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A COMPLETE ACCOUNT OF THE SETTLEMENT AT PORT JACKSON
by Watkin Tench
When it is recollected how much has been written to describe the Settlement of New South Wales, it seems necessary if not to offer an apology, yet to assign a reason, for an additional publication.
The Author embarked in the fleet which sailed to found the establishment at Botany Bay. He shortly after published a Narrative of the Proceedings and State of the Colony, brought up to the beginning of July, 1788, which was well received, and passed through three editions. This could not but inspire both confidence and gratitude; but gratitude, would be badly manifested were he on the presumption of former favour to lay claim to present indulgence. He resumes the subject in the humble hope of communicating information, and increasing knowledge, of the country, which he describes.
He resided at Port Jackson nearly four years: from the 20th of January, 1788, until the 18th of December, 1791. To an active and contemplative mind, a new country is an inexhaustible source of curiosity and speculation. It was the author's custom not only to note daily occurrences, and to inspect and record the progression of improvement; but also, when not prevented by military duties, to penetrate the surrounding country in different directions, in order to examine its nature, and ascertain its relative geographical situations.
The greatest part of the work is inevitably composed of those materials which a journal supplies; but wherever reflections could be introduced without fastidiousness and parade, he has not scrupled to indulge them, in common with every other deviation which the strictness of narrative would allow.
When this publication was nearly ready for the press; and when many of the opinions which it records had been declared, fresh accounts from Port Jackson were received. To the state of a country, where so many anxious trying hours of his life have passed, the author cannot feel indifferent. If by any sudden revolution of the laws of nature; or by any fortunate discovery of those on the spot, it has really become that fertile and prosperous land, which some represent it to be, he begs permission to add his voice to the general congratulation. He rejoices at its success: but it is only justice to himself and those with whom he acted to declare, that they feel no cause of reproach that so complete and happy an alteration did not take place at an earlier period.
A Retrospect of the State of the Colony of Port Jackson, on the Date of my former Narrative, in July, 1788.
Previous to commencing any farther account of the subject, which I am about to treat, such a retrospection of the circumstances and situation of the settlement, at the conclusion of my former Narrative, as shall lay its state before the reader, seems necessary, in order to connect the present with the past.
The departure of the first fleet of ships for Europe, on the 14th of July, 1788, had been long impatiently expected; and had filled us with anxiety, to communicate to our friends an account of our situation; describing the progress of improvement, and the probability of success, or failure, in our enterprise. That men should judge very oppositely on so doubtful and precarious an event, will hardly surprise.
Such relations could contain little besides the sanguineness of hope, and the enumeration of hardships and difficulties, which former accounts had not led us to expect. Since our disembarkation in the preceding January, the efforts of every one had been unremittingly exerted, to deposit the public stores in a state of shelter and security, and to erect habitations for ourselves. We were eager to escape from tents, where a fold of canvas, only, interposed to check the vertic beams of the sun in summer, and the chilling blasts of the south in winter. A markee pitched, in our finest season, on an English lawn; or a transient view of those gay camps, near the metropolis, which so many remember, naturally draws forth careless and unmeaning exclamations of rapture, which attach ideas of pleasure only, to this part of a soldier's life. But an encampment amidst the rocks and wilds of a new country, aggravated by the miseries of bad diet, and incessant toil, will find few admirers.
Nor were our exertions less unsuccessful than they were laborious. Under wretched covers of thatch lay our provisions and stores, exposed to destruction from every flash of lightning, and every spark of fire. A few of the convicts had got into huts; but almost all the officers, and the whole of the soldiery, were still in tents.
In such a situation, where knowledge of the mechanic arts afforded the surest recommendation to notice, it may be easily conceived, that attention to the parade duty of the troops, gradually diminished. Now were to be seen officers and soldiers not "trailing the puissant pike" but felling the ponderous gum-tree, or breaking the stubborn clod. And though "the broad falchion did not in a ploughshare end" the possession of a spade, a wheelbarrow, or a dunghill, was more coveted than the most refulgent arms in which heroism ever dazzled. Those hours, which in other countries are devoted to martial acquirements, were here consumed in the labours of the sawpit, the forge and the quarry*.
[* "The Swedish prisoners, taken at the battle of Pultowa, were transported by the Czar Peter to the most remote parts of Siberia, with a view to civilize the natives of the country, and teach them the arts the Swedes possessed. In this hopeless situation, all traces of discipline and subordination, between the different ranks, were quickly obliterated. The soldiers, who were husbandmen and artificers, found out their superiority, and assumed it: the officers became their servants." VOLTAIRE.]
Of the two ships of war, the 'Sirius' and 'Supply', the latter was incessantly employed in transporting troops, convicts, and stores, to Norfolk Island; and the 'Sirius' in preparing for a voyage to some port, where provisions for our use might be purchased, the expected supply from England not having arrived. It is but justice to the officers and men of both these ships to add, that, on all occasions, they fully shared every hardship and fatigue with those on shore.
On the convicts the burden fell yet heavier: necessity compelled us to allot to them the most slavish and laborious employments. Those operations, which in other countries are performed by the brute creation, were here effected by the exertions of men: but this ought not to be considered a grievance; because they had always been taught to expect it, as the inevitable consequence of their offences against society. Severity was rarely exercised on them; and justice was administered without partiality or discrimination. Their ration of provisions, except in being debarred from an allowance of spirits, was equal to that which the marines received. Under these circumstances I record with pleasure, that they behaved better than had been predicted of them—to have expected sudden and complete reformation of conduct, were romantic and chimerical.
Our cultivation of the land was yet in its infancy. We had hitherto tried only the country contiguous to Sydney. Here the governor had established a government-farm; at the head of which a competent person of his own household was placed, with convicts to work under him. Almost the whole of the officers likewise accepted of small tracts of ground, for the purpose of raising grain and vegetables: but experience proved to us, that the soil would produce neither without manure; and as this was not to be procured, our vigour soon slackened; and most of the farms (among which was the one belonging to government) were successively abandoned.
With the natives we were very little more acquainted than on our arrival in the country. Our intercourse with them was neither frequent or cordial. They seemed studiously to avoid us, either from fear, jealousy, or hatred. When they met with unarmed stragglers, they sometimes killed, and sometimes wounded them. I confess that, in common with many others, I was inclined to attribute this conduct, to a spirit of malignant levity. But a farther acquaintance with them, founded on several instances of their humanity and generosity, which shall be noticed in their proper places, has entirely reversed my opinion; and led me to conclude, that the unprovoked outrages committed upon them, by unprincipled individuals among us, caused the evils we had experienced. To prevent them from being plundered of their fishing-tackle and weapons of war, a proclamation was issued, forbidding their sale among us; but it was not attended with the good effect which was hoped for from it.
During this period, notwithstanding the want of fresh provisions and vegetables, and almost constant exposure to the vicissitudes of a variable climate, disease rarely attacked us; and the number of deaths, was too inconsiderable to deserve mention.
Norfolk Island had been taken possession of, by a party detached for that purpose, early after our arrival. Few accounts of it had yet reached us. And here I beg leave to observe, that as I can speak of this island only from the relations of others, never having myself been there, I shall in every part of this work mention it as sparingly as possible. And this more especially, as it seems probable, that some of those gentlemen, who from accurate knowledge, and long residence on it, are qualified to write its history, will oblige the world with such a publication.
Transactions of the Colony from the sailing of the First Fleet in July, 1788, to the Close of that Year.
It was impossible to behold without emotion the departure of the ships. On their speedy arrival in England perhaps hinged our fate; by hastening our supplies to us.
On the 20th of July, the 'Supply' sailed for Norfolk Island, and returned to us on the 26th of August; bringing no material news, except that the soil was found to suit grain, and other seeds, which had been sown in it, and that a species of flax-plant was discovered to grow spontaneously on the island.
A survey of the harbour of Port Jackson was now undertaken, in order to compute the number of canoes, and inhabitants, which it might contain: sixty-seven canoes, and 147 people were counted. No estimate, however, of even tolerable accuracy, can be drawn from so imperfect a datum; though it was perhaps the best in our power to acquire.
