Political Institutions

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Political Institutions

Development of Political Institutions The transfer of more authority from Britain to the colonies was helped by Britain's adoption of free trade in the late 1840s. Free trade, which meant that Britain would buy from the lowest-price supplier and sell in the most profitable market, eliminated—at least in principle—the need for colonies. Thus, in 1850, without having to unite into a common front, the eastern colonies received new constitutions. Victoria, South Australia, and Van Diemen's Land (which changed its name to Tasmania in 1854) were given legislative councils, with two-thirds of the membership to be elected. New South Wales had been granted the same provision in 1842.By the mid-1850s each of the four eastern colonies refashioned its governmental system and gained control over its land policy. The new systems vested power in a cabinet or council of ministers responsible to the legislature and provided a popularly elected assembly as a part of that legislature. Voting by ballot (instead of by the raising of hands) and other innovations made the new governments quite democratic. The new constitutions reflected the interests of the urban populations, who wanted to reduce the political power of the graziers, but the graziers still managed, during the 1850s and 1860s, to gain more security in their landholdings.

   

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