Elizabeth Macarthur Macarthur-Onslow.

Some early records of the Macarthurs of Camden; online

. (page 1 of 38)
Online LibraryElizabeth Macarthur Macarthur-OnslowSome early records of the Macarthurs of Camden; → online text (page 1 of 38)
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Printed by

W. C. Penfold & Co. Ltd., 183 Pitt vStreet, Sydney


Angus & Robertson Ltd.

London -. The Oxford University Press
Amen Corner, E.G.



In editing the accompanying selections left by my
dear father James Macarthur, of Camden Park, I
am only carr3ang out a work which he had in-
tended that we should perform together, when we
were prevented by his very sudden death in 1867;
and I wish to dedicate the volume to the cherished
memory of my dear parents James and Emily
Macarthur, and my uncle Sir William Macarthur,
whose lives were devoted to the highest interests
of Australia and of the beloved Empire to which
we have the privilege of belonging.

Elizabeth Macarthur Onslow.


It is not intended that this volume, which
was almost finished for publication by my Mother
before she died in England in 1911, should be
taken as a life of John Macarthur of Camden.

Its object is rather to place finally on record
an authentic account of John Macarthur's con-
nection with the introduction of Fine Wool into
Australia, and of the keen interest he took in
that industry and in all that concerned the wel-
fare of the infant colony which he had adopted
as his home.

It has been compiled chiefl}^ from letters and
authenticated copies of letters found at Camden
Park, and from MS. notes left by James and
William, the sons of John Macarthur. All of
these papers have been literally reproduced
throughout ; but other papers have been used and
books quoted, when necessary, to link up the
original materials into a connected history.


The Dedication was written by m}^ Mother
shortly before her last illness. She left the editing
of the book to me — a work I should have had
difficulty in fulfilling, but for the very great help
and encouragement of Dr. Frederick Watson, to
whom I am most grateful, and through whom I
have been enabled to complete the work my Mother
had so nearly finished.




Chapter I. — Macarthur's Early Life and

Voyage to Australia 1

II. — Arrival and Early Days in the

Colony 20

III. — The Birth of the Fine Wool

Industry 56

IV. — The Fine Wool Industry in its

Infancy 98

V. — Macarthur and the Bligh In-
surrection .. 135

VI. — Macarthur and the Bligh- John-
ston Proceedings in England 177

VII. — Macarthur's Term of Exile ... 221

VIII. — Transactions in New South
Wales during Macarthur's

Absence 295

IX. — Macarthur's Return and De-
velopment OF the Wool In-
dustry 314

X. — Macarthur as the Advocate op

Reform ... ... ... ... 345

XI. — The Growth of the Camden

Estate 376

XII. — The Making of the Market for

Australian Wool 389

XIII.— Life in the Colonies, 1824-1831 448

XIV. — John Macarthur's Last Years... 470

Appendix ... ... ... ... ... ... 475


John Macarthur
lyAND Grant ...
Elizabeth Farm

Purchase prom Foveaux
lyETTER OF Credit ...
Sheep in 1914
MS. Catalogue


Printed Catalogue...

MS. Catalogue

Mrs. John Macarthur

... Facing p. 24
p. 45
p. 72
p. 248
p. 304
p. 343
p. 352
p. 400
p. 440
p. 448
p. 473

Chapter I.



John Macarthur, of Camden, New South Wales,
who introduced the merino sheep into Austraha and
founded the Australian wool trade, was born in 1767
near Plymouth, in Devonshire. His father, Alexander
Macarthur, a native of Argyleshire, N.B., had in 1745
with his brothers (it is supposed there were seven of
them) joined the army of Prince Charles Edward, and
of these he alone escaped from the field of Culloden.
Being forced to quit Scotland in consequence of the
part he had taken, he sought refuge in the West Indies,
and after some years returned to England and settled
in Plymouth, where he established a business* to which
his eldest sonf James succeeded.

John, after receiving such education as a private
school in the country ordinarily afforded in those days,
entered the army as an ensign in 1782, but at the close
of the war, in 1783, he was placed on half pay, and
being thus left without active employment, he went to
live at a farm house near Holsworthy, on the borders
of Cornwall and Devonshire.

There he took a lively interest in the rural occupa-
tions around him, at the hunt showed himself a bold and
accomplished horseman, and spent much time in the
perusal of such books as he could obtain, especially
works on English and Roman History and the general
principles of Law. About this time he married Eliza-

* Believed to be that of Army Agent.

f Father of Hannibal Macarthur, Esq., of the Vineyard,


beth, the daughter of a country gentleman named Veale,
who lived near Holsworthy, and contemplated retiring
from the Army for the purpose of being called to the
Bar; but the pay sheets of the London Record Office
show that on April 30th, 1788, he was gazetted to
the 68th Foot (the Durham Regiment) and on June
5th, 1789, he was appointed Lieutenant in the N.S.W.
Corps which was being formed for service in the newly
established convict settlement founded under Governor
Phillip in 1788.

Mrs. J. Macarthur's letters to her mother, Mrs.
Veale, will show that she was a true helpmate to her
husband, and one cannot fail to be impressed by the
cheerful and enterprising spirit in which she accepted her
life of exile — for such it was at that time — and for
which our pioneer women are so justly praised. But
her letters will speak for themselves.

In October, 1789, when she was in her twenty-first
year, she wrote to her mother, announcing their intended
departure for New South Wales.

Letter from Mrs. John Macarthur to Mrs. Veale

Chatham Barracks,

Oct. 8th, 1789.

In my last letter I informed you, my dear Mother,
of my husband's exchange into a corps destined for New
South Wales, from which we have every reasonable ex-
pectation of reaping- the most material advantages. You
will be surprised that even I who appear timid and
irresolute should be a warm advocate for this scheme.
So it is, and believe me I shall be greatly disappointed
if anything happens to impede it. I foresee how terrific
and gloomy this will appear to you. To me at first it
had the same appearance, while I suffered myself to be
blinded by common and vulgar prejudices. I have not


now, nor I trust shall ever have one scruple or regret,
but what relates to you.

Do but consider that if we must be distant from each
other, it is much the same, whether I am two hundred,
or far more than as many thousand miles apart from
you. The same Providence will watch over and protect
us there as here. The sun that shines on you will also
afford me the benefit of his cheery rays, and that too
in a country where nature hath been so lavish of her
bounties, that flowers luxuriantly abound, in the same
manner as with culture fruits will do hereafter.

By the last accounts from Port Jackson — where the
new settlement is established — we learn that wheat
which has been sown, flourished in a manner nearly
incredible, and that the settlers are making rapid pro-
gress in buildings, so that by the time our corps arrives
everything will be made comfortable for their reception.

The new settlement is an immediate object with
Government, and every effort will be made to promote
its success.

Your affectionate daughter,

Elizabeth Macarthur.

In the same year Macarthur and his wife embarked
for Port Jackson in the second fleet, (the first fleet
having brought out Governor Phillip and the first estab-
lishment in 1788), taking with them, on what was then
deemed an adventurous, if not perilous voyage, an
infant son, afterwards General Sir Edward Macarthur.

The passage to Sydney was long, and attended with
much discomfort, the ships (two of which, the Neptune
and Scarborough, sailed in company) being shamefully
and inadequately provided by the contractors with pro-
visions and necessaries for the convicts, which caused
sickness and the loss of many lives.

The ships touched at the Cape of Good Hope for
supplies, and while there Macarthur contracted a severe


attack of rheumatic fever and lumbago from over-
exertion in the hot sun, followed by a drenching in the
surf in his endeavours to embark and bring oft to the
ships a party of soldiers who had been ashore on leave,
and who were, m.any of them, in a state of intoxication.

From this illness he was for some weeks in much
danger, and to it he attributed the painful attacks of
flying gout and nervous depression from which he
suffered much in after life, and which with increasing
years became more severe.

A graphic account of the voyage Is given in Mrs.
John Macarthur's Journal, which was found in a torn
condition amongst the papers of her daughter Lady
Parker at Sheen, Surrey, in 1888, and in the letters to
her mother which follow.

Mrs. John Macarthur's Journal.

Friday, 13th November, 1789: I took leave of my
friends in London, and accompanied by Mr. Macarthur,
hired a Gravesend boat from Billinsgate which conveyed us
to the Neptune at Long-reach.

Saturday, 14th : The ship drop'd down to Gravesend.
at which place we lay till the Tuesday following, and then
sailed for the Downs where we arrived on the Thursday.
We remained in the Downs Friday, and some part of
Saturday, and I was much struck with the formidable and
romantick appearance of the Cliffs of Deal and of Dover.
On this day (Saturday) a disagreeable circumstance
occurred. Mr. Gilbert, Master of the Ship, of whom in-
deed we had heard but an indifferent character, took an
opportunity of manifesting himself in such a light to us, as
precluded all further communication between him and
Mr. Macarthur. In the afternoon of this day we proceeded
down the Channel with a fair wind and at different times
had in sight several vessels.

On Monday, 23rd, after laying-too all night, sup-
posing the ship to be near Plymouth, our astonishment


was very great on discovering that we were so far west
as the Lizard Point. I could not help viewing the coast
of Cornwall, inhospitable as it appeared, but with sensible
regret at the thought that I was about to take a long
leave of it. We had here a distant prospect of St.
Michael's Mount, but not near enough to form any idea
of the grandeur of its appearance when taken in a better
view. The wind not being favourable towards our
return, it was not till Friday, 27th, in the morning, that
we found ourselves safely anchored in Plymouth Sound.
Here I must pay a tribute to dear Devon. I have ever
heard admired the agreeable variety of objects in general
to be discovered throughout this county, but surely the
entrance to Plymouth by sea must surpass every other
and I think there cannot be a beholder but what must
be delighted in contemplating the variety of beautiful
scenes that on every side surround him. In the after-
noon of the day that we arrived at Plymouth, Mr. Harris,
our surgeon, and Mr. Macarthur went ashore ; at their
return, which was early in the evening, I gathered from
some distant hints that a duel had taken place between Mr.
Gilbert and Mr. Macarthur. To describe my feelings on
the occasion would now be a difficult task, though they
were by no means so acute as reflection hath since
rendered them, many disagreeable circumstances then
pressing on my mind suffered not one principle to actuate
me wholly. I therefore did not so seriously consider
what I now think of with trembling, the unhappy conse-
quences that might have arisen from so presumptuous a
meeting, nor can I be sufificiently thankful to the
Almighty disposer of events that a more lasting cause
does not oblige me to consider it with horror.

On Sunda}^ 29th November, accompanied by Capt.
Moriarty, I took a post chaise, and reached Launceston
that night, and the next morning, about 11 o'clock, I
arrived at my mother's. My time was so limited by Mr.
Gilbert's report of the Ships sailing, that I could only


allow myself two nights at Bridgerule. Wednesday
morning I was obliged to take leave of it, and returned
to Plymouth, where I arrived between 9 and 10 o'clock
at night, not much enlivened by the short interview I
had with my friends, and considerably depressed with
the Idea of parting with my only surviving parent,
perhaps for ever. I found Mr. Macarthur at Plymouth,
waiting to take me on board, and late as it was, we were
under the necessity of going, as an official message had
been sent by Mr. Gilbert to inform the officers that the
ship would sail at 3 o'clock in the morning. It was
afterwards known that he had not the slightest intention
of going, and of course could have no view in reporting
what he did but that of harrassing us. Captain Nepean
went off to the ship in the same boat with us. We had
no sooner arrived on board than a compleat scene of uproar
and confusion presented itself. Captain Gilbert had
insulted a centinal on his post and struck him ; the
soldier showed a disposition to defend himself and
make Mr. Gilbert suffer for his imprudence; this led
to a great bustle, and the ship's arms were taken out
and loaded and arranged on the stern gallery. Three
naval lieutenants in possession of the cabin with blunder-
busses lying on the table. In this order we found things
on board, and Mr. Gilbert had thought fit to take
himself quickly on shore instead of preparing for sea.
Captain Nepean dispatched Mr. Harris immediately to
London with an account of these riotous proceedings to
his brother,* and about 3 o'clock in the morning I retired
to rest after the variety of fatigues and alarms of the pre-
ceding day. We did not leave Plymouth until Thursday,
loth December, from whence we proceeded to Portsmouth,
and anchored in Stokes Bay.

Sunday, 13th. — We there found the Scarborough and
Surprize, two transports that were to accompany us,
ready for sea. Soon after our arrival here, we learnt
* Secretary to the Admiralty.


that Mr. Gilbert's conduct had displeased the owners of
the ship, and the truth was soon assured by a Mr. Trail
being appointed in his room. Heartily glad was I when
he made his exit and we congratulated ourselves with
the thought that such another troublesome man could
not be found and consequently our change must be for
the better. Experience, however, soon taught us a very
disagreeable truth, Mr. Trail's character was of a much
blacker dye than was ever in Mr. Gilbert's nature to
exhibit. Everything was now disposed in order for sea
and we only waited for a fair wind. Captain Hill, Mr.
Prentice, and Mr. Harris, who was the surgeon in the
Surprise, Mr. Townsend, and Mr. Abbott in the Scar-
borough, and in the Neptune Captain Nepean, Mr.
Macarthur, and Mrs. Trail was on board with her husband,
and Mr. Shapcote, the agent for the fleet, was also in our
ship, but as they all lived together, and Captain Nepean
with them, we seldom benefited by their society. The wind
continuing to blow westerly, an attempt towards sailing
was not made until Tuesday, 5th January, we then had a
few hours/ fair wind which first took us to Spithead, where
we were again obliged to anchor.

Friday, 8th, we again loosened "every sail to the
breeze," and proceeded to sea. Towards night the wind
began to prove faithless, and before the next morning
blew directly against us, so as totally to impede our
course. The next day (Sunday) and night we continued
to beat about, hoping that a favourable change would
take place, but on Monday morning appearances were so
extremely hazardous that prudence dictated the shortest
way back again, and our head was once more turned
towards that shore we had so recently quitted with an
idea of not seeing it again for some years to come. We
passed through the Needles and anchored at the Mother
bank on Tuesday about noon. The evening and succeed-
ing day was so dreadfully tempestuous that we had
great reason to be thankful at our being safely in


harbour. We remained at the Motherbank until Sunday,
17th January, when a fine clear easterly wind springing
up we soon got under sail and proceeded down the
Channel with very fine weather. On Wednesday, being
near the Bay of Biscay, the wind shifted to the south,
and it began to be very tempestuous, that night and the
succeeding day it blew exceedingly hard, and now, for
the first time, I began to be a coward. I could not be
persuaded that the ship could possibly long resist the
violence of the sea which ran mountains high. On
Thursday, towards evening, the wind considerably
abated, and the next morning it was a perfect calm, but
the sea continued greatly agitated by a swell. On the
25th January, we were again favored with a fair wind,
and a small vessel was seen at a distance with French
colours. About this time my poor little boy was taken
very ill, and continued in the most pitiable weak state
during our passage to the Cape. Added to this my
servant was attacked by a fever that raged among the
women convicts, and I had hourly every reason to ex-
pect that the infection would be communicated to us.
as our apartments were so immediately connected with
those of the women. We were, however, fortunate
enough to escape from this evil. I have omitted to ob
serve that when Captain Nepean accepted of accommo-
dation in the upper cabin, he thought himself at liberty
to dispose of the part allotted to him in the great cabin
as best suited his inclinations, adopting that very
generous maxim "every man for himself," in conse-
quence of this idea and a request from the owners of
the ship, he gave permission for one half the cabin to be
partitioned off for the reception of female convicts,
leaving the other half to us. Mr. Macarthur, who saw
the inconvenience that would arise from this arrange-
ment, strove by every means to prevent it. He pointed
out to Captain Nepean "that Government had con-
tracted for a cabin for the mutual benefit of the ofificers


ordered to sail in that ship, and that there was no particular
allotment for any officer," that, therefore, if he had the
means of obtaining better accommodations, and had no
use for those prepared him by Government, it was highly
indelicate, if not unjust, to think of introducing a set
of people to the possession of what was prepared for him.
and to the participation of what was assigned to us
But in this instance, as in many others, reason unassisted
by pov.er proved unavailing. A slight partition was
erected, which was thought fully sufficient to separate
us from the set of abandoned creatures that were to in-
habit the other part, and the only satisfaction or con-
cession that Mr. Macarthur could obtain for this cruel
encroachment upon our rights w^as a promise and
assurance that a passage, which from our quarter gallery
communicated with the upper cabin, should always be
open for our use and even for our servants. This
assurance, trifling as it may appear, was to us an in-
estimable advantage, as the division in the cabin had
rendered the common passage to the deck totally dark,
and added to this, it v/as always filled with convicts and
their constant attendants, filth and vermin. The alter-
cations and little disputes that the concluding of this
business occasioned created a coldness between Captain
Nepean, the master of the ship, and Mr. Macarthur, and
at last terminated in a cessation of every kind of inter-
course, except on duty w'ith the one, or on business with
the other. Thus, unhappily situated, we determined
patiently to submit to the unpleasantness we could not
remedy, and cheered ourselves with hope of a speedy
voyage, not doubting but that things were at the Avorst.
In this conclusion, however, experience proved we had
vainly flattered ourselves.

Many of the soldiers frequently complained that a
part of their ration was purloined, and as often as they
did, Mr. Macarthur considered it his duty to report it to
Captain Nepean. The first time, Captain Nepean re-


plied " Trail does everything to oblige me, and I must
give up some points to him." Subsequent informations
on the same subject were answered "I will see into it."
It would be an injustice to Captain Nepean to suppose
that he did not mention it, as there is every reason to
conclude he did, from the monstrous and unprovoked
insults that always ensued. I had made it a practice
every fine evening to go up through our quarter gallery
to the stern gallery to walk or sit with Mr. Macarthur.
and I also took the same road whenever my inclinations
led me to the deck — the common passage, as I have
before observed, being rendered impassable. But of
these enjoyments I was suddenly deprived by the door
of the gallery being closely nailed up on Saturday, 30th
Januar}^ without their deigning to assign any reason
for so doing — we have since been told it was to prevent
Mr. Macarthur from listening — a suggestion infamous
and unfounded as it was, I shall ever be persuaded
originated in the person, who of all others in the ship
ought to have been most forward in suppressing it. Mr.
Macarthur immediately wrote an official letter to the
agent, complaining in the strongest language of the in-
justice of this transaction ; in answer to which he was
told verbally (a written answer being refused) " that he
should not quarrel with Trail for any man," Captain
Nepean also said " that the master of the ship had a
right to do as he pleased." Without a hope of relief, T
was fain to content myself wnthin the narrow limits of
a wretched cabin, for to add to the horrors of the com-
mon passage to the deck. Captain Nepean ordered it to
be made a hospital for the sick, the consequence of
which was that I never left my cabin till I finally quitted
the ship. Thus precluded from the general advantages
that even the convicts enjoyed — air and exercise — no
language can express, no imagination conceive the
misery I experienced. Approaching near the equator
(where the heat in the best of situations is almost in


supportable) assailed with noisome stenches, that even
in the cold of an English winter, hourly effusions of oil
of tar in my cabin could not dispel, two sides of it
surrounded with wretches whose dreadful imprecations
and shocking discourses ever rang in my distracted ears.
a sickly infant constantly claiming maternal cares, my
spirits failing, my health forsaking me, nothing but the
speedy change which took place, could have prevented
me from falling a helpless victim to the unheard of in-
humanity of a set of monsters whose triumph and
pleasure seemed to consist in aggravating my distresses.
To a person unacquainted with the innumerable insults
and cruelties I was necessitated to bear with, this may
appear the language of passion, resentment, or of heart,
desiring revenge, but it will be admitted to be the con-
clusions of truth and of justice when it is known in ad-
dition the wrongs I have already recited that we were
deprived of a part of our little ration, and insultingly
told we should have less if they thought proper ; that a
constant watch was set over our servant when getting
our daily allowance of water lest the seamen who had
the serving of it (knowing our situation) should be in-
duced by motives of humanit}^ to make some small
addition to the scanty pittance, and once (so low were
we reduced by the connivance of the only person we
could look to for support) that the servant was publicly
stopped on the deck, with execrations and abuse, and the
water examined, although at this time they were ex-
pending 50 gallons a day for their stock, and an unlimited
quantity for their own use, and our whole allowance for
every purpose was only 5 quarts. But to conclude as
ungrateful a subject as ever exercised the patience or
wounded the feelings of humanity, I will proceed to the

Online LibraryElizabeth Macarthur Macarthur-OnslowSome early records of the Macarthurs of Camden; → online text (page 1 of 38)