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1800-1806 – Philip King

Philip Gidley King, like Hunter, was sent to ‘clean up’ the colony by reducing the demands on Colonial Office coffers, reduced the free convict labour, re-establishing public farms to reduce the cost of obligatory feeding of the convicts, managing the government store to offer non-inflated, prices, improved trade within the Pacific region, and to encourage the development of a wide range of local industries. In the early days convicts were regarded as a labour force to be eventually absorbed into the settlement with punishment a secondary consideration. King’s lenient behaviour to the convicts and their rapid economic elevation was reported back to Britain and this, combined with constant difficulty of controlling such an unruly community still strongly wedded to rum, resulted in his resignation in 1803.

Gidley King


Philip Gidley King – 1758-1808
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Andy king50 – Accessed 6 February 2018

In 1802 François Péron, a naturalist on the Géographe of the Baudin expedition, like Spaniard Malaspina before him in 1793, was staggered by the short time taken for such progress, noting the ample supply of vegetables but, in particular, the peach. He estimated about 160,000 trees so productive that the fruit was dried and turned into wine and spirits.(cited in Frost p. 64). He painted a word picture of the settlement with its substantial governement, private buildings, stone clocktower, hospital, prison, school, arsenal and storehouses full of all kinds of domestic utensils, agricultural equipment and the like, including the sail cloth and cordage no doubt soon to be used in the dockyard where shipbuilding was carried out using local timbers. There were many ships in the harbour: from various parts of the world: Flinders preparing for his circumnavigation of the continen, locally built ships engaged in Bass Strait sealing and the Polynesian pork trade, southern whalers, merchantmen bound for China, freighters loading coal for India and the Cape as well as privateers preparing for the American west coast. Planning was already advanced for the settlement of Port Phillip Bay and Storm Bay. State ovens produced 1800 pounds of ships biscuit each day. The site was defended by an impressive battery. But of special note was the fine Government House garden with: ”the Norfolk Island Pine, th superb Columbia [Agathis] by the side of the bamboo of Asia: farther on is the Portugal orange, and Canary fig. ripening beneath the shade of the French apple-tree: the cherry, peach, pear and apricot, are interspersed amongst the Banksia, Metrosideros, Correa, Melaleuca, Casuarina, and Eucalyptus, and a great number of other indigenous trees’.(cited in Frost p. 71) Lieutenant Governor Paterson’s house was a ‘vast garden‘ containing useful vegetables from every part of the world. Cleared areas had pastures of introduced grasses for livestock. The colony could also now boast its own impressive estates in Parramatta like those of John Macarthur, William Paterson, John Palmer, D’Arcy Wentworth, William Cox, and Samuel Marsden replete with farm buildings, orchards, pastures, horses, cattle and, in some cases, thousands of sheep.(Frost pp. 71-72)

By 1803 fishing grounds based on the Sperm Whale, Black Whale, seals and sea elephants were established in New Zealand and Hobart in Van Diemen’s Land and a base on the mainland at Port Jackson. Ships without return cargoes would often convert to whaling. Wit hcommerce becoming established the likelihood of the new colony being abandoned was now remote.

As a convenient short-cut between the Indian and Pacific Oceans Bass Strait had strategic significance and a British decision was made to circumvent any French ambitions and settle three strategic points around Bass Strait – the north shore of Port Phillp Bay, the south shore at the mouth of the Tamar River in Van Diemen’s Land and King Island in the western part of the strait. These settlements were short-lived, giving way to permanent settlement of Hobart in 1803 and Launceston in 1806 which immediately ht hard times.

By 1805 the Cumberland pain was providing animal foods, grains, all kinds of vegetables, berries melons and other fruits: there were 517 horses, 4,325 cattle, 20,617 sheep, 5,123 goats, 23,050 pigs which provided the colonists with a meat surplus.(cited in Frost p. 64).

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