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Tuesday, 31 August 1858.

Meeting held at the Mechanics Institute, Collins-street, Melbourne.

At a Public Meeting held at the Mechanics Institute, Melbourne, on the [3]1st inst., Sir W.F. Stawell in the chair, the undermentioned gentleman were appointed a committee to take the peccary steps for raising £2,000 by public subscription to be applied to the purpose of exploring the interior of the Colony; a donation of £1,000 having been made for that object, coupled with the proviso that double that sum should be subscribed by the public within twelve months from the present date.

The committee consisting of:

  • Sir W.F. Stawell
  • the Hon J. Hodgson M.L.C.
  • Professor McCoy
  • Dr Mueller
  • Mr Jas. Smith
  • Dr Macadam
  • Dr Wilkie

to which Dr Macadam has been appointed Honorary Secretary and Dr Wilkie Treasurer, was limited in number for the sake of securing a greater amount of individual responsibility as regards its financial administration; but as soon as it has discharged the first duty of delegated to it, that of collecting the sum specified above, it is pledged to co-operate with the Exploring Committee of the Philosophical Institute, in concerting measures for the prudent economical and efficient expenditure of the Exploration Fund.

That Fund there is every reason to believe will be augmented by a grant from Government; and the aggregate amount, it is confidently hoped, will suffice to prosecute the enterprise to a thoroughly successful issue.

In the mean time I have to solicit on behalf of the Committee, the exercise of your local influence (either by the formation of sub-committees, or otherwise) in procuring subscriptions.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Jno. Macadam, M.D., Honorary Secretary

Melbourne, September 15th 1858.

Tuesday, 31 August 1858.
A public meeting was held at the Mechanics Institute on Collins-street at 4 o'clock p.m. when it was agreed to form an additional Committee, The Exploration Fund Raising Committee. This Committee was ostensibly separate to the Philosophical Institute of Victoria and their Exploration Committee, yet six of the seven members of the Exploration Fund Raising Committee were also members of the Exploration Committee.

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Argus, Wednesday, 1 September 1858: 4
At the public meeting, held at the Mechanics' Institute yesterday afternoon, Sir William Stawell, as President of the Philosophical Institute, announced the condition upon which the munificent offer of £1,000 had been made by its anonymous donor, viz., that a sum of £2,000 should be raised within a year from the present time by public subscription; and a Committee was thereupon nominated to carry out the donor's views, and to concert measures for giving them practical effect.

Dr Embling intimated, on behalf of the Government, that they were willing to place a sum of money on the Estimates adequate to the purchase and transport thither of twenty or thirty camels; and added that a military officer, who was about to proceed to India with horses, was willing to undertake the selection and shipment of the camels. Some months will necessarily elapse before these can arrive; but, in the meantime, the Committee will find ample employment for their time and energies in collecting the stipulated sum, in procuring the best and fullest information in reference to the season at which the expedition should set out, its outfit, its point of departure, the most eligible route to be adopted, and in studying those multifarious points of detail which incidentally arise while discussing and making provision for a scheme of exploration, to be conducted with novel means and under new conditions. The sum required to be raised by public subscription is so insignificant in comparison with the wealth of this colony and the magnitude of the object proposed to be accomplished, that we should imagine it will be speedily raised; while the limitation of the number of the Committee will have the effect of increasing the sense of responsibility felt by its individual constituents, and of impelling them to exercise to utmost caution and discretion in the expenditure of the funds entrusted to them. When the other colonies see that decisive action is being taken by Victoria in this matter, they will probably concert measures for combined effort, so as to extend the basis of operations, and multiply the chances of success. The honor of removing the veil of mystery which envelops the centre of this continent, and of opening up an overland communication between its southern and its northern shores, is one in which New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria may equally participate, while the material advantages to be ultimate derived from the geographical discoveries made by the explorers will chiefly accrue to the adjoining colonies. For this reason, and bearing in mind also the spirit of enterprise exhibited our neighbours in connection with the expeditions of Mr Gregory and of Mr Babbage, we may naturally calculate upon their zealous co-operation, and anticipate something like a federal movement for the attainment of a really national end. In all probability the time is not far distant when we shall wonder at the timidity or the apathy, the ignorance displayed in the selection of means or the shocking indifference exhibited reference to the importance of results, by which we were actuated prior to our solution of the problem which has so long perplexed us. A ghastly blank will no longer stare us in the face when we bend our eyes upon the map of this continent, and the track of the explorers winding over that white plain, may become one of the highways of commerce dotted with centres of population, and vital with the ebb and flow of a periodical tide of travellers.

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Argus, Wednesday, 1 September 1858: 5
A public meeting was held at the Mechanics' Institution yesterday afternoon, to consider the best means of setting on foot a project for the exploration of Australia, and of raising funds for the purpose, in addition to £1,000 already tendered by a citizen of Melbourne. About 50 gentlemen were present.

Sir Wiliam Stawell, Chief Justice, and president of the Philosophical Institute, was called to the chair, and in opening the meeting, said their object that day was essentially business. They required actions, not words. The subject of the exploration of the interior, although of consequence to all, was not one of general interest. Those, however, who manifested an interest in it were in earnest; and he was assured that the members of that meeting would require no persuasion on his part to induce them to espouse the cause warmly. It was in itself a subject of vast importance; and, apart from that, there was the fact that none of those who had carefully perused the evidence connected with the loss of the indefatigable Leichhardt could make up their minds to surrender all hope of yet discovering him. The colony of Victoria was but a part of the continent of Australia, and its own peculiar interests would be advanced in proportion to the advancement of the whole. Their sister colonies, though possessing less wealth, had made the subject of Australian exploration a Government question, while this colony had done literally nothing. Some months ago, a Committee of the Philosophical Institute had been formed, with which he had had the honor of being connected. That Committee instituted inquiries as to the best method of prosecuting a search in the interior of the continent. The question considered was not the advisability of the search - for that was deemed to be settled - but the modus operandi. The Committee issued an elaborate report, but unfortunately other matters of a more exciting nature interposed, and no immediate effect was produced. The Institute had done all that it could for the time. At the present moment one experiment nearly affecting that question appeared to be approaching a practical solution. The advisability of employing camels in those explorations had long been mooted, and it was very probable that something tangible with regard to the introduction of that animal into this colony would shortly be accomplished. Attention had also been directed to the subject by the discoveries or non-discoveries - he cared not which - of the party which recently arrived in Adelaide. Just at this opportune period a citizen of Melbourne had authorised him to say that he would give £1,000 on condition of a further sum being raised by subscription. The name of this gentleman he was not at liberty to divulge, and he regretted it, as he thought it was always better in such cases that the donor should be publicly known. However, with a modesty which did him credit, he had declined to have his name brought forward; and that must be sufficient. He (the Chairman [Stawell]) hoped that a sum proportionate to the entire amount raised would be contributed by Government from the general revenue, and could see no reason why it should not be. Such subscrlptions had hitherto been subsidised by Government in the proportion of 2 to 1, and he considered that it might with great justice be done on that occasion. If they raised by subscription £2,000 in addition to the money already so munificently contributed, with the assistance of Government they might have £8,000 or£10,000 in hand with which to prosecute the enterprise. It was well known that it was an expensive undertaking, and that nothing worthy the name of an exploration could be attempted with less than £5,000 or £6,000. He believed they might expect monetary assistance from any Administration, he cared not which, in proportion to the sum which they themselves raised. He had taken the liberty of calling them together that day, inclining strongly to the subject, as he had always done. Their first object, he thought, should be to collect an amount of money from the public generally to add to the thousand pounds and, for this purpose, he conceived that a Committee should be appointed. If they were earnest in their work, the expedition might be ready by the next season - that was to say, in January, February, or, at latest March. It was now September; let them exert themselves properly, and the thing would be achieved. It was quite apart from the object of that meeting to discuss the details of the expedition – whether camels should be used or not – whether it should start from this or from the north-western side. Those were matters which must be left for discussion in Committee. He would suggest, then, that a Committee be at once appointed, and the work commenced in earnest. It was well said that anything well begun was more than half done, and he thought that the gentleman who had offered the £1,000 had more than half accomplished the work.

Dr Mueller said that he should have hesitated in appearing before them were the subject of exploration not one of such deep interest to all, and had not the resolution he had to propose been so closely connected with it. He rose to move: 'That this meeting has heard with high gratification of the gift, by a citizen of Melbourne, of £1,000 to the cause of Australian exploration, and while it desires to record its sense of the munificent liberality of the donor, it also pledges itself to use every effort to raise by public subscription the further sum of at least £2,000, to be applied to the same purpose'. He was certain that the rich colony of Victoria would cheerfully respond to that request, which was a most reasonable one, and that the Government would also heartily co-operate. Great efforts had already been made in Australia to reveal the secrets of the interior, and many lives had been sacrificed in the search. They would observe on the chart which was hanging to the wall, and which had been prepared by Mr Blandowski, what a space had yet to be explored ; and it was certainly the duty of the colonists to set about the work. It had been suggested that the aid of camels should he secured in making the explorations, and although in come respects objections had been raised against them, he was convinced that only by their assistance could the task be accomplished. The Committee of Management of the Zoological Gardens were very anxious to introduce the camel into the colony, and perhaps the plans for the exploration and for the introduction of the camels might to a certain extent be combined. Camels could be landed on the north-western coast much cheaper than if they were brought here, and it might be advisable on that account for the expedition to set out from that quarter. However, those were matters which, as Sir William Stawell had said, should be left to the consideration of Committee. He might, however, repeat that he did not think any exploration could be successfully prosecuted if camels were not used. It was by no means improbable that rivers of considerable size might yet be discovered. Who would think, standing at the mouth of the Murray, that such a large rlver lay behind? and so there might yet be found water-courses of great extent where there was no indication of such on the coast. In some parts, of course, where chains of hills ran along near the sea-board, rivers of great size could not be expected to occur. At all events it remained for them to map the interior of the country, and to find out where the oases in the desert were situated, so that caravans crossing the country might make for them. He did not despair of such a track being found, however scanty the productions upon it might prove. It remained for them to discover and classify those productions, and finally it remained for them to lift the veil which shrouded the fate of the unfortunate Leichhardt.

Mr Hodgson, M.L.C., had great pleasure seconding the motion, and, in so doing, felt that he need not waste time in urging upon the meeting the importance of the subject which had brought them together. He thought there would be little difficulty in collecting £2,000, and should himself be happy to devote some time to the work, and, if assisted by others, did not doubt of success. It was very desirable that no time should be lost, as it was necessary, he believed, that any expedition which might be formed, should start from here not later than February. He was a member of the Committee which was appointed some years ago, and which collected a great deal of Information. It was then considered that February was the latest month for the purpose. He suggested that a few individuals should map the town in sections and undertake to collect £20, £30, or £40 from each section. In this manner he conceived the money could be obtained in a short period. They all know from experience how backward persons were in contributing to such funds if they were not solicited. He considered that meeting a most satisfactory one, bearing in mind the description of such meetings generally in Melbourne. He trusted all present would assist in furthering the desired object. Thee motion was carried unanimously.

Mr [William Henry] Hull [MLC Melbourne Central] moved the second resolution which provided that a Committee of five should be appointed to carry out the objects of the meeting. He said that it had been observed by Sir R. Macdonnell that in all probability a highly-productive land, with a healthy climate, existed in the centre of the continent, and there certainly was no reason for a contrary belief, since they found oases of considerable extent In the midst of the deserts of Africa. There was one observation he desired to make in respect to the proposed expedition, and that was that, whether they employed camels or not, they must employ men whose physical and mental character fitted them for the arduous duty they undertook. To enforce this fact on the meeting he might read a letter bearing on the subject, and which Dr Leichhardt had addressed to him in 1847. He would omit the names:

Sydney, the 29th November, 1847.
My dear Sir, I received your kind note, accompanied by two copies of your pamphlet on the aborigines, and an enclosed letter to Mr. --, which I immediately forwarded. A fortnight ago your answer to my letter, with a letter addressed to Mr.--, reached me safely. I was sorry to learn that Mr. -- was not near enough to have a prompt communication with him. Mr.-- tells me, however, in a note I received with the last Moreton Bay steamer, that Mr.--'s situation will not allow him to join me. I have, consequently, enlisted another person in his stead. After various discussions with my friends and with men whose advice I am most willing to follow, I have determlned on forming an entlrely new party, and on not even taking Mr.--, who will have ample time to employ himself in the Moreton Bay brushes. I wish to take men who have been living in the bush, who have attended to stock, and who would be strong enough not to require any assistance in the drudgery of loading from myself. Mr. -- would be deficient in the two last points; but the principal objection which my friends press upon me is that Mr.-- did not act with more decision on my last journey; and did not communicate those facts he mentioned to me after the expedition was over when they were going on, and when I had a chance of guarding against them. Some wore so discreditable, so much to the dishonor of the expedition, that no well-regulated and well-principled mind could have ever concealed them.
Believe me ever to be, my dear Sir,
Most slncerely yours,
Ludwig Leicchardt.
I shall leave Sydney next week for Darling Downs.

