« PredošláPokračovať »
OUR GROWING AUSTRALIAN EMPIRE
The few persons amongst the English people who profess to take an interest in the progress of the Australian colonies as frequently surprise Australians by the novelty of their views of what we are doing as do the tens of thousands by their utter indifference concerning us. Even those who have visited our principal seaport cities and have run two or three hundred miles into the country on our railways will draw pictures of our condition which it is often very difficult to recognise. A few years ago a large manufacturer of the midland counties, who had been a candidate for a seat in the House of Commons, told me that he took much interest in New South Wales. Only last week,' he said, 'I sent a large shipment of goods to Melbourne.' I explained that Melbourne was not in New South Wales.
Oh, no, certainly,' he replied ; 'your capital, I believe, is Hobart Town. A few days ago, while in conversation with an intelligent man about Australia, I happened to speak of the native-born inhabitants, when I was coolly asked, 'What colour are they?' It never occurred to this gentleman that I was speaking of Englishmen like himself except for the happy accident of having been born under a brighter sky. The singular and smile-provoking inquiries which are often made by gentlemen who are anxious to give their sons a start in Australia afford curious illustrations of the solecistic views which are entertained of those distant parts of the Empire. It is asked what a young man with so much money could do in New South Wales or in Queensland, without the faintest reference to the young man's fitness for doing anything anywhere. The same question with the same simplicity would never be asked of Yorkshire or Lancashire. Again, in commercial and monetary circles, the question is what profitable thing can be done with Australia, and never what advantage can arise to Australia by our drawing closer to the parent state. We are seldom thought of by any class of the English at home as forming "an integral part of the Empire,' though it is easy and pleasant to adorn a political speech with that hackneyed quotation.
But the young States growing up in the Southern hemisphere now contain at least fifty thousand over three millions of British people,
and the rate of development and consolidation is certainly not slower than in other favoured regions of the earth. In the older Australian colonies, and time will soon make it the case in all, there exist none of the prudential reasons, or reasons enforced by necessity, which exist in old and thickly-peopled countries, for shunning the responsibilities of married life. Every year increases, not only absolutely but relatively in regard to preceding years, the number of marriages among the young men and women born of the soil; and these marriages for the most part follow fast upon maturity. The births alone in the future will give a large and an ever-increasing volume of fresh brain and muscle to the population. And, of course, every year henceforward, as the facts of Australian progress force themselves on the attention of the people of other countries, immigration from other parts will go on ever increasing. The increase of the future years must not be calculated from what has taken place in the past, as the very basis of all such calculations will go on expanding itself.
There are some conditions and qualities of life in the Australian populations which are continually omitted from the view of English observers, but which, whether observed or not, will tell forcibly in determining the course of Australian progress. These conditions and qualities, no doubt, are most apparent now in the older colonies, but it is only a question of a few years when they will prevail in all. In the first place, it should always be borne in mind that the population of Australia is more purely British than any other outside the shores of Britain. In the great and rapidly-extending Empire of the United States the elements of race are strangely varied and incurably conflicting. The large masses of the German and other foreign nations of Europe are assimilated by the Anglo-American masses, and speedily help to form one people, but a people with marked differences from the people of Great Britain. But the African millions remain, and must long remain, in social isolation. The far-off day cannot yet be discerned when they will mix with the other mingling streams of the American people. If we turn to Canada, we find the nationality which prevailed before the Conquest still so strong that the proceedings of the Dominion Parliament have necessarily to be conducted in French as well as English. In the South African colonies the English have to contend with foreign elements still more marked and disturbing. In Australia alone a purely British people are growing into national power and influence under entirely new conditions; and new qualities of individual and national life grow almost imperceptibly out of these new conditions. The English people in Australia, I mean in the mass, are equally removed from the rigours of English climate and the grinding pressure of English poverty. need suffer from want of food or from want of warmth. They are equally removed from the disturbing movements of the great military
powers of Europe. Every man may pursue his own peaceful avocation, little caring what his fellows may be doing around him, and never distracting himself with the causes of national quarrel which threaten the peace of other parts of the world. Politically the English people in Australia enjoy a condition of equal rights not excelled by the liberties enjoyed by the people of the United States or of any other country. Every man is as good as, and no better than, his fellow citizen, except in so far as he may be greater than he in citizen virtue. Something more must be said which, I hope, will not jar upon the patriotic sensibilities of my countrymer. The population of Australia in the mass is of firmer fibre and more wakeful energy than the mass within the shores of Great Britain. At present the two great classes are the Immigrant and the Native-born. Of the persons who emigrate from the United Kingdom it may be safely said that of late years they have been the pick of their class; men of industrious and provident habits, of adventurous spirit, of some means however small, and sustained by an anxious resolve to secure a happier lot for their children than they have had themselves. The regulations under which emigration is carried on by New South Wales contain stringent provisions for insuring sound and vigorous health and good moral character in the emigrants, and, at the same time, preserving the proportions from the three kingdoms already existing in the population of the colony. This latter provision for preserving the mixed British character of the population as it now exists will, I believe, be scrupulously maintained by the Legislature of New South Wales. Its actual operation will be seen in the proportions from England, Ireland, and Scotland by the last three ships despatched from Plymouth to Sydney, all of which are now afloat." The three vessels carried out 1,202 British emigrants, of whom 911 were English, 210 Irish, and 81 Scotch. If, then, the Immigrant portion of the population is composed of men and women of the better stamp, it will not, I think, be a matter of surprise if their children, born under such favourable conditions, feel a higher sense of existence than is felt by the corresponding class of boys and girls within the British Isles. They have never, as a rule, known what it is to be pinched for food, or to wear patched garments, or to pine for the ordinary advantages of education, or to wince in their young hearts under the patronising notice of a great personage. They are free as their fathers are free, and as all around them are free. They have before them an open field for steady effort in which their fathers have done well and in which they hope to do better. Well housed, well fed, well instructed, well cared for in every respect, these sons and daughters of the soil—these English men and women born in Australia-grow up a bold, self-reliant, prosperous class. To many of the highest qualities of the true type of the English gentleman or lady is added the feeling of a warm Australian patriotism. The Immigrant father may have long looked back to his native land with heart-saddening regrets
1 This was written early in November
But not a pang that England's name imparts
Admitting frankly, as must be admitted, that society in these young countries is less adorned by men and women of high culture and refinement, it may yet be asserted that knowledge is more generally diffused among the bulk of the people. What I mean is, that if you were to take a thousand persons representing the common run of Englishmen and a thousand representing the common run of Australians, there would be found a larger proportion in the latter who would have a clear knowledge of what was going on in the world around them. I could not produce statistics in support of what I am going to advance, but I believe from observation that there is a larger relative proportion of the Australian population than of the English who read the English reviews and newspapers, to say nothing of the productions of the Colonial press. In the larger classes which form the basis of society there is plenty and to spare for every one, as a rule, in Australia. If newspapers and books are wanted, they can easily be procured. It not unfrequently is the case that a member of the local Parliament discovers in some remote home in the country a person who has a clear record of votes and speeches of his which he himself has forgotten. I have discovered this in my own case, and I have frequently heard of it in the case of others. Not long ago I was travelling by a night coach through a forest, and a man, who was stationed there in the loneliest spot imaginable to supply a change of horses at two o'clock in the morning, was found reading a volume from a little well-selected library in his bark hut, and he received regularly the principal daily paper from Sydney. In illustration of the well-to-do condition of the inhabitants in the country, I may perhaps be pardoned in mentioning that some years ago I was a candidate for a country electorate, where I held a meeting in a schoolhouse in a remote corner of the district. About sixty men assembled in the schoolhouse, and about the same number of horses, on which they had ridden in to attend the meeting, were fastened to the fences around the schoolhouse. Among all, the Immigrant and Native-born alike, there is unquestionably a stronger spirit of individual independence than is to be found in the rural populations or even in the town populations at home. And yet one other characteristic of the Australian population must be noted, which not only is unnoticed by strangers, but is generally overlooked by the dwellers in the large Australian cities. The men and women born in the Tural districts are for the most part creatures of fine stature and
muscular limb, full of bounding vitality, and capable of almost any physical achievement, and, above all things, attached to the soil of their birth. When we recollect that the sparseness of population is such as to give less than one soul to a square mile of country, we shall see what wide room there is to fill in with this robust material of a State.
I have tried to point out what appears to me the special features of character in the English in Australia. For a moment let us glance at what they are doing for themselves, for England, and for the world. As just stated, those English people in all Australasia number to-day at least 3,050,000 souls. The majority of these are in Victoria and New South Wales, which two great colonies, if it were not for the temporary successes of empirical legislators, have nearly everything in common. These two form a fair nucleus for the gathering empire of the whole. In a short time the whole will have 7,000 miles of railway in operation, and more than 50,000 miles of telegraphs, with the work of construction steadily going on. Το say nothing of their wool and their animal food, their coal, gold, and other minerals, these young countries produced in the last season, of which we have statistical returns, 29,675,899 bushels of wheat, 11,718,264 bushels of oats, and 6,326,050 bushels of maize, besides other cereals; and the infant wine industry gave a yield of 1,438,060 gallons. With these results of their industrial progress before the world, they have something like 1,800,000,000 acres of land which have never passed under the seal of private ownership. But what have they done for England and foreign countries? While subjugating the wilds of nature, building cities, bridging rivers, and piercing the far interior with railways, they have called into existence a sea-borne commerce which largely exceeds the yearly value of 100,000,0001.
Here we have an imperfect picture of the Young England growing up
in Australasia, which, in all the best characteristics of the race, is more English than Old England herself. What it is at the end of 1883 it will not be at the end of 1884; but an English people of larger growth, newer aspirations, more extended enterprises, and stouter vigour. And so on year by year, the progress of this Young England will be more and more accelerated. We turn at once to the statesmen who sway the destiny of the Empire, and curiously ask, What will they do with it? It is certain that the present relations, the present modes of treatment, and especially the unconscious estimate of the colonies as a subordinate portion, a convenient
Whatever it may appendage, of the Empire, cannot go on for ever. be, change must come. The young man, full of hope and emulation, cannot continue to play his part before the world in the boy's jacket. If it be urged, as I have heard it urged, that there is no feeling of the inferiority of the colonies in the minds of Englishmen at home,