This port, which was discovered by Flinders, in 1798, lies thirty degrees E. S. E. of Three Hammock Island. The town of Launceston stands about thirty miles from its entrance, at the junction of the North Esk, and the South with the river Tamar. It is little more than an inconsiderable village, the houses in general being of the humblest description. Its population is between three and four hundred souls. The tide reaches nine or ten miles up the river Esk, and the produce of the farms within that distance, may be sent down to the town in boats. But the North Esk descends from a range of mountains, by a cataract immediately into the river Tamar, and is consequently altogether inaccessible to navigation.
The Tamar has sufficient depth of water as far as Launceston, for vessels of a hundred and fifty tons burthen; but the navigation of this river is very intricate, by reason of the banks and shallows with which it abounds, and it has been at length prudently resolved to remove the seat of government nearer the entrance of Port Dalrymple. A town called George Town, has been for the last three years in a state of active preparation; and it is probable that the commandant, and indeed the entire civil and military establishments* of this settlement, have by this time removed to it. In this case the greater part of the population of Launceston will soon follow. This desertion of its inhabitants will considerably diminish the value of landed property in that town, and consequently be productive of great loss to them; but there can be no doubt that the change of the seat of government will in the event materially contribute to the prosperity of the settlement in general. This abandonment, therefore, or rather intended abandonment of the old town, has been dictated by the soundest principles of policy and justice; but although the equity of the maxim that the interests of the few should cede to the good of the many, is incontrovertible, it is nevertheless to be hoped, that some means will be contrived of indemnifying the inhabitants of Launceston for the great injury which they will suffer from the removal of the seat of government to George Town.
Within a few miles of Launceston, there is the most amazing abundance of iron. Literally speaking, there are whole mountains of this ore, which is so remarkably rich, that it has been found to yield seventy per cent. of pure metal. These mines have not yet been worked; the population, indeed, of the settlement would not allow it; but there can be no doubt that they will at no very remote period become a source of considerable wealth to its inhabitants.
There is a communication by land between Launceston and Hobart Town, which are about one hundred and thirty miles distant from each other in a straight line, and about one hundred and sixty, following the windings of the route at present frequented. No regular road has been constructed between these towns, but the numerous carts and droves of cattle and sheep, which are constantly passing from one to the other, have rendered the track sufficiently distinct and plain. In fact, the making a road is a matter of very great ease, both here and in Port Jackson. The person whoever he may be that wants to establish a cart-road to any place, marks the trees in the direction he wishes it to take, and these marks serve as a guide to all such as require to travel on it. In a very short time the tracks of the horses and carts that have passed along it become visible, the grass is gradually trod down, and finally disappears, and thus a road is formed; not, indeed, so good as one of the usual construction, but which answers all the purposes of those who have occasion to make use of it. Wherever there happens to be a stream, or river that is not fordable, it is customary to cut down two or three trees in some spot on its banks, where it is seen that they will reach to the other side of it. Across these, the boughs that are lopped off themselves, or smaller trees felled for the purpose, are laid close together, and over all a sufficient covering of earth.
Of this description are all the roads and bridges in Van Diemen's Land, and many of them, even in Port Jackson; but in this respect it will be recollected that the latter is much in advance of the former. The reason why the settlements on this island are so much behind the parent colony, is not to be traced so much to the greater recency of their origin, as to the circumstance of their inhabitants being for the most part established along the banks of navigable waters. At Port Dalrymple, the majority of the settlers have fixed themselves on the banks of the North Esk, within the navigable reach of that river. The Derwent too, it has been seen, is navigable for vessels of the largest burden for twenty miles from its entrance. A little higher up, indeed, there are falls in it which interrupt its navigation; but it is hardly yet colonized beyond these falls, and whenever that shall be the case, it may be easily rendered navigable for boats by the help of ferries for a considerable distance further. Such of the agriculturists as have not settled on the banks of this river, have selected their farms in the district of Pitt Water; which extends along the northern side of that spacious harbour, called "North Bay." These have consequently the same facilities as those on the banks of the Derwent for sending their produce to market by water, and they naturally prefer this, the cheapest mode of conveyance. It may, therefore, be perceived that the superior advantages which are thus presented by an inland navigation, are the main causes why the construction of regular roads has been so much neglected in these settlements. So far, indeed, is this want of roads from being an inconvenience to the inhabitants of them, that the facilities afforded by this inland navigation for the transport of all sorts of agricultural produce to market, is the principal point of superiority which they can claim over their brethren at Port Jackson.
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
In the two settlements on this island, there is but one court of justice established by charter. This is termed the Lieutenant-Governor's Court, and consists of the deputy judge advocate, and two of the respectable inhabitants appointed from time to time by the lieutenant-governor. The jurisdiction of this court is purely civil, and only extends to pleas where the sum at issue does not exceed L50; but no appeal lies from its decisions. All causes for a higher amount, and all criminal offences beyond the cognizance of the bench of magistrates, are removed, the former before the Supreme Court, and the latter before the Court of Criminal Judicature at Port Jackson.
STATE OF DEFENCE, ETC.
These settlements are in a very bad state of defence, having but two companies of troops for the garrison and protection of them both. They have consequently been infested for many years past, by a banditti of run-away convicts, who have endangered the person and property of every one that has evinced himself hostile to their enormities. These wretches, who are known in the colony by the name of bush-rangers, even went so far as to write threatening letters to the lieutenant-governor and the magistracy. In this horrible state of anarchy a simultaneous feeling of insecurity and dread, naturally pervaded the whole of the inhabitants; and the most respectable part of the agricultural body with one accord betook themselves to the towns, as the only certain means of preserving their lives, gladly abandoning their property to prevent the much greater sacrifice with which the defence of it would have been attended. There is no species of outrage and atrocity, in which these marauders did not indulge: murders, incendiaries, and robberies were their ordinary amusements, and have been for many years past the leading events in the annals of these unfortunate settlements. Every measure that could be devised was taken for the capture and punishment of these wretches. They were repeatedly outlawed, and the most alluring rewards were set upon their heads; but the insufficiency of the military force, the extent of the island, their superior local knowledge, and the abundance of game, which enabled them to find an easy subsistence, and rendered them independent, except for an occasional supply of ammunition, with which some unknown persons were base enough to furnish them in exchange for their ill acquired booty; all these circumstances conspired to baffle for many years every attempt that was made for their apprehension. This long impunity served only to increase their cruelty and temerity; and it was at last deemed expedient by Lieutenant Governor Davy to declare the whole island under the operation of martial law. This vigorous exertion of authority was zealously seconded by the respectable inhabitants, many of whom joined the military in the pursuit of these miscreants, and fortunately succeeded by their joint exertions in apprehending the most daring of their ringleaders, who were instantly tried by a court martial and hanged in chains. This terrible, though necessary example, was followed by a proclamation offering a general amnesty to all the rest of these delinquents who should surrender themselves before a certain day; excepting, however, such of them as had been guilty of murder. The proclamation had the desired effect: all who were not excluded by their crimes availed themselves of the pardon thus offered them. But strange to say, they were allowed to remain in the island; and whether they were enamoured of the licentious life they had been so long leading, or whether they distrusted the sincerity of the oblivion promised them, and became apprehensive of eventual punishment, in a few months afterwards they again betook themselves to the woods, and rejoined those who had been excluded from the amnesty. After this, they rivalled their former atrocities, and a general feeling of consternation was again excited among the well disposed part of the community. And here, as it may not be uninteresting to many of my readers to be acquainted with some of the specific outrages of these monsters, I subjoin the following extracts from the Sydney Gazette of the 25th Jan. 1817.
The accounts of robberies by the banditti of bush-rangers on Van Diemen's Land, presents a melancholy picture of the distresses to which the more respectable classes of inhabitants are constantly exposed from the daring acts of those infamous marauders, who are divided into small parties, and are designated by the name of the principal ruffian at their head, of whom one Michael Howe appears to be the most alert in depredation. The accounts received by the Kangaroo, which commence from the beginning of November, state that on the 7th of that month, the house and premises of Mr. David Rose at Port Dalrymple, were attacked and plundered of a considerable property, by Peter Sefton and his gang. The delinquents were pursued by the commandant at the head of a strong detachment of the 46th regiment; but returned after a five days hunt through the woods, without being able to discover the villains, among whom is stated to have been a free man, named Denis M'Caig, who went from hence to Port Dalrymple in the Brothers.
