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PERSECUTION OF M'ARTHUR-REVOLT OF THE TROOPS.
court up to high treason. M'Arthur protested against being tried by a man who was at once judge, juror, and prosecutor, beside having a private quarrel of some years' standing with the prisoner. The judgeadvocate refused to receive the protest, and actually threatened to commit him for words spoken in his own defence. Fortunately for the fate of the colony, the six officers, who, with the advocate-general, formed the court, sided with the prisoner. They admitted him to bail, and repeatedly, in the most respectful terms, addressed the governor, praying him to supersede Atkins and appoint an impartial advocate-general. Bligh refused, -perhaps he had no power to adopt that step; but he could have put an end to proceedings, which ought never to have been commenced, by entering a nolle prosequi. But it was his object to crush M-Arthur, so he persisted; and, when he found the six officers of the New South Wales Corps equally firm in protecting him, he proposed to arrest and imprison the six officers on a charge of high treason. At this stage of the proceedings the patience of the colony was exhausted. On the 26th of January, 1806, Major Johnson, lieutenant-governor, commanding the New South Wales Corps, who had been prevented by severe illness from attending to the repeated summonses of the governor, rode into town. He was surrounded by his friends and brother officers, who represented to him the madly tyrannous course which the governor was bent upon pursuing, and urged him to place the governor under arrest.
In order to support him in taking this extreme step, the following memorial was signed by every respectable settler then in the town of Sydney :
“SIR,— The present alarming state of the colony, in which every man's property, liberty, and life are endangered, induces us most earnestly to implore you instantly to place Governor Bligh under arrest, and to assume the command of the colony. We pledge ourselves at a moment of less agitation to come forward to support the measure with our fortunes and our lives.”
Immediately after the presentation of this address, the drums of the New South Wales Regiment beat to arms, the troops formed in the barrack
square, and then marched, with Major Johnson at their head bayonets fixed, colours flying, and band playing-toward Government House, which they surrounded. Mrs. Putland (afterwards married to General O'Connell, commander of the forces in New South Wales), the widowed daughter of the governor, courageously endeavoured to resist the entrance of the insurgent officers through the Government gate: failing in that, she tried to conceal her father under a bed, whence, after an anxious search, he was dragged, and conducted,
without personal injury, to the presence of Major Johnson, who immediately placed him in custody and assumed the command of the colony. Thus ended the first act of this bloodless revolution—the 1688 of New South Wales.
Cowardice has been imputed to Bligh for concealing himself, but without reason. He was neither king nor even commander to awe the troops with his presence; and any man may be excused for flying from an infuriated regiment; above all a man like Bligh, conscious that there was scarcely an individual in the assemblage which surrounded Government House whom he had not injured or insulted.
Major Johnson transmitted to the Secretary of State a full account of the events which had forced upon him the government of the colony. Lieut.-Governor Foveaux, arriving from England ignorant of the insurrection, superseded Major Johnson, and was himself superseded by Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson, who arrived from Van Diemen's Land on the 1st July, 1809; by him Governor Bligh's arrest was continued until the 4th February, when the colonel agreed to put him in possession of his ship, the Porpoise, on condition that he should embark on the 20th, and proceed to England without touching at any part of the territory of New South Wales, and not return until he should have received the instructions of his Majesty's ministers. Released from arrest, Bligh treated engagements entered into under duresse as void, and lingered on the coast for some time, in hopes of provoking a movement in his favour. He afterwards repaired to Van Diemen's Land, where he was at first treated with much attention, but on communications arriving from the lieutenant-governor at Sydney was constrained to remain on board his ship.
It is easy to imagine the sensation created in the king's cabinet when they learned that the gaol colony of Botany Bay had imitated our forefathers of 1688, and, after sending a tyrant unscathed packing, had continued the government of the colony with a new governor and new officials, without bloodshed or plunder.
Vigorous measures were decided on, and an able man was selected to execute them.
Lachlan Macquarie, lieut.-colonel of the 73d Regiment, was appointed governor, and sent out with instructions to reinstate Captain Bligh in that office, and, after the expiration of twenty-four hours, to resume his own authority—to declare void all appointments, grants of land, and processes of law which had taken place between the arrest of Governor Bligh and his own arrival; and further, to send home Major Johnson in close arrest, to be tried for his rebellion. At the same time
THF RESULTS OF THE REVOLT.
the 73rd, Colonel Macquarie's regiment, was sent out to relieve the New South Wales Corps, which was disbanded, the privates being, however, permitted to volunteer into the 73rd. These orders were obeyed.
Major Johnson was tried at Chelsea Hospital on the 11th May, 1811, found guilty 5th June, and sentenced to be cashiered. His conduct was clearly illegal and revolutionary, but it saved the colony. He made that a peaceable revolution which would otherwise have flamed into a wild riot, how ending, with the fearful materials present there, it is impossible to foretell.
He returned to the colony, and lived many years on his farm at Annandale, near Bathurst district, much respected. We have not been able to learn whether the signers of the memorial ever attempted to compensate him for the ruin of his own professional prospects. The gratitude of a mob, well dressed or ill dressed, is as vain a thing as the gratitude of a prince.
Bligh became an admiral, but was never again called into active service; the slight sentence, considering the offence, passed upon Johnson was a stigma he carried to his grave; he died in 1817. Had he succeeded in his conspiracy to ruin M'Arthur the progress of the colony would have been retarded for years. Up to 1845, wool of the breed introduced and improved by the persevering experience of M'Arthur formed the only certain staple export of Australia. Without fine-woolled sheep Australia must have remained dependent for subsistence on the commissariat expenditure, and would perhaps, in a fit of economy, have been abandoned, in favour of some penitentiary plan or island prison nearer home.
Since the time of Bligh there have been colonial governors as violent in mper, as tyrannical in disposition, but their powers have been limited not only by law, but by public opinion, the influence of a free press, and the effects of a ready communication with Europe.
Without a free press or a public to restrain him, out of sight and hearing of a British Parliament, had Bligh confined his tyrannies to the humbler classes he might have lived honoured and prosperous, while his victim sank brokenhearted, or died under the lash, as hundreds have on the shores of Port Jackson and Paramatta; but he ventured to attack a gentleman, the comrade of soldiers, a man, too, of courage, eloquence, and determination, and the unjust governor fell.
1809 TO 1821.
DEPRESSED STATE OF THE COLONY - A CONVICT CREATED A MAGISTRATE
IMPULSE GIVEN TO INDUSTRY - DISCOVERY OF BATHURST PLAINS - THE PROSPERITY OF THE COLONY DUE TO MACQUARIE AND MʻARTHUR.
Wales for twelve years, the longest period that any governor has enjoyed that office. He exercised a pure despotism, but it was neither a stupid nor a brutal despotism, according to the light of the day.
The following extract from his first despatch not unfairly describes the state of the colony on his arrival :
“I found the colony barely emerging from infantine imbecility, suffering from various privations and disabilities, the country impenetrable beyond forty miles from Sydney, agriculture in a yet languishing state, commerce in its early dawn, revenue unknown, threatened with famine, distracted by faction, the public buildings in a state of dilapidation, the few roads and bridges almost impassable, the population in general depressed by poverty; no credit, public or private ; the morals of the great mass of the population in the lowest state of debasement, and religious worship almost totally neglected.”
He was the first man of decided talent appointed to office in Australia.
He was distinguished by his self-reliance and constant energetic action. If the comparison had not been vulgarized, one might liken him, comparing small with great, to Napoleon. His was the same order of mind—views narrow but clear-essentially a materialist in politics. In New South Wales, wealth was the visible sign of success, and Macquarie rewarded success wherever he found it. He made roads, erected public buildings, and again and again traversed the whole length and breadth of the colony, following closely in the footsteps of new explorers, distributing grants to skilful settlers, planning townships, and pardoning industrious prisoners. His activity was untiring, his vanity boundless. He seldom condescended to ask advice, and, when he did, generally followed his own opinion. With charming naïveté he observes, in answer to a despatch from the Secretary of State, informing him that it was not the intention of the government to appoint a council to assist the governor, as had been
A CONVICT MADE A MAGISTRATE.
recommended, “I entertain a fond hope that such an institution will never be extended to this colony."
Even the recommendations of secretaries of state he disregarded ; and, as he was successful, he was permitted to pursue his own course. He infused his own active spirit into the settlers, and under its influence the material progress of the colony was extraordinary. Higher praise his administration scarcely deserves. The moral, not to say the religious, tone of the settlement owes little to his care. One instance will suffice. He requested, in one of his despatches, that as many men convicts as possible should be transported, as they were useful for labour, but as few women, as they were costly and troublesome; thus losing sight altogether of the inevitable demoralization which must be the result of a community of men.
He has been much attacked for saying “that the colony consisted of those who had been transported, and those who ought to have been ;” and “ that it was a colony for convicts, and free colonists had no business there :" but there was truth at the bottom of both these rude speeches.
He looked upon New South Wales as a place where convicts were sent to be subsisted at the least possible expense, and certainly neither he nor any one else at that time foresaw a period when it would cease to be a convict colony. His strong common sense told him that the cheapest way of ruling his felon subjects was to make them wealthy and respectable. Under his predecessors the idea had grown up that convicts were sent over to be the slaves of the free settlers. Macquarie would perhaps have had no objection to that arrangement on moral grounds, had it been possible; but it was not, as the free settlers of free descent were too few in number, too indolent in character. He therefore took up the opposite ground—that the colony and all its emoluments and honours were for the benefit of those prisoners who were industrious, prosperous, and free from legal criminality,
The first individual selected for favour was a Scotchman, Andrew Thompson, transported at sixteen years of age, probably for some trifling offence; who had not only attained wealth and developed new sources of commerce for the colony, by building coasting vessels, by establishing saltworks and other useful enterprises, but had distinguished himself by his humanity and general good conduct. For instance, in the Sydney Gazette of the 11th May, 1806, we find Thompson permitted to purchase brewing utensils from the government stores, at the usual advance of fifty per cent. on the invoice