MR. KENNEDY CONDUCTS THE PARTY TO SYDNEY. — PROCEEDS OF THE SALE OF THE CATTLE AND EQUIPMENT. — APPLIED TO THE REFITTING OF A LIGHT PARTY ON HORSEBACK. — MR. KENNEDY’S INSTRUCTIONS TO TRACE DOWN THE VICTORIA. — Of the aborigines. — CHARACTER OF YURANIGH. — IMPEDIMENTS TO THEIR CIVILIZATION. — Of the Convicts. — THEIR USES IN THE COLONY. — CHARACTER OF THOSE OF THE PARTY. — DIFFERENT CLASSES OF CRIMINALS. — THE UNFORTUNATE AND THE DEPRAVED. — Of the present Colony of New South Wales. — NATURAL STATE. — CAPABILITIES. — ITS TEMPORARY USES. — ULTIMATE COLONIZATION. — RETENTION OF WATER. — NEW SYSTEMS OF AGRICULTURE REQUISITE. — GROWTH OF COTTON AND SUGAR ALONG THE EASTERN COAST. — THE VINE AND THE OLIVE. — WHEAT CROPS. — DIFFICULTY OF ACCESS TO MARKETS. — ROADS. — PROJECTED RAILWAYS. — Conclusion. — ORIGIN OF THIS SURVEY. — ITS PRIMARY OBJECTS. — ULTIMATE TENDENCY. — MY RESPONSIBILITY TO THE IMPERIAL GOVERNMENT. — CO-OPERATION OF THE COLONIAL LEGISLATURE. — FINAL REPORT. — GREAT GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES. — THE NATURAL DIVISIONS OF THE TERRITORY. — PORT BOWEN— CAPRICORNIA. — GULF OF CARPENTARIA— AUSTRALINDIA.
The party which I had left in charge of Mr. Kennedy near Snodgrass Lagoon arrived in the neighbourhood of Sydney on the 20th of January, and the new Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy, kindly granted such gratuities to the most deserving of my men as I had recommended, and also sent the names to England of such prisoners as His Excellency thought deserving of Her Majesty’s gracious pardon.
The sale of the cattle and equipment produced about 500L.; and as Mr. Kennedy volunteered his services, when the proper season should arrive (March), to trace down the course of the river Victoria with a light party on horseback, I submitted a plan to Sir Charles Fitzroy, and obtained His Excellency’s permission to send this officer to survey the river, and to apply the above-mentioned proceeds of sale in providing the equipment of his party. Mr. Kennedy finally left Sydney about the middle of March, with a party of eight men, all well mounted and leading spare horses, with two light carts carrying a stock of provisions for fourteen months. The following copy of his instructions will show what Mr. Kennedy was required to do.
Surveyor-General’s Office, Sydney, 22d February, 1847.
“His Excellency the Governor having been pleased to sanction my proposal for the further exploration of the river Victoria with a small party to be sent under your command; I have now the honour to enclose to you a copy of instructions by which I was guided in conducting the late expedition into the northern interior, and I have to request that you will conform thereto, as much as the following particular instructions for your especial guidance may permit.
“You will as early as possible return by the road across Liverpool Plains so as to fall into the return route of the late expedition before you leave the settled districts, and in this manner you will recross the Balonne at St. George’s Bridge, take the route back to Camp (83), and thence by the route along the Maranoa to Camp (XXIX), beyond which you will proceed as hereinafter detailed, with reference to the accompanying tracing of my survey.
“You will cross the Maranoa at Camp (XXIX), and continue along my return route until you reach Camp (75). I beg you will be particular so far in looking for the track of my party returning, as you will perceive by the map that many very circuitous detours may be thus avoided. But beyond Camp (75), about seven miles, you will have to leave my return track on your right, and not cross a little river there at all, but go along my old advance track to Camp (XXXIV). Thence you will proceed by Camps (XXXV) and (XXXVI), in order to approach the bed of the Warregò in the direction of my ride of 14th June, in a general N. W. direction. It is very desirable that you should keep my horse tracks there; but this I can scarcely expect, and I can only therefore request that you will proceed as closely in that direction as you can. The bed of the Warregò may be looked for at a distance further on, equal to that of my ride of 14th June.
“You will next pursue the course of the Warregò upwards towards Mount Playfair, which the accompanying map will be sufficient to guide you to. You will follow up the Cùnno Creek, leaving Mount Playfair on your right or to the eastward, and you will thus fall into the line of my horse-track about the spot where I spoke to an old native female. I wish you would then take some pains to travel in the direction of my track from the head of Cùnno through the Brigalow, which is comparatively open, in the direction of my bivouac of 11th September.
“Keeping the direction of my track of next day, you will arrive at a low, but stony, ridge (A) (across which you must be careful how you pass your carts, but it is of no breadth), and you will descend into a flat, from which you will ascend another stony ridge (B), of no greater height but more asperity than the first, and covered with fallen timber. You will have about a mile of that sort of difficulty to deal with on the higher part, but by turning then to the right, you will fall into a well watered valley, which will lead you to the Nive. In the whole of your route thus far, you can meet with no difficulty in tracing it, guided by the map, and following these instructions; but if Douglas should be with you, he will no doubt recognize the country through which he passed with me. It is very important that you should keep that route, as leading to the Victoria in a very straight direction from Sydney, and a direction in which, should your return be delayed beyond the time for which your party is to be provisioned, it is probable, that any party sent after you to your aid or assistance would proceed to look for you. After you shall have reached the Nive and Camp (77), you cannot have any difficulty in finding Camp (72) near the Gap, and from that valley you have only to follow down the watercourse to be certain that you are on my track to the Victoria, and, as you have been instructed to take an expert native with you, you ought to find still my horse’s track across the downs, cutting off large bends of the river. But beyond Camps 16th September or 1st October, you must keep by the river along my route back, and not follow the circuitous track which I took through Brigalow to the westward. After about four miles by the river, you will see, by the map, that my return track again crossed the outward track over the downs, so that you may fall into the route westward of the great northern bend of the Victoria. I fear you must depend on the latitude, pace measurement, and bearings, for ascertaining the situations of my camps of 29th September and 28th September. You will see by the map how generally straight my journeys were between these points, and how important it would be for you to know the situation of the camp of 28th September, that you may thence set out westward in the direction of my return route, instead of following the main channel throughout the very circuitous turn it then takes to the northward. Beyond the lowest point attained by me, or the point (wherever that may be) to which you will be able to identify the accompanying map with my track, of course it will be your duty to pursue the river, and determine the course thereof as accurately as your light equipment and consequent rapid progress, may permit. You may, however, employ the same means by which I have mapped that river so far; and, for your guidance, I shall add the particulars of my method of measuring the relative distances. If you count the strokes of either of your horse’s fore feet, either walking or trotting, you will find them to be upon an average, about 950 to a mile. In a field-book, as you note each change of bearing, you have only to note down also the number of paces (which soon becomes a habit); and to keep count of these, it is only necessary to carry about thirty-five or forty small pieces of wood, like dice (beans or peas would do), in one waistcoat pocket, and, at the end of every 100 paces, remove one to the empty pocket on the opposite side. At each change of bearing, you count these, adding the odd numbers to the number of hundreds, ascertained by the dice, to be counted and returned at each change of bearing to the other pocket. You should have a higher pocket for your watch, and keep the two lower waisctoat pockets for this important purpose.
“Now, to plot such a survey, you have only to take the half-inch scale of equal parts (on the 6-inch scale in every case of instruments), and allowing TEN for a hundred, the half-inch will represent 1000 paces. You may thus lay down any broken number of paces to a true scale, and so obtain a tolerably accurate map of each day’s journey. The latitude will, after all, determine finally the scale of paces; and you can, at leisure, adjust each day’s journey by its general bearing between different latitudes; and, subsequently, introduce the details. You will soon find the results sufficiently accurate to afford some criterion of even the variation of the needle, when the course happens to be nearly east or west, and when, of course, it behoves you to be very well acquainted with the rate of your horse’s paces, as determined by differences of latitude. You will be careful to intersect the prominent points of any range that may appear on the horizon; and the nature of the rock also should be ascertained in the country examined: small specimens, with letters of reference, will be sufficient for this. Specimens of the grasses, and of the flower or seed of new trees, should be also preserved, with dates, in a small herbarium. But the principal object of the journey being the determination of the course of the Victoria, and the discovery of a convenient route to the head of the Gulph of Carpentaria, the accomplishment of these great objects must be steadily kept in view, without regard to minor considerations. Should the channel finally spread into an extensive bed, whether dry or swampy, you will adhere, as a general rule, to the eastern side or shore, as, in the event of any scarcity of water, the high land known to be there will thus be more speedily accessible to you; and I am also strongly of opinion, that you would cross in such a route more tributaries from the east than from the west. On arriving at or near the Gulph of Carpentaria, I have particularly to caution you against remaining longer than may be unavoidable there, or, indeed, in any one place, in any part of your route, where natives may be numerous.
“Having completed (at least roughly) the map of your general route, it will be in your power in returning, to take out detours, and cut off angles, by previously ascertaining the proper bearings for doing so; and when so returning, it would be convenient to number your camps, that the route and the country may be better described by you, and recognised afterwards by others. These numbers may be cut in common figures on trees; and if, as I hope, you should reach the Gulph, you can commence them there: you may prefix C to each number commencing with 1, thus avoiding any confusion with the numbers of my numbered camps on the Victoria.
“On returning to the colony, you will report to me, or to the officer in charge of the Survey Department, the progress and results of your journey.
“I have the honour to be, Sir, Your obedient servant,
“T. L. MITCHELL, SURVEYOR-GENERAL.
“E. B. C. Kennedy, Esq. J. P. Assistant Surveyor, Sydney.”
There is no subject connected with New South Wales, or Australia, less understood in England than the character and condition of the aboriginal natives. They have been described as the lowest in the scale of humanity, yet I found those who accompanied me superior in penetration and judgment to the white men composing my party. Their means of subsistence and their habits, are both extremely simple; but they are adjusted with admirable fitness to the few resources afforded by such a country, in its wild state. What these resources are, and how they are economised by the natives, can only be learnt by an extensive acquaintance with the interior; and the knowledge of a few simple facts, bearing on this subject, may not be wholly devoid of interest. Fire, grass, kangaroos, and human inhabitants, seem all dependent on each other for existence in Australia; for any one of these being wanting, the others could no longer continue. Fire is necessary to burn the grass, and form those open forests, in which we find the large forest-kangaroo; the native applies that fire to the grass at certain seasons, in order that a young green crop may subsequently spring up, and so attract and enable him to kill or take the kangaroo with nets. In summer, the burning of long grass also discloses vermin, birds’ nests, etc., on which the females and children, who chiefly burn the grass, feed. But for this simple process, the Australian woods had probably contained as thick a jungle as those of New Zealand or America, instead of the open forests in which the white men now find grass for their cattle, to the exclusion of the kangaroo, which is well-known to forsake all those parts of the colony where cattle run. The intrusion therefore of cattle is by itself sufficient to produce the extirpation of the native race, by limiting their means of existence; and this must work such extensive changes in Australia as never entered into the contemplation of the local authorities. The squatters, it is true, have also been obliged to burn the old grass occasionally on their runs; but so little has this been understood by the Imperial Government that an order against the burning of the grass was once sent out, on the representations of a traveller in the south. The omission of the annual periodical burning by natives, of the grass and young saplings, has already produced in the open forest lands nearest to Sydney, thick forests of young trees, where, formerly, a man might gallop without impediment, and see whole miles before him. Kangaroos are no longer to be seen there; the grass is choked by underwood; neither are there natives to burn the grass, nor is fire longer desirable there amongst the fences of the settler. The occupation of the territory by the white race seems thus to involve, as an inevitable result, the extirpation of the aborigines; and it may well be pleaded, in extenuation of any adverse feelings these may show towards the white men, that these consequences, although so little considered by the intruders, must be obvious to the natives, with their usual acuteness, as soon as cattle enter on their territory. The foregoing journal affords instances of the habits of the natives in these respects. Silently, but surely, that extirpation of aborigines is going forward in grazing districts, even where protectors of aborigines have been most active; and in Van Diemen’s Land, the race has been extirpated, even before that of the kangaroos, under an agency still more destructive.
It would be but natural, even admitting these aboriginal inhabitants to be, as men, “only a little lower than the angels,” that they should feel disposed, when urged by hunger, to help themselves to some of the cattle or sheep that had fattened on the green pastures kept clear for kangaroos from time immemorial by the fires of the natives and their forefathers; but such cases have been, nevertheless, of rare occurrence, partly because much human life has been sacrificed to the manes of sheep or cattle. No orders of the local government can prevent the perpetration of these atrocities. Government Orders have been put forth in formal obedience to injunctions from home, and the policy of the local authorities has not been influenced by less humane motives.
It would ill become me to disparage the character of the aborigines, for one of that unfortunate race has been my “guide, companion, councillor, and friend,” on the most eventful occasions during this last Journey of Discovery. Yuranigh was small and slender in person, but (as the youth Dicky said, and I believed,) he was of most determined courage and resolution. His intelligence and his judgment rendered him so necessary to me, that he was ever at my elbow, whether on foot or horseback. Confidence in him was never misplaced. He well knew the character of all the white men of the party. Nothing escaped his penetrating eye and quick ear. His brief but oracular sentences were found to be SAGE, though uttered by one deemed a SAVAGE; and his affection and kindness towards the little native Dicky seemed quite paternal. The younger was the willing servant of the elder; who obliged him to wash and clean himself before he allowed him to sleep near him. Yuranigh was particularly clean in his person, frequently washing, and his glossy shining black hair, always well-combed, gave him an uncommonly clean and decent appearance. He had promised himself and Dicky a great reception on returning to Sydney, and was perhaps disappointed. Dicky had never before seen houses, and Yuranigh took much delight in showing him the theatre, and whatever else was likely to gratify his curiosity. The boy was all questions and observation. I was at a loss how to make these natives comfortable; or suitably reward their services. The new Governor kindly granted the small gratuity asked for Yuranigh, and Dicky became a favourite in my family. Both these natives loathed the idea of returning to the woods, as savages; and, as if captivated with the scenes of activity around them, both expressed a desire “to work and live like white men.” This shows that, when treated on a footing of equality, as these had been in my party, the Australian native MIGHT be induced to take part in the labours of white men; but at the first annoyance, the old freedom of the bush seems to overmaster their resolutions, and attracts them back to it. Yuranigh was engaged (for wages, and under regular agreement,) as stockman to a gentleman who had cattle in the north, and he took an affecting leave of my family. I carried Dicky to my house in the country, with the intention of having him educated there with my children, provided A TUTOR COULD BE FOUND, which seemed doubtful when I left the colony. It has been long a favourite project with me, to educate an aboriginal native, as a husband for Ballandella, and that their children should form, at least, one civilized family of the native race, upon which the influence of education and religious principles might be fairly tried.
This has never yet been done, although the experiment is one of much interest. It seems scarcely practicable, except by withdrawing the married couple to another country, where the children might be educated, and kept clear of all predilections for a life in the woods. I thought of sending such a pair to some congenial climate, such as the South of Europe, where they should be taught the whole art of cultivating the grape, fig, and olive, as well as the management of other productions of similar latitudes in that hemisphere. They might return to Australia with their family in ten or twelve years; when, in speaking a different language from those about them, they would be less open to the influences that interpose between the employers and the employed in that colony; while the utility of their employment might be of some benefit to it. Were this experiment to succeed, the decent and comfortable condition afforded by industry might raise the aborigines in their own estimation, and inspire them with hope to attain to a state of equality with the white men, which, without having some such examples set before them, must seem to them unattainable. The half-clad native finds himself in a degraded position in the presence of the white population: a mere outcast, obliged to beg a little bread. In his native woods, the “noble savage” knows no such degrading necessity. — All there participate in, and have a share of, Nature’s gifts. These, scanty though they be, are open to all. Experience here has proved, and the history of the aborigines of other countries has shown, the absurdity of expecting that any men, “as free as Nature first made man,” will condescend to leave their woods, and come under all the restraints imposed by civilisation, purely from choice, unless they can do so on terms of the most perfect equality. Surely it behoves the nation so active in the suppression of slavery to consider betimes, in taking up new countries, how the aboriginal races can be preserved; and how the evil effects of spirituous liquors, of gunpowder, and of diseases more inimical to them than even slavery, may be counteracted.
The prisoners who had hitherto formed the bulk of all the exploring parties previously led by me into the interior of New South Wales, were chosen chiefly from amongst men employed on the roads, who had acquired good recommendations from their immediate overseers; but, on this last occasion, the men forming the party were for the most part chosen from amongst those still remaining in Cockatoo Island, the worst and most irreclaimable of their class.
The concentration of convicts in that island was intended, I believe, to follow out the Norfolk Island system, keeping the men under rigorous surveillance, and making them work at their respective trades, or as labourers. Even there, so near to Sydney, that labour, so available to lay the foundations of a colony, might have been employed with great advantage, in constructing a naval arsenal and hospital for our seamen on the Indian station, with a dry dock attached to it for the repair of war-steamers. Such a dock has been long a desideratum at Sydney, and private enterprize might, ere this time, have embarked in a work so essential to an important harbour, had not the Government always possessed the means of cheaply constructing such a work by convict labour, and been thus able at any time to have entered into such competition as might have been very injurious to a private speculator. At Cockatoo Island, blacksmiths, shoemakers, wheelwrights, were at work in their various avocations; all the shoes, for both the men and horses of the expedition, were made there; also one half of the carts, which proved equally good as the other portion, although that was made by the best maker in the colony, a celebrated man.
The eagerness evinced by all these men, so confined in irons on Cockatoo Island, to be employed in an exploring expedition, was such that even the most reckless endeavoured to smooth their rugged fronts, and seemed to wish they had better deserved the recommendation of the superintendent. The prospect of achieving their freedom, by one year of good behaviour in the interior, was cheering to the most depressed soul amongst these prisoners. All pressed eagerly forward with their claims and pretensions, which, unfortunately for the knowing ones, were strictly investigated by Mr. Ormsby the superintendent, and Captain Innes, the visiting magistrate. The selection of such as seemed most eligible was at length made, after careful examination of the phrenological developments and police history of each; and it was not easy to find one without a catalogue of offences, filling a whole page of police-office annals. Still there were redeeming circumstances, corroborated by physical developments, sufficient to guide me in the selection of a party from amongst these prisoners. With them, I mixed one or two faithful Irishmen, on whom I knew I could depend, and two or three of my old followers on former journeys, who had become free.
This party of convicts, so organized, with such strong inducements to behave well, and so few temptations to lead them astray, may be supposed to have afforded a favourable opportunity for studying the convict character. It may be asked by some, how such a party could have been made to yield submissive obedience for so long a period as a year, away from all other authority, than mere moral controul. This was chiefly because these men were placed in a position where it was so very clearly for their own interest to conduct themselves properly. Accordingly, the greater number, as on all former expeditions, gave the highest satisfaction, submitting cheerfully to privations, enduring hardships, and encountering dangers, apparently willing and resolved to do anything to escape from the degraded condition of a convict. But still there were a few, amounting in all to six, who, even in such a party, animated by such hopes, could not divest themselves of their true character, nor even disguise it for a time, as an expedient for the achievement of their liberty. These men were known amongst the rest as the “flash mob.” They spoke the secret language of thieves; were ever intent on robbing the stores, with false keys (called by them SCREWS). They held it to be wrong to exert themselves at any work, if it could be avoided; and would not be seen to endeavour to please, by willing cooperation. They kept themselves out of sight as much as possible; neglected their arms; shot away their ammunition contrary to orders; and ate in secret, whatever they did kill, or whatever fish they caught.
Professing to be men of “the Fancy,” they made converts of two promising men, who, at first, were highly thought of, and although one of them was finally reclaimed, a hero of the prize ring, it was too obvious that the men, who glory in breaking the laws, and all of whose songs even, express sentiments of dishonesty, can easily lead the unwary and still susceptible of the unfortunate class, into snares from which they cannot afterwards escape if they would. Once made parties to an offence against the law, they are bound as by a spell, to the order of flash-boys, with whom it is held to be base and cowardly to act “upon the square,” or HONESTLY in any sense of the word; their order professing to act ever “upon the cross.” These men were so well-known to the better disposed and more numerous portion of the party, that the night-guards had to be so arranged, as that the stores or the camp should never be entirely in their hands. Thus a watch was required to be set as regularly over the stores, when the party was close to Sydney, as when it was surrounded by savage tribes in the interior.
Between the “flash men” and the other men of the party, there was a wide difference: An old man to whom they once offered some stolen flour, refused it, saying, “I have been led into enough of trouble in my younger days, by flash friends, and now I wish to lead a quiet life.” Convicts, in fact, consist of two distinctly different classes: the one, fortunately by far the most numerous, comprising those whose crime was the result of impulse; the other class consisting of those whose principle of action is dishonesty; whose trade is crime, and of whose reformation, there is much less hope. The offenders of the one class, repented of their crime from the moment of conviction; those of the other, know no such word in their vocabulary. The one, is still “a thing of hope and change;” and would eagerly avail himself of every means afforded him to regain the position he had lost; the other, true to his “order,” will “die game.” For the separation of the wheat from the chaff, a process by no means difficult, the colony of New South Wales was formerly well adapted. The ticket of leave granted to the deserving convict was one of the most perfect of reformatory indulgences; each individual being known to the authorities, and liable, on the least misconduct, to be sent to work on the public roads. The colony of New South Wales has been the means of restoring many of our unfortunate countrymen to positions in which they have shown that loyalty, industry, public spirit, and patriotism, are not always to be extinguished in the breasts of Englishmen, even by fetters and degradation. It is to be regretted that a more vigilant discrimination had not interposed a more marked line between those convicts deserving emancipation, and those whose services are still wanted on the roads and bridges of the colony.
There is no country in which labour appears to be more required to render it available to, and habitable by, civilised men, than New South Wales or Australia. Without labour, the inhabitants must be savages, or, at least, such helpless people as we find the aborigines. The squatters’ condition is intermediate, temporary, and one of necessity. That country without navigable rivers, intersected by rocky ranges, and subject to uncertain seasons, is unfavourable to agriculture and trade; to social intercourse, and to the moral and physical prosperity of civilised man. With equal truth, it may be observed, that there is no region of earth susceptible of so much improvement, solely by the labour and ingenuity of man. If there be no navigable rivers, there are no unwholesome savannas; if there are rocky ranges, they afford, at least, the means of forming reservoirs of water; and, although it is there uncertain when rain may fall, it is certain that an abundant supply does fall; and the hand of man alone is wanting to preserve that supply and regulate its use. In such a clime, and under such a sun, that most important of elements in cultivation, water, could thus be rendered much more subservient to man’s use than it is in other warm regions, where, if the general vegetation be more luxuriant, the air is less salubrious. Sufficient water for all purposes of cultivation, health, and enjoyment, is quite at the command of art and industry in this most luxuriant of climates. Thus, the peculiar disadvantages Australia presents in her wild state, are such as would greatly enhance the value of such a country under the operation of human industry. In such a climate, for instance, an abundance of water would be found a much greater luxury when retained, distributed, and adjusted, by such means, to man’s uses, than where an abundance is but the natural product of cloudy skies and frequent rains. Where natural resources exist, but require art and industry for their development, the field is open for the combination of science and skill, the profitable investment of capital, and the useful employment of labour. Such is New South Wales.
But the age of such adaptations there is still to come. The future is too much speculated upon; hence no system of agriculture has been yet adjusted to the peculiarities of climate and soil. Instead of studying and adopting the agriculture of similar climates, and the arts by which deficiencies in similar latitudes have from time immemorial been corrected: irrigation, for instance, has not been yet attempted; the natural fertility of the soil has alone been relied on, to compensate, in favourable, seasons, for the deficiencies of others, not favourable, perhaps, for the growth of wheat or barley, but the best imaginable for that of other kinds of productions. So generally available is the structure of the country for the reservation of water by dams, that a small number of these might be made to retain as much of the surface water as might even impart humidity to the atmosphere. This is because the channels of rivers are in general confined by high banks, within which many, or indeed most of them, might be converted by a few dams into canals. To such great purposes convict labour ought to have been applied, had it been possible to have allowed colonization and transportation to work together. But the undulations of the land present everywhere facilities for constructing reservoirs, which heavy showers would fill, and thus afford means sufficient for the purposes of irrigation, were not labour now too scarce there, to admit of the progress of colonization in a manner suitable to the spirit of the age, and character of the nation.
The rich lands along the eastern coast, under a lofty range which supplies abundance of water for the purposes of irrigation, are well adapted for the cultivation of cotton and sugar, and, with labour, nothing could prevent these regions from being made extensively productive of both articles. Of the vine and the olive177, it remains to be ascertained whether some parts of the country may not be made as productive as Andalusia, for instance, is, in the same parallel of latitude, in the opposite hemisphere. The want of hands alone retards the development of every branch of production derivable from industry in these regions.
177 [Five months ago, soon after my return to England, I gave to the Society of Arts two bottles of olive oil, the first samples ever produced, I believe, in Australia. The oil was made by Mr. Kid, superintendent of the Botanic garden at Sydney, from olives grown there, and seemed very clear and good.]
Settled districts, back from the coast, at elevations of 1000 feet and upwards, have produced abundant crops of wheat of very superior quality; and, but for the non-completion of the roads between these districts and the capital, in consequence of the withdrawal of convict labour, the progress of agriculture in its adaptation to the soil and climate, and, as a field for the employment of British immigrants, had been much more advanced than it is there.
The roads which were opened by the above means, or proposed to be opened, have become almost impassable, or remain wholly so; and it is, therefore, the less surprising that the colonists look to the possible introduction of railways with much interest. In a country like that around Sydney, where extensive tracts of inferior land must be traversed by roads in order to arrive at lands which are productive and settled, the value and importance of a railway would be greatly enhanced; and calculations have been made to show that a railway between Sydney and the southern districts would pay, even from the traffic at present along that line. The town of Goulburn, 124 miles from Sydney, in an open undulating country, at a considerable height above the sea, is rapidly growing into importance; and, by making either a good road or a railway, between that town and Sydney, access would be gained to very extensive tracts of valuable territory, easily traversed, and to which Goulburn is a sort of centre.
On the whole, it may be said that the difficulty of access to the best lands, from the want of good roads to them from the principal port, has, of late years, greatly impeded the introduction of immigrants to the rural districts, and added to the population of Sydney many individuals who had been brought to the colony at the public expense, for the assistance of settlers in the country.
The employment of convicts on useful public works was, twenty years ago, a primary object with the government of New South Wales. The location of settlers on their grants by the measurement of their farms, then much in arrear, and the division of the territory into counties, hundreds, and parishes, in order to complete the deeds of grant to settlers, altogether rendered necessary a general survey of the colony, which work I commenced in 1827, EX OFFICIO, and, pursuant to Royal Instructions, sent to the colony in 1825. The time between the years 1827 and 1837 was the most prosperous in the history of the colony of New South Wales, when convicts made good roads, farms were measured up, and the country was surveyed and divided into countries. Colonization extended rapidly to the shores of the southern ocean, and Australia Felix was made known to the British public.
The survey touched the limits of the then unknown country, for the direction of great roads from a centre could not be considered permanent, however limited the colony, without such consideration of their ultimate tendency as could only be given with a knowledge of the whole intervening country. My plans of exploration have been governed by these views and objects, and the journey recorded in these pages was intended to complete the last of three lines radiating from Sydney. One led across the Blue mountains to Bathurst and the western interior as far as the land seemed worth exploring; another by Goulburn to Australia Felix and the southern coast; and, lastly, this, the third general route, to the northern shores at the nearest point, the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria — from which I trust that by this time my assistant Mr. Kennedy will have returned to Sydney.
Held responsible by the Government for the performance of such a duty178, I have endeavoured to work out its views with that unity of plan which must result from a mathematical principle, and which has enabled me to bring to a satisfactory conclusion, after the lapse of many years, and in the face of considerable difficulty, an undertaking commenced at the command of my Sovereign, and under the auspices of the British Government. That the Royal Instructions were originally intended for the benefit of the colony of New South Wales is best evinced by the fact that this journey of survey and exploration has been undertaken on the petition of the Legislative Council of the Colony, and performed wholly at the expense of the colony of New South Wales.
178 [Appendix, Letter No. 30/1252., page 431.]
It now remains for me to submit my final “Report,” or, in other words, to point out how the geographical knowledge thus acquired may be available for the economical extension of that colonisation which the expansive energies of this great nation seem to require. New South Wales may be benefited, it is true, by the establishment of any additional market on the eastern coast, for her produce; and by a road to the Gulf of Carpentaria; but a timely knowledge of the structure of the interior was necessary to enable the Government to determine on the sites most eligible for centres of colonisation required along the coast. It is now ascertained that a great range separates the coast settlements from the open pastoral country of the interior, as far as the parallel of 25° south. That there it breaks off at the lofty plateau of Buckland’s Table Land, which overlooks a much lower country in the north; — a country but lightly wooded, watered by good rivers, and which affords an easy access to extensive pastoral regions in the interior, without the intervention of any such formidable barrier between that interior open country and the coast, as the great range nearer the actual colony. Precisely on that part of the coast, to which the united channels of the water lead, a harbour has been surveyed and approved of by competent naval officers. These geographical facts, therefore, render it easy to define one situation more favourable than any other that might be found along that coast, for the nucleus of a colony, and which would divide almost equally the whole coast line between Sydney and Cape York. I allude to Port Bowen, near Broad Sound; and the river Nogoa, which has been (I believe) called lower down, the Mackenzie. A port on that part of the coast, at the entrance within the reefs, would be advantageous to steam navigation. The occupation of the fine country on the rivers Victoria, Salvator and Claude, must depend on some such sea-port for supplies; and on the occupation of that back-country must again, in a great measure, depend the establishment of a direct line of communication between Sydney and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
At the head of that gulf, admitting that a practicable and direct line of route can be opened to it, the country, and the sea adjacent, may soon require attention. By timely examination and good arrangement, a commodious place of embarkation may be established there, which might, by degrees, become an important town; where horses might be shipped and conveyed by a short passage to India, free from the hazards of Torres Straits. It would appear from the brief but intelligible description by Captain Flinders, that Wellesley Islands, or Sweer’s Island, being both higher than the main land, might be connected with it, by some permanent work, and thus afford a good port for steamers, and shelter and anchorage for other ships. According to the interesting narrative of Captain Stokes, the temperature is remarkably low, and convict labour might there be very usefully employed upon such works. The head of the Gulf of Carpentaria, being that part of the Indian Ocean nearest to Sydney, has appeared of more importance to the colonists, since steam navigation became regular between England and the Indian archipelago. Then it became more desirable for the colonists to know the nature of the interior country between their capital and that northern coast. The interior has been found very open and accessible; the fine country at the head of the Victoria must soon be occupied, and thus divide the whole distance into two equal parts, each of these not much exceeding the distance between Sydney and Melbourne, in Australia Felix; between which places mail-carriages now run twice a week. Thus, while, by the extension of geographical research, the proper fields for colonization are laid open for selection, and prepared for timely arrangements on the part of the Imperial Government; the colonists of New South Wales have promoted the general interests of their fellow subjects at home, by the developement of the resources of the territory around them.
He “who measured out the sea in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the earth in a balance,” has determined, by the condition of these two elements, the situation of the Gulf, and that of the great break in the East Coast range — the one affording the nearest access to an important sea, the other the easy way to a rich interior land. I would, with deference to Him, “who led Israel like a flock,” and me in safety through the Australian wilds, distinguish the two regions by timely descriptive names on the map I now lay before the public; Capricornia, to express the country under the tropics, from the parallel of 25° South, where nature has set up her own land-marks, not to be disputed: Australindia, the country on the shores of the most southern part of the Indian archipelago; which two regions may be made conterminous according to natural limits, when such limits can be accurately ascertained.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52