Page:The Coming Colony Mennell 1892.djvu/35

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
11
THE COMING COLONY.

greater facilities to the inhabitants for getting away and locating themselves in more go-ahead regions. It will be seen, however, that in the state of things which prevailed. there was consider­ able basis for this gentleman's vaticinations.

It is easy to exclaim against the somnolence of a community which, with vast areas of virgin agricultural land awaiting the plough, is content to import many thousand pounds' worth of breadstuffs annually, and which, with every facility for dairy farming, still largely relies on South Australia for its butter supply. The scarcity and uncertainty of labour were, however, a handicap on all regular cultures and industries, and in a country where nature itself was so bounteous to the handful of inhabitants one cannot be surprised if they preferred to rely for a living on pursuits such as sandalwood cutting, which, with a few days' exertion now an d then, provided them with ample means of sustenance, rather than embark in corn-grow­ing, which involved sustained diligence and possibly doubtful results. A truly Arcadian community; a living, not a fortune, was the general ideal, and as they had done themselves, so the average West Australians thought their descendants in the future might do for uncounted generations—i.e., as long as the hated stranger was kept out. The oft-told tale of the Albany man illustrates the lethargy which prevailed. The individual in question, having sold his oaten hay for a pound or two per ton more than the price obtained in previous years, is repre­sented as remarking, with a sigh of relief, "Thank Heaven, I shall be able to put in an acre less next year." Whether literally true or not, the tale points a genuine n1oral, the aim being, not at an increase of outputs an d profits, but at how little expendi­ture of toil the bare necessaries of life might be obtained. It is only fair to say, however, that there were not wanting signs of a different spirit—as is shown by the exploitation of minerals of various descriptions in various districts, which was only aban­doned when the absence of suitable labour and means of com­munication and transport rendered it unprofitable after an outlay of many thou sands of pounds out of the pockets of an impoverished community.

The old order changeth, giving place to new; but though