Political meeting 15 Aug 1856

Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), Friday 15 August 1856, page 6

Mr M’Culloch’s Meeting at Astley’s.

On Thursday night, Mr M’Culloch met the electors of the City in Astley’s Amphitheatre, and was euthusiastically received by an audience of at least 1200 persons. Thomas Rao, Esq., M.L.C., was called to the chair. The Chairman said Mr M’Culloch’s committee had called them together for the purpose of hearing his political opinions, of putting them to the test of inquiry, and of ascertaining whether he was a fit and proper person to represent them in Parliament. The past

legislators of the colony had feebly represented tne opinions of the people, nor was this to be wondered at, for five years ago the population of Victoria amounted to only 70,000 persons; now it was five times that amount. The money-grubbing era of the gold excitement had swamped political . energy; but the times were changed; and it was high time for every man to ask himself, where we were, and whither we were tending? Was this colony to be made into a great nation? We’re we to be bound up in the ties of an equal nationality, possessed of the same political rights and privileges? We were no longer a band of adventurers, and were called upon to make Victoria a respectable nation, prominent before the eyes of the world (loud cheers); we have the vast and pressing necessity of keeping a vigilant watch upon our future representatives. From tyrannical kings and from the proudest of aristocracies had been wrung the ensigns and sanctions of our common liberty, and now we were to perpetuate free institutions! (Cheers.) Our privileges were our birthright, by which we must stand fast, and which must be transmitted intact to future generations. (Applause.) Mr M’Culloch was, in his opinion a man eminently fitted to represent the electors of Melbourne. His character was irreproachable; and his social and commercial standing were of a high order. He had much pleasure in introducing him to their notice, (Cheers.) Mr M’Culloch, (who was most favorably received) said he begged in the most unreserved manner to lay before them his political views. He was equally ready to be questioned. It was scarcely probable that all would agree with those views, but he was sure they were at least, liberal, progressive, and akin to the spirit of the age in which we lived. The necessity for testing candidates closely was no longer doubted by any one. They had had a long series of past mistakes, and a reign of misrule and extravagance on the part of the Government. (Cheers.) The Government had bungled in the transaction of

