Nearly fifty years have elapsed, since
Van Diemen’s Land was numbered with the colonies
of the British empire. A generation has risen
up and is passing away. Thousands, while they
venerate the land of their European ancestors, with
an amiable fondness love Tasmania as their native
country. They will, hereafter, guide its affairs,
extend its commerce, and defend its soil; and, not
inferior in virtue and intelligence, they will fill
an important position in the vast system of Australasia.
To gratify their curiosity, and offer
to their view the instructive and inspiriting events
of the past, is the purpose of this history.
The difficulty of the task can be
appreciated only by experience. To collect from
scattered records, facts worthy of remembrance; to
separate reality from romance; to remove partial coloring
from statements made long ago; and to exhibit useful
truth without disguise and without offence, required
much research and deliberation.
It is not the intention of this history
to relate every event which, when passing, may have
been deemed momentous; much less to recal from obscurity
the errors, absurdity, and wickedness which exercised
no distinct influence on the common welfare.
The author has endeavoured to realize the feelings
and sympathies of the benevolent and just of another
age, and to confine his pen to details which may maintain
their interest, when the passions with which they
were associated shall subside for ever.
In calling this work the history
of Tasmania, a designation is chosen generally
preferred by the colonists, and which their successors
will certainly adopt. “Van Diemen”
is a name affixed to the north coast of New Holland;
and this country is the first known discovery of Tasman.
The name of Tasman is recognised by
the royal patent constituting the diocese; by several
literary societies and periodical works: it forms
the term by which we distinguish our Tasmanian from
our European youth.
Tasmania is preferred, because “Van
Diemen’s Land” is associated among all
nations with the idea of bondage and guilt; and, finally,
because while Tasmania is a melodious and simple sound,
“Van Diemen” is harsh, complex, and infernal.
During the reign of Charles I. (Frederick
Henry, grandfather of William iii. being Stadtholder
of Holland) the Dutch discovered this island.
The enterprise of that people had raised them to the
zenith of their power: unless by England, they
were unrivalled in nautical science and commercial
opulence. More for the purposes of trade than
the acquisition of knowledge, they were anxious to
discover unknown countries, and to conceal the information
they possessed from the rest of the world.
At this time, Anthony Van Diemen was
governor-general of Batavia: by him, Abel Jans
Tasman was commissioned to explore the “Great
South Land,” the name by which New Holland was
known until 1665, when, by the authority of the Netherland
government, it received its present designation.
A fragment of the journal of Tasman, containing an
account of his discovery, was first published by Dirk
Rembrant, and afterwards translated into most European
tongues. In this abstract nautical details respecting
Van Diemen’s Land were omitted, but were described
in the journal itself, and by thirty-eight charts,
views, and figures. These were purchased by Sir
Joseph Banks, on his return from his voyage to these
seas. Tasman’s journal was translated by
a Netherland clergyman: he considered the age
of the manuscript confirmed by the spelling: that
it was genuine he had no doubt, although he questioned
whether written by Tasman, or transcribed at his command.
Sir Joseph Banks acquired at the same time a copy
of instructions to Tasman, given by the Governor of
Batavia in 1644, for a second expedition, and which
recapitulated the various voyages of his predecessors.
These, however, have no connection with Van Diemen’s
To adorn the new stadthouse of Amsterdam,
erected in 1665, three hemispheres were wrought in
stone, of twenty-two feet in diameter: the circles
were inlaid with brass, and were executed by a celebrated
artist. The southern hemisphere exhibited the
discoveries of Tasman and his predecessors: they
formed the pavement of the hall, until obliterated
by the tread of several generations. They were
quite forgotten when Sir Joseph Banks sought information
from the inhabitants. A copy of these works of
art was preserved, and displayed the extent to which
New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land were known.
The journal of Tasman has been greatly
admired: it is clear, laconic, and devout.
It opens with an invocation: “May God Almighty
be pleased to give his blessing to this voyage.
Amen.” The document is, indeed, full of
pious sentiments: when a long desired breeze liberated
the vessel from port, or refreshment was obtained,
or safe anchorage found, he dots down a thanksgiving.
He reckoned his longitude from the Peak of Teneriffe:
the hours he called glasses; his miles were German,
fifteen to a degree.
On the 14th of August, 1642, Tasman
embarked at Batavia, on board the Heemskirk,
the fly-boat Zeehaan, Jerit Zanzoon, master,
in company. They set sail for the Mauritius,
and arrived on the 5th of September. That island,
then commanded by Van Steelan, was but little cultivated,
and gave slight promise of its present importance.
On the 4th October, they were ready to depart, but
were delayed by contrary winds until the 8th, when
on a change in their favor they stood eastward to
sea. On the 27th, a council being called, it was
resolved that a man should constantly look out at
the topmast head; and to encourage vigilance it was
determined, that the first discoverer of land should
receive three reals and a pot of arrack. On the
4th November they saw patches of duckweed and a seal,
and inferred their vicinity to land. The first
pilot, Francis Jacobzs, on the 7th, supported by the
advice of the steersman, thus delivered his opinion: “We
should keep to the 44 deg. south latitude, until
we have passed 150 deg. longitude; then make for
latitude 40 deg. south, and keeping in that
parallel to run eastward to 220 deg. longitude,
and then steering northward search with the trade wind
from east to west for the Solomon Islands. We
imagine, if we meet with no main land till we come
to 150 deg. longitude, we must then meet with
islands.” On the 17th, they were in latitude
44 de’ and longitude 147 de’: they concluded that they had already
passed the south land then known. On the 22nd
they found their compass was not still within eight
points, which they attributed to the influence of loadstone,
and which kept the needle in continual motion.
On the 24th, at noon, they found their latitude
42 de’ south, longitude 163 de’: in the afternoon, at 4 o’clock,
they observed land, Point Hibbs, bearing east by north.
The land was high, and towards evening they saw lofty
mountains to the east south-east, and to the north-east
two smaller mountains: here their compass stood
right. They resolved to run off five hours to
sea, and then to run back towards the land. On
the 25th, the morning was calm, and at 5 o’clock
they were within three miles of the shore, and had
soundings at sixty fathoms. They approached a
level coast, and reckoned their latitude 42 de’, and middle longitude 163 de’.
On this day they named their discovery: “we
called it Anthony Van Diemen’s Land, in honor
of our high magistrate and governor-general, and the
islands near (Boreels) we named in honor of the council
of India, as you may see by the little map we made.”
Next day they lost sight of land. They fixed
the longitude 163 de’, and gave orders
to the master of the Zeehaan to adopt that
reckoning. On the 28th land reappeared, and in
the evening they came near three small islands, one
of which they thought like the head of a lion (Mewstone,
of Furneaux). On the following morning they passed
two cliffs, one (the Swilly, of Furneaux) like the
Pedra Branca, near the coast of China; the other,
the eastern cliff, resembling a high misshapen tower
(the Eddystone, of Cook). Between the cliff and
the main land they passed, until they came almost
to Storm Bay, where they found it impossible to anchor,
and were driven by the wind to sea so far,
that land could scarcely be sighted in the morning.
In the afternoon of the 1st December, they anchored
in a good port (marked Frederick Hendrik Bay in the
chart), with twenty-two fathoms water, and bottom of
fine light grey sand.
On the following morning the boats
were despatched to the shore: on their return,
the steersman informed them that they had heard the
sound of voices, and of a little gong; but saw no
one. They remarked two trees, sixty feet from
the ground to the branches, and two and a-half in
circumference: the bark taken off with flint stones,
and steps cut to climb for birds’ nests, full
five feet from each other, and indicative of a very
tall people. They saw marks, such as are left
by the claws of a tiger, and brought on board the
excrements of some quadruped; gum lac, which
dropped from trees, and greens “which might be
used in place of wormwood.” They saw people
at the east corner of the bay: they found no fish,
except mussels: many trees were burned hollow
near the ground; they were widely separated, and admitted
an extensive view.
On the 3rd, they went to a little
bay, south-west from their ships, in search of water:
the surf prevented their landing, but the carpenter
swam on shore; and near four remarkable trees, standing
in the form of a crescent, he erected a post, on which
a compass was carved, and left the Prince’s
flag flying upon it. “When the said carpenter
had done this in the sight of me, Abel Jans Tasman,
of the master Jerit Zanzoon, and under merchant Abraham
Coomans, we went in the shallop as near as possible,
and the said carpenter swam back through the surf.
We then returned on board, and left this memorial
to the posterity of the inhabitants. They did
not show themselves, and we suspected some to be not
far from thence, and watching carefully our doings.”
The last object they noticed was a large round mountain
(St. Patrick’s Head), on the eastern coast,
of which they lost sight on the 5th December.
From Van Diemen’s Land they
proceeded to New Zealand, where by an encounter with
the natives several lives were lost: thence they
passed Tongataboo, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, and arrived
at Batavia on the 15th June, 1643. Tasman closes
his journal with his usual devotion: “God
be praised for this happy voyage. Amen.”
That Maria Island was named after
the daughter of Van Diemen, and that Tasman went over
the ocean writing down her name in the imperishable
records of his discoveries, is a pleasing tale; but
the evidence on which it rests is far from conclusive.
Thus at Amsterdam he called the anchorage Van Diemen’s
Road, and where the boats went for water Maria’s
Bay, “in honor of our governor-general and his
lady.” That a daughter of the same name
existed is not improbable, but who can tell whether
the Maria Island of Tasmania’s coast was named
in complaisance to the daughter, or to conciliate
the mother! In hope to confirm the agreeable
fiction the journal of Tasman has been examined, but
The spirit of discovery revived in
Europe after a long slumber; and a succession of illustrious
navigators, in their passage to regions deemed more
important, touched at Van Diemen’s Land, and
thus rapidly developed its geography. After Tasman,
the next visitor was Captain Marion, of the Mascarin
and Castries, who in 1772 arrived from the Mauritius,
in search of the “southern continent,”
then the grand object of nautical inquiry, and anchored
in Frederick Hendrik Bay, the 4th March. The visit
is chiefly memorable for a fatal collision with the
natives, who, according to the French, exhibited uncommon
ferocity. On his stepping on shore they offered
Captain Marion a fire stick, which he supposed a ceremony
of friendship; but when he lighted a heap of wood,
as he imagined in compliance with their custom, they
retired to a hill, and threw a shower of stones.
The French fired their muskets, and the natives fled:
their pursuers found in the wood a dying savage the
first victim of European intrusion. Marion and
some others were injured slightly by the missiles
of the natives, and a black servant was wounded by
The remarks they made are of no great
value: they entered the country, and saw everywhere
the effects of fire, which they supposed was intended
to drive wild animals from the coast. They could
not discover a tree suitable for a mast, and were
unsuccessful in obtaining water. A small map,
which sketched the form of the coast with considerable
exactness, accompanied the account of this voyage,
and tended to awaken the French to the importance
of these seas.
The next visit was accidental, but
most important: Captain Cook, in 1772, left Great
Britain to explore the icy region near the Pole.
There the vessels separated in a fog: they were
unable to rejoin, and while Cook proceeded to New
Zealand in the Resolution, Captain Tobias Furneaux,
his second in command, touched at Van Diemen’s
Land in the Adventure. He made the south-west
cape on the 9th of March, 1773, exactly one year after
Marion left the island. After passing the Mewstone,
a boat’s crew sent on shore reported favorably
of the country, and that they had seen beautiful cascades
pouring from rocks two hundred feet high. Finding
no anchorage, Furneaux passed the black rocks (the
Boreels of Tasman), which he called the Friars, and
discovered Adventure Bay, which is separated from
Storm Bay by Cape Frederick Henry. There they
found anchorage in seven fathoms, within half a mile
of either shore, and obtained wood and water in abundance.
The numerous islets and tortuous navigation of the
coasts led Furneaux into several errors. To discuss
them would tire the patience of nine readers in ten,
and afford no pleasure to the tenth.
The Adventure sailed along
the eastern coast to the latitude of 40 de’, where Furneaux observed the land turned
towards the westward. He, however, narrowly missed
the discovery of the straits, and turned off for New
Zealand, convinced “that there was no strait
between New Holland and Van Diemen’s Land, but
a very deep bay.” The impression he adopted,
he conveyed to Captain Cook, who had intended to visit
Van Diemen’s Land for the solution of this geographical
problem, which now he considered determined.
On his third and final voyage to the
Pacific, Captain Cook touched at Van Diemen’s
Land in the Resolution, then accompanied by
Captain Clerke. He sighted the island bearing
north-west half-west, distant three leagues from Mewstone.
A neighbouring rock, unnoticed by Furneaux, he called
the Eddystone, from its resemblance to an English lighthouse
of that name. Detained by calms, he did not reach
Adventure Bay until the 26th, where at 4 P.M. he dropped
anchor in twelve fathoms, within a mile of the shore.
The officers were delighted with the country, and
particularly with its gigantic forests. Mr. Anderson,
the surgeon, spent his leisure wandering on the beach
of Adventure Bay; angling in a lake, or ascending
the neighbouring hills. Captain Cook left swine
on the shore, which were driven into the bush when
the natives were not present; in the hope they might
escape them, and thus add to the resources of the
country. He departed on the 30th for New Zealand.
The account left by Cook is chiefly interesting for
its description of the natives, and will be noticed
in the history of that unfortunate people.
On the 3rd July, 1789, the brig Mercury,
John Henry Cox, master, entered a deep bay on the
south side of Van Diemen’s Land, and was about
ten miles from the Mewstone: attempting Adventure
Bay, he was carried to the eastward, and afterwards
accidentally discovered Oyster Bay.
Captain Wm. Bligh, subsequently governor
of New South Wales, touched at Van Diemen’s
Land in 1788, when on his voyage to Tahiti, whence
he was instructed to convey the bread fruit tree to
the West India Islands. His object was frustrated
by the mutiny of his crew; and after a passage in
an open boat, attended with extraordinary perils, he
reached Great Britain. The Providence
and Assistant were placed under his command:
he was sent on the same errand, in which he was successful,
and re-appeared in Adventure Bay in 1792. During
his stay he planted several fruit trees, acorns, and
An inscription found by the French
crew on a tree, signified that near by, “Captain
William Bligh planted seven fruit trees: Messrs.
T. and W., botanists.” They consisted of
one fig, two pomegranates, and four quinces.
An apple tree was found by Labillardiere on the coast.
They doubtless all perished. The Frenchman was
greatly scandalised by the despotism which condemned
men of science to initials, and gave a sea captain
a monopoly of fame.
This celebrated naturalist was attached
to the expedition of Rear-Admiral Brune D’Entrecasteaux,
sent out by the government of France to ascertain
the fate of La Perouse, whose amiable reputation conciliated
the good-will of all parties. Although concluded
that the vessel he commanded must be lost, it was
fondly hoped that he still survived. The national
assembly paused in the midst of its conflict with
the king, to request that vessels might be dispatched,
and rewards offered, for his relief. In his decree,
Louis XVI. describes the expedition as intended, beyond
its primary design, to perfect the description of
the globe. On the day the first colonists of New
South Wales entered Port Jackson, the expedition of
La Perouse was seen by the astonished English approaching
the coast. After an interchange of those civilities
which dignify the intercourse of polished nations,
he left New Holland.
In a letter, dated September, 1787,
Perouse stated his intention “to employ six
months in visiting the Friendly Islands to procure
refreshments; the south-west coast of Mendana, the
land of the Arsacides, with that of Louisiade, as
far as New Guinea."
Many years after, relics were recovered,
which demonstrated the vicinity of his misfortunes.
A lascar informed Captain Peter Dillon, of the East
India Company’s service, that two Frenchmen survived
at Manicola; he therefore visited the island, where
he found several relics of the lost admiral, although
the Frenchmen were dead; among the rest his sword
guard, marked with his cypher. Dillon was honored
by the French government with the title of Chevalier,
and received a pension.
In 1792, D’Entrecasteaux in
the Recherche, and Captain Huon Kermandee in
the Esperance, reached Van Diemen’s Land.
On the 20th April, when looking for Adventure Bay,
they discovered the channel which bears the name of
D’Entrecasteaux. They remained a month,
when they departed on their search, and returned on
the 20th January, 1793, to complete their observations.
They found that the channel extended to the Storm Bay
of Tasman: they entered and named the Huon, and
the Rivere du Nord, now the Derwent, and examined
the different harbours. Their charts are said
to exhibit the finest specimen of marine surveying
ever made in a new country. Of D’Entrecasteaux’s
Channel, then deemed the most important discovery
since the time of Tasman, Rossel, who recorded the
events of the voyage, writes with rapture: “A
harbour, twenty-four miles in length, and equally
safe in every part. Such a retreat, in a gulph
which bears the menacing name of Storm Bay, is a luxury
that, to be able to express, must be felt.”
Captain John Hayes, of the Bombay
marine, with the private ships Duke and Duchess,
examined Storm Bay and D’Entrecasteaux’s
Channel, in 1794. He passed up the Rivere du
Nord much farther than the French, which he called
the Derwent; and in his passage affixed names to various
places, which have effaced those given by the original
French discoverers whose survey, however,
to the extent of their navigation, was more correct
than his own.
The form of Van Diemen’s Land
had long been a nautical problem. Captain Hunter,
observing the swell of the ocean, deemed the existence
of a strait highly probable. Mr. George Bass,
surgeon of the royal navy, a gentleman to whom his
generous friend Flinders refers with great admiration,
resolved to test the conjecture. He had already
given proof of intrepidity: in company with Flinders
and a boy, he embarked in a boat, eight feet long,
called Tom Thumb. After escaping great
dangers, they returned to Port Jackson with valuable
information respecting the coast.
In 1798, Bass obtained from Governor
Hunter a six-oared whale boat, six men, and six weeks
provisions: with this outfit he proceeded along
the eastern coast of New Holland, occasionally landing
and obtaining supplies, which enabled him to prolong
his absence to eleven weeks. He continued his
course until the agitation of the water convinced him
that the open sea was not far distant: he discovered
Western Port, and a country of great attraction.
He explored six hundred miles of coast, one-half of
which was hitherto unknown; an enterprise beyond example
in nautical adventure, and entitling him to that renown
which belongs to his name.
To test this discovery, the governor
authorised Lieutenant Flinders and Mr. Bass to sail
through the strait in the Norfolk, a colonial
sloop, of 25 tons. Twelve weeks only were allowed
for the voyage, which compelled the navigators to
content themselves with a cursory survey.
In October, 1798, they left Port Jackson:
after spending some time among the islands which crowd
the straits, they sighted Cape Portland, a name given
it in honor of the Duke of Portland, then secretary
for the colonies; thence they passed Port Waterhouse,
so called after the captain of the Reliance.
The first important discovery was Port Dalrymple,
called after the hydrographer of the admiralty, Alexander
Dalrymple. Green Isle, Western Arm, Middle Island,
Whirlpool Reach, Swan Point, and Crescent Shore, preserve
memorials of the visit in their designations.
They reported Port Dalrymple an excellent
place for refreshments: black swans, whose quills
covered the beach in countless thousands; kangaroos,
of the forest kind; flocks of ducks and teal, and mussels
and oysters, were found in abundance.
Proceeding along the coast, they came
to a headland, which they called Circular Head, from
its resemblance to a Christmas cake. They now
approached the solution of the question which had dictated
their voyage. They remarked a long swell from
the south-west breaking on the western shore:
they hailed it with joy and mutual gratulation, and
passed in safety the clustering islets in their course:
the extreme north-west they called Cape Grim.
Proceeding round the western coast, they observed
the mountains noticed by Tasman when he visited the
island, which in memory of his vessels they called
Mount Heemskirk and Mount Zeehaan. They named
Point Hibbs after the master of the Norfolk.
The discoveries of Flinders here may be said to terminate,
until he proceeded up the Derwent.
The utility of the strait was highly
rated. It secured perpetual renown to Bass, whose
name it bears: this was given by Governor Hunter
at the recommendation of Flinders, whose candour is
always conspicuous in awarding the palm of discovery
to those to whom it is due! Not only does the
strait curtail a voyage from the Cape by four degrees,
but vessels avoid the winds which obstruct navigation
round the South Cape and Cape Pillar of Van Diemen’s
Land, which prolong the passage several days; a point
of great importance in the conveyance of passengers.
The Norfolk steered into the
Derwent by the chart of Hayes. Both Flinders
and Bass observe, with indignation, how creeks are
magnified into rivers, coves into bays, and a few
acres into plains: as Risdon River, Prince of
Wales’s Bay, and King George’s Plains.
They corrected his definitions, but left him the honors
of discovery. Flinders proceeded to Herdsman’s
Cove, which he so distinguished for its extensive
pasture and plentiful waters.
Bass depicts the Derwent as a dull
and lifeless stream, respectable only because the
Tasmanian rivers are insignificant! To a bay they
entered on the western side of Tasman’s Peninsula,
they gave the name of their vessel, which was built
at Norfolk Island, of the pine peculiar to that place.
Flinders continued, after the departure
of Bass, to prosecute researches on the coast of New
Holland, until the Reliance returned home.
In that vessel his charts were conveyed, and were
published. On a plan being offered by Sir Joseph
Banks for completing the survey, the Investigator
was placed under the command of Flinders, who was
promoted to the rank of commander, furnished with a
chosen crew, and attended by Westall, a painter, and
Brown, a naturalist whose collection added largely
to his department of science. Flinders received
a passport from the French government, expressed with
the usual amplitude. It inhibited all vessels
of war from molesting the Investigator, and
gave right of entry to all ports subject to France,
for refitting or refreshment, on condition that nothing
were done hostile to that power. This protection
was demanded by Lord Hawksbury, of M. Otto, the celebrated
representative of the Republic in England. Flinders
had proposed to visit Van Diemen’s Land, but
had been partly anticipated by the Lady Nelson,
sent from England to be employed as tender to the
Investigator, and fitted with a keel suited
to shallow waters. Brown, the naturalist, remained
some time after the expedition was interrupted.
He wandered on the banks of the Derwent and Tamar,
collecting shrubs and flowers during a stay of several
months; and although some specimens of plants were
lost in the Porpoise, not one out of 3,900 species
In June, 1803, Flinders passed the
north coast of Van Diemen’s Land: eighteen
men were lying in their hammocks almost hopeless of
recovery, some of whom died before the vessel entered
Port Jackson, and several afterwards. A survey
was instantly held, and the Investigator was
condemned: the hull was found rotten, both plank
and timbers, and it was declared that reparation was
impossible. On inspecting her condition, Flinders
expressed great astonishment, and remarked that a
hard gale must have sent her to the bottom.
The volumes of Captain Flinders, though
of vast scientific worth, are not greatly interesting
to the general reader, except when he tells of his
trials, which were many. His work was patronised
by the admiralty, and he had the prospect of reward;
but on the day of publication, fame ceased to be valuable
to him, he cast that anchor which is
A long imprisonment in the Isle of
France, and the mental anxiety inseparable from a
strong sense of injustice, it is said, destroyed him.
His case may be told in few words: the Investigator
was condemned as unfit for service, and Flinders embarked
at Port Jackson on board the Porpoise, in company
with the Cato and the Bridgewater.
