History of West Australia/Chapter 19
PUBLIC WORKS; CONSTITUTI0NAL AGITATION; GOLD DISCOVERIES.
1879 To 1888.
DEPRESSION AND CAUSES—GOVERNORS—FREMANTLE AND GUILDFORD RAILWAY—GUILDFORD TO CHIDLOW'S WELL AND YORK—POLICY OF ECONOMY─YORK TO BEVERLEY, SPENCER'S BROOK TO NORTHAM, CLACKINE T0 NEWCASTLE, AND GERALDTON TO GREENOUGH RAILWAYS—ROEBOURNE TO COSSACK TRAMWAY—PROPOSAL FOR RAILWAY TO BUNBURY AND BUSSELTON ABANDONED─LAND GRANT RAILWAYS—VARIOUS SCHEMES—A LINE PROP0SED BY A. HORDERN FROM ALBANY TO YORK AND FROM PERTH TO CAMBRIDGE GULF—OFFERS TO BUILD LINES TO EUCLA, HAMPTON PLAINS AND KIMBERLEY—CONTRACT FOR LAND GRANT RAILWAY BETWEEN BEVERLEY AND ALBANY LET TO MR. HORDERN—OTHER SANGUINE PROPOSALS OF MR. HORDERN—HIS DEATH—LINE TO ALBANY COMPLETED—EUCLA AND OTHER LINKS ABANDONED—MIDLAND RAILWAY CONTRACT LET—TELEGRAPHIC EXTENSIONS—BROOME TO BANJOEWANGIE CABLE—TELEPHONIC CONNECTION—HARBOUR AND COASTAL MATTERS—FREETRADE versus PROTECTI0N—FINANCIAL—RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT—CHANGES AM0NG OFFICIALS—ELECTIONS—MEMBERSHIP OF COUNCIL INCREASED—MR. S. H. PARKER AND RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT—FORLORN DEBATES—LORD DERBY'S VIEWS—GOVERNOR BROOME'S DESPATCH—SEPARATION—ELECTIONS—EXECUTIVE—LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP—CONVICT ESTABLISHMENT TAKEN OVER—FREMANTLE WATER SUPPLY—DEATH 0F SIR L. S. LEAKE—J. G. LEE-STEERE NEW SPEAKER—OFFICIAL CHANGES—MR. HENSMAN AND THE GOVERNOR—IMPORTANT DEBATE, 1886—CONSTITUTIONAL AGITATION MORE VIGOROUS—PETITION, 1887—GOVERNOR BROOME ON RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT—MR. S. H. PARKER CARRIES RESOLUTIONS—OTHER DESPATCHES WRITTEN BY GOVERNOR—SIR H. HOLLAND ON THE MATTER—LOAN REFUSED—MR. HENSMAN'S AND MR. PARKER'S PROPOSITIONS—LORD KNUTSFORD IN COLONIAL OFFICE—A CONSTITUTION BILL INTRODUCED AND DEBATED—GOVERNOR BROOME'S TROUBLES—QUARREL WITH CHIEF JUSTICE —LATTER SUSPENDED—PRIVY COUNCIL REPORT, AND SIR A. ONSLOW REINSTATED—WEST AUSTRALIAN AND CHIEF JUSTICE—PETITION—SERIOUS STATEMENTS—LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL THEREON—END OF TROUBLE—FEDERAL COUNCIL—ALEXANDER FORREST DISCOVERS KIMBERLEY DISTRICT; HIS EXPEDITI)N TO PORT DARWIN—PASTORAL REGULATIONS FOR KIMBERLEY—SETTLEMENT AT KIMBERLEY—SURVEYS BY JOHNSTON—JOHN FORREST ON LAND LAWS; HIS LIBERAL P0LICY—REVISION 0F LAND REGULATIONS OF COLONY IN 1882—JOHN FORREST ADVOCATES NEW REGULATIONS—REGULATIONS OF 1887; DEBATE—EXPANSION 0F PASTORAL INDUSTRY—EUCLA—E. T. HARDMAN ON GEOLOGICAL FORMATIONS AT KIMBERLEY; AND DISCOVERIES OF GOLD THERE—EXCITEMENT, AND NUMBER OF PEOPLE—RICH FINDS—GOLDFIELDS ACT—DISAPPOINTMENTS—REEFING—PARTIAL ABANDONMENT—GOLD DISCOVERIES AT YILGARN—REPORTS BY GEOLOGISTS—DISCOVERIES AT PILBARRA—GOLDFIELDS PROCLAIMED—POPULATION—CHINESE; IMMIGRATION—EXPORT—PEARLING RETURNS, RESTRICTIONS, AND DISASTROUS STORMS—GUANO—C. E. BROADHURST ON ABROLHOS ISLANDS—SANDALWOOD AND HARDWOODS—LEAD AND COPPER, COAL AND TIN—WHALING—EXHIBITIONS &C.—PUBLIC HEALTH ACT AND MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT—DEATHS—NATIVES—NEW NORCIA—MR. FAIRBAIRN AND SETTLERS—REV. GRIBBLE AND NATIVES—LIBEL ACTION.
ONCE again, for a time, Western Australia was in the throes of depression. With the recent expansion of export trade had come an unreasonable stagnation in vested interests. The decadence of agricultural enterprise, and the increased expenditure of British capital, were most seriously felt during the years 1879 to 1883. Local history was leaving its mark upon the energy of the people, whose languorous pulse now wasted a strong dynamic stimulant to rouse them from their torpor.
The disastrous inactivity even crept into Parliament. Some members of the Council evinced a hurtful lack of enterprise. The rigour with which they oppose all railway proposals was astonishing. When the line from Fremantle to Guildford and thence to the eastern districts was advocated they rose in their places and oracularly proclaimed that such a tremendous undertaking would spell ruin, and leave an incubus on the finances that would render the colony bankrupt. They opposed the progressive party with the ardour of a bigot. They ridiculed advanced ideas with superior disdain, and seemed to prefer perpetual stagnation than risk the construction of transit facilities which admitted a doubt as to whether they would cheapen production and enhance land values. It was only after unremitting agitation that these people were convinced that it was advisable to build a railway to the eastern agricultural centres.
Representative government, although not all that could be desired, had at least been responsible for many advantageous innovations. The various lines of telegraph, the railway from Geraldton to Northampton, the decision to build a second line into the country from Fremantle, and the improved harbour facilities, were obtained through the eager advocacy of elective councillors. Had the nominee Council continued in existence, there is no telling how long colonists would have had to wait for these works. The progressive party advocated railway construction as a way out of their troubles, and they had, at first, to fight restlessly before certain prominent old settlers would agree to spend the requisite large sums of money. Indeed, some of the most influential men were the chief obstacles in the path of development. But when the expenditure of loan moneys had temporarily relieved the depression, they gave way to the general sentiment, and even lent it their aid. The depression, as usual, disappeared as unconsciously and inadvertently as it appeared. The public works policy, the remarkable growth of settlement, the discoveries of gold, and the increase in population, brought in the tide with a slow but regular flow. Unfortunately, nothing could galvanise the agricultural industry.
Governor Ord assisted the public works movement, but his short administration was quiet as a cloister and as devoid of incident, and when he retired—in April, 1880—the circumstance was almost unnoted by the people. A certain interest is always felt in the personality of a new Governor, and colonists are wont to look expectantly to his advent. On this occasion one whom they already knew was appointed. Sir William C.F. Robinson, K.C.M.G., returned in April, 1880. With his previous knowledge of the colony he was well able to appreciate and support the course of events. Upon occasion he used the power of veto reposed in him by the Crown more often than certain councillors appreciated. At the same time he improved on the negative virtues of his previous administration, and took a personal interest in the colony, and was socially popular. He was a fair business man—a quality more valuable in a country ruled by representative government than other. His successor was Governor Broome, who arrived in June, 1885.
Mr. John Robb, the contractor for the railway from Fremantle to Guildford, completed the work within three months of his contract time. The line was formally opened on 1st March, 1881, by Governor Robinson. Though nearly all the officers and men were strange to their duties, many never having seen a railway before, no serious accidents were at first chronicled. This novel mode of traffic was viewed with eager interest by the townspeople of Fremantle, Perth, and Guildford, who gathered in large crowds to witness the trial journey. A new feature had entered their lives, and the passenger traffic was for some time very brisk. Up to December, 1881, the receipts amounted to £6,583, and the expenditure to £6,477, leaving the small profit of £105 for ten months' running. The goods traffic was exceedingly small—£1,201—due to the popularity of river traffic. Sandalwood and other products from the eastern districts were unloaded at Guildford, placed in boats, and carried down the river to the ship's side at Fremantle. Teamsters, also, with loading for Perth invariably preferred to travel right through to that centre rather than discharge at Guildford. The length of the line was nineteen miles, and the nett cost up to 30th June, 1881, £123,504, exclusive of preliminary surveys (£2,000). The colony now possessed fifty-three miles of Government railways, with thirty-seven miles of privately-owned lines. The profits from the Fremantle-Guildford and Geraldton-Northampton Railways were not, for a few years, sufficient to pay the interest on the loans floated for their construction. The low prices of lead and copper had compelled the cessation of operations on many of the northern mines.
The loan of £200,000 at 4½ per cent., provided for by Act of Parliament in 1878, was floated in London. The Act was amended in the clauses relating to repayment in 1879, by the advice of the Secretary for the Colonies. It was determined to continue the railway to the eastern districts in the hope that by so doing the first section would be made to pay better. The question of the line of route to be followed was excitedly discussed in the Council, public meetings, and in the press. Three routes were advocated—via Spencer's Brook to Northam, via Chidlow's Well to Northam, and via Chittering to Newcastle. A bill passed the Council in 1881 authorising the construction of the railway to Chidlow's Well and York, and after the sanction of the Secretary for the Colonies was obtained a further loan bill—on this occasion for £150,000 (4 per cent.)—was carried, partly for the railway and partly to repay money taken from the general revenue for public works purposes. There had been in previous years a singular misconception as to the exact state of the finances. In September, 1876, Mr. Lefroy, the Acting Colonial Secretary, assured the House that there was surplus to the credit of the colony of £26,119, and it was decided by the Council to appropriate a portion of this sum to the construction of the Eucla telegraph line. In 1879 Mr. Carey asserted that the figures were totally wrong, and that the balance was actually on the other side. An examination was made of the public accounts, which adduced that at the end of 1876 there was a deficit of £17,885, which, through incorrect estimates, had been accumulating until, at the beginning of 1879, the indebtedness of the colony, apart from loans, amounted to £35,000. The Government brought forward a tariff bill, and proposed to tax flour and generally raise the duties to make up the deficiency. There was an acrimonious debate on the whole question. At the end of 1879 even the later estimates were found to be incorrect, and the liabilities were set down at £79,897, but before July, 1880, the sum of £12,236 of this amount was paid off. By July, 1881, the deficit was reduced to £59,844. The 1881 loan bill provided for the repayment of the sum taken out of the general revenue for the Eucla line, and in July, 1882, Governor Robinson was able to announce that the deficit had been liquidated, and the ledger balanced.
Tenders for the construction of the second section of the Eastern Railway—Guildford to Chidlow's Well—were opened in December, 1881, and that of J. Wright—£53,043—was accepted. Work was commenced early in March, 1882. Property holders asked excessive prices for their land required for the line, and considerable difficulty was experienced in arranging terms. Mr. Mason, the Acting Commissioner of Railways, estimated the total cost of the extension to York, including equipment, at £192,350, or £3,990 per mile. The chief engineering difficulties were situated on the Darling Range. While work was proceeding awkward complications arose in the traffic on the Fremantle-Guildford line. On 18th January, 1882, the engines broke down, and traffic was entirely suspended. This was at first blamed to the unsuitability of the locomotives, but subsequent enquiry by the traffic manager showed that the boilers had been neglected since the opening of the line, and that the stoppage was due to negligence on the part of the men in not obtaining in time a supply of proper water. A committee, consisting of Messrs. E.A. Stone, J. Manning, and W. Padbury, was appointed, and discovered several instances of neglectful supervision and careless working. Corrosive matter was allowed to accumulate in the tubes, and the boilers had only been washed out once a week.
The work on the eastern extension was continued with as much vigour as the rigid economy pursued would allow. But the funds at the disposal of the Government were insufficient to complete the undertaking, and a loan bill for £254,000 (4 per cent.) was passed by the Council in 1882. A landslip at a cutting about eight miles from Guildford necessitated a deviation, demanding an additional expenditure. On 11th March, 1884, the line was opened to Chidlow's Well, the cost of this section being £80,472. Owing to the non-arrival of engines from England the running was not for a few months satisfactory. The tender of Mr. E. Keane (£105,312) for the construction of the Chidlow's Well to York section was accepted on 22nd October, 1883, and the line was opened on 29th June, 1885, amid demonstration. The interior was at last connected with the seaboard, and although this trunk line did not immediately pay as handsomely as was originally anticipated in the estimates, it proved of paramount importance to development by cheapening production.
According to the view of Mr. J.A. Wright, who had been appointed Engineer-it-Chief, the policy of the Government in the construction of the Eastern railways had been, throughout, short-sighted and weak. In a report dated 24th August, 1885, after an examination of the line, he decided that it had been nearly ruined because of lack of funds, and of false economy practised from first to last. With a small additional outlay on trial surveys, to ensure the best route, and on additional earthworks, a railway might have been built, the working expenses for which would have been reduced by at least one third. The line, he said, was "starved from beginning to end," and until necessary improvements were made trains would have to be limited, both in number and load. He objected to the gradients, curves, equipment, and the methods allocating the loan funds for these purposes. The loans floated for the laying of one section were insufficient to complete it, and moneys were taken out of the funds designed for the next section. The total receipts on the Eastern line in 1885 represented £24,796, and the working expenses £24,731, leaving a profit of £65; the receipts on the Geraldton-Northampton line were £2,557, and the expenditure was £3,456, or a loss of £899.
Different proposals were being made to build land grant railways to Beverley, Northam, Newcastle, and other places, but for obvious reasons the Legislature discreetly preferred to have these centres attached to the Government system. The public, with Councillors, were by now almost unanimous in their support of railway extension. The perfervid opposition had been broken down, for the colony had tasted of the sweets of loan moneys vigorously expended on public works. A syndicate offered to build a railway on the land grant principle from Albany to York, but as circumstances of settlement made impossible for the Government to satisfy its demands in regard to the section from Beverley to York, an Act was passed providing that this be constructed out of loan funds. The contract was let on 21st April, 1885, to Mr. Keane for £59,878, and the line was opened by Governor Broome, on 5th August, 1886. So that the other chief eastern districts centres might enjoy equal advantages with York and Beverley, the Legislative Council decided, in 1886, to build a line from Spencer's Brook (on the York Railway) to Northam, and in 1887, a second branch from Clackline to Newcastle. Acts were passed in 1886 to build a railway from Geraldton to Greenough, and a tramway from Roebourne to Cossack. The works were projected under another loan bill, passed in 1884, amounting to £525,000. The line to Northam built by Mr. Keane (contract £13,436) was thrown open to traffic on 13th October, 1886; from Geraldton to Greenough (Mr. Keane, contractor, £42,561) on 21st June, 1887; and from Clackline to Newcastle on 5th January, 1888. The tramway connecting Roebourne with Cossack was built by Wright and Atkins. Still another important trunk line was proposed. It was suggested that a railway should be built from Perth to Busselton, through Pinjarra, draining a splendid class of country at places along the route, and connecting with wealthy jarrah forests. A Legislative committee recommended the construction of the line by a company, under a guarantee of interest, a proposal that was received with favour by the Council. The Secretary for the Colonies was communicated with by Governor Broome, and in November, 1887, refused to countenance the scheme.
The desire to build railways of one kind or other became almost unlimited in some quarters. The special, and pleasing, and apparently cheap method of securing these connecting links was by means of extensive land grants to private companies and syndicates. Proposals were made, and found their supporters, to lay railways to Albany, Eucla, Hampton Plains, Geraldton, Roebourne, and even to Kimberley. The whole of the huge colony seemingly required buckling with strong hoops of iron. Whether the stages of development in the various districts warranted such facilities was hardly taken into consideration by the sponsors of these schemes. Some people thought that as they had huge areas of waste lands, it would be just as well to give them to these railway-building syndicates as to keep them in idleness. It seemed a cheap means of getting railways. Happily, the actual fell very far short of the proposed, for had the local Government accepted all the offers made to them the colony might have outshone Central America in railway "bubbles."
In 1880-1 advocates arose who proposed that a railway should be built to King George's Sound on the land-grant principle. Governor Robinson communicated with the Secretary for the Colonies, and that official promised that he would sanction any scheme of the kind which was brought forward by responsible and competent persons on terms advantageous to the colony. On 13th September, 1881, Lord Gifford, the new Colonial Secretary, proposed in the Legislative Council that the sum of £600 be expended in obtaining information concerning the country through which the railway would pass, and to bring the scheme before the notice of capitalists in England. Surveyor-General Fraser suggested in a report:—"That in consideration of European capitalists constructing a railway of a similar class to the New Zealand lines (3 feet 6 inches), and undertaking the settlement of not less than, say, 5,000 people in the colony, the Crown shall grant in fee 2,000,000 acres of land, to be selected by them between Beverley and King George's Sound;" the Government to build a connecting line from Perth to Beverley.
Capitalists willing to construct the railway were soon forthcoming. On 7th January, 1882, Mr. Jules Joubert, on behalf of people in the eastern colonies, submitted an offer to Governor Robinson. He proposed that the line be constructed and handed over to the Government, equipped and in good working order, on or before 31st December, 1885, on the following terms:—The contractors to introduce not less than 2,000 immigrants of European origin who should receive and accept land as part payment for work done; the Western Australian Government granting to him in fee simple 10,000,000 acres, viz., one-half along the line of railway, one-fourth east of the line towards the South Australian boundary, and one-fourth west of the line, in the country between Geographe Bay and Albany. The cost of construction was estimated by Mr. Joubert at £1,000,000. The Governor transmitted the proposal to the Council, asking members to quickly decide. Mr. L.C. Burges found fault with Mr. Joubert's estimates, but believed that if the line were opened up and the proposed immigrants settled on the land, the brightest prospects ever known in Western Australia would be ushered in. Mr. Carey agreed with Mr. Burges; but Mr. W.H. Venn was not satisfied. He thought Mr. Joubert's proposal was made in contempt of the intelligence of the inhabitants of the colony, and of the Council in particular. No railway scheme would have his support that sought to lower the fee simple of lands in the Central district. Messrs. Fraser and Forrest made a flying survey of the lands contiguous to the proposed line, and on 16th January a meeting of members of the Council resolved not to give an opinion until a report of the route and land, with an approximate estimate of cost and maintenance, was laid before them. Governor Robinson seemed to be greatly in favour of Mr. Joubert's scheme; but the unofficial members of the House, led by Mr. Lee-Steere, and weighted by the support of Sir T.C. Campbell, Sir L.S. Leake, Messrs. L.C. Burges, S.S. Parker, W.E. Marmion, G. Shenton, S. Burt, and S. H. Parker, could not agree with him. They considered that Mr. Joubert ought to work the line for a number of years, and held that as he placed the total cost of construction and equipment at £3,500 per mile, 6,160,000 acres instead of 10,000,000 would suffice to reimburse him for his outlay. With the latter area there would be a net profit to the constructor of 3,840,000 acres, or an equivalent, at 2s. 6d. per acre, of £480,000. Considerable correspondence between the Governor and members took place, and Mr. Joubert's offer was wisely declined.
In August, 1882, Mr. Audley Coote, representing a syndicate, wrote from Hobart, Tasmania, offering to construct the line. He desired the Government to guarantee 3 per cent. interest for twenty-five years on a sum not exceeding £1,000,000, and magnanimously promised to divide with the colony the net profit on the working of the railway beyond 7 per cent. on the capital expended. The Government, he suggested, should be at liberty to purchase the line on giving twelve months' notice. Mr. Coote's offer received very slight attention. At about the same time a proposal was made to construct a railway, on the land-grant system, from Roebuck Bay into the new Kimberley district; but it, too, found few supporters.
Other schemes were projected in 1883. Sir Julius Vogel and Mr. Audley Coote, Colonel McMundo, and Mr. Anthony Hordern proposed to build railways from York or Beverley to Albany, and thence to Eucla, along the coast or through the Hampton Plains. But the scheme of Mr. Hordern received prior consideration. He submitted a proposition to the Government in January, 1883, which met with especial favour. A month after its receipt Governor Robinson left the colony, and Chief Justice Wrenfordsley administered local affairs until June, when Sir F. Napier Broome, K.C.M.G., began his long association with local affairs. This administrator studied the question of land-grant railways, and made suggestions to the legislators, upon whose deliberations the onus of deciding the momentous issues was cast. Mr. Hordern offered to construct, equip, maintain, and work a railway connecting York with Albany, of the same gauge as the Government railways. The line was to be completed within five years. He asked that the syndicate be granted alternate blocks of land in sections of 12,000 acres along the route for every mile constructed, such grants to be made upon the completion of each section of twenty miles, with the option of selecting lands in other parts of the colony, south of Perth and south and east of York, when unsuitable land lay alongside the line. All lands within ten miles on each side of the line were to be withdrawn from sale by the Government for a period of eight years from the signing of the contract. The syndicate was to have the privilege of declaring alternate town-sites on the route. When this railway was completed, Mr. Hordern asked that he be permitted, under similar terms, to build a line along the western seaboard to connect Perth, and the principal ports on the route, with Cambridge Gulf, in the extreme north. The syndicate first proposed to introduce 50,000 European immigrants, but upon the arrival of each ship's load the Government must grant in fee 120 acres for each adult and 60 acres for each child under fifteen years of age.
This scheme was gigantic enough for a glutton in railway construction. After a few scratches of the pen, the southern, western, and northern coasts were to be traversed by a railway as large and majestic as any ever projected, and the population was to jump by 50,000 at one bold bound. The colony was established because of a scheme a fifth as large; and various glorified colonising proposals had been formulated during its chequered history; but all had come to nought. In courage and magnificence, Mr. Hordern's capitalists were going to outdo them all. Governor Robinson, on 23rd January, appointed a committee, consisting of the Colonial Secretary, Director of Public Works, Messrs. Marmion, Shenton, Randell, Morrison, Monger, Loton, and Sir T.C. Campbell, to consider the whole or part of this proposal. The members reported to Acting Governor Wrenfordsley in March, and immediately entered into detail. So far as connecting Beverley with York was concerned, as most of the land on either side of the route to be followed was alienated, the scheme could not be carried out. The line must therefore start from Beverley, and the route to Albany should be fixed by the Government. In any section of twenty miles, no deviation that would lengthen the section by three miles should be permitted by the Government unless approved of by the Government engineer. The rolling stock, permanent way, &c., should conform in quality with what was used by the Government, and be subject to the approval of the Commissioner of Railways or the Government engineer. One train should start from either terminus daily, and the tariff of charges should be subject to the approval of the Government. Then applying itself to important matters, the report advised that all unalienated lands within thirty miles east and west of the proposed line be withdrawn from sale until the full assignment of the syndicate's land was made, when Crown lands might be thrown open to selection and purchase. The syndicate should have the power to declare town or village sites along the route. Material for the railway should be admitted free of duty, and be carried over the Government railway at a reduced rate, instead of for nothing, as asked by Mr. Hordern. The members agreed that 12,000 acres in fee would be a fair equivalent for every mile constructed, but no blocks should be granted of less than 60,000 acres, to be selected east or west, within thirty miles of the section. Only seventy-five per cent. of the land should be granted at the completion of each section of twenty miles; the remaining portion should be retained until the whole line was completed. They suggested that a clause be inserted in the agreement insuring the proper upkeep and continuous working of the line, and thought the syndicate should bear all cost of surveys and necessary engineering supervision during construction. Finally, they declared that they had insufficient data before them to warrant them to recommend the acceptance of Mr. Hordern's proposal, but were of opinion that should the syndicate agree to introduce not less than 5,000 European immigrants within five years from the commencement of the work, the Government might pay a sum not exceeding £10 for each adult under fifty years of age.
Mr. Hordern was supplied with a copy of this report, and submitted an amended proposal to construct the railway as near as possible upon the lines laid down by the committee. He now left out of all consideration the fatuous and insane idea of building a railway to Cambridge Gulf, and expressed his desire to begin the Beverley to Albany line as quickly as was feasible. His syndicate was willing to deposit with the Government any satisfactory sum as a guarantee for the due performance of the contract, so far as the first section of twenty miles was concerned. In regard to the land grant, he asked that upon the signing of the agreement, the Government should provisionally allot 200,000 acres, in order that the syndicate might be immediately in a position to settle immigrants and workmen upon the land.
As to the other schemes, Colonel McMundo, for a syndicate, offered to construct a line from Albany to York or Beverley, and from Albany to the border of South Australia. In return, he asked for a grant of 10,000 acres per mile, to be selected in alternate blocks along the lines, and for power to issue mortgage bonds to the amount of £4,000 per mile, with interest at 3½ per cent. guaranteed by be Government for thirty years, such bonds to be issued for every five miles constructed and equipped. He proposed to introduce forty immigrants for each mile of railway built.
The scheme of Sir Julius Vogel and Mr. Audley Coote was most elaborate. They offered to build a railway on the land-grant system from Beverley to Eetakup, thence easterly and northerly to Eucla, skirting the coast in such a manner as subsequent surveys might suggest. They were willing to agree to the terms submitted by the aforesaid committee with but few exceptions, the most important being that the work of construction be begun within two, and completed within twelve years, and that trains be run twice a week, or more frequently, if necessary, to connect with mail steamers. They were willing to accept the committee's recommendations in regard to land grants and subsidies for immigrants, but wanted the free use of Government railways for their own engines and plant. Later on these gentlemen expressed their willingness to construct an alternate line from York, via Hampton Plains, to Eucla on the same terms, and to deposit a reasonable sum as a guarantee. Moreover, they offered to undertake harbour improvements at Fremantle for payment by debentures, or partly in debentures and partly in land.
