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Chapter VIII.

JOURNEY TO LAUNCESTON, CONTINUED—MONA VALE—IRRIGATION—SHEEP FARMING—A PUN AT PARTING—OUTSIDERS—INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL—LAUNCESTON SOCIETY, ETC.—LONGFORD RACES—TASMANIAN HORSES—PARTY PROCESSION—WORDS AND DEEDS—GEORGE TOWN—FELLOW-PASSENGERS—BED AND BOARD IN ONE—A LAND ACCUMULATION—A PRINCIPALITY IN EMBRYO — CIRCULAR HEAD — THE VAN DIEMEN'S LAND COMPANY.

AT about midday, and at sixty miles from Hobart Town, which we, the slower coach, performed in seven hours, including stoppages for changing horses and breakfast,—we arrived at the entrance-gate of Mr. K——,a wealthy colonist, who had kindly offered to receive us for a night. The house and pleasure-grounds are situated about a mile from the high road, in a country by no means pretty, but well adapted for sheep-farming—being by nature lightly, indeed too lightly, timbered. This adaptation a stranger might at present reasonably doubt, for the natural pasture-land over which we passed in the proprietor's carriage was as hard and as bare as a brick—more resembling a Sahara than a sheep-walk.

Mr. K—— has nevertheless carried irrigation to a greater perfection than any other person perhaps in the


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Australian colonies. Of this he presently gave us proof by diverging from the direct road to the house, and bringing us to a wide tract of refreshing verdure lying in a gentle hollow. Here are 500 acres laid down in English grasses, divided by English quick hedges into convenient enclosures, along each of which are water-ducts with dam-gates, whereby he is enabled to throw the whole or part under water in the driest season.

This valuable plot of ground, which will probably feed as many sheep as 15,000 acres of the native pastures, was originally a swamp, and was received under ostensible protest but with a secret appreciation of its real value by the proprietor, as part of a free grant from Government. Indeed, if I remember correctly, the worthy old gentleman, who has a hearty liking for a joke, chuckles complacently and openly over the fact that some additional land was thrown in by the authorities as a make-weight for the boggy allotment that has helped to make his fortune. Had it fallen into any other hands it would, in all probability, have never fed anything more profitable than a snipe or a wild-duck. The swamp was by him thoroughly drained and cleared; the brook that supplied it was dammed back so as to form a reservoir, and the precious element was thus rendered available when and where wanted, instead of wandering and wasting itself, a “chartered libertine,” in the useless morass.




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After travelling, as we had done, through sixty miles of dust and drought,—for I never saw any part of New South Wales so thoroughly burnt up as Van Diemen's Land is this summer,—it was delightful to see running water rippling along the courses, and to find one's feet sinking up to the ankles in the deep and damp clover as we crossed the fields. The frogs were loud in their expression of enjoyment; even the water-crosses seemed silently to luxuriate in the cool and moist corners of the ditches.

Mr. K——did not forget to display to us his perhaps unique method of sheep-washing—by the agency of hot water. Two large iron boilers, filled by pipes from a higher level, keep the water at a temperature of 105°, and supply a couple of wooden baths cooled down to 98°. Here the sheep are well rubbed and scrubbed by one set of men, and by others are hauled over a wooden grating into a cold reservoir, whence, after receiving a shower from a set of spouts, they are allowed to escape up an inclined plane of clean pebbles into a grassy paddock, to dry their own coats—and our future pea-jackets and flannel petticoats. The hot water is not found, as might be supposed, to affect hurtfully the yolk of the wool. The extra care and expense bestowed upon the flocks, and the getting up of the fleeces have, I understand, been found highly remunerative—some portions of the wool having sold in England for nearly twice as much as the staple ordinarily prepared.




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A great tract of land called the Salt-pan Plains, belonging to Mr. K——, although very sparely grassed, affords a most wholesome nibble for the sheep—considerable quantities of salt being in dry weather deposited in the hollows.

Sheep-farming is conducted in Van Diemen's Land under more advantageous circumstances than in the colonies on the mainland of New Holland. There are now neither blacks, bush-rangers, nor native dogs to harry and despoil the flocks. The Australian practice, therefore, of folding and watching them by night, and the consequent necessity for driving them and harassing them with collies, soiling their fleeces and crowding them in unhealthy pens, is dispensed with, or “dispensed without”—to use the stronger expression of my fellow-passenger who gave me this information. The “dispensing without” two of every three of the hirelings for the care of the flocks is no slight saving—a saving which perhaps might just turn the scale in which the question of sheep as a profitable investment for capital — if one is to believe the squatters — is yet balancing.

There is nothing remarkably picturesque in the site of Mona Vale, the residence of Mr. K——; but the house itself is excellent; there are pleasant gardens and green-houses full of fruit and flowers, a tolerable growth of English trees, and, moreover,—rare feature in Australian home scenery,—a clear and rapid stream running across


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the lawn and forming beyond it a tolerably large pool, edged with English willows of great growth. Indeed, water at this place appears to have been drilled into perfect obedience to the behests of this ingenious and determined improver of “an arid land in which no water is.” Bath-houses in and out of doors, gardens, and stables, and offices, and even the bedrooms up stairs, are all provided, at a turn of the finger, with a copious supply of the limpid element. Just beyond the lawn, a favourite and beautiful thorough-bred English mare, with a foal at her foot, and amicably attended by a huge emu, was luxuriating in a deep clover meadow.

The proprietor of Mona Vale is a Manxman by birth, and, I suppose, must be the richest Manxman—not excepting the Goldie family—now in existence. His property on this spot is, I am told, about 50,000 acres; and his 20,000 sheep, managed as they are, must be as good as 3,000l. a-year to him. A patriarchal profusion and a good old-fashioned hospitality reign at Mona Vale—almost to a proverb. The table was laid for nearly twice as many guests as were present; and, indeed, these appeared and disappeared without apparent previous notice or ceremony.

January 14th.—After a pleasant stroll about the grounds and visiting the residence of Mr. K——'s son, who with his family inhabits a separate dwelling, but near enough to his father's for mutual defence, and after partaking of a most substantial midday meal, Mr. K——


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accompanied us in his phaeton to the high road, to meet the coach. This very un-punctual vehicle kept him and us waiting a full hour under a scorching sun; yet nothing could persuade him to leave us until he had seen us fairly off, because, as he said, some accident might have happened to the coach. We had no return to make him for this hospitable attention; he was evidently getting tired and bored, as well he might; our small-talk was exhausted, when, casting my eyes upon the panel of his carriage, they fell on the well-known insignia of the Isle of Man,—three armed human legs arranged starwise. “Well, what of that?” mentally inquires the reader. Why, I had been forewarned that our worthy host was an inveterate punster,—of which, indeed, we had received ample proof before the first five minutes of our acquaintance; and further, that these very armorial bearings—legs for arms—afforded him a staple and favourite joke, to which he gave utterance whenever a decent occasion offered. I therefore made some remark regarding the tripod crest, mentioning that of the few spots on the globe that I had visited the Isle of Man was one, and that I had passed a pleasant week or two at the beautiful Castle Mona Hotel, near Douglas,—once the residence of the lords of Athol. The old man's fatigued and faded eye brightened in a moment; he sprung upon and cracked his household joke, as a housemaid might crack a flea, and all was sunshine again! I laughed, my friend laughed, our host laughed, and his


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friend laughed; and the tardy coach driving up, we parted in high good humour, and, as I hope, with mutual good opinion and good will.

There was a gentleman in a cabbage-tree hat and an advanced stage of inebriety occupying my engaged seat on the box; but he was soon stowed somewhere among the luggage after making a faint and inarticulate request to be allowed to act bodkin between the coachman and myself. “Crack went the whip, round went the wheels:” the coach was two hours late, and we had sixty miles before us. The driver for this half of the journey was quite a young man, intelligent and respectable. He had travelled. He had been to California; had lost nothing by going thither, and had gained nothing but experience. He preferred Van Diemen's to any other land, especially on account of its climate—was married and lived at Launceston. The vehicle was quite as overloaded as it had been yesterday. I recommended that the fare should be raised, as the demand for travelling accommodation was evidently greater than the supply on this road, and every one in Van Diemen's Land seemed to have plenty of money. Yet the rage for cheap things—which is the ruin of all things—is as strong here as it is in England. “Raise the fare, Sir?” said the poor coachman; “why the public will very soon expect us to pay them for travelling with us!”

The guard, as before, lived a promiscuous sort of life on the exterior of the coach—like a restless bird on a


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tree, now sitting, now hanging, now thrown loosely across some part or parcel belonging to the vehicle.

Just behind me, and next to my friend—whose well-proportioned soul-case is not of very compressible materials—sat an entire family occupying the place of one outsider—a kind of human pyramid, differing, however, from that form inasmuch as the base was not the widest part. A slight young man composed the lower layer; the second was a fine, rosy-faced, bulbous young woman sitting on his knees; and the apex was a bouncing babe of two years old seated upon hers. Common humanity forbade such a compilation for a twelve hours' journey on a summer's-day;—mine made me head-nurse for the nonce, and accordingly I carried the child for several stages.

A few miles beyond Mona Vale, we crossed the Macquarie River by a fine stone bridge of fourteen or fifteen arches, and passed through the rather pretty town of Ross. Our course thence traversed a level and apparently fruitful tract, watered, on our left, by the above-named river, and by the South Esk on our right—grand ranges of mountains rising beyond them, Ben Lomond on the one hand, the Western Tiers on the other.

Sometimes almost brought to a walk by the new-laid macadam, the deep sand, or the now dry mud of the alluvial flats, at others racing over miles of inimitably smooth road, we drove through Campbeltown and Cleveland,—small straggling townships. We crossed the


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South Esk by a solid stone bridge, and found ourselves in a richly cultured district with fruitful farms almost adjoining each other and betokening the neighbourhood of a considerable market for agricultural produce. The grain crops here were very luxuriant—so much so as to ensure, I should suppose, 500 per cent. profit to the fortunate farmers in a season (like the present) of general drought and failure throughout Australia.

At about seventeen miles from Launceston, we reached the by-road to the estate of a gentleman who had obligingly invited us for a night; but a report that the steamer would positively sail the next morning compelled us, very reluctantly, to break our engagement. Mr. W——, with whom we were not personally acquainted, was waiting for us at his gate. The coachman pulled up. My friend the Doctor was wrapped in a martial cloak, with a scarlet lining. Mr. W——“presumed he was the Colonel,” and darted distrustful glances at the white-hatted, pea-coated tenant of the box-seat with the baby on his lap, who saluted him politely. The poor little brat was asleep; I had forgotten it altogether; it had become a sort of a second nature to me. We had imparted our regrets to our intended host, made our adieu, and the coach had driven onwards some miles before I recollected, with a loud laugh, and suddenly placed in connexion the puzzled look of Mr. W——, with the Doctor who looked like a colonel and Colonel who looked like something between a doctor


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and a dry-nurse, the poor slumbering innocent, and the somewhat relieved expression of countenance exhibited by that hospitable gentleman when he found that the whole of this establishment, nurseling included, together with a big soldier servant and a good amount of baggage, were not to be transferred from the coach to his light dog-cart, and from the dog-cart to his family circle! We on our side regretted the loss of our visit to this much respected colonist; the more, because we had heard at Hobart Town that there was no place in the country that would have given us a better idea of the establishment of a substantial gentleman settler; none that could have shown us at a glance a better part of the colony, or a property more successfully adapted to farming and breeding.

“Get on, Tom,” said the guard (he wore a red coat) to the coachman,—“you must get on a bit,” said he, in a manner that reminded me of old stage times; but it was all in vain. The poor little horses, some of them hardly fourteen hands high, were no match for the crowded coach—they were fairly done up. Night had set in two hours before we reached Launceston, and so we had not only to take for granted the beauty of the country around that town, but the additional danger of darkness was added to a steeply-descending and twisting road, a top-heavy coach, wretchedly weak wheel-horses, and nothing but a “lively faith” to supply the mundane safeguards of drag-chain, breeching, bearing-reins, and


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blinkers, of which there was not a semblance in this ill-conditioned turn-out.

On the steepest pitch of the hill, the coach at last succeeded in running over the horses, and had not the young driver behaved with coolness and skill, we must have rolled bodily into the valley of the Esk. The forewheels were within a few inches of the coping of the road; I felt as if I were “going to Alibama, (or elsewhere,) with my babby on my knee,” when he contrived to turn the pole aside so as to enable him to pull up the horses and to stop the carriage. In consequence of this fortunate escape from extreme peril, at 10 P.M. I had the satisfaction of delivering over my infantine charge safe and sound asleep at the entrance of the Cornwall Hotel, Launceston, where my travelling companion and myself had engaged rooms.

The town of Launceston, ranking next in importance to Hobart Town, is seated on the confluence of the rivers North and South Esk, where their mingled tribute forms the Tamar. The two former streams are not navigable. The latter affords passage for vessels under 400 tons from its mouth, in Bass's Straits, up to the wharfs of the town, a distance of about forty miles. Its course, however, is tortuous and baffling, and would be unsafe but for a line of buoys. Although every way inferior as a harbour to Hobart Town, and with hardly a fourth of its population, the port of Launceston, being more favourably situated for commerce with the


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neighbouring colonies, and having an infinitely larger share of good arable land near at hand, discharges a greater amount of exports than the other. In 1848 the value of the exports from the port of Hobart Town was 55,000l., that of Launceston 69,000l.

I have heard the population of Launceston variously computed at 4,000 and 7,000 souls; and by striking a balance between the two numbers, the truth would most probably be arrived at. There is little to admire in the town itself, although doubtless it is full of charms in the eyes of its inhabitants. The climate of this part of the island has the character of being delightful. It shows itself in the healthy appearance of the people, especially in the young. I saw in this town and its vicinity a very good average of pretty girls, with fine teeth and high colour. Further on in life the heat and the glare of the sun injures the natural beauty of the English complexion, bringing it pretty nearly to the Anglo-American level. The temperature is sometimes very variable, ranging over thirty degrees between morning and evening.

Having occasion to buy some opossum rugs for my projected voyage Home round the Horn, and the fur of this animal being thicker and darker here than in New South Wales, I was referred to one “Johnny All-sorts,”—a personage as well known as the parish pump. This useful individual I found a great admirer of the climate. He cited an instance of a friend of his who settled


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originally at Port Phillip, but, “enjoying” bad health there, he removed to Launceston. “He was as thin as a plank, or as you are, Sir, when he came, but in a few months he became as lusty as myself.” Johnny was a puncheon personified, and any one less spherical, it was evident, was, according to his views in danger of atrophy. His store was a picture of the Omnium Gatherum such as is seen in all newly-settled places before the trades assume sufficient importance to subdivide themselves. A bet, as I was told, had been offered and taken, that no one article could be named by the taker which would not be found in Johnny All-sorts' repertorium. “A pulpit,” was rather unfairly named; but a pulpit, somewhat soiled and neglected by disuse, but an undoubted pulpit was immediately forthcoming. All it wanted was a strenuous divine to knock the dust out of it.

The streets of Launceston are wide and simply laid out, as those of all new towns are or ought to be, and have no excuse for not being. They are as dusty as those of Hobart Town and Sydney. There is a pleasant gleam of verdure through the gates of the Botanic Garden,—a generic name in these colonies for any plot of ground laid out for public promenading,—however little devoted to science.

The Military Barracks—(in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land the adjective is necessary to distinguish the cantonments from the convict barracks)—are pleasantly situated—a thing that can seldom be said of


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a barrack, (except in Ireland,) on the junction of the Esk with the Tamar, just where the former debouches from a romantic glen. Launceston has always been a favourite quarter with the officers of H.M.'s regiments, chiefly on account of an agreeable provincial society in the vicinity, more given, perhaps, to the country-house hospitality of the old country than is the case in any other of our Australian dependencies. The town society of Launceston is civic, in the severest sense of the term. The retail grocer and draper apologises on meeting a newly arrived officer for not having yet paid his respects to him; and the latter, if lately arrived from England, does not at first comprehend that this is a proffer of acquaintance, and not merely an application for the custom of the new comer. It is not to be denied that, to some military gentlemen, the visiting-card of their tailor might be more welcome than his “small account,” but no apology surely is necessary for delay in tendering one or the other!

The tradespeople of Launceston spoke more cheerily of “the times” than those engaged in agricultural or grazing pursuits. Like the Sydneyites, the settlers in Van Diemen's Land apparently mistook temporary and extraordinary prosperity for certain and permanent wealth. While the younger colonies of South Australia and Port Phillip were stocking their earliest pastures—pastures boundless in space—from the Van Diemen's Land flocks and herds, the Tasmanian farmers made


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large fortunes by the sale of their mere surplus—the sheep and oxen for which there was no available feeding room in the island: but the tables were soon turned; for so rapidly did the stock increase in the more northern colonies, that the superabundance changed hands, and the interchange of live stock between the ports of Launceston and Melbourne, the capital of Port Phillip, has, of late years, been greatly in favour of the latter.

January 15th, Launceston.—The sailing of the Shamrock was deferred on account of blowy weather; and perhaps because the captain's wife and family lived at Launceston, and the captain himself was uxorious. What was to be done for a whole day at Launceston? There was no “man to be hanged” as it happened. My Lord Tom Noddy—even Tiger Tim himself—would have been puzzled. Fortunately, however, we fell in with Mr.——,the resident agent of the Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Company, who was to be our fellow-passenger as far as Circular Head, the local head-quarters of that Association, and who recommended and offered to accompany us in a trip to Longford races, as affording a good opportunity of seeing one of the finest agricultural districts of the colony, and a glimpse of Tasmanian rural life. An open carriage with a smart pair of horses was quickly procured; and we enjoyed a truly delightful and England-like drive of fourteen or fifteen miles through a smiling champaign country such as I have nowhere else seen in Australasia. The forests or bush


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of Van Diemen's Land resemble pretty closely those of New South Wales, the gum-tree being hardly less universal in its reign; but the blue gum, the pride of the Tasmanian Sylva, does not flourish in the northern half of the island.

The face of the country through which we passed is agreeably undulating, and the cleared lands, unlike those of every other new colony, are quite unblemished by stumps—one of the good effects of convict-labour. This preparation of the soil is, however, costly to Government, owing to the price of the prisoners' maintenance and custody, and their miserable sloth as operatives.

It was a cold blowy day, alternate sunshine and gloom. Ben Lomond wore a neutral-tinted cap of clouds, from which he threw us an occasional shower dyed in the rainbow. Lighter vapours hung in mid air, and were drifted across the landscape, flinging down their fugitive shadows upon upland and plain and wide tracts of golden grain crops ready for the sickle. Unlike Australia, the enclosures were here as often marked by hedges as by rail-fences, and here and there a single large tree, or a group of them, had been spared to adorn a field. The South Esk, a deep and slow stream, which we crossed by a ferry-boat, meanders along and fertilizes this favoured district. The tall hedges of gorse in full bloom looked and smelt like Home. We met a flock of sheep driven by a shepherd with a real pastoral crook—the crozier of his diocesan authority, and two tailless dogs


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that dodged through gaps in the fences, or scrambled at full speed over the backs of the close-serried flock in order to lead them in the way they should go. Now and then we overtook good substantial spring-carts filled with burly yeomen, their sonsy helpmates and no end of rosy children—the hind-part of the vehicle looking like a basket of peonies in full bloom, while beneath it trotted a trusty mastiff. In our turn we were passed by a smarter dog-cart or two driven by young farmers, or by fast-trotting hacks bestridden by rustic beaux in tops and cords, straw hats and hunting-whips. A traveller addicted to absence of mind, and imaginary absence of body, might well have fancied himself in Derbyshire.

The Longford race-course lies near the village of that name, a brick-built village—brick from the church-tower to the pigsty. The clergyman's house—fortunately veiled round with shrubbery—looks out upon the hippodrome. It was a regular rustic meeting. A wooden platform for the judge, with a small pen for the ceremony of weighing, half a dozen booths decorated with motley bunting, half a dozen hack carriages, as many dog-carts, about fifty horsemen, and twice as many pedestrians, constituted the company of this Tasmanian Doncaster. The running was absurdly bad, but there were some very nice horses on the course, and a few of a good old-fashioned stamp—such as is now not common anywhere, and is unknown in New South Wales.




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Among the running horses was a mare worth going some distance to see—“The Farmer's Daughter,”—a splendid creature for size, shape, colour, and breeding—sixteen hands, jet black, without a speck, and of admirable symmetry. As for performance, she would make a greater sensation in Rotten Row, with a well-dressed six-foot cavalier on her back, than at Epsom or Ascot; for although there was nothing at Longford-races to come near her, she has met with more than her match on the turf of this island.

The Van Diemonians, as they unpleasingly call themselves or permit themselves to be called, are justly proud of their horse-flesh. They have opened a market with India, which is likely to prove beneficial to buyer and seller.

Among a series of equine anecdotes related to me by the stage-coachman on our late journey—anecdotes which, emanating ex cathedrâ (from the box), I invariably receive with respectful faith—there was one relating to a horse of the team running into Launceston, which I will repeat as testifying to the staunchness of the Tasmanian breed. “Do you see that little 'oss, Sir? the off leader, Sir?” said my informant; “that little 'oss, Sir, is the best bit of stuff I ever sat behind. That little 'oss ain't to be beaten by anything that stands on four legs. You can't go too fast or too far for that little 'oss. He's been on this road these eight years—off and on. I'll tell you a curious story about that little 'oss,


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Sir.” The story told how “the gent that owned him then” drove him one afternoon in his gig from Launceston to a friend's house seventeen miles distant, and after dinner back again to the town. That same night he was stolen from the stable by a notorious bush-ranger—one who had need of speed and knew the powers of this horse,—and before twelve o'clock the next day he was sold by auction—“that little 'oss was” —at Hobart Town by his borrower, looking “as fresh as a new pin,” having carried this Tasmanian Dick Turpin one hundred and twenty-one miles in the interim.

January 16th.—The waiter of the hotel announced to us this morning that Launceston was in a state of unusual excitement, on account of a grand meeting and grand breakfast to be holden and given in honour of the Delegates of the Tasmanian Anti-Transportation Society, and further that the Cornwall Hotel was to be the scene of this demonstration. My friend and myself, although too obtuse to discover any token of popular ebullition in the dull little town, were thankful to have got timely warning that the aforesaid delegates were actually “under orders” to proceed to Melbourne in the Shamrock, for the purpose of conferring with their brother Antis of Port Phillip, and thence to Sydney to gather recruits for the League; and further, that they were to march in procession, bands playing and colours flying, after breakfast, from the Inn to the wharf. Forewarned we were


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forearmed. There was no time to lose; so packing up our baggage and paying our bill we hastened on board the steamer in the tamest and most undemonstrative manner;—for to have been involved in a party procession in Van Diemen's Land—however involuntary the enrolment—would have sounded ill at the Horse Guards, we thought, and would not have redounded much to our credit even in New South Wales. Ten minutes later the Delegates approached, escorted by a considerable crowd—the band playing “Love Not,” and other equally appropriate airs. Several sets of cheers were proposed by a gentleman on the paddle-box, and responded to by the multitude; and I am pleased and bound to state that “The Queen” was received with every testimony of loyalty and respect.

On the absorbing question of transportation there seemed to exist in Van Diemen's Land almost as great diversity of opinion as in New South Wales. The Antis have naturally the best of the argument, or, at least, they employ more strenuous language than their opponents. The advantage of verbal fulmination lies on their side; for it is always easier to attack than to defend a system. For some weeks after I escaped from the steamer, my ears rang with the stale set phrases—“social contamination;” “the outpourings of British crime;” “imported corruption;” “the beautiful land of our adoption made a moral cesspool!” “moral pollution!” “moral scabies!!” “moral leprosy!!!” &c.




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More than once in Van Diemen's Land I heard very violent language used with respect to the continuance of transportation; and, in one instance especially, a discontented or bilious gentleman, whose station and education might have taught him better taste, worked himself up to such a state of rabid denunciation of Government measures, colonial and imperial, in which he was joined and assisted by a beneficed clergyman of the Church of England, that I felt my position as a guest of the house, and as an imperial officer, extremely embarrassing—so much so, that I was very glad to quit the shelter of so republican a roof. In this discussion the most absurd charges were brought against the Home and Colonial Government. I give one instance. To prove that expenses that ought to have been defrayed out of imperial funds had been unfairly charged against the colony, we were told that, a short time before, a convict, who was dying in the hospital, had been emancipated a day or two before his death in order that he might die a free man, and thus the cost of his burial might fall on the Colonial purse!” Here was a financial dodge with a vengeance! The simple truth was, that the term of the poor moribund's sentence expired before himself, and thus he and his friends (if he chanced to possess any) had the satisfaction of feeling that he died a free man. One fiery declaimer would have it that the time was drawing near when they would have to fight for their independence; or, at any rate, the Queen would


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have to send a large force to keep them in subjection; and the colony would have the benefit of a large military expenditure, instead of the present shamefully reduced garrisons. I assured this patriot that England would not strike a blow, except against a foreign foe, for the retention of Van Diemen's Land; and that the force at present in the colony could keep them in perfect order, if necessary.

I observed in this island, as elsewhere, a strange inconsistency between public protestation and private procedure on the convict question. This was easily explained;—it was popular to denounce convictism, profitable to employ convict labour! I heard of a president of an anti-transportation meeting discussing the question in the abstract, and descanting with tears in his eyes upon the anxious feelings of a husband and a father, when called by duty or business to leave his family in the hands of a convict neighbourhood. He was drily questioned how it happened that, possessed of such opinions, he had, on this occasion, left his wife and children in the power of thirty-six prisoners in his own employment! This insinuation was, of course, repelled with indignation, and refuted on the spot. Not a bit of it. The virtuous denouncer of convictism denied that he employed thirty-six convicts,—he only kept thirty!

But Shamrock is under weigh, cramfull of passengers, some of them bound to Sydney like myself, others to Circular Head, several to Melbourne, and a few only on


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a jaunt to George Town—the Brighton of North Tasmania. I counted thirteen vessels, from 150 to 400 tons, alongside the wharf at Launceston. The largest ship was loading for California. After forty miles of serpentining down the picturesque Tamar against a rough wind, our steamer dropped anchor in the little cove off George Town, where we remained, weather-bound and wretched, the whole of the next day. My friend and myself sent ashore, and secured, as we thought, beds for the night; but we were dispossessed by the villanous Boniface in favour of a party of more permanent customers,—a family of Launceston shopkeepers, coming to astonish their skins by a week's sea-bathing.

George Town is a miserable spot, looking like the ghost of a departed marine bagnio, and seated on a dreary flat scarcely above the level of the sea. About a dozen and a half of houses, public and private, and a small church surround a rushy common, such as one sees in the fenny counties of England. In America or Asia it would be the head-quarters of ague; yet it is, in fact, particularly healthy.

George Town owed its sudden rise to the necessity existing for a port of shipment for live stock from this island to Port Phillip, when the latter great squatting settlement was created by the former. It derived importance also from being a military and convict station. Both these sources of importance have now failed the poor little place. The ruins of the respective barracks


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are all that remain of the Government-men and their guards. The township is strewed with the melancholy proofs of money, public and private, fruitlessly expended.

From a somewhat restless and dissipated-looking fellow-passenger, who with bee-like diligence seemed to sip to the dregs the sweets of every place and pleasure that fell in his way, (for I had subsequent leisure to mark his mode of life,) and who remained ashore until a late hour at night and came on board sleepy and unsober, I elicited the fact that quoits, skittles, and a bagatelle-board were all that was to be had in the way of “life” at George Town. This gentleman would have liked it better in an earlier stage of its existence, for, in the old days of mismanaged convictism, George Town, it is written, was a perfect hell upon earth. Rum, riot, and misrule,—a state of communism among the male and female prisoners,—and peculation, and concubinage with the convict women among the official people,—such was “life” in George Town in its palmy days!

January 18th.—Got under weigh from George Town, and proceeded along the northern coast of Van Diemen's Land towards Circular Head—distant 70 miles. But ere the vessel was permitted to take her final departure, a ceremony was gone through which smacked somewhat of the hateful passport system of continental Europe, and reminded one that the mouth of the Tamar is in fact one of the gates of a huge prison. A functionary came


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on board, and, in a manner I must say by no means offensive, possessed himself of every passenger's history, so far at least as to make it impossible, or next to impossible for a convict to evacuate the island as a passenger or one of the crew. Yet, on a late occasion the vigilance of this officer was at fault. A Port Phillip paper thus states the instance:—

“A tolerably good sized case, about four feet six in height by two feet in width, was shipped at Launceston; in the Shamrock, for this port (Port Phillip), as a case of stuffed birds; and with a view to no damage occurring to the precious package, it was not put on board until the vessel was on the point of sailing, and was then deposited in the hold allotted to steerage passengers. No more was thought of the case until the arrival of the vessel at the port, or indeed for some time after, when it was discovered that a principal portion of the lid, or rather, according to the position in which the case had stood during the voyage, one side had been taken off, and there lay sundry appurtenances of a lady's wardrobe, a comb, a pair of boots, a gin bottle nearly empty, the remnants of a few biscuits and some cold beef.” Various arrangements had been made to enable the tenant to stow as close as possible, and there was a hole for ventilation under the card on which the address was written.

Like the stage-coaches of Tasmania the steamer, a nice vessel of perhaps 300 tons, and commanded by a deservedly popular man, was most uncomfortably over-crowded.


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We had about twenty-five cabin passengers, and a very motley assemblage we formed. There were civil and military and clerical, medical and legal and mechanical gentlemen, Jews and Gentiles, merchants and squatters. As for the “civil condition” (as the Census papers call it) of the guests at the cuddy-table, there was really every gradation of the bond and the free, short of prisoners under actual restraint. One or two of them had “lag” so indelibly written on their hardened lineaments, that, opulent as they might now be, it seemed monstrous that they should be permitted to jostle gentlemen of character on equal terms.

I recollect a few years ago, when travelling in the United States, entering one of the large railway omni-buses, constructed with a passage up the middle, and on either side a series of seats formed to hold two persons each. There were thirty or forty passengers, and when we were all seated there remained one vacant place only, yet several persons still continued standing. Not giving travellers of any nation, and especially Yankee travellers, credit for much ceremonious politeness and self-sacrifice, I was induced to examine the solitary. A glance satisfied me that the fact of his skin being a shade darker than that of the others was the cause of his ostracism. In order to avoid the neighbourhood of the vulgar, inquisitive, “expecting,” and expectorating white savage, who shared my bench, I crossed over and took the seat next to the well-dressed, well-educated, and highly


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intelligent half-caste gentleman;—and, strange to say, there was a general rush for my vacated seat by those who would have thought it contamination to have travelled in contact with a coloured man. With better reason I found myself shrinking from a commenced acquaintance with a fellow-passenger in the Shamrock, when I heard that he had but lately got his freedom from the consequences of a crime which blasts a man's character for ever; and had, since his manumission, committed an act of the grossest depravity and breach of faith. Yet this person, being clever in his profession, is never in want of employment. Every trip of the steamer imports a large detachment of the “freed” and “filtered” from Van Diemen's Land to New South Wales—a very sore subject with the anti-transportationist party at Sydney. There were two or three passengers named to me as the offspring of convicts, estimable people, on whom to visit the expiated sins of their parents — expiated as far as human laws were concerned — would have been cruel injustice. A remarkably handsome and ladylike person was pointed out to me as a daughter of “Margaret Catchpole,” the well-known heroine of Mr. Cobbold's tale. There were some among the free who merited the adjunct of easy also—gentlemen of the bush, of the cabbage-tree hat and corduroys, of the beard, the belt, and the black pipe, with an exiguity of luggage amounting to the extremity of light marching order.

While I am writing these notes, a tall, picturesque-looking


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sprig of the squattocracy has just pitched his “swag”—a leathern valise—through the open skylight on to the cuddy table, to the astonishment of my ink-stand—and of myself had I been capable of astonishment—a feeling luckily almost rubbed off by fair wear and tear. Nor did this hardy bushman treat his person more tenderly than his wallet. At night, having no cabin, he threw himself down on the oil-cloth table-cover, where, swathed in a blanket, he looked like a huge sturgeon on a fishmonger's slab. Six or eight others were no better accommodated. The table was strewed with mysterious sleeping forms, and one wondered what manner of creatures would emerge with day-light from their several cocoons.

Nowhere have I seen individuals of the wealthier classes travel so untrammeled with baggage as in these colonies. Sir Charles Napier himself would be charmed and satisfied with their simplicity of kitt. But no—on recollection I have seen it outdone in another land. On board the Great Western steamer, bound from New York to Bristol, I shared a cabin with three other men. When I reviewed my ton-and-a-quarter of personals I could not but envy the independence of one of these gentlemen whose tiny portmanteau contained two shirt-fronts, a pair of boots, and a bowie-knife.

Among the passengers in the Shamrock my notice was particularly attracted to a tall, stout, German-like man, about fifty years of age, with huge reddish whiskers,


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attired in a dirty drab Chesterfield, without waistcoat, gloves, or other expletives of dress, and who stood generally with hands in pockets smoking his cigar and leaning against the funnel. When he did draw forth a great pair of freckled fists it was either to light another cigar or to refer to a note-book. It was a note-book worth referring to! When not thus employed he was frequently sleeping, or apparently sleeping, on a bench before his cabin-door. This person was Mr. S. T. C——, well known as the great land-owner and land-purchaser. Last year he purchased from Government 28,000l. worth of land in the Port Phillip district, which, at the minimum price of Crown-lands, would give the like number of acres; and within his cabin-door, whereat he keeps a sort of mastiff watch, although not an obvious one, lies a small portmanteau in which, as he told me himself, he has at this moment 20,000l. (5,000l. in gold,) which he is carrying to Melbourne for the purchase of another block or special survey of Crown-land. In Van Diemen's Land he has already purchased 50,000 acres, part from the Crown, part from private persons—a good deal of it cleared, fenced, and with more than one valuable homestead. This season, he informed me, he had sheared in New South Wales 90,000, and in Van Diemen's Land 40,000 sheep. He had sent to England this year 1,500 bales of wool, which at 20l. a bale, gives 30,000l. He has no taste for the luxuries; cares little even for the comforts of life,


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as far as himself is concerned. He is bestowing on his children a liberal education, his sons studying with a clergyman in England. They will soon be able to share his labours—the labour of amassing money and property. This amount of wealth, the end of which is not easy to foresee, sprung from a small beginning. When others, in the bad times, were ruined, he bought at his own price the live stock and land that they were compelled to sell. When prices rose he sold part, and stocked the plains of Port Phillip with the rest. Like the Gullys and Hudsons of the old country, he seems to possess an innate power of quick calculation which in matters of business is worth all the acquired powers in the world. Such men strike while the iron is hot; others ponder and waver until it cools.

Mr. C——was originally a butcher in Sydney. The nest-egg of his now immense possessions was probably—next to nothing. With an old white castor jammed down upon his brows, there is no indication of superior acuteness in the expression of his rough, pockmarked countenance and ordinary features; but on the outlines of his fine bald head it is impossible not to read the development of a quick and powerful mind. Yet it is not only his long head that particularly qualifies him for the despatch of business and the management of his multifarious concerns. His physical power and formidable person—for he must be six feet high, and about fifteen stone (“sinking the offal,” to use a phrase of his


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former craft!)—are valuable allies (as he indeed admitted) in the control of the unruly class of men he employs in parts of the country where the law has little or no force.

In the shearing season he is compelled to collect, at his head stations, about fifty or sixty roving, roaring, rowdy blades — wild hands when idle, but good at a “clip.” On these occasions he takes care to be present himself, and does not forget to bring with him a cask of rum, (the teetotal Anti-transportation delegates shuddered!) which, when the business is finished, he abandons to the discretion of the workmen, instead of troubling himself with the daily doling of it out.

If Mr. Clark is to make 30 or 40,000l. a-year by his wool, and is resolved to turn it, or half of it, into land, he must shortly become the proprietor of a principality which will cause the Arch-Dukes and Princes of central Europe, and the Rajahs and Nawaubs of central India to sink by comparison into insignificant squireens. Should his flocks continue to increase in the ordinary yearly ratio, he will soon possess as many woolly subjects as the kings of Congo, Loango, and Mandingo put together!

