Majority of the Colony of South Australia

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), Monday 28 December 1857, page 2



It is twenty-one years to-day since this country was proclaimed to be a colony of the British Crown, under the designation of 'South Australia." On the 28th of December, 1836, the British flag was hoisted on the plains of Glenelg, and the congratulatory thunders of a British man-of-war pealed over the waters of Holdfast Bay as Captain Hindmarsh, the first Governor of South Australia, read the royal proclamation [sic] in presence of the assembled settlers. It was a memorable day to all who were connected with its proceedings, and must also be an interesting day to all existing colonists, whether present or not at the founding of the province. As our readers will doubtless expect from us some reference to what may be termed the natal day of our adopted land, we shall do our best to furnish them with a few particulars, conscious, however, that but very little, can be given within the limits of a newspaper article— confident, also, that the history of South Australia will one day be worthily written. Before reciting the incidents and occurrences of the memorable day of proclamation, it may be interesting to many if we briefly advert to the movements preliminary to that event.

The actual founder of the colony, so far at least as relates to the fundamental principle upon which it is constituted, was Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the cardinal point of whose theory was, that the system of making free grants of enormous tracts of country to individual adventurers should be discontinued, that all the Crown lands should be sold, and that the produce of such sales should be wholly devoted to the introduction of labour. On these principles South Australia was founded, this being the first of Her Majesty's colonies to which the Wakefield principle was applied. As our readers are aware, it was afterwards held desirable to modify that portion of the Wakefield system that required the whole of the Land Fund to be applied to immigration purposes ; and still more recently it has been held desirable to set the Land Fund entirely free from all special obligations. But there can be no doubt as to the vast benefit which South Australia derived at the outset by the operation of the Wakefield system, notwithstanding the increase of population and the progress of society, might render another system preferable.

The colony of South Australia was founded by the Act of 4 and 5 William IV., c. 95 ; subsequently amended by the Act 1 and 2 Victoria, c. 6O. The last-mentioned Act was passed on the 31st of July, 1838. Under the joint operation of both Acts the early administration of the colony was established, Commissioners having been appointed to carry the Acts into execution. The following is a list of the original Commissioners : — Colonel Torrens, Chairman. G.F. Angus. . S. Mills. E. Barnard. Jacob Montefiore. W.Hutt. G. Palmer. J.G.Lefevre. J. Wright. W.A.Mackinnon,M.P. G. Barnes, Treasurer. Rowland Hill, Secretary. The Commissioners were resident in England, but they were authorized to appoint their representative in the colony, and Mr. James Hurtle Fisher, now President of the Legislative Council, was the first Resident Commissioner in South Australia.

By provision of the two Acts before mentioned, the powers of the Commissioners and the powers of the Colonial Government were wholly separate and distinct ; the Commissioners having no authority to levy taxes, or to make and administer laws, and the Government having no authority whatever as respects the disposal of the land. These divisions of authority led, in the early days of the colony, to unhappy disputes, which continued to prevail until Colonel Gawler was appointed with the double powers of Governor and Resident Commissioner.

The first Imperial Act establishing the colony precluded, the Commissioners from exercising their general powers until after land should have been sold to the value of £35,000; and, further, until they had invested £20,000 in Exchequer Bills as a guarantee to the Home Government against possible losses that might arise from an attempt to found a colony on speculative principles. The same Act, however, and also the Act of Victoria, authorized the Commissioners to raise, by loan if possible, the sum of £200,000 for delaying the costs and charges of founding the colony, such loan to be secured upon the ordinary revenue arising from rates and duties to be levied in the province. The Commissioners were also authorized to borrow an additional sum of money, but not exceeding £50,000, for the sole purpose of conveying poor emigrants to the colony before the sales of waste lands should put them in funds for this purpose. The upset price of land was fixed under the original Acts at a minimum of 12s. per acre, without distinction of price as to town or country acres; but as the Commissioners were empowered to advance upon the legal minimum they resolved that the price of land should be £1 per acre, and that the country lands should be laid out in sections, as nearly as practicable, of eighty acres each. The Act of Victoria 1 and 2 authorized the Commissioners to employ money raised on land or revenue securities, either for the administering of Government or, for the introduction of immigrants, but such convertible applications of money were to be regarded as loans between the two sources of revenue, and were to be carried into separate accounts. A limit was also put to the borrowing of money from the Emigration Fund, the debt to which was never to exceed one-third of its amount for the current year.

The difficulties which the founders of the colony experienced in obtaining their Acts were followed by subsequent difficulties in obtaining public support. It was found impossible to sell the £35,000 worth of land, and the Commissioners were compelled to resign without having accomplished anything of a practical character. A new Board of Commissioners was appointed, but with little better promise of success, when Mr. George Fife Angas, one of the Commissioners, suggested the idea of establishing a Company to raise the required £35,000 for land, and also such other sums as should be necessary for actually starting the colony. The suggestion was well received, and the South Australian Company was the result. On the 22nd of January, 1836, the Company was declared to be formed with a subscribed capital of £200,000, which was enlarged the same year to £303,000, with further augmentations in 1837; and in 1838 Mr. Angas was appointed to the Chairmanship of this important Company, in consequence of which he felt it his duty to resign his seat at the Board of Commissioners appointed under the Imperial Acts.

The first regulations for the sale of South Australian lands were published by the Commissioners in the month of June, 1835. Each 'lot' of land consisted of an eighty-acre country section and one town acre. The price the 'lot' was fixed at £81, which was evidently considered too high, for at the end of two months, and when enterprise in this direction seemed to have been quite exhausted, not half the requisite amount had been raised. It was at this crisis, when the project of founding the colony seemed to be about to fall to the ground, that three gentlemen connected with the South Australian Company proposed to the Commissioners that they would buy up all the remaining sections if the price were lowered to 12s. per acre. This was agreed to, but in order not to abandon the minimum of 20s., as originally fixed upon, an equivalent was granted by enlarging the country eighty-acre sections to 134 acres without any addition to the price as paid for the smaller section. The new regulations were in force from October 1, 1835, to the end of February, 1836. The number of preliminary sections altogether sold was 437, including 58,995 acres, and realizing £35,397. The whole of this money was raised in 1835. In 1836 there were sold 1,680 acres for £1,378, both of which amounts now specified having been paid in England. In the year 1837 the first land sales were held in the colony, from which time its settlement rapidly proceeded. His Majesty's ship Buffalo, bringing the first Governor and suite, left England on the 23rd of July, 1836, and anchored in Holdfast Bay on the 28th of December.

There were, however, various arrivals before that date, to which it will be proper that some reference be made. The first English ship that reached South Australia with emigrants and settlers was the Duke of York, a vessel of 199 tons, dispatched by the South Australian Company. This ship anchored on the 27th July, 1836, in Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island, where the South Australian Company's first depot was established. The first operation of the Company above mentioned was to commence a whale fishery, and the Duke of York was freighted, in addition to provisions for the pioneer settlers, with a large quantity of whaling stores and implements. This vessel had on board the Manager of the Company, Mr. Stephens, with eight other persons of independent means, and twenty-nine labourers.

Another whaling ship, the Lady Mary Pelham, arrived at Nepean Bay three days after the Duke of York. The vessel last arriving had on board twenty-seven persons of the labouring class, and two other settlers.

The third colonial arrival was the John Pirie, likewise belonging to the Company, and which reached Nepean Bay on the 16th of August, 1836, having been dispatched, laden with provisions and general stores, two days before the Duke of York, and thirty-seven days before the Lady Mary Pelham. The passengers by the John Pirie were twenty-eight in number, and all of the labouring class.

The Rapid and the Cygnet, ships chartered by the Commissioners for surveying purposes, followed the three pioneers of the Company; the Rapid, on board of which was Colonel Light, the Surveyor General, reaching Kangaroo Island on the 20th of October, and the Cygnet on the 11th of September.

The next vessel was the Emma, dispatched on the 21st of April by the South Australian Company, and which arrived on the 5th of October.

The Africaine, commanded by Capt. Duff, reached Kangaroo Island on the 2nd of November, and Holdfast Bay on the 13th of the same month. This vessel landed the first private settlers on the main land of South Australia.

The Tam O'Shanter, chartered by Mr. O. Gilles and others, is reported in the English Blue-Book as having' arrived on the 5th of October, but the statement is incorrect. The Africaine preceded the Tam O'Shanter, the latter vessel having left England on the 20th July, and having reached Holdfast Bay on the 16th December. The Africaine was followed by the Buffalo, bringing Captain Hindmarsb, the first Colonial Governor, who arrived, as we need scarcely say, on the 28th of December, 1836. The following is a detailed statement of the arrivals of the year 1836, the ships being given in order of the arrival in this colony : —

Date of Arrival | Ship | By whom sent.| Tons | Total Passengers |

July 27 Duke of York S. A. Company 190 38

July 30 Lady M. Pelham. Do. 206 28

Aug. 16 John Pirie Do. 105 28

Aug. 21 Rapid Commissioners 162 24

Sept. 11 Cygnet Do. 239 81

Oct. 5 Emma S. A. Company 164 22

Nov. 2 Africaine Various 816 76

Dec. 16. Tam O'Shanter O. Gilles 30 74

Dec. 28 H.M.S. Buffalo Commissioners 850 171 . . 546

The total arrivals by sea in 1836 were therefore 546 souls, of whom 375 preceded the arrival of the Governor, the proclamation of the colony, and the institution of the laws. Of the 546 arrivals in 1836 105 were independent settlers, the remainder having been sent out either wholly or partly, by the emigration fund or by private aid. The Buffalo, containing the Governor and party, in reality came to anchor off our shores four days prior to the landing at Glenelg, and to the proclamation of the colony beneath the ' Old Gum Tree'. On the 24th of December the royal vessel entered the harbour of Port Lincoln, the Cygnet then lying at anchor in that harbour. Captain Hindmarsh was immediately waited upon by Captain. Lipson, who bore a letter from Colonel Light on the subject of the site of the intended metropolis. Sir John Jeffcott, the first Judge of the colony, together with many others of the early settlers, wished the capital of the colony to be fixed at Port Lincoln ; but as Colonel Light and other gentlemen had decided for the eastern shores of St. Vincent's Gulf, His Excellency determined to lose no time in proceeding thither. A short visit was, however, paid to Port Lincoln— His Excellency, accompanied by his Private Secretary, Mr. Stevenson; the Resident Commissioner, Mr. Fisher; and the Harbour-Master, Captain Lipson, landing at the Head of Spalding Cove. His Excellency, however, on learning that various officers of the Government, who had preceded him in the Rapid and Cygnet, were waiting for him in the Mount Lofly plains, resolved to set sail again without delay. Accordingly, the Buffalo and Cygnet weighed anchor, and on the morning of December 28, 1836, these vessels anchored in Holdfast Bay, with the rich plains outspread before them, and the Mount Lofty ranges for the first time greeting their sight. About 2 o'clock of the 28th Captain Hindmarsh, with the members of his family, attended by Mr. Fisher, Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Gilles, and the Rev. Mr. Howard, with their families, proceeded to the shore in three boats, escorted by a party of marines from the Buffalo. On landing they were met by Mr. Gouger, first Colonial Secretary; Mr. John Brown, Emigration Agent; Mr. Kingston, Deputy Surveyor; Mr. Gilbert, Storekeeper; Mr. John Morphett, Mr. Robert Thomas, and others of the early settlers, who had fixed their habitations on the Glenelg plains.

The various members of the Executive Council being collected together, the party assembled in Mr. Gouger's tent, where the Governor read aloud the orders of the King in Council erecting South Australia into a British province, and appointing the first officers of the Government. His Excellency subsequently read his own Commission as Governor and Commander-in-Chief, the customary oaths being then administered to the Governor and other colonial officers present. After this the Commission was read to the settlers, of whom about 200 were present. the British flag was unfurled to the winds, the marines firing a feu de joie whilst the Buffalo thundered forth a salute from her broadside. The acclamations of the people were loud and long, all feeling that they were bearing some part, however humble, in laying the foundations of a future empire. A public dinner, to which the settlers joyfully contributed of the best that their stores contained, was prepared on the occasion, loyal and patriotic toasts following with great rapidity and remarkable fervour, all present being animated by one common impulse and being inspired with one common hope, a practically boundless territory was before them, and they had but to occupy it, cultivate it, and reap its fruits.

The enthusiasm to which local records certify appears to have been fully shared in by the friends of South Australia in England. A monthly journal published in London under the title of the South Australian Record, and edited by Mr. Capper, of the Colonization Office, dwells in the following high-flown terms upon the founding and proclamation of the new colony : —

"The landing of the little band in their new country recals the awful emigration of Noah, and the promise that painted his horizon, and also the emigration of Moses. It reminds us of the Tyrins at Carthage, of Aeneas and the dominion ef the West, which tradition tells as was founded by him; of the stout-hearted Bri-tons who built up the great though still young nation of America; and, nearer to the present scene, the other colonies of Australia, whose errors of constitution have served as an impressive lesson, while their unexampled prosperity points to the commercial fortune of the newer settlement. To the emigrant who was present at the formal assumption of the new country, and believed, according to the justest hopes, that he was assisting at the foundation of a new people, every occurrence of the day was more momentous than if they had been awaiting, in the royal bedchamber, the birth of a future king. They were ushering into existence a whole nation. To those who from a distance contemplate the placing of a people where late there was a blank on the great map of the world, and who have the gloriuss expectation if seeing, within the short space of men's life, in one and the same spot, a desert, a settlement, and a busy city, every act of the solemnity is full of meaning, intrinsic or extrinsic. It forms the bright strong line between desolate barbarism and busy civilization. It is the first act in realizing the dream of tho philanthropist, the emigrant, and the ambitious commercialist, who, like Alexander, but with less equivocal reeson, find the civilized world too small for their activity and their desires." Unquestionably this language must, at the time, have appeared to many much too inflated. But it must also be admitted that for persons to stake their fortunes, to rend their former associations, and, in fact, to jeopardize health and life, in order to settle upon an uninhabited, unsurveyed spot, at the world's antipodes, argued not only strong faith in the future of the projected colony, but also a large degree of moral courage on the part of the adventurers.

The emigrants of 1836 were doubtless a heroic band; but they also included many very sagacious and intelligent men, whose courage was well and wisely directed by full information and great prudence. The founding of South Australia not only awoke echoes at home responsive to the acclamations raised on these shores, but the colony of New South Wales, then strengthened with the strength of half a century's growth, trembled for its own prestige when considering the principles upon which South Australia was established. The Sydney Herald of October 26, 1835, complained of the injustice done to that colony, because South Australia was not to be founded under direction of the local authorities of New South Wales. In the same journal we find the following : —

'This new colony (i.e., South Australia), perfectly un-shackled by prison discipline, by military governors, and by immense civil and legal establishments, and wholly independent and free, threatens to annihilate the other colonies. If it be successfully established, the colony of New South Wales will probably become an inferior, subordinate, and subservient appendage to it. It may be predicted that no Governor will be able to maintain New South Wales as a penal settlement, if South Australia is established as a free colony, with a Governor appointed by the Crown. It is easy to foresee that if the colony of South Australia, with its immense territories already open to emigrants, with free institutions and a cheap and popular Government, becomes firmly and extensively established, this convict colony will not long retain her present supremacy. She will speedily lose her importance, and perhaps become at least a provincial appendage to a younger, freer, more vigorous, and purely British sister." Such were the sentiments entertained on this side the globe of the constitutional principles of the South Australian colony. That we have not altogether realized the glowing predictions of either of the writers above quoted may not only be acknowledged, but can be very easily accounted for. So far, however, as the principles of self-government, religious equality, sale of all lands for public purposes, and free-dom from convictism may be regarded as the four corner-stones of a good constitutional system, the social structure then about to be erected on that foundation gave ample assurance of permanence and stability.

And now that one-and-twenty years have passed away, we may ask, were not the fathers and founders of the colony justified in their expectations ? During that period we have, of course, the records of various disappointments, reverses, and disasters. To the general and inevitable vicissitudes and fluctuations characterizing alike the oldest and the youngest States, we have to superadd, in the case of South Australia, many special and heavy discouragements. The animosities of officials under the Hindmarsh administration flung the same reproach upon the fair fame of the infant settlement that the bear-garden scenes in the Tasmanian Parliament now cast upon the reputation of that Legislature. The insolvencies and ruin under Colonel Gawler's administration shook not only the foundations of our colonial credit, but rendered necessary the interposition of the Parent State to rescue us from national extinction. Slowly recovering from these untoward events, the gold discoveries of Victoria drew away our population, and paralyzed every interest in the colony ; whilst, hard following upon the rush to the diggings, a reckless and most disproportionate shipment of goods by English consignors glutted our markets, and cast a gloom upon every department of trade. Finally, the failure of the harvest of 1855 almost destroyed one staple export of the season, and was the occasion of losses from which many have not yet recovered.

But although South Australia, born amidst smiles and sun-shine, has passed through a childhood of stormy days and frequent disappointments, it this day attains its majority, standing firmly, proudly erect, with brighter hopes than before, and with surer guarantees than ever. Official animosities, administrative delinquencies, the rivalry of an adjacent land of gold, agricultural failures, commercial difficulties, have all been met, endured, and surmounted. South Australia attains her majority with her population at its highest point, with her native produce at its greatest aggregate, with her revenue at its maximum, with religion free and flourishing, with education (both for children and adults) rapidly progressing, with a constitutional system the most liberal on the face of the earth, with good balances in the Treasury, with good credit in the mother-country, and with every element conducive to a prosperous and glorious ensuing year. We may, therefore, without misgiving, keep this day as a day of rejoicing. We have steam vessels on the water and steam-engines on the land ; we have horses and equipages of every description and in sufficient number for our purposes ; we have the good things of this life in full abundance. We may therefore with, the utmost propriety celebrate "the coming of age" of our adopted land; and if we have neighbours whose lot has been less fortunate than our own, let us give them the means of taking part in the general jubilation. Let us, finally, not overlook the Providence that has blessed our efforts to make us what we are and to "Advance Australia!"

The Register. ADELAIDE: MONDAY, DECEMBER 28, 1857. (1857, December 28). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 2.