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 too 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.