David Collins.

An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, Etc. of The Native Inhabitants of That Country. to Which Are Added, Some Particulars o online

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Online LibraryDavid CollinsAn Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, Etc. of The Native Inhabitants of That Country. to Which Are Added, Some Particulars o → online text (page 24 of 61)
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They had struggled here with greatly more than the common hardships of
service, and were now quitting a country in which they had opened and
smoothed the way for their successors, and from which, whatever benefit
might hereafter be derived, must be derived by those who had the easy
task of treading in paths previously and painfully formed by them.

The cove and the settlement were now resuming that dull uniformity of
uninteresting circumstances which had generally prevailed. The _Supply_
and the _Gorgon_ had departed, and with them a valuable portion of our
friends and associates. The transports which remained were all preparing
to leave us, and in a few days after the _Gorgon_, the _Matilda_ and
_Mary Ann_ sailed for the coast of Peru. These ships had some convicts on
board, who were permitted to ship themselves with the masters.

A further reduction of the ration was directed to take place at the end
of the month, one pound being taken from the allowance of flour served to
the men. From the state of the provision stores, the governor, on
Christmas Day, could only give one pound of flour to each woman in the
settlement. On that day divine service was performed here and at
Parramatta, Mr. Bayne, the chaplain of the new corps, assisting Mr.
Johnson in the religious duties of the morning. There were some among
us, however, by whom even the sanctity of this day was not regarded; for
at night the marine store was robbed of twenty-two gallons of spirits.

At Parramatta various offences were still committed, notwithstanding the
lenity which had been shown to several offenders at the close of the last
month. Many of the convicts there not having any part of their ration
left when Tuesday or Wednesday night came, the governor directed, as he
had before done from the same reason, that the provisions of the
labouring convicts should be issued to them daily. This measure being
disapproved of by them, they assembled in rather a tumultuous manner
before the governor's house at Parramatta on the last day of the month,
to request that their provisions might be served as usual on the
Saturdays. The governor, however, dispersed them without granting their
request; and as they were heard to murmur, and talk of obtaining by
different means what was refused to entreaty (words spoken among the
crowd, and the person who was so daring not being distinguishable from
the rest), he assured them that as he knew the major part of them were
led by eight or ten designing men to whom they looked up, and to whose
names he was not a stranger, on any open appearance of discontent, he
should make immediate examples of them. Before they were dismissed they
promised greater propriety of conduct and implicit obedience to the
orders of their superiors, and declared their readiness to receive their
provisions as had been directed.

This was the first instance of any tumultuous assembly among these
people, and was now to be ascribed to the spirit of resistance and
villany lately imported by the new comers from England and Ireland.

Among the public works of the month the most material was the completing
and occupying the new store on the east side, which was begun in October
last; its dimensions were eighty by twenty-four feet; and as it was built
for the purpose of containing dry stores, the height was increased beyond
that commonly adopted here, and a spacious loft was formed capable of
containing a large quantity of bale goods. This was by far the best store
in the country.

In the course of the month a warrant of emancipation passed the seal of
the territory to John Lowe, Henry Cone, Richard Chears, Thomas Fisk,
Daniel Cubitt, Charles Pass, George Bolton, William Careless, William
Curtis, John Chapman Morris, Thomas Merrick, William Skinner, and James
Weavers, convicts who left England in the _Guardian_, on condition of
their residing within the limits of this government, and not returning to
England within the period of their respective sentences. Instructions to
this effect had been received from home, Lieutenant Riou having
interested himself much in their behalf. They were to be at liberty to
work at any trade they might be acquainted with; but during their
continuance in the country they were to be disposed of wherever the
governor should think proper. They were also at liberty to settle land
upon their own account.

The numbers who died by sickness in the year 1791 were, one of the civil
establishment (H. E. Dodd); two soldiers; one hundred and fifty-five male
and eight female convicts; and five children: in all one hundred and
seventy-one persons (twenty-eight more than had died during the preceding

In the above time one male convict was executed; one drowned; four lost
in the woods (exclusive of the Irish convicts who had absconded, of whom
no certain account was procured); one destroyed himself, and eight men,
one woman, and two children, had run from the settlement; making a loss
of one hundred and eighty-nine persons.


The _Queen_ sails for Norfolk Island
Whalers on their fishing voyages
Convicts missing
Various depredations
Dispensary and bake-house robbed
A criminal court held
Convict executed
The _Pitt_ with Lieutenant-Governor Grose arrives
Military duty fixed for Parramatta
Goods selling at Sydney from the _Pitt_
The _Pitt_ ordered to be dispatched to Norfolk Island
Commissions read
The _Pitt_ sails
Mr. Burton killed
Stormy weather
Public works
Regulations respecting persons who had served their terms of transportation


January.] Early in this month sixty-two people, settlers and
convicts, with Mr. Bayne, the chaplain of the New South Wales corps, who
offered his services, as there never had been a clergyman there, embarked
on board the _Queen_ transport for Norfolk Island, the master of that
ship having engaged to carry them and a certain quantity of provisions
thither for the sum of £150. Of the settlers twenty-two were lately
discharged from the marine service, and the remainder were convicts; some
of the latter, whose terms of transportation had expired, had chosen
Norfolk Island to settle in, and others were sent to be employed for the

This ship, with the _Admiral Barrington_ for India, sailed on the 6th;
and the _Salamander_ and _Britannia_ whalers on the 7th, the masters of
the two latter ships signifying an intention of cruising for three months
upon this coast; at the end of which time, according to their success,
they would either return to this port, or pursue their voyage to the

Several convicts attempted to escape from the settlement on board of
these ships, some of whom were discovered before they sailed, and, being
brought on shore, were punished; but there was great reason to suppose
that others were secreted by the connivance of the seamen, and eluded the
repeated searches which were made for them.

In addition to this exportation, the colony lost some useful people whom
it could ill spare; but who, their terms of transportation having
expired, would not be induced to remain in the settlement, and could not
be prevented from quitting it.

By the commissary's report of the muster it appeared, that forty-four
men and nine women were absent and unaccounted for; among which
number were included those who were wandering in the woods, seeking for a
new settlement, or endeavouring to get into the path to China! Of these
people many, after lingering a long time, and existing merely on roots
and wild berries, perished miserably. Others found their way in, after
being absent several weeks, and reported the fate of their wretched
companions, being themselves reduced to nearly the same condition, worn
down and exhausted with fatigue and want of proper sustenance. Yet,
although the appearance of these people confirmed their account of what
they had undergone, others were still found ignorant and weak enough to
run into the woods impressed with the idea of either reaching China by
land, or finding a new settlement where labour would not be imposed on
them, and where the inhabitants were civil and peaceable. Two of these
wretches at the time of their absconding met a convict in their way not
far from the new grounds, whom they robbed of his provisions, and beat in
so cruel a manner that, after languishing for some time, he died in the
hospital at Parramatta. He described their persons, and mentioned their
names, with the precise circumstances attending their treatment of him,
and it was hoped that they would have lived to return, and receive the
reward of their crime; but one of their companions who survived them
brought in an account of their having ended a wicked and miserable
existence in the woods.

Depredations being nightly committed at the skirts of the town, and at
the officers' farms, by some of these vagrants, who were supposed to lurk
between this place and Parramatta, it was thought necessary to send armed
parties out at night for a certain distance round the settlement, with
orders to seize, or fire on, all persons found straggling; and several
were detected by them in the act of robbing the gardens at the different
farms. Indeed neither the property nor the persons of individuals were
safe for some time. Two villains came to a hut which was occupied by one
Williams a sawyer, and which he had erected at a spot at some distance
from the town where he could have a little garden ground, and attempted
to rob him; but the owner surprised them, and, in endeavouring to secure
them, was wounded so severely in the arm with a tomahawk, that the tendon
was divided; and it was supposed that he never would recover the perfect
use of the limb. They even carried their audacity so far, as to be
secretly meditating an attempt upon the barrack and storehouse at
Parramatta; at least, information of such a plan was given by some of the
convicts; and as there had been seen among them people silly enough to
undertake to walk to the other side of this extensive continent,
expecting that China would be found there, it was not at all improbable
that some might be mad enough to persuade others that it would be an easy
matter to attempt and carry the barracks and stores there. But no other
use was made of the report than the exertion of double vigilance in the
guards, which was done without making public the true motive. To the
credit of the convicts who came out in the first fleet it must be
remarked, that none of them were concerned in these offences; and of them
it was said the new comers stood so much in dread, that they never were
admitted to any share in their confidence.

As the Indian corn began to ripen the convicts recommenced their
depredations, and many were punished with a severity seemingly calculated
to deter others, but actually without effect. They appeared to be a
people wholly regardless of the future, and not dreading any thing that
was not immediately present to their own feelings. It was well known that
punishment would follow the detection of a crime; but their constant
reliance was on a hope of escaping that detection; and they were very
rarely known to stand forward in bringing offenders to punishment,
although such rewards were held out as one would imagine were sufficient
to induce them. It being necessary to secure four dangerous people, who,
after committing offences, had withdrawn into the woods, a reward of
fifty pounds of flour was offered for the apprehension of either of them,
but only one was taken.

The easy communication between Sydney and Parramatta had been found to be
a very great evil from the time the path was first made; but since the
numbers had been so much augmented at Parramatta, it became absolutely
necessary to put a stop to the intercourse. The distance was about
sixteen miles; and, unless information was previously given, a person
would visit Sydney and return without being missed: and as stolen
property was transferred from one place to another by means of this quick
conveyance, orders were given calculated to cut off all unlicensed

A report having been falsely propagated at Parramatta, that it was
intended by the governor to take the corn of individuals on the public
account, the settlers and convicts who had raised maize or other grain,
and who were not provided with proper places to secure it in, were
informed, that they might send it to the public store, and draw it from
thence as their occasions required; and farther, that they were at
liberty to dispose of such live stock, corn, grain, or vegetables, which
they might raise, as they found convenient to themselves, the property of
every individual being equally secured to him, and by the same law,
whether belonging to a free man or a convict. Such of the above articles
as they could not otherwise dispose of, they were told, would be
purchased by the commissary on the public account at a fair market-price.

Toward the latter end of the month some villains broke into the
dispensary at the hospital, and stole two cases of portable soup, one
case of camomile flowers, and one case containing sudorific powder. These
articles had been placed in the dispensary on the very evening it was
broken into, to be sent to Parramatta the following morning. The cases
with the camomile and sudorific powder (which perhaps they had taken for
sugar or flour) were found at the back of the hill behind the hospital;
and, in order to discover the persons concerned in this theft, as well as
those who maimed the sawyer, as before related, a proclamation was
published, offering to any person or persons giving such information as
should convict the principal offenders, a free pardon for every offence
which he, she, or they might have committed since their arrival in this
country; and that a full ration of provisions should be issued to such
person or persons during the remainder of their respective terms of

Several people died at Parramatta, some of whom were at labour,
apparently in health, and dead in twenty-four hours. An extraordinary
circumstance attended, though it was not the cause of the death of one
poor creature: while dragging with others at a brick cart he was seized
with a fainting fit, and when he recovered was laid down under a cart
which stood in the road, that he might be in the shade. Being weak and
ill, he fell asleep. On waking, and feeling something tight about his
neck, he put up his hand, when, to his amazement and horror, he grasped
the folds of a large snake which had twined itself round his neck. In
endeavouring to disengage it, the animal bit him by the lip, which became
instantly tumid. Two men, passing by, took off the snake and threw it on
the ground, when it erected itself and flew at one of them; but they soon
killed it. The man who had fainted at the cart died the next morning,
not, however, from any effect of the bite of the snake, but from a
general debility.

At Parramatta the public bakehouse was broken into, and robbed of a large
quantity of flour and biscuit. The robber had made his way down the
chimney of the house, and, though a man and woman slept in the place,
carried off his booty undiscovered.

The convicts having assembled there at the latter end of the last month
in an improper and tumultuous manner, the governor now thought proper to
issue a proclamation, directing that 'in case of any riot or disturbance
among the convicts, every one who was seen out of his hut would (if such
riot or disturbance should happen in the night, or during the hours of
rest from labour, or if he were absent from his labour during the hours
of work) be deemed to be aiding and assisting the rioters, and be
punished accordingly.'

The convicts were strictly forbidden ever to assemble in numbers under
any pretence of stating a complaint, or for any other cause whatever, all
complaints being to be made through the medium of the superintendants or

A disobedience to this proclamation was to be punished with the utmost
severity; and any person who, knowing of any intended riot or tumultuous
and unlawful assembly among the convicts, did not take the first
opportunity of informing either the commanding officer of the military or
one of the superintendants thereof, would be deemed and punished as a
principal in such riot.

An instance of the profligacy of the convicts which occurred at this time
is deserving of notice: a woman who had been entrusted to carry the
allowance of flour belonging to two other women to the bakehouse, where
she had run in debt for bread which she had taken up on their account,
mixed with it a quantity of pounded stone, in the proportion of
two-thirds of grit, to one of flour. Fortunately, she was detected before
it had been mixed with other flour at the bakehouse, and was ordered to
wear an iron collar for six months as a punishment.

February.] A criminal court was held at Parramatta on the 7th of this
month for the trial of James Collington, who, as before mentioned, had
broken into the public bakehouse at that place by getting down the
chimney in the night. It appeared that he had taken off about fifty
pounds of flour, which he tied up in an apron that he found in the room,
and the leg of a pair of trousers. He deposited the property under a
rock, and occasionally visited it; but it was soon seized by some other
nocturnal adventurer, and Collington then broke into another hut, wherein
eight people were sleeping, and took thereout a box containing wearing
apparel and provisions, without disturbing them, so soundly did fatigue
make them sleep; but he was detected in a garden with the property, and
secured. Being found guilty, he received sentence of death, and was
executed early the following morning. At the tree he addressed the
convicts, warning them to avoid the paths he had pursued; but said, that
he was induced by hunger to commit the crime for which he suffered. He
appeared desirous of death, declaring that he knew he could not live
without stealing.

Information having been received, that a great body of convicts at the
new grounds intended to seize some arms which had been given to the
settlers for their protection against the natives, and (after robbing
their huts) to proceed to the sea-coast, where, destroying every person
who should oppose them, they were to build a vessel, a convict who was
said to be a ringleader was taken up, and, upon the information which he
gave, five others were apprehended and chained together; in which
situation they continued for some time, when their scheme having been
defeated, and other steps taken to prevent their putting it in execution,
they were liberated, and returned to their usual labour.

Information would have been at all times more readily procured from these
people, had they not been constantly apprehensive of receiving
ill-treatment not only from the parties concerned, but from others who
were not; and although every assurance of protection was given by those
who were authorised to hold it out, yet it was not found sufficient to do
away the dread they were said to labour under. Accident, or a quarrel
among themselves, sometimes furnished information that was not otherwise
to be procured; and in general to one or other of these causes was to be
attributed every information that was received of any malpractices among

A person who had been employed under one of the superintendants at
Parramatta, and in whom, from an uniformity of good conduct during his
residence in this country, some trust was at times placed, was detected
in giving corn to a settler from the public granary, to which he had
occasional access. The offence being fully proved, he was sentenced to
receive three hundred lashes, and the person to whom he had given the
corn two hundred lashes. It was seen with great concern, that there were
but few among them who were honest enough to resist any temptation that
was placed in their way.

A convict who had absconded five weeks since was apprehended by some of
the military at the head of one of the coves leading from Parramatta. He
had built himself a hut in the woods, and said when brought in, that he
had preserved his existence by eating such fish as he was fortunate
enough to catch, rock oysters, and wild berries; and that the natives had
more than once pursued him when employed in these researches. But very
little credit was given to any account he gave, and it was generally
supposed that he had lived by occasionally visiting and robbing the huts
at Sydney and Parramatta. He had taken to the woods to avoid a punishment
which hung over him, and which he now received.

Early in the month eight settlers from the marines received their grants
of land situated on the north side of the harbour near the Flats, and
named by the governor the Field of Mars.

The convicts employed in cultivating and clearing public ground beyond
Parramatta, having been landed in a weak and sickly state, wore in
general a most miserable and emaciated appearance, and numbers of them
died daily. The reduced ration by no means contributed to their
amendment; the wheat that was raised last year (four hundred and
sixty-one bushels) after reserving a sufficiency for seed, was issued to
them at a pound per man per week, and a pound of rice per week was issued
to each male convict at Sydney.

On Tuesday the 14th the signal was made for a sail, and shortly after the
_Pitt_, Captain Edward Manning, anchored in the cove from England. She
sailed the 17th of last July from Yarmouth Roads, and had rather a long
passage, touching at St. Iago, Rio de Janeiro, and the Cape of Good Hope.
She had on board Francis Grose, esq the lieutenant-governor of the
settlements, and major-commandant of the New South Wales corps, one
company of which, together with the adjutant and surgeon's mate, came out
with him.

She brought out three hundred and nineteen male and forty-nine female
convicts, five children, and seven free women; with salt provisions
calculated to serve that number of people ten months, but which would
only furnish the colony with provisions for forty days. The supply of
provisions was confined to salt meat, under an idea that the colony was
not in immediate want of flour, and that a supply had been sent from
Calcutta, which, together with what had been procured from Batavia, that
which had been sent before from England, and the grain that might have
been raised in the settlements, would be adequate to our consumption for
the present. The dispatches, however, which had been forwarded from this
place by the _Justinian_ in July 1790 having been received by the
secretary of state, what appeared from those communications to be
necessary for the colony were to be sent in one or more ships to be
dispatched in the autumn of last year, with an additional number of
convicts, and the remaining company of the New South Wales corps. A sloop
in frame, of the burden of forty-one tons, was sent out in the _Pitt_; to
make room for which, several bales of clothing, and many very useful
articles, were obliged to be shut out.

By this conveyance information was received, that the _Daedalus_ hired
storeship, which was sent out to carry provisions to the Sandwich islands
for two ships employed in those parts on discovery, was directed to
repair to this settlement after performing that service, to be employed
as there should be occasion, and that she might be expected in the
beginning of the year 1793.

The _Pitt_ brought in many of her convicts sick; and several of her
seamen and fifteen soldiers of the New South Wales corps had died shortly
after her leaving St. Iago, owing to her having touched there during an
unhealthy season.

The whole of the New South Wales corps, except one company, being now
arrived, the numbers requisite for the different duties were settled; and
one company, consisting of a captain, two lieutenants, one ensign, three
sergeants, three corporals, two drummers, and seventy privates, was fixed
for the duty of Parramatta; a like number for Norfolk Island, and the
remainder were to do duty at Sydney, the head quarters of the corps.

Permission having been obtained, a shop was opened at a hut on shore for
the sale of various articles brought out in the _Pitt_; and
notwithstanding a fleet of transports had but lately sailed hence,
notwithstanding the different orders which had been sent to Bengal, and
the high price at which every thing was sold, the avidity with which all
descriptions of people grasped at what was to be purchased was
extraordinary, and could only be accounted for by the distance of our

Online LibraryDavid CollinsAn Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, Etc. of The Native Inhabitants of That Country. to Which Are Added, Some Particulars o → online text (page 24 of 61)