The Life and Times of Sir George Grey, K.C.B.
Chapter III. — Appointment To Conduct Explorations In Western Australia
Appointment To Conduct Explorations In Western Australia.
"Tills morning, like the spirit of a youth,
That means to be of note, begins betimes."
Perceiving no immediate prospect of employment in the colonies, Lieutenant Grey, together with a brother officer, also anxious to explore the wonders of the new lands—Lieutenant Lushington of the 9th Regiment of Foot, offered his services to the Royal Geographical Society for the exploration of North Western Australia. On the 16th of November, 1836, they received a favourable reply, and on the 28th the President of that Society brought before the Council, the application of these two young officers. It was decided to approach Lord Glenelg, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, with a view to the co-operation of the Government in the proposed plan of exploration.
Lieutenant Grey was already acquainted with Lord Glenelg, whose brother, "William Grant, was one of Grey's friends. The Government were, themselves, most anxious to become better acquainted with that vast and unknown portion of Australia which Grey and Lushington proposed to visit No difficulty, therefore, was experienced in obtaining not only permission, but assistance from the Government.
The opinion was held by celebrated navigators, among whom were Dampier and King, that a great river or a large inlet would be found to give access to the interior of Australia from the north or north-west coast. It was chiefly with the hope that such a discovery page 17might be made that the exploring expedition was formally decided upon by the Government.
On the 6th of February, 1837, two years' leave of absence, dated from the Horse Guards, wag granted by Sir J. Macdonald, to Lieutenant Grey, for the purpose of exploration in New Holland. Four months later the two young officers received their instructions from Downing Street. They were informed that H.M.S. Beagle had been appointed to survey the north-west coast between Dampier's Archipelago and Cambridge Gulf, and that they had been appointed to explore the interior of the same part. The purpose and conduct of the expedition are summarised in the following short quotations from this despatch. "The immediate object of this exploration is that of gaining information as to the real state of the interior of North Western Australia, its resources, and the course, and direction of its rivers and mountain ranges, as well as familiarizing the natives with the British name and character.· · · · · "Lieutenant Grey, the senior military officer, is considered as commanding the party" (despatch signed "Glenelg").
Thus, at the early age of twenty-four, Lieutenant Grey was selected to proceed upon a dangerous and important mission, and immediately after his twenty-fifth birthday, was regularly commissioned by His Majesty's Government to take charge of the expedition. The days following the 1st of June were spent in taking leave of friends. The parting between the young explorer and his mother must have called vividly to her mind the fact that she had given her husband to the service of her country, and might possibly now, after the lapse of a quarter of a century, be called on to resign her son.
The two comrades proceeded to Plymouth for the purpose of joining H.M.S. Beagle. A day or two after their arrival at Plymouth, and while they were waiting for their ship to start, William IV. died, and they were eye-witnesses as well as auditors of the proclamations issued by the Mayor of Plymouth, on the accession of Victoria as Queen of England. Their commissions were nine days old at this time.
A fortnight passed away before all necessary stores and equipments had been shipped on board the Beagle. Then, finally, farewell was bidden to the friends who had come to Plymouth to see them page 18depart, the anchor was weighed, and the Beagle, passing beyond the breakwater and the Eddystone, sailed on her southern voyage.
The hopes and ambitions which, since childhood, had grown up in the mind of George Grey thus seemed to be in a fair way of attainment. It is a strange and peculiar coincidence that the commencement of his career, as directly connected with the colonies, is contemporaneous with the reign of Victoria. It could not, by any possibility, have suggested itself to the mind of the voyager, that for upwards of half a century the young queen should sit upon the throne of her fathers, and that he, as her servant, should be engaged in many ways and in many lands in the public service of the Empire, and in direct connection with the colonies.