Copyright
William Henry Parr Greswell.

Outlines of British colonisation online

. (page 16 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 16 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


proceeded from a broad view of England's requirements, as the
foremost colonising and manufacturing Power in the world. In
this case it was no haphazard discharge of criminals upon a
new country, to work out, if they could, a regeneration for
themselves under seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years of penal
servitude ; it was a bond fide colony and a deeply considered
project of colonisation. Then, as afterwards, there were found
many in England who were not only averse to the establish-
ment of new colonies, but industriously promoted the idea that
the sooner we got rid of the old ones the better.

They have, for the last thirty years, had their counterpart in
the Goldwin Smith school of politicians. It is hardly worth
while, however, to consider into what straits these unpatriotic
lecturers and writers might, at this period, have landed England.
Gibraltar might have been surrendered long ago, Malta might
have been re-occupied by France, Egypt have become a series
of French provinces, and Australia occupied at various points
by French Pondicherrys, if not French settlements. It has
been well and ably pointed out that Napoleon felt that there
was one point by means of which England was always able to
beat him, and that was by her maritime strength a strength
derivable from her colonies, Talleyrand also spoke of Eng-
land's colonies as the sheet-anchor of Great Britain and the
stronghold of her power. ' Deprive her of her colonies,' he
said, ' and you break down her last wall ; you fill up her last
ditch.' Napoleon had his eye upon Australia ; and by virtue of
the expedition of Baudin, to which attention has already been
drawn, the French might possibly have claimed a position on



The Australian Colonies 177

the western coasts, where, in the words of M. Peron, * the
labours of English navigators are finished, and our discoveries
of the Land of Napoleon begin.' In 1826 a rumour prevailed
that the French were actually going to occupy Western Aus-
tralia, and the Sydney authorities sent a detachment of soldiers
to take formal possession of the country and found a settle-
ment at King George's Sound. 1 The first regulations issued
from Downing Street and bearing upon the Swan River settle-
ment were as follows : The Government, it was said, did not
intend to incur any expense in conveying settlers to the new
colony, and will not help to support them whilst there. Land
licences will be issued on certain terms to those who will settle,
and there will be no convicts or other description of prisoners.
Western Australia will not be a penal settlement.

To a great extent the hopes first entertained of its welfare
and prosperity have been falsified, and the sum of its wealth
and population, when contrasted with that of New South
Wales of which it was once thought it might be a successful
rival is comparatively insignificant. Still, with the policy
that boldly occupied this region of Australia and took up the
task of colonisation here we cannot be too greatly impressed.
It was both wise and patriotic. The chief commercial and
strategic reasons which made Western Australia valuable to
England in 1829 exist now. It is close to the markets of Java
and Singapore, which can now be reached in less than ten
days, and it is just possible that its proximity to the Asiatic
labour market may enable it to solve certain labour questions
which are a difficulty elsewhere. Now, as before, Western
Australia is useful as a health resort for invalids from Ceylon
and India.

When the experiment was begun on the Swan River, there

seems to have been a good deal of mismanagement. Captain

Fremantle landed as the first pioneer, and shortly afterwards

disembarked 800 settlers. No adequate provision was made

for them, and for months the colonists had to endure as well

1 See Sutherland, History of Australia.

M



178 British Colonisation

as they could the rough blasts and winter storms of the Indian
Ocean, sheltered only under fragile huts. Not only on this
occasion, but on many others, and in many parts of the
world, the same mistake in landing on new shores and facing
a winter without adequate provision has been made. It is one
of those violations of common sense it is difficult to under-
stand. At the Cape of Good Hope the Dutch East India
Company landed their first Table Bay colonists just before
the approach of winter, exposing the weakened, scurvy-
struck passengers to those storms that sweep over the Cape pen-
insula ; the first French settlements up the St. Lawrence were
made just before the winter months ; and in much later times
a party of the Selkirk settlers dared to face all the hardships
of a Canadian winter as their first experience of the country.

