital, is not, I admit,
the way to promote the healthy and prosperous settle-
ment of any country." Then, after urging them to use
their political power wisely at the next general election,
he met a complaint that had been made against the
Government for not employing more labour in public

" If you will allow me to offer you advice," he said,

1858.] LABOUR TESTS. 321

" it would be that you should avoid this growing
tendency to look to Government, instead of to your-
selves, and to cling to it in every reverse or difficulty,
rather than to rely on your own willing hearts and
strong arms. There is a fair field for the workman
here, as compared with England ; and if the disposition
to which I have referred is persisted in, it will be a
curse to the working man, and the most serious impedi-
ment to the prosperity of the colony. . . . The necessity
for that self-reliance which can seek and make employ-
ment is all the more evident because, before long, we
cannot calculate upon such large proceeds from the sale
of Crown lands as we have hitherto enjoyed, and you
must remember that it is from these sales that the prin-
cipal amounts have been derived for public works. . . ."

As the rules of the Destitute Asylum did not admit
of relief being granted to able-bodied individuals in
good health, the Government established a labour test
to meet the case of those who could not obtain work
from any other source.* The rate fixed for taskwork
was so arranged as to allow men to earn from three
shillings to five shillings per day, and when they could
not be employed in this way, four shillings per day
was to be the rate of payment.

This was considered by the men as insufficient, and
the inevitable memorial to the Governor, urging that
six shillings should be the minimum price, was sent in.

Sir Kichard, in reply, said he was grieved and dis-
appointed to find so many workmen in the vicinity of
town still looking to labour tests as a continuous means
of obtaining a livelihood, instead of merely using them
in the way intended, namely, as temporary makeshifts,
whereby the industrious might gain time to look out
for more permanent and congenial employment, plenty
of which might be found, if diligently sought for. He
justly considered that any man who could earn four
shillings, and nevertheless remained idle because he

* The Government adopted a similar plan to that pursued by
Governor Grey in 1841, except that the test rate of 1859 was more
than double that of 1841.



could not earn six shillings, might be considered as
squandering the money he refused to take, and dis-
qualified himself from obtaining the highest wages
accorded to others of his class.

It was these circumstances which led to the forma-
tion of the Working Men's Association, and sub-
sequently the Political Assaciation, with its branches in
various parts of the colony an association which exer-
ciaed a powerful influence in the election of members
for the ensuing Parliament by returning men who were
pledged to represent their interest, and, in some cases,
theirs only. From the results which followed it was
clear that the other classes of the community had not
realized the power which the ballot and universal
suffrage had placed in the hands of working men.

The great depression in the labour market at this
time could be mainly traced to two causes one a
deficiency in the wheat crop for four successive seasons,
leading gradually to a crisis, and the other a partial
recovery from the disarrangement caused by the exodus
to the gold-fields, and the subsequent high rate of
wages obtainable when the influx of gold into the
colony took place, creating a fictitious, superficial, and
temporary state of prosperity, leading in its turn to a
Urge amount of improvidence, an erroneous view of the
value of money, and other more serious evils.

Early in July, 1859, news reached the colony that
Austria had declared war against Sardinia, and that
active preparations were being made in England, in
the event of other European powers being so involved
as to necessitate Britain taking a part in the contest.
In August came the intelligence that hostilities had
commenced, that France had joined the Sardinians,
and that some desperate battles had been fought and
won by those united Powers. A proclamation by the
Queen was forthwith issued by the Governor, declaring
the neutrality of Britain and requiring the "strict
observance of this attitude on the part of all the
colonies and dependencies of the British Empire."


While South Australia was quite prepared to obey
this order both in letter and in spirit, it was considered
necessary to follow the example of the mother country
in making preparation for any emergency. France
was as much distrusted in Australia as in England,
and the existence of a French naval station at New
Caledonia, no great distance from the Australian coast,
led the colonists to be on the alert. A Militia Bill and
a Volunteer Force Bill were therefore passed through
the Legislature, and the Government proceeded to
enrol the militia, but it was understood that if two
thousand volunteers offered their services the militia
would not be called out except in case of absolute

Energetic steps were taken to enrol sufficient
volunteers, and rifle corps were formed in most of the
districts, the Government undertaking to provide rifles
and ammunition on certain conditions, together with
a small sum towards uniform. Major Nelson, of the
14th Regiment, the officer in command of the military,
was appointed inspecting field officer. By December,
sixteen companies were formed, upwards of six hundred
volunteers enrolled, rifle butts had been erected on the
South Park -lands, ball firing had been regularly
practised, and two artillery companies had commenced
target practice.

Meanwhile Australia had been constituted a separate
naval station, independent of the East India and China
station. Captain Long, of H.M.S. Iris, was appointed
commodore of the second class ; the Iris, Elk, Niger,
Cordelia, and Pelorus forming the Australian squadron.

An event occurred in this year (1859) which will
ever be remembered by South Australians as one of
the saddest, most tragic, and most exciting in the
annals of the colony.

In 1858 there arrived in the colony a splendid new
steamship, the Admella, for the Adelaide and Mel-
bourne trade, her name being a contraction and con-
junction of the names of these two cities. On Monday,
the 8th of August, 1859, a telegram was received in


Adelaide from Mount Gambler, announcing that the
keeper of the lighthouse at Cape Northumberland had
reported the total wreck of the Admella at some little
distance from the cape, and the probable loss of nearly
all on board. The news, it was stated, had been com-
municated by two of the crew of the ill-fated vessel,
who had arrived at the lighthouse in an exhausted

When this startling and melancholy intelligence was
circulated there was distress and excitement in
Adelaide such as had never been witnessed before. It
was known that the Admella had left Port Adelaide on
the 5th with between sixty and seventy passengers on
board, most of whom had relations and friends in the
city. The telegraph office was in consequence besieged,
and intense excitement prevailed. Unfortunately, no
precise information could be obtained, fragments of
news only arrived at intervals, and the suspense was
painful in the extreme.

