Part 3 out of 4
On this expedition we carried with us a thermometer which (in unison
with our feelings) shewed so extraordinary a degree of cold for the latitude
of the place that I think myself bound to transcribe it.
Monday, 18th July 1791. The sun arose in unclouded splendor and presented
to our sight a novel and picturesque view. The contiguous country as white
as if covered with snow, contrasted with the foliage of trees flourishing
in the verdure of tropical luxuriancy*. Even the exhalation which steamed
from the lake beneath contributed to heighten the beauty of the scene.
Wind SSW. Thermorneter at sunrise 25 degrees. The following night
was still colder. At sunset the thermometer stood at 45 degrees;
at a quarter before four in the morning, it was at 26 degrees;
at a quarter before six at 24 degrees; at a quarter before seven, at
23 degrees; at seven o'clock, 22.7 degrees; at sunrise, 23 degrees, after which
it continued gradually to mount, and between one and two o'clock,
stood at 59.6 degrees in the shade. Wind SSW. The horizon perfectly clear
all day, not the smallest speck to be seen. Nothing but demonstration
could have convinced me that so severe a degree of cold ever existed
in this low latitude. Drops of water on a tin pot, not altogether out of
the influence of the fire, were frozen into solid ice in less than
twelve minutes. Part of a leg of kangaroo which we had roasted for supper
was frozen quite hard, all the juices of it being converted into ice.
On those ponds which were near the surface of the earth, the covering of ice
was very thick; but on those which were lower down it was found to be less so,
in proportion to their depression; and wherever the water was twelve feet
below the surface (which happened to be the case close to us)
it was uncongealed. It remains to be observed that the cold of both
these nights, at Rose Hill and Sydney, was judged to be greater than had
ever before been felt.
[*All the trees of New South Wales, may I apprehend, be termed evergreen.
For after such weather as this journal records, I did not observe either
that the leaves had dropped off, or that they had assumed that sickly
autumnal tint, which marks English trees in corresponding circumstances.]
Transactions of the Colony to the end of November, 1791.
The extreme dryness of the preceding summer has been noticed. It had operated
so far in the beginning of June that we dreaded a want of water for
common consumption most of the little reservoirs in the neighbourhood
of Sydney being dried up. The small stream near the town was so nearly
exhausted (being only the drain of a morass) that a ship could not have
watered at it, and the 'Supply' was preparing to sink casks in a swamp
when rain fell and banished our apprehensions.
June, 1791. On the second instant, the name of the settlement, at the head
of the harbour (Rose Hill) was changed, by order of the governor,
to that of Parramatta, the native name of it. As Rose Hill has, however,
occurred so often in this book, I beg leave, to avoid confusion,
still to continue the appellation in all future mention of it.
Our travelling friend Boladeree, who makes so conspicuous a figure
in the last chapter, about this time committed an offence which we were
obliged to notice. He threw a spear at a convict in the woods,
and wounded him. The truth was, some mischievous person belonging to us
had wantonly destroyed his canoe, and he revenged the injury on the first
of our people whom he met unarmed. He now seemed to think the matter
adjusted; and probably such is the custom they observe in their own society
in similar cases. Hearing, however, that an order was issued to seize him,
or in case that could not be effected, to shoot him, he prudently dropped
all connection with us and was for a long time not seen.
But if they sometimes injured us, to compensate they were often
of signal benefit to those who needed their assistance: two instances
of which had recently occurred. A boat was overset in the harbour
Baneelon and some other natives, who saw the accident happen, immediately
plunged in, and saved all the people. When they had brought them on shore,
they undressed them, kindled a fire and dried their clothes, gave them
fish to eat and conducted them to Sydney.
The other instance was of a soldier lost in the woods, when he met a party
of natives. He at first knew not whether to flee from them, or to implore
their assistance. Seeing among them one whom he knew, he determined
to communicate his distress to him and to rely on his generosity.
The Indian told him that he had wandered a long way from home, but that
he would conduct him thither, on the single condition of his delivering up
a gun which he held in his hand, promising to carry it for him and to
restore it to him at parting. The soldier felt little inclination
to surrender his arms, by which he would be put entirely in their power.
But seeing no alternative, he at last consented; on which the whole party
laid down their spears and faithfully escorted him to the nearest part
of the settlement, where the gun was given up, and they took their leave
without asking for any remuneration, or even seeming to expect it.
The distressful state of the colony for provisions continued gradually
to augment until the 9th of July, when the Mary Anne transport arrived
from England. This ship had sailed from the Downs so lately as
the 25th of February, having been only four months and twelve days
on her passage. She brought out convicts, by contract, at a specific sum
for each person. But to demonstrate the effect of humanity and justice,
of 144 female convicts embarked on board only three had died, and the rest
were landed in perfect health, all loud in praise of their conductor.
The master's name was Munro; and his ship, after fulfilling her engagement
with government, was bound on the southern fishery. The reader must not
conclude that I sacrifice to dull detail, when he finds such benevolent
conduct minutely narrated. The advocates of humanity are not yet become
too numerous: but those who practise its divine precepts, however humble
and unnoticed be their station, ought not to sink into obscurity,
unrecorded and unpraised, with the vile monsters who deride misery
and fatten on calamity.
July, 1791. If, however, the good people of this ship delighted us
with their benevolence, here gratification ended. I was of a party
who had rowed in a boat six miles out to sea, beyond the harbour's mouth,
to meet them; and what was our disappointment, on getting aboard,
to find that they had not brought a letter (a few official ones
for the governor excepted) to any person in the colony! Nor had they
a single newspaper or magazine in their possession; nor could they
conceive that any person wished to hear news; being as ignorant
of everything which had passed in Europe for the last two years
as ourselves, at the distance of half the circle. "No war--the fleet's
dismantled," was the whole that we could learn. When I asked whether
a new parliament had been called, they stared at me in stupid wonder,
not seeming to comprehend that such a body either suffered renovation
or needed it.
"Have the French settled their government?"
"As to that matter I can't say; I never heard; but, damn them,
they were ready enough to join the Spaniards against us."
"Are Russia and Turkey at peace?"
"That you see does not lie in my way; I have heard talk about it,
but don't remember what passed."
"For heaven's sake, why did you not bring out a bundle of newspapers?
You might have procured a file at any coffee house, which would have
amused you, and instructed us?"
"Why, really, I never thought about the matter until we were off
the Cape of Good Hope, when we spoke a man of war, who asked us
the same question, and then I wished I had."
To have prosecuted inquiry farther would have only served to increase
disappointment and chagrin. We therefore quitted the ship, wondering
and lamenting that so large a portion of plain undisguised honesty
should be so totally unconnected with a common share of intelligence,
and acquaintance with the feelings and habits of other men.
By the governor's letters we learned that a large fleet of transports,
with convicts on board, and His Majesty's ship Gorgon, (Captain Parker)
might soon be expected to arrive. The following intelligence
which they contained, was also made public.
That such convicts as had served their period of transportation,
were not to be compelled to remain in the colony; but that no
temptation should be offered to induce them to quit it, as there
existed but too much reason to believe, that they would return
to former practices; that those who might choose to settle in the
country should have portions of land, subject to stipulated
restrictions, and a portion of provisions assigned to them on
signifying their inclinations; and that it was expected, that
those convicts who might be possessed of means to transport
themselves from the country, would leave it free of all
incumbrances of a public nature.
The rest of the fleet continued to drop in, in this and the two
succeeding months. The state of the convicts whom they brought out,
though infinitely preferable to what the fleet of last year had landed,
was not unexceptionable. Three of the ships had naval agents on board
to control them. Consequently, if complaint had existed there,
it would have been immediately redressed. Exclusive of these, the
'Salamander', (Captain Nichols) who, of 155 men lost only five; and the
'William and Anne' (Captain Buncker) who of 187 men lost only seven,
I find most worthy of honourable mention. In the list of convicts brought out
was Barrington, of famous memory.
Two of these ships also added to our geographic knowledge of the country.
The 'Atlantic', under the direction of Lieutenant Bowen, a naval agent,
ran into a harbour between Van Diemen's land, and Port Jackson,
in latitude 35 degrees 12 minutes south, longitude 151 degrees east, to which,
in honour of Sir John Jervis, Knight of the Bath, Mr. Bowen gave the name
of Port Jervis. Here was found good anchoring ground with a fine depth
of water, within a harbour about a mile and a quarter broad at its entrance,
which afterwards opens into a basin five miles wide and of considerable
length. They found no fresh water, but as their want of this article
was not urgent, they did not make sufficient researches to pronounce
that none existed there.* They saw, during the short time they stayed,
two kangaroos and many traces of inhabitants. The country at a little distance
to the southward of the harbour is hilly, but that contiguous to the sea
is flat. On comparing what they had found here afterwards,
with the native produce of Port Jackson, they saw no reason to think
that they differed in any respect.
[*Just before I left the country, word was brought by a ship which had
put into Port Jervis, that a large fresh water brook was found there.]
The second discovery was made by Captain Wetherhead, of the 'Matilda' transport,
which was obligingly described to me, as follows, by that gentleman,
on my putting to him the underwritten questions.
"When did you make your discovery?"
"On the 27th of July, 1791."
"In what latitude and longitude does it lie?"
"In 42 degrees 15 minutes south by observation, and in 148 1/2 east
"Is it on the mainland or is it an island?"
"It is an island, distant from the mainland about eight miles."
"Did you anchor?"
"Yes; and found good anchorage in a bay open about six points."
"Did you see any other harbour or bay in the island?"
"Does the channel between the island and the main appear to afford
good shelter for shipping?"
"Yes, like Spithead."
"Did you find any water on the island?"
"Yes, in plenty."
"Of what size does the island appear to be?"
"It is narrow and long; I cannot say how long. Its breadth is inconsiderable."
"Did you make any observations on the soil?"
"It is sandy; and many places are full of craggy rocks."
"Do you judge the productions which you saw on the island to be similar
to those around Port Jackson?"
"I do not think they differ in any respect."
"Did you see any animals?"
"I saw three kangaroos."
"Did you see any natives, or any marks of them?"
"I saw no natives, but I saw a fire, and several huts like those
at Port Jackson, in one of which lay a spear."
"What name did you give to your discovery?"
"I called it, in honour of my ship, Matilda Bay."
November, 1791. A very extraordinary instance of folly stimulated
to desperation occurred in the beginning of this month among the convicts
at Rose Hill. Twenty men and a pregnant woman, part of those who had arrived
in the last fleet, suddenly disappeared with their clothes, working tools,
bedding, and their provisions, for the ensuing week, which had been
just issued to them. The first intelligence heard of them, was from
some convict settlers, who said they had seen them pass, and had enquired
whither they were bound. To which they had received for answer, "to China."
The extravagance and infatuation of such an attempt was explained to them
by the settlers; but neither derision, nor demonstration could avert them
from pursuing their purpose. It was observed by those who brought in
the account that they had general idea enough of the point of the compass
in which China lies from Port Jackson, to keep in a northerly direction.
An officer with a detachment of troops, was sent in pursuit of them;
but after a harassing march returned without success. In the course
of a week the greatest part of them were either brought back by
different parties who had fallen in with them, or were driven in by famine.
Upon being questioned about the cause of their elopement, those whom hunger
had forced back, did not hesitate to confess that they had been
so grossly deceived as to believe that China might easily be reached,
being not more than 100 miles distant, and separated only by a river.
The others, however, ashamed of the merriment excited at their expense,
said that their reason for running away was on account of being overworked
and harshly treated, and that they preferred a solitary and precarious
existence in the woods to a return to the misery they were compelled
to undergo. One or two of the party had certainly perished by the hands
of the natives, who had also wounded several others.
I trust that no man would feel more reluctant than myself to cast
an illiberal national reflection, particularly on a people whom I regard
in an aggregate sense as brethren and fellow-citizens; and among whom,
I have the honour to number many of the most cordial and endearing intimacies
which a life passed on service could generate. But it is certain
that all these people were Irish.
Transactions of the colony until 18th of December 1791,
when I quitted it, with an Account of its state at that time.
The Gorgon had arrived on the 21st of September, and the hour of departure
to England, for the marine battalion, drew nigh. If I be allowed to speak
from my own feelings on the occasion, I will not say that we contemplated
its approach with mingled sensations: we hailed it with rapture
The 'Supply', ever the harbinger of welcome and glad tidings, proclaimed
by her own departure, that ours was at hand. On the 26th of November
she sailed for England. It was impossible to view our separation
with insensibility: the little ship which had so often agitated our hopes
and fears, which from long acquaintance we had learned to regard as part
of ourselves, whose doors of hospitality had been ever thrown open
to relieve our accumulated wants, and chase our solitary gloom!
In consequence of the offers made to the non-commissioned officers
and privates of the marine battalion to remain in the country as settlers
or to enter into the New South Wales corps, three corporals, one drummer
and 59 privates accepted of grants of land, to settle at Norfolk Island
and Rose Hill. Of these men, several were undoubtedly possessed
of sufficient skill and industry, by the assistance of the pay which was due
to them from the date of their embarkation, in the beginning of the year
1787, to the day on which they were discharged, to set out with reasonable
hopes of being able to procure a maintenance. But the only apparent reason
to which the behaviour of a majority of them could be ascribed was from
infatuated affection to female convicts, whose characters and habits of life,
I am sorry to say, promise from a connection neither honour nor tranquillity.
The narrative part of this work will, I conceive, be best brought to
a termination by a description of the existing state of the colony,
as taken by myself a few days previous to my embarkation in the Gorgon,
to sail for England.
December 2nd, 1791. Went up to Rose Hill. Public buildings here
have not greatly multiplied since my last survey. The storehouse
and barrack have been long completed; also apartments for the chaplain
of the regiment, and for the judge-advocate, in which last,
criminal courts, when necessary, are held; but these are petty erections.
In a colony which contains only a few hundred hovels built of twigs and mud,
we feel consequential enough already to talk of a treasury, an admiralty,
a public library and many other similar edifices, which are to form
part of a magnificent square. The great road from near the landing place
to the governor's house is finished, and a very noble one it is,
being of great breadth, and a mile long, in a strait line. In many places
it is carried over gullies of considerable depth, which have been filled up
with trunks of trees covered with earth. All the sawyers, carpenters
and blacksmiths will soon be concentred under the direction of
a very adequate person of the governor's household. This plan is already
so far advanced as to contain nine covered sawpits, which change of weather
cannot disturb the operations of, an excellent workshed for the carpenters
and a large new shop for the blacksmiths. It certainly promises to be
of great public benefit. A new hospital has been talked of for the last
two years, but is not yet begun. Two long sheds, built in the form of a tent
and thatched, are however finished, and capable of holding 200 patients.
The sick list of today contains 382 names. Rose Hill is less healthy
than it used to be. The prevailing disorder is a dysentery, which often
terminates fatally. There was lately one very violent putrid fever which,
by timely removal of the patient, was prevented from spreading.
Twenty-five men and two children died here in the month of November.
When at the hospital I saw and conversed with some of the 'Chinese
travellers'; four of them lay here, wounded by the natives. I asked these men
if they really supposed it possible to reach China. They answered
that they were certainly made to believe (they knew not how) that
at a considerable distance to northward existed a large river,
which separated this country from the back part of China; and that when
it should be crossed (which was practicable) they would find themselves
among a copper-coloured people, who would receive and treat them kindly.
They added, that on the third day of their elopement, one of the party
died of fatigue; another they saw butchered by the natives who,
finding them unarmed, attacked them and put them to flight. This happened
near Broken Bay, which harbour stopped their progress to the northward
and forced them to turn to the right hand, by which means they soon after
found themselves on the sea shore, where they wandered about in a destitute
condition, picking up shellfish to allay hunger. Deeming the farther
prosecution of their scheme impracticable, several of them agreed to return
to Rose Hill, which with difficulty they accomplished, arriving
almost famished. On their road back they met six fresh adventurers
sallying forth to join them, to whom they related what had passed
and persuaded them to relinquish their intention. There are at this time
not less than thirty-eight convict men missing, who live in the woods by day,
and at night enter the different farms and plunder for subsistence.
December 3rd, 1791. Began my survey of the cultivated land belonging to
the public. The harvest has commenced. They are reaping both wheat
and barley. The field between the barrack and the governor's house
contains wheat and maize, both very bad, but the former particularly so.
In passing through the main street I was pleased to observe the gardens
of the convicts look better than I had expected to find them.
The vegetables in general are but mean, but the stalks of maize,
with which they are interspersed, appear green and flourishing.
The semicircular hill, which sweeps from the overseer of the cattle's house
to the governor's house, is planted with maize, which, I am told,
is the best here. It certainly looks in most parts very good--
stout thick stalks with large spreading leaves--but I am surprised
to find it so backward. It is at least a month later than that in the gardens
at Sydney. Behind the maize is a field of wheat, which looks tolerably
for this part of the world. It will, I reckon, yield about twelve bushels
an acre. Continued my walk and looked at a little patch of wheat
in the governor's garden, which was sown in drills, the ground
being first mixed with a clay which its discoverers pretended was marle.
Whatever it be, this experiment bespeaks not much in favour of
its enriching qualities; for the corn looks miserably, and is far exceeded
by some neighbouring spots on which no such advantage has been bestowed.
Went round the crescent at the bottom of the garden, which certainly
in beauty of form and situation is unrivalled in New South Wales.
Here are eight thousand vines planted, all of which in another season
are expected to bear grapes. Besides the vines are several small fruit trees,
which were brought in the Gorgon from the Cape, and look lively;
on one of them are half a dozen apples as big as nutmegs. Although the soil
of the crescent be poor, its aspect and circular figure, so advantageous
for receiving and retaining the rays of the sun, eminently fit it
for a vineyard. Passed the rivulet and looked at the corn land
on its northern side. On the western side of Clarke's* house the wheat
and maize are bad, but on the eastern side is a field supposed to be
the best in the colony. I thought it of good height, and the ears well filled,
but it is far from thick.
[*Dod, who is mentioned in my former journal of this place, had died
some months ago. And Mr. Clarke, who was put in his room, is one of
the superintendants, sent out by government, on a salary of forty pounds
per annum. He was bred to husbandry, under his father at Lewes in Sussex;
and is, I conceive, competent to his office of principal conductor
of the agriculture of Rose Hill.]
While I was looking at it, Clarke came up. I told him I thought
he would reap fifteen or sixteen bushels an acre; he seemed to think
seventeen or eighteen. I have now inspected all the European corn.
A man of so little experience of these matters as myself cannot speak
with much confidence. Perhaps the produce may average ten bushels an acre,
or twelve at the outside. Allowance should, however, be made in estimating
the quality of the soil, for the space occupied by roots of trees,
for inadequate culture, and in some measure to want of rain. Less has fallen
than was wished, but this spring was by no means so dry as the last.
I find that the wheat grown at Rose Hill last year weighed fifty-seven
pounds and a half per bushel. My next visit was to the cattle,
which consists of two stallions, six mares, and two colts; besides
sixteen cows, two cow-calves, and one bull-calf, which were brought out
by the Gorgon. Two bulls which were on board died on the passage, so that
on the young gentleman just mentioned depends the stocking of the colony.
The period of the inhabitants of New South Wales being supplied with
animal food of their own raising is too remote for a prudent man to calculate.
The cattle look in good condition, and I was surprised to hear that
neither corn nor fodder is given to them. The enclosures in which
they are confined furnish hardly a blade of grass at present. There are
people appointed to tend them who have been used to this way of life,
and who seem to execute it very well.
Sunday, December 4th, 1791. Divine service is now performed here
every Sunday, either by the chaplain of the settlement or the chaplain
of the regiment. I went to church today. Several hundred convicts
were present, the majority of whom I thought looked the most miserable
beings in the shape of humanity I ever beheld. They appeared to be
worn down with fatigue.
December, 5th. Made excursions this day to view the public settlements.
Reached the first, which is about a mile in a north-west direction
from the governor's house. This settlement contains, by admeasurement,
134 acres, a part of which is planted with maize, very backward,
but in general tolerably good, and beautifully green. Thirteen large huts,
built in the form of a tent, are erected for the convicts who work here;
but I could not learn the number of these last, being unable to find
a superintendant or any person who could give me information.
Ponds of water here sufficient to supply a thousand persons.
Walked on to the second settlement, about two miles farther, through
an uncleared country. Here met Daveney, the person who planned
and now superintends all the operations carried on here. He told me
that he estimated the quantity of cleared ground here at 300 acres.
He certainly over-rates it one-third, by the judgment of every other person.
Six weeks ago this was a forest. It has been cleared, and the wood
nearly burnt off the ground by 500 men, in the before-mentioned period,
or rather in thirty days, for only that number have the convicts worked.
He said it was too late to plant maize, and therefore he should sow turnips,
which would help to meliorate and prepare it for next year. On examining
the soil, I thought it in general light, though in some places loamy
to the touch. He means to try the Rose Hill 'marle' upon it, with which
he thinks it will incorporate well. I hope it will succeed better
than the experiment in the governor's garden. I wished to know
whether he had chosen this ground simply from the conveniency of its situation
to Rose Hill, and its easy form for tillage, and having water,
or from any marks which he had thought indicated good soil. He said that
what I had mentioned no doubt weighed with him, and that he judged the soil
to be good, from the limbs of many of the trees growing on it being
covered with moss.
"Are," said I, "your 500 men still complete?"
"No; this day's muster gave only 460. The rest are either sick
and removed to the hospital, or are run away in the woods."
"How much is each labourer's daily task?"
"Seven rods. It was eight, but on their representing to the governor
that it was beyond their strength to execute, he took off one."
Thirteen large huts, similar to those beforementioned, contain
all the people here. To every hut are appointed two men, as hutkeepers,
whose only employment is to watch the huts in working hours to prevent them
from being robbed. This has somewhat checked depredations, and those endless
complaints of the convicts that they could not work because they had nothing
to eat, their allowance being stolen. The working hours at this season
(summer) are from five o'clock in the morning until ten; rest from ten to two;
return to work at two; and continue till sunset. This surely cannot be called
very severe toil; but on the other hand must be remembered the inadequacy
of a ration of salt provisions, with few vegetables, and unassisted by
any liquor but water.
Here finished my remarks on every thing of a public nature at Rose Hill.
But having sufficient time, I determined to visit all the private settlers
to inspect their labours, and learn from them their schemes, their hopes
In pursuance of my resolution, I crossed the country to Prospect Hill,
at the bottom of which live the following thirteen convicts, who have accepted
allotments of ground, and are become settlers.
Men's names. | Trades. | Number of | Number of acres
| | acres in each | in cultivation.
| | allotment. |
John Silverthorne Weaver 40 1 3/4
Thomas Martin " 40 1 1/2
John Nichols Gardener 40 2
William Butler*, and his wife Seaman 50 )
---- Lisk* Watchmaker 40 ) 4
William Parish, wife, and a child Seaman 60 2 3/4
William Kilby, and his wife Husbandman 60 1 1/4
Edward Pugh, wife, and two children Carpenter 70 2 1/2
John Williams, and his wife
[*In partnership.[Butler and Lisk]
[**Not out of his time; but allowed to work here at his leisure hours,
as he has declared his intention of settling.]
[***In a similar predicament with Herbert.]
The terms on which these allotments have been granted are:
that the estates shall be fully ceded for ever to all who shall continue
to cultivate for five years, or more; that they shall be free of all taxes
for the first ten years; but after that period to pay an annual quit-rent
of one shilling. The penalty on non-performance of any of these articles
is forfeiture of the estate, and all the labour which may have been
bestowed upon it. These people are to receive provisions,
(the same quantity as the working convicts), clothes, and medicinal assistance,
for eighteen months from the day on which they settled.
To clear and cultivate the land, a hatchet, a tomahawk, two hoes, a spade
and a shovel, are given to each person, whether man or woman; and a certain
number of cross-cut saws among the whole. To stock their farms, two sow pigs
were promised to each settler, but they almost all say they have not yet
received any, of which they complain loudly. They all received grain
to sow and plant for the first year. They settled here in July and
August last. Most of them were obliged to build their own houses;
and wretched hovels three-fourths of them are. Should any of them fall sick,
the rest are bound to assist the sick person two days in a month,
provided the sickness lasts not longer than two months; four days labour
in each year, from every person, being all that he is entitled to.
To give protection to this settlement, a corporal and two soldiers
are encamped in the centre of the farms, as the natives once attacked
the settlers and burnt one of their houses. These guards are, however,
inevitably at such a distance from some of the farms as to be unable
to afford them any assistance in case of another attack.
With all these people I conversed and inspected their labours.
Some I found tranquil and determined to persevere, provided encouragement
should be given. Others were in a state of despondency, and predicted
that they should starve unless the period of eighteen months
during which they are to be clothed and fed, should be extended to three years.
Their cultivation is yet in its infancy, and therefore opinions should
not be hastily formed of what it may arrive at, with moderate skill
and industry. They have at present little in the ground besides maize,
and that looks not very promising. Some small patches of wheat which I saw
are miserable indeed. The greatest part of the land I think but indifferent,
being light and stoney. Of the thirteen farms ten are unprovided with water;
and at some of them they are obliged to fetch this necessary article
from the distance of a mile and a half. All the settlers complain sadly
of being frequently robbed by the runaway convicts, who plunder them
December 6th. Visited the settlements to the northward of the rivulet.
The nearest of them lies about a mile due north of Mr. Clarke's house.
Here are only the undernamed five settlers.
Men's names. | Trades. | Number of | Number of acres
| | acres in each | in cultivation.
| | allotment. |
Thomas Brown*, wife, and child --- 60 )
William Bradbury* --- 30 ) 3 1/2
William Mold* --- 30 )
Simon Burne, and wife Hosier 50 3
----Parr, and wife Merchant's clerk 50 3 1/2
[*These three cultivate in partnership.(Brown, Bradbury, Mold.)]
These settlers are placed on the same footing in every respect
which concerns their tenure and the assistance to be granted to them
as those at Prospect Hill. Near them is water. Parr and Burne are men
of great industry. They have both good houses which they hired people
to build for them. Parr told me that he had expended thirteen guineas
on his land, which nevertheless he does not seem pleased with.
Of the three poor fellows who work in partnership, one (Bradbury) is run away.
This man had been allowed to settle, on a belief, from his own assurance,
that his term of transportation was expired; but it was afterwards discovered
that he had been cast for life. Hereupon he grew desperate, and declared
he would rather perish at once than remain as a convict. He disappeared
a week ago and has never since been heard of. Were I compelled to settle
in New South Wales, I should fix my residence here, both from the appearance
of the soil, and its proximity to Rose Hill. A corporal and two privates
are encamped here to guard this settlement, as at Prospect.
Proceeded to the settlement called the Ponds, a name which I suppose
it derived from several ponds of water which are near the farms.
Here reside the fourteen following settlers.
Men's names. | Trades. | Number of | Number of acres
| | acres in each | in cultivation.
| | allotment. |
Thomas Kelly Servant 30 1 1/2
William Hubbard, and wife Plasterer 50 2 1/4
Curtis Brand, and wife Carpenter 50 3
John Ramsay, and wife Seaman 50 3 1/2
William Field --- 30 2 1/2
John Richards* Stone-cutter 30 ) 4 1/2
John Summers* Husbandman 30 )
----Varnell --- 30 1
Anthony Rope**, and wife, and
two children Bricklayer 70 1
Joseph Bishop, and wife None 50 1 1/2
Mathew Everingham, and wife Attorney's clerk 50 2
John Anderson, and wife --- 50 2
Edward Elliot*** Husbandman 30 ) 2
Joseph Marshall*** Weaver 30 )
[*They (Richards and Summers) cultivate in partnership.]
[**A convict who means to settle here; and is permitted to work
in his leisure hours.]
[***They (Elliot and Marshall) cultivate in partnership.]
The Prospect Hill terms of settlement extend to this place. My private
remarks were not many. Some spots which I passed over I thought desirable,
particularly Ramsay's farm; and he deserves a good spot, for he is a civil,
sober, industrious man. Besides his corn land, he has a well laid out
little garden, in which I found him and his wife busily at work.
He praised her industry to me; and said he did not doubt of succeeding.
It is not often seen that sailors make good farmers; but this man I think
bids fair to contradict the observation. The gentleman of no trade
(his own words to me) will, I apprehend, at the conclusion of the time
when victualling from the store is to cease, have the honour of returning
to drag a timber or brick cart for his maintenance. The little maize
he has planted is done in so slovenly a style as to promise a very poor crop.
He who looks forward to eat grapes from his own vine, and to sit
under the shade of his own fig-tree, must labour in every country.
He must exert more than ordinary activity. The attorney's clerk
I also thought out of his province. I dare believe that he finds cultivating
his own land not half so easy a task as he formerly found that of
stringing together volumes of tautology to encumber, or convey away,
that of his neighbour. Hubbard's farm, and Kelly's also, deserve regard,
from being better managed than most of the others. The people here
complain sadly of a destructive grub which destroys the young plants of maize.
Many of the settlers have been obliged to plant twice, nay thrice,
on the same land, from the depredations of these reptiles. There is
the same guard here as at the other settlements.
Nothing now remains for inspection but the farms on the river side.
December 7th. Went to Scheffer's farm. I found him at home, conversed
with him, and walked with him over all his cultivated ground. He had
140 acres granted to him, fourteen of which are in cultivation,
twelve in maize, one in wheat and one in vines and tobacco. He has besides
twenty-three acres on which the trees are cut down but not burnt off the land.
He resigned his appointment and began his farm last May, and had at first
five convicts to assist him; he has now four. All his maize,
except three acres, is mean. This he thinks may be attributed to three causes:
a middling soil; too dry a spring; and from the ground not being
sufficiently pulverized before the seed was put into it. The wheat is thin
and poor: he does not reckon its produce at more than eight or nine bushels.
His vines, 900 in number, are flourishing, and will, he supposes, bear fruit
next year. His tobacco plants are not very luxuriant: to these two
last articles he means principally to direct his exertions. He says
(and truly) that they will always be saleable and profitable. On one
of the boundaries of his land is plenty of water. A very good brick house
is nearly completed for his use, by the governor; and in the meantime
he lives in a very decent one, which was built for him on his settling here.
He is to be supplied with provisions from the public store, and with
medical assistance for eighteen months, reckoning from last May.
At the expiration of this period he is bound to support himself
and the four convicts are to be withdrawn. But if he shall then,
or at any future period, declare himself able to maintain a moderate number
of these people for their labour, they will be assigned to him.
Mr. Scheffer is a man of industry and respectable character. He came out
to this country as superintendant of convicts, at a salary of forty pounds
per annum, and brought with him a daughter of twelve years old. He is
by birth a Hessian, and served in America, in a corps of Yaghers,
with the rank of lieutenant. He never was professionally, in any part of life,
a farmer, but he told me, that his father owned a small estate on the banks
of the Rhine, on which he resided, and that he had always been fond
of looking at and assisting in his labours, particularly in the vineyard.
In walking along, he more than once shook his head and made some
mortifying observations on the soil of his present domain, compared with
the banks of his native stream. He assured me that (exclusive of the sacrifice
of his salary) he has expended more than forty pounds in advancing his ground
to the state in which I saw it. Of the probability of success
in his undertaking, he spoke with moderation and good sense. Sometimes
he said he had almost despaired, and had often balanced about relinquishing it;
but had as often been checked by recollecting that hardly any difficulty
can arise which vigour and perseverance will not overcome. I asked him
what was the tenure on which he held his estate. He offered to show
the written document, saying that it was exactly the same as Ruse's.
I therefore declined to trouble him, and took my leave with wishes
for his success and prosperity.
Near Mr. Scheffer's farm is a small patch of land cleared by Lieutenant Townson
of the New South Wales corps, about two acres of which are in maize and wheat,
both looking very bad.
Proceeded to the farm of Mr. Arndell, one of the assistant surgeons.
This gentleman has six acres in cultivation as follows: rather more than four
in maize, one in wheat, and the remainder in oats and barley. The wheat
looks tolerably good, rather thin but of a good height, and the ears
well filled. His farming servant guesses the produce will be twelve bushels,*
and I do not think he over-rates it. The maize he guesses at thirty bushels,
which from appearances it may yield, but not more. The oats and barley
are not contemptible. This ground has been turned up but once The aspect
of it is nearly south, on a declivity of the river, or arm of the sea,
on which Rose Hill stands. It was cleared of wood about nine months ago,
and sown this year for the first time.
[*I have received a letter from Port Jackson, dated in April 1792,
which states that the crop of wheat turned out fifteen bushels,
and the maize rather more than forty bushels.]
December 8th. Went this morning to the farm of Christopher Magee,
a convict settler, nearly opposite to that of Mr. Scheffen. The situation
of this farm is very eligible, provided the river in floods does not
inundate it, which I think doubtful. This man was bred to husbandry,
and lived eight years in America; he has no less than eight acres
in cultivation, five and a half in maize, one in wheat, and one and a half
in tobacco. From the wheat he does not expect more than ten bushels,
but he is extravagant enough to rate the produce of maize at 100 bushels
(perhaps he may get fifty); on tobacco he means to go largely hereafter.
He began to clear this ground in April, but did not settle until last July.
I asked by what means he had been able to accomplish so much? He answered,
"By industry, and by hiring all the convicts I could get to work
in their leisure hours, besides some little assistance which the governor
has occasionally thrown in." His greatest impediment is want of water,
being obliged to fetch all he uses more than half a mile. He sunk a well,
and found water, but it was brackish and not fit to drink. If this man
shall continue in habits of industry and sobriety, I think him sure
Reached Ruse's farm,* and begged to look at his grant, the material part
of which runs thus: "A lot of thirty acres, to be called Experiment Farm;
the said lot to be holden, free of all taxes, quit-rents, &c. for ten years,
provided that the occupier, his heirs or assigns, shall reside within the same,
and proceed to the improvement thereof; reserving, however, for the use
of the crown, all timber now growing, or which hereafter shall grow,
fit for naval purposes. At the expiration of ten years, an annual quit-rent
of one shilling shall be paid by the occupier in acknowledgment."
[*See the state of this farm in my former Rose Hill journal
of November 1790, thirteen months before.]
Ruse now lives in a comfortable brick house, built for him by the governor.
He has eleven acres and a half in cultivation, and several more
which have been cleared by convicts in their leisure hours, on condition
of receiving the first year's crop. He means to cultivate little
besides maize; wheat is so much less productive. Of the culture of vineyards
and tobacco he is ignorant; and, with great good sense, he declared
that he would not quit the path he knew, for an uncertainty.
