Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

to drag along timber. About eight hundred died in six months at a place called Toongabbie, or Constitution-hill. I knew a man so weak, he was thrown into the grave, when he said, "Don't cover me up; I'm not dead;

for God's sake don't cover me up!" The overseer answered, "D

your eyes, you'll die to-night, and we shall have the trouble to come back again!" The man recovered, his name is James Glasshouse, and he is now alive at Richmond.

'They used to have a large hole for the dead; once a day men were sent down to collect the corpses of prisoners, and throw them in without any ceremony or service. The native dogs used to come down at night and fight and howl in packs, gnawing the poor dead bodies.

'The governor would order the lash at the rate of five hundred, six hundred, to eight hundred; and if the men could have stood it they would have had more. I knew a man hung there and then for stealing a few biscuits, and another for stealing a duck frock. A man was condemned— no time—take him to the tree, and hang him. The overseers were allowed to flog the men in the fields. Often have men been taken from the gmg, had fifty, and sent back to work. Any man would have committed murder for a month's provisions: I would have committed three (murders) for a week's provisions! I was chained seven weeks on my back for being out

getting greens, wild herbs. The Rev. used to come it tightly to

force some confession. Men were obliged to tell lies to prevent their bowels from being cut out by the lash.

'Old (an overseer) killed three men in a fortnight at the saw

by overwork. We used to be taken in large parties to raise a tree; when

the body of the tree was raised, he (Old ) would call some of the

men away—then more; the men were bent double—they could not bear it—they fell—the tree on one or two, killed ou the spot. "Take him away; put him in the ground!" There was no more about it.

'Mrs. Smith's Statement.

'I have seen Dr. take a woman who was in the family way, with

a rope round her, and duck her in the water at Queeu's-wharf. The laws were bad then. If a gentleman wanted a man's wife, he would send the husband to Norfolk Island. I have seen a man flogged for pulling sii turnips instead of five. One Defrey was overseer, the biggest villain that ever lived, delighted in torment. He used to walk up and down and rub his hands when the blood ran. AVhen he walked out, the flogger walked behind him. He died a miserable death—maggots ate him up; not i man could be found to bury him. I have seen six men executed for stealing 21 lbs. of flour. I have seen a man struck, when at work, with t handspike, and killed on the spot. I have seen men in tears round

Governor , begging for food. He would mock them with " Yes, yes,

gentlemen; I'll make you comfortable; give you a nightcap and a pair of stockings!"'—pp. 50—52.

No wonder the colonists clamour for the abolition of transportation; they know its woes, and that they are immitigable. Some lew may adopt the Sydney motto—sic forte Etruria credt, in a base sense, but a majority of thousands to one abjure it And it is no mean evidence of the advancement of the colonies in intelligence and virtue that they are all but unanimous in deprecating a system which was the foundation of their fortunes.

Mr. Sidney reviews the administrations of the successive governors of New South Wales, and deals fairly with all, except that of Sir George Gipps. We are quite willing to accord the merit he ascribes to his predecessor, Sir Richard Bourke, but cannot help thinking he praises him in order to throw an invidious shadow upon Sir George. Of the three last governors Sir George Gipps was unquestionably the most able man; he possessed consummate talent, and displayed a courage, candour, and liberality worthy of the nonconformist blood which flowed in his veins. He was somewhat of the Cromwell order; he became a reformer, and insisted that the officials should give a day's work for a day's pay. He saw how far the squatters had leagued to form an imperium in imperio, and was resolved to curb their oligarchical insolence. Hence the opposition he excited. He refused all seductive arts, and did not, as others, suborn the press; he trusted to his unaided tongue and pen to repress what he deemed social and political grievances; and although he had never uttered a speech before he became governor, yet he displayed an eloquence which came home directly to the bulk of the colonists, and effectually confounded his opponents. These ascribed their defeat to Sir George's power, and called it tyranny; but it was the force of reason. The dispatches of Sir Richard Bourke are models of statesmanship, but they are the offspring of his under secretary; Sir Charles Fitzroy is also indebted to the present colonial secretary for measures of wisdom, and for the explanation of them in council; but Sir George formed his own plans, and wrote his own state-papers, and they stand imperishable records of his genius. What we now affirm is borne out by Mr. Sidney's statements; his facts belie his glosses, and even he himself sometimes pays a tribute of respect to one so truly great.

'Yet Sir George Gipps was not without noble as well as brilliant qualities. His hands were clean; in a different sphere, matched and subdued by the even competition of English public life, he might have done himself honour and the state service; but his was a temperament ill-suited for the exercise of powers so absolute as those of a colonial governor— powers which he had acquired without any tedious probation. At one stride he passed from a subordinate military rank to the government of a great province of wealthy and discontented men, having in his hands authority which could make or mar a whole class or a whole district.'—p. 113.

It is well known Sir George rose from a captaincy in the engineers to be the governor of a province; and that, to the credit of the government, he was selected for the ability he had shown as secretary to the commission to Canada; and as many a day may pass before we shall meet with his equal, it is but just to his memory to state further particulars respecting him. He was an uncompromising lover of justice; and, therefore, after a most horrible massacre of the blacks, he resisted all the threats of wealthy settlers to deter him from his duty. The murderers were hung. Shortly afterwards, a squatter demanded a party of police to put down the predatory attacks of the aborigines upon a very distant out station. The governor told him that, if he would go so far from the centre of government, he must take the consequences; that a guard for all the squatting districts would exhaust both the treasury and the whole police force, and leave the settled districts insecure. 'Then.' (said the squatter), 'I shall take the law into my own hands.' 'What do you mean?' said the governor. 'I shall shoot them.' 'Then I will hang you as sure as my name is George Gipps.' This decisive line of conduct protected the aborigines without exposing the settlers to harm; a little more vigilance ftt their own expense kept their flocks in safety. The following anecdote, in reference to Mrs. Chisholm's enterprise is characteristic :—

'Sir George Gipps, who wns'capable of noble sentiments when bis evil temper or borne instructions did not override them, took a public opportunity of expressing his sense of the merit and utility of her plans, saying, "I think it right to make this public acknowledgment, having formerly thrown cold water upon them."

'A few days after the permission (to frank letters) had been granted, the governor sent for Mrs. Chishobn in a great hurry. She found him in one of his fits of excitement, the table covered with her own letters.

''* Mrs. Chishobn," he exclaimed, "when I gave you the privilege of franking, I presumed you would address yourself to the magistrates, the clergy, and the principal settlers; but who, pray, are these John Yarehrs and Dick Hogans, and other people, of whom I have never heard sine* I have been in the colony?"

'" If," she replied, "I had required to know the opinions of those respectable gentlemen on the subject of the demand for labour, nud the rate of wages they could afford, I need not have written; 1 can tors to half a dozen blue books and find there 'shepherds always wanting and wages always too high;' besides, to have answered me they must have goue to their overseers, and then answered me vaguely. I want to know, as nearly as possible, what number of labourers each district can absorb, and of what class and what wages. If your Excellency will wait until I get my answers, you will admit that I have applied to men humble but intelligent, and able to afford exactly the information I require."

* Sir George Gipps was satisfied with the explanation, and still more with the replies of the bush settlers; so the sub-officials were on this occasion discomfited.'—pp. 154, 155.

From this extract it appears that Sir George gave way occasionally to bursts of temper; we will admit this fault, but palliate it by the fact that he was affected with disease of the heart, and that his bursts of passion were directed against wrongs. This disorder brought him to the grave shortly after his recal; and let the visitor to Canterbury cathedral mark his bust on the right hand of the nave, and in the force of his beetling brows and the noble lines of his intelligent countenance, read the cause of the animosity,and the love, which alike followed him to the tomb—a terror to evil-doers and a praise to <hem that did well. This is the shrine we visit there—the shrine of a great man.

It required the hand of a wise and bold pilot to steer safely through the difficulties existing when Sir George Gipps arrived —the reaction of the land mania, an impending scarcity of grain, and a commercial crisis; but he succeeded. At the close of his administration, the greatest amount of material good had been secured on the firmest basis. Mr. Sidney may endeavour to snatch the palm from the victor, and place it in other hands, but the concluding paragraphs of the tenth chapter are a practical eulogium upon the skill and firmness with which Sir G. Gipps governed New South Wales:—

'The ability and integrity of the colonial secretaries of state during the administration of Sir George Gipps, and of Sir George himself, are indisputable; but then they insisted on knowing whether shoes fitted or not better than the people who wore, and insisted, too, that they should wear them. Fortunately the prosperity of the colony did not entirely depend on the crotchets of a colonial minister, or of a governor, although both could, and did, seriously retard its progress.

'While the Legislative Council were contesting, inch by inch, the "elementary rights of Englishmen," the grass was growing, the sheep were breeding, the stockmen were exploring new pastures, and the frugal industry of settlers was replacing and increasing the capital lost by wild speculations.

'Before Sir George Gipps retired, in 1846, he was able to announce that the revenue exceeded the expenditure, and the exports the imports, while the glut of labour which followed his arrival had been succeeded by a demand which the squatters termed a dearth.'—p. 131.

To Sir George the roundhead succeeded Sir Charies the cavalier. He is a genuine specimen of the class, being, as his name Fitzroy intimates, a direct descendant of Charles II. He had previously governed in Antigua, but a more incapable man for Australia it would be hard to find. On landing at Sydney, he said, with a sans souci air,' I wonder how Sir George Gipps could have suffered himself to be annoyed under such a delicious climate.' It is certain he has not suffered himself to be broken down with the cares of state. And yet he has proved a respectable governor, having wisely entrusted the reins to his officers who had been disciplined under Sir George Gipps; and they have guided the chariot of the government as well as Sir Charles can drive his four-in-hand. Mons Meg is supported by better m,etal than herself, or the citadel would be in danger. Sir Charles is an excellent show-gun, while the battery is worked with the twenty-four pounders. Such is also Mr. Sidney's view.

'His (Sir C. Fitzroy's) administration, personally, affords no room for observation. He appears Whave no opinions, a very conciliatory manner, and to be only anxious to allow the colonists as much liberty of legislation as his instructions will permit. He is contented to drive his own four-in-hand while his official advisers manage the colonists. And perhaps, until it is found possible to select as governor of Australia some man of superior intellectual attainments and refined tastes as well as common sense, conciliatory manners, and official aptitude,—some one, in fact, who would teach the wealthy, young colonists that, according to modem English notions, more is needed than a large income, a polished exterior, and a fashionable tailor, to make a gentleman—there cannot be n better governor than the sporting, ball-giving, George the Fourth style of Fitzroy.'—p. 167, 168.

In 1851 Victoria was separated from New South Wales by virtue of an imperial statute passed in the previous year. Victoria is a satellite no longer, but anew planet projected through an independent orbit: the history of New South Wales is, therefore, adroitly summed up at this point with facts which show at one glance a mighty progress; in her case also chaos is reduced to order—the nebulous haze has been condensed into a star.

The chapter on Victoria is unexceptionable; and we shall only crown the author's enthusiastic statements with a table of statistics.

Population of Victoria.—1851, 70,000; 1852, 115,000.
Imports.—1850, £745,000; 1851, £1,056,000.
Exports.—1850, £1,042,000; 1851, £1,423,000.

In the course of the year, upwards of 50,000 souls have been added to the population; while the revenue far exceeds the expenditure, and is enormous.

When our author touches upon South Australia he assumes the censor; and assails the Wakefield theory as vehemently as Don Quixote attacked the windmills. We are not about to defend that theory—the celebrated Eureka, Eureka of the •Spectator;' but we may at least crave his mercy. Its most

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »