Dismemberment of New South Wales

Empire, Sydney (From the Border Post, January 24.)

30 January 1857

In another column [below] will be found a letter from the veteran separationist, Dr. Lang, a gentleman whose achievements for the political advancement of the Australian colonies are too well known to require mention here. From the tenor of the communication, and the allusion to "putting into people's heads" the idea of separation, it would appear that our correspondent has not seen the various articles on the subject which have appeared in this journal; and although the suggestions embodied in the letter differ in one point from our own ideas, Dr. Lang's views, in the main, meet with our entire concurrence. The point wherein we differ   from Dr. Lang is merely with reference to the eastern boundary of the proposed new colony. Instead of the Tumut River, we have expressed an opinion that the coast line would be the more natural boundary, and we would include the tract of country lying between the dividing range and the imaginary line forming the boundary of Victoria. The new colony would thus possess a coast-line of about 100 miles, extending between Cape Howe and Point Dromedary, and including the much-neglected but important settlements of Eden and Twofold Bay. This question, however, is not one for us to deal with, but depends for its solution on the feelings of the inhabitants of the Maneroo and Twofold Bay districts.

We have never been able to see the propriety of annexing this district either to Victoria or South Australia, for the seat of Government would still be nearly as distant, and we might be simply exchanging the rule of King Log for that of King Stork. Although one of our principal reasons for urging the necessity for separation is undoubtedly the fact that we have been misgoverned and grossly neglected, we should be sorry to have it supposed that we were prompted to this course solely by a temporary irritation caused by any particular grievance. Severely as the inhabitants of Murrumbidgee have felt the want of a Court of Session and a bridge, or deeply as they may regret the deprivation of their franchise, it is not the compliance with their wishes in these respects that will make them contented with a Government administered at a distance of four or five hundred miles. It is the conviction of the impossibility of being satisfactorily governed from such a distance, even under the most favourable of circumstances, which constitutes the principal argument for the erection of the Murrumbidgee district into an independent colony. It will be seen that this argument is recognised in the second resolution appended to Dr. Lang's latter.

We quite agree with Dr. Lang that the time has fully arrived for the commencement of the agitation, and on a former occasion we showed that the total revenue of Moreton Bay, when the petition was sent home, amounted only to 5500, whereas the land sales in Albury have alone produced nearly that sum during the past year. We consider the population standard of of 20,000, mentioned by Dr. Lang, a proper means of testing the expediency of forming the new colony, and we now proceed to add together the populations of the various electorates comprised within the limits of the country proposed to be severed from New South Wales. The figures are as follow:-  

Albury - 2015  

Broulee and Eden - 2458

Lachlan, Binalong, and Wagga Wagga - 3300

Lower Murrumbidgee - 1718

Maneroo - 3282

Tumut and Gundagai - 2433

Total -,305          

This, however, is only an approximation, for the boundaries of the electorates are not of course precisely identical with those of the district proposed to be erected into an independent colony.

Supposing our population to increase in the same ratio as hitherto, we may expect in a couple of years or so to have more than 20,000 persons located here. In the meantime, a rush to Talgarno, Wagra, or any of the other auriferous localities on this side of the Murray, might commence to-morrow, and qualify us for petitioning at once. There is no fear of our population deserting us, for the residents in this part of the world are, with few exceptions, landowners, and represent a far greater amount of property than the same number of Sydney electors. Moreover, they have better reasons to be contented with their lot than the people residing in other parts.    

In former issues we have quoted the example of Moreton Bay, and we hope we have succeeded in impressing the people with the desirability of legislating for themselves, in preference to having laws made for them by a clique in Sydney. We imagine it will be unnecessary to suggest the propriety of spending upon this district the public money collected here, instead of appropriating it to the beautification of the metropolis; for our grumblers are eloquent enough on this topic.

We take leave of this important subject for the present, with a recommendation to our readers to bestow on Dr. Lang's letter the attention it deserves. We should like to have occasion to report the proceedings of a monster meeting called to consider the resolutions appended to the communication.

An Inland And Riverine Colony On The Banks Of The Murray (Letter to the Editor of the Border Post.)

