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On the Means of reducing the Expences of this Colony.

The establishment of a free constitution in the place of the arbitrary authority of an individual, would superinduce so many privileges of which the colonists have hitherto been debarred, that they would not at first be fully sensible of the nature and extent of their new acquisitions. The great facilities which would be presented to agricultural and commercial enterprize, would not at once be generally perceived, or extensively embraced. Industry, though one of the most active principles of human nature, settles when long restrained into a habit of inertion, which cannot be instantly overcome. When the mounds within which this principle has been long confined, are suddenly removed, it will not of itself rush at once into every new channel in its way, and stop only when it has found its own level. It is not like fluids possessed of an inherent elasticity and tendency to motion, but requires a directing impulse to set and continue


  ― 381 ―
it in activity, and its activity will then only be in proportion to the power and energy applied. It is not, therefore, to be expected, because the great fundamental changes which I have recommended in the polity of this colony would if adopted, immediately create new sources of profitable occupation, and completely unfetter the long restrained industry and enterprize of its inhabitants, that they are at once to take full advantage of their situation. There is a timidity in man, which though not sufficient to curb the adventurous spirit of his nature, tends materially to check and repress it. This principle alone, therefore, would suffice to prevent the sober and discreet part of the colonists from rushing headlong into the various new avenues of profitable occupation that would be open to them; but there is also in their poverty a still more effectual impediment. Though labour is itself the origin and measure of all wealth, it contributes but little to public or private advantage when left to its own isolated and unconnected efforts. It is only when in a state of union, and when subjected to the controul of a directing intelligence, which can combine its energies, and render them subservient to the attainment of some single end, that it becomes capable of effecting great beneficial results. But this necessary combination of labour can only be maintained by


  ― 382 ―
the help of capital; and where such capital does not exist, these great united efforts, the effect of the gradual accumulation of wealth, and the main cause of the prosperity of all ancient and populous communities, cannot be immediately organized and established. This observation in its reference to this colony, it will be seen, bears more particularly on the commercial privileges of which its inhabitants would thus become possessed. These undoubtedly would not be extensively embraced, until a very considerable accumulation of capital should have arisen from the progress and perfection of agriculture. This and manufactures are therefore the only two immediate channels that remain for the absorption of labour and the development of industry. The latter, I have long since endeavoured to prove would never have occupied any share of the attention of the colonists, had those encouragements which the government had at their disposal, been bestowed on the former. The manufacturing system, now so rapidly gaining ground, has been one of the retributive consequences of the short-sighted and illiberal policy of which this unfortunate colony has been so long the victim, and will cease of itself, whenever the existing impediments to the extension of agriculture shall be removed, for the best of all reasons, because no person will select a less profitable undertaking


  ― 383 ―
when a more profitable one, and one requiring less skill, capital, and assiduity, lies open to him. Agriculture, therefore, as soon as it shall be freed from its present restraints, will afford the readiest and most accessible channel for carrying off the large accumulation of stagnant labour which at present infests this colony. It is this mass of superfluous labourers, for whom there exists only a fictitious demand, and with whom the government are at present obliged to give a bounty in the shape of clothing and provisions, to induce the settlers to accept their services, that constitutes the main source of the great and increasing expenditure of this colony; and it is to this point alone that all radical and comprehensive schemes of retrenchment must be directed. The impoverished condition of the colonists, to which circumstance alone the expences of the government are mainly attributable, arises from the means of employment not keeping pace with the rapid increase in the population, and yet perhaps there is no community in which equal encouragements to industry are to be found. It has already been stated that within the last six years the population of this colony has actually doubled itself, in other words, it has advanced in this respect with a celerity nearly four times as great as the United States of America,—a country whose rapid numerical increase has been


  ― 384 ―
a subject of astonishment to the whole world. It may therefore be perceived that this unparalleled augmentation in the population of this colony, must of itself afford an unprecedented stimulus to agriculture;—a stimulus, perhaps, with which the agricultural progress of any other country could not keep pace. It is well known that Poland, which is the greatest corn country in Europe, and whose whole strength is directed to the pursuits of agriculture, does not export more than one month's consumption of grain for its population. America exports somewhat less, but would be able, without doubt, to export somewhat more, if the collected force of its inhabitants were applied to the raising of corn; yet still neither the one nor the other of these countries would be enabled to support such a rapid increase of population as is taking place in this colony. Such, however, is its fertility that the vast encouragement afforded by this unprecedented augmentation in its numbers (who, it must be recollected, are for the most part adults, and not, as in the case of old established societies, infants, and in consequence not gifted with the full powers of consumption,) so prodigious, I say, is its fertility, that there is far from a sufficient demand for labour. The settlements in Van Diemen's Land alone, on the occasion of the flood which took place in the month of March, 1817,


  ― 385 ―
at the Hawkesbury river, the principal agricultural establishment, and where, for the causes I have already explained, the colonists, in most instances, allow their stacks to remain within the influence of these destructive inundations, were able to supply Port Jackson with about twenty thousand bushels of wheat, the whole of which was raised without any probability of a market, and would have perished in the hands of the growers, or at best, have become the food of hogs, had it not been for the great loss of grain occasioned by the overflowing of the above river. It may, therefore, be perceived, that the colonists in Van Diemen's Land raise on the strength of the bare possibility of a flood happening at the principal settlement, very nearly as much corn as is required for their own consumption; and there can be no doubt if their industry was stretched to the utmost point of extension, that they would be enabled to export at least three times as much as they thus casually furnished in the year 1817. The settlements, however, at Port Jackson, cannot pretend to equal fertility of soil, yet even their productive powers are considerably cramped by the want of an adequate market. How this most important object might be effected, and profitable occupation created for all the labour that is now, or may be hereafter disposable in the colony, I have already explained


  ― 386 ―
at considerable length; and it is under the presumption that my recommendations on this head will be deemed worthy of adoption, that I shall hereafter submit a plan for gradually diminishing the colonial expenditure.

The readiest way of accomplishing this object would be to abolish at once the system of victualling and clothing the convicts from the king's stores; but this is impracticable and must be done judiciously, and in proportion only to the gradually increasing demand for labour. This mode of retrenchment, indeed, has already been pushed further than circumstances have warranted. The ticket of leave system, by which convicts are permitted to go on their own hands, and administer in any way that they can to their own wants, though first intended as a reward to the really reformed and meritorious convict, has of late years been resorted to as the most efficacious means of lessening the expences of the government. And hence the very end and aim of this colony, the reformation of the lawless gang who are transported to its shores, have been postponed to a paltry saving, unworthy the character of the nation, and subversive in a great measure of the philanthropic intentions with which the legislature were originally actuated. The alarming increase of crime that has taken


  ― 387 ―
place within the last few years, is the re-action of this pernicious and mercenary system, which has already been carried to such an extent as to endanger the lives and property of every honest and well disposed inhabitant of the colony. This system, so injurious of itself, has been powerfully seconded by the lax and indiscriminate manner in which convict servants have been assigned to the various settlers. Being in most instances freed or emancipated convicts themselves, many of them possess but little character, and in fact only accept the different indulgences that are held out to colonization, with a view to the immediate profit which they can derive from them, and without any intention of performing the remote conditions which they tacitly or expressly enter into with the government. So long as their servants are victualled and clothed at the cost of the crown, they in general avail themselves fully of their services, but the moment this great indulgence ceases, they generally compound with them, and in consideration of the performance of a stipulated quantity of labour free of expence, grant them an exemption from their employment for the remainder of the year, and consequently, a licence to prowl about the country, and plunder at every convenient opportunity, the honest and deserving part of the community. And


  ― 388 ―
although the present governor has taken every step that could be devised for the suppression of this pernicious practice, yet in consequence of the thinly inhabited state of the colony, and the remoteness of the various agricultural settlements from one another, circumstances which prevent the appointment of proper persons to detect and punish such violations of public orders, his efforts have been in a great degree unavailing. He is well aware of the nature of the disease under which the colony is languishing, but he has not the power to administer the only effectual remedy. Create but a sufficient market for the colonial produce, and labour will then become too valuable to be suffered thus to remain in inactivity. It will then and not before be the interest of the settlers to push their servants' exertions to the utmost. The competition that will then exist for the products of labour, will be the best guarantee for its proper application. The method which I am about to submit for the suppression of this alarming state of anarchy and danger, will, it must be confessed, occasion a very considerable immediate addition of expence; but this is necessary to rectify the great and increasing evils of the ticket of leave system, and to insure the honest and laborious colonist that security of person and property which the injudicious extension,


  ― 389 ―
within these few years, of this narrow-minded system has so greatly endangered. Without the enjoyment of a full and sufficient protection, the colonists, however enlightened may be the future conduct of their government in other respects, will make but a timid and feeble advance in the various departments of internal industry. A certainty of reaping the fruits of their exertions, is indeed an indispensable preliminary to the resumption of those active habits which have been so long paralyzed, and a recurrence to which is the main stock whereon all shoots of future retrenchment must be engrafted. Under a hope, therefore, that an internal legislature, which I again insist can alone fully provide for the present and future necessities of this colony will be established, I venture to propose the following plan for eventually diminishing the scale of its expenditure:

First, That the ticket of leave system, except in as far as its continuance may be really essential to the promotion of good conduct in the convicts, should be abolished.

Secondly, That the ticket of leave men, and all the convicts now in the service of individuals, whether victualled and clothed at the expence of the crown or not, should be called


  ― 390 ―
in and re-assigned, either to their present masters or to others, and that these should be allowed with them the premium hereafter to be named; but that they should be previously in every instance required to give security to the government, that such convict servants should not on any account be permitted to be absent from their respective employments.

Thirdly, That instead of the present mode of victualling and clothing the convicts from the king's stores, the settlers should be allowed a stipulated premium with them, one fifth less than the actual cost of maintaining them, and that this premium should diminish one fifth yearly from the date of the changes in the colonial polity, which have been recommended.

Fourthly, That the price now directed to be paid convict servants for their extra time, should be reduced from £10 in the men, to £5; and from £7 to £3 10s. in the women: and that this reduction should be subtracted from the amount of the above premium, and carried to the credit of the government.

Fifthly, That all such convicts as may arrive in the colony within the five years next ensuing the above period, other than those who may be required for the government works,


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should be in like manner assigned to deserving applicants, with the decreased premium of the year in which they may arrive.

Sixthly, That at the expiration of the above period of five years, the whole of the government works which are now for the most part carried on by convicts, victualled and clothed from the king's stores, should be performed by contract.

Seventhly, That the utmost encouragement should be held out by the government to the emigration of wealthy individuals to the colony; and that with a view to effect this object, not only a passage should be furnished them free of expence in the various transports, which are annually sent thither, but that also the quantity of land to be hereafter granted them, should be increased in proportion to their capital, from eight hundred acres (the present customary grant) up to five thousand.

Lastly, That the unappropriated lands most eligibly situated for the purposes of colonization, should be surveyed and marked out into sections, each containing one square mile, or six hundred and forty acres; that each of these sections should be again subdivided into four parts; that thirty-six of these sections should


  ― 392 ―
as in America form a township; that at stated periods the lands so surveyed should be set up to auction, and sold to the best bidder, provided the price offered for them should exceed one dollar per acre; if not, that they should be retained until they could be sold for such price at some subsequent period; that the same credit should be given for the purchase of these lands as is given in America, and the same discount on ready money; and that the amount of such sales should go to the Police Fund, and be employed in defraying the expences of the colony.

The object of the foregoing propositions must be too evident from the preliminary remarks which I have made, to need any extended illustration; nevertheless, it may not be altogether inexpedient to say a few words in further explanation of them to such persons as have bestowed no portion of their attention on the circumstances and situation of this colony. The first, second, and third articles speak for themselves. The remedy here proposed for the alarming evils, which I have so copiously traced to the causes of their origin and continuance, will certainly occasion the government for the next five years a very great additional expence; but after the most mature reflection on the present impoverished state of this


  ― 393 ―
colony, and the deeply rooted habits of idleness and vice, which a fifteen years' deprivation of the most important civil and political rights has occasioned, I can devise none besides that could be applied with any probability of effecting a radical and permanent cure. The arrangement recommended in the third article, I mean the substitution of a premium for the present mode of clothing and victualling the convicts, would be highly favourable to the agricultural interests, both by limiting to the cultivators of the soil, the supply of the food consumed by their servants, and by sparing them the trouble and expence of sending their carts for it to the king's stores, an exemption which would be attended with a considerable saving to such of them as inhabit districts remote from the towns: it would also be a source of economy to the government, by enabling them to make a great reduction in the commissariat department. The only objection I can anticipate to this article, is, that it fixes an arbitrary rate of reduction on the premium to be allowed the settlers with the convicts; and that this rate may prove greater than the advance which the colony may make in the various avenues of internal industry. This may possibly be the case, although I consider the period I have named sufficiently protracted to allow the colonists due time to ascertain the nature and extent of their


  ― 394 ―
newly acquired privileges, and to profit by them. If, however, it were practicable, it would certainly be more eligible that they themselves should become the arbiters of the abatement which should annually take place in the premium to be given with the convicts. I do not, however, well know how this desideratum could be effected, unless the grand juries during the circuit of the courts in the different districts, could be empowered to inquire into and determine the increase that may take place in the demand for labour, and regulate the price of it, or in other words the premium to be given with it accordingly. To detract as far as possible from the increased expence which would follow the adoption of the measures recommended in the first, second, and third articles, is the object of the fourth. By making the abatement here proposed in the amount of the wages now directed to be paid by the settlers to their convict servants, and carrying it to the credit of the government, an immediate saving of £5 per man, and £3 10s. per woman would be effected. And if the calculation be accurate that each male convict victualled and clothed at the expence of the crown costs £18, and each female £12 10s. it will be seen that above one fourth more might be supported by the government in the manner here recommended, and that likewise a fifth might be annually added to


  ― 395 ―
the number, without occasioning any increase whatever in the colonial expenditure. The weight too of this mode of retrenchment would not fall on the settler, and by operating as a check to agriculture perhaps prolong the period when the various departments of industry will be enabled to absorb the large mass of labour which is annually regurgitated on the shores of this colony, but on the convicts themselves, to whose reformation indeed, (the primary object of its foundation) it is essential that every incentive to the renewal of their ancient disorderly and profligate habits should be withdrawn. Even with this diminished scale of wages, the situation of the convicts would be far preferable to that of the labouring class in this country. £2 10s. to the men, and £1 10s. to the women, would then remain, independently of their food and clothing, which is surely quite sufficient for the “menus plaisirs” of a set of persons who are supposed to be smarting under the lash of the law. Article fifth needs no explanation. Article sixth, contemplates the saving that might be effected in the public works of the government, by exchanging at the expiration of the period, when the bounty to be allowed to settlers with convicts shall cease, the present mode of carrying them on by a body of men, victualled and clothed at the expence of the crown, for the more economical


  ― 396 ―
plan of contracting for them with the lowest bidder. I limit the commencement of this method of retrenchment to the above period, because so long as a necessity exists for giving a bounty with convicts, there can be no doubt that it would be judicious for the government to profit as far as possible by the labour of persons whom even in the employment of individuals, they would be in a great measure obliged to support. But the moment this necessity shall cease, it is equally indubitable that a considerable saving might be effected by carrying on the public works by contract. Where a body of fourteen or fifteen hundred convicts are employed under the superintendence of the most active and upright man, there will always be a system of idleness and plunder, which his assiduity will never be able entirely to baffle. Out of the immense number of minor agents on whose intelligence and integrity he would be obliged to place a considerable degree of dependence, it is not readily to be believed, however great may be his activity and discrimination, that he would not be frequently deceived, and that those very men on whom he most relied to suppress the dishonest inclinations of others, would not themselves occasionally profit by the facilities to plunder and peculation, which the confidence they enjoyed might throw in their way. That such


  ― 397 ―
is, and always has been the case in this colony, no person at all conversant with its real state, can have any hesitation in asserting; and consequently that the substitution of contracts in the place of the present mode of conducting the public works, would become a very important source of economy at the period in question. Article the seventh, is intended to encourage emigration to the colony, and to turn to its shores some portion of the immense numbers who are annually withdrawing from this country to the United States of America. It appears almost inexplicable how the government can look on, and behold the thousands who are propelled by various causes to quit their native land, and not make some vigorous efforts, if not to check this strong tide of emigration, at least to divert it to our colonies, where in general it is so much required, and might become of such immense and permanent utility to the empire. It is true that of those who thus abandon the land of their forefathers, many are actuated by political animosities, and could not by any means be induced to settle in any of our colonies. But it is not less certain that there are others, and that the majority are of this class, whom mere distress and inability to provide for the growing wants of their families, unalloyed with any political feelings whatever, most reluctantly drive to seek an asylum in America,


