Volume 03: Letters of John Macarthur to his sons, 1815-1832

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The opinion I have formed of the Commissioner is in perfect agreem-ent with that which you say is entertained of him in England. – He is polite and courteous to every one, and active, acute, and intelligent in the prosecution of the enquiry in which he is engaged – But I suspect he is not making the progress he calculated upon at his commencement, and that he has already discovered, that ninety nine hundredths of the information which he has collected, will require abundance of sifting – and that in too many instances the labour will be badly requited. – As yet I have had very little conversation with him on business, except on our own immediate subject the Wool. – Indeed, I do not think I have seen him more than half a dozen times, owing to several causes – His fixed residence is at Sydney, to which place I seldom go, and the prejudice, which he knew existed against me in Downing Street, and the jealousy (I fear I must say dislike) which prevails at our Government House, has made him (I suspect) consider it necessary to avoid even the appearance of being biassed by my opinion or counsel. – You must not, however, imagine from this, that he has been cold or disregardful when we have met – quite to the contrary, not only to me, but to every individual of the family – I know, that he has on several occasions said, that he considered me a publick benefactor, and the example set by the whole of us most praiseworthy. – Immediately after his arrival, Mr. Scott (the Secretary) who brought a particular introduction to me from Dr. Warren (You will recollect he attended me in South Audley Street) said we are aware Mr McArthur of the importance of your friendship, and the value of the information you possess, but we are very particularly circumstanced. There is so strong a prejudice against you in a certain quarter at home that we are unwilling to ask you any questions, but shall nevertheless be thankful and feel always disposed to receive with the greatest attention anything you may be inclined to impart – To this I replied, that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to assist the enquiry of the Commission

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and that I should at all times be ready to answer in the most unreserved and candid manner any questions they might find it expedient to ask me – but if the prejudices of Government or other considerations imposed upon the Commissioner an obligation not to seek information from me in that way, I had nothing to communicate in any other: and I trusted that my reserve, and forbearance to obtude myself, would allow them an opportunity to bear evidence how little I was disposed to meddle with the transactions of Government or to make myself troublesome – This I saw startled and surprised the Secretary, who had certainly been cautioned against me as, what is termed a harsh thorough going man of all work, a dangerous, officious, troublesome, man – I added, however, that the silence imposed upon me respecting publick affairs would not extend to private ones, and that nothing would give me greater pleasure than opportunities of contributing to make the Commissioner's, and his stay amongst us agreeable to them – This was of course politely replied to, and several little accommodations which I immediately offered, were favorably accepted, and have been gratefully spoken of since. For instance the Commissioner and the Secretary have constantly rode two beautiful valuable Horses that I lent them, two such as could not be equalled in the Colony, and which I would not sell – one being a favourite mare from which I propose to breed, and the other a high bred stallion of Arab Blood, from whom I have already had some valuable Stock, and propose to breed from again when the Commissioner leaves the Colony – The Commissioner, as you must have observed, is not inattentive to externals, and 'tis evident, for he is an accomplished horseman, that he bestrides his

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prancy Arab with no little satisfaction – I mention these little things to set your mind at ease as to the real feeling which Mr. Bigge entertains, for did he not feel respect, he is the last man in the world to submit to be obliged –

In the course of conversation with the Commissioner he has three or four times touched generally upon the affairs of the Colony, and I could easily discern that the opinions I expressed upon these occasions were in conformity to his own, altho' he affected to think differently, evidently with a design of drawing me out, in which, however, neither he or the Secretary have ever succeeded beyond the point I had previously prescribed to myself. They both departed from this Settlement to visit Van Diemans Land early in this month and are not expected to return before April or May. The last interview I had with them was the day before they embarked, and our conversation was highly satisfactory – After going at considerable length into a proposal that I had submitted to him for supplying all the Settlements with Merino bred Rams (the particulars of which I shall give you directly) he concluded by saying "Mr. MacArthur I have avoided going into particular details with you respecting my enquiry, because I have been desirous to hear what every one has to say, before I apply to you. – When I left England I certainly purposed to encounter great difficulties in the execution of the business I had undertaken, but I find them much greater than I had contemplated – in short, they so thicken upon me that I cannot at present form any opinion of the period when I shall

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get through them all. – We have much to say to you, so much indeed, that I cannot think myself at liberty to request your attendance at Sydney, or to withdraw you so much from your own affairs – Your examination will be a work of many days perhaps of Weeks – We have therefore determined after our return to come to Parramatta – I want evidence to shew that Government may be relieved from the heavy expence which this Colony creates, and, at present I have received none – If I do not I shall be under the necessity of reporting informally and recommending "that no more Convicts may be sent here" – I replied as before, that he would always find me ready to answer any questions, and to give him my opinions in the most unreserved manner that I saw no reason to despair of reducing the expences of the Colony, or in fact of adopting a system of management which would ultimately enable the Colonists to provide for themselves and I drew a rapid sketch of my plan. – He listened attentively – often, when I paused in the midst of a sentence, eagerly [original crossed out] finished it (to shew that he entered into my views) and concluded by declaring "that he concurred in the opinion, that the Colony might be made productive instead of continuing an increasing burthen, but that the more he waded into

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the fallacies and abuses now practised, the more he became disgusted. There is but one excuse if ever to be offered for your Governor, which is his total incapacity, but that Government have of course long known" – The Governor and the Commissioner, I am sorry to say, parted on very distant terms, owing to the foolish attempt made by the Governor to smuggle from the Magistrates and Clergy, a favourable report of the morals, virtue, religion, improving agriculture, flourishing commerce – pure administration of justice, strict discipline maintained amongst the Convicts, and surprising advances of the Colony in every respect from the commencement of his command –

After I had taken leave of Mr. Bigge, Mr. Scott followed me to my cottage and after a long and interesting conversation, told me, "that they looked to my evidence as the Key or touchstone of the truth of all they had heard" – the same thing was said to Dr. Bowman, who is of course on intimate terms and enjoys their confidence – Indeed the Dr. has frequently reported many handsome things which the Commissioner has said, tho' perhaps they were said, with an expectation that they would reach me, the Commissioner is a man of the World, and knows that a little flattery well applied, seldom does mischief – The business of the Merino bred Rams is as follows. – About a year ago, I took a favourable moment when I thought his Excellency disposed to be a little friendly, to recommend, that he would adopt some measures to patronise the increase of fine wooled Sheep – and I endeavoured to excite him to decided steps by hope that he might procure the favourable opinion and interest of the commercial and manufacturing Gentlemen at home to oppose to that of his inveterate foes, the Saints – I, however, could no further succeed than to prevail upon him to write Lt. Governor Sorrell to enquire if such an attempt would be acceptable to the Settlers in Van Dieman's Land. The Lieut Governor, it would appear, caught at the proposal with eager-ness, and wrote me a very handsome Letter of thanks (No.1) for having made it – To this Letter I replied in polite terms, accompanied with some general suggestions calculated to keep alive the feeling that had been raised, and stating that the young Rams were ready to be delivered whenever the Govr. should be pleased to call for them. This produced another letter from the Govr. Sorrell (No.2) – and a few days after a notification from his Excellency, that he had received information that the Settlers at Van Dieman's Land were desirous

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