« AnteriorContinuar »
secret object of their voyage) of more than one site for a colony; ust as La Pérouse—a very different man from Baudin—lost by a few days the chance of discovering Port Jackson.
From Port Phillip Bay, Flinders returned to Sydney, where he arrived the 9th of May, 1802. He sailed again the 22nd of July, and, steering north, surveyed the great Barrier Reef, and made the route clear and safe for future navigators through the Torres Straits and round the shores of the great Gulf of Carpentaria, and only ceased his labours on finding his ship “quite rotten.” After refreshing at the Island of Timor, he returned to Port Jackson on the 9th of June, 1803, having lost many of his best men.
No suitable ship to complete his survey was to be found in Port Jackson : he, therefore, embarked in the Porpoise store-ship, “in order to lay his charts and journals before the Admiralty, and obtain, if possible, a ship to complete the examination of Terra Australis.”
The Porpoise was accompanied by two trading vessels, the Cato and the Bridgwater. In passing through Torres Straits on the night of the 17th of August, 1804, the Porpoise struck on a coral reef, and “took a fearful heel over on her larboard beam-ends. The Bridgwater was on the point of following, but, the Cato giving way, the former, grazing, escaped, while the latter struck and went over two cables’ length from the Porpoise. The coward captain of the Bridgwater, one Palmer, having escaped, sailed away, in spite of the remonstrances of his mate, without making an effort to aid his companions."
Flinders took the command, safely landed the crew of the two vessels on a sandbank, of which a narrow space was clear at high water, collected stores, erected tents, formed an encampment, and established a disciplined order of proceedings. The reef was a mere patch of sand, about three hundred yards long and one hundred broad, on which not a blade of vegetation was growing.
It was determined that two decked boats, capable of conveying all but one boat's crew, should be built from the materials of the wreck, and that the largest cutter should be repaired and despatched, under the charge of Captain Flinders, to Port Jackson, a voyage of 750 miles.
On the 26th of August, a Friday, the cutter was launched, named the Hope, and pushed off “amidst the cheers and good wishes of those for whom we were going to seek relief. An ensign with the union downwards had hitherto been kept ho ed as a signal to Captain Palmer of our distress ; but, in this moment of enthusiasm, a seaman quitted the crowd, and, having obtained permission, ran to the flag
FLINDERS ARRESTED BY DU CAEN.
staff, hauled down the ensign, and rehoisted it with the union in the upper canton. This symbolical expression of contempt for the Bridgwater, and of confidence in the success of our voyage, I did not see without lively emotion."
Flinders safely reached Port Jackson on the 6th of September. He returned in the only vessel he could obtain for his purpose_a small leaky schooner, the Cumberland, of twenty-nine tons burdenaccompanied by two trading vessels, on the 6th of October; and was received by his crew with frantic cheers of joy, although his brother, Lieutenant Flinders, after hearing that the rescue-ships were in sight, “calmly continued his calculations of lunar observations until they came to anchor."
In his absence the sailors had planted the reef with pumpkins, oats, and maize, which were sprouting above the sand flourishingly; and Flinders expresses his regret that he had not "palm cocoa-nuts to plant, of which he thought ten thousand might be usefully set in these seas, as warning-marks and food for shipwrecked mariners, as they will flourish within the spray of the sea.”
It is evident that Matthew Flinders in this instance, as in many others, displayed the stuff of which a colonial governor should be made. There have been very
Australian governors who would have thought of the cocoa-nuts, especially at such a moment; still less would they have inspired their men with the same spirit : witness the military colony in Northern Australia, where the soldiers were half starved, and, in the midst of good soil, had not a vegetable.
In the miserable Cumberland, Flinders, intent on laying the result of his researches before the Admiralty, set out on a voyage of sixteen thousand miles to England. Every man of his crew, except his clerk, volunteered to share the danger and accompany him; but the leaky state of his craft compelled him soon to seek shelter at the nearest port, and he put into the Mauritius, relying upon his passport. This would have been a sufficient protection had the government of the island been in the hands of a gentleman and man of honour ; but the governor was one Du Caen, a low, malignant, envious, insolent wretch, who, to the infinite disgust of many of his countrymen and companions in arms, availed himself of the misfortune which had thrown Flinders into his power to vent his spite on a nation he detested.
Du Caen seized the Cumberland, took possession of the charts, journals, and log-books, and detained Captain Flinders for six years, during which period, in spite of the representations of the French
Admiral Linois, and of many of the most respectable colonists, he treated him with every kind of cruelty and indignity; and, after evading repeated orders for his release, dismissed him as moniously as he had seized him, detaining, however, one log-book, which Flinders was never able to recover. In the meantime appeared an account of Captain Baudin's voyages—the Captain Baudin who had received at Port Jackson every kind of attention and information. In this work, accompanied by an atlas, the discoveries of Flinders and Bass were appropriated wholesale, and renamed.
Baudin had made about fifty leagues of discovery, and claimed nine hundred leagues, part of which had been surveyed by the Dutch a century before his time.
Flinders reached England in 1810, broken in health, but his spirit of duty unimpaired. Under the regulations of the service the time he had passed in unjust imprisonment could not count in his professional employment. At length he petitioned the Prince Regent for promotion, as an act of grace; but that genial patron of embroiderers and tailors refused his prayer.
He devoted the last days of his broken health and spirits to preparing his book and maps for the press -- an admirable work, which has been the foundation of every subsequent exploration and colonization in Australia ; and died on the 14th of July, 1814, on the very day his “ Account of a Voyage to Terra Australis” was published.*
We have devoted thus much space to an imperfect record of the labours of Flinders and Bass, as an act of justice towards two men
* While these pages were passing through the hands of the reader for the press, a native of Lincoln, he wrote to a relative and obtained in answer the following interesting particulars :
“Lincoln, 30th June, 1852. “The mother of Mr. George Bass lived with them (the Calder family) fourteen years, and died with them. Her son and only child, George Bass, was born at Asworthy, near Sleaford, where his father had a farm, and died when he was a boy. The widow and son afterwards went to reside at Boston. From his boyhood he showed a strong inclination for a seafaring life, to which his widowed mother was much opposed. He was apprenticed to Mr. Francis, a surgeon at Boston ; and at the end of his apprenticeship walked the hospitals and took his diploma with honour. But his inclination for the sea being unsubdued, according to a promise she had made, she yielded to his wish, and sank a considerable sum in fitting him out and buying a share in a ship, which was totally lost. She also lost a great deal of money by the breaking of a bank; but her intimate friend Colonel Gardiner, on hearing of it, insisted upon allowing her an annuity for life. She was a fine noble-minded woman, of no ordinary intellect.
“ Her son wrote her long letters containing full accounts of his discoveries. These came into the possession of Miss Calder on the death of Mrs. Bass. A short time ago she thought to take a peep at the letters, went to the old box, but they were gone.
“ The last time his mother heard of him he was in the straits of China. She expected him many years, thinking that he might be taken prisoner; but at last gave up all hopes, thinking that he had been wrecked and drowned. He had only been married three months when he sailed away never to return. His widow is dead."
By a singular coincidence, within a few days after receiving this letter, the author met with a niece of Flinders, in humble circumstances, applying for a passage to Australia at Mrs. Chisholm's.
BLIGH OF THE BOUNTY.
whose labours profit, but whose merits are scarcely known to thousands of the educated among Australian colonists. There is scarcely a petty town in France in which a monument has not been erected to some hero of the hour—sometimes a poet or historian, more often a successful soldier; but even privateers and pirates have been so honoured. Some Lincolnshire patriot might spare enough to give a tablet to Flinders and Bass in Donnington Church.
1806 to 1809.
BLIGH OF THE BOUNTY-HIS BRUTALITY-M'ARTHUR-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN WOOL TRADE-BLIGH ATTEMPTS TO CRUSH M'ARTHUR-REVOLUTION-ARREST
GOVERNOR-HE IS SUPERSEDED_RESULTS OF REVOLT.
NYAPTAIN BLIGH appears to have received his appointment as
Governor of New South Wales as a reward for his gallant conduct in successfully conducting an open boat, with eighteen companions in misfortune, scantily provided with food and water, 3,618 miles, to the Island of Timor, without the loss of a single man, after being cast adrift by the mutineers of the Bounty. No man could be more unfit for such an office. But governors are appointed for the oddest reasons : sometimes because they are distinguished soldiers or sailors ; sometimes because they have written a timely book or pamphlet ; often because they are related to some great personage, and, being in debt, want an opportunity for saving money : but, no matter for what cause, or by what influence, a governor is appointed; the most important quality of all, the temper of the candidate, is seldom taken into account; and yet in the governor of a colony no talents can compensate for a violent or spiteful temper.
Bligh had a very difficult task to perform : almost the only unconvicted colonists were the military and civil officers, and their relatives, who formed a sort of Venetian oligarchy of government and trade, and who, beside enjoying the lion's share of grants of land and use of labour, had been accustomed to share with previous governors, at a price arbitrarily imposed upon the importers, the cargoes of vessels as they arrived, and enjoy the profits derived from distributing articles
in demand among the unprivileged settlers at a monopoly tariff. Spirits formed a principal part of these cargoes, and it became the interest of every civil and military officer in the colony that the settlers, free and bond, should drink as much spirits as possible. Bligh brought out instructions to put down this traffic. Hence his immediate unpopularity. But he was a specimen of the naval captain now happily nearly extinct — violent in temper, coarse in language, hating the military, and despising civilians. To those of the humblest class who cringed before him he could be generous of public land and public money; but to those who dared resist, or even in the slightest degree question, his authority, he was implacable.
At an earlier period in the career of the colony no one would have ventured to question his acts, however tyrannical; but in 1806 the character of the settlement was slowly changing.
A few respectable free settlers had arrived under Governor King. They found profitable employment in growing produce for the use of the government by the help of convicts, whom the government also fed and clothed—a very safe speculation. All the officials were, as already observed, more or less engaged in barter ; but some of the New South Wales Corps had quitted the military service, in order to betake themselves exclusively to agriculture and commerce. Among these was John M'Arthur, formerly a lieutenant in that regiment, a man of farseeing views, great energy, great intelligence, and indomitable courage. .
M'Arthur observed the improvement produced by the climate of New South Wales in the texture of the hairy Indian sheep, and appreciated the value of the district called the Cow Pastures, on which the produce of the lost herd of cattle were found feeding. In 1793 he purchased eight fine-wooled sheep which had been sent out by the Dutch Government to the Cape, and re-exported to Sydney, as the Dutch farmers preferred their own fat-tailed breed.
His purchase subjected him to much ridicule among his brother colonists, who thought it more profitable to grow wheat or pigs for sale at the commissariat stores.
In 1803, in consequence of grievances of which he had to complain at the hands of the colonial authorities, M'Arthur visited England, and there not only obtained permission to purchase a few pure Spanish merinos from the flock of George III., at a time when the exportation of the merino from Spain was a capital crime, and the breed was only to be procured by royal favour, but produced such an effect on the Privy Council, before whom he was examined, on his wool projects, that he carried out to the colony on his return an order for a grant of