His livestock consists of four breeding sows and thirty fowls.
He has been taken from the store (that is, has supplied himself
with provisions) for some months past; and his wife is to be taken off
at Christmas, at which time, if he deems himself able to maintain
a convict labourer, one is to be given to him.
Crossed the river in a boat to Robert Webb's farm. This man was one of
the seamen of the 'Sirius', and has taken, in conjunction with his brother
(also a seaman of the same ship) a grant of sixty acres, on the same terms
as Ruse, save that the annual quit-rent is to commence at the expiration
of five years, instead of ten. The brother is gone to England to receive
the wages due to them both for their services, which money is to be expended
by him in whatever he judges will be most conducive to the success
of their plan. Webb expects to do well; talks as a man should talk
who has just set out on a doubtful enterprise which he is bound to pursue.
He is sanguine in hope, and looks only at the bright side of the prospect.
He has received great encouragement and assistance from the governor.
He has five acres cleared and planted with maize, which looks thriving,
and promises to yield a decent crop. His house and a small one adjoining
for pigs and poultry were built for him by the governor, who also gave him
two sows and seven fowls, to which he adds a little stock of his own acquiring.
Near Webb is placed William Read, another seaman of the 'Sirius',
on the same terms, and to whom equal encouragement has been granted.
My survey of Rose Hill is now closed. I have inspected every piece of ground
in cultivation here, both public and private, and have written from
actual examination only.
But before I bade adieu to Rose Hill, in all probability for the last time
of my life, it struck me that there yet remained one object of consideration
not to be slighted: Barrington had been in the settlement between two
and three months, and I had not seen him.
I saw him with curiosity. He is tall, approaching to six feet, slender,
and his gait and manner, bespeak liveliness and activity. Of that elegance
and fashion, with which my imagination had decked him (I know not why),
I could distinguish no trace. Great allowance should, however, be made
for depression and unavoidable deficiency of dress. His face is thoughtful
and intelligent; to a strong cast of countenance he adds a penetrating eye,
and a prominent forehead. His whole demeanour is humble, not servile.
Both on his passage from England, and since his arrival here, his conduct
has been irreproachable. He is appointed high-constable of the settlement
of Rose Hill, a post of some respectability, and certainly one of importance
to those who live here. His knowledge of men, particularly of that part
of them into whose morals, manners and behaviour he is ordered
especially to inspect, eminently fit him for the office.
I cannot quit him without bearing my testimony that his talents promise to be
directed in future to make reparation to society for the offences he has
heretofore committed against it.
The number of persons of all descriptions at Rose Hill at this period
will be seen in the following return.
A return of the number of persons at Rose Hill, 3rd of December 1791
Quality. |Men.|Women.| Children
| | | of 10 years | of 2 years | under 2 years
Convicts* 1336 133 0 9 17
Troops 94 9 1 5 2
Civil Department 7 0 0 0 0
Seamen Settlers 3 0 0 0 0
Free Persons 0 7 2 1 2
Total number of
persons 1440 149 3 15 21
[*The convicts who are become settlers, are included in this number.]
Of my Sydney journal, I find no part sufficiently interesting to
be worth extraction. This place had long been considered only as a depot
for stores. It exhibited nothing but a few old scattered huts and some
sterile gardens. Cultivation of the ground was abandoned, and all our strength
transferred to Rose Hill. Sydney, nevertheless, continued to be the place
of the governor's residence, and consequently the headquarters of the colony.
No public building of note, except a storehouse, had been erected since
my last statement. The barracks, so long talked of, so long promised,
for the accommodation and discipline of the troops, were not even begun
when I left the country; and instead of a new hospital, the old one
was patched up and, with the assistance of one brought ready-framed
from England, served to contain the sick.
The employment of the male convicts here, as at Rose Hill,
was the public labour. Of the women, the majority were compelled
to make shirts, trousers and other necessary parts of dress for the men,
from materials delivered to them from the stores, into which they returned
every Saturday night the produce of their labour, a stipulated weekly task
being assigned to them. In a more early stage, government sent out
all articles of clothing ready made; but, by adopting the present
judicious plan, not only a public saving is effected, but employment
of a suitable nature created for those who would otherwise consume leisure
in idle pursuits only.
On the 26th of November 1791, the number of persons, of all descriptions,
at Sydney, was 1259, to which, if 1628 at Rose Hill and 1172 at Norfolk Island
be added, the total number of persons in New South Wales and its dependency
will be found to amount to 4059.*
[*A very considerable addition to this number has been made since I quitted
the settlement, by fresh troops and convicts sent thither from England.]
On the 13th of December 1791, the marine battalion embarked on board
His Majesty's ship Gorgon, and on the 18th sailed for England.
Miscellaneous Remarks on the country. On its vegetable productions.
On its climate. On its animal productions. On its natives, etc.
The journals contained in the body of this publication, illustrated by
the map which accompanies it (unfortunately, there is no map accompanying
this etext), are, I conceive, so descriptive of every part of the country
known to us, that little remains to be added beyond a few general observations.
The first impression made on a stranger is certainly favourable.
He sees gently swelling hills connected by vales which possess every beauty
that verdure of trees, and form, simply considered in itself, can produce;
but he looks in vain for those murmuring rills and refreshing springs
which fructify and embellish more happy lands. Nothing like those
tributary streams which feed rivers in other countries are here seen;
for when I speak of the stream at Sydney, I mean only the drain of a morass;
and the river at Rose Hill is a creek of the harbour, which above
high water mark would not in England be called even a brook. Whence
the Hawkesbury, the only fresh water river known to exist in the country,
derives its supplies, would puzzle a transient observer. He sees nothing
but torpid unmeaning ponds (often stagnant and always still, unless agitated
by heavy rains) which communicate with it. Doubtless the springs which arise
in Carmarthen mountains may be said to constitute its source.
To cultivate its banks within many miles of the bed of the stream
(except on some elevated detached spots) will be found impracticable,
unless some method be devised of erecting a mound, sufficient to repel
the encroachments of a torrent which sometimes rises fifty feet above
its ordinary level, inundating the surrounding country in every direction.
The country between the Hawkesbury and Rose Hill is that which I have hitherto
spoken of. When the river is crossed, this prospect soon gives place
to a very different one. The green vales and moderate hills disappear
at the distance of about three miles from the river side, and from Knight Hill,
and Mount Twiss,* the limits which terminate our researches,
nothing but precipices, wilds and deserts, are to be seen. Even these steeps
fail to produce streams. The difficulty of penetrating this country,
joined to the dread of a sudden rise of the Hawkesbury, forbidding all return,
has hitherto prevented our reaching Carmarthen mountains.
[*Look at the Map. (There is no map accompanying this etext)]
Let the reader now cast his eye on the relative situation of Port Jackson.
He will see it cut off from communication with the northward by Broken Bay,
and with the southward by Botany Bay; and what is worse, the whole space
of intervening country yet explored, (except a narrow strip called
the Kangaroo Ground) in both directions, is so bad as to preclude cultivation.
The course of the Hawkesbury will next attract his attention.
To the southward of every part of Botany Bay we have traced this river;
but how much farther in that line it extends we know not. Hence its channel
takes a northerly direction, and finishes its course in Broken Bay,
running at the back of Port Jackson in such a manner as to form
the latter into a peninsula.
The principal question then remaining is, what is the distance between
the head of Botany Bay and the part of the Hawkesbury nearest to it?
And is the intermediate country a good one, or does it lead to one
which appearances indicate to be good? To future adventurers who shall meet
with more encouragement to persevere and discover than I and my fellow
wanderer[s] did, I resign the answer. In the meantime the reader is desired
to look at the remarks on the map (there is no map accompanying this etext),
which were made in the beginning of August 1790, from Pyramid Hill,
which bounded our progress on the southern expedition; when, and when only,
this part of the country has been seen.
It then follows that from Rose Hill to within such a distance
of the Hawkesbury as is protected from its inundations, is the only tract
of land we yet know of, in which cultivation can be carried on
for many years to come. To aim at forming a computation of the distance
of time, of the labour and of the expense, which would attend
forming distinct convict settlements, beyond the bounds I have delineated;
or of the difficulty which would attend a system of communication
between such establishments and Port Jackson, is not intended here.
Until that period shall arrive, the progress of cultivation,
when it shall have once passed Prospect Hill, will probably steal along
to the southward, in preference to the northward, from the superior nature
of the country in that direction, as the remarks inserted in the map
Such is my statement of a plan which I deem inevitably entailed on
the settlement at Port Jackson. In sketching this outline of it
let it not be objected that I suppose the reader as well acquainted with
the respective names and boundaries of the country as long residence
and unwearied journeying among them, have made the author. To have subjoined
perpetual explanations would have been tedious and disgusting. Familiarity
with the relative positions of a country can neither be imparted,
or acquired, but by constant recurrence to geographic delineations.
On the policy of settling, with convicts only, a country at once so remote
and extensive, I shall offer no remarks. Whenever I have heard this question
agitated, since my return to England, the cry of, "What can we do with them!
Where else can they be sent!" has always silenced me.
Of the soil, opinions have not differed widely. A spot eminently fruitful
has never been discovered. That there are many spots cursed with everlasting
and unconquerable sterility no one who has seen the country will deny.
At the same time I am decidedly of opinion that many large tracts of land
between Rose Hill and the Hawkesbury, even now, are of a nature
sufficiently favourable to produce moderate crops of whatever may be sown
in them. And provided a sufficient number of cattle* be imported
to afford manure for dressing the ground, no doubt can exist that subsistence
for a limited number of inhabitants may be drawn from it. To imperfect
husbandry, and dry seasons, must indubitably be attributed part
of the deficiency of former years. Hitherto all our endeavours to derive
advantage from mixing the different soils have proved fruitless,
though possibly only from want of skill on our side.
[*In my former narrative I have particularly noticed the sudden disappearance
of the cattle, which we had brought with us into the country. Not a trace
of them has ever since been observed. Their fate is a riddle, so difficult
of solution that I shall not attempt it. Surely had they strayed inland,
in some of our numerous excursions, marks of them must have been found.
It is equally impossible to believe that either the convicts or natives
killed and ate them, without some sign of detection ensuing.]
The spontaneous productions of the soil will be soon recounted.
Every part of the country is a forest: of the quality of the wood
take the following instance. The 'Supply' wanted wood for a mast,
and more than forty of the choicest young trees were cut down before
as much wood as would make it could be procured, the trees being either rotten
at the heart or riven by the gum which abounds in them. This gum
runs not always in a longitudinal direction in the body of the tree,
but is found in it in circles, like a scroll. There is however, a species
of light wood which is found excellent for boat building, but it is scarce
and hardly ever found of large size.
To find limestone many of our researches were directed. But after repeated
assays with fire and chemical preparations on all the different sorts of stone
to be picked up, it is still a desideratum. Nor did my experiments
with a magnet induce me to think that any of the stones I tried contained iron.
I have, however, heard other people report very differently on this head.
The list of esculent vegetables, and wild fruits is too contemptible
to deserve notice, if the 'sweet tea' whose virtues have been already recorded,
and the common orchis root be excepted. That species of palm tree
which produces the mountain cabbage is also found in most of the freshwater
swamps, within six or seven miles of the coast. But is rarely seen
farther inland. Even the banks of the Hawkesbury are unprovided with it.
The inner part of the trunk of this tree was greedily eaten by our hogs,
and formed their principal support. The grass, as has been remarked
in former publications, does not overspread the land in a continued sward,
but arises in small detached tufts, growing every way about three inches apart,
the intermediate space being bare; though the heads of the grass are often
so luxuriant as to hide all deficiency on the surface. The rare
and beautiful flowering shrubs, which abound in every part, deserve
the highest admiration and panegyric.
Of the vegetable productions transplanted from other climes, maize flourishes
beyond any other grain. And as it affords a strong and nutritive article
of food, its propagation will, I think, altogether supersede that
of wheat and barley.
Horticulture has been attended in some places with tolerable success.
At Rose Hill I have seen gardens which, without the assistance of manure,
have continued for a short time to produce well grown vegetables.
But at Sydney, without constantly dressing the ground, it was in vain
to expect them; and with it a supply of common vegetables might be procured
by diligence in all seasons. Vines of every sort seem to flourish.
Melons, cucumbers and pumpkins run with unbounded luxuriancy,
and I am convinced that the grapes of New South Wales will, in a few years,
equal those of any other country. 'That their juice will probably
hereafter furnish an indispensable article of luxury at European tables',
has already been predicted in the vehemence of speculation. Other fruits
are yet in their infancy; but oranges, lemons and figs, (of which last
indeed I have eaten very good ones) will, I dare believe, in a few years
become plentiful. Apples and the fruits of colder climes also promise
to gratify expectation. The banana-tree has been introduced
from Norfolk Island, where it grows spontaneously.
Nor will this surprise, if the genial influence of the climate be considered.
Placed in a latitude where the beams of the sun in the dreariest season
are sufficiently powerful for many hours of the day to dispense warmth
and nutrition, the progress of vegetation never is at a stand.
The different temperatures of Rose Hill and Sydney in winter, though only
twelve miles apart, afford, however, curious matter of speculation.
Of a well attested instance of ice being seen at the latter place,
I never heard. At the former place its production is common, and once
a few flakes of snow fell. The difference can be accounted for
only by supposing that the woods stop the warm vapours of the sea
from reaching Rose Hill, which is at the distance of sixteen miles inland;
whereas Sydney is but four.* Again, the heats of summer are more violent
at the former place than at the latter, and the variations
incomparably quicker. The thermometer has been known to alter at Rose Hill,
in the course of nine hours, more than 50 degrees; standing a little before
sunrise at 50 degrees, and between one and two at more than 100 degrees.
To convey an idea of the climate in summer, I shall transcribe
from my meteorological journal, accounts of two particular days
which were the hottest we ever suffered under at Sydney.
[*Look at the journal which describes the expedition in search of the river,
said to exist to the southward of Rose Hill. At the time we felt
that extraordinary degree of cold were not more than six miles south west
of Rose Hill, and about nineteen miles from the the sea coast.
When I mentioned this circumstance to colonel Gordon, at the Cape of Good Hope,
he wondered at it; and owned, that, in his excursions into the interior parts
of Africa, he had never experienced anything to match it: he attributed
its production to large beds of nitre, which he said must exist
in the neighbourhood.]
December 27th 1790. Wind NNW; it felt like the blast of a heated oven,
and in proportion as it increased the heat was found to be more intense,
the sky hazy, the sun gleaming through at intervals.
At 9 a.m. 85 degrees
At noon 104
Half past twelve 107 1/2
From one p.m. until 20
minutes past two 108 1/2
At 20 minutes past two 109
At Sunset 89
At 11 p.m. 78 1/2
[By a large Thermometer made by Ramsden, and graduated on Fahrenheit's scale.]
At 8 a.m. 86
10 a.m. 93
11 a.m. 101
At noon 103 1/2
Half an hour past noon 104 1/2
At one p.m. 102
At 5 p.m. 73
At sunset 69 1/2
[At a quarter past one, it stood at only 89 degrees, having,
from a sudden shift of wind, fallen 13 degrees in 15 minutes.]
My observations on this extreme heat, succeeded by so rapid a change,
were that of all animals, man seemed to bear it best. Our dogs, pigs
and fowls, lay panting in the shade, or were rushing into the water.
I remarked that a hen belonging to me, which had sat for a fortnight,
frequently quitted her eggs, and shewed great uneasiness,
but never remained from them many minutes at one absence; taught by instinct
that the wonderful power in the animal body of generating cold in air
heated beyond a certain degree, was best calculated for the production
of her young. The gardens suffered considerably. All the plants
which had not taken deep root were withered by the power of the sun.
No lasting ill effects, however, arose to the human constitution.
A temporary sickness at the stomach, accompanied with lassitude and headache,
attacked many, but they were removed generally in twenty-four hours
by an emetic, followed by an anodyne. During the time it lasted,
we invariably found that the house was cooler than the open air, and that
in proportion as the wind was excluded, was comfort augmented.
But even this heat was judged to be far exceeded in the latter end
of the following February, when the north-west wind again set in,
and blew with great violence for three days. At Sydney, it fell short
by one degree of what I have just recorded: but at Rose Hill, it was allowed,
by every person, to surpass all that they had before felt, either there
or in any other part of the world. Unluckily they had no thermometer
to ascertain its precise height. It must, however, have been intense,
from the effects it produced. An immense flight of bats driven before
the wind, covered all the trees around the settlement, whence they every moment
dropped dead or in a dying state, unable longer to endure the burning state
of the atmosphere. Nor did the 'perroquettes', though tropical birds,
bear it better. The ground was strewn with them in the same condition
as the bats.
Were I asked the cause of this intolerable heat, I should not hesitate
to pronounce that it was occasioned by the wind blowing over immense deserts,
which, I doubt not, exist in a north-west direction from Port Jackson,
and not from fires kindled by the natives. This remark I feel necessary,
as there were methods used by some persons in the colony, both for estimating
the degree of heat and for ascertaining the cause of its production,
which I deem equally unfair and unphilosophical. The thermometer,
whence my observations were constantly made, was hung in the open air
in a southern aspect, never reached by the rays of the sun, at the distance
of several feet above the ground.
My other remarks on the climate will be short. It is changeable
beyond any other I ever heard of; but no phenomena sufficiently accurate
to reckon upon, are found to indicate the approach of alteration.
Indeed, for the first eighteen months that we lived in the country,
changes were supposed to take place more commonly at the quartering
of the moon than at other times. But lunar empire afterwards lost its credit.
For the last two years and a half of our residing at Port Jackson,
its influence was unperceived. Three days together seldom passed
without a necessity occurring for lighting a fire in an evening.
A 'habit d'ete', or a 'habit de demi saison', would be in the highest degree
absurd. Clouds, storms and sunshine pass in rapid succession. Of rain,
we found in general not a sufficiency, but torrents of water sometimes fall.
Thunder storms, in summer, are common and very tremendous,
but they have ceased to alarm, from rarely causing mischief. Sometimes
they happen in winter. I have often seen large hailstones fall.
Frequent strong breezes from the westward purge the air. These are almost
invariably attended with a hard clear sky. The easterly winds,
by setting in from the sea, bring thick weather and rain, except in summer,
when they become regular sea-breezes. The 'aurora australis'
is sometimes seen, but is not distinguished by superior brilliancy.
To sum up: notwithstanding the inconveniences which I have enumerated,
I will venture to assert in few words, that no climate hitherto known
is more generally salubrious*, or affords more days on which those pleasures
which depend on the state of the atmosphere can be enjoyed,
than that of New South Wales. The winter season is particularly delightful.
[*To this cause, I ascribe the great number of births which happened,
considering the age and other circumstances, of many of the mothers.
Women who certainly would never have bred in any other climate here produced
as fine children as ever were born.]
The leading animal production is well known to be the kangaroo.
The natural history of this animal will, probably, be written
from observations made upon it in England, as several living ones
of both sexes, have been brought home. Until such an account shall appear,
probably the following desultory observation may prove acceptable.
The genus in which the kangaroo is to be classed I leave to better naturalists
than myself to determine. How it copulates, those who pretend to have seen
disagree in their accounts: nor do we know how long the period
of gestation lasts. Prolific it cannot be termed, bringing forth
only one at a birth, which the dam carries in her pouch wherever she goes
until the young one be enabled to provide for itself; and even then,
in the moment of alarm, she will stop to receive and protect it.
We have killed she-kangaroos whose pouches contained young ones
completely covered with fur and of more than fifteen pounds weight,
which had ceased to suck and afterwards were reared by us. In what space
of time it reaches such a growth as to be abandoned entirely by the mother,
we are ignorant. It is born blind, totally bald, the orifice of the ear
closed and only just the centre of the mouth open, but a black score,
denoting what is hereafter to form the dimension of the mouth,
is marked very distinctly on each side of the opening. At its birth,
the kangaroo (notwithstanding it weighs when full grown 200 pounds)
is not so large as a half-grown mouse. I brought some with me to England
even less, which I took from the pouches of the old ones.
This phenomenon is so striking and so contrary to the general laws of nature,
that an opinion has been started that the animal is brought forth
not by the pudenda, but descends from the belly into the pouch
by one of the teats, which are there deposited. On this difficulty
as I can throw no light, I shall hazard no conjecture. It may, however,
be necessary to observe that the teats are several inches long
and capable of great dilatation. And here I beg leave to correct an error
which crept into my former publication wherein I asserted that,
"the teats of the kangaroo never exceed two in number." They sometimes,
though rarely, amount to four. There is great reason to believe
that they are slow of growth and live many years. This animal has a clavicle,
or collar-bone, similar to that of the human body. The general colour
of the kangaroo is very like that of the ass, but varieties exist.
Its shape and figure are well known by the plates which have been given of it.
The elegance of the ear is particularly deserving of admiration.
This far exceeds the ear of the hare in quickness of sense and is so flexible
as to admit of being turned by the animal nearly quite round the head,
doubtless for the purpose of informing the creature of the approach
of its enemies, as it is of a timid nature, and poorly furnished
with means of defence; though when compelled to resist, it tears
furiously with its forepaws, and strikes forward very hard with its hind legs.
Notwithstanding its unfavourable conformation for such a purpose,
its swims strongly; but never takes to the water unless so hard pressed
by its pursuers as to be left without all other refuge. The noise
they make is a faint bleat, querulous, but not easy to describe.
They are sociable animals and unite in droves, sometimes to the number
of fifty or sixty together; when they are seen playful and feeding on grass,
which alone forms their food. At such time they move gently about
like all other quadrupeds, on all fours; but at the slightest noise
they spring up on their hind legs and sit erect, listening to what
it may proceed from, and if it increases they bound off on those legs only,
the fore ones at the same time being carried close to the breast
like the paws of a monkey; and the tail stretched out, acts as a rudder
on a ship. In drinking, the kangaroo laps. It is remarkable
that they are never found in a fat state, being invariably lean.
Of the flesh we always eat with avidity, but in Europe it would not
be reckoned a delicacy. A rank flavour forms the principal objection to it.
The tail is accounted the most delicious part, when stewed.
Hitherto I have spoken only of the large, or grey kangaroo, to which
the natives give the name of 'patagaran'.* But there are
(besides the kangaroo-rat) two other sorts. One of them we called
the red kangaroo, from the colour of its fur, which is like that of a hare,
and sometimes is mingled with a large portion of black: the natives
call it 'bagaray'. It rarely attains to more than forty pounds weight.
The third sort is very rare, and in the formation of its head resembles
the opossum. The kangaroo-rat is a small animal, never reaching,
at its utmost growth, more than fourteen or fifteen pounds,
and its usual size is not above seven or eight pounds. It joins to the head
and bristles of a rat the leading distinctions of a kangaroo, by running
when pursued on its hind legs only, and the female having a pouch.
Unlike the kangaroo, who appears to have no fixed place of residence,
this little animal constructs for itself a nest of grass, on the ground,
of a circular figure, about ten inches in diameter, with a hole on one side
for the creature to enter at; the inside being lined with a finer sort
of grass, very soft and downy. But its manner of carrying the materials
with which it builds the nest is the greatest curiosity: by entwining
its tail (which, like that of all the kangaroo tribe, is long, flexible
and muscular) around whatever it wants to remove, and thus dragging along
the load behind it. This animal is good to eat; but whether it be
more prolific at a birth than the kangaroo, I know not.
[*kangaroo was a name unknown to them for any animal, until we introduced it.
When I showed Colbee the cows brought out in the Gorgon, he asked me
if they were kangaroos.]
The Indians sometimes kill the kangaroo; but their greatest destroyer
is the wild dog,* who feeds on them. Immediately on hearing or seeing
this formidable enemy, the kangaroo flies to the thickest cover, in which,
if he can involve himself, he generally escapes. In running to the cover,
they always, if possible, keep in paths of their own forming, to avoid
the high grass and stumps of trees which might be sticking up among it
to wound them and impede their course.
[*I once found in the woods the greatest part of a kangaroo
just killed by the dogs, which afforded to three of us a most welcome repast.
Marks of its turns and struggles on the ground were very visible.
This happened in the evening, and the dogs probably had seen us approach
and had run away. At daylight next morning they saluted us
with most dreadful howling for the loss of their prey.]
Our methods of killing them were but two; either we shot them, or hunted them
with greyhounds. We were never able to ensnare them. Those sportsmen
who relied on the gun seldom met with success, unless they slept near covers,
into which the kangaroos were wont to retire at night, and watched
with great caution and vigilance when the game, in the morning,
sallied forth to feed. They were, however, sometimes stolen in upon
in the day-time and that fascination of the eye, which has been
by some authors so much insisted upon, so far acts on the kangaroo
that if he fixes his eye upon any one, and no other object move at the same
time, he will often continue motionless, in stupid gaze, while the sportsman
advances with measured step, towards him, until within reach of his gun.
The greyhounds for a long time were incapable of taking them; but with a brace
of dogs, if not near cover a kangaroo almost always falls, since the greyhounds
have acquired by practice the proper method of fastening upon them.
Nevertheless the dogs are often miserably torn by them. The rough wiry
greyhound suffers least in the conflict, and is most prized by the hunters.
Other quadrupeds, besides the wild dog, consist only of the flying squirrel,
of three kinds of opossums and some minute animals, usually marked
by the distinction which so peculiarly characterizes the opossum tribe.
The rats, soon after our landing, became not only numerous but formidable,
from the destruction they occasioned in the stores. Latterly they had
almost disappeared, though to account for their absence were not easy.
The first time Colbee saw a monkey, he called 'wurra' (a rat);
but on examining its paws he exclaimed with astonishment and affright,
'mulla' (a man).
At the head of the birds the cassowary or emu, stands conspicuous.
The print of it which has already been given to the public is so accurate
for the most part, that it would be malignant criticism in a work
of this kind to point out a few trifling defects.
Here again naturalists must look forward to that information which longer
and more intimate knowledge of the feathered tribe than I can supply,
shall appear. I have nevertheless had the good fortune to see what
was never seen but once, in the country I am describing, by Europeans--a
hatch, or flock, of young cassowaries with the old bird. I counted ten,
but others said there were twelve. We came suddenly upon them,
and they ran up a hill exactly like a flock of turkeys, but so fast
that we could not get a shot at them. The largest cassowary ever killed
in the settlement, weighed ninety-four pounds. Three young ones,
which had been by accident separated from the dam, were once taken
and presented to the governor. They were not larger than so many pullets,
although at first sight they appeared to be so from the length of their necks
and legs. They were very beautifully striped, and from their tender state
were judged to be not more than three or four days old. They lived
only a few days.
A single egg, the production of a cassowary, was picked up in a desert place,
dropped on the sand, without covering or protection of any kind.
Its form was nearly a perfect ellipsis; and the colour of the shell
a dark green, full of little indents on its surface. It measured eleven inches
and a half in circumference, five inches and a quarter in height,
and weighed a pound and a quarter. Afterwards we had the good fortune
to take a nest. It was found by a soldier in a sequestered solitary situation,
made in a patch of lofty fern about three feet in diameter,
rather of an oblong shape and composed of dry leaves and tops of fern stalks,
very inartificially put together. The hollow in which lay the eggs,
twelve in number, seemed made solely by the pressure of the bird.
The eggs were regularly placed in the following position.
O O O
O O O O O
O O O
The soldier, instead of greedily plundering his prize, communicated
the discovery to an officer, who immediately set out for the spot.
When they had arrived there they continued for a long time to search in vain
for their object, and the soldier was just about to be stigmatized
with ignorance, credulity or imposture, when suddenly up started the old bird
and the treasure was found at their feet.
The food of the cassowary is either grass, or a yellow bell-flower
growing in the swamps. It deserves remark, that the natives deny
the cassowary to be a bird, because it does not fly.
Of other birds the varieties are very numerous. Of the parrot tribe alone
I could, while I am writing, count up from memory fourteen different sorts.
Hawks are very numerous, so are quails. A single snipe has been shot.
Ducks, geese and other aquatic birds are often seen in large flocks,
but are universally so shy, that it is found difficult to shoot them.
Some of the smaller birds are very beautiful, but they are not remarkable
for either sweetness, or variety of notes. To one of them, not bigger
than a tomtit, we have given the name of coach-whip, from its note
exactly resembling the smack of a whip. The country, I am of opinion,
would abound with birds did not the natives, by perpetually setting fire
to the grass and bushes, destroy the greater part of the nests; a cause
which also contributes to render small quadrupeds scarce. They are besides
ravenously fond of eggs and eat them wherever they find them. They call
the roe of a fish and a bird's egg by one name.
So much has been said of the abundance in which fish are found in the harbours
of New South Wales that it looks like detraction to oppose a contradiction.
Some share of knowledge may, however, be supposed to belong to experience.
Many a night have I toiled (in the times of distress) on the public service,
from four o'clock in the afternoon until eight o'clock next morning,
hauling the seine in every part of the harbour of Port Jackson: and after
a circuit of many miles and between twenty and thirty hauls, seldom more
than a hundred pounds of fish were taken. However, it sometimes happens
that a glut enters the harbour, and for a few days they sufficiently abound.
But the universal voice of all professed fishermen is that they never fished
in a country where success was so precarious and uncertain.
I shall not pretend to enumerate the variety of fish which are found.
They are seen from a whale to a gudgeon. In the intermediate classes
may be reckoned sharks of a monstrous size, skait, rock-cod, grey-mullet,
bream, horse-mackarel, now and then a sole and john dory, and innumerable
others unknown in Europe, many of which are extremely delicious,
and many highly beautiful. At the top of the list, as an article of food,
stands a fish, which we named light-horseman. The relish of this
excellent fish was increased by our natives, who pointed out to us
its delicacies. No epicure in England could pick a head with more glee
and dexterity than they do that of a light-horseman.
Reptiles in the swamps and covers are numerous. Of snakes there are two
or three sorts: but whether the bite of any of them be mortal,
or even venomous, is somewhat doubtful. I know but of one well attested
instance of a bite being received from a snake. A soldier was bitten
so as to draw blood, and the wound healed as a simple incision usually does
without shewing any symptom of malignity. A dog was reported to be bitten
by a snake, and the animal swelled and died in great agony. But I will
by no means affirm that the cause of his death was fairly ascertained.
It is, however, certain that the natives show, on all occasions,
the utmost horror of the snake, and will not eat it, although they esteem
lizards, goannas, and many other reptiles delicious fare. On this occasion
they always observe that if the snake bites them, they become lame,
but whether by this they mean temporary or lasting lameness I do not pretend
to determine. I have often eaten snakes and always found them palatable
and nutritive, though it was difficult to stew them to a tender state.
Summer here, as in all other countries, brings with it a long list of insects.
In the neighborhood of rivers and morasses, mosquitoes and sandflies
are never wanting at any season, but at Sydney they are seldom numerous
or troublesome. The most nauseous and destructive of all the insects
is a fly which blows not eggs but large living maggots, and if the body
of the fly be opened it is found full of them. Of ants there are
several sorts, one of which bites very severely. The white ant
is sometimes seen. Spiders are large and numerous. Their webs
are not only the strongest, but the finest, and most silky I ever felt.
I have often thought their labour might be turned to advantage. It has,
I believe, been proved that spiders, were it not for their quarrelsome
disposition which irritates them to attack and destroy each other,
might be employed more profitably than silk-worms.
The hardiness of some of the insects deserves to be mentioned. A beetle
was immersed in proof spirits for four hours, and when taken out crawled away
almost immediately. It was a second time immersed, and continued in a glass
of rum for a day and a night, at the expiration of which period
it still showed symptoms of life. Perhaps, however, what I from ignorance
deem wonderful is common.
The last but the most important production yet remains to be considered.
Whether plodding in London, reeking with human blood in Paris or wandering
amidst the solitary wilds of New South Wales--Man is ever an object
of interest, curiosity and reflection.
The natives around Port Jackson are in person rather more diminutive
and slighter made, especially about the thighs and legs, than the Europeans.
It is doubtful whether their society contained a person of six feet high.
The tallest I ever measured, reached five feet eleven inches, and men
of his height were rarely seen. Baneelon, who towered above the majority
of his countrymen, stood barely five feet eight inches high. His other
principal dimensions were as follows:
Girth of the Chest. 2 feet 10 inches
Girth of the Belly. 2 feet 6 1/2 inches
Girth of the Thigh. 18 1/8 inches
Girth of the Leg at the Calf. 12 1/8 inches
Girth of the Leg at the Small. 10 inches
Girth of arm half way between
the shoulder and elbow. 9 inches
Instances of natural deformity are scarce, nor did we ever see one
of them left-handed. They are, indeed, nearly ambidexter; but the sword,
the spear and the fish-gig are always used with the right hand.
Their muscular force is not great; but the pliancy of their limbs
renders them very active. "Give to civilized man all his machines,
and he is superior to the savage; but without these, how inferior is he found
on opposition, even more so than the savage in the first instance."
These are the words of Rousseau, and like many more of his positions
must be received with limitation. Were an unarmed Englishman and an unarmed
New Hollander to engage, the latter, I think, would fall.
Mr. Cook seems inclined to believe the covering of their heads to be wool.
But this is erroneous. It is certainly hair, which when regularly combed
becomes soon nearly as flexible and docile as our own. Their teeth
are not so white and good as those generally found in Indian nations,
except in the children, but the inferiority originates in themselves.
hey bite sticks, stones, shells and all other hard substances, indiscriminately
with them, which quickly destroys the enamel and gives them a jagged
and uneven appearance. A high forehead, with prominent overhanging eyebrows,
is their leading characteristic, and when it does not operate to destroy
all openness of countenance gives an air of resolute dignity to the aspect,
which recommends, in spite of a true negro nose, thick lips, and a wide mouth.
The prominent shin bone, so invariably found in the Africans, is not,
however, seen. But in another particular they are more alike. The rank
offensive smell which disgusts so much in the negro, prevails strongly
among them when they are in their native state, but it wears off in those
who have resided with us and have been taught habits of cleanliness.
Their hands and feet are small*, especially the former.
[*I mentioned this, among other circumstances, to colonel Gordon when I was
at the Cape, and he told me that it indicated poverty and inadequacy of living.
He instanced to me the Hottentots and Caffres. The former fare poorly,
and have small hands and feet. The Caffres, their neighbours,
live plenteously and have very large ones. This remark cannot be applied
to civilized nations, where so many factitious causes operate.]
Their eyes are full, black and piercing, but the almost perpetual strain
in which the optic nerve is kept, by looking out for prey, renders
their sight weak at an earlier age than we in general find ours affected.
These large black eyes are universally shaded by the long thick sweepy eyelash,
so much prized in appreciating beauty, that, perhaps hardly any face
is so homely which this aid cannot in some degree render interesting;
and hardly any so lovely which, without it, bears not some trace of insipidity.
Their tone of voice is loud, but not harsh. I have in some of them
found it very pleasing.
Longevity, I think, is seldom attained by them. Unceasing agitation
wears out the animal frame and is unfriendly to length of days. We have seen
them grey with age, but not old; perhaps never beyond sixty years.
But it may be said, the American Indian, in his undebauched state, lives
to an advanced period. True, but he has his seasons of repose. He reaps
his little harvest of maize and continues in idleness while it lasts.
He kills the roebuck or the moose-deer, which maintains him and his family
for many days, during which cessation the muscles regain their spring
and fit him for fresh toils. Whereas every sun awakes the native
of New South Wales (unless a whale be thrown upon the coast) to a renewal
of labour, to provide subsistence for the present day.
The women are proportionally smaller than the men. I never measured
but two of them, who were both, I think, about the medium height.
One of them, a sister of Baneelon, stood exactly five feet two inches high.
The other, named Gooreedeeana, was shorter by a quarter of an inch.
But I cannot break from Gooreedeeana so abruptly. She belonged to the tribe
of Cameragal, and rarely came among us. One day, however, she entered
my house to complain of hunger. She excelled in beauty all their females
I ever saw. Her age about eighteen, the firmness, the symmetry
and the luxuriancy of her bosom might have tempted painting to copy its charms.
Her mouth was small and her teeth, though exposed to all the destructive
purposes to which they apply them, were white, sound and unbroken.
Her countenance, though marked by some of the characteristics
of her native land, was distinguished by a softness and sensibility
unequalled in the rest of her countrywomen, and I was willing to believe
that these traits indicated the disposition of her mind. I had never before
seen this elegant timid female, of whom I had often heard; but the interest
I took in her led me to question her about her husband and family.
She answered me by repeating a name which I have now forgotten, and told me
she had no children. I was seized with a strong propensity to learn
whether the attractions of Gooreedeeana were sufficiently powerful
to secure her from the brutal violence with which the women are treated,
and as I found my question either ill understood or reluctantly answered,
I proceeded to examine her head, the part on which the husband's vengeance
generally alights. With grief I found it covered by contusions
and mangled by scars. The poor creature, grown by this time more confident
from perceiving that I pitied her, pointed out a wound just above
her left knee which she told me was received from a spear, thrown at her
by a man who had lately dragged her by force from her home to gratify his lust.
I afterwards observed that this wound had caused a slight lameness
and that she limped in walking. I could only compassionate her wrongs
and sympathize in her misfortunes. To alleviate her present sense of them,
when she took her leave I gave her, however, all the bread and salt pork
which my little stock afforded.
After this I never saw her but once, when I happened to be near
the harbour's mouth in a boat, with captain Ball. We met her in a canoe
with several more of her sex. She was painted for a ball, with broad stripes
of white earth, from head to foot, so that she no longer looked like
the same Gooreedeeana. We offered her several presents, all of which
she readily accepted; but finding our eagerness and solicitude to inspect her,
she managed her canoe with such address as to elude our too near approach,
and acted the coquet to admiration.
To return from this digression to my subject, I have only farther to observe
that the estimation of female beauty among the natives (the men at least)
is in this country the same as in most others. Were a New Hollander
to portray his mistress, he would draw her the 'Venus aux belles fesses'.
Whenever Baneelon described to us his favourite fair, he always painted her
in this, and another particular, as eminently luxuriant.
Unsatisfied, however, with natural beauty (like the people of all other
countries) they strive by adscititious embellishments to heighten attraction,
and often with as little success. Hence the naked savage of New South Wales
pierces the septum of his nose, through which he runs a stick or a bone,
and scarifies his body, the charms of which increase in proportion
to the number and magnitude of seams by which it is distinguished.
The operation is performed by making two longitudinal incisions
with a sharpened shell, and afterwards pinching up with the nails
the intermediate space of skin and flesh, which thereby becomes considerably
elevated and forms a prominence as thick as a man's finger. No doubt but pain
must be severely felt until the wound be healed. But the love of ornament
defies weaker considerations, and no English beau can bear more stoutly
the extraction of his teeth to make room for a fresh set from
a chimney sweeper, or a fair one suffer her tender ears to be perforated,
with more heroism than the grisly nymphs on the banks of Port Jackson,
submit their sable shoulders to the remorseless lancet.
That these scarifications are intended solely to increase personal allurement
I will not, however, positively affirm. Similar, perhaps, to the cause
of an excision of part of the little finger of the left hand in the women,
and of a front tooth in the men;* or probably after all our conjectures,
superstitious ceremonies by which they hope either to avert evil
or to propagate good, are intended. The colours with which they besmear
the bodies of both sexes possibly date from the same common origin.
White paint is strictly appropriate to the dance. Red seems to be used
on numberless occasions, and is considered as a colour of less consequence.
It may be remarked that they translate the epithet white when they speak
of us, not by the name which they assign to this white earth, but by that
with which they distinguish the palms of their hands.
[*It is to be observed that neither of these ceremonies is universal,
but nearly so. Why there should exist exemptions I cannot resolve.
The manner of executing them is as follows. The finger is taken off
by means of a ligature (generally a sinew of a kangaroo) tied so tight
as to stop the circulation of the blood, which induces mortification
and the part drops off. I remember to have seen Colbee's child, when about
a month old, on whom this operation had been just performed by her mother.
The little wretch seemed in pain, and her hand was greatly swelled.
But this was deemed too trifling a consideration to deserve regard
in a case of so much importance.
The tooth intended to be taken out is loosened by the gum being scarified
on both sides with a sharp shell. The end of a stick is then applied
to the tooth, which is struck gently several times with a stone, until it
becomes easily moveable, when the 'coup de grace' is given by a smart stroke.
Notwithstanding these precautions, I have seen a considerable degree
of swelling and inflammation follow the extraction. Imeerawanyee, I remember,
suffered severely. But he boasted the firmness and hardihood with which
he had endured it. It is seldom performed on those who are under sixteen
As this leads to an important subject I shall at once discuss it.
"Have these people any religion: any knowledge of, or belief in a deity?--
any conception of the immortality of the soul?" are questions which have been
often put to me since my arrival in England: I shall endeavour to answer them
with candour and seriousness.
Until belief be enlightened by revelation and chastened by reason,
religion and superstition, are terms of equal import. One of our earliest
impressions is the consciousness of a superior power. The various forms
under which this impression has manifested itself are objects
of the most curious speculation.
The native of New South Wales believes that particular aspects and appearances
of the heavenly bodies predict good or evil consequences to himself
and his friends. He oftentimes calls the sun and moon 'weeree,' that is,
malignant, pernicious. Should he see the leading fixed stars
(many of which he can call by name) obscured by vapours, he sometimes
disregards the omen, and sometimes draws from it the most dreary conclusions.
I remember Abaroo running into a room where a company was assembled,
and uttering frightful exclamations of impending mischiefs about to light
on her and her countrymen. When questioned on the cause of such agitation
she went to the door and pointed to the skies, saying that whenever
the stars wore that appearance, misfortunes to the natives always followed.
The night was cloudy and the air disturbed by meteors. I have heard
many more of them testify similar apprehensions.
However involved in darkness and disfigured by error such a belief be,
no one will, I presume, deny that it conveys a direct implication
of superior agency; of a power independent of and uncontrolled by
those who are the objects of its vengeance. But proof stops not here.
When they hear the thunder roll and view the livid glare, they flee them not,
but rush out and deprecate destruction. They have a dance and a song
appropriated to this awful occasion, which consist of the wildest
and most uncouth noises and gestures. Would they act such a ceremony
did they not conceive that either the thunder itself, or he who directs
the thunder, might be propitiated by its performance? That a living
intellectual principle exists, capable of comprehending their petition
and of either granting or denying it? They never address prayers
to bodies which they know to be inanimate, either to implore their protection
or avert their wrath. When the gum-tree in a tempest nods over them;
or the rock overhanging the cavern in which they sleep threatens by its fall
to crush them, they calculate (as far as their knowledge extends)
on physical principles, like other men, the nearness and magnitude
of the danger, and flee it accordingly. And yet there is reason to believe
that from accidents of this nature they suffer more than from lightning.
Baneelon once showed us a cave, the top of which had fallen in and buried
under its ruins, seven people who were sleeping under it.
To descend; is not even the ridiculous superstition of Colbee related
in one of our journies to the Hawkesbury? And again the following instance.
Abaroo was sick. To cure her, one of her own sex slightly cut her
on the forehead, in a perpendicular direction with an oyster shell,
so as just to fetch blood. She then put one end of a string to the wound
and, beginning to sing, held the other end to her own gums, which she rubbed
until they bled copiously. This blood she contended was the blood
of the patient, flowing through the string, and that she would thereby
soon recover. Abaroo became well, and firmly believed that she owed
her cure to the treatment she had received. Are not these, I say, links,
subordinate ones indeed, of the same golden chain? He who believes in magic
confesses supernatural agency, and a belief of this sort extends farther
in many persons than they are willing to allow. There have lived men
so inconsistent with their own principles as to deny the existence of a God,
who have nevertheless turned pale at the tricks of a mountebank.
But not to multiply arguments on a subject where demonstration
(at least to me) is incontestable, I shall close by expressing my firm belief
that the Indians of New South Wales acknowledge the existence
of a superintending deity. Of their ideas of the origin and duration
of his existence; of his power and capacity; of his benignity or maleficence;
or of their own emanation from him, I pretend not to speak. I have often,
in common with others, tried to gain information from them on this head;
but we were always repulsed by obstacles which we could neither pass by
or surmount. Mr. Dawes attempted to teach Abaroo some of our notions
of religion, and hoped that she would thereby be induced to communicate hers
in return. But her levity and love of play in a great measure defeated
his efforts, although every thing he did learn from her served to confirm
what is here advanced. It may be remarked, that when they attended at church
with us (which was a common practice) they always preserved profound silence
and decency, as if conscious that some religious ceremony on our side
The question of, whether they believe in the immortality of the soul
will take up very little time to answer. They are universally fearful
of spirits.* They call a spirit 'mawn'. They often scruple to approach
a corpse, saying that the 'mawn' will seize them and that it fastens upon them
in the night when asleep.** When asked where their deceased friends are
they always point to the skies. To believe in after existence is to confess
the immortality of some part of being. To enquire whether they assign
a 'limited' period to such future state would be superfluous. This is one
of the subtleties of speculation which a savage may be supposed not to have
considered, without impeachment either of his sagacity or happiness.
[* "It is remarkable," says Cicero, "that there is no nation, whether
barbarous or civilized, that does not believe in the existence of spirits".]
[**As they often eat to satiety, even to produce sickness, may not this be
the effect of an overloaded stomach: the nightmare?]
Their manner of interring the dead has been amply described. It is certain
that instead of burying they sometimes burn the corpse; but the cause
of distinction we know not. A dead body, covered by a canoe, at whose side
a sword and shield were placed in state, was once discovered. All that
we could learn about this important personage was that he was a 'Gweeagal'
(one of the tribe of Gweea) and a celebrated warrior.
To appreciate their general powers of mind is difficult. Ignorance,
prejudice, the force of habit, continually interfere to prevent dispassionate
judgment. I have heard men so unreasonable as to exclaim at the stupidity
of these people for not comprehending what a small share of reflection
would have taught them they ought not to have expected. And others again
I have heard so sanguine in their admiration as to extol for proofs
of elevated genius what the commonest abilities were capable of executing.
If they be considered as a nation whose general advancement and acquisitions
are to be weighed, they certainly rank very low, even in the scale of savages.
They may perhaps dispute the right of precedence with the Hottentots
or the shivering tribes who inhabit the shores of Magellan. But how inferior
do they show when compared with the subtle African; the patient watchful
American; or the elegant timid islander of the South Seas. Though suffering
from the vicissitudes of their climate, strangers to clothing, though feeling
the sharpness of hunger and knowing the precariousness of supply from that
element on whose stores they principally depend, ignorant of cultivating
the earth--a less enlightened state we shall exclaim can hardly exist.
But if from general view we descend to particular inspection, and examine
individually the persons who compose this community, they will certainly rise
in estimation. In the narrative part of this work, I have endeavoured
rather to detail information than to deduce conclusions, leaving to the reader
the exercise of his own judgment. The behaviour of Arabanoo, of Baneelon,
of Colbee and many others is copiously described, and assuredly he who shall
make just allowance for uninstructed nature will hardly accuse
any of those persons of stupidity or deficiency of apprehension.
To offer my own opinion on the subject, I do not hesitate to declare
that the natives of New South Wales possess a considerable portion
of that acumen, or sharpness of intellect, which bespeaks genius.
All savages hate toil and place happiness in inaction, and neither the arts
of civilized life can be practised or the advantages of it felt without
application and labour. Hence they resist knowledge and the adoption
of manners and customs differing from their own. The progress of reason
is not only slow, but mechanical. "De toutes les Instructions propres
a l'homme, celle qu'il acquiert le plus tard, et le plus difficilement,
est la raison meme." The tranquil indifference and uninquiring eye
with which they surveyed our works of art have often, in my hearing,
been stigmatized as proofs of stupidity, and want of reflection. But surely
we should discriminate between ignorance and defect of understanding.
The truth was, they often neither comprehended the design nor conceived
the utility of such works, but on subjects in any degree familiarised
to their ideas, they generally testified not only acuteness of discernment
but a large portion of good sense. I have always thought that the distinctions
they shewed in their estimate of us, on first entering into our society,
strongly displayed the latter quality: when they were led into our respective
houses, at once to be astonished and awed by our superiority, their attention
was directly turned to objects with which they were acquainted.
They passed without rapture or emotion our numerous artifices and contrivances,
but when they saw a collection of weapons of war or of the skins of animals
and birds, they never failed to exclaim, and to confer with each other
on the subject. The master of that house became the object of their regard,
as they concluded he must be either a renowned warrior, or an expert hunter.
Our surgeons grew into their esteem from a like cause. In a very early stage
of intercourse, several natives were present at the amputation of a leg.
When they first penetrated the intention of the operator,
they were confounded, not believing it possible that such an operation
could be performed without loss of life, and they called aloud to him
to desist; but when they saw the torrent of blood stopped, the vessels
taken up and the stump dressed, their horror and alarm yielded to astonishment
and admiration, which they expressed by the loudest tokens. If these
instances bespeak not nature and good sense, I have yet to learn
the meaning of the terms.
If it be asked why the same intelligent spirit which led them to contemplate
and applaud the success of the sportsman and the skill of the surgeon,
did not equally excite them to meditate on the labours of the builder
and the ploughman, I can only answer that what we see in its remote cause
is always more feebly felt than that which presents to our immediate grasp
both its origin and effect.
Their leading good and bad qualities I shall concisely touch upon.
Of their intrepidity no doubt can exist. Their levity, their fickleness,
their passionate extravagance of character, cannot be defended.
They are indeed sudden and quick in quarrel; but if their resentment
be easily roused, their thirst of revenge is not implacable. Their honesty,
when tempted by novelty, is not unimpeachable, but in their own society
there is good reason to believe that few breaches of it occur.
It were well if similar praise could be given to their veracity: but truth
they neither prize nor practice. When they wish to deceive they scruple not
to utter the grossest and most hardened lies.* Their attachment and gratitude
to those among us whom they have professed to love have always remained
inviolable, unless effaced by resentment, from sudden provocation: then,
like all other Indians, the impulse of the moment is alone regarded by them.
[*This may serve to account for the contradictions of many of their
accounts to us.]
Some of their manufactures display ingenuity, when the rude tools with which
they work, and their celerity of execution are considered. The canoes,
fish-gigs, swords, shields, spears, throwing sticks, clubs, and hatchets,
are made by the men. To the women are committed the fishing-lines, hooks
and nets. As very ample collections of all these articles are to be found
in many museums in England, I shall only briefly describe the way in which
the most remarkable of them are made. The fish-gigs and spears are commonly
(but not universally) made of the long spiral shoot which arises from the top
of the yellow gum-tree, and bears the flower. The former have several prongs,
barbed with the bone of kangaroo. The latter are sometimes barbed
with the same substance, or with the prickle of the sting-ray, or with stone
or hardened gum, and sometimes simply pointed. Dexterity in throwing
and parrying the spear is considered as the highest acquirement. The children
of both sexes practice from the time that they are able to throw a rush;
their first essay. It forms their constant recreation. They afterwards heave
at each other with pointed twigs. He who acts on the defensive holds a piece
of new soft bark in the left hand, to represent a shield, in which he receives
the darts of the assailant, the points sticking in it. Now commences
his turn. He extracts the twigs and darts them back at the first thrower,
who catches them similarly. In warding off the spear they never present
their front, but always turn their side, their head at the same time
just clear of the shield, to watch the flight of the weapon;
and the body covered. If a spear drop from them when thus engaged,
they do not stoop to pick it up, but hook it between the toes and so lift it
until it meet the hand. Thus the eye is never diverted from its object,
the foe. If they wish to break a spear or any wooden substance, they lay it
not across the thigh or the body, but upon the head, and press down the ends
until it snap. Their shields are of two sorts. That called 'illemon'
is nothing but a piece of bark with a handle fixed in the inside of it.
The other, dug out of solid wood, is called 'aragoon', and is made as follows,
with great labour. On the bark of a tree they mark the size of the shield,
then dig the outline as deep as possible in the wood with hatchets,
and lastly flake it off as thick as they can, by driving in wedges.
The sword is a large heavy piece of wood, shaped like a sabre, and capable
of inflicting a mortal wound. In using it they do not strike with the convex
side, but with the concave one, and strive to hook in their antagonists
so as to have them under their blows. The fishing-lines are made of the bark
of a shrub. The women roll shreds of this on the inside of the thigh,
so as to twist it together, carefully inserting the ends of every fresh piece
into the last made. They are not as strong as lines of equal size
formed of hemp. The fish-hooks are chopped with a stone out of a particular
shell, and afterwards rubbed until they become smooth. They are
very much curved, and not barbed. Considering the quickness with which
they are finished, the excellence of the work, if it be inspected,
is admirable. In all these manufactures the sole of the foot is used
both by men and women as a work-board. They chop a piece of wood,
or aught else upon it, even with an iron tool, without hurting themselves.
It is indeed nearly as hard as the hoof of an ox.
Their method of procuring fire is this. They take a reed and shave one side
of the surface flat. In this they make a small incision to reach the pith,
and introducing a stick, purposely blunted at the end, into it, turn it round
between the hands (as chocolate is milled) as swiftly as possible,
until flame be produced. As this operation is not only laborious,
but the effect tedious, they frequently relieve each other at the exercise.
And to avoid being often reduced to the necessity of putting it in practice,
they always, if possible, carry a lighted stick with them, whether
in their canoes or moving from place to place on land.
Their treatment of wounds must not be omitted. A doctor is, with them,
a person of importance and esteem, but his province seems rather to charm away
occult diseases than to act the surgeon's part, which, as a subordinate
science, is exercised indiscriminately. Their excellent habit of body*,
the effect of drinking water only, speedily heals wounds without an exterior
application which with us would take weeks or months to close.
They are, nevertheless, sadly tormented by a cutaneous eruption,
but we never found it contagious. After receiving a contusion,
if the part swell they fasten a ligature very tightly above it, so as to stop
all circulation. Whether to this application, or to their undebauched habit,
it be attributable, I know not, but it is certain that a disabled limb
among them is rarely seen, although violent inflammations from bruises,
which in us would bring on a gangrene, daily happen. If they get burned,
either from rolling into the fire when asleep, or from the flame catching
the grass on which they lie (both of which are common accidents)
they cover the part with a thin paste of kneaded clay, which excludes the air
and adheres to the wound until it be cured, and the eschar falls off.
[*Their native hardiness of constitution is great. I saw a woman on the day
she was brought to bed, carry her new-born infant from Botany Bay
to Port Jackson, a distance of six miles, and afterwards light a fire
and dress fish.]
Their form of government, and the detail of domestic life, yet remain untold.
The former cannot occupy much space. Without distinctions of rank,
except those which youth and vigour confer, theirs is strictly a system
of 'equality' attended with only one inconvenience--the strong triumph
over the weak. Whether any laws exist among them for the punishment
of offences committed against society; or whether the injured party
in all cases seeks for relief in private revenge, I will not positively affirm;
though I am strongly inclined to believe that only the latter method prevails.
I have already said that they are divided into tribes; but what constitutes
the right of being enrolled in a tribe, or where exclusion begins and ends,
I am ignorant. The tribe of Cameragal is of all the most numerous
and powerful. Their superiority probably arose from possessing
the best fishing ground, and perhaps from their having suffered less
from the ravages of the smallpox.
In the domestic detail there may be novelty, but variety is unattainable.
One day must be very like another in the life of a savage. Summoned by
the calls of hunger and the returning light, he starts from his beloved
indolence, and snatching up the remaining brand of his fire, hastens
with his wife to the strand to commence their daily task. In general
the canoe is assigned to her, into which she puts the fire and pushes off
into deep water, to fish with hook and line, this being the province
of the women. If she have a child at the breast, she takes it with her.
And thus in her skiff, a piece of bark tied at both ends with vines,
and the edge of it but just above the surface of the water, she pushes out
regardless of the elements, if they be but commonly agitated.
While she paddles to the fishing-bank, and while employed there, the child
is placed on her shoulders, entwining its little legs around her neck
and closely grasping her hair with its hands. To its first cries
she remains insensible, as she believes them to arise only from
the inconvenience of a situation, to which she knows it must be inured.
But if its plaints continue, and she supposes it to be in want of food,
she ceases her fishing and clasps it to her breast. An European spectator
is struck with horror and astonishment at their perilous situation,
but accidents seldom happen. The management of the canoe alone appears
a work of unsurmountable difficulty, its breadth is so inadequate
to its length. The Indians, aware of its ticklish formation, practise
from infancy to move in it without risk. Use only could reconcile them
to the painful position in which they sit in it. They drop in the middle
of the canoe upon their knees, and resting the buttocks on the heels,
extend the knees to the sides, against which they press strongly,
so as to form a poise sufficient to retain the body in its situation,
and relieve the weight which would otherwise fall wholly upon the toes.
Either in this position or cautiously moving in the centre of the vessel,
the mother tends her child, keeps up her fire (which is laid on a small patch
of earth), paddles her boat, broils fish and provides in part the subsistence
of the day. Their favourite bait for fish is a cockle.
The husband in the mean time warily moves to some rock, over which he can peep
into unruffled water to look for fish. For this purpose he always chooses
a weather shore, and the various windings of the numerous creeks and indents
always afford one. Silent and watchful, he chews a cockle and spits it
into the water. Allured by the bait, the fish appear from beneath the rock.
He prepares his fish-gig, and pointing it downward, moves it gently
towards the object, always trying to approach it as near as possible
to the fish before the stroke be given. At last he deems himself