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steps. In the desert, on his way to the Northern
Territory, the overlander may come upon a lonely
grave, and, close by the remains of an old gunyah,
find another — the graves of victims of the blacks.
Elsewhere another opened grave is found under an iron-
wood tree, on the bark of which may be read the
words, rudely cut : " Travis — speared b}'^ the blacks,"
with the date of his death. The blacks had dug up
and scattered the bones, and tried to obliterate the

In the new country — the western side of the Northern
Territory and the Kimberley district of Western Aus-
tralia — the blacks continue the troubles they have
created everywhere else that the white man follows
them. They still do great damage among the cattle,
still more by those they scare than by those they kill.
The chroniclers of to-day tell the same tale as the his-
torians of a past generation — that cattle are easily
frightened or maddened by the scent of the blacks, and,
when they have been once scared, they groAV wild and
unmanageable. Yet the number of cattle destroyed
by the blacks in the Kimberley district alone is very
great : it is estimated at 4,000 head a year. There are
always, we are told, from 40 to 100 cattle-spearing
blacks in the gaols of Wyndham and Derby, f and there,

* Mbs. Dominic D. Daly, Northern Territory, pp. 332, 334,

t Sydney Herald, April 30, 1910.


another relates, the blacks who come from the interior
with the drovers cast contemptuous glances at their
brethren in chains. In the vast North-West, where
the white man found both goldfields and grassy prairies
to reward his discovery, alone in all Australia, the
blacks are able to hold their own with the invading

The young pioneer squatters in the Northern Terri-
tory cheerfully encountered hardships and perils. Some
lay down and died of starvation. Others, and these
also not a few, died of thirst, and men have been found
lying face downwards in a dry creek, though they had
wealth in their pockets. Very many, alas ! were
murdered by the natives. We hear of the long list of
brave men who paved the way for future squatters and
planters. Page after page of Mrs. Daly's otherwise bright
volume on the Northern Territory is chilled with the
ghastly narratives of the crimes of the blacks, such as
the Daly River outrages in 1882, and again those
committed in 1886. In the latter year the newspapers
teemed with the " murderous outrages " committed by
the blacks, not only on the coast, but all over the back
blocks, or in the interior. The squatters took stern
reprisals. They learnt, the amiable lady informs us,
that summary jurisdiction (or massacre without investi-
gation and without trial) was " the most efficient and
humane " way of dealing with these outbreaks. As a
detail, blacks were obliged to disarm before they ap-
proached a settlement.*

One of the most distinctive uses that have been made
of the lower races by immigrant peoples is to treat
them as what they really are — beings raised some
degrees above the animals, but retaining animal char-
acteristics. Darwin tells us that the Pampas Indians
are employed by the Spaniards as bloodhounds have
been employed in Cuba — to track out persons who
endeavoured surreptitiously to pass by the custom-
house stations in the mountains. The Australian blacks

• Daly, Northern Territory, pp. 324r-5, 219-22, 226-7, 294-6-


have for ninety years been employed in a similar manner.
In the early days, whenever (as was constantly happen-
ing) convicts tried to escape, they were instantly fol-
lowed into the bush by the black tracker, who had a
wonderful facility in tracking them, and, being armed,
seldom failed to bring them back, dead or ahve.

The too-famous Black Police has been the theme of
both history and fiction. It naturally arose from the
employment of the blacks as trackers — first of cattle,
and next of robbers and murderers. It was the almost
necessary counterpart of the earlier white mounted
police raised by Governor Brisbane in 1825. That
consisted of picked British troops, and it is described
as having been valuable and efficient. For five and
twenty years it did much to ensure the safety of the
settlers and guard their stock. Some writers have
deplored its disbandment in 1850, but though it might
doubtless have been effective in hindering the rise or
the spread of bushranging, it had accomplished its
primary task. By 1850 the blacks of New South Wales,
at least, had ceased to be formidable.

