A SHORT HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA
The Dawn of Discovery
There was a period when maps of the world were published whereon the part occupied by the continent of Australia was a blank space. On other maps, dating from about the same time, land masses were represented which we now know to have been imaginary. Let us look at four examples.
The first is a map drawn by Robert Thorne in the reign of Henry VIII (1527). He said in an apology for his work that 'it may seem rude,' and so it was; but it serves the purpose of proving that Thorne and the Spanish geographers from whom he derived his information knew nothing about a continent near Australia. Sixty years later, a map published at Paris showed a portion of New Guinea, but still the place occupied by Australia was left as open ocean. A Dutch map published at Amsterdam in 1591 did indeed indicate a large stretch of southern land, and called it Terra Australis, but it bore no resemblance to the real continent either in shape or situation. In 1595 a map by Hondius, a Dutchman living in London, was published to illustrate the voyage of Francis Drake round the globe. It represented New Guinea as an island, approximately in its right position, though the shape of it was defective. To the south of it, and divided from it by a strait, appeared a large mass of land named Terra Australis. The outline is not much like that of the continent of Australia, but it was apparently copied from an earlier Dutch map by Ortelius (1587), upon which were printed words in Latin stating that whether New Guinea was an island or part of an austral continent was uncertain. Many other early maps could be instanced, but these four will suffice to exhibit the defective state of knowledge concerning this region at the end of the sixteenth century.
Map of Australia, 1907, showing a gum leaf
By that time the belief had grown that there probably was a large area of land in the southern hemisphere. Much earlier, in the Middle Ages, some had seriously questioned whether there could possibly be antipodes. Learned and ingenious men argued about it, for and against, at considerable length; for it was much easier to write large folios in Latin about the form of the earth than to go forth in ships and find out. One famous cosmographer, Cosmas Indicopleustes, scoffed at the very idea of there being countries inhabited by people who walked about with their feet opposite to those of Europeans and their bodies (as he imagined) hanging downwards, like flies on a ceiling. How, he asked, could rain 'be said to "fall" or "descend," as in the Psalms and Gospels, in those regions where it could only be said to come up!' Consequently he declared ideas about antipodes to be nothing better than 'old wives' fables.'
To understand how speculation was set at rest and Australia came to be discovered, it is necessary to bear in mind a few facts connected with the expansion of European energy in maritime exploration, trade, and colonization.
Map of New Holland
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a great and wonderful series of events opened new sea-routes and fresh lands to the enterprise of mankind. There was keen competition to secure the profits arising from trade with the East - from the silk and cotton fabrics of China and India, the spices, gold, jewels and metal work, the rice and sugar, and many other things which European peoples were glad to purchase and oriental lands could supply. This trade had in earlier years come partly overland, along caravan routes to the Levant, partly by water to the Red Sea, and then through Egypt to Alexandria. The goods were collected by Venetians, Genoese, and other merchants, chiefly Italians, in vessels plying in the Mediterranean, and sold to European buyers. But the Portuguese discovered that by sailing round Africa they could bring commodities from the East cheaper and safer than by the old routes. They had made many voyages down the west coast of Africa during the fifteenth century, until at last, in 1486, Bartholomew Diaz steered his ships round the Cape at Good Hope, and in 1497 Vasco da Gama beat that record by conducting two vessels all the way to India and back to Lisbon.
Map illustrating first Dutch Discoveries
That was one important step towards the discovery of Australia - the finding of the way to the East from Europe by sea.
It was for the purpose of discovering a still shorter route to the east that Christopher Columbus, a Genoese to the service of Spain, proposed to sail west. He argued that if the world were round, a ship sailing west, straight forwards the sunset, must come upon the shores of further Asia. His reasoning was right, but there was one immense factor which it was impossible for him to anticipate. He could not know that the path to the East by the westward passage was blocked by the continent of America. Columbus, indeed, never did realize that fact to the day of his death. He never knew that he had found a new world. He always believed that he had discovered what we may call the back door of Asia.
The Spaniards, having possessed themselves of America through the discoveries of Columbus and his successors, were still dissatisfied when they realized that this new continent was not the Orient whence their Portuguese rivals drew so rich a trade; and for many years they searched for a strait through it or a way round it. When their explorers crossed the narrow isthmus of Panama they saw before them an ocean hitherto unknown to Europeans. This, then, was the sea which Columbus had striven to reach when his track was barred by the American continent. This was the sea which it was necessary to traverse to get to the spice islands by the western route. Columbus was now dead, but Spain had other gallant navigators in her service. One of them, Ferdinand Magellan, in 1520, led the way down the east coast of South America, through the narrow passage named after him, and into what he for the first time called Mare Pacificum, the quiet sea.
That was the next important step towards the discovery of Australia - the finding of the Pacific.
Map published at Paris, 1587
To realize the importance of these two series of discoveries, look at a map showing the position of Australia in relation to South America and South Africa, and remember that the main purpose of voyagers by either route was to get as quickly and as safely as possible to the parts with which there was rich trade to be done - to Ceylon, India, China, Japan, Java, the Philippines, and the Spice Islands. It will be seen that neither the Portuguese sailing round the Cape into the Indian Ocean, nor the Spaniards sailing round South America into the Pacific, would be likely to see the coasts of Australia unless they were blown very far out of their true course, or unless curiously led them to undertake extensive voyages of exploration. Taking the two sides of a triangle to repressed the two routes, Australia lay upon the centre of the base line.
That several ships did, accidentally or in pursuit of geographical knowledge, make a passing acquaintance with parts of Australia during the sixteenth century is suggested by a few charts, though we do not know the name of any navigator who did so.
A curious French map of which six copies are known to exist, the earliest dated 1542, presents an outline of a country lying south of Java and inscribed 'Jave la Grande,' the great Java. On a copy which was presented to King Henry VIII (by John Rotz, who came to England in the suite of Anne of Cleves, it is conjectured), Java itself was marked by way of distinction as 'the lytil Java,' or Java the small. It is probable that the French map-maker worked from Information obtained from a native or a Catalan map, not from original observations of his own. If the map could be accepted as an authentic representation of part of Australia it would suggest the possibility that at least one ship had sailed not only along the north-western coast of Australia, but also along the north-western coast of Australia, but also along the east coast, from Cape York to the south of Tasmania, two centuries and a half before the celebrated voyage of Captain Cook.
Plancius's Map (Amsterdam), 1594
But we cannot depend upon this map, because we know from the fourteenth-century Genoese traveller, Marco Polo, that the island of Sumatra was known to him as 'Java the Less,' or the little Java, and that both to him and to the Arab traders Java proper was known as round the world, called at 'Java major' (1580), by which name he certainly did not mean Australia, but the island of Java. Moreover, on some examples of the map the inhabitants of 'Java is Grande' are pictured as carrying umbrellas, riding horses and camels, and wearing clothes, and their wooden houses are shown. the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia were not far enough advanced to possess such conveniences. This interesting map, therefore, cannot be accepted as affording evidence that the Portuguese had such a knowledge of Australia as some writers have claimed for them.
In 1598 Cornelius Wytfliet, in a book published at Louvain, wrote as follows: 'The Australis Terra is the most southern of all lands, and is separated from New guinea by a narrow strait. Its shores are hitherto but little known, since after one voyage and another that route has been deserted, and seldom is the country visited unless sailors are driven there by storms. The Ausrralis Terra begins at two or three degrees from the Equator, and is maintained by some to be of so great an extent that if it were thoroughly explored it would be regarded as a fifth part of the world.' Those from whom the Louvain geographer drew his information seem to have had a correct knowledge of the division of New Guinea by a strait from the land to the south of it, but they imagined that the southern continent was far vaster than was actually the case. The supposed Terra Australis of these old cosmographers was indeed a continent stretcing right round the South Pole.
The evidence concerning Australian discovery before the seventeenth century is so clouded with doubt that it has been asserted to be unworthy of credence. It has been argued that there is 'no foundation beyond mere surmise and conjecture' for believing that any part of this country was known to Europeans until the Dutch appeared upon the scene in 1606. We certainly do not know the name of any sailor who made discoveries prior to that date, nor of any ship in which they were made. We have only a few rough charts, the statement of Cornelius Wytfliet, and the persistence of a vague tradition. Yet this evidence, unsatisfactory as it is, cannot be ignored. There is no extant Portuguese map showing only part of Australia before the seventeenth century. These early intimations are:
It may be thought that, if the Portuguese had really found a great new land to this southward of the spice islands, they would be proud of the achievement and would proclaim it to the world. The suggestion has been made that their policy was to conceal the whereabouts and the resources of the countries which they discovered. They desired to secure for their own profit the whole of the trade with the East. Especially were they suspicious of the Spaniards, their neighbours in Europe, their rivals in oversea empire. The Portuguese being the first to discover the sea-route to the east round the Cape of Good Hope, and the Spaniards being the first to discover the way to America across the Atlantic, both realized that their interests would be bound to clash. Where was to be the dividing line between their respective spheres of operation! Pope Alexander VI settled their differences in 1493 by appropriating to the Portuguese all the discoveries to the east of a certain meridian, whilst the Spaniards were to take all that lay to the westward of that line. A little later the two nations voluntarily agreed to an amendment of the Pope's award, and fixed upon a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands as the line separating heir two dominions.
Hondius's Map, 1595
But, while this line drawn through the Atlantic did very well before the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, the agreement needed readjustment after Magellan sailed out of the Atlantic into the Pacific. The Moluccas were regarded as a very valuable possession on account of the spices yielded by them. The Portuguese, who had discovered these islands in 1512, contended that they were theirs. The Spaniards, however, contended that the Moluccas were on the western side of the line of partition; they were, urged the King of Spain, 'in his part of those countries which pertained into him according to the Pope's bull.' Consequently there was 'great contention and strife between the Spaniards and the Portugals about the spicery and division of the Indies.' King John of Portugal, records a contemporary Spaniard, 'what of stoutness of mind and what for grief, was puffed up with anger, as were also the rest of the Portugals, storming as though they would have plucked down the sky with their hands, not a little fearing lest they should lose the trade of spices if the Spaniards should once put in their foot.' After much dispute the King of Spain and the King of Portugal each married the other's sister, 'whereat this matter waxed cold.' The Portuguese kept the Moluccas and paid a sum of money to the Spanish King for the dropping of his claim to them; whereat, says the Spanish chronicler, 'some marvelled, others were sorry, and all held their peace.' But the Spanish traders did not acknowledge the their rights had been surrendered by this amicable financial and nuptial bargain between the two kings, though it was for the moment expedient for them to hold their peace.
In view of these disputes between the rivals as to the possession of lands in the Pacific, and as the agreement of the kings did not imply any principle of permanent settlement by the two nations concerning this part of the globe, it has been argued that it was in the interest of the Portuguese, if they did discover Australia, to publish nothing about it. The Spaniards would have had quite as good a claim to this country as to the Muluccas, and would have insisted that the sum which the Portuguese had paid on account of those islands by no means covered the large country to the south. The dispute about the Moluccas was ended in 1529. If the Portuguese became aware of the existence of a large area of new country, was there not good reason for their suppressing what they knew! But we really have no good reason for assuming that they knew anything. The few books written by Portuguese travellers during the sixteenth century show no knowledge of any land south of Java, and even of that island they were acquainted only with the north coast. 'The south coast,' wrote a Portuguese traveller, 'is not frequented by us, and its bays and ports are not known, but the north coast is much frequented and has many good ports.'
We conclude, therefore, that the evidence that the Portuguese had any definite knowledge of Australia during the sixteenth century is exceedingly vague and obscure. It is too unsatisfactory to be reliable. Although we can understand that they had a motive for concealing knowledge of their discoveries from their rivals the Spaniards, we are not justified in believing that in regsard to this continent they had any knowledge to conceal.
Not until 1605 do we reach certain ground. In that year both Dutch and Spanish vessels were voyaging within eight of the Australian coast; and here at last we get in touch with people whom we know by name, and with first-hand contemporary documentary evidence which we can read and analyse.
Freycinet's Map, showing 'Terre Napoleon.'
The story of the Spanish voyage is this. The viceroys who were sent out to govern the American possessions of that country were accustomed to despatch expeditions to discover new lands. In 1567 an expedition from Peru under the command of Alvaro de Mendana had discovered the Solomon Islands, to the east of New Guinea. According to one account of the voyage, Alvaro would appear to have thoughts that he had actually discovered the Great Southern Continent of which men suspected the existence. 'The greatest island that they discovered was according unto the first finder called Guadalcanal, on the coast whereof they sailed 140 leagues before they could know whether it were an island or part of the mainland; and yet they knew not perfectly what to make of it, but think that it may be part of their continent which stretcheth to the Straits of Magellan; for they coasted it to eighteen degrees and could not find the end thereof. The gold that they found was upon this island or mainland; but because the Spaniards understood not the language of the country, and also for the Indians were very stout and fought continuously against them, they could never learn from whence that gold came, nor yet what store was in the land.'
Alvaro named the group of islands the Solomons with the deliberate purpose of alluring other Spaniards to settle there-' to the end that the Spaniards supposing them to be those isles from whence Solomon fetched gold to adorn the temple at Jerusalem, might be the more desirous to go and inhabit the same.' Alvaro, indeed, thought that it would be advantageous to establish a Spanish colony at the Solomons; so in 1595 he brought another expedition into the Pacific with that purpose in vies. On his second voyage he discovered the Marquesas Islands, but he could not now find the Solomons where he had been twenty-eight years before. It was no uncommon circumstance in those days for a navigator to lose his way at sea; and Alvaro had not been sufficiently precise in his reckoning to know their exact thereabouts. He died at Santa Cruz, a small group of islands south-east of the Solomons, before he had rediscovered the object of his quest.
One of the officers on the second expedition of Alvaro was Pedro Fernandez de Quiros. He was one of those Spaniards who believed that there was a Great Southern Continent which, from the vicinity of the Solomons, 'stretcheth to the Straits of Magellan.' The acquisition of this continent would, he urged, be full of advantage for Spain. He laid his case before King Philip III, and as a result was commissioned to command three ships for the purpose of colonizing Santa Cruz and searching for the continent.
On December 21, 1605, the expedition sailed from Callao in Peru. The officer second in command was Luis de Torres. but Quiros was not able to manage his crew. They were mutinous, and, as Torres tells us in his relation of the voyage, 'made him turn from the course.' When the ships reached the island of Espirito Santo, in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), they parted company. At midnight on June 11, the Capitana, Quiros's flagship, slipped out of harbour, 'and', says Torres, 'although the next morning we went out to seek for them and made all proper efforts, it was not sail on the proper course nor with good intention.' It is to be inferred from Torres's language that Quiros's mutinous crew had compelled him to sail back to Peru, leaving behind the two other ships, with Torres in command of them.
What was he to do now that the leader of the expedition had departed? Was he tamely to abandon the voyage and steer back to Callao? Torres resolved that he would not return until he had achieved some amount of exploration. At this determination he arrived 'contrary to the inclinations of many, I may say of the greater part'; but he added, with a touch of pride in his own capacity for command, and also with a spice of scorn for the failure of Quiros, 'my condition was different from that of Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros.'
Torres, therefore, after satisfying himself that the land whereat they had been lying was an island, and not a portion of a continent, sailed till he fell in with the southern coast of New Guinea. Then for two anxious months he threaded his way through the reefs and islands of the intricate and dangerous strait which separates that country from Australia. He perhaps sighted the hills of Cape York (which he took to b e a cluster of islands), made acquaintance with the savage islanders of the strait, and, emerging into open sea, steered at length for the Philippines, where he wrote an account of the voyage.
Quiros stoutly professed that he had discovered the Great Southern Continent, and in 1610 a narrative of the voyage was published wherein it was announced that 'all this region of the south as far as the Pole' should be called 'Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.' The word 'Austrialia' was intended to pay a compliment to Philip III of Spain (a Hapsburg sovereign, and as such a member of the House of Austria) as well as to convey the meaning that this new land was a southern continent. The word was chosen, says Quiros, 'from his Majesty's title of Austria.' But Torres could have told him, and perhaps did, that he had by no means discovered a continent, but merely an island of no very large proportions. Quiros had never been within five hundred miles of the real continent. Torres may have seen it, but did not know that he had.
But the dawn of discovery had now broken.
THE DUTCH AND NEW HOLLAND
The entrance of the Dutch into the East as explorers, colonists, and merchants was connected with European events of very great importance. The Reformation was principally an affair of churches and forms of religious belief, but it also had far-reaching consequences touching politics, commerce, and all the manifold interests of mankind. Its influence extended throughout the known world, and led to the discovery of regions hitherto unknown.
During the third quarter of the sixteenth century, Philip II of Spain was engaged in butter bloody struggle with his subjects in the Netherlands. Thousands of them broke away from the ancient Church of which he was a devoted champion. Philip, loathing heresy, set himself to 'exterminate the root and ground of this pest,' and his ruthless Spanish soldiery carried out their master's injunctions with such pitiless ferocity that their effort to crush the revolt stands as one of the most awful phases of modern history. For over thirty years the Spanish sword was wet with the blood of the people of the Netherlands. In the southern provinces, Brabant and Flanders, Protestantism was suppressed; but the north, Holland and Zealand, successfully defied the gloomy, conscientious fanatic who issued his edicts of persecution from Madrid.
The Dutch people at the time of the revolt did the largest sea-carrying trade in Europe. Their mercantile marine was numerous, and was manned by bold and skilful sailors. A very considerable part of their commerce consisted in fetching from Lisbon goods brought by the Portuguese from the East, and distributing them throughout the continent. It was a very profitable business, and it quite suited the Dutch that the Portuguese should enjoy a monopoly oriental trade as long as they themselves kept the major part of the European carrying trade. They grew rich and increased their shipping, and the growth of their wealth, and sea-power enabled them the better to defy Philip II.
Failing, therefore, to subjugate the Dutch by sword and cannon, Philip resolved to humble them by stifling their trade. In 1580 the throne of Portugal had fallen vacant, and a Spanish army which crossed the frontier had forced the Portuguese to accept Philip as king. For sixty years to come - until the Portuguese regained their independence in 1640 - the gallant little country which had achieved such glorious pre-eminence in commerce and discovery remained in 'captivity' to Spain. The control thus secured by Philip over the colonies and the shipping of Portugal enabled him to strike the desired blow at the Dutch. In 1584 he commanded that Lisbon should be closed to their ships. Barring against the heretic rebels the port whither came the goods from which they had derived such abundant gains, he thought he could chastise them for their disobedience by the ruin of their commerce.
But Philip wholly underestimated the spirit and enterprise of the Dutch people. They had baffled the best of his generals, beaten tyhe choicest of his troops, and captured his ships upon the sea. They were now prepared to scorn his new menace by fetching direct the commodities which they had hitherto obtained from Lisbon. First they tried to find a new route to the East by a passage north of Europe, but were blocked by the ice of the Arctic Sea. If they were to succeed they must force their way into the trade by the Portuguese route in the teeth of Spanish opposition.
Many Dutch sailors had served Portuguese vessels. Though the Portuguese tried to keep their sailing routes secret, and had never published maps, they had often had to avail themselves of the services of Dutch mariners; and these men knew the way. One of them, Cornelius Houtman, had actually been a pilot in the oriental trade. Another Dutchman, John Linschoten, had lived for fourtgeen years in the East Indies, and upon his return published at Amsterdam (1595) a remarkable book called Itinerario, hwerein he told all he knew. Several Englishmen had also wandered about the seas and lands of Asia, often having painful experiences, and their adventures had been described in Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries, published in 1589. So that in various ways the Dutch already knew more about the Indies than King Philip supposed, and they were ready to act boldly in putting their knowledge to practical uses.
A company of Amsterdam merchants fitted out a fleet of four ships placed them under Cornelius Houtman's direction, and sent them on a voyage to the spice islands. They were over two years away, from April 1595 to July 1597, but they did great things for Holland. They were the first Dutch ships to round the Cape of Good Hope and to visit Madagascar, Goa, Java, and the Moluccas. Cornelius Houtman and his brother Frederick were important pioneers of Dutch energy in the East. We have the name of the latter on the map of Australia at Houtman's Abrolhos, the long shoal off the west coast of the continent. Abrolhos, in Portuguese, means literally 'open eyes,' and wes given because this was part of a cost where it was needful to keep a sharp look-out. The use of the word by Dutchmen is in itself interesting, as indicating that, in consequence of the service in which they acquired their experience, the employment of a Portuguese sea-term seemed most convenient to them.
Here, then, was another step on the way to the discovery of Australia - the forcing of an entry into the eastern trade by the Dutch.
Houtman having shown the road, others were quick to follow. Before the end of the sixteenth century the Dutch had established themselves at Java (1598) and seven companies had been formed to make profits from the eastern trade. Fleet after fleet sailed forth from Holland. They were well armed and efficiently manned; and they were quite prepared to fight their way against the Spaniards and the Portuguese. This they successfully did, both in the East, were at Malacca in 1606 they destroyed a fleet of their rivals, and in European waters, where at Gibraltar Bay in 1607 a large Spanish fleet was annihilated by a small Dutch squadron commanded by Jacob van Heemskerk. With wonderful rapidity the new-comers supplanted the Portuguese as the principal European power in eastern seas.
In the first half century of their activity a spirit of investigation accompanied their commercial enterprise. They explored, charted, and published. A series of most beautiful maps was produced by Hollanders, adding to the world's geographical knowledge. Partly accidentally, partly as the result of explorations, they pieced together an outline of the northern and western coasts of the continent which lay to the south of the spice islands.
The first Dutch vessel known to have visited part of the Australian coast was the Duyjken (i.e. the Little Dove), despatched to examine the coasts and islands of New Guinea. This yacht which was commanded by Willem Jansz, was actually Torres Strait in March 1606, a few weeks before Torres sailed through it. But revisions ran short, and nine of the crew were murdered by natives, who were fouind to be 'wild, cruel, black savages'; so that the Duyjken did not penetrate beyond Cape Keer-weer (i.e. Capte Turn-again), on the west side of the Cape York Peninsula. Her captain returned in the belief that the south coast of New Guinea was joined to the land along which he coasted, and Dutch maps reproduced this error for many years to come.
A knowledge of the west coast was gradually gained through a series of accidents, happy and otherwise. Naturally, when the Dutch first sailed into these seas they followed the route which the Portuguese and always pursued. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope they ran along the coast of Africa north-east as far as Madagascar, and then struck across the Indian Ocean. But this route was painfully long. A ship would often find herself becalmed for weeks together in the tropics. The heat was intensely oppressive, the crews suffered severely from scurvy and dysentery, and it was no uncommon circumstance for a ship to lose 60 per cent, of her people on the voyage. The cargo frequently deteriorated, and the vessels became foul and gaping at the seams. A voyage would sometimes last over a year; the minimum time was nine months. An Englishman who visited the Portuguese settlements in 1584 noted that ships which missed the July monsoons were generally unable to cross the Indian Ocean, but had to return to St. Helena; 'albeit' he recorded as a marvelous thing, 'in the year of our Lord 1580 there arrived the ship called the Lorenzo, being wonderful sore sea-beaten, the eighth of October, which was accounted as a miracle for that the like had not been seen before.' A route thus full of impediments the Dutch realized the importance of finding a better one. The Dutch realized the importance of finding a better one. The Dutch map illustrating the voyage of Van Neck's fleet in 1598-1600, indicates the route followed.
In 1611 Hendrik Brouwer, a commander of marked ability who subsequently became Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, made a discovery. He found that if, after leaving the Cape, he steered due east for about three thousand miles, and then set a course horth for Java, he had the benefit of favourable winds, which enabled him to finish the voyage in much less time than the old route required. Bouwer wrote to the directors of the Dutch East India Company pointing out that he had sailed from Holland to Java in seven months, and recommending that ships' captains should be instructed to take the same course in future. The directors followed his advice; and from the year 1613 all Dutch commanders were under instructions to follow Brouwer's route.
The bearing of the change on the discovery of the west coast of Australia will be immediately apparent to any one who lances at a map of the southern Indian Ocean. The distance from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Leeuwin in about 4,300 miles. A vessel running eastward with a free wind, and anxious to make the most of it before changing her course northward, would be very likely to sight the Australian coast.
That is precisely what occurred to the shi Rendracht (i.e. Concord). Her captain, Dirk Hartog, run further eastward than Brouwer had advised, reaching Shark's Bay and landing on the island which to this day bears his name. He erectred there a post, and mailed to it a tin plate upon which was engraved the record that on October 25, 1616, the ship Eendracht from Amsterdam had arrived there, and had sailed for Bantam on the 27th. Dirk Hartog's plate was found by Captain Vlaming, of the Dutch ship Geelvink, eighty years later. The post had decayed, but the plate itself was 'unaffected by rain, air, or sun.' Vlaming sent it to Amsterdam as an interesting memorial of discovery, and erected another post and plate in place of it; and Vlaming's plate in turn remained until 1817, when Captain Louis de Freycinet, the commander of a French exploring expedition, took it away with him to Paris.
Dirk Hartog's discovery was recognized by the seamen of his nation as one which conduced to safer navigation. Brouwer's sailing direction had left it indefinite at what point the turn northward should be commenced. But now there was a landmark, and amended instructions were issued to Dutch mariners that they should sail from the Cape between the latitudes of thirty and forty degrees for about four thousand miles until the 'New Southland of the Eendracht' was sighted. 'The land of the Eendracht' - 'TLandt van de Eendrqacht' - that was the first name given by the Dutch to this country; and it so appears upon several early maps of the world published at Amsterdam.
In this way the western coasts of Australia were brought within sight of the regular sailing track of vessels from Europe; and as soon as that occurred the finding of other portions of the coast was only a matter of time. Of course all the captains did not reach the coast at the same spot. Violent winds would sometimes blow a vessel hundreds of miles out of her planned course. both going to and coming from the East Indies ships would discover fresh pieces of coastline in quite a chance manner. Thus, De Wit sailing homeward from Batavia in 1628 in the Vyanen was by headwinds driven aground upon the north-west coast, and had to throw overboard a quantity of pepper and copper, 'upon which through God's mercy she got off again without further damage.' That bit of coast was named 'De Wit's Land.' In 1627 the Golden Seepaart, having on board a high official, Pieter Nuyts, discovered a portion of the southern coast, as far as the islands of St. Peter and St. Francis at the head of the Great Australian Bight, from the southeh-west corner, which was already named Leeuwin's Lande because a ship of that name (Leewin, meaning the Lioness) discovered that particular portion in 1623.
It was during the same period that the first English ship of which there is any record in connexion. With Australia appeared off the coast and met with disaster. Upon a Dutch chart of 1627 is marked a reef north-west of Dirk Hartog's Island, with the information, that the English ship Trial was wrecked there in 1622. (Hier ist Engels Schip de Trial vergaen in Junius I, 1622.') She must have been a vessel of good size, since she carried a company of 133. Forty-six of them were saved in boats which made their way to Batavia, where their arrival on July 5 was reported by the Dutch Governor-General to the managers of the East India CXompany. 'The said ship Trial,' said the report, 'ran on these rocks in the night time in fine weather, without having seen land, and the heavy swells caused the ship to run aground directly, so that it got filled with water. The forty-six persons afore-mentioned put off from her in the greatest disorder with the boat and pinnace each separately, leaving ninety-seven persons in the ship, whose fate is known to God alone.' That was the unfortunate commencement of the acquaintance of the English, with Australia - nearly a century and a half before Captain Cook sailed along the east coast.
In the history of Australian discovery the name of one Dutch navigator stands-pre-eminent. It is that of Abel Tasman. Born in 1603, in a little village whose lush pastures were sheltered behind the dykes of Friesland, he grew up whilst the Hollanders were achieving their well-earned victory over the detested Spaniards. His countrymen were firmly established in the East Indies when he first saw the light; and the Company's service offered excellent opportunities to a well-trained, intelligent young sailor such as he became. Tasman's rise was very speedy. Commencing as an ordinary seaman, within two years he had become the captain of a vessel. There were no more capable men afloat at this time than were the Dutch, and the sharp merchants who directed the East India Company's affairs would not have entrusted one of their ships to any but a first-class navigator. From the rapidity of Tasman's promotion and the special class of work for which he was selected in the East, we may safely infer that he stood out as a keen, bold, trustworthy, and vigorous-minded commander.
It was fortunate for the fame of Tasman that during his career in the Indies the direction of the government there was in the hands of Anthony van Diemen. This most distinguished of the Dutch Governor-Generals attained office in 1636, and held it till 1645. He ruled not only with a desire to remote the strength and profit of the Netherlands in the East, but also with the keenest anxiety to find out what was to be known about the undiscovered lands of the South Seas. The instructions which he issued to the officers whom he employed in this service were marked by ripe wisdom, shrewd business instincts, and a discerning application of such knowledge as had been accumulated by previous investigators. He enjoined 'great circumspection' in the treatment of natives. 'Slight misdemeanours on the part of such natives, such as petty thefts and the like, you will pass unnoticed that by doing so you may draw them unto you, and not inspire them with aversion to our nation. Whoever aspires to discover unknown lands and tribes had need to be patient and longsuffering, nowadays quick to fly out, but always bent on ingratiating himself.' At the same time he did not forget that the managers of the company in Holland looked to him to do more than expand the boundaries of human knowledge. They were commercial people, whose main concern was to make profit. So Van Diemen directed that, if gold and silver were found, and the natives did not understand the value of them, they were to be kept ignorant. 'Appear as if you were not greedy for them, and if gold or silver is offered in any barter you must feign that you do not value those metals, showing them copper, zinc, and lead, as if those metals were of more value with us.'
By 1642, when Tasman was commissioned to command his first voyage of exploration, he had already had nearly ten years of service in the East, and had rendered distinguished service to the nation there. Van Diemen placed two ships under his command, the Heemaskerk and the Zeehaen, and sent with him as pilot Franz Visscher, an experienced officer, who drew u the plan of the voyage. The object of it was to explore with the hope of opening u fresh avenues for trade and of finding a more convenient route to South America, where the Dutch were aiming at the extension of their commerce in defiance of Spain. Sailing from Batavia on August 14, 1642, Tasman's ships made a wide circuit in the Indian Ocean, touching at Mauritius, and then running southward until they encountered tempestuous weather. They reached the high latitude of 49 degrees, when, upon Visscher's advice, Tasman decided to move back again into warmer seas. In latitude 42 they scudded along before westerly gales until, on November 24, the look-out man gave warning of land ahead. They were, in fact, within sight of the country which its discoverer named Van Diemen's Land, and which now bears the name of Tasman himself. His landfall is believed to have been near the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast of the island, within sight of the two mountains which Flinders in 1798 named, after Tasman's ships, Mounts Heemskerk and Zeehaen.
Coasting round the south of the island, Tasman planted the flag of Prince Frederick Henry, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands, as a symbol of taking possession; and on December 4 he sailed east. Nine days later he sighted the west coast of the south island of New Zealand and anchored in Massacre Bay - so called because three of his crew were killed there by Maoris. 'This is the second land we have discovered,' recorded Tasman in his journal; 'it appears to be a very fine country.' His name for it was Staten Land, in honour of the States-General of Holland. To the sea between Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand the discoverer gave the name of Abel Tasman's Passage, in the erroneous belief that New Zealand was part of the Great Southern Continent - the mysterious Terra Australis Incognita - and that this stretch of ocean was simply a strait between it and New Holland. In recent years the British Admiralty has, very appropriately, upon its charts, adopted the name of Tasman Sea for the waters between Australia and New Zealand.
After leaving New Zealand Tasman called into the Pacific, calling at the Friendly Islands, and thence made his way home round by the north coast of New Guinea, reaching Batavia on June 15, 1643, after a voyage of ten months, in which he had achieved discoveries of capital importance.
In a second voyage of 1644 Tasman set out to find a passage between New Guinea and the land to the southward of it, which the Dutch now fully understood to be of vast extent. They did not of course know that Torres had actually been through the passage thirty-eight years before: that was a fact of which they could not be aware. If Tasman could find a strait he was to sail through it, and travel as far as Van Diemen's Land, thence making for the islands of St. Peter and St. Francis, and returning To Batavia by the coast of the Land of the Eenracht. It is evident that if Tasman had accompanied this task, he would have demonstrated Australia to be an island-continent, and the whole mystery about Terra Australis would have been cleared up. but for reasons which are not apparent (the journals of Tasman's 1644 voyage are not extant, so that we do not know what his difficulties were), he did not find the passage, and returned to Batavia in August without penetrating to the Pacific by that route.
After Tasman's voyage the Dutch commenced to use the name New Holland for the land which they believed to comprehend Van Diemen's Land and the entire region north of the Wit's Land; though they had never been upon the east coast.
