The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Discussions and Divisions on the Foregoing Resolutions
Discussions and Divisions on the Foregoing Resolutions
As the best means of indicating the opinions prevailing in the Convention, and the degree of unanimity which existed as to the several principles embodied in these resolutions, some of the principal divisions that took place are her recorded.
On Tuesday evening, July 21st, (Fifth day)—the first resolution was discussed :—
That all exclusive occupation of unalienated Crown Lands for pastoral purposes should cease, and such lands should be open as free pasturage for the public.
After a lengthened discussion, or rather a lengthened expression of opinion, for opinion proved to be nearly unanimous,
The following was the Division List:—
Ayes, 52.—Ballaarat—Messrs. O'Connor, Cathie, Yates. Bendigo—Messrs. Benson, Thompson. Brighton—Messrs. Houston, Thomson. Bacchus Marsh—Mr. James. Colac—Mr. Miskin. Collingwood—Messrs. Galloway, Gibson, Cattach. M'Minn, Riley, Murphy, Capt. Harrison. Carisbrooke—Messrs. Laskie, Richardson. Dunolly—Messrs. Quinlan. Wingfield. Emerald Hill—Messrs. Short, Leitch. Geelong—Messrs. Whinam, Clarson. Kyneton—Mr. Kenworthy. Mount Blackwood—Messrs. James, Garland. Melbourne—Messrs. Don, J. J. Walsh, Dodds, Sherwin, Warman, Hayden, Patterson. North Melbourne—Messrs. Calvert, Richardson, Hayes, Strickland, Schultz. Ovens—Messrs. Strickland, Smith, Mooney. Prahran—Messrs. Crews, O'Hea. Richmond—Messrs. Batten, Cutter, Philip Johnson. Seymour—Mr. Tiernan. South Bourke—Messrs. Johnson, Brooke. Tarrengower—Messrs. Ramsay, Gainsford.
Noes, 1.—Richmond—Councillor Henry Johnson.
The second resolution, which embodied several principles was divided into separate propositions for convenience of discussion. The resolution stands as follows:—
2nd resolution—That every adult person in the colony should have a right to select a claim of land not exceeding_____ acres, at a uniform price, without auction; such right of selection to extend over all the unalienated lands of the colony, surveyed or unsurveyed : this right, however, to be subject to certain conditions and qualifications mentioned in pp. 6, 7.
The first proposition submitted to discussion, was a resolution to the effect:—
That every adult person should have a right to select a claim of land not exceeding ________ acres, at a uniform price, without auction.
This discussion was taken on Wednesday evening, July 22nd. (Sixth day.)
Mr. Hepburn, of South Bourke, moved the following amendment:—
That inasmuch as the unsold lands of the colony are the property of the people of Great Britain, as well as the inhabitants of the colony, it would he both impolitic and highly injudicious to dispose of the public lands, otherwise than at a fair valuation, to be fixed upon by valuators, or by auction.
Mr. Johnson, of South Bourke, seconded this amendment.
After a very full expression of opinion there appeared at the close of the evening, For the amendment:
2.—Messrs. Hepburn, South Bourke; T. Johnson, South Bourke.
For the original resolution :
52.—Messrs. Benson, Bendigo; Chisholm, Kinetin; Kennedy, "Nine-Mile," Ovens; John Strickland, Woolshed; Ramsay, Tarrengower; Watt, Bacchus Marsh; Sloane, Heathcoat; Dods, Melbourne; Carson, Geelong; Sherwin, Melbourne; Smyth, Ovens; Doyle, Melbourne; Malcolm, Temples owe; Hayden, Melbourne; Tie man, Seymour; F. Strickland, North Mel boxing; Garland, Mount Blackwood; Cutter, Richmond; Patterson, Melbourne; Don, Melbourne; Gain ford, Tarrengower; O'Hea, Parham: Hayes, Parkside; Mooney, Sebastopol; Walsh, Melbourne; War man, Melbourne; Gibson, Collingwood; McMinn, Collingwood; Houston, Brighton; page 9 Thomson, Brighton; Richardson, North Melbourne; "Culvert, North Melbourne; Cattach, Collingwood; Galloway, Collingwood; Riley, Collingwood; Quinlan, Dunolly; Murphy, Collingwood; James, Mount Blackwood; Cathie, Ballaarat; Scotson, Fryer's Creek; P.Johnson, Richmond; Wingfield, Dunolly; Yates, Ballaarat; C. W. Thompson, Sandhurst; Leith, Emerald Hill; Crews. Prahran; Short, Emerald Hill; Keeley, Melbourne; O'Connor, Ballaarat; Batten, Richmomd; Whinnam, Geelong; and Kenworthy, Kyneton.
The next proposition submitted for discussion was a resolution to the effect that the right of free selection to be exercised by the actual cultivator should not be confined within the surveys, but should extend over all unalienated lands, surveyed or unsurveyed. This proposition produced a longer debate than any other that came before the Convention. It was debated for two nights. It also developed, when first submitted, more difference of views than any other question that was debated. On the first night of its discussion an amendment was submitted "that the right should be confined to surveyed lands." On that night a division took place on the amendment. It obtained the support of a minority of 12. It was negatived by a majority of 32. The division list was as follows :—
For the amendment—
Ayes, 12.—Messrs. Cattach, Collingwood; Patterson, Melbourne; Leitch, Emerald Hill; Short, Emerald Hill; Benson, Bendigo; Scotson, Fryer's Creek; Smyth, Beechworth; John Strickland, Woolshed; Whinhan, Geelong; Tiernan, Seymour; Donovan, Melbourne; Sloane, Heathcote.
Noes, 31.—Messrs. Warman, Melbourne; Hitchcock, Castlemaine; Dr. M'Kay, Prahran; Gibson, Collingwood; Garland, Mount Blackwood; Ramsay, Tarrengower; M'Minn, Collingwood; J. W. Thomson, Brighton; O'Connor, Ballaarat; James, Mount Blackwood; Cutter, Richmond; Murphy, Collingwood; Houston, Brighton; Quinlan, Dunolly; Dods, Melbourne: Walsh, Melbourne; Clarson, Geelong; Wingfield, Dunolly; Mooney, Sebastopol, Ovens; Schultz, North Melbourne; Gainford, Tarrengower; Hayes, North Melbourne; Keeley, Melbourne; Batten, Richmond; Harrison, Collingwood; F. Strickland, North Melbourne; Malcolm, Ballan and Templestowe; Sherwin, Melbourne; O'Hea, Prahran; Calvert, North Melbourne; Hayden, Melbourne.
On the next evening the discussion was continued on the original motion, the result of which was that the original motion was adopted without any division, in a larger house than had been in attendance on the previous night, the result of the protracted discussion being to bring the Convention nearly to unanimity.
On this night some papers were read illustrative of the question under discussion, which the Council directed to be inserted on its minutes, and which are thought sufficiently interesting to be recorded in this brief account of the resolutions adopted by the Convention.
The following extract was read from Gibbon Wakefield's book on colonisation. The delegate who read it explained that Gibbon Wakefield had laid down several valuable principles in relation to that sort of colonisation for which he (Mr. Wakefield) wrote—a class-colonisation for the benefit of capitalists. Many of these principles were equally good for the colonisation of the people. Wakefield strenuously advocated a system of a perfectly free selection for his colonists, uncontrolled by officials, and therefore necessarily unconfined by surveys. The extract read was as follows:—
Free Selection. (Extract from Gibbon Wakefield.)
There is no business more entirely a man's own business than that of a settler picking new land for his own purpose; and the truism of our time, that in matters of private business the parties interested are sure to judge better than any Government can judge for them, is an error, if the best of Governments could determine, as well as the settler himself, the quality and position of land the most suitable to his objects. He is deeply interested in making the best possible choice. He alone can know precisely what the objects are for which he wants the land. The Government choosing for him, either a particular lot of land, or the district in which he should be allowed to choose for himself, would have no private interest in choosing well; and the private interest of the officials employed by the Government would be to save themselves trouble by choosing carelessly. page 10 In most cases they would be utterly ignorant of the purposes for which new land was in demand. Their highest object as officials (except in those rare instances where love of duty is as strong a motive as self-interest) would be to perform their duty so as to avoid reproach; and this motive is notoriously weak in comparison with self-interest. But, indeed, they could not by any means avoid reproach. For supposing (though but for argument's sake) that the surveyor-general of a colony, in marking out districts to be opened to purchasers, made an absolutely perfect selection with a view to the purchasers' interest, the intending purchasers would not think so. Every man is fond of his own judgment, especially in matters which deeply concern himself. If the Government said to intending purchasers—"Take your land hereabouts," they would reply, "No, we wish to take it thereabouts:" they would reproach the Surveyor-General with having opened a bad district to settlers, and left a good one closed against them. Again, even if any were not dissatisfied at the moment of taking their land, it is certain that if they failed as settlers, and from whatever cause, they would lay the blame of their failure upon the Government, complaining that, if they had been allowed to take land where they liked best, their undertaking would undoubtedly have prospered. For all these reasons (and more might be urged), I would if possible open the whole of the waste land of a colony to intending purchasers; and I hereby declare, that as perfect a liberty of choice for settlers, as the nature of things in each case would allow, is an essential condition of the well-working of the sufficient price.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Colonial Secretary, or the Private Secretary, thinks that in such a settlement the colonists ought to be "discouraged" from spreading to the east or west, because it will be more for their advantage to spread northward or southward. So individual judgment is controlled, and colonisation forcibly diverted from its natural course, by a great "reserve" in the "improper" direction. The officials of the Land Office have friends—or, perhaps, secret partners, who would like to acquire this or that spot by purchase, hut not at present: either their funds are not ready, or they would like to keep their money for use at colonial interest, till the spread of colonisation beyond the coveted spot shall have given it a position value, when, by means of the rogueries of the auction system, or some other mode of benefitting by official favor, they hope to get it for less than its value; so it is "reserved" for their convenience and profit. * * * * * * * According to the whole plan of colonisation which I am developing, there would indeed be no liberty of appropriation for the dogs, small or great; but there would be absolute liberty for the cows, and because all the dogs would be effectually kept out of the manger.
The same delegate read, in support of the same principle of selection unconfined by surveys, an extract from a paper of Mr. Westgarth, read by that gentleman before the Chamber of Commerce, Melbourne, in January of this year (1857). The extract from Mr. Westgarth's paper was as follows :—
Free Selection. (Extract from Mr. Westgarth.)
What we require is a higher step in settlement, and a more productive use of the lands. It is to these steps, and these higher uses, that the squatting must at once give way, and be dealt with in effect as if it had no existence. Our great error in the past has arisen from the great power of the squatting interest in practically defeating this view, and even raising up an argument to question the necessity for further land sales. If every enterprise of society depended, as a preliminary, on a successful argument, with others than those interested as to its prospects, our enterprises would, I fear, be very few and far between. Allowing every man to make his own calculations for himself, let him also have free scope to carry out his plans. If a man finds a spot that will suit his views, and he desires to settle upon and cultivate it, let him have the power to do so at once, even although the squatter he is displacing, and the whole world beside, are entirely convinced that he has only ruin before him.
And now, as to the condition of our country for the purpose, let us first examine the state of the surveys. The total quantity of land yet sold is 2,200,000 acres. The quantity open for selection is 140,000 acres; besides which, there is a smaller quantity, the most of which is partially, but not yet completely, surveyed. The whole surveyed portion, sold and unsold, is less than two and a half millions of acres, of which I believe that not more than a quarter of a million of acres, partially or wholly surveyed, is in advance of the sales. The great desideratum of our colony, therefore—an open choice of its public lands—cannot be obtained within the surveyed territory, nor can we await the long future of such an attainment.
That some future inconvenience may result from the formation of permanent settlements in an unsurveyed country, cannot be doubted,—but in some recent inquiries, I have been agreeably surprised to learn how small is the practical difficulty in this respect, a difficulty, if in this urgent case it can be so called, that should not for a moment be weighed against the benefit to which it is opposed. The following are the views I have been able to arrive at:—
The colony is now sub-divided into surveyors' districts, each of which has a resident surveyor and staff. There are ten or twelve of such separate districts. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * An intending settler having made his selection under the approval of the surveyor page 11 might settle at once, and have his bounds marked out in connexion with local features, the Government reserving only the right to make roads, if necessary, through the ground. Lands surveyed and open for selection are paid for in full on application. This is our present system, but lands unsurveyed might be paid for by deposit of one-half, or 10s. per acre, the remainder at a fixed rate, in the case of 20s. per acre being payable when the locality is brought to sale.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
In some such manner I think we might arrive at the great desideratum of opening up the country without the loss of awaiting the surveys.
A still more important paper on this subject was read on the same evening. The subject had engaged the attention of the Convention in Committee on that forenoon, and they instituted an inquiry into the practice of the United States of America in this respect. Several of their own delegates were personally acquainted with the land system of that country. One of them (Mr. William Henry Wingfield, of Dunolly) was particularly familiar with it. Mr. Wingfield was examined before the Committee. His evidence was reported to the full Convention on the evening in question. This evidence as at first reported was confined to the practice of the United States as regards the right of free selection exercised in that country by the actual cultivator, and the limits within which this selection was permitted to range. Mr. Wingfield stated that the right extended over all the unalienated lands of the United States, surveyed or unsurveyed, and explained in detail how the boundaries of farms came to be ultimately adjusted. This evidence when reported was considered so valuable that Mr. Wingfield was requested to submit himself to a further examination comprising a more extended view of the whole land system of the United States; and it was directed that the report of this more extended examination should be entered on the minutes of the Convention.
Mr. Wing Field's evidence was as follows :—
Mr. Wingfield's Evidence as to the Land System of the United States.
In the year 1850 and 1851 witness was employed as a Topographical Engineer in the Civil Service of the United States, attached to the military department. Was engaged during these years in the topographical survey of the territories in the Far West. His duty was principally to define positions astronomically, to ascertain elevations barometrically, and to determine base lines for the future land surveys. He had also to report botanically, metallurgically, and geologically as to the character of the regions in which he acted; and on some occasions of pressure he took part in the land survey. These duties made him familiar with the land surveying system of the United States and generally with the circumstances under which immigrants settle into the new countries of the West. In the course of these duties he has been all over the Western regions from Utah to Minasota.
Free Selection' for the Actual Cultivator.
Witness is familiar with the system of free selection and pre-emptive rights which prevails in the United States. By this system the actual settler is entitled to enter upon any land that has not yet been brought into market, select a claim of 160 acres wherever he chooses, and occupy it without any payment until the district is brought into market. When the district is afterwards about to be brought into market, he is entitled at any moment before it is actually brought in, to purchase this claim at the upset price of 1¼ dollars an acre without any auction or competition. The only condition is that he must show by affidavit that he has occupied it as his homestead for at least six months immediately previous. In exercising this right the settler has not to ask permission nor license of any kind.
The settler is not bound in selecting his claim to keep within the surveys, but may select as freely beyond them as within them. But this very circumstance is itself the cause of the surveys being rapidly extended in every direction towards which the stream of population flows. No person has anything to gain by retarding them, because retarding them could not stop the settler nor hold the lands back for any unfair purpose; therefore no sinister influences are used to retard surveys, and they are not retarded, but are pushed rapidly forward wherever the movement of population indicates the direction. They are generally kept well a head of population, but occasionally where some inviting lands lie far out, it will happen that settlers go beyond them. To this subject witness will revert again. Witness considers this right of free selection for the actual cultivator over all the unalienated lands of the colony, coupled as it is with the right of unrestricted pasturage over all unsold lands, as the key-stone of the American system of settlement. It is the first stage of settlement, and influences and regulates all the succeeding stages. At this stage the actual settler is free from any competition of the capitalist. No person can get land at this stage page 12 without actually tilling and cultivating; unless one actually settles and cultivates he must wait until the next stage at which the lands are "brought into market." This right of the actual settler is, as already stated, confined to a claim of 100 acres for any one person, but when the district in which he has settled is afterwards "brought into market," an operation which witness will presently explain, he may add to his farm, to any extent, by purchasing at that stage on the same terms with the general public.
