Governor George Gawler

No Work For Immigrants

In 1836, despite the early failures of the Wakefield system, poorer immigrants were arriving in Adelaide in expectation of finding employment from the wealthy predecessors, who had been able to pay the high price demanded for land. They found that those whom they though would be their employers had abandoned all ideas of going out into the country and working the land. There was, therefore, nothing for them to do, no means of employment and no money to be made. The poor immigrants had no way of purchasing their own land on which to commence farming for themselves. Provisions had rapidly increased in price, flour for example was raised from £20 to £80 per ton. No food was being produced off the land and nothing what so ever was being done to develop the resources of the colony, whilst the money which the settlers had brought with them was rapidly being spent in importing shiploads of provisions from other countries.

Public Works

In order to give employment to those of the settlers who were really destitute, Governor Gawler, commenced a series of Government works. He constructed a good road between Adelaide and its port. He built wharves and reclaimed the unwholesome swamp. He built a Customs House, with warehouses and many other costly buildings. Government House alone cost £20,000. Now, these were all in themselves very desirable things, but it was difficult to see how they were to be paid for.

Borrowing From British Treasury

Colonel Gawler spent nearly  the whole of his own private fortune in paying the wages of the unfortunate people he employed, but that could not long support so great an amount of people. He persuaded merchants in England to send out provisions and clothing for the famished people, but the only means he had of paying for these goods was by drafts on the British Treasury, which were at first accepted as equivalent to money, for it was believed that, whenever they were presented in London, payment would immediately be taken care of by the British Government. But this was a serious mistake, for though the first series of drafts were paid, when the authorities in England found out that others , for larger and larger amounts, continued to pour in, they refused to pay and reminded the colony that, by the terms of the charter, it was to be entirely self sufficient venture.

Adelaide Bankrupt

A series of drafts , to the amount of £69,000, were therefore dishonoured and the merchants, finding the drafts to be worth no more than the paper they were written on, demanded their money from the Governor. Unfortunatel Governor Gawler had nothing with which to pay and the colony had to be declared insolvent, having accumulated debts to the amount of about £400,000 which it could not meet.


History of Australia