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Fourth Report, 1860.

Progress Reports and Final Report of the Exploration Committee of the Royal Society of Victoria.
Melbourne: Royal Society of Victoria. Mason & Firth Printers.

Drawn up by Drs Wilkie, Mueller and Macadam.
Adopted by the Exploration Committee.
Received at a Special General Meeting of the Royal Society of Victoria.
9th January, 1860.

At this, the close of the present session of the Institute, the Exploration Committee feels it to be its duty to lay before you its report of its past labors and progress. Hitherto its efforts have been mainly directed to financial considerations.

It will be recollected that, in September of 1858, the munificent offer of £1,000 was made by an unknown friend of exploration, on condition that £2,000 should be raised by private subscriptions within twelve months.

This offer having been made through his Honor the Chief Justice, Sir William Stawell, a public meeting was called by him, to invite the cooperation of the public in raising the required amount, in order to secure the £1,000 thus generously offered.

His Honor the Chief Justice presided at this meeting, and a Committee was appointed, of which he was Chairman, to carry out the proposed object.

This Committee, although appointed without reference to the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute, contained the names of some of the members of that Committee, and it was soon found that the combined strength of both Committees would be necessary to ensure success in an undertaking of so much importance. Accordingly, both Committees harmoniously worked together in promoting their common object, and eventually their labors have been crowned with complete success.

Many commercial and other circumstances combined to enhance the difficulty of procuring subscriptions in Melbourne.

A limited number of otherwise very intelligent persons expressed their fears that the discovery of new country would injure this colony, and for this reason they withheld their subscriptions.

Many declined to subscribe because they regarded exploration as a matter of national rather than of private obligation, and were of opinion that any private effort would be useless and unsuccessful. A very general feeling was, however, everywhere expressed as to the importance of exploration, and the duty of Victoria as the wealthiest of the Australian colonies, to take her share in the work.

When eleven months had nearly elapsed, the total amount subscribed scarcely reached £900 and at this time very great fears were entertained that our efforts would be unavailing. It was then resolved to make a renewed appeal to the colonists in general and the squatters more particularly, in the hope that the contributions, from more distant, localities might make up the deficiency. This hope was not disappointed.

The following letter was prepared, and kindly lithographed by the Surveyor-General in his office, and through the favour of Messrs Vaughan and Wild, it was at once despatched to all the resident squatters throughout the colony, and to many even beyond the river Murray, as also to many of the citizens of Melbourne and proprietors of freeholds in the country;

Melbourne, 5th August 1859.


The great importance of the object must be our apology for anxiously soliciting your kind cooperation in the contemplated exploration of central Australia. We deem it unnecessary to urge the incalculable advantages that would be secured by a successful exploration of this vast continent, and the duty of this colony to contribute for this purpose.

We earnestly beg, however, to direct your attention to the generous offer of that has been made, on condition that £2,000 should be subscribed within twelve months.

About £1,000 only has as yet been obtained and that chiefly in Melbourne; and as only one month remains to complete the required amount, we venture to make this personal appeal to you, in the full assurance that yon will appreciate our efforts to accomplish an object of so great national importance, and that you will not refuse to aid us with a contribution to the Exploration Fund.

We have the honor to be, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
William F Stawell, John Hodgson, Ferd Mueller, John Macadam, David E Wilkie.

The favour of an immediate answer is respectfully requested, addressed to the Hon Treasurer, David E. Wilkie, Esq., M.D., 106 Collins Street East, Melbourne,

Within one week our prospects began to brighten and within the specified period of twelve months the subscription list amounted to £2,199, exclusive of the handsome offer of Messrs. Turnbull and Cadell to subscribe £500 in carriage of goods on the Murray and Darling rivers for the exploring party.

Among the names of the subscribers, your Committee has much pleasure in referring to the liberal donation of £50 by His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, K.C.B., who has always evinced the warmest interest in Australian exploration.

Among the earlier subscribers should also be honorably be mentioned the name of Henry Hopwood, Esq, of Echuca, who, in the kindest manner and under a strong sense of the importance of the object, at once forwarded the handsome subscription of £100.

Honorable mention should also be made of the names of J.V.A. Bruce Esq, of Messrs. Cornish and Bruce, who very liberally subscribed £100; of Samuel W. McGowan Esq, General Superintendent of Electric Telegraphs; who at no inconsiderable personal sacrifice, collected the sum £79.6s, of Messrs Winter Brothers, who subscribed £55, of P.A.C. O'Farrell Esq. who subscribed £52.10s; and of Angus McMillan Esq, M.L.A., who subscribed £50.

There is another name to which your Committee would refer with pleasure - that of Rev Joseph Docker, of Wangaratta, whose letter enclosing a cheque for £100, is deemed worthy of a place in this report;

Boutharambo House, August 9.

Sir - I have received your circular of the 5th inst. inviting my attention to the importance of the Exploration of Central Australia and politely soliciting my subscription. Could a doubt arise in anyone's mind as to the advantages which would result from a successful exploration of this vast continent and that doubt would instantly be removed by the appendage of the names submitted in your application.
I notice and appreciate the generous offer of £1,000 of somebody for the attainment of the object in contemplation; and feel that I should be wanting in public spirit, and in gratitude for advantages which I have received from my adopted country, if I did not, as far as in me lies, meet the generous offer by as wide an opening of my purse as it will bear. Permit me, therefore, to send a cheque for £100, which you will please to acknowledge.

Yours, &C,,
Joseph Docker
[To] Dr Wilkie Esq.

There is still one other name which your Committee feels that it would not be justified in omitting in this report. It is, however, with unmingled feelings of sorrow that the Committee ventures to introduce it on the present occasion. The gentleman, whose name as a donor of £100 has hitherto been withheld, is now no more. Not many days after making this generous contribution he taken away from his sorrowing family and friends by a sudden and awful death. In reply to the circular, he enclosed his subscription, stipulating that his initials alone should appeal. in the published list. This was, of course complied with; but as death has severed all his earthly ties, your Committee considers itself relieved from any further obligation to conceal the donor's name, and it is only due to the surviving members of his family to read his letter to the Institute, and to publish his noble generosity to the world;

Koort Koortnong,
August 23rd 1859.

Sir- I am in receipt of letter, dated 5th of August, and signed by Messrs. Stawell,
Hodgson, Mueller, Macadam and Wilkie, respecting the exploration of Central Australia, and beg to state that, upon the first public intimation of the offer of £1,000 for this purpose having been made upon the condition of two being raised by the public, I proposed to a few that we should subscribe a trifle towards the object. At the time it was not received so favorably as I expected, consequently the matter dropped. I now, however, have the honor of sending you a cheque for £100, upon the condition that in the list of subscribers my initials only appear. Trusting that you will succeed in your exertions to raise the sum required.

I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
J.G. Ware.
[To] David E. Wilkie, Hon. Treasurer, Exploration Fund, 106 Collins Street, Melbourne

Having thus succeeded in raising the amount of £2,000 within the stipulated period of twelve months, it devolved upon the united committees to make application, through Sir William F. Stawell, to the unknown donor for the £1,000 he had promised. Accordingly, the following letter was addressed to Sir William Stawell, for presentation to the unknown donor;

"Australian Exploration"
To the Unknown Donor of £1,000.

"Sir,- We have the honor to announce to you, through His Honor the Chief Justice Sir William F. Stawell, that your munificent offer of £1,000 for Australian exploration has met with a hearty response from all classes in Victoria, and that we have succeeded in raising by private subscription the stipulated sum of £2,000 within the stipulated period of twelve months.

In thus announcing to you that we are in a position to claim your munificent gift of £1,000, we pray you, on behalf of every colonist of Victoria, to accept the assurance of our grateful esteem and of our warmest acknowledgments; and although your name is still withheld from us; we cannot withhold our admiration of your unostentatious, patriotism and disinterested zeal in the cause of science.

We confidently believe that the valuable assistance which you have rendered to the cause of science and Australian progress will, at no distant period, be rewarded by a wide extension of our geographical knowledge of those vast central regions of Australia which have been hitherto cut off from the civilised world, and still remain untrodden by the foot of civilised man. And we feel assured that it will ever be to you a source of unmingled satisfaction, that you have so successfully initiated in Victorian a movement in favour of exploration, which we are fully justified in believing will be attended with the happiest and most successful results.

We have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most grateful servants,
John Hodgson, Ferd Mueller, John Macadam, David E Wilkie,
Melbourne, September 5,

In reply, the following communication was received from Sir William F Stawell;

October 19th 1859.

My dear Sir,- I enclose you a cheque for £1,000, the unknown donors promised gift towards the Exploration Fund. Some delay has been occasioned in consequence of the desire on his part to maintain his incognito, but I trust we may now set to work at once. The donor has requested me to return you his sincere thanks for the very flattering letter sent him by the Committee.

Faithfully yours,
William F Stawell.
[To] Hon D E Wilkie MD.

The Committee cannot suppress its admiration for the disinterestedness of the donor, to continue even now to withhold his name.

On receipt of the £1,000 an immediate and successful application was made to the late Government to place the sum of £6,000 on the Estimates for 1860, to supplement the £3,000 raised by private subscription.

It was also the desire of the United Committees to call an early meeting of the subscribers, in order to adopt suitable measures for carrying out the proposed object.

Since all the arrangements for organising the party and providing for its outfit must necessarily depend on the extent of means available for the purpose, and as the camels and dromedaries ordered from. India cannot be expected to arrive before March next, the Committee deemed it desirable to suspend further action until [the] means to be devoted for exploration should be fixed. In the meantime, however, an application has been made to the present Government to confirm the promise made by its predecessor to place the sum of £6,000 on the Estimates for Exploration, and this has been very kindly conceded.

In the meantime, also, most of the unpaid subscriptions have been got in, and it has been resolved to call a public meeting of the subscribers for Monday, the 23rd January, to receive our report (vide Special Report of the Exploration Fund Committee), and it is hoped that measures will be then adopted for securing the successful issue of our past labors with as little delay as possible. For this purpose it has been thought desirable that there should be in future only one Exploration Committee, and that this would be best accomplished by the subscribers intrusting the whole management of the funds to the Exploration Committee of the Philosophical Institute, and it is contemplated to move a resolution to that effect at the meeting of the subscribers on the 23rd inst.

There, is every reason to hope that the Legislative Assembly will pass the vote of £6,000, but there is a possibility that it may be voted conditionally on united action being taken on the subject of exploration by the other Australian colonies.

Your Committee does not think that such a union, under existing circumstances would be likely to lead to beneficial results, in as much as it must necessarily much more complicate future arrangements and unavoidably delay the departure of the expedition.

Your Committee moreover, is of opinion that greater success is likely to be achieved by the exploration of the country from various directions by smaller parties, than by concentrating a very extensive party on one line of discovery. But they sincerely trust that this recommendation may not tend to annihilate the exertions for such a patriotic object in the neighbouring colonies, but that our neighbours will also continue in future the noble zeal evinced in the example they have given us.

Your Committee has every confidence that it will be in a position to take all the preliminary steps, and to make all the necessary preparations for the immediate equipment of an exploring party on the arrival of the camels.

In conclusion your Committee beg to submit the following financial statement;

Amount of funds;
In National Bank, £1,764. 0s. 0d.
In Bank of Victoria, £1,210. 0s. 0d.
Unpaid subscriptions, £210. 0s. 0d.
Total assets: £3,184. 0s. 0d.

David E. Wilkie, M.D., M.L.C.
Chairman of and Hon. Treasurer to the Exploration Committee.


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