  ― 398 ―
and who deeply lament the necessity of betaking themselves to a country where they and their children may one day be compelled to draw their paricidal swords against the mother that gave them birth. It cannot indeed be denied that the government to prevent this horrible alternative, have for a long time held out considerable encouragements to persons emigrating to Canada; but besides that the policy of thus peopling at so considerable an expence a country which in the natural course of events must become an integral member of the American union, is at least questionable, it is well known that three-fourths of those who are thus induced to settle in Canada, end by removing to the United States. The intense severity of the winters, and the unavoidable suspension of the pursuits of agriculture during six months in the year, with the habits and language of the Canadians, so repulsive and annoying to the generality of Englishmen, sufficiently account for this circumstance, without taking into computation the superior advantages of climate and soil which the greater part of the United States is represented as possessing. If the impolicy, therefore, of encouraging emigration to Canada be disputed, still the inefficiency of the means employed to attain the end contemplated by the government ought to decide them to try some other expedient to


  ― 399 ―
prevent so large a stock of British industry and capital from thus adding to the resources of a nation, who is already the most formidable, as she is the most rancorous on the list of our enemies. No measure, perhaps, that could be adopted would tend so effectually to the accomplishment of this object, as holding out the great encouragement specified in this article to all such as may settle in this colony. Possessed as it is of a most salubrious and diversified climate, fertile soil, and unbounded extent of territory, it evidently contains every requisite for the formation of a great and flourishing community; and whenever it shall be blessed with a free government will offer much greater facilities for the development of industry and the acquisition of wealth, than are to be found in the United States. Until the colony, however, shall possess this fundamental privilege, every attempt of the government to divert the current of emigration thither from America must prove in a great measure unavailing. A free constitution is the first want of those who have known the blessings of one; and no prospects of profit to an honourable and independent mind can compensate for its loss. There can be little doubt, therefore, that as soon as this indispensable preliminary to general emigration shall be granted, thousands of persons will embark for this colony, and continue to


  ― 400 ―
contribute to the wealth and power of their native country, who would otherwise become citizens of her most formidable and inveterate rival.

The adoption also of the measures here recommended, would have a sensible effect in diminishing the expenditure of this colony; and would amply compensate for any loss which the government might sustain by affording settlers a passage thither, free of expence, in the transports. I commenced this section by an attempt to prove that the great immediate hindrance to the employment of the large mass of unoccupied labour in the various new departmeuts of internal industry that will be created by the establishment of a free government, will arise from the want of capital; and the premium I have recommended to be granted with convicts for the first five years ensuing the proposed change in the colonial polity, is intended to impart an artificial vigour into the community, and to allow of that accumulation of wealth, which may afterwards suffice of itself to keep in solution all the disposable labour of the colony. Every accession, therefore, of capital that may take place, will contribute to swell the colonial stock to that extent which is necessary for the complete occupation of the convicts, and thus become


  ― 401 ―
the means of accelerating the period when the government will be entirely emancipated from the necessity of allowing the settlers a bounty with them.

The last article scarcely needs any explanation. Whenever that extensive emigration of capitalists which I confidently anticipate would follow the establishment of a free government shall take place, the sale of the crown lands would evidently become a source of considerable profit, and would go a long way towards defraying the expences of the colony. It would also be the means of bringing numbers of rich speculators thither, who wonld not think of emigrating even for the increased indulgences which I have recommended in the foregoing article. A man of fortune would then be enabled to vest his money in land to the exact extent that he might desire; whereas at present, he must either be content with the portion assigned him, or else purchase by dribblets the farms that may become vacant in the vicinity of his estate, and after all perhaps, be annoyed by having the possessions of others in the midst of his own. It is true that individuals, who do not possess sufficient land for the support of their flocks and herds, are allowed to feed them on the unappropriated lands, and can therefore increase their stock to any


  ― 402 ―
extent they may please. But the rapid progress of colonization places the crown lands every day at a greater distance from the original settlements, and occasions a constant necessity for receding, so that at last that part of his stock which the farmer cannot feed at home is gradually removed to an inconvenient distance, and no longer can have the benefit of his personal superintendence. With men of capital, therefore, the class of whom it has been seen that the colony is most in need, this sale of the crown lands at half the price which is demanded for land in America, would prove a very powerful stimulus to emigration, and would consequently have a twofold operation in diminishing the expenditure of this colony; viz. by filling the coffers of the Police Fund, and by occasioning that accession of capital, which I have before shewn to be essential before the government can be freed from the burden of supporting the convicts.

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