I—The Progress of the Colony of Victoria.—By Alfred Webb, Esq.
[Read 16th June, 1856.]
How has it happened that the colony of Victoria—occupying a central position with regard to the other Australian colonies, and possessing a fine soil, a genial climate, and greater mineral wealth than any other part of the globe—has caused disappointment and ruin to thousands of emigrants, and even became at one time the scene of bloodshed and civil war? This is the question which I shall this evening attempt to answer: not so much from statistical details as from my own observations made on the spot.
In 1853 I visited Australia in search of health, and spent the greater part of two years in the colony of Victoria. I resided some months in Melbourne, spent a year under a tent in the bush, visited the gold diggings at Reedy Creek and the Ovens, and travelled six hundred miles overland to Sydney. During that time I saw much to shock me in the state of society, especially in the dissolute and intemperate habits of the labouring classes; and I felt that there must be some explanation of this lamentable state of things, besides that afforded by the convict element, and the unsettled state of society occasioned by the discovery of gold.
A short sketch of the rise and progress of this colony will, perhaps, justify me in the conclusion to which I came, that most of these evils are to be attributed to the difficulty of procuring land; the labourer, in receipt of large wages, being thus deprived of the inducement to save his earnings and invest them in a settled home.