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Chapter V. [1850–51.]

EXCURSION TO THE COLONIES OF VAN DIEMEN'S LAND AND VICTORIA—VOYAGE—MARIA ISLAND—MORTIFYING RECEPTION—MR. SMITH O'BRIEN—OUT-REASONED AND OUT-MANŒUVRED—THREE GENERATIONS EXPATRIATED—CHRISTMAS TIDE IN FAR LANDS—A MAN OVERBOARD—HOBART TOWN—GARDENS AND VILLAS—ICE—THE METROPOLITAN COOK—MASTERS OF ARTS—CONVICTS—THEIR LABOUR—A COUNTRY WITHOUT AN HISTORIAN—FIRST SETTLEMENT—A BATTUE FOR BLACKS—THEIR REMNANT.

IN the Australian summer of 1850–51, the chances of the service threw in my way an agreeable opportunity of visiting Van Diemen's Land, as well as Port Phillip, a province of New South Wales on the point of being erected into a colony under the title of Victoria. Major General Wynyard, commanding the forces in the Australasian colonies, having resolved on a tour of inspection to the former island, I had the honour to accompany him on that duty.

The elements did not favour H.M.S. Havannah, which frigate conveyed us to our destination, for she commenced her voyage with a terrific thunder-storm, in which the electric fluid flirted most desperately with the conductor on the main-mast, and during the rest of


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the voyage she had calms and adverse winds to contest with, so that no less than eleven days were expended in performing the 600 miles between Sydney and Hobart Town. But if the southerly breeze resisted our progress, its fresh breath proved a charming relief to us, after the heat of Sydney. A day or two before we left that (at this season) sudoriferous city, the thermometer stood at 97° and 98°, yet at sea we enjoyed the bracing effects of a temperature from 50° to 48° between decks;—enjoyed, I can hardly say, for to most of us this degree of cold seemed well-nigh inclement. On the 23d December, harassed by continued foul winds, Captain Erskine closed in with the land to seek an anchorage, and we soon found ourselves surrounded on the chart by names commemorative of the old French surveyors and discoverers. Leaving behind us Freycinet's Peninsula, and beating to and fro between the storm-lashed Isle des Phoques and Cape Bougainville on the mainland of Van Diemen's Land, we at length gained a snug berth off the settlement of Darlington on Maria Island, about a mile and a half from the shore, and half that distance from L'Isle du Nord.

December 24th.—The wind continuing both foul and fresh, Havannah remained at anchor during the morning; and landing after breakfast, we seized by the forelock this unlooked-for opportunity of visiting the island and its chief town. Singular enough! in one of the latest numbers of the Illustrated London News on board


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was found a short account of Maria Island, with a woodcut of the settlement, which had become interesting as the prison of Mr. Smith O'Brien.

The island is about twenty miles long, and is separated from the mainland by a channel varying from four to eight miles in breadth. The land is elevated and covered with wood. Maria Island derives its feminine appellation from Miss Van Diemen, whose charms appear to have so deeply impressed the heart of her compatriot the great navigator, Abel Tasman, that in his oceanic wanderings, not finding it convenient “to carve her name on every tree,” he recorded it still more immortally on different headlands and islands newly discovered,—inscribing it, in its full maiden length, on the northern-most bluff of New Zealand, Cape Maria Van Diemen. Whether he assisted the fair lady to change it eventually, I cannot depose.

In 1825 this island was made a penal settlement for convicts whose crimes were not of an aggravated nature,—a purpose for which it is admirably adapted by its isolated position and its ready communication, by telegraph or otherwise, with Hobart Town. The establishment was broken up in 1832, and the land was rented to settlers; but it was resumed when the Probation System was introduced, and has since again been vacated as a Government station.

The soil is fertile. About 400 acres have been cleared round Darlington; and the crops in both field and


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garden have been most plentiful. Forty bushels of wheat per acre is accounted a high average in any of the Australian colonies; and that average is common here. The timber is magnificent, but so much has been already taken that the larger blue-gums and iron-barks must now be sought in the distant gulleys of the mountains. The largest I saw was about eighteen feet in girth,—a slim-waisted sprig in Tasmanian estimation. There are many rivulets and lagoons of excellent water on the island,—an advantage by no means generally conspicuous in Van Diemen's Land. There is plenty of fish, eels and oysters, quail and wild fowl, as well as wallabi,—a small kind of kangaroo. The climate is about the finest in the world,—a fact admitted by Smith O'Brien himself, who, among all his Jeremiads indited from Maria Island, could not resist doing justice to the picturesque beauty and the salubrity of his place of exile.

Aware that Darlington had been a Probation Station containing some four hundred prisoners, and unapprised of its abandonment; and, moreover, giving our ship and ourselves credit for being a sight worth seeing and seldom seen by the supposed inhabitants, good and bad, bond and free; we were not a little surprised—perhaps the captain was a little nettled—at perceiving in the settlement no commotion arising from the advent of H.M.S. Havannah. The tall flag-staff was buntingless, the windmill sailless, the pretty cottages and gardens seemed tenantless, “not a drum was heard” in the military


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barracks, and the huge convict buildings seemed to be minus convicts. At length, through a telescope, was observed one canary-coloured biped, in the grey and yellow livery of the doubly and trebly-convicted felon. There had perhaps been an outbreak of the prisoners, for the military force in Tasmania had lately been reduced to the very lowest possible amount! The magistrates, superintendents, overseers, officers, and soldiers had all been massacred; and the revolted convicts having afterwards fought about the spoil,—there stood the sole survivor! Our suspense did not last long, for presently a whale-boat came slowly off, and there appeared on the quarter-deck, a hawk-eyed and nosed personage, about six feet and a-half high, who seemed as if he had long lived in indifferent society, for his eyes had a habit of sweeping around his person, aside and behind, as though he was in momentary expectation of assault. This was an overseer left in charge of the abandoned station, with a few prisoners to assist him. He proved an obliging and intelligent cicerone, showing our party over the different buildings of the establishment, and guiding us in a delightful walk over part of the island. The position of Darlington is truly delightful—airy, yet sheltered, with a splendid view of the open ocean, of the straits, and of the fine blue hills and wooded bluffs of the mainland. A clear stream of fresh water meanders among the houses, and loses itself in a snug little boat harbour.

Pity that, as in Norfolk Island, a paradise should have


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been converted into a pandemonium; and yet again it seems a pity that so extensive and expensive an establishment—hospital, stores, chapel, school, military and convict barracks, houses of the magistrate, surgeon, superintendent, &c.—should be abandoned to ruin. It would be more satisfactory to see them all swept out of sight—obliterated from the soil—and this lovely isle allotted to a population worthy of its numerous advantages. There was one feature of this defunct convict station that I viewed with disgust—a single dormitory for four hundred men! The bed places were built of wood in three tiers, the upper cribs being reached by two or three brackets fastened to the stanchions. Each pigeon-hole is six feet and a half long, by two feet in width, and separated from its neighbours by double, open battens. The prisoner lies with his feet to the outer wall and his head towards the centre of the apartment—like a bottle in its bin. This nocturnal aggregation of brutalized males is a feature of penal discipline that I was astonished to find had been so lately in operation.

The accommodations allotted to Mr. William Smith O'Brien, the state prisoner, were of course pointed out to us. They consisted of two small rooms, with a little garden in the rear, wherein he might take his exercise. Few field-officers of the army obtain better quarters, and many worse. He was waited upon by a constable, who cooked his convict ration of beef, bread, and potatoes,


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and, I suppose, made his “post and rail” tea sweetened with brown sugar. The prisoner was as poor a philosopher as a patriot. He had not courage to reap what he had sown. He refused, as is well known, to accept the ticket of leave offered him by Government, and yet winced under the consequent and necessary hardships incurred by this refusal.

A medical gentleman, whose duty it is to visit periodically all the convict stations, related to me a curious interview he had with this political delinquent. On announcing his desire to see Mr. O'Brien, he was politely received by that person, and conversed for some time with him. The prisoner complained of his rations, of the coarse tea and sugar, said his health suffered from the bad food, and from confinement to the small strip of garden. The doctor, who is not a man readily put off his guard, admitted that it was not impossible that the long continuance of an existence of privation and humiliation might indeed affect injuriously both mind and body; and added that he should be happy to do anything in his power to alleviate his sufferings. O'Brien was glad to hear such sentiments from his visitor, and expressed a hope that he would apply to the Governor to sanction some relaxation of discipline. The doctor, pointing to two prisoners in the yard, said—“If the health of those men was, in my opinion, injured by their imprisonment and punishment, I should represent their cases, because they cannot help themselves. You, Sir, on the contrary,


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have your health and comfort in your own hands;—one word, and you may live as you please on this island.” The poor, vain, egotist, replied that he must be consistent, that the eyes of the world were upon him, that the acceptation of his ticket-of-leave would amount to an admission of the justice of his sentence. “But you speak, Sir,” added he, “as if I had committed a crime! What crime have I committed?” “A monstrous one,” replied the good Medico—“you have broken the laws of your country, and stirred up your ignorant fellow-countrymen to break them also.” He moreover assured the prisoner that Europe was in no disquiet as to his fate. The latter, however, remained obdurate on the subject of his ticket—preferring to retain his grievance with the accompanying possibility of escape. The miserable attempt which he shortly afterwards made will not add to his character for ingenuity or fortitude. A cutter appeared in the bay. Smith O'Brien, duly warned of its approach, contrived to procure a small boat, and was in the act of pushing off, when a single, armed constable, came up and stove the boat with a blow of an axe, while a whale-boat, well armed, pulled away and captured the cutter.

The “Inspector General of the Confederated Clubs of Munster,” and the descendant of Brian Boru, behaved on this occasion like a petulant child. He ran into the sea some paces, and, when compelled to re-land, refused to walk, and, having thrown himself down on the ground,


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suffered himself to be carried like a sack back to his cell by three or four men;—a mode of bearing reverses by no means heroical. The fact of a ticket-of-leave having been accorded to this troublesome gentleman not long after this effort at evasion, is proof enough of clemency on the part of Government; yet while he was enjoying himself in almost perfect liberty—in liberty as perfect as that within the reach of any professional man, whose duties bind him to one district—a letter, addressed to “My dear Potter,” was running the round of the English papers, wherein he descants on “the inhumanity of the Governor of the colony,” and on “the inhuman regulations of the Controller-General of Convicts”—concluding by the doleful prophecy, “I see no definite termination of the calamities of my lot, except that which you and other friends took so much pains to avert—the deliverance which will be effected by death.”note

The English are, indeed, wonderful curiosity-mongers, especially in matters connected with crime and criminals. A Nineveh of relics appertaining to murders and murderers would find scores of Layards to grub them up and set store by them. Pieces of blue crockery on which the convicted traitor was supposed to have dined, shreds of the scuttled boat in which he hoped to have fled from his South Sea Chillon, with other trivial mementos of the kind, found their way on board the frigate.


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But in this trumpery reliquiarium I read only a sly mockery of that vulgar mistake, pseudo-dilettanteism.

It was really melancholy to see the beautiful gardens around the houses of the departed officers of the penal station, “wasting their sweetness on the desert air,” and reverting to the original wilderness. On this day, however, the luxuriant flowers did not bloom in vain; for the sailors, pillaging the gardens of the deserted villas, carried off to the ship whole arm-fulls of their produce to decorate the tables for their Christmas dinner on the morrow. And indeed never, I suppose, did the 'tween-decks of a man-of-war resemble half so much—

“A bower of roses by Bendemeer's stream,”

as did, on this festive occasion, that of H.M.S. Havannah, off a ruined convict station on a wild island of Tasmania.

Our tall overseer welcomed us to his house, or rather to that of the absent superintendent, which he was permitted to occupy, and gave those of the party who had not lately been in Europe a real treat by turning us loose into an acre of gooseberry and raspberry bushes, fruits unknown in New South Wales. The family consisted of three generations, the overseer's half-dozen children being perfect models of bloom—bloom quite as rare in New South Wales as the English berries above mentioned. The eldest generation was represented by a tall, stout, and dignified matron, with whom I had a long and pleasant talk about old England. In the course of the domestic revelations I elicited from this truly venerable


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lady, she now and then startled me by the expression—“Our connexion with royalty”—which seemed to weave itself unconsciously into the web of her discourse, and which jarred somewhat discordantly with the comfortless state of their abode. For want of a clew, my imagination took the liberty to follow up a fancied resemblance to the Guelph lineaments in the comely profile of the portly dame before me; and I was glancing towards two well-painted kit-cats—one representing a gentleman in powder, frill, blue coat, and buff vest; the other a boy in light blue tunic, hat, feather, and dog—and I was running “full cry” on the trail of my theory, when she at once “whipped me off,” by informing me that the first was her deceased husband, who was “page” to his Majesty George the——to the day of his death; the latter her son, the overseer. Poor people! It was clear they had seen better days.

Having passed a very pleasant and a very beautiful day on Maria Island, we repaired on board at 6 P.M., up anchored, sailed, dined, and slept, rocked by old Neptune, our marine cradle making bows to every point of the compass as she rode on the swell left by the departed southern gale, during a breathless night.

Christmas Day.—Our hopes of participating at Hobart Town in the joyful rites of the day were frustrated; for the light north-east airs that arose in the forenoon, carried us no further than Cape Pillar and Tasman Island—the former the extreme salient angle,


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the latter the uttermost outwork of Van Diemen's Land towards the boundless ocean of the south. I have passed this great festival of the Christian world in many diverse scenes and under diverse circumstances. Amid the old-fashioned hospitality and the ice and snow of old South Wales; in the Antipodal sultriness of New South Wales—(Nova Cambria, she should be styled;) I have joined in the service of the day on the brink of the Falls of Niagara—the drum-head, the reading desk, in the centre of a square of infantry—the thunder of the great cataract hymning in sublime diapason the omnipotence of God. I have eaten my Christmas dinner at the presbytère of a French Roman Catholic establishment—not the less jovially because the mess was composed of a grand vicaire and a score of prêtres and frères. I have passed the evening of this anniversary with a knot of Mussulman chiefs, gravely smoking our hookahs and sipping sherbet, while a group of Nautch girls danced and sang before us; have stood with uncovered head at the foot of one of New Zealand's volcanos—the fern our carpet, the sky our canopy—listening with a congregation of baptized Maoris to a tattooed teacher expounding in their own tongue the law of Christ on the anniversary of His birth. How seldom since boyhood have I celebrated it in the happy circle of my own quiet home! It was certainly never pre-revealed to me that I should spend one of the few Christmas days accorded to man, at sea off the southermost point of Van Diemen's Land!




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The crew of the frigate, as I have said, decorated their feast of roast beef and plum-pudding on this occasion with the ravished sweets of Maria Island. It was a singular and pleasant sight, passing down the various messes, to see the hungry, happy and hearty faces grinning through the steam of their holiday viands, and through garlands of gay coloured flowers and shrubs, lighted up with wax candles. The captain's table was not without its épergne, the ladies without bouquets, (for Mrs. and Miss Wynyard were of the party,) nor the gentlemen without a flower at their button-holes on this South Sea Christmas evening.

Cape Pillar and Tasman Island, close to which we passed, have a singular appearance, their southern extremities terminating in abrupt basaltic walls, whose tall upright columns bear a resemblance to the pipes of a huge cathedral organ. My sketch, wholly unworthy of so fine a subject, was taken through the porthole of my berth—a long thirty-two pounder disputing with me the somewhat circumscribed view.note

December 26th.—At early dawn we were rounding Cape Raoul, a twin of Cape Pillar; and the sea breeze setting in soon carried us up the river Derwent, or rather the magnificent arm of the sea and harbour into which that stream empties itself, and on the extreme north-western corner of which stands the city of Hobart Town.




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With studding-sails set alow and aloft the Havannah—like a swan swimming before the wind—glided past the Iron Pot lighthouse and between high and wooded shores, the splendid harbour gradually narrowing from seven or eight miles to one or two, until, at about eighteen miles from the Heads, she rounded a bluff promontory on the port side, and in an instant dashed into the midst of a little fleet of merchant vessels, in the snug inlet called Sulliven's Cove. The chain cable rattled out of the hawseholes in a volume of rusty dust, and the old ship swinging to her anchor brought up with her cabin windows looking, at no great distance, into those of Government-house. There was but one momentary interruption to her stately approach as observed from the shore; her feathers fluttered for an instant and were almost as quickly smoothed again. In relieving the man at the lead line, one of them fell overboard; the ship was thrown up into the wind so as to check her speed almost before the splash was heard; the young fellow held on to the line and was dragged for some distance under water; but he was soon noosed by his ready messmates, and spluttering out “all right,” was jerked on to the quarter-deck like a two-pound trout, none the worse for his ducking. “Did you think of the sharks, Bo?” asked a joker as he helped him down the hatch-way to be “overhauled” by the doctor. “Hadn't time,” gasped the other.

The harbour of Hobart Town is as commodious and


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safe as it is picturesque. The well-worn expression that all the navies in the world might ride in it would not be extravagantly applied to it. I am loth to yield my predilection for Sydney harbour which is quite unique in my eyes; but nautical men seem, I think, to prefer the Derwent. There is more space for beating, and no shoal like the “Sow and Pigs” lying across its jaws.

The land in which the port is framed is three times higher than that of Port Jackson, the soil better, the timber finer, and the grand back-ground to the town afforded by Mount Wellington—cloud-capped in summer, snow-capped in winter—close in its rear, gives the palm of picturesque beauty, beyond dispute, to Hobart Town and its harbour over its sister port and city. The land-tints disappointed me entirely—nothing but browns and yellows—no verdure—everything burnt up, except where an occasional patch of unripe grain lay like a green kerchief spread to dry on the scorched slopes.

The water frontage of the city does not afford a tenth part of the deep-water wharfage possessed by Sydney. The site of the town is healthy, well adapted for drainage, perhaps somewhat too near the storm-brewing gulleys of the mountain, from whence occasional gusts sweep down the streets with a suddenness and severity very trying to phthisical subjects.

The population may be about 20,000, convicts included, or considerably more than one-fourth of the whole


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population of the colony. The streets are wide and well laid out, nearly as dusty, and the footpaths as ill paved as those of Sydney, which latter defect, with so much convict power at hand, is disgraceful enough.

Some of the suburbs are very pretty, the style of architecture of the villas, their shady seclusion, and the trimness of their approaches and pleasure-grounds far surpassing those of the New South Wales capital. But more pleasing to my eyes, because more uncommon than the ordinary domiciliary snugness and smugness of the villas of the richer English, was a large quarter outskirting the town, consisting of some hundreds of cottages for the humbler classes, pleasantly situated on the slope of a hill, all or nearly all being separate dwellings, with a patch of neat garden attached, and with rose and vine-clad porches, reminding one of the South of England cotters' homes.

The extraordinary luxuriance of the common red geranium at this season makes every spot look gay; at the distance of miles the sight is attracted and dazzled by the wide patches of scarlet dotted over the landscape. The hedges of sweet-brier, both in the town-gardens and country-enclosures, covered with its delicate rose, absolutely monopolize the air as a vehicle for its peculiar perfume:—the closely-clipped mint-borders supplying the place of box, sometimes, however, overpower the sweet-brier, and every other scent of the gardens.

Every kind of English flower and fruit appears to


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benefit by transportation to Van Diemen's Land. Well-remembered shrubs and plants, to which the heat of Australia is fatal, thrive in the utmost luxuriance under this more southern climate. For five years I had lost sight of a rough but respected old friend—the holly, or at most I had contemplated with chastened affection one wretched little specimen in the Sydney Botanic Garden—labelled for the enlightenment of the Cornstalks. But in a Hobart Town garden I suddenly found myself in the presence of a full-grown holly, twenty feet high and spangled with red berries, into whose embrace I incontinently rushed, to the astonishment of a large party of the Brave and the Fair, as well as to that of my most prominent feature!

The fuchsia, the old original Fuchsia gracilis, attains here an extraordinary growth. Edging the beds of a fine garden near where I lived, there were hundreds of yards of fuchsia in bloom; and in the middle of the town I saw one day a young just-married military couple smiling, in all the plenitude of honey-lunacy, through a cottage-window wholly surrounded by this pretty plant, which not only covered the entire front of the modest residence, but reached above its eaves. And this incident forces on my mind a grievous consideration, however out of place here, namely, the virulent matrimonial epidemic raging lately among the junior branches of the army in this colony. “Deus pascit corvos,” the motto of a family of my acquaintance, conveys a soothing assurance


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to those determined on a rash but pleasant step. But who will feed half-a-dozen raven-ous brats is a question that only occurs when too late! At this moment the regimental mess at Hobart Town is a desert peopled by one or two resolute old bachelors and younger ones clever at slipping out of nooses, or possessing that desultory devotion to the sex which is necessary to keep the soldier single and efficient. Punch's laconic advice “to parties about to marry,” which I have previously adverted to, ought to be inserted in the standing orders and mess rules of every regiment in H.M.'s service.

Here, too, to get back to my botany, I renewed my acquaintance with the walnut and the filbert, just now ripe, the Spanish and horse-chestnuts, the lime-tree with its bee-beloved blossom, and the dear old hawthorn of my native land. As for cherry and apple-trees, and the various domesticated berry-bushes of the English garden, my regard for them was expressed in a less sentimental manner. I defy schoolboy or “midship-mite” to have outdone me in devotion to their products, however much these more youthful votaries may have beaten me in the digestion of them.

From the grounds of the hospitable friend who made his house my home during the fortnight I stayed at Hobart Town, the landscape was extremely beautiful and much more European than Australian in its character. Looking over villas and gardens and wooded undulations, with glimpses of the town through vistas of high trees,


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down upon the bright waters of the wide and hill-encircled harbour, I recalled to mind various kindred prospects in older countries,—none more like than a certain peep from a campagne near Lausanne over the village of Ouchi upon the broad expanse of “clear, placid Leman.” Behind the house, Mount Wellington, step by step, rises to the height of four thousand feet and upwards, throwing its grand shadow, as the sun declines, right across the city and harbour. Bristling with fine trees and brushwood, this range, which can never be cultivated, will always supply the town with fuel and timber for building.

