Purpose of this Chapter — Name of Australia — Impressions of its early Visitors — Character of the Australian rivers — Author’s first view of Port Jackson — Extent of the Colony of New South Wales — its rapid advances in prosperity — Erroneous impressions — Commercial importance of Sydney — Growth of fine wool — Mr. M’Arthur’s meritorious exertions — Whale-fishery — Other exports — Geographical features — Causes of the large proportion of bad soil — Connection between the geology and vegetation — Geological features — Character of the soil connected with the geological formation — County of Cumberland — Country westward of the Blue Mountains — Disadvantages of the remote settlers — Character of the Eastern coast — Rich tracts in the interior — Periodical droughts — The seasons apparently affected by the interior marshes — Temperature — Fruits — Emigrants: Causes of their success or failure — Moral disadvantages — System of emigration recommended — Hints to emigrants — Progress of inland discovery — Expeditions across the Blue Mountains — Discoveries of Mr. Evans, Mr. Oxley, and others — Conjectures respecting the interior.
When I first determined on committing to the press a detailed account of the two expeditions, which I conducted into the interior of the Australian continent, pursuant to the orders of Lieutenant General Darling, the late Governor of the Colony of New South Wales, it was simply with a view of laying their results before the geographical world, and of correcting the opinions that prevailed with regard to the unexplored country to the westward of the Blue Mountains. I did not feel myself equal either to the task or the responsibility of venturing any remarks on the Colony of New South Wales itself. I had had little time for inquiry, amidst the various duties that fell to my lot in the ordinary routine of the service to which I belonged, when unemployed by the Colonial Government in the prosecution of inland discoveries. My observations had been in a great measure confined to those points which curiosity, or a desire of personal information, had prompted me to investigate. I did not, therefore, venture to flatter myself that I had collected materials of sufficient importance on general topics to enable me to write for the information of others. Since my return to England, however, I have been strenuously urged to give a short description of the colony before entering upon my personal narrative; and I have conversed with so many individuals whose ideas of Australia are totally at variance with its actual state, that I am encouraged to indulge the hope that my observations, desultory as they are, may be of some interest to the public. I am strengthened in this hope by the consideration that some kind friends have enabled me to add much valuable matter to that which I had myself collected. It is not my intention, however, to enter at any length on the commercial or agricultural interests of New South Wales. It may be necessary for me to touch lightly on those important subjects, but it is my wish to connect this preliminary chapter, as much as possible with the subjects treated of in the body of the work, and chiefly to notice the physical structure, the soil, climate, and productions of the colony, in order to convey to the reader general information on these points, before I lead him into the remote interior.
It may be worthy of remark that the name “Australia,” has of late years been affixed to that extensive tract of land which Great Britain possesses in the Southern Seas, and which, having been a discovery of the early Dutch navigators, was previously termed “New Holland.” The change of name was, I believe, introduced by the celebrated French geographer, Malte Brun, who, in his division of the globe, gave the appellation of Austral Asia and Polynesia to the new discovered lands in the southern ocean; in which division he meant to include the numerous insular groups scattered over the Pacific.
Australia is properly speaking an island, but it is so much larger than every other island on the face of the globe, that it is classed as a continent in order to convey to the mind a just idea of its magnitude. Stretching from the 115th to the 153rd degree of east longitude, and from the 10th to the 37th of south latitude, it averages 2700 miles in length by 1800 in breadth; and balanced, as it were, upon the tropic of that hemisphere in which it is situated, it receives the fiery heat of the equator at one extremity, while it enjoys the refreshing coolness of the temperate zone at the other. On a first view we should be led to expect that this extensive tract of land possessed more than ordinary advantages; that its rivers would be in proportion to its size; and that it would abound in the richest productions of the inter-tropical and temperate regions. Such, indeed, was the impression of those who first touched upon its southern shores, but who remained no longer than to be dazzled by the splendour and variety of its botanical productions, and to enjoy for a few days the delightful mildness of its climate. But the very spot which had appeared to Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks an earthly paradise, was abandoned by the early settlers as unfit for occupation; nor has the country generally been fount to realize the sanguine expectations of those distinguished individuals, so far as it has hitherto been explored.
Rivers which have the widest mouths or the most practicable entrances, are, in Europe or America, usually of impetuous current, or else contain such a body of water as to bear down all opposition to their free course; whilst on the other hand, rivers whose force is expended ere they reach the sea, have almost invariably a bar at their embouchure, or where they mingle their waters with those of the ocean. This last feature unfortunately appears to characterize all rivers of Australia, or such of them at least as are sufficiently known to us. Falling rapidly from the mountains in which they originate into a level and extremely depressed country; having weak and inconsiderable sources, and being almost wholly unaided by tributaries of any kind; they naturally fail before they reach the coast, and exhaust themselves in marshes or lakes or reach it so weakened as to be unable to preserve clear or navigable months, or to remove the sand banks that the tides throw up before them. On the other hand the productions of this singular region seem to be peculiar to it, and unlike those of any other part of the world; nor have any indigenous fruits of any value as yet been found either in its forests or on its plains.
He who has never looked on any other than the well-cultured fields of England, can have little idea of a country that Nature has covered with an interminable forest. Still less can he estimate the feelings with which the adventurer approaches a shore that has never (or perhaps only lately) been trodden by civilized man.
It was with feelings peculiar to the occasion, that I gazed for the first time on the bold cliffs at the entrance of Port Jackson, as our vessel neared them, and speculated on the probable character of the landscape they hid; and I am free to confess, that I did not anticipate anything equal to the scene which presented itself both to my sight and my judgment, as we sailed up the noble and extensive basin we had entered, towards the seat of government. A single glance was sufficient to tell me that the hills upon the southern shore of the port, the outlines of which were broken by houses and spires, must once have been covered with the same dense and gloomy wood which abounded every where else. The contrast was indeed very great — the improvement singularly striking. The labour and patience required, and the difficulties which the first settlers encountered effecting these improvements, must have been incalculable. But their success has been complete: it is the very triumph of human skill and industry over Nature herself. The cornfield and the orchard have supplanted the wild grass and the brush; a flourishing town stands over the ruins of the forest; the lowing of herds has succeeded the wild whoop of the savage; and the stillness of that once desert shore is now broken by the sound of the bugle and the busy hum of commerce.
The Colony of New South Wales is situated upon the eastern coast of Australia; and the districts within which land has been granted to settlers, extends from the 36th parallel of latitude to the 32nd, that is say, from the Moroyo River to the south of Sydney on the one hand, and to the Manning River on the other, including Wellington Valley within its limits to the westward. Thus it will appear that the boundaries of the located parts of the colony have been considerably enlarged, and some fine districts of country included within them. In consequence of its extent and increasing population, it has been found convenient to divide it into counties, parishes, and townships; and indeed, every measure of the Colonial Government of late years, has had for its object to assimilate its internal arrangements as nearly as possible, to those of the mother country. Whether we are to attribute the present flourishing state of the colony to the beneficial influence of that system of government which has been exercised over it for the last seven years it is not for me to say. That the prosperity of a country depends, however, in a great measure, on the wisdom of its legislature, is as undoubted, as that within the period I have mentioned the colony of N. S. Wales has risen unprecedentedly in importance and in wealth, and has advanced to a state of improvement at which it could not have arrived had its energies been cramped or its interests neglected.
There is a period in the history of every country, during which it will appear to have been more prosperous than at any other. I allude not to the period of great martial achievements, should any such adorn its pages, but to that in which the enterprise of its merchants was roused into action, and when all classes of its community seem to have put forth their strength towards the attainment of wealth and power.
In this eventful period the colony of New South Wales is already far advanced. The conduct of its merchants is marked by the boldest speculations and the most gigantic projects. Their storehouses are built on the most magnificent scale, and with the best and most substantial materials. Few persons in England have even a remote idea of its present flourishing condition, or of the improvements that are daily taking place both in its commerce and in its agriculture. I am aware that many object to it as a place of residence, and I can easily enter into their feelings from the recollection of what my own were before I visited it. I cannot but remark, however, that I found my prejudices had arisen from a natural objection to the character of a part of its population; from the circumstance of its being a penal colony, and from my total ignorance of its actual state, and not from any substantial or permanent cause. On the contrary I speedily became convinced of the exaggerated nature of the reports I had heard in England, on some of the points just adverted to; nor did any thing fall under my observation during a residence in it of more than six years to justify the opinion I had been previously led to entertain of it. I embarked for New South Wales, with strong prejudices against it: I left it with strong feelings in its favour, and with a deep feeling of interest in its prosperity. It is a pleasing task to me, therefore, to write of it thus, and to have it in my power to contribute to the removal of any erroneous impressions with regard to its condition at the present moment.
I have already remarked, that I was not prepared for the scene that met my view when I first saw Sydney. The fact was, I had not pictured to myself; nor conceived from any thing that I had ever read or heard in England, that so extensive a town could have been reared in that remote region, in so brief a period as that which had elapsed since its foundation. It is not, however, a distant or cursory glance that will give the observer a just idea of the mercantile importance of this busy capital. In order to form an accurate estimate of it, he should take a boat and proceed from Sydney Cove to Darling Harbour. He would then be satisfied, that it is not upon the first alone that Australian commerce has raised its storehouse and wharfs, but that the whole extent of the eastern shore of the last more capacious basin, is equally crowded with warehouses, stores, dockyards, mills, and wharfs, the appearance and solidity of which would do credit even to Liverpool. Where, thirty years ago, the people flocked to the beach to hail an arrival, it is not now unusual to see from thirty to forty vessels riding at anchor at one time, collected there from every quarter of the globe. In 1832, one hundred and fifty vessels entered the harbour of Port Jackson, from foreign parts, the amount of their tonnage being 31,259 tons.
The increasing importance of Sydney must in some measure be attributed to the flourishing condition of the colony itself, to the industry of its farmers, to the successful enterprise of its merchants, and to particular local causes. It is foreign to my purpose, however, to enter largely into an investigation of these important points. To do so would require more space than I can afford for the purpose, and might justly be considered as irrelevant in a work of this kind. Without attempting any lengthened detail, it may be considered sufficient if I endeavour merely to point out the principal causes of the present prosperity (and, as they may very probably prove) of the eventual progress of our great southern colony to power and independence.
The staple of our Australian colonies, but more particularly of New South Wales, the climate and the soil of which are peculiarly suited to its production — is fine wool. There can be no doubt that the growth of this article has mainly contributed to the prosperity of the above mentioned colony and of Van Diemen’s Land.
At the close of the last century, wool was imported into England from Spain and Germany only, and but a few years previously from Spain alone. Indeed, long after its introduction from the latter country, German wool, obtained but little consideration in the London market; and in like manner, it may be presumed that many years will not have elapsed before the increased importation of wool from our own possessions in the southern hemisphere, will render us, in respect to this commodity, independent of every other part of the world. The great improvements in modern navigation are such, that the expense of sending the fleece to market from New South Wales is less than from any part of Europe. The charges for instance on Spanish and German wool, are from fourpence to fourpence three farthings per pound; whereas the entire charge, after shipment from New South Wales, and Van Diemen’s Land, does not exceed threepence three farthings — and in this the dock and landing charges, freight, insurance, brokerage, and commission, are included.
As some particulars respecting the introduction of this source of national wealth into Australia may prove interesting to the public, I have put together the following details of it, upon the authenticity of which they may rely. The person who foresaw the advantage to be derived from the growth of fine wool in New South Wales, and who commenced the culture of it in that colony, was Mr. John M’Arthur. So far back, I believe, as the year 1793, not long after the establishment of the first settlement at Sydney, this gentleman commenced sheep-farming, and about two years afterwards he obtained a ram and two ewes from Captain Kent, of the royal navy, who had brought them, with some other stock for the supply of the settlement, from the Cape of Good Hope, to which place a flock of these sheep had been originally sent by the Dutch government. Sensible of the importance of the acquisition, Mr. M’Arthur began to cross his coarse-fleeced sheep with Merino blood; and, proceeding upon a system, he effected a considerable improvement in the course of a few years. So prolific was the mixed breed, that in ten years, a flock which originally consisted of not more than seventy Bengal sheep, had increased in number to 4,000 head, although the wethers had been killed as they became fit for slaughter. It appears, however, that as the sheep approached to greater purity of blood, their extreme fecundity diminished.
In 1803, Mr. M’Arthur revisited England; and there happening at the time to be a committee of manufacturers in London from the clothing districts, he exhibited before them samples of his wool, which were so much approved, that the committee represented to their constituents the advantages which would result from the growth of fine wool, in one of the southern dependencies of the empire. In consequence of this a memorial was transmitted to His Majesty’s government, and Mr. M’Arthur’s plans having been investigated by a Privy Council, at which he was present, they were recommended to the government as worthy of its protection. With such encouragement Mr. M’Arthur purchased two ewes and three rams, from the Merino flock of His Majesty King George the Third. He embarked with them on his return to New South Wales in 1806, on board a vessel named by him “the Argo,” in reference to the golden treasure with which she was freighted. On reaching the colony he removed his sheep to a grant of land which the Home Government had directed he should receive in the Cow Pastures. To commemorate the transaction, and to transmit to a grateful posterity the recollection of the nobleman who then presided over the colonies, the estate, together with the district in which it is situated, was honoured by the name of Camden.
Since that time the value of New South Wales wool has been constantly on the increase, and the colony are indebted to Mr. M’Arthur for the possession of an exportable commodity which has contributed very materially to its present wealth and importance. Such general attention is now paid to this interesting branch of rural economy, that the importation of wool into England from our Australian colonies, amounted, in 1832, to 10,633 bales, or 2,500,000 lbs. It has been sold at as high a price as 10s. per lb.; but the average price of wool of the best flocks vary from 1s. 6d. to 4s. 6d. at the present moment. The number of sheep in New South Wales alone was calculated in the last census at 536,891 head. The ordinary profits on this kind of stock may be extracted from the Table given in the Appendix to the first volume of this work.
Among the various speculations undertaken by the merchants of Sydney, there is not one into which they have entered with so much spirit as in the South Sea Fishery. The local situation of Port Jackson gives them an advantage over the English and the American merchants, since the distance of both these from the field of their gains, must necessarily impede them greatly; whereas the ships that leave Sydney on a whaling excursion, arrive without loss of time upon their ground, and return either for fresh supplies or to repair damages with equal facility. The spirit with which the colonial youth have engaged in this adventurous and hardy service, is highly to their credit. The profits arising from it may not be (indeed I have every reason to think are not) so great as might be supposed, or such as might reasonably be expected; but the extensive scale on which it is conducted, speaks equally for the energy and perseverance of the parties concerned, in the prosecution of their commercial enterprises. It has enabled them to equip a creditable colonial marine, and given great importance to their mercantile interests in the mother country.
In the year 1831, the quantity of sperm and black oil, the produce of the fisheries exported from New South Wales, amounted to 2,307 tons, and was estimated, together with skins and whalebone, to be worth 107,971 pounds sterling. The gross amount of all other exports during that year, did not exceed 107,697 pounds sterling. Of these exports, the following were the most considerable:
Timber 7,410 pounds sterling Butter and Cheese 2,376 Mimosa bark 40 Hides 7,333 Horses 7,302 Salt provisions 5,184 Wool 66,112
The above is exclusive of 61,000 pounds value of British manufactures re-exported to the various ports and islands in the Southern Seas.
In this scale, moreover, tobacco is not mentioned; but that plant is now raised for the supply of every private establishment, and will assuredly form an article of export, as soon as its manufacture shall be well understood. Neither can it be doubted but that the vine and the olive will, in a short time, be abundantly cultivated; and that a greater knowledge of the climate and soil of the more northern parts of the colony, will lead to the introduction of fresh sources of wealth.