The surveys are always very far a head of the land that has been "brought into market," and afford the most ample scope for a free selection of the actual cultivator within the surveyed lands, before the district comes to market, and before any of it can be sold for money merely.
The Pasturage of all Unsold Lands Free to the Whole Public;
Before passing on to speak of the stage at which the lands are "brought to market," witness wished to advert more particularly to a matter already alluded to, viz., the rights of the settler with regard to the grass of the unsold lands. This he conceived to be an important consideration at all stages of settlement, as in a new country large tracts of inferior land will remain for very long peoriods unsold, affording to the settlers on the purchased lands valuable rights of pasturage if these lands are left free to them for that purpose. But in the early stages of settlement this consideration is one of paramount importance. At that stage a very large proportion of the land is still unsold and unoccupied. The quantity of natural grass land is very great, and the privilege of pasturage affords to the settler not only what he most stands in need of—provender for the cattle necessary to his farming operations, and milk, butter, cheese, wool, and meat for his family—but also, at a time when he is yet distant from markets for agricultural productions, it gives him in the stock themselves, and in wool, a produce which is capable of being carried to any market, however remote.
In the United States all the unsold lands are the open pasturage of all the settlers.
Except the pre-emptive claim of the settlers (160 acres each) there is no exclusive occupation of any land until it is sold. No such persons as squatters are known or thought of in the sense in which that term is used here—persons holding the public lands in their exclusive occupation for pastoral purposes before they are sold. Without the right of open pasturage, settlement could not pour over the country as it does in the United States. Witness would not say that the people of the States carefully guarded this right, because that would intimate that some different state of things had ever been presented to their conception; but he would say that they had never thought of a state of things in which any set or class of persons should take the exclusive use of the public lands while they were still the property of the whole people. The value of this right of pasturage to the settler, Mr. Wingfield proceeded to say, could only be understood by those who had lived in a country where it was denied to them. He never knew any difficulties arise from the interminging of the cattle of different settlers, in these open wastes. There is more than grass enough for all; every man naturally feeds his cattle in the neighborhood of his own homestead, and the 160 acres which he has occupied as his pre-emptive claim. The consequence of this open pasturage is: to the settler, that he has not only abundance of milk, butter, cheese, meat, and wool, for his family, but a large surplus for the market, besides feed for his working stock, all without cost; the result to the general public is that cattle are very abundant, and meat ad all grass produce are plentiful and cheap in the towns and cities supplied by those settlers. Beef of prime quality is to be had at from 1½d. to 2½d. a-pound; milk and butter are abundant; fresh butter can be had at from 4d. to yd. a-pound. This abundance is the manifest consequence of the grass of the unsold land being open to all. Every man has feed for cattle in any numbers that he desires to keep them. The farmers of the Western States look upon the produce and increase of their stock as so much clear profit over and above the proceeds of their agricultural land. This cheapness of the materials of life co-exists with a comparatively high rate of wages; the wages of a laboring man in those regions being a dollar to a dollar and a quarter, that is 4s. to 5s. a day; and a good mechanic, from 1¾ dollars to 2½ dollars, that is from 7s. 6d. to 10s.
The general features of the country of which witness has been speaking much resemble those of Victoria. All the United States territory west of Ohio is in great part an open country; tracts of timbered land alternating with open grassy plains, unincumbered with a tree. These plains are called prairies. They are sometimes flat, sometimes high undulating uplands. The farther we proceed west through Illinois, Iowa, &c., the larger are the prairies, and the scarcer the timber. Besides timbered and prairie land, there is also a good deal of land of an intermediate character, called Oakopening land, lightly interspersed with dropping trees, and park-like in its scenery. It would be quite as profitable to a race of great pastoral squatters to occupy for pastoral purposes these territories of the United States in advance of settlement, and keeping settlement back, as the like occupation has proved to this class of persons in Australia. Indeed, the profits would be of a more certain and permanent character in proportion to the greater population of the United States, as such squatters would have the monopoly of supplying meat to a large proportion of a population now numbering nearly thirty million of people. So, too, if the people of the United States wanted to make a revenue out of their lands by giving them in exclusive occupation to a class of great grazier tenants until they were taken up for exclusively agricultural purposes, they could receive page 13 a great rent from them; but any person proposing such a policy would, witness believes, be regarded, there, as scarcely sound in intellect. It would kill out the working settler, prohibit the pioneer, make a country of master and servants, and effectually stop the progress of civilisation and settlement over the continent. In a word, it would produce what we have in Victoria.
Witness has also been in California, and knows that the unsold lands of the United States in California are the open pasturage of the public in that country as well as in the Atlantic States, and there also this free pasturage is the means of great facilities and great profits to the independent settler as well as of great abundance and comparative cheapness of meat, milk, butter, and all grass produce, and indirectly of agricultural produce too, to the rest of the community.
