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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12

Free Pasturage (Extract from Mr. Sydney Smith's Book)

Free Pasturage (Extract from Mr. Sydney Smith's Book).

The farms are generally made on the prairie, near to the timbered land (for convenience of firewood, fencing-stuff, &c.) The abundance of grass growing on the prairie, and the quantity of wild vegetable food for animals, offer an ample subsistence for horses and cattle, sheep and hogs, during the summer months. (The ground is covered with snow through the winter months.)

The number of these animals that a farmer keeps is only limited by the amount of winter food that he can raise on his farm. The actual farm is enclosed laud, used for the sole purpose of growing the grain, or grass for hay; but not for summer pasturage. The great pasture is all outside—open to everybody, and to everybody's cattle; and the abundance and extent of the range is one of the resources of a new country. The cattle thus let loose on the wide world do not run away as people who have kept them only in houses and enclosures are apt to suppose. Why should they? There is abundance of food everywhere.

The animals like to come to their home where they have been wintered, and a little salt given to them every time they return will generally circumscribe their range within a mile or two from home.

In the autumn or early winter we bring them into the farm, and feed them night and morning. In the day, during the moderate weather of winter, they browse about the woods, and the skirts of the prairie. Thus are cattle and horses raised in great numbers.

In the same publication, and almost on the same page, are numerous letters from settlers, showing the prices of meat and other articles of provision in these regions. These letters make it sufficiently evident that cheap beef can be raised without the aid of monster squatters; and that, in fact, the way to raise beef cheap is to do away with the monster squatting of this country. The letter says:—"I will give you the price of various articles of food in English money, that you may understand it better: Beef 1½d. a pound, mutton 1½d. a pound, pork 1½d. a pound' flour 20s. per barrel of 195 lbs., veal 1¼d. per lb., a turkey 1s. 6d., hens 6d. each, butter 6d. per lb., sugar 3½d. per lb., tea 2s. per lb., &c., &c."

The same letter shows that these low prices did not produce low wages, for concurrently with them wages averaged from a dollar to a dollar and a quarter a day for the mere laborer, that is from 4s. 2d. to 5s. 3d., and this in a country that had no gold mines, and depended for its wealth and wages fund solely on the free access opened for its population to its best virgin soils, and its natural pastures.

The above extracts present a succinct epitome of the grounds on which the two cardinal resolutions—the first and second—were based.

The first and second resolutions having been adopted, the other resolutions, down to those which relate to "purchasers for money merely," were adopted after much consideration, but, except the fourth resolution, without any division of opinion.

As to the fourth, which relates to the taxation of all lands, once they are alienated from the State, and by which it is resolved that uncultivated lands ought to be subjected to a special State tax, there was some diversity of opinion. Several Delegates thought that it would sufficiently discourage the monopoly of speculators if all lands were subject to equal taxation, but the resolution was ultimately carried in its present shape by a large majority.

The next resolution that gave rise to any diversity of opinion was the first resolution, under the head of "purchasers for money merely." This resolution was discussed on Friday evening, the 31st July. The resolution is as follows:—

That while this Convention recommends that the actual cultivator be invested with the special page 18 rights set forth in the foregoing resolutions, they are of opinion that persons who may find it inconvenient or impossible to proceed to cultivate at once, should not, therefore, be wholly debarred from purchasing from the State; but they are of opinion, that this right of purchase should be controlled by such reasonable regulations as may discourage monopoly without shackling enterprise, or obstructing fair investment.

Mr. O'Connor, of Ballaarat, moved, and Mr. Mooney, of Sebastopol, seconded the following amendment:—

That this Convention cannot recognise the right of the State (which is merely the trustee for the people) to alienate any portion of the waste lands, except on the terms stipulated heretofore by the Convention, viz., "substantial occupation."

After a protracted discussion, a division was called for. There were 46 members in the room. Of these, 6 voted for the amendment, 2 declined to vote, and 38 voted for the original resolution.

All the other land resolutions were carried after much consideration and debate, but without giving rise to any difference of opinion in the Convention.

It will be observed that, on those resolutions which gave rise to any diversity of opinion, the dissentients were so few in number that it may be safely stated that these land resolutions were unanimously adopted by that great mass of opinion which was represented at the Convention.