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Our Australian Cousins
Chapter XXVI


Argument continued by illustration and from personal experiences in land settlement—The work of settlement in Oudh—Fixity of tenure and easy conditions—Surveys and improvements—Village settlements—Importation of labour—The labour question—Misstatements and false views—Coolie labour—More labour wanted —Anti-immigrationists—Protectionists in disguise—More abundant labour the talisman of Australia's development—The reign of the carpet-baggers—No progress without population—Words of an Australian poet.

Once more let me proceed by way of illustration .from my own experiences, they are so far valuable as being at all events suggestive of what might be done in a similar way here. I have already alluded briefly to the working of the "Waste Lands Regulations in India. Towards the end of 1875,1 undertook the management of several grants held under the Waste Lands Regulations in Oudh and the North-West Provinces. The extent of the grants was 28,000 acres. It was mostly thick forest country, with rather a poor soil, and a not by any means over abundant rainfall. It was in fact not unlike much existing parts of the different Australian colonies. The former management had been content to wait the slow progress of village settlement, with here and there a desultory attempt at forest clearing. By including all the open glades in the forest, the bare upland slopes, the more trampled down portions of the jungle near the scattered hamlets—for they could not be called villages—the first five years' measurement had been got over, and an eighth of the total area had been reported as having been reclaimed according to the regulations. It now wanted but three years for the next periodic survey, and I had my hands full. My employer, however, was persuaded that it could be done. He reposed a loyal confidence in me, and, I was determined to do what I could to deserve it.

The country bore an evil reputation for fever, it was as bad in that respect as New Guinea, and the great difficulty was the want of labour. It was of no use to try to induce settlement on the old system. Tenants would not face the jungle malaria, and settle down even on a nominal rental. My first care, therefore, was to bring with me a crowd of my old coolies from Behar, and, accompained by a number of trusty old servants who rallied to my standard, I set out to brave the fevers and chills of my forest territory.

I had here to face the same problem that even now awaits solution in Australia; and in my limited way I had to solve the knotty difficulty,—how was I to settle and reclaim my domain, and make it productive ?
I found the few Ishmaelitish dwellers already in possession of the cleared spaces prepared to meet me with the most determined hostility. They tried to frighten my coolies with terrible stories of the decimating fever. Once they nearly set fire to my bungalow. They invaded my fields at night, and carried off my crops. My cattle were stolen, and my servants beaten. It was a weary time; but temper, and judgment, and tact, began to make progress after a while. When they found that I did not want to raise their rents, or force any particular culture upon them, they gradually, one by one, came over to my side, although at first they stood aloof, and used my name as a bogey to frighteu their children. Many of my coolies deserted—ran away with their advances; others in large numbers knocked under from fever, and I had to send them home.

When I succeeded in getting villagers attracted to settle in my villages, the neighbouring landholders tried their utmost, to bribe them over to their own estates; but backed up by my large-hearted employer, I struggled manfully on. To every resident in my scattered villages I at length succeeded in giving a lease on easy terms; I allowed them advantages and made concessions which they had never before enjoyed. Formerly they were mere tenants at will, and after a generous season the manager would make exactions to secure back-rents. At any moment their cattle might be impounded, or their crops seized. In fact they had no fixity of tenure. All this I altered. It was hard work at first to convince them that I was honest, and would keep my word. Formerly, when a man ran away, a band of armed retainers hunted him from village to village, in the endeavour to harry his cattle, or forcibly compel him to come back. I let them go if so minded, and made no effort to restrain them. Better an empty house than a bad tenant, I thought. I first of all made up each man's account, what he owed to the estate, and any disputed item I submitted to the arbitration of the chief men in their own little " cla-clian," with a few of my own chief servants. It was a tiresome task, but I succeeded. I got every man to come in and sign a bond for the amount of his indebtedness. I arranged for payment on easy and liberal terms. Where the rent seemed in any way excessive, I reduced it. The neighbouring zemindars thought mo mad. They insisted that I should demoralize their tenantry and raise a revolution. Sure enough I did, and a blessed revolution it was to the poor struggling peasantry. I gave each man a lease, signed, sealed, and registered. Here at last was something tangible. They had never before enjoyed a real fixed tenure. Ah, what a magic is in that! How can you expect, a man to improve his holding, when he is liable at any moment to ejection, or to find a higher bidder step over his head?

Another old system I abrogated entirely. It was the custom there to assess the rent on the kind of crop cultivated. Such crops as barley, oil-seeds, or pulse, were grown under a low assessment; tobacco and sugar-cane, or poppy, which are the most valuable crops, were assessed at a much higher figure. I told my assamies or cultivators: "You shall pay me so much per acre, and you can grow what you like."I divided the lands according to quality into three distinct classes—owel, doem, and sem, or first, second, and third. The first comprised all the rich lands near the villages, the fat rice swamps, and the loomy sugarcane fields; the second included the poorer fields, those in which barley and pulse or other inferior grains were grown; and the third comprehended the grazing ground, the relapsed fields, and the purtee, or untilled, uncleared wastes. Each man's holding was accurately measured and clearly defined.
What was the natural result? People from neighbouring estates began to come over to survey my operations and spy out the land. My ryots by this time were beginning to believe in me. I did not harass them. I lost a good deal of back balance by the thriftless, the lazy, and improvident running away.

I did not worry them, but let them go. The best of their lands I added to the portions of my most industrious tenants, and new tenants were found in time actually to compete for the others. I found in the jungles a wild herd of cattle, numbering nearly 200 head. I had great difficulty at first in getting these branded. The old herdsmen—who had stolen the calves, sold the hides and fattened on the milk—now tried in every way to thwart me. I dismissed them, and imported men of my own to fill their places.

By-and-by I got all the cattle branded. Then I bought a fine half-bred English young bull. I got two or three other native bulls. I divided my cattle into herds. I drafted out the young ones, and broke them in to the plough. When a new cultivator or settler came, I in many cases advanced him a little money, and sold him a couple of young plough bullocks on deferred payments, or lent him a young one of my own on condition that he broke it in for me; and I provided ploughing for them on my own factory lands, the price of the labour to be deducted from the price of the bullocks as forming part payment.

Before settling a village, I first sank a good well, lined it with substantial masonry, and planted bamboos, plantains, and other useful trees, for the first comers. I advanced seed-corn and other seeds ; and while strictly just and firm, I never unduly pressed any one, or harassed them by dragging them before the courts, as had been formerly too often the practice. In fact, I reposed a good deal of trust in them, for I believed that confidence begets confidence.

With the aid of my tenants, and with my own paid labourers, I formed roads through the forest to and from the different clearings. I worried the district officials, till I got the mud track dignified by the name of the government high road, put in repair. I got the rivers and creeks bridged by government, and my ryots before the end of a couple of years could thus, on a good road, transport their produce to Shaje-hanpore, the nearest large town. At the same time I was willing to purchase from any of them their grain, cane, or other produce, at the ruling market-rates. I was not averse to taking payment of my rents in kind, allowing a fair margin for my own risk and profit.

Meantime I pursued the work of clearing jungle, to carry out the provisions of my tenure, and employed an army of labourers in this work. I let out parts of the jungle to the herds of other villagers, at a cheap grazing rent. The felled timber I leased to charcoal burners, and merchants who carted fuel to distant towns and villages. What I could not sell or use, I burnt. A pretty considerable revenue I thus raised from forest produce; and parts of the jungle I reserved altogether, and would allow no wood to be cut thereon.
As fast as I cleared, my own ploughmen tore up the soil, and I scattered rape, linseed, and various pulses, on the rough ground; I grew rice and grain for the 1 consumption of my own men; and on every acre I cleared, I left about twenty of the best and largest trees. I did not believe in "ring-barking," and denuding the country entirely of timber. Nothing can be more foolish or suicidal than this; and yet it is the general custom in Australia.

By clearing simultaneously at several points, I was better able to judge of my progress, and found the men were roused to a spirit of healthy emulation. I next got authority from my employer to import from England a portable engine. This I intended to use for irrigation. I had a magnificent water frontage to a small stream, running through the forest, called the Kutna nuddee. At intervals of from two to three hundred yards I dug a pyne, or deep cutting, into the bank; and along the top of the ridge, whence the land sloped gently down on either side, I formed a main water channel. Into the pyne I put a portable pump, to be worked by the engine; and by a system of small runlets I distributed the water over the slopes. 'I had now by this time my indigo vats, buildings, and other appliances, ready for use. My crop was sown, and I invited the ryots to grow indigo for me, giving them an agreement that I would pay them for the crop, at a rate estimated on the average value of all their other crops, taking good, bad, and indifferent together. I struck, in fact, an average rate per acre, taking the total produce of each man's cultivation, as the factor. The cultivation was not compulsory. Many of the ryots sowed a small patch the first year, in fear and trembling. When the crop was cut I measured the land, took the average returns of the produce on their other fields, and paid them at that rate for the indigo crop. If any were dissatisfied, the matter was referred to the Punchayiet or village council. The only stipulation I made, and it was a fair one, was that I would pay only for plant actually delivered at the factory. The second year, when the ryots found I paid them cash down on delivery, the area of indigo cultivation was more than trebled.

When I went to the jungles, there were no artificers or handicraftsmen in these wild forest solitudes. I accordingly settled blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, brickmakers, and grain sellers and buyers around the head factory. To each newcomer, if he was a good man, I gave the right to graze a couple of cows rent free, in my forest reserves, and possessed him of a small plot of land, on which he might grow garden produce or a little rice for himself, at a merely nominal rent.