On the night of the 17th of November, the premises of Mr. Thomas Hayes, at Bagdad, were attacked at a time when Mr. Stocker and wife, and Mr. Andrew Whitehead (the former on their route from Hobart Town to Port Dalrymple, with a cart containing a large and valuable property) had unfortunately put up at the house for the night. Michael Howe was the chief of this banditti, which consisted of eight others. The property of which they plundered Mr. and Mrs. Stocker on this occasion, was upwards of L300 value, among which were two kegs of spirits. One of these, a member of the gang wantonly wasted, by firing a pistol-ball through the head of the keg, which contained eleven gallons. They set their watches by Mr. Whitehead's, which they afterwards returned; but took Mr. Stocker's away with their other plunder. Mr. Wade, chief constable of Hobart Town, had stopped with the others at Mr. Hayes's; but hearing a noise, which he considered to denote the approach of bush-rangers, he prudently attended to the admonition, and escaped their fury, which it was concluded would have fallen heavily upon him, as they are at variance with all conditions in life that are inimical to their crimes. On the morning of the 2d instant, Mr. William Maum, of Hobart Town, sustained the loss of three stacks of wheat by fire at his farm at Clarence Plains, owing to the act of an incendiary.
On the 14th of November a large body, consisting of fourteen men and two women, were unwelcomely fallen in with by a single man on horseback, at Scantling's Plains. Howe and Geary were the most conspicuous: they compelled him to bear testimony to the swearing in of their whole party, to abide by some resolutions dictated in a written paper, which one of them finished writing in the traveller's presence. After a detention of about three quarters of an hour, he was suffered to proceed under strong injunctions to declare what he had been an eye-witness of; and to desire Mr. Humphrey, the magistrate, and Mr. Wade, the chief constable, to take care of themselves, as they were bent on taking their lives, as well as to prevent them from growing grain, or keeping goods of any kind. And by the information of a person upon oath, it appears that they had about the same period, forced away two government servants from their habitations, to a distant place, on which the crimes of these wretches have stamped the appellation of murderer's plains, (by themselves facetiously called the tallow-chandler's shop) where they kept them to work three days in rendering down beef-fat. How they could afterwards appropriate so great a quantity of rendered fat and suet, is truly a question worthy to be demanded; for it is far more likely it should be taken off their hands by persons in or near the settlements, who are leagued with them, in the way of bartering one commodity for another, than that the bush-rangers should either keep it for their own use, or bestow so much trouble on the preparation of an article that would soon spoil in their hands. The caftle that were in this instance so devoted, were the property of Stones and Tray, who declare that out of three hundred head, one hundred and forty have lately disappeared".
All the outrages above enumerated, it will be seen, were perpetrated within the short period of ten days; and these settlements continued the scene of similar enormities until the July following, an interval of nearly eight months. On the serious injury which the industrious and deserving of all classes, must have experienced in that time, from the inability of the government to afford them protection, it would be useless here to dilate. It must be evident, that such extremes of anarchy could not be of any long duration; and that one or other of these two events became inevitable; either that the exertions and enterprizes of the colonists should be brought to a stand, or that these disturbers of the general tranquillity, should suffer condign punishment. Fortunately the cause of public justice triumphed, and the majority of these monsters either fell victims to common distrust, or to the violated laws of their country. And here, after detailing some few of their excesses, I cannot refrain from giving in turn the account of the measures that led to their discomfiture and apprehension, as extracted from the Sydney Gazette of the 4th October, 1817.
A meeting of public officers and principal inhabitants and settlers, was convened at Hobart Town, by sanction of his honour, Lieutenant-Governor Sorrel, (the successor of Colonel Davy) on the 5th of July, for the purpose of considering the most effectual measures for suppressing the banditti; when the utmost alacrity manifested itself to support the views of government in promoting that desirable object, and a liberal subscription was immediately entered into for the purpose. The following proclamation was immediately afterwards issued by the Lieutenant-Governor.
Whereas, the armed banditti, who have for a considerable time infested the interior of this island, did on the 10th ultimo, make an attack upon the store at George Town, which being left unprotected, they plundered, taking away two boats, which they afterwards cast ashore at the entrance of Port Dalrymple; and whereas, the principal leader in the outrages which have been committed by this band of robbers, is Peter Geary, a deserter from his Majesty's 73d regiment, charged also with murder and various other offences; and whereas, the undermentioned offenders have been concerned with the said Peter Geary in most of these enormities; the following rewards will be paid to any person or persons, who shall apprehend these offenders, or any of them:
Peter Geary—One Hundred Guineas. Peter Septon, John Jones, Richard Collyer—Eighty Guineas each. Thomas Coine, Brown or Brune, a Frenchman—Fifty Guineas each.
And whereas, George Watts, a prisoner, who absented himself from the Coal River, previous to the expiration of his sentence, and who stands charged with various robberies and crimes, is now at large: it is hereby declared, that a reward of eighty guineas will be paid to any person or persons, who shall apprehend the said George Watts.
And all magistrates and commanders of military stations, and parties, and all constables and others of his majesty's subjects, are enjoined to use their utmost efforts to apprehend the criminals above named.
On the 10th of July, a division of the banditti proceeded to George Town, and seizing upon the government boats, induced five of the working people to abscond with them; upon representation whereof to the Lieutenant-Governor, a proclamation was issued requiring the return of those persons, under the assurance of forgiveness, if so returning within twenty days, from the consideration that the settlement of George Town had been for some days without command or controul; the causes of which will be found in our supplement of this day; wherein Mr. Superintendent Leith, has, in his testimony upon the murder of the chief constable of the settlement, declared his necessary absence to Launceston at that express period.
The gang of bush-rangers appeared in the vicinity of Black Brush on Saturday, and were tracked on the following morning by Serjeant M'Carthy, of the 46th, with his party. On Monday the bush-rangers were at a house at Tea-tree Brush, where they had dined, and about three o'clock Serjeant M'Carthy with his party came up. The bush-rangers ran out of the house into the woods, and being eleven in number, and well covered by timber and ground, the eight soldiers could not close with them. After a good deal of firing, Geary the leader was wounded, and fell; two others were also wounded. The knapsacks of the whole and their dogs were taken. Geary died the same night, and his corpse was brought into town on Tuesday, as were the two wounded men.
The remaining eight bush-rangers were seen in the neighbourhood of the Coal River on Wednesday; but, as they must have been destitute of provisions and ammunition, sanguine hopes were entertained of their speedy fall.
Dennis Currie and Matthew Kiegan, two of the original bush-rangers, surrendered on the Monday following.
On Wednesday, a coroner's inquest was held on the body of James Geary, who died of the wound received in the affair at Tea-tree Brush. Verdict, Homicide in furtherance of public justice.
Jones, a principal of the banditti, was shot in the beginning of August, in the neighbourhood of Swanport, which is on the eastern shore. For some days they had not been heard of; but by the extraordinary exertions of Serjeant M'Carthy and his party of the 46th regiment, were tracked and overtaken at the above place; on which occasion Jones was killed on the spot by a ball through the head. A prisoner of the name of Holmes was by the bush-ranger's fire, wounded in two places, but we do not hear mortally.
On the Sunday evening after the above affair, some of the villains effected a robbery at Clarence Plains; but became so excessively intemperate from intoxication as to quarrel among themselves; the consequence was, that another of the gang of the name of Rollards, having been most severely bruised and beaten by his associates fell into the hands of a settler, and was by him taken a prisoner into Hobart Town. White and Johnson, two others of the gang, were apprehended by Serjeant M'Carthy's party, on Thursday the 14th of August, being conducted to their haunts by a native woman, distinguished by the name of Black Mary, and another girl.
After the above successes in reducing the number of these persons, some of them still continued out, on the 16th of August, as appears from a report published: of the old bush-rangers, Septon, Collyer, Coine, and Brune, also Watts, who kept separate from the rest, and Michael Howe, who had before delivered himself up, and after remaining some weeks in Hobart Town, took again to the woods, from a dread, as was imagined, of ultimately being called to answer for his former offences. At this period also, there were two absentees from George Town, Port Dalrymple; a number of the working hands having gone from that settlement shortly before, all of whom had returned to their duty but these two. White, Rollards, and Peck, were about this time under a reward of sixty guineas for their apprehension, for an attempt to commit a robbery at Clarence Plains: Peck was a freeman, the other two prisoners.
By the 6th of September, nearly the whole of the absentees of whatever description had either surrendered or been apprehended; and upon this day a proclamation was issued offering the following rewards: for the apprehension of Michael Howe, one hundred guineas; for George Watts, eighty guineas; and for Brune, the Frenchman, fifty guineas; and in consequence of these prompt and efficacious arrangements, additional captures had been made, which placed it nearly beyond a doubt that Howe is almost, if not the only individual of the desperate gangs now at large.
