The Present State and Prospects of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales/Chapter 9

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Having given the best idea I could of the Port Phillip district, and the inducements it holds out to the emigrant, which seem to me to be very considerable, and to arise from its natural, and therefore permanent advantages, and at the same time not having attempted to conceal the sacrifices necessarily consequent on all emigration to a new country, and those more peculiarly attending it in this colony, but which, as they can be removed by the interference of the legislature, I should hope would be but temporary,[1] I allude now to the tenure of land, and the mode in which it is disposed of by the crown, and not to monetary difficulties, which, on the contrary, I consider an advantage to the new settler, as they enable him to purchase every thing at a very low rate, thereby enhancing the value of his capital. Having thus, with as much impartiality as I can command, laid before the public the means of forming an opinion on this subject, I will now give to those who think that the inducements to emigrate to Port Phillip outweigh the drawbacks, and who intend acting upon that opinion by adopting it as their home, such practical hints as I may think of service in carrying this intention into effect.

To a gentleman, a married man in moderate circumstances, who can land at Melbourne with a capital of from two to three thousand pounds, I should say that he ought to take with him such things as are likely to be conducive to his comforts, and which he may happen to have already, but that he should 'not buy many things of the kind for this purpose. A sofa and a couple of easy chairs would be useful on the voyage out, as well as when he arrives; and as they might stand either in his cabin or in the cuddy, they Ought not to cost any thing for freight. Carpets are very useful, particularly a small Turkey carpet from twelve to fourteen feet square; so are curtains. I should also recommend a moderate quantity of plate, and table-linen of course. These things, if taken, should be well packed in packages of convenient size; and they are none of them things that would occupy much room, or be able to much freight. Books, of course, a man should supply himself with. Even a pianoforte (if the womankind are fond of music) is not to be despised, nor pictures thrown away. I have known many an evening pass agreeably in a bush-hut with the aid of a pianoforte and some singing; and then one or two good pictures set off the homeliest room. "What I mean to express is this, that if a man have things of this kind already, it is better that he should bring them with him than sell them by auction, probably at a great sacrifice, and either go without them, or have to buy them at Melbourne. The means of transport through the country are to be had at a very trifling expense, and freight from England is very low. There is now no necessity for roughing it; and the days are gone when, according to Hood, the pianoforte was gutted to make a press. "Quand on est mort, c'est pour long temps," says the French proverb; and so it is when a man emigrates; and he should remember that he is settling himself for the rest of his days, and that that man makes the best settler, and the best man, and probably the most prosperous one too, who has a cheerful home to return to, and happy faces to welcome him when the occupations of the day are over. It is only fair, too, that women who sacrifice so much in leaving their native country, should have their tastes consulted and their comforts attended to, and be put to no greater privations than circumstances absolutely demand. It was the custom amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans to carry with them, when they migrated, their household gods, their Lares and Penates, not more as the objects of religious observance, than as memorials of their former homes, and symbols of their national identity; and thus, in the spirit of this beautiful emblem, the old world customs and the polished usages of English civilization should be cherished round the hearth of the Australian settler, as mementos of the home of his fathers, and to identify his children with the race from which they are sprung. While I say all this, I am by no means an advocate for extravagance, or for a man's running any risk of being pinched for money. I am aware that he can enjoy nothing when this is the case; but all which I have enumerated may be done at a small original outlay, and with no additional expense. It is the habitual indulgence in the use of foreign imported articles, expensive wines, bottled ales and porter, and preserved delicacies of all kinds, instead of being contented with the simple but plentiful supply afforded by the station at no expense, that would really injure a man's pocket. This, which when carried beyond what a man can fairly afford, is one of the worst modes of wasting money, cannot in general be laid to the charge of the bushmen, but was some years ago far too common in and about Melbourne.

