Sunday, 31 March 2013

‘Pub quiz facts curriculum’

According to the National Union of Teachers' conference, the revised national curriculum for schools in England is so narrow it will deter young people from learning, The NUT's general secretary Christine Blower said the curriculum was "desperately ill thought out". Delegates claimed that its emphasis on core knowledge was a throw-back to rote learning and uncreative lists of facts.  Alex Kenny from the union's executive said it was a curriculum based on pub-quiz style chunks of information: "It's a curriculum in which the learner is completely absent, or just a passive consumer of information or knowledge."   Martin Allen, a delegate from Ealing, described it as a "know your place curriculum", based on rote learning and "social control".  But the debate also heard support for the idea of teaching a core of knowledge.  Quentin Deakin from Bradford warned that in history pupils could be left "rudderless without some chronology".  The NUT published a survey of more than 2,000 members of the union showing widespread opposition to the curriculum. It found that two-thirds of teachers believed there was "too much emphasis on 'facts' rather than skills".  Not surprisingly, a Department for Education spokesman rejected the criticisms of the planned curriculum. 

The problem with all the rhetoric is that the important questions tend to get lost.  Of primary importance is what ‘knowledge’ means within an educational context.  The rhetoric makes a distinction between facts and skills that is simply missing when looking at what knowledge means.  In fact it is a false dichotomy since individuals need to know ‘how’ to do things and this relies, to a considerable extent on 'knowing ‘what’.  For instance, individuals may know how to make a dovetail joint but to apply this skill they also need to know under what circumstances the joint should be used.  Knowing how to make the joint without recognising the circumstances when it should be used rather than, for instance, a tenon joint is simply a case of skill for skill’s sake.  Similarly, if students are to argue effectively and challenge orthodox views then their argument needs to be grounded in factual information to support or refute the argument.  Otherwise, it ceases to be argument and becomes a rhetorical device for conveying a personal view. 

If you teach students by rote learning then they do become passive receptacles for information but that is not what the curriculum proposes at all.  Neither is it a ‘know your place curriculum’ since that implies learners can neither process the information or do not learn how to process the information and that clearly would negate many of the good learning methods that have evolved in the last twenty years.  Neither is it about social control, in fact the reverse since a knowledge-based curriculum that develops understanding of factual information and the skills necessary to process that information had the potential to liberate the individual by developing the ability to question received wisdom through argument and debate.  The problem, and here Michael Gove has a point, is that instabilities and changes in universities and in teacher education with the division between university-based PGCE and school-based courses have resulted in a teaching profession that may have the skills necessary to make good teachers but they often lack the basic factual knowledge…after all, any teacher under 40-45 would have themselves been taught through the National Curriculum.  They are also those for whom the emergence of the Internet and Wikipedia means that you can always find the ‘knowledge’ (and I use the term questioningly) you need if you have the necessary skills to interrogate hyperspace.  (All well a good but how many teachers are served up often unedited bits from the Internet as essays…I’ve even had essays with the hyperlinks still in place.) 

The point about the National Curriculum is not what it includes or excludes or how it is taught but that it should engage students and make learning what it should always be enjoyable.  In History, a good story well told remains the best way to make learning fun for students.  I still remember listening to my primary school teachers tell the story of Alfred and the cakes and Marco Polo and it doesn’t matter to me that I later found that the sources gave a different version of those stories, I was hooked and that’s the point.  Whether it’s the teaching unions (and I was a member of the NUT throughout my career) or the government or the educational establishment, what is missing is the kids…they don’t really care what they’re taught as long as it’s interesting and fun and, this is my final point, once they know things (and it doesn’t matter if it’s only to answer pub quiz questions), they will eventually learn how to apply them critically.

Squatting and the colonial state

This resolution proved difficult. Coincidentally with their squatting march, the leading Sydneyside landowners acquired the magisterial, executive and legislative power to preserve their hold on the land while newer immigrant squatters brought with them the matching political power of family connection and patronage. The regulation imposed in 1831 continued till 1838, when the price was raised to 12s an acre because that was the minimum fixed in South Australia. It was clearly impossible to make a success of that colony if its lands were sold for more than double the price for which land could be obtained in NSW. Ironically, this gave squatters added incentive to preserve their status quo, for at that price most of their land would be unattractive to buyers. The Wakefield Principle was then occupying much attention in England, and it especially affected the judgement of a committee of the House of Commons before which its author gave evidence. This committee and the Land and Emigration Commissioners appointed to advise the British Government on colonial land questions, were of opinion that all land, except town land, whatever its quality might be, ought to be sold at a fixed price of £1 per acre. Instructions were accordingly sent out that this price should be charged. [1]

The British government followed the advice of the Land and Emigration Commissioners but had failed to observe the great difference in value between country lands and lands close to a town. These Commissioners, who had no practical experience of colonial conditions, actually made the regulation that any person depositing £5,120 might have a special survey made of 5,120 acres or eight square miles of land anywhere they chose in specified districts of NSW, except within five miles of a town. A few wealthy speculators, who had a shrewd idea that lands near to Australian towns would become very valuable, at once lodged their applications and £40,960 pounds was paid before Gipps peremptorily refused to allow any more special surveys to be made. Henry Dendy obtained eight square miles in the present Melbourne suburb of Brighton for his £5,120 and was offered £15,000 before he had even had a sight of the land. Another special survey purchaser, Elgar, selected his eight square miles close to the Melbourne suburbs of Kew, Hawthorn, and Camberwell. Lord John Russell, the Colonial Secretary recognised that Gipps had acted rightly in stopping the special surveys even contrary to instructions. In 1842 the Crown Lands Sale Act was brought into force, under which lands were to be sold by auction with a minimum, not a fixed price at £1 per acre. The £1 per acre system continued to be followed until the colonies obtained representative government and were free to legislate for their lands. The Legislative Council of NSW thought the price too high and objected to the provision of the Crown Lands Sale Act that gave to the Governor the administration of the revenue produced by the sales. Half of it had to be spent in immigration, the balance on public works. However, the Council considered that it should have the disposition of the money and not the Governor and the rest of Gipps’ governorship was embittered by his quarrel with the Council on this question but he was well supported by the Imperial Government.

Sir George Gipps

From 1833, Commissioners of Crown Lands were appointed under the Encroachment Act to manage squatting. Governor Bourke therefore devised the mode of dividing the area whither the squatters had wandered into ‘pastoral districts,’ and of granting annual licences to the occupants of ‘runs,’ for which they wore charged a small fee based upon a computation as to the number of sheep which a particular run would feed. The granting of grazing licences suited the squatters, because, while the licence fee was not heavy, it guaranteed them in the occupation of the lands upon which they had entered.[2] However, Bourke’s successor, Sir George Gipps wanted to use other means to curb the chaotic spread of squatting and to introduce permanent settlement for graziers.[3] He believed that ‘the occupation of land should be made difficult instead of easy’, and wanted to use the revenue gained from land sales to squatters for assisting immigration. His plans to make the squatters pay more for their land met with organised opposition. The government, he wrote, ‘would not suffer them to be kept in perpetuity, and at a merely nominal rent, by those who may be the first to seize upon them’.[4]

In April 1844, Gipps made two regulations with the intention of remodelling the squatting system. The first, gazetted on 2 April, permitted squatters to occupy runs on payment of £10 for every 20 square miles. The second regulation allowed squatters after 5 years occupancy to purchase 320 acres of a run and gave purchasers security of tenure over a whole run for another 8 years. 150 squatters gathered in Sydney later in the month of April and protested against Gipps’s changes drafting a petition to the Queen and forming the Pastoral Association of NSW, the first formalising of the identity of squatters as a political group. A large squatting demonstration was held in Melbourne in June 1844 at which petitions were adopted to be sent to the British parliament and the NSW legislature requesting alterations in the law of Crown lands and a total separation from NSW. A new association was formed at this meeting, designated the ‘Pastoral Society of Australian Felix’. By lobbying in London, the squatters obtained much better terms than Gipps had offered them. The Imperial Waste Lands Act of 1846 and the 1847 Orders in Council divided land into settled, intermediate and unsettled areas, with pastoral leases of one, eight and 14 years respectively and squatters were able to purchase parts of their land, as opposed to just leasing it.

By 1847, there were two ways that people could acquire land. They could purchase it at a minimum of £1 per acre under provisions introduced in the 1842 Crown Lands Sale Act. Or, largely in NSW, they could squat on land and obtain pastoral leases that gave their cattle or sheep runs a degree of legality. Given the scale of the squatters’ holding in NSW and, after 1851, in Victoria, they formed a powerful economic and political elite that was resistant to further change in land policy and especially to calls to ‘unlock the land’. By the late 1840s, nearly all the good lands were used for sheep and cattle and arable farming was located in the coastal areas. In eastern Australia not enough wheat was grown to supply local needs and Tasmania and then South Australia were the granaries for NSW. In South Australia, unlike in the east, the coastal lands were suited to wheat and from the 1840s it production was mechanised and transport costs were low since even though wheat-growing expanded northwards farms were still close to the sea. As a result, Tasmania lost out in wheat to South Australia, but diversified into the production of potatoes, oats and later fruit for the mainland.

Before 1856, land disposal and settlement especially in NSW were characterised by several important elements. Successive colonial governments wanted to recreate the colony in line with the social and economic system of land use in England. This position was to a certain extent supported by the Colonial Office’s desire to restrain the spread of settlement despite the development of a widespread desire for land. However, there was a failure to appreciate that the colony’s land resources were different from those in the United Kingdom and that the sheer vastness of the public domain made development control and policing extremely difficult, if not impossible tasks. It was the discovery of gold in NSW and Victoria in 1851 that precipitated growing demands for land reform, something that after 1855-1856 was possible since the new colonial legislatures being given responsibility for the entire management and control of waste lands belonging to the Crown. [5]


[1] Burroughs, Peter, Britain and Australia 1831-1855: a study in imperial relations and crown lands administration, (Oxford University Press), 1967.

[2] Fletcher, B.H., ‘Governor Bourke and squatting in New South Wales’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 74, (4), (1989), pp. 232-251.

[3] Buckley, K., ‘Gipps and the Graziers of New South Wales, 1841-1846’, Historical Studies, Vol. 7, (1956), pp. 392-407.

[4] Gipps to Stanley, 16 April 1844, cit, Buckley, K., ‘Gipps and the Graziers of New South Wales, 1841-6’, p. 396

[5] Auster, M., ‘The regulation of human settlement: public ideas and public policy in New South Wales, 1788-1986’, Environmental and Planning Law Journal, Vol. 13, (1), (1986), pp. 40-47.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Squatting as ‘policy’

Parallel to the changing policies in the 1820s and early 1830s was the dramatic expansion of squatting.[1] Squatting, originally, in a pastoral context, was the unauthorised creation of stock stations on vacant Crown Land and arose when and where a landowner’s increasing stock numbers out-grazed the land available to him by grant, purchase, lease, or permit. A negative view of squatting remained important through to the mid-1830s. In 1815, a witness before a House of Commons Committee commented

These persons are almost invariably the instigators and promoters of crime, receivers of stolen property, illegal vendors of spirits, and harbourers of runaways, bushrangers, and vagrants.[2]

James Macarthur (the son of John) writing in a similar strain in his book on NSW in 1837, spoke of

....persons denominated squatters [were] mostly convicts holding tickets of leave or having become free by servitude who [carried on] an extensive system of depredation upon the flocks and herds and the property of the established settlers.[3]

Squatting, apart from these alleged dishonest characteristics, was a natural consequence of the absence of a land policy suited to the changed conditions. As long as the Government gave land away to applicants with capital to invest and to others whom it wished to benefit, persons who had not benefited regarded the unoccupied areas beyond the Blue Mountains as available to those who chose to occupy them. It proved impossible to restrain settlement within prescribed limits while there were valuable grasslands stretching for hundreds of miles beyond the official boundaries. Whatever the regulations, NSW Governor Gipps was right when he wrote in 1840:

As well attempt to confine an Arab within a circle traced on sand, as to confine the graziers or wool-growers of New South Wales within bounds that can possibly be assigned to them.

In the 1820s and 1830s it was common for squatters to follow in the tracks of explorers such as Thomas Mitchell and Charles Sturt and grab the best-watered pasture they could find for their flocks and herds. One writer noted that ‘dispersion’, not confinement, was the natural law of settlement. It was not surprising that a theory of ordered settlement and colonisation, propounded by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, gained the attention of the British government. South Australia was settled according to his plan, which married land sales, labour and capital as an enticement to free, respectable British settlers. At Swan River settlement, the attempt to use convict labour and to apportion land by grant met with a host of problems and seemed to indicate that Wakefield’s ideas had merit.[4]

In eastern mainland Australia, the original impetus for squatting in the early 1820s was primarily an expanding Sydney meat market and secondly experimentation with wool production, with added impetus from emancipist and native-born families in search of social and economic freedom.[5] Squatting took on fresh vigour and its actual name of squatting in 1836 with a British wool market that strengthened pastoral diversification and drew new pastoralists from VDL and from Britain. In turn, the creation of Melbourne and Adelaide expanded the meat markets for the ‘Sydneyside’ cattle holders, just as the goldfields populations would do on a grander scale in the 1850s. Despite a pastoral myth that sees wool as the creator of squatting, it is possible that sheep grazed no more land than did cattle in eastern Australia even as late as 1860.[6]

The ‘Nineteen Districts’, 1829

The first steps in establishing wool production in NSW also created an increased demand for land. Squatting activity was often carried out by emancipist and native-born colonists as they sought to define and consolidate their place within society. From the mid-1820s, however, the occupation of Crown land without legal title became more widespread, often carried out by those from the upper echelons of colonial society.  As wool began to be exported to England and the colonial population increased the occupation of pastoral land for raising cattle and sheep progressively became a more lucrative enterprise.  By 1831, Australia was supplying 8 per cent of British wool imports. Nine years later the proportion had risen to 28 per cent and by 1850 to 53 per cent. Sheep grazing stretched out well beyond the hinterland of the first settlement, into what later became Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, although pastoralists remained in the relatively well-watered districts. Progress was not smooth. The years between 1825 and 1828 were marked by depression, caused initially by falling wool prices in England and made worse by drought in Eastern Australia. Expansion was resumed after 1828 and continued throughout the 1830s; by 1840, however, profits were again being squeezed between rising costs and slightly falling wool prices. The optimism that had characterised the 1830s evaporated, credit was restricted, and serious depression occurred. During this period of pastoral expansion wheat production had failed to keep pace with the growth of the population of NSW. The environment was not generally well suited to arable farming that became the occupation of poor men with inadequate resources. Supplies were imported from VDL, but by the 1840s South Australia began to supply NSW with wheat and during the next half-century emerged as the principal grain-growing region of Australia.

