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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 41

New South Wales

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New South Wales.

It is a matter of interest in the history of the world at large, no less than in that of the Australasian colonies, that in the year 1770 Captain Cook landed in the neighbourhood of what has since become the city of Sydney; and the statue which adorns Hyde Park, and looks over the beautiful region which he was the first to discover, bears witness to the gratitude of the country to the intrepid navigator who opened to mankind so fair a portion of the world. Less than one hundred years ago Captain Phillip reached the shores of Port Jackson, with an expedition numbering one thousand souls; and from that beginning sprang not only the mother-colony of New South Wales, but also the other colonies which are fast peopling the great southern continent.

Until thirty years ago the history of Australia was contained in that of New South Wales, for from Sydney went forth the pioneers who first opened up and populated the continent, penetrating further and further away from the mother-city, until the distance that separated those settlers from it became so great that the Home Government found it advisable to concede to them the right of self-government. Victoria first separated in 1851, and Queensland followed eight years after.

Meanwhile the population and importance of New South Wales had increased so far that, in 1854, it was considered that the colonists were fully capable of managing their own affairs, and the system of responsible government was established which now prevails. The franchise is based on manhood suffrage, and a measure has lately been passed which will tend still further to popularise the already popular Government. By the Electoral Bill, which was passed in the last session of Parliament, the number of members in the Legislative Assembly will be increased from 73 to 108. It is probable that the census, which will be taken in all the Australian colonies in the course of the ensuing year, will show the population of New South Wales to number about 800,000 souls.

If facilities of communication may be taken as a fair test of progressive tendencies, New South Wales cannot be considered backward in proportion to the size of her territory. There are, at the present time, 790½ miles of railway open, and 850 miles in course of preparation or projected. Within a few weeks the railway will bring Sydney fifty miles nearer to Melbourne, and it is anticipated that by the close of the year that important line will be extended to Albury—that is, within about three miles of the terminus of the Victorian railways. When that extension is complete, the journey between the capitals of New South Wales and Victoria will only occupy about twenty-six hours. At the same time lines are being rapidly pushed on which will open up the great districts lying to the north and west. At the present time the railway has been opened for traffic 228½ miles to the north, and 251 miles to the west, while 340 miles on the west and 257 miles on the north are in preparation or projected. A model of the Lithgow Valley railway, generally known as the Zigzag, which will be found among the New South Wales exhibits, illustrates one of the most interesting feats of modem engineering; while various other exhibits will indicate the apparatus in use on the Government railways.

In the adaptation of steam tramways to street traffic, New South Wales may claim to have taken the lead of the other colonies. A tramway line which was constructed from the Redfern railway-station to the centre of the city, in order to afford easy access to the Sydney International Exhibition, proved so successful an experiment that it was determined by the Government to construct a system of tramways similar to that adopted with such success in the capital of Belgium, which would connect the principal suburbs with the centre of the city. The work has already been commenced, and it is estimated that when it is completed the facilities for traffic will compare favourably with those possessed by any European city. Among the exhibits will be found specimens of the rails in use and of a new method of working the points, as well as some cars made in the colony from colonial materials.

Communication with the country districts is effectively maintained also by a complete postal and telegraphic system, which has of late been largely extended, and which will be further improved as the work of railway extension proceeds. There are 12,426 miles of telegraph wire open in the whole colony, and post-offices are established wherever the circumstances of the people require it

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In passing to the subject of mercantile marine, we come to treat of one of the greatest resources and most important industries of the colony. Being provided with one of the finest harbours in the world, and situated close to the great coalfield of Australia, Port Jackson is fitted to become the centre of the shipping trade in the south seas. Natural facilities for the formation of docks and wharves have been to some extent taken advantage of, and the Fitzroy dock and Mort's dock are capable of receiving vessels of the largest size. Sydney is now the terminus of four great lines of steamers—the Peninsular and Oriental, and the Orient Steam Navigation Company (whose vessels arrive fortnightly), of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, and the Torres Straits mail steamships. The new steamers employed by the Orient Steam Navigation Company are among the finest afloat, and the "Orient," which made its first visit in the beginning of the present year, ranks in point of size and power with the largest vessels of mercantile marine. The P. & O. Company are also now sending their best vessels to Sydney. The fact that four such lines as those find sufficient inducement to supply such a service demonstrates sufficiently the importance of the Australian trade. Besides those four great companies there are 17 principal local companies, with vessels which, for intercolonial trade, may be ranked with the lines just referred to. The total amount of tonnage of ships visiting the harbour in 1879 was 1,268,377. The shipbuilding industry is increasing rapidly, and a proof of what has already been done may be seen in the models exhibited in the New South Wales Court by Mort's Dock and Engineering Company, as well as to the shaft of the s.s. "Maitland," the latter being of special interest.

It is impossible, in so brief a space, to convey an adequate impression of the natural resources of the colony. Although population has increased with great rapidity, many years must elapse before the vast tracts of country lying at a distance from the coast are anything but sparsely populated; and thus by far the larger proportion of the country is still in the pastoral stage, and the greatest source of wealth lies in the production of wool. In this New South Wales has for many years held the first place in the world; and it is believed that, in the forthcoming wool show, it will not fall short of its reputation. Another enterprise has lately been inaugurated which should greatly benefit those engaged in pastoral pursuits. The success of the "Strathleven" experiment in conveying frozen meat to England, and the favourable reception afforded to Australian meat in the London market, in part justifies the hope that before long another source of wealth to the colony may be found in the exportation of meat from Australia to England.

But the natural course of progress in the history of a young country is from the pastoral to the agricultural stage; and the great problem which the statesmen of the colony have for years been endeavouring to solve is the settlement and population of the country by its division into smaller agricultural holdings. At present the agrarian system is founded on the principle of "free selection before survey;" but, for further information on this subject, reference should be made to the land laws of New South Wales. In spite of great difficulties the area of land under cultivation is steadily increasing. Maize is grown most successfully in the Hawkesbury district, both the yield and the quality of the grain being highly creditable. The wheat grown in the western districts of Bathurst and Orange, in the south-west about Goulburn and Yass, and in the north in the neighbourhood of Tamworth, is of fine quality. By the great variety of vegetable products, the size of the colony and its many different climates are perhaps best illustrated. The yield includes semi-tropical fruits and the fruits of the colder latitudes in profusion. The county of Cumberland seems specially favourable for the growth of the citrus tribe, the many varieties of which will be displayed at the forthcoming fruit show as a special exhibit.

The production of sugar in the northern district of the Clarence has already assumed great importance; and the business carried on by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which has its works on the Clarence River, is very large. The quality of their produce may be tested by reference to their exhibit. The fertility of the Clarence River district, and the industry and energy of its inhabitants, are further illustrated by a collective exhibit characteristic of the district.

Tobacco is grown here in considerable quantities; but the districts which produce most tobacco in the colony are those on the Hunter River. It is much to be regretted that this industry is on the present occasion almost unrepresented.

The southern districts, from Illawarra to the frontier, are best adapted for dairy farming; and the district of Bega, which makes an effective representative exhibit, is specially famous in that respect.

The wine-producing capabilities of Australia are fast attracting the attention of the world; and at the Paris Exhibition the wines of New South Wales received the consideration which they merited. Since that time they have fast been growing in favour. A representative exhibit has been forwarded, which is not, however, sufficient to indicate the great importance of that rising industry—which the natural advantages of favourable soil and climate must necessarily render, in course of time, one of the most prominent in the colony.

A collection of birds indigenous to the colony, and of food fishes, exhibited at the instance of the trustees of the Museum, by Mr. Ramsay, the curator, will be found to be of interest.

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Perhaps the most interesting exhibit in the New South Wales Court will be found in the display of minerals. Collected and arranged by able and experienced officers, acting under the direction of the Minister of Mines, they will convey a correct impression of the vast mineral resources of the country in almost all the metals; and will, above all, attract attention to the unequalled richness of the coalfields of New South Wales.

The manufacturing industries of the colony are of the highest importance, and it is, in consequence, much to be regretted that some of the most important of these, including the numerous breweries and carriage manufactories, are inadequately represented. The show of manufactures in leather, made by Messrs. Alderson and Son, and others, in itself affords a proof of the importance of that industry and of the success of the labour which is brought to bear upon it. Samples have been supplied of the work done by the enterprising firms of Messrs. Hudson and Mr. Wearne.

With regard to the intellectual progress of the colony, the question of national education has of late years been the subject of considerable discussion and most important legislation. By the Public Instruction Act the Council of Education has been abolished, and the whole system of primary instruction has been placed under a Minister for Public Instruction. The Act, which is mainly due to the foresight and ability of the Honorable Sir Henry Parkes, K.C.M.G., Colonial Secretary, provides also for the establishment of high or grammar schools for both sexes, in all the principal centres of population throughout the colony, as an intermediate stage between the primary schools and the University. The whole educational fabric is crowned by the University of Sydney, which was incorporated in 1851, and seven years afterwards was placed on the same footing as the Universities within the United Kingdom. A chancellor, vice-chancellor, and elective senate of sixteen members constitute the governing body; the studies are directed by seven professors and lecturers. The endowment amounts to an income of £5000 per annum. A reference to the University Calendar will show that considerable sums have been given by private individuals for annual and other prizes; and a munificent bequest of £100,000 was, a few months ago, bestowed by the will of the late Mr. Challis.

The Technical or Working Man's College affords by its display of work substantial proof that the mechanics of Sydney are not behindhand in higher education. The exhibits of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and the valuable display made by the Government Printer, supply sufficient evidence of the diffusion of superior knowledge; while the public taste for learning is borne witness to by the fact that the present Public Library, though by no means a small building, has been found insufficient, and a new library on a larger scale is about to be commenced. In considering the part taken by the colony in art, the great difficulties which must necessarily beset a young country in this pursuit must receive full consideration, together with the irreparable loss of the advantage derived from the study of great masters. It is, however, undisputed that a decided tendency to improvement in artistic taste has of late prevailed, and the creditable efforts made by a new art society to be well represented, in spite of its recent foundation, is an earnest of a desire to excel.

To those who have watched the progress of the colony it must be apparent that, in the last three or four years, its prosperity has advanced with rapid strides. The seed sown with so much toil and labour in past time is now producing a harvest, the full richness of which has yet to be enjoyed. In great natural resources, and almost boundless mineral wealth, lie the best securities of a great future; while some proof of the fact that the inhabitants of New South Wales are not unworthy of the bounties which nature has bestowed on their country, is to be found in the surprising quickness and energy which, in preparing the late Sydney International Exhibition in so short a time, accomplished a feat which might well have been considered impracticable. Although it might be somewhat exacting to demand a display equal to that in the New South Wales Court of the Garden Palace after so short an interval, it may at least be allowed that, in its contribution to the success of the Melbourne International Exhibition, New South Wales has not been forgetful of its own reputation, or of the lively interest it must always feel in the well-being of the sister colony.