Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/112

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79
THE RELIANCE AND THE TOM THUMB

war. We may picture his welcome: the strong grasp of his father's hand, the crowding enthusiasm of his brother and sisters fondly glorying in their hero's prowess. The warnings of uncle John were all forgotten now. When the midshipman's younger brother, Samuel Ward Flinders, desired to go to sea with him, he was not restrained, and, in fact, accompanied him as a volunteer on the Reliance when at length she sailed.

Hunter took not merely an official but a deep and discerning interest in the colonisation of Australia. He foresaw its immense possibilities, encouraged its exploration, promoted the breeding of stock and the cultivation of crops, and had a wise concern for such strategic advantages as would tend to secure it for British occupation. He perceived the great importance of the Cape of Good Hope from the point of view of Australian security; and a letter which he wrote to an official of the Admiralty while awaiting sailing orders for the Reliance (January 25, 1795), is perhaps the first instance of official recognition of Australia's vital interest in the ownership of that post. There was cause for concern. The raw and ill-disciplined levies of the French, having at the outbreak of the Revolutionary wars most unexpectedly turned back the invading armies of Austria and Prussia, and having, after campaigns full of dramatic changes, shaken off the peril of the crushing of the fatherland by a huge European combination, were now waging an offensive war in Holland. Pichegru, the French commander, though not a soldier by training, secured astonishing successes, and, in the thick of a winter of exceptional severity, led his ragged and ill-fed army on to victory after victory, until the greater part of Holland lay conquered within his grip. In January he entered Amsterdam. There was a strong element of Republican feeling among the Dutch, and an alliance with France was demanded.