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STATISTICAL, HISTORICAL, AND POLITICAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COLONY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, AND ITS DEPENDENT SETTLEMENTS IN VAN DIEMEN'S LAND: WITH A PARTICULAR ENUMERATION OF THE ADVANTAGES WHICH THESE COLONIES OFFER FOR EMIGRATION, AND THEIR SUPERIORITY IN MANY RESPECTS OVER THOSE POSSESSED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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BY WILLIAM CHARLES WENTWORTH, ESQ.
A NATIVE OF THE COLONY
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LONDON: PRINTED FOR G. AND W. B. WHITTAKER
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PART I. STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF THE SETTLEMENTS IN NEW HOLLAND.
PART II. OPERATION OF THE EXISTING SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT IN THE COLONY FOR THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS.
PART III. VARIOUS ALTERATIONS SUGGESTED IN THE PRESENT POLICY OF THIS COLONY.
PART IV. VARIOUS CHANGES PROPOSED IN THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT.
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There can be little doubt that when my great-grandfather began to write this book, his thoughts were centred on the objective which he describes in his own Preface—the diversion to Australia of some part of the stream of emigration then running from the British Isles to North America. Perhaps, even more urgently, he may have wanted to forestall any British tendency to withdraw from the colony and abandon New South Wales altogether.
But as he wrote, he found that he had to make some explanation for the defects which he saw in the current life of the colony, and naturally he was led into propounding some way in which these defects could be overcome. Contemporary reviewers, then, were not so far wrong when theycommented that the book looked almost like two books written by separate hands.
The secondary theme became the most important part of the book, because the remedies he then proposed for his country's ills became the guidelines for his own policies when he returned to Australia. Through the influences which he and his friends exerted over the next thirty years, these policies determined much of the course of Australian history in those times. Most of his proposals were eventually accepted, though in some cases much later than he wanted, and in some cases with modifications which he himself made or which were forced on him by the pressure of events.
At the time he wrote this book he was in his middle twenties, having returned to England to complete his education soon after participating in the first crossing of the Blue Mountains. Waterloo had just been won; Europe was settling down and trying to forget Napoleon. The wounds of the American Revolution were closing; British merchants and industrialists were preparing to change the face of the world in accordance with the precepts of Adam Smith.
In his attempt to divert the migration stream he was no enemy of America, (indeed he had chosen the name "Vermont" for his own farm on the Nepean) but he was perhaps the first Australian really to support Macquarie's drive for Australian expansion and Australian independence from London administration. He did this at a time when some influential Englishmen were urging the abandonment of the whole Botany Bay venture, which, after thirty years, was still not self-supporting and which seemed doomed to suffer from recurrent crises.
Apparently Macquarie had dreamed of a great transcontinental river, which was to flow 2,000 miles westwards from the Dividing Range, through fertile and well-watered fields, until it reached the sea somewhere on the north-west coast. The Lachlan had been found to peter out into swamps, but Oxley believed that the Macquarie River would have a happier issue, and at the time of the first Edition of this book (1819) that theory was still tenable. It was not long, of course, before these hopes were to perish in the Macquarie Marshes, to be succeeded by prospects of a mythical Inland Sea, though it was decades before the enthusiasts realised that they would have to be satisfied with Lake Eyre.
This first edition accepts as fact the phantom of that transcontinental stream and expatiates on the blessings which it would bring, patterning its concept of the Heart of the Australian Continent upon what was known of the Great Plains of America, then just being opened up. Any child with an Atlas in hand can now decry the mistake of having given to this concept more credence than did Oxley or Macquarie: does not hindsight make history so simple?
Abandonment of simple optimism on this physical fact must have been quick and uncomfortable: but abandonment of some other precepts must have been slow and more painful. At the time of this first edition, the influence of the Enlightenment was completing its penetration into politics and economics. Man had only to be given freedom, and he would enter into a political Paradise: the forces of the free market had only to be left untrammelled, and they would create of themselves an economic Eden!
These are the enthusiasms of the first edition, where Bligh represents the forces of repression and darkness, while Macquarie and Macarthur are both to be numbered among the angels. By the time of the third edition (1824, nearly contemporary with the author's return to Australia) the winds of change had blown through the Australian scene. Bigge had presented his Report, which destroyed so much of Macquarie's work, and the Exclusives, in the author's view, were leagued with enemies of Australian identity.
For the next thirty years the politics of New South Wales were vigorous and variegated. Nobody who was at their centre could have maintained all his illusions as to the essential goodness of human nature, if only it could be freed from the unnatural chains with which society had bound it. Nor could anyone who participated in the commercial life of those times, who had lived, for example, through the depression of the forties, have preserved untarnished the precepts of Ricardo—published only a few years before 1819, and accepted as gospel in that first edition.
So some of those 1819 enthusiasms had to be abandoned: but the objectives were not. Most of them were eventually to be translated into action and actuality. It was in their modification, perhaps, that the author was to display most of all his foresight and acumen. From 1848 onwards he recognised the true nature of "the spectre which haunted Europe"—and which still haunts the world. From then onwards he was not to write in the way which he wrote here.
W. C. Wentworth
24th February, 1978
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It may prevent those inquiries that would be naturally made by the public, respecting the manner in which the author acquired the information contained in this work, when he states that he was born in the colony of New South Wales, and that he resided there for about five years since his arrival at the age of maturity. This is a period which will, at least, be allowed to have been sufficient for acquiring a correct knowledge of its state and government, and for enabling him to observe the destructive tendency of those measures, of which it has been his endeavour to demonstrate the injustice and impolicy, and to procure the speedy repeal. He would not, however, have it concluded that the present work has been the result of mature and systematic reflection; it is, on the contrary, a hasty production, which originated in the casual suggestions of an acquaintance, and which was never contemplated by him, during his long residence in the colony. He has consequently been obliged not only to omit giving a detail of many interesting facts, with which he might have become acquainted previously to his departure, but has also been under the necessity of relying in a great measure on the fidelity of his memory for the accuracy of many of those circumstances which he has stated: still he is not without hope, that five years attentive observation will have enabled him to communicate many particulars, of which, in the absence of abler works on the same subject, most of the inhabitants of this country cannot but be ignorant, and many must wish to be apprized.
His only aim in obtruding this hasty production on the public, is to promote the welfare and prosperity of the country which gave him birth; and he has judged that he could in no way so effectually contribute his mite towards the accomplishment of this end, as by attempting to divert from the United States of America to its shores, some part of that vast tide of emigration, which is at present flowing thither from all parts of Europe. In furtherance, therefore, of this design, he has described the superior advantages of climate and soil possessed by this colony; he has explained the causes why these natural superiorities have not yet been productive of those beneficial consequences which might have been expected from them; he has pointed out the arguments which offer for the abandonment of the present system, and the substitution of another in its place; and by adducing, in fine, what he considers to be irrefragable proofs of the expediency, merely as it regards the parent country, of adopting the measures which he has proposed, he hopes that he shall eventually occasion an alteration of polity, by which both the parties concerned will be equally benefited. He has not, however, presumed on a contingency which it is thus reasonable to believe cannot be either doubtful or remote; but has restricted himself to an enumeration of the inducements to emigration which exist under actual circumstances; and, by comparing them with the advantages which those writers, who have given the most favourable accounts of the United States, have represented them as possessing, he has proved that this colony, labouring as it is under all the discouragements of an arbitrary and impolitic government, has still a great and decided preponderancy in the balance. How much this preponderancy will be increased, whenever the changes and modifications which he has ventured to suggest, shall be in whole, or in part carried into effect, he has left to all such as are desirous of emigrating, to form their own estimate; and to decide also how much longer a system so highly burdensome to the parent country, and so radically defective in its principles and operation, is likely to be tolerated. To all those, who are of opinion with him that it cannot be of much longer duration, the inducements for giving this colony the preference will become so weighty, as scarcely to admit of the possibility that they should hesitate for a moment in their choice between the two countries.
If, in the course of this work, he has spoken in terms of unqualified reprobation of the baneful system to which the unhappy place of his nativity has been the victim, he would have it distinctly understood, that it has been furthest from his thoughts to connect the censure which he has bestowed on it, with those who have permitted its continuance. He is too deeply impressed with a sense of the arduous and momentous nature of the contest which they have had to conduct, not to allow that it was justly entitled to their first and chief attention. Our whole colonial system, in fact, he considers to have been but a mere under plot in the great drama that was acting. It could not, therefore, be reasonably expected that the grievances of any one colony should become the subject of minute and particular investigation; and still less could it be imagined that the government should convert their attention to the relief of one, which has comparatively excited but a small share of public interest, and has hitherto been considered more in the light of a prison, than of what he has endeavoured to prove it might be rendered,—one of the most useful and valuable appendages of the empire. This apology, however, for the neglect which the colony has experienced during the war, cannot be pleaded in vindication of a perseverance in the same impolitic and oppressive course in time of peace. Nor is it to be wondered at, as upwards of three years have now elapsed since the consolidation of the tranquillity of the world, that the colonists should begin to feel indignant at the continuance of disabilities, for the abrogation of which the most powerful considerations of justice and expediency have been urged in vain. To remove such just grounds for dissatisfaction and complaint, and to allow them, at length, the enjoyment of those rights and privileges, of which they ought never to have been debarred, would, at best, be but a poor compensation for an impeded agriculture and languishing commerce; but it is the only one that can now be offered; and, although it cannot repair the wide ravages which so many years of unmerited and absurd restrictions have occasioned, it may arrest the progress of desolation, and prevent any further increase to the numbers who have already sunk beneath the pressure of an overwhelming system. It is, therefore, to be hoped that the cause of humanity will no longer be outraged by unnecessary delay, and that the only atonement, which can be made the colonists for their past and present sufferings, will no longer be withheld.
The author is fully aware that, in the course of this work, he has developed no new principle of political economy, and that he has only travelled in the broad beaten path in which hundreds have journeyed before him. For troubling, therefore, the public with a repetition of principles, of which the truth is so generally known and acknowledged, the only plea he can urge in his justification is a hope that the reiteration of them will not be deemed unnecessary and obtrusive, so long as their application is incomplete; so long as vice and misery prevail in any part of the world, from the want of their adoption and enforcement.
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NEW SOUTH WALES.
STATISTICAL ACCOUNT OF THE SETTLEMENTS IN NEW HOLLAND.
The colony of New South Wales is situated on the eastern coast of New Holland. This island, which was first discovered by the Dutch in 1616, lies between the 9 degrees and 39 degrees of south latitude, and the 108 degrees and 153 degrees of east longitude; and from its immense size, seems rather to merit the appellation of continent, which many geographers have bestowed on it. Since that period it has been visited and examined by a galaxy of celebrated navigators, among whom Cook and Flinders rank the most conspicuous. Still the survey of this large portion of the world cannot, by any means, be deemed complete; since not one of all the navigators who have laid down the various parts of its coasts, has discovered the mouth of any considerable river; and it is hardly within the scope of possible belief, that a country of such vast extent does not possess at least one river, which may deserve to be ranked in the class of "rivers of the first magnitude."
If a judgment were formed of this island from the general aspect of the country bordering the sea, it would be pronounced one of the most barren spots on the face of the globe. Experience, however, has proved that such an opinion would be exactly the reverse of truth; since, as far as the interior has been explored, its general fertility amply compensates for the extreme sterility of the coast.
The greater part of this country is covered with timber of a gigantic growth, but of an entirely different description from the timber of Europe. It is, however, very durable, and well adapted to all the purposes of human industry.
The only metal yet discovered is iron. It abounds in every part of the country, and is in some places purer than in any other part of the world. Coals are found in many places of the best quality. There is also abundance of slate, limestone and granite, though not in the immediate vicinity of Port Jackson. Sand-stone, quartz, and freestone are found every where.
The rivers and seas teem with excellent fish; but the eel and smelt, the mullet, whiting, mackarel, sole, skate, and John Dory are, I believe, the only sorts known in this country.
The animals are, the kangaroo, native dog, (which is a smaller species of the wolf,) the wombat, bandicoot, kangaroo rat, opossum, flying squirrel, flying fox, etc. etc. There are none of those animals or birds which go by the name of "game" in this country, except the heron. The hare, pheasant and partridge are quite unknown; but there are wild ducks, widgeon, teal, quail, pigeons, plovers, snipes, etc. etc., with emus, black swans, cockatoos, parrots, parroquets, and an infinite variety of smaller birds, which are not found in any other country. In fact, both its animal and vegetable kingdoms are in a great measure peculiar to itself.
There are many poisonous reptiles in this country, but few accidents happen either to the aborigines, or the colonists from their bite. Of these the centipede, tarantula, scorpion, slow-worm, and the snake, are the most to be dreaded; particularly the latter, since there are, I believe, at least thirty varieties of them, of which all but one are venomous in the highest degree.
The aborigines of this country occupy the lowest place in the gradatory scale of the human species. They have neither houses nor clothing; they are entirely unacquainted with the arts of agriculture; and even the arms which the several tribes have, to protect themselves from the aggressions of their neighbours, and the hunting and fishing implements with which they administer to their support, are of the rudest contrivance and workmanship.
Thirty years intercourse with Europeans has not effected the slightest change in their habits; and even those who have most intermixed with the colonists, have never been prevailed upon to practise one of the arts of civilized life. Disdaining all restraint, their happiness is still centered in their original pursuits; and they seem to consider the superior enjoyments to be derived from civilization, (for they are very far from being insensible to them) but a poor compensation for the sacrifice of any portion of their natural liberty. The colour of these people is a dark chocolate; their features bear a strong resemblance to the African negro; they have the same flat nose, large nostrils, wide mouth and thick lips; but their hair is not woolly, except in Van Dieman's Land, where they have this further characteristic of the negro.
These people bear no resemblance to any of the inhabitants of the surrounding islands, except to those of New Guinea, which is only separated from New Holland by a narrow strait. One of these islands, therefore, has evidently been peopled by the other; but from whence the original stock was derived is one of those geographical problems, which in all probability will never be satisfactorily solved.
Rude and barbarous as are the aborigines of this country, they have still some confused notions of a Supreme Being and of a future state. It would, however, be foreign to the purposes to which I have limited myself, to enter into a detail of their customs and manners; nor would it, indeed, be the means of increasing the fund of public knowledge: since, whoever may be anxious to be informed on these topics, will find a faithful and minute account of them in the work of Mr. Collins.
Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, is situated in 33 degrees 55' of south latitude, and 151 degrees 25' of east longitude. It is about seven miles distant from the heads of Port Jackson, and stands principally on two hilly necks of land and the intervening valley, which together form Sydney Cove. The western side of the town extends to the water's edge, and occupies with the exception of the small space reserved around Dawe's Battery, the whole of the neck of land which separates Sydney Cove from Lane Cove, and extends a considerable distance back into the country besides.
This part of the town, it may therefore be perceived, forms a little peninsula; and what is of still greater importance the water is in general of sufficient depth in both these coves, to allow the approach of vessels of the largest burden to the very sides of the rocks.
On the eastern neck of land, the extension of the town has been stopped by the Government House, and the adjoining domain, which occupies the whole of Bennilong's Point, a circumstance the more to be regretted, as the water all along this point is of still greater depth than on the western side of the Cove, and consequently affords still greater facilities for the erection of warehouses and the various important purposes of commerce.
The appearance of the town is rude and irregular. Until the administration of Governor Macquarie, little or no attention had been paid to the laying out of the streets, and each proprietor was left to build on his lease, where and how his caprice inclined him. He, however, has at length succeeded in establishing a perfect regularity in most of the streets, and has reduced to a degree of uniformity, that would have been deemed absolutely impracticable, even the most confused portion of that chaos of building, which is still known by the name of "the rocks;" and which, from the ruggedness of its surface, the difficulty of access to it, and the total absence of order in its houses, was for many years more like the abode of a horde of savages than the residence of a civilized community. The town upon the whole may be now pronounced to be tolerably regular; and, as in all future additions that may be made to it, the proprietors of leases will not be allowed to deviate from the lines marked out by the surveyor general, the new part will of course be free from the faults and inconveniences of the old.
This town covers a considerable extent of ground, and would at first sight induce the belief of a much greater population than it actually contains. This is attributable to two circumstances, the largeness of the leases, which in most instances possess sufficient space for a garden, and the smallness of the houses erected in them, which in general do not exceed one story. From these two causes it happens, that this town does not contain above seven thousand souls, whereas one that covered the same extent of ground in this country would possess a population of at least twenty thousand. But although the houses are for the most part small, and of mean appearance, there are many public buildings, as well as houses of individuals, which would not disgrace the best parts of this great metropolis. Of the former class, the public stores, the general hospital, and the barracks, are perhaps the most conspicuous; of the latter the houses of Messrs. Lord, Riley, Howe, Underwood and Nichols.
The value of land in this town is in many places half as great as in the best situations in London, and is daily increasing. Rents are in consequence exorbitantly high. It is very far from a commodious house that can be had for a hundred a year, unfurnished.
Here is a very good market, although it is of very recent date. It was established by Governor Macquarie, in the year 1813, and is very well supplied with grain, vegetables, poultry, butter, eggs and fruit. It is, however, only held three times a week; viz. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It is a large oblong enclosure, and there are stores erected in it by the Governor, for the reception of all such provisions as remain unsold at the close of the market, which lasts from six o'clock in the morning in summer, and seven o'clock in winter, until three o'clock in the evening. The vender pays in return a small duty to the clerk of the market, who accounts quarterly for the amount to the treasurer of the police fund. The annual amount of these duties is about L130.*
[* Vide Market Duties in the Appendix.]
Here also is a Bank, called "The Bank of New South Wales," which was established in the year 1817, and promises to be of great and permanent benefit to the colony in general. Its capital is L20,000, divided into two hundred shares. It has a regular charter of incorporation, and is under the controul of a president* and six directors, who are annually chosen by the proprietors. The paper of this bank is now the principal circulating medium of this colony. They discount bills of a short date, and also advance money on mortgage securities. They are allowed to receive in return an interest of 10 per cent. per annum.
[* See Appendix.]
This town also contains two very good public schools, for the education of children of both sexes. One is a day school for boys, and is of course only intended to impart gratuitous instruction:—the other is designed both for the education and support of poor and helpless female orphans. This institution was founded by Governor King, as long back as the year 1800, and contains about sixty children, who are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing, and the various arts of domestic economy. When their education is complete, they are either married to free persons of good character, or are assigned as servants to such respectable families as may apply for them. At the time of the establishment of this school there was a large tract of land (15,000 acres,) attached to it; and a considerable stock of horses, cattle, and sheep, were also transferred to it from the government herds. The profits of these stock go towards defraying the expences of this school, and a certain portion, fifty or a hundred acres of this land, with a proportionate number of them, are given in dower with each female who marries with the consent of the committee intrusted with the management of this institution.
Besides these two public schools in the town of Sydney, which together contained, by the last accounts received from the colony, two hundred and twenty-four children, there are establishments for the gratuitous diffusion of education in every populous district throughout the colony. The masters of these schools are allowed stipulated salaries from the Orphan Fund. Formerly particular duties, those on coals and timber, which still go by the name of "The Orphan Dues," were allotted for the support of these schools; but they were found to be insufficient, and afterwards one-fourth, and more recently one-eighth, of the whole revenue of the colony was appropriated to this purpose. This latter portion of the colonial revenue may be estimated at about L2500, which it must be admitted could not be devoted to the promotion of any object of equal public utility.
Independent of these laudable institutions thus supported at the expence of the government, there are two private ones intended for the dissemination of religious knowledge, which are wholly maintained by voluntary contribution. One is termed "The Auxiliary Bible Society of New South Wales," and its object is to cooperate with the British and Foreign Bible Society, and to distribute the holy Scriptures either at prime cost, or gratis, to needy and deserving applicants.
The other is called "The New South Wales Sunday School Institution," and was established with a view to teach well disposed persons of all ages how to read the sacred volume. These societies were instituted in the year 1817, and are under the direction of a general committee, aided by a secretary and treasurer.
There are in this town and other parts of the colony, several good private seminaries for the board and education of the children of opulent parents. The best is in the district of Castlereagh, which is about forty miles distant, and is kept by the clergyman of that district, the Rev. Henry Fulton, a gentleman peculiarly qualified both from his character and acquirements for conducting so responsible and important an undertaking. The boys in this seminary receive a regular classical education, and the terms are as reasonable as those of similar establishments in this country.
The harbour of Port Jackson is perhaps exceeded by none in the world except the Derwent in point of size and safety; and in this latter particular, I rather think it has the advantage. It is navigable for vessels of any burden for about seven miles above the town, i.e. about fifteen from the entrance. It possesses the best anchorage the whole way, and is perfectly sheltered from every wind that can blow. It is said, and I believe with truth, to have a hundred coves, and is capable of containing all the shipping in the world. There can be no doubt, therefore, that in the course of a few years, the town of Sydney, from the excellence of its situation alone, must become a place of considerable importance.
The views from the heights of the town are bold, varied and beautiful. The strange irregular appearance of the town itself, the numerous coves and islets both above and below it, the towering forests and projecting rocks, combined with the infinite diversity of hill and dale on each side of the harbour, form altogether a coup d'oeil, of which it may be safely asserted that few towns can boast a parallel.
The neighbouring scenery is still more diversified and romantic, particularly the different prospects which open upon you from the hills on the south head road, immediately contiguous to the town. Looking towards the coast you behold at one glance the greater part of the numerous bays and islands which lie between the town and the heads, with the succession of barren, but bold and commanding hills, that bound the harbour, and are abruptly terminated by the water. Further north, the eye ranges over the long chain of lofty rugged cliffs that stretch away in the direction of the coal river, and distinctly mark the bearing of the coast, until they are lost in the dimness of vision. Wheeling round to the south you behold at the distance of seven or eight miles, that spacious though less eligible harbour, called "Botany Bay," from the prodigious variety of new plants which Sir Joseph Banks found in its vicinity, when it was first discovered and surveyed by Captain Cook. To the southward again of this magnificent sheet of water, where it will be recollected it was the original intention, though afterwards judiciously abandoned, to found the capital of this colony, you behold the high bluff range of hills that stretch away towards the five islands, and likewise indicate the trending of the coast in that direction.
If you afterwards suddenly face about to the westward, you see before you one vast forest, uninterrupted except by the cultivated openings which have been made by the axe on the summits of some of the loftiest hills, and which tend considerably to diminish those melancholy sensations its gloomy monotony would otherwise inspire. The innumerable undulations in this vast expanse of forest, forcibly remind you of the ocean when convulsed by tempests; save that the billows of the one slumber in a fixed and leaden stillness, and want that motion which constitutes the diversity, beauty, and sublimity of the other. Continuing the view, you arrive at that majestic and commanding chain of mountains called "the Blue Mountains," whose stately and o'ertopping grandeur forms a most imposing boundary to the prospective.
If you proceed on the south head road, until you arrive at the eminence called "Belle Vue," the scenery is still more picturesque and grand; since, in addition to the striking objects already described, you behold, as it were at your feet, although still more than a mile distant from you, the vast and foaming Pacific. In boisterous weather the surges that break in mountains on the shore beneath you, form a sublime contrast to the still, placid waters of the harbour, which in this spot is only separated from the sea by a low sandy neck of land not more than half a mile in breadth; yet is so completely sheltered, that no tempests can ruffle its tranquil surface.
The town of Parramatta is situated at the head of Port Jackson Harbour, at the distance of about eighteen miles by water, and fifteen by land, from Sydney. The river for the last seven or eight miles, is only navigable for boats of twelve or fifteen tons burden. This town is built along a small fresh water stream, which falls into the river. It consists principally of one street about a mile in length. It is surrounded on the south side by a chain of moderately high hills; and as you approach it by the Sydney road, it breaks suddenly on the view when you have reached the summit of them, and produces a very pleasing effect. The adjacent country has been a good deal cleared; and the gay mimosas, which have sprung up in the openings, form a very agreeable contrast to the dismal gloom of the forest that surrounds and o'ertops them.
The town itself is far behind Sydney in respect of its buildings; but it nevertheless contains many of a good and substantial construction. These, with the church, the government house, the new Orphan House, and some gentlemen's seats, which are situated on the surrounding eminences, give it, upon the whole, a very respectable appearance. There are two very good inns, where a traveller may meet with all the comfort and accommodation that are to be found in similar establishments in the country towns of this kingdom. The charges too are by no means unreasonable.
The population is principally composed of inferior traders, publicans, artificers, and labourers, and may be estimated, inclusive of a company which is always stationed there, on a rough calculation, at about twelve hundred souls.
There are two fairs held half yearly, one in March and the other in September; they were instituted about five years since by the present governor, and already begin to be very numerously and respectably attended. They are chiefly intended for the sale of stock, for which there are stalls, pens, and every other convenience, erected at the expence of the government; for the use of these pens, etc. and to keep them in repair, a moderate scale of duties* is paid by the vender.
This town has for many years past made but a very inconsiderable progress compared with Sydney. The value of land has consequently not kept pace in the two places, and is at least L200 per cent. less in the one than in the other. As the former, however, is in a central situation between the rapidly increasing settlements on the banks of the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers, and the latter the great mart for colonial produce, landed property there and in the neighbourhood, will, without doubt, experience a gradual rise.
The public institutions are an Hospital, a Female Orphan House, into which it is intended to remove the orphans from Sydney, and a factory, in which such of the female convicts as misconduct themselves, and those also who upon their arrival in the colony are not immediately assigned as servants to families, are employed in manufacturing coarse cloth. There are upon an average about one hundred and sixty women employed in this institution, which is placed under the direction of a superintendant, who receives wool from the settlers, and gives them a certain portion of the manufactured article in exchange: what is reserved is only a fair equivalent for the expence of making it, and is used in clothing the gaol gang, the reconvicted culprits who are sent to the coal river, and I believe the inmates of the factory itself.
There is also another public institution in this town, well worthy the notice of the philanthropist. It is a school for the education and civilization of the aborigines of the country. It was founded by the present governor three years since, and by the last accounts from the colony, it contained eighteen native children, who had been voluntarily placed there by their parents, and were making equal progress in their studies with European children of the same age. The following extract from the Sydney Gazette, of January 4, 1817, may enable the reader to form some opinion of the beneficial consequences that are likely to result from this institution, and how far they may realize the benevolent intentions which actuated its philanthropic founder.
"On Saturday last, the 28th ult. the town of Parramatta exhibited a novel and very interesting spectacle, by the assembling of the native tribes there, pursuant to the governor's gracious invitation. At ten in the morning the market place was thrown open, and some gentlemen who were appointed on the occasion, took the management of the ceremonials. The natives having seated themselves on the ground in a large circle, the chiefs were placed on chairs a little advanced in front, and to the right of their respective tribes. In the centre of the circle thus formed, were placed large tables groaning under the weight of roast beef, potatoes, bread, etc. and a large cask of grog lent its exhilarating aid to promote the general festivity and good humour which so conspicuously shone through the sable visages of this delighted congress. The governor, attended by all the members* of the native institution, and by several of the magistrates and gentlemen in the neighbourhood, proceeded at half past ten to the meeting, and having entered the circle, passed round the whole of them, inquiring after, and making himself acquainted with the several tribes, their respective leaders and residences. His Excellency then assembled the chiefs by themselves, and confirmed them in the ranks of chieftains, to which their own tribes had exalted them, and conferred upon them badges of distinction; whereon were engraved their names as chiefs, and those of their tribes. He afterwards conferred badges of merit on some individuals, in acknowledgment of their steady and loyal conduct in the assistance they rendered the military party, when lately sent out in pursuit of the refractory natives to the west and south of the Nepean river. By the time this ceremony was over, Mrs. Macquarie arrived, and the children belonging to, and under the care of the native institution, fifteen in number, preceded by their teacher, entered the circle, and walked round it; the children appearing very clean, well clothed and happy. The chiefs were then again called together to observe the examination of the children as to their progress in learning and the civilized habits of life. Several of the little ones read; and it was grateful to the bosom of sensibility to trace the degrees of pleasure which the chiefs manifested on this occasion. Some clapped the children on the head; and one in particular turning round towards the governor with extraordinary emotion, exclaimed, Governor, that will make a good settler,—that's my Pickaninny! (meaning his child). And some of the females were observed to shed tears of sympathetic affection, at seeing the infant and helpless off-spring of their deceased friends, so happily sheltered and protected by British benevolence. The examinations being finished, the children returned to the institution, under the guidance of their venerable tutor; whose assiduity and attention to them, merit every commendation".
"The feasting then commenced, and the governor retired amidst the long and reiterated acclamations and shouts of his sable and grateful congress. The number of the visitants, (exclusive of the fifteen children) amounted to one hundred and seventy-nine, viz. one hundred and five men, fifty-three women, and twenty-one children. It is worthy of observation that three of the latter mentioned number of children, (and the son of the memorable Bemni-long, was one of them) were placed in the native institution, immediately after the breaking up of the congress, on Saturday last, making the number of children now in that establishment, altogether eighteen; and we may reasonably trust that in a few years this benevolent institution will amply reward the hopes and expectations of its liberal patrons and supporters, and answer the grand object intended, by providing a seminary for the helpless off-spring of the natives of this country, and opening the path to their future civilization and improvement."
The town of Windsor, (or as it was formerly called, the Green Hills), is thirty-five miles distant from Sydney, and is situated near the confluence of the South Creek with the river Hawkesbury. It stands on a hill, whose elevation is about one hundred feet above the level of the river, at low water. The buildings here are much of the same cast as at Parramatta, being in general weather boarded without, and lathed and plastered within.
The public buildings are a church, government house, hospital, barracks, court-house, store-house, and gaol, none of which are worthy of notice. The inn lately established by Mr. Fitzgerald, is by far the best building in the town, and may be pronounced upon the whole, the most splendid establishment of the kind in the colony.
The bulk of the population is composed of settlers, who have farms in the neighbourhood, and of their servants. There are besides a few inferior traders, publicans and artificers. The town contains in the whole about six hundred souls.
The Hawkesbury here is of considerable size, and navigable for vessels of one hundred tons burden, for about four miles above the town. A little higher up, it is joined by, or rather is called the Nepean river, and has several shallows; but with the help of two or three ferries, it might still be rendered navigable for boats of twelve or fifteen tons burden, for about twenty miles further. This substitution of water for land carriage, would be of great advantage to the numerous settlers who inhabit its highly fertile banks, and would also considerably promote the extension of agriculture throughout the adjacent districts.
Following the sinuosities of the river the distance of Windsor from the sea is about one hundred and forty miles; whereas in a straight line it is not more than thirty-five. The rise of the tide is about four feet, and the water is fresh for forty miles below the town.
