Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/218

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colony. In 1829 the Sydney governor, Sir Ralph Darling, heard a rumour that the French intended establishing a colony on the western side of the Australian continent, and forthwith resolved to checkmate the audacious foreigners by anticipating them. An expedition was accordingly fitted out, a landing was effected at the mouth of the Swan River, and the colony was duly proclaimed. However, the French never put in an appearance in the neighbourhood, and the settlement until quite recently had but a very precarious sort of existence. In 1849, at a critical period in the history of the place, the colonists took the extraordinary course of petitioning the Imperial authorities to send out a consignment of prisoners. This reads strangely by the side of what has already been said concerning the herculean efforts made by the other colonies to put a stop to transportation, but the fact was that labour was absolutely unprocurable at that time in Western Australia, and the colonists saw clearly that the settlement would have to be abandoned unless labour of some description, free or bond, was speedily introduced. The authorities at home were only too glad to comply with a request to send out a cargo of first-class felons and enterprising burglars. With a celerity and promptitude they never exhibited in redressing the substantial grievances of the colonists, they despatched upwards of ten thousand convicts, whose labour is described as being of incalculable benefit to the settlement, and to have actually proved its salvation. When, in consequence of the pressure brought to bear by the other colonies, transportation was entirely abolished, the Western Australians went so far as to petition against the cessation of the system as likely to prove prejudicial to their material interests. Fortunately for their neighbours, this selfish prayer was not granted. Amongst