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ORIGIN OF SOUTH AUSTRALIAN
BEAU BRUMMEL AND GIBBON WAKEFIELD
SCHEME_PROGRESS OF NEGOTIATION-ACT OBTAINED_CAPTAIN HINDMARSH
and solemn assurance might have made him, had he lived in 1840, a king of railways, or a director of a colonizing companythat once, when stopping at a country inn, ascending the stairs, he met the Beau's valet descending with an armful of crumpled clean cravats. “Pray,” he inquired,“ what are those ?” “ These, my lord,” replied the valet,“ are my master's failures.” When the Beau emigrated to Calais, amongst other creditors, he owed an enormous bill to his laundress.
South Australia was the first, as Canterbury, in New Zealand, is the last, of Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield's colonizing failures—failures which have been tried at the expense of every class of capitalist, from a Republican banker to a Puseyite peer. But, his credit being now exhausted, it seems as if he would end his days without a good fit, thus sharing the fate of other unfortunate philosophers and financiers, like Law, Owen, Cabet, and Louis Blanc, with this difference, that those gentlemen all sacrificed something to their theories ; they lost fortune, or character, or country; but Mr. Wakefield, while his disciples have suffered in purse and in person, has contrived to patch up a character originally much damaged, and build a living, if not a fortune, out of a series of bubbles.
When under the government of Sir Thomas Brisbane the advantages which New South Wales offered to emigrants began to be whispered about England,—when from time to time persons returned home with great wealth, acquired by feeding sheep, under the care of white slave shepherds, and selling grain and beef to feed the troops and gaols of New South Wales,—a pressure was put upon the government for the purpose of obtaining grants of land which became extremely troublesome.
One of the last large grants was that to the Australian Agricultural Company of one million acres of pastoral and agricultural land, with two thousand acres of minerals and a monopoly of the coal-mines of Autralia, made in 1824; and in July, 1825, the directors report that “ his Majesty's government have determined in future, instead of giving free
grants of land, to put it up for sale according to a system similar in many respects to that adopted in the United States of America -an arrangement which will necessarily give an increased value to land in the colony."
In the mean time the colony of the Swan River had been founded, at a spot on principles and by persons which ensured its failure.
The continued prosperity of New South Wales counterbalanced the damp which the failure of Swan River would have cast upon any enterprise nearer home, and no sooner did the state of the money market show signs of that periodical boiling-over point which, in England, always results in some wild speculation, than several colonizing schemes were launched.
Had common sense ruled the consultations of our statesmen and philanthropists, they would not have allowed their anti-republican prejudices to have prevented them from studying and imitating the admirable system by which, for half a century, with trifling modifications, the vast territories of the United States have been colonized, cities have been founded, harbours constructed, railroads made, and canals cut.
Under this system the territories for sale are surveyed in advance, a map containing the land for sale is open to every intending purchaser, there are no reserves except for special stated public purposes, while parties settling beyond the bounds of surveyed land do so at their own risk, and have no power to inflict on the parent state heavy expenses in armies or officials.
They are expected to govern and protect themselves, and to retire or purchase when the government surveyor makes his
No doubt the American system has its defects, but, taken as a whole, it is the best which has ever been devised for employing a large emigrant population and conquering and subduing the earth, at the least possible public expense.
But in 1829 a great sensation was produced in the literary and political world by the appearance of a small book or pamphlet, entitled "A Letter from Sydney, the Principal Town of Australasia, edited by Robert Gouger,"* which was soon known to be the production of Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Out of this little book grew the colonization of South Australia and New Zealand.
The real author, on the strength of information communicated to him by two relatives, unsuccessful colonists in Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales, propounded, in clear, lively, homely, yet eloquent style, a new theory of colonization.
* All that we know of Robert Gouger is, that he was a Dissenter, of Republican opinions, who served some time in the French National Guard during the Revolution of July, 1830. He afterwards became secretary of the South Australian Society, and eventually Colonial Secretary in
There are descriptive passages in the "Letter from Sydney," such as the pictures of the Italian girl, the Australian girl, and the journey from Alexandria to Genoa, so beautiful, so true, so real, that one cannot help regretting, both for the sake of his own reputation and his numerous colonizing victims, that Gibbon Wakefield had not become a writer of novels and travels, instead of puffs, paragraphs, and pamphlets in praise of model colonies. But Mr. Wakefield had not only the charm of “style,” he was energetic, tenacious, indefatigable, unscrupulous; he possessed a wonderful talent for literary agitation, which, when employed by tailors or blacking-manufacturers, goes by a more vulgar name; a Protean adaptiveness, which has made him successively the bosom adviser of Republicans, Radicals, Whig peers, Conservatives, and Low Church and High Church bishops. Beginning with Gouger, he has obtained the patronage of a Grote, a Molesworth, an Archbishop Whately, and a Bishop Wilberforce. Lords Glenelg and Lord Stanley, Aberdeen and Grey, have been more or less his pupils, while, so late as 1850, he led captive to Canterbury colony a crowd of educated victims. He has shaken a ministry, founded and distributed the patronage of at least two colonies, and almost thrown a third into rebellion. At one time he had secured the advocacy of nearly all the daily and weekly press, and of every economical writer of any literary celebrity. But, with all these extraordinary advantages, the results of his advice have been invariably disastrous. The disciples of his theories only continue his disciples as long as they remain in this country; no sooner do they become colonists than they renounce him and all his works.
Gibbon Wakefield has neither candour, nor truth, nor humility. Like the Bourbons, he forgets nothing, and learns nothing. In 1849 he published a thick book of 500 pages, called “ The Art of Colonization," which, so far as regards the land question, is merely an amplification, in a feeble and diffuse style, of the theories so fervidly propounded in 1829. No one, on reading this bulky work, would imagine that the writer had had twenty years' experience, during which he had directed the colonization, on varying plans, of South Australia, Wellington, Nelson, and New Plymouth; besides planning half a dozen others in Port Cooper, the Chatham Islands, New Caledonia, and Vancouver's Island. Still less would any reader conceive that in these colonies no one of the cardinal results promised by the Wakefield theory had been realized.
The “ Letter from Sydney,” by far the most brilliant of his works on colonization, which is now out of print, contains so good
a statement of the origin of a system which is more likely than any other cause to drive the Australian colonies to premature independence, and it has had such an important influence upon those colonies, that the following brief abstract of its contents will not be out of place.
The writer represents himself to be an English gentleman of large fortune and refined tastes, who has emigrated under the idea that an estate of twenty thousand acres in Australia would procure the same comforts, income, and consideration that an estate of a thousand acres would in England. He says :-“I have got 20,000 acres for a mere trifle, and I imagined that a domain of that extent would be very valuable. In this I was wholly mistaken. As my estate cost next to nothing, so it is worth next to nothing. The trees on my property, if growing in any part of England, would be worth at least £150,000. The best thing that could happen to me would be the annihilation of all this natural produce; but the cost of destroying it would be at least £15,000.” He then goes on to enumerate mines of iron and coal which would make him “a peer in England,” but which are valueless for want of labour or roads. “I did not, you know, intend to become a farmer. Having fortune enough for all my wants, I proposed to get a large.domain, to build a good house, to keep enough land in my own hands for pleasure grounds, park, and game preserves, and to let the rest, after erecting farmhouses in suitable spots. My mansions, park, preserves, and tenants, were all a mere dream. There is no such class as a tenantry in this country, where every man who has capital to cultivate a farm can have one of his own.” He then graphically describes the miseries of a solitary life to a man accustomed to the elegant luxuries of civilized life. His “own man ” leaves him, and invests his savings in a small farm. He imports labourers and mechanics from England, and they leave him without repaying the cost of their passage. He observes to a friend,
“ Were you a broken farmer, or a poor lieutenant, I should say, come here by all means; you cannot be placed more unhappily than at present, and you may gain by the change. But I am advising a man of independent fortune, who prefers his library even to the beauties of nature, and to whom intellectual society is necessary for his peace of mind. I thought at one time of establishing a dairy ; but my cows were as wild as hyænas, and almost as wicked. I had no dairywoman, no churns, no anything that was wanted; and, above all, I wanted industry, skill, economy, and taste, for any such pursuits, or, at least, a drudge of a wife to supply those wants.” He then paints an amusing (not
WAKEFIELD'S CAUSE AND REMEDY.
entirely untrue, but exaggerated) picture of the want of intellectual society in a colonial town.
Having, then, come to the conclusion that the colony would fall into total barbarism so soon as the convict assignment system, then in full force, should be abolished, leaving the colonists dependent on free labour, he proceeds to state the cause of these miseries
“Fons et origo malorum." The whole evil, according to this unfortunate gentleman of fortune, lies in cheap land, which produces dear labour, by drawing labourers into landowners, and by promoting dispersion-by deterring men from renting land, as they prefer freehold. Dear labour obstructs improvements in agriculture, in public works, in arts, in science. There being no tenants and few servants, there is no easy, refined, intellectual class : mere mechanics, labourers, and even common farmers and poor lieutenants, are the only persons who enjoy colonial life. With cheap land and dear labour colonists could get the advantage of the presence of such emigrants as the letter-writer.
The remedy propounded in 1829, repeated with equal confidence in 1849, is to make land so dear that labourers shall not be able to obtain possession of land “ too soon"_to affix to all colonial land what Mr. Wakefield calls in another work a “hired labour price." And further, that the money for which the land sold should be devoted to the importation of the redundant labour of the mother country—an importation which he advises should be conducted mith a view to the greatest benefit of the capitalist,—that is to say, it should consist entirely of
young married couples under five and twenty years of age, unencumbered by children or parents. Family colonization had no charms for Gibbon Wakefield.
Thus supplied with ample cargoes of healthy young labourers of both sexes, debarred by a sufficient price from becoming freeholders, the writer of the letter from Sydney “promises that the capitalists shall find ample profitable employment for their capital, shall concentrate and carry on model farming, and cultivate all the arts and sciences.”
But there is one important question which he anticipates, and answers thus :
“ It becomes clear that the object we have in view may be attained by fixing some considerable price on waste land. Still, how is the proper price to be ascertained ? Frankly, I confess I do not know. I believe that it could be determined only by experience.” This was in 1829. Twenty years later, in 1849, after having experimented on New South Wales, and on three colonies in New Zealand, and provided