[Since Mr. Wingfield left town, he has written to the Council of the Convention, calling their attention to the following passage in a recent commercial article of the Argus, shewing, on the authority of an American writer, why agriculture has been profitable in California, with prices lower and wages at least quite as high as in Victoria:—It will be found in the Argus of August 20, 1857, Commercial Intelligence. The Argus says:—
"In California the fanners complain of their prospects, but without much reason as yet. The pursuit has been a profitable one for them hitherto, and they should not grumble if they have short crops one season, after several years of abundance. They have one great advantage which is denied to the farmers here, and that is the opportunity of keeping stock on the public lands at little or no expense. In all other respects they have the same disadvantages to contend with as agriculturists in Victoria have: labor there is quite as high, and prices have been usually lower : still the pursuit is allowed to be profitable. The following paragraph is taken from the letter of a correspondent to one of the New York journals:—
"'For the past two seasons farming here has been highly remunerative. No class of our population better deserved, and none met with, greater success. The thrifty industrious tiller of the soil has made money, and is making it. To be enabled to chronicle this is most gratifying to me as a Californian. But why should not the farmers do well? Our soil is among the richest, easiest cultivated, and most productive in the world. The expense of keeping cattle or horses is next to nothing, for the plains—on which there is provender during the whole year, with no frost or snow to render it inaccessible—are open to all.'"]
The matter of which witness has just spoken—the right of open pasturage over the unsold lands—is a matter of very important consideration in all the stages of settlement. Witness has specially spoken of this right of free pasturage in connexion with the earliest stage of American settlement, because at that stage its value to the settler is so great that without it he could not settle; but it is a matter of the greatest importance at all stages of settlement,—in fact, until the country is filled up.
Bringing the Lands "into Market."
The second stage of American settlement is when the lands "are brought into market." "Bringing the lands into market" may be said in a general way to mean in the United States the same thing that the like term would signify in Australia. It means offering the land in exchange for money. In the United States, however, this is done under arrangements very different from the arrangements in Australia, and all the American arrangements tend to make favoritism impossible, to discourage the monopoly of the capitalist, and to facilitate settlement. The waste lands belong not to the several states in which they are situate, but to the Federal Government. When lands are about to be "brought into market" :—In the first place, they are not brought in by scattered or isolated lots, nor in an irregular or capricious manner. It is advertised for six months beforehand in the Government Gazette, published at Washington, not that certain lots, but that a certain district of country is about to be brought to market on a certain day. The whole district—generally a district of say 20 miles by 20 or 30, that is, from 400 to 600 square miles—is brought into market on this occasion without a single lot of it being excepted or withheld from sale save for a few specified purposes. Again, this district is all surveyed into uniform lots: first, into square miles, or sections of 640 acres, then by right lines into quarter sections of 100 acres, and these again are divided each into two 80 acre lots. The sale takes place at a land office near the spot. The whole district being thus brought into market, all at once, on a given day, it is a great public event in the region of country in which it takes place. It takes no one by surprise, but it has been long known beforehand. Not only has it been advertised for six months in the Washington Gazette, but long before the sale has been determined on, and advertised, it has been the subject of public debate and consideration.
The district about to be "brought to market" is about the size, and very frequently has already acquired the organisation of a county, a considerable population being already settled there or pre-emptive claims. The whole district, and not a lot here and there, is what is to be dealt with The event therefore is one of common interest, affecting all the inhabitants. These inhabitants are in a position to influence the event, accelerating or retarding it through the senators and representatives of their state, and of their Congressional districts in Congress. It is therefore an event not merely; known by means of the Gazette six months before hand, but anticipated and agitated in the district page 14 long before it is announced in the Gazette. It may be safely stated that the people of the district itself, and the districts about it, have at least twelve months actual notice of an approaching sale. Before the given day, all persons who have settled on pre-emptive claims, if they would avail themselves of their rights, must file an affidavit at the land office (near the spot), that they have occupied their claim for at least six months before the day of sale as their homestead; and that they have made certain stated improvements, being just enough to constitute a test of actual and bona fide occupation. This affidavit being filed, they pay the upset price of dollars an acre into the office, and the land is then theirs. This must be done before the day of sale. On the day of sale the whole district, excepting those pre-emptive claims, is put up for sale in eighty acre lots, and offered lot by lot at auction. If any one wants a larger tract than eighty acres, say eight hundred acres, he must buy ten eighty acre lots. It will be seen at once that at this sale the land can scarcely be pushed by auction to a price materially exceeding the upset price, inasmuch as any one who may [have thought any lot of 100 acres desirable enough to induce him to go and settle on it six months before hand, for the purpose of securing it at upset price, was free to do so. The result is that the auction produces no material enhancement of the upset price. It appears by statistical returns extending over all the lands that were sold in ten years that it has not enhanced the average price more than 1½d. or 2d. an acre on the upset price of 5s. 2½d. The whole district lot by lot, having been rapidly passed under the hammer, all the lots that remain unsold are thenceforth open to be purchased at the land office at upset price by the first comer. Very commonly ¾-this of the lots remain unsold. They are all open for selection at the upset price once the auction is over. Often when there is much inferior land in the district, as much as 7/8-ths or 9-10ths of the whole surface of the district remains unsold, and is thenceforth open to selection to the first comer, who pays his money into the land office. Those who have settled on pre-emptive claims are of course, as already stated, equally free to purchase at the auction, and to select after the auction as any other parties. In this manner they can enlarge their original 160 acre farms to any extent that their means permits them. Until the district has thus been brought into market, they cannot secure more than 100 acres, and this consideration is always the efficient one in determining whether the first pre-emptive settlers will use their influence in promoting or retarding the bringing of their district into market. Of course capitalists who up to that period are themselves shut out are always anxious to have the land brought to market. In the early settlement the pre-emptive settlers are anxious to have the district kept out of market, for until they have been a year or two settled they are scarcely prepared to buy even their 100 acre claims. But after a few years great numbers of them are prepared not only to secure their pre-emptive claims, but to enlarge their farms by purchasing a further extent of land, either at the auction, or by selection after the auction. In time, therefore, the pre-emptive settlers who have put some money together become anxious to have the opportunity of making these purchases, and are desirous to have the district brought into market. This expression of "bringing the land into market" is, it will be observed, a very appropriate and significant one. A thing may be said to be "in the market," when it is to be had for money. None of the land of the United States can be had for money until the Government has proclaimed and brought it "into market" in this manner. Thenceforth it can be had for money merely. Before that period any inhabitant of the state can have the choicest 100 acres of the public lands by settling on it, but no man can have an acre of it for money.
To recapitulate:—In the United States Land System there are three stages. First, before the land is brought to market the actual cultivator, and he alone, cau choose 100 acres, not more, where he wills, over all the unalienated territory of the Union. He can occupy this without payment until the district is brought to market. When the district is brought to market he has the pre-emptive right to buy this claim without auction at the upset price of 1¼ dollars, that is 5s. 2½d. per acre. Secondly, the day that the laud is brought to market; this is the first day on which any person can buy land for money. This day may be considered a second stage, though a very short one. On this day there must need be many persons who have been waiting for the opportunity to buy lots in the district that is brought in, and several may have an eye on the same lot. The preference is decided by auction; all the lots of the whole district, except the lots already taken by preeemption, being put one by one through the auction on that day. It seldom happens, however, that more than a small proportion of them are then sold. The great bulk of them still remain. And then comes the third stage. All the lots which remain are from that day forward open to the free selection of the first comer who chooses to pay the upset price for them. Any man can then take as many lots as he finds vacant and is able to pay for; the check upon inordinate purchases being that, the moment land is purchased from the Government, it becomes subject to taxation.
Settlers Going Beyond Surveys.—the Great Advantages of the Right to do so.—the Slight Inconveniencies in so Doing.
The pre-emptive settlers often go beyond the surveys. Witness wishes it to be understood, however, that in his experience the result of allowing the settlers to go beyond the surveys has been that they generally have no need to go beyond them, as the surveys are, under such circumstances, sure to be pushed rapidly forward. There is nothing to be gained by holding them back, as holding them back would not prevent the people from going on, and could not, therefore, be practised page 15 with the effect of reserving any special region for friends or favorites to have early information of the survey, and to seize the first opportunity. Witness has, within his personal experience, known several cases, however, in which the settlers did take their pre-emptive claims beyond the surveys. No inconvenience worth considering resulted. Such settlers find it necessary, as already stated, to adjust their boundaries to the lines of the surveyed allotments when the survey reaches them, as the Crown grant which they ultimately obtain describes the allotment by the Government lines. Witness has frequently, in the course of his own surveys, seen these settlers re adjust their boundaries when the survey overtook them, and it gave very little trouble. It will be observed that the uniform character of the United States survey—all the lots being of uniform size—gives the settler a facility for anticipating where the boundaries of allotments will run, if he is within a few miles of any existing survey.
Generally speaking, in taking up a land claim, the settler so endeavors to arrange his boundaries that they may coincide as nearly as possible with the subsequent lines of the survey. He is not always able, however, to succeed in this; the greater or less accuracy with which he does it will, of course, depend npon the distance which he is in advance of the survey. If he has gone far in advance, it is not possible for him to pay any regard to the future survey; he is, in fact, too far a-head of it to do so. If he is within five or six miles of the survey, he may be able to form a tolerably correct idea of the future lines: at all events, accurate enough for all general purposes in settling the boundaries of his 80 or 100 acre allotment. In forming the survey, the American surveyors adapt themselves to circumstances. In a level country, the lines of the survey are run by the cardinal points. In such a country, the settler even at a considerable distance from the survey can anticipate by private survey where the boundaries of his pre-emptive claim are likely to run, with sufficient accuracy for all practical purposes. In regions that are greatly broken by mountain and valley, however, the surveys are of necessity topographically adjusted to these difficult features of the country, and the settler cannot anticipate what circumstances may guide the surveyors in the direction of their lines. Thus it often happens, either from the great remoteness of a settler's location from all surveys, or from the location being in a broken country where the future discretion of the surveyor cannot be anticipated, that a settler chooses his pre-emptive claim without being able to select it in reference to existing surveys. But this creates no difficulty of any account. If the settler can approximate the boundaries of his claim to the future survey, he does so. He builds his log-house as near the supposed centre as possible. He erects his permanent fences near the centre, and makes but a snake fence round the presumed exterior boundaries. This snake fence is of a purely temporary character, and is easily removed in accordance with the lines of the survey when ultimately determined. In localities remote from the survey, great aberrations from its future lines take place—it is, in fact, impossible that it could be otherwise; the subsequent adjustment, however, is effected without trouble. Witness has seen instances where a whole valley had been taken up by pioneer settlers, and where the boundaries of each man's allotment had to be removed from 100 to 200 yards each. He has seen instances where the lines of a survey ran through the temporary log cabin; nevertheless, there was no complaint. The instances which he has in memory at this moment occurred in Pyke County, Missouri State, but they occur everywhere. Their permanent houses were not put up by the settlers until the surveys were completed and the boundaries settled; and the removal of the temporary log cabin, or the removal of the temporary snake fence, was not regarded in any way as a hardship. It was taken as a matter of course. In fact, on these occasions of the removal of boundaries or huts, the pioneer settlers, instead of complaining, just turned to and helped to put one another right. It is common throughout all the Western Districts of the United States to find pioneer settlers established in the far interior for many years, on locations of their own selection, before the survey of the district was made. He had known instances where these pioneer settlers had cropped the land, season after season, prior to the survey coming up with them; and yet, when the survey did reach them, the boundaries of their allotments were adjusted to the lines of the survey without contention or any serious inconvenience, though a patch of ground which had grown wheat for one settler for many seasons was incorporated in the location of a neighboring settler,—he getting the land on the other side in lieu of it. Each of the parties had taken up the ground subject to the condition of this subsequent removal of boundary, and the nature and character of their improvements were adapted to it.
