[Editor: This untitled editorial was published in The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 17 October 1854.]
[The Legislative Council]
The Legislative Council, which has been three weeks in session, has as yet done nothing of much importance, with the exception of the passage through its second reading of Mr Fellowes’ bill for simplifying proceedings at Common Law.
A variety of measures of minor importance have been introduced and are slowly progressing through their successive stages. The estimates will, we presume, be as usual discussed in thin houses by members wearied with the labors of legislation. The interest of the session will, in all probability, centre in the Prerogative question and the projected settlement of the Squatters’ claims. On the latter of these two subjects our views will be found somewhat more moderate and conciliatory than find favor with our contemporaries, but we are anxious to see a question that has so long troubled our local politics finally and promptly settled — and settled on conditions that will end the alienation of classes and leave no sense of injustice on the minds of either party to the dispute, to embitter our future. There must be frank and mutual concession. The public lands are indisputably public property, and must be so administered as will best subserve the general interests of the State. But in the circumstances in which the first settlement of the colony was effected, inducements were held out to the pastoral interest, and promises of a long occupancy either made or implied. It may be, for the advancement of the colony — it may be demanded by the necessities of the case — that these expectations should not be realized; but we cannot hold that the squatter is to be turned out of his run for the public advantage, and at the same time be denied the compensation which a wealthy colony can well afford him. The squatting system must cease; the lands over which scattered flocks have here-to-fore wandered must be reclaimed; a great population requires to be distributed and fed; and instead of a nation of sheep runs we must soon hope to see Victoria studded with thriving towns, around which shall cluster the golden corn-fields and the rich vintage, and intersected with a vast system of roads, carrying to our great markets and ports the rich produce of a fruitful interior. Before such a state of things the squatter must retire. But let us not make his exit from a scene in which he lately sustained a character so kingly, one that will involve injustice to him and dishonour to us.
Of the other matter to which we have alluded, it is more difficult to write with equal calmness. The solemn decision of the Colonial Legislature that convicts who were not deemed sufficiently reformed for admixture with English society, should not be allowed to contaminate that of Victoria — a decision called for by considerations powerfully affecting public safety, and reiterated in a manner the most impressive — has been twice ignored by the authorities at home. The Legislative Council followed its second enactment of the Convicts’ Prevention Bill with an Address to the Queen, setting forth the grounds on which it judged it necessary to assert and persist in its right of independent legislation on a matter affecting so deeply the internal interests of the colony. To this remarkable document, couched in language of most respectful loyalty, no reply has been vouchsafed; but a short Despatch to the Lieutenant Governor intimates the pleasure of Downing Street that the criminals imprisoned under the Colonial act — as a class the most ruffianly set of desperadoes the world could furnish — shall be at once set free. It is not wonderful that public indignation should be strongly excited at this most injudicious and contemptuous policy of Her Majesty’s ministers. Whatever feeling the fact is calculated to awaken, it is indisputable that the tendency of recent events is to weaken the affection of the colonists for the mother country, and to strengthen the hands of those who are desirous of effecting a separation — a tendency that has by no means been checked by the fresh illustration just brought by the Calcutta, of the principles on which appointments to the highest colonial offices are made.
The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 17 October 1854, p. 4 (columns 5-6)
Calcutta = the ship HMS Calcutta; it was launched in 1831, served in the Royal Navy (UK), and was sold for breaking up in 1908
See: “HMS Calcutta (1831)”, Wikipedia
Downing Street = the British government, i.e. the government of the United Kingdom; the Prime Minister of the UK; the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the UK (Downing Street in London, England, is the location of various government offices, as well as the official residence of the Prime Minister at no. 10 and that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer at no. 11)
See: “Downing Street”, Wikipedia
here-to-fore = (also spelt “heretofore”) before now, up to the present time, up until now
hold = to believe in (or to have, or to hold) an idea or opinion; adhere to, hold to, keep, or maintain a particular belief, opinion, or position on an issue
mother country = in an historical Australian context, Great Britain; may also refer to England specifically (may also be hyphenated, i.e. mother-country)
run = a property on which stock are grazed, such as a “cattle run” or a “sheep run”
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)
subserve = used in a way so as to be subservient to or subordinate to someone or something else; to be helpful to, to be useful to, to serve a useful purpose
thin house = (in a parliamentary context) a thinly-attended house of parliament; a thinly-attended theatre or entertainment venue (distinct from a “full house”)
vouchsafed = to be granted or given something; to receive an agreement or promise; to be allowed or permitted to do something (past tense of “vouchsafe”)
[Editor: Changed “con-fields” to “corn-fields”. Inserted a full stop after “set free”.]