This latter assertion, however, does not appear to have been correct; for in a Sydney Gazette of the 25th of October, of the same year, we have the following account of the apprehension and surrender of some others of this banditti, and of an unsuccessful attempt to take Michael Howe, which will tend to elucidate the desperate character of this ruffian.
Several persons have arrived as witnesses on the prosecution of offenders transmitted for trial by the Pilot; two of whom are charged with wilful murder, viz. Richard Collyer, as a principal in the atrocious murder of the late William Carlisle and James O'Berne, who were shot by a banditti of bush-rangers at the settlement of New Norfolk, on the 24th of April, 1815; the particulars whereof were published in the Sydney Gazette of the 20th of the following May. The other prisoner for murder is John Hilliard, who was also one of the banditti of bush-rangers; but being desirous of giving himself up, determined previously by force or guile, to achieve some exploit, that might place the sincerity of his contrition beyond doubt. Accident soon brought the above Collyer, together with Peter Septon, another of the banditti, within his power. He attacked and killed Septon, and wounded Collyer, who nevertheless got away, but was soon apprehended. It is for the killing of Septon, he is therefore to be tried. Four of the prisoners sent by this vessel are for sheep stealing. Another of the late banditti, George Watts, is come up also, but under no criminal charge, as we are informed, he having been desperately wounded by Michael Howe, in an attempt assisted by William Drew, to take him into Hobart Town a prisoner; but in which exertion Drew was shot dead by that desperate offender, and the survivor Watts nearly killed also.
* * *
I have been thus copious in extracts from the Sydney Gazette, to shew the lamentable state of danger and anarchy in which the colonists on Van Diemen's Land have been kept by an inconsiderable banditti; who, from the imbecility of the local government, have been enabled to continue for many years in a triumphant career of violence and impunity. This iniquitous and formidable association may, indeed, be considered as crushed for the moment, although the most desperate member of it is still at large. But what pledge have the well disposed part of the inhabitants, that a band equally atrocious will not again spring up, and endanger the general peace and security? What guarantee, in fact, have they that this very ruffian, the soul and center of the late combination, will not serve as a rallying point to the profligate, and again collect around him a circle of robbers and murderers as desperate and bloody as the miscreants who have been annihilated? And can the pursuits of industry quietly proceed under the harassing dread which this constant liability to outrage and depredation must inspire? There is no principle less controvertible than that the subject has the same claims on the government for support and protection, as they have on him, for obedience and fidelity. The compact is as binding on the one party, as on the other; and it is really discreditable to the established character of this country, that any part of its dominions should have continued for so long a period, the scene of such flagrant enormities, merely from the want of a sufficient military force to ensure the due administration of the laws, and to maintain the public tranquillity.
The climate of this island is equally healthy, and much more congenial to the European constitution, than that of Port Jackson. The north-west winds, which are there productive of such violent variations of temperature, are here unknown; and neither the summers, nor winters, are subject to any great extremes of heat, or cold. The frosts, indeed, are much more severe, and of much longer duration; and the mountains with which this island abounds, are covered with snow during the greater part of the year; but in the vallies it never lingers on the ground more than a few hours. Upon an average, the mean difference of temperature, between these settlements and those on New Holland, (I speak of such as are to the eastward of the Blue Mountains; for the country to the westward of them, it has been already stated, is equally cold with any part of Van Diemen's Land,) may be estimated at ten degrees of Fahrenheit, at all seasons of the year.
The prevailing diseases are the same as at Port Jackson: i. e. phthisis, and dysentery; but the former is not so common. Rheumatic complaints, however, which are scarcely known there, exist here to a considerable extent.
In this island, as in New Holland, there is every diversity of soil, but certainly in proportion to the surface of the two countries, this contains, comparatively, much less of an indifferent quality. Large tracts of land perfectly free from timber or underwood, and covered with the most luxuriant herbage, are to be found in all directions; but more particularly in the environs of Port Dalrymple. This sort of land is invariably of the very best description, and millions of acres still remain unappropriated, which are capable of being instantly converted to all the purposes of husbandry. There the colonist has no expence to incur in clearing his farm: he is not compelled to a great preliminary out-lay of capital, before he can expect a considerable return; he has only to set fire to the grass, to prepare his land for the immediate reception of the plough-share; so that, if he but possess a good team of horses, or oxen, with a set of harness, and a couple of substantial ploughs, he has the main requisites for commencing an agricultural establishment, and for ensuring a comfortable subsistence for himself and family.
To this great superiority which these southern settlements may claim over the parent colony, may be superadded two other items of distinction, which are perhaps of equal magnitude and importance. First, The rivers here have sufficient fall in them to prevent any excessive accumulation of water, from violent or continued rains; and are consequently free from those awful and destructive inundations to which all its rivers are perpetually subject. Here, therefore, the industrious colonist may settle on the banks of a navigable river, and enjoy all the advantages of sending his produce to market by water, without running the constant hazard of having the fruits of his labour, the golden promise of the year, swept away in an hour by a capricious and domineering element. Secondly, The seasons are more regular and defined, and those great droughts which have been so frequent at Port Jackson, are altogether unknown. In the years 1813, 1814, and 1815, when the whole face of the country there was literally burnt up, and vegetation completely at a stand still from the want of rain, an abundant supply of it fell here, and the harvests, in consequence, were never more productive. Indeed, since these settlements were first established, a period of fifteen years, the crops have never sustained any serious detriment from an insufficiency of rain; whereas, in the parent colony, there have been in the thirty-one years that have elapsed since its foundation, I may venture to say, half a dozen dearths, occasioned by drought, and at least as many arising from floods.
The circumstance, therefore, of Van Diemen's Land being thus exempt from those calamitous consequences, which are so frequent in New Holland, from a superabundance of rain in the one instance, and a deficiency of it in the other, is a most important point of consideration, for all such as hesitate in their choice betwixt the two countries; and is well worthy the most serious attention of those who are desirous of emigrating to one or the other of them, with a view to become mere agriculturists.
In the system of agriculture pursued in the two colonies, there is no difference, save that the Indian corn, or maize, is not cultivated here, because the climate is too cold to bring this grain to maturity. Barley and oats, however, arrive at much greater perfection, and afford the inhabitants a substitute, although by no means an equivalent, for this highly valuable product. The wheat, too, which is raised here, is of much superior description to the wheat grown in any of the districts at Port Jackson, and will always command in the Sydney market, a difference of price sufficiently great to pay for the additional cost of transport. The average produce, also, of land here, is greater, although it does not exceed, perhaps not equal the produce of the rich flooded lands on the banks of the Hawkesbury and Nepean. A gentleman who resided many years at Port Dalrymple, estimates the average produce of the crops at that settlement as follows: Wheat, thirty bushels per acre; barley, forty-five bushels per ditto; oats, he does not know, but say sixty bushels per ditto. This estimate is not at all calculated to impress the English farmer with as favourable an opinion of the fertility of this settlement as it merits; but if he only witnessed the slovenly mode of tillage which is practised there, he would be surprised not that the average produce of the crops is so small, but that it is so great. If the same land had the benefit of the system of agriculture that prevails throughout the county of Norfolk, it may be safely asserted that its produce would be doubled. The land on the upper banks of the river Derwent and at Pitt-water, is equally fertile; but the average produce of the crops on the whole of the cultivated districts belonging to this settlement, is at least one-fifth less than at Port Dalrymple.
These settlements do not contain either such a variety or abundance of fruit as the parent colony. The superior coldness of their climate sufficiently accounts for the former deficiency, and the greater recency of their establishment for the latter. The orange, citron, guava, loquet, pomegranate, and many other fruits which attain the greatest perfection at Port Jackson, cannot be produced here at all without having recourse to artificial means; while many more, as the peach, nectarine, grape, etc. only arrive at a very inferior degree of maturity. On the other hand, as has been already noticed, the apple, currant, gooseberry, and indeed all those fruits for which the climate of the parent colony is too warm, are raised here without difficulty.
