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THE EFFECTS OF THE RIVAL NEW ZEALAND COLONY.
government and private speculators followed the ingenious example in New South Wales and Port Phillip, while in England a dozen foolish or fraudulent schemes were started under the patronage of names as respectable as those who patronized the South American mines of 1824, and the railway delusion of 1845, for colonizing New Zealand, the Chatham Islands, New Caledonia, the Falkland Islands, and other countries having the inestimable advantage of being very distant and almost unknown, all to be divided into town, suburban, and country lots, to be sold in England at a “sufficient price.”
The competition of these new bubbles, home and colonial, diverted the attention of intending colonists from South Australia, where the high price of town lots left but small margin for profits or premiums. Besides, in those epochs of speculative frenzy which periodically recur in England and Scotland, unknown schemes have a certain advantage. About the end of the second year of Colonel Gawler's administration, the resources of South Australia as an investment for capital were partly known, while, as nothing was known about the resources of New Zealand, not even whether there was any available land there at all, it became an excellent and fashionable subject for speculation.
Colonel Gawler piteously complains in some of his despatches of the misrepresentations of rival colonists, and of parties who, after a very partial inspection of the port and coast, had departed, exclaiming, “ All is barren!" But the fact was, that the capitalists who had landed found no advantageous opening for the investment of capital, town lots had been driven up to an enormous premium, the cultivation of land did not pay, and has never paid, the employer of labour on a large scale in any new country. Wool-growing and other pastoral pursuits were more profitable in Port Phillip and the new districts of New South Wales ; besides, under the puffing forcing system, enough land, supposing it all fertile, had been sold to support a population of 200,000. The population of the colony was 15,000, of which 8,000 were settled in Adelaide, gambling with each other. As for the labourers, they were partly employed in waiting and working for the white-handed emigrants who had come out under Mr. Wakefield's advice “to labour with their heads, not with their hands,” and who, therefore, required more work done for them than old-fashioned colonists, who were not ashamed to mend their own tools or carry their own packages, and partly in executing works for the government and for the South Australian Company. A considerable number were in the hospital, and others were working at such sham labour tests as drawing fallen timber from the park, to be used for fuel in the government offices.
It had been found impracticable then, as in all subsequent attempts, to carry out the scheme of obtaining recruits for free passages,
“ exclusively of young married couples not exceeding twenty-four years of age." The labouring classes have their feelings and affections as keenly in regard to family ties as their superiors in fortune and education; they are not to be draughted out, as the Wakefield theory proposes, like sheep or cattle; and the parties charged with supplying the quota of labourers required for the ships, so recklessly despatched to South Australia, completed the number by a per centage who became, from age, feebleness, or unfitness for colonial labour, almost immediately chargeable on the government. All who were shipped, if able to work, claimed under their shipping order a minimum of 5s. a day.
When more houses had been built than could be let—when the capital, of which a large portion was exported for the importation of labour which it was impossible to employ profitably, began to grow
_the price of land orders fell and the rate of wages. Then the frugal labourers began to retire from hired service, to settle down on purchased sections, and combine to purchase sections of 80 acres, to be divided, to the extreme disgust of the hired-labour and sufficient-price theorists.
In England the large draughts of the governor, in conjunctiou with the falling off of land sales, had driven the commissioners to endeavour without success to negotiate the remainder of the loan authorized by their two acts of Parliament, and then to apply for assistance to the Treasury, which was in the first instance granted to a limited extent.
In the colony Colonel Gawler was travelling on a declivity, and could not arrest his course. When he found the commissioners could no longer meet his bills he drew upon the Treasury for the expenses of government. The first bills were met; but eventually a series of draughts, to the amount of £69,000, were dishonoured.
The commissioners, who had been perfectly content with Colonel Gawler as long as the public continued to purchase land, fell upon him like a herd on a stricken deer, repudiated acts to which they had given tacit approval, and tried to throw the failure due to their absurd plan and improvident conduct on “the governor's extravagance.” He was recalled abruptly, and left to hear of the dishonour of his bills by a circuitous private source.
The commissioners themselves were soon after ignominiously dismissed.
When the news of the dishonour of the governor's bills reached the colony the bubble burst, land became immediately unsaleable, an insolvency all but universal followed, from which the banks, from early
GOVERNOR GREY SUCCEEDS GOVERNOR GAWLER.
private intelligence, were able to protect themselves. The chief sufferers were English merchants, shippers, and manufacturers. The chief speculators had long been trading on fictitious capital. A certain number of colonists of fortune were reduced to absolute beggary. A rapid emigration of capital and labour took place. Many labourers were thrown on the government for support. The price of food, rent, and wages fell rapidly. Adelaide became almost a deserted village. The only persons busy were officials whom the commissioners had forgotten to appoint, viz., the sheriff and his officers, engaged in proceeding against beggared debtors, and the judge of the Insolvent Court, by whom they were rapidly whitewashed.
