previous
next



  ― 114 ―

Chapter IV.

HISTORICAL NOTES—BIRTH AND INFANCY OF BOTANY BAY—A MILITARY REVOLT—EXTRACTS FROM AN OLD REGISTER—FIRST WOOL—POPULATION IN 1833—SALE AND LEASE OF CROWN LANDS—EMIGRATION—PAPAL AGGRESSION—GOLD DISCOVERED—TOUR IN THE INTERIOR—VINEYARD—PARAMATTA—A FEMALE REVOLT—HONEY-MOONS—“OLD IRONBARK”—BUSH TAVERNS—EMU FERRY INN.

I HAD not been many months in the colony before a most favourable opportunity of visiting the provinces occurred. But ere I engage my reader to accompany me on my first inland tour, I would beg permission to do for him what I did for myself on the passage out, and subsequently; namely, to look up from the authorities nearest at hand a few of the leading facts attendant on the history of New South Wales. It is needless to say that he is at liberty to shirk these notes if he pleases, and to jump again into the current of the narrative.

To begin at the very beginning,—it is perhaps not generally known that the great island continent of New Holland, so lately occupied by the Anglo-Saxon family, is senior in existence to Europe itself. The absence of certain strata in its geological formation is sufficient


  ― 115 ―
proof to the learned that the sun rose and set on Australia whilst “Old” England remained yet submerged beneath the waves she now rules.

This subject is so immeasurably beyond my reach, that, in the spirit of the Fox in the fable, pronouncing it “dry,” I jump at once out of the scrape, to the year 1609, when the Spaniard, De Quiros, is supposed to have been the first white visitor of the Great South Land. One Dirk Hartog, (the ancestor, no doubt, of Sir Walter Scott's hero,) of Amsterdam, was the second.

In 1644, the Dutch navigator, Abel Tasman, explored its coast, and bestowed upon it, very naturally and patriotically, the name of Niew Hollandt.

In 1777, the Welshman, Cook, in planting the British standard on its shores, with equal propriety styled it New South Wales.

Both titles are retained; the former being the generic appellation of the entire island, the latter that of the first colony implanted on its coasts. Australia is a more sonorous alias by which this great southern slice of the globe has also become known; and the term Australasia has been given (as some one remarks, “with doubtful propriety”) to all the comparatively lately discovered lands in the South Pacific Ocean, New Holland, New Zealand, &c. &c.

The British colonies in New Holland may be said to owe their origin to the United States of America; for, on the severance of these last from the Mother Country, she was compelled to look out for some other corner in which to put her naughty boys—some other place for her


  ― 116 ―
deported criminals. Botany Bay, so lauded by Dr. Solander, Cook's companion, was fixed on.

“The main objects,” writes Dr. Lang, “of the British Government in the formation of the proposed settlement, were, 1st. To rid the Mother country of the intolerable nuisance arising from the daily increasing accumulation of criminals in her jails and houses of correction;—2d. To afford a suitable place for the safe custody and the punishment of these criminals, as well as for their ultimate progressive reformation;—and, 3d. To form a British colony out of those materials which the reformation of the criminals might gradually supply to the Government, in addition to the families of free emigrants who might from time to time be induced to settle in the newly-discovered territory.”

In March 1787, accordingly, the “first fleet,” eleven vessels, under command of Captain Phillip, R.N. of H. M. ship Sirius, with 565 males, and 192 females, and a guard of marines—in all, 1,030 souls on board—sailed from England. After eight months' passage, they reached in safety Botany Bay. This spot was found sandy, swampy, and ill watered; the harbour shallow and exposed; the natives hostile. Phillip, searching further northwards, entered an inlet about ten miles from Botany Bay, laid down in the chart of Cook's expedition as a “boat-harbour,” under the name of Port Jackson, from the sailor who discovered its entrance.

The great circumnavigator thus slightingly notices this splendid estuary:—“At daybreak, on Sunday, the 6th May, 1770, we set sail from Botany Bay, with a light


  ― 117 ―
breeze, &c. &c., and at noon our observation was 30° 50′ S. At this time we were between two and three miles distant from the land, and abreast of a bay, or harbour, in which there appeared to be a good anchorage, and which I called Port Jackson.”

Astonished and overjoyed at the view of the magnificent haven, which had been veiled from the sea by the outer headlands, Phillip hastened to remove the fleet from Botany Bay, and on the 26th January, 1788, it was anchored in Sydney Cove. On that day the epoch of transportation to New South Wales commenced; it terminated on the 20th August, 1840. This punishment is now confined to Van Diemen's Land, and its dependency, Norfolk Island. Cockatoo Island receives the incorrigibles of New South Wales.

In May that year the entire live-stock of the colony, public and private, was found to consist of 2 bulls, 5 cows, 1 horse, 3 mares, 3 colts, 29 sheep, 19 goats, 74 pigs, 5 rabbits, 18 turkeys, 29 geese, 35 ducks, and 210 fowls. In the following month, two bulls and four cows were lost in the bush—a great apparent disaster, eventuating in most fortunate results; for these animals led by instinct, took their course inland, traversing the sterile and sandy tracts round Sydney, and finally choosing their pasture about forty miles from the settlement, on the banks of the Hawkesbury. Here they quickly multiplied, owing their safety from the natives to the novelty of their appearance, their fierce looks, sharp horns, and formidable voices. Seven years afterwards, Governor Hunter, having heard of the wild cattle on this spot, crossed the Nepean river, and discovered a herd


  ― 118 ―
of forty head feeding in a well-grassed and watered country; so savage were they, that it was with difficulty that one or two of them were shot.

The troubles of the first governor were very great. The stores failed; the soil produced but little food. More prisoners arrived. He sent the Sirius with a party of troops and convicts to take possession of Norfolk Island; the ship was wrecked, and the provisions on board lost. The people lived on the mutton-bird, or sooty petrel, which swarmed on the island, until grain grew up. The convicts at Sydney became mutinous; many escaped. A party of twenty of them started for China, by land, in 1781, and the few who survived were brought back half starved to the settlement.

The blacks were troublesome. His Excellency himself was dangerously wounded by one of them. Food had to be sent for from Batavia and the Cape of Good Hope. Botany Bay and Port Jackson fortunately afforded great quantities of fish, which were caught and served out as rations. Agriculture was gradually established. Land was granted to a few free settlers, as well as to emancipated prisoners. Many of the marines, also, became colonists. The first settlers were located on the Paramatta river, and under the Prospect Hills, about twenty miles from Sydney. They were furnished with clothes and rations from the public stores for eighteen months, tools, implements of husbandry, seed-grain, live-stock, and, eventually, the services of such number of prisoners as they could engage to feed and clothe.




  ― 119 ―

Thus originated the assignment system, the best ever invented, had it been properly administered; but being, like most other systems, open to abuse, abuse walked in as a matter of course. It relieved the treasury from the expense of maintenance, separated the convicts, and associated the better conducted of them with respectable families. To the colonists themselves this supply of labour, when no other was to be obtained, was an inestimable boon. When the boon was extended to emancipated and expiree prisoners, or to other worthless characters, it became an abuse.

Old chronological tables, as well as histories, testify that the birth and infancy of the colony were attended by natural prodigies, terrestrial and meteorological, such as might have been received as omens of failure, if not as warnings from on High, against the rise of a nation bearing on its scutcheon the fetter and the scourge—sad emblems for a nascent people. These phenomena providentially have not attended the maturer age of the colony. In the first year a severe shock of an earthquake was felt, with sulphureous exhalations from the ground. Others occurred in 1801 and 1806. Tremendous hail-storms, or rather showers of ice-flakes six and eight inches in circumference, destroyed young stock, poultry, and crops. Furious hurricanes and an influx of the sea occurred at Norfolk Island.

There were fearful and repeated floods of the Hawkesbury river, the most memorable of which, in 1806 and 1808, caused terrible devastation, and drove the settlement to absolute starvation. In the former case the


  ― 120 ―
river rose seventy feet above its ordinary level. Wheat went up to seventy and eighty shillings the bushel, and bread to five shillings the loaf. The barracks were struck by lightning. The clock-tower crumbled down into ruins. Cattle and even men were killed in the storms.

Yet destructive to the rapid progress of the new colony as were these natural causes, there was another yet more disastrous—namely rum! In the absence of coin, rum became the chief article of exchange. Government officers, settlers, military men, emancipists and convicts, all dabbled in the dirty but lucrative traffic—and rum became a legal tender and the great circulating medium.

Licences to retail spirits were given to members of what might, at that time, have been styled the aristocracy of the society. Whilst the gentlemen so indulged were going about their official avocations, their assigned convict-servant—sometimes female convict and concubine—managed the shop and the till. Such was the paucity of women of good repute, and such the consequent general depravity, that in 1806 two-thirds of the children annually born were illegitimate.

The miserable spirit of huckstering, well styled by one of the early Governors, a “low and unmilitary occupation,” brought about one of the most extraordinary instances of military usurpation extant in the history of the British army.

There is no colony in the world, perhaps, where


  ― 121 ―
British troops have been so thoroughly without opportunities of distinction as in New South Wales. Beyond a skirmish or two with banditti, and a scuffle with the blacks under martial law of a few days' duration, I am not aware that they have ever been called out upon any active service which Major Sturgeon would have considered harassing. (In this remark I exclude of course the New Zealand war.) It is unfortunate, therefore, that after vainly hunting back for records of high emprize on the part of the troops in this dependency, one stumbles upon the deposition of the Governor by the officers and men of the New South Wales corps—afterwards embodied as the 102d Regiment.

The officers, having for some years engaged in the rum trade above mentioned, and dealing largely also in other wares obtained by them from the King's stores or from merchant vessels at prime cost and retailed at immense profit, (for they were privileged to have the first sight of the manifests and cargoes of all vessels arriving,) became naturally irate when this monopoly was threatened.

Captain Bligh, the famous commander of the Bounty, on assuming the Government, resolved to break up this monstrous system. His first blows were struck, right and left, against civil and military in the persons of a resident merchant and a captain of the New South Wales corps, to whom spirit stills had been consigned by their London agents, and which had arrived in a late vessel. The former gentleman was summoned “to show cause” for such a breach of harbour regulations; evaded


  ― 122 ―
the summons; was apprehended; brought to trial before a criminal court, consisting of the Judge-Advocate (a civil officer) and six officers of the corps; protested against the former officiating as president, on the plea of his being prejudiced in the case and inimical to himself; and was supported in his objection by some of the members who joined him in a request that the Governor would appoint another judge—a substitution which His Excellency had no power to make. The Judge-Advocate, attempting to assert his authority, was resisted by the court. The Governor then summoned the six officers to appear before him and a bench of magistrates, to answer a charge of treasonable and rebellious practices preferred against them by the Judge-Advocate.

