When it is recollected how much has been written to describe the Settlement
of New South Wales, it seems necessary if not to offer an apology,
yet to assign a reason, for an additional publication.
The Author embarked in the fleet which sailed to found the establishment
at Botany Bay. He shortly after published a Narrative of the Proceedings
and State of the Colony, brought up to the beginning of July, 1788,
which was well received, and passed through three editions. This could not
but inspire both confidence and gratitude; but gratitude, would be
badly manifested were he on the presumption of former favour to lay claim
to present indulgence. He resumes the subject in the humble hope
of communicating information, and increasing knowledge, of the country,
which he describes.
He resided at Port Jackson nearly four years: from the 20th of January, 1788,
until the 18th of December, 1791. To an active and contemplative mind,
a new country is an inexhaustible source of curiosity and speculation.
It was the author's custom not only to note daily occurrences, and to inspect
and record the progression of improvement; but also, when not prevented by
military duties, to penetrate the surrounding country in different directions,
in order to examine its nature, and ascertain its relative geographical
The greatest part of the work is inevitably composed of those materials which
a journal supplies; but wherever reflections could be introduced without
fastidiousness and parade, he has not scrupled to indulge them, in common with
every other deviation which the strictness of narrative would allow.
When this publication was nearly ready for the press; and when many
of the opinions which it records had been declared, fresh accounts from
Port Jackson were received. To the state of a country, where so many anxious
trying hours of his life have passed, the author cannot feel indifferent.
If by any sudden revolution of the laws of nature; or by any fortunate
discovery of those on the spot, it has really become that fertile
and prosperous land, which some represent it to be, he begs permission
to add his voice to the general congratulation. He rejoices at its success:
but it is only justice to himself and those with whom he acted to declare,
that they feel no cause of reproach that so complete and happy an alteration
did not take place at an earlier period.
A Retrospect of the State of the Colony of Port Jackson,
on the Date of my former Narrative, in July, 1788.
Previous to commencing any farther account of the subject, which I am about
to treat, such a retrospection of the circumstances and situation
of the settlement, at the conclusion of my former Narrative, as shall lay
its state before the reader, seems necessary, in order to connect
the present with the past.
The departure of the first fleet of ships for Europe, on the
14th of July, 1788, had been long impatiently expected; and had filled us
with anxiety, to communicate to our friends an account of our situation;
describing the progress of improvement, and the probability of success,
or failure, in our enterprise. That men should judge very oppositely
on so doubtful and precarious an event, will hardly surprise.
Such relations could contain little besides the sanguineness of hope,
and the enumeration of hardships and difficulties, which former accounts
had not led us to expect. Since our disembarkation in the preceding January,
the efforts of every one had been unremittingly exerted, to deposit
the public stores in a state of shelter and security, and to erect habitations
for ourselves. We were eager to escape from tents, where a fold of canvas,
only, interposed to check the vertic beams of the sun in summer,
and the chilling blasts of the south in winter. A markee pitched,
in our finest season, on an English lawn; or a transient view of those
gay camps, near the metropolis, which so many remember, naturally draws forth
careless and unmeaning exclamations of rapture, which attach ideas
of pleasure only, to this part of a soldier's life. But an encampment
amidst the rocks and wilds of a new country, aggravated by the miseries
of bad diet, and incessant toil, will find few admirers.
Nor were our exertions less unsuccessful than they were laborious.
Under wretched covers of thatch lay our provisions and stores, exposed to
destruction from every flash of lightning, and every spark of fire.
A few of the convicts had got into huts; but almost all the officers,
and the whole of the soldiery, were still in tents.
In such a situation, where knowledge of the mechanic arts afforded
the surest recommendation to notice, it may be easily conceived,
that attention to the parade duty of the troops, gradually diminished.
Now were to be seen officers and soldiers not "trailing the puissant pike"
but felling the ponderous gum-tree, or breaking the stubborn clod.
And though "the broad falchion did not in a ploughshare end" the possession
of a spade, a wheelbarrow, or a dunghill, was more coveted than the most
refulgent arms in which heroism ever dazzled. Those hours, which
in other countries are devoted to martial acquirements, were here consumed
in the labours of the sawpit, the forge and the quarry*.
[* "The Swedish prisoners, taken at the battle of Pultowa,
were transported by the Czar Peter to the most remote parts of
Siberia, with a view to civilize the natives of the country, and
teach them the arts the Swedes possessed. In this hopeless situation,
all traces of discipline and subordination, between the different
ranks, were quickly obliterated. The soldiers, who were husbandmen
and artificers, found out their superiority, and assumed it:
the officers became their servants." VOLTAIRE.]
Of the two ships of war, the 'Sirius' and 'Supply', the latter was incessantly
employed in transporting troops, convicts, and stores, to Norfolk Island;
and the 'Sirius' in preparing for a voyage to some port, where provisions
for our use might be purchased, the expected supply from England not