The narrative of a voyage to the Swan River/Appendix remarks

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Preliminary Remarks.

In the number of those who are desirous to emigrate from this country, it is much to be feared there are but few whose habits and pursuits qualify them for the measure they wish to adopt, and fewer still who have obtained that information of the country and climate in which they are anxious to settle, which is so indispensably necessary for their future comfort and success. Instances are not unfrequent in which an adventurer, on the spur of the moment, or from a flattering description of some particular country, will risk his all "upon the hazard of the die," and perhaps without enquiry, and certainly without impartial consideration, or the advice of disinterested experience, will abandon his native land for a country of which he knows little but the name. And after he has embarked his capital in this, his most sanguine speculation, and taken up his abode upon that spot where he flattered himself he should meet with no inconvenience to annoy —no impediment to retard, the rapid acquisition of wealth; he finds difficulties which he never expected, and obstacles which can only be surmounted by great labour and length of time. His non-acquaintance with the manner of dealing iii the country, and the usual prices and different qualities of the various articles his necessities oblige him to purchase, must render him the dupe of those who wish to impose upon his credulity, or take advantage of his ignorance. His not being accustomed to the climate, so as to understand the proper mode of agriculture, causes him to cultivate his land with little profit, and most likely at a serious loss: or, if he did not come out as an agriculturist, the hope of establishing a lucrative business in his trade, or of meeting warm encouragement in his profession, have all of them produced disappointments which he did not foresee, or rendered abortive by circumstances over which he had no control:—for in infant colonies or newly-cultivated districts, the farmer, carpenter, shoemaker, bricklayer, blacksmith, and common labourer, are the principal persons who meet with encouragement or find the means of subsistence. Bread must be obtained before luxuries can be purchased, and he that is obliged to earn it by the sweat of his brow, has little opportunity, whatever may be his inclination, to patronize the man of science, or support the member of a liberal profession. But it is too often seen that, without taking these things into consideration, they who have suffered from disappointment, extravagance, or misfortune at home, seek consolation and prosperity abroad ; little expecting that there is no situation without its inconveniences—no state in this world which affords a security from calamity, or can ensure happiness without alloy. The stockholder who lives in lodgings, and indignantly exclaims against the assessed taxes, which he never is called upon to pay; the discontented citizen, who has no land of his own, but vehemently protests against the robbery of tithes, which he asserts are the property of the people, for he has no relation in the Church; the champion of liberty of conscience, and universal suffrage, who has just built a meeting-house, which does not answer, and who was not bribed at the last uncontested election; the advocate of radical reform, who exclaims against placemen on account of his unsuccessful application for a clerkship—who bitterly inveighs against pensions and sinecures because the grapes are sour; the merchant and tradesman, who were more anxious about "the St. Leger" than the balance sheet of their own ledger,—who kept country-houses and gay cabriolets, from which they nodded to their creditors who were walking to town,—who gave Sunday dinners and sported champaigne till they were "unfortunate in business;" the gay agriculturist, (for the term farmer is now grown vulgar,) who rode a better horse than his landlord, and, instead of attending to his servants and cattle, broke pointers in, till he himself broke down:—all these hope to find in the land of their choice a paradise of liberty—a freedom from every restraint—a relief from every embarrassment; affluence without the necessity of labour, and credit without the impertinent applications of duns. But on their arrival at the long wished-for region of bliss and liberty, they find that its happiness has been exaggerated—its disadvantages not foreseen—and the Utopian dream of happiness not realized. And he who left home in the delightful anticipation of shooting where he pleased, without fear and without restraint, now finds that the pursuit of game affords him no gratification where nothing is preserved, and that the impossibility of committing trespass and stealing a march on a game-keeper, deprives his sport of its zest. They discover that they are strangers to the climate, and that the natural productions of England will not succeed because they are unnatural here; they find that corn will not grow without cultivation, and that markets are many miles off: that the hand must be hardened with toil, and the body devoted to labour before the self-exile can be supported, and the once sanguine but theoretical agriculturist grow rich.

Then letters are sent home to their friends, gloomy and desponding indeed, full of complaints against the country and against its government, because they were permitted to become occupiers of land, while they were ignorant of soils, or because they choose to build their houses, and sow their corn upon the overflowing banks of a river, rather than upon dry and upland ground.

Not many years have elapsed, since many hundred persons joyfully and enthusiastically accepted the proposal of Government to send emigrants to establish a colony in Africa. Toymen and milliners—comedians and hair-dressers—lawyers without clients, and half-pay officers—keepers of eating-houses and lace-manufacturers, sailed triumphantly from England to civilize the Caffres and drive the lions from their dens; to teach the ignorant natives the scientific husbandry of Norfolk, to render the plains of Caffraria more fertile than those of Sicily of old, and to confer immortal benefit upon one-fourth of the world, by substituting pure South Downs and Herefords, in the places of the Cape sheep and the buffalo. At length the ships approached the shore:—the long wished-for moment arrived; they feasted their eyes upon the Table Mountain, they bounded on the land of their choice. They cursed the tardiness and inattention of the Government officers, in not having marked out their allotments previous to their arrival. Their grants were soon made out—they took possession of them with hearts beating high with anticipated success, and with the most sanguine expectations of immediate comfort and competence, joined to future luxury and wealth. But the dream of delusion was soon over, and they awaked to disappointment and misery indeed: they found that the dry and sandy plains upon which they had located themselves would produce nothing but coarse and scanty herbage—that the corn they had sown was scorched by the heat of the sun—that English cattle would not succeed in a tropical climate, and that their capital, with their hopes, had wasted away. And was this Government to be blamed for this? Away with the absurd thought! The adventurers in justice could only blame themselves. Why did they not, previous to their dcparture, obtain accurate information of the nature of the country and the state of the climate ?— Why did they become proprietors of land which they knew not how to cultivate, and attempt to manage agricultural instruments of which they scarcely knew the name? Why did they so ridiculously rely upon their own inexperienced judgment as to suppose, that they could successfully cultivate that land, which, under the management of long-established inhabitants, could never be made to produce either barley or wheat.

With such a calamitous disappointment in my recollection, I feel anxious to make some remarks which, it is hoped, may be the means of preventing any of my readers from deciding upon emigration, without considering whether they may reasonably expect success in such a grave undertaking, and without deliberating on the advantages and disadvantages of every country and climate, in which Englishmen are at present accustomed or invited to settle.

It may, perhaps, savour of vanity, for a young man thus to volunteer his opinions to the public, especially as he cannot speak of foreign countries from personal observation; yet as he, from peculiar circumstances, has long cherish* d thoughts of emigrating, and has obtained every information in his power from disinterested and experienced writers, as well as from those persons who are well acquainted with the various countries to which it is usual to emigrate; he hopes that his opinions will neither be deemed presumptuous, nor formed upon fictitious grounds nor ex parte statements. He disclaims every intention of persuading persons to leave this, their native country, so justly celebrated for its temporal and spiritual advantages, a "land of churches and bibles and hospitals—a nation of good Samaritans," where the people are peaceable and the rulers are honest, where a man may walk unmolested on the way side, and retire to his rest without fear—where the law is not a two-edged sword in the hands of the rich, but a staff for the defence of the poor :— but to him who,, from whatever cause or motive, wishes to settle in another country, the statement and opinions contained in this Appendix are addressed, with the earnest wish that they may in any way afford him instruction or promote his benefit. I would then urge him to consider, in the first place, why does he wish to leave his native land?—If from discontent, or from being dissatisfied with his present condition, or from any particular disappointment, let me remind him that, with such feelings, he will be unhappy wherever he goes, and that there is no part of this world where man can be exempted from divers disappointments, or independent of circumstances over which he has no control. If it be in consequence of living beyond his income, I would conjure him to live more moderately,—to endeavour, by economy, and a rigid denial of those luxuries which he cannot afford, to keep his expences within proper bounds; and then, in all probability, he will find that, instead of incurring new debts, he is enabled to pay off the old. The same advice will apply to him whose business and capital are slowly decreasing;—a more than common attention to business—a scrupulous adherence to fair and honorable dealing, and a disposition to be contented with a reasonable share of profit, will in very many cases restore a tottering credit, and draw more respectable customers to the shop, than all the hackneyed puffings by advertisement, and stale, yet fraudulent practice, of pretending to sell " for less than prime cost."

But if a person discovers that with all his industry and economy his capital is decreasing—that from an overgrown population he really cannot obtain eligible situations for his children—if he then desire to emigrate, not from the love of change or from the vain and ridiculous notion of becoming a gentleman, and the proprietor of an estate which till it be cultivated is worth nothing: not from being overpersuaded by the artful insinuations of some, or the credulous expectations of others; but from the clear deliberate conviction of his own mind, and the sincere but anxious wish, with God's blessing, to benefit himself and his family; of such a man I say that he acts like a rational creature, and under Providence may entertain every reasonable expectation of success:—but then he must consider that his intended measure will unquestionably be attended with great inconvenience, privation and hardship, which though they eventually will either cease or be overcome, nevertheless for the time, will be most irksome to any one who has been brought up in the full enjoyment of the comforts and luxuries so abundant in a civilized and opulent country:—they who had never seen any other mode of travelling than upon excellent roads with good inns, affording ample accommodation, at small stages from each other, can scarcely picture to themselves the journey they will have to take with their families through roads which are made by cutting a path through a wood, and dragging themselves and their baggage through streams without bridges, and over swamps without drains. In those extensive wilds where the foot of an European hath scarcely trod, no cheerful inn is open for the weary emigrant in search of an allotment;—no attentive waiters hastening to supply his wants;—no downy pillow to invite him to repose; but he must be dependent upon his gun or his haversack, when he wishes to satisfy his hunger, and he must be contented to lie down to rest on the bare ground, wrapped in his cloak with the sky for his canopy. I would then most earnestly entreat rny reader to consider whether the habits and constitution of himself, his wife and family, are prepared for submission to those privations, or able to bear those unavoidable hardships. If in his family there is one whose constitution is delicate; if himself and his wife are miserable if their carpets are soiled, or their dinner underdone; if she be a fine lady who can cut out watch papers, but cannot make a shirt, how can they bear the toil of a journey through the wilderness, or put up with the casual meal which the desert will provide? Instead of having a companion to cheer him on the way—a friend to console him in his disappointments, and to assist him in his difficulties, he will be unceasingly mortified with tears and reproaches. He will have to pacify her, who ought to soothe him, and while he is dragging the real necessaries of life to an encampment, she will be fretting at the damage done to the piano, and lamenting the loss of the children's toys.

And I would ask my reader, does he really know wheat from barley? Can he regulate the depth of a plough—or know where to place the heaviest weight in a waggon—if not, I tell him he will emigrate to his ruin. Let him reflect seriously, is he qualified to undertake the occupation of land who is ignorant of the mode of cultivating each particular soil—the quantity of seed which ought to be sown upon an acre—and the proper preparation of land for the seed, and the state when it is most fit to be reaped and gathered into the barn. If he is determined to be a farmer, let him for one year at least live upon the farm, not of a scientific experimental agriculturist who cultivates upon chemical principles, and talks of "argillaceous" and "calcareous" soils, but upon the farm of an industrious practical farmer, who is not ashamed of driving his own plough, and is proud of the cornstacks of his own building:—from such a man he will not indeed receive any information of the profits and excellence of the prickled comfrey, his theoretical knowledge will not be improved by daily dissertations upon the various gases, but he will learn that plain and industrious cultivation of soil, which alone can be adopted with common sense and advantage upon his future allotment:— where he will find no acacia hedges, "no columns of stone, or mangers of copper." And while he is laudably inquisitive as to the manner of performing the various operations in common husbandry, let him also learn how to perform them. Let him take the plough, the spade, and the scythe into his own hands; the time may soon come, when he will save many shillings by his own labour:—or if his capital is so ample as to render this unnecessary, it is very desirable that he should be able to show his labourers how their work ought to be performed. To promote the success of such emigrants as do not intend to settle as agriculturists, but in some other line, I would earnestly recommend to them, whatever their hopes, whatever their capital, or experience in other matters may be, by all means to acquire some practical knowledge of farming before they take their departure from this country. It may be that, on their arrival in the settlement of their choice, their hopes may be frustrated:—prior adventurers may have obtained the practice they hoped to engross, or have successfully commenced that line of business in which they expected to have been the very first to embark:— under such circumstances the capability of undertaking the management of a farm may mitigate their disappointments and rescue them from ruin, which otherwise would inevitably await them. And let not the reader be deterred from emigrating in consequence of his being under the necessity of employing active industry in whatever country he may choose to settle. Man was born to labour, and daily experience teaches, that neither wealth nor eminence can be acquired in business or in any profession without the sedulous employment of mind or body. No greater degree of labour or further attention to business is necessary for the settler abroad, than for the industrious farmer at home ; but without this attention and labour both of them will inevitably though gradually sink into beggary and distress. In England the father cannot always insure the occupancy of the farm to the son, at least he can very rarely improve it with the certainty that he will not thereby entail an additional rent upon himself and the child who succeeds him; but the case is different abroad; there the settler is improving not his landlord's farm, but his own estate. And is there not something grand, is there not something encouraging to the settler in the reflection that his posterity will be benefited by this investment of his capital—this exertion of his industry. What though his allotment appears at first impervious to the eye, and impregnable to the plough, the land is his own, and the inheritance his children's. Is he not in a situation where youth will supply the catalogue of human wants, and where industry must meet its sure reward? The abundance of wood for fuel renders the fire-side of the settler during the long evenings of winter, a solace equal to that of many a wealthier citizen of the world; and as his children with united strength drag in each log to the hearth, he rejoices in the clearance of the encumbered earth, when those of the more civilized world pay dearly for the enjoyment of warmth. An emulative feeling stimulates the natural industry of his constitution. The rattling clank of a neighbour's axe, the crashing fall of a heavy tree, seem to demand responsive exertions on his part, and give rise to an energy which quickly rouses within him the spirit of active labour. The work of his young children is of a value to him far exceeding the expence of their maintenance and he enjoying the consciousness of being able to leave them an inheritance of peace, if not of affluence." With facilities of watercarriage, fish in abundance, and fowl by the help of his gun, he may supply the necessaries of life; and while the partridge and wild pigeon gratify him with variety in food, he has also in store both recreation and amusement.