The Junior Major and pro-tem. Commandant was at this juncture confined to his house in the country by illness, on which plea he excused himself from waiting on and consulting with the much-troubled Governor on the question between him and the malcontent officers. The next day, however, the Major came into Sydney and repaired to the barracks, when the officers and other persons persuaded him to place the Governor in arrest, and to assume himself the government of the Colony. They first liberated Mr. M——, the restive merchant, from His Majesty's gaol, where he had been placed by the despotic judge, and authorized him to draw up a requisition to Major J——to assume the chief power. Six gentlemen signed this requisition. (I am personally acquainted with the immediate descendants of five of


  ― 123 ―
them, as well as those of the Charles the First and Cromwell of this stormy passage of colonial history.)

This violent measure was carried instantly into effect. The regiment paraded at seven o'clock the same evening, the twentieth anniversary of the colony, and was marched at a quick pace with fixed bayonets, band playing, and colours flying, to the Government House. The subaltern in command of the Governor's guard loaded and joined the corps with his men, and was pushing into the entrance-hall, when his advance was gallantly resisted by the fair daughter of His Excellency, then a young and pretty widow. The parasol which, “legends say,” was on this occasion bravely wielded in defence of a father, proved but a poor para sol-dat! for the men rushing past the lady into the Governor's apartment, captured him in the act of destroying some important papers. The Commandant was installed as Governor. The real Governor was confined in the barracks, but was afterwards permitted to take command of H.M. ship Porpoise—then in harbour—in order to return to England.

In December 1809, Colonel Macquarie arrived at Sydney, with instructions to vindicate the laws by reinstating for twenty-four hours Governor Bligh, and then to be sworn in as his successor. The deposition of Governor Bligh was designated by the Secretary of State as a “mutinous outrage.” The Major (who had meanwhile been promoted to a Lieut.-Colonelcy) was ordered home under arrest, was tried by a general court-martial in May 1811, and was cashiered—his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief confirming the


  ― 124 ―
sentence, while he characterised it as “inadequate to the enormity of the crime.”

The New South Wales corps was immediately relieved by H.M.'s 73d Regiment, whose gallant colonel, with great poetical justice, espoused the fair and spirited daughter of the ill-treated Governor. Mr. J——, late Lieut.-Colonel, returned to the colony, where he died much regretted, leaving considerable property. This singular event in the annals of the colony is minutely detailed in Lang's History of New South Wales.

However the colonists themselves and their corps might indulge in insurrectionary pastimes, they proved loyal and conservative enough when the convicts attempted rebellion; for the New South Wales corps were the terror of insurgent prisoners and bushrangers; and I find that in 1807 the “Sydney Loyal Association,” 600 strong, enrolled themselves for the defence of the country and the government.

Some items of an old register I picked up in London before I left England, afford curious glimpses of the olden times of the settlement.

“1807.—Auction at the Green Hills on Saturday next. A capital grey horse with an elegant chaise and harness. Payment to be made in wheat, maize, or swine's flesh, at government price, or in copper coin.”

“1810.—Market. Mutton, beef, and pork 1s. 6d. per lb.—wheat, 1l. 6s. 4d. per bushel—maize, 6s.—potatoes, 17s. 6d. per cwt.—fowls, 3s.—eggs, 2s. 6d. per dozen—wheaten bread, 12½d. per 2lb. loaf.




  ― 125 ―

October 15th.—First Races and Race Ball at Sydney. * * * The Ball-room was occupied until about two o'clock, when part of the company retired, and those that chose to remain formed into a supper party. After the cloth was removed the rosy Deity asserted his preeminence, and with the zealous aid of Momus and Apollo chased pale Cynthia down into the western world. The blazing orb of day announced his near approach. Bacchus drooped his head, and Momus ceased to animate,” &c. &c.!

Execution.—One Murphy hanged for sheep-stealing.”

May 19th, 1810.—Prisoners of the Crown directed to attend Divine service on the Sabbath-day.”—Query—for the first time since the formation of the settlement in 1788?

“1812.—Government Public Notice and Order. Secretary's Office Sydney 10th Aug. 1812:—

“The extraordinary increase of curs and mongrels of a base and worthless description rendering the streets of Sydney dangerous to all persons, &c. &c., His Ex. the Governor is pleased to express a hope that the inhabitants of Sydney will take immediate means for the destruction of those degenerate and worthless animals, &c.!”

Never surely were dogs called by such a multitude of bad names!

December.—Ten rams of the Merino breed, lately sold by auction from the flocks of John Macarthur, Esq., produced upwards of 200 guineas.




  ― 126 ―

1815.—The road over the Blue Mountains to the New Territory finished.

1821.—Twenty-six prisoners capitally convicted at the Criminal Sessions, nineteen of whom were executed.

1822.—Thirty-four prisoners condemned to die at the Criminal Sessions in October!!

1824.—August.—Black Tommy executed for murder.

August 11th.—A Legislative Council, established by Royal Sign Manual, proclaimed in the colony.

October.—Liberty of the Press acknowledged by the Governor.

1826, April 29th.—Mr. Icely's thoroughbred mare Manto, imported per Columbia, dropped a fine bay foal—being the first thorough-bred animal produced in the colony.