The Black Police was first formed in Victoria in
February, 1842, and the men were induced to join the
force through the influence of a leading chief. So, at
all events, states Mr. Thomas, a Protector of the Abori-
gines.* Another account affirms, doubtless of another
district, that the brothers, Pulteney Dana, were its
organizers and chiefs. The first-mentioned were re-
cruited from the Yarra tribe ; the second from beyond
the Murray and in Gippsland. The blacks composing
the force were selected for their physique and intelli-
gence, and they were well disciplined. The troopers,
with their white commanding officer, rode up in uniform,
on serviceable, well-conditioned horses, with their
carbines slung, their swords dangling and jingling.
They had a smart, serviceable look.

Their way of setting to work has been described by

* Letters from Victorian Pioneers, pp. 70 ff. Boldrewood,
Old Melbourne Memories.



a close observer. Suddenly, as they ride, one dismounts
and picks up a small piece of bark that had lately been
ignited. The other troopers gather round him. They
next examine every foot of the way. They then find
a tree whence a branch has been cut by a tomahawk.
The trail has been found. Patiently, for hours, they
follow it up, and soon they discover fresh signs of a
body of blacks having passed that way. A yell is
heard from one of the troopers, and all of them gallop
up at full speed and disappear in the scrub. A black is
stationed at each corner, and \\\i\\ two troopers they
charge the centre of the black tribe that has been
found. They soon make short Avork. In a few minutes
the resistance is broken. — From Victoria the institution
passed to New South Wales and Queensland.

The gradual destruction of the aboriginal blacks was
the greatest of the negative changes that the settlement
of Australia produced. The last of the continents was
converted from a black to a white. With the dis-
appearance of the indigenous dark race and the advent
of the most robust of the fair races it was definitely
launched on its career as a rival and leader of other
continental peoples. This great obstacle to the complete
colonisation of Australia had necessarily to be removed.
Much injustice and many wrongs were doubtless in-
flicted in the course of it. All such acts must be
branded ; and all have been bitterly expiated. They
do not affect the justness of the process. Landed
reserves have been made and aids to soothe the sufferings
of a dying race. But the natives had no longer a place
in countries where all the conditions of existence, even
the climatic, had been radically changed.

There can be no question of right or wrong in such a
case. The only right is that of superiority of race, and
the greater inherent capability on the part of the whites ;
the only real Avrong on the part of the blacks is their
all-round inferiority and their inability to till the ground
or even make use of its natural pastures. All other
wrongs were incidental and, in comparison, trivial.



This was the capital offence, and it was irredeemable.
Let their usefulness as shepherds and stockmen be
admitted, fully let it be allowed that, when the gold-
fever broke out, many a station was completely de-
serted by its hands, and the case for the blacks and
against the whites is not really bettered. They could
work as servants of the white immigrant ; as Darwin
already found in the thirties, they could not work for
themselves. They were not industrial units. The
Maoris learnt to farm ; the Australian blacks never
learnt to keep sheep or carry on a cattle-run.

Their disappearance was a natural necessity. It
came about in obedience to a natural law. It was
effected by natural processes, and folloMed on the lines
of the substitution of vegetal and animal species all
over the world.


THE squatters' BATTLE

The squatter was engendered by the excess of individual
energy and enterprise over the inertness and routine
of Government. Finding himself cramped \\ithin the
settled boundaries of the Colony, he pushed out in
search, not of " fresh woods," but of pastures new. To
regularise his occupancy of such lands " beyond the
boundaries of location," he Avas granted an annual
license at a moderate rate, with additional stock-money
on his head of cattle or sheep. Then, for a quarter of
a century, ensued a keen contest between the squatters
and the local Government, sometimes aided, sometimes
thwarted, by the Home Government. For, by the
Orders in Council of March 9, 1847, the squatters gained
from the Colonial Office under Earl Grey, a long-de-
manded and bitterly denied " recognition of their claim
to become, by mere occupation, entitled to the ultimate
freehold " of vast territorial tracts. At least, so it was
in New South Wales and, with more uncertainty, in
Victoria. South Australia, wisely guided by Edward
Gibbon Wakefield, and New Zealand, judiciously go-
verned by Sir George Grey, escaped the scourge. Wake-
field, indeed, always protested against the creation of a
Crown title to the users of natural pasturage. His
protest had little weight with the able and conscientious,
but wrong-headed and crotchety Secretary for the
Colonies. With this exorbitant acquisition, the run-
holder, now definitively known as the very lordly
squatter, the patriarch of his county or his district and



the patrician of the State, became the chief collective
power in New South Wales. Such was the outcome of
a mere claim to a constructive title or pre-emptive right
in respect of pastures held under license.

The making and the conceding of the claim were the
beginning of woes. The battle resembled the struggle
between the great fief-holders of England and the
Cro^vll ; and the steps by which the feudal chieftains
emancipated themselves from their obligations to their
suzerains and acquired an absolute property (as absolute
as ever British law allows it to be made) in their granted
and their hereditary estates, was a rehearsal of the
struggle between the run-holders of Ncav South Wales,
claiming property in their runs, and the Government and
the people.

Towards the end (December 19) of 1840 Governor Sir
George Gipps luminously explained the situation to
Lord John Russcl, then Secretary for the Colonics. He
described the licensed occupiers, or squatters, and
plainly differentiated them from the American squatters.
They were often gentlemen of good family, officers of
the army or navy, or graduates of Oxford or Cambridge,
and they had always some means, while some of them
were wealthy. They did not yet claim (if Gipps was
right) to have a secure possession of their stations, nor
did they assert any right of pre-emption. They knew
that their lands would eventually be taken from them,
or that they would have to pay an advanced price to
purchase them, but they believed that, as the country
was gradually thrown open to occupation, one district
after another, in the scramble they would have at least
an equal chance with other buyers at auction. On
one point especially he doubted the M'isdom of the
regulations made earlier in the year. One of these
regulations permitted individuals to select special
surveys of 5,120 acres. Had it been perpetuated, it
would have definitively legalised the large runholder.
Now, it was decided that no more special surveys of
5,000 acres, equal to eight square miles, like some near


p. 132]


Melbourne, should be allowed. In February, 1841, the
regulations were rescinded. Gipps, strong and capable,
had prevailed. Lord John Russell, who had seemed
to favour the big squatter, now scared him by a pro-
posal to raise both the licenses and the assesf-ment on
stock. He thought " the license might be raised to
five or six times its present amount " (from £10 to £50
or £60). The proposal threw them into a panic, for
times were bad then. Then came a new bill carried by
Lord Stanley, who decided that no more gratuitous
grants should be made (a superfluous decision), and
provided, instead, that land should be sold by auction
at a minimum price of £1 per acre, while special blocks
of 20,000 acres might be sold. Evidently, there was an
uncomfortable oscillation between large and medium-
sized domains. Governor Gipps was still against the
large squatters, but had not yet influenced Lord Stanley
as he influenced Lord John. He took measures to
heighten the panic Russell had created. He aimed at
limiting runs, say, to an amount that would suffice for
500 head of cattle or 5,000 sheep. The license for each
run (many of the squatters held a number of runs) was
to be separate. Improvement or cultivation would give
the occupier " a kind of right to purchase a portion of
his run, or otherwise to obtain secure possession for a
term of years after occupation as a tenant-at-will."

After making official inquiries through 1843-44, Gipps
issued his Regulations for the Occupation of Crown
Lands. They do not now appear specially onerous.
He merely proposed to limit the extent of runs and to
exact contributions according to the area occupied and
the number of stock depastured. The right of the
Government to oust the squatter was to remain absolute,
and runs were to be resumable without compensation.
The whole colony rose against the new regulations like one
man. But it was by no means a rising on the side of the
squatters. Little sympathy was felt for the would-be
aristocracy, though much might be somewhat hypo-
critically expressed. It was a rising against arbitrary


