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1-215 (Text)

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author,male,Reibey, George,18 addressee,male
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Private Written
Private Correspondence
Irvine, 1992
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1-215-plain.txt — 14 KB

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Sydney 14th February 1823. Mr David Hope
Dear Cousin
I shall endeavour by the length of this Letter to pay up my arrears being at present in debt for your favours of the 28th Decem. 21 and 28th Feby 22. accompanying the latter I received 8 Numbers of the Edin. Revue... free from the hands of Mr Browne for which receive my acknowledgements, to have them second hand as you observe will serve my purpose quite as well as at the full price. indeed much better / though not myself of a very thrifty saving turn I can admire a judicious economy whether displayed in trifleing or momentary affairs I shall aim at following the practical example of so good a Standard, / it pleased me to find that you believed me to be above the weak vanity which would much rather pay for the whole Feast than another should have the first taste / with respect to the merit of the Edin. Review I agree with you, and think that it exceld every other work of the Kind in Europe which led me to make choice of it in my first letter to you however I beg it to be understood that my judgement is confined to Britain being pretty well read in most of her best Authors. France may or may not have a production of equal merit. ignorance on this head compels me to shut my mouth and of course to suppress the opinion,
I learn that France is a Nation deeply learned and far advanced in literature consequently it behoves one to be cautious in speaking upon the merits of our own Authors lest we are supposed from National prejudice to overlook or not duly appreciate the labours of any other individuals whether French, Italian or Turk.  
The character of Mr Jeffry I have been acquainted with some time, of his powerful talents I am a great admirer, and cannot say that I dislike his politicks 
Were you to ask me my reasons for this preference perhaps the answer would be common place and unsatisfactory; some men range themselves at once on the side of the weaker party without giving the merits of the quarrel any consideration, perhaps this is my case - and perhaps you will think me an egoist for saying so. I have observed the Wig faction possess in a much greater proportion men of real talent who by dint of ability only are enabled to keep anything like a footing against the all powerful influence of Tories and Placemen. many of these it has struck me crouch under the Arm of power from a conviction of what would be their comparative insignificance were they to join the Party among whom to be in any wise distinguished. Common sence is a great requisate / if what I have said should clash with your ideas tell me so and I will endeavour to convince myself of my error and get rid of my present prepossession in favour of a set of men whom I have principally known through the medium of Newspapers. perhaps calculated to convey but a very limited Knowledge of their true motives and principals. I am frequently told that an examination for a short time of men and manners in England would change my sentiments upon many subjects. this, I cannot believe notwithstanding Goldsmith himself tells us
"That life is a Book of which he whose observations have been confined to his own Native Country has only read a single page"
I trust however that I should at all times be open to conversion.
Should I want Books at any time I will avail myself of your obliging offer to send them out to me but we obtain them here almost with as great facility as in England, by giving a discretional order. / you might send some that I have already, my collection now being pretty good. The works of your ingenious Countryman Sir W. Scott I have long since read / scarcely one of His Poems or Novels have escaped me from the Lady of the Lake to the very inferior production upon Waterloo from Waverly to the Buccaneers / this last disappointed my expectations / whether it or the Monastery is best I cannot determine, and perhaps it will become me better to withold an opinion, lest a remark which I have some where read should be applied to me
"That every Man especially at an age when most... of experience and apprehension of being mistaken should put him upon his guard ought to be very cautious how he passed judgement upon Writers of established merit for fear it should happen to him as it does to a great many to blame what he does not understand."  If I thought Henry Grey Bonner could turn your extract from my Letter to our advantage I would surprise him with something more of the same kind from myself, but I doubt it. That same Right Honble Gent you must know has had the misfortune (tho a Wig) to fall a little under my displeasure for his very unwarranted attack upon Genl. McQuarie our late worthy Governor than whom a more strictly upright and Moral Man will never again rule over us, nor one who will show himself more truly alive to the best interests of the Colony by his laborious assiduity for its advancement and reformation / I am much astonished to find that the Revd. Mr Marsden has found means to create so general and so strong a feeling in his favour throughout Britain, and at the expence of the worthy Personage abovementioned, we here can best judge which of the two deserves it most. The great host of Religionists headed by the great Wilberforce seem to have long sought the ruin of a meritorious Man, acting unwittingly upon the most exaggerated and unfounded complaints; in the Country however the Revd. Gentn. alluded to stands alone, his spiritual Brethren on their arrival here invariably change sentiments towards him. 
The Commissioners Report I find is at last come forth, a few copies are now in the Colony, but I have not yet seen one. McQuarie as we expected is severely lashed and Marsden much excelled.. it is now almost the sole topic of the Day, nothing I believe ever excited a stronger sensation here, which is increased by the Copies being so scarce and the utter impossibility at present of getting them out of the hands of the few individuals to whom they are sent. everyone therefore is enquiring of his Neighbour if he has seen the Report or heard anything that is in it. Should this chance to be the case whatever it may be it is swallowed with the greater avidity. Should I be lucky enough to get it into my hands before the Vessel sails by which this Letter is forwarded I will let you know what will be the effect that in my opinion it is likely to produce in the event of the British Govt. adopting the Measures it may recommend though from what I can collect a total silence is observed upon the score at present that everything respecting the future direction of our affairs will be treated of in a continuation, a great many individuals well known here are rather roughly handled and some deservedly, but if all I hear is true, a great portion is irrelevant abuse, foreign to the purpose of his mission, and in no way calculated to further its ends while I admit that it was his particular province to make a faithful representation of the public Actions of public Men I think it made no part of his duty to animadvert upon the private conduct of private Men, deserve it or not, supposing however that he had the right to do so, its impolicy is obvious. indelible disgrace is fixed upon them, which does not perish... but is handed down to their Posterity - and if in this place, the Sins of the Fathers are to be visited upon the Children every scheme for reformation will be thwarted - every laudable excursion paralysed - if an enquiry was instituted into the Character of every man in the British Dominions, very few among those whom the World designate just and honourable if weighted in the balance but would be found wanting and without any real claim to such distinction. We know that the man does not breathe who can take a retrospect of his past life with guiltless satisfaction,- Should not some attention be paid to the way in which a Person sent here has conducted himself since he committed the offence that made him for a time an outcast, if it has been exemplary will any feeling liberal minded man say he ought not be reinstated in Society? - No to what end?. and then are these wounds so sensibly felt by him, and healed by good behaviour, again torn open, and he once more to answer as it were for crimes which by being harrowed up after the lapse of so many years places him in the same degraded point of view in which he stood as a culpret answering for them at the Bar of justice - Perhaps you will think the above stricture premature as I have not yet read the Report but those that have say that it contains a great deal of abstract matter and a very few palpably erronious statements. if so they will not fail in appearing before the British Public in a proper shape. two of the principal personages attacked are now in England, Messrs Redfern and Eagar. men possessed of good abilities and great local Knowledge, therefore quite competent to cope with Mr Bigge.  
in fact one of the objects of their voyage was to meet that Gentn. upon his own Ground, and reply to the aspertions they knew he was about to cast upon them. both it is true unfortunately came Prisoners to this Country, but have maintained an unimpeachable character ever since their arrival - which together with their superior talents have procured them much influence and esteem among those who came here under the same circumstances. they have consequently been looked upon as the Leaders of this party between which and a certain set here, a violent enmity and jealousy exists - these latter pride themselves upon having come out free but not content with conscious superiority which this circumstance assuredly gives them they catch at every opportunity to evince their contempt and dislike by the most arrogant demeanour and unfeeling expressions, the real cause is a jealousy of the increasing importance which the superior wealth of this class of the community is daily giving to them no hesitation is made in saying that a fellow who has been a convict should not be allowed to hold property and they would fain make it appear that in virtue of their condescension in coming among such vile refuse - the distance, too, considered - all the Loaves and Fishes should be wrested from the creatures and given as a compensation for the honour done the place by their presence. this feeling was carried so far as to be broached in one of our Courts of Justice the Judge of which is a person I have mentioned, / He took great pains to search for and examine musty old statutes and succeeded in finding one which provided that no subject once convicted of a Felony shall at any after time be allowed to possess Property in his own right / this has never been acted upon here, but was delivered with great emphasis to a crowed court as the Law of the Land. The great proportion of the people are here for Offences do not come within this statute - therefore the sensation excited by such a declaration was not very great, however upon being more maturely considered it was received as a dangerous point gained that might lead to something more comprehensive - the whole body of what are termed the Emancipists took the alarm, called a general Meeting and came to the resolution of appealing to the British Parliament. In pursuance of which Messrs Redfern and Eagar were deputed to lay their representations before the House of Commons, to enable them to meet every expence in doing so - they were furnished with about £1,000 Subscribed by the Meeting - though if it is true that the Commissioner himself recommends that the abovementioned Law which places the Effects of the Emancipated Felons in jeopardy should be abolished, all further proceeding on the part of Mr Eagar will be unnecessary. Should it ultimately turn out that we have formed an erroneous estimate of the value of Mr Bigg's mission to the Colony, I opine that you will set us down as a narrow-minded - prejudiced set - if you are not heavily sick, tired, and impatient of the tedious length of my treatise upon colonial politicks you will read on and hear the excuse I should make in such a case. but if on the contrary it is as uninteresting as I suspect and poor patience being worn to a skeleton, expires here the luckless Australians! what conclusions will be drawn to your disadvantage by my sober calculating headed Cousin. How is it he will say that these opinions are so widely diffused - upon what have these frail mortals at the Antipodes founded such notions and formed such gloomy anticipations when things it appears have turned out so diametrically opposite - they do not consult the Entrails of Beasts or the flight of Birds as in days of yore neither can I attribute it to the climate which is not of a nature to produce that vapourish disposition to view always the dark side of things - what is it then he will say to himself. Why nothing short of downright Rank prejudice - and I will prove it, - out of the mouth of one of their own body will I convict them, who forsooth has had the effrontery to say in one part of this letter that he has become prejudiced in favour of a set of men here without being able to assign any thing like a reasonable reason why - what therefore is this person's predominant passion? it does not require an answer - consequently as I believe him to be a fair specimen I conclude that they have all been activated by the same feeling in their speculations upon the results of Mr Bigg's Report and not worthy of a sensible Man's further notice. - But stop - it has just occurred to me that I have said in one of my Letters. That I take great interest in the affairs of this Country to give them up too precipitately will not seem so and upon second thoughts. I had better first read a little more of this tiresome letter.  
When I tell you that the Commissioner immediately on his arrival attached himself closely to the party I have spoken of as so hostile to the interests of the Emancipated Colonists and was evidently both in word and deed thoroughly infected with their illiberality you will think with me that they had great cause to apprehend the words from him. My good Cousin resumes - well this is a tolerable apology and may do, but had they been anything better than short sighted dolts without one particle of penetration they would have at once seen the refined policy of Mr B's conduct in adopting the best method of drawing out all these real sentiments by a deceiving sympthay This my dear Cousin was a motive I at one time was willing to attribute to him, it doubtless would have been wise plan had there been a sincere desire on the part of Mr Biggs to secure