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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 M'ARTHUR.
VOLONEL MACQUARIE directed the government of New South
Wales for twelve years, the longest period that any governor has enjoyed that office. He exercised 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. Governor 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
price, with the privilege of brewing beer, “in consideration of his useful and humane conduct in saving the lives and much of the property of sufferers by repeated floods of the Hawkesbury, as well as of his general demeanour.”
Macquarie, within two months after his arrival, created Thompson a magistrate, and repeatedly invited him and other emancipists of similar success and conduct to dine at Government House, in spite of the remonstrances of the free inhabitants, of the officers of the 43rd Regiment, which succeeded the 73rd, and of hints from the Colonial Office. No doubt in New South Wales many a prisoner was induced to persevere in sober industry by the sight of an ex-prisoner and publican riding in his carriage to dine at Government House; but in England the effect could scarcely have been beneficial as a restraint on idle apprentices and incipient pickpockets. Such reports interleaved in the Newgate Calendar, and other light reading of the felonry of Britain, must have tended to diminish the vague horrors that previously hung round Botany Bay.
Governor Macquarie commenced by employing the convict labourers not required by settlers in making roads, and erecting and repairing public buildings. On the first harvest after his arrival, to the horror of the martinets, he permitted the privates of the 73rd Regiment to hire themselves out as reapers, to be paid in grain or money, the price of wheat at that time being £1 3s. 6d. a bushel. At the same time he patronized amusements which the high prices of provisions did not prevent the wealthier classes from establishing. The New South Wales Gazette of October contains an account of three days' racing, conducted in Newmarket style, followed by an ordinary and two balls, the principal prize, a lady's cup, being “ presented to the winner by Mrs. Macquarie.” The whole proceedings are related in a style which would leave nothing to be desired in the Little Pedlington Gazette. For instance, “the subscribers' ball, on Tuesday and Thursday night, was honoured with the presence of his excellency the governor and his lady, his honour the lieutenant-governor and lady, the judgeadvocate and lady, the magistrates and other officers, civil and military, and all the beauty and fashion of the colony. The business of the meeting could not fail of diffusing a glow of satisfaction—the celebration of the first liberal amusement instituted in the colony in the presence of its patron and founder.” A supper followed the ball :“ After the cloth was removed the rosy deity asserted his pre-eminence, and, with the zealous aid of Momus and Apollo, chased pale Cynthia down into the Western World ; the blazing orb of day announced his
FIVE NEW TOWNSHIPS FOUNDED BY MACQUARIE.
near approach, and the god of the chariot reluctantly forsook his company: Bacchus drooped his head, Momus could no longer animate. The bons vivants no longer relishing the tired deities left them to themselves !”
In the first year of his government, Macquarie undertook a tour through all the known districts of the colony, and continued the practice annually during his reign; on his return, by a general order he censured the settlers for the little attention they had paid to domestic comfort or good farming, in buildings for the residence of themselves and shelter of their cattle; offered cattle, sheep, and goats from the government herds, to be paid for in grain, with eighteen months' credit; and announced that he had marked out for settlement the five new townships of Richmond, Pitt, Wilberforce, and Castlereagh, out of reach of floods of the Hawkesbury and Nepean, in which grants would be awarded to deserving applicants, on condition that they erected dwellings according to plans supplied, and other measures of a similar practical character.
In the December of the same year, the first brick church, St. Philip's, was consecrated (on Christmas-day) by the Reverend Samuel Marsden, a name from that time forward constantly occupying
a conspicuous place in the annals of the colony, as clergyman, magistrate, landowner, and stockbreeder. For instance, his next appearance in the Sydney Gazette is, in conjunction with two other gentlemen, advertising a reward of one pound sterling, or a gallon of spirits, for every skin of a native dog, an animal which was then, and has been ever since, the scourge of flockowners.
In 1812 a committee of the House of Commons, appointed to examine the state of the colony of New South Wales, after examining a number of witnesses, including the ex-Governors King and Bligh, printed a report, from which it appears that the population amounted to 10,454, distributed in the following proportions :—The Sydney district, 6,158; Paramatta, 1,807 ; Hawkesbury, 2,389; Newcastle, 100: of these 5,513 were men, and 2,200 women; military 1,100; of the remainder, one-fourth to one-fifth was actually bond; the rest being free or freed by servitude or pardon. In addition, 1,321 were living in Van Diemen's Land, and 177 in Norfolk Island, but orders had been sent out to compel the voluntary settlers, who had adhered to that island after the government establishment had been removed, to withdraw.
The settlements of New South Wales were bounded on the west by the Blue Mountains, “ beyond which no one has been able to penetrate the country; some have with difficulty been as far as one hundred miles from the coast, but beyond sixty miles it appears to be nowhere practicable for agricultural purposes ; beyond Port Stephen and Port Jervis these settlements will not be capable of extension; of the land within the boundaries one half is absolutely barren. The ground in actual cultivation was 21,000 acres, and 74,000 were held in pasture. The stock, in the hands chiefly of the settlers, was considerable, but it was still necessary to continue the importation of salt provisions. The currency of the colony was in government paper
copper money, but barter was the principal medium of sale ; and wheat and cattle had been recognised by the court of justice as legal tenders in payment of debts.
“The exportations of the colony consisted principally of whale oil, seal skins, coals, and wool. The iron ore, of which there was abundance, had not been worked. The trade in skins and coal was limited by the monopoly of the East India Company. Sheep not sufficiently numerous to make wool an article of large exportation. The culture of hemp had been less attended to than might have been expected. An illegal trade in sandal-wood had at times been carried on with the South Sea Islands and China. Mercantile speculation had been discouraged by impolitic regulations.