Dr. Lang and His Scheme

The immigration scheme of Dr. Lang and the trouble which the reverend gentleman brought upon his own head in furthering that scheme would, if dealt with fully, form a bulky volume in itself. It is not, however, my intention to delve into the details of the project or inquire into all the petty disagreements which arose, but simply to trace the history of the one great scheme which may fairly be claimed to have set Brisbane on a firm footing, and which unfortunately at the same time greatly helped to ruin its philanthropic projector. Indeed the only person who lost anything at all was Dr. Lang himself, though like many others he had accusers who declared that he had become rich by the enterprise.

Dr. Lang's efforts to colonize the South and his determination to prevent convictism and its propagators gaining the firm footing which it was in a certain quarter desired it should have form a very important part of the early history of the South, and equally so with that of the North. He was known as a veteran warhorse in opposing convictism, and had secured the ill favour of " the classes" in both Port Jackson and Port Phillip. Still this encouraged rather than deterred him, and his energy was attended by success.

Having won the fight in the South he had no misgivings about the North, but he suddenly found another danger arising quite outside of convictism. From the 1st January, 1841, to the 30th June, 1842, there had been imported into New South Wales (which then included both Victoria and Queensland) 25,330 statute adult immigrants at the public expense, their expenses out, having been paid from the land revenue of the colony. Of these immigrants 16,892, or two-thirds of the number, were from Ireland - chiefly from the south and west and almost all Roman Catholics; while only 8438 were from England and Scotland together.

These figures ware pondered over by the doctor, and as a result he decided to make a provision for the colonists of Scottish extraction and Presbyterian creed, and to again arrange for a repetition of his experiment of introducing a steady stream of healthful and industrious families. In a continuance of the system of immigration then in progress he thought he saw Australia converted into a second edition of Ireland - or, to use the doctor's own words, "a mere province of the Popedom."

To prevent any such consummation, however, he determined, on the resumption of immigration - after a few years of depression which the colony had experienced in the interval, and during which immigration had been discontinued - to proceed to England, and when there to give, as he puts it, "an impulse to Protestant immigration." Dr. Lang never missed a chance to introduce the word "Protestant," and his persistency in this respect got him into endless controversies, and secured for him much ill-favour which he would otherwise have escaped.

In a letter which the reverend gentleman addressed to the inhabitants of Moreton Bay when his Fortitude people arrived, and which was carried by that vessel, he could not refrain from referring to them as the "first of a series of thorough Protestant immigrants," upon which he was taken to task and reminded that Moreton Bay did not require " thorough Protestant" or " thorough Catholic" immigration but " thoroughly honest" and " thoroughly useful," and that if the immigrants possessed these qualifications it was a matter of perfect indifference to Moreton Bay residents whether they believed in John Knox or the Pope.

But at this time Lang was in England, and it is doubtful whether the rebuke over reached him. One thing is certain, he was ever the same Conservative Protestant. As will have been noticed he was also a warm advocate of cotton growing and tropical agriculture, and according to his own account this latter originated in a great measure, if not exclusively, in his desire to get out to the colonies a 'thoroughly Protestant" population.

I have already dealt with the doctor's scheme for the settlement of planters here; I have now to trace the chief object of his mission immigration. On arrival in England he lectured and wrote to the newspapers, and eventually attempted to float the Cooksland Colonisation Company.

While engaged in the latter work he made application to the Imperial authorities for free passages for 100 immigrants which he said he would himself select at Glasgow, and who, he announced, would be employed in cotton culture in Moreton Bay. He took this course because many of the people he desired to bring out looked upon immigration under the auspices of a Government as a species of pauperism.

The Government would not hear of the proposal, however, and a deal of correspondence followed, in which the doctor submitted other proposals and attacked the parsimonious actions of the Home Office. His efforts to float the company were, owing to the many obstacles thrown in his way, abortive ; but relying principally on the statement of the Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Hawes), in a personal interview in 1846, that the local Government would allow to immigrants, sent out by him a quantity of land equal in proportion to that granted in the case of those sent out by purchasers under the Land and Emigration Act.

He persevered and dispatched his immigrants, the first of whom were the Fortitude folk. He chartered two other vessels, the Chasely and the Lima, and gave the people who came out in the three ships land orders at the rate of £16 for every £20 received from them, but trouble arose inasmuch as those orders were useless here, Mr. Hawes on his part denying that he ever gave the assurance to Dr. Lang that they would be recognised.

Like most men Dr. Lang had his failings and one of these was his belief in the capabilities of himself. As far as possible, too, he would carry out his ideas without requisitioning the assistance of others, and possibly this accounted as much as anything for the many failures which followed him.

