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FRom The Month LY REview.
The present Picture of Mew South Wales; illustrated with Four large coloured Views, from Drawings taken on the Spot, of Sydney, the Seat of Government: with a Plan of the Celony, taken from actual Survey by public Authority. Including the present State of Agriculture and Trade, Prices of Provisions and Labour, internal Regulations, State of Society and Manners, &c., with Hints for the further Improvement of the Settlement. By D. D. Mann, many Years Resident in several Official Situations. 4to. pp.99. Price, with the Plates, 31. 13s.6d.; without the Plates, 15s. Booth. 1811.
WE had occasion, many years ago, to express our doubts of the policy of forming a settlement for transported culprits in New South Wales. Subsequent experience has unhappily given confirmation to our apprehensions; and in the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons in the last Session, on the subject of penitentiary houses, as well as from the language of the speakers in the debates during the present Session, it appears to be taken for granted that transportation beyond the seas will not long continue a favourite mode of punishment. With respect to general interest, however, the settlement at New South Wales may be said to gain as much in one way as it will lose in another. Its agriculture and population are in a state of progressive increase ; its resources in provisions have now become abundant; and after the lapse of twenty years a new and a better generation is taking the place of the lawless set which preceded it. Mr. Mann's publication, though much inferior in clearness and method to those of Lieutenant Colonel Collins and Governor Hunter, has the advantage of bringing down the history of the colony to so late a date as 1809, and is the fruit of ten years's residence on the spot. His official employment, though of a subordinate kind, led him into mixed intercourse with the inhabitants, and into a field of considerable observation; circumstances of no small import, in a quarter in which the progress of change is too rapid to make a reference to former authorities the ground-work of description. His book is of value, therefore as a table of materials; and higher praise will scarcely be expected, after we have pronounced that it is wholly deficient in arrangement, and replete with ridiculous extravagancies of style.
Though Mr. Mann saw the colony at a later period and under more favourable auspices than Colonel Collins, he finds it necessary to make similar acknowledgements of the prevalence of vice, and of the subsequent impediments to public prosperity. The corrupt character of the prisoners, the disputes with the natives, and for several years the occasional pressure of want, were serious drawbacks on the progress of the settlement. The majority of the convicts were of a disposition neither to be meliorated by lenity nor terrified by severity; and hardened in crimes, they made even the poor and miserable natives the dupes of their knavery: a conduct which led at first to distrust and reserve, but subsequently to severe retaliation, several of the convicts being found murdered in the woods. Labour, being the result only of compulsion, advanced slowly, and an alarm of want appeared rather to retard than accelerate the exertions of these disorderly characters. Among other instances of inattention, was the loss, for several years, of the stock of bulls and cows which was originally brought over from England. They were suffered by the carelessness of the keeper to stray into the woods; and every subsequent search for them proved ineffectual until seven years after the settlement of the colony, when a fine and numerous herd of wild cattle was discovered in the interior of the country, evidently the progeny of the imported animals. The protection and increase of this wild herd then became a matter of public concern, because it would prove a valuable resource in the day of need.—Prisons were soon found necessary in the colony: but two buildings of this description, constructed of wood, were wilfully burned, and others of a more durable composition were rendered indispensable. After the year 1796, various marks of amelioration became apparent; and the natives, gradually more reconciled to the new comers, consented to commence an intercourse which was productive, in a limited degree, of mutual advantage. The stock of cattle had by this time greatly increased, and the apprehension of famine had vanished in consequence of the extended cultivation. These fair prospects, however, were endangered in the year 1800, by the seditious conduct of a number of Irish convicts recently arrived, who were impatient to disseminate among the earlier prisoners the chimaeras of their distempered minds:—but the vigilance of Governor Hunter fortunately prevented an explosion; and that valuable officer was enabled to leave the colony at the end of the year, in a very different state from that in which he had found it in 1795. At his departure, the number of settlers, convicts, and others, had increased to 6000; the land under corn-culture exceeded 7000 acres; the stock of sheep was 6000; of goats 2000; and of cattle about 12OO. The succeeding year, 1801, was marked by a recurrence of a calamity which had visited the colony in its earlier years, the overflowing of the river Hawkesbury. Along continuance of rain, in the mountainous ridges which overlook the channel of the river, sufficient to carry its waters to the extraordinary height of sixty or seventy feet above their accustomed level; an inundation which sweeps flocks, herds, and buildings, from its ill-fated borders:—but an evil of still more extensive mischief to the colonists arose from their rooted habits of intoxication. Spirits are bought up with extraordinary rapidity, even though the general price from the retailer is between ten and sixteen shillings a bottle; and when they are scarce and prohibited, the price has been known to rise to thirty shillings a bottle. This destructive vice is as prevalent among the female as among the male convicts. Wine has hitherto been less in demand: but, if the rage for luxury continues to increase as it has lately done, it must soon obtain an enhanced price. Its substitution might give a milder character to this ruinous and obstinate habit, and undermine by slow degrees that which it has been found inpracticable to exterminate. Hitherto, it has been in vain for the higher orders to set an example of temperance; and the prohibitions of the sale of liquor have had but a limited effect. Threats, intreaties, and punishments, have all been employed; yet, while spirits are to be procured, every comfort of life is sacrificed to obtain them. The profit attendant on the sale of this poison is such as to distract the inhabitants from the pursuit of other occupations; and many farms have been abandoned in order that the owners might devote themselves to this alluring traffic. Its prosecution has also led to many pecuniary frauds, the most notorious of which is the custom of indorsing notes of hand without any valuable consideration; a practice which had proved a source of endless lawsuits.