THE SWITCH 1790 – CONTEXT – WAR WITH FRANCE 1793-1815

‘For a brief moment there was hope…within a matter of years violence had broken out on both sides and Phillip would now instruct raiding parties to bring back the severed heads of warriors. The birth of Australia was meant to be so different…it need not have been this way’. Stan Grant, Talking to My Country, Text Publishing, 2017

2019: So why in 2019 is Australia this way? A nation of stark differences; a white first world and a different third world, defined by the ‘entitled’ white world, by both colour and by hue. See: G is for Genocide

‘Phillip…had instructions to deal with the ‘natives’ with ‘amity and kindness’. Professsor Larissa Behrendt, The Honest History Book, – Invasion or Settlement, NewSouth Press, 2017   

What went so wrong when; ‘within a generation the heads of Aborigines were shipped to Britain in glass cases to be studied as relics of a doomed race’. Grant. ibid.

London: In 1838 a Select Committee of the British Parliament found; ‘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. Lord John Russell to [Governor] Sir George Gipps, 21 December, 1838. Historical Records of New South Wales Vol.1

So what flipped the switch from ‘amity and kindness’ to the ‘nasty’ creeping frontier wars that brought about the near destruction of Australia’s First Nations’ Peoples?

Britain’s war with France, although still three (3) years away (1793), was edging ever closer. Stan Grant and Larissa Behrendt, two (2) First Nations’ authors, have honed in on a critical pinch-point that occurred in the first decade of Britain’s occupation of New Holland.

‘The great change came in the arrival with the Second Fleet of the first companies of the New South Wales Corps’. Nigel Rigby, Peter van der Merwe, Glyn Williams, Pacific Explorations, Voyages of Discovery from Captain Cook’s Endeavour to the Beagle, Bloomsbury, Adlard Coles, London, 2018

Although ‘amity kindness’ were the ‘weasel-words’ of their day, both Behrendt and Grant are satisfied Governor Phillip took the concept seriously. That was until December 1790 when Phillip’s absolute loyalty to ‘King and Country’ trumped ‘amity and kindness’.

‘Military and police raids against dissenting Aboriginal groups lasted from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. These raids commenced by December 1790’. Professor Bruce Kercher, An Unruly Child, A History of the Law in Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney 1995

In December 1790 Governor Phillip issued General Orders that put no limit on brutality; ‘instil universal terror…kill ten…bring in the heads of the slain…bring away two prisoners to execute in the most public and exemplary manner’.

In November 1784 Henry Dundas, probably [Prime Minister] Pitt’s closest advisor…warned that India is the first quarter to be attacked, we must never lose sight of keeping such a force there [India] as will be sufficient to baffle or suprise’. Michael Pembroke, Arthur Phillip, Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy, Hardie Grant Book, 2013

Britain’s invasion of New Holland in 1788 falls within the strategic planning arc of the 1793-1802 phase of the Anglo-French struggle for supremacy on both land and sea.

The struggle, said to have ‘begun’  long ago ‘1689’ ended in 1815 at Waterloo with the Duke of Wellington’s defeat of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

                                                                                1790

1790 – 1 January, Sydney: ‘Starvation was approaching with gigantic strides...We the [Englishmen of the ‘First Fleet’] have been entirely cut off…no communication whatever having passed with our native country since the 13th May 1787, the day of our departure from Portsmouth…..the misery and horror of such a situation cannot be imparted, even they those who have suffered under it. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

Tench says from a look-out erected on South Head; ‘every morning  from daylight until dusk did we sweep the horizon in the hope of seeing a sail…the misery and horror of our situation cannot be understood even by those who have suffered under it’. See: Abandoned and Left to Starve @ Sydney Cove January 1788 to June 1790

In the period April-May 1789 smallpox killed 50% of Sydney’s Aborigines; deaths that took significant pressure off local food resources. See: Dead Aborigines Don’t Eat

[Inexplicably] ‘Not one case of the disorder occurred among the white people either afloat or on shore although there were several  [upwards of 40] children in the settlement’. Samuel Bennett. ibid. See: Smallpox – A Lethal Weapon Boston 1775 – Sydney 1789

1790 – 6 March, Norfolk Island: Winter, still no ships, Phillip drew on the 1789 smallpox experience. He evacuated 50% of ‘his people’ to Norfolk Island where fish, unlike Sydney, was plentiful year round.

It was planned HMS Sirius, after landing her evacuees on the island, would sail onto China where Captain John Hunter RN was buy food and arrange a rescue mission.

1790 – 19 March, China: Caught in ‘pounding surf on every side’ Sirius swung on her anchor, struck a submerged reef, and sank; ‘happily, however captain Hunter, and every other person belonging to her, were saved’ but marooned on the island.

1790 – 5 April, Sydney: HMS Supply had accompanied Sirius to Norfolk Island, she returned to Sydney with bad news, no China rescue.

1790 – 17 April, Jakarta: Phillip ordered Supply sail to Batavia (modern -day Jakarta) to buy food and charter a large vessel to bring them to Sydney; a desperate move – no Supply – no trawling – fewer fish. See: Missing in Action – HMS Sirius & HMS Supply

The weekly ration; ‘to every child more than eighteen months old and to every grown person..2 pounds pork, 2½ pounds flour, 2 lbs. rice, or a quart of [dried] pease…a bare sufficiency to preserve life…the pork…salted between 3-4 years and rice were brought with us from England, every grain of rice was a moving body, from the inhabitants lodged within it’. Tench. ibid.

1790 – 3 June, Sydney:  A ship with London on her stern’.

The ‘Lady Juliana’ dubbed ‘The Brothel Ship’ with two hundred and twenty-six (226) ‘useless’ female prisoners, was first of four (4) ships of a second fleet.

Justinian, an accompanying lone store-ship, caught in the vortex of a typical winter ‘east-coast low’, very nearly went the way of HMS Guardian Australia’s Titanic . See: Sir Joseph Bank’s Garden & HMS Guardian

1790 – June, Sydney: By the end of June Neptune, Suprize, Scarborough, the second fleet’s ‘hell’ ships reached Sydney. Contracted to Camden, Calvert and King a firm of prominent London slave-traders the convicts were kept locked below decks, starved and treated with savage brutality.

Of one thousand (1000) mainly male prisoners embarked at Plymouth, 25% died on the passage and, given the First Fleet Chaplain’s account, it is little wonder a further 15% died soon after landing. See: Britain’s Grim Armada – The Dead and the Living Dead

‘Upon being brought up to the open air…all full of filth and lice…not able to walk…move hand or foot; such were slung over the ships’ side in the same manner as they would sling a cask, a box, or something of that nature…some died upon the deck and others in the [rowing] boats before they reached the shore. The misery I saw is unexpressible’. Chaplain Richard Johnson, cited Jack Egan, Buried Alive, Allen & Unwin, 1999

The settlement’s medicine-cupboard was almost bare, the many sick and another thousand (1000) empty stomachs, placed enormous stress on the starving settlement.

‘The extra mouths to feed, the hundreds who landed sick, the fact that many of the newcomers were too old or infirm to work and the disruptions created by a fresh injection of criminal elements added to [Phillip’s] immediate problems’. Pacific Explorations. ibid.

Phillip ordered an increase in the number of official fishing, hunting and gathering parties of armed convicts and soldiers. These had been vital for survival from day one – 1788.

The second fleet brought a detachment of infantry troops, one hundred and fifteen (115) officers and men – first contingent of the New South Wales Corps. Fresh from London’s teeming streets neither soldier nor convict could comprehend their surroundings.

[Among them] Lieutenant John Macarthur – a central figure in the military ‘mafia’ which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property-owning elite’. Pacific Explorations. ibid.

THE BACK STORY

‘A knowledge of the position of the military and their immediate friends occupies…affords a key to the whole history of the colony; and without this knowledge many important transactions, affecting the civil, social  and political interests of the community would appear almost incomprehensible’. Samuel Bennett, Australian Discovery and Colonisation’. Vol. 1 to 1800, Facsimile ed. 1981

In this last decade of the 19th century It had proved difficult to attract takers for deployment in a far-off penal colony on the other side of the planet so Major Francis Grose, their commander, remained in London to recruit numbers sufficient to meet establishment requirements.

Lieutenant Macarthur, ambitious and ruthless, took advantage of Major Grose’s absence and deep divisions that had developed among fellow officers and moved swiftly to fill the power vacuum.

‘Landowners naturally came first in any description of the class structure of England…Land was the source of political power and social prestige’. ‘The Good Old Cause – The English Revolution of 1640-1660. Extracts from Contemporary Sources ed. Christopher Hill and Edmund Dell, 2nd Ed. 1969

What was it that drew a young John Macarthur driven by over-arching ambition, with very little money and a pregnant wife, chance his arm fifteen thousand miles (15,000 miles) – 23,000 km – from England when, all the talk was of war with France close at hand across the Channel?

‘There had been plans to use the corps in expeditions against Panama, Peru and the Philippines, but nothing eventuated’. Dr Peter Stanley, The Remote Garrison, The British Army in Australia 1788-1870, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1986

This writer believes he was dazzled by the prospect of immense wealth. New South Wales was a jumping off point to India, China, Manilla,  and Spanish South America with the possibility of gaining a ‘glittering prize’ that lay waiting across the silver southern seas. 

In June 1790 when the second fleet arrived in Sydney Harbour it was empty of Royal Navy ships. ‘Sydney’ 1790 it is said ‘did not look like a fortress’. There were no fortifications, redoubts, imposing gun emplacements, tents not barracks – nothing that would make an infantryman feel comfortable.

The marines, a spent force in tattered uniforms, paraded without shoes. Everyone was starving most garrison officers hated each other and Captain-General Governor Arthur Phillip RN. Take Two – Rules of Engagement

But Lieutenant Macarthur saw outside the square. He saw a clean slate and on it he would write a large life and win the ‘glittering prize’ here ‘at home’.

Macarthur was the common denominator in the downfall of Governor Phillip’s immediate successors the three (3) ‘autocratic naval governors’ – John Hunter, Phillip Gidley King, Captain William ‘Bounty’ Bligh.

In the turbulent process Macarthur gained wealth, prestige and, as the first of ‘Australia’s property-owing elite’, the status he craved. See: Dark Matter Mc Mafia Macarthur 

1790 – September, Manly: Three (3) months after the second fleet arrived then, as now, migrating whales appear in Sydney waters. In September 1790 ‘a monster’ whale stranded on Manly Beach. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

Whale, the local community’s totem, signposted the return of abundance. Many Aborigines Tench says gathered on the sand greeting it with ‘rapture’.

The beaching also galvanised Phillip whose salt-water career began hunting whales in the Arctic. He was rowed across to Manly to see if it was a ‘baleen sperm whale’ the type prized for its pristine oil. If so he had ticked off another box that drove Britain’s invasion of New Holland.

‘It seems clear that only a few men in the inner circle of [William] Pitt’s government knew the exact purposes of the settlement’. Professor Geoffrey Blainey, Gotham City, The Founding of Australia. The argument about Australia’s origins. Ed. Ged Martin, Hale and Iremonger, 1978

Hawkesbury, Dundas, Mulgrave, Liverpool, the names of Pitt’s favoured ‘few’, are writ large on Sydney’s landscape.

Meantime, September 1790 at Collins Cove, the very spot where earlier on Phillip’s orders three (3) Aboriginal warriors, on two (2) separate occasions, firstly Arabanoo, later Colbee later Bennalong had been kidnapped and held captive for months within British lines, Phillip and Willeemarin, an Aboriginal warrior from Broken Bay, approached each other. See: Manly – Location, Location, Location

When Phillip ‘threw down a dirk he wore at his side’ Willeemarin speared him through the shoulder. Willeemarin melted away. The Governor, with the spear in stuck fast, was rowed back to Sydney where William Balmain the chief surgeon removed it.

Phillip had lost a lot of blood so recovery was slow. Understanding and owning his contribution to the attack, Phillip ordered there be no reprisals.

Macarthur and ‘certain officers’ read this response wrongly. Appeasement, weakness, even cowardice in face of the enemy, whatever it was, Macarthur saw it as an opportunity to make a move and Phillip knew it.

1790 – 19 October, Sydney: HMS Supply returned from Jakarta. ‘Joy’ was tempered by grief, fever – malaria, had claimed many of her crew including young Lieutenant Newton-Fowell RN, the fleet’s highly regarded letter-writer (The Sirius Letters), who died on the return passage and was buried at sea.

Lieutenant Ball RN reported he had purchased tons of food and chartered Waaksamheyd a Dutch vessel ‘to bring the provisions he had purchased for the colony’.

1790 – November, Sydney: Meanwhile Phillip’s passive reaction to Willeemarin’s attack had not worked quite as he had hoped.

By the middle of November, while Tench could write ‘with the natives we are hand in glove’ he went on, ‘they clamour for bread and meat…are now become very troublesome. God knows, we have little enough for ourselves’!

While ‘the convicts continue to behave pretty well’ not so the military. Even before officers of the New South Wales Corps embarked in London, lacking the cohesion of a commanding officer, they had fractured broadly along a pro/anti Macarthur axis.

‘The casks in the storehouse, I [Tench] yesterday observed…are woefully decreased…if [the] Dutch snow does not arrive soon it [ration] must be shortened’.

Phillip could only hope she would arrive before food ran out completely. Supply had bought some medicines and flour but far too little to make much difference; no flour, no bread, no toast.

1790 – 1 December, Sydney: And no Waaksamheyd all hope had gone. Phillip was painfully aware Macarthur was circling the tents. Isolated in the midst of a hostile military, Phillip had only one (1) shot in the locker – intelligence – ‘dread and hatred’.

1790 – 9 December, Botany Bay: ‘ On the 9th of the month, serjeant of marines, with three convicts among whom was M’Entire, the governor’s game-keeper (the person of whom Ban-ee- lon had, [a prisoner] on former occasions, shewn so much  dread and hatred) went out on a [kangaroo] shooting party [to Botany Bay]’. Tench. ibid.

Tench was told in the early hours of the 10th; ‘one of them [Aborigines] launched his spear at M’Entire and lodged it in his left side. The person who committed this wanton act, was described as a young man, with a speck, or blemish, on his left eye’. 

11 December: Phillip was at Rose Hill, a new settlement, when the hunting party returned with the wounded John McIntyre. See:  A Tethered Goat – John Mc Intyre   

13 December, Headquarters: On arriving back in Sydney Phillip summoned Tench and gave orders; ‘be ready to march tomorrow morning at daylight to execute the command…put ten (10) to death…bring in the heads of the slain…bring away two (2) prisoners…I [Phillip] am resolved to execute the prisoners…in the most public and exemplary manner, in the presence of as many of their countrymen as can be collected’.

In Phillip’s judgement New South Wales was at stake. To save the settlement from insurrection and anarchy, with only one arrow in his quiver, Phillip chose diversion – emphasise a common enemy. See: John Mc Intyre Death of A Sure Thing 

Phillip’s response to McIntyre’s spearing was that of a proven strategist whose loyalty to king, country and empire was non-negotiable.

One (1) warrior –  Pemulwuy the ‘young man with the blemish on his left eye’ speared John McIntyre. Punishing the innocent along with the guilty – collective punishment –  then as now was illegal.

Tench knew it and showed it; ‘here the governor stopped, and addressing himself to me, said, if I [Tench] could propose any alternation of the orders’.

On Tench’s ‘proposal’ the scope of Phillip’s orders was modified but remained illegal; ‘his excellency added if six [6] cannot be taken, let this number be shot’.

14 December, Botany Bay: At 4 am a detachment of fifty (50) officers and men; ‘provided with three days’ provisions, ropes to bind our prisoners with and hatchets and bags to cut off and contain the heads of the slain’ set out for Botany Bay.

17 December, Sydney: Three (3) days later, just as dawn broke and the sea-mist lifted, Waaksamheyd came into view. Immediately on reaching the landing stage an army of willing hands began unloading; ‘171 barrels of beef, 172 barrels of pork, 39 barrels of flour, 1000 pounds weight of sugar and 70,000 pounds weight of rice’. 

That afternoon  – the 17th – Tench’s weary detachment returned to a quite different settlement from the one they had left just a day or so before. And they came empty-handed with no prisoners and no heads.

For Phillip that should have been the end of using the Bidjigal of Botany Bay as a stalking-horse but it was not. See: Lieutenant William Dawes the ‘Eternal Flame’ & ‘Universal Terror’

It is important to state when Phillip gave his orders on the 13th of December 1790 and, repeated them without alteration on the 22nd of December 1790, John McIntyre was still alive. He died on the 21st of January 1791.

22 December, Botany Bay: ‘Our first expedition having so totally failed, the governor resolved to try the fate of a second; and the ‘painful pre-eminence’ again devolved on me. The orders under which I was commanded to act differing in no respect from the last’.

Y

Hope radically changed the settlement’s dynamic. Waaksamheyd proved to be a  double- edged sword, her very presence brought hope, of seizure and rebellion and hope of escape.

The Sirius’ cannon, removed before she sailed in October 1788 on a lone perilous voyage to Africa for food, were at Dawes Battery. In the hands of the few navy men available to Phillip that option was neutralised.

Escape however was realised. Nine (9) convicts, with help from Deter Smidt, Waaksamheyd’s master, stole Governor Phillip’s cutter and with two (2) small children, rowed to Timor.  See: James Boswell Goes Into Bat for the Botany Bay Escapees

1790 – 24 December, Sydney: On Christmas Eve Tench’s troops returned from the second raid. Again they reported failure, no heads – no prisoners.

A high-profile publication – 2013 – while making no mention of a second raid characterised the first raid as; ‘a melodramatic show of force’ even a bit of fun – ‘a charade’. 

Nothing could be further from the truth and it is Tench who tells us so; ‘but if we could not retaliate on the murderer of M’Entire, we found no difficulty in punishing offences committed within our own observation’.  

1790 – December, Sydney: In the last days of 1790; ‘two natives were detected in robbing a potato garden…soldiers were dispatched in pursuit… their ardour  transported them so far that instead of capturing the offenders, they fired in among them leaving one…Ban-g-ai…dead’.

 EPILOGUE

Governor Phillip’s General Orders of 13 and 22 December 1790 served as ‘rules of engagement’ for ‘twenty-five regiments of British infantry that served in the colonies between 1790 and 1870.

They fought in one of the most prolonged frontier wars in the history of the British empire, and for the first half of their stay were probably more frequently in action than the garrison of any other colony besides that of southern Africa’. Dr Peter Stanley. ibid.

The invasion and conquest of New Holland in 1788 was not a shot in the dark .

‘New Holland is a blind, then, when we want to add to the military strength in India. I need not enlarge on the benefit of stationing a large body of troops in New South Wales’. Anon, Historical Records New South Wales, Vol 1

All the evidence points to it being an informed, considered and rational decision on the part of Prime Minister William Pitt’s ‘inner circle’ of government.

‘Our [Britain’s] wealth and power in India is their [France’s ] great and constant object of jealously; and they will never miss an opportunity of attempting to wrest it out of our hands’. Sir James Harris, cited Michael Pembroke. 2013

It was upon the notion; ‘never lose sight of’ the end game ‘India is the first quarter to be attacked’ that Governor Phillip depended upon when, in December 1790 with his back to the wall he ordered; ‘if six [6] cannot be taken let this number be shot’. See:  Why Britain + France + America + India + Peru + New Holland = European Australia.  

‘Historians desiring to write the actions of men ought to set down the simple truth, and not say anything from love or hatred…In commending or disallowing the actions of men, it is a course very requisite to consider the beginning, the proceeding and the end; so shall we see the reasons and causes of things and not their events only, which for the most part are governed by fortune’. The Good Old Cause. ibid.

‘It is impossible that [H.M.] government should forget that the original aggression was ours’. Lord Russell, Historical Records.ibid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The French and Dutch were manoeuvring for advantage in India and the East. Pembroke

 

‘Lieutenant John Macarthur – a central figure in the military ‘mafia’ which quickly established itself as Australia’s first governing and property elite’. Nigel Rugby, Peter van der Merwe, Glen Williams, Pacific Explorations, National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Bloomsbury, Alard Coles,  London, 2018 

 

 

 

 

 

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