Colonel Gawler retired after having sacrificed a considerable private fortune to his faith in an impracticable system, and became the scapegoat for the criminal absurdities of the colonizing theorists in London. But his hospitality, his charity, his truthfulness, his genuine kindness of heart, rendered him respected and beloved in South Australia, especially among the humbler classes, or those who were humble in his time.
He was succeeded by Captain (now Sir George) Grey, who, happening to be in London at the time Colonel Gawler was recalled, and able to afford the Colonial Office some information about this pantomime colony, received and accepted the ungrateful office of governor.
From that day it has been the endeavour of the theorists and their orators to charge to the extravagance of the ruined ex-governor the inevitable result of an attempt to plant a colony without the preparations dictated by common prudence, to regulate the flow of capital and labour, and raise a revenue and commercial profits from the application of capital and labour to unproductive works. The commissioners sent ship loads of colonists where, had they been wise, they would have sent sheep.
1841 to 1844.
REACTION PROCEEDINGS IN ENGLAND_CASE COOKED FOR THE HOUSE OF COMMONS-ACTS OF PARLIAMENT — STATISTICS OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
- DISCOVERY OF THE COPPER MINES.
THEN Colonel Gawler retired, land became unsaleable, emigrants
ceased to arrive, and of those who were in the colony a large per centage re-emigrated to colonies where there was more live stock and fewer town lots. The population of Adelaide diminished in twelve months to the extent of four thousand souls. The price of everything fell fifty per cent.; whole streets of Messrs. Gouger's and Stephens's cottages stood empty; the South Australian merchants who had paid their English creditors in the Insolvent Court, ceased to be trusted with speculative shipments; the police horses were turned to graze upon the garden constructed at much expense by Colonel Gawler on the banks of the Torrens ; Government House, late the scene of vice-royal entertainments, was closed; the little world of Adelaide recovered its senses and lost some of its conceit; and the sober and industrious were able to survey and take stock of the true position of the colony.
The raw materials of colonization had been provided, a road had been constructed from the port, and some toward the interior had been marked out and made practicable. Land suitable for cultivation had been discovered, surveyed, and handed over to land purchasers, who had now no temptation to stay in town, if they meant to remain in the colony ; labourers were willing to take reasonable wages, or ready to set to work for themselves with hearty good will; and, what was most satisfactory of all, live stock by importation, by overland, and by natural increase, afforded an ample supply of meat at reasonable prices, and a certain and increasing quantity of wool and tallow for exportation. Impoverished gentry were now happy to fall back, from imported fresh salmon or ducks and green peas in tin cases, at fifty per cent. above the Piccadilly tariff, upon native poultry, at almost nominal prices. During the land mania geese imported from Van Diemen's land sold at 12s. 6d. each, fowls 5s. a head, and everything else in proportion. In 1842, country people used to drive a cart filled with live poultry, fowls,
CASE COOKED FOR THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
ducks, geese, turkeys, in fair condition, covered over with a sheet, and sell the whole lot at from fourteen to sixteen shillings.
Under the bountiful, genial climate of South Australia actual want was unknown, and industry produced immediate results.
Governor Grey's task was easy. The famine or speculative prices of labour and provisions had fallen to reasonable rates, the emigration of paupers had ceased, and with the immigration the cost of maintaining the infirm, the sick, and the lazy. The unhired were set to work at such bare wages as induced them to seek private employers as soon as possible; the surveys were carried on steadily without pressure, and without exorbitant expenses for stores and hire of drays; and the police expenses were partly superseded by the arrival of a company of soldiers granted to Governor Grey, although indignantly refused to Sir Charles Napier. With these reductions of expenditure, and power to draw upon the home government for a limited sum, Governor Grey was still unable, in homely phrase, to make both ends meet; but the colony survived and vegetated in a sort of obscurity, which contrasted painfully with the brilliancy of its early, brief, blooming, hothouse
In the mean time the model colonists were not idle in England. On the 7th July, 1840, the colonization commissioners for South Australia brought under the notice of the Colonial Secretary (Lord J. Russell) the embarrassed state of the finances of the colony, and in August they reported that the revenue of the colony did not much exceed £20,000 per annum, and the current expenditure had risen to £140,000. Under these circumstances the Secretary of State, by letter dated 5th November, 1840, undertook to guarantee a loan of £120,000 to be raised by the commissioners, but negotiations to raise this loan failed.
In the same year the original commissioners were dismissed.
In February, 1841, a select committee of the House of Commons was appointed to consider the South Australian acts, and the actual condition of the colony of South Australia. The inquiry lasted until the 10th June. A long array of witnesses were called on behalf of the Colonial Office and the South Australian interest. Personal and documentary evidence proved in the clearest manner that the Colonial Office had given every reasonable assistance to the commissioners, and were in no manner responsible for the blunders of the commissioners or the commissioners' agents. The South Australian interest, including nonresident purchasers of vast tracts of land, and Mr. Gibbon Wakefield and his disciples, were examined at great length, but not a single