Section 3 [From Phillip to McKell, by Rex Ingamells]

[Editor: This is section 3 of From Phillip to McKell: The Story of Australia (1949) by Rex Ingamells.]

The wool industry

Ex-officers of the Corps who remained in New South Wales took their place among the Exclusives, that class of free-born settlers opposed to the increasing strength of the Emancipists. The Exclusives set their faces against the admission of ex-convicts into polite society and into public office. Feelings were bitter, and Governors Macquarie and Brisbane earned Exclusive censure for furthering the Emancipist cause. Macquarie, with his vision of the Colony as an ideal reformatory, aided and abetted the Emanicipists in town and country. It was chiefly they who had achieved the Colony’s advance in sealing and whaling enterprises, and they had managed the greater part of its trade even under Corps rule. By 1820, Emancipist pastoralists had 92,618 acres under cultivation, 40,643 head of cattle and 221,079 sheep.

Governor Darling favoured the Exclusives. He waged a campaign against the Emancipists, who were marshalled into a league of Patriots by the free-born W. C. Wentworth, and imposed a censorship upon the non-Government journals through which they agitated. When, the most unpopular of Australian Governors, Darling was recalled, his successor, Bourke, by admitting the newspapers to Legislative Council deliberations, implicitly recognized the growing importance of a free community, in which Government had to umpire, rather than take sides in, questions of social cleavage.

John Macarthur, acknowledged leader of the Rum Monopoly, in its defiance of the early Governors, and later leading light of the Exclusives, was the man who most effectively pioneered the wool industry in Australia. He experimented in the cross-breeding of sheep as early as 1794, and, in 1797, produced wool the texture of which won him high reputation in England. While his ambitious career several times brought him severe official censure and, following his part in the deposition of Bligh, eight years’ exile in England, his flocks, lands, fortune augmented rapidly. The lessons he taught the Colony in sheep-breeding were quickly learnt, and, when Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth found a way over the Blue Mountains in 1813, it was the expanding sheep industry which benefited most.

Flocks ran on the Liverpool Plains, the Darling Downs, in the Gippsland District and in South Australia, following the opening up of these regions by explorers. In 1818, John Oxley discovered the Liverpool Plains; in 1824, Hume and Hovell pioneered the back-country route to Bass Strait, to be followed, in 1836, by Major Thomas Mitchell, who revealed the Wimmera country; Macmillan opened Gippsland, in 1840; Sturt’s journey down the Murray, in 1829, turned attention to South Australia. Moreton Bay, founded as a penal settlement in 1824, the Port Phillip District, springing from the enterprise of the Hentys and Batman and Fawkner, and South Australia, based on the colonial theory of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, were all to advance through vicissitude to prosperity on the back of the wool industry. Even Van Diemen’s Land, settled, 1803-4, for penal purposes and as a safeguard against French settlement, sharing for years Sydney’s importance in the whaling industry, was to find its staple in wool; and so was Western Australia, which, after an abortive start was made with a penal colony at Albany, in 1826, was established, in 1829, as the free Swan River Settlement, ill-fated for a number of years, but destined to thrive. Australia was to lead the world in the quality and quantity of her wool. The industry developed at just the right time to allow her Colonies to take full advantage of the demand of English cloth and clothing manufacturers, and to supply England with the raw material she needed to establish herself as unassailable leader in Nineteenth Century world trade. It brought into being, moreover, a class of wealthy squatters who, before the Gold Rushes made a radical change in colonial society, bade fair to establish itself as the Australian ruling class, within which the wealthy interests of both Emancipists and Exclusives might have been reconciled.

Rex Ingamells, From Phillip to McKell: The Story of Australia, Jindyworobak Publications: Melbourne, 1949, [pages 17-20]

Editor’s notes:
Emancipists = convicts whose sentencees had expired or who had been given an absolute or conditional pardon (who had been emancipated, i.e. freed)

Exclusives = (also called Exclusionists) in colonial New South Wales, the free settlers and military officers who objected to the rising social status being given to the Emancipists (emancipated convicts), who wanted minimal social interaction with the Emancipists, because the Emancipists were convicted criminals, and they therefore believed that ex-convicts should be excluded from being given important government positions, and preferred a more exclusive social structure, with Emancipists being excluded from official social functions

Rum Monopoly = the officers of the New South Wales Corps dominated trade in early NSW and had a virtual monopoly over the importation of rum and other spirits; due to a lack of money in the colony, rum was used as a form of currency, and therefore having a monopoly in rum gave the officers a large financial advantage

squatter = in the context of Australian history, a squatter was originally someone who kept their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) upon Crown land without permission to do so (thus illegally occupying land, or “squatting”); however, the practice became so widespread that eventually the authorities decided to formalise it by granting leases or licenses to occupy or use the land; and, with the growth of the Australian economy, many of the squatters became quite rich, and the term “squatter” came to refer to someone with a large amount of farm land (they were often regarded as rich and powerful)

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