‘Squatting’ had become so widespread by the mid-1830s that Government policy in NSW towards the practice shifted from opposition to regulation and control.  It was clearly necessary to impose some rule in regard to the occupation of these outlying lands. Despite a popular belief that squatting was a general Australian experience, squatting hardly existed in the other colonies. In VDL, where there were few cattle, lax land administration in the 1820s had allowed sheep owners all the freehold land they wanted and the owners found their squatting outlets in the Port Phillip District of NSW. In Western Australia, massively liberal land grants, low initial stock numbers and a tiny domestic market, deferred for many years any perceived need to graze Crown land.[7] In South Australia in 1836, the founders’ Wakefieldian agriculturalist philosophy of settlement, reinforced in the 1840s and 1850s by the province’s emergent agricultural and copper-mining industries ensured that squatting in the province would not become a major activity.[8] In effect, VDL, Western Australia, and South Australia were largely spectators of the eastern mainland’s resolution of squatting.

Sheep, South Australia, c1880


[1] Weaver, John, ‘Beyond the fatal shore: pastoral squatting and the occupation of Australia, 1826 to 1852’, American History Review, Vol. 101, (1996), pp. 980-1007.

[2] Cit, Roberts, S.H., The Squatting Age in Australia 1835-1847, (Melbourne University Press), 1935, p. 70.

[3] Macarthur, James, New South Wales; its Present State and Future Prospects: being A Statement, with Documentary Evidence. Submitted in support of Petitions to His Majesty and Parliament, (D. Walther), 1837, p. 44.

[4] Oldham, W., Land policy of South Australia: from 1830 to 1842, (G. Hassell & Son), 1917 and Ellis, Julie-Ann, Public land and the public mind: origins of public land policy in South Australia, 1834-1929, (Flinders University Oress), 1995.

[5] Fletcher, B.J., Landed Enterprise and Penal Society: A History of Farming and Grazing in NSW before 1821 (Sydney University Press), 1976, Beever, E.A., ‘The Origins of the Wool industry in NSW’, Business Archives and History, Vol. 5, (2), (1965), pp. 91-106, Ker, Jill, ‘The Wool industry in NSW 1803-1830’, Business Archives and history,Vol. 2, (1962), pp. 18-54, P. Fogarty, P., ‘The New South Wales Pastoral Industry in the 1820s’, Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 8, (1968) , pp. 110-122, Beever, E.A., ‘Further Comments on the Origin of the Wool industry in New South Wales’, Australian Economic History Review, Vol. 8, (1968), pp. 123-128. See also, Abbott, G.J., The Pastoral Age: A re-examination, (Macmillan), 1971.

[6] This idea that sheep were the major reason for squatting was encouraged in ibid, Roberts, S.H., The Squatting Age in Australia 1835-1847.

[7] Forrest, Sir John, Report on the land policy of Western Australia, from 1829-1888: accompanied by various returns, land regulations, and a map, (Government Printer), 1889.

[8] Prest, Wilfrid, Round, Kerrie and Fort, Carol S., The Wakefield companion to South Australian history, (Wakefield Press), 2001, pp. 513-514 provides a succinct summary of squatter activity in the colony. See also W.L.R., Our wool staple; or, A history of squatting in South Australia, (John Howell), 1865.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

From grants to sales in the 1820s

When the Blue Mountains were crossed and the value of the lands beyond was appreciated, capital as well as immigration was attracted. The implementation of Bigge’s report paved the way for the settlement of vast tracts of land by British-backed investment companies like the Australian Agricultural Company and the Van Diemen’s Land Company and in the division of land into counties, hundreds, and parishes. The Australian Agricultural Company incorporated by Royal Charter under a special Act of Parliament, in 1824, ‘for the cultivation and improvement of waste lands in the colony of NSW,’ obtained 500,000 acres for nothing.[1] It was even given coal-mines at Newcastle. Part of the company’s estate was selected after 1831, when Governor Bourke energetically protested against the alienation of so huge an area, but was overruled by his official superiors. The company thus richly endowed still carries on its profitable operations. The Van Diemen’s Land Company also worked under a Royal Charter (1825) and secured over 400,000 acres for a trifling quit-rent of £468.[2]

It was not until Bigge’s reports that some English politicians recognised that land had been given away too freely. ‘Large grants of land to individuals have been the bane of all our colonies,’ Under-Secretary Goulburn wrote in 1820, ‘and it has been the main object of Lord Bathurst’s administration to prevent the extension of this evil by every means of his power.’ But, the granting of large areas was continued for some years after 1820. During Governor Brisbane’s term, however, land grants were more readily made.  In addition regulations introduced during Brisbane’s term enabled settlers with his permission to purchase up to 4,000 acres at 5s an acre with superior quality land priced at 7s 6d.[3]  During his four years in office the total amount of land in private hands virtually doubled. Lord Bathurst’s spasm of moderation did not affect his successors. Free grants were made down to the year 1831, when the Colonial Office ordered the substitution of the method of sale by auction. By this time 3,963,705 acres had been granted either freely or at a trifling quit-rent.

