Front Page Titles (by Subject) 263.: WAKEFIELD'S THE NEW BRITISH PROVINCE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA EXAMINER, 20 JULY, 1834, PP. 453-4 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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263.: WAKEFIELD’S THE NEW BRITISH PROVINCE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA EXAMINER, 20 JULY, 1834, PP. 453-4 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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WAKEFIELD’S THE NEW BRITISH PROVINCE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Mill’s support for the colonization plans (see Nos. 259 and 261) here takes the form of a review of Wakefield’s anonymous work, the authorship of which was widely known. His review, in the “Literary Examiner,” is headed “The New British Province of South Australia; or a Description of the Country, illustrated by Charts and Views: with an Account of the Principles, Objects, Plan, and Prospects of the Colony. [London:] C. Knight. [1834.]” It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of E.G. Wakefield’s book on South Australia; in the Examiner of 20th July 1834” (MacMinn, p. 41). In Mill’s copy of the Examiner in Somerville College, it is listed as “Review of ‘The New British Province of South Australia.’ ”
this little work consists of three parts: first, a description of the natural features of the country in which the new colony is to be established; secondly, an explanation of the intended mode of colonization; and lastly, a statement of the inducements to people of all classes who find themselves ill at ease in the mother country, to establish themselves in the new settlement.
With respect to the soil and climate of Southern Australia, we should have left the author to speak for himself, if the Chronicle of Wednesday last had not, while concurring warmly in the views of colonization entertained by the founders of the colony, expressed doubts of the eligibility of the place which they have selected for the first experiment.1 The Chronicle does not, indeed, give any satisfactory reasons for its doubts. Its tone reminds us of a remark of Archbishop Whately, that nothing is more common than for a statement supported by the strongest evidence to be met, not by a refutation, but by a “We suspect this statement to be exaggerated,” after which the assertion, thus branded by a note of suspicion, is thrown aside, as if its falsehood had been proved.2 “On this subject,” says the Chronicle, “we have our doubts. The fertile land is, we suspect, confined to the immediate banks of the river down which Captain Sturt proceeded.”3 Why does he suspect? What right has any man to proclaim to the public that he suspects what men of character affirm, without assigning a single reason for his suspicion? We cannot call this a reason: “The absence of high mountains will not allow us to indulge in the idea that there is sufficient humidity to allow of the cultivation of the soil at any distance from the river.” Fudge. What “high mountains” are there in the South of England? or the North of France? or Belgium? or Prussia? or Poland and European Russia? the finest corn country in the Old World, though you might travel from the Baltic to the Black Sea without crossing a hill 500 feet in height. As for humidity, “In New South Wales,” says the author of the work before us, “as in similar latitudes of the northern hemisphere, more rain falls during the year than in England.” [P. 14.] If it did not, Australia would be an exception to all the known geographical laws of the distribution of moisture over the surface of our globe.
We have no room for extracting from the work before us any further remarks on the natural advantages of the country about to be colonized. We hasten to the intended method of colonization.
Like the Grecian colonies, which flourished so rapidly and so wonderfully as soon to eclipse the mother cities, this settlement will be formed by transplanting an intire society, and not a mere fragment of one. English colonies have almost always remained in a half-savage state for many years from their establishment. This colony will be a civilized country from the very commencement.
Sir Joseph Banks4 [says the tract before us] wishing to ornament a bare piece of ground in front of his house near Hounslow, transplanted into it some full-grown trees. Those trees were torn from the beds in which they had grown to maturity. In order to save trouble in moving them, all their smaller roots and branches were cut off: the trunks, thus mutilated, were stuck into the ground; and there, wanting the nourishment which they had before received through innumerable leaves and fibres, they soon died and rotted. A way, however, has lately been discovered of transplanting full-grown trees so that they shall flourish as if they had not been removed. The art, for a knowledge of which we are indebted to Sir Henry Steuart, consists in removing the whole of the tree uninjured;5 the stem, all the limbs, every branch and twig, every root and fibre; and in placing the several parts of this whole in the same relative situation as they occupied before; so that each part shall continue to perform its proper office, the trunk to be nourished by its proper number of mouths above and below; and a due proportion or balance be preserved between the weight of the branches and the strength of the roots, between the action of the roots as well as branches on opposite sides, between the functions of each part and the functions of all the other parts, respectively and together. The work of colonizing a desert bears a curious resemblance to that of transplanting full-grown trees. In neither case is it the ultimate object merely to remove; in both cases it is to establish; and as, in the former case, the immediate object is to remove, not a mere trunk, but an entire tree, so, in the latter case, the immediate object is to remove, not people merely, but society. In both cases equally, success depends upon attention to details. The planters of modern colonies have generally gone to work without much attention to details; as if society might be established in a desert without regard to the numerous and minute circumstances on which society depends. Many a modern colony has perished through the inattention of its founders to little matters which, it was supposed, would take care of themselves. Of those modern colonies which have not perished, many suffered in the beginning the greatest privations and hardships; while, in the least unfavourable cases, it has been as if a full-grown oak, carelessly removed and soon dead, had dropped acorns to become in time full-grown trees. But in the present case, the greatest attention will be paid to details. The present measure of colonization may be likened to the careful removal of full-grown trees from a spot in which they were injured by want of room, to one where they should have ample space to expand and flourish. The details of the measure form the subject of this explanation.
The requisites are—
First, precautions for the removal, not of people merely, but of society; that is, of all the different classes of people who, by means of combining their powers and dividing their employments, obtain every advantage that a society enjoys over a savage life: secondly, precautions for preventing that social colony from degenerating into an unsocial state; for preserving, that is, in the colony, the attributes of society and civilization.
The means selected for these ends evince a just and profound appreciation of the circumstances on which the industrial prosperity of a country (if we may be forgiven the convenient Gallicism) depends.
The three elements of production are land, labour, and capital: and on the proportion of these three to one another depends the prosperity of the people. If any of these elements are in deficiency relatively to the others, suffering or inconvenience is the result. In England land is the deficient element; labour and capital, relatively to land, are both in excess; there is a forced cultivation of bad land, forced over-cultivation of the better soils, and, in a manner understood by economists, and felt, though not scientifically analysed by practical men, low wages and low profits are the consequence. In the backwoods of America, and still more in South Africa, the Pampas, and other imperfectly settled countries, land is in excess, labour and capital in deficiency. Each settler possesses himself at once of a piece of land; the few labourers who originally have not the means of acquiring land, convert the first savings of their high wages to that purpose, and will thenceforth work for none but themselves. There is no co-operation, no combination of labour; no family can raise any kind of produce which requires much more labour than that of its own members, and (to say nothing of the discomfort and moral disadvantages attending a dispersed society) scarcely anything but food and the coarsest clothing can be produced. All have an abundance of the mere necessaries of life, but to all its comforts and luxuries are altogether unknown.
The land of a colony having no natural limit, if the government do not place some artificial limit on the appropriation of it by individuals, every individual in the colony is tempted to become a land-owner and cultivator. Hence two kinds of evil. If each individual, or any great number of individuals, take more land than each can cultivate, the people are dispersed over a wide extent of country, and are separated from each other by intervening deserts. If each person appropriate no more land than he is able to cultivate, still, all being independent proprietors, both capital and labour are divided into fractions as numerous as the cultivators. In either case, society is almost dissolved. The people, whether separated by distance, or, however near they may be to each other, by each one becoming an independent land-owner, are all of one class: there is no class of capitalists, no class of labourers; nor indeed any classification, all being the same. But all being alike, each one is independent of all the others; and, in this state of things (we must not say, society) it is impossible that large masses of capital and many hands should be employed in the same work, at the same time, and for a long period. And yet, without constancy and combination in the employment of capital and labour, the produce obtained never was, and never can be, large in proportion to the capital and labour. Unless the produce be large in proportion to the capital and labour employed in raising it, it cannot be cheap enough for exchange in distant markets; and thus a people, whose capital and labour were divided as in the supposed case, would necessarily be without foreign commerce. When, too, all are of the same class, or rather, there are no classes, all raise the same kind of produce; and there is no motive for exchange amongst the cultivators themselves. The labour, moreover, of each cultivator who does everything for himself, is necessarily divided amongst so many occupations, that only a small portion of it can be bestowed on the work of production; and thus, even if the settlers should have a motive for dealing with each other, no two of them would have any surplus produce to exchange. The result is, that civilized men fall into a state of but half-civilization; preserving, indeed, the knowledge and tools of their former condition, and, by applying these to very rich land, raising plenty of mere necessaries, but losing the powers which arise from mutual assistance, and the wants, tastes, and habits which belong to an advanced society.
In every colony of modern times these evils have resulted, in a greater or less degree, from an excessive proportion of land, and, in most of such colonies, have been partially counteracted by the greater evil of Negro slavery; as, for example, in the West Indies, North America, Brazil, and South Africa. For, whatever the proportion of land, even where it was so great that every freeman became a land-owner, still, with slavery, with human beings who could be prevented from obtaining land, there was constant and combined labour with which to employ large masses of capital in raising a produce cheap enough for distant markets. In the prosperous settlements of New South Wales and Van Dieman’s Land convicts have, to some extent, supplied the want of slaves. But those colonies, without any exception, in which there has been superabundance of land without any kind of slavery, have been eminently poor and barbarous;* and the last colony founded by Englishmen6 affords a striking example of the evils resulting from excess of land.
To counteract this natural tendency of every new settlement, it is intended to fix such a price upon all grants of land as shall prevent the occupation of land from outstripping the growth of population, so that the existing population shall at all times be sufficient for the cultivation of all the land which is occupied, and for raising the other articles of all kinds required by the producers. The proceeds of the sales of land will be applied to further emigration. The attempt will be to make the new colony, not, as the Courier represents, “as like an old country as possible”7 (for old countries are mostly over-crowded, and it is not necessary to be in one extreme in order to avoid the other) but to make it as like as possible to a country which is perfectly civilized, but not over-peopled. The proportion of land to labour and capital, in England, is too small; in the backwoods of America, too great: between these two extremes there is a proportion which is the best possible, and to which the founders of the new colony will endeavour to approximate.
If a tract of fertile land, equal in extent to Yorkshire, were to appear off the Land’s End to-morrow morning, no one can doubt that the quantity of labour and capital, which would speedily flow into it from England, would raise both wages and profits throughout the country, and that all the industrious classes, labourers, and capitalists together, would be rendered far more comfortable and contented than at present. But if the land which rose from the ocean, close to our shores, instead of being only as large as Yorkshire, were as large as America, and our people were, in the same manner, to spread over it, taking their capital with them, we should fall back into a savage state. A wise government would therefore endeavour so to provide, that not the whole, but only a portion, equal to Yorkshire, should be occupied at first, and the rest progressively, as population and capital increased. The same is the purpose of the new colony. The aim will be so to limit the appropriation and occupation of land, as to keep both wages and profits at the highest rate possible.
We conclude by most strongly recommending this little tract to the perusal of all who are interested, either as citizens, in the means of relieving the industry of their country from the evils of an over-crowded society, or as individuals, in withdrawing themselves personally from those evils.
[1 ]Leading article on South Australia, Morning Chronicle, 9 July, 1834, p. 3.
[2 ]Whately, Remarks on Transportation, and on a Recent Defence of the System (London: Fellowes, 1834), p. 8.
[3 ]Morning Chronicle, 9 July, p. 3. Charles Sturt (1795-1869) explored the Darling River, his discoveries being described in Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia (1833).
[4 ]Joseph Banks (1743-1820), traveller and botanist, President of the Royal Society of London.
[5 ]Henry Seton Steuart (1759-1836), man of letters and arboriculturist, The Planter’s Guide (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1828), esp. pp. 71-83.
[* ]The states of the North American Union in which slavery is forbidden are only parts of a society, whose slaves amount to 2,000,000, and are worth, to sell at market, 120,000,000l. In what way slavery has tended to counteract the evils of superabundance of land in the non-slave-holding states is explained at length in [Wakefield’s] England and America [pp. 22-9; the market-value of the slaves is given on p. 21].
[6 ]The Swan River Settlement in New Holland, Australia.
[7 ]Leading article on the New Colony in South Australia, Courier, 1 July, 1834, p. 4.