The colony of the Swan River seemed to be destined from
the beginning to be a comparative failure. The little port of
Fremantle was founded, the beginnings of Perth laid, and in
1830 a thousand new immigrants arrived, most of them being
attracted by the prospect of obtaining large estates, forgetting
that the standard of the value of land is different in old and
new countries, ten acres of good pasture-land in England being
worth a whole district of unreclaimed and desert land abroad.
Erroneous ideas also prevailed amongst the colonists as to the
nature and extent of pasture-land, and to measure the
Australian bush by reference to English standards was a
common mistake. Even now it is a difficult task for an
English farmer to realise that in such countries as the Cape
and Australia the science and practice of husbandry and
agriculture have to be learned anew. There is no equivalent
in new countries to the carefully kept sward or ' spine ' of Old
England; the sheep wander backwards and forwards over
immense areas of bush or veldt ; they feed on different herbs,
and are liable to all kinds of strange and unexpected diseases.
The tasks of a veterinary in Australia and the Cape are quite
different from those of an expert in England, and experience
has invariably to be a bitter teacher. Nor in many cases were



The Australian Colonies 179

the colonists aware, whether at the Cape or Australia, that
their part or allotment, granted with a free hand by Govern-
ment, was very often in possession of a hostile race of savages,
or at any rate exposed to their cattle-liftings and maraudings.

The British Government thought it possible, however, to
make the colony of Western Australia self-supporting by paying
for everything with land, as the grants cost nothing, and were
readily accepted by others as payment. We are told that very
few of the first colonists made any attempt at agriculture, and
that the instruments of husbandry lay rusting by the shore ;
the horses and cattle died off; the sheep that had been intro-
duced at a great expense perished from feeding on a poisonous
plant, and the colonists themselves were forced to loiter
aimlessly at Perth. One gentleman, Peel by name, had spent
^"50,000 in bringing to the colony everything that could be
required for farming on a large scale, and he introduced no
fewer than three hundred labourers into the country. But this
costly experiment failed, and Mr. Peel was ultimately com-
pelled to take up his lot as an ordinary settler. Some of the
colonists turned their attention from the land to the sea, as
likely to be a more remunerative market, and employed their
energies in opening up the whaling fisheries at Portland Bay.

In 1836 the colony of South Australia was formed, and a
large portion of the country previously marked as belonging
to West Australia was assigned to this new settlement, and
Adelaide was founded. It is somewhat curious that the pro-
sperity which followed upon the founding of South Australia
did not fall to the lot of Western Australia; and in 1848, this
colony being still in a state of stagnation, a message was sent
to it from Earl Grey, asking the colonists whether they would
entertain the idea of convict-labour in their midst. After some
hesitation the colonists consented to have the convicts in their
midst, although it was completely contrary to the original
stipulation, thinking, perhaps, that the convict population, as
well as the soldiers and police, might give a spur to their
industries. But no permanent good came of it ; and when



180 British Colonisation

the gold-fields were discovered in the eastern colonies, the
prisoners, immediately they were liberated, drifted off thither.
It was found that neither Victoria nor New South Wales would
put up with this influx of discharged criminals in their midst ;
and, in order to defend themselves against the taint, they refused
admission to every colonist coming from West Australia unless
he could show that he had never been a convict. The colony
of Swan River thus became branded, free immigrants ceased to
go thither, and many of the original settlers left it altogether.

The gold discoveries, therefore, did not benefit West
Australia to the extent even of stimulating agriculture as in
South Australia, an adjacent settlement. It was left high and
dry, and for many years its development has been hampered
at every turn by the want of population. Neglected and im-
poverished, she has been called the Cinderella of the
Australian colonies. In 1867-8 the colony ceased to be a
penal settlement, free immigration was encouraged, public
works begun, and a new era commenced, lasting up to the
present time.

Western Australia is the last Australian colony to which
responsible government has been offered. The constitution
was granted only so recently as 1890, and on October 2ist
of that year first came into operation. The population of the
whole settlement is only about 43,000, living in a country that
has a coast-line of about 3000 miles and an area of 1,000,000
square miles. One advantage Western Australia possesses in
being one or two weeks nearer England by sea than the rest of
the Australian colonies. The colony, however, has suffered
from isolation, and a mere glance at the map will show the
enormous distances which separate Albany and King George's
Sound on the south from the Kimberley division on the north.
In course of time a railway from north to south for 1300 miles
may be constructed, but at present such an idea is somewhat
ambitious, although it has been mooted by no less an authority
than the late Sir John Coode. 1

1 For facts and figures see Appendix VI. Section D.



CHAPTER IX

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

IN May 1835, during the very month that Batman was survey
ing the banks of the Yarra, the British Government was defining
the conditions upon which a fourth Australian colony could
be founded. The South Australian Association, which was
called into being in 1833, had asked for powers from the
Imperial Parliament simply to sell waste lands and apply the
proceeds to immigration. This was conceded to them by
an Act which directed also that commissioners should be
appointed to frame laws for the colony, establish its courts,
nominate its officers. Free grants were henceforth to cease.
Land was to be thrown open for sale at not less than twelve
shillings an acre, to be raised to i per acre subsequently.
No convicts were allowed to land, and in every way the settle-
ment was designed to be a model community. This colonisa-
tion scheme, which was to result in the formation of a great
colony, owed its beginnings to Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield,
who in 1829 had published a small book purporting to be letters
written from Sydney. It created a great sensation, not only on
account of its style, but also for the originality of its ideas.
. The system received the approbation of Lord Howick (Lord
Grey), the Secretary of State for the Colonies. For the
development of waste lands capital is clearly an essential
preliminary. In a public way the Australian colonists have
recently solved this question, on the strength of their credit, by

181



1 82 British Colonisation

borrowing huge loans and constructing railways and public
works. When Australia had no credit worth speaking of, and
could not borrow, Mr. Wakefield sought to enlist the aid of
capital by means of a private association.

Mr. Wakefield demonstrated that a revenue might be derived
from land sales at a sufficient and uniform price * the land
price being a labour tax on purchasers,' to use Lord Norton's
expression, by which all might equally benefit. It did three
useful things : it prevented land speculation, furnished a fund
for surveys, and, although it might check labourers from be-
coming landowners quickly, it prevented concentration of
settlement. ' The sufficient price was a matter of calculation,
and no index of the market value of land.'

The prairie value is not really the market value, as a land ring
may be formed, and Crown lands themselves a most important
public asset disposed of for a mere trifle at sales and auctions.
As a matter of fact, even the 'upset' price in our colonies
has often been most misleading. Mr. Wakefield's scheme
also presupposed and rightly enough the greater value of
money in a new country than in an old. Eight and ten per
cent, has often been got in colonies themselves upon safe
security in the earlier days. This probably is an estimate
falling below the real truth. Mr. Wakefield argued that on
account of the immense natural resources of Australia, their
vast wealth in minerals, and their forests of timber, an associa-
tion possessed of large capital would obtain as large an income
from this as from one several times as great in England.
There was to be no absenteeism. The capitalist was to be-
come a colonist as, indeed, Mr. Wakefield did himself
with the prospect of a learned and cultivated leisure. The
project had much to be said in its favour, and provoked much
discussion among such writers as Colonel Torrens, Poulett
Scrope, Mr. Elliot, and others. It has been remarked by Lord
Norton that the Hudson's Bay Company, with their rich and
magnificent territories in the North-West, might have studied
it with advantage, 'as it never occurred to any one of the



The Australian Colonies 183

disputants that a revenue could be raised from the sale of waste
lands more than sufficient to supply immigrant labour and the
opening costs of surveys and roads the return being expected
afterwards to arise out of profits from capital so attracted to
the country.'

The labour question was of course the great crux, and perhaps
it might have been guessed that the Australian immigrant would
view with jealousy and ill-will the spectacle of a leisured class
for whom he would in the first instance be asked to work. In a
new country the immigrant is impatient of social distinctions.
In New Zealand we shall see that Mr. Wakefield conceived the
idea of a Church of England settlement under the auspices of
a company, thus importing a religious bond into a new
country.

It was in December 1837 that the beginnings of Adelaide
were made. Governor Hindmarsh, the first Governor, read his
commission to a small audience of emigrants and officials
beneath a gum-tree near the beach. This is the site of the
present wealthy town of Glenelg, seven and a half miles from
the city of Adelaide, and the old gum-tree is said to be still
standing, although in a state of decay. In 1836 the only
landing-place for vessels was ' in the midst of a mangrove
swamp at the mouth of a muddy little creek,' and so undesirable
did the site seem that it was seriously suggested that the colony
should be removed to Encounter Bay. But the site of the
town of Adelaide, which was a broad plain beneath the steep hills
of the Mount Lofty range and on the banks of the Torrens, had
already been determined upon by Colonel Light ; and, in spite
of differences of opinion, it was adhered to and developed.

South Australia has never been the actual scene of such
busy mining operations as New South Wales or Victoria ; but,
incidentally, the colony profited greatly by the gold-mines of
the sister colonies. Port Adelaide was found to be a con-
venient port for the crowds of diggers, Chinamen and others,
who were bound for the Ballarat fields ; and at the same time
a great market was opened up for South Australian flour and



184 British Colonisation

wheat, and a spur thus given to her agricultural prosperity. It
must be remembered, also, that before the gold discoveries had
been made in New South Wales and Victoria the colony of
South Australia had derived great profit from her own mineral
wealth. In 1842, at the Kapunda Station, forty miles to the
north-west of Adelaide, Mr. F. C. Button, searching for lost sheep
in the bush, had chanced to discover by accident rich copper-
mines. Eighty acres of land were bought for .80, and during
the first year the mines yielded ^4000, the next ^10,000.
The Burra-Burra mines, also, which were bought for ^2 0,000,
yielded copper to the value of ^700,000 during the first three
years. The value of these finds does not approach that of
the gold-fields, but still the copper era served to stimulate
every industry in South Australia, and to bring capital and
labour to bear upon the land. Agricultural industries went
ahead. In 1839 there were only 440 acres under cultivation ;
in 1842 there were 23,000 acres bearing wheat, with 5000 acres
of other crops. In 1845 the colonists were not only able to
supply their own wants, but were able to export about 200,000
bushels at cheap rates to the neighbouring colonies, at the
same time holding a surplus of 150,000 bushels at their
disposal.

In 1860 the South Australian Government had offered
^2000 as a reward to the first person who should succeed in
crossing Australia from south to north, and the feat was
attempted by John M'Douall Stuart, who had served as
draughtsman in Sturt's expedition to the Stony Desert. After
two attempts, in which he came first within 400 miles and then
within 250 miles of the northern shores, Stuart succeeded in
reaching Van Diemen's Gulf. Burke and Wills, two other
explorers, had anticipated him, as they had reached the Gulf
of Carpentaria from the south in February 1861, whereas he
did not reach Van Diemen's Gulf until July 1862. Along the
route opened up by Stuart it was resolved to construct an over-
land telegraph line, which should link with a submarine cable
from Singapore to Van Diemen's Gulf. This great public



The Australian Colonies 185

work was finished successfully in August 1872, when the two
ends of the telegraph wire were joined and the first message
was flashed across the great wastes of Central Australia. In
October 1872 through communication was opened between
London and Adelaide, and on the second of this month the
Mayor of London sent a message of congratulation to the
Mayor of Adelaide, a distance of 12,500 miles. Another
telegraph wire was laid between Perth and Adelaide, from west
to east, so that the colony of South Australia was in touch with
the civilised world by two different routes. A glance at the
geographical conditions of South Australia will prove how
important telegraphic and, wherever possible, railway com-
munications are to this colony.

