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.

No comments: