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4. CHAPTER IV

ARRIVAL AT THE CAPE—SIR HERCULES ROBINSON—ARRIVAL AT MELBOURNE—PUBLIC BANQUET—WELCOMES ON OVERLAND JOURNEY TO SYDNEY—ANOTHER BANQUET—MEETING OF PARLIAMENT—MR. STUART MOVES AN AMENDMENT ON THE ADDRESS—LARGE MAJORITY FOR THE GOVERNMENT—STATE OF THE PUBLIC REVENUE—SIR JOHN ROBERTSON MOVES THE SECOND READING OF HIS LAND BILL—THE GOVERNMENT DEFEATED—DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT—GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS IN AN ADVERSE MAJORITY AND MINISTERS RESIGN—MR. STUART FORMS A NEW MINISTRY—A SECOND VISIT TO AMERICA AND ENGLAND—PRESIDENT ARTHUR AND OTHER PUBLIC MEN IN NEW YORK—ARRIVAL AT LIVERPOOL—IN LONDON, ROBERT BROWNING AND OTHER MEN OF LITERARY EMINENCE—JOURNEYS TO SCOTLAND—JOHN BRIGHT AT LEEDS—THE SYDNEY CONVENTION OF 1883—COLONISATION OF NEW GUINEA—RETURN TO SYDNEY.

WHEN the John Elder arrived in Table Bay, the pilot put into my hands a letter from Sir Hercules Robinson, inviting me to Government House during the vessel's stay; and His Excellency's carriage was waiting for me on the wharf. There is a light which is so pure and spiritual that it seems derived from a new sense of life, in meeting a familiar and dear face in a strange land. Such was my feeling in meeting Sir Hercules Robinson at the Cape. I had seen much of him during his long stay in New South Wales; I knew and admired his knowledge of affairs, his love of difficulty for the sake of mastering it, his clear understanding, and his strong


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character; I had discussed with him many serious matters with a kindly interchange of views and without the slightest interruption of friendly feeling. It was, therefore, with a new sensation of pleasure that I approached him now in his South African home. I met the same frank and gladsome face, the same love of work for work's sake, the same courage in face of difficulties (and he had enough upon his hands), and the same genuine heartiness which everybody had known in Australia. I had long talks and long walks with Sir Hercules, and I received much kindness from Lady Robinson and her family during my short visit. They took me one or two drives, which were full of strange beauty and interest for me. But beyond the Governor's household my recollections are limited to many-coloured groups in the streets of Cape Town, and the striking features of Table Mountain.

While at the Cape I received a cablegram from Sydney inviting me to a banquet on my return to New South Wales.

We reached Hobson's Bay on August 13. The good people of Melbourne welcomed me with a banquet, though I was only passing through their city. As Parliament was convened, by my direction from London, to meet on August 22, I was compelled to hurry on. The Government of Victoria placed a special train at my service, and I was met at the border by one from Sydney. I crossed the Murray under a triumphal arch, and the pretty town of Albury was dressed in flags and evergreens to receive me. Both here and at Wagga Wagga I received addresses of welcome. On reaching


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Sydney I stepped from the train into the midst of an immense crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 persons, and the Mayor, on behalf of the citizens, presented another address of welcome.

So terminated my journey round the world of seven months and nineteen days. The banquet given to me was held in the Exhibition Building on the evening of the 17th, and was largely attended. I appeared to be well received there, and even in the streets. But the Ministry was doomed. We had done much good work, but we were to do little more.

Parliament met, according to proclamation, on the 22nd, five days after my return. The Governor's opening speech presented a group of legislative proposals in the following paragraphs:—

Although the Parliamentary recess has been somewhat longer than usual, owing to circumstances within your knowledge, I have called you together sufficiently early to enable you to transact the business more immediately pressing before the close of the year.

A Bill to extend the benefits of Local Government will be submitted for your consideration.

In consequence of the efforts made by unscrupulous persons to abuse the provisions of the Land Acts to their own advantage, you will be invited to consider a Bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the public estate, with the view of carrying out more effectually the legitimate objects of occupation by lease and settlement by freehold.

Bills to convert the public securities into a form more acceptable to the general public and to effect other financial changes will be introduced.

A comprehensive measure to consolidate and amend the Criminal Law will be brought forward without delay.




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Experience has shown that the existing Mining Act is defective in some of the more important of its provisions, and a measure will be introduced to give the miner more definite rights, and to afford greater facilities for legitimate mining enterprise, while more carefully protecting the interests of the Crown.

You will be invited to legislate in view of the better preservation and management of the Public Forests.

A Bill will be introduced to make more satisfactory provision for the acquisition and registration of Titles to Real Property, and to improve the administration of the law in relation thereto.

The adulteration of food and drink is a subject which concerns the dearest interests of all classes, and a Bill will be introduced to make more stringent provision against practices so prejudicial to the general health.

You will be invited to consider a measure for the regulation of the navigation of inland waters.

If the state of public business will permit, a Bill will be submitted for the regulation of the Civil Service, and also Bills for amending the law relating to seamen, for regulating the inspection of steam boilers, and for other purposes.

Parliament was congratulated by His Excellency on the continued buoyancy of the revenue derived from all the principal sources, and on the high position which the public securities maintained. In fact there was at the time a large surplus in the Treasury. The speech then proceeded to explain the position of railway progress at this period (1882) as follows:—

In addition to the 996 miles of railway in operation at the close of last year, 178 miles of new lines have since been completed, making a present total of 1,174 miles open to traffic. The new lines are calculated to affect the trade of the interior in a manner specially beneficial to the colony; and the additional


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extensions which have been authorised, and which will be rapidly pushed forward, will still further promote the commercial relations between the distant parts of the country and the metropolis, while opening fresh fields for settlement and stimulating the development of our natural resources. The lines of railway now in the course of construction will add an extension of 396 miles, which with the 639 additional miles authorised by Parliament, will form a total within the next two to three years of 2,209 miles.

