Page:The life of Matthew Flinders.djvu/322

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251
THE FRENCH AT PORT JACKSON

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.[1]) In this

  1. 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.