But to return to my inventory. I now come to articles of greater necessity, with which, or some substitute for them, a man must be supplied. The best kind of mattresses are those made of horse-hair, and they are dear in Australia. I should recommend a good supply of them, also of fine blankets. Cotton sheets are universally in use, and are in hot climates preferred to linen by people accustomed to them. I should also recommend a crate of crockery and another of glass. The former can be purchased at a very low price, if bought directly from the manufacturer; and on the other the emigrant would be entitled to a drawback to the amount of the duty. A strong "Whitechapel cart, with rather high wheels, with spare harness for an outrigger, would be found very serviceable; also a couple of saddles, made by a first-rate London maker, and stuffed rather full behind—this would save his horses many a sore back. I should not, of course, recommend the bringing out any live stock. If, however, a man have a family, and the ship in which he sails carries no cow, it may be wise for him to bring out a good milch cow, either of the Yorkshire or Durham breed; and, in consideration of her supplying the cuddy with milk, no freight ought to be charged. He would of course have to supply her with fodder. I do not think it wise to bring out a large stock of carpenter's tools, or even ironmongery, beyond some pots, pans, and kettles; for, although things may be purchased at a lower rate when an assortment is bought in London, yet so many things are in this case always taken which are never of the slightest use, that it comes dearer in the long run. If any large tools, such as axes, adzes, &c. are bought, they ought not to be too highly tempered, as where this is the case they fly like glass when used on hard wood. Every family should be provided with a medicine chest, and a simple book of directions for using the medicines. What I have said will be, probably, enough to direct the emigrant as to the principle on which he should act; in details he must be guided by the size of his family, and their ordinary tastes and habits. Also the man of smaller means will be able to pick out hints for his guidance; for the idea of giving detailed directions, which should be applicable to all cases, is as absurd as the idea of an universal medicine.

From what has been before said of the climate of Port Phillip some idea may be formed of the kind of clothing with which it is proper to be provided; and as a considerable degree of cold as well as great heat is to be guarded against, at different times of the year, it is necessary to have a good stock suited to each purpose. All clothes worn in England are fit for the winter months, and shooting-jackets and trowsers made of light tweed are excellent wear for the morning, during the greater part of the year; a few blouses and linen jackets, and a good supply of white trowsers, would be of great service in the heat of summer. For riding, the trowsers are strapped down the inside of the leg with baragon—this is generally done at Melbourne. Boots, known by the initiated as bullfinch boots, are very useful for riding in wet and muddy weather; and something in the shape of a short and loose cloth Taglioni coat, made to reach down to the knee, is indispensable, for carrying strapped to the saddle when travelling. I should recommend a good supply of boots and shoes, as well as the bringing of a man's own lasts, with which his shoemaker can furnish him. Hats and caps suitable to the country can be had at Melbourne, and there is no lack of variety; cloth caps, Panama, Manilla, cabbage-tree, drab Quaker hats, with many others, are in use, for it is in this part of the dress that the colonists chiefly display their taste. I think it is Beranger who says in one of his songs, "J'aime les Anglais quoique leur chapeaux sont si laids," and this applies with tenfold force to the Port Phillippians.

I am rather at a loss how to give advice to ladies on this subject, and they must arrive at their conclusions by a kind of sum in the rule of three. For instance, if they want to ascertain what kind of material is fit for their summer wear, they may state the problem thus: As a cloth frock-coat is to a linen blouse, so is a silk gown to the required article of clothing, which must of course be rather of a gossamer texture—thin muslin would, I should think, come pretty near. But, above all things, let them be provided with the newest ribbons and the latest fashions, as it gives the ladies in Australia singular satisfaction to know that they are only six months behind the fashions of London and Paris. A lady would find a good stock of boots and shoes of great service,—not only slight ones, but three or four pair of strong cloth boots.

The voyage is a great bugbear to many people, and it certainly is a disagreeable way of spending three or four months—particularly to ladies, who may happen not to be good sailors; it is also, no doubt, attended with an ordinary risk; but neither man nor woman are worth their salt who will not encounter more than this, while they have in view any object worth pursuing; and, without wishing in the slightest degree to cant, I know not how any person can have the slighest reliance on the providence of God Almighty, who does not feel that the waves and tempests are as much the instruments of his power, and equally subject to his control, as the events with which he is more familiar, and that an all-seeing eye and over-ruling Providence is about his path and about his bed, although he take the "wings of the morning, and fly into the uttermost parts of the sea." I should not have alluded to this subject, but that I know that some women are weak enough to allow their imagination to dwell on shipwreck, with its attendant horrors, as if this were the ordinary termination of a voyage, and not the rare exception. Nor indeed should I have dwelt on the voyage at all, hut that I remember that I was, before leaving home, pestered by people advising me to do quantities of things which appeared to me at the time quite unnecessary—in which view subsequent experience confirmed me. My recommendation to any friend of mine would be:—

First. To sail from London, and in a ship owned in London.

Secondly. To ascertain, if possible, that the owner has the character of supplying his ships liberally.

Thirdly. To see the captain, and try and find out whether he is a quiet man, of good character, or a talking, bouncing, overbearing fellow; and if this be the case, he should not sail with him on any account. This is a very important point, as much of the comfort of the voyage will depend on the character of the captain.

Fourthly. He should find out the class in which the ship sails, and whether she be a slop-built ship,[2] or a good, staunch, wholesome craft. An old ship of the latter kind is better than a new one of the former. He need not be so anxious about the rate of sailing, as the fastest ships do not always make the quickest voyages, and are seldom the best sea boats, which is important when ladies are concerned.

If these points are satisfactory, or nearly so, lie should endeavour to get his passage on fair terms, but not screw down too low, as even the best captains, if you do so, will take it out of you in some way or other. I should think that sixty or seventy pounds ought to be a fair price for a single man, in a poop cabin; and that about one hundred and twenty pounds would be enough for a married couple, in the stem cabin: but of course this varies according to the competition, and so will be higher at one time than another. With respect to the mode of living,[3] I think it would be enough to have an understanding with the captain, that there should be on board the ordinary quantity of live stock, preserved meats, preserved potatoes, wine, and beer, and to let him know that you do not want or care for champagne, or humbug of that kind, but that you expect that a table will be kept fit for a lady to sit down to. I should not recommend asking for any written agreement on the subject; if he be a respectable man, what I have said will be quite enough; and if not, he will not be bound by any agreement, which, practically, it would be almost impossible to enforce. In fact, a passenger is always more or less in the power of the captain; and where a man is so, the most likely way of being ill-treated is to show distrust. The best time for leaving England is from June to November.

I stated at the beginning of this work that on my arrival at Port Phillip I was much struck by the progress that had even then been made, and I think that I cannot better conclude this account of the district than by briefly recapitulating the marked features which indicate its present state of advancement, at a period of somewhat less than eight years from its first settlement. In the first place, then, we have a population of 20,000 souls, occupying a territory larger than Ireland, for the greater part in perfect peace and security. This population is in possession of upwards of a million and a half of sheep, one hundred thousand cattle, and about five thousand horses, which yield an export of about £300,000 per annum. This may be considered as the income of the population, giving an average of £15 a year for every man, woman, and child. A deduction should, however, be made for interest remitted on British capital invested in the district. This, however, is not large, with the exception of that in possession of the banks. Still, after making this allowance, there are few places where the exports bear so large a proportion to the population; and it is impossible that a country so circumstanced can be, or at least can long remain poor, particularly when it produces itself the chief necessaries of life. A monetary crisis, and consequent depression, may alter the distribution of property, and even for a time cramp its productive power; but as long as the elements of wealth (the power of production, and the industry to make it available) exist in a country, that country must eventually flourish; and to talk of its not possessing capital is, in my mind, a confusion of terms.

The rapid increase in the ordinary revenue may further serve to illustrate this subject. The following is a statement of it : —

£ s. d.
1837  2,358  16  10
1838  2,826 17 10
1839 14,703  6 10
1840 36,866  1  6
1841 81,673 10  3
1842 84,566  9  3
1843 73,724 19 10
1844, estimated    83,390  0  0

During the eight years that this country has been occupied, three towns have been built — Melbourne, Geelong, and Portland. In 1841 Melbourne contained about 9,000 inhabitants. This number is supposed to he now reduced to about 8,000, by persons going into the bush. The number of houses amounts to 2,400. There are in this town a Church of England church, a Scotch Church, a Roman Catholic, a Methodist, and an Independent chapel. All the congregations of these, with the exception of the Independents, receive government support, consisting of salaries for the ministers,[4] grants for building places of worship, and aid for schools. There is a supreme court, presided over by a judge, who is appointed permanent resident judge at Port Phillip, but who is created first one of the puisne judges of the supreme court at Sydney, to which in certain cases an appeal lies.[5] The court-house is a very creditable building. It is in the style of a Gothic house, and is built of fine sand-stone. It would have a good effect were it not overshadowed by the gaol, an ugly oblong building of a dark, dismal coloured stone, well enough for a gaol, but, by its juxtaposition to the court-house, destroying the effect of both. The courthouse is situated about a quarter of a mile from the town, already too straggling a place. Had indeed the system of concentration been applied to the town, instead of the country, it would, in my mind, have been better for both.

There is also a Court of Requests for the town of Melbourne and county of Bourke, presided over by a barrister. The jurisdiction of this court extends to causes of action not exceeding £10. The number of cases adjudicated on in 1843 amounted to 3163, involving property to the amount of £15,182. There are four newspapers in this town—one at Geelong, and two at Portland Bay. They have the defects naturally incident to the newspapers of small communities, being much taken up with matters of personal rather than general interest, with frequent attacks on individuals, besides numerous squabbles amongst themselves, and infinite abuse of each other. It is, however, to be hoped, that they will improve as the place advances, or be superseded by others of a higher stamp. I |am the more sanguine in this hope, as an excellent example is afforded by the Sydney newspaper press, both as regards ability and moderation. I am myself best acquainted with the Sydney Morning Herald, and can speak as to the temper and talent with which it is conducted; but I believe that the same observations are applicable to the other papers.

There are two banks established at Melbourne—one a branch of the Bank of Australasia, and the other of the Union Bank of Australia. There was another entitled the Port Phillip Bank, which closed last year with loss to the shareholders, but having discharged all its liabilities, and paid a small dividend on each share. There is a mechanics' institute, the building belonging to which is used as a town-hall, and for holding public balls, concerts, &c. There are several hotels, some of which are very well conducted. Some of the others begin very well when first set up, but gradually decline into pot-houses. There are two steam flour-mills, and a foundry for the making and repairing all kinds of machinery. Then there are steamers plying to Sydney, Launcestown, and Geelong; also smaller ones, used either as tugs, or for the conveyance of passengers and goods to and from the shipping and Williamstown.

All these things are evidences of progress which one scarcely expects to find in so new a settlement at the antipodes. It is true, that within the last four years this has not been so rapid, nor its effects so striking, as they were at the foundation of the settlement; but still, upon a retrospect, it is evident that, even in this latter period, we have advanced considerably; and it is by thus looking back that we can best judge of the progress of improvement which, though . subject to interruption, still moves forward. At one time, indeed, the effects of injudicious legislation may retard its onward course; mercantile depression may check it; or it may even appear to recede before the more formidable evil of a monetary confusion affecting all classes; but still, when at two periods at all distant from each other we look at the relative positions of the community, we perceive the progress which has been made. So when the tide makes upon the beach, it may seem to make but little progress, appearing at each successive wave to retire as far as it had previously advanced, sometimes even to retreat baffled, leaving behind a bed of ooze and mud; yet still the rising surge rolls on, obedient to the influence of an irresistible, though unseen agency. Thus, too, in the progress of events, though private schemes may fail, and plans of individual aggrandizement be baffled, still the mighty wave of civilization advances; the adventurous settler, the greedy speculator, and the humble labourer, (the puny ripples of this human tide,) while they each pursue their individual schemes, obeying one common influence, and contributing to one common end, some of them perhaps little dreaming or little caring that they are assisting in carrying out one of the noblest works in which it can fall to the lot of man to be engaged—the enlarging of the bounds of the civilized earth, and the sphere of human enjoyment, by the foundation of a mighty empire.

  1. I am happy to say, that there is a prospect of some improvement being made in the position of the squatters, as by recent accounts from the colony it appears that Sir George Gipps has recommended to the home government a course which, I understand, is likely to prove highly favourable to them.
  2. There are certain ports, perfectly well known to every person conversant with maritime affairs, which are notorious for building this kind of ship.
  3. It might be well for a person, having a family, to bring out a box-full of fresh eggs, rubbed over with lard, and stored in salt or melted lard; also a couple of dozen pounds of sago, which, though very cheap, is sometimes neglected by captains of ships; and a little arrow root.
  4. The grants for salaries of ecclesiastical ministers in the district are as follows:—
    3 clergymen, Church of England—one at £200, one £150, one £100    450
    3 clergymen, Presbyterian—one at £200, one £150, one £100  450
    1 clergyman, Wesleyan, at £200  200
    2 clergymen, Roman Catholic—one at £300, one £150  350
  5. The bar consists of seven practising members, who are either English or Irish barristers, or Scotch advocates. They cannot, however, practise without being called afresh by the resident judge. The crown prosecutor performs the duty of attorney-general, and also of grand jury. There is a large number of attorneys and solicitors.