The State and Position of Western Australia/Chapter 9



Before the writer takes his final leave, he would venture to throw out a few suggestions on the subject of Emigration. Conscious of the responsibility he incurs in putting forth statements which may lead individuals to take a step of so much importance to themselves and their families, as the selection of a distant colony for their future abode, he would strongly urge upon them to examine well the prospects which they are leaving at home, and not to act precipitately. They have to reflect whether—be a colony ever so inviting—it is worth their while to abandon old connexions and well-established institutions. They have also to consider whether, favourable as the opening may really be, they are the kind of persons for whom it is likely to answer. A mistake on either of these points may be ruinous to their ultimate peace and happiness. In the “Letters and Journals” of Mr. Moore, to which reference has already more than once been made, there is a passage bearing on this point, that well deserves consideration.

“As to coming out, I am still reluctant in giving advice to any one on the subject. It is a serious responsibility to hold out strong inducements, when success depends so much upon the taste, bodily fitness, and preparation for it. To come here costs much; a considerable sum is also further necessary to support you until you can maintain yourself. Land must be paid for—if obtained from Government, at the rate of 5 s. per acre.” …. “Two or three stout hard-working brothers, or a father with a grown-up family able and willing to assist him, with some money to establish themselves in rough comfort and plenty, would be independent in a few years; but there must be no squeamishness as to food, nor daintiness as to luxuries; it is a plodding, matter-of-fact, business-like, and hard-working life, until you get yourself established; with very little of that romance and adventure about it, which is so tempting and alluring to young minds. Yet it has its pleasures; but it is quite right that people should prepare themselves for what it really is. I am still unwilling to recommend emigration to any one; for the sort of life is so different from that at home, that many would be discontented with it, and blame the adviser instead of themselves. I had made up my mind to endure every kind of hardship and privation for three years at least; yet here, at the end of two years (Oct. 1833), I live almost as well as I could wish, and certainly lead a healthier, and happier, and less anxious life,[1] now that the first struggle is over.”

The writer, after carefully reviewing what has been stated in the preceding pages respecting the colony of Western Australia, is satisfied that he has not put forth exaggerated statements, but has given, to the best of his ability, a fair and impartial account of the actual state of things. While, on the one hand, he has felt called upon to notice incorrect reports that have been published, to the prejudice of the colony, he has, on the other, studiously rejected exaggerated or erroneous accounts that have been circulated in its favour.

Those who may be about to emigrate cannot be too often reminded that judgment, perseverance, and fortitude are as essential to their success as good climate and soil, and moderate means. It is true that the colony having attained to its present position, much of the difficulty of the enterprize is removed, and many may now prosper who would not have done so originally; but without some portion of those valuable qualities above specified, the emigrant, under the most favourable circumstances, ought not to expect success.

A colonist, at Swan River, who had seen a great deal of vicissitude, in a recent letter to a friend in England writes thus:—“We have laid the foundation for all new comers to build on: we have purchased dear-bought experience—knowledge to guide all who may feel a wish for enterprize. Were it in our power to recal the time that is past, and were we now to come here, with about 100 l. in cash, together with a few of the many useful things we brought out, we should be certain of prosperity.”

The emigrant who has abundant pecuniary resources to draw upon, will still find his advantage in beginning on a moderate scale, and in always keeping a considerable portion of capital in band, till he can thoroughly judge of the calls there may be upon him. The neglect of this caution has given rise to much difficulty and embarrassment, even where the original means of the settler have been large. The sphere of his operations can easily be extended afterwards.

If a capitalist, such as is here contemplated, intend to make the breeding of sheep his principal pursuit, he will do well to take out with him a couple of shepherds, half-a-dozen Saxon or Spanish rams, and a few dogs, in the first instance; and to contract with respectable parties in Van Diemen’s Land or Sydney, for the landing of ewes at Swan River. Each of those places has its peculiar advantages. At Sydney the wools are finer; while the distance in the other case is less, and the reduction of freight in proportion. At both places Merino sheep abound. As the capitalist would probably stop at the Cape, he might make arrangements for taking on board some of the Father-land breed of cattle, which is deservedly esteemed. The writer has had cows of this kind which were considered equal to the Durham and Devonshire breeds.

In choosing sites for building, care should be taken to provide against those occasional floods from which the settlement is not exempt, though several years sometimes may elapse before they recur. The early Swan-River settlers were fortunate in following a season of this kind, which put them on their guard. Another evil, however, against which some of them have not sufficiently provided, and in consequence have suffered very severely, is fire. It is of great importance in a country where, at times, trees and vegetation are greatly dried up with sun and heat, to keep the space around a dwelling clear and open. The thatched roof is rather objectionable for a similar reason, though in many situations it may at first be in some measure necessary. The accumulation of farming produce, corn and hay ricks, &c., at a particular spot, should also be avoided, as attended with danger.

In reply to a question that has frequently been put to the writer, as to how much it would be necessary for a person to take out with him to commence as an agriculturist or sheep-farmer, on a moderate scale, his answer has been from 800 l. to 1000 l.; and after canvassing the subject of late with different individuals, who have been for several years in the colony, some agreeing with him, and others rating the requisite sum much higher, the writer would still adhere to that opinion; but the emigrant, to succeed with this sum, must begin at first in a careful way, and determine to put his own shoulder to the wheel, and consent to work with his own men, as well as to direct their labours. A fourth or fifth of the means of such a settler might be invested in articles that would sell well in the colony; as salt-pork, butter, American flour in casks (if cheap), some strong shoes and leather, hops, porter, &c. He should take for his own use wearing apparel for one or two years, calculating upon eight summer months and four winter months, and strong shoes for two or three years, with a good stock of flannel, and some mattresses;—also a plough, a small cart, a pair of harrows, and a few spades and shovels, some plain carpenter’s tools, axes, &c., and spare handles. If the emigrant last described intends to be a sheep-farmer, he should take out two or three Merino rams, and some sheep-dogs.

With respect to servants, the emigrant should have two men understanding arable and sheep farming, or what would be better, a married man, with one or two sons above the age of ten. Much of his comfort and success will depend on his servants; the settler therefore cannot be too scrupulous in his inquiry into their character for integrity, and fidelity to the masters with whom they have lived. It will be for the ultimate benefit, as well as comfort, of the emigrant that the terms of agreement he makes with his people be liberal; so that, on reaching the colony, they should not be excited to discontent by any great disproportion between their wages and the current rate in the colony. Letters from the settlement, addressed to the writer, and that come down to the 26th of January last, state, “there is no cause to complain of the now current price of agricultural labour; very good hands can be procured at 30 s. per month.” In addition to this, are the servants’ rations, which hitherto have cost more than the wages, but they may now be calculated at less. The entire cost of a shepherd has been from 60 l. to 70 l., owing to servants of this class, especially good ones, being scarce. The expense of taking out servants is about 20 l. each, and children one-third or one-half of that amount, according to their ages. The writer would not advise that the indenture should be for a longer period than three or at most four years, after which the servant would be at liberty to leave his master, or enter into a new agreement with him. In suggesting liberality in agreements entered into with servants, as good policy on the part of the emigrant, the writer would at the same time have it prospective, in order that every inducement should be held out to good conduct and fidelity. With this view the wages should be somewhat low for the first year, and increase step by step each succeeding year. The writer would recommend there being inserted in the indenture a clause to the effect that if, on completion of the period named therein, the servant has fulfilled his engagement to the satisfaction of his employer, the former should become entitled to a bonus of from thirty to fifty acres of good land. Should the servant choose then to retire on his land, the master would thus secure in him a valuable neighbour, to assist in harvest and at other seasons of need.

The mode of paying shepherds adopted on the borders of Scotland is deserving of imitation. Having lately been trying in that quarter to get men of character to send out this season to his farm in the colony, the writer has learned that shepherds in Selkirkshire receive for wages in lieu of money the product of a certain number of sheep. The average wages for the last two years there are calculated at from 28 l. to 30 l. for the best hands; while for the nine years preceding, they have been but from 18 l. to 20 l. Married shepherds, besides the product of the sheep, have a cow’s grass worth 6 l., a free house and garden in value 5 l. or 6 l., and oatmeal to the extent of 5 l. more. By the mode of payment adopted on the borders, the vigilant superintendence of the shepherd is in a great measure secured, by his interests being combined with those of his employer.