The great period of Dutch exploration in Australasia ended with Tasman and Van Diemen. There are no names to compare with theirs for breadth of scope and splendour of accomplishment. But a very great piece of work had been done. The Dutch had, by accidental discoveries and by planned investigations, gained a knowledge of the coastline of Australia from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Bight, and had added New Zealand and Van Diemen's Land to the sphere. The map as Tasman left it in 1644 remained practically unaltered until after Cook's voyage in 1770.
DAMPIER AND COOK
The Dutch having achieved so much, how was it that they did not complete the discovery of the whole of Australia? Why did the spirit of investigation which had animated Van Diemen flicker out when he was no more? The great Governor-General died in 1645, the year after Tasman's second voyage. The explorer himself lived on till 1659, but he was not again employed in discovery work, nor did he live to see his own brilliant exploits eclipsed by others of his nation.
The answer is that further voyages of discovery were discouraged by the managers of the East India Company, because they were expensive and did not produce immediate profits. Though the Dutch nation stood at the back of the Company, and though its managers and principal officers were appointed by the Government of the Netherlands, these managers themselves were commercial men. 'Merchants being at the helm, merchandise was accounted a matter of State;' wrote a contemporary.
Indeed, has Van Diemen lived a few months longer, he would have received a letter from the managers administering to him a chilling rebuke for the expense he had already incurred. Voyages to discover new lands did not increase the Company's profits. They coast money, and brought in no return. Van Diemen had hoped to pay for them by discoveries of gold and silver. There was plenty of both in New Holland, Van Diemen's Land, and New Zealand - mountains of silver and shimmering masses of gold, more than Solomon, Croesus, the Pharaohs, and the Grand Mogul together had ever dreamt of. But it had to be found; it was not lying among the pebbles on the beaches; and the black and painted savages who inhabited these countries knew nothing about it. They were not people with whom profitable business could be done. They were too low down in the scale of civilization even for barter. Why, then, bother about these remote and unremunerative countries? asked the commercial gentlemen in Amsterdam. There was sure profit, and plenty of it, to be made out of the nutmegs of Amboyna, the cloves of Ceylon, the rice of India, the pepper of the Moluccas, the cinnamon of Java, the silks of China, and all the other rich merchandise of the abounding East. Discovery was all very well, but it yielded simply nothing per cent.
Van Diemen would perhaps have been very angry - certainly he would have been sorry - if he had read the letter which came from the managers shortly after they received the news of Tasman's voyage of 1644; but he was dead before it reached Java, and was spared the knowledge of this official censure. 'We see that your worships have again taken up the further exploration of the coast of New Guinea in the hopes of discovering silver and gold mines there,' wrote the company. 'We do not expect great things of the continuance of such explorations, which more and more burden the Company's resources, since they require increase of ships and sailors. Enough has been discovered for the Company to carry on trade provided the later be attended with success. We do not consider it part of our task to seek out gold and silver mines for the Company, and, having found such, try and derive profit from the same such things involve a good deal more, demanding excessive expenditure and large numbers of hands. These plans of your worships somewhat aim beyond our mark. The gold and silver mines that will best serve the Company's turn have already been found, which we deem to be our trade over the whole of India.'
There can be no doubt that some of the choice and ardent spirits among the Hollanders, in Europe as well as in the East, deeply regretted this relinquishment of all effort that did not bring in gain. Witsen, the principal director of the Company at the end of the seventeenth century, said in a letter: 'It is money only, not learned knowledge, that our people go out to seek over there, the which is sorely to be regretted.' But he and his like could not change the general disposition of his colleagues and countrymen. For the Dutch, henceforth, New Holland was simply a land which they sighted in voyaging to and from the East Indies. The vast coastline may have excited their curiosity, but did not prompt them to investigate the resources of the country. They never saw the coasts which were most inviting in appearance, those of the south and the east. They only looked upon the west and the north, and carried away impressions of sterility.
In 1688, while King James II was still reigning in England, the shores of Australia received a visit from a company of buccaneers who included an Englishman with a talent for picturesque writing and an inborn love of adventure - William Dampier. He and his companions on the Gygnet (Captain Swan) had been pursuing a career of sheer piracy in the China seas. They had stolen the very ship in which they sailed, and had committed such offences as would have justified the Spaniards, if they had been caught, in giving each of them sufficient rope with a noose at th3e end of it, and sufficient yardarm accommodation, to end their most nefarious courses. But it would have been a pity if Dampier had met with that fate, since it would have deprived posterity of a very delightful book of travels. There were quite good reasons why the Cygnet should for a while get out of the way of ships which might be looking for her; so her company determined to sail to the quiet region of New Holland, 'to see what that country would afford us.'
Dampier's experience of Australia was not considerable on this voyage. The ship dropped anchor on the north-western shore, somewhere near Melville Island, and stayed there for some weeks to enable her to be careened. His picturesque pen gives a lively account of the natives whom he and his companions encountered. It was found to be impossible to 'allure them with toys to a commerce,' nor had they any kind of provisions to supply. There was no valuable plunder to be had here, and the pirates were glad to get away after cleaning the ship, mending the sails, and taking aboard fresh water. Dampier, even on this expedition, showed himself many degrees superior to his companions. He was ever an inquirer, and the making of maps and drawings had a continual fascination for him. 'I drew a draft of this land,' he tells us; but he lost it with other papers when a boat was capsized later.
A very strange mistake was made by Dampier about the name of the Land of the Eendracht, which he found upon Dutch charts. As we have seen, the name was that of a ship. But Dampier, in common with most seamen of his period, believed the legends which were current as to there being coasts of loadstone which mysteriously drew ships towards them. In his first volume of Voyages, therefore, Dampier referred to the fact that 'the Dutch call part of this coast the land of the indraught,' because it 'magically drew ships too fast to it.'
The importance of this first acquaintance of Dampier with Australia lay in the schemes which he evolved as the result of it. When he returned to England he published an account of his travels, which evoked a large amount of interest, and made him a person of some consequence. Leading men of affairs were glad to converse with him, and he used his opportunities to promote a voyage of discovery to New Holland under his own command. He had influential patrons, the Admiralty was convinced that there was advantage in the project, and in 1699 the ship Roebuck was placed at his disposal for the purpose.
In this vessel Dampier made his second and more extensive acquaintance with Australia. He he carried out his original intention of approaching the country by the route round the Horn and through the Pacific, he would have discovered the east coast, and the importance of the Roebuck's voyage would have been enormously increased. But Dampier himself dreaded the cold of the Horn passage - he had been accustomed to warm seas - and his crew grumbled about having to sail that way. So he chose the route round the Cape of Good Hope, which brought him on to the western coasts of the continent, where the Dutch had been before him.
He made land on August 6 at Shark's Bay, which he so named because his men caught and ate shark there - 'and they took care that no waste should be made, but thought it, as things stood, good entertainment.' The description which Dampier gave in the book published after his return was the best account of New Holland made available up to his time. True, he did not find the country in any way attractive. 'If it were not for that sort of pleasure which results from the discovery even of the barrenest spot upon the globe, this coast of New Holland would not have charmed me much.' The natives were utterly repellent. They were black, ugly, fly-blown, blinking creatures, the most unpleasing human beings he had ever encountered, 'though I have seen a great variety savages.'
Dampier was four months on the west and north-west coasts, which he traversed for a thousand miles, but he did not see anything encouraging. Then, 'it being the height of the dry season, and my men growing scorbutic for want of refreshments, so that I had little encouragement to search further, I resolved to have this coast.' The end of the voyage was unfortunate, for the ship, a thoroughly rotten old craft, was wrecked on the way home, and the commander had nothing to repot to the Admiralty that was likely to induce the making of colonization experiments in Australia.
After Dampier, Australia remained in obscurity for nearly three-quarters of a century. The Dutch had no use for it, and the English betrayed no more than a languid curiosity concerning it. A few romancers allowed their imagination to weave fantastic fables about it. The best-known example is that of Swift, who printed a map with Gulliver's Travels showing the position of 'the country of the Houyhnhnms,' where Gulliver was put ashore, corresponding precisely with the south-west coast of Australia. Swift copied his map from Dampier, and makes Gulliver say that he was a cousin of that adventurous buccaneer.
