Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/189

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175
THE MOTHER OF THE AUSTRALIAS.

naturally had the effect of purifying to an appreciable extent the moral atmosphere of the colony.

The extraordinary facilities offered by the Australian soil for the rearing of sheep and the production of wool were speedily discovered. John Macarthur, one of the earliest free settlers, imported from the Cape Colony three rams and five ewes—the precursors of the immense flocks of sheep that now roam over the plains of Australia. In 1803 Macarthur brought to England the first sample of Australian wool. In 1834, the year of his death, the quantity of wool, annually exported from Australia, had reached four and a half million pounds. The latest returns show that Australia is now exporting wool to the extent of 410 million pounds annually.

The appointment of a Legislative Council in 1824 did away, to some extent, with irresponsible military rule and its attendant evils, and paved the way for a better state of things in the body politic. The free settlers, becoming emboldened by increasing numbers, and perceiving the horrors inflicted on their adopted country, as well as the evil example placed before their young families, by the transportation system, raised their voices against its further continuance. They organised an agitation and established a league with the object of achieving that desirable result, but the ex-prisoners, many of whom had by this time become wealthy landed proprietors, formed themselves into a counter-organisation called the "Emancipists," and agitated for the perpetuation of the system, so that they might have a constant supply of convict labour. With undeniable truth they urged and contended that the colony was originally founded expressly as a penal settlement, and that therefore the free settlers had come out with a full knowledge of the circumstances, and had no right to object to the conditions of life