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squatters gained all and more than all they could have hoped by ordinances promulgated in 1847, after the retirement of Sir George Gipps; they obtained leases, the right of pre-emption for 320 acres or more at a fixed price of £l an acre without auction, thus enabling them to secure the finest spot on each run, compensation for improvements at the termination of a lease : their rent was calculated on the capabilities of each run for carrying stock, and on a poll tax which, by being fixed at the minimum rent of 4,000 sheep or 600 head of cattle, effectually protected them from the competition of the class of small settlers whom Sir Richard Bourke described as the objects of so much jealousy and unjust persecution by the great pastoral proprietors.
The results of this compromise, which ended a fierce battle, to be renewed at no distant period, are admirably summed up in the report of a “select committee of the Legislative Council” in 1847, over which Robert Lowe, Esq., late fellow and tutor of University College, Oxon, then a practising barrister in the courts of New South Wales, presided as Chairman.*
But the maladministration of the crown lands was not, and is not, the only cause for the chronic discontent of the colonists, a discontent fostered by the perverse tenacity and insolent defiance of colonial opinions with which a series of colonial secretaries adhered to chamber theories, for the management of an Anglo-Saxon race at the antipodes.
In 1844 a select committee of the Legislative Council investigated and reported on "grievances unconnected with land." The principal of these grievances remains unredressed to this hour.
They complain of being saddled with taxation for a civil list which they were not empowered to discuss, to the extent of £81,000. By the act of 1850 this civil list has been increased to £150,000 a year.
Of the total failure of the “ district councils,” which created municipalities where the sparse population render popular election and local taxation impossible, and which placed in the hands of the governors the nomination of an officer with powers of local taxation.
Of the want of a “ responsible government," the governor being, in fact, merely a subordinate officer of the Colonial Secretary of State for the time being; and the governor's official advisers in a position which made them practically as independent of the Legislative Council as if they had been merely his private friends. Thus, so long as the governor and his official advisers satisfied the home authorities, the colonists were without a remedy for any illegality
* Mr. Lowe has since returned to England, has taken an active and influential part in colonial questions, and become M.P. for Kidderminster.
committed by the colonial government, however flagrant. As an instance of the working of the system, the report cites £127,000 applied to various illegal (not fraudulent) purposes by the governor, in the course of seven years; and specially “a sum of £15,189 11s. 54d., expended by the governor, in excess of the appropriations for certain authorized services, and a sum of £30,743 15s. which was not only expended by his excellency, without any authority of the Legislative Council, but a large portion of it was applied, by the governor's mere fiat, to the payment of debentures and other purposes to which the ordinary revenue was not applicable by law.”
Thus, in New South Wales, the liberty of talking and taxing themselves was the only liberty allowed the local parliament: they might vote supplies, protest against illegal acts, and, “having protested," as Lord Ellenborough said to Hone, “ go about their business.”
A fourth grievance was the expense in police, gaols, and judicial expenditure imposed upon the colonists by New South Wales being made the receptacle for the felons of England, after it had ceased to derive the profits of the assignment system, and the violation of the alleged) compact by which, under Sir Richard Bourke, in return for assuming this expense, which had, previous to his time, been paid by the home government, the surplus land revenues and other casual revenues of the crown were ceded to the colonial treasuries.
Under this head the committee claimed the repayment of £831,742 3s. 7d., and for the future an annual payment towards police, gaols, and courts of assize of £74,195 6s. 8d.
Fifthly, they desired that persons having claims of any description against the local government should, by act, be enabled to have a public officer as nominal defendant.
Sixthly, they claimed that the judges of the Supreme Court should be placed in the same position as to tenure of office and security of salary as belonged to the mother country ,and not suspended by the fiat and removed by the report of the governor.
These grievances, so distinctly set forth and vigorously protested against in 1844, had already been the subject of contest with the governor in the first session of the Legislative Council, when the representative members asserted their privileges by cutting down the estimates, and refusing to vote the sums required for police and judicial expenses, in addition to the civil list of £81,000.
But it would be impossible within any reasonable space to detail the series of overt acts which characterized the sedition-breeding policy of Sir George Gipps.
Session after session it was a game at cross purposes and crooked answers between the representatives of the colonists, the governor, and his patrons in Downing-street. For instance, the colonists propose to reduce the salaries of certain colonial custom-house officers; in the next session of the British Parliament, it is presumed at the instigation of Governor Gipps, the Colonial Secretary passes a special act taking that department from the control of the newly-created colonial Parliament.
The colonists propose to spend £9,000 of their own money in building a lighthouse in Bass's Straits ; they are informed that they must first consult the home government on its situation—a matter of two years' delay.
The colonists pass an act establishing mortgage and register for mortgages on wool; the Colonial Secretary of State disallows the act as repugnant to the laws of England, without consulting the colonists, and is soon compelled to retrace his steps.
Eventually, after long delay and great loss of property, the home government is obliged to yield and sanction a most valuable colonial institution.
The colonists examine and unanimously protest against the land system established by the Imperial Parliament, and still more unanimously against the ordinances affecting pastoral occupation; the Secretary of State, without waiting for the arrival of memorials and petitions which, as Sir George Gipps admitted, expressed the almost unanimous opinions of the colonists, hastens to pen in a despatch “his determination to uphold the land system, and perfect approval of the arbitrary powers exercised by the governor against the squatting interest.”
There, again, the home government was afterwards compelled to retreat.
A bill is introduced into the British Parliament for establishing a new system of pastoral occupation—the ex-governor is consulted—the Legislative Council are left in ignorance of the provisions of the bill. In fact, the records of the Legislative Council are largely occupied with discussions between the governor and the elected members on every possible subject, the governor constantly adopting a line of defiance, always treating the opposition as if it were rebellion. On the one side were the colonists, on the other the governor, backed by the home government, and concentrating in his own person all power and patronage, supported by the official members, and the nominees, who were plainly instructed that, unless prepared to support the governor, “right or wrong,” if a governor could be wrong, they must resign.
CHANGE IN CHARACTER OF EMIGRATION.
The ability and integrity of the Colonial Secretaries of State during the administration of Sir George Gipps, and of Sir George himself, are indisputable; but then they insisted on knowing whether shoes fitted or not better than the people who wore, and insisted, too, that they should wear them. Fortunately the prosperity of the colony did not entirely depend on the crotchets of a colonial minister, or of a governor, although both could, and did, seriously retard its progress.
While the Legislative Council were contesting, inch by inch, the “elementary rights of Englishmen,” the grass was growing, the sheep were breeding, the stockmen were exploring new pastures, and the frugal industry of settlers was replacing and increasing the capital lost by wild speculations.
Before Sir George Gipps retired, in 1846, he was able to announce that the revenue exceeded the expenditure, and the exports the imports, while the glut of labour which followed his arrival had been succeeded by a demand which the squatters termed a dearth.
EFFECTS OF CESSATION OF GRANTS OF LAND_CREDIT DUE TO SOUTH AUSTRALIAN
COMMISSIONERS-ANXIETY OF SQUATTERS TO BRING DOWN WAGES—THEIR ALPHA AND OMEGA, TO BREED SHEEP AND GROW WOOL-SEVEN COMMITTEES OF LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL—THE CONTRAST-BOYD-CAMPBELL.
VHEN grants of land ceased altogether, and were superseded by
sales, the character of emigration to Australia, and even the motives which directed it, were materially changed. To Australia, previous to 1831, in small numbers, proceeded the same class of persons who by thousands have resorted, during the last ten years, to Canada, and, above all, to the western states of America—families with capital varying from fifty to five hundred pounds, intent on living on land of their own.
The distance, and the then little known capabilities, of Australia would, twenty years ago, have made it, under any circumstances, a difficult task to direct towards its shores a similar stream of colonists; but the new system of so raising the price and the quantity of land, sold so as to discourage the purchases of all but the wealthy, and of devoting
the proceeds to the importation of able-bodied labourers for their use, altered the whole character of the free colonization. The new system was not without merits as a temporary expedient, adopted in order to supply, as rapidly as possible, the demand for shepherd servants occasioned by the abolition of the assignment system, and to people the shores of the newly-settled districts in Port Phillip and South Australia. But as a permanent measure the moral and social defects were, and are, very serious.
By the emigration land fund system the parent state is relieved of a certain amount of (surplus ?) labour without expense, and the colonies are supplied with the same, in proportion to the amount received for the purchase or rent of land. According to the principles of the system, those who are rich enough to purchase or rent land (the minimum of rent being 4,000 sheep) have a right to dictate what manner of labour shall be supplied for the money. The sort of labourers who suit the employers of labour are not often those who would contribute most to the intelligence and education of a colony. For a long series of years the Australian flockowners' beau-ideal of an emigrant was an able-bodied single man from an agricultural countyhumble, ignorant, and strong.
The South Australian commissioners exhibited one halfpennyworth of sense amid gallons of nonsense and jobbery by introducing the system of pairs of both sexes. This was the one good feature in their system.
The Australian squatters, and all persons more or less in communication with, and able to influence, the home government, like our own agricultural and the American manufacturing interest, held two very strong opinions—first, that their pursuit was the only calling of any consequence to the State; and, secondly, that it could not be protected too much. They always wanted labour, and it could not be too cheap.
We find them constantly desiring to bring down wages to a level which, if reached, would have very soon put a stop to all emigration, for it would have been lower than in England, and that was not worth crossing the sea to earn. We find them constantly desiring to dictate what class of labourers they would have, and that class specially in reference to sheep. We find them depreciating, not untruthfully perhaps, but untruly, the character of the Australian soil and of the Australian agricultural settlers. To them the Alpha and Omega of the Australian colonies was—breed sheep, to grow wool and tallow.
They succeeded to a certain point. Even when claiming a return to a low price of land, many desired to keep up the size of lots, so as to exclude small farmers from freehold.