Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/37

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9
THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE.

British flag. Indeed the popularity of these informal "clubrooms" was such that Macquarie found it necessary, in the interests of public business, to issue an order on the subject wherein he expressed "a hope, after this Notice of the inconvenience arising from such habit, that persons not having actual business at the said stores and granaries, will desist from lounging there in future."[1]

When Macquarie came to the Colony there were only three populated districts, Sydney, Paramatta and the Hawkesbury.[2] The first had a disproportionate share of the people; for with an acreage of 24,301, it had a population of 6,156—more than half of the whole. The area of Paramatta was nearly double that of Sydney,[3] but the population was only 1,807—and at the Hawkesbury River settlement there were 2,389 inhabitants occupying 28,704 acres.

The difference in kind between town and country populations was not so great as that in quantity. While the merchants and traders, who were usually landholders as well, belonged almost entirely to Sydney, in other respects the description of the people of one district serves equally well for that of all. Thus the classification given by Alexander Riley, a merchant of New South Wales, of the society of Sydney is not only an accurate account of that district, but well describes the whole settlement.[4]

In his first class, Riley placed the officers, civil and military, and gentlemen. To say that such and such men were gentlemen was easy enough—to assign reasons for saying so was more complex. Riley did not attempt to do it. Yet in so small a community, and one which from its isolated position was peculiarly self-centred, such distinctions counted for much in the amenities of colonial life. Broadly speaking, profession or birth formed the usual standard. But a merchant came within the charmed circle, and so might a retail trader if his

  1. S.G., 7th August, 1813. Government Public Notice and Order.
  2. Far north of Sydney a small settlement had been established to work the coal mines at Newcastle at the mouth of the Hunter River. There seventy "incorrigible" convicts worked under guard of a garrison of thirty. The labour was more severe and the comfort less than in the southern settlements, and Newcastle (called also "Coal River") was used as a place to which the New South Wales Courts might order the transportation of prisoners.
  3. 42,627 acres.
  4. Evidence before C. on G., 1819.