Author Archive

TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD – THOMAS BARRETT

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

‘He [ Barrett] may have been the maker of the Botany Bay Medallion…a skilfully engraved metal medallion inscribed with a relief description of the voyage dated 20 January 1788 and a representation of the Charlotte at anchor in Botany Bay. Mollie Gillen, Founders of Australia, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1990

image of charlotte medal

The Charlotte Medal, created by Thomas Barrett

Sydney Cove 1788 – 27 February 27: A lifer’  Thomas Barrett was the first Englishman hanged in European Australia.

Barrett fashioned the ‘Botany Bay Medallion’ AKA the ‘Charlotte Medal from a ‘silver coloured metal kidney dish’ thought to belong to Dr. John White. The fleet’s Chief Medical Officer White would have certified Barrett’s death. See: From Here to Eternity 

An excellent medical administrator White nevertheless was a flawed character.  Controversy over provenance of paintings;  ‘by  the artist known as the Port Jackson Painter’ in the Watling Collection, London Natural History Museum, remains current to this day.

London: Barrett, probably son of Irish immigrants, was born in London in 1758. His profile is not that of the usual illiterate dead-beat English common criminal. Unusual for those times he could read and, as exemplified by the medallion, wrote a find hand.

In September 1782 Barrett stood in the dock of the Old Bailey accused of stealing clothing and ‘a silver watch with chain’ from an unoccupied house, described as ‘up for rent’.

Found guilty as charged, sentenced to hang, he spent the following twelve (12) months on ‘death row’ in one of London’s appalling prisons.

On 11 September 1783 the death penalty was commuted for ‘transportation to America’ for the ‘term of his natural life’ . Barrett was transferred to Censor a Thames River prison-hulk to await shipment.

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A WORM-HOLE: RICHARD ATKIN’S DIARY & THE FIRST BLACK HOLE

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

‘You are also with the consent of the natives to take possession of convenient situations in the country in the name of the King of Great  Britain, or if you find the country uninhabited take possession for His Majesty by setting up proper marks and inscriptions as first discoverers and possessors’. British Admiralty Instructions to Lieutenant James Cook RN, 1768. 

1770 – August, Possession Island: In 1770 although Lieutenant James Cook RN wrote ‘the natives of the country [New Holland] live in Tranquilly which is not disturb’d by the inequality of condition’ in the name of His Majesty King George III of England ‘without consent’ of its Peoples, he marked a tree ran up a flag and named their territory New Wales. See: Captain Cook, Charles Green, John Harrison – Three Yorkshirmen Walked Into A Bar – Nevil Maskelyne

‘Military power was the most decisive fact about the early settlements; it was the frame within which everything else happened’. R. Connell and T.H. Irving, Class Structure in Australian History, Documents, Narrative and Argument, 1980.

1788 – 28 January, Sydney Cove: ‘At 6 am the disembarkation began’ a British army commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN, two hundred and forty-five (245) marines, two hundred (200) Royal Naval personnel, twenty (20) officials, five hundred and seventy (570) male criminals – ‘rationed as troops serving in the West Indies’, thirty-one (31) marine wives and twenty-three (23) marine  children disembarked from the ‘First Fleet’ at Warrane now Sydney Cove.

A further four hundred and forty (440) merchant-seamen made up the fleet’s complement of 1500 souls.

1788 – 6 February: ‘The day the convict women [one hundred and eighty-nine [189 – 22 free children] disembarked they landed by rowing boas between 6am and 6 pm’. John Moore, The First Fleet Marines 1786-1792, Queensland University Press, 1986

See: Only Men ? Aside from Seagulls How Many White Birds Were On The Ground At Sydney Cove On 26 January 1788 – None

1788 – 7 February, Port Jackson: Captain-General, now Governor Arthur Phillip RN, raised the Union Jack . ‘Using a form of words’ he proclaimed possession by ‘effective occupation’ – conquest – of the island continent of New Holland, now Australia, for he British Empire.

The winner-takes-all mindset of Britain’s ‘original aggression’ – laid down in 1788 – was set in stone during two (2) critical periods of absolute military rule between 1792-1795 and 1808-1810.