October 19th.—H. M.'s ship Warspite the first (and only) 74 that ever entered Port Jackson, arrived with Commodore Sir James Brisbane.

1830.—Donohue, the desperate bushranger, shot by a party of mounted police at Raby.

1831.—His companions Webber and Walmsley captured.

April 19th.—A government order, prohibiting the abominable traffic with New Zealand for human heads, which had so long disgraced the colony.

1832, April 6th.—A soldier of the 39th Regiment, named Brennan, shot to death near Dawes Battery, pursuant to a sentence of Court-martial, for firing at a serjeant of his corps.”




  ― 127 ―

The honour of originating the Australian wool trade, now so famous, is due to Mr. John Macarthur, who, going to England about 1803, “displayed the samples of wool grown by himself in New South Wales to some brokers, who, foreseeing the advantage that would accrue to Great Britain if by its extensive cultivation the Australian fleece could be made to compete with the Spanish and Saxon article, interested themselves to obtain for Mr. Macarthur the special favour of the Home Government. In consequence, when Mr. M. returned, as he shortly did, he received a large grant of land suitable to his adventure, and a number of assigned servants sufficient for his purpose. He continued his operations with varying success at first, but ultimately with such profitable certainty as to make sheep-farming the general pursuit of the colony.”note

I must allude but passingly to the vast alternations of prosperity and disaster which befel the colonists from the date of the live-stock first attaining a high value;—the wild spirit of speculation, the ruinous facility of credit, fictitious wealth and substantial extravagance, the mortgages, bankruptcies, monetary panics and commercial revolutions. They will be found correctly narrated by Lang, Braim, Westgarth, and others. They afford a wholesome lesson to young and rising colonies. In the three years 1842-3-4, when the population of New South Wales was only 162,000, there were 1,638 cases of sequestration of estates—the collective debts of which were three and a-half millions sterling!




  ― 128 ―

With respect to the population of the colony—one Governor constituted himself the champion of the convicts—adopting the principle, that long tried good conduct should lead an offender back to that rank in society which he had forfeited, and do away all retrospect of former bad conduct. He gave to pardoned and expiree prisoners places of trust, and the entrée of Government House. He discountenanced free emigration.

His successor, on the contrary, kept the emancipists at a distance and encouraged immigration. A fierce jealousy grew up between the parties, bond and free. It became the business of a third Governor to allay these hostile feelings, and he succeeded as far as human nature would permit. The census of 1833 exhibits the population of New South Wales as follows:—

       
Free Males  22,798  Convict Males  21,845 
Free Females  13,453  Convict Females  2,698 
Total Free  36,251  Total Convicts  24,543 
Grand Total  60,794 

Of the free population one-half were liberated convicts.

The disproportion of the sexes in the total population is very remarkable.note

In 1840 the number of convicts assigned to private service was 21,000 and upwards.note

On the 31st December 1849, the free population numbered 242,782; the bond, or convicts, 3,517; total, 246,299.




  ― 129 ―

In 1831 the system of granting or giving away Crown lands, whether in reward of service—to encourage settlers—or to induce them to employ and maintain convicts, was abandoned, and the principle of sale was introduced—the object being to provide out of the proceeds of the land fund the pecuniary means of assisting the immigration of a free and virtuous population.

The upset auction price of land was by Lord Ripon in 1831 fixed at 5s. an acre. In 1838 by Lord Glenelg it was raised to 12s.; and by Lord Stanley in 1842 to 1l.—at which price it now rests. To mark the operation of price upon sale—in 1832 the amount of sales of Crown land was 12,509l.; in 1840, 316,000l.; and in 1842, 14,574l. Land in the larger towns reached at one period a price that throws even London land into the shade. In 1834 a corner allotment in George-street, Sydney, sold at the rate of 18,150l. per acre, and another at 27,928l. per acre. In 1840 one small allotment was purchased at the rate of 40,000l. per acre.

About the same date as the establishment of the sale of Crown lands, arose that of issuing depasturing licences, in order to prevent the unauthorized occupation of Crown lands by squatters and others. The fees raised by this impost were devoted to police and other public purposes in the pastoral districts, or, as Sir George Gipps styles them, lands beyond the shireland of New South Wales.

Various successive emigration schemes were concocted, tried, and annulled. The land fund became exhausted or was dissipated; and hitherto, it may be said, no really efficient plan, advantageous to the mother country, the colony, and the emigrant himself, has been hit upon,


  ― 130 ―
and carried out to any satisfactory extent for this colony.

The average annual emigration from the United Kingdom to other countries for the last twenty-three years, has been computed at 75,000 souls.

The emigration from the United Kingdom in 1847, in round numbers, was as follows:—

     
To the North American Colonies  109,600 
To the United States  142,500 
To the Australian Colonies and New Zealand  4,900 only! 

When the writer came out in 1846, government emigration to this country being at a stand-still, it was only by the greatest exertion of interest that he could procure a free passage for a pensioned sergeant, his wife and six children, whereof five were girls—the very kind of family of which England had enough and to spare, and which to a colony under-stocked with females was an invaluable gift.

In 1840, New South Wales ceased to be “a place to which convicts might be transported from the United Kingdom.”

In March 1843, the Right Rev. Dr. Polding, Roman Catholic Bishop, assumed the title of “Archbishop of Sydney”—a title conferred immediately by the Pope; and issued a pastoral letter in the name of “John Bede, by the grace of God, and of the holy Apostolic See, Archbishop of Sydney, and Vicar-Apostolic of New Holland.”

