The Notes of New Australia

Peter Symes

One of the more famous incidents in Australia’s short history concerns the colony of New Australia in Paraguay. This colony, its development, and the departure of the colonists from Australia caused much discussion when it occurred during the 1890s. Although it remains a significant development in the social history of Australia, the colony of New Australia and its history are now rarely considered, except by students of Australian history and its society. However, the colony is of interest to numismatists, because paper money was issued in the colony. This study explores the reasons for, and the circumstances surrounding, the issue of paper money in New Australia..

            The ‘New Australia Co-operative Settlement Association’ was founded in 1891 by William Lane and a group of Australian socialists in an attempt to prove that socialism could work. At this stage in the world’s history, there were no socialist states, simply socialist ideas and ideals that were spreading around the world. Founded amid the turmoil of strikes and depression, members of the Association decided to leave Australia, to escape the government, the pastoralists and the wealthy, who were making it miserable for the working man. Australia at this time had a large underclass, with many people living and working in poverty.

            It was decided by members of the Association to seek freedom in a new country and, to this end, two representatives of the Association were sent to South America to seek land for the proposed socialist colony. Initially targeting Argentina, the representatives of the Association were ultimately granted a tract of land in Paraguay. To understand why the government of Paraguay would offer land to a group of Australian socialists, it is necessary to take a brief look at the history of Paraguay.

            Paraguay was a Spanish possession from 1535 until 1811 when it gained independence. There followed dictatorships by José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia (until 1840), Carlos Antonio López, nephew of De Francia, (until 1862) and Francisco Solano López (until 1870). It was during the rule of Francisco Solano López that the most significant event in Paraguay’s nineteenth-century history occurred, this being the War of the Triple Alliance. President Lopez had allied himself with political forces in Argentina that supported provincialism in that country. The President of Argentina was trying to increase central authority and this drew him into conflict with President Lopez of Paraguay. At the same time, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil had become suspicious of the control that Paraguay exercised over the border territories of Mato Grosso and the Parana-Paraguay river systems that took trade from Brazil, through Paraguay to the Atlantic. The government of Uruguay fell into dispute with Brazil and was supported by Paraguay. However, the Brazilians invaded Uruguay, deposed President Blanco of Uruguay and established their own government. Paraguay then launched a pre-emptive strike against Brazil and the War of the Triple Alliance began. Argentina, Brazil and the new government of Uruguay forged an alliance with the declared intent of deposing President Lopez of Paraguay, but a secret treaty also determined to take territories from Paraguay upon victory.

            The War lasted from 1864 to 1870. At its end, Paraguay was defeated and President Lopez had died in battle. As a result of the war, Paraguay lost 55,000 square miles to Brazil and Argentina (approximately 26 per cent of the country). The war cost 350,000 lives on both sides. However, Paraguay was the worst affected. The population of Paraguay fell from 525,000 to 220,000 as a result of the war. Of the 220,000 at the end of the war, only 28,000 were adult males. In the ensuing years, Paraguay became a shadow of its former status, as it was previously one of the leading states of South America.

            In 1890 Juan Gualberto Gonzalez was elected as President. He, like many other Paraguayan politicians, had been a member of the Legion Paraguaya, which sided with the Allies during the War of the Triple Alliance. During his presidency there was a severe economic recession in Paraguay and Gonzalez became a strong advocate of immigration as a tool to recover from the recession and to repopulate the nation, which is why he welcomed the colonists of New Australia.

            When the government of Paraguay offered land to the New Australia Co-operative Settlement Association, the grant was dependent on a certain number of people settling in the colony within a given time. In Australia, the news of the offer was welcomed and preparations were made for the first of numerous voyages to take colonists to Paraguay. To facilitate the voyages, the Association acquired a ship named the Royal Tar, which commenced its first voyage from Sydney on 16 July1893. The vessel and first batch of 220 colonists arrived in Montevideo on 11 September prior to the proceeding to Asuncion, Paraguay, where they arrived on 22 September. The specific tract of land to be used by the colonists was selected, a settlement was founded, and the pioneers commenced the hard work of establishing New Australia.

            It immediately became apparent that William Lane, who had been elected to head the colony, expected the settlement to work on his principals rather than on principals guided by the colonists. (Lane would today be regarded as a ‘cult leader’. He was a man who was able to attract many people to his will, while equally alienating just as many.) He had forbidden alcohol, refused any but white inhabitants at the settlement, and insisted on the sanctity of marriage (i.e. no sex outside marriage). He also discouraged fraternizing between the colonists and the local population. Although the rules of the New Australia Co-operative Settlement Association stated that it did not recognize any religion, Lane proved to hold very narrow and strict religious beliefs. (Lane confided in one visitor to the colony that he was receiving advice on how to run the colony from conversations with God.) It was not long before a schism occurred amongst the pioneers. Lane expelled some colonists and others left of their own volition. Those that remained suffered the whims of the ‘Lame Dictator of Paraguay’, an appellation given to Lane because of a limp he displayed when walking.

            The second voyage of the Royal Tar left Adelaide on 31 December 1893. Shortly after its arrival in Paraguay in 1894 the schism at New Australia became irreversible. In May 1894 Lane took his followers and established a colony at Cosme, while the rest of colonists remained at New Australia. The newly elected leader of the New Australia colony was Frederick Kidd, who had arrived in the second group of colonists.

            The struggle by the colonists to make progress was hampered by political developments in Paraguay. On 9 June 1894 President Gonzalez, who had supported the colonists, was overthrown in the Cavalcanti Coup, which was orchestrated by Brazil. The Brazilians feared that Gonzalez’s nominated successor, José Segundo Decoud, might allow Argentina to annex Paraguay. Marcos Morínigo, Gonzalez’s vice president, was installed as president until November 1894 when Juan Bautista Egusquiza assumed the presidency.

            Ultimately, the New Australia Colony fell into difficulties, with crop failures and an unstable set of settlers. When the stability of the New Australia colony initially became a concern, the Paraguayan government commenced a subsidy for the colony. However, the subsidy ceased when President Gonzales was overthrown. When the colony again found itself in difficulties, around May 1895, the Paraguayan government subsidized the colony with a grant of £100. About a year later the original agreement between the Paraguayan government and the colony was cancelled because the promised one thousand settlers had not eventuated. In January 1897 the communal assets of New Australia were auctioned and the proceeds divided amongst the remaining colonists. The Paraguayan government then allowed each settler to take up a small landholding, with many of the settlers proving to be successful farmers over a period of time; although many of the colonists later moved to towns and cities in Paraguay and Argentina. Footnote

            It is against this background that we must now determine why and when the promissory notes of New Australia were issued. It is difficult to determine exactly how trade and payments were made during the history of the colonies (i.e. New Australia and Cosme), as it appears that different systems operated at different times. Stewart Grahame Footnote states that money did not circulate in New Australia. Apparently, the colonists placed all their income and produce from their efforts into a communal store, upon which they drew according to their credits held with the commune.

            James Molesworth, a colonist who later recorded his time spent in Paraguay Footnote , states that when the first colony was established, each settler was allowed 100 coupons for himself and 25 for each child. However, the coupons had to be traded at the colony’s store during the week of issue. He cites an example of a woman who had saved some coupons over a month, but who was refused permission to use them when she decided to go on a shopping spree at the end of the month.

            At Cosme a credit book was used to record the credits and debits of each colonist against the colony’s store. The credit book at one stage held ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ credits. ‘Inside credits’ were for items supplied from within the colony and ‘outside credits’ were for those goods purchased outside the colony.

            None of these methods of credits or coupons seem to describe the notes that are the subject of this study. The notes of New Australia cannot be the coupons described by Molesworth, as they are not denominated in amounts that would facilitate the payment of 100 coupons per colonist and the coupons could not have had the signature of Frederick Kidd, who arrived after the period of the coupon issue. The earliest date recorded on the notes issued in New Australia is ‘6 MAY 95’ (from a sample of fourteen known notes) and it seems likely that the notes were issued due to one of two events and it is probable that both events were linked.

            The first event is the subsidy provided to the colony by the Government of Paraguay, which occurred in 1895. The subsidy was paid to the colony in installments of P$800 per month. Footnote The second event is an agreement drawn up at the original New Australia settlement, roughly one year after the schism, on 21 May 1895. The agreement determined that each adult member of the colony be entitled to a credit of 4.20 pesos fuerte per week for food Footnote (which equated to about 2s. 1½d. on an exchange of 6d. [English] to the peso) and 2 peso fuerte for clothing. It seems possible that this agreement was established to distribute funds from the subsidy provided by the Paraguayan Government. During 1895 a report in Evening Notes, the newspaper produced at Cosme, stated that a new credit system had been introduced at New Australia and that each adult was receiving a weekly allowance of $P4 that could be spent on consumer articles. Footnote It is likely that the subsidy from the Paraguayan government was being used to purchase the consumer items and that the local credit system, using the New Australian notes, was implemented to distribute these items. The use of notes with the denominations of 1.00 peso fuerte, 0.10 centavos and 0.05 centavos reinforce the supposition that these were used to fulfil the agreement of 21 May 1895, as these denominations would suitably combine to make individual allowances of 4.20 pesos fuerte.

            On the other hand, evidence presented by Stewart Grahame would make this interpretation unlikely. Grahame, having stated that money did not circulate in the colony, provides details of the May 1895 agreement, which indicates that the allowances were recorded as credits, without indicating how the credits were accounted for by the colony’s store. He then describes this agreement as a ‘Labour-Check’ system. Did Grahame misunderstand the situation Footnote or were the New Australian notes not associated with the May agreement? Grahame was certainly incorrect on the matter of currency circulating in the colony and he may also be wrong about the credit system. If the credits were issued as paper money, then each adult would be receiving $P6.20 per week.

            It is worth noting that the earliest recorded date on the notes, i.e. 6 May 1895, predates the agreement of 21 May by fifteen days. It is possible that action to print the notes was taken before the agreement was finalized (if this was the reason they were issued), although there may be other valid reasons for this discrepancy. However, the period covered by the known date stamps on the notes, the denominations, and the signature of William Kidd, all point to these notes being issued as part of the May agreement or the disbursement of the subsidy from the government of Paraguay.

            There are four different types of notes and three known denominations for the notes issued in New Australia. While there are four different types of notes recorded, it must be understood that there is some overlap in the dates of issue. Therefore, the designation of the various types made here is simply for reference and not an indication of a chronology. Similarly, there is no attempt to designate each type as a series, as there is no evidence that one type preceded or followed another. Indeed all types appear to have circulated concurrently. However, there is the possibility that an initial strategy was later altered. It is possible that, in May 1895 when the notes were first issued, the 5-centavos notes used the Type 3 design, the 10-centavos notes used the Type 1 design and the 1-peso notes used the Type 2 design. If this strategy was initially used, it later became corrupted. It does not, however, explain the use of the Type 4 design and the suggestion of such a strategy is supposition that is difficult to support with such a limited sample of notes to study.

            Notes of all types have Colonia Nueva Australia (Colony of New Australia) at the top, a vignette in the centre, the value of the note at the left and right, the signature of Frederick Kidd signing as Presidente, and a date stamp. The date stamp is circular, with the words Neuva Australia Paraguay in the rim of the stamp and the date in the centre. The four types of notes can be classified according to their vignettes as follows:

1 – Clasped hands with bare arms

2 – Clasped hands with cuffed arms

3 – The Lion and Phrygian Cap

4 – Arms with Eight Flags

Each of these types is described below and each type can be seen in the images accompanying this study. (Of the notes recorded, each is a different note; i.e. where the same type and value are recorded they have been identified as different notes by the position of the date stamps. Therefore there is no example where a note has been recorded by one authority only to be duplicated by another authority.)

            The notes identified below are to be primarily found in libraries in Australia, these being the Mitchell and Dixson Libraries within the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney and the National Library of Australia in Canberra. Of the three notes recorded in private possession, one was sold by Noble Numismatics in July 2004 and two were put up for auction by Status International (Australia) in 1996 and again in April 2004. Two notes have been reproduced in different publications (A Peculiar People and an article printed in the Daily Telegraph on 21 July 1923) and the whereabouts of these two notes is now unknown. It is almost certain that other notes exist, as at least one note was reported to have been donated to the Sydney City Municipal Library.

1 – Clasped hands with bare arms

The first type can be identified by a vignette of the clasped hands of two men. The arms of the men are bare and the vignette is well drawn with relatively fine lines. The font for the values is solid with distinct serifs on the zeroes. Five notes of this type, in two denominations, have been recorded:

            10 centavos  -8 MAY 95             National Library of Australia

            10 centavos  17 MAY 95            National Library of Australia

            10 centavos  17 MAY 95            Dixson Library, Sydney

            1 peso           -2 OCT 95              Status International

            1 peso           -2 OCT 95              Gavin Souter’s A Peculiar People

2 – Clasped hands with cuffed arms

The second type of note also has clasped hands but, in this case, less of the forearms are depicted and shirt cuffs and coat cuffs are apparent. The vignette is poorly drawn with coarse lines. The numerals for the values are tall and thin. Three notes of this type have been recorded, all in the same denomination:

            1 peso           27 MAY 95            Dixson Library, Sydney

            1 peso           27 MAY 95 (?)       Noble Numismatics Auction July 2004

            1 peso           17 AGO 95 Footnote              Mitchell Library, Sydney

3 – The Lion and Phrygian Cap

Notes of the third type have a vignette of a lion guarding a Phrygian cap atop a staff, all held in an oval which is surrounded by leaves. The numerals are in a fancy font (particularly the ‘1’) and have a shadow. Five notes of this type have been recorded in two denominations:

            5 centavos    -6 MAY 95             Dixson Library, Sydney

            1 peso           14 OCT 95              National Library of Australia

            1 peso           -4 NOV 95              Status International

            1 peso           -4 NOV 95              National Library of Australia

            1 peso           [illegible]                Daily Telegraph — 21 July 1923 (Then in the possession of Mr. C. H. Bertie.)

4 – Arms with Eight Flags

Only one note of the fourth type has been recorded. The vignette on this note is of a set of arms that appear to be imaginary. In the centre is an oval shield on which is emblazoned a shining five-pointed star, surrounded by two sprays of laurel leaves. Behind the shield are two crossed cannon and eight flags on poles (four pointing to the upper left and four to the upper right). Surmounting the design is a scroll, on which is written VIVA la REPUBLICA del PARAGUAY. Apart from the vignette, which extols an allegiance to Paraguay, the note is of the same design as that use for ‘The Lion and Phrygian Cap’; i.e. the fonts used for the text are the same as those used on the notes bearing the vignette of the Lion and Phrygian cap. The single example of this note is:

            1 peso           -1 SET 95 Footnote                Mitchell Library, Sydney

            Interestingly, the single ‘Type 4’ note is located amongst the ‘Mary Gilmore papers’ held at the Mitchell Library. Perhaps the most famous resident of New Australia, and later Cosme, Dame Mary Gilmore went to Paraguay as Mary Cameron, one of the few single women who undertook the migration. Mary married in the colony and later returned to Australia to become a leading social activist. Her portrait adorns one side of the Australian ten-dollar note. The New Australia note held amongst her papers is unlikely to have been collected by her, as she arrived in the colony in January 1896, making her way directly to Cosme. Although the notes may still have been available in January 1896, they were not known to circulate in Cosme.

            Another two notes which are of some interest are two notes that once belonged to Harry Greenway and which are now held in the National Library of Australia. Greenway was an Englishman who was evidently living in Paraguay prior to the establishment of the colony. He stayed at the colony for two months in its early days and later became a full member of the colony. Greenway married one of the colonists and later emigrated to South Africa. On the back of the two notes now held by the National Library, are the following comments. Firstly, on the back of a Type 1, 10-centavos note is written:

‘I was attached to this colony as [illegible] Translator & sub Intendente. Colony as such is now “non est”. [Signed] H. G. Greenway’

The Spanish word Intendente means ‘manager’ and indicates that Greenway was an ‘under manager’ or a ‘deputy manager’ of some form at the colony for a period of time. The Latin phrase non est means ‘not found’ or ‘non existent’. Footnote The text on the back of a Type 3, 1-peso note is:

‘Paper money issued in Communistic settlement in Paraguay. Was issued to me while acting there as sub Intendente in 1895-6.

‘There are only a few now in Existence, some in Museu[m] of Australia I believe.’

            [Signed] ‘H. D. Greenway 4/10/1925’

            Details on the production of the notes are non-existent. It is possible that the notes were printed in a nearby town and it is equally possible that the notes were actually printed at the New Australia colony. The colonists at Cosme had a printing press on which they printed their newspaper, Evening Notes, and it is possible that the Colonists at New Australia also had a press. It is worth noting that the borders and some text — ‘Vale’, ‘Peso Fuerte’, ‘Centavos’ and ‘Presidente’ — are of the same design on all notes , no matter which vignette was used. All notes are printed in one colour. The 1-peso notes are printed in red, all 10-centavos notes are printed in blue and the only known 5-centavos note is printed in black.

            The reason for the date stamps on the notes is not clear, but in light of James Molesworth’s testimony regarding the use of coupons, it is possible that they were used to calculate a time span in which the notes could be redeemed for goods. Of all dates that have been clearly identified, four dates fall on a Monday, two on a Wednesday, and one on a Friday, so it is unlikely that they were issued on a ‘payday’.

            The choice of vignettes for the notes is of interest, as it says much of the aspirations of the colonists. The clasped hands of the first two vignettes are evocative of ‘mateship’, ‘lending a helping hand’ and of the motto preached by William Lane of ‘For All and for Each’. The third vignette shows a lion guarding a Phrygian cap and this symbol is common in South America (appearing, for instance, on the coat of arms of Argentina), although the Phrygian cap is perhaps more famously used by French revolutionaries. Phrygia was a city of Asia Minor that was conquered and absorbed by the Roman Empire. Phrygian caps came to be worn by freed slaves in Rome, as a symbol of their freedom, and thus they became a symbol of liberty. The lion in the vignette represents strength and the symbol of the Lion and the Phrygian cap appeared on most of Paraguay’s promissory notes issued in the nineteenth century, which is why this vignette was chosen for the promissory notes of New Australia. (The symbol of the Lion and the Phrygian cap is part of the Treasury Seal of Paraguay, which appears on the back of the Paraguayan flag, along with the national arms that appear on the front.) The fourth vignette again has a very strong link to Paraguay, being a complex set of arms with a motto praising Paraguay (see the earlier description).

            As the choice of a Paraguayan symbol for the vignette of some notes was no accident, neither was the choice of currency in which the notes were denominated. Early nineteenth century coins in Paraguay were the gold onza, equivalent to 16 silver peso fuerte (i.e. strong peso), which were equivalent to eight reales. On 1 March 1847 the government of Paraguay issued 200,000 pesos of paper money, backed by state properties. The paper pesos were declared to be equal to the peso fuerte. However, by 1862 the total paper notes issued exceeded 1,000,000 pesos and depreciation of the paper issues had reached 20 per cent.

            Paper issues expanded during the War of the Triple Alliance and by the end of the war the paper notes were worthless. After Paraguay’s defeat, all notes issued by the National Treasury (Tesoro Nacional) were demonetized by the law of 31 July 1871. However, the law stated that outstanding obligations must be paid by gold on the basis of a sliding scale of gold and paper equivalencies. This led to much property being liquidated to pay debts and resulted in much foreign ownership of land following the liquidation of property by those who had substantial debts.

            The law of 1871 was a disincentive to issue paper money and very little was issued or circulated after this date. However, during the 1880s a peso fuerte was issued as the official monetary unit, which was originally defined as one-fifth of a pound sterling. It was supposedly backed by a ‘convertibility fund’ of metallic reserves, but this did not stop the money from depreciating rapidly. Due to the instability of the official currencies, the Argentine peso oro began to circulate and, by the Law of 14 July 1885, the peso oro was recognised as an official currency of Paraguay. Footnote

            During the 1880s, Anglo-Argentine banks also issued their own paper money in Paraguay, as did private businesses such as the Asunción Tramway Light and Power Company. Within the collection of New Australian notes held at the Dixson Library are some notes issued by the Compania Colonizadora del Chaco Central (Colonist Company of Central Chaco). The notes carry an inscription stating Moneda Nacional Pagaderos al Portador por Trabajo (National Currency Payable to the Bearer for Work) and a date of issue as 1 October 1888. It appears that this money was prepared by another organization that established a colony in Central Chaco, which is part of Paraguay. Thus the need for currency other than that of the government can be seen to have been a reasonably commonplace event.

            The suspension of convertibility in Argentina in 1885 led to panic redemption in silver of Paraguayan paper currency. In January 1890 a run on deposits at the banks in Paraguay led to the failure of several banks. The state bought three banks that had gone bankrupt between 1890 and 1892, but by October 1892 these banks had gone into liquidation while under state control; so the notes of the banks were made legal tender and convertibility suspended.

            From 1892 to 1903 there was a period of inflation and a growing issue of inconvertible notes. During this period, in 1894, the government issued inconvertible notes in the denominations of 50 centavos and 1-, 5-, 20- and 100-pesos. (According to the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money 10- and 50-peso notes are ‘Reported Not Confirmed’ for this issue.) Prior to 1894 5-, 10- and 20-centavos notes were issued by the National Treasury. In the era after the War of the Triple Alliance, the peso fuerte was the national currency (moneda nacional) or legal tender (curso legal) of Paraguay. Its symbol was a small capital ‘F’ superimposed on a larger capital ‘S’, although it was sometimes denoted as ‘$f’. Because it was not backed by silver or gold, the concept of a ‘strong’ peso was misleading and it was often called the peso papier (paper peso). James Molesworth Footnote , in describing the affairs of New Australia, states that the New Australia Co-operative Settlement Association paid a deposit of ‘6000 pesos (paper)’, equivalent to £220, to acquire land for the colony.

            The issue of promissory notes in New Australia coincided with the period of inflation and the growth in issue of inconvertible notes, which may explain why the colonists sought to issue their own notes. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the notes were ever intended to circulate outside the colony. Significantly, the New Australians chose the national currency of Paraguay as the currency of their notes and not a value specific to the colony or related to the country that they had left. This indicates a willingness to trade in the Paraguayan economy and a desire to accept Paraguay’s national symbols, as opposed to perpetuating links with Australia.

            The latest date on the notes recorded for this study is 4 November 1895, indicating that the notes were issued over, at least, a six month period. However, they may well have been issued for a longer period, with no surviving notes of the later period being recorded. If the notes ceased being issued for any reason, it would probably have been due to the subsidy to the colony being exhausted.

            The supposition that the issue of the notes was linked to the £100 subsidy in May 1895 can be supported by the following calculations. The subsidy to the New Australia colony was paid at $P800 per month. By using Stewart Grahame’s exchange of 6 pence to the peso, $P800 equals £20, which means that the subsidy would last for five months. Should there have been a decline in the numbers at the colony, or additional income, then the use of the notes could easily have lasted for six to seven months. Thus, in all likelihood, the circulation of the notes ceased when the backing for the notes was exhausted and the notes were probably last issued in November 1895.

            In considering the subsidy and its connection to the notes of New Australia, it is also worth estimating the population of the colony and whether $P800 per month would have paid all colonists their allowance. While no figures are available for the size of the colony in May 1895, Gavin Souter states Footnote that between June 1897 and 1908 the population of settlers at the former colony of New Australia had ‘more than doubled to 161: eighty-six adult, and seventy-five children.’ Based on 6.20 pesos per week for an adult, the monthly subsidy could support about thirty-two adults. If the ratio of adults to children was similar to the ratio in 1908, then the subsidy might easily have supported fifty people, which is under half the figure quoted for 1908 (keeping in mind that the date of this measurement, i.e. 1897, is two years after the notes were first issued). This rough calculation tends to support the supposition that the subsidy was used to disburse the payments from the Paraguayan government amongst the remaining colonists at New Australia (although the basis for this calculation is weak).

            The colonies of New Australia and Cosme never became very populous. It is estimated that between 600 and 650 people went to Paraguay as part of the experiment that was New Australia. However, many colonists stayed only a short time and the maximum number of people at any time in Cosme was 131 and at New Australia there were never more than roughly 200. Therefore it is not surprising that so few of the promissory notes of New Australia have survived. Undoubtedly, those that have survived were brought to Australia by people who left the colony. As a number of the disillusioned colonists did not return to Australia, but left for Europe, North America or South Africa, it is possible that samples exist in these areas. Indeed it is known that Harry Greenway possessed his notes in South Africa, prior to sending them to Australia, and the note that was sold by Noble Numismatics in Sydney came from a collection assembled in New Zealand. However, it is probable that less than thirty, perhaps only twenty, of these notes exist in total, making them a relative rarity as far as collectors are concerned. Of the fourteen notes recorded during research for this study, only three are held in private hands.

            Most material written about the New Australia Colony is by critics and disillusioned members of the co-operative. Although the experiment in socialism failed, many colonists continued to live in Paraguay as independent farmers and their descendants remain there to this day. William Lane ultimately gave up his dream and returned to work and live in Australia and New Zealand.

            As a social experiment, New Australia was a failure. However, we very rarely learn from history, and if later proponents of socialism had but heeded the warning of New Australia, the world might be a different place today. Nevertheless, one should never underestimate the achievements of Lane and his fellow socialists. Because of their venture, a number of colonial governments in Australia took action to improve social conditions and to offer land holdings to co-operatives and communes in an endeavour to halt the growth of Lane’s popularity and the vision of an off-shore paradise. Footnote However, whatever the rights and wrongs of the socialist experiment, an interesting numismatic legacy has been left to us by the intrepid adventurers of New Australia.


This article was completed in October 2004
© Peter Symes