1866 – Verdon’s mission

Verdon’s Mission
In context of recall of Darling, swingeing critique of McCulloch ministry by The Times, fiscal crisis of government, fear that London money markets would lose confidence in Victorian debentures.
Anti McCulloch press actively promoted a capital strike
Verdon’s mission was organised in secret.
Several ostensible objectives
Subject of fevered press speculation.
McCulloch’s supporters provided a modest send off.
While Verdon was overseas, the anti McCulloch press continued a drumbeat of anti Verdon propaganda. Constant reports of sightings of Verdon in embarrassing and compromising circumstances. What the press couldn’t find out about Verdon’s doings, it confected in a welter of daydreams of failure and humiliation.
In the meantime, the columns of “Intelligence for Europe” filled up with dire reports of the imminent collapse of Victorian government credit.
The targets for these comments were British bankers who would so have to make a decision about whether or not to buy Victorian government debentures. This decision was in turn influenced by whether these banks believed they could on sell these debentures to other banks and retail investors for a profit. If they believed that the Victorian government was incapable of growing the economy and growing the tax revenue base of the colony, then it was “no sale”. In short, the anti McCulloch press laboured to put bankers and investors in a negative state of mind about Victoria’s prospects under McCulloch.
Watching this bitter campaign for the hearts and minds, and pocketbooks, of European bankers and investors were the Melbourne correspondents of the South Australian newspapers, who were aware that public affairs in Melbourne were of great interest and significance to their readers in South Australia. Though also not immune from the partisan passions that drove public life in Melbourne, they were nevertheless more incline to distance themselves from the melee, if only to attempt to make it intelligible to their South Australian readers who required context that Victorians either had or for partisan reasons did not particularly want. So these South Australian newspaper correspondents, remarkably measured and analytical. Noticed much that was assumed, stated much that was implied, and analysed much that was denied, in the Melbourne press.
And George Verdon’s mission was a subject of great interest to them. 

1866 May 22
Darling and Verdon trip
Verdon’s mission to Britain was associated by the press with the recent controversy over the fate of Governor Charles Darling. It was widely asserted that the scandalous association of the McCulloch ministry with despotism would fatally discredit Verdon.

1866 June

Verdon will fail

This is one of several articles that gloated over the coming humiliation of Verdon and the entire McCulloch ministry at the hands of the British government and the London money market.
Verdon’s departure 

The coverage of Verdon’s departure was frank about the predicament of the colony of Victoria and the difficulties Verdon faced in persuading the political and financial elite of Britain to take a more favourable view of Victoria and its radical, interventionist government.

1866 July

McCulloch financial malfeasance 

During Verdon’s sojourn in Europe the anti McCulloch press sustained a drumbeat of stories accusing the government of serious financial malfeasance. This criticism was directed at influencing the opinions of two groups – local voters and money men in Europe. 

1866 August
Finance difficulties
By August 1866 it became clear that Victoria was running out of capital, causing the cancellation and postponement of projects and mounting complaints. Even the Age, chief media supporter of the McCulloch ministry, was dubious of the success of the forthcoming “Vardon mission” to the London money market.

1866 27 August
Punch lampoons Verdon mission

Interestingly, Punch’s bitter diatribe that insultingly exaggerated the achievements of “little” Verdon turned out to not to far from the truth.

1866 4 Oct

Punch contempt for Verdon’s character and reputation 
1866 17 Nov

Here is evidence of accusations of bitter politicisation of Verdon’s mission to raise loans and hints of how the opposition worked to ensure his failure. 

1866 December
Finances and Politics
The Age took it upon itself to criticize the governments of Queensland and NSW for their financial recklessness. The South Australian Weekly Chronicle conceded the narrow point but wigged the McCulloch government and the Age as McCulloch’s press supporter, for the unconstitutional proceedings of Gov Charles Darling.
Narrowly, this article points out the challenges faced by colonies in attracting investment and the dangers attendant upon recklessness.

London Money Market
The writer of this article points out the conditions which enabled Verdon’s “luck” in achieving highly favourable terms for Victorian paper. Despite being viewed as “revolutionaries” in light of the recent constitutional crises, City capitalists accepted hugely favourable terms.
This high opinion helped to fuel the boom development of Victoria and enabled a highly activist government.

1867 January

Able Leadership This is a carefully argued and factually rich appreciation of comparative political economies. 
The author, writing for South Australians, represents Victoria as making radical choices backed by able administration.
Praise from Argus for Verdon Issue of the effect of universal suffrage on good government was raised but not answered 

1867 January
Verdon’s CB

Plans for a welcome for Verdon 

Verdon banquet 

Verdon banquet postponed An immediate ministry crisis. 

Verdon’s Report This is the actual report

Debenture prices

PDF of above

This article contains material about the bitterness of partisan politics and protest from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce concerning the dearth of credit associated with the Darling constitutional crisis. 

Appreciation of difficulties faced by Verdon 
This account of Verdon’s report of his successful campaign to raise large sums of investment capital on the London money market provides some insight into the unfavourable context of Verdon’s mission.
The scandals associated with Darling’s recall were fresh. The Times had opined that radical Victorian politics rendered the colony unsuitable as a destination for capital.

Moreover, there existed no person tasked to represent the interests of the colony of Victoria.

Yet even without that resource, Verdon succeeded in convincing even French capitalists to invest in Victorian government paper, and on highly favourable terms.
The McCulloch Ministry thereupon resigned, but only to resume office immediately, as no one could be found to lead a new Administration. After various devices and the Government resorting to their old plan—now somewhat modified— for meeting public payments.