« PreviousContinue »
has been forced to stand godfather to river, mountains, and downs at once, while his colossal fame spans a longitude of forty degrees. Victoria and Albert, of course, have long been acclimated in these southern regions ; and the rising hopes of royalty are expected to follow, so soon as their tender age will bear the transportation.
Colonial civilization is proverbially unattractive, and, making the due distinction between the convict and the free settlements, Australian civilization is not more fascinating than other specimens of the class. When these colonies shall have formed a confederacy of states, the historian of the great republic will perhaps find reason to boast of its unexampled progress, and cite its precocity in wool, vice, commercial crises, steam-power, and social ambition. That a great destiny awaits it cannot be doubted; but those portions of it which were tinctured with the vile infusion of the convict element have not yet worked off the corruption. The “high-lifebelow-stairs ” aspect of society must long remain ; the literature of the land must for years consist chiefly of the journals of travellers, of which a library has already accumulated, and the provincial cast of its institutions repel, rather than invite, the attention of inquirers.
The least exotic form of civilized man in Australia is the squatter ; a growth which is sure to spring up on a pastoral soil. He is the pioneer in the settlement of the country; and the peculiar circumstances of his lot impart an air of originality to his character. But we must not confound the early convict squatters of New South Wales with a better class of men, who have become quite numerous in that extensive colony. When Mr. Darwin, in 1836, described a squatter as "a freed or ticket-of-leave man, who builds a hut with bark on unoccupied ground, buys or steals a few animals, sells spirits without a license, receives stolen goods, and so at last becomes rich and turns farmer," and called him “the horror of all his honest neighbours," there was too much truth in the picture. That the outposts of the colony, especially the middle portions, are still infested with reptiles of this description, cannot be denied ; but the gradual increase of free immigration and the abandonment of the penal system have multiplied the number of farming squatters, who ought not to be confounded with the refuse of the English prisons. That the aboriginal population have been shamefully treated by the squatters is loo true ; but it is equally true, that the better class of farmers should not be held accountable for all the enormities committed by the “old hands” or “
"expiree” convicts in their employment as stockmen or shepherds. We quote the following remarks on the “ squatting system from Dr. Lang's accouut of Cooksland, the name which he proposes to give to the Morelon Bay district, the most northerly portion of New South Wales.
“ The Australian Squatter is a being perfectly sui generis : there is nothing like him in any other part of the British Dominions ; there is nothing at all analogous to him in the United States of America. In the latter country the term implies some person of the humbler walks of life, whose only property is an axe, with a few articles of household furniture and implements of agriculture, and who goes forth into the vast forests of the frontier settlements, clears, fences, and cultivates a few acres of land, erecting upon it a log house, the whole of which, designated, in the language of the country, his betterments, together with his right of preëmption, which his adventurous labors as a Squatter have secured, and which the National Government very wisely respects, he probably sells to the first emigrant who heaves in sight, either from Europe or from the Eastern States, looking out for a location, and then moves off farther west, to repeat the same process afresh, as the precursor and pioneer of civilization. But the Australian Squatter, especially in the northern and southern divisions of the great colony of New South Wales, is, as Mr. Hodgkinson rightly observes, a man of education and respectable connections; and if not a gentleman born and bred, as indeed is not unfrequently the case, he has generally a quantity of stock that implies a considerable amount of pastoral capital. The proper names scattered over the map of Cooksland, appended to this volume, are those of the proprietors of the respective Squatting Stations into which the country is divided among the actual Squatters; ten pounds being payable annually to the Government as a license for the occupation of each station, the boundaries of which are defined by the resident Commissioner of Crown Lands in proportion to the amount of the Squatter's stock, allowing generally for four years' increase. " When the Squatter has selected and secured his
run, say for the time being, at least, 'I am monarch of all I survey,' his first care is to occupy it with his flocks and herds, and to erect temporary dwellings for himself and his servants, as well as folds for his sheep or stockyards for his cattle. In the first instance, these dwellings are generally formed of slabs, and covered
with bark ; glass windows, a deal floor, a shingled roof, and an additional apartment or two besides the original one that serves for all purposes, with perhaps a neat garden, being added gradually, if the Squatter is a man of taste and leisure, or has any regard either for personal convenience or for appear.
“Some stations are appropriated entirely to sheep, others to cattle, according to the quality of the pasture, or the caprice of the proprietor; but the greater number have both sheep and cattle, and many have horses also. The high and dry ground, where the pasture is neither too rich nor too abundant, is best for sheep; the low swampy ground, or the rich alluvial flats, being best adapted for cattle. As sheep, however, have latterly been a more profitable description of stock, many cattle-runs have been transformed into sheep-stations, when the nature of the country has admitted of such a change. The number of sheep in a flock is generally from 600 to 800; but in the open country of the Darling Downs, as well as in a few other tracts of a similar character to the southward, as many as from 2000 to 2500 sheep can be run with safety in a single flock. Runs or stations are frequently sold in the Colony, with all the stock on them, and it is often difficult to dispose of a large flock or herd of cattle at all, unless the run is given in with them. I have heard of a thousand pounds being given for a run over and above the value of the stock.”
– pp. 292 - 295. The enterprise and energy of this class of men, who are ready to push their stations to the utmost verge of the discovered territory, will undoubtedly lead to the ultimate occupation of those portions of the vast interior which are able to support a pastoral population. When to this constant pressure of a naturally expansive race of settlers we add the consideration, that the wilds of Australia offer the adventurer the most tempting field for discovery yet remaining, and that problems in geography and geology of great interest are yet to be solved, we cannot wonder at the willingness which so many explorers have exhibited to encounter the hardships of the undertaking
The maritime position of the English colonies, however, naturally led in the first place to the exploration of the coasts; and the history of the country is inseparably associated with the fame of England's most illustrious navigators. The recent voyage of Captain Stokes, in that veteran of discovery, the little Beagle, and that of Captain Blackwood, have thrown great light on several points hitherto obscure ; nor can many years elapse, before this enormous line of coast, measuring, as has been computed, 8,000 miles, will have been satisfactorily explored.
The progress of interior discovery has been more partial. Although the task was undertaken at an early period by men of skill and perseverance, the seemingly impassable barrier which, at no great distance from the sea, intercepted all communication with the western regions, bade defiance, for a quarter of a century, to every attempt to penetrate it. At length, however, in 1813, the arrival of one of those seasons of drought, to which Australia is subject, effected what the spirit of adventure had in vain essayed. A party of colonists, hoping to escape from the sunburnt plains below, made their way to the summit of the ridge, but, their provisions giving out, were obliged to return. The way, however, was opened. The government of New South Wales continued the exploration ; and in 1814 a practicable road was constructed by convict labor, over ridges rising, in some parts, to an elevation of 3,400 feet above the sea. A fine pastoral region on the western slope of the hills was thus thrown open to the colony. The barrier being once passed, the progress of discovery was rapid. Immense downs, affording unrivalled facilities for sheep and cattle pasturage, have one by one been added to the colonial territory, and the vast basin of the Murray and its tributaries has been explored in various directions. But as this river discharges itself into a lake near the southern shore, little impression had been made on the central regions of Australia ; nor had the attempts to penetrate the interior from the western coast been followed by greater results. In the mean time, the examination of the eastern coast range was prosecuted with great success; and the name of Count Strzelecki deserves to be placed by the side of Mitchell, Sturt, and their enterprising countrymen.
But the time had now arrived for a bolder enterprise. In October, 1943, the Legislative Council of New South Wales appointed a committee of their own body to inquire into the practicability of establishing an overland route between the settled parts of New South Wales and Port Essington. Two routes were proposed; the one from Fort Bourke on the Darling river, a tributary of the Murray, in nearly a direct line from Port Essington to Sydney, from which last
it is distant six hundred miles. This route was preferred by Sir Thomas Mitchell, who had held the office of SurveyorGeneral of the Colony since 1828, and had eminently distinguished himself as an explorer. The other route was to proceed from Moreton Bay, in latitude about four degrees south of the tropic, by the Darling Downs, which lie on the west of the coast range, thence along that range to the Gulf of Carpentaria, the great indentation of the northern coast of Australia, the southernmost angle of which lies in somewhat less than seventeen degrees of south latitude, and then around the gulf to Port Essington, in latitude eleven and a half degrees south ; the difference in longitude between the termini of this route being twenty-one degrees, about equal to the distance, in miles, from Cape Cod to the western boundary of Missouri. The committee having reported in favor of the Fort Bourke route, the Council voted an address to the governor of the colony, praying for an appropriation not exceeding £ 1,000, to meet the expenses of the expedition. His Excellency, however, would not assume the responsibility of allowing the grant without a previous communication with the government at home; and the project, in this form at least, was suspended. But the plan of an expedition from Moreton Bay was taken up by a private individual, and, without a farthing from the public purse, was carried into execution. Nor was it the achievement of a man of wealth or influence, but of a German student of very limited means, who had come out in 1842 to Australia, with the hope of attaching himself to some expedition of discovery, in the capacity of naturalist.
Dr. Ludwig Leichhardt, who has by this single enterprise raised himself to the first rank among travellers, was born in Prussia in 1813. He had originally intended to adopt the profession of medicine, but had subsequently devoted himself, at the German universities, to the study of the natural sciences. He arrived in the colony, as we have stated, in 1842, and while waiting for an appointment, delivered a course of lectures on botany at Sydney, and undertook a scientific exploration of a part of the country between that city and Wide Bay, which lies a little to the north of Moreton Bay. 66 With a little mare,
“I travelled more than 2,500 miles, zigzag, from Newcastle to Wide Bay, being often groom and cook, washerwoman, geologist, VOL. LXVI. NO. 139.