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.