Australia History Between 1788 and 1830 – Criminal Colonization Part II

The beginnings of New South Wales, a purely artificial creation, were most painful. Neglected by the metropolis, which, in the relentless struggle soon committed against France, limited itself to considering it as the faraway repository of prison waste, the new colony, made up of soldiers and condemned, devoid of a willing worker and agricultural element., with no fertile and easily plowed land at hand, it was, for the same subsistence, at the mercy of the English vessels which arrived each month from England, when they were not captured by voyage. After a first attempt made to encourage free immigration into the colony, by granting a plot of land and the necessary means to cultivate it, the system was adopted, after the departure of the enlightened governor Phillip (1792), to assign the land to the deportees themselves, for the most part inept and vicious: hence the extreme slowness of the progress of local agriculture, proceeding just hand in hand with the increase in deported. These grew from 2 to 3 thousand per year, and were mainly used in public works preparatory to colonization. At the end of the sentence, they received, with personal freedom, a small plot of land (from 30 to 45 acres in extension, that is, from 12 to 18 hectares) and a few tools of work. Only later, with the increase of the free population, the condemned will be divided among the settlers. No less serious than the material conditions were the moral and political ones of the nascent colony. Purely military, as was logical, the government and its administration, being the governor invested with all powers (not excluding that of life and death) not only over the deportees, but also over the entire economic activity of the colony. Everything was regulated at his will, from the determination of working hours and wages for the free ones, to the economic surveillance of expired sentence men that is of the emancipated. Providing cheap work for the settlers, that is, for authentic settlers (still mostly officers or soldiers), was then the officially declared aim of the economic regime of the empire.

According to Best-medical-schools, the effects of this colonization system are easy to imagine: abuses and cruelty, above; seditions and perversion, below, in a predominantly male population which went from a life in many cases of delinquency to one of harsh struggle with the basic necessities of existence, without any effort being made by the government to improve it. The governor William Bligh, charged in 1806 to put some order in the unfortunate colony, far from succeeding with his severity in his intent, provoked a fierce rebellion, which forced him to return to England after being held prisoner by the ‘insurgents. Only with the government of Colonel Lachlan Macquarie (1809-1821), a human and energetic man at the same time, can it be said that the arbitrariness which had hitherto prevailed was put to an end, the attention of the metropolitan government should be drawn more kindly to the colony, more humane measures be adopted and more jealous care given to deportees and emancipated people, traffic is promoted, etc. The colony thus emerged from the painful stage of childhood to enter the less harsh and much more promising stage of adolescence. If, however, the fate of New South Wales and with it of the whole of Australia had had to depend essentially on agricultural colonization, very slow, laborious and very problematic would have been, for a long time at least, the very new historical development of the world. Unlike the North American continent with its rich lands and happy climatic conditions, the Australian continent appears for at least two thirds as a vast sandy plain, a desert almost uncultivable due to its aridity. In the remainder, except for a few irrigated and fertile strips on the east coast and, even more, south-east, it does not lend itself too easily to cultivation, even where the soil is excellent, due to the bad climatic conditions. In truth, except for a short stretch of the east coast, in the rest of the continent the rains are rare and irregular as ever. In some parts it does not rain for a year in a row: almost everywhere, then, the unprecedented alternation of torrential rains, impetuous winds, prolonged droughts, opposes a formidable obstacle to agriculture. However, if the country is unsuitable for this, it provides, with its immense natural pastures and its mild climate even in winter, the most suitable environment for raising livestock.

Fortunately for them, the English colonists were able to ascertain from the earliest times. On the day of the Phillip’s landing, a bull and six cows had fled into the woods; and nine years later, some settlers had had the grateful surprise of encountering a wild herd of 170 head, which rose to about 230 in 1798, to 500 or 600 in 1801. The multiplication of large cattle was, however, nothing in the face. what was observed for small cattle, for rams, by Captain MacArthur; who, moreover, noted how the quality of the wool was gradually improving in the new environment: with about 80 rams, bought by passing vessels between 1793 and 1797, he constituted a selected flock that in 6 years already reached 4000 head. He therefore turned to the English Private Council to obtain some copies of merinos Spaniards, a variety of sheep that in England was owned only by the Crown, while on the other hand the provision of them in Spain was liable to death! MacArthur not only obtained what he asked for, but also the vast tracts of vacant land, with the power to choose the keepers of the flocks from among the deportees. In 1803, the enterprising officer was able to offer the British government the first sample of Australian superior quality wool, stating in his report that, after 20 years, Australia would be able to supply England as much wool as everyone else. the other countries of the world gathered together, Spain is not excluded. The sagacious man’s prophecies were destined to come true. His example was soon imitated by officials, officers, colonists and livestock farming became the almost exclusive industry and wealth of the country; while the employment of the deportees in public works and the assignment of them to the settlers, despite the inevitable inconveniences, favored the rapid development of the colony more than ever, providing cheaply the scarce manpower necessary for the herding industry. This, on the other hand, found the reason for its development in the ever increasing demand for wool on the part of England. Here the wool industry, established on capitalist bases since 1555 and remained flourishing until the raw material produced inside was enough, was later declined with the disappearance of that following the retroversion of pastures to plowed lands.

Australia History Between 1788 and 1830 - Criminal Colonization Part II