History of West Australia/Chapter 15
A PENAL SETTLEMENT.
1849 TO 1853.
CONVICTISM SIMILAR TO SLAVE-TRADE—A DIMINISHING POPULATION; MISAPPREHENSIONS—FITZGERALD APPLIES FOR PENTONVILLE EXILES; PARKHURST LADS—SOUTH AUSTRALIAN APPLICATION—AGITATION RENEWED—DESPATCH FR0M EARL GREY—MEETING IN PERTH—AN ORDER-IN-COUNCIL; A PENAL SETTLEMENT—VIEWS OF COLONISTS AND NEWSPAPERS—GOVERNOR FITZGERALD IN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL—OTHER DESPATCHES; FREE EMIGRANTS—ARRIVAL OF FIRST CONVICT SHIP—A LETTER FROM THE CONVICTS—PRISON ACCOMMODATION; APPEARANCE OF FELONS; A FEW SENTENCES; AVOCATIONS—EASY DISCIPLINE AND RESULT—PENSIONERS—CHANGED VIEWS; PUBLIC THANKS; MORE CONVICTS WANTED—ARRIVAL OF HASHEMY—TICKETS-OF-LEAVE—PUBLIC WORKS—1851; ITS PROMISE—FINANCE BOARD AND APP0INTMENTS—ESCAPEES; SICKNESS—COMPLAINTS RE FREE LABOUR; INCONSISTENCY—IMPORTED FLOUR—ARRIVAL OF CONVICT SHIPS—DEPOTS YORK, TOODYAY, BUNBURY—REMUNERATION OF 0FFICERS—WAGES OF TICKET-OF-LEAVE MEN—FREMANTLE GAOL AND BARRACKS; PUBLIC WORKS—1852; FREE EMIGRANTS, CONVICTS—WIVES 0F CONVICTS—INVALID DEPOTS—NUMBER OF TICKET-OF-LEAVE MEN—INCIDENT AT YORK—BUILDINGS; ROADS—1853; PUBLIC WORKS—AN UNNECESSARY PUBLIC MEETING—SHIPS AND CONVICTS—POPULATION; GOLDFIELDS DEPARTURES—LOCAL PROSPECTORS—REVENUE AND EXPENDITURE—EXPORT; STOCK; TILLAGE—PRICES; COLONY FLOURISHING—WINE—GUANO; SHARK'S BAY; ROYALTY; DISCOVERIES; PARTIALLY ABANDONED—PEARL OYSTERS; DESPATCHES—HORSE REARING; BONUS FOR CAMELS—LONDON EXHIBITION—GERALDINE LEAD MINE ESTABLISHED; THE EXPEDITION TO CHAMPION BAY AND GERALDINE—SETTLEMENT AT CHAMPION DAY; THE PIONEERS—NATIVES ATTACK MR. BURGES AND MR. DRUMMOND—EXPLORATION; VOYAGES OF CHAMPION—LAND LAWS; DESPATCHES; MEETINGS; REGULATIONS; "NO CONFIDENCE" MEMORIAL; TROUBLE IN COUNCIL; LEASING SYSTEM—MAILS; STEAMERS AT ALBANY—CHAMBER 0F C0MMERCE; MECHANICS' INSTITUTE—"W.A. MAGAZINE"—SWAN RIVER S.N. COMPANY; THE BAR; WRECKS—DEATHS OF GEORGE LEAKE AND S. MOORE—NATIVES—RELIGIOUS MATTERS; IRRITATION—R0MAN CATHOLIC TROUBLES.
WITH typical complacency and virtuous indignation our Englishmen deride the slave trade; yet they do not object to making use of the automata of the convict system, those unfortunates whose bitter cry is peccavi — "I have sinned." Western Australians, defeated in the fight for prosperity, were fain to seek in the slimy labyrinths of the dark alley-way for men who would help them. Partly ashamed of resorting to such agents for assistance, they drew them into their employ through the gate at the rear of their establishments, and then shrank aloof from them as if from a contaminating taint. The convict must be a mere tool or slave; he must have his own distinct quarters; must be fed and clothed; but he certainly must do the work that they were unable to do themselves. A driver must watch him closely, and when the daily work is completed, must lock him in his quarters until another day; if the convict disobeys, he must be whipped, or placed on short allowance of food, or chained limb to limb, like a wild beast.
Such, substantially, was the convict system. It was useful to the colony, it may have been beneficial to the felon, and justifiable, but—it was not unlike the slave trade, which every Western Australian would have disdained with ample contumely.
For weary years colonists had been struggling with a timid soil, had been establishing industries which, for want of labour, they could not follow beyond a limited point. That fortune which fancy depicted at a charmed distance was elusive as the Will o' the Wisp. Just when it seemed within their grasp the darkness of impotence obscured it. In 1848-9 a commercial depression passed over Australia, and even in England several large financial houses collapsed. The Burra Burra copper mines in South Australia, and the reports of rapidly-accumulated wealth in other colonies, drew from Western Australia some of those labourers who could pay their passages and those settlers whose interests were so infinitesimal that they could calmly relinquish them. In after years it was commonly reported that the colony was at this time in danger of abandonment. Such was not the case. Without the introduction of convicts there was certainly little likelihood of progression for more weary years, but the reports common elsewhere were of a parcel with those unjust statements circulated since the first year of settlement. Governor Fitzgerald, a new arrival in Western Australia, and a bluff old sailor, appeared to take a gloomy view of the situation. He was hardly a statesman or a diplomat; he was decidedly straightforward. Letters of his inferentially foreboded the worst, and in October, 1850, he confessed his fears in a despatch to the Secretary for the Colonies:—"So great was the prevailing despondency and depression that the flocks were to a great extent thrown out of increase and prepared for the cauldron; all classes of colonists were daily leaving as opportunities occurred." He believed, for very little, every man would boil down his sheep and leave the colony.
The list of departures in 1848-9 does not show any remarkable emigration. To some extent the people were to blame for these recent mis-reports. When a few labourers and settlers went eastwards, certain colonists metaphorically rent their mantles, sprinkled dust upon their heads, and sat down among the ashes. Some, also, got upon the housetops and bemoaned their loss, so that the world could hear. The burden of numerous resolutions and memorials corroborates this. What Justin McCarthy wrote of England was true of Western Australia—with a difference. In England public opinion, or sentiment, changes like the ebb and flow of the tide. To-day we have reform; but a little while and reaction sets in. One month Western Australians would boast of their splendid estate; the next they prophesied the abandonment of the colony unless such and such happened. By manfully wrestling with the recent terrible depression they had placed themselves in a moderately secure position. New industries were born, and an export trade was established which nearly equalled the imports in value. Because they could not execute all the orders for timber, and because certain people were leaving the colony, their weaker brethren talked of abandonment, of giving up the evanescent ghost of energy.
But Western Australia was not badly off in comparison with a similar period of history in New South Wales. At the end of her first twenty years of history; one recorder says New South Wales contained only 10,500 inhabitants, of whom 7,000 were convicts. From 1788 to 1809 the Imperial Exchequer incurred an expenditure of £2,196,149 in that colony. The population of Western Australia at the beginning of 1850, exclusive of military, was 5,734. The Imperial Parliamentary grants to Western Australia to July, 1849, totalled only £247,579. The comparison is supremely to the advantage of Western Australia.
Captain Fitzgerald, soon after his arrival in the colony, wrote the Resident Magistrate of each district, asking how many labourers could be immediately absorbed. After receiving replies he communicated with Earl Grey, requesting the despatch of 100 ticket-of-leave men from Pentonville. People at first took but small interest in the fate of the application. What they specially desired to obtain was labour, and, particularly, the use of the capital which would be introduced with a penal settlement. But, while they temporarily forgot what Governor Fitzgerald had done, Mr. Samson's letter from England and the last proposal from York revived the spirit of agitation. From time to time batches of Parkhurst lads had been introduced, who, to all intents, were juvenile convicts. During the years 1843 to 1848 some had been imported; in 1849 the Ameer and Mary landed 103 more. Some of the earlier boys were not amenable to restraint, and a few had become criminals. More and more objection was therefore taken to them, and it was thought that it would be as well to have convicts. In January, 1849, it was rumoured that old Western Australians, then residing in South Australia, were petitioning the Imperial Government to establish a penal settlement in Western Australia, obviously to enable them to sell their local property to advantage. According to the view of a few people the time had come when they must renew the agitation for a penal settlement.
Then a despatch was received from Earl Grey, copies of which were sent to various British Colonies. The Secretary for the Colonies was a warm advocate of transportation; he had formulated schemes of his own which he wanted to test. He desired an answer. Under date of 5th August, 1848, he wrote in laudatory terms of convict labour, and praised the good conduct of exiles at Gibraltar, Bermuda, and Port Phillip. But he did not consider it advisable that convicts should be set entirely at large on reaching the colony to which they might be sent after a certain period of good conduct. Tickets of leave were more satisfactory, for thereby the exiles could be restricted to certain districts, and the payment of moderate sums out of their wages in return for the cost of their conveyance could be enforced. "Sums thus recovered," wrote Earl Grey, "should be applied not to relieve this country (England) from the charge incurred on their account, but for the benefit of the colonies which may receive them, either in sending out free emigrants to meet the great demand for labour which exists in most of these colonies, or in any other manner which may be more suitable to the peculiar circumstances of others of them."
Such being the system under which he proposed to proceed, he thought the inhabitants of Western Australia should be willing to receive men with tickets of leave; they would obtain a supply of labour, and probable funds out of the men's wages, while there was reason to hope that the general character of the community would not be injured. Moreover, "considering the urgent representations which are constantly received at this office of the want of an adequate supply of labour, it seems possible that if this system of convict discipline were well understood, the colonists might be desirous of receiving men upon the foregoing terms in their last stage of punishment, and after they had earned a favourable character from the authorities under whose control they were placed." Earl Grey desired to know whether such a class of people was wished for in Western Australia, and upon receiving a favourable answer promised to take the necessary steps to make the colony a penal settlement.
Just at this time, owing to there being no extensive market for the transportation of convicts, English prisons were becoming uncomfortably congested, and a locality was anxiously looked for where their inhabitants might be disgorged. The rest of Australia, and also South Africa, refused convicts on any terms. A few months later Mr. Jackson, agent for Van Dieman's Land in London, petitioned Earl Grey, on behalf of his Government, for the cessation of transportation to that colony.
On 27th January, 1849, Messrs. L. Samson, W. Burges, R.H. Habgood, G.M. Whitfield, W.W. Hoops, R. Stewart, J.G.C. Carr, H. Devenish, J. Stokes, V. H. Sholl, A. O'Grady Lefroy, and P. Marmion despatched the following letter to Mr. G.F. Stone, the Sheriff of the colony:
"We, the undersigned requisitionists, beg you will call at your earliest convenience, a meeting of the whole colony for the purpose of taking into consideration the general prospects of the colony, its resources and want of labour to develop them; and to request Her Majesty's Government to adopt the only means which we can conceive calculated to save the Province from abandonment, viz., by making it at once a penal settlement with the requisite Government expenditure."
The meeting was held on 20th February, when several resolutions embodying its views were carried. These deplored the "steady and constant emigration of labour from the colony"; considered that fresh capital and abundant labour should be obtained to take the place of that which had been lost; and viewed with "regret and alarm" the proposal that the English Government should introduce persons drafted from the Penitential Asylums in England, and now on tickets of leave, as being a course quite unsuited to the wants of the settlers, and tending to make matters worse instead of better," inasmuch as it would inflict on the colony all the evils of a convict settlement without the necessary protection and expenditure. Finally, they agreed that—
"Application be made at once to Her Majesty's Government to erect the colony into a regular Penal Settlement, the whole cost of the transmission and supervision of all such convicts as may be transported hither to be borne by the Home Government."
These convicts should be employed in developing profitable resources which otherwise were totally useless to either the mother country or the colony; among them being the promising mines of lead and coal recently discovered in the N.W. and S., and the exhaustless supply of fine timber which would serve to freight home the ships by which the convicts were conveyed.
