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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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How Colonial Questions became popular. Edward Gibbon Wake-
field. New Principles in Colonization. The Colonization
Society. Mr. Gouger and Colonel Torrens draw up a Scheme.
Lord Goderich annihilates it. The Error of asking too much
or too little. Further Schemes. Official Rebuffs. The South
Australian Association Chartered Colony v. Crown Colony.
Leading Features of the South Australian Act. Stringent
Provisions. A Difficult Problem and how it was solved.

THEKE are no startling incidents to record in connection
with the early attempts to found a colony in South Aus-
tralia, although it is a story of protracted struggle against
difficulties, of indomitable energy and perseverance, and
of final success. The novelty of the scheme of coloniza-
tion propounded, the untried character of the principles
upon which it was proposed to establish the colony,
the limited knowledge of the territory to be occupied,
combined to giye the Parliament and the public an idea
that the well-meaning projectors were visionaries and
enthusiasts seeking to establish a Utopian settlement.
Nevertheless the development of the scheme was
watched with interest, even by those who did not
believe it would issue in success ; while the opposition
of a few, who had the prosperity of other colonies at
heart, only tended to give impetus to the labours of the
fathers and founders of South Australia.

It is not difficult to trace some of the causes leading


to the popularity of colonial questions in the early part
of this century.

The conclusion of the European War in 1815 disposed
the minds of the people to turn from foreign campaigns
to the peaceful concerns of life, and colonization became
a topic of general conversation.

Emphasis was given to it a few years later. The
commerce of the country had suffered unwonted fluctua-
tions, thousands of families were out of employment,
population was rapidly increasing, trade was in an
unsatisfactory state, and many who took a patriotic
and benevolent interest in their fellows were asking,
" What will the future present to the rising generation ? "

Little was known generally in those days of the
expansive nature of trade, which might be created by
the lowering of duties upon imports and the removal
of restrictions, and emigration appeared the most
feasible remedy for the impending dangers. By re-
moving the surplus population to some British colony
the mother country would be relieved, and at the same
time new markets would be originated for the manu-
factures of the parent state.

In course of time New South Wales and Van
Diemen's Land began to attract attention ; the climate
was fine and salubrious, and particularly well adapted
for pastoral pursuits ; many of the early convicts who
had obtained their freedom were making large fortunes
by sheep-farming, and found a ready sale for their wool
in the English markets. But with all these and other
attractions, the fact that these places were penal settle-
ments operated powerfully against any attempt to
promote a free emigration to these colonies.

In August, 1829, the colonization of the Swan River
Settlement, Western Australia, was commenced, and
met with great favour from the public at the time, so
that many respectable families joined the early ex-
peditions there. But the colony was founded on a very
imperfect basis, and proved a source pf disappointment
to almost all connected with it. Large grants of land
were made to several persons, in one instance to the


enormous extent of half a million of acres which the
individual was allowed to select before the expedition
sailed. Of course he chose his land in the immediate
vicinity of the port, and consequently the other
emigrants had to go beyond this vast tract before they
could settle. The remainder of the land was sold at
the low price of one shilling and sixpence per acre,
enabling all to become purchasers. The consequence
was that labourers taken out from England to cultivate
the soil soon found that they could command their
own prices, broke the engagements with their employers,
and shortly became landed proprietors themselves.
Thus there was land in abundance, but little capital,
and comparatively no labour. Lacking these first
essentials, the colony progressed so slowly that in 1848,
nineteen years after its formation, the population, which
in 1832 was 1540, had only increased to 4622.

A great impetus was given to colonization by Mr.
Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who circulated a new theory
as to the causes of failure and success in modern
colonies, and laid down the principles which he con-
ceived should be observed in their foundation and
establishment. It was against the system of free
grants and the low price of Crown lands that he
grounded his chief objections in his works on coloniza-
tion,* attributing the slow growth of the early English
colonies mainly to these causes.

