Queensland 1823-1890

Moreton Bay. When Captain Cook, in 1770, sailed into the wide

opening of Moreton Bay, several of his friends on board observed the sea

to be paler than usual, and formed the opinion that, if a careful search

were made along the shores, it would be found that a large river fell

into the sea somewhere in the neighbourhood. Cook attached so little

weight to this idea that he did not stay to make any examination; and

about twenty years later, Captain Flinders surveyed the same bay,

he saw no trace of a river, though he made special search for one.

But the reports of both these travellers were subsequently found to be

erroneous; for, in 1823, when Governor Brisbane sent the discoverer

Oxley, in the Mermaid, to select a place for a new convict station in

the northern district of New South Wales, Moreton Bay was found to

receive the waters of a large and important river. His success was, at

least in part, due to accident. Among the blacks, on the shores of the

bay, was a naked man, who was seen to be white. This man was taken on

board. He had sailed in an open boat from Sydney, with three others,

about a year before, but had been driven by gales out to sea and far to

the north. They had landed and had been well received by the blacks. The

rest had started to walk along the shore to Sydney, but one man, named

Pamphlett, had remained with the natives; and it was he who now was

rescued by Oxley, to whom he gave the information that, when roving

inland with the tribe among whom he was living, he had seen a fine river

of fresh water. Under the guidance of Pamphlett, Oxley left his little

vessel in the bay, and with a boat entered upon the broad current of the

stream. Before sunset he had ascended about twenty miles, and had been

delighted by the richness of the scenery and the magnificence of the

timber. On the following day he proceeded thirty miles farther up, and

throughout the whole distance found the stream to be broad and of

sufficient depth to be navigable for vessels of considerable size. Oxley

was justly proud of his discovery, and wished to penetrate still farther

into the forests that lay beyond; but his boat's crew had been so

exhausted by their long row under a burning sun that he could go no

farther, and found it necessary to turn and glide with the current down

to his vessel, which he reached late on the fourth night. To the stream

he had thus discovered he gave the name of the Brisbane River.

Convict Station. On his return he recommended this district as a

suitable position for the new convict station, and during the following

year (1824) he was sent to form the settlement. With a small party,

consisting of convicts and their guards, he landed at Redcliff, now

known as Humpy Bong, a peninsula which juts out into Moreton Bay a few

miles above the mouth of the Brisbane. Here the settlement remained for

a few months, but afterwards it was moved twenty miles up the river to

that pleasant bend which is now occupied by the city of Brisbane. Here,

under Captain Logan, the first permanent commandant of the settlement,

large stone barracks for the soldiers were erected, and lines of gaols

and other buildings for the convicts. And in these for twelve or

fourteen years the lonely community dwelt--about a thousand

twice-convicted prisoners, and a party of soldiers and officials to keep

them in order. No free person was allowed to approach within fifty miles

of the settlement, unless with special permission, which was very

sparingly granted. The place was a convict settlement of the harshest

type; and stern were the measures of that relentless commandant, Captain

Logan, who flogged and hanged the unfortunate people under his charge

until he became hated with a deadly hatred. He was an active explorer,

and did much to open up the interior country, till at length, on a trip

in which he was accompanied only by some convicts, they glutted their

vengeance by spearing him and battering his head with a native tomahawk.

The Squatters. For thirteen years the settlement was not affected by

anything that went on in that outside world from which it was so

completely excluded. But in 1840 the onward progress of squatting

enterprise brought free men with sheep and cattle close to Moreton Bay.

That fine district, discovered by Allan Cunningham in 1827, and called

by him the Liverpool Plains, had almost immediately attracted

squatters, who by degrees filled up the whole of the available land,

and those who were either new-comers, or who found their flocks

increasing too fast for the size of their runs, were forced to move

outward, and, as a rule, northward. It was about the year 1840 that

the pioneers entered that fine tableland district called by Allan

Cunningham, in 1829, the Darling Downs, and when the year 1844 was ended

there were at least forty squatters over the Queensland borders, with

nearly 200,000 sheep and 60,000 cattle, and with many hundreds of

shepherds and stockmen to attend them.

A Free Settlement. Whilst the squatters were gathering all round, a

change took place at Brisbane itself. We have seen that about 1840 the

English Government had resolved to discontinue transportation, except to

Van Diemen's Land. The word, therefore, went forth that Brisbane was no

longer to be a place of exile for criminals. It was to be the home of

free men and the capital of a new district. In 1841 Governor Sir George

Gipps arrived from Sydney, and laid out the plan of what is now a

handsome city. Blocks of land were offered for sale to free settlers,

and eagerly bought. The Governor also laid out a little town, now called

Ipswich, farther inland. Meanwhile the township of Drayton, and that

which is now much larger, Toowoomba, began to gather round two wayside

inns established for the convenience of travellers. Captain Wickham was

sent up to assume the position of Superintendent of Moreton Bay, which

thus became practically a new colony, just as Port Phillip was in the

south, though both were then regarded as only districts of New South


The Natives. In these early years the squatters of the district were

scattered, at wide intervals, throughout a great extent of country, and,

being in the midst of native tribes who were not only numerous but of a

peculiarly hostile disposition, they often found themselves in a very

precarious situation. The blacks swarmed on the runs, killing the sheep,

and stealing the property of the squatters, who had many annoyances to

suffer and injuries to guard against. But their retaliation oftentimes

exhibited a ferocity and inhumanity almost incredible in civilised men.

The Government troopers showed little compunction in destroying scores

of natives, and, strange to say, the most inhuman atrocities were

committed by blacks, who were employed to act as troopers. On one

occasion, after the murder of a white man by two blacks, a band of

troopers, in the dead of night, stealthily surrounded the tribe to which

the murderers belonged, whilst it was holding a corrobboree, and, at a

given signal, fired a volley into the midst of the dancing crowd--a

blind and ruthless revenge, from which, however, the two murderers

escaped. On another occasion the shepherds and hutkeepers out on a

lonely plain had begun to grow afraid of the troublesome tribes in the

neighbourhood, and cunningly made them a present of flour, in which

white arsenic had been mixed. Half a tribe might then have been seen

writhing and howling in the agony of this frightful poison till death

relieved them. On such occasions the black tribes took a terrible

revenge when they could, and so the hatred of black for white and white

for black became stronger and deadlier.

Separation. In less than five years after the removal of convicts

the district began to agitate for separation from New South Wales; and,

in 1851, a petition was sent to the Queen, urging the right of Moreton

Bay to receive the same concession as had, in that year, been made to

Port Phillip. On this occasion their request was not granted, but, on

being renewed about three years later, it met with a very favourable

reception; and, in the following year, an Act was passed by the Imperial

Parliament giving to the British Government power to constitute the new

colony. Again, as in the case of Port Phillip, delays occurred; and, in

1856, a change of Ministry caused the matter to be almost forgotten. It

was not until the year 1859 that the territory to the north of the

twenty-ninth parallel of latitude was proclaimed a separate colony,

under the title of QUEENSLAND.

In the December of that year Sir George F. Bowen, the first Governor,

arrived; and the little town of Brisbane, with its 7,000 inhabitants,

was raised to the dignity of being a capital, the seat of government of

a territory containing more than 670,000 square miles, though inhabited

by only 25,000 persons. A few months later Queensland received its

Constitution, which differed but little from that of New South Wales.

There were established two Houses of Legislature, one consisting of

members nominated by the Governor, and the other elected by the people.

Gold. In 1858 it was reported that gold had been discovered far to

the north, on the banks of the Fitzroy River, and in a short time many

vessels arrived in Keppel Bay, their holds and decks crowded with men,

who eagerly landed and hastened to Canoona, a place about sixty or

seventy miles up the river. Ere long there were about fifteen thousand

diggers on the scene; but it was soon discovered that the gold was

confined to a very small area, and by no means plentiful; and those who

had spent all their money in getting to the place were in a wretched

plight. A large population had been hurriedly gathered in an isolated

region, without provisions, or the possibility of obtaining them; their

expectations of the goldfield had been disappointed, and for some time

the Fitzroy River was one great scene of misery and starvation till the

Governments of New South Wales and Victoria sent vessels to convey the

unfortunate diggers away from the place. Some, however, in the extremity

of the famine, had selected portions of the fertile land on the banks of

the river, and had begun to cultivate them as farms. They were pleased

with the district, and, having settled down on their land, founded what

is now the thriving city of Rockhampton.

A great amount of success, however, attended a subsequent effort in

1867. The Government of Queensland offered rewards, varying from two

hundred to a thousand pounds, for the discovery of paying goldfields.

The result was that during the course of the next two or three years

many districts were opened up to the miner. Towards the end of 1867 a

man named Nash, who had been wandering in an idle way over the country,

found an auriferous region of great extent at Gympie, about 130 miles

from Brisbane. He concealed his discovery for a time, and set to work to

collect as much of the gold as possible, before attracting others to the

spot. In the course of a day or two he gathered several hundred pounds

worth of gold, being, however, often disturbed in his operations by the

approach of travellers on the adjacent road, when he had to crouch among

the bushes, until the footsteps died away and he could again pursue his

solitary task. After some time it seemed impossible to avoid discovery;

and lest any one should forestall him in making known the district, he

entered Maryborough, not far away, announced his discovery, and received

the reward. A rush took place to the Gympie, which was found to be

exceedingly rich, and it was not long before a nugget worth about four

thousand pounds was met with close to the surface.

Far to the north, on the Palmer River, a tributary of the Mitchell,

there have been discovered rich goldfields, where, in spite of the great

heat and dangers from the blacks, there are crowds of diggers at work.

Many thousands of Chinamen have settled down in the district, and to

these the natives seem to have a special antipathy, as they spear them

on every possible occasion.

But all the stories which Australia offers of gold-digging romance are

eclipsed by that of the Mount Morgan Mine. Near Rockhampton, and in the

midst of that very district to which the diggers had rushed in 1858, but

in which they had starved through being unable to find gold, a young

squatter bought from the Government of Queensland a selection of 640

acres. It was on a rocky hill, so barren that he considered it useless,

and was glad to sell it for L640 to three brothers of the name of

Morgan. These gentlemen were lucky enough to find out that the dirty

grey rocks of which the hill was composed were very richly mixed with

gold, so that twenty or thirty pounds worth of gold could be got by

crushing and washing every cart-load of rock. They immediately set to

work, and before long showed that they were the possessors of the

richest gold mine in the world. A year or two later the hill was sold at

a price equivalent to eight millions of pounds, and it is now reckoned

that it contains gold to the value of at least double that sum. What a

strange adventure for the man who owned it and reckoned it worth almost


Cotton. Throughout most of the colony the climate is either tropical

or semi-tropical, and it is therefore, in its more fertile parts, well

suited to the growth of cotton and sugar. About the year 1861 the

cultivation of the cotton plant was commenced on a small scale; but,

although the plantations were found to thrive, yet the high rate of

wages which prevailed in Queensland, and the low price of cotton in

Europe, caused the first attempts to be very unprofitable.

Matters were changed, however, in 1863, for then a great civil war was

raging in America; and as the people of the Southern States were

prevented, by the long chain of blockading vessels stationed by the

Northern States along their coasts, from sending their cotton to Europe,

there was a great scarcity of cotton in England, and its price rose to

be exceedingly high. This was a favourable opportunity for Queensland.

The plantations were, of course, still as expensive as ever, but the

handsome prices obtained for the cotton not only covered this great

expense, but also left considerable profits. The cultivation of the

sugar cane was introduced in 1865, and, after a few years had passed

away, great fields of waving cane were to be seen in various parts of

the country, growing ripe and juicy beneath the tropical sun.

Polynesian Labour. The prices of cotton and sugar remained high for

some years; but when the American Civil War was over they fell to their

former rates, and the planters of Queensland found it necessary to

obtain some cheaper substitute for their white labourers. At first it

was proposed to bring over Hindoos from India, but nothing came of this

idea; and afterwards, when Chinese were introduced, they were not found

to give the satisfaction expected. But it happened that one of the

planters, named Robert Towns, was the owner of a number of ships which

traded to the South Sea Islands, and having persuaded a few of the

islanders to cross to Queensland, he employed them on his sugar

plantation. He took some little trouble in teaching them the work he

wished them to do, and found that they soon became expert at it. As the

remuneration they required was very small, they served admirably to

supply the necessary cheap labour.

The practice of employing these South Sea Islanders, or "Kanakas," as

they were called, soon became general, and parts of Queensland had all

the appearance of the American plantations, where crowds of dusky

figures, decked in the brightest of colours, plied their labours with

laughter and with song, among the tall cane brakes or the bursting pods

of cotton. The "Kanakas" generally worked for a year or two in the

colony, then, having received a bundle of goods--consisting of cloth,

knives, hatchets, beads, and so forth, to the value of about L10--they

were again conveyed to their palm-clad islands. A system of this kind

was apt to give rise to abuses, and it was found that a few of the more

unscrupulous planters, not content with the ordinary profits, stooped

to the shameful meanness of cheating the poor islander out of his

hard-earned reward. They hurried him on board a vessel, and sent after

him a parcel containing a few shillings worth of property; then, when he

reached his home, he found that all his toil and his years of absence

from his friends had procured him only so much trash.

Happily, this was not of very frequent occurrence; but there was another

abuse both common and glaring. As the plantations in Queensland

increased, they required more labourers than were willing to leave their

homes in the South Sea Islands; and, as the captains of vessels were

paid by the planters a certain sum of money for every "Kanaka" they

brought over, there was a strong temptation to carry off the natives by

force, when, by other means, a sufficient number could not be obtained.

There were frequent conflicts between the crews of labour vessels and

the inhabitants of the islands. The white men burnt the native villages,

and carried off crowds of men and women; while, in revenge, the

islanders often surprised a vessel and massacred its crew; and in such

cases the innocent suffered for the guilty. The sailors often had the

baseness to disguise themselves as missionaries, in order the more

easily to effect their purpose; and when the true missionaries,

suspecting nothing, approached the natives on their errand of good will,

they were speared or clubbed to death by the unfortunate islanders. But,

as a rule, the "Kanakas" were themselves the sufferers; the English

vessels pursued their frail canoes, ran them down, and sank them; then,

while struggling in the sea, the men were seized and thrust into the

hold, and the hatches were fastened down. When in this dastardly manner

a sufficient number had been gathered together, and the dark interior of

the ship was filled with a steaming mass of human beings densely

huddled together, the captains set sail for Queensland, where they

landed those of their living cargoes who had escaped the deadly

pestilence which filth and confinement always engendered in such cases.

Polynesian Labourers' Act. These were the deeds of a few ruthless

and disreputable seamen; but the people of Queensland, as a whole, had

no sympathy with such barbarities, and in 1868 a law was passed to

regulate the labour traffic. It enacted that no South Sea Islanders were

to be brought into the colony unless the captain of the vessel could

show a document, signed by a missionary or British consul, stating that

they had left the islands of their own free will; Government agents were

to accompany every vessel, in order to see that the "Kanakas" were well

treated on the voyage; and, on leaving the colony, no labourer was to

receive less than six pounds worth of goods for every year he had


These regulations were of great use, but they were often evaded; for, by

giving a present to the king of an island, the sailors could bribe him

to force his people to express their willingness before the missionary.

