Page:Australia, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay.djvu/156

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were ruined by their rapid and unprecedented depreciation in value.

The cause of sheep having originally attained so high a value was the high price of Australian wool in the London market, and the great influx of emigrants of capital from Great Britain, who all eagerly purchased flocks of sheep at any price, under the idea of making rapid fortunes. When however, from various causes, the emigration of persons of capital was diverted from New South Wales to other colonies, the surplus sheep found no buyers, for the number of wethers required by the butchers, &c. was a mere trifle compared with the supply. The flock-masters, being thus unable to sell their surplus sheep, became panic-struck; for most of them were-more or less embarrassed by engagements contracted with the supposed certainty of being able to meet them by a sale of some of their sheep; moreover, as the wool scarcely paid the expenses of its production, leaving the increase for profit only, the notion became prevalent that sheep were all but valueless. The price of sheep therefore fell to two or three shillings per head; and to increase the mischief, those merchants and other persons who had been so forward in giving credit to the supposed prosperous sheep-owners of New South Wales, now pounced upon their flocks at this critical moment, and the sheriff was constantly engaged in selling sheep by execution all over the colony. At some of these forced sales