A second Select Committee was appointed in August, and consisted of the Commissioner of Railways, the Commissioner of Lands, Sir T.C. Campbell, Messrs. Lee-Steere, Brown, Randell, and Shenton. These gentlemen favoured the construction of land-grant railways in accordance with the previous committee's report and proposals, and recommended that negotiations be entered into for the construction of lines from York to Eucla via Hampton Plains, and from Beverley to Albany. In their opinion the line through Hampton Plains to Eucla to open up direct communication with the eastern colonies would be the most beneficial, as it would develop the pastoral resources of the south-eastern portions of eastern Australia, and make Fremantle the port of call for mail steamers. They recognised that the construction of harbour works at Fremantle was a necessary feature of the overland route, and inclined more favourably to the proposals of Sir Julius Vogel and Mr. Coote than to those of Mr. Hordern and Colonel McMundo. Governor Broome asked that the Government be allowed to conclude negotiations, and the Committee was willing to concede that privilege provided that, were any material alteration required, a final ratification of the agreement should be left to the Legislature.
A further communication was received from Mr. Hordern, and a third Committee—Commissioner of Lands, Sir T.C. Campbell, Messrs. Brown, Manning, Randell, S.H. Parker, and Lee-Steere was appointed, and decided in favour of his amended proposal, against that of Sir Julius Vogel and Mr. Coote. At the same time the advantages of laying a line of railway to Eucla were not lost sight of, and, both for the opening up of waste pastoral lands and to connect all the Australian colonies by railway, the project found numerous supporters. From a defensive point of view in times of war the construction of this line would have been of first importance, but owing to the antipathy of South Australia to land-grant railways the proposal was temporarily allowed to drop. This left the Beverley-Albany scheme to be determined. The terms were then arranged and agreed to by the Legislature, largely as recommended by the Committee, and the contract was signed by Mr. Hordern and the Government on 25th October, 1884.
It was agreed that the syndicate receive 12,000 acres for every mile of railway constructed, and that the lands be selected within a belt of forty miles on either side of the line, but with half the frontage reserved to the Government. The syndicate promised to deposits guarantee of £10,000, which would be forfeited upon non-fulfilment of contract. The total distance from the Albany end to Beverley was 241 miles, or, to the end of the company's jetty at Albany, 243 miles. This would give the projectors an area of 2,916,000 acres of land. By the terms of the contract Mr. Hordern was to introduce 5,000 immigrants at the rate of not more than 1,000, nor less than 700, a year. For these people the Government promised to pay £10 for each statute adult (two children under twelve years of age to be reckoned as one adult); or, at the option of the contractor, fifty acres of land for each statute adult, such land to be selected in blocks of 10,000 acres, and and in conformity with the land regulations of the colony.
A company, entitled the Western Australian Land Company, was floated in London with a capital of £300,000 in shares, £500,000 in debentures. Mr. T.W. Powell was the first chairman of directors. Mr. Anthony Hordern, the promoter, formulated glowing schemes for the settlement of population along the route. It was provided that the company could declare town sites at intervals, and these, Mr. Hordern intended, should be model centres, while between them he hoped to eventually see many a thriving farm, home, and garden. Perhaps his nature was over sanguine, and his beatific visions certainly did partake of the unreality and inconsideration of detail and toil peculiar to those of the promoters of the Australind Settlement, of Mr. Thos. Peel, Colonel Lautour, and others. Mr. Hordern proposed to introduce a steady stream of immigrants to settle on the company's lands.
He had also intended to endeavour to reclaim a large body of poison land, and in 1884 submitted a proposal to the Government to erect a College of Agriculture, the curriculum of which should include not only agriculture, but all branches of a liberal education. The syndicate formed to carry out this scheme asked for the right to select in any district of the colony 25,000,000 acres of land at rental for ninety-nine years of not more than 40s. per 1,000 acres of first-class lands, and 20s. per 1,000 acres of second-class lands, with the right of purchase during the ninety-nine years at the upset price under the Land Regulations of 1882. The first land chosen was to be devoted to a college domesne and an experimental farm. From other selections the syndicate might sell or lease to scholars or settlers who might desire to cultivate under the guidance of professors of the college. As a guarantee, the syndicate would first select 100,000 acres and expend thereon a sum of, at least, £5,000, and unless suitable buildings for college purposes were erected and opened within five years such block and all improvements would revert to the Crown. They also proposed to erect, as occasion demanded, colleges in different parts of the colony, and, when sufficient numbers of associated farmers were got together, to establish butter, cheese, olive oil, or other factories, and wineries. This latter scheme was referred to the Legislative Council, a Select Committee of which reported, on 28th August, 1884, adversely to it. Mr. Hordern proposed to build tramways on the land-grant system between Perth, Fremantle, Bunbury, Busselton, and Kojonup, but the Government would have none of it.
Mr. Hordern left England in 1886, after floating the West Australian Land Company, to organise operations in this colony. While in the Red Sea he received such a severe sunstroke that he died before his steamer reached Albany. A handsome granite monument has been erected in a commanding position at that port in memory of one who would probably have become a great philanthropist. He was yet young, and had he lived a few more years Western Australian development probably would have been materially fostered by his organising genius and sanguine, yet shrewd, intelligence. His various schemes would either have been immensely successful or have disastrously collapsed. His scheme to introduce immigrants under the auspices of the West Australian Land Company was not furthered by the directors, and after the arrival of several large bands the company informed the Government in June, 1887, that it could not absorb any more, and asked to be relieved of the fulfilment of the clause thereto in the contract. In April, 1888, an Act passed the Legislative Council sanctioning the transfer of Mr. Hordern's contract to the West Australian Land Company.
Messrs. Millar Brothers, of Melbourne, were awarded the contract to build the railway, and began operations at Beverley and Albany. The line was gradually carried through the untamed forest country, and was completed in 1889. On the 1st June of that year, sixty years after the foundation of the colony, the formal opening of the railway took place, and the country so laboriously discovered by Captain Bannister in 1830-1 was traversed in a few hours. The company did not flourish; the hopes of its projectors that their land would be largely purchased or rented from them were doomed to disappointment, and only a very small area was cleared. The town-sites declared along the route were Lakeside, Mount Barker, Cranbrook, Broomehill, Katanning, Wagin, Narrogin, and Pingelly. Apart from the interests of the company, this chief trunk line proved of considerable service to the colony.
Other land-grant railway schemes were meanwhile before the public. The proposal to construct a line from Esperance Bay to Hampton Plains was revived in 1885. In September the Colonial Secretary moved in the Legislative Council that it was desirable to accept terms offered by an English syndicate. Several members expressed the opinion that only a small pastoral industry would be served, and Mr. Lee-Steere carried an amendment against the line. In 1887 its supporters were much more active. It was advocated in Parliament and in the press by people who believed the Hampton Plains to contain rich agricultural country. Mr. Alexander Forrest moved in the Council in 1888 in favour of accepting the syndicate's proposals—similar to those of Mr. Hordern—provided that the Government received satisfactory assurance that it could carry out the contract, but he lost on the voices. The syndicate already held at Hampton Plains and Esperance Bay land which they intended to purchase. A provisional agreement was entered into in 1889, but was not carried out. Dr. Boyd submitted proposals in 1888 for the construction of a railway connecting the eastern terminus of the Government lines with Eucla, but the scheme was abandoned after the appointment of select committees, which suggested that the railway should be on the 5 feet 3-inch gauge, and that a grant of 20,000 acres should be allowed for every mile constructed, and after the Legislative Council carried a resolution in favour of the line on condition that a guarantee of £50,000 be deposited. Had it been built, the highly desirable advantage of having every Australian colony connected by railway would have been attained, and Fremantle would have become the Brindisi of Australia. In 1886 a London syndicate offered to construct a line from Derby to the Kimberley goldfields, under a Government guarantee. A second syndicate proposed to build a railway to the same place on the land-grant principle; a third, a railway (under Government guarantee) from Wyndham to the Kimberley goldfields. All were refused.
But terms for a second land-grant railway were already entered into. In 1884 Mr. John Waddington submitted to the Government a proposal to construct a railway from York to Geraldton via Northam and Newcastle. The syndicate he represented was guided and assisted by the terms of the report upon the proposal of Mr. Hordern. The Commissioner of Railways, Commissioner of Lands, Sir T.C. Campbell, Messrs. Lee-Steere, Brown, Marmion, Randell, Crowther, and Loton, acting as a Select Committee, considered that the line should start from Guildford rather than from York. The route chosen by them ran from Guildford, Victoria Plains, Upper Irwin, to or near Walkaway, the southern terminus of the Government line from Geraldton. They agreed that the Government should be empowered to negotiate with Mr. Waddington for the construction of the railway on the basis of the contract entered into with Mr. Hordern, with modifications, such as: that the land taken for the railway, when passing through freehold or town-sites, should be of no greater width than one chain, except by consent of the Commissioner of Railways; and that no land should be reserved from sale in view of the proposed construction until after the signing of the contract.
An agreement was signed in February, 1886, which stipulated that the general route should run from Guildford, via Gingin, Victoria Plains, Upper Irwin, and Dongara, to Walkaway. The concessionnaire was to receive 12,000 acres per mile of railway constructed, to be selected by him in blocks of not less than 12,000 acres, within forty miles on either side of the line. The Government could not alienate any lands within the forty miles until the work was completed. A portion of the country to be traversed was already alienated which compelled the concessionnaire to choose his selections around such grants. Half the frontage of the railway was reserved to the Government. The cost of the line was estimated at a little over a million sterling. The Waddington syndicate was not so successful in obtaining the necessary capital in London as it anticipated. The contract for building the railway was let to Mr. E. Keane, who proceeded vigorously to push on the work; but owing to the non-success of the company he had to discontinue operations in 1887, and little further was done until after 1888. The whole undertaking would have fallen through but for the energy of one or two capitalists in London.
Considerable telegraph extension works were carried out while these new railways—Government and private—were being built. An offer was made in 1881 to lay a line from Geraldton to Roebourne on the land-grant system, but in 1882 it was decided to construct the work out of loan funds. A contract was let to Messrs. J. and W. Bateman in January, 1883, at £65 12s. per mile (including stations). The line was opened on 1st October, 1885, and cost £56,531. On the following 17th November, Cossack was connected with Roebourne. Sharks Bay, the Gascoyne, Ashburton, and Fortescue were all included in the telegraph system. Derby (500 miles) was connected in 1889, and the line was eventually carried from there to Hall's Creek, and Wyndham. Gingin, Mandurah, Pinjarra, Bridgetown, Bunbury, and Busselton—in short, all the principal centres of the colony were now connected by telegraph, and the magnetic current ran from east to west and south to north, and branched of into the country in various places.
Negotiations were entered into between the Government and Sir Julius Vogel in 1883 to lay a cable to the North-west Coast, connecting with the European system; but the latter abandoned the enterprise. Messrs. Millar Brothers proposed in 1888 to run a cable line from the same coast to India or Ceylon. While the negotiations were in progress, the Colonial Office came to terms with the Eastern Extension Company to land a cable in Roebuck Bay from Java. Millar Brothers retired, and the line was laid by the company from Banjoewangie to Broome, in February, 1889. Under agreement with the other colonies, Western Australia promised to transmit all cablegrams over her lines at half-rates, under a guarantee of receipts at £1,000 per annum. A telephonic exchange system was opened at Perth on 1st December, 1887, and at Fremantle on January, 1888.
It has already been announced that one syndicate offered to construct harbour facilities at Fremantle, on land-grant or debenture principles. All the proposals made during the history of the colony had not satisfied local Governments that they would be effectual in making Fremantle secure for the accommodation of vessels. Sir John Coode had plans submitted to him in the seventies, and he discountenanced them. He proposed two alternative schemes—one requiring an expenditure of £638,000 to secure twenty-nine feet of water in a safe anchorage; the other requiring £242,000 to secure twenty feet. The various offers to build railways to Eucla were, of course, dependent on the Fremantle Harbour being improved. Careful surveys of the harbour were made in 1886, and Sir John Coode, at the invitation of the Government, visited the colony, and spent nearly five weeks in making inspections of the harbour and of Swan River. In his report, he expressed the opinion that the difficulties attendant upon the formation and maintenance of suitable and safe approaches in Cockburn Sound were so great and would be accompanied by such a large expenditure, that there would be no alternative but to consider the utilisation of the shelter and deep water as entirely unattainable. It had been proposed to construct a river entrance and a canal to Rocky Bay; of the erection of moles, Sir John Coode said that the cost of such sheltering works would considerably exceed that of suitable structures adopted to meet the required wants if undertaken in the proper positions; and was therefore inadmissible. There was a grave objection to a corresponding treatment of the existing entrance to the river, for, in consequence of the very limited volume of tidal and back-water available for scouring purposes, there were strong grounds for anticipating that a sand-bar would grow up at the improved entrance which would probably seriously prejudice its utility. He did not think the Rocky Bay project was feasible. To provide, he continued, for the unimpeded movement of the sand, it would be requisite that any sheltering work at Fremantle must be detached from the mainland, connection with the shore being effected by means of an open viaduct so arranged as to admit of the unrestricted passage of the sand without causing its deposition. The Government did not determine for some years upon any elaborate scheme of harbour works. Jetties and wharves were constructed at new north and north-western ports. An arrangement was entered into whereby a vessel was employed at the joint cost of the Imperial and Colonial Governments, to make coastal surveys. Regular steamship connection was established with Singapore.
The expenditure of these large sums of money on public works naturally buoyed up the colony and afforded a temporary relief. Fortunately for Western Australia, during the remaining years of her history one circumstance and another arose which, except for very short periods, prevented the return of general depression. Public works construction supplied labour and money, extension of north-west settlement caused the pastoral industry to expand, and gold discoveries attracted the much needed population—in small numbers at first, but sufficient to promote a more healthy tone. Loan moneys were an excellent equivalent for convict expenditure, and whereas the convicts received no pay, the labourers on these later public works obtained wages and kept money circulating. We have already referred to errors in the Treasury under which there was a deficit instead of a surplus as was supposed. As one result of the situation, combined with desire to encourage agricultural production, the colony turned nearer to protection. The change was not made without a struggle, but the free traders missed their previous strong supporter, Governor Weld.
After it was discovered in 1879 that the finances were in an unhealthy condition, and that there was actually a deficit to be wiped off, the Government introduced a tariff bill into the Council which, they suggested, should remain in operation for only three years. A slight increase was made in spirits, tobacco, sugar, and some other necessaries of life, but the important points of the bill lay in the decision to custom agricultural products. Live stock remained on the free list. Flour, corn, and other grains (excluding rice), bran, pollard, meal, preserved meats, agricultural implements, fencing wire, wheat sacks, and wool bales were subject to a 10 per cent. duty, hay and chaff to 12½ per cent., butter to 2d. a lb., and potatoes and onions to 10s. a ton. The free list was thus considerably reduced. The Government explained in the House in October, when it was before the Committee, that the measure had nothing to do with the principle of free trade versus protection; it was a mere question of revenue. Sir Luke S. Leake expressed astonishment that it was proposed to tax flour, and moved as an amendment that flour, bran, pollard, meal, corn and other grains, be placed on the free list. Mr. S.H. Parker seconded, and bemoaned the change in the Government policy. Mr. M. Fraser protested that it was not a change of policy, but a temporary expedient to tide over a financial difficulty. Messrs. Marmion, Harper, and Carey supported the amendment; but Mr. L.C. Burges held that these duties would prove of benefit to the farmer and public alike, and hoped that protection would save the colony the £30,000 or £40,000 annually paid to the South Australian farmer. Mr. J.H. Monger asserted that a duty of 20s. a ton on flour would make no difference to the poor man. On the other hand, it would increase the number of farmers who, if guaranteed 5s. a bushel for their wheat, would widen their wheat fields. The amendment was defeated by twelve votes to seven, and the Government proposals were carried.
Vigorous complaints were made, in and out of the House, during the two following years, against the heavy taxes on the working classes. In 1880, Mr. Randell, in the debate on the Address in Reply, spoke earnestly in opposition to the protective tariff. He said that the poorer classes were over-taxed, and that the rich did not bear their proportionate share. Mr. Lee-Steere did not think there were any poor in the colony in the sense in which the expression was understood in England. As the wealthy classes, he affirmed, consumed greater quantities of dutiable goods than the poor, it followed that they contributed as much, proportionately, to the revenue. But on this occasion members did not long wrestle with the fallacies or facts of protection versus free trade. When in 1882 the finances were balanced, and the period of the 1879 Act expired, the Council did not revert to free trade. Though the tariff had not enabled farmers to supply local demands, it was determined to continue the duties on agricultural products. Flour, grain, fruits, vegetables, &c., were imported to the value of £57,378 in 1879, of £39,272 in 1880, of £44,245 in 1881, and of £99,621 in 1882. Within the same period the area under cultivation was not increased as was sometimes anticipated—in 1879, 56,431 acres, and in 1882, 56,691 acres (Blue Book). It could hardly be said, therefore, that the expectations of the supporters of the 1879 tariff were realised. Indeed, it would seem that farmers were more affected to increase the area under crop by good yields than by protective duties. Thus, the yields of wheat in 1879 averaged 15 bushels to the acre, and in the following year the area under cultivation jumped to 63,902 acres. The following crop was not good, and the area receded to 53,353 acres in 1881. The Greenough district had the smallest returns. The area under wheat alone decreased—in 1879, 25,762 acres; in 1880, 27,686 acres; in 1881, 21,951 acres, and in 1882, 22,718 acres.
The tariff of 1882 provided for a duty of 20s. a ton on flour, 10s. a ton on bran, pollard, and potatoes, and 12s 6d. a ton on hay and chaff, 4d. a bushel on all kinds of grain excepting rice, 2d. a lb. on butter, 2s. per cwt. on rice, 1s. per dozen on corn and flour sacks, 15s. per gallon on spirits (proof), and 4d. each on wool bales. Preserved meats were subject to 10 per cent. ad valorem duties, agricultural implements, machinery, and certain kinds of iron to 5 per cent., and merchandise and goods (not included in the other schedules) to 12½ per cent. Immigrants' tools, machinery for boring, and personal baggage (not including vehicles, glassware, chinaware, silver and gold plate) were placed on the free list. The Colonial Secretary, Baron Gifford, in moving the second reading of the Bill, affirmed that the 20s. duty was placed on flour to enable local farmers to compete on fairly even terms with those in other countries. It would, he said, place some check upon the indiscriminate importation of foreign flour for mere purposes of speculation. Mr. S.H. Parker moved that the item, "flour 20s.," be struck out, but he was defeated on the voices. Messrs. Carey, Grant, and Parker vainly pleaded for the free admission of agricultural products. Mr. Grant looked upon the tax as an imposture; every part of the colony was taxed to build a railway for the benefit of the corn-growers, and when that was completed people looked to have the duty abolished. Mr. Brown, to prevent those who were not producers, but "hangers on," from importing foreign flour, advocated the duty as a simple act of justice to the farmers.
During the ensuing years the agricultural industry continued to stagnate. While the area under crop was slightly increased, the proportion was not such as was justified by the increase of population. Bad crops were probably the chief cause of this torpor. Flour and grain had to be introduced in quantities as large as before. Prices were high, and living expensive. The total area under cultivation was:—In 1883, 58,111 acres; (wheat, 28,768); 1884, 79,669 acres (wheat, 29,416); 1885, 60,058 acres (wheat, 29,511); in 1886, 84,403 acres (wheat, 24,043); in 1887, 66,162 acres (wheat, 27,512); and in 1888, 65,699 acres (wheat, 30,740). The area under hay and green crops was generally larger than that under wheat, and was mainly answerable for the increases in the acreage under cultivation. The Blue Book figures of imports were:—1883, flour, £33,593 and grain, hay, &c., £56,816; 1884, flour, grain, &c., £67,661; 1885, flour, &c., £69,345; 1886, flour, &c., £85,998; 1887, flour, &c., £160,353; and 1888, flour, &c., £139,493
As the burden upon the finances, caused by the new borrowing policy, was seriously felt, protection became more and more a necessary means to meet the increased expenditure. It was not altogether a question of principle. Some councillors seriously supported protection, in the opinion that it would fester industries; others recognised it in a plainer light—a revenue producer. Further tariff revision took place in 1887-8. A Tariff Commission was appointed in 1887, and advised alterations ostensibly "to promote the establishment of new industries, and encourage the development of industries and manufactories already established." An Agricultural Commission—Messrs. Venn, Brockman, Richardson, Monger, and Padbury—was also appointed in 1887, and will be referred to in next chapter. In the debate upon a new Customs Bill in December, 1887, Mr. Alexander Forrest was the champion of the protectionists, and succeeded in increasing the duties proposed on live stock. The local grower, he said, must be protected against the outsider and the importer; increased duties would not affect the retail price of beef and mutton. In the tariff, assented to in 1888, there was a general advance towards protection. Horses were taxed at £1 per head, horned cattle, for slaughter, £1 10s., sheep, for slaughter, 2s. 6d., and pigs, 4s. Bran and pollard were increased to £1 per ton, wheat to 6d. per bushel, hay and chaff to £1 per ton, and potatoes to £1; flour was left at 20s. per ton. Harness and saddlery, furniture, carriages, carts, waggons, jewellery, tinware, and worked timber, &c., were customed at 20 per cent.; agricultural machinery, iron, wire netting, mining machinery, and kinds of leather at 5 per cent.; and goods, wares and articles of merchandise, not included in the other schedules, at 12½ per cent. Iron and steel, books, raw hides, paper, and personal baggage (with exceptions) were in the free list. A special duty of 20s. per lb. was levied on opium in 1886.
The finances were in a comparatively healthy state during the years immediately following 1882. On different occasions the Treasurer had the pleasure of announcing that the receipts largely exceeded the estimates. Thus in 1882 there was an excess of over £40,000, principally obtained from the Customs and Lands Departments; an almost equal amount was obtained in 1883. A substantial surplus accumulated in the public chest, much to the chagrin of several councillors, who held that it should be spent on this or that of their favourite districts. Needless to say, there were ample uses to which it might be put. Governor Broome (Knighted in 1884), who had not been altogether a favourite with the advanced section, and, like Governor Robinson, had vetoed measures over which members had taken considerable trouble, went to England in 1884 to float the Public Works loan for £525,000. He managed to obtain this sum, and proved a very zealous ambassador. He spoke glowingly in public and in private of the colony's resources, financial position, and future prospects, and obtained the loan. In an address delivered at the Royal Colonial Institute he gave a highly favourable description of Western Australia and its people, and was followed by ex-Governor Weld, Lord Rosebery, Sir Arthur Blyth, and the chairman (the Prince of Wales). Upon his return in June, 1885, Governor Broome was held in better favour, and the Legislative Council voted him £1,000 to defray his expenses. In December, 1886, there was a balance in the Treasury of £83,418, partly derived from unexpected excesses in customs and land receipts. In 1887 the latter fell short of the estimates, and the revenue was considerably below the expenditure. Governor Broome was depressed by the situation, and, in his opening address to the Council, he advised members to be extremely cautious in entering into new expenditures. "Loans," said he, "cannot be looked upon as a remedy for depression, or as a substitute for real progress and development." The sale of town and suburban lots, in the north and north-west, and of Crown lands, was augmenting the revenue, and Mr. Richardson sounded a note of warning in the debate on the Address-in-Reply:—"Any practical man must foresee the result of selling the public estate; the disposing of the proceeds to meet current expenditure will be disastrous in the end; the same principle adopted in the case of the owner of a private estate would soon bring that man into pecuniary difficulties, if year by year he had to sell a portion of his estate to meet his current liabilities." There was a deficit in the public chest in 1888 of £28,130, and a new loan was proposed. The Secretary of State refused to sanction it, but was willing to permit of Treasury Bills being floated. The total receipts were greatly increased. In 1879, £196,315, and in 1888, £357,003. The rise was mainly due to increases in land, railway, and customs returns. Customs in 1879, £88,329, and 1888, £159,059; land in 1879, £33,398, and 1888, £81,348; railways in 1882, £12,571, and 1888, £37,302. At the same time, however, the public debt increased from £361,000 in 1879, to £1,275,000 in 1888—in 1887 (vide Budget speech) the banks held securities representing £1,297,000, which made the debt of the colony on public and private accounts to be over £2,500,000, or about £63 10s. per head of population; the revenue per head in 1884 was £8 19s. 8d., and expenditure, £9 0s. 2d., and in 1888, revenue £8 9s. 5d., and expenditure, £9 2s. 9d.; the taxation per head in 1884, £4 1s. 2d., and in 1888, £4 5s. 7d.; public debt per head in 1884, £23 4s. 2½d., and 1888, £30 5s. 3d.; imports per head in 1881, £16 2s. 6d., and exports, £12 11s.; imports per head in 1888, £18 13s. 11d., and exports, £16 3s. 6d.
The Blue Book returns of revenue and expenditure (January to December) were:—
|1879 ...||£196,315 ...||£195,812|
|1880 ...||180,049 ...||204,337|
|1881 ...||254,313 ...||197,386|
|1882 ...||250,372 ...||205,451|
|1883 ...||284,363 ...||240,565|
|1884 ...||290,319 ...||291,306|
|1885 ...||323,213 ...||308,848|
|1886 ...||388,564 ...||394,675|
|1887 ...||377,903 ...||456,897|
|1888 ...||357,003 ...||385,129|
Public attention was so completely absorbed by the ramifications of the new public works policy that the question of Responsible Government was allowed to wait gloomily, and almost in solitude, in the ante-room of politics. But the desire to have the sulky Achilles admitted and warmly embraced had by no means disappeared. The general people certainly evinced little interest; they were sometimes like a child tired of its plaything. But prominent supporters occasionally feasted the relaxed warrior, and watched for an opportune moment to again bring him to the front. A few people waited until the year when it was decreed that the direct Imperial contribution to convict expenditure must cease, so that the burdens of self-government might not be greatly increased. Many were so unfeignedly pleased with the public works expenditure that they forgot all about the constitution. Use and habit had so moulded many more that they became sleepily content; the sweet somnolency begot of freedom from turmoil was more attractive than exciting changes of constitution. Such people would fain "rest and be thankful;" loth to bestir themselves, they were the most dangerous enemies to Responsible Government, as a cynical and callous man is to the generous ardour of youth. Some irrepressible spirits chafed in their tents, and were consumed in a smouldering fire, like Achilles himself.
Although casual public references were made to autonomy they had no effect other than to prevent the question from being forgotten. Resolutions were moved in the Council from time to time, but they resolved themselves into mere abstract propositions. No warmth, no emotion, was felt by the people. Reform must be supported by a universal demand; if not it is strangled or deformed in its birth. It has been often said that a reform measure to be successful must be sustained by public enthusiasm sufficient to convince the indolent, the selfish, and the timid. Western Australia in 1879-85 was precisely in the position of England when the Lord Russell Government introduced a Reform Bill in 1866. Political leaders demanded responsible ministers, and the people said nothing. But these several resolutions were highly important in a historical sense; they educated and eventually excited the public sentiment.
Governor Ord was not so ready to lend his ear to the prayers of the people for Responsible Government as Governor Weld, and Governor Robinson was so occupied with other affairs that he was required to give little heed to constitutional matters. And so, for several years, the question remained in the background. Meanwhile there had been changes among the officials, and alterations in the Executive and Legislative Councils. Under the Royal Instructions of 1878, empowering the Governor to appoint two additional members to the Executive Council, Governor Ord, in February, 1879, proclaimed Sir. J.H. Thomas, Director of Public Works and Commissioner of Railways, to be an unofficial member of that body. In May the same gentleman was appointed an official member. Additional Royal Instructions, in April, 1879, provided for the enlargement of the Council to six official representatives, still permitting the appointment of two unofficial members. The six officials were, the Governor (president), Attorney-General, Senior Military Officer Commanding Her Majesty's Troops, Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands, and the Director of Public Works and Commissioner of Railways. In November, 1879, the Colonial Treasurer was reappointed to a seat in the Executive, and in 1880, when Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. Harvest left the colony, the office of Commandant was not represented, nor was it again filled. In February, 1879, Mr. H.H. Hocking, the Attorney-General, was granted leave of absence, and did not return to office. Mr. G.W. Leake was Acting Attorney-General until the death of Sir A.P. Burt in November, when he became Acting Chief Justice, and Mr. E.A. Stone assumed temporary control of the Law Department. In 1881 Mr. A.G. Onslow was appointed Attorney-General, and in 1883 Mr. A.P. Hensman succeeded him. In March, 1880, Mr. T.H. Wrenfordsley became Chief Justice, and in 1883 Mr. Onslow took that position. In 1880 the Colonial Secretary, Mr. R.T. Goldsworthy, retired from office, and was temporarily succeeded by Mr. G.B. Phillips, who gave place to Baron Gifford in November, 1880. In 1883 Mr. M. Fraser took the Colonial Secretaryship, and Mr. John Forrest, the explorer, succeeded him as Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands. Mr. O'Grady Lefroy still continued in the office of Colonial Treasurer.
General elections to the Legislative Council were held in February and March, 1880. An abortive attempt was made in several electorates to awaken a vital interest in Responsible Government. The new Council consisted of—Nominee members—L.C. Burges, S.S. Parker, G. Randell, and E.A. Stone; elective members—M. Brown (Geraldton), C. Crowther (Greenough), Sir L.S. Leake and S.H. Parker (Perth), W.E. Marmion and E.H. Higham, (Fremantle), J.G. Lee-Steere (Swan), E. Hamersley (York), G. Shenton (Toodyay), T.C. Carey (Vasse), H.W. Venn (Wellington), Sir T.C. Campbell (Albany), S. Burt (Murray and Williams), and McKenzie Grant (North district )
In 1882 the Legislative Council carried a bill amending its constitution and increasing its membership from twenty-one to twenty-four. A new district, comprising the southern portion of the Northern district, was declared, and named the Gascoyne district. Upon his arrival, Governor Broome discouraged any agitation for Responsible Ministers. He sought to impress on the people that they should wait for some years before essaying the onerous task of governing themselves. Mr. S.H. Parker, a native of the colony, was for years the most energetic advocate in Parliament for a change, and he was not easily disheartened by the weighty opposition and sluggish interest that were sometimes shown to his proposals. In August, 1882, he had moved an address, praying the Governor to introduce a bill providing for Responsible Government. Mr. Carey seconded, but the debate was forlorn and discouraging. The motion was negatived by twelve votes to five. Mr. Parker was particularly desirous of ascertaining the terms and conditions upon which the Secretary for the Colonies would grant autonomy, and asked, by address, that the Governor should obtain this information as speedily as possible.
At this time it was considered that the condition of the finances warranted, even under Act 13 and 14 Victoria, the granting of the privilege. In August, 1883, Mr. Parker again testified his earnestness by moving in the Council that "the time has arrived when it is desirable that the colony of Western Australia should adopt a system of Responsible Government." Mr. M. Brown, who seconded the motion, explained that hitherto he had been a staunch supporter of the existing constitution, but his views had totally changed, and he would do his utmost to bring about autonomy. He was led to this position by the unreasonable and idle locking up by the Government of funds which should be devoted to development works. Mr. Marmion had already spoken in similar terms. After a long debate, Mr Lee-Steere carried, by eleven votes to eight, an amendment, "That it is inadvisable to express any definite opinion until the Secretary for the Colonies has signified terms upon which he would inaugurate a new system."
Lord Derby, who now controlled the Colonial Office, gave scant attention to the request for a definite statement, and threw cold water on the whole matter. In a despatch, dated 23rd July, 1883, he lays particular stress, as did Lord Kimberley before him, upon the difficulty of administering the northern parts of the colony with the southern, inferring that this could be more satisfactorily done under a Crown Colony regime than under Responsible Government. He said he "was not disposed to anticipate that a request for autonomy would be strongly pressed, or that it would be equally acceptable to those people developing the tropical districts, in the belief that their interests were protected by the Crown." He then declared:—"And while I am of opinion that, under Responsible Government, the control of the Crown lands generally would be vested in the Colonial Parliament, it appears to me, as at present advised, that it would be necessary to make an exception in respect to those northern Crown lands which would be likely to form a separate colony at any early date." Indeed, he saw "no reason why the colony should not continue to prosper for a further period under its present form of government." Grave political and financial questions, said he, would have to be determined before such a radical change could be allowed.
A slight revival of interest was at once evinced, due perhaps, to the apparent opposition of Lord Derby, which stimulated the latent spirit of agitation. Governor Broome compiled a tabular statement, showing the condition of the colony, its population, and resources. On 9th April, 1884, he wrote the Secretary for the Colonies, enclosing these facts and figures, and giving an interesting opinion. "Though I see," he writes, "no valid reason for withholding free institutions from this colony after its inhabitants shall have expressed a general and decided wish to take upon themselves the burden and responsibilities of that form of Government, I am strongly of opinion that until such wish shall have been expressed, which certainly it has not been yet, it would be a mistake to make this great and irretrievable change. Furthermore, while I concede that the colony has reached a stage at which a claim to its birthright, if deliberately insisted upon, should not be refused, I nevertheless think that Western Australia would do well to delay its majority for a time, until its wealth and population shall have still further increased, and until the community contains within itself a good ballast weight of public opinion, and a sufficient complement of qualified public men to govern on the party system. By qualified public men I mean, not only men of ability and capacity for public affairs (for these already exist in full proportion), but men in whom good social standing is joined to means and sufficient leisure to allow them to devote themselves to political business." In this respect, he considered, there was a deficiency, but not a prohibitive one. The existing legislators were among the most prominent, intelligent, and public spirited men in the colony, and there was no reason to suppose that under Responsible Government the standard would be lowered. He advised the Secretary for the Colonies to intimate that Responsible Government would not be refused if a decided and general wish for it should find utterance at the next elections in 1885. But "it should be pointed out that such a wish has not been expressed, and that looking at the scant population, the vast area, the limited means, and the special circumstances of Western Australia, this great political change cannot be considered necessary or advisable, so long as the present form of Government works reasonably well, guards all interests, and gives fair satisfaction, as I think it is doing."
Lord Derby was not so considerate of the demands of colonists as Lord Carnarvon, who, during his term of office, had shown an estimable spirit of conciliation, and had devoted graver attention to colonial affairs than most of his predecessors or successors. The first clauses of the despatch of Governor Broome were as just and impartial as people could desire. He conceded the principle that Western Australia required Responsible Government, both from its financial position and the intelligence of its legislators, but he correctly said that, at this time, no wide-spread request for a change had been preferred. He was probably moved to thus write to Lord Derby because of a conviction that the movement was gradually obtaining more vitality. The Secretary for the Colonies lost no time in replying, and his despatch (14th July, 1884) was as unsatisfactory as inconclusive. He says—"I am not at present prepared to authorise you to announce that Responsible Government could be granted if at the general election next year there should be a strong expression of opinion in favour of the change, because, as I pointed out, there are important political and financial questions which would have to be satisfactorily settled before any such steps could be taken, and I confess that I anticipate considerable difficulty in dealing with some of these questions." Then, in non-committal terms, he promised that "if there should be a general and decisive declaration in favour of the change," Her Majesty’s Government "would not refuse to examine the details of the arrangement which it would be necessary to make if Responsible Government should be introduced."
Before the receipt of this despatch, reference was made to the agitation when the Address in Reply was debated by the Council in 1884. Mr. Burt was particularly outspoken, and hoped that members would he spared, during the ensuing session, "insincere movements" in favour of Responsible Government. Three questions were brought forward which detracted attention, and two of them were designed to give the public more satisfaction with the existing constitution. Some stress was laid upon a movement which had for its object the separation of the northern and southern portions of the colony. Settlement had extended from the Gascoyne to the extreme north in the Kimberley division, and this country became not the least valuable in Western Australia. Dissatisfaction arose as to the original land laws proclaimed for Kimberley, and the northern people considered that they should have more public money spent among them. Numerous references had been made on the latter point in the Council, especially in connection with the surplus which the Government was hoarding in the Treasury. One or two Legislative councillors advocated separation, and the formation of Western Australia into two colonies. They declared that the colony was so immense and so diverse in its resources and climatic conditions that an administration in one portion could not satisfactorily safeguard and foster the interests of the other. The Governor and the Secretary for the Colonies were alike convinced of the importance of these contentions, but they seemed to give more prominence to the movement than its popularity deserved. Indeed, there was a suspicion that undue stress was laid upon it, to make the establishment of Responsible Government as formidable as possible; at least, the despatches of the Secretary for the Colonies suggest the hypothesis. At no time was there a general or organised cry for separation, but despatches were exchanged and addresses delivered notwithstanding.
Attention was directed to the question during 1884 and part of 1885, and the Government even sent to New South Wales for information as to the terms and conditions upon which Victoria and Queensland had obtained separation from that colony. Questions were asked in the House, and judging from Lord Derby’s despatches, and remarks from Governor Broome, separation appeared inevitable, but after 1885 few references were made to it until 1888-9. Mr. Wittenoom told the House, in July, 1885, some of the circumstances which led Champion Bay and other northern people to take a fugitive interest in the matter. He set it down to irritation and dissatisfaction with the infrequency and smallness of votes of public money to develop the north country, and the careless and bungling way in which the money, when voted, was expended. One request was so cavalierly treated that the people were intensely annoyed. Then he praised the judicious tactics adopted by Governor Broome after his return from England, and said that his recent conciliatory attitude had disarmed the disaffection of much of its virility. But he predicted that the time would come when, owing to geographical and other causes, the movement for separation would be followed and, no doubt, be rewarded.
The elections referred to in Governor Broome's despatch were held in October and November, 1884. In isolated constituencies the question of Responsible Government was debated with some interest, but taking the colony as a whole, no marked desire was expressed. The new Council consisted of M. Fraser, Colonial Secretary; A. P. Hensman, Attorney-General; C. T. Mason (who had succeeded Mr. Thomas), Director of Public Works, and J. Forrest, Surveyor-General (officials); J. G. Lee Steere, G. Randell, W. T. Loton, and T. Burges (nominees); Sir T. C. Campbell, W. E. Marmion, W. S. Pearse, M. Brown, E. H. Wittenoom, C. Crowther, S. Burt, McKenzie Grant, A. C. McRae, Sir L. S. Leake, S. H. Parker, H. Brockman, G. Shenton, G. Layman, H. W. Venn, and C. Harper (elected members.)
So as to give the Executive more direct sympathy with the people and Parliament, Governor Broome proposed in 1884 to take advantage of the Royal Instructions of 1878 by adding two unofficial members to that body. This was the suggestion made by Mr. Lee-Steere in 1873, when the agitation for Responsible Government was so keen and weighty. In 1884 Mr. Lee-Steere was provisionally appointed. The Governor expressed the desire to increase the influence and participation of the people in their government, and asked members of the Legislative Council to propose two representatives whom he would appoint. Mr. Shenton said he was sure the Governor was actuated simply by a desire to make the existing constitution popular in the eyes of the country. Mr. S. H. Parker doubted whether it was a popular move, and believed if the country were polled that nine-tenths of the people would vote against it. It was intended as a salve to the agitation for Responsible Government. The proposal was supported by only a narrow majority of the unofficial members of the House, and met with opposition outside, and the Governor abandoned it. Mr. Lee-Steere's appointment was, however, confirmed, and he continued to sit till the introduction of Responsible Government in 1890.
The clamour of the people in the north for more consideration led to an amendment of the constitution in 1886 by which the number of members of the Legislative Council was increased. During the 1885 session of Parliament, an address to the Governor was carried asking for representation for the Kimberley district. Considering the importance of this country and his own references thereto, and also to give a maximum of satisfaction in the existing constitution, Governor Broome was quite willing to concede the point. A bill was introduced in the following session, increasing the number of legislators to twenty-six, comprised of nine nominated official and unofficial and seventeen elective members. The northern portion of the Northern district was taken to form the Kimberley district, for which Mr. Alexander Forrest was the first representative. Mr. D. K. Congdon was appointed a nominee member.
By this time the Imperial expenditure for convicts had become very small, and any regret which might have been felt against relinquishing this annual subsidy in favour of Responsible Government was no longer tenable. In 1886 the visual trail of the convict era was nearly obliterated, and the Government took over the establishment. Beyond a few score men who were still under the control of the authorities, and the monuments which had been erected during the epoch, the colony was like unto others. Felons were criminal to be sent to a gaol; not convicts branded by their country with dishonour, and cast out of it. The Comptroller-General of Convicts disappeared, and was succeeded by the Sheriff of the colony; the road parties, as previously understood, were no longer to be seen in the woods: the ticket-of-leave man had almost gone, and the "curfew," commanding that lights be put out, sounded for the last time in the towns. Those who had been convicts—the surviving stragglers of the great army—were pursuing respected careers amid the rural districts and as owners of large stores, or were eking out their shattered lives in debauchery and misery. Comparatively few of the original men now lived in the colony, and death diminished the number every year. The Western Australian people emerged from the penal settlement cloud, which did them both good and harm.
During the terms of office of Governor Robinson and Governor Broome, a bulky correspondence took place between the Imperial and Western Australian Governments respecting the closing scenes of this dubious connection. The Governors had hitherto been the "head gaolers" of these waifs and they were not sorry to be relieved of an objectionable task. Her Majesty's Government in 1880 decided to disband the Pension Force; but, in the interests of public safety, they promised to contribute £4,000, in addition to their shares of the Magistracy and Police vote, for the protection of the people. In 1883 they agreed to transfer the Lunatic Asylum, inaugurated to accommodate convict lunatics, to the colony on basis of a vote of £42 pet head per annum for each Imperial lunatic. Then, on 31st August, 1883, Governor Broome wrote the Secretary for the Colonies, pointing out that, as the convict prison at Fremantle, built to accommodate 600 persons, now contained but seventy-five men, the time had arrived when the Colonial Government should entirely take over the Imperial Convict Establishment and all belonging to it. Such a course would especially relieve the Home Office of the administration of a department which had become a husk without a kernel. He considered that the local Legislature would accept the transfer on such conditions as payment at the rate of £45 per annum for every Imperial prisoner maintained at public expense, payment of £42 per head for lunatics (as already agreed), and the transfer to the colony, free of charge, of all Imperial property, including stores—all buildings to be placed in good condition before being handed over. Imperial officers, he also suggested, should be at once pensioned, and their pensions paid them irrespective or their re-employment by the local Government. Sir William Harcourt, in reply, asked for a clear statement, complete in all points, of what the Colonial Government would propose, and of what they and the Colonial Legislature would be prepared to carry into effect.
A Committee of the Legislative Council was appointed on 7th November, 1884, to consider terms, and a report was tendered on 13th July, 1885. Its members thought that the Imperial Government should make good all claims respecting moneys advanced between the years 1881 and 1885 for the payment of Water Police and that the Imperial proportion of the grant for magistracy, police, and enrolled guard should continue and cease as already arranged. Finally, they proposed that the whole establishment should be transferred at the end of 1885, in accordance with the views expressed by the Governor. The colonial prisoners immured in the establishment were paid for by the local Government at the rate of £42 per head, and this sum the Lords of the Treasury considered to be a liberal basis upon which each Imperial convict should now be transferred to the colony. It was ultimately arranged however, to make the transfer on the £45 basis; the prison invalid and lunatic buildings were handed over without charge to Western Australia. The sum advanced for Water Police was paid, but the Imperial Government refused to incur any liabilities in regard to repairing buildings. The transfer was formally made on 31st March, 1886.
It needs but a few words to dismiss the convict question from local history. Within these last years the men under the control of the department had been engaged on public works as before. In 1887 there were 158 Imperial convicts as follows:—Fremantle, 52; other districts, 9; conditional release holders, 37; ticket-of-leave men in service, 50; ticket-of-leave men idle, 6, with 4 in hospital or lunatic asylum. The crime list in each year, was fairly large, and paupers were numerous. The Sheriff, Mr. J.B. Roe, in his report in 1887, said that the majority of the men in gaol were the vagabond portion of the ex-convict class, men who knew no home except the gaol or depot, who would probably be a burden on the colony to the end. This prophecy has proved correct to the present (1897). There were in 1896 twelve Imperial convicts in the Fremantle prison, while sixty-three were scattered about the country. The Establishment at Fremantle has, since 1886, been put to a beneficent use. It is from there that the town obtains its water supply. Governor Broome had frequently referred to the importance of obtaining an efficient supply of pure water for the centre, and in that year the Legislative Council voted £7,000 towards his object. Additional wells were sunk within the prison grounds, large tanks were built, and strong engines erected for pumping purposes. All this work was carried out by prisoners under the direction of the prison authorities. Fremantle now has a constant supply of excellent water, obtained by unusually cheap methods, and worked by prison labour.
When Governor Broome opened the Council in 1886 no mention was made of autonomy in his speech. Disappointment on this point was expressed by Mr. Crowther in the debate on the Address in Reply. In the meantime the House and colony had lost the services of a distinguished representative. On 26th May 1886, Sir Luke S. Leake who, ever since the inauguration of Representative Government had occupied the position of Speaker, died in London. No more fitting tribute to his memory could be published than that recorded by Governor Broome and the members of the Legislative Council. In a message to the House, recommending a public funeral and a monument to the deceased, the Governor says:—"The position he occupied in the Legislative Council and the colony was a general tribute to a personal character remarkable for its simplicity, sincerity, loyalty, and truth.... His public life was a single-minded and successful endeavour to discharge an honourable duty, the approval of his own conscience and of those towards whom that duty lay." The Acting Colonial Secretary, Mr. H.M. Smith, moved and carried a resolution expressive of the sorrow of the House and of condolence with Lady Leake, and, on the motion of Sir T.C. Campbell, it was unanimously agreed to accord the late Speaker a public funeral and to erect at public expense a suitable monument to his memory. Sir L.S. Leake, though he had been relegated to the comparative inactivity of the Speaker's chair, was a strong supporter of liberal legislation.
Mr. J. G. Lee-Steere, was elected Speaker, and Dr. E. Scott succeeded to the deceased knight's seat in the Perth constituency. Other changes took place among the representatives. In May 1886, Mr M. Brown was succeeded by Mr. R.F.Sholl, and Mr. S. Burt by Captain T. Fawcett. In the Executive Council, on 10th December, 1885, Captain M.S. Smith became for a time the Acting Colonial Secretary in place of Mr. M. Fraser, who had successfully filled either that or the Surveyor-General's office in the Council since 1870. In June, 1885, Mr. J.A. Wright was appointed Director of Public Works and Commissioner of Railways. Attorney-General Hensman resigned early in 1886, after a serious disagreement with Governor Broome. He sent his resignation to Her Majesty's Government, through the Governor, expressing his determination not to serve with the latter. His Excellency precipitately accepted his resignation, but Mr. Hensman pointed out that he had not the legal power to act in such a manner. Then Governor Broome formally interdicted the Attorney-General from discharging his official duties pending the receipt of the opinion of the Home authorities upon the subject. In course of time a telegraphic despatch was received from the Secretary of State cancelling the interdiction, and granting Mr. Hensman leave of absence. A lucrative post at Barbados was subsequently offered to him, which he declined, and the Home Government thereupon formally accepted his resignation. Mr. Hensman was unusually popular in his department. He remained in the colony, and in April, 1887, was elected to the Legislative Council for the Greenough district, vice Mr. C. Crowther (resigned). For a few weeks Mr. S. Burt, and then Mr. G.W. Leake, conducted the affairs of the Attorney-General's office, and in December, 1886, Mr. C.N. Warton undertook the duties. In August, 1887, Messrs. J. Morrison and E.R. Brockman were appointed nominee members of the Legislative Council, in place of Messrs. W.T. Loton and T. Burges (resigned), and Mr. A. R. Richardson was elected to the North District, in succession to Mr. Grant. On 13th August, 1886, an important debate was held. The utterances of the various speakers had a more decisive ring than those of recent years, and though a motion by Mr. H.W. Venn, proclaiming that the time had arrived when Western Australia should adopt Responsible Government, was lost, it nevertheless marked a distinct historical advance. Mr. Venn, in a fervid speech, which called forth cheers from the strangers' gallery, said he favoured autonomy because he was convinced that it was the only course to ensure prosperity and advancement, and because it was more in accordance with the feelings of Englishmen. Each year during his seven years' tenure of a seat in the House he had become a stronger advocate of it. Under Responsible Government the whole colony could prosper, and no one part could absorb all the benefits, nor be forced ahead at the expense of another. Mutual interests would overcome the centralisation which was rapidly driving Western Australia rate fractious, and would bind the people harmoniously together. Mr. Scott, in an earnest speech, seconded the motion, and Captain Fawcett supported it. Mr. Crowther declared that seven-tenths of the people cared nothing for Responsible Government; he did not want half measures, but when a general cry was made he would be ready to help. Mr. Harper moved that the consideration of the question be postponed until the next session, and Mr. Shenton seconded, asserting that, though not opposed to the principle, the time was inopportune. According to his view self-government was dangerous unless a strong opposition existed; without this, in truth, party government was of the most despotic. Mr. Wittenoom contended that the existing form of government depreciated Western Australia in the eyes of her neighbours; with autonomy, when reference to Downing Street was done away with, there would be more finality in legislation. But he thought that the majority of his northern constituency favoured separation from the south, and as he was pledged to support that movement he could not consistently vote with Mr. Venn. Mr. S.H. Parker confined himself to a few words, and opposed the postponement. By direction of Governor Broome the official members did not vote; the amendment was carried, and the motion was lost by eleven votes to eight.
The earnestness of the debate was infective. The langour of the past few years was succeeded by activity. Some of those councillors who voted against the motion did so merely because they believed that there was no keen desire in the constituencies for self-government. In this they were well within their privileges. But the desire soon came. Newspapers, especially the West Australian (an excellent survival of the historical Gazette), and Inquirer, agitated with happier conviction. The West Australian, under the editorship of Sir T.C. Campbell, had previously been half-hearted, but with the infusion of new talent it rose to the occasion. The determinateness of the agitation which culminated in the introduction of Responsible Government may be said to have dated from 1886, and the newspapers mentioned merit a strong mede of praise for the prominent part they took in the movements.
Before the meeting of the Legislative Council in 1887 a petition was circulated among Perth residents favouring the immediate introduction of Responsible Government. This was placed in the hands of Mr. S.H. Parker, who presented it to the Council in June of that year. Governor Broome communicated with the Imperial Government concerning the debate of 1886, and received a despatch from the Secretary for the Colonies, which, to say the least, was unwarranted and unjust. Seizing upon the old argument, that official said that it would not be practicable to surrender to a Parliament representing a small population, principally residents of the southern districts, the control of all the vast territory included in Western Australia. But by what system of reasoning it was decided to be more difficult to administer this large territory under self-government than under the cumbersome machinery of representative government, where all important matters were relegated to the decision of statesmen thousands of miles away, who had no personal knowledge of the country, the Secretary for the Colonies did not say. It would be surely considered that Britishers residing in a colony would more satisfactorily subserve their interests than an administration composed of British officials appointed in England, whose salaries the colony had to pay, but who were more subservient to Britishers at home than to the censure of the Western Australian people. The population was certainly small, and the country extensive, but, upon the showing of the Home Government's own officer, the local intelligence and finances justified the granting of autonomy when a general desire for it was expressed. No arguments were adduced to show how the administration of a large tract of country would be more difficult for responsible ministers than for officers appointed by the Imperial Government.
In his address on opening the Council, Governor Broome referred to this despatch. Then he continued—"Though far from being an opponent of Responsible Government, I have, on more than one occasion, publicly stated my opinion that separation would be too dear a price of this colony to pay, at the present time, even for a boon so naturally desired by the English race as Parliamentary Government." But should an address in favour of Responsible Government be placed in his hands by the House, he would transmit it to the Secretary of State, with the request for a statement of the views of Her Majesty's Government on the whole question. Upon receipt of those views he would make them public, and dissolve the Legislature in order that the people might pronounce judgment. When discussing the Address-in-Reply, Mr. D.K. Congdon regretted that His Excellency had held out this threat of separation. Mr. Parker presented the petition from Perth citizens, and Mr. Hensman felicitously put it that the granting of Responsible Government was not so much to be considered a boon as the right of English people, wherever they dwelt, whenever they reached those numbers at which they were capable of governing themselves. In his opinion, no Western Australian Government would ever think of separating the north from the south, or vice versa, unless they desired it.
The address from the House, asked for by Governor Broome, was quickly carried. The change in public opinion was manifested in a reversal of the vote of 1886. Mr. S.H. Parker, who had been so earnest in the cause, very properly sponsored that motion which started the train of events leading to self-government. On 6th July, 1887, he moved—"That in the opinion of this Council the time has arrived when the Executive should be made responsible to the Legislature of the colony." A long debate followed, and the principle was affirmed by thirteen votes to four. The official members again abstained from voting; the division list was:—Ayes— Sir T.C. Campbell, Captain Fawcett, Messrs. Congdon, A. Forrest, Hensman, Keane, Layman, McRae, Pearce, Scott, Sholl, Venn, and S.H. Parker. Noes—Messrs. H. Brockman, E.R. Brockman, Loton, and Randell. Applying itself to the argument given such prominence to by the Secretary for the Colonies, the House agreed on the voices that Western Australia "should remain one and undivided under the new constitution". Before the end of the discussion Mr. Venn moved an address that His Excellency be pleased to take the necessary steps to carry the wishes of the House into effect, which was also carried on the voices. On 8th July Governor Broome, in a message to the Legislative Council, promised to transmit these resolutions to the Secretary of State by the next mail, with the request that the views of Her Majesty's Government should be communicated at an early date.
Another session of the Council was held in 1887, and in December important references were made by members to Responsible Government. The Secretary for the Colonies had answered the resolutions carried in a former session by statements in two cablegrams—first, that he approved of their principle; and, secondly, that legislation on such a question was just then premature. At the same time he, inferentially, promised to send a comprehensive despatch on the subject, but legislators had to wait much longer for it than they appreciated. Mr. Parker gave voice to his feelings, and Mr. Hensman followed in a similar strain. Requests for loans for public works were refused by the Secretary for the Colonies, who hinted that further burdens should not be imposed on Western Australia until the new form of government had been established. Mr. Hensman said that, on the one hand, there was a Governor informing the Secretary of State that the days of the existing constitution were ended, and on the other, there was a Secretary of State crying—"You shall not have another loan; you shall not have any large public works; you shall not move the colony forward as you desire—no activity, no life, no energy, no enterprise—until you have Responsible Government, or until some other change in the present form of government accrues." Then, notwithstanding all these things, the Secretary of State said that it was premature for the colony to attempt any legislation in such a direction. On 1st December, Mr. Parker moved in the Council that "This House regrets that His Excellency the Governor has not yet been informed of the views of the Imperial authorities on the subject of Responsible Government and before providing for the financial requirements of 1888, requests to be informed of the date on which such views may be definitely expected." Several members thought the words concerning "financial requirements" might be construed into a threat, but after a short and spirited debate, the motion was carried, and was subsequently wired to the Secretary for the Colonies.
The English Government, like a timid blacksmith with a horseshoe, seemed afraid of touching the question for fear it would burn. The Secretary for the Colonies walked around it, and looked at it fearsomely, and then waited for it to cool. Although the House of Commons is noted for its recognition of the rights of the subject, it is, nevertheless, extremely chary in making constitutional changes. Sir H. Holland, who took over the Colonial Office in 1887, was kept busy with very important matters, and did not relish the probability of a fight to obtain a new constitution for one of the Crown colonies. Even though this was a subject of supreme importance to Western Australia, he was willing to pass it over and pursue his other duties. Little account was taken of the feelings of the remote people. His procrastination caused grave disappointment. On 12th July, 1887, a few days after the carrying of Mr. Parker's previous resolution, Governor Broome wrote to the Secretary for the Colonies upon the whole agitation. He still gave great prominence to the separation question, which, indeed, subsequently became one of the chief subjects of contention in the negotiations between the colony and the Imperial Government. He again declared that the subdivision of Western Australia into two or more colonies was inevitable. The continued progress and development of the Northern territory, he believed, might bring it about at an early date. Any new constitution should, in his opinion, contain a clause empowering Her Majesty's Government to alter the boundaries at any time; nor should the question of separation be left dependent on the vote of the local legislature. He then advised the establishment of a board to protect the aborigines, especially those inhabiting the northern parts of the colony. As to the constitution, he suggested that it comprise two chambers, an Upper and a Lower House, the voting qualifications for which should be left to the local legislature to decide. Finally, he thought that Responsible Government might be rejected if separation was demanded by the Imprerial Government as a consequence.
After delaying his reply for a few months, Sir H. Holland finally penned a despatch, tentatively agreeing to the establishment of Responsible Government, but referring to the whole movement in an inconclusive manner. The people were little nearer a change than before it was written. He admitted that within "reasonable geographical limits" a population of 40,000 persons, raising a revenue of £400,000, might, prima facie, be regarded as capable of managing its own affairs, but it was another matter to hand over to so small a number, mostly resident in one corner, the control of the future destinies of an enormous territory, presumably able to support some millions of inhabitants. Representations had been made to Her Majesty's Government, he contended, urging that the northern portion of the colony should not be placed under the control of a Parliament elected by the present small population, resident for the most part in the southern districts. Then he proposed that all the Crown lands north of latitude 26, in the vicinity of the Murchison River, should remain under the control of Her Majesty's Government, and that the proceeds of these lands should be invested at interest for the benefit of any colony or colonies, which might afterwards be created. There was little else in this despatch and the whole tenor of it was not warranted to fill the people with gratitude. Undoubtedly, there were strong arguments—although the Secretary for the Colonies did not adduce them—to be brought in favour of separation. The northern and southern portions of the colony were so dissimilar in all their conditions that with a dense population, holding immense interests, the machine of government would have to be in perfect harmony to give universal satisfaction. But experience had shown that since the inauguration, in 1870, of even a limited form of self-government the colony had made an advance out of proportion to that of all the years anterior to that date, and this, and the results of autonomy to British colonists in other parts of the world, should have convinced Sir H. Holland that the local people might well be trusted to manage their own affairs, and to promote the prosperity of their whole territory. The difficulty was that many illustrious British statesmen had not yet thoroughly studied the colonial question, did not relish being bothered by such matters, and were apt to make blunders. At any rate, in the colony itself, the representatives of the Northern territory joined with those of the south in asking that autonomy should be granted to them as one colony, and they were willing to allow the future of the separation hobby to work out its own ends as events and developments might decree.
The refusal of the Secretary for the Colonies to sanction, in 1887-8, a loan for £500,000, a considerable portion of which was required for public works in the north-west, caused considerable irritation. Governor Broome, when requesting his approval of it, bemoaned the depressed condition of agriculture, and the tendency of population to centralise in the towns to the detriment of the country. He pointed out that the lines of railway had not resulted in the establishment of new farms and houses in the country they drained, and that there were signs of reckless borrowing. In his despatch upon the request, the Secretary for the Colonies said that as the revenue prospects were uncertain, and a constitutional change was under consideration, such a large loan was undesirable. He subsequently, however, granted the raising of £100,000.
On 21st March, 1888, the Legislative Council again applied itself to a discussion of Responsible Government. Mr. Hensman moved several propositions, which, he considered, should be included in the new constitution. In effect they asked that the Executive Council consist of the Governor and five Ministers of the Crown; that the Parliament consist of a single-elected chamber of thirty members, to be called the Legislative Council, which should have power to create a second Legislative Chamber at a future time if two-thirds of the members consented thereto; that the colony be divided into twenty-eight electoral districts, to return one member each except Perth and Fremantle, which should return two each; and that the Assembly be elected for three years, and members be paid their actual expenses while sitting, but not an amount exceeding £50 a year. He also proposed certain electoral qualifications.
Mr. S.H. Parker, on 23rd March, moved other resolutions referring to the Secretary for the Colonies' despatches, which purported that to indicate at present any future boundary of a northern political subdivision was premature, and open to serious objection; that the line of demarcation suggested was most undesirable; that the reservation of northern lands,with the investment of proceeds, was unnecessary, and would raise needless complications; that the constitution should from the first provide for a second Legislative Chamber, to be elected by the people; that in view of persistent differences of opinion disclosing themselves between the two Chambers, definite provision be made for the peaceable and final settlement of disputes, at the same time preserving the co-ordinate powers and equal authority of the two Houses in passing laws; and that no necessity had been shown for placing the interests of the aboriginal population in the hands of a body independent of the local Ministry. A comprehensive and interesting debate, lasting four days, followed upon these several propositions. Mr. Hensman withdrew his resolutions, and those of Mr. Parker were agreed to. Mr. Venn sought to carry a motion that the question of a Constitutional Bill be referred to a Select Committee, and that the resolutions already affirmed be considered as instructions in the drafting of that bill, but an amendment by Mr. Marmion, praying the Governor to introduce during the session a Constitution Bill framed on the Council's resolutions, suggested a more conciliatory course, and was carried. Slight changes took place in the Legislative Council in 1888. Mr. Parker resigned his seat as member for Perth, and was succeeded by Mr. J. Horgan, who defeated Mr. S. Burt, after a close contest. Mr. Parker was subsequently elected in place of Mr. G. Layman, resigned. In February Mr. A.J. McRae died, and his seat was taken by Mr. W.H. Sholl, who resigned in June, and Mr. S. Burt succeeded him. In 1887 the Colonial Secretary, Mr. Malcolm Fraser, was knighted, and a similar dignity was conferred on the Speaker, Mr. J.G. Lee-Steere, in 1888.
Governor Broome, assisted by his Executive, now set himself the task of drafting the desired bill. In 1888 Sir H. Holland was raised to the Peerage, with the title of Lord Knutsford. Lord Knutsford, as Secretary for the Colonies, did not greatly alter the tactics he followed when Sir H. Holland. But he now assumed that the desire for autonomy was demanded with authority, and he carried on a voluminous correspondence with Governor Broome on detail matters. In these despatches he discussed with Governor Broome various schemes of Responsible Government. One of his proposals was that Western Australia should adopt an experimental single chamber system of Parliament, giving his reason that as the population was so small it would be better to concentrate the best men in one House. Governor Broome combated this suggestion very vigorously. in a despatch, dated 28th May, 1888, he writes:—"There is nothing, so far as I know, within the limits of the British Empire that can be called a precedent for the experiment of a single chamber in Western Australia, and I think such an experiment full of danger. Much irremediable harm might be done before the constitution could be changed. Further, it is well known that there is nothing more difficult in politics than to persuade a representative Assembly that it should surrender power; and, whatever right were reserved to Her Majesty-in-Council, there might be considerable difficulty in altering a constitution once granted." He then argued that Western Australia should have a constitution in harmony with those of the neighbouring states of Australia, and adhered to his recommendation that the two Houses should be elected by the people. While still thinking that the establishment of an Aborigines' Protection Board would be a wise procedure, he was convinced that local legislators could be trusted to discountenance anything like unjust or illiberal treatment of the natives. He suggested an estate of £500 as a qualification for a member of Parliament, and the reservation of a civil list amounting to £9,850, with a Governor's salary fixed at £4,000. He estimated that the introduction of Responsible Government would involve an additional charge on the finances of £6,910 per annum. The resolutions of the Legislative Council were forwarded to Lord Knutsford, who abandoned his single Chamber proposal, and accepted the views of local legislators with regard to a Legislative Council, but he suggested that its members should be nominated, at all events, in the first instance.
The terms upon which Governor Broome should draft the bill were finally agreed to between Lord Knutsford and himself. The procedure was that the Western Australian Legislative Council should first consider the measure; that representatives should go to the country to obtain the views upon it of the constituencies; that new members should assemble and determine its fate; and that it should then be transmitted to England for the sanction of the Imperial Legislature. The Constitution Bill, after being formally introduced, was first debated in November, 1888. It provided for two Chambers—a Legislative Assembly, to be elected, and a Council, to be at first nominated. A large Civil list was attached, providing for the salaries of the Chief Executive and Judicial Officers under the new constitution, and for pensions to those officers who would lose their positions by the change. These, with £5,000 demanded for an Aborigines Board, subservient to the Imperial Government, required an annual sum of £16,933 6s. 8d. The question of land control, or separation, was referred to in vague terms. On the 2nd November, the Colonial Secretary, Sir Malcolm Fraser, moved the second reading. He incidentally drew attention to the fact that no provision was made that a member of Parliament should vacate his seat when taking office as a Minister of the Crown, an omission which he considered as a flaw. Mr. S.H. Parker protested against the acceptance of Lord Knutsford's proposed nominated Upper House, and favoured, as a compromise, that the Legislative Council should first be nominated for a period of six years, when all the members should be elected. Mr. A.R. Richardson, in supporting an elective Upper Chamber, maintained that principle should not be sacrificed to expediency. A body so constituted would afford, he contended, a better safeguard against hasty legislation than would a nominated Chamber. Mr. John Forrest forcibly supported the bill, and declared that the question of the elective principle was raised chiefly by a few newspaper writers. Western Australians, he thought, would gladly accept a constitution, such as that of Canada or other prosperous British colonies, which possessed nominated Upper Houses. Mr. Hensman vigorously opposed the nominee principle, but adhered to his advocacy of the adoption of the one chamber system. Messrs. Fawcett, Scott, and Sir T.C. Campbell favoured Mr. Parker's amendment. Strong exception was taken to the sub-division of the colony, but after an interesting debate the second reading was carried, and Governor Broome prorogued Parliament to allow of a dissolution. The elections were held in 1889.
Although at first disinclined to encourage an agitation for Responsible Government, Governor Broome deserves considerable credit for its consummation. Towards the last he displayed more statesmanship than the early years of his administration led one to expect, and when once properly embarked on the constitutional movement he comported himself with a firmness and persistency in pleasing contrast to the procrastinating tactics of the Colonial Office. Upon him devolved the difficult task of harmonising the opposing views of local legislators and the Secretary for the Colonies. His chief fault was the habit of disagreeing and quarrelling with his officers. He was impatient, imperious, and combative, and disliked to have his authority impugned; he was the administrator of the colony. When strong will meets strong will a stern battle takes place.
Mr. John Forrest in his conduct of the Lands Office was as determined and earnest in his views as afterwards when he became Premier of Western Australia; he had extreme difficulty with Governor Broome, but he generally got his way. Mr. Hensman, as Attorney-General, was matched against the Governor, and after substantially gaining his cause, retired from the Executive. The other strong will was Mr. A.C. Onslow, the Chief Justice, whose tenacious, excitable, and argumentative nature would not brook interference. None of these three was a favourite with the Governor, who, excellent and sincere as an administrator, was yet weak in one respect. In 1883 Mr. E.A. Stone was appointed a second judge of the Supreme Court, so that the sole judge difficulty was now removed. Disagreement between the Chief Justice and Governor Broome first assumed a serious form in 1884. To some extent it was influenced by the difficulties between Mr. John Forrest and His Excellency. Mr. Onslow on one occasion declined to advise the Governor upon ad misericordiam appeal, praying for a remission of sentence, from a prisoner of the Crown. Governor Broome referred the question to Sir H. Holland, who ruled that Mr. Onslow was right in the course be had adopted, intimating, however, that it was the Chief Justice's duty to advise on petitions for remission of sentence other than ad misericordiam ones. Governor Broome now asked Mr. Onslow's opinion on certain petitions, and again the latter refused, and angrily wrote the Secretary for the Colonies on the matter. Pending Sir Henty's reply, he incautiously locked up the petitions, and the Governor requested him to return them at once, which was declined, on the ground that His Honour was awaiting instructions from Sir H. Holland. Governor Broome framed charges against Mr. Onslow for detaining important State papers in disobedience to orders, and notified him that he was required to show cause why he should not be suspended from office. The Chief Justice returned the petitions, and handed for publication to the Perth newspapers copies of the whole correspondence. His Excellency fulminated an official interdiction against the Chief Justice. Sir H. Holland, in his reply to His Honour's despatch, upheld the position he had taken.
In September, 1887, correspondence was published, wherein Mr. Onslow made a serious accusation against the Governor. To the Secretary for the Colonies he wrote:—"I protest against the manner in which the Governor persists in harassing me, being calculated to lower and insult myself and my office, and to degrade the administration of justice in the colony." Governor Broome declared that the statements were untrue, and called upon His Honour to exculpate himself in writing before a given time. In reply, the latter said that he had submitted the matter to the Secretary for the Colonies, and warned the Governor that his proceedings were wholly illegal. The aid of the Executive was invoked, and the Chief Justice was informed that the members of that body were prepared to suspend him unless he answered the Governor's charges. Finally, Chief Justice Onslow was interdicted, pending orders from the Secretary for the Colonies, and Mr. G.W. Leake became acting Chief Justice. The bar expressed sympathy with the deposed officer, and public feeling rose to a high pitch. The disagreement was made a national matter; the Working Men's Club tendered him sympathy, and a public meeting in the Perth Town Hall, addressed by Messrs. Haynes, Hensman, A. Forrest, E.K. Courthope, and Traylen, also took sides with the Chief Justice, and indignantly resolved that the Governor's course was "a gross interference with the independence of the bench, and an attack upon the liberties of the people." The Secretary for the Colonies was requested to remove the interdict, and recall the Governor. Then, to conclude, the Governor was burnt in effigy, and a torchlight procession was formed. Similar meetings were held at Fremantle, Geraldton, Guildford, and other parts of the colony. Indeed, Western Australians had from the first shown surprising delight in evincing opposition to the reigning Governors, and were sometimes open to the accusation of unjustly seeking to bring the administration into contempt. In November Governor Broome summoned Mr. Onslow to a proposed meeting of the Executive Council on 5th December to show cause why, as his explanations were unsatisfactory, he should not be suspended from office. The Chief Justice asked, as he was to be placed on what amounted to a criminal trial, that the case be heard in public, before members of the press, and that he be defended by counsel. This was declined. The Executive met, Mr. Onslow did not attend, and it was decided to suspend him on half-pay.
In 1888 the Secretary for the Colonies announced that the case would be referred to the Privy Council. In May an address from several citizens was presented to Governor Broome, disapproving of the recent public proceedings in favour of the Chief Justice, which had "disgraced the community," and expressing sympathy with the Queen's representative. The colony was divided in its opinions on the merits and demerits of the quarrel, and the West Australian espoused the Governor's cause, while the Inquirer applauded the Chief Justice. The community was so small that political and social organisations were drawn into the turmoil. In May, also, Governor Broome received a telegram announcing the decision of a committee of the Privy Council. That body considered three charges against the Chief Justice, embodying in reality the three phases of the dispute. Of the first phase the Privy Council reported that there was not sufficient ground for a formal charge against the Chief Justice, although he had acted indiscreetly in deferring the restoration of the papers. Of the second, they said that though, through irritation apparently arising from the first charge, the Chief Justice had used in his letter improper language towards the Governor, there were not adequate grounds for a charge intended to lead to suspension. The third charge they found to be more serious, inasmuch as the letter last referred to, and the letter to the Secretary for the Colonies, couched in language of great animosity to the Governor, were handed to the newspapers for publication, together with confidential information which the Chief Justice had not the right to give. Because of these facts they had some hesitation in not recommending the confirmation of the suspension, but as no misconduct of a moral character in connection with judicial duties was imputed to the Chief Justice, they recommended the removal of the suspension. To sum up, they remarked that the relations of the Governor and Chief Justice must have been prejudicial to the colony, and a continuance thereof must lead to deplorable results. An Order in Council was passed firming the report, and directing that the suspension be removed. Mr. Onslow took his seat at the Supreme Court on the 15th May, and Mr. Hensman congratulated him upon his return. Unhappily, the trouble did not end here. Accusations, impeaching even the justice meted out by Mr. Onslow were soon made. The community was thrown into worse confusion, and opponents more powerful and dangerous than the Governor, because less high, had to be fought by the Chief Justice. Messrs. Harper and Hackett, proprietors the West Australian, were interested in several cases heard before His Honour; almost from the beginning they had upheld Governor Broome. Mr. Hensman, a prominent advocate of the cause of Mr. Onslow, obtained damages against them for libel, and the Full Court refused an application for a new trial. There were only two judges, and in cases of disagreement in the Full Court, the opinion of the Chief Justice carried authority. The West Australian was also interested in a libel brought against the them by the Rev J.B. Gribble (mentioned elsewhere), and believed during the trial that the Chief Justice had shown partiality towards the plaintiff. There were other cases in which the West Australian doubted the impartiality of the Chief Justice.
Messrs. Harper and Hackett drew up, for presentation to the Legislative Council, a petition wherein they alleged that for years Chief Justice Onslow had been influenced by a deep prejudice against the West Australian and Western Mail (their weekly journal). It recited the history of the proprietors' troubles in the Hensman, Gribble, and other cases, and proclaimed that they had suffered for nearly five years; that their business, properties, and reputations were imperilled, and that they could not obtain justice in the Supreme Court—"persecuted, plundered, and insulted, we are helpless and without relief before the chief tribunal of our Queen." They asked that the House address the Governor and request him to appoint a third judge to the Supreme Court; and that such part of the 19th Sec. of Act 44 Vic. No. 10 be repealed which provided that in case of a difference of opinion between the two judges of the Court, respecting any judgment or decision, the judgment of the Chief Justice should prevail. A petition of almost similar purport was sent to the Secretary for the Colonies, and the trouble soon assumed a very important character. In October, 1888, Mr. Parker presented the petition to the Legislative Council, and, after a long and exciting debate, it was decided before taking any steps to respectfully request the Governor to forward a copy of the petition to the Chief Justice for any remarks he might be pleased to make thereon. This was done to enable all parties to the dispute to present their case. After a reply was received from Mr. Onslow, the Council agreed to take no further steps in respect to the petition pending the reference of the memorial to the Secretary for the Colonies.
Chief Justice Onslow communicated with Lord Knutsford in the same month at some length, asking for justice, and accusing Messrs. Harper and Hackett of making "outrageous and malicious charges". In January, 1889, the local Executive Council held an official enquiry, when the Chief Justice and Messrs. Harper and Hackett were present, and Judge Stone appeared as a witness. It was desired to leave the whole matter to the Privy Council to decide, as the questions for examination were of a judicial character. The Executive preferred neither to acquit nor to suspend the Chief Justice, and as an alternative Lord Knutsford asked that the Legislative Council should consider the matter. On 10th April, the Legislature carried, by ten votes to seven, lengthy resolutions moved by Mr. Richardson, which in effect stated that the Chief Justice, in summing up certain cases, had used intemperate language not in keeping with the high dignity becoming to his office, and had shown decided sympathy with the plaintiff in the Gribble case; that, as the West Australian throughout the disagreement with Governor Broome had sided with the Governor, and Mr. Hensman with the Chief Justice, it would have given more assurance had the case been left to Mr. Justice Stone; that the Council saw no reason to impugn His Honour's integrity of purpose, but considered his conduct and language were more the outcome of a warm, impulsive temperament, which led to hasty and unconsidered condemnation; and that, as the community was divided into hostile camps, members were of opinion that peace and harmony could not be hoped for as long as Mr. Onslow continued to occupy the position of Chief Justice. The resolutions were forwarded to the Secretary for the Colonies, and the Chief Justice applied for and received twelve months' leave of absence. He proceeded to England.
This was practically the end of the proceedings. Sir T. Wrenfordsley was appointed Chief Justice for a few mouths, and Mr. Onslow, after remaining in England for some time, returned to his duties in 1891. He was exonerated from the charges preferred against him. The whole trouble was smoothed over and peace reigned again, all the aggrieved parties being apparently satisfied.
The position of Western Australia as a Crown Colony was sometimes mortifying. While other members of the group had obtained autonomy, when possessed of no larger populations than her own, it seemed a slur upon local intelligence that the Imperial Government would not concede the privilege to her people. From the very beginning the Western Australian was an isolated community, and since the days of Responsible Government in other colonies the official isolation had been particularly marked. Governor Robinson was pleased to call Western Australia the Cinderella of the sisters, and the name clung to her for years. An instance of this unpleasant position, begot by dissimilar constitutions, arose in 1881. in 1880, chiefly at he instigation of Mr. (now Sir) Graham Berry, Chief Secretary of Victoria, a conference of representatives New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria was held in Melbourne to discuss the subject of border duties between the three colonies. The work of the conference assumed larger proportions than was anticipated, and matters of intercolonial importance came up for consideration. The proceedings were adjourned until January, 1881, when the representatives were to meet in Sydney. It was desired that all he colonies should join in the conference, and Western Australia was invited to send a delegate. The situation of the colony was uncomfortable. No representative could pledge settled line of policy, for the Imperial Government exercised a full control over the local policy. Baron Gifford, the Colonial Secretary, in reply to an invitation from Mr. Berry, explained the position, promised, on behalf of Governor Robinson, that a representative would attend to watch he proceedings, and to express an opinion on points affecting Western Australia, which would be subject to the approval of the local and Home Governments. Mr. Berry agreed to this arrangement, and Chief Justice Wrenfordsley was deputed attend.
Numerous questions were dealt with. Those of particular interest to Western Australia related to the introduction of Chinese, and the erection of a lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin (Western Australia) at the expense of all the colonies. But the important and historical subject before the conference had to do with a proposal for a modified federation. Sir Henry Parkes, of New South Wales, introduced the Federal Council of Australia Bill, under which it was proposed that periodical meetings should be held of delegates from the several colonies, who should discuss and decide on matters affecting the interests of Australia as a whole. No special interest was shown by the representatives, and Queensland refused to even consider the question. Sir Henry Parkes' measure was not agreed to.
A Intercolonial Convention was held in Sydney in 1883, when important proposals regarding the Pacific Islands and the constitution of a Federal Council for the Australian Colonies were carried. There can be no doubt that from an educational and historical point of view the latter decision was fraught with great importance to Australia. Resolutions complimentary to those passed at the convention were passed by the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1884, and it was ultimately decided that the colony should join in the Federal Council sentiment. During the session of 1885, the Federal Council Act (49 Vic. No. 24) was placed on the Statute Book, and came into operation by proclamation on 21st December, 1885. Unfortunately, all the colonies were not unanimous in their support, and some declined to come into the Council. It did not, therefore, have the weight that was expected, although by drawing representatives of the Australian group together and enabling discussions to be held on matters affecting the general interests and welfare it was productive of considerable benefits. The Act enabled the Council to determine such matters as the relations of Australia with the Pacific Islands, prevention of the influx of criminals, fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits, various legal points, defence, quarantine, and numerous other matters. In his prorogation speech in September, 1885, Governor Broome said of this Act—"It will be a matter for congratulation in the future that the Legislature of Western Australia has from the first heartily supported a scheme which, as I believe, will in the course of time result in unifying the whole of this portion of the Empire in a political organisation similar to that which has given strength and greatness to the Dominion of Canada."
The first meeting of the Federal Council was held in Hobart, Tasmania, on 25th January, 1886. Mr. Lee-Steere was commissioned by the Governor to represent Western Australia, and, being a member of the Executive Council, his status was not very dissimilar to that of other delegates. During the session, he carried a resolution affirming that King George's Sound, Princess Royal Harbour, and Torres Straits should be fortified for the general protection of the Australian Colonies, and that common action should be taken by the colonies to provide for the indemnification of persons whose property, in case of war, might be sacrificed for the purpose of preventing aid to an enemy's force. Before the adjournment of the Council four bills were carried: shortening the language used in Acts of the Federal Council; facilitating the proof throughout the Federation of Acts of Council, Parliaments, judicial and official documents, and signatures of certaain public officers; authorising the service of civil processes out of the jurisdiction of the colony in which it was issued; and making provision for the enforcement, within the Federation, of judgments of the Supreme Courts of the colonies.
To turn for a time from the subjects of politics and policy, it will be observed that development and progress were splendidly influeuced by an exploring trip made by Alexander Forrest in 1879. In order to understand most other matters connected with the colony during this period it is first necessary to describe this exploration, for from that journey the subsequent general progress may be said to date; an impetus was given to those circumstances which encouraged settlement, and eventually attracted the long-desired population. Pastoral pursuits were more vigorously followed; land laws were liberalised; and gold discoveries were announced which caused a voluntary influx of people, encouraged prospecting for minerals, and paved the way to the gold era.
Alexander Forrest was instructed to examine, map out and report on the country between the De Grey River, in Western Australia, and the Victoria River, in the Northern Territory South Australia. Mr. Fenton Hill, the second in command was specially required to gather mineral, botanical, and zoological specimens. The remainder of the party consisted of Matthew Forrest, John Campbell, James Carey and Arthur Hicks, besides two natives, Tommy Pierre and Dower, and twenty-six horses. On 25th February, 1879, with six months' provisions, Forrest left the De Grey River Station. A course was held near to the coast for several days, and difficulty was experienced in obtaining water. The land was in some places valueless and in others, near Roebuck Bay, the grass stood over the horses' backs. Even in the latter areas there was a miserable lack of water, and horses had to be abandoned. On 10th April Forrest reached Beagle Bay, where he saw two pearling boats. It was here that his most important exploration was to commence. Surveyor Cowle had, in 1866, traversed the country between Roebuck Bay and the De Grey, and hence the public already knew something of its resources. Forrest reckoned that up till now he had examined about 4,000,000 acres of pastoral lands. Like the navigators of old he was pestered almost beyond endurance with swarms of insect life. He felt all the annoyances endured by Stokes, the French, and Dampier. Mosquitoes attacked his party in millions; the men climbed to the tree-tops, or sought to drive the insects off with smoke, but nothing would stay their ravages. On 12th April Alex. Forrest went over to the Lacepede Islands in the pearler Emma. On 22nd April he left Beagle Bay for his more serious task of exploring farther north, and then of getting across to Port Darwin. The way led towards the Fitzroy River, the banks of which he reached on 9th May. The intervening country was generally well grassed and watered, and contained ample game. Forrest named Lakes Louisa and Flora, the Rivers Mackay and Fraser, and Mounts Clarkson and Anderson.
On the 18th a raft was made of four water cans, on which were placed clothes, instruments, and firearms, and Alexander Forrest, Hill, and Campbell swam to the opposite bank of the Fitzroy, pulling this ingenious little craft after them with a fishing line. After naming Mount Abbott they returned to the other side. Three hills were named Mounts James, Tuckfield, and Campbell, two ranges, the St. George and Oscar, and a river, the Margaret. There was a peculiar charm about the Fitzroy scenery, very different from that beheld by Alexander Forrest on his previous explorations. On 1st June he wrote in his journal, "To-morrow we bid good-bye to the Fitzroy, which we have followed now for 240 miles. The longest and largest river in Western Australia, it flows through magnificent flats, which contain about four million acres of pastoral lands, and are capable of depasturing at least a million of sheep, a larger number than the whole of the settled portions of the colony now carry." The river issued out of rugged-looking deep gorges. A north-west course was struck in the hopes of reaching the Glenelg watershed. Travelling became exceedingly rough, the hills or mountains precipitous, and the country generally rocky. So rough, indeed, was much of the ground, that the explorers had to turn back to find a more accessible route. On 6th June Forrest attempted to assail a height in ranges which he named King Leopold, but when within 200 feet of the summit he was confronted by a wall of rock rising sheer above him. Deep gullies, perpendicular cliffs, rocky creeks, rich flats, new forms of plant life, and hills and valleys covered with luxuriant vegetation, tended to at once attract and delay him. On 8th June he named the Lennard River, and by the 17th he was so near the coast that he obtained from a rocky hill-top fine views of Secure and Collier Bays. For days he had vainly sought to cross the rocky ridges, but on the 17th he described a gorge cutting into the ranges at Secure Bay, which, he hoped, would enable him to get to the Glenelg. Several horses had now been lost; Carey was seriously ill with low fever; Forrest and another were afflicted with sore eyes; and the provisions were getting scanty. The magnificent scenery and the fertile valleys could not make up for these disabilities. After their experiences with rough hills, rocky passes, and boggy springs, the sight of this gorge was especially welcome. Next day they went towards it, and their disappointment can be imagined when they were suddenly brought to a standstill by perpendicular cliffs, which fell into the sea. Forrest recognised that his best policy was to make a desperate attempt to get beyond this barrier into the gorge. He took a turning and twisting course through intricate gorges, and finally, followed by the horses, descended "a most fearfully precipitous incline," and reached the entrance to the pass. It was a sensational feat, and though several of the horses had fallen they were all got down in safety, and Forrest fired his revolver in honour of the occasion.
The horses were fatigued, and a camp was made in the pass. The scene was delightful. Hard by, a waterfall, twenty-five feet high, gave them a babbling welcome; other waterfalls foamed over rugged rocks; lovely foliage afforded a brilliant background. Next morning, they proceeded through the pass; but their hopes of easily getting out of the tangles which surrounded them were quickly dispersed. Three miles further on, perpendicular rocks blocked the way. For an hour they searched for a practicable route, and finally they decided to climb up the face of the gorge. It was a task as risky as that of descending the cliffs. Two horses fell, and were abandoned. Going on, the explorers were soon surrounded on all sides by high ridges and deep ravines. They struck into an almost impassable gorge, and two hours' hard work brought them to the bottom—a fall of about 600 feet. Here their progress was stopped by mangrove swamps and an inland sea, and they camped. A horse was lost during the night—probably washed away by the tide—and next morning, after saddles and luggage were abandoned to give them the better opportunity of extricating themselves from the mountain solitudes, they turned to the south-east for about two miles through a deep gorge. Then they climbed some 600 feet to a rocky table-land, skirted great cliffs, and emerged again on the table-land. After five hours' travelling, during which they had only gone four miles in a direct line, they were compelled to camp to rest the horses. A large band of natives approached in the shelter of tall grass, each carrying spears. A present of sugar and damper, and the dramatic firing of a revolver, terminated an interview which was anticipated with some concern. Little progress was made next day. A mountain stream was named Devil's Creek. An ineffectual effort was made to cross the mountains on the north side. A road was cut down the side of a steep cliff, and in the descent one horse became jammed between rocks and was shot. The predicament was now so serious that Forrest was afraid lest it would be necessary to turn back to Beagle Bay. A road was cut next day up the face of a cliff, and after a tedious climb of 800 feet the top was scaled. Three miles to the south, camp was again fixed to rest the horses. During the next two days the camp was not raised; Matthew Forrest was suffering from sunstroke, and Carey was still ill. Alexander Forrest, with a companion, went out twice—first to find a track back to where the hills were entered, and then to reconnoitre for a track to the Glenelg. On the second occasion he ascended a hill which he had appropriately named Mount Hopeless, and got a view of Stephen Range towards the Glenelg, but no practicable route could he find for the horses among the endless rugged zigzags of the cliffs. He relinquished all hopes of making the Glenelg, and returned to the camp, after walking fourteen miles over the roughest country he had ever seen. On 25th June, the whole party started to regain the inward track of the 16th June, a feat which was accomplished with great difficulty after another horse was abandoned. They then went back towards the Fitzroy, and Forrest determined to go east to the telegraph line in South Australia, which he reckoned to be about 360 miles distant. To return to the De Grey he considered almost impossible, as there was no certainty of obtaining supplies at Beagle Bay. On 4th July, Lennard River was reached, and on the 8th the Fitzroy. Thence, Forrest went to an easterly reach of the Margaret River, and named Mounts Pierre, Krauss, George, and Barrett, and Mueller Range. The country gradually became more open, although ranges had to be crossed here and there. On 20th July, in lat. 18°, the leader described from the summit of a low range what he termed in his diary "the most splendid grassy plain" it had ever been his lot to see. "As far as the eye could reach to the south-south-east and south-west was one vast level expanse of magnificent feeding ground, and at our feet a running stream, which we could trace far out into the distance. These plains, which are granitic in formation, comprise, according to my calculation, not less than 1,000,000 acres, and, judging from the richness of their herbage, would carry, I imagine, no less a number of sheep." Thence the explorers went north-east over splendid pastoral country watered by running streams. On 2th July, the good country ended in rough ranges, which were crossed with difficulty. Patches of fair country were traversed on the other side, and on the 2nd August the Negri and Ord Rivers, near the border, were named. The land thereabouts was fairly grassed, but somewhat rough. Pierre was now seriously ill, and his compatriot, Dower, was little stronger. The party had already been compelled to partake of horse-flesh, and another miserable beast had to be killed and dressed for food. A halt of two days was made, and on 7th August the onward journey was again begun. After the 3rd August the explorers had travelled in South Australian territory; Behu River and Connaught Range, set in country covered with rank grass, were named. Tommy Pierre, the explorer of thousands of miles of Australian country, was now so weak that he had to be strapped to his horse. Stirling Creek, named by Gregory in 1856, was surveyed on 9th August. Rough travelling and great sufferings brought them to the Humbert River and the Rudolph Range (named by Forrest), and on the 14th the Wickham and Victoria Rivers were seen in the distance, the first of which was reached on the following day. Another horse was killed for food, and on the 18th the explorers arrived on the banks of the Victoria, where a snake, ten feet long, was killed and eaten. Towards the telegraph line the country was level and waterless, and extreme difficulty was experienced in getting over this tract. After abortive attempts, Alexander Forrest and Hicks on the 29th August left their companions under Mr. Hill, with the intention of making a desperate effort to reach the line. The main party was instructed to wait at their camp near good water until the 10th September. Forrest estimated that the telegraph line was 100 miles ahead. It was the most dreadful journey he had made during all his extensive exploring experiences. The heat in the day was intense, and as no water could be found the two men suffered terribly from thirst. The horses were in the last stages of exhaustion. At sundown on the 31st August they rested in miserable country. A hawk was shot; and the men drank its blood, thinking to slake their thirst; but it did them no good. Forrest wrote in his diary on that night—" .... We must hope for the best; we are in God's hands, who has guided us safely so far. To go back would be impossible; but, unless on our onward journey we reach water by this time to-morrow, we shall probably go to swell the list of those who have perished of thirst in the bush." When it was dark, they saddled the two horses, and two miles away reached a dry creek, which they followed for a short distance, when Forrest's horse, from sheer exhaustion, lay down in the creek. The saddles were taken off, and, lying by their horses, the men tried to sleep. But in their state of mind it was impossible. Finally Forrest rose and told Hicks that they must start again and try and reach the line before morning. Forrest continues—"At half-past ten we set off, Hicks leading my horse, and I following on foot. We had scarcely travelled a mile when Hicks suddenly shouted out that the telegraph line was ahead. I could scarcely believe the evidence of my own eyes, and, forgetting our thirst, out through the night rang our cheers! When the first tumult of our joy was over, we sent up a short prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty for His mercies during our long journey and for guiding us safely in our great distress."
The line was followed to the north, and three miles away they came to an iron tank full of water, with a clay pool, also full, close beside it. On 4th September they met a repairing party, under Mr. Woods, fifty miles from the Katherine Station. On the 6th, with four good horses and ample provisions, they started back to relieve their companions, and on the 11th September met them coming towards them. It was a wonderful relief, and Forrest writes in his journal:—"The moment they caught sight of us they began wildly cheering, firing off their revolvers, and making the forest resound with their joyous and delighted welcome." On 19th September they all arrived at the Katherine Station, where Forrest received telegrams of congratulation from the Governors of South and Western Australia, from Baron Von Mueller, the editors of the Register, Advertiser, and Western Australian Times, and from private friends. On the 6th October, with horses supplied by the South Australian Government, the party reached Southport, whence they travelled by steamer to Palmerston, the chief town in the Northern Territory, where they were hospitably treated. On 15th October they left Palmerston in the steamer Atjeh, and returned to Western Australia per Sydney and the southern coast. Tommy Pierre only lived long enough to reach King George's Sound, and to be buried in his own country.
The results of this expedition were immediate and far reaching. Alexander Forrest estimated that about 25,000,000 acres of pastoral and agricultural lands were discovered. At Beagle Bay, where he reported that a good site for a township might be found, the country was excellently adapted for settlement. The Fitzroy, from ten to thirty miles back from the river, was suitable for sheep, cattle, and horses, but from December to March these areas were liable to inundation during floods. The country from this river to the boundary of the colony was well watered, and was not subject to floods. Mr. Fenton W. Hill found traces of copper, and expressed the opinion that auriferous deposits existed towards the Stephen Ranges. He was convinced also that auriferous areas would be found towards the head of the Fitzroy. Numerous natives were met with by the party, and because they generally wore pearl ornaments Forrest considered that pearl beds would be discovered between Beagle and Collier Bays. The aborigines were friendly, and he did not think they would afford much opposition to settlement.
As usual, such encouraging reports attracted pastoralists. Numerous enquiries were made of the Government as to the terms upon which this land would be leased or sold, and the authorities issued on 29th November, 1880, special regulations. All that portion of the colony lying north of the parallel of 19° 30' south latitude was designated and known as the "Kimberley district," named after the Secretary for the Colonies. For fee-simple lands a price of ten shillings per acre in rural sections of a minimum area of 200 acres was declared. In case of resumption by the Crown, compensation was allowed. A bonus of a fee-simple of 500 acres was offered on the production of tea, sugar, coffee, rice, cotton, tobacco, or any other merchantable tropical or semitropical product, with an additional 500 acres to the first two persons or companies who became entitled to the bonus. Under the leasing system, the minimum area, with a lesser boundary on a river frontage, was 50,000 acres, and 20,000 when not on a frontage, the leases to date to 31st December, 1893. No pre-emptive rights were promised, but the lessee was entitled to claim the fair value of any lawful improvements. The minimum rental for every one thousand acres was ten shillings per annum, with the condition that every thousand acres must be stocked before the expiration of the second year with two head of large cattle or twenty sheep, the actual property of the lessee. Every tenant was required to despatch, yearly, a return of cattle, horses, and sheep depasturing on his land.
Enormous areas of country were taken up in the Kimberley district during the next few years. In the occupation of Crown lands a lively enterprise was shown. Large portions of the Gascoyne district had been selected in 1878-9-80, and the settlers boldly lived among the natives, which hitherto had proved so dangerous, and though at times they suffered very keenly, they soon established fairly peaceful relations. Because of the climate and the distance from settlement, life in the Kimberley district was even more trying than it had been in what was known as the north-west. The climate was tropical, yet not so unhealthy as such regions usually prove; the natives in the hilly districts were treacherous, and the pioneers had to live in primitive dwellings, and undergo physical sufferings which deserved splendid rewards. And to those who did not falter by the way, Kimberley certainly did yield rich returns.
Towards the end of 1879 proposals were being made in Western Australia and Victoria to form pastoral associations to take up the land so glowingly described by Mr. A. Forrest. Several of these were abandoned, but settlement rapidly extended over the new country nevertheless. In 1880 large selections were made, and in 1881 some 5,512,000 acres were taken up on lease. By June, 1882, according to the report of Surveyor-General Fraser, these figures were trebled. The task of apportionment was harassing, for the northern districts, as large as European kingdoms, were thrown open to free and unfettered selection, and huge blocks, equalling in extent English counties, were taken up by individuals. Survey parties were sent out, and had very arduous duties to perform. Their work was as much that of exploration as of surveying. New areas were discovered by them and the pioneer pastoralists, and risks with the natives had to be constantly met. Indeed, taking the whole of the north-western regions of this colony, the work of surveyors was more meritorious and difficult than is usually believed. Governor Broome announced in his speech to the Legislative Council in July, 1883, that the survey parties were doing very satisfactory work, and that about 43,000,000 acres of pastoral lands were leased in the Kimberley district, producing an annual rental of £21,348.
The landing-place chosen by the first bands of settlers was situated in Beagle Bay; thence they drove their sheep and cattle to their leases, scattered over hundreds of miles of country. One homestead was generally a vast distance away from another. The pioneers were courageous to live in such untamed country. Mr. J. Brockman, in 1882, was the first northern pastoralist. After him followed, with 2,000 sheep, the Murray River Squatting Company (Messrs. A.R. Richardson, G. and W. Patterson, S.R. Elliot, and H. Cornish) who settled on the Yeeda River. Then were Messrs. W. Lukin, Lowe, F. Monger, Bostock, and Brown, on behalf of Messrs. W. Lukin and J.H. Monger. These gentlemen obtained a large run of country on the Lennard River. They started from the south in 1883 with 4,500 sheep, but of this number they lost 2,700 on the voyage, or while landing at Beagle Bay. The animals were driven to the Fitzroy, where the Christmas of 1883 was spent; thence they went to the Lennard, and established a station, under the management of Mr. W. Lukin. The mosquitoes were a source of great annoyance. They stung through moleskin trousers, and to escape them the men often slept in bran sacks, preferring stifling heat to insects. The Kimberley Pastoral Company (Messrs. Marmion, Sholl, A. Forrest, and others), with Mr. J.P. McLarty as manager, landed 3,000 sheep at Roebuck Bay in 1883, and formed a run on the Fitzroy River. The Meda River Pastoral Company, comprising Messrs. Marmion and Lavender and residents of the Williams district, settled on the Meda River in 1883, with Mr. Coucher as manager. Mr. G.C. Rose, representing Mr. J.A. Game, of London, took 2,000 sheep to the Fitzroy in the same year, and he subsequently bought out the inferests of the Murray River Squatting Company. Messrs. Osborne and Panton were pioneers in the Ord district. Their stock was driven overland from Queensland by Mr. N. Buchanan, who took two and a half years to complete this courageous journey. Mr. Buchanan left settlement in the East with 6,000 cattle, and lost 1,500 on the road from pleura and red water; he arrived in August, 1884. Messrs. Durack and Kilfoyle, with 5,000 cattle, settled in the Ord district, near Mount Cockburn, in August, 1885. Mr. McDonald followed the example of Messrs. Osborne and Panton, but suffered heavy losses with his cattle in the trying overland journey. These are a few of the men who pioneered Kimberley settlement.
In 1883 Mr. John Forrest visited the district, and compiled a highly interesting report. He left Fremantle in the steamer Rob Roy, on 31st March, and reached Roebuck Bay on 11th April. He visited the stations and examined a large area of new country. He reported that there were eight station-holders, employing fifty-two white men, in West Kimberley:—J.A. Game, with 10,000 sheep, 50 cattle, 45 horses; Kimberley Pastoral Company, 8,000 sheep, 30 horses; Meda River Pastoral Company, 4,000 sheep, 8 horses; Lukin and Monger, 2,800 sheep, 12 horses; — Daly, 600 sheep, 4 horses; Poulton and Riley, 1,400 sheep, 6 horses; Roy, Cowan, and Co., 600 sheep, 14 horses; and Horgan and McDermott, with 600 sheep, and 8 horses, making a total of 28,000 sheep, 50 cattle and 127 horses. Some 6,000 sheep were lost in transit. During his visit Mr. Forrest visited the Yeeda, Logue, Fitzroy, May, Meda, and Lennard Rivers, and the Leopold Ranges. He was greatly impressed with the magnificent pasturage found throughout these areas.
By this time a decided change for the better had set in for pastoral pursuits. Each year the area leased in the colony was increased. Governor Broome visited Derby, a town site which had been established in King's Sound, in 1884. On 3rd December, 1885, the Port of Derby was proclaimed, and in the previous October Dr. T. Lovegrove was appointed Government Resident and Medical Officer to the West Kimberley district, of which Derby was the centre. In 1884 fifty-six leases, representing 3,451,000 acres, were issued for the Kimberley district. In 1883 difficult surveys were carried out under the direction of Mr. Harry F. Johnston, and were continued in 1884. In the latter year the party landed at Derby, and extended the work from the Leopold Ranges to the South Australian boundary, near the junction of the Negri and Ord Rivers. To perform these surveys, provisions, &c., had to be carried on pack-horses for six months. Much additional information of the fertility and geography of the country was obtained. Mr. E.T. Hardman, the Government Geologist, accompanied the party, and supplied a valuable report on the geological features. At about the same time a marine survey was made in Cambridge Gulf. The surveying schooner Meda, commissioned at the joint expense of the Imperial and Colonial Governments, under the command of Staff-Commander J.E. Coghlan, R.N., left Fremantle on 15th April, 1884, sailed slowly up the coast, and eastwards to Port Darwin. On 18th August the Meda left that part for Cambridge Gulf, and when within fifty miles of it sailed through many miles of what Captain Cook had termed "sea sawdust." The sea approaching the Gulf became very turbid, and had such a rusty colour as to render it almost impossible to distinguish with the eye the shoals from the channels. Cambridge Gulf was discovered to supply a port for the East Kimberley district. A suitable site for landing stock was found under View Hill. Staff-Commander Coghlan reported that since the visit of Captain King, in 1819, considerable alterations had taken place, for the configuration of the coast and channels bore evidence to an enormous quantity of earthy matter having been brought down by the rivers in the rainy season. King River was described as being so tortuous that a party who ascended it estimated that they travelled fifty miles to get ten miles in a direct line. Mount Cockburn, the most striking elevation, was likened to an enormous fortress, resembling the illustrations of Metz. Alligators and flying foxes were numerous.
Mr. Harry Johnston returned to the Kimberley district in 1885. On this occasion he landed in Cambridge Gulf, under View Hill, and went southwards to connect with his survey on the Ord of the previous year. For about twenty miles from View Hill the land was low and marshy. Well-grassed plains, more suitable for cattle than sheep, were observed on the left bank of the Ord, at the foot of the Erskine Ranges. The country was rough and picturesque, and for many miles the river cut its way through very high ranges forming practically impassable gorges. Well-grassed but rough lands lay near the Osmond Ranges, and grassy downs extended from the Behu to the boundary of the colony. Notwithstanding obstacles, Mr. Johnston compiled a very useful report. Numerous natives were seen on the Lower Ord, and the leader did not consider them so tractable as those on the Fitzroy. He was once reluctantly compelled to fire upon them—the first occasion in all his bush experience; and they set fire to the country, and even burnt stores left in tanks covered with stones at View Hill. Among other interesting features described by Mr. Johnston in this country were small kangaroos, each with a claw at the extremity of the tail; several handsome, almost black, native dogs; and bower birds of a greyish-brown colour, with a blue patch on the neck.
Proposals were made in 1885 to utilise the rich soils of Kimberley for sugar-growing, and a Select Committee of the Legislative Council was appointed to consider the scheme of one capitalist. In one week towards the end of November, 1885, some 8,000,000 acres were selected by one or other of the Messrs. H.R. Davies, H.B. Mason, and Collins. The largest block comprised 2,800,000 and the smallest 20,000 acres; the amount (except £2 12s.) of £1,337 was paid for rent. Large numbers of those who selected land when the district was first opened up surrendered their leases during succeeding years. The area held under lease diminished by more than one-half. Thus, whereas in 1884 there were 409 leases, representing 39,734,080 acres, the figures were reduced to 360 leases and 35,262,080 acres in 1885, 268 leases and 21,151,080 acres in 1886, and 131 leases and 15,454,550 acres in 1888. Nearly all the leases taken out under the original regulations were transferred or surrendered, and in 1888 all but three leases, representing 200,000 acres, were held under the regulations of 1887. In the district lying around King Sound, served by the Port of Derby, in 1887 there were ten sheep and a few cattle stations, carrying altogether 60,000 sheep. It was found after the first few years that much of the country over which sheep were run was better adapted for cattle, and the sheep were sent to dryer areas inland, where the grass was sweeter. On the Leonard and Fitzroy Rivers grass grew to from eight to twelve feet high; at the end of the dry season it became very brittle, except in the swamps and lagoons, where it remained green all the year round.
That there was a great revival in pastoral interests in the whole colony is shown by statistics. From 1,109,860 sheep in 1879, the number increased to 2,112,392 in 1888; or, for the fifty years of local history ending in 1879, pastoralists and farmers only managed to secure a solitary million odd sheep, but within the subsequent decade they increased these by another million. The largest area ever held in the colony under pastoral lease was in 1886, when the figures were 129,219,079 acres. The total area alienated was, in that year, 1,851,712; and the revenue derived from land was £73,863. The pastoral leases had decreased to 108,667,013 acres in 1888. Strenuous efforts were made to settle the Eucla district. Certain country there supplied excellent pasturage, but was deficient in water. Large areas of this land were taken up, the figures in 1883 being 35,000,000, producing an annual rent roll of £9,067. Pastoral companies were formed, and special inducements were offered to them by the Government to sink for water. Artesian bores were advised, railways were supported, and liberal rentals were allowed; but all to no effect. Without permanent water the district could not prosper. Messrs. Muir and Sons and Kennedy and McGill were pioneers of Eucla settlement.
The flocks in the North-west district were greatly increased, and gratifying developments took place in the Gascoyne division. There were again visitations from storms. A cyclone in January, 1881, wrecked the house on Messrs. Forrest, Burt, and Co.'s station on the Ashburton, and actually blew sheep before it and killed about 1,000; fencing and other damage was done. In April, 1882, also, a hurricane in the Roebourne district did serious damage. Houses and other buildings were blown down at Roebourne and Cossack, and hundreds of sheep were destroyed on the stations by the floods which followed. A flood in the Greenough district in February, 1888, caused heavy losses to farmers and squatters; several lives were lost, sheep and cattle were swept away, and buildings and telegraph poles were destroyed. The direct loss to farmers was estimated at £9,250, to the roads at £2,000, and to the railway at £570; some 20,000 acres of natural pasturage were destroyed. By the extension of settlement five new ports and towns were declared on the North and North-west Coasts—Broome (proclaimed 27th November, 1883), Onslow (29th September, 1885), Derby (3rd December, 1885), Wyndham (7th August, 1886), and Carnarvon (7th August, 1886).
In 1888, the colony possessed (besides 2,112,392 sheep) 95,822 cattle, 41,390 horses, and 25,083 pigs. The districts which contained the largest number of sheep were:—North, 683,631; Gascoyne, 314,044; Champion Bay, 298,214; Toodyay, 137,715; Irwin, 135,259; York, 121,250; Williams, 117,640; Plantagenet, 116,607; and Kimberley (East and West), 88,488. In 1888, Kimberley, with 20,260, contained more cattle than any other district, the next largest being the North district, with 16,209 animals.
The first few bands of pioneers in the Kimberley district were not wholly satisfied with the special land regulations which had been issued, and they considered that the clause compelling them to stock every thousand acres with twenty sheep, or two cattle or horses, was burdensome and harsh. Mr. John Forrest, the new Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands, who infused considerable spirit into his department, extended his sympathy to the pastoralists. After his visit to the Kimberley district in 1883, he says in a communication to the Governor:—"The pioneers, and those who bear the heat and burden of the day, have my entire sympathy, and if Your Excellency can in any way give them concessions you may rest assured that you are rendering assistance to those who are in need of it and deserve it. I do not think the Kimberley district will ever be covered with flocks and herds by legislative enactments." While in favour of a stocking clause, he observes that —" .... these are not the days when people are willing to leave capital unutilised for any length of time, and if land is worth developing it will soon be stocked." He inferred that the regulations for stocking should be liberalised. The Secretary for the Colonies had already been communicated with concerning the claims of the Kimberley pastoralists, and he instructed Governor Broome to invite the Legislative Council to discuss them, and to remit him any decision members might come to. A Select Committee, comprised of Surveyor-General Forrest, Messrs. Lee-Steere, McRae, Marmion, Wittenoom, Carey, Brown, and Sir T.C. Campbell, was appointed, and reported on 14th August, 1883. It was recommended that the stock required to comply with the regulations be reduced to ten head of sheep, or one head of large stock, per 1000 acres; that the possession of the stock by the lessee in the district be considered sufficient; and that it be not necessary to depasture the stock on each and every lease. The Committee pointed out in the last instance that it was a common practice for persons of small means to rent or mortgage their stock, so that it would be very difficult in such cases to make a declaration that the stock was actually the property of the lessee. Further, they advised that four years from the commencement of the lease be a sufficiently long time in which to comply with the stocking regulations; but to meet cases of delay they recommended an additional extension of three years upon payment of a double rental, in lieu of which the lease should be forfeited.
Previous to this, in October, 1882, revised land regulations for the whole of the colony had been proclaimed. Except for permitting three instead of two years, in which lessees were allowed to fulfil the stocking conditions, they did not materially alter the character of those dealing with the new Kimberley district. One of the first provisions disallowed public officers from purchasing or leasing Crown lands (other than town lots) without permission from the Governor in writing, and no officer of the Survey Department could, under any circumstances, purchase or lease or otherwise acquire, directly or indirectly, any interest in Crown lands. Forfeited lands were offered at auction for the remainder of the term for which they were issued, at rentals determined by the Commissioner, but not less than those payable by the original tenants. The colony was now divided into five districts—Kimberley making the fifth. The minimum price of rural lands remained the same as under the regulations of 1878, but slight amendments were made as to payment. Under the Special Occupation clause sections of not less than 100 acres might be taken up on conditions of deferred payment and improvements at ten shillings per acre; the land must be fenced, and at least a quarter of the area cleared and cropped before a Crown grant could be claimed. Subletting or transfer, except with the consent of the Commissioner, was prohibited. If the requisite improvements were not made at the expiration of ten years the licensee was allowed to hold the land upon a rental of one shilling per acre, but no Crown grant was issued until the improvements were made. Vineyard, orchard, or garden lands were sold in blocks of not less than ten acres at ten shillings per acre.
Pastoral lands still consisted of two classes, Kimberley lands being included in the second class. The conditions of leasing were not materially altered. No leases were allowed to extend beyond 1893, but a lessee could pre-empt during the first seven years of his lease any land on his run which he might desire, on the following terms:—(1) All unconditional pre-emptive rights to be for the term of the lease, unless purchased sooner. (2) The selection to be in blocks of not less than 1,000 acres, at a rental of £5 for each 1,000 acres, payable in advance annually. (3) These rights might be redeemed in fee in the Northern district within the first seven years by payment of five shillings, and during the remainder of the term of ten shillings for each acre redeemed, and in the Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern districts within the first seven years by payment of 2s. 6d., and during the remainder of the term of 5s. for each acre redeemed. All rents had to be paid within sixty days after they were due, under penalty of forfeiture of lease and improvements, with a fine of 25 per cent. added. Lessees were entitled to the value of improvements on lands taken from them by purchasers. A lessee not obtaining a renewal of his lease when applied for in accordance with these regulations was entitled to compensation from the purchaser or succeeding lessee for all improvements made by him. The regulations dealing with poison and mineral lands remained as in 1878, but timber licenses were slightly modified. No provision was made for volunteers, but for immigrants the certificate for a town lot was made exchangeable for a Crown grant when all the conditions were complied with.
Mr. Forrest was not satisfied with these regulations, and he was very frank in his disapproval. In his report of 21st March, 1883, he condemned the policy which permitted and compelled lessees to protect their interests by purchasing all the springs and waterholes on their selection, so as to secure their runs from outside purchasers. State property was thereby monopolised and injured. "Large districts," he asserted, "have had their eyes picked out of them by the lessees, in very small blocks, simply because they were allowed, and almost compelled, to purchase to protect their runs." Then, he asks, "How much better would it have been if the lessees had been given ordinary and reasonable protection, so that their capital could have been devoted to stocking and improving their runs; and how much better for the colony to have received back, after a stated period, the property that had been leased in an improved condition intact?" He thought "free and unfettered" election by purchase had proved a great failure, for it had resulted in "spoiling the country by having dotted over it small locations which it would have been better for the colony never to have sold." Under the existing regulations he considered that the tenure of leases was insecure, uncertain, and unsuitable to a new country, and he advocated tolerably long leases in localities not needed for agriculture. "The agricultural and pastoral interests require to be encouraged, fostered, and maintained—both are necessary in the interests of the colony, and both deserve equal consideration ..... When circumstances arise the flock-owner must give way to the farmer, but he should not be interfered with until there is a necessity for so doing."
In 1883 Mr. Forrest, Sir T. C. Campbell, Messrs. Lee-Steere, Brown, Venn, Carey, Wittenoom and Marmion, forming a committee, proposed a new regulation, giving the pastoralist a greater hope to obtain a renewal of his lease. They recommended that any lessee making an application for renewal within three months of the termination of his lease should have a prior claim, subject to the regulations in force at the expiration of the lease. Mr. Carey dissented, on the grounds that such a regulation would virtually lock up the land for eighteen years (until 1901) at the same rent that was paid twenty-five years before. When the Legislative Council had the recommendations of these two committees under debate, Mr. Burges made a heated attack on free selection and free selectors, whom he, termed "robbers and spoilers." Mr. Carey retorted by saying that some of the best colonists of Western Australia, including Mr. Burges himself, had sprung from the ranks of these "robbers and spoilers." Mr. Burges, said he, now that he had got to the top, would fain kick the ladder away, lest others should put a foot upon it. The chief interest of the debate centred upon the subject of free selection, and personalities were freely indulged in. The Council agreed to modify the regulations relating to the Kimberley district and to the renewal of pastoral leases, and the Secretary of State gave his assent.
While settlement was extending in the north and north-west, the Commissioner of Crown lands persisted in his advocacy of more liberal land laws. Governor Broome in 1881 tried to stem the tide by suggesting that no further modification should be made until after the general elections. In a message to the House on 27th July, 1885, after the elections had taken place, he expressed the opinion that it was impolitic to disturb the regulations oftener than was absolutely necessary, but, as many of the leases in the old or central district would soon expire, he advised that the regulations be examined. A week earlier Mr. Forrest supplied the Governor with a carefully worked-out scheme, liberalising the whole system in a manner which he deemed to be suitable to the state of the colony. In this memorandum he declared that his main object was to settle a population—"a bold peasantry—on the soil; to see the country utilised and occupied; to encourage the agricultural progress of the colony; and, while doing this, to give as much security as possible to the pastoral tenant, especially in centres not suited for agricultural development." He was apparently anxious to make the land laws as liberal as the most advanced in the Eastern colonies, and advised that the tenure of leases be extended, that improvements be compulsory, and that a reduction be made in rental. Governor Broome in his message doubted whether some of these recommendations were advisable, but remitted the entire matter to the free and full consideration of the Legislative Council. The inflexible will which was characteristic of John Forrest as an explorer was effectively demonstrated in politics. He was willing to even stake the tenure of his office as Surveyor-General upon his views. The Legislative Council appointed a Select Committee, consisting of Surveyor-General Forrest, Messrs. Brown, Harper, Burt, Crowther, Grant, Marmion, Lee-Steere, Venn, and Wittenoom, to report on the revision of the regulations. No stronger combination could have been chosen; each member had a wide knowledge of local conditions, and possessed his own views on land matters. The report was presented on 9th September. The members were not unanimous on all points; Messrs. Lee-Steere, Brown, Venn, and Wittenoom dissented; but substantially Mr. Forrest obtained an important compromise to his views. The report was printed, and consideration was postponed until 1886.
During the recess Governor Broome gave the regulations drafted by the Committee careful consideration, and when the debate took place in the Council he made certain suggestions. The debate was interesting and instructive; Mr. Forrest conducted his case with great earnestness and shrewdness. He spoke trenchantly of the policy which encouraged pastoralists to buy up the springs and waterholes on their selections, and very effectively asked, in effect, what the heir to an ancestral estate would say if upon entering into possession he found that his predecessor had sold all the springs and waterholes on the land, and alienated a piece out of every valuable portion of the property. He thought that he would be inclined to call his ancestor a fool, or probably a much worse name. But, he contended, no private person in possession of his senses would act so unwisely. Of the large area held under the Special Occupation system only a small percentage was cultivated—a fact which proved the necessity of a compulsory improvement clause, which he affirmed must be adopted sooner or later. It was impossible to get away from it. Mr. Harper supported the principle of compulsory improvement. Mr. Randell believed the question of settlement, and of increasing the productiveness of the land was a paramount consideration, compared with the amount of present revenue derived from the land. For this reason cash payments for Crown lands should be low, and in some cases—so long as real improvements were secured—nothing. Amendments were made in the proposed regulations, and Governor Broome, in proroguing the House in September, promised to recommend Her Majesty's approval of them.
The Imperial assent was obtained, and on 2nd March, 1887, these regulations, the most progressive and suitable to local circumstances yet issued, were proclaimed. They marked a great advance on all previous regulations; at the same time they protected the interests of the State. The restrictions on Government officers and members of the Survey Department acquiring Crown lands remained about the same, except that surveyors could acquire land after the approval of the Governor-in-Council was obtained. By the new code, land could be acquired, subject to conditions of residence and improvement, on very easy terms, and the tenure of pastoral leases was greatly extended. The colony was divided into six divisions:—The South-west, Gascoyne, North-west, Kimberley, Eucla, and Eastern. The South-west comprised the agricultural districts in the south-west corner of the colony. Attempts were being made to attract settlers to the country in from Eucla, and a division, with specially liberal regulations, was declared for it. The Eastern Division comprised the central territory.
Town and suburban lands in all these divisions were to be sold by public auction, but, as previously, the Governor-in-Council fixed the upset price. Any person might apply to the Commissioner to have town or suburban lands already surveyed put up for sale on depositing ten per cent. of the upset price. If he did not become the purchaser at the auction the deposit was returned; the purchaser paid the ten per cent. on the fall of the hammer, and had to complete his purchase within thirty days. Land in the South-west division, comprising, indeed, that part of Western Australia most fitted for agriculture, could be obtained under four modes of conditional purchase:—(1) By deferred payment, with residence, within agricultural areas; (2) by deferred payment, with residence, outside agricultural areas; (3) by deferred payment, without residence, either within or outside of agricultural areas; and (4) by direct payment, without residence, either within or outside of agricultural areas. The Governor-in-Council might set apart agricultural areas of not less than 2,000 acres. The minimum area to be held by any one person was fixed at 100 acres, and the maximum at 1,000 acres. The price was determined by the Governor-in-Council at not less than 10s. an acre, payable in twenty yearly instalments of 6d. an acre, or sooner if the occupier so chose. Upon the approval of any application a license was granted for five years; the licensee must reside on some portion of the land within six months, and fence in his area during the term of his license. When these conditions were fulfilled he was granted a lease for fifteen years. Upon the expiration of the lease, or at any time during its currency, provided that the fences were in good order, and that improvements had been made equal to the full purchase-money, and that the full purchase-money had been paid, a Crown grant was awarded. Under the third mode of purchase (without residence) the licensee had to pay £1 per acre (instead of 10s), in twenty yearly instalments of 1s. per acre, subject to the same conditions as under the first mode. Under the fourth mode, land to the extent of 1,000 acres, and no less than 100 acres within an agricultural area, and not exceeding 5,000 acres outside an agricultural area, might be applied for at a price to be fixed by the Governor-in-Council; the land must be fenced within three years, and 5s. per acre must be spent on improvements within five years. Garden lands of not less than five acres, nor more than twenty acres (except in special cases), might be purchased at 20s. an acre, subject to the condition that the area must be fenced, and one-tenth planted with vines, fruit trees, or vegetables, within three years. In the Kimberley, North-west, Gascoyne, Eastern, and Eucla divisions, special areas of not less than 5,000 acres could be set apart for purchase. The total quantity that any person could hold in one division was 5,000 acres, and the minimum 100 acres; a lessee could acquire a freehold at the same price, and under the same conditions of payment and improvement as were imposed upon purchasers within the specially declared areas.
The leases of run holders were assured to them for twenty-one years, and if they stocked their land to a defined extent their rent was reduced. Under this code pastoral leases expire on the 31st December, 1907; the rental was varied in the different divisions according to the class of land. The rental for every 1,000 acres was:—In South-west division, in blocks of not less than 3,000 acres, 20s.; in Gascoyne and Eucla divisions, in blocks of not less than 20,000 acres for each of the first seven years 10s., for each of the second seven years 12s. 6d., and for the third 15s; in the North-west division, in blocks of not less than 20,000 acres, for each of the first seven years 10s., for second 15s., and for third 10s.; in Eastern division, in blocks of not less than 20,000 acres, for each of the first seven years 2s. 6d., for second 5s, and for third 7s. 6d; in Kimberley division, in blocks of not less than 50,000 acres, with frontage, and 20,000 acres, without frontage, for first seven years 10s, for second 15s., and for third 20s. Any lessee in the Kimberley and Eucla divisions might have a reduction of one-half the rental for the first fourteen years of his lease if, at Kimberley, he had, within five years of the date of these regulations, in his possession within the division ten head of sheep or one head of large stock for every 1,000 acres, or, in parts of the Eucla division, in lieu of stock, if he had expended £8 per 1,000 acres in tanks, wells, dams, or in boring for water. A penalty (except in South-west division) of double rental was imposed if the lessee had not within seven years complied with the stocking (ten head of sheep or one head of large stock per 1,000 acres) or improvement clauses. Pastoral lessees under previous regulations might apply for a new lease so as to come under this code. The positions of runs and arrangement of boundary lines were subjected to the approval of the Commissioner. Mining leases (not auriferous) not exceeding 200 acres, nor less than twenty acres, were granted for seven years at a rental of 5s. per acre per annum. A Crown grant could be obtained when machinery equal in value to £3 per acre was erected. New timber regulations were also issued. A clause was inserted enabling the Government, with the approval of the Legislature, to make concessions of land, in fee-simple, or otherwise, in any part of the colony, for constructing railways, establishing industries, or otherwise promoting settlement.
Other circumstances led to the establishment of a much wider popularity for parts of the Kimberley district than can be found in pastoral pursuits. Discoveries of gold of such promise were made there that Western Australia attracted voluntary population. In fact, the discovery of gold furnished the beginning of the most flourishing and beneficent period in local history, and since that time the population has been gradually swelled. With some persistency Western Australians had for upwards of thirty years been prospecting in various parts of the colony for gold. Occasionally slight finds were made, which raised their hopes, but substantially their quest was dispiriting. That rich discoveries were not made earlier may now seem singular, but when it is pointed out that the highly mineralised regions were the least known parts of the huge territory, parts which promised little but sterility, the position will be understood. Nature is benign; often where she does not offer rich soils she gives rich metals. What is now known as the South-west division, or the first settled portions of Western Australia, had been prospected with fair completeness, and no gold mines of particular promise have been found there to this day. Outside those areas, where explorers and settlers went only in comparatively recent years, gold-bearing regions have been discovered. And from out of the ocean in the south, and into the ocean in the north, a belt of mineral country has been more or less proved since gold was found at Kimberley in 1885.
Mr. R.F. Sholl, at Camden Harbour, and settlers in what was called the North-west district, had spoken at different times of promising-looking mineral areas. In March, 1882, Mr. Alexander McRae, while riding between Cossack and Roebourne, picked up a nugget of gold weighing 14 dwts. Mr. E.T. Hardman, a man of considerable knowledge and diligence, was appointed Government Geologist to the colony, and in January, 1884, reported on the country to the south of Perth. He observed the presence of metamorphic rocks of many varieties, and advised that, as metalliferous veins were so frequently met with, careful and systematic prospecting should be commenced in the valleys of the Preston and the Blackwood. A few weeks previous to the issue of this report Governor Broome, in a despatch to Earl Derby, predicted that gold would be discovered in payable quantities in Western Australia, and thought that suitable regulations should be prepared "for immediate application in case of necessity."
It was heartily hoped that gold would be found in the neighbourhood of the Ord River. Mr. Hardman accompanied Mr. Harry F. Johnston in his expeditions of 1883-4, and though his examination was necessarily hurried, and subject to the exigencies of the survey party, he supplied a report which led to the equipment of prospecting bands, and the discovery of gold. In his first detailed description (21st April, 1884) he deals with the country from Roebuck Bay to the Fitzroy and Yeeda Rivers; from Yeeda River to Escape Point, thence north-west to the May and Meda Rivers; from the Meda northwards through the Usborne Ranges to Port Usborne; and with the Fitzroy, Margaret, May, Lennard, Richenda, and Meda Rivers, and adjoining country. He discovered a considerable area of carboniferous limestone, which extended in a wavy line from Alexander Creek, through the Napier, Oscar, and Geikie Ranges, as far as the Margaret River, and ended within a few miles of the Leopold Ranges. The limestone was extremely cavernous. Large caverns with stalactites were found in the hills near Alexander Creek, and at Mount Pierre there were several interesting caves, with large stalactites forming pillars, and depending icicle-like from the roof. On the sides of one cave were various representations of men and animals executed by natives. One scene portrayed an alligator apparently about to seize an emu; the figures were painted black on the grey limestone surface, and the outlines were pricked out in broad white lines. There was also the representation of a man throwing a kylie, or boomerang. The drawings, although rude, showed a considerable amount of imitative art.
Of the prospects of finding precious or other metals, Mr. Hardman was hopeful. The hurried nature of the survey prevented him from making a systematic examination for gold, but he considered it "extremely likely that that part of the district occupied by the metamorphic rock will eventually prove to be, in some degree at least, auriferous." He recommended that a thorough search be made in the country between the Napier Range and Mount Broome, on the Lennard and Richenda Rivers, particularly about ten or twelve miles up, where the principal slate country commenced. He observed continuous exposures of metamorphic rocks and numerous quartz veins, varying in width from a few inches to thirty feet, and apparently bearing north-west. The quartz was of various characters, usually milk-white, often colourless, and sometimes coloured with various oxides of iron.
Settlers who penetrated as far as the Ord River had already reported the discovery of the "colour" of gold there. During the surveys of 1884, Mr. Hardman examined this country, and supplied a very hopeful report. The river gravels on the Elvire, Panton and Ord Rivers, he said, were made up of fragmentary metamorphic rocks, together with great quantities of quartz, all more or less showing the result of water-carriage. The banks of gravels along these rivers were often from twenty to forty feet in thickness and wherever prospected yielded good colours of gold. Thick deposits of such gravel sometimes extended for over a mile on each side of these rivers. In the Ord Ranges, and in the basaltic country, he observed a great quantity of quartz. Moss-agates were found in abundance on the south side of the Mary River, and he thought that good opals might be discovered. Quartz veins were seen in the granites below the Leopold Ranges, and the country, stretching from the McClintock Range to the north-north-east, was traversed by an enormous number of them, of a yellowish or gray colour, in which minute specs of gold were noticed in a few cases. He found alluvial gold of very encouraging character over many miles of country; sometimes good colours were obtained in every pan washed in different trials in the same locality. Indeed, he found gold distributed for about 140 miles along the rivers mentioned; in several instances he obtained good colours at a considerable distance from the quartz reefs, from which the gold could only have been derived. In conclusion, he expressed great hopes of payable gold being obtained in this district. It was singular that although Mr. Hardman believed that rich deposits would be found in the Kimberley district, he did not obtain sufficient gold to cover a threepenny bit; in the very localities where he sometimes camped gold was afterwards picked up on the surface. This was due partly to the limited opportunities he had for prospecting, for Mr. Johnston could seldom spare him an assistant. The promising country was the broken rough country whence Mr. Johnston hurried away as quickly as possible. Notwithstanding these difficulties, Mr. Hardman was invariably correct in his predictions, and where he advised that a careful search be made gold was generally found.
Soon after Mr. Hardman's first report of April, 1884, preparations were set in motion to equip a party to prospect the Kimberley district. The predictions of an experienced geologist following the reports of squatters influenced private people to render monetary assistance to the band. In August, 1884, Mr. Grant proposed in the House that the Government should afford the men the loan or help of horses not being used by the Kimberley Survey party during the summer months. The Commissioner of Crown Lands considered that it would be better to vote a sum of money, but Mr. Grant's proposal was carried. As indicative of the great expectations held in Perth that a goldfield would be discovered in the north, Mr. McRae asked in the House in September whether the Government intended to prevent the supposed goldfields being monopolised by Chinese.
Messrs. John Slattery, Chas. Hall, Jos. McCaque, John Campbell, Alex. Nicholson, and H.A. Poult, who came from the Eastern colonies, comprised one prospecting party. They proceeded up the coast, and on the 30th August, 1885, left the Yeeda Station for the supposed locality. They held to the Panton River until it joined the Elvire. After following a dry creek for about ten miles they reached a waterhole, near where they found payable gold. In five or six days they had collected ten ounces from the bed of the creek under a layer of drift sand. The dirt had to be carried two miles to the water. Not remaining at this point for any length of time they prospected one of the branches of the Margaret River, down the Ord River, and on to the Panton. On the last-named they obtained colours, and on the Elvire they found the colour in every hole sunk. Finally, they were compelled to return for provisions to Derby, where they arrived at the end of July or early in August. They estimated that the payable gold was found some 400 miles from Derby.
It is not clear who was actually the discoverer of the Kimberley Goldfield, as apart from the prospectors named, Mr. Carr-Boyd, a Victorian, laid claim to that honour. Prior to the discoveries of this prospecting party he detached a parcel of stone from a reef and sent it to Melbourne to be treated. But the early good fortune of the prospectors became known all over Australia, and excitement was caused. Several prospecting parties now went up to the tropical district, and as spasmodic reports continued to arrive the excitement increased, and was contagious. Men from the Eastern colonies began to arrive, and by November, 1885, two schooners were anchored in Cambridge Gulf with prospectors and provisions. Most of the parties landed at Derby, where Dr. Lovegrove, in addition to the duties of Government Resident and medical officer, acted as warden to the gold fields. Good alluvial gold was obtained in different parts of the area described by Mr. Hardman until, by April, 1886, over 400 ounces had been conveyed to Derby. The reports were exceedingly bright, and professional diggers at once predicted a great rush for alluvial gold and a rich future for reefing. Not long after this Messrs. Carlisle, Harrold, Candish, and Edmonds arrived at Derby with fifty-six ounces of gold, Mr. Keelan with twenty-four ounces, and numbers of others with smaller quantities. The old story of mining "rushes" was repeated, and by June of this year between 200 and 300 men were engaged in the search. They congregated in no special locality, and were scattered over an area of about 100 square miles. It was decided that Cambridge Gulf would provide a good port of landing for the miners, and in the early part of 1886, Mr. John Forrest, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, assisted by the reports of Mr. H. F. Johnston and Staff-Commander Coghlan, after voyaging to the north, chose the site of a port and town—Wyndham—which was proclaimed on 7th August of that year. The mail contract with the A.S.N. Company along the west coast was extended to Wyndham, and a Government centre was established there. The Kimberley Goldfield was proclaimed on 19th May, 1886.
When the Legislative Council met in June, 1886, Governor Broome congratulated members on the "discovery of an extensive goldfield of rich promise" in the Kimberley district. To meet the exigencies of the fields the Goldfields Act (50 Vic., No. 18) was passed by the Council and was assented to on 16th August of that year. It provided for the issue of miner's rights on payment of 20s. per year, but did not permit of these being granted to any Asiatic or African alien for five years after the proclamation of any goldfield. Consolidated miners' rights could be obtained by companies or corporations on payment of a sum at the rate aforesaid (20s) multiplied by the number of miners' rights which the same was to represent, that is, the number of individual miners' rights under which the claim or claims were taken possession of in the first instance. The recipient of a miner's right could take possession of mine and occupy Crown lands for mining purposes; could construct races, dams, reservoirs, roads, and tramways on Crown lands; could divert water situated in or flowing through Crown lands in a proclaimed field; could occupy Crown lands for resident purposes, and cut timber or remove stone, clay, or gravel from any Crown lands for building or mining purposes. Leases might be granted for twenty-one years, at a yearly rental of 20s. per acre. Leases could be surrended at any time with the consent of the Warden, provided that all conditions had been fulfilled as far as possible. A business license for a term of ten years was obtainable from the Warden at the rate of £4 per annum, and entitled the holder to occupy goldfields land not exceeding a quarter of an acre for residence and business purposes; the license could be transferred on payment of 5s. No lease was to embrace an area exceeding twenty-five acres, and no such lease could be granted on any goldfield until two years after the date of proclamation of such goldfield.
The Governor might proclaim any portion of the Crown lands to be a goldfield. Pastoral leases might be suspended or cancelled by the Governor on the proclamation of the goldfield; public reserves, or lands applied to, and bona fide used for, residential purposes, garden, field, or orchard—in actual use—dams, or reservoirs, were exempted from occupation for mining purposes, but such exemptions were to cease on payment of compensation. The Warden must hear and determine all cases of complaint of breaches of the regulations, and was given the general power of Justices of the Petty Session, with right of stating special cases for the opinion of any Judge of the Supreme Court. Under the Act the Governor-in-Council was permitted to reward discoverers of goldfields with a sum not exceeding £1,000 sterling. On 20th August an export duty on gold of 2s. 6d. per ounce was imposed.
As the year 1886 proceeded, the popularity of the Kimberley fields rose rapidly until by the middle of the year there were between 1,500 and 2,000 people scattered over the gold-bearing country. As may be imagined, the excitement in Perth and the south-west districts was intense, and it was even thought that Western Australia might emulate the history of Victoria in 1851-6. As news was received from Dr. Lovegrove at Derby, or from returning diggers, of promising finds, the excitement grew with what it fed on, and parties were constantly being formed and going forth. The reports circulated in the Eastern colonies were greatly exaggerated, and men merged to Kimberley from every colony, and even from New Zealand. Several travelled overland from Queensland, and their journeys were made at the expense of great suffering. The Government supplied police protection to the diggers, and expended considerable sums of money in constructing main tracks for vehicular traffic. Mr. C.D. Price was sent to the fields by the authorities, and in August and September proceeded to Elvire River and Hall's Creek, where most of the prospectors were located. Wyndham became a busy port, and stores were opened there. Messrs. Connor and Doherty were among the chief—while one attended to the store, the other followed the practice of shrewd people on the old Victorian gold fields and drove a team to and from the gold centres. Some of the incoming prospectors chose Wyndham as their port of landing, and some Derby. The journey inland from both places was long and tedious, the weather was unpleasantly hot, and in the summer months heavy physical exercise was extremely irksome. The prospectors had therefore many severe trials, and their returns would need to be very large to compensate for their hardships. But, as a rule, after the first flush of expectancy was unsatisfied, they discontinued alluvial working and began reefing.
Mr. Price supplied an interesting report late in the year. When, on 3rd September, he arrived at what was known as McPhee's Gully, four miles from the point where cart traffic from Derby stopped, he found numbers of men encamped, some preparing to give the field a trial, but most about to return to Derby or Wyndham, disheartened by the disparaging reports from the fields. Mr. Price next went to the Elvire Gorge, the terminus of the cart traffic from Wyndham. The prospectors were distributed over a large area, and wandered restlessly in search of good ground. They were strewn over the country bounded on the north-east by the Elvire River, from the Gorge to the junction with the Black Elvire, and on the south-west by McPhee's Gully. There were no settled camps or workings; most of the men were located at Hall's Creek, the Twelve-Mile Camp, Elvire River, and Hall's and McPhee's Gullies. Mr. Price declared that there was no alluvium, no lead; the prospectors merely stripped the few inches of surface in the ravines, or "fossicked" in the bars of the creeks. Dry blowing was the general method followed for getting the gold from the dirt; the average obtained was a pennyweight or so, daily; perhaps a few ounces would be found in an isolated patch, with nothing leading from or to it. The prospects were not encouraging; most of the men could not find sufficient metal to pay for their provisions, and they had either to leave the country or starve. No improvement took place, as was anticipated, when the rains set in, and the field was condemned as a failure. Mr. Price observed that the sacrifice of valuable property was lamentable; parties who had only just reached the fields splendidly equipped sold their waggons, carts, and harness for a mere trifle; many vehicles were abandoned and eventually destroyed, and the timber was used for "cradles". Fine draught and pack-horses sold for less than a quarter of their value; hundreds of men were so discouraged that they never visited the supposed payable ground; but, on arriving at the end of the cart track, remained perhaps a day or two, sold what they could, and left the country in disgust. Many of these men had come great distances, and their equipment cost as high as from £200 to £500; the average cost per head, Mr. Price thought, was £100, and exceptionally few took that amount away.
Although these reports were discouraging, it would seem that more gold was obtained in 1886 than Mr. Price reckoned, but still not nearly so much as fulsome hope anticipated. No estimate could be formed, as a considerable quantity of the metal was unaccounted for, owing to the desire of the diggers to escape from paying the export duty of 2s. 6d. imposed by the Government. This duty, while calculated to indemnify the Government the expense incurred in supplying police and other protection and in public works, was in itself indiscreet, and was repealed on 22nd July, 1887, when the total amount received did not exceed £30. Large numbers of men surreptitiously took their gold with them to the other colonies, and others sold to the storekeepers, or exchanged for stores. The Blue Book gives the export of gold in 1886 as 302 ozs., valued at £1,147 12s.
By February, 1887, after the first flight, only about 600 men remained on the field, most of whom were congregated at Twelve-Mile Camp and Brockman's River. Little change in numbers took place therefrom for some months. On the Brockman the men were at a great disadvantage for want of water, which they had to carry seven miles for domestic purposes. The gold at this place was extracted by the dry blowing process. While still considering the field a disappointment, Mr. Price decided in 1887 that numbers of men were obtaining good returns, but what these were he could not discover. At Brockman's, for instance, two or three hundred men walked seven miles daily for water, besides performing their day's work. After the beginning of the rainy season, in December, 1886, several ravines were opened out, and rich patches were come upon. As usual, a rumour that a rich gully was being worked attracted a rush from every part of the gold-bearing district, no matter how great the distance. In a few days the gully would be rooted from end to end; the discovery of a nugget a few ounces in weight, or of a quantity of heavy gold, would induce men on the point of leaving to remain a little longer, in hopes that they, perhaps, would be the next lucky ones. The heaviest gold obtained at this time was from the Panton tributaries, the coarsest from the Brockman River, and the finest at Mount Dockrell, in the south-west.
While the alluvial was not all that was expected, the prospects and indications of the great quartz-reef outcrops served to deter numbers of men from leaving. Excellent quartz was found in places, and encouraged the prospectors to search for more. The Jackson reef, at Hall's Creek, on the Elvire, was the first to be opened up—in September, 1886. Gold-bearing stone was then found on the Lady Broome, Lady Margaret, and Brockman reefs, and in places sufficient gold was obtained on the surface by the primitive process of dollying to pay expenses. But in depth the stone was not so rich. The Jackson line was traced and pegged out to a considerable distance, and showed gold-bearing stone in every claim. Two well-defined reefs were exploited north of the Panton; a leader of great richness was discovered at Mount Dockrell, and another at Spear Gully, near McPhee's Gully; at Two-Mile Gully, east of McPhee's, two men took 130 ounces from a leader in a very short time. Mr. Carr-Boyd conveyed to Melbourne 11 cwt. of stone from the Jackson mine, which, when crushed, is said to have yielded 43 ounces to the ton. By June, 1887, thirty-four quartz claims had been registered; at Hall's Creek, twenty-four claims; Brockman's, four; Mount Dockrell, five; and Panton, five; worked by 147 men. Mr. E.T. Hardman advised an amendment of the Goldfields Act, particularly in the clause relating to the prohibition of leasing for two years. The objects of the clause were unnecessary, and detrimental to mining interests. The view of Mr. Price was asked, and he opposed this suggestion. The objection to leasing at the outset, he held, was to prevent large areas of untried ground, which might maintain numbers of individual miners, being taken up by speculators, who had no intention of working them, and whose aim was to float bogus companies. He quoted the Northern Territory of South Australia as an example of such companies; the labour conditions were easily evaded. "There, with equally stringent regulations, hundreds of acres are locked up, and have been for years; not a man at work, and costly machinery utterly destroyed through neglect." The ground, he continued, was granted on lease on the first discovery of the field; bogus companies were formed, and afterwards collapsed; the promoters pocketed the money; the shareholders were ruined; and the land was locked up for years. An Amending Goldfields Act, enabling leases to be taken out immediately, was passed in 1888.
The health of the men at Kimberley was not good. Fever and ague, dysentery and scurvy, were prevalent in 1886-7. The cost of food supplies was enormous, owing to the exorbitant freightage charges—£150 per 2,000 lbs. Flour sold at 1s. to 1s. 3d.; tea, 4s.; sugar, 1s. 6d; salt, 1s. 6d.; and rice, 1s. 3d. per lb. These prices were afterwards reduced. In 1887 a few good specimens of alluvial gold were obtained. One party conveyed from 1,500 to 2,000 ounces to Derby at one time; casual discoveries of nuggets were made. Companies were formed to work the quartz reefs, and by November machinery reached Hall's Creek to work the Nicholas Mine, on the Margaret line of reef. A mine named the Lady Carrington was purchased by a London syndicate, on condition that the first crushing yielded two ounces to the ton. Other mines also brought good prices. What with discoveries of alluvial gold, and the output from the quartz reefs, the returns for 1887 were good, and yet, because of the wholesale evasion of export duty, the figures do not show nearly the amount obtained. The Blue Book gives the export as 4,873 ounces, valued at £18,517 8s.
Development work on the reefs was carried out with moderate expedition in 1888. At the same time a few prospectors were getting payable gold in the alluvial. Machinery was introduced for several of the mines, and the crushings were, in some cases exceedingly promising. The returns announced in August were generally good. The Jackson Company crushed all its stone at grass for 78 ozs. of gold; eight tons from the Blackmount claim yielded 3 ozs. 8 dwts. per ton; five from the Perseverance, 12 dwts. per ton; seven from the Lady Margaret, 11ozs. per ton; five from the Southern Cross. 13 dwts. per ton; and twenty-four tons from the Golden Crown yielded 1 oz. 12 dwts. per ton. The general interest in the Kimberley fields had by this time abated, and the history of the remote goldfield has since then been uneventful. Discoveries in other places have transcended its glories; and though very good mines exist there, they have not obtained the capital and the enterprise sufficient for extensive development work. A select few mines have been worked, and with capital the district may yet substantially contribute to the colony's annual gold returns.
But the Kimberley fields served an excellent purpose; they proved that Western Australia had prospects of becoming a gold producing country, and they attracted the men who were best fitted by experience and courage to explore the waterless deserts in search of the metal. People all over Australia began to think that the colony was not singular in the group in containing no gold. Many prominent people here and there were willing to assist in equipping prospecting parties. The territory was so extensive, and so slightly known, that none could tell what wealth might lay hidden. In March, 1887, Mr. Chas. Glass, of Mugakine, when digging a tank on his property, about 100 miles east of Newcastle, encountered a metallic substance which he sent to the Rev. C.G. Nicolay, of Fremantle, who pronounced it to be gold. It had for a long time been thought that a goldfield would be discovered in the country east of Newcastle and Northam. Proposals were made in Perth to equip a party to prospect in the neighbourhood of Mr. Glass' tank. In July Mr. G. Shenton moved in the Legislative Council that a sum not exceeding £300 be placed upon the estimates to defray the expenses of such a party. Mr. Harper said that years before he had collected specimens of auriferous stone from this very district. He forwarded the specimens to England, and was told that valuable metals should be found in the district from which they came. The motion was agreed to.
Several parties went out to the east during the next few months. In November news was received that gold-bearing quartz had been found at Lake Deborah near the Yilgarn Hills, about 100 miles north-east of Newcastle; the Government reserved a large area for prospecting purposes in the interests of Messrs. Anstey and Leake. Mr. H. Anstey with a party was prospecting on behalf of a syndicate, and discovered this outcrop, but Paine, one of the party, broke the stone and first saw the gold. The men were elated and, to celebrate the discovery of gold in the eastern districts, shook hands all round and tossed up their hats. Anstey returned to Perth with the stone and secured a lease while his companions prospected on the reef and in the neighbourhood. They soon found four other reefs, one of which, showing gold, was very wide, and was traced for 1,200 yards.
A prospecting association at Northam, a few weeks earlier equipped a party, led by Mr. B.N. Colreavy, which went out beyond this country. During the first few weeks Colreavy saw numerous quartz outcrops, but could get no trace of gold. On 12th October he reported that the Mugakine Range had a very interesting mineralogical appearance, and he predicted that if reefs were found containing gold they would be rich, "on account of the undisturbed state of the country." However, he was not destined to make any momentous discovery. When returning to Northam he visited Anstey's reef at Lake Deborah, and was pleased with the appearance of the stone. Another party under Mr. Seabrook prospected near Lake Deborah, and found quartz in which gold was plainly visible. Mr. F. Von Bibra also obtained excellent specimens in January, 1888.
Mr. Colreavy set out on his own account after his first successful trip and prospected Golden Valley, ten miles south of Lake Deborah. He found a small reef which carried gold throughout. Mr. Parker went south of Golden Valley and discovered promising reefs in a locality which be named Parker's Range. Considerable interest was taken in these finds, and men of capital organised prospecting expeditions which scoured the surrounding country. In February, 1888, Mr. H.P. Woodward, F.G.S., F.R.G.S., the Government Geologist, and successor of Mr. Hardman, who died in 1886, issued a report concerning Anstey's and other reefs. The veins in the former had pinched out, and no gold was found in a shaft which had been sunk. Bibra's line of reef near by, which formed a series of hills or blows, had been abandoned, owing to disappointing returns from a crushing. Mr. Woodward observed two fairly defined reefs in Golden Valley, and he decided that Mr. Colreavy's claim was well worth opening up. Two claims named the Edith and Marion in the western part of the valley also deserved testing, and the Government Geologist concluded that as a whole, the Yilgarn country was very promising, and he thought that rich alluvial deposits would probably be found in Golden Valley and south of it. Mr. Emmett, an experienced miner, also reported for a syndicate on the district. He did not consider Anstey's reef would be permanent, but he found gold showing freely in every stone at Colreavy's reef at Golden Valley. When questioned he is said to have expressed the opinion that this claim was worth £200,000. Other claims were pegged out at Golden Valley, such as those of Messrs. Barrett and Saunders, and Mr. Crossland. At Wongan Hills, sixty miles N.N.E. of Newcastle, Mr. Paine, and Messrs. Glyde and party, obtained prospects which, in May, Mr. Woodward said, were worth following.
In order to assist prospectors the Government spent £1,000 in water conservation at Yilgarn in 1888. The goldfield was proclaimed on 1st October, and Mr. F.A. Thompson was appointed Acting Warden, and E.F.A. Crompton, Mining Registrar; in May, 1889, Mr. J.M. Finnerty succeeded Mr. Thompson. The country was considered so promising that companies were formed to work certain of the claims, and before the end of the year new reefs were discovered, and leases taken out south of Golden Valley, towards the present site of Southern Cross. It was not until 1889 that any permanent developments were made. In 1892 the Government awarded Mr. H. Anstey £500, and Messrs. Colreavy and Huggins £250 each for the discovery of the Yilgarn Goldfields. Still, another goldfield was discovered soon after the Kimberley excitement had subsided. In 1888, at Mallina, seventy miles east Roebourne, a lad named Withnall, in the act, it is said, of throwing a stone at a crow, observed a speck of gold. The neighbourhood was scanned, and two reefs—the Mullins, and Peeawah—were discovered. Mr. Woodward proceeded to this district, and in July issued an encouraging report. He found some good specimens, and expressed the hope that the claims would prove very valuable. He was impressed with the mineral-bearing nature of the district, and said it was the most hopeful he had seen in the colony. At Balla Balla Creek he reported on a fine lode of copper, and advised the testing of some of the gossany parts for gold and silver. Other prospectors, including Mr. Martin, Mr. N. W. Cooke, and Messrs. Wells and Co., found reefs in the same district. Happily, dependence had not to be placed on reefing alone. At Pilbarra Creek, a tributary of the Yule River, excellent alluvial specimens were obtained, and some exceedingly valuable finds were made before the end of the year. Late in July H. Wells arrived at Roebourne with 31 ozs. of gold from the Creek. J. Broomhall followed on 1st August with 80 ozs., discovered about fifteen miles from Condor. Another prospector, named Ashton, reached Cossack in September with 8 lbs. of gold, including one nugget weighing 35½ ozs.; another, named Sullivan, with a 35 oz. nugget; and another, R. Naughton, with a 103 oz. nugget, found at Mallina. Other rich discoveries were made, and about forty men were prospecting at Pilbarra before the end of the month. On 1st October the goldfield of Pilbarra was proclaimed, and a warden, Mr. C.W. Nyulasy, was appointed to administer the field. The heaviest nugget yet come upon was found by Henry Villiers, on 20th November. This precious specimen was reported to weigh 8 lbs. (avoirdupois), and was named the Wyndham. In December three diggers conveyed 540 ozs. to the seaboard, the proceeds of seven weeks' work.
Alluvial gold was obtained over a considerable extent of country, reaching as far east as Nullagine, about 200 miles from Roebourne, and 130 miles from the coast. Mr. H. Wells (£500), Mr. N.W. Cooke (£250), and H. and J. Withnall (£100) received the Government rewards for the discovery of the Pilbarra Goldfields.
Gold was discovered in 1888 in a low ridge, between Austin's Lake and the Weld Range, at Berin, about 250 miles from the coast. Mr. Woodward, who was tireless in carrying out his duties, visited the reef, and said that it was of a promising character. Thus, over scattered and widely-separated areas, gold had at last been discovered in Western Australia. The gold export for 1888 was 3,493 ozs., valued at £13,273 8s.
The expenditure of loan moneys on extensive public works, the circumstances under which the land grant railways were built, and, chiefly, the discovery of these goldfields, served to attract population. This advance, most important of all to the colony, was larger than that of any similar period; the increase for the ten years was 13,469. The annual Blue Book figures were:—
|1879 ...||16,628 ...||12,040 ...||28,668 ...||502 ...||—|
|1880 ...||16,559 ...||12,460 ...||29,019 ...||351 ...||—|
|1881 ...||17,216 ...||12,797 ...||30,013 ...||994 ...||—|
|1882 ...||17,551 ...||13,215 ...||30,766 ...||753 ...||—|
|1883 ...||18,005 ...||13,695 ...||31,700 ...||934 ...||—|
|1884 ...||18,623 ...||14,335 ...||32,958 ...||1,258 ...||—|
|1885 ...||19,989 ...||15,197 ...||35,186 ...||2,228 ...||—|
|1886 ...||23,044 ...||16,540 ...||39,584 ...||4,398 ...||—|
|1887 ...||24,807 ...||17,681 ...||42,488 ...||2,904 ...||—|
|1888 ...||24,275 ...||17,862 ...||42,137 ...||—||351|
It will be observed that the largest increase took place after the discoveries of gold were announced. The decrease in 1888 was due to the disaffection of disappointed miners.
The question of introducing Chinese was again debated. The number of men brought to the colony under the votes of preceding years did not satisfy those who favoured this class of labour. Those who desired to keep Australia free from the presence of alien races opposed any proposal made to increase the number. An important question of Australian policy was involved, and intercolonial opposition was shown. The advisability of introducing Chinese labour was discussed with some warmth in the Legislative Council in 1879. It was proposed to spend further sums of money on this object, and Governor Ord at first supported the proposition. Sir T.C. Campbell asserted that it was better to spend money in introducing cheap labour than imposing a tariff to protect farming interests; it was a more legitimate form of protection. Mr. G.W. Leake, the Acting Attorney-General, said of the first Chinese introduced that not one complaint had been made against them for idle habits or disorderly conduct; the experiment was therefore a success, and should encourage the Council to spend further sums. Mr. Harper, in the absence of any probability of goldfields being discovered—and nothing else attracted these people in large numbers—did not think it likely that Western Australia would suffer from a large influx of Chinese. Mr. S.H. Parker dissented from these views. He was under the impression that the object of voting money for immigration purposes was to encourage settlement by persons who should establish homes and contribute to the development of a country's resources. The proposal meant the voting of public funds for the purpose of importing labour for merchants and wealthy stockowners. Mr. Harper moved that £2,000 be placed on the estimates to be spent in introducing Chinese coolies. An amendment was proposed by Mr. Brockman, and seconded by Mr. S.H. Parker, that the sum be fixed at £1,000, but was lost, and Mr. Harper's motion was carried.
Governor Ord was evidently impressed by the argument that it is better to import settlers, not workmen or temporary assistants who would be returned to their country, and he declined to carry out the recommendation of the Council. At the intercolonial conference in Sydney, in 1881, the question of Chinese immigration was debated. The representative for Western Australia, Chief Justice Wrenfordsley, was specially instructed not to even consider the matter. In the discussion strong feeling was shown by Eastern delegates, who were unanimous in opposing the introduction of Chinese under any circumstances to Western Australia. To moderate the views expressed, Mr. Wrenfordsley felt bound to unofficially point out that a policy which suited Victoria or the southern territories of Australia might be inapplicable to the north-west lands of Western Australia or the northern territories of South Australia and Queensland. In this view he was supported by Queensland, and it was decided to submit the question to the Secretary for the Colonies. On 11th May, 1881, that statesman replied that he was well aware of the strong objection entertained generally in Australia to an extensive Chinese immigration, but because of the peculiar position of Western Australia, more than one-third of whose enormous territory lay in the tropics, it would require very strong evidence of the injury likely to be sustained by the neighbouring colonies to convince Her Majesty's Government that they would be justified in disapproving of the limited introduction sanctioned by the Western Australian Legislative Council in 1879. It was not shown that any of the Chinese hitherto introduced had passed into the other colonies, each of which, in reality, contained a much greater number of Chinese than Western Australia. He was not prepared to alter the policy of the local Council.
Few public references were then made to a Chinese influx until 1885. The prospects of a permanent goldfield existing at Kimberley influenced members of the Legislative Council to have a clause inserted in the Goldfields Act prohibiting Chinese from working on any field. The prospectors at Kimberley drew up a petition to Governor Broome, praying that Chinese should not be allowed to work on any goldfield for at least three years after its first discovery. The white pearlers at Sharks Bay complained that by evading the labour conditions of the Pearl Fisheries Act the Chinese were rapidly monopolising the pearling ground, and asked that an arrangement should be made which would prevent this. Governor Broome communicated with the Secretary for the Colonies, who promised, on 3rd April, 1886, that Her Majesty's Government would not oppose restrictions on the influx of Chinese based upon precedents afforded by the action of other colonies; but, unless for strong reasons, he deprecated the immediate introduction of any stringent measure.
As seen, a clause was attached to the Goldfields Act of 1886 preventing any Asiatic or African alien from obtaining a miner's right for five years after the first proclamation of any goldfield. In 1886 the Chinese Immigration Act was passed, and provided that no ship might bring to the colony more than one Chinese passenger to every fifty tons of her register; a penalty not exceeding £100 was imposed for each Chinese carried in excess. A poll tax of £50 per head was also levied. An Act assented to in 1889 abolished the poll tax, but raised the tonnage of vessels per each Chinese passenger to 500 tons. To prevent the Chinese from monopolising the pearl fisheries in Sharks Bay, an Act was passed in 1889 giving the Governor power to grant licenses for pearling for defined areas. Concerning other immigration, Governor Broome formulated a scheme which was ultimately carried into effect. Assisted passages were allowed to people whose character, age, and physique were testified to by persons appointed for that purpose. Large sums of money were expended in this way. In 1884 the passages and expenses of 351 persons were paid, the cost to the colony being £4,850; in 1885, 381 persons, at a cost of £5,825; and in 1886, 1,556 persons, at a cost of £15,611. In 1887 the sum of £11,735 was spent on 1,000 immigrants introduced by the Great Southern Railway Company, and £11,812 on 200 other immigrants. Only a few assisted immigrants arrived in 1888. The original scheme of Governor Broome was not considered a success, and was amended.
An increase is observable in the annual figures of export. The Blue Book returns of exports and imports are:—
|1879 ...||£407,299 ...||£494,883 ...|
|1880 ...||353,669 ...||499,183 ...|
|1881 ...||404,831 ...||502,769 ...|
|1882 ...||508,755 ...||583,055 ...|
|1883 ...||516,846 ...||444,764 ...|
|1884 ...||521,167 ...||404,000 ...|
|1885 ...||650,390 ...||446,691 ...|
|1886 ...||758,011 ...||630,393 ...|
|1887 ...||832,213 ...||604,656 ...|
|1888 ...||786,250 ...||680,345 ...|
The ten years' increase is less than that of the previous ten years. To the small returns for wool and sandalwood were largely due the falling off in export in 1883-4-5. Unfortunately, the value of the imports again exceed the exports, especially in the latter years, when the goldfields attracted population, and caused merchants to import heavily. The large importations of flour, grain, hay, fruits, and wines, all of which could be produced in the colony, served to greatly swell the amounts of imports. The farmers did not take advantage of the object lesson thus afforded.
The export of stock was:—
|1879 ...||£11,987 ...||£438 ...||—|
|1880 ...||8,975 ...||— ...||—|
|1881 ...||11,125 ...||— ...||—|
|1882 ...||7,600 ...||— ...||£1,043|
|1883 ...||11,350 ...||— ...||714|
|1884 ...||13,100 ...||— ...||—|
|1885 ...||£10,475 ...||£454 ...||£679|
|1886 ...||3,783 ...||— ...||—|
|1887 ...||5,811 ...||— ...||—|
|1888 ...||4,836 ...||— ...||—|
The annual export of wool was:—In 1879, £175,284; 1880, £271,412; 1881, £256,689; 1882, £301,234; 1883, £225,279; 1884, £249,255; 1886, £332,578; 1887, £333,785; and 1888, £423,762. Lucrative returns were obtained for skins.
Pearling was pursued with all the zest of former years. The Government appointed an Inspector of Pearl Shell Fisheries, Mr. B.E. Mayne, who supplied periodical reports concerning the industry, and generally watched over the Government interests. The native question as applied to pearl fishing was greatly improved. In 1884, Mr. Mayne, who had spent many years in the tropics, announced that the local pearling industry was one of the best regulated and most orderly he had ever seen. In 1885, however, he imposed heavy fines—5s. per head of natives out diving—on the pearlers for overworking the divers. There were engaged in the work in 1884—104 Europeans, employing 560 aboriginal natives; seventy-two Malays, and nineteen South Sea Islanders. In 1883 a Pearl Fisheries Act, passed by the Legislative Council, sought to regulate the industry, and provided for the more efficient protection of divers. An amending Act, passed in 1887, placed somewhat severe restrictions on diving in deep waters, and prescribed the dress which must be worn by divers. The object desired was to protect human life. The Europeans were incensed at the regulations, which they considered too strict, and calculated to cripple the industry.
Severe losses to life and property took place among the pearlers. A storm devastated the fleet in 1881. In the first week of January the pearling boats were quietly pursuing their quest on the coast near Roebourne, but one day the weather lowered and the mercury steadily fell. A storm was expected, and several boats got to what was considered safe anchorage. On the following morning the wind was strong, and at eight a.m. the sky became gloomy and the morning almost dark. The wind increased to a hurricane in a few minutes, and the mercury fell as low as could be indicated by the dial. The vessels strained at their anchors, and every few minutes one and another parted and was driven on in the scud and gloom. The day became so dense that it was impossible to see a few yards ahead, and the wind so violent that the pearlers had to crawl if they wished to move about the decks. The Adela, Alpha, Banangora, Emma, Ethel, Florence, Fortescue, Kate, Morning Star, Nautilus, Sarah, Yule, and other boats were wrecked, and several lives were lost. About four p.m. the day cleared, and there was a great calm. The wrecked men who managed to get to shore were in an unenviable situation. The country was flooded, sand-hills were carried away, mangrove trees were completely denuded of leaves and showed merely the twisted outlines of their limbs, and well-known creeks were no longer to be seen and new ones appeared. Shoals and banks were shifted about and their previous positions were so altered as to perplex the oldest seamen on the coast. Captain Simpson reported that the cyclone was accompanied by a tidal wave which must have been thirty feet in height, for it swept completely over the Twin Islands. The sight of the wrecked pearling fleet was sadly picturesque. While the loss of life was not great—no clear estimate was given—the loss to the pearlers was serious. Happily, the cyclone only caught that portion of the fleet stationed near Cape Kearny Island. Serious damage was done inland on the Ashburton, where the strength of the wind carried such volumes of sand with it as to nearly suffocate the inhabitants, who hurried to the creeks and covered their heads with blankets.
But worse disaster befell a large portion of the fleet in 1887. For two days—the 22nd and 23rd April—a hurricane more terrible than any yet experienced in Western Australia, carried ruin and death to the boats and men off the Ninety-Mile Beach, about 180 miles eastward of Cossack. As on the previous occasion, the day became nearly as dark as night, and rudderless vessels drifted at the pleasure of the storm. The masts snapped, chain cables parted, and the boats were broken on the shore or foundered in deep water or were carried out to sea. One mastless and rudderless schooner drifted nearly 200 miles from land, and when the storm abated the crew was rescued. A Malay floated on the hatch of a foundered lugger for two days, when, suffering intensely and with his breast torn, he was rescued, only to die shortly afterwards. Forty-eight damaged craft managed to put into one bay. The steamers Australind and Otway were chartered by the Government to go out in search of disabled vessels, but were unable to render much assistance other than to supply food to a few men. It is impossible to state the exact loss to life and property. The loss of men is variously given as from 150 to 300, mostly Malays. The captain of the Australind saw many drowned people floating in the sea. Police-Sergeant Payne reported from Roebourne the loss of fourteen white men, 136 coloured men, four schooners, eighteen luggers, and a number of small boats. It was a severe loss to the pearling industry. Inland country was flooded, especially in the Kimberley division.
The areas over which pearl and pearl shell were gathered were very extensive, and stretched from Sharks Bay to the north coast. The returns varied, and were subject to the vagaries of the market and of the climate; some seasons were so unsettled and stormy that there was small opportunity to pursue the search. The more remote the beds became from the coast the greater the expense of pearl gathering. The Blue Book export returns of pearl and pearl shell are:—
|1879 ...||£84,525 ...||£12,000 ...||£1,880|
|1880 ...||36,375 ...||12,000 ...||3,335|
|1881 ...||34,912 ...||12,000 ...||4,011|
|1882 ...||34,650 ...||17,500 ...||2,520|
|1883 ...||30,125 ...||17,500 ...||1,891|
|1884 ...||13,812 ...||10,000 ...||1,500|
|1885 ...||41,216 ...||15,000 ...||2,280|
|1886 ...||98,187 ...||15,000 ...||6,777|
|1887 ...||108,375 ...||15,000 ...||2,050|
|1888 ...||56,263 ...||25,000 ...||3,047|
The returns are not reliable, particularly in regard to the value of pure pearls exported. In 1886 the export duty on Sharks Bay shell was repealed. In 1889 the duty on other shells was reduced to 40s. a ton, and in 1895 it also was repealed.
The guano deposits were not for some time exploited with the success of 1878. The Lacepede Islands were rapidly worked out, much to the chagrin of the Government. A contract was entered into with the firm of Beaver and Co. to take away from the islands full cargoes in a certain number of vessels, but owing to the only good and available guano having been sold to other persons, six of Beaver and Co.'s vessels were compelled to leave partially loaded or with guano of an inferior quality. The company claimed compensation from the Government for the non-fulfilment of the contract, and were awarded £6,968. A Select Commission of the Council was appointed in 1881, and reported on these claims on 18th August. The Committee was decidedly outspoken, and found the Government to blame. "Your Committee have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the loss which the colony has sustained .... was caused by a total absence of business capacity on the part of the Government, which was responsible for carrying out this contract, and by a want of foresight and care in looking after the interests of the colony, which, if exhibited in a like degree by a private individual, would be characterised by harsher terms than we have cared to apply in this instance."
No exports of guano are chronicled for the years 1881-2, and it was believed by some that the industry was at an end. In 1883, Mr. Charles E. Broadhurst, having obtained a lease of the Abrolhos Islands, began to work the phosphatic guano deposited on portions of the group. Mr. Broadhurst, who was a colonist of considerable enterprise,—denoted in several ways—was led to launch out in this industry by a perusal of Captain Stokes' reports, issued after his Admiralty surveys on the coast in 1840. He soon established permanent works, and since 1883 has exported something over 50,000 tons of guano to Europe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Tasmania, and South Australia. The firm of Broadhurst and McNeil still hold a lease of the Abrolhos, and estimate that from 40,000 to 70,000 tons of the fertiliser are yet left. Mr. F.C. Broadhurst has found many interesting relics of wrecks (referred to in another chapter) consummated on these historical islands. Seabirds, such as sooty terns (wide-awake), noddy terns (noddies), and the square-tailed petrel (mutton birds), frequent the group in countless numbers between the months of August and March inclusive. When they are at rest it is almost impossible to see the ground, and when disturbed and on the wing flickering shadows are cast upon land and water by these feathered denizens.
A regular export trade in guano has been carried on since 1883. The royalty was increased to 13s. per ton in that year, but was reduced to 10s. in 1888. The annual export was:—In 1879, £54,184; 1880, £6,650; 1883, £2,964; 1884, £7,560; 1885, £3,432; 1886, £66,023; 1887, £20,527; and 1880, £12,444. Small quantities of beche-de-mer, obtained on the north-west coast, were exported. 1884, £50; 1885, £130; 1886, £80; 1888, £240.
Sandalwood and the hardwoods afforded improved returns. The timber mills expanded, and an export was made more commensurate with the unlimited opportunities than was previously the case.
|1879 ...||£35,000 ...||£69,742|
|1880 ...||51,970 ...||66,252|
|1881 ...||77,165 ...||79,277|
|1882 ...||96,050 ...||93,650|
|1883 ...||56,250 ...||79,760|
|1884 ...||20,960 ...||68,936|
|1885 ...||36,216 ...||67,850|
|1886 ...||27,450 ...||50,092|
|1887 ...||34,532 ...||28,384|
|1888 ...||33,525 ...||42,060|
Lead and copper yielded decreased returns:—
|1879 ...||£33,300 ...||—|
|1880 ...||15,368 ...||£120|
|1881 ...||11,204 ...||—|
|1882 ...||14,348 ...||—|
|1883 ...||7,266 ...||—|
|1884 ...||4,872 ...||1,770|
|1885 ...||3,255 ...||1,792|
|1886 ...||4,277 ...||3,735|
|1887 ...||4,710 ...||345|
|1888 ...||5,320 ...||1,487|
Whaling was practically abandoned, after half a century of successful exploitation. The excitement of this industry became a story to be told to interested listeners. The whales moved to more sequestered nooks in the oceans. An export of £4,238 in 1880 was the last return to appear in the Blue Book.
In 1881 an Exhibition was held in Perth under the management of Messrs. Joubert and Twopenny. Exhibits came from various parts of the world, and the proceedings were successful and instructive. The colony was well represented at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London a few years later. In August, 1887, the Legislative Council voted £3,000 for the establishment of the Victoria Public Library, Perth. There is nothing of special importance to chronicle in Church matters. The foundation-stone of the new St. George's Cathedral, Perth, was laid by Sir William Robinson on 2nd November, 1880, and on the 5th August, 1888, the first services were held.
Among other numerous enactments of the Legislative Council during 1879-88 was the Public Health Act of 1886. For several years the question of sanitation in Perth and Fremantle had been under serious consideration. In 1885 a Sanitary Committee was appointed. Under the Public Health Act, councils of municipalities were empowered to make and levy a special rate not exceeding 3d. in the £ for sanitation purposes. Perth and Fremantle came under the operation of the Act in December, 1886; Guildford, in 1887, and Albany, in January, 1888.
In 1880 the chairman of the Perth Council received the dignified name of Mayor. Mr. G. Shenton, in 1880, was the last chairman, and Mr. S.H. Parker the first mayor; Mr. Shenton succeeded from 1882 to 1884, Mr. G. Randell in 1885, and Mr Shenton in 1886-7-8-9. In 1883 the Fremantle municipality became a corporation, with a mayor as chief citizen. In September, 1883, the Legislative Council voted £2,000, to be paid in four annual instalments of £500, towards the erection of a Town Hall at Fremantle. The building in High Street was placed under construction, and was opened on 22nd June, 1887. In September, 1885, the chairmen of the Councils of Albany and Geraldton were raised to the rank of mayor. Municipalities were declared in Northam on 28th October, 1879, and Cossack and Roebourne on 30th November, 1887.
There were several deaths of notable men. Sir Archibald P. Burt, the Chief Justice, died on 21st November, 1879, aged, sixty-nine years. As the single judge in the colony the Chief Justice often occupied trying positions, and it was, therefore, hardly to be expected that his judgments would at all times satisfy litigants resorting to the Supreme Court. For eighteen years he occupied this onerous position, and maintained a character significant for uprightness, fearlessness, and courtesy. A high official with such characteristics was especially valuable in a community like the Western Australian.
In the previous July H.M. Lefroy, J.P., died. He was for some years the Superintendent of the Fremantle Convict Prison and was besides an enthusiastic vine and fruit grower. On 6th November, 1881, William Knight (79), J.P., some time Auditor-General, died. That respected pioneer, Henry Trigg (91), died at Perth on 15th February, 1882. Mr. Trigg arrived in the colony in 1829, and took an active part in the development of public works. On 15th May, 1885, died John Wall Hardey (83), and on 24th May, 1885, Samuel Evans Burges. Each gentleman was a leader in pastoral and agricultural pursuits, and helped in the political history of the colony. Mr. Hardey, as a nominee member of the Legislative Council, had taken a prominent part in constitutional debates. Mr. F.T. Gregory (68), the energetic explorer, died at Brisbane, Queensland, in November, 1888. He became Commissioner of Crown Lands in that colony, and in 1874 took a seat in the Legislative Council, which he occupied until his death.
Governor Broome pursued a lively policy with regard to the natives. During his term of office some interesting disclosures were published, and further attempts to protect and assist the aborigines were made. In the Gascoyne and North-west districts murder became much less frequent, and in the Kimberley and the other northern divisions aboriginal shepherds were almost exclusively employed. Indeed, intending pastoralists were wont to reckon on this cheap assistance when about to select land. Periodical presents of blankets and other articles were awarded to the natives, and it was still possible under the regulations for the Governor-in-Council to allot them grants of land. It is doubtful whether the policy of giving them blankets is wise. The natives in the past were not in the habit of wearing such apparel, and it is certain that blankets and articles of dress shorten rather than prolong their lives. In his indolence the native does not change this impedimenta when it is saturated with rain; he allows it to dry upon him. Fatal and rapid consequences are inevitable. Dried or tanned kangaroo or even sheep skins are decidedly preferable. Sometimes these hopeless beings hypothecate their blankets for a mug of beer.
Bishop Salvado, at New Norcia, had by this time what Governor Broome termed, "a mediaeval monastery, with its religious and laborious life in chapel and field." The settlement had become eminently important, and was by far the most successful of its kind in Australasia. In outdoor exercise it combined wheat growing, grazing, and gardening. In 1884 the mission paid about £1,000 a year to the Government for its grazing rights. Cattle, sheep, and horses roamed the fields. Wheat, grapes, olive, figs—all kinds of produce—were (and are) cultivated on the extensive farms. Australian natives not only sang in church and studied in school—they were engaged side by side with the monks in agricultural and other industries; they played the violin and other instruments in the mission band, and cricket in the mission eleven, which visited Perth for an occasional match, and was often victorious. The mission produced (and produces) excellent tobacco, olives, dried fruits, and wines. Large buildings stand near the site of the pond so devotedly assailed in 1845; orchards and farms are scattered round it; numerous wells have been sunk in the vicinity of the place where the reverend fathers suffered such pangs of thirst after the vicissitudes of their long journey. Indeed, the devoted head of this Spanish aboriginal mission has carried on a noble work. From a temporal point of view, it has obtained a well-merited success; but Bishop Salvado himself would confess that in other aspects it has fallen short of his ambition. Large numbers of natives have there experienced the fleeting joys of civilisation, and portions of its learning; but their own natures have prevented them from altogether overcoming their spontaneous passions and appetites; their love of a wild life, with its attendant repulsive features. No amount of teaching and example can eradicate in them the habits begot by a long past. The native has no hope of obtaining a place in a civilised community, and there are few to encourage him to try, to welcome him when he conquers. The historian and antiquary of a thousand years hence will revere Bishop Salvado's name for his secluded labour.
In 1881-2 serious statements were made of the depredations of natives in the Upper Murchison district. Mr. Fairbairn, R.M., had on two occasions enquired for the Government into the coloured labour question among the pearlers and on the coast, and Governor Broome again despatched him to make an investigation, a step that was welcomed by the settlers. Mr. Fairbairn's report of 12th July, 1882, was impartial and fearless. He found that the extent of the depredations were greatly exaggerated. The settlers stated that they had suffered severely from the loss of sheep, but they could give no reliable estimate of those losses. Nearly all their flocks were in charge of native shepherds, chiefly women, camped in the bush miles away from the head station, without white supervision beyond an occasional visit during the week. Looking at the temptations placed in their way, Mr. Fairbairn thought it would have been surprising if they had not helped themselves to sheep. At the same time losses from drought and the ravages of native dogs were patently included in the list imputed to native depredations. Mr. Fairbairn collated individual cases where the losses were very heavy, and gave one example where the settler refused to allow any of his white men to keep a native woman, nor did he employ a native shepherd—he had never suffered from their depredations. Other settlers testified that by firmness and courage there was little to fear from the aborigines, and advised that the police be withdrawn so that they could manage affairs themselves. Natives complained that their young men could not get wives because all the young women were living with the whites. In commenting on this report, Governor Broome is credited with—"If a man entrusts his watch to a family of thieves and allows it to be dangled through the thieves' quarter of the town, he has no right to be surprised if he never sees it again."
From the Upper Murchison Mr. Fairbairn proceeded to the Gascoyne district. On 16th August he reported on the recent murders of two white men by natives. From the evidence he collected, one, a teamster, was murdered because he took away a woman belonging to a relative of the murderer; the murder of the other, a shepherd, was avenged by his employer, who while attempting to arrest the culprit shot him, "also five or six others." Doubtless, Mr. Fairbairn said, the settlers on the Gascoyne had lost a large number of sheep by the natives, but they were not taken forcibly. Here, also, the native women were taken from their countrymen by shepherds and settlers. Said one sheep farmer:—"I think it a bad thing for settlers to keep native women; in the first place, it sets a loose example all through the stations; secondly, the women's friends must be fed or they will steal; they always hang about where women are kept." The settlers argued that sheep farming on the Gascoyne would not pay unless the natives were utilised as shepherds. A white man cost £50 a year and his food; a native did the work for his food and an occasional shirt, and was cheaper in other respects. The pastoralists preferred to be allowed to deal with the natives themselves without the intervention of police and magistrates. If they had the power to shoot the ringleaders, the natives would in a short time become so terrified that they would mind the sheep more carefully so as not to lose any, and would not run away and leave the flock untended in the bush. One thought that if the Government would shut its eyes for six months, and leave the settlers a free hand, there would be no more depredations at the end of that period.
Colonial Secretary Gifford complimented Mr. Fairbairn on his fearlessness in exposing the treatment native women were subjected to at the hands of many of the settlers; that treatment it seemed to him was the cause of the reprisals. Governor Broome wrote the Colonial Secretary expressing approbation of his statement. Of the natives he writes:—"Their women are surely as valuable to them as are flocks and herds are to us, and so long as we outrage those feelings which human nature has placed in a greater or less degree in even the most savage breast, what right have we to expect that they will respect the property of the aggressor? What right have we to be surprised when we hear that a native, "sulky" with a shepherd for taking his woman away, has put the white man to death? Let us set them a good example, and then, perhaps, we may talk about the iniquity of their proceedings—proceedings which, after all, considering the utter savages we are dealing with, have not been so black as they are painted." The Inquirer, in referring to Mr. Fairbairn's report, says:—"The settlers have much to answer for, and we consider that they are morally responsible for much that has occurred. Not only have they left their flocks in charge of natives—they have in many instances encouraged the detention of women, and approved of every white man keeping them. We cannot at all be surprised that in their own country they consider themselves entitled to a share of the flocks and herds which feed upon their lands, which are in charge and—as they think—in possession of their people."
It was deemed expedient to put a stop to these practices, but how, was a difficult problem. The Government seemed to consider that the settlers were greatly to blame for the state of affairs, and police and magistracy control was provided. In 1883 it appeared doubtful whether Mr. Foss, specially appointed "Itinerant Magistrate," who travelled through the Gascoyne district and heard numerous cases against natives, could legally sentence offenders brought before him. During his term of office he had made sixty-three convictions, and thirty-six prisoners were (in April) undergoing punishment for their crimes. To validate his convictions the Natives Convictions Validity Bill was passed by the Legislative Council, and reposed powers in Mr. Foss similar to those held by a resident or police magistrate.
A commotion was caused in January, 1886, by the Rev. J.B. Gribble, F.C.S., who published an article in the Inquirer, and delivered a lecture in Perth, on the ill-treatment and cruelty meted out to the natives in the Gascoyne district. Mr. Gribble, an enthusiast, went to the district as a missionary to the blacks, and travelled from place to place as the guest of settlers. According to him, the treatment of the blacks by the whites had not improved, and he made strong, and perhaps indiscreet, accusations against what he termed the "system" among the squatters. Condemnatory references to his statements were made in the Legislative Council, and letters defending the squatters were published in the newspapers, asking how, during a flying trip (three months), it was possible for Mr. Gribble to form an unbiassed opinion. It is doubtful whether the somewhat hasty utterances of the enthusiastic minister did much good; they certainly stirred up a great deal of ill-feeling, and lifted a veil which it was considered best to keep over the Gascoyne. A Bill for the protection of aborigines was, however introduced into the Legislative Council in 1885, and carried. Its policy was a watchful protection of the natives, and of punishment, without respect of persons, of any illegal act committed to their detriment. It was not wholly successful in putting down objectionable practices, and Governor Broome, in 1887, wished to improve the law, but did not exactly know where to begin.Mr. Gribble was not easily dismissed, and continued to abide by and reiterate his views in various places. The West Australian newspaper published an editorial reflecting on the character of Gribble, terming him a liar and a canting humbug, and the latter, in 1887, instituted proceedings for damages against the proprietors, Messrs. Harper and Hackett. Extraordinary interest was excited, and strong counsel was engaged when the case came before the Chief Justice (Mr. Alexander Onslow) and Judge Stone, sitting in banco. In delivering judgment, the Chief Justice gave it as his opinion that although there had been cases of cruelty and ill-treatment, the evidence adduced was insufficient to justify the wholesale and sweeping charges brought by Mr. Gribble against the settlers. He admitted that he believed that much good would accrue from Mr. Gribble's action in connection with these matters; but it was to be deplored that he had allowed his imagination to run riot, and his passions to obscure his judgment. A verdict was given in favour of the defendants.