By having accurate measurements of all my lands, by utilization of jungle products, by letting out the fisheries and grazing rights, and, above all, by economical management, and by having really working tenants, paying up their moderate rents, instead of lazy fellows nominally paying a larger rent, but constantly running away without paying anything at all, I was able the first year to show a bigger actually collected rental than my predecessors had ever before been able to remit to the owner.

But all this was not done in a day. My rapid sketch can give no adequate idea of the heart-breaking difficulties I was continually trying to surmount. In wind and storm, in sun and rain, I was out among my labourers, and spent nearly all my time in the forest. I had to fight the fever and the cholera, both plagues having broken out among my workmen more than once. 'Tis true I had glorious shooting, and plenty of sport, but I had no society save when I could get an occasional run into Seetapore or Shajehanpore.

The most rapid glance at what has been. written will immediately raise the reflection, "You had surely little to contend with that the settler has to face in Australia. You had labour in abundance, and you had capital to back you up." It was not so. I had to import all my labour. I had to do the same as the sugar growers of Mauritius, the tea planters of Assam, the coffee growers of the Wynaad, or the planters of Queensland have to do. Everywhere in the thickly populous parts of India, labour recruiting agencies are now established. On a system of advances, the recruiting goes on; and legislation has been provided, by which every care is taken of the labourer, and he can only be engaged for a specified time, and under a contract drawn up to provide for every contingency, and scrupulously protecting him from all oppression and wrong. Why could not some such system, drawing on the over-populated old countries for labour, be inaugurated for Australia ? All who are interested in immigration and settlement work, can easily get access to these acts, and acquaint themselves with the lines of the legislation by the Government of India on the subject.

What concerns us here in Australia is the fact that assisted immigration has been worked, and worked successfully, despite all that has been asserted to the contrary. I do not want to flood this country with coloured labour—black, yellow, or coffee coloured—if the will of the nation is against it, and the all powerful vox populi cries out that the thing shall not be. But if ever Australia is to be opened out in a manner at all worthy of her natural endowments, we must have more labour, and that labour must not be procurable only at prices that are practically prohibitive. Why do not our workmen ask themselves, Where is the benefit of wages at twenty shillings per diem, if the loaf of bread costs half a crown, the pair of boots forty shillings, the good wife's calico gown seven or eight shillings per yard, and everything else in proportion?

Men talk about the hardness of the times; why what are people to do? Suppose a man has made a little money, for which he has no doubt worked hard enough. Then he buys a bit of land. He finds it will cost him 501, an acre to get it ready for the plough. He could get it done in England for less than one-fourth of that. He wants to build a house. He finds it will cost him a sum so large as to be quite out of all proportion to the result to be achieved. Timber is plentiful, building material handy, but labour is at prohibitive prices, so he will content himself with a " humpy" or a rough log-hut roofed with stringy bark.

He might think of taking a servant-man or housemaid. It is a chance if he has not introduced into his service one who thinks the whole duty of life is to do as little work as he can for as much wage as he can get. I know dozens of cases where the mistress of a neat cottage, chooses to do all the house-work herself, rather than put up with the insubordination, laziness, and thoughtlessness, of a female help.

The ridiculous cry against immigration in Australia is got up, not by thinking working-men themselves, but by unthinking spouters and windbags. I asked a man the other day whom I knew to be a good workman and a thinking man, during a noisy debate with one or two of his mates about labour and immigration, "Come, Tom," I asked, "what's your opinion?" "Oh, sir," he replied, "I let's Jim do all the jawin' there; he's more accustomed to it, d'ye see, and this work's got to be done." Now that's just it. The " jawin' " lot neglect their work, to seek a royal road to wealth and independence, and the "workin'" lot have to work double tides, to do their own work and that of the "jaivin' " fraternity besides.

How can a small struggling farmer ever hope to succeed if he has no population to buy his products?

How can he raise those products if he cannot employ labour except at prohibitive rates? How shall a capitalist risk his wealth, the outcome of good sturdy work, and thrift, if his labour is to eat into his capital? And all this, when other countries can supply him with the same article at a lower rate. Men talk of protection. They say encourage native industry by bonuses, by protection, by prohibiting the import of foreign goods. Now if we cannot compete with other nations without protection, we can't compete at all. Protection grows by what it feeds upon. Protect your woollen manufactures, and linen will claim the same right. Protect manufacturing interests, and agriculture will follow suit. Protect flour-mills, and butchers, and grocers will claim it too; where would it stop? The cry of anti-immigration is Protection in its grossest shape.

Work here is lying waiting to be done on every side, crying out for labour. Lands want clearing, farms want tillage, districts want opening up. Timber, valuable timber, is rotting in the bush, because there are not found men to work it up. Minerals and metals lie unused by the ton, because there is no labour to raise them, and bring them to market. Valuable meat is wasted, and cattle are shot and rot on the ground because there are not mouths to eat the food. Our plains are covered with countless flocks. Our seas swarm with multitudes of fish. Our water runs unused and wasted to the sea. With labour, our lands could be irrigated, our wool and our hides manufactured, our fisheries established, our timbers and building materials utilized. Towns and villages would spring up over the length and breadth of the land. Our solitary places would be made glad, and the wilderness would rejoice and blossom like the rose." In the face of all this pusillanimous outcry, one might well ask, whether our working-men are descended from the unflinching did Anglo-Saxon race. Do they fear the competition of what they spurn as inferior races ! Are they no longer able, by the honest sweat of their brows, and the brave, unflinching strength and labour of their strong right arms to maintain their own?

I have been all through Queensland. You have read, if you have followed me thus far, the account of my visit to the sugar estates on the Mary River. At Yengarrie I saw a sugar refinery, replete with every modern improvement in the mechanical arts. To look at the complicated machinery alone, gave one almost a headache. This one establishment gives employment to a very large staff of overseers, engineers, skilled labourers, clerks, and workmen of various kinds. A large village with a neat school, a comfortable reading-room, and other establishments for the moral and intellectual advancement of the employers, has been raised; and all this has been brought about by the employment of Kanaha cheap labour. Without that, this fine tract of country,- these smiling tracts of waving sugar-cane, finding remunerative work for these busy factories, would still have been covered with primeval bush, the haunt of the wallaby and the guana, the pestilent abode of fevers and agues.

Why, there is room here in Australia, not for tens and twenties, but for hundreds and thousands of emigrants. Half a million Kanahas, or Hindoo labourers, or honest, willing, hard-working British workmen could find work here if they were willing; and the men who now wield the pick and shovel, would become overseers, contractors, foremen, and managers, if they were able to take such places. If not able to oversee the labour of inferior races, they have no business to be anything more than they are at present, "hewers of wood, and drawers of water." They will never rise, and to stop the development of a grand colony for such men is nothing short of monstrous.

Instead of suppressing Kanaha immigration in Queensland, government should actually encourage it. Production would increase, arts spread, agriculture advance, and where one white man now finds employment, thousands would be eagerly sought after, and would find remunerative occupations in the teeming industries that would be inaugurated.

The cry against increased population and abundant labour is but the old howl against machinery. You may remember how the sewing machine was railed at for taking the bread out of the mouths of. the poor seamstresses. What family could now do without its sewing machine ? Has it not given industry to thousands who could never have made a living with needle and thread but for its help. It has raised up new channels of labour, and done more to raise the condition of industrious young women than twenty thousand labour leagues, anti-emigration societies, and anti-machinery organizations could ever have done.

How on earth are cotton and woollen mills to spring up, when where are none to wear the coats, and shirts, and trousers? How are tanneries to be established when you bar the country against the advance of boot and shoe wearing bipeds? Give us population and abundant labour, and the country cannot fail to become a great productive colony, a grand centre of industrial activity, supporting a contented, prosperous, and progressive population.

If our policy is to be guided only by the passing sensations and cravings of an easily appeased hunger, then by all means let us stick to our anti-immigration theories; let us continue our present land muddle, and throw prudence, forethought, and statesmanship to the winds. In the mad scramble for the plunder of the State's patrimony, let us throw aside all restraint, think no more of posterity, scatter restrictions to the winds. Let it be each man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.

Thank God there are yet some good men left, even in Sodom. The words of the Australian singer can yet raise responsive echoes in the hearts of many of Australia's best sons. Let Henry Halloran speak:—

"Repel them from our shores! Ungenerous thought! Our friends and brothers in that distant land "Where strength of purpose, skilfulness of hand, Can hardly bring the toilers bread, or aught Which, in abundance, here is found if sought. Here are broad acres open to demand, "With right of choice and means of payment, plann'd So that the poorest has whate'er he ought. God ! who in very plenteousness hast spread This goodly continent of sunny wealth— This Paradise, blue-skyed and golden-stored— That all Thy children, lacking daily bread, Should have abundance here of food and health— Shall we Thy bounty circumscribe, O Lord?

Come one—come all! for there is room to share "With all who can, in this brave land of ours— "Where the kind earth, with unexhausted powers, Gives food for toil, and something still to spare. Our flaccid veins want blood, that we may bear In flowing tides, thro' near-approaching hours, Our front of strength wherever danger lours, And weakness fails, however much it dare.

The motherland may need the growing might Of brave descendants in this favour'd land To join her standards and support her right, And hold unquestion'd still her wide command. Come one—come all, and make our Future bright, Co-heirs of Fame, to answer her demand.


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