Early on Tuesday morning telegrams were received
stating that the steamer struck on a reef during foggy
weather on Saturday and broke into four pieces, the
boats had been washed adrift, and when the two men
left, bodies were floating around them. Passengers had
offered money, jewellery, everything they had, to be
brought ashore, but the raft would only bear the two
sailors ; the second mate had tried to reach the shore,
but was drowned in the attempt. Only the poop of
the vessel was out of water, and the wreck was at least
a mile from the beach and twenty-five from the light-
house. A ray of hope came with the tale of sorrow.
The two men who had reached the shore were so
bewildered that no reliance was to be placed upon
their report as to how many were alive on the wreck.

Meanwhile all that could be done in Adelaide, over
two hundred and fifty miles away, was done. The
Corio had been despatched from the Port to render
assistance. Then came horurs and days of intensely
anxious suspense. Business generally was at a stand-
still ; both Houses of the Legislature met and adjourned

1859.] LOSS OF THE " ADMELLA." 325

(two sons of the President of the Council had taken
passage in the vessel, and their fate was unknown).

Thus Tuesday passed away. Wednesday brought
tidings that those on the wreck had exchanged signals
with those on shore, but neither boat nor steamer was
in sight. By the aid of a telescope twenty persons
were seen on the wreck, and a Mr. Rochfort was
recognized as one of them. A lifeboat had been
despatched, but she could not be got through the surf.
Towards evening a steamer three miles off was seen
approaching, but the sea was too rough for her to
attempt a rescue. This was the last news received on
the fifth day that the survivors had been on the wreck,
and the third since the news reached Adelaide. Excite-
ment was at white heat, and it is scarcely an exaggera-
tion to say that half the citizens of Adelaide spent a
sleepless night.

Early on Thursday morning the telegraph office was
thronged by a pale and anxious crowd. The first
telegram announced that the C&rio was close by the
wreck, that Eochfort, the captain, the first mate, Mr.
Magarey, and a woman were recognized, but that the
surf was too strong for any boat to live in it. Later in
the day came other telegrams stating that the survivors
were fewer, two having been seen to drop into the
sea since daylight; that the Ladybird, despatched
from Melbourne, and the Ant from Guichen Bay, were
on the alert to render assistance ; that the lifeboat of
the Corio had been launched, but could not reach the
wreck it had got inside the reef and been thrown up
on the beach, and the survivors witnessing the mishap
had sent up a despairing shout, distinctly heard on
shore, as if their last hope had gone. The wreck stood
above high water as high as a man could reach, and,
the hull having canted over to port, the survivors were
sitting or lying on the starboard bulwark. A reward
of 500, it was reported, had been offered by one
gentleman to any person who would bring a single
individual from the wreck alive. Such were some of
the gloomy and disheartening tidings of the day.


Friday brought news of gallant but unsuccessful
attempts by shore boats and the Portland lifeboat to
reach the wreck, but the sea was running mountains
high, and the brave men gave up their efforts in despair,
not, however, until serious injury had been done to
some of their number. As the telegrams brought infor-
mation of their vigorous but unsuccessful attempts, it
seemed to the anxious inquirers at Adelaide that all
human help was in vain, and when some one proposed
a special prayer-meeting, crowds left the telegraph
office and proceeded to the Wesley an chapel in Pirie

On Saturday there was very little news ; hope
deferred had made the heart of the people sick, but
they wandered about the streets, hardly losing sight of
the telegraph office until evening, when the following
telegram was posted up :

" Glorious news ! Twenty-two saved, including
Rochfort, Hurtle Fisher, Captain McEwan, Andrew
Fuller, and Thomas Davey. Other names not known.
Nineteen gone on to Portland in the Ladybird. Three
on shore. The nineteen were rescued by the lifeboat of
the Ladybird, and the three by the Port lifeboat in
charge of Germain. These taken off the wreck at eight
o'clock this morning. Poor George Fisher drowned.
Sufferers all much exhausted. . . ."

Further particulars came at intervals, and on Monday
the first mate was sufficiently recovered to give full
details, which were at once wired to Adelaide.

Thus ended a week of the most intense interest,
anxiety, and suspense ever experienced in South Aus-
tralia. By the calamity at least eighty lives were lost,
under the most heart-rending circumstances. Large sub-
scriptions were raised for the rescuers (over 3000),
and also for those of the sufferers who needed help, and
medals were awarded to those who had conspicuously
distinguished themselves for bravery.

On the 1st of March, 1860, the first South Australian
Parliament was dissolved by proclamation. When the


writs for the new elections were issued, the Political
Association set to work in right good earnest to secure
the return of members who should make South Aus"
tralia the paradise of working men.

The elections took place on the 13th of March, with
the result that many important changes* were made in
the new Parliament, insomuch that the Register thus
defined the position : " We cannot enter into any
analysis of party gains and losses, for the very cogent
reason that we have had no defined parties.* The old
titles Whigs and Tories never had significance here,
and even the terms Liberal and Conservative fail to
convey any definite meaning. Here, we who wish to
maintain the democratic institutions we have estab-
lished are to all intents and purposes Conservatives,
while the party whose political bias would in Britain
be deemed Conservative are, in the very nature of
things, Destructives here. The great majority of the

Online LibraryEdwin HodderThe history of South Australia from its foundation to the year of its jubilee (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 34)