|Chapter Title||THE GOOD OLD DAYS.|
|Newspaper Title||Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876)|
|Trove Title||Harry Linton's Downfall: A Story of Old Sydney|
HARRY LINTON'S DOWNFALL. A STORY OF OLD SYDNEY. By B. A. ATKINS. (Written expressly for the Portland Gutardian.) CHAPTER. I. THE GOOD OLD DAYS. There is no history, ancient or modern, that will better repay perusal titan that of the British Colony of New South Wales. An indescribable interest attaches to the landing of Cook at Botany Bay, even surpassing that which we feel on reading of Caesar's landing in Britain, perhaps we should feel equal interest in the latter event, if we could realise the possiblity of our grandfathers having been present on that occasion, and perhaps patted on the back that plucky standard-bearer of the X. Legion. Before commencing my story the reader will perhaps pardon me if I briefly recapitulate some historical events, tending to show the state of society in Sydney at the time the events I am about to relate occurred. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Colonel Lachlan Macquarie was Governor of New South Wales during a period of twelve years Irom 1809 to 1821 and to show the state of the colony on his arrival we can not do better than give the following extract from his first dispatch :- I found the colony barely emerging from infantile imbecility, suffering from various privations and disabilities, the country inpenetrable beyond forty miles from Sydney, agriculture in yet a languishing state, commerce in its early dawn, revenue unknown, threatened with famine, distracted by faction, tihe public buildings in a state of dilapidation, the few roads and bridges almost unpassable, the populntion in general distress by poverty ; no credit, public or private ; the morals of the great mass of the people in the lowest state of debasement, and religious worship almost totally neglected. At the time my story commences things had greatly improved, under the rule of the first man of decided talent appointed to hold office in New Holland ; indeed it has justly been said of him that " he found New South Wales a gaol and left it a colony ; he found Sydney a village and left it a city ; he found a population of idle prisoners, paupers and paid officials, and he left a large free community, thriving on the produce of flocks and the labour of convicts." Yet he was not without his faults and failings, for which, however, his good qualities compensated ; his views, though narrow, were clear, his vanity boundless, but his activity untiring ; he in most cases relied on his own opinion even in the few instances he condescended to ask advice. It was chiefly owing to his energy, and not to his care for the moral tone of the colony, that his labours were so successful. He used to say - "the colony consisted of those who had been transported and those who ought to have been," and " that it was a colony for convicts, and free colonists had no business there." He looked upon New South Wales as a place where convicts shouId be made to subsist upon the least possible expense, and his common sense told him that to effect this the best way would be to show the felons that perseverance and industry would gain their rewards. It was from no moral feeling that he thought the convicts should not, as former governors had imagined, be made anything else than slaves to the free men, but from an idea that such a course would prove a drawback to the country. By referring to the Sydney Gazette of 11th May, 1800, we find a man named Thompson, a convict, allowed to purchase brewing utensils from the government stores at the usual advanlce of fifty per cent. on the invoice price, with the privilege of brewing beer, for his courageous conduct in saving lives from the floods on the Hawkesbury. When Macquarie arrived in the colony he created Thompson a magistrate, and went so far as to invite him and other emancipists to dine at Government House, despite the remonstrances of free settlers and the otlicers of the 43rd regiment, at that time stationed it Sydney. Doubtless this had the effect of causing, in a great degree, the cessation of crime amongst the convict population of Sydney, for when they saw an ex-prisoner riding in his carriage to dine at Government house, they were induced to persevere in a course of sober industry ; but in England the effect was detrimental on it becoming known to dishonest characters that when they picked a pocket or robbed a house they would be sent to a country where such unheard -of honours awaited them. During this time Governor Macquarie also looked after the amusements of the people, and in the Sydney Gazette ( the first Australian journal, published by authority in 1803, by George Howe, a prisoner ) we see recorded three days racing, conducted in New Market style, followed by an ordinary and two balls ; the first prize, a ladies' cup, being "presented
to the winner by Mrs. Macquarie." This period is also marked by the erection of a suitable place of worship, and in December, 1809, St. Phillip's, the first brick church, was consecrated on Christmas Day, by the Rev. Samuel Marsden. The pastoral districts of the colony were extended, and their resources opened out. The Governor took a journey across the Blue Mountains, accompanied by Mrs Macquarie, his chief officers, and Mr. Lewin, painter and naturalist, fifteen months after the successful attempt in that direction had been made by Wm Wentworth, Lieut. Lawson, and Gregory Blaxland, and two months before the battle of Waterloo ; and on the 7th May, 1815, he fixed on a suitable site for a town, at some future period to be called " Bathurst." He also commenced a road over the mountains, which is now a pride to the colony. As an example of the state of public morality I may mention that the Sydney Hosplital was built by two gentlemen under a contract with the Governor, on condition that they monopolised the right of selling and importing rum for a certain number of years. ( Hence many old colonists call this building the "Rum Hospital.") The public-houses increased rapidly, and fostered the slpread of dissipation, which gained in fearful extent. Despite this discouraging state of things, it will be seen that the first dawn of prosperity was brightening the darkness that had hitherto enveloped colonial society, and that Virtue was bravely struggling to gain a footing where hitherto Vice alone had reigned supreme.