In case the Government decline to part with more territory to this gentleman—and I am aware the policy of so doing has been questioned—he will find private proprietors of land amenable to his gold. Indeed I have before me a paper, showing that in the year 1846, at the sale by auction of a fine private property in Van


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Diemen's Land, he bought 23,000 acres for less than 14,000l., (a large portion of it fenced and improved,)—9,000l. below the Government minimum price for wild land. His enormous squatting establishments moreover will give him the right of preemption over considerable tracts. For myself, I consider Mr. C——a real benefactor, a veritable patriot to his adopted country; for every ten or twelve pounds that he expends on Crown Land will bring, or ought to bring, to Australia a free emigrant; and population is the highest boon that can be conferred upon a young colony. At the risk of undue accumulation of property, and the consequent undue influence resident in one individual, let the Government take his guineas and give their waste land, in full reliance on human nature and past experience, and in the certainty that what one generation amasses the next will dissipate, or at least divide.

In the spirit of blamable indifference generally shown by the Australians towards the Industrial Exhibition of 1851,—(that great tournament of the arts,)—Mr. C——either had sent Home or had forgotten to send Home (he scarcely knew which!) a fleece weighing 27 lbs., the growth of as many months from one sheep—the staple of which was 21 inches long. Mr. C——stated openly that he employs prisoners whenever he can get them in preference to freemen, especially raw immigrants. (The delegates shuddered again. It was “as good as a play” to watch the effects of such statements upon the countenances


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of these worthy men!) Several other large employers of labour sided with him on this point. One would have supposed that the delegates—one of whom was a clergyman strong in head and firm of purpose, the other a gentleman of considerable mental acquirements and natural eloquence—would, on this question, not only have had the best of the argument, but all the argument to themselves. There are some people, however, that it is vain to pelt with ethics and moralities, or such small shot;—as well shoot boiled peas at one of Mr. Cumming's rhinoceroses! They are invulnerable except to arithmetical results,—the logic of profit and loss.

Singularly enough, we had on board one considerable hirer of labourers, who, apparently without any moral objection to convict labour, employed exclusively free labour, and free labour exclusively on principles of economy, namely, our new friend, the Commissioner of the Van Diemen's Land Company; a company—owing to no fault of their own—that cannot afford to be sentimental in the conduct of their affairs. Mr. ——prefers paying 20l. a-year wages to the emigrant rather than 9l. for the pass-holder; because he calculates that it will take two or three years to teach a Manchester weaver, a Nottingham spinner, or a London pickpocket the duties of a farming man…. Once more a truce to convictism! It is a subject that so constantly collars the attention in these colonies as to prove a clog to the


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onward progress of a narrative, and one almost impossible to handle except in the spirit of a furious partizan.

Mr. C——is one of those characters that are seldom met with except in young and wild countries, and not often there. It is in the crash of social and financial chaos that such men elbow their way to the front rank—the greater the general confusion and dismay the more certain their success. They are the rari nantes, who, with the eyes firmly fixed on one object, after manifold buffettings, come safe to land. In England there are instances of individuals—especially among the manufacturing classes—who, in the course of one lifetime, have raised themselves and their families from moderate means to enormous wealth. But in Australia all the stages between adventurous beggary and inordinate possessions have, in some cases, been traversed in a quarter of man's usual term of existence.

At three P.M., having steamed ten hours, we reached Circular Head, the chief station, as I have said, of the Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Company, and we cast anchor in a small cove sheltered by the natural feature suggestive of the name, (a huge basaltic bluff, nearly 500 feet high,) and united to the main by a low and narrow isthmus. As we drew near, it looked like an active volcano; for the summit was enveloped in blaze and smoke, the grass having been fired in order to produce a fresh crop.

About a mile inland, on a somewhat exposed plateau


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of good land, appears the farm of Stanley, with the house and gardens of the agent, embowered in fine timber. Nearer the harbour is the village of the same name, containing perhaps a dozen houses, a greatly overgrown and disproportionate tavern, and a remarkably diminitive church. The Company possess 20,000 acres at head-quarters—their entire landed property in the island amounting to 350,000 acres. Emu Bay, one of their settlements, the Commissioner assured me, is a perfect little paradise,—“the climate all the year round like that of a greenhouse with the windows open.”

The captain of the Shamrock allowing us two hours, my friend and myself accompanied Mr. ——to the Resident's house, a spacious building with most delightful gardens. It is surrounded by a well-fenced deer park, where an immense herd of fallow-deer, the first I have met with in Australia, are turned out. It was a curious sight to see the beautiful denizens of our English parks, interspersed with a few Durham bulls of high breed, feeding under the shade of the Banksia and the Eucalyptus, up to their bellies in English grasses, while a group of tall Emus—birds that are always fond of the company of large quadrupeds—stalked amicably amongst them.

From the roof of an outhouse, for we had no time to go further, we got a glimpse of the surrounding farm, divided into regular enclosures, neatly fenced with the English quickset, laid down in English grasses and


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clovers, among which no stumps were permitted to appear, and traversed by English-looking lanes sheltered with hawthorn hedges. On the distant mainland we descried the clearings of some of the Company's tenants.

There are several hundred renters of land and labourers, all free men, located in the territories of this Association. Their title appeared to me to be something of a misnomer, for I doubt if there be such a thing as a plough on their wide-spread domain. They are graziers rather than agriculturists. I fear that the laudable and promising experiment of peopling and cultivating this fine tract of country does not, at present, prove remunerative.

We were received at the Commissioner's residence by this gentleman's very charming wife, who, with a numerous family, conspires to render agreeable a mode of life otherwise singularly solitary and sequestered; for the Company's territory on the north-west corner of the island is cut off by sixty or seventy miles of unreclaimed forest and mountain from any other inhabited region. Bass's Straits, separating Van Diemen's Land from New Holland, are, at this point, about 140 miles across.

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