October 07, 2007

7 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The Martial Law declaration in Parramatta, January 26 1808.

The story ends today, dear readers, as the author moves on to other historical tales. Elizabeth plays a crucial role in the next few months leading to the great rebellion in Sydney and Parramatta against the rule of William Bligh, and goes on to play a very significant role in the development of the merino wool industry in Australia. Thanks to the readers of this story and my best wishes for the future. The Author.

October 06, 2007

6 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Colonial Surgeon John Harris

I could have counted the ships the ships that called here between 1801 and 1805 on my two hands and it is still an occasion when a ship from Home arrives. Some of Mrs. Kingdon's letters have fallen apart in my hands from being read, and when Mr. Macarthur was away, I almost read Blackstone's Commentaries on English law! Given how infrequent good conversation can be had, it's surprising that more of us don't go entirely mad. Thank God for Mr. Harris, the wonderful scoundrel that he is.

Sometimes I hunger to read a good book that I've not read before; Mrs. Lucas brought a fine collection with her, including many in French and German. My favourite was always The Sorrows of Young Werther, and now I have the book in English and in German, and Mrs. Lucas is very patient with my German. I still long for a cheap and dreadful London tale though, and join the clamour to the Captains when a ship comes in, begging and bribing for any spare copies of the London magazines. And not only for the fashion, like some of my friends!

A woman's mind should be challenged or it stultifies in the everyday concerns: to avoid that, as much as for any reason, I love the sheep and the stud book. That said, however, a woman may extend herself to far as I fear I may have done, keeping this house and gardens, managing staff, looking after my unwell daughter, organising entertainments and the stud, and looking after Mr. Macarthur's interests also. That is quite a burden, and writing in this diary only helps me to be clear about those responsibilities when what I need is a sympathetic friend. I had hoped Mrs. Putland could play that role, as Mrs. King had done to an extent, but the gap between what is right for this place and a Governor's orders make it hard for we wives and daughters to avoid the acrimony. Mrs. Putland has written me with her fulsome thanks for the party and hopes she may return the favour, and in the meantime can Elizabeth junior stay with her? If Elizabeth is well enough, she certainly can.

October 05, 2007

5 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Mr. Harris' house.

Since Mrs. Putland's unfortunate experience on Sunday last, I fear the atmosphere of the Colony has changed. Serjeant Whittle reported that Mr. Bligh has compared the Corps unfavourably with the convicts and has threatened to use convicts as his Honour Guard - won't the Corps hate that! Our troubles are quiescent but beneath the surface I can feel them bubbling away. My friends in various places have reported that the Governor's dispatches include a strongly-worded request for the Corps to be removed; I know we have heard this before, even under Mr. King, but this may be different. I do feel if the Home Government had chosen anyone other than a Naval man, we may have avoided trouble - who knows?
The garden is blooming - several of the Indian Rhododendrons are in flower, with a mass of deep red blossoms - what a sight! The fruit trees have their small fruit - except the loquats which are covered in the yellow plums - proving this climate to be, as Mr. Harris claims, the most beneficial in the entire world.

October 04, 2007

4 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The Store at Parramatta

Government and trade - once the two would never have mixed, but Mr. Campbell is a clever trader and has joined forces with Mr. Palmer in more ways than one. The Governor appears to believe that involving Government in retail selling will benefit ordinary people and in places far away, such as the Green Hills, it might but to the detriment of others. When the Colony was hardly able to feed itself, it was not Government that stood in and maintained a ready supply of necessaries; without the actions of the officers of the Corps to establish a market with ready money and supply that market with variety, there would be less prosperity than there is today.

However, one's diary should not be a place where one complains, but rejoices that life is good: Mr. Macarthur and I are the luckiest of people in that our concern for each other is undiminished, that our aspirations have largely been met and we respect each other - after nearly 20 years, what more would we want?

The heat and wind diminished greatly today, and I expect Elizabeth will be better tomorrow. John is back from our outlying farms and all is well there; I have cut asparagus from the garden today, along with great leeks - they will go well with a duck I bought from Banagaree, one of the young natives who live near here. She came this morning with the duck

October 03, 2007

3 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Many of the native men have their front tooth removed, for reasons unknown.

The weather, business, the actions of government are the common topics of polite conversation, but the health of my family remains most important to me, especially with Elizabeth junior so poorly. We woke today to a blustery hot wind and soemthing like an oven has developed as the day has gone on: plants in the garden wilt, and Elizabeth wilts also. Her chest fills with mucus and her breathing becomes laboured, and John believes she must excersise at such times but I can see that is beyond her. Within me a new life stirs - boy or girl, sick or healthy? My luck in birthing has not been great, with Edward born so poorly, but I'll keep trying to make them better - and my fine bonny son Edward is a testament that the poorly child can become the strongest man. I have seen Edward easily carry one of the Dorset rams and he rides as well as John - if only Elizabeth improves!
Every day we see the natives, at our door or when moving around the farm: the men invariably have their front tooth missing and Mr. Macarthur has been to the ceremony when this takes place - nine days of

October 02, 2007

2 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The amazing ceremonies of the Natives - this is the most serious occasion when young men become men, called the Erah-ba-diang.

Without trade and business this Colony will wither and die: that has always been so. When we first arrived, the Colony was near starving, and the ration which had been universally shared was so poor that no work could be done. It was John that brought the cartel into being that chartered the Dolphin in '92 to bring the supplies that saved the Colony from ruin and such trade has been our saviour again and again. And yet Authority has no idea that such measures are not for the enrichment of the participants, who after all bear all the risk, but the advancement of this place and the saviour of its inhabitants. "No thought for the future" could be Government's motto, even after last year's disastrous floods, when no thought for the price of grain or the feeding of the flocks was given, so that now we face the highest prices in our history, which could easily have been avoided by a ship to Africa or India.
Now we face a blockage by the Company of all trade to China, even in goods the Company doesn't have to sell! We have been informed that our sandal-wood from the Feejees is not to be taken to China under any circumstances, so we shall have the sweetest fires in Christendom later this month when we expect the Parramatta to return with its load.

John's counsel to the children is just: Always do what you are afraid to do!

October 01, 2007

1 October 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Some of us have recent fashions, some are quite out of fashion, yet the ball was a success nevertheless.

"How is business?", is the commonest greeting among a certain class of people here - the class to which we now belong. Opportunity may be responded to, or ignored, and Mr. Macarthur has very properly determined that a two-handed response brings the greatest benefit, and the greatest risks. On this we do not disagree - I support John's business ventures and wish him well in them all. We now own two good ships, one of which is sailing to Tahiti to collect the rare wood that grows there which is worth more than gold, when taken to China, and the other is returning to England, filled with oil and skins from the seal fishery, and some bales of our wool. We were so far caught by surprise with the seal fishery that John did not bring any lamps with him from England, so we still use candles in the main house and slush lights elsewhere. As well, John has shares in three more ships engaged in trade and fishing; we also have a shop in Sydney, although we might let that go soon. The Governor has permitted Mr. Palmer to expand the stores, in Sydney, at Green Hills and here in Parramatta, so they have as wide a range of goods as the people need, and they pay so little for their staff that it seems they will sell cheaper than we ever can. Mr. Palmer's sister has married Mr. Campbell, and Mr. Campbell has brought his nephew here, so a dynasty is forming. Such a shame that they cannot talk of anything but trade!
My circle is quite small - yet it was only a year or two ago, it seems, that eighteen ladies could gather for a very civilised lunch, while today there are less than a handful who can meet, and I am forced to rely on Mr. Harris for general gossip, Mr. Caley for scathing comment, and my little network of friends for all the other information I need to protect our interests! I hope Mrs. Patterson comes back soon, as it must be tiresome in van Diemen's land - still, she is with her husband and that is something. We couples must stick together.
Mr. Macarthur returned from the Seven Hills last night and today is away again to the Cowpastures: the sheep at the Seven Hills had been isolated by the rain, unwilling to cross the flooded stream to their shelters, but other than two or three lambs that appear to have been lost, all is fine. I hope to go there on Friday, to review the arrangements at that place. The bridge here that crosses the River, near where the Governor has granted Mrs. Putland her land, wasn't washed away but has lost several supports and must be repaired: in the past we have waited months for such work, but I understand that a gang is already there and the timbers are being cut as I write, so having Mrs. Putland as a neighbour has many benefits.
The Campbells and Palmers have invited Elizabeth junior and I to dinner tomorrow, and with John away, I'll accept their invitation.

September 30, 2007

30 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The little village atop Brickfield's Hill.

What am I to make of this place? Have freedom and dignity left our paths forever and retired into the forests with the miserable natives? Convicts, criminals, scoundrels mingle and mix, and not only in the prisoners' barracks. Solitude, our own farm, these are the refuges that I seek.
Yesterday's rain ceased early enough for the ground to dry, but I wasn't sure about the River and we foresook the boat to take the carriage home. It's an uncomfortable way to travel, although it is a high-wheeled coveyance, because the road is terrible, only wide enough for one vehicle. Unlike the Governor, I have no out-riders, only my reputation here for fifteen years, and the sure knowledge that whether criminal or free, or native, everyone knows me and, I sincerely hope, thinks of me in a positive manner rather than otherwise.
The road from Sydney runs South down High Street before turning West and heading to Parramatta, climbing first the Brickfield's Hill, then meandering over hill and down dale past some wild scrub, until reaching the bridge over the Duck's River, and we then turn to the North to come at the Farm. Several people have reported concerns along the way, with the bushes concealing escaped convicts and several tribes of natives, althought these latter live nearer to the Sands at Arrowanally, where there is fresh water and food in plenty.
Our journey was without mishap, except that we were bogged for some time on the Brickfield Hill and waited until sufficient men had returned to the work, to assist us to the top. Home now - I was right in not trying to sail home, as the River is raging near here and we would have had a hard walk from near the Sands to the Farm.
The rain is good for the Farm, with spring growth everywhere - the peaches are a mass of flowers, as are the quince, the apples and pears. The cherry trees have finished blossoming and their fruit is setting, but the tiny bees that live here struggle to polinate those trees and we get little fruit from them. The loquats, whose blossom filled our valley with their perfume eight weeks ago, are yellow on their branches and will be the first fruits of the season - already today I have eaten a dozen or more!
The wet weather suits Elizabeth junior and keeps her chest clear. However, I am sick with worry after Sunday's diabolical fiasco - I really feel I should take to bed and stay there. I wrote a brief note for Mary Putland today and, along with a few dozen of our early loquats and some bunches of radishes, sent it to her on the afternoon packet - I do hope she is bearing up.
John and Edward arrived home yesterday and immediately set out again, to the Seven Hills were they'd heard the stream had broken the banks and washed across the sheep paddocks; we've recently moved the Dorset rams there and may God have preserved them.

September 29, 2007

29 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

As if the weather knows about the turmoil in the Colony, I woke today to the crashing of thunder and an enormous downpour of rain. We had intended returning to Parramatta this morning by boat, but the River will be in flood and too unsafe for that journey. The alternative of travelling in the coach is awful to contemplate, with the road full of mud and crossed by strong streams in several places, so the girls and I will stay in Pyrmont and let Mr. Macarthur, Edward and Hannibal return on their horses: we will follow later in the week. I am now torn by a desire to reassure Mrs. Putland that she must disregard the jibes of the private soldiers, but John is certain that leaving the Governor alone is the best option for all of us natives, to avoid being tarred by the same brush.
Being in town means I have so little to do, and I was looking forward to getting back to the farm. Instead, I will try to enjoy some time here, perhaps even lay out some more garden given that it is spring, if the rain eases. We only grow a small garden here, mostly fruit trees overlooking the harbour, with some green growing at the rear of the house. Water is difficult to procure in Town - there is a hole in the rock that we call our "well", and it supplies some garden water, sufficient for the fruit trees, and we have a lovely spring that John has piped to the house, but it flows slowly, only filling a tank for the household needs.
Given I have so little to do, I wonder where the time of day has gone? Already the afternoon has passed, the candles are lit and I am preparing our evening meal - I'd sent the cooks home after the ball. A native whom I'vbe not seen before brought fish and fruit bats - I took the fish, in exchange for a pannikin filled with flour. It is that fish we call Perch, but he named it "wuggara", and he said of it "balu patta", which means that it eats well, or "good eating". A tall young man - perhaps he has come from the other side of the harbour - we don't see the folk from that side over here often, as there is great animosity between those people and the natives here.

September 27, 2007

27 September 1807, Sunday, by Elizabeth Macarthur


All the Colony is in uproar today - honestly, the behaviour of some of the Corps is scandalous and both Mr. Macarthur and I blame the officers. There is one young private - Faithfull is his name - whom John has had quite a lot to do with over the years. He is rather simple and will never rise above being a private soldier, and unfortunately he is not the sort of whom one says "they are doing their best". The opposite, rather.
The Church at Sydney remains unfinished and in the abscence of Mr. Marsden it may remain so, as Mr. Fulton lacks the wherewithal to marshall help, other than on the Governor's orders, and frankly there are so few convicts still under sentence available to help, so Church is held in the Orphan's School in Bridge Street, or at the Granary, depending on the numbers expected to attend. Of course, we held our ball during the week so Mr. Macarthur, Hannibal, the girls and I have remained in Sydney and attended Church this morning at the Granary, a very commodious if unpleasant building, and it was made the more unpleasant by the actions of the Corps.
Hannibal and John joined the Governor for breakfast, while Mrs. Putland entertained Elizabeth, Mary and I on the lawns for an al-fresco, and after that we Macarthur's walked across town to Church, while the Governor and Mrs. Putland took their coach. We were already inside when they arrived, but we distinctly heard some form of rucus as the Governor and Mrs. Putland made their way into Church. What happened, I have since discovered, is that Private Faithfull, who has been mooning over Mrs. Putland from afar, became agitated when he saw her dressed in the latest London fashion, of a diaphanous dress over pantaloons. The dress is a marvel to behold, of a sky blue of fine muslin, fully fitted in the body and billowing below - Mrs. Putland told me there are eleven yards of muslin in the skirt. Certainly on first seeing this fashion one may be somewhat taken aback, but that is no affair for a soldier.
One of Faithfull's colleagues, seeing his agitation, stuck a feather in Faithfull's cap, which further agitated the man, and in a moment the entire platoon was playing the fool, guffawing at Faithfull and, consequently, at Mrs. Putland. When Mary heard their guffaws, she turned to them and something happened: something that none of us really saw, but the next moment she had collapsed to the floor, and her father was by her side, bellowing for air and quite beside himself. He had seen the tom-foolery and was extremely upset, but his first concern was for his daughter, as was mine. In a moment we had Mary taken outside, the carriage was called, and she and I, along with the girls, hurried back to Government House.
Meanwhile at the Church, assured that Mrs. Putland had suffered a fainting spell after the foolish behaviour of members of the Corps, the Governor had called their Lieutenant to explain. Some stupid tale was put forth about the feather, and Governor Bligh, enormously angry, was restrained by Mr. Macarthur from striking the adjutant. What a catastrophe!
Mrs. Putland recovered once in the carriage, but she is also tremendously upset - to think that the Governor is not free to attend Church, goes against the natural order. In a moment the triumphs of the week are overturned and we move back to the first square, with civil society an unreachable goal perhaps.

September 26, 2007

26 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The rather strange Flying Opossum, who carries her young in a pouch.

Elizabeth's diary will be back shortly - the author is taking a short break, after the talk at Elizabeth Farm last week. I was told that they raised $400 from admission to my talk.

September 25, 2007

25 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The sands at Arrowannally, at the head of Port Jackson.

Readers - Elizabeth will be back with her diary soon. The author.

September 24, 2007

24 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Dancing at the Ball.
The ball was a total success, quite the finest occasion seen in New South Wales since - well, since anything I suppose. More, much more, later.

September 23, 2007

23 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


A view over Parramatta

The arrangements for the ball are advancing well; only the tiny sweet cakes and tarts prove difficult to procure, and we will make do with lesser fare. The house at Pyrmont is excellent for entertaining, very open in the dining room and library, a lovely large room at the end of the house and this opens out to the garden that is the greatest asset. September can be cool at night, but it has been warm so far and I hope it will stay so. Soldiers find their service uniform and dress uniform very warm in this climate, and where possible they are encouraged to leave off all of their accroutrements, but for a ball they dress to the nines and make quite a display. How unfortunate for them that there are few eligible ladies to peacock for; even so, I have never known a soldier to lose the chance of showing off, even if to a wall!

The food we serve is just like at home, apart from the very delicate items found at the best places. I have an enormous punch bowl that we will fill near to overflowing, and a seven tiered stand for the large cakes, which we cut and serve on plates. There is very little decent ham here, although we all keep pigs - apart from technique there are certain spices that we just cannnot procure. In place, we dry thinly sliced beef in the air and serve that, to everyone's delight. We also have tremendous quantities of butter and cream, so i will serve Scots scones in honour of Mr. Macarthur, with a lovely jam made from a local fruit. And of course the wonderful oysters that abound in the harbour will be gathered by the sackful and served au natural, which is how they taste best.

Elizabeth is well enough to attend - she was more devated by the thought of missing the evening than she was by her por health!

September 22, 2007

22 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


I've been so busy with the arrangements for our ball - but, dear diary, I will not neglect you soon. Until tomorrow then.

September 20, 2007

20 September 2007, by David Povey

Another view of Sydney, also by Eyre, 1806, showing the

Tomorrow, Friday September 21 2007, this paper will be read to a meeting of the Friends of Elizabeth Farm, at Rosehill near Parramatta. Elizabeth's diary recommences after that.

September 19, 2007

19 September 2007, by David Povey


Government House about 1807
Part 4 of the talk about Parramatta in 1807 leading up to the Revolt on Anniversary Day, 26 January 1808. To be continued.

September 18, 2007

18 September 2007, by David Povey

Declaration of Martial Law, Parramatta Janaury 26 1808

The interlude continues of - part 3 of the Friends' talk.

Manning Clarke questions whether so momentous a clash of civilizations would ever take place in this Southern Land; the personalities are not so grand, but the clash is still heard. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Britain's navy had conquered the world, and one of their possessions was New South Wales.

Britain lost America when the unilateralism of government became too much for the American settlers to bear, and those settlers shrugged off Britain. That same unilateralism then transported to the Colony of NS Wales and achieved a similar lack of success because it was deficient as a form of government.

The clash here was between this ante-trade ("ante" meaning "before") government and the rising Mercantilist class; between prosperity and hunger. When the Colony nearly starved in 1791, it was the officers of the NS Wales Corps who chartered the first private vessels to transport food and other supplies here, initially against the wishes of Governor Phillip but eventually with his approval. Those same officers then became successful private farmers and increased the land under cultivation ten-fold. The paucity of animals in the early years was overcome when the officers imported horses, sheep, cows and poultry from Cape Town and Madras in India; once again, Government hardly moved on this issue.

During the American War of Independence, the British Army strongly resented the English Navy's role, especially the capturing of four English man-o’-war ships early in the war by the American Navy. Although not especially "modern", the British Army had at least some form of collegiate decision-making, unlike the Navy. The power of individual captains on their ships was considerable, and when flying their broad pennant as Commodores, could be insufferable. That was certainly the case with Bligh.

The Governor of NS Wales had been an Admiralty appointment until Governor Bligh, paying less than one thousand pounds a year. In 1806 the appointment became a Civil one, in the Ministry's gift, and the salary was doubled. As it happened, they choose to appoint a serving Commodore, Captain William Bligh. By choosing a ranking naval officer, the Ministry insured some level of conflict with the highly ranked soldiers in Sydney.

The powers of the Governor related to the original intention of the Colony; almost complete power, in the opinion of one of the early commentators "as Great as any Caesar", over convicts serving their sentence and the civil administration, and over the ships and sailors bringing them here. However the dispute with Major Ross of the Marines indicates where the Governor's power was circumscribed, as Phillip for one could not get Marines to guard the convicts; Major Ross pointed to the regulations.

Jeremy Bentham's point was that rules for governing the maturing Colony had not been passed by Parliament in London, and so deprived the non-convict inhabitants of NS Wales of their British civil law and rights, such as habeus corpus and jury trial. It is around those points that the eruption in January 1808 takes place.

The settlers on the Hawkesbury petitioned Governor Bligh for trial by jury in January 1808, in a petition often seen as supportive of Bligh. John Macarthur, in the trial over the stills, refers to the abrogation by the Governor of the property rights of Englishmen in his primary defence and the Court found for Macarthur and dismissed the prosecution.

September 17, 2007

17 September 2007, by David Povey

Governor King left us this drawing of Benelong.

Continuation of the speech notes for Friday September 21, 2007 at Elizabeth Farm.

The property rights of England were well understood by all settlers in Colonial NS Wales, so they did not rely on Jeremy Bentham to know that they lacked the rights common to Englishmen; it was a sore point in the Colony in 1807.
As students of history it is best that we tread lightly across the Law: the argument put forward Bentham is that the Governor has no authority over emancipated convicts or free settlers, and the property laws in NS Wales do not support capital investment. The free settlers at the Hawkesbury or Green Hills settlements petitioned Governor Bligh for trial by jury, and the rights of English men and women to be granted to them, and these petitioners were Bligh's supporters. Jeremy Bentham, the English parliamentarian and jail reformer, wrote a pamphlet called "The True Bastille" in which he postulates that Magna Carta and habeus corpus are missing from the law in the Colony of New South Wales, in contravention of the principal established in Blackstone, that English laws apply wherever English people are gathered. It is an interesting idea and Samuel Marsden mentions one of Bentham major points, in his 1807 Letter concerning the Colony, in which Marsden suggests that convicts on short sentences are unnecessarily confined here, and when they do leave, cannot afford to take their children and wives with them, and so they leave them here to struggle along as best they can. Bentham's proposition is that convicts out of their sentence should not have to stay in NS Wales, as then a seven year sentence is then transformed into life, and that the concentration of powers in the hands of a despotic Governor is contrary to the laws of England. Of the first proposition, John Macarthur's main concern was willing labour and he opposed any scheme to facilitate expired convictsleaving the Colony. On the second, however, his attitude is quite different, and he too wonders what jurisdiction the Governor has over settlers such as himself. We need to keep in mind that Government then generally did less than we have come to expect today, offering few services. Contention among the military services was also a natural corollary of their isolated existence, for example Major Ross' refusal to allow his marines to guard convicts under Governor Phillip. Governor Phillip was powerless in the face of a direct refusal, because he governed the military under the Articles of War, and the Mutiny Act, and certain forms of duty were forbidden by the regulations. Of the other classes in the early Colony, that of the merchants is the one that concerns our story the most. I number John Macarthur among these men, along with the Commissary John Palmer, Governor King's former secretary Garnnham Blaxcell, Thomas Reiby and others, including the emabcipist traders Lord, Kable and Underwood.
Manning Clarke tells the story of going to Nuremburg and visiting the castle in Worms where the famous meeting between Martin Luther and the Holy Roman Emperor took place. Dressed in finery , King Charles spoke to Luther in Latin, telling him that the Roman Church was the repository of truth for over 1000 years and that he, Charles the fifth, would wipe Martin Luther and his heresy from the face of the earth. Luther is said to have replied, in Saxon German, that "Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God!" It would not be long before Luther wiped Charles' face from history, after much blood was shed.

September 16, 2007

16 September 2007, by David Povey

A little break in the sequence - this is the first part of my talk at the Friends of Elizabeth Farm for September 21 2007.

I would like to acknowledge the Burrogarang, Dharug, Kurringai and Gandungarra people who lived on this land before we came here and whose spirits and children still live here. In 1807 the population of the Colony numbered around 7000 men and women brought here, 1350 women, 1600 children, and 3700 men, and 4000 Dharug Burrogarang Kurringai and Gandungarra people living around them. 150 women and 1800 men came free or with the Military and Civil establishment, so along with the Children, one half of the population is not from the prison, and one half is. Fewer than 1100 serving convicts in 1807 as few ships, and so few convicts, settlers or stores arrived at the heights of the European war 1801 to 1805, and many convicts are time expired or conditionally pardoned by the year under review. There were usually one or two hundred assorted others, mainly sailors “temporarily” in port.

And these were times of great women and men, when heroes roamed our Colony. Benelong, Arthur Phillip, John Macarthur, Governor Hunter, Colonel Paterson, Governor King, Governor Bligh, Samuel Marsden, Elizabeth Macarthur, Baranga-roo, Abar-oo, Col-bee, Nan-bar-ee, Mrs. King, Mrs. Marsden, Mrs. Johnson, Reverend Johnson, Colonel Johnston, Carnambaygal, Pemulway. Heroes in any time, these men and women were joined by lesser lights no less famous, the pick pocket of the age George Barrington, fancy women, knaves and missionaries to the South Seas, one of whom, George Oakes, is our hero, and two esteemed families, the Palmers and Campbells, whose matriarchs and patriarchs are interred here at St John’s; George Caley; and those operating from afar, Joseph Banks, King George and a succession of Lords and Administrators and Judges who sentenced the thousands of convicts who made up our original stock.

A Note about sources: This period is well covered by secondary sources, and there are excellent primary records for much of the activity covered here. We even have the private correspondence of selected individual's commenting on the action.

I’ve used Alan Atkinson’s assessment of the period from his Europeans in Australia and Ross Fitzgerald’s and Mark Henson’s Bligh, Macarthur and the Rum Rebellion. Also Michael Duffy’s fresh Man of Honour, an interpretation of Macarthur’s life until the Rebellion, and of course Malcolm Ellis’ John Macarthur. I have made use of G. D. Wood’s History of Criminal Law in New South Wales and David Day’s Smugglers and Sailors, a history of the Customs Service from 1788.

An important element illuminated by that text, is the sources of revenue for the Government of NS Wales. Only three possible means of revenue were available to the Governor of the Colony: Treasury Notes drawn on the Government in England, for which the Governor was fully accountable and abuse of which led England to withdraw Governor King, the relevant minister believing King extravagant; another source of revenue was fines levied by a Court in the jurisdiction, and finally by duties laid on all incoming produce of whatever kind. The money raised from this last duty was allowed only for the Orphan Fund, and was raised from all product landed at Sydney Harbour from 1798 onwards. The money raised by duty amounted to 1500 English pounds a year in 1798 to nearly 4000 pounds by 1807. The Fund was large enough to buy Captain Kent’s house, the biggest in Sydney, for more than 2000 pounds in 1801, to become the Orphan School. The Funds also financed the bridge along Bridge Street, the new orphanage at Parramatta and the looms at the Female Factory.

Apart from these landing duties, Court fines could also be a considerable income. The three emancipist Sydney traders, Simeon Lord, Henry Kable and James Underwood were goaled by Governor Bligh, for one month each for transferring goods between vessels tied at Sydney wharf, against the regulations. The traders were also fined one hundred English pounds each, an amount equal to nearly ten percent of the port duties for the year. These amounts were important to the cash-strapped Governor, if only as inducements to his friends.

From 1500 pounds a year during William Balmain’s time to more like 4000 pounds for John Harris, the office of Naval Officer, or chief customs collector became highly sought-after, given that 15% of the amount raised could be kept by the Naval Officer, with 5% going to the chief wharfinger. Bligh changed the personnel in these positions, creating long-lasting animosities based on the lost income, by rewarding his friends, in this case Charles Grimes the Surveyor and Robert Campbell, the Colony’s biggest trader.

Yes, so the history of Customs is important to our story of the pressure cooker in Parramatta in 1807 and 1808, and David Day’s book was an important resource for me. As were the original records, in the Historical Records series for NSW and Australia. So there is no lack of evidence of the events in this period, but what is the student of history to make of this pressure cooker year leading up to the Rebellion of 1808?

Parramatta looked significantly different then! The River was the centre of Town, the waterway leading to Sydney, with a wharf near John Macarthur’s house, and barracks at the eastern end of Town. A road one mile long run from the wharf to the front door of the Governor’s Parramatta house, with lanes running off to the south, the present day Charles, Smith, Church, Marsden and Pitt Streets, that last named becoming Bridge Street and leading to the bridge across the River. The houses in these side-streets had been built as convict huts twenty years before, but now housed single families, often with a business located at the front, and each with a sign on the street. Bootmaker, saddler and harness maker, tailor, barber, butcher and baker had their shops, and every second house a shebeen, selling cheap rum and beds for the night.

Beneath the trees along the River’s side lived poorer Europeans and those indigenous people that remained in Parramatta, still living on the bush foods and selling oysters, fish and eels to the European settlers in Parramatta.

Surrounding the Town were small farms growing grains, and raising animals especially chicken and pigs and growing fruits. Most of the houses in town also had gardens, with one cottage renowned for their roses that covered the cottage. I like to think that cottage may have been on the corner of Hunter Street and Pitt Row where the Rumsey Rose Garden is today. The people in these cottages were a mix of emancipated convicts, partners who have come free and their children. They are joined in multiple relationships with the garrison of soldiers located in the town, numbering around 200, and another 100 rotated to Toongabbie, Seven Hill’s and Prospect duties. There would have been 50 officers to look after the Garrison.

There were also 700 convicts in Parramatta and its surrounds, many in service to local settlers. Other convicts are housed at the Female Factory, the Parramatta Goal and in the inns of the town, or beneath the trees, along the riverbank.

Military law is the order of the day. The barracks, near the Macarthur house, enforced a general order requiring all passer’s-by to announce their intentions to the guard, but I imagine Elizabeth and John’s family were exempt from this rule.

The family at this time was John and Elizabeth, joined by their eldest son Edward, returned from England with James and Elizabeth junior, and the two younger children William and Mary. John junior is away at school in England. The children’s uncle, Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur, has joined the family in Australia, as has Miss Penelope Lucas, their governess. Forty farm hands and servants live on the Parramatta property, with 100 more men and women scattered across the Liverpool and Cow Pastures farms and at Seven Hills.

In Sydney at Government House lives Governor Bligh and his daughter Mary Putland, with her husband Lieutenant Putland, the consumptive captain of the Porpoise, the navy ship in Sydney Harbour. Their house is an uncomfortable mix of official residence and Government offices, half way up the Bridge Street hill. They live on the top floor, with the offices, public rooms and kitchens below.

Into this land of Heroes strides John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth and their fine Gentlemanly son Edward, whose bust lies in St John’s Church Parramatta. And a sailor extra-ordinary, make no mistake, a hero at Camperdown and Copenhagen, sailed an open boat with twenty men from Tonga to Timor and lost only one man, marooned after the famous Mutiny on the Bounty, repeated the voyage and succeeded in carrying breadfruits plants to Jamaica. This was an age of heroes who fought like Olympian gods. And this tale is of that fight.

John Macarthur has been away in England between 1801 and 1805, where he’d resigned his Captain’s commission in the NS Wales Corps and has returned to the Colony, under contract to raise a mighty flock of sheep on ten thousand acres at the cow pastures, near present day Camden. Called “Camden” after the gracious lord who granted the acres there, to become the Macarthur family’s capitol. Called “cow pastures” because a herd of Governor Phillip’s cattle escaped in 1788 and roam still there, several thousand animals, bequeathed privately, not as government property, by Arthur Phillip to Governor King, they are sold on to John Macarthur.

Governor Bligh has come here on 2000 pounds a year, with an expectation of ten or twelve years, with an active commission as Commodore of a fleet that now comprises only the Porpoise, captain Putland, and the Governor’s daughter Mary Putland. Elizabeth, Bligh’s wife, does not travel and is remaining in England. Perhaps Bligh hopes for mid-term leave at the turn of the decade. He takes out-riders whenever he travels, by coach or horse, and travels armed to the teeth. He has never farmed. I don’t know what to say about him that makes sense of the facts we have before us – he seemed a tyrant to a certain class of people, especially to the military whom he castigated and who in turn took their revenge, and the praise that came to him issued from the pens of his toadies and the recipients of his bounty. He can be extra-ordinarily kind to those in need that he favours, and is considerate as an Administrator. We know he looked after Captain Piper on Norfolk Island most compassionately and promoted him Captain.

The Colony of NS Wales teetered on the precipice of freedom, which in that mercantilist age meant freedom enough to gather wealth, and this freedom was worth fighting for. The Civil and Military had built a nice wicket, with land grants manned by convicts kept at Government’s expense and the produce free to trade. The growth in stock through the period was significant be it pigs, sheep or horses, representing the aspirational stock-keeping habits of the poorer, richer and more active classes, respectively. One time expired man, Andrew Thompson, could equal the landed Military bourgeoisie in assets, and the proprietor of the Government store, John Palmer, and of the largest private store and shop, Palmer’s brother-in-law Robert Campbell, were both significant men. They were firmly on the side of Governor Bligh, as was Grimes the Provost Martial, a sort of chief of police.

In the middle, but finding it impossible to escape the Governor’s justice, are wealthy emancipated convict traders and ordinary soldiers who are summarily jailed or subject to the loss of their property without redress.

And against Bligh is a coalition with Macarthur at its head and its body comprised of everyone who is well-born and aspirational for the colony, or for himself. They will rise up against the oppression of the Governor and, wrapped in the chains of freedom, rule the colony until the arrival of Governor Macquarie December 28, 1809. But we shan’t look too closely at their rule, for now they are plotting dis-rule, from July when they’d simply had enough. A regiment’s pride is abused with caution, and where they had been parted they were now as one under the captaincy of John Macarthur. In anger the business of the Colony went on.

Courts of law sat as tribunals staffed exclusively with Military officers and decided every matter before them. Richard Atkins Esquire as Judge Advocate, Thomas Smith Esquire as Marshall, Samuel Marsden Chaplin & JP (sailed Home February 1807), Thomas Arundell Esquire JP, Mr. Andrew Thompson High Constable, and Mr. George Oakes District Constable made up the force of the Court, with a posse comitatus in operation, comprising expired convicts employed as bailiffs and a watch, under Mr. Gore the Provost Marshall.

The Governor was expected to form part of the party of governing, taking a sponsoring role for many activities in the Colony. As commander in chief, he is expected to contribute to joint operations of the three services, Marines, Soldiers and Navy but is distant from them all. It is certain that the Governor has complete and total power over certain classes of people in the Colony such as convicts, and for expenditure; it is considerably less certain that he controls those free English men and women who have settled here. Those people, now the majority, expect legal rights to property ownership, religion, marriage and safety equivalent to English law. For they need to trade in freedom, knowing their property rights cannot be extinguished by fiat. In July the traders Simeon Lord and co. were jailed for transferring cargo between their ships, although they’d asked permission to so, and offered to pay port charges.

I have already mentioned that the Government has only a small discretionary income, from the duties levied on goods landed in Sydney harbour, amounting to about 3000 pounds a year, to be used for certain approved purposes. The Orphan Fund paid the expenses of the police, for example. The only other local source of funds for the Government were the fines levied by the Courts, amounting to nearly half of the duties raised in the port, a considerable amount. This income was administered by Richard Atkins Esquire, the Colony’s Judge-Advocate, an unusual position normally only used in the military for courts-martial, neither a judge nor a prosecutor but a curious mixture of both.

September 15, 2007

15 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


Baranga-roo's homesite or "ngura", at the Miller's point.

Baranga-roo won't visit Parramatta for any reason, but I'm not sure why it's off-limits. She tells me so much about her life as a warm face, gestures and rudimentary conversation can express. She is a mother four times over. Benelong is Baranga-roo's second husband.
Baranga-roo lives with Benelong and her kurung Werowi and Wonga, her girl and boy, on the shore of Cockle Bay, in a bark shelter very near to our Sydney home. She calls that her "ngura", meaning her house.
Baranga-roo lives a rich life, her husband is kind and we share more in common than you may think. She brings food when we are in Sydney- the most delectable oysters, succulent briny morsels that are the best we've ever eaten, and tiny blackfish that she grills on the coals in her boat.
For this food, she accepts money, the smallest copper coins that are hoarded for a rainy day, she told me last year she had saved more than a shilling.
Her husband, Benelong, has a "ngura" near our Farm here at Parramatta. So he comes up river by himself in his canoe, a tidy paddle of twelve miles. Benelong calls the creek near us "ngunun" , pronounced "nun nun" which means the bats that infest the trees along its banks. He has offered us bats, also fried over coals, but they are not so appetising. I had Mr. Macarthur discover the quantity of roasted bat that Benelong consumed in a sitting, and am informed that 24 is not uncommon. Baranga-roo does not like him coming here and their fights about this are famous, being recorded in the Annals of the Colony, as written by Mr. Collins and Lieutenant Tench. The canoes the Natives make from bark are carefully singed over fire, twisted at each end, and destroying one of these works of weeks, as Baranga-roo has done over Benelong's twice, is a sign of her dislike of Parramatta. I understand other Natives refuse to attend various places, saying it is not allowed for them to go to those places.

September 14, 2007

14 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


Without Mr. Marsden, there seems less reason to attend Church; yesterday, we said prayers and read from the Bible in the orchard with as many of the people of the Farm attending as was possible. Mr. Macarthur reminded me that at sea, the Captain will hold a Sunday service and often only read the Articles of War - he proposes to write our own Articles of the Farm and read those. We had quite a laugh together at the thought of matching the sections about "that sin that shall be un-named" with a suitable Farm-based alternative!
The people who work for us have, in general, been very good. Only two have been dismissed in fourteen years, a remarkable record, one for failing to be truthful and the second for theft. How fortunate for that one, that a position of Jail Keeper came up into which he so easily slipped!
One of the most remarkable stories in Parramatta is that of the now deceased Mr. George Barrington. Of course everyone knows his name, the most famous pick pocket of the age. Apparently he was in truth a total scoundrel, who was offered redemption several times and spurned it, until eventually he stole the Russian Prince Orloff's snuff box at the Opera in Coventry Garden and was apprehended, tried and sentenced to transportation in Australia, where he was sent to Parramatta. Well, true redemption did come upon the man here and he was soon the Superintendent of Convicts, a position he held for some years with considerable distinction. His accent was that of an Irish man, but he wore his hair quite long, and his manners were almost courtly. When I was first introduced to him - for here, on occasion, one is introduced to unlikely characters - he bowed very low, and moved his arm as though he had a sword: I was most impressed. His conversation was refined and he came to our outdoor parties several times, especially at Christmas and the King's birthday. Among other adventures, which he could be persuaded to relate, were several events in the bush near here, where he fell in with Mauguran, the chief of the natives hereabouts, and with whom he spent much time. His actions to the convicts he superintended were marked by his generosity and fairness, and yet he maintained discipline. Altogether a remarkable man.
Spring is certainly on us today - John informs me that the temperature at the barracks, where a mercury measure is available, showed it to be 85 degrees. A strong wind has blown in this evening, and keeping a candle burning is proving a challenge

September 13, 2007

13 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

Mr. Harris's appointment paper as a magistrate.

John brought home the worst news today. After that terrible affair with Governor Bligh's refusal of our appeal against Thompson's note of hand decision, which may very well make such notes based on anything other than currency unacceptable, and Captain Glenn's notice that a convict may have escaped on the Parramatta, it seems that Mr. Wentworth is dismissed from his post at the Hospital here, and so is Mr. Jamieson. No one is safe from the arbitrary actions of the Governor, who will listen only to his awful friends. Now it appears that three of the Sydney traders - emancipists all - are to be charged with lesse majestie for asking the Governor is they may trans-ship supplies without landing them! Mr. Macarthur tells me they have offered to pay the port duties, so that the orphan funds lose nothing, but the Governor has found the request so abhorrent that he is charging them! And Mr. Harris has assured John that such requests are common and under Governor King allowed - very large barrels, for example, are very difficult to bring on shore at the Government's wharf, where only small boats may tie up. I foresee the jailing of the traders as a suitable cause for agitation for the withdrawal of the Governor, but I must ensure that Mr. Macarthur stays aloof from the mischief.

September 12, 2007

12 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The Factory has looms and wheels to transform fleece to cloth.

There is no limit to the quantum of wool we can sell, if we can produce sufficient. No sheep have been slaughtered from this Farm for three years, and very few from our other places, even though a fair percentage of the stock is hairy rather than wool producing. It is amazing how the off-spring tend towards wool, as if the crosses to produce carcase were from wooly sheep. Our sheep have mainly come from our own breeding, which originated with the Bengal hairy sheep we bought from Madras, and the Cape fat-tails that came with the early fleets, and these were crossed with the Spanish sheep brought here from the Cape. None of those had fine wool, although the Cape Spanish were well-covered, and the fat-tails lent to wool more than hair. The true Merinos we have from the royal flock have only bred twice to the Bengals, yet the off-spring are fine wooled.
Our sheep are enclosed through the day and housed overnight - the dews in this country are beyond anything one imagines at Home. With the native dogs and the Colony's curs, I find the shepherds must keep their flock close or else lose some every night. The native grass is not productive, and Mr. Marsden has developed an improved pasture from a Yorkshire strain he brought here, and he has kindly shared those seeds with us, so that here on the main farm our grass is now partly clover and a mix of the Yorkshire type; the other farms remain unimproved except where they grow corn, rye or millet, and we only let the flock into those fields after harvest, to reduce the stubble and manure the ground.
My concern today is sheep, sheep and more sheep - I am certain I shall swiftly fall asleep, dreaming of course of sheep. Five lambs were lost in the top paddock, to some animal that came below the sheep fence during the night; perhaps din-go, or another of the native animals. That is not the first time that shepherd has been on duty and sheep lost, so he will be closely watched now. His wife is one of the best workers, and they have a cottage nearby, so I have asked John to talk to the fellow, and put his on his notice that any further preventable losses will see him off the farm.

September 11, 2007

11 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The garden is a maze of colour with our local Parrot

One can be tired and despondent in one's diary, even though in private one must be cheerful. The parties that gather have worn me down, I'm afraid, and it is especially hard to maintain one's composure in the face of the party spirit, when one is also planning a major event to which all the contending parties are invited. It would be simplistic to suggest that it is only the weather that concerns me, worrying thought that is. The dinner and dance I have planned requires compliant weather - little wind, a warm night, no dew - and Spring is such a changeable season. Who to invite can be surprisingly complex, although so few women are eligible - Mrs. Atkins has been asked, and I hope she will attend. She is haughty, as befits her antecedents though hardly the current circumstances, and the officers wives will come, but then we have those officers who are not wed: are any of their housekeepers suitable to invite? John insists that no emancipists may be invited, but then what of Mr. Fulton, our appointed minister? At Home he would be, but here is very different. And some hosts seem to enjoy excluding people, whereas that does not suit me. So my despondency is surely understandable - and those who would laugh at a "the great woman, with naught to do but plan her pleasure", should walk a mile in my shoes!
I have sent the servants to Sydney to prepare the house, and am keeping Elizabeth active outside, for her health.

September 10, 2007

10 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur

The ramshackle tent has been replaced with the finest building in Town.

I have re-read letters from Home today, along with two papers from London and a news sheet from Plymouth that have recently arrived in the Colony, so I feel very up-to-date with the latest English news. The canvas is much bigger there. My news would be so parochial - we extended the carriage drive towards the river, giving us another view up the Harbour, and a slightly longer ride for those of us who find horse riding to be valuable exercise. Mr. Macarthur's family was humble, so sword play and horse riding are skills he has learnt in his later youth and as a young man, but he does well at both. Edward and he may spend an hour jousting when John is home, and Hannibal is a fair horse man, given his upbringing exclusively in towns. Mr. Macarthur is also an excellent sailor and passes those skills onto the children - William and Mary share a skiff, as a welcome relief from lessons. For myself, I have no fear of horses, and rode but recently to Richmond Hill, but in general my traverses are to Prospect and the Seven Hills, and they usually in a cart of some kind. We have the off-spring of Major Johnson's great nag to pull a cart, so we make a fine sight and cover a lot of ground very quickly. Between here and the Western Road the pavement is certain, but once beyond the Town, to the west, the pavement becomes very rough, and the trees by the roadside may harbour the indigent, or natives. The Governor, in addition to his out-riders, always carries pistols, and Mr. Macarthur has urged the same for me, but I know perhaps thirty of the local women natives by name, and nearly as many of the men, and I don't believe one has anything to fear from people one can name. My assistance with births, small though that is, has also become something of legend, and a native woman at the Green Hills asked for me by name, fearing a breech birth. What good I would have been, I don't know. Fortunately, Mr. Arndell's reputation among the natives is also strong and he was on the spot - he hadn't liked helping in the past, when he heard that if a patient died, then the doctor was to blame and his life forfeit, but that attitude among the natives has changed, and they understand that the doctors' will only do their best. Mr. Balmain was a fine man in that regard - on many occasions when boating in the Harbour, for he did love to fish, he was called to assist with some emergency or other. His natural goodness, and fine skills, made him a great hero among the people dwelling around the harbour. I don't know if any of the natives deal with Mr. Wentworth here, and between you, dear diary, and I, to call upon dear old Harris would be the action of a desperate man! And none of that is hardly a fit subject for news.

September 09, 2007

9 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


Sydney as she is today, a jewel of a Town.

The night sky was lit by a great comet last night, the tail hanging over the mountains to our west and sufficient light streaming from it for the river to reflect the light. A sign?
Contention reigns in the Colony, while at home it has intruded into our evening meal times. Both Edward and Hannibal feel the weight that lies on John's shoulders, but I don't believe they know that often, to John, his contention is a game. Behaviour is the cause of the fracas, the contumacious Governor and his allies refusing to behave as Mr. Macarthur firmly believes gentlemen must behave, and so we reach that point where every action is examined and found wanting of some aspect of rightness, although perfectly fair if examined by itself. That is what has come to dinner, the examination of action. I told Mr. Macarthur that the table must be exempt from all conflict, and he agrees. Edward and Hannibal unfortunately were not present when I made my point, so now John must take them aside this very night and explain the position.
It is clear that the rights of Englishmen must be enjoyed here, as must their obligations. In the coming week we have invited the garrison, along with the Governor and Mr. and Mrs. Putland, if Mr. Putland is well, to a dinner dance at our Sydeny house, and I know that every effort to appear pleasant must be made now, for fear of betraying some inappropriate behaviour on the evening. That would gall me beyond belief.
Before John went to England, I cannot imagine myself making such a demand - how have I changed? I would hate to become a demanding spouse, for my heart is firmly in Mr. Macarthur's pocket.

September 08, 2007

8 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The Colony of NS Wales when first it started: no one would recognise that scene now.

What does matter most? Is it our worldly success, our relationship with God, or something else. Is it foolish to say "family"? My family has always seemed very important to me and lately I've come to think of that more and more. When John and I recently celebrated our fortieth birthdays and nearly twenty years of married life, the importance of our relationship and our family loomed larger than ever. Surrounded by so many people who are not able to celebrate successes because of their worldly condition and the life they have been dealt, our family struck me as enduring and significant in a way that nothing else in this world is. A few years ago, faced with the hostility of government and the seeming futility of everyday life here in NS Wales, Mr. Macarthur offered our farms and livestock to Governor King, but Lord Castlereagh disapproved of the purchase and nought came of it. Then John went to England, with Elizabeth and John junior, so that only Mary and William were left with me, and hardly any person with whom I could freely speak, bar Mr. Flinders and my oldest friend Mr. Harris, and life seemed very drab and purposeless. So I took to the sheep, breeding the fine rams back to the flock and constantly observing the conformation, the fleece and the off-spring, determined to make as fine a flock as I could, and to my ever-lasting surprise I discovered I could do so - ordering the worst criminals in England to my bidding became second nature, and I noticed that the skills I has observed in John had somehow, miraculously, been transferred to me. There was some slight conflict when John returned - I believe I have alluded to that earlier this year in this very volume - but his concern is not for my proficiency, but my "state", shall I say, or the common regard for a gentlewoman. I remind him, that I was not born to that status, and grew up in fields among corn and sheep, and he has given me credit for my "ways" as he calls it, and I truly believe if I would stop wearing his fine boots to tramp the ram yard, he would be pleased! Now, with Hannibal and Edward full of praise for my skill, even Mr. Marsden called me the greatest farmer in the Colony, on the deck of the Buffalo before he sailed away, and I know that all that I do has no other purpose than to provide a focus around which we all may turn, I am indescribably happy and content, whatever the future brings.

September 07, 2007

7 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The river near my Home. Parramatta was first called Rose Hill.

Spring is a changeable season, with rain and winds followed by warm weather - today started with warmth and blue skies but is now raining steadily. It is so good to have Edward at home again. Schooling remains a challenge whatever we choose for the children - James is being tutored here and that is succeeding but he almost certainly will take that dangerous uncomfortable voyage across the oceans to England, as Elizabeth, Edward and John junior have already, but I don't expect Mary to travel there to school. And the child I feel stirring within me, what does the future hold for that child? Boy or girl? I have spun a needle over my stomach but I can't tell; I need a gypsy! They tell me Mr. Squires is a member of that ancient race - I wonder if any gypsy women have accompanied him - do they share wives in common? Honestly, from the countryside where I was raised, where it was exotic to have seen the sea and spoken to a traveller, to now where I mix with rude natives, help care for their children, give orders to the most depraved criminals of England and know they'll obey, or dine at the table of the Governor of NS Wales and share shoes with his daughter - how could I have or anyone have foreseen the future for me? When Mr. Macarthur and I were to marry, the naysayers from both sides spoke out against it and I shared my concerns too, but more happiness I could never have experienced, nor been held in such respect by a gentleman who has achieved so much. My children delight me and although death has touched us, it's touch has been so slight compared with those around me. God's goodness is awarded without concern for the value of the sinner it seems.
Speaking of which, it is rumoured that the already small number of weddings has diminished considerably, without Mr. Marsden to take the ceremony, and even Christenings have ceased under Mr. Fulton. I hope that such a rumour is unfounded, for it is not a lessening of our relationship with the Lord that will lift this place from the slough of despond and the quagmire of iniquity.

September 06, 2007

6 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The bond notice posted by Mr. Blaxcell, not to take unauthorised passengers from the Colony.

It is a great concern to Mr. Macarthur that the order under which we live should be subject to upheaval on the say-so of the Governor. Trade and property cannot be safe in those circumstances, and without either this place will languish as a far-flung jail. In that case we had better sell and return to England. But it is easy to see the potential for great profit here - the land is almost free and labour can be had from the Government or by hire, and in either case with more possibilities than at Home. Skilled men and women here demand high wages, but we need shepherds more than masons. John thinks we should advertise at Oxford for dreamy undergraduates who might like to hoist their pennant over the plains, snug in a bark hut with only the Din-go and his Native companion for company! Surely he is not thinking of Mr. Davidson!
Elizabeth has an expression she uses is summer - "It's as hot as love" - and today she said that the weather was "as cold as charity". The wind is from the south, with rain, and a mist hung over the river this morning. If it were warmer it would be bearable, but it is cold. The corn fields of last season are planted again, so the cold rain is being put to some good use. I hope the men have enough shelter, for themselves and for the lambs.

September 05, 2007

5 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The spiny ant-eater

As a girl I knew many of the animals in our district, even the ones no-one ever saw such as stoats; here there is an entirely different menagerie. The three larger animals most recently found, the Wom-bat, the water mole and this creature, must be the world's most unusual animals. It is believed that this creature lays eggs, although only the shells have been found, and its spikes prevent the native dogs, or our dogs for that matter, from harming it in any way.
Strange as the spiny creature is, so is our strange idea of currency here, where a bushel of wheat can be accounted equivalent to other items and exchanged, under the patronage of Government. Grains and certain beeves are readily exchangeable as currency, determined on a price set by Government. Last year the price of wheat rose seven-fold after the flood, and Mr. Macarthur asked for payment of a Note from Mr. Thompson of grain at the set rate. Mr. Thompson refused to pay at that rate and insisted that the rate contracted and published when the Note was writ was the rate of exchange, so John took him to the Court of Civil Judicature. The Court, which comprised Mr. Thompson's trading partners and the part-owner of his land grant, found in Mr. Thompson's favour, and Mr. Macarthur appealed to the Governor; after all, if one bushel of wheat equals 24 loaves of bread one year, and only six or four or less the next year, the "currency" of the wheat is not existent. On appeal, the Governor barely entered the law room before he dismissed the appeal, allowing only Mr. Thompson to briefly address the Court, and John not at all! Such is the state to which the law is sunk here, that he who sits on the Bench, or trades with those on the Bench, or has a friend in the highest places, is judged the more moral man.

September 04, 2007

4 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


Mr. Caley's plan of the mill at Parramatta

The Court of Civil Judicature has proven an effective means of meliorating Government's powers and we have come to rely upon it. However, John is now very concerned that the Court has ceased to distance itself from the Governor's intervention; this business with the still has worried him. Mr. Macarthur acknowledges that his decision to import a still was made with the very real possibility that it would be dis-allowed on application for entry, but reasoned that the copper boiler is a useful tool and we could easily fore go the coil. The still arrived earlier this year, filled with every conceivable article that could be placed into its commodious interior, and was declared in the ship's manifest, which are always hurried to Government House for review. The still was refused permission to be landed - or rather, that is what should have happened, and instead the still was ordered taken into the custody of the Naval Agent, Mr. Campbell. On discovering that the copper boiler was full of items, the boiler was transferred to my husband's partner's warehouse, Mr. Blaxcell's, while the coil remained at Mr. Campbell's. Now, the Governor intends shipping the stills away, and has asked for the boiler to be returned. John is of the opinion that a good still may be sold at an intermediate port, and does not need to be repatriated, as we can expect little cash value in return. However, Mr. Campbell junior has come to Mr. Blaxcell's storehouse and taken the boiler away, after emptying it. Now John is in Court, seeking the boiler's return and an admission that young Mr. Campbell acted illegally.
Unfortunately, Mr. Palmer at on the bench, uncle to Robert Campbell junior and brother by law to Mr. Campbell senior. And after the terrible judgement the Governor delivered in the case of Mr. Thompson, whom Bligh declared had only to pay us grain at the rate established when the promissory note was written, Mr. Macarthur is now reluctant to trust the Court to impartially decide any matter fairly.
Ruled by fiat, without recourse to impartial justice - what options do the English people here in Sydney have to gain the cherished rights that, as English, are theirs by birth? Fair trails by jury and security in property are looming as rallying calls, not simply abrogated rights.
I have attached a plan Mr. Caley gave me the other day, showing the water race for the mill on the river - we expect to reap a good crop this season, and the milling has proved a problem in the past, so may this mill answer our need.

September 03, 2007

3 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


My son, James Macarthur

Mr. Kerrileau, who tutors James, and Miss Lucas who tutors William and the girls, have arranged for an exhibition of the childrens' work this afternoon, and I believe there will be a performance. Tremendous activity in that part of the house and instructions to "stay away".
It is Spring with blossoms on our fruit trees and the first early plants being harvested. The barley, growing in what had been two cornfields washed away in February's flood, is shooting up and starting to head, and we have 1100 lambs so far. We have 1100 lambs with more to come, and the shepherds have been busy keeping cur dogs and din-gos away. The early grass is acid and we are trailing Yorshire clover in some paddocks, sown with Mr. Marsden's seeds. The health of the lambs seems good and they are nicely wooled at birth, so I hope this is the first generation of full wooled animals.

September 02, 2007

2 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


February 15, when I last wrote in my diary, rained harder than we ever thought possible. To the west the ponds and creeks flowed together to the River, flooding the valley below us where we have 1,000 sheep! Oh, I remember that Day, that Week and it hasn't stopped since. John Hoare, a convict, escaped on our Ship to Tahiti, and we are forced to pay a fine of 900 pounds in sterling, against the Bond and the Governor has asked for the recall of the Corps and the removal of our grant away from Cow Pastures and that it, along with Mr. Davidson's grant, be disallowed: he behaves as a tyrant! Elizabeth has been unwell, now she's fine, we have heard from James at school in England that he is well, William has turned seven and is Edward's closest companion, so he thinks, while Edward is eighteen now and we mustn't forget it! He is a Volunteer, taken over the Command from Mr. Macarthur. Mr. Hawkins writes regularly to Miss Anna Maria King, daughter of our recently departed and so missed Governor King; I have had 2 letters from Mrs. King, from Norfolk Island where the Buffalo unexpectedly put in and the Kings' revisited their ancestral pile and another from Batavia, where they crossed a British Ship. Mr. Macarthur is fine, but could live without the contention with Bligh. That man is a Martinet: he swaggers around, won't acknowledge me, drives by in a chaise with dragoons - or they would be dragoons if they weren't convicts, and a nasty looking bunch that makes me think the Governor carries the pistols in his Carriage as protection against the guard!
Well, it rained that week until I was certain the Hawkesbury River would flood again and sweep away those struggling farmers' flocks. Our River rose to rooftops and several people where swept away along with some stock, but most got away safely. We lost the two corn fields, which went from green, to bare, when the water fell again. It rained and the water rose and Elizabeth's fevers became worse in the clouds of mosquitos, and I had the sheep to worry over also. Her fever became worse, then I remembered that Doctor Balmain, who's gone from the Colony, medicined Elizabeth by wrapping her with vinegar soaked in brown paper and I did the same and it cured her, thank God!
And thank God for the life inside of me.

September 01, 2007

1 September 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur



It has been 6 months since I last had a chance to write my diary. There is so much to tell you.

14 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


Few of us live at Botany Bay, the common name for our Colony back Home

When a ship leaves our shores it carries among other items, our correspondence. whether we are individuals or the Governor. Writing materials by the way are hideously expensive - paper one can buy in London for two shillings a quire will cost us nearly five pounds, not that that is a concern for the Governor.
I was informed today about the Governor's correspondence concerning the Macarthurs: he has written terribly scurrilous things about John to various Government ministers and to his Patron, Mr. Banks. The Governor doubts that wool will ever be a commodity from this place and that the price of shipping is greater than the per pound value of the fleece, which is simply not true. I feel the Governor's friends, especially Mr. Thompson at Green Hills, give him misleading advice about sheep - Mr. Bligh admits he knows nothing about sheep, having spent his life in the King's service at sea. Some naval men are farmers but never Governor Bligh. Mr. Thompson runs a "model farm" at Green Hills, that is supplied with stock of all kinds from Government, and has unlimited labour. Next to the model farm lie Mr. Thompson's own extensive holdings on three sides, and the Governor's private farm on the other. No doubt it is difficult to maintain the boundaries, and I am reliably assured that the mark on the cattle is rarely applied, allowing them to be shifted as needed between the farms, so that what is one day the Governments, is next the property of Mr. Thompson or Governor Bligh. Thompson grows no wool, although his flock is as extensive as our own, he grows only for meat, and lets the hairy rams mix with fine Suffolk ewes, lessening the wool generation by generation, but maintaining his carcass weights. It is from this experience that Governor Bligh bases his calumnies against our wool - as Mr. Thompson grows only hair, so he feels the Colony will only produce such poor fleece. My sheep however are entirely different, showing much more of the Spanish characteristics, and producing fine wool. Other than Mr. Thompson, Mr. Marsden has the greatest flocks, though his are mixed more than mine, as he regards the sale of meat to the local market as his prime consideration.
If our Governor discussed sheep in the way we do, I would be happy for him to refer those discussions Home. But instead of consideration of fleece and breed, his concerns are about the character of the farmer and the increase of our wealth - never has a man more concern about wealth than he! His grants to date have been non-existent, other than to Mr. Palmer, Mr. Thompson and his cronies, and the herd of government cattle is now largely his. In one letter to Lord Castlereagh, he disputes the right of Mr. King to sell cattle to us, although those cattle are the off-spring of Governor Phillip's private cattle, brought here in '88! Phillip gave them to King when he left, and we payed Mr. King handsomely for their progeny that roam the cow pastures. Yet Governor Bligh writes scurrilous comments Home, disputing Mr. King's legacy, and claiming the cattle as his own! It appears that Property of every kind is subject to the whim of the vice-regal representative.
It is raining hard today, so we are all inside - except John and Hannibal who are at the cow pastures - I hope they are dry.

August 31, 2007

13 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The farms near Prospect Hill

Nothing happens in the Government House but a friendly eye sees it or a friendly ear hears it, or more often, a friendly hand scribes it. These are my friends, convicts usually, who know that the snippet of knowledge they pass to me are kept confidential, and some suitable reward is made to the friend. Many of these friends I've never met, yet friends they remain, kept friendly by suitable gifts sent through intermediaries. These gifts are taken to the barrack and from there by boat to Sydney, or directly to friends here: small amounts of money, bundles of cloathes, writing paper, candles - these are the currency from which knowledge is paid.
Our currency here is unusual, to say the least. It is legal to pay in wheat or beef, at a set rate determined by Government. Or small copper coins, of Portuguese, Dutch or similar origin, may be exchanged up to a value of five pounds. Or notes of hand, issued by people without wherewithal, to others without the means of exchange. I find our old shoes are worth more than gold, given to the right hands - or feet, rather!
If the Governor writes to a friend that he, the friend, "would be surprised at who claims to be a gentleman here", then knowledge of that is soon passed to me. Usually I will let John know, unless it is hurtful to Mr. Macarthur or needs to be kept close. So I am like a spider with her web, stretched across the Colony.
The Barrack here is now a large, commodious building with good arrangements for the officer posted here, and for the men. They have a ration, and we have found that wisely distributed supplies ensure ready hands to call at need. Our outlying farms - not the cow pastures but at Prospect and the Seven Hills, often require judicious protection, and it is valuable to know that our interests are protected because we have looked after those who can look after us. In return, we feel comfortable travelling around, when many others do not. Much loyalty is claimed by caring for others.

August 30, 2007

12 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The plant that we use to set the hides

Leather goods of all kinds are manufactured here, using seal skins, kangaroo skins and the hides of other, better known animals. Seal skins make lovely soft shoes and kangaroo can be worked into designs – to set the hides, the tanners use a local tree, of which we have an abundance. The shoes Elizabeth and I wore to the ball are made from seal and kangaroo.
Nearly all the vegetable production of the old world is available here – I’m not certain what prices are paid for different kinds, as we grow most ourselves, but I understand many are very reasonably priced. Apples, pears and quinces can be expensive, up to three shillings a dozen pieces, whereas peaches when in season may be had a dozen for thruppence. We have very few berries of any kind, other than a native berry that makes a lovely jam – the Natives call that lilli-pilli. Figs grow luxuriantly and we are over-supplied, however Theos is teaching us to dry them in late summer, to eat during the winter, much as one has currants back Home.
All meat is cheap – even the convicts expect to eat Beef, Pork or Mutton every day, fresh when possible or their ration of salt meat from the store. They pay one shilling a pound for their meat. Wild ducks can be bought for a shilling, from the Natives, as can fish or oysters, at a shilling for a quart pot full.
Cloth, such a damask or other silks, and Indian cottons, are prohibitively expensive and are the first thing one asks any returning to the Colony to procure. We shall live off the items John brought with him, until they are worn thin!
A General Order concerning cur dogs was issued this week, demanding they are all destroyed. Packs of these animals, often of mixed breed with the native din-go and our lurchers, roam near here, a decided nuisance for the sheep but even to be feared by the horses: I have seen a stallion with two or three of these beasts hanging from his neck as he tries to keep them away from the foals, so Bravo! the Governor for this initiative.
John is away with Hannibal at Mr. Davidson’s, the selection he has been granted next to our own at the cow pastures. His too is being reviewed by the Governor, and in the meantime he is seeking suitable shepherds to look after the herd he’s collecting: back Home, Mr. Davidson was not a farmer, so he is learning quickly and has established good relations already with the settlers near-by. He will need a wife to come out – I wonder if he has asked Mrs. King to recommend him back Home?

August 29, 2007

11 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


These flowers grow profusely near our home

At the Ball, Mr. Marsden informed us of a marriage Mr. Fulton celebrated that day, where the combined age of the couple was 80 years, and the bride was just 19: love works wonders every day! I wish them every happiness, here where so few couples are regularly married.
We are at home, feeling rather bereft. Of course, people leave the Colony all the time, sometimes friends, but on this occasion good friends are gone, perhaps forever.
Nevertheless, our life goes on. The sheep we bought are being moved to the farm at Seven Hills and Mr. Macarthur and Hannibal are leaving today for the cow pastures, to supervise the operation there. They are taking two of the natives who live near Prospect hill, who John has been training to ride horses and round up cattle - they seem particularly suited to the trade and comfortable in boots and leggings. I have made offers in the past for young native women to join our household, but experience has shown that after a day or so, they wish to return to the family and friends. I would too!
We are eating grapes until we can eat no more, and Theos has suggested we start converting this harvest to wine.
My letters are all written and on their way; this diary is proving useful, a refuge each day to record some of my feelings and the events, and there is plenty to do on the farm, as well as looking after the children. And yet I'm feeling rather useless - I hope this will pass.

August 28, 2007

10 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


HMS Buffalo
Well, we joined the throng lining the shores to wave fare-the-well to the all our friends – I shed tears for Mr. Marsden too, at the end, for an acquaintance of fifteen years is not easily put aside. He has our wool and may he have good fortune in the voyage and in England. The Kings are heartbroken, sad to past bearing, but it is for the best for them – how the crowd did cheer the Governor when he appeared on deck! The band played throughout the afternoon and many of us took our carriages and continued down the Harbour, waving and calling out, until finally we could go no further and the wide ocean was before us. The Buffalo passed the Heads and bore north, all its flags a’flutter, and the shore battery at South head let out its final hoorar, a fine plume of smoke and the sound of the report. And so an age passes – back Home it would be “The King is dead, Long Live the King” but not so here, and it is with considerable trepidation that we view the future.
We returned to Parramatta on Sunday night and now seem dulled, enervated and listless, and I know John is very concerned for our grant and his relations with authority. The departure of the Kings appears to signal an end to an order that we worked so hard at, and now face an uncertain future.

August 27, 2007

9 February 1807, by Elizabeth Macarthur


The mannequin for Elizabeth's dress.

The ball was a rousing success - really, parting from dear friends is a sweet sorrow, it is only our own sadness and the lack of their society that makes us sad. And I know they will profit from leaving here - Mr. King has been dreadfully unwell and if he can survive the trip, will be the better for it. Elizabeth looked very lovely in her dress - it is not a true ball gown, but here in the Antipodes in February, one hardly need wear that. It was sufficient that she shone. As did the King's daughters, especially being danced by Mr. Hannibal Hawkins. Why even Mrs. Marsden, sweet tempered as she is but not known for her elegance, pulled off a fabulous deep blue gown that turned her hair radiant - if the Reverend had taken off his collar, he would have done well too! Governor King managed a turn before his leg became too much and he retired, but enough to know that to those that matter, he will be missed. The only blemish on the evening was the poor health of Mr. Putland, recently promoted to the Porpoise by his father-in-law and sent to Van Diemen's Land, he has returned a shadow of himself, even in full dress. John is still coming to terms with a formal event sans uniform, but dressed in a lovely outfit he brought from Home. How silly men are, about their swords and such; the swords get in the way when they dance!

8 February 1807, Sunday, by Elizabeth Macarthur


Toon-gabbe near Parramatta
Mr. Collins employed an excellent engraver to create many views of the Colony and this one, of Toon-gabbe near Parramatta, is of the area I rode to yesterday.
Today we have travelled to Sydney - and needed to meet several conflicting expectations to get there! The tide and wind, my daughter's well-being, and attending Church all crashed together, but now I am writing today's diary in our Sydney house, looking over the small bay were cockles are still gathered by the natives and some of our own people. Mr. Marsden preached again, but at the Orphan School which is more comfortable - seats, at least, are provided. The Orphan School is Captain Kent's home, converted, and fully paid for not by subscription as one might imagine, but by the ad valorem duties applied to spirits and such brought into the Colony at Port Jackson, collected by Mr. Harris as the Naval Officer. Governor Bligh has commented several times to me that no finer purpose for the collection of duties could be applied for, nor is a place so in need of such an establishment. With so many men missing and children so easy to come by, it is estimated that nearly 1000 children are eligible for the Orphanage were it commodious enough for them. Perhaps nothing else illustrates so well the depravity the place may reach or the good feeling it generates - Mrs. King and Mr. Balmain the former Principal Surgeon were prime movers in the Orphanage, and both will be sadly missed if it is to continue. Some talk is already about that place moving to a spot on the River, almost exactly opposite our Farm, which may suit more, having some space for raising their own food stuff. Now, I must look to Elizabeth and then prepare for the Ball.