The system of rearing and fattening cattle is perfectly analogous to that which is pursued at Port Jackson. The natural grasses afford an abundance of pasturage at all seasons of the year, and no provision of winter provender, in the shape either of hay or artificial food, is made by the settler for his cattle; yet, notwithstanding this palpable omission, and the greater length and severity of the winters, all manner of stock attain there a much larger size than at Port Jackson. Oxen from three to four years old average here about 700 lbs. and wethers from two to three years old, from 80 to 90 lbs.; while there oxen of the same age, do not average more than 500 lbs. and wethers not more than 40 lbs. At Port Dalrymple it is no uncommon occurrence for yearly lambs to weigh from 100 to 120 lbs. and for three year old wethers to weigh 150 lbs. and upwards; but this great disproportion of weight arises in some measure from the greater part of the sheep at this settlement, having become, from constant crossing, nearly of the pure Teeswater breed. Still the superior richness of the natural pastures in these southern settlements, is without doubt the main cause of the increased weight at which both sheep and cattle arrive; since there is both a kindlier and larger breed of cattle at Port Jackson, which nevertheless, neither weighs as heavy, nor affords as much suet as the cattle there. This is an incontrovertible proof that the natural grasses possess much more nutritive and fattening qualities in this colony than in the other; and the superior clearness of the country is quite sufficient to account for this circumstance, without taking into the estimate the additional fact, that up to a certain parallel of latitude, to which neither the one nor the other of the countries in question extends, the superior adaptation of the colder climate for the rearing and fattening of stock, is quite unquestionable.
The price of provisions is about on a par in the two colonies, or if there be any difference, it is somewhat lower here. Horses three or four years back were considerably dearer than at Port Jackson; but large importations of them have been made in consequence, and it is probable that their value is before this time completely equalized.
The wages of ordinary labourers are at least thirty per cent. higher, and of mechanics, fifty per cent. higher than in the parent colony; a disproportion solely attributable to the very unequal and injudicious distribution that has been made of the convicts.
The progress made by these settlements in manufactures, is too inconsiderable to deserve notice, further than as it affords a striking proof in how much more flourishing and prosperous a condition they are than the parent colony.
The commerce carried on by the colonists is of the same nature as that which is maintained by their brethren at Port Jackson. Like these, they have no staple export to offer in exchange for the various commodities which they import from foreign countries, and are obliged principally to rely on the expenditure of the government for the means of procuring them. Their annual income may be taken as follows:
Money expended by the government for the pay and subsistence of the civil and military, and for the support of such of the convicts as are victualled from the king's stores, L30,000 Money expended by foreign shipping, 3,000 Wheat, etc. exported to Port Jackson, 4,000 Exports collected by the merchants of the settlement, 5,000 Sundries, 2,000 ——— Total, L44,000 ———
The duties collected in these southern settlements, are exactly on the same scale as at Port Jackson, and amount to about L5,000 annually, inclusive of the per centage allowed the collectors of them.
A general Statement of the Land in Cultivation, etc. the Quantities of Stock, etc. as accounted for at the General Muster in New South Wales, taken by His Excellency Governor Macquarie, and Deputy Commissary General Allan, commencing the 6th October, and finally closing the 25th November, 1817, inclusive; with an exact Account of the same at Van Diemen's Land.
Acres in Wheat 18,462 Ground prepared for Maize 11,714 Barley 8561/2 Oats 1563/4 Pease and Beans 2041/4 Potatoes 559 Garden and Orchard 863 Cleared ground 47,5641/4 Total held 235,0031/4
Horses 3,072 Horned cattle 44,753 Sheep 170,920 Hogs 17,842 Bushels of Wheat 24,05 [sic] Bushels of Maize 1,506
N. B. Total Number of Inhabitants in the Colony, including Van Diemen's Land, 20,379.
OPERATION OF THE EXISTING SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT IN THE COLONY FOR THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS.
It is generally considered a matter of astonishment that the colony of New South Wales, situated as it is, in a climate equal to that of the finest parts of France, of Spain, and of Italy, and possessing a soil of unbounded fertility, should have made so little progress towards prosperity and independence. The causes, however, which have contributed to its retardment, are the same, as have been attended with similar effects in all ages. Not only the records of the years that are no more, but the experience also of the present day, concur in proving that the prosperity of nations is not so much the result of the fertility of their soil, and the benignity of their climate, as of the wisdom and policy of their institutions. Decadence, poverty, wretchedness, and vice, have been the invariable attendants of bad governments; as prosperity, wealth, happiness, and virtue, have been of good ones. Rome, once the glory of the world; now a bye-word among the nations: once the seat of civilization, of affluence, and of power; now the abode of superstition, poverty, and weakness, is a lasting monument of the truth of this assertion. Her greatness was founded on freedom, and rose with her consulate; her decadence may be said to have commenced with her first emperor, and was completed under his vicious and despotic dynasty: her climate and soil still remain; but the freedom which raised her to the empire of the world has passed away with her institutions.
If we search still further back into antiquity, we shall find that all the great nations which have at various times preponderated over their neighbours, attained their utmost force and vigour, during the period of their greatest freedom and virtue; and that their decadence and ultimate annihilation were the work of a succession of vicious and tyrannical rulers. The empires of Persia and of Greece, were successively established by the superior freedom and virtue of their citizens; and it was only when the institutions, which were the source of this freedom and virtue, were no longer reverenced and enforced, that each in its turn became the prey of a freer and more virtuous people.
The experience of modern times is still more conclusive on this subject; because no part of the chain of events which have contributed to the aggrandisement or impair of existing nations, lies hid in the mist of ages. If we regard the unprecedented wealth and power of our own country, we shall be convinced that her present pre-eminent position is not so much the effect of her soil and climate, since in these respects she is confessedly behind many of the nations of Europe, as of the superior freedom of her laws, which have engendered her a freer, more virtuous, and more warlike race of people. It is to her superior polity alone that she is indebted for a dominion, unparalleled in the history of the world; and it is to its rigid maintenance and enforcement that she must look for its durability.
While England has been thus assiduously attentive to her own immediate internal prosperity, she has not in general been neglectful of those external possessions, which she has gradually acquired by colonization, by conquest, or by cession. On the most distant branches of her empire, she has engrafted, as far as circumstances would in general admit, those institutions which have been the main cause of her own internal happiness and prosperity. In the West Indies, in Canada, and lately in the Ionian Islands, she has introduced the elective franchise, and established that mixed counterpoising form of government, whose three component parts, though essentially different in their natures, so admirably coalesce and form one combined harmonious whole. It has, in fact, been one of the leading maxims of her political conduct, and undoubtedly one of the chief causes of her present greatness, to attach the people who have been embodied into her empire, or who have emigrated from her shores only to colonise new countries, and thus to extend her limits and increase her resources, by an equality of rights and privileges with her subjects at home. The navigation act, indeed, militates in some degree, against the liberal view here taken of her colonial policy; but the existence of this single act, which, however its wisdom may be at present canvassed, there can be no doubt has proved the basis of her commercial and maritime ascendancy, will not invalidate the claim to liberality, of which her colonial system is in other respects deserving. The conduct of her government has undoubtedly been in most instances liberal and enlightened; and if they have occasionally deviated from their ordinary enlarged policy of establishing the representative system, and leaving to the colonies, themselves, the liberty of framing laws adapted to their several circumstances and wants, it has been principally in those cases where the ancient inveterate habits of the people, their difference of religion, and inferior civilization, have rendered such deviations unavoidable. India furnishes the principal example of such exception to her general policy; yet, even in her remote possessions in that country, the sixty millions who are subject to her sway, enjoy a security of person and property unknown to them while under the government of their native princes. It is on this amelioration in their condition, and not on the strength and number of her armies, that her dominion in that part of the world is founded; and after all, what government is so stable as that which is bottomed on opinion, and depends for its existence on general utility, and the consent of the governed? Dominion may, indeed, be acquired, and continued by force and terror; but if it have no other props to support it, it is at best but precarious, and must, sooner or later, fall, either by the resistance of those whom it would hold in subjection, or by undermining their moral and physical energies, and thus rendering them unfit even for the vile purposes of despotism itself.
The colony of New South Wales, is, I believe, the only one of our possessions exclusively inhabited by Englishmen, in which there is not at least the shadow of a free government, as it possesses neither a council, a house of assembly, nor even the privilege of trial by jury. And although it must be confessed that the strange ingredients of which this colony was formed, did not, at the epoch of its foundation, warrant a participation of these important privileges, it will be my endeavour in this essay to prove that the withholding of them up to the present period, has been the sole cause why it has not realized the expectations which its founders were led to form of its capabilities.
It is not difficult to conceive that the same causes, which in the lapse of centuries have sufficed to undermine and eventually ingulph vast empires, should be able to impede the progress of smaller communities, whether they be kingdoms, states, or colonies. Arbitrary governments, indeed, are so generally admitted to impair the moral and physical energies of a people, that it would be superfluous to enter into an elaborate disquisition, in order to demonstrate the truth of a position, which has been confirmed by the experience of ages. Whoever is convinced that he has no rights, no possessions that are sacred and inviolable, is a slave, and devoid of that noble feeling of independence which is essential to the dignity of his nature, and the due discharge of his functions. This noble assurance that he is in the path of duty and security, so long as he refrain from the violation of those laws which may have been framed for the good of the community of which he is a member, is the main spring of all industry and improvement. But this dignified feeling cannot exist in any society which is subject to the arbitrary will of an individual; and although the governor of this colony does not exactly possess the unlimited authority of an eastern despot, since he may be ultimately made accountable to his sovereign and the laws, for the abuse of the power delegated to him, I may be allowed to ask, should he invade the property, and violate the personal liberty of those whom he ought to govern with justice and impartiality, where are the oppressed to seek for retribution? Is it in this country, situated at sixteen thousand miles from the seat of his injustice and oppression? To tell a poor man that he may obtain redress in the court of King's Bench, what is it but a cruel mockery, calculated to render the pang more poignant, which it would pretend to alleviate?
I am not here amusing myself with the supposition of contingencies that may never occur. I am alluding to outrages that have been actually perpetrated, and of which the bare recital would fill the minds of a British jury with the liveliest sentiments of compassion and sympathy for the oppressed, and of horror and indignation against the oppressor. Leaseholds cancelled, houses demolished without the smallest compensation, on the plea of public utility, but in reality from motives of private hatred and revenge; freemen imprisoned on arbitrary warrants issued without reference to the magistracy, and even publicly flogged in the same illegal and oppressive manner: such were the events that crowded the government of a wretch, whom it would be as superfluous to name, as it is needless to hold him up to the execration of posterity* If such an immortality were, as it appears to have been, the object of his pursuit, he has completely attained it. Almost at his very offset in life, he acquired a notoriety which has increased through all the subsequent sinuosities of his career. Not content with pushing the discipline of the service to which he belonged, in itself sufficiently severe, to its extreme verge, by an excess of vexatious brutality, he goaded into mutiny a crew of noble-minded fellows, the greater part of whom it has been since discovered, pined away their existence on a desolate island, lost to their country and themselves, the sad victims of an unavailing remorse. Yet there is one of them still living, who has since fully evinced his devotedness for his country's glory, and has been deservedly raised to that elevated rank in her service, which but for him many more might have lived to attain. Despised by his equals in his profession, and detested by his inferiors, he was contradistinguished from other worthy officers of the same name, by prefixing to his that of the vessel which was the scene of this act of insubordination, in the event the grave of many a noble spirit, that might otherwise have proved an honour to themselves and a credit to their country. The brutal tyranny that characterised his conduct on this occasion, would have alone sufficed to brand him with the imputation of "coward," had it been even unconnected with the many subsequent acts of oppression which have stamped his career, and of which it is to be hoped for the prevention of future monsters, that the infamy will long survive the records. The 26th of January, 1808, the memorable day when, by the spontaneous impulse of a united colony, he was arrested; and fortunate for the cause of humanity is it that he was then arrested, for ever** in the perpetration of the most atrocious outrages that ever disgraced the representative of a free government, has substantiated his claim to this character beyond the possibility of doubt. Dreading the resentment of the people whom he had so often and so wantonly oppressed, and having on his back that uniform which was never so dishonoured before, he skulked under a servant's bed in an obscure chamber of his house, but was at length discovered in this disgraceful hole, and conducted pale, trembling, and covered with flue,*** before the officer who had commanded his arrest; nor could this gentleman's repeated assurances that no violence should be offered his person, convince him for a considerable time that his life was in safety from the vengeance of the populace: so conscious was he of the enormity of his conduct, and of the justice of an immediate and exemplary retaliation.
[* The following anecdote, for the authenticity of which I pledge myself, will afford a better illustration of this monster's character, than whole pages of general declamation and invective. At the period of his government cattle were very scarce in the colony, and the stockholders were very tenacious of allowing their cows to be milked, from the injury which it did the calves. Milk was in consequence a great rarity; but as the governor, naturally enough, did not choose to forego any of the good things of this life, particularly whenever it was in his option to obtain them without any expence, he had always a number of cattle from the government herds, to furnish a supply of it for his household. The surplus he generously distributed among his favourites. One of these was a gentleman belonging to the medical staff, who used in common with all those permitted the same indulgence, to send his servant daily for his share of this precious fluid. This unfortunate wight happened to go one morning a little too late; and whether the person charged with the distribution of this milk had been a little too liberal in his donations to such of the gentlemen's servants as had attended in due time, or whether the cows did not give their usual quantity that morning, there was not a drop left for him on his arrival. Not reflecting that this disappointment was occasioned by his own negligence, he ventured to make some remarks, such as "he did not know why his master should not have his share as well as another gentleman, etc. etc." which proved so highly disagreeable to the feelings of the great man who administered this highly important office, that he immediately went and complained to the still greater man who had invested him with it. This august personage not only feelingly participated in the insult which had been offered his faithful domestic, but also vowed that he should have the most ample satisfaction. He accordingly ordered the complainant to send the offending party into his presence on the following morning; strictly enjoining him before hand, to take especial care that he should remain ignorant of the chastisement which was in petto for him. The next morning when the poor fellow came as usual for his master's quota of milk, he was told by the great man whom he had the day before unwittingly offended, that the governor desired to speak to him. Wondering that so distinguished a personage should even know that so humble a being as himself was in existence, and at a loss to conjecture what could be his gracious will and pleasure, he was ushered trembling into his dread presence. In an instant his alarms were quieted. The governor told him with a condescending smile, that as the chief constable's house was in his way home, he had merely sent for him to be the bearer of a letter to that person, from a desire to spare his dragoon the trouble of carrying it. The poor fellow, of course, delivered the letter with all haste, little imagining what were its contents. When the chief constable perused it, he ordered out the triangles; the poor wretch was instantly tied up to them, and in a stupor of surprise and consternation underwent the punishment, (whether twenty-five or fifty lashes I am not sure) which was ordered to be given him, without any explanation till after its infliction, of the reasons why he received it. Was not this a refinement of cruelty worthy the most atrocious monster of antiquity?]
[** When I wrote this part of the present work the person to whom it has reference was living; and the only alteration which I have made in it since his death, has been the necessary changes in the tenses of the verbs. My assertions have been scrupulously regulated by truth; but I am still aware that they might have been pronounced libellous in a court of justice; and I have been advised by some of my friends to cancel them, on the ground that the recollection of injuries should not be prolonged beyond the grave. The applicability, however, of this principle to private resentments is not more evident, than its inapplicability to public. The tomb which ought to be the goal of the one, is the starting-post of the other. It is the legitimate province, nay, more, one of the most sacred duties of the annalist to speak of public characters after their deaths, with that severity of reprobation or of praise, to which their conduct in public life may have entitled them. Have not all impartial biographers and historians acted on this principle? And shall I be deterred from following so just and salutary an example? If when death has set his seal upon a man's actions, and when the evil which he has committed is irremediable, the voice of censure is still to be silent, when, I may ask, ought it to be heard? Had such an ill-judged forbearance been practised by historians, would the world have known that any tyrants, except those who may exist at the present epoch, or who may have existed within the reach of memory or of tradition, ever infested the earth? Would not the enormities of the Dionysii, of Caligula, and of Nero, have been long since forgotten? And would not many of those princes who have merited and obtained the appellations of "great," of "good," and of "just," have become as atrocious monsters as these were, but from the dread of being held up as objects of similar execration to posterity? The tyrant, indeed, whose conduct I would stamp with merited detestation, moved, fortunately for the interests of mankind, in a humbler sphere, and therefore, his atrocities have a greater tendency to sink into premature oblivion. But is it a less sacred duty to take all such steps as may be calculated to deter his successors from treading in his footsteps; because they will only have thousands to trample upon instead of millions? Ought not oppression in every community, whether great or small, to be discouraged by every possible means? And what means are so likely to effect this end, and to prevent these secondary tyrants from sneaking out of the pages of record and recollection, as to project their memories red-hot from the sun of public indignation, with a long fiery train of inextinguishable ignominy, which may serve to point out their tracks; and to render them for ever glaring objects of dread and execration, not only to the planet of which they may have proved the bane, but to the whole system encircled by their orbits? In persevering, therefore, in the remarks which I made on this man's actions when he was living, it is my conscientious belief that I have only acquitted myself of an imperative duty; and that I should have been guilty of a gross dereliction of it, had I done otherwise. On this conviction, unalloyed by any baser impulse, I rest the defence of my conduct; should there be any of my readers, who may be inclined to view it in the same unjustifiable light as it is regarded by some few of my friends.]
[*** See Lieutenant-Colonel Johnstone's court-martial.]
The instance of this man's conduct, is, I am willing to allow, an aggravated one, and such as it is to be hoped for the honour of our species would be rarely repeated. That it has occurred is, however, sufficient to demonstrate the impropriety of confiding unlimited power to any individual in future. The mere possession, indeed, of such vast authority, is calculated to vitiate the heart, and to engender tyranny; nor are examples wanting in history of persons, who though models of virtue and moderation in private stations, yet became the most bloody and atrocious tyrants on their elevation to supreme power. So great, indeed, is the fallibility of human nature, that the very best of us are apt to deviate from that just mean, in the adherence to which consists virtue. All governments, therefore, should provide against this capital defect; they should be so constituted as not only to have in view what should happen, but also what might; possibilities should be contemplated as well as probabilities. The power to do good should if possible be unlimited: the ability to do evil, followed with the highest responsibility, and restrained by a moral certainty of punishment. An authority such as the governor of this colony possesses, might be tolerated under a despotic government; but it is a disgrace to one that piques itself on its freedom. What plea can be urged for encouraging excesses in our possessions abroad, that would be visited with condign punishment in our courts at home? Are those who quit the habitations of their fathers, to extend the limits and resources of the empire, deserving of no better recompence than a total suspension of the rights and liberties which their ancestors have bequeathed them? Are they on their arrival in these remote shores, to meet with no one of the institutions, which they have been taught to cherish and to reverence? If the want, indeed, of these institutions, of which so many centuries have attested the wisdom, had as yet been productive of no evil, there might be some excuse offered for the withholding of them; but after such a scandalous abuse of authority, the colonists expected, and had a right to expect, that no subsequent governor would have been appointed without the intervention of some controlling power, which, while it should tend to strengthen the execntive in the due discharge of its functions, might at the same time protect the subject in the legitimate exercise and enjoyment of his private and personal rights. Never was there a period since the foundation of the colony, when the impolicy of its present form of government was so strikingly manifest; and never, perhaps, will there be an occasion, when the establishment of a house of assembly, and of trial by jury, would have been hailed with such enthusiastic joy and gratitude: and accordingly the disappointment of the colonists was extreme, when on the arrival of Governor Macquarie, it was found that the same unwise and unconstitutional power, which had been the cause of the late confusion and anarchy was continued in all its pristine vigor; and that he was uncontrolled even by the creation of a council.
I would here have it most distinctly understood that I do not mean to cast the slightest imputation on the conduct of this gentleman, whom his majesty's ministers selected with so much discrimination in this delicate and embarrassing conjuncture. The manner in which he has discharged, during a period of more than nine years, the important functions confided to him, has completely justified the high opinion that was formed of his moderation and ability. He has fully proved that he had no need of any controlling power,* to keep him in the path of honour and duty; and has raised the colony, by his single prudence and discretion, to as high a pitch of prosperity, as it perhaps could have attained, in so short a period, under such a paralysing form of government. But it has not been in his power to benefit the colony to the extent which he has contemplated and desired; many of the projects which he has submitted to the consideration of his majesty's ministers, have not obtained their approval. It would appear, indeed, that the very parent, to whom this strange unconstitutional monster owes its birth and existence, is distrustful of her hideous progeny; and that by way of securing the people whom she has suffered it to govern against the unlimited devastations which it might be tempted to commit, she has prohibited it from moving out of certain bounds, without her previous concurrence and authority. The wisdom of this precaution has been sufficiently manifested by the terrible excesses which it has committed within the sphere of this circumscribed jurisdiction. If its conduct, with the possession of this imperfect degree of liberty has been atrocious, it cannot be difficult to conceive to what lengths an unlimited power of action might have tempted it to proceed. Still there can be no doubt that this state of restraint, on the one hand so salutary and provident, has on the other occasioned much injury, and prevented the adoption of many measures of the highest urgency and importance to the welfare of the colony. Among these the failure of Governor Macquarie's attempt to procure the sanction of his majesty's ministers for the erection of distilleries, is perhaps the most justly to be deplored.
[* Since I wrote this encomium on Governor Macquarie's administration, a petition from some few individuals, complaining of and enumerating several acts of oppression, said to have been committed towards them by this gentleman, has been presented to the House of Commons by Mr. Brougham. The honourable and learned member did not, however, choose to pledge himself for the correctness of the allegations set forth in this petition; and therefore, until they are substantiated, the gentleman whose conduct has been thus impeached, ought to be considered as innocent of the charges preferred against him. If the event, however, should prove that they are founded in truth, the fact will only afford an additional proof of the demoralizing influence of arbitrary authority on the minds of those who possess it, and of the impolicy of suffering the present form of government to continue in force a single hour beyond the period necessary for its supercession. Never was there a more humane and upright man than Governor Macquarie; and if the power with which he has been for so many years intrusted, has indeed at length propelled him beyond the bounds of moderation and justice, it may be safely asserted that there are but very few men in existence whom it would not have tempted to commit a similar indiscretion.]
From the period* at which this colony was able to raise a sufficiency of grain for its consumption, the adoption of this measure has been imperatively called for by the wants and circumstances of its inhabitants; and it is to so palpable an omission, that the constant succession of abundance and scarcity, which, to the astonishment of many inquiring persons, has for the last fifteen years alternately prevailed there, is mainly ascribable. So long as the necessities of the government were greater than the means of the colonists to administer to them, the productive powers of this settlement developed themselves with a degree of rapidity which furnishes the surest criterion of its fertility and importance. But from the moment this impulse was checked, from the instant the supply exceeded the demand, the colony may be said to have continued stationary, with respect to its agriculture; producing in favourable seasons, somewhat more than enough grain for its consumption, but in unfavourable ones, whether arising from drought, or flood, falling so greatly deficient in its supply, that recourse has been invariably had to India, in order to guarantee its inhabitants from the horrors of famine, which have so often stared them in the face; and to which, but for such salutary precaution, the majority of them must have long ago fallen victims. These dreadful deficiencies have been the natural and inevitable result of a want of market; since no person will expend his time and means in producing that which will not ensure him an adequate return for his pains. So long, therefore, as other channels of industry, yielding a more certain compensation for labour, were open, the colonist would naturally prefer such more profitable occupation, to the comparatively precarious and unproductive culture of his land; and it was accordingly found, that many, who had till then devoted their sole attention to agriculture, abandoned at this period all tillage but such as was necessary for the support of their households, and employed the funds which they had acquired by the former successful cultivation of their farms, in the purchase and rearing of cattle, which continued a certain lucrative employment, long after agricultural produce had become of a depreciated and precarious value. The reason why these two branches of husbandry did not keep pace in this as in other countries, is obvious, from the remoteness of its situation, which rendered the conveyance of cattle thither so extremely difficult and expensive, that but a very limited supply of them was furnished, in comparison with its necessities. The increase, therefore, of these cattle could only be proportionate to their number; while no bounds were as yet assigned to the extension of agriculture, but, on the contrary, the whole combined energies of the colonists directed to this single channel, by the great demand which existed for their produce. Not but that the rearing of cattle was from the commencement equally, and indeed far more profitable than the cultivation of the land; but their exorbitant price excluded all but a few great capitalists from embarking in so profitable an undertaking; while, on the contrary, a stock of provisions with a few axes and hoes, and a good pair of hands to wield them, were the principal requisites for an agricultural establishment; and, indeed, in the early period of this settlement, all these essentials were supplied the colonists by the liberality of the government, till sufficient time had elapsed for the application of the produce of their farms to their own support.
[* This epoch may be dated so far back as 1804: the harvest of that year was so abundant, and the surplus of grain so extensive, that no sale could be had for more than one half of the crop. During the greater part of the following year, wheat sold at prices scarcely sufficient to cover the expence of reaping, thrashing, and carrying it to market; pigs and other stock were fed upon it; and these two years of such extraordinary abundance involved the whole agricultural body in the greatest distress; grain was then their only property, and it was of so little value that it was invariably rejected by their creditors in payment of their debts. The consequence was that it was wasted and neglected in the most shocking manner; scarcely any person would give it house room, and had the harvest of the following year proved equally abundant, the majority of the settlers must have abandoned their farms, and sought for other employment. Fortunately, however, for the agricultural interests, the great flood of 1806 intervened to prevent the impending desertion; the old and the new stocks on the banks of the Hawkesbury and Nepean were all swept away, and thus for a few years afterwards the supply of grain was pretty nearly kept on a level with the demand for it.]
But to return to the epoch when the supply of corn became too great for the demand, and when, as has been already noticed, some part of those who till then had been exclusively engaged in agriculture, turned their attention to the more beneficial occupation of rearing cattle; still the secession of these, who formed but a very inconsiderable member of the agricultural body, in consequence of the enormous price of cattle even at that period, and the great capital which it consequently required to become a stock-holder to any extent, afforded but a very trivial relief to those who adhered from necessity to their original employment. In this conjuncture, therefore, many of the next richer class abandoned their farms, and with the funds which they were enabled to collect, set up shops or public-houses in Sydney. This town was at that time the more favourable to such undertakings, in consequence of the brisk commerce carried on with China, by means of American and India-built vessels, that were in part owned by the colonial merchants, and procured sandal wood in the Fegee Islands, at a trifling expense, which they carried direct to China, and bartered for return cargoes of considerable value. The Seal Islands too, which were discovered to the southward of the colony, furnished about the same period, an extensive and lucrative employment for the colonial craft, and contributed not less than the sandal wood trade to the flourishing condition of this port. It was also about this time that the valuable whale fisheries, which the adjacent seas afford, were first attempted; but repeated experiment has proved that the duties which are levied, as well in this country as in the colony, on oil procured in colonial vessels, amount to a complete prohibition. Many of the merchants, whose enterprising spirit prompted them to repeated efforts, in order to bear up against the overwhelming weight of these duties, have found to their cost, that they are an insuperable obstacle to the successful prosecution of these fisheries, which would otherwise prove an inexhaustible source of wealth to the colony, and provide a permanent outlet for its redundant population. These two branches of commerce, so long as they were followed, afforded a support to great numbers of the colonists, and rendered the shock which the agricultural body had sustained, less sensible and alarming. I say these two, because the third has never been prosecuted but with loss; and has, in fact, proved a vortex which has devoured a great part of the profits which the othertwo yielded. For some years, however, these two channels have been so completely drained, that they are only at present pursued by desperate adventurers, who seldom or never obtain a return commensurate with the risk they run, and the capital they employ. But even during the period of their utmost productiveness, the number of persons who were immediately engaged in them, or who abandoned the plough to place themselves behind the counter, was far from providing a remedy for the disease of the agricultural body: because in the former instance these two branches of commerce were only capable of affording employment to a limited population; and in the latter a capital was necessary, not so great indeed as had been required to enter successfully on the grazing system, but yet far more considerable than it was in the ability of the majority of the colonists to raise. By these migrations, therefore, the pressure and embarrassment of the agricultural body, which by this time had gradually lost the richest and most respectable portion of its members, was but little, if indeed at all alleviated; and some other expedient became everyday more and more necessary to be adopted by those who remained. In this exigency many abandoned their farms altogether, and hired themselves as servants to such richer individuals as had occasion for their services; while others, and undoubtedly the greater part of them, cultivated but a small portion of their land, and afterwards travelled in search of labour till harvest time, at which period they returned, reaped, threshed, and disposed of their crops, and after recultivating the same spot, sought, during the rest of the year, employment as before, wherever it could be found. This is the mode of life which a great number of the poor settlers pursue to this day.
But the effect of these entire, or partial secessions from the agricultural body, was not so extensively beneficial as might at first be imagined. All this time the population was in a state of rapid progression, both from the daily influx of people from without, and from the amazing fecundity of the colonists within. The distress, therefore, of the colony continued increasing in proportion to its increasing population. And although it may appear strange, that while it was a subject of such notoriety, that the settlers were already too numerous for the occasions of the colony, fresh volunteers should crowd to enrol themselves under their banners; this surprise will cease when it is stated, that the settling of new lands was for many years a matter of traffic between the government and the colonists, by which, as it is natural to conclude, the former were no great gainers. It was their policy, and undoubtedly necessary in the early stages of the settlement, and even at present under proper restrictions, to encourage the extension of agriculture generally, but more particularly in the inland districts, that are not subject to flood; and to this end it was customary to support new settlers with their wives, families, and servants, for eighteen months, at the expense of the crown. The natural consequence was, that all who had become free, either by the expiration of their servitude, by conditional emancipation, or by absolute pardon, and who had no means of support, embraced this offer of the government, which assured them a subsistence that enabled them to seek at their leisure for a more lucrative occupation elsewhere. Nor are these poor creatures who thus profited by the liberality of the government with an intention to abuse it, to be too harshly condemned: still less so are those who, arriving strangers in the colony, and having in most instances wives and families, the support of whom in inactivity would be daily consuming their little all, embraced this the only immediate mode of subsistence that occurred to them. These people, as soon as the helping hand of the government was withdrawn, and it became incumbent on them to depend on their own proper resources, would be immediately subject to the same privation and misery which pressed on their body, and would consequently be under the necessity of resorting to the same expedients for relief. The great increase which has taken place of late years to the cleared lands in the colony, has been the result of this system, and not the gradual progressive operation of a flourishing agriculture. This assertion I consider fully borne out by a comparison between the quantity of land cleared, and the quantity in cultivation. By the last return from the colony, taken so late as November, 1817, it appears that there are 47,564 acres of cleared land, out of which only 32,814 are cropped; 14,750 acres, therefore, (or nearly one-half of what is in cultivation) are lying waste: a circumstance which can only be accounted for in this manner, since the system of fallowing land is not in practice. It must therefore be evident, that the clearing of so great a portion of land over and above what is required by the situation and wants of the colonists, must have been effected by unnatural means. The increase of produce has not, indeed, outstepped the growth of population, but it has kept pace with it, and all the cleared land which is not employed in the raising of this produce, has evidently been a useless expenditure of labour.
Thus this copious afflux of new colonists into the uninhabited districts in the interior, which had hitherto been exclusively occupied by the flocks and herds of the graziers, did not produce that permanent advantage which the enormous expense incurred by the government in their outfit, ought to have insured. At the same time it was of the most undoubted injury to the stock-holders, by preventing them from allowing their cattle to roam at large during the night, from the danger of trespass and poundage, which the indiscriminate dispersion of small agricultural establishments over the whole face of the country, without fences of any description to protect them, every where occasioned. To be sure, the colonists will have derived this very material advantage from the great quantity of cleared land, now lying waste; that whenever the pernicious policy, which has paralysed their energies, and blasted the general prosperity, shall be relinquished, and a judicious system of encouragement substituted in its stead, they will instantly be prepared to profit by the capabilities which the wisdom and justice of the parent government shall have at length afforded them.
But the future increase in the cleared lands will not be proportioned to the past, because directions have of late been transmitted from this country, to allow future colonists only six months provisions from the king's stores, for themselves and their households, instead of eighteen months, as heretofore. This very material diminution in the measure of encouragement held out to future colonization, will clearly be attended with a threefold operation. It will be a grievous disadvantage to such respectable persons as emigrate from this country, with a real intention, but with funds scarcely adequate to a permanent settlement in the colony; it will still further discourage the existing agriculturist and grazier, by lessening the demand of the government for their produce; and it will increase the general embarrassment, both by narrowing this channel of employment, which was supplied by the liberality of the government, and by curtailing the means of the colonists at large to provide labour for that part of the population, which will be thus turned loose on them twelvemonths sooner than usual.
To the credit of the present governor it must be allowed that he has done all that a benevolent heart and a sagacious head could dictate, to counteract the growing distress and misery. He has exhausted all the means in his power to give employment to the large portion of unoccupied labour, which it has not been within the compass of individual enterprize to absorb. He has effected the greatest improvements in the capital, by enlarging and straightening the streets, and by erecting various public edifices of the highest utility and ornament. The same superintending hand is visible throughout all the inferior towns and townships, many of which indeed are of his own foundation. He has made highways to every cultivated district, thus affording the inhabitants of them the greatest facilities for the cheap and expeditious conveyance of their produce to market. In fine, throughout every part of the colony and its dependent settlements at the Derwent and Port Dalrymple, he has effected improvements which will long continue monuments of the wisdom and liberality of their author. But it cannot be denied, however beneficial these and other improvements of the same nature which are in progress may be, either with respect to their immediate or more remote consequences, that they are but mere temporary sources of alleviation, whose benignant supply will cease with the discharge of the great body of workmen whom they at present maintain in activity. This, indeed, as well as all the other expedients which I have already enumerated, as having been practised in order to find outlets for the superabundant labour, have been productive of no permanent result.
