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The age of gold

The Argus published ongoing debates about the nature and effects of the gold rush. On this day it announced the return of ‘the age of gold,’ but also warned of its dangers.

9 June 1851
Published Source
Australian National Dictionary Centre, The Gold Rushes and Australian English: a resource for researchers, teachers and students, Australian National University, 2005, http://www.anu.edu.au/andc/res/aus_words/gold/index.php. Details
This material is provided by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, a joint project of the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia.


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THE GOLD DISCOVERY. With gold at California, gold at Bathurst, and gold at the Plenty, we might well imagine that the age of gold had returned to earth; and it will be well for us, if things progress much further, if we do not share the fate of Midas, and while surrounded with wealth, feel many of the severest privations, usually considered incidental to poverty alone. At the same time, stirring and wonderful as are the days in which we live, we ought not to allow them to destroy our presence of mind, or to prevent us from looking with common sense upon the wonderful discoveries going on around us. Those discoveries are remarkable in a very high degree, and their ultimate effects cannot be otherwise than important to the whole world, and to these colonies especially; but still it is quite possible to magnify even wonders like these, and convert them to purposes not legitimately belonging to them. Numbers of people seem to employ themselves in disseminating the most extravagant reports, and following them up with anticipations of consequences of the most exaggerated character. Every little occurrence is traced directly or indirectly to "the diggings," and the prevalence of the yellow fever has to answer for many an incident, with which it has nothing to do, great as may be its real effects. The cry is raised that the whole value of property is changed; that sales of land and stock are suspended; that labour will soon be accumulated at the diggings alone, to the complete sacrifice of all other interests in the community. And these prophets of evil are really doing something to give truth to their predictions. Nothing is so contagious as panic, and the very fact of people beginning to say that such and such a thing will happen, has often before to-day brought that about which, without the circulation of such report, would never have come to pass at all. These chattering alarmists, are therefore, really producing the consequences they fear; which consequences would probably never be heard of, but for the cry thus unnecessarily raised. One would fancy from the tone adopted, that some serious calamity had befallen us, instead of a very valuable addition having been made to our list of productions. A considerable quantity of gold is surely not such a serious evil in the abstract, that there should be a general mourning on the subject. By bad management, we may, indeed, convert into a curse, that which ought to be a blessing; but there is no reason why a material addition to our colonial wealth, should of itself be a matter of regret. Let us look at the subject a little calmly, and we shall probably find that we have no reason to despair. The discovery of rich gold mines at Bathurst, even if the Plenty should not turn out equally productive, will undeniably, at first, do something to direct industry into new channels, and that with a suddenness and want of due deliberation, which will cause much evil. The eagerness with which men naturally run after that attractive metal cannot but, at first, produce such changes as will amount in a great degree to a sort of social disorganization; and considerable inconvenience, and some loss will accrue before the counterbalancing advantages will be fully developed. But we would fain hope, and we think a very little consideration would show good grounds for that hope, that the amount of injury is apt to be very much overrated. The alarmists seem to hold that houses and lands are to become valueless, stock and merchandise, except of favored descriptions, permanently unsaleable; that shepherds, stockkeepers, and ploughmen will not be, to be had for love or money, and that all the principal industrial pursuits of the country will be virtually suspended. We hold this to be all nonsense. Property does not sell very readily at present, and it would be a great wonder if it should. But it is not because it has lost, or materially altered its value; but because people do not well know, but that the late discoveries will have a remarkable effect in some way, and they do not wish to enter into fresh transactions till they can form a guess what that effect will be. The dread of the entire desertion of servants is equally unfounded. Gold digging is at best very hard and very disagreeable work; and the average profits of a large number of diggers are not sufficient to tempt men already well paid, to leave the ills they have, and "fly to others that they know not of." Shepherds in particular are no great admirers of hard work; and men who have followed that employment for a few years, will rather lounge after their woolly charges at a fair wage, than paddle a whole winter day up to their middles in water, on the chance of a stray lump of the root of all evil. Some little advance in the current rate of wages may possibly take place, but no fear but that good masters will still be able to get good servants, at a rate of wages which they can afford to pay. And as the inconvenience at first experienced will not be altogether ruinous, so also will it be temporary, and far more than counterbalanced eventually by the great good resulting from these wonderful discoveries. Those who buckle manfully to their present difficulties will reap a rich harvest in the future. We have already shown how certainly, the Australian gold mines will put a stop to that greatest of all curses transportation. If we gain nothing but this, we shall gain no trifle. But we shall gain much more. The difficulties in the way of steam navigation with Great Britain will melt like snow in the sun, before the radiant influence of Australian gold. Immigration from both England and the whole civilised globe besides, will set in with a rapidity unimagined heretofore; a country which has shown itself so progressive without gold, will furnish irresistible attractions with that added to its productions. The natural effect will be that these colonies will fill up within the next year or two, as fast as without these discoveries, they would have done in ten times the number of years. And in those days there will be no complaints of the low prices of sheep-stations and cattle-stations, houses and lands. In those days we shall find that the diggers are not the only rich; but that those parties are the wealthiest who have stuck steadily at their several pursuits; and that many of those have acquired the most gold, who have never seen a gold-mine. Argus,9 June 1851