Land is about ten per cent. higher than at Parramatta, and is advancing rapidly in price. This circumstance is chiefly attributable to the small quantity of land that is to be had perfectly free from the reach of the inundations, to which the Hawkesbury is so frequently subject. These inundations often rise seventy or eighty feet above low water mark; and in the instance of what is still emphatically termed "the great flood," attained an elevation of ninety-three feet. The chaos of confusion and distress that presents itself on these occasions, cannot be easily conceived by any one who has not been a witness of its horrors. An immense expanse of water, of which the eye cannot in many directions discover the limits, every where interspersed with growing timber, and crowded with poultry, pigs, horses, cattle, stacks and houses, having frequently men, women, and children, clinging to them for protection, and shrieking out in an agony of despair for assistance:—such are the principal objects by which these scenes of death and devastation are characterized.
These inundations are not periodical, but they most generally happen in the month of March. Within the last two years there have been no fewer than four of them, one of which was nearly as high as the great flood. In the six years precedings there had not been one. Since the establishment of the colony they have happened upon an average, about once in three years.
The principal cause of them is the contiguity of this river to the Blue Mountains. The Grose and Warraganbia rivers, from which two sources it derives its principal supply, issue direct from these mountains; and the Nepean river, the other principal branch of it, runs along the base of them for fifty or sixty miles; and receives in its progress, from the innumerable mountain torrents connected with it, the whole of the rain which these mountains collect in that great extent. That this is the principal cause of these calamitous inundations has been fully proved; for shortly after the plantation of this colony, the Hawkesbury overflowed its banks, (which are in general about thirty feet in height), in the midst of harvest, when not a single drop of rain had fallen on the Port Jackson side of the mountains. Another great cause of the inundations, which take place in this and the other rivers in the colony, is the small fall that is in them, and the consequent slowness of their currents. The current in the Hawkesbury, even when the tide is in full ebb, does not exceed two miles an hour. The water, therefore, which during the rains, rushes in torrents from the mountains cannot escape with sufficient rapidity; and from its immense accumulation, soon overtops the banks of the river, and covers the whole of the low country.
The town of Liverpool is situated on the banks of Geoge's river, at the distance of eighteen miles from Sydney. It was founded by Governor Macquarie, and is now of about six years standing. Its population may amount to about two hundred souls, and is composed of a small detachment of military, of cultivators, and a few artificers, traders, publicans, and labourers.
The public buildings are a church (not yet I believe completed) a school house and stores for the reception and issue of provisions to such of the settlers in the adjacent districts as are victualled at the expense of the government. These buildings, however, as might naturally be expected from the very recent establishment of this town, are but little superior in their appearance to the rude dwellings of its inhabitants.
The river is about half the size of the Hawkesbury, and is navigable for boats of twenty tons burden as high up as the town. It empties itself into Botany Bay, which is about fourteen miles to the southward of the heads of Port Jackson. It is subject to the same sort of inundations as the Hawkesbury; but they are not in general of so violent and destructive a nature. The tide rises about the same height as in that river, and the current is, I believe, nearly of the same velocity.
The position of this town is all that can be urged in support of the probability of its future progress; the land in its vicinity being in general of a very indifferent quality. It is in a central situation, between Sydney and the fertile districts of Bringelly, Arids, Appin, Bunpury Curran, Cabramatta, and the Seven Islands, to which last place the tide of colonization is at present principally directing itself. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the town of Liverpool will, in a few years, become a place of considerable size and importance. Land there is as yet of very trifling value; and a lease may be obtained by any free person from the government, on the simple condition of erecting a house on it.
Society is upon a much better footing throughout the colony, in general than might naturally be imagined, considering the ingredients of which it is composed. In Sydney the civil and military officers with their families form a circle at once select and extended, without including the numerous highly respectable families of merchants and settlers who reside there. Unfortunately, however, this town is not free from those divisions which are so prevalent in all small communities. Scandal appears to be the favourite amusement to which idlers resort to kill time and prevent ennui; and consequently, the same families are eternally changing from friendship to hostility, and from hostility back again to friendship.
In the other towns these dissensions are not so common, because the circle of society is more circumscribed; and in the districts where there are no towns at all, they are still more rare; because in such situations people have too much need of one another's intercourse and assistance to propagate reports injurious to their neighbour's character, unless on grave occasions, and where their assertions are founded on truth.
Generally speaking, the state of society in these settlements is much the same, as among an equal population in the country parts of this kingdom. Of the number of respectable persons that they contain, some estimate may be formed if we refer to the parties which are given on particular days at the Government House. It appears from the Sydney Gazette of the 24th January, 1818, that one hundred and sixty ladies and gentlemen were present at a ball and supper which was given there on the 18th of that month, in celebration of her late majesty's birth-day.
There are at present no public amusements in this colony. Many years since, there was a theatre, and more latterly, annual races; but it was found that the society was not sufficiently mature for such establishments. Dinner and supper parties are very frequent in Sydney; and it generally happens that a few subscription balls take place in the course of the year. Upon the whole it may be safely asserted, that the natural disposition of the people to sociality has not only been in no wise impaired by their change of scene, but that all classes of the colonists are more hospitable than persons of similar means in this country.
There are four courts in this colony, established by charter, viz. the Court of Admiralty, the Court of Criminal Judicature, the Governor's Court, the Supreme Court, and the High Court of Appeals.
The Court of Vice Admiralty consists of the Judge Advocate, and takes cognizance of captures, salvages, and such other matters of dispute as arise on the high seas; but it has no criminal jurisdiction.
The Court of Criminal Judicature, consists of the Judge Advocate and six officers of His Majesty's sea and land forces, or of either, appointed by the governor. This court takes cognizance of all treasons, felonies, misdemeanors, and in fact of all criminal offences whatsoever; and afterwards adjudges death or such other punishment as the law of England may have affixed to the respective crimes of which the prisoners may be found guilty.
The Governor's Court consists of the Judge Advocate and two inhabitants of the colony, appointed by precept from the governor, and takes cognizance of all pleas where the amount sued for does not exceed L50 sterling, (except such pleas as may arise between party and party at Van Dieman's Land) and from its decisions there is no appeal.
The Supreme Court is composed of the judge of this court and two magistrates, appointed by precept from the governor; and its jurisdiction extends to all pleas where the matter in dispute exceeds L50 sterling. From its judgments, however, appeals lie to the High Court of Appeals.
This latter court is presided by the governor himself, assisted by the Judge Advocate; and its decisions are final in all cases where the amount sued for does not exceed three thousand pounds; but where the sum at issue exceeds this amount, an appeal lies in the last instance to the king in council.
These courts regulate their decisions by the law of England, and take no notice whatever of the laws and regulations which have been made at various times by the local government. The enforcement of these is left entirely to the magistracy, who assemble weekly in the different towns throughout the colony, and take cognizance of all infractions, as well of the colonial as of the criminal code. The courts thus formed by the magistrates, go by the name of "Benches of Magistrates," and answer pretty nearly to the "courts of general quarter sessions for the peace," held in the respective counties of this kingdom; and, generally speaking, they exercise a jurisdiction perfectly similar.
The roads and bridges which have been made to every part of the colony, are truly surprising, considering the short period that has elapsed since its foundation. All these are either the work of, or have been improved by, the present governor; who has even caused a road to be constructed over the western mountains, as far as the depot at Bathurst Plains, which is upwards of 180 miles from Sydney. The colonists, therefore, are now provided with every facility for the conveyance of their produce to market; a circumstance which cannot fail to have the most beneficial influence in the progress of agriculture. In return for these great public accommodations, and to help to keep them in repair, the Governor has established toll-gates* in all the principal roads. These are farmed out to the highest bidder, and were let during the year 1817, for the sum of L257.
[* For a list of tolls, see the Appendix]
The military force stationed in the colony consists ofseven companies of the forty-eighth regiment, and the Royal Veteran Company; which, form an effective body of about seven hundred firelocks. These have to garrison the two principal settlements at Van Diemen's Land, to provide a company for the establishment at the Coal River, and to furnish parties for the various towns and outposts of the extended territory of Port Jackson: so that very few troops remain at head quarters. The colony is consequently considered to be greatly in need of a further accession of military strength. Much anxiety is felt on this subject by the generality of the inhabitants, who have not yet forgotten the insurrection which took place when the whole population was not nearly so great as the present amount of the convicts, although the military force was of equal magnitude. That insurrection indeed was easily quelled; but the result of another, under existing circumstances, would in all probability, be very different.
An equal degree of anxiety is felt, and more particularly by the mercantile part of the community, that a sloop of war, or a king's vessel of some description, should be stationed in the harbour, both as a protection against the easy possibility of outward assault, and to frustrate the numerous combinations which the convicts are constantly forming, and often too successfully, to carry away the colonial craft, to the certain destruction of their own and the crew's lives, and to the ruin of the unfortunate owners Not fewer than three piratical seizures of this nature have been effected within the last three years. On all of these occasions the vessels so seized were run ashore on the uninhabited parts of the coast, and all hands on board, the innocent crews, as well as the abandoned pirates, either perished from hunger, or were immolated by the spears and waddies of the ferocious savages.
When Governor Macquarie assumed the command in 1810, the population was only half its present number; and yet a sloop of war was stationed at Port Jackson, and the military force also was on a much more extended scale. Why a diminution has thus been made in the means of protection and defence, when there appear to be such strong grounds for their augmentation, merely with reference to the internal state of the colony, it is no easy matter to conjecture.
The expediency also of putting the colony in a better posture to repel outward attack, is not less obvious; for although we are now at peace with the whole world, it would be absurd to overlook the possibility of future wars. The only battery of any strength is called, "Dawe's Battery;" and is, as I have already casually noticed, situated in the extremity of that neck of land, on which the western part of the town of Sydney is built. This battery, if I remember right, mounts fourteen long eighteen-pounders, but the carriages of the guns are in a bad state of repair, and the embrasures are so low, that a single broadside of grape would sweep off all who had the courage or temerity to defend it.
Fort Philip stands on the highest part of the same neck of land, and nearly in the centre of that part of the town which goes by the name of "the Rocks." This fort was erected by Governor King, immediately after the insurrection, to which I have alluded. It is a regular hexagon, but it never was quite finished, and there are no guns yet mounted on it. The glacis, in fact, is not sufficiently levelled to allow a proper range for artillery, and the circumjacent ground is so irregular and rocky, that an enemy might at once erect batteries at fifty yards distance. Besides, this fort is so completely hemmed in with houses, that a great part of the town would be inevitably destroyed by the fire from it. Its situation, therefore, is in every point of view objectionable, and succeeding governors have evinced their good sense, in not perfecting a work which would be attended with a very considerable expense, and could never become of any utility.
A new battery has lately been commenced on Bennilong's Point; but this and Dawe's Battery are both too near the town to protect it from the most insignificant naval force. It is indeed a matter of surprise, that during the last American war, not one of the numberless privateers of that nation, attempted to lay the town of Sydney under contribution, or to plunder it. A vessel of ten guns might have effected this enterprise with the greatest ease and safety; and that the inhabitants were not subjected to such an insulting humiliation, could only have arisen from the enemy's ignorance of the insufficiency of their means of defence.
The climate of the colony, particularly in the inland districts, is highly salubrious, although the heats in summer are sometimes excessive, the thermometer frequently rising in the shade to ninety, and even to a hundred degrees and upwards of Fahrenheit. This, however, happens only during the hot winds; and these do not prevail upon an average, more than eight or ten days in the year. The mean heat during the three summer months, December, January, and February, is about 80 degrees at noon. This, it must be admitted, is a degree of heat that would be highly oppressive to Europeans, were it not that the sea breeze sets in regularly about nine o'clock in the morning, and blows with considerable force from the N. E. till about six or seven o'clock in the evening. It is succeeded during the night by the land breeze from the mountains, which varies from W. S. W. to W. In very hot days the sea breeze often veersround to the North and blows a gale. In this case it continues with great violence, frequently for a day or two, and is then succeeded not by the regularland breeze, but by a cold southerly squall. The hot winds blow from the N. W. and doubtless imbibe their heat from the immense tract of country which they traverse. While they prevail the sea and land breezes entirely cease. They seldom, however, continue for more than two days at a time, and are always superseded by a cold southerly gale, generally accompanied with rain. The thermometer then sinks sometimes as low as 60 degrees, and a variation of temperature of from 30 degrees to 40 degrees takes place in half an hour. These southerly gales usually last at this season from twelve to twenty-four hours, and then give way to the regular sea and land breezes.
During these three months violent storms of thunder and lightning are very frequent, and the heavy falls of rain which take place on these occasions, tend considerably to refresh the country, of which the verdure in all but low moist situations entirely disappears. At this season the most unpleasant part of the day is the interval which elapses between the cessation of the land breeze and the setting in of the sea. This happens generally between six and eight o'clock in the morning, when the thermometer is upon an average at about 72 degrees. During this interval the sea is as smooth as glass, and not a zephyr is found to disport even among the topmost boughs of the loftiest trees.
The three autumn months are March, April, and May. The weather in March is generally very unsettled. This month, in fact, may be considered the rainy season, and has been more fertile in floods than any other of the year. The thermometer varies during the day about 15 degrees, being at day-light as low as from 55 degrees to 60 degrees, and at noon as high as from 70 degrees to 75 degrees. The sea and land breezes at this time become very feeble, although they occasionally prevail during the whole year. The usual winds from the end of March to the beginning of September, are from S. to S. W.
The weather in the commencement of April is frequently showery, but towards the middle it gradually becomes more settled, and towards the conclusion perfectly clear and serene. The thermometer at the beginning of the month varies from 72 degrees to 74 degrees at noon, and from the middle to the end gradually declines to 66 degrees and sometimes to 60 degrees. In the mornings it is as low as 52 degrees, and fires become in consequence general throughout the colony.
The weather in the month of May is truly delightful. The atmosphere is perfectly cloudless, and the mornings and evenings become with the advance of the month more chilly, and render a good fire a highly comfortable and cheering guest. Even during the middle of the day the most violent exercise may be taken without inconvenience. The thermometer at sun-rise is under 50 degrees, and seldom above 60 degrees at noon.
The three winter months are June, July, and August. During this interval the mornings and evenings are very chilly, and the nights excessively cold. Hoar frosts are frequent, and become more severe the further you advance into the interior. Ice half an inch thick is found at the distance of twenty miles from the coast. Very little rain falls at this season, but the dews are very heavy when it does not freeze, and tend considerably to preserve the young crops from the effects of drought. Fogs too are frequent and dense in low damp situations, and on the banks of the rivers. The mean temperature at day-light is from 40 degrees to 45 degrees, and at noon from 55 degrees to 60 degrees.
The spring months are September, October, and November. In the beginning of September the fogs still continue; the nights are cold, but the days clear and pleasant. Towards the close of this month the cold begins very sensibly to moderate. Light showers occasionally prevail, accompanied with thunder and lightning. The thermometer at the beginning of the month is seldom above 60 degrees at noon, but towards the end frequently rises to 70 degrees.
In October there are also occasional showers, but the weather upon the whole is clear and pleasant. The days gradually become warmer, and the blighting north-west winds are to be apprehended. The sea and land breezes again resume their full sway. The thermometer at sun-rise varies from 60 degrees to 65 degrees, and at noon is frequently up to 80 degrees.
In November the weather may be again called hot. Dry parching winds prevail as the month advances, and squalls of thunder and lightning with rain or hail. The thermometer at day-light is seldom under 65 degrees, and frequently at noon rises to 80 degrees, 84 degrees, and even 90 degrees.
Such is the temperature throughout the year at Port Jackson. In the inland districts to the eastward of the mountains, the thermometer is upon an average 5 degrees lower in the morning, and the same number of degrees higher at noon throughout the winter season, but during the summer months it is 5 degrees higher at all hours of the day. On the mountains themselves, and in the country to the westward of them, the climate, in consequence of their superior elevation, is much more temperate. Heavy falls of snow take place during the winter, and remain sometimes for many days on the summits of the loftiest hills; but in the valleys the snow immediately dissolves. The frosts too are much more severe, and the winters are of longer duration. All the seasons indeed are more distinctly marked to the westward of the mountains, and bear a much stronger resemblance to the corresponding ones in this country.
From the foregoing account of the state of the weather and temperature during the various seasons of the year, it will be seen that the climate of the colony is upon the whole highly salubrious and delightful. If the summers are occasionally a little too hot for the European constitution, it will be remembered that the extreme heats which I have noticed as happening during the north-west winds, are of but short continuance; and that the sea and land breezes, which prevail at this season in an almost uninterrupted succession, moderate the temperature so effectually, that even new comers are but little incommoded by it, and the old residents experience no inconvenience from it whatever. The sea breeze indeed is not so sensibly felt in the interior as on the coast, by reason of the great extent of forest which it has to traverse before the inhabitants of the inland districts can receive the benefit of it. This circumstance not only diminishes its force, but also deprives it in a great measure of that refreshing coolness which it imparts when inhaled fresh from the bosom of the ocean. The heat consequently in the interior, particularly in low situations, is much more intense than on the coast; but by way of compensation for the advantage which in this respect the districts in the vicinity of the sea possess over the inland ones, these latter are from the same causes that impede the approach of the sea breeze, exempt from the sudden and violent variations of temperature, which are occasioned by the southerly winds, and are without doubt the reason why pulmonic affections are so much more prevalent in Sydney than in the interior. The hot season, however, which is undoubtedly the most unhealthy part of the year, does not, as will have been perceived, continue above four months. The remaining eight possess a temperature so highly moderate and congenial to the human constitution, that the climate of this colony would upon the whole, appear to justify the glowing enthusiasm of those who have ventured to call it the Montpellier of the world.
Abdominal and pulmonic complains are the two prevalent diseases. The abdominal complaints are confined principally to dysentery. This disorder is most common among the poorer classes and new comers. In these it is generally intimately connected with scurvy, and in both cases it is for the most part greatly aggravated by the excessive use of spirituous liquors, to which the mass of the colonists are unfortunately addicted.
The pulmonic affections are generally contracted at an early period by the youth of both sexes, and are occasioned by the great and sudden variations of temperature already noticed. They are not, however, accompanied with that violent inflammatory action which distinguishes them in this country; but proceed slowly and gradually, till from neglect they terminate in phthisis. They are said to bear a strong affinity to the complaint of the same nature which prevails at the Island of Madeira; and it is remarkable, that in both these colonies a change of air affords the only chance of restoration to the natives; whereas foreigners labouring under phthisis upon their arrival in either of these places, find almost instantaneous relief.
There are no infantile diseases whatever. The measles, hooping cough, and small pox, are entirely unknown. Some few years, indeed, before the foundation of this colony, the small pox committed the most dreadful ravages among the aborigines. This exterminating scourge is said to have been introduced by Captain Cook, and many of the contemporaries of those who fell victims to it, are still living; and the deep furrows which remain in some of their countenances, shew how narrowly they escaped the same premature destiny. The recollection of this dreadful malady will long survive in the traditionary songs of this simple people. The consternation which it excited is still as fresh in their minds as if it had been but an occurrence of yesterday, although the generation which witnessed its horrors, has almost past away. The moment one of them was seized with it, it was the signal for abandoning him to his fate. Brothers deserted their brothers, children their parents, and parents their children; and in some of the caves on the coast, heaps of decayed bones still indicate the spots where the helpless sufferers were left to expire, not so much perhaps from the violence of the disease as from the want of sustenance.
This fatal instance of the inveteracy of this disorder, when once introduced into the colony, has not been without its counterpoising benefit. It has induced the local government to adopt proper measures for avoiding the propagation of a similar contagion among the colonists. The vaccine matter was introduced with this view many years back; but as all the children in the colony were immediately inoculated, it was again lost from the want of a sufficient number of subjects to afford a supply of fresh virus; and for many years afterwards, every effort that was made for its re-introduction proved abortive. Through the indefatigable exertions, however, of Doctor Burke, of the Mauritius, the colonists are again in possession of this inestimable blessing; and there can be no doubt that proper precautions will be taken to prevent them from being again deprived of it.
The colony of New South Wales possesses every variety of soil, from the sandy heath, and the cold hungry clay, to the fertile loam and the deep vegetable mould. For the distance of five or six miles from the coast, the land is in general extremely barren, being a poor hungry sand, thickly studded with rocks. A few miserable stunted gums, and a dwarf underwood, are the richest productions of the best part of it; while the rest never gives birth to a tree at all, and is only covered with low flowering shrubs, whose infinite diversity, however, and extraordinary beauty, render this wild heath the most interesting part of the country for the botanist, and make even the less scientific beholder forget the nakedness and sterility of the scene.
Beyond this barren waste, which thus forms a girdle to the coast, the country suddenly begins to improve. The soil changes to a thin layer of vegetable mould, resting on a stratum of yellow clay, which is again supported by a deep bed of schistus. The trees of the forest are here of the most stately dimensions. Full sized gums and iron barks, along side of which the loftiest trees in this country would appear as pigmies, with the beefwood tree, or as it is generally termed, the forest oak, which is of much humbler growth, are the usual timber. The forest is extremely thick, but there is little or no underwood. A poor sour grass, which is too effectually sheltered from the rays of the sun, to be possessed of any nutritive and fattening properties, shoots up in the intervals. This description of country, with a few exceptions, however, which deserve not to be particularly noticed, forms another girdle of about ten miles in breadth: so that, generally speaking, the colony for about sixteen miles into the interior, may be said to possess a soil, which has naturally no claim to fertility, and will require all the skill and industry of its owners to render it even tolerably productive.
At this distance, however, the aspect of the country begins rapidly to improve. The forest is less thick, and the trees in general are of another description; the iron barks, yellow gums, and forest oaks disappearing, and the stringy barks, blue gums, and box trees, generally usurping their stead. When you have advanced about four miles further into the interior, you are at length gratified with the appearance of a country truly beautiful. An endless variety of hill and dale, clothed in the most luxuriant herbage, and covered with bleating flocks and lowing herds, at length indicate that you are in regions fit to be inhabited by civilized man. The soil has no longer the stamp of barrenness. A rich loam resting on a substratum of fat red clay, several feet in depth, is found even on the tops of the highest hills, which in general do not yield in fertility to the vallies. The timber, strange as it may appear, is of inferior size, though still of the same nature, i. e. blue gum, box, and stringy bark. There is no underwood, and the number of trees upon an acre do not upon an average exceed thirty. They are, in fact, so thin, that a person may gallop without difficulty in every direction. Coursing the kangaroo is the favourite amusement of the colonists, who generally pursue this animal at full speed on horseback, and frequently manage, notwithstanding its extraordinary swiftness, to be up at the death; so trifling are the impediments occasioned by the forest.
The above general description may be applied with tolerable accuracy, to the whole tract of country which lies between this space and the Nepean River. The plains, however, on the banks of this river, which are in many places of considerable extent, are of far greater fertility, being a rich vegetable mould, many feet in depth, and have without doubt, been gradually formed by depositions from it during the periods of its inundations. These plains gradually enlarge themselves until you arrive at the junction of the Nepean with the Hawkesbury, on each side of which they are commonly from a mile to a mile and a half in breadth. The banks of this latter river are of still greater fertility than the banks of the former, and may vie in this respect with the far-famed banks of the Nile. The same acre of land there has been known to produce in the course of one year, fifty bushels of wheat and a hundred of maize. The settlers have never any occasion for manure, since the slimy depositions from the river, effectually counteract the exhaustion that would otherwise be produced by incessant crops. The timber on the banks of these rivers is for the most part apple tree, which is very beautiful, and bears in its foliage and shape a striking resemblance to the oak of this country. Its wood, however, is of no value except for firing, and for the immense quantity of pot-ash which might be made from it. The blue gum and stringy bark are also very common on these flooded lands, and of the best description. The banks of the Hawkesbury formerly produced cedar, but it has long since entirely disappeared.
The banks of these rivers, and indeed the whole tract of country, (generally speaking) which I have described, with the exception of the barren waste in the vicinity of the coast, are, to use the colonial term, located, i. e. either granted away to individuals, or attached as commons to the cultivated districts. It may not, therefore, be unacceptable to many of my readers, to learn the particulars of those unappropriated tracts of land within the immediate precincts of Port Jackson, which are best adapted to the purposes of colonization.
Of these "the cow pastures" rank first in point of proximity. This tract of land has hitherto been reserved for the use of the wild cattle; although these animals have for some time past disappeared, either from having found an outlet into the interior, through the surrounding mountains, or what is a still more probable conjecture, from the exterminating incursions of the numerous poor settlers, who have farms in the neighbourhood, and who, considering their general poverty, it is easy to believe, would not suffer the want of animal food, so long as they could take their dogs and guns, and kill a cow or calf at their option. These wild cattle were the progeny of a few tame ones, which strayed away from the settlement shortly after the period of its foundation, and were not discovered till about fifteen years afterwards, when they had multiplied to several thousands. On their discovery they immediately attracted the attention of his majesty's ministers, and orders were dispatched from this country, prohibiting the governor and his successors from granting away the land, on which they had fixed themselves. This they soon overspread, and on the occasion of the severe droughts that were experienced in the colony in the years 1813, 1814, and 1815, great numbers of them perished from the want of water and pasturage. Where thousands then existed, there are scarcely hundreds to be found at present, and these chiefly consist of bulls. A cow or calf can very rarely be met with. There can consequently be very little doubt that they have disappeared in the manner I have conjectured, and that their numbers have been thus considerably reduced by the depredations of the poorer settlers, which it was for a long time thought beyond the power of the colonial courts to restrain; since, although it was notorious that these wild cattle were originally purchased by the crown, still the cattle of individuals had subsequently, at various times, intermixed with them, and prevented that identification of property, which the late judge advocate considered essential to the conviction of the offenders. His opinion, however, has been overruled by his successor, and several persons have been lately tried for and found guilty of this offence; and although they were not punished capitally for it, there can be no doubt that their conviction will greatly diminish such depredations for the future. Not that I consider the preservation of these wild herds will be attended with any advantages to the colony. On the contrary, it is my belief, that their total destruction ought to be effected; since the increase of them is of mere negative importance, compared with the positive disadvantage that attends their occupation of one of the most fertile districts in the colony, which it is to be hoped will be soon covered with numerous flocks of fine wooled sheep, for the pasture of which the greater part of it is so admirably adapted. This tract of land is about thirty miles distant from Sydney: it is bounded on the east by the river Nepean, on the west by the Blue Mountains, of which this river, on the north side of the cow pastures washes the base, so that they together form the northern boundary, and on the south by a thick barren brush of about ten miles in breadth, which these cattle have never been able to penetrate. This fine tract of country is thus surrounded by natural boundaries, which form it into an enclosure somewhat in the shape of an oblong spheroid. It contains about one hundred thousand acres of good land, a considerable portion of which is flooded, and equal to any on the banks of the Hawkesbury.
The next considerable tract of unappropriated land is the district called the Five Islands. It commences at the distance of about forty miles to the southward of Sydney, and extends to Shoal Haven river. This tract of land lies between the coast and a high range of hills which terminate at the north side abruptly in the sea, and form its northern and western boundary: the ocean is its eastern boundary, and Shoal Haven river its southern. The range that surrounds this district on the north and west is a branch of the Blue Mountains; and the only road at present known to it, is down a pass so remarkably steep, that unless a better be discovered, the communication between it and the capital by land, will always be difficult and dangerous for waggons. This circumstance is a material counterpoise to its extraordinary fertility, and is the reason why it is at present unoccupied by any but large stockholders. Those parts, however, which are situated near Shoal Haven river, are highly eligible for agricultural purposes; since this river is navigable for about twenty miles into the country for vessels of seventy or eighty tons burden; a circumstance which holds out to future colonists the greatest facilities for the cheap and expeditious conveyance of their produce to market. The land on the banks of this river is of the same nature, and possesses equal fertility with the banks of the Hawkesbury. There are several streams in different parts of this district, which issue from the mountain behind, and afford an abundant supply of pure water. In many places there are large prairies of unparalleled richness, entirely free from timber, and consequently prepared by the hand of nature for the immediate reception of the ploughshare. These advantages, combined with its proximity to Sydney, have already begun to attract the tide of colonization to it, and will no doubt render it in a few years one of the most populous, productive, and valuable of all the districts. The soil is in general a deep fat vegetable mould. The surface of the country is thinly timbered, with the exception of the mountain which boundsit to the Northward and Westward. This is covered with a thick brush, but is nevertheless extremely fertile up to the very summit, and peculiarly adapted both from its eastern aspect and mild climate for the cultivation of the vine. This large tract of country was only discovered about four years since, and has not yet been accurately surveyed. Its extent, therefore, is not precisely known; but it without doubt contains several hundred thousand acres, including the banks of the Shoal Haven river. These produce a great abundance of fine cedar, and other highly valuable timber, for which there is an extensive and increasing demand at Port Jackson.
The next tract of unappropriated country which I shall describe, is the district of the Coal River. The town of Newcastle is situated at the mouth of this river, and is about sixty miles to the northward of Port Jackson. Its population by the last census forwarded to this country, was five hundred and fifty souls. These, with the exception of a few free settlers, established on the upper banks of this river, amounting with their families perhaps to thirty souls, and about fifty troops, are all incorrigible offenders, who have been convicted either before a bench of magistrates, or the Court of Criminal Judicature, and afterwards re-transported to this place, where they are worked in chains from sunrise to sunset, and profitably employed in burning lime and procuring coals and timber, as well for carrying on the public works at Port Jackson, as for the private purposes of individuals, who pay the government stipulated prices for these different articles. This settlement was, in fact, established with the two-fold view of supplying the public works with these necessary articles, and providing a separate place of punishment for all who might be convicted of crimes in the colonial courts.
The coal mines here are considerably elevated above the level of the sea, and are of the richest description. The veins are visible on the abrupt face of the cliff, which borders the harbour, and are worked by adits or openings, which serve both to carry off the water and to wheel away the coals. The quantity procured in this easy manner is very great, and might be increased to any extent. So much more coals indeed are thus obtained than are required for the purposes of the government, that they are glad to dispose of them to all persons who are willing to purchase, requiring in return a duty of two shillings and six pence per ton, for such as are intended for home consumption, and five shillings for such as are for exportation.
The lime procured at this settlement is made from oyster shells, which are found in prodigious abundance. These shells lie close to the banks of the river, in beds of amazing size and depth. How they came there has long been a matter of surprise and speculation to the colonists. Some are of opinion that they have been gradually deposited by the natives in those periodical feasts of shell fish, for the celebration of which they still assemble at stated seasons in large bodies: others have contended, and I think with more probability, that they were originally large natural beds of oysters, and that the river has on some occasion or other, either changed its course or contracted its limits, and thus deserted them.