taxation, without the assent of the semi-elective Legis-
lative Council that then represented alike the governors
and the governed. The squatters skilfully made ^^•hat
was really their cause appear to be the popular cause,
A question of tea lighted up a national insurrection in
North America, and a question of land-tenure gave
birth in Australia to a quasi-national rising ; for it
was as passionately urged in Victoria and the future
Queensland as in New South Wales. For once, and
once only, the three most potent personalities in the
Mother-Colony made common cause and banded them-
selves together against the action of the Governor.
Wentworth opposed them, and endeavoured to stamp
out what he called " the leprosy of the beautiful Squatter
Regulations," because he had quarrelled with Gipps,
and because he belonged to the threatened class and
saw his personal interests endargcied ; but he opposed
them on larger and more creditable grounds as invasions
of that British fetish — the liberty of the subject. Robert
Lowe opposed them, it is said, because he too had quar-
relled on pitiful personal grounds with his former patron
Sir George Gipps, but far more, we may hope and be-
lieve, because the regulations were in collision with
those Liberal principles of which he was all his days
the convinced exponent. Finally, Dr. Lang opposed
them, partly (we may suspect) because Gipps had
thwarted the repayment of a large sum to the Scots
Church — that is, to Dr. Lang — vhich Lang had ex-
pended in its name ; but again, we are fully assured,
because they constituted — or appeared to constitute —
an attempt at taxation by the Executive without the
indisjoensable sanction of the Legislature.

The squatters saw their supremacy threatened, their
very existence endangered, and they fought as men
fight jyro uris et pro focis. Not only the squatters, but
merchants and tradeis, A\ho however must have been
largely dependent on the squattciocracy, united to op-
pose the new encroachments on the privileges of the
Legislative Council (whose prerogative of legislation


seemed menaced) and the rights of the people. Meetings
were held in Melbourne and Sydney and elsewhere.
The storm, for such small communities, was loud and

Though of iron mould, Gipps bent before the blast.
He privily communicated to a member of the Council
certain modified, indeed new proposals. Settlers buying
their homesteads would secure thereby undisturbed
possession of their runs for eight years. A second
purchase would secure another eight years' tenancy,
and so on. Rights of the Crown over the runs, he ad-
mitted, were still absolute, but he laid stress on the
security derived from the character of the British
Government, which would not arbitrarily deprive any
squatter of his run.

This concession but slightly appeased the rage of the
great landholders. Ben Boyd, holding 388,000 acres,
and paying as a quit-rent what Mr. Mantalini would
have termed " the ridiculous sum " of £80, presided
over a protesting meeting. Robert Lowe, who at one
time was a henchman and nominee of the Governor,
strongly opposed the Regulations, doubtless finding
in the squatters his most remunerative clients. Lord
Stanley loyally stood by the Governor. He refused
to acknowledge the doctrine that an absolute pro-
perty in their runs inhered in the occupiers. Still, he
would communicate to the runholders a feeling of
security by granting them leases for an eight-years'
occupation of their runs.

Not only did the combatants win their cause ; they
accomplished a far greater result. They succeeded
in annulling the regulations of Sir George Gipps, but
they also made the triumph of the squatters' cause a
certainty. It was largely through the influence of
Lowe, Wentworth modestly said, that the pastoralists
were granted fixity of tenure and rights of pre-emption.
Lowe and Lang aided in bringing about that reign of
the shepherd kings they were the first to deplore.


THE squatters' VICTORY

The squatters en masse, with such great leaders and
such powerful allies, had defeated the Anti-Squatting
Governor. They were not therefore satisfied. The
concessions that had been made to them had only
whetted their appetite. They were now organized
and grown conscious of the unity of their interests and
the menace of their strength.

Circumstances favoured them. Their neglect to seek
the annual renewal of the license, and the failure to
demand payment of the annual fee, laid the foundations
of their subsequent claims. They began to look upon
their runs as their oAvn. The permission to sell them —
that is, to sell their grazing rights in them — confirmed
this feeling of ownership. What a man can sell belongs
to him. With every improvement made — the building
of a house, the equipment of a stockj^ard, the stocking
of the run — the sense of proprietorship was strengthened.
They " formed " the station, it was said. Was a station
taken up and abandoned without being formed ? It
was no-man's-land and lay open to all-comers.

The mood of the squatters was well expressed in some
doggrel lines of the time. When A. Boyd was supposed
to be asked by Earl Grey whether the squatters would
accept leases of their runs, lie mimicked the famous
rhyming despatch of Canning, and replied : —

" My lord.
It sounds more clever,
' To me and to my lioira for over 1 ' "



That was their ambition, and their habitual feeling
was one of possession.

