Slike strani
PDF
ePub

:55

TASMANIA.

TAS
ASMANIA was discovered by Abel Janszen Tasman on November

24th, 1642, and by him was named Van Diemen's Land, after the Governor of the Dutch Possessions in the East Indies, who had fitted out the expedition which Tasman commanded. The ceremony of hoisting a flag and taking possession of the country in the name of the Government of the Netherlands was actually performed, but the description of the wildness of the country, and of the fabulous giants by which Tasman's sailors believed it to be inhabited, deterred the Dutch from occupying the island, and by the international principle of “non-user” it passed from their hands. Some hundred and thirty years after Tasman's voyage the island was again visited --this time by a French expedition under Captain Du Fresne. In 1773, Captain Furneaux, of the “ Adventure," one of the great Cook's squadron, anchored in Storm Bay; and later, in 1777, Captain Cook himself visited the same locality. The famous Captain Bligh also touched at the island in 1788—the same year that witnessed the foundation of the settlement at Port Jackson. Again, in 1792, a French expedition under D’Entrecasteaux entered Storm Bay, and surveyed portions of the coast. During the whole of this period it was believed that Van Diemen's Land was only a southward projection of the great Australian Continent, and, indeed, it figured on the maps as such. Its insularity was proved by Lieutenant Flinders, who completed its circumnavigation in the sloop “Norfolk" in 1798. He was accompanied on the expedition by Surgeon Bass, who had previously discovered the strait bearing his name. In 1802 the French expedition under Commodore Baudin visited the island, and it was partly the fear of French occupation that led to the foundation of a British settlement in the new land.

In the month of September, 1803, Lieutenant Bowen was despatched by Governor King in the “ Lady Nelson ” to establish a settlement at Risdon Cove, or Restdown, as it was sometimes called, which is situated on the banks of the Derwent River, some 4 miles above the site of Hobart, but on the opposite side of the stream. Bowen had been despatched previously on the 13th June, 1802—in H.M.S. “Glatton " to the island, in order to take possession of the place, and establish His Britannic Majesty's rights thereto. The penal establishment which the Imperial Government had established on the shores of Port Jackson was full to overflowing. About a thousand had been drafted away to Norfolk

Island, but the parent settlement was still somewhat crowded. The Governor-General of New South Wales, therefore, cast his eyes towards Van Diemen's Land as an outlet for the relief of the parent establishment. Besides, the French had to be forestalled; for though the island was included in Phillip's commission, and that of his successors, nevertheless, the very proof of its insularity created it a country separate from New South Wales, liable to lapse from British sovereignty unless actually occupied under authority of the British Crown. Bowen's colonising party was a small one, but formed tbe advance guard of a great convict immigration. When the muster was taken on the 27th September, 1803, the total population was only forty-nine. Of these, ten were women and three were children. The convicts numbered twenty-four and the soldiers twelve, but a small party of free settlers, with their wives and children, subsequently arrived. Shortly after the tirst landing, the settlement was removed from Risdon to Sullivan Cove, and spread slowly along the banks of the Derwent River, the latter name being used in the enumeration of the people on the muster sheets. In the early part of 1804 the little colony received a considerable accession by the transference of Collins' expedition from Port Phillip to the Derwent River.

Collins' commission was of a roving character. He was instructed to proceed to Port Phillip, or to any part of the southern coast of New South Wales, or to the islands adjacent, and there establish his little colony. Collins sailed from England on the 24th April, 1803, in the “ Calcutta," having on board 299 male convicts, 16 married women, a few settlers, and 50 men and petty officers of the Royal Marines. This vessel was accompanied by the “ Ocean” as a store-ship. Collins had landed at Port Phillip, but his reports of the country were so unfavourable that Lord Hobart, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, at once sent him instructions to break up the settlement and transfer the people under his charge to the Derwent River in Van Diemen's Land. Collins obeyed the orders of his chief with cheerful alacrity, and on the 27th January, 1804, left the disparaged harbour for the new field of his Jabours. Ocean,” with the first instalment of the party, which numbered in all 402, anchored in the Derwent on the 30th of the same month ; the second detachment arriving by the “ Lady Nelson " 16th February. Collins landed at the place whereon the city of Hobart now stands, and there and then selected it as the site of his future capital.

Governor-General King, consumed with anxiety to forestall the French in their designs upon Australasian territory, had given instructions to the officer commanding the “Lady Nelson ” to sail round to Port Dalrymple, in the north of the island, after discharging bis mission with Collins, and to report upon the Tamar River, and the surrounding country, as to their eligibility for the purposes of a military station. The othicer did as he was directed, and reported the country as well adapted for settlement. In consequence of this favourable account, an

The 66

on the

[ocr errors]

expedition was made at the close of the year 1804 to Port Dalrymple, the first landing being effected at Outer Cove, now called Georgetown ; but the station was shortly afterwards removed to the opposite side of the river, to the indentation known as the Western Arm, where it received the name of York Town. The latter site also did not prove suitable, and this settlement was soon abandoned for the North Esk, where, after some time, it changed its general designation of Port Dalrymple for the specific one of Launceston, a name derived from Governor King's birthplace in Cornwall. The new settlement was placed under the control of Lieutenant-Governor Paterson, and he landed in Van Diemen's Land in the month of October, 1804, with a small party of prisoners and soldiers. At the time when this expedition was despatched to Port Dalrymple, Governor King issued a "general order," in which he proclaimed the division of the island into two independent Governments

, designated respectively the counties of Buckingham and Cornwall, the dividing line being the 42nd parallel of south latitude. Each of these Governments was subordinate to King in his capacity of Governor-in Chief and Captain-General of New South Wales and its dependencies. The two counties still figure on the map of Tasmania, but greatly shorn of their original magnitude, as they have been subdivided into eighteen others. Between Launceston and Hobart there was for some time no communication, and even as late as 1816 the mail took seven days to cross from settlement to settlement.

In the year 1805 Van Diemen's Land received an accession of population from Norfolk Island, the New South Wales Government having determined to evacuate the latter place, and transfer the bulk of the people to the new colony on the Derwent River. New Norfolk, somewhat further up the stream than the old Risdon settlement, still recalls in its name this immigration of the Norfolk Island settlers to Van Diemen's Land. The new-comers received liberal grants of land, but contributed very little to the industrial development of the country, which, for many years, remained dependent on the mother colony of New South Wales for its food supplies. When the failure of the crops occurred at the parent settlement, between the years 1807 and 1810, matters were brought to a painful crisis. The provisions which had been stored in a Government depôt, under the immediate control of the LieutenantGovernor, were all but consumed, so the convicts were given temporary liberty to enable them to procure food in the shape of the wild denizens of the bush, and it was only by the timely arrival of a cargo of wheat from India that the little colony was saved from a condition of total collapse.

The enfranchisement of the convicts was, however, attended by woful results. Very early in the experience of the settlement serious difficulties had arisen with the aborigines, as it was the custom to term them, though scientists consider that the natives of Van Diemen's Land were not an aboriginal race. On one occasion a party of blacks, about 500 strong, including women and children, were engaged in hunting near the Risdon depót, when they were set upon by some of the white settlers, who slaughtered a great number of them, one estimate enumerating the killed at fifty.

This horrible outrage of course inspired the natives with sentiments of hatred and revenge, and impelled them to acts of reprisal. These were further stimulated by the abominable treatment meted out to the blacks by the liberated convicts of the famine period during their kangaroo hunts. Collins did his utmost to put down “the murders and abominable cruelties practised upon the natives by the white settlers"; but the means at his command were inadequate for the purpose. Van Diemen's Land, unlike the colonies established on the Australian Continent, managed from the very first years of Britishi occupation to create a native difficulty, which was ultimately to produce much trouble and annoyance, and to occasion a huge expenditure of Imperial funds in its effectual solution.

Lieutenant-Governor Collins died in Hobart Town on the 24th March, 1810, just after Governor Macquarie had taken up his official duties in the mother colony. The sub-government of the Island was administered, until the arrival of Lieutenant-Governor Davey, by Lieutenant Lord and Captain Murray, and afterwards by LieutenantColonel Gilles.

A certain measure of prosperity had by this time been attained by the development of the first rude efforts at agriculture, and by the energetic establishment of the whale fisheries, Tasmania speedily becoming the centre of the latter industry in Australasian seas. Settlement was, however, greatly retarded by the lawless establishment of an organised system of plunder and rapine carried on by gangs of armed men, or bushrangers, as they had begun to be termed; indeed, what of wild romance and gruesome picturesqueness there may be clinging to the early days of “Old Vandemonia” is due to the ruthless extinction of the native race, and the dark deeds of the escaped convicts and expired-sentence men, who carried on a war of brigandage against the property and the persons of the terrorised farmers and stock-owners. They slaughtered sheep and cattle; they burnt down hay and corn stacks; they looted granaries and robbed houses, and then they took to the well-nigh impenetrable jungle of the bush and the fastnesses of the mountains, carrying nameless atrocities into the haunts of the unarmed aborigines. The important part played by these desperadoes in the early history of the Island is still preserved in the ominous names given to some of the geographical features of the interior: Brady's Sugarloaf and Brady's Look-out are appellations reminiscent of a notorious bandit.

The rule of Governor Davey was notoriously feeble, and the moral condition of the colony in his time was anything but healthy; nevertheless, he did his best for the natives, condemning the atrocities perpetrated upon them, but with little effect. The free people at this iime consisted of inland settlers, liberated convicts, escaped prisoners, bushrangers, sealers and whalers, and runaway seamen. For most of these the law had no terrors, and they gave unbridled license to the exercise of their evil dispositions. It is no wonder, then, that the treatment which these degraded wretches meted out to the aborigines should have been followed by terrible reprisals.

Davey surrendered the administration of the island on the 9th April, 1817, and was succeeded by Colonel Sorell, a man of an entirely different character. The new Lieutenant-Governor has been praised for his energy, his firmness, and his sagacity, and was probably as well fitted for his position as any man upon whom the choice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies could have fallen at the time. His first task was the suppression of bushranging--a work that he put through with a vigorous hand—and he succeeded in well-nigh stamping it out. He also gave grants of land, and lent Government seed and stock, to suitable settlers, and thus encouraged immigration to the little Colony. During Sorell's term of office 300 lambs, from Captain John Macarthur's Camden flock of merinos, were imported into the Island from New South Wales. A few years subsequently the exportation of wool from Van Diemen's Land began, and from that time the proportions of this industry steadily grew.

In 1821, just prior to his return to England, Governor Macquarie visited Van Diemen’s Land, and found there a population of about 7,400. The inhabitants of Hobart Town and its immediate neighbourhood were returned as numbering 2,700. There were 15,000 acres of land under cultivation, and the live stock comprised 5,000 head of cattle and 170,000 sheep. The interests of religion and education were being provided for, a newspaper was published, and there existed between Hobart Town and Launceston a fortnightly mail, which occupied a week in transit. A local Court, with a limited jurisdiction, had been established since 1816, in which ordinary citizens shared with professional lawyers the right to plead.

Launceston also had experienced a measure of development, though, of course, much less rapid than its southern rival, Hobart Town. From the early muster-sheets some idea of the progress made at the northern settlement may be gathered. Lieutenant-Governor Paterson assumed control of the station at Port Dalrymple, and exercised authority over the county of Cornwall (half of the island north of the 42nd parallel of south latitude) in the month of October, 1804. He took with him sixty-four non-commissioned officers and privates of the New South Wales Corps, seventy-four convicts, and eight other persons, civil and military officers-146 in all. In the month of August, 1805, the number of persons resident at Port Dalrymple had grown to 301, of whom 155 were convicts. The population fell off slightly during the next ten years, maintaining an average of about 250 only ; but in 1815 Launceston, as it was beginning to be called, was recorded as possessing 495 inhabitants; in 1817 these had increased to 610, and in 1819 to 2,115.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »