Thursday, 17 December 2015

Development of Hobart - background notes

The book, Old Hobart Town and environs 1802-1855 by Carolyn R Stone and Pamela Tyson (1978) provides a history of the colony using documents, maps and illustrations from the period. Each chapter covers the time frame of a leader of the colony and at the commencement of each chapter there is a summary of the period covered. These summaries provide a brief history of the development of Hobart plus an indication of what the early settlers faced. The summaries are reproduced below.

The beginnings ... settlement at Sullivan's Cove
David Collins 1804-1810
In February 1804, following an abortive attempt to establish a settlement at Port Phillip, Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins arrived with a party of convicts, free settlers and marines at Sullivan Cove on the Derwent River. Here he selected the site for the new Colony of Hobart Town.
In 1810, after a period of six years as Lieutenant-Governor of the infant colony, Collins had very little to show in the way of progress. Hobart Town remained a collection of 'miserable huts'; there was no established form of local administration and no major public works had been completed. In defence of Collin's ability as an administrator, the problems he faced made any attempts towards progress extremely difficult. The convict labourers were poor workers and few in number, and the tools and equipment at their disposal were either unsuited to local conditions or non-existent. In addition, the small number of free settlers found it almost impossible to grow enough food to make the colony self-supporting. This in turn made the colonists more reliant on shipments of supplies and livestock from Sydney, which in addition with Collin's urgent requests for further able-bodied convicts, rarely arrived. Later, after a period of drought in Van Diemen's Land and flood devastation in New South Wales, the settlers were forced to live off the land, hunting kangaroos and emus. Apart from this fight for survival, there were no courts from which to dispense law and order, and Collins had no authority to grant land, except by the tedious process of applying through official dispatches to the governor in Sydney or direct to London. Conditions that must make for a stable and progressive settlement were non-existent, and in reality, David Collins had achieved most that could be expected of him. (page 35)

Macquarie's visit 1811
Following the untimely death of David Collins in March 1810, the settlement at Hobart Town was administered in turn by Edward Lord, Captain John Murray and Major Andrew Geils, until Thomas Davey took up his appointment as Lieutenant-Governor in 1813. It was during this 'interregnum' period under the administration of Commandant Captain John Murray, that Governor Lachlan Macquarie made his first visit to Van Diemen's Land in November 1811.
Macquarie's intention was to travel overland from Hobart Town to Port Dalrymple, inspect the country and generally assess its potential for development. At Hobart Town he showed disappointment at the irregular layout of the settlement and the quality of the dwellings. Consequently, he approved a town plan that has virtually been retained to the present time. Further, he offered inducements for the construction of permanent dwellings to replace the ramshackle buildings that predominated. He re-organised the administration of the island and for the first time united the settlements in the north and south under the authority of the Lieutenant-Governor of Hobart Town. (page 43)

'A most wretched state of anarchy and confusion'
Thomas Davey 1813-1817
The difference between David Collins and his successor, Thomas Davey, was marked. Collins was courteous and well-respected Lieutenant- Governor, whereas Davey's manner was rough and undisciplined. He was a poor administrator and was generally ridiculed and disliked by those he governed. During his period of administration, very few public works were carried out, much of the progress evident in the colony being due to the enterprise of private individuals.
Davey's main problem on the island and his major preoccupation was that of suppressing the bushrangers and protecting the settlers. His task of governing the colony was not helped by Governor Macquarrie's apparent dislike and distrust. Macquarie's frequent habit of disagreeing with Davey's tactics, especially in relation to his attempts to control the bushrangers, did nothing to improve Davey's popularity. Further, as Macquarie himself generally could suggest no better plan of action, his criticism simply undermined what little authority Davey had in the colony. (page 49)

A fresh start out of chaos
William Sorrell 1817-1824
During the period of Colonel William Sorrell's office, Hobart Town was transformed from a rough temporary settlement into a town exhibiting the beginnings of agricultural and industrial activity, and the promise of prosperity. Following a successful military campaign to stamp out the marauding bushrangers, life and property were secured; law and order was restored.
Sorrell's sound administrative policies and reform led to stable conditions; new colonists arrived; land was opened up for settlement; commerce developed and expanded. With this progress came the beginnings of whaling, the export of corn and cattle, and more importantly, the expansion of the merino sheep breeding industry. At this time, major road and bridge-building works were undertaken; villages and towns sprang up in the interior; and Hobart Town itself was enlarged and improved. (page 55)

Discipline, penal reform and progress
George Arthur 1824-1836
Colonel George Arthur was a stern disciplinarian, an autocrat who remained aloof from those he governed and intolerant to any opposition. Consequently he was unpopular with many settlers and convicts yet he was an efficient conscientious administrator.
In 1825, Following Sorrell's recall and Arthur's appointment as Lieutenenant-Governor, the colony of Van Diemen's Land was granted separation from New South Wales. In time, further changes were necessary. The colony was no longer merely a penal settlement; consideration now had to be given to the free settlers, which in turn produced further problems. The new social structure required the re-organisation of the convict system, and in addition, an administrative policy more in keeping with demands of the colonists. Yet overall, Arthur's term of administration was a successful one, essentially because his approach to penal reform and governing free settlers was appropriate to this particular stage in the colony's development. (page 75)

Culture and enlightenment in a penal settlement
Sir John Franklin 1837-1843
Sir John Franklin was conscientious in his approach to the task of colonial government, but he was disadvantaged in that he found it hard to come to terms with ambitious men, Particularly John Montagu, the Colonial Secretary, and the Chief of Police, Matthew Forster, both of whom had been appointed by his predecessor.
Franklin was a sensitive man, who in time of tension and conflict had not sufficient strength of character to both control the fractious colonists, and administer a penal settlement. His chief interests, and those of his wife, Lady Jane Franklin, lay in cultural, educational, scientific and religious pursuits, in a town often lacking these outlets. Franklin's well-intentioned but 'scholarly' administration inevitably led to a breakdown in communication between himself and those through whom he governed. (page 121)

The probation system, surplus convicts and economic depression
Sir John Eardley-Wilmot 1843-1846
The administration of Sir John Eardley-Wilmot produced few lasting results. Wilmot's failure revolved around his inability to cope with the development of the probation system, a penal system that had created competition within the colony's labour force between convict pass-holders and free settlers. The necessity of implementing probation at a time when Van Diemen's Land was faced with an influx of convicts from almost every British colony and dependency, had also resulted in increased in government expenditure and brought objections from the colonists, who also were faced with the payment of additional  taxes t defray judicial and police expenses in a period of severe economic depression.
Despite much local opposition, Wilmot was forced to continue the probation system, under the orders from Whitehall. When he confronted the colonists head-on on this issue, they accused him of attempting to alter the nature of the colony from that of a free settlement to a penal community. Wilmot also offended the imperial authorities and this led to his dismissal in 1846. (page 147)

End of transportation final steps to self-government
Sir William Denison 1847-1855
 Following the recall of Wilmot in October 1846, Charles Joseph LaTrobe, the Superintendent of the Port Phillip District, became administrator of the colony. During his short period in office he made a detailed study of the probation system, and concluded: that the convict system should cease. In 1847 he was succeeded by William Denison.
Although an able administrator, Denison was at a disadvantage in that he supported the continuation of transportation at a period when popular feeling in the colony was decidedly not in its favour. Partly to divert attention from the dreaded system, he planned extensive public works, particularly in and around the port and town of Hobart. However, his proposals were resented by many colonists, since their implementation depended on convict labour and assumed the continuation of transportation. (page 175)

In 1855, on the eve of the colony achieving self-government, Sir Henry E Fox Young succeeded Sir William Denison as governor of the colony of Van Diemen's Land. In a period of 50 years, Hobart Town had emerged from a collection of tents and habitations 'of the very lowest class of cottages'(1) to a fine, flourishing town, with 'houses straggling up the valleys and along the sides of the roads, for some distance'(2) where some of the buildings ... are very good,and beautifully built of sandstone, ...'(3)
During the course of this half century, development and expansion had been influenced by numerous social, economic and political factors, and the reaction of each of the various governors to these influences helped to determine the ultimate level of the development within the city and its environs. (page 204)
(1)HRA S III V I; John Oxley, Account of the settlement of the Derwent, 1810
(2)Robert Elwes, A sketcher's tour round the world (1854)
(3)Henry Butler Stoney, A residence in Tasmania (1856)

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