Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

able tailor, to make a gentleman—there cannot be a better governor than the sporting, ball-giving, George the Fourth style of Fitzroy.

Yet Governor Fitzroy has had his difficulties, as the following anecdote will show :—Soon after his arrival there came from England a Mr. Miles, a worn-out man about town, in personal appearance very much in the style of Charles Dickens's Turveytop Senior, “so celebrated for his deportment," who represented himself as the natural son of one of the royal family, and certainly did bring letters from the home government entitling him to the first good thing that should be vacant. This is the system, and, although in theory the colonial minister seldom fills up colonial appointments himself, he sends out parties with letters which give them precedence over colonial claims.

Accordingly, very soon Mr. Miles was appointed commissioner of the Sydney police, an office similar to that held by Sir Richard Mayne in London, but requiring even more acuteness and activity, because subordinate officers are less to be depended on in a colony than in an old country, being more independent, and also because Sydney has the benefit of the doubly-convicted, long-practised felonry that escapes from Van Diemen’s Land. Unfortunately, Earl Grey's protégé was in such a state of health that he could neither ride nor walk; so he professed to look after his men by riding about in a cab. This farce might have endured a long time if something had not occurred in the financial accounts of the chief of the police—one into which the governor was obliged to order an investigation by two other officials; and, although colonial officials hold together wherever it is possible, the report was cautious, but decidedly unfavourable. Still he was not dismissed.

But an independent member of the Legislative Council, when the salary of the head of the police came on for discussion, said, “ Here is a man who cannot walk, and cannot ride, and cannot keep his hands out of a money-box; surely there can be no need of an office which such a man can fill. I move to strike out the salary.” After two attempts he succeeded, upon which Mr. Miles went again to the governor, pressed his claims, and was appointed chief stipendiary magistrate for the city of Sydney. But, in the following session, the same M.C. was ready to urge that the man who had been branded as unworthy and incapable of executing the inferior office in the police could not be fit for the superior post of chief magistrate. So the salary was struck out a second time. en, a third time, went this unfortunate old man to ask for another place; but on that occasion he failed. “No, by

!said Sir Charles, “ I really cannot give you anything more; for, if we go on in this way, the Legislative Council won't leave me anything to give away.”

THE SQUATTERS OBTAIN FIXITY OF TENURE.

169

However, the governor presented him with £250 out of a fund at his disposal, and put down a like sum to be voted by the Legislative Council, which, however, they rejected.

The increase in exports and imports, in revenue from the live stock of pastoral proprietors, and in demand for pastoral and agricultural labour, which in 1846 had obliterated all traces of the distress of 1841, 1843, and 1844, has gone on continuously from that date to the present time.

In March, 1847, ordinances were issued by the Queen in council, under the provisions of an act passed in the previous year (9 and 10 Vict., cap. 104), which gave the squatters, who had previously been mere tenants at will, leases for eight or fourteen years, with rights of pre-emption and compensation, which will be found fully detailed under the

proper

head. These ordinances were made the subject of very just and severe criticisms in the report of a committee of the Legislative Council, which sat in 1847, over which Robert Lowe, Esq., presided, a report which exhausts the whole question of waste lands, a question as important to the colonists as that of the corn laws to the people of this country.

By this act, and these ordinances, Earl Grey retained the obnoxious high-priced land monopoly, although all hopes of obtaining sales of land, concentration, or moderate wages had ceased ; but he abandoned the contest which had for so many years been so stoutly carried on by Sir George Gipps against the pastoral interests, and yielded more than they had ever hoped—a complete monopoply of waste lands, not immediately adjoining townships, on such terms that, in the first place, the £l an acre has become a perpetual protection, and, secondly, a money qualification, which cuts down the objects of their ancient jealousy-the small stockowners—by making it imperative to pay a tax on not less than four thousand sheep, or six hundred head of cattle, however far short of that number the flock or herd of a settler

may

fall. Fortunately, the executive government in both New South Wales and Port Phillip exercised largely the powers given by the act, of extending the boundaries within which pastoral leases could not be claimed.

Three other events which occurred between 1846 and 1850 were—the attempt to reintroduce convicts into Australia, the consequent formation of the anti-convict league, the long struggle to obtain steam communication, and the passing of the act of Parliament which gave representative assemblies to the “Three Colonies,” separated Port Phillip, under the name of Victoria, from New South Wales. The substance of this act, which forms the constitution of the three

colonies, will be given in its proper place. It is sufficient to observe here, that as it reserved to the crown, that is the colonial minister, the control of the land fund, and retained and increased the schedules or civil list, before described as the subject of fierce contention between the first Legislative Council and Sir George Gipps, it was in the highest degree unsatisfactory to New South Wales.

On the transportation question Earl Grey was defeated, and compelled to withdraw the obnoxious order in council which retained New South Wales and Port Phillip among the provinces to which criminals might be transported. But he persisted in making Van Diemen's Land an overflowing cesspool of felonry.

In the midst of the first session of the new Colonial Parliaments, all political contests, internal and external, were cast into the shade by the gold discoveries : land question, convict question, taxation question, all were absorbed by the digging up of gold, over which flocks and herds had long been carelessly driven. The year 1850 found New South Wales with 200,000 free people, an export of £2,899,600, an import of £2,078,300, and 7,000,000 sheep. A surplus revenue and an annual demand for labour—nominal freedom of self-government, actual restriction from legislation on every vital interest—who can say in what condition, social and political, 1860 will find the felon colony of 1788 ?

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »