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Royal Society of Victoria

Transcribed from The Argus, 20 August 1860, p. 5
View this article online at the National Library's "Australian Newspapers" website

A special general meeting of the Royal Society was held in the society’s house, Victoria-street, at 1 o’clock on Saturday. The meeting was called to hear a paper read by Mr. Morton, entitled, “Observations made during a recent personal visit to the country lying between the rivers Darling and Lachlan, with remarks on the physical geography and climate of the district.”

The principal interest attached to the meeting, however, arose from the fact that the leader, officers and men of the exploration expedition were to be present to sign their agreement, and take a final farewell of the society.

The meeting was convened for 1 o’clock, and the deep interest taken in the expedition was evidenced by the large attendance of members and others. Among those present were Dr. Eades, mayor of Melbourne; Sir William Stawell, Mr. O’Shanassy, Mr. Ligar, Dr. Gillbee, Mr. Ireland, Dr Mackenna, Mr. Stephen, M.L.A.; Dr. Macadam, Mr. Watson, and others. It was subject of remark, that there was not a single member of Government present.

Punctually at 1 o’clock, the chair was taken by Dr. Eades, and immediately afterwards, Mr. Morton read his paper, in a tone that rendered it all but inaudible to those present.

A vote of thanks having been passed to him, the real business of the day was commenced by Mr. Burke, the leader of the expedition, saying, “Members of the expedition party fall in here, “ on which the whole party, numbering 15, walked up the room, and drew up in order at the back of the president’s chair. The men presented a very fine appearance, and were the objects of general interest and admiration.

Dr. Macadam, secretary of the society, then read over the memorandum of agreement entered into between Mr. Wilkie, as treasurer of the society, and the members of the party, by which they bound themselves implicitly to obey the orders of their leader.

The agreement having been read over, Sir William Stawell addressed the party in these terms:- “I have been requested by the committee to say a few words to you in reference to your undertaking – a task which will be attended by a great deal of danger, but which, if successful, will redound very much to the credit of every one of you. That success will redound to the credit of each of you, as it will to a great extent depend on your all being united and cheerfully assisting in carrying out the object of your leader, to whom you will be required to give the most implicit and absolute obedience. That obedience must be given at once, cheerfully and unhesitatingly. Your leader will have a great deal to do; all the responsibility of the undertaking will rest on him. If you cheerfully assist him in all his objects, you will very materially aid him, whereas, if you merely give an eye-service - an unwilling assent - and don’t cheerfully co-operate with him, you will embarass him very much indeed, and even your own lives may pay the forfeit. You must all act as one man; a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether, and you will pull through every difficulty; but to insure that, the most absolute obedience must be given to your leader. In order to insure  that obedience, unrestricted power must be given to your leader, to whom, for the time being, you pledge yourselves unreservedly. You may be several months away, and it is possible your leader may die, or some accident befall him. Under such circumstances, provision has been made for the second and third in command taking his position. Should such an event occur, you will have to give them the same obedience you gave your leader. In my opinion, you are singularly fortunate in your present leader. He has been taught in a very severe, but a useful school, the difficult lesson of how to obey - the best way of knowing how to command. He, I am sure, will exact no more obedience from you than is absolutely necessary. In addition to placing yourselves under his command, special duties are allotted to you, but you have generally to support his wishes. In the event of your not comporting yourselves according to his orders, you may, on his recommendation, forfeit your salaries. Provision has been made that half your salaries shall be paid by monthly instalments to any one you may authorize, on presenting a certificate from your leader that you have discharged your duties up to that time. Before you sign this agreement, I wish, on behalf of the committee, to request that no man shall sign it or go on the undertaking who cannot do so with all his heart. (Cheers.) If any of you do not go into the expedition with all your heart, it is not yet too late; and it would be much more open, and manly, and honest that you should now say you don't like to go; and any man who has that lurking feeling in his heart had much better say so now, or, if not, for ever after hold his peace. (Cheers.) If you go with that feeling, I have no doubt you will be successful; and now, speaking for myself, I say that every man who comes home successful from this expedition ought to be the special object of interest of the country itself. (Hear.)

The members of the expedition were then called up to sign the agreement, commencing with Mr. Landells. They all came up and signed in the most resolute manner, and without a word, except in the case of Charles Ferguson, who appeared very much excited, and entered into an apparently animated conversation with his Honour the Chief Justice. It was understood Ferguson was seeking to ascertain in what manner the half salary would be paid to his child, in the event of the party not being able to communicate with the society; but at length, striking the table with his hand, he said, "Well, if I never get a penny, I'll go." He then put his signature to the document. 

Dr. Eades then, on behalf of the committee and the citizens at large, took leave of the party, wishing them "God speed" on their expedition. (Cheers.)

Three cheers having been given for the party and for Mr. Burke, the meeting separated.

The following are the names of the members of the expedition, viz. :- Richard O'Hara Burke, leader; George James Landells, in charge of the camels, and second in command; William James Wills, third in command; Thomas Beckler, medical officer; Ludwig Becker, artist, naturalist, geological director, &c.; Charles Ferguson, foreman; and Thomas McDonough, William Pattons, Patrick Langan, Owen Cowen, William Brahe, Robert Fletcher, John King, Henry Croker, and John Drakeford, associates.

The expedition will start from the Royal Park about 12 o'clock this day.