The emigrant should resolutely avoid engaging to supply his servants with rations of spirits; a practice which has been productive of very baneful results in the demoralization of servants, while it inflicts a heavy tax on the master. Good colonial beer would form an excellent substitute, and it might be a stipulation in the indenture that the servant should be supplied with it whenever there was any ready means of obtaining it; but the settler, after the second year, ought to brew for his own establishment.

For the first two years the emigrant should be satisfied to live in such a cottage as he could erect with the aid of his own people—one of a description similar to that mentioned in pp. 52 and 53. This he will find a sufficiently comfortable dwelling both in summer and winter. The cottage should be contiguous to the best site the land affords for a permanent residence, so that it might serve for a kitchen and servants’ apartments when the farm-house was completed; but the prudent settler will not undertake this latter work till he is enabled to do it out of the profits of his farm, whether pastoral or agricultural; and then it should be a good substantial building of stone or brick. It need not then be expensive, as the settler could in the intermediate time be procuring the materials, either by the labour of his people, or by barter from his neighbours. If the means of the emigrant are ample enough to render it unnecessary for him to put his own hand to the work, the writer would still advise him to take part with his people in active labour, as well as to plan and superintend. This will prevent time hanging heavy on his hands, as he will soon become interested in the simplest operations, and the want of society will then be little felt. An additional advantage would be that the servants would work so much better from seeing their master not sparing himself. The occasional labour of the master may be safely reckoned equal, at least, to the work of an additional servant, even where his people are trustworthy; but if they are eye-servants, requiring to be watched, the employer’s superintendence will make a much greater difference.

It only remains for the writer now to point out the benefit the emigrant may derive from proceeding at once to the colony at the present juncture. A letter from a friend with whom he is in correspondence, dated January 24, after mentioning how severely the deplorable condition of the markets for the last four years had pressed upon many of the first settlers, obliging some to part with their farms, contains this passage—“In the end, I certainly think this change will conduce to the stability of the colony; inasmuch as the land is gradually getting into the hands of really practical and laborious farmers, who can produce more, and live at far less cost, than a superior rank of farmers.” Persons arriving now in the colony may purchase from an impoverished settler a grant of from 3000 to 4000 acres of good land, and well situated, in the district of York or elsewhere, for from 200 l. to 300 l. perhaps; but when this land is no longer in the market, the emigrant must purchase land from the Local Government, in situations beyond those at present occupied, and at the price of 5 s. per acre, being the minimum fixed by his Majesty’s Government.

It may be of importance to emigrants purposing to go out to Western Australia, as well as to the friends of persons already settled there, to be informed that Messrs. Mangles, East India Agents, of Austin Friars, London, who have sent one of their vessels, the Hero, this year to the colony, have announced their intention to send a regular packet thither every year, to sail on the 1st of June, with passengers and freight, and also to put on one or more additional vessels, as occasion may require. The remaining ships bound for the colony this year are, the Giraffe, to sail on the 10th of August, and the Briton, about the same time.

Having now touched upon all the various topics that have occurred to him, and endeavoured to discharge what appeared to be a duty both to the public and the colonists, in making known the actual condition of the settlement, the writer has only to hope that a beneficial purpose will be answered. As there never, perhaps, was a period when a spirit of emigration more extensively prevailed, he is induced to believe that the appearance of this publication at such a juncture will be found not unseasonable. Should it be the means of rightly directing any of his countrymen who may now be looking out for a field of honourable and successful enterprize, he will consider himself amply recompensed for any labour the task has imposed. In his judgment—on a calm and deliberate review of the whole subject—the colony of Western Australia is calculated to yield a rich return to capital, industry, and perseverance, and appears to be destined by Providence to take a distinguished rank among the dependencies of the British Empire.

  1. In this last sentence there appears to he some obscurity. From conversations the author has had with Mr. Moore on the subject, lie has no doubt that the comparison intended to be instituted was between the life Mr. Moore was then passing as a settler, and that which he had led before he went out to the colony.