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Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope visited Fremantle in 1875.

In the early 1870s, Fremantle was almost a convict settlement if visiting English novelist Anthony Trollope is to be believed. Scores of ticket-of-leave men were working in the town, filling its boarding houses and carousing in its inns and shanties.

Fremantle has certainly no natural beauties to recommend it. It is a hot, white, ugly town, with a very large prison, a lunatic asylum and a hospital for ancient and worn-out convicts ... there is hardly a man whom it can be worth the reader's while to have introduced to him. Trollope, 1871, quoted in Hutchison; no source given.


Hobart Mercury, 12 November 1875: 3. Uncorrected scanned text.

One of a series of letters now being sent home by Mr. Anthony Trollope thus describes Western Australia:

"Poor Western Australia - Swan River, as it used to be called - is a colony that has received, and I fear is likely to receive, very little attention from the British public at home. It has not sent home gold nor wool in large quantities, nor has it produced wheat sufficient even to feed itself. It has no irresponsible autocratic parliament of its own, the leaders of which can be made knights, with over so many letters after their names, by a flattering Secretary of State at home. It has but twenty-five thousand inhabitants, whereas the other Australian colonies all count their people in six figures, and Victoria lives in the hope of adding a seventh in the course of a few years. And then Western Australia is still contaminated - widely contaminated - by a convict element. As a consequence the poor little colony is not only looked down upon and despised, but is denied the probability of rising into comfortable eminence. And yet, with the exception of the Canadian dominion, which is now one of the biggest kingdoms in the world, Western Australia is the largest of our colonies. It is about eight times as large as Great Britain and Ireland, You may travel 1,200 miles through it from north to south, and 800 miles from east to west - if you can find the means of locomotion. Had the soil and climate been together capable of producing what it might have been a second United States by this time, have counted its people by millions, and have annexed all the interior of the continent, which is now claimed by South Australia. But it can produce wheat only in small patches and as it has not yet shown itself to be possessed of other sources of wealth it is still a poor place, in which men struggle, mid perhaps only half struggle, becauso the wish for prospority sooms sn far distant. The paucity of its products and the npparcntdifllciiHyof drawing sustcnunco from the land were, no doubt, the primary causes of faillira at the Swan- River. But to these was added after a whilo an institution certainly evil in itself j which is now felt to bo a very curso, but which at the timo was regarded as a possiblo salvation, and which I1 do bolicvo did at the timo savo the young colony from perishing from actual inanition. Tho colony was founded in 1820, when 'noither Victoria, South Australia, nor Queensland woi-o in existence. News was brought homo in 1827 by Captain Sterling of a good climato and of fitting land at the mouth and along the shores of the Swan River, on the western shoro of the" then but, littlo known Australasian continent, and ships wore sent out by enthusiastic hopeful colonists with mon and, means ' for beginning a now agricultural lifo in that distant region.' In what had been hitherto dono,in this now world Government had taken the load. ' Government had, indeed, as yot done everything, actuated simply by its dosivo to got rid of its criminal population. Hanging had become unpopular. Cheap gaols, almost as fatal as the gibbet, had been condemned, As the population increased so did the criminals, and it was thought that if they could bo sont away to this world that had beon found at the other sido of the world, thero theso strong but' mutinous citizons might bo so handled that moro good than harm should ooino ¡of them ; or, at any rato, whatever harm they did would not bo ' dono to us at homo. In this way, and ,for this purpose, '-Now South Wales and Van Diemon's Land -were founded, and thoro,ospeoially in the latter colony, which is now called Tasmania-convict labour was found to bo vory useful, ' Convict labour is freo labour, and with the labour carno also the blessing of a largo Govornmont oxpoudjturo. A convict establishment requires many officers, controllers, su'poriiitondonts, dootors, chaplains, warders, otc. > And theso officers livo and spend thuir salaries in the colony which is bloated by their prosenco. Seeing all this, and fooling that under any other probable ciroumstancos the fate of i inanition must'ibo at hand-but still hating the idon of convicts-poor AVostorn Australia yielded itself, to its destinios'in 1349, and applied to the govornmont at homo to sond them' convicts, i Iii'order that /ho may understand the humiliation of this, the roador must boar in mind that at this timo the otlior colonies had repudiated, or woi-o repudiating, convicts. they who had grown and becomo Btrong by convicts had rofusod to rocoivo moro, and their rofusal had boon rospootod-or was in the way to bo rospoctod. In 1853 oven Van Diemon's Land had rocoivod hör laät couyiotj. Jt was ther'ofóro' a vory bitter pill. the ' suggestion had boon twico rojoetod by the colonists boforo it was finally adopted. It was rojoetod