1790 – June, Sydney: One hundred and fifteen (115) officers and infantrymen, first contingent of the New South Wales Corps raised specifically to replace the ‘troubled’ Sydney marine garrison, arrived with a second fleet  in June 1790 but without Major Francis Grose their commanding officer. See: ‘Britain’s Grim Armada’ – The Dead and the Living Dead

Grose remained in England and recruited to meet establishment requirements. The power vacuum was filled by Lieutenant John Macarthur, an ambitious, intelligent but unscrupulous junior officer.

At Macarthur’s urging officers pooled their cash morphed into powerful trading cartels and operated as both wholesale and retail merchants holding the infant colony in an economic strangle-hold. See: Machiavellian Macarthur

1792 – February, Sydney: Major Grose arrived at the beginning of February 1792 aboard Pitt a convict transport. One (1) of eleven (11) vessels contracted to a firm of slave-traders Camden, Calvert and King this third fleet brought one thousand eight hundred (1800) mostly male convicts and two hundred (200) additional troops. See: G is for Gender

Among a handful of free settlers was Richard Atkins. Atkins, the dissolute son of baronet Sir William Bower, kept a diary written; ‘in that uninhibited  fashion to which Georgian diarists were prone’. See: Boswell Goes Into Bat

In so novel and primitive a penal settlement Atkin’s polished upbringing and influential family connextions at once marked him as a privileged member of society, particularly as the colonists did not know the real reason for his coming. Journal, Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 52. Part 4, 1966

Atkins ‘made much of the fame of his [high profile] brothers’. In a colony almost entirely devoid of educated men, those in authority  failed to see Richard Atkins for what he was, a plausible con-man. Atkins was awarded positions far in excess of his abilities.

Governor Phillip accordingly appointed this virtual outlaw as a Justice of the Peace and sent him to Parramatta to augment the summary legal administration there’. RAHSoc. Journal. op.cit.

What of Richard Atkins the man? It seems, now as then, it is hard to find a good word.

Atkins; Addicted to liquor, immorality and insolvency he led a thoroughly dissolute life….The colony’s principal legal officer for years…when he was sober he was impressive enough to delude creditors and governor alike; but he was ignorant and merciless, an inveterate debauchee’. Australian Dictionary of Biography

Yet Atkin’s journal is a tardis; a wormhole into Britain’s toxic military occupation of Australia.

1838 – December, London: ‘You cannot overrate the solicitude of H.M. Government on the subject of the Aborigines of New Holland. It is impossible to contemplate the condition or the prospects of that unfortunate race without the deepest commiseration. Still it is impossible that the government should forget that the original aggression was ours’. Lord John Russell to Sir George Gipps, Despatch, 21 December 1838, Series 1, Vol. XX.

THE BACK STORY

1792 – 12 December: Governor Arthur Phillip RN returned to England after five (5) years of extremely stressful service as Britain’s first Governor of Australia (1788-1792). See: Phillip’s Algorithm

‘For the length of the interregnum [December 1792 – September 1795] the British government was greatly at fault. John Hunter, Australian Dictionary of Biography, J.J. Auchmuty

The Home Office failed to appoint an immediate successor so governance of the colony devolved to the military – the corrupt New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.     

‘No sooner had Governor Phillip left ye colony than I was convinced that the plan or measures of government were about to undergo an intire [sic] change’. [Atkins]

1792 – 15 December: The civil magistrates, within two days, received an order that their duty would in future be dispensed with, and from that time until your Excellency’s [Hunter’s] arrival [September 1795]…everything was conducted in a military manner’. Captain George Johnston to Governor John Hunter, cited William Foster, Journal Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 51, Part 3, 1965.

Major Grose, the Corps’ Commander, described as ‘unassertive, affable and easy-going’, was content to allow his greedy officers have their heads particularly; ‘the energetic Macarthur [who] became the real ruler of New South Wales’. op.cit.

The Atkin’s diary gives an insightful account of the British invaders and their guns, greed and grog- the tipping points of military rule – that changed forever ‘prospects [for] the Aborigines of New Holland’. 

‘Major Grose…has done more harm to this colony than it would be in the power of any govt. to do for many years…The more I consider the govt. of —  — the more it appears hostile not only to the British constitution but to ends for which all good government was instituted’. [Atkins – December 1794]

Major Grose, veteran of the American War, governed Australia from December 1792 until December 1794 when he departed for London. Captain William Paterson, Grose’s second-in-command, governed from December 1794 to September 1795.

‘We now have a commanding officer (Captain Wm. Patterson) for our Chief. I think it will not be approved of’. [Atkins – December 1794]

1795 – 21 March 1795: Captain Paterson having assumed command wrote to Home Secretary Dundas in London.

‘Having reason to expect the arrival of governor Hunter daily…I have made no alteration in the mode of carrying on the service which I found adopted at the Lieut.Governor’s [Grose] departure’. Captain Paterson, Administrator to Right Hon. Henry Dundas, 21 March 1795.

1795 – March, Sydney Cove: Brittania, a vessel chartered by officers of the New South Wales Corps on the say-so of Macarthur, a canny teetotaller sober among a sea of drunks, arrived at Sydney in March 1795 with 25,000 gallons of ‘firey Indian rum’.

‘We may expect Hunter in about 6 weeks….It is much lamented that the govr. [Hunter] does not arrive for every day adds to the debauchery and every other vice….The new settlement on the Hawkesbury is one continual scene of drunkeness.

It would be impossible to describe the scenes of villainy and infamy that passes at the Hawkesbury…a bottle of liquor for a bushell of corn and no questions asked is the common price’… since then drunkeness and robberys to a very allarming degree have taken place’. [Atkins – March 1795]

By 1795 over four hundred (400) ex-convicts, supported by the labour of serving prisoners, were farming ‘thirty miles along the banks on both sides of the Deerubin [Hawkesbury] river’. 

‘For the first twenty years, settlement in New South Wales was confined largely to the Cumberland Plain about Sydney….The Europeans explained  such [Aboriginal] resistance by referring to the Aborigines’ ‘Spirit of Animosity and Hostility’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, 1986

Local Dharug Aborigines, denied access to watering places, hunting grounds and winter yam fields were placed under extreme pressure. They mounted hit and run raids; ‘plundering the corn’ to feed their hungry families.

‘As if the invasion of their land would call for any other response but armed resistance’. Stanley. op.cit.

In early June 1795 Captain Paterson, like Grose also a wounded veteran of the American War, took a decision that compounded difficulties on the Hawkesbury. He sent a detachment of troops to the river., the increased fire-power saw sporadic raids escalate into ‘open war’

‘It appears the determined resolution of the military [Paterson] to support the Despotism of the Lt. Governor [Grose] it is now carried on in a higher degree than in his time. They seem to adopt the Idea that the Natives can be made slaves of…nothing can be more false….they are as free as the air and Governor Phillip’s conduct was highly approved of for reprobating that idea’. [Atkins – February 1795] See: Convict Transportation – The Hulks Act & How the Mindset of Slavery Came to Australia.

1795 – 7 June, Hawkesbury: Captain William Paterson; ‘I therefore sent a detachment of two subalterns and sixty privates of New South Wales to the river, as well to drive the natives to a distance, as for the protection of the settlers.

It gives me concern to have been forced to destroy any of these people, particularly as I have no doubt of their having been cruelly treated by some of the settlers who went out there’. Captain William Paterson to Right Hon. Henry Dundas,15th June 1795.

1795 – 7 September, Sydney: Governor John Hunter RN, Britain’s second commissioned naval Governor of Australia arrived in September three (3) months after Captain Paterson ordered the Hawkesbury raid.

‘On this day Govr. Hunter arrives. ‘How happy is it for this Colony that we have at last a Governor who will make the good of the community at large his particular care, abstracted from all party and dirty pecuniary views’. [Atkins, 7 September 1795]

Soon after he arrived Governor Hunter travelled to Parramatta to stay with Lieutenant John and Elizabeth Macarthur. For this Atkins had one word ‘Ominous’. 

Atkin’s fears were allayed when it became clear Governor Hunter was not deceived by John ‘MacMafia’ Macarthur the slick, get-rich-quick wheeler-dealer.

‘Arrived from Bengal the Brig Arthur laden with spirits, tobacco, sugar etc. A ship from Britain [Ceres] laden with salt and slops’. [Atkins – January 1796]

‘recd. information from Govr. [Hunter] that the Judge Advocate [David Collins] was going home and that I am to succeed him’. [Atkins – 12 February 1796]

It seems after Atkins took up his appointment as Judge-Advocate he was too busy to continue with his diary.

1810 – May: Richard Atkins returned to London on HMS Hindostan in company with ex-Governor William Bligh RN – Britain’s fourth naval governor. Bligh had earlier described Atkins ‘a disgrace to human jurisprudence’.

1820 – November, England: Richard Atkins died ‘insolvent’ nevertheless he has left Australia an invaluable asset. His diary exposes the ‘what’s -yours -is-mine’ attitude inherent in Britain’s ‘original aggression’.

It was a mind-set entrenched by two (2) lengthy periods of absolute military rule firstly 1792-1795 and again 1808-1810.  The ‘Rum Rebellion’ a coup instigated by John Macarthur, by then a civilian agitator. See: Australia Day ‘Rum’ Rebellion

‘In 1837 the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Aborigines (British Settlements) recommended that as the whole land had been taken from the Aborigines in New South Wales…[had ] yielded on sale upwards of hundred thousand pounds a year…’. Barry Bridges, Journal Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 56, Part 2, 1965

EPILOGUE

‘At the end of the period of British control over native affairs the Aborigines had no stake in the soil of their native land beyond a few small reserves, and perhaps, the right to limited trespass on leasehold land’. Bridges. op.cit.

1992: Australia’s High Court’s 1992 Mabo decision found ‘terra nullius’‘uninhabited’the founding doctrine of Britain’s ‘original aggression’ – to be ‘legal fiction’.

There was however a sting-in-the tail of the Mabo ruling; ‘Native Title will be extinguished where the traditional holders lose their connection to land’.

Although The First Nations’ Peoples were removed willy-nilly from their country whose boundaries had been fixed for millennia, The High Court took no account of forced removal.

‘Where traditional holders lose their connection to land’ led to decisions such as that of Judge Olney: ‘the right to the occupancy of this [Yorta Yorta] land….have been washed away by the tides of history’.

Continuing connection an ‘institutional [reminder] of Empire’ has resulted in competing claims and the development of what some First Australians describe as ‘Native Title warfare’.

‘To believe that Britain can forget its history, is to believe that Russians should not discuss the crimes of Stalin or Germans the crimes of Nazism. There is a need for a re-writing of history, for the purging of some guilt by its contemplation.

There is not yet in Britain any institutional reminder of the guilts of Empire; the builders of Empire are still the great men of the history texts, and monuments still stand to them in London’. Donald Horne, God is an Englishman, Pelican, 1969.

2019 – Brexit: As the Union of Great Britain appears on a slippery slide to disintegration it is time to take a forensic knife to: ‘the original aggression’  ‘effective occupation’, ‘forced removal’ ‘the tides of history’ ‘the builders of Empire’ ‘the guilts of Empire’. See:  A Continuing Connection – But When The Bough Breaks?

‘An effective resolution will require what the British required as long ago ago as 1768 ‘the consent of the natives’. G. Nettheim, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Monograph No. 7, May 1994, ed. W. Sanders, Australian National University, Goanna Press, 1994

 

A BAND OF BROTHERS & MORTAL ENEMIES

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

‘After delivering my message to him, he [La Perouse] returned his thanks to Governor Phillip, and made similar offers to those he had received’. Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN, First Fleet Journal, February 1788

Captain Arthur Phillip RN and Comte Jean-Francois La Perouse never met. On opposing sides in peace and war yet as seafarers they shared a bond like no other.

Phillip knew a great deal about La Perouse. It is impossible to believe he did not admire the gallant Frenchman who had a deserved reputation for compassion.

‘The Way of War is A Way of Deception. When Able, Feign inability; When deploying troops, Appear not to be’. Sun-Tzu, c.551-496 BC, Penguin, 2009

The ‘First Fleet’ an expeditionary force fully funded by government sailed under the guise of a convict transportation fleet. Its 580 male convicts wee rationed ‘as troops serving in the West Indies’.

Portsmouth – 1787, 13 May: Overwhelmingly male – 1300 men, 221 women –  commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip RN the large armed convoy of eleven (11) ships sailed from Portsmouth ‘Bound for Botany Bay’.

France:  Phillip knew  Comte Jean-Fancois La Perouse, with two (2) ships La Boussole and L’Astrolabe, was already on the high seas and making for New Holland. See: A Riddle – When was an invasion fleet not an invasion fleet? When it’s the First Fleet  

The squadron’s true intent was to invade and claim British sovereignty over the island continent of New Holland (Australia) before the French.

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RULES OF ENGAGEMENT- TAKE TWO – CAPTAIN ARTHUR PHILLIP RN & MAJOR ROBERT ROSS – MARINE COMMANDER

Friday, September 8th, 2017

‘From 1788 there had been continuous disputation between the civil power represented by the autocratic uniformed naval governors, and the military’. John McMahon, Not a Rum Rebellion but a Military Insurrection, Journal of Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol. 92, 2006

1788 – Sydney: The chain of command at Sydney was dysfunctional. For many reasons relations between Captain Arthur Phillip an officer of the Royal Navy and Marine Commander Major Robert Ross of the Royal Navy’s military arm were toxic.

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YORKSHIRE: COOK – HARRISON – GREEN: THREE YORKSHIRE MEN WALKED INTO A BAR

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

 

‘He [John Harrison] wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’. Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

Harrison H-4 Chronometer

Since earliest times Europe’s sea-faring nations England, Portugal, France, Spain the Netherlands vied with each other to solve – the Holy Grail of Navigation – longitude – calculating with precision a ship’s position at sea while beyond sight of land.

Cornwell – 1707:  In heavy weather six (6) of Admiral Clowdisley Shovell’s ships lost their bearings off the Cornish coast and dashed to pieces against the Scilly Isles with the loss of 1500 lives

1714  – Westminster: An enquiry into England’s first recorded 18th century maritime disaster resulted in legislation- The Act of Longitude 1714.

A Board of Longitude was established under the Act. Its task to invite and evaluate submissions and award a prize of £20,000 to whom-so-ever solved the problem of determining longitude at sea.

The contest,  to the detriment of the world’s seafarers, developed into a naked grab for cash. A king’s ransom, reckoned now at more than £400,000,000, did much to delay recognition of the solution at the cost of countless lives.  See: Lotto and Longitude

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016 See: Lieutenant William Dawes & ‘The Eternal Flame’

There had only two (2) viable contenders for the Longitude Prize. Astronomer Royal Rev. Nevil Maskelyne’s Nautical Almanac , a system of  Luna Tables  and Star Cataglog favoured by a succession of Astronomer Royals and a sea-going ‘pocket-watch’ the invention of John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter.

‘The Board of Longitude was top-heavy with astronomers, mathematicians and navigators…the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne the fifth astronomer royal, who contested his [Harrison’s] claim to the [Longitude] prize money and whose tactics at certain junctions can only be described as foul-play’. Dava Sobel. ibid.

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CAPTAIN COOK CAUGHT SHORT 

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

The Royal Society had accepted the recommendation of [Maskelyne] the Astronomer [Royal] that [Dalrymple] the well-known hydrographer of the Pacific should be chosen as ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

Greenwich: Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal may have judged Alexander Dalrumple, a Fellow of the Royal Society; ‘a proper Person’ the Admiralty however would have none of Alexander Dalrymple. See: Malicious Maskelyne 

South Seas: Instead Admiralty chose James Cook, then a lowly Warrant Officer of the Royal Navy, to lead a scientific expedition to the ‘South Seas’.

The expedition was a two-for-the-price-of-one venture.  Edmond Haley of comet fame earlier had predicted a celestial phenomenon the, Transit of Venus, would occur in early June 1769.  The Royal Society favoured Tahiti as an ideal place to observe the Transit.

The Society could not bear the full cost of sending observers there and went into partnership with the Admiralty who supplied a ship and paid its captain and crew.

Tahiti:  After the Transit Cook was to open the Admiralty’s ‘secret instructions’ and sail his shipHMS Endeavourdeep into southern latitudes in search of the fabled Great South Land.

‘[Cook] Whose remarkable qualities as a seaman and as a navigator and cartographer the Admiralty had learned to value because of his outstanding service in the operation under [General] Wolfe in Canada [Seven Years War 1756-1763]. Cameron. ibid. 

Yorkshire – 1728: James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 in Marston, Yorkshire. Vanessa Collingridge Captain Cook The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Random House, 2003 says he spent most of his childhood; ‘in the lee of the largest peak in Yorkshire’s North Riding’.

Whitby – 1747:  Leaving school in 1747 Cook worked as deckhand on a Whitby barque bringing coal from Newcastle to Hull and London. By 1752 he was Mate on a collier Friendship.

1755: War with France was looming and in 1755 Abel Seaman Cook enlisted in the Royal Navy where his experience made for steady progress..

1756: The Seven Year’s War broke out in 1756 with Britain, Prussia and Hanover ranged against France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and Spain. Military historians classify The Seven Years’ War 1756-1763 as the world’s first truly global war.

1757 – June:  Cook passed his sailing master’s examination at Trinity House in mid 1757 and joined the crew of HMS Eagle .

1757 October: He was posted to HMS Pembroke an impressive  sixty-four (64) gun fighting ‘Ship of the Line’.

1757:  Towards the end of 1757 William Pitt [Elder], Britain’s Prime Minister, ‘gained control of the [war] strategy’. Under his influence England’s primary struggle with France,  swung away from the Continent with the intention of seizing French colonies in North America and India.

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MOON VERSUS MACHINE

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

Compared with that of Banks, Mr. Green’s equipment was comparatively modest. On May 5th, 1768, at a meeting of Council of the Royal Society it was resolved that the instruments for the use of the Observers of the South Latitudes be the following:

Two [2] reflecting telescopes of two [2] foot focus…[1] brass Hadley’s sextant, [1] barometer bespoke of Mr Ramsden, [1] Journeyman’s Clock bespoke by Mr Skelton, two [2] Thermometers of Mr Bird, [1] Stand for Bird’s Quadrant, [1] dipping needle bespoke by Mr Ramsden’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1966

Who was Mr. Green? Charles Green was former Assistant to Rev. James Bradley and Rev. Nathaniel Bliss, both Astronomer Royals of Greenwich Observatory.

Tahiti: After the Admiralty rejected Alexander Dalrymple, member of the influential Scots ‘Dalrymple Dynasty’, first choice of the Royal Society, that august body engaged Green to represent them at Tahiti. He would assist Lieutenant James Cook RN in observing and recording the Transit of Venus due to take place at Tahiti on 3rd June 1769. See: The Third Man

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Macmillan, London, 2016

Why ten (10) years after the longitude problem had been solved was Harrison’s marine chronometer ‘H-4 bolted to a window seat in the [Greenwich] Observatory’ and not aboard HMS Endeavour when Green set off for Tahiti with Lieutenant James Cook. See: Captain Cook, John Harrison, Charles Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar

‘H-4 [was] bolted to a window seat in the Observatory’.  Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

No doubt H-4 sat under the watchful eye of Rev. Nevil Maskelyne. Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal. Maskelyne had been elected to that high post in 1765 on the death of Rev. Nathaniel Bliss. Maskelyne held a conservative stranglehold over the position until 1811.

