Controversy over postal issues

Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), Wednesday 28 February 1855, page 5


On Monday afternoon, a well-attended meeting- was held at the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, to review the subject of postal communication with ihe mother country, and to take into consideration the best means to be adopted for establishing a regular monthly mail between it and these colonies. Mr. llellerick was voted iuto the Chair. The ad vertiBcment convening the meeting having been read, and the proceedings of tho last meeting of the Chamber boing read and confirmed, The Cuaiuman opened the business of the meeting by observing that they all knew the desirability of having a regular monthly delivery of letters between theae colonies aud the mother country ; he should,

tncreiore, nice 10 near tue opinions or tne mom«ers now present, aud the question fully discussed. Mr. IIammill thought if we were to have perfect j communication, the best way would be for us to assist ourselves. With respect to the best route to be

uionteu, nc was 01 opinion mat it would oe via jalle. He had got down some little sketches of the tract which lie though wou’d b3 the best ; but as the » iject which had brought them together was the Adoption of some sure communication, he 3hould like to hear all their opinions. He conceived there were steam companies enough in the colonies competing against each other unnecessarily. There were numbers of steam vessels running between this und Sydney : lot them be laid 011 for this -route. To prevent delay, he should suggest they should boldly take the initiative. Their better plan would to solicit Government for a bonus, in order to place the Company in a permanent position. To be successful in this, all the several colonies should be unanimous, and any littl : jealousies between Sydney and .Mel- 1 bourne must be forgotten. (Ilear, hear.) They must unite together until they hail an efficient postal communication. Were Melbourne to give £3(i,00l), Sydney £25,000, Adelaide £15,000, Van Diemen’s Laud £15,000, making in all £91,000, it would be sufficient in itself, besides the postage they would receive, to support an efficient communication. He said the average cost via Galle would not amount to more than 10s. per mile. Wishing, as lie did, to see this matter taken up by the Chamber, he should move a

resolution to the effect that a Select Committee be appointed to communicate with the Local Government as to the amount they are disposed to place on the estimates with regard to the postal communication between these colonies and tho mother country via Point de Galle. He observed that the sum of £30,000 had been at one time voted, aud had proved to be inoperative. ?The resolution was briefly seconded by Mr. Montefiore. Mr. M’Dougall thonght it was very desirable to have an efficient transit of letters, and he quito concurred with what Mr. IIammill had stated. He said uo effort should be left untried to effect what he had proposed. He supported tho resolution. Mr. Ckuiksuank would support the resolution as to ascertaining from the Governmcut what they might be inclined to give; but under the present, circumstances he was sure their answer in effect would be, wc have not fjot the money ; aud from the Council il would be, il we want postal communication wc must do it ourselves (hear, hear). If the Government bavo not sufficient revenue to do -theee things, we must increase it; if wc want aid from the Government wc must assist thevn. He thought they were uot taxed enough. He admitted he ‘was no’t taxed enough. The holders of property were not taxed sufficiently. Government would meet their request by eaymg we have not revenue, and they might say, if you want us to evince a spirit of support to you, you will assist’ us (Hear, hear.) If it was to be done by taxation, he would say let them commence at once ; let there be a property tax of a half per cent., which would raise a revenue of £360,000 ; which would not only be raising a revenue to supply the want at once, but which would provide a surplus revenue to enable them to meet incidental expenses. Mr. Lord said, he rose for the purpose of moving an amendment to the resolution. The amendment was, in substance, that a committee be appointed to proceed to Sydney, and confer with the committee of the Chamber there, for the purpose of taking the necessary steps to organise a company in the colonies, to build or purchase steamers to run between the colohies and Panama, in connection with the existiug companies now in operation ou that side. He said, bo -knew- be was advocating a route which was cot popular la the Cliwnber, vu,. : the Paoaiua routo ; out yet be thought it was far preferable to the over* l&ad route via Galle, which was impracticable for several reasons ; its boing so enormously expensive, I was tlie principle objection to it, If auQb u company as

