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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

Early History

Early History.

3. New South Wales was colonised in 1788, and for nearly ten years afterwards nothing was done towards the exploration of the southern shores of Australia. At length George Bass, a surgeon in the Royal Navy, started in a whaleboat, manned by six seamen, and, passing Cape Howe, coasted along that part of Victoria now called Gippsland, and rounding Wilson's Promontory—the southernmost point on the Australian Continent—entered Western Port on the 4th June, 1798. He, however, returned to Sydney without discovering Port Phillip, which was first entered on the 5th January, 1802, by Acting-Lieutenant John Murray, in command of the armed brig " Lady Nelson." In the month of October, in the following year, an attempt was made to colonise Port Phillip by Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins, of the Royal Marines, in command of a party of convicts. Collins, however, after the expiration of three months, abandoned the country as unfit for settlement, and for the next twenty years the district attracted but little attention. When two explorers—Hume and Hovell—made their way overland from Sydney, and, on their return, gave a satisfactory report of the country, the result was that a convict establishment was soon afterwards founded on Western Port Bay, which, however, was in a short time abandoned, apparently on economic grounds. The first permanent settlement was formed at Portland Bay by Mr. Edward Henty, from Van Diemen's Land, as Tasmania was then called, who landed on the 19th November, 1834, and soon commenced to till the soil, run and breed stock, and carry on whaling operations. Others followed, but the absence of good land in the immediate vicinity of the port, and the openness of the bay, which rendered it unsafe for shipping during the prevalence of certain winds, caused it to be considered an unsuitable site for a capital, which was eventually founded on Hobson's Bay at the northern end of Port Phillip by two parties—one led by John Batman, who landed on the 29th May, 1835, and the other by John Pascoe Fawkner, whose party arrived at the site of Melbourne on the 28th August of the same year. Both these were from Van Diemen's Land, and they were soon followed by others from the same island, and from Sydney, who brought stock with them, and commenced to push their way into the interior. These were met by Major (afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel Sir) Thomas Mitchell, who, entering from New South Wales on the north, and traversing a considerable portion of the, as yet, unknown territory, was so struck with its wondrous capabilities that he named it Australia Felix—a title the aptness of which a subsequent knowledge of the geniality of its climate, the excellence of its soil, and the then unsuspected richness of its mineral treasures, has proved to be fully justified. The reports of Sir Thomas page 18 Mitchell and the success of the first settlers caused great excitement, not only in the Australian settlements but in the mother-country. Herds of sheep and cattle, driven overland from New South Wales, speedily occupied the best parts of the new territory. Every available craft capable of floating was put into requisition to bring passengers and stock from Van Diemen's Land, and after a time shiploads of immigrants began to arrive from the United Kingdom. Regular government was first established under Captain William Lonsdale, who, having been sent from Sydney to take charge of the district, landed on the 29th September, 1836; and on the 2nd March of the following year Sir Richard Bourke, the Governor of New South Wales, visited it, and named the metropolis Melbourne. Mr. Charles Joseph La Trobe arrived on the 30th September, 1839, having been appointed to the principal official position in the settlement under the title of Superintendent, which was changed to that of Lieutenant-Governor, when, on the 1st July, 1851, it was separated from New South Wales, and erected into a separate colony under the name of Victoria. Shortly after that, rich deposits of gold were discovered, the fame of which soon spread throughout the world, and led to a great influx of population. After a time some discontent arose amongst the diggers, in consequence of the oppressive character of the mining regulations, which culminated in riots, which occurred on the Ballarat goldfield towards the end of 1854. The disturbance was soon quelled, with some bloodshed on both sides, and the grievances complained of were afterwards redressed. A new Constitution giving responsible Government to the colony was proclaimed on the 23rd November, 1855, and since then, although political struggles have been frequent, and party feeling has at times run high, this has had no permanent effect in setting class against class, or in any way lessening the good feeling which exists between all sections of the community. At times commerce has been depressed; but this has soon revived, and the material prosperity the colony has, upon the whole, enjoyed, is perhaps without a parallel in the history of any other country.