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Southern Australian
Title : Southern Australian Southern Australian
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Source : Southern Australian, 5 January 1839, p. 1
Date of creation : 1839
Format : Newspaper
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Description :

It is needless to shew [sic] that up to this time we have had no Free Press in the Colony. It will on all hands be admitted that one Journal devoted to sectional interests in the community, does not realize the idea entertained of a Free Press. ... We have had indeed a pernicious and corrupting monopoly (Southern Australian, 2 June 1838, p. 1).

The Southern Australian was founded by the Crown Solicitor, Charles Mann, with the Resident Commissioner, James Hurtle Fisher. The printer was Tasmanian Archibald Macdougall. In the second year James Allen became editor. The newspaper was founded in opposition to South Australia's first newspaper, the South Australian gazette and colonial register, edited by George Stevenson. As private secretary to Governor John Hindmarsh (as well as holding other government appointments) Stevenson espoused a strong party line in the pages of the Register. The founding of the Southern Australian carried the support of prominent early colonists, including William Light, Robert Gouger, John Barton Hack, B.T. Finniss and John Morphett. The aim of the Southern Australian was to provide a different perspective to that of the Register. The newspaper was sold in 1843,and Andrew Murray became editor. With Murray's ownership the title was changed to the South Australian. Murray was a lone voice in support of the very controversial matter of state aid to churches. This did not assist his circulation and also lost some of his advertisers. In July 1851 the newspaper became weekly again and the following month it ceased altogether.

The Register of last Saturday informed the public, that upwards of twenty persons were buried in the Cemetery during the previous week, and that they had principally died from the slow fever, which it reported was prevalent. The truth is, that only four or five persons have been buried during the last few weeks ... The slow fever, of course, is equally apocryphal. We cannot suppose the Editor such an idiot as to publish a statement of this kind knowingly. We charitably presume it to be a very cruel hoax, to which system our solemn brother seems to be peculiarly subject (Southern Australian, 22 March 1844, p. 2).

From the start Mann set out to attack Stevenson, Hindmarsh and their supporters. Very soon Mann and Stevenson were castigating each other with little restraint in their respective editorials. With the arrival of Governor Gawler the Southern Australian attacked the legality of his appointment and went on to berate him on a personal level. By mid 1839 James Allen had taken over from Mann as editor, and continued the newspaper's criticism of Gawler and his decisions for some time. He later claimed that Macdougall however, stipulated that the criticism stop, in his hope of acquiring the government printing contract. However under Allen the Southern Australian published more news and commentary of local and social matters than either of the other newspapers of the time - the South Australian register and the Adelaide Chronicle. It advocated a centralised system of birth, marriage and death registrations (20 November 1839, p. 3), called for an end to capital punishment (12 March 1840, p. 4), and sought an enquiry into the incidence of veneral disease amongst the local Aboriginal people. (12 June 1839, p. 3) The newspaper made a novel suggestion for means-tests being applied to fines for drunks. (19 March 1840, p. 4) The Southern Australian was a mixture of advertisements for the city auctioneers, the expanding mines at Burra and Kapunda, the New Queen's Theatre and local shops; together with long court reports and news from Britain and the other Australian colonies. A "local news" column covered South Australian news. Local horse racing was well represented in its pages.

The newspaper's relationship with Governor Gawler changed fom August 1840, when it supported his proposal to ban local liquor distillation. Following the killing of all the crew and passengers of the grounded ship Maria, by local Aborigines on the Coorong, Gawler instructed Major O'Halloran and his troopers to apprehend and execute the ringleaders. Stevenson in the Register argued carefully and at length that the actions were illegal and wrong. Allen in the Southern Australian however, along with most of the European population, supported Gawler's decision. Gawler became increasingly angry with Stevenson's crusade, finally removing the very lucrative government printing contract from the Register and awarding it to the Southern Australian. At this time Allen's praise of Gawler sometimes bordered on the grovelling, perhaps because he was one of the first in the colony to recognise the coming financial crash and was hoping to retain the government contract. (26 May 1839, p. 3) Following the departure of Allen in August 1842, the Southern Australian became a (lone) supporter of the colony's third governor, George Grey.

Initially the newspaper was published weekly on a Thursday, at the fairly expensive price of one shilling per six-page issue. From May 1840 it appeared twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays at sixpence for four pages. When Archibald Macdougall was declared bankrupt in 1843, the Southern Australian was sold to Richard Blackham, and Andrew Murray became the editor. In 1844 the newspaper was bought by Andrew Murray, formerly a draper in the firm Murray, Greig and Co. The economic downturn caused by the rush to the Victorian gold fields, when South Australia lost much of its male workers, businesses closed, and therefore stopped advertising in the newspapers, had added to the newspaper's other problems. The newspaper closed in 1851, with the announcement that it was to be absorbed into a new daily, the Adelaide Morning Chronicle. (Adelaide Observer, 29 November 1851, 2)

Related names :

Allen, James, 1806-1886

Blackham, Richard

Finniss, Boyle Travers, 1807-1893

Fisher, James Hurtle, Sir, 1790-1875

Gouger, Robert, 1802-1846

Hack, John Barton, 1805-1884

Hindmarsh, John, Sir, 1785-1860

Light, William, 1786-1839

Macdougall, Archibald

Mann, Charles, 1799-1860

Morphett, John, Sir, 1809-1892

Murray, Andrew, 1813-1880

Stevenson, George, 1799-1856

Torrens, Robert, 1780-1864

Burra Burra Mine (S. Aust.)

Kapunda Mine (S. Aust.)

New Queen's Theatre (Adelaide, S. Aust.)

South Australian gazette and colonial register (Adelaide, S. Aust.)

West Terrace Cemetery (Adelaide, S. Aust.)

Coverage year : 1839
Place : Adelaide (S. Aust.)
Further reading :

Pitt, George H. The press in South Australia, Adelaide, Wakefield Press, 1946

Seaman, Keith, The history and influence of the press in South Australia 1836-1856 (thesis), Flinders University, 1987

Internet links :

Trove : Historic Australian Newspapers: South Australian newspapers in digital format
Please note the alternate titles:

South Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1844 - 1851)
Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 - 1844)



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