Life and Adventures of William Buckley/Appendix 3
THE GOLDEN CITY.
I'll tell thee now a story, like a fairy tale of old,
* * * * * * * * * *
The Province of Victoria is bounded on the North and North-East by a line drawn from Cape Howe to the nearest sources of the Murray, and thence by that river;—on the West by the eastern boundary of South Australia, or the 141 degree of East Longitude, from the Murray to the Sea;—and on the South by the coast to Cape Howe, including the islands. Its area is 98,000 square miles, or 62,720,000 acres. Its Ports are Melbourne (the capital), Geelong, Portland, Port Fairy, and Port Albert.
Since the "Adventures of William Buckley" were prepared for the press, another wonderful change has passed over the land of his wanderings,—one so vast in its provincial and national importance, as to claim an especial notice in this Appendix.
Little did Buckley think when, as he was supposed to be, a living-dead-man, amongst the Aborigines of the Australian Wilds, that he was treading over fields of gold,—that his earthy bed and stoney pillow contained millions of the precious metal, so fondly loved, so assiduously courted, and so eagerly sought after, by all that portion of the human race whom fate has made acquainted with its value. The Poet says—
"If ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise,"
but I doubt very much if poor Buckley does not now wish he had had knowledge enough to have found the golden treasure, and thus have saved the British Government his most liberal [?—!] and very magnificent pension of——TWELVE POUNDS A-YEAR!!!
It is evident, however, that he knew nothing at all about these
"———Golden Treasures, on many a lofty height,
Nevertheless both him and his Historian contemplate an early visit to the field of his adventures, there to trace in their reality the vast changes which have come over the land.———Perhaps we may join in more than one Corrobberee;—perhaps we may be received by the tribes especially greased, painted, and assembled to do us all possible honor,—who knows? Perhaps also, we may have to square the yards, as thesay, from a few of our very amiable hosts, on account of some old grievance or love affair of Buckley's, with which we (editorially or otherwise) could not have had anything to do,—and
"If we have to pluck from out the nettle danger,
Well, "what must be must," as some very sensible person has said, and so for the present there's an end of that matter. Whether at a future period we shall publish our adventures in a second volume, will depend very much upon the success of the first; so we will now pass on to the additional Statistics, which I take verbatim from the Victoria Commercial Review, published at Melbourne by Messrs. Westgarth, Ross, & Co. That under date September 1, 1851, says—
The District of Port Phillip, forming previously the southern division of the Colony of New South Wales, became on 1st July last, by Imperial enactment, a distinct and independent province, under the designation of the Colony of Victoria. The Government is administered by a Lieutenant Governor. The Governor General for the Australian Settlements resides at Sydney, the capital of the adjacent and senior Colony of New South Wales.
The Colony of Victoria, first settled sixteen years ago, commences her independent career with a population of 80,000 colonists, and annual exports exceeding at present one million sterling. Melbourne, her Capital City, contains 25,000, and Geelong the second of her towns about 9,000 inhabitants.
The recent discovery of gold in New South Wales opens for Australia a new and extraordinary prospect. The similarity in the appearance of the country near Bathurst to some parts of California, led to this momentous discovery. Gold had been traced in the interior of the Colony for several years previously, but the existence of a "gold field" was not ascertained until May last. 106lb of pure gold were discovered in one spot—a circumstance unprecedented in the annals of the precious metals. This extraordinary treasure was found imbedded in a mass of quartz rock weighing between two and three cwt.
These wonderful discoveries have aroused a general attention to the subject of our mineral resources, and numbers of persons are daily "prospecting" throughout this Colony and New South Wales, in search of gold and other metals and ores. The result has not been unsuccessful, and in Victoria as well as New South Wales, regular "diggings" are now established, from which small quantities of gold are constantly brought to market. As yet, these new resources for Victoria are but poorly and irregularly productive; but the application of science and skill may be expected to produce hereafter a very different result. The first shipment of Victoria gold left Port Phillip yesterday by the Honduras. The amount was 18 oz. valued at £50. Gold now forms a considerable item of the Sydney exports. The first news of the gold discovery produced a very general excitement.
The following report, dated January 1, 1852, shews the rapid onward course of the Colony, consequent on this vast discovery:—
The discoveries of Gold in Victoria have greatly increased during the last two months. The sensation occasioned in September and October, by the productiveness of the Ballarat Gold Fields, has been far exceeded during the two succeeding months by that of Mount Alexander. The greater part of the diggers have now transferred their operations to this latter locality, where with varying success, and scattered over many miles of surface, they are busily engaged in washing the auriferous soil.
The number of persons employing themselves in gold digging throughout this colony has been recently estimated at 30,000. Considerable numbers have just been visiting the towns during Christmas; and it is considered that many more must ere long abandon for a time their new vocation owing to the want of water, as the creeks or watercourses that intersect the grounds now begin to cease running or are entirely dried up, as usual at this advanced period of summer. In the mean time however new diggings are being industriously sought out along the neighbouring banks of the Loddon, where the soil appears similarly auriferous, and an immense and increasing influx of persons continues from the adjacent settlements, who for the most part make immediately for "the diggings."
The estimate of the yield of the gold fields continues to be a subject of great uncertainty. But some data are being gradually obtained on the question, in connection with the Government Escort that arrives in town weekly from the Gold Fields, and from the Customs' Returns of the quantity exported.
Nearly four months have elapsed since the Victoria Gold fields assumed the position of contributing in any important degree to the exports and resources of the colony. The quantity exported, up to the present date, amounts to 117,825 ounces. In addition to this return there appear to be very large quantities still in town in the hands of numerous parties, and much must also have left this colony for adjacent settlements, independently of the records kept by the Customs' authorities.
The Government Escort has conveyed to Geelong and Melbourne, up to this date, 116,996 ounces of Gold. But this conveyance, for the use of which there is a charge made of one per cent., is supposed to have brought down from the mines only a moderate proportion of what is actually realized. Valuing the gold at £3 per ounce, it is not perhaps an exaggerated view, that up to this date £750,000 worth has been raised within this colony; and that with respect to the future this must be considered a very low estimate indeed. The auriferous characteristics are said to be traceable over extensive areas of country.
The general desertion of the able bodied and labouring population for the gold fields has seriously inconvenienced the course of ordinary business and of social life. All building and improving operations have, with scarcely any exception, ceased. The wages of labour have risen, in many instances, threefold, and occasionally hands are not to be procured for any consideration. Many families have been left entirely destitute of servants. The crews of the shipping have, more or less in all instances, deserted, some vessels being left quite destitute. The most serious fears are entertained for the safety of the harvest. An ample crop is at this moment ripening throughout the colony; and it is apprehended that with the same force of labour at command, and the rapidly maturing effect of the climate at this season, a large proportion of the grain must be lost.
Although as regards a great variety of articles of merchandise, business may be said to have almost ceased, there has been a very spirited demand for others that happen to be suited to the new order of things in the colony. The unlimited demand for "digger's outfit" has caused extensive transactions in slop clothing, canvas and tarpaulings, tea, sugar, and flour, draft and saddle horses, drays and other vehicles. The consumption of Spirits and Tobacco has greatly increased; and with the large increase of means in the hands of successful diggers, a variety of luxuries in dress, jewellery, and other articles, has been indulged in.
To what extent the gathering of the grain crops have suffered,as yet impossible to ascertain; but that the rate of wages in all the Australian Colonies has been seriously affected, is certain.
Little did Elliott, the Corn Law Rhymer, think, when he wrote the song—"There's a good time coming boys,—there's a good time coming,"—that the labourer, by paying thirty shillings monthly for license, would thereby purchase a right to dig for gold;—that within a few years of his thus writing, one Province of the British Empire should show evidence of wealth enough within reach present generation, to pay off the so-called "National Debt."
But let us see what say the Statistics, dated the 1st February, 1852:—
The past month has been characterised chiefly by the large accessions to the population of this colony from the adjacent settlements. South Australia and Van Diemen's Land in particular are being rapidly depopulated by the efflux of their able bodied and industrious male colonists. In the former locality a serious commercial reaction has arisen, in consequence of the almost total cessation of trade, the unmarketable character of property, and the stoppage of operations (and necessarily of dividends too) at the great Burra mines, which the workmen are said to have abandoned for the Victoria gold fields.
The gold diggings in New South Wales, although less prolific than those of this colony, have as yet prevented a proportionate emigration from that quarter; and some accessions to the population are now being received at Sydney from California, consisting chiefly of colonists who had previously gone thither, but whom the news of May and June last have induced to return.
The immigration from all quarters during the last month into the Port of Melbourne, independently of some arrivals at Geelong and the smaller Ports, has been 6,640 persons. Deducting 431 who have left the colony during the same period, there remain 6209 persons thus added to the population in one month. These arrivals, deducting departures, appear severally as follows:—From Britain, 556; New South Wales, besides overland parties, 870; Van Diemen's Land, 2137; South Australia, besides overland parties, 2646. Arrivals from other parts of the colony are not counted.
These particulars, extracted from the Customs' Records, are probably much below the actual truth, the vessels being usually overcrowded with passengers, and the returns given short by the agents, from apprehension of interference on the part of the authorities. As this and farther anticipated immigration will probably consist, for the most part, of male population, the Local Government have already represented to the Home Authorities the necessity of promoting more particularly the emigration from Britain of the female sex.
The scale of commercial operations has been commensurate with the rapid increase of the colony in wealth and population. There is an immense and increasing business in the articles flour, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, spirits, wines, beer, every kind of ready made clothing, canvas, tarpaulings, &c., all of which have flowed in from every quarter, and found a ready and remunerating market. The amount of duties received at the Customs, Melbourne, for the last quarter, has exceeded that for the same quarter of 1850 in the proportion of £26,681 to £16,205.
The Customs' Duties are:—Rum the produce of sugar, wiskey the produce of malt, of or from any place whatsoever, pay duty at the rate of 3s. 6d. per proof gallon; brandy, gin, and other spirits 6s. per proof gallon; foreign cordials and sweetened spirits 6s. per gallon. Tobacco, manufactured, pays 2s. per pound; unmanufactured, 1s. 6d. per pound. Tea, sugar, rice, flour, and grain, pay five per cent. ad valorem; wines fifteen per cent.; all other imported goods, except the produce of the United Kingdom, ten per percent.
The New Legislature of Victoria has recently passed an Act reducing the rates of pilotage for this Port, and altering the mode of levying from draft of water to register tonnage. The rate is now 3d. per ton, which averages about one half of previous rates, and the new system appears to deal more equally than its predecessor with all classes and dimensions of shipping. Coasters and vessels under fifty tons, have the option of dispensing with a pilot, and thus avoiding all charge; but availing themselves of his services, they pay the full rate. Vessels outfitting or refitting, vessels in ballast, or vessels not breaking bulk, may also decline pilots, but on taking them they pay half rate: and vessels proceeding from Hobson's Bay to Geelong, with similar option, pay one third.
The harvest has now been nearly all secured. The reaping has been generally taken at 25s. per acre, or upwards of twice the ordinary rate. Incessant importations of flour and other provision stuffs have retained farming produce at moderate prices, notwithstanding at present and prospectively the great increase of demand.
Some apprehension appears to have been entertained in Britain, that in consequence of the attractions of the gold fields, the shipments of wool from these colonies would prove seriously deficient; and some advance in price had in consequence taken place. This has not proved the case, at least to any material extent. The sheep shearing has, however, in many instances, stood over too long, and the fleece has thus been exposed to admixture with burrs and grass seeds, and in other respects, the wool has been washed and got up with less than the usual care.
At the Gold Fields the want of water continues to be increasingly felt, and is a serious hindrance to the diggers: many continue digging on the chance of finding fragments visible to the eye in the dry earth: large pieces, or "Nuggets," of this sort are frequently discovered, and a few days ago a solid mass, apparently of pure gold, weighing 27 lbs. 8 ozs., was brought into town, where it was afterwards sold for £4 an ounce, and exhibited at a public house. This specimen must be regarded as the best of the kind hitherto discovered in Australia. The increasing numbers at the Mines keep up the supply of gold, but the average results must for the present be falling off. Sickness to some extent was prevailing, arising from the use of impure drinking water, and the laborious and exposed mode of life. Scenes of disorder were on the increase, and the Local Government had experienced difficulty in engaging men to act as police.
The Escort Returns for the month of January appear as follows:—
The Export Returns for the same month give 160,472 ounces from the different Ports of the Colony, namely, from Melbourne 135,817: from Geelong 24,266: and from Portland 389 ounces. The total quantity of gold exported from Victoria, from the first discovery until 31st January, according to the Customs Records, is 305,607 ounces, which, at the moderate rate of £3 per ounce, gives the sum of £916,821. It may be observed that this enormous export has appeared almost entirely within the last two months, and that this produce continues at the same, if not at an increasing rate.
The following table exhibits a variety of particulars, connected with this export:—
|Monthly amount of
|Port of Shipment.||Place to which
The following is an extract from a letter received from Mr. Westgarth, on the 28th February:—
"Gold arrivals per Escort since January returns—
Almost all from the Mount Alexander locality. The Escort is supposed to bring one-third, or say one-half of the whole."
So that here is 68,348 ounces, which at £3 per ounce is of the value of Two Hundred and Five Thousand and Forty-four Pounds Sterling,—the Golden Harvest of Victoria in eighteen days!
Reader, I closed that portion of this Appendix called "The Contrast," by saying
"The land has peace, freedom, liberty of conscience;
And what would ye more?"
If the answer was "Gold,"— here you see she now has it in great abundance. Let us hope that such an addition to her other resources may not damage her peace, her freedom, or her liberty of conscience. That unlike the Californians, her people will remember generously the country from whence they sprung, and the uncultivated, uncivilized children of the forest, and appropriate to them lands they may yet call theirs.—It would be unjust toward the Victorians, in a work of this kind, did I not acknowledge that they have already done so, and that excepting in solitary instances, the settlers have treated the Aborigines with every consideration and kindness.
It would also be despicable cowardice, and a great sacrifice of everything politically and morally honest, did I not take this opportunity of contrasting their conduct with that pursued by the first gold finders of the present age in the Pacific—the Californians. The latter boast of their Constitution. Whilst upon this subject, I feel commanded by that love of liberty which all of British descent should cherish, to say a few words:—indeed I know not how better to close my labours than by an effort in favour of universal rational liberty,—to the black as well as to the white man,—of every creed, class, and colour.
The reader is perhaps aware, that the Californian people have given themselves a Constitution, which Constitution and Declaration of Rights, begins after the French fashion, by saying that all men are by nature born equal; and then it goes on to state, that therefore all men who have resided in that particular land of golden blessedness six months, may enjoy the rights of citizenship, with the exception of Africans, Indians, and their descendants,— so that you see, Africans, Indians, and their descendants, although compelled to obey all the laws, and to contribute in every way to the support and exigencies of the Government are treated as slaves, simply because they are men of colour. This is fair play amongst a people boasting of their superior freedom, and of their pure and perfect liberty, until the name of liberty becomes nauseous. This is the practical humanity as respects mankind in California and in the Southern Slave States,—where a human being, merely because he has black blood in his veins, is trodden in the dust, or hunted to destruction like a wild beast. It is true the Californians do not deal in human flesh and blood, and this, I suppose, they consider to be making it a Free State.
At the first sight of this precious Constitution, which is so little known as deserving the execration of the world,—and which ought to have been execrated by its Press,—I resolved on remonstrating against its slave clause; not supposing for one moment that a protest from so humble an individual as myself would have any direct effect, but because I thought it possible that something of the kind might draw the attention of others to the subject, in the same way as I now insert these observations in this volume, hoping help from more influential sources. At any rate, it was carrying out practically the principles I advocate, and therefore I addressed the following letter, to the Governor of California:—
Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land,
March 20, 1850.
I do myself the honor to forward two numbers of the Hobart Town "Britannia" newspaper, begging you at the same time not to consider it an improper intrusion if I offer a few remarks on one of the clauses in the Constitution your State has recently adopted. I assure you, Sir, they are not occasioned by any feelings but those of respect for the high position you hold, and of deep sorrow, (as a free white man,) at the adoption of the first principle of slavery, by a community speaking the English language, the descendants of a nation to which I am proud to belong, and under whose government I have had the honor to hold military and civil service, many years.
By journals recently received in this Colony it appears, that although the Californian Constitution is mainly founded on principles of civil and religious liberty, a distinction has been made between the white and coloured races. In one of these journals it is said, that "as all men are by nature equal," those who have resided a certain period in the State, shall, if they think proper, receive all the rights of Citizenship, "with the exception of Africans and their descendants;"—in another it is, "with the exception of Indians, Mexicans, and their descendants." Which of the two is correct I know not, neither does it matter, it being evident that a distinct line has been drawn between the black and the white man.
In the course of my life, Sir, I have seen much of what I consider the debasing influences of slavery, and I have observed (several hundred miles inland) the grievous wrongs heaped upon the Indian tribes of the vast American Continent; I am, therefore, excited with the indignation all free men should feel at observing the first principles of slavery renewed, and about to be acted upon, on the shores of the Pacific, and in the nineteenth century, by those who, I did hope, would have risen above the prejudices of the past in their full understanding of the rights of all men. I venture to ask, Sir, was such a sacrifice necessary? and beg to assure you, if there are any causes for it, which are founded upon justice, I shall be most happy to make them known through the Press of these Colonies, in order to remove, so far as it may be in my power, the deep reproach which appears now to attach to your State and Government. I may add, that I did think of visiting California, but that the impression now upon my mind renders it impossible. I could not willingly be a resident in a country where such a principle is acknowledged, as that the people of any class, creed, or colour, whilst they are made to contribute to the exigencies of a government in peace and war, shall be deprived of their natural rights as as men, and be stamped with an indignity, which should attach to the human race only as one of the consequences of crime. This now appears to be the prevalent and increasing opinion of the civilized nations of the world; and from the generous efforts making in the Northern States of your own Union, I did hope, although now more than fifty years of age, to have lived to see the day when these just and merciful sentiments would have effected the emancipation of a people persecuted only on account of their colour;—a circumstance, as we all know, they could have had no more to do with, than I could in the passing of a clause which appears to me to be disgraceful to humanity.
Although not an American Citizen, but a stranger, and not even a temporary resident within the precincts of your government, yet, as a Member of the Press, and of the great human family, I feel it my duty, most respectfully, to protest against an act which tends to perpetuate so great a public crime. I could not rest in life, or die in peace, humble an individual as I am, unless I did so; and consequently claim your indulgence for laying this protest before Your Excellency, on behalf of the coloured race.
I have only to add, Sir, my request, that you will receive this letter in the spirit with which it is written, viz—of respectful, earnest enquiry, and of hope that I may be enabled to show the clause to which I refer, as being an unavoidable wrong or error that will be immediately remedied,—knowing as we all must, that there is nothing in this world's affairs which in the first instance can approach to anything like perfection.
I have the honor to be
Your Excellency's obedient servant
To His Excellency
The Governor of California.
There is every reason to believe this letter did not reach its destination, as the ship by which it was transmitted was wrecked on its passage to California; but that the newspapers did, in which it was inserted, there can be no doubt, because in several of the San Francisco journals published at the time, I was honored with storms of that impotent abuse which slave men call up in place of justice and argument.
Remember, reader, I had a peculiar right to address such a letter in behalf of my coloured brethren,—being an Indian by adoption of the Hurons, one of the Six Nations, and having gone through all the forms of that adoption.—I have shared the wigwam of the American Indian during peace and war; and when, after hunting excursions in the wilds of that magnificent Continent, I have seen him steal from under its cover, when the bright full moon has risen from over a mountain, or from out a mighty lake, he has thrown himself prostrate in the act of adoration to the Great Spirit, the "Machi Maneetoo," as he calls it, and I have respected him for his devotion. When he rose, I have risen too, and, after the fashion of bushmen, we have smoked our pipes of peace and friendship, trusted and trusting mutually each other.
These scenes of early days in the far west, are more especially called to my remembrance by the daily intelligence from California, detailing particulars of cold-blooded murders, and of the countless injuries mercilessly inflicted, by the white savages of that land of Devil's dust, upon the poor Mexicans and Indians, whom, by their heartless cruelties, they have driven to desperation; forcing them by their brutalities to acts of aggression and revenge.
Well do I remember the prophetic observations of the immortal Jefferson, in the American Congress, when discussing the Slave question; and after the heartless white savages by whom he was opposed, had talked of their right by law to deal in human flesh and blood. They taunted the veteran Patriot with being mock-sentimental in the cause of puerile humanity, as they described the cause of the coloured races. Bursting with indignation, Jefferson exclaimed:—"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His vengeance will not sleep for ever."
Feeling that the Californian people had committed a great offence against the universal liberty of the human race, by thus continuing the distinction between the white and coloured man, and believing as I do that in accordance with God's immutable justice, no man, or community of men, can perpetrate great wrongs and escape ultimate punishment, I wrote and dedicated, without permission, the following address to those who had voted for the infamous Slave Clause,—with which appeal in behalf of the oppressed I close this volume.
Californians,—See that Spirit rise