[From Dublin University Magazine, Vol. XIV, LXXXI, September 1839]
The great evil under which Ireland labours, is its superabundant population, the natural result of which is, that the means of the people are not adequate to their support. The frightful consequence of this state of things is exemplified every day in the agrarian disturbances which disgrace the country, and render it a monster in the moral and political world. A country which has, for six centuries, been in connection with and under the sway of the most improved and civilized nation that ever was established among mankind; which, from its immediate vicinity, has been in intimate social connection with it, and which has been induced by every motive that could be offered, to adopt its habits, profit by its improvements, and share in its prosperity, is yet so low in the scale of civilization, and the humanities of life, that an Indian wigwam is superior in comfort to an Irish cabin, and an Indian savage less ferocious than an Irish peasant. It is true that sundry other causes have combined to produce this melancholy effect; the despotism of the priesthood, and the excitement of the demagogue, acting on ignorance, superstition, and a sense of misery, have been among the immediate causes which stain Ireland with blood and crime; and where these do not exist, the state of society and the character of the peasant is considerably ameliorated. The reformation bringing in its train, as its necessary consequences, industry, sobriety, and moral habits, has done as much in Ireland in improving the condition of the people as elsewhere in Europe. Those parts of our island which have profited by it, form a strong contrast with those that have not; and the laborious, temperate, well informed, and correct people of the county of Down would hardly be supposed to belong to the same country as the idle, drunken, ignorant, and savage peasantry of the county of Tipperary; still it is admitted by all, that the state of things in Ireland is the consequence, and not the cause of its degradation; and if the over population had not created want and misery, neither the priest nor the demagogue could excite to persecution and murder.
This is so much felt, that many plans to promote and encourage emigration, have been at different times suggested; but uniformly opposed, either openly or secretly, by those who would find their occupation gone, if the materials with which they worked were taken from them. Were the surplus population removed, and the residue located on farms sufficient to support themselves and families, it is clear that a great cause of discontent would be taken away. The man who has something to lose, would not so readily surrender himself to the designs of trading politicians, as the reckless wretch who had nothing to hazard, and whose condition change might improve, but could not make worse. But there are men who are not influenced by such motives as those who trade on the people's misery, who see the cause of the country's distress, and have honesty enough to try sincerely to endeavour to remove it, and such we observe, with pleasure, now associated to promote one of the most simple and practicable modes of lessening the quantity of wretchedness and crime in Ireland.
A meeting has been called of influential men of all parties, to organize a regular plan of emigration from this country, and the substance of the communications made at that meeting is as follows:- A colonization committee is appointed by her Majesty, for planting a colony in that part of New Holland called South Australia, and the object is, to use their exertions for the advancement of that colony. It appears that it required four labourers in Ireland to raise the same quantity of produce that one could raise in England; and by statistical returns laid before parliament, it was proved that in England, 1,055,000 labourers raised produce amounting to 150,000,000, while, in Ireland, 1,130,000 labourers only raised 36,000,000, and so the larger number of men in the one raised less produce than the smaller number in the other. In the agricultural districts of England, farms were divided into 500, or 1000 acres, and the labourer was aided by ploughs, tools, and large and available capital, and thus the husbandman was enabled to produce four times as much as in Ireland, where, from the over population, the land was necessarily subdivided into holdings of from ten to even one single acre! and therefore, the industry was feeble, production little, and earnings insufficient to support life. While for even that miserable portion, the contest was so great, that all the desperate passions were excited, and the peasant, to support his own life, frequently killed his neighbour - we had almost said, eat him. To remedy this, it was indispensible to consolidate many farms into one, and put agriculture on the English footing; but in order to do so it would be necessary to expel the tenants from their miserable abodes, and increase the distress and motives of outrage, by turning loose a number of desperate men, without shelter or means of living, to prey upon the community.* It was the great object, therefore, of the philanthropist to effect the good without leaving a greater incidental evil, and provide for one hundred persons without destroying one thousand. This could only be done by procuring for the expelled the means of support in other countries which did not exist at home, and the British Colonies opened their vast bosoms to invite them. A new system of colonization had been adopted with considerable success, and most prosperous results. Instead of giving away and disposing of land in unlimited quantities to favourites, the whole possessed in Australia had now been put up to sale, and all the money received at those sales appropriated to create a fund to assist emigrants in removing from poverty and destitution at home, to a region where the abundance of the land and the fertility of the soil assure them comfort and competence. As the effects of this were daily felt, and the emigration increased, the fund to assist was daily increasing also; the very demands on it, so far from exhausting, only augmented it. In January, 1837, no lands were sold; in March, the sale amounted to £260; in April, to £400; and, at the end of the year, the amount was £3,300. This had gone on increasing in such a ratio, that, in the brief space of two years, it had swelled to £100,000. In 1838, the commissioners had sent out thirty ships with emigrants from England and Scotland, containing 3,300 persons, at an allowance of £20 a head, and a total expenditure of £63,000. In the course of three years' operation, a town in South Australia had been commenced; four hundred houses, two stone chapels, five hotels, and two banks built, and the flocks and herds had so multiplied in the colonies, that in one day, 3,000 sheep had been imported from the neighbourhood, and commerce had so increased, that in one year 202 ships had visited its infant port.