His argument was the futility of attempting to secure
hired labour side by side with great cheapness of land ;
and that the exchange of land for labour was the only
method of realizing a just proportion between land,
labour, and capital. He contended strenuously for
this principle " the universal sale of land instead of
land-grants, and the exclusive employment of the
purchaser's money to promote emigration."

It was in the same year that the Swan Eiver

* " A View of the Art of Colonization " (1829). " England and
America : a Comparison of the Social and Political State of both
Nations." 2 vols., 8vo. The second volume contained a treatise
on colonization, published 1833.


Settlement was formed (1829) that Captain Sturt, the
Government Surveyor in New South Wales, set forth
from Sydney on the exploring expedition to trace the
course of the Murrumbidgee River. When his dis-
coveries were made known in Great Britain, they attracted
the attention of a number of influential men who had
long been favourable to emigration, and they determined
to take active steps to found a new and free colony in
South Australia on the plan put forth by Mr. Waketield,
to embrace the following principles: "That no free
grants of land should be made, but that it should be
sold at an upset price of not less than twelve shillings
per acre nor more than twenty shillings. The money
so obtained should form a fund for giving free passages
to qualified labourers and mechanics with their wives
and families; the colony to bear all its own charges,
and to have the principal management of its own
affairs." It was thought that the high price of land
would prevent the purchase of more than was likely to
be cultivated, that the supply of labourers would be in
proportion to the land bought, and that the population
would be concentrated.

The first practical attempt to found a colony on the
southern shores of Australia was made by two or three
parties of intending colonists, who were prepared to
purchase a tract of land on certain conditions similar
to those enumerated above. They placed themselves
in communication with Mr. Robert Gouger, who was
interested in colonization generally, and was an enthu-
siastic advocate of the principles laid down by Wake-
field. Anxious to see them practically applied, he
succeeded in forming two or three provisional committees,
but failing to secure either a sufficient subscribed capital,
or the adherence of well-known public men, the Govern-
ment did not regard his proposals with favour, and the
matter dropped for a time.

Little by little, however, attention to the subject
grew. In 1830 the Colonization Society, formed for
the purpose of collecting and diffusing information as
to the best plans for establishing colonies, adopted the


leading features of Wakefield's scheme as the basis of
any operations of a fixed and definite character they
might undertake, but no attempt to found a colony in
South Australia was made by this society as such,
although many of its members afterwards identified
themselves with the South Australian Association.

In 1831, when the valuable discoveries of Captain
Sturt became more fully known in England, a party
of intending colonists at once made proposals to the
Government, through the intervention of Major Bacon,
for the establishment of a chartered colony in South
Australia. But Mr. Hay, Under Secretary of State for
the Colonies, promptly threw cold water on the scheme.
It was understood, however, that his successor, Lord
Howick,* regarded the project with favour.

About this time Mr. Wakefield and Major Bacon
sought the co-operation of Colonel Torrens in Parlia-
ment. Under the impression that Lord Howick was
favourable, Colonel Torrens entered warmly into the
matter, and introduced to Lord Goderich, Secretary of
State for the Colonies, a deputation including Major
Bacon, Mr. Gouger, and Mr. Graham, when an outline
of the proposed scheme was submitted to him, and it
was inferred that his approval was also given. One
part of the principle had already received the sanction
of the Government, and had been put into operation in
New South Wales, where, prior to 1831, the waste lands
were granted free on certain conditions, but had since
been put up for sale. " To Lord Howick," says Colonel
Torrens, in the introduction to his work on " Coloniza-
tion," " belongs the honour of having been the first to
give practical operation to the principle of selling the
colonial lands at the disposal of the Crown, and of
employing the proceeds of the sale in conveying
voluntary emigrants to the colonies."

In the belief that the Government approved the
scheme of the intending colonists, the friends of the
movement proceeded to carry it out, and an advertise-
ment appeared in the Spectator to the effect that the
* Afterwards Earl Grey.


Government had given its sanction to the plan. But
when this advertisement caught the eye of Lord Howick,
he issued a memorandum, stating " it was a mistake to
affirm that the Government had given its sanction to
the plan proposed, and that the terms of approbation
in which he expressed himself individually to Major
Bacon ought not to have been so construed." He
added that he considered it necessary for the Govern-
ment to have some guarantee in the shape of a sub-
scription list before the matter could be entertained.

To this end Mr. Gouger, with others, again set to
work. A provisional committee was formed, and in
June, 1832, Colonel Torrens, the chairman, drew up and
submitted to Lord Goderich the draft of a charter. It
was much too comprehensive a document, fixing the
boundaries of the proposed settlement, the sources of
capital, the classes of emigrants to be sent out, the
powers to be granted to the company, the form of
government, and many other details with regard to the
emigration of foreigners, the sale of land, the raising of
a militia, and the levying of a land tax.

Lord Goderich, "having bestowed the most careful
attention upon the various provisions of the instru-
ment," stated in reply that "the transmission of the
proposed charter afforded the first occasion which had
presented itself during the discussions on this subject
for taking a clear and comprehensive view of the plan
in all its bearings," and then proceeded to cut the
whole scheme to pieces. He objected to the charter
on the ground, among other things, that it would
virtually transfer to a company the sovereignty of a
vast unexplored territory ; that it would encroach upon
the limits of existing colonies ; that -the proposal to
throw open the settlement to foreigners would give
them an equality with British subjects ; that the objects
of the corporation were defined with far too much
latitude as to the employment of their capital ; that the
investiture of the power of legislation was not suffi-
ciently safeguarded ; that they would exclude the King
from imposing duties of custom; that a freedom of


trade was proposed to which the Navigation and
Trades Acts were in opposition ; that it was proposed
to erect within the British monarchy a government
purely republican; and, finally, that they would be
the receivers of large sums of public money for the due
application of which they did not propose to give any
specific security.

Upon Colonel Torrens the task devolved of seeking
to remove some of these objections, and of placing
matters in a less objectionable light; but although a
lengthy correspondence ensued, and a willingness was
expressed by the colonel, on behalf of the provisional
committee, to considerably modify the draft charter as
might be deemed proper and expedient, reserving only
the principle of land sales, the application of the pro-
ceeds to emigration, and the eventual privilege of a
legislative assembly, the main gist of Lord Goderich's
reply was that "as the committee were so ready to
abandon essential provisions of their scheme, he had
serious misgivings as to the maturity of their know-
ledge and counsel on the very important subject which
they had submitted to his consideration."

So ended the negotiations with his Majesty's Govern-
ment in 1832. The error was in asking too much, and
then too little, the result being that they got nothing
at all. The provisional committee was broken up, and
the intending emigrants took their departure to America
and the United States instead of to South Australia.

On the 6th of July, 1833, negotiations with the
Government were resumed, and a modified plan for
establishing a colony on the southern coast of Australia
was submitted by Mr. W. Woolrych Whitmore, M.P., to
Mr. E. G. Stanley, successor to Lord Goderich in the
Colonial Office. It contemplated the purchase of land
by a joint stock company, and by private individuals,
and with the proceeds arising from such sales to send
out the pauper or unemployed population of the United
Kingdom ; the expense of establishing the colony to
be borne by the company, and a land tax levied to
defray the cost of government, the company having


the right of pre-emption of one million acres of land at
five shillings per acre.

It is not necessary to give the whole scheme in
detail, which to a certain extent the Secretary of State
received with favour, but suggested so many hard con-
ditions and modifications that the negotiations were
abruptly broken off.

Official rebuffs did not in any way damp the ardour
of the persistent band of men who had the colonization
scheme at heart, and they determined, with the assist-
ance of Mr. Gouger, to make renewed efforts, and
enlarge the sphere of their influence. Accordingly, in
the early part of 1834, a powerful and influential body
at least, so far as names were concerned was formed,
under the designation of " The South Australian Asso-
ciation," of which Mr. W. W. Whitmore, M.P., was
chairman, George Grote, M.P. (the historian of Greece),
treasurer, and Mr. Eobert Gouger secretary.

