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3-308 (Raw)

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author,male,Hotham,un addressee,male
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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ON the last day of the session which has just terminated, one of the most influential members of the Legislative Council gave notice of his intention to bring forward a resolution early in the ensuing session:
1. That this Council, after four years practical experience of the working of the system of irresponsible government in- Victoria, declares that it has proved itself most injurious to the highest interests of her people, confessedly unsuited to their wants, opposed most flagrantly to their deliberate wishes, destructive alike of their unalienable rights and most cherished constitutional. liberties, and ought forthwith to cease for ever in this country.
2. That whether the new Constitution shall have reached Victoria or not, this Council is of opinion that it is their paramount duty to call upon the Governor-in-Chief on behalf of the inhabitants, whose happiness and prosperity are imperilled, present and future, to establish a system in consonance with the views and opinions of a free people, the enlightened system of Responsible Government.
That this Council pledges itself to make an equitable provision for those officers of Government who may be compelled to retire from office in consequence of the contemplated political changes.
I am informed by the Law Officers of the Crown that no legal objections exist to the adoption of the change which is recommended in the motion; but as it involves the introduction of Responsible Government, I am desirous that you should furnish me with instructions as to the course which I should pursue.
Since the despatches of Sir John Pakington, No. 95, of the 15th December, 1852, addressed to Governor Sir Charles Fitzroy, and No. 81, of the same date, addressed to Lieutenant Governor Latrobe, were communicated to the Legislative Council, [...]. a heart burning, for I can call it nothing else, on the part of the people for Responsible Government has existed; rightly or wrongly they have imagined that benefits are withheld from them which under Responsible Government they would obtain, and therefore month by month their dissatisfaction has increased, until it finds vent in the motion to which I have drawn your attention. [330]
The commercial state of the colony and its embarrassed finances have greatly tended to augment this dissatisfaction. From over trading many failures have ensued, whilst from the mismanagement of its finances great reductions have been necessitated, and thus there has been caused a contraction in the expenditure of both government and individuals.
The influences to which I have alluded give rise in all countries to disturbances and bad feeling; but men repaired to this colony in the sanguine expectation of accumulating fortunes with ease and rapidity. They were not prepared to encounter the difficulties which occasionally weigh down the old world, but created in their own minds an "El Dorado" in the new, and ill brook the checks and embarrassments to which life is incidental, be the place of abode where it may.
Hence it follows that an unprosperous social state produces in these colonies more deep discontent than in Europe; half the population will not, or are unable, to reason. It is sufficient that a check has arisen which temporarily interferes with their views to induce them to become disaffected, and to lay the cause to the Government, without considering whether it had or had not the powers of preventing it.
It does seem to me of great importance that a constitutional form of government should be granted to the people of these colonies. The popular anger will then be directed - not against the connexion with the old country, or against the Governor - but against their own chosen government, and their disputes and political animosities will be exclusively confined to themselves.
But there are other circumstances which induce me to urge this subject upon your notice. According to law, the present Legislative Council must be dissolved on the 1st of October 1856, and new writs for a general election will follow. From the temper of the colonists, and more especially from the feeling which exists on the gold fields, I am satisfied that an universal demand for Responsible Government will arise, and that they will refuse to proceed to an election unless the government is to be chosen from the majority of the new Council.
If the Constitution should not have arrived before that period, either I must accede to the wishes of the people, prepare for an excitement which will border on a revolution, or leave the colony without a government. [331]
Even supposing matters could be kept where they are, the administration of government is in an unsatisfactory state. Unless the policy is in conformity with the wishes of one section of the members of the Legislative Council an average majority cannot be commanded, and without such a majority government cannot do justice to the general interests of this important colony.
My previous despatches will have shown you that both the social and financial state of the colony rendered a jar with all parties inevitable. To identify myself with one party was to adopt their views and cripple any powers of usefulness which I might possess, but it resulted, that although measures of extreme importance were passed, at the close of the session the government were defeated in their financial scheme, and left hampered with votes and resolutions of the Council, but without money to make them good.
Such a state of things could not have happened under Responsible Government. A defeated administration would have resigned, and their successors would have been chosen from the 'opposition, and the force of the executive maintained.
As it is, I am compelled to stop the progress of the colony in its roads and public works, and bring suffering on a community who have not merited it, and who have not been in any way concerned, because the present form of government prevents escape from the dilemma.
I am well aware that Her Majesty's Ministers are alive to the necessity of the change being made, but I am desirous to press upon them the importance of removing the uncertainty under which the public mind labours, and I would especially request that you do, by return of mail, inform me - 
1. When the Constitution may be expected.
2. Whether, in the event of a delay being likely to arise before the arrival of the Constitution, Her Majesty's Government will give their Sanction to the object contained in Mr. O'Shanassy's motion. And finally I repeat it is most urgent that I should receive an immediate answer.