113 assumed to be a symptom of a mass population exodus ' The

In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 59-64)

86 third were stopped, but many others were never reported/ " Yet

113 assumed to be a symptom of a mass population exodus ' The

city’s rate of population loss at that period was about 200 persons per year. As the number of persons in each house

^ ^ S e e comments by Calder, op.cit., p.25, also the

Annual Reports H.T.B.S., for example page 8 of the First Annual Report i860 - ’employment was so scarce, that the labour market had an overplus of labourers’.


Calder, op.cit., p.25.

averaged five, it would have taken 25 years for such a number of vacancies to accrue. The empty houses were, in fact, caused by a redistribution of the ages of the population. The adult- orientated community of the early eighteen fifties required many more separate domiciles than the dependant-orientated community of the eighteen sixties.

One of the reasons for the over-estimation of the desertion was the fallibility of migration records. Before 1851 there was an annual error in recording at the ports of 1,622 in the number leaving. With the differing conditions after 1851» the attention being thrown upon ships sailing for the goldfields^^rather than upon the arriving convict and immigrant ships, there was a reversal in the direction of under recording from the missing of those departing to the missing of those arriving. Prom I85I to 1857 there was under

recording at the rate of 1,992 arrivals every year and from 118

1857 to 1861 of 367 arrivals every year.

Immigration from the United Kingdom ceased to be a decisive influence upon the nature of the community after 1857 The

^^Appendix Wo. 11.

Appendix Wo. 6. These errors confuse all population statistics for Tasmania during the colonial period.


Immigration societies existed but did not flourish after i860. Hobart Town Immigration Society Rules and Regulations 1854.

total number of immigrants recorded in 20 years was only 3>000 117

for the whole colony. Although there is little way of keeping track of the replacement of groups leaving the city by like- sized groups going to live in the city, or of the coming and going of transients, there was, during the corresponding period, a net loss of 2,365 of the city population to the rural areas. With no net migration gain it is safe to conclude that

composition of the city community was little affected by new blood until the eighteen eighties and this conclusion is supported by the description of activities within the city.

Social Structure of a Colonial Capital City

There was change in the city's social hierarchy between 1850 and i860 due to the leaving of two sorts of people. Alexandre Dumas described the society of the city before the upsets of the eighteen fifties:

Society in the islands of the antipodes consists of three elements that are almost invariably the same: the employees of' the government, the clergy, and the army. At Hobart Town, the governor, Sir Eardley Wilmot, received frequently and had a large coterie of friends....1t is impossible to give any idea of the enervating atmosphere in these aristocratic groups; with their sombre gravity. This, however, is inevitable, for everyone isconfronted with a convict population and is forced to set an example.

Thus everyone must face boredom to prevent the others from finding life too entertaining.

No one but an Englishman would show such devotion.

’It is true’, Melville wrote, ’some of the leading Government officers unite with a few of the more wealthy colonists, and

lay claim to a little exclusiveness, but the majority of the


people only laugh at their idle pretensions to aristocracy’.

The loss of the official elite left the landowners of the rural areas as the colonial aristocracy, but one which was more concerned with the wool season than with life at the urban centre of the island community. Tasmanians who were very rich, one traveller commented, stayed out in the wilderness, and consequently the highest class one met in the towns was 'more


mannered than moneyed’. The people on the streets on Saturday nights were, he thought, the struggling commercial gentry

jostling with lucky gamblers, miners up for the weekend, tourists doing the town, or artisan boys celebrating the end of their apprenticeships. But this description was not quite apt for Hobart Town. Parliament brought in the graziers, though few of them participated in city life. The Courts attracted a coterie of solicitors, lawyers and judges; the General Hospital was a nucleus for doctors; the civil servants added an element

1 1 o

°A. Dumas, The Journal of Madame Giovanni, original edition


translated into English by M.E.Wilbur (London,

1944) P«43«

^^^Melville, op.cit., p.290.


of intelligence and urbane living patterns; and the port function retained the cosmopolitan leaven.

Hobart Town continued to enjoy the results of its long seafaring tradition of trading merchants, warehousing agents, retired shipowners and ships’ captains. Many had been inclined to be rather wild and free-booting in their young days, but after i860, with quiet retirement and invested money, they formed a tight little cosmopolitan community which was large in numbers for the size of the capital city.

J. S y m e , who left Van Diemen’s Land in 1847 > had also noted four distinct class groups. At the top, he said, was

the aristocracy of government officers. Beneath them, more numerous and more wealthy, were the better off colonists, the merchant bankers and professionals. Lower again were those still free, but not so wealthy, who yet could look down upon

the convicts"l" ^

By i860 the top group had weakened considerably. The retreat of the Commissariat and Imperial official class was never quite complete. The Governor and his staff remained, as did a few of the military officers, until I


O, whilst

politicians increased in number and influence after

self-government. But these became gradually identified with, and their ranks penetrated by, the professional and managerial class.

T h i s s e c o n d o f S y m e ' s g r o u p s was v i r t u a l l y u n t o u c h e d by t h e g o l d r u s h e s . Many o f t h e s o n s w e n t away a nd came b a c k a g a i n , f o r t h e a t t r a c t i o n s o f H o b a r t Town wer e s t r o n g f o r t h e c l a s s whose a r t i f a c t i t w a s, a n d whose f a m i l i e s we re s t i l l i n a p o s i t i o n t o c r e a t e t h e s o c i e t y t h e y w a n t e d . T h e s e g r o u p s became t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t i n t h e c i t y a nd t h e i r s t a t u s became m a g n i f i e d by t h e w e a k n e s s o f t h e c l a s s e s i m m e d i a t e l y b e l o w t h e m . T h e s e w e r e t h e members o f t h e u r b a n s u b - c o m m u n i t y o f c o m p a r a t i v e l y e n e r g e t i c , p u s h i n g s h o p k e e p e r s , b u i l d e r s , s h i p w r i g h t s , p e t t y a g e n t s , c l e r k s , m e s s e n g e r s , an d m e c h a n i c s . The u r b a n s i t u a t i o n was n o t t h e r u r a l o n e , w her e l a n d o w n e r a nd


In document Hobart town society, 1855-1895 (Page 59-64)