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Week 37 - taxing 'ardent spirits'

[ 1836 to 1836 ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 45: Proclamation and Celebration ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 43: Kangaroo Island ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 40 - Finally! The harbour is found ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 37: Building a Home ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 36: Family Life ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 35: Pastimes ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 34 - a tempest ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 26: Whose story? ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 25 - The demon drink ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 22: In Good Time ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 20 - infectious disease ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 18 - the port of Rio ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16: Crossing the Line ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 16 - towards Australia ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 15 - high drama on the John Pirie ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 08: Employment ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 06 : Weathering the Storm ]
[ View related 'school content': Week 05: Ship Shape ]

In South Australia

With his full complement of surveyors at last, Colonel Light can now divide them into two groups to cover a greater area of the coast.  He sends the largest group under George Kingston to Holdfast Bay, with the second group under Finniss remaining at Rapid Bay. Light intends to inspect Port Lincoln, as his orders require. Dr Woodforde will also remain at Rapid Bay.  He is having rather a lazy time, with little to do but shoot game and try to keep the flies at bay. With this in mind, he begins to build a hut. We learn from Woodforde’s diary that Dr Wright, who arrived on board the Cygnet will later join the Holdfast Bay group, but is detained this week at Nepean Bay with ‘a bad case of midwifery’. We do not know yet who the poor mother is.

At Sea

Light does not know it, but the Africaine is about to arrive.  On 30 October Mary Thomas reports the first sight of land, and by early morning on 1 November they have a clear view of Kangaroo Island.  Most of the passengers are up early, excited to catch the first sight of their new home. There is some difference in the detail of what happens next between our two sources.  Gouger reports that the passengers are so taken with the appearance of the Island that six young men persuade Captain Duff to allow them to go on shore near Cape Borda to walk to the settlement. Mary Thomas implies that the young men are put ashore at Nepean Bay, but this does not make sense. No doubt it seems like a harmless exercise and a delightful excursion after months being cooped up at sea, but the young adventurers are completely unprepared for conditions on the Island and do not even take a water supply with them.  When the Kangaroo Islander sealers hear of the escapade they immediately raise the alarm and insist that a search party must be sent to look for them.  The week ends with great anxiety for the safety of these young men.

Coastline of Kangaroo Island from ‘Views of the South Coast of Australia’. by William Westall, 1802. Image courtesy National Library of Australia.

Gouger’s diary also gives us a further hint of the problems other settlers have in their dealings with Samuel Stephens.  It seems that Light’s ‘chief motive’ in removing the surveying depot to Rapid Bay was the ‘conduct of Mr Stephens’. No doubt more will be revealed in due course!

By 5 November the Buffalo is near Cape Agulhas at the tip of Africa. George Stevenson has been very busy drafting legislation for the new settlement – his first a law to tax ‘ardent spirits’. This is no half measure: he proposes a tax of 7/6 per gallon, with very heavy license fees for ‘grog shop keepers’, but still he is not optimistic of success. ‘I feel however that no legislation can destroy the evil’, he confides to his diary. His second bill is a draft Masters and Servants Act, which Hindmarsh evidently finds to his liking.  This turns out to be a punitive act, later disallowed by the British Government.

Stevenson’s comments about Hindmarsh continue to be highly critical. ‘The Governor cannot write two sentences of grammar or common sense, that is the simple truth’, he writes, adding, ‘I find … that unless I do things myself, though they are not in any shape within my province, there is no chance of anything but confusion & disorder to be expected on our arrival’. He proceeds to draft legislation to establish a Supreme Court and lesser courts, but is outraged by Hindmarsh’s proposal to include Hutchinson and Strangways amongst the first magistrates. Their ‘only claim to the honour seems their being the lovers of two of his daughters’, he writes in disgust. ‘The manners language & conversation of both are of the lowest & most trifling character – fitter for the backwoods of Ohio or the purlieus of St Giles than for civilised society or the duties of the Magistracy’. Perhaps he thought his own claims should have been advanced!

Language warning: Please note that these sources contain language which is today considered offensive. It has been retained as it is part of the historical record and evidence of past attitudes.


Journals from passengers at sea:

Week 42: Numeracy Onboard

Over the past eight months we have read many journal entries, diaries and letters describing the experiences, thoughts, ideas and feelings of those onboard the nine ships. We have followed the authors…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Week 25 – The demon drink

[ | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | | | wrote.]

On land It is one week into the grand experiment of colonisation and things are not going well at Nepean Bay. Samuel Stephens and Captains Morgan and Ross have their hands full, with both the company …

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Week 20 – infectious disease

[ | | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | | wrote.]

The Duke of York is now in the Southern Ocean, making good progress. It is Captain Morgan’s wife’s birthday and he reflects endearingly on his love for her and his happiness in the married state….

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Week 14 – steady progress

[ | | | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

All six ships are making steady progress, sailing south in the Atlantic. The weather is fine and conditions pleasant, but relations on board the John Pirie and the Cygnet are tense. On the John Pirie …

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Week 13 – tensions reach breaking point

[ | | | | | | | , on board the | | | | | wrote.]

This week we catch up with the Cygnet as it approaches the Equator. A bout of bad weather has seen many of the passengers sick and conditions below deck are foul. Boyle Travers Finniss is impatient with…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Week 06 – a ‘perfect Hurricane’

[ | | | | , on board the | | | wrote.]

On 26 March the John Pirie seemed to be making progress, as it finally cleared the English Channel and struck out for the Atlantic Ocean. But just west of the Bay of Biscay the weather worsened…

[ Read the full journal extract ]


Next week

Light's anxiety increases as the newly arrived settlers on the Africaine press him to name a location for the settlement. Dr Woodforde is kept busy at Rapid Bay and we meet a new correspondent on Kangaroo Island.

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