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The New Zealand Journal, Saturday, November 21 (1840)



On Thursday se'rn'ght, a meeting was called at the London Tavern, by the Directors of the Western Australian Company, in order to afford to the parties interested further information respecting the change of site of the settlement of Australind, which, it will be remembered, was to have been at Port Leschenault, The meeting was attended by about 200 gentlemen and many ladies, among whom we noticed W. Hutt, Esq., M.P.; Messrs. E. G. Wakefield, J. Chapman, J. Montefiore, Brooking, Buckles, Enderby, and J. Irving; Captains Mangle, Sweeny, and Bannister; Dr. Probart; and many others deeply interested in the colony of Western Australia. At twelve o'clock precisely, Mr. W. Hutt, M.P., took the chair, and said,—
I am glad to find so large an assembly. Our proceedings of this day, in whatever they may result, will certainly not want the sanction of considerable authority. The object of our meeting will be best explained by the requisition to the directors, in consequence of which it was convened. I shall, therefore, call on Mr. Buckton to read that requisition to you. The meeting is, perhaps, of rather an unusual kind; but, whether unusual or not, it seems to me desirable; a frank communication between the directors and the landowners must be advantageous to both. I shall now proceed to state to you, on the part of the directors, the reason which induced them to alter the site of Australind. It had been originally intended, as you are aware, to plant the settlement of Australind on a tract of land in Leschenault, which had been granted to Colonel Latour. This land had been represented as being of great fertility, as convenient for the formation of a large town, and as being in the neighbourhood of a sufficiently available harbour. Having ascertained that the Colonial Office had recognised Colonel Latour's absolute right to it, and forwarded notice of such recognition to the Colony, the Company purchased it, and put forth its plan of reselling it in sections, and thereby creating an emigration fund, and obtaining other advantages necessary for a prosperous settlement You know with what favour the Company's plan was received by yourselves and the public. Up to the period of drawing lots for priority of choice of the sections, every thing had succeeded to the utmost wishes of the Company. At last, when all the land offered for sale had been disposed of, and a multitude of applications refused, when an expensive and well-equipped staff of surveyors had been dispatched to the Colony, and every thing in readiness for the departure of the emigrants, on, I think, the 12th of last month, a newspaper was received in this country, of the date of April last, where the Governor of Western Australia proclaimed that the part of land on which the Company was about to found Australind was resumed by the Crown, and that, in a few weeks after that notice, it would be open to the selection of purchasers in the Colony. The fact was, that the Governor had not received the despatch of the Colonial Office, directing him to admit Colonel Latour's title to the fee-simple of the land, and he acted under the impression that the land had lapsed to the Crown, in consequence of the supposed conditions of the grant not having been fulfilled.
Now, gentlemen, I must ask you to consider the position of the directors when this startling intelligence reached them, and the conduct they pursued. They had disposed of land, unquestionably their property, to the extent of £70,000; the money was paid and in their possession. As mere men of business, therefore, they might have cushioned the intelligence they had received, appropriated the money, allowed the emigrants to depart, and to settle with the local government as they best could all questions about the possession of their land. As a mere Land Company they might have done this, and their object would be considered as very successfully gained. Yes, they would have gained their object with success, but they would have lost the only thing which can ever make success desirable to men of honour and of feeling—I mean the consciousness that we have treated all who repose confidence in us with the spirit of justice and good faith. (Loud cheers).
Gentlemen, it may be remarked that, previously to the Governor of Western Australia proceeding to dispose of the Leschenault grant, he might very probably receive the. despatch of the Colonial Office, apprising him that it was private property. Such an event is highly probable, and if it so happened all would be well; but take the other contingency—suppose the despatch was not received till after the grant was thrown open to selection, and then consider what would be the condition of the settlers on reaching the colony, and the responsibility of those who permitted them to proceed thither in such circumstances. (Cheers.) It is true, indeed, that the Governor would be required to reverse the act of resumption, and to disposses the colonial purchaser; but could he do it? It is a fact well known to those who have any knowledge of colonial affaire, that no task is so hopeless and impracticable as that of ejecting parties from lands of which they have acquired possession, and which they are not disposed to surrender. Do you suppose that, in this case, the purchasers would have very readily relinquished their land? No; the land would be prized by them, because, being the pick of the whole flock, it would really be very valuable in itself, but it would be much more valuable because it would be placed in the immediate vicinity of a considerable settlement—in the vicinity of labour and success. They would have argued, that the land was theirs by right of purchase—that they had a regular conveyance from the Crown—they would not have surrendered.