Governor Fitzgerald pledged himself to place the matter in a true light before Earl Grey, and expressed the conviction that strong measures were required to produce a reaction or even to prevent those who had the necessary money from leaving the colony. For some weeks an ominous silence was preserved; the opponents of convictism held back; the advocates waited. The memorial in course of preparation in York in 1848 was allowed to lapse. Desultory debates for and against convicts were held. Perhaps there were as many against as for; the opponents believed afterwards that they had been fatally silent. All colonists were uncommonly startled at what followed.
An Order-in-Council was issued by Her Majesty on 1st May, 1849, nominating Western Australia one of the places to which convicts could be sent from the United Kingdom. The news reached Western Australia in November, and was published in the Government Gazette on the 6th of that month. The action was so sudden and unexpected by the majority of people that they were thrown into consternation. It is an open question what was the exact state of parties, and in the light of the express original stipulation—that no convicts be sent—the opponents of the innovation were righteously indignant. They accused the English Government of wickedly breaking an oft-given pledge; of misleading original and all subsequent settlers; of initiating a dangerous principle without first obtaining the distinct opinion of the people.
Thus, although the constitution provided to the contrary, Western Australia was to be a penal settlement. The Inquirer was pleased; the old Gazette wrote in alarm that Western Australians had subjected themselves and their children to the "contamination and infamy" inseparable from a penal settlement. Earl Grey had "taken advantage of His Excellency's fatal application for 100 married Pentonville men to force upon the colony the character of being a penal one (a result, we believe, His Excellency by no means calculated upon when making the application); this, however, might have been resisted had it not been for the subsequent insane conduct of the colonists at the meeting of 20th February."
After the first commotion the opponents wavered, and like a frivolous girl, one moment they complained, the next they were pleased. All classes seemed afraid that some wrong thing had been done, yet their doubts were gradually dismissed when they considered the advantages that might be gained. It is not for us to decry the convict system; that it was introduced is regrettable, but in its working out it was manifestly beneficial. And many years after it was abolished no apparent taint was left on the community. Convictism in Western Australia and convictism in Van Dieman's Land, Norfolk Island, and New South Wales were totally dissimilar. It was a modified slave trade, where the bondmen were calculated to gain in morality, and where their native country was well rid of their presence.
The Legislative Council was convened by Governor Fitzgerald at an unusual season to consider the altered character of the colony. On 20th December, 1849, His Excellency explained to members that the proclamation recently issued was a necessary preliminary to enable Her Majesty's Government to meet the wishes of settlers in their approval of his own application for 100 men from Pentonville. He believed the measure would be of "great and lasting good," and lamented that settlers had taken alarm now that convicts were to be imported. Then, in a spirit of excuse, but doubtful consistency with the actual, he added that Earl Grey had "distinguished Western Australia by not sending one of these convicted persons to this colony until he had the sanction of settlers for doing so;" that the conduct of the expected convicts for good or evil rested entirely with the settlers in their mode of treating them. "With fair and considerate treatment," he emphatically declared, "these persons will prove as obedient and useful to their employers as any class in the community." He was prepared to give adequate protection to settlers, and asserted that if the convicts did revert to their old practices, the ordinance submitted would enable them to crush such a tendency. An ordinance was placed on the Statute book providing for the summary treatment of convicts, their arrest without a warrant, their employment on public works, their restrictions when on ticket of leave, and their punishments.
Governor Fitzgerald's address received searching criticism from some colonists, and was applauded by others. A few weeks later despatches from Earl Grey, dated 12th and 25th July, 1849, relieved the public mind. He wrote that—
"It is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to send a number of free persons equal to that of male convicts received in colonies which cooperate with the Home Government in carrying into effect this important part of penal discipline."
Moreover, he proposed to expend part of the appropriation in sending out the wives and families of convicts, and, wherever practicable, he would despatch military pensioners as a guard in convict ships instead of soldiers. He would not admit the justice of the repeated complaints that the Imperial Government had not in the past rendered the colony the assistance to which it was entitled, for since the foundation of Western Australia, the Parliamentary grants had amounted to £247,579. This was made up of annual grants in aid.
The people now admitted that the employment of gangs of convicts on public works certainly offered a "gleam of hope—just sufficient to drag us on in miserable uncertainty." The free emigrants would act as a set-off to the malefactors. Writing under date of 20th December, 1849, Earl Grey informed Governor Fitzgerald that it was intended to send out a moderate number of convicts, who would first be entirely under the control of the Government for employment on public works—harbours, buildings, roads, and cutting timber. The whole expense would be defrayed by the Home Government. When the convicts were set free from public works on account of good behaviour, their services would be available to the settlers. In conclusion, he pointed out that it was proposed to appropriate an annual sum for promoting free emigration equal in number to the convicts.
The Home authorities wasted little time in choosing the convicts who should inaugurate the penal settlement. These were obtained from Portland, and were stated to be of exemplary conduct. Western Australians wanted labour; they were going to get it as soon as the Imperial authorities could possibly send men out. The barque Scindian was equipped, and started on the voyage. On board were 75 convicts, 50 pensioners, 46 women, 78 children, and 14 emigrant girls. They were in charge of Captain Henderson, R.N., who was designed to be the Superintendent or Comptroller-General of the Convict Establishment of Western Australia, and Dr. Gibson, R.N., the Surgeon-Superintendent. Of other officers on board the Scindian who were to remain in Western Australia were Mr. Dickson (the principal overseer of convicts), and Mr. Manning (the clerk of works).
On 1st June, 1850, exactly twenty-one years after the foundation of the colony, the Scindian anchored at Fremantle. To the few who gathered on the beach, we are told that the landing of these unfortunates was an impressive, even a weird, sight. All the convicts had undergone a period of imprisonment in the congested gaols of England, and, after their long incarceration there and on board ship, the view of Fremantle, with its few houses and background of gloomy uncleared bush, seemed to dumbfound them. The strangeness of the situation and environment filled them with bewilderment. Instead of being received by an efficiently-armed force and marched under its guidance to a nasty prison, they observed but two stern officials. "Indeed," says one eye-witness, "the paucity of blue-coated officers astonished the convicts, which, with their bewilderment, left them indifferent and unconcerned. Presently they recovered from their surprise." It was many days before quarters were arranged for them, when, watched by the warders from the ship and guided by the local officials, they marched in file to their new prison.
The old-time fœtid atmosphere of a convict ship's hold and the overbearing discipline of the officers, associated with tradition and romance, were apparently not experienced by the felons on board the Scindian. Three days after their arrival, a letter, signed by the seventy-five men, was forwarded to John Gibson, R.N., and afterwards published in the local papers. The epistle ran, "We, the undersigned, having been treated by you with the utmost kindness and consideration during the course of that voyage, at the close of which we have now arrived, wish to offer you our most grateful acknowledgments—the only return in our power—and to assure you that we will ever remember the many benevolent acts by which our comfort has been promoted."
The old Fremantle gaol, situated at Arthur Head, was not suitable to accommodate these strange people, nor had the local Government made arrangements for their reception. On 4th June, Governor Fitzgerald proceeded to Fremantle, and agreed with Captain Scott to lease his premises, adjoining the site of the modern Esplanade Hotel, for five years at a rental £250 per annum, and promised to expend £1000 on improvements, which would be deducted from the rent. By the end of June all the convicts were immured in this establishment. The pensioners took up their quarters at a saw mill in the vicinity. Immediate steps were taken to fit up Captain Scott's premises. A long woolshed was enclosed, and was estimated to provide sleeping accommodation for 175 men, while other portions of the ground were set apart for offices, and also as a depot for implements, clothing, and stores of all kinds. The walls of this building still stand. It was intended that the labour of the men should first be devoted to the erection of a prison—a site at the rear of their present location, and under the hills, having already been looked upon with favour—after which they would construct important public works in different parts of the colony.
The discipline usually associated with a convict settlement was not yet enforced to any strained extent in Western Australia. There was none of that sullen, sulky appearance among the malefactors which was anticipated by those who had read of the enormities of convictism elsewhere, and it was weakly anticipated by colonists that they would enjoy all the benefits of convict labour without its usual objectionable and pathetic accompaniments. A visit to the felons disclosed no high-handed forcing of them to do their work, no cordon of guards and sentries waiting with rifles to shoot down an escapee. In short, not a guard was to be seen, save a gatekeeper, and, says one newspaper, the men looked contented and went about their work with good humour, and even alacrity. They seemed healthy, and hopeful of the possibilities contained in Western Australia. Some of them were decorated with two stripes on the jacket sleeve, and the letters "V.G." to signify "very good," or the best class of men; the remainder had but one stripe and the letters "G.G." indicating "good."
Officially a convict was known by a number. Whether the officer who assigned to each his number was an irrepressible wit, or with prescient instinct foresaw the effects of convictism in the colony, is not chronicled. Singularly enough, the name of "No. 1" of the Western Australian Convict Establishment was Samuel Scattergood; of "No. 2," John Patience. All the seventy-five men had been in gaol for periods ranging from seven to sixteen months, and twenty-three of them had been previously convicted. One was sentenced to fifteen years transportation for stealing an oak beam; another to fourteen years for stealing a copper funnel; another to a like term for stealing crockery; six to fifteen years for manslaughter, arson, burglary, stealing a sheep, rape, and stealing money with assault respectively; one to twenty years for setting fire to two stacks of straw. Numbers of them, who were of exceptional conduct, were, under a liberalised system, granted tickets of leave after July 1. They were of such varied avocations as farm labourers, warehousemen, painters, plumbers, glaziers, clerks, porters, saddlers, tailors, joiners, shoemakers, teachers, gentlemen's servants and grooms, miners, blacksmiths, stonemasons, bricklayers' labourers, agricultural stewards, and armourers. Their conduct was so good, according to a letter from Captain Henderson to Governor Fitzgerald, that he would not hesitate for a moment to receive any of them into his own service. If settlers desired any of these ticket-of-leave convicts they were required to make application to the Comptroller-General.
The laxity of the guard over the prisoners resulted in an almost ludicrous incident on 20th October. Four convicts quietly stole out of the barracks in civilian's attire, and walked boldly up to a hotel, where they obtained drink. "Then," says the newspaper, "they proceeded to break into a house, but were easily secured by constables." In the evidence given before a magistrate, the reporter declared it was deduced that "they were able to leave the depot at any hour they pleased, and in any dress, and visit the publichouses." Such a proceeding under a convict system might well call up from their dread abodes the spirits of many ancient convict martinets. Cries the Inquirer:—"We do not hesitate to say that the lives and property of the people of Fremantle are jeopardised so long as the present system is adhered to."
The pensioners, who were usually accompanied by their families, were open to engagement on farms and stations, but were liable to be called to render assistance to quell any outbreak among the convicts. The Government arranged to give them every encouragement to be industrious, and to become useful colonists. In July Governor Fitzgerald visited their quarters, and promised each of them ten acres of ground upon a nominal lease for seven years, when it would be made over in fee simple. They were given the privilege of selecting where they thought best, were further offered the assistance of convict labour to clear their ground, and, chief of all, were presented with an advance of £10 each to start with. The pensioners took advantage of this liberality, and numerous allotments are held in their names to this day. A few weeks after their arrival most of them were engaged out to settlers, as were also the emigrants landed from the Scindian.
Towards the end of 1850 a proportion of colonists still decried convictism in any form, and regretted its introduction, but the majority began to look upon it out of their pocket. Indeed, they became quite sordid, and when a few of the good effects of this application of foreign money and labour were being felt, they, like Dickens's hero, began to ask for more. The Scindian landed 400 tons of Government stores, including tools, ironwork—everything likely to be required in erecting gaols and in constructing public works. Contracts were entered into to supply the convict establishment with flour and fresh meat. This absorption of foodstuffs, and the benefits obtained from the work, not only of convicts, but of pensioners, without mentioning the increase in population, caused colonists to applaud the action of the English Government, and sigh and clamour for a numerous introduction of convicts.
For two years the Gazette, now entitled the Independent Journal, opposed convictism, but, writes the editor on 7th June, 1850:—"We must confess that sanguine as were our anticipations that the Home Government would accede to the wishes of colonists by granting a body of forced labour for executing those public works beyond our means, and yet so indispensable for the prosperity of the colony, we were not prepared for the liberal manner in which the design is apparently intended to be carried out. We must repudiate the idea that the present measure of the Home Government entitles Western Australia to be considered a penal settlement, according to the generally received acceptation of the term. It must be either one way or the other—no convicts, no public works, no public progress; or convicts, public works, and public progress. The settlers have before chosen their lot, and now must abide by their bargain."
The careful reader may find grains of inconsistency in extracts from this paper, but nothing to equal the charming complacency and conviction that they are no worse than their neighbours, contained in the sentence following:—"At the same time, shall we be worse off than the neighbouring colonies, who, although they may be free from the reputation of receiving convicts, are actually inundated with them from Van Dieman's Land, where they have received freedom as probationers." Better justified congratulations are found in a memorial emanating from the York, Northam, and Toodyay districts. This document, "extensively and unanimously signed" by the residents, was addressed to Earl Grey, and thanked him for acceding to their wishes. Yet they were not all acceded to. The memorialists "consider the introduction of convicts on a large scale the only means of placing the colony in a prosperous condition, and urge their speedy introduction as rapidly as circumstances will permit, accompanied with a proportion of free labour, and sufficient protection in the shape of troops and pensioners." The italics are the memorialists' own. No doubt recognising the necessity for an outlet for their numerous convicts, no more welcome message than the first part could be forwarded the Imperial Government.
A public meeting was held in Perth on 10th July, when resolutions were carried, thanking Earl Grey for answering the "prayers" of colonists, and asking that such numbers of convicts be introduced as were commensurate with the works necessary for the development of the colony. Mr. G. Shenton exclaimed that 150 men were not enough; 1,000 could be employed round the capital alone for ten years. To supply all their wants in the shape of public works, 10,000 men would scarcely be sufficient. Finally, the meeting again expressed its gratitude, but asserted that disappointment and distress could alone await the greater part of the persons thus brought to the colony "unless the permanency, as well as magnitude, of the convict establishment be secured."
Then came the Independent Journal, which complained that the protection afforded by the pensioners was quite inadequate. To gain a living they must disperse through the country. "Even on the contemplated small scale," it continues, "the Home Government ought to afford us at least the protection of a regiment of the line." More pleasure was manifested when, on 26th July, the ship Sophia arrived from Plymouth with thirty-four married couples, seventy single men, fifty-seven single women, and fifty-one children, all free emigrants.
Contrary to local expectation, only one more convict ship arrived at Fremantle in 1850. This was the Hashemy, which put into port on 25th October with 100 men. So busy had been the convict authorities on the premises of Captain Scott that there was already ample room for the accommodation of the additional arrivals. A metamorphosis, delightful to the heart of the colonist, had rapidly taken place, and a cluster of buildings surrounded the square old store. In these the various departments of the Establishment were congregated.
Convicts from the Scindian and Hashemy were constantly being allowed to leave the prison on tickets of leave and were being absorbed by settlers. Stories, startling enough for memoirs, were circulated concerning the past of one and another of them; the further the reports went the more inflated they became. Their only effect was to lend a spice of excitement to the employment of ticket-of-leave men, for, otherwise, the poor fellows proved valuable enough to the settlers. With change of climate, environment and prospect, many of them were encouraged to industry and honest living.
While the convict establishment was busy in building at Fremantle the Government was not idle. The arrival of so many new people, and the anticipated prosperity induced them to put up new buildings directly or indirectly required through the influx of people. Thus in March 1850, tenders were called for building a schoolroom at Fremantle; in July, from those people willing to furnish barrack accommodation to from twelve to twenty soldiers at Fremantle; in September, for the erection of a stone wall, 354 feet long, and about 7 feet high, to enclose part of the Government Domain in Pier Street; in November, for building barracks on the Whale Jetty, Bathers Bay, Fremantle; and in December, for building a bonded store at Fremantle, 21 feet by 48 feet.
The year 1851 broke full of promise. What with more labour for settlers, and an increased number of consumers for local products, an immediate benefit was gained from the penal establishment. Convicts were about to work in road parties in different parts of the colony, depots were being established in the chief centres, and members of the community were awakened from an old standing lethargy. It was the beginning of a period of persistent activity in public works, and, says one writer, himself a convict, thenceforth for some years "the primitive history of the colony is written for ever in its roads." The construction of these main lines of communication marked a point from which much that is now valuable may be traced. Roads, bridges, jetties, streets, and public buildings followed each other during ensuing years. It is not our intention to refer at this stage to the procedure of the automata of the system on these works; the system was in its fullest swing some years later.
In April, 1851, a Finance Board, having as its original members Messrs. T.N. Yule (Acting Colonial Secretary), E.G.W. Henderson (Comptroller-Genera]), and H.C. Darling (Assistant Commissary-General), was appointed to check improvident expenditure in the Convict Department of Western Australia. Its duties were mostly those of recommendation to the Governor, and through him to the Imperial authorities. All matters connected with finance were brought before the board, which was required to prepare the estimates for convict expenditure.
Among the first questions debated was that of deciding whether the Imperial Government should be charged with the salaries of clerks, police, and magistrates who were directly employed by the local Government. This was a question about which there was considerable debate among colonists. By the increase of population and the necessity of additional protection new clerks were employed, magistrates' duties were doubled, and a large augmentation of the police corps was enforced. The Imperial Government agreed in 1852-3 to pay two-thirds of the police fund, and also made an allowance to magistrates and other officials. Before the completion of these arrangements the number of police in Fremantle, Perth, and country districts was materially increased. Some of these officers were imported from Van Dieman's Land, some were taken from among the settlers, and some came from England. A water police force was organised at Fremantle, and whaleboats and other necessary accompaniments were obtained. In November it was decided to immediately establish a mounted police force throughout the colony; the cost to be defrayed out of the convict fund for the first two years. All the concomitants of a penal settlement were gradually established, even to the engagement on 18th June, of Mr. F. Armstrong as schoolmaster to the convicts. In December two engineer officers and 65 sappers and miners arrived per the barque Anna Robertson. Most of the soldiers were accompanied by their wives and children. Ten children were born on the voyage.
Some excitement was caused in February when it was announced that several convicts had escaped from the road gang stationed in the northern district. Not yet at home with the convict establishment fear took hold of the more timid settlers, and all sorts of terrible visitations were anticipated; they even began to regret the introduction of convicts at all. The only harm the felons appear to have done was caused by robberies from the huts of shepherds in the northern district. Most of the marauders were soon captured, already in some degree impressed with the hopelessness of
escaping from such a natural prison as Western Australia. 0ne man, named Furlong, gave himself up at Perth on 13th February. He had vainly gone to Fremantle to board an outgoing vessel. In January four convicts stole a whaleboat and sundry small articles belonging to the establishment at Fremantle. They proceeded to sea, and were believed to have taken a southerly course. This was not so; after a run of eight days the fugitives reached Sharks Bay, their intention being to make the northern islands. While men from the Hashemy were taking in guano at Sunday Island in Sharks Bay, the mate observed a European watching them. He hailed the stranger, who explained that he had come from Perth on foot and swam across to the island. Unfortunately for him, the fugitive was recognised by several of the crew, who had sailed with him from England. He was arrested, as also were his companions, who were in the neighbourhood. The escapees were taken to Fremantle, and, on 20th March, sentenced to three years' hard labour in chains.
Sickness prevailed among the men herded at Fremantle in January and February, and was imputed to inferior bread, but was subsequently discovered to arise from unwholesome water. The heat was so intense that they had drunk more than was good for them. Taken substantially, colonists were satisfied with the conduct of the ticket-of-leave men; indeed, the Independent Journal somewhat satirically remarked that they were so quiet and orderly as to provide "instances from which our free settlers might take example." This satisfaction remained throughout the year, and was adverted to at intervals by the newspapers. The humane system was praised, and alarm of injurious effects allayed.
In January Governor Fitzgerald wrote the Secretary for the Colonies assuring him that Western Australia could at once receive 500 convicts without inconvenience; no fewer than 803 men were despatched during the year. But before their advent the characteristic spirit of agitation and complaint was manifested. From earliest days Western Australians had justly agitated and complained, and now when some of their requests were being granted they could not apparently put by the habit as they would an old cloak. In March complaints were published concerning the delay in arrival of free labour. All work was said to be at a standstill for want of hands—sawyers, carpenters, and bricklayers particularly—and prices had risen to such an extent as to forbid speculation. While wanting these men, the Independent knew not where, if they came, they were to be lodged, unless the usages of the first few years of the colony were returned to, and they became dwellers in tents. His Excellency spoke of the same matter in the Legislative Council in April, and explained that he had written the Secretary for the Colonies "shortly after" the arrival of the emigrant ship Sophia, informing him that 150 of its passengers were in the depot unemployed, and supported by the colony at a heavy expense. Then when in September, 1850, he learned that they were all employed except a few badly-conducted women, he again wrote Earl Grey, asking for 150 additional emigrants.
It is but just to explain that there was a reason for this seeming inconsistency and vacillation in policy. The colony had but a limited exchequer, and the idiosyncrasies of the labour market rendered difficult to foretell what would happen in the future. Yet Governor Fitzgerald had but taken consideration of the activity in the latter half of the preceding year, and of the new developments that were almost monthly taking place, he might easily have recognised that the demand for free labour would increase. No free emigrants arrived in 1851, and complaint was intermittent on that score, although the market was frequently being relieved by the rapidly-increasing number of convicts out on ticket of leave.
So little was the colony able to cope with its increase in population that it had not sufficient local flour for its own consumption. Many of the largest settlers, though they had lordship over immense areas of land, did not possess large flocks of sheep, or herds of milch cows, or fields of corn. They and the smaller farmers were glad to obtain a good price for what products they had, but were loth to observe that the convict officials were proposing to obtain their supplies of flour from neighbouring colonies. Though there was insufficient for the demand in Western Australia, farmers approached Governor Fitzgerald when they learned that he could, and probably would, get it cheaper in South Australia. They held that the authorities should at any cost encourage local industry, though they might have to pay £5 more a ton for flour. Governor Fitzgerald referred the matter to Earl Grey, who, on June 30, replied that "convicts were not sent to Western Australia in order that the growers might have an opportunity of selling their produce at a price £5 a ton dearer than it could be procured without their aid." The Independent Journal confessed that the Convict Establishment was bound to be extensive, but "so long as the principal article of food has to be imported from another colony we lose the most important portion of the only benefit which the colony can derive from such an establishment—the expenditure." Quantities of wheat were offered the Government by local people at 5s. 6d. a bushel, but the authorities considered the price too high. The farmers retorted that 5s. per bushel was the very lowest at which they could dispose of wheat without loss. Captain Henderson was said to be inclined to support the farmers; but, no matter how high a price was given, wheat and flour had to be imported. Quantities were obtained in neighbouring settlements, and in 1852 250 barrels of wheat were imported from England.
On 7th May, 1851, the convict ship Mermaid arrived. She had on board 208 felons. Among them were 43 youths of ages varying from sixteen to nineteen years, from Parkhurst Prison. Their sentences ranged from seven to fifteen years; one, a boy sixteen years old, was sentenced to seven years' transportation for stealing shoes. A previous conviction told against him. The vessel also conveyed 27 pensioners, and 30 women and children. The Pyrenees landed 293 convicts, 35 pensioners, 35 women, and 30 children on 28th June. On 15th October the Minden arrived with 302 ticket-of-leave men, 40 pensioners, and 71 women and children. All the convicts on the two last vessels had served sentences in the United Kingdom, and were therefore eligible to tickets of leave. After a short probation in the establishment they were allowed to engage themselves to settlers under strict conditions. Their arrival was calculated to take the place of free immigrants, with the additional advantage of supplying cheaper labour to their employers. Those who were not immediately taken into private service were employed on public works. In October the ticket-of-leave men from the Minden presented Dr. Gibson with a flattering address; and, not to be behindhand, the pensioners did likewise.
The pensioners (who were now becoming a numerous class) from the Pyrenees and Minden arrived in the colony under new regulations. They were required to serve for twelve months either for military purposes or on public works without charge to Western Australia. Many of the convicts from the Pyrenees were sent to the Bunbury district, where their services were in great request by the settlers.
