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Dated Port Jackson, New South Wales, April 14, 1790.

By the time this reaches you, the fate of this Settlement, and all it contains, will be decided. It is now more than two years since we landed here, and within less than a month of three since we left England.  So cut off from all intercourse with the rest of mankind are we, that subsequent to the month of August, 1788, we know not of any transaction that has happened in Europe, and are no more assured of the welfare or existence of any of our friends, than of what passes in the Moon.  It is by those only who have felt the anguish and distress of such a state, that its miseries can be conceived.

The little European knowledge that we are masters of, we picked out of some old English Newspapers, which were brought from the Cape of Good Hope about a twelvemonth back, in the Sirius, by which ship you may possible recollect to have received a letter from me, dated October 1, 1788; but as to all family news, all knowledge of our private affairs, or little endearing accounts, which no man, I presume, is without a wish to receive, nothing but a blank for the long space of three years has been presented to us.  But great as our anxiety on this head is, it falls short of what we suffer on another account: the dread of perishing by famine stares us in the face; on the day I write we have but eight weeks provision in the Public Stores, and all chance of reinforcement under seven months is cut off, unless ships from England should yet, notwithstanding the lateness of the season, come in upon us.  The hope of this is, however, very feeble, for, without the most shameful and cruel inattention on your part, ships must have left England by the first of August last, to come here; and if so, they have undoubtedly perished on their route.  Even this alternative, dreadful as it is, is less afflicting than to believe, that our Country would send us out here as a sacrifice to Famine, and the Savages of the place, who, if ever they shall by any means learn our situation, will prove extremely troublesome.

    To add to our misfortunes, the Sirius (one of the two ships of war on this station) was totally and irretreivably lost on Norfolk Island, the 19th of last month.  The particulars of this trying calamity, I cannot at present spare time to write, but I am happy to say, that Captain HUNTER and all the rest of her crew, were saved with difficulty.  She had left us, for Norfolk Island, in the beginning of the month, and carried to that place the Lieutenant Governor, half the Battalion of Marines, and 200 Convicts, whom it was thought advisable to send there, in order that we may be as variously dispersed in the approaching crisis, to procure food, as possible.  Had the Sirius returned safely here, it was intended to have dispatched her immediately to China, to load with provisions for the Colony.

      You never saw such dismay as the news of the wreck occasioned among us all; for to use a sea term, we looked upon her as our sheet anchor.  All that can now be done, is to dispatch the Supply, a little Brig, commanded by a Lieutenant of the Navy, to Bavaria, where she is, if possible, by offering any price, to procure a large ship, and load her with relief for us.  By this convenience the opportunity of writing is afforded me, but God knows how, or when it will reach you, though it is proper to observe that an Officer is to proceed from Batavia to England with dispatches for the Secretary of State, as quickly as can be done.  This is written in a very different language to my last letter, when I exulted with hope, and looked forward with confidence. Let what will happen, I shall be cheered by the reflection of my misfortunes not being caused by my own errors, an unspeakable consolation, besides which, I am not very apt to despair and have many things in my favour.  I am a stranger to sickness, and find neither heat, cold, wet or dry, affect my constitution in any shape whatever.  Some little private comforts, which in better days, I did not wanton away, are yet left me: nay, I have had enough to succour more than one of my neighbours in distress.  It is true, our present allowance is a short one, two pounds of pork, which was cured four years ago, and shrinks to nothing if boiled; two pounds and an half of flour, a pound of rice and a pint of pease per week, is what we live upon.  Now on this ratio, reduced as it is, I have no fear of being able to crawl on for many months to come; so that if Heaven be but favourable to the voyage of the Supply (and, thank God, she is as ably commanded and navigated as any ship in the King's Service) all things will will yet do, for when I spoke of only eight weeks provisions in the stores, I meant at full allowance, whereas what we are at at present, is but a third.

Again, to help us out, we use every means to get fish, and sometimes with good success, which is an incredible relief.  On the fishing service, the Officers Civil and Military take it in turns every night to go out for the whole night in the fishing boats; and the Military besides keep a guard at Botany Bay, and carry on a fishery there, taking it three days and three days, turn and turn about.  Were the ground good, our gardens would be found of infinite use to us in these days of scarcity, but with all our efforts we cannot draw much from them: however, they afford something, and by industry and incessant fatigue, mine is one of the best. Were you to see us digging, hoeing, and planting, it would make you smile.  As to Parade duties and shew, we have long laid them aside, except the mounting a small guard by day, and a picquet at night.  Our soldiers have not a shoe, and mount guard barefoot.  "Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war are at an end."  After having suffered what we do, I shall be grievously hurt, on landing in England, to meet the sneers of a set of holiday troops, whose only employ has been to powder their hair, polish their shoes, and go through the routine of a field day, though I must own that our air, gait, and raggedness, will give them some title to be merry at our expence.  So incessantly have we been employed, that no military manoeuvre of the least consequence, has been practised by us since our embarkation at Plymouth.  To cut down trees, turn up ground, and build houses, have engrossed all our labour and attention.

Amomg other letters which I write by this opportunity, is a very long one to the ******, in which I have very fairly and freely set down my opinion of this country.  The following passage, which I extract for your satisfaction, and which I close my account, will, I hope, impress his Lordship strongly with the idea of giving his opinion, for abandoning the Colony, should he ever be consulted on the occasion, or should it at any time become matter of Parliamentary Debate.  As to the veracity and justice with which it is written, I will maintain them against any interested opponent who may choose to start against me, in the face of the whole world.

 "The Country, my Lord, is past all dispute a wretched one, a very wretched, and totally incapable of yielding to Great Britain a return for Colonising it. Amidst its native productions, I cannot number one which is valuable as an article of commerce. There is no wood fit for naval purposes, no fibrous grass or plant from which cordage can be made: no substance which can aid or improve the labours of the manufacturer; no mineral productions, no esculent vegetable, worth the care of collecting and transporting to other climes; and lastly, which is the most serious consideration, no likelihood that the Colony will be able to support itself in grain or animal food for many years to come: so that a regular annual Expence is entailed on the Mother Country as long as it is kept."

Besides this, I have given his ***** every other piece of information relative to our Government, management on the Convicts, and knowledge of the natives, in my power.

[In right-hand margin]
Reprinted from The Oracle of 25th April 1791

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