It was in consequence of the favourable report given by the
explorer John M'Douall Stuart that the South Australian
Government petitioned the Home Government for that part of
the continent which lay between the i38th and 1 2 gth meridians
of longitude and the 26th parallel of latitude and the sea. This
northern territory was formerly known as Alexandra Land, and
is now calculated to embrace an immense tract of country with
an area of 523,620 square miles. This part of Australia had
been first sighted by the Dutch, although it had never been
colonised by them. The first British settlements had been
formed on Melville Island in 1824, chiefly with a view of holding
it as a military post and providing a harbour of refuge for dis-
tressed vessels. The principal harbour of the northern
territory is Port Darwin, second only in magnificence to Port
Jackson, New South Wales. It was named after Dr. Darwin,
who sailed with King in his survey of the north coast in
1818-1822. The northern territory has been recognised as
part of the colony of South Australia since 1864, and the
acquisition of this vast tract, with its tropical climate and
tropical products, constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of
the colony. Numerous exploring expeditions, in 1877, 1878,
1882, 1883, 1885, and 1886, have combined to throw much
light recently upon this territory, and it is predicted that the



1 86 British Colonisation

peninsula of Arnheim Land may become one of the rich
mining districts of South Australia.

It will be noted, therefore, that South Australia consists of
two well-defined regions of settlement, one on the north and
the other on the south of the Australian continent, separated
by vast extents of desert and totally unorganised territories.
It seems hardly probable that a trans-continental railway will
ever knit together these two disconnected portions, and bring
Port Darwin and Port Adelaide together the two centres of
commercial wealth and industry.

The constitutional history of South Australia exhibits the
same phases of development as New South Wales and Victoria.
First there was the Governor, ruling with the aid of a nomi-
nated Council; next there was called into existence a more
representative form of government (1850), with a Legislative
Council being partially nominated by the Crown, and carrying
with it powers of self-reform, subject only to the Queen's
assent; thirdly and lastly (1856), there was a reformed con-
stitution, with a Legislature of two houses, and full responsible
government. It is through distinct stages of this sort that all
present self-governing colonies have passed. With regard to
South Australia it may be observed that her history was never
complicated by the convict problem, criminals being expressly
excluded at the very beginning from her shores. South
Australia is noted for a reform (1858) in the transfer of pro-
perty which is being copied and adapted to a considerable
extent by nearly all the civilised races of the world. The
reform was introduced and carried through by Sir R. Torrens,
who drew up a scheme by which all transferences of land were
to be registered in a public office called the Lands Titles Office,
the purchaser's name to be recorded and a certificate of title
given to him. If his possession were challenged, reference
could be made at once to the office. This reform was of the
greatest possible benefit to the colonists, and it has been
adopted not only throughout Australia, but in the Cape Colony
and elsewhere. It has facilitated business transactions,



The Australian Colonies 187

encouraged freeholders, given a spur to industry, economised
time and money, and secured owners against oppression and
wrong. 1

QUEENSLAND.

In the year 1859 the territory of Eastern Australia, extending
north of the 2Qth degree of latitude to the York Peninsula and
Torres Straits, was erected into a separate colony under the
title of Queensland. In December of this year Sir George
Bowen, the first Governor, arrived. Upon the subject of his
governorship Sir George has himself remarked : 2 ' When I
arrived there I found a population of only 25,000 whites : in
the treasury I found just sevenpence-halfpenny ; and, what is
very curious, the night after my arrival a thief, supposing the new
Governor had brought some kind of outfit for the new colony,
broke into the chest and stole the sevenpence-halfpenny.'
That the treasury has been replenished, and that the popula-
tion has increased, we have Sir George Bowen's word when he
tells us that Queensland has an annual revenue of ,4,000,000,
and that the Queenslanders number 350,000 instead of 25,000.
Brisbane was in 1859 a town of only 7000 inhabitants, yet a
full-blown Legislature of two houses was given to the colony.
It might have been thought that the gift of responsible govern-
ment was somewhat premature, as the area of the colony was
6yo,ooosquare miles, and the population were greatly scattered ;
yet, in the absence of border and other difficulties, the infant
settlement has advanced to the position of a great colony. In
no other part of the world could a small community achieve
greatness so quickly as in Australia. First and foremost, there
has never been a thought of fear or apprehension about foreign
invasion or foreign complications ; the fee-simple of the con-
tinent has been assured to the Australian colonists from the
beginning ; there have been favourable land-laws and numerous
aids to immigration; there has been unbounded natural wealth



Online LibraryWilliam Henry Parr GreswellOutlines of British colonisation → online text (page 16 of 31)