at first with scorn, theu with courage, and at last adopted in despair. the convicts carno,' and with' the mail their salaviod oflicors. No doubt they wore of sorvico-of suoh I sorvico that the colony livod, which, without them, would probably havo porishod. Roads wero' mudó ;' buildiugs''worö orootod*; money wa» spent.1 In'all (10,000 conviots woro sont to the > Swan Rivor botwoon 1840 and 1908, the total prosont population being only 75,000. And theso woro laUimon-ai many mon as would in an English town ha roquirod to make up such a population. Of oourso the conviot olomont prevailed and doos prevail, j After a whilo woman wore sont ,911t at the pxponso of 'the home Government to bocomo the wives of such of those mon as'woro in a condition to taku wives. Complaint was luado-thut thu wonion woro not of the host class ¡ but it may bu a quostion whother woman of the ' host dads would hayo suited the purpose. But it would not bo that with'such immigrants the colony should boar a high piora! character, But still thera waru the sinows, and the sinuws woro compelled to work ; and by these moans Swan Rivor was enabled to hold: its hoad just [above water. the system was, brought to an und in 1808, not becauso Western Australia, as it was theu callod, had become tired of convicts, but bocauso the other Australia» colonie» complained of the vicinity of neighbours so considerable. Victoria and South 'Australia alleged that the'ticket-of leave men from Perth and Fremantle, townB on the Swan River, escaped into the bordera, and mado themselves disagreeable It may be that there was some touch of prudent .virtue in this. South Australia had never been disgraced by British convicts, and Victoria had been equally clean sinco sho had been Victoria. they_looked down from a great moral altitude on their poor soiled sister, and expressed their indignation so loudly that the mother country was obliged to desist. As your readers aro probably aware, England has now to koop her convicts at home as best she may-and Western Australia has to expiate her degradation as best she may. There are still convicts in the colony-at this time, I believe, about 1,500 - the remnant of the 10,000 and there are ticket-of-leave men to a much greater number working for their bread in different districts. The head-quarters of the establishment is at Fremantle, capable of holding 850 men, and when I was there three years ago it had 360 inmates. Fremantle is at the mouth of the Swan River, eight miles from Perth, the capital. Of course the result of this is that the great body of labourers in the colony either are convicts, or have been convicts, or that they are in some way connected with convicts ; and, as a farther necessary result, working men are shy of the place, because when there they aro liable to the suspicion of having been sent there' under discreditable circumstances. It will be easily understood that this should tell very strongly against the progress of the place. But in spite of this evil I do not know that any colony offers better terms to a working Englishman with a family than does Western Australia, or that there ia any land in which such a man can expect to do better, provided that he will work hard, that ho is sober, and that he can place himself in the colony. Land has been offered on cheap, if not on profitable terms to immigrants in all these colonies, but the small agriculturist has gonernlly mot with great difficulty in selecting his land. This selection has too generally been made in a fashion which has created internecine enmity between the small owner of land, whose business it should be to grow corn, and the larger ownor of Crown lands, whose business it is to grow wool or to rear cattle. Of these feuds I may probably say something when writing of the other colonies ; but there has also been this evil result from the change and arbitrary solection made in the other colonies ; that the men selecting land have not boen brought sufficiently togother to form helpful communities. The farmer who is 20 miles from his next neighbour, and without a road to reach oven him, can hardly sell his produce. Ho must oat what he grows, and will have no lnonoy to buy anything else. By the last land law passed in Western Australia, which is now three years old, the free selector may take up land chosen for special occupation on very favourable terms. This land will have beon so chosen because it is supposed to bo fit for agricultural purpose The intending immigrant must not suppose by this that he will be enablod to enter in upon land through which ho can at once run his plough or work with his spade. The land will be timbered, and he must clear it. ' There is very much such land in Western Australia, which, when só cleared will not bear corn ; but this is some that will. It is presumed that the land selected for special occupation will be of this quality. In some districts the land is very good, and farmers have thrived well, although the system of farming is as bad as can be. Manure has boen unknown, and the same crops have been taken off the same land year after year, and yet the farmers havo thrived. The terms now offered are these :-The selootor shall only pay 10s. an acre for the freehold possession of his land-the ordinary prico throughout Australia is 20s.