As if it were not bad enough that I am expected to attend the damned thing, I am also, it seems, expected to be thrilled by the thought.
We have been assigned a box on the side of the stage where we can be viewed, like monkeys in a cage, by the entire assembled throng. This is fortunate, as it means I can position myself so that my bad eye is facing the stage and at least I will not have to watch the show. There seems to be little I can do about hearing the show, comic songs and all.
The negotiations for the land by the Port Road are pretty much complete. The plan is this: a consortium of tradesmen have clubbed together with the plan of assisting their fellows of the working classes by obtaining land for them to live upon. Prices for land in the Township have become extortionately high and so these chaps have come up with a plan to buy a conveniently located country section, divide it into half acre lots and make them available for sale at a reasonable cost.
Since my land at the corner of the River, the Park Land and the Port Road is about as conveniently located as it is possible to be it is this that they have set their hearts upon.
The fellows are: Morgan Richards; George Manton; Johnny Adams; Thos. Orsmond; Georgie Roberts; Ed Howard; "Piggy" Bill Bacon and Samuel Chapman. They hope to sell two hundred blocks of land and recoup their costs almost immediately.
Their original offer was £800. I countered with £1250 and after some dealing we shook hands at £1000 even.
I scored quite happily in this. Just as the fellows and I were making our agreements, in burst Light, Finniss and a few others of Fisher's party, who had clearly hot footed it to Government House to try and get there before any final deal was struck.
Without so much as a greeting Finniss told me "Whatever they have offered I am authorised to offer £100 more!"
Authorised by whom, I wonder? Clearly Fisher, Hack and probably Morphett had been doing their sums and had seen that dividing land was a ready way to riches.
I looked the man up and down and told him that the other party had agreed already to £1000. This set him back on his heels, as he clearly had thought that I might have settled with the consortium for considerably less.
"Then I will offer you £1100," he said.
I smiled. The tradesmen looked apprehensive, as £1100 was clearly outside of their ability to pay.
"Tell whoever it might be who has authorised you" I said, "that I would rather lose £100 and do a service to the poor workers, than take your money and make rich men richer."
And it was with considerable satisfaction that I dismissed them and asked the workmen to attend me later that day, once I had Strangways draw up an agreement for us to sign.
At the time of the recent killing of Enoch Peglar by some natives visiting the area there was a degree of outrage at my insistence the there be no reprisals carried out against the Aboriginal population. It was felt by many that the natives needed a lesson taught to them and one swift strike now would lay down the law and avoid many a problem later.
Well I was having none of that. One only need look at the other colonies to see where that policy leads. New South Wales has failed utterly to effect the civilisation of the natives and we are fortunate that South Australia is at a sufficient distance from there to allow the natives of Adelaide to remain ignorant of what has taken place there.
The recent events at the Swan River, where it came to be seen as sport to fire muskets near the Native camps and frighten the women, make a perfect illustration. The inevitable happened and a native was killed. There followed reprisals, with a large body of Native men, led by a bold and fearless chief, making severe inroads against the Colony.
This ought to operate as a caution to the colonists of South Australia, to avoid the least appearance of enmity against the natives. A policy of kindness, patience and understanding will, I believe, be a productive and beneficial one.
By the passing of the Act of Parliament establishing the new province of South Australia, we have made the aborigines our fellow-subjects; under the protection of the same laws; entitled to the same privileges, both civil and religious.
Without a special regard to their welfare, it would be a crying act of injustice to seize upon their territory, deprive them of their kangaroos, and drive them back upon the walks of other tribes already reduced to the greatest extremities. No; I have determined that such would not be the case with South Australia. Their kangaroos would meet with protection on the main land as well as their own persons; and instead of reducing their
means of subsistence, every attempt would be made to supply them ‘with seed,, and, to instruct them in the art of raising food from the bosom of the earth.
That destroyer of the human race, distilled spirits have been carefully withheld from them; and I have used every exertion in my power to discourage the use, if not the
introduction, too, of ardent spirits to the Natives.
When Peglar was killed there was a deal of flap doodle on the part of the ninnies in the colony about "feeling unsafe" and being "murdered in our beds". I pointed out, at considerable length, that Pegler had been a damned fool, treated the Natives with contempt and probably got what he deserved, but the flap doodling ninnies were having none of it.
And so they sprang into action and did what every Englishman does best in a crisis - they formed a committee with a view to "dealing with the Native problem". After a series of interminable meetings the "Native Problem Committee" has achieved a series of decisions. They are:
1st.—That this Committee do meet once in every two weeks on the Monday evening at seven o'clock.
2nd—That upon any emergency a Special Meeting of this Committee shall be called by a Requisition from any one of the Committee, addressed to the Secretary, who, on the receipt of such a Requisition, shall convene such a Meeting, specifying the subject to be discussed.
3rd—That all questions shall be decided by a majority of votes, and that in cases where, with the Chairman's vote, the votes become equal, the Chairman shall have the casting vote.
4th—That not less than five of the members of the Committee shall form a quorum.
5th—That when only five of the Committee are present, no question be considered as decided unless four members assent.
6th—That the General Meetings of this Committee be open to the public, but that upon the motion of any member, strangers be required to withdraw.
7th—That on all occasions when two or more of the members rise to speak, the Chairman shall name the member to whom the right of precedence shall appear to him to belong.
8th—That the decision of this Committee be communicated to the Government by the Protector of the Natives, or when deemed expedient, by an express deputation.
9th—That all subjects previously notified for discussion, shall have priority of hearing, according to the order in which they stand upon the Secretary's book.
I suppose it is obvious that all a series of long and tedious committee meetings has achieved is to decide how the committee will operate. The notion of a "Committee to deal with the Native Problem" making decisions that do, in fact, make some impact upon the Native Population seems to have passed them by.
I predict that, whilst it may have been my Policy to treat the Aboriginals with a degree of decency, a committee filled with the committee minded might be more interested in efficiency and order.
Now, my experience of the Natives is that efficiency and order is not high on their list of priorities and I foresee much trouble ahead.
Mary's art lessons with Milner Stephens have begun. They seem to come in three parts. In the first: Stephens and Mary sit sketching pots of flowers or bowls of vegetables with pencils and paper. Stephens looks over her shoulder and offers advice and hints. To his disappointment, I imagine, they are not left alone at all. Mrs Hindmarsh sits in the room with them as chaperon and glares at them with her glittering eye each time they come within three feet of each other.
The second part of the programme is a series of excursions with a group of local artists to paint watercolours "en plein aire" as I believe the French term is. While I have reservations about a daughter of mine involving herself in an activity of French origin, the presence of Milner Stephen, Fred Nixon, John Skipper, Mrs Stevenson and even, on occasion, William Light, add at least a veneer of superficial respectability to what could so easily devolve into bohemian laxity.
They have already painted views of Government House and I believe their next project is the Bank Building on North Terrace.
The third part of the lessons appears to be retiring to Lee's Coffee House and drinking strong coffee while discussing the problems of the world. Fortunately they are equipped with all the wisdom and experience of the young and so it seems apparent that the problems of the world will soon all be solved. And what will they do then, eh?