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"Nor do I doubt but that this country will prove the most valuable acquisition Great Britain ever
SYDNEY: CHARLES POTTER, GOVERNMENT PRINTER
LONDON: TRÜBNER AND CO.
The attainment by the colony of the Centennial period of its existence, appeared to the Government of New South Wales an appropriate occasion for the preparation, at the public cost, of a comprehensive history, embodying information obtainable from all known sources, and of such an authentic character as to form a reliable basis for the labours of the future historian. The duty of preparing this important work having been entrusted to me, it seemed necessary, in order to do justice to the valuable collection of records placed in my hands by the Government, to make them the groundwork of a narrative written on an essentially different plan from that of any previous one on the subject.*
In no account of the country yet published have the records relating to its early years been made use of, at any length. There is but one in which they are quoted or referred tot; but the plan on which it was written did not permit of extensive references to them, and consequently an occasional paragraph from the despatches furnishes the only indication of the mine beneath. At the same time, the exigency of space apparently required the author to condense the history of the colony to an extent which rendered any adequate treatment of the subject impossible. The narrative of events from 1787 to 1792—the term of Phillip's command—is compressed into some cighty pages. In three other well known works, not even a reference
The collection comprises authentic copies of the records relating to New South Wales, preserved in the Public Record Office in London, and also in various departments of the State ; the copies having been made under instructions from the Colonial Secretary (Sir Henry Parkes, G.C.M.G.) by Mr. James Bonwick, an experienced archivist, whose contributions to Australian history are well known in the colonies. It also includes original records in the office of the Colonial Secretary at Sydney ; others lent by the Hon. Philip Gidley King, M.L.C., grandson of Governor King; and lastly, the valuable letters and other documents left by Sir Joseph Banks, which came into the possession of the present Lord Brabourne and were purchased from him by the Agent-General (Sir Saul Samuel, K.C.M.G) on behalf of the Government.
† Rusden, History of Australia, 1883.
to the records can be found; and the narrow limits within which the writers moved may be seen from the fact that the period in question is disposed of in forty pages by one, in fifty by a second, and in less than seventy by a third.*
It is obvious that the events connected with the foundation of the colony, extending as they did over several years, cannot be satisfactorily treated on such a plan, in any work pretending to be historical. When a mass of material, more than enough in itself to form a volume, is condensed into a few pages, the result cannot be history in the proper sense of the term ; it is, in fact, nothing more than elaborated almanac. reasons, the period in question might be termed the most important as well as the most interesting in our annals; and tho records relating to it cannot fail to command attention wherever the history of an infant nation is regarded with interestwhether as a matter of national concern, or simply as a field for the development of novel theories in politics and sociology.
No one can read the letters and despatches written by Phillip without feeling the varied interest-human as well as historical —that attaches to them. Extending as they do over the whole period of his connection with the colony, they contain all the essential facts connected with its foundation and its years of infancy, when its life seemed so often trembling in the balance ; but at the same time we have something more than the essential facts; for we find them everywhere interwoven with many little details of social life, as well as of Phillip's personal experience, which often, no doubt, fall far below“the dignity of history,” but are much too valuable as well as interesting to be omitted. His despatches were written out from his journal, and consequently they possess the peculiar charm which makes all journals more or less attractive; great historical events and little personal matters being mixed up in the narrative just as they are in daily life. Many of the trifling details with which the reader will meet
Lang, Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales, 1834, vol. i, pp. 21--60 ; Flanagan, History of New South Wales, 1862, vol. i, pp. 21-71 ; Bennett, History of Australian Discovery and Colonisation, 1867, pp. 107–171. The fact mentioned in the text does not detract in any way from the merits of these works, which were all written with definite ends in view.
in these pages may perhaps lead him to ask---Why should such trivial passages be printed in a history? A little consideration, however, will show that they have their historical as well as their personal value. Even when we find Phillip repeating himself, as he often does, his repetitions are worth preserving, because they serve to show how his mind was working at the time, and in that way they reveal the character of the man as well as the circumstances by which he was surrounded. For similar reasons it has been thought proper to publish his written words exactly as be wrote them, without making any attempt to correct his spelling and grammar, or to smooth the rugged surface of his style.
The historical value of these records will be appreciated when it is remembered that no similar series exists in the case of any other country. If we turn for comparison to the history of the American colonies, the difference is as great as that between a landscape lying in the sunshine, and one dimly seen through the mists and clouds of winter. In the preface to a history of the province of New York, written in 1750, the author said—“Except some accounts of the settlements in Massachusetts Bay and Virginia, all the other histories of our plantations upon the continent are little else than collections of falsehoods, and worse than none." It is not quite clear from this passage whether the exception was intended to include the most famous of all the American chronicles—“the Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, by Captain John Smith, sometymes Governour in those Countryes, and Admirall of New England”; but it is certainly open to some such criticism. Captain Smith's work is the best specimen of a personal narrative of American colonisation which English literature can produce; and it is worth while to consider its literary character in order to appreciate our own good fortune in the matter of historical materials.* The reader can form a good estimate of the Captain's value as a chronicler from a passage in his dedication to the duchess of Richmond, in which he recounts some of the romantic passages in his life :
The beauteous Lady Tragabigdanza, when I was a slave to the Turks, did all she could to secure me. When I overcame the Bashaw of Nalbrits