the Peninsular and Oriental, with all their experience, fouud that it cost so much to enrry it out as to pre-, vent a profit being realized on it, could any other company hope to succeed with it? Again, it never could be a treasure or a passenger route, while the Panama route would carry the bulk of both. The latter way they would carry ten passengers for every one of the’ overland route. From the heavy charge made for passengers, it made it impracticable for any but gentlemen to go that way, and they never’ go but once — (oh, 0I1, and laughter.) The Panama route could be carried through with the assistance of New South Wales, which the overland route never could, either with or without. Mr. Bowdf.n said he would have put the foregoing amendment, not in that shape, but as a resolution. He thought the Panama route was the best ; but believed it would not be carried out if Sydney and Melbourno were at war with each other. Although disunited, their interests were as one. Mr. Ckuiksiiank thought it would be better to dispose of one motion before going into the other. The Chairman said he treated it as an amendment, nnd he should rule that it could be spoken to. Mr. Hammill said his object was to promote discussion, in order to suggest the best moans of arriving at what they wanted, lie held that they should be agreed, before going to Government. The Chairman thonght their better way would be to hear the discussion on both the motion and the amendment, before he put. the latter to the meeting. Mr. Bowden resumed He considered that- the way by Panama was the safest, easiest, most practicable, and most inexpensive, and one in which all the several colonies would join them. They should not go to Government when they could assist themselves. Let them try and assist themselves first, and if then they found ‘they could not accomplish it, let them apply to Government. The Panama routo was the only one to assist all the several colonies. It proposed our connection not only with Europe, but we should be connected with California and the remainder of the United States, also with Callao, and South America. Passengers and freight coming from Now York, instead of first proceeding to England, could more easily go to New Orleans. The route would be from the States to Navy Bay. By this way we had half the route provided for us. The Peninsular and Oriental Company might, by war, have all their hrkftis Inkon JLWnv frnrn tliom T)w-v worn Pni’p.-irt liv

the Government to take it up by the largo price of the postage ; they did not care about tho Australian colonies except as they wero obliged by Government. By the. Panama route wc had the transit half etfected, and by the end of the year the railway would be completed across the Isthmus, aud silks, laces, and such like light goods, could be brought quicker and cheaper than by any other route. All the passengers from .the United States would come this way, and it would, if efficiently managed, be the only route. (Hear, hear.) Thoir plan would be to go to Government, and in a plain, common-sense, business manner, and say give us the postage and we will do it ourselves. Let the Government only charge the inland postage of a penny on each letter, and give the steam company the whole of the remainder for it coming out. Let it bo Gd., or Is., or 2s. ; it would be goods and passengers would pay without any subsidy from the Government. The real way would be for them to got, a fair share of the postage duties, instead of putting any extra charge on the passengers to enable the company to exist. The risk on the Isthmus had been greatly exaggerated : by the time the railway was finished there would bo 110 risk at all. Ho was sure they would have the whole of the mails from Europe aud America, nine-tenths of the passengers, and light goods that can pay a ‘ clippcr’ freight, and the support of all the colonies. Mr. IIammill asked if Mr. Bowden could furnish tho Chamber with any calculations which would enable them to judge of the likelihood of hisproposed scheme paying itself better thau tho overland route. Mr. Bowden said that the position of this country was similar to that of California’ after the gold discovery. At the time of the discovery of gold there was great traffic to that place from the States there by way of Cape Horn ; but very shortly afterwards they carried 011 the transit by way of I’auama. He knew the prejudices existing with respect to old institutions, and the reverence in which the Peninsular and Oriental Company were held, as almost to bo looked upon as ‘ household words but yet he flmnrrhfr ilir* I-nn2iinn. rntifo wnnlil nnv hnf.fni’

Mr. HammiT.l begged to remind the last speaker that he was in error respecting liis .statement of the support of the other colonics to the Panama route. All the other colonics had already given their favorable opinion of the overland route ; while both I Adelaide and Van Diemen’s Land had declared directly against the Panama route. .Mr. D. Moore would like to express his opinion on 1

what had fallen from Mr. Bowden relative to the anticipated trade with Callao in the shape of importing flour. He hoped very soon to see the trade in that respect totally extinct (hear, hoar) ; and that the necessity for such importation would 110 longer exist (hear, hear). On the cither hand our trade with India would always be increasing. Wc should ever depend 011 them ‘for lea, sugar, aud tobacco, and that no alteration in the land system here could ever alter (hear, hear.) With respect to what had been said about the Sydney and Melbourne boats, he had to observe that at present they were scarcely paying, and that the company in Sydney wero already quite prepared to tnke up tho route via’ Galle and Suez. He said that rather than they should lose this route, which would bb such a loss to them they ought to subscribe a sum to establish it. Steam communication ought to be of paramount importance; They once had tho offer from tho Government of *£36,000 to enable them to carry out their plans, if such au offer were mado again by the Government lot them

accept it,- by all means, if they thought they could carry it out. All the colonies would support the route via Suez, aud he was sure that the people in Sydney would not give one shilling towards supporting the Panama route. Mr. Tiiomas Dickson briefly supported the amendment. Mr. Gaisuielli said he was hardly entitled to speak being a stranger. He had but just arrived from London. He had travelled both by the Panama aud the Overland route. It had been said by a former speaker, that neither treasure norladies would travel by the Suez route ; he liad crossed to Suez ‘with both ladies and specie. (Hear, hear.) And now for the Panama route. He had crossed the Isthmus accompanied by his wife, and ho should be very sorry to do so again. They went by way of Chagres, and he could assure thein tho danger from fever in that climate was very groat. There was a scorching sunshine till two o’clock in tho afternoon, and a heavy tropical rain generally afterwards. He had, shortly before leaving London, conversed with most of tho principal merchants there, and they had all looked to the overland route as the main lino wherewith to have connection with Aus

tralia. biicn a company would be entitled to get . assistance from the Imperial Government. They sudsidise the West India line; they subsidise the India and China line, and others. It was quite impossible for any line to exist without some support from the Government.. He had spoken with the proprietors of the celebrated Cunard line, and I10 had been told that they could not go on if it were not for the profits derived from the Government in carrying the mails ; and therefore to establish a line without any subsidy, it was sure to fail. They must recollcct that tho cost of steam navigation was a guinea per mile. The Chairman having put the amendment, the show of hands was against it by an overwhelming majority, there being only about- four or five hands held up in its favour. It was accordingly lost. ? The original motion was then carried. A resolution embodying the names of the following gentlemen as the members of the select Committee, to communicate with the local Government was then carried unanimously : — Messrs. Moutetiore, Thorpe, W. P. White, Train, Cruikehank, McCulloch, and the mover. | Mr. Monte fioiie said, as one of the members of the members of the Chamber was about proceeding to Sydney, it would be desirable for that Chamber to depute him to ask the Chamber in Sydney how far its members were disposed to assist them iu establishing the line. He should therefore move that Mr. Hammill be requested to confer with the Sydney Chamber of Commerce with reference to tho postal communication, with the view of ascertaining their ideas on the subject ; also, to commuuicate with the local companies, so us to ascertain how fur they would be prepared to meet any proposition that might be made as regards the employment of their steamers for that purpose. . Mr. Lord seconded the resolution, which was carried without any dissentient. Mi’^Hammiij. said he would lie happy to attend to the wishes of the Chamber on his arrival in Sydney. Mr. Tebby, Assistant-Manager to the Australian Steam Navigation Company, said he was prepared to state, on the part of the Company he represented, that they were tully prepared and in a position to go at once into tbe arrangement (heor, hear). They bad oighteeqr steamers at their disposal. Mr. Train regretted that ia all the discussion they had lost sigbt of the important sen-ice tbat bad beeu rendered to the mail department by the clipper ohips arriving in tho colony (a laugh, and a voice, ‘ 1 ea, by tbe Red Jaokct’.)

The Chairman thought it was too late now to moot that question ; no doubt the meeting had lost sight of it. A vote of thanks having been passed to the Chairman for his able conduct in presiding, and having been duly responded to by him, the meeting separated.


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