This assertion is satisfactorily substantiated by the present unnatural efforts of the colonists in the establishment of various manufactories, particularly those of cloth and hats. I say unnatural, because in the common course of things, the origin of such establishments ought to be coeval only with an entire occupation of the soil, and redundancy of population. And this chiefly for two reasons: because a greater capital is required in their foundation, and a greater degree of skill and dexterity in their developement. It is on this account that in Canada, and our colonies in the West Indies, which are in a great measure left to the guidance of their native legislatures, and which it is therefore to be presumed, adopt that line of policy at once most consistent with their own interests, and with those of the parent country, since in the persons of her representatives, she approves or annuls their proceedings, we find that manufactures have been altogether neglected, while their agriculture and plantations, while, in fine, the exportation of raw materials, whether the natural or artificial productions of these colonies, has been promoted in every possible manner. That this is the system which ought to have been pursued, we have a still more forcible proof in the instance of the United States of America, and of many of the ancient nations of Europe; which, unfettered by any dependence whatever on any foreign power, and having consequently adopted that policy, which has been found the most consistent with their respective interests, have made but very little progress in manufactures, and are therefore still under the necessity of having recourse for manufactured commodities to other countries. If then the promotion of agriculture be more politic in many independent states, which have not yet attained the same maturity of growth and civilization, that characterize the principal manufacturing nations of the world, by how much more prudent must the encouragement of it be in a dependent colony like this; possessed as it is of all the requisites for an unlimited extension of its agriculture in the fertility of its soil, the benignity of its climate, and the extent of its territory, and wanting all the essentials for the production of manufactures, skill, capital, and population?
The existing state of things, therefore, is not only contrary to the welfare of the colony itself, but also in diametrical opposition to the interests of the parent country. A great manufacturing nation herself, it is her undoubted policy, and that which on every occasion I believe but the present she has pursued, to augment in her colonies, at one and the same time, the consumption of her own manufactures, and the growth of such productions as she has found essential to her own use, or to the supply of other nations. The toleration, therefore, of a system so averse to her acknowledged interests, can only be attributed to ignorance, or inadvertence. But it is not in the forcible abolition of these manufactories, created by necessity, and still rendered indispensable by the same irresistible law, that the condition of the colony is to be ameliorated or redressed. So long as the same pernicious disabilities which have already reduced the colonists to beggary and despair, and rendered unavailing the resources of a country that might rival in the number and value of its exports, the most favoured of the globe are enforced, this manufacturing system is a lamentable but necessary evil. After putting it out of their power to purchase the more costly clothing of the mother country, it would be an intolerable exercise of authority to prevent them from having recourse to the homely products of their own industry and ingenuity. Under existing circumstances, indeed, there is no alternative between permitting them the use of their own manufactures, and compelling them to go naked, or to clothe themselves like the aborigines of the country in the skins of animals. There is but one remedy for the disease of the colony: it is to give due encouragement to agriculture, and to promote the growth of exportable commodities, which its inhabitants may offer in exchange for the productions of other countries. The manufacturing system which has begun to take root, will then wither away of its own accord; since it will then be the least productive manner in which capital and labour can be employed.
Happy would it have been for the colonists, if these repeated efforts, these distressing and embarrassing expedients to supply their wants, had been the only injurious consequences resulting from the stagnation of agriculture. The day when their wretched situation shall have at length awakened the commiseration of the parent country, would then have witnessed the term and bounds of their sufferings. Alas! far different will be the case. Like a ruined merchant, who would defer, to the utmost length, the disgrace of bankruptcy, in the daily hope of some prosperous adventure to retrieve his fortune and restore his credit, the settlers have gone on contracting debts, which have accumulated with the increasing embarrassments of the community. The engagements of the majority of the cultivators, thus swelled in a few years to a bulk, which they had no longer any chance of reducing: pressed on all sides by their creditors, the mortgage or sale of their farms became inevitable; and even these sacrifices have, in general, been far from cancelling their bonds; so that they not only have ceased to be proprietors, but also still continue debtors to a large amount. Their creditors, in many instances, a set of rapacious, unprincipled dealers, availing themselves of the power which the law would give them over the personal liberty of these, their debtors, immediately took that advantage of their own commanding position, which might have been expected from their characters. They engaged, or more properly speaking, constrained, these poor wretches to cultivate as tenants, the same soil which lately belonged to them, and exacted from them in return, a rent too exorbitant to be paid. Every succeeding year, therefore, has but tended to increase their obligations, and they are, at present, identified with the soil, and reduced to all intents and purposes, except in name, to as complete a state of vassalage as the serfs of Russia. If they should be in need of any trifling supply, it is to their proprietors, and to them only, that they dare have recourse, though they would be able to obtain the same articles a hundred per cent. cheaper elsewhere. To their granaries the whole produce of their industry is conveyed: and, in spite of all their toil and privation, far from discharging their original debts, they find themselves every day more deeply involved. The more they struggle, the more complicated and firm becomes their entanglement. Lamentable as undoubtedly must be such a hopeless state of servitude, it still appears to them preferable to the precincts of a prison. They respire the free invigorating air of their plains, and can still traverse them at their option, or at least when the season arrives which closes their daily task. But this privilege, it must be confessed, is purchased at its uttermost value. We have philanthropists among us, who justly commiserate the condition of that unoffending race of people, who dragged from the scenes of their nativity, and the habitations of their fathers, have been consigned by a gang of merciless kidnappers to perpetual slavery themselves, and to the still more intolerable necessity of bequeathing an existence of similar endurement and degradation to their offspring. After years of strenuous indefatigable exertion these friends of humanity, these noble champions of liberty have succeeded, if not in emancipating those, who had already been consigned to this unmerited doom, at least in preventing the further extension of this infernal traffic. Would it not be an effort worthy the same philanthropy, which has thus secured the protection and deliverance of unoffending Africa, to procure the emancipation of suffering Australasia? to raise her from the abject state of poverty, slavery, and degradation, to which she is so fast sinking, and to present her a constitution, which may gradually conduct her to freedom, prosperity, and happiness?
It must be admitted that this state of slavery, so galling to the subjects of a free country, has been in some measure imposed on the colonists by their own imprudent extravagance. Already but too much inclined by their early habits of irregularity to licentious indulgence, the prosperous state of their affairs during the first fifteen years after the foundation of the settlement, presented the strongest inducements to a revival of their ancient propensities, which had been repressed, but not subdued. Imagining that the same unlimited market, which was then offered for their produce, would always continue, they only thought of consuming the fruits of their industry; not doubting that the same fields, which thus lavishly administered to the gratification of their desires, would amply suffice for the more moderate enjoyments of their offspring. But when once their produce began to exceed the demand of the government, and when in a short time afterwards from the want of due encouragement, all the various avenues of industry that lay open were successively filled, and the means of occupation eithergreatly circumscribed, or entirely exhausted, these people, so long habituated to unrestrained indulgence, found it difficult to support that privation, which became incumbent on their condition; and in order to procure those luxuries of which they so severely felt the want, exhausted their credit, and ended by alienating their possessions. There can be but little doubt if the colonists, instead of expending, had providently accumulated the money which they so profusely acquired during the period of their agricultural prosperity, that their actual situation would have been far preferable; for, though the gradual retrogradation, which I should imagine it must at present be sufficiently evident, that the colony has been undergoing for these last fifteen years, would by this time have greatly diminished, if not have totally absorbed their former savings, still their lands would have remained to them, nor would they have been reduced to that state of vassalage and misery, which they are this day enduring. Lamentable therefore, as is their condition, the consideration that it has thus far been occasioned by their own imprudence, is apt to detract from that unbounded commiseration which it would otherwise excite: if, on the other hand, we do not reflect in extenuation of their thoughtlessness and extravagance, that their former increased means of indulgence, were the result of their industry; that this industry was in the first instance called into activity by the encouragement of the government; that it has since been paralysed by a concatenation of unwise and unjust disabilities imposed by the same power; and that consequently their present wretched and degraded situation is not so much to be ascribed to their former improvidence as to the actual impolicy and injustice of their rulers. If we furthermore consider the short period in which this great change in their circumstances has been effected, we shall feel convinced that so sudden a transition from affluence to poverty could not be patiently endured, and that every method of rendering so unexpected and galling a burthen more supportable, would be naturally and inevitably resorted to. To prove still more satisfactorily that this state of slavery to which so large a proportion of the original settlers are reduced, has not been so much the result of their own imprudence as of the impolicy of their government, numerous instances might be adduced of persons, not indeed skilled in the arts of husbandry, whose habits have always been regular and moderate, who have been for many years stockholders as well as agriculturists, and who, notwithstanding this two-fold advantage, aided by an undeviating economy, have been unable to keep themselves free from the embarrassments in which the bare cultivators of the soil are so generally involved. To what end then, has their frugality been directed, if a few years more will engulph their possessions, and reduce them to the same state of vassalage and degradation, to which their less provident brethren are already subjected? They have, indeed, in the prospective some short period of unexpired freedom; but I doubt much whether the gradual approach of inevitable slavery be scarcely more enviable than slavery itself.