It was proposed - first, that an association should be formed in Ireland, consisting of noblemen, clergymen, and gentlemen, who, from birth, residence, or property, would have an interest and influence in the affairs of the poor peasantry; who would make themselves acquainted with the facts relative to emigration to South Australia, and communicate them in their respective neighbourhoods, in order to counteract the misrepresentations of ignorance, prejudice, or designing men; since it would be impossible that the poor peasant in the remote parts of the country, could ascertain much of the truth or falsehood of any Statement made to him. Next, that an association should be formed of proprietors who might wish to improve their estates by consolidating their farms, but not do so by turning the ejected tenants into the ditches, to die of hunger, or live by outrage. They would purchase land for them in the new settlements, for which the growing population and importance of the rising colonies would insure a rich return. This was already done in England, where capitalists were found to advance large sums on such secure speculations. In Ireland, the society might immediately purchase 100,000 acres of land; call it "New Dublin," "St. Patrick's Land," or any other patronymic, and locate on it such surplus of their tenantry as would cultivate their new country, not only with a prospect, but a certainty, of exchanging poverty and misery for comfort and opulence.
In such a prospect of depauperizing this unhappy country, and disposing of its superabundant population, there is no humane mind that would not heartily concur, and as every information upon the subject must be desirable, we are glad to have it in our power to lay before our readers a letter from "Adelaide," the capital of the new colony of South Australia, written by an intelligent gentleman, whose capability of judging is as great as we are assured his statements are accurate, and may be relied on. And we do it the rather because some misrepresentations had gone abroad, and the account of this town in our last number was not as favourable as it ought to have been, and, as we conceive, it justly merited.
Adelaide, South Australia, January 20, 1839.
MY DEAR SIR-I feel that I am fairly indebted to you a letter. . . I avail myself, therefore, of an hour or two to give you some little information as to our adopted country, in which I am disposed to think you will not take the less interest from its being, in all probability, the permanent locale of myself and family. You will, perhaps, have heard, through some of our old friends, of our determination to leave our native land, a resolution to which I came, from a conviction that new lands afforded more scope for enterprise, and better prospects for a family. I had much to overcome in thus severing myself from old associations, and great difficulty in convincing others of the wisdom of the step: in fact, I embarked for this province with my family, in the opinion of my relatives and friends, to undergo dangers, privations and hardships so dreadful, that it was only the act of a desperate man. We left England in October, 1837, with a very numerous set of cabin passengers, and unhappy disputes between some of them and the captain, led us first into Bahia, and subsequently into Rio de Janeiro. I little expected ever to tread the scenes you had described in your "Notes on Brazil." What a magnificent harbour it is - we were delighted, and although regretting the delay, we could not but secretly rejoice that an opportunity of seeing the New World had been afforded us - the splendid vegetation of the tropics, more especially at Bahia, was so new to us, and all the numerous tribes of insects, birds, &c. so splendid, that we could have spent some time there with pleasure, under other circumstances. At the time we were at Rio, the court was absent: we visited most of the churches, &c. &c. and were much gratified. They have now two steam-boats plying from Rio across the harbour every half hour, besides steamers which run to Bahia and the other ports. Our voyage, after leaving Rio, was protracted by calms, light, or head-winds, and it was not till six months after leaving Gravesend that we found ourselves safely anchored in Gulph St. Vincent. Our first impressions of the country, and the infant city of Adelaide, were favorable. I had indulged in none of the exaggerated notions of those who considered South Australia an El Dorado, and had deducted fifty per cent. from all the published statements of its advantages: I was therefore agreeably surprised. It was on Easter Sunday, 1838, that I reached Adelaide, and when I found a respectable number of houses built and in progress, I was surprised. I will describe to you the spot:- Adelaide is situated midway between the sea and a splendid range of mountainous hills, the centre of which is Mount Lofty; the land from the sea is a grassy plain, gradually rising to the hills; Adelaide is on a slight elevation, and the town is laid out on both sides a small stream called the river Torrens: it is in summer little better than a chain of pools. The land is a reddish loam, with a substratum of rubbly limestone, which is well adapted for common building purposes, and which, in many parts of the town, rises to the surface. The Encalypti and Mimosae are the trees immediately around us; but the hills are covered with many other species. None of the land is heavily timbered, and miles of it cannot be regarded as other than open plain: the general aspect of Adelaide and its vicinity is that of English park land. The soil improves greatly over the hills, and already several extensive establishments of cattle and sheep are located at distances of twenty-five to thirty miles, while at Encombe Bay there are two whaling stations, which were successful enough this season to send home a ship-load of oil. We have now been here nine months, and can say something as to the climate. It is certainly very fine, but the sudden transitions from heat to cold are trying to some constitutions. I who was so sensible of the slightest alteration of temperature in England, am here perfectly careless, and never was in. better health: indeed I am becoming corpulent. At present it is our summer, and the range of our thermometer is very great: we have had a day or two 102 in the shade, succeeded by one of only 68 to 70, which makes us feel chilly. This day twelvemonth, at Rio, the thermometer was about 90; but on Christmas-day here it was about 100. We occasionally have what is called a brickfielder: the west wind sets in with great power, sweeping along with it all the dust of the roads, and in such profusion that it is impossible to see twenty yards: these are not common. The spring and autumnal months are delightful, and the winter is only rainy at intervals. The town has increased prodigiously since our arrival. I judge there are now from six to seven hundred houses, and our population must be nearly 6000. We have had 101 merchant vessels arrived in 1838, amounting to 22,000 tons; and there is a degree of activity and enterprise among the colonists which surprises me. We have had very few difficulties. We found butchers, bakers, &c. &c. already established, and ourselves having commenced storekeepers and merchants, we have been able to supply ourselves with almost all that we could require. There is now a nice little stone church, which is being enlarged by a transept - a new Wesleyan chapel building of brick, with a stucco front, with pillars, &c. &c. - very many brick and stone buildings, &c. The natives are few in number, and are by no means in appearance the hideous creatures we expected: some are really fine men: the hair is not woolly; and their nose is not that of the negro, but a broad base, with a rather concave line to the forehead, which is in some very broad, and in others recedes. They have the negro whine in their accent; are very inoffensive; and up to the present moment are living in perfect amity with the colonists. They are nearly naked, but wear the blankets given them across the waist and shoulders; they do not steal; are very indolent; continually importune us for bread and potatoes, and are aware that wipa, or white money, will purchase bread. Their arms are simple, consisting of spears made sometimes by simply bringing the wood itself to a point; in others by arming the head with pieces of hardened gum; but since our coming, with pieces of bottle glass, of waddys, hard pieces of wood of a clavate form, and occasionally a small Kangaroo's bone ground to a point. We have a respectable community, but political differences have separated all classes: we trust this will soon cease. Our birds are chiefly parrots and cockatoos: they are common as our English household birds, but much more beautiful. We have plenty of oxen, who are chiefly employed in carrying, and about 300 horses. Every thing is very prolific and precocious; poultry increases rapidly; we have a pretty extensive poultry yard. Pigs also multiply very fast, but we have not yet convenience for paying any attention to the swinish multitude. Gardens will be productive as the seasons are better understood; but we have had peas, beans, cabbages of all sorts, salads, &c. In another year much land will be under cultivation. Farm-houses are springing up in all directions. For ourselves we find our business more successful than we could have anticipated; and I think, under the blessing of providence, we have the pleasing prospect of seeing future competency for our family. We have generally good health, and have now the satisfaction of seeing all satisfied that my decision to come hither was a prudent step. We have just formed a Natural History Society, of which our governor, Colonel Gawler, is the honorary president, and I am president. We have also established a Chamber of Commerce for the protection of trade. There is very little appearance of a young community. The new principle of colonization has certainly worked well, and we have advanced with a rapidity unexampled in similar cases.
"A. H. davis."
We have much pleasure in laying before our readers this very interesting and intelligent letter, which, so recent in its date, coming from a most impartial authority, affords satisfactory evidence of the prosperity of the new colony, as well as of the soundness of the principles on which it was founded. A colony, only a few years' old, with a capital containing 6,000 inhabitants, is a new feature in the history of our foreign settlements, and proves that it is far easier, as well as more advantageous to transport a complete society, with all its various occupations, than to wait upon the slow progress of an emigration guided by no fixed principles. The result must be particularly cheering to the philanthropist, as neither slaves nor convicts had any share in bringing it about, so that the capitalists are not oppressors, nor the labourers criminals. The labour market in the new colony is open to industrious poor alone, to the exclusion only of the criminal. To the Irishman, the success of this colony ought to be an object of peculiar interest at the present moment, when the pressure of a poor law will render the necessity of providing, in some way or other, for the surplus labour of the country, a subject of increasing importance. In a paper in our July number, although we expressed our full concurrence in the new doctrines with respect to emigration, and also our full belief in the prosperity of South Australia, it is pleasant to learn that, with every disposition to do justice to the young colony, we have rather underrated than overrated its progress.
* While we write, an awful evidence of the state of the country is just passing before us. Lord Courtown, feeling that the misery of his tenantry arose from the over-population of his estate, and its subdivision into small holdings, some of a single acre, altogether insufficient to support families, has determined, as a remedy, to reduce the number, and consolidate them. He notified to the tenants, that he would suffer them to remain till they could find other abodes; would then allow them the value of their crops, and give them every aid in his power to improve their condition. They refused to surrender possession; set their landlord and the laws at defiance, and beat back the sheriff and a whole regiment of police. It was found necessary to call in the aid of the military, and an army of cavalry and infantry, amounting to 1000 men, were marched against them. The houses were taken, as it were, by storm, and razed to the ground, and the inhabitants, amounting, it is said, to 250 families, were driven to wander through the country, without shelter, means of support, or the most distant hope of obtaining either in any other part of Ireland. What a condition must that country be in, when a humane and kind landlord is compelled to resort to such an expedient, to improve his estate and what an invitation does it hold out to emigration societies!