NEWS LETTER OF AUSTRALASIA.
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, MAY, 1860
JOURNAL OF POLITICS
On the night before the adjournment of the Legislative Assembly for the Easter holidays, a notice of motion had been given by Mr. Aspinall for an inquiry into the state of the colony. This was generally supposed to have been made at the instigation of the late ministry, for the purpose of making an onslaught upon the present government. Mr. Aspinall, in his speech, however, disclaimed any such intention; and stated expressly that, in bringing it forward, he had not consulted anybody. The result was that, after a few words from the Chief Secretary, the motion was negatived without a division. There does not seem any immediate probability of the present ministry going out of office, for there is no organised opposition. When the government does expire, it will be sheer inanition.
The Land Bill has at length passed the third reading. New land laws are urgently demanded in this colony: but whether this measure, which has been introduced by the Nicholson ministry, will satisfy the legislature or the requirements of the country, remains to be seen.
The new Education Bill, now before the legislature, has caused considerable discussion. It is now nearly passed through committee, but it is not likely it will pass both houses this session. The Bill is designed to do away with with the existing Denominational and National Boards, and to instigate one national system of education, to be supported by local rates levied upon landed property. Purely secular education is what is aimed at, but already in discussing how the board shall be constructed, it has been attempted to introduce the religious element.
A few nights ago, in the Assembly, a serious charge of infringing their contracts was initiated against Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, contractors for the Melbourne and Sandhurst line. There was a long debate, but the case, as a case, decidedly broke down. The ultimate result of the debate was, that a charge of insufficient supervision of the works was made out against some of the costlier parts of the works in the matter of materials was shown to exist on the part of the railway contractors.
This month is one that will recommend itself to all old colonists by its faithful portraiture of Kennedy's Punt, Campaspe River. To those who assert that this colony is deficient in the picturesque, it affords an unqualified denial the original sketch being taken by the aid of that invaluable delineator, the photographic apparatus, it is free alike from the flattery of the artist or the adventitious charms of writing. In the days when punts were not, and roads were but creations of the future, many a tedious hour has been passed by the teamster before the state of the river would permit the passage of his dray. By the establishment of Kennedy's Punt this delay has been rendered wholly unnecessary: waggon, team, driver and all, being conveyed across the stream at any moment, in the manner designed by our artist.
JOURNAL OF THE GOLD FIELDS.
The quantity of gold brought down by escort from the mines during the month of April, and the week of March, not included in our last News Letter, was 223,891 ounces, as compared with 236,706 ounces during the corresponding period of last year. It will be seen that though there is still a deficiency, it is very much less than during any previous month of the year, and we are not without hopes that the yield of May 1860 will be as large as that of the same period of 1859. Our shipments of gold last month amounted to 185,862 ounces, while in May, last year, it was 195,125. The position of the various mining companies which were started some eight months ago, is now pretty clearly defined. Some half-dozen are being wound up: half a dozen more are in difficulties, the directors and shareholders being at loggerheads; while the majority are getting steadily to work.
The Snowy River Diggings is the great feature of our mining intelligence. In our last News Letter, we stated that the accounts of this discovery were somewhat conflicting, and in this we were borne out by the opinions expressed in the Sydney papers. The Sydney Herald went so far as to say that certain reports of the extraordinary richness of these gold fields were, proved, however, that they were no fabrications or exaggerations, the Snowy River Diggings having been proved to be the richest auriferous discovery that have yet taken place in the New South Wales territory. The most extraordinary finds of gold have been made even on the surface, and nuggets varying in weight from 20 to 70 ounces have been exposed to view a little below the ground. Many persons who were only at this new El Dorado for a few days, returned to Sydney with hundreds, and in some cases thousands of pounds worth of gold. It was to be expected that news of this inspiring nature would soon cause a great rush. The news spread through all the colonies, and persons flocked to this land of gold, not only from Sydney, but from this colony, South Australia, and Tasmania. In a
comparatively short space of time, there were no less than seven or eight thousand persons on the ground, and reports of rich finds daily appeared in the
Sydney and Melbourne papers. This caused great excitement in the majority of our mining districts here, especially in those in the Northern districts from which the Snowy River is most accessible. Large numbers left the Indigo, and rich claims on the Inglewood which promises to be one of the richest of our Victorian gold-fields, were deserted for this land, said almost to be made of gold. A reaction, however, shortly set in. In the first place, the area of auriferous ground discovered was not sufficient to employ the large population which had suddenly been brought together. The first comers had scoured all the available ground which as principally in the bed of the river, and claims of unusual size, being eighty feet in length, and the whole breadth of the river, had been measured out to them by the Commissioner, the exclusion of those who came afterwards. This, of course, was made a cause of grievance. Again, it was found that the cost of provisions from the distance the Snowy River is from Sydney, were extravagantly high. Many came unprovided with necessaries and were dependant on the store keepers for supplies. Again it was found that in a few weeks the winter would set in, the ground would be covered with snow, and digging would be impractible [impracticable]. These combined circumstances induced numbers who had come from great distances to return, - and by the 2nd April last, of 7 or 8000 persons who were on the ground, only between 2 and 3000 remained. Even since then, the population has greatly diminished. The Snowy River diggings are distant from Sydney, and consequently a large proportion of gold must necessarilly [necessarily] find its way into Melbourne. The nearest route from Melbourne is through the Ovens by way of Gundegai, from which place the diggings are distance about sixty miles. That the Snowy River diggings are likely to rival some of our riches Victorian gold-fields, there can be little doubt, but the severity of an Australian alpine winter, the ground covered with snow from April to September, will necessitate the suspension of operations until the spring commences. Then, no doubt, there will be large rush from this and the adjoining colonies. Now, all excitement in this colony has subsided, from the generally acknowledged fact that digging will be impracticable on the Snowy River during the winter months. This has been confirmed by the return of the majority of the Victorian miners who set out on the first rush, and who have now settled down in their own district. The following is the quantity of gold reported by telegraph to have arrived at Gundegai, by escort, en route to Sydney, from Kiandra, or Snowy River, up to the beginning of April: -
the total wa 27,542 ozs., added to which the agent of the Commercial Bank was said to have brought down 8000, making in all 35, 542 ozs. In contradiction to the above, which, it must be borne in mind, is not an official statement, we may say, that up to the 26th ult., not more than 8500 ounces had been despatched [dispatched] by escort from Kiandra, and the next escort, which was to leave in a day or two, was not expected to take more than 4000 ozs., so that, allowing for the quantity of gold that might be conveyed by private means, the total would fall far short of 35,000 ozs. Be this as it may, the subsequent returns have fully verified the report of the almost unexampled richness (excepting Bendigo in its palmier days), of the Snowy River.
The Inglewood diggings in our own colony, bid fair to rank foremost