When passing through Torres Straits, at between eight
and nine knots, they saw breakers a-head. Before
signals could be made, the other vessels were seen
hastening to the same destruction. They hauled
to the wind across each other; a collision seemed
inevitable: a death-like silence prevailed during
the awful crisis; but happily they passed off side
by side. Instantly, however, the Cato
struck on the reef, and was totally lost. All
hands were preserved, except three boys; of these,
one spent the night on a spar, bewailing his unhappy
lot: four times he had embarked in different
vessels, and each time had been wrecked; this was
the last, for before morning he disappeared. The
Bridgewater was yet safe: she was seen
at dawn; but while awaiting her help, the captain,
with a selfishness happily not common without
even sending a boat to pick up a cast-away proceeded
on his voyage. He reached India in safety; sailed
for Europe, and was never heard of more: the people
he had abandoned were all rescued.
This was effected by Flinders.
A cutter was built and provisioned from the stores
saved on the reef: in this, which he called the
Hope, he set out for Port Jackson, 750 miles
distant. There he obtained the assistance of
two vessels, beside the Cumberland, a colonial
schooner of 29 tons. The inhabitants, unsolicited,
sent many presents to the sufferers, who soon hailed
the arrival of Flinders with rapturous cheers.
Having performed this duty, he proceeded
towards England in the Cumberland, with seven
men and three officers; but finding that she was unable
to bear the voyage, he resolved to confide in the honor
of the French, and present his passport at the Mauritius.
There he was detained a prisoner six years; first
charged with imposture, then treated as a spy; and
when these imputations were refuted, he was accused
of violating his passport. The French had found
in his journal a wish dotted down to examine the state
of that settlement, written when a stranger to the
renewal of war. Some doubt seems to have been
really entertained, for the moment, respecting him;
but his long detention after his release was promised,
was ascribed to the ambition of Napoleon, and the
dishonesty of the French Institute, who from Flinders’
papers were appropriating to Baudin the honor of discoveries
he never himself claimed.
Before the Investigator left
England, the Géographe and Naturaliste,
under Captains Baudin and Hamelin, visited this island.
During a pause in the hostilities of Europe, the French
government obtained from Mr. Addington, then premier,
a safe conduct for this expedition. The terms
granted entitled them to freedom from search; to supplies
in any English colony, notwithstanding the contingency
of war: it being well said by the French, that
the promoters of scientific knowledge were the common
benefactors of mankind. While Flinders was prosecuting
his voyage he met Baudin on the coast of New Holland,
at a place thence called Encounter Bay. The interview
was civil, rather than cordial; both nations were
competitors in science, and rivals are rarely kind.
Yet the suffering of the French may be mentioned with
pity: of twenty-three scientific men who accompanied
the expedition, three only survived. The vessels
were ill-provisioned, the water corrupt, and they
encountered fearful tempests, in attempting to circumnavigate
Captain Baudin had been directed by
his government to examine the eastern coast of Van
Diemen’s Land, the discoveries of D’Entrecasteaux,
and the channels and rivers of the coast. The
surgeon of the Géographe, Monge, fell by an
attack of the natives, and was buried on the spot
which bears his name. The French surveyed the eastern
coast, and finally determined the position of the Frederick
Henry Bay of Tasman. They examined the intricacies
which had escaped the observation of earlier navigators,
who erroneously numbered the islands on their charts,
and thus overlooked the bays. They coasted between
the main and the Schoutens, and gave the name of Fleurieu
to the Oyster Bay of Cox. They then passed through
a strait heretofore unnoticed, which divides the Schoutens
and Freycinet’s Peninsula. Their survey
was minute, and sometimes three boats were employed
in different directions. The French vessels parted
company, and the Naturaliste, after a long search
for her consort, proceeded to New South Wales.
Baudin, of the Géographe, was
far more unfortunate. Having touched at his land
of Napoleon, instead of returning through Bass’s
Strait to Port Jackson, he resolved to pass the south
cape of Van Diemen’s Land. Throughout the
passage he experienced the most fearful storms:
the darkness at night often prevented the execution
of naval manoeuvres, and the vessel was drenched with
water. The condition of the crew was terrible;
“cries of agony made the air ring:”
four only, including the officers of the watch, were
able to keep the decks. After beating about Port
Jackson for several days, a boat appeared which had
been dispatched by the governor, who saw the French
were unable to manage the vessel. By a change
of diet, they speedily recovered.
When at Port Jackson, Flinders showed
his discoveries to the French, who admitted the justice
of his prior claim, but with little sincerity.
M. Baudin died: Captain Hamilin,
of the Naturaliste, returned to the Mauritius.
He eulogised the conduct of the colonists to extravagance;
but it is mortifying to find, that soon after, having
captured a small English settlement, he burned the
property he could not carry off; and invited upon
deck the ladies, his prisoners, to witness the devastations
of their late peaceful dwellings.
The misfortunes of the distinguished
navigators, whose success has been recorded, fully
equalled their fame. The fate of Cook belongs
to a story which mingles with our early remembrance.
A child need scarcely be told, that after a career
eminently glorious to his country and profession,
while attempting to restrain his men who were firing
to protect him, he fell by the dagger of a savage.
His colleague, Captain Clerke, who
attended him through all his expeditions, did not
long survive him. Resolved to complete his instructions,
he remained in the neighbourhood of Kamschatka, which
hastened the crisis of a consumption. He was buried
beneath a tree at the harbour of St. Peter and St.
Paul, and an inscription pointed to his grave.
This was found by M. Perouse defaced, who restored
it. On his arrival at Botany Bay, he interred
the naturalist of his expedition: the memorial
he set up was destroyed by the natives, and Governor
Phillip repaid, by the substitution of another, the
honor done to his own countryman.
De L’Angle, the companion of
Perouse, with eleven officers and men, lost their
lives by a misunderstanding at the Navigators’
Isles: the manner of his own death may be inferred
from the native tradition.
The end of D’Entrecasteaux and
Huon, was hardly less melancholy: both commanders
were buried by their crews; the admiral at Louisiade,
and Huon at New Caledonia. The vessels were detained
by the Dutch at Java, and many of the seamen died
in captivity. There the calamities of their country
became known to them: some sided with the royalists,
others with the jacobins, but few regained their native
land; among these, however, was Labillardiere.
The fate of Captain Flinders is already
told; that of Dr. Bass is involved in obscurity.
A rumour that he was alive in 1812, in South America,
was circulated in London. In the colonies it was
reported, that the vessel in his charge foundered
at sea; others alleged that he attempted a contraband
trade in the Spanish colonies, was taken prisoner,
and with his companions sent to the quicksilver mines,
and there died.
The whale-boat of Bass, which first
swept the waters of the strait, was long preserved
at Port Jackson. Of its keel snuff boxes were
wrought, and regarded as valuable relics. A fragment,
mounted with silver, engraven with the particulars
of the passage, was presented to M. Baudin, as a memorial
of the man whose example had stimulated colonial discovery.
Flinders predicted that the name
of Bass would be conspicuous among the benefactors
of mankind: the glory of his own will enlarge
with the value of his discoveries. They resulted
not from accident, which may give reputation to success
without merit, but were the reward of prudent enthusiasm.
A small community cannot, indeed, rear a monument worthy
the destinies of their names: private memorials
may be perishable, like the sympathies which inscribed
them, but a future and opulent era will display the
moral grandeur of their enterprise, and posterity will
pay public honors to their fame.
At the cost of L250, Sir John Franklin
erected an obelisk on the rock of Stamford Hill, Port
Lincoln, with the following inscription:
This place, from which the gulf and
its shores were first surveyed, on the 26th of Feb.,
1802, by MATTHEW FLINDERS, R. N.. commander of H.M.S.
Investigator, and the discoverer of the country
now called South Australia, was on 12th Jan., 1841,
with the sanction of Lieut.-Colonel GAWLER, K.H.,
then Governor of the Colony, then set apart for, and
in the first year of the Government of Captain G.
GREY, adorned with this monument, to the perpetual
memory of the illustrious navigator, his honoured
commander, by JOHN FRANKLIN, Captain R.N., K.C.H.,
K.R., Lt.-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land.
The settlement of New Holland was
proposed by Colonel Purry, in 1723: he contended
that in 33 deg. south, a fertile region would
be found, favorable to European colonisation.
He offered his theory to the British government, then
to the Dutch, and afterwards to the French; but with
little encouragement. His views were submitted
to the Academy of Sciences at Paris, who replied that
“they could not judge of countries they had
not seen." Thus the project slept, until the great
English navigator in 1770 gave certainty to what had
To Dalrymple, the hydrographer, the
impulse of this enterprising era is largely due.
He fully believed that a vast southern continent must
exist, to balance the antipodes. So firm was his
conviction, that he defined its extent as “greater
than the whole civilised part of Asia, from Turkey
to the extremity of China. Its trade would be
sufficient to maintain the power of Great Britain,
employing all its manufactories and ships.”
The position of this region of fancy was traversed
by Cook, who found nothing but ocean. The doctrine
of terrestial counterpoise was disturbed; he, however,
alighted on a great reality.
The description of New South Wales
by Cook and his companions, which charmed the public,
attracted the attention of the crown; and Botany Bay,
named on account of the variety and beauty of its vegetation long
known through Europe as a region of gibbets, triangles,
and chains; to be celebrated hereafter as the mistress
of nations was selected for a settlemen men and 192 women, the pioneers of a larger division,
were embarked under the charge of a military force
composed of volunteers; comprehending, besides the
staff, sixteen commissioned officers.
The fleet consisted of H.M.S. Sirius,
Hyena, and Supply; six transports and
three victuallers: they assembled at the Motherbank
on the 16th March, and sailed on the 13th May, 1787.
They touched at Teneriffe, and then at the Cape.
Separated into two divisions, they reached their destination
within forty-eight hours of each other. On the
day of their junction, dense clouds threw a gloom over
the sea; but they rejected the omen, and believed
that they had seen “the foundation, and not
the fall of an empire.” Having found the
bay unsuitable for location, they proceeded to examine
the port called after Jackson, a seaman, who observed
it from the mast, and immortalised his name. As
they passed the capes, which form an entrance, they
were in raptures with the scene: the tall
mouldering cliffs; the trees, which touched the water’s
edge; and the magnificent harbour, four miles in length,
begirt with a luxuriant shore.
It was on the 7th February, 1788,
that the Governor was inaugurated: an area being
cleared for the purpose, the military marched to the
ground with music, and colors flying; 750 convicts,
212 marines and their officers, were assembled.
The standard of England was unfurled, the commission
of Phillip, the first governor, published, and the
courts of justice proclaimed. The usual formalities
being complete, Phillip turned to the prisoners, and
declared his intentions. He had resolved to cherish
and render happy such as might deserve his favour;
but to allow the law its course with the impenitent
and unreformed. In such language we discern the
sentiments which prevailed: banishment, not punishment
for past crimes, was implied in the cheering alternative.
From that moment he possessed authority to manumit
not less absolute than the sovereign, but immeasurably
more power to avenge.
Those who first entered New Holland,
and witnessed the elevation of the royal standard
on the shores of Port Jackson, described in terms of
despondency its barren soil, barely compensated by
its salubrious atmosphere. Contemporary political
writers looked coldly on the infant establishment,
as the diseased and hopeless progeny of crime:
one, which could never recompense the outlay of the
crown, either by its vigour or its gratitude.
The projects entertained, in connection with commerce,
were the growth of flax and the supply of naval timber,
both of which had been reported by Cook as indigenous
to Norfolk Island. “When viewed in a commercial
light,” Captain Tench observes (writing in 1789),
“the insignificance of the settlement is very
striking.” “Admitting the possibility,”
he continues, “that the country will hereafter
yield a sufficiency of grain, the parent state must
long supply the necessaries of life. The idea
of breeding cattle sufficient to meet the consumption,
must be considered very chimerical.” Such
desponding sentiments mostly attend the first stages
of colonisation; but in a much later period, the enterprise
was regarded with scarcely less suspicion: “Why,”
said a celebrated critic, “we are to erect penitentiaries
and prisons, at the distance of half the diameter
of the globe, and to incur the enormous expense of
feeding and transporting its inhabitants, it is extremely
difficult to discover. It is foolishly believed,
that the colony of Botany Bay unites our moral and
commercial interests, and that we shall receive, hereafter,
an ample equivalent in the bales of goods, for all
the vices we export." With what obstinacy an idea
once mooted is cherished, may be inferred from an
opinion afterwards expressed by an authority of still
greater pretension: “The most sanguine
supporter of New South Wales system of colonisation,
will hardly promise himself any advantage from the
produce it may be able to supply." Its corn and
wool, its timber and hemp, he excludes from the chances
of European commerce, and declares that the whale
fishery, after repeated failures, had been relinquished!
It is not less instructive than pleasing,
to notice the past epochs of opinion: we find
consolation against the dark clouds overshadowing the
future, by discovering how many forebodings of ancient
seers have vanished before the light of the event.
These discouraging views were not,
however, universal. Many distinguished men imagined
an advancement, which our age has been sufficient
to realise. To commemorate the foundation of the
colony the celebrated artist, Wedgewood, modelled,
from clay brought from the neighbourhood of Sydney,
an allegorical medallion, which represented Hope encouraging
Art and Labor, under the influence of Peace.
The French, however, always represented
this colony as a masterpiece of policy; an element
of Anglican power, pregnant with events. Peron,
when dwelling on the moral prodigies of the settlement,
declared that these but disguised the real objects
of its founders, which, however, could not escape
the discernment of statesmen: they saw the formidable
germ of great revolutions.
The expedition of Baudin was connected
by English politicians with a project of French
colonisation. His instructions directed him to
inspect narrowly the places eligible for occupation,
and it was expected that an Australian Pondichery
would become a new focus of rivalry and intrigue.
The special injunctions to survey the inlets of Van
Diemen’s Land, seemed to indicate the probable
site of an establishment so obnoxious.
Dr. Bass had, however, already examined
this country with similar views, especially the margin
of the rivers. To him no spot on the eastern side
of the Derwent appeared to equal the neighbourhood
of Risdon Creek, around which he observed an expanding
area of fertile land. He delineated not less
favorably the valley of the Tamar. This country
he considered preferable to New South Wales:
with a greater proportion of fertile soil, more amply
supplied with water, and well adapted for colonisation.