Tasmania 1803-1836

First Settlement. After the departure of Baudin from Sydney it was

discovered that there was an inclination on the part of the French to

settle in some part of Australia. It was known that the inlet called

Storm Bay, in the island then known as Van Diemen's Land, had especially

attracted their notice, its shores having been so green and leafy. It

was now known that Van Diemen's Land was severed by a broad strait from

he mainland, and the Governor at Sydney thought that if the French

proposed to make a settlement anywhere they would be certain to

appropriate this island, and deny that the English had any claim to it.

He, therefore, prepared an expedition to proceed to Storm Bay and take

possession of its shores. For that purpose he chose Lieutenant John

Bowen, who had recently arrived as an officer of a ship of war, and

appointed him commandant of the proposed settlement. The colonial ship

called the Lady Nelson was chosen as the means of conveying him and

eight soldiers, while a whaling ship called the Albion was chartered

for the purpose of carrying twenty-four convicts and six free persons,

who were to found the new colony. This was a very small number with

which to occupy a large country; but Governor King thought that in the

meantime they would be sufficient to assert a prior claim, and that the

authorities in England could subsequently decide whether the settlement

should be increased or withdrawn.

Governor King saw also another object in founding this new colony. He

had some most unruly convicts in Sydney, who were only a source of

trouble and annoyance to all the rest. It seemed to him an advantage

to be able to send these off to a place by themselves, under specially

severe discipline. In September, 1803, the two ships sailed up Storm Bay

and into the mouth of the river Derwent. Lieutenant Bowen caused them to

anchor on the right side of the estuary, in a little bay called Risdon

Cove. The people were soon on shore, and pitched their tents on a grassy

hill a little back from the water. Bowen went out to survey the country,

while the convicts set to work to build huts for themselves; a little

village soon appeared, and in the long grass that surrounded it a few

sheep and goats were pastured for the use of the rising colony. The

place was named Hobart Town, after Lord Hobart, who was then Secretary

of State for the Colonies. A month later Governor King sent forty-two

convicts and fifteen soldiers to increase the strength of the

settlement; and the little village was beginning to look populous, when,

unexpectedly, there came a great accession from another source.

Collins. During this same year, 1803, the British Government, moved

by fears of a French occupation, had resolved to form a settlement on

the shores of Port Phillip. Accordingly David Collins, who had been

judge-advocate at Sydney, but had taken a trip to England, was chosen to

be Lieutenant-Governor of the new colony, and was despatched with 307

convicts, 24 wives of convicts, 51 soldiers, and 13 free settlers, on

board two ships, the Calcutta and the Ocean. Collins had made an

effort to form a settlement at Port Phillip, on a sandy shore, near the

site of Sorrento, but had grown disgusted with the place; and early in

1804 he carried off all the people, and resolved to abandon Port Phillip

in favour of the Derwent. He landed at Risdon on the 15th February, and,

after a short examination, came to the conclusion that the situation was

unsuitable. Next day he went in search of a better place, and chose a

little bay on the opposite side, some six miles nearer the mouth of the

estuary, and thither the whole settlement was soon after removed. There,

at the very foot of the lofty Mount Wellington, Hobart Town began to

grow in its new situation. Houses were rapidly erected; most of them

consisted of posts stuck in the ground, interwoven with twigs of wattle

trees, and then daubed over with mud. The chimneys were built of stones

and turf, and the roofs were thatched with grass. Whilst the new town

was growing, a party of convicts and soldiers was still busy on the

little farms at Risdon, and early in May they had a most unfortunate

affray with the natives. A party of two or three hundred blacks, who

were travelling southward, came suddenly in sight of the white men and

their habitations. These were the first Europeans whom they had seen,

and they became much excited at the strange spectacle. While they were

shouting and gesticulating, the Englishmen thought they were preparing

for an attack and fired upon them. The blacks fled and the white men

pursued them, killing about thirty of the unfortunate natives. Thus was

begun a long warfare, which ended only with the complete extinction of

the native races.