Having taken this hasty review of the commercial interests of the colony, we may now turn to a brief examination of its internal structure and principal natural features.
I have already given a cursory sketch of the geographical features of the whole continent. Of the vast area which its coasts embrace, the east part alone has been fully explored.
A range of hills runs along the eastern coast, from north to south, which, in different quarters, vary in their distance from the sea; at one place approaching it pretty nearly, at another, receding from it to a distance of forty miles. It is a singular fact, that there is no pass or break in these mountains, by which any of the rivers of the interior can escape in an easterly direction. Their spine is unbroken. The consequence is, that there is a complete division of the eastern and western waters, and that streams, the heads of which are close to each other, flow away in opposite directions; the one to pursue a short course to the sea; the other to fall into a level and depressed interior, the character of which will be noticed in its proper place.
The proportion of bad soil to that which is good in New South Wales, is certainly very great: I mean the proportion of inferior soil to such as is fit for the higher purposes of agriculture. Mr. Dawson, the late superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company’s possessions, has observed, as a singular fact, that the best soil generally prevails on the summits of the hills, more especially where they are at all level. He accounts for so unusual a circumstance by the fact, that elevated positions are less subject to the effects of fire or floods than their valleys or flanks, and attributes the general want of vegetable mould over the colony chiefly to the ravages of the former element, whereby the growth of underwood, so favourable in other countries to the formation of soil, is wholly prevented. Undoubtedly this is a principal cause for the deficiency in question. There is no part of the world in which fires create such havoc as in New South Wales and indeed in Australia generally. The climate, on the one hand, which dries up vegetation, and the wandering habits of the natives on the other, which induce them to clear the country before them by conflagration, operate equally against the growth of timber and underwood.
But there is another circumstance that appears to have escaped Mr. Dawson’s observation; which is the actual property of the trees themselves, as to the quantity of vegetable matter they produce in decay. Being a military man, I cannot be supposed to have devoted much of my time to agricultural pursuits; but it has been obvious to me, as it must have been to many others, that in New South Wales, the fall of leaves and the decay of timber, so far from adding to the richness of its soil, actually destroy minor vegetation. This fact was brought more home to me in consequence of its having been my lot to spend some months upon Norfolk Island, a distant penal settlement attached to the Government of Sydney. There the abundance of vegetable decay was as remarkable as the want of it on the Australian Continent. I have frequently sunk up to my knees in a bed of leaves when walking through its woods; and, often when I placed my foot on what appeared externally to be the solid trunk of a tree, I have found it yield to the pressure, in consequence of its decomposition into absolute rottenness. But such is not the case in New South Wales. There, no such accumulations of vegetable matter are to be met with; but where the loftiest tree of the forest falls to the ground, its figure and length are marked out by the total want of vegetation within a certain distance of it, and a small elevation of earth, resembling more the refuse or scoria of burnt bricks than any thing else, is all that ultimately remains of the immense body which time or accident had prostrated. Thus it would appear, that it is not less to the character of its woods than to the ravages of fire that New South Wales owes its general sterility.
Whilst prosecuting my researches in the interior of the colony, I could not but be struck with the apparent connection between its geology and vegetation; so strong, indeed, was this connection, that I had little difficulty, after a short experience, in judging of the rock that formed the basis of the country over which I was travelling, from the kind of tree or herbage that flourished in the soil above it. The eucalyptus pulv., a species of eucalyptus having a glaucus-coloured leaf, of dwarfish habits and growing mostly in scrub, betrayed the sandstone formation, wherever it existed, This was the case in many parts of the County of Cumberland, in some parts of Wombat Brush, at the two passes on the great south road, over a great extent of country to the N.W. of Yass Plains, and at Blackheath on the summit of the Blue Mountains. On the other hand, those open grassy and park-like tracts, of which so much has been said, characterise the secondary ranges of granite and porphyry. The trees most usual on these tracts, were the box, an unnamed species of eucalyptus, and the grass chiefly of that kind, called the oat or forest grass, which grows in tufts at considerable distances from each other, and which generally affords good pasturage. On the richer grounds the angophora lanceolata, and the eucalyptus mammifera more frequently point out the quality of the soil on which they grow. The first are abundant on the alluvial flats of the Nepean, the Hawkesbury and the Hunter; the latter on the limestone formation of Wellington Valley and in the better portions of Argyle; whilst the cupressus calytris seems to occupy sandy ridges with the casuarina. It was impossible that these broad features should have escaped observation: it was naturally inferred from this, that the trees of New South Wales are gregarious; and in fact they may, in a great measure, be considered so. The strong line that occasionally separates different species, and the sudden manner in which several species are lost at one point, to re-appear at another more distant, without any visible cause for the break that has taken place, will furnish a number of interesting facts in the botany of New South Wales.
Cataract of the Macquarie
It was observed both on the Macquarie river and the Morumbidgee, that the casuarinae ceased at a particular point. On the Macquarie particularly, these trees which had often excited our admiration from Wellington Valley downwards, ceased to occupy its banks below the cataract, nor were they again noticed until we arrived on the banks of the Castlereagh. The blue-gum trees, again, were never observed to extend beyond the secondary embankments of the rivers, occupying that ground alone which was subject to flood and covered with reeds. These trees waved over the marshes of the Macquarie, but were not observed to the westward of them for many miles; yet they re-appeared upon the banks of New-Year’s Creek as suddenly as they had disappeared after we left the marshes, and grew along the line of the Darling to unusual size. But it is remarkable, that, even in the midst of the marshes, the blue-gum trees were strictly confined to the immediate flooded spaces on which the reeds prevailed, or to the very beds of the water-courses. Where the ground was elevated, or out of the reach of flood, the box (unnamed) alone occupied it; and, though the branches of these trees might be interwoven together, the one never left its wet and reedy bed, the other never descended from its more elevated position. The same singular distinction marked the acacia pendula, when it ceased to cover the interior plains of light earth, and was succeeded by another shrub of the same species. It continued to the banks of New-Year’s Creek, a part of which it thickly lined. To the westward of the creek, another species of acacia was remarked for the first time. Both shrubs, like the blue-gum and the box, mixed their branches together, but the creek formed the line of separation between them. The acacia pendula was not afterwards seen, but that which had taken its place, as it were, was found to cover large tracts of country and to form extensive brushes. Many other peculiarities in the vegetation of the interior are noticed in the body of this work, but I have thought that these more striking ones deserved to be particularly remarked upon.
If we strike a line to the N.W. from Sydney to Wellington Valley, we shall find that little change takes place in the geological features of the country. The sand-stone of which the first of the barrier ranges is composed, terminates a little beyond Mount York, and at Cox’s River is succeeded by grey granite. The secondary ranges to the N.W. of Bathurst, are wholly of that primitive rock; for although there are partial changes of strata between Bathurst and Moulong Plains, granite is undoubtedly the rock upon which the whole are based: but at Moulong Plains, a military station intermediate between Bathurst and Wellington Valley, limestone appears in the bed of a small clear stream, and with little interruption continues to some distance below the last-mentioned place. The accidental discovery of some caves at Moulong Plains, led to the more critical examination of the whole formation, and cavities of considerable size were subsequently found in various parts of it, but more particularly in the neighbourhood of Wellington Valley. The local interest which has of late years been taken in the prosecution of geological investigations, led many gentlemen to examine the contents of these caverns; and among the most forward, Major Mitchell, the Surveyor-General, must justly be considered, to whose indefatigable perseverance the scientific world is already so much indebted.