In July and August, we experienced more inclement tempestuous weather than had been observed at any former period of equal duration. And yet it deserves to be remarked, in honour of the climate, that, although our number of people exceeded 900, not a single death happened in the latter month.
The dread of want in a country destitute of natural resource is ever peculiarly terrible. We had long turned our eyes with impatience towards the sea, cheered by the hope of seeing supplies from England approach. But none arriving, on the 2d of October the 'Sirius' sailed for the Cape of Good Hope, with directions to purchase provisions there, for the use of our garrison.
A new settlement, named by the governor Rose Hill, 16 miles inland, was established on the 3d of November, the soil here being judged better than that around Sydney. A small redoubt was thrown up, and a captain's detachment posted in it, to protect the convicts who were employed to cultivate the ground.
The two last of the transports left us for England on the 19th of November, intending to make their passage by Cape Horn. There now remained with us only the 'Supply'. Sequestered and cut off as we were from the rest of civilized nature, their absence carried the effect of desolation. About this time a convict, of the name of Daly, was hanged, for a burglary: this culprit, who was a notorious thief and impostor, was the author of a discovery of a gold mine, a few months before: a composition resembling ore mingled with earth, which he pretended to have brought from it, he produced. After a number of attendant circumstances, too ludicrous and contemptible to relate, which befell a party, who were sent under his guidance to explore this second Peru, he at last confessed, that he had broken up an old pair of buckles, and mixed the pieces with sand and stone; and on assaying the composition, the brass was detected. The fate of this fellow I should not deem worth recording, did it not lead to the following observation, that the utmost circumspection is necessary to prevent imposition, in those who give accounts of what they see in unknown countries. We found the convicts particularly happy in fertility of invention, and exaggerated descriptions. Hence large fresh water rivers, valuable ores, and quarries of limestone, chalk, and marble, were daily proclaimed soon after we had landed. At first we hearkened with avidity to such accounts; but perpetual disappointments taught us to listen with caution, and to believe from demonstration only.
Unabated animosity continued to prevail between the natives and us: in addition to former losses, a soldier and several convicts suddenly disappeared, and were never afterwards heard of. Three convicts were also wounded, and one killed by them, near Botany Bay: similar to the vindictive spirit which Mr. Cook found to exist among their countrymen at Endeavour River, they more than once attempted to set fire to combustible matter, in order to annoy us. Early on the morning of the 18th of December, word was brought that they were assembled in force, near the brick-kilns, which stand but a mile from the town of Sydney. The terror of those who brought the first intelligence magnified the number to two thousand; a second messenger diminished it to four hundred. A detachment, under the command of an officer was ordered to march immediately, and reconnoitre them. The officer soon returned, and reported, that about fifty Indians had appeared at the brick-kilns; but upon the convicts, who were at work there, pointing their spades and shovels at them, in the manner of guns, they had fled into the woods.
Tired of this state of petty warfare and endless uncertainty, the governor at length determined to adopt a decisive measure, by capturing some of them, and retaining them by force; which we supposed would either inflame the rest to signal vengeance, in which case we should know the worst, and provide accordingly: or else it would induce an intercourse, by the report which our prisoners would make of the mildness and indulgence with which we used them. And farther, it promised to unveil the cause of their mysterious conduct, by putting us in possession of their reasons for harassing and destroying our people, in the manner I have related. Boats were accordingly ordered to be got ready, and every preparation made, which could lead to the attainment of our object.
But as this subject deserves to be particularly detailed, I shall, notwithstanding its being just within the period of time which this chapter professes to comprise, allot it a separate place, in the beginning of the next.
Nor can I close this part of my work without congratulating both the reader and the author. New matter now presents itself. A considerable part of the foregoing chapters had been related before, either by others or myself. I was however, unavoidably compelled to insert it, in order to preserve unbroken that chain of detail, and perspicuity of arrangement, at which books professing to convey information should especially aim.
Transactions of the Colony, from the Commencement of the Year 1789, until the End of March.
Pursuant to his resolution, the governor on the 31st of December sent two boats, under the command of Lieutenant Ball of the 'Supply', and Lieutenant George Johnston of the marines, down the harbour, with directions to those officers to seize and carry off some of the natives. The boats proceeded to Manly Cove, where several Indians were seen standing on the beach, who were enticed by courteous behaviour and a few presents to enter into conversation. A proper opportunity being presented, our people rushed in among them, and seized two men: the rest fled; but the cries of the captives soon brought them back, with many others, to their rescue: and so desperate were their struggles, that, in spite of every effort on our side, only one of them was secured; the other effected his escape. The boats put off without delay; and an attack from the shore instantly commenced: they threw spears, stones, firebrands, and whatever else presented itself, at the boats; nor did they retreat, agreeable to their former custom, until many musquets were fired over them.
The prisoner was now fastened by ropes to the thwarts of the boat; and when he saw himself irretrievably disparted from his countrymen, set up the most piercing and lamentable cries of distress. His grief, however, soon diminished: he accepted and ate of some broiled fish which was given to him, and sullenly submitted to his destiny.
When the news of his arrival at Sydney was announced, I went with every other person to see him: he appeared to be about thirty years old, not tall, but robustly made; and of a countenance which, under happier circumstances, I thought would display manliness and sensibility; his agitation was excessive, and the clamourous crowds who flocked around him did not contribute to lessen it. Curiosity and observation seemed, nevertheless, not to have wholly deserted him; he shewed the effect of novelty upon ignorance; he wondered at all he saw: though broken and interrupted with dismay, his voice was soft and musical, when its natural tone could be heard; and he readily pronounced with tolerable accuracy the names of things which were taught him. To our ladies he quickly became extraordinarily courteous, a sure sign that his terror was wearing off.
Every blandishment was used to soothe him, and it had its effect. As he was entering the governor's house, some one touched a small bell which hung over the door: he started with horror and astonishment; but in a moment after was reconciled to the noise, and laughed at the cause of his perturbation. When pictures were shown to him, he knew directly those which represented the human figure: among others, a very large handsome print of her royal highness the Dutchess of Cumberland being produced, he called out 'woman', a name by which we had just before taught him to call the female convicts. Plates of birds and beasts were also laid before him; and many people were led to believe, that such as he spoke about and pointed to were known to him. But this must have been an erroneous conjecture, for the elephant, rhinoceros, and several others, which we must have discovered did they exist in the country, were of the number. Again, on the other hand, those he did not point out, were equally unknown to him.
His curiosity here being satiated, we took him to a large brick house, which was building for the governor's residence: being about to enter, he cast up his eyes, and seeing some people leaning out of a window on the first story, he exclaimed aloud, and testified the most extravagant surprise. Nothing here was observed to fix his attention so strongly as some tame fowls, who were feeding near him: our dogs also he particularly noticed; but seemed more fearful than fond of them.
He dined at a side-table at the governor's; and ate heartily of fish and ducks, which he first cooled. Bread and salt meat he smelled at, but would not taste: all our liquors he treated in the same manner, and could drink nothing but water. On being shown that he was not to wipe his hands on the chair which he sat upon, he used a towel which was gave to him, with great cleanliness and decency.
In the afternoon his hair was closely cut, his head combed, and his beard shaved; but he would not submit to these operations until he had seen them performed on another person, when he readily acquiesced. His hair, as might be supposed, was filled with vermin, whose destruction seemed to afford him great triumph; nay, either revenge, or pleasure, prompted him to eat them! but on our expressing disgust and abhorrence he left it off.
To this succeeded his immersion in a tub of water and soap, where he was completely washed and scrubbed from head to foot; after which a shirt, a jacket, and a pair of trousers, were put upon him. Some part of this ablution I had the honour to perform, in order that I might ascertain the real colour of the skin of these people. My observation then was (and it has since been confirmed in a thousand other instances) that they are as black as the lighter cast of the African negroes.
Many unsuccessful attempts were made to learn his name; the governor therefore called him Manly, from the cove in which he was captured: this cove had received its name from the manly undaunted behaviour of a party of natives seen there, on our taking possession of the country.
To prevent his escape, a handcuff with a rope attached to it, was fastened around his left wrist, which at first highly delighted him; he called it 'bengadee' (or ornament), but his delight changed to rage and hatred when he discovered its use. His supper he cooked himself: some fish were given to him for this purpose, which, without any previous preparation whatever, he threw carelessly on the fire, and when they became warm took them up, and first rubbed off the scales, peeled the outside with his teeth, and ate it; afterwards he gutted them, and laying them again on the fire, completed the dressing, and ate them.
A convict was selected to sleep with him, and to attend him wherever he might go. When he went with his keeper into his apartment he appeared very restless and uneasy while a light was kept in; but on its extinction, he immediately lay down and composed himself.
Sullenness and dejection strongly marked his countenance on the following morning; to amuse him, he was taken around the camp, and to the observatory: casting his eyes to the opposite shore from the point where he stood, and seeing the smoke of fire lighted by his countrymen, he looked earnestly at it, and sighing deeply two or three times, uttered the word 'gweeun' (fire).
His loss of spirits had not, however, the effect of impairing his appetite; eight fish, each weighing about a pound, constituted his breakfast, which he dressed as before. When he had finished his repast, he turned his back to the fire in a musing posture, and crept so close to it, that his shirt was caught by the flame; luckily his keeper soon extinguished it; but he was so terrified at the accident, that he was with difficulty persuaded to put on a second.
1st. January, 1789. To-day being new-year's-day, most of the officers were invited to the governor's table: Manly dined heartily on fish and roasted pork; he was seated on a chest near a window, out of which, when he had done eating, he would have thrown his plate, had he not been prevented: during dinner-time a band of music played in an adjoining apartment; and after the cloth was removed, one of the company sang in a very soft and superior style; but the powers of melody were lost on Manly, which disappointed our expectations, as he had before shown pleasure and readiness in imitating our tunes. Stretched out on his chest, and putting his hat under his head, he fell asleep.
To convince his countrymen that he had received no injury from us, the governor took him in a boat down the harbour, that they might see and converse with him: when the boat arrived, and lay at a little distance from the beach, several Indians who had retired at her approach, on seeing Manly, returned: he was greatly affected, and shed tears. At length they began to converse. Our ignorance of the language prevented us from knowing much of what passed; it was, however, easily understood that his friends asked him why he did not jump overboard, and rejoin them. He only sighed, and pointed to the fetter on his leg, by which he was bound.
In going down the harbour he had described the names by which they distinguish its numerous creeks and headlands: he was now often heard to repeat that of 'Weerong' (Sydney Cove), which was doubtless to inform his countrymen of the place of his captivity; and perhaps invite them to rescue him. By this time his gloom was chased away, and he parted from his friends without testifying reluctance. His vivacity and good humour continued all the evening, and produced so good an effect on his appetite, that he ate for supper two kangaroo rats, each of the size of a moderate rabbit, and in addition not less than three pounds of fish.
Two days after he was taken on a similar excursion; but to our surprise the natives kept aloof, and would neither approach the shore, or discourse with their countryman: we could get no explanation of this difficulty, which seemed to affect us more than it did him. Uncourteous as they were, he performed to them an act of attentive benevolence; seeing a basket made of bark, used by them to carry water, he conveyed into it two hawks and another bird, which the people in the boat had shot, and carefully covering them over, left them as a present to his old friends. But indeed the gentleness and humanity of his disposition frequently displayed themselves: when our children, stimulated by wanton curiosity, used to flock around him, he never failed to fondle them, and, if he were eating at the time, constantly offered them the choicest part of his fare.
February, 1789. His reserve, from want of confidence in us, continued gradually to wear away: he told us his name, and Manly gave place to Arabanoo. Bread he began to relish; and tea he drank with avidity: strong liquors he would never taste, turning from them with disgust and abhorrence. Our dogs and cats had ceased to be objects of fear, and were become his greatest pets, and constant companions at table. One of our chief amusements, after the cloth was removed, was to make him repeat the names of things in his language, which he never hesitated to do with the utmost alacrity, correcting our pronunciation when erroneous. Much information relating to the customs and manners of his country was also gained from him: but as this subject will be separately and amply treated, I shall not anticipate myself by partially touching on it here.
On the 2nd of February died Captain John Shea of the marines, after a lingering illness: he was interred on the following day, with the customary military honours, amidst the regret of all who knew him. In consequence of his decease, appointments for the promotion of the oldest officer of each subordinate rank were signed by the major commandant of the marine battalion, until the pleasure of the lords of the admiralty should be notified.*
[*These appointments were confirmed by the admiralty.]
On the 17th of February the 'Supply' again sailed for Norfolk Island. The governor went down the harbour in her, and carried Arabanoo with him, who was observed to go on board with distrust and reluctance; when he found she was under sail, every effort was tried without success to exhilarate him; at length, an opportunity being presented, he plunged overboard, and struck out for the nearest shore: believing that those who were left behind would fire at him, he attempted to dive, at which he was known to be very expert: but this was attended with a difficulty which he had not foreseen: his clothes proved so buoyant, that he was unable to get more than his head under water: a boat was immediately dispatched after him, and picked him up, though not without struggles and resistance on his side. When brought on board, he appeared neither afraid or ashamed of what he had done, but sat apart, melancholy and dispirited, and continued so until he saw the governor and his other friends descend into a boat, and heard himself called upon to accompany them: he sprang forward, and his cheerfulness and alacrity of temper immediately returned, and lasted during the remainder of the day. The dread of being carried away, on an element of whose boundary he could form no conception, joined to the uncertainty of our intention towards him, unquestionably caused him to act as he did.
One of the principal effects which we had supposed the seizure and captivity of Arabanoo would produce, seemed yet at as great a distance as ever; the natives neither manifested signs of increased hostility on his account, or attempted to ask any explanation of our conduct through the medium of their countryman who was in our possession, and who they knew was treated with no farther harshness than in being detained among us. Their forbearance of open and determined attack upon can be accounted for only by recollecting their knowledge of our numbers, and their dread of our fire-arms: that they wanted not sufficient provocation to do so, will appear from what I am about to relate.
March, 1789. Sixteen convicts left their work at the brick-kilns without leave, and marched to Botany Bay, with a design to attack the natives, and to plunder them of their fishing-tackle and spears: they had armed themselves with their working tools and large clubs. When they arrived near the bay, a body of Indians, who had probably seen them set out, and had penetrated their intention from experience, suddenly fell upon them. Our heroes were immediately routed, and separately endeavoured to effect their escape by any means which were left. In their flight one was killed, and seven were wounded, for the most part very severely: those who had the good fortune to outstrip their comrades and arrive in camp, first gave the alarm; and a detachment of marines, under an officer, was ordered to march to their relief. The officer arrived too late to repel the Indians; but he brought in the body of the man that was killed, and put an end to the pursuit. The governor was justly incensed at what had happened, and instituted the most rigorous scrutiny into the cause which had produced it. At first the convicts were unanimous in affirming, that they were quietly picking sweet-tea*, when they were without provocation assaulted by the natives, with whom they had no wish to quarrel. Some of them, however, more irresolute than the rest, at last disclosed the purpose for which the expedition had been undertaken; and the whole were ordered to be severely flogged: Arabanoo was present at the infliction of the punishment; and was made to comprehend the cause and the necessity of it; but he displayed on the occasion symptoms of disgust and terror only.
[*A vegetable creeper found growing on the rocks, which yields, on infusion in hot water, a sweet astringent taste, whence it derives its name: to its virtues the healthy state of the soldiery and convicts must be greatly attributed. It was drank universally.]
On the 24th instant the 'Supply' arrived from Norfolk Island, and Lord Howe Island, bringing from the latter place three turtles.
An awful and terrible example of justice took place towards the close of this month, which I record with regret, but which it would be disingenuous to suppress. Six marines, the flower of our battalion, were hanged by the public executioner, on the sentence of a criminal court, composed entirely of their own officers, for having at various times robbed the public stores of flour, meat, spirits, tobacco, and many other articles.
Transactions of the Colony in April and May, 1789.
An extraordinary calamity was now observed among the natives. Repeated accounts brought by our boats of finding bodies of the Indians in all the coves and inlets of the harbour, caused the gentlemen of our hospital to procure some of them for the purposes of examination and anatomy. On inspection, it appeared that all the parties had died a natural death: pustules, similar to those occasioned by the small pox, were thickly spread on the bodies; but how a disease, to which our former observations had led us to suppose them strangers, could at once have introduced itself, and have spread so widely, seemed inexplicable.* Whatever might be the cause, the existence of the malady could no longer be doubted. Intelligence was brought that an Indian family lay sick in a neighbouring cove: the governor, attended by Arabanoo, and a surgeon, went in a boat immediately to the spot. Here they found an old man stretched before a few lighted sticks, and a boy of nine or ten years old pouring water on his head, from a shell which he held in his hand: near them lay a female child dead, and a little farther off, its unfortunate mother: the body of the woman shewed that famine, superadded to disease, had occasioned her death: eruptions covered the poor boy from head to foot; and the old man was so reduced, that he was with difficulty got into the boat. Their situation rendered them incapable of escape, and they quietly submitted to be led away. Arabanoo, contrary to his usual character, seemed at first unwilling to render them any assistance; but his shyness soon wore off, and he treated them with the kindest attention. Nor would he leave the place until he had buried the corpse of the child: that of the woman he did not see from its situation; and as his countrymen did not point it out, the governor ordered that it should not be shown to him. He scooped a grave in the sand with his hands, of no peculiarity of shape, which he lined completely with grass, and put the body into it, covering it also with grass; and then he filled up the hole, and raised over it a small mound with the earth which had been removed. Here the ceremony ended, unaccompanied by any invocation to a superior being, or any attendant circumstance whence an inference of their religious opinions could be deduced.
[*No solution of this difficulty had been given when I left the country, in December, 1791. I can, therefore, only propose queries for the ingenuity of others to exercise itself upon: is it a disease indigenous to the country? Did the French ships under Monsieur de Peyrouse introduce it? Let it be remembered that they had now been departed more than a year; and we had never heard of its existence on board of them. Had it travelled across the continent from its western shore, where Dampier and other European voyagers had formerly landed? Was it introduced by Mr. Cook? Did we give it birth here? No person among us had been afflicted with the disorder since we had quitted the Cape of Good Hope, seventeen months before. It is true, that our surgeons had brought out variolous matter in bottles; but to infer that it was produced from this cause were a supposition so wild as to be unworthy of consideration.]
An uninhabited house, near the hospital, was allotted for their reception, and a cradle prepared for each of them. By the encouragement of Arabanoo, who assured them of protection, and the soothing behaviour of our medical gentlemen, they became at once reconciled to us, and looked happy and grateful at the change of their situation. Sickness and hunger had, however, so much exhausted the old man, that little hope was entertained of his recovery. As he pointed frequently to his throat, at the instance of Arabanoo, he tried to wash it with a gargle which was given to him; but the obstructed, tender state of the part rendered it impracticable. 'Bado, bado' (water), was his cry: when brought to him, he drank largely at intervals of it. He was equally importunate for fire, being seized with shivering fits; and one was kindled. Fish were produced, to tempt him to eat; but he turned away his head, with signs of loathing. Nanbaree (the boy), on the contrary, no sooner saw them than he leaped from his cradle, and eagerly seizing them, began to cook them. A warm bath being prepared, they were immersed in it; and after being thoroughly cleansed, they had clean shirts put on them, and were again laid in bed.
The old man lived but a few hours. He bore the pangs of dissolution with patient composure; and though he was sensible to the last moment, expired almost without a groan. Nanbaree appeared quite unmoved at the event; and surveyed the corpse of his father without emotion, simply exclaiming, 'boee' (dead). This surprised us; as the tenderness and anxiety of the old man about the boy had been very moving. Although barely able to raise his head, while so much strength was left to him, he kept looking into his child's cradle; he patted him gently on the bosom; and, with dying eyes, seemed to recommend him to our humanity and protection. Nanbaree was adopted by Mr. White, surgeon-general of the settlement, and became henceforth one of his family.
Arabanoo had no sooner heard of the death of his countryman, than he hastened to inter him. I was present at the ceremony, in company with the governor, captain Ball, and two or three other persons. It differed, by the accounts of those who were present at the funeral of the girl, in no respect from what had passed there in the morning, except that the grave was dug by a convict. But I was informed, that when intelligence of the death reached Arabanoo, he expressed himself with doubt whether he should bury, or burn the body; and seemed solicitous to ascertain which ceremony would be most gratifying to the governor.
Indeed, Arabanoo's behaviour, during the whole of the transactions of this day, was so strongly marked by affection to his countryman, and by confidence in us, that the governor resolved to free him from all farther restraint, and at once to trust to his generosity, and the impression which our treatment of him might have made, for his future residence among us: the fetter was accordingly taken off his leg.
In the evening, captain Ball and I crossed the harbour, and buried the corpse of the woman before mentioned.
Distress continued to drive them in upon us. Two more natives, one of them a young man, and the other his sister, a girl of fourteen years old, were brought in by the governor's boat, in a most deplorable state of wretchedness from the smallpox. The sympathy and affection of Arabanoo, which had appeared languid in the instance of Nanbaree and his father, here manifested themselves immediately. We conjectured that a difference of the tribes to which they belonged might cause the preference; but nothing afterwards happened to strengthen or confirm such a supposition. The young man died at the end of three days: the girl recovered, and was received as an inmate, with great kindness, in the family of Mrs Johnson, the clergyman's wife. Her name was Booron; but from our mistake of pronunciation she acquired that of Abaroo, by which she was generally known, and by which she will always be called in this work. She shewed, at the death of her brother more feeling than Nanbaree had witnessed for the loss of his father. When she found him dying, she crept to his side, and lay by him until forced by the cold to retire. No exclamation, or other sign of grief, however, escaped her for what had happened.
May 1789. At sunset, on the evening of the 2d instant, the arrival the 'Sirius', Captain Hunter, from the Cape of Good Hope, was proclaimed, and diffused universal joy and congratulation. The day of famine was at least procrastinated by the supply of flour and salt provisions she brought us.
The 'Sirius' had made her passage to the Cape of Good Hope, by the route of Cape Horn, in exactly thirteen weeks. Her highest latitude was 57 degrees 10 minutes south, where the weather proved intolerably cold. Ice, in great quantity, was seen for many days; and in the middle of December (which is correspondent to the middle of June, in our hemisphere), water froze in open casks upon deck, in the moderate latitude of 44 degrees.
They were very kindly treated by the Dutch governor, and amply supplied by the merchants at the Cape, where they remained seven weeks. Their passage back was effected by Van Diemen's Land, near which, and close under Tasman's Head, they were in the utmost peril of being wrecked.
In this long run, which had extended round the circle, they had always determined their longitude, to the greatest nicety, by distances taken between the sun and moon, or between the moon and a star. But it falls to the lot of very few ships to possess such indefatigable and accurate observers as Captain Hunter, and Mr. (now Captain) Bradley, the first lieutenant of the 'Sirius'.
I feel assured, that I have no reader who will not join in regretting the premature loss of Arabanoo, who died of the smallpox on the 18th instant, after languishing in it six days. From some imperfect marks and indents on his face, we were inclined to believe that he had passed this dreaded disorder. Even when the first symptoms of sickness seized him, we continued willing to hope that they proceeded from a different cause. But at length the disease burst forth with irresistible fury. It were superfluous to say, that nothing which medical skill and unremitting attention could perform, were left unexerted to mitigate his sufferings, and prolong a life, which humanity and affectionate concern towards his sick compatriots, unfortunately shortened.
During his sickness he reposed entire confidence in us. Although a stranger to medicine, and nauseating the taste of it, he swallowed with patient submission innumerable drugs,* which the hope of relief induced us to administer to him. The governor, who particularly regarded him, caused him to be buried in his own garden, and attended the funeral in person.
[*Very different had been his conduct on a former occasion of a similar kind. Soon after he was brought among us he was seized with a diarrhoea, for which he could by no persuasion be induced to swallow any of our prescriptions. After many ineffectual trials to deceive, or overcome him, it was at length determined to let him pursue his own course, and to watch if he should apply for relief to any of the productions of the country. He was in consequence observed to dig fern-root, and to chew it. Whether the disorder had passed its crisis, or whether the fern-root effected a cure, I know not; but it is certain that he became speedily well.
**The regard was reciprocal. His excellency had been ill but a short time before, when Arabanoo had testified the utmost solicitude for his case and recovery. It is probable that he acquired, on this occasion, just notions of the benefit to be derived from medical assistance. A doctor is, among them, a person of consequence. It is certain that he latterly estimated our professional gentlemen very highly.]
The character of Arabanoo, as far as we had developed it, was distinguished by a portion of gravity and steadiness, which our subsequent acquaintance with his countrymen by no means led us to conclude a national characteristic. In that daring, enterprising frame of mind, which, when combined with genius, constitutes the leader of a horde of savages, or the ruler of a people, boasting the power of discrimination and the resistance of ambition, he was certainly surpassed by some of his successors, who afterwards lived among us. His countenance was thoughtful, but not animated: his fidelity and gratitude, particularly to his friend the governor, were constant and undeviating, and deserve to be recorded. Although of a gentle and placable temper, we early discovered that he was impatient of indignity, and allowed of no superiority on our part. He knew that he was in our power; but the independence of his mind never forsook him. If the slightest insult were offered to him, he would return it with interest. At retaliation of merriment he was often happy; and frequently turned the laugh against his antagonist. He did not want docility; but either from the difficulty of acquiring our language, from the unskillfulness of his teachers, or from some natural defect, his progress in learning it was not equal to what we had expected. For the last three or four weeks of his life, hardly any restraint was laid upon his inclinations: so that had he meditated escape, he might easily have effected it. He was, perhaps, the only native who was ever attached to us from choice; and who did not prefer a precarious subsistence among wilds and precipices, to the comforts of a civilized system.
By his death, the scheme which had invited his capture was utterly defeated. Of five natives who had been brought among us, three had perished from a cause which, though unavoidable, it was impossible to explain to a people, who would condescend to enter into no intercourse with us. The same suspicious dread of our approach, and the same scenes of vengeance acted on unfortunate stragglers, continued to prevail.
Transactions of the Colony until the Close of the Year 1789.
The anniversary of his majesty's birth-day was celebrated, as heretofore, at the government-house, with loyal festivity. In the evening, the play of 'The Recruiting Officer' was performed by a party of convicts, and honoured by the presence of his excellency, and the officers of the garrison. That every opportunity of escape from the dreariness and dejection of our situation should be eagerly embraced, will not be wondered at. The exhilarating effect of a splendid theatre is well known: and I am not ashamed to confess, that the proper distribution of three or four yards of stained paper, and a dozen farthing candles stuck around the mud walls of a convict-hut, failed not to diffuse general complacency on the countenances of sixty persons, of various descriptions, who were assembled to applaud the representation. Some of the actors acquitted themselves with great spirit, and received the praises of the audience: a prologue and an epilogue, written by one of the performers, were also spoken on the occasion; which, although not worth inserting here, contained some tolerable allusions to the situation of the parties, and the novelty of a stage-representation in New South Wales.
Broken Bay, which was supposed to be completely explored, became again an object of research. On the sixth instant, the governor, accompanied by a large party in two boats, proceeded thither. Here they again wandered over piles of mis-shapen desolation, contemplating scenes of wild solitude, whose unvarying appearance renders them incapable of affording either novelty or gratification. But when they had given over the hope of farther discovery, by pursuing the windings of an inlet, which, from its appearance, was supposed to be a short creek, they suddenly found themselves at the entrance of a fresh water river, up which they proceeded twenty miles, in a westerly direction; and would have farther prosecuted their research, had not a failure of provisions obliged them to return. This river they described to be of considerable breadth, and of great depth; but its banks had hitherto presented nothing better than a counterpart of the rocks and precipices which surround Broken Bay.
June, 1789. A second expedition, to ascertain its course, was undertaken by his excellency, who now penetrated (measuring by the bed of the river) between 60 and 70 miles, when the farther progress of the boats was stopped by a fall. The water in every part was found to be fresh and good. Of the adjoining country, the opinions of those who had inspected it (of which number I was not) were so various, that I shall decline to record them. Some saw a rich and beautiful country; and others were so unfortunate as to discover little else than large tracts of low land, covered with reeds, and rank with the inundations of the stream, by which they had been recently covered. All parties, however, agreed, that the rocky, impenetrable country, seen on the first excursion, had ended nearly about the place whence the boats had then turned back. Close to the fall stands a very beautiful hill, which our adventurers mounted, and enjoyed from it an extensive prospect. Potatoes, maize, and garden seeds of various kinds were put into the earth, by the governor's order, on different parts of Richmond-hill, which was announced to be its name. The latitude of Richmond-hill, as observed by captain Hunter, was settled at 33 degrees 36 minutes south.
Here also the river received the name of Hawkesbury, in honour of the noble lord who bears that title.
Natives were found on the banks in several parts, many of whom were labouring under the smallpox. They did not attempt to commit hostilities against the boats; but on the contrary shewed every sign of welcome and friendship to the strangers.
At this period, I was unluckily invested with the command of the outpost at Rose Hill, which prevented me from being in the list of discoverers of the Hawkesbury. Stimulated, however, by a desire of acquiring a further knowledge of the country, on the 26th instant, accompanied by Mr. Arndell, assistant surgeon of the settlement, Mr. Lowes, surgeon's mate of the 'Sirius', two marines, and a convict, I left the redoubt at day-break, pointing our march to a hill, distant five miles, in a westerly or inland direction, which commands a view of the great chain of mountains, called Carmarthen hills, extending from north to south farther than the eye can reach. Here we paused, surveying "the wild abyss; pondering our voyage." Before us lay the trackless immeasurable desert, in awful silence. At length, after consultation, we determined to steer west and by north, by compass, the make of the land in that quarter indicating the existence of a river. We continued to march all day through a country untrodden before by an European foot. Save that a melancholy crow now and then flew croaking over head, or a kangaroo was seen to bound at a distance, the picture of solitude was complete and undisturbed. At four o'clock in the afternoon we halted near a small pond of water, where we took up our residence for the night, lighted a fire, and prepared to cook our supper: that was, to broil over a couple of ramrods a few slices of salt pork, and a crow which we had shot.
At daylight we renewed our peregrination; and in an hour after we found ourselves on the banks of a river, nearly as broad as the Thames at Putney, and apparently of great depth, the current running very slowly in a northerly direction. Vast flocks of wild ducks were swimming in the stream; but after being once fired at, they grew so shy that we could not get near them a second time. Nothing is more certain than that the sound of a gun had never before been heard within many miles of this spot.
We proceeded upwards, by a slow pace, through reeds, thickets, and a thousand other obstacles, which impeded our progress, over coarse sandy ground, which had been recently inundated, though full forty feet above the present level of the river. Traces of the natives appeared at every step, sometimes in their hunting-huts, which consist of nothing more than a large piece of bark, bent in the middle, and open at both ends, exactly resembling two cards, set up to form an acute angle; sometimes in marks on trees which they had climbed; or in squirrel-traps*; or, which surprised us more, from being new, in decoys for the purpose of ensnaring birds. These are formed of underwood and reeds, long and narrow, shaped like a mound raised over a grave; with a small aperture at one end for admission of the prey; and a grate made of sticks at the other: the bird enters at the aperture, seeing before him the light of the grate, between the bars of which, he vainly endeavours to thrust himself, until taken. Most of these decoys were full of feathers, chiefly those of quails, which shewed their utility. We also met with two old damaged canoes hauled up on the beach, which differed in no wise from those found on the sea coast.
[*A squirrel-trap is a cavity of considerable depth, formed by art, in the body of a tree. When the Indians in their hunting parties set fire to the surrounding country (which is a very common custom) the squirrels, opossums, and other animals, who live in trees, flee for refuge into these holes, whence they are easily dislodged and taken. The natives always pitch on a part of a tree for this purpose, which has been perforated by a worm, which indicates that the wood is in an unsound state, and will readily yield to their efforts. If the rudeness and imperfection of the tools with which they work be considered, it must be confessed to be an operation of great toil and difficulty.]
Having remained out three days, we returned to our quarters at Rose-hill, with the pleasing intelligence of our discovery. The country we had passed through we found tolerably plain, and little encumbered with underwood, except near the river side. It is entirely covered with the same sorts of trees as grow near Sydney; and in some places grass springs up luxuriantly; other places are quite bare of it. The soil is various: in many parts a stiff and clay, covered with small pebbles; in other places, of a soft loamy nature: but invariably, in every part near the river, it is a coarse sterile sand. Our observations on it (particularly mine, from carrying the compass by which we steered) were not so numerous as might have been wished. But, certainly, if the qualities of it be such as to deserve future cultivation, no impediment of surface, but that of cutting down and burning the trees, exists, to prevent its being tilled.
To this river the governor gave the name of Nepean. The distance of the part of the river which we first hit upon from the sea coast, is about 39 miles, in a direct line almost due west.
A survey of Botany Bay took place in September. I was of the party, with several others officers. We continued nine days in the bay, during which time, the relative position of every part of it, to the extent of more than thirty miles, following the windings of the shore, was ascertained, and laid down on paper, by captain Hunter.
So complete an opportunity of forming a judgment, enables me to speak decisively of a place, which has often engaged conversation and excited reflection. Variety of opinions here disappeared. I shall, therefore, transcribe literally what I wrote in my journal, on my return from the expedition. "We were unanimously of opinion, that had not the nautical part of Mr. Cook's description, in which we include the latitude and longitude of the bay, been so accurately laid down, there would exist the utmost reason to believe, that those who have described the contiguous country, had never seen it. On the sides of the harbour, a line of sea coast more than thirty miles long, we did not find 200 acres which could be cultivated."
September, 1789. But all our attention was not directed to explore inlets, and toll for discovery. Our internal tranquillity was still more important. To repress the inroads of depredation; and to secure to honest industry the reward of its labour, had become matter of the most serious consideration; hardly a night passing without the commission of robbery. Many expedients were devised; and the governor at length determined to select from the convicts, a certain number of persons, who were meant to be of the fairest character, for the purpose of being formed into a nightly-watch, for the preservation of public and private property, under the following regulations, which, as the first system of police in a colony, so peculiarly constituted as ours, may perhaps prove not uninteresting.
I. A night-watch, consisting of 12 persons, divided into four parties, is appointed, and fully authorized to patrol at all hours in the night; and to visit such places as may be deemed necessary, for the discovery of any felony, trespass, or misdemeanor; and for the apprehending and securing for examination, any person or persons who may appear to them concerned therein, either by entrance into any suspected hut or dwelling, or by such other measure as may seem to them expedient.
II. Those parts in which the convicts reside are to be divided and numbered, in the following manner. The convict huts on the eastern side of the stream, and the public farm, are to be the first division. Those at the brick-kilns, and the detached parties in the different private farms in that district, are to be the second division. Those on the western side of the stream, as far as the line which separates the district of the women from the men, to be the third division. The huts occupied from that line to the hospital, and from there to the observatory, to be the fourth division.
III. Each of these districts or divisions is to be under the particular inspection of one person, who may be judged qualified to inform himself of the actual residence of each individual in his district; as well as of his business, connections, and acquaintances.
IV. Cognizance is to be taken of such convicts as may sell or barter their slops or provisions; and also of such as are addicted to gaming for either of the aforesaid articles, who are to be reported to the judge advocate.
V. Any soldier or seaman found straggling after the beating of the tattoo; or who may be found in a convict's hut, is to be detained; and information of him immediately given to the nearest guard.
VI. Any person who may be robbed during the night, is to give immediate information thereof to the watch of his district, who, on the instant of application being made, shall use the most effectual means to trace out the offender, or offenders, so that he, she, or they, may be brought to justice.
VII. The watch of each district is to be under the direction of one person, who will be named for that purpose. All the patrols are placed under the immediate inspection of Herbert Keeling. They are never to receive any fee, gratuity, or reward, from any individual whatever, to engage their exertions in the execution of the above trust. Nor will they receive any stipulated encouragement for the conviction of any offender. But their diligence and good behaviour will be rewarded by the governor. And for this purpose their conduct will be strictly attended to, by those who are placed in authority over them.
VIII. The night-watch is to go out as soon as the tattoo ceases beating: to return to their huts when the working drum beats in the morning: and are to make their report to the judge advocate, through Herbert Keeling, of all robberies and misdemeanors which may have been committed. Any assistance the patrols may require, will be given to them, on applying to the officer commanding the nearest guard; and by the civil power, if necessary; for which last, application is to be made to the provost martial.
IX. Any negligence on the part of those who shall be employed on this duty, will be punished with the utmost rigour of the law.
X. The night-watch is to consist of 12 persons.
Every political code, either from a defect of its constitution, or from the corruptness of those who are entrusted to execute it, will be found less perfect in practice than speculation had promised itself. It were, however, prejudice to deny, that for some time following the institution of this patrol, nightly depredations became less frequent and alarming: the petty villains, at least, were restrained by it. And to keep even a garden unravaged was now become a subject of the deepest concern.
For in October our weekly allowance of provisions, which had hitherto been eight pounds of flour, five pounds of salt pork, three pints of pease, six ounces of butter, was reduced to five pounds five ounces of flour, three pounds five ounces of pork, and two pints of pease.
In order to lessen the consumption from the public stores, the 'Supply' was ordered to touch at Lord Howe Island, in her way from Norfolk Island, to try if turtle could be procured, for the purpose of being publicly served in lieu of salt provisions. But she brought back only three turtles, which were distributed in the garrison.
December, 1789. At the request of his excellency, lieutenant Dawes of the marines, accompanied by lieutenant Johnston and Mr. Lowes, about this time undertook the attempt to cross the Nepean river, and to penetrate to Carmarthen mountains. Having discovered a ford in the river, they passed it, and proceeded in a westerly direction. But they found the country so rugged, and the difficulty of walking so excessive, that in three days they were able to penetrate only fifteen miles, and were therefore obliged to relinquish their object. This party, at the time they turned back, were farther inland than any other persons ever were before or since, being fifty-four miles in a direct line from the sea coast when on the summit of mount Twiss, a hill so named by them, and which bounded their peregrination.
Intercourse with the natives, for the purpose of knowing whether or not the country possessed any resources, by which life might be prolonged*, as well as on other accounts, becoming every day more desirable, the governor resolved to make prisoners of two more of them.
[*One of the convicts, a negro, had twice eloped, with an intention of establishing himself in the society of the natives, with a wish to adopt their customs and to live with them: but he was always repulsed by them; and compelled to return to us from hunger and wretchedness.]
Boats properly provided, under the command of lieutenant Bradley of the 'Sirius', were accordingly dispatched on this service; and completely succeeded in trepanning and carrying off, without opposition, two fine young men, who were safely landed among us at Sydney.
Nanbaree and Abaroo welcomed them on shore; calling them immediately by their names, Baneelon (Bennelong), and Colbee. But they seemed little disposed to receive the congratulations, or repose confidence in the assurances of their friends. The same scenes of awkward wonder and impatient constraint, which had attended the introduction of Arabanoo, succeeded. Baneelon we judged to be about twenty-six years old, of good stature, and stoutly made, with a bold intrepid countenance, which bespoke defiance and revenge. Colbee was perhaps near thirty, of a less sullen aspect than his comrade, considerably shorter, and not so robustly framed, though better fitted for purposes of activity. They had both evidently had the smallpox; indeed Colbee's face was very thickly imprinted with the marks of it.
Positive orders were issued by the governor to treat them indulgently, and guard them strictly; notwithstanding which Colbee contrived to effect his escape in about a week, with a small iron ring round his leg. Had those appointed to watch them been a moment later, his companion would have contrived to accompany him.
But Baneelon, though haughty, knew how to temporize. He quickly threw off all reserve; and pretended, nay, at particular moments, perhaps felt satisfaction in his new state. Unlike poor Arabanoo, he became at once fond of our viands, and would drink the strongest liquors, not simply without reluctance, but with eager marks of delight and enjoyment. He was the only native we ever knew who immediately shewed a fondness for spirits: Colbee would not at first touch them. Nor was the effect of wine or brandy upon him more perceptible than an equal quantity would have produced upon one of us, although fermented liquor was new to him.
In his eating, he was alike compliant. When a turtle was shown to Arabanoo, he would not allow it to be a fish, and could not be induced to eat of it. Baneelon also denied it to be a fish; but no common councilman in Europe could do more justice than he did to a very fine one, that the 'Supply' had brought from Lord Howe Island, and which was served up at the governor's table on Christmas Day.
His powers of mind were certainly far above mediocrity. He acquired knowledge, both of our manners and language, faster than his predecessor had done. He willingly communicated information; sang, danced, and capered, told us all the customs of his country, and all the details of his family economy. Love and war seemed his favourite pursuits; in both of which he had suffered severely. His head was disfigured by several scars; a spear had passed through his arm, and another through his leg. Half of one of his thumbs was carried away; and the mark of a wound appeared on the back of his hand. The cause and attendant circumstances of all these disasters, except one, he related to us.
"But the wound on the back of your hand, Baneelon! How did you get that?"
He laughed, and owned that it was received in carrying off a lady of another tribe by force. "I was dragging her away. She cried aloud, and stuck her teeth in me."
"And what did you do then?"
"I knocked her down, and beat her till she was insensible, and covered with blood. Then..."
Whenever he recounted his battles, "poised his lance, and showed how fields were won", the most violent exclamations of rage and vengeance against his competitors in arms, those of the tribe called Cameeragal in particular, would burst from him. And he never failed at such times to solicit the governor to accompany him, with a body of soldiers, in order that he might exterminate this hated name.
Although I call him only Baneelon, he had besides several appellations, and for a while he chose to be distinguished by that of Wolarawaree. Again, as a mark of affection and respect to the governor, he conferred on him the name of Wolarawaree, and sometimes called him 'Beenena' (father), adopting to himself the name of governor. This interchange we found is a constant symbol of friendship among them*. In a word, his temper seemed pliant, and his relish of our society so great, that hardly any one judged he would attempt to quit us, were the means of escape put within his reach. Nevertheless it was thought proper to continue a watch over him.
[*It is observable that this custom prevails as a pledge of friendship and kindness all over Asia, and has also been mentioned by Captain Cook to exist among the natives in the South Sea Islands.]
Transactions of the Colony, from the Beginning of the Year 1790 until the End of May following.
Our impatience of news from Europe strongly marked the commencement of the year. We had now been two years in the country, and thirty-two months from England, in which long period no supplies, except what had been procured at the Cape of Good Hope by the 'Sirius', had reached us. From intelligence of our friends and connections we had been entirely cut off, no communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th of May 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth. Famine besides was approaching with gigantic strides, and gloom and dejection overspread every countenance. Men abandoned themselves to the most desponding reflections, and adopted the most extravagant conjectures.
Still we were on the tiptoe of expectation. If thunder broke at a distance, or a fowling-piece of louder than ordinary report resounded in the woods, "a gun from a ship" was echoed on every side, and nothing but hurry and agitation prevailed. For eighteen months after we had landed in the country, a party of marines used to go weekly to Botany Bay, to see whether any vessel, ignorant of our removal to Port Jackson, might be arrived there. But a better plan was now devised, on the suggestion of captain Hunter. A party of seamen were fixed on a high bluff, called the South-head, at the entrance of the harbour, on which a flag was ordered to be hoisted, whenever a ship might appear, which should serve as a direction to her, and as a signal of approach to us. Every officer stepped forward to volunteer a service which promised to be so replete with beneficial consequences. But the zeal and alacrity of captain Hunter, and our brethren of the 'Sirius', rendered superfluous all assistance or co-operation.
Here on the summit of the hill, every morning from daylight until the sun sunk, did we sweep the horizon, in hope of seeing a sail. At every fleeting speck which arose from the bosom of the sea, the heart bounded, and the telescope was lifted to the eye. If a ship appeared here, we knew she must be bound to us; for on the shores of this vast ocean (the largest in the world) we were the only community which possessed the art of navigation, and languished for intercourse with civilized society.
To say that we were disappointed and shocked, would very inadequately describe our sensations. But the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even by those who have suffered under it.
March, 1790. Vigorous measures were become indispensable. The governor therefore, early in February, ordered the 'Sirius' to prepare for a voyage to China; and a farther retrenchment of our ration, we were given to understand, would take place on her sailing.
But the 'Sirius' was destined not to reach China. Previously to her intended departure on that voyage, she was ordered, in concert with the 'Supply', to convey Major Ross, with a large detachment of marines, and more than two hundred convicts, to Norfolk Island, it being hoped that such a division of our numbers would increase the means of subsistence, by diversified exertions. She sailed on the 6th of March. And on the 27th of the same month, the following order was issued from headquarters.
The expected supply of provisions not having arrived, makes it necessary to reduce the present ration. And the commissary is directed to issue, from the 1st of April, the under-mentioned allowance, to every person in the settlement without distinction.
Four pounds of flour, two pounds and a half of salt pork, and one pound and a half of rice, per week.
On the 5th of April news was brought, that the flag on the South-head was hoisted. Less emotion was created by the news than might be expected. Every one coldly said to his neighbour, "the 'Sirius' and 'Supply' are returned from Norfolk Island." To satisfy myself that the flag was really flying, I went to the observatory, and looked for it through the large astronomical telescope, when I plainly saw it. But I was immediately convinced that it was not to announce the arrival of ships from England; for I could see nobody near the flagstaff except one solitary being, who kept strolling around, unmoved by what he saw. I well knew how different an effect the sight of strange ships would produce.
April, 1790. The governor, however, determined to go down the harbour, and I begged permission to accompany him. Having turned a point about half way down, we were surprised to see a boat, which was known to belong to the 'Supply', rowing towards us. On nearer approach, I saw captain Ball make an extraordinary motion with his hand, which too plainly indicated that something disastrous had happened; and I could not help turning to the governor, near whom I sat, and saying, "Sir, prepare yourself for bad news." A few minutes changed doubt into certainty; and to our unspeakable consternation we learned, that the 'Sirius' had been wrecked on Norfolk Island, on the 19th of February. Happily, however, Captain Hunter, and every other person belonging to her, were saved.
Dismay was painted on every countenance, when the tidings were proclaimed at Sydney. The most distracting apprehensions were entertained All hopes were now concentred in the little 'Supply'.
At six o'clock in the evening, all the officers of the garrison, both civil and military, were summoned to meet the governor in council, when the nature of our situation was fully discussed and an account of the provisions yet remaining in store laid before the council by the commissary. This account stated, that on the present ration* the public stores contained salt meat sufficient to serve until the 2nd of July, flour until the 20th of August, and rice, or pease in lieu of it, until the 1st of October.
[*See the ration of the 27th of March, a few pages back.]
Several regulations for the more effectual preservation of gardens, and other private property, were proposed, and adopted and after some interchange of opinion, the following ration was decreed to commence immediately, a vigorous exertion to prolong existence, or the chance of relief, being all now left to us.
Two pounds of pork, two pounds and a half of flour, two pounds of rice, or a quart of pease, per week, to every grown person, and to every child of more than eighteen months old.
To every child under eighteen months old, the same quantity of rice and flour, and one pound of pork.**
[**When the age of this provision is recollected, its inadequacy will more strikingly appear. The pork and rice were brought with us from England. The pork had been salted between three and four years, and every grain of rice was a moving body, from the inhabitants lodged within it. We soon left off boiling the pork, as it had become so old and dry, that it shrunk one half in its dimensions when so dressed. Our usual method of cooking it was to cut off the daily morsel, and toast it on a fork before the fire, catching the drops which fell on a slice of bread, or in a saucer of rice. Our flour was the remnant of what was brought from the Cape, by the 'Sirius', and was good. Instead of baking it, the soldiers and convicts used to boil it up with greens.]
The immediate departure of the 'Supply', for Batavia, was also determined.
Nor did our zeal stop here. The governor being resolved to employ all the boats, public and private, in procuring fish—which was intended to be served in lieu of salt meat—all the officers, civil and military, including the clergyman, and the surgeons of the hospital, made the voluntary offer, in addition to their other duties, to go alternately every night in these boats, in order to see that every exertion was made, and that all the fish which might be caught was deposited with the commissary.
The best marksmen of the marines and convicts were also selected, and put under the command of a trusty sergeant, with directions to range the woods in search of kangaroos, which were ordered, when brought in, to be delivered to the commissary.
And as it was judged that the inevitable fatigues of shooting and fishing could not be supported on the common ration, a small additional quantity of flour and pork was appropriated to the use of the game-keepers; and each fisherman, who had been out during the preceding night had, on his return in the morning, a pound of uncleaned fish allowed for his breakfast.
On the 17th instant, the 'Supply', captain Ball, sailed for Batavia. We followed her with anxious eyes until she was no longer visible. Truly did we say to her "In te omnis domus inclinata recumbit." We were, however, consoled by reflecting, that every thing which zeal, fortitude, and seamanship, could produce, was concentred in her commander.
Our bosoms consequently became less perturbed; and all our labour and attention were turned on one object—the procuring of food. "Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war" were no more.
The distress of the lower classes for clothes was almost equal to their other wants. The stores had been long exhausted, and winter was at hand. Nothing more ludicrous can be conceived than the expedients of substituting, shifting, and patching, which ingenuity devised, to eke out wretchedness, and preserve the remains of decency. The superior dexterity of the women was particularly conspicuous. Many a guard have I seen mount, in which the number of soldiers without shoes exceeded that which had yet preserved remnants of leather.
Nor was another part of our domestic economy less whimsical. If a lucky man, who had knocked down a dinner with his gun, or caught a fish by angling from the rocks, invited a neighbour to dine with him, the invitation always ran, "bring your own bread." Even at the governor's table, this custom was constantly observed. Every man when he sat down pulled his bread out of his pocket, and laid it by his plate.
The insufficiency of our ration soon diminished our execution of labour. Both soldiers and convicts pleaded such loss of strength, as to find themselves unable to perform their accustomed tasks. The hours of public work were accordingly shortened or, rather, every man was ordered to do as much as his strength would permit, and every other possible indulgence was granted.
May, 1790. In proportion, however, as lenity and mitigation were extended to inability and helplessness, inasmuch was the most rigorous justice executed on disturbers of the public tranquillity. Persons detected in robbing gardens, or pilfering provisions, were never screened because, as every man could possess, by his utmost exertions, but a bare sufficiency to preserve life*, he who deprived his neighbour of that little, drove him to desperation. No new laws for the punishment of theft were enacted; but persons of all descriptions were publicly warned, that the severest penalties, which the existing law in its greatest latitude would authorise, should be inflicted on offenders. The following sentence of a court of justice, of which I was a member, on a convict detected in a garden stealing potatoes, will illustrate the subject. He was ordered to receive three hundred lashes immediately, to be chained for six months to two other criminals, who were thus fettered for former offences, and to have his allowance of flour stopped for six months. So that during the operation of the sentence, two pounds of pork, and two pounds of rice (or in lieu of the latter, a quart of pease) per week, constituted his whole subsistence. Such was the melancholy length to which we were compelled to stretch our penal system.
[*Its preservation in some cases was found impracticable. Three or four instances of persons who perished from want have been related to me. One only, however, fell within my own observation. I was passing the provision store, when a man, with a wild haggard countenance, who had just received his daily pittance to carry home, came out. His faltering gait, and eager devouring eye, led me to watch him, and he had not proceeded ten steps before he fell. I ordered him to be carried to the hospital, where, when he arrived, he was found dead. On opening the body, the cause of death was pronounced to be inanition.]
Farther to contribute to the detection of villainy, a proclamation, offering a reward of sixty pounds of flour, more tempting than the ore of Peru or Potosi, was promised to any one who should apprehend, and bring to justice, a robber of garden ground.
Our friend Baneelon, during this season of scarcity, was as well taken care of as our desperate circumstances would allow. We knew not how to keep him, and yet were unwilling to part with him. Had he penetrated our state, perhaps he might have given his countrymen such a description of our diminished numbers, and diminished strength, as would have emboldened them to become more troublesome. Every expedient was used to keep him in ignorance. His allowance was regularly received by the governor's servant, like that of any other person, but the ration of a week was insufficient to have kept him for a day. The deficiency was supplied by fish whenever it could be procured, and a little Indian corn, which had been reserved was ground and appropriated to his use. In spite of all these aids, want of food has been known to make him furious and often melancholy.
There is reason to believe that he had long meditated his escape, which he effected in the night of the 3rd instant. About two o'clock in the morning, he pretended illness, and awaking the servant who lay in the room with him, begged to go down stairs. The other attended him without suspicion of his design; and Baneelon no sooner found himself in a backyard, than he nimbly leaped over a slight paling, and bade us adieu.
The following public order was issued within the date of this chapter, and is too pleasing a proof that universal depravity did not prevail among the convicts, to be omitted.
The governor, in consequence of the unremitted good behaviour and meritorious conduct of John Irving, is pleased to remit the remainder of the term for which he was sentenced to transportation. He is therefore to be considered as restored to all those rights and privileges, which had been suspended in consequence of the sentence of the law. And as such, he is hereby appointed to act as an assistant to the surgeon at Norfolk Island.
Transactions of the Colony in June, July, and August, 1790.
At length the clouds of misfortune began to separate, and on the evening of the 3rd of June, the joyful cry of "the flag's up" resounded in every direction.
I was sitting in my hut, musing on our fate, when a confused clamour in the street drew my attention. I opened my door, and saw several women with children in their arms running to and fro with distracted looks, congratulating each other, and kissing their infants with the most passionate and extravagant marks of fondness. I needed no more; but instantly started out, and ran to a hill, where, by the assistance of a pocket glass, my hopes were realized. My next door neighbour, a brother-officer, was with me, but we could not speak. We wrung each other by the hand, with eyes and hearts overflowing.
Finding that the governor intended to go immediately in his boat down the harbour, I begged to be of his party.
As we proceeded, the object of our hopes soon appeared: a large ship, with English colours flying, working in, between the heads which form the entrance of the harbour. The tumultuous state of our minds represented her in danger; and we were in agony. Soon after, the governor, having ascertained what she was, left us, and stepped into a fishing boat to return to Sydney. The weather was wet and tempestuous but the body is delicate only when the soul is at ease. We pushed through wind and rain, the anxiety of our sensations every moment redoubling. At last we read the word 'London' on her stern. "Pull away, my lads! She is from Old England! A few strokes more, and we shall be aboard! Hurrah for a bellyfull, and news from our friends!" Such were our exhortations to the boat's crew.
A few minutes completed our wishes, and we found ourselves on board the 'Lady Juliana' transport, with two hundred and twenty-five of our countrywomen whom crime or misfortune had condemned to exile. We learned that they had been almost eleven months on their passage, having left Plymouth, into which port they had put in July, 1789. We continued to ask a thousand questions on a breath. Stimulated by curiosity, they inquired in turn; but the right of being first answered, we thought, lay on our side. "Letters, letters!" was the cry. They were produced, and torn open in trembling agitation. News burst upon us like meridian splendor on a blind man. We were overwhelmed with it: public, private, general, and particular. Nor was it until some days had elapsed, that we were able to methodise it, or reduce it into form. We now heard for the first time of our sovereign's illness, and his happy restoration to health. The French revolution of 1789, with all the attendant circumstances of that wonderful and unexpected event, succeeded to amaze us*. Now, too, the disaster which had befallen the 'Guardian', and the liberal and enlarged plan on which she had been stored and fitted out by government for our use, was promulged. It served also, in some measure, to account why we had not sooner heard from England. For had not the 'Guardian' struck on an island of ice, she would probably have reached us three months before, and in this case have prevented the loss of the 'Sirius', although she had sailed from England three months after the 'Lady Juliana'.