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1-046 (Original)

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author,female,Macarthur, Elizabeth,26 addressee,female
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Private Written
Private Correspondence
Webby, 1989
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Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta
1st Sept., 1795
Once again, my much loved friend, it is permitted me to sit down under a conviction that the letter I am about to write will be received by you with pleasure. By the capture of a ship off the coast of Brazil we were left without any direct intelligence from Europe for twelve months. We firmly believed that a Revolution or some national calamity had befallen Great Britain, and we should be left altogether to ourselves, until things at home had resumed some degree of order, and the tempest a little subsidised. These fears, however, have by a late arrival proved without foundation.
This country possesses numerous advantages to persons holding appointments under Government. It seems the only part of the Globe where quiet is to be expected. We enjoy here one of the finest climates in the World. The necessaries of life are abundant, and a fruitful soil affords us many luxuries. Nothing induces me to wish for a change but the difficulty of educating our children, and were it otherwise, it would be unjust towards them to confine them to so narrow a society. My desire is that they should see a little more of the world, and better learn to appreciate this retirement. Such as it is the little creatures all speak of going home to England with rapture. My dear Edward almost quitted me without a tear. They have early imbibed an idea that England is the seat of happiness and delight; that it contains all that can be gratifying to their senses, and that of course they are there to possess all they desire. [96] It would be difficult to undeceive young people bred up in so secluded a situation, if they had not an opportunity given them of convincing themselves. But hereafter I shall much wonder if some of them make not this place the object of their choice. By the date of this letter you will see that we still reside on our farm at Parramatta, a native name signifying the head of a river, which it is. The town extends one mile in length from the landing-place, and is terminated by the Government House, which is built on an eminence, named Rose Hill. Our farm, which contains from 400 to 500 acres, is bounded on three sides by water. This is particularly convenient. We have at this time about 120 acres in wheat, all in a promising state. Our gardens, with fruit and vegetables, are extensive and produce abundantly.
It is now spring, and the eye is delighted with the most beautiful variegated landscape. Almonds, apricots, pear and apple trees are in full bloom. The native shrubs are also in flower and the whole country gives a grateful perfume. There is a very good carriage road now made from hence to Sydney, which by land is distant about 14 miles, and another from this to the river Hawkesbury, which is about 20 miles from hence in a direct line across the country. Parramatta is a central position between both. I have once visited the Hawkesbury, and made the journey on horseback. The road is through an uninterrupted wood, with the exception of the village of Toongabie, a farm of Government, and one or two others, which we distinguish by the name of Greenlands, on account of the fine grass, and there being few trees compared with the other parts of the country, which is occasionally brushy, and more or less covered with underwood.
The greater part of the country is like an English park, and the trees give it the appearance of a wilderness or shrubbery, commonly attached to the habitations of people of fortune, filled with a variety of native plants, placed in a wild irregular manner. I was at the Hawkesbury three days. It is a noble fresh water river, taking its rise in a precipitous range of mountains, that it has hitherto been impossible to pass; many attempts have been made, although in vain. I spent an entire day on this river, going in a boat to a beautiful spot, named by the late Governor, "Richmond Hill", high and overlooking a great extent of country. On one side are those stupendous barriers to which I have alluded, rising as it were immediately above your head; below, the river itself, still and unruffled; out of sight is heard a water fall whose distant murmurs add awfulness to the scene. I could have spent more time here, but we were not without apprehensions of being interrupted by the natives, as about that time they were very troublesome, and had killed many white people on the banks of the river. The soil in the valley of this river is most productive, and greatly superior to any that has been tilled in this country, which has induced numbers to settle there, but having no vessels there is at present much difficulty in transporting the produce to Sydney. [97] Our stock of cattle is large; we have now fifty head, a dozen horses, and about a thousand sheep.
You may conclude from this that we kill mutton, but hitherto we have not been so extravagant. Next year, Mr Macarthur tells me, we may begin. I have now a very good dairy, and in general, make a sufficiency of butter to supply the family, but it is at present so great an object to rear the calves, that we are careful not to rob them of too much milk. We use our horses both for pleasure and profit; they alternately run in the chaise or cart.
Mr Macarthur has also set a Plough at work, the first which has been used in the country, and it is drawn sometimes by oxen and at others by horses. The ground was before tilled with the hoe. These details I am sensible have no other interest than as far as they serve to show the progressive state of this yet infant settlement.
Mr Macarthur once superintended the agricultural concerns of the Government, but since the arrival of Governor Hunter he has declined further interference. By the kindness of the commanding officer of the Regiment we are permitted to reside here, and there being a good road, as I have before observed, to Sydney, Mr M. is enabled to attend to all his duties at headquarters, although at times upon very short notice. Myself, or one or more of the children, occasionally accompany him. As the distance is convenient, our stay is prolonged as business or pleasure require, or we return the same day, but as our family is large we do not choose to be long absent from home together.
Mr Macarthur has frequently in his employment 30 or 40 people whom we pay weekly for their labour. Eight are employed as stock-keepers in the garden, stables and house; and five more, besides women servants; these we both feed and clothe, or, at least, we furnish them with the means of providing clothes for themselves. We have but two men fed at the expense of the Crown, altho' there are persons who contrive to get twenty or more, which the Governor does not or will not notice.
You will wonder how a return is made for the daily expense which it must appear to you we incur.
In the first place, some thousands of persons are fed from the public stores, perhaps between three or four thousand, all of whom were formerly supplied with flour from England to meet the demand for bread. But since so many individuals have cleared farms and have thereby been enabled to raise a great quantity of grain in the country, which at the present time is purchased by the Commissary at 10s. a bushel, and issued for what are termed rations, or the proportionate quantity due to each person instead of flour. In payment for which the Commissary issues a receipt, approved of by the Government; and these receipts pass current here as coin, and are taken by Masters of Ships and other adventurers who come to these parts with merchandise for sale. [98] When any number of these have been accumulated in the hands of individuals they are returned to the Commissary, who gives a Bill on the Treasury in England for them. These bills amount to thirty or forty thousand pounds annually. How long Government may continue so expensive a plan it would be difficult to foresee. Pigs are bought upon the same system, as would also sheep and cattle, if their numbers would admit of their being killed. Beef might be sold at 4s., if not 5s. the lb. A good horse is worth £140 to £150. Be it ever so bad it never sells for less than £100. A cow is valued at about £80. An English cow that was the property of Colonel Grose sold for £100. From this statement you will perceive that those persons who took early precautions to raise livestock have at present singular advantages.
We have fattened and killed a great number of hogs in the year, which enables us to feed a large establishment of servants. These labourers are such as have been convicts, and whose time of transportation has expired. They then cease to be fed at the expense of Government, and employ themselves as they please. Some endeavour to procure a passage home to England; some become settlers, and others hire themselves out for labour. They demand an enormous price, seldom less than 4s. or 5s. a day. For such as have many in their employment it becomes necessary to keep on hand large supplies of such articles as are most needed by these people, for shops there are none. The officers in the Colony, with a few others possessed of money or credit in England, unite together and purchase the cargoes of such vessels as repair to this country from various quarters. Two or more are chosen from the number to bargain for the cargo offered for sale, which is then divided amongst them, in proportion to the amount of their subscriptions. This arrangement prevents monopoly, and the impositions that would be otherwise practised by masters of ships. These details which may seem prolix are necessary to show you the mode in which we are in our infant condition compelled to proceed.
I have had the misfortune to lose a sweet Boy of eleven months old, who died very suddenly by an illness occasioned by teething. The other three, Elizabeth, John, and Mary are well. I have lately been made very happy by learning the safe arrival of Edward in England. We often remember and talk over in the evening the hospitalities which we have both received in Bridgerule Vicarage, and happy shall I be if it is ever permitted me to mark my remembrance more strongly than is expressed in these lines.
If you are in the habit of visiting the Whitsilne family I pray that you will kindly remember me to them. The benevolence of the Major's heart will dispose him to rejoice at the success which has attended us, and that the activity which was very early discernible in the mind of Mr Macarthur has had a field for advantageous exertion. [99] How is it, my dearest friend, that you are still single? Are you difficult to please? or has the war left you so few bachelors from amongst whom to choose? But suffer me to offer you a piece of advice: abate a few of your scruples, and marry. I offer in myself an instance that it is not always, with all our wise foreseeings, those marriages which promise most or least happiness prove in their result such as our friends may predict. Few of mine, I am certain, when I married thought that either of us had taken a prudent step. I was considered indolent and inactive; Mr Macarthur too proud and haughty for our humble fortune or expectations, and yet you see how bountifully Providence has dealt with us. At this time I can truly say no two people on earth can be happier than we are. In Mr Macarthur's society I experience the tenderest affections of a husband, who is instructive and cheerful as a companion. He is an indulgent Father, beloved as a Master, and universally respected for the integrity of his character. Judge then my friend, if I ought not to consider myself a happy woman.
I have hither in all my letters to my friends forborn to mention Mr Macarthur's name, lest it might appear in me too ostentatious. Whenever you marry look out for good sense in a husband. You would never be happy with a person inferior to yourself in point of understanding. So much my early recollection of you and of your character bids me say.
E. M.