A SHORT HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA
THE LAND AND THE SQUATTERS
Australian Aboriginals tree climbing, photographed in 1914.
Downtown Sydney, Martin Place, 1924
The conquest of Australia by the colonist has been accomplished by very hard work aided by science and ingenuity. In many instances land which at first seemed incapable of profitable cultivation has, by the application of special methods, proved to be of valuable quality. In Victoria there is a territory of eleven million acres which in the early years was regarded as a wilderness, and which Mitchell the explorer described as 'one of the most barren regions of the world.' It consisted chiefly of a thick tangle of scrub called mallee, interspersed with sand. Down to very recent times it was looked upon as hopeless country. But skill and labour have converted this great territory into a well-populated place of settlement, rich in yields of wheat and liberally stocked with sheep and cattle. 'Dry farming,' evolved by Australian grain-growers, by taking full advantage of the slight rainfall in districts where the climate is comparatively arid, and by special modes of culture, has enabled plentiful crops to be produced on land which without these means would have been impossible for wheat cultivation.
Small girl among the sheep
Very early in the settlement of South Australia the idea occurred to John Ridley, and ingenious mechanic and miller, that it would be possible to make a machine to reap. In 1842 there was a plentiful harvest, but there were not sufficient labourers to gather it. Prizes were therefore offered for improvements in agricultural machinery. The result was that in 1943 Ridley invented his stripper, the first harvesting machine in Australia. It was as far removed from the perfected stripper-harvester of to-day as was Stephenson's 'rocket' from the modern locomotive; but it enabled ten or twelve acres to be reaped in a day by one man and two horses, and it greatly decreased the coast of wheat production. Ridley refused to take out a patent for his invention. He sold as many machines as he could make with his very limited resources, but sought no reward beyond his 0profit on these. Now, Australian harvesting machines are in one wherever in the world climatic conditions approximate to those of the country of their invention.
Wheat itself has been improved by Australian experiments in cross-fertilization, in the same ways as the methods of cultivating and reaping it have been. William Farrer, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, where he won distinguished honours in mathematics, came to Australia in bad health, and settled down to farming in New South Wales. He was much interested in the breeding of new varieties of grain, and conducted a series of experiments, during nearly a quarter of a century, with a view to producing wheat plants that were peculiarly suited to Australian conditions. He developed thirty-three varieties of wheat, the best known of which was named Federation, made available for farmers in 1902. Farrer's experiments, resulting in the growth of grain of high milling quality, from a plant able to resist rust and other diseases, and to give prolific yields in the Australian climate, have benefited the wheat farmer to the extent of millions of pounds sterling. Incidentally Farrer altered the colour of the Australian landscape during the harvest season; for, ass a wheat-expert has observed, 'the golden yellow characteristic of old time Australian harvest fields has been gradually changed to a dull bronze through the ever-increasing popularity of Federation wheat.'
Sheep breeding was the first important industry of Australia; and wool was produced in 1922-3 to an export value which exceeded 57,000,000 pounds. Yet Sir Joseph Banks, in 1803, confidently expressed the opinion that sheep would not thrive in New South Wales, that the grass was too coarse, that the climat4e and wool were not especially adapt4ed for wool=growing, and that there was no good reason for encouraging the experiments of John Macarthur. Whether Macarthur was the very first man to introduce sheep for wool-growing has been disputed. A claim for priority has been made for the Rev. Samuel Marsden. But certainly Macarthur's energy and intelligence applied to wool production demonstrated how great an industry it might become.
Macarthur, in 1794, three years after his arrival in Sydney, purchased some Bengal ewes and lambs which produced a fleece more like hair than wool. These he crossed with some English wool-bearing rams, with the gratifying result that the lambs produced a mingled fleece of hair and wool of good quality. In 1797 he bought some Spanish sheep, merinos, from the Cape of Good Hope, taking care to guard the breed against deterioration. Carefully crossing some of the Spanish rams with his mixed breed, he noticed a remarkable improvement in the weight and quality of the fleeces of the progeny. So he persevered in this line of experiment, with such remarkable results that when he went to England in 1803 his name was already well known by the woolen manufacturers of Yorkshire, who manifested the liveliest interest in the prospect of New South Wales becoming an important source of supply for their industry. In 1801 the heaviest fleece shorn in New South Wales weighed only 3.1/2 lbs., but in 1802 Macarthur was producing fleeces of fine quality weighing 5 lbs. (That was a marked improvement on anything known at that time, though the average weight of the Australian fleece was over 7 lbs. in 1922.) His wool was worth 3s. per lb., whereas coarse wool brought only 9d. per lb. By 1803 he possessed a flock of 4,000 sheep, all bred from his Spanish rams. In 1809 his wool was sold by auction in England at 5s. 6d. per lb. He continued to breed from merinos only, and was the only person in New South Wales who did so, others looking to the sale of their sheep for mutton, whilst he devoted his skill exclusively to the production of fine wool. So eager was he that every sheep's back should produce its utmost of wool that for a time he would not allow his family to have a mutton chop; and so we find Mrs. Macarthur, in a letter to a friend in England, after describing her husband's beloved flocks, saying, 'you might conclude from this that we kill mutton, but hitherto we have not been so extravagant.' John, however, she added, had promised that the family might have some mutton the next year. The descendants of John Macarthur's original merinos are still kept apart from the other sheep at Camden Park, an exclusive family of sheep-aristocrats; though in truth the merino has been much improved by later breeders, and the best kind of modern fine wool-producing sheep is superior to the interesting stock of which Macarthur was so justly proud.
Sydney, New South Wales, the Metropolis of the South Seas, 1924
The rapid and successful development of Australia has been facilitated by the fact that the aboriginals who occupied it before the advent of the white race were not an organized, warlike people. They did, it is true, cause some annoyance when population was sparse, but they never were at any time a serious menace, as were the Maoris to the New Zealand colonist or the fierce Bantu tribesmen to the South African. They committed murders, but were incapable of anything like military aggression.
How many aboriginals there were in Australia at the time of Phillip's foundation of Sydney it is impossible to compute. Phillip thought there were probably 1,500 in Botany Bay and the environs of Port Jackson. It was estimated that there were about 6,000 in the Port Phillip in the warmer north, west, and east, than in the south. They were a people so low in the scale of human development that they had no domestic arts or domestic animals. They were in the Stone-Age stage of human evolution. They had not learnt to make pottery from clay, or to extract metals from the rocks, or to cultivate the soil, or to develop grain and fruits, or to build houses. They lived on fish, kangaroo, opossum, roots, and wild plants. They hunted and fought with spears, waddies and boomerangs. Even the bow was beyond their invention, though they made string from hair or fibre for their fishing-nets. It is greatly to be regrett4ed that their tribal organization was not studied by competent observers in the early years of the settlement. Nearly all the really valuable ethnological work amongst them has been done in recent times, principally by Howitt, Fison, Roth, John Mathew, and especially F. J. Gillen and Baldwin Spencer. That work has revolutionized our knowledge of primitive human relationships; so that an eminent authority on classical studies writes the apparent paradox - which, however, is the simple truth - that the modern student who would understand prehistoric conditions in Greece has to go to Australia.
In the beginning the aboriginals were not aggressive. They did not resent the landing of the white people in their country. Their natural inquisitiveness made them somewhat of a nuisance, perhaps and they were thieves from the white man's point of view because, having no notion of property, to take what they wanted was natural to them. But conflicts between blacks and whites were inevitable, despite the desire of some Governors to be just and humane. The decay of the aboriginals in the settled districts presented very rapidly, from three main causes; from actual destruction by killing, from disease and drink introduced among them by the whit4es, and from the perishing due to the change of life necessitated by the limitation of their hunting-grounds. Philanthropic methods failed to keep them alive, though honest efforts were made to prot4ect and foster them. Sometimes incidents occurred which suggest that these efforts ran counter to popular feeling. A French man of science who visited Sydney on the staff of the ship Uranie in 1818 related in a book which he published about the voyage that wealthy inhabitants of the city who entertained the officers gathered together a company of aboriginals armed with clubs, and set them fighting, giving them liquor to incite their ardour. Two of the savages were killed, and, says the observer, 'their corpses were carried out and tea was served amidst the laughter of the assembly.'
The worst features of the fading out of the native race arose from sheer brutality and treacherous murder by white settlers and their convict servants. Governor Brisbane permitted the shooting of aboriginals in batches. It was said that they committed outrages; but barbariti4es perpetrated upon them provided them to revenge. The lowest depth of mean homicide was reached by some settlers who systematically gave natives arsenic in wheaten cakes, porridge, or other food. They murdered under the guise of kindness. The Rev. Dr. Lang, writing in 1847, stated of his own knowledge and that of other independent witnesses that this had been done, and G. A. Robinson, who became the chief protector of aboriginals in Port Phillip after his Van Diemen's Land experience, alleged that poisoning was undoubtedly one cause of the decrease of the aboriginals. It was perhaps inevitable that the native race should face away in the parts of the country where the white population became thick. They were not a people who could be absorbed or adapted to civilised life. But the tragedy of the process was very grim and hateful.
The best estimates counted the aboriginal population of Australia in 1925 at about 63,000, but these resided chiefly in the interior of Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. there were fewer than a thousand in New South Wales; only about 100 in Victoria. The figures for New South Wales and Victoria are certainly more reliable than are those for Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, where there is much difficulty in forming estimat4es. In these two states, where the decline can be accurately measured, the black population is facing out of existence very rapidly, and within the present generation will probably cease to exist. Elsewhere, though the decline may be less rapid, it is only where aboriginals are preserved by special missionary exertions that their numbers are maintained.
|Squatters in Australia|
Girls of Australia learning the domestic arts. 1924
THE END OF CONVICTISM
The whole policy of transportation was elaborately reviewed by a committee of the House of Commons which sat in 1837-8, and which presented two very large reports. For some years previously there had been brisk controversy in England on the subject. Archbishop Whately of Dublin in particular assailed the system with remarkable vigour, on three grounds chiefly: first, that it did not diminish crime in Great Britain, secondly that it did not conduce to the reformation of criminal, and thirdly that it produced a disgraceful state of depravity in the colonies into which the convicts were poured. The system was costing Great Britain between 400,000 and 500,000 pounds per annum. Was she obtaining an adequate advantage from this expenditure? Nay, more, was she not actually doing evil?
The agitation induced Sir William Molesworth to move for a committee of inquiry. The debates upon his motion were very instructive; and the evidence and reports printed by the committee were startling. Few official blue-books have contained such an exposure of raw and bleeding human interest. Novelists have drawn from these papers the colour and substance of many romances, as Charles Reade did for It is Never Too Late to Mend, and Mareua Clarke when he wrote that classic story of conviction, For the Term of his Natural Life. Here were over a thousand folio pages reeking with crime and cruelty. They could not be read without shuddering revulsion. .
One ex-magistrate who gave evidence boasted that he took a personal pride in superintending the flogging of prisoners, and that 'twenty-five lashes under my surveillance had the same effect as a thousand under any other person's hand.' So far from there being any general reform of prisoners, the evidence showed that many assigned servants were wont to prowl about at night like beasts of prey, robbing. 'I suppose,' remarked one of the members of Parliament, 'being selected from the whole of England, they are the most skilful thieves in the world!' 'Perfect masters,' replied the witness. Young men employed their leisure in cockfighting and similar amusements, and the 'young ladies' looked on. colonel Arthur testified that the dreariness and hard labour imposed at Port Arthur were so depressing that he knew of instances of convicts who had committed crimes for the purpose of getting themselves hanged. 'They were weary of their lives.' perhaps the worst feature revealed by the evidence was that decent immigrants tended to become demoralised by living in a convict colony. 'I think it is impossible that such a class of persons can be residents in any such community without the most polluting consequences,' said Colonel Arthur; and others testified to a like effect.
The committee recommended that transportation to New South Wales and the settled portions of Van Diemen's Land should be discontinued as soon as practicable, and made several valuable suggestions for improving the prison system of Great Britain. Accordingly, in May 1840, an Order in council was passed by the Imperial Government, revoking the Order already in operation as to the sending of convicts to Australia, but still permitting them to be sent to Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island. Thus, after an experiment of fifty-two years, was transportation suspended as far as concerned the mainland. The system had been responsible, down to 1836, for depositing 75,000 offenders in New South Wales and 27,757 in Van Diemen's Land, a total of over 100,000. At the date mentioned there were actually 44,799 convicts in the two colonies. Very many of those had been transported under a penal law which was extraordinarily harsh in comparison with the criminal codes of other civilized countries, and the sentences inflicted upon them would by a milder age be considered excessively severe. How many were the victims of poverty it is impossible to calculate. Political offenders were not very numerous. Many belonged to the class quaintly denominated 'gentlemen convicts,' or 'specials,' who were educated people, but usually of independable character. The mass were rascals and ruffians, a large proportion of whom were of desperately bad types, whom no terrors could tame, no system reform. The country which bred them might well be happy to be rid of them, but no other land could rejoice to receive them.
Yet Australia benefited from the transportation system both politically and industrially. But for the problem of disposing of prisoners which confronted Pitt's government in the fourth quarter of the eighteenth century, it is not probable that ministers would have been induced to form colonies in this country. A use having been found for it, though an ignoble one, and the discovery being made that Great Britain had, as it were, stumbled upon an exceedingly valuable territory, the determination to hold it was inevitable, and the capacity to do so was a consequence of the omnipotent sea power won during the Napoleonic wars. When the initial stages of development were entered upon the abundance of convict labour was a valuable factor. The radically vicious, it is true, made poor labourers, hut not all belonged to that category. There were amongst them worthy men, branded by the law, but not inherently bad; and these rendered good service to their masters in order to win their own freedom. Letters and reminiscences written by landowners of the assignment era frequently contain testimony to the fidelity and reliableness of their servants; and there are some written by convicts wherein a genuine spirit of contrition and even gratitude is breathed. 'We have as much to eat as we like,' wrote one of these, 'as some masters are a great deal better than others. All a man has got to mind is to keep a still tongue in his head; but if he don't he may as well be hung at once, for they would take you to the magistrates and get you 100 lashes.' Of course, the country could have been opened up without convict labour if free service had been available; but systematic colonization did not become a political expedient till it had been shown that there was so large a field for it in Australia. Wakefield did not arouse interest in his Principle in order to show that there was scope for colonization; it was the fact of that scope which generated the Principle. the convict system, therefore, served an important purpose. It gave a start to occupation which, times and circumstances being what they were, would hardly have been commenced otherwise.
Coffs Harbour Railway, Australia
The cessation of transportation to Australia after 1840 had two disturbing effects, Great Britain was not ready with an improved prison system of her own, and she did not immediately repeal the laws under which offenders were sentenced to be carried oversea. consequently, during ensuing years nearly the whole number of her transported felons, about 4,000 per annum, were poured into Van Diemen's Land. Sir John Franklin was the Governor at the time when this avalanche of human frailty commenced to roll upon the island with such disconcerting volume. Upon him fell the heavy task of regulating it. Franklin's fame rests upon his achievements as an arctic discoverer, and his biographers have found no satisfaction in dwelling upon his experience as Governor of the island jail in the south seas. It was, indeed, an unhappy one, for as well as being one of the bravest of men, he was also the soul of gentleness and scholarly refinement, and his work cannot have been congenial to his nature.
The new system was disastrous. It not only completely stopped the inflow of free immigration, but, by creating a glut of convict labour, it drove free workmen and labourers out of the colony. Whole districts became depopulated; streets of houses became vacant; tradespeople were ruined; industry was paralysed. The convicts were domineering in their preponderance. They had a newspaper of their own, with a convict editor, who wrote that it would be a good thing to 'kick out of the colony the free settlers,' who were denounced as 'puritan moralists.' Dilke, in his Greater Britain (1868, vol iii, p. 07), said that 'the old free settlers will tell you that the deadly shade of slave labour has not blighted Jamaica more thoroughly than that of convict labour has Van Diemen's Land'; and that blight was flung upon the country during the years following 1840, when convictism drenched it and submerged the virile energies of its free population.
Australia General Post Office, Sydney 1905
The second effect of the order of 1840 was that it suddenly deprived the landowners of the mainland of the source whence they had derived their cheap and plentiful labour. Many would have preferred free labour, but it could not be obtained at so low a price as the labour of assigned servants had been; and the drying up of the supply was attended with much inconvenience and loss. An agitation was commenced among the landowners north and south of the Murray. Some argued that the evils of convictism outweighed the advantages, but not a few shared the view crisply expressed by a wealthy wool grower at a public meeting, 'I do not care to be ruined for virtue's sake.' The Imperial Government sought to remedy both troubles by reintroducing convictism to Australia under a new name and on a fresh basis. The English Prison Commissioners had in 1840 commenced an experiment in reformatory punishment. Prisoners were kept in separate sells, were not permitted to hold converse with each other, were subjected to periods of solitary confinement for breaches of discipline, were taught useful trades, and were brought as much as possible under moralising influence. These methods were a salutary advance upon the savagery, corruption, and unsanitaryness of the prison life of the past, and were due very greatly to the labours of such noble reformers as John Howard and Elizabeth Fry, and to the influence and writings of Jeremy Bentham, Archbishop Whately, and the reforming school which they led. But transportation was an essential feature of the 'Probation,' or Pentonville system. The design was to keep the prisoners in the new model jail for eighteen months or two years, when the Prison Commissioners would select such as seemed to have profited by the treatment, and ship them to the British colonies. They were to receive 'conditional pardons.' The holder of a conditional pardon was, immediately on landing, perfectly free to go where he pleased, on condition that he did not return to Great Britain during the currency of the sentence inflicted upon him. that is to say, if a prisoner received a sentence of fifteen years for robbery with violence, and he served a probationary period of two years in Millbank and Pentonville, he would then, if the Prison commissioners were satisfied that he was a reformed character, receive his conditional pardon, would be landed in a British colony, and would be free to roam about as he pleased as long as he did not return to Great Britain for thirteen more years. Thus he would have a larger measure of freedom than an ordinary ticket-of-leave man, who was kept under official surveillance, or than an assigned servant under the old system, who was subject to discipline. The new method consequently meant the turning loose of a large number of convicted felons on the colonies to which they were despatched.
Early postcard of Hobart, Tasmania
In 1844 Pentonville had its first batch of 370 convicts ready for export, and they were placed on board a ship. But the prison commissioners, knowing that Van Diemen's Land was congested with convicts, and wishing to give the new system a trial under the most favourable conditions, secured from the Government permission to land about half of them as Port Phillip, a wealthy landowner of that province having undertaken to find employment for them there. Whether the majority of the people of the ort Phillip District wished to receive convict labour of this class the Government had not taken the trouble to ascertain. But they were not left long in doubt. Melbourne, the centre of the Port Phillip District, had by this time left far behind the rude beginnings of the Batman era, and had grown into a vigorous and thriving town, with a Mayor and Corporation, spreading suburbs, three newspapers, and a population rapidly rising to the 10,000 level. The people of this town heard with indignation on Monday, November 8, 1844, that on the previous Saturday the ship Royal George from London had brought a consignment of prisoners. The Port Phillip Patriot denounced the attempts to resume the transportation system 'without its discipline, with all the evils and none of its benefits.' 'We should,' wrote the furious editor at the conclusion of his article, 'duck the scoundrels if they attempt to set foot in a country of free men, and send them back as they came to the greater scoundrels who dared to send them hither.'
Manly, Sydney, 1908
There was a sharp division of opinion between the landowning interests and the townspeople over the expediency of receiving these conditional pardon men. A meeting of landowners decided to ask the British Government to send more of them. 'Labour we must have,' said one of the speakers, 'and if we don't get it from Pentonville we shall have it from Van Diemen's Land.' But angry meetings were held on the other side. The introduction to the province of 'expatriated villains,' declared one of the resolutions passed by a public meeting over which the Mayor of Melbourne preside4d, was 'an act of wanton injustice to three fourths of the entire population.' Nevertheless, the British Government ignored the protests, and continued to send cargoes of 'Pentonvillains,' as the Port Phillip people called them, for five years after 1844. Within that period 1,727 were received. But the anti-transportation feeling was growing very strongly and only in Melbourne, but also in Sydney. Van Diemen's Land added its cry of protest. The Anti-transportation League wass not formed till 1851, but the policy which it promoted was being vigorously supported before that date, and had active adherents in all the colonies. The entire population of New South Wales, including the Port Phillip District, was at the census of 1841 over 130,000. The number of the convict class at that date probably did not exceed 25,000. Amongst the people as a whole, apart from those whose business interests were involved in the continuation of the supply of convict labour, the antipathy became intense. But the land-owners had more direct means of bringing their wishes under the notice of the governing authorities in England than had the mass of the population, and they made use of their opportunities.
It happened that the Colonial Secretary, during part of the time when these troubles were disturbing both New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land (i.e. in 1846), was W. E. Gladstone - then, as Macaulay said of him, 'the rising hope of the stern, unbending Tories,' Gladstone was a partner in a Port Phillip sheep station, and he had private as well as official sources of information concerning the situation in both colonies. He thought that the grave connection of glut in the one might be relieved, and the shortage of labour in the other overcome, by diverting a few thousand convicts per annum from Van Diemen's Land to New South Wales. He therefore requested the Governor to consult his Legislative Council as to whether they would not accept in part supply of the labour marked the renewal of 'a modified and carefully regulated introduction of convict labourers.' In response to this invitation the Council appointed a committee, which reported in favour of given number of convicts per annum being sent out, provided that 'such transportation be accompanied with an equal importation of free immigrants as nearly as possible in equal proportions as to sexes.' The Legislative Council rejected the report of a committee, notwithstanding the condition, which would have secured the dilution of the evil. But, despite the rejection of the committee's report, Earl Grey, who became Secretary of State for the Colonies in succession to Gladstone, determined to ignore the public feeling of the colonists, and to resume the transportation system.
Postcards from Tasmania
By the year 1848 it was admitted that the conditional pardon system had not been a success. It had simply meant flooding the colonies with shiploads of criminals, many of whom had shammed reformation in order to secure freedom for the exercise of their proclivities in countries where there were wider opportunities and fewer police than in England. It had manufactured bushrangers and made highway robbery a flourishing industry. Lord Grey therefore determined to abandon the issue of conditional pardons, and to send out convicts with tickets of leave. That meant that, instead of the convicts being at liberty to wander where they pleased when landed in the chosen colony, they would have to report themselves to the police at stated intervals. But Lord Grey found, to his great surprise, that there was now a vigorous public opinion which was determined to rebel rather than to receive any more convicts. No Secretary of State was ever more taken aback than was this respectable Whig peer at the reception of his new policy. On August 8, 1849, the ship Randolph entered Port Phillip with convicts on board. But the citizens of Melbourne had been warned from London that she was coming, and several excited meetings had been held to organize resistance. The tone was stern and menacing. One influential speaker declared, amidst great cheering, that 'he should be one for resisting, even to the death, the landing of such cargoes.' Edward Wilson, the editor of the Argus - which was established in 1846 - wrote in his newspaper that a resort to force was 'warranted alike by the laws of God and man,' and he urged a union of colonists 'to repel by physical force any other attempts to land convicts on our shores.'
Train carrying sugar cane, Australia
Latrobe, the Superintendent of Port Phillip, recognized that the feeling of the population was dangerous, and he therefore directed the captain of the Randolph to take the convicts round to Sydney. He did the same when a second vessel with 'Pentovillains' on board, the Hashemy, arrived in May. Thus did the Melbourne people, by the menace of rebellion, free their province from an infliction which they loathed. In Sydney the Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy, found himself confronted with an antipathy hardly less violent. The Legislative Council had already passed a resolution protesting against New South Wales being 'again made a place to which British offenders may be transported,' and public meetings had expressed the same feeling. The Sydney Herald (founded 1831) had so far back as 1834 urged that the convict system involved 'an abominable system of misrule and total depravity,' and that only by its abolition could this country 'gain a standing among the British colonies.' This journal had steadily worked for the abolition of the system, and a strong body of public opinion had been formed to support that policy. Fitzroy, perceiving that the landing of the convicts from the Randolph and the Hashemy would probably lead to trouble, sent them on to Moreton Bay.
Australia Teamsters Camp ca 1910
Lord Grey quite failed to understand the change that had come over Australia after over half a century's experience of convictism. He never realized the difference that was made by the free settlers far out-numbering the malefactors. He would not appreciate that the time had come when there was a large population whose native land was Australia, and who nourished an affectionate car3e for its future well-being. When he wrote his book on Colonial policy in 1853, he advanced the proposition that England was 'perfectly justified in continuing the practice of transportation to Australia, the colonies being only entitled to ask that in the arrangements for conducting it their interests and welfare should be consulted as far as possible.' He had not moved from that vicious attitude of English statesmen towards the colonies which was largely responsible for the American Revolution. The colonies, in this view, existed primarily for the benefit of the mother-country, and their own wishes and interests must be kept subordinate. Lord Grey commented on the 'great advantage of not allowing men who have been guilty of serious crimes to return to their former homes,' and asked what the consequence to England would be if several thousand men 'who under the existing system would be permanently removed from the United Kingdom, are to be annually turned loose on society.' That they had been turned loose on society in the colonies, with deplorable results, did not trouble this unimaginative Whig politician. The same view was expressed in a House of Commons debate. 'The country had a right to look to our colonies to receive our convicts without complaint,' babbled an indignant member.
These incidents of the revolt from convictism in the country which had been colonized by the British for that very purpose represented the death-struggle of the system in New South Wales. It was continued in Van Diemen's Land till 1853, and in Norfolk Island till 1855. The connection of Western Australia with it has already been related.
Under the Acts passed by the Imperial parliament in 1823 and 1828, the Governor of New South Wales and his Legislative Council made laws for the whole of Australia, exclusive of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. In South Australia, during Sir George Grey's governorship (1842), a Council of seven members was set up, consisting of three officials and four nominees; and there was an understanding that a more liberal form of government would be instituted as soon as the population attained 50,000. Western Australia was from 1838 ruled on the same plan, there being three official and four non-official members in the Council. When the administration of Van Diemen's Land was separated from that of New South Wales in 1825, a similar Council was appointed. These nominee Councils, though select4ed by the Governors, were still fairly independent in their outlook. They were usually composed of men of experience and force of character, accustomed to speak their minds. The system served the purpose until development and increase of population made a better one imperative.
Strictly, the governor of New South Wales was until 1855 the only presiding official in Australia who was entitled to be styled Governor. In each of the other provinces a Lieutenant-Governor was at the head of the administration. The commission of Sir Charles Fitzroy (1846-55) described that descendant of Charles II as Governor-General of all her Majesty's Australian possessions, including the colony of Western Australia,' and the title was retained till 1861. Fitzroy and Denison (1855-61) were the only Governors of New South Wales who held the title; but it gave to them no superiority over the other Governors. The title carried no real significance until, under Federation, the Constitution provided for a Governor-General to preside over the Commonwealth.
The next important step in the constitutional history of Australia was the passing, in 1842, of the Act for the Government of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, which introduced the elective principle. Very little interest was taken in this measure in the Imperial Parliament at the time when the Colonial Secretary, Lord Stanley, introduced it, and it was passed with scarcely any criticism. But it did, in truth, inaugurate a new era. It placed in the hands of the people a large share in the direction of the affairs of their country. First, it increased the number of members of the Legislative Council to thirty-six, of whom twelve were to be nominated as before, but twenty-four were to be elected. Secondly, it gave this Council power to increase its own membership, provided that the proportion of one-third of nominee members to two-thirds elective was preserved. Thirdly, while excluding convicts from the franchise, it conferred voting power upon those who had served their sentences or who had conditional pardons. fourthly, it provided that the qualification for a vote was to consist of the possession of freehold property to a value of 200 pounds, of the occupation of a dwelling-house worth at least 20 pounds, a year. Fifthly, it prescribed that members of the Council must own freehold property to the value of 2,000 pounds, or worth 100 pounds a year. Sixthly, it recognized that the Port Phillip District had separate interests of its own, by laying down that that province should return at least five members to the Council, and the town of Melbourne at least one.
This guarantee of a proportion of representation to the Port Phillip District was a concession to a feeling already clearly expressed in that province, in favour of separation from New South Wales. As early as 1846, when the entire population of the district had not attained 10,000, a petition in favour of independence had been extensively signed, and a Separation Association had been formed. The British Government was well aware of this movement, but considered that the discontents of the Port Phillip people would probably be appeased by securing for them what seemed to be an adequate share of representation. The Act defined the area included within the district to be 'a straight line drawn from Cape Howe to the western source of the river Murray, and thence the course of that river to the eastern boundary of the province of South Australia.' In this definition the boundary different from that prescribed in the Land Regulations promulgated in 1840, which had divided New South Wales into three districts, Northern, Middle, and Southern. The Southern, Port Phillip, District, was then defined as extending 'by the rivers Murrumbidgee and Murray to the eastern boundary of South Australia'; and Lord John Russell, the colonial Secretary, had by a despatch should be the northern boundary of Port Phillip. But the Legislative Council of New South Wales protested against the extensive district lying between the Murray and th4 Murrumbidgee, generally known as Riverina, being included; and that protest was regarded when the boundary was defined by the Act of 1842.
Some dissatisfaction was in more recent years expressed concerning the river boundary, and an endeavour was made to show that that mistake was committed when the Murray, and not the Murrumbidgee, was marked as the northern limit of Victoria. At one time legal proceedings to test the point were threatened. But skilled opinion did not encourage a contest, and claim was dropped. A case did arise over the western boundary of the same colony. The 141st meridian of east longitude was declared to be the boundary between Victoria and South Australia, but the means of determining longitude were imperfect when the line was drawn in 1836, with the result that Victoria took 340,000 acres more than she was entitled to get. South Australia claimed the recovery of this long, narrow strip of territory, and brought an action, which was determined by the Privy Council in 1914. It was then decided that the boundary fixed in 1836, though an error was undoubtedly made by the surveyors, was intended to be final, and should not be disturbed.
The Port Phillip people were not content with their position under the 1842 constitution. Few residents in the district were willing to accept nomination to the Council, and three of the selected representatives were Sydney men, including the vituperative Rev. Dr. Lang, who threw himself with explosive energy into the separation movement. Robert Lowe also voiced the opinion that the separationists had reason on their side. One of the principal grievances was that the revenue collected from the province was very much greater than the expenditure upon it, the balance being spent on the Sydney side of the river Murray. Between the first settlement of Port Phillip and the year 1842 it was claimed that this balance had totalled over 150,000 pounds; and Land talked about a 'semi-felonious abstraction of the Port Phillip revenues for the maintenance of an unnecessarily extravagant system of government.' The dissatisfaction expressed itself in 1848 in a refusal to nominate members to represent the Port Phillip District, and in the farcical election of the Colonial Secretary, Earl Grey, for Melbourne. The electors desired to express in this way their belief that they would be quite as effectively represented in the Legislative Council by a peer, whom they knew would never take his seat, as by any local man whom they could choose. Oddly enough, the election was declared valid by the law officers, and Lord Grey was the member for Melbourne for the two years 1848-50.
These and other happenings convinced the British Government that the time was ripe for placing the Governments operating in Australia on an entirely new representative basis. The whole process of change, to be understood in its historical relations, must be considered in connection with the parliamentary Reform movement in England, the Chartist movement, the general liberalizing tendencies of the times, and the altered attitude of the Imperial Government towards colonies and dependencies. Lord Durham had produced (1839) his highly important Report on the state of Canada, with the consequence that complete self-government had been instituted in British North America. He laid down the principle that the only satisfactory way for the mother-country to manage large colonies was to throw upon them the responsibility of governing themselves. Tories and Whigs alike could not at first understand how self-government could possibly be allowed if the colonies were to remain British. Even Lord John Russell, though a member of the Government which carried the Reform Bill of 1822, quailed before conceding liberal institutions to Britons who emigrated to British colonies. If the Government of a colony were to be controlled by a popular assembly, he said in 1839, 'he could not conceive what was to become of the orders of the Imperial Government and the Colonial Governor.' Lord North might have said the same sort of thing in the reign of George III. The idea did not occur to Lord John that no great harm would accrue if the Imperial Government and the Colonial governors did no longer give orders; that the giving of such orders was not necessarily the expression of perfect wisdom; and that, indeed, the colonies would be better without them. But the self-governing principle was soon seen to be the inevitable one to adopt; and in 1850 it was Lord John Russell's Government that applied it to Australia.
The measure which inaugurated the new era was the Australian Colonies Government Act, passed in August 1850 - a statute of the utmost importance. In its first section it erected Port Phillip into a separate colony, 'to be known and designat4ed as the colony of Victoria.' This province was not the first portion of the British Empire to take the name of the Queen who reigned over sixty years. Two years before her accession, a number of South African settlers at Durban petitioned the British Government to annex the surrounding territory, 'which we have named Victoria, in honour of our august princess.' But the request was refused; and when a colony was at length recognized there, eight years later, the name Victoria had been taken by the Australian colony and the South Africans adopted the name Natal. The suggestion that the Port Phillip District should be named after the Queen was made by the Committee of Trade and Plantations. In a report of 1849, the committee pointed out that Her Majesty's royal ancestors had permitted the use of their names to designate provinces in the North American continent and, 'venturing to presume that it will be your Majesty's pleasure to follow those precedents,' they 'humbly advised' the Queen to confer the name of Vi9ctoria on this part of Australia.
The Act conferred that the Port Phillip District should be named after the "Queen was made by the Committee of Trade and Plantations. In a report of 1849, the committee pointed out that Her Majesty's royal ancestors had permitted the use of their names to designate provinces in the North American sentiment, and, 'venturing to presume that it will be your Majesty's pleasure to follow those precedents,' they 'humbly advised' the Queen to confer the name of Victoria on this part of Australia. The Act conferred upon Victoria a Legislative Council, two-thirds elective; and it set up similar Councils in Western "Australia, south Australia and Tasmania. but more important than what the Act actually did was what it gave the colonies power to do for themselves. By the 32nd section it enabled them to constitute legislatures, to fix the franchise to suit their own wishes, to alter their constitutions, and, in short, to clothe themselves with just such constitutional garments as would fit them best. After the passing of the Act of 1850, therefore, five Australian colonies were under the rule of partly elective Legislative Councils, with free scope to modify their form of government from time to time.
This was an entirely new departure in the relations of Great Britain and Australia. Hitherto the Imperial Parliament had reserved to itself the right to amend any Act passed by it affecting the government of these colonies. Now that power was surrendered in regard to the basic laws under which the colonies would be governed, their constitutions; subject only to the reservation that amendments of these instruments must be reserved for royal confirmation. The Act also gave to the colonies economic freedom. They could, under section 27, impose any customs duties on imported goods, whether those goods were the manufactures of Great Britain, or of other British colonies, or of foreign countries.
It is very curious, and suggestive of reflections on the limitations of human sagacity, that none of the very eminent statesmen who discussed the 1850 constitution in the House of commons and the House of Lords, and none who wrote and spoke about constitutional development in the colonies, had any clear perception of the manner in which it would work out. Both Gladstone in England and Wentworth in Australia were at that time distrustful of democratic tendencies and wished to provide against them. Gladstone in the House of Commons stated that he 'wished to check democracy in New South Wales, but he wished to see it checked by stable institutions springing from the soil rather than by influences from the Crown and enactments from Downing Street.' Wentworth, in a report which he drafted in Sydney, protected that he and those who supported him had 'no wish to sow the seeds of a future democracy.' A few peers perceived that the key to the future lay in the 32nd section. The giving of power to reform the constitution would, said th4ese scared legislators, had to making the country so governed 'a mere democracy.' But this group commanded less attention than did others who were interested in the position of the Church of England in Australia, in Lord Grey's provisions for a federal form of government, in the question whether it was expedient to provide for one house of legislature or two, and in other aspects of lesser importance.
Wentworth favoured the creation of an hereditary class, carrying the titles of baronets, from whom should be selected an upper house of legislature. 'Why,' he asked, 'if titles are open to all at home, should they be denied to the colonists? Why should such an institution as the House of Lords, which is an integral part of the British constitution, be shut out from us?' But his idea found no support either in Australia or in Great Britain. It was, indeed, scouted in Sydney with an explosion of ridicule and indignation which induced Wentworth to drop it; and it is interesting to not4 that one of the most vigorous opponents of the hereditary baronets proposition was young Henry Parkes - hereafter to become the most commanding figure in the politics of the colony.