In 1825, Bathurst instructed Brisbane to survey the territory to allow for more planned settlement. During the survey one seventh of the land in each county was to be set a side for the Church of England and an educational system under the control of the church. Income from this land was to be managed under the Church and Schools Corporation.[4] When Governor Darling was commissioned in July 1825, his commission extended the NSW boundary six degrees to the west compared with the commissions issued to previous governors. In September 1826, Darling announced the boundaries within which the survey was to be conducted. It would allow the allocation of land grants and the boundaries, known as the limits of location, were used for other administrative purposes including police administration. The nineteen counties were proclaimed by Darling in the Sydney Gazette of 17 October 1829. The boundaries were the Manning River to the north, the Lachlan River to the west and the Moruya River to the south. In some places there were already squatters beyond these ‘limits of location’.

The Nineteen Counties were the limits of location in the colony of NSW. Settlers were only permitted to take up land within the defined area. From 1831, there were no more free land grants and the only land that was for sale was within the Nineteen Counties. The Ripon Regulations were introduced in 1831 by the Earl of Ripon (then Viscount Goderich), instigating a new system for the sale of Crown land in the Australian colonies. Crown land had previously been acquired through grants or sale by tender. The Ripon Regulations standardised the sale process by introducing compulsory sale by auction and by setting a minimum sale price of 5s per acre; this rose to 12s per acre in 1839 and to £1 in 1842. The proceeds from land sales were used to fund the assisted immigration of labourers and servants into the colonies. Despite the uncertainty of land tenure, squatters ran large numbers of sheep and cattle beyond the boundaries. The legitimate allocation of land, whether by grant or sale, in large or moderate areas, was disturbed by the unauthorised proceedings of the squatters.

parramattafemalerefactory

Parramatta, c1826

Much commotion was caused among the land-owners in 1835, when doubts were expressed as to whether the whole of the land grants made in NSW and VDL since the very beginning of settlement were not illegal. The lords of thousands of acres trembled at the prospect. The point was first raised in Hobart that these grants had not been made in the name of the King but of the Governor. The practice began in the time of Phillip, and had been continued by every successive Governor. When the law officers of the Crown in England were consulted, they gave it as their opinion that the whole of the grants from the foundation of NSW were invalid. The insecurity was removed by the passing of an Act in 1836 (6 William IV, no. 16), ‘to remove such doubts and to quiet the titles of His Majesty’s subjects holding or entitled to hold any land in NSW.’


[1] See, ibid, Roberts, Stephen, History of Australian Land Settlement 1788-1920, pp. 57-62 and King, Hazel, ‘John Macarthur junior and the formation of the Australian Agricultural Company’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 71, (3), (1985), pp. 177-199.

[2] Ibid, Roberts, Stephen, History of Australian Land Settlement 1788-1920, pp. 62-68 and Meston, A.L. and W.M., The Van Diemen’s Land Company: 1825-1842, (Museum Committee, Launceston City Council), 1958

[3] In 1824, Brisbane approved the sale of Crown Lands in accordance with one of Bigge’s recommendations. Previously only a nominal ‘quit’ rent was required for grants by the crown.

[4] Grose, Kelvin, ‘What happened to the Clergy Reserves of NSW?’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 72, (2), (1986), pp. 92-103 and ‘Scott, Arthur and the clergy reserves of Van Diemen’s Land’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 75, (3), (1989), pp. 153-169.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Macquerie and Bigge

Between 1809 and the Colonial Office’s change of policy in 1817, Macquarie based his land policy largely on free settler immigration and launched a comprehensive policy of settlement in the ‘interior’ rather than on the more dangerous flood plains. Military officers were no longer to receive grants and he vigorously opposed monopolists especially rich settlers such as the Blaxlands who, he argued, having turned their attention to cattle production, had violated their implicit contracts with the government in taking grants to advance arable farming. Macquarie never grasped the potential for pastoral farming but his conclusions were probably right; the rich settlers became increasingly difficult to manage and ‘it seemed as if a military oligarchy were being reincarnated in the form of a civil monopoly’.[1] He concluded that if gentlemen settlers were ‘difficult’ and free settlers still arriving in only small numbers then emancipists should be encouraged to farm land. In 1816, for example, of the 352 people who settled land, only 15 were free immigrants. It was important to keep out poor settlers, who would become a burden on the colony’s resources and land speculators. In 1812, Macquarie included clauses in every grant forbidding their sale for five years and that the land would be cultivated.[2] Supported by Bathurst at the Colonial Office, Macquarie had developed an effective system of land settlement based on nothing more than ‘a Grant of Land and Some assistance of Convict Labour’.[3]