In the same month, the Right Rev. Dr. Broughton, Bishop and ordinary Pastor of Australia, solemnly and


  ― 131 ―
publicly protested against, and contradicted the right of the Bishop of Rome to institute any episcopal or archi-episcopal see or sees within the diocese of Australia and province of Canterbury. Thus the “papal aggression” of 1850, whereof we in Australia heard so much in 1851, had commenced at Sydney seven years before. Like some disorder of the human frame, it had began at the extremities, gradually advancing towards the seat of life. God be thanked, however, the patient is vigorous and healthy; and the “insolent and insidious” malady will be thrown off, ere it hurtfully effects so sturdy a constitution!

I think it was in 1847 that the Bishop of Australia gave up 500l. a-year of his salary—one-fourth—in aid of providing other prelates for these colonies. I confess it gave me great pain to see this excellent man and venerable minister—the head of the established Church in this colony—going about his duties in a hack carriage;—for the reduction of his salary, and the many calls upon his purse, compelled him, after this sacrifice, to put down his own equipage. Meanwhile the Roman Catholic Archbishop—of whose character; public and private, be it said, I never heard aught but praise—was preeminent for his point de vice appointments, his “four-in-hand” being the only one in Sydney, except that of the Governor.

In these colonies it is necessary to remind the reader that there exists no dominant Church. In New South Wales the expenses of the Church of England, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and Roman Catholic Establishments, are charged on the territorial revenue.




  ― 132 ―

In 1843 it was found that, up to December 1842, upwards of 50,000l. had been defrayed from the treasury of New South Wales, for the missions and protectorate of the Aborigines. How small the result, I may have hereafter to show.

In 1847, the Squatters received, after long agitation of the question at home and abroad, the by them long desired and deserved fixity of tenure on their lands rented from the Crown.

In October 1846, the colony was invited to receive convicts once more. After much vacillation of counsel, the proposition was finally rejected in October 1850.

1849 and 50.—Great migration from New South Wales to California.note

1851.—A new constitution tendered to the colony—and remonstrated against by the colonists.

1851. May.—Gold discovered in New South Wales.

June 12th.—Governor Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy sworn in at Sydney as first Governor-General of the Australian colonies.

July 1st.—Port Phillip separated from New South Wales, and erected into an independent colony under the title of “Victoria,” by proclamation of the Governor-general.




  ― 133 ―

I had not been many months in New South Wales (as I have said), before an opportunity of seeing, under the most favourable auspices, something of the interior of the country was offered to me.

His Excellency Sir Charles Fitzroy, in his first address to the legislative council in 1846, informed that body, that he had come to the colony unbiassed by preconceived opinions, and that to enable him to judge for himself on some of the main questions then in agitation, he should take an early occasion of visiting in person the inland counties, as well as some of the districts beyond the boundaries of location—commonly called the Squatting Districts. He fixed upon the beginning of November in that year for his first trip, which was to extend to Bathurst and Wellington, with a run through the pastoral tracts westward of those counties; and the author was invited to accompany the expedition.

Accordingly, on the 9th of November, 1846, the party left Sydney. It consisted of the Governor and Lady Mary Fitzroy; Mr. George Fitzroy, the private Secretary; Mr. E. Deas Thomson, the colonial Secretary; and myself. We had with us four male and one female servants, with two men of the mounted police as escort—the latter being relieved at each station on the road.

Sir Charles had turned out, expressly for travelling a new carriage—a sort of mail phaëton, with a hood, a rumble, and a very high driving box, under which was a spacious boot for luggage.

On the perch swung a small leathern receptacle for tools, screws, nuts, buckles, straps &c., likely to be useful


  ― 134 ―
in cases of fracture or accident—cases of very frequent occurrence, as may be supposed, in bush journeys. I particularly notice this latter appliance, and recommend it for adoption by all travellers in a rough and thinly peopled country. This vehicle, with four horses, was driven by his Excellency, who is an accomplished whip.

The Colonial Secretary and myself occupied a light open carriage and pair, each contributing a horse; and my English valet attended us. We had a huge gig umbrella, which could be “stepped” like a boat's mast, to save us as much as might be from wet jackets and scorched faces. There was nothing remarkable in our outfit, except a large rattan basket, covered with oilcloth, which was hooked on behind, and held a multitude of requisites not easily stowed in a small vehicle. A dog-cart followed, carrying two servants.

The road between Sydney and Paramatta is so well known that I shall say nothing of it on this occasion, beyond noting the singular fact, that the annual lease of the Annandale turnpike, the first on the road out of Sydney, was sold by auction in 1848, for 3,005l.—about half the yearly proceeds of Waterloo Bridge, where foot passengers also pay.

A very dusty drive of fifteen miles brought us to the town of Paramatta, whereof more anon; where, crossing the river by a handsome stone bridge, and descending its left bank about two miles, we came to Vineyard, the residence of Mr. Hannibal Macarthur, at which place we were to remain two nights. The house is large, and better constructed for a hot climate than the majority of


  ― 135 ―
the Sydney dwellings. It is prettily situated on a bend of the river, with a spacious lawn — not green, but brown, at this season—in front, beautiful gardens, orangeries, and vineyards, all bounded by the dense forest, or bush. Here our party was most hospitably treated. What with driving, riding, boating, and bathing in the morning; feasting, singing, and dancing in the evening, the rosy and somewhat sultry hours flew as fast as they conveniently could, the range of the thermometer, between 80° and 90°, being taken into consideration.

The proprietor of Vineyard is a member of the Legislative Council, and a large land and stock owner. He is, moreover, the father of a numerous family, who may well be cited as most favourable specimens of the “Currency” race. At a later period of my stay in the colony, Mr. Macarthur went to reside in the interior, and this pretty and cheerful place, falling into the hands of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, was converted into a convent,—in worldly and my eyes, a most melancholy change.

November 10th.—Passed the day in lionizing Paramatta. It is a considerable village, or rather town, well laid out, but low, and in summer extremely hot, being entirely surrounded by land considerably higher than its site, which screens it from the sea-breeze—the life-blood of the Sydneyites, and other dwellers near the coast.

The town is conveniently placed at the head of the navigation of the salt creek miscalled the Paramatta River, which is, indeed, nothing more than an inlet of Port


  ― 136 ―
Jackson. A small freshwater-stream, not always fluent, is thrown back by a dam just above the town, and is thus saved from pollution by the sea-water, which at high-tide washes the lower slope of that barrier.

It is not easy to find anywhere prettier cottages than many of those dropped down in their trim little gardens in this earliest—one can hardly use the term, most ancient—of Australian country towns. At this season there is a profusion of flowers in full bloom, not yet burnt up by the sun of the fast-coming summer. The verandahs and porches are perfectly embowered with creeping-plants—vines, woodbines, bignonias, passion-flowers, &c. The verandah of one of the inns is completely curtained by a magnificent glycine, covered with its pale purple clusters. Immense standard orange-trees and figs grow in some of the enclosures; and there are some tolerably good specimens of the English oak, which, however, does not take kindly to the climate and soil of this country.

In the towns of New South Wales, the first object upon which the stranger's eye falls, is some grand building devoted to the custody and coercion of convicts;—in civiler terms, to the accommodation of its original white population; or to their protection, when age or disease, mental and bodily, may have overtaken them,—gaols, in short, hospitals, lunatic asylums, and the like.

At Paramatta, the most prominent of these establishments—a handsome solid stone edifice, a “stone-jug” well calculated to contain the most ardent and effervescent spirits—is the Female Factory, where prisoners of that sex, sanely or insanely unruly, are incarcerated. I had


  ― 137 ―
an opportunity of visiting it with the Governor, and have no wish either to repeat the visit, or to dwell on the details thereof. The numbers of the tenants of this establishment are, since the cessation of transportation, much diminished; but it is not many years ago that the Amazonian inmates, amounting to seven or eight hundred, and headed by a ferocious giantess, (by all accounts, a regular she-Ajax,) rose upon the guards and turnkeys, and made a desperate attempt at escape by burning the building. The officer commanding the troops then occupying the stockade, who gave me this account, sent a subaltern with a hundred men, half of them armed only with sticks, and an effort was made to drive the fair insurgents within one of the yards, in order to secure them. This manœuvre, however, failed. They laughed at the cane-carrying soldiers, refuting their argumentum baculinum by a furious charge upon the gates, in which one man was knocked over by a brickbat from Mrs. Ajax. The military were reinforced; the magistrate made them load with ball-cartridge, and the desperadas were eventually subdued.

This unladylike ebullition was considered, as I am assured, the most formidable convict outbreak that ever occurred in the colony, not even excepting that of Castle Hill, in the year 1804! I believe the periodical close-cropping of the women's hair was the prime cause of the outbreak. From Samson downwards it has been a dangerous trick to play man or woman. I have known many a good soldier rendered disaffected by the harassing warfare waged against his whiskers and side-locks by martinet officers. In the case of the Paramatta factory,


  ― 138 ―
the Governor was diplomatic enough to relax the depilatory laws.

A penitentiary is not precisely the market to which a squeamish man would go for a wife. The Governor, however, was, in old times, besieged by applications, both from manumitted prisoners and respectable settlers, for helpmates from this factory. I was told by an officer who had been an eye-witness of the same, that it was amusing to see the aspirant for matrimony passing in review a lot of women selected to be chosen from. Good looks were but a trifling consideration; former character and mode of life were proscribed subjects of inquiry. Health and strength, with tolerable conduct in prison, were sufficient dower.

The stockade of Castle Hill, of which a few bricks now alone mark the site, was placed on a beautiful range of hills, a few miles north of the Paramatta River, at present covered with settlers, and distinguished for luxuriant orange-orchards and vineyards. Several hundred prisoners were employed there by the Government in clearing and cultivating the country, then clothed with forest. These men, having contrived to collect about 150 stand of arms, besides pistols, pikes, pitchforks, and other agrarian weapons, advanced, in number about 360, upon Paramatta. The major commanding the New South Wales corps, having notice of the conspiracy, marched from Sydney with only forty men, (all that were available for the service,) and without hesitation attacked the rebels, who, having but a bad cause, made but a bad fight. The result may be given in a few words. Sixteen were killed out of hand,


  ― 139 ―
twelve wounded, thirty made prisoners. “The rest they ran away;” but, being starved out, they yielded, and five were hanged. Those were not the days when any scruples existed as to the orthodoxy of hemp as an instrument of correction. There was no fear of Exeter Hall before the eyes of the local executive. In an old history of the early days of the colony, I find that somewhere about the same date six soldiers were brought to the gallows at once, “for the unpardonable crime of procuring false keys to the public stores, and committing frequent robberies upon them while on guard.” Their offence was aggravated by the fact, that the then infant settlement of Sydney was in the greatest distress for provisions; and the punishment was the more appropriate, that it diminished by so many the mouths consuming the scanty stock! In 1850 these plunderers would possibly have gotten fifty lashes at the triangles, and a sensitive and humane public and press would have fulminated indignant remonstrances at the barbarity of the sentence.

There are two excellent inns at Paramatta, which must be chiefly supported by the jaunting cits of Sydney. Their most interesting and, doubtless, most lucrative customers, are, however, the cooing couples from the flaunting metropolis, who repair to this rural and quiet village for the short period devoted in this country to the honey-moon—for honey-lunacyis but a very temporary derangement where the votaries are people of business. But if only a half-moon in duration, it may be reckoned a full one in splendour; for Mr. Edwards's or Mr. Seale's best clarences and best four horses (unicorn at the least!)


  ― 140 ―
may be seen every week at the portico of St. James's church, plated harness, satin favours and all, dashing away with some experimental pair to the nuptial bowers of the “Red Cow” or “Wool-pack,” or, perhaps, further a-field to the “Black Horse” at Richmond,—on the Hawkesbury, not the Thames,—where something like retirement, in a public-house, may be enjoyed. One wants the post-boys, though! An awkward, pully-hawly, broad-brimmed, mufti old coachman, whose whip has no sort of connexion with his leaders, and who has no notion of the pace rigorously correct on such occasions, jars upon one's prejudices, and introduces the “jog-trot,” sooner or later an infallible element of wedlock, much too early in its career!

Paramatta is the Richmond, the Versailles, the Barrackpore of Sydney. The plaisance of the Governor is situated on a gentle eminence above the fresh-water stream, a few hundred yards westward of the town, looking over the trees of its lawn directly down the main street, which may be three quarters of a mile in length, abutting upon the Sydney steam-boat wharf. The dwelling-house looks like that of an English country squire or gentleman farmer, of some 1,500l. a-year. It was much out of repair at the time of my first visit, but was thoroughly put in order for the present Governor. I have passed many happy hours under its shingled roof.

The domain around the house comprises a Government reserve of 5,000 acres. Some part of it, the Toongabee Hills, is prettily undulated and well cleared. The greater portion, however, remains in its native bush state. The


  ― 141 ―
whole is substantially fenced in. Treated as a farm, this place ought to be worth several hundreds a-year to its possessor.

Either as a place of residence or resort, Paramatta possesses great advantages in its double access by land and water—wheels or paddles. On a cool day, the trip by the river is very pleasant as well as pretty. The country on the northern bank is elevated and picturesque; and both shores are studded here and there with solid stone houses and snug cottages, with tolerable gardens, and orange orchards truly Hesperidean in their profusion of golden fruit. The passer by their fences must himself be a “dragon of virtue” to resist despoiling them. On the whole, however, considering that it is more than half a century since the river's banks were first settled by grants from Government to free colonists and half-freed convicts, the river allotments are not so thickly populated as might be expected from their vicinity to Sydney, nor as would have been the case had the water been fresh.

A French traveller, my fellow-passenger in my first trip up this creek, fell into ecstacies—ecstacies are cheap in France—with the scenery on either hand, pronouncing it “charmant, charmant!” and declaring that it was a chose étonnante that the banks were not covered with the villas of the rich seigneurs and citizens of Sydney.note There is plenty of fish in the stream, especially the guard-fish, or dagger-fish as it might be called, for it closely resembles in appearance a miniature sword-fish.




  ― 142 ―

Paramatta has not the air of a thriving place. Amongst the causes of its evident financial indisposition are assigned the removal of the Government establishments on the cessation of transportation, and the undue absorption of trade into the capital—an instance of centralization unequalled in any part of the world, for nearly one-fourth of the population of a country, perhaps 700 miles long by 250 in width, is crowded into the chief town. Houses may be had here at 50 per cent. below the Sydney rates of rent. Provisions are no dearer than at the capital.

November 11th.—An early start—for early starting is the soul of Australian travelling—from Vineyard en route for Bathurst. Passing through Paramatta, whose somewhat somnolent echoes were startled by the sound of the ten wheels and thirty-six horse-shoes of our cavalcade, and skirting the Domain, we soon found ourselves trotting briskly along the high-road to Penrith, our half-way stage of this day's work, a village about nineteen miles from Paramatta. Our route up to that place lay through the metropolitan county of Cumberland. Without being absolutely picturesque, the country is agreeably undulated, the soil good in many parts, and free from the deep ravines common to the sandstone tracts. Even in these days there appears, along the road-side, at least ten times more bush than cleared land; but the woods are all fenced in for pasturing purposes.

We were particularly struck with the fine dark loam of the Prospect Hills, cultivated to the very summits, and the well-chosen site of Veteran Hall, the residence of Mr. Lawson, with its luxuriant orange-groves and


  ― 143 ―
vineries, contrasting in their vivid green with the leaden hue of the gum forest below. This gentleman, one of the oldest, if not the oldest inhabitant of the colony, was formerly an officer of the New South Wales corps, which was raised in England for the purpose of escorting prisoners of the Crown to the colony, and of eventually becoming settlers. He was of the proper stuff for one of the pioneers of a raw, rough country. That he possessed the necessary personal activity is proved by his constant practice, before horses were common, of walking from the barracks at Sydney to Prospect one day, and back the next, as a common occurrence, and in the hottest weather—about twenty miles.

Mr. Lawson was one of the three gentlemen who first penetrated those same Blue Mountains, over whose ridges we are now about to pass by means of as good a hill-road as any in New, or indeed old, South Wales. I find this exploit alluded to in a notice to the colonists by Governor Macquarie, dated 10th June, 1815, in these words:—

“To Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth, Esquires, and Lieutenant Lawson, of the Royal Veteran Company, the merit is due of having, with extraordinary patience and much fatigue, effected the first passage over the most rugged and difficult part of the Blue Mountains.”note

The weather of this day was terribly oppressive. It was thought that our start had been made too late in the season; but the quick passage through the air, the occurrence of new objects, and the knowledge that in a


  ― 144 ―
few hours we should have climbed into a cooler climate, prevented, so long as we were in motion, any feeling of exhaustion from the heat.

Many of the road-side inns—and every mile or two has some establishment of the kind, ranging between the hotel and the shebeen house—are rurally picturesque, reminding one pleasantly of home. They are generally built of weatherboards on a frame of wood, with a bit of garden in the rear, the old-fashioned horse trough hollowed from the trunk of a tree, now almost extinct in England, in front, and a tall sign-post bearing some old familiar title, “The Traveller's Home,” “The Cottage of Content,” so expressive of welcome as to be well-nigh irresistible, especially when the sun is hot, and the weather and the traveller are equally dry. And, indeed, there is a large class of wayfarers in this country, (perhaps in all others,) who never resist this particular invitation. In some of my rides and drives from Sydney to Paramatta, I have been astounded by the powers of absorption displayed by certain of my fellow-countrymen, especially when horse-racing happened to be the ostensible object of the passengers on the road. At a moderate calculation there is a pothouse for every mile of the fifteen; and I am certain that the same gig, with the same two fat men, have passed me, pulled up, and repassed me ten times in that distance. Tasting every tap, and trusting, I suppose, to profuse perspiration as a safety valve from absolute explosion, they were to be found tossing off a foaming glass under every sign-post, while the wretched horse got no refreshment beyond a temporary relief from the weight of his masters.

“That ain't a bad nag, Sir; steps well. There can't


  ― 145 ―
be much less than two-and-thirty ‘stun’ in that buggy, Sir,” remarked to me my old coachman, (who had driven for twenty-five years between London and Huntingdon,) as we were tandeming along one day on this road; and in ten miles we had as many opportunities of admiring the speed and action of the horse, and the size and sponginess of the two Sydney butchers who sat behind him.

The most abject-looking little bush taverns on Australian roads do not fail to announce “Good accommodation for travellers;” and many of them advertise “Secure paddocks for teams and fat cattle, with good water.” The poor people pick up a good penny from the travelling drays and the herds coming down for the Sydney market. At one of the more pretentious public-houses where we stopped to water our horses there was a private race-course belonging to the establishment; and a notice was put up that a “First-rate Saddle” and a “Prime fat Hog” would be run for on a day named—a common scheme for collecting together a crowd of drinkers.

His Excellency had been apprised that addresses would be presented at all the towns on the line of march. Accordingly at Penrith, before we had time to look round us, we found ourselves in a very stuffy crowded little court-house, where a cut-and-dried but most loyal and hearty address was read to the new Governor, and an equally ready-made but complimentary reply was rendered in exchange.

Penrith is a neat little town; yet I was assured that the town is not a town, because the proper site of the township is at some distance, having been abandoned,


  ― 146 ―
for the present position, on account of the brackishness of the water. Even here on higher ground the water is brought from the river, a mile off at least; and at the inns it tastes and smells like very weak grog, the supply being kept in old spirit casks.

After the presentation of the address we regained our dusty carriages, and passing onwards through the village and along a mile or so of road lined with pretty cottages—pretty although formed only of “split stuff” and bark, we reached the “Emu Ferry Inn,” an excellent two-storied brick-house posted on the right bank of the Nepean river.

Here, halting to refresh ourselves and horses, we found good rooms and wholesome fare, with the drawbacks, however, of an unmannerly host and a landlady so ultra Yankee-like in her independence, that it did not permit her to rise from her chair to receive the daughter of a Duke and the lady of the Governor!

In 1850, when travelling as a family man, I passed an hour or two at this inn for rest and refreshment, when both host and hostess were equally invisible, neither of them condescending to welcome the coming nor speed the parting guest. All transactions were, perforce, carried on with the servants. In travelling, civility is the only gilding to the bitter pill of overcharge; and in New South Wales it too often happens that the passenger finds in unfair connexion a dirty hovel and a morose landlord with the charges of Mivart's or the Clarendon.

My brother colonels and my superior officers the generals, keeping hotels in the United States, are infinitely


  ― 147 ―
more affable to their inmates—especially when the former happen to be in their “post of exercise, in rear” of their bar, and the latter are addicted to juleps.

On my return down the country I purposely avoided Wilson's inn at the Emu Ferry—which I hereby placard as a lesson to uncourteous innkeepers. Johnson and Shenstone would hardly have prosed and poetised in favour of such-like “inns.”

previous
next