He had other letters, in which that matter was more particularly referred to, but it was sufficiently evident from that how important it was that the men should be strong in body temperate in all their habits, and of most determined mind.

Mr James Smith, in seconding the motion observed that it was most disgraceful to them as British colonists, that they should occupy that territory for so long a time and know so little of it. It reminded him of the policy adopted by the mariners of the olden time, before the mariners' compass was discovered, who used to hug the shore and dare not for their lives venture out into the open ocean. It was derogatory to their character that they should cling thus pertinaciously to the fringes of the land, and be unable to summon sufficient energy to penetrate the interior. He trusted the present movement would receive general support, and agreed with Mr Hodgson that a canvass on a systematic plan should be instituted. He had always found the public of this colony very willing to contribute to subscriptions for patriotic purposes; but, at the same time, he observed that they required a little gentle dunning previously.

Dr Embling supported the resolution, and, alluding to the introduction of camels into the colony, said that the Government had made arrangements with a gentleman in that room, by which they would be enabled to transmit horses to India and receive in return two or three dozen camels. He believed that by this arrangement the camels would be here in ten months' time. It was safer to bring them to Melbourne, to the jetty, than to land them on the north-western side of Australia, when they would have to be conveyed through the surf to the shore. The Chief Secretary and Attorney-General had authorised him to give that information to the meeting. He believed he might also say that the Government would not hesitate to propose a vote of £3,000 or £4,000 for the purposes of exploration; and if £2,000 could be raised by subscription, in addition to the £1,000 already given, there would be ample money for the work. He agreed with the last speaker that it was shameful they should occupy portions of that country nearly a century and yet have so little to boast of in the shape of exploration. He hoped they would have an expedition ready to start by the next season.

Mr John Cairns said that previously to that movement commencing a plan had been suggested for gaining subscriptions from persons both here and in New South Wales. It was proposed that each subscriber of two guineas should receive full reports of the proceedings, and at least two views of spots visited by the expedition. In this way it was conceived that about 2,500 subscribers might be secured. He threw out the hint for the consideration of any Committee which might be appointed. Dr Brett said that he had had the honor of an interview with the Chief Secretary, and had spoken to him on the subject of the introduction of the camel here. He had spent some time in India, and from the observations which he had made he should strongly recommend that the Shootur Suwwarie, or cavalry camel, should be obtained. This animal was trained to trot, and could travel, with a single rider, 150 miles in a day. He believed that in Australian explorations it would be found invaluable.

Mr Wilkinson suggested an addition to the resolution before the meeting providing that any vacancy occurring in the Committee should be filled up by the subscribers. Mr [Francis] Murphy (the Speaker [of the Legislative Assembly]) said that the whole scheme would require some alterations, in consequence of the new light which had been thrown on the subject by Dr Embling. If such a large grant were to be made by the Government, they would have to make arrangements for their Committee to co-operate with the Government in the matter. He suggested that the Committee should be considered merely as a preliminary one. He desired to know if Dr Embling had direct authority for making his announcement. Dr Embling said that he was specially desired to express to the meeting that it was the intention of the Government to propose a grant of £3,000 or £4,000 to assist in exploring the interior. The Government were merely acting in accordance with the wish of the Assembly as expressed on the subject. Mr. O'Shanassy had distinctly stated his intention to him (Dr Embling).