The trembling men were brought forward, and, under the fear of their

chief's revenge, declared their perfect readiness to sail. Sometimes the

Government agents on board the vessels were bribed not to report the

misdeeds of the sailors; and in the case of the Jason, on which the

agent was too honest to be so bribed, he was chained below by the

captain, on the pretence that he was mad. When the ship arrived in

Queensland, the unfortunate man was found in a most miserable state of

filth and starvation. For this offence the captain was arrested, tried,

and imprisoned. Whatever regulations may be made, a traffic of this sort

will occasionally have its dark and ugly features, yet it may be truly

enough said that while the "Kanakas" have been of great service to

Queensland, the colony has also been of service to them. The islanders

are generally glad to be taken; they have better food and easier lives

on the plantations than they have in their homes; they gather a trunkful

of property such as passes for great wealth in the islands, and when

they are sent home, after two years' absence, to their palms and coral

shores, it is in full costume, generally in excellent spirits, and

always more or less civilised. Sometimes, poor fellows, they are

stripped and plundered by their naked relatives, but at any rate they

help, by what they have learnt, to improve the style of life in those

native groves, so sunny but so full of superstition and barbarous rites.

Present State of the Colony. In 1868 Sir George Bowen was sent to

govern New Zealand, and Governor Blackall took charge of affairs in

Queensland. He was a man of fine talents, and amiable character, and was

greatly respected by the colonists; but he died not long after his

arrival, and was succeeded by the Marquis of Normanby, who, in his turn,

was succeeded, in 1874, by Mr. Cairns. Sir Arthur Kennedy, in 1877, Sir

Anthony Musgrave, in 1883, Sir Arthur Hunter Palmer, in 1888, and

General Sir H. Wylie Norman bring the list of Governors to the present

year (1894).

Queensland possesses magnificent resources, which have only recently

been made known, and are now in process of development. Her exports of

gold exceed two million pounds a year; she produces large quantities of

tin, copper, silver, and other minerals. The wool clipped from her sheep

exceeds one million four hundred thousand pounds in annual value; and

her total exports, including cotton, sugar, and other tropical

productions, amount to about six million pounds per annum. The

population is now about half a million, and immigrants continue to

arrive at the rate of about sixteen thousand a year. Though the youngest

of the Australian colonies, Queensland now ranks fourth on the list, and

appears to have a most promising future before her. Her cotton industry

has almost vanished, and her sugar plantations have passed through

troublous times, but there seem to be good hopes for them in the future.

However, it will be in the raising of sheep and of cattle, as well as in

gold-mining, that the colony will have to look for her most permanent

resources. She has now nearly twenty million sheep and six million

cattle, and sends wool, tallow, hides, and frozen meat to England, while

she supplies prime bullocks for the Melbourne Market.

The Aborigines. Australian history practically begins with the

arrival of the white man, for before that time, though tribe fought with

tribe and there were many doings of savage men, there is nothing that

could be told as a general story. Each tribe of from twenty to a couple

of hundred dusky forms wandered over the land, seeking animals to hunt

and fresh water to drink. They were very thinly spread, not more than

one person to ten square miles, yet every little tribe was at deadly

feud with its neighbour.

The tribe wandered over the grassy and park-like lands, the men stalking

ahead with spears and boomerang in hand; the women trudging behind

loaded with babies, and utensils. At evening they camp and the men put

up frail break-winds, consisting of a few branches and leafy tufts;

behind this on the sheltered side a few leaves made a bed. Meantime the

fire was lit close by, and soon a dozen little columns of blue smoke

curl up among the trees. The opossum, or duck, or wallaby is soon cooked

or half-cooked; the men devour as much as they want and pass on the

remains to the women and children. A frog or two and a lizard, or a few

grubs taken out of decayed timber, or perhaps a few roots that have been

dug up on the march by the women, form a sort of dessert. After dusk

there is the sound of chatter round the fires; then all retire to rest,

with the glowing embers of the fires to give them warmth. At daybreak

all are awake. If there is food at hand they may stay in the same camp

for weeks together, but if not they journey on.

Each man had as many wives as he could obtain. He did not support them,

but they supported him, and when children became too numerous he

lessened his family by killing off a few. More than half the children

were thus destroyed. Their enjoyments consisted of games with a kind of

ball, and mock-fights, but especially in a wild dance they called the

corrobboree. They were in general good-humoured when things went

pleasantly; but a man would spear his wife through the leg or dash his

child's brains out readily enough when things were not to his taste, and

nobody would think any the worse of him for it.