This desire to do all was never better exemplified than in the case of the Fortitude. There had, it is true, been a rumour that Dr. Lang would send out immigrants to Moreton Bay, but not one word did he communicate to the residents here of his intention; and indeed they were in total ignorance of the "new chums" having been shipped until the Artemisia brought the news.

Consequently when on the 20th January, 1849, the Fortitude did arrive in Moreton Bay, after a tedious voyage of 128 days, no preparations had been made. The immigrants were, it was discovered by the letter from the doctor which came by the vessel, consigned to the care of Mr. Richardson, who naturally refused to undertake the responsibility since he had never been communicated with in regard to the matter.

The residents, however, took in the situation immediately it was feared that such an exhibition of unaccountable neglect of any business - like precautions might bring discredit upon the colony and deprive the promoter of the confidence of his protégés.

Two cases of typhus having occurred on the passage, Captain Wickham, acting on the advice of Dr. Ballow, ordered the immigrants into quarantine, where they remained over a fortnight. During this time the old barracks and a portion of the hospital had been got ready for their reception, and Captain Wickham had time to formulate a scheme by which to temporarily settle them.

A statement of Dr. Lang's claims upon the Government arrived with the immigrants, and this was sent to Sydney by Captain Wickham. Pending a reply to this Captain Wickham stated that he would allow the immigrants to form a temporary village " on some of the slopes running parallel to the chain of hills in the neighbourhood of York's Hollow." Here they might erect dwellings for themselves sufficient for present purposes, but it was decreed that they should not cultivate the land as this would not be fair to purchasers of ground around the settlement.

If it should be decided by the Government that the demands of Dr. Lang were to be acceded to them they would be looked upon a the light of purchasers of Crown lands to the extent of the passage money paid. Those who could not maintain themselves would be on Government rations. The aggregate amount paid by the immigrants was over 3000 pounds that sum only amounted to two thirds of the expense of forwarding the people it was considered that the Government would save a large sum on the transaction and would grant the people the land.

Viewed in this light with the assurance of the doctor that the next immigrants, who were to come in the Chasely would be dispatched under the auspices of the Land and Emigration Commissioners a hopeful view was taken of the affair.

The doctor had also asked the residents to establish a fund to defray the salaries of the surgeon superintendent and surveyor whom he sent out with the immigrants, and concluded by stating the money he considered himself entitled to for introducing the immigrants free of cost to the Government should be expended in the purchase of land to be selected by the surveyor.

It will therefore be seen that whatever were the facts of the case Dr. Lang had been actuated by the best of motives, and as, showing the care with which he carried out his project it must be stated that the voyagers were accompanied by the Rev. Charles Stewart and Mr Clift, a preacher who he said must settle in Ipswich, and Mr. S. P. Welsley, who would open a school at Brisbane for English and mercantile education.

The immigrants themselves, he said, "would form agricultural settlements along the banks of the Brisbane River where they will cultivate the cotton plant and whatever else may be found suitable to the soil and climate." But Dr Lang's instruction was one thing and the Governmental decree another as we shall presently see.

The Fortitude was released from quarantine on the 7th February, and the immigrants were brought up to Brisbane by the Susan. The following extract from the letter of one of the passengers published in the Courier behalf of the others will be interesting if only to refute the assertions of Dr. Lang's detractors with respect to the unfortunate affair:-

"The doctor both privately, by letter, and public notices in the newspapers distinctly stated that no delay but that which was absolutely required by law would take place. He gave us to understand that a few weeks at most would be the extent of the delay, and he both publicly and privately stated that information would be sent to the in habitants by the Artemisia respecting the shipping of our body, and on these two points we do feel somewhat disappointed.

We believe however, these announcements were made by the doctor in the full assurance that before the departure of the first body, a charter constituting the Cooksland Company would have been granted. He blamed the Government, and on board the Fortitude at Gravesend regretted that he had not been able to complete the affair with Earl Grey, but assured us that our interests were deep in his heart, and that he should not fail to persevere until he had fully obtained for us possession of all the rights to which as purchasers of land and shareholders in the company we were entitled. The prospects seem equal to any representations the doctor made."

On reaching the Settlement the immigrants gave evidence of the careful and judicious selection which the doctor had made. Some started in business as tailors, painters, dressmakers, and announced the fact in the Courier, others formed themselves into a committee to inspect the country pending the decision of the Government regarding their claims, while others hired out. Indeed within a fortnight all the available labour was engaged, and applications for 200 more were lodged with Captain Wickham.

The Treatment of Dr. Lang's Immigrants

The Government was apathetic, and was roundly denounced for its delay in answering Captain Wickham's communication covering Dr Lang's claims. When that answer did come, however, it startled the whole community. Not only did the Government refuse to recognise the claims but Captain Wickham was instructed that the immigrants should not be allowed to even temporarily occupy Crown lands, not yet be supplied with Government rations.

The whole populace was indignant at the unjust manner in which the new arrivals were made to feel the bitter feeling, which Dr Lang had excited in the minds, of Earl Grey and Sir Charles Fitzroy. The Courier maintained the immigrants were entitled to the land, but all the protests were unavailing.

Mr Coote furnishes some particulars to show how discreditable was the correspondence which emanated from the Colonial Office with regard to this matter. For instance, in his statement to Earl Grey of the circumstances attendant upon the arrival of the Fortitude, Sir Charles brought out the fact that the vessel had been placed in quarantine, but did not say that within one week from the time this was done the passengers were declared fit to be removed to Brisbane.

Earl Grey caught with alacrity at the insinuated mischief, and answering Sir Charles's letters observed

" that they (the immigrants) arrived with fever prevailing in their ships, and that there had been several deaths on board I cannot but fear, he sympathetically added, " that this has arisen from the imperfect arrangements which had been made for the health and comfort of the passengers, as such an occurrence is so exceedingly rare in Australian emigration when properly conducted under the superintendence of the commissioners."

The total number of deaths on board the Fortitude in a voyage of 123 days were eight out of 253 - three adults and five children, and only a single death occurred from fever - that in Moreton Bay. It proved an odd commentary on the Earl’s eulogium on the commissioners that in the Courier on 10th August, 1850, in which his despatch was published, the arrival of the first immigrant vessel afterwards sent under their auspices to the district was announced with this addendum - "We believe that there were seventeen deaths on the passage from typhus fever, that fifteen of the immigrants were reported sick; and that a death occurred yesterday." Fourteen days afterwards, the vessel having been placed in quarantine, the surgeon's report was: "Sick, fifty-six ; convalescent, sixty-three ;" and ultimately the number of deaths numbered forty.

I find no trace of official sympathy for the sufferers on this occasion; and not word of rebuke to the commissioners or their agents. Earl Grey's animus towards the doctor was somewhat unworthily exhibited in what was practically a recommendation to Sir Charles to encourage any disappointed immigrant to commence a criminal prosecution against him.

Dr Lang’s second ship - Chaseley

From the foregoing it will be seen that the initiation of Dr. Lang's scheme proved anything but satisfactory. This fact did not, however, damp the ardour of immigrants, but caused them to look about them, and soon they became settled. But scarcely had the excitement consequent upon the landing of the Fortitude people abated than the second ship - the Chasely - deposited her load of 225 passengers on our shores.

What was even more astonishing was that no further preparation had been made for their reception than had characterised the arrival of the Fortitude, while they were none the less unfortunate in respect or their land grants. In a letter which Dr. Lang sent by the Chasely, and which was addressed to the residents of Moreton Bay, he expressed doubts as to whether the Fortitude folk would receive their lands, but as to those of the Chasely he said,

" I have succeeded, however, in making such an arrangement with the authorities here as will leave no uncertainty in regard to the acquisition of land for the immigrants per the Chasely as was unavoidable in the case of the Fortitude. We have already deposited a certain amount in the Bank of England to the credit of the Commissioners of Land and Emigration for the purchase of land in the colony for those emigrants; and we expect to deposit so much more as will be necessary when the decision of the commissioners upon the emigrants by that vessel generally will be given."

It seems that the amount paid on their account was £500, but the deposit was never completed - hence the fact that the people were unable to get their land, notwithstanding the doctor's assurances to the contrary. The steamer Tamar had arrived on the 28th April and reported that the Chasely was beating into the Bay. Accordingly Dr. Ballow, the health officer, and Mr. Thornton, tide surveyor, set out in the Customs boat, and as nothing was heard of them for two days it was feared something had happened.

It transpired, however, that the supply of water had run out, and the Chasely had stopped at Cowan Cowan (Moreton Island) to obtain more. She arrived on the 1st May, and the occasion was deemed of sufficient importance to warrant the issue of a second edition of the Courier. She brought 214 passengers (exclusive of those in the cabin, who included Dr. Hobbs as medical superintendent, Mr. and Mrs. David McConnel, and the Rev. Thomas Kingsford, and on the voyage three infants had died, and there had been seven births.

On the 4th May about fifty passengers were brought up in the Raven, and the next day the remainder, each person paying his fare, since the Government refused to recognise them, and the agent (Mr. Richardson), to whom the vessel was consigned, declined to accept any responsibility. Some were housed at the old barracks, others lived in tents, and others again took up their residence with the inhabitants, all of whom showed the new comers much kindness.

It was well that the Imperial Government had withdrawn the old barracks from sale, for there was not a vacant house in the Settlement. In his letter before referred to Dr. Lang informed the Moreton Bay people that the Reverend Mr. Kingsford had been sent to attend to the spiritual requirements of the residents, while a – Mr. Thomas Bowdon, who had for fourteen years been a planter in Jamaica, and who with others had lost all in the West Indies, had been dispatched to instruct the settlers in sugar and coffee culture. The doctor hoped soon to be able to send an experienced cotton planter from the States.

The doctor had given an I.O.U. for the payment of the passages of the Bowdon family (£120), and he suggested that a joint stock company should be formed with a capital of £10,000 in £10 shares, and that this should be made the first charge on the new company. He also volunteered the information that the Chasely had been chartered on account of the "Port Phillip and Clarence River Colonisation Company." Naturally the residents were much puzzled as to the why and wherefore of the change in the title of the company.

In fact, many felt that the dignity o£ the Settlement had suffered, and were only satisfied when - by chance, of course - they learned that the doctor had, quarreled with his successor to the secretaryship of the Cooksland Committee, and had seceded. At the same time they gathered that Dr. Lang "hoped" to get a royal charter for the committee, but, as has already been recorded, he was unsuccessful, and his fond hopes fell to the ground.

Some of the Results of Dr Lang’s Scheme

The results of the doctor's efforts, however, bore good fruit, for they not only supplied a portion of the labour that was badly required but they also gave a tone to the place which was immediately apparent. Thus was unmistakable evidence given of Dr. Lang’s capabilities as an immigration agent. True, as regarded the Chasely, the amount of labour available was not so great as might have been expected ; but nevertheless they were the best kind of immigrants, since there were few of them but who had a little of the "needful."

Those who were willing to hire out did so immediately, ten of the number engaging with Mr. B. J. Smith's boiling-down establishment, Kangaroo Point, at a salary of £30 a year and rations. I fear that had Mr. Smith known of the trouble he was bringing about him he would have been less generous, for he was roundly abused for fixing the rate of wages at so high a figure as £30, and the best excuse he could frame for having committed so grave an error was that the men would be engaged in wool-washing, and would have to stand in water all day.

By the arrival of these people the membership of the Strangers' Home Lodge, M.U.I.O.O.F., which had a week or so previously been established, received an impetus, which allowed the body to engage the services of Dr. Mallon; while a temperance society was formed, the first meeting being held on the 18th May. One of the promoters of this latter was Mr. Smith, who had arrived by the Fortitude, and who in later years achieved a well-earned popularity.

When embarking in the undertaking several sympathisers with the movement promised to speak at the initial meeting, but at the last moment they went back on their bargain, thus throwing the burden on the shoulders of Mr. Smith, who scored a victory, and created a favourable impression.

Mr. Bowden, the planter, lost no time in setting to work on the formation of a sugar company though quite independently of Dr. Lang's scheme - but though there was a good deal of talk about the ease with which the required capital of £3000 in 600 shares of £5 could be obtained there was a lack of cash, which it is perhaps unnecessary to state prevented the proposal reaching a practical stage.

The Sydney folk were no more enthusiastic in Mr. Bowden's idea than the Moreton Bayites, at which that gentleman was naturally angered. May saw a further attempt to introduce Chinese labour and its failure; while the endeavour to float a cotton company was similarly received. The same month witnessed the Rev. Mr, Kingsford accept a call from the Presbyterians at Ipswich, where he conducted his inaugural sermon on the 13th instant.

Signs of the Times

The Government, too, decided to build the Custom-house at Petrie's Bight, which should have given the deathblow to the Cleveland Point agitation, but did not; and as if to keep pace with the times and growing importance of the place the Courier forsook its garret at the corner of Albert and Queen streets for the ground floor of the next premises, and began the issue of an extra sheet on the arrival of the mail steamer.

There was a talk of floating a company to run river steamers, but like most other enterprises where cash was the mainspring it fell through. Shortly afterwards, however, Captain Winship, lately deceased, began the construction of the Hawk for Messrs. Reid and Boyland. Sensations were provided by the seizure of the first illicit still at New Farm, the depredations of two bushrangers at William Richardson's station Glenelg on the McIntyre, innumerable murders by blacks in the interior, and one or two atrocities by whites, nearer the centre of civilization.

The police protection was grossly inadequate to cope with the evil- but eventually, through the strong representations made, and the grave scandal caused by the practically unrestricted growth of crime, a detachment of the 11th Regiment was sent here. Business was entirely suspended on the 5th, 6th, and 7th June , the anniversary of the races at New Farm .

The Experiment had this time a rival in the Raven and again the proceedings were enlivened by a "band." The word "enlivened" is used advisedly, since the mountain instrument of Scotland towered above the more plebeian drum and fiddle; and there was more drunkenness than usual, with a horse - whipping case or two.