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1795-1800 – John Hunter

In 1795 Sydney was about 8 years old: houses were still mostly simple timber and bark although there was now a brickworks; failure of early harvests meant that the colony still depended on provisions, including clothing, transported by sea from elsewhere; there was no treasury and no official currency, government bought goods by using British treasury bills which merchants could redeem from the British government; there was a single satisfactory road heading west to the farms of Parramatta and Toongabbie. The military (New South Wales Corps) had effectively hijacked the economy, controlling trade, especially of alcohol.

John Hunter 1737-1821
Portrait by William Mineard Bennett (1778-1858)
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Der Bischof mit der E-Gitarre Accessed 6 February 2018

In 1798 a cargo of plants arrived in HMS Porpoise that included herbs, vines, hops, olives, apples, willows, oaks and ashes.(cited in Frost 64)

By 1799 the colonists had 6,100 ac. under wheat, 2,500 under maize, 82 under barley, and ‘large tracts of garden ground’ and by 1801 more than half of the 6,000 mainland colonists were self-supporting with the Government Farm at Rose Hill as the main hub of plant acclimatization and dispersal and here was ‘A fine garden …experiments are made, with a view to naturalize foreign vegetables‘. By 1805 the colony was essentially self-sufficient in European foodstuffs. (all cited in Frost p. 64).

John Hunter became Governor in 1795, in effect sent to ‘clean up’ the colony which, in spite of its economic progress, had lapsed into a lifestyle of debauchery. Though sympathetic to evangelical moral concerns Hunter was openly impressed by progress, acknowledging that self-interest rather than the public good had produced a pleasing result. Emancipists and freemen began to usurp the trading monopoly of the Corps officers who now concentrated on their accumulated land holdings. Hunter encouraged more farming and settlement around Parramatta where the farms were privately owned by many of these officers but he feuded bitterly with the redoubtable and fiery spokesperson for many of these officers, John Macarthur, an altercation that eventually lead to Hunter’s recall to Britain in 1800 to be replaced by Philip Gidley King.

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.

The Spanish of the Malaspine expedition of 1789-1794 were impressed by progess, noting a small harvest of corn, wheat and barley, a good crop of potato along with fruit trees, vegetable patches, lemons and grapevines – comparing the climate and soil to that of Andalucia. After only five years it looked like and old establishment. (Frost p. 69)

An official boat-builder arrived in 1796 by which time experience of the local timbers meant that ships could be repaired and seviceable ships constructed using local materials.(Frost p. 67)

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