The caves into which I penetrated, did not present anything particular to my observation; they differed little from caves of a similar description into which I had penetrated in Europe. Large masses of stalactites hung from their roofs, and a corresponding formation encrusted their floors. They comprised various chambers or compartments, the most remote of which terminated at a deep chasm that was full of water. A close examination of these caves has led to the discovery of some organic remains, bones of various animals embedded in a light red soil; but I am not aware that the remains of any extinct species have been found, or that any fossils have been met with in the limestone itself. There can, however, be little doubt but that the same causes operated in depositing these mouldering remains in the caves of Kirkdale and those of Wellington Valley.
About twenty miles below the junction of the Bell with the Macquarie, free-stone supersedes the limestone, but as the country falls rapidly from that point, it soon disappears, and the traveller enters upon a flat country of successive terraces. A schorl rock, of a blue colour and fine grain, composed of tourmaline and quartz, forms the bed of the Macquarie at the Cataract; and, in immediate contact with it, a mass of mica slate of alternate rose, pink, and white, was observed, which must have been covered by the waters of the river when Mr. Oxley descended it.
From the Cataract of the Macquarie, a flat extends to the marshes in which that river exhausts itself. From the midst of this flat Mount Foster and Mount Harris rise, both of which are porphyritic: but as I have been particular in describing these heights in their proper place, any minute notice of them here may be considered unnecessary. We will rather extend our enquiries to those parts of the colony upon which we shall not be called upon to remark in the succeeding pages.
Returning to the coast, we may mark the geological changes in a line to the S.W. of Sydney; and as my object is to extend the information of my readers, I shall notice any particular district on either side of the line I propose to touch upon, which may be worthy of notice. It would appear that the first decided break in the sandstone formation which penetrates into the county of Camden, is at Mittagong Range. It is there traversed by a dike of whinstone, of which that range is wholly composed. The change of soil and of vegetation are equally remarkable at this place; the one being a rich, greasy, chocolate-coloured earth, the other partaking greatly of the intertropical character. In wandering over them, I noticed the wild fig and the cherry-tree, growing to a much larger size than I had seen them in any other part of the colony. Upon their branches, the satin bird, the gangan, and various kinds of pigeons were feeding. Birds unknown to the eastward of the Blue Mountains, were numerous in the valleys; and there was an unusual appearance of freshness and moisture in the vegetation.
These signs of improvement, however, vanish the moment Mittagong range is crossed, and sand-stone again forms the basis of the country to a considerable distance beyond Bong-bong. At a small farm called the Ploughed Ground, it is again traversed by a dike of whinstone, and a rich but isolated spot is thus passed over. With occasional and partial interruption, however, the sand-stone formation continues to an abrupt pass, from which the traveller descends to the county of Argyle. This pass is extremely abrupt, and is covered with glaucus, the low scrub I have noticed as common to the sand-stone formation. A small but lively stream, called Paddy’s River, runs at the bottom of this pass, and immediately to the S.W. of it, an open forest country of granite base extends for many miles, on which the eucalyptus manifera is prevalent, and which affords the best grazing tracts in Argyle. At Goulburn Plains, however, a vein of limestone occurs, which is evidently connected with that forming the ShoalHaven Gully, which is perhaps the most remarkable geological feature in the colony of New South Wales. It is a deep chasm of about a quarter of a mile in breadth, and 1200 feet in depth. The country on either side is perfectly level, so much so that the traveller approaches almost to its very brink before he is aware of his being near so singular an abyss. A small rivulet flows through the Gully, and discharges itself into the sea at ShoalHaven; but this river is hardly perceptible, from the summit of the cliffs forming the sides of the Gully, which are of the boldest and most precipitous character. The ground on the summit is full of caves of great depth, but there has been a difficulty in examining them, in consequence of the violent wind that rushes up them, and extinguishes every torch.
The open and grassy forests of Argyle are terminated by another of those abrupt sand-stone passes I have just described, and the traveller again falls considerably from his former level, previously to his entering on Yass Plains, to which this pass is the only inlet.
From Yass Plains the view to the S. and S.W. is over a lofty and broken country: mountains with rounded summits, others with towering peaks, and others again of lengthened form but sharp spine, characterise the various rocks of which they are composed. The ranges decline rapidly from east to west, and while on the one hand the country has all the appearance of increasing height, on the other it sinks to a dead level; nor on the distant horizon to the N. W. is there a hill or an inequality to be seen.
From Yass Plains to the very commencement of the level interior, every range I crossed presented a new rock-formation; serpentine quartz in huge white masses, granite, chlorite, micaceous schist, sandstone, chalcedony, quartz, and red jasper, and conglomerate rocks.
It was however, out of my power, in so hurried a journey as that which I performed down the banks of the Morumbidgee River, to examine with the accuracy I could have wished, either the immediate connection between these rocks or their gradual change from the one to the other. I was content to ascertain their actual succession, and to note the general outlines of the ranges; but the defect of vision under which I labour, prevents me from laying them before the public.
From what has been advanced, however, it will appear that the physical structure of the southern parts of the colony is as varied, as that of the western interior is monotonous, and we may now pursue our original observations on the soil of the colony with greater confidence.
In endeavouring to account for the poverty of the soil in New South Wales, and in attributing it in a great degree to the causes already mentioned, it appears necessary to estimate more specifically the influence which the geological formation of a country exercises on its soil, and how much the quality of the latter partakes of the character of the rock on which it reposes. And although I find it extremely difficult to explain myself as I should wish to do, in the critical discussion on which I have thus entered, yet as it is material to the elucidation of an important subject in the body of the work, I feel it incumbent on me to proceed to the best of my ability.
I have said that the soil of a country depends much upon its geological formation. This appears to be particularly the case in those parts of the colony with which I am acquainted, or those lying between the parallels of 30 degrees and 35 degrees south. Sandstone, porphyry, and granite, succeed each other from the coast to a very considerable distance into the interior, on a N. W. line. The light ferruginous dust that is distributed over the county of Cumberland, and which annoys the traveller by its extreme minuteness, to the eastward of the Blue Mountains, is as different from the coarse gravelly soil on the secondary ranges to the westward of them, as the barren scrubs and thickly-wooded tracts of the former district are to the grassy and open forests of the latter.
As soon as I began to descend to the westward it became necessary to pay strict and earnest attention to the features of the country through which I passed, in order to determine more accurately the different appearances which, as I was led to expect, the rivers would assume. In the course of my examination I found, first, that the broken country through which I travelled, was generally covered with a loose, coarse, and sandy soil; and, secondly, that the ranges were wholly deficient in that peat formation which fills the valleys, or covers the flat summits of the hills or mountains, in the northern hemisphere. The peculiar property of this formation is to retain water like a sponge; and to this property the regular and constant flow of the rivers descending from such hills, may, in a great measure, be attributed. In New South Wales on the contrary, the rains that fall upon the mountains drain rapidly through a coarse and superficial soil, and pour down their sides without a moment’s interruption. The consequence is that on such occasions the rivers are subject to great and sudden rises, whereas they have scarcely water enough to support a current in ordinary seasons. At one time the traveller will find it impracticable to cross them: at another he may do so with ease; and only from the remains of debris in the branches of the trees high above, can he judge of the furious torrent they must occasionally contain.
This seeming deviation on the part of Nature from her usual laws will no longer appear such, if we consider its results for a moment. The very floods which swell the rivers to overflowing, are followed by the most beneficent effects; and, rude and violent as the means are by which she accomplishes her purpose, they form, no doubt, a part of that process by which she preserves the balance of good and evil. Vast quantities of the best soil have been thus washed down from the mountains to accumulate in more accessible places. From frequent depositions, a great extent of country along the banks of every river and creek has risen high above the influence of the floods, and constitutes the richest tracts in the colony. The alluvial flats of the Nepean, the Hawkesbury, and the Hunter, are striking instances of the truth of these observations; to which the plains of O’Connell and Bathurst must be added. The only good soil upon the two latter, is in the immediate neighbourhood of the Macquarie River: but, even close to its banks, the depositions are of little depth, lying on a coarse gravelly soil, the decomposition of the nearer ranges. The former is found to diminish in thickness, according to the concavity of the valley through which the Macquarie flows, and at length becomes mixed with the coarser soil. This deposit is alone fit for agricultural purposes; but it does not necessarily follow that the distant country is unavailable since it is admitted, that the best grazing tracts are upon the secondary ranges of granite and porphyry. These ranges generally have the appearance of open forest, and are covered with several kinds of grasses, among which the long oat-grass is the most abundant.
If we except the valley of the Nepean, the banks of the South Creek, the Pennant Hills near Parramatta, and a few other places, the general soil of the county of Cumberland, is of the poorest description. It is superficial in most places, resting either upon a cold clay, or upon sandstone; and is, as I have already remarked, a ferruginous compound of the finest dust. Yet there are many places upon its surface, (hollows for instance,) in which vegetable decay has accumulated, or valleys, into which it has been washed, that are well adapted for the usual purposes of agriculture, and would, if the country was more generally cleared, be found to exist to a much greater extent than is at present imagined. I have frequently observed the isolated patches of better land, when wandering through the woods, both on the Parramatta River, and at a greater distance from the coast. And I cannot but think, that it would be highly advantageous to those who possess large properties in the County of Cumberland to let Portions of them. The concentration of people round their capital, promotes more than anything else the prosperity of a colony, by creating a reciprocal demand for the produce both of the country and the town, since the one would necessarily stimulate the energy of the farmer, as the other would rouse the enterprise of the merchant. The consideration, however, of such a subject is foreign to my present purpose.
It must not be supposed, that because I have given a somewhat particular description of the County of Cumberland, I have done so with a view to bring it forward as a specimen of the other counties, or to found upon it a general description of the colony. It is, in fact, poorer in every respect than any tract of land of similar extent in the interior, and is still covered with dense forests of heavy timber, excepting when the trees have been felled by dint of manual labour, and the ground cleared at an expense that nothing but its proximity to the seat of government could have justified. But experience has proved, that neither the labour nor the the expense have been thrown away. Many valuable farms and extensive gardens chequer the face of the country, from which the proprietors derive a very efficient income.
To the westward of the Blue Mountains, the country differs in many respects from that lying between those ranges and the coast; and although, its aspect varies in different places, three principal features appear more immediately to characterise it. These are, first, plains of considerable extent wholly destitute of timber; secondly, open undulating woodlands; and, thirdly, barren unprofitable tracts. The first almost invariably occur in the immediate neighbourhood of some river, as the Plains of Bathurst, which are divided by the Macquarie; Goulburn Plains, through which the Wallandilly flows; and Yass Plains, which are watered by a river of the same name. The open forests, through which the horseman may gallop in perfect safety, seem to prevail over the whole secondary ranges of granite, and are generally considered as excellent grazing tracts. Such is the country in Argyleshire on either side of the Lachlan, where that river crosses the great southern road near Mr. Hume’s station; such also are many parts of Goulburn and the whole extent of country lying between Underaliga and the Morumbidgee River. The barren tracts, on the other hand, may be said to occupy the central spaces between all the principal streams. With regard to the proportion that these different kinds of country bear to each other, there can be no doubt of the undue preponderance of the last over the first two; but there are nevertheless many extensive available tracts in every part of the colony.
The greatest disadvantage under which New South Wales labours, is the want of means for conveying inland produce to the market, or to the coast. The Blue Mountains are in this respect a serious bar to the internal prosperity of the colony. By this time, however, a magnificent road will have been completed across them to the westward, over parts of which I travelled in 1831. Indeed the efforts of the colonial government have been wisely directed, not only to the construction of this road, which the late Governor, General Darling commenced, but also in facilitating the communication to the southern districts, by an almost equally fine road over the Razor Back Range, near the Cow Pastures; so that as far as it is possible for human efforts to overcome natural obstacles, the wisdom and foresight of the executive have ere this been successful.
The majority of the settlers in the Bathurst country, and in the more remote interior, are woolgrowers; and as they send their produce to the market only once a year, receiving supplies for home consumption, on the return of their drays or carts from thence, the inconvenience of bad roads is not so much felt by them. But to an agriculturist a residence to the westward of the Blue Mountains is decidedly objectionable, unless he possess the means with which to procure the more immediate necessaries of life, otherwise than by the sale of his grain or other produce, and can be satisfied to cultivate his property for home consumption, or for the casual wants of his neighbours. Under such circumstances, a man with a small private income would enjoy every rational comfort. But of course, not only in consequence of the loss of labour, but the chance of accidents during a long journey, the more the distance is increased from Sydney, as the only place at which the absolute necessaries of life can be purchased, the greater becomes the objection to a residence in such a part of the country; and on this account it is, that although some beautiful locations both as to extent and richness, are to be found to the westward of Bathurst, equally on the Bell, the Macquarie and the Lachlan, it is not probable they will be taken up for many years, or will only be occupied as distant stock stations.
Since, therefore, it appears from what has been advanced, that it is not to the westward the views of any settlers should he directed, excepting under particular circumstances, it remains for us to consider what other parts of the colony hold out, or appear to hold out, greater advantages. The eye naturally turns to the south on the one hand, and to Port Macquarie northerly on the other. It is to be remarked that the eastern shores of Australia partake of the same barren character that marks the other three. it is generally bounded to a certain extent by a sandy and sterile tract. There are, however, breaks in so prolonged a line, as might have been expected, where, from particular local causes, both the soil and vegetation are of a superior kind. At Illawarra for instance, the contiguity of the mountains to the coast leaves no room for the sandy belt we have noticed, but the debris from them reaches to the very shore. Whether from reflected heat, or from some other peculiarity of situation, the vegetation of Illawarra is of an intertropical character, and birds that are strangers to the county of Cumberland frequent its thickets. There is no part of Australia where the feathered race are more beautiful, or more diversified. The most splendid pigeon, perhaps, that the world produces, and the satin bird, with its lovely eye, feed there upon the berries of the ficus (wild fig,) and other trees: and a numerous tribe of the accipitrine class soar over its dense and spacious forests.
We again see a break in the sandy line of the coast at Broken Bay, at Newcastle, and still further north at Port Macquarie; at which places the Hawkesbury, the Hunter, and the Hastings severally debouche. Of Port Macquarie, as a place of settlement, I entertain a very high opinion, in consequence of its being situated under a most favourable parallel latitude. I am convinced it holds out many substantial advantages. One of the most important of these is the circumstance of its having been much improved when occupied as a penal settlement. And since the shores of the colony are how navigated by steam-boats, the facility of water communication would be proportionably great.
I believe the Five Islands or Illawarr district is considered peculiarly eligible for small settlers. The great drawback to this place is the heavy character of its timber and the closeness of its thickets, which vie almost with the American woods in those respects. The return, however, is adequate to the labour required in clearing the ground. Between the Five Islands and Sydney, a constant intercourse is kept up by numerous small craft; and a communication with the interior, by branch roads from the great southern line to the coast, would necessarily be thrown open, if the more distant parts of it were sufficiently peopled.
Recent surveys have discovered to us rich and extensive tracts in the remote interior between Jervis Bay and Bateman’s Bay, and southwards upon the western slope of the dividing range. The account given by Messrs. Hovel and Hume is sufficient to prove that every valley they crossed was worthy of notice, and that the several rivers they forded were flanked by rich and extensive flats.
The distance of Moneroo Plains, and of the Doomot and Morumbidgee Rivers from Sydney, alarms the settler, who knows not the value of those localities; but men whose experience has taught them to set this obstacle at nought, have long depastured their herds on the banks of the last two. The fattest cattle that supply the Sydney market are fed upon the rich flats, and in the grassy valleys of the Morumbidgee; and there are several beautiful farms upon those of the Doomot. Generally speaking, the persons who reside in those distant parts, pay little attention to the comfort of their dwellings, or to the raising of more grain than their establishments may require; but there can be no doubt this part of the interior ought to be the granary of New South Wales; its climate and greater humidity being more favourable than that of Sydney for the production of wheat.
The most serious disadvantages under which the colony of New South Wales labours, is in the drought to which it is periodically subject. Its climate may be said to be too dry; in other respects it is one of the most delightful under heaven; and experience of the certainty of the recurrence of the trying seasons to which I allude, should teach men to provide against their effects. Those seasons, during which no rain falls, appear, from the observations of former writers, to occur every ten or twelve years; and it is somewhat singular that no cause has been assigned for such periodical visitations. Whether the state of the interior has anything to do with them, and whether the wet or dry condition of the marshes at all regulate the seasons, is a question upon which I will not venture to give my decisive opinion. But most assuredly, when the interior is dry, the seasons are dry, and VICE VERSA. Indeed, not only is this the case, but rains, from excessive duration in the first year after a drought, decrease gradually year after year, until they wholly cease for a time. It seems not improbable, therefore, that the state of the interior does, in some measure, regulate the fall of rain upon the eastern ranges, which appears to decrease in quantity yearly as the marshes become exhausted, and cease altogether, when they no longer contain any water. A drought will naturally follow until such time as the air becomes surcharged with clouds or vapour from the ocean, which being no longer able to sustain their own weight, descend upon the mountains, and being conveyed by hundreds of streams into the western lowlands, again fill the marshes, and cause the recurrence of regular seasons.
The thermometer ranges during the summer months, that is, from September to March, from 36 degrees to 106 degrees of Fahrenheit, but the mean of the temperature during the above period is 70 degrees. The instrument in the winter months ranges from 27 degrees to 98 degrees, with a mean of 66 degrees. However great the summer heat may appear, it is certain that the climate of New South Wales has not the relaxing and enfeebling effect upon the constitution, which renders a residence in India or other parts of the south so intolerable. Neither are any of the ordinary occupations of business or of pleasure laid aside at noon, or during the hottest part of the day. The traveller may cast himself at length under the first tree that invites him, and repose there as safely as if he were in a palace. Fearless of damps, and unmolested by noxious insects, his sleep is as sound as it is refreshing, and he rises with renewed spirits to pursue his journey. Equally so may the ploughman or the labourer seek repose beside his team, and allow them to graze quietly around him. The delicious coolness of the morning and the mild temperature of the evening air, in that luxurious climate, are beyond the power of description. It appears to have an influence on the very animals, the horses and the cattle being particularly docile; and I cannot but think it is is some degree the same happy effect upon some of the hardened human beings who are sent thither from the old world.
As I have before observed, it has not yet been discovered whether there are any indigenous fruits of any value in Australia. In the colony of New South Wales there certainly are none; yet the climate is peculiarly adapted for the growth of every European and of many tropical productions. The orange, the fig, the citron, the pomegranate, the peach, the apple, the guava, the nectarine, the pear, and the loquette, grow side by side together. The plantain throws its broad leaves over the water, the vine encircles the cottages, and the market of Sydney is abundantly supplied with every culinary vegetable.
In a climate, therefore, so soft that man scarcely requires a dwelling, and so enchanting that few have left it but with regret, the spirits must necessarily be acted upon — and the heart feel lighter. Such, indeed, I have myself found to be the case; nor have I ever been happier than when roving through the woods or wandering along one of the silent and beautiful bays for which the harbour of Port Jackson is so celebrated. I went to New South Wales as I have already remarked, highly prejudiced against it, both from the nature of the service, and the character of the great body of its inhabitants. My regiment has since quitted its shores, but I am aware there are few of them who would not gladly return. The feeling I have in its favour arises not, therefore, from the services in which I was employed, but from circumstances in the colony itself; and I yet hope to form one of its community and to join a number of valuable and warm-hearted friends whom I left in that distant part of the world.
On the subject of emigration, it is not my intention to dwell at any length. My object in these preliminary remarks has been to give the reader a general idea of the country, in the interior recesses of which I am about to lead him. Still, however, it may be useful to offer a few general observations on a topic which has, of late years, become so interesting to the British public.
The main consideration with those who, possessing some capital, propose to emigrate as the means of improving their condition, is, the society likely to he found in the land fixed on for their future residence. One of the first questions I have been asked, when conversing on the subject of emigration, has consequently related to this important matter. I had only then to observe in reply, that the civil and military establishments in New South Wales, form the elements of as good society as it is the lot of the majority to command in Great Britain.
The houses of the settlers are not scattered over a greater surface than the residences of country gentlemen here, and if they cannot vie with them in size, they most assuredly do in many other more important respects; and if a substantial cottage of brick or stone has any claim to the rank of a tenantable mansion, there are few of them which do not posses all the means of exercising that hospitality for which young communities are remarkable.
But to sever the links of kindred, and to abandon the homes of our fathers after years of happy tranquillity, is a sacrifice the magnitude of which is unquestionable. The feelings by which men are influenced under such circumstances have a claim to our respect. Indeed, no class of persons can have a stronger hold upon our sympathies than those whom unmerited adverse fortune obliges to seek a home in a distant country.
Far, therefore, be it from me to dispute a single expression of regret to which they may give utterance. It must, however, he remembered that the deepest feelings of anguish are providentially alleviated in time. Our heaviest misfortunes are frequently repaired by industry and caution. The sky clears up, as it were: new interests engage the attention, and the cares of a family or the improvement of a newly acquired property engross those moments which would otherwise be spent in vain and unprofitable regrets.
It cannot be doubted that persons such as I have described, whose conduct has hitherto been regulated by prudence, and whose main object is to provide for their children, are the most valuable members of every community, whether young or old. To such men few countries hold out greater prospects of success than New South Wales; for the more we extend our enquiries, the more we shall find that the success of the emigrant in that colony depends upon his prudence and foresight rather than on any collateral circumstance of climate or soil; and to him who can be satisfied with the gradual acquirement of competency, it is the land of promise. Blessed with a climate of unparalleled serenity, and of unusual freedom from disease, the settler has little external cause of anxiety, little apprehension of sickness among his family or domestics, and little else to do than to attend to his own immediate interests. I should wish to illustrate the observations by two or three instances of their practical bearing and tendency.
It was on my return from my second expedition, that I visited Lieut. ——— who resides in the southern parts of the colony. The day after my arrival, he took me round his property, and explained the various improvements he had made, considering the small means with which he had commenced. At this part of our conversation, we came within view of his house, a substantial weather-board cottage. “I trust,” said I, turning to him, “you will excuse the question I am about to ask; for your frankness emboldens me to propose it, and on your answer much of the effect of what you have been saying will depend. In effecting these various improvements, and in the building of that house, have you been obliged to embarrass yourself, or are they free from incumbrance?”—”Your question,” he said, “is a reasonable one, and I will answer it with the frankness you are kind enough to ascribe to me. I have ever made it a rule not to exceed my income. Mrs. ——— bore our first trials with so much cheerfulness, and contributed so much to my happiness and my prosperity, that I felt myself bound to build her a good house with the first money I had to spare.” I confess this answer raised my host in my estimation, and it was a gratifying proof to me of the success that attends industry and perseverance.
But let us look at another case. Mr. —— had a property to the N.W. of Sydney, and having considerable funded means when he arrived in the colony, he soon put his property into a state of progressive improvement, and being in truth an excellent practical farmer, it assumed the appearance of regularity and order. Had Mr. —— stopped at this moment, he would have been in the enjoyment of affluence and of every rational comfort. But instead of exercising prudent rules of hospitality, he gave way to the natural generosity of his disposition, entered into expenses he could not afford, and was ultimately obliged to part with his estate. Now it is deeply to be regretted, that one whose energies and abilities particularly fitted him for the life he had chosen, should have failed through such conduct; and it is more than probable, that if he had commenced with smaller means, and had gradually improved his property, his fate would have been very different.
I shall leave these cases without any further comment, convinced as I am, that each of them furnishes matter for serious consideration, and that they are practical illustrations of the causes of success or failure of those who emigrate to the colony of New South Wales. And although I do not mean to affirm, that the majority follow Mr. ——’s example, I must venture to assert that thoughtlessness — useless expenditure in the first instance — waste of time and other circumstances, lead to equally ruinous consequences.
One of the greatest objections which families have to New South Wales, is their apprehension of the moral effects that are likely to overwhelm them by bad example, and for which no success in life could compensate. In a colony constituted like that of New South Wales, the proportion of crime must of course be great. Yet it falls less under the notice of private families than one might at first sight have been led to suppose. Drunkenness, as in the mother country, is the besetting sin; but it is confined chiefly to the large towns in consequence of the difficulty of procuring spirits in the country. There are, no doubt, many incorrigible characters sent to settle in the interior, and it is an evil to have these men, even for a single day, to break the harmony of a previously well regulated establishment, or to injure its future prospects by the influence of evil example. They are men who are sent upon trial, from on board a newly arrived ship, and they generally terminate their misconduct either on the roads or at a penal settlement, being thus happily removed from the mass of the prisoners. Frequently, however, men remain for years under the same master. They become attached to their occupations, their hearts become softened by kindness, and they atone as much as they possibly can for previous error.
Still there can be no doubt, but that the evil complained of is considerable. It is from this reason, and from my personal knowledge of the southern parts of the colony, that I should rejoice to see its flats and its valleys filled with an industrious population of a better description of farmers. A hope might then be reasonably indulged, that the Home Government would not be backward in recognising, and in acting upon a principle, the soundness of which has been felt and acknowledged in all ages, but the chief difficulty of which rests in its judicious application. I allude to a system of emigration. Sure I am that if it were well organized, and care were taken to profit by the experience of the past in similar attempts, it could not fail to be attended with ultimate success. The evils resulting from a surplus population in an old community, were never more seriously felt than in Great Britain at the present moment. Assuming that the amount of surplus population is 2,000,000, the excess of labour and competition thus occasioned by diminishing profits and wages, creates, it has been said, an indirect tax to the enormous extent of 20,000,000 pounds per annum. It has appeared to many experienced persons, that it is in emigration, we should best find the means of relief from this heavy pressure; particularly if the individuals encouraged to go out to the colonies were young persons of both sexes, from the industrious classes of the community. Even if no more than three couples were induced to emigrate from each parish in England in ten years, the relief to the springs of industry would be very great. Besides, the funds necessary for this purpose would revert to the country by a thousand indirect channels. Persons unacquainted with our Australian colonies, whether Van Dieman’s Land or New South Wales, can form little idea of the increasing demand for, and consumption in them of every species of British manufacture. The liberal encouragement given by government to every practicable scheme of emigration, and the sum advanced by it towards the expenses of the voyage to the labouring classes, sufficiently indicate the light in which the subject is viewed by the legislature; and the fact that no private family taking out servants to Sydney, has in any one instance been able to retain them, on account of offers more advantageous from other quarters, shows clearly the great demand for labour in the colony. If I might judge of the feelings of the majority of respectable individuals there, from the assurances of the few, they would willingly defray any parochial expenses attendant on the voyage, provided the services of such individuals could be secured to them for a time sufficiently long to remunerate them for such pavement. The tide of emigration should be directed to Sydney, Van Dieman’s Land, or Western Australia, upon condition of the labourer’s receiving a certain sum in wages, and his daily subsistence from his employer, with an understanding, however, that he must consider himself bound for two years to such employer. Surely there are hundreds of our indigent countrymen, who would gladly seek a land of such plenty, and cast away the natural, but unavailing regret of leaving home to secure to themselves and their families, the substantial comforts of life on such easy conditions.
It is not, perhaps, generally known that a committee has been formed in Sydney, to advise settlers as to the best mode of proceeding on arrival there. Such a plan is one of obvious utility; and if those who may find themselves at a loss for information would apply to this committee for advice, rather than to individuals with whom they may become casually acquainted, they would further their own interests, and in all probability ensure success. Still there are some broad rules upon which every man ought to act, which I shall endeavour to point out, and it will give me no ordinary satisfaction, if I should be the means of directing any one to the road of prosperity and comfort.
It is to be feared that those who emigrate to New South Wales, generally anticipate too great facility in their future operations and certainty of success in conducting them; but they should recollect that competency cannot be obtained without labour. Every trade — every profession in this respect, is subject to the same law — the lawyer, the physician, the tradesman, and the mechanic. This labour is required at our hands, even in an old community; how much more then is it called for in a new, where the ingenuity of men is put to trial to secure those means of accomplishing their ends which here are abundant. Now, it appears to me but consistent, that he who is obliged to leave his native country from want of means to hold his station there, can hardly expect to find, or rather to secure, abundance elsewhere without some exertion. Every man who emigrates should proceed with a conviction on his mind, that he is about to encounter years of labour and privation. He will not then be disappointed at partial reverses, and will be more thankful for unexpected prosperity. I feel persuaded the tone of mind has a great deal to do with success, because it influences the conduct of the individual. Supposing, however, that an emigrant has taken this rational view of his situation, he should determine on his pursuits, and allow nothing but absolute certainty of better fortune to turn him aside. Men, however, landing at Sydney, in their eagerness for information get bewildered, give up their original plans, adopt new and uncertain speculations, trifle away both their time and their money, and ultimately ruin themselves. An individual who goes to New South Wales for the purpose of settling, should not remain in Sydney a day longer than is necessary for the arrangement of his affairs. Every shilling spent there is thrown away. The greatest facility is given by the different departments of the Colonial Government to the settlers; and it is entirely his own fault if he trifles away his time in search of information elsewhere than at the fountainhead, or if he trusts to any other opinion than his own, supposing him experienced as to the quality of the land he may fix upon. Let him be speedy in his selection, and fix himself upon his allotment as soon as possible. Instead of overstocking his farm, or employing more labourers than he can afford to keep, let him be satisfied with a gradual increase of his stock, and wait patiently till he can better afford to employ labour; above all, let him avoid embarrassing himself by the purchase of any superfluous or unnecessary comfort. I consider that man has already failed, who runs into debt in the first instance, or who exhausts his means in the purchase of large herds, from the vain expectation that their increase will clear him. The time was when those idle speculations were occasionally attended with success, but such is not now the case. The energies of the agriculturist are directed to their proper channel, and if the few are unable to make rapid fortunes, the many have escaped inevitable ruin. No farm in a state of nature can be expected to yield any return of consequence for the first year. It is incumbent on a settler to provide for his establishment, or to retain the means of providing for it as circumstances may require.
Farming implements are as cheap in Sydney as in England. Horses and cattle are cheaper. It requires little, therefore, to stock a farm in a reasonable manner. On the other hand, the climate is so mild that the want of a house is scarcely felt, and a temporary residence easily constructed. On the whole I am convinced, that a man who regulates his conduct by prudence, and who perseveringly follows up his occupations, who behaves with kindness to those around him, and performs his social and moral duties with punctuality, will ultimately secure to himself a home that will make up for the one he has quitted in the land of his fathers, and place him in as respectable and as happy a situation as that which he there enjoyed.
Having thrown out the foregoing remarks for the information of the general reader, and of persons who look to Australia with the more earnest views of selecting a colonial home, I now return to the immediate object of these volumes; but before entering on the narrative of my own expeditions, I think it necessary to advert cursorily to the discoveries previously accomplished.
The journeys of Mr. Oxley, far into the western interior of Australia, gave rise to various and conflicting opinions as to the character of the more central parts of that extensive continent, of which the colony of New South Wales forms but a small portion. I feel, therefore, called upon briefly to advert to the conclusions which that able and intelligent officer drew from his personal observation of the country into which he penetrated, as an acquaintance with his opinions will not only tend to throw a clearer light on the following details, but will, also, convey much necessary information to those of my readers who may not have perused his journals. It is necessary, however, in order to divest the subject of all obscureness, to trace, in the first instance, the progress of inland discovery, in New South Wales, from the first foundation of the colony to the period when Mr. Oxley’s exertions attracted the public attention.
In the year 1788, the British Government took formal possession of the eastern coast of Australia, by the establishment of a penal colony at Port Jackson. The first settlers, under Governor Phillips, had too many difficulties to contend with to submit themselves to be thwarted from pursuits essential to their immediate safety and comfort, by the prospect of remote and uncertain advantages. It was by perseverance and toil alone that they first established and ultimately spread themselves over that part of the territory, which, flanked by the ocean on the one hand, and embraced as it were by the Nepean River on the other, is now entitled the County Of Cumberland. For many years, this single district supplied the wants of the settlers. Upon it they found ample pasture for their herds, and sufficient employment for themselves. Nor was it until a succession of untoward seasons, and the rapid increase of their stock pointed out to them the necessity of seeking for more extensive pasturage, that they contemplated surmounting that dark and rugged chain of mountains, which, like the natural ramparts of Spain and Italy, rose high over the nether forest, and broke the line of the western horizon.
A Mr. Caley is said to have been the first who attempted to scale the Blue Mountains: but he did not long persevere in struggling with difficulties too great for ordinary resolution to overcome. It appears that he retraced his steps, after having penetrated about sixteen miles into their dark and precipitous recesses; and a heap of stones, which the traveller passes about that distance from Erne Ford, on the road to Bathurst, marks the extreme point reached by the first expedition to the westward of the Nepean river.
Shortly after the failure of this expedition, the sad effects of a long protracted drought called forth a more general spirit of enterprise and exertion among the settlers; and Mr. Oxley makes honorable mention of the perseverance and resolution with which Lieut. Lawson, of the 104th regiment, accompanied by Messrs. Blaxland and Wentworth, conducted an expedition into the Blue Mountains. Their efforts were successful: and the objects of their enterprise would have been completely attained, but for the failure of their provisions at a moment when their view of the distant interior was such as to convince them that they had overcome the most formidable obstacles to their advance, and that in their further progress few impediments would have presented themselves.
The success of this undertaking induced Governor Macquarie to further the prosecution of inland discovery, and of attempts to ascertain the nature of the country of which Mr. Lawson only obtained a glimpse. An expedition was accordingly dispatched under Mr. Evans, the Deputy Surveyor-General, to follow the route taken by the former one, and to penetrate as far as practicable into the western interior. The result was the discovery of the Macquarie river, and of Bathurst Plains. The report of Mr. Evans was so favourable, that orders were immediately issued for the construction of a line of road across the mountains. When that was completed, the Governor went in person to fix the site of a future town on Bathurst Plains. From thence Mr. Evans, who accompanied the Governor on the occasion, was directed to proceed to the southward and westward, to ascertain the nature of the country in that direction. He discovered another considerable river, flowing, like the Macquarie, to the west, to which he gave the name of the Lachlan. The promising appearance of these two streams, and the expectation of all parties that they would be found to water rich and extensive tracts of country, led to the fitting out of a more important expedition than any which had before been contemplated.
Mr. Oxley, the Surveyor-General of the Colony, was appointed chief of this expedition, and was directed to trace the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers, as far as practicable, with a view to ascertain their capabilities and the nature of the country they watered. In 1817, Mr. Oxley directed his attention to the former river, and continued to follow its windings, until it appeared that its waters were lost in successive marshes and it ceased to be a river. In the following year he turned towards the Macquarie, and traced it, in like manner, until he was checked by high reeds that covered an extensive plain before him, amidst which the channel of the river was lost.
From what he observed of the country, on both these occasions, he was led to infer that beyond the limits of his advance the interior had a uniform level, and was, for the most part, uninhabitable and under water. Its features must have been strongly marked to have confirmed such an opinion in the mind of the late Surveyor-General. It stands recorded on the pages of his journal, that he travelled over a country of many miles in extent, after clearing the mountains, which so far from presenting any rise of ground to the eye, bore unequivocal marks of frequent and extensive inundation. He traced two rivers of considerable size, and found that, at a great distance from each other, they apparently terminated in marshes, and that the country beyond them was low and unbroken. In his progress eastward, he crossed a third stream (the Castlereagh), about forty-five miles from the Macquarie, seemingly not inferior to it in size, originating in the mountains for which he was making, and flowing nearly parallel to the other rivers into a level country like that which he had just quitted.
Mr. Evans, moreover, who accompanied Mr. Oxley on these journeys, and who had been detached by his principal from Mount Harris, to ascertain the nature of the country in the line which the expedition was next to pursue, having crossed the Castlereagh considerably below the place at which the party afterwards effected a passage, reported that the river was then running through high reeds. The inference naturally drawn by Mr. Oxley, was, that it terminated as the Lachlan and the Macquarie had done; and that their united waters formed an inland sea or basin. It is evident that Mr. Oxley had this impression on his mind, when he turned towards the coast; but the wet state of the lowlands prevented him from ascertaining its correctness or error. Doubt, consequently, still existed as to the nature of the country he had left behind him; a question in which the best interests of the colony were apparently involved. Subsequently to these discoveries, Mr. Surveyor Mechan, accompanied by Mr. Hamilton Hume, a colonist of considerable experience, explored the country more to the southward and westward of Sydney, and discovered most of the new country called Argyle, and also Lake Bathurst.
Mr. Hume was afterwards associated with a Mr. Hovel, in an excursion to the south coast, under the auspices of Sir Thomas Brisbane. After a most persevering and laborious journey, they reached the sea; but it is uncertain whether they made Port Philips, or Western Port. Mr. Hume, whose practical experience will yield to that of no man, entertains a conviction that it was to the former they descended from the neighbouring ranges; but Mr. Hovel, I believe supports a contrary opinion. In the early stage of their journey, they passed over York or Yass Plains; and, after crossing the Morumbidgee, were generally entangled among mountain ranges that increased in height to the east and south-east. They crossed three considerable rivers, falling westerly, which they named the Goulburn, the Hume, and the Ovens; and found a beautiful and well-watered country in the vicinity of the coast.
In 1826, Mr. Allan Cunningham, Botanical Collector to his late Majesty, traversed a considerable portion of the interior to the north of Bathurst, and, with a laudable zeal, devoted his labours to the acquisition of general information, as well as to his more immediate professional pursuits. In 1827, this gentleman again bent his steps towards the northward, and succeeded in gaining the 28th parallel of latitude; and, on a subsequent occasion, having taken his departure from Moreton Bay, he connected his former journey with that settlement, and thus contributed largely to our knowledge of the mountain country between it and the capital. Mr. Cunningham, who, independently of his individual excursions, had not only circumnavigated the Australian Continent with Capt. King, but had formed also one of the party with Mr. Oxley, in the journeys before noticed, had adopted this gentleman’s opinion with regard to the swampy and inhospitable character of the distant interior. Its depressed appearance from the high ground on which Mr. Cunningham subsequently moved, tended to confirm this opinion, which was moreover daily gaining strength from the reports of the natives, who became more frequent in their intercourse with the whites, and who reported that there were large waters to the westward, on which the natives had canoes, and in which there were fish of great size.
It became, therefore, a current opinion, that the western interior of New Holland comprehended an extensive basin, of which the ocean of reeds which had proved so formidable to Mr. Oxley, formed most probably the outskirts; and it was generally thought that an expedition proceeding into the interior, would encounter marshes of vast extent, which would be extremely difficult to turn, and no less dangerous to enter.
It remained to be proved, however, whether these conjectures were founded in fact. The chief difficulty lay in the character of the country, and in providing the necessary means to ensure success. Those which were resorted to will be found in the succeeding chapter. Whether they would have been found sufficient and applicable had the interior been wholly under water, is doubtful; and my impression on this point induced me to make more efficient arrangements on the second expedition.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00