A number of other topics were touched upon, including the steps being taken to supply the Metropolis and the principal towns with water.

An amendment on the Address in reply was at once moved by Mr. A. Stuart (afterwards Sir Alexander) in these words: ‘But we desire respectfully to express our regret that your Excellency was not advised to call Parliament together at a period sufficiently early to have enabled us to give due consideration before the close of the year to the many important and pressing measures enumerated in your Excellency's speech.’ After a debate extending over three nights, Mr. Stuart's motion was defeated by 67 to 17 votes, and the Address adopted without division.

Mr. Stuart's position was in one respect peculiar. Some time before he had accepted from the Government the office of Agent-General in England, resigning his seat in Parliament as a consequence of such acceptance. In his negotiations with me he had stipulated for an increase of salary from 1,500l. to 2,000l., and he applied for and obtained a period of three months in the colony to enable him to wind up his affairs. From some turn in his private relations he afterwards retired


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without entering upon his office, and at a later period he was again elected to the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Stuart's political standing was peculiar in yet another aspect of it. He was the most pronounced Free-trader in the Assembly, and the most uncompromising advocate of denominational education; and yet he soon became the central figure in a group of men who, not avowing their opinions then, did their utmost very soon afterwards to establish a system of Protection in the colony, while the more prominent of them were vehement secularists in education. In a new state of political society like that of one of the Australian colonies, where men are drawn from all kinds of uncongenial occupations into the work of legislation and of government, we must look for startling inconsistencies and anomalous admixtures of opinion and conduct. But Mr. Stuart was a man of superior mercantile education, large experience, and considerable powers of lucid exposition; and in previous years he put the case for Free-trade and for denominational education almost better than anyone else had done.

The Treasurer (Mr. James Watson) made his financial statement on Nov. 1. Since the Government came into office the revenue had increased from 5,000,000l. to close upon 7,250,000l. Since 1879 appropriations for public works and special services to the amount of 3,117,000l. had been authorised out of the accumulated surpluses of the last few years. Notwithstanding these appropriations Mr. Watson announced a remaining surplus of nearly 2,000,000l.note




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‘On Nov. 9, the Secretary for Lands (Sir John Robertson) moved the second reading of the ‘Bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the Alienation and Occupation of Crown Lands,’ The Bill did not propose to uproot the main principles of the Act of 1861 (with which Sir John was specially identified), but rather it aimed at recasting the system which had grown up under its provisions. It admitted the defects and proposed remedies; it met the abuses which time had demonstrated with safeguards against their recurrence; and it provided for many genuine reforms. Sir John explained and defended the measure at great length and with much ability. As the land question is the one on which all other questions in a new country so largely depend, I give the chief portions of Sir John Robertson's speech:—

It is within a few days of a quarter of a century ago since I declined to bring in a Bill to deal with the public lands until the Parliament was reformed, until the people were more fully represented than they then were, until we had vote by ballot, manhood suffrage, and as near an approach as we could get towards equal electoral districts. In that Session—the Session of 1858—the law was passed which gave to the people these privileges. Thus the whole people in 1861 had a potent voice in determining what should be the land law of this country. After a long struggle the land laws of 1861 were passed. If ever there was passed in any country a law which was chosen by the whole people of that country, that law was the land law which we passed in 1861. Since then the law has been to a small extent modified—first in 1875, when my honourable friend Mr. Garrett was a colleague of mine, and there was, in my opinion, no man in the country better qualified to deal with the question than he. The law was again amended by a Bill in charge of another gentleman


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of great ability and of great perseverance—a man who seemed to have to a large extent the confidence of this House. I refer to the Bill which Mr. Hoskins introduced in 1880. On both of these occasions it happened that I was a member of the Government. From 1861 until 1880, then, the law was before the representatives of the people, and met from time to time with their approbation. It is a somewhat remarkable fact that, after a quarter of a century's service in connection with this matter, administering the land law myself, or aiding other Ministers to administer it, taking a deep interest in the question during the whole of this long interval, it should become my lot once more to ask Parliament to adopt a certain course with regard to our land law. I am well aware that there are several gentlemen in this House who are far better able than I am to deal with this question. I do not mean that there is in the House any man who has had more varied experience in this matter than I have had; I do not mean that there is in the House any man who has given to the question more anxious attention than I have given to it; but I admit that there are several honourable members who intellectually are far more able than I am to deal with the question. As it happens that the lot falls upon me, and as I am not in the habit of shrinking from any duty which appears to me to be mine—especially when I know that I am quite able to deal with it—I have thought it right to take charge of this business. I have said that there are none in the House who have had more experience in connection with this question than I have had. I think I may also say that there is no one here who is more fearless, or more regardless, of consequences, in maintaining that which he believes to be right in this matter than I am. I am quite satisfied that on neither side of the House are there many who believe that I would take a course in regard to this matter which I thought was not in the public interest. The question is one of the gravest possible kind. In dealing with it we require to study alone the interest of the whole people—the interests of the country. I conceive that I have no right to endeavour to consult specially one section or another of the


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proprietors of land. I know that I take a dangerous course in the bold way in which I have dealt with this matter; but I have ever held that it is the duty of the Minister of Lands to consider the interest of the whole people, of course giving every reasonable consideration to, and dealing as tenderly as possible with, the interests already established in connection with our land. But I submit that there is something to be considered more than the interests of those who are on the land. We have to consider the interests of the whole country, and of the large body of the people who never can be owners of the Crown lands either as leaseholders or as purchasers. The great mass of the people will always be those who hold no land, but whom we have a right to consider when we are dealing with this question.

When I took charge of the land question of this country as Minister, nearly a quarter of a century ago, the land was in the hands of a few persons, who claimed and enjoyed an exclusive occupation of it, who absolutely claimed it as theirs. These persons even claimed an hereditary title to seats in the legislature, based on their holding of the Crown lands of which they were in occupation, and it was no joke to wrest this property from the hands of those who had no right to it, and to put it fairly into the hands of the whole people. It is true that we received a rent from those who held; but the rent was ridiculously small. It was scarcely worth calculation, scarcely worth counting in the receipts of the Treasury. At that time land could be purchased only at auction or in virtue of improvements. None but those who commanded a good banking account could approach the auction room with a view to purchase a piece of land directly from the Crown. That seemed to be anything but a fair state of things, because the purchasers of small means who would attempt to buy were cowed down. They did not bid at all; they gave up as hopeless any attempt to become purchasers at auction sales of Crown lands. I do not desire to say that the gentlemen then in possession of the Crown lands were any worse than ordinary people; I know they were a good deal better than ordinary people. Many of them


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were my intimate friends, and I believe that in those days the squatters of the country, as they have ever been, were very much superior to the average of the people of the country. But in the very nature of things it was to their interest to depreciate the value of Crown lands, and everyone who was in the colony then must remember, as I remember, that the greatest man we ever had here, declared in this Chamber that the Crown lands in the interior of the country were not worth per acre the smallest coin of the realm. That was the way in which the land was regarded in those days. Those who held it had no interest and no desire to encourage others to go upon it, and in every conceivable way its value was decried. Well, when I approached the question to deal with it, I endeavoured, although I did not get much credit for the endeavour, to deal as delicately as it was possible to deal with existing interests. I endeavoured to act as fairly as man could act with the gentlemen in possession of land, and I believe New South Wales stands alone among the Australias as the only colony which has never repudiated an engagement with any person in connection with its pastoral lands. In the legislation which I introduced I protected by every means in my power every existing right. At that time much of the land was held under annual leases, much of it under five years' leases, but far more under fourteen years' leases, and none of these lands were allowed to be invaded during the currency of the leases. That was not so in the other colonies; it was not so in Victoria. We respected all the rights which had been created by our predecessors, and every land-holder had fair play; but, on the other hand, as the leases fell in, the time seemed to have come when the whole people and not the lessees only, should be considered; and in dealing with the question in 1861, that was the basis on which our action proceeded. That I was tender of this great pastoral interest, although I never received any credit for that tenderness, may be seen by the Occupation Act. That Act has never been altered from that day to this except as against the squatter; no one has attempted to make it more favourable to the squatter. What was the provision I made for fixing the rents? Why,


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that each lessee should appoint an appraiser, that the Government should appoint another, and that these two should appoint an umpire, and thus the rent was fixed. The world has never seen a fairer mode of fixing a rental than that, and it continued for years, notwithstanding abuses which crept in; but we were obliged at last to give it up, because it came to this: that we were not getting anything like the rent we were entitled to get for the land. Even at this day some of the runs remain under the old mode; but they are coming in very fast under the new mode, and thus the rent is increasing, as I intend to show presently.

Knowing my opinions, which have ever been expressed freely against pre-emptive leases, I think I exhibited in respect to them also—for the matter was pretty well in my hands—a disposition to deal tenderly with existing interests. I had never spoken otherwise than against the provision for pre-emptive leases; but disturbance of land holdings is always dangerous and unwise, unless absolutely necessary, and it did not seem to me absolutely necessary to disturb that right; it is a thing to which I always objected. I did not create it, but I left it as I found it, and, although I think it is doomed, I have not thought it desirable or right to attack it in this Bill. This being the state of things, that no one could buy land except at auction, or, in the case of a lessee, by improvement right, I thought, and the Parliament thought, and the people of the country thought, it desirable to provide that those who would covenant to reside on the land and improve it, and thus develope its resources, should have certain advantages in acquiring possession of the land; thus they were not subjected to competition at auction, or the necessity of waiting for surveys, but they were permitted to select from the whole of the lands of the colony, not only before survey according to the popular cry, but whether the land was surveyed or not surveyed; such are the words of the law. They had also these advantages: that they had to pay only 25 per cent. cash, that they should go into possession at once, make certain improvements, and remain in occupation for three years without paying interest, and after that to pay 5 per cent. interest, a percentage lower than the