image

The new system introduced in 1817 had two key features. First, the amount of land granted was to be determined the actual amount of capital possessed by a settler. Secondly, it sought to resolve the question of freeing the market. In 1816, Treasury officials recommended public competition and Bathurst even threatened to import Indian maize if it was cheaper. Macquarie, however, postponed the new system and continued with the old method of government purchase. There were to be no foreign markets leading to a petition in late 1819 by settlers who rightly claimed that ‘the surplus becomes useless for want of a Market’.[4] While Macquarie had embraced the need to expand the settlement of land and had evolved effective strategies to do so, he was far less willing to welcome a free market solution. Increasingly, his land policy was under critical scrutiny. Large farmers opposed the governor because of his failure to open up the market and the graziers joined them because he had neglected their protest against English duties. The Colonial Office was concerned by ever-increasing spending without real returns, a situation increasingly unacceptable in Britain where retrenchment after the French Wars was the dominant economic priority. In addition, Macquarie had been circumspect in his despatches with regard to land policy and for over nine years had not forwarded returns of land grants to London.

The result was the appointment of Bigge as a Commissioner of Inquiry to fill in the details that Macquarie had omitted from his despatches. Bigge arrived in NSW with certain prejudices: he was less than sympathetic to those who had been transported to the colony but leaned towards the interests and values of the large landowners. His analysis of the weaknesses of Macquarie’s land policy was forensic in nature though his constructive proposals were far from original. Bigge found that many of the criticisms of Macquarie’s land policy were justified. Of the 324,251 acres of land granted, convicts held more than a quarter and thousands of blocks of land were held without title. While Macquarie may have granted large tracts of land, settlers preceded surveyors who had little incentive to keep up with the rate of occupation since their profit was barely 2/6 per farm. Even where farms had been surveyed, there was a long delay in completing the deeds because registration barely covered the cost of the parchment. At every level of land policy, there were clear abuses.[5]

Bigge proposed reviving the antiquated system of public farming in the new convict settlements of the north and the establishment of a distillery to use the surplus grain, something that had originally been proposed over a decade earlier. Instead of opening up an export trade, he relied on the building of more granaries and the conversion of the wheat into the arrack of the time. In granting land, he repeated Bathurst’s 1817 programme by recommending that land should be allocated in proportion to capital alone. There was little new in Bigge’s recommendations but they clarified the issues and justified Bathurst’s policy while condemning Macquarie’s administration of that policy.

Macquarie’s belief that emancipists could form the backbone of colonial society was bankrupt by 1820. This was reflected in his arbitrary treatment of settlers in his final years as governor, his refusal to allow any ex-soldiers to settle in 1820 and his notice, in March 1821, banning applications for land. The future that Macquarie did not recognise lay with the small free immigrant and with pastoral farming. Yet, during his governorship, he raised to NSW from a penal colony to a civil society in which there was a large free community thriving on the produce of flocks and the labour of convicts. Between 1810 and 1821, the population of NSW rose from 12,000 to nearly 40,000 cultivating 32,000 acres of land. The problem was that Macquarie’s strengths in 1810 had become his weakness by 1820: ‘a war-trained governor, who subjected lawyers and capitalists to his will, was admittedly suited to a convict settlement, but not for an expanding free colony’.[6]

The first official notion of land settlement was contained in Governor Phillip’s official instructions, in which it was assumed that a self-sustaining rural economy would make its own demand for land. Initially, settlement was linked to the feeding of the population. Grants would be made available for those who applied and small portions would be offered to emancipated convicts as it was believed that rural labour could help redeem fallen characters. The land grant system, under the direct authority of governors, was maintained until the 1820s and formed the only official means of broadening the base of settlement. Initially natural geographical features, such as the Blue Mountains, prevented the westward expansion of NSW and new settlements were made for strategic reasons by Lieutenant Collins at Port Phillip and VDL. Although Collins discounted the country at Port Phillip, VDL was settled and land grants were made at the governor’s discretion.[7]

Under Macquarie the system of grants reached its height. He held the view that rural areas should have towns constructed as service centres and places of government. Moreover, he believed that yeomen farmers should become the backbone of society and policy should be framed for their benefit. Few admitted that the Australian environment was more suited to grazing than intensive English agriculture. Large landowners and wool growers such as John Macarthur, Samuel Marsden and Gregory Blaxland sought to expand the territory available and it was the manoeuvring of private individuals that opened a path to new land in the west beyond the Blue Mountains. The investigations and report of Commissioner J.T. Bigge laid the foundations for altering the way in which land settlement progressed. Bigge, like Macquarie, supported the role of small farmers, but saw that wool could provide valuable export earnings encouraging a new type of settlers prepared to buy land from the Crown that gave them a permanent stake in the country.

