Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/238

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THE INVESTIGATOR

modestly observed—"for my former services." The Company's charter gave to it a complete monopoly of trade with the east and the Pacific, and it was therefore interested in the finding of fresh harbours for its vessels in the South Seas. But, despite this display of concern, the East India Company had been no friend to Australian discovery and colonization. In the early years of the settlement at Port Jackson, it resisted the opening of direct trade between Great Britain and New South Wales, with as jealous a dislike as ever the Spanish monopolists at Seville displayed in the sixteenth century concerning all trade with America that did not flow through their hands. Even so recently as 1806 the Company opposed—and, strangely enough, successfully—the sale of a cargo of sealskins and whale oil from Sydney, on the ground "that the charter of the colony gave the colonists no right to trade, and that the transaction was a violation of Company's charter and against its welfare." The grant to Flinders was not, therefore, a manifestation of zeal for Australian development, except in the matter of finding harbours, and except, also, that there was an uneasy feeling that the French would be mischievously busy on the north coast. "I hope the French ships of discovery will not station themselves on the north-west coast of Australia," wrote C.F. Greville, one of the Company's directors.

The instructions furnished to Flinders prescribed the course of the voyage very strictly. They were that he should first run down the coast from 130 degrees of east longitude (that is, from about the head of the Great Australian Bight) to Bass Strait, and endeavour to discover such harbours as there might be. Then, proceeding through the Strait, he was to call at Sydney to refresh his company and refit the ship. After that he was to return along the coast and diligently examine it as far as King George's Sound. As the sailing was