With more men the Comptroller-General could complete his proposals concerning the formation of depots at York, Toodyay, and Bunbury. In all these places old buildings were purchased, or the erection of new ones was begun in 1851, for the accommodation of the felons. In July parties of 40 each were sent to those centres for public works purposes, and to be hired out. A superintending warder controlled them, and other necessary officials were appointed. The construction of main lines of roads was begun in each place, and arrangements were made to cut the road to run from Fremantle to Perth.
In July the Finance Board decided on the remuneration, direct from the funds of the Convict Establishment, of the following officers:—On the Perth and Fremantle Road—Dr. Galbraith, medical officer, £50; Captain Bruce, visiting magistrate, £50; Mr. C. Gregory, assistant-superintendent, £109 10s. and quarters; Rev. R.W Mears, chaplain, £50; Overseers Fowler, Johnston, and McCormack, £52 10s. each. At York—Captain Meares, visiting magistrate, £50; Mr. R. Viveash, medical officer, £36; Mr. E. Parker, assistant-superintendent, £73; overseer, Assistant-Warder Caldwell, £52. At Toodyay—Mr. J.S. Harris, visiting magistrate, £50; Rev. C. Harper, chaplain, £50; Mr. M. Clarkson, assistant-superintendent, £73; overseer, Assistant-Warder Stamford, £52; At Bunbury—Mr. G. Eliot, visiting magistrate, £50; Mr. Bedingfield, medical officer £36; Mr. Onslow, assistant-superintendent, £73; Overseer Wright, £52. All the chief officers were given a forage allowance of 6d. per diem. It was also decided to form a depot at Guildford in October. Dr. Wollaston was appointed medical officer to the convicts in the Albany district.
Comptroller-General Henderson, on 23rd July, 1851, instructed employers to make a deduction from the wages of ticket-of-leave men, in pursuance of the original arrangements. He regulated the scale at 8s. 6d. per month in order to make up the necessary half-yearly payment of £2 10s. The yearly amount required from the employer was £5, which went in payment of the courier's passage to the colony. The total amount required to be paid by each ticket-of-leave man was notified to the employer.
The largest body of prisoners not on ticket of leave was detained in Fremantle. Not only was this necessary because of the important buildings being erected there, but because the worst class of men had to be kept under severe control. It may be well imagined that the colony now contained men of the worst passions. Among these a strict discipline was preserved, and the ears of Fremantle residents began to be shocked by the jangle of chained men. No serious difficulties were yet experienced, and breaches of discipline were comparatively few. The erection of a permanent building to house the constantly increasing body of convicts was started with zest. It is said that Captain Henderson desired to erect the prison on Mount Eliza, at Perth, but that Governor Fitzgerald refused to countenance such a proposal; a site was chosen on the side of the hill overlooking Fremantle, and on 4th August an ordinance passed the Legislative Council vesting "the site of the convict prison of Fremantle in certain officers in trust for Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors for ever."
A tram line was laid down, and by July ran from the locality of the proposed prison into the valley below, where pensioners' barracks and officers' quarters were already in course of erection. The soil excavated from the hill-side was deposited by the tram in the valley, and was intended to form an enclosure for garden. When that was levelled the tram line was lengthened and the hollows filled up to the beach. Hard white stone, taken from the hill and from near the banks of the Swan at North Fremantle, was used on the buildings. Thick walls were made, and the structures promised to be models of solidity. Fremantle was now the theatre of activity; of depraved serfs, officially known by numbers, forced to work under the directing eye of free men. There were not sufficient mechanics among them to carry out the work, and the Comptroller-General introduced free men, with their wives and children, from South Australia, in August.
Of public works in which the Government was directly concerned there were many. The various branches of the civil service were rendered so busy that the officials had never known the like before. The Government completed or were constructing such structures as a lock-up at Bunbury, a room at Fremantle for water police, two houses at Guildford, a guard-room near the tunnel at Fremantle, a house near the gaol at Fremantle, a new court house on Arthur Head at Fremantle, abattoir at Claise Brook near Perth, servants' home in Murray Street, Perth, weatherboard house on Carnac Island, and additional offices on the north-west wing of the Government Offices, Perth.
Beyond continued toiling in public works and in cutting temporary roads in country districts, 1852 was chiefly remarkable for the number of free emigrants imported to the colony by the English Government. Three vessels arrived and landed such numbers that colonists could no longer accuse the mother country of not keeping her pledge. On 24th February the Will Watch put into Fremantle with 49 males and 43 females; on March 26 the barque Mary with 49 males, 50 females, and 23 children; and on 31st May the barque Raleigh with 167 people—all free emigrants. It was some months before all these new comers were absorbed, and the colony was put to some expense in subsisting them.
Only two convict ships arrived. These were the Marion on 31st January with 279, and the William Jardine on 4th August with 212 men. Of those on the Marion 161 were eligible to tickets of leave. The Marion conveyed 30 sappers, and the William Jardine 29 pensioners.
The Imperial authorities, in keeping with their liberalised convict system, were still willing to despatch, free of charge, the wives and families of ticket-of-leave men who might ask for them. In their new surroundings in Western Australia the convicts were not always anxious to have the company of their wives of other days, and often, it must be confessed, contracted new alliances with incoming female emigrants. Some were not so inconstant, and applied for the introduction of their families. Meanwhile, the wives, apparently considering that the conviction and transportation of their husbands justified their seeking new mates, repeatedly married again in England. The Emigration Commissioners in London communicated, by request, in 1851-2 with the wives and families of 60 ticket-of-leave men, but not one took advantage of the offer to be conveyed to Western Australia. That the ticket-of-leave men were not devoid of humanity, and were like unto other men, was manifested in January, 1852. Those employed in and near Perth talked of uniting to form a club for the maintenance of their sick. This step was not necessary some months later when the Colonial Hospital was completed, where sick convicts were treated at the expense of the Convict Fund. Besides, invalid depots were soon formed at Fremantle and Perth for their accommodation and branch depots in country districts.
Public works were conducted with as much rapidity as the limited number of convicts directly under the control of the Establishment could manage them. Numbers of new arrivals were almost immediately sent from the prison on tickets of leave, the remainder were being released every week; hence, comparatively few were employed on public works. Governor Fitzgerald, in his address at the opening of the Legislative Council in December, adverted to this point, stating that out of 1469 convicts landed in Western Australia, only the small number of 156 was at the complete disposal of the Government. The ticket-of-leave men in private service numbered 845. In referring to these men a few weeks earlier, the committee of the York Agrieultural Society "felt bound" to state that many of them had proved excellent farm servants. Similar compliments came from different parts of the colony. As was to be expected, a proportion of them proved troublesome and lazy, and were constantly being thrown back on the Establishment.
A further instance of the free and easy style of guarding convicts was deduced in January, 1852. It was at once a serious breach of the restrictive law, and an amusing contretemps. Thirty ticket-of-leave men at York desiring to once more disport themselves on a racecourse, proceeded in a body to the local races. This was a direct defiance to prohibition, and, to make the matter worse, one report alleges that the convicts carried bludgeons. The settlers were astounded, and the magistrates present suspended the races. Moreover, the latter proceeded to swear in special constables to arrest the offenders, and gained the no doubt willing and anxious support of fifty or sixty aborigines, armed with native weapons. The convicts evidently recognised that they were to see no races that day and wisely retired. This action so pleased the magistrates that they pressed the Governor to pardon the offenders. Such a serious contravention of propriety was not to be passed over. The Perth Police Magistrate journeyed to York to make enquiries, and he sent six of the ringleaders back to the depot at Fremantle.
In January, 1852, three convicts escaped from Fremantle; two, who were heavily ironed, managed to break their cell doors and get away without the knowledge of the sentry on guard. The escapees seized a ticket-of-leave man, and under threat of murder compelled him to conduct them to a hut at North Lake where they obtained two guns. About two months afterwards the felons were re-captured in the south, and were sentenced to three years in irons.
The barracks for pensioners at Fremantle was now occupied. The gaol in Bunbury was completed in 1852, and those at York, Toodyay, and Albany were nearly finished. Pensioners' villages, containing rows of cottages, and small plots of land adjoining each house, were commenced or in immediate contemplation at North Fremantle, York, and Toodyay. Cottages were built and occupied by pensioners at Bunbury. The work of lengthening the Perth jetty, of building a Lunatic Asylum and a new Colonial Hospital was begun in Perth. The hospital, which was completed early in 1853, had accommodation for forty persons, and was temporarily used as a Lunatic Asylum, until the completion of a building for that purpose. Additions were made to numerous public buildings, churches, and gaols. A Roman Catholic school and two new parsonages at York and Bunbury were under construction.
The roads begun in 1851 were pushed on with in 1852. Before the end of the year a new line was cut by convict labour from York to Toodyay, as also was the track from Perth to Fremantle. Omnibus traffic was projected on the latter. Several roads were begun; such as from York to Northam, Toodyay towards Perth, Toodyay up the valley towards Culham, and from Bunbury towards Perth. A road was begun from Albany to Perth, but owing to the want of men was temporarily discontinued in 1852. The preliminary work on this highway was done by runaway sailors and native prisoners. Preparations were also made to construct bridges over the Swan at Guildford, and across the Capal River, in the S.W., to complete the communication between Perth and Busselton.
The position in 1853 was not much altered. The number of convicts was considerably augmented, but the convict system was not established in its entirety until later on. In previous years people were to some extent dissatisfied that there was not more activity in pushing on permanent roads, but with so many men out on tickets of leave and so few in the Establishment, this could not be done. With the additional arrivals in 1853 there were more men available. Public works were proceeded with briskly before the end of the year. Several important roads were in course of construction. With the accession of more men the size and the number of road parties were added to, until, over hundreds of miles, bands of these men were come upon among the trees. Work on the Albany Road, a highway of great importance, was renewed, and before 1854 all the rivers or creeks along the line were bridged, while a small portion of it was macadamised. Five bridges were constructed wholly by prison labour, an arrangement which Governor Fitzgerald estimated would save the colony £2,000. Bridges totalling 500 yards in length were completed on the Gordon Road, a work which was begun in June, 1853, and though never more than 70 convicts were engaged upon it, the clearing was completed within the year. Portions of the road to Clarence were macadamised, the large Guildford bridge was nearly finished, and was opened to traffic early in 1854. Throughout York, Toodyay, and Bunbury stray parties of convicts were engaged. Nearly the whole expense of these extensive works was met by the Convict Establishment, so that their completion was of paramount advantage to Western Australia. The influence of British capital was insinuating itself broadcast, and smiles began to take the place of frowns on the countenances of the colonists. Two colonial schools, at Perth and Fremantle, and a bridge over the Avon, at York, were among the works in which the Government was engaged. A depot was established at Mount Eliza in 1853.
The Imperial authorities were considering the wisdom of altering the law concerning transportation. Lord John Russell made a speech upon a measure subsequently introduced to Parliament in 1853, which was construed by colonists as an indication that the Government intended to discontinue deportation. Without waiting to obtain confirmatory evidence, residents of Perth held a public meeting in May, 1853, to protest against the improbable innovation. A memorial was drawn up protesting that the introduction of convicts was advantageous to both settlers and felons, and urging that the introduction should be continued. A few days later a letter from England was published which relieved unduly anxious minds; it declared that convicts would undoubtedly be despatched to Western Australia for as long as colonists chose to receive them.
The arrivals of convict ships in 1853 were the Dudbrook, on 10th February, with 229 felons; the Pyrenees (second voyage), on 1st May, with 296; the Robert Small, on 19th August, with 309; and the Phoebe Dunbar, on 31st August, with 295 men. This number (1,129) was the largest landed in the colony in one year. The men on the Robert Small were almost exclusively Irish prisoners.
Upon the arrival of the Phoebe Dunbar certain dangerous prisoners managed to rid themselves of their irons, and became abusive and violent. Order was not restored until some of the ringleaders were bayoneted by the military. Six men escaped from a working party near the Establishment in September, but were recaptured next day. In November four men escaped from a bathing party on the beach at Fremantle. They proceeded to the Canning, where they robbed several houses and obtained firearms. The police came upon them next morning, and after several shots were fired by both parties the fugitives laid down their arms. Three were sentenced to five years in irons, 100 lashes, and three weeks' bread and water each. The first man to surrender was more leniently dealt with, and was sentenced to three weeks' bread and water and 100 lashes.
The introduction of convicts came at an opportune moment. Late in 1851 news reached the colony of the gold discoveries in Victoria, and when confirmatory reports were received a mania to proceed to the goldfields spread far and wide over Western Australia. In March, 1852, thirty-nine men went east, and other bands left the colony at intervals. The migration promised to attain such proportions that Governor Fitzgerald placed as many difficulties in the way of the gold-seekers as lay at hand. Since earliest days it was necessary to give notice to the Colonial Secretary when leaving the colony; a debtor about to leave could be arrested. It is said that these regulations were applied with severity at this time. Had the finds been made a few years earlier, it is doubtful to what lengths the migration would have gone. It was too much to hear of poor men picking up a fortune by merely arching their bodies. In these and subsequent years Western Australia lost many of her most useful settlers. The Governor was fearful; the newspapers decried the migration (as Victorian papers decry the western migration to-day); in brief, a spasm of apprehension seized upon the larger settlers. Nor was Western Australia alone in this. The other colonies suffered in a more serious degree. South Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania were temporarily depopulated. Waving crops of plump corn were left to rot in the fields, and industry of all kinds stagnated almost to annihilation. Victoria in four years attracted hundreds of thousands of people from the four corners of the globe.
Western Australians hoped to find a goldfield in this colony, In December, 1852, two or three parties of young men went out into the eastern country and prospected, but though the gold was actually not far away, it was not for them to discover it. Intermittent prospecting was carried on in following years.
The population of Western Australia was not materially affected by the goldfields up to 1853. One record gives the departures at about 400. There were 5,886 freemen and convicts in the colony in 1850, and in 1853 there were 9,334. By the end of the latter year 2,598 convicts had been introduced, as well as nearly that number of free emigrants, pensioners, and soldiers. In 1853 there were several arrivals of free emigrants, some of whom took the first opportunity of proceeding to Victoria.
The particulars of revenue and expenditure naturally token an increase. In 1850 the revenue was £12,365 14s. 9d., and the expenditure £11,154 9s. 4d. The Parliamentary grant in aid brought the revenue to £19,137 14s. 2d., and the expenditure on services, &c., was £16,656 16s. 1d. There was a large increase in revenue in 1851 and following years. The general receipts in 1851 totalled £18,108 10s., in 1852 £25,688 10s. 9d., and in 1853 £28,812 3s. 9d. With the Parliamentary grant the revenue in 1853 was £37,353 6s., and the expenditure £38,052 15s. 9d. The revenue expanded to such an extent as to warrant the erection of numerous public buildings. The enormous increase of imports and the renewed activity in landed interests were chiefly answerable for this expansion. The imports in 1850 were valued at £62,351 7s 9d., in 1851 at £56,598 7s. 9d., in 1852 at £97,303 16s. 7d, and in 1853 at £126,735 8s. 3d.
The conditions of the colony were undergoing singular alterations. This refers to the export trade. The export of sandalwood diminished instead of increased. In 1848 the value of sandalwood export transcended that of any other commodity, but after 1850 it showed a remarkable falling off. In 1850 the figures were £1,220, in 1851 £1,593 15s., while in 1852-3 sandalwood is not mentioned in the list of exports. This was due in a slight degree to the local demand for hardwoods, which were required in the building of houses, and particularly to a large fall in prices at Singapore and elsewhere. Under the heading of timber the figures exhibit an increase. Convict ships took in as much cargo as they could procure, which they conveyed to England or to India. In 1850 timber valued at £1,048 was exported, in 1851 £268, in 1852 £806, and in 1853 £5,520. The sandalwood toll was reduced in 1849.
Several conditions crept in to explain the lack of interest in export. Taken substantially, the total exports did not increase in equal proportion to the increase in previous years. The chief reasons were a small sandalwood export, and an improved local market for stock and products of the soil. The consuming power was greater, and settlers turned their energies to increasing the breadth of their fields in crop. The total exports in 1849 were £26,156, in 1850 £22,134 15s. 3d, in 1851 £26,869 15s. 8d., in 1852 £24,181 5s., and in 1853 £29,510 16s. 4d., or (with a quantity of imported goods re-exported as not needed), £31,645 8s. 4d. The areas under crop, the statistics of stock in the colony, and the birth of new industries, help to explain these peculiarities. In 1850 there were 7,419 acres of tilled land, of which wheat occupied 4,416 acres; in 1851 the total area was 7,294 acres; in 1852 7,634 acres, and in 1853 10,299 acres. The statistics of stock show that in 1850 there were 128,111 sheep, 13,074 horned cattle, and 2,635 horses, and in 1853 157,968 sheep, 20,265 cattle, and 3,986 horses.
Broadly speaking, all these figures would suggest that the introduction of convicts, free emigrants, and "foreign" capital had for a time almost paralysed colonists with surprise. It seemed to take them some time to grasp the situation, and to clear and break the ground in their new fields. There is no doubt that they instituted innumerable improvements in farming and in gardening. Even so early as 1850-53 farmers were not able to compete with the eastern producer, and hence large shipments of flour were introduced. Sheep and gardens returned them their best early profits. The production of potatoes and other vegetables rapidly increased, and the accession of population brought a more ready sale for mutton. So far as sheep were concerned, although the number slaughtered for local consumption was considerably increased, the export of wool held its own. Thus in 1850 wool to the value of £15,482 14s. 10d. was exported, in 1851 £17,883 3s., in 1852 £16,768 7s. 8d., and in 1853 £19,870 15s. 6d.
A comparison of the retail prices of foodstuffs in March, 1850, immediately before the arrival of convicts, and in December, 1853, will be interesting. With the increased demand and the limited supply prices in certain cases rose enough to gratify the desire of the most envious colonist. The first quotation of each article gives the price in 1850; the second that of 1853:—Bread, 5d. and 8d. a 2 lb. loaf; flour, 2d. and 3d. a lb.; wheat, 5s. to 6s. and 10s. a bushel; barley, 4s 6d. and 7s. a bushel; eggs, 1s. 6d. and 1s. 6d. a dozen; butter, 1s. 9d. and 3s. a lb.; mutton, 1d. to 3d. and 7d. to 8d. per lb.; beef, 2d. to 4d. and 6d. to 7d.; pork, 5d. to 6d. and 10d.; cheese, 1s. 2d. and 1s. 1d. a lb.; milk, 4d. and 6d. a quart; potatoes, 9s. to 10s. and 16s. to 18s. per cwt, and wool, 8d. to 11d. and 8d. to 14d. per lb. Live stock—fat cattle, £3 to £6 and £8 to £15; sheep, 3s. to 6s. and 15s. to 20s. (wethers), and horses, £5 to £20 and £25 to £40.
By the aid of the large rise in prices the incomes of producers were doubled and hence prosperity was once more within their grasp. The chief rise took place during 1853, when so many additional consumers arrived. A great improvement was manifested in the appearance of the country districts. The York Agricultural Society in 1852 congratulated settlers on their flourishing condition; Governor Fitzgerald also expressed his delight at the more prosperous appearance of country-people, and the newspapers referred to the "splendid progress" apparent on all the farms. The Leschenault and Vasse districts by reason of higher prices extended their agricultural operations. Several houses were erected in Busselton in 1853, and gave it a village-like appearance, while the Government erected new buildings in Bunbury, Albany, and other districts. Albany mainly depended on whaling for its support.
Of nascent industries the most important were the attempted utilisation of guano deposits, renewed enterprise in mining, and the manufacture of wine. Several samples of wines were produced in 1848 which were reported as being of excellent quality. The prohibition of distillation was viewed with great disfavour. In 1849 vignerons persistently laboured to improve their gardens, and in February, 1850, a cask of colonial wine was sent to London per the barque Mary. One vine planted by Mr. Gallop in 1845 produced abundance of fruit in 1850. It was of the Wortley Hall variety. Fifty-seven bunches averaged 3½ lbs. in weight, and one bunch weighed 5½ lbs. There were some large vineyards at Northam, Guildford, and Toodyay. In 1852 wine valued at £12 15s. was exported.
In 1848 indications of guano were discovered in Shark's Bay, and thenceforth for several months attention was directed to establishing an industry. Parcels were despatched to Mauritius and highly commended. The discovery of guano on Egg Island was reported in England, and in 1850 the ship Laurel was commissioned by capitalists to proceed to the spot to confirm the statement. The captain found deposits, and immediately sailed to Singapore; acquainted his principals with the fact by mail, and, it is said, asked that vessels should be chartered to carry away 8,000 tons.
The local Government also took early steps to confirm these reported discoveries, whereupon they decided that the Government was justified in exacting royalties. They first proposed to impose a royalty of £2 10s. per ton. Under this arrangement, five vessels loaded in Sharks Bay in 1850 (island not mentioned). Among them were the Carriban, Nimble, and Merope. The Governor despatched, per the Champion, one sergeant and four soldiers to the mainland to watch over Government interests. In May these men were reported to be in bad heallh through drinking too much water. They were relieved by others. Only a few hundred pounds were obtained by the Government on this royalty. What with high rates paid for charters, and low prices at port of discharge, the shippers lost in their deals. The Government did not receive the due amount of royalty.
In January, 1851, an offer was received by the Government for the purchase of 20,000 tons of guano at £1 per ton. The offer was declined; the Government determined to protect local interests. In May, 1850, a cargo of Western Australian guano from the Tippo Saib was put up for auction at Liverpool, when the highest bid was £5 10s per ton. The lot was withdrawn. One hundred tons were subsequently sold at £6 a ton—a most unsatisfactory price for the shippers. This discovery of guano was considered to be of great interest to agriculture in England, and representations were made to the Secretary for the Colonies on the high royalty charged by the Western Australian Government. The Duke of Richmond complained in the House of Lords. Earl Grey instructed Governor Fitzgerald to reduce the royalty to £1.
The reduction was made in August, 1851. An agreement was entered into with Gibson and Co. (a local house) and Schneider and Co. (of Germany), by which those firms were allowed to remove guano from the north-west (no place mentioned) up to 50,000 tons, at 16s. a ton. Even this arrangement did not succeed. The expense of obtaining the guano, and the low market prices caused the industry to be almost abandoned for some years.
In 1850-51 several vessels loaded in Sharks Bay without permission from the Government. When Lieutenant Helpman was making his explorations on the north-west coast in 1851, he observed vessels in Sharks Bay. Two, the Samuel and Union, were anchored at Monkey Island, and two others, the Sir Edwin Head and the Candace, had full cargoes, and were about to proceed to sea. He discovered two islands near by, whereon he estimated there were 700 tons of guano. Later in the year, in June, he again sailed up the coast, on this occasion bound for Exmouth Gulf, where he hoped to find deposits. Discoveries had been announced on islands in these waters, and vessels were expected to load there. A few days satisfied him that no guano was to be found in the Gulf. One object of these voyages was to subserve the interests of the Government by preventing ships from loading guano without paying royalty. While returning to Fremantle, Helpman met two vessels at Quoin, the captains of which assured him that there was more than sufficient guano to load ten vessels in Freycinet Harbour. On a third voyage, made in October, November, and December, Lieutenant Helpman found five islands in Sharks Bay, which, he said, contained guano of a superior quality. Similar discoveries were made in other places, particularly on Long Island. Rootless vegetation of a singular kind lay upon these guano deposits like a carpet, which they were able to roll up in patches of fifty and sixty yards with the greatest ease. Other deposits were found further south. The soldiers were removed from Sharks Bay in 1851.
Navigators and cursory visitors had occasionally reported the presence of pearl oysters in the north-west. Dampier observed pearl oysters in Sharks Bay in 1699. Other navigators made similar discoveries. In 1850-1, while Lieutenant Helpman was exploring in Sharks Bay, he found several clumps of pearl oysters on the shoal connecting Saturday Island with the mainland. In each clump were five or six oysters, and on opening some of them he discovered pearls about the size of a pea. Colonists were gratified to obtain such information, and application was made by a local firm for the exclusive right to search for pearl shell in Sharks Bay. Governor Fitzgerald granted the application, on the stipulation that the Government should receive a royalty of one-eighth of the yield. The Advocate-General doubted whether the Governor had such power without the authority of an Act of Parliament. An awkward situation arose. In May, 1851, the Secretary for the Colonies, by a most unusual assumption of office, took upon himself the right of administering local affairs out of the usual channel—through the Governor. He gave permission to a London firm to dredge for pearl shell in Sharks Bay without paying duty up to July, 1852. When this information reached the colony, the Governor was astonished, and the Inquirer, denounced the "downright impudence" of the Secretary for the Colonies. Despatches were exchanged, and it was finally determined and insisted by Earl Grey that the right of fishery should remain open to the public, and that no duty be imposed in 1852 or afterwards without the sanction of the Home Government. It was discovered that Captain Fitzgerald had exceeded his powers. It was generally considered that Earl Grey should have consulted with the local Government before making any concession of rights over Western Australian property.
Some additional efforts were devoted to horse rearing for the Indian market. A meeting was held in Perth in September, 1849, to consider the question. Attention was drawn to the splendid market for horses in India. The action of Mr. Princep at Bunbury, Mr. Phillips at Toodyay, and others at York, in introducing superior strains of animals was commended. A serious attempt was made to form a large company, but owing to disagreement nothing came of it. The Scindian sailed in August, 1850, with twenty-three horses, and the Minden in November, 1851, with thirty-five horses for the Indian market. In January, 1851, the Government offered a bonus of £60 to the first importer of one male and two female camels, also £60 to the importer of two male and eight female alpacas, if landed within twelve months.
In April, 1852, Postmaster-General Helmich brought coffee and cotton seeds from India, and offered them to those persons willing to experiment in such culture.
A few exhibits were sent from Western Australia to the historical London Exhibition of 1851. Bunbury supplied three bushels of wheat, two fleeces of wool, one plank of mahogany, and twelve trenails. It was announced that the samples of wheat from Western Australia, weighing 67 lbs. to the bushel, were inspected by hosts of people, and that the specimens of hardwoods were admired.
Perhaps the most distinctive features of industry were the inauguration of settlement in the Champion Bay district, and the initiatory development of the Geraldine Mine. When the exploration party of 1848 reached Perth, it was announced that one of its members had applied for an area of land on the Murchison River. It was also reported in 1848 that copper ore had been discovered on the Victoria Plains, a report which was confirmed by Mr. A. C. Gregory, who discovered the lead vein on the Murchison. In one place on the Murchison he found granite rocks intersected with small veins of quartz, some of which contained traces of zinc, lead, and copper. Then on 16th October, 1848, he came to a spot where galena ore filled a cleft in the rock, one foot wide and thirty yards long, which, however, was submerged in three feet of water, so that he could not examine it thoroughly. He was confident of the mineral resources of the Murchison. The galena ore in the cleft had a potent interest for Perth people, and they soon got Mr. Gregory's report confirmed.
Mining under the auspices of the Western Australian Mining Company on the Canning at Kelmscott receded in popular favour, and the imaginative vistas of prosperity to be gleaned out of the coal deposits on the Murray were dispersed by the reality of a few months of sinking. Assays of ore obtained at Kelmscott undoubtedly proved the presence of silver and zinc and copper, but though shareholders in the Proprietary Company were convinced that there must be an exceedingly rich mine somewhere in the neighbourhood, they were unable as yet to extract sufficient metal to encourage the investment of more capital. In December, 1849, a call of 1s. per share was declared. In 1850 the Western Australian Mining Company was dissolved, and work at Kelmscott was stopped. Sinking on the Murray for coal had long been suspended. Mr. Gregory confirmed the coal discoveries on the Fitzgerald River.
The hopes of getting a rich mine in the colony were now centred on the north-west. The coal deposits on the Phillips and Fitzgerald Rivers, near Esperance Bay, must go abegging because local people were not strong enough to work them. Yet all were sanguine that they would have a great ultimate value. The Government Gazette of 17th March, 1849, proclaimed that the Government had a lead mine for sale; it was the attractive looking deposit in the rock cleft under the waters of the Murchison. A small company was immediately formed to purchase it. In April it was announced that the company, comprising thirty-two shares of £20 each, had taken up 640 acres of land, including and surrounding the site. The name of the Geraldine Company was taken in honour of Governor Fitzgerald, and it was also decided to name the mine Geraldine. The trustees (or directors) were Messrs. A. O'Grady Lefroy, G. Shenton, and R.M. Habgood. Without waste of time tenders were called in May to raise 100 tons of silver lead ore, and to cart 50 to 100 tons to Champion Bay. The advertisement states that the country between Geraldine and Champion Bay contained abundance of feed and water, and that the Geraldine mineral vein was of pure ore, with an average width of 18 inches, open to the length of 320 yards.
These tenders were conditional on the Government affording ample protection to any party which might proceed thither. A few days later Governor Fitzgerald offered the Geraldine Company the protection of twenty-five soldiers. In September a meeting of shareholders was held, when it was determined to purchase a team of horses to draw the ore to the seaboard, owing to no definite offers having been received. In October, however, two horse teams were hired for three months, and it was agreed to employ workmen and obtain provisions for a like period. Mr. W. Burges, an animating spirit in the whole proposals, was appointed to superintend operations, and to proceed to the Murchison in company with Messrs. Gregory, J. N. Drummond, jun., Hester, seven soldiers, and assistants—fourteen men in all.
Arrangements were made for the party to set out, and in fulfilment of his pledge Governor Fitzgerald commissioned Lieut. Helpman to convey soldiers, provisions, and necessary equipment to Champion Bay in the schooner Champion. Every thing was got ready, and early in November, 1849, the couriers of northwest settlement left Swan River. Messrs. Burges, Gregory, and Drummond, with several men, went overland on horses; arranging to meet Lieut. Helpman at Champion Bay. The Champion left Fremantle on 18th November, and arrived at the anchorage on the 20th. The troops were landed next day, and a large tent was erected out of the sails on the beach.
The land party reached Champion Bay on 22nd November. While about to camp on the Greenough Flats the previous evening the band surprised a hostile tribe of 70 natives. An attack was expected, but with the aid of Mr. Drummond and the native boy, Kardakai, attached to the expedition, who explained the intentions of the Europeans, hostilities were obviated. Many of the blacks were among those who attacked Governor Fitzgerald's party the previous year; Kardakai learnt from them that two black men and one woman were killed on that occasion. The survivors made a meal off the deceased as was their custom, whether death be from natural or other causes. With the principals of the land party Lieut. Helpman sailed to the mouth of the Murchison to decide upon its fitness as an anchorage for loading minerals. Mr. Gregory and Mr. Burges agreed with him that it was unsuited for that purpose. On the 26th a wooden house designed for the people at Geraldine was landed in Champion Bay, as also were other chattels and the provisions. Sixty-three natives (leaving their spears in the scrub) drew near and watched their movements.
The pioneers started from the beach on 28th November for the scene of operations. They were in charge of Lieut. Elliot, who, with one sergeant and twelve men of the 99th Regiment, led the way. Following came Messrs. Gregory, Burges, and Drummond, seven men, two carts, and fourteen horses. Several natives were of the party. Geraldine was reached without mishap on the 1st or 2nd of December. The house was erected and a line drawn round it, within which the local natives were warned not to encroach. The natives were described as a fine race of men. They were quarrelsome among themselves, and most of them bore numerous scars. One showed no fewer than thirty-seven wounds from spears and kileys. A plain lay like a sombre carpeted floor around the mine; the pool had now become dry, but fresh water was found at a depth of 10 feet in the sandbank. No time was lost in getting to work, and in a few days a quantity of ore was raised. Taking 26 cwt. of lead ore in the carts, the main body of men returned to Champion Bay on 11th December. Three men, under a Mr. Roper, were left to work the Geraldine mine, and were protected by six soldiers.
Mr. Burges in his report states that large quantities of zinc and excellent specimens of copper ore were obtained. Around the mine there was plenty of timber and stone, but no clay for lining a furnace. He recommended that the ore be smelted at the mine, and was sure that by doing this the concern would pay well.
In the meantime changes were taking place in Perth. It was announced in January, 1850, that the original syndicate had sold the mine for £1,600, to be taken in shares; a profit suggestive of mining in Western Australia in recent years. A new company was projected by the purchasers. Mr. R. J. Sholl was appointed secretary pro tem.; the capital was placed at £6,400, in 1,280 shares of £5 each. A competent mining captain and two miners were sent for, and an estimate of expenses was drawn up. It was expected to cost 30s. per ton to raise ore, £4 to smelt it, £3 to cart it to the seaboard, which, with 10s. as contingent expenses, made a total of £9 per ton. Lead in Singapore was then quoted at £18. News was published of a second visit from Mr. Burges to the mine, when he reported the discovery of a rich and extensive vein of silver lead ore, of abundance of clay, and of a vein of copper. Rich specimens were conveyed to Perth. The company was duly floated; Mr. James was appointed captain; miners were engaged, and machinery was purchased.
In October the plant was sent to Champion Bay, thence to the mine. Captain James's first report delighted shareholders; he writes of the mine that "at the south-west end is a fine lode, 2 ft. 4 in. wide, with 1 ft. of solid galena." He expected to have hundreds of tons of lead ore on the surface within a few months. Thenceforth work proceeded briskly. Mr. Gregory tested the the copper ore, and said it contained 28½ per cent. of copper; three specimens giving 23 per cent., 27 per cent., and 45 per cent. respectively. In 1850 lead ore to the value of £55 was exported, and in 1853 copper valued at £7 10s, lead ore at £4, and pig lead at £1,200. One lot of pig lead shipped to Batavia in the latter year was sold at £23 net per ton. Vessels repeatedly took in ore at Champion Bay. Some magnificent stuff was raised, and among the workers en the Geraldine mine were ticket-of-leave men.
Messrs. Burges and Drummond remained at Champion Bay after the expedition of November and December, 1849, and were the pioneer pastoralists of that district. Mr. Burges took upon lease a large area of country, on the Bowes River, near Northampton. In 1852 he purchased some of the land upon which he formed the homestead—"Knockbrack." Mr. Drummond proceeded on similar lines, his station stretching from the mouth of the Buller River, where he purchased freehold in 1851. Other pastoralists merged to these districts in 1850 and following years, and took up extensive areas on lease. The following freeholds were purchased in 1852:—Of Davies, Wallcott, and Co., on the Greenough Flats; of Thomas Brown (Glengarry), M. Logue (Ellendale), and J. S. Davis (Tibradden), on the Greenough; of H. A. Sanford, at Port Gregory. Mr. Robert Foley purchased freehold adjoining the present Geraldton town site in 1853, and Messrs. Hamersley and Co. on the Greenough in 1854. Messrs M. Morrissey (Mount Erin, on Chapman River), C. R. Princep, and W. H. Miller were also among the pioneer flockowners and agriculturists. All of these gentlemen took up land on lease at first. Plots of land were presented to seventy-six pensioners on the Greenough Flats, but did not prove very remunerative. Without a market the plots were too small. Among the pioneer pensioners were Messrs. James Doran, William Stokes, James Stone, and James Adlem. In 1850 Mr. S. P. Phillips selected 20,000 acres of land on the Irwin River and pioneered settlement there. With his party he came upon a splendid stream of water, near which the grass reached almost to the horses' shoulders. He also took up land on the coast, and removed portion of his excellent strain of horses to these places.
Lieutenant Elliot remained near the shore as a safeguard for the pioneers against the natives. He had under him a detachment of the 99th Regiment. Part of the town of Geraldton, named after the Governor, was surveyed in 1850 by one of the Gregory brothers, and the first lot was sold in June of that year. Other parts were surveyed in subsequent years. The first house was erected in May, 1850. It was composed of "wattle and daub," and was inhabited by Lieutenant Elliot.
Messrs. Burges and Drummond drove sheep and cattle to their new pastures in 1850, and other settlers followed their example. In 1850 there were twenty residents in the Champion Bay district; in 1851 there were 68 horses, 1,140 cattle, and 5,860 sheep there, and in 1852 there were 12,859 sheep. It was proved that Captain Grey was right in his report, and that the country in from Champion Bay was well suited for pasturing sheep; hence the rapid multiplication of flocks. For a time no difficulty was experienced with the natives, but in 1851 they caused serious apprehension to arise. They were known to have speared isolated sheep, and in January, Messrs. Burges and Drummond surprised a large body of natives in the act of killing a cow. Mr. Burges, who was in advance, was assailed with spears and boomerangs (kileys). One boomerang struck him on the head and rendered him insensible for some time. The natives drove off and killed on this occasion 33 cattle, rushing them madly down steep hills until the animals toppled over and broke their necks. Other disturbances took place about the same time. Mr. Drummond, jun., had a very narrow escape. While near his hut several natives rushed towards him hurling spears. It was only by remarkable adroitness that he evaded them.
Mr. Austin, who had been attached to the Australind survey staff, had for some years been connected with the Government Survey Department, and was commissioned to conduct the survey work at Champion Bay. With Lieutenant Elliot he made numerous excursions into surrounding country, and gathered considerable information for the Government.
Much correspondence took place between Governor Fitzgerald and Earl Grey concerning the expenses of the Government in assisting the opening up of the Champion Bay country. Under the annual Parliamentary vote in aid of the Western Australian administration, the Secretary for the Colonies could refuse sanction to any expense which he did not consider necessary. He did not believe in these expeditions; would sanction no expense incidental to them, and declared that the occupation of land should be checked rather than extended. Governor Fitzgerald wanted to appoint a sub-protector of natives at Champion Bay; Earl Grey refused his sanction. Mr. Burges was appointed Resident Magistrate of the district in 1852. Among the inhabitants were ticket-of-leave men.
It was natural, for a few years after the establishment of the convict system, that little energy should be displayed in exploration. The authorities were so busy in public works and in meeting the demands of a phenomenal amount of public business, and settlers were so engrossed on the lands they already possessed, that parties were not equipped. Mr. Austin and Mr. Gregory made several short excursions, and Lieutenant Helpman sailed up the north-west coast in the Champion on different occasions to carry provisions to the military at Champion Bay and to search for guano.
The first of these voyages was made in 1850, when the Lieutenant proceeded to Sharks Bay, examined various islands, and landed in several places on the coast. Beyond the discovery of guano islands he viewed no country of much value or interest. In February, 1851, he went north again, his ultimate goal being Exmouth Gulf. He had several objects in view, such as to search for guano islands, to see if any rivers ran into the gulf, and to exploit the waters for pearl shell. He was prevented from searching carefully for rivers, and found no guano deposits or pearl shell. When near the North-West Cape, on the home voyage, on 29th March, flood tides and light winds carried the Champion close to a detached reef before her commander was aware of its proximity. Fortunately the schooner stayed, for, by the time she came around, her stern was within the roll of breakers. The quiet maintained and the quickness of the sailors in executing orders saved the vessel. Had she struck, all the the men would probably have lost their lives. The next anchorage was near the mouth of the Gascoyne River, and Mr. Austin, who was on board, and Lieutenant Helpman, sought to make an extensive examination of its banks. They were unable to proceed far owing to droughts, which left the country parched. A few patches of good soil were observed. Another voyage was made to Sharks Bay in 1851 to provision the military there and to scan the various islands. Mr. Austin was again on board. On this occasion he found pearl shell in Sharks Bay. Several new islands were discovered during these voyages, and names were awarded them generally according to the day on which they were examined, such as Saturday Island, Monday Island, &c.
The subject of land laws continued to harass the minds of Western Australians. Advocates for the reduction of the minimum sales price of Crown lands received a rude shock from Earl Grey. The land laws were somewhat similar in each Australian colony, and, with incidental differences, similar agitations were carried on. In a despatch dated 11th August, 1848, the Secretary for the Colonies informs colonists that "the very same arguments which are now brought forward against the establishment of the minimum price of £1 per acre in 1841 was urged with no less confidence against the establishment of a minimum price of 5s. an acre as a substitute for free grants in 1831, and the subsequent advance of that price to 12s. per acre in 1839. Each of these changes has been regarded with equal apprehension, yet, as I have observed, it is with the adoption of that policy, which has equally dictated each successive advance in the price of land, that the great progress of the colony may be said to have commenced." That the last clause of Earl Grey's despatch is not correct is easily proved in Western Australia, where no distinct progress of a lasting character had yet been made.
In 1848, Mr. R. W. Nash wrote what was termed an admirable exposé of the fallacy of selling Crown lands at a high rate, but it had no other effect than to supply newspapers with a subject for eulogistic critiques. The advantage of squatting had not been lost sight of, and was the cause of many despatches from the Secretary for the Colonies, public meetings, political resolutions, and the formation of committees in the colonies themselves. Governor Hutt carried a proposal in the Western Australian Council some years earlier, by which it was intended to allow the purchasers of sections of 320 acres to have a right of commonage over adjoining Crown lands. Local people were well pleased, but the Secretary for the Colonies refused his assent.
In September, 1847, regulations for the leasing of Crown lands were issued. These provided that only a given number of sheep should be run on a given area of land. The licenses were for one year only. First is given the number of sheep required, then the size of lease, then the rental:-
And so on in the same proportion. No license of less than 4,000 acres was given. A horse or a bullock was reckoned to be equal to four sheep. Some large areas were taken up.
A circular despatch was sent by Earl Grey to the various Australian colonies in 1848, suggesting a new set of land regulations, principally in regard to the leasing system. Each colony treated the matter substantially in a different spirit. The Western Australian Legislative Council appointed a Committee to consider the suggestions, and to draw up regulations. All its members were large landholders, a fact which was adversely commented on with dogged iteration. The committee proposed to divide leased lands into two classes. Those in Class A were for seven years tenure, to date from 1st January to 31st December, open for pastoral or tillage purposes. Class B embraced those lands not included in Class A. In Class A the committee would exclude from its privileges—(1) all lands within two miles of the sea-coast line; (2) all lands within three miles of all town sites; (3) all lands within two miles of either bank of certain named rivers and of permanent streams of the colony; (4) all lands within ten miles of the top of Wizard Peak, of the junction of the Fitzgerald and Elives Rivers, of the summit of East Mount Barren, and such other lands as the Governor might afterwards proclaim; and (5) all lands within three miles of all fee-simple grants. Tillage leases were issued only under Class A. The objectionable features are obvious.
Mr. M. W. Clifton wrote that under these regulations all good land, water, and proximity to towns and settled districts would be shut out from desiring settlers. The Independent Journal of 22nd June, 1849, also pointed out that "a virtual prohibition of tillage, unless by purchase, is made of the whole of the land in the colony which is at all likely to pay for cultivation." Moreover, a "very suspicious preference is given to large landholders, who, in fact, were the principal framers of the regulations (probably owning among then one-half of the land of the colony). As if, forsooth, they had not already culled out the best portions of the country, and left little else for newcomers but sand and scrub, on even which they cannot bear the pollution of others settling within three miles of their principalities. Surely the colony has suffered sufficient from the enormous possessions of these lords of the soil without the evil being perpetuated by fresh regulations of their own framing."
Such a state of affairs could not be allowed to go. With no pretension to representation in the making of their laws, public meetings and memorials were the only means settlers had of asserting themselves. Messrs. W. L. Brockman, R. M. Habgood, L. Lukin, J. T. Cooke, A. O'G. Lefroy, and L. Samson called for a meeting, which was held in Perth on 18th July. It was largely attended, and unanimously proclaimed "that the regulations framed by the committee for the occupation of the waste Crown lands are unsound in policy, unjust in principle, inapplicable to the wants of the colony, in opposition to the wishes of the colonists, and, if adopted, will tend to frustrate the introduction of immigrants, the increase of revenue, the production of wool, and cause a gradual depopulation of the settlement."
Those people present were certain of their views. It seemed to them that such an effort to impose a piece of bad legislation called for a distinct expression of opinion as to the law-makers. Only one course was open to them—to propose a vote of want of confidence by means of a memorial to the Home Government. It was carried, before the meeting terminated—(1) "That as the settlers have no confidence in certain members of the Executive Council, that a memorial to the Home Government be drawn up, embodying substantial reasons for the same, and praying their removal; and that His Excellency the Governor be requested to forward the same." (2) "That His Excellency the Governor, after he has received Her Majesty's approval of his list of gentlemen eligible to sit as members of the Legislative Council, be respectfully requested to cede so much of his prerogative in favour of the colonists as to allow them to select members from that list". A third resolution dealt with the tariff, and asked that the ad valorem duty should not be estimated according to the value at the place of shipment, but according to the cost of production in the colony. A committee was appointed to draw up a memorial, but with the withdrawal by the Council of the most objectionable provisions of the proposals, the memorial was allowed to lapse. A condemnatory meeting was also held at York.
Ever since the imposition by Governor Irwin and his Executive of the toll on sandalwood, and a proposal which he made to raise official salaries, he and others were severely animadverted on by the people. Hence the desire for a change in the personnel of the Council arose not alone from these proposed land regulations. From one cause or another several changes took place in the Executive and Legislative Councils in the years 1848 to 1853. Dr. Madden, who was held unblameable for the sandalwood toll and other acts which caused colonial annoyance, severed his connection with the Government late in 1848, and left the colony, amid general regret, in 1849. Ill-health and the accidental death of his son were apparently the reasons. Mr. Bland, for many years Government Resident at York, and subsequently Secretary to the Governor, succeeded Dr. Madden as Colonial Secretary. Mr. T. N. Yule succeeded Mr. Bland in June, 1850, who in his turn gave way to Mr. C.A.J. Piesse in November, 1850. Then, in September, 1851, Major H.A. Sanford became Colonial Secretary, a position he occupied until 1855. The private members of the Legislative Council in 1850 were Thos. Brown, M.W. Clifton, and L. Samson. Mr. G.F. Moore went to England on leave of absence, and in 1852 Mr. B.W. Vigors became Acting Advocate-General. Captain E.Y.W. Henderson, Comptroller-General, became a member of the Executive and Legislative Councils in June, 1852, and Mr. W.P. Clifton a private member of the Legislative Council. In 1853 Mr. Bernie was appointed Advocate-General, and arrived in the colony in January, 1854. Colonel Irwin resigned, and was succeeded by Captain G.M. Reeves. With all these changes members for whom colonists had special antipathy had voluntarily left the Council, and of the pioneers only the popular Surveyor-General, Mr. Roe, and the Judge, Mr. Mackie, remained. These two gentlemen retained the regard of the people unaltered. Mr. G. F. Moore finally severed his excellent connection with the political institutions of the colony. For long years he had earnestly striven to do his duty, and, especially in the first few years, had been an instructive helper of the people. These turns of public opinion among Western Australians were as the wind; it was when their pockets were affected that they cried out loudest.
To digress still more, it is fair to say that the new men were not exempt from condemnation. Though colonists had no direct representation in the primitive Parliament, they knew well how to show disapprobation of administrative acts. In 1851 a bill was introduced providing for the increase of salaries of Government officials, from the Governor down. A wild cry of indignation arose from certain colonists, while the press condemned the proposal as wicked and unwarranted. With the accession of convicts the duties of the administration had greatly increased, and the Executive conceived that officers merited higher remuneration. The magistrates received additions which were paid out of convict funds. The rise took place, but not without bitter and undignified language being thrown about with astonishing liberality. In May, Governor Fitzgerald asserted that he had "never felt in a more trying position," and that he would not accept the proposed increase "until it was fully demonstrated to him to be the wish of the public." Then, with withering sarcasm, he said he "had done with the press; it was beneath contempt." The Independent Journal, going to almost the extreme limit of independence, replied— "The Legislative Council have put the finishing stroke to one of the most flagrant deeds of spoliation of public funds which even a despotic Government like that of this colony ever perpetrated or ever attempted." Then, obviously arraigning Governor Fitzgerald, the writer continued, "The ill-judged and contemptible abuse of the press which the members thought fit to make use of during this extraordinary sitting of the Council, is a striking proof of how utterly unfitted they are for the position they occupy as legislators; to attempt to browbeat and put down any public comment upon their doings surely betrays a consciousness that they will not bear the test of examination, and the assertions of His Excellency that the papers are continually misrepresenting the intentions and acts of the Government are too puerile almost for contempt."
The principal salaries paid in the Civil Service in 1852 were:-
|Governor ...||£1,300||Customs Department ...||£1,202|
|Private Secretary ...||150||Harbourmaster's Department ...||302|
|Clerk ...||100||Postmaster-General ...||200|
|Colonial Secretary ...||600||Do. do. (clerks, &c.) ...||273|
|Clerks (3) ...||330||Aborigines Department ...||859|
|Clerk of Council ...||200||Medical Department ...||560|
|Treasurer and Deputy ...||90||Military Department ...||182|
|Auditor ...||300||Schools ...||300|
|Registrar-General ...||50||Judge ...||500|
|Surveyor-General ...||500||Advocate-General ...||400|
|Surveyors (8) ...||1,575||Judicial Department ...||760|
|Works Department ...||260||Resident Magistrates (11) ...||925|
But, returning to the land proposals, the Council, convinced that the committee's proposals would not be supported by colonists, shelved them for awhile. A bill was submitted in 1850, despatches were interchanged with Earl Grey, and in December, 1850, it was proclaimed that for 1851 rental of 10s. per 1,000 acres would be charged for depasturing licenses. The Government retained the right to build roads, to take away any indigenous product, rock, or soil, to cut timber, sandalwood, or other woods, to pasture Government horses or cattle working upon the land, and to the right of way through leased lands for persons passing from one part of the country to another, with or without stock or teams, on all necessary occasions. Restrictions as to land contiguous to rivers were enforced. Up to April, 1851, depasturing leases to the extent of nearly 1,500,000 acres were issued under these regulations.
The Governor suggested to the Secretary for the Colonies that tillage leases should be issued without harsh restrictions as to positions, and that a rental of 1s. per acre be charged. Earl Grey, says one writer, "dashed his pen through the figure" without consideration of the circumstances, and required that the rental be 2s an acre. In August, 1851, new regulations were proclaimed by Governor Fitzgerald. They provided that tillage leases would be charged at 2s. an acre, and should not contain less than 100 acres. Each lease would comprise 320 acres, in blocks as nearly square as possible, with no more than one-fourth of the external boundary line on any river or open water, and no selection to include both banks of the same. All applications were subject to the approval of the Governor. Where two or more parties applied for the same land the lease was to be put up at auction, when only the applicants were allowed to bid; the full price was required to be paid down on the day of sale. Survey charges were paid by applicants. Should a lessee purchase any part of his holding during the currency of his lease an abatement of rent was made until its expiration, provided that the annual rent was not reduced below £10. A rental of 2s. an acre was almost prohibitive; it was hopelessly unsuited to the circumstances.
At the same time new regulations for pastoral leases were issued. Lands in Class A were to be let at not less than 2s per 100 acres in sections of 1,000 acres and upwards; the yearly rental must not be less than £1. Pastoral leases were limited to 20,000 acres, and carried the exclusive right of occupancy for pastoral purposes only. Indeed, a pastoral run was made liable to forfeiture if any land not covered by a tillage lease were cultivated. No compensation would be given for improvements upon the expiration of the lease. Transfers were subject to the Governor's approval. The lessee was generously allowed to cut timber for domestic purposes, buildings, fences, stockyards, &c., but was not permitted to sell or remove such timber from his land. Leases dated from 1st January to 31st December. The reservations of Crown rights were the same as in those regulations issued in December, 1850.
Any ordinary student of land laws will recognise how impolitic were many of the restrictions in these leases. In the light of subsequent experience, and of the excellent examples and results of liberal land laws in America, it will at once be conceded that these regulations were not calculated to encourage cultivation. The great need of Western Australia then (as it is now) was to encourage the utilisation of the land, and to attract a large population. The pastoral lessee might well feel that he was dishonest if he presented a bundle of sticks to his neighbour, or planted cabbages in a few feet of ground at the rear of his premises. Indeed, it would seem that the regulations were wishing to define the position of one living on the land of a rich friend by a too generous suffrage. He would be anxious to erect by constant exertion substantial improvements, which would revert to his friend, but almost ashamed to receive any profits from his work for fear of robbing him. The restrictions were foolish. The Imperial officers had not yet recognised certain essentials of colonisation. Colonists remained satisfied with these regulations for a few years.
Two more items of interest must be mentioned. In June, 1850, the Government Gazette proclaimed that the minimum prices at which town lots would be put up for sale were:—In St George's Terrace, Adelaide Terrace, and Waterside, £22; in Hay Street, £17; and in the back streets, £12. It was announced in the same year that another company was formed in England to take up land for settlement purposes in Western Australia. The report said that the land of Sir James Stirling had been purchased, and that this scheme of colonisation was based on the principle of assurance societies. The scheme was abortive.
Besides the erection of numerous public buildings, improvements were gradually being made in the condition of colonists. Foremost was the increased regularity of mail communication with the United Kingdom and between local settlements. Early in 1849 the Government sanctioned the employment of natives, under guarantee of the contractor, for the carriage of mails through the country districts. These letter-carriers were first tried between Fremantle and Bunbury, and proved so trustworthy that a more extensive use was made of them. One result of the agitation in previous years for better communication with England was demonstrated in 1849. In June Mr. G. Shenton arranged with the Government to obtain by the brig Arpenteur all mails that might be at Singapore or Batavia, charging £15 and £10 respectively. But the despatch of mails, via Singapore or eastern colonies soon became unnecessary. The R.M.S.U. Company arranged in 1852 to run a line of steamers direct to Australia, and determined to make Albany a coaling station. In July, 1852, three ships were discharging coal at that port, and it was obvious that the departure would serve a double purpose. It would not only supply Albany with a new source of income, but would also supply Western Australia with regular and frequent mail communication. Captain Doutty arrived at Albany on July 12 as agent for the pioneer company, and in the same month the first steamer—the Australian—landed the mails. Two pack-horses conveyed the budget—a large one—to Perth in six and half days. The Chusan—a P. and O. steamer—conveyed mails from Singapore in August, 1852. A public meeting was held in Perth in August, supplicating the English Government to arrange with the P. and O. Company to land mails at Fremantle, or else to charter a steamer for that purpose. In June, 1853, a bullock cart, of all strange things, was on the road conveying mails direct from Albany to Perth. Says one newspaper:—"This eccentric mode of conveyance has not the redeeming qualification of being sure as well as slow. The patient animals have succumbed under the weight of their precious burden—have, in fact, knocked up."
On 27th April, 1853, a public meeting in Perth resolved to establish a Chamber of Commerce; on 11th May the chamber was organised. Mr. Dyett was elected the first chairman, and Mr. King the secretary. In some respects this body took the place of the defunct Agricultural Society, without its wide sphere of influence and power. In March, 1851, it was proposed to establish a Mechanics' Institute in Perth. Good fortune attended the proposal, and on 25th May, 1852, the foundation stone of the Swan River Mechanics' Institute was laid by Governor Fitzgerald. This institution proved a great convenience. The Western Australian Magazine, contributed to by colonial literary men, was produced for the first time in August, 1851. The Vineyard Society collapsed in 1849.
In 1849 efforts to remove the bar in the river at Fremantle were renewed, and it was exultingly stated that the current was widening the opening. The Governor hoped that all colonial vessels would be able to enter the river in three years' time. The lighthouses at Rottnest and Arthur Head twinkled across the bay to each other early in 1851. Two wrecks occurred, one in 1849, the other in 1852. The first was the Arpenteur, which was driven ashore at Cheyne's Beach on 7th November, 1849, while taking in oil during a strong gale. The second was more serious. On 3rd September, 1852, the Eglinton, from London, went ashore 28 miles north of Perth. Several lives were lost; all on board—51 persons—had a narrow escape. The vessel rapidly broke up, and the beach, for miles along the coast, was strewn with wreckage. On board was specie valued at £11,000, which sank 10 feet in the water, but was afterwards recovered.
Two revered pioneers succumbed in 1849. On the last day of May George Leake died, and early in July Samuel Moore followed him. Both were Justices of the Peace, had been members of the Legislative Council, and were strong links in the chain of historic events. In commerce and in mining they were of the most enterprising.
The natives did not prove of much trouble, except at the new settlement in the Champion Bay district. Mrs. Camfield, Mr. Armstrong, and other altruistic workers, laboured constantly to improve their condition. In their schools they had no lasting success. Up to a certain age the black children were quick, but when the reflective work was begun all efforts to help them became futile. The Island of Rottnest ceased to be a penal settlement for natives in 1849, and was delivered over to Mr. Dempster, the lessee. It was computed that 500 natives were employed in the more populous districts in 1849—chiefly as herdsmen. As police constables, they were proving of excellent assistance, specially by reason of their tracking propensities. Orders were given in 1851 to shoot all native dogs; these animals had so increased that they had become a never ending nuisance. A constable in obeying this order in Perth narrowly escaped being shot by a native. The latter's gun snapped.
Religious interests developed in sympathy with the colony. Additional churches were opened, and more stability began to surround the New Norcia native mission. Father Salvado, with indefatigable energy and inflexibility of purpose, devoted his life to the aborigines, and after securing their goodwill, began to teach them in schools and in the field. Father Serra separated from the mission.
In 1848 reports were circulated in religious circles in Perth of an alleged disagreement between Protestant and Roman Catholic officials. They arose chiefly because of the refusal of the Roman Catholic Bishop to sit on the Board of Education. Colonel Irwin, who was Governor at the time, with less diplomacy and wisdom than he usually showed, mentioned in a despatch to the Secretary for the Colonies that irritation existed. He was probably wrong in his report, but when what he had done became known locally, there certainly was "irritation" at his "unwarranted" action. Earl Grey rebuked Colonel Irwin with a caution. A joint meeting of Roman Catholic and Protestant residents was held in Perth in January, 1849. A resolution signed by 106 persons affirmed that Colonel Irwin's report was false, as it was unjust, and declared that the greatest harmony existed between the two sects.
A more serious disturbance however, took place among the Roman Catholics themselves. In 1852, Dr. Serra, who had become attached to the church in Perth, accused Bishop Brady of holding his elevated position in opposition to the authority of His Holiness the Pope, and that he (D. Serra) was the apostolic administrator of the local church and missions. Dr. Brady denied this, and for some months members of the church were divided in their allegiance. The people were on the rack of excitement, and serious allegations were published against either party.
The Roman Catholics held a meeting in the Court House, Perth, in May, 1852, to appoint trustees to the church property. Dr. Brady, who occupied the chair, refused to accept an amendment against his own election to such a position, and so it was asserted, unjustifiably declared himself elected, and dissolved the meeting. His Grace, Archbishop Polding, Metropolitan of the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastical Province of Australia, came from Sydney to settle the dispute. He delivered a pastoral address to the Roman Catholics of Western Australia, and authenticated reports that Dr. Brady had been degraded, excommunicated, and confined by order of the Pope in the prison of St. Angelo, while in Italy a few months previously.
Dr. Serra became the bishop in 1852, and in July Archbishop Polding addressed a letter to Dr. Brady, ordering him to proceed to Rome, and threatening that if he remained in Western Australia he would be declared "separated from the Church of God." Dr. Brady pleaded that certain promises had not been fulfilled, that his private effects had not been restored, that he could not pay his debts, and that if he tried to leave the colony he would he arrested for debt—a proceeding that "would dishonour the sacred character of a bishop."
The matter was taken into court, when Dr. Brady sought to recover from Dr. Serra private goods and chattels. The case was decided in favour of Dr. Serra. A letter was read in court which purported to be sent by Archbishop Polding to Cardinal Franzoni, asking that Bishop Brady be allowed a pension in Rome.
Dr. Serra afterwards visited Rome, and Father Salvado officiated as bishop in his absence. During 1853 Bishop Salvado proceeded to Europe, and returned with priests and monks for his New Norcia mission.