A WAR GRAVE – TASMANIA

‘The first European settlements, from Port Jackson in 1788 [Tasmania in 1803], Port Phillip, Moreton Bay, Swan River and Adelaide during the next fifty years were intensive….This meant a complete undermining of the Aborigines’ way of life’. The Australian Aborigines, Professor A.P. Elkin, Epilogue, 5th edition, 1973.

1788 – 18-20 January, Botany  Bay: A British squadron of eleven (11) ships – two (2) warships HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, six (6) transports Alexander, Scarborough, Prince of Wales, Friendship, Lady Penrhyn and Charlotte, together with three (3) store-ships Golden Grove, Fishburn and Borrowdale, under command of Captain Arthur Phillip RN arrived at Botany Bay, to invade the island continent of New Holland now Australia.

‘When leaving Botany Bay [for Sydney Cove] Phillip noticed two French ships in the offing….there would seem to be ‘some justification for saying that England won Australia by six days’. History of Australian Colonies, Edward Jenks, cited in A Short History of British Colonial Policy, H.E. Egerton

1788 – 24 January, Botany Bay: Four  (4) days after the ‘First Fleet’ arrived in Botany Bay two French ships – L’Astrolabe and La Boussole commanded by Captain Jean-Francoise La Perouse – appeared in the entrance to Botany Bay.

1788 – 25 January, Port Jackson: Captain Phillip boarded HMS Supply and sailed north nine (9) miles (14km) to Port Jackson where on the 22nd he had found Sydney Cove a deep water anchorage arriving just on dark

1788 – 26 January: The remainder of the English ships followed next day. By the time they anchored alongside Supply there was just enough daylight left for them see ‘English colours’ and fling from a makeshift plag-pole.

1788 – 7 February:

‘ from Cape York to South Cape’ for Britain

1792 – 11 December, England: Arthur Phillip, the first governor of New South Wales after five (5) years of service, left Sydney in December 1792. Due to ‘a policy of drift’ Whitehall failed to appoint a successor.

1792 – December, Sydney: By default the government of the colony fell into the hands of the military; the corrupt New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.

1792-1795: During this lengthy interregnum (1792-1795) New South Wales functioned as a military dictatorship; initially under Major Francis Grose its commander and following Grose’s departure under Captain William Paterson.

[Governor] Hunter proved quite unable to cope with the psychological consequences of his encounters with that particularly  virulent form of commercial enterprise which characterized so many of his [Corps’] officers both trusted and otherwise. Introduction Journal, Governor John Hunter.

1795 – September, Sydney: Captain John Hunter RN, the second governor of Australia, arrived at Sydney in September 1795. By then, in his mid 60s, Hunter was no match for an out-of-control military outfit run for profit by an arrogant junior officer, Lieutenant John Macarthur.

1798 – October, Bass Strait: Under the auspices of Governor Hunter,  George Bass and Matthew Flinders two (2) young Royal Naval Lieutenants sailed south from Port Jackson in the sloop Norfolk for an voyage of eleven (11) weeks. Their aim to prove a body of water – Bass Strait – separated Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) from the Australian mainland.

1798 – November, Tasmania: In the north of  Tasmania, the intrepid explorers came across an entrance to the Tamar River and explored  its inner reaches. Three (3) weeks later they set off to the north-west. After rounding Cape Grim they travelled south working a difficult course down Tasmania’s desolute, treacherous western coastline.

Norfolk’s shallow draught allowed Bass and Flinders to sail from the open sea into many of the myriad of inlets, surveying and mapping as they went. They rounded  South Cape, sought shelter in Adventure Bay and found an entrance to the island’s southern river, the Derwent.

1799 – mid January, Sydney:  Bass and Flinders were back in Sydney reporting their findings to Governor Hunter. However by then Governor Hunter was in constant dispute with greedy officers of the infamous New South Wales ‘Rum’ Corps.,who treated him with ill-concealed contempt.

1800 – April, Sydney: Lieutenant Phillip Gidley King RN arrived in Sydney aboard HMS Speedy.  A governor-in-waiting, King carried a Home Office despatch censuring Governor Hunter and ordering his return to London ‘by the first safe conveyance’.

1800 – September, Sydney: A reluctant Governor Hunter grudgingly accepted his fate and obeyed an order he considered both unwarranted and unjust. In September 1800 he returned to England in HMS Buffalo. On arriving in England Hunter ‘immediately asked for an inquiry into the charges which had been made against his administration’. His request to put his case was ignored.

See: Alice -Down the Rabbit Hole With Governor Hunter.

1800 – September, Sydney: Governor Phillip Gidley King RN took up his appointment as Britain’s third naval Governor of Australia. Gidley King, like John Hunter, was a returning ‘First Fleeter’.

 1800 – Sydney: Governor King was clearly spooked by an increasing number of French ships seen ‘in and about Australian’ waters’. Although King enjoyed friendly relationships with most of his French naval counterparts he had no doubt France, England’s traditional enemy, was intent on establishing a physical presence in New Holland (Australia). He determined it must not happen on his watch.

The French presence however presented Governor King with a dilemma.

Should he extend occupation on the mainland and consolidate Britain’s sovereignty there or, having in mind the potential for enormous profits to be derived from commercial whaling and sealing in the southern oceans, occupy and secure Tasmania the island that ‘showed promise of being a valuable colony to Great Britain’?

With very limited resources Governor King did both.

1801, Bass Strait & Port Phillip: King sent Lieutenant James Grant RN south to further explore Bass Strait and Tasmania and Lieutenant James Murray RN to survey Western Port, Port Phillip Bay [Victoria] on the mainland.

PORT PHILLIP BAY

1802 – January, King Island: Murray sighted the entrance to Port Phillip but in extremely adverse weather he ‘turned away’ and chartered the east coast of King Island.

1802 – 31 January, Port Phillip: Lieutenant Murray returned to Port Phillip and  succeeded in working a safe entry into the bay.

1803 – 27 April, England: Meanwhile, in answer to Governor King’s urgent requests to London for front-line support, Lord Hobart who had succeeded the Duke of Portland as Home Secretary, dispatched two (2) ships  A warship HMS Calcutta and Ocean a supply vessel sailed from England on 27 April 1803.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins, yet another ‘ 1788 first-fleeter’ returning for a second tour of duty in the colony, headed-up this expedition made up of a detachment of marines together with about three hundred (300) mostly male convicts and a few free settlers.

1803 – September, Port Phillip: Calcutta and Ocean reached Port Phillip in September 1803 where they encountered many a sailing ship’s nemesis, high gusting winds and huge seas, similar to those experienced earlier by Lieutenant Murray.

On disembarking Lieutenant-Colonel Collins assessed the land inhospitable. There was little fresh water and the Aborigines were very hostile. Collins calculated the difficulties associated gaining and maintaining a foothold were too great and abandoned the attempt to establish a settlement in Port Phillip Bay.

TASMANIA

The original motive for the white settlement of Van Diemens Land was political rather than economic. The British wanted to prevent the French from establishing a colony. They achieved this in September 1803 when a colony of forty-nine (49) people was established at Risdon Cove. Blood on the Wattle, Bruce Elder, 1998 edition.

Lieutenant John Bowen RN, after delays dictated by bad weather, left Sydney for Tasmania.

1803 – September, Risdon Cove – Derwent River: Bowen anchored in Risdon Cove on the Derwent River where he established a settlement with twenty-one (21) male, three (3) female convicts and twenty-five (25) soldiers of the New South Wales Corps commanded by Lieutenant William Moore.

In the meantime David Collins sought and received Governor King’s permission to abort his efforts at Port Phillip. Collins then diverted his attention to Tasmania.

1804 – 15 February, Hobart Town – Derwent River: Lieutenant – Colonel Collins joined Lieutenant Bowen in Risdon Cove. However he preferred Sullivans Cove, citing its better harbour as more suitable for permanent settlement, he named the area Hobart Town after Britain’s then Home Secretary.

In a pattern established from first contact at Sydney in 1788 where; ‘the main battle [Englishmen V First Peoples] was about having enough to eat’ so it was in Tasmania.

We have lately and are now about in a state of starvation...but we have such an abundance of Kanguroo’.

1804 – May, Tasmania: Within three (3) months of David Collins taking formal possession of Tasmania as Lieutenant-Governor, the first massacre of  Tasmanian Aborigines took place.

See: Anatomy of an English Famine 1788 to 1800 & Behond &  The Consequences For Australia’s First Peoples.

The English settled on the Aborigines’ land and took their food; in return, the natives interfered with the Englishmen’s livestock. The natives were then attacked in retaliation, and so relations went from bad to worse, as had happened in New South Wales. A.G.L. Shaw, A New History of Australia, ed. Professor F. Crowley, 1990. 

London directed Governor King now, southern Tasmania centred on the Derwent at Hobart was secure, he was to direct his attention to the unoccupied north, centred on the Tamar River at Port Dalrymple ‘near the eastern entrance to Bass’s Straits’.

Governor King from ‘ a political point of view peculiarly necessary’ sent a posse of soldiers and convicts from Sydney to Port Dalrymple aboard HMS Buffalo under command of Colonel William Paterson of the New South Wales Corps.

Colonel Paterson like Lieutenant Bowen was held up in Sydney by foul weather generated by a typical ‘east-coast- low’ ; a destructive wind-driven weather system that in winter pounds the southern coast of New South Wales.

1804, Port Dalrymple – Tamar River Paterson did not arrive on the Tamar until late 1804.

1804 – 11 November 1804: Colonel Paterson ‘Hoisted His Majesty’s Colours with the usual Ceremony’  thereby securing the whole of Tasmania and the eastern coast of Australia ‘ from Cape York…to South Cape’ for the British Empire. British presence at Hobart and Risdon Cove in the south, George Town and Yorktown in the north, effectively stymied the French but did not stop their ambition.

In 1802 [Governor] King had strictly forbidden any act of injustice, let alone cruelty, to the natives, but by 1805 he had been converted to the belief that the Aborigines were all treacherous and ungrateful and felt compelled to resort to military measures…’ A.G.L. Shaw, History of Australia, ed. F. Crowely, 1990.

1805: Aside from irregular supplies of foodstuffs from India, Governor King hoped to support the Hobart and Port Dalrymple settlements from Sydney.

However years of drought – 1803,  1809-1811,  1813- 1815,  1819 – 20 interspersed with severe flooding in the years 1806 and two (2) inundations in May and August 1807, and plagues of caterpillars 1810-1812, wrought havoc along the Hawkesbury River, the ‘bread-basket’ of the Sydney settlement, destroying grain and vegetable crops and caused heavy stock losses.

‘ The full impact of the hazards of [Australia’s] natural environment’ and haphazard planning meant, for the Englishmen stranded in Tasmania, there was nothing for it but to live off Aboriginal land and survive on the Aborigines’ food resources.

The convicts being servants of the Crown till the time from which they are sentenced expires. Governor King, Instructions to Lieutenant John Bowen, Historical Records of Australia, 9 May 1803, Series 1, Vol 4. 

Under legislation – the Hulks Act (1776) Britain’s convicts sentenced ‘for transportation’ were declared ‘Servants of the Crown…their labour is for the public’.

Lieutenant- Colonel Collins at Hoboart and Colonel Paterson at Port Dalrymple, organised ‘official hunting parties’ made up of both soldiers and convicted criminals.

When the Tasmanian Aborigines attempted to protect their land and resources from the guns and dogs of these ‘official hunting parties’ they were cut down by armed Englishmen both free and bond – all ‘Servants of the Crown’.

1805: We have lately & are now almost in a state of starvation having been on the allowance of 4 lb bread, 2 lb Pork per man pr. week, owing to not having had any supplies from Sydney, but as we have such abundance of Kanguroo here we can never want – from to 2 to 3000 [lbs] weight a week having been turned into the Store by the Officers at 1/- [one shilling] per lb . which has considerably helped us on.

We are in daily expectation of a Ship from Sydney or England with Supplies which will be a delightful occurrence for us. George Harris at Hobart, letter to his mother Dorothy in England, 12 October 1805. The Oxford Book of Australian Letters, ed. Brenda Niall and John Thompson, 1998.

See: A Plague of Locusts – The Englishmen of the First Fleet

In Tasmania common criminals –  ‘servants of the Crown’ with guns destroyed Aborgines safe in the knowldge their murderous actions were condoned by the Government in London – ‘ their labour is for the public’ –  through its representative Governor Phillip Gidley King RN who, ‘felt compelled to resort to military measures’.

The British, with a malicious and arrogant sense of their own superiority proceeded on a path which would culminate some seventy-five years  later in the virtual extinction of Tasmanian Aboriginal people…Blood on the Wattle, Bruce Elder, 1998.

One Response to “A WAR GRAVE – TASMANIA”

  1. バーバリー アウトレット Says:

    Very useful info. Hope to see more posts soon!

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