« PreviousContinue »
the writer's ready application of the materials both of civil and literary history to the illustration of his subject.
“Satirical compositions, floating about among a people, have more than once produced revolutions. They are sown as dra. gon's teeth ; they spring up armed men. The author of the ballad of Lilliburlero boasted that he had rhymed King James the Second out of his dominions. England, under Charles II., was governed pretty equally by roués and wit-snappers. A joke hazarded by royal lips on a regal object has sometimes plunged kingdoms into war; for dull monarchs generally make their repartees through the cannon's mouth. The biting jests of Frederick the Great on the Empress Elizabeth and Madame de Pompadour were instrumental in bringing down upon his dominions the armies of Russia and France. The downfall of the French monarchy was occasioned primarily by its becoming contemptible through its vices. No government, whether evil or good, can long exist after it has ceased to excite respect and begun to excite hilarity. Ministers of state have been repeatedly laughed out of office. Where Scorn points its scoffing finger, Servility itself may well be ashamed to fawn. In this connection, I trust no one will consider me capable of making a political allusion, or to be wanting in respect for the dead, if I refer in illustration to a late administration of our own government, — I mean that which retired on the fourth of March, 1845. Now, during that administration measures of the utmost importance were commenced or consummated; the country was more generally prosperous than it had been for years ; there were no spectacles of gentlemen taking passage for France or Texas, with bags of the public gold in their valises ; the executive power was felt in every part of the land ; and yet the whole thing was hailed with a shout of laughter, ringing to the remotest villages of the east and the west. Everybody laughed, and the only difference between its nominal supporters and its adversaries was, that whereas one party laughed outright, the other laughed in their sleeves. Nothing could have saved such an administration from downfall, for whatever may have been its intrinsic merits, it was still considered not so much a government as a gigantic joke."
Aler. VI. — 1. Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia. By CAPT. CHARLEs STURT. Second Edition. London. 1834. 2 vols. 2. An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, &c. By John DuNMoRE LANG, D. D. Second Edition. London. 1837. 2 vols. 3. Physical Description of New South Wales. By P. E. Strzelecki. London. 1845. 4. Discoveries in Australia in 1837–43. By J. Lott Stokes. London. 1846. 5. Journal of an Overland Expedition in Australia from Moreton Bay to Port Essington. By DR. Ludwig LEIcHHARDt. London. 1847. 6. Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia. By LIEUT. Col. SIR P. MITCHELL. London. 1848. *
SINCE Pisistratus Caxton, his wild cousin, and speculative uncle, thought it worth their while to seek their fortunes in Australia, perhaps some review-readers may not be unwilling to take a trip there too, especially if they can do it in their arm chairs, and without being exposed to winds strong enough to spoil a cigar, or disturb a quiet nap. In England, Australia is rather a pet topic, and books innumerable are published in respect to it; but few or none of them are reprinted on this side of the Atlantic, and not many among us, unless from some special cause, turn their studies toward the southern land of wonders. Her egg-laying quadrupeds, black swans, and marvels of all sorts, which, as Sidney Smith says, rendered the latter half of Dr. Shaw's life miserable by their oddities, and filled Sir Joseph Banks “with mingled emotions of distress and delight,” are now old stories, familiar to every child; while the more serious problems of her agricultural and commercial capabilities, her future political condition and moral influence, have hardly attracted the eye of any one who is not concerned in the immediate pressing, practical problems of emigration. Indeed, we suspect many of those on this side the water who have followed the fortunes of our “Anachronism,” were forced to go to an Atlas to know
where the famous city of “ Adelaide” was situated, and have puzzled their brains not a little, endeavoring to form, by the help of Mr. Pisistratus Caxton's note, a clear conception of what is meant by “the Wakefield.”
As we have heretofore said little as to this second New World which, looked at from the right point of view, is “farther west” even than Oregon or California, we embrace the present moment, and Mr. Caxton's introduction, to enter, examine, and imperfectly describe it.
And first, let us get a clear idea, if we can, of its size. Maps deceive us sadly. The wisest, even, scarce escape the optical delusion of thinking that that country is large which looks large on the map. As England, therefore, has commonly one sheet, at least, to herself, and England's youngest child, New Holland, only the corner of a sheet, we very naturally think of our antarctic sister as but a little affair. When we look closely, however, the proportions of this young land of the Anglo-Saxon change wonderfully. Should we place her northern point, for example, on the northern point of Maine, her southern would fall somewhere south of Cuba, or in the latitude of the city of Mexico; while longitudinally, her eastern extremity being as far “down” as Cape Cod itself, her western would not fall short of the new Mormon settlement by the great Salt Lake, beyond the Rocky Mountains. Or if we compare her rounded, compact area with our more scattered and outstretched domain, we shall find that she numbers about as many million square miles as we do, Texas, New Mexico, California, and all.* This, then, is the land we propose to visit ; not a little, out-of-the-way island, but truly a New World. Thinly peopled, poorly cultivated, scarce known beyond the coast, it is true ; but when as many years had elapsed after the settlement of Jamestown as have passed since the founding of Sydney,t namely, sixtyone, the colony of South Carolina was not in existence. New York had been but four years under the flag of England. “ Jamestown was but a place of a State-house, one church, and
* Say three million square miles. Murray's Encyclopedia of Geography, (American Edition,) III. 323, 371; McCullock's Gazetteer, article “ Australia.".
† Sometimes incorrectly written Sidney; it was named after Lord Sydney, Secretary of State for the Home Department, in 1787. See Collins, quoted by Lang, I. 25
eighteen houses, occupied by about a dozen families; ” New England did not number fifty-five thousand souls; “Berkshire (in Massachusetts) was a wilderness;” “Lancaster and Brookfield solitary settlements of Christians in the desert,” ” and not a white man, save the half-apocryphal De Soto, had seen the prairies, or struggled through the forests of the West. Let the slow, early colonial growth of our own rapidly growing land teach us not to despise the comparative feebleness of Australia; it is impossible, by their size merely, to distinguish the new-born oak from the most trivial weed of the meadow. And now, having a somewhat tangible notion of the extent of this island-continent, let us briefly recall the story of its discovery, its exploration, the facts brought to light by those who have explored it, its colonial ups and downs, – look into its present condition, — and thus try to realize this, to so many of us, mere nominal thing, “New Holland.” In the king's library at the British museum is a chart by a French draftsman, dated 1542, and probably the same referred to by Rear Admiral Burney as drawn by Rotz, in which a coast is laid down that would appear to be the shores of Australia; but we know nothing of the voyages upon which this map was based. Sixty-four years later, in 1606, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros and Luis Vaes de Torres, sailing from Callao, in Peru, made a more or less complete examination of the northern part of the great “Terra Australis Incognita;” and the latter, who was second in command, even discovered the straits which bear his name. Nothing, however, came from this Spanish discovery, except countless memorials from the commanders to the king, praying him to colonize the new Continent of the South ; to all which suggestions and entreaties the court turned a deaf ear, for Spain was then just falling asleep, and, in the very year after the discoveries of Quiros, at the very time he was penning his memorials, probably, lost the Moluccast with their cloves and nutmegs to the insatiable Dutch, and was nearly cut off by those busybodies from all her colonies, east and west. Then came the persevering Hollanders themselves upon the stage. The Duyfhen, a Dutch yacht, seems indeed to have touched near Cape York in 1605, but it was by mere accident; and those who were in her knew not what they had seen. But the labors of Dirk Hartog, in the good ship Endragt, extending from 1616 to 1622, were not labors wholly in the dark, though still it was the “Great unknown south land” along whose western shores Dirk Hartog sailed, and upon the borders of whose bays he left memorials of his visits.* The hero of Dutch discovery in regard to Australia, however, inasmuch as he sailed round it, was Tasman, Abel Janez Tasman, who, — sailing from Batavia in 1642, during the rule of the excellent Anthony Van Diemen, - passed west and south of New Holland; discovered the land which bears the name of the worthy governor; and continuing beyond Australia, he brought up against, and made known to the world, New Zealand. Finding but a murderous reception there, he pursued his course northward, and after many perils, and visiting many new and strange places, at last reached Java again in safety. It would be no more than justice to the first circumnavigator of the southern continent, should the name “Tasmania" at last drive out the title of “ Van Diemen's Land,” as at the present time it bids fair to do.
*Bancroft, II. 212, 92.
But the swarms from the Low Countries found nothing along the dry and barren coasts of Australia to tempt a settlement. No spices, nor jewels, nor precious metals ; not even water enough to make a canal possible. So the shores which were visited by Hartog, and De Witt, and Nuyt, and Tasman remained silent and desert as ever. .
At length, in 1688, England began to bear her part in Australian research, her representative being the well-born, but, as we think in these times, not well-behaved, buccaneer, William Dampier. This celebrated and successful navigator made two visits to New Holland ; first, in the capacity of a pirate or “privateer,” (for so the fraternity called themselves,) and next as the commander of His Majesty's ship Roebuck. His examinations were confined for the most part to the west and northwest coasts, which he found by no means inviting, neither soil nor inhabitants being such as to win any one's affections. Of the people, he says, they “ are