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Government of the colony was paying for its loans. When I say they were permitted to select from the whole of the lands of the colony, of course I mean with the exception of those lands specially exempted by the Governor and Executive Council for public objects. Yet we have been told, and we are continually told, that so many people have not remained in possession of the land as was contemplated would remain in possession of the land, and that many people who have taken up land have thought it wise to sell it, and doubtless that is true. We have been told, and I believe it is too true, that fraud has prevailed; but, at the same time, it is mere childish nonsense to say, as some people do, that the frauds have been anything like so extensive as has been represented. I have observed that it has been considered fraudulent for any person to buy land from a free selector; but you cannot find anything in exception to that in the law of 1861, or in any law that we have passed. If a man improves his land bonâ fide, and resides on it in accordance with the law, after his time of residence has expired he has as absolute a right to sell his holding as any man who buys land at auction, and therefore this attempt to hound down people who have bought land from selectors who had fulfilled the conditions of residence is simply a delusion, and no one knows it better than does the honourable member (Mr. Farnell), who administered the law so long. But vast numbers of selectors have never sold their land, vast numbers are still residing on their land, and nine-tenths of the wheat produced in New South Wales is grown on free selected land. When the law was passed, no one dreamed of tying a man to his land after his term of residence had expired. If a man's selection is too small for himself and his family, there is nothing in the law to prevent him from selling his land and taking his family to newer and wider fields, nor, when the law was passed, was it thought that there would be any wrong in his so doing. When a person has bought a number of these selections, that has been called dummying; but it is not dummying. Dummying is putting your servant, or some other person, upon land, bound down hand and foot to make it over to you when the term of residence has expired, and every time the law has been


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altered the object has been to prevent that, and to put difficulties in the way of those who wish to fraudulently take advantage of the law; and this Bill goes still further in that direction.

This policy of selling land without competition, whether surveyed or unsurveyed, and on terms of credit, has had many beneficial advantages. For example, the humblest purchaser is able to obtain land without difficulty or delay, and almost from the time when the law was passed this provision has had the effect of drawing people from the neighbouring colonies to settle here. It is a provision which is more favourable for the man of small means than any provision which exists in the laws of any of the other colonies. From the very first, people have swarmed from the other colonies to settle here—from South Australia, as we know, a number of Germans took up land at Albury. Within the last three or four weeks Mr. White, a gentleman who was deputed by a large number of farmers in South Australia to visit the various colonies, and to report on their land systems with a view to settlement, has furnished his report, and in it he passes the highest encomiums on our law and upon the prospects of people who have taken up land under it. The alienation of the land is favourable to the general public as well as to the squatter, to the free selector, to other purchasers, and to those to whom it may be mortgaged. Its alienation by free selection has had the most beneficial effect conceivable on the interests of the whole people. Before the Act was passed there was no competition whatever for what was regarded as inferior land. The lessees described the land as worthless; they said that no one would ever dream of living on it; but when the right was given to the people to enter upon it, and they did so freely, the lessees soon found that the land was worth 1l. per acre and more; this land which they said was not worth the smallest coin of the realm per acre they very soon bought in large quantities at 1l. per acre, and found that it was to their interest to do so. The money which they had paid has been poured into the Treasury, whence, under our system of government, it cannot be taken except by the approval of Parliament, which is elected by the whole people. By this system we have had money poured into the


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Treasury to be used in opening the country, and thereby promoting its progress and prosperity. I know that there are some who think that it is injurious to the interests of the country to have a large revenue flowing into the Treasury from the sale of land; but they seem to overlook the fact that the money can only be disposed of by the Parliament, which is elected by the votes of the whole people. How, under these circumstances, it can be injurious to the colony to have this revenue flowing in, is to me entirely incomprehensible. This system which I have spoken of has brought about competition which has made known to all mankind the value of these country lands of ours. The minimum price for which land has been sold by auction has been 1l. per acre, and the conditional purchasers have had to pay a like amount, thus the people in general have received fair value in money for their land. In 1861 I did not think that to abolish auction sales was desirable. It is one thing to provide that a man may have land on which to establish a home for himself, and it is another thing to say that another man who cannot reside on the land shall not buy land in the open market on a proper upset price. From the first it has been within the power of Parliament to fix the upset price of land, and it is within the power of Parliament to do so now; but I shall not advocate any increase in the price. I know that there are some conscientious gentlemen, who are as well acquainted with the subject as I am, who think that auction sales ought to be abolished; but I am afraid that they forget that the interests of the great landowners of the country—the whole of the people—would be left out in the cold if we abolished sales by auction.

It must be obvious to everyone that there are people who cannot reside on the land, and they would be prevented from having a fair enjoyment of the rights of citizenship if it were not in their power to buy land at auction. Besides, it was an old-established and customary mode of sale. I have shown that even when the law in force in the country was framed entirely irrespective of the will of the people, framed by a power irresponsible to the people, by a power nominated from afar—I have shown that even with regard to those laws I felt it right to


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deal delicately with interests thus called into existence. What, then, can honourable members expect from me now other than that, unless where change appears necessary, I will adhere to the provisions of the law which originally sprang from the people, as the present law did, and which has over and over again been maintained by the will of the people? Could it be expected that I would not endeavour to re-enact what is good in the law, and, at the same time, be willing to leave out anything which can be fairly shown to be bad? It ought to be remembered that on no question is it so undesirable to have unnecessary changes as it is on questions affecting the holding of land—I mean fundamental changes. It cannot raise our character in the estimation of other people if we frequently change our land laws. Everyone must know how inconvenient it would be, and how the interests of the country in every way would suffer by any change which unnecessarily disturbed existing interests. What has been the effect of the law? Let us consider fairly, and without prejudice, the state of the country before the law was passed and its present state. The land was locked up. We all know that the land is the source of all wealth. What was our position at the time in other respects? We were without roads, without bridges, without railways, without telegraphs, and without a thousand other advantages which we now possess. We had no money and no credit; we were unable to pay the monthly wages of the employés of the Government. I remember one occasion when the Treasurer, who was fortunately a wealthy man, actually advanced money from his own credit to pay the employés' wages. This was the position in which we were before the land law of 1861 came into full operation. If I were to pass away to-morrow I should leave the country in a state very different from that in which it was when I succeeded in passing the land law. I should leave New South Wales prosperous; her people well employed and happy; her Treasury overflowing; her revenues increasing; her credit equal to that of any country in the world; her position established as the first, the freest, the most hopeful, the most powerful, and the most prosperous of the Australian colonies. Let us see how it is that


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we can credit the land law with the change to prosperity from the terrible state of poverty and depression in which we were sunk in years gone by. We have now such a revenue that, as the Treasurer has told us, we shall be able to carry on large undertakings without exercising for a long time to come the authority which Parliament has given to borrow for their construction. Let me see whether I cannot connect the land law with this wonderful change; I think I shall be able to do so. I took charge of the Lands Office in January, 1858. During the year before, the whole revenue from Crown lands—from all sources other than sales—was 118,149l. 8s. 8d. This was our annual revenue, and let it be borne in mind that Queensland was part of our territory then. Last year our revenue—of course without Queensland's territory—from land, irrespective of sales, was 591,007l. 7s. 1d., and the Treasurer estimates the revenue for 1883, from the same source, at 725,350l., or almost 1l. per head for every person in the colony. This is an evidence of wealth such as no country in the world can show. This revenue is raised without oppressing anyone. The free selector is able to retain the use of his money at as reasonable a rate of interest as he could get it in any part of the world, namely, 5 per cent., and, like the squatter, is prosperous.

It must be remembered that, notwithstanding this revenue of 725,350l. we have had paid into the Treasury for land some 25,000,000l., which has been applied to purposes decided upon by the Parliament elected by the whole people of the country. This large sum has been paid into the public Treasury, and we still have 750,000l. a year for the use of the remaining land. This revenue is increasing year by year, and it will continue to increase, notwithstanding croakers in the country who have ever predicted ruin and desolation from the law, and said that it would destroy the pastoral interest and everything else. Let us see what the proceeds of the sales of land were in 1857. In that year, when the two colonies, New South Wales and Queensland, were undivided, the revenue from the land sales amounted to 210,333l. 17s. 3d. Last year the proceeds of the land sales in New South Wales amounted to 2,229,981l. 6s. 3d. The


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Colonial Treasurer estimates that the proceeds of our land sales for next year will be 1,765,000l.; but we are in this position: that if we wished to increase that by another million we could do it. We find that people are willing to buy land to the extent of another million or two sterling next year, without any reduction in the price below 1l. per acre, if it were considered well to sell it. That is the position New South Wales is in, and that is the reason why our credit is so good; it is because by the free selectors going on the land and creating competition we have a proof of the value of the lands of the colony. What have we been doing with our live stock? After all, there is no greater source of wealth in this land than our sheep; and there is no source of wealth which brings in more money than sheep. What is the position of our sheep? I have not been able to get the returns for any period earlier than 1861. In 1861 we had 5,615,064 sheep; in 1881 we had 36,519,946 sheep. That is an increase of 650 per cent. on the twenty years. Now, let us look at our neighbours, and see what number they have. In 1861 Victoria had 6,239,258 sheep, and that colony now has 10,360,285 sheep. Thus, while our increase has been 650 per cent., the increase in Victoria has been only 65 per cent.

We have only a comparatively small population, and they have a right to do with their labour and capital that which they think best. They have done what they thought best, and they thought that farming was not the best thing to do. Yet our own supply of grain approaches much more nearly to the requirements of the country than it did before the Act of 1861 was passed, and, even if it were not so, I should like to know how any one could blame the Land Law of 1861 for it. Surely when a man is put on the land on the easiest terms upon which land was ever given to man in the world, if he will not farm it that cannot be the fault of the law! It may be the fault of the country or of the people; but it is really the fault of neither. It is because every man will do that which seems to him best with his labour and his capital. That is the reason why we have not so much farming perhaps as some of the other colonies. I am quite satisfied that no one here will dispute that our people


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are better paid, better fed, and better off than the people of any of the neighbouring colonies; and, after all, that is the main thing. They are better paid and better clothed and in every way happier than people in the other colonies. We have seen no deputations sent from New South Wales to South Australia to see whether they can get a place to put their heads in. We have not heard of 50,000 people going over the border from New South Wales to get on to the land in Victoria, however frequently we may have heard of the opposite being the case. We know that our people are quite satisfied with their condition here, and let it be remembered that the increase of our population is progressing to a larger extent than that of the population of any of the other colonies.

After this exposition and defence of the principles of his past land legislation, Sir John Robertson explained the provisions of the new Bill which had been framed to cure defects and eradicate abuses in the administration of the old law, and concluded as follows:

Throughout the Bill the taking up of land has been made easier for the fair-dealing conditional purchaser, and more difficult and more dangerous for the conditional purchaser who attempts to fraudulently make use of the law. I have now given what appears to me to be a sufficient exposition of the past, that is, the past anterior to the law of 1861, of the working of the law of 1861, and of the changes contemplated by this Bill. I have given an immense amount of trouble to the preparation of the Bill, and I have been assisted by a number of the ablest and best officers of the Department of Lands, who in my opinion are equal to the best who have ever served the country, and I feel, whether it should be so or not, that the Bill deserves to be read a second time.

Mr. Stuart, who led the opposition to the Bill, spoke at considerable length, and with much cleverness. He complimented the Minister on his distinguished services


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and ability in connection with the public lands, but he contended that the country called loudly for radical changes. If the House was prepared to sanction the continuance of the vital principles of the present law, then he at once acknowledged that the Bill was an immense improvement, ‘because,’ said he, ‘a carefully prepared consolidation of so complicated a set of laws as those at present governing our land administration is in itself an enormous gain.’ But the House was called upon to go a great way beyond this. ‘I contend,’ urged Mr. Stuart, ‘that the vital principle of the present land law, which is perpetuated in the Bill placed before us, is indiscriminate free selections before survey.’ That I consider to be at the base of an immense amount of the evil which has characterised the administration of our land law, and of the feuds and difficulties which beset us on every hand. If any stranger were to form his opinion of the state of our land system from the speech which has just been delivered, I could imagine him, after hearing the speech, going away perfectly convinced that this must be a happy and contented people living under such an administration. Can we, however, shut our eyes to what is going on around us? What is our experience of the last few years—the last ten years—of the working of the land law? Does our experience accord with the rosy-coloured complexion given to it in the speech we have just heard? That we have made great advances in material prosperity no one can deny; but that we have been living under a sort of hot-house forcing system with regard to those large sums of money which have been flowing into the


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Treasury it is equally impossible to deny.’ He believed the people were loud in their demands for a change. He warned the House against consenting to go into committee to amend the Bill. A very different measure was needed to meet the wants of the people. He declined to move any amendment; but he had formulated the principles which ought to be embodied in any new land Bill, and he would read them to the House:

  • 1. Indiscriminate selection before survey condemned.
  • 2. Colony to be divided into two or more classes of districts.
  • 3. Division of present runs or leases. One-half to be leased by present lessees for seven, ten, or fifteen years, according to the class of district, but without any right of purchase by virtue of improvements.
  • 4. The other, or resumed half, to be open to selection by (a) conditional purchases in the inner and intermediate districts with increased maximum of area, but without pre-leases, and as far as possible within surveyed areas; (b) conditional leaseholds of enlarged areas in outer districts.
  • 5. Reduction of deposits on conditional purchases to 2s. per acre, but final payment in twenty-one years.
  • 6. Present system of auction sales to be abolished.
  • 7. Local land boards to enquire in open court into all matters affecting the administration of the law, with right of appeal from its decisions.
  • 8. Present conditional purchase holders may come under these provisions, half their pre-leases being secured for five years, with right of purchase.
  • 9. Reserves on each side of railway-lines.

And Mr. Stuart concluded: ‘Upon this platform I am prepared to take my stand in the matter of land reform; and as the Bill before us does not contain any one of


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those principles, but as its provisions are entirely antagonistic to every one of them, I see no other course to take than to reject the Bill in toto, let the consequences be what they may.’

The weak spots in the proposed reforms of Mr. Stuart were seen by the experienced eyes at the time. It was foretold how the runs would be divided, and how the people in many instances would get the worst half. Other delusive features were pointed out. But Mr. Stuart's bait had a showy appearance, and for the moment it was an adroit move.

The debate continued until a late hour on the 16th, when the House divided, with 33 for the second reading and 43 against it. The division in one sense was a surprise to us; in another sense a result expected. Several members who hitherto had supported the Ministry now, without any intimation of their intention, voted against us. Two gentlemen in particular who had regularly sat behind us, and who, on the night of the division, continued to occupy their accustomed seats, chatting cordially and confidentially with myself and other of the Ministers, turned up in the seats opposite to us when the votes were counted. Of course such things were a surprise. But the Ministry had existed too long, nearly four years. Even in England, nowadays, one element of danger to a Ministry is the length of Ministerial life. We knew there were men sitting on our side, and occasionally professing confidence in us, who were simply waiting for the opportunity when their votes against us could be effective. Some few were biding their time to punish us for the triumph of


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the Public Instruction Act in 1880; others, on lower grounds, had met with denials which they ill brooked; others again were prepared to risk a change on the chances of what might happen. At any rate, we were defeated by a decisive majority, and the Assembly never met again.

Believing that we possessed the confidence of the country, we advised a dissolution, and our advice was accepted by the Governor. In the appeal to the electors the ground of attack was to a large extent shifted by our opponents, and the Ministry were covered by a flood of vile accusations. The result of the elections was adverse, and we retired on January 4, 1883, four years and fifteen days after our acceptance of office. The next four years saw the birth and death of four Ministries, and no fewer than thirty-one different men holding Ministerial office. The first of our successors lasted two years and nine months; the second seventy-five days, the third sixty-six days, and the fourth ten months and twenty-four days. The principal legislative measures of this chequered period of four years were the Land Act of 1883, the Criminal Law Consolidation Act, and the Customs Duties Act of 1887; the most notable feat in administration was the unconstitutional despatch of Australian troops to the Soudan.

As the outcome of the General Election at the close of 1882, Mr. Stuart came into office on January 5 following. I had lost my seat for East Sydney, but I had been immediately returned without opposition, and without appearing as a candidate, for the district of Tenterfield. Being released from office, and finding


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my health still suffering from the effects of my illness in 1881, I determined upon another visit to Europe. I offered to resign my seat in Parliament, but my new constituents decided in public meeting that I should retain it during my absence. I left Sydney early in the year, and did not return until the end of August 1884. I spent several weeks in the United States, portion of the time with friends in Boston, and part in New York. While in the former city, Lord Chief Justice Coleridge was entertained at a public banquet by General Butler, who was Governor of Massachusetts at the time. Being one of the guests, I found a new source of enjoyment in the dexterous word-play between the fire-eating General and the placid Lord Chief Justice in their curious interchange of compliments to each other's country. On the following day I was, on the invitation of the Governor, one of a party organised by him to visit the manufacturing town of Lowell. The party included Mr. Gilbert Coleridge, Governor Jarvis, Colonel Means, Colonel Derosset, General Dalton, the Honourable Wellington Smith, Lieutenant McLellan, and others, besides the Lord Chief Justice and Governor Butler. We spent some hours in inspecting the cotton factories, none of which were in full work. In the afternoon we were hospitably entertained by General Butler, at his mansion overlooking the Merrimac. During my subsequent stay in New York, I received much attention and kindness from the eminent jurist, Mr. Dudley Field, from Sir Roderick Cameron, General Hawley, Mr. Jay Gould, and other well-known citizens.




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I find the following entry in my Diary of Sept. 18:—‘Saw President Arthur and the Secretary of State at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Spoke to both on the Wool Duties and the Pacific Mail Service; and both seemed favourable to my views. The Secretary of State said plainly that a further reduction of duties would come.’ This interview is referred to in a previous chapter.

I visited the Immigration Depôt at Castle Garden. Eight hundred immigrants had arrived that morning, 75 per cent. of whom had been sent away by various trains before the evening. The Department, I was informed,—indeed the books were thrown open for my inspection,—takes care of their money and valuables, makes careful enquires as to the districts where they are most likely to find engagements, protects them from the class of persons seeking to prey upon them, offers advice founded on special knowledge, and looks after the destitute and sick. The organisation appeared to be very complete.

On the 19th I went on board the Cunard steamship Pavonia for England. I landed at Liverpool on the 29th, and during my short stay in that city received much civility from the Mayor, William Radcliffe, Esq. I was shown through St. George's Hall, the Rotunda Library, the Museum, and other public places. I was much struck by my inspection of the Waterloo grain warehouses, containing seven acres of floors, and of the Langton and Alexandra Docks.

I left Liverpool by train at 11.5 A.M. on October 2, in a reserved carriage courteously granted to me by the Company, and reached London at 3.25 P.M.




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While in England, I on several occasions had the honour—looking back now it is coloured by the feelings of a genuine sorrow—of receiving Robert Browning among my visitors at my lodgings. We had many chats concerning his intercourse with Walter Savage Landor in Italy, on Mr. Barrett Browning's pictures, and in reference to eminent men in literature. At that time the poet was seventy-two years of age, but he had not taken to spectacles, and he seemed slightly proud of his well-preserved eyesight. On one occasion, when other persons were present, the conversation turned upon handwriting, when Browning took a pen and wrote his name on a piece of paper in characters so small that I have often seen young people bend their heads to read it. The signature lies before me now, the letters distinctly and neatly formed, and the whole inscription, ‘Robert Browning, January 15, '84,’ within the space of seven-eighths of an inch. When I was leaving England, Mr. Browning wrote in a volume of his poems which I hold with my few treasures: ‘All health and happiness to my friend Sir Henry Parkes. He carries away with him the grateful and affectionate remembrances of Robert Browning. July 2, 1884.’ A little more than five years afterwards the poet passed away to his last home, but I remember his sweet, joyous face as it lightened the atmosphere wherever it appeared, and I feel that I am better for having known him. In my own efforts and failures his beautiful words console me:

What hand and brain went ever paired?
What heart alike conceived and dared?
What act proved all its thought had been?
What will but felt the fleshy screen?




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I saw much of my dear friend Thomas Woolner, often spent happy hours with the noble old devotee of science, Richard Owen, was for days together the guest of the illustrious author of ‘Locksley Hall’; and I was introduced to many remarkable men, which made my second sojourn in England extremely pleasant. Among the persons I met I recall to memory Mr. Kinglake, Mr. Waddington, General Sir Henry Norman (now Governor of Queensland), Mr. Bret Harte, the Rev. B. Jowett, Professor Huxley, Lord Aberdare, Mr. Herbert Spencer, and many others.

I feel that I owe much to the consideration and kindness of some whose guest I often had the happiness to be—to Lord Armstrong, Mr. Lecky, the historian, Sir Anthony Hoskins, the late Mr. W. E. Forster, Sir Richard Owen, and Mr. Thomas B. Potter, as well as to my personal friends Mr. Woolner, Sir William Ogg, Sir Daniel Cooper, Mr. Donald Larnach, and that true servant of New South Wales, Sir Saul Samuel.

Amongst the old Australians in London whom I often saw was Sir John Darvall. He was a brilliant figure at the Sydney Bar before I was known to the Australian public, and he strenuously supported my election for Sydney in 1854, speaking at many of my meetings. I dined with Sir John at his house in Upper Wimpole Street on October 26, 1883, and never saw him afterwards. He was then so nearly blind that he had difficulty in recognising the members of his own family. He came close to me before he knew me, but in voice and features he was little changed. He spoke with surprising distinctness of the old times when I


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used to sit in the Assembly till midnight, and then go to ‘The Empire’ office and work for hours on the paper, and of old political faces of those days; but he seemed to know little of the present state of the colony. He soon afterwards passed away. I knew him well in public life, both as a friend and as an opponent; and he was a gallant-hearted man.

In these days I saw much of Sir Daniel Cooper, whose genial nature and kindness of heart were always the same. With him, too, I sat in the old Legislature, partly nominative and partly elective, before Responsible Government, and it seemed like the revival of old relations to meet him so often.

My good friend, Sir Saul Samuel, was then, as always, ready with his smile of welcome and his proffered service, and he did all in his power to make my brief London life a pleasure. My acquaintance with Sir Saul now extends over half a century, and I have known few truer men.

I find the following entry in my diary:—‘October 29. Went with Mr. J. H. de Ricci to Fair-trade meeting in Cockspur Street. Sir Eardley Wilmot, Mr. Sampson Lloyd, Sir William Wheelhouse, Mr. Richard Russell, and Captain Bedford Pim took part. Captain Pim “was an old-fashioned Protectionist; no humbug of Fair-trade for him.” Mr. Russell was “an old Protectionist: the Government ought to tax everything.” Sir W. Wheelhouse: “The Government was not worth its salt, if not prepared to tax everything when necessary.” I left Mr. de Ricci with his friends, and preferred the street.’




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Some business I had in hand took me several times to Scotland. In Edinburgh I had a letter of introduction to Sir Alexander Grant, with whom I spent some agreeable hours, and who took me over the university. I was taken to Loch Awe by Mr. John Blair, and to Abbotsford by Mr. John Murray of Galashiels. At Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen I addressed public meetings, convened for the purpose, on the subject of Australian progress. In these several journeys I was treated with unexpected hospitality by new friends. I travelled as far as Braemar and the Links of Dee; but my movements were very hurried, and I had little time for enquiry.

On October 18 I left Edinburgh for Leeds to attend a great Reform meeting, which was held in St. George's Hall. It was estimated that some 4,000 persons were present. The chair was occupied by Mr. John Bright; the principal speakers were Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Mr. John Morley, and Mr. Herbert Gladstone. There were many ladies present, chiefly occupying the front seats in the galleries. I had several reasons for attending this meeting at some considerable trouble. It had been much talked of as a reawakening of interest in the cause of Parliamentary reform; I had a strong desire to hear Mr. Bright once more on a popular platform; and I wished to be in a position to institute some comparison between a great English meeting and a great Australian meeting, both in respect to the composition of the assemblage and the style and manner of the speaking. Mr. Bright appeared to speak with a subdued passion at times almost pathetic,


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and with little of the biting humour of bygone years. Mr. Morley struck me as one accustomed to a different kind of audience, though his matter was excellent. Sir Wilfrid was strikingly Wilfrid-Lawsonish. I never heard Mr. Bright speak again. The Leeds audience was very much like a Sydney or Melbourne audience; and a Melbourne or Sydney meeting would look quite as English as the one at Leeds. On the following morning I had a brief conversation with Mr. Bright in the railway carriage when he was on the point of leaving for Liverpool. He expressed surprise that I should have come all the way from Edinburgh to hear him.

I afterwards visited the ‘Leeds Mercury’ office, and saw Sir Edward Baines. I had had some intercourse with him, then member for Leeds, in 1862, on the subject of emigration to Australia. Sir Edward was now in his eighty-fourth year, apparently very vigorous still, and he took a lively interest in a conversation started by Mr. Talbot Baines on Australian affairs. I left for London the same day.

In November and December, 1883, a convention of the Australasian Governments was held in Sydney, including Fiji, which was represented by its Governor, Sir G. William Des Væux. The convention was mainly the outcome of public discussions and correspondence between the Australian governments, arising from the action of Queensland in taking possession of New Guinea in Her Majesty's name; but the scope of its business was gradually enlarged to the inclusion of other subjects. It was proposed by one set of resolutions


  ― 135 ―
to urge the annexation of, or the constituting a Protectorate over, all the islands of the Western Pacific from the Equator to the New Hebrides; by another proposal, to declare that any further acquisition of dominion by a foreign Power in the islands of the Western Pacific south of the Equator would be highly detrimental to the safety and well-being of Her Majesty's Australasian possessions. The convention sat ten days and discussed many subjects, but it is not my intention here to deal with its decisions, but to confine myself to my own action at the same time in England.

So far back as the year 1874 I had urged upon Sir Hercules Robinson, as Her Majesty's representative, the sound policy of colonising New Guinea. In a minute which is published as Appendix II. to these volumes, after narrating the steps which had been taken by parties connected with New South Wales towards the exploration of the Island, I concluded with this paragraph:—‘The importance of New Guinea to the English empire now rapidly forming in this part of the world cannot be over-estimated. Its close proximity to the Australian coast, its territorial extent, the valuable character of its lands, its known mineral wealth, the pearl fisheries in the neighbouring seas, give to it a prominence in the progress of these colonies which will go on increasing every year. Its colonisation by a foreign Power could not fail of giving rise to many embarrassments. Its colonisation by Great Britain would be hailed with universal approbation throughout Australasia.’ Some years later the Government of Queensland, by one of its officers, took possession of New Guinea and hoisted the English flag on its soil,


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which act was repudiated by the English Government. I had many conversations with influential persons in London on this subject, and forming my views from what I gathered as the opinions in high circles, I telegraphed and wrote to Sir Alexander Stuart, that, if the convention confined its efforts to the colonisation of New Guinea, it would be much more likely to succeed than it would be if it included New Ireland and other groups of the adjacent islands in its representations. The convention, however, took the opposite course, with what result is well known. I opened a correspondence with Lord Chancellor Selborne in which I strongly advocated the wisdom of taking possession of New Guinea as part of Australia; and I fear a great mistake has been made, looking to the Australian future, in letting things remain until the flag of another great European Power has been hoisted over part of the island.

I left England early in July, 1884, by my old ship the White Star liner Germanic and with my old friend Captain Kennedy, for New York. After some days spent among my American friends, I made the railway journey to San Francisco in five days and eighteen hours, staying nowhere on the way. Some few days were given to my friends in San Francisco, when I left by the steamship City of Sydney for my Australian home. A pleasant passage, without any unusual incident, ended in Port Jackson on August 29. As the ship steamed up the noble harbour my old colleagues and political friends were waiting for me on the wharf, and in the evening I was welcomed by another banquet in the Town Hall.

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