The provisional committee all of whom were, of
course, in sympathy with the movement, although, as is
usual in such cases, the active work devolved upon
a few was composed of the following well-known

A. Beauclerk, M.P. Samuel Mills.

Abraham Borradaile, M.P. Sir S. W. Molesworth, Bart., M.P.

Charles Buller, M.P. Jacob Montefiore.

H. L. Bulwer, M.P. George Warde Norman.

J. W. Childers, M.P. G. Poulett Scrope, M.P.

William Clay, M.P. Dr. Southwood Smith.

Raikes Gurrie. Edward Strutt, M.P.

William Go wan. Colonel Torrens, M.P.

George Grote, M.P. Daniel Wakefield, Jim.

Benjamin Hawes, M.P. Henry Warburton, M.P.

J. H. Hawkins, M.P. Henry G. Ward, M.P.

Rowland Hill. John Wilkes, M.P.

Matthew D. Hill, M.P. Joseph Wilson, M.P.

William Hutt, M.P. John Ashton Yates.

John Melville.

A draft charter of incorporation was very carefully
drawn up and submitted to the Colonial Secretary, and
then ensued the inevitable correspondence and discus-


sion. One of the points in dispute was whether the
proposed settlement should be a chartered colony or a
Crown colony, the difference being, according to the
definition of Mr. Grote, that "a colony founded by
charter is an example of that delegation of authority
which, in perpetual succession, has for ages been a
leading principle of the British Government,* while a
colony founded by the Crown is an example of that
central authority, acting at whatever distance from the
seat of Government, by means of temporary agents,
which is a leading principle of the French Govern-

The association soon found that there was little hope
of the Government consenting to the foundation of a
chartered colony in South Australia, and accordingly
they passed a resolution to the effect that if his
Majesty's Government would obtain from Parliament
the authority necessary for planting a Crown colony
there, provision being made in the Act for the permanent
establishment of that mode of disposing of waste land,
and of the purchase of such land, which had been
recommended by the committee, coupled with provision
for good government, the South Australian Association
should continue its existence as a private and temporary
society for the purpose of promoting the success of the

Matters were now on a fair footing, and Mr. Gouger
soon afterwards forwarded to the Colonial Secretary a
rough draft of the proposed Bill. Just as the energetic
and persevering friends of South Australia were, as it
appeared, on the eve of success, there was a change of
administration in the Colonial Office, Mr. Spring Eice f
succeeding Mr. Stanley as Secretary of State for the
Colonies, and a delay arose.

But it was not for long, and in the end it was not
disadvantageous, for Mr. Spring Eice took up the
matter energetically, and at once expressed his willing-
ness to recommend, on certain unprohibitive conditions,

* Cases were cited from the year 1578 to 1791.
t Afterwards Lord Monteagle.


the passing of a Bill on the principles laid down by
Mr. Gouger in his rough draft.

The long-looked-for day at length arrived, when " a
Bill to erect South Australia into a British province,
and to provide for the colonization and government
thereof," was brought before the House of Commons
by Mr. Whitmore, with the sanction and approval of
the Colonial Secretary. Here it had many friends and
supporters Lord Howick, Mr. J. Shaw Lefevre, Lord
Stanley, and Mr. Spring Rice, together with some of
the parliamentary members of the provisional com-
mittee, doing yeomen's service ; and it passed the third
reading without any serious hindrance. In the House
of Lords the Bill was introduced by the Marquis of
Normanby, and was so warmly supported by the Duke
of Wellington that the opposition, which at one time
threatened to be dangerous, was overcome.* He
expressed himself as deeply interested in this new
experiment in colonization, and desired that it might
have a fair trial. He also recommended that Colonel
Light, Ms companion in arms, should be the first
surveyor-general of the new colony.

On the 15th of August, 1834, the last day of the
session, the Bill received the royal assent.

The leading features of the Act (4 & 5 Will. IV.
cap. 95) were briefly as follows :

The territory to extend from the 132nd to the 141st
degree of east longitude, and from the south coast,
including the adjacent islands, northwards to the tropic
of Capricorn ; the whole of [the territory within the
above limits to be open to settlement by British
subjects ; it was not to be subject to the laws of other
colonies, but only to those expressly enacted for itself ;
in no case were convicted felons to be landed on its
shores ; all public lands were to be open for purchase
by cash, the minimum price being twelve shillings per
acre ; the sale of such lands to be under the manage-

* For these good services Wakefield was anxious that the
capital of the new colony should be named Wellington, but in this
he was, as he says, " shabbily frustrated."

18341. THE ACT 4 & 5 WILL. IV. CAP. 95. 29

ment of a Board of Commissioners empowered to give
a title in fee-simple to each purchaser; the whole of
the money derived from the sale of waste lands to be
employed in conveying labourers, natives of Great
Britain and Ireland, to the colony, the labourers so
conveyed to be an equal number of both sexes, pre-
ference being given to young married people without
children, so that purchasers of land might obtain labour
for its cultivation ; the affairs of the colony to be
regulated by the Commissioners until a certain popula-
tion was reached, at which time a representative
assembly should be entrusted with the duties of
government, upon the condition that it undertook to
discharge any existing colonial debt.

So far all was smooth sailing. But, carefully
sandwiched between clauses which could not fail to
give satisfaction, the Act further provided that no part
of the expense of founding or governing the colony
should fall on the mother country, and it authorized
the Commissioners to borrow money on security of the
colony to the extent of 200,000, but 20,000 of the
money so borrowed was to be invested in exchequer
bills in the names of trustees to be appointed by his

The concluding clause of the Act nearly rendered
the whole measure inoperative ; it restrained the Com-
missioners from entering upon the exercise of their
general powers until they had invested the required
20,000 in exchequer bills, and until 35,000 worth
of land had been sold.

This was the crux. However desirable the country
might be considered for emigration, no sane person
could be expected to invest his money in land there
until he had the assurance that a colony would be
founded and a government established.

A glance at the Act (a rough outline only is given
above) will show that the original propositions of the
projectors of the colony had, in the course of the negotia-
tions and the passage of the Bill through Parliament,
undergone many important revisions, until almost the


only things granted that were at first asked were the
disposal of the waste lands at a uniform price, and
the application of the proceeds to the purposes of
emigration. Some of the features of a chartered colony
were retained, but in the main they were those of a
Crown colony, the Crown, however, agreeing to delegate
almost absolute power and authority to a Board of

The provisions for the disposal of public lands pre-
sented two or three marked peculiarities. The title in
the first instance was not to be direct from the Crown,
but from the Commissioners, to whom the Act gave the
power of sale ; it was to be in fee-simple, and no royalty
or reservation whatever was to be made by the Crown,
so that all above and below the soil was to be un-
reservedly the property of the purchaser.

Although the Act did not in all respects meet the
wishes or the anticipations of the projectors, it never-
theless embodied certain admirable and novel principles.
It provided for the sale of all public lands at a uniform
price, and the possibility of free grants being thereby
precluded, it seemed that the chief cause of previous
failure in planting colonies was obviated. The colony
was never to be subjected to the curse of convictism.
The settlement of population was to be regulated in
groups, in order to secure the advantages of neighbour-
ing communities. To this end lands generally were to
be surveyed in small blocks of eighty acres. The sales
were to be by public auction, so that the evils of large
monopolies might, to a great extent, be avoided.

" In the old colonies," said Mr. John Stephens,* " vast
tracts of land were granted to favourites; in South
Australia no land whatever is granted on any other
terms than the payment of a fixed price per acre. In
the old colonies there has always been a deficiency of
labourers, and, if capitalists imported them, land was
so cheap that they immediately ceased to work for hire,
and without adequate capital began to be farmers on
their own account ; the result of which was, that the
* " Rise and Progress of South Australia " (1839).


largest possible quantity of land was cultivated in the

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