Rolf Boldrewood, in one of those very years (1844),
has well expressed the exultation of the runholder : —

" Pride and successful ambition swelled my breast on that
first morning as I looked round on my run. My run ! my own
station ! How fine a sound it had, and how fine a thing it was
that I should have the sole occupancy— almost ownership — of
about 50,000 acres of ' wood and wold,' mere and marshland,
hill and dale. It was all my own — after a fashion — that is ;
I had but to receive my squatting license, under the hand of the
Governor of the Australias,* for which I paid ten pounds, and
no white man could in any way disturb, harass, or dispossess
me." t

Their case had its strong points. It seemed a ter-
rible thing that men who occupied thousands of acres
with thousands of cattle and tens of thousands of sheep,
should be at the mercy of an outcry for the sale of any
portion of their land, and lack security of tenure. Fixity
of tenure, convertible into freehold by means of a right
of pre-emption, was their aim and their war-cry. They
scouted the rights of the Crown. They demanded that
the annual license-fee should be abolished or made
nominal ; that quit-rents should be waived or reduced ;
and that the control of the Crown lands should pass
into the hands of the Governor and the Legislative
Council, which should frame such leases as would give
security to occupiers.

The clamour for security on the part of the squatters
was incessant. They asked that it should be made
impracticable for selectors to buy their runs, or any
considerable portion of them, over their heads. Was
it unreasonable ? Does not every tenant of a house,
in London, Sydney, or Christchurcli, solicit an assurance
that some mean, grasping, or (it may be) vindictive
individual does not successfully tempt the cupidity or
unwisdom of his landlord by taking his house from him
by offering a higher rent ? And does he not desire

* Sir C. FitzRoy was the first Governor-General of Australia,
f Old Melbourne Memories, ch. v.


the same security against the result of a sale ? Both
claims appeared nothing more than reasonable to the
mass of the people in Australia, as to the few in Great
Britain who felt any curiosity on the subject. In 1845
associations were formed in both England and Scotland,
where the runholders had many influential connections,
to protect the special " interests of the squatters and
the general interests of New South Wales," as if, for
once at least, the interests of the individual and the
community were identical. The head of an ancient
Scottish noble family. Lord Polwarth, supported the
claims of the pastoralists and the granting of long
leases. His son, Henry Scott, pleaded their cause in
the House of Commons. A meeting was held in London,
where a motion was carried proposing the granting of
leases for twenty-one years. (All the proposals were
for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years, and it is curious
to observe that State terms are so often multiples of
seven.) Lord Stanley, Secretary of State, was evi-
dently moved — as deeply, perhaps, by his now confirmed
Toryism as by the plaints of the big squatters or the
remarkable and rare consensus of public opinion. He
was now inclined to favour the granting of leases. He
referred the matter to " his man, Friday," as Dr. Lang
coarsely named the masterful Governor, and plainly
with the desire that the Governor should supply him
with the necessary encouragement. Gipps Mas no
weakling, and he was reluctant to yield to the demands
of the pastoralists. He still held that " to allow the
large squatters to seize on all the waste lands of the
Crown would be to ruin the Colony." To the last he
clung to quit-rents. He still objected to leases for more
than a year. He opposed the right of pre-emption.
Yet he felt that the drift of opinion, official as well as
public, was all in the direction of making the concessions
demanded. Struggling vainly against the same current.
Lord Stanley brought in a bill granting leases for seven
years in place of the annual licenses, which had insen-
sibly merged in virtual leases. The subject was still


under discussion in official circles when the thoughts
of all were absorbed in the vital question of protection
versus free-trade. Lord Stanley disappeared from
office with the fall of the Peel ministry, and, in England
at least, the question went to sleep for a time.

But not for long. A new Secretary of State, Lord
Howick, soon to become Earl Grey, succeeded to Lord
Stanley. He too was masterful, even perverse, and ill
to deal with. He quickly discerned the way the wind
was blowing. In his very first year of office, 184G, he

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Online LibraryJames CollierThe pastoral age in Australasia → online text (page 11 of 27)