Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/305

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have the happiness of being the first to lay it down upon a chart. In this he had been forestalled by Black of the Harbinger; and now again he was to find that a predecessor had entered the finest harbour in southern Australia. Disappointment he must have felt; but he was by no means the man to begrudge the success that had accrued to another navigator. He made no remark, such as surely might have been forgiven to him, about the determining accidents of time and weather; though it is but right for us to observe that, had the Investigator been permitted to sail from England when she was ready (in April, 1801) instead of being delayed by the Admiralty officials till July, Port Phillip, as well as the stretch of coast discovered by Baudin, would have been found by Flinders. That delay was caused by nothing more than a temporary illness of the Secretary of the Admiralty, Evan Nepean, whose name is commemorated in Point Nepean, one of the headlands flanking the entrance to the Port.

A perfectly just recognition of the real significance of Flinders in southern exploration has led to his name being honoured and commemorated even with respect to parts where he was not the actual discoverer. It is a function of history to do justice in the large, abiding sense, discriminating the spiritual potency of personalities that dominate events from the accidental connection of lesser persons with them. In that wider sense, Flinders was the true discoverer of the whole of the southern coast of Australia. He, of course, made no such claim; but we who estimate the facts after a long lapse of years can see clearly that it was so. Only the patching up of the old Reliance kept him in Sydney while Bass was creeping round the coast to Westernport. Only the illness of an official and other trifling causes prevented him from discovering Port Phillip. It was the completion of his chart of Bass Strait, based upon