[Editor: An article about the founding of the Australasian League, which was established to oppose the transportation of convicts into Australia. Published in Launceston Examiner, 5 February 1851.]
The Australasian League.
It affords us unmingled satisfaction to lay before our readers the formal document adopted at Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, on the fifteenth anniversary of that colony. That city, second only in extent to Sydney in this hemisphere, may boast of men equal in enterprise, perseverance, and patriotism to any found in modern states. The manner in which the chief magistrate welcomed the delegates from this land: the cordial reception they experienced from the most influential residents, and the deep sympathy expressed by the community at large in the object of their mission, must have left an impression that time will not obliterate.
The knell of transportation to Australasia has already sounded, and though in the interim ships may arrive with convicts from England, every cargo, instead of relieving the British government, will only add to its difficulties in this part of the world. Petitions have been slighted; prayers have been disregarded; facts, reasoning, and expostulation have all been employed in vain, and now the colonists of Australasia have been compelled to combine, and in self-defence to avow their unalterable design to use every means in their power to embarrass the administration of penal discipline within their bounds.
Never was a movement more righteous and momentous, than that now originated. It is an effort to free the reputation of a constellation of colonies from reproach, to clear their social condition of impurity, and to oppose heart and hand the introduction of foreign vice into their midst. The issue is in the hands of the imperial government: it may cease to inflict injury, and by prompt and gracious concession conciliate the now agitated affections of an empire in embryo, or it may persist in its present mad career, and for ever alienate the respect and esteem of millions of Englishmen, who, if they differ on other points, are agreed on one — that AUSTRALASIA SHALL BE FREE — the happy home of the industrious and their descendants.
We entertain no misgivings as to the ultimate result of the struggle. There is red tape, nomineeship, imbecility, false despatches and sham on the side of the remote rulers; and earnestness, resolution, pecuniary means, reality, truth and moral courage on the part of the oppressed. The conflict may be long or short, just as Downing-street may decide, but every day’s procrastination will drive off farther the Australasian dependencies from sympathy with the parent state; and if the present policy be pursued, irrevocably cut them off from a connection they desire to preserve inviolate.
We have not space to analyse the papers published in to-day’s issue. The recital of the league is naked and formal; its resolutions distinct and uncompromising; its organisation is calculated to allay the jealousy of every state in the confederation, and the rotatory pre-eminence designed to give to each that distinction free communities recognise as fair.
The address to the British people tells its own tale: another has been prepared exclusively directed to the colonists of Australasia, and a third will be issued endorsed to all who speak the English language throughout the world. The recital of Australasian wrongs will rouse Englishmen to a regard for their national name and honor: already the response seems to ring on the ears of the colonists — their countrymen, their friends, their relatives. The appeal now made on the subject of transportation is not to the ministry but to the nation, and will they not reply —
Shall we — for whom a Cromwell fought,
A Milton wrote, — A Hampden died;
Whose land fair Liberty hath sought,
And blessed above all realms beside,
Her fortress’d isle, — her strength and pride;
We, whose free heritage was wrought
By conflict stern, blood ratified;—
Read thus the truths our fathers taught?
Shall see whose name on distant strands,
The new-made heirs of freedom bless,
The sable sons of Afric’s sands,
Oh! shall we lend our arm to oppress
A land, whose people’s loud distress
Now claims assistance at our hands?
Then woe to England! Sure redress,
Justice, for nations wronged, demands!
Australasia may be accounted WEAK by the Butes of the day; but these colonies are not weak.
“Thrice are they armed who have their quarrel just.”
Launceston Examiner (Launceston, Tas.), 5 February 1851, p. 82
Afric = Africa
Bute = John Stuart (1713-1792), 3rd Earl of Bute, prime minister of the United Kingdom (1762-1763) (may also refer to the island of Bute, located off the south-west coast of Scotland, in the Firth of Clyde; Buteshire, an area of south-west Scotland, consisting of several islands in the Firth of Clyde; phenylbutazone, a pain-relieving drug used by vetenarians)
rotatory = occurring in rotation; characterised by, producing, or relating to rotation
sable = a colour that is black, dark, or gloomy (“sables” was an archaic term for garments worn for mourning; “sable” in heraldry refers to black); arising from the colour of dark sable fur, as taken from a sable (a furry mammal, Martes zibellina, which is primarily found in Russia and northern East Asia, and noted for its fur which has traditionally been used for clothing); in the context of the Australian Aborigines or African Negroes, a reference to their skin colour as being black