Since 1850 the Australian people have worked out their own problems of government. The date when this era commenced and the highly important changes which occurred in the life of Australia a little later are closely connected. The gold discoveries of the fifties brought to the shores of the country an immense tide of immigration; and a large proportion of the immigrants were men whose minds had been influenced by the recent reform and revolutionary movements in Europe, or had actually participated in them. gold drew English Chartists and Irish repealers, participants in the French, German, Belgian, and Hungarian revolutionary upheavals of 1848, Polish and Spanish insurrectionists, Italian nationalists, a great and mixed crowd of political enthusiasts, dauntless champions of lost causes, visionary idealists and fervent exponents of utopian theories - drew them all as the moon draws the waters - and set them to scratch for shimmering fortunes upon the beds of the creeks of Bathurst, amongst the quartz veins of Ballarat, and the auriferous gravels of Bendigo. To a people thus augmented was entrusted the responsibility of working systems of government to accordance with popular wishes. The colonies very soon applied themselves to bringing about complete responsible government. New South Wales was the pioneer under the leadership of Wentworth. Throughout his life he had striven for the establishment of free representative institutions, and now he was to see many of his hopes realized.
The Act of 1842 had not given to New South Wales, as the Act of 1850 had given to the other colonies, power to remodel the constitution, but the Colonial Secretary, to response to a remonstrance drawn up by the Legislative Council (a strongly worded document, which denounced the 'systematic and mischievous interference' of an 'inexperienced, remote, and irresponsible Department,' the Colonial office) had invited the Council to draw up a new constitution and submit it to the Imperial government. In response to this invitation a committee was appointed in June 1852, with Wentworth as chairman, to prepare a constitution; and this committee drew up the scheme upon which the New South Wales constitution was based. It was as far as possible a copy of the British constitution - and it was with the object of making it a still closer copy that Wentworth suggested the establishment of an hereditary House. 'The model, the type, from which this great charter has been drawn,' he said in an eloquent speech, 'is, in the language of Canning, the envy of surrounding nations and the admiration of the world.' It was the task of the builders of this instrument of government to reduce to precise terms the system which, as operating in Great Britain, was not contained in any single document, but was a pile of precedents and a tally of practices, described in text-books and scattered over innumerable records.
Two houses of legislature were established - a Legislative Council consisting of members nominated by the Crown (that is, by the Governor of the Colony acting on the advice of the ministers) and holding their seats for life; and a Legislative Assembly elected by the votes of people possessed of freehold property worth 100 pounds, or who occupied a house for which they paid not less than 10 pounds per annum in rent, or who paid not less than 40 pounds a year for board and lodging. Parliaments were to last not more than five years. The executive government was entrusted to a Cabinet, the head of which usually bore the title of Premier and Colonial Secretary.
The Act of 1855, which embodied the new constitution for New South Wales, did not contain any clause expressly providing for 'responsible government,' but the Legislative Council of the colony, in sending the measure to London to be passed as an Act of the Imperial Parliament, accompanied it by a series of resolutions, which described the principles upon which it was desired that the constitution should be worked. One of these resolutions laid it down that the Ministers composing the Executive, or Cabinet, should possess the confidence of Parliament, and should be dismissed from office whenever Parliament signified that it had lost confidence in them. This was the essence of 'responsible government.' Another of the resolutions expressed the desire that the Parliament of New south Wales should 'form as close an approximation as possible to the constitution of both Houses of the Imperial Parliament.' Thus it was intended that the practice of the Imperial Parliament in regard to the responsibility of the government to the elect4d house of Parliament should be adoip9ted in New South Wales. The first Premier and Colonial Secretary under responsible government was Stuart Alexander Donaldson, whose government took office in June 1856.
Victoria in 1853 was invited by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to prepare a constitution which would confer responsible government. A committee appointed in September 1853 was able to make use of the work which had been done by Wentworth's committee in New South Wales. Their draftsman was William Stawell, afterwards Chief Justice of the colony, and their measure provided for a governing system on lines similar to those followed in the older colony, except that Victoria preferred an elective rather than a nominee Legislative Council. The members of that house were to be elected for ten years, and must possess property to the value of 5,000 pounds, or returning an income of at least 500 pound a year. The electors had to be persons possessed of freehold property to the value of 1,000 pounds, or 100 pounds a year; but the Council franchise was also conferred upon graduates of universities , ministers of religion, lawyers, doctors, and naval and military officers regardless of the amount of their property. The new Victorian constitution came into force in 1856. The first Premier under responsible government was William Clark Haines.
South Australia prepared a scheme of responsible government in 1853, and it was brought into operation in 1857. It granted life tenures to the members of an existing nominee Legislative Council, but took power to make that house elective at the end of ten years if the House of Assembly passed a bill for that purpose. The head of the first ministry under responsible government was Boyle Travers Finnis. Tasmania also attained responsible government in 1856, with Colonel W. T. N. Champ as Premier. The development of Western Australia in the same salutary direction was clogged by her wilful adherence to the convict system, and she was the last State of Australia to place herself on an equality with the sister States. When the Imperial government was first approached with a view to securing responsible government for Western Australia, the Secretary of State for the colonies, Lord Derby (1883), was of opinion that the northern part of the colony 'would be likely to form a separate colony of an early date,' and was not inclined to place so large an extent of territory under the government of a Parliament meeting at Perth. A nominee Legislative Council had been established in 1830, and in 1870 this Council had been enlarged by admitting twelve elected members, in addition to six nominated members. But public opinion had ripened in the intervening y4ears, though there was a large section of the inhabitants who were averse from a change to responsible government. Fuller discussion, however, brought the majority to the view that Western Australia should come into line with the other Australian States, and that it should 'remain one and undivided.' A Constitution Bill was prepared by the Council in 1889, was passed by the Imperial Parliament in 1890, and came into operation in the same year. John Forrest was the first Premier, and he continued to hold the office until he entered the Federal Parliament in 1901..
THE HEART OF THE CONTINENT