Colonial Secretary’s Office, Sydney, 25th June, 1846.
Sir — I do myself the honour to inform you that the Auditor General has been requested to prepare a warrant for the payment, out of the Crown Revenue, of a gratuity of 1000 pounds to yourself and party which accompanied you in your recent expedition to Port Essington; in consideration of the successful issue of that very perilous enterprise; the fortitude and perseverance displayed by the persons engaged in it; and the advantages derived from it to the Colony; and I beg to add, that it is with much gratification that I make this communication to you.
The money is to be divided in the manner stated below, which the Governor has considered reasonable, after weighing all the circumstances of the case, and advising with the gentleman who waited on His Excellency on Friday the 11th instant, and who formed a deputation from the Committee, who have superintended the collection and distribution of the money (1400 pounds.) raised in Sydney by voluntary subscription, in testimony of the services rendered to the Colony by you and your companions, viz.
|Dr. Leichhardt||600 pounds|
|W. Phillips, who has already received from the Government a pardon||30|
|The two aboriginal natives, Charles Fisher and Harry Brown||50|
The 50 pounds for the two Blacks will be lodged in the Savings’ Bank, and will not be drawn out without the approval of the Vice President of that Institution. I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient Servant, (Signed) E. Deas Thomson, Colonial Secretary.
Yesterday afternoon, a meeting of the subscribers to the Leichhardt Testimonial was held in the School of Arts.
At half-past three o’clock the Honourable the Speaker of the Legislative Council entered the room with Dr. Leichhardt, who was received with loud applause.
As soon as silence was restored, the Speaker rose and addressed Dr. Leichhardt. He said, The duty has been assigned to me of presenting to you, on behalf of a numerous body of colonists, an acknowledgment of the grateful sense they entertain of the services rendered by you to the cause of science and to the interests of this colony. Whilst I fully participate in the admiration with which your merits are universally acknowledged, I confess that I shrink from the task now imposed upon me, from a sense of my inability to do justice to it in language commensurate with the occasion. For indeed it would be difficult to employ any terms that might be considered as exaggerated, in acknowledging the enthusiasm, the perseverance, and the talent which prompted you to undertake, and enabled you successfully to prosecute, your late perilous journey through a portion of the hitherto untrodden wilds of Australia. An enthusiasm undaunted by every discouragement, a perseverance unextinguished by trials and hardships which ordinary minds would have despaired of surmounting, a talent which guided and led you on to the full and final achievement of your first and original design.
It is needless for me to recall to the recollection of those around me, the circumstances under which the project of undertaking an overland journey to Port Essington was formed. The smallness of your party, and the scantiness of its equipment, the length and unknown character of the country proposed to be traversed, induced many to regard the scheme as one characterised by rashness, and the means employed as wholly inadequate towards carrying out the object in view. Many withheld their support from a dread lest they might be held as chargeable with that result which their sinister forebodings told them was all but inevitable with a small but adventurous band. You nevertheless plunged into the unknown regions that lay before you. After the lapse of a few months without any tidings of your progress or fate, the notion became generally entertained that your party had fallen victims to some one of the many dangers it had been your lot to encounter; that you had perished by the hands of the hostile natives of the interior; that want of water or exposure to tropical climate were even but a few of the many evils to which you had rendered yourself liable, and to the influence of some one or more of which it was but too probable you had fallen a prey. Two parties successively went out with the hope of overtaking you, or at least of ascertaining some particulars of your fate. The result of these efforts was, however, fruitless, and but few were so sanguine as to believe in the possibility of you or your comrades being still in existence. I need not recall to the recollection of those here present, the surprise, the enthusiasm, and the delight, with which your sudden appearance in Sydney was hailed, about six months ago. The surprise was about equal to what might be felt at seeing one who had risen from the tomb; a surprise, however, that was equalled by the warm and cordial welcome with which you were embraced by every colonist; and when we listened to the narrative of your long and dreary journey — the hardships you had endured, the dangers you had braved, the difficulties you had surmounted — the feeling with which your return amongst us was greeted, became one of universal enthusiasm. For it would indeed be difficult to point out, in the career of any traveller, the accomplishment of an equally arduous undertaking, or one pregnant with more important results, whether we contemplate them in a scientific, an economical, or a political point of view. The traversing, for the first time by civilised man, of so large a portion of the surface of this island, could not fail to be attended with many discoveries deeply interesting to the scientific inquirer, in botany, geology, and zoology. Your contributions to each of these departments of knowledge have consequently been equally novel and valuable. In a social and economical point of view, it is difficult, if not impossible, to over-estimate the importance of the discovery recently made of an all but boundless extent of fertile country, extending to the north, soon to be covered with countless flocks and herds, and calculated to become the abode of civilized man. In its political aspect, the possession of an immense territory, now for the first time discovered to be replete with all those gifts of nature which are necessary for the establishment and growth of a civilized community, cannot be regarded as a fact of small importance; nor the possession of a continuous tract of fine and fertile land, that connects us with the shores of the Indian ocean, and which would appear to render the Australian continent a mere extension of the Anglo–Indian empire as a matter of indifference. It would be almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of these considerations; I shall, however, abstain from occupying your time by dwelling upon what must be so obvious to all. The Colonists of New South Wales, Dr. Leichhardt, have been anxious to evince their gratitude to you for all that you have done in behalf of this their adopted country. As soon as your return was announced, subscriptions were entered into for the purpose of presenting to you a suitable testimonial. To the fund raised for this purpose persons of all classes, and from every quarter of the colony, have contributed. The sum that has been raised amounts to 1518 pounds 18 shillings 6 pence. The Executive, with a laudable emulation, have presented you a sum of 1000 pounds from the Crown revenue. Gratifying as this demonstration must doubtlessly prove to your feelings, it is unquestionably beneath your deserts; and the substantial reward due to your past exertions will be found in the undying glory of having your name enrolled amongst those of the great men whose genius and enterprise have impelled them to seek for fame in the prosecution of geographical science — with those of Niebuhr, Burckhardt, Park, Clapperton, Lander, and, in Australian geography, with those of Oxley, Cunningham, Sturt, Eyre, and Mitchell. In these days of universal knowledge, when there are so many competitors for distinction in every department of science, few attain the desired goal of scientific eminence. Perhaps no one has so fair a chance of giving immortality to his name as he who has first planted his foot where civilized man had never before trodden. The first chapter in the history of Australia, some thousand years hence, will present a narration of those adventurous spirits — of the exploits of those who may fairly be considered its first conquerors, and by whose peaceful triumphs an empire had been added to the parent state. I cannot close this brief address without indulging in an aspiration for the safety and success of one now engaged in an enterprise similar to that from which you hate earned so much honour. I allude to Sir T. Mitchell. To enter upon any eulogium of the character or abilities of that distinguished officer on the present occasion, is uncalled for; the enterprise in which he is engaged must command the sympathy of every person here present, and I am sure of no one more than of yourself. In enterprises such as those in which both he and yourself are engaged, it may fairly be said the harvest is plentiful, the labourers are few — a kindred taste and zeal in the pursuit of a common object can be attended with no other than a worthy and generous emulation. It only remains for me to add one word to what I have already said — you have disclosed your intention of starting within a few weeks from the present time on another exploratory expedition. From your past career we may all safely indulge in sanguine anticipations as to your future success. That Providence may guide you in your wanderings and crown your future labours with new laurels is the ardent wish of all on whose behalf I now address you. Let me, however, beg that you will guard, against any unnecessary exposure to risk, that life in the preservation of which we all feel so deep a concern. With the assurance of the gratitude, esteem, and admiration of my brother colonists, permit me now to present you with 854 pounds, being the proportion of the public subscription awarded to you.
Dr. Leichhardt (who was evidently deeply affected) said: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I thank you for the munificent gift with which you have honoured me — I thank you for the congratulations for the past — for your kind wishes for my approaching expedition.* I feel the more the weight of your generous liberality, as I am conscious how much your kindness has overvalued my deserts; but I shall try to render myself worthy of it; and I hope that the Almighty, who has so mercifully taken care of me on my former expedition, will grant me skill and strength to continue my explorations, and will render them equally successful and beneficial to this colony. May his blessings attend the generous people who have shown, by the honours they have done me, how great an interest they take in the advancement of discovery.
Mr. C. Cowper then moved a vote of thanks to the Committee and their Secretary, which was acknowledged by Mr. R. Graham, when the business of the meeting closed.
Those who appreciate the value of Dr. Leichhardt’s scientific exploration of the country from Moreton Bay to Port Essington, and who feel any interest in his record of the difficulties of his enterprise, will be glad to learn that the Royal Geographical Society of London has recently awarded him the Queen’s Gold Medal, in acknowledgment of his services; and that the Royal Geographical Society of Paris has likewise adjudged him its Gold Medal of this year.
* The object of the new Expedition here alluded to, Is to explore the Interior of Australia, to discover the extent of Sturt’s Desert and the character of the Western and North–Western Coast, and to observe the gradual change in vegetation and animal life from one side of the Continent to the other.
Dr. Leichhardt does not expect to be able to accomplish this overland journey to Swan River, in less than two years and a half. According to a letter written by him on the eve of his departure (Dec. 6, 1846); his party consisted of six whites, and two blacks; he had purchased thirteen mules, twelve horses, and two hundred and seventy goats; and bad received forty oxen, three mules, and two horses, as presents. He then purposed to travel over his old route, as far as Peak Range, and then to shape his course westwards; but thought it not impossible, as his course depends on water, that be should be obliged to reach the Gulf of Carpentaria, and then to follow up some river to its source. — Ed.
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