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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Discussion of Three Papers on Australia (S76: 1863)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Third party rendering of words Wallace offered in discussion of three papers on Australia presented at the 9 March 1863 meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, later printed in the Society's Proceedings series. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S076.htm

    [[p. 88]] Mr. Alfred Wallace said he had never visited Australia, but he was well acquainted with some of the adjacent countries which had been alluded to in the course of the evening. He would, therefore, state a few facts, the result of his own experience, which might guide them in forming an opinion as to the availability of Northern tropical Australia for colonization. Two points had been mentioned on which he wished to offer an observation: one was that labour could [[p. 89]] be obtained from the Indian Archipelago, and the other that sheep-farming would probably succeed in that district. With regard to the first point, he quite agreed with Mr. Crawfurd in saying that there was not the slightest hope of obtaining any labour from those islands. The inhabitants were exceedingly few in number and they were extremely lazy: it was impossible to make them work, even in their native islands, and they would not leave their own country to labour elsewhere, except perhaps to live on the seacoast and obtain their livelihood by fishing. The only people who could do the labour were the Chinese; but there were many difficulties connected with them which would not perhaps render the importation of the Chinese advisable. The next point was that the district which it was proposed to colonise was not only tropical but almost equatorial in its character, the Victoria River being in 15° south latitude. He did not believe they would find any country in the world within 15° of the Equator in which the European wool-bearing sheep could exist; consequently the colonists who went to that part of the country with the intention of commencing sheep-farming would be exceedingly disappointed, because even in the more favourable island of Timor, which closely resembled Australia in its physical characteristics, the sheep had no wool. Sheep brought from Australia for the purpose of experiment began to lose their wool after they had been there a year, and in a tropical climate like that they made no fat, which was the only other commodity for which sheep were valuable. Therefore if the wool turned to hair, and if the fat went away, he did not see how sheep-farming could be carried on with success.

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