the public business, and had squandered the public funds. It was high time, therefore, that an end was put to these evils. The new constitution was, it was true, far from perfect, but it at least provided them with a responsible Executive. (Hear, hear.) Nothing was in future to be feared from the gross stupidity of incapable men. This was a boon for which he and they might be thankful. The suffrage was a point in that constitution which required revision. They ought to have a complete universal suffrage. (Cheers.) No danger was to be apprehended from investing the people with the rights which belonged to them. (Cheers.) What fears had been entertained in England of granting the suffrage to the whole people! And yet, the danger, if there had been any, had arisen rather from withholding than precipitating their endowment with the suffrage. (Loud cheers.) He was therefore an advocate for manhood suffrage with as few trammels as possible. He went also for the abolition of the property qualification for the Lower House, and for the reduction of it for the Upper House. (Why?) His reason was very simple. The Lower House ought to offer the widest field for tho operation of popular opinions, but the Upper House was intended to net as a legislative check, therefore there ought ‘to be some difference in the qualification. He would say, perhaps £1000 would ba a sufficient amount. (Hear, hear.) He was in favor of triennial Parliaments. Immigration and the changes in the population rendered it necessary as now men were continually rising up. Besides, short Parliaments brought the members continually before the people. (Cheers.) A longer tenure was opon to every species of abuse. They were already, he was happy to say, secure upon the ballot. It was said once that the people here were too independent to need the ballot, but it was impossible wholly to divest the employer of an undue influence over his servant. The ballot in his opinion should be even more secret still. (Cheers.) He now came to that much agitated question, the 53d clause. (Loud cheers.) Although he differed from many, he was distinctly and determinedly opposed to that clause. It was unjust and absurd that so many different religions should receive State Aid. Many classes were excluded from the benefit, which gave additional weight to the argument against it. He had seen what had been done in Scotland. (Hear, hear.) As many as 450 ministers had thrown up the establishment in one day, but did they starve? (No, and cheers.) Next came that most important subject, the education of the people. It was the duty of the State to educate the people. Tho two rival systems now in operation ought not to bo continued. He was strongly inclined to support a system under the management of local boards, with a central board in Melbourne, under the direction of the Government, In their treatment of tho land quostion, the Government had been greatly to blame. (Hear, hear.) In 1852 and 1853, if they had done their duty, how great would have been the benefits to the working man. The land market ought to be fully stocked, and the auction system continued, and the upset price to remain at £1 per acre. Tho squatters should not be allowed to interfere with the free disposal of the land, and the question of compensation he looked upon as decided. No man could think for a moment of any general scheme of compensation. (Hear, hear.) Let the squatters, if necessary, come before a jury of their countrymen. Emigration must be strenuously encouraged. Have all they could, they could not have a man too many in the colony. He did not approve of the method of the Emigration Commissioners, for what they wanted was the bone and sinew of England, and not the mere off-scourings of families and parishes (Cheers.) Railways they must have at once; the expense of carriage to the gold-fields was enormous, and could not much longer be borne. Small, indeed, was the inducement to depend any longer upon the promises of the Surveyor General. They could not afford an expensive system, but they must have cheap railways, not on the English, but on tho American system. Tariffs, lighthouses, &c., must bo managed by a federation of the colonics. If they had had such a federation before, they would not now have been without steam postal communication. But, especially, was such a federation necessary for the regulations of customs, for it was a fact, that goods shipped via Adelaide, paid a less rate, and therefore were cheaper, than the same landed at Melbourne. In order to carry out public works they must become borrowers of English capital. But the Government to procure that must be economical, and financially just. Then would the confidence of English capitalists be secured. (hear, hear.) To civic matters he would always give his best attention. He much desired to see a river trust. (Loud cries of ‘hear, hear.’) Why should there not be a commission to borrow money for the deepening and widening of the Yarra. The thing could well be done, for he had soon what had been done on the Clyde. (Hear, hear.) The cheaper the shipping dues, the cheaper could goods be secured to the people, and if a river and harbor trust were established there was nothing to prevent any vessels capable of entering Hobson’s Bay from coming right up the river. (Cheers.) The Chairman then invited electors to question tho candidate, who, in reply to several, replied to the following effect. Tho first querist was Mr Service, whose topic was the Maine Liquor Law. Mr M’Culloch would not bring in a measure prohibiting the importation, sale or manufacture of intoxicating liquors. (Cheers ) He was in favor of direct taxation, abolishing the Custom house, and keeping it merely for statistical purposes. There were great difficulties in the way, but as soon as he could see his way clear to a direct taxation upon property he would support it. He would assign £1000 as a qualification for the Upper House. The fact that he was in favor of taxation upon property, directly met the question of taxation upon absentees. (Hear, hear.) He was in favor of a considerable reduction in the license fee to publicans, and would place the trade on as free a footing as possible. A law to enable wine and spirits to be sold retail at wholesale prices, for the benefit of the poor man, would be a just law, and would have his support. He was in favor of a portion of the land fund being sent home for emigration, but did not think that the other portion would be sufficient for the public works of the colony, — although, as far as it went, he would so devote it. He was opposed altogether to pensions, unless in the case of very old servants. (Oh!) Take the case of judges, for example ; a man who had sat twenty-four or twenty-five years on the bench was surely entitled to some pension. (Hear, hear.) But he would oppose the granting of mere political pensions to those retiring from office ; and he was opposed to pensioning the present Government. He was thoroughly opposed to any system of expensive railways, but would support tramways or any similar cheap system of communication with the interior. He would prefer these works to be carried out by private capitalists, but feared that tho Government would alone be able to take them up efficiently. He was opposed to the capitation tax upon the Chinese, and thought they ought to be placed exactly upon the same footing as any other class of immigrants. (Cheers.) He was an opponent of duty being placed upon any article of colonial manufacture, and was most decidedly in favor of bringing the national expenditure within the national income. He was in favor of simplifying the patent law. Every man should have the benefit of it, who had produced anything worthy of its protection. He was in favor of a re-adjustment of electoral districts. It was absurd to see Collingwood, with more than 4000 constituents, returning only two representatives, — and the matter ought to be at once rectified. The postage rates should bo kept as low as possible for foreign letters, but he questioned the policy of reducing colonial postage lower than at present. He was not favorable to the abolition of the export duty on gold. It was working most satisfactorily. (Cheers.) He would not have the public houses open on Sundays, but was in favor of the present law, which had worked admirably both here and in Scotland. The law, however, should bo carried out in its integrity. He would with much pleasure meet his constituents every three years, or oftener ; once a year, if it was wished. (Loud cheers.) He was in favor of the establishment of Mechanics’ Institutes everywhere, and would support votes for such purposes. He would willingly do all in his power to recover the Corporation of Melbourne (Tremendous applause) from its present corrupt state ; but he really could not see how a seat in the Assembly could bring much influence on such matters. Corporations should reform themselves. They should send the proper men to the City Council. (Hear, hear.) He was not prepared to do away with the Corporation. Nor would he support an elective Commission in the placo of it. He would not restrict the Government from employing any residents in the colony on public works, whether such residents were Chinese or not. Mr M’Culloch having resumed his seat, Mr Frvn’ots said that to solicit the suffrages of the citizens of Melbourne was evidently no joke. (Laughter) he was quite satisfied personally with the professions and explanations of Mr M’Culloch, and begged to propose him as a fit and proper person to represent the City of Molbourno in tho Legislative Assembly. (Cheering.) Mr Lachlan MacKinnon had much pleasure in seconding the motion. Mr Bowden then came forward amidst great uproar and strong marks of reprobation on the part of the meeting. He attempted to gain a hearing; but, in spite of the kind offices of the Chairman and his own persuasive smiles, it was in vain. The meeting would not listen to him ; and every time he opened his lips, the words were drowned in hisses, groans, and cries of ‘ choke him,’ ‘ shut up,’ &c. The Chairman said that, if the audience did not wish to hear Mr Bowden, he was sure that gentleman would retire; but the hint was not taken, and more confusion followed. Ultimately, the Chairman requested Mr Bowden to sit down, and called on Mr Finlay to support the motion. Mr Finlay cordially agreed in the invitation. Mr M’Culloch had expressed himself ably, comprehensively, and wisely. His principles were the principles of progress, and would be endorsed by the great mass of the people at tho ensuing elections. Mr M’Culloch’s commercial standing was of much importance, and it was satisfactory to think that such a man should have come forward to do credit to that interest, by efficiently representing it. He alluded to Mr M’Culloch’s remarks on the Government. He thought that the members of the Government ought to be tested on their merits ; and he was quite sure that, if so tested, they would be condemned. Such would be the result in Melbourne; and in connexion with this he made a sarcastic allusion to those constituencies which were expected to bury their honor and independence in a cemetery.’ Mr Finlay concluded with some forcible observations upon tho State Aid and Education questions, and resumed his place amidst applause. The Chairman here asked if any one wished to move an amendment, when loud cries rose from all parts of the building for Mr Blair, who was at the back of the platform. After much hesitation, he was obliged to come forward and speak. He said he was unable to address them in consequence of having caught a cold in addressing his constituents — (laughter and cheers) at Emerald Hill the previous night. He had to spoak to the doctors of Sandridge to-morrow, and again at Emerald Hill in a night or two, and therefore ho hoped they would let him off. (Applause, and cries ‘ Go on.’) He quite concurred in the general tribute which had been paid to Mr M’Culloch, and hoped that the doctors would give him their support. (Mr Blair rotired amidst great cheering. Tho Chairman then put the motion, which was carriod unanimously amidst great applause. Mr M’Culloch in returning thanks said, if returned to the Assembly he would endeavour to discharge his duties satisfactorily to all, and to meet his constituents not merely once in three years but as often as they thought proper. Mr M’Culloch concluded by proposing a complimentary vote of thanks to tho Chairman which was carried with acclamation, and the proceeding terminated.


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