Page:A colonial autocracy, New South Wales under Governor Macquarie, 1810-1821.djvu/31

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

of the Act of 1783. In the following year the project was put into execution and a small fleet dispatched under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip of the King's Navy, who was to establish the settlement and be its first Governor. His command consisted of 1,100 all told, including a military garrison, 500 male and 250 female convicts and a sprinkling of free emigrants. In January, 1788, he landed his people at Port Jackson, and founded on its shores the town of Sydney.[1]

The expedition created scarcely a ripple of excitement in England, full of interest though it was to a few students of criminal law. One of these, William Eden (afterwards the first Lord Auckland), wrote a History of New Holland, in the preface to which he discussed the new experiment.[2] The suggestions made by him in 1776 in the speech referred to above had apparently fallen on barren ground, and he took it as an accepted fact that so far no means of keeping convicts at home had answered "the end of their exemplary correction," and that some way must be found of "exonerating this country of its obnoxious members".[3] New Holland seemed a suitable location, and the annexation of that island was on other counts desirable. He spoke with careful vagueness of the considerable changes which had taken place since England first turned over troublesome subjects "to the use and benefit of its infant colonies"—changes "in the interests and political situation of many leading states of Europe".[4] Whatever the actual facts here alluded to, it seems at least worthy of note that two days after Phillip landed at Port Jackson a French fleet was sighted in the offing, and that for the next forty years each impulse towards extended exploration and settlement in Australia, which was fostered by Government, was almost without exception coincident with a similar enterprise rumoured or in course of execution by France.

However desirable such a settlement might be, Eden considered that to invite "the industrious and respectable artisan

  1. Named after Lord Sydney.
  2. The book was published in 1787. It gives an account of discovery and explorations from 1616 to 1787. Eden was an intimate friend of the younger Pitt, and probably expressed the views of the Government in regard to the new settlement.
  3. History of New Holland, Preface, p. v.
  4. Ibid., p. vii.