Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lang, John Dunmore

LANG, JOHN DUNMORE (1799–1878), writer on Australia, was born at Greenock, Scotland, 25 Aug. 1799, received his education at the school of Largs, Ayrshire, and at the university of Glasgow, Were he remained eight years and obtained the M.A. degree 11 April 1820. He was licensed to preach by the presbyter of Irvine on 1 June 1822, and ordained in September 1822 with s view to his form's church in Sydney New South Wales, in connection with the established church of Scotland. He arrived in Australia in May 1823, and was the first presbyterian minister who regularly officiated in New South Wales. His church, known as the Scots church, was at Church Hill, Sydney from Lord Goderich directing the colonial government to pay 3,500l. towards the establishment of a college in Sydney for the education of young men and of candidates for the ministry, on the condition that similar sum should be subscribed by the promoters. This scheme met with opposition in the colony, and Lang had to sell his private property to liquidate his responsibilities. On 1 Jan. 1835 he established the ‘Colonist,’ a weekly journal, in which he discussed the public questions of the day with great vigour. He protested against emancipated convicts occupying the positions of leaders of the press, and against the vice of concubinage in high quarters. For a jeu d'esprit he wrote on an offending merchant his editor was fined 100l., but the money was paid by the public. The ‘Colonist’ died in 1840, and on 7 Oct. 1841 he edited the first number of the ‘Colonial Journal,’ and then, 1851–2, the ‘Press,’ another weekly paper. It was not long before he became aware that to diffuse healthy principles into a community so largely composed of the convict element it was necessary to introduce industrious free people from the mother-country. As early as 1831 he brought out a number of Scottish mechanics at his own risk. In 1836, when he went to England to engage ministers and schoolmasters, he persuaded the English government to devote colonial funds to aid four thousand people who contemplated emigration, and who in the course of three years left for Australia. On his voyage to England in 1839 his vessel put into New Zealand. He advocated in published letters addressed to the Earl of Durham the occupation of that group of islands; no act of parliament, he urged, was necessary, as the commission granted in 1787 to Captain Arthur Phillip, governor of New South Wales, included the holding of New Zealand. Mainly, if not entirely, in consequence of these representations, Captain William Hobson took possession of the islands for Queen Victoria in February 1840. On Lang's return to Australia in 1841 he was, on 11 March in that year, admitted a member of the presbyterian synod of Sydney, but that body, on 11 Oct. 1842, ‘deposed him from the office of the holy ministry’ (cf. An Authentic Statement of the Facts, Sydney, 1860). A large portion of Lang's congregation sided with him, and continued to attend his ministration at Church Hill, Sydney. Eventually in 1865 he and his congregation were reconciled to the presbyterian synod. In July 1843 he was elected one of the six members for Port Phillip district to the legislative council, the single chamber which then ruled New South Wales. He sat until 1846. In 1846 he went to England for the sixth time ‘to give an impulse to protestant emigration, and to prevent the colony being turned into an Irish Roman catholic settlement,’ and until 1849 he was employed in lecturing on the advantages of Australia. In 1850 he was elected one of the members for the city of Sydney, in September 1851 he was re-elected for Sydney at the head of the poll, but resigned his seat on going to England in February 1852. On his return he was elected for the county of Stanley, Moreton Bay, in July 1854. After the introduction of responsible government Lang was three times elected as a representative to the legislative council for the constituency of West Sydney, namely in 1859, in 1860, and in 1864. He was a most active and energetic member of parliament, and took a prominent part in all the questions of the day, advocating postal reform, the elective franchise, separation of Port Phillip from New South Wales, education, the abolition of the transportation of convicts, triennial parliaments, abrogation of laws of primogeniture, and abolishing of state aid to religion. On 2 May 1825 Glasgow, his own university, created him a doctor of divinity. During the course of his career he made many enemies, but his views of public affairs were liberal and statesmanlike, and his personal foes admitted that he was nearly always right in his public conduct. He died in Sydney 8 Aug. 1878, and his remains were accorded a public funeral.

His better-known writings were:

  1. ‘A Sermon preparatory to the Building of a Scots Church in Sydney,’ 1823.
  2. ‘Account of Steps taken in England with a View to the Establishment of an Academical Institution in New South Wales, and to demonstrate the practicability of an Emigration of the Industrious Classes,’ 1831.
  3. ‘Emigration; in reference to Settling throughout New South Wales a numerous Agricultural Population,’ 1833.
  4. ‘An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales,’ 1834, 2 vols.; 2nd edit. 2 vols. 1837; 3rd edit. 1852; 4th edit. 1874, 2 vols.
  5. ‘View of the Origin and Migrations of the Polynesian Nation,’ 1834.
  6. ‘A Sermon Preached at the Opening of the Scots Church, Hobart Town,’ 1835.
  7. ‘Transportation and Colonisation,’ 1837.
  8. ‘New Zealand in 1839; or, Four Letters to Earl Durham on the Colonisation of that Island,’ 1839.
  9. ‘Religion and Education in America,’ 1840.
  10. ‘Cooksland in North-Eastern Australia, the future Cotton Field of Great Britain,’ 1847.
  11. ‘Phillipsland or Port Phillip, its Condition and Prospects as a Field for Emigration,’ 1847.
  12. ‘Repeal or Revolution, or a Glimpse of the Irish Future,’ 1848.
  13. ‘The Australian Emigrants' Manual, or a Guide to the Gold Colonies,’ 1852.
  14. ‘Freedom and Independence for the Golden Lands of Australia,’ 1852; 2nd edit. 1857.
  15. ‘Three Lectures on Religious Establishments, or the granting Money for the Support of Religion from the Public Treasury in the Australian Colonies,' 1856.
  16. 'Queensland, Australia, a highly eligible Field for Emigration, and the future Cotton Field of Great Britain,' 1861, 1865.
  17. 'The Coming Event! or Freedom and Independence for the Seven United Provinces of Australia,' 1870.
  18. 'Historical Account of the Separation of Victoria from New South Wales,' 1870.
  19. 'Origin and Migration of the Polynesian Nation,' 2nd edit. 1877.

[A Brief Sketch of my Parliamentary Life, by J. D. Lang, 1870; Barton's Poets of New South Wales, 1866, pp. 33-7; Trübner's American Record, 1879, pp. 14, 15; Lang's New South Wales, 1875, 2 vols.; Times, 2 Nov. 1878, p. 11; Beaton's Australian Dictionary of Dates. 1879, pp. 111-13.]

G. C. B.