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Historical Records of New Zealand

A Proposal For Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales

page 36

A Proposal For Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales.

I am going to offer an object to the consideration of our Government what [that] may in time atone for the loss of our American colonies.

By the discoveries and enterprise of our officers, many new countries have been found which know no sovereign, and that hold out the most enticing allurements to European adventurers. None are more inviting than New South Wales.

Capt. Cook first coasted and surveyed the eastern side of that fine country, from the 38th degree of south latitude down to the 10th, where he found everything to induce him to give the most favourable account of it. In this immense tract of more than 2,000 miles there was every variety of soil, and great parts of it were extremely fertile, peopled only by a few black inhabitants, who, in the rudest state of society, knew no other arts than such as were necessary to their mere animal existence, and which was almost entirely sustained by catching fish.

The climate and soil are so happily adapted to produce every various and valuable production of Europe, and of both the Indies, that with good management, and a few settlers, in twenty or thirty years they might cause a revolution in the whole system of European commerce, and secure to England a monopoly of some part of it, and a very large share in the whole.

Part of it lies in a climate parallel to the Spice Islands, and is fitted for the production of that valuable commodity, as well as the sugar-cane, tea, coffee, silk, cotton, indigo, tobacco, and the other articles of commerce that have been so advantageous to the maritime powers of Europe.

I must not omit the mention of a very important article, which may be obtained in any quantity, if this settlement be made the proper use of, which would be of very considerable consequence, both among the necessaries and conveniences of life. I mean the New Zealand hemp or flax plant, an object equally of curiosity and utility. By proper operations it would serve the various purposes of hemp, flax, and silk, and it is more easily manufactured than any one of them. In naval equipments it would be of the greatest importance; a cable of the circumference of ten inches would be equal in strength to one of eighteen inches made of European hemp. Our manufacturers are of opinion that canvas page 37 made of it would be superior in strength and beauty to any canvas of our own country. The threads or filaments of this plant are formed by nature with the most exquisite delicacy, and they may be so minutely divided as to be small enough to make the finest cambrick; in color and gloss it resembles silk. After my true, though imperfect description of this plant I need not enlarge on it, as a very singular acquisition, both to the arts of convenience and luxury.

This country may afford an asylum to those unfortunate American loyalists to whom Great Britain is bound by every tie of honour and gratitude to protect and support, where they may repair their broken fortunes, and again enjoy their former domestic felicity.

That the Government may run no risque nor be left to act in a business of this kind without sufficient information, it is proposed that one ship of the peace establishment (to incur the least possible expence) be directly sent to that country, for the discovery and allotment of a proper district, for the intended settlement; that one or two gentlemen of capacity and knowledge, as well in soil and situation, as in every other requisite, be sent in her, that there may be no imposition on the Government, nor upon the Americans, who, with their families, shall adventure there.

If the Government be disposed to extend this plan, two vessels may be sent with two companies of marines, selected from among such of that corps as best understand husbandry, or manufacturies, and about twenty artificers, who are all the emigration required from the parent State; these last to be chiefly such as are taken on board ships of war for carpenters’ and armourers’ crews, with a few potters and gardeners.

These twenty men and the marines, under a proper person, to be left at the new settlement, with materials and provisions, to prepare for the reception of the intended settlers, that their wants may be as few as possible on their arrival.

As the ship, or ships, stop at the Cape of Good Hope, a sufficient stock to begin with of cows, sheep, goats, hogs, poultry, and seeds may be obtained there. A supply of the like articles, as well as cotton seeds, plantains, grapes, grain, &c., &c., may be had in any quantity at Savu or any of the Moluccas, which are very near New South Wales.

When the landing is effected the smaller vessel may be dispatched home with the intelligence; and while the party designed to be left are superintending the gardens and increase of live stock, the other ship may, if thought proper, be despatched to New Caledonia, Otahite, and the neighbouring islands to procure a few families there, and as many women as may serve for the men left page 38 behind. There is every reason to believe they may be obtained without difficulty. If but one vessel goes, the party with their stock may be left without apprehension of danger from the natives.

Sir Joseph Banks is of opinion that we may draw any number of useful inhabitants from China, agreeably to an invariable custom of the Dutch in forming or recruiting their Eastern settlements.

As it is intended not to involve the Government in either a great or a useless expence (for the settlement is designed to increase the wealth of the parent country, as well as for the emolument of the adventurers), a sum not exceeding £3,000 will be more than adequate to the whole expence of Government. Most of the tools, saws, axes, &c., &c., for the use of the party left may be drawn from the ordnance and other public stores, where at present they are useless; and the vessels also, being part of the peace establishment, neither can, nor ought to be, fairly reckoned in the expenditure.

That the Ministry may be convinced that this is not a vain, idle scheme, taken up without due attention and consideration, they may be assured that the matter has been seriously considered by some of the most intelligent and candid Americans, who all agree that, under the patronage and protection of Government, it offers the most favourable prospects that have yet occurred to better the fortunes and to promote the happiness of their fellow-sufferers and countrymen.

Sir Joseph Banks highly approves of the settlement, and is very ready to give his opinion of it, either to his Majesty’s Ministry or others, whenever they may please to require it.

Should this settlement be made, we may enter into a commerce that would render our trade to China, hitherto extremely against us, very favourable. The Aleutian and Foxes islands, situated between Asia and America, which abound with the choicest furs, lie nearly north of New South Wales. It is from these islands the Russians get the most and best of their furs, with which they carry on a very lucrative trade by land with the Chinese. Our ships that sailed under the command of Captain Cook and Clerke stopped at some of them, and the skins which they procured then sold in China at 400 hard dollars each, though for the few they brought home, of the same quality, they only received about ten pounds each. As our situation in New South Wales would enable us to carry on this trade with the utmost facility, we should be no longer under the necessity of sending such immense quantities of silver for the different articles we import from the Chinese Empire.

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There is also a prospect of considerably extending our woollen trade. We know that large quantities of woollen cloth are smuggled to Japan by the Russians, which, as it is taken by land carriage from St. Petersburg to Kamschatka, and then to the islands by a very precarious navigation in boats, must be extremely dear. The Japanese, however, go in their junks to the islands and purchase great quantities of it.

The peninsula of Korea, a kingdom tributary to the Chinese, and unvisited by Europeans, has its supply at second-hand chiefly from the Japanese. No ship has ever attempted this commerce, excepting once or twice that the Spaniards ventured thither from their American dominions; but as the inhabitants of New Spain are but indifferent navigators for the high, cold latitudes, they could not oftener repeat the enterprise.

It may be seen by Captain Cook’s voyage that New Zealand is covered with timber of size and every quality that indicates long duration; it grows close to the water’s edge, and may be easily obtained. Would it not be worth while for such as may be dispatched to New South Wales to take in some of this timber on their return, for the use of the King’s yards? As the two countries are within a fortnight’s run of each other, and as we might be of the utmost service to the New Zealanders, I think it highly probable that this plan might become eminently useful to us as a naval power, especially as we might thus procure masts, a single tree of which would be large enough for a first-rate ship, and planks superior to any that Europe possesses.

By the preliminary articles of peace with Holland we are entitled to a free navigation in the Molucca Seas. Without a settlement in the neighbourhood, the concession is useless; for the Dutch have an agent almost on every island in those seas. If we have a settlement, it is unnecessary; for as spices are the only articles we could expect by it, it is probable we should stand lies in no need of their indulgence, for as part of New South Wales lies in the same latitude with the Moluccas, and is even very close to them, there is every reason to suppose that what nature has so bountifully bestowed on the small islands may also be found on the larger. But if, contrary to analogy, it should not be so, the defect is easily supplyed, for, as the seeds are procured without difficulty, any quantity may speedily be cultivated.

To those who are alarmed at the idea of weakening the mother country by opening a channel for emigration, I must answer that it is more profitable that a part of our countrymen should go to a new abode, where they may be useful to us, than to the American States. If we cannot keep our subjects at home, it is sound policy to point out a road by following of which they may add to the national strength.

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The place which New South Wales holds’on our globe might give it a very commanding influence in the policy of Europe. If a colony from Britain was established in that large tract of country, and if we were at war with Holland or Spain, we might very powerfully annoy either State from our new settlement. We might, with a safe and expeditious voyage, make naval incursions on Java and the other Dutch settlements; and we might with equal facility invade the coast of Spanish America, and intercept the Manilla ships, laden with the treasures of the west. This check which New South Wales would be in time of war on both those powers makes it a very important object when we view it in the chart of the world with a political eye.

Sir Joseph Banks’ high approbation of the scheme which I have here proposed deserves the most respectful attention of every sensible, liberal, and spirited individual amongst his countrymen. The language of encomium, applied to this gentleman, would surely be inequitably censured as the language of adulation. To spurn the alluring pleasures which fortune procures in a frivolous and luxurious age, and to encounter extreme difficulties and dangers in pursuit of discoveries, which are of great benefit to mankind, is a complicated and illustrious event, as useful as it is rare, and which calls for the warmest publick gratitude and esteem.

I shall take this opportunity to make a remark on colonization which has not occurred to me in any author, and which I flatter myself will contain some important civil and political truth.

Too great a diminution of inhabitants of the mother country is commonly apprehended from voluntary emigration—an apprehension which seems to me not to be the result of mature reflexion. That we almost universally have a strong affection for our native soil is an observation as true as it is old. It is founded on the affections of human nature. Not only a Swiss, but even an Icelander, when he is abroad, sickens and languishes in his absence from his native country; therefore, few of any country will ever think of settling in any foreign part of the world, from a restless mind and from romantic views. A man’s affairs are generally in a very distressed, in a desperate situation when he resolves to take a long adieu of his native soil, and of connections which must be always dear to him. Hence a body of emigrants, nay a numerous body of emigrants, may in a commercial view be of great and permanent service to their parent community in some remote part of the world, who, if they continue at home, will probably live to see their own ruin, and will be very prejudicial to society. The politician of an expanded mind reasons from the almost invariable actions of human nature. The doctrine page 41 of the petty statesman is hardly applicable to a larger extent than that of his own closet. When our circumstances are adverse in the extreme they very often produce illegal and rapacious conduct. If a poor man of broken fortunes and of any pretensions be timid in his nature, he most probably becomes a useless, if he has an ardent spirit, he becomes a bad and a criminal, citizen. There are indeed some epochs in a State when emigrations from it may be too numerous; but when from some calamitous and urgent publick cause it must be unworthy of inhabitants.

James M. Matra.

August 23rd, 1783.