HC Deb 18 February 1862 vol 165 cc448-51

said, that in moving an Address for the production of Copy of all Despatches from Sir Henry Barkly and the other Colonial Governors upon the subject of the successful crossing of the Australian continent by the expedition under the charge of Mr. Burke, he would ask the indulgence of the House while he called their attention to this important expedition. He would remind the House that considerable sums of money had been voted on previous occasions for the purpose of defraying the cost of similar expeditions, and these had been supplemented by colonial votes and subscriptions; but that, until the present occasion, the Australian continent had never been success- fully crossed, either from cast to west or from south to north. Formerly the colonies who had borne the expense of these expeditions had been those immediately adjoining the land explored; but on this occasion the expense was borne entirely by a colony which would appear to have had no Interest in the matter whatever, being separated by three other colonies from the territory explored, but to have been actuated purely by public spirit; and it was a curious fact that this expedition should have been the first that had been entirely successful. He thought an act of such public spirit on the part of one of our youngest colonies justified him in bringing this matter under the notice of the House. It would not become him to speak at any length of the circumstances which attended the prosecution of the expedition. It was well known that it ended in the lamentable deaths of many of the explorers, but the great objects which were sought by it had been entirely obtained. He hoped, however, that he might say a few words as a tribute to the very remarkable man who was the leader of the expedition, and to whose energy and ability it mainly owed its success. Mr. Burke, with whose name the successful discovery of large tracts of country in the Australian colonies was connected, was a brother of the gallant Engineer officer whose deeds at Silistria in the early part of the Crimean war were so famous. No man was more remarkable for public spirit or for great energy and talents. He was an accomplished musician and artist, indeed a man of the most varied acquirements. After the death of his brother, Mr. Burke threw up a lucrative position in the colony to take part in the Crimean war, and he again resigned a good appointment to take charge of this expedition, in the course of which he and two of his companions, Wills and Becker, had lost their lives. As to the circumstances of their death and the abandonment of the place at which they ought to have been met he would say nothing, because the whole subject was under investigation by a distinguished commission appointed in the colony. But as to the result of the expedition, He might say that it had been to establish for the first time the fact that, in addition to the territory occupied by the great colonies situated on the eastern and southern coasts of Australia, there was to the north land abundantly supplied with good water and well suited for agricultural and pastoral purposes, and sufficient for the accommodation of equally important settlements. At the present time, when new territory suitable for the growth of cotton was everywhere sought after, it was of the greatest importance that it should be known that such had been discovered ready at once for the occupation of the white man, and that the Government should come forward in the matter and add one if not more to the many rich dependencies of which the country boasted. The dreams of fifteen or twenty years ago, those dreams which were shared in by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in which the House and the country for a long time joined, but which were thrown back by previous failures, were now established facts; and nothing would be more easy, with the co-operation of enterprising settlers and the Crown, than to establish a colony on the northern coast of Australia, which would add as much credit, he hoped, to the English name as the great settlements in the south. Upon the subject of this expedition the noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Office had said, that when the results were known, it would be time to see whether further steps ought to be taken by the English Government. He (Mr. Childers) thought that that time had now arrived, and the House would have to consider very soon the propriety of giving a proper establishment to the settlements which would spring up in the newly discovered districts. When the matter was dealt with, the House might expect the greatest advantages to accrue to this country, and therefore, while placing the greatest confidence in the course so far adopted by the Colonial Office, he hoped that the same would be pursued, and that the time would come when the colony of Burkesland would become one of the most flourishing of the British dependencies.


said, that he hoped, after the statement of his hon. Friend, that the Government would consider whether some steps should not be taken to perpetuate the memory of the leader of this expedition. The country, which had derived great advantage from the extension of the British empire in that part of the world, would appreciate the devotedness of Mr. Burke and his brave companions, and he hoped that some steps would be taken by the Government to do honour to their memory.


said, that he was glad to be able to produce without delay the papers for which his hon. Friend had called; and be thought it was only right that the Parliament o England should have in its possession an authentic account of the deeds of heroism and devotion which had added to the vast territories of the British crown, and provided space for new and flourishing colonies. He rejoiced that the attention of the House had been called to the gallant enterprise, a detailed account of which would be found in the papers laid upon the table; and he was glad also to have the opportunity on the part of the Colonial Office and the Government of expressing their sense of the public spirit and liberality of the authorities at Victoria in fitting out the recent expedition, and of the gallant devotion, and he was sorry to say self-sacrifice, of those brave men who took part in it. The papers he would have to lay upon the table would not be complete because the circumstances connected with the sad fatalities which constituted the most tragic part of the tale, and which led to the death of Mr. Burke, were under investigation at Melbourne. Moreover, at some future time, the Government would have to produce detailed accounts of those expeditions which had been sent out, in a spirit equal to that displayed in the despatch of the original expedition, for the purpose, if possible, of discovering the fate of the brave explorers. The interest felt in the colonies upon this matter had been so great, that not only had a fresh expedition been sent from Victoria, but it had been accompanied by separate expeditions from Southern Australia, from Queensland and from the Gulf of Carpentaria itself, where a steam sloop had been provided to render assistance in the search. In the interesting papers which he should place upon the table would be found a touching account, from the pen of Sir H. Barkly of the labours, sufferings, and deaths o the brave leaders of the late expedition. He believed the time was not far distant when population would rise upon the newly discovered territory, and he was sure that the names of Burke and Wills would ever be held in grateful remembrance by the colonists of Australia.

Motion agreed to.