The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, R.N./Chapter 17

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders, R.N. by Ernest Scott
Chapter 17. The French at Port Jackson: Peron the spy

Chapter XVII.

THE FRENCH AT PORT JACKSON: PERON THE SPY.

The condition of Le Géographe when she made her appearance outside Port Jackson, on June 20th, 1802, was in striking and instructive contrast with that of the Investigator on her entry forty-two days before. Flinders had not a sick man on board. His crew finished the voyage a company of bronzed, jolly, hearty sailors, fit for any service. Baudin, on the contrary, had not a single man on board who was free from disease. His men were covered with sores and putrid ulcers;" the surgeon, Taillefer, found the duty of attending upon them revolting; they lay groaning about the decks in misery and pain, and only four were available for steering and management, themselves being reduced almost to the extremity of debility. "Not a soul among us was exempt from the affliction," wrote the commandant in his journal.

The utmost difficulty had been experienced in working the vessel round the south of Van Diemen's Land and up the east coast in tempestuous weather. Baudin obstinately refused, in the teeth of the urgent recommendation of his officers, to sail through Bass Strait, and thus save several days; though, as he had already negotiated the strait from the east, he knew the navigation, and the distressful condition of his people should have impelled him to choose a route which would take them to succour in the briefest period of time. He insisted on the longer course, and in consequence brought his ship to the very verge of disaster, besides intensifying the sufferings of his crew. The voyage from the region of the gulfs to the harbour of refuge was full of pain and peril. Man after man dropped out. The sailors were unable to trim the sails properly; steersmen fell at the wheel; they could not walk or lift their limbs without groaning in agony. It was a plague ship that crept round to Port Jackson Heads in that month of storms:

          "And as a full field charging was the sea,
           And as a cry of slain men was the wind."

All this bitter suffering was caused because, as the official historian of the expedition tells us, Baudin "neglected the most indispensable precautions relative to the health of the men." He disregarded instructions which had been furnished with reference to hygiene, paid no heed to the experience of other navigators, and permitted practices which could not but conduce to disease. His illustrious predecessor, Lapérouse, a true pupil of Cook, had conducted a long voyage with fine immunity from scurvy, and Baudin could have done the same had he possessed valid qualifications for his employment.

There is no satisfaction in dwelling upon the pitiful condition to which Baudin's people were reduced; but it is necessary to set out the facts clearly, because the visit paid by Le Géographe and Le Naturaliste to Sydney, and what the French officers did there, is of the utmost importance in relation to what happened to Flinders at a later date.

Baudin brought his vessel up to the entrance to the harbour on June 20th, but so feeble were his crew that they could not work her into port. It was reported that a ship in evident distress was outside, and at once a boat's crew of Flinders' men from the Investigator was sent down to assist in towing her to an anchorage. "It was grievous," Flinders said, "to see the miserable condition to which both officers and men were reduced by scurvy, there being not more out of one hundred and seventy, according to the Captain's account, than twelve men capable of doing their duty." Baudin's own journal says they were only four; but, whatever the number may have been, even these were sick, and could only perform any kind of work under the whip of absolute necessity. All the sufferers were attended with "the most touching activity" by the principal surgeon of the settlement, James Thomson.

The resources of Sydney at that time were slender, but such as they were Governor King immediately placed them at the disposal of the French commodore. The sick were removed to the hospital, permission was given to pitch tents close to where the Investigator's were erected, at Cattle Point on the east side of Sydney Cove,[1] and everything was done to extend a cordial welcome to the visitors. "Although," wrote the Governor to Baudin, "last night I had the pleasure of announcing that a peace had taken place between our respective countries, yet a continuance of the war would have made no difference in my reception of your ship, and affording every relief and assistance in my power; and, although you will not find abundant supplies of what are most requisite and acceptable to those coming off so long a voyage, yet I offer you a sincere welcome. I am much concerned to find from Monsieur Ronsard that your ship's company are so dreadfully afflicted with the scurvy. I have sent the Naval Officer with every assistance to get the ship into a safe anchorage. I beg you would give yourself no concern about saluting. When I have the honour of seeing you, we will then concert means for the relief of your sick." That was, truly, a letter replete in every word of it with manly gentleness, generous humanity and hospitable warmth. The same spirit was maintained throughout of the six months of the Frenchmen's stay at Port Jackson. King even reduced the rations of his own people in order that he might have enough to share with the strangers. Fresh meat was so scarce in the colony that when the Investigator arrived Flinders could not buy any for his men; but as soon as the French appeared, King, pitying their plight, at once ordered the slaughtering of some oxen belonging to the Government in order that they might be fed on fresh food. Baudin was daily at the Governor's house,[2] and King entertained his officers frequently. His tact was as conspicuous as his good nature. Baudin was not on good terms with some of his officers, and the Governor was made aware of this fact. He conducted himself as host with a resourceful consideration for the feelings of his quarrelsome guests. And as the Governor comported himself towards them, so also did the leading people of Sydney. "Among all the French officers serving in the division which I command," wrote Baudin, "there is not one who is not, like myself, convinced of the indebtedness in which we stand to Governor King and the principal inhabitants of the colony for the courteous, affectionate, and distinguished manner in which they have received us."

Not only on the social side was this extreme kindness displayed. King did everything in his power to further the scientific purposes of the expedition and to complete the re-equipment of Baudin's ships. Le Géographe required to be careened, and to have her copper lining extensively repaired. Facilities were at once granted for effecting these works. Baudin, intending to send Le Naturaliste back to France with natural history specimens and reports up to date, desired to purchase a small Australian-built vessel to accompany him on the remainder of his voyage. King gave his consent, "as it is for the advancement of science and navigation," and the Casuarina, a locally-built craft of between 40 and 50 tons, was acquired for the purpose. The French men of science were assisted in making excursions into the country in prosecution of their researches. Baudin refused the application of his geologist, Bailly, who wished to visit the Hawkesbury River and the mountains to collect specimens and study the natural formation. The British, thereupon, furnished him with boats, guides and even food for the journey, since his own commander declined to supply him. Peron, the naturalist, who afterwards wrote the history of the voyage, was likewise afforded opportunities for travelling in prosecution of his studies, and the disreputable use which he made of the freedom allowed to him will presently appear.

There is no reason to believe that any of the French officers, or the men of science on Baudin's staff, abused the hospitality so nobly extended to them, with two exceptions. The conduct of the crew appears to have been exemplary. Baudin himself won King's confidence, and was not unworthy of it. His demeanour was perfectly frank. "Entre nous," wrote King to Banks in May, 1803, "he showed me and left with me all his journals, in which were contained all his orders from the first idea of the voyage taking place. … He informed me that he knew of no idea that the French had of settling on any part or side of this continent."

After the departure of the two ships, on November 17th, a rumour came to the Governor's ears that some of the French officers had informed Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson that it was their intention to establish a settlement on Dentrecasteaux Channel in the south of Van Diemen's Land. The news occasioned grave anxiety to King, who immediately took steps to frustrate any such plans. He sent acting-Lieutenant Robbins in the Cumberland in pursuit of Baudin, informing him of what was alleged, and calling upon him for an explanation. Baudin positively denied that he had entertained such an intention; and certainly he had not acted, after leaving Port Jackson, as if he had the design to lay the foundations of a settlement at the place specified, for he had not sailed anywhere near southern Van Diemen's Land. He had made direct for King Island, and was quietly continuing his exploratory work when Robbins found him. This vague and unsubstantial rumour, which Paterson had not even taken the trouble to report officially to the Governor when he heard it, was the only incident with which Baudin was connected that gave King any cause to doubt his perfect good faith; and Baudin's categorical denial of the allegation is fully confirmed by his diary and correspondence—now available for study—which contain no particle of evidence to suggest that the planting of a settlement, or the choice of a site for one, was a purpose of the expedition.

Baudin's gratitude for King's hospitality was expressed in a cordial personal letter, and also in an open letter which he addressed to the Governors of the French colonies of Ile-de-France and Reunion. Twelve copies of the letter were left in King's hands, to be given by him to the captain of any British ships that might have occasion to put in to any port in those colonies. Blanks were left in the letter, to be filled up by King, with the name of the captain to whom he might give a copy and the name of the ship.[3]) In this document, it will be noticed, Baudin was bespeaking from representatives of his country in their own colonies such consideration as he had experienced from his British hosts at Sydney. The fulness of his obligation could scarcely have been expressed in more thorough terms:

"The assistance we have found here, the kindness of Governor King towards us, his generous attentions for the recovery of our sick men, his love for the progress of science, in short, everything seemed to have united to make us forget the hardships of a long and painful voyage, which was often impeded by the inclemency of the weather; and yet the fact of the peace being signed was unknown, and we only heard of it when our sick men had recovered, our vessels had been repaired, our provisions shipped, and when our departure was near at hand. Whatever the duties of hospitality may be, Governor King had given the whole of Europe the example of a benevolence which should be known, and which I take a great pleasure in publishing.

"On our arrival at Port Jackson, the stock of wheat there was very limited, and that for the future was uncertain. The arrival of 170 men was not a happy circumstance at the time, yet we were well received; and when our present and future wants were known, they were supplied by shortening part of the daily ration allowed to the inhabitants and the garrison of the colony. The Governor first gave the example. Through those means, which do so great honour to the humane feelings of him who put them into motion, we have enjoyed a favour which we would perhaps have experienced much difficulty in finding anywhere else.

"After such treatment, which ought in future to serve as an example for all the nations, I consider it my duty, as much out of gratitude as by inclination, to recommend particularly to you Mr. —— commander of H.M.S. ——. Although he does not propose to call at the Isle of France, it may be possible some unforeseen circumstance might compel him to put into port in the colony, the government of which is entrusted to you. Having been a witness of the kind manner with which his countrymen have treated us on every occasion, I hope he will be convinced by his own experience that Frenchmen are not less hospitable and benevolent; and then his mother-country will have over us the advantage only of having done in times of war what happier times enabled us to return to her in time of peace."

That letter has been quoted, and the circumstances attending Baudin's arrival and stay at Sydney have been narrated with some fulness, in order to give particular point to the conduct of two members of his expedition, Francois Péron and Lieutenant Louis de Freycinet. As will be seen from what follows, both of them used the latitude allowed to them while receiving King's generous hospitality, to spy, to collect information for the purpose of enabling an attack to be made upon Port Jackson, and to supply it with mischievous intent to the military authorities of their nation.

Le Naturaliste returned to Europe from King Island on December 8th. She took with her all the natural history specimens collected up to that time, and reports of the work done. Baudin, with Le Géographe and the Casuarina, spent six months longer in Australian waters, exploring Spencer's and St. Vincent's Gulfs, completing the chart of Kangaroo Island, and making a second voyage along the coast. On July 7th, 1803, he determined to return to France. He reached Ile-de-France on August 7th, became seriously ill there, and died on September 16th. The Casuarina was dismantled, and Le Géographe, which stayed there for three months after her commander's death, arrived in France on March 24th, 1804.

The military Governor of Ile-de-France at this time was General Charles Decaen. As a later chapter will be devoted to his career and character, it is only necessary to say here that he was a dogged, strong-willed officer, imbued with a deep-rooted hatred of British policy and power, and anxious to avail himself of any opportunity that might occur of striking a blow at the rival of his own nation. François Péron very soon found that the Governor was eager to get information that might, should a favourable chance present itself, enable him to attack the British colony in Australia, and he lost no time in ministering to the General's belligerent animosity.

On December 11th, 1804, four days before Le Géographe sailed for Europe, Péron furnished to Decaen a long report on Port Jackson, containing some very remarkable statements.[4]) He alleged that the First Consul, Bonaparte, in authorising Baudin's expedition, had given to it a scientific semblance with the object of disguising its real intent from the Governments of Europe, and especially from the cabinet of Great Britain. "If sufficient time were available to me," said Péron, "it would be very easy to demonstrate to you that all our natural history researches, extolled with so much ostentation by the Government, were merely the pretext of its enterprise." The principal object was "one of the most brilliant and important conceptions," which would, if successful, have made the Government for ever illustrious. The unfortunate circumstance was, however, Péron declared, that after so much had been done to conduce to the success of these designs, the execution of them had been confided to a man utterly unsuited to conduct them to a successful issue.

That there were such designs as those alleged by Péron is disclosed by no word in Napoleon's Correspondance; there is no suggestion of anything of the kind in the papers communicated to Baudin by the Minister of Marine, or in Baudin's confidential reports to his Government. It is in the nature of a spy to flavour with his own conjectures the base fruit of his illicit inquisitions, and Péron knew that he was writing to a man greedy to obtain such material as he was ready to supply. There is no word from any other member of the expedition, except Freycinet, written before or after, to support Péron's allegations; and it is extremely unlikely that, if the purpose he indicated had been the real one, he would have been the man to know about it. Péron had not originally been a member of the staff of the expedition. Baudin's ships had been equipped, their complement was complete, and they were lying at Havre in October, 1800, awaiting sailing orders, when Péron sought employment. He had been a student under Jussieu at the Museum, and to that savant he applied for the use of his influence. Jussieu, with the aid of the biologist, Lacépède, secured an opportunity for Peron to read a paper before the Institute, expounding his views as to research work which might be done in Australasia; the result was that at almost the last moment he obtained appointment.[5] He was not in the confidence of Baudin, with whom he was on bad terms throughout the voyage, and his hatred for whom continued relentlessly after the unfortunate captain's death. On the point in question, therefore, Péron is by no means a trustworthy witness. The very terms in which Baudin wrote of Sydney, in his confidential letter to the Minister of Marine, indicate that he was innocent of any knowledge of a secret purpose. If he had known he would have referred to it here; and if he did not know of one, Péron certainly did not. "I believe it to be my duty," wrote Baudin, "to warn you that the colony of Port Jackson ought to engage the attention of the Government and indeed of other European power also. People in France or elsewhere are very far from imagining that the English, in the space of fourteen years, have been able to build up their colony to such a degree of prosperity, which will be augmented every year by the dispositions of their Government. It seems to me that policy demands (il me semble que la politique exige) that by some means the preparations they are making for the future, which foreshadow great projects, ought to be balanced." That was simply Baudin's personal opinion: "it seemed to him." But the statement Péron made to Decaen, as to what he could demonstrate "if he had time," together with his other assertions, may have had an influence on the general's mind, and may have affected the later treatment of Flinders; and that constitutes its importance for our purpose.

Péron went on to allege that while he was at Port Jackson, "I neglected no opportunity of procuring all the information that I foresaw would be of interest. I was received in the house of the Governor with much consideration; he himself and his secretary spoke our language well. Mr. Paterson, the commandant of the New South Wales troops, always treated me with There is no scan djvu for this page.
Page 329 view (The Life of Matthew Flinders).jpg

VIEW OF SYDNEY HARBOUR, FROM VAUCLUSE.
(Reproduced from the engraving in Flinders' Journal, after Westall's drawing.)

particular regard. I was received in his house, as one may say, like a son. Through him I knew all the officials of the colony. The surgeon, Mr. Thomson, honoured me with his friendship. Mr. Grimes, the surveyor-general, Mr. Palmer the commissary-general, Mr. Marsden a clergyman at Parramatta, and a cultivator as wealthy as he was discerning, were all capable of furnishing me with valuable information. My functions permitted me to hazard the asking of a number of questions which would have been indiscreet on the part of another, especially on military matters. I have, in a word, known all the principal people of the colony, in all walks of life, and all of them have furnished me with information as valuable as it is new. Finally, I made in Mr. Paterson's company long journeys into the interior of the country; I have seen the best farms, and I assure you that I have collected everywhere interesting ideas, and have stated them in as exact a form as possible."

After this illuminating dissertation as to his own value as a spy, and the clever use he had made of his functions as a naturalist to exploit unsuspecting people, Péron proceeded to describe the British establishment in detail. But he omitted to tell Decaen how kindly he and his countrymen had been treated there; not a word had he to say on that subject; no circumstance was mentioned that might tend to withhold an attack if a favourable chance for one should occur. He gave an interesting description of Sydney and its environs, spoke of the growth of its trade, the spread of cultivation, the increase of wealth. Then he gave his views on the designs of the British to extend their power in the Pacific. Their ambitions were not confined to New Holland itself, vast as it was. Their cupidity had been excited by Van Diemen's Land. They did not intend, if they could avoid it, to permit any other nation to occupy that country. They would soon extend their dominion to New Zealand. They were even casting avaricious glances across the Pacific. They had occupied Norfolk Island, and he did not hesitate to say that they were looking for a place further east, whence they might assail Chili and Peru. The British were quite aware of the feebleness of the Spaniards in those regions, and meant to appropriate their possessions in time.

Next Péron gave an account of the transportation system, of which he approved, as making for rapid colonization, and as having valuable reformatory effects. The climate and productiveness of New South Wales were enthusiastically praised by him, and its eminent suitability for European occupation was extolled. In all that the British had done in Australia were to be recognised great designs for the future. Steps had been taken to convert felons into good colonists, to educate their children, and to train them for useful avocations.

He drew attention to the number of Irish prisoners who had been transported for participation in rebellious movements at home, and to their implacable hatred of Great Britain. "The Irish, kept under by an iron sceptre, are quiet to-day; but if ever the Government of our country, alarmed by the rapidly increasing power of that colony, formed the project of taking or destroying it, at the very name of the French the Irish would rise. We had a striking example of what might be expected on our first arrival in the colony. Upon the appearance of the French flag, the alarm became general in the country. The Irish began to flock together from all parts, and if their error had not been speedily dissipated, there would have been a general rising among them. One or two were put to death on that occasion, and several were deported to Norfolk Island."

The troops at Port Jackson, said Péron, did not number more than 700 or 800 men while the French ships were there, but he believed that as many as 8,000 were expected. He doubted, however, whether Great Britain could maintain a very large force there, in view of the demands upon her resources elsewhere owing to the war; but was of opinion that she would use Port Jackson as a depot for India, on account of the healthiness of the climate. He summed up in eighteen paragraphs the advantage which Great Britain drew, and was likely to draw, from her possession of Port Jackson; and he terminated these by telling Decaen that "my opinion, and that of all those among us who have been particularly occupied with the organization of that colony, would be that we should destroy it as soon as possible. To-day we can do that easily; we shall not be able to do it in a few years to come." There followed a postscript in which Péron informed the General that Lieutenant de Freycinet "has particularly occupied himself with examining all the points on the coast in the neighbourhood of Port Jackson that are favourable for the debarkation of troops. He has made especial enquiries concerning the entry to the port, and if ever the Government thought of putting into execution the project of destroying this freshly set trap of a great Power, that distinguished officer's services would be of precious value in such an operation." The recommendation of Péron's fellow-spy at the end of the report is interesting, as indicating how the pair worked together. Péron, under the guise of a man of science collecting facts about butterflies and grasshoppers, exploited his hosts for information of a political and military nature; whilst Freycinet, ostensibly examining the harbour in the interest of navigation, made plans of places suitable for landing troops. Both together, having been nourished and nursed in their day of dire calamity by the abundant kindness of the people of Sydney, concocted plans for bringing destruction upon their benefactors, and proffered their services to show the way. One thinks perforce of a rough speech of Dol Common in Ben Jonson's Alchemist:

         "S'death, you perpetual curs,
Fall to your couples again, and cozen kindly."

Five days after the arrival of Le Géographe in France, on March 29th, 1804, Péron wrote to the Minister of Marine[6] in similar terms, relating the valuable opportunities he had had of making himself acquainted with the situation of Port Jackson, and mentioning the names of leading citizens with whom he had associated, and from whom he had collected information.

A second report upon Port Jackson was furnished to General Decaen, giving precise information as to where troops could be landed if an invasion were undertaken. The document is unsigned,[7] but, having regard to Péron's statement concerning Freycinet's investigations, there can be no doubt that the information came from him. The writer described Sydney as "perhaps the most beautiful port in the world," and observed that, though its natural defences were strong, the English had employed no means to fortify the approaches. Many of the convicts were Irish, and were capable of everything except good.[8] Persons who had played a part in connection with the recent rebellion in Ireland were subject to transportation, and were naturally a disaffected class. England had only 600 troops to maintain order in that "society of brigands," and discipline was not very well observed amongst them. Particulars were given as to how an invasion could be effected:

"The conquest of Port Jackson would be very easy to accomplish, since the English have neglected every species of means of defence. It would be possible to make a descent through Broken Bay, or even through the port of Sydney itself; but in the latter case it would be necessary to avoid disembarking troops on the right side of the entrance, on account of the arm of the sea of which I have already spoken.[9] That indentation presents as an obstacle a great fosse, defended by a battery of ten or twelve guns, firing from eighteen to twenty-four-pound balls. The left shore of the harbour is undefended, and is at the same time more accessible. The town is dominated by its outlying portions to such an extent, that it might be hoped to reduce the barracks in a little time. There is no battery, and a main road leads to the port of Sydney. Care ought to be taken to organize the invaders in attacking parties. The aboriginals of the country need not be reckoned with. They make no distinctions between white men. Moreover, they are few in numbers. The residence of the Governor, that of the colonel of the New South Wales Regiment, the barracks, and one public building, are the principal edifices. The other houses, to the number of three or four hundred, are small. The chief buildings of the establishment captured, the others would fall naturally into the hands of the conqueror. If the troops had to retreat, they would best do so by the River Oxbury[10]) and thence to Broken Bay. I regret very much that I have not more time to give[11] to this slight review of the resources, means of defence of and methods of attack on that colony. I conclude by observing that scarcely any coinage is to be found in circulation there. They use a currency of copper with which they pay the troops, and some paper money."

There is no need to emphasise the circumstances in which this piece of duplicity was perpetrated. They are made sufficiently clear from the plain story related in the preceding pages. But it should be said in justice to Baudin that there is no reason to associate him with the espionage of Péron. Nor is it the case that the expedition originally had any intention of visiting Port Jackson, for this or any other purpose. As explained in the chapter relating to the Encounter Bay incident, it was Flinders who suggested to Baudin that he should seek the succour he so sorely needed at Sydney; and Le Naturaliste, which preceded him thither, was driven by a like severity of need to his own. "It does not appear by his orders," wrote King to Banks "that he was at all instructed to touch here, which I do not think he intended if not obliged by distress." Such was the case; and it was this very distress, and the generous alleviation of it by the British colonists, that make the singular turpitude of Péron and Freycinet in pursuing nefarious designs of their own and plotting to rend the breast that fed them. The great war gave rise to many noble acts of chivalry on both sides, deeds which are luminous with a spirit transcending the hatreds of the time, and glorify human nature; but it is happily questionable whether it produced an example to equal that expounded in these pages, of ignoble treachery and ungrateful baseness.

Flinders, when reviewing the unjust account of his own discoveries given by Péron in his Voyage de Decouvertes, adopted the view that what he wrote was under compulsion from authority. "How came M. Péron to advance what was so contrary to truth?" he asked. "Was he a man destitute of all principle? My answer is that I believe his candour to have been equal to his acknowledged abilities; and that what he wrote was from over-ruling authority, and smote him to the heart." Could Flinders have known what Péron was capable of doing, in the endeavour to advance himself in favour with the rulers of his country, he would certainly not have believed him so blameless.

That Port Jackson was never attacked during these years of war was not due to its own capabilities of defence, which were pitifully weak; nor to reluctance on the part of Napoleon and Decaen; but simply to the fact that the British Navy secured and kept the command of the sea. In 1810 Napoleon directed the equipment of a squadron to "take the English colony of Port Jackson, where considerable resources will be found."[12] But it was a futile order to give at that date. Trafalgar had been fought, and the defence of the colony in Australia was maintained effectively wherever British frigates sailed.

Péron's report, then, did no mischief where he intended that it should. But by inflaming Decaen's mind with suspicions it may not have been ineffectual in another unfortunate direction, as we shall presently see.

The action of Péron in trying to persuade Decaen that the object of Baudin's expedition was not truly scientific was all the more remarkable because he himself, as one of its expert staff, did work which earned him merited repute. His papers on marine life, on phosphorescence in the sea, on the zoology of the South Seas, on the temperature of the sea at measured depths, and on other subjects pertaining to his scientific functions, were marked by conspicuous originality and acumen. But he was not content to allow the value of his services to be estimated by researches within his own sphere. He knew the sort of information that would please General Decaen, and evidently considered that espionage would bring him greater favour from his Government, at that time, than science.

Nevertheless, it is right to bring out the fact, in justice to the diligent savants who worked under Baudin, that their researches generally were of real importance. Professor Jussieu, one of the foremost men of science in Europe, was deputed to report upon them, and did so in a comprehensive document.M[13] "Of all the collections which have come to us from distant countries at different times," wrote Jussieu, "those which Le Géographe and Le Naturaliste have brought home are certainly the most considerable." The botanist Leschenalt had found over 600 species of plants which were believed to be new to science; and he eulogised the zoological work of Péron, who had succeeded in bringing to France alive seven kinds of kangaroo, an emu, a lyre-bird and several black swan. Altogether, 18,414 specimens of Australian fauna had been collected, comprised in 3872 species, of which 2592 species were new to the museum. The men of science had "succeeded beyond all our hopes." Their task had been perfectly fulfilled, and their services to science deserved to be liberally rewarded by a just and generous government.

It would have been a source of satisfaction if it could be recorded that work so laborious and so well performed had earned for Peron a reputation unstained by such conduct as has been exhibited in the preceding pages.

  1. Flinders, Voyage, I., 227. The "Cattle Point" of Flinders is the present Fort Macquarie, or Bennelong Point, behind which Government House stands.
  2. Historical Records IV., 952.
  3. Mr. F.M. Bladen, in a note appended to a copy of this interesting letter, in the Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 4 page 968 says: "The letter was handed to Governor King by Commodore Baudin, in case it should be required, but was retained by King amongst his papers, and never used. Had it been in the hands of Flinders when forced to touch at the Isle of France it might have prevented any question, real or pretended, as to his bona fides. Indeed, it is not unlikely that it was originally intended for Flinders." But, although the letter was not used by Flinders, Baudin gave a copy of it to General Decaen, Governor of Ile-de-France, when he called there on his homeward voyage. The copy is now among Decaen's manuscripts at Caen, Volume 84. The blanks are in it, as in King's copy. Decaen was therefore fully aware of the generous treatment accorded to his countrymen at Port Jackson.
  4. MSS., Decaen Papers Volume 92. The complete document is translated in appendix B to this volume.
  5. See the biographies of Péron by Deleuze (1811) and Girard (1857).
  6. Arch. Nat. BB4 996.
  7. Coup d'oeil rapide sur l'establissement des Anglais de la Nouvelle Hollande," mss., Decaen Papers Volume 92 page 74.
  8. "Ils sont capable de tout, excepté le bien."
  9. Middle Harbour.
  10. i.e., the Hawkesbury; the Frenchman guessed at the spelling from the pronunciation.
  11. Compare Péron's remark concerning the little time at his disposal. Both reports were written only a few days before Le Géographe left Ile-de-France for Europe.
  12. Napoleon's Correspondance Volume XX., document 16 544.
  13. anuscripts, Archives of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris.