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1856.]
367
The Progress of the Colony of Victoria.

multitudes into a country totally unprepared for them, and by the fact that thousands of these strangers were entirely unfit for the kind of work required of them in their new circumstances. Of this I have, myself, seen some lamentable instances. I knew a man who was employed as cook for thirty shillings a week, and who had given up a situation of £500 per annum, in London, to better himself in Australia; I have seen ex-Manchester cotton-spinners, and army and navy officers, working at the hardest manual labour; and, on one occasion, I met in the bush a navy lieutenant driving a dray for a digger and his wife, who allowed him only his diet for his services. He had lived for a time in Dublin in the days of his prosperity, and spoke regretfully of the delights of a lounge up Grafton-street on a fine afternoon, of evenings at the Theatre Royal, and of suppers at Jude's.

The treasures obtained at the diggings by men unaccustomed to such a flood of wealth, were squandered in the most reckless manner. Melbourne was full of lucky diggers, whose only object was to get rid of their money as fast as possible. Some ate bank-notes between slices of bread and butter, as sandwiches; others stood at the corners of the streets with tubs of brandy, offering drink to the passers-by; or drove about the streets, drinking and shouting, in carriages for which they paid at the rate of twenty pounds per day. It was an insult to offer change to one of these gentlemen, who wouldf fling a handfull of money to the shopman and tell him to take as much as he liked.

The publicans were the chief winners from this wild extravagance. Many of these have retired, after being six or twelve months in business, with fortunes of £40,000 or £50,000. I have known many instances of men spending £800 or £900 at a public house in two or three weeks. It was not alone by diggers that this madness was practised; the high wages received by workmen vanished, to a great extent, in the same manner. At that time labourers were paid fifteen shillings for a day's work; carpenters, twenty-eight shillings; bricklayers, thirty shillings; and plasterers even three pounds per day. The recipients of these enormous wages were often worse off (owing to the ruinous way in which they spent their money) than if they had been working at home for low wages and living on bread and water.

Now was the time to throw land freely into the market, and open a rational and profitable way to invest these unusual and ill-spent earnings. Millions of money would, doubtless, have been thus invested, had the land been easily attainable. I have no doubt that thousands who went to the colony with the intention of settling, left it in disgust on finding it almost impossible to obtain a tenure of the soil.

We have seen that the orders in council of 1847, besides fixing the high rate of one pound per acre, virtually handed the country over to the squatters. The consequence was that every acre of land that was sold, even at that high rate, was sold against the will of this class. And as they were the dominant party in the Legislative Council and in the Executive, they threw every obstacle in the way of free sale. With millions of acres at their disposal,