Thus the settlers, on first landing, instead of immediately falling to work on their land, would find themselves engaged in a struggle with these surreptitious occupants for possession—the labourers would be left without employment; every thing would be left at a stand-still at a time when activity would be most necessary, and the settlement would soon become a scene of suffering, disappointment, and failure.
Foreseeing these things, the Directors decided, that they were required, as honest men, to state them plainly to the public. The plan of founding a settlement at Leschenault would, of course, be given up, and the Company involved in severe losses. Before taking so serious a step, they were led to consider whether any other site existed in the Colony of Western Australia to which Australind could be transferred; on the western coast, between Swan River and Cape Town, there was evidently none. To the south, in King George's Sound, several advantages were apparent, such as a good harbour and a. favourable position for the capital; but in order that any town should flourish, it is indispensable that a tract of good land should be in its neighbourhood; there is no extent of fertile land in the neighbourhood of King George's Sound, within the distance of ninety miles of the coast.
At length Port Grey was suggested, as combining all the advantages which the Directors required for the formation of a settlement. Being convinced of the superior eligibility of this position, the Directors wrote a letter to the Secretary of State, suggesting the transfer. Mr. Buckton will read from the minutes of the Board a copy of that letter and of the answer. [Here the chairman entered into a description of the splendid district in the neighbourhood of Port Grey, and having read several documents, proceeded.] Such, then, is the country of which you are invited to take possession. It seems to me to unite everything which, under Providence, is best calculated to ensure prosperity to a body of English colonists,—unlimited extent of the finest land, sufficient moisture, the command of the best harbour on the west coast of New Holland, and an admirable position for a town. For my part, who have had some experience in these matters, I feel no doubt that, with these advantages, Australind, whether you take possession of it or not, is destined for the highest prosperity—to be another Port Philip—another proof of the value of fertile colonial territory under a wise system of colonization, and to exhibit, ere many years are over, in the auspicious brightness of its rising, the not-to-be-mistaken glory of its English origin. (Loud cheers.) I have now stated what has come within my own personal knowledge respecting the circumstances which have led to the change in the site of Australind; but if I should have failed to make myself understood on any point, I shall be glad to answer any question that may be put to me on the subject.
A Gentleman here came forward, and asked if there were any navigable streams in the country discovered by Captain Grey. In the circular which the Directors had put forward no mention had been made of any, and as he considered streams, for the purpose of inland communication, of the utmost importance, he should like to hear if the Directors had information of any.
Mr. Hutt said, that rivers had been discovered, but that he was not prepared to say they were such as the question contemplated. The rivers in Australia were in general not navigable, but were useful only
as supplying water. The honourable gentleman here stated, that in his address he had confined himself to the facts of which he was cognizant, but that one of his brother Directors, who had had much communication with Captain Grey, and who had carefully examined the details of the subject, would offer some further explanations to the meeting. He then called upon Mr. Wakefield.
Mr. Wakefield rose amidst much applause. He said, that in reference to the comparative merits of the country around Port Leschenault and Port Grey, he should state one fact, which his brother Directors would well remember. When Captain Grey first put himself in communication with the Western Australian Company, he (Mr. Wakefield) had much conversation with him on the character and capabilities of the newly-discovered district; and, after hearing Captain Grey's report, the first feeling in his mind was one of regret that the Directors had not known of this district before they had made the purchase of the country around Leschenault.—(Cheers.) He had mentioned this regret to several of his brother Directors, and that, too, some time before any one had the smallest conception that they should be obliged to abandon Leschenault harbour, and seek a site elsewhere. At the time Leschenault had been chosen, it no doubt combined all necessary qualifications in a greater degree than any other part of the colony of Western Australia then open to them; but he had never concealed from himself that the Directors would experience a difficulty in the quantity of cheaper land by which they would be surrounded. Private individuals would be able to offer land at a price under the Company's land, and thus partially defeat the principles by which the Company were guided. When the news of the resumption of Colonel Latour's land first reached the Directors, no doubt considerable alarm was felt. There was, at all events, a possibility that the Directors would be compelled to say to their purchasers—"Gentlemen, we cannot give you your land; you must take back your money;" but the prompt manner in which they had been met by the Colonial Minister relieved them from all difficulty—(cheers)—and he (Mr. Wakefield) rejoiced in the change. (Cheers.) The Leschenault tract was one entire block of upwards of 100,000 acres. Of course, in so large a territory there must be much inferior land; but in the substituted territory at Port Grey, this liability was obviated by an advantageous arrangement which had been conceded to them—namely, to choose their lands in smaller lots, for instance, of thirty thousand acres, by which, he hoped, they would be enabled so to choose as to have no bad land. (Cheers.) The superior character of the new district arose from its geological character, and from its elevation. A country of considerable height was invariably of superior soil to a country but little elevated above the level of the sea. Another circumstance, and which was every way worthy of consideration, was the superiority of Port Grey to all the harbours on the western coast. The harbour of Leschenault was, in fact, a road-stead, rather than a harbour. He did not mean to say, that it was not a very valuable acquisition to the mariner, but what he meant was, that Port Grey was really a port in the proper sense of the word. He thought, therefore, that they were entitled to congratulate each other on the change. The Directors, in at once falling in with the arrangement described, had fully served the interests of the landowners and settlers. The Company had, in fact, no object in view but their interests, because their own coincided. Their cause was one and the same; the Company felt assured they were great gainers by the change, and what was advantageous to the Company could not be injurious to the purchasers of land, and to those who were going out as settlers. [Mr. Wakefield's statement was listened to with profound attention throughout, and he sat down amidst prolonged cheering.]
Mr John Chapman stated, that at a meeting of the intended settlers Captain Grey was asked the point in question—what portion of Western Australia he should prefer as a settlement?—and his answer was, Tort Grey.
Captain Mangles addressed the meeting, and acquiesced in all that had fallen from the chair, and eulogised the course which they had adopted, and, as a nautical man, spoke favourably of the harbour of Port Grey.
A Gentleman here asked if the Directors had any information as to the climate. He himself had formed his own opinion, but there were several gentlemen in the room who were anxious for information on the point; because the country lay much nearer the tropics than South Australia, in which Colony the people suffered greatly from heat.
Mr. Wakefield again rose and said, he was glad the gentleman had given him an opportunity of offering a few observations on the subject, on account of the doubts which a consideration of the mere latitude was calculated to create. But, although latitude no doubt exercised a most important influence, there were many other circumstances which modified the effects of latitude, and the chief of these circumstances was the general elevation of the country. He should illustrate this position by calling their attention to Mexico, because what he should state was well known. In parts of Mexico, in the course of a few hours' drive, you may pass from the climate of the tropics to the region of snow. In the plains above Vera Cruz, sugar is to be seen growing with tropical luxuriance; proceeding inland the traveller first passes the climate of the mulberry and the olive—the climate of Naples. Soon he reaches the district where the currant and the gooseberry may be cultivated-fruits which will only thrive in a temperate climate. At length he approaches those higher regions, where nothing is to be found but the hardy pine. (Cheers.) Thus, then, he continued, we must look to elevation as well as latitude; and, finding that the country around Port Grey was considerably elevated, he came to the conclusion, without requiring further testimony, that the climate cannot be oppressive. (Cheers.) He was further confirmed of this by what was going on in Eastern Australia or New South Wales. There the disposition of the colonists was decidedly in favour of what has been named New England, which was nearly in the same latitude as Port Grey. He would also mention that Captain Grey's testimony was to the effect, that the climate of Port Grey is both agreeable and salubrious. He was therefore strengthened in his opinion that the resumption of the original land was a happy accident. (Cheers.)
The Gentleman who put the question to the Directors now said that bis own view entirely coincided with Mr. Wakefield's very able exposition—(cheers)—but that he had refrained to mention it in order to give the meeting the benefit of Mr. Wakefield's opinion. (Cheers.)
In answer to a question, whether the Directors would consent to extend the term for the purchasers to retain their purchases or not beyond the 14th instant, in order to afford time to distant purchasers to learn the favourable opinion entertained by this meeting of the change of site, the chairman replied, that it being the general wish of the meeting to have an extension of time, the Directors most willingly complied, and the 21st instant was named.
A vote of thanks to the Directors was then carried unanimously, for the honourable and straightforward manner in which they met the difficulties incurred by the resumption of the land on the part of the Crown, and for the great interest they had evinced in the cause of the settlers and land proprietors.
The meeting then separated, evidently gratified with the explanation afforded.

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