The Chairman [Stawell] advised the meeting not to be content with relying on Governments, but to set about the work themselves. He had had some experience in the matter, and he assured them there was much to be done before the money from Government could reach their hands. As yet they only knew that Government had determined to obtain the camels. It might, or might not, be their intention to place some of them at the disposal of the Exploration Committee on their arrival. He expressed a hope that if a grant of money were made from the general revenue in aid of the Exploration fund, it should be expended under the auspices of private citizens, rather than officers appointed by Government. Some further amendments were suggested in the resolution which was eventually carried, as follows:

That a Committee, consisting or not more than five members, be now appointed, whose duty shall be to set on foot a public subscription towards the cause of Australian exploration, to take charge of and administer the amount so subscribed, together with above-mentioned sum of £1000, and also to co-operate with the Government in the expenditure of any grant which may be voted by the Legislature to promote the thorough exploration of the interior of the Australian continent. The Committee shall from time to time issue to the public a report of their proceedings, and, after the funds so entrusted to them shall have been fully administered, publish a duly-audited statement. Any vacancy in this body, whatever cause occasioned, shall be filled up by a meeting of subscribers.

Mr [Francis] Murphy said it was difficult to place their hands on a number of gentlemen willing to incur the great labor involved in the work of the Committee. The names which he was about to propose he was not responsible for, they had been handed to him, but he felt assured that they were those of gentlemen possessing the requisite energy, ability and scientific knowledge. He moved that the following gentlemen form the Committee:

Mr Wilkinson seconded the motion, remarking that the gentlemen composing the Committee would have to devote a far larger amount of time to the business they undertook than was the case in ordinary Commlttee-work. He assumed that those five gentlemen had signified their assent, and were prepared to give the necessary labor and attention required in carrying out so important a scheme, and one of so protracted a nature; for it would most probably extend over 18 months or two years. Assuming this, he had great pleasure in seconding the motion.

Dr Macadam proposed that Dr Wilkie's name should be added to the Committee, and alluded to his labors on the former Exploration Committee. Mr James Smith seconded the motion, and expressed a desire that Dr Wilkie's name might be substituted for his own. Mr Hodgson was opposed to this, as he had confidence in Mr Smith's ability, and believed he would be a useful member of the Committee. He thought, however, that Dr Wilkie's name might be added, and that Dr Macadam might be appointed Hon. Secretary to the Committee - a post which be had filled so ably on the last occasion. Mr Hull said that he would have liked to have proposed the "Great Unknown" on the Committee - the gentleman who had sub-scribed so munificent a donation. The Chairman [???] said they must be content to leave that gentleman in the retirement which he appeared to desire. (A person In the body of the room, who appeared to be partially intoxicated, created some disturbance by crying out that "it was all gammon", "there was no thousand pounds," &c., but was speedily silenced by an angry call to order from the meeting generally.)

It was decided after some discussion that Dr Wilkie should be appointed Hon. Treasurer, and Dr Macadam Hon. Secretary to the Committee. A desire was expressed that the last resolution should be rescinded, and the number of the Committee increased, so as to enable the two last-named gentlemen to vote. Dr Macadam said that he should be happy to act as Secretary without voting on the Committee, and the matter was allowed to drop.

The motion as amended by the introduction of the names and offices as above stated was then carried.

Dr Murphy could not allow the meeting to separate without moving a vote of thanks to their unknown friend for the handsome and noble manner in which he had made his donation. The motion was carried by acclamation.

Mr Hodgson was then moved into the chalr, and a vote of thanks was passed to Sir Wm. Stawell for having presided on that occasion. Sir Wm. Stawell, in acknowledging the compliment, said that he was debarred from taking part in any public movement connected with politics, and felt, therefore, the greater pleasure in assisting in one like the present, and in advancing In every way in his power the interests of the colony, which was now his home. The meeting then separated.

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Ovens and Murray Advertiser
About sixty gentlemen interested in the exploration of the interior, met to-day, the Chief Justice Sir William F Stawell presiding. Mr W. Hull moved, and Mr Smith seconded that a Committee be appointed to procure subscriptions, control the funds, and have the general management of an expedition. The following gentlemen were, in accordance with the foregoing resolution, elected a committee: Messrs Hodgson. Mueller, McCoy, Smith, and the Donor of the £1,000, who, it is rumored, is Mr Edward Wilson, of the Argus. Dr Macadam was appointed Secretary, and Dr Wilkie Treasurer.

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Bendigo Advertiser, Monday 6 September 1858: 3
'The Donor' of the £1,000 for exploration, in the Argus, denies that his name is Edward Wilson, and states that no one in the colony except Sir W. Stawell and the Editor of the Argus [Wilson] knows who he is.

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(Note: This meeting was reported in the press the following day, 1 September 1858, and subsequently the meeting is often referred to as having been held on this date.)

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