Land policy between 1788 and 1821 was based on the granting of land by NSW governors to individuals. It was part of a controlled economy in which the colonial government was the purchaser of produce in which the market forces of supply and demand generally did not operate. While this may have been justifiable in the immediate aftermath of the establishment of a penal colony where survival and basic subsistence were key priorities and where government was by military rule, it was not conducive to territorial or economic expansion. Macquarie may have laid the foundations for both between 1809 and 1821 but there were important limitations to his policies. It is no coincidence that the emergence of a new approach to land policies emerged in the 1820s at the same time that NSW moved from military to civilian rule and gubernatorial autocracy was replaced by limited representative institutions


[1] Ibid, Roberts, Stephen, History of Australian Land Settlement 1788-1920, p. 21.

[2] This had the effect of reducing speculation in land in contrast to the speculative drive behind farming in Upper Canada.

[3] Bathurst to Macquarie, 24 July 1816, HRA, Vol. 9, p. 151 and Macquarie to Bathurst, 31 March 1817 outline Macquarie’s change in policy.

[4] HRA, Vol. 10, p. 59.

[5] Bigge’s Reports were printed in three volumes. Vol. 2: The State of Agriculture and Trade in the Colony of New South Wales, The House of Lords, (Paper 119), printed, 4 July, 1823, facs ed., Adelaide, 1971 contains his recommendations on farming.

[6] Ibid, Roberts, Stephen, History of Australian Land Settlement 1788-1920, p. 25.

[7] Wheat, barley and oats have been produced in VDL since the early days of European settlement. After starvation conditions in 1805-1807, some was exported by 1812 and in substantial quantities by the 1820s when VDL was regarded as the granary of NSW.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Land policy under King and Bligh, 1800-1810

When Philip Gidley King, Hunter’s replacement arrived, he found depressed settlers, flourishing middleman, labourers demanding high wages and farming devastated by a combination of flood and bush fires.[1] His immediate aim was to reverse Hunter’s policies by treating all settlers equally, by reducing the number of assigned servants to two per settler and introducing a more competitive market for grain by allocating government orders among the settlers in proportion to their crops.[2] Convict labour was also made profitable by making them work for the state rather than clearing land for settlers. Instead of dispersing labour, King concentrated it on a large government farm at Castle Hill. This resulted in a revival of individual enterprise and by 1802 cultivated land had increased by a quarter and the colony was self-sufficient. Although this resolved the immediate threat of famine, it was not a solution to the inadequacies of many settlers who were ‘without either property to employ others or abilities to work themselves’. He urged that instead of sending labourers to NSW, farmers with capital should be encouraged to come to the colony believing that they could revive effective and efficient private farming. However, this faced sustained opposition from Macarthur and the officers of the NSW Corps.

Philip Gidley King

The system of public farming, originally introduced by Hunter, proved remarkably successful under King to such an extent that by 1802 it was producing a surplus of grain.[3] A simple solution would have been to export any surplus but King had prohibited this. If public agriculture was efficient but settlers could not sell their surplus outside the colony, free colonisation was doomed. In 1804, Hobart ordered that government farming should be curtailed and government herds dispersed.[4] The focus was now on settlers and it was the central element of the new economic policy to aid them as much as possible. More bond labour was to be allowed, stock was to be given to successful settlers and the government was to advance loans to stimulate enterprise. This was combined with an ending of the closed market with the ending of guaranteed prices, the operation of supply and demand and the introduction of a system of tenders with safeguards against the monopolists. This represented a shift away from government activity towards free enterprise. While control of the minutiae of life especially leading agrarian change in NSW by the governor may have been justifiable during its struggle for survival but there were limits to what government alone could achieve. By giving special terms to men with capital who could develop the colony, such as the Blaxland brothers[5] who obtained grants of 8,000 acres in 1805 on condition that they spent £6,000 and by the development of an export trade for surplus products, Hobart and King moved NSW towards a market economy in which individual enterprise would be rewarded. This resulted in a change in land policy that was for the first time linked to expansion rather than static subsistence. The NSW government wanted to group settlers round ‘townships’ or shires of up to 30,000 acres with farms radiating from centrally placed ‘towns’. This would have the effect of gradually colonising the interior and as these lands were not retained by government but vested in certain ‘Resident Trustees’, chosen by settlers and other farmers in the district stimulate further growth. [6]

Under King, there was a radical transformation in land settlement. When he arrived in 1800 there were 401 proprietors with grants for 43,786 acres of land; when he left there were 646 with 84,466 acres. The settled districts had increased to below Windsor and the intervening land had in general been occupied. The area under cultivation had almost doubled and the population of the colony had increased by 4,936 to 7,052. King had played a central role in furthering these changes despite the opposition of the NSW Corps. It was, however, not until after the Rum Rebellion against King’s successor William Bligh that these soldiers were demobilised and the greatest obstacle to sustained expansion was eliminated. [7]

While Bligh’s land policy had been moderate and progressive, following his deposition there were two years of retarded development as first Johnston, then Foveaux and Paterson endorsed different policies.[8] Johnston was moderate in his approach; Foveaux made few grants[9] while Paterson, revived the unstructured grants associated with Grose issuing 413 grants of 64,475 acres in a year. There are grounds to support Bligh’s later assertion that the administrators gave land to individuals who they believed would support their interests. Their grants were rendered void when Macquarie took over although the Colonial Office gave him discretionary powers to confirm these grants as he deemed fit.[10] By 1809, there were 737 settlers out of a total population of 10,482 holding 95,637 acres (an average of 128 acres each) with 7,615 acres under cultivation and 74,569 acres of pasture.


[1] See King to Portland, 25 September 1800, HRNSW, Vol. 4, pp. 177-186.

[2] Government and General Orders, 1 and 2 October 1800, HRNSW, Vol. 4, pp. 220, 222.

[3] King to Hobart, 9 November 1802, HRNSW, Vol. 4, pp. 899-900.

[4] King to Hobart, 1 March 1804, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 329-330.

[5] See, Gregory Blaxland to Under-Secretary Cooke, 24 October 1804, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 479-480 and Gregory Blaxland to Under-Secretary Chapman, 1 March 1805, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 568-569.

[6] The Colonial Office approved of this and included it as part of Bligh’s instructions, 25 May 1805, HRNSW, Vol. 5, pp. 640-641.

[7] King to Camden, 15 March 1806, HRNSW, Vol. 6, pp. 34-40, 43-45 provides a summary of King’s achievements.

[8] The decline in agriculture is evident in Civil Officers to Bligh, 18 February 1809, HRNSW, Vol. 7, p. 36 and in Foveaux to Castlereagh, 20 February 1809, HRNSW, Vol. 7, pp. 39-40.

[9] See, for example, Foveaux to Castlereagh, 20 February 1809, HRNSW, Vol. 7, p. 41.

[10] Proclamation, 4 January 1810, HRNSW, Vol. 7, pp. 256-257.

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Eastleigh by-election 28 February 2013

By-elections are an important feature of British politics and a few have had a significant impact on national politics.  Whether Eastleigh falls into that category only time will tell.  But it was a significant election called in the wake of Chris Huhne’s admission (finally) that he had perverted the course of justice and during the changing ramifications of the ‘sex scandal’ in the Liberal Democratic Party and six days after Britain lost its AAA credit rating.  That the Liberal Democrats retained the seat, albeit with a significantly reduced majority was a victory ‘against the odds’ but hardly ‘stunning’ as Nick Clegg maintains when there was a 19.3 per cent swing to UKIP and its share of the vote fell by 14 per cent since the 2010 general election. For the Conservatives this was fair more than the ‘disappointing’ result, David Cameron’s verdict, it was a humiliating defeat in a constituency that it must win in a general election to secure a majority government.  As for Labour, yes Eastleigh is its 258th target seat and it has never come close to winning it, but it failed to extend its appeal beyond its core voters despite the current unpopularity of the government.  Yes, it will say that the anti-government vote went to UKIP but that neglects the point that Ed Milliband’s One Nation Labour made no inroads in a southern English seat.

The real winner at Eastleigh was UKIP.  Although it came second, it was, according to some commentators,  a victory in all but name.  Let’s be clear, Eastleigh may have been their best by-election result but they did not win.  However, what the result demonstrates is that UKIP’s stance on issues such as EU migration resonates with the public and that David Cameron’s offer of a referendum on Europe did not benefit the Conservatives at all.  The problem for the Conservatives (and incidentally Labour) is that they have promised referendums in the past and then reneged on the deal and that the public, when faced by a political establishment that is pro-Europe in its attitudes, vote UKIP not as a protest vote against that establishment but out of frustration at the failure of that establishment to give the people the referendum they want because they think they might/will lose.  All the major political parties are divided over Europe though there is an unbridgeable chasm at the heart of Conservatism that has poisoned its electoral prospects for the past two decades.  They have not won a general election since 1992, whatever the party rhetoric about 2010, an election that Labour lost rather than the Conservative won.  What the public recognise and the Conservative leadership does not is that re-negotiating our position in the EU is effectively a non-starter—why should a Europe of 26 countries negotiate with the twenty-seventh?  David Cameron’s dilemma is that he supports the EU if it acts in Britain’s interests while those in Brussels look at issues from a Europe-wide perspective.  The public pragmatically takes the view that we will never get what we want through negotiation and that, as a country, we need to decide whether we want to be in the EU or not.  UKIP recognise this and this helps to explain why their candidate did so well in Eastleigh.

The difficulty for the political establishment, a point well made on Question Time last night, is that it sits in the ‘Westminster bubble’ and is not only completely out of touch with the concerns and fears of the general public but appears indifferent to them.  That’s the message from the by-election and explains why UKIP did so well and the other parties so badly.