SIR - I have observed for some time past that there is a growing and general dissatisfaction on the part of the inhabitants of that portion of the vast territory of New South Wales in which you are located, with their present political condition as a comparatively unknown and neglected dependency of a remote and virtually inaccessible authority. If "it was a far cry to Loch Awe," when the ancient Lords of the Isles used to defy the Kings of Scotland, when threatening them with their royal displeasure from Edinburg, you find, in a somewhat different sense of the phrase, that "it is a far   cry to Sydney," when you have anything to ask for a bridge, for instance - from that quarter. In short, Government from so great a distance as the city of Sydney is from the Murray River, is necessarily bad government, and can never be anything else.

In these circumstances, I understand that certain of the inhabitants of the tract of country situate between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee Rivers, and especially those who had originally crossed over from Port Phillip, have been talking of the annexation of that tract of country to the colony of Victoria. Others, again - those, I presume, who have come up the Murray from South Australia - have been hinting at annexation to that province. But if I understand aright certain intimations which I have seen, in the form of extracts from your paper, in the Sydney and Melbourne press, I believe, you are in favour of the separation of the tract of country in question from New South Wales, and its erection into a distinct colony. And as this has been my own view of the matter ever since the Imperial Act of 1850 made the Murray River the northern boundary of Port Phillip, I beg to offer a few remarks on the subject, for the information and consideration of your readers; premising that, for many years past, I have paid, perhaps, more attention to the subject of colonial boundaries and the propriety of forming distinct colonies in certain circumstances, than any other person in Australia; and that, as I have crossed overland between Sydney and Melbourne three different times - twice in one direction and once in the other - I am not altogether unacquainted with the general character and circum- stances and prospects of the tract of country to which this communication relates.

When the Act of Parliament, to which I have just referred, was on the table in London, viz:- in the years 1847, 1848 and 1849 I happened to be in England; having previously been for four years one of the six representatives of Port Phillip in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and having been mainly instrumental in that capacity in obtaining the boon of Separation for Port Phillip in the year 1845, although it was not carried out till the 1st of July, 1851. On that subject I addressed repeated communications to Earl Grey, who was then Secretary for State for the Colonies, during the years I have mentioned above, earnestly recommending that the northern boundary of Port Phillip should be the Murrumbidgee river, from its junction with the Tumut (at Darbillehra, about twelve miles east of Gundagai), to where it falls into the Murray. And in the year 1849, when it was expected that the bill for the better government of those colonies, which was then before Parliament, would be passed, I got a sketch map of the country constructed, with the proposed boundary marked on it with red lines, which the honorable Francis Scott, then Member of Parliament for Berwick or Roxburgh, promised to lay on the table of the House of Commons, when the bill should be in committee, for the information and guidance of the members. But the bill being withdrawn for that year, the circumstance was probably forgotten by Mr. Scott, when it was introduced and passed the following year; and the question of a proper boundary for Port Phillip being referred to the Sydney Executive, that body insisted on having the Murray River substituted for the Murrumbidgee, and your district is therefore a part of the great colony of New South Wales.

I may add, that although I was not successful on that occasion in getting what I conceived a proper boundary for Port Phillip, I succeeded in getting the 30th parallel of latitude fixed as the northern boundary of New South Wales in the Act of Parliament which was passed in 1850, with power to her Majesty to erect the territory northward of that parallel into a separate colony whenever she might think proper. Such, then, was the origin of the new colony of Moreton Bay, which owes its existence in that capacity to my repeated and earnest representations to Earl Grey ten years ago. As to the cause in which you are particularly interested, I stated in the last edition of my History of New South Wales, published in 1852, that as the Sydney Executive had refused to do justice to those concerned in that case, by refusing   to assign a proper boundary between New South Wales and Port Phillip, the result would unquestionably be, that as soon as a sufficient population should be permanently settled in the tract of country situated between the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers, that population would assuredly agitate for their entire separation from New South Wales, and would eventually, and at no distant period, succeed in forming a new inland and riverine colony. In the prospect of that consummation, which I now consider neither remote nor doubtful, it was very fortunate for you that the Sydney Executive   perpetrated that great wrong upon Port Phillip; for a separate Government for the tract of country lying between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee Rivers will be infinitely preferable for its inhabitants to annexation to Victoria.

The Tumut River, which I would propose as your Eastern boundary, rises in the great dividing range - the Snowy Mountains, or Australian Alps - a little to the northward of Mount Kosciuzsko, the highest peak in that range. It pursues a course, due north, of 120 miles to where it falls into the Murrumbidgee, at Darbillehra, near Gundagai. From thence the Murrumbidgee pursues a due westerly course of about 300 miles (as the crow flies) to where it receives the Lachlan River, and makes a sudden bend to the south to join the Murray. The course of the Murrumbidgee is, as nearly as possible, on the 36th parallel of latitude, and the country between it and the Murray forms a parallelogram of about 300 miles in length, by 100 in average breadth; its area or superficial extent being at least 30,000 square miles that is, larger than all Scotland, and much larger than Van Diemen's Land.  

This tract of country is pre-eminently fitted for the settlement of a numerous population; the land for many miles along the Murray below Albury, and along the whole course of the stream above that point, being of the first quality for cultivation. So also is the land on the Murrumbidgee for at least 100 miles below Gundagai; the intervening country generally being well adapted for pastoral purposes. - But the peculiar feature of this tract of country is its two noble rivers, which both for navigation and for irrigation will doubtless be the great sources of its future wealth. In particular, the Edward country, enclosed by an anabranch of the Murray, called the Edward River, recently ascertained to be navigable throughout, is about 120 miles in length, by an average breadth of 30 miles; having, therefore, an area of 3600 square miles, that is, nearly equal in extent to the whole Kingdom of Holland. And the Yanko Creek, an offshoot of the Murrumbidgee, carrying off a portion of its surplus waters in times of flood, at an acute angle to the course of the parent river, traverses and waters the whole of the intervening country till it falls into the Edward, with a course of upwards of 200 miles. The successful engineering operations that are now in progress on that creek, at the sole expense   of the squatters in that neighbourhood (for the Sydney Government would never think of aiding operations of the kind so far off), are a mere specimen of the far greater operations of a similar kind that will one day be exhibited, both for navigation and for water supply, along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers, when you come to have a Government of your own to originate and direct such operations.

Now, to suppose that a tract of country, of such extent, of such superior character, and of such wonderful capabilities, - a country larger than Scotland, with far more good land in it, land a far better climate - should be a mere dependency of a dependency, and be subject to an authority from three to seven hundred miles off, is too absurd either to be thought of or to be tolerated. As an integral portion of the great British community of Australia, you have a right to the best possible government under the Parliamentary Constitution of 1855, and you can never have such government as a portion of New South Wales. At present, in your state of infancy and pupilage, you are necessarily under the management and guardianship of the Government of that colony; but that Government can have no right or title to govern you when you have attained the years of maturity and discretion. The same process that has already been gone through successively in the cases of Van Diemen's Land, South Australia, Port Phillip, New Zealand, and Moreton Bay, which were all successively separated and cut off from New South Wales, of which they all once formed a part, will then have to be repeated in your case also, on the ground of your inherent rights as a British community on the one hand, and of the great Christian rule on the other, of doing to others as we should wish them to do to us. These are the principles, and the only principles, on I would advocate your separation from New South Wales, as I shall always do till you attain it. For although I am as much interested as any of its inhabitants in promoting the welfare and advancement of the older colony I can never believe that it can ever be necessary for the welfare and advancement of that colony to practise injustice to any other British community with precisely the same rights as ourselves. I have no idea of such alleged patriotism as this implies - it is contrary alike to the word of God and the rights of man.

The importance of the Murray River, as the grand feature of the future colony, would seem to indicate the propriety of making the town of Albury, on that river, its future capital. In order to give the Government of that colony of the future the entire command of the Murray River in the upper part of its course, it would probably be necessary to annex to the future riverine province that triangular portion, of the territory of Victoria, bounded by the Upper Murray on the one hand, and a line drawn from Forest Hill to the Mitta Mitta river on the other. And it would also be desirable to annex to the future colony on the Murray the whole tract of country along the north bank of the river from the junction of the Murrumbidgee to the boundary of South Australia. Most, if not all, of this tract of country is exceedingly sterile, and it can never be of any value to New South Wales. Portions of it, however, might be of great value to the future inland colony, under an extensive system of irrigation.

The great question, then, is how to carry out this idea (supposing it should meet the views of the inhabitants of the tract of country between the two rivers), and what period should be fixed for its accomplishment. My opinion on this question is that you should commence an agitation for Separation at once and immediately; but that you should not ask for it till your population, within the limits indicated above, shall amount to twenty thousand souls. The case of Moreton Bay is a precedent for you, and one to which you can appeal with perfect propriety. The advocates for Separation in that part of the territory have been agitating on the subject for six years; and now that it has been conceded, the whole population to the northward of the 30th parallel does not exceed 22,000 souls.

As to opposition to such a measure on the part of the Government and Parliament of New South Wales, you must expect that to the very utmost. Every weapon that selfish cupidity, downright hostility, ridicule and vituperation can command in the case, will be directed against you: and I shall probably come in for a large share of this treatment for putting such bad ideas into your heads. But never-you-mind any such opposition, as I certainly shall not. Your cause is a just one, and that is enough; your rights in the matter are unquestionable, and the voice of twenty thousand people, who will ere long be located in your future colony, will at length obtain their universal recognition. But in order to ensure that consummation at the proper time, the people must be duly informed and enlightened, and their affections engaged, on the subject beforehand and this can only be done by systematic and continued agitation. I should be very willing, if I remain long enough in the colony myself, before leaving it, as I expect to do shortly for another voyage to England, to assist in such an organisation as is needful by visiting your good town, and delivering a lecture or address on the subject ; - but I cannot make any promise of the kind. Of this, however, I am fully persuaded, that your political, social, and moral welfare and advancement for all future time will be inconceivably and indefinitely advanced by your separation from New South Wales and your erection into a distinct colony.

I enclose a series of Resolutions that may serve as a guide for your movements in the matter.

I am, Sir, Your sincere well-wisher, John Dunmore Lang Melbourne, January 10th, 1857.

Proposed Resolutions

1. That every integral portion of the Australian territory, inhabited by a population of British origin, is entitled to the best possible government under the Parliamentary Constitution of 1855.

2. That it is contrary to the uniform experience of the past, that any country, or tract of country, situated at from three to seven hundred miles from the capital, or seat of Government, can ever be well governed, that is, beneficially and satisfactorily for its inhabitants ; and that it is therefore an unwarrantable invasion of tho rights of men to subject any community of British fre- men to such injustice as the condition of subjection to a remote and virtually inaccessible authority implies.

3. That the tract of country situated between the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers in the colony of New South Wales, and extending westward from the junction of the former of these rivers with the Tumut as also the tract of country along the right bank of the

Murray, from its junction with the Murrumbidgee to the boundary of South Australia, being from three to seven hundred miles and upwards from the present seat   of Government in the city of Sydney, and being moreover of sufficient extent and capabilities for the existence and maintenance of a separate Government, ought to be separated from New South Wales, and erected into   a distinct colony, whenever its population shall amount to twenty thousand souls.

4. That as a whole series of extensive and costly engineering works will be of indispensable necessity along the whole course of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers, to improve the valuable agricultural lands on their banks, and to render their surplus waters extensively available for the purposes of man, these works can only be constructed and maintained in the requisite state of efficiency by and under the vigilant superintendence of a Government on the spot.

5. That it is therefore tho earnest desire and will henceforth be the unceasing endeavour of all who are associated in the present movement, to promote the formation of an inland and riverine colony, through the separation of the tract of country intervening between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee Rivers from New South Wales, as also of the tract lying along the north bank of the Murray River westward to South Australia.

6. That the desire for separation from New South Wales on the part of the inhabitants of the tract of country aforesaid, is in no respect to be identified with any alleged project for the annexation of that country to the colony of Victoria ; as the resident inhabitants of the territory intervening between the two rivers conceive they will be fully entitled to a Government of their own, whenever their whole number shall amount to twenty thousand; and would ultimately prefer such a Government, having its seat on the Murray River, to one either in Melbourne or Sydney.

7. That the following gentlemen be appointed a standing committee, to be designated "The Murray   River Separation Committee," to collect and circulate information of all kinds on the subject, by means of public meetings, pamphlets, lectures, maps, &c, to ascertain the proper boundaries for the proposed riverine province, and to point out the great benefits and advantages that would accrue to its inhabitants from the accomplishment of an object of such transcendent importance to this community; and that the said committee have power to add to their number.