FOR long centuries after its creation, the most beautiful island of the Austral seas was unknown to white men. The aborigines dwelt in the charming content and primitive innocence which, according to Rousseau, is the only slate in which man may be truly happy. They hunted the opossum to its tree lair, and chased kangaroo, wallaby and emu over the plains. The men carried spears and waddies wherewith to kill game or fight hostile tribes. The women wove grass baskets, dived in the rocky pools on the shore forcrayfish, and, after the manner of primitive women, were the drudges of their lords. In summer the race went unclothed, in winter they covered themselves with skins. The women wore the added bravery of ruffles, but were denied the masculine finery of feathers, flowers and kangaroo teeth inserted in the hair. Each family had its rude hut and hunted separately. They preserved lire by carrying a brand. Their practice in war had some of the elements of military science. At night they danced the emu dance round their fires, and sang in stanzas often repeated the doughty deeds in war or love of sable warriors past or present.
Across the valleys or in the forests the tribal units cooee-ed to each other from a great distance. It was this vocal note .which Tasman heard in 1642 and mistook fur the sound of a trumpet. The Tasmanian aborigines used it in common with the natives of the great Australian mainland, of which they were probably a branch. Their intellect was low, but their powers of observation, as became a wandering race, extremely acute. Religious ideas were few and uncertain. These primitive people believed in a malignant power, and feared darkness. Their theory of the creation has at least the merit of humor. A benevolent being made them with tails and minus knee joints. Another good spirit came down and cut off the tail and with grease softened the knees. Tasmania had lovely flowers — scentless ; bright birds— songless; but no grain or fruit of value. All its successive discoverers, however, Dutch, English and French, averred it had the finest climate in the world, the kindest soil, and scenery such as one sees nowhere else on either side of the line. Soil and climate waited for those who could use them. As the Irish poet writes: —
Oh, beauteous South land I land of yellow air.
That hangeth o'er thee slumbering, and doth hold
The moveless foliage of thy valleys lair
And' wooded hills like aureole of gold.
Oh, thou discovered ere the fitting time,
Ere nature in completion turned thee forth !
Ere aught was finished but thy peerless clime,
Thy virgin breath allured the amorous North.
It was in the reign of the luckless monarch Charles I, that the Dutch discovered Tasmania. The then Stadtholder of Holland was Frederick Henry, grand-father of William of Orange. It was by order of Anthony Van Diemen, Governor-General of Batavia, that Abel Janszoon Tasman was commissioned to explore the Great South Land, the name by which Australia, or rather, New Holland, was then known. The first land sighted by Tasman in November, 1642, was that now known us Point Hibbs. He afterwards anchored in Frederick Henry Bay, calling it after the ruler of Holland. The country itself he named Van Diemen's Land in honor of the Governor of Batavia, whose agent he was. It is on record that Tasman was in love with the daughter of the Governor. We should he as loath to disbelieve the story as to doubt Nelson's "England expects every man to do his duty." This little romance lends an added charm to the Dutchman's discoveries. As on Australian poetess has it : —
My country sends me
Trusted with a high command.
With the Zeehan and the Heemsklrk.
To explore the southern strand."
So spoke Tasman to his lady, and
Sailing under southern skies,
Mingled with his hopes of glory,
Thoughts of one with starlike eyes.
Onward sailed he, ever onward.
Faithful as the stars above,
Many a cape and headland pointing,
Tells the legend of his love.
For he linked their names together —
Speeding swiftly o'er the wave —
Tasman's Isle and Cape Maria
Still they bear the names be gave.
Tasman stayed but five days in the neighborhood of his new discovery, and left under the impression that it was part of the great mainland. The Dutch navigator then proceeded to New Zealand, which he also named. For 130 years the Sleeping Beauty amongst Australian isles was undisturbed. The next visit was that of Captain Marion du Fresne, a French navigator, in 1772. He had a hostile encounter with the natives. In 1773 Captain Furneaux, Captain Cook's second in command, touched at Van Diemen's Land, as Tasmania till 1856 continued to be called. Furneaux and his superior officer commanded respectively the Adventure and Resolution. Their voyage was one intended to explore the southern Polar regions ; but the vessels got separated in a fog, so Furneaux's visit was accidental. Five years later, on his third and final voyage to the Pacific, Cook himself visited Tasmania in the same ship, the Resolution dropping anchor in Adventure Bay about a mile from the shore. To quote Mr. Barren Field, whose name is part of the history of Tasmania : — This must be the place where our Columbus of the South did land. Fix there the Ephesian brass, 'tis classic ground.
Some years later Lieutenant Bligh visited the island and planted seven fruit trees. All but one apple tree perished. Oyster Bay was discovered by Captain Cox, of the brig Mercury, a twelve month later. The expedition sent out by the French Government to ascertain the fate of La Perouse reached Tasmania in 1792. It was commanded by Rear- Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux in the Recherche, and Captain Huon de Kermadec in the Esperance. Memories of these gallant Frenchmen and their ships remain in channel and island, river and cape named after them. The discovery of the channel which bears the rear-admiral's name was the most important discovery since the time of Tasman. The Derwent was called by the French Riviere du Nord. Captain Hayes, a later visitor, gave it the north country name it now bears.
Not till 1798, when the problem was solved by Dr. Bass, did the world know that Tasmania was not a part of the Australian mainland. Dr. Bass and his friend Captain Flinders had a colonial sloop, the Norfolk, 25 tons, placed at their disposal by the Governor of New South Wales. It was they who generously named the mountains on the west coast Zeehan and Hemskirk after Tasman's vessels. Point Hibbs was a compliment paid to the master of the Norfolk. The misfortunes of these distinguished navigators calls to mind Thoreau's assertion that the after fate of those who travel much is generally pathetic. Cook's sad end it well known. D'Entrecasteaux and Kermadec were both buried on foreign strands. Flinders suffered a long imprisonment in the Isle of France, and later, when released and the record of his work was taken over for publication by the Admiralty, and fame promised to be of value to him, "he cast that anchor which is never weighed." The fate of Bass is involved in obscurity. He died unwept, unhonored and unsung. His companion, however, received a fitting token of respect from another great and unlucky navigator. On the rock of Stamford Hill, Port Lincoln, South Australia, may be seen the obelisk, erected by Sir John Franklin to the memory of Flinders. It bears the inscription,
"This place, from which the gulf and its shores were first surveyed on the. 26th of February, 1802, by Matthew Flinders, R.N., Commander of H.M.S. Investigator, and the discoverer of the country now called South Australia, was on 12th January, 1841, with the sanction of Lieut. Governor Gawler, K.H., then Governor of the colony, then set apart for, and in the first year of the Government of Captain G. Grey adorned with, this monument to the perpetual memory of the illustrious navigator, his honored commander, by Sir John Franklin, Captain R.N., K.C.H., K.R., Lt.-Governor of Van Diemen's Land."
Sir George Grey still lives, the Grand Old Man of New Zealand.
The establishment of an English settlement in Tasmania was intended to relieve Port Jackson, but it was certainly hastened by jealousy of a rival power. Had it been deferred the tri-color would have been planted on the island by Captain Baudin, commander of a French exploring expedition. On 3rd June, 1803, Lieuteuant John Bowen left Sydney in the Lady Nelson with a detachment of the Now South Wales corps and 10 male and 6 female prisoners. He landed at Risdon, on the east bank of the Derwent. About the same time the Ministry of Great Britain had determined upon a settlement at Port Phillip, and in April of the same year an expedition was forwarded from England, which consisted of the Calcutta and the Ocean, under command of Colonel Collins. This expedition comprised in all 402 souls — sailors, marines, Government officials, a few free settlers and their wives and children. A settlement was made near Sorrento. After nearly three months' trial, for various reasons Colonel Collins considered the site inappropriate. In his garrison order he refers to it as " un-promising and unproductive." So the party embarked for Tasmania, where it arrived in two divisions on the 16th and 30th of February, 1804. Colonel Collins disapproved of Lieutenant Bowen's choice of Risdon as a settlement. - He preferred the spot on which Hobart now stands. Its chief recommendation was the stream which runs through the centre of the city. Colonel Collins so named the settlement Hobart Town after his patron, the then Secretary of State, Lord Hobart. The later half of the name was recently dropped. Philip Gidley King was the first Governor-in-Chief of Tasmania and the third at Now South Wales. Colonel David Collins was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the new colony by his patron Lord Hobart.
During his administration the progress of the colony was barely perceptible. There were no roads to the interior, no public buildings, and for some years after his arrival the Governor still lived in a tent. The first Tasmanian house was built of wattle and daub by Lieutenant E. Lord, and was considered quite a mansion. The first event of importance in the new settlement was the removal of the free settlers from Norfolk Island. This order was issued by the Home Government at the instigation of Colonel Collins, who represented the island as by no means likely to repay its annual cost. But such opposition to removal did the settlers evince that not till five years after the order was issued could it be carried into effect. They were offered a home in New South Wales or Tasmania — generally they chose the latter. They were rationed from the public stores, and their possessions in land doubled. The settlers divided into three classes according to their origin or wealth, were located in part of the neighborhood of Hobart Town, Pittwater, New Norfolk and Norfolk Plains. Thirty, forty or fifty acres formed the usual grant. Larger ones until a later period were neither possessed nor desired. The hopeless state of the immigrant farms was noticed in every document of the time. Social disorganisation was rampant, as it must always be in the early stages of a country whose inhabitants are from public opinion. In 1805 Joseph Holt, the Irish exile, who generalled the rebel army at Wexford in '98, was released from restraint in Sydney, and visited Tasmania where he contributed greatly to its welfare by his agricultural and pastoral experience. Governor Collins thought highly of Joseph Holt, and sent him to examine the land in Derwent Valley with a view to future to future location. "The finest country eyes ever beheld," wrote Mr. Holt, when, after proceeding along the river banks, he struck the district subsequently called New Norfolk, after the previous residence of its settlers.