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1856.]
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The Progress of the Colony of Victoria.

way to the diggings, and for macadamizing the streets of Melbourne. Much was thus effected, and much more might have been done but for the extravagance and the shameful jobbing that were carried on.

A strong body of efficient police was organised, and contributed greatly towards the restoration of confidence and security. New diggings were constantly being discovered, chiefly through the enterprize of Americans, and the yield of gold reached the high average of one million sterling per month. Still the average earnings on the gold fields were below the average rate of wages throughout the rest of the colony. Indeed it must always be so in gold-digging countries; for so long as a man can live and support himself at the diggings (where he has a chance of making his fortune) he will not be likely to leave them, unless more than his average earnings are offered him elsewhere.

The statistical statements connected with the early history of Victoria are vague and often contradictory; but the following table is given from the official report of the Gold Field Commission:—

 1852  1853  1854
Value of gold produced  £14,866,789  £11,588,782  £8,770,796
Population on diggings 35,000 73,000 100,000
Average earnings of each digger. £420 £180 £82

The stream of immigration continued unabated during the first half of 1853, averaging 2,500 weekly. In May, 1853, the enormous pouring in of merchandize on a population of only 200,000 persons, began to have a most depressing effect on trade; and, as the influx of goods still continued, the market for most articles became completely glutted. Goods were often sold at a price that scarcely covered the freight and charges; and many speculators made well by buying goods and shipping them home to England. The total imports in 1853 were valued at about sixteen millions sterling, or £80 a head for each colonist; which far exceeded the natural demand.

The dissatisfaction occasioned on the diggings by the licence fee of 30s. per month, and especially by the arbitrary and intolerable manner in which it was collected, had reached its climax; and in September, 1853, many large armed meetings were held at the Bendigo and other diggings to protest against it. The government was alarmed, and appointed a committee to enquire into the causes of the discontent. The commission sat, made some investigations, and recommended several slight amendments, which were carried out; but the evil was too gigantic to be so easily coped with. Nothing was done to purify the corrupt administration at the gold fields, or to throw land freely into the market, and we shall see the results of this neglect.

Next to 1851, the year of the gold discovery, the year 1854 is the most important in the annals of the colony of Victoria.

Soon after the discovery of the gold, Governor Latrobe sent home his resignation, feeling unable to deal with the requirements of the new state of things. The government remained in the hands of commissioners, till Admiral Sir Charles Hotham arrived from England to take the reins. His reception was most enthusiastic, for much was hoped from his reputation for energy and ability. Unfortunately these favourable anticipations were not realized; his position would