-and of this prico ho will bo roquired to pay only Is. an acre each year for 10 years. If during those 10 years he shall havo fenced in the whole of his land, and tilled a quarter of it, then the land will bo his own. In this way | ho may purchaso any number of acres between 100 and 500, but ho cannot, on these terms, purchase loss or more. He has, however, another great advantage offered to him ; for ovory adult person he brings with him, including of course, himself, he has given to him 30 acres freo. A man with his wife and two adult children would thus receive 12Ö acres. It ÍB computed that this is tantamount to giving the immigrant a free passage, as £15 is about the cost at which ho could carry himself to Western Australia. When in the colony the other day I hoard that 400 immigrants had just arrived, or woro just arriving, with the purpose of taking up land on theso terms. For their passage thegovornmont had paid, thereby conferring on them beforehand the valuo of the land which would havo boen duo to them had they oxported themselves. As to the labouring man, the cost of a passage out is, of courso,, the first grand difficulty of emigration. It is to bo hoped that this systom may bo found to answer. It is open to ono great objection. The immigrant who has boon landed free of cost in the colony may at .once take himself off to somo other colony (in quost of gold, for instanco, in Victoria), and have thus made poor Western Australia a dishonest stopping-stone to the fruition of .otlior desires. If, howoyor, a. strong man with a healthy family can find his way to Western Australia, and will take up land on the terms described, I think ho will do as well as may be possible to him in any oolony. But he must not bo a man intending to havo his work dono for bim by the payment of wages. Such a one had bettor not try Western Australia. Hero, as in all three colonies, wool has hitherto boon the staple produce. But wool-growing in this colony has been but a poor business. It boasts altogother something loss than 700,000 shoop, individual squatters owning, perhaps, 4,000 or 5,000 each. On the other wool-growing colonies 20,000 is but a small number on a single shoop'run, wheroas the largo squattors will own from 150,000 to'300,000 sheep. In fact, the West Australian woqj-growor is not a man of much account among Australian squattors generally. Ono roason for this failure is to be found in the poisoned bush of the country-a bush which is injurious to cattle, and absolutely fatal to sheep. This grows here and there, in patches, but in patches frequent enough to interofero materially with the growth of wool. Here, as olsowhoro in this part of the world, the groat panacea for all ovils, the grand hope of all aspirants, has beon gold. If only gold would turn up, then Western Australia would hold its own with hor sistor colonies, and get the botter of her disgrace, and overconio her poverty, and govern herself with that indopond enco bordering on arrogate v/bjc]} tim Australian statesmen generally havo been ablp tq display. And why should not Western Australia have gold among hor rocks and gulleys as woll as Victoria und Now South Wales ? Somo yoars ago a great gold conjuror was sent for, and, having boen duly paid for his wisdom, told them that gold would certainly bo found in a part of the colony north of Porth. No ono who has not seen it can understand how continual and how detrimental is the hankering after gold in au auriferous country. It upBets the minds of men with a propensity for gambling, and induces them to wo8to their honost earnings in the pursuit, with a'lavish oxtravaganco whioh soon roproducos poverty and distress. In Western Australia, hitherto, there has boon only the hunkering, and nono of the fruition. Mon hnva nover abandoned the hopo. What aro oalled signB of gold-what might, perhaps, justly bo named the mark of the boast-havo from timo to timo beon found. there has never boen n settled understanding, as thero is with us in England, that in whatever way man may make his fortune he cannot do so by pioking gold out of the ground. Now, at this moment, now golden hopos have arisen. It is said that auriferous quartz havo boon d¡B: covorod, and crushing nulls havo boon put up in the southern distrlot of j,ho oolony, about 30 milos from Albany, the -southern Jiort. Gold has, no doubt, mado many countries, notably California and Victoria in our day, and as gold may still bo the making of Wester» Australia, one ought to hopo for success to the enterprise. Had I hoard qf new jiqmigrants producing heavy crops of wheat I should have boen njarq hopeful. I ought not to conoludo theso fow words about the httlo-known colony without saying that the tribes of aboriginals are moro numorous hore and strongor than in other parts of Australia. The mon and woman aro, I think, physically suporinr to ¿hoir brothron in the east, and certainly Boom less inolinod to got rid of themselves and to die out of the land. they aro a wrotchod hideous raco, but apparently good-humoured, and on cortain occasions ready to work for immediato good results. It may bo that their por mauonce in the land is duo rather to the small number of their invadors than to any strength of their own. Whon the country was first sottlod they woro very troublosomo, as we in our power used to ooiisidoi1 t]|oii|, by whjult wo iinnliod that for a time they fought rosqlutoly for what they know to bo their owl) and of which wo wore as resolute to doprivó them. Now they are not often pugnacious, at any rate in the immediate neighbourhood of our settlements. As to civilising them, that, I think, all who have watched them know to be hopeless."

References and Links

Hutchison, David 2006, Fremantle Walks.

Hobart Mercury, 12 November 1875: 3.

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