If no other public act of the present Governor may gain him immortality,—which I am far from supposing,—the plan and establishment of an ice-house near the summit of the mountain will serve that purpose. It is the only one at the Antipodes. During the winter the “diadem of snow” which crowns the top is pilfered to a trifling degree, and the material well jammed into the ice-house. In the hot weather a daily supply is brought into town on a pack-horse—(it ought to be done by a self-acting tram-way)—early in the morning, and its sale and manufacture is permitted by general consent to be monopolized by the chief confectioner of the place, who sells it in the rough or in the smooth, reasonably enough, to those who can afford ice creams, hard butter, and cool champagne. This now respectable tradesman and citizen, once a prisoner of the Crown, enjoys, moreover,


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another important and lucrative monopoly. He is the cook as well as pastrycook of the Hobarton aristocracy,—the only cook in the place. I sat at not a few “good men's feasts” during my short stay here, and am not wrong, I think, in saying that from the Government-house table downwards, all were covered with productions of the same artiste. I recognised everywhere the soups, the patés; I ventured upon this entremêt, avoided that, with the certainty of prior knowledge; plunged without the shade of a doubt into the recesses of a certain ubiquitous vol-au-vent, perfectly satisfied that a vein of truffles would be found, which had not crossed 16,000 miles of ocean to be left uneaten, although their merits seemed to be unknown to some. The cook, it is needless to say, is making, if he has not already made, a considerable fortune.

It were well if those professions which administer merely to the body had alone fallen into the hands of persons bearing upon them the convict taint;—the reverse is, however, the case. What would an English mother think of admitting to her drawing-room or school-room, and entrusting the education of her daughter in music, dancing, or painting, to men who are or have been felons? Yet at present this is almost a necessity in Van Diemen's Land. Few or no accomplished freemen are likely to come to a penal colony in the hope of making a livelihood by imparting the more elegant branches of education. They are wrong, however, for


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if their expectations were moderate such men might realize handsome incomes.

A lady told me that she had been compelled to employ, for the purpose of teaching, or taking the portrait of her daughter—I forget which—a person convicted of manslaughter, and suspected of murder by poisoning. One of her sons usually remained in the room when this agreeable guest was present; but, on one occasion when the ladies happened to be alone with him, the mother was alarmed by seeing him rise and approach the window where she sat, with an open knife in his hand. She started from her chair with such visible affright, that, making her a polite bow and with a grim smile, he begged to assure that “he merely wanted to cut his pencil — not her throat!”

I had the honour of being a fellow-traveller and dining several times at a public table with a transported professor of one of those lighter sciences usually inflicted upon young ladies, whether or not they have any natural talent for them. What was the immediate cause of his exile from home my neighbour and informant could not tell me, “but I believe it was the gentleman's crime—forgery,” said he. Be it as it may, this “gentleman” was in excellent and full practice, although in this hemisphere, it was said, he had repaid the indulgence of the Government and the confidence of one of his most respectable patrons, as well as one of the kindest friends


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the convict class ever possessed, by debauching the child entrusted to his tuition.

In the streets of Hobart Town the stranger sees less of the penal features of the place than might be expected. Possibly every other person he meets on the wharves and thoroughfares may have been transported; for the population of the island has been thus centesimally divided:—free immigrants and born in the colony, 46 per cent.; bond and emerged into freedom, 51 per cent.; military, Aborigines, &c. 3 per cent. But there is of course no outward distinction of the classes except in the prisoners under probation, who are clothed in the degraded grey, or grey and yellow, according to their crimes and character. And these men, being either confined within walls, or in distant stockades, or being marched early in the morning to their place of work and back again at sunset, fall but little under the observation of the public. Now and then may be seen, indeed, the painful spectacle of a band of silent, soured, and scowling ruffians—some harnessed to, others pushing at, and another driving a hand cart, with clanking chains, toiling and sweating in their thick and dusty woollens along the streets—each marked with his number and the name of his station in large letters on his back and on his cap. Here a gang may be seen labouring with shovel and pick on the roadside, or sitting apart breaking up the metal. There is no earnestness or cheerfulness in compulsory labour; and accordingly, however active and ruthless these


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fellows may have shown themselves in the commission of violence against their fellow-men, they are most merciful to the macadam, only throwing a little temporary energy into their action when the appearance of a carriage or a horseman suggests the possible advent of some person whose duty or pleasure it may be to keep them up to their work. As for the convict sub-overseer, who, one of themselves, is appointed without pay to coerce the rest—no very active control can be expected from him.

To the colony the amount of solid benefit performed by these slow, but sure and costless operatives, on the roads, bridges, and other public works, must have been, and still be, immense; even where, as is sometimes the case, the settlers of a district have to provide tools and subsistence for the gangs employed in the improvement of their locality. It is only this powerful application of penal slave-labour, and the vast Government expenditure accompanying it, that have given to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land a rapidity of progress and a precocity in importance that leave the march of other colonies comparatively very far behind.

But to the Mother Country the cost of creating nations by the thews and sinews of her expelled, but by her still maintained, criminals, must be enormous. The result of their labour compared with the outlay would be pitiful indeed, but for the concurrent advantages—namely, the annual riddance of a huge per-centage of


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rogues from her shores and from their old haunts, their punishment and possible reformation, and the creation of new dependencies of the Crown, and, therein, new markets for England's exports. The clearing of an acre of land by a chain gang, under bad surveillance, may cost, and indeed has often cost the Home Government ten times as much as would have been paid to free labourers on the spot; but the privilege of shooting so much moral rubbish upon other and distant premises is cheaply bought at such a rate. It is cheaper at any rate than a revolution; and it is an old newspaper story that the free convicts of Paris bore no unimportant part in former as well as the late overthrow of the Government of France. Van Diemen's Land, however, like New South Wales, (if one may judge from the exertions made by a tolerably influential section of the inhabitants,) is striving to shake off the system, which, incubus though it be, warmed her into life.

Looking at the question from the station of a spectator, I must say it seems to me rather an unreasonable expectation on the part of those truant Englishmen, who, well knowing the penal structure of Van Diemen's Land as a colony, voluntarily settled there, that at the mere signification of their pleasure the Imperial Government should be compelled to raze in a moment the great insular penitentiary erected at such prodigious cost, and hand over its site to the adventurers whose tastes and consciences have so suddenly become squeamish about


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convict-contact. Their grandsons or great-grandsons might, perhaps, prefer the petition without incurring a charge of presumption; but the present incumbents have no such claim—unless, indeed, they have received an imperial pledge to that effect. Like the “Needy Knife-grinder,”

“I do not want to meddle With politics, Sir.”

The colonists know their own business best, and it is none of mine: but it appears to me that their aspirations are somewhat premature. The ground-floor of their social edifice has been built of mud. Let it at least have time to harden before they attempt to superimpose a structure of marble!

December 30th.—It is curious to find oneself in a country with a capital containing 20,000 inhabitants, a harbour full of shipping, and teeming with evidences of wealth and comfort, and yet without a history; that is, without a manual, a hand-book, or indeed any publication suited to the reference of a travelling stranger. Mr. Murray must make a long arm and supply this deficiency. In vain I perambulated the libraries and stationers—in vain searched the book-shelves of the few residents I was acquainted with. It was with some difficulty that I obtained the loan of an old almanack—Ross's almanack—eleven years old. One day, indeed, I espied in the window of a shop the title, “History of Tasmania,” on the back of what appeared to be a well


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got up two-volume octavo work. It was only the husk, however, the empty cover, no more, of a work that had not yet seen the light. Subsequently I encountered the author in a steam-boat, and was by him kindly permitted to look over one of his well-written and diligently-collated volumes.

Before pressing my reader to accompany me further into the island, I will, if he pleases, make him a partner in such information as I could glean regarding earlier events in the history of the colony; whereof, however, I do not propose troubling him with more than a meagre summary.

It appears that in 1803, fifteen years after the first settlement of New South Wales, to which place some 6,000 or 7,000 persons had been transported, and which had suffered under the horrors of famine, insurrection, and other troubles, it was found desirable to relieve Sydney of a portion of the pressure, and to disperse the more turbulent of the prisoners.

Van Diemen's Land, from its salubrious climate, insulated position, and its paucity of natives, being considered highly eligible for the erection of a penal establishment, an officer of the navy, with a body of troops and convicts, was despatched there with that view, and in August of that year landed and camped his party on the eastern bank of the river Derwent, at a spot called by him Rest-down, since abbreviated to Risdon, where there is now a ferry across the stream.




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Early in 1804, an expedition, which had left England in 1802 for the purpose of forming a penal settlement at Port Phillip on the southern coast of New Holland, not finding water there, removed to this island, and felicitously enough fixed upon Sulliven's Cove for their location; where the first Lieut.-Governor of Van Diemen's Land, Colonel Collins, landed with a few officers, civil and military, forty-four non-commissioned officers and privates of the royal marines, and 367 male prisoners; and where a settlement was founded and called Hobart Town, after the then Secretary for the colonies. In the same year the river Tamar, which on the northern coast of the island discharges itself into Bass's Straits, was surveyed, and a small party of the 102d regiment from Sydney, under Colonel Patterson, formed a convict station near its mouth. Launceston, situated about forty miles inland on the Tamar, is the next large town to the capital, containing at present about 7,000 inhabitants.

Thus Van Diemen's Land is a child of Botany Bay, born when the latter was still in her teens. The babe of grace continued to thrive, although very nearly starved to death in its earlier days while still at nurse under the elder colony—kangaroo flesh being then greedily bought up at 1s. 6d. per pound, and sea-weed (laver, I suppose) becoming a fashionable vegetable for want of better food. After about three years, however, cattle and sheep were introduced into the island in considerable


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numbers, and were found to flourish exceedingly whereever the most moderate degree of care was bestowed upon them. Tasmania is a more musical alias adopted by the island. It has been given in titular distinction to the first bishop, my excellent and accomplished friend Dr. Nixon, and will doubtless be its exclusive designation when it shall have become a free nation.

The ports being closed against any but king's ships, the colony received but few recruits except by successive drafts of doubly-distilled rogues from New South Wales. After a few years, however, the interdict against commerce was removed. Many military officers serving there settled down on grants of land. A considerable band of emigrants was brought by the Government from Norfolk Island, when that place was selected for a penal settlement. Freed prisoners increased and multiplied, and spread themselves over the interior; but no direct emigration from the British isles occurred before 1821, when a census being taken, the white population was found to amount to 7,000 souls. The live stock consisted of 350 horses, 35,000 horned cattle, and 170,000 sheep; acres in cultivation nearly 15,000.

In 1824 a supreme court of judicature was established from Home—judges having thitherto been sent from Sydney to hold occasional sessions at Hobart Town. In the same year, having attained her majority, she petitioned for release from the filial ties connecting her with Sydney; and in 1825 she was by imperial fiat erected into an independent colony.




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The progress of the island has been surprisingly rapid; although, like New South Wales, its prosperity as a colony has been checquered by occasional reverses, referable perhaps to similar causes—namely, excessive speculation, rash trading on fictitious capital, extravagance in living, the common failing of parvenus to wealth, bad seasons, and, in its early days, the fearful depredations of white bush-rangers and of the Aborigines. Money must have been plentiful in 1835, when a piece of land at Hobart Town sold for 3,600l. per acre!

The blacks, never considerable in numbers, and ferocious in their conduct more on account of outrages received by them from the brutal convict population, than by nature, were gradually got rid of—chiefly no doubt by indiscriminate slaughter in fights about their women with bush-rangers and others, and by the determined steps taken by the local government for their capture and compulsory location in some secluded spot, where their small remnant might be prevented from collision with the Christian usurpers of their country. At one time a sort of battue on a grand scale was undertaken by the Lieut.-Governor, not for the destruction and extirpation of the unfeathered black-game, as has been sometimes unjustly supposed—but for the purpose of driving them into a corner of the island and so making prisoners of them. Not only red-coats and police, but gentry and commonalty, enrolled militia-wise, were brought into the field on this occasion. A grand movable cordon was formed or attempted to be formed across the whole


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breadth of the land, and was designed to sweep the native tribes before it into the “coigne of vantage” prescribed by the inventor of the plot. It was fishing for minnows with salmon nets! The cunning blackeys soon slipped through the meshes, and intense confusion and perhaps some little fright arose when it was discovered that the intended quarry had got into the rear of the line of beaters, and was making free with the supplies! This grand extrusion plan failed, then;—but 30 or 40,000l. of public money was disseminated through the provinces, and a good many civic Major Sturgeons got a smattering of “marching and countermarching” that they will never forget, and that may be of service in the next Tasmanian war. The poor Aborigines were not the less, in course of time, all killed, driven away, or secured. Those who fell into the hands of Government were humanely treated, fed, clothed, provided with medical aid, and located in a sequestered spot where they might sit down and await—and where they are now comfortably and most of them corpulently awaiting, their certain destiny—extinction.

The present native settlement is in Oyster Cove in D'Entrecastreaux's Channel, an arm of Storm Bay, the mouth of the Derwent. In 1835, the numbers were 210. In 1842, but 54. In 1848, according to statistics published by the Royal Society of Van Diemen's Land, the numerical strength of the natives had fallen to thirty-eight—viz. twelve married couples, and three


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males and eleven females unmarried. Thanks to idleness and full rations, many of them, unlike the wild blacks, have grown immensely fat—although not fair, nor, as I have just shown, quite forty!

Among the black ravagers of the rural settlers the most ferocious was a native of Australia surnamed Mosquito, who had been driven from New South Wales on account of some outrages committed there. In due time, however, he was caught and hanged.

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