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Title: Thomas Mitchell: Surveyor General and Explorer
Author: J H L Cumpston
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700531h.html
Language:  English
Date first posted: April 2007
Date most recently updated: April 2007

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Thomas Mitchell

Surveyor General and Explorer


J H L Cumpston


Thomas Mitchell about 1839

This volume is dedicated to the memory of
and the many unknown or forgotten humble
builders of our nation, who, after tragic
deaths, lie in lonely graves in the still silent
places of our land.


Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D


Front Thomas Mitchell, about 1839
I     Sir George Murray
      From a painting by Pieter Christoph Wonder in the National Portrait Gallery
II    Salamanca, 1812
      From a drawing by Thomas Mitchell, reproduced from Wyld's Atlas
      by courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum
III   Governor Sir Ralph Darling
      From a painting in the possession of Mrs Anderson of Port Sorell, Tasmania
IV    "Craigend", Mitchell's first residence at Darlinghurst
      Lennox Bridge
V     The Pass at Mt. Victoria when it was opened
      The Pass at Mt. Victoria as it is now
VI    Monument marking the point of departure of the second, third and fourth
      Richard Cunningham's grave
VII   One of the trees blazed by Lieutenant Zouch
      The Darling River at Menindee
VIII  Mt. Arapiles
      Mitchell's sketch of Mt. Arapiles
      Reproduced from 'Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia'
      by Thomas Mitchell
IX    Some Mitchell monuments:
      Middle Creek, Newstead, Expedition Pass
X     "Parkhall" as Mitchell built it
      "Parkhall" as it is to-day ("St. Mary's Towers")
XI    Thomas Mitchell, about 1847
      Reproduced by permission of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland
XII   Monument to Mitchell at St. George
      Monument to Mitchell at Blackall
XIII  Yuranigh's grave
XIV   Mitchell's paint-box, camera lucida, and pistol
      Reproduced by permission of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland
XV    "Carthona", Darling Point: Mitchell's last home
XVI   Mitchell in his later years


I    Map of Spain showing the main Peninsular War battles
II   Plan of Mitchell's country property "Parkhall" in the County of Camden
III  Map showing the route followed by Mitchell on the first part of his
     expedition to the Barwon River
IV   Map showing the second part of Mitchell's journey to the Barwon
     and his return to Tamworth
V    Map showing the route followed by Mitchell from Boree and along
     the Bogan on his second expedition. Cunningham's probable track,
     and his grave, are also shown
VI   Map showing the whole of Mitchell's second expedition. Part of
     Mitchell's route (from Forbes to Wentworth, thence to Swan Hill)
     on his third expedition in the following year is shown also
VII  Map showing part of Mitchell's journey into "Australia Felix":
     from Swan Hill to Mt. Arapiles
VIII Map showing Mitchell's entry into the Glenelg River region
     and the beginning of his return journey on the third expedition
IX   Map showing the last stage of the third expedition: Mitchell's route
     from Castlemaine to the Murrumbidgee
X    Map showing the first part of Mitchell's fourth expedition:
     the route from Boree to Narran Lake
XI   Map showing the journey from Narran Lake to Mt. Bindango,
     and part of the return journey, on Mitchell's fourth expedition
XII  Map showing Mitchell's journey north to Alpha, his route to the
     west from Pyramid Depot to Isisford, and part of his return journey


For the purposes of a story of this kind frequent quotations from letters are necessary. This applies particularly to letters between, the Governor in Sydney and the Minister controlling the Colonial Office in London. The identity of each Minister and each Governor is indicated from time to time in the text, but for reference a full list is set out in Appendix A.

For the benefit of the reader modern place names have been used where necessary: it will be readily understood that some of these names did not exist at the relative period, although, as Mitchell was generous in the distribution of place names, these instances are not numerous.

The fullest acknowledgment must be made by the author for the generous help given by: Miss Mander Jones, Mitchell Librarian, and the staff of the Mitchell Library; the staff of the National Library at Canberra; the Chief Librarian, Public Library of Victoria; the Under-Secretary, Lands Department of New South Wales; the Secretary, Western Lands Commission, New South Wales; the Clerk of Parliament, Victorian Legislative Assembly; the Secretary of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, Mr A. T. Latham, and Mr A. J. Hopton, Treasurer of that Society; Mrs W. Bassett of Armadale, Victoria, for information concerning the Henty brothers; Mr D. F. Elder for much helpful advice and especially for information concerning Mitchell's military career; and my daughter, Miss I. M. Cumpston, D.Phil., who has searched the Colonial Office records in the Public Record Office in London for the correspondence which passed direct between Sir Thomas Mitchell and the Colonial Office.

For the illustrations in this volume the author is indebted to, and acknowledges the courtesy of: the Royal Australian Historical Society for the frontispiece; the Trustees of the National British Museum for Plate I; the Trustees of the Portrait Gallery, London, for Plate II; Mrs Anderson of Port Sorell, Tasmania, for Plate III; the Trustees of the Mitchell Library for Plate IV (above) and Plate X (above); Mr W. L. Havard of Liverpool, New South Wales, for Plate IV (below) and Plate V; Mr W. R. Glasson of Molong, New South Wales, for Plate VI (below) and Plate XIII; the Australian Geographical Society for Plate VII (below); the Victorian Railways Commissioners for Plate VIII (above); the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland for Plates Plate XI, Plate XIV and Plate XVI; and Mr P. H. Bushell for Plate XV.

Men in great places are thrice servants:
servants of the Sovereign or State: servants
of fame: and servants of business.

Bacon: 'Of Great Place'

CHAPTER I - Prologue

Thomas Livingstone* Mitchell was born at Craigend, Stirlingshire, Scotland, on 15 June 1792, and was baptized three days later.[1] There is some evidence that his parents were neither prosperous nor socially influential; but he was able to obtain, from some source, money for the purchase of a commission and later for his marriage.[2]

[* This name has been variously spelt, but on the certificate of baptism it is shown as above, as it was in his own signature sixty-two years later.]

There is clear evidence in later life that he had received a good education, also some evidence that he had, while quite young, some skill as an artist. On the other hand, there is no evidence that he had, in his early life, experience in surveying which was to be his occupation in the army and his profession in civil life.

His father died when he was still young; just when is not known, but it was before he was nineteen years old. At the age of seventeen he "managed" Rumford Colliery for his uncle Alexander Livingston of Parkhall and rendered a claim for payment for this service.[3] As an early indication of his meticulous care in appraising the value of his services, the claim was for three months and nineteen days at £120 per annum--the amount being £36 9s. 10d.: in making this claim he indicated in plain terms that he had no hope of help or consideration from the person concerned. His father's name was John Mitchell and his mother had been Janet Wilson; he had at least two brothers, Houston and John. Houston will appear later in this story. John became a merchant in Leith and published various works, including Illustrations of the Runic Literature of Scandinavia (1863).[4]

Mitchell's military career will be described in the next chapter. While still a lieutenant, and while engaged in the survey of battle sites in Portugal and Spain, he married, on 10 June 1818, Mary Blunt, the daughter of General Blunt, an English general serving with the Portuguese army.

In connexion with this marriage some items of intrinsic interest deserve to be recorded. Just before the marriage Mitchell serenaded his lady under her window at Lisbon. As an example of the romantic standards of the time, the text was as follows:


Sung to the tune "Tweedside" and accompanied on the guitar by
Senor Vigo Rabaglio under Miss Blunt's window
at Lisbon, at 2 a.m., May 1818.


Can music awake you fair maid
Oh! are those bright eyes hid in sleep
Ah! hear how in night's sable shade
I come to your windows to weep
Not the stars now above me displayed
Nor Cynthia shining so fair
Nor the dew on the orange-flow'r blade
Can with thee in brightness compare.


Ah! could I but tell you my pain
'Twould ease the sore wound in my breast
But to Mary the tale would be vain
She sleeps for her heart is at rest
Cupid! bear to her pillow my strain
A balm to the wound you impart
Say a captive is galled with his chain
And your arrow strike deep in her heart.

A marriage settlement was drawn up in June 1818.[6] General Blunt was to find £3,000, and Lieutenant Thomas Mitchell £2,000, both amounts to be paid into a trust fund, the interest--but not the capital--o be paid regularly by the trustees to Mitchell and his wife. The deed of settlement contains this paragraph:

In witness thereof the undersigned have drawn up the present writing in good faith, no lawyers being resident to execute the same--the undersigned solemnly pledging themselves to sign any other paper to this effect (the same being necessary) drawn up in regular form, and hereby declaring that they wish this to be read and acted upon as understood by common comprehension and not subject to the equivocations which those versed in law may detect.

Mitchell wrote to tell his mother of this marriage, telling her that Mary Blunt had been born in the West Indies, had gone to England when three years old, was not quite eighteen when she married

and is not much acquainted with the care of a house, but considering her age she does very well. She left boarding school in London about a year ago. The rank of her father and a small settlement, which will however prove sufficient with economy, and my pay, will enable us to live in these trying times.[7]

From time to time in this story there will be glimpses of their private life; but, having regard to the main purpose of this narrative, it will be sufficient to record evidence of the success of this marriage. They had twelve children--six sons, Livingstone, Roderick, Murray, Campbell, Thomas, Richard; and six daughters, Georgina, Maria, Emily, Camilla, Alicia, Blanche.

Mitchell, writing from London during his second visit to England in 1847 to his son Livingstone, said:

Give my affectionate love to Mamma and say I am most anxiously awaiting the "arrivals at Deal" in the papers in hopes of hearing how she is and how all are--I am very lonely here without one of the family with me. God bless you all Livy, Roddy, Emily, Cammy, Milly, Tommy, Alice, Dicky, and Blanche.[8]

Georgina and Maria had died young, Murray was dead at the time this letter was written.

Mitchell's wife, by this time Lady Mitchell, wrote to her husband a letter without address or date, but probably written some time during the 'forties. She began:

My dearest Mitchell: I was made very happy by your affectionate letter, and shall endeavour by every means I can to mitigate the annoyances you meet with in the world.[9]

At one time Lady Mitchell must have suffered a serious illness for Dr (later Sir) Charles Nicholson wrote to her congratulations on her recovery and advised her

to take more care than you are usually wont to do of your health, not to sacrifice your health and strength unnecessarily in domestic concerns.[10]

During the last years of Mitchell's life he lost two of his elder sons, Roderick and Campbell, by tragic deaths. At the end, writing within one year after Mr. Mitchell's death, James Bonwick said of him:

As a parent, a citizen, a gentleman, a scholar, he has embalmed his memory alike in the archives of philosophy, the annals of colonial history, the hearts of his friends, and the sanctity of home.[11]

Nicholson was a medical practitioner in Sydney who was greatly respected: he was a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and Speaker of that Council intermittently between 1846 and 1856; later he became the first President of the Legislative Council of Queensland. He was closely associated with the cause of higher education in New South Wales and took a prominent part in the founding of the University of Sydney. He was knighted in 1852 and made a baronet in 1859.

Bonwick was an educationist who came to Australia in 1841, and was Inspector of Denominational Schools in Victoria from 1856: his hobby was early Australian history. He wrote, and published in 1856, The Discovery and Settlement of Port Phillip. He retired and returned to England, where he spent much time in searching the records in London for despatches and documents relating to the early history of New South Wales. This was the material from which came the Historical Records of New South Wales.

That is enough to give the picture of his private life: there is no hint of scandal, no lapses such as have marked the careers of other men: there was, from all the evidence, a normal home life of affectionate relationships. There were adversities, the death of his sons, the illness of his wife, financial worries--these things come to all men. Through all the shifts and changes of public life, all the irritations and adversities, he kept the friendship of men like Nicholson, Bonwick, and many others--men highly respected in the community; and he had a wife who was a faithful comrade all through his troubled career, and who survived him.

His private life was not unusual, it is his official life which commands attention as part of our national story.

CHAPTER II - Military Career

In the preceding chapter it was stated that Mitchell was managing his uncle's colliery at the age of seventeen years. It will presently be stated that he was gazetted lieutenant in the in July 1811, when he had just passed his nineteenth, birthday There is complete uncertainty as to his activities during the intervening period: the one fact which emerges as his story proceeds is that he had great natural skill as a draughtsman, but whether he used this skill for any practical purpose at this time is not known.

The statement has been repeatedly made in recognized works of reference that he entered the army as a volunteer when sixteen years old: the most definite of these is that by Johns in the Australian Biographical Dictionary:

He entered the Army in 1808 and was A.D.C. to the Duke of Wellington: was known as "the Duke's famous draughtsman".

The Dictionary of National Biography states that he entered the army as a volunteer.[1]

It is necessary to examine these statements with some care. If, as Johns states, he entered the army in 1808 he would be only sixteen years old, but he was managing his uncle's colliery when he was seventeen, so that statement is probably incorrect: the other two may be regarded with equal reserve. As to the statement that he entered the army at some stage during this period of uncertainty, the evidence is inconclusive.

The term "volunteer" had, at that time, a more restricted and specific meaning than it has now. A volunteer was one who served as a junior officer, without pay, so that he might establish some claim to a commission without having to provide the large amount of money which was necessary to purchase even the lowest order of commission. Sir Charles Oman, the standard authority on the British army of this period has described the position:

In addition to the officers regularly commissioned, a battalion had often with it one or two "volunteers"...young men who were practically probationers; they were allowed to come out to an active service battalion on the chance of being gazetted to it without purchase on their own responsibility. They carried muskets and served in the ranks, but were allowed to wear uniforms of a better cloth than that given to the rank and file, and messed with the officers.[2]

The first clear evidence is in a draft, or copy, of an application by Mitchell to the Commander-in-Chief, Sir David Dundas:

Your memorialist, a native of Scotland, aged nineteen, is the son of respectable parentage now dead:* and has received a liberal and classical education qualifying him to fulfil the duties of a gentleman and a soldier.

Your memorialist ardently desires to enter into the services of his country in the Army, but has not the immediate means of purchasing a commission, nor other expectation of success than through the well-known liberality of Your Excellency.[3]
[* This refers to his father only: his mother was still alive.]

He stated that he was prepared to serve in any of His Majesty's regiments, and was anxious for active service where he might "have an opportunity of evincing his zeal for his country".

This memorial, in the copy which is available, carries neither date nor address; but it contains some internal evidence. He desired to enter the army, was anxious for active service, but had neither means to purchase a commission, nor the influence to secure him one. These statements are inconsistent with two, or more, years of active service as a volunteer. There is, moreover, some indirect evidence; from his many references to events in the Peninsular War the battles before 1811 are noticeably absent. His young mind could not have remained unimpressed by Rolica, Vimiero, Talavera, Bussaco, Torres Vedras, Fuentes d'Onoro, and Albuera--yet his later recorded reminiscences do not extend into this period. His service later was with the famous Light Brigade and he must have been stirred, if he had been present then, by memory of the cheers which greeted the arrival of that brigade after a forced march of forty-three miles in twenty-two hours at Talavera, nor would he forget that day at Bussaco when the Light Division under Craufurd was inflicting, heavy defeat upon Ney against superior numbers.

Mitchell never forgot his experiences in the Peninsula and the absence of any reference to this period before 1811 is significant: it seems, therefore, that the statement that he served as a volunteer before receiving a commission must be regarded as very doubtful. It could, on present evidence, be established only after patient research amongst the contemporary muster rolls, a task difficult enough under any circumstances, but especially difficult because it is not known in which battalion he is presumed to have served.

The matter is, however, placed beyond reasonable doubt by a document in the Mitchell Library,[4] bearing Mitchell's own signature, in which he states that his age on first appointment to the army was nineteen years, and the date of that appointment was 21 July 1811: this date does not agree with the official record which dates that appointment as 24 July. As the document was written when he was sixty-two years old, the difference of three days is not material. The general evidence here submitted also negatives the statement in the Australian Encyclopaedia that he entered the army under the patronage of the Duke of Wellington.

Before leaving this debatable ground it is necessary to dispose of one statement. One writer has stated that Wellington had entrusted to Mitchell the task of laying out the lines of the famous fortifications at Torres Vedras.[5] The statement is absurd. Mitchell was then only seventeen years old and, as has been suggested above, was not even in the army. The lines were constructed by Colonel Fletcher, the Chief Engineer, under Wellington's personal supervision.

Passing now from this uncertain period of two years about which so little is known, the first definitely fixed point in the story is Mitchell's gazettal, on 24 July 1811, as a second lieutenant in the First Battalion of the 95th Regiment of Foot.[6]

As already stated, Mitchell's application for a commission had been made to Dundas as Commander-in-Chief, the application stating that Mitchell was then "aged nineteen": as he was not nineteen until 15 June 1811, and Dundas had ceased to be Commander-in-Chief in May of that year, Mitchell was probably anticipating a little in stating his age as nineteen. He was, however, commissioned one month after his nineteenth birthday.

He was extremely fortunate in being posted to the 95th Regiment, one of the most deservedly famous in the Peninsular army. Captain J. Kincaid, Mitchell's "old and esteemed friend", wrote of the 95th Regiment:

We were the light regiment of the Light Division and fired the first and the last shot in almost every battle, siege and skirmish in which the army was engaged during the war.

This was the first regiment to be armed with the new rifled-bore weapon in place of the old smooth-bore musket which was still the main weapon used by the infantry.[7] The 95th, with the 43rd and the 52nd Regiments, formed the light troops which were the British answer to the French tirailleurs. These tirailleurs in battle acted as skirmishers ahead of the main attacking French column, and it was their function, acting as snipers behind any available cover, to cause disorder in the waiting British ranks by shooting as many men or officers as they could. But the activities of the British Light Division were not limited to such skirmishing functions: they were prominent in many frontal attacks and fierce close fighting. Their dark green uniform made them a distinctive group amongst the red jackets of the rest of the army. Their commander, General Robert Craufurd, unfortunately killed at Ciudad Rodrigo, was himself a distinctive personality, worthy of this famous division.

Mitchell, or indeed any other officer or private of that magnificent Light Division, could well feel, all through his life, pride in his service with it. But while their courage in battle and their military efficiency were beyond question, the personal character and behaviour of the individuals was not always on this high plane. The army, owing to the conditions of recruitment and service in those days, contained too high a proportion of loose characters and some criminals.[8] Even their courage was not always controlled, especially in the earlier stages of the war in the Peninsula: at Rolica, for example, which was one of Wellington's earliest battles in Portugal, the riflemen outposts pressed on too far and were for a while in danger.[9] The loose characters caused Wellington much worry by stealing from the local residents, and they were responsible for the disgraceful behaviour of the army after the fall of Badajoz, Ciudad Rodrigo, and San Sebastian, when drunkenness, murder, rape, and looting were practically unrestrained. It will presently be seen that even the 95th were involved in these excesses.

Wellington had arrived in Portugal in April 1809, to take command of the British army with Lisbon as his headquarters. So complete had been the Napoleonic domination of Europe that a small strip of the western coast of Portugal from Corunna to Lisbon was the only ground in all Europe left for the British army as a base for military operations (Map I). Napoleon had boastfully declared his determination to drive the British into the sea from even this tenuous hold on the Continent. The activities under Sir John Moore during 1808 had not affected the situation as just described.

MAP I. Map of Spain showing the main Peninsular War battles

An initial series of small successes by Wellington added to the difficulties experienced by the French through long-haul transport. A hostile population caused the French to retreat, and within four weeks after Wellington had landed in Lisbon no Frenchmen other than prisoners and deserters remained in Portugal. But these favourable conditions did not continue: the French returned in force and Wellington, hampered by lack of reinforcements and supplies from England as well as by an unfriendly Parliament at home, was obliged to assume a defensive strategy, holding the narrow Lisbon peninsula between the Tagus River and the sea.

This prolonged period of defence culminated in the French attack on the historic lines of Torres Vedras. When this failed the French decided to withdraw from Portugal, and by the first week in April 1811, again no French troops were left in Portugal. So clear and decisive had been the results of Wellington's clashes with the Napoleonic armies that, for the first time since Napoleon had begun his triumphal conquest of Europe, there dawned a hope that the invincible French army was not, after all, undefeatable. While this hope was slowly rising in Europe Wellington's own army had no doubts: well equipped, exuberant in victory, they had a supreme confidence in their great leader which nothing could, or did, destroy.

But, Portugal now being freed, Wellington was not content to rest there. The great frontier fortresses of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo on the western Spanish border remained, and Massena was still loose in Spain with a large force. Wellington decided to move into Spain. He met and defeated Massena at Fuentes d'Onoro on 3 May 1811, while Beresford had, at the same time, met Soult at Albuera and gained a doubtful victory. The effect of these two field engagements concentrated attention on Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, to which Wellington now moved.

At this point the known military career of Mitchell begins. The possibility of service as a volunteer during all this period has already been discussed and discounted. But his commission in the 95th Regiment dated from 24 July 1811, and his service began from that date.

The date on which he arrived in Portugal to begin active war service is not known: the current circumstances important to his personal career can now, at this stage, be stated. He joined, as a most junior officer, a regiment of seasoned campaigners proudly conscious of great battle honours, confident in their superiority under their trusted commander Craufurd: he became a member of an army which had been hammered into a condition of high morale and great efficiency by a military genius. As a young man at the most impressionable age he could not have escaped the influences of such an environment; the Peninsular veteran was very apt to have a firm conviction that he was one of a special order of mankind.

Mitchell's commission was almost coincident with the retirement of Sir David Dundas from the post of Commander-in-Chief and the assumption of that post by the Duke of York, whose administration became notorious for patronage, nepotism, and inefficient, if not corrupt, administration. No officer could remain unaware of, or unaffected by, these conditions.

Wellington was fortunate in having General Sir George Murray (Plate I) as his Quartermaster General. In the discharge of the responsible and varied duties of that position Murray proved himself to be extremely competent. Not only was he responsible for all supplies for the army, a service which became complicated by Wellington's rapid movements, but he was responsible for all intelligence work and especially that of the collection of information about the country over which the army was expected to move. Officers on headquarters staff, or those temporarily doing staff duties, were required to travel widely, often at a distance from the area of active military operations, mapping, sketching, reporting on roads, bridges, resources, and billeting facilities in villages and towns. This work became so extensive that it was found necessary to call on officers, not officially on the staff, to assist in this work. As it will appear later Mitchell found himself associated with, and distinguished himself in, these activities.[10]

Plate I. Sir George Murray From a painting by Pieter Christoph Wonder in the National Portrait Gallery

Murray was relieved of his post as Quartermaster General soon after Mitchell's arrival in the Peninsula: he was "promoted" in 1811 to an unnecessary post in Ireland to make way for a favourite of the Duke of York, Colonel James Willoughby Gordon, who, however, proved to be incompetent and disloyal and was later removed. Murray was reappointed to his former post in September 1813.

From the time of joining his regiment in Portugal, Mitchell spent his time partly on service with his regiment and partly on staff duty engaged in topographical and survey intelligence work: it was during this work that his skill as a draughtsman and indeed as an artist began to be recognized. Wyld's Atlas of the Peninsula War contains a sketch labelled "Affair near El Bodon, 25 September 1811, from the original by Major Sir T. Mitchell".

Although this affair at El Bodon was a minor conflict it was notable in that Wellington himself, with his staff, was surrounded by the French and had literally to fight his way out of real danger.

It is known that Murray before his supersession had intermittently employed Mitchell on intelligence work so that if this sketch was made at the time this is the first record of Mitchell at work as an officer in the army.

The year 1811 closed with a suspension of hostilities for the winter, but in 1812 Wellington began that series of movements which was to take him across Spain into France and to the final triumph. He began with an attack on the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo without waiting for the end of the winter. He invested this strong fortress on 8 January 1812, and took it by assault on 19 January--a success very important to Wellington's plans, as this stronghold was blocking his proposed north-easterly route through Spain. Here the Light Division was well in the front line of the attack and greatly distinguished itself, their commander, Craufurd, being killed. A party of one hundred volunteers from the 95th Regiment took part in the actual storming of the breach through which the fortress was finally taken.

In connexion with this siege Mitchell's father-in-law, General Blunt, writing to him from Cork (5 August 1834) and referring to William Napier's book History of the War in the Peninsula, said: "I perceive in the notes or appendix you are honourably mentioned as one of four only remaining in the breach at Rodrigo."[11] The reference is to a statement by an eye-witness contained in an appendix to vol. iv of Napier's work. But General Blunt was mistaken; the Mitchell who led this storming party was Captain (later Colonel) Mitchell of the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Regiment.[12]

What part Thomas Mitchell played during this siege is unknown, but that he was present is shown by the fact that he received the appropriate bar to his general service medal.

After the town had been taken there were scenes of disorder, violence, and brutality. On the morning following the capture, Wellington, riding into the town, saw a disorderly group of soldiers, and enquired who they were. He was disturbed to find that they were from his trusted 95th, who had fought gloriously the night before.[13]

Now Wellington turned his attention to the fortress of Badajoz, which threatened the rear of his projected northward march. On 16 March 1812, he invested this place. Here we have definite record of Mitchell; he wrote of his feelings when, on 17 March 1836, he began his third journey of exploration:

I remembered that exactly on that morning twenty-four years before, I marched down the glaciers of Elvas, to the tune of "St. Patrick's day in the morning" as the sun rose over the beleaguered towers of Badajoz.[14]

Badajoz was captured on 6 April 1812. Here again the Light Division was prominent and distinguished itself by cool bravery and fierce courage. Its losses were heavy, there were twenty-five casualties amongst the officers alone.

Napier in the work already quoted wrote:

Who shall measure out the glory of Ridge, of Macleod, of Nicholas, or of O'Hare of the 95th who perished on the breach at the head of the stormers, and with him nearly all the volunteers for that desperate service.[15]

Mitchell's personal share on this occasion is not known but he was not likely to forget the occasion and in 1836 on the Glenelg River in Victoria he named his base depot Fort O'Hare

in memory of a truly brave soldier, my commanding officer, who fell at Badajoz in leading the forlorn hope of the Light Division to the storm."[16]

He also gave the name of O'Hare Creek to a tributary of George's River near his property at Wilton. Major Peter O'Hare had achieved the distinction, very uncommon in those times, of having risen from the ranks by sheer merit.

At Badajoz, as at Rodrigo, the capture of the town was followed by three days of riotous disorder, with murder, rape, looting, and unrestrained drunkenness. The brave, disciplined, British army became an uncontrolled, savage mob. Mitchell's reactions to these two scenes of violence are not indicated by anything definite during his later life: deductions might be made, but they would be unsafe and unjustified.

Now a new phase began: Wellington was free to move northwards, Spain being unguarded by western strongposts. It is necessary here to anticipate a little and consider the direction of Wellington's future movements. His route was to be along a direct line, in a north-easterly direction from Lisbon to that angle where the eastern coast of France joins the northern coast of Spain. From Lisbon to Salamanca the route, after following the valley lands of the Tagus for about one hundred miles turns northwards for about another hundred and thirty miles along the highland broken country between two great ranges of mountains up to six thousand feet high. The first section of this route was already well known to Wellington and his staff, but the second section was more difficult, with continual crossing of rapid streams (tributaries forming the head waters of the Douro River), on one of which lies the town of Salamanca.

In this region the country presented special difficulties requiring accurate and detailed intelligence work: and it was here that Mitchell laid the foundations of his reputation, for he was seconded from May 1812 to the Quartermaster General's staff under Gordon. He was, for the next five months, busy on field work, surveying, mapping, and general topographical intelligence.

After necessary reconnaissances and assembling of supplies, Wellington moved north to Salamanca (Plate II) where, after capturing the forts on 27 June 1812, he met the main .French army on 15 July. During the next seven days both armies were manoeuvring for position. On the night of 21 July there was a heavy thunderstorm, and suddenly, at midday on 22 July, Wellington decided to attack. The French were overwhelmingly defeated. Lord Liverpool, now Prime Minister in England, stated that it was the most decisive as well as the most brilliant victory which had crowned the British army for centuries.[17] The French General Foy who commanded one of the French divisions recorded in his diary that the battle had raised Wellington almost to the level of Marlborough and that Wellington had shown himself a great and able master of manoeuvres. Although the campaign was far from over, the Salamanca battle ended the French domination in Spain.

Plate II. Salamanca, 1812. From a drawing by Thomas Mitchell, reproduced from Wyld's Atlas by courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum

As Mitchell was still engaged on staff work it is probable that he took no part in the actual fighting but he was almost certainly there at the time, as he received the bar for this battle, and his memories of this time remained, for on 22 July 1846--the thirty-fourth anniversary of the battle--he, being then in Queensland on his fourth expedition, entered in his journal:

The bright prospects of this morning were a pleasant contrast to the temporary difficulties of yesterday. Such is human life in travelling, and so it was in war at Salamanca this day thirty-four years back.[18]

Actually it was not as it had been at Salamanca, for whereas then a fine day had followed a thunderstorm, in 1846 when Mitchell made this entry in his diary he had just found a welcome river and open country after passing through a parched drought-stricken area. He was moved by the anniversary rather than by the contrast.

It should be noted too that, on 22 July 1836, he had named Mt. Arapiles in Victoria and recorded: "I ascended this hill on the anniversary of the battle of Salamanca, and hence the name."[19] Arapiles was the name of the mountain in Spain which overlooked the battlefield. This battle had obviously made a deep impression on his memory.

After Salamanca the French armies were reformed, and Wellington was forced to pause in his forward thrust: he was, indeed, compelled to retreat to the Portuguese frontier after failing to capture Burgos. This retreat was made under very adverse circumstances: bad weather, shocking roads, worn-out clothing; and the discomfort of the troops was intensified because, by bad staff work, the provisions were sent by the wrong route, and the army had to subsist on what could be gathered locally. The winter of 1812-13 was spent in Portugal reorganizing the army for the campaign of 1813; Mitchell had rejoined his regiment in October 1812, and nothing is known of his activities during the next few months.

Wellington was, however, far from idle and was planning his next moves: it is significant that Mitchell was back on the Quartermaster General's staff in April 1813, and there can be little doubt that he, with many others, was out surveying, mapping, and gathering all information essential before Wellington's advance which began in the following month, on 22 May 1813. There can be no doubt that Mitchell's services were valuable and appreciated for he remained on staff duties until the end of the war, and did not rejoin his regiment during that period.

Wellington's first move was back to Salamanca, then on through the very difficult mountain country north of the Douro River. Burgos was taken and the British army reached the Ebro River, the French retreating before them. At the Ebro the French had lost touch with the British army, and with Wellington's movements. He had taken the bold decision to cross the high ranges of the Sierra de Cantabria through which there were only a few, and difficult, passes.

In five days Wellington had brought his army over these mountains and came down on Vittoria: here they met and completely routed the French army. This was on 21 June 1813; in exactly thirty days Wellington had brought his army nearly two hundred miles, had passed that army through difficult mountain passes, and had defeated the French army within fifty miles of the border of France.

Wellington was not the man to undertake so difficult a feat of army movement and supply without the fullest information about the country to be crossed, so Mitchell must have been continuously busy on field survey work; he was not present at the battle at Vittoria as he did not receive the appropriate bar to his general service medal.

Now Spain had been almost cleared of the French armies, which were retreating over the border into France at the extreme southwest corner of that country. But there remained still two strong French fortresses in Spain close to the border--Pampeluna and San Sebastian. As well as these two strongposts Wellington had to face the great barrier of the Pyrenees, fifty miles of high rugged mountain ranges, up to six thousand feet high, through which there were eight practicable passes by any one of which the reorganized French army might return to attack Wellington. They did, in fact, return through the passes of Maya and Roncesvalles, the latter evoking memories of Charlemagne. It was at Roncesvalles when the armies were facing each other that Wellington's personal appearance at a most critical moment ensured victory for the British. The fighting against the French armies coming down through the Pyrenees to relieve Pampeluna and San Sebastian lasted for nine days, ending in the repulse of the French. San Sebastian fell on 8 September and Pampeluna on 31 October 1813, and on 7 October Wellington had crossed into France. Mitchell received the bars to his medal for both the Pyrenees and San Sebastian battles.

At this stage (September 1813) Murray had returned to Spain to replace Gordon in his old position as Quartermaster General.[20] It is now possible to visualize Mitchell's activities. From April 1813, until the end of the war in April 1814, he had been continuously engaged in his field survey work through some of the most difficult country in Europe, country through which even today there are few practicable routes: first in northern Spain, then in southern France as far as Toulouse. For the last seven months he had been under the direct supervision of Murray, whose complete approval, and actual friendship, he had secured. As a surveyor and draughtsman he had gained an established reputation.

He had become a full lieutenant on 16 September 1813, and in the week before Vittoria, the climax of Wellington's campaign, he had celebrated his twenty-first birthday: that he had reached maturity in more than time cannot be doubted.

Nothing is known of his personal life during these three years of active service, but there are occasional glimpses of external reactions. A brother officer in the 95th Regiment, Captain John Molloy (later to be a settler at the Swan River settlement) knew Mitchell as "a most zealous and indefatigable person and an excellent draftsman" and remembered that on the Peninsula Mitchell used often to be absent for weeks at a time with his sketch book working among the hills.[21] On the other side is Mitchell's statement in a letter to Sir Benjamin D'Urban (18 June 1815): "A junior officer on the staff, I was persecuted by the jealousy of the officers of my regiment."[22] There is no clue to this, but regimental jealousy of a junior officer selected for special staff duty would be natural enough. There is also a curious note in a letter Mitchell wrote to his mother (14 October 1820): he complained that his brother John had "touched upon that delicate point, my services abroad, in a style not reconcileable to the feelings of any officer".[23] The significance of this is obscure.

The war having ended, Murray obtained approval from the Treasury to have full plans made of all the Peninsular battlefields and selected Mitchell from amongst all who must have been available for this work:[24] this was a notable tribute to Mitchell's skill and reliability. This arrangement was made at Bordeaux in June 1814, and Mitchell at once proceeded to Portugal and Spain to begin this task. According to Napier he remained in the Peninsula for more than two years with pay as a staff officer (he still retained his commission in the 95th Regiment);[25] his extra expenses--about five thousand pounds--were also paid; and in Spain he was attended constantly by two Spanish dragoons as a protection.

This work meant that he was not with his regiment at Waterloo: writing to Sir Benjamin D'Urban (18 June 1815)* he said:

My absence from the glorious battle of Waterloo (in which my brother and others suffered so much) is a sacrifice I shall ever regret as a soldier.[26]
[* This is the date on the letter but Mitchell must have written the wrong date thoughtlessly as this was the day on which Waterloo was fought, and he was then in Spain and could not have known of the battle.]

Napier's statement that he remained in the Peninsula for "more than two years" understates the position: he was there until July 1819, when, the Treasury having refused to approve any further expenditure, he returned to England, having, as stated in the preceding chapter married Mary Blunt in June 1818.[27]

He had been placed on half-pay in December 1818, and the 'withdrawal of all approval for his special work in the Peninsula so soon after his marriage must have embarrassed him: but this difficulty may not have lasted for long, for Murray, who had been appointed in 1819 to command the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, arranged for him to be stationed at the College so that he might complete his plans, probably with special pay. Such an arrangement was a recognized practice in those times, the officer remaining on the army records as being on half-pay.[28] It is possible that he had begun duty at the College in 1819, but it is clear that he was there in 1820, for the letter to his mother dated 14 October 1820 was addressed from there.

In November 1821, he was transferred to the 54th Foot and was again on full pay.[29] This may have been the step that Murray arranged as it was only a nominal appointment, that regiment being then in South Africa, and later in India. In October 1822 he was given a brevet captaincy, and in March 1824 he transferred to the 97th Foot. All this time he remained a first lieutenant, but in January 1825 he was transferred to the 2nd Foot as a full captain.

Murray left Sandhurst in 1824, but Mitchell remained there until September 1826, and on the 29th of that month he became a major (unattached) and placed on half-pay.[30] Writing to his mother (14 September 1826) he informed her that he had been made a major on half-pay:

The Duke of York has been particularly favourable to me--this promotion has cost me £1,400, £200 of it I have borrowed. All my friend
s approve highly of the measure as it will lead to higher rank and command. But I am sadly pushed for money to live.[31]

He was now living at Thistle Grove, Chelsea. He applied to be reinstated: "I applied by letter dated 4th October 1826 to be placed on full pay, and never wished to be on half-pay."[32]

He must have had some financial resources for he had been able to produce £2,000 on his marriage, and now, eight years later, another £1,200. But his fortunes had definitely changed: he was now without prospects in the army, and the unbroken peace in Europe held no promise for junior army officers. He was receiving half-pay only, which may have varied from time to time but probably was never more than £175 per annum.

To complete here the outline of his military career, he received a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy in November 1841, and in June 1854 became a brevet colonel.[33] In Australia he was always familiarly known as "the Major". One of his last activities as a military officer on active duty was the publication of a book Outlines of a system of surveying for Geographical and Military purposes which was commended in a review in the Naval and Military Magazine.

The maps and plans he had prepared at Sandhurst, which can still be seen, are sufficient evidence that his selection for this task was fully justified. Many of them were reproduced in Wyld's Atlas of the Peninsula War. There is also contemporary testimony. Sir William Napier, in his History of the Peninsula War, wrote:

Captain Mitchell's drawings were made by him after the war, by order of the government and at the public expense...Never was money better laid out, for I believe no topographical drawings, whether they be considered for accuracy of detail, perfection of manner, or beauty of execution, ever exceeded Mitchell's.[34]

Murray's own verdict, written on 23 October 1825 from Dublin, where Murray was then Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Ireland, is given in a letter to Hay, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office:

There is a Captain Mitchell who has been employed by me first in making surveys in the Peninsula of the several fields of Battle, and subsequently in drawing military plans from their actual surveys. He is a very intelligent and industrious man and possesses a considerable share of enterprise and adventure. He is a skilful, accurate, and practised surveyor, and a very good draftsman. His plans are indeed beautifully executed.[35]

With the end of Mitchell's work on these plans he faced a real crisis: his active temperament would not allow him to remain idle, and his young, and increasing, family involved expenses for which his half-pay was quite inadequate. His friend, Murray, remained as Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, and was always friendly (Mitchell could write, in 1834, that he had enjoyed Murray's "kind patronage for upwards of twenty years") but he could help only with letters.[36]

So Mitchell sought other opportunities for the use of his skill and experience. Learning that a vessel had been commissioned for the purpose of making a survey of the Grecian Archipelago he offered his services with the object of connecting (where it might be practicable to do so) a land survey with the marine survey.[37] He sought the support of Murray who wrote (23 October 1825) to Hay, strongly recommending Mitchell.[38] Portion of this letter has already been quoted, but he added: "I ought perhaps to mention that you must not expect to find Captain Mitchell a Greek scholar." It is clear from the relative dates that Mitchell made this application nearly a year before he was placed on half-pay: he may have realized that his future in the army was uncertain, or perhaps he hoped to be seconded for this service.

Although nothing came of this proposal, Hay did not forget Mitchell; when Governor Darling renewed his pressing requests for more skilled surveyors for New South Wales, Hay sent for Mitchell (13 January 1827) and offered him the choice of three positions in that colony:[39]

1. A principal assistant or secondary in the general survey.

2. A collector having some knowledge of surveying for allotting lands, etc.

3. A civil engineer.

As to the first, there was a reservation that Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State, might have already offered the position to another. Mitchell therefore wrote at once (14 January 1827) to Murray telling him of the interview and asking for his support.[40] Murray wrote (17 January) to Hay, thanking him for remembering Mitchell and adding:

You are already aware of my sentiments in regard to his talents and requirements, and his active and industrious habits. I will add further that I believe him to be a strictly honest and well-principled man, and from my own experience I am inclined to think that it is very desirable to let no opportunity pass of sending out men of this latter description.

Mitchell was appointed to the first of the three positions; and Hay in a private letter to Darling (2 February 1827) said that, in consequence of Darling's very pressing demands for additional surveyors and the difficulty of finding properly qualified persons, Mitchell's offer of services had been accepted:

It was impossible to induce an officer of this superior order in his profession to accept one of the subordinate appointments in the Surveyor General's Department, and, moreover, conceiving that it would be of importance, not only to have the benefit of this officer's exertions as second to Mr Oxley, but to have a person in the colony who was competent to succeed him whenever circumstances required such an appointment, Lord Bathurst has not hesitated to allow that consideration to outweigh every other; and you will therefore have the goodness to understand that Major Mitchell is to be considered as standing next in rank to Mr Oxley, whom he will ultimately succeed.

Major Mitchell's salary has been fixed by Lord Bathurst at £500 per annum commencing from the date of his embarkation, in addition to which he will of course receive the usual allowance for a horse and for lodgings.[41]

In addition to this salary he was also receiving the half-pay from the army: this he received during the rest of his life. Before leaving England for Australia Mitchell insured his life for £1,000 to cover debts incurred in connexion with the purchase of his equipment.[42]

Immediately upon receiving notice of his appointment, and while still in London, Mitchell wrote to Hay (9 February 1827) requesting that land, in the proportion usually allotted to officers of his rank and standing, be granted to him in New South Wales.[43] This letter, however, carries an office minute that it would be much better for Mitchell to obtain land by application to the Governor after he had discharged the duties of his office for a short time.

So Mitchell came to New South Wales with the reversion of the position of Surveyor General in succession to Oxley, who was already an invalid. It is important to note, however, that in his letter to Murray of 14 January telling of the interview with Hay, Mitchell had said of the third position--that of civil engineer: "I do not feel qualified to undertake the comprehensive duties of the third." This point will be the subject of reference later in this story.

After having spent all the formative years of his life--he was now thirty-five years old--in the army under the fluctuating fortunes of the Peninsular War, at a time when influential patronage was more important than efficiency, he had now to adapt himself to the very difficult conditions of the civil service in the colonies. His career in New South Wales cannot be judged rightly unless the factors in his social and administrative environment are, at least superficially, appreciated.

As to his professional skill, he had been engaged on intelligence work requiring acute and exact observation under active, service conditions; and had then been employed on survey work and preparation of plans requiring accurate technique in the field, and skilled draughtsmanship in preparing the resultant plans, for a total period of fourteen years, at the end of which he had earned great praise. He was then, as he was always to be in Australia, tireless and unremitting in his personal traverses of country to be covered. He had become country-wise, experienced in estimating, as was essential in army intelligence work, the salient features in the topography of any region. This may have affected his later disposition towards "feature surveys" although these were forced on him by the prevailing conditions: that aspect will appear prominently later in this story.

CHAPTER III - Colonial Policy and Personalities

Mitchell was appointed to his new position in the year 1827: this was a critical period in the history of British government and of British colonial policy.* For an appreciation of the conditions and fluctuations through which the evolving political system in Australia emerged ultimately into full self-government, some description must be given of the conditions under which the government of the colonies was carried on in London, of the administrative atmosphere in New South Wales, and of. the general administrative, social, and geographical environment in which this evolution occurred.

[* In respect of the material in this chapter grateful acknowledgment is made to two articles in the journal Historical Studies--Australia and New Zealand: J. C. Beaglehole, "The Colonial Office 1782-1854", April 1941; E. T. Williams, "The Colonial Office in the Thirties", May 1943.]

Throughout this chapter it must be remembered that the Civil Service in England was not, at that period, the carefully selected, highly trained, and efficient service which it now is: it was, in fact, only in the very earliest stages of growth, and the allocation of specific departmental responsibilities to ministers of cabinet rank was indefinite and incomplete. Throughout the whole of the period now under review the administration of the colonies, although for all practical purposes a separate entity, was under the control of the Secretary of State for War. This aspect is irrelevant in the present story, except that appointments in the colonies were largely given to officers of the navy and army; to avoid confusion, the terms "Secretary of State for the Colonies", and "Colonial Office", will be used throughout.

After the Napoleonic wars had been ended at Waterloo urgent aspects of domestic policy had occupied the attention of the British Government, and the colonies were given less attention than they might otherwise have received. But they were not altogether neglected. The Colonial Office had been established as an independent administrative unit at 14 Downing Street in 1815. In 1822 a beginning was made in an attempt to place the supervision of colonial administration on a more systematic basis. By 1833 the Colonial Office staff numbered only twenty-five clerks: these had all been appointed at an early age (16-18) on nomination by influential patrons.

R. W. Hay was appointed in 1825 as the first Permanent Under-Secretary. He controlled the Colonial Office from 1825 until 1836: of him it is recorded that his letters give the impression of a kindly and sensible man with many (perhaps too many) social and extra-official interests.[1] Of the staff generally R. M. Martin, writing in 1835, said: Mr Hay, the intelligent, patriotic, and urbane Under-Secretary, has not I believe ever been in the colonies, nor am I aware of any clerk in the Colonial Office who has ever been out of Europe: nay more, the very agents appointed by the Secretary of State to represent the colonies in England have never so far as I can ascertain with very few exceptions crossed the Channel. Let any unprejudiced man ask himself how can our colonies be well managed under such a system.[2]

Hay was the official to whom, as will appear later, Mitchell wrote private letters during his disputes with Governor Darling. In a private letter to Hay (28 March 1832) acknowledging two letters from him Mitchell said:

I have to return you my most sincere thanks for the attention you have given my numerous complaints respecting the late Governor.[3]

Hay was succeeded by James Stephen whose name is indelibly associated with a very critical period of colonial administration. He had been Legal Counsellor to the Colonial Office since 1813, and had assumed the position of Permanent Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office in 1836; he remained in this position until 1847, and during those eleven years he exercised a profound influence on the attitude of the British Government towards the colonies. Verdicts on Stephen are varied. One writer who has made a critical study of this period describes him as

that aloof, austere intellectual, member by heredity and spiritual inclination of the Clapham Sect...a legal training and many years of experience as Counsel to the Colonial Department had confirmed Stephen in habits of thought and criticism precise to the point of pedantry, and confirmed also a respectful awareness of constitutional and legal precedent. His ruthless dissection of colonial acts and ordinances led to an examination of motive which, expounded in his official minutes, occasionally verges on the unduly suspicious.[4]

Another writer who has also closely studied this period has given this verdict:

With an inadequate staff, ineffective leadership combined with unconvincing representation in a bored House, and the overlapping responsibilities of the various branches of the Civil Service it was remarkable that Stephen achieved as much as he did, and that he found time to take thought for the morrow. He was too busy, too shy, and too proud to ingratiate his opponents, and he gave too little time to outside opinion. His opponents and his subordinates exaggerated his power though he had perhaps the tendency of every public man unconsciously to live up to his cartooned self...His subtlety, in so far as he led the Colonial Office, has sometimes made it difficult for the historian, without diligent application, to understand certain areas of colonial policy.[5]

The contemporary opinion of Thomas Carlyle was:

I have seen Sir James Stephen there,* but did not understand him then, or think he could be a "clever man" as reported by Henry Taylor and other good judges. "He shuts his eyes on you," said the elder Spring-Rice (Lord Monteagle), "and talks as if he were dictating a Colonial Despatch" (most true "teaching you How Not to do it" as Dickens defined afterwards): one of the pattest things I ever heard from Spring-Rice; who had rather a turn for such. Stephen, ultimately, when on half-pay and a Cambridge Professor, used to come down hither** pretty often on an evening; and we heard a great deal of talk from him, recognizably serious and able, though always in that Colonial-Office style, more or less. Colonial-Office being an Impotency (as Stephen inarticulately, though he never said or whispered it, well knew), what could an earnest and honest kind of man do, but try and teach you How Not to do it? Stephen seemed to me a master in that art.[6]
[* At Carlyle's public lectures between 1837 and 1840.]
[** To Carlyle's home.]

Stephen's own judgment of himself is on record. He wrote in 1846:

My mind is as sensitive as my eyes and as soon pained, irritated and darkened by any kind of glare. In all truth and honesty I, have but a 50-50 opinion of myself in my relations to my fellow men, and, so far as I can divine, I am unpopular, unsuccessful in the attempt to please--passing indeed for a man of more talents than I really possess, though of less amenity, cordiality, honour, and other social qualities than I should ascribe to myself.[7]

Finally, S. S. Bell and W. P. Morell in the introduction to their book Select Documents on British Colonial Policy, 1830-1860 say:

This book will fail in one of its main purposes if it does not make clear the wisdom, the knowledge, the essential righteousness of Stephen.[8]

That is the almost universal testimony of all who have dispassionately examined the work of the Colonial Office during the years in which he controlled it. This was the man who was in charge of the Colonial Office during and after Mitchell's first prolonged visit to England (see chapter X). As to the staff at the Colonial Office, Stephen himself wrote:

The majority of the members of the Colonial Department in my time possessed only in a low degree, and some of them in a degree almost incredibly low, either the talents or the habits of men of business, or the industry, the zeal, or the knowledge, required for the effective performance of their functions: they were, without exception, men who had been appointed to gratify the political, the domestic, or the personal feelings of their patrons, that is of successive Secretaries of State.[9]

And on another occasion he said that he had never yet served under any Secretary of State who did not at least appear to attach a very high interest to the power of giving such places to his dependents and friends.

As to the attitude of ministers, and his general attitude towards colonial policy, Stephen is on record as feeling that there should be studious and speculative men standing aloof from mere despatch writing, and projecting schemes of comprehensive and remote good:

I do not know my alphabet better than I know that this is not the spirit of the English Government, and that the ambition of every Secretary of State, and his operations, will be bounded by the great ultimate object of getting off the mails.[10]

He believed that England ought never to give up a colony; that the course to be pursued should be that of cheerfully relaxing, one after another, the bonds of authority as soon as the colony itself desired that relaxation, so substituting a federal for a colonial relation--no national pride wounded, no national greatness diminished, no national duty abandoned.

Herman Merivale succeeded Stephen as Permanent Under-Secretary in 1847 and was still in that position when Mitchell's career closed. He had been, before this appointment, Professor of Political Economy at Oxford, and the text of his printed lectures in that capacity indicate an academic approach to the problems of colonial government. In his public functions at the head of the Colonial Office, however, he appears to have shown appreciation of the practical aspects of problems with which he had to deal. He was the head of the Colonial Office during Mitchell's second (1847) and third (1852) visits to England (see chapters XIII and XIV). After his retirement he published a book, Lectures on Colonization and the Colonies, to which reference will presently be made.

C. Gairdner, who had been a senior officer on the Colonial Office staff since 1824, is described as a valuable civil servant, more than a mere scribe, and far from being the traditional privileged pharisee.[11]

Estimates of the characters of the ministers* who, as Secretaries of State for the Colonies, were responsible for all matters concerning Australia, are available from both contemporary observers and from modern students who have studied the period.

[* A list of ministers is given in Appendix A.]

Stephen admired Huskisson and Lord John Russell, the one for his "dominant understanding", the other for his "dominant soul", and both as being naturally fitted for statesmanship: the rest were "mere throwings up of the Tide of Life".[12]

Stephen is reported to have said of Murray that up to the end of 1828 he had done nothing, had never written a despatch: and Hay said, in 1830, that for the many years he had been in office he had never met with any public officer so totally inefficient.[13]

McCarthy says of Goderich ("Prosperity Robinson") that he was one of a class of men who are to be found at all times of parliamentary history, and who manage somehow, nobody quite knows how, to make themselves appear indispensable to their political party.[14]

It is said of Stanley that he scarcely bothered to disguise his contempt for colonial manners: but of Russell, in contrast to Stephen's opinion (quoted above) the same authority says that he never really got inside the minds of his countrymen overseas and was often more pointed than wise.[15]

Of Glenelg it was said that he had the weak man's belief that procrastination is a substitute for incorruptibility: his sluggishness was a by-word in political circles.[16]

There are available two opinions of Lord Grey. A contemporary writer said of him that the House of Commons swarmed with his bitter enemies and he had very few friends.

Notwithstanding his great and undeniable abilities he has committed blunders which proceed from his contempt for the opinions of others, and the tenacity with which he clings to his own: while those who know him are aware that a man more high-minded, more honourable and conscientious does not exist.[17]

McCarthy, writing much later, said:

Lord Grey then and since only succeeded somehow in missing the career of a leading statesman. He had great talents and some originality; he was independent and bold. But his independence degenerated too often into impracticability and even eccentricity; and he was, in fact, a politician with whom ordinary men could not work.[18]

That is a rapid review of the ministers of state who for the most part remotely, but on some occasions directly, influenced Mitchell's career. It is, perhaps, not without significance that every Secretary of State for the Colonies during Mitchell's Australian career--with the exception of Murray--were members of the titled aristocracy. Of their attitude to their responsibilities Froude could, so late as 1885, write:

Our differences with the Colonists have been aggravated by the class of persons with whom they have been brought officially into contact. The administration of the Colonial Office has been generally in the hands of men of rank, or of men who aspire to rank; and, although these high persons are fair representatives of the interests which they have been educated to understand, they are not the fittest to conduct our relations with communities of Englishmen with whom they have imperfect sympathy, in the absence of a well-informed public opinion to guide them. The colonists are socially their inferiors, out of their sphere, and without personal point of contact. Secretaries of State lie yet under the shadow of the old impression that the Colonies exist only for the benefit of the Mother-country. They distributed the colonial patronage, the lucrative places of employment, to provide for friends or political supporters. When this, too, ceased to be possible, they acquiesced easily in the theory that the Colonies were no longer of any use at all.[19]

Two contemporary expressions of opinion might be recorded of the status of the Colonial Office at the end of the period now under review, recalling at the same time Carlyle's opinion, already quoted, of his impression of Stephen's own attitude.

The Marquis of Salisbury is reported as saying, in 1852:

I am not much disposed to yield to popular clamour, but the din of indignation against Downing Street is so bad and so incessant that I cannot help thinking there must be something in it...we alienate the Colonies and harass every Ministry with the solution of a set of problems in order that we may have the exquisite privilege of supporting some thirty useless clerks.[20]

Carlyle was even more vehement:

What these strange Entities in Downing Street intrinsically are; who made them, why they were made; how they do their function--is probably known to no mortal...Every Colony, every agent for a matter Colonial, has his tragic tale to tell you of his sad experiences in the Colonial Office; what blind obstructions, fatal indolences, pedantries, stupidities, on the right and on the left, he had to do battle with...I perceive that besides choosing Parliaments never so well, the new Colonial Office will have another thing to do: contrive to send out a new kind of Governors to the Colonies.[21]

These abrupt verdicts on ministers and secretaries do not, of course, provide an accurate or adequate portrait of any of the persons concerned: other verdicts, in an infinite variety, are probably available. They have, however, been quoted as indication that there was contemporary discontent with, and some lack of harmony within, the Colonial Office. At a time when the parliament and the people of Great Britain were preoccupied with "reform", and the major anxiety of the Colonial Office was slavery and emancipation, it is not difficult to understand that the problems of the Australian colonies were not always wisely solved. It is, indeed, probable that these expressions of opinion were prompted largely by experiences connected with the West Indies, Canada, and perhaps India, and that they had little reference to the Australian colonies.

No one with experience of public administration, who has studied the despatches of the period, can accept this picture of the Colonial Office in its relations with Australia as real: these despatches provide clear evidence of honest and intelligent efforts to find the best answer to every question that was presented: but that Mitchell was unaware of the general dissatisfaction is unlikely, and that it affected his actions is probable.

Apart from these focal aspects of administration there were rapid, almost revolutionary changes in the social and political structure of society in England. The success of the revolt of 'the American colonies, the French Revolution, the writings of Paine and others, had all stirred in the minds of the English people deep questionings as to the rights of the individual man and the form of government. Discontent simmered slowly until the little revolution in France in 1829, resulting in the flight and deposition of King Charles X, crystallized definite reaction in England. The news of the events in France "provoked in England a bewildering storm of popular feeling which swept the country and was most unfavourable to the Government" at the elections in England of August in that year.[22]

Wellington, who had, since Waterloo, held in the minds of the English people a position of extraordinary prestige and authority, was definitely reactionary and unresponsive to the popular clamour for reform. He said, in 1830, that it would be utterly beyond the power of the wisest political philosopher to devise a constitution so near to absolute perfection as that under which Englishmen had been endowed by the wisdom of their ancestors, and that Englishmen already possessed all the freedom that it was good for men to have.[23]

He was, however, powerless to delay reform, and the reform of parliament, of the social structure generally, proceeded steadily during the following decades until many radical reforms, including the fundamental redistribution of electorates, liberalized qualification for voting, voting by ballot, and abolition of the system of purchase of army commissions, had become established features of the social system. These reforms had resulted, during the period now under review, in a large measure of transfer of power from the titled aristocracy to the great middle class. From this new body came a move to cut off the colonies, to give them independence and to let them survive or perish as they could. Froude has reviewed the position:

The Colonies had no longer any special value as a market for our industries; the whole world was now open to us, and so long as their inhabitants were well off and could buy our hardware and calicoes, it mattered nothing whether they were independent, or were British subjects, or what they were. The representatives of the middle classes would have shaken oft, if they had been allowed, Australia and New Zealand, and the Canadas. The politicians who succeeded to power when the aristocracy was dethroned by the Reform Bill discovered that the Colonies were of no use to us, and that we would be better off and stronger without them.[24]

Beside these specific movements, this transfer of power had involved also great reductions in the system of patronage, and of filling important positions through personal favour or family affiliations. All this social reform, until 1855, was contemporary with Mitchell's period of service in Australia. How this flooding revolution affected Mitchell's mind during his three visits to England within this period can only be a matter for speculation, but that he was uninfluenced by these changes is unlikely.

Some indication of the quality of the Governors under whom Mitchell served is necessary and verdicts upon them are available from two sources. Dr J. D. Lang, a public figure in New South Wales throughout the whole period, had many personal dealings with each of them; Dr Frederick Watson as editor of the Historical Records of Australia formed his opinions from an exhaustive study of contemporary official documents and other records. Each of these Governors was an army officer, Darling, Bourke and Gipps being veterans of the Peninsular War.

Lang[25] and Watson[26] both agree that Darling, while possessing good qualities, was not a suitable governor for a colony whose inhabitants were emerging from a period of subservience and were agitating for an extension of civil rights. Lang's opinion was that "the military man is peculiarly unfitted for dealing with opposition when he happens to be invested with civil authority".

Bourke is described by Lang as strictly just and constitutionally humane, but obstinately fixed in his own opinions and impatient of opposition.[27] Watson considers that he was a broad-minded and far-sighted statesman and recognized the advantage of granting to the people a share in their own government.[28]

Gipps is condemned by Lang in severe terms: he says that Gipps was superior both in intellect and acquirements to the generality of mankind: but with these acknowledged mental qualities he was of an essentially narrow and diminutive mind--incapable of enlarged and comprehensive views either of the nature and requirements of his own position, or of the interests of those he governed.[29] Watson does not agree with this estimate; he acknowledges that Gipps had been much criticized, but from a careful study of his despatches he concludes that Gipps was a capable administrator and brilliant statesman with great breadth of vision and almost uncanny foresight.[30]

Fitzroy is condemned by both authorities for his lax moral character.[31] Lang's condemnation is unqualified, but Watson credits him with being an industrious and impartial administrator.[32]

Lang's opinion of Denison is expressed in very unfavourable terms as an arbitrary and unreasonable governor. Watson's verdict is not available as the Historical Records ceased before this period was reached.

Although it is true that the Colonial Office, especially when controlled by Stephen and Merivale, honestly sought the right answer to each phase of a complicated problem, there was, continually, a swaying balance between the recommendations of the Governor, and the contrary representations and pressure from people in the colony to and upon their patrons and influential friends in England. Pathetic testimony is provided by the Governors themselves.

Macquarie had, in connexion with a particular complaint, protested to Bathurst against a rebuke administered by that minister, and had said that he felt assured that his Lordship would not wish him to submit tamely to the subversion of his authority as Governor. The end of it all was that Macquarie resigned:

I must confess, my Lord, I am now heartily tired of my situation here, and anxiously wish to retire from Public Life as soon as possible.[33]

Lang records that, in 1824, he heard John Macarthur say with evident self-satisfaction that he had been the means of sending home every Governor of the colony except Macquarie.[34] Darling was dismissed, as will appear later, because of continued pressure from the discontented factions and the dissatisfaction of the Colonial Office with his administration: "Your Lordship has disgraced me in the very face of people whom I have now governed for nearly six years."[35]

Bourke resigned because the Colonial Office refused to support him in an administrative action which he believed to be necessary: "I lament that Your Lordship has not appreciated my motives in offering my resignation."[36]

Gipps, after more than eight years of valuable service during which he incurred much local hostility in trying faithfully to carry out the instructions of the Colonial Office, resigned. Watson records his opinion that it is certain that his strenuous labour as Governor was the principal cause of his early death.[37]

I beg to assure Your Lordship that to be relieved from the cares and anxieties attendant on the administration of the affairs of this remote Colony will on many accounts be very gratifying to me.[38]

Fitzroy left the colony in disrepute because of disorderly conduct.

It is impossible in this review to trace the steps towards self-government in the colony from the days when Macquarie governed as absolute ruler without any Council, and hoped there never would be one, through the creation in 1824 of a Legislative Council, containing a majority of officials, to advise the Governor upon (but not to initiate) proposed legislation, then in the following year of an Executive Council to advise on administrative actions, through the gradually increasing degrees of local autonomy and elective, as opposed to nominee, representation, to full self-government in 1855-6 with a bi-cameral parliament.

The gradual progress during these thirty years was not attained without considerable and continuous agitation, nor without frequent and sustained clashing of private interests. Merivale was Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office through all the final stages in the establishment of the autonomous constitutions of New South Wales and Victoria. His verdict on this transition period was:

There was antagonism between the wealthier and the poorer classes, greatly as that antagonism was exaggerated by those who sought their own profit in maintaining hostility between them. There was probably some truth in the assertion that the large proprietors or lessees in Australia conceived themselves to have an interest in impeding the general acquisition of land and in keeping down the wages of labour.

Under these circumstances the revolution which snapped the slight tie of dependence on the mother country left the colonial aristocracy desirous but unable to make head against a numerical majority. And yet this revolution was mainly brought about by that aristocracy itself. Such is the usual course of events. The able and wealthy leaders of the old Australian legislatures wanted to transfer power from Downing Street to themselves: they succeeded in transferring it to their inferiors.

The Home Government gained a release from the unpopular and useless office of interference: relief from wearisome struggles, and kindliness instead of hatred.

Australia gained what all communities appear to gain by emancipation however unfavourable some of the features of the emancipation may have been.[39]

The period of thirty years, which has been covered in this chapter, was exactly the period of Mitchell's association with Australian affairs. This brief, and inevitably incomplete, review is, presented with the object of giving some impression of the conditions under which Mitchell had to carry out his duties and adjust himself to conditions which were rapidly changing in both England and Australia.

He began his career as a Peninsular veteran with a meritorious record and with the prestige then accorded to all such soldiers: but, as Napier said of the Napoleonic wars, the British soldier "fought beneath the cold shade of aristocracy". It was the day of the aristocrat, the day of patronage, when nepotism was the conventionally accepted practice, when a position in the civil service of England or of Australia could not be secured except through the influence of some aristocrat, and when all departmental decisions were susceptible to pressure from some influential source.

At the very commencement of his Australian career all this abruptly changed. With Wellington's fall from power and the inception of "reform": with the rise of democracy, and, especially with the firm hand of Stephen at the Colonial Office, Mitchell found that the anchors in England upon which he had relied were losing strength, and during his later visits to England he was thrown completely upon his own resources.

In Australia he came to a colony which included all the mainland of Australia as far as 129° E. longitude--i.e. the borders of Western Australia--and in which organized settlement was almost completely limited to the strip east of the Dividing Range. Towards the end of his career Victoria and South Australia were no longer under his jurisdiction and the agitation for the separation of Queensland had begun.

Plate III. Governor Sir Ralph Darling From a painting in the possession of Mrs Anderson of Port Sorell, Tasmania

Plate IV. "Craigend", Mitchell's first residence at Darlinghurst/Lennox Bridge

When Mitchell arrived in Australia in 1827 the estimated population was 56,000: when he died in 1855 it was 793,000: and the type of population had completely changed. When he arrived in 1827 the people of the colony were the official autocracy, the squatter autocracy (exclusives), convicts, emancipists, and a limited number of free immigrants. During his first years came an increasing flow of free immigrants from Great Britain, mostly young people inspired with the spirit of reform and newly-found freedom; and, in his last years, the great influx following the discovery of gold, these with still further advanced ideas of reform. From a stage at which the landed aristocracy and the governing group firmly maintained their control of wealth and power there was a steady transition to the stage at which these refused to surrender, and the newcomers sought to secure, a dominant place in this new land. And through all these changes, from beginning to end, were the steadily increasing numbers of Australian-born of whom Commissioner Bigge had written so early as 1822:

The class of inhabitants that have been born in the Colony affords a remarkable exception to the moral and physical character of their parents: they are generally tall in person and slender in their limbs, of fair complexion and small features. They are capable of undergoing more fatigue and are less exhausted by labour than native Europeans; they are active in their habits, but remarkably awkward in their movements. In their tempers they are quick and irascible but not vindictive; and I only repeat the testimony of persons who have had many opportunities of observing them, that they inherit neither the vices nor the feelings of their parents.[40]

During Mitchell's term of office the land problem was unceasingly acute. As Surveyor General he was responsible for all matters such as disposal of Crown lands, of survey of boundaries of alienated land, of titles, supervision of lease-hold tenures, and all related matters, over a territory from Bass Strait to the middle of Queensland. The old system of free grants of land had been abolished by the Home Government in 1831 and from that time followed continual changes in land policy. In these changes the influence of Wakefield's "proposal for colonizing Australia" can be recognized, although his system was not adopted as fully in New South Wales as it was in other colonies.

Mitchell would, without doubt, have known that it was Wakefield's influence which moved the Colonial Office to introduce the basic change in policy in 1831 under which sale by auction replaced the system of free land grants, and even later changes, at a time when Stephen was legal counsellor to the Colonial Office; and it is probable that he knew of Stephen's estimate of Wakefield's character:

I saw plainly that the choice before me was that of having Mr Wakefield for an official acquaintance whose want of truth and honour would render him most formidable in that capacity, or for an enemy whose hostility was to be unabated. I deliberately preferred his enmity to his acquaintanceship and I rejoice that I did so.[41]

The story which follows in this volume is an attempt to describe the course steered by Mitchell through these very troubled waters; to indicate how far he was able to adapt himself to a social environment which changed so fundamentally that the world of 1855 would look back with puzzled wonder on the world of 1827; and to record the great services he rendered to his adopted country under conditions which were always difficult.

CHAPTER IV - Conditions in the earlier Years

The first sixty-seven years of government in New South Wales provide a dramatic story of evolution in relations between the Home Government and the new colony of New South Wales.

For twenty-seven years the Home Government was preoccupied and distracted by the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. In this period it was content to leave the control of the purely penal establishment (its status as a colony developed slowly) to a Governor vested with autocratic powers--powers which were vague, but absolute. Yet, though this was the nominal position, the Home Government encouraged patronage, and personal influence resulted often in arbitrary interference by the Colonial Office in London with the actions of the Governor in Sydney. Long delays in communications between Sydney and London, ignorance of conditions in New South Wales, and frequent inertia on the part of the Colonial Office were factors tending to increase confusion in administration.

The first Governor, Phillip, had only a guard of marines; but in the years 1790 and 1791 a military corps named the New South Wales Corps (afterwards the 102nd Regiment of the Line) was specially raised for military duties and guard service in the new colony. After the departure of Phillip an interval of almost three years elapsed before a new Governor, Hunter, was appointed and assumed office. During those three years the commanding officers of the New South Wales Corps administered government as Lieutenant Governors, first Grose and then Paterson. One of the lieutenants in the Corps was John Macarthur, whose influence in the colony became great.

The officers of the New South Wales Corps soon became interested in commercial ventures beyond the limits conventionally observed by army officers on duty. In this they were not discouraged by the Lieutenant Governors--their own commanding officers. Under the system of free grants of land with the assignment of convict servants, some of the officers acquired valuable properties; and, by the traffic in rum, they became so influential as to dominate the economic life of the colony. Their activities extended until they became a serious threat to the healthy growth of this young community, and under their influence a spirit of insurrection against constituted authority developed.

While this revolt against local authority was actively directed against the local Governor, those concerned were very careful to maintain friendly relations with influential members of the Home Government, even to the extent of securing the recall of some Governors. Bligh had arrived in Sydney, as Governor, in 1806 with explicit instructions to end the traffic in rum and to curtail the entrenched privileges of the officers of the New South Wales Corps. The result of his efforts in this field are familiar matters of history. After his illegal deposition following on the "rebellion", the Colonial Office realized that a new policy was necessary. The succession of naval officers as Governors was broken, and Macquarie, a soldier with considerable experience of active service in India, was appointed; he assumed duty in Sydney on New Year's Day, 1810.

Human communities do not stand still. Many of the transported convicts had died during those first twenty-two years: others had completed their term of transportation and chosen to remain as "emancipists" in the colony. These were free men: Macquarie took the stand that, sentence completed, they should be treated in all material respects as ordinary civilians.

Three months after Macquarie's arrival in Sydney the New South Wales Corps embarked for England; but some of the military and official autocracy had, by this time, acquired important vested interests in the colony. So early as 1802, thirty-four individuals in this group held estates to a total of eighteen thousand acres, all acquired under the system of free grants made by the Governors and Lieutenant Governors. In addition they had complete control of all official positions, and violently opposed all suggestions that the emancipists should receive any consideration. This group has become known as the "exclusives".

Macquarie, on the day of his arrival, declared his intention of treating all classes equally and appealed for harmony; although opposed by the unrelenting hostility of the exclusives he steadily advanced the interests of the emancipists and their children, receiving, for some years at least, the support of the Colonial Office in this policy. But at last, owing to prolonged intrigues against Macquarie by the exclusives, Commissioner Bigge was appointed to enquire into the actual circumstances of the colony under Macquarie's administration, and particularly to ascertain

how far in its present improved and increasing state it was susceptible of being made adequate to the object of its original institution.

The exclusives had, for the moment, been able to cast a shadow over Macquarie's humane policy.

Bigge arrived in Sydney in 1819 and his report, in some aspects critical of Macquarie's administration, was published in London in 1821: in that year Macquarie resigned as Governor, and in the following February he returned to England. Although Macquarie had made many land grants to emancipists, he had not encouraged the immigration of free settlers; nor had he favoured any move towards local self-government, even so elementary a step as the appointment of a Governor's Council. Indeed he "hoped that such a measure would never be resorted to in the colony".[1] At the end, after eleven years of successful administration, during which the population of the colony had increased from 10,096 to 29,665, wearied by the constant intrigues of his local enemies and their favourable reception by the ministers in England, he was glad to resign.

The next Governor was Sir Thomas Brisbane, whose period of administration was four years, from December 1821 to December 1825: during that period the only developments important for this present review were the first steps towards local autonomy--the decision to appoint a Legislative Council; and the beginning of immigration of free settlers with capital. These settlers arrived in considerable numbers during Brisbane's period, so that, with the continual arrival also of convicts, the population had, by 1825, increased to 38,313 persons. The immigrant settlers were given free grants of land, and convicts were assigned to them as servants. Brisbane did not continue Macquarie's policy of humane treatment of emancipists: nevertheless, as a result of the intrigues of the exclusives he was recalled.

The following extract from a farewell address presented to Brisbane illustrated the slowly changing position of the exclusives in the social balance:

Your Excellency has never, in the distribution of the patronage of the Crown, or in framing new Laws or Ordinances, allowed yourself to know the high from the low, the Emigrant from the Emancipist.[2]

Next came General Darling (Plate III) who was to serve as Governor from 1825 to 1831. He had the task of introducing reforms intended to increase the degree of local self-government.[3] The reforms had been prescribed by the Home Government, not by Darling himself. In giving effect to this policy he satisfied neither the obstinate conservative group who wished to retain their privileges, nor the aggressive radicals who desired more extensive reforms. The dissatisfaction developed into actual hostility. In the end, the intrigues of the exclusives against him were successful, and he was recalled. Later he had to face a committee of enquiry into his administration. Darling's bitter protest on the occasion of his recall is included in Appendix B.

Upon the arrival of his successor, Bourke, some citizens presented an address to the new Governor which contained this passage:

After nearly six years of public endurance arising partly from the visitations of Providence, but more from an inveterate system of misgovernment we hail Your Excellency's arrival among us as the dawn of a happier era.[4]

Darling had not deserved this. It was in Darling's period that the Legislative Council first became fully effective. At the beginning it was composed of official members, with one non-official nominee member.

Darling, like his immediate predecessors, gave many free grants of land; and, although he was severely criticized at that time, it may reasonably be said that, during his period, there was slow but steady progress towards a more stable social order. The population had increased from 38,313 to more than 48,000. This phase in our national evolution is notable for the appearance on the administrative stage of a new and vigorous group, the Australian-born. These, the children of all the different conflicting groups, were, although infected with the prejudices of their respective families, more concerned with finding a place for themselves in this new world.

It is appropriate to quote here the text of an address presented to Darling on his arrival (19 December 1825):

The growth of the Colony continues to outstrip the most sanguine expectations of the oldest inhabitants and we doubt not that Your Excellency will soon discover that the present code of Local laws is far behind the claims of a free wealthy and active community...

While we can justly boast of the loyalty and attachment to the Crown of England of all the inhabitants of the Colony who were born and educated in the United Kingdom, there exists nevertheless in the Territory a race of Men already arrived at an adult state who, scattered in the distant and silent woods of their country, unknown, unfelt, and unheard of as a political body, are yet destined to be the Fathers of the succeeding generation and the inheritors of our lands.

This class of colonists has been too much neglected, as well by His Majesty's Government as by the local administrators of the Colony, and unfortunately they deeply feel this neglect. The patronage of office they have always disregarded; but grants of land which they consider their own as it were by natural inheritance, and which they have seen of late years, through the recommendation of the late Commissioner of Enquiry lavishly bestowed upon strangers without capability of improving it...has had a baneful influence on their minds.[5]

Also to be noted are the terms in which Hamilton Hume had earlier addressed Earl Bathurst (20 April 1826) when seeking special recognition for his services in exploration:

Presuming myself (although an Australian) capable from experience of undertaking such an expedition I represented to His Excellency my willingness to explore those hitherto unexplored regions...[6]

and to note the phrasing of Brisbane's report to the Colonial Office (24 March 1825):

I have also to announce to you the discovery of a new and valuable country of great extent from Lake George to Western Port by two young men, Messrs Hovell and Hume, the latter Colonial.[7]

This cold announcement, without commendation, is in contrast with the "zeal and intelligence" displayed by Oxley on a far less arduous enterprise by sea. There is evidence that too much praise for discoveries of this value by explorers who were not on the survey staff should not be permitted as it would adversely influence Oxley's prestige.[8] Mitchell, at a later date, gave evidence of a similar attitude.

Darling was succeeded by Sir Richard Bourke, who was Governor from 1831 to 1837. Perhaps the best indication of the prosperity which marked his period is that during those six years the population increased from 48,000 to 86,842.

The system of free land grants had been discontinued about the time of Darling's recall and a new system of purchase instituted. Bourke's administration may have been wisely planned, or based on diplomatic expediency, opinions vary; but during this time progress towards social and economic stability was real and of permanent quality.

The citizens were moved to erect a statue to him. This statue now stands in front of the Mitchell Library in Sydney and carries the following inscription as a catalogue of his achievements:

This statue of Lieutenant General Sir Richard Bourke K.C.B.
is erected by the people of New South Wales to record his
able honest and benevolent administration from 1831 to 1837
Selected for the Government at a period of singular difficulty
His judgment urbanity and firmness justified the choice
Comprehending at once the vast resources
Peculiar to this Colony
He applied them for the first time
Systematically to its benefit
He voluntarily divested himself of the prodigious influence
Arising from the assignment of penal labour and enacted
Just and salutary laws, for the administration of penal discipline
He was the first Governor who published satisfactory accounts
Of public receipts and expenditure
Without oppression or detriment to any interest
He raised the revenue to a vast amount and from its surplus
Realized extensive plans of immigration
He established religious equality on a just and firm basis
And sought to provide for all without distinction of sect
A sound and adequate system of national education
He constructed various public works of permanent utility
He founded the flourishing settlement of Port Phillip
And threw open the unlimited wilds of Australia
To pastoral enterprise
He established Savings Banks and was the patron of the first Mechanics' Institute
He created an equitable tribunal for determining upon claims to grants of land
He was the warm friend of the liberty of the press
He extended trial by jury after its almost total suspension for many years
By these and numerous other measures
For the moral religious and general improvement of all classes
He raised the Colony to unexampled prosperity
And retired amid the reverent and affectionate regret of the people
   having won their confidence by his integrity
Their gratitude by his services
Their admiration by his public talents and
Their esteem by his private worth.

Bourke was followed by Gipps (1838-46), Fitzroy (1846-55), and Denison (1855-61). During the period of office of these four Governors the old exclusives-emancipists-emigrants rivalries had been largely forgotten. The population at the end of Gipps' period had grown to 196,704: and, following the discovery of gold, the population had swollen, in New South Wales and Victoria together (Victoria had become a separate colony in 1851) to 897,126 at the end of Denison's period as Governor. This dramatic increase in population involved serious problems in administration.

It has finally to be recorded that local self-government was granted slowly. A Legislative Council, as stated above, had been formed in 1824: a representative (partly elected) legislature was established in 1842: and, in 1856, full self-government under a bi-cameral legislature was instituted.


The formidable wall of sandstone ranges around Sydney was, at first, a feature favourable to administration: the majority of the population were convicts whose control was greatly facilitated by this natural barrier against escape. All settlement and development were limited to the narrow coastal strip: and, although there had been some extension to the Hunter and Shoal-haven districts, traffic thereto could only be by sea. To the west there could be no traffic.

It had been somewhat vaguely assumed in the Colonial Office that this new convict settlement would become self-supporting at least in respect of food: but the country around Sydney was found to be so unsuited to agriculture that this hope was soon, perhaps too soon, abandoned. Such food as was grown was, for the most part, grown on the farms of the exclusives who kept the price unduly high. There could be no competition as all the good land in this coastal strip had already passed into private possession under the system of free grants.

Soon after his arrival Macquarie had complained to Castlereagh that persons were coming out as settlers bringing orders from cabinet ministers in England for large grants of land in specified localities: these people were naturally disappointed when they found that no land was available in the districts they had selected.[9]

Sheep provided the determinant factor. From the initial twenty-nine sheep, all that were left, on 1 May 1788, of the original importation, and from small consignments imported later, the numbers steadily grew. In 1796 there were 2,457: in 1805, 16,501: in 1813, 50,000: and by 1821 they had multiplied until it was estimated that the flocks totalled 290,000.[10] Sheep, which are never still, walking as they eat, require room. Land in ever increasing quantities became urgently necessary. But all attempts to cross the confused sandstone ranges to the west failed until 1813: in that year Lawson and his companions found a practicable route over the Blue Mountains. In the same year Evans, sent by Macquarie, followed their route and extended their discoveries to the plains around Bathurst and the Macquarie River.

Macquarie had then instructed Cox to build a road over the mountains; and when this was completed, he himself with a suitable retinue, including Surveyor General Oxley, visited the Bathurst plains, fixing the site for the future town. From here he sent Evans on westward another 115 miles; Evans returned having discovered the upper reaches of the Lachlan not far from Cowra. From these excursions it was revealed that two great rivers, the Lachlan and the Macquarie, had their source quite close to each other in the Bathurst district.

In 1814, Hamilton Hume and his brother made a journey as far as Bong Bong and Berrima, and in 1818 Hume and Meehan discovered Lake Bathurst and the country round Goulburn. Earl Bathurst in England, stimulated by these discoveries, ordered further exploration of the western rivers.[11] The revelation of these great plains, with the possibility that growing pastoral and agricultural industries might contribute towards the economic independence of the colony, excited even the Colonial Office to faint enthusiasm.[12]

Oxley offered his services for further exploration. In 1817 he followed the Lachlan down as far as Booligal, and in 1818 he traced the Macquarie as far as the marshes north of Warren. On each river his further progress--he took boats--was stopped by apparently impenetrable marshes. He retired from each journey convinced that both rivers ended in one vast inland sea, and reported adversely upon the country traversed.

Locally, the reaction to these discoveries was immediate. Macquarie gave liberal grants of free land on these great western plains: and other sheep-owners, without right or title, moved their flocks south-westward to the Goulburn plains, and westward in the Bathurst-Wellington region.

After Oxley's journey down the Macquarie in 1818 there was a period of six years without any further exploration. In 1824 Hume and Hovell reached Port Phillip.


Even from the very early stages of settlement the definition by survey of the boundaries of individual properties was an administrative problem. At the very beginning a small, very small, number of persons in a continent of almost inconceivable vastness had at their disposal land which had no owner. It is true that it was the property of the Crown; but the Crown had already approved of the principle of free grants. Successive Governors had been generous in the use of this authority. Oxley reported (26 January 1826) that, up to the year 1810, the total of alienated land was more than 1,800,000 acres spread over an area of 35,000 square miles, comprising eight counties, the boundaries of which were undefined.[13] By 1831 the total area of land alienated under the system of free grants was 3,344,030 acres.[14]

While the exclusives were in actual or virtual control of all governmental functions any difficulties about boundaries could be settled by mutual agreement; but this could not possibly continue as settlement expanded. The alienation of Crown land was ill-controlled, surveys of the location and boundaries of the several grants were rarely made; and when made were inadequate in both quality and volume. Most of the land was actually occupied. Macquarie reported that surveyors had no incentive to keep pace with occupation since their profit was hardly two shillings and sixpence for each farm. There was no enthusiasm for routine and efficient surveying.

These problems were brought into practical focus by the appointment in July 1811 of Lieutenant John Oxley as Surveyor General. Oxley reached Sydney on 1 January 1812.[15] This was not his first association with New South Wales. He had been there on naval duties from 1802 to 1807, and again from 1808 till 1810. Two years after his arrival he reported to Macquarie (1814) upon the wide dispersion of grants and farms and the inadequacy, for the task of survey, of his resources.[16] Macquarie, transmitting this report to Bathurst in the same year, recorded his conviction that the duties of a land surveyor in the extended state of the settlement was much more than Oxley, unaided, was equal to; and Macquarie asked for the appointment of a deputy surveyor.[17] This appointment was refused by the Colonial Office, and Oxley was faced with a task officially recognized as beyond his power.

The growing friction between the free settlers, the emancipists, the insurgent Macarthur coterie, and the representatives of lawful civil government has already been mentioned and is repeated here only in relation to the Surveyor General and his work. The exclusives required more and more convict labour for their ever-expanding acres, they resented the granting of civil liberties to time-expired convicts, and generally opposed most vigorously any liberal policy intended for the benefit of any section of the community other than their own privileged group.

Oxley was of this group. Bligh, Macquarie, and Darling had, each in succession, reported to the Colonial Office that Oxley's association with the Macarthur coterie was a source of official embarrassment.[18] Although Macquarie had described Oxley as "intriguing and discontented", Darling had given him credit for being a "clever man and a useful officer".[19] In addition to his official responsibilities Oxley was also the owner of an estate of a thousand acres between Camden and Narellan: an estate which he had received, while still a naval officer (1808), as a free grant by direction of Lord Castlereagh: this estate was commended by Commissioner Bigge as being especially well managed .[20]

Bigge had reported that the business of the Survey Department had fallen seriously into arrears, either on account of the disproportion of the establishment to the increase of business in it, or the frequent interruptions occasioned by the long absences of Oxley, Meehan, and Evans on tours of discovery; and by the distances at which the operations of admeasurement were to be executed.[21] He had recommended that the Surveyor General should have three assistant surveyors: and that a general division of the whole territory of New South Wales into counties, hundreds, and parishes was a measure of the highest importance and must accompany or precede every other plan of general improvements.[22] His report was not presented to the House of Commons until July 1823, and Bathurst at once transmitted to the Governor at Sydney that portion of the report which dealt with the Survey Department.[23] In doing so he covered the recommendations with official instructions:

You will understand that the recommendations in the Commissioner's Report have my approbation and sanction; and that I draw your attention to them for the purpose of their being carried into effect.[24]

Oxley had, in the meantime, been moved to action. He wrote a minute to Macquarie (27 July 1821) stating that the great and increasing pressure of public business in the Survey Department induced him to request such assistance as would enable him to bring up the great arrears and prevent in future those serious inconveniences and delays which had unavoidably been experienced in the execution of this branch of the public service [25] How far this sudden activity may have resulted from Bigge's enquiries is speculative. Bigge had left Sydney on 14 February 1821: and although the contents of Bigge's report could not have been known by Oxley when he wrote the official minute just quoted, he might well have known Bigge's views: he was of that group which throughout was intimate with Bigge.[26] He could not, in any case, have failed to realize during the course of a searching enquiry, the lack of efficiency in the field of administration for which he was responsible.

Oxley had, as stated above, asked Macquarie in July 1821 for assistance to bring up the arrears in the survey. Then, after a long delay, he submitted to Brisbane a requisition for a complete set of surveying instruments. This requisition was dated 29 January 1822 and was forwarded to London by Brisbane on 1 February 1822 asking for early supply. Two years and seven months later, on 13 August 1824, Brisbane again forwarded this requisition to London with the comment that as they were much wanted he requested that they might be forwarded by the earliest opportunity.[27] But, still another six months later (1 February 1825), Brisbane again forwarded Oxley's requisition.[28] Oxley in writing to Brisbane referred to his previous letters of 29 January 1822 and 4 August 1824, and said:

I respectfully beg to enclose a quadruple of the requisition I then made and I am sorry to be obliged to represent to Your Excellency that the great delay which has attended the supply of instruments has been attended with very serious inconvenience to the public service.

Bathurst advised Brisbane, on 21 August 1824, that he had appointed two assistants to the Surveyor General: that these were men

whose education and rank in life will not only add to the respectability of the Department but tend to place it on that footing, with respect to its efficiency which Mr Commissioner Bigge in his Report so strongly recommended to be done as well as afford at the same time those additional facilities in the location of the settlers in the which so many inconvenient delays have...taken place.[29]

The two men were Mr Heneage Finch, who had taken a high degree in mathematics at Oxford, and Mr Rodd, who had been "highly recommended by Lord Harrowby".

In October 1823, Oxley had been again sent away from Sydney on exploration: this time by sea to examine Port Bowen, Port Curtis, and Moreton Bay.[30] He returned after an absence of three months, having discovered the Brisbane River. Brisbane, transmitting the report of this journey, commended Oxley's zeal and intelligence.

Events were moving slowly, but with an irresistible momentum. Brisbane reported (24 July 1824) that stock in the colony were increasing at a rate which rendered it quite impossible to suppose that the liberality of the Crown could keep pace in extending grants with the increase of stock.[31] This is surprising in view of the liberality of Brisbane who, during his term, granted more than one million acres according to Oxley's report already mentioned. Such generous disposition of free land inevitably brought multiplying difficulties of boundary surveys.

Ultimately the Home Government decided on more definite action. Bathurst wrote to Brisbane (1 January 1825) a long despatch "respecting the granting and settlement of the waste lands of the Crown" and communicated "the decisions which His Majesty's Government have formed on the questions thus brought under their notice"[32] These decisions proceeded to repeat, as an official order, Bigge's recommendation that the whole territory of New South Wales was to be divided into counties, hundreds, and parishes: declaring that this was a measure of the highest importance which must accompany or precede every other plan of general improvements; and "to give the greater solemnity to this measure, and to carry it into effect with the utmost possible accuracy" Brisbane was instructed to issue a commission under the great seal of New South Wales empowering three competent persons, of whom the Surveyor General was to be the First or Chief Commissioner, to make a survey of the whole colony.

The instructions then proceeded, without full realization of the difficulties or of the magnitude of this task, to order that

having thus distributed the Territory of New South Wales into the necessary political divisions the next object of attention is that of making a general valuation of the land throughout the Colony.

The first Commissioners were J. Oxley, W. Cordeaux, and J. Campbell.[33] Oxley received no special remuneration other than his salary, but the others received £1 per diem each.

Brisbane left, and Darling arrived, in December 1825: Darling's Commission contained similar instructions to the effect that a survey and valuation should be made of "our said Territory of New South Wales". These instructions were in the conventional form of such documents, and began with the usual "George R.", although they were in all respects instructions by the Government and not Royal commands. Although the Royal prerogative of independent decision had not, at this period, been entirely surrendered, it is hardly likely that George IV, being what he was, would have been personally greatly concerned about the survey of "Botany Bay".

The elements in this official episode have to be given their true value, because, as will be seen, Mitchell repeatedly invoked "the King's instructions" throughout his official career, although at the time these instructions were issued he was not in Australia.

Darling soon gave attention to this troublesome matter of surveys. The Survey Commissioners made their first report to him on 11 March 1826.[34] But before this Oxley had been moved to write a report to Darling (26 January 1826). In this report he referred to the Home Government's instructions as to the disposal of Crown lands and the division of the whole colony into counties, parishes, etc.; he said that every effort had been made to bring the surveys up-to-date, to prevent the disappointment of free settlers arriving from England. But, he pointed out, the area to be covered was 250 miles long, and 140 miles wide.* While there was no real difficulty in the proposed division into counties, etc., an extensive and detailed survey was necessary: and he added:

As soon as the necessary local arrangements can be made I shall submit the extent of practical assistance which may be required in field surveyors, draftsmen, etc.[35]
[* He was then referring only to the districts in which "settlement" and grants of land had been distributed.]

The Survey Commissioners considered this very comprehensive report, but pointed out that the great obstacle to any progress in the policy for disposal of Crown lands was the great lag in the work of the Survey Department, "owing to which a very considerable extent of the lands, already located and granted, remain to this day unsurveyed (11 March 1826)".[36] Then they recommended that every practicable means should be used to ensure that the survey should overtake, keep pace with, and precede, the demands for land by sale and by grant. They also endorsed Oxley's requests for more staff.

This period was one of rather leisurely action. Oxley had asked for more staff in January 1826; the Commissioners had supported his request in March:[37] Darling reported all this to Bathurst in July, stating that he had given instructions that the general survey must be commenced at once, but that Oxley was totally unprepared to commence the general survey or even to deal with arrears with his existing staff, and asked that half a dozen "respectable men, good practical surveyors", be sent out immediately; he added:

the remissness in this branch of the service appears highly culpable, it being about fourteen months since the Commissioners were appointed, and nothing has, in fact, been done. This, however, is only one proof of the relaxation which has prevailed generally.[38]

Darling followed this with another despatch in September 1826 in which he said:

Mr Oxley is a very clever man; but he has been too little controlled, and I am satisfied will never submit to the drudgery of carrying on the details of the Department. Besides there are many who doubt his impartiality.[39]

Darling had also in his despatch of July dealt with the staff of the department. There were then eight surveyors, and some clerks, but Darling pointed out that many of them had acquired free grants of land, The salary which they received, he added, was small and consequently they did not confine their attention to the service of the Government, but were concerned more with the obvious advantages of developing their own land.

Then Bathurst wrote (4 December 1826), in reply, that he would appoint four surveyors and two draftsmen, but that it would take some little time to find competent persons; he added:

Nothing perhaps will tend more to placing the Surveyor General's Department on a more efficient footing than it hitherto has been than assigning to the officers such remuneration for their services as to place them above temptation and thus to hold out sufficient encouragement for the zealous performance of their duties.[40]

To provide this "encouragement" two of the eight officers were to be retired, two were to remain on their present salary, one was to receive an additional £50 per annum, and two an additional £100 per annum each.

Comment is hardly necessary: but the incident does emphasize the conditions of Colonial Office administration under which it seemed desirable to senior officers in the colony to secure patronage and influence "at home" wherever possible.

In this chapter a very brief review has been made of the conditions preceding Mitchell's arrival in New South Wales. Against a background of patronage and influence, in an atmosphere of intrigue and disloyalty to the Governor, a spirit of self-reliance and Australianism was slowly developing; the geographical discoveries resulting from successive explorations had intensified administrative difficulties, and the chaotic state of detailed boundary surveys demanded urgently an orderly and progressive systematic survey according to established technical methods.

CHAPTER V - Governor Darling

Governor Darling, on receiving advice of Mitchell's appointment, replied (28 July 1826) that he had derived much satisfaction from the appointment of so competent an officer:[1] and, two months later, on 23 September 1827, Mitchell, with his family, arrived in Sydney in the Prince Regent.[2]

As Mitchell was to have personal contact throughout the rest of his life with all the notable Australian explorers of this period, it is of some interest to note that Charles Sturt had then been exactly four months in Sydney, while Allan Cunningham had only been back in Sydney for two months after that northern journey on which he had discovered the Darling Downs.

Mitchell took up his duties at once as Deputy Surveyor General, but, after only six months, Darling reported (27 March 1828) that the long and severe illness of Oxley had obliged him to put Mitchell in charge of the department. He expressed his regret that Mitchell had not more local experience,

but his zeal, assiduity, and professional knowledge afford me every reason to expect that the duties entrusted to him will be conducted in a satisfactory manner.[3]

Two months later (28 May), Darling reported that Oxley had died, and he had appointed Mitchell to succeed him as Surveyor General, in accordance with his previous instructions.[4] In December of the same year Captain S. A. Perry was appointed Deputy Surveyor General.[5] Perry remained in this position during the whole of Mitchell's period as Surveyor General.

From being a surveyor and draftsman of established ability, Mitchell now, only eight months after his arrival, assumed very great administrative responsibilities in a territory of continental size and of unknown nature, under rapidly evolving social conditions of quite unusual complexity. He was then thirty-six years old--and was to hold this responsible position for twenty-seven years.

Macquarie had done much to end the "convict" period, with its misery and rapacity: a period when savage floggings were accepted as normal, when an unscrupulous coterie in their lust for power and wealth defied, and even momentarily destroyed, the authority of the Crown. He had done much to establish the social position of the time-expired and emancipated convict. Brisbane had faced the problem of conflict between the emancipist and the growing flood of free emigrant settlers. Neither of these Governors had adequately dealt with the land problem, while the survey of the territory, and the definition of the boundaries of the rapidly multiplying land "grants" and "purchases" were still hopelessly in arrears.[6] Oxley, notwithstanding Darling's censure that he would never submit to the drudgery of carrying on the details of the department, had actually accomplished much. His long memoranda on the subject of land tenure from 1824 to 1828 indicate that he was being called upon to achieve results which were beyond all the resources of his limited staff.[7]

It may be supposed that as a director of the Bank of Australia, as a private owner of a country estate, and as the recipient of "fees", there were distractions from normal official enthusiasm; indeed Darling hints at this in his despatches of 22 July and 4 September 1826.[8] But the Colonial Office, even six years after Bigge's report, had not responded to his demands for increased staff, and their response to the request for increased pay was discouraging. For a long period also he was without surveying instruments. Having regard to all the conditions of the time, in retrospect after 125 years, his achievements should be applauded and judgment reserved in respect of all else. Mitchell was, however, faced with the task of overtaking all the arrears of neglected work while at the same time keeping pace with the demands of rapidly expanding settlement. In a private letter to Hay (17 March 1829) he stated that Oxley had left the office in great confusion.[9]

On his arrival in Sydney Mitchell lived first in Sussex Street: an advertisement appears in the Australian of 27 November 1829 notifying the sale by auction of five allotments "in the most genteel part of Sussex Street near the residences of Major Mitchell..."

In October 1831 he was given a grant of 9 acres, 3 roods, and 27 perches: he must have been given permission to occupy this land at an earlier date for on 4 June 1829 he wrote to his mother that he was building a house on this land.[10] This house he named "Craigend" after his birthplace: it was in Darlinghurst, close to the present King's Cross; Craigend Street and Craigend Place have preserved the name, they are between Surrey Street and Bayswater Road. The grant was gazetted as being in Alexandria, that being, at that time, the name of the parish in which the grant was located. Of this house Mrs Felton Mathews records in her journal that, on 22 April 1933, she called on Mrs Mitchell and Mrs Perry at Darlinghurst where there were several very handsome stone houses of which "Major Mitchell's is by far the most distinguished for architectural design"[11] (Plate IV). In this home assigned female convicts were employed and Mitchell's verdict was that they were very bad.[12]

Soon after his arrival, Mitchell, following up the deferred application in London, applied for a grant of land, and Darling in 1828 made him a grant of 2,560 acres in the county of St. Vincent on the south coast of New South Wales.[13] In December 1829 Mitchell requested permission to relinquish this land and to be allowed to select in a different situation. This application was approved and he selected an equal area in the county of Camden (Map II). This was in the region then known as East Bargo, between Appin and Bargo: it is now Portion 2 in the parish of Wilton, county of Camden. The grant was made to Mitchell under regulations published on 4 June 1830 in consideration of his fifteen years of service in the army. An order for Mitchell to take possession of the land was issued on 7 May 1831, although the grant was not formally issued until 1835. Later (13 December 1834) he purchased for £312 10s. an adjoining block of 1,250 acres (Portion 3, parish of Wilton). The combined portions formed a long triangular area between the town of Wilton and Moolgun Creek (Allan's Creek) on the west, and Cascade Creek and Cataract River on the east, with the Nepean River near Douglas Park as the base of the triangle on the north. He named this property "Parkhall", maintaining family associations in Scotland.[14]

There is a curious note in a letter written by Mitchell from London in 1847 to his son Livingstone. He said:

Mr Cooper has handsomely presented me with land on the Woronora, which, added to what I already hold there, makes the property complete...on the way to Parkhall by the range.[15]

The Woronora River is a considerable distance from Mitchell's Parkhall property.

MAP II. Plan of Mitchell's country property "Parkhall" in the County of Camden

Mitchell set men to the work of clearing such parts of this land as were suitable for the use of agriculture and farming purposes, but it was not until 1841, on his return from England, that he took any action towards making a residence there.[16] When giving evidence before the House of Commons Select Committee on Transportation in 1838, he was asked whether he had ever possessed land in Australia. He replied, "Yes! I purchased land." This was only partly true.

There are indications that at this stage he was not free from private troubles. Writing to his mother from Sydney (1 February 1828), he said that "Mrs Mitchell is not very fond of this country", and in November 1829 his father-in-law was reminding him of a loan of £800.[17]

In 1829 his brother Houston, who had previously tried his fortunes in Jamaica, arrived in Sydney, and soon secured a grant of 1,280 acres.[18]

Mitchell's sons were educated at Sydney College: he expressed the opinion that the education for boys in Sydney was very good, but was not of a high standard for girls.[19]

Turning now to the official side of Mitchell's life, Darling was at first very favourably impressed and advised Secretary of State Murray (1 February 1829) that he could not say too much in favour of Mitchell's zeal and qualifications; he recommended that after five years' service the salary should be increased by £200 per annum.[20] Mitchell's salary had already risen, on his promotion to Surveyor General, from £600 to £1,000.[21]

The state of the survey was still unsatisfactory. The Monitor newspaper had commented on "the dreadful situation of grants of land owing to the state of the Surveyor's Office".[22]

Darling reported to Secretary of State Huskisson that in many cases the settlers were not assured of the extent or limits of their property: their boundaries when they came to be measured would be found to overlap owing to the vague descriptions given by the settlers when reporting the selections they had made. Others had settled upon land to which they had no claim; and, having established themselves, were not disposed to yield to those who had obtained a grant of the same selection.

Even before he had actually become Surveyor General, Mitchell was invited by Darling to submit his views upon the most satisfactory method of dealing with the unsatisfactory state of the survey of the colony. Darling had said (13 May 1828):

If means are not used speedily to advance the survey of the Colony and facilitate the more regular location of settlers, the embarrassments, which already exist, must become irremediable and the foundation of others will be laid, as injurious to the public as to the interests of private individuals;

he then added that Mitchell was definitely of opinion that a proper trigonometrical survey was an essential preliminary to more detailed surveys; and that he, Darling, had authorized the commencement of this work in the county of Argyle.

He pointed out, however, that the delay in detailed surveys of settlers' properties would produce discontent, as title-deeds could not be issued until the properties were measured, adding the plaintive plea, already very familiar, that the general survey without considerable additional staff was "totally impracticable".[23]

He sent a statement showing that the staff of surveyors in 1828 was only one more than that of 1826, and, of the latter, four were no longer in the department; that unfortunately these four were personally acquainted with every occurrence connected with the department and were perfectly at home in any question which required reference.[24] The names of the surveyors at this stage were R. Hoddle, J. B. Richards, H. H. Finch, J. Ralfe, T. Florance, R. Dixon, G. B. White, P. Elliott, J. Abbott, W. A. Govett.

It is important for the purpose of this story to remember this recommendation by Mitchell, as this question of a "proper trigonometrical survey" by a professional surveyor was to recur officially again and again to the very end of his career.

It should also be noted at this stage that there were, at this period, only three main roads: the western road over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst; the southern road via Camden, Men-angle, Picton, to Moss Vale and Sutton Forest; and the northern road to West Maitland via Wiseman's Ferry and Wollombi.

Although the instructions from the Home Government had directed a survey and valuation of the whole territory of New South Wales, which included all of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, actually all that was then contemplated was survey and valuation of the settled districts, which included the coastal strip and scattered areas in the Hunter valley and around Bathurst and Goulburn. Coincident with Mitchell's arrival, however, the horizon, and the involved problems, had been rapidly extending. Hume and Hovell had, in 1824, made their important journey overland to Port Phillip, and Oxley had returned from his journeys down the Lachlan and Macquarie Rivers convinced that the marshes which had stopped his progress on each river indicated the existence of a great inland sea in which each of those rivers ended. On the second journey (1818) he had gone eastward from Mt. Harris to the coast, crossing the Castlereagh, the Peel, and other rivers having their source in the Liverpool Ranges, finally following the Hastings River down to Port Macquarie. On this journey he crossed, and reported on, the great Liverpool Plains.

After this second journey of Oxley's there had been no northward exploration until, in 1827, Allan Cunningham went overland to the Darling Downs. On this journey Cunningham crossed the Gwydir and the Dumaresq. Darling reported the result of this expedition to Secretary of State Goderich (12 November 1827) with warm commendation and noted that

it is due to this gentleman to observe that this expedition had been performed without any expectation having been held out to him of remuneration, for the services he had rendered.[25]

Darling's report contained one very significant passage:

I would observe that Mr Cunningham appears desirous to render the result of his expedition confirmatory of a favorite hypothesis, the existence of an inland sea.

The following year, 1828, Cunningham went by sea to Brisbane and from there, moving inland, connected up with his previous journey, thus completely defining an overland route from Sydney to Brisbane.[26]

Three months after Cunningham's return from this journey Darling sent Captain Charles Sturt northwards to ascertain the course and fate of the River Macquarie, and the extent and description of the surrounding country. Darling stated that, while Sturt was well qualified by scientific knowledge and enthusiasm, he had little knowledge of the country, and therefore Hamilton Hume was being attached to the expedition. Sturt was away from November 1828 to April 1829. On this journey he moved westward from the Macquarie marshes and discovered the Darling River near Bourke; he also showed that the Bogan, Macquarie, and Castlereagh Rivers all joined in with the Darling, and proved that, at least in the country he crossed, there was no inland sea.

At this stage, very soon after his arrival, records of Mitchell's personal reactions begin to appear. Before setting out on this expedition Sturt had written to Mitchell (30 September 1828) asking his advice as to the best route to follow. Mitchell replied:

Having clearly understood from His Majesty's Government that I was likely to be employed on a journey into the interior, it is not very natural that I should be glad that the Governor here is determined to send another person on a service which has been considered to belong to the office of my predecessor.

To you individually, however, I shall be glad to contribute any assistance or advice in my power.[27]

This attitude was apparent, even more strongly, in his direct official relationships. Darling had recommended his brother-in-law, William Dumaresq, for appointment to the Surveyor General's Department, but this was not approved by the Colonial Office. Writing to his brother John (October 1828) Mitchell referred to this and said: "You may easily imagine how pleasant this must make it for me here."[28]

He had already written to Hay, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, in pursuance of an understanding between them in London that privileged personal letters would be acceptable.

The letters now to be quoted were the first of a series of personal letters from Mitchell to the Colonial Office which continued persistently for the next twenty years.

He wrote to Hay on 80 September 1828:

I now avail myself of the permission you gave me to write, for I now feel the necessity for your support that I may maintain my ground in the office to which His Majesty's Government appointed me. I have now sufficient experience (and have travelled enough) to enable me to supply you with some information concerning the state of this Colony generally...I am persuaded that you can never hear of anything creditable done by me under Governor Darling, whose jealous relatives I may almost charge with a conspiracy against the little fame and credit I have earned by a life of persevering industry...I embarked for this country with the prospect of succeeding Mr Oxley in exploring the interior and surveying the physical geography of this Colony, but have hitherto been disappointed in all those prospects which induced me to accept an appointment here. An officer on full pay of a regiment here (who never travelled anywhere) is to be sent to explore the interior, while the Governor wishes the joint Commissioners of Survey and Valuation (who are not surveyors) to conduct a survey of the Colony! It being arranged I should not leave Sydney. Many people believe that all this is intended to make me resign in favour of Captain Dumaresq...I enclose copies of correspondence with the these letters you will perceive that while I am prevented from exploring the country beyond the Colony, I am not to be allowed the control of the Survey to be made within it.[29]

Again he wrote to Hay (15 December 1828), a "private" letter from which are taken the following extracts:

I am now aware of changes (to my great joy) in the must appear surprising to Sir George Murray that the Governor should not leave those duties to me which belong to my office...The Commissioners are merely a clog on the progress of business. If Sir George Murray will only allow me a year or two of unshackled control of the affairs of the Department as my predecessor had, and rid me of the Commissioners, I promise to accomplish in a short time all that is required of them and complete a survey of the Colony. At present I am confined to Sydney...a Captain Sturt has been sent well equipped on an excursion to the interior, a duty my predecessor considered as belonging to his Department.[30]

In these letters the reference to "an officer on full pay who has never travelled anywhere" is to Sturt; and the change of government which gave him "great joy" was the appointment of his patron and friend, Murray, as Minister of State for the Colonies. The reference to the Commissioners is to that body which had been established (see earlier) by Bathurst "to give greater solemnity" to the survey of the country and the valuation of land.

In yet another "private" letter to Hay, dated 18 October 1829, Mitchell said:

I shall not trouble you with any observation on the equipment now in progress for Captain Sturt, the Governor's relative, for a second exploring expedition to the interior; the Director of Public Works being fully occupied in preparing for him boats, carts, etc., while officers of my Department meet with great difficulty in obtaining the smallest requisite: neither shall I offer any comment on the introduction into my office of another relative of General Darling as a candidate to be Assistant Surveyor, for 1 am of opinion that these matters will be speedily rectified.[31]

Mitchell must have known that Sturt was not, in any degree of relationship, a relative of Darling.

It is curious to note at this stage that Murray wrote to Darling (10 October 1829):

Allusions made so often in your despatches to some secret enemy whom you suppose to have prejudiced you in the opinion of H.M. Govt...there is not the slightest ground for any such apprehension. No private representation against you has ever been made.[32]

On 21 November 1829 Darling announced to Murray that Sturt had left on another journey, this time to discover the fate of the Murrumbidgee, following it, if possible, to the sea. In the event of its termination in the marshes, he was to cross the Darling to discover the fate of that river. Sturt travelled down the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers, discovered and identified the Darling junction, and continued on till he proved that the Murray flowed into the sea at Lake Alexandrina. By his two journeys to the Darling, Murrumbidgee, and Murray Rivers, he had revealed the nature and quality of the wide plains of the interior, and the direction and value of the great waterways of the Murray basin. Sturt, more than any other, extended the limits of geographical knowledge; and, in doing so, had greatly increased the problems of governmental control over a population rapidly spreading over a limitless region, without rights, without defined boundaries, and almost without civil obligations.

The years 1829 and 1830 were marked by transition from Darling's original satisfaction with Mitchell through mounting antagonism, to an ultimate climax. For Mitchell it was a period of expansion and development.

Murray showed every desire to provide adequate staff for the Surveyor General's Department. He provided a steady flow of trained men, until by 8 May 1830 the staff consisted of four surveyors (R. Hoddle, H. H. Finch, J. B. Richards, J. Ralfe), eighteen assistant surveyors, and seven draftsmen:[33] as an example of the importance of patronage and influence in London an extract from Under-Secretary Hay to Darling (21 October 1826) may be quoted:

If you should have any opportunity of advancing Mr Hoddle in his department, without injustice to those surveyors who have been confirmed by Lord Bathurst, it will afford me much pleasure to be enabled to communicate the same to Lord George Cavendish, who is interested in his welfare.[34]

Murray spoke of placing the department on that efficient footing so much desired by the Home Government.[35] Mitchell had discharged two incompetent officers, and, generally, there was every indication of activity.

On 1 February 1828, Mitchell wrote to his mother in Scotland:

I measured a base of a mile on the smooth sandy beach at Botany Bay yesterday for the purpose of making a grand survey of the whole country...I came, as it were, accidentally on a brass plate fixed in the rock marking the first spot where Captain Cook had landed on these shores.[36]

This measured base-line was the subject of adverse comment many years later, as will be seen at the end of this volume.*

[* The brass plate was placed in position on the face of a cliff facing the entrance to Botany Bay by the Philosophical Society of Australasia in 1821: it is still in the same position as it was when Mitchell saw it.]

From this time Mitchell and his staff were actively at work on the "trigonometrical survey" and were making definite progress. In April 1827, Darling had appointed an army officer (Lockyer) as surveyor of roads and bridges with three subaltern officers as assistant surveyors; Murray (26 May 1829) had altered this arrangement, transferring these duties to the Surveyor General.

So, from the time of receipt of Murray's despatch, which would be towards the end of 1829, Mitchell was responsible not only for the survey and valuation of lands but also for the construction of roads and bridges. The Board of Commissioners of Survey still existed; but Mitchell's private letter to Hay of 15 December 1828 (already quoted) had been effective, and Murray instructed Darling (6 May 1830) that the Commissioners were to be discontinued, their functions becoming the responsibility of the Surveyor General.

In view of Mitchell's later claims and assertions, the full text of Murray's despatch to Darling (6 May 1830) is quoted here:

As it is deemed advisable to dispense with the further services of the Commissioners who, in pursuance of the Royal instructions addressed to you on 17 July 1825, have been appointed to survey and value all the waste and ungranted lands in the Colony under your Government, I am to signify to you the King's Commands that you do forthwith revoke the Commissions which you may have issued in favour of the persons at present discharging those duties, and that the performance of them may be entrusted to the Surveyor General who, with the aid of the Assistant Surveyors will, in future, be held responsible for all arrangements connected with the survey and division of the Territory.[37]

This despatch should be noted because of the great importance given to it by Mitchell, who invoked it frequently in later years, citing it as a command direct from the King in person. Actually at this very time George IV was so ill on his last fatal illness that he would not be giving any attention to the administration of the Surveyor General's Department in Sydney, even if such detailed administrative interest on the part of the King in person would at any time have been conceivable.

As Murray's despatch would not reach Darling until towards the end of 1830 Mitchell, as Chief Commissioner, still had the Board of Commissioners whose relationship, if any, to Mitchell's new function of control of roads and bridges was undefined.

In May 1830, this Board of Commissioners had recommended that as the roads from Sydney to Parramatta and Liverpool had fallen into a condition of serious disrepair they should be realigned to shorten the distance (by a mile and a half to Parramatta and by three miles to Liverpool), following the contours, eliminating seven bridges and every hill.

This reasonable and proper recommendation by the responsible body was rejected by Darling. The Colonial Secretary advised Mitchell that the Governor was not aware of any intention on the part of the Government to alter the existing line of roads; he was satisfied that this was not expedient, and added:

I am also recommended to take this opportunity of stating that His Excellency, having received other plans at various times from the Surveyor General of alterations and changes which he proposes should be made, feels it his duty to point out to that officer that it will be desirable in future, before he occupies himself in matters of which the Government is not cognizant, to ascertain whether the undertaking is considered expedient, otherwise he must see that much valuable time may be wasted...Whenever those arrangements which are indispensable to the accommodation of the public, and to which the Surveyor General's attention has been directed by the Government, shall have been completed, and the time and means of the latter will permit of improvement being effected, it will then be a fit opportunity to entertain propositions of this nature. But that in cases where the public already possess good roads it would hardly be advisable to incur the trouble and expense of making new lines, merely because they would be more convenient or a little shorter.

This, too, was an administratively justifiable attitude: with inadequate resources of both money and labour Darling was bound to consider priority of urgency. Both Mitchell and Darling were right, although Darling's decision could have been conveyed more wisely. This was only part of a conflict which was to become acute.

Then occurred another dispute with Darling about the road over the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. The road which had been constructed by Cox in 1815 followed a very steep gradient down the side of Mt. York: a little later Collitt had found a new route to the north-east of this old track with a better gradient, although even this was a gradient of one in four; this new track joined. the old one at the foot of Mt. York. At this point of junction Collitt established an inn which became an historic landmark.

Towards the end of 1829 Darling had instructed Mitchell to make a re-survey of the road between Mt. York and Bathurst.[38] Although Darling had not intended that a new route down the mountains should be marked out Mitchell, with a generous interpretation of his instructions, sought a better route than that down Mt. York. He found

a ridge nearly parallel to Mt. York but more in the direct line cutting off the angle from Mt. York to Collitt's. I have named this point of hill Mt. Victoria.

Mitchell being responsible for the construction of roads had actually started work on this new line. Darling, learning of this, sent instructions to Mitchell that he could not sanction any alteration from the previous route, and declared (21 July 1830) through the Colonial Secretary:

without meaning to doubt the superiority of this projected line over the others His Excellency cannot but think that in the course of time some other line will be found, as superior to that now proposed as that is to the one now forming. And it is, therefore, impossible to sanction such repeated changes...His Excellency again desires that it may be laid down as a general principle that unless the disadvantages of any existing line of road are of a very serious nature, it is better, under present circumstances, to put up with them than commence a new line which cannot be completed but at a considerable expense and the abandonment of that which has been accomplished at the cost of years of labour.

His Excellency supposed that you had understood his views in this respect from the observations he made to you when you presented the plan of the new road to the southward. What is now said will, he trusts, remove any doubt from your mind, and that you will be aware how important it is that there should be no misapprehension in matters of this nature.

Mitchell lost no time in replying: writing to Colonial Secretary Macleay (27 July 1830) he first repeated verbatim the text of the Governor's comments, which has just been quoted, and proceeded:

after such observations and the censure with which your letter concludes, few (I take leave to remark) would suppose that I was actually sent here by the Governor to lay down a road...I defy any man ever to point out any material improvement in the lines laid down by me, for they have been marked only after a more careful survey of the ground than is made for such a purpose even in Europe, and I feel confident that were the exertions of road discoverers stimulated with the promise of even a million of acres they could not improve what now rests on my own responsibility.

The controversy continued, Darling insisted that his instructions to Mitchell applied only to the road beyond the mountains and insisted that the old road (Collitt's) should be repaired and Mitchell's new road abandoned. Mitchell, however, persisted and would not give way, meanwhile keeping the gangs at work on his new road, stating (30 August 1830) that it would be ready in six weeks. Darling, on 2 September, surrendered and cancelled his instructions to discontinue the new road. The road was formally opened by Darling's successor, Bourke, in October 1832 (Plate V). In the letter of 31 July from Darling reference had been made to the "new road to the southward": during the expansion of settlement a track had been formed from Bong Bong through (in modern terms) Moss Vale to Canyonleigh; and thence, following the Wollondilly, to Goulburn. This route was through rough country and involved two crossings of the Wollondilly River. Mitchell plotted a new route through Berrima, then along the ridge of highlands between the Shoalhaven and Wollondilly valleys.

Thus Mitchell had, by the end of 1830, plotted new roads to Parramatta and Liverpool; had marked out the line of the great south road; and had found a new route for, and had constructed, the road down the Blue Mountains. The south and west lines of road laid down by him have remained without material alteration, and are the present main roads. The north road to the Hunter River had previously been surveyed by Finch under instructions from Governor Brisbane.[39]

But this was a period of increasing tension between Darling and Mitchell. On 12 January 1830 (Murray's instructions having been received) it was notified in the Gazette that the Department of Roads and Bridges had been abolished and that the duties were to be transferred to the office of the Surveyor General, to whom communications should be addressed. Darling would have received Murray's despatch placing the control of roads and bridges under Mitchell about October 1829: and he wrote to Murray in January 1830, stating that he could not conceal his apprehension that this arrangement would materially interfere with the general survey of the colony: that Mitchell already had more duties than he could. conveniently perform.[40] On 7 July 1830, when the dispute about the Mt. Victoria road was at its height, a further notice was inserted in the Gazette informing the public that the Department of Roads and Bridges was to be superintended by Assistant Surveyor Nicholson, whose orders all the other assistants were directed to obey.[41] This was an unusual course as it made Mitchell's own subordinate officers independent of his control.

In September 1830, Darling reported to Murray that the experience of nine months had convinced him that the change had produced conditions infinitely less efficient and more expensive. He was satisfied that neither department would be properly carried out until the two were again separated. Mitchell, he said, should merely survey and lay down the line of any road without being responsible for the engineering work of construction.[42]

Murray had sent out two assistant surveyors to replace two of Mitchell's survey men assigned to roads and bridges duty. This action must have been taken by Murray on Mitchell's direct recommendation as Darling expressed to Murray (21 January 1831) his regret that such action should have been taken without any reference to him as the local Governor; and he continued:

I perceive from the tone Major Mitchell has lately assumed...that he is disposed to dispute the authority of Government and its power to interfere with his arrangements.[43]

Finally, Mitchell was advised by letter from Colonial Secretary Macleay on 4 December 1830, that the Roads Department was to be re-established and composed of assistant surveyors who were to be altogether independent of Mitchell's orders. Darling had found this arrangement of two active departments being under Mitchell's control so unsatisfactory that he had ended it, and ordered that the attention of the Surveyor General should not be diverted from the duties of his office by directing the details of the Roads Department. The control of roads and bridges was placed under the Colonial Secretary. This change was made without the prior approval of the Home Government; but, on receiving official advice of this change from Darling, Goderich, who had succeeded Murray as Secretary of State, replied (23 April 1831) that, notwithstanding Darling's objection to the arrangement made by Murray, he would not consent to Darling's alterations.

Before this decision could reach Sydney the whole issue had become critical, the crisis being forced by Mitchell. The precipitating issue was the decision by Darling to remove the roads and bridges from Mitchell's control. Mitchell had taken the unusual course of forwarding to Murray, through Darling, letters of official protest. These letters were dated 15 and 22 December 1830, 28 January and 7 February 1831.[44] As these letters were officially transmitted through Darling, he was obliged to take official notice of them, and he referred them to the Executive Council. Mitchell also took the unusual course of appealing, and forwarding duplicates of the correspondence direct, to the Secretary of State: sending also copies of all the correspondence privately to Hay. In these letters to Murray, Mitchell had severely criticized certain actions of the Governor relating to events which had occurred at various times throughout the three years since he had been appointed Surveyor General.

The principal issue which emerged from the very voluminous minutes and correspondence was that Mitchell had objected to certain of his actions having been overridden by Darling. In effect, he claimed that the King's instructions, to which reference has already been made, prevented the Governor from overriding any decision made by him as Survey Commissioner, and, in fact, vested in him an authority independent of the Governor. An extract from one of his letters will illustrate this attitude; to Murray he said:

I can readily anticipate that the appointment of overseers, trifling and nominal as the patronage is, will be transferred from a high and independent office like this, to which you have been pleased to appoint me, to one constituted by local authority in the face of it.

The effects of the interference on the part of the local Government in such matters are not more painful and discouraging to me than they are prejudicial to the public service.[45]

This, to be sent through the Governor to whom he was in all respects subordinate, was bad enough: but his language and phrasing in other of his communications was not of that dignified quality which is proper in official correspondence.

Mitchell wrote also direct to Hay a private letter (20 March 1831) from which the following extracts are significant:

Through your kindness many early grievances were redressed. Things have come to such a crisis at length as to induce me to address these letters to the Secretary of State. It is impossible to respect a Governor who, conscious of an officer's services and his perseverance in the performance of his duties still would persecute him even to the prejudice of the public service...There is no species of injustice worse than that of robbing him, whose chief object is fame, of that reward he seeks by years of unusual exertion in the performance of his duty...The Governor at first ill-advised (as I suppose) has at length become my personal enemy...if I have been guilty of neglect of duty it has been my private duty, my duty to my family, or duties of religion, all of which I have neglected by giving up my whole time to the performance of pressing public duties here.[46]

He added that as he had been refused leave of absence he must either submit to the same treatment for a considerable time or sacrifice his appointment.

Darling placed the whole of the correspondence, and the related official papers, before the Executive Council which deliberately considered the position in sessions extending from 28 February to 15 March 1831. They considered the question of the "King's instructions" which Mitchell had invoked as his authority, and which he claimed had been referred to him officially. On this issue they found that these documents had never been transmitted to the Commissioners, and that neither to the Commissioners nor to Mitchell

was it at any time competent to make any assumption of power or discretion whatever grounded upon a document to the very existence of which they had never been authorized to refer.[47]

Darling stated independently that these "King's instructions" never had been and never could have been communicated to Mitchell officially.

The Executive Council, after exhaustive consideration, brought the whole painful business to a close by supporting Darling's authority, and rebuking Mitchell: saying that the language he employed had been inconsistent with the deference and respect which should be manifested by every subordinate officer to the head of the Government under which he serves.

Darling, on 28 March 1831, forwarded the whole of the papers to the Secretary of State, and also a personal letter to Hay. In these letters he pointed out that, so early as 7 May 1828 (while Mitchell was still "acting" during Oxley's illness), he had pointed out personally to Mitchell the impropriety of indulging in any intemperate or angry feelings in his official correspondence. Darling continued:

I speak from the experience of three years, during which period I have discovered nothing in him to induce me to think him a man of arrangement; but on the contrary since the Department has been extended, it has appeared to me that he was unable to conduct it with any degree of advantage, while a great part of his time is taken up in squabbling with the departments and individuals with whom he has to act or communicate,[48]

and he also said that Mitchell had been guilty of repeated acts of disobedience of orders; and of disrespectful conduct both to the Governor and to the Council. He spoke also of Mitchell's ill and ungovernable temper, and concluded:

The Minutes of the Executive Council prove, without entering into the various subjects of his representations, that Major Mitchell cannot, with any prospect of advantage to the public service, or respect for the character of the local Government be continued in the office of Surveyor General.[49]

Just before the conclusion of the enquiry by the Executive Council, Mitchell had (18 March) applied for leave of absence to proceed to England. Concerning this, Darling wrote:

I have declined permitting Major Mitchell to return Home on leave. I did not suspend him from office only from an apprehension that some inconvenience might possibly be occasioned by his discontinuing to act: the same reason would prevent me granting him leave of absence: but there is still a stronger, and I trust he will not be permitted to return Home, retaining his office, until the matter now at issue is determined.

Covering all this correspondence Darling wrote another letter, which, having a special interest as indicating the relations existing between the Governor and the Colonial Office, has been included in Appendix B. In this he said that he had been deterred from reporting Mitchell earlier by the knowledge that he had not, in other cases, received from the Secretary of State the support to which, as Governor, he was properly entitled. He had no doubt that Mitchell was well aware that he incurred little risk by his insubordination, and he added:

If the local Government is not supported, but should be left exposed to the cavillings of every malcontent, or be subject without redress to the insolence and opposition of its immediate servants, a state of things will arise ere long, which may be regretted when too late. I have no doubt, Sir, that Major Mitchell, however unwarranted, has presumed on his being known to you, to assume a tone of independence and adopt a course of proceeding, which he would not have attempted under other circumstances.

There is a tragic irony about these events.

Mitchell had thrown out a definite challenge to the local executive government and to the Governor in those letters of December, January, and February addressed to Murray, hoping no doubt to have from his friend and patron the same support for his independence as he had had in the past. He could not know that Murray had ceased to be Secretary of State, having retired from that office on 22 November. This fact, however, was not known in Sydney until 5 April 1831.

As for Darling, the Executive Council had finally completely supported Darling's authority on 15 March 1831: but on that very day Goderich signed the letter to Darling dismissing him from the post of Governor, and recalling him to London. Goderich expressed His Majesty's approbation of and satisfaction with Darling's administration: but there must have been another letter which is not now available, for Darling wrote a remonstrance: "Your Lordship has disgraced me in the very face of the people whom I have now governed for nearly six years."

Darling had written to Hay a personal letter (28 March 1831) regarding Mitchell:

You will judge of my disposition towards him by my private letter to you of 6 June 1829. At that time I looked upon him as a hard-working, rude, ill-tempered fellow who quarrelled with everyone, and who, I may add, is still as much detested as ever by those who have any business to transact with him.

Anxious to get the business of the Government done, I was willing to make every sacrifice, and he was allowed to snarl and growl unheeded, until at last his insolence became intolerable.[50]

Writing to Goderich, who had become Secretary of State, (27 April 1831) Darling said:

I earnestly submit to Your Lordship that Major Mitchell's removal from the Civil Service is indispensable to the proper conduct of this Government as the means of preventing others who, like him, might be disposed to follow an ill example when they could hope to do so with impunity.[51]

The matter of Mitchell's insubordination, owing to the long delays in transmission of mails in those days, was only concluded after Darling had left. Goderich wrote to Bourke (10 October 1832), stating that he had received Darling's despatches with the full story of Mitchell's behaviour, and said:

I cannot but regret the tone which Major Mitchell adopted in his correspondence with the local authorities, which forms a considerable part of the voluminous/ papers sent home by General Darling in his despatch of 28 March 1831.

But in the hope that I may not have again to advert to the transactions out of which this correspondence arose, I shall abstain from any further notice of the subject than to desire that you will inform Major Mitchell that, whilst I am disposed to acknowledge the zeal with which he has discharged the duties of his department, I cannot approve of the line of conduct which he has pursued towards the local Government under the administration of your Predecessor, whose views, however different from those entertained by Major Mitchell himself, or contrary to what he conceived to be the spirit of the King's instructions, it was, nevertheless, his duty to carry into effect.[52]

Darling's general estimate of Mitchell may be quoted:

Major Mitchell's plans are as extravagant as they are numerous.

His object appears to be his own fame, that everything should originate with him or be improved by him. Major Mitchell's representations generally are the result of disappointed vanity, and of a captious jealous disposition.

He is a good practical surveyor and an excellent draughtsman: beyond this he possesses no merit. He is a man of no arrangement and is totally unequal to the management and proper conduct of an extensive department.[53]

One other aspect of this period has to be noted. Darling, when reviewing Mitchell's conduct in his letter of 28 March 1831, stated that he was aware that Mitchell had been very much displeased at not being employed in exploring the interior instead of Sturt, and he had reason to believe that Major Mitchell's complaints in this respect had not been confined to the local Government. But, Darling asked,

how could Major Mitchell, after his reiterated representations of the backwardness of the survey, and his urgent applications for additional means to bring up the arrear, with any degree of consistency or even of common regard to the interests of the Colony, have been employed as Captain Sturt was, on one occasion for five months, and another for six.[54]

Goderich had, however, written to Bourke (29 September 1831) instructing him that in future exploring expeditions should be carried out by the Surveyor General himself, or by his officers under his direction: as, in this way, considerable expense would be saved.[55]

Although this decision had resulted from an enquiry by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury into the revenue and expenditure of the colonies, and was, therefore, mainly economical in purpose, the letters already quoted show that Darling was justified in his belief that Mitchell had been making representations direct to Murray.

Mitchell's final word was contained in another private letter to Hay (16 November 1831):

Some weeks have now elapsed since Governor Darling left this Colony...the change is to me a most refreshing relief from oppression: for down to the last hour of his Government he cared not to blend personal malignity with the exercise of his authority, at least as far as concerned me. Acting Governor Lindesay has indulged me with permission to explore our northern interior...If you hear from me again it must be after I have solved with God's assistance the great problem of the interior.[56]

In the course of the correspondence which had been reviewed in this chapter Mitchell on several occasions expressed an unfavourable opinion of the abilities of his deputy, Perry.

Mitchell, therefore, was at this stage triumphant. He had gathered into his own hands the sole responsibility for the survey of the whole territory, the valuation and disposal of Crown lands, the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, and the exploration of the interior. The remainder of this volume is the story of the extent to which he discharged, and reconciled, those great responsibilities. Here is Mitchell's own review of his attitude during this period. It is an extract from a private letter to

Hay dated 28 March 1832.

I have had the pleasure to receive two letters from you dated 26 August and 28 September last, and I have to return you my most sincere thanks for the attention you have given to my numerous complaints respecting the late Governor. I trust that matters will go on so differently under General Bourke as to show in the sequel whether I had reason to complain, however much I did regret the necessity for complaining at all. I have already seen enough of General Bourke to be satisfied that no such grievances will again require a similar reference home, and I am determined, happen what may, not to trouble His Majesty's Government respecting a second Governor, for Sir George Murray, whose kind patronage I have enjoyed for upwards of twenty years, knows that I am not prone to disobedience or disrespect towards my superiors.[57]

There was, apparently, a still further advance in his status in 1833, for he wrote to Hay (24 March 1833):

At length the last of the subordinate departments of Governor Darling has been added to mine--that of the Colonial Architect. I feel no inconvenience from these additions of duty except that of reducing the officers to habits of obedience after having been heads of departments.

The new Governor has given me no grounds for complaint, but I should not consider myself secure from General Darling's malignity even now did I not rely on your friendship and protection. I might have been at issue with General Bourke about the roads but my zeal is not likely now to carry me so far as it did once.[58]

During the interregnum between Darling's departure (22 October 1831) and Bourke's arrival (31 December 1831), Colonel Patrick Lindesay acted as Governor. Mitchell, apparently without much trouble, persuaded Lindesay to sanction a journey of exploration to the north--the first of Mitchell's four journeys of exploration.

This period of four years between Mitchell's arrival in New South Wales and Darling's recall was a critical period for him, and the conditions then existing may have influenced his later attitudes. He transferred abruptly from a military career, in which he had had a creditable record, and from the support of influential patrons, to a civil career in which he had, from his official superiors, no such support. He came to a colony in which he could see all round him evidences of the great material success of individuals who had defied authority: and to a colony in which he would meet exclusives, emancipists, and immigrants who, each for his own purpose, was actively engaged in undermining the constituted authority of the Governor.

He had left England with a clear understanding and agreement that a direct and confidential line of communication with Under-Secretary Hay was open to him: and it would be rather too much to believe that he was not aware, through either Murray or Hay, of the growing dissatisfaction in the Colonial Office with Darling's administration.

He recognized the irregularity of his conduct: writing to Hay (14 February 1831) on the subject of the dispute between himself and the Governor concerning the control of roads and bridges (which has been already recorded in this chapter) he said:

I begin to be apprehensive that my letters have been too frequent: I have lately had occasion to address several to you: but you will perceive by the documents enclosed in these, and more especially in this, that I have thought it necessary to address Sir George Murray officially, and, as the Governor seems in no hurry to send home the originals, I consider that having so far conformed to the rules by sending my original letters through his hands, I am entitled to forward copies direct to the Secretary of State, being informed by the Colonial Secretary that His Excellency has not yet forwarded my letter of 15 December last. The urgency of the subject is my excuse for being so frequent in my communications to you. The present letter and documents...(throw)...some light on the affairs of land generally in this colony--and also shew pretty clearly what General Darling's conduct to me has been.[59]

That such a proceeding was not, at that time, considered improper, as it would be today, is illustrated by certain extracts from contemporary correspondence. Mitchell in a private letter to Hay (7 September 1829) said:

I received on 17 July your letter of 7 December when on survey in the northern part of the colony. I am anxious to comply with your request by tendering a circumstantial account of my progress and the present condition of my department.[60]

As also this in a letter from Hay to Mitchell (9 January 1832):

I quite agree with you as to the necessity of concentrating as much as possible the settlers who may arrive, which can only be done by confining the new colonists to certain tracts of country.[61]

Evidently there had been, over several years, direct and unofficial correspondence--in which the official head of the Colonial Office was a partner. On the professional side of his administration Mitchell had found the Survey Department in a state of disorder and had proceeded with great vigour, after Oxley's death, to establish system and to proceed with the urgent task of making accurate surveys. It is necessary in view of the condemnation which will be recorded at the end of this story to quote Mitchell's own concept of the proper method under the existing circumstances. Writing to Hay (17 March 1829) he said:

The object of settlers is to find, on some river or chain of ponds, land of which the back boundary from abutting on rocky ravines will never be selected by others, and which will thus afford a back-run of some sort for their cattle, which in winter affect such places. Under these circumstances the survey of streams and watercourses becomes the object most immediately important, since none select land where there is no water, and because, without a survey of the watercourse, the situation of the land selected on its bank cannot be ascertained. The dividing ridge analogous in all its windings to streams on each side is next in importance and I consider that a survey comprising these features together would include nearly all that can be required for practical purposes, that is for location of settlers, division according to natural boundaries into counties, hundreds, and parishes, and construction of roads, canals, etc.,...the surveyors are chiefly employed now on such natural lines of this kind as the country affords.[62]

That was the system which came to be known as "feature surveys": it was to be long continued. The boundaries of the grants made to both Mitchell and Sturt are excellent examples of this

system of using watercourses as boundaries.

At this period then Mitchell had begun his professional career

in New South Wales with vigorous intention to secure efficiency in its major aspect--surveying; in this work he did not spare himself; but, despite his own denial to Murray of competence in that field, he had grasped responsibility for civil engineering, which, later, he was to confess to Bourke had not been a satisfactory arrangement.[63]

He had committed himself to disloyal intrigue against Governor Darling--if, indeed, it can be called intrigue when Hay was accomplice, and when Murray was evidently complaisant.

That Murray, Mitchell's patron and protector, should, within one year after Mitchell's appointment as Surveyor General, have dismissed two of the Survey Commissioners without consulting Darling, placing absolute authority over survey and valuation of lands in Mitchell's hands as sole Commissioner; and should also have cancelled Darling's appointments in respect of roads and bridges, placing this important function under Mitchell's control, must be condemned as improper use of ministerial authority. Mitchell, however, had taken conditions as he found them: he had followed the example of many of the old colonists, and had seized opportunities--opportunities which had stimulated ambition.

Two men of strong character and incompatible temperament were in continual conflict. Watson's verdict that Darling was little suited for the government of the colony will be recalled: but while reading through all the documents of this period some feeling of sympathy for Darling is an instinctive reaction.

Mitchell's relations with succeeding Governors will give some evidence as to whether he was to any important degree open to censure for his part in the conflict.

CHAPTER VI - The First expedition

Although the instructions that exploring expeditions were to be carried out by Mitchell could not have reached Sydney before about February 1832, other developments had given Mitchell an opportunity of which he quickly took advantage: writing to a friend, Mr G. Rankin, in Bathurst, seven days after Darling's departure, he said: "It is indeed true, thank God, that Darling is off, and Colonel Lindesay is all I could wish."[1]

Darling had left Sydney on 22 October 1831, and within _one month Mitchell had influenced Acting Governor Lindesay to send him out on an exploring expedition.

Lindesay wrote to Secretary of State Goderich (23 November 1831) that he had authorized Mitchell to proceed to that part of New South Wales "hitherto unexplored" between the Castlereagh and the Gwydir, to ascertain the truth of certain reports, which had gained considerable credit, of the existence of a large interior river flowing towards the north-west.

Lindesay referred to the discoveries of Oxley and Cunningham and said that these indicated a vast area of depressed interior subject at certain seasons to total inundation, with the

additional opinion of the existence of a noble interior river conveying the accumulation of inland waters across the continent to discharge on the north-west coast of Australia about 20° or 21° South latitude.[2]

This was a direct echo of speculations by Captain P. P. King during his survey of the north-west coast of Australia.[3] Lindesay agreed that Sturt's discovery of the Darling and the Murray threw grave doubt on these theories, but they had been recently revived by the story of a recaptured runaway convict, Clarke,* who had declared that there was a noble river (Kindur)

rising in the Liverpool ranges of New South Wales which, after an unbroken course to the north-west, emptied into the sea. Lindesay informed Goderich that Clarke's story supported Oxley and Cunningham, and was so confidently told by him that it should be examined; and he forwarded to Goderich a report by Mitchell on this matter. In this report Mitchell, citing the examples of the Amazon and the Ganges, argued that, from the long semi-lunar arc of the main eastern ranges, waters must flow concentrically

towards the interior where a concentration of the waters might be looked for about the latitude of 28° S., where, at an average distance of, say, three hundred miles from the coast the head of a large river may be found,

and he added,

supposing the course of the desired river to be analogous to that of the Amazon we must believe its estuary to be amongst those unexplored inlets of the sea which Captain King saw on the north-western coast of Australia.[5]
[* Clarke had for a. long time escaped the vigilance of the police by disguising himself as an aborigine: "he had accustomed himself to the wretched life of that unfortunate race of men: he was deeply scarified like them, and naked and painted black he went about with a tribe, being usually attended by two aboriginal females, and had acquired some knowledge of their language and customs."[4]

This is very specious: three hundred miles from the coast on 28° S. is at St. George in Queensland. Mitchell argued in that memorandum that the streams from the range must flow southwest, and with Sturt's evidence that the streams forming the Darling came from the north-east, Mitchell, with a fairly accurate knowledge of the height above sea level of the plains in this region, was straining against the evidence in discarding the probability of the Darling being the main channel, in favour of the noble stream with a low-level starting point flowing to the northwest and finding its way across the whole breadth of the continent, considerably more than two thousand miles in an air-line. But Mitchell was eager to get away on an exploring expedition. It is noteworthy that, although Sturt was in Sydney at the time, there is no evidence that he was consulted. Mitchell was perhaps too eager; in his own words:

There are few undertakings more attractive to the votaries of fame or lovers of adventure, than the exploration of unknown regions; but Sir Patrick Lindesay, with due regard to the responsibility which my office seemed to impose upon me, as successor to Mr Oxley, at once accepted my proffered services to conduct a party into the interior.[6]

THE OUTWARD JOURNEY TO THE BARWON - (24 November 1831 to 24 January 1832)

Mitchell speedily put in hand the preparations for the journey, the duties of his office preventing him from giving much personal attention to these preparations. He collected "in haste" a few articles of personal equipment and left Sydney on 24 November 1831, having satisfied himself that his officers had provided for every contingency. The party consisted, beside Mitchell himself, of Surveyor H. Finch, Assistant Surveyor G. B. White, and fifteen men selected for both reliability and diversity of skill. Of these men nine went with him on the second expedition, six on both the second and third expeditions, but only one, his faithful personal servant--Anthony Brown--was with him on all four expeditions. They carried eight muskets and two pistols: there were two light carts and three drays, also several pack-horses. They had canvas for making canvas boats if they should need to cross any rivers.

Mitchell has recorded his emotions when starting on this expedition:

I felt the ardour of my early youth, when I first sought distinction in the crowded camp and battle-field, revive as I gave loose to my reflections and considered the nature of the enterprise. But, in comparing the feelings I then experienced with those which excited my youthful ambition, it seemed that even war and victory, with all their glory, were far less alluring than the pursuit of researches such as these: the objects of which were to spread the light of civilization over a portion of the globe yet unknown, though rich, perhaps, in the luxuriance of uncultivated nature, and where science might accomplish new and unthought-of discoveries; while intelligent man would find a region teeming with useful vegetation, abounding with rivers, hills, and vallies, and waiting only for his enterprising spirit, and improving hand to turn to account the native bounty of the soil.*
[* This quotation, with others in this chapter relating to incidents occurring during this expedition are, when not otherwise indicated, from the text of Mitchell's published work Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia.]
[* This quotation, with others in this chapter relating to incidents occurring during this expedition are, when not otherwise indicated, from the text of Mitchell's published work Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia.]

For the first three hundred miles he passed through country already taken up by settlers or squatters. His route from Sydney was by the old road through Glenorie to Wiseman's Ferry, then north through St. Alban's to Wollombi. This road had been first discovered and surveyed by Surveyor Finch. At Wollombi Surveyor Finch joined the party: and here Mitchell spent the night on Blaxland's station at Broke, "named by me in honour of that meritorious officer, Sir Charles Broke Vere, Bart". Vere had been associated with Mitchell in the Peninsular War. Finch was left at Wollombi to arrange for supplementary supplies and to follow in the tracks of the party. (Their route is shown on Map III, below.)

MAP III. Map showing the route followed by Mitchell on the first part of his expedition to the Barwon River

They crossed the Hunter River at about Singleton and followed generally the course of the present road to Muswellbrook, where they again met the Hunter River. Here Mitchell received from Surveyor Dixon an account of the Liverpool Plains which the party was about to cross. Then from Muswellbrook, again following the course of the present road through Scone and Wingen (visiting Mt. Wingen), they came to Page's River approximately at Blandford. From here the course is doubtful: it appears from Mitchell's map as though they crossed the Quirindi and Currabubula Creeks and, bending slightly to the east at the latter point, turned north again (possibly along Goonoo Goonoo Creek), reaching the Peel at Tamworth on 11 December, about two miles east of the point at which Oxley had crossed it.

From Tamworth they were now about to proceed into completely unknown country: they secured here a native guide, who left them at Maule's Creek. Finch joined them at this point without the expected supply of flour, and was sent back to the Hunter River to obtain it: he was to follow their tracks northward. So far they were within known districts, where rough surveys had already been made by Assistant Surveyor R. Dixon, and in which they had passed from one squatter's "station" to anotherBlaxland's, Macqueen's, Palmer's, Loder's, and Brown's.[7] On this section nothing of importance happened, although they did meet bush-fires between Murrurundi and Tamworth.

From Tamworth they followed generally the present road to Gunnedah, but crossed the Namoi below its junction with the Peel River at a point about due north of Carroll. They had camped (14 December) at the foot of Mt. Pyrambung (Perimbungay), noting here the junction of the Peel with the Namoi (Muluerindie). (This part of the journey is shown on Map IV.)

Reaching Gunnedah on 15 December, Mitchell learned that the river he was on was the Namoi. From here he -sighted the peak above Boggabri (Tangulda) and proceeded to move to that point, reaching the vicinity of Boggabri on 17 December. On the way they passed the stockyard which had been built and used by the bushranger Clarke: this stockyard was situated beside a large and deep lagoon. Clarke had told Mitchell that his "big river" lay north-east of Boggabri, so he diverged at this point to the headwaters of Maule's Creek. Having found, after pushing twenty-one miles into the ranges, that further progress was impossible, he returned to the base camp which he had made eighteen miles north-east of Boggabri, and then moved the whole party back to the Namoi, about six miles north of Boggabri. Here he decided to build his canvas boats and attempt a downstream passage by water; and from this camp he sent off one of the convicts--Bombelli--with despatches for Sydney. Bombelli Was armed with a pistol and had instructions to return to this base camp.

Two boats were built:

We launched the second boat, and having loaded both, I left two men' in charge of the carts, bullocks and horses, and embarked, at last, on the waters of the Nammoy, on a voyage of discovery.

This voyage of discovery did not last long, one of the canvas boats was seriously holed by snags, hauled ashore and mended, holed again shortly afterwards, and, having travelled only two land miles from the base camp,

the labours of the day had been sufficient to convince me that the course of the Nammoy could be much more, conveniently traced at that time by a journey on land than with canvas boats on the water.

MAP IV. Map showing the second part of Mitchell's journey to the Barwon and his return to Tamworth

Mitchell decided to proceed by land, although he had instructed Bombelli to return to this camp. Following the Namoi to near Narrabri, Mitchell, noting that river bearing away to the westward, decided to continue in a northerly direction in an attempt to locate a river which might reasonably be accepted as Clarke's "big river". From 2 to 9 January the party had a troublesome journey over the plains between the Namoi and the Gwydir following closely, but perhaps somewhat east of, the present railway between Narrabri and Moree. On reaching the Gwydir Mitchell recognized it as Cunningham's Gwydir, and not Clarke's Kindur: he had reached it in the vicinity of Moree or Mungie Bundie. Mitchell decided that his proper course was to trace this river to its junction with some other river in order to establish its geographical identity. During this section of the northward journey, owing to the prolonged dry weather, the timber in the carts and drays had shrunk, and it was necessary to stop on 7 January to repair them. The water-hole at which this was done was named "Wheel Ponds" by Mitchell: it was about fifteen to seventeen miles south of the Gwydir--probably on the Courallie Creek, east of Gurley.

At this stage of the journey Mitchell had difficulty in finding water each day and began to be anxious how Finch would fare in this respect. From the Gwydir camp, having decided to trace_ the Gwydir, he turned westward, and buried a letter for Finch at the foot of a marked tree explaining this change of direction. He followed the Gwydir westward past Moree, and then southward, following the bend of the river. His description of this part of the journey is difficult to follow, but it would seem--comparing his map with the text--that he followed the Moomin Creek to a point approximately north-east of Bunna Bunna, then turned on a course a little west of north, crossing the Wolongimba and Mallowa Creeks, and reaching the Gwydir proper--perhaps between Burrendoon and Ballarah. Here, on the Gwydir, he left a Base camp under White's care, and himself, with a small party, pushed on, following a course a little west of north, and reached the Barwon at a point probably a little south of Mungindi, having crossed the Big Leather watercourse and the Boomi River.

This section of the journey, Tamworth to Mungindi, was not without incident. When Mitchell had left White on the Gwydir, he had in his own small scouting party Souter, known to his comrades as "the doctor". Of him Mitchell records: "I never saw Souter's diploma, but his experience and skill in surgery were sufficient to satisfy us." At this first night's camp Souter, as soon as they halted, set out in search of water, with the tea-kettle in his hand, but did not return.

The non-appearance of Souter occasioned me much uneasiness; fortunately the trees were marked along our route: and it was probable that he would either follow us or return to the camp on the river. The latter alternative, however, was likely to occasion some inconvenience to us, as he was a useful hand, and I did not despair, even then, of finding some use for the tea-kettle.

The last cryptic remark is not explained by any previous comment on the tea-kettle.

Mitchell did not wait to search for him, but went on, entering in his diary next day that Souter's non-appearance occasioned him much uneasiness. However, Souter had returned to the depot camp on. the Gwydir with the interesting story that he had lost his way and met with some natives who detained him one day, but he had escaped on the second night.

THE RETURN JOURNEY - (24 January to March 1832)

From the camp near Mungindi Mitchell sent some men back to White on the Gwydir with instructions to him to join the party on the Barwon. It will be remembered that Finch had been sent back from Tamworth to bring up supplementary stores, and Mitchell included in his instructions to White a letter for Finch to be "concealed in a tree with certain marks. I hoped however that by that time Mr Finch might have overtaken Mr White's party". White and his party arrived on the Barwon on 28 January with Souter, but without Finch, and Mitchell became anxious, as Finch was bringing supplies of flour, and provisions were running low; they caught fish, but flour was the article of which they were most in need.

Mitchell, rejecting his canvas boats, felled trees, made a saw-pit, and began to build a flat-bottomed boat strong enough to resist the snags. This boat was built in three pieces so that it could be dismantled and carried on the carts.

Thus we were to proceed with a portable punt, ready for the passage of any river or water, which might be in our way.

When the boat was finished, White was sent downstream to examine the river: he returned reporting it filled with fallen timber, and obstructed by rocks over which the heavy boat could not be carried without considerable delay. This fact might well have been discovered before the boat was built.

Mitchell, being disappointed with this news, made a land journey down the Barwon to the junction of the Gwydir, and thus connected up his points; and, from the general trend of the Barwon, the known position of the Castlereagh-Darling junction as established by Sturt, and the presumed ending of the Namoi, he decided that the stream they were on (known to the natives as "Karaula") was the Darling.

Thus terminated our excursion, to explore this last discovered stream; for there was no necessity for extending it further, as I could not suppose that it was any other than the Darling.

He returned to the camp--the boat was already in the water and everything was packed up to cross the river for the purpose of exploring the country north of the Barwon.

Then, on 6 February, to the camp on the Barwon near Mungindi, came Finch, with only one man, without any supplies or equipment, and with a tale of tragedy. He, with three men, had been following with supplementary supplies, as instructed. He had had, as Mitchell had anticipated, great trouble in crossing the dry stretch between the Namoi and the Gwydir north of Narrabri and had lost his own horse and several other animals. He had had to relay the stores by pack animals as far as Wheel Ponds on the Courallie Creek (Gorolei) but could get them no further, Then, with one man, leaving two men to care for the stores, he had scouted along Mitchell's track to the Gwydir and westward to about Moree: failing to overtake Mitchell he had returned to the camp at Wheel Ponds.

He found neither his tents nor his men to, receive him, but a heap of various articles such as bags, trunks, harness, tea and sugar canisters, etc., piled over the dead bodies of his men, whose legs he, at length, perceived projecting;, most of the flour had been carried off. The two bullocks continued feeding near. This spectacle must have appeared most appalling to Mr Finch, uncertain, as he must have been, whether the eyes of the natives were not then upon him, while neither he nor his man possessed any means of defence! Taking a piece of pork and some flour in a haversack, he hastened from the dismal scene; and by travelling all day, and passing the nights without fire, he most providentially escaped the natives, and had at length reached our camp.

Mitchell subsequently stated that this massacre was the result of intercourse or interference with native women, but this must have been mere speculation as no witness of the tragedy survived.

Faced now with the absence of the expected supplies, and with the evidence, provided by this tragedy, of the hostility of the natives he decided that he must at once return.

We had at least accomplished the main object of the Expedition, by ascertaining that there was no truth in the bushranger's report respecting the great river.

The carts were put in order; "our boat (emblem of our hopes!) was sunk in the deepest part of the Karaula".

They made, in one day, a forced march back to their old camp on the Gwydir. Here they had a little difficulty in crossing the river, and the near possibility--unrealized--of trouble with the natives, who visited the camp in large numbers. Continuing along the line of their outward route to about the Moomin Creek they turned south-eastwards across the base of the northward curve of their route to the Gwydir at Moree. At a point about seventeen miles west of Gurley Mitchell with an armed party visited the scene of the massacre at Wheel Ponds on Courallie Creek, where they buried the bodies of Bombelli, who had been sent south from Boggabri with despatches, and an unnamed bullock-driver. The party rejoined their former northerly track about the vicinity of Edgeroi, and continuing southwards reached the Namoi at Narrabri on 23 February, Clarke's stockyard near Boggabri on 26 February, and Gunnedah next day. At this point the men now began to suffer from scurvy, which was treated with lime juice. Thereafter they followed the established route to Sydney and from near Tamworth, Mitchell, accompanied only by his personal servant, Anthony Brown, left the main party in charge of Mr White and rode on to Sydney to report the results of his expedition.. When Mitchell returned to Sydney he interviewed the bushranger Clarke and was able to satisfy himself that Clarke had never been beyond the ranges north of Boggabri.

Plate V. The Pass at Mt. Victoria when it was opened/The Pass at Mt. Victoria as it is now

Plate VI. Monument marking the point of departure of the second, third and fourth expeditions/Richard Cunningham's grave

So ended this rather futile but definitely tragic expedition: in results it was unprofitable, as Mitchell himself recorded in his book published in 1838:

The journey of discovery proved that any large river flowing to the north-west must be far to the northward of latitude 29°.

He had not really tested his own hypothesis of a "concentration of waters about the latitude of 28° S.", although he had been on latitude 29°, at his turning point on the Barwon. If he had taken sufficient supplies from the start he would not have been obliged to send Finch back, the tragedy would not have occurred, and he could have gone further north. It was unfortunate that "the other duties of my office, prevented me from devoting much attention personally, to the preparations for such a journey".

There is an interesting and significant sidelight on Mitchell's attitude after this expedition. He wrote a private letter to Hay of the Colonial Office (28 March 1832), giving an account of his journey. In this letter he stated that he was convinced that there was little probability that the waters from the basin north of his furthest point on the Darling would flow "to any estuary further westward than the Gulf of Carpentaria". That he could, in his published book six years later, speak of a large river flowing to the north-west is difficult to understand. In his letter he added:

Still, a river flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria would be, if of any magnitude, a valuable feature in the geography of New Holland, and would much improve the mercantile prospects of New South Wales as explained in my former letter.

It will appear as this story proceeds that this vision was to persist and inspire his fourth expedition.

In the letter to Hay he severely criticized Oxley's observations of 1818, but continued:

I went, under many disadvantages, eager to seize the first opportunity after long restraint from this sort of duty. I made various sacrifices which I need not detail here, was at some expense, and it was finally my lot to return to a new Governor, and not to one who had sent me, and who might then, as in the case of Oxley and all others who have ventured into the interior, have given me some land or other compensation or reward. I make no demand or claim but I shall not be without some hope that when my report and map reach Downing Street the Government may order me some land as in the case of Oxley.[8]

This plea for some reward was not successful. On the contrary as will appear in the next chapter, very soon after Hay had acknowledged this letter, the Colonial Office adversely reviewed Mitchell's administration as Surveyor General.

One year later, writing again to Hay (24 March 1833), he said:

I still think something very important to be discovered lurks in the north-west and that at a few hundred miles beyond the point to which I penetrated, either a large river or a Mediterranean sea might be fallen in with.[9]

And he added a caustic reflection on previous explorers, saying the observations of both Oxley and Cunningham were inaccurate: "I have materials enough to show that geographical research cannot be entrusted to Amateur Travellers".

As was invariably the experience after each expedition of discovery the country traversed was soon occupied by squatters; and, as usual, members of the exclusive party were quick to occupy good land. Immediately after the return of the expedition cattle belonging to Sir John Jamison were in the country round Boggabri.

Early in 1830 Mitchell had been very precise in his instructions to the surveyors that they were always to give the native names to all land features. He rebuked Surveyor Ogilvie:

I beg you to understand that I will not suffer any surveyor to give any river or place any other than proper native name.[10]

On this expedition he must have realized that this rule could not be obeyed in the districts where aborigines were met infrequently, or were hostile, for on his later journeys he used many European names, often reminiscent of his experiences in the Peninsular War. Examples will be quoted from time to time later.

CHAPTER VII - The Colonial Office is Critical

Mitchell, having returned from the first expedition, resumed his duties as Surveyor General; but his absence for four months had not ended his official troubles. Bourke, who succeeded Darling as Governor, arrived in Sydney in December 1831, while Mitchell was away. Bourke, although a general in the army, had been educated in law; he was a man of strong character and equable temperament.[1] He was not under the handicap, as Darling was, of having to govern in a time of drought and financial crisis: and he was very fortunate in that he inherited, and profited from, the results of the struggles of his predecessors with the difficult problem of disposal of Crown lands.

The Wakefield proposals, with the famous Letter from Sydney, had first appeared in 1829: these had attracted considerable attention, and, coming at a critical period in the long discussions and extensive correspondence during which all aspects of land policy had been exhaustively considered, it is, perhaps, correct to say that they crystallized a decision. In 1831 Darling had received from Secretary of State Goderich (later Earl of Ripon) new regulations prescribing that for the future no Crown land was to be given away as grants, or to be disposed of otherwise than by auction: the minimum price in towns was to be fixed by the Surveyor General, and in all other parts of the colony was to be five shillings per acre.[2] These regulations were proclaimed in Sydney on 1 August 1831.[3] Thus the system under which Crown lands could be given away at the personal discretion of the Governor ceased after forty-three years: and, with its cessation, one source of great jealousy and discontent disappeared. Bourke's administration therefore opened under very favourable conditions. The people hailed his arrival as the dawn of a happier era. But, so far as Mitchell was concerned, problems were increasing rapidly. The Australian Agricultural Company which, since its establishment in 1824, had attempted an unprofitable settlement in the Port Stephens region, was then under the forceful administration of Sir Edward Parry whose scouts had rediscovered the Liverpool Plains in November 1831.[4] This company claimed under its charter very large areas of land on the Namoi and Peel Rivers in the Quirindi, Tamworth, Gunnedah region.[5] There were already in this region eleven squatters with large herds of cattle, and the question of the "rights" of these squatters had to be faced: ultimately after much discussion and reference to the Colonial Office the matter was, in 1833, settled in favour of the company.[6]

In this discussion Mitchell played a leading part. He emphasized the dangers of allowing settlement to proceed beyond the limits of possible official control, the necessity for controlling settlement so that the heads of the fertile valleys should not be alienated by even doubtful "pre-occupational rights", and the importance of regulating settlement in accord with natural contours. At times the discussion became vigorous. Parry wrote to Colonial Secretary Macleay (11 March 1833):

All this opposition arose from a predetermination on the part of the Surveyor General to oppose any selection I might make, that predetermination having been expressed in the strongest and most unwarrantable terms long before I had even seen the land which I have since the Surveyor General I am not aware that I owe any respect much less any apology.[7]

But events were proving too strong for Mitchell and for the Government. Following on Hume's journey southward to Port Phillip (1824), Oxley's and Cunningham's journeys to the north (1818-28), and Sturt's journeys to the north-west and south-west (1828-30), many owners of cattle and sheep had sent their flocks and herds into these new and alluring regions far beyond the limits of settlement: so that by 1831 the problem of the control of these "squatters", and also of their protection against aborigines, sometimes indeed against each other, had called for official attention--a problem not lessened at all by the fact that the original exclusive group were well to the front in these excursions.

In October 1829, Darling had gazetted the boundaries of nineteen counties, and had forbidden, under penalty of prosecution, any settlement beyond these boundaries.[8] Sturt's discoveries had put the final seal on the futility of this prohibition; and, although it was renewed in 1835, it was never effective. The settlement of the Hentys at Portland, of Batman at Port Phillip, and of Leslie on the Darling Downs had projected the problem to the extreme outposts--over, in fact, ten degrees of longitude and ten degrees of latitude.[9] Lang records that numerous adventurers from Tasmania had crossed over to Port Phillip with their flocks and herds in the year 1835, and two hundred persons, with thirty thousand sheep and numerous cattle and horses had settled to the westward of Melbourne and Geelong. Although this migration into Victoria had taken place before Mitchell's third expedition (to "Australia Felix") in 1836, that expedition produced a rapid acceleration of the process.

This sketch has anticipated a little the actual period at which the sequence of events recorded in this story had reached, but, although this rapid expansion had been most active within Bourke's period of administration, it had begun even before Mitchell had arrived in the colony.

The situation had moved Bourke to write to Glenelg (10 October 1835):

I cannot avoid perceiving the peculiarities which, in this Colony, render it impolitic and even impossible to restrain dispersion within limits that would be expedient elsewhere,[10]

and, much later, Gipps wrote to Russell (19 December 1840):

as well might it be attempted to confine the Arabs of the desert within a circle drawn on the sands as to confine the graziers or wool growers of New South Wales within any bounds that can possibly be assigned to them; and as certainly as the Arabs would be starved so also would the flocks and herds of New South Wales, if they were so confined; and the prosperity of the Colony would be at an end.[11]

At one stage the Colonial Office had said that, under a good and responsibly administered law of colonization, colonial squatting would be as rare as the invasion of private estates in England. Bourke had retorted that these squatters were not gypsies, but the very leaders of colonial prosperity.

So that, while the ultimate disposal of Crown lands was assumed to have been settled by the regulations of 1831, this expansion of grazing under a "squatting" system presented new and trouble. some problems. A form of control by the issue of licences had been introduced; this was, in effect, little more than a form of revenue collection. Quite obviously, close survey could not keep pace with this limitless migration. As Surveyor General, Mitchell had a great responsibility and a very difficult problem. He had recorded his conviction that a proper trigonometrical survey was essential, and there is no evidence that he had modified that attitude.

In complete ignorance of the conditions in the colony, Goderich had. instructed Bourke (29 September 1831) that the strength of the Surveyor General's Department had been augmented for a special purpose, and its reduction would of course take place as soon as that purpose was accomplished; he instructed Bourke to forward maps and geographical details so that "a general map of the Colony, the want of which has hitherto been seriously felt" could be prepared in London.[12] This map was not forthcoming till three years later, and, as will be seen, was not prepared in London.

In 1833 Goderich resigned his office as Secretary of State for the Colonies, being succeeded by Stanley. In that year Finch, who had had so unfortunate an experience on Mitchell's first expedition, resigned from the Survey Department.[13] In 1832 Mr David Lennox had been appointed to be Superintendent of Bridges: the bridges built by him (one of which is reproduced in Plate IV) stand today as a lasting memorial to his name. Mitchell deserves credit for having enlisted the services of this capable man.

The years 1833 and 1834 are principally notable, so far as the written records go, for an official discussion of the efficiency of the Surveyor General's Department. Stanley, upon assuming office as Secretary of State for the Colonies (3 April 1833) directed his attention to "many important subjects in which the interest of the Colonies are involved" and none appeared to him of greater consequence than the survey and valuation of the lands in the colony.

Accordingly he wrote to Bourke (15 June 1833), calling attention to the instructions of 1825 (Mitchell's "Royal instructions") and said that he regretted that he should have the disagreeable task of conveying to the Surveyor General through Bourke "the King's surprise and disappointment" that the progress which had been made in the survey of the colony, at least so far as could be known from any reports received in London, had been so disproportionate to the facilities which had been placed at his disposal. Stanley drew attention to the increased staff of surveyors and draftsmen; and then rather tersely pointed out that, although the King's instructions of 1825 required that regular reports, in specified terms, should be furnished,

there appears to be nothing in the possession of this department by which the labours of the Surveyor General can be estimated beyond a skeleton map of the chief points of a trigonometrical measure, and this without latitudes or longitudes.

Stanley complained that this lack of information was the more unaccountable as the Surveyor General had represented in several communications that he had made considerable progress. The position, as it appeared to Stanley, was that whereas the instructions of 1825 required a general survey and valuation directed particularly to the settled areas, and a political subdivision into counties, hundreds, and parishes, Mitchell had considered himself authorized to proceed rather to a trigonometrical survey "of at least the whole colony". Stanley commented that this was

a scientific operation of great difficulty and requiring much more time and labour than would be necessary for the execution of a survey of the nature of that which it was the wish of His Majesty's Government should in the first instance be undertaken, and which ought to have been limited to purposes connected with the location of settlers with the projecting of the requisite roads and proper lines of communication between the different parts of the inhabited districts and with the fixing of the boundaries of the respective grants.

Stanley then referred to Darling's approval (13 May 1828) of the trigonometrical survey and said that whatever might be the ultimate advantages of the trigonometrical survey, it was evident that they were inferior in point of urgency at least to the duties already quoted, and that the increase in staff had been approved for those express purposes. He concluded:

I have to convey to you His Majesty's commands that you lose no time in calling upon Major Mitchell to explain the causes of the delays which have taken place in sending home the results which might be expected from his known scientific acquirements and from the extent of the force employed under his directions.

He also required that Mitchell should submit a full report upon the reorganization of his department to give effect to those urgently needed activities.[14]

This critical letter was referred to Mitchell as soon as it reached the Governor, but Bourke did not send a reply until 5 May 1834; two days earlier he had written to Stanley that he had not received the required report from Mitchell in reply to the despatch of 15 June 1833.[15]

With his letter of 5 May 1834 Bourke transmitted a map showing the subdivision of the eastern part of the state into nineteen counties, with a detailed description of their boundaries: and, also, he transmitted a memorandum in which Mitchell said that it had always been his most anxious wish to accomplish the objects of His Majesty's instructions but he had never been able, any more than his predecessor, or any of the Commissioners, to devise any other mode than a survey of the whole territory by which the whole could be divided by natural limits into parts containing given quantities.

He insisted that in every branch of his duty whether as Surveyor General, or Commissioner under His Majesty's instructions for the division and valuation of the territory, a general survey of the country seemed equally essential. As evidence that he was fully impressed with the importance of his duties, and animated with sufficient zeal for their performance, he submitted a map, the result of a trigonometrical survey made by him in the performance of which he had obtained a sufficient knowledge of the country to enable him to carry into effect the objects of His Majesty's instructions.

This was a preliminary reply by Mitchell. He deferred his full reply until October 1834, eleven months after Stanley's despatch of 15 June 1833 had been received. Bourke transmitted to Stanley (10 October 1834) Mitchell's "very elaborate defence", explaining that the delay was probably due to the preparation of the map. It is not necessary for the purposes of this story to traverse the whole of the details discussed, but some extracts are essential.

Bourke agreed that Mitchell had constructed a map sufficiently correct for ordinary purposes but on too small a scale. Under the head of roads and bridges the Surveyor General has presented a distorted and rather unintelligible account of this branch of his department owing, as I imagine, to his anxiety to remove from himself and his assistants the blame which is generally, but in many respects unjustly, imputed to them on account of the slow progress made in the works under their charge.

Having gone through the various arrangements proposed by the Surveyor General, I think it right to offer a few remarks upon the dissatisfaction he expresses at the control exercised by the Colonial Government over his operations. From the tone of his letter, he seems to claim an entire liberty of action, and to rely upon his designation of Commissioner as a ground for the assumption.

I have taken an opportunity of letting the Surveyor General understand that, as well with respect to the King's commands contained in my instructions, as in everything relating to his Department I consider him amenable to my orders.

With respect to his complaint of want of support from the late Governor I regret that the Surveyor General did not see the propriety of abstaining from any observation of the kind, and from any reference to the correspondence transmitted by my predecessor's despatch of 29 March 1831. In that despatch are set forth many glaring instances of misconduct arising chiefly out of the assumed independence of action to which I have alluded; and those have been visited by so mild a reproof from the Secretary of State that he ought either to have omitted all mention of those transactions, or if he had been obliged to refer to them should have expressed him self with humility and gratitude in consideration of the treatment he experienced.[16]

This matter was brought to a close by a despatch from Glenelg, who had succeeded Stanley as Secretary of State. Glenelg accepted as satisfactory Mitchell's explanations as to the apparent disproportion between the work performed by his department and

the means supplied for its execution; but,

while I acknowledge the zeal and ability which Major Mitchell has displayed in the discharge of his duties, I cannot but regret that he should still show that he entertains so erroneous an idea of the true position in which he stands with regard to the Governor, a circumstance which cannot but have the effect of injuring his utility as a public officer.

You will communicate this opinion to Major Mitchell and convey to him, at the same time, the expression of my hope that I shall not again have occasion to refer to this subject.[17]

As Bourke stated, Mitchell had delayed forwarding the defence of the work of his department while he pressed on with the preparation of the map of the colony. Mitchell had had it engraved in Sydney, and Bourke now advised Stanley (5 May 1834) that Mitchell had spent some of his own money, and was desirous of publishing it privately to reimburse himself for this expense, and also he wished to

obtain whatever reputation as a geographer and an artist that the production of such a work, certainly of no ordinary merit, may obtain for him.[18]

He added that Mitchell proposed to strike off two hundred copies and forward them to London for sale. Bourke stated that Mitchell claimed he had been led by Under-Secretary Hay to expect from the Government the privilege of publishing this map for his private profit. There are some interesting references to this map in his voluminous "private" letters to Hay. Writing on 4 October 1833, he said:

My map is nearly all on copper having been myself obliged to etch the hills and ranges as few engravers, even in London, can do this satisfactorily.[19]

And again on 17 May 1834:

My map has now gone my hand alone has the original map been drawn and finally etched on copper.[20]

But, two months later (20 July 1834), there is a contradictory note:

I have employed an engraver for several years until I have taught him, tho' deaf and dumb, to engrave hills...the trouble I have had with this engraver to produce a map which I could own.[21]

Wellington (who was acting temporarily as Secretary of State) replied (5 December 1834) that it would have been more regular if Mitchell had waited until he had received an answer to his application for approval to publish before he took any steps for engraving it: but under all the circumstances patronage would not be refused.[22] Hay, however, wrote later to Bourke that he had no recollection of ever having made any such promise as Mitchell claimed. Mitchell's action in having this work on the map done by himself and in Sydney, was definitely contrary to Goderich's instructions of 1831 to have geographical details forwarded so that the map could be prepared in London. He hoped that he would make some personal profit.

During this period Mitchell had been steadily establishing himself in the social life of Sydney. He was President of the School of Arts Council, Chairman at St. Andrew's Day dinner, and, as a contrast, was fined for non-attendance as a juror at the Supreme Court.

His brother Houston had, with Mitchell's help, overcome initial difficulties and "is already independent as a farmer" at Boyne Farm, Maitland.[23] Mitchell wrote to his mother and his brother John asking that letters of introduction to him should not be given so freely: "none of you are aware what inconvenient ties you are imposing on one in my situation."[24]

His family had grown, and by 1834 there were eight children--five boys and three girls. It is also reported that about this period he was waylaid one night by footpads on his way home from a dinner at the Barracks: he was relieved of his boots, cash, and watch.[25]

CHAPTER VIII - The Second expedition

Darling had written to Goderich on 4 June 1831, proposing to appoint Sturt as Resident at New Zealand;[1]. but this was not approved. Goderich suggested instead that Sturt should be employed in exploring the course of the Darling, as, although Sturt believed it entered the Murray, this had not been absolutely decided.[2] He said that the settlement of this important point appeared to be worthy of the enterprise and zeal which had been manifested by Captain Sturt, and would also throw much light on the interior geography of a large portion of the country as yet unexplored. He stated that it had always been his fixed opinion that, not only on account of the temperature of the climate being more congenial to the European constitution, but also to preserve as far as possible the compactness of the settled country, the first efforts of the local Government ought to be directed to the extension of the settlements to the southward; but, at the same time, it could not be unimportant that the nature of the country in the immediate neighbourhood of all the settled districts should as far as possible be ascertained. Goderich then offered two alternative courses--either to start from the point where Sturt had left the Darling and follow that river down, or to proceed upstream from the junction with the Murray of that stream, which Sturt had presumed to be the Darling. He preferred the latter course, in which case, if the stream proved to be the Darling, he was to follow it up to Sturt's last point: but if it should prove to be a different stream he was to follow that stream up to the same degree of latitude; and, in either case, proceed thence north-westerly for three or four degrees of latitude. These directions, if followed, would have placed the explorer right up in the Cooper's Creek region on the South Australian border of Queensland. As will be seen they were not observed. But, by the time this despatch reached Sydney, Sturt had left for England. In fact this task of exploring the country to the north-west of the Darling was not attempted until it was carried out by Sturt himself thirteen years later.

Bourke, having received Goderich's instructions just quoted, and having also his despatch of 29 September 1831 in which he laid it down that expeditions of exploration should be conducted by the Surveyor General's Department, instructed Mitchell to proceed on the proposed expedition.[3]

Mitchell commented on this arrangement in a private letter to Hay (4 October 1833); he said that although the official instructions from London had left the direction of the route to Bourke's discretion and could have allowed Mitchell to "complete what I commenced" he had little hope of being allowed to extend his line to the north-west except at his own expense; even so he was willing to do this and risk more sacrifices besides, relying on the liberality of His Majesty's Government. But Bourke was

by no means curious about the interior of New Holland and was unwilling to do more than explore the course of the Darling according to the instructions he has received.[4]

Although Goderich's instructions had been received in Sydney towards the end of 1832, the expedition did not take place until 1835. It was during the years 1833 and 1834 that criticism was made by Stanley about the progress of the survey: this was discussed in the last chapter. Here is Mitchell's account, for the general public, in his published story of these expeditions, written in 1838:

In May 1833 the local authorities were informed, that His Majesty's Government judged it expedient that an expedition should be undertaken to explore the course of the River Darling, and that this service should be performed by the Survey Department. Until that time, I had understood the supposed course of the Darling to have been sufficiently evident, but from the necessity of this survey, and circumstances which I had not, until then, fully considered, I began to entertain doubts on that subject. It seemed probable, from the divergent courses of the Macquarie and Lachlan, that these rivers might belong to separate basins, and that the dividing ridge might be the "very elevated range", which Mr Oxley had seen, extending westward between them.

It was obvious that this range, if continuous, must separate the basin of the Darling from that of the River Murray. Preparations had been made for the departure of the expedition in March 1834, but my duties as a commissioner to investigate claims to grants of land, having then been urgent, the undertaking was deferred until the next season. A report had also been required of me by His Majesty's Government on the business of my department generally.

This was disingenuous enough for English readers, but must have caused some smiles in Sydney. It is, however, interesting as indicating a recurrence of Mitchell's original idea, expressed in 1831, of a large river arising in the eastern ranges and discharging either on the north-west coast of Australia or into the Gulf of Carpentaria. His views on this question varied during the years according to occasion and expediency.

The first proposal was to send the expedition by sea to Encounter Bay, from which point they were to proceed up the rivers to Sturt's last point:[5] this plan was, however, quickly abandoned. The party consisted, besides Mitchell himself, of Richard Cunningham who was a botanist, a young Assistant Surveyor, J. Larmer, and twenty-one others--nine of whom, including his servant Anthony Brown, had been with him on the first expedition. Two light whale-boats had been constructed, of sizes such that one could fit inside the other, and, thus arranged, were together slung in belts of canvas on a specially designed waggon.

FROM SYDNEY TO BOURKE (9 March to 26 May 1835)

The party left Parramatta on 9 March, proceeding slowly to Boree,* just west of Orange, and on 31 March Mitchell left Sydney to follow them. (The monument marking the point of departure of the second, third and fourth expeditions is shown in Plate VI.)

[* Mitchell always called it "Buree".]
My horse seemed impatient of roads and full of spirit, a pleasant sensation at all times to the rider, and very congenial to the high excitement of such an enterprise.*
[* This quotation, with others in this chapter relating to incidents occurring during this expedition are, when not otherwise indicated, from the text of Mitchell's published work Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia.]

In his account of the ride across the Blue Mountains Mitchell took the opportunity of reviewing a little of the story of this region. He spoke of a plan he had formed of cutting a tunnel through the mountains from the Grose Valley to the Vale of Clywd--thus avoiding the mountain road: he emphasized the importance of reserving sites for villages and of laying down from the outset a properly surveyed village plan.

It has been my duty to keep these objects in view, as sole Commissioner for the division and appropriation of the territory of New South Wales; and as head also of the department of roads and bridges.

This emphasis upon his responsibilities as sole Commissioner was to be a recurrent theme. It was in 1843 made the basis of a claim for compensation (see later), and he was to refer to it again in his book on the fourth expedition in 1848.[6]

He arrived at Boree, joining the main party, on 5 April. Following down the upper reaches of Boree Creek to a point approximately where the present roads to Parkes and Forbes diverge, north-east of Cudal, they crossed over to Mandadgery Creek just south of Manildra. "We took with us fifteen sheep, to try whether this kind of live stock was available on such expeditions." He must have known that Sturt had recorded their value on his journey down the Murrumbidgee six years previously. From the Mandadgery Valley they crossed the ranges in the neighbourhood of Bumberry coming down to the Goobang Creek perhaps a little north of Goobang. On this section of the journey (which is shown on Map V) they had some difficulty in finding water.

At this point Mitchell noted in his diary his reactions to camp life:

It is on occasions such as these that the adventurer has intervals of enjoyment which amply reward him for the laborious days of hardship and privation. The sense of gratification and repose is intense and cannot. be known to him whose life is counted out in a monotonous succession of hours of eating and sleeping within a house; whose food is adulterated by spices and sauces intolerable to real hunger--and whose drink, instead of the sweet refreshing distillation from the heavens, consists of vile artificial extracts, loathed by the really thirsty man, with whom the pure element resumes its true value, and establishes its real superiority over every artificial beverage.

The natives whom we met here were fine looking men enjoying contentment and happiness within the precincts of their native woods. Their enjoyment seemed derived so directly from nature that it almost excited a feeling of regret that civilized men, enervated by luxury and all its concomitant diseases, should ever disturb the haunts of these rude but happy beings.

He was to hold different views a little later in the expedition.

The party now moved in a north-west direction and they proceeded past Goonumbla to Cookapie. Here the aborigines showed them how to find wild honey, which was very plentiful.

Their plan was to catch a bee, and attach to it, with some resin or gum, the light down of a swan or owl; thus laden the bee would make for its nest and betray its store of sweets.

From Cookapie they moved across the plain to Bullock Creek, reaching it approximately nine miles downstream from Tullamore. From this point the main party crossed easterly to the Bogan, reaching it approximately six miles south of Dandaloo, and here they remained in camp from 18 to 30 April.

MAP V. Map showing the route followed by Mitchell from Boree and along the Bogan on his second expedition. Cunningham's probable track, and his grave, are also shown

Cunningham's Death

On 17 April Mitchell had been scouting forward in search of water: on that day Cunningham had allowed his enthusiasm as a botanist to carry him forward without proper care as to direction and location; and he became lost in the bush.

I had the pain to learn on reaching the camp that Mr Cunningham was still absent and in all probability suffering from want of water. I had repeatedly cautioned this gentleman, about the danger of losing sight of the party in such a country; yet his carelessness in this respect was quite surprising. It was most mysterious that he had not fallen in with our line of route, which was a plain broad road since the passage of the carts.

The search for Cunningham continued for twelve days. His tracks were found: it appeared that he had crossed Bullock Creek and turned westwards, but afterwards his tracks were lost. After ten days some of the searchers found his saddle and bridle and some other of his effects, with a piece of paper in which the letters N.E. had been cut. He had at one stage in his wanderings returned to Bullock Creek; had he followed it downwards he would have found the main camp. It was later discovered that he had reached the Bogan at a point north of the main camp, and Mitchell comments here: "It was most unfortunate that had we pursued our journey down the Bogan, Mr Cunningham would have fallen in with our track and rejoined us."

Mitchell moved the party down the Bogan hoping that they would find and follow Cunningham's tracks. "We passed a small pond, the name of which was Burdenda, and afterwards came to Cudduldury" (now Cajildrie). They searched again in this neighbourhood but without success. Actually they were very close to the scene of Cunningham's death, which took place on what is now Burdenda station. Mitchell himself spent 3, 4 and 5 May in a long search.

My anxiety about him was embittered with regret at the inauspicious delay of our journey, which his disappearance had occasioned; and I was too impatient on both subjects to be able to remain inactive at the camp.

On returning to the camp Mitchell learned that some of the men had found Cunningham's tracks and had followed them to a camp-fire, where many natives had camped; there they found part of his coat and pieces of the map he was carrying. When some natives who were at the base camp saw these relics they left hurriedly; there was no common language in which they could have been questioned: if there had been the full story might have been known. Mitchell then feared that Cunningham was dead, with the possible reservation that he may have gone east in an attempt to reach the settlements on the Macquarie.

To delay the party longer was obviously unnecessary; and indeed the loss of more time must have defeated the object of the expedition, considering our limited stock of provisions.

On the return journey up the Bogan in September Mitchell made further search, but again without success.

Plate VII. One of the trees blazed by Lieutenant Zouch/The Darling River at Menindee

Plate VIII. Mt. Arapiles/Mitchell's sketch of Mt. Arapiles. Reproduced from Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia by Thomas Mitchell

Cunningham's movements can be traced in terms of modern place-names. Taking Alagala as at the junction of Bullock Creek and the Bogan, the whole party crossed Bullock Creek about halfway between Alagala and Tullamore. At about two miles north of this crossing place Cunningham left the party and proceeded south-west, keeping close to Bullock Creek, to a point just a little (perhaps a mile) west of Tullamore. Then he moved northeasterly, and after confused wanderings in the region of Albert and Middlefield station, he must have met the aborigines either here or further north on the banks of the Bogan on Burdenda station, about thirteen miles north-east of Tottenham. Some of Cunningham's personal possessions were found close to the present position of Middlefield station, so that, according to the plan Mitchell gives of Cunningham's tracks, he must have reached the Bogan, walking without his horse, approximately one mile upstream from Dandaloo. As Mitchell gives the name Burdenda to this place, this must have been the aboriginal name.

A visit to this part of the Bogan in the summer *will explain Mitchell's anxious search for water: the river is an undependable stream. But the country then presented an appearance quite different from its present condition. As Mitchell describes it:

the country I traversed consisted of small plains, and alternate patches of dense casuarina scrubs and open forest land.

He speaks of the gravel ridges, "undulating ground or low hills of quartzose gravel", and "I observed a few trees of the iron-bark eucalyptus and pines or callitris, on the highest ground". Today this country presents a rather dense growth of box and callitris: old residents say that this rapid growth occurred rather suddenly about twenty years after Mitchell's visit.

To complete this story, Bourke advised Secretary of State Glenelg (30 November 1835) that he had learned that Cunningham had been murdered by the blacks soon after he had separated from his companions, and that a small party had been sent to the Bogan under Lieutenant Zouch.[7]

Later he reported (7 December 1835) that Zouch had located the scene of the murder, had buried the remains of Cunningham at a place "called Carrindine" and had built a mound over the grave, marking the spot by blazing the trees.[8]

Zouch had arrested a native (Burreemall) who had been concerned in the murder. The natives stated that, six months previously, they had found Cunningham lost and hungry. They had fed him, but at their camp he became restless during the night, arousing the suspicion of the natives. One of them had killed him by hitting him on the head with a club.[9]

The grave (Plate VI) and the land around it has been declared a reserve, and the grave is now appropriately covered with masonry and marked by an iron railing erected by the Government about thirty years ago on the representations of Mr G. Hunt, then the owner of Burdenda station. The location is within Burdenda station, thirteen miles north-east of Tottenham and about a mile west of the Bogan. The blaze marks made by Zouch on four trees around the grave can be clearly seen today (Plate VII).

The slab on Cunningham's grave carries this inscription:

Richard Cunningham, Government Botanist of this Colony attached to the exploring expedition under the command of Major Mitchell, Surveyor-General, wandered in his enthusiasm for botanical investigation from his companions, and losing himself in this locality of the Bogan River fell into the hands of the aboriginals by whom unfortunately he was killed about 25 April 1835, in the 42nd year of his age.

This tablet is erected to his memory by a vote of Parliament through the C.C.C. of Lands, by Mr R. Daniel, C.C.L. Wellington District.[10]

The slab has been broken by a falling tree, and defaced by irreverent people scratching their names over part of the inscription.

A mural tablet, carrying a similar inscription, was placed in St. Andrew's Church, with the following addition: "This tablet is erected as a lasting and affectionate tribute by Allan, his only brother." The tablet is now in the Presbyterian Church, Rose Bay.

One cannot stand by Cunningham's grave unmoved, or without thinking of him wandering for seven or more days in that pitiless country, possible then only to wandering natives with their inherited skill in highly specialized bushcraft, without almost following him day by day in his progress from apprehension through real fear to the agony and insanity of thirst; and so to his tragic end when, mentally abnormal, he in turn infected the natives with fears deep enough to drive them to remove the cause in the only way known to them. He, the first of such faithful men, was followed on later expeditions in other parts of Australia by Baxter, Gilbert, and Poole. These four lonely graves far out on, or beyond, the fringes of civilization must move the heart of any Australian with human feelings to a realization that we owe to these men a salute and a debt that we can never pay. We can at least see that their last resting places are tended and cherished for all time.

Main Journey Resumed

Mitchell, having resumed the main journey (Map VI),

determined on proceeding by short journeys along the Bogan not altogether without the hope that Mr Cunningham might still be brought to us by some of the natives.

MAP VI. Map showing the whole of Mitchell's second expedition. Part of Mitchell's route (from Forbes to Wentworth, thence to Swan Hill) on his third expedition in the following year is shown also

Following the Bogan they passed Buddabadah* (Bugubada), being guided by a friendly native, thus avoiding bends in the river. Then past Mudal (Muda), Woorabudda (Murrebouga) until they reached Nyngan (Nyingan) on 10 May. Here Mitchell was about to fire at some kangaroos when a friendly native stopped him, pointing out that they were men; and here too the friendly native, who had been with them all the way from Cajildrie, left them. Moving down the Bogan the party came to New Year's Range on 16 May, having passed the present sites of Willeroon and Mulgawarrina; and then to the Stoney Hills, which they ascended. Moving still along the Bogan they camped about one mile from that river almost in a direct line between Oxley's Tableland and Mt. Druid (Oxley's Tableland bearing 250° and Mt. Druid 25°). It is necessary to explain here that the Bogan, at that period, followed the course now known as the Dry Bogan.

[* Up to this point the Bogan valley had already, in 1833, been explored by Assistant Surveyor R. Dixon.]

This is an appropriate place to refer to certain recommendations made by Sturt (13 March 1835). Sturt, then newly married, could have only just arrived back in New South Wales, and had evidently been consulted about this expedition. Writing to Colonial Secretary Macleay (13 March 1835) he advised that a suitable place to camp was just under Oxley's Tableland, a good supply of water being in a lagoon there; and, under the impression that Mitchell was to follow the Darling to the sea, he advised that it was impracticable to launch boats on the Darling, and that Mitchell would be very unwise to break up his party, sending some back, as Sturt himself had done.[11]

Mitchell, after a reconnaissance from his camp near the Bogan, found no water:

It was obvious that had we, according to a suggestion sent to the Government by Captain Sturt, proceeded to Oxley's Tableland, trusting to find abundance of water, the loss of our cattle would have been inevitable.

At this stage the natives were still very friendly.

Moving then in a direction a little west of south, Mitchell came on the Darling at a point about four miles on an air-line route from the present site of Bourke town. From the appearance of the water Mitchell did not doubt that it was salt as it was when found by Sturt.

I was, however, so agreeably surprised, on descending the steep bank, to find the taste perfectly sweet, that I began to doubt if this river could be "The Darling". I proceeded some distance down the river and I was at length satisfied that this was indeed the River Darling.

Mitchell was so impressed with the site as a location for a base camp, being on elevated ground, protected by a swamp and a bend of the river, and with abundance of pasture, that he decided to form there a base camp.

We were extremely fortunate in the place to which the bounteous hand of providence had led us. Abundance of pasture, indeed such excellent grass as we had not seen in the whole journey, covered the fine open forest ground on the bank of the river. Our first care was to erect a stockade of strong logs that we might be secure under any circumstances: for we had not asked permission to come there from the inhabitants, who had been reported to be numerous, and who would of course soon make their appearance. As the position was, in every respect, a good one, either for its present purpose, or hereafter perhaps for a township, and consequently was one important point gained by this expedition, I named it Fort Bourke after His Excellency the present Governor, the better to mark the epoch in the progress of interior discovery.

This last sentence disregards the fact that Sturt had been on this spot seven years previously. Fort Bourke was situated at a horseshoe lagoon known as Eight-mile Lagoon about seven miles downstream from Bourke.[12] It is now dedicated as an historical reserve. No trace of the original stockade remains although relics were to be seen until 1870.[13]

On this journey to Bourke were some minor points of interest. At New Year's Range Mitchell had crossed Sturt's route of six years before, and here he identified the burnt cypress trees which Sturt had set alight to guide a lost member of his party back to camp. In his published account of this journey Mitchell indulges in a little unworthy sarcasm at Sturt's expense. Critical examination of the points at issue show that this sarcasm was not justified.

During the later stages of the journey to Fort Bourke, Burnett, the overseer, being attacked by an aboriginal, who hit him with a boomerang, had fired his shot-gun, and wounded the native in the hand and arm.

At one point on the long journey down the Bogan Mitchell had killed a kangaroo:

On one of these open tracts I wounded a female kangaroo at a far shot of my rifle, and the wretched animal was finally killed after a desperate fight with the dogs.

There is something so affecting in the silent and deadly struggle between the harmless kangaroo and its pursuers, that I have sometimes found it difficult to reconcile the sympathy such a death excites with our possession of canine teeth, or our necessities, however urgent they might be.

"The huntsman's pleasure is no more" indeed when such an animal dies thus before him, persecuted alike by the civilized and the savage. In this instance a young one, warm from the pouch of its mother, frisked about at a distance as if unwilling to leave her, although it finally escaped. The nights were cold, and I confess that thoughts of the young kangaroo did obtrude at dinner, and were mingled with my kangaroo-steak.


Mitchell now launched his two boats, naming them Discovery and Resolution after Captain Cook's boats. The names proved to be unfortunate. The boats being ready, Mitchell, with Assistant Surveyor Larmer and fourteen men, set off, on 1 June, to follow the river down, leaving the rest of the party at the stockade; but the shallows and rocks presented so many difficulties that Mitchell abandoned attempts at water transport and decided to follow the river on land. They were in the boats for one day only, returning to Fort Bourke on 2 June. Next day Mitchell with a small party set out on a scouting journey downstream. He reached a point about six miles below the Warrego Junction, returning to the site of the present Redbank and from here rode to D'Urban's Group, the southern summit of which he ascended. At Redbank, being close to the place where Sturt's journey had ended six years before, Mitchell sought, unsuccessfully, for the tree which had been marked by Hamilton Hume.

Returning to Fort Bourke, he left on 8 June with all the party, to follow the river down; and at the junction of Gunderbooka Creek and the Darling, Burnett and Souter found the tree marked by Hume. Mitchell on his return journey visited this tree and found the bearing given by Sturt to be wrong: instead of 58° E. of S. on the southern end of D'Urban's Group it was, really, 53° E. of S. It has, however, to be noted that Sturt said only: "I took the bearings of D'Urban's Group, and found them to be S. 58° E."[14] The bearing on the north end of D'Urban's Group from near the tree is S. 58° E., whereas Mitchell's bearing was on the south end of the range.[15] Mitchell assumed a clerical error in Sturt's account, but it is possible that both were right. Mitchell's initials were cut on the same tree by his men. This tree cannot now be located.

Proceeding down the river, Mitchell ascended Mt. Deerina (Dunlop's Range) and Rankin's Range. In the vicinity of the latter Mitchell records:

We descried, from a tree not far from the camp, hills to the westward, and the interest, with which we now daily watched the horizon, may easily be imagined, for on the occurrence and direction of ridges of high land, depended the course of the Darling, and its union with other rivers, or discharge into the sea on the nearest line of coast.

The position of the hills, and the direction of the river, were here particularly interesting, as likely soon to decide the question respecting the ultimate course of this solitary stream, on which our lives depended, in this dry and naked wilderness.

In this neighbourhood the natives were giving trouble:

Some natives followed us during a part of this day, shouting, and at length came boldly up to the head of the column. They were very greedy, coveting every thing they saw. I had not been in their presence one minute before their chief, a very stout fellow, drew forth my pocket handkerchief, while a boy took my Kater's compass from the other pocket, and was on the point of running off with it. I gave a clasp knife to the chief, when another of the party most importunately demanded a tomahawk. Observing that he carried a curious stone hatchet, I offered to exchange the tomahawk for it, to which he reluctantly agreed. I left them at last disgusted with their greediness: and I determined henceforward to admit no more such specimens of wild men to any familiarity with my clothes, pockets, or accoutrements.

The party now travelled south-westward following the course of the river for seven days, and on 22 June noted Mt. Macpherson.

By 23 June they had reached the vicinity of Wilcannia, where Mitchell saw, and named, Macculloch's Range. Here they met a small group of natives who were more friendly, and Mitchell recorded:

We left the natives quite delighted with the gifts, which were doubtless as important to them, as the discovery of a sea would then have been to me. The journey of this day opened prospects the most promising for such a discovery, for the river from that bend pursued a more westerly course.

This illusion of an inland sea had great influence in that period of Australian history.

At this point, in the vicinity of Murtee, Mitchell crossed the Darling, ascended the range on the other side of the river, saw in the far distance the Nuntherungie Ranges, named Mts. Lye11 and Daubeny, and "as we descended, I named the first hill beyond the Darling ever ascended by any European, after my friend

Mr Murchisson".

Although the whole journey from Bourke to this camp near Wilcannia had been free from incident, and among natives whose only unfriendly actions had been attempts to steal, they now met definite signs of hostility.

We had not yet accomplished one half of our journey to the Murray from the junction of the Bogan and Darling; and it was no very pleasing prospect to have to travel such a distance through a country which might be occupied by inhabitants like these. I never saw such unfavourable specimens of the aborigines as these children of the smoke, they were so barbarously and implacably hostile and shamelessly dishonest. Whether they were by nature implacable, or whether their inveterate hostility proceeded from some cause of disquiet or apprehension unimaginable by us, it was too probable they might ere long force upon us the painful necessity of making them acquainted with the superiority of our arms. The manner and disposition of these people were so unlike those of the aborigines in general that I hoped they might be an exception to the general character of the natives we were to meet with: an evil disposed tribe perhaps, at war with all around them. The difference in disposition between tribes not very remote from each other was often striking. We had left, at only three days' journey behind us, natives as kind and civil as any I had met with; and I was rather at a loss now to understand how they could exist so near fiends like these.

From Wilcannia to the east bank of the Darling opposite Menindee (Plate VII) the journey was made with little incident, but the natives followed them for the last three days until the camp was formed on 9 July, becoming increasingly hostile: "they repeated all their menaces and expressions of defiance, and as we again proceeded, the whole of their woods appeared in flames."

The final camp was at a point on the Darling where a small stream from the west joined that river, and a range was visible further to the west. Mitchell, seeing that the natives were bent on mischief, selected the site with more care than usual. As he describes it, it was not good but the best he could find, on slightly rising ground, nearly free from trees and only half a mile from the river. The site was visited nine years later (1844) by Browne of Sturt's party: it was described as about a mile from the river to the eastward; the dray tracks and fireplaces were still visible.[16] The position is easily recognized today: it is on the highest point of a low sandhill close to the road from the old punt crossing at Menindee to Appin homestead.

Mitchell decided to end his journey at this point. The ranges he had seen to the westward during the previous fortnight, and the small stream coming from the west, seemed to exclude the possibility of any inland sea in the region:

the identity of this river with, that which had been seen to enter the Murray, now admitted of little doubt, and the continuation of the survey to that point was scarcely an object worth the peril likely to attend it.

Then he continues:

scarce an hour had elapsed after I had communicated my determination to return to the party, when a shot was heard on the river.

Several other shots followed. The camp was more than half a mile from the river, some of the men had gone to get water, and others to rescue a bullock which had become bogged in the mud at the bank of the river.

Owing to the distance, it was more than a hour before those at the camp learned what had happened. Joseph Jones had been sent for water with a pot and a kettle, and one of the natives, who had given trouble before, tried to take the kettle away from him. When Jones resisted the native knocked him to the ground unconscious with a blow on the head from a club. Thomas Jones, who was guarding Joseph, at once fired at the native, wounding him. Other natives came to the scene evidently about to attack; and some of Mitchell's party, who had arrived, fired into the group--one man and a woman with a child on her back were killed, others were wounded. The only account of the incident now available is that recorded by Mitchell, who was not personally present. The affair was perhaps unavoidable, it was certainly unfortunate. Memories of it were still alive amongst the natives when Sturt was in the locality more than nine years later. Mitchell reflected on this incident:

We met frequently with instances of natives receiving from us all they could want one day, yet approaching us on the next with the most unequivocal demonstrations of enmity and hostility. Indeed it seemed impossible, in any manner, to conciliate these people when united in a body. We wanted nothing, asked for nothing; on the contrary we gave them presents of articles the most desirable to them; and yet they beset us as keenly and with as little remorse as wild beasts seek their prey. It was a consolation, however, under such unpleasant circumstances, to have men on whose courage at least I could depend, for numbers might now be expected to come against us.

In the evening, from the other bank, was heard the mournful wailing of women and

it was then that I regretted most bitterly the inconsiderable conduct of some of the men. I was, indeed, liable to pay dear for geographical discovery, when my honour and character were delivered over to convicts, on whom, although I might confide as courage, I could not always rely for humanity.

As a commentary on this, which appeared in his book published in 1838, there is the statement made by Mitchell when giving evidence before the Select Committee on Transportation in March 1838, that the convicts on these expeditions behaved very well indeed.

On 12 July they broke camp and commenced their homeward journey. This journey was, generally, without incident: one of the men developed scurvy; and little trouble, except thieving, occurred with the natives, whom they avoided and discouraged. On 26 July, from the vicinity of Bulcolco, Mitchell ascended Mt. Greenough. On 29 July he crossed the river, ascended, and named, Mt. Macpherson. By 7 August they had reached the vicinity of Louth. Passing East Toorale on 7 August they arrived back at Fort Bourke on 10 August after an absence from that base of two months and two days.

Mitchell estimated that they had travelled during that time "over 600 miles, even in direct distance"--an estimate sufficiently accurate--the present road from Bourke to Menindee being 301 miles. They found the "fort" uninjured, except that the natives had been busy cutting out the spike nails which had fastened the logs of the blockhouse.

Mitchell's description identifies the locality:

Fort Bourke consists of an elevated plateau, overlooking a reach of the river a mile and a half in length, the hill being situated near a sharp turn, at the lower end of the reach. At this turn, a small dry watercourse, which surrounds Fort Bourke on all sides, save that of the river, joins the Darling.

Mitchell commented on the nature of the country over which they had passed and thanked providence for the continued dryness of the winter, for they could not have travelled over that country after rain.

As to the natives, it was clear that giving them presents was a mistake as it only awakened a desire to "destroy us and to take all we had" and "the expression of their countenances was sometimes so hideous that I have found comfort in contemplating the honest faces of the horses and sheep". Mitchell recorded his opinion that to discourage at once the approach of such natives would tend more to the safety of an exploring party than presenting them with gifts. It will appear that these convictions influenced Mitchell's conduct during his expedition in these regions the following year.

It may be noted also that Mitchell found the tribes of the Darling reduced in numbers by the disease--smallpox or other--which was active during Sturt's visit.

Reflecting on his experiences with the natives of the Darling Mitchell observed:

Even in defence of such an implacable disposition towards the civilized intruder much may be urged. No reflecting man can witness the quickness and intelligence of the aborigines, as displayed in their instant comprehension of our numerous appliances without feelings of sympathy. He must perceive that these people cannot be so obtuse as not to anticipate, in the advent of such a powerful race, the extirpation of their own in a country which barely affords to them the means of existence. Such must be the conclusion in their minds, although it is to be hoped that the results of our invasion may be different; and that, if these savage people do not learn habits of industry, a breed of wild cattle may at least compensate them for the loss of the kangaroo and opossum.

FROM BOURKE TO SYDNEY (13 August to October 1835)

Leaving Fort Bourke on 13 August, they followed the "dry Bogan", crossed the Pink Hills on 17 August, and, at this stage, the carpenter, Robert Whiting, who had been suffering with scurvy for some time, became seriously ill. Crossing New Year's Range on 20 August, they proceeded up the Bogan to a point approximately east of Girilambone. During this stage another man, John Johnston, the blacksmith, developed a serious form of scurvy.

At this point, east of Girilambone, Mitchell sent Larmer eastward to survey the creek (Duck Creek, a little north of Canonba) which had been crossed by Hume in March 1829. The main party proceeded upstream to Nyngan, then across the bend of the river to Buddabadah, and, a little after leaving this point, were joined by Larmer who had been to Duck Creek as ordered. On 4 September they passed the spot where Cunningham had been lost. They made enquiries from the natives but received only evasive answers: there is no record of any further search having been made. Mitchell's only record is:

We proceeded and struck into our old track, where it touched on the Bogan, and we crossed its channel half-a-mile beyond where we had been encamped so long, when looking for Mr Cunningham. On this day's journey we again intersected his footsteps; and I could not avoid following them once more to the pond on the Bogan, where he must have first drunk water, after a thirst and hunger of four or five days. There was water still there, but not any longer the traces of Mr Cunningham.

From here Mitchell sent despatches back along their outward route to Cookapie, while he, with the main party, followed the Bogan round its easterly bend (Mungery), finding in the vicinity of Peak Hill two stockmen in charge of cattle belonging to Mr Lee of Bathurst. This meeting provoked reflections from Mitchell on how speedily land was being occupied by squatters. From this point they followed their outward tracks by way of Cookapie and Goobang to Boree, which was reached on 14 September. Here he learned definitely that Cunningham had been killed by the natives.

On their arrival at Boree the two men with scurvy quickly recovered under treatment. Checking the stores Mitchell found that

we had made five months' rations serve the party nearly six months, by a slight alteration of the weights...on my former travels in the interior I found that the idea of reduced rations was disheartening to men when undergoing fatigue.

The sheep had proved to be a valuable addition to their supplies.

What had Mitchell accomplished? He had traversed and defined the course of the Bogan from Goonumbla to New Year's Range, from which point onwards Sturt had preceded him. Hume also had touched the Bogan at a point east of Girilambone. In respect of the Bogan River the word "discovery" can hardly be used. Then he had followed the Darling three hundred miles from Bourke to Menindee. Here again he had added little to knowledge beyond defining the course of the Darling in that section, and describing the topographical features of the Darling plain. His instructions had been to "proceed down the Darling River and trace its course to the sea". This mission he did not complete.

But one thing he did achieve probably as unwittingly as unwillingly: by his description of the stream coming into the Darling and the ranges to the west he stoked the latent fire of Sturt's enthusiasm for exploration and his vision of an inland sea, from which came Sturt's expedition of 1844-6 and his discovery of the Cooper's Creek region. The relationship between this and Mitchell's fourth expedition will appear later in this story.

By February 1836, reports of this expedition had reached London, and an editorial notice appeared in The Times of 25 February. In this notice were made very favourable references to Captain Sturt. It was stated that, although Mitchell had not traced the Darling right through to the Murray to prove or disprove Sturt's conjecture that the two streams joined where Sturt assumed they did:

no doubt can be in the mind of any reasonable man but that Captain Sturt is perfectly right in his conclusion and that his views of the geographical features of the interior are confirmed.

The Times then went on to praise Sturt's book Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia, and said that no one interested in the progress of discovery in these interesting regions could consider his information complete without reading this book. The article ended by referring to the contrast between Sturt's journeys, and the killing of aborigines by Mitchell's party; the comment was: It is a proof of the conciliating spirit of the first-mentioned officer, and is, we humbly conceive, much more to his credit than if his path had been marked with blood.

While in London in 1837 Mitchell delivered an address before the Royal Geographical Society: in the course of that address when describing his journey down the Darling he referred to this article in The Times in these words:

For an account of this journey from the pen of the traveller who had preceded me see The Times of 25 February 1836...the remarks contained in that advertisement evince but little sympathy for a brother-traveller.[17]

This is a direct statement that Sturt had written this article in The Times. Sturt was then in New South Wales and from all that is known of his character, and from the nature of the article itself, it is unlikely that Sturt was in any way responsible.

No evidence has been found which would support Mitchell's accusation, although he would naturally be annoyed at this criticism when he was about to publish his own book.

CHAPTER IX - The Third expedition

Mitchell had returned to Sydney towards the end of September 1835, and, almost at once, Bourke wrote to Secretary of State Glenelg (12 October), referring to the despatch of 19 July previous, and added:

I had sent out an expedition with directions to proceed down the Darling River and trace its course to the sea.

It seems probable that the River Darling flows into the Murray at the point indicated by Captain Sturt, but that fact had not been determined when Major Mitchell found it necessary to retrace his steps.

It is my intention to employ another exploring party to complete what has been left undone.[1]

There is a faint suggestion here that some person other than Mitchell might be chosen to lead this other party, but there is no evidence to support this. When the time came for a decision, Bourke "thought it advisable to place this party under the direction of the same person".[2] At least the point had been decided by February, for Bourke wrote to Hay (1 February 1836):

Major Mitchell as you are aware did not finish the course of the Darling on his last exploration. I am just sending him out again to finish and to return to the Colony through the country lying between the left bank of the Murray and Morumbidgee and the Snowy Range. It is, I believe, a fine pastoral country and it will be highly useful to know it. The Surveyor General is a difficult man to manage and I fear I am rather en mauvaise odeur with him at present. But I do my best to keep him and others in good humour yet within decent bounds.[3]

Glenelg replied (12 April 1836) to Bourke's despatch of 12 October approving of this new expedition which he "trusted may be more successful in attaining its object".[4] Before Glenelg's despatch had left London, Bourke had sent to Glenelg another long despatch (15 March 1836) in which he advised that Mitchell had just left Sydney for the interior. In this rather long despatch Bourke indicated that his instructions to Mitchell were to trace the Darling from the point at which he had left it on his last expedition (Menindee) down to its junction with the Murray, and then "return by the Murray to the located parts of the Colony". Bourke indicated that this would go far to furnish knowledge of the country between the routes of Hume on the east, and Sturt on the west and north-west. It will presently appear that Mitchell adopted a generous geographical interpretation of these instructions.

The despatch concluded with reference to an incident which was rather characteristic of Mitchell's attitude and methods. In his earlier despatch (12 October 1835) Bourke had stated that a map and copy of Mitchell's journal of the second expedition would be immediately forwarded; but:

I regret to say I have not been able to procure a copy from that officer, who has pleaded other business as the cause of his journal not being copied or made out from the notes he took whilst in the field.

I do not consider this apology as admissible considering the time that has elapsed since his return in September last, and more especially as he asked leave of absence from his office at Christmas, and obtained it, one of his objects being, as he assured me, the completion of his journal.

To this neglect he has added the strange indiscretion of taking his original memoranda with him on this second expedition, thus risking the fruits of the labours of the first.[5]

Glenelg acknowledged (12 August 1836) this despatch, approved of Bourke's arrangements for the expedition, trusted no untoward event would occur, and added, in decorous official language:

It is much to be regretted that Major Mitchell should have so long delayed the completion of the map and journal of the last expedition, and that he should have been so indiscreet as to risk the loss of his original memoranda by taking them with him on his present tour; but I feel assured that nothing which activity and zeal can accomplish will be neglected by you for preventing their ultimate loss.[6]

These introductory passages may well conclude with another despatch from Glenelg to Bourke (28 August 1836):

The friends of Major Mitchell having informed me that a necessity exists for his return to this country I beg to acquaint you that there will be no objection to your granting him leave of absence for that purpose, if you shall consider it compatible with the interests of the public service.[7]

This despatch was dated in London 28 August 1836. It seems probable that Mitchell had written to his "friends" before the second expedition; this despatch did not, however, reach Sydney until after Mitchell had returned from the third expedition, now to be described. As will be seen later, Mitchell took leave of absence and visited England in 1837.

FROM SYDNEY TO OXLEY (15 March to 12 May 1836)

In the original instructions given to Mitchell, Bourke had instructed him to rejoin the Darling at the point of termination (Menindee) of the previous expedition, and to complete the survey of that river to its junction with the Murray: Bourke stated that it was considered fixed almost beyond a doubt that the Darling joined the Murray at the point assumed by Sturt to be that junction. If it was found to be otherwise Mitchell was to follow the Darling to the sea wherever that might be. If, however, it was found, as supposed, to join the Murray, Mitchell was to. follow the Murray upwards along the southern bank to the located parts of the colony. But Bourke included a proviso:

If in your course upwards you should meet with different streams flowing into the Murray you will follow that which you may deem to have the most promising appearance.[8]

This at least gave an excuse, if any had been needed, for Mitchell's very extensive and prolonged detour south-west to the coast at Nelson.

Mitchell's own statement of his instructions was that he should regain that point on the Darling where his second expedition had ended, trace the Darling into the Murray, embark on the Murray, and passing the carts and oxen to the southern bank of that river, proceed upwards by water as far as practicable and regain the colony somewhere about Yass Plains. His proposed course, as stated by himself, was down the Lachlan, then across to the Darling "keeping the lagoons of the Lachlan on the left, if water were scarce".[9]

As much of the equipment used on the second expedition was still available, and the boats and boat-carriage were serviceable, preparations were not difficult. Because of the long-continued drought horses and bullocks were scarce and expensive, but enough were obtained. The drought conditions also involved great uncertainty as to continuity of fresh water for the party.

Besides Mitchell, the party consisted of G. C. Stapylton as second-in-command, and twenty-three men, all convicts or ex-convicts: of these, six had been with Mitchell on each of his previous expeditions (A. Burnett, W. Woods, J. Palmer, R. Muir-head, Joseph Jones, and his faithful servant Anthony Brown): and five others had been on the second expedition (C. Hammond, W. Thomas, C. King, J. Johnston, and J. Gayton). The names of these men should be honoured: they played a valuable although inconspicuous part in our history.

The party preceded Mitchell, who overtook them, on 15 March 1836, at Boree, just west of Orange.

On the following day I organized the party and armed the men. I distributed to each a new suit of clothing, consisting of grey trowsers and a red woollen shirt, the latter article, when crossed by white braces, giving the men somewhat of a military appearance. This was the army with which I was to traverse unexplored regions, peopled, as far as we knew, by hostile tribes. But I could depend upon a great portion of the men.*
[* This quotation, with others in this chapter relating to incidents occurring during this expedition are, when not otherwise indicated, from the text of Mitchell's published work Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia.]

Each man was given a firearm--rifle, carbine, musket or pistol--and a small case containing six cartridges which he was ordered always to wear about his waist.

Mitchell was taking no risk on the score of supplies:

We commenced with due regard to the importance of our stock of provisions on an interior journey, by so reducing the weight of our steel-yard, that a five months' stock should last nearly seven months. This arrangement was, however, a secret, known only to Burnett and myself.

They took with them a hundred sheep and five oxen for fresh food. Burnett was "overseer" under Stapylton, and was well experienced, having been on both of the previous expeditions.

At this camp of preparation they were visited by an aboriginal who had become friendly with the party on the second expedition. This was Piper, who joined the expedition and remained with it throughout the whole journey. While preparations were proceeding Mitchell, with a companion, visited the limestone caves at Oakey Creek finding there fossil bones. These will be mentioned again in the next chapter.

Mitchell has recorded his feelings as he set out on this, his third expedition:

We found the earth parched and bare, but, as we bounded over hill and dale, a fine cool breeze whispered through the open forest, and felt most refreshing after the hot winds of Sydney. Dr Johnson's Obidah was not more free from care on the morning of his journey than I was on this, the first morning of mine. It was also St. Patrick's Day and, in riding through the bush, I had leisure to recall past scenes and times connected with the anniversary. I remembered that exactly on that morning, twenty-four years before, I marched down the glacis of Elvas to the tune of "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning" as the sun rose over the beleaguered towers of Badajoz. Now, without any of the "pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war" I was proceeding on a service not very likely to be peaceful, for the natives here assured me that the myalls were coming up to meet us.

This last reference to anticipated native hostility may well be regarded with reserve as perhaps an afterthought, when writing his book for publication, to prepare the reader for the tragic event that occurred three months later and five hundred miles to the west.

From his point of departure at Boree Mitchell kept to the course of the Lachlan, noting the landmarks recorded by Oxley on his 1817 journey. He moved down Byrne's (now Boree) Creek to Toogong, then down Mandadgery Creek to Eugowra, passing and noting Mt. Murga, which he ascended.

The Lachlan was reached at Waagan, three miles east of Tonambil. The Lachlan was dry,

its waters were gone, except in a few small ponds in the very deepest part of its bed. Such was now the state of that river, down which my predecessor's boats had floated. I had, during the last winter, drawn my whaleboats 1,600 miles overland without finding a river where I could use them; whereas Mr Oxley had twice retired by nearly the same routes and in the same season of the year, from supposed inland seas.

They passed Corridgery (Mt. Amyot) on 28 March, Mulguthrie (Mt. Cunningham) on 29 March and reached Mt. Tilga (Hurd's Peak) at the junction of the Goobang and the Lachlan on 4 April. Thus they were in the vicinity of Forbes about 27 March and reached Condobolin on 4 April. On this section of the journey they had located the tree marked by Oxley on 17 May 1817 at the point where he had left the Lachlan. This tree was located near Warroo very close to Travelling Stock Reserve 27876. They had also caught some unusually large fish in "an extensive pond of muddy water" near Mt. Cunningham--this pond can be identified with reasonable probability as that which is marked on the map of the county of Cunningham as W.R. 388-23879. Here they were visited by two natives who had met them on the Bogan during the second expedition. (This part of the journey is shown on Map VI.)

At twenty-two miles west of Condobolin a native pointed out a small hill on the south side of the Lachlan where Oxley had camped just before he crossed that river on his homeward journey. This spot, now marked by a cairn of stones, is at the northern end of the Goobothery Range.

From near Condobolin Mitchell made a short journey to Oxley's Mt. Granard (now Boorathumbila: Boordombil on Mitchell's map). Mitchell made this comment on descending from Boorathumbila: "We descended, after I had completed my survey from a hill, which, perhaps, no white man will again ascend." There is now a trigonometrical survey cairn on this peak.

By 13 April, having passed Euabalong on 11 or 12 April, they had reached Lake Cargelligo (Cudjallagong)--which they found to be a backwater overflow from the Lachlan. At the time of Mitchell's visit it was almost dry. From here Mitchell visited Mt. Rossi of the Ural Range (Mitchell's Yerrarar of the Goulburn Range). The party moved on down the northern bank of the Lachlan to Gunniguldry, having crossed the Booberoi Creek, and, still moving along the north bank of the river, Mitchell noted Uabba Plain and the Lachlan Range (Oxley's Macquarie's Range) with its abrupt northern extremity on the river, Mt. Waabalong (Mt. Porteous).

At some point down the Lachlan the party was joined by

two intelligent native boys each being named Tommy. The "two Tommies" obtained new chronological surnames, being known in the party as Tommy Came-first and Tommy Came-last. The former had been told plainly to go back, upon which he was heard to say he should follow the party notwithstanding "Majy's" orders, as he could always find opossums in the trees. I was pleased with his independence on being told this, and allowed him to accompany the party, as well as his friend Tommy Came-last whom he had picked up somehow in the woods.

These boys remained with the party until the end of the expedition. At Lake Cargelligo Piper acquired a gin who accompanied him throughout the expedition.

When the party had reached North Marrowie (at Lane's Bridge), about eight miles north of Hillston, Mitchell had to make a decision. His instructions were to rejoin the Darling at the point where he had left it on the previous expedition (Menindee), and as the Lachlan was definitely trending south-west he was on this date (20 April) at the point on the Lachlan nearest to Menindee, which was almost due west about two hundred miles away.

In his own account he does not refer to his instructions but describes his problem thus:

I considered it necessary now to ascertain, if possible, and before the heavy part of our equipment moved further, whether the Lachlan actually joined the Murrumbidgee near the point where Mr Oxley saw its waters covering the country: or whether it pursued a course so much more to the westward as to have been taken for the Darling by Captain Sturt.

He therefore made a short reconnaissance westward towards Mt. Lookout (now Dareton) but went only as far as Marrowie Creek near North Marrowie head station. Finding this creek dry, and being assured by local natives that there was no water westward, he returned to camp. On his return he reviewed the position thus:

We had just fallen back from want of water: a circumstance likely to compel me to follow the Lachlan downwards, at least if it could be ascertained thus early, that this river could not possibly be the supposed Darling of Sturt.

Should I succeed in reaching the Lachlan at about sixty miles west of my camp, I might be satisfied that it was this river which Captain Sturt took for the Darling.

Whereas, should I find sufficient reason to believe that the Darling would join the Murray, I might continue my journey down the Lachlan until I reduced the distance across the Darling as much as the scarcity of water might render necessary.

So he again set out with five men and an aboriginal guide, and proceeding westward for forty-five miles, leaving Mt. Lookout to the north, reached the vicinity of Moolbong. As, however, he found no water he turned south-west, then south, then southeast looking for the Lachlan, and finding it ultimately just where it should be on a south-west course from the base camp. He regained the Lachlan a little north of Booligal--perhaps about eight miles--the party returning to the camp along the west bank of the river. At the point of contact near Booligal "I thought Mr Oxley's line of route might have passed near the spot where I then stood".

Reaching the base camp after five days' absence they found all well, except that the native Piper, diving into the waterhole to spear fish, brought up on his spear a human leg. It is interesting to note that wild cattle, which had escaped from the settled areas, had already penetrated thus far westward. Mitchell made a short journey to East Peak on the Lachlan Range and connected up by theodolite with the peaks previously visited.

Although this talk of Mitchell's about the Lachlan being Sturt's Darling may seem now a little specious and unconvincing it is important that an attempt should be made to understand his position. He knew from Oxley's account of the highlands to the north of Rossi and Euabalong, and from his own journey down the Bogan the previous year, that these highlands, extending as far north as Cobar and Canbelego, formed a watershed between the Bogan and the Darling; and he knew from Oxley's and his own observations as he moved down the Lachlan that that river was forced westward between the highlands to the north and those to the south. That the Lachlan might join the Darling was, as an hypothesis, not too improbable; in fact Joseph Furphy, writing many years later from his own knowledge of the country, said:

The Willandra Billabong which in moderately wet seasons relieves the Middle Lachlan of some superfluous water, and in epoch-making flood-times reluctantly debouches into the Lower Darling, divides the country between those rivers into two unequal parts.[10]

The whole party moved down the river, reaching on 5 May the extreme point of Oxley's journey: here they found marked trees. Mitchell carefully fixed the location of this spot by latitude and longitude which places it at a point on the river very close to Booligal. Mitchell dug round the tree for a bottle which had been left by Oxley but was informed by the aborigines that it had been broken by a child. The natives also informed Mitchell that three white men on horseback, who had "canoes" on the Murrumbidgee, had visited this part of the Lachlan after Oxley, and, after crossing it and going a little way beyond, had returned: this was Sturt, although Mitchell omits his name. So Booligal, a remote western point, had in the course of twenty years been visited by Oxley, Sturt, and Mitchell.

Mitchell was at this point assured by the local natives that the Lachlan joined the Murrumbidgee and that the Darling joined a large river into which the Murrumbidgee also flowed.

This information determined me to follow the course of the Lachlan, and in the event of its soon uniting with the Murrumbidgee to continue along the right bank of that river to its junction with the Murray: then to leave the bulk of our equipment, the carts and most of the cattle, and complete the survey of the Darling with a lighter party.

The party reached the vicinity of Oxley on 9 or 10 May after passing Lake Waljeers, and on 12 May reached the banks of the Murrumbidgee without having, in spite of a long search, located its junction with the Lachlan. Mitchell's verdict was:

The long course of the River Lachlan is in no part better defined than where it enters the basin of the Murrumbidgee. So far from terminating in a lagoon or uninhabitable marsh, the banks of the Lachlan, at fifty miles below the spot where Mr Oxley supposed he saw its termination as a
river, are backed on both sides by rising ground, until the course turns finally southward into the Murrumbidgee.

Two points should be noted: Mitchell did not locate the termination of the Lachlan: "we sought it in vain"; and he makes no reference to Sturt.

The first stage of the journey ended with the arrival of the party on the banks of the Murrumbidgee. For the whole of this journey Mitchell was crossing no new ground. Oxley and Sturt between them had preceded him. But he did achieve something valuable: by patiently climbing every peak, and taking angles, he did, as a good surveyor, plot the general features of the country.

To this section of the journey belongs an interesting incident. Near Booligal a native woman with a little girl about four years old joined the party. The woman acted as guide and, being able to understand Piper, also as interpreter. This woman (Turandurey) remained with the party for six months, leaving them at the Murrumbidgee on the return journey. The child (Ballandella) was actually taken back to Sydney by Mitchell to be educated under European conditions.

Also, when nearing the Murrumbidgee, Mitchell had the first signs of trouble. One of his men had fired at a native dog which had attacked the sheep: this dog belonged to a native who was acting as guide, and the native promptly left the party.

This section of the story may well conclude with Mitchell's lyrical praise of the red gum (Eucalyptus rostrata):

The scenery was highly picturesque at that part of the banks of the Lachlan, notwithstanding the dreary level of the naked plains back from them. The "yarra" grew here, as on the Darling, to a gigantic size, the height sometimes exceeding 100 feet; and its huge gnarled trunks, wild romantic formed branches often twisting in coils, shining white or light red bark, and dark masses of foliage, with consequent streaks of shadow below, frequently produced effects equal to the wildest forest scenery. The "yarra" is certainly a pleasing object, in various respects; its shining bark and lofty height inform the traveller of the distant probability of water, or at least of the bed of a river or lake. Often as I hurried along, did I take my last look with reluctance of scenes forming the most captivating studies.


Mitchell had now reached the Murrumbidgee at a point passed by Sturt in his boats.

Without being at all aware that I was approaching a river; I suddenly saw the water before me, and stood at last on the banks of the Murrumbidgee; and it really exceeded so much my expectations (surpassing far the Darling, and all the Australian rivers I had then seen) that I was at first inclined to think it could be nothing less than the Murray; which, like the Darling, might have been laid down too far to the west.

This comment is notable principally for the complete absence of any reference to Sturt's journey seven years earlier. Mitchell must have had available Sturt's published account of his journey, and while it is true that the map accompanying that account placed both the Darling at Bourke and the junction of the Lachlan with the Murrumbidgee too far to the west, the error in the case of the Lachlan was less than twelve minutes of longitude or less than fifteen miles, so that the text of Sturt's account could leave no doubt in Mitchell's mind that he had reached the Murrumbidgee and not the Murray.

At this point in the journey occurred further evidence of definite hostility from the aborigines. Consisting at first merely of an aggressive boldness it was soon to become more serious. Before describing the incidents on this section of the journey their route will be briefly traced. The party followed the Murrumbidgee down, passing the lakes near Penarie (Weromba). At this point Mitchell was informed that a very large lake (Quawingame) was on the left bank of the Lachlan. He did not verify this but included it in his published map. Although this lake does not exist it was repeated in successive official maps as late as 1933. It is possible that the natives from whom Mitchell received the information were speaking of Yanga Lake. Having passed Balranald on 16 May they crossed the base of the southern bend of the river near Waldaira. When they had reached the sharp bend in the Murrumbidgee where that river turns due south (about four miles north of Weinby) Mitchell decided, as there was abundant feed and water for the cattle, to leave Stapylton with eight trusty men, proceeding himself with fifteen men, two light carts, and one month's provisions, to the Darling. After being troubled by the Balumpla Lagoon, which they crossed several times, they reached the Murray on 23 May.

It was quite impossible to say on what part of the Murray, as laid down by Captain Sturt, we had arrived; and we were therefore obliged to feel our way as if we had been upon a river unexplored.

They reached the Benanee Creek and moved upwards along its course to Lake Benanee; then, to cut off the great southward bend, they left the Murray at Euston, rejoining it near Tapalin homestead. Here occurred the encounter with aborigines which will presently be described.

Still following the Murray they proceeded, camping one night on Bengallo Creek, until they came to the vicinity of Dareton. From this point they crossed to the Darling, proceeding up this stream: but Mitchell on 22 June decided to proceed no further.

The Murray, unlike the Darling, was a permanent river, and I thought it advisable to exhaust no more of my means in the survey of deserts, but rather employ them and the time still at my disposal, in exploring the sources of that river, according to my instructions, and in the hopes of discovering a better country. My anxiety about the safety of the depot brought me more speedily to this determination. To be in detached parties amongst a savage population, was perilous in proportion to the length of time we continued separate; and I did not feel warranted in exhausting all my means, in order to attain, by a circuitous route, the point where my survey ought to have commenced; while a second duty, for which the means now left were scarcely adequate, remained to be performed.

It is a little difficult to determine the precise point reached by Mitchell. It is probable that he did not get further than twenty miles north of the junction of the Darling with the Murray. He was then about 130 miles on an air-line from Menindee--perhaps double that distance if the river had been followed. He left the river at approximately the point at which Sturt first touched it eight years later. It was left for Eyre and Sturt to finish the task which Mitchell had twice failed to complete. Retracing his steps down the Darling he continued until he reached the Darling-Murray junction.

Both rivers next turned south-west, leaving a narrow tongue of land between...a bank of sand extended further, and on standing upon this and looking back, I recognized the view given in Captain Sturt's work and the adjacent localities described by him.

Sturt later commented on this:

Sir Thomas Mitchell was again sent into the interior. In due time he came to the disputed junction, which he tells us he recognized from its resemblance to a drawing in my first work. As I have since been on the spot, I am sorry to say that it is not at all like the place, because it obliges me to reject the only praise Sir Thomas Mitchell ever gave me.

It only shows how exceedingly useful such things are in books, for, it Sir Thomas Mitchell had not so recognized the view, he might have doubted whether that was really the junction of the Darling or not.

Fortunately, however, the Surveyor General was enabled to satisfy himself...A ray of light fell upon him, and he became convinced as I had been, of the identity of this stream with the Darling, and suddenly turning his back upon it, left the question as much in the dark as before.[11]

The drawing had been made by a friend in England, from Sturt's verbal description, Sturt being at that time practically blind.

This caustic comment illustrates the rivalry between these two contemporary explorers.

Before leaving the junction Mitchell buried a bottle at the foot of a marked tree "in case it might ever be necessary to look for us". He was very apprehensive of further trouble with the natives. This bottle was found by Hawdon on his overland journey in 1838.[12] Mitchell's record therein, dated 3 January 1836, stated that he was commencing his return journey, was surrounded by hostile natives, and was very anxious about the safety of his party at the base depot.

Mitchell returned to his base camp, passing and naming Mt. Lookout and Gol Gol Creek. He arrived back at the camp on 10 June.

Several minor incidents occurred during the period now under review. On 23 May Mitchell's own horse was kicked and its thigh broken so that it had to be destroyed. On 16 May a valuable Clydesdale horse was drowned in the Murrumbidgee, and, while crossing the Murray on 13 June, one of the bullocks was drowned. On 21 May the little aboriginal child Ballandella fell from a cart, and one of the wheels passing over her thigh broke the bone close to the pelvis. The limb was set and by 10 June the progress

of healing had been very satisfactory.

The principal feature of this stage of the journey was the clash with the aborigines in which several of the latter were killed. From the time when the party reached the Murrumbidgee until they began the return journey from Wentworth the natives were troublesome. At Lake Benanee (24 May) they met a large body of natives:

It will be readily understood with what caution we followed these natives when we discovered, almost as soon as we fell in with them, that they were actually our old enemies from the Darling! I had certainly heard, when still far up the Lachlan, that these people were coming down to fight us; but I little expected they were to be the first natives we should meet with on the Murray, at a distance of nearly two hundred miles from the scene of our former encounter.

Mitchell is here referring to the encounter at Menindee during the second expedition. He states that there was mutual recognition between the parties, and that night there were definite indications of hostility.

While crossing the base of the loop between Euston and Tapalin--near a hill named by Mitchell "Mt. Dispersion"--a climax was reached.

It now became necessary for me to determine, whether I was to allow the party under my charge to be perpetually subject to be cut off in detail, by waiting until these natives had actually attacked, and slain some of my people, or whether it was not my duty, in a war which not my party but these savages had virtually commenced, to anticipate the intended blow.

Mitchell therefore sent his overseer Burnett, with the aborigine Piper and half the party, into the scrub--this was an ambush, but it was at once discovered by the natives; and, one of Mitchell's party "inconsiderately discharging his carbine", they all began firing, and the natives fled. The result, "if we may credit the information of Piper", but otherwise quite unverified, was that seven of the aborigines were shot.

This incident was, later, the subject of official enquiry: Mitchell's account written long afterwards, and after he had been required to justify this occurrence, is a little unconvincing. In 1838 he wrote of it:

I was indeed satisfied that this collision had been brought about in the most providential manner; for it is probable, that, from my regard for the aborigines, I might otherwise have postponed giving orders to fire, longer than might have been consistent with the safety of my men. Such was the fate of the barbarians who, a year before, had commenced hostilities by attacking treacherously a small body of strangers which, had it been sent from heaven, could not have done more to minister to their wants than it did then, nor endured more for the sake of peace and goodwill. The men had then been compelled to fire in their own defence, and at the risk of my displeasure. The hostility of these savages had also prevented me from dividing my party, and obliged me to retire from the Darling sooner than I might otherwise have done. They had boastingly invaded the haunts of other tribes, more peaceably disposed than themselves, for the avowed purpose of meeting and attacking us.

The natives, although threatening and troublesome, had actually made no attack. Another point of interest is that friendly natives had informed Piper that those natives who had, at Benanee, been recognized as those who had attacked Mitchell at Menindee, were actually "the same tribe which intended to kill another white man (Captain Sturt) in a canoe at the junction of the rivers lower down". There is a distance of about two hundred miles between Menindee and Wentworth.

Although there were occasional scares during the rest of this journey Mitchell and his party had no further real trouble throughout the whole journey to the Darling and back. It is a little difficult to accept without some reserve the alleged identity of these natives with those who had previously attacked Sturt at Wentworth and Mitchell at Menindee.

Mitchell now turned to his next task:

We had now got through the most unpromising part of our task. We had penetrated the Australian Hesperides--although the golden fruit was still to be sought. We had accomplished so much, however, with only half the party, that nothing seemed impossible with the whole; and to trace the Murray upwards and explore the unknown regions beyond it was a charming undertaking, when we had at length bid adieu, for ever, to the dreary banks of the Darling.

He was about to move into Australia Felix.

FROM OXLEY TO THE GLENELG (13 June to 20 August)

On 13 June all the party safely crossed the Murray about one mile west of the Murrumbidgee junction. They followed the southern bank of the Murray upstream until, on 20 June, they reached the junction of the Loddon and the Murray (Map VII): Mitchell named the isolated hill here Swan Hill, being disturbed throughout the night by the noise of the swans. Soon after leaving Swan Hill the two Tommies found "a very curious and rare little quadruped" which they had never seen before: this was later named Dipus mitchellii (see later reference).

Describing the country through which they had passed Mitchell says:

The soil in these grassy flats was of the richest description: indeed the whole of the country covered by reeds, seemed capable of being converted into good wheat land, and of being easily irrigated, at any time, by the river.

Passing by the northern shore of Lake Boga they again reached the Loddon and followed it upwards in a general south-easterly direction; they soon left it, and, passing through the Lake Charm series of lakes, they reached, on 24 June, the present site of Kerang. From here they moved eastwards to Pyramid Hill Creek (Moonlight Creek), from which they moved to Mt. Hope on 28 June. From the peak of Mt. Hope Mitchell saw Pyramid Hill, a little more than five miles away, and various higher hills to the south-west.

At this point Mitchell broke away from his instructions to follow the Murray upwards:

The country which I had seen this day beyond Mount Hope was too inviting to be left behind us unexplored; and I therefore determined to turn into it without further delay.

As he said in a paper read (1837) before the Royal Geographical Society in London:

After surmounting the barriers of parched deserts and hostile barbarians I had at length the satisfaction of overlooking from a pyramid of granite a much better country. It was no longer my hopeless task, as on the banks of the Darling to describe stagnation and delineate vacancy.

MAP VII. Map showing part of Mitchell's journey into "Australia Felix": from Swan Hill to Mt. Arapiles

He moved south-west, climbing Pyramid Hill, from the top of which

the view was exceedingly beautiful over the surrounding plains. A land so inviting and still without inhabitants! As I stood, the first European intruder on the sublime solitude of these verdant plains, as yet untouched by flocks or herds I felt conscious of being the harbinger of mighty changes; and that our steps would soon be followed by the men and animals for which it seemed to have been prepared.

From Pyramid Hill proceeding south-west over open country near Jarklin, they crossed the Loddon* and continued southwesterly passing just to the south-east of Korong Vale and Wedderburn. The Loddon being in flood it was necessary to use the boats. The great assistance given by the aborigines who were with the party moved Mitchell at this point to comment:

[* Mitchell had crossed the modern Loddon, without naming it, as he was moving eastward from Swan Hill, and crossed it again on his south-westward course from Pyramid Hill. At this second crossing he named the stream the Yarrayne. Later he gave the name Loddon to one of the tributaries of the Avoca; but later, with more accurate knowledge, the name Loddon was officially transferred to Mitchell's Yarrayne.

This was a very busy day for the whole party--black and white; I cannot fairly say savage and civilized, for in most of our difficulties by flood and field, the intelligence and skill of our sable friends made the "white-fellows" appear rather stupid. They could read traces on the earth, climb trees, or dive into the water, better than the ablest of us. In tracing lost cattle, speaking to the wild natives, hunting, or diving, Piper was the most accomplished man in the camp.]

Mitchell climbed Mt. Korong (to which Mitchell gave the aboriginal name Barrabungale). The party proceeded down Fenton's Creek and came to the Avoca in the region of Logan. At this point in his narrative Mitchell is at variance with modern names: he here states that he named this stream the Loddon. The latitude and longitude given by Mitchell make it reasonably certain that here he was on the Avoca and not the modern Loddon. Then they passed Kooreh and Carapooee, to reach the Avon at Beazley's Bridge. Here Mitchell is again confused. On 10 July they crossed "a deep creek running westward which I named the Avoca" but next day they "crossed a deep stream running westward" and on the same day "a fine stream flowing also westward". It seems reasonably certain that all these streams were branches of the Avon, and that the Avoca was, as stated above, the stream he had named the Loddon. He left the party encamped at a point near Callawadda and, three miles from the camp, they crossed Richardson's Creek. It is evident that they were throughout this time in the Avon basin.

Now Mitchell, leaving the party in camp, made a short journey to the Grampians, crossing the plain country east of the range to the foot of Mt. William. Climbing to the summit they found the clouds so low that they could see nothing. Camping all night under the most miserable conditions with an unsatisfactory fire and without food

we succeeded in keeping the fire alive, although while twigs were blown into red heat at one end, icicles remained at the other, even within a few inches of the flame.

Even though the morning was clear the low mist prevented any observation of the surrounding country although "at sunrise the clouds left the summit for a short time and unveiled a scene of amazing grandeur".

This section of the journey from Oxley to the Grampians had been marked by only one special incident. Near Lake Boga the native Piper, being attacked by the local aborigines, had shot and killed one of them. In the neighbourhood of Wedderburn the native woman Turandurey wished to return with the child Ballandella to her own country. Piper seems to have set out to make her uneasy.

Her child, to whom she appeared devotedly attached, was fast recovering the use of its broken limb; and the mother seemed uneasy under an apprehension that I wanted to deprive her of this child. I certainly had always wished to take back with me to Sydney an aboriginal child, with the intention of ascertaining what might be the effect of education upon one of that race. This little savage, who at first would prefer a snake or lizard to a piece of bread, had become so far civilized at length as to prefer bread; and it began to cry bitterly on leaving us. The mother, however, thought nothing of swimming, even at that season, across the broad waters of the Murray, as she should be obliged to do, pushing the child before her, floating on a piece of bark.

She started off, but returned three days later, having been frightened by some aborigines she had met.

Speaking of the country around Glenorchy Mitchell said:

The scenery around these hills, the excellent quality of the soil, the abundance of water and verdure contrasted strangely with the circumstance of their lying waste and unoccupied. It was evident that the reign of solitude in these beautiful vales was near a close.

From their camp near Richardson's Creek they moved westward towards Mt. Zero, camping on the Wimmera near Wal Wal. Here Mitchell recorded that the Wimmera collected the waters of all the streams they had crossed on their way to Mt. William except Richardson's Creek. This was good observation on his part for the first time across the country. Skirting Mt. Zero, Mitchell crossed, and named, the Mackenzie and Norton Rivers and camped near Mt. Arapiles (Plate VIII), from the summit of which numerous lakes were visible. Mitchell named the Mitre Lake and the Mitre Rock. When he was just south of Mt. Arapiles, he made an inaccurate deduction:

Upon the whole, I think that the estuary of the Wimmera will most probably be found either between Cape Bernouilli and Cape Jaffa, or at some of the sandy inlets laid down by Captain Flinders...At all events I here abandoned the pursuit of that river, and determined to turn towards the south-west that we might ascertain what streams fell in that direction from the Grampians and also the nature of the country between these mountains and the shores of the Southern Ocean.

From their base near Mt. Arapiles, a little north-west of Noradjuha, they moved southwards along the eastern shore of White Lake (Map VIII).

Every day we passed over land which for natural beauty and fertility could scarcely be surpassed. Stately trees and majestic mountains adorned the ever-varying scenery of this region, the most southern of all Australia and the best.

MAP VIII. Map showing Mitchell's entry into the Glenelg River region and the beginning of his return journey on the third expedition

Then on 31 July, having been nine days on the way from Mt. Arapiles, they found the Glenelg River at a point very close to Harrow, and proceeded thence southward keeping to the high land past Chetwynd and Wando Bridge to the junction of the Wannon and Glenelg Rivers near Casterton--crossing the Wannon near Sandford.

Almost from the time of leaving Mt. Arapiles the party had had trouble with soft and yielding ground making the transport of the wagons very difficult. This trouble increased as they went south, especially in the region between Sandford and Dartmoor. On 15 August they reached a little river "which I named the Stokes in memory of a brother officer who fell at Badajoz". They arrived at the Crawford River on 17 August: here Mitchell established a base camp on a knoll between the Crawford and the Glenelg about half a mile from the Glenelg.

I left with Mr Stapylton instructions, that the men under his charge should move up to, and occupy the round point of the hill, a position which I named Fort O'Hare, in memory of a truly brave soldier, my commanding officer, who fell at Badajoz in leading the forlorn hope of the Light Division to the storm.

Leaving eight men with Stapylton in camp, Mitchell, with sixteen men, launched the two boats on the Glenelg, expecting to find it discharging into Portland Bay. On the river as they rowed downstream were numerous swans, ducks, and platypuses. Having embarked on 18 August they reached the sea on 20 August.

Mitchell identified Mt. Gambier, Capes Northumberland and Bridgewater, named the great bay Discovery Bay and the river the Glenelg, after the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The party re-embarked, reaching the base camp at Fort O'Hare on 22 August.

For the latter part of the journey from Oxley to the Glenelg, because 'of continued rain, soft and swampy ground delayed them considerably: on some days they advanced only one or two miles. Aborigines were occasionally met but they were neither numerous nor troublesome, beyond a tendency to steal. Between White Lake and the Glenelg, however, one of the men fired at and wounded a native in the arm. His defence was that Piper had told him unless he fired he would be instantly speared. It is to be noted that this half-civilized aborigine from Bathurst played a prominent part whenever an aborigine was wounded by any of the party. On several occasions they were delayed by some of the bullocks straying because of carelessness on the part of the night watch.

FROM THE GLENELG TO MACEDON (24 August to 30 September)

Leaving Fort O'Hare and crossing the Crawford to the south bank, they proceeded eastward along the course of that river. When north of Mt. Eckersley Mitchell, leaving the main party, made a reconnaissance journey southward to examine Portland Bay. Moving to Mt. Eckersley, then to the Fitzroy River, and across the Surry River, they reached the sea on 29 August. Here the aborigine who was with Mitchell, Tommy Came-last, discovered the fresh tracks of cattle and the shoe-marks of a white man: also portions of tobacco pipes, and a glass bottle without a neck.

That whaling vessels occasionally touched here, I was aware; but how cattle could have been brought here I did not understand. Proceeding round the bay I was struck with the resemblance to houses that some supposed grey rocks under the grassy cliffs presented; and while I directed my glass towards them my servant Brown said he saw a brig at anchor; a fact of which I was soon convinced, and also that the grey rocks were in reality wooden houses. We ascended the cliffs near the wooden houses, which proved to be some deserted sheds of whalers. One shot was heard as we drew near them, and another on our ascending the rocks. I then became somewhat apprehensive that the parties might either be, or suppose us to be, bushrangers, and to prevent if possible some such awkward mistake, I ordered a man to fire a gun and the bugle to be sounded; but on reaching the higher ground, we discovered not only a beaten path, but the track of two carts, and while we were following the latter, a man came towards us from the face of the cliffs. He informed me that the vessel at anchor was the Elizabeth of Launceston, and that just round the point there was a considerable farming establishment, belonging to Messrs Henty, who were then at the house. It occurred to me that I might there procure a small additional supply of provisions, especially of flour, as my men were on very reduced rations. I, therefore, approached the house, and was kindly received and entertained by the Messrs Henty, who as I learnt had been established there during upwards of two years. A good garden stocked with abundance of vegetables already smiled on Portland Bay...I was informed that a communication was regularly kept up with Van Diemen's Land by means of vessels from Launceston. Messrs Henty were importing sheep and cattle as fast as vessels could bring them over, and the numerous whalers touching at or fishing on the coast were found to be good customers for farm produce and whatever else could be spared from the establishment.

I proceeded with the theodolite to a height near Cape Nelson, and from it I intersected that cape and also Cape Bridgewater, Cape Sir William Grant and also the islands to the eastward. I named a high hill Mount Kincaid after my old and esteemed friend of Peninsular recollections. Returning to Portland Bay I then obtained a good observation on the sun's meridian altitude.

I was accommodated with a small supply of flour by Messrs Henty, who having been themselves on short allowance were awaiting the arrival of a vessel then due two weeks. They also supplied us with as many vegetables as the men could carry away on their horses.

A record of this dramatic episode is also available from the diaries of the Henty brothers. Edward Henty who was, at the time of Mitchell's arrival, seven miles away, returned home to find his brother Frank entertaining Mitchell and his party, who "might have been taken for bushrangers and had I been at home I should certainly have planted the swivel* indoors". Edward Henty records in his diary that Mitchell "had not the most distant thought of our being there and was surprised to find Englishmen in that part of the world". He recorded their movements on the following day:

Self and Frank rode out to Cape Nelson with Major Mitchell to get bearings of Portland Bay, Julia Percy Isles, Cape Bridgewater: the morning was dull which prevented our seeing Cape Bridgewater, he got bearings of all the other points and seemed much pleased with our attention: we returned home in time to take the sun; he dined with us at one, and left at two, to join his party: we rode several miles with him: we supplied him with 340 lbs. of flour--all we could spare--part of a case of gin, bag of broccoli, onions, a sample of our potatoes, etc.[13]
[* Small brass cannon.]

Francis Henty reviewed this incident long afterwards in a speech delivered on the fiftieth anniversary of the landing of his brother at Portland:

It was in the last week of August 1836 that Major Mitchell first made his appearance at our house at Portland during my brother's absence a few miles away settling a shepherd in a hut with a flock of sheep. Of course we were much surprised and taken aback and could think of nothing but bushrangers, knowing that at this time there could be no one settled nearer to us than where Melbourne now stands; but however I was soon undeceived in the matter as my cook was an old Sydney man and recognized Major Mitchell as the Surveyor General of New South Wales. Whatever he may have pretended to have thought we were, he certainly was very chary of allowing me to be polite to him for he declined to allow me to take his horse for him or his coat; after entering the house his first exclamation was "Ah! windows too in the bush, I declarer Well, we were as polite and hospitable to him as our means permitted, and after dinner he became much more affable and friendly, and as we had no spare bed but a cot we gave him that to sleep in, and I can assure you gentlemen he did not require rocking to sleep.[14]

The news of Mitchell's arrival at Portland Bay travelled by the Henty vessels to Launceston, and from there soon reached Sydney. In the Sydney Gazette (6 October 1836) appeared this notice:

We are glad to find from the official announcement of the circumstance that Major Mitchell and his party have been heard of, all well, at Portland Bay on their way home. We have no doubt Major Mitchell will visit Port Phillip. From his appearance on the south coast we are led to suppose that the object of his journey, the course of the Darling, has been fully determined by him, and that that river has been found to join the Murray as originally conjectured by Captain Sturt.

Mitchell now moved along the shore of Portland Bay to the mouth of the Surry, where he ascended and named Mt. Clay. Continuing by way of the Fitzroy and Mt. Eckersley,* he joined the main party again on 31 August.

[* At this stage in his journey Mitchell was liberal in his use of names connected with the Peninsular War: Clay, Eckersley, Freeth, Napier, are some examples.]

In the vicinity of Condah the swamps were giving so much trouble, especially with the heavy boat carriage, that Mitchell decided to abandon the larger boat and proceed with only the smaller one, shortening the boat carriage. The larger boat was left, keel upwards, in the last swamp which had given trouble. From the top of Mt. Napier, to which he made a side journey, Mitchell saw, and named, Mt. Rouse and Lake Linlithgow. He also named the ranges east of the Grampians the Pyrenees: he had already named the western group the Victoria Range.

Following fairly closely the present road past Branxholme they proceeded north and east through Hamilton, reaching the vicinity of Dunkeld at the foot of Mt. Sturgeon on 13 September. Mitchell ascended Mt. Abrupt, completing his angles of this region and defining the outlines of the watersheds of the Glenelg, Wannon, and Wimmera Rivers. Moving on eastwards they came to Lake Repose. At this point the cattle had become so weak from endless dragging the carts out of bogs that Mitchell decided they could not go much further without a long rest.

Their provisions, however, were getting low and the time had arrived when Mitchell should, by his programme, have been back in Sydney. He decided to leave most of the party in camp at Lake Repose, which is some six miles south-east of Dunkeld, with two months' provisions: they were to rest for two weeks and then proceed. Meanwhile he was to go ahead with a small party and send back a supply of provisions and the boat to await the second party on the banks of the Murray. Stapylton was in control of the main party. '

Of the natives in our party it was arranged amongst themselves that Tommy Came-first and the widow, who most required a rest having sore feet, should remain with Mr Stapylton, and that Piper and Tommy Came-last should accompany me. When about to set out I observed that the widow Turandurey, who was to remain with Mr Stapylton's party and the carts, was marked with white round the eyes (the natives' fashion of mourning) and that the face of her child Ballandella was whitened also. This poor woman, who had cheerfully carried the child on her back, when we offered to carry both on the carts and who was as careful and affectionate as any mother could be, had at length determined to entrust to me the care of this infant. I was gratified with such proof of the mother's confidence in us, but I should have been less willing to take charge of her child had I not been aware of the wretched state of slavery to which the native females are doomed. I felt additional interest in this poor child from the circumstance of her having suffered so much by the accident that befell her while with our party, and which had not prevented her from now preferring our mode of living so much that I believe the mother at length despaired of being ever able to initiate her thoroughly in the mysteries of killing and eating snakes, lizards, rats, and similar food. The widow had been long enough with us to be sensible how much more her sex was respected by civilized men than savages, and, as I conceived, it was with such sentiments that she committed her child to my charge, under the immediate care, however, of Piper's gin.

Mitchell moved north-eastwards with the advance party, passing to the west of Mt. Staveley through Glen Thompson and thence over open plains which aroused Mitchell's enthusiasm, "certainly a land more favourable for colonization could not be found", and passing Tatyoon came to Middle Creek; then through Chute, Lexton, and south of Talbot to Newstead: they had crossed the Dividing Range near Lexton. It is interesting to note that near Middle Creek Mitchell saw fresh tracks of several bullocks: " a very extraordinary circumstance in that situation".

MAP IX. Map showing the last stage of the third expedition: Mitchell's route from Castlemaine to the Murrumbidgee

From Newstead, continuing north-easterly they passed the site of Castlemaine on 28 September, and came to Expedition Pass, which is at Faraday on the road between Chewton and Sutton Grange about six miles east of Castlemaine (Map IX). From there while awaiting the repair of the boat carriage Mitchell decided to pay a flying visit to Mt. Macedon, thirty miles to the south. From the summit, on 30 September:

I at length recognized Port Phillip and the intervening country round it. At the vast distance I could trace no signs of life, although at the highest northern point of the bay I saw a mass of white objects which might have been tents or vessels. I gave the mountain on which I stood the name of Mount Macedon with reference to that of Port Phillip.

This is a rather inappropriate association of names. Mitchell could hardly have been ignorant of the real origin of the name Port Phillip. Later, in a letter to Surveyor Davidson (6 February 1852), he identified Mt. Alexander as his Mt. Byng.[15]

Having returned to camp and finding the boat carriage repaired, Mitchell resumed his journey on 3 October. In this section of the journey between the Glenelg and Macedon there had been minor incidents of interest. The aborigines occasionally gave trouble:

Smoke arose from many parts of the country but we could now look on such fires with indifference, so harmless were these natives, compared with those on the Darling.

Near Lake Linlithgow, however, Piper being angry with two local aborigines threw his tomahawk at one of them--for which he was rebuked "in the strongest terms" by Mitchell. Near Mt. Napier two bullocks were lost while crossing a boggy stream.

From the time of leaving Lake Repose Mitchell adopted the practice of burying messages for Stapylton, who would follow Mitchell's actual tracks. He used the unusual method of poking a hole in the ground with a stick and dropping in the paper "rolled like a cigar" containing the message. The location of the message was indicated by suitable markings.

FROM MT. MACEDON TO SYDNEY (3 October to 3 November 1836)

Continuing their journey north-eastwards they crossed a river which Mitchell named the Campaspe--this crossing was at Redesdale. Campaspe was the wife of Alexander; Mitchell was keeping to the classic mood. From Redesdale the course was through Argyle just south of Heathcote, across Major's Creek, reaching the Goulburn on 8 October at Deegay Ponds, later appropriately named Mitchellstown.

At the Deegay Ponds the aborigines gave trouble: "Piper, who at first seemed much disposed to make friends of these people...was now going about sword in hand" and Mitchell resorted to theatrical methods to frighten the natives away.

Having crossed the Goulburn Mitchell buried instructions to Stapylton to await the boat there, instead of on the Murray. From this point Mitchell passed to Nagambie, then north-east till he met the present course of the Hume Highway at Violet Town on 11 October. Benalla was reached on 13 October. In crossing the Broken River James Taylor, one of the party, tried to swim his horse over the river and was drowned. On each of his three expeditions Mitchell had lost at least one man of his party.

Lady Franklin on her overland journey in 1839 recorded that she saw Taylor's name cut into a tree at the site of this tragedy.*

[* Diary of a Journey from Port Phillip to Sydney, 1839 (15 April).]

On 15 October they reached the junction of the King and Ovens Rivers at Wangaratta and, still following the line of the Hume Highway to near Chiltern, Mitchell there turned north passing to the east of Rutherglen to cross the Murray at How-long. They reached the Murray on 17 October.

Mitchell, never very generous with praise of other explorers, states that the map by Hume and Hovell of the region around Wangaratta was "wonderfully correct", although he was at least fourteen miles west of their track.[16] After they had crossed the Murray with much difficulty three men volunteered to go back to the Goulburn and build rafts for Stapylton, so that it would be unnecessary to send the boat back all that distance, as Mitchell had promised to do in his buried message to Stapylton. The boat was therefore sunk in a swamp and suitable instructions sent to Stapylton by the men--A. McKean, J. Douglas, C. King, and Tommy Came-last. Leaving the Murray, Mitchell passed the swamps north of Balldale, and Goombargana Hill (Mt. Trafalgar), then in a general north-easterly direction to the west of Culcairn and Henty, and to the east of The Rock, they came finally to the valley of Kyeamba Creek, and reached the Murrumbidgee at Mr Thompson's station near Oura. Before reaching Thompson's, rations had been exhausted.

Symptoms of famine now began to show themselves in the sullenness of some of the men, and I most reluctantly allowed them to kill one of our poor working animals which was accordingly shot and divided amongst the party. Little Ballandella had been taken great care of by Mrs Piper, and was now feasted with milk and seemed quite happy.

They had arrived at the Murrumbidgee on 24 October. From Thompson's station Mitchell proceeded to Sydney on horseback, leaving the carts to follow.

Brightly shone the sun, the sky was dressed in blue and gold, and "the fields were full of star-like flowers, and overgrown with joy" on the first day of my ride homeward along the green banks of the Murrumbidgee. Seven months had elapsed since I had seen either a road or a bridge, although during that time I had travelled over two thousand four hundred miles. Right glad was I, like Gilpin's horse, "at length to miss the lumber of the wheels"--the boats, carts, specimens, and last, but not least, Kater's compasses. No care had I now whether my single step was east or north-east, nor about the length of my day's journey--nor the hills and dales crossed, as to their true situation, names or number--or where I should encamp. To be free from such cares seemed heaven itself, and I rode on without the slightest thought about where I should pass the night, quite sure that some friendly hut or house would receive me, and afford snugger shelter and better fare than I had seen for many a day.

He spent the first night at James Macarthur's station at Nangus and the next night at Henry O'Brien's at Jugiong. Passing through Yass and declining Cornelius O'Brien's invitation, he stayed the night at The Gap, then on to stay with Captain Rossi at Goulburn. Proceeding to Sydney by the established route he arrived on 3 November

and had the happiness, on terminating this long journey, to find that all the members of my family were well, although they had been much alarmed by reports of my death, and the destruction of my party, by the savage natives of the interior.

They had, however, known a month before of his safe arrival at Portland.

Reviewing the results of this long journey, which had lasted from March to the end of October 1836, Mitchell praised the country south of the Murray:

In returning, over flowery plains and green hills, fanned by the breezes of early spring, I named this region Australia Felix, the better to distinguish it from the parched deserts of the interior country, where we had wandered so unprofitably, and so long.

He visualized a new colony in that region planned from the commencement and steadily built up according to this plan. Also he drew attention to the market for cattle and sheep presented by the new colony of South Australia founded actually whilst he was on this expedition: he pointed out that by following "the direct line of road already traced by my wheels along the right banks of the Rivers Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, and Murray" herds might be driven to Adelaide with available water all the way.

He did not foresee that enterprising settlers would have pushed far into Victoria, and cattle would have been overlanded to Adelaide even before his book describing this journey, and making these suggestions, had been published in England; although those who were overlanding cattle had not followed his route.

Stapylton arrived at Guy's station on the Murrumbidgee close to Gundagai on 7 November, having had a "most prosperous" journey from Lake Repose. He had found all of Mitchell's letters of instruction buried, as already described, in the centre of a cross cut in the turf. He reported that the native woman Turandurey

has grown enormously fat, and to the best of my belief, no improprieties with her as a female have ever taken place. She was married last night to King Joey and she proceeds with him to her friends.[17]

This King Joey was a Murrumbidgee native.

Stapylton as a surveyor had located the point of arrival on the Murrumbidgee in relation to the mouth of the Tumut River, which he had previously surveyed.

The position of this river in relation to previous surveys being known, it was possible for Mitchell to check the accuracy of his mapping throughout the whole seven months. He established that he was incorrect by one and three-quarter miles--which, if true, was good surveying under the conditions. of the party all enjoyed the triumph of their return: they were all suitably rewarded, the convicts receiving pardons, conditional pardons, or tickets-of-leave according to their status: some received in addition small cash gratuities.

Overseer Burnett afterwards became the keeper of the toll-gate at Picton.[18] As for the natives:

Piper seemed to relish his share of triumph most, and certainly he well deserved the kindness he met with on all sides. I clothed him in my own red coat and I gave him also a cocked hat and feather which had once belonged to General Darling. His portrait, thus arrayed, soon appeared in the print shops; an ingenious artist (Mr Fernyhough having drawn his likeness very accurately.

Piper was just the sort of man to enjoy superlatively, all his newly acquired consequence. He carried his head high, for everybody knew him and not a few gave him money. With these donations he purchased silk handkerchiefs, and wore them in his breast--gowns for his gins, for he had two--and, to his great credit, he abstained from any indulgence in intoxication, looking down on those specimens of his race who lead a gipsy life about Sydney.

He returned to Bathurst in charge of Cunningham's murderer, Bureemal, who was being returned to his own tribe. Mitchell had provided him with a brass plate inscribed "Conqueror of the Interior": but, as will be seen, he proved very unsatisfactory on Mitchell's fourth expedition in 1845.

The two Tommies still remained to be provided for, and they were both desirous of accompanying me to England. I had seriously intended to take one with me, but so docile and so much attached to my service were both these youths, that I felt much difficulty in choosing between them. Meanwhile they remained at Sydney while official cares and troubles so thickened about me that I at length abandoned my intention, however reluctantly, and when they were about to return, at last, to their own country, I gave to each what clothes I could spare, and they both shed tears when they left my house. They were to travel through the colony under the protection of Charles Hammond, one of my steadiest men, who, having obtained his freedom in reward for his services with me, was proceeding towards Bathurst.

The little Ballandella, child of the widow, was a welcome stranger to my children, among whom she remained and seemed to adopt the habits of domestic life, evincing a degree of aptness which promised very favourably. The great expense of the passage home of a large family obliged me at last to leave her at Sydney under the care of my friend Dr Nicholson who kindly undertook the superintendence of her education during my absence in England.

My experiment with the little native girl will be useful, I trust, in developing hereafter the mental energies of the Australian aborigines.

While in England two years later Mitchell was advised that she was reading as well as any white child of her age: the ultimate issue of this experiment is unknown.

On this prolonged journey, while Mitchell had not discovered the existence, he had determined the nature, of the extensive region between the Murray and the sea to the south. He had established that there was an immense area of extremely fertile country. Although he had really disobeyed his instructions to return to the settled areas along the south bank of the Murray, he had actually given a large measure of fulfilment to Bourke's prophecy that the general feature and character of the vast extent of country contained within the course of the Murrumbidgee and the sea from Lake Alexandrina by Wilson's Promontory and Cape Howe to the 35th parallel of latitude on the eastern coast of New Holland would be in a great measure finally determined by this expedition.[19]

This was true: but it has been recorded by Lang that during 1834 and 1835 there had been a great migration from Tasmania to Victoria as a result of which "before Sir Thomas Mitchell had reached Australia Felix at all" there were two hundred persons with thirty thousand sheep and numerous cattle and horses, actually settled to the westward of Melbourne and Geelong.[20] Mitchell's discoveries, therefore, were only a continuation to the westward of country already in process of settlement or occupation.

Governor Gipps, much later, in a despatch to Secretary of State Russell (28 September 1840) said:

The long and expensive journeys of Sir Thomas Mitchell in the years 1835 to 1836 though highly interesting led to no discoveries which could be turned to profit, with the exception perhaps of the fertile land of Australia Felix which would surely have been reached by the ordinary advance of our graziers even though he had never visited it.[21]

Bourke, however, in reporting Mitchell's return from this long journey, commended him warmly. He observed that Mitchell had established the correctness of the surmise of Captain Sturt that the Darling ran into the Murray (which, in reality, he had not), and that he had gone over and would be able to lay down and describe a very large extent of a rich and well-watered country, deserving "as he thinks" the name of Australia Felix. He added that copies of the journals and routes of this and the former expedition would be forwarded to his Lordship as soon as they were received from Mitchell.[22]

Mitchell's journey had one unexpected result. His party being numerous, and his drays heavily laden, a deeply cut track was made in the virgin soil and was plainly visible for many years: this became known as "the Major's line" and formed, as recorded by one early settler, the boundary of a number of the properties taken up by squatters: "on our own and our neighbour's runs it formed the boundary of one entire side."[23]

The Sydney Gazette of 6 October 1836, which has already been cited as publishing the news of Mitchell's safe arrival at Portland, made, in the same notice, the following comments:

We expect that the present expedition of the Surveyor General will be the last required in the southern part of New South Wales...As the theories of an inland sea, and of a north-west outlet for our western waters have been completely overturned by the discoveries of Sturt and Mitchell: towards the north lie the sources of future fame. We suggest that the next expedition of discovery should take up its labours at the Karaula or Darling.

What a field for speculation and conjecture will the discovery of a strange river create--the old hypothesis of a Mediterranean Sea or a northwest outlet will be revived and will incite adventurous science to honourable toil for the determination of either or both questions.

Mitchell found that, with all the glory of his great discovery, he had to face an official enquiry into the killing of aborigines at Mt. Dispersion.

Upon his arrival at the Murrumbidgee on the return journey he had prepared for the Governor a report (24 October 1836) upon the results of the expedition. Upon receiving this report, with its dramatic news of a large area of fertile country, Bourke caused the report to be printed as a supplement to the Government Gazette. But, as he duly informed Glenelg, he omitted from the published report all reference to the encounter with the aborigines at Mt. Dispersion.

The mention made by Major Mitchell of this transaction in his report is so abrupt, and at the same time so alarming, as to have induced me to omit it in printing the document.

I informed him of my intention to do so, and, at the same time, that the matter must undergo an investigation before the Executive Council upon the arrival of his party at Sydney.[24]

An enquiry was therefore held and the findings of the Executive Council were published in the Government Gazette, 21 January 1837. It is appropriate to quote first the relevant clause from the instructions given to Mitchell before the expedition:

That in your intercourse with the aboriginal inhabitants you are to endeavour by every possible means to conciliate their goodwill...and in the event of any hostile demonstration on their part the utmost forbearance is to be shown by all persons composing the expedition, nor is the use of firearms or force of any kind to be resorted to unless the safety of the party should absolutely require it.[25]

This was the paragraph in Mitchell's report which disturbed the Governor:

On the following day we were compelled to make a detour by an anabranch of this river, and thus came upon a fine lake full sixteen miles in circumference.

It was swarming with natives and the alarm of our arrival was then resounding along its western shores. I was not a little surprised to find on their approaching our party that these were our old adversaries from the Darling at a distance of nearly two hundred miles from their usual haunts and come across (as I was afterwards told) to fight us. At all events we could not have met them under less favourable circumstances; for whereas I intended to have avoided that part of the Darling where we had formerly seen these treacherous savages we had them already about us on the very outset of my journey down the Murray and near my depot.

Their system of warfare was to follow us, being ready to pick up any stragglers and to gather in our rear as we went on, the whole savage population on the banks of the rivers.

Under such circumstances it appeared to me desirable to draw them after us first to a greater distance from the depot camp and then turn and attack them with as much effect as we could.

When we left Lake Benanee they followed us carrying bundles of spears, and after two days' journey the numbers in our rear amounted to about one hundred and eighty.

On the morning of 27 May they were following us closely along the river bank with tumultuous shouting, and our own safety and further progress evidently depended on our attacking them forthwith. But it was difficult to come at such enemies hovering in our rear with the lynx-eyed vigilance of savages. I succeeded, however, by sending back a party of volunteers through the scrub to take them in the flank while I halted the rest of the party suddenly beyond a hill to which the savages were likely to follow our track.

Attacked simultaneously by both parties the whole betook themselves to the river, my men pursuing them and shooting as many as they could. Numbers were shot swimming across the Murray, and some even after they had reached the opposite shore as they descended the bank.

Amongst those shot in the water was the chief (recognized by a particular kind of cloak he wore, which floated after he went down).

Thus in a short time the usual silence of the desert prevailed on the banks of the Murray, and we pursued our journey unmolested.

There is one point in this statement which is important. In this account, which was submitted to the Governor immediately upon Mitchell's return to Sydney, he stated that it was after the encounter that he learned that these natives had come from the Darling to fight him: whereas in his published book he took considerable trouble to emphasize that he had earlier knowledge that these natives intended to attack him, and so to justify his action in anticipating that attack.

The enquiry was held in December 1836 upon the arrival of the main party under Stapylton: the Executive Council consisting of Governor Bourke, Bishop Broughton, and Colonial Secretary Macleay. There were called as witnesses, beside Mitchell himself, A. Burnett, R. Muirhead, J. Drysdale, J. Richardson, J. Palmer, C. King, Joseph Jones, and the native Piper. From the evidence given by these men it appeared that King was the man who fired first, and after his shot Burnett gave orders to the rest to fire. Mitchell had given orders that the ambush party under Burnett was not to fire until they heard shots from the main party behind the hill: but, for some reason, this order was not obeyed. Burnett, Woods, and King stated that they recognized individual aborigines as having been amongst those met at Menindee in the previous year, one having only one eye, another having extensive scars from burns. Piper had frightened the men by spreading the story that his gin had overheard the wild blacks saying they were going to murder the whole party: and the men had not undressed for two nights. According to Burnett seventy or eighty shots were fired by the party.

The Council recorded its carefully considered verdict. It noted that Mitchell's instructions as to commencement of shooting had not been observed: it observed that Mitchell had not made sufficient efforts to conciliate the natives, leaving, in this respect, too much to Piper: and recorded that one indiscretion and premature shot had precipitated the conflict, although the number of abo-

rigines killed had been less than Mitchell's letter had suggested. The Council concluded:

Considering the numbers, proximity, and threatening aspect of the savages, and their apparent hostile purpose, the Council would not too severely blame a want of coolness and presence of mind which it is the lot of few men to possess.
The Council regrets the necessity of recording objections to any part of the Surveyor General's proceedings at the end of so successful an expedition. The intention of the Council is not to mar the credit of so useful an enterprise but to vindicate an important principle.

The Council regrets to observe in Major Mitchell's statements a tone which they apprehend might encourage indifference to just, humane, and politic principles. In his letter of 24 October the necessity of resorting to bloodshed is lightly presumed instead of being, as the case seems to require, anxiously asserted and explained, the sacrifice of human life being at the same time adverted to in a spirit partaking more of exultation than regret.

No official action was taken at that stage other than the formal communication of these findings to Mitchell.

In the course of this enquiry two facts emerged. As Mitchell had not at that time given to the Governor his report on the 1835 expedition or any account of his encounter with the aborigines at Menindee "many of the particulars of that affair became known for the first time".[26] It is difficult to understand this statement in view of the fact that The Times in London had been able, on 25 February 1836, to comment on this episode. Also it was learned that Mitchell had declined taking soldiers in his party in 1835, although they had been offered to him. This is a curious sidelight on his remarks in relation to the encounter at Menindee on the previous expedition:

It was then that I regretted most bitterly the inconsiderate conduct of some of the men. I was, indeed, liable to pay dear for geographical discovery, when my honour and character were delivered over to convicts, on whom, although I might confide as to courage, I could not always rely for humanity.

But these comments were written in 1838 long after the Council's rebuke already recorded, and after the 1836 expedition on which he had again taken convicts and no soldiers. They must be accepted rather as an afterthought than as indicating his attitude at the time suggested by the place of their insertion in his published book, even though this book is presented in the form of a daily current journal.

All the relevant papers were forwarded by Bourke to Glenelg (25 January 1837).[27] Glenelg, after the lengthy delay inevitable in those times, wrote to Bourke (24 July 1837). He commended Bourke's discreet handling of the situation, and stated that he could readily enter into the feelings with which Bourke yielded to the necessity of bringing into question the conduct of the Surveyor General at the very moment when he had completed so successful a journey of discovery. He agreed that it was impossible to acquit Mitchell of error in having drawn up his report in very injudicious terms. He concluded by pointing out that it was his duty to see that full justice was done, and instructed Bourke to refer the papers to the law officers of the Crown: but he gave a broad hint to Bourke that a lenient attitude would be acceptable.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the reluctance with which I should adopt any measure apparently at variance with the gratitude which Her Majesty's Government feel for Major Mitchell's services, and the respect which they entertain for his character.[28]

Although the papers were so referred, the whole matter may be considered as having officially closed on this note. Public opinion in some quarters was not so tolerant.

Within a few days after publication of the Executive Council's report, Mitchell sent a long communication (30 January 1837) direct to Secretary of State Glenelg, forwarding all the papers and protesting against "wrongs most cruel and distressing" and he concluded:

I can only say that I am a Field Officer in the Army, that my life has been passed laboriously in pursuit of fame rather than of wealth, and that I hope to be able to show on returning home that my labours have not been altogether useless to my country whatever the consequences may be to myself.[29]

But, by the time this reached England, Mitchell's old supporter Hay had left the Colonial Office, and Stephen was now there. His firm hand is evident in the office minute written by him (26 June 1837) on these papers:

This may be put by. It makes no addition to the statements contained in the Governor's despatch. If such an addition had been made without notice to the Governor it must, according to the general rule, have been referred back to him for explanation.

The account of this expedition would not be complete without reference to the journal kept by Surveyor Stapylton, the secondin-command on the expedition. He found some relief in using his private diary as a safety-valve: he could hardly have realized that it would be permanently preserved in the national archives. He spoke of the "irksomeness and thraldom of my situation" and was discontented that on three critical occasions he had been left in charge of a base camp and was not allowed to share in the pleasant excitement of new discoveries: but even in this mood of discontent he admitted Mitchell's judgment and acumen in selecting the best line of traverse across new country.[30]

Mitchell had previously (1833), in a letter to Hay, praised Stapylton's skill in surveying difficult country; but personal reactions during long periods of close contact without social relief often become difficult. Mitchell lacked that gentler human touch which bound Sturt's travel companions to him in permanent loyalty.


The results of Mitchell's journey of 1836 were immediate. He had crossed the Goulburn River at Mitchellstown (Deegay Ponds) on his way back to Sydney from Portland on 8 October. Almost at once others were on his tracks. The first overland mail from Port Phillip to Sydney was carried by Joseph Hawdon, who secured the contract.[31] In December 1837 Hawdon was returning from Sydney and stayed the night with John Clarke at Yass. Upon Hawdon's advice Clarke moved to Mitchell's crossing on the Goulburn River and there opened an inn (January 1838), the licence being approved by the Governor in Sydney on 4 June 1838.[32] In that same month, June 1838, Bourke decided that townships should be established on the road at the Murray, the Ovens, Violet Creek, and Goulburn, with the establishment of a military post at each.[33]

Hoddle gave instructions to Assistant Surveyor Smythe to

proceed immediately by the road used by the Post Office to the Goulburn at the point where Major Mitchell's Road from Portland Bay joins the Melbourne road and where there is a station established by Clarke...and furnish a plan of the spot selected for the site of a town.

By October Smythe had completed his survey, but, without waiting for his plan, the Acting Surveyor General in Sydney had taken action, and, in the Government Gazette, under date 9 October 1838, the site of the township of "Mitchellstown on the Goulburn" was notified. At this time Mitchell was in England on leave, but writing to Sir George Murray after his return to Sydney (12 February 1840) he said:

I have just arrived back in Sydney. The Governor received me kindly and has named a town after me in Australia Felix where the names of my different children are given to the streets.[34]

It was at Mitchellstown that Hawdon and Bonney assembled their party and stock and started (22 January 1838) on their first overlanding of stock to Adelaide; their route was down the Goulburn and the Murray.[35] The following year Bonney again assembled a party there, and followed Mitchell's tracks to Portland and thence to Adelaide by the coastal route. But Mitchellstown never flourished. By 1839 Dredge, a Protector of Aborigines, recorded in his diary (7 October) that Mr Clarke was removing to

the new crossing place twelve miles further up the it seems likely that the road will now be fixed in that direction. Thus it seems likely that Mitchellstown will by this alteration be rendered ineligible.[36]

In a letter from the Survey Office in Melbourne to the Surveyor General, dated 14 October 1843, it is stated that Mr LaTrobe, Superintendent of the Port Phillip district, considered that "Mitchell Town" would be the most appropriate name for the new crossing place.[37] But, as a letter from Hoddle (23 August 1844) indicates, the village was named Seymour. Mitchellstown today is little more than a name. The last two communications were addressed to the Surveyor General, so that Mitchell must have been aware of these letters. In Pickering's initial survey of Seymour his streets are shown as Stapylton and Piper Streets respectively: these names were not adopted.

Although Mitchell did not reach Sydney until 3 November 1836, a party had been formed in October 1836 by John Hepburn, Joseph Hawdon and John Gardiner with the object of forming cattle runs at Port Phillip. They collected their stock at Howe's station on the Murrumbidgee and met the second section of Mitchell's party under Stapylton at Macarthur's station at Nangus on 27 October 1836. Stapylton gave them useful information as to the route and available food and water.[38]

CHAPTER X - Four Years' Leave of Absence

It was stated in the last chapter that Glenelg, in August 1836, advised Bourke that Mitchell's friends in England had made representations on his behalf that it was necessary for him to return to England.[1] It is significant that when Mitchell had written to his friends seeking their influence in this matter he had been under criticism for the administration of his department.

He had previously written to his mother (28 May 1834)

the children all thrive well in this country though I confess I do not like the country or the people and always think of coming home.[2]

He had already applied for leave to visit England in March 1831, when his actions and behaviour had been referred to the Executive Council by Darling. Now he had another motive, wider than the desire to place his case, and his grievances, before the Home Government and seek the support and influence of his patrons.

Glenelg's approval to this proposed leave would have arrived after Mitchell's return from the third expedition, and Bourke informed Glenelg (19 February 1837) that he had now, at last, received from Mitchell the journals and maps of the second and third expeditions; but that as he was just about to leave for Port Phillip, and as Mitchell, who had just been granted eighteen months' leave to visit England, had expressed an earnest wish to be himself the bearer of these journals to Glenelg, he had entrusted them to Mitchell for personal delivery.[3]

The leave was granted on half-pay of his salary as Surveyor General. Mitchell must, immediately upon receiving word from Bourke that he would be granted leave, have offered his house "Craigend" and land for sale, as an advertisement to that effect appeared in the Australian on 9 December 1836. On this occasion the house was evidently not sold. On 9 March 1837 were offered for sale

all the splendid household furniture, mirrors, plate, grand piano, carriage and horses, large sized Brussels carpets, Grecian couches (very fashionable), antique lamps in bronze, pair molu candelabras, chintz curtains, plate chest, salvers, rich double-plated wine filters, silver tea service suitable to a first-rate establishment, the property of Major Mitchell, Surveyor General of New South Wales, who is proceeding to England in the ship Duchess of Northumberland: and, after the above, the house and offices will again be offered for sale with about three acres of land, including the lawn, vineyard, shrubbery, sufficient kitchen garden, etc.: the ground thus providing all the advantages of the present commanding site and being capable of subdivision into extensive street frontages.[4]

Plate IX. Some Mitchell monuments: Middle Creek, Newstead, Expedition Pass

Plate X. "Parkhall" as Mitchell built it/"Parkhall" as it is to-day ("St. Mary's Towers")

This disposal of his domestic assets in Sydney suggests that he may have had in mind the possibility, perhaps the hope, that he would not return to Australia. On the occasion of his departure he was presented with an address "numerously and respectably signed" by the residents of the colony. The signatories expressed their high respect for his personal character and their warm and grateful admiration for the zeal, assiduity, and talent with which he had discharged the important duties of Surveyor General; and the address concluded:

Your arduous exertions amidst so many trying and formidable difficulties, the caution, the scientific skill, the unwearied perseverance which under Providence ensured the safe return of your party: these distinguished merits, while they call forth our unbounded applause, cannot fail to be fully appreciated by Our Most Gracious Sovereign.

This hint of Royal favour was not overlooked by Mitchell.

The editorial comment of the Australian (21 March 1837) was caustic. Amongst other passages it said:

We give below the address to Major Mitchell which, says the Herald, is numerously and respectably signed. So much for the discrimination of the respectables of this Colony.

Let the reader remark the passages alluding to the "dangers he had past" and to his treatment of the "hostile savages" he met with.

How the humane will grieve and ask against whom does the blood unnecessarily spilt cry out for vengeance.

As Mitchell was at sea when this was published he would not have seen it: he seemed to be leaving Sydney triumphant, but already one of the major divisions of his department had been removed from his control.

In December 1836, after Mitchell's return from Australia Felix, Bourke had written to Glenelg (29 December 1836) a long despatch on the question of the control of the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. He said that he had long been dissatisfied with the imperfect organization and discreditable appearance and behaviour of the convict gangs which formed the working parties on the roads. Hitherto this work, whether of gangs in, or out of, irons had been

nominally at least directed by overseers named by the Surveyor General and inspected by officers of that department. I have reason to fear that horses, carriages, oxen, and tools of all descriptions are often made away with by the inferior overseers.[5]

So Bourke altered the system; he placed the road gangs under the control of military officers directed by the Commanding Royal Engineer, thus completely removing this administrative function from Mitchell's department. This very question of the appointment of overseers was one of the principal issues which precipitated the conflict between Mitchell and Darling in 1831. Bourke's decision was conveyed to Mitchell by Colonial Secretary Macleay (29 December 1836) who, by direction of the Governor, commended Mitchell's services in the laying out of the lines of road, a service which would "long be memorable in this Colony", but also stated that the control of road construction work had not been satisfactory.[6]

Mitchell replied (3 January 1837) that he approved of the change, and agreed that road and bridge construction under the new arrangement would be more efficient:

I have long been sensible that my department has not afforded the adequate means, and I now return my thanks to the Governor for relieving it from the duties connected with the superintendence of the roads.[7]

Bourke had stated, in the despatch quoted above, that Mitchell had informed him "more than once" that what he had formerly contended for was the marking out of the lines and directions of the great roads and not their formation or repairs.[8]

When giving evidence on 1 March 1838, while he was in London before the Select Committee on Transportation, Mitchell had said:

Will you allow me to read an extract of what I stated on that subject to the Government in 1834, on the duties of the department generally: "The duties of the road department, as now transferred to that of the Surveyor General, might easily be defined were they limited to purposes connected with the survey of the country, but the proper direction and formation of the roads, however onerous the responsibility of engineering them properly, are not the duties in which assistant surveyors of roads are chiefly considered responsible.[9]

Mitchell had reached a state of uncertainty, if not complete recantation, on the very matter he had fought to a final issue with Darling. Bourke thus ended a six-year period of an administrative arrangement which had been unsatisfactory.

Of the three divisions of Mitchell's activities, one--after five years--had been taken from him because of inefficient administration. Of the other two, exploration had lifted him to triumph and was to lift him even higher; survey and valuation of lands had still to come up for judgment.

Mitchell left Sydney by the ship Duchess of Northumberland on 19 March 1837 with his wife, eight children, and one servant, and must have arrived in England before 27 July 1837, for on that date he wrote to Glenelg asking that payment of half salary in England should be authorized, and on 4 August he sought an interview with Glenelg, with the object of placing before him the story of his explorations and seeking permission to publish the full account of his travels.[10] He was informed by the Colonial Office that Glenelg was happy to convey to him the necessary authority to publish.

He must have proceeded at once upon the compilation of his published work Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia: this was published in 1838; it was dedicated to Glenelg. The author's preface stated that, as the surveys were undertaken by order of the Government, it was his duty to lay the result of them early before the public; though he would candidly own that he would rather have delayed the performance of this task till he had completed another of a national character, which, connected as it was with the days of his early service in the cause of his country, would naturally be supposed to have stronger and more attractive claims upon him. This reference was to the completion of the plans and models of the battlefields of the Peninsular War.

Mitchell's preface is dated 18 August 1838, and the book, in two volumes published by Boone, must have been published at once, as the press reviews appeared from September 1838 onwards.* These press notices were extremely laudatory.

[* The book was later translated into Italian.]

Blackwoods said (November 1838):

The kind of gentlemen who sit at home at ease...should follow this gallant soldier, man of science, and man of accomplishment across the fiery sands of the Australian wilderness...We do not hesitate in publicly stating that Major Mitchell must stand alone in the exploring world.

The Naval and Military Gazette (8 September 1838):

We have no hesitation in pronouncing these volumes of Major Mitchell on Australia to be at once by far the most important and the most interesting that have yet appeared, in connection with this most important and interesting of all existing fields for emigration; nor can it be doubted that their publication will speedily lead to the most valuable results, no less in a political than a social point of view.

The Athenaeum (29 September 1838):

As a leader of exploring parties through unknown regions, Major Mitchell appears to us to stand unrivalled. Prudent and decisive he advances like an experienced general; executing in a prompt and unflinching manner all that he may attempt, yet never for a moment losing sight of the limits of his resources.

These notices would have been unwelcome to Sturt when the book arrived in Adelaide early in 1839 and may well have been in his mind when, writing to Stanley in 1843, he said, referring to his own expeditions, that whilst he had steadily pursued the object he had in view he had avoided all collisions with the natives and that he left behind him in distant regions, "which unfortunately have been marked with slaughter", the most favourable impression in the hearts of the native inhabitants. He saw no honour in staining his track with the blood of those whose wilds he had entered.[11]

Captain P. P. King wrote to Mitchell from Sydney (3 February 1839) saying that he had been reading the book, that he hoped a second edition would be called for, and that he hoped Mitchell would be remunerated for all his trouble and expense,

and for the cruel and unjust treatment you have received both from the Colonial as well as the Home Government,

and he continued:

Cunningham, who is sitting near me, and I, have just had a good laugh at your dotted track of Sturt's river the Morumbidgee. It is a good commentary, and speaks volumes. I am glad you have not noticed Sturt in the book: you had abundant cause, but your silence will be felt more than any vituperation or remarks.[12]

There was, however, local reaction of another kind. Henry Gisborne, Commissioner of Crown Lands in the Port Phillip district, writing to his mother (9 January 1840), said:

I have just returned from a wild tour to Portland Bay, the most beautiful part of Australia--the same country that Mitchell's humbugging book is about.[13]

There is some evidence that the expenses of producing the first edition were heavy and gave little profit.[14] It would appear, too, that one consignment of the first edition was lost by the wreck of the ship Red Rover off the Cape Verde Islands. This loss involved copies consigned to Australia.[15]

His financial difficulties over the publication of the book became, at one stage, acute. Writing on 9 August 1840, Mitchell records:

Yesterday on returning home to dinner I found my house beset with Sheriff's officers who immediately arrested me for a debt of £306 and carried me off. One of these men was extremely insolent and I had an extremely narrow escape from being locked up in a spunging house till Monday morning.[16]

This was a matter of unpaid accounts in connexion with the publication of his book. However, he induced the officers to go with him to his solicitor's house and the necessary security was given.

Mitchell sought from the Colonial Office a financial subsidy towards the cost of this publication, referring to "private resources which my duty towards a large and rising family renders sacred", but was refused.[17]

He had not forgotten the address presented to him in Sydney with its suggestion that his services might be "fully appreciated by Our Most Gracious Sovereign", who, at the time of Mitchell's arrival in England, had been but one month on the throne. He wasted no time: on 26 August 1837 Mitchell wrote to Glenelg that after the important duties on which he had been engaged for the last ten years he was ambitious for a mark of Royal approbation

to gratify my personal feelings and convey to my friends here and in the distant colony in which I am employed an unquestionable testimony that it has pleased my Sovereign to view my services favourably.[18]

Glenelg replied on 7 September that he could not make such a recommendation to the Queen until he had the opinion of the Governor under whom Mitchell had worked, and that as Bourke would soon be in England, the matter must wait till then. But Mitchell would not wait: the very next day, 8 September, he replied pressing his claims for a knighthood. In the Colonial Office records there is a large file of papers written during 1838 in which Mitchell persistently pressed his claim.[19] Bourke, having arrived in England, said that Mitchell's treatment of aborigines at Mt. Dispersion was still under official and legal scrutiny, and any question of knighthood should be deferred until the outcome of these enquiries was known.

Glenelg evidently decided at first not to recommend Mitchell for this honour, but changed his mind. There is a memorandum by him on the papers dated 9 February 1839: "I was prepared to recommend Major Mitchell for Knighthood and hope my successor may do so." Thus did Mitchell after sixteen months obtain the prize he had so persistently sought.

During this visit to England Mitchell received from the University of Oxford the honorary degree of Civil Law.* This was conferred on 12 June 1839:[20] on that same day an honorary degree was conferred upon the Earl of Ripon, who, as Lord Goderich, had set in motion in 1831 those critical enquiries into Mitchell's administration which produced the rebukes by Bourke and Glenelg. The interview between these two persons, if any actual personal contact occurred, must have been interesting.

[* In the Dictionary of National Biography it is stated that Mitchell was a Fellow of the Royal Society: but this is not correct.]

While in England Mitchell made several attempts to advance his own material interests. In February 1840, writing to his friend Murray, he said that it appeared to be the intention of the Home Government to divide New South Wales into three distinct governments.[21] He was anticipating the creation of separate governments in Victoria and New Zealand.[22] He then asked for Murray's influence in securing one of these appointments as the "appointment which I have held so long must become very insignificant after such a dismemberment of the Colony". He also wrote to Secretary of State Russell (4 February 1840) submitting that the colonization of Australia had been greatly extended by his three expeditions into the interior, "which were more perilous and extensive than those of any previous explorers of New South Wales", and asked for a grant of land of 15,000 acres in Australia Felix.[23]

Writing to Murray (24 June 1840) enlisting his support he made a curious financial estimate in support of his request for 15,000 acres in Australia Felix. "If my extra services in New South Wales must be estimated in figures the whole may be stated thus": and he proceeds to analyse his services:

When I acted as sole Lands Commissioner instead of three originally appointed, the salaries of two Commissioners were saved, or £3,560.

When I was in charge of the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges the salary of an engineer was saved, or £6,500.

For perilous services, during fifteen months in all, performed in the savage interior, which, estimated by the scale of remuneration of my predecessor in office for ten months, similar exploration would give 15,000 acres equal now in price to £9,000.

To my half-salary for three years, but withheld while devoting my whole time to public or national works in England, £1,500.[24]

Thus he estimated the cash value of the services he had given additional to those required of him as Surveyor General over the whole period of nine years at £20,560.

The reference to the public or national works in England is the same as that which has already been quoted from the preface to his book as a task of a national character connected with the days of his early service in the cause of his country. This work was the completion of the plans of the Peninsula battlefields which he had been obliged to abondon in 1826: it was continued during this visit to England, and appeared in 1840 in a publication Maps and Plans of the Principal Battles in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France by James Wyld, Geographer to the Queen. In the introduction to this volume it is stated that the supervision of this work was continued gratuitously by Sir George Murray; and, of Mitchell, it is said that

all the advantages which were originally expected to result from his talents, acquirements, and industry: these, together with increased practical skill, have been disinterestedly, as well as most assiduously, afforded.

Altogether twenty-six of the fifty-one maps, plans, and sketches are from Mitchell's hand, and they cover the whole field of Wellington's movements from Talavera in July 1809 to the Battle of Toulouse in April 1814. It is appropriate to recall here a letter from Sir Benjamin D'Urban to Sir George Murray (21 April 1819) which is quoted in that volume. He said: I think you will be satisfied with Mitchell's work: he is a very excellent draughtsman, the most laborious and patient one I ever yet saw.

It is evident that this task required an extension of leave beyond the eighteen months from 19 March 1837, originally granted, and Glenelg notified Gipps (who had succeeded Bourke) that he had granted Mitchell an extension of leave for one year. Glenelg's despatch was dated 19 July 1838.[25] Mitchell was normally due back in Sydney in September 1838.

He was not able, however, to complete the series of drawings and plans in the time allowed, and wrote to Russell (2 March 1840) asking for a further extension of six months.[26] In this he was supported by Murray, and also by Sir Hussey Vivian who wrote independently to Russell (29 February 1840) saying that he had been influenced by Mitchell's friends. Russell replied that as the work he was doing in England had no connexion with his duties as Surveyor General, he would grant a further extension of three months' leave but Mitchell must leave England on or before 18 June 1840. Accordingly he arrived back in Sydney with his family in the barque Mary Bannatyne on 4 February 1841, and resumed duty as Surveyor General. He was now Sir Thomas Mitchell.

It is appropriate to point out at this stage that in the five years before beginning his leave Mitchell had been absent on his three expeditions a total of approximately seventeen months: and fourteen of these months had been during the last two years. This prolonged leave of absence of nearly four years meant that, of the six years ending December 1840, he had been on active duty in his department for approximately ten months.

Evidently he was not successful in whatever applications he had made in London for a grant of land, for there is on record the draft of a petition to the Queen, apparently to be sent through Murray (25 November 1841). In this he reviews his services: the trigonometrical survey and map of nineteen counties, the surveying and construction of public roads, his three expeditions of discovery, and his plans of the battlefields of the Peninsular War. He refers to the fact that grants of land had been discontinued but asks for a grant of portion of the land which his services have assisted to make known and render available to Her Majesty's subjects.[27] This draft petition is associated with a letter in which he speaks of the fate of "poor Stapylton, I need not remind you that he is not the only fellow traveller of mine whom the natives have killed".[28] Stapylton was killed by aborigines while surveying on the upper Bogan River in Queensland on 30 May 1840.[29]

A despatch from Stanley to Gipps (6 December 1841) shows that the memorial which had been prepared by Mitchell in London asking for some reward in recognition of his services in exploration had been received and officially considered.[30] It had evidently reached the Treasury, as that department asked for further particulars. In reply Stephen of the Colonial Office forwarded copies of the despatches, and of the findings of the Council in relation to the Mt. Dispersion episode. The Treasury Lords replied that they were satisfied as to the services performed and the nature of the expeditions but must withhold their approval of any special reward until they received from Lord John Russell an assurance that he was perfectly satisfied as to the Mt. Dispersion matter. The Colonial Office replied that Lord Glenelg and the Marquis of Normanby had both considered all the circumstances, and had, notwithstanding this episode, recommended Mitchell to Her Majesty as deserving the honour of knighthood for the very same service in the performance of which it occurred. The Treasury Lords thereupon decided that the Governor should suggest to the Council in New South Wales a "grant to Sir Thomas Mitchell and the surviving officers of his party on that expedition", of an amount which would make up their pay while absent on the expedition to double what it would have been if they had remained on duty in Sydney.[31] The Council unanimously voted that this gratuity should be paid.

There is a Colonial Office minute of August 1840 by Vernon Smith recording a visit by Mitchell:

I mentioned to him* that it might be disagreeable to Mitchell to have his conduct in the expedition towards the aborigines stated, since when Mitchell has called here and says he considers himself whitewashed by knighthood. Whether Parliament will consider whitewashing a good preparation for a vote of public monies he does not seem to consider.[32]
[* Henry Goulburn, M.P. for Cambridge, to whom Stapylton was related.]

Mitchell delivered before the Royal Geographical Society in London a long address on his explorations in Australia. This address contains a statement of many of his views at that period (1837): it is to be found in full text in the journal of the society, vol. vii, pt. 11, p. 271. In this address his references to Oxley and Sturt were unfriendly. He emphasized his reliance throughout his travels and his survey work upon connecting up prominent peaks by angular plotting; and the importance in exploration of relating topographically the ranges and the highlands, instead of following river beds. This was a reflection on the practice of Oxley and Sturt. He expressed the interesting speculation that it was not improbable, in view of the course of the Darling and of the high lands visible to the west of that river, that another river existed running parallel to the Darling and discharging in the vicinity of Streaky Bay on the south coast. This was not, on the whole, a bad guess. Finally he said that the waters from the northern coastal ranges "must flow somewhere and the most certain line of exploration for the solution of this question appears to be in the prolongation of that marked by me in 1831". Eight years later he followed up this idea on his fourth expedition.

Both Sturt and Leichhardt were honoured by the award of the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society, but Mitchell was not thus honoured.

Some glimpses of personal incidents during this period are available. Writing on 4 July 1838, he said that his eldest son Livingstone had received a commission and must be fitted out for India, and he stated: "we have now nine children and a heavy source of care and anxiety they are".[33]

Writing to Lord John Russell on 4 February 1840, he spoke of his family as ten children; the two youngest must have been born in London. Two daughters were at school in Bristol.[34]

Early in the year 1839 a silver coffee-pot was presented to Mitchell by the merchants of London in honour of his discovery of Australia Felix; the contributions to this gift, however, were not as great as had been expected.[35]

George Gordon McCrae, who came to Australia in 1841 while still a boy, and who became a respected member of Melbourne society, achieving some distinction as a poet, has recorded that one of his earliest recollections of what led to the migration of his family to Australia was being taken by his father to see "our friend Major T. L. Mitchell" at his home in London. Mitchell showed them his pictures and a large clay model of the battlefield of Waterloo upon which he was then working. Mitchell induced McCrae's father to settle in Australia.[36]

Surveyor Russell, who had been Clerk of Works at Port Phillip, writing in December 1841, said that Mitchell was a man rough in manner but a good and constant friend; a Tory and consequently on no good terms with Sir Richard Bourke.[37]

Mitchell's Scientific Interests

Some reference should be made to Mitchell's scientific activities; already in the preceding chapter his visit to the limestone caves at Oakey Creek has been noted. His contributions to scientific knowledge were considerable, but, except in the field of geology, they were as a collector not as a scientist; and on the third and fourth expeditions he had official "collectors" as members of his party.

The Colonial Office had prescribed a set of standing instructions for explorers which had been officially communicated to both Oxley and Sturt. These specified that the explorer should, as far as was in his power, attend to the animal, vegetable, and mineral productions of the country, noting down everything that occurred to him, and preserving specimens as far as his means would permit, especially some of all the ripe seeds that he might discover. When the preservation of specimens was impossible, drawings or detailed accounts of them were very desirable.

In the preface to his published account of the first three expeditions Mitchell said, speaking as an author:

there is one branch of his subject on which justice and gratitude render it necessary for him to say something more. In those departments of natural history to which he owns himself a stranger he has received assistance of the utmost value from several distinguished persons.

He mentioned Dr Lindley who classified all the botanical specimens; Professor Faraday who estimated the saline content of some of the inland lakes; Professor Owen who reported on the fossil remains, and Mr Alexander Macleay, Colonial Secretary in Sydney, who had wide scientific interests:

to these gentlemen and other scientific friends the warmest acknowledgments of the writer are due for whatever naturalists may deem worthy of praise in these pages.

In his book he inserts the scientific description as recorded by these scientists in respect of each specimen in relation to its appropriate geographical locality.

On his fourth expedition he honoured Lindley, Faraday, Owen and Clift, by giving their names to mountains in Queensland. Clift was curator of the Hunterian Museum where the fossils were examined.

Some aspects of the story of the fossil bones have a special scientific interest. The common Australian wombat has the scientific name Phascolomys mitchellii. Concerning the origin of this name, which in accordance with scientific practice allots to Mitchell some measure of priority in relation either to first discovery or to first scientific description, there is an involved story.

The wombat as a living animal was well known long before Mitchell's arrival in the colony, and the surgeon George Bass had, in 1800, written for Banks a scientific description of "the quadruped called wombat in New South Wales".[38] At some time before 1830 Mr George Rankin of Bathurst discovered in the limestone caves of the Wellington valley a quantity of fossil bones. These bones were entrusted by Mr Rankin to the Rev. J. D. Lang, when the latter left for England in 1830, for transmission to the University of Edinburgh.[39] A note concerning these bones was published in one of the Sydney papers, and this note was afterwards republished by Professor Jamieson of the Edinburgh University in the New Edinburgh Philosophical Journal for 1831: some of these bones were sent from Edinburgh to the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Amongst these was the skull of a wombat.

In 1831 Mitchell, who had become interested in the geology of these caves and also in the fossil bones, sent to the Geological Society in England three large boxes of these fossil bones. In a letter to Mr Rankin (17 January 1831) he refered to Rankin's previous association with Jamieson in Edinburgh and added: "we may hope, in time, to find out what 'Father Time' has been about"; and in October 1831, writing again to Rankin:

I have now the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, where I see honourable mention made of you, and a great deal more about the bones. They find most of them to be wombats and kangaroos.

When Mitchell visited England in 1837 he called on Professor Owen at the Royal College of Surgeons. It is not clear whether he took more specimens with him, but in his own account he speaks of "the animal remains found by me" and Professor Owen in a letter (8 May 1838) refers to "the fossil remains which you discovered in Wellington Valley": from Mitchell's own account it appears that he, personally, made careful exploration of these caves and recovered many bones.

Professor Owen in his letter to Mitchell, after detailing certain characteristics of one skull which he had examined, wrote as follows:

The fossil is also a little larger than the largest wombat's cranium in the Hunterian collection. From these differences I feel no hesitation in considering the species to which these fossils belong as distinct: and propose to call it Phascolomys mitchellii.[40]

It was subsequently established that this cranium was that of a common wombat, and thus Mitchell's name, given first to a nonexistent species, has become permanently attached to the common wombat.

Mitchell's activity and enthusiasm undoubtedly accelerated the close study of these fossil remains from which came knowledge of the extinct giant kangaroos, of the diprotodonts, and of the fact that the Tasmanian wolf and the Tasmanian devil, now confined to Tasmania, once existed on the Australian mainland.

Sturt paid generous tribute to Mitchell's activities in this field:

The local interest which has of late years been taken in the prosecution of geological investigations led many gentlemen to examine the contents of these caverns; and amongst the most forward Major Mitchell, the Surveyor General, must justly be considered to whose indefatigable perseverance the scientific world is already so much indebted.[41]

Brief reference has already been made to the finding of the curious little quadruped named Dipus mitchellii. The animal was described by Mitchell in these terms:

Its fore and hind legs resembled in proportion those of the kangaroo: and it used the latter by leaping on its hind quarters in the same manner as that animal. It was not much larger than a common field-mouse, but the tail was longer in proportion to the rest of the body, even than that of a kangaroo, and terminated in a hairy brush about two inches long.[42]

The specimen found by Mitchell was deposited in the Australian Museum: Ogilby, in London, received from Mitchell a drawing and description of the animal from which material he gave the name Dipus mitchellii.[43] After some changes in nomenclature the official name is now Notomys mitchelli Ogilby 1838. The popular name is "Mitchell's hopping mouse". It has become rare to the point of probable extinction in all settled areas.[44]

Another contact Mitchell had with the early stages in the study of biological evolution, and science generally, arose from the visit of Charles Darwin to Australia in 1836: while in Sydney Darwin visited the Blue Mountains and was impressed by those great perpendicular cliffs. After his return to England he had communications, either personal or by correspondence, with Mitchell concerning the geology of this range.[45]

It was probably during Mitchell's visit to England in 1837 that he gave to Darwin a specimen of what is now known as an "australite", probably of meteorite origin, which had been found on the "great sandy plain between the rivers Darling and Murray". This was described by Darwin in his Geological Observations, 1844: it was the first recorded australite.[46]

CHAPTER XI - In Politics and Out Again

During the years 1841-5 Mitchell continued his duties as Surveyor General; it was not a period without incident. Bourke had left New South Wales in December 1837, and had been succeeded by Gipps, the third senior army officer to become Governor. Gipps, referring to Glenelg's notification that he had approved an extension of leave for Mitchell, advised (16 October 1840) that the Legislative Council had objected to the continued payment of half salary to Mitchell for such a long period of absence from his duties.[1] His salary at that time was £1,000 per annum.

The Australian (22 August 1840) had referred to his prolonged absence:

Sir Thomas Mitchell, doubtless a meritorious man, has now been an absentee and therefore a sinecurist for a considerable time.

A little later (13 March 1841) the same paper stated that the Campbelltown and Appin people were anxiously awaiting Mitchell's return as he had, before he left for England, promised that he would construct a new road into that district: this road would have provided a better route to the district around Mitchell's property "Parkhall".

In 1840 Gipps had asked Secretary of State Russell (17 October 1840) for more surveying staff as some were required for New Zealand: this request was met by additional staff sent from England for both New Zealand and New South Wales.[2] During 1842 correspondence occurred concerning the dismissal from the public service of Assistant Surveyor Dixon after nearly fifteen years' service. Various reasons were assigned for his dismissal, but Gipps offered as proof of Dixon's "habitual disregard of official duty" the fact that he had published and sold, without Gipps' knowledge or consent, a map of Moreton Bay compiled from surveys and documents obtained in the course of official duty; thus repeating in intentional defiance of all authority the very irregularity which, in respect of his previous publication of a map of the colony, led to the first complaints against him by the head of his department.[3] The "map of the colony" referred to was published for Robert Dixon by Cross in London in 1837.[4] This is a curious incident in view of Mitchell's own action eight years earlier when he had obtained official approval to sell an engraved map of the colony for his own profit (see earlier). He might well have been jealous of Dixon's map of the colony published almost simultaneously with his own as, while Mitchell's map was more ornamental and florid, it was much less practically informative.

Writing to his old friend Sir George Murray (12 February 1841) a few days after his return to Sydney from his protracted leave Mitchell complained that with the abolition of transportation "the glory of Sydney is departed": he said that he regretted not having approached Lord John Russell to secure an order that he should be placed on the Executive Council.

It occurs to me that by the time this letter reaches your hands it might be in your power so to order it, and that you would see the propriety of placing me on a footing in the government with the other civil officers composing the Council. Our present Governor has received me very kindly and I hope to get through my duties under his auspices with more satisfaction to myself than I have done heretofore.[5]

Mitchell was here referring to Gipps who during Mitchell's absence in England, had succeeded Bourke as Governor.*

[* This was, of course, before the events which have been narrated in this chapter.]

As an appropriate commentary it only remains to be added that during Mitchell's absence on his fourth expedition five years later it became necessary to fill a vacancy in the Executive Council, Mitchell being the most senior officer in the service for consideration. Gipps' comment was: "My despatches will sufficiently shew that I cannot in any manner recommend the first-named (Mitchell)."

In 1842 occurred an incident which revealed some aspects of, and defects in, the administration of the Surveyor General's Department. It also gave evidence that the Colonial Office in London, with the most complete intention to maintain impartial justice, might, in their ignorance of the conditions in the colony, make mistakes. Gipps, on Mitchell's recommendation, had dismissed from the service Assistant Surveyor F. F. Rusden. He informed Secretary of State Stanley (24 March 1842) of the circumstances when forwarding an appeal by Rusden. He said that during the four years since his arrival he had had constantly to complain of the very great expense of the Surveyor General's Department, as well as of the inefficiency of some of the officers, and of the want of subordination, or even of common respect to their chief or to the Government, on the part of others. One major cause of their inefficiency was that though they were provided with full equipment so that they might be constantly in the field, many of them became owners of land so that not only did their private interests conflict with their official duties, but they objected when transferred on duty to another district. This was Rusden's case. Because of Mitchell's prolonged absence on leave, Gipps had to wait nearly four years before signing the reforms he considered necessary. Upon Mitchell's return he at once took action. His first move was to reduce severely the equipment with which surveyors were provided when they took the field on duty; this made it impossible for departmental horses, oxen, carriages, tents, etc., to be used on the surveyors' private property. The surveyors were now required to provide their own equipment, receiving £100 per annum for its maintenance.

Gipps impressed on Stanley that he, as Governor, had promised Mitchell that he would give all the support in his power, even to the dismissal of inefficient officers: and he ended his despatch with a submission that the worst possible effect would be produced "in this important but very expensive department" if the action in dismissing Rusden was not endorsed by Stanley.[6] Stanley, however, replied (8 December 1842) that while he greatly regretted having to take a step which might tend to weaken the authority of either the Governor or the head of department, strict justice required disapproval of the Governor's action in dismissing Rusden. Among other reasons Stanley argued that Mitchell's absence from his duties for nearly four years accounted, in part at least, for the inefficiency in his department.[7] The matter was ended by the resignation of Rusden.

In 1843 occurred an incident, in itself trivial and a normal public service matter, which would under all ordinary conditions have been adjusted without friction, but which gave further indications of Mitchell's reactions to authority and his attitude in respect of the responsibilities of his office. Gipps advised Stanley (26 April 1843) that the Auditor General had reported that a total sum of more than £43,000, being advances made to various officers of the Government for the service of their departments, had not been finally brought to account.[8] These advances were for the most part of recent date and easily adjusted: but some were of long standing, amongst them a total of £513 which had remained unadjusted in the Surveyor General's Department since 1836.

Plate XI. Thomas Mitchell, about 1847 (Reproduced by permission of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland)

Plate XII. Monument to Mitchell at St. George/Monument to Mitchell at Blackall

Bearing in mind that Mitchell had been away from his office for almost the whole of the intervening period it is clear that his direct personal responsibility might well have been small. He was called upon formally to adjust this account, but a tedious and inconclusive correspondence followed, until, at the end of three months, Gipps ordered that Mitchell's salary should be withheld. This brought the discussion to a crisis, and, explanations and details of the matters in dispute having been provided, Mitchell's salary was restored after a suspension of only fourteen days. He, however, was not prepared to accept this as a routine public service enquiry, was very indignant, and sent through Gipps a memorial, with covering letter, to Stanley. In the memorial he pointed out that for about eight years he had had a double responsibility as Surveyor General and as the officer in charge of construction and maintenance of the roads, bridges, and public works of the colony; that the latter responsibility was now held by an officer with total emoluments of £650 per annum; and he requested that he be paid at that rate for the eight years during which he had held the dual position. In the covering letter he said that the memorial and the claim were not,

as may at first seem, submitted only because of a disallowance by the present Governor of my salary as Surveyor General.

and he made this general comment:

The difficulties of my position have been such, in carrying various plans of public works into effect, that my personal interests here, as far as they depended on the favour of Governors, have been wholly sacrificed; but it may be sufficient, perhaps for the present, to state in general terms to Your Lordship that the more I have laboured to fulfil with exactness the views of the Government at home, the less it has seemed to be my good fortune to please the Governors of the Colony.[9]

Gipps' comments in his covering despatch (26 April 1843) were:

The duty of superintending the formation of roads and bridges was clearly at the time a part of the business of the Surveyor General, though he was, and I think very properly, relieved from it under the Government of my Predecessor in 1836...I can have no desire to underrate the services rendered by Sir Thomas Mitchell to this colony; but, without doing so, I may observe that there is no officer of this Government who has less reason to complain of any want of indulgence from it. He has been allowed to publish in his own name, and for his own advantage, surveys performed by the Department, of which he is at the head, as well as the narration of his own travels, performed at the public expense; he has received some valuable grants of land, and very recently a gratuity of about £1,000 in money; and, between 1837 and 1842, he enjoyed leave of absence for an uninterrupted period of more than four years.[10]

The claim by Mitchell for eight years' salary at £650 per annum for having acted as Superintendent of Roads and Bridges was summarily dismissed by Stanley:

The claim for past salary cannot be admitted. If Sir Thomas Mitchell was underpaid during the period in respect of which this demand is now advanced, he should then have called for higher remuneration. Having however from year to year accepted his salary in satisfaction of his claims, he is debarred by his own act from maintaining that they are unsatisfied.[11]

Stephen was still at the head of the Colonial Office, and Mitchell received less sympathetic treatment than Hay had given him.

During the years 1841 and 1842 there had been a serious financial crisis in the colony through over-speculation in land. One result of this was that Gipps advised Stanley (13 June 1843) that the almost total cessation of a demand for Crown land in the colony had forced him to reduce greatly the expenses of the Surveyor General's Department.[12]

Then came another crisis. The Legislative Council decided to abolish the estimates of the Surveyor General's Department as a separate item, and to vote nothing for that service, declaring that all expenses of that department should be met from the funds derived from the sale of Crown lands.[13] This was a most embarrassing decision at a time when the sale of Crown lands had almost ceased. Gipps advised Stanley (21 October 1843) of this position and said that he had reduced the expenditure on the department from £26,384 to £15,000:[14] but four months later (13 February 1844) advised that the most he could provide from available sources was £12,000, and he proposed to keep the expenses of the department within that sum, at the same time keeping faith with the departmental officers, and not allowing the progress of the survey to be altogether arrested.[15] He arranged that some of the surveyors should cease to be full-time salaried officers, and should become licensed surveyors, receiving one-third salary from the Government, and doing private work on an approved scale of fees, their findings on private work being accepted as official. They were also to act as Crown Land Commissioners.[16] Mitchell tried to place these displaced officers in districts where there was good prospect of private work, but this arrangement did not pass without protests from some of them.[17]

In 1844 an incident occurred which, while it had quite serious aspects, yet had a mildly humorous side. In 1824, a Legislative Council had been established in New South Wales consisting of the Governor, four senior Government officials, and one civilian appointed by the Governor. In response to repeated agitation for a greater measure of self-government in New South Wales the Constitution Act of 1842 was passed by the Imperial Parliament. Under this Act a Legislative Council was established consisting of twelve nominee members, and twenty-four members to be elected. Six of these twenty-four were to represent Port Phillip and to be elected by the residents of that district. Gipps advised Stanley (18 July 1843) of the results of the first election. At this election Mitchell had been one of the candidates for the Port Phillip district; but he had not been elected: one Government official, Roger Therry, Commissioner of Court of Requests, had been elected for a New South Wales district.[18]

Public opinion in Port Phillip was against Mitchell's election for three reasons, that as a Government officer his first loyalty was to the Government, that his importance as Surveyor General would be greatly diminished if Victoria became a separate colony, and that he was "silent as the grave on the subject of separation, the only subject we care about at present".[19]

In February of the following year, 1844, two of the members for the Port Phillip district resigned; and Mr A. Young (Sheriff) and Mitchell were elected in their places at the by-election held in the following April. Mitchell had given a

distinct and positive pledge that, if elected, he will be the firm and consistent advocate of the separation of this territory from New South Wales.

He had sent one of his sons to Port Phillip to canvass on his behalf and to commit his father as a firm advocate of total separation. The election in April produced the following result: Mitchell, 195; Young, 134; O'Connell, 94. Mitchell's candidature was actively supported by Stephen Henty and by Mr McCrae, who, as recorded in the last chapter, had migrated to Australia on Mitchell's recommendation.

Gipps advised Stanley (26 July 1844) that there were now three Government officials sitting in the Council as elected members, he anticipated that these three would inevitably experience a conflict between their divergent loyalties. He said that

the Surveyor General has (and I may say systematically) opposed himself to the views of Her Majesty's Government in respect to the administration of the lands of the Crown.[20]

One month later (18 August 1844) Gipps again advised Stanley that Mitchell had "failed to give his support to the Government on the question respecting District Councils". He had therefore had a personal interview with Mitchell, and told him of the report sent to Stanley, and:

I told him at the same time that the undisguised hostility, which he manifested at all times not only to my own measures, but to those of Her Majesty's Government, and even to the enactments of Parliament, in matters connected with the administration of the lands of the Crown, was in my opinion inconsistent with his duty as an officer of the Government, and might even endanger his situation, since, unless Her Majesty's Government were disposed to give up all the control over the Crown lands, it was most necessary that the office of Surveyor General should be held by a person who would adopt and carry out the policy of government in respect to the management of them.

He added that Sir Thomas Mitchell had now resigned his seat on the Legislative Council; he had been a member for only four months. The correspondence on this subject is included verbatim in this volume as Appendix C.

It was inevitable that this change in the status of Government officers from holding their positions in the Council at the will of the Governor to that of holding their seats as freely elected members independent of the Governor should, sooner or later, raise the issue of the measure of that independence, and of the direction of their duty when their loyalties were irreconcilable. The question had quickly arisen in respect of both Mitchell and Young. Stanley ultimately settled the issue by a decision in which it is not difficult to see the influence and even the style of Stephen. Stanley's decision (1 January 1845) was to the effect that he regarded as very doubtful the propriety of any public officer of the Crown holding a seat in the Legislative Council except by Her Majesty's nomination: and that Gipps was to tell Mitchell and Young that they must immediately make the choice between neglecting their duty to their constituents and their duty to the Government.

If Her Majesty's officers think fit to assume relations and responsibilities disqualifying them for the support of Her Majesty's Representative, they are of course perfectly free to do so, but, having done so, cannot be permitted to retain their employment. Otherwise there would not only be an end of all concert and subordination in Her Majesty's service, but the sincerity and good faith of those by whom it is administered would be brought into serious discredit?[21]

This, however, was in conflict with Stanley's expressed views three years before that:

There is no restriction as to the numbers of such officers who may hold seats in the Council by will of course be desirable that some of the officers of Government should owe their seats to popular election.[22]

Mitchell had already resigned, but Therry and Young continued in the Council: perhaps their official duties did not directly involve controversial issues.[23]

What were the controversial issues which so sharply brought Mitchell's position under discussion? From Gipps' letter to Stanley (18 August 1844) the main issues were: (a) Mitchell's undisguised hostility to the Government in matters connected with the administration of the lands of the Crown, and (b) his failure to support the Government on the legislation respecting District Councils. In support of these accusations Gipps cited Mitchell's evidence before the Select Committee of the Legislative Council on Crown Land Grievances in 1843.[24]

When declaring his disagreement with certain aspects of the land policies of Bourke and Gipps, Mitchell had said:

I would rather see the system revived under which I have worked for many years: the systematic colonization under the Royal instructions of 1825.[25]

Mitchell was still invoking the "Royal instructions", ignoring the fact that both Bourke and Gipps had been working under Royal instructions replacing those of 1825.

These matters, as they form the basis of Gipps' complaint against Mitchell as an elected member, should be examined. No other ground for complaint was offered. The evidence given before the Committee in 1843 related to the disposal of Crown lands. The Ripon Regulations of 1831 had abolished the system of free grants of land, substituting sale by auction at a minimum price of five shillings per acre; and the Wakefield system had been adopted to the extent that the money obtained by the sale of Crown lands was devoted to the purpose of bringing immigrants to New South Wales. The Parliament in England had passed an Act, the Crown Lands Act of 1842, which enacted that no government land should be sold which was not worth £1 per acre. The object had been to prevent speculation in low-grade land which had been largely responsible for the financial crisis of that period. The Legislative Council had appointed a Select Committee to consider the effect of this Act in New South Wales, and on 20 December 1843 had presented an address to Gipps based on the recommendations of this Committee.

This address entirely disapproved of the upset price of £1 per acre prescribed by the Act, condemned the system of applying the revenues obtained by the sale of Crown lands to the purposes of immigration, and recommended a quite different system. Mitchell, giving evidence before this Select Committee, had stated his opinion, as already quoted, that the old system of free grants should be re-established. He was not then a member of the Legislative Council but a responsible executive official, and was not only free, but it was his duty, to give his honest opinion to a responsible parliamentary committee in a matter of policy which was peculiarly that of his own department. Gipps, in an official despatch, expressed his view that for the low-grade Crown lands outside nineteen counties the system of squatting with payment of annual licence fee, was the most satisfactory.[26] This system was adopted later.

The other question was that of District Councils, and the charge against Mitchell was that he failed to give his support to the Government on an occasion when the question before the Council was, whether the Act passed by the Imperial Parliament for the government of the colony should be obeyed or disobeyed. This is an interesting story as it relates to the introduction of local government in Australia. Before 1835 no land was granted or sold beyond the boundaries of location--the nineteen counties--and no police protection or system of government was provided.[27] But the discoveries of Sturt and Mitchell, together with the enterprise of Henty and Batman, had forced a complete review of this position. Bourke had pointed out the necessity for Government policy to be adapted to the rapidly spreading pastoral activities, and Glenelg had replied:

All that remains for the Government in such circumstances is to assume the guidance and direction of enterprises, which, tho' it cannot prevent or retard, it may yet conduct to happy results.[28]

After various devices had been tried, including a levy per capita on live-stock for the maintenance of border police, and unsuccessful attempts by Gipps to induce the Legislative Council to pass laws imposing local rates, the matter was brought to a critical issue in 1842 by the Imperial Parliament passing an Act which, inter alia, provided for the establishment of District Councils. This Act was proclaimed in Sydney on 5 January 1843, and thus became law. Gipps, as was his duty, proceeded to apply the Act and create districts with councils.[29] This precipitated a crisis which might have been avoided if progress had been allowed to proceed more slowly. The Legislative Council during July and August 1844 adopted a firm stand against those clauses of the Act relating to District Councils and asked Gipps to make representations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the amendment of these clauses.

It was precisely during the short period of Mitchell's elected membership of the Legislative Council that this crisis occurred. He was quite a new member when this critical issue was decided in the Legislative Council, by vote, against the Government. Mitchell and Young absented themselves from the discussion on this Bill. Gipps' comment was:

Sir Thomas Mitchell and Mr Adolphus Young should, I have no doubt, have voted against the Government, had they not thought it imprudent to do so.[30]

It has to be added that later (30 January 1846) Gipps, by inference, admitted that the refusal of the Legislative Council to accept the objectionable clauses was well founded:[31] and this difficult question was not properly settled until the introduction in 1855-6 of full self-government in New South Wales. On the evidence it is difficult to find justification for Gipps' action. Mitchell, within a short time after his election, was called upon to make a critical decision in a very contentious field, and, as most men would do, he refrained from voting. For Gipps to link this with evidence properly given before the Select Committee of the Council, as reasons for censuring his actions within Parliament, was an act, taken by itself, of injustice. It is difficult to avoid the impression that Gipps' action was taken against a general background of dissatisfaction with Mitchell in his official duties. Certainly there is something ludicrous in Gipps' dictum that

the Member for Port Phillip may act as he pleases, but the Surveyor General of New South Wales must both obey and support the Government.[32]

It was, however, wise for Mitchell to escape from his invidious position by resigning.

Merivale, who later succeeded Stephen as Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, writing of this crisis long afterward made this comment:

District Councils for New South Wales were created in 1842 by Act of Parliament. It must be admitted that the experiment was premature: a pastoral country, of wide extent and thinly inhabited, is ill calculated for the frequent meeting of local boards. The Act remained a dead letter. When the constitution of the colony was amended under Lord Grey's administration in 1849, his Lordship considered it best to content himself with authorizing their creation by the local legislature: holding out at the same time the inducement of intrusting to those bodies a portion of Crown Lands revenue. The suggestion and the bribe remained as ineffectual as the enactment had been. The legislature would not stir an inch in that direction.[33]

Upon his return from England Mitchell must have sold his house "Craigend", which obviously had not been sold at auction in 1837, for it was advertised for sale by auction in the Australian of 11 September 1841.

His son Livingstone had been moved from India and was, in 1841, with the 96th Regiment at Norfolk Island.[34]

Mitchell now proceeded to build a country residence on his property "Parkhall" near Appin. The foundation stone was laid, with some ceremony, on 16 April 1842. In a cavity in the foundation stone was enclosed a parchment on which was written, in Latin, an inscription of which the following is a translation:

Thomas Livingstone Mitchell, Honorary Doctor of Civil Law in the University of Oxford, accompanied by Charles Nicholson, Doctor of Medicine in the year of grace 1842, and in the reign of Queen Victoria, laid the foundation stone of this house in a land now almost divided from the world but which may one day equal in all the arts of civilization the illustrious regions of his native country.

The house (Plate X) was built to a plan prepared by .the architect who had designed Sir Walter Scott's home, and it was modelled on "Parkhall", the home in Scotland of Mitchell's uncle. Mitchell had brought the plans with him from England. It was built entirely by free, not convict, labour: the building operations were supervised by a Mr Merrick and his son, who received sixty pounds per annum as payment: the workmen were paid forty pounds per annum with rations. While the building was slowly advancing the improvement of the land was not neglected. A start was made on the cultivation of hay and vines, and on the Wilton side of the property several small farms were cleared and rented. By 1845 the building was finished, and on 17 February of that year the family moved there from Sydney.

It must have been at some time during this period that, having sold "Craigend", Mitchell built his fine home "Carthona" on the water-front on Darling Point. He had, therefore, during the rest of his life two attractive residences, "Carthona" in town, and "Parkhall" in the country.

Livingstone Mitchell must have left the army and joined the family, as Mitchell, writing to his son Roderick (12 March 1846), remarks: "Livy promises good strong wine at Parkhall."[35]

Roderick, the second son, had qualified at Durham University as a civil engineer and was appointed a Commissioner of Crown Lands in New South Wales on 23 August 1843. He was engaged soon after in surveying, and appraising, the country north of the Darling in the Culgoa River region.[36]

The colony of South Australia had been founded in 1836: exploration of the interior districts had been only spasmodic until Hawdon, Bonney, Eyre, and Sturt had brought cattle overland from New South Wales and Victoria. By these journeys interest in a wider horizon had been stimulated, and, in 1839, Eyre began a series of exploratory journeys to the north and west. To the north he succeeded in reaching the great chain of interior salt lakes which he named Lake Torrens; he was, in this region, repelled by the waterless nature of the country.

When news of this journey reached Sydney, Mitchell, writing to General Murray (12 February 1841), commented:

An important, but by no means gratifying discovery has been made in the interior by a party led northward from Adelaide by a Mr Eyre. The high land at the head of Spencer Gulf was found to decline gradually to the northward until it terminated on what seemed the bed of a vast lake or inland sea--two arms of which trending northward appeared to unite about the 29th parallel of latitude, probably to form the head of some inland water which may extend towards the Gulf of Carpentaria...the prospects to the colonists of South Australia by this discovery are by no means brightened.

A very small channel or watercourse containing some salt water connects the head of St. Vincent Gulf with this inland basin.[37]

CHAPTER XII - The fourth expedition

In 1843 Gipps wrote to Stanley (7 December 1843) that a committee of the Legislative Council had been appointed to enquire into the practicability of a design for an overland route to Port Essington.[1] According to Lang there was a vague hope that good country might be discovered in that direction. Gipps stated that both Sturt and Eyre had offered to undertake the task: as, however, the expense was estimated at between £4,000 and £5,000, the project had been, for the time at least, abandoned. He went on to say that Mitchell not only considered the project practicable but was himself ready to lead the expedition.[2]

Gipps, writing again to Stanley (24 October 1844), said:

I repeat that in the event of an expedition being undertaken to Port Essington, I apprehend Sir Thomas Mitchell will claim (as indeed he has already claimed) the honour of conducting it.

A small private expedition is now on the point of starting from Moreton Bay to Port Essington direct. Dr Leichhardt is, I believe, a physician, a German by birth, and a man of considerable scientific attainments.[3]

In February 1844 Mitchell had been forced to reduce his departmental expenditure by more than half--from £26,384 to £12,000--and his staff correspondingly (Gipps himself had admitted that the reduction was "an immense one") and, in August 1844, he had been forced, under rebuke, to resign his seat in the Legislative Council.[4] It is hardly surprising that, restless, he turned again to that field in which he had gained great glory, and claimed the honour of leading the expedition overland to Port Essington.

Sturt and Eyre had proposed that they should start from Moreton Bay (Brisbane), follow the coast to Halifax Bay (Townsville), where they would be met with a ship carrying supplies: thence overland to the Gulf of Carpentaria where the same ship would meet them: and, from there, overland to Port Essington.[5] Gipps considered this a more feasible route than one directly overland from Sydney to Port Essington--which had been the route recommended by the Legislative Council Committee. But, as already stated, he considered the project to be too expensive. Stanley in reply to Gipps (12 May 1844) approved of the expedition as soon as the funds of the colony could properly bear the expense: as to the route, Stanley said that it appeared to him that there was much force in the argument in favour of the less hazardous though more expensive expedition by way of the sea coast.[6]

Gipps may have received this approval by Stanley as early as September 1844, but he delayed until November 1845. He then advised Stanley (11 November 1845) that improvement in the public revenue justified the expense and he had fitted out an expedition to proceed overland by way of Bathurst and Fort Bourke and thence either direct to Port Essington, or to the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria at Mitchell's discretion.

It being the wish of the majority of the Legislative Council, as well as of Sir Thomas Mitchell, that the shorter or direct course should be adopted, rather than the more circuitous one by Halifax Bay, I have not thought it right to oppose myself to their wishes.[7]

Sturt wrote a personal letter to King (5 December 1843) about the project, in which he said:

The conclusions at which the Committee of the Legislative Council has arrived are in my judgment erroneous, and I think it is to be regretted they did not refer to you or Hume for better information than they would probably obtain from Sir Thomas Mitchell, whose opinions I assure you I hold in the most sovereign contempt.[8]

This project of an overland route to the settlement at Port Essington had been under discussion for several years. Captain J. L. Stokes recorded, relative to his visit to Sydney in 1842 when in command of H.M.S. Beagle:

The most interesting topic of conversation on our arrival in Sydney was the projected expedition into the interior. Two candidates for this important and deeply interesting undertaking had presented themselves--Mr E. J. Eyre and Sir Thomas Mitchell--both experienced Australian explorers. The latter proposed to start from Fort Bourke on the Darling, and the former from Moreton Bay. In my humble opinion, strengthened by recent experience, neither of these are practicable routes, or at any rate they are not the best that could be selected.[9]

Leichhardt had become interested in this proposal, had formed a private expedition, and started from Sydney in August 1844: but as no news came from him there was in Sydney, even until March 1846, a persistent belief that he and his whole party had been killed by aborigines. Two search parties had returned with confirmatory reports.

In Mitchell's own account of his expedition, published in 1848, he gives his version of the preliminary discussion concerning this expedition, which differs in some details from the official statements. Mitchell says that Gipps, in one of his early despatches to the British Government, expressed his readiness to encourage an expedition, and stated that "no one came forward to claim the honour of such an enterprise".[10] This is a reference to a despatch from Gipps to the Colonial Office (28 September 1840) in which he said:

I have frequently expressed my willingness to encourage an attempt to penetrate either from Moreton Bay or any of the northern parts of the colony to Port Essington but hitherto no person has presented himself to claim the honour of that enterprise.[11]

But, while this was true in 1840, it is equally true that both Sturt and Eyre had, in 1843, volunteered to lead such an expedition, and Gipps had in 1843 (7 December) reaffirmed his wish to promote this enterprise.

That an attempt should be made to reach Port Essington by an overland route is, I think, most desirable; and it has long been a matter of regret to me that I have not as yet found myself in a condition to undertake one.[12]

Mitchell must have known all this when he wrote his book and there can be little doubt that, in writing the passage in the way he did, he was not telling the whole truth.

This was a time of great financial depression in New South Wales and Gipps' hesitancy was natural. He may have had other reasons, for he wrote to Secretary of State Gladstone on 23 June 1846,[13] while Mitchell was actually away, that the expedition was one which he had never approved.*

[* There is here an obvious inconsistency with his statement three years earlier that he had frequently expressed his willingness to encourage such an expedition; but it is probable that his disapproval applied to the expedition taking this particular route.]

In his preference for the overland route Mitchell was still possessed by the idea of a large river flowing northward to discharge into the Gulf of Carpentaria--"the ultimate course of the Condamine was still a question".[14] He referred to his 1831 journey, and the statements of Clarke the bushranger, and it might seem from his references to this that he was prepared to overlook his own earlier statements that he had shown this story of Clarke's to be false: his attitude was that it was very desirable that a way should be opened to the shores of the Indian Ocean which was already connected with England by steam navigation: a trade in horses with India had in fact already begun.

Mitchell records that he had, in 1844, told Leichhardt all his plans and invited him to join the expedition. But it is interesting to read Leichhardt's comment on his safe return to Sydney: "I thought the whole town would go mad with joy. Even the family of Sir Thomas Mitchell are treating me with justice";[15] as Mitchell had previously invited Leichhardt to join his own expedition there was no reason why Mitchell's family should not treat him well other than a natural regret that he had anticipated Mitchell in important discoveries.

The sum of £2,000 was allocated for the expedition, Mitchell and Kennedy--his second in command--both receiving their full Government salaries during their absence.

During November Mitchell had been busy with long memoranda to the Governor on the subject of the survey of lands in the colony. Gipps had written on these papers:

Inform the Surveyor General that I see no reason to forward to the Secretary of State a copy of his voluminous and very uncalled for report of 22 November. I am surprised to find Sir Thomas Mitchell still in Sydney instead of being with the exploratory expedition which left Parramatta above three weeks ago and which is already beyond Bathurst. I must decline any further correspondence with Sir Thomas Mitchell unless it be on the subject of the expedition.[16]

FROM SYDNEY TO ST. GEORGE (14 November 1845 to 1 April 1846)

The party for this expedition included, beside Mitchell himself, Assistant Surveyor E. B. Kennedy, W. Stephenson as surgeon and natural history collector, Mitchell's faithful servant Anthony Brown, one soldier, two civilians, and twenty-three convicts. 01 all the party only Anthony Brown and W. Baldock had been on previous expeditions with Mitchell; Baldock had been on the second, and Brown on all four expeditions. The expedition was impressively equipped--there were seventeen horses, three light carts, eight drays with 112 bullocks, and 250 sheep. Instead of standard type boats which had been taken on previous expeditions Mitchell took two iron boats, each in two sections which could be bolted together. These served additionally as troughs, and, on occasions, for carrying water for the cattle.

In the preface to the published book describing this expedition Mitchell expressed his feelings of pleasure at the prospect of another journey of exploration:

It has ever been the most attractive of the author's duties to explore the interior of Australia. There the philosopher may look for facts; the painter and the poet for original studies and ideas; the naturalist for additional knowledge; and the historian might begin at a beginning. The traveller there seeks in vain for the remains of cities, temples, or towers; but he is amply compensated by objects that tell not of decay but of healthful progress and hope;--of a wonderful past and a promising future.

Curiosity alone may attract us into the mysterious recesses of regions still unknown; but a still deeper interest attaches to those regions, now that the rapid increase of the most industrious and, may we add, most deserving people on earth, suggests that the land there has been reserved by the Almighty for their use.*
[* This quotation, with others in this chapter relating to incidents occurring during this expedition, are, when not otherwise indicated, from the text of Mitchell's published work Tropical Australia.]

The main party left Parramatta on 17 November 1845; Mitchell, leaving Sydney on 8 December, joined the party at Boree on 13 December. Then the whole party started northwards, or rather north-westwards, on 15 December 1845 (Map X). Two points may be noted here. First, if Mitchell had, as he vigorously advocated, taken a direct overland route from Sydney to Port Essington, this route would pass the vicinity of Dubbo, Bourke, Cunnamulla and Carnooweal. Mitchell was, therefore, quite consistent in setting out from Boree along his old route to Fort Bourke. Secondly, that two other explorers were at that time in the same field. Leichhardt, who had left Sydney on 13 August and who was believed dead, arrived at Port Essington actually two days after Mitchell had left Boree. On the very day of Mitchell's departure, 15 December, Sturt was struggling over the Barrier Range on the last lap of his weary journey home. But Mitchell could not then know that Leichhardt on the east, and Sturt on the west, had forestalled him to an important degree, and robbed hi's enterprise of much of the credit of priority.

At Boree an aborigine, Yuranigh, had joined the party; he remained with them throughout the expedition, and earned great praise from Mitchell. Soon after leaving Boree a young aborigine, Dicky, also attached himself to the expedition. On leaving Boree Mitchell had included in the party the native Piper who had been with him all through the third expedition. Piper, in the intervening nine years, had had a varied experience. He had been to Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Newcastle and had, as already recorded, received too much attention after the third expedition; as will be seen later he gave trouble.

Mitchell kept closely to his former track across to the head waters of the Bogan making only slight deviations. He soon became aware that, in the interval of ten years since he had first crossed this country, squatters had pushed out far along the Bogan. He passed through Bramadura on Mandadgery Creek, Balderudgery, Seven-mile Creek, Goobang Creek, Currandong, and Gananaguy, where he reached the Bogan, and then down the Bogan to Kerr's station at Derribong. This was the limit of squatting at that time; there had been attempts at Mudall and even Nyngan, but the hostilities of the natives had made their holdings untenable. Mitchell was to see the burnt ruins of the temorary buildings which had been abandoned.

On 3 January they passed the scene of Cunningham's murder some thirteen miles north-east of Tottenham, but although the grave had been marked by Lieutenant Zouch, there is no record that Mitchell visited it. He did, however, note in his diary that both Cunningham brothers were now dead.

MAP X. Map showing the first part of Mitchell's fourth expedition: the route from Boree to Narran Lake

Proceeding down the Bogan, passing Cajildry, Buddabadah, Mudall, and Darouble, they reached Nyngan on 16 January. From Derribong to Nyngan they had great trouble in finding water, and many delays because of the bullocks straying at night. From Nyngan Mitchell again moved down the Bogan to a point which he named Canbelego. This is not the place which now has that name, but is in the vicinity of the place now shown on the maps as Grahweed. Leaving the main party here Mitchell scouted for-, ward in search of water to a point which is not now readily identifiable except by Mitchell's own record that it was "near the debateable land of Lee's old station"--perhaps in the region of Nidgery Crossing. This reconnaissance, and the notable absence of water even in the Bogan channel, altered Mitchell's plans: I turned at length, reluctantly, convinced that it would have been unsafe to venture with cattle and drays into these regions before rain fell.

Three of their best cattle dogs had died from the heat. This was the first important departure from his original plan of the direct route to Port Essington. Back at the camp at "Canbelego" Mitchell suffered a severe attack of ophthalmia for which he applied fourteen leeches brought from the ponds at Nyngan.

After two days, his eyes having recovered, Mitchell abandoned the Bogan, moving south-east to the Bellaringa ponds on Gunningbar Creek, then north-east to Canonba ponds on Duck Creek. Mitchell claims that this Gunningbar Creek was discovered by Larmer on the previous expedition, but Hume had probably crossed it in 1829, as, indeed, he had also been on the Bogan almost exactly at the point (Grahweed) where Mitchell left that river. From Canonba, moving still in a direction slightly north of east, they came to Marra Creek at Grahway--twelve miles northwest of Mt. Foster. This had been a period of delay, for Piper had begun making unreasonable demands, although he had been treated very favourably. Moreover, he was a bad shot, awkward about horses, and proved useless as an interpreter. Mitchell, therefore, sent him back under escort to the nearest police station, and remained in camp awaiting the return of the escort.

At Grahway they had re-entered settled districts, as here they met two mounted policemen, who brought news of a flood coming down the Macquarie. Being thus reasonably assured of water Mitchell decided to follow the Macquarie down to its junction with the Darling. Mitchell's impressions of the sudden arrival of the flood-waters were:

Some hours later, and after the moon had risen, a murmuring sound like that of a distant waterfall, mingled with occasional cracks as of breaking timber, drew our attention, and I hastened to the river bank. By very slow degrees the sound grew louder, and at length, so audible as to draw various persons besides from the camp to the river-side.

Still no flood appeared, although its approach was indicated by the occasional rending of trees with a loud noise. Such a phenomenon in a a serene moonlight night was quite new to us all. At length the rushing sound of waters and loud cracking of timber announced that the flood was in the next bend. It rushed into our sight, glittering in the moonbeams, a moving cataract, tossing before it ancient trees, and snapping them against its banks. It was preceded by a point of meandering water, picking its way like a thing of life, through the deepest parts of the dark, dry, and shady bed of what thus again became a flowing river.

By my party, situated as we were at that time, beating about the country, and impeded in our journey, solely by the almost total absence of water--suffering excessively from thirst and extreme heat--I am convinced the scene never can be forgotten. Here came at once abundance, the product of storms in the far-off mountains that overlooked our homes. My first impulse was to have welcomed this flood on our knees, for the scene was sublime in itself, while the subject--an abundance of water sent to us in a desert--greatly heightened the effect to our eyes. Suffice it to say I had witnessed nothing of such interest in all my Australian travels.

Mitchell now proceeded northwards along the western edge of the Macquarie marshes. The bullocks were greatly troubled by the softness of the soil and Mitchell was worried that

the weather might change, and these marshes become impassable; indeed, we were as much at the mercy of Providence in this respect as the Israelites were in the bed of the Red Sea. It depended on the weather whether we should deserve to be considered Jews or Egyptians.

The journey from their camp at Grahway to the Darling (Bar-won) occupied sixteen days, some delay being caused by trouble with missing bullocks and a recurrence of Mitchell's ophthalmia. They had reached the Darling at the junction of the Macquarie, where Mr Parnell had established a station. There was another station seventy-five miles down the Darling, evidence of the rapid spread of settlement since Sturt had discovered this region sixteen years, and since Mitchell's own visit further upstream fifteen years, previously.

During this section of the journey the boy Dicky began to show his value:

One only of the two lost bullocks was found, and for this one we were indebted to little Dicky, a native only ten years of age, whom the big fool who had lost them was at some trouble to coax to go and assist him in the search.

When they reached the Darling Mitchell learned that his son, Commissioner Roderick Mitchell, had recently passed down the river charting the stations. Also he learned from the natives that the Rivers Balonne (Bolloon), Culgoa, Biree, and Narran to the north were flowing; and here he received despatches from his son Roderick giving account of the district ahead of them, and a map showing the rivers even as far as the Bokhara.

From Palmer's station at Wyabry, a few miles downstream from Boorooma, Mitchell wrote a letter to his son Livingstone in Sydney, in which he said (4 March 1846):

Mind! I have written no account of my movements to any Sydney friends lest by notices in the papers Sturt may be enlightened too soon.[17]

Sturt had been back in Adelaide since 17 January.

It is difficult to imagine the considerations which moved Mitchell to write in those terms. Sturt had then been away from Adelaide for eighteen months: there had been ample time for the despatches sent back by Sturt from Preservation Creek to have reached Adelaide and for Mitchell to have heard of them in Sydney. From this source he may have learned that Sturt had set off to the north, and he may have feared that Sturt would be moving along a line that would cross his own route. But it is difficult to understand how he imagined that Sturt, cut off from all communication, would learn of his movements. It can at least be accepted as an indication of the attitude towards Sturt which he always maintained.

Leaving Parnell's station on 5 March, he proceeded northwards, guided by some natives, to Narran Lagoon, and then followed the Narran River closely, round the bend at Angledool, and over the Queensland border at Pratt's Gate (Map XI). At the eastern end of Angledool bend (Yeranbah) he found traces of horses and looked for his son's initials on the trees--evidence that he was still in country that had been visited before. In this vicinity Mitchell found specimens of Enchylaena tomentosa which was, possibly, the same species of berry which had rapidly relieved Sturt's scurvy near the Barrier Range three months before.[18]

At this point in his journey he wrote to his other son Roderick (12 March 1846) a letter in which he said:

My progress should have presented a brilliant contrast to that of Sturt had I not been so weak as to have altered my own original plan to please a wooden-headed ass. I could not have been in my right senses when last in Sydney. I would purchase myself, if I could find them near, three or four pairs of draught horses and harness and make light carts here for a vigorous push to the northwards. I think I know by the strike of the rocks all about this basin of the Darling, where and how the northern waters are to be found and beyond. But I am unwilling to give any of my views to the public at this stage of the journey.[19]

The party arrived at the junction of the Balonne with the Narran (Dirranbandi) on 1 April, twenty-six days from the Darling. Here, which Mitchell assumed to be the point visited by his son, they found trees marked "J. Towns" and "Bagot". Up to this point, then, priority was denied to Mitchell--indeed, his son could, as Mitchell admitted, claim to be the discoverer of this region. Still proceeding up the Narran--now become the Balonne--and making a detour to the west to cross the Culgoa junction at seven miles from the Balonne junction, the party passed the Burrawurra Lagoon, and the Parachute Lagoon, arriving at St. George on 12 April.

MAP XI. Map showing the journey from Narran Lake to Mt. Bindango, and part of the return journey, on Mitchell's fourth expedition

On this section of the journey the natives had been quite friendly. Speaking of one of them, who had guided them over one section of the journey, Mitchell said:

Nothing could have been finer than this man's conduct. He had at once come on with us to guide us where we wanted to go; took great pains to make us known to his own tribe, and, I believe, to other assembled tribes at some risk to himself; and, then, without claiming my promised gifts, he had returned to his little family, only that he might do that which was civil to us strangers. Yet we call these men savages! I fear such disinterested acts of civility on the part of the civilized portion of mankind are rather rare.

And of another aboriginal guide a little later on he said that he had never seen a Spanish or Portuguese go with a detachment half so willingly.

Mitchell was now having further trouble with the bullocks.

Another bullock died on the way, and thus I felt, when the field of discovery lay open before me, that my means of conveyance were unsuited to this task.

Overloading at Buree, unskilful driving, excessive heat, and want of water, had contributed to render the bullocks unserviceable.

From the Darling to St. George had been through well watered country with luxuriant pasture: these favourable conditions had influenced Mitchell to his decision to establish a base camp at St. George, and himself, with a lighter party, to push on more quickly. He intended to go in a north-westerly direction

where centred all my hopes of discovery. I formed my party of infantry rather than cavalry, taking only two horses, drawing a cart loaded chiefly with water, and six trusty men, almost all old soldiers.

He had started off on this forward journey on 16 April, but on 18 April he was overtaken by two men from the St. George base camp with despatches which had arrived there. The occasion

was a little dramatic.

They were two of our party come from the depot to bring me a despatch which had been forwarded by Commissioner Wright, communicating the news of Dr Leichhardt's return from Port Essington, and enclosing the Gazette with his own account of his journey. Thus it became known to us that we could no longer hope to be the first to reach the shore of the Indian Ocean by land.

FROM ST. GEORGE TO THE SECOND DEPOT (23 April to 1 June 1846)

In accordance with his altered plans he left the main party at St. George for three weeks with Kennedy in charge so that the cattle might rest while he, with eight men and two natives, went forward with horses and light carts carrying ten weeks' provisions.

I determined, if possible, to penetrate northward, into the interior country, and ascertain where the division of the waters was likely to be found. I intended, with this view, to trace upwards the course of the Balonne, until I found mountains to the north-westward of it; then to endeavour to turn them by the west, and thus acquire some knowledge on that most interesting point, the watershed towards the Gulf.

Kennedy was instructed to follow Mitchell's tracks after three weeks.

The advance party started on 23 April, moving northward along the west bank of the Balonne, making a slight detour to the west at Burgurrah to cross the Maranoa. Reaching the junction of the Balonne and the Cogoon, half-way between Donga and Surat, they turned north-westward along the latter river. Reaching Mt. First View (3 May) Mitchell, very prematurely, recorded these impressions:

From the crest I perceived woolly ridges on all sides: but the most interesting sight to me then, was that of blue pics* at a great distance to the north-west, the object of all my dreams of discovery for years. No white man had before seen these. There we might hope to find the divisa aquarum still undiscovered, the pass to Carpentaria still unexplored.
[* Mitchell frequently used this word instead of "peaks".]

Still following the Cogoon they passed Mt. Inviting and Red Peak, crossed Frosty Creek, and came to the western side of Mt. Abundance. Riding out from here towards Bindango, and ascending part of Mt. Abundance, he "beheld the finest country I had ever seen in a primeval state. I determined to name the whole country Fitzroy Downs".

This is an interesting example of post hoc record as he could not have known when he made this ostensible entry in his diary that Fitzroy was to be Governor of New South Wales. At this point Mitchell sighted and named the Grafton Range to the north-east of Roma.

After reaching Mt. Bindango, which he ascended, Mitchell turned to the north-west crossing over to the Maranoa watershed--on this section he would pass close to Wooroonga (Map XII). Thence he followed the Maranoa upwards between the Denham and Chesterton Ranges, having changed his direction from northwest to north in the region of Donnybrook. At this point he made a short journey to Mt. Lonsdale. This is broken country and Mitchell had some difficulty in deciding which course to take next. The locality is, approximately, thirty miles south-east of Mt. Elliot, on the Maranoa about the junction of Eastern Creek. Kennedy overtook them at this point, and Mitchell decided to form the second base camp here.

This section of the journey had occupied from 23 April to 1 June; during the passage through this region there had been several threatening approaches by the natives, but no actual conflict. Kennedy had brought forward some despatches and newspapers from Sydney which had overtaken the party at St. George. In the newspapers Mitchell read:

Australia Felix and the discoveries of Sir Thomas Mitchell now dwindle into comparative insignificance. We understand the intrepid Dr Leichhardt is about to start another expedition to the Gulf, keeping to the westward of the coast ranges.

As this was precisely what Mitchell himself was at that time doing, his comment was certainly restrained. "Not very encouraging to us, certainly, but we work for the future."

After instructing Kennedy to build a stockyard and to make a fenced garden for growing vegetables, Mitchell, again with a light party, started on the next section of his journey.

I bade Mr Kennedy adieu for at least four months, and crossed the Maranoa with my party and light carts. It was not without very much regret that I thus left this zealous assistant, and so large a portion of my men, behind, in departing on a hazardous enterprise as this was likely to be, where the population might be numerous. Anxiety for the safety of the party left predominated with me, for whatever might be the danger of passing and repassing through these dangerous regions, that of a party stationary for a length of time in one place seemed greater, as they were more likely to be assailed by assembled numbers, and more exposed to' their cunning and treachery. I gave to Mr Kennedy the best advice I could, and we parted in the hope of a happy meeting at the period of my return--a hope, I must confess, I could not indulge in then with any degree of pleasure, looking forward to the many difficulties we were prepared to encounter, and considering the state of my own health.

FROM THE SECOND DEPOT TO THE NORTH (4 June to 8 September 1846)

Mitchell proceeded with his light party, to which had been added Mr Stephenson and a shepherd, as he was taking some of the sheep for food. Moving northwards along the Maranoa he crossed Possession Creek coming from the slopes of Mt. Elliot. He then made an attempt to push to the north-west, but after three days returned, convinced that he could not make much progress in this direction. Much later, in the light of the knowledge gained on his journey to the Barcoo, he realized that, if he had only continued for another ten miles, he would have come to the head waters of the Warrego, and have found a well-watered line direct to the Barcoo. He had made a critical and unfortunate decision: later he instructed Kennedy (see later) to follow this route.

Returning then to the Maranoa, he continued his journey northwards along that river, and came to Mt. Owen, which he ascended. From its summit he saw Mts. Clift, Ogilvie, Faraday--all of which he named. He was now among a tangle of peaks of the Chesterton Range which together formed the head waters of the Maranoa on the east, and the Warrego on the west. After scouting around this region for seven days Mitchell decided to move forward to the west of Mt. Owen, crossing the Chesterton Range just on the western flanks of Mt. Clift: then passing Mt. P. P. King on its eastern slopes, crossing Sandy Creek, he turned a little more to the north-west crossing the head waters of the Warrego to arrive on the southern slopes of Mt. Faraday. Here he was on the Great Dividing Range. When approaching Mt. Faraday he had crossed streams which he recognized to be the head waters of another river, which was in fact the Warrego. From the top of Mt. King, surveying the assembly of peaks, "I was at a loss to discover where our supposed northern river would pass". He was still searching for his great waterway to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

MAP XII. Map showing Mitchell's journey north to Alpha, his route to the west from Pyramid Depot to Isisford, and part of his return journey

After passing Mt. Faraday he saw and named, but did not visit Mt. Salvator; and at this point he had a momentary hope:

The course of this river, having its origin in mountains equidistant between Cape York and Wilson's Promontory, it was reasonable to suppose we had at length crossed the division between the northern and southern waters.

It was a reasonable deduction; he was, in fact, on the head waters of the Nogoa which did indeed flow north, but not to the Gulf. Of this region he said:

It was a discovery worthy of the toils of a pilgrimage. Those beautiful recesses of unpeopled earth could no longer remain unknown.

After some difficulty in extricating themselves from the gullies around Mt. Salvator, they followed down the Nogoa past Lake Salvator, then turned north-west over the Claude River to the ranges just south of Mt. Observatory, reaching the head waters of Balmy Creek. In the Claude River region many fragments of fossil wood were seen. At this stage, too, difficulty in finding a track through the gullies was experienced, but at length a possible pass over the range was found to the east of Mt. Mudge, and they came down on to fine, undulating, forest land--the head waters of the Belyando--near Avoca head station. This section of the journey had occupied them from 4 June to 20 July, but was without incident except for occasional lack of water and difficult country. They had no trouble with natives.

It was at this point, when Mitchell had emerged from the tangled mountain country on to the head waters of the Belyando River, that he expressed his feeling of relief:

I saw enough to relieve me of all anxiety about the want of water. A promising valley from the mountains to the eastward came due west, and from it arose the smoke of many native fires. The bright prospects of the morning were a pleasing contrast to the temporary difficulties of yesterday, such is human life in travelling, and so it was in war at Salamanca this day thirty-four years back.

From 20 July to 8 August they followed the Belyando northwards, with Mt. Beaufort at first to the westward of their course, and at this point Mitchell recorded: "Now again I believed that we had at length discovered the head of a north-west river."

For the first eighty miles they were following the more easterly of the head streams of the Belyando, but on 31 July they met that westerly branch of the river which runs north from Alpha, and here the general course of the river, as they were following it, turned from north-westward to almost due north. Mitchell was misled by Dunda Creek, which he followed hoping it would lead him north-west, but he had to return to the main river, and here doubts began to form:

The general course was by no means promising, being somewhat to the E. of N.; it was much to be apprehended that this river, too, would run to the E. coast.

His hopes were again raised by another river containing plenty of water and coming from the north-west.


I hoped it would lead us to higher regions, by following it upwards, to where other waters might fall in the direction of the Gulf.

Then, on 7 August, they came on an apparently large stream joining the Belyando and coming up from the west--this later proved to be, higher up, a comparatively small stream. It was. Carmichael Creek.

From this point Mitchell scouted forward reaching an ultimate northern point, according to his own observations, of 21° 30' S.--a point on the Belyando between Carmichael Creek on the west and Mistake Creek on the east near the modern Mt. Douglas homestead. He did not, apparently, see Mistake Creek. On 11 August, after having had the near prospect of trouble with hostile natives; he decided to return up the river.

I concluded, with much regret, that this river must be either a tributary to, or identical with, that which Mr Leichhardt saw joining the Suttor in latitude 21° 6' S. I could no longer doubt that the division between eastern and western waters was still to the westward. I arrived at the following conclusions:

That the river of Carpentaria should have been sought for to the westward of all the sources of the river Salvator.*

That under the parallel of 25° S. the highest spinal range must extend westward, in a line of truncated cones, whereof Mt. Faraday appeared to be one.

I reluctantly ordered my men (who believed themselves on the highway to Carpentaria) to turn the horses' heads homewards, merely saying that we were obliged to explore from a higher point.
[* Nogoa.]

Even allowing for the possibility that although this was published in diary form under the date when his decision to return was made the passage may have been written, or rewritten, long afterwards (when he had proved the existence of the western range and had, as he thought, found his great river) it is still remarkably good deduction.

He was, as he supposed, on the river which Leichhardt had named Suttor Creek (ultimately joining the Burdekin River). Leichhardt had crossed this main valley a few miles north of Mistake Creek, so Mitchell was actually within a few miles of Leichhardt's track of seventeen months previously.

Mitchell's decision to return was understandable. The natives were threatening. He could, by going further, only cover ground already crossed, while the general direction was leading him away from his objective. At his last camp he carved on a tree "N.S.W. over LXIX"; this camp would be on the Belyando, perhaps, about ten miles south of the Carmichael Creek junction, about Moray Downs head station.

From 11 to 29 August the journey southward was continued without incident. At the point where they crossed the tropic line, Mitchell had carved on a tree the letter "T" over "N.S.W.". This is in the region of Islay Plains. Then, crossing Drummond Range, passing Mts. Mudge and Wentworth, they came down on to the plains of the Nogoa again at Balmy Creek. Crossing the plains on a line almost due south from Mt. Mudge to Mt. Salvator, they followed their old track to a point west of Mt. Faraday. Here the first signs of early spring were apparent with new growth of herbage everywhere. In this section of the journey Mitchell named the Claude River and the Mantuan Downs. Of this region he wrote:

Here was an almost boundless extent of the richest surface still uncultivated and unoccupied by man. A great reserve provided by nature for the extension of his race, where economy, art, and industry, might suffice to people it with a peaceful, happy, and contented population.

He must have passed quite close to, and a little to the west of, Mantuan Downs head station. Having reached a very suitable spot in one of the gullies on a line between Mts. Salvator and Hutton, Mitchell established what he called Pyramid Depot, and spent two days writing despatches, prior to his next journey westward.

FROM PYRAMID DEPOT TO THE WEST (10 September to 6 October 1846)

From 10 September to 6 October was spent by Mitchell in a journey to the west, still in search of the great river to the Gulf. Leaving Stephenson in charge of the depot he started with two men, and the native Yuranigh, all mounted, and leading two pack-horses, carrying sextant, false horizon and one month's provisions. Two pack-horses for one month's provisions suggest that the party travelled on very light rations.

Passing to the south of Mt. Pluto and north of Mt. Playfair the party moved westward along the southern slopes of the range, till they came to the Nive and its junction with the Nivelle.

I verily believed that this river would run to Carpentaria, and I called it the Nive, at least as a conventional name until the native name could be ascertained, in commemoration of Lord Wellington's action on the river of that name; and to the tributary from the north, I gave the name of Nivelle.

But he was soon disappointed in his hope that this river would lead him to the Gulf as it continued on a southerly course, so he altered his course to a gap in the Warrego Range to the northwest.

He moved into this gap (where the town of Tambo now is):

I hastened towards the gap, and ascended a naked rock on the west side of it. I there beheld downs and plains extending westward beyond the reach of vision: the whole of these open downs declining to the N.W. in which direction a line of trees marked the course of a river traceable to the remotest verge of the horizon. There I found then, at last, the realization of my long cherished hopes, an interior river falling to the N.W. in the heart of an open country extending also in that direction. Ulloa's delight at the first view of the Pacific could not have surpassed mine on this occasion, nor could the fervour with which he was impressed at the moment have exceeded my sense of gratitude, for being allowed to make such a discovery. From that rock, the scene was so extensive as to leave no room for doubt as to the course of the river, which, thus and there revealed to me alone, seemed like a reward direct from Heaven for perseverance, and as a compensation for the many sacrifices I had made, in order to solve the question as to the interior rivers of tropical Australia.

He was impressed with these great open plains, where the grass surpassed any he had ever seen in the colony in quality and abundance, and was moved to some philosophical reflections:

A situation might be imagined between earth and heaven, where a man should hear nothing but the thoughts of the Almighty: but such a sublime position seems almost attained by him who is the first permitted to traverse extensive portions of the earth, as yet unoccupied by man; to witness in solitude and silence regions well adapted to his use, brings a man into more immediate converse with the author of his being, and of all other combinations of matter than any other imaginable position he can attain. With nothing but nature around him; his few wants supplied almost miraculously; living on from day to day, just as he falls in with water; his existence is felt to be in the hands of Providence alone; and this feeling pervades even the minds of the least susceptible in journeys like these.

On 21 September, eleven days from camp, when they were in the vicinity of Blackall, Mitchell recorded: "I laid down our journey on paper and found we were making great progress towards Carpentaria." On 23 September he noted the junction with the Alice River, and here began anxiety about provisions.

Our only care now was the duration of our men (two old soldiers) were willing to undergo any privations that might enable me to prolong my ride.

To save distance, in the belief that the river would continue north-west, Mitchell struck off in that direction, but was soon convinced that he would have to seek the continuation of the river to the south-west. He regained the river, passing the vicinity of Isisford on 24 September and reaching a point on the level of Yaraka on the same day. Here the natives showed signs of hostility and, the horses being weary, the food supply dangerously low, Mitchell decided to return. At this point he very briefly recorded in his diary (as printed in 1848): "I saw the course of the river running nearly northward. Here, then, I turned towards the east to travel home." On the map which is included in Mitchell's published volume the river is shown as going to the north-west, but he did not verify even that short section.

Having now arrived at the end point of his journey a review of his situation is permissible. The enthusiasm at different early stages of his journey, which is recorded in the entries already quoted, is quite absent from his record in these last days. If he was not convinced that this was not his great river to the Gulf, he must at least have had grave doubts. On four successive observations he had found the height above sea level to be only 700 feet, the stream showed the broken channel and anabranches characteristic of inland rivers; and he was, approximately, 450 miles from the nearest point on the Gulf. He was unusually skilled in his profession, he must have known of this distance, and could hardly accept this broken stream, with its multiple channels and with a fall over 700 miles of eighteen inches in the mile, as his great navigable waterway to the Indian Ocean. Also he must have known by that time that Leichhardt, having crossed round the base of the Gulf, had not crossed any such stream. There is something a little unconvincing, and more than a little pathetic, in reading Mitchell's own record of these few days. That he started off with only two pack-horses and one month's provisions for a total journey of about fourteen hundred miles, suggests that, when he set out, he had no confident hope of reaching the Gulf.

After he had returned to Sydney, and one month before leaving Sydney for England, he gave written instructions (22 February 1847) to Kennedy to proceed overland to the end-point of his own journey to determine the ultimate course of the river which he (Mitchell) had named the Victoria River. He instructed Kennedy that the principal object of this journey was to determine the course of the Victoria River, and the discovery of a convenient route to the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria, and added:

On arriving at or near the Gulf of Carpentaria, I have particularly to caution you against remaining longer than may be unavoidable there.

But, as the official correspondence shows, Mitchell's instructions to Kennedy were so definite and rigid that Kennedy was not at liberty to deviate from the course of the Barcoo (Victoria) River wherever that led him: and although Kennedy was aware that the main object of the expedition was to discover a "convenient route to the Gulf of Carpentaria" he was so tied by Mitchell's instructions to follow that river that he did not feel free to explore northwards.[20] Mitchell was so obsessed by the belief that the Barcoo River discharged into the Gulf of Carpentaria that he made no allowance for other possibilities.

At the stage at which he decided to abandon further investigation of this river and return on his tracks, Mitchell made a decision which is recorded in the published account of this journey:

The river we were about to leave required a name, for no natives could be made to understand our questions. It seemed to me to deserve a great name, being of much importance as leading from temperate into tropical regions, a river leading to India: the grand goal, in short, of explorers by sea and land from Columbus downwards.

This river seemed to me to be typical of God's providence, in conveying living water into a dry parched land, and thus affording access to open and extensive pastoral regions, likely to be soon peopled by civilized inhabitants.

It was with sentiments of devotion, zeal, and loyalty, that I therefore gave to this river the name of my gracious Sovereign, Queen Victoria.[21]

Stokes during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle had, in October 1839, discovered and named the Victoria River in the Northern Territory, and the Beagle was in Australian waters for several years afterwards, visiting Sydney early in 1842, when Stokes had found the projected expedition to Port Essington being widely discussed. Mitchell was then in Sydney and it must be assumed that he was well aware of the prior naming of that much larger river. Some writers have explained Mitchell's use of the name by saying that he was sure he was on the head waters of the same stream: but this theory is not tenable.[22] Fourteen years earlier he was convinced that there was little probability that a river would flow from this region to the sea westward of the Gulf of Carpentaria (see earlier).

Gregory's comments when, twelve years later, he followed Mitchell's tracks in this western district, are sensible:

Captain Wickham having named an important river discovered by him in H.M.S. Beagle on the north-west coast the Victoria several years prior to Sir Thomas Mitchell having attached that name to the upper portion of Cooper's Creek which had also been previously discovered and named by Captain Sturt, I would suggest that the term River Cooper be adopted for the whole of the main channel from its sources discovered by Sir Thomas Mitchell to its termination in Lake Torrens; as, while it does not interfere with the rule that the name given by the first discoverer should be retained, will prevent the recurrence of the misapprehension and inconvenience of having two important rivers with the same designation on the maps of Australia.[23]

Gregory also found that the downs in this region were not, as Mitchell found them, covered with luxuriant grass, but were of bare grassless clay.

Mitchell, when he turned, was about 260 miles from Sturt's last point on Cooper's Creek. It is just possible that he had approximate, although not exact, geographical details of Sturt's intended route. Certainly he makes no mention of Sturt. He records at the end-point of his journey:

Even there, in the heart of the interior, on a river utterly unheard of by white men, an iron tomahawk glittered on high in the hand of a chief.

Sturt records that he had given a tomahawk to a native on Cooper's Creek on 31 October 1845--and that he had no others to give.[24] No other white party had been in this region, and it is reasonably certain that this was the very tomahawk given by Sturt. To complete this story it has only to be recorded that Kennedy did, as instructed, proceed to the Victoria River in 1847, followed it down to the south-west for about one hundred miles farther than Mitchell, to within about one hundred miles of Sturt's end-point, and he reported on his return: "There can exist but little doubt that the Victoria is identical with Cooper's Creek of Captain Sturt." He also reported that the natives told him that their name for the river was the Barcoo--it has been known officially by that name ever since.

Parker and Somerville have discussed at length the confusion between the names Cooper's Creek given by Sturt (1845), Victoria River given by Mitchell (1846), and Barcoo River given by Kennedy (1847).[25]

THE RETURN JOURNEY (24 September to 29 December 1846)

Mitchell began his return journey on 24 September. While the state of his horses, and of his food supplies, were probably sufficient reasons, it may also have been that the rebukes he had received for the Mt. Dispersion incident in 1836 were still remembered, for he abandoned his journey down the Belyando, and also down the Barcoo, on each occasion when the natives were definitely hostile. Instead of following round the big northern bend of the Victoria (which in this account will hereafter be called the Barcoo) he moved along an easterly course, very much along the line of the present railway, to reach the Barcoo again near Blackall. In this section he saw and named the Gowan Range, with its peaks Gray and Koenig. Thence following his outward track, he reached the Pyramid Depot on 6 October.

Now began the long journey home. Leaving Pyramid Depot on 9 October they followed their outward tracks down the Maranoa, arriving, without incident, on 19 October at the base camp on that river where Kennedy and party had been for four and a half months. Everything at the camp was in good order--in the garden lettuce, radishes, melons and cucumbers were flourishing. On 22 October the whole party started southwards, and, instead of following their old track along the Cogoon, they followed the Maranoa, passing the site of the present town of Mitchell on 24 October. Mitchell comments:

The discovery of these extensive downs was an important incident in this journey, watered as they were by a fine river.

On 26 October he passed the junction of a river with the Maranoa, which he placed as the Amby, and on 5 November arrived at their old camp at St. George. At this stage Mitchell describes himself as

wiser than when I set out--much improved in health--bronzed and bearded; sun-proof, fly-proof, and water-proof: this is to say, proof against the want of it.

From 5 to 9 November they remained at St. George, Mitchell writing despatches and Kennedy scouting a route to the endpoint of Mitchell's first expedition, near Mungindi on the Bar-won, as Mitchell intended to take the direct route home instead of going back to the Bogan. It would be reasonably correct to say that, starting on 17 November, they followed the course of the present road from St. George to near Mungindi, down the Moonie River through Thallon. On 9 December they reached the Darling and assembled the boats for the transport of their stores across the river.

These looked well in the water; their trim appearance and utility then, renewed my regret that I had not reached the navigable portion of the Victoria.

These were idle words: he had not taken the boats to the Victoria.

Mitchell was now concerned to trace a direct line of road to 'dney: however, the past century has proved that, in this, he d not succeed, as his tracks did not develop into main roads:

Since I had first explored that country to which my wheel tracks marked and led the way, station after station had been taken up by squatters, not by following any line of route, but rather according to the course of the river, for the sake of water; and in such cases the beaten track from station to station, no matter how crooked, becomes the road.

On 12 December they crossed the Gwydir and camped on Snodgrass Lagoon on the Moomin branch of the Gwydir, then past Narrabri to arrive at Maule's Creek. During this stage Mitchell, riding ahead, having left Kennedy to bring on the party, proceeded to Wentworth's station on the Namoi

and next day I reached the dwelling of a resident squatter, and saw a lady in a comfortable house near the very spot where, fifteen years before, I had taken a lonely walk by the then unknown Nammoy, the first white man permitted there to discover a flowery desert. I was most kindly welcomed by this family; but I asked in vain, even there, to be favoured with the perusal of a newspaper. When I expressed anxiety about my numerous family, and spoke of my long absence of a year, I observed a tear in. the lady's eye, which I then thought the product of mere sensibility; but I learnt subsequently that she was aware the newspapers she possessed, and out of sympathy withheld, would have apprised me of the death of a son, which sad tidings were only communicated to me some days after.

This was his son Campbell who, at the age of eighteen, had died while surveying the Australian Alps in winter. Mitchell arrived in Sydney on 29 December 1846.

The party under Kennedy arrived in Sydney on 20 January 347, and so ended, after fourteen months, Mitchell's fourth, last, and longest expedition of exploration.

The new Governor, Sir Charles Fitz Roy, kindly granted such gratuities to the most deserving of my men as I had recommended, and also sent the names to England of such prisoners as His Excellency thought deserving of Her Majesty's gracious pardon.

It would ill become me to disparage the character of the aborigines for one of that unfortunate race has been my "guide, companion, councillor and friend" on the most eventful occasions during this last Journey of Discovery. Yuranigh was small and slender in person but (as the youth Dicky said, and I believed) he was of the most determined courage and resolution. His intelligence and his judgment rendered him so necessary to me that he was ever at my elbow, whether on foot or horseback. Confidence in him was never misplaced. He well knew the character of all the white men in the party. Nothing escaped his penetrating eye and quick ear. His brief but oracular sentences were found to be sage though uttered by one deemed a savage; and his affection and kindness towards the little native Dicky seemed quite paternal. The younger was the willing servant of the elder, who obliged him to wash and clean himself before he allowed him to sleep near him. Yuranigh was particularly clean in his person, frequently washing, and his glossy shining black hair, always well-combed, gave him an uncommonly clean and decent appearance. He had promised himself and Dicky a great reception on returning to Sydney, and was perhaps disappointed. Dicky had never before seen houses, and Yuranigh took much delight in showing him the theatre, and whatever else was likely to gratify his curiosity.

The boy was all questions and observation. I was at a loss how to make these natives comfortable; or suitably reward their services. The new Governor kindly granted the small gratuity asked for Yuranigh, and Dicky became a favourite in my family. Both these natives loathed the idea of returning to the woods as savages; and, as if captivated with the scenes of activity around them both expressed a desire "to work and live like white men". This shows that, when treated on a footing of equality, as these had been in my party, the Australian native might be induced to take part in the labours of white men; but at the first annoyance the old freedom of the bush seems to overmaster their resolutions, and attracts them back to it. Yuranigh was engaged (for wages and under a regular agreement) as stockman to a gentleman who had cattle in the north, and he took an affecting leave of my family.

I carried Dicky to my house in the country with the intention of having him educated there with my children, provided a tutor could be found, which seemed doubtful when I left the colony. It has long been a favourite project with me, to educate an aboriginal native as a husband for Ballandella, and that their children should form at least one civilized family of the native race upon which the influence of education and religious principles might be fairly tried.

Having said so much Mitchell admitted that the experiment was scarcely practicable except by sending the married couple to another country, such as the south of Europe, for ten or twelve years: he realized that this, too, was impracticable as it would make them strangers to every aspect of colonial life.

Writing to Surveyor Davidson in the Wellington district (25 April 1850), Mitchell enquired about Yuranigh saying that a gentleman in England had been so pleased with Yuranigh's conduct, as described by Mitchell in his book, that he had sent out one guinea as a present for him.[26] But Davidson replied that Yuranigh was dead. Later Mitchell advised Davidson (10 July 1852) that he wished that Yuranigh's grave should be properly cared for, and that a stone should be provided to mark the grave: he forwarded an inscription to be cut in the stone.[27] This was done, the expense being borne by the Government. A later Government, in 1900, through representations made by the Hon. Jago Smith, renovated the headstone, re-erecting it on a base of Molong marble, and erected a neat fence around the grave[28] (Plate XIII). The inscription on the tombstone was:

Native Courage
Honesty and Fidelity
Who accompanied the
Expedition of discovery
Into Tropical Australia in 1846
Lies buried here
According to the rites
Of his countrymen
And this spot was
Dedicated and enclosed
By the Governor General's
Authority in 1852

What had Mitchell accomplished on this journey? Using, for the sake of clarity, modern place-names, he had, in fact, covered no new ground until he had passed the latitude of Dirranbandi, for his son had been on the Culgoa and Bokhara. But from that point he explored, and roughly charted, as far north as one hundred and twenty miles north of Alpha, and as far west, on the Barcoo, as Isisford. He had successfully conducted a large expedition for fourteen months without accident or serious incident. So that he might travel farther afield, and more efficiently, he had established three depot camps, the first, a temporary one, at St. George; the second on the Maranoa south-east of Mt. Elliot in the region of Donnybrook, this he left in Kennedy's charge; and the third on the Nogoa between Mts. Salvator and Hutton in charge of Stephenson. This was, in many ways, the most successful of his four expeditions: he did not find his great river to the Gulf, but he added much to the knowledge of the country, and he dispelled many uncertainties.

Fitzroy, who had succeeded Gipps as Governor, forwarded to Secretary of State Grey copies of the reports which Mitchell had submitted, which had appeared in the Government Gazettes of 7 and 31 December 1846, with the comment that the main object which the legislature had in view when they provided funds for defraying the expense of this expedition, namely, the discovery of a practicable overland route to Port Essington, had not been accomplished, but he added that Mitchell had made a valuable addition to the discoveries in the interior of New Holland.[29] He supplemented these despatches a little later (30 March 1847) with the information that, on the advice of the Executive Council, he had granted Mitchell twelve months' leave of absence.[30]

CHAPTER XIII - Second Visit to England

Mitchell had arrived in Sydney on return from the fourth expedition on 29 December 1846. He must have applied immediately for leave of absence, which Fitzroy, with the approval of the Executive Council, granted on 28 January 1847. This leave of absence for twelve months was granted

upon receiving Sir Thomas Mitchell's assurance that the urgent private affairs which took him to England, were of great importance and could not be transacted by correspondence from the Colony.[1]

Mitchell left Sydney by the ship Walmor Castle on 27 March 1847. During his leave he was entitled to half pay from the army as a retired major, and half of his civil salary as Surveyor General. But Fitzroy omitted to notify the Colonial Office concerning the payment of these amounts in England and only sent the necessary instruction on 15 July 1847--four months after Mitchell's departure.[2] Soon after his arrival in England, Mitchell wrote, on 24 July, to Secretary of State Earl Grey asking that he would issue to the War Office and the Colonial Office instructions for the payment of this salary.[3] The Colonial Office replied on 8 August, that no advice had then been received from Fitzroy that he had been granted leave of absence.[4] However, seven weeks later, the Under-Secretary, Hawes, informed Mitchell (27 September 1847) that advice had now been received from Sydney, but that Earl Grey had ruled that payment of salary should be withheld until he should be satisfied concerning two issues raised by Fitzroy's despatch.[5] This decision naturally embarrassed Mitchell financially, and he was obliged to borrow money from his uncle Joseph, who was "still kind and hospitable to me".[6]

The first issue raised by Grey was the necessity for so long a period of leave. Fitzroy had granted leave of absence to deal with "urgent private affairs": and the period of leave was twelve months. Grey did not consider this as sufficient reason for so long an absence from Mitchell's duties in Sydney and his reluctance to approve of the leave was increased in view of "the great length of time during which you were absent from those duties on your last visit to England".[7] Grey refused to approve the leave or to direct payment of salary; but was ready to receive and consider any statement on the subject which Mitchell might submit.[8]

Mitchell was absent in Spain, probably collecting vine cuttings and other plant specimens to take back to Australia, when this letter was written, but on his return two months later, he wrote to Hawes of the Colonial Office (15 November 1847) and stated that the grounds upon which he had applied for leave were:

That very unfavourable reports concerning his health had been sent to the Colonial Office.

That he had had an attack of paralysis and his doctor had recommended a sea voyage.*

That he had occasion to give to the public the details of a journey undertaken at the public expense.[9]
[* His own estimate of his health as stated in the preceding chapter will be recalled.]

He expressed his regret that Grey should have felt that the four years spent on his last visit to England (1837-41) provided grounds for His Lordship's reluctance to approve of the present visit as the service on both occasions was the same--namely:

To give to the public the benefit of surveys performed at the public expense. I admit that I consider the due and full completion of any public service entrusted to me, as being the most urgent of my private affairs.

He ended his letter to Hawes:

I have further only to add that my health is much improved by this visit to Europe, and that I have no desire to remain longer in England than may be necessary to enable me to bring out the work whereof Lord Grey had been pleased to sanction the publication.

The real reason, the "urgent private affairs", which brought him to England was the publication of the book describing his fourth expedition. The suspicion that he wished his book to appear before Sturt's account of his Central Australian expedition would not be too unkind.*

[* It was while Mitchell was in England during this visit that, as Sturt records: "He saw me in the street, but hurried on without recognition."[10] Also while in England he wrote to his son Livingstone (18 August 1847): "Boone has sent me Leichhardt's travels and a more useless mass of rubbish never was bound up in the form of a book."[11]]

Grey gave permission for the publication of the book and it was published in 1848 well before Sturt's book. In it Mitchell makes no reference to the fact that Kennedy had completely disproved his claim that the Barcoo would ultimately discharge into the Gulf of Carpentaria. There is no certainty that, in London, he would have knowledge of the results of that journey. This volume, Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia in search of a route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria, shows evidence of less careful preparation than his previously published work: it does, however, contain certain interesting reflections on the probable fate of the aborigines. He compared the physical perfection of the aboriginal in his native state with the inferior physique of civilized man: he emphasized that their means of subsistence and their social habits were adjusted with admirable fitness to the few resources afforded by the country in its wild state, and he concluded:

We cannot occupy the land without producing a change fully as great to the aborigines as that which took place on man's fall and expulsion from Eden. Surely it behoves a nation, so active in the suppression of slavery, to consider betimes, in taking up new countries, how the aboriginal races can be preserved; and how the evil effects of spirituous liquors, of gunpowder, and of diseases more inimical to them than even slavery, may be counteracted.

Ultimately Grey sanctioned the leave but regarded the grounds upon which leave was granted as far from satisfactory, and said that Mitchell must understand that he would not approve of any extension of leave beyond the twelve months even though the purposes for which Mitchell had come to England had not been completed.[12] This meant that he should be back in Sydney by 27 March 1848. Mitchell, however, on receipt of this letter wrote again (8 January 1848) saying that his work was not completed and hoping that he might be granted an extension of two months.[13] Hawes replied (17 January 1848) that Grey consented to an extension until 1 March, but no longer, and:

His Lordship directs me to state that he is still unable to approve of the original grant to you of leave of absence.[14]

But Mitchell was required to give evidence before a Committee of the House of Lords and stayed even beyond 1 March. Anyone

with experience of public service procedure would know who had the last word.

While in London he suffered from an attack of influenza concerning which he wrote to the McCrae family in Melbourne:

I too have been laid up in London with influenza, all which annoyances endear the recollections of Australia where I never had a cold of any kind.[15]

The second issue raised in this correspondence was of a different kind. Fitzroy in his despatch (30 March 1847) announcing that he had, with the advice of his Executive Council, granted Mitchell leave of absence, commented that, as Mitchell during the fourth expedition and the forthcoming leave would have been away from his office for an almost continuous period of two years, during which time the Survey Department had been conducted by the Deputy Surveyor General alone, it was evident that the necessity for the two positions must be questioned.[16] Hawes in his letter (27 September 1847), already quoted, informed Mitchell that Lord Grey wished to be informed of Mitchell's opinion as to the necessity, under the circumstances already cited, of maintaining both a Surveyor General and a Deputy Surveyor General on the colonial establishment.[17]

Mitchell's reply, having regard to the facts on record and unquestionably known to him, provides evidence of his conception of the nature and scope of his official obligations:

I beg to observe that this appears to me to depend wholly on the nature of the duties to be required henceforth of the Surveyor General (Lord Stanley's letter to the Governor of New South Wales, dated 15 June 1833 is very particular on this point as to the past). According to the Royal instructions of 1825, extensive territorial divisions and reserves were commanded to be made, and, pursuant to a Commission under the great seal of the Colony, I made with my own hand a trigonometrical survey and determined the boundaries and contents of nineteen counties, marked out the great roads, and superintended their construction by upwards of two thousand convicts, and explored the interior to Westward, Southward, and lastly to the Northward.

It must be obvious that I could not be always present at the Seat of Government where my Deputy signed for me official documents requiring my signature. I know of no other service on which I have required that officer's assistance, besides that general superintendence of others employed under my written instructions: and, therefore, I could not object to such a diminution of my department, if, as I am led to infer from your letter, my duty as head of the Survey Department may be performed at Sydney.[18]

The "Royal instructions" of 1825, were the instructions quoted earlier arising out of Commissioner Bigge's report, by the Colonial Office, that the whole territory of New South Wales was to be at once divided into counties, hundreds, and parishes.[19]

Lord Stanley's letter of 1833 was to the effect that whereas in 1825 instructions had been issued for a general survey, an exact trigonometrical survey had been instituted by Mitchell, and this had, apparently, made little progress, and Stanley had concluded:

I have to convey to you His Majesty's commands that you lose no time in calling upon Major Mitchell to explain the causes of the delay.

Mitchell was unfortunate in invoking those two earlier incidents, or, perhaps, he hoped that after fifteen years they would have been forgotten. Whatever his attitude, he includes a reference to these "Royal instructions" in his book Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia.[20]

In a private letter to Hay so early as 1832, Mitchell had said:

It would indeed be a great relief to me and advantageous to the service could Mr Perry be removed to some other situation, and replaced by a man of business. It is not at all necessary for the business of these departments that he should be a surveyor.[21]

Mitchell would have arrived back in Sydney about July 1848, the exact date is not known. After his return to Sydney he wrote to Grey (21 September 1849) in terms inconsistent with his position as a public officer. He said first that when he was invited in Downing Street in the early part of the year 1827 to accept a colonial appointment he understood that his services were required in a general survey of New South Wales "to be made under Royal instructions". He reviewed his services to the colony "during the long period of twenty-two years", and continued:

But during the whole of my Colonial service I have found that the more I endeavoured to fulfil with exactness the views of the Government at home, the less it seemed to be my good fortune to please the Governors of the Colony,

and referring to the correspondence which had passed during his recent visit to London, he said:

The letters written in Your Lordship's name on that occasion and based on representations from Governors of the Colony, afforded to me a painful proof that I could not expect from Your Lordship that consideration to which not only my long career of Colonial service, but still more my long previous career as a military geographer entitle me.[22]

He then asked for promotion such as that for which the late Sir George Murray had recommended him in 1844: or alternatively, if he was to be dismissed, that he be paid £1 per diem for all the time he was acting as sole Commissioner for Lands and Surveys, doing the duties of all three. If he were paid this amount, he could remove his family from the colony. He was still, even after so long an interval, harping on the old themes.

This letter was received in the Colonial Office on 29 January 1850. As it now stands in the records of the Colonial Office it carries an office memorandum:

When Sir Thomas Mitchell was first appointed Surveyor General in New South Wales there was a certain royal authority for the survey and apportionment of territory under which he assumed distinct responsibilities and which proved a fruitful source of difference between him and the head of the Government. He has had the misfortune to differ with each successive Governor and he appears now to write in discontent with Sir Charles Fitzroy. There is no record of the recommendation in his favour from Sir George Murray.

(Then follows a long recital of the occasions and reasons for criticism of his administration by the Colonial Office, which is, in effect, a summary of the events recorded in the preceding chapters.) The minute concludes:

I presume he will hardly have been thought to have shown any claim either to promotion to a higher office or to a retiring allowance.[23]

Glenelg, who had succeeded Grey as Secretary of State, forwarded Mitchell's letter of 21 September to Fitzroy with his comments: these comments included the statement that

much of his time in the colony has been consumed in exploring expeditions entered upon much more because they were according to his taste than because they fell within his regular duties.

Glenelg gave instructions that these comments should be shown to Mitchell. This provoked a long memorial from Mitchell which was forwarded by Fitzroy (11 December 1850) with the following comments by himself. These comments refer back to a matter which has recurred again and again in this volume:

The memorial sets forth Sir Thomas Mitchell's military and civil services and prays acknowledgment by advancement to some more important and lucrative office or money allowance as may compensate him for half-pay and half salary alternately withheld on occasions when Sir Thomas Mitchell's services either to the army or to the Colony were most costly to himself.

It is desirable that I should offer such observations as will put Your Lordship in possession of accurate information concerning that portion of it which refers to the proceedings of the local Government.

In the twenty-fourth paragraph Sir Thomas Mitchell states as the reason why he considers himself entitled either to protnotion or compensation that "the Commission and Instructions under which he had performed his duties for the long period of twenty-three years have been cancelled by the local Government."

In order that Your Lordship should be fully aware how far this statement supports his claim, it is necessary that I should explain that Sir Thomas Mitchell has always insisted that certain Instructions which in point of fact were issued to him by Sir Ralph Darling when Governor in 1825 and which were founded on the Royal Instructions delivered to Sir Ralph Darling with his Governor's Commission, were instructions issued direct from the Sovereign to himself; and that under them he was invested with an authority entirely independent of the local Governor.

It is superfluous to observe that instructions issued by Sir Ralph Darling would be superseded by any issued to Sir Thomas Mitchell by the next Governor, Bourke, under his own Commission and Royal Instructions; and that these in their turn would be superseded by Instructions to Gipps and finally by recent Act of Parliament 9 and 10 Vict. ch. 104 and Order in Council.

But not withstanding these self-evident facts Sir Thomas Mitchell has throughout persisted in asserting that instructions he received under Governor Darling--or what he has always designated in his correspondence with the Government, "the Royal Instructions of 1825"--not having been at any time expressly or formally revoked, he was still independent of the local Governor.

His endeavours to maintain this position have been the main cause of his collisions with my predecessors and during my administration of this Government. Since his return from England he has adhered to it with so much pertinacity and offered so many impediments to the views of the Government concerning the survey of squatting districts that I availed myself of an opportunity of setting the question finally at rest; and, under the advice of my Executive Council (10 October 1848) I formally revoked Darling's instructions and issued fresh instructions to Sir Thomas Mitchell in my own name in pursuance of the authority entrusted to me by Order in Council of 9 March 1847.[24]

Fitzroy's memorandum then proceeded with a discussion of other matters raised by Mitchell in his memorial: these have already been discussed in preceding chapters. When the memorial, and Fitzroy's comments, reached London they were considered at the Colonial Office and finally Lord Grey marked them (on 19 May 1851):

Say that I have received the memorial, but it is not in my power to comply with his request as I consider his services to have been adequately rewarded.

But Mitchell had not been content to let the matter rest at that stage. As soon as Fitzroy had taken action to revoke the old instructions of 1825, Mitchell announced in a memorial which was forwarded to the Colonial Office that he considered himself entitled to promotion or compensation because of this alteration in his official status.[25] This memorial when it reached London provoked a long official Colonial Office minute by Gairdner:

Sir Charles Fitzroy has in his despatch given reasons why it was considered necessary to revoke the Commission referred to under which Sir Thomas Mitchell acted in respect of some portion of his duties and to which he appears all along to have attached so singular an importance as to lead him to act with insubordination towards his official superiors, and, finally, when (in order to reduce him to proper subjection) it was thought necessary to revoke that Commission, to claim compensation for loss of position.

In respect of some other letters which Mitchell had requested should be forwarded at the same time, the Colonial Office minute comments that it is difficult to understand why Mitchell should desire the transmission of letters "which tell so little in his favour at a time when he is seeking advancement or compensation on account of his imagined claims". It is hardly surprising that his claim for advancement or compensation was rejected.

In this atmosphere of irregular conduct towards his own Governor, and even towards the Secretary of State, Mitchell chose to raise trouble over still another matter. It has already been stated that, so long ago as 1832, he had wished for the removal of Perry, his Deputy Surveyor General. Now, after twenty years, he returned to this attack. Fitzroy wrote to Grey (22 September 1851) that he was sorry to have to trouble Grey again about Mitchell, but Perry had sought his protection against attacks by Mitchell.[26]

Perry, during Mitchell's prolonged absence in England in 1847-8, had carried on the proper duties of the position of Surveyor General: but Mitchell on his return had violently criticized Perry's official conduct of the departmental functions. Fitzroy had tried personal reconciliation without success, but Mitchell had continued his attacks on Perry, and sought his replacement. Fitzroy, in forwarding the papers to Grey, said that the attacks by Mitchell were so insulting and so obviously intended to degrade Perry in the opinion of his subordinates, that he felt bound to state that Perry, during Mitchell's frequent absences, had always been a loyal and efficient officer, and that Mitchell himself had, on occasions, given proof of his confidence in Perry's abilities. Fitzroy added:

If I had an officer to deal with less unreasonable and less impracticable than Sir Thomas Mitchell I should endeavour by remonstrance, and, that failing, by reproof, to bring him to a sense of duty without thinking it necessary to appeal to Your Lordship, but my experience of Sir Thomas Mitchell's disposition convinces me that forbearance would be entirely thrown away upon him, and that any step I could take short of suspending him from his office until Your Lordship's pleasure was known would have no effect. I am reluctant to adopt that extreme course in the case of an officer of such high and long standing in military and civil services but I am satisfied that so long as Sir Thomas Mitchell remains at the head of the Survey Department the views of the Government will be thwarted by every means in his power and the exertions of his subordinate officers paralysed by fear of incurring his displeasure. I therefore recommend that Sir Thomas Mitchell should be removed from the office of Surveyor General with a retiring allowance commensurate to his age and length of service.

When this reached the Colonial Office on 5 February 1852 it provoked various official minutes on the file by T. F. Elliot and H. Merivale*--respectively Assistant and Permanent Under-Secretaries at the Colonial Office. Elliot had written to Merivale, his chief in the department, an office minute:

This is simply a repetition of past improprieties on Mitchell's part. He is incorrigible: it is not perhaps surprising that an officer so often guilty of impertinence to his superiors should indulge in insults to those who have the misfortune to be his subordinates. What makes his present conduct especially blameable is that the officer he has assailed is just the one who has had to perform his proper duties for him whilst he has been spending whole years in Europe bringing out lucrative books of his own, or else indulging his taste in exploring expeditions in the Colony: but perhaps it is for this very reason he views his deputy with so evil an eye. The Governor will, I presume, be judged right in considering it full time that he should be removed from a department in which he has shown himself equally unwilling to do his duties himself and jealous of the exertions of those who had done them for him.
[* Merivale had succeeded Stephen in 1847.]

Merivale, however, considered that there might be elements of injustice in retiring Mitchell on a pension and was not prepared to use such extreme measures: he considered that Fitzroy had not adopted a course appropriate as precedent to a recommendation for dismissal.

The matter, having been considered by Parliamentary Under-Secretary Peel, finally reached Grey who wrote to Fitzroy (20 February 1852) saying that if Mitchell's conduct should continue to be such as to prevent the proper discharge of his duties, or if he should be guilty of insubordination or should withhold from the Governor the assistance he should properly give, Fitzroy should suspend him and Grey would dismiss him from his position in the Colonial Service.

While these discussions were proceeding, another matter provoked censure on Mitchell's conduct. As stated in chapter XI, .Kennedy had been sent to follow the course of the Barcoo (Victoria) River. He had returned from this journey at the end of 1847, but in 1848 had been commissioned by Governor Fitzroy to lead an exploring expedition in northern Queensland. This journey ended tragically, for Kennedy was killed by the aborigines.

Mitchell was not in any way concerned with this expedition as he was, all the time, in England: but on his return to Sydney he wrote a memorandum addressed to the Governor in terms quite inconsistent with the respect due to the head of the Government. He objected to being held responsible for an expedition undertaken without his advice and concurrence: he criticized the plan of operations, and in general dealt with the whole matter in a way which provoked Fitzroy to say, in a despatch to Grey (10 October 1850):

I consider the reflection which Sir Thomas Mitchell has thought proper to cast on the Government's conduct uncalled for and in a high degree offensive to myself.[27]

Mitchell had requested that this offensive document should be forwarded to the Minister at the Colonial Office. The Colonial Secretary notified Mitchell (24 April 1850) that a copy of his letter would be forwarded to London but that the Governor

was not prepared to submit to being addressed by the head of any department or other public officer serving under him in terms of censure. His Excellency will therefore request His Lordship to take steps to secure him from having such uncalled for and offensive observations as those contained in your letter addressed to him with impunity.

Upon receipt and consideration of all the papers Grey wrote to Fitzroy in these terms (25 April 1851):

I entirely concur with you in thinking it an act of great impropriety that a subordinate officer, because the opinions he entertains concerning an important public proceeding have not been followed by his superiors, should write a letter containing an elaborate and acrimonious attack on the policy adopted by them, and should ask to have this letter sent home as a sort of protest against what they have done. There is the less excuse for Sir Thomas Mitchell's having allowed himself thus to give way to the feelings of irritation under which he seems to have acted, because, in the measures which he condemns, his advice had not been overruled since his absence from the Colony for objects of his own had rendered it impossible that it should be asked for before those measures were determined upon. As to the merits of those measures, it is quite unnecessary to require any further evidence than is furnished by the very able vindication furnished in your despatch, and by the weight of eminent authorities whose counsel you followed.*

At your intercession I content myself on this occasion with approving the rebuke you have conveyed to Sir Thomas Mitchell, but I must at the same time instruct you to inform him that if he should think proper to engage in opposition to the measures of the Government which it is his duty to serve, or should indulge in intemperate remarks to his superiors, he must hold himself prepared for immediate dismissal from his office as he cannot be permitted to retain it under such circumstances.
[* The persons whose opinions were consulted were Sturt, Eyre, Gipps, P. P. King, Owen Stanley and Stokes.]

Thus a period of twenty years ended as it began. Darling in 1831 spoke of Mitchell's "ill and ungovernable temper", and Secretary of State Goderich regretted the tone of Mitchell's correspondence with the local Governor.

In 1851 the Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office recorded that

Mitchell had behaved intemperately towards every Governor under whom he has served, and probably nothing will ever check his irascible temper,

and Secretary of State Grey issued a stringent warning to Mitchell that continuation of this behaviour would produce immediate dismissal.

So, twice within twelve months, Mitchell was seriously threatened with dismissal by the Secretary of State himself, and would be forced to realize that all hope of advancement or reward, or any other mark of official recognition from the Colonial Office had ended.

Now Mitchell was left without further exploratory prospects: the publication of his book on the fourth expedition had brought no enthusiastic response, and the "whole territory" offered no field from which he could hope to win applause and honour. The "interior" was so unattractive, and the prospect of a great river to the gulf so unpromising, that he deputed this task to Kennedy. Leichhardt had anticipated him in the one region in which notable discoveries had been possible, and he was left with only the prime duties of a Surveyor General: even this was soon to be reduced in scope by the appointment of a Surveyor General of Victoria, Hoddle being appointed to that position on 15 July 1851. Mitchell was now fifty-seven years old.

CHAPTER XIV - The Last Years 1849-1855

The last seven years of Mitchell's life were active; but concerning them only disconnected information is available. Before discussing this period, it is convenient here to go back a little to discuss a controversy having important implications.

The establishment of a settlement at Port Phillip and the rapid extension of squatting south of the Murray soon involved some form of delegated administration. Bourke himself visited Port Phillip in 1837, and had established Latrobe as a resident administrator. Some definition of the Port Phillip district was necessary: the first definition of the northern boundary was, tentatively, the Murrumbidgee River with a line continued to the coast about Moruya.1 This, however, was not adopted when a final decision was made. The eastern boundary of South Australia had been fixed by Imperial Statute at 141° east longitude. When the necessity for separate administration of the Port Phillip district had become great enough to receive serious consideration, the question of boundaries naturally received attention. Sir George Grey, who was then Governor of South Australia, wrote (September 1844) to the Home Government suggesting that the boundary between South Australia and Victoria should be altered, and should be the Glenelg River to its source, thence to the source of, and along, the Wimmera, along a northward line to the Darling-Murray junction, then northwards along the Darling.2 This suggestion was made by Grey, because he, as the responsible executive in South Australia, had found difficulty in establishing the eastern limits of the area under his control, the boundary line being nowhere visibly marked over open plain country: he therefore suggested identifiable geographical features. The proposed line was, quite obviously, suggested by Mitchell's map in the published account of his three expeditions: no other source of such information was available to Grey. Mitchell, on being consulted about this proposal, suggested an alternative--that the Murray River throughout its course to the sea, should be the eastern boundary of South Australia. Neither of these proposals was adopted and the boundary has remained as originally defined. Gipps, throughout the progress of events from 1840 to 1847, was anticipating the separation of Victoria and Queensland from the original territory of New South Wales.

Mitchell's active mind never seemed to be at rest. He produced in 1849 a pamphlet "Notes on the Cultivation of Vine and Olive". In 1850, at the request of the Denominational Board of Education, he prepared an Australian Geography with the shores of the Pacific Ocean and those of the Indian Ocean designed for the use of schools in New South Wales. An interesting feature of this work is that it showed Australia in the centre, so that its relation to other countries could be appreciated, and so that

the serial arrangements derived from the apparent course of the sun should connect all ideas of locality with our true position on the planet. The natural divisions of land and water, the established dependence of one part of the world upon another, for their mutual intercourse, for their necessary supplies, or for their luxurious gratifications--and viewed with reference to the insular situation of Australia--are what the author has attempted briefly to sketch in this book.
The London Athenaeum (4 December 1850) in reviewing this book laid particular stress on the "clear, pure, and nervous English" in which it was written. In 1851 appeared a second edition of this work, with an appendix containing an account of the recent discovery of gold.

In the year 1851 occurred a dramatic incident: a duel between Mitchell and Mr Stuart Donaldson. This was the last duel fought in Australia. The date was 27 September 1851. The story can best be told as recorded in the Sydney Morning Herald of 30 September 1851: slight amendments, but without material alteration, have been made to secure continuity of the text.

It was generally known in Sydney that a hostile meeting had taken place between Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell and Mr Stuart A. Donaldson, M.L.C. The correspondence which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald explained the origin of the misunderstanding.

On the occasion of Mr Donaldson's speech on the hustings at the election for the county of Durham he was reported to have complained that the Surveyor General's Department cost £40,000 per annum. In a letter which Sir Thomas Mitchell addressed to the Herald, he contradicted Mr Donaldson's statement, and added that "he left the public to stamp its own reprobation upon a monstrous charge so falsely or so carelessly made to his prejudice". Upon the appearance of the letter Mr Dobie, on behalf of Mr Donaldson, demanded the withdrawal of the word "falsely", and was referred by Sir Thomas to Lieutenant Burrowes.

After some conferences two notes were exchanged by these gentlemen in the names of their respective friends. Mitchell (26 September 1851) withdrew the words "charges so falsely" in his letter to the Sydney Morning Herald of that date. He regretted having used them, feeling assured that Donaldson did not mean to say that the department cost £40,000 per annum. Donaldson replied (26 September 1851) that the remarks made by him on the hustings at the nomination for the county of Durham with reference to the control and administration of the Crown lands applied to the expenditure in the management of such lands in general, of which the Surveyor General's Department formed only a portion, and not to the Surveyor General's Department alone, such expenditure (amounting to upwards of £40,000 per annum) being withdrawn by Acts of the Imperial Parliament from the control of the local legislature.

These notes were forwarded by Mr Dobie and Lieutenant Burrowes to the Herald for publication, and it was hoped that such mutual explanation had ended this unpleasant affair. It seems, however, that Lieutenant Burrowes had drawn up Sir Thomas Mitchell's note in a manner which did not meet his approval, for upon Sir Thomas perceiving this he addressed the following note to Mr Donaldson:

8 a.m., Carthona
27 September 1851


In the note Mr Dobie delivered to me yesterday you observe that mine sent to you from hence is no answer to yours. I wish it to be considered the only reply I meant to give you.

I wholly disapprove of the notes since proposed and exchanged between that gentleman and my friend who happened to be at hand yesterday; and I hasten to say that I am now on my way to see a friend who will, I trust, endeavour to place this matter on a more satisfactory footing than it has yet arrived at.

I am, etc.,


Sir Thomas again had recourse to the advice of Lieutenant Burrowes who, with Mr Dobie, endeavoured once more to adjust the matters in dispute. However, the omission or the retention of an apparently trifling word in the proposed draft of another note on the part of Sir Thomas was found to be a difficulty which neither of the principals would remove, and a hostile meeting was declared the only alternative. Both parties met at half-past four on Saturday afternoon at a secluded spot near the Water Reserve, Sir Thomas attended by Lieutenant Burrowes, and Mr Donaldson by Mr Dobie. They each exchanged three shots, and in the last fire a ball passed through Mr Donaldson's hat, and another within an inch of Sir Thomas' throat. The seconds then interfered and the combatants left the ground.

Plate XIII. Yuranigh's grave

Plate XIV. Mitchell's paint-box, camera lucida, and pistol (Reproduced by permission of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland)

In 1851 Mitchell was instructed to make a report on, and survey of, the goldfields districts. This report was presented to the Legislative Council in February 1852.[3]

Mitchell had not been long back in Sydney from his second visit to England, when he developed an entirely new interest. He conceived the idea that the principle of the aboriginal boomerang could be applied to the propeller of steamships. On 3 December 1850, he read a paper before the Philosophical Society in Sydney, setting forth his theory. A propeller built according to his specifications was experimentally fitted to a small vessel and given a trial on Sydney Harbour.

Fitzroy wrote to Secretary of State Pakington (26 August 1852) that a trial trip on Sydney Harbour with a steamer fitted with this propeller had proved successful and that Mitchell had applied for leave of absence for one year to go to England "with a view of securing, if possible, for himself some profit from a patent right to its use which he had held for some years".[4] He said that Mitchell was willing to leave the question of payment of half salary, while on leave, for decision after his arrival in England. The Executive Council in New South Wales, being of opinion that the discovery was likely to prove of great importance and value, had approved of the leave, on the terms as to salary suggested by Mitchell. The Legislative Council had, however, presented an address to Fitzroy recommending that Mitchell should be paid full salary during leave. Fitzroy forwarded this suggestion recommending it for Pakington's favourable consideration. Upon these papers being received at the Colonial Office, Merivale submitted to Secretary of State Newcastle (who had succeeded Pakington) an official minute which contained these passages:

Once more Mitchell has found means of getting away from the Colony, and not only this but has also managed to procure an address from the Legislative Council praying that he may be allowed full salary during his absence. I append to this minute a series of extracts from despatches which it has been necessary to write about Mitchell during the last three years. The first of these extracts will show for what long periods he contrived to absent himself from his duties, sometimes in the teeth of a positive refusal to sanction his leave. The remaining extracts will show the insubordinate conduct and intemperate language into which he allowed himself to be betrayed to the Colonial Government. Mitchell is a clever man but in our minutes one must speak unreservedly. I am bound to say that he appears to me as turbulent and self-indulgent an officer as can be. Twice in the course of two years it has been necessary to threaten him with dismissal...The Legislative Council is deserving of all respect, but it steps much beyond its province in meddling with Executive government in pure matters of administration. Perhaps, in view of their recommendation, the Secretary of State may so far yield as to grant leave on half-salary.

This was approved by Newcastle.

Mitchell had booked passage by the Roman Emperor in August 1852, but became ill and was not able to leave Sydney until 21 September 1852, when he sailed on the Phoenician. As his leave had been granted by Fitzroy in August, he thus lost one month of his leave.

He wrote a poem "Farewell" which is presumed to have been written on the occasion of his departure from Australia at this time. From this poem are taken the following extracts:

Deep, deep in thy rocks, 0 Australia,
I carved out my Sovereign's name;
By the side of the banished but faithful,
I climbed up the steep hill of fame.

Farewell to thy deserts, Australia,
My centaurs who swept o'er them are gone;
Their bones bleach on hill and in valley,
Their dust in the hot wind is blown.

Cold under the snows of Monera
And deep beneath wild Ocean's waves,
My two sons whilst serving Australia
Have both found untimely graves.

Yet I leave thee in sorrow, Australia,
Thou field of my toils and my tears;
May those reap in joy I shall send thee
And be English through thousands of years.[5]

The reference to the carving of his Sovereign's name is to the Mt. Victoria road. His desire for fame was a recurring theme throughout his career. One of the sons, Campbell, had died on 16 July 1846 as stated earlier while surveying in the Snowy Ranges: the other, Roderick, the second son, had been appointed to command an expedition in search of Leichhardt, but, travelling from Newcastle by sea, he fell overboard and was drowned on 28 August 1852. This alone provides evidence that the poem could not have been written before that year.

On the homeward journey in the Phoenician, Mitchell used some of his spare time in translating the Lusiad of Camoens from the original Portuguese: he had carried the translation as far as the end of the eighth canto when he reached England. He completed the ninth and tenth cantos while in England. This translation was published the following year (1854) by T. and W. Boone in an attractive little volume. It was dedicated to the Earl of Dundonald. In a preface dated 9 December 1853 Mitchell writing, as author, in the third person said:

As some apology for the rough chisseling of the work, if he may use the expression, he must state also under what circumstances the most of it came into shape. These were chiefly, under water, in a small clipper, during a voyage round Cape Horn.

The volume contains a drawing by Mitchell of the Fountain of Tears: the reference is to stanza cxxxv in the Portuguese version of the Lusiad.[6]

Soon after his arrival in England he wrote to Newcastle (6 January 1853) asking for official support with the Admiralty in respect of his invention.[7] The invention was referred to the Admiralty on 14 January for an opinion as to its merits.

On 25 January 1853, he protested against the decision that he was to receive only half salary and asked for full salary.[8] On 31 January 1853, he wrote again contesting the references to his many periods of leave, traversing the old familiar ground, from the Peninsular battle plans and Sir George Murray onwards.[9] Finally, he tried a little indirect pressure. He said, in a letter to Peel (3 March 1853), that he had made a military survey of Port Jackson: that he had brought to England all the data for completing this map, and that he would so complete it, if the Colonial Office would meet the expense or, alternatively, pay him full salary.[10] As this survey was an official task done by him as Surveyor General the proposal was irregular, especially as he conceded that the plates and impressions would, if his conditions were accepted, become public property. The Colonial Office notation on this says:

This is both an inaccurate and an insolent expression. Mitchell thinks to put the Government in a dilemma by professing to have very valuable surveys and soundings and by offering to publish them if the Government will but pay the expense or let him have his full salary. I hardly like to enter fully into reasons why I should not recommend compliance with this offer lest they should not seem courteous.

Mitchell's offer was not accepted.

Now began the familiar repetition of demands for extension of leave. To have arrived back in Sydney before his leave had expired he should have left England in April, but on 27 June 1853 he wrote to Newcastle from 9 Suffolk Street, Pall Mall, asking for extension of leave, assigning as reasons: his illness in Sydney had deprived him of one month of leave; the trials of his propeller by the Admiralty at Portsmouth were incomplete; he was engaged in preparing a map of Port Jackson from his surveys and soundings.

The Colonial Office notation on his letter says plainly that it was anticipated that Mitchell would ask for an extension of leave: it was decided, however, that he would receive no pay at all when the twelve months' period was ended, and he was asked how much leave he required. Mitchell replied asking that his leave be extended to the end of 1853; and the extension was granted without pay.

Newcastle took the unusual course of writing personally to Mitchell (15 July 1853) referring to the previous occasions on which he had flouted official decisions in respect of leave and said:

You have already considerably outstayed the time which would have rendered it possible for you to return to the colony within the period of your original leave. It is also on record that the last time you were in England you, in like manner, outstayed your leave before you applied for its extension. I cannot observe these repeated irregularities without express. ing regret that they should be committed by an officer of your standing and long service.[12]

There is an office minute on the draft of this letter prepared for Newcastle's signature:

Seeing Mitchell's steady and undeviating habits of insubordination I trust this letter may not be considered too strong. I am fully persuaded of two things: that he will not return to the colony at the expiration of his original leave, and, in that case it would be unjust to the officers who do the actual duties of his post, and injurious to the public service if his place is not filled by a real Surveyor General. But, if this is to be done, he ought to have fair warning.

Newcastle instructed Mitchell that he was to report to the Colonial Office when he had taken his passage at a time which would enable him to reach Sydney before the expiration of his leave at the end of December 1853. Then followed further correspondence. Mitchell wrote again on 26 September asking for a further two months' extension of leave, but was informed that this could not be considered unless he produced a certificate from the Admiralty that his further stay in England was of importance to the public service. This, despite his efforts, Mitchell was unable to do.[13] Independent enquiries from the Colonial Office had revealed that the Admiralty was not satisfied as to the merits of Mitchell's invention. Finally, Mitchell was definitely informed on 15 November that he must leave by the vessel leaving on 4 January 1854, or forfeit his office as Surveyor General. He ultimately left by the Croesus on 17 January 1854, nine months after the expiration of his original leave. The official epilogue as recorded in the Colonial Office minutes was:

I felt pretty confident from the first that we should have some more excuses and changes of purpose before this eccentric Surveyor General should really start.

This was the last occasion on which Mitchell had direct personal contact in England with the Colonial Office.

There is some evidence that during this visit to England he had sought to be employed on active military service in connexion with the Crimean War which then appeared to be inevitable. There is a letter in which he expresses the opinion that every soldier should be in this war; and there is, in the Mitchell Library, a copy of an application in the year 1854 in which he declares himself fit and ready for active service.[14]

While in England he had, on 22 June 1853, read a paper on the boomerang propeller before the United Services Institution. He is recorded as having feared that certain Liverpool people holding his patents were "slippery", and that he had become accustomed "to the rascally jobbing and impediments to his invention coming before the public".[15]

This invention is hardly of historical interest to Australia; but it did involve his absence from this country for another twenty months, and there is ample written evidence that it largely engaged his enthusiasm at that period.

At this period he used another method of supplementing his income. Fitzroy had written to Secretary of State Pakington (30 August 1852) stating that Mitchell had offered to sell to the Government the engraved copper plates of his map of New South Wales (see earlier) for £300 "which he alleges, is a very small price compared with what they cost him".[16] The Executive Council in New South Wales had recommended this purchase, and Fitzroy supported the recommendation. The Colonial Office notation (by Gairdner) was that the chief object of this offer was to cover an unsuccessful speculation. Ultimately the purchase was authorized by Secretary of State Newcastle.

He arrived back in Australia in April or May 1854. On the return journey to Australia there is evidence that he could, on occasion, be light-hearted. The ship's magazine, The Southern Cross and Antarctic Gazette, published a poem contributed by him on the occasion of the death of a budgerigar, pet of one of the sailors:

Loud roared the storm around Cape Horn,
Severe the cold and snow;
The yards were broke, the sails were torn
And Jack aloft must go.
His bosom was the only home
Of feeble Budgery Gar,
And there it found a noble tomb:
The breast of British Tar.[17]

His poetic licence did not come under critical scrutiny until a little later.

Writing from Sydney (21 July 1854) to his father-in-law, General Blunt, he said:

There is no officer...for whom the Colonial Office has shown so decided an absolute hostility. This is a bitter reflection to me in my old age in a colony where I am surrounded by the results of my surveys, now almost ignored by those who have benefited by them--because the Colonial Office has treated me so. The fate of Campbell tends still more to embitter these reflections, and the treatment of my invention is still worse.[18]

In June 1854 Henry Parkes, who was controlling the Empire newspaper, criticized Mitchell as being responsible for the existing defects in the land system.[19] Parkes was then a member of the Legislative Council. Mitchell wrote a private letter to Parkes:

In order that you may obtain the most authentic information respecting what has been intended, and what has been proposed, I enclose a copy of the Royal Instructions of 1825, and I take the liberty of suggesting that you could move in your place in Council for the production of the Commissioner's Report under these instructions dated 2 September 1834: you would render a service to the public, and a kindness to me, if you would cause the production of a document which would throw light on what is very little understood.

He was still harping on the old theme.

In the year 1855 (the date is uncertain) there appeared in Sydney a long poem printed in pamphlet form, the title page of which is reproduced here:

Appropriate Effusion
Unprofitable Brass
Unceremoniously dedicated
Anxious to
Instruct his grandmothers
The Inductive Science
Sucking Eggs

The poems contained many rather personal, indeed scandalous, references to prominent people, including certain passages obviously referring to Mitchell.

See him of aspect dire and haughty gait,
As though himself were a triumvirate
Who dreams of honours, forges Boomerang screws
And wakes in anger Camoens lofty muse;
Who damns the language that cooked such rhyme
(To spoil the Lusiad were a heinous crime),
Your Childish choler but provokes a sneer
And makes you small, the very smallest beer.
With Sisyphic attempts Fame's temple try,
No niche is there for eccentricity;
High roads Colossus once was yours the power
To move each bullock team as coach and four;
Why did you fail when yours the ironed man
To make the "high hills hop" as hop'd Bashan?
Go grave your maps, in survey you succeed
Where praise is worthy, let me grant the meed:
Thousands of men and money shout for land,
But here as elsewhere work is at a stand.

At some time after the appearance of this pamphlet, Sir Charles Nicholson wrote to Mitchell (22 August 1855) asking him to give his word of honour as a gentleman and Christian that he had neither knowledge of, nor share in the concoction or circulation of the verses known as "Ichneumon".[21] If Mitchell would give this assurance Nicholson would spare no trouble "to vindicate you against the aspersion under which you labour". He added that Mitchell had said to George Macleay that he knew the author to be Mitchell's own son. George Macleay had written stating that Mitchell had said that from internal evidence he had been compelled to arrive at the conviction that his own son was the author of it and hoped he would never have to appear as a witness.[22] Mitchell replied to Nicholson that he had never stated that he knew the author, but from internal evidence he had his suspicions.[23]

This was all very disturbing. As to the date of publication, the letter of Sir Charles Nicholson indicating that Mitchell was widely suspected of being the author, suggests that the pamphlet could only have appeared after Mitchell's return to Sydney in April or May 1854. The fact that Nicholson did not write until August 1855 suggests that the pamphlet had been published at a comparatively recent date.

There must surely have been some basis for the "aspersions" against Mitchell. Sturt wrote to Stokes (both being in England at the time) and referring to Mitchell said: "he is in general bad odour having lampooned the government in an anonymous paper."[24] Sturt must have had this news from some correspondent in Sydney.

It is distressing to read today the manuscripts in the Mitchell Library which seem to be various drafts by Mitchell of the reply he would send to Nicholson: they are evidence that Mitchell was under considerable mental stress, and they raise in the mind of the reader some uncertainty about the truth of the whole unhappy business.

This happened at the time when he was actually facing the investigations of the Special Commission appointed by Governor Denison to enquire into the whole field of his administration. Whoever wrote it, the references to himself as a triumvirate, his failure in the matter of roads and bridges, and the stagnation in the survey work, were particularly pointed.

Writing from Sydney to his brother John in Scotland (8 July 1855) he said:

I may state that this new Governor General Sir William Denison (a Captain of Engineers only) and supposed to be the cleverest man in all the world--has been put wrong in the head by such elevation, and manifests such an animus towards the Surveyor General and his whole Department as must cause the removal of one of the two.

But in my independence I have generally been at variance with Governors although on the present occasion the fault is all on one side, and it , I retire I am assured that full salary will be voted me as a pension.

I am heartily tired of this country but my property is now worth something and Lady Mitchell likes the country.

I seem doomed to be all my life between extremes.[25]
In view of events which were to happen very soon there is tragedy in this letter.

It was written four days after Denison had appointed a Commission of Enquiry. Denison was himself an engineer and, almost immediately after he assumed duty as Governor on 20 January 1855, he concerned himself actively with Mitchell's work. He submitted to Mitchell an extensive and searching questionnaire covering the activities of, and the technical methods used by, the Surveyor General's Department: Mitchell had furnished answers to all these questions on 19 February. Amongst other statements Mitchell claimed that he had made an accurate trigonometrical survey.[26] Denison, being unsatisfied, placed these papers, with his comments, before the Executive Council on I May; the Council recorded its opinion that the work performed had not been what might reasonably have been expected, that the cost to the public had been excessive, and that the superintendence of the department was not sufficiently effective; they added:

In fact there are grounds even for doubting whether the accuracy of the surveys conducted in the manner described in these papers can be wholly relied on.

The Executive Council decided that a full enquiry should be held, and Denison, on 4 July, appointed a Royal Commission consisting of Professor Pell, Professor of Mathematics at Sydney University; Captain Clarke, R.E., Surveyor General in Victoria, and Captain Hawkins, R.E. The terms of reference of the Royal Commission were very wide: after enumerating seven distinct aspects for enquiry, the Commission ended:

to make full and diligent enquiry into the present state of the Survey Department and the details of the system on which the Survey Department is conducted.

The Commission concluded its report on 11 August: the report condemned in severe terms the methods and results of Mitchell's surveying activities, and his administration of the department. They began by reviewing the methods of surveying used during the twenty-seven years of Mitchell's administration. Reliance had been placed entirely upon angles taken by theodolite from the summits of outstanding and recognizable peaks: all subsequent action being based upon mathematical calculations. Two base lines, each of 382 yards in length, were measured by means of wooden rods on the shores of Botany Bay,* and another of one mile with tent poles at Lake George.

[* This is the base line to which he referred in his letter to his mother in 1828. (See earlier.)]

The Commission said that insufficient care seemed to have been taken in the measurement of these base lines; nor was it clear in what way they were used in the general survey, nor indeed with what intention they were measured. The sides of some of the triangles were calculated, but the Commission could not learn that, in the construction of the maps, any use was made of the results so obtained: no complete diagram or set of diagrams existed in the original triangulation: nor any record or evidence showing in what degree the several angular measurements, terrestrial and astronomical, were found to be consistent with one another. The Commission expressed the opinion that it was impossible that any great degree of accuracy in fixing the position of the angular stations could have been secured by the methods used: only very inadequate means were available for the determination of latitudes, and the longitudes were solely dependent, by calculation, on that of Parramatta. It was obvious, the Commission said, that a map, still incomplete, constructed on such data, and in such a manner, though of considerable value in delineating generally the features of the country as a map. of reference, could not have any claim to the character of a trigonometrical survey in the correct and ordinarily received acceptation of the term; in fact there were grounds for doubting whether the accuracy of the surveys conducted in the manner described could be wholly relied on.

While expressing this adverse opinion of the map the Commission made it clear that they did not wish in any way to detract from the intrinsic merits of the map or to underrate the energy and determination with which dangers were encountered and hardships endured in the course of the surveys which led to its construction. They indicated that they did not seek to imply censure upon the methods and policies of the past; but they did wonder that no steps had been taken by the Government to carry out a survey based on more accurate methods of observation: and they regretted that there was no evidence vindicating the department from the charge of never having recognized the need for a better system of survey.

Then the Commission dealt with the question of the private sale of maps:

Before passing on to other portions of our enquiry we must call attention to the almost total absence of any recognized and authentic public records of the combination of the data and materials from which the published maps of the province are well as to the fact that these maps, which the Surveyor General considers of the highest importance as official records of the work performed by the department, and also of the greatest intrinsic value in delineating accurately the topography of the country are those which he himself compiled and published, not as a public servant but as a private individual, his interest in them having recently been disposed of to the Government.

We have not thought it worth while to enquire more particularly into the circumstances under which the publication of these maps took place, for it is evident that if it was necessary or expedient, it should have been carried out by the Government, and that under no circumstances should they have failed to recognize the well-established and well-understood rule that the results of the labour of a public officer in the discharge of his duties are the property of the public alone.

The system of licensed surveyors was wholly condemned, and, because of lack of supervision, the amount of work done by the salaried surveyors was small in proportion to their number. Most of the difficulties which had been experienced could be attributed to a faulty system combined with negligent administration. The amount of clerical labour was far greater than the actual necessities of the case demanded. The laying out and levelling of proposed roads both for main and ordinary lines of communication were most important duties which required much more attention than seemed to have been bestowed upon them. To carry out a complete system of triangulation founded upon correctly measured bases would be an undertaking, whatever its ultimate advantages, entirely beyond the requirements and resources of the colony. At the same time steps should be taken to initiate a general system of survey, upon a measured base line gradually extending by triangulation.

They recorded the fact that the Surveyor General disclaimed all responsibility for the acknowledged disorganization of the department, maintaining that the system in operation was not of his own formation or such as met with his approval; that he had been improperly interfered with in the performance of his duties; and that he had not received the support of the Government in endeavouring to maintain discipline and efficiency. Upon this the Commission commented:

We have repeatedly requested him to lay before us some correspondence. or other documentary evidence which might illustrate and confirm these statements: but nothing has been brought under our notice from which it could be inferred that he has been in any case unnecessarily interfered with: that the support of the Government has been improperly withheld from him; or, although the Department had been under his guidance for nearly thirty years, that any attempt has been made by him, until very recently, to rectify alleged defects or to introduce a system more in accordance with his views.

He particularly complains that the time and energy of his surveyors have been devoted to the measurement of pastoral runs, instead of to other purposes more important, in his opinion, to the great interests of the Colony. But we find that he himself insisted upon the necessity of the surveys for the purpose of defining the boundaries of the runs.

We feel called upon to bear testimony to the energy which has characterized the personal efforts of the Surveyor General in carrying out his general surveys, whatever may be the opinion which we have formed as to their value; nor do we overlook the fact that many new districts have been discovered and opened up, and much benefit thus conferred upon the country by his exploratory expeditions as well as by the efforts of his subordinates engaged upon "feature surveys".

It appears to us, however, that the devotion of the Surveyor General to feature and general surveys, and his long absences from the actual supervision of his Department, have contributed materially to its disorganization by withdrawing his attention from ordinary and more immediately important duties connected with the transfer of land from the Government to the settler.

The alleged inefficiency of the Department seems also in great measure attributable to the want of that mutual good feeling and cordial cooperation between the Surveyor General and his officers, without which it is impossible under any system, however excellent, that the duties of the Department can be efficiently administered.

Every possible assistance has been afforded to us in the conduct of our enquiry by the Surveyor General and by every person to whom we have applied.

We have, nevertheless, experienced much difficulty and embarrassment from the inconsistencies in the evidence of the Surveyor General and also from the circumstances of his evidence having been materially modified, altered, and enlarged.

We feel compelled, in justice to curselves, to allude to these inconsistencies on account of the difficulty which they have occasioned us in arriving at a decision upon several points in our enquiry: at the same time that we hope that they may fairly be attributed in some cases to lapse of time, and in others to the multitude and complexity of the subjects pressing upon his attention.

The references to "long absences" was justified. Mitchell on his journeys of exploration and visits to England had been absent from his routine duties for a total of nine years, nearly one-third of his total period of service.

This report was signed by the Commissioners on 11 August 1855. The day before (10 August) Mitchell had written to Sur. veyor Davidson:

We are standing our ground before a Board of Enquiry here--very searching. I am exercising great patience by the kind advice of all my friends.

There is contemporary evidence of the distress which Mitchell experienced during this enquiry. A. C. Gregory had been commissioned by the Colonial Office to lead the North Australian expedition from the Victoria River. He was instructed to assemble his party at Sydney. Being delayed there because some of his party had not arrived he was asked by the New South Wales Government to make a rapid journey in search of evidence of the fate of Leichhardt's expedition of 1848: considering whether this was possible in the time available, he consulted Mitchell as to the nature of the country between the Darling Downs and the Barcoo River:

On stating my object to the Surveyor General and the nature of the information I was desirous of obtaining he replied in a most discourteous manner, "I suppose you have come here to do better than we can: I am busy with my plans and have no time to give you any information." I then requested to be informed whether, though he was so much engaged, I could obtain any information relative to the country from any other person in his department, to which he replied, "The Survey Department has something of more importance to attend to."[28]

While discourtesy is never justifiable, Mitchell's irritable condition at that time can be appreciated.

The Commission's report was ordered by the Legislative Assembly to be printed on 23 November 1855. Mitchell had died on 5 October preceding.

On 12 October 1855 Denison wrote a despatch to Secretary of State Russell advising him of Mitchell's death, and next day, 13 October, Denison forwarded the report of the Royal Commission with this comment:

I do not feel called on to express any opinion as to the causes which have led to such a disorganization of the Survey Department, neither is it necessary for me to impute blame to anyone.[29]

Upon receipt of Denison's despatch in the Colonial Office, an official minute (by Gairdner) was attached to the papers:

This report shows very much what might have been expected that with originally a very imperfect education and with frequent absences of the Surveyor General from the charge of his department, the survey of the Colony has been very much neglected and very imperfectly performed.

This judgment by the Royal Commission, and this unhappy epitaph in the Colonial Office seem, in retrospect, to have given less than proper value to the circumstances. It is quite unjust to describe Mitchell as imperfectly educated; his writings contain contrary proof. During the first ten years of Mitchell's service as Surveyor General the boundaries of occupied territory had expanded from the Darling Downs to Bass Strait, and far to the west. Squatters were settling everywhere, and acquiring, under the constantly changing land policy, the right to purchase the land they had occupied. This led to a vigorous demand for surveys or boundaries over an almost limitless area of continental magnitude. Personal influence was, without doubt, attempted or used to secure priority in survey. Mitchell referred to this in his statements to the Royal Commission. Hoddle was surveying the pastoral runs of Moore, Campbell, Murray, and Sturt in the Australian Capital Territory, two hundred miles from Sydney, as early as 1832 and 1835.[30]

It was impossible for Mitchell to make an accurate trigonometrical survey, as he claimed, over the whole of this region in the time and with the resources available. He might well have been less emphatic on this aspect, while claiming credit for what he had achieved. He had personally traversed the length and breadth of "the whole territory" on his four expeditions and numerous shorter journeys. He had followed and plotted rivers: he had ascended very many peaks. He had been methodical in this work and had produced a feature map on which all the main geographical features were noted. A reasonable test would be a comparison between his recorded positions for each of the two points most distant from Sydney, the Alice-Barcoo junction and the mouth of the Glenelg River, with their positions on modern maps; these are substantially in accord; when all the conditions under which he travelled and made his observations are considered, his accuracy was remarkable. The Commission might well have given more generous recognition to this general mapping of the territory. Many squatters and settlers must have been grateful.

As to the marking out of the great roads, for which Mitchell received much praise, and on which he many times based his claims for recognition, it is only necessary to say that all are agreed that this praise was fully deserved: he was wise and skilled in practical topography.

The story of the Great Western Highway has been told earlier in this volume: the main southern highway follows today, in all material respects, the line he planned, although he was not satisfied with the section over the Razorback Range north of Picton. There is evidence that in 1851 he tried to have the road through Campbelltown and Appin to Picton adopted as the main south road.[31] This would have passed through his property at Wilton, by way of Broughton's Pass and Pheasant's Nest. He stated his opinion that it was the "true south road" and its construction would be a great public advantage: it would avoid the steep crossing of the Razorback, although it involved two rough crossings of the Nepean River. A Bill was actually introduced before the Legislative Council in November 1851 to give effect to this proposal but was not passed.

Under the hovering cloud of the adverse report on his life's work came, unexpectedly, the end of Mitchell's dramatic story. Having contracted a chill when supervising the survey of a road from Braidwood to Nelligen, he developed broncho-pneumonia and died at his home, "Carthona" (Plate XV), at Darling Point on 5 October 1855, in his sixty-fourth year.

Governor Denison ordered that his death should be notified in a special issue of the Government Gazette on the day (6 October) following his death.

The Governor with a desire to shew every respect for the memory of Sir Thomas Mitchell invites all the civil officers of the Government to attend the funeral. Sir Thomas Mitchell will be buried with full military honours.

His grave is in the churchyard of St. Stephen's Church, Newtown. The headstone bears as emblems of his life work a sword, a pen, and laurel wreaths.

His brother, Houston, had left Australia and had returned to Jamaica