Lecture on the Chinese question [17 December 1878]

[Editor: A report on a lecture given by the Rev. Joseph Coles Kirby. Published in the Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate, 17 December 1878.]

Lecture on the Chinese question.

Last evening the Rev. J. C. Kirby delivered, at the Protestant Hall, King-street, a lecture to a very attentive and respectable audience, on the above question, maintaining “That the proper policy of the white people of Australia and of the Imperial Government is to prevent to the uttermost the colonization of any part of Australasia by the Chinese.”

He commenced by stating that he spoke as a citizen and father, and as one possessing the franchise of the colony to speak freely upon this all-important question, but not to advocate any such disgraceful violence as that lately perpetrated at Tighe’s Hill (hear, hear).

The question at issue did not only affect one class of persons in the colony, but the whole population, and not only here, but in the large island of Australia, which we, as descendants from Britons, had inherited from our fathers (hear, hear).

He then gave a concise description of China, which contained every climate from the torrid zone to the Arctic regions. The population was estimated at from 360 to 400 millions, and it possessed coal enough to supply the whole earth, and the nation had existed from the days of Abraham till the present time. It had seen all the intervening dynasties die out, and might, for all we knew, see the downfall of ours.

He then proceeded to give proofs of the adaptability of the Chinese for any pursuit, and said he believed it should be the policy of the Imperial Government and all connected with it, to keep Australia for the white man, and not only Australia but all British centres of industry (applause).

A cry had been got up that the agitation was only for a few degraded Scandinavians. This was only the herring drawn over the course to get the people off the scent. And even if it was so, was not our future Queen, the Princess of Wales, a Scandinavian (Loud applause). Would any one say she was degraded? But there were sons of Britain involved in the consequences of their Chinese importation, men from Lancashire and Yorkshire, and other parts of England, and even the nobles of England were descended from Normans and Scandinavians, who were all formerly of the same race and blood as Englishmen, but the Chinese never were (applause).

The question was an international one. The Chinese storekeepers were getting firm hold of the trade of the interior of Australia, and it was as much the duty of the European storekeepers to watch this question as it was that of the Seamen’s Union. (Hear, hear.) We do not want them as colonists, nor yet for them to bring their women with them. If they did, two races would be striving for the land and then great misery would ensue. There would be more danger of their corrupting us than hope of our converting them. (Hear, hear.)

There had been four great objections made to the Anti-Chinese policy.

1st. “We should do unto others as we would they should do unto us.” This was a grand maxim, but we are not anxious to colonise China, and therefore do not want the Chinese to colonise Australia.

Secondly. It had been said there were parts of Australia where the white man could not work. This was not a fact. The white man would work anywhere if he was properly paid for it. (Applause.) The white man had built Roma at 135 degrees in the shade, and Cooktown, in Northern Queensland, and they could do it again. If the Chinese were allowed here, they would increase as they did in Queensland, and soon swarm over the whole colony, and deprive the European workmen of bread.

Thirdly. It had been said by Sir Wm. Medhurst that we were like the dog in the manger, but the dog could not use his hay for food like the ox could, or as we can use Australia, therefore the proverb does not apply here.

Fourthly. It had been asserted that there was no fear of the Chinaman doing anything to injure us practically as a race. He referred then to Queensland, where they swarmed into the diggings and drove the European out. But the storekeepers did not mind that. They said John was a very good customer; but by-and-bye John set up stores for himself, and then the storekeepers altered their opinion. He quoted Frazer’s Magazine to show from a speech at the Colonial Institute by Mr. Macalister, the Agent-General for Queensland, in London, that in 1876 there were in Queensland only 10,500 Chinamen, but in 1878 their number was 30,000, thus showing an increase of 20,000 in less than eighteen months. (Hear, hear).

He then recounted the rapid progress which Chinese labour had made in California and Chicago, and other states of America, completely running the white man out of the market. Even in Maryborough, a white man lost a job at the School of Arts for making a baluster for the stairs, as he wanted 1s. 9d. per rail and the Chinamen offered to do it for 7d. (Hear, hear.) This meant nothing less than starvation for the white man and the white man’s wife and children. (Applause.)

He also quoted an instance of a large steamer in the Chinese seas in which the firemen, deckmen, and officers were all Chinese except the captain, and no doubt in a year or two he would be turned adrift and a Chinese captain appointed (Applause.) So it would be all over the world in British ports, and thus bye-and-bye, instead of “Britannia rules the waves,” it would be “’Tis China rules the waves.” (Hear, hear.)

The people of Australasia had a right, by lawful and just means, to prevent the Chinese from colonising their lands. The white man founded them and made the laws which govern them, and should maintain possession of them. If the Chinese became colonists in any great degree, they would surely deteriorate the moral character of our people. It had been said the Chinese were as good as the white. This was false. He quoted proofs of the innate cruelty of the Chinese, by their infanticide, by the barbarous murders at the instigation of Howqua, who ordered no less than 100,000 Chinese to be beheaded on one rood of ground during the Chinese rebellion of 1856. [A voice: “More power to him; behead ’em all.”]

After alluding to the nameless vices which the Chinese brought with them wherever they went, and to the horrible manner in which they herded together, the rev. lecturer concluded a brilliant discourse, of which we have only room for the mere heads, by saying: As we do not wish to colonize China, nor any part of it, but only liberty for a few traders to settle and carry on external commerce, and also liberty for a few missionaries and travellers; as these colonies were founded by whites in order that a white nationality may be built up here; as the Chinese are able to learn all our employments, and by cheapness of labour to drive every trade out of the field in succession; as the Chinese nation is so numerous as to be able to export myriads and not feed it; as they would degrade and demoralize our people, and be a grave danger to our liberty.

He therefore submitted that in the interest of ourselves, our children, and of our starving brethren in the European countries, that the people of this colony and the Governments of Australia, and also the Imperial Government, should do their utmost in lawful and right ways to keep the Chinese out of Australia. (Loud and prolonged applause).

Mr. Goodsie proposed, and the Rev. R. Rogers seconded a hearty vote of thanks to the rev. lecturer, which was carried by acclamation, and duly acknowledged by Mr. Kirby, and the proceedings terminated.

Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate (Newcastle, NSW), 17 December 1878, p. 2

Editor’s notes:
rood = a unit of land area equivalent to 1/4 acre or 40 square rods (40 square perches) (0.10117 hectares); may also refer to a unit of length, which varies (depending on place of origin) from 5 1/2 yards to 8 yards (5 metres to 7.3 metres)

Wm. = an abbreviation of the name “William”

[Editor: Corrected “formely” to “formerly”; “Seamen Union. (Hear” to “Seamen’s Union. (Hear,”.]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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