Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/33

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5
THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE.

store-ships kept the little colony, cast out like a band of shipwrecked mariners on this uttermost island, for more than two years on the verge of starvation. With a population of criminals and soldiers whose character was little better, people in whom greed was a dominant sentiment and self-restraint non-existent, Phillip weathered through four years of Governorship beset on all sides by difficulties of almost incredible magnitude. The community was as much alone as a ship in mid-ocean until the hitherto uncultivated soil yielded crops, and the few head of cattle increased. There were no means of getting away. The merchant vessels which had formed the bulk of Phillip's fleet had returned, and the crazy old Sirius, the King's ship under his command, had been lost soon after. While the Government at home delayed in sending store-ships, they added to Phillip's difficulties by sending more convicts. However, by 1792, when Phillip, broken in health and spirits, returned to England, brighter prospects were dawning and the immediate danger of famine had been put to rest by more liberal supplies from home. Phillip never returned to New South Wales, for shortly after his arrival in England he succumbed to an illness from which he had long suffered. Three naval governors followed him, Hunter, King and Bligh. The last was deposed and arrested by the colonists at the beginning of 1808, and it was as his successor that Lachlan Macquarie, the first soldier to hold the command, took the oaths of office on New Year's Day, 1810.

The work of free settlement had made little progress. The stream of emigration from England to all parts of the world flowed very slowly, and no definite efforts were made to divert it towards New South Wales. Phillip's eager prophecy that, given fifty farmers, future prosperity would be assured, may have received theoretic approval, but was disregarded in practice. Nor was any enthusiasm felt for the new system of "colonising transportation". In 1798 a Select Committee on Finance declared that New South Wales was "already fully supplied with convicts" and advocated the establishment of home penitentiaries.[1] In 1803 Lord Hobart, Secretary of State for War

  1. See Report of Select Committee on Finance, P.P. 1798.