Seasons — cause why South Australia has fine grain — extent of cultivation — amount of stock — the Burra-Burra mine — its magnitude — abundance of minerals — absence of coal — smelting ore — immense profits of the Burra-Burra — effect of the mines on the labour market — reluctance of the lower orders to emigrate — difference between Canada and Australia — the Australian colonies — state of society — the middle classes — the squatters — the Germans — the natives — author’s interviews with them — instances of just feeling — their bad qualities — personal appearance — young settlers on the Murray — conclusion.
It was my object in the last chapter, to confine my observations strictly to the agricultural and pastoral capabilities of the province of South Australia, which I thought I could not better do than by describing the nature of its climate and soil, for on these depend the producing powers of every country. In speaking of the climate, however, I merely adverted to its temperature, leaving its seasons out of question for the time, intending to close my remarks on these heads, by a short review of the state of the agricultural and pastoral interests of the colony at the present date.
It will be borne in mind that the seasons of Australia are the reverse of our own; that when in England the ground is covered with snow, there the sun is hottest, and that when summer heats are ripening our fruits, in Australia it is the coldest season of the year, December, January, February, and March being the summer months; June, July, August, and September the winter ones. An experience of ten years has shewn that the seasons of South Australia are exceedingly regular, that the rains set in within a few days of the same period each successive year, and that during the winter the ground gets abundantly saturated. This regularity of season may be attributed to the almost insular position of the promontory of Cape Jarvis, and may be said to be almost local, in elucidation of which, I may refer to what I have stated in the former part of my work, of the state of the weather in the valley of the Murray when the expedition was proceeding up its banks in the month of August, 1844. For some time before there had been heavy rains in the hills, and it was with some difficulty the drays crossed them. During our stay at Moorundi, the ranges were covered with heavy clouds, and the mountain streams were so swollen as to stop one of my messengers; but the sky over the valley of the Murray was as clear as crystal, morning mists it is true curled up at early dawn from the bosom of its waters, but they were soon dissipated, and a sharp frosty night was succeeded by a day of surpassing beauty.
The regularity, however, both in its commencement and in the quantity of moisture that falls during the rainy season in the colony, enables the agriculturist to calculate with certainty upon it, and the only anxiety of the farmer is to get his grain into the ground sufficiently early, if possible, to escape the first hot winds. In a region, portions of which are subject, it must be confessed, to long continued drought, this is no inconsiderable advantage, although South Australia is not singular in this respect, for the rainy seasons in the Port Phillip districts are, I believe, equally regular and more abundant, whilst the climate of Van Diemen’s Land almost approaches to that of England; neither, indeed, fairly speaking, is South Australia more favoured than those of her immediate neighbours in the quality of her soil. Van Diemen’s Land is the granary of the southern seas, and there is unquestionably a very great proportion of the very best soil in the Port Phillip district. Nevertheless that of South Australia has yielded a finer and a heavier grain than has ever been produced in those colonies, but the reason of this is, that with a naturally rich soil to work upon, the agriculturists of South Australia have spared no pains in cultivating their lands, but there can be no doubt that with equal care and attention both the Vandemonians and the settlers of Port Phillip would produce an equally fine sample. The farmers of South Australia have enhanced the value of their colony by their energy and skill in cultivating it, and can boast of having sent the finest sample of wheat to England that has ever been exhibited in her market.
South Australia, in its length and breadth, contains about 300,000 square miles, or in round numbers more than 190,000,000 acres. The limits of location, however, do not exceed 4000 miles, or 7,000,000 acres. In this area, however, a great portion of desert country is included, or such, at least, as at the present moment is considered so. Of the more available land, 470,000 acres have been purchased, but the extent of country occupied by sheep and cattle stations is not known.
It may be necessary here to observe, that the returns of the land under cultivation last year were published after I left the colony; but the comparison between the two previous years will shew the increase and decrease of the different grains, sufficiently to establish the progress of agricultural pursuits in the colony. In the year 1845, the number of acres of wheat sown was 18,848. In 1846 it was 26,135. Of barley, there were in the former year 4,342 acres, in the latter only 3,490. Of oats, there were 1,485 in the first year, which, in 1846, increased to 1,963. It would thus appear, that the increase of cultivated land in the course of one year amounted to between 6000 and 7000 acres, and that more than 400 agriculturists were added to the list of landed proprietors. The necessary consequence of such extensive farming operations is that the produce far exceeds the wants of the settlers, and that there is a considerable surplus for exportation; the price of the best flour being from 12 pounds to 13 pounds per ton, whereas for a short period in 1839 it was 120 pounds!!!
Whilst the agriculturists have been so earnest in the development of the productive powers of the colony, another class of its inhabitants were paying equal attention to its pastoral interests. The establishment of stock stations over its surface followed its occupation, and a mild climate and nutritive herbage equally contributed to the increase of cattle and sheep that had been introduced. In 1844 the number of sheep assessed was 355,700, in the following year that number had increased to 480,669, or an addition of 120,000. At the present moment there cannot be far short of a million of sheep in the province, with an increase of 200,000 annually, at a moderate computation. The number of other kinds of stock in the possession of the settlers, at the close of last year, was as follows:— of cattle, 70,000; 30,000 having been imported during the two previous years from New South Wales. The number of horses was estimated at 5000, and of other smaller stock, as pigs and goats, there were supposed to be more than 20,000.
It is impossible to contemplate such a prosperous state of things in a colony that has only just completed the eleventh year of its existence, without feeling satisfied that some unusually favourable circumstances had brought it about. Had South Australia been as distant from the older colonies on the continent as Swan River, the amount of stock she would have possessed in an equal length of time, could not have amounted to a tenth of what they now number. It is to the discovery of the Darling and the Murray that South Australia owes the superabundance of her flocks and herds, and in that superabundance the full and complete establishment of her pastoral interests. I stated in the course of my preliminary observations on the progress of Australian discovery, that when I was toiling down those rivers, with wide spread deserts on either side of me, I had little idea for what purposes my footsteps had been directed into the interior of the Australian Continent. If I ever entertained even a distant hope that the hilly country from which I turned back at the termination of the Murray, after having floated on its broad waters for eighty-eight days, might ever be occupied, I certainly never hoped that the discoveries I was then making would one day or other prove of advantage to many a friend, and that I was marking the way for thousands of herds and flocks, the surplus stock of New South Wales, to pass into the province of South Australia.
If then such consequences have resulted from enterprises, apparently of almost as hopeless a character as the one from which I have so recently returned, why, I would ask, should I despair, as to its one day or other being instrumental in benefiting my countrymen. There may yet be that in the womb of time which shall repay me for all I suffered in the performance of that dreary task — when I shall have it in my power to say, that I so far led the way across the continent as to make the remainder of easy attainment, and under the guidance and blessing of Providence have been mainly instrumental in establishing a line of communication between its northern and southern coasts. I see no reason why I should despair that such may one day be the case. The road to the point which may be termed my farthest north is clear before the explorer. That point gained, less probably than 200 miles — a week’s journey with horses less jaded than mine unfortunately were, and with strength less reduced — would place him beyond the limits of that fearful desert, and crown his labours with success. I believe that I could, on my old route, make the north coast of Australia, to the westward of the Gulf of Carpentaria, before any party from Moreton Bay. If it is asked what practical good I should expect to result from such an undertaking, I would observe, that nothing would sooner tend to establish an intercourse with the inhabitants of the Malay archipelago, than the barter of cattle and sheep, that in truth there is no knowing what the ultimate results would be. The Malays who visit the northern coasts of Australia to collect the sea slug, have little inducement to keep up an intercourse with our settlements in Torres Straits, but there can be no doubt of their readiness to enter into commercial intercourse with us, which, if Torres Straits are to be navigated by steamers, would be doubly important.
When the stock from New South Wales was first brought down the Murray, the journey occupied from three to four months. Latterly it did not take half that time. In less than fifty days, from the Murray, on his way to the north, the stock-holder would find that he had passed the centre, and an equal number of days from that point would, it appears to me, take him to his journey’s end. This, however, would depend on the nature of the country beyond where it is at present known, and the nature of the season during which it was undertaken, but experience alone, as in the instance of the journey down the Murray, would be the best guide and the best instructor.
In the early part of the year 1840, I had occasion to address a number of the colonists at the conclusion of a public entertainment and availed myself of the opportunity to state that whatever prospects of success the pastoral capabilities of the province appeared to hold out, I felt assured it was to the mountains, the colonists would have to look for their future wealth, for that no one who pretended to the eye of a geologist could cross them as I had done, without the conviction that they abounded in mineral veins. There is something, in truth, in the outline and form of the Mount Lofty chain that betrays its character. Rounded spurs, of very peculiar form, having deep valleys on either side, come down from the main range, the general outline of which bears a strong resemblance to that of the Ural chain.
In the year 1843, the first discovery of copper was made, but even this was scarcely sufficient to rouse the colonists to a full sense of its importance, and it was only by degrees, as other mines were successively discovered, that the spirit of speculation burst forth, and the energies of the settlers were turned for a time from their legitimate channels. A short time before this, their circumstances had been reduced to the lowest ebb. There was no sale for agricultural produce, no demand for labour, the goods in the shops of the tradesmen remained unsold, and the most painful sacrifices of property were daily made at the auction mart. The amount of distress indeed was very great and severe, but such a state of things was naturally to be expected from the change that had taken place in the monetary affairs of the province. It was a change however which few anticipated, and for which few therefore were prepared.
It is a painful task to advert to past scenes of difficulty and distress, such at least I feel it to be, more especially where there is no immediate object to be gained by a reference to them; let me therefore turn from any inquiry into the causes which plunged South Australia into difficulties that threatened to overwhelm her, to those which raised her from them.
Notwithstanding the spirit and firmness with which the colonists bore their reverses, there could not but be a gloom over the community where every thing seemed to be on the brink of ruin. Men’s minds became depressed when they saw no relief in the present, and no hope in the future. But Time, with a rapid wing, brought about changes that appear permanently to have altered the circumstances of the colony, and to have placed it at once as one of the most flourishing of the British possessions. The first circumstance, I have understood, which partially cheered the drooping spirits of the settlers, was a slight rise in the price of wool, in the year I have mentioned. The discovery of the mines following soon upon this, the sun of prosperity burst at once upon the province, and gladdened every heart. From this period, mine after mine of copper and lead continued to be discovered. Every valley and hill-top was searched for hidden treasures, and the whole energies of the colonists seemed to be turned to this new source of wealth. I was absent in the interior when the Burra Burra mine was secured, but the excitement it created had not subsided when I reached Adelaide.
I do not know whether the presence of mineral veins is indicated in other countries as in South Australia by means of surface deposits. The opinion I formed that ores would be discovered in the Mount Lofty ranges did not rest upon the discovery of any such deposit myself, but on the peculiar form of the hills, which appeared to me to have settled into their present state from one of extreme fusion. The direction of the ranges being from north to south, these deposits lie also in the same direction. Those of iron are greater than those of copper, and it is impossible to describe the appearance of the huge clean masses of which they are composed. They look indeed like immense blocks, that had only just passed from the forge. The deposits at the Burra Burra amounted, I believe, to some thousand tons, and led to the impression that where so great a quantity of surface ore existed, but little would be found beneath. In working this gigantic mine, however, it has proved otherwise. I was informed by one of the shareholders just before I left the colony, that it took three hours and three-quarters to go through the shafts and galleries of the mine. Some of the latter are cut through solid blocks of ore, which glitter like gold where the hammer or chisel has struck the rock, as you pass with a candle along them.
It would be out of place in me, nor indeed would it interest my readers, were I to enter into a statistical account of the profits of the Burra Burra mine. A general notice will convey every necessary information on that head, and enable the public to judge as well of its value and importance as if I entered into minuter details. It will give the reader some idea of the scene of bustle and activity the Burra mine and road must present, and the very great amount of labour it requires.
The quantity of ore sent weekly from the mine to the port is from 430 to 450 tons, employing from 150 to 160 drays, and more than double that number of men. The total quantity of ore received at the port in December last was 10,000 tons, the average value of which at 20 pounds per ton, amounts to 200,000 pounds, and the price of shares, originally of 5 pounds, had, by last advices, reached 160 pounds.
Considering the gigantic scale of the Burra Burra mine, it was supposed that few other mines would be found in the colony that would at all approach it, that indeed, it had been the principal deposit, and that whatever indications other mines might give, they would soon cease in working, or produce so little as to be valueless. I confess that such was my own opinion — surprised at the immense size of this magnificent mine, I hardly thought it possible that in mountains, after all of limited range, mines of great value would still be found, and that discoveries of new mines were frequently taking place, and that too in situations where no such feature would be supposed to exist. On York’s Peninsula for instance, immediately across St. Vincent’s Gulf, opposite to Port Adelaide, and directly on the sea shore, there are two sections, on which copper ore is abundant. The position of this mine can at once be determined by the reader, on a reference to the map. The land is very low, and the rock formation, tertiary fossil, but the various and anomalous positions in which copper is found in South Australia, baffles all ordinary calculations — as likely to exist in the valley, as on the hill — at the sea side as well as inland: there is not a locality in which it may not be looked for and found.
The whole of the mountain chain indeed, is a mass of ore from one end to the other, and it is impossible to say what quantity, or how many of the richer metals will ultimately be found in a country through which the baser metals are, without doubt, so abundantly diffused. The quantity of gold hitherto discovered has not been important, but it is reasonable to suppose, that where a small quantity has been found, large deposits must be at no great distance. This gold however, like the baser metals of South Australia, is very pure, there being few component parts mixed with it.
From the various examinations of the hills that have at different times been made, it would appear that precious stones, as well as metals, exist amongst them. Almost every stone, the diamond excepted, has already been discovered. The ruby, the amethyst, and the emerald, with beryl and others, so that the riches of this peculiar portion of the Australian continent may truly be said to be in their development only.
With such prospects before it, there can be but little doubt that the wealth of South Australia will, one day or other, be very great, neither can there be any doubt but that the discovery of the mines at the critical period, made a complete revolution in the affairs of that colony, and suddenly raised it from a state of extreme depression to one of independence, even as an individual is raised to affluence, from comparative poverty by the receipt of an unlooked-for legacy. The effect, however, which the discovery had on its present prospects, and the effect it must have on the future destinies of that colony, can hardly, it appears to me, be placed to the credit of any ordinary process of colonization. It has rather been in the shape of an unexpected auxiliary, that this immense and valuable supply of ore has been brought to bear upon its fortunes, for the condition to which the colony was reduced at one time, was such, that it would have taken many years to have acquired the appearance of returning prosperity, but the discovery of the mines was like the coming up of a rear-guard, to turn the tide of battle, when the main army had apparently been all but defeated. The assistance the colony received was complete and decisive, and has seemingly placed her beyond the hazard of failure or reverse: but, admitting the state of depression to which it was reduced, and the length of time it would have taken to bring about a healthy change, I yet believe, that the favourable position of the province as regards its connection with the other colonies, the character of its climate and soil, and the energies of its inhabitants, would have ensured its ultimate success. Before the depression in 1841, South Australia had become a pastoral country, in consequence of the number both of cattle and sheep that had been imported. In 1838, the city of Adelaide had scarcely been laid out, no portion of it had yet been sold, when flocks and herds were on their way to the new market, and from that period, even to the present, there has been no cessation to their ingress — first of all, as I have stated, the Murray, and then the Darling, became the high roads along which the superfluous stock of Port Phillip and New South Wales were driven to browse on South Australian pastures, and to increase the quantity and value of her exports.
However low therefore the price of wool might have kept, the natural increase of stock would still have gone on, and if we may judge from the unflinching energies of the agricultural portion of the community, their efforts to develop the productive powers of the soil, would rather have been stimulated than depressed by the misfortunes with which they were visited. I do them nothing more than justice when I assure the reader, that settlers in the province from the neighbouring colonies, could not help expressing their surprise at the state of cultivation, or their admiration of the unconquerable perseverance, that could have brought about so forward and creditable a state of things.
I have already stated that the general outline and form of the Mount Lofty chain, bears a strong resemblance to the outline and form of the Ural mountains. But it is of trifling elevation, running longitudinally from north to south, with a breadth of from 15 to 20 miles. The metalliferous veins crop out on the surface of the ground, preserving the same longitudinal directions as the ranges themselves, and the rock in which the ores are imbedded, generally speaking, is a compact slate. As the Mount Lofty ranges extend northwards, so does the Barrier or Stanley range, over which the recent expedition crossed on leaving the Darling; no copper ores were found amongst those hills, but an abundance of the finest ore of iron, running, as the out-croppings of the copper ores, from north to south, and occurring in depressed as well as elevated situations, the rock formation being very similar to that of the more western ranges.
If we are to judge from these facts, it is very evident that strong igneous action has influenced the whole, nor can I help thinking, from general appearances, that the continent of Australia has been subjected to a long subterranean process, by which it has been elevated to its present altitude, and it appears to me that that action, though considerably weakened, is still going on. The occurrence of two slight shocks of earthquake felt at Adelaide, since the establishment of the colony, would further strengthen this opinion.
The copper ores of South Australia fetch a higher price at the Swansea sales than those from any other part of the world, not only because they are intrinsically rich, but because they are generally composed of carbonates, which are necessary to facilitate the smelting of the ores of sulphuret of copper from Cuba and other places. The necessity for sending the ores from Adelaide to some foreign port to undergo the process of smelting, will probably exist for a considerable length of time; until such time, indeed, as the electric process shall be found to answer on a sufficiently large scale to be profitable, or, until smelting works are established; but, the great difficulty to be apprehended in carrying on such operations would be the want of fuel, which scarce even at the present moment, would soon be more so — for there is not sufficient wood in the vicinity of any of the mines to keep up the supply for such a consumption as that which would be required; besides which, the cartage of the wood, and the expenses attending its preparation for the furnace, would materially diminish any profits arising from the smelting of the ores. In such a view of the case I cannot but think that the establishment of works at the mines will be found to be as unprofitable to their proprietors as to the smelter, and that such works will only be remunerative when carried on under more favourable circumstances — for it would appear that coal is the only mineral South Australia does not possess, and I am apprehensive that no bed of it will ever be found in the colony. I have ever thought the geological formation of the country unfavourable to the presence of coal, but, still, it is said to exist as a submarine formation close to Aldingi Bay. The discovery of this mineral in the province would immediately give to it, within itself, the means of the most unbounded wealth, and would undoubtedly fill up the measure of its prosperity to the brim.
By a late report of the Directors of the Burra Burra mine, it would appear, that they had made several successful attempts to smelt the ore, but, that the cost, having exceeded that of cartage to the port, and freight, the process has been abandoned. Parties, however, had offered to enter into an engagement to smelt the whole of the ore from the mine at about Swansea prices; notwithstanding the unfavourable circumstances under which such smelting would necessarily be carried on.
As I understand the nature of this arrangement, the ore will be smelted at the mine, and the remuneration to the smelter will be between fifty and sixty shillings per ton perhaps, by way of “return charges”, or we will say between sixty and seventy shillings, which is a sum exactly equal to the cartage of the ore to the port. If then the Directors abandoned their intentions, because they found they could not smelt at so low a sum as the price of cartage and freight, how will the contractor make it pay under more unfavourable circumstances? No doubt, if he should find it remunerative, the shareholders of the Burra Burra would find it still more so, and it would be the interest of the proprietors of the larger mines to enter into similar engagements; but, on a due consideration of this important subject, I am led to believe that to make smelting works successful in South Australia, Companies must purchase the ore, and carry it off to localities suitable for the operation. Such an arrangement would still considerably increase the profits to the proprietors of the mine, nor would there be any difficulty in determining the value of the ore, by processes similar to those adopted at Swansea, by which the interests of both parties are equally protected.
In the South Australian Register of the 27th of November of last year, it is stated that a Mr. Hunt, one of the auctioneers in Sydney, offered for sale thirteen tons of pure copper ore of colonial manufacture, from ore the produce of the Burra Burra, in ingots weighing 80 lbs. each; the ore having been smelted by Mr. James at Mr. Smith’s foundry at Newtown. This copper was however bought in at 80 pounds, the limit being 85 pounds per ton.
It will give the reader some idea of the character of this prodigious mine, and of the profits arising from it, to know, that during the four months preceding the 23rd October, 1847, the directors declared and paid three dividends, amounting to 200 per cent. on the subscribed capital, and that the credits of the Association on the 30th September were 104,694 pounds 4 shillings 8 pence. The Burra Burra mine however is not the only one of importance. Several others have of late been discovered, and South Australia may be said to be a thriving country in every sense of the word, and one in which those profitable interests will rapidly increase.
We have hitherto been speaking of the mines of South Australia as the sources of wealth, and as the sudden, if not the remote cause of the prosperity of that province. It now becomes our duty to consider how far the discovery of the mines has benefited or interfered with the other branches of industry and sources of wealth; and as regards both these, it must be admitted that their discovery has had an injurious effect. The high rate of wages given by the proprietors of mines, not only to the miners, but to all whom they employ, draws the labourers from every other occupation to engage with them. The consequence has been a general want of labourers throughout the whole colony, still more severely felt by reason of the previous want of labour in the labour market. Every man who could obtain sufficient money to purchase a dray and team of bullocks, hurried to the mines for a load of ore to take to the port, and disdained any ordinary employment when by carting ore he could earn 6 or 7 pounds in a fortnight. The labourer was quite right in going where he received the best remuneration for his services; but the consequences were in many instances fatal to their former employers. Many farmers were unable to put in seed or to cultivate their land; many, after having done so, were unable to gather it, and had it not been for the use of Mr. Ridley’s machine, the loss in the crops would have been severely felt. Not only did the farmers suffer, but the stock-holders, and the colonists generally. The want of hands, indeed, was felt by all classes of the community, since the natural consequence of the high wages given by the mining proprietors to the men they employed, tended still more to depress the labour market, and to increase the demand upon it by leading many of the more frugal labourers to purchase land with the money they were enabled to save. As landed proprietors they not only withdrew their labour from the market, but in their turn became employers; but I feel called upon to say at the same time, that equal distress was felt in the neighbouring colonies for working hands, where no mines had been discovered, and where they could not therefore possibly have interfered.
From what has been said of the province of South Australia, and setting its mines entirely out of the question, the description that has been given of its pastoral and agricultural capabilities, of its climate, and of the prospects of success which present themselves to the intending emigrant, it will naturally be inferred that the impression I have intended to convey is, that, as a colony, it is most peculiarly adapted for a British population, whether rural or other. The state of the colony is now such, that the way of the emigrant in landing is straight before him, for with honesty, sobriety, and industry, he cannot lose it. When I stated, in a former part of my work, that I would not take upon myself to give advice, which if followed, and not successfully, might subject me to the reproach of any one, I referred to those who have similar means of acquiring information to myself, and whose stakes, being considerable, make the responsibility of giving advice the greater. With the lower orders — the working classes — the case is different. They have not the means of acquiring information on these matters, and it becomes the duty of those who can promote their welfare to do so. I am quite aware that there are many of my poor countrymen who would gladly seek a better home than they possess at this moment, but who, clinging to the spot where they were born, disheartened at the thought of abandoning their hearth, and bound by early recollections to their native country, cannot make up their minds to turn their backs on the companions of their youth, and the haunts of their childhood.
Such a feeling undoubtedly claims our sympathy and respect. It is that very feeling — the love of Home — the belief that they can no where be happier, which has been the strength of England, and has given her sons the heart to love, and the spirit to defend her. But the period however, when those feelings were so strong, has passed away — more general ones have taken their place, and the circumstances of the times have so changed, that neither hearth nor home have the same attractions; a restlessness pervades the community, and a desire to escape from those scenes, and that spot which they or their forefathers once thought the most hallowed upon earth. But two circumstances have militated against the migration of the rural population in this country, to the Australian colonies, at all events.
The one has been an apprehension as to the length and nature of the voyage; the other the expense, more especially to a family man. Had it not been for these causes, the Australian colonies would not have had to complain of the want of labour. The truth is, that the ignorance which prevails in the inland counties as to any matters connected with foreign parts, and the little means the labouring classes possess of defraying their own expenses, has kept them, except in a few instances, from seeking to go to that distant part of the world, which assuredly holds out to them the brightest prospect, and is most like their own home. They may however rest satisfied that the voyage to Australia is as safe as that to New York, that it is far more pleasant as regards the weather, and that little or no sickness has ever thinned the number of those who have embarked for the Australian colonies. The expense of the voyage is certainly greater than that of a passage to the Canadas, or to the United States, but it is to be hoped that the means of transport will soon be at their command. I would only in this place offer the remarks I conscientiously think the case requires, as one who, having witnessed the happiness of thousands in the land of which he is speaking, would gladly be instrumental in opening the way for thousands more of his countrvmen to the same happy destiny. Having been both to Canada and the Australian colonies, if I were asked which of the two I preferred, I should undoubtedly say the latter. I do not desire to disparage the Canadas by this assertion, for I know that they have advantages in their soil and in the magnificence of their rivers beyond comparison, but Australia, on the other hand, has advantages over our transatlantic possessions, such as her increased distance from England, cannot counterbalance. Her climate, in the first place, is surpassing fine. There the emigrant is spared the trouble of providing against the severities of a Canadian winter. That season passes over his head almost without his knowledge, and the ground, instead of being a broad sheet of snow, is covered with vegetation. Her lands, unencumbered by dense forests, are clear and open to the plough, or are so lightly wooded as to resemble a park, rather than a wild and untouched scene of nature. Instead of having to toil with the saw and the axe to clear his ground before he can cultivate it, and instead of consuming a year’s provisions before he can expect any return, he can there run the plough from one end to the other of his enclosures, without meeting a stone or a root to turn its point, and at once reap the produce of the soil. These surely are advantages of no ordinary kind, and, if the expense of a voyage to the Australian colonies is greater than that to America, I cannot but think that the contingent expenses to which the Canadian or Union emigrant is put, before he can consider himself as finally settled down, must necessarily exceed those of the Australian.
As before observed, the aspect of South Australia, and indeed of many parts of the neighbouring colonies, is essentially English. There, as in England, you see the white-washed cottage, and its little garden stocked with fruit trees of every kind, its outward show of cleanliness telling that peace and comfort are within. To sever oneself from our kindred, and to abandon the dwelling of our fathers, is a sacrifice of no imaginary magnitude, whether we are rich or poor, and the prospects of reward should be bright indeed to compensate for it. I conclude that it has been to combat the reluctance in the lower orders to leave their homes, that inducements too highly coloured in many instances, have been held out to them, the consequence of which has been that many, whose expectations were excited, suffered proportionate disappointment at the outset of their career as emigrants. Convinced of the injurious tendency of such a practice, and regarding it as a culpable and cruel mockery of misfortunes, which, having been unavoidable, claim our best sympathies, I should not have said so much as I have done on this important subject, had I not felt justified in so doing. The reader may rest assured that to the sober, the honest, and the industrious, the certainty of success in South Australia is beyond all doubt. An individual with these qualities may experience disappointment on landing, but he must recollect that this is always a period of anxiety, and the circumstances in which he first finds himself placed, may not come up to his expectations; his useful qualities and regular habits cannot be immediately known, and we seldom alter our condition, even for the better, without some trouble or vexation.
I have, in the course of my remarks, in my recommendation of the Australian colonies as being favourable to the views of emigrants, given a preference to South Australia. I have done so because I am better acquainted with its condition than with that of either of the other settlements. Of it I have spoken as to what I know; but, of the others, to a great extent, from hearsay. The character however of those colonies needs no recommendation from me. As far as its pastoral and agricultural capabilities go, I believe Port Phillip to be as fine a district as any in the world. The advantages indeed of the Australian colonies must be nearly equal, from the fact that the pursuits of their respective inhabitants are so nearly the same. Local circumstances may give some parts of the continent a preference over others, but, as points of emigration there is little choice. The southern portions are not subject to the withering droughts to which parts of the eastern coast are liable, and may be preferred on that account, but still there are districts in New South Wales as unexceptionable as any in Port Phillip or South Australia.
It now remains to make some observations on the present state of society in the last-mentioned colony; for it appears to me, that in order to give a correct picture of it, some notice on that head is required. I think too, I am the more called upon to do so, because many very mistaken notions are held of it. As in most of Her Majesty’s possessions, so in South Australia, the Government officers form a prominent, and I may say, distinct class. Colonel Robe, the late Governor of the province, made Government House the seat of the most unmeasured hospitality, which he exercised beyond the point to which there was any public call upon him. His table was covered with every delicacy the season could afford, his wines were of the very best, and there was a quiet but effective manner about him, which gained universal esteem. As a soldier, he was exceedingly particular in the order and appearance of his establishment, nor was there anything wanting to complete the comfort of it. The number of the colonists who assembled round him occasionally, was from 50 to 60; on more public festive occasions they exceeded 300, and I may add, that on both, the scene differed not in the slightest degree from that of similar parties in this country, save that there was less of formality in the interchange of friendly communications between the visitors. Except also in giving a tone to society, and setting an irreproachable example to the community, the officers of the Government are exceedingly retired, their salaries are too limited to enable them to follow the example of their chief.
They live quietly, and as gentlemen, are ever happy to see their friends, but public parties are seldom given by any of them. Prudence indeed calls upon them to refrain from those displays, which they cannot reasonably afford, and the consequence was, that a warmer intimacy existed in their quiet intercourse with each other, than could have sprung from more formal entertainments.
The truth is, the salaries of the Government officers, bear no proportion to the means of the majority of the settlers, who have risen into affluence from a combination of circumstances, that have been unprecedented in the history of colonization. There are few private individuals in the province, who have not, at one time or other, benefited by some speculation, but I am not aware that any one of the Government officers have any private interests in the colony, if I except the possession of a section or two of land, on which they have built and reside, nor do I know that any of them have allowed a spirit of speculation to interfere with public duties.
Amongst the leading or upper classes of society, there are many very estimable persons. I do not mention names, but my recollection will bear me back to the many happy days I have spent with them, and certainly any one not desiring an extended circle of acquaintance could no where, whether amongst gentlemen or the ladies, find individuals more worthy of his regard or friendship than in the still limited society of South Australia.
Many of the tradesmen having succeeded in business, or acquired an independence from their interests in the mines, have retired, and live in suburban residences, which they have built in well selected situations, and with considerable taste. Attached to the customs of Home, many of the citizens of Adelaide possess carriages of one kind or another, and are fond of devoting their Sunday evenings to visiting places in the neighbourhood. As regards the lower classes, I do not think there is in any of Her Majesty’s possessions, a greater amount of mechanical genius and enterprise than amongst the mechanics of South Australia. I speak confidently on this head, since I have had very many points referred to me, which have long satisfied me of this fact.
There are many societies in South Australia, of which the lower orders are members, all of them tending to promote social interests. The order of Odd Fellows is prominent amongst these, and spreads a feeling throughout all classes which cannot fail of doing good, for the charities of this order are extensive, and it supports a well-attended school. Taking then the lower orders of the province in the aggregate, they may be said to be thoroughly English, both in their habits and principles.
In speaking of the upper classes I did not notice a portion of them included under the denomination of the “Squatters”. It is a name that grates harshly on the ear, but it conceals much that is good behind it; they in truth are the stockholders of the province, those in whom its greatest interests would have been vested if the mines had not been discovered. Generally speaking, the squatters are young men who, rather than be a burthen on their families, have sought their fortunes in distant lands, and carried out with them almost to the Antipodes the finest principles and feelings of their forefathers. With hearts as warm as the climate in which they live, with a spirit to meet any danger, and an energy to carry them through any reverse of fortune, frank, generous, and hospitable, the squatters of the Australian colonies are undoubtedly at the head of their respective communities, and will in after days form the landed, as they do now the pastoral interests, from whom every thing will be expected that is usually required of an English country gentleman. Circumstanced as they are at the present moment, most of them leading a solitary life in the bush, and separated by such distances from each other as almost to preclude the possibility of intercourse, they are thus cut off as it were from society, which tends to give them feelings that are certainly prejudicial to their future social happiness, but I would fain hope that the time is coming round when these gentlemen will see that they have it very much in their own power to shorten the duration of many of the sacrifices they are now called upon to make, and that they will look to higher and to more important duties than those which at present engage their attention.
The views taken by the late Sir George Gipps of the state of society in the distant interior of New South Wales is perfectly correct, nor can there be any doubt but that it entails evils on the stock-holders themselves which, on an abstract view of the question, I cannot help thinking they have it in their power to lessen, or entirely to remove, when an influx of population shall take place; but, however regular their establishments may be, they cannot, as single men, have the same influence over those whom they employ, or the settlers around them, as if they were married; for it is certainly true, that the presence of females puts a restraint on the most vicious, and that wherever they are, especially in a responsible character, they must do good. I do not know anything, indeed, that would more conduce to the moral improvement of the settlers, and people around them, than that squatters should permanently fix themselves, and embrace that state in which they can alone expect their homes to have real attractions. That they will ultimately settle down to this state there cannot, I think, be a doubt, and however repugnant it may be to them at the present moment to rent lands, on the occupation of which any conditions of purchase is imposed, I feel assured that many of the squatters will hereafter have cause to thank the Secretary of State for having anticipated their future wants, and enabled them to secure permanent and valuable interests on such easy terms. Nothing, it appears to me, can be more convincing in proof of the real anxiety of Earl Grey for the well being of the Australian provinces than the late regulations for the occupation of crown lands.
I believe I am right in stating that every word of those regulations was penned by Earl Grey himself, and certainly, apart from local prejudices, I am sure a disinterested person would admit the care and thought they evince, and how calculated they are to promote the best interests of the squatters, and the future social and moral improvement of the people under their influence. There seems to me to run throughout the whole of these regulations an earnest desire to place the stockholder on a sure footing, and to remove all causes of anxiety arising from the precarious tenure upon which they formerly held property.
There is another division of the population of South Australia I have hitherto omitted to mention, I mean the German emigrants. They now number more than 2000, and therefore form no inconsiderable portion of the population of the province. These people have spread over various districts, but still live in communities, having built five or six villages.
The Germans of South Australia are quiet and inoffensive, frugal and industrious. They mix very little with the settlers, and, regarded as a portion of the community, are perhaps too exclusive, as not taking a due share in the common labour, or rendering their assistance on occasions when the united strength of the working classes is required to secure a general good — as the gathering in of the harvest, or such similar occasions. Their religious observances are superintended by different pastors, all of them very respectable persons. The oldest of these is Mr. Kavel, to whom the Germans look with great confidence, and hold in deserved esteem. Many of the Germans have been naturalized, and have acquired considerable property in various parts of the province, but very few have taken to business, or reside in Adelaide as shopkeepers. The women bring their market or farm produce into the city on their backs, generally at an early hour of the morning, and the loads some of them carry are no trifle. Here, however, as in their native country, the women work hard, and certainly bear their fair proportion of labour. The houses of the Germans are on the models of those of their native country, and are so different in appearance from the general style, as to form really picturesque objects. There is nowhere about Adelaide a prettier ride than through the village of Klemzig, on the right bank of the Torrens, that having been the first of the German settlements. The easy and unmolested circumstances of these people should make them happy, and lead them to rejoice that in flying from persecution at home they were guided to such a country as that in which they now dwell, and I have no doubt that as a moral and religious people, they are thankful for their good fortune, and duly appreciate the blessings of Providence.
My anxiety to raise the character of the natives of Australia, in the eyes of the civilized world, and to exhibit them in a more favourable light than that in which they are at present regarded, induces me, before I close these volumes, to adduce a few instances of just and correct feeling evinced by them towards myself, which ought, I think, to have this effect and to satisfy the unprejudiced mind that their general ideas of right and wrong are far from being erroneous, and that, whatever their customs may be, they should not, as a people, occupy so low a place in the scale of human society, as that which has been assigned to them. I am quite aware that there have been individual instances of brutality amongst them, that can hardly be palliated even in savage life — that they have disgusting customs — that they are revengeful and addicted to theft. Still I would say they have redeeming qualities; for the first, I would fain believe that the horrors of which they have been guilty, are local; for the last, I do not see that they are worse than other uncivilized races. Treachery and cunning are inherent in the breast of every savage. I question, indeed, if they are not considered by them as cardinal virtues; but, admitting the Australian native to have the most unbridled passions, instances can be adduced of their regard for truth and honesty, that ought to weigh in any general estimate we may form of their character. No European living, not even Mr. Eyre, has seen so many of the Aborigines of the Australian continent as myself; and that, too, under circumstances when strife might have been expected; and no man certainly has had less reason to complain of them. If my party has ever been menaced by these people, if we have ever had their spears raised in hundreds against us, it has been because they have been taken by surprise, and have acted under the influence of fear. If I had rushed on these poor people, I should have received their weapons, and have been obliged to raise my arm against them, but, by giving them time to recover from their surprise, allowing them to go through their wonted ceremonies, and, by pacific demonstrations, hostile collisions have been avoided. If I had desired a conflict, the inclination might have been indulged without the fear of censure, but I saw no credit, no honour to be gained by such a course, and I therefore refrained. I can look back to my intercourse with the Australian aborigines, under a consciousness that I never injured one of them, and that the cause of humanity has not suffered at my hands; — but, I am travelling out of my proper course, and beg the reader to excuse me, it is for him, I allow, not for me, to draw such conclusions.
I have said, that I thought I could adduce instances of a regard for justice and honesty that would weigh in favour of the Australian native. As one instance, let me ask, if anything could have been more just, than the feeling which prompted the native to return the blanket one of his tribe had stolen from the camp on the banks of the Castlereagh, as detailed in my former work, vol. i. page 141. The man who restored the lost property was apprehensive of danger, from the fact of his having come armed, and from his guarded and menacing attitude when the soldier approached to ascertain what he wanted. Had he been the father of the thief, we could only have said that it was a singular proof of honest pride by a single individual, but such was not the case, the whole tribe participated in the same feeling, for we learnt from them, that the thief had been punished and expelled their camp. Could anything have been more noble than the conduct of the native, who remained neuter, and separated himself from them, when the tribes attempted to surprise my camp on the Murrumbidgee, because I had made him presents as I went down that river, vol. ii. page 212. On the other hand, could anything have been more just than the punishment inflicted on the boy who stole my servant Davenport’s blanket at Fort Grey? as mentioned in the present work; or the decision of the two sons of the Boocolo of Williorara, as regarded the conveyance of our letter-bag to Lake Victoria? Here are broad instances of honesty that would do credit to any civilized nation. Surely men, who can so feel, should not be put lowest in the scale of the human race? It is true that all attempts to improve the social condition of the Australian native has failed, but where is the savage nation with which we have succeeded better? The natives of New Zealand will perhaps be the only instance, in modern times, of a barbarous race surviving the introduction of civilization amongst them. Without venturing to compare the natives of Australia, to a people so much superior, I would only claim for them a due share of consideration. All I can say is that they have submitted to our occupation of their country with a forbearance that commands our best sympathies.
It will be borne in mind, that I have not here spoken of their personal appearance. That that generally is against them, cannot be doubted. If there is any truth in phrenology, they must have their share of the brutal passions. The whole appearance of the cranium indeed, would lead to the conclusion that they possess few of the intellectual faculties; but, in a savage state, these are seldom called forth. They are, nevertheless, capable of strong attachment, are indulgent parents, and certainly evince a kindly feeling towards their relations, are improvident and generous, having no thought for the morrow. On the other hand, they are revengeful and crafty, and treat their wives with much harshness, imposing on them the burthen of almost everything: that man being considered the richest who has the greatest number, because he can sit in his hut, and send them out to procure food.
I think it is agreed on all hands that the natives of Australia are sprung from the same parent stock. Their personal appearance and customs, if not their dialects, shew this. From what race they originally sprang it is more difficult to determine, for there is not one of the great families into which the human race has been divided, with which they may properly be classed. With such features as they generally possess, in the flattened nose, thick lip, and overhanging brow, one can hardly fancy that they would be good looking, but I certainly have seen very good looking men amongst them — I may say tribes, indeed, on the Darling for instance, and on the Murrumbidgee, (see page 53, vol. ii. of my last work.) The men on Cooper’s Creek were fine rather than handsome. Generally speaking, the natives have beautiful teeth, and their eye, though deep sunk, is full of fire. Although their muscular development is bad, they must have a very remarkable strength of sinew, or they could not otherwise raise themselves, as they do, on so slender a footing in climbing up the trees, and in many other occupations. I have read in several authors that the natives of Australia have woolly hair. This is a mistake; their hair is as fine and as curly as that of an European, but its natural beauty is destroyed by filth and neglect. Nothing can prove its strength more than the growth of their beards, which project from their chins, and are exceedingly stiff.
In many places the natives have but a scanty and precarious subsistence, which may in some measure account for the paucity of their numbers in some localities. In many parts of the country in which I have been I feel satisfied they can seldom procure animal food, as they would not otherwise resort to the use of some things which no time could, I should imagine, make palateable. Their dexterity at the chase is very great, although in hunting the kangaroo they become so nervous that they frequently miss their mark. I have seen them sink under water and bring up a fish writhing on the short spear they use on such occasions, which they have struck either in the forehead, or under the lateral fin, with unerring precision. Still some of our people come pretty close to them in many of their exercises of the chase, and the young settlers on the Murray very often put them to the blush. At the head of them is Mr. Scott, Mr. Eyre’s companion, who has now succeeded him in the post at Moorundi. There is not a native on the river so expert in throwing the spear, in taking kangaroo or fish, or in the canoe, as he is. His spear is thrown with deadly precision, and he has so mixed with the natives, that he may be said to be one of themselves, having the most unbounded influence over them, and speaking their language as fluently as themselves. Mr. Scott is at the same time very firm and decided, and is exceedingly respected by the settlers on the Murray. Under such circumstances it is to be hoped he will emulate Mr. Eyre and effect much good among his sable friends. Their devotion and attachment to him is very remarkable, and every native on the Murray knows “Merrili”, as he is called.
One great cause of the deaths amongst the Aborigines is their liability to pulmonary diseases from being constantly in the water. They are much annoyed by rain, nor will any thing induce them to stir during wet weather, but they sit shivering in their huts even in the height of summer. There is no people in the world so unprovided against inclemency or extremes of weather as they are. They have literally nothing to cover them, to protect them from the summer heat or the winter’s cold; nor would any charity be greater than to supply these poor people with clothing. A few blankets, a few Guernsey shirts, and woollen trowsers, would be to them a boon of the first importance, and I would that my voice in their favour could induce the many who are humane and charitable here to devote a small portion of that which they bestow in works and purposes of charity to think of these children of the desert. It is only by accustoming them to comforts, and to implements which they cannot afterwards do without, to supersede as it were their former customs, that we can hope to draw them towards civilized man and civilization; for what inducement has the savage with his wild freedom and uncontrolled will, to submit to restraint, unless he reap some advantage?
The yearly and monthly distribution of blankets and of flour to the natives at Moorundi is duly appreciated. They now possess many things which they prefer to their own implements. The fish-hooks they procure from the Europeans are valued by them beyond measure, since they prevent the necessity of their being constantly in the water, and you now see the river, at the proper season, lined by black anglers, and the quantity of fish they take is really astonishing, and those too of the finest kinds. I once saw Mr. Scott secure a Murray cod, floating on the top of the water, that weighed 72lbs. This beautiful and excellent fish is figured in Mitchell’s first work. It is a species of perch, and is very abundant, as well as several others of its own genus, that are richer but smaller; the general size of the cod varying from 15lbs. to 25lbs.
The manners and customs of the natives have been so well and so faithfully recorded by Mr. Eyre that I need not dwell on them here. My views have been philanthropic, my object, to explain the manner in which I have succeeded in communicating with such of them as had never before seen Europeans, in order to ensure to the explorer, if possible, the peaceable results I myself have experienced. There are occasions when collisions with the natives are unavoidable, but I speak as to general intercourse. I feel assured no man can perform his duty as an explorer, who is under constant apprehension of hostility from the people through whose country he is passing.
The province of South Australia could never at any time have been thickly inhabited. There are some numerous tribes on the sea-coast at the head of the Gulfs and in Encounter Bay, as well as on the Murray River, but with the exception of a few scattered families on the northern hills, and in the scrub, the mountain ranges are, and it appears to me have been, almost uninhabited. There are no old or recent signs of natives having frequented the hills, no marks of tomahawks on the trees, or of digging on the flats. The Mount Lofty ranges, indeed, are singularly deficient of animal life, and seem to be incapable of affording much subsistence to the savage, however luxuriant and beneficial the harvest they now yield.
The Adelaide tribe is not numerous; they occupy a portion of the Park lands, called the native location, and every encouragement has been given them to establish themselves in comfort on it, but they prefer their wild roving habits to any fixed pursuit. Nevertheless, they are variously employed by the townspeople, in carrying burthens, in cutting up wood, in drawing water, and similar occupations; and, independently of any assistance they may receive from the Government, earn an immense quantity of food from the citizens. The natives properly belonging to the Adelaide tribe are all more or less clothed, nor are they permitted by the police to appear otherwise, and as far as their connection with the settlers goes, they are fast falling into habits of order, and understand that they cannot do any thing improper with impunity.
The Murray tribe, as well as the tribes from the south, frequently visit their friends near the capital, and on such occasions some scene of violence or dispute generally ensues. Frequently the abduction of a lubra, or of an unmarried female of another tribe, brings about a quarrel, and on such occasions some angry fighting is sure to follow; and so long as that custom remains, there is little hope of improvement amongst them. The subject of ameliorating their condition is, however, one of great difficulty, because it cannot be done without violating those principles of freedom and independence on which it is so objectionable to infringe; but when a great ultimate good is to be obtained, I cannot myself see any objection to those restraints, and that interference which should bring it about. There is nowhere, not even in Sydney, more attention paid to the native population than in South Australia, and if they stand a chance of improvement it is there. Whilst every kindness is shewn to the adult portion, the children are under the direct care of the Government. There is, as I have elsewhere stated, a school, at which from thirty to forty boys and girls attend. Nothing can be more regular or more comfortable than this institution. The children are kindly treated, and very much encouraged, and really to go into it as a visitor, one would be disposed to encourage the most sanguine expectations of success. As far as the elementary principles of education go, the native children are far from deficient. They read, write, and cypher as well as European children of their own age, and, generally speaking, are quiet and well behaved; but it is to be regretted that, as far as our experience goes, they can advance no farther; when their reason is taxed, they fail, and consequently appear to be destitute of those finer qualifications and principles on which both moral feeling and social order are based. It is however questionable with me whether this is not too severe a construction to put on their intellect, and whether, if the effect of ancient habits were counteracted, we should find the same mental defect.
At present, the native children have free intercourse with their parents, and with their tribe. The imaginations of the boys are inflamed by seeing all that passes in a native camp, and they long for that moment, when, like their countrymen, they will be free to go where they please, and to join in the hunt or the fray. The girls are told that they are betrothed, and that, at a certain age, they must join their tribe. The voice of Nature is stronger even than that of Reason. Why therefore should we be surprised at the desertion of the children from the native schools? But it will be asked — What is to be done? The question, as I have said, is involved in difficulty, because, in my humble opinion, the only remedy involves a violation, for a time at all events, of the natural affections, by obliging a complete separation of the child from its parents; but, I must confess, I do not think that any good will result from the utmost perseverance of philanthropy, until such is the case, that is, until the children are kept in such total ignorance of their forefathers, as to look upon them as Europeans do, with astonishment and sympathy. It may be argued that this experiment would require too great a sacrifice of feeling, but I doubt this. Besides which, it is a question whether it is not our duty to do that which shall conduce most to the benefit of posterity. The injury, admitting it to be so, can only be inflicted on the present generation, the benefit would be felt to all futurity. I have not, I hope, a disposition for the character of an inhuman man, and certainly have not written thus much without due consideration of the subject, but my own experience tells me we are often obliged to adopt a line of conduct we would willingly avoid to ensure a public good.
It will not then, I trust, be thought that I have ventured to intrude this opinion on the public, with any other views than those which true philanthropy dictates. I am really and sincerely interested in the fate of the Australian Aborigine, and throw out these suggestions, derived from long and deep practical experience, in the ardent hope that they may help to produce the permanent happiness of an inoffensive and harmless race.
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:13