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In 1848 the Californian Gold Rush sent the world into a frenzy. An exodus of free folk from Australia fled to the gold fields of California.
“Miners extracted more than 750,000 pounds of gold during the California Gold Rush”.
(Gold Rush of 1849, n.d.)
The small labour forces that existed here in Australia were needed for the new found pastoral industries and the colonial administrators were fearful of depleting an already limited labour force.
To stem the flow brought on by gold fever the colony administrators kept the discovery of gold secret until it was apparent that it was in the colony’s best interests to create their own mint, the first royal mint outside of England, and establish a local currency and economy.
1851 'HOW MAY EMIGRATION TO CALLFORNIA BE CHECKED?', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 8 March, p. 4.
HOW MAY EMIGRATION TO CALLIFORNIA BE CHECKED
The General Meeting of employers of labour called by the Mayor for the 27th instant, will have to consider not only the means of bringing labourers into the colony, but also the means of keeping them there. The rage for migrating to California, which had for a season been cooled down, is evidently returning with increased force. Almost every day some new placard stares us in the face, announcing cheap passages to the regions of gold. And almost every week, for some time past, has witnessed the departure of a ship crowded with passengers for that destination.
Now, unless this can be checked, immigration will be a mere farce. If we are to bring out labourers at our own expense only to see them, after a brief residence, wing their way across the Pacific, we shall be doing as bootless a work as that of pouring water into a sieve. We are aware it is a delicate thing for the Legislature to meddle with the liberty of the subject and we admit that, as a general proposition, an Act for restraining free persons from leaving the colony whenever they' choose to do so, would be repugnant to the genius of our free constitution.
But the rule has its obvious exceptions. No man quarrels with the law for preventing a debtor's absconding from his creditors. Immigrants brought hither at the expense of the public, or at the expense of employers, or at the expense partly of the one and partly of the other, might justly be treated as debtors to the extent of the money so laid out upon them and in the event of their wishing to leave the colony before the debt had been discharged, either by refunding the money, or by an adequate term of service, there would be nothing hard or unfair in forbidding them to do so.
This is no new suggestion. It was brought before the Legislative Council two or three years ago, during the first rush to California, and was discussed at some length. The feeling of the House, if we remember rightly, was not unfavourable to some restriction of the kind ; but the general impression, was, that the evil would die of its own accord, and that legislative interference would therefore be unnecessary and impolitic.
Now, however, the question presents itself anew. Immigration from Great Britain has for the present ceased; emigration from the colony has again satin, apparently with a daily increasing momentum.
The requisitionists for the General Meeting would do well to turn their serious attention to this branch of the subject, and be prepared with some definite plan for the consideration of the Meeting, and for submission to the Legislature. We insert in our third page a prospectus of a Collegiate Institution which was founded at Putney about ten years since, and has, we believe, met with very general support, and been much approved of.
We publish it now, as it appears to us there is much in it which may be studied with advantage by those who are engaged in preparing for the foundation of the Sydney University.
In the list of Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and Honorary Members of this Institution, we notice the names of many of the leading nobility, and some of the most eminent men connected with science and education, such as Sir H T. de la Roche, Dr. Buckland, Dr. Hawtrey, Dr. Wordsworth, Dr. Singer, Professor Willis, &c.