Monday, 14 July 2014

Governor Phillip and the Hawkesbury

Governor Arthur Phillip (1738 - 1814)

Governor Arthur Phillip
Source: Australian National Botanic Gardens

Arthur Phillip was born in 1738 in London, the son of Jacob Phillip, a language teacher who came from Frankfurt, and Elizabeth, nee Breach. He attended the Greenwich school for the sons of seamen and was apprenticed to the Merchant Navy, graduating in 1755, after two years at sea. He transferred to the Royal Navy and was promoted to lieutenant in 1762 before being retired in 1763 when the Seven Years War ended.

Phillip spent the next 15 years farming in Hampshire, returning to the sea during the Spanish-Portuguese war when he served with the Portuguese navy from 1774 to 1778. During the American War of Independence in 1778, he returned to the English navy and became a post captain in 1781. After the war, Phillip was doing survey work for the British Admiralty when he was appointed as first governor of New South Wales in October 1786. He had risen in the navy by his own effort at a time when patronage was the norm, and was considered reliable and trustworthy. His knowledge of farming may have also influenced the decision.

Instructions from the Home Secretary, Lord Sydney to Captain Arthur Phillip

. . . We, reposing especial trust and confidence in your loyalty, courage and experience in military affairs, do, by these presents, constitute and appoint you to be Governor of our territory called New South Wales, extending from the northern cape or extremity of the coast called Cape York, in the latitude of 10° 37' south, to the southern extremity of the said territory of New South Wales or South Cape, in the latitude 43° 39' south, and all the country inland and westward as far as the one hundred and thirty-fifth degree of longitude, reckoning from the meridian of Greenwich, including all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean, within the latitude aforesaid of 10° 37' south and 43° 39' south, and of all towns, garrisons, castles, forts and all other fortifications or other military works, which now are or may be hereafter erected upon this said territory. You are therefore carefully and diligently to discharge the duty of Governor in and over our said territory by doing and performing all and all manner of things thereunto belonging, and we do hereby strictly charge and command all our officers and soldiers who shall be employed within our said territory, and all others whom it may concern, to obey you as our Governor thereof; and you are to observe and follow such orders and directions from time to time as you shall receive from us, or any other your superior officer according to the rules and discipline of war, and likewise such orders and directions as we shall send you under our signet or sign manual, or by our High Treasurer or Commissioners of our Treasury, for the time being, or one of our Principal Secretaries of State, in pursuance of the trust we hereby repose in you.Instructions from the Home Secretary, Lord Sydney to Captain Arthur Phillip.

Given at our Court at St, James's, the twelfth day of October 1786, in the twenty-sixth year of our reign.

By His Majesty's Command

Source: The transcript of Governor Phillip's instructions is taken from the Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 2, Part 2.

Unlike the British authorities, he was seized by a great vision of a new British outpost to be established in the southern seas. He wanted free settlement encouraged and proposed to try to reform the convicts and to treat Aborigines kindly, establishing harmonious relations with them.

He also had good understanding of administrative detail and considerable foresight. He understood the difficulties involved in transporting men and women from England to an unknown land on the other side of the world and lobbied for sufficient equipment, food and clothing to enable a safe passage.

Other instructions advised Phillip about managing the convicts, granting and cultivating the land, and exploring the country. The Aborigines' lives and livelihoods were to be protected and friendly relations with them encouraged, but the Instructions make no mention of protecting or even recognising their lands. It was assumed that Australia was terra nullius, that is, land belonging to no one. This assumption shaped land law and occupation for more than 200 years.

Although they were instructed to establish themselves at Botany Bay, Phillip was separately authorised to choose any other appropriate neighbouring territory. When the last vessel left for England in November 1788, a quantity of clay from Sydney was consigned to Josiah Wedgwood on the suggestion of Sir Joseph Banks, and from this first export the Wedgwood Sydney medallions were made.

A fleet of 11 ships -- with Arthur Phillip, the first governor of the settlement, in charge of 160 marines and 729 convicts -- weighed anchor in Portsmouth, England, on May 13, 1787, and reached Botany Bay on the 18th January 1788. Finding it too barren, sandy, and shallow for permanent settlement, fresh water was inadequate and the anchorages were too open in the wide bays) Phillip investigated the next inlet to the north. There, spreading its fingers of deep water into sheltered sandstone promontories, he found "one of the finest harbours in the world, in which a thousand sail on the line might ride in the most perfect security." The harbor, which had been discovered and named by Cook earlier, was Port Jackson -- now better known as Sydney Harbour. Sydney takes its name from Lord Thomas Townshend Sydney, the British home secretary to whom Governor Phillip reported. Phillip's First Fleet was unloaded 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the heads in what is now know as Sydney Cove on Jan. 26, 1788--now celebrated as Australia Day."
source - Compton's Encyclopedia

Phillip established the convict colony in Sydney Cove, which he governed in a sensible and humane way, despite conditions which included poor quality food, largely infertile land and a lack of experienced farm labour which led to near-famine. He requested a return to England in 1790, pleading ill-health, and eventually sailed for England in 1792, leaving a colony with more than 1,700 acres of land under cultivation or cleared and ready for sowing and which, within another year, was almost able to support itself.

Within six weeks after the arrival of the First Fleet in Port Jackson, Governor Arthur Phillip hopeful of finding better grazing and agricultural land set out to explore the coast to the north of Port Jackson in a cutter. On the 2nd of March, they arrived in Broken Bay and explored Brisbane Water and Cowan Creek and traveled up the Hawkesbury River as far as Dangar Island.

In August 1788 Phillip accompanied by an exploration party travelled overland from Manly Cove to Pittwater and back.

Not a little alarm was occasioned among the white population during April of 1789, by the discovery that small-pox had broken out among the Aborigines, and was killing them off in numbers. The dead bodies of many of the natives were discovered in various places about the shores of the harbour and in the bush, and upon two sick children and an adult male being brought, by the Governor's orders, to the camp, the medical officers without hesitation pronounced the disease under which they were suffering to be small-pox. The colonists were as much surprised as alarmed at the appearance of this dreadful scourge among the natives; but the natives themselves showed they had some previous experience of a similar nature as they called the disease "gal-ga-la". They could not have contracted the disease on this occasion from the whites, seeing that it had not made its appearance among them, and fortunately did not subsequently, although it raged with great virulence among the natives, who had been prepared for pestilence by dearth of food, and who fell easy victims to the spotted curse. The two black children taken in hand by the Governor recovered, but the adult died; and it was remarked as a most singular thing, that while all the whites escaped the contagion, it seized a North American Indian who happened to be employed on board the Supply, and speedily carried him off. Hundreds of the Aborigines were carried off by the dreadful scourge, and the remainder who had come in contact with the colonists without hesitancy laid this extra calamity at the doors of the invaders, and became still more bitter against them. It may be remarked en passant‡, that more than three quarters of a century after this, a similarly disastrous visitation fell upon the black race in one of the South Sea Islands—Fiji—and depopulated whole villages.

Just over one year later, in June 1789, Governor Phillip and his men went out on a second exploratory trip of Broken Bay. It was during this trip that he discovered the first and second branches of the river (the Macdonald and Colo Rivers respectively). He navigated the river to a point upstream of Windsor. Governor Phillip and his party reached the Windsor area on 6th July 1789 and named it Green Hills. He was impressed with its farming potential and quickly arranged for food production to begin in order to relieve the shortages in Port Jackson. He gave the river its modern name to honor Charles Jenkinson, First Earl of Liverpool, England and the Baron of Hawkesbury. The Aboriginal name for the Hawkesbury River is 'Deerubbun. This led to the first contact between the white settlers and the Dharruk Aboriginal people of the Hawkesbury district. Phillip immediately saw that the land he had seen along the banks of the Hawkesbury held great advantages for future settlers. He found much of the land near Richmond Hill to be flat and, if the abundance of trees was an indicator, fertile so Phillip had Captain Hunter produce a district survey.

One very pathetic story is related by Hunter, as occurring three months after the outbreak, when the Governor was on the expedition refered to above, up the Hawkesbury River. When at the south branch of Broken Bay:—

....a native woman was discovered concealing herself from our sight, in the long grass, which was at this time very wet, and I should have thought very uncomfortable for a poor naked creature. She had, before the arrival of our boats at this beach, been with some of her friends, employed fishing for their daily food, but were upon their approach alarmed, and they had all made their escape except this miserable girl, who had just recovered from the small-pox and was very weak, and unable, from a swelling in one of her knees, to get off to any distance; she therefore crept off and concealed herself in the best manner she could among the grass, not twenty yards from the spot on which we had placed our tents. She appeared to be about seventeen or eighteen years of age, and was covered with wet grass, having no other means of hiding herself. She was very much frighten upon our approaching her, and shed many tears, and with piteous lamentations, we soothed her distress a little, and the sailors were immediately ordered to bring up some fire, which we placed before her; we pulled some grass, dried it by the fire, and spread it round her to keep her warm; then we shot some birds, such as hawks, crows, and gulls, skinned them, and laid them out on the fire to broil, together with some fish, which she ate; we then gave her water, of which she seemed very much in want, for when the word "baa-do" was mentioned, which was their expression for water, she put her tongue out to shew how dry her mouth was. Before we retired for the night we saw her again, and got some firewood laid within her reach with which she might in the course of the night recruit her fire; we also cut a large quantity of grass, dried it, covered her well, and left her to her repose, which from her situation I judged was not very comfortable or refreshing. Next morning we visited her again; she had now got pretty much the better of her fears, and frequently called to her friends, who had left her, and who, we knew, could be at no great distance from her, she repeated their names in a very loud and shrill voice, and with much anxiety and concern for the little notice they took of her entreaties to return; for we imagined, in all she said when calling on them, she was informing them that the strangers were not enemies, but friends; however, all her endeavours to bring them back were ineffectual while we remained with her; but we were no sooner gone from the beach than we saw some of them come out of the wood, and as there were two canoes on the shore belonging to this party, they launched one into the water and went away.

In 1789 Governor Arthur Phillip sent Dawes with a small party to reach the Western mountains. They crossed the Nepean (later discoveries proved the Nepean to be an extension of the Hawkesbury) at Emu Ford, and keeping Round Hill (now Mount Hay) in view and ascending and descending the gullies they pushed their way through the areas we now know as Mt Riverview, Warrimoo and Valley Heights and reached Springwood on the Bee Farm Road ridge. They came to within nine kilometres of Mount Hay before they had to turn back with provisions running low.

After his voyage along the Hawkesbury in 1789, Phillip in a dispatch to Lord Sydney described his excursion:

After having been several times with the boats to Broken Bay, in order to examine the different branches in that harbour, a river was found, but the want of provisions obliged us to return without being able to trace it to its source, which has since been done and in the sixteen days we were then out all those branches which had any depth of water were traced as the boats could proceed.
The river, which I named Hawkesbury, after the Lord Hawkesbury, is laid down in the chart from an eye-sketch made by Captain Hunter, as we rowed up it. The breadth of this river is from three hundred to eight hundred feet, and it appears from the soundings we had to be navigable for the largest merchant ships to the foot of Richmond Hill; but as the water near the head of the river sometimes rises, after heavy rains, thiry feet above its common level, it would not be safe for ships to go far up; but fifteen or twenty miles below Richmond Hill they would lay in fresh water and perfectly safe. I speak of Richmond Hill as being the head of the river, it there growing very shallow, dividing into two branches.
The high rocky country which forms Broken Bay is lost as you proceed up the Hawkesbury, and the banks of the river are then covered with timber, the soil a rich light mould, and judging from the little we saw of the country, I should suppose it good land to a very considerable extent; the other branches of fresh water are shoal, but probably run many miles further into the country than we could trace them with our boats. On these rivers we saw great numbers of wild ducks and some black swans; and on the banks of the Hawkesbury several decoys made by the natives for to catch the quail.
Richmond Hill (near the foot of which a fall of water prevented our proceeding further with the boats) is the southern extremity of a range of hills, which, running to the northward, most probably join the mountains which lay nearly parallel to the coast, from fifty to sixty miles inland. the soil of Richmond Hill is good and it lays well for cultivation. Our prospect from the hill was very extensive to the southward and eastward, the country appearing, from the height at which we were, to be a level covered with timber, there is a flat of six or seven miles between Richmond Hill and a break in the mountains, which separates Lansdown and Carmarthen Hills, and in this flat I suppose the Hawkesbury continues its course, but which could not be seen for the timber that, with very few exceptions, covers the country wherever the soil is good.
The great advantages of so noble a river, when a settlement can be made on its banks, will be obvious to your Lordship.

Source: A. Phillip to Lord Sydney, 13 February 1790, in Historical Records of Australia, series I, vol.-, pp. 155-6
Phillip established the convict colony in NSW, which he governed in a sensible and humane way, despite adverse conditions which included poor quality food, largely infertile land and a lack of experienced farm labour which led to near-famine. He requested to be allowed to return to England in 1790, pleading ill-health, and eventually sailed for England in 1792, leaving a colony with more than 1,700 acres of land under cultivation or cleared and ready for sowing and which, within another year, was almost able to support itself.

Phillip had hoped to return to the colony when his health was restored. Instead he went back to active service in the navy, commanding several ships during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1789 he was made a rear-admiral, on the 11th December 1792 Phillip sailed for England on the "Atlantic" to seek medical attention, & his health compelled him to resign formally on 23rd July 1793. He continued his progression in the naval hierarchy, becoming an admiral of the blue in 1814, the year of his death.

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