Patterson. Next year, 1804, the Sydney Government sent another party

of convicts, under Colonel Patterson, to found a colony in the north of

Tasmania. The position selected was near the entrance to Port Dalrymple;

and here, for eight years, a small settlement continued to exist in an

independent state, until, in 1812, it was placed under the charge of the

Governor at Hobart Town.

Death Of Collins. The colony at the latter place was meanwhile

slowly establishing itself; and in 1808, when Bligh visited it after his

expulsion from Sydney, he found the little township with quite a settled

and comfortable appearance. In 1810 it lost its amiable and warm-hearted

Governor. While calmly and cheerfully conversing with a friend, Mr.

Collins fell back dead in his chair. He was a man of a good and kindly

nature, a little vain and self-important, but earnest and upright, and

possessed of very fair abilities. The distinguished part he played in

the early colonisation of Australia will always render him a prominent

person in our history.

Governor Davey. It took some time for the news of the Governor's

death to reach England, and during the three years that elapsed before

his successor could be sent out, the place was filled in turn by three

gentlemen, named Lord, Murray, and Geils, till, in 1813, the new

Governor, Davey, arrived. He had been a colonel of marines, and had

shown himself a good soldier, but he had few of the qualities of a

Governor. He was rough and excessively coarse in his manners, and

utterly regardless of all decorum. He showed his defiance of all

conventional rules by the manner of his entry. The day being warm, he

took off his coat and waistcoat, and marched into the town in a costume

more easy than dignified; he listened to the address of welcome with

careless indifference, and throughout showed little respect either for

himself or for the people he had come to govern. Yet, under his rule,

the colony made progress. In his first year he opened the port to

ordinary merchant ships; for, previously, as the town was a convict

settlement of the most severe type, no free person was allowed to land

without special permission. From this time commerce began to spring up;

free settlers spread over the country, and cultivated it with such

success that, in 1816, besides supplying all the necessities of their

own community, they were able to export grain to Sydney.

New Norfolk. In 1807 the settlement of Norfolk Island had been

abandoned by the British Government, on account of its expense, and the

convicts, of whom many had there grown to be decent, orderly farmers,

were brought to Tasmania. They formed a new settlement on the Derwent,

about fifteen miles above Hobart Town, at a place which they called "New

Norfolk," in affectionate memory of their former island home.

Bushranging. About this time the colony began to be greatly annoyed

by bushrangers. From twenty to forty convicts generally escaped every

year and betook themselves to the wild country around the central lakes

of Tasmania. There, among the fastnesses of the western mountains, they

led a desperate and daring life, sometimes living with the natives, whom

they quickly taught all the wickedness they themselves knew. Their

ordinary lives were wretchedly debased; and, in search of booty, or in

revenge for fancied injuries, they often committed the most savage

crimes. They treated their native companions like beasts, to be used for

a while, and then shot or mangled when no longer wanted; and it is not

surprising that the blacks soon became filled with intense hatred of all

the white invaders of their land. Frequently the aboriginal tribes

united to attack the lonely farm-house and murder all its inhabitants.

Hence, every settler in the country districts was well supplied with

arms, and taught all his household to use them; the walls were pierced

here and there with holes, through which a musket might be directed in

safety against an advancing enemy. The fear of bushrangers who might

attack them for the sake of plunder, and of natives who might massacre

them in revenge, kept the scattered settlers in constant terror and


Governor Sorell. But in 1817, when Governor Davey grew tired of his

position and resigned it, choosing rather to live an easy-going life on

his estate near Hobart Town, than be troubled with the cares of office,

Colonel Sorell, the new Governor, set himself with vigour to suppress

these ruthless marauders. He was to some extent successful, and the

young colony enjoyed an interval of peace. Farming was profitable, and

the exports of wheat began to assume large dimensions. The best breeds

of sheep were brought into the island, and Van Diemen's Land wool, which

at first had been despised in England, and used only for stuffing

mattresses, grew into favour, and was bought by the manufacturers at

high prices. Thus many of the settlers became wealthy, and the estates

from which their wealth was derived began to have a correspondingly

high value, so as to give the colony an assured prosperity which was

certainly remarkable in the sixteenth year from its foundation. Another

industry was added, which indirectly contributed to the wealth of

Tasmania. The captain of a merchant vessel, on his way to Sydney, had

seen a great shoal of whales off the south coast of Tasmania, and, along

with the Governor of New South Wales, secretly formed a scheme to fit

out a whaling expedition. But his crew also had seen the whales, and

soon made the fact widely known; so that, by the time the captain's

party was ready to sail, there were several other whaling vessels on the

point of starting. They were all successful, and very soon a large

number of ships was engaged in whale fishing. Now, as Hobart Town was

the nearest port, the whalers found that it saved time to go thither

with their oil, and to buy their provisions and refit their ships there;

so that the trade and importance of the little city received a very

material impetus in this way.

Much of the progress was due to the sensible management of Governor

Sorell, who spared no effort to reform the convicts, as well as to

elevate and refine the free settlers. Hence it was with great regret

that the colonists saw his term of office expire in 1824. They

petitioned the English Government to allow him to stay for another six

years; and when the reply was given that this could not be done, as

Colonel Sorell was required elsewhere, they presented him with a

handsome testimonial, and settled on him an income of L500 a year from

their own revenues.

Governor Arthur. After Colonel Sorell had left, bushranging became

as troublesome as ever. Governor Arthur arrived in 1824, and found the

colony fast relapsing into its former unsettled state. He learnt that,

shortly before, some thirteen or fourteen convicts had succeeded in

escaping from the penal settlement in an open boat, and had landed on a

lonely part of the coast. They were joined by a great crowd of concealed

convicts, and, under the leadership of Crawford and Brady, formed a

dangerous horde of robbers, who, for years, kept the whole colony in

terror. For a while they plundered without hindrance, till a party of

about a dozen attacked the house of an old gentleman named Taylor, who

had the courage to fight and defeat them. With his three sons, his

carpenter, and his servant, he fired upon the advancing ruffians, whilst

his daughters rapidly reloaded the muskets. The robbers retreated,

leaving their leader--Crawford--and two or three others, who had been

wounded, to be captured by Mr. Taylor and sent to Hobart Town, where

they were executed. Brady then became chief leader of the band, and

though his encounter with Mr. Taylor had taken away all his ardour for

fighting, he contrived to plunder and annoy for a long time. Deep in

the woods, along the silent banks of the Shannon, the outlaws lived

securely; for, even when the soldiers ventured to penetrate into these

lonely regions, the outlaws could easily escape to the rugged mountain

sides, where they could hide or defend themselves. Governor Arthur's

task was not an easy one, for Brady could command a powerful force, and

his was not the only one of the kind; the result was that, for a long

time, the country was unsettled and trade was paralysed. Seeing no other

course open, Governor Arthur offered a pardon and a free passage home to

those who surrendered. So many were thus induced to submit peaceably

that, at length, Brady was almost alone; and whilst he wandered in a

secluded valley, without followers, he was surprised by John Batman,

who, several years after, assisted in the settlement of Victoria. Brady

surrendered and was executed; the bushrangers, by degrees, disappeared,

and the colonists once more breathed freely.

Separation. Hitherto Tasmania had only been a dependency of New

South Wales, but in 1825 it was made a separate colony, with a Supreme

Court of its own. In 1829 it received its first legislative body,

fifteen gentlemen being appointed to consult with the Governor and make

laws for the colony. For some years after, the history of Tasmania is

simply an account of quiet industry and steady progress. Hobart Town, by

degrees, grew to be a fine city, with handsome buildings and well kept

streets. The country districts were fenced in and well tilled, good

roads and bridges were made, and everything looked smiling and

prosperous. The only serious difficulty was the want of coin for the

ordinary purposes of trade. So great was the scarcity of gold and silver

money that pieces of paper, with promises to pay a certain sum--perhaps

a sixpence or a shilling--were largely used in the colony, in place of

the money itself. At the request of Governor Arthur, coins to the value

of a hundred thousand pounds were sent out from England for the use of

the colonists.

Governor Arthur's period of office expired in 1836, and he left the

colony, greatly to the regret of the colonists, who subscribed L1,500 to

present him with a testimonial. He was succeeded by Sir John Franklin,

the famous voyager, whose history will be related in a subsequent