The veil is lifted again by the appearance in these seas of one of the great navigators of history, James Cook.
In the year 1760 there would occur an astronomical event of which the Royal Society of London desired that careful observation should be made. The orbit of the planet Venus would cross the face of the sun, and the phenomenon could be watched in particularly favourable circumstances in the south seas. The Society therefore requested the Admiralty to furnish a ship to go south, equipped with trained observers and instruments, to watch this interesting transit of Venus. he request was granted, a collier called the Earl of Pembroke, 370 tons, was bought for 2,800 pounds, she was renamed the Endeavour Bark, and was refitted for the special service for which she was commissioned.
James Cook, who was selected to command the expedition, had already won the confidence of the Admiralty by some excellent charting work which he had done in the St. Lawrence, at Newfoundland, and at Labrador. His rank in the Navy when he made this famous voyage was lieutenant, though he will always be known as Captain Cook; and the vessel was officially entered as the Endeavour Bark to distinguish her from another ship of the Navy called the Endeavour, though history knows but one of that name. The voyage evoked unusual interest; the pet Goldsmith referred to it in the prologue to a play:
Cook's instructions directed him to sail to Tahiti, in the Pacific, to enable the transit of Venus to be observed, and then 'to prosecute the design of making discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean by proceeding to the south as far as the latitude of 40 degrees.' That meant that he was to search for the supposed Terra Australis Incognita, the great continent which some believed to extend round the pole. If he found no land there, he was to sail to New Zealand, explore it, and then return to England 'by such route as I should think proper.' So that he was not expressly instructed to explore New Holland. He was given a free hand to make such investigations as might seem to him to be advantageous, after completing the specified programme.
The voyage commenced on August 26, 1768, and the transit of Venus was successfully observed on June 1, 1769. It is from that point that cook's movements become historically interesting. He ran south to look for the supposed continent, but, finding no land, made for New Zealand, where he remained, charting and exploring, for nearly six months. Cook demonstrated that that country consisted of two large islands, divided by a strait, and he charted the whole of it, doing this work so well, despite the difficulty of surveying a rough coast from a ship like the Endeavour, that a later French navigator, passing along the coast with Cook's chart in hand, confessed that 'I found it of an exactitude and of a thoroughness of detail which astonished me beyond all power of expression.' His circumnavigation of both islands demolished the theory which many had entertained before his time, that the land discovered by Tasman would be found to be a fragment of a great Antarctic continent.
After leaving New Zealand, on March 31, 1770, Cook decided to sail for the east coast of New Holland, that east coast which the Dutch had never explored, and which was not laid down upon any mariner's chart. Cook knew that there was original work to do there. Obviously, as the west coast of New Holland had been so well known to navigators from the Netherlands, there must be an east coast also. Cook was certainly unaware of the existence of any maps suggesting the possibility that the Portuguese had been upon this coast more than two centuries before. Nor is it true that his discovery was a happy accident, as has sometimes been represented. His own words prove that his purpose was deliberately shaped. He resolved to sail westward from New Zealand 'until we fall in with the east coast of New Holland, and then to follow the direction of that coast to the northward, or what other direction it might take us, until we arrive at its northern extremity.' The plan could hardly have been laid down in clearer terms.
At six o'clock in the morning on Thursday, April 20, Lieutenant Hicks, who was on watch, sighed the coast of New Holland. The date given in Cook's log and journal is April 19, but it must be remembered that, Australia having been approached by sailing west from Europe, round Cape Horn, ship's time was behind Greenwich time, and Cook had not so far made a correction. He did not correct his time till he arrived at Batavia. Moreover, he dated events in the nautical manner of reckoning, and the nautical day began at noon. The date given in his log is therefore a day behind the civil almanac.
There is also some doubt about the exact locality of Cook's Australian landfall. He named the 'southernmost point of land we had in sight,' Point Hicks, because 'Lieutenant Hicks was the first who discovered this country.' But unfortunately Cook stated the latitude and longitude of his Point Hicks incorrectly. He wrote that he 'judged' the point to lie where as a matter of fact there is no land at all, but only open ocean. We have therefore to infer what Cook's Point Hicks was from his descriptive words. The 'southernmost point' in sight of the Endeavour at the time was that which figures on Admiralty charts as Cape Everard.
Rounding Cape Howe, the Endeavour sailed north along the east coast, and on Sunday, April 30 (April 29 by Cook's log) anchored in Botany Bay at three o'clock in the afternoon. There was a tradition in Cook's family that the first to land was his wife's cousin, Isaac Smith, who sailed as a midshipman. the lad went in the boat from the ship to the shore, and as the prow ran up the beach, Cook said, 'Now then, Isaac, you go first.' The name originally given to the place was Stingray Harbour, but afterwards, in consequence of the number of new plants collected by the botanists, it was called Botany Bay; and it appears under that name in Cook's charts. Joseph Banks, who, with the professional botanist Linnaeus wrote that 'the newfound country ought to be called Banksia.' A stay of a week was made in the harbour. The ship then continued her voyage northward, past the entrance to Port Jackson (which was marked down and named after George Jackson, an Admiralty official), and so on for nearly four months of difficult navigation along a totally unknown coast which Cook was confident no European had ever seen before.
Cook did not claim that he accomplished a feat of discovery when he took his ship through Endeavour Strait. The authentic record of Torres' voyage was found in the Spanish archives at Manilla in 1762; but, though Cook had not seen a translation of it at this time, he knew that the matter of the separation of New Guinea was by many regarded as uncertain. So he cautiously wrote that 'as I believe it was known before, but not publicly, I claim no other merit than the clearing up of a doubtful point.' After threading his way through the labyrinth of reefs and islands, and getting into safe water, Cook landed at Possession Island on August 23 (by the log August 22), and 'took possession of the whole eastern coast by the name of New Wales,' or, as he wrote in a letter and as appears in two copies of his journal, 'New South Wales'.
During his next voyage in the Resolution (1772-4) Cook paid another visit to New Zealand, but did not on this occasion approach the coast of Australia. He was inclined to settle the question whether Van Diemen's Land was an island or part of the mainland. but he was deterred from so doing by the advice of Furneaux, the commander of the Adventure, which accompanied him on this voyage. Furneaux had become separated from the Resolution during rough weather, and, in making for Queen Charlotte's Sound, New Zealand, which had been fixed upon as a rendezvous, had actually sailed in the eastern entrance of the strait which divides Australia from Tasmania. But he reported his conviction that New Holland was not divided at that point, and cook, believing him, was deprived of the honour of discovering the southern coasts of Australia, as he would undoubtedly have done had he acted on his own impulse.
The Voyages of Captain Cook were the most popular books of the kind ever published up to his time. The freshness of the scenes described, the wonder of the discoveries made, the fullness and clearness of observation displayed, the vital and attractive personality revealed by the writings, made the volumes delightful for youthful and mature minds alike. They were translated into many languages. Kings and cabin-boys came under their spell. Louis XVI of France and Napoleon the Great read them, in common with poor lads who could only borrow them for a few hours' enchantment. It has often been written that 'discovered Australia,' and the statement is not infrequently repeated nowadays, when there are so many reasons for knowing better. Literally, of course, it is not true; but in a deeper sense it is. The Dutch had indeed found and mapped portions of the continent, but all their reports about it were repellent. Cook's, however, were alluring. He saw the country in what he truly described as a pure state of nature. 'The industry of man has had nothing to do with any part of it, and yet we find all such things as nature hath bestowed upon it in a flourishing state. In this extensive country it can never be doubted gut what most sorts of grain, fruit, roots, etc., of every kind, would flourish were they once brought hither, planted, and cultivated by the hands of industry; and here is provender for more cattle, at all seasons of the year, than ever can be brought into the country.'
So that Cook not only discovered the entire east coast of the continent - and that was a larger piece of geographical discovery, made at one time, than has ever been achieved by one navigator before or since - but he discovered its abounding possibilities as a place for the habitation of civilized mankind. that was the most splendid result of his great voyage of 1770.
THE FOUNDATION OF SYDNEY
Just as the discoveries made by the Dutch upon the west and north coasts of Australia were closely connected with the Reformation in Europe, so the settlement established by the English at Port Jackson in 1788 was related to other events of great importance in world history.
The War of Independence which resulted from the revolt of the American colonies ended in 1783 and it produced two kinds of complications, both of which turned the attention of British ministers to the vast empty continent in the south seas. The first was the question of the American loyalists; of those colonists who had remained faithful to the British connection during the dark days of the war, and were now in dire straits. The triumphant Americans behaved very harshly towards fellow-countrymen who had fought against them. Their property was confiscated, debts owing to them could not be recovered, and thousands of them were driven from the land. The greater number of the loyalists, over 50,000, went to Canada, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies, but many accompanied the British troops to England at the conclusion of the war. Most of these were herded together in utter destitution in which the Government had to face.
The second complication rose out of the unsettlement of the English penal system by the stoppage of the transportation of convicts to America. It had been the regular practice during the eighteenth century to ship large numbers of offenders against the law to the colonies. There was such an eager demand for labour there that contractors were willing to take convicts at no expense to the Government, knowing that they could well them to planters for as much as 20 pounds per head. Between 1717 and the War of Independence at least 50,000 English convicts were received into America. Several colonies protested against the traffic, and their legislatures even passed laws to put an end to it, but in such instances the home Government exercised its power of vetoing colonial statutes.
Now that America had separated from the British Empire this means of disposing of criminals was no longer available. But the English law still prescribed transportation as a punishment, and judges continued to inflict such sentences. The prisons were wholly insufficient to hold the condemned persons. Edmund Burke, speaking in Parliament in 1786, said that the jails were crowded beyond measure. 'There was a house in London which consisted at this time of just 558 members; he did not mean the House of Commons, though the numbers were alike in both, but the jail of Newgate.' Reform in one, he added, would not be less agreeable than reform in the other. Thousands of prisoner were crowded into wretchedly insanitary hulks which were purchased to serve as receptacles. Every month saw more and more sentences of transportation inflicted, more hulks filled with offenders, and still there was no place to which they could be exiled. There were said to be 100,000 persons in England under sentence of transportation. That must have been an exaggeration; but still, the problem was acute. The Government caused an examination to be made of sites in Southwest Africa, where it was suggested that penal settlements might be founded. Some hundreds of convicts were in fact landed in Africa, but the places chosen were simply abodes of plague, pestilence, and famine. Burke eloquently asked the Government how they could reconcile it with justice that persons whom the rigour of the law had spared from death 'should after a mock display of mercy be compelled to undergo it by being sent to a country where they could not live, and where the manner of the death might be singularly horrid; so that the apparent mercy of transporting those wretched people to Africa might with justice be called cruelty - the gallows of England would rid them of their lives in a far less dreadful manner than the climate or the savages of Africa would take them.'
Thus the problem of settling the American loyalists and that of dealing with the convicts occupied the attention of the Cabinet of William Pitt at the same time.
Sir Joseph Burke was the first to make the suggestion that in New Holland could be found a suitable place for a convict settlement. In 1779 he gave evidence before a committee of the House of Commons appointed to consider the convict questions; and then recommended that Botany Bay would be 'best adapted' for the purpose. He remembered Botany Bay with pleasure because of the plants he had collected there. But the Government was too much engaged with other pressing business at that time to set upon the suggestion.
Four years later another man, a Corsican who had been with Cook in the Endeavour, directed attention to the suitableness of Botany Bay with a view of relieving the Government of their second embarrassment. James Maria Matra, in a letter to Lord Sydney, Secretary of State for the House Department, in 1783, pointed out that the distress of the American loyalists might be relieved by sending them out to populate the empty spaces of New Holland. There was plenty of room for them; there was scope for commerce with India, China, and Japan; and they might, under British protection, build up in the south estates and fortunes to replace those of which they had been deprived in America. The subject had been discussed with some of the Americans, who agreed that the proposal offered the most favourable prospects that had yet occurred to promote their happiness.
Lord Sydney had an interview with Matra, and discussed the scheme with him. It would seem that he viewed the convict trouble as more serious than that affecting the loyalists, and Mata saw that he would be more likely to attain the settlement of New Holland by amending his scheme. He therefore added to it a postscript, wherein he pointed out that in New Holland there were abundant possibilities for the founding of a colony for the reception of convicts.
In 1785 Admiral Sir George Young submitted to the Government a detailed plan for the settlement of both loyalists and convicts in New South Wales. The fact that New Holland was such a long distance from Europe appeared to him to be a particularly strong argument in favour of it. He thought that, by sending the convicts there, England would get rid of the 'for ever.'
The failures on the west coast of Africa and the arguments in favour of New Holland induced the Government in 1786 to resolve to make an experiment in this country; and the King's speech to Parliament In January 1787 definitely announced that a plan had been formed for transporting a number of convicts 'in order to remove the inconvenience which arose from the crowded state of the jails in different parts of the kingdom.' About the fate of the loyalists nothing was said. The Government missed the opportunity of conferring advantages upon a number of people who had brought distress upon themselves by following their consciences in supporting a losing side, and at the same time peopling a new country with a stock experienced in colonisation.
It would be pleasant if we could attribute to so great a man as Pitt the vision of a far-seeing Imperial statesmanship in the deciding of this issue; but in truth there is no evidence that he had even a glimmering idea that England was founding a great new nation in the southern seas. He was a practical politician immersed in the problems and perplexities of the hour. One of the vexing questions confronting his Cabinet was that of the disposal of the felons, and the Minister responsible, Lord Sydney, recommended the plan of sending them to New Holland. Pitt assented, and showed just such a measure of interest in the project as the head of a government might be expected to take in a scheme projected by a colleague. Once, in the House of Commons, he apologized for not having furnished some information about transportation which had been asked for on the ground of 'a very great hurry and public business.' On another occasion he defended the scheme because 'in point of expense no cheaper mode of disposing of the convicts could be found.' 'No cheaper mode' - there was no imperial imagination in that; but it was eminently practical. It would have been eternally to Pitt's honour if, remembering he plight of the American loyalists, he had given precedence to their claims, and had heeded the warning of Bacon that 'it is shameful and unblessed thing to take the scum of people and wicked condemned men to be the people with whom you plant.' But he was not consciously planting a colony so much as disposing of a difficulty. Yet, if we estimate the importance of political things by their endurance, their ultimate value, their large and expanding effect upon human affairs, the founding of New South Wales was the most important of all the policies taken in hand by Pitt's government at this time. Out of the settlement authorized in 1785 grew the Commonwealth of Australia.
It is very remarkable that, even after the new colony had been founded, the Government had not entirely abandoned the sending of convicts elsewhere. It had not apparently made up its mind that botany Bay was to be the only receptacle. The correspondence of Grenville, Pitt's Foreign Minister, contains a letter written by him as late as November 1789, wherein he said (Dropmore Papers, vol. 1. p. 543); 'The landing convicts in the territories of the United States, even if the masters of the ships perform their contracts for so doing, is an act highly offensive to a country now foreign and independent; and as such very improper for this Government to authorize. And it is, besides, an act of extreme cruelty to the convicts, who, being turned ashore without any of the necessaries of life, are either left to starve, or (as has sometimes been the case) are massacred by the inhabitants. And as to transporting to the King's American colonies, you may depend upon it that, after the example set them by Admiral Milbanke, none of our governors will suffer any of these people to be landed in their governments.' The case referred to by Grenville related to the sending of eighty Irish convicts to Newfoundland, where the Governor, Milbanke, refused to allow them to land, ignoring an Irish Act of Parliament of 1786 which authorized the sending of convicts to America or to such place out of Europe as should be appointed. The significant fact is that these Irish convicts were sent to Newfoundland after the new colony in Australia had been established.
Arthur Phillip, a captain in the Navy, was selected to be the first Governor of New South Wales, the limits of which were stated by his commission to extend from Cape York to the southern extremity of the country, and westward as far as the 135th degree of longitude. The territory thus defined embraced about one-half of the continent, and it did not include any of the western portion which the Dutch had named New Holland. Indeed, at this time it was not known that the country would be found dividing New Holland from New South Wales. The Government may well have considered that they were acting with caution in placing the western boundary of the colony at the 135th degree. There was no desire as yet to appropriate the whole of Australia.
On May 13, 1787, the 'First Fleet' sailed from England. It consisted of the Sirius, the Supply, three store ships, and six transports carrying the convicts' eleven vessels in all. Phillip arrived in botany Bay on January 18, 1788, and two days later the whole of the shiips were safely at anchor there. The total company which arrived was over 1,000. The staff of officers, marines, and extra hands, with women and children, numbered 290, and the convicts who reached Botany Bay were 717, of whom 520 were males. This was the stock with which the new colony was settled.
An examination of Botany Bay speedily convinced Phillip that the place was unsuitable. The openness of the bay, the inferior quality of the soil, and the swamps with which the coastal land was surrounded, would have made settlement there unsuccessful. Phillip therefore determined to go north and inspect Port Jackson, the harbour which Cook had marked down upon his chart, but had not entered. There his seaman's eye was delighted with the prospect, and his administrative intelligence perceived that the required conditions were fully met. He found what he described as 'the finest harbour in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security,' and a deep cove in proximity of Lord Sydney; and it became for many years to come the place of exile of many thousands of offenders who, as the post Campbell wrote, were 'doom'd the long isles of Sydney Cove to see.' A little later Phillip found a place which he considered worthy to bear the name of the Prime Minister. To the north of Port Jackson he entered Broken Bay, and there looked upon 'the finest piece of water I ever saw, and which I honoured with the name of Pittwater.'
The position chosen by Phillip was in every way worthy of the enthusiastic praise which he bestowed upon it. It lay upon the south side of a great sheet of water, which, broken into many deep and sheltered bays, and surrounded by timbered terraces, was beautiful to the eye, and offered illimitable scope as a seat of commerce. The shores had a deep-water frontage of 200 miles. In 'the dark backward and abysm of time' it had been the estuary of a river flowing into the ocean many miles east of the present coastline, but the sinking of the floor of the sea in the course of ages had brought it to its present level, and made it a many-fronded harbour.
While the First Fleet was lying at anchor in Botany Bay, just after the return of the Governor from Port Jackson, two strange vessels were seen approaching. Their appearance around much curiosity. Some thought they might be Dutchmen prepared to dispute the landing of the British, and speculated as to whether there would have to a fight. Phillip guessed that they were French exploring ships under the command of the Comte de Laperouse, and he proved to be right. He was at that time, on the morning of January 24, making plans for transferring his whole company to the site which he had chosen at Sydney Cove, and did not consider it expedient to wait for the strangers, but hurried off to complete his preparations.
Laperouse brought his two vessels into Botany Bay, and came to anchor there just as Captain Hunter of the Sirius, whom Phillip had left in charge, was sailing out. The reason for the visit of the French to Botany Bay is quite clear from the letters and journals of Laperouse. He had been pursuing discovery work in the Pacific, and at one of the islands of the Samoa group two boats' crews had met with disaster. They had all been massacred by natives, and the longboats had been smashed. Laperouse carried in the holds of his ships the frames and planks of two new boats, and desired to find a quiet harbour where he could fit them together. He wished to avoid a landing at any South Sea island where natives might be encountered, because his men were very angry about the loss of their companions, and if there had been another encounter, with loss of life, he would have been left with insufficient strength for the manning of both his ships, and would have been compelled to beach and destroy one of them. Having been a close student of the voyages of Cook, he remembered that navigator's description of Botany Bay, and decided to go there and build his new longboats. The idea that Laperouse entertained any intention of claiming the place for the French, or of founding a settlement anywhere, is pure fable. The French remained in botany Bay till March 10, on excellent terms with the British officers who visited them, and then sailed again into the Pacific, to meet their death upon the coral reefs of Vanicoro.
On January 26 Phillip unfurled the British flag at Sydney with simple ceremony, the King's health was drunk, and work began. The process of clearing the ground and erecting shelters was taken in hand with the utmost vigour. The governor himself, while the work progressed, lived in a small canvas house which was neither wind nor water proof. The officers, marines, and convicts camped in tents made principally from old sail-cloth which had been brought from England for the purpose. Spaces were cleared for the sowing of corn, trees were cut down for the building of wooden huts, stores were landed from the ships, labour was organized for shaping a disciplined community out of fractious elements and replacing wild forest and scrub with a planned, orderly township. On February 8 the governor's commission was read, and he took the oaths required by law before an assemblage of the whole population, civil, military, and convicts. One of the oaths which he was required to take was that abjuring the Pretender. This was the last occasion when there was any need for it to be taken, for Charles Edward Stuart had died on January 31, 1788, a week before Phillip solemnly abjured him and his claims to the British throne.
To few men has been given so great an opportunity as that which fell to Arthur Phillip. He was the founder of a new European State in a land where civilized man had never lived before. There was not one among all the subjects of King George III whose place in history was more assured than his. The ambition to live in the memory of posterity for ages is common among mankind. Monuments of bronze and marble, public bequests and endowments, gifts and foundations, are favourite modes of cheating oblivion; and the age in which this history was being worked out saw many great reputations made and many efforts to perpetuate fame by various means. But who amongst them all did a piece of work to compare with Phillip's? And who amongst them all overcame such difficulties with such imperfect material, and reaped so small a material reward?
The difficulties arose chiefly from the character of the men with whom he had to work, and the irregularity and insufficiency of the supplies while the infant colony was dependent upon outside resources. The very defects which had made many of the convicts offenders against the law at home made them a wretchedly inefficient stock with which to found a colony. They were lazy and i8ncapable. 'Numbers of them have been brought up from their infancy in such indolence that they would stave if left to themselves,' Phillip reported. As more convicts were sent out he had to complain that the healthy and those who were masters of trades were retained in English prisons, whilst the useless were transported. 'The sending out of the disordered and helpless clears the jails and may ease the parishes from which they are sent,' Phillip wrote, 'but it is obvious that this settlement, instead of being a colony which is to support itself, will, if the practice be continued, remain for years a burden to the mother-country.' He laboured to encourage his colonists to reform by granting liberal concessions to the deserving; and he pleaded with the Government to send out also honest, intelligent settlers, whose example might act as an incentive. 'We shall want some good characters to whom these people might look up.'
The difficulty as to supplies was constant during the first few years of settlement. The colony was dependent upon provisions sent from England, and a mishap to a single supply ship meant imminent starvation. There were times when the labourers complained of hunger when called forth to their work. In March 1792 Phillip stated that his community had been on a reduced ration since November 1789, a period of over two years; and if a ship became overdue, people were alarmed at the prospect of supplies failing. At another time he had to send 200 to Norfolk Island - where a settlement had been founded in 1788 - to relieve the pressure upon the resources of Sydney. The live stock in the beginning increased very slowly; many cattle died from disease; ands and field-mice ate the seed-corn; the rice went bad, but had to be eaten nevertheless. During times of distress Phillip added his own private store of provisions to the common stock, and did not permit himself to receive more than the ordinary ration which was received by all alike.
Moreover, with the menace of positive starvation stretching its shadow over the settlement, with wretched human material to use, with the feeling which must have been often with him that the home Government looked upon Sydney as little better than a rubbish-tip, Phillip not only never lost heart, but never wavered in his view of the essential nobility of the mission. Others might despair of the future of the colony; he never did. One of his officers wrote that it would be cheaper 'to feed the convicts on turtle and venison at the London Tavern than to be at the expense of sending them here." But we never find that note struck in Phillip's letters and despatches. For him, there was no doubt of the future. At the end of a despatch wherein he had had to chronicle the loss of cattle, convlicts with savages insufficiency of food, illness among the the convicts, and even earthquake, he trumpeted his conviction as to the future: 'Nor do I doubt but that this country will prove the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever made.' 'I am serving my country and serving the cause of humanity,' he said in another despatch.
Apart from the occupation of Norfolk Island there was a little extension of settlement during Phillip's governorship. The first township out of Sydney was established at Parramatta, at first called Rose Hill, where farming was encouraged and the experiment was tried of placing industrious convicts on land with the promise that if they behaved well, free grants should be made to them.
Before Phillip resigned office he had the satisfaction of seeing close upon 2,000 acres of land under cultivation at Parramatta. Indeed, the soil along the Parramatta River was so good that he acknowledged that, if he had seen it when first looking for a site, he might have been induced to make the main settlement there.
Late in 1792, just as he saw the colony approaching to a state of self-dependence in the production of the necessaries of life, ill-health compelled Phillip to resign his governorship and return to England. He left in December of that year, hoping to be able to resume the work at a later date. But he did not see Sydney Cove again, and he died at Bath in 1814, slipping out of life so quickly that his burial-place was not discovered till over eighty years afterwards.