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1792-1795 – Majors Grose & Paterson

Arthur Phillip was one of the last officials of the First Fleet to leave the colony having helped the colony survive five unbelievably difficult and precarious years. With Phillip were two Aboriginals, Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne who were to be introduced to English society. A survey completed just before Phillip left the colony reported that less than 1,700 acres was under cultivation about 1,000 acres being public farm, the remainder being use by settlers and ex-convicts who had been given small grants of land. Almost all the farming was now around Parramatta and Toongabbie. Phillip always maintained that the lack of progress was due to the lack of convict motivation.

By 1792 a potential crisis had been averted and through the policies of Paterson and Grosse a 53 km track had been cleared between Sydney and the Hawkesbury River where, by mid 1795 there were 546 farms growing maize and wheat in a band of 50 km along both Banks of the river. Governor Hunter was aware that this was land where the wild daisy yam was a staple food of the Darug.[Flood 2006 p.52]

During the three-year period before the appointment of John Hunter as Governor the colony was administered by Majors Francis Grose and William Paterson who had arrived in 1791 with the New South Wales Corps, a permanent regiment of the British army sent out to relieve the marines. No coinage had been provided by Britain to the settlers, it being assumed that the colony would become self-sufficient, but the soldiers were paid in pounds sterling and could bargain with visiting traders before selling goods within the colony at huge profit. The NSW Corps flourished by establishing various trading monopolies (using convicts as middlemen as they were not permitted to trade themselves) importing goods from round the Pacific and exploiting the whaling and sealing industries and cornering the rum market. Convicts were encouraged to earn a living themselves, Grose providing land grants to officers and emancipists (freed convicts) who now had a strong incentive to make the land ‘pay’. Early freedom and land grants were given to convicts if they proved themselves, thus relieving the administration of its compulsory food ration and other legal obligations while the remaining convicts were cajoled into work by paying them with rum.

Between 1793 and 1796 momentum increased as land was granted to serving officers and settlers now worked the land on the rich Hawksbury River floodplains. (Frost p. 64)

Surgeon White’s journal provided a detailed account of the new settlement, especially its natural history which was later illustrated by a convict Thomas Watling.

By 1792 confident American whalers from the whaling hub of Nantucket were bringing cargoes to Port Jackson, helping convicts escape, ruthlessly slaughtering seals and taking native women and by the mid-1790s both British and American whalers were quite common in the Pacific.(Frst 66)

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