—Next to drinking, the most prevalent vice among the lower class of prisoners is gaming. In some cases, after the loss of everything else, the most abandoned of them have been known to stake the clothes which they wore, and to reduce themselves to a state of nudity. It is painful to add that (p. 11. 36.) examples of the crime of murder still occur, under circumstances as horrific as during the residence of Colonel Collins. In the scanty number of reclaimed convicts, the noted George Barrington holds a conspicuous place. He conducted himself during his residence in the colony with great propriety, filling the station of chief constable at Paramatta, and acquiring money by industry. His death took place nearly seven years ago: but for a considerable time previously he was in a state of insanity, produced it is believed, by serious and sorrowful reflections on his early career of iniquity. He expressed, in his lucid intervals, great displeasure at his name being affixed to the fictitious narrative of his life; and his death was that of a sincere Christian. One of the most effectual punishments in the case of theft is to transport the delinquent to a remote branch of the settlement: The dread of a separation from old connextions, and a removal to a solitary scene, are found to make a more powerful impresVOL. VIII. 2 P
sion on the minds of these misguided creatures, than the prospect of corporeal punishment. Those prisoners who have been brought up to a business at home generally resume it in the colony; and labourers are employed either in gangs at public work, or by settlers in the cultivation of land. Their irons are knocked off on their arrival, except in some extraordinary cases; and they are ordered to work in whatever part of the settlement the governor deems proper.—Though the morals of the colony are, on the whole, in an improving state, it has been found impracti. cable to permit the use of a theatre. Those who choose to partake of this amusement, leaving their property unwatched, generally found, on their return home, that it had undergone a sensible diminution; and the lower order of convicts, when they had no money, were in the habit of giving provisions to obtain entrance: so that, by the frequent privations of their regular food, they were unable to pursue their labour with proper exertion. The governor was accordingly obliged to recall the licence of performing, and the play-house itself was soon levelled to the ground.
Of the inveteracy of bad habits in some of these men, a remarkable example is afforded in the case (p. 12.) of one Samuels, who had been convicted of a burglary, and sentenced to be hanged. When he was suspended, the rope happened to break in the middle, and the criminal fell prostrate on the ground; on a second attempt, the cord unrove at the fastening; and on a third, a new accident occured to delay his being launched into eternity. The provost-marshal, affected with the scene, represented the case to the governor, who was pleased to extend mercy to the prisoner: but neither terror nor clemency was sufficient to reclaim him; he persisted in his dishonest career, was removed to a distant part, and finally lost his life in an attempt to escape from the colony.
#. climate of the settlement, although variable, is favourable both for health and vegetation. The weather in spring and autumn resembles that of our summer, and the atmosphere is, in general, remarkably bright and clear. Frost is little known, and snow is seen only on the lofty mountains which form the boundary of the colony towards the interior. The woods and fields present a boundless variety of the choice productions of nature, while the branches of the trees display a brilliant assemblage of the feathered race. The shrubs and plants, are all evergreens; and geraniums flourish in such abundance as to be made, in various quarters, into hedges, emitting a delightful smell. Coals are found in a district which has been aptly termed Newcastle. March and April are the months recommended for the sowing of wheat; November aud December are the seasons of harvest.
In December, the stubble ground is frequently planted with maize, so as to afford two crops in one year: but the policy of thus forcing the soil is very questionable. As to fruit, strawberries are said to grow in perfection; melons are very large and plentiful; and the pines far exceed in size those of England. The colony possesses, likewise, some mineralogical treasures; the topazes being accounted of much greater worth than those which are produced in Brazil. With respect to animals, two have been found, since the publication of the work which has so ably illustrated the natural history of the colony, that deserve to be mentioned, namely the Koolah, of the Opossum species, and a kind of Hyaena. The Koolah, after it has ascended a tree, newer quits it until it is completely cleared of the leaves; and the natives easily discover the animal by observing the gum-tree stripped, the leaves of which are its favourite food. The Hyaena is not less ferocious than its species in other countries, but has hitherto confined its ravages to sheep and poultry, without venturing to attack the settlers. Both animals have a false belly; a characteristic which is common to them with a number of subjects that are found in New Holland. Though no longer in a state of war with the settlers, the natives continue to carry on frequent hostilities among themselves. They are a cruel and disgusting race, and are ready to commit depredations on the corn of the settlers whenever they have a prospect of success. It becomes frequently necessary to send detachments of military to disperse them: but the utmost care is taken to prevent any fatal consequences from attending these acts of requisite vigour; and the soldiers are directed by all means to avoid firing. No allurements can tempt them to exchange the irregularities of savage life for the comforts of civilized society. A native who was brought home by Governor Philip, and sent out again after a residence of some time in England, assumed, for a short period, the dress and manner of an European: but, in spite of every intreaty, he has again taken to the woods. Little aid has been derived, in the labours of the colony, from the co-operation of the natives; their industry seldom leading them farther than to assist in hauling the fish-nets, in order that they may obtain an immediate recompense by sharing in the draught. They are amazingly expert at throwing the spear, and will launch it with unerring aim to a distance of between thirty and sixty yards. The importance of living in peace with the neighbours of the colony may be appreciated by do sanguinary rencounters which are still found to occur in remote quarters. In April 1808, the Fly, a colonial vessel, being driven into Bateman's Bay, sent three of her crew on shore for water. It was agreed previously to their departure, that, in case of any assemblage of natives be