British Colonisation of Australia—The "first fleet" despatched—
Biographical notice of Captain Arthur Phillip—The landing at Botany Bay, and the transfer of the settlement to Sydney Cove.
The publication of the narratives of Cook's voyages excited great interest in England ; and when, a few years afterwards, the result of the American War of Independence closed the plantations of Virginia against the reception of transported offenders, the government were compelled to look out for a place to which might be sent some of the prisoners who then filled the gaols of Great Britain to overflowing. Under these circumstances no spot in the world seemed so suitable as the shores of that bay, on the eastern coast of Australia, of which Cook had given so favourable an account. There it was accordingly determined to form a
settlement. The execution of the project was, however, delayed for several years, and
it was not until 1786 that the British Government proceeded to carry out its in-
tention of planting a colony on the remote
shores of the Pacific.
Orders in Council for establishing a settlement in New South Wales were issued on the 6th December, 1786, and early in the following year the ships were prepared, and officers selected, for carrying the plan into effect. The Isle of Wight was appointed as a rendezvous for the fleet, con- sisting of eleven sail. The names of the vessels were the Sirius, frigate; the Supply, armed tender ; the Golden Grove, Fishburn, and Barrowdale, storeships ; and the Scar- borough, Lady Penrhyn, Friendship, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, and Alexander, transports. The officers of the new colony were Captain Arthur Phillip, who was styled Governor and Commander-in- Chief of New South Wales; Major Robert Ross, Lieutenant Governor ; Richard John- son, chaplain ; Andrew Miller, commissary ; David Collins, Judge Advocate; John Long, adjutant; James Furzer, quartermaster; John White, surgeon ; Thomas Arndell and William Balmain, assistant-surgeons ; John Hunter, Captain of the Sirius; Lieutenant H. L. Ball, in command of the Supply ; Lieu- tenant John Shortland, agent for transports. The garrison consisted of 200 marines, with the following officers :—Captains Campbell, Shea, Meredith, and Tench ; Lieutenants Johnston, Collins, Kellow, Morrison, Clarke, Faddy, Cresswell, Poulden, Sharp, Davey, and Timmins. The persons under their charge, who were to remain in the settle- ment, were, besides the 200 soldiers, forty
of whom were allowed to take their wives
and families, 81 free persons and 696 con- victs. The founders of the colony therefore
consisted of one free person to every two prisoners. The precise number of people embarked was 1044, viz.—Civil officers, 10 ; military, including officers, 212; wives and families of military, (28 women and 17 children,) 45 ; other free persons, 81; total free persons, 348 ; prisoners, 696.
Of this number 1030 were safely landed in the colony. The exact proportion of the sexes among them is not known. The females were probably less than three hun- dred in number, of whom twenty-eight were wives of the military and one hundred and ninety-two convicts. The prisoners were mostly young persons from the agricultural districts of England, nine-tenths of them being natives of the south-western and mid- land counties. Very few had been convicted
of serious crimes. Out of the whole six
hundred and ninety-six, only fifty-five were sentenced for longer periods than seven
years, and the sentences of a large number would expire within two or three years after their landing.
The statements respecting the prisoners embarked in the "first fleet" vary so much as to occasion some difficulty in ascertain- ing their precise numbers. These variations
probably arose from the fact that all on
board the several vessels who did not belong to the marines or the crews—who were
neither soldiers nor sailors—appear to have
been included in some returns as belonging to the transports or convicts. This, how- ever, was not the case, for although many of the free persons were probably the wives or children of prisoners, who were allowed to accompany their husbands or fathers into exile, there were others who went out in the situation of overseers, agricultural superintendents, and other
offices of trust.
It must be confessed that the materials were not the best that could be selected for founding a new colony. But it should be
remembered that at this time the laws of England were administered with extreme
severity. Never, perhaps, in the history of the world were criminals so severely pun- ished for comparatively trifling offences as at this time. Capital convictions and ex- ecutions were so frequent as to excite little attention ; while the gaols were crowded with prisoners, large numbers of whom had never been accused of anything worse than poaching or smuggling, and many were suffering for political offences which in the
present day the most despotic government
in the world would hardly have thought deserving of notice. The convicts of 1788 must not therefore, on the whole, be looked
upon as so utterly depraved a class as the murderers, garotters, and robbers, who are transported in the present day. A century ago most of those who are now transported would have been hanged. It is also an
undoubted fact, that some of the most
flourishing colonies of the world, both in ancient and modern times, have grown from what appeared at first equally unfavour- able beginnings. Virginia, one of Britain's earliest and most successful attempts at colo- nisation, is a remarkable instance of this. Robertson, in his History of America, speaking of the persons who formed the settlement there under Lord Delaware, says : —" Several among them of better rank were such dissipated hopeless young men, as their friends were glad to send out in quest of whatever fortune might betide them in a foreign land. Of the lower order many were so profligate or desperate, that their country was happy to throw them out as nuisances in society. All their subsistence was derived from the stores which they had brought from England ; these were soon
consumed ; then the domestic animals sent
out to breed in the country were devoured; and, by this inconsiderate waste, they were reduced to such extremity of famine as not only to eat the most nauseous roots and berries, but to feed on the bodies of the Indians whom they slew, and even on those of their companions who sunk under the oppression of such complicated distress." The number of convicts transported to Virginia in the early days of that colony was very large in proportion to the whole population ; although neither as regards Virginia in particular nor the American plantations in general of the seventeenth century, have we any means of ascertaining with anything like exactness the precise proportions between the prisoners and the
free colonists. But we know that for upwards of a century and a half, great numbers of convicts were annually sent across the Atlantic, most of whom were sold to the planters for a term of years or for life ; and it is notorious that, for a con- siderable period, England derived a large revenue—amounting to more than £40,000 a year at times—from this source. The con- victs were sold to the planters at an average of twenty pounds each. Many persons transported to Virginia ultimately rose to positions of wealth and influence, and not a few of the leading families of the " old Dominion" owe their origin to ancestors who left their country under the sentence of
Captain Arthur Phillip, the officer chosen for the important duty of founding a settle- ment in a new world, was of German extraction, but born and educated in England. His father was Joseph Phillip, a native of Frankfort, who, after coming to England, maintained his family by teaching music and languages. Captain Phillip, who entered the navy at sixteen years of age, and served with some distinc- tion, appears to have been eminently qualified for the post to which he was appointed. He was not a mere sailor, for, although he had adopted that as a profession in early life, he had afterwards paid much attention to agriculture, and had filled with far more than average ability the duties which usually fall to the lot of English country gentlemen. The following short biographical sketch of Captain Phillip is prefixed to the earlier editions of his voyage to New South Wales :—
"Arthur Phillip is one of those officers who, like Drake, Dampier, and Cook, has raised himself by his merit and his services, to distinction and command. His father
was Jacob Phillip, a native of Frankfort, in Germany, who having settled in England, maintained his family and educated his son by teaching the languages. His mother was Elizabeth Breach, who married, for her first husband, Captain Herbert of the navy,
a kinsman of Lord Pembroke. Of her
marriage with Jacob Phillip, was her son, Arthur, born in the parish of Allhallows, Bread-street, within the city of London, on the 17th of October, 1738.
"Being designed for a seafaring life, he was very properly sent to the school of Greenwich, where he received an education suitable to his early propensities. At the age of sixteen, he began his maritime career, under the deceased Captain Michael Everet of the navy, at the commencement of hostilities, in 1755 : and at the same time that he learnt the rudiments of his
profession under that able officer, he partook with him in the early misfortunes and sub- sequent glories of the seven years' war. Whatever opulence Phillip acquired from the capture of the Havannah, certain it is, that, at the age of twenty-three, he there was made a Lieutenant into the Stirling Castle, on the 7th of June, 1761, by Sir George Pococke, an excellent judge of naval accomplishments.
"But of nautical exploits, however they may raise marine officers, there must be an end. Peace, with its blessings, was restored in 1763. And Phillip now found leisure to marry ; and to settle at Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, where he amused himself with farming, and like other country gentlemen, discharged assiduously those provincial offices, which, however unimportant, occupy respectably the owners of land, who, in this island, require no office to make them import-
"But sailors, like their own element, are seldom at rest. Those occupations, which pleased Phillip while they were new, no longer pleased him when they became
familiar. And he hastened to offer his skill
and his services to Portugal when it engaged in warfare with Spain. His offer was readily accepted, because such skill and services were necessary amidst an arduous struggle with a too powerful opponent. And, such was his conduct and such his success, that when the recent interference of France, in 1778, made it his duty to fight for his king, and to defend his country, the Portuguese court regretted his departure, but applauded
" His return was doubtless approved by those who, knowing his value, could advance
his rank: for he was made master and
commander into the Basilisk fireship, on the 2nd of September, 1779. But in her he had little opportunity of displaying his zeal, or of adding to his fame. This step, however, led him up to a higher situation ; and he was made post-captain into the Ariadne frigate, on the 13th of November, 1781, when he was upwards of three and forty. This is the great epoch in the lives of our naval officers, because it is from this that they date their rank. In the Ariadne, he had little time for active adventures, or for gainful prizes, being appointed to the Europe of sixty-four guns, on the 23rd of December, 1781. During the memorable year 1782, Phillip promoted its enterprises, and shared in its glories. And in January, 1783, he sailed with a reinforcement to the East Indies, where superior bravery con- tended against superior force, till the policy of our negotiators put an end to unequal hostilities by a necessary peace.
" The activity, or the zeal of Phillip, was now turned to more peaceful objects. And when it was determined to form a settle- ment on that part of New Holland, denom- inated New South Wales, he was thought of as a proper officer to conduct an enterprise which required professional knowledge and habitual prudence. When the time shall arrive that the present European settlers on Sydney Cove demand their historian,
these authentic anecdotes of their pristine legislator will be sought for as curious, and considered as important."
The fleet sailed on the 13th May, 1787, and having touched at Teneriffe, Rio Janerio, and the Cape of Good Hope, for water and provisions, the first ship, the Supply, with Governor Phillip on board, sighted the coast of New South Wales on the 3rd January, 1788. She anchored in Botany Bay on the 18th, and was followed on the 19th and 20th by the other ships. On landing the strangers were met in a most peaceable and friendly manner by the aborigines, who, on seeing Captain Phillip approach unarmed, immediately threw down their spears and other weapons and readily accepted some trifling presents which
he offered them.
The following account of Governor Phillip's landing at Botany Bay is from the history of his voyage published in 1789: —" At the very first landing of Governor Phillip on the shore of Botany Bay, January 18th, 1788, an interview with the natives took place. They were all armed, but on seeing the Governor approach with signs of friendship, alone and unarmed, they readily returned his confidence by laying down their weapons. They were perfectly devoid of clothing, yet seemed fond of ornaments, putting the beads and red baize that were given them on their heads or necks, and appearing pleased to wear them.
The presents offered by their new visitors were all readily accepted, nor did any kind of disagreement arise while the ships re- mained in Botany Bay. This very pleasing effect was produced in no small degree by the personal address, as well as by the great care and attention of the Gover- nor. Nor were the orders which enforced a conduct so humane, more honourable to the persons from whom they originated than the punctual execution of them was to the officers sent out; it was evident their wishes coincided with their duty; and that a sanguinary temper was no longer to
disgrace the European settlers in countries newly discovered.
" The next care after landing was the examination of the bay itself, from which it appeared that, though extensive, it did not afford a shelter from the easterly winds ; and that, in consequence of its shallowness, ships even of a moderate draught would always be obliged to anchor with the entrance of the bay open, where they must be exposed to a heavy sea, that rolls in whenever it blows hard from the eastward.
" Several runs of fresh water were found in different parts of the bay, but there did not appear to be any situation to which there was not some very strong objection. In the northern part of it is a small creek, which runs a considerable way into the country, but it has water only for a boat, the sides of it are frequently overflowed, and the low lands near it are a perfect swamp. The western branch of the bay is continued to a great extent, but the officers sent to examine it could not find there any supply of fresh water, except in very small
" Point Sutherland offered the most eligi- ble situation, having a run of good water, though not in very great abundance. But to this part of the harbour the ships could not approach, and the ground near it, even in the higher parts, was in general damp and spungy. Smaller numbers might indeed in several spots have found a comfortable residence, but no place was discovered in the whole circuit of Botany Bay which seemed at all calculated for the reception of so large a settlement. While this exami- nation was carried on, the whole fleet had arrived. The Supply had not so much out- sailed the other ships as to give Governor Phillip the advantage he had expected in point of time. On the 19th of January, 1788, the Alexander, Scarborough, and Friendship, cast anchor in Botany Bay ; and on the 20th, the Sirius, with the remainder of the convoy. These ships had all con- tinued very healthy ; they had not, however, yet arrived at their final station."
Proceedings were immediately com- menced for landing the people and stores ; and men were set to work to clear a piece of land on the south side of the bay about a mile from the entrance, and near the spot were Captain Cook had first stepped on shore eighteen years before.
The place, however, did not at all answer the expectations which the Governor and his officers had been led to form from the description given by Cook; and no time was lost in making an examination of the surrounding country in search of a more favourable site. The first place to which
attention was directed was the harbour which Cook had described as existing a few miles north of Botany Bay, and which he had called Port Jackson, after the seaman who had descried it from the mast-head of
the Endeavour. The Governor proceeded to examine this harbour on the 23rd ; and was as much gratified with its magnificent appearance, its sheltered position, deep water, and almost innumerable bays and bold headlands, as he had been disappointed with the place where he had at first landed. He thereupon decided on removing the settlement to Port Jackson, and fixed on a position about six miles inside the entrance, where he discovered "a fine run of fresh water stealing silently through a thick wood" and falling into a little bay, which he named Sydney Cove, in honour of Viscount Sydney,
who was at that time at the head of the
Colonial Office, and who had taken great interest in the welfare of the expedition.
The aborignes at Sydney Cove at first showed signs of opposition towards the new comers; but they were quickly pacified by the tact and conciliatory conduct of the Governor. The leading men of the tribe, after their first surprise was over, behaved with a manly frankness, and evinced such an intelligent yet unobtrusive curiosity, as greatly raised them in the estimation of the intending colonists. The historical account of the voyage says:—
"On the arrival of the boats at Port
Jackson, a second party of the natives made its appearance near the place of landing.
These also were armed with lances, and at first were very vociferous ; but the same gentle means used towards the others easily persuaded them to discard their suspicions, and to accept whatsoever was offered. One man in particular, who appeared to be the chief of this tribe, showed very singular
marks both of confidence in his new friends, and of determined resolution. Under the guidance of Governor Phillip, to whom he voluntarily intrusted himself, he went to a part of the beach where the men belong- ing to the boats were then boiling their meat ; when he approached, the marines, who were drawn up near that place, and saw that by proceeding he should be sepa- rated from his companions, who remained with several of the officers at some distance, he stopped, and with great firmness, seemed by words and gestures to threaten revenge if any advantage should be taken of his situation.
"In passing near a point of land in this harbour, the boats were perceived by a number of the natives, twenty of whom waded into the water unarmed, received what was offered them, and examined the boat with a curiosity which impressed a higher idea of them than any former account of their manners had suggested. This con- fidence, and manly behaviour, induced Governor Phillip, who was highly pleased with it, to give the place the name of Manly Cove. The same people afterwards joined the party at the place where they had landed to dine. They were then armed, two of them with shields and swords, the rest with lances only. The swords [boomerangs] were made of wood, small in the gripe, and apparently less
formidable than a good stick. One of these men had a kind of white clay rubbed upon the upper part of his face, so as to have the appearance of a mask. This orna- ment, if it can be called such, is not common among them, and is probably assumed only on particular occasions, or as a distinction to a few individuals. One woman had been seen on the rocks as the boats passed with her face, neck, and breasts thus painted, and to our people appeared the most disgusting figure imaginable; her own countrymen were perhaps delighted by the beauty of the
"During the preparation for dinner the curiosity of these visitors rendered them very troublesome, but an innocent contri- vance altogether removed the inconvenience. Governor Phillip drew a circle round the place where the English were, and without much difficulty made the natives understand that they were not to pass that line ; after which they sat down in perfect quietness. Another proof how tractable these people are, when no insult or injury is offered, and when proper means are employed to influence the simplicity of their minds.
" On the 24th of January, 1788, Governor Phillip, having sufficiently explored Port Jackson, and found it in all respects highly calculated to receive such a settlement as he was appointed to establish, returned to Botany Bay. On his arrival there, the reports made to him, both of the ground which the people were clearing, and of the upper parts of the Bay, which in this inter- val had been more particularly examined, were in the greatest degree unfavourable. It was impossible after this to hesitate con- cerning the choice of a situation ; and orders were accordingly issued for the removal of
the whole fleet to Port Jackson."
Captain Phillip having spent the 24th in an examination of the harbour, on the 25th and 26th the ships and all the people, with the exception of a few left in charge of the stores which had been landed at Botany, were brought round to Sydney Cove.
The day before this transfer took place considerable alarm was created by the sudden appearance, off Botany Heads, of two large ships under French colours. They were soon after driven out of sight by con- trary winds, but entered on the following day, and proved to be the Bussole and Astrolabe, on a voyage of discovery. They were under the command of Monsieur de la Peyrouse, who, with his officers and men, at once entered into the most friendly relations with Captain Phillip and the people whom they had so unexpectedly found in occupa- tion of the place.
On the evening of the 26th January 1788, all the ships having come round to Port Jackson, and being safely anchored at Sydney Cove, the Governor took formal possession of the country by hoisting British colours on a flagstaff erected on the
site now occupied by Dawes Battery. The King's health was then drunk by the Governor and officials around the flagstaff, and this proceeding was followed by en- thusiastic cheering and much excitement on the part of the people.
On the following day the work of clear- ing a spot on which tents might be fixed
and stores landed was commenced. The
place was so heavily timbered that many
trees had to be cut down before room could be obtained for the accommodation of so large a number of persons.
(To be continued.)