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1790
CAPTAIN HILL* TO

WATHEN. Dear Sir, Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, July 26th, 1790. 26 July

Fain would I give you my warmest thanks, and tell you of

the great affection I bear you for those genuine, disinterested, and Wathen's animated exertions of kindness you poured upon me when I kindness.

wanted

your assistance; but my pen is even incompetent to give you a faint idea how high the pulse of gratitude beats within

My heart, I hope, is too honest not to look on flatterers in a very despicable point of view, tho' it cannot but approve of eulogy, which is no other than paying a just tribute of praise, and my mind would feel an insupportable burthen were I not permitted to evince to you its sense of love and duty of so

worthy a benefactor. I thought it my duty to write to Mr. Wilberforce. Wilberforce, giving him the underneath account of our voyage,

and the situation of this colony. I meant not to intrude, and hope I have not done wrong; if I have, I can only lament it, and plead in excuse that I had not you to consult.

Copy of the narrative part :- “ It would be tedious to enumerate the variableness of the winds and trifling occurrences that happened in our route to the Cape ; I will, therefore, only remark that we

sailed from Cowes Harbour the 17th January, and arrived in False Voyage to Bay, Cape of Good Hope, the 13th April ; that our voyage might the Cape.

be deemed a very prosperous one so far, as we passed the Line with few calms, and those of short duration, nor had we any bad weather till we were in sight of that tremendous promontory. Well might

its discoverer, Bartholomew Dioz, name it Cabo de Tormentoso, or Violent

Stormy, we met so violent a tempest, which continued for six and thirty hours, that left us no room even to hope an escape from a watery grave. It being the winter season at our arrival was the reason of our anchoring in False Bay as the safest harbour, otherwise Table Bay, in fine weather or in the summer season, is much to be preferred, being contiguous to the Cape Town. We found the Dutch answer minutely the character given of them by travellers; a change of clime, which is generally believed to produce a change of constitution and disposition, has not abated one tittle of their

propensity to avarice. Their governors are merchants, and monoavarice.

polise the whole stock of the adjacent country, and will not supply the shipping but at an advance of five or six hundred per

cent. Here I had some conversation with the unfortunate Mr. The Riou, of the Guardian ; the loss of his ship will be severely felt by Guardian.

this colony, and I much fear the Dutch are taking every advantage of his situation, charging enormous sums for warehouse room

* Second Captain in the New South Wales Corps. He went to Port Jackson on board the transport Surprize, in charge of a detachment. The gentleman to whom he writes was a friend of Mr. Wilberforce, the philanthropist, to whom the narrative was first sent. In the MS. the name is given as “Wathen" simply. Captain Hill's benefactor was probably Samuel Wathen, of Woodstock, Gloucester, sheriff of the county. He was knighted 16th March, 1803. Vide " Annual Register," vol. xlv, pp. 432, 531. A copy of Captain Hill's letter appears to have been forwarded to the Admiralty.

storm.

Dutch

Port

and fresh provisions for the men, so that the cargo must, ere now,

1790 be insufficient to defray the cost. We left the Cape the 29th 26 July. of April, and anchored in this beautiful harbour the 26th of June. Would I could draw an eternal shade over the remembrance of Jackson. this miserable part of our voyage—miserable, not so much in itself, as rendered so by the villany, oppression, and shameful peculation of the masters of two of the transports. The bark I was on board of was, indeed, unfit, from her make and size, to be Ship unsea

worthy. sent so great a distance; if it blew but the most trifling gale she was lost in the waters, of which she shipped so much ; that, from the Cape, the unhappy wretches, the convicts, were considerably above their waists in water, and the men of my company, whose berths were not so far forward, were nearly up to the middles. In this situation they were obliged, for the safety of the ship, to be Sufferings pen'd down ; but when the gales abated no means were used to on board purify the air by fumigations, no vinegar was applied to rectify the nauseous steams issuing from their miserable dungeon. Humanity shudders to think that of nine hundred male convicts embarked in this fleet, three hundred and seventy are already dead, and four hundred and fifty are landed sick and so emaciated

Great

mortality, and helpless that very few, if any of them, can be saved by care or medicine, so that the sooner it pleases God to remove them the better it will be for this colony, which is not in a situation to bear any burthen, as I imagine the medicine-chest to be nearly exhausted, and provisions are a scarce article. The irons used m-treatupon these unhappy wretches were barbarous. The contractors

convicts. had been in the Guinea trade, and had put on board the same shackles used by them in that trade, which are made with a short bolt, instead of chains that drop between the legs and fasten with a bandage about the waist, like those at the different gaols ; Cruel these bolts were not more than three-quarters of a foot in length, so that they could not extend either leg from the other more than an inch or two at most; thus fettered, it was impossible for them to move but at the risk of both their legs being broken. Inactivity at sea is a sure bane, as it invites the scurvy equal to, if not more than, salt provisions; to this they were consigned, as well as a miserable pittance of provisions, altho' the allowance by Insufficient Government is ample; even when attacked by disease their situa- food. tions were not altered, neither had they any comforts administered. The slave trade is merciful compared with what I have seen in Worse than this fleet; in that it is the interests of the masters to preserve the the slave healths and lives of their captives, they having a joint benefit with the owners; in this, the more they can withhold from the unhappy wretches the more provisions they have to dispose of at a foreign market, and the earlier in the voyage they die the longer they can raw the decea l's allowan

to themselves ; for Profit out of I fear few of them are honest enough to make a just return of the the dead.

ment of

fetters.

Want of control.

climate.

1790 dates of their deaths to their employers. It, therefore, highly 26 July. concerns Government to lodge, in future, a controlling power in

each ship over these low-lifed, barbarous masters, to keep them honest, instead of giving it to one man (an agent) who can only see what is going forward in his ship. As there will be, generally, officers of the Navy coming out, men disinterested and, it is to be hoped, possessing humanity, and that point of honour which is expected from the profession, that power can nowhere be better

lodged than in them. My feelings never have been so wounded Horrors of as in this voyage, so much so, that I never shall recover my the voyage.

accustomed vivacity and spirits; and had I been empowered, it would have been the most grateful task of my life to have prevented so many

of

my fellow-creatures so much misery and death. It is now our winter season, and had I superior abilities to

any man that ever wrote it would be impossible for me to convey A beautiful to your mind a just idea of this beautiful heavenly clime. Suffer

your imagination to enter the regions of fiction, and let fancy in her liveliest moment paint an elysium, it will fall far short of this

delightful weather. It is well we have something to keep up our Everything spirits, everything else but climate is unpromising, and did the promising. gloomy months prevail here as in England, it is more than pro

bable that the next reinforcement, on arrival, would find a desolated colony. At this moment I am at a loss how to guide my pen; were it honourable, I surely would put the present state of this colony in more than a favourable point of view, because a

true and just narration may shew an inefficacy in the government government.

of this isle, may evince that the measures pursued here are on too contracted a principle, and will never answer to the means and intentions of the British Government; and as I am well persuaded, nothing draws on persecution by those in power sooner than the speaking of disagreeable truths, 'tis therefore I would not be

particular in stating facts had you not a claim on me for truth. Exploration I look upon it as unpardonable, not having a greater knowledge

of the country, the same pains that have been taken to explore would, if rightly planned, have been successful. A party is sent out with a few days' provisions on their backs, perhaps as much as they can well carry; this, with other impediments, prevents

them from getting over much ground, and they consequently are The reason. obliged to return with the knowledge only of a few miles of

country; yet there are two or three colts and their dams in the colony that would be the better for gentle work, and to burthen them but slightly with provisions would be a means of penetrating

twenty times as far as we already have ; but effectually to do so, Depôts

depôts should have been formed soon after Governor Phillip's necessary.

arrival, which, had he placed progressively as he advanced on discovery, he might by this period have transmitted to England an ample knowledge of a great part of this territory.

Narrow

unsuccessful.

I have been once kangooroo-shooting, and lay in the woods for 1790 that purpose ; the ground they generally feed on is, apparently, 26 July. very fine, and not quite so woody, and much to be preferred to that which surrounds our settlement, which is little better than a A sandy sandy desert. There can be no doubt that some of this immense desert. tract be free from wood, and has a diversity of soil and country equal to any; yet what we have already seen, even the best, such as the settlement at Rose Hill, that maiden land, will not produce the quantity that is sown after the first year without great quan- Poor soil. tities of manure, of which all the stock that is in the colony would not make so much as is covenanted to be put on an estate in England of thirty pounds annual value. I have heard (and I beg to remark it only as hearsay, being no politician) that above cost of the half a million has been expended already in planting and support- colony. ing this colony, and must lament that there are no means used, or even thought of, to remove the burthen from my native country. Had half that sum been laid out in the purchase of cattle this place had now been tenable, and we should have wanted Cattle very little, if any, assistance from the British Government; we

wanted. might by this time have established a market, and improved the lands unincumbered with timber, by manure and culture ; as it is, two or three thousand souls are continued to be fed with salt

Dependence rations, flour, and every other necessary provisions from England, upon salt

provisions. neither can it be otherwise till other steps are taken, and even then it will require great time. That is a melancholy truth, and galls on reflection, that so many should be subsisted without making the smallest return, or even a possibility of it while the same measures are pursued by our chief. All here, the officer, soldier, sailor, and convict, All treated have the same ration allowed by the Governor; and to enter no

alike. farther into the detail of our miserable existence, I will give you a just account how I am situated, which is preferable to many by my being second captain in the regiment, consequently entitled to a Miserable second choice of quarters. Here I am, living in a miserable quarters. thatched hut, without kitchen, without a garden, with an acrimonious blood by my having been nearly six months at sea, and tho' little better than a leper, obliged to live on a scanty pittance of salt provision, without a vegetable, except when a good-natured Unwhole. neighbour robs his own stomach in compassion to me; not a

provisions. mouthfull of fresh meat to be obtained, and if, rarely, such a thing

present itself, not to be purchased but at an exorbitant price (eighteen pence per 1.). Fish is by no means plenty, at

are not caught in abundance-not enough to supply Fish scaroe the sick ; but, should one be offered for sale, 'tis by far too dear and dear. for an officer's pocket. Tho' I have been here so little time, yet,

my

salt ration has been set before me unaccompanied by either vegetable, vinegar, or other thing to render it palatable or wholesome, I have felt the contention between hunger, &c., as

some

should

least, they

'when

soldiers.

1790

described by Sterne of the pannier'd ass. A soldier should endure 26 July. all hardships chearfully when the service requires it, but when Unnecessary they are occasioned by ignorance, incompetency, injustice, or hardships. oppression, he has a right to complain. With a wish to pre

serve my health as much as possible from the inroads of scurvy, and counteract the effects of the diabolical morsel I am daily obliged to eat, I purchased some wine, being a vegetable juice, and obtained it as a favour-port wine at forty shillings the dozen, and sherry fifty. I had also the offer, a few days ago, of three small pigs, very poor, and not old enough for roasters ; my mouth literally watered at the sight of them, but the price of fifteen shillings each was too great for my purse ; I therefore had

the resolution to withstand the powers of appetite, which were High prices. very acute. Soap is from three to four shillings the pound; bad

Irish salt butter, eighteen pence; sugar, two shillings ; flour, when any can be bought, a shilling; teas exorbitantly dear.

So that from a principle of saving, and induced by a laudable Living motive (I hope), I have journeyed thus far to live miserably and miserably.

yet to spend every farthing of my income, which would have supported me very comfortably, if not genteely, in England. In America the officers and settlers had grants of land in proportion

to their rank; but those of the marines who are now here, and No land for have borne every hardship, have no such thing, neither is there

an intention of giving each their portion. In my humble opinion nothing can be more impolitic. Industry is the first essential to the welfare of any kingdom, consequently all measures that are adopted to promote it are highly commendable ; and I am well

persuaded Britain will not thank our Governor for acting, not A mean only on a mean, but on an unstable plan, to the great disquiet of policy.

every individual in the colony, and the certainty of bringing an endless burthen on the mother country. It rests with you, sir, to give much or little credit to the public accounts of this place: you will know that many in a public character, impulsed, perhaps, by

vanity, or other hobby horsical frailties, perhaps the love of governDeceptive ing, have been led, first to deceive themselves, and then impose error

on the world. Tho' it may appear to you I write animated, I hope you will consider I write as an honest man ; he that adds ought, or diminishes ought, in narrative, can have no pretensions to the gentleman. I have been misled in the opinion of the land at Rose Hill, and here beg to rectify the mistake. It produces

the first year nearly sevenfold, the second year not so much, and Unproduce the third year rather better than the seed sown; afterwards, by tive land.

sowing a bushell you may probably reap a quart or two. The natives continue to shun us. I have not yet seen one, except a

boy and girl we have in the colony, who begin to speak our The natives, language, and have no wish to leave us. It must be admitted

there are now great obstacles to our establishing an intercourse

accounts.

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