Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/38

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
10
A COLONIAL AUTOCRACY.

wealth were great and his "address" conciliatory. In so small a population the claims of each individual could be tested, and occasionally—rigid as was the general rule—reason and humanity triumphed over the levelling of the criminal law, and an ex-convict returned to his previous rank in society.[1] The great test of a man's position and pretensions were the hosts with whom he dined. Save during Bligh's rule, to dine at Government House was a mark of gentility, while to dine at the regimental mess was even more decisive. A great number of the "gentlemen-settlers" were retired army and navy officers who applied with zeal the peculiar caste rules of the services. For the most part they were simple, commonplace men, physically courageous and intellectually vapid, men guided by a strange jumble of uncomprehended motives—blind loyalty to the King, their regiment or ship—blind acceptance of the Church of England—mingled with love of liquor, greed of gain and indifference to the usual tenets of morality. Few were men of striking ability or forceful character, for the colonial garrisons, which formed a back-water of the Service and the retired list, had little to show in those times of war in the way of brains or energy. All that was best was seeking promotion or glory on the field of battle.

The merchants were on the whole made of better stuff, for their business called for more intelligence and enterprise than the farming and grazing which usually occupied the gentleman-settler.[2]

Riley's next division consisted of the traders and settlers who had come to the Colony as free men. This included shopkeepers and tradesmen, and those who in England would have been tenant-farmers, together with schoolmasters and Methodist missionaries. The farmers amongst them were to be found chiefly on the small rich allotments along the banks of the Hawkesbury. Their intercourse with the traders and settlers

  1. Three examples may be given in which men who had been transported associated freely with the gentlemen settlers and Government officials, Ensign. Barrallier, who had been transported for killing his opponent in a duel, the Rev. H. C. Fulton, for supposed complicity in the Irish Rebellion, and Sir H. B. Hayes, ex-Sheriff of Cork, for the abduction of a young girl.
  2. There were, however, probably few merchants who did not farm some land, and few settlers who were not interested in some trading project.