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1-206 (Text)

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author,male,Dixon, James,un addressee
Narrative Discourse
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Dixon, 1822
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The settler, at such an immense distance from home, begins now to feel the difficulties of his situation, especially when every kind of useful thing is enhanced three times its real value, by the avarice of the merchants; who, however, it must be admitted, certainly run great risk in selling their goods; but if they get half they charge they are well paid.
I shall now attempt to describe the river Derwent, from Hobart Town upwards. This river, in a nautical point of view, is of the greatest value, as there is plenty of water for any vessel, six or seven miles above Hobart Town, and I think there are at least 14 feet at high tides, up to New Norfolk, the first settlement of any consequence situated on the banks of the river. New Norfolk is about 22 miles by water, and much the same by land. The scite of a new town is marked out on the left side of the river, on an eminence called Richmond Hill. The town is to be named Elizabeth Town. The situation is well chosen; and when it is considered, that it will be the shipping place for all the settlements at new Norfolk, it will most likely in a few years become a town of some note; at present there are not more than 23 or 24 houses.  Government intend, to erect a school, and other buildings, as they may be required.
It is not until you come up to New Norfolk, that you discover the value of Van Dieman's land in an agricultural point of view. You there observe corn, barley, &c. thriving well, under the management in general, of only very indifferent farmers, who with confined means contrive to get a few acres of wheat sown. The agriculturists are completely kept down by the merchants, and political causes. Government is the principal purchaser; and it only takes off a limited quantity, for the purposes of feeding the convicts that are employed at public works. That demand has lately increased, owing to the immense number of persons sent out, more particularly to Van Dieman's Land, which colony has proved itself the granary of New South Wales.
Those parts I visited, present a complete belt of mountains encircling plains, something similar to the downs we have in England.  On the slopes of these lands are many fine situations for arable and pasture farms. The country is peculiarly adapted for sheep; and that animal thrives uncommonly well, and increases astonishingly. The wool, at present, is of little value, being coarse and hairy; but this is not natural to the climate, as its wool has decidedly improved. The attention of the proprietors is directed to produce fine wool; several merinos, from the flocks of John M'Arthur, Esq. and other gentlemen, having been sent to this colony; and, in two or three seasons, there is no doubt the flocks will improve in quality. The country is not particularly well watered; yet, taking its climate into consideration, it is much superior to Australia, where the burning heats in summer dry tip every thing. At present, few attempts have been made either to sink wells or form tanks, which will be the case when the country is more fully peopled.
The wheat of this colony is uncommonly fine. Hitherto barley and oats have not been cultivated, excepting small quantities of the former for brewers, which trade, at present, is at a very low ebb.  A brewery is about to be begun by a gentleman, which will most likely supersede the necessity of importing malt liquors, by making beer, &c. of a good quality. This gentleman has advertised to give 7s. per bushel for barley. Any person would naturally think this would encourage agriculture; but the facility of procuring the necessaries of life being great, and little energy in the agriculturist, improvement does not increase in the rapid way it would, were industry the order of the day. Under the present Governor the country is likely soon to become of importance, as every exertion is making towards improving and making roads, and also laying the foundation of such public works as will be of great use to the community.
The executive is much cramped, by orders of rigid economy from home; yet if England has a colony which will be of great importance, this is one; to which, under proper management, she ought to extend a liberal hand. I have no doubt but the returns from these settlements will, by good management, and with reasonable advantages, become of great value.  
This colony has for some years supplied New South Wales with grain, as well as with great quantities of animal food, such as salted beef, mutton, and pork.
Last season, fifty thousand bushels of wheat were exported from the settlements of Hobart Town, Pitt Water, and Port Dalrymple, besides many tons of salted provisions. Indeed, without the Derwent, the settlements in Australia would be in danger of want; the heavy rains of 1820 having made the Governor in Chief afraid of a short supply, he gave a tacit permission to the captain of the Surry to import a cargo. That ship loaded at Valparaiso, and arrived in June 1821, with 15,000 bushels of wheat. The alarm which had been caused by the floods, however, proved groundless; yet wheat, at the time of the Surry's arrival, brought 12s. per bushel, particularly Van Dieman's Land wheat. The price of this article, in Sydney market, fell in consequence of this arrival. The high price which it commanded, shews that it was wanted. In so limited a market, in very abundant crops, there being no means of foreign export, the prices are exceedingly low; but Government always give 10s. per bushel for a certain quantity, taking it from every settler in proportion to the number of acres he has in cultivation.  When wheat is cheap, he of course swells the statement of his lands in cultivation, to as great amount as he can. These small matters of finesse are, however, too trifling to be of any very great consequence. As the country becomes more populous, the regulations of the Colony will be better attended to; and though the Governor, and persons connected with the Commissariat, are frequently accused of partiality in the distribution of the advantages to be derived from the sales of produce, or the gifts of lands, yet it may be believed, that they are as impartial as they possibly can be; considering that some power must be entrusted to them, and they ought alone to be judges of many acts which were, perhaps, highly expedient and necessary, either for the benefit of government, or the public weal. In small governments, and more especially in a government of the nature of that of New South Wales, the Governor being necessarily vested with arbitary