Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/322

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colony in 1851, his appointment as first Attorney-General of the newly-born state was only what every one expected. He had a herculean task before him, for the gold discoveries, happening at the same time, caused an immense influx of population, disorganised the whole machinery of government, and threw the colony at large into dire confusion. But, as his biographer has truly remarked: "The master mind off Sir William Stawell rose to the occasion, and it is with honest pride we record that some of his most efficient colleagues were Irishmen. Perseverance, integrity, and ability crowned an arduous struggle with success. Light and order were educed from darkness and chaos, and the prosperous and magnificent colony of Victoria emerged from the hopeless confusion in which it had its birth. To none was this more attributable than to Sir William Stawell." Perhaps in his dealings with the diggers he was somewhat too arbitrary at times; and it might have been better if he had not shared in the official impression that the gold-seekers were an essentially dangerous class, and must be kept in constam fear of the law. The unhappy collision between the diggers of Ballarat and the Imperial troops would never have occurred if this erroneous idea had been dissipated in time, and a more conciliatory policy adopted towards a large body of adventurous freemen, the great majority of whom were untainted by crime. At the same time, it cannot be denied that there were not a few lawless elements amongst the heterogeneous crowd that assembled with such marvellous rapidity on the Victorian gold-fields in 1851; and thing, after all, may have been ordered for the best when the helm of public affairs in the new and suddenly famous colony was intrusted to the safe and steady hand of Sir William Stawell. So experienced a judge as Sir Charles Gavan Duffy would