Supplementary Final Report, 1872.
|Progress Reports and Final Report of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria.|
Melbourne: Royal Society of Victoria. Mason & Firth Printers.
The Seventh and Final Report of the Exploration Committee was presented to the Royal Society on 31st August 1863, and the Committee have now to record their deep regret that this final Supplementary Report has been so long delayed, by circumstances over which they had no control.
On the 5th November 1861, shortly after the intelligence of the death of Burke and Wills reached Melbourne, the Hon Mr O'Shanassy, in the Legislative Assembly, moved the following resolution:
He said he believed that such a manifestation would embody the sentiments of Honorable Members, and of the great body of the people throughout the Colony. They were bound to recognise the services of these patient and enduring men - men who lay down to die after performing for their country a service that would be spoken of in all time. The least the country could do, was to place on record its sense of the services these men had rendered, to mark what they had done as essentially a great national achievement, and to cause their remains now lying in a far distant portion of Australia, to be brought to this metropolis from which they departed some months ago, in health, vigour, and hope and to be deposited in the Cemetery, where some monument should be erected to commemorate their bravery and patriotism.
The Honourable Mr Heales, who was at the time Chief Secretary, said:
The motion was put and carried unanimously. A similar resolution to the above was also carried unanimously in the Legislative Council on the motion of the Hon Dr Wilkie, who represented the Government. When the remains were expected to arrive in Melbourne, the Committee received the following communication from the Chief Secretary, the Honourable Mr O'Shanassy.
The Committee agreed to accept the responsibility thus imposed upon them, but very unwillingly on their part, as no sum of money had been voted for the purpose, nor any sum named to indicate the character of the proposed arrangements.
The Committee being thus left entirely to their own judgement with regard to both the character and cost of the proposed arrangements endeavoured to the utmost of their ability, and at a great sacrifice of time and labour, to carry them out in accordance with what they conceived to be the wishes of both Houses of Parliament and the country.
With some difficulty they obtained from the Trustees of the Cemetery, the most valuable detached piece of ground that was then available, being a reserve for the ornamental purposes, on the express condition that an appropriate monument should be erected over the remains, and that the ground should be enclosed by an approved iron fence.
The public funeral was celebrated on the 21st of January 1863 in the presence of many thousands of spectators assembled from all parts of Victoria and the adjoining colonies.
On the 8th of that month, at the request of Mr Moore, the Under Secretary, the Committee made a hurried estimate of their probable requirements. At that date they were very far from having completed their arrangements. They had concluded a contract with Mr Daley, for a part of the funeral arrangements, including the preparation of the Hall of the Royal Society for the reception of the remains, and the Funeral Car, and the Vault in the Cemetery, and they had selected a design for a monument, but their time and attention, being devoted chiefly to the former, the had not even approximately ascertained the cost of the latter, nor the iron fence.
The sum of £5,000 had been voted for exploration in 1862, and of this amount, £1,320 had not yet been paid to the Committee, and to meet any deficiency that might arise, they had every reason to expect that a large surplus would accrue from the sales of horses and stores.
They soon afterwards discovered that they had sent in a very erroneous estimate; very little was got for the horses and stores, and many outstanding claims presented themselves of which they were not previously aware; the cost of both Walker's and Landsborough's relief parties being largely in excess of the original estimate.
In determining the character of the funeral arrangements the Committee anxiously sought the best advice of which they could avail themselves, and during the whole of the twenty days that the remains were lying in state in the Hall of the Royal Society, they publicly exhibited the design they had selected for the monument. The Hall was daily visited by many thousands of persons and it was the opinion of all the visitors that the proposed monument was most suitable and appropriate.
The Committee adopted the usual course of advertising for designs for the monument and offered a prize of Ten Guineas for the best. None of these sent in appeared to the Committee to meet the requirements of the case, and they finally selected a design consisting of a monolith of granite of the form of a double cube of six feet, to be procured from the Harcourt quarries, situated in the district with which Burke had been so intimately connected.
The Committee invited tenders for the erection of the monument and iron fence and entered into the contract with Huxley and Parker, at the lowest price at which the work could be done, viz. £1,200 for the monument and £300 for the iron fence.
The difficulty of procuring the monolith, and of transporting it to the Harcourt terminus was so great, that eighteen months elapsed before it was ready to be brought down to Melbourne, and the Heales Government having promised to bring it down on the railway free of expense, the M'Culloch Government were good enough to fulfil this promise, and to bring it in safely to the Spencer-street terminus on a railway truck specially constructed for the purpose.
The monolith of granite, weighing thirty-four tons, was conveyed on a truck drawn by forty horses through the streets of the city to the New Cemetery, where it was erected. In April 1864, the Committee made their first application to the Chief Secretary, Sir James M'Culloch, to place a sum of money on the estimates, to meet their outstanding liabilities. They again renewed their application on 13th October, to which they received a reply declining to accede to their request, on the ground that the liabilities had been incurred without the sanction of the Government.
To this the Committee replied that these liabilities had been incurred with the sanction of Parliament, which was given effect to by a memorandum of the late Chief Secretary, the Hon J O'Shanassy. That the Committee undertook the task in all good faith that any succeeding Government would carry out so explicit an instruction, and that they were now constrained to stop the works unless the Government agreed to place the required sum on the estimates, or would give some assurance to support the vote if brought before Parliament by a private member, and that the action of the Government necessitating the stoppage of the works, would give rise to the claims to compensation by the contractors.
To this communication the Committee received no answer.
In a letter to the Chief Secretary, dated 15th March 1865, the Committee drew his attention to the estimate furnished to the Government on 8th January 1863, which included the monument and iron fence and to which no objection was taken at the time, the whole amount asked for having been voted; to which they added that the M'Culloch Government had identified themselves, not only with the action of the late Government, but with the monument itself, by bringing it from Harcourt to Melbourne free of expense. They pointed out tat up to the time of the funeral, large sums had been annually voted by Parliament for exploration, and that successive Governments had left these sums to be disbursed at the discretion of the Committee, and in the case of Walker's and Landsborough's expeditions, large engagements were entered into by the Committee in anticipation of votes of Parliament. That but for the request of the Under-Secretary, the Committee would certainly not have sent in an imperfect and premature estimate of their requirements, but have waited until they have finally completed their task, and made up their accounts. That this premature estimate was furnished for the convenience of the Government, and that the Committee could with perfect propriety have postponed it until they had accepted the tender for the monument and iron fence, and until they had ascertained the full amount of the funeral expenses, and finally the total amount of all their other liabilities. The Committee also respectfully submitted that they were placed by the action of the Government in the position of having broken faith with the trustees of the Cemetery, who authorised the interment of the remains of Burke and wills on certain specific conditions, and granted for this purpose a large and valuable reserve for the monument and vault. At the same time the Committee sent to the Chief Secretary a copy of the following letter, which the Hon J O'Shanassy was kind enough to give to them in justification of the expenditure they had incurred:
In pursuance of the trust committed to them, the Committee in 1866, addressed the following letter to the Chief Secretary, Sir James M'Culloch.
After two years unsuccessful correspondence and interviews with the M'Culloch Government, Dr Embling MP, one of the members of the Exploration Committee, brought the claims of the Committee under the notice of the Legislative Assembly on the 22nd May 1866, when it was almost unanimously resolved 'that in the opinion of this House the outstanding liabilities and obligations connected with the Exploration Party of Burke and Wills, and the interment of the deceased Explorers, should be discharged by the Government without delay.'
Through the early prorogation of Parliament and the subsequent dead-lock between the two Houses on the subject of the Lady darling grant and other circumstances, the amount then claimed was not paid to the Committee until 5th January 1869; and in the meantime a further sum of £332 of accumulated interest had accrued on advances made by the bank.
On the accession of the Hon Mr M'Pherson's Government to office, it was fondly hoped that the vexatious troubles of the Committee would now find a favourable issue, an the Committee were courteously allowed an opportunity of pressing their claims on the attention of the Government, but the Hon Mr M'Pherson could not get over the fact that his predecessor and late Chief Secretary, Sir James M'Culloch, had left a minute in the office, ignoring the claims of the Committee, and he, too, point blank refused at an interview with a deputation on 29th October 1869 to recognize our claim; at the same time he promised on behalf of the Government, not to oppose the vote if proposed by a private member of the House.
The Committee were thus compelled a second time to seek the aid of a private member, and the Hon Mr M'Gregor MP, kindly consented to bring their claims for accrued interest before the Legislative Assembly, when the amount claimed was readily voted, and in due time paid.
Thus after a painful and protracted struggle, the Committee were at length placed in funds to meet all their public engagements.
In thus finally bringing their labours to a close, the Committee are constrained to express their conviction that in no similar instance has a body of gentlemen appointed to carry out the strongly expressed wishes of Parliament and of the whole colony, under peculiarly affecting circumstances, met with such harassing opposition as they experienced from the Government of the day, during a period ranging over five years, and they think it due to themselves as well as to the Parliament of Victoria, to record the pleasing fact that on both occasions when they were compelled to appeal to the Legislative Assembly, that the Honourable House at once acceded to their request, and acknowledged the justice of their claims. And the Committee rejoice to think that the colony of Victoria has been relieved from the discredit that it would have been attached to her, had the members of the Exploration Committee been left to defray out of their own pockets the cost of the monumental memorial, which now covers the remains of her distinguished explorers, Burke and Wills, together with a large amount of accrued interest, for advances made by one of the banks, and heavy compensation to the contractors, arising out of the circumstances previously narrated.
Some delay has taken place in deciding on a suitable inscription for the monument. The following, however, was finally agreed upon, to occupy the four sides of the die:
In the disposal of the stores belonging to the several expeditions, the Committee resolved to present Burke's pistol to his brother, Major Burke, and the chronometer gold watch used by him on his route to Carpentaria, to his sister Miss Burke, and these have accordingly been presented by the Chairman, Sir William F Stawell.
The balance remaining, after paying all the liabilities of the Committee, will be handed over to the Trustees of the Cemetery with a request that they will apply it to the preservation of the monument.
The Committee regret that it has not been in their power to publish a complete history of the several expeditions which were organized under the care and more especially as many interesting sketches both of Dr Beckler and the late Dr Becker now in the Royal Society's Hall, will thus for the present be lost to the world, but they rejoice to contemplate the magnificent results which have flowed from these expeditions, in the colonisation of vast tracts of country previously unknown, and in the erection of new and flourishing settlements in the northern shores of this great continent.
In Appendix No 1 is a list of all the subscriptions to the Exploration Fund careful compiled by the Secretary, Mr C Donald. These subscriptions had been already acknowledged in the daily papers at the time they were paid.
In Appendix No II is a balance sheet showing the total amount received from all sources, and a summary of the total expenditure incurred by the Committee.
As about two hundred copies of the seven previous Reports of the Committee are available at the Royal Society's Hall, it has been resolved to publish this final Supplementary Report, bound up in one volume with the previous Reports, and to distribute them to public institutions in the colony and elsewhere.
The Committee cannot close this Report without recording their deep sense of the invaluable assistance which has so kindly and so courteously afforded them by their Chairman, Sir William F Stawell, over a period of so many years.
It may be recorded here that John King, the only survivor, who was rescued at Cooper's Creek by Howitt's search party, was rewarded by the Victorian Parliament with a pension of £180 per annum. He died of Phthisis on the 15th January 1872, and was interred in the Melbourne Cemetery. A large number of friends accompanied the funeral procession, and Baron Von Mueller and the Honorable Dr Wilkie attended as members of the Exploration Committee.
The last act of the Committee has been to hand over to the Public Library and the Royal Society all their papers and documents carefully secured in a suitable box.
William F Stawell
List of Subscriptions to the Exploration Fund
Amounts subscribed and collected towards the Exploration Fund by
Collected by S W McGowan
of the Expenditure incurred by the Exploration Committee on account