Facilities for Making Rapid Surveys in Victoria, and the Possible Cost of Such.
Mr. Wingfield was further examined as to the possibility of accelerating the surveys, so as to afford every facility for allowing settlement to proceed at once with freedom and convenience.
Mr Wingfield's evidence on this subject was to the following effect:—
He knew there were ample materials in the colony for pushing forward the surveys with any degree of rapidity that might be desired. There were abundance of qualified surveyors in the colony. In making a survey of a country, the first thing to be done would be to make a topographical survey of it, defining by astronomical observation the true position of the most prominent features, and its highest elevations. According as this was done the sections could be laid off by the land surveyors with great rapidity; in fact, with efficient surveyors and assistants, the land could be surveyed almost as fast as the surveyors could walk. It would be only marking out the page 16 ground which the astronomical surveyors had already marked out on paper. He presumed that the colony must be already topographically surveyed. It seemed hardly possible, after the country had maintained such a numerous staff of surveyors for so many years, that the true position of the prominent features of it should not be already defined. At all events, great part of the work must be already done; and even if it had all to be done, if nothing were yet done, two staffs of topographical surveyors, of nine men each, ought to make a topographical survey of the whole colony in a year, at an expense of about 10,000, and this allowing for a geologist, a botanist, and a draughtsman, at a salary of £500 each, to be attached to each staff. As each portion of the topographical survey was done, the land survey would proceed with great rapidity. The rapidity of the survey would depend on the minuteness of the sub-divisions. A staff of twenty-five men, properly organised in five parties of five men each, surveying on a plain, could lay off over 20,000 acres a-week, in allotments as small as 100 acres each. Twenty-five men in five parties of five each, each party walking over four miles in one day, would give 20,400 acres in six days. Making allowance for the defining of hills, rivers, &c., 20,000 acres could, with this number of men, be surveyed in that time, which would give about 1,000,000 of acres in a year. If the sub-division did not proceed lower than a mile square, and this would be sufficient for the first survey if it were necessary to proceed with great despatch, a staff of twenty-five men (making the same proportionate allowances as in the last case) could survey 1,750,000 acres in the year, in sections of a mile square. Six such staffs, consisting in all of 150 men, could survey over 10,000,000 of acres in such sections, in a year. Allowing each party of five to consist of one chief surveyor, at £400 a-year, two assistant surveyors, each at £300 a-year, and two chain men, at £100 a-year each, the salaries of each party of five would only cost £1300 a year, less than £7000 a-year for each staff of twenty-five. Six such staffs would be £42,000 a-year. Make the most liberal allowance for supplying each staff with tent, provisions, and modes of conveyance as they passed along; and add any large allowance within reason for the expenses of the department and the staff necessary to the department, together with the due proportion of the cost of the topographical survey, and then spread the total sum over 10,000,000 of acres, and the result will be an insignificant sum per acre for a survey into sections of a mile square. If the exigencies of settlement in any direction made it necessary to proceed with greater rapidity in that quarter, the speed could be accelerated to almost any degree, without an increased staff, by running the sections, say two miles square, or even four miles square, leaving the settlers for the present to make rough approximations to their boundaries by the aid of private surveyors until such time as the Government surveyor had leisure to fill up the detailed survey down to 100 acres, or even down to 80 acre lots. Approximate calculations are easily made both as to the expense and the rapidity with which the country could be surveyed, and the result in each respect will show that the settlers may be permitted to settle where they like beyond the surveys without any fear that the surveys need lag far behind them. The expense of survey in the United States is 4½d. an acre, sub-dividing down to 80 acre lots. It need not much, if it at all, exceed that sum here.
Sites of Towns and Cities.
Mr. Wingfield was further questioned as to the practice of the American Government in laying out towns. His evidence was that the Government never does anything of the sort; at least, he never saw such a thing done by Government, though he has seen towns and cities growing up of themselves by hundreds. In a country were settlement is unobstructed in every direction, towns grow up naturally in the currents and cross-currents of traffic; on the ports of great waters, and on convenient points along the course, or at the junction of rivers. He has never seen the Government interfere in founding them, nor attempt to make a profit by withholding the presumed sites of them from the earliest use that the public could put them to. He has always understood that the sites of the great cities of the West were originally purchased from the Government at the upset price of 1¼ dollars an acre, or some insignificant advance upon it.
While witness has spoken throughout this evidence of an uniform upset price of 1¼ dollar an acre, he is aware that the United States Government has occasionally reserved certain tracts of land for the benefit of railroads, or the improvement of river navigation, which they have held until the lands fetched 2½ dollars an acre, but these are exceptional cases, not interfering in any appreciable degree with the general principle on which that Government acts in the disposal of its public lands.
Mr. Wingfield's statements respecting the system of selling lands in the United States, and the advantages thence resulting to the settlement of the country, were confirmed by Mr. Gray of Melbourne, Mr. Patrick Hayes of North Melbourne, Mr, Mooney of Sebastopol; Mr. Gibson of Collingwood, Mr. Riley of Collingwood, and others,—all of them Delegates, who had resided for some time in the States
Ample confirmation of Mr. Wingfield's statements as to the rapidity and cheapness with which the colony might be surveyed was tendered by actual surveyors, but the Convention thought it unnecessary to accumulate further evidence on the subject.page 17
The Council of the Convention have had their attention called, in one of their recent meetings, to a passage in a book, published by a well known English gentleman, descriptive of the United States as a location for emigrants. The author is Mr. Sydney Smith, at one time Secretary to the English Corn Law League. The book is entitled "The Settler : New Home, or the Emigrants' Location." It was published in London in 1849. Under the head "Farming in the Prairies (the open untimbered grass lands)" occurs the following passage, which, as briefly descriptive of the advantages derived from freedom of pasturage over the unsold public lands, the Council have thought worth publishing here. It occurs on page 141.
Free Pasturage (Extract from Mr. Sydney Smith's Book).
The farms are generally made on the prairie, near to the timbered land (for convenience of firewood, fencing-stuff, &c.) The abundance of grass growing on the prairie, and the quantity of wild vegetable food for animals, offer an ample subsistence for horses and cattle, sheep and hogs, during the summer months. (The ground is covered with snow through the winter months.)
The number of these animals that a farmer keeps is only limited by the amount of winter food that he can raise on his farm. The actual farm is enclosed land, used for the sole purpose of growing the grain, or grass for hay; but not for summer pasturage. The great pasture is all outside—open to everybody, and to everybody's cattle; and the abundance and extent of the range is one of the resources of a new country. The cattle thus let loose on the wide world do not run away as people who have kept them only in houses and enclosures are apt to suppose. Why should they? There is abundance of food everywhere.
The animals like to come to their home where they have been wintered, and a little salt given to them every time they return will generally circumscribe their range within a mile or two from home.
In the autumn or early winter we bring them into the farm, and feed them night and morning. In the day, during the moderate weather of winter, they browse about the woods, and the skirts of the prairie. Thus are cattle and horses raised in great numbers.
In the same publication, and almost on the same page, are numerous letters from settlers, showing the prices of meat and other articles of provision in these regions. These letters make it sufficiently evident that cheap beef can be raised without the aid of monster squatters; and that, in fact, the way to raise beef cheap is to do away with the monster squatting of this country. The letter says:—"I will give you the price of various articles of food in English money, that you may understand it better : Beef 1½d. a pound, mutton 1½d. a pound, pork 1½d. a pound, flour 20s. per barrel of 195 lbs., veal 1½d. per lb., a turkey Is. 6d., hens 6d. each butter 6d. per lb., sugar 3½d. per lb., tea 2s. per lb., &c., &c."
The same letter shows that these low prices did not produce low wages, for concurrently with them wages averaged from a dollar to a dollar and a quarter a day for the mere laborer, that is from 4s. 2d. to 5s. 3d., and this in a country that had no gold mines, and depended for its wealth and wages fund solely on the free access opened for its population to its best virgin soils, and its natural pastures.
The above extracts present a succinct epitome of the grounds on which the two cardinal resolutions—the first and second—were based.
The first and second resolutions having been adopted, the other resolutions, down to those which relate to "purchasers for money merely," were adopted after much consideration, but, except the fourth resolution, without any division of opinion.
As to the fourth, which relates to the taxation of all lands, once they are alienated from the State, and by which it is resolved that uncultivated lands ought to be subjected to a special State tax, there was some diversity of opinion. Several Delegates thought that it would sufficiently discourage the monopoly of speculators if all lands were subject to equal taxation, but the resolution was ultimately carried in its present shape by a large majority.
The next resolution that gave rise to any diversity of opinion was the first resolution, under the head of "purchasers for money merely." This resolution was discussed on Friday evening, the 31st July. The resolution is as follows :—
That while this Convention recommends that the actual cultivator be invested with the special page 18 lights set forth in the foregoing resolutions, they are of opinion that persons who may and it inconvenient or impossible to proceed to cultivate at once, should not, therefore, be wholly debarred from purchasing from the State; but they are of opinion, that this right of purchase should be controlled by such reasonable regulations as may discourage monopoly without shackling enterprise, or obstructing fair investment.
Mr. O'Connor, of Ballaarat, moved, and Mr. Mooney, of Sebastopol, seconded the following amendment:—
That this Convention cannot recognise the right of the Suite (which is merely the trustee for the people) to alienate any portion of the waste lands, except on the terms stipulated heretofore by the Convention, viz., "substantial occupation."
After a protracted discussion, a division was called for. There were 46 members in the room. Of these, 6 voted for the amendment, 2 declined to vote, and 38 voted for the original resolution.
All the other land resolutions were carried after much consideration and debate, but without giving rise to any difference of opinion in the Convention.
It will be observed that, on those resolutions which gave rise to any diversity of opinion, the dissentients were so few in number that it may be safely stated that these land resolutions were unanimously adopted by that great mass of opinion which was represented at the Convention.