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3-168 (Original)

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author,male,Black, John,un addressee
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Clark, 1975
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"This is not the cause of faction, or of party, or of any individual; it is the common, interest of every man in the country."
THE LAND LEAGUE OF NEW SOUTH WALES, in now putting forward their manifesto, think it right to preface the exposition of their views with the remark that, while themselves holding pretty strong convictions regarding the main principles of any measure of Land Reform which they would call sound or satisfactory, they consider that, at this Stage of the movement, it is neither necessary nor desirable they should go much into detail. It is expected that ere long branches of the League will be established all over the country. From these 'bodies delegates will be invited to meet the Central Society in Sydney for the discussion and final adjustment of details, and it would be inconsistent with that prospect if the League were to do more at present than to give such a general indication of their views as may at once furnish a common basis of union and action among the friends of the cause throughout the country.
In dealing with a question of this nature, it is clearly of the utmost importance that the ranks of the Liberals should be united in one firm and unfaltering phalanx. The supporters of the system which the League wishes to alter are combined to a man in upholding it, and nothing but the most cordial union among the people, and the people's friends, can be expected to make the desired impression upon the colossal grievance, the gigantic evil, which the League wishes to remove. [100] United in a just and good cause, and relying on the zealous use of constitutional means, the people may now effect any reform they please; but be their cause ever so good, or their course in pursuing it ever so constitutional, dissension among themselves is sure to end in defeat. To divide the people, to divide and conquer, is one of the enemy's grand devices, and it therefore behoves the friends of reform to be on their guard against this stratagem.
From various causes which will be more fully pointed out in the sequel, the Crown lands of this colony have hitherto been practically placed as far beyond the reach of the great body of the people as if those lands had had no existence at all. By the lavish alienation of immense tracts to persons whose only merit in many cases was that, directly or indirectly, they possessed a certain degree of influence with the Government of the day, a large extent of the richest and most accessible lands of the colony has been permanently placed out of the people's reach, and the greater part of the remainder having been effectually locked up under squatting leases, the whole colony, in as far as the people's of it is concerned, may, with scarcely a figure of speech, be described as a mere myth, a mere will-o'-the-wisp, which attracts only to delude and disappoint. Like the mirage of the desert, the land, as beheld afar off, does indeed excite both hope and desire; but, like that torment of the weary traveller, it too often also
"Fades away untouched, untasted.
For the sake of the most primitive, the most wasteful, and the most imperfect of all modes of occupying a country which professes to be civilised, the progress of agriculture has been systematically repressed, the extension of settlement has been ruinously retarded, and the grand purposes of colonisation have been practically ignored.
Of this long course of mismanagement, the baneful and bitter fruits are but too patent to the public eye to require any comment or illustration at the hands of the League, but, in confirmation of the position which they have taken up, they will add a word or two.
Through the great difficulties which the present law has placed in his way, the intending cultivator of the soil has found it next to impossible to acquire a piece of land of his own. The people have thus been prevented from dispersing themselves in such numbers as they otherwise would have done over our rural districts, and, in consequence, Sydney and the other chief seats of our population have become unnaturally overcrowded. Through the keenness of competition arising out of such a state of things, land in and around our cities and towns has been run up to almost fabulous prices. The ingenious mechanic, the stalwart yeoman, and the industrious labourer, - those classes of society which form the bulk and basis, the bone and sinew of every Anglo-Saxon nation, - have been foiled in every fair effort to find a home of their own, and, in despair, have at last, in too many instances, been obliged to submit to the remorseless exactions of that class of men whose special and peculiar business it is to reap where they have not sown, to gather where they have not strawed, and to grind the faces of the poor. [101]
In our rural districts, again, although in them there may be less of human misery and destitution staring one in the face than is to be witnessed in our cities, there is such an aspect of dreary desolation presented to the eye, that the traveller can hardly fail to be painfully impressed with a sense of the fact that, in the interior of Australia, the arts of civilisation have made but very little progress. The conviction is reluctantly forced home upon him that there is "something rotten in the state of Denmark," something radically wrong, and that a great change is certainly wanted. Flocks and herds there are, indeed, to be seen here and there, but in miserable disproportion to the enormous extent of the public domain which is held by their owners, and held, too, at a rent or assessment to the Crown of the most trifling amount. Traces of agriculture there are, indeed, to be seen here and there, but in patches so few and far between, that the great bulk of the people are still everywhere fed with imported breadstuffs. And yet monstrous and marvellous as it may appear, if the bona fide cultivator attempts to get a piece of land of his own, to produce his own loaf, he is at once met with difficulties which are all but insuperable. The survey system, with its endless circumlocutions and indefinite delays, and the auction system, with its cruel competitions and vexatious uncertainties, very often prove far more than a match for the stoutest and most hopeful heart; and the chances are, that the immigrant is finally compelled either to abandon the field altogether, or to take a piece of ground on a clearing lease, where he spends his energies in improving the property of, perhaps, the very man who has blasted his hopes of attaining a freehold of his own, and has virtually reduced him to the condition of a serf.
It is a principle which is deeply incorporated with the whole constitution of our nature, and one upon whose due development almost all human improvement depends, that man is a social creature, and that the first thing to be done in raising him in the scale of being, whether in a physical or a moral, in a social or a religious point of view, is to place him in communities, and surround him with all the benign and elevating influences which naturally spring out of settled society. To the realising of these things the present land system opposes an almost insurmountable barrier; and, therefore, the League, in proposing to break it down, think they have a right to reckon upon the countenance of every well-wisher of his country. [102]
To conclude, the League would in a very few words direct attention to the fact, that, while they wish as their primary object, to stimulate and facilitate the agricultural settlement of the country, they do not, as they conceive, by their proposals, do anything to obstruct the full and legitimate development of its pastoral capabilities. On the contrary, they have the strongest conviction - a conviction which is amply justified by the whole history of colonisation - that, under the operation of their principles a powerful impulse would be given to the increase not merely of our agricultural, but also of our pastoral, produce. They emphatically disclaim all participation in the feeling of indiscriminating hostility by which some unthinking men are animated towards the squatters, and still more distinctly disavow the motive which has been so industriously imputed to the League, of desiring the immediate and entire annihilation of the pastoral interests of the country. It is against the system, not against the men, that the League are combined; and, being satisfied that the very highest and the very best interests of society conspire in demanding a radical change in the law, they entertain sanguine hopes of success in the work they have now on hand.
The present system must, and ought to, give way for a better; and it is a fact, as remarkable as it is instructive, that while reason and justice seem to teach the same lesson and point to the same fate, Nature herself seems to have decreed its ultimate extinction, inasmuch as it is found that lands which have been depastured by sheep for a long succession of years undergo such a process of deterioration as to become in a great measure unfit for the purposes of the Australian sheep farmer, and we accordingly sec that, in the settled districts of the colony, where the country has been longest occupied, the value of pastoral land, as such, has materially declined. Without any extravagance of language, therefore, the present squatting system may be said to devastate a country in a manner somewhat similar to that marking the advance of an invading army, - consuming in the first instance, its natural riches, then impairing for a time its reproductive powers, and leaving nothing but sterility and desolation behind it. In point of fact, the only legacy left by the pastoral occupant to the district on which he has gathered his riches is, in most cases, but a crop of thistles and burrs, and the dilapidated remnants of a few miserable huts.
Men of Australia, and especially you who, in your children's welfare, have a deep and durable interest in the progress of Australia, remember that - "Now's the day and now's the hour" for achieving a victory which will secure to yourselves and for your posterity, the blessings of plenty and peace, of social happiness and national prosperity. [103]
"Wherefore be strong and of good courage that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the good land which ye shall possess. For surely the land whereon your fret have trodden shall be your inheritance, and your children's for ever."