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MALICIOUS MASKELYNE

Monday, August 14th, 2017

‘The Transit [of Venus] was more than just an astronomical curio, it was the key to a wealth of information about the universe, information that would be seized upon by the intensely curious men of science who characterised the age’. Vanessa Collingridge, Captain Cook, The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Random House, 2003

England – 1663: In 1663 during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685) a collection of ‘intensely curious men of science’ – the ‘Invisible College’ – morphed into the Royal Society.

A century later, the Society flowered under the patronage of King George III (1720-1820), to become one of the world’s most celebrated scientific institutions.

Tahiti: In 1767 with the Transit of Venus in the offing – 3 June 1769 – its second appearance that decade – the Society petitioned King George III for financial support to send observers to send an expedition to Tahiti and report on the phenomenon.

‘That the passage of the Planet Venus over the Disc of the Sun, which will happen on the 3rd of June in the year 1769, is a Phaenomenon (sic) that must, if the same be accurately observed in proper places, contribute greatly to the improvement of Astronomy on which Navigation so much depends.

 As the [Fellows] are in no condition to defray this Expense about £4,000 pounds, exclusive of the Expense of the Ships…with all humility and submit the same to your Majesty’s Royal consideration’. Cited, H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

1768 – February: To that end James Douglas 14th Earl of Morton, then President of the Royal Society, on 15 February 1768 penned a Memorial requesting the Monarch’s financial support.

Royal money was forthcoming for it was clear accurate and reliable ‘Navigation on which so much depends’ equated with domination over the world’s oceans. Domination would expedite expansion of territory and trade. Strategically placed ‘bases’ would more likely assure victory in time of conflict.

‘And the sum of £4,000 pounds clear of fees, [was] to be placed at the disposal of the Society…On March 5th of the next year, 1768, the Navy Board was instructed by the Admiralty to purchase a suitable vessel for the great voyage to the South Seas’. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, 1968

Deptford -1768, 5 March: Admiralty settled on the Earl of Pembroke. Renamed Endeavour she was a typical coal carriercat-built bark’ of 368 tons ‘stoutly built, flatly bottomed of shallow draught’.

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LOTTO AND LONGITUDE

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

‘But by reason of the motion of the Ship, the Variation of Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, and the Difference of Gravity in different Latitudes, such a watch hath not yet been made”. And not likely to be, either, he implied’.  Isaac Newton cited, Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998

‘And not likely to be’: However in 1736-7 just ten (10) years after Newton’s death (1727) H-1, an early model of John Harrison’s  marine watch  on a supervised timed voyage – England to Lisbon aboard HMS Centurian – proved to be a reliable time-keeper.

Accurate time-keeping was essential for the calculation of longitude at sea. Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter solved that problem. His  invention – a sea-going ‘pocket watch’ – gave a ship’s precise position when beyond sight of land.

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016

The Centurian voyage was typical of John Harrison’s long struggle for recognition.

‘He [Harrison] succeeded, against all odds, in using the fourth – temporal – dimension to link points on the three-dimensional globe’. Sobel. ibid.

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CATCH 22 – JAMES FREEMAN

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

 James Freeman – ‘Hang or be Hanged’. 

 

Part of the original document pardoning a convict if he acts as executioner

Extract showing a pardon on condition of becoming the public executioner. Dated 1 March 1788, signed by Governor Arthur Phillip.

‘For here was an opportunity of establishing a Jack Ketch who Should, in all future Executions, either Hang or be Hanged’. Dr John White, Chief Medical Officer, First Fleet Journal.

1788 –  Friday 29th February: Shaped as another busy day for the infant colony’s’ criminal court.

To avoid Sydney’s intense midday sun and drenching humidity, after the long drawn-out dramas of the previous two (2) days, it had been decided court would convene earlier than usual. See: Blind Man’s Bluff

At 8 am convicts James Freeman and William Shearman, accused the previous day of stealing from government stores, were first to appear in the dock.

Both were found guilty. Shearman was sentenced to 300 lashes. Freeman was condemned to death with the execution to take place that same day.

Next to appear George Whitaker, Daniel Gordon and John Williams charged with stealing eighteen (18) bottles of wine. Whitaker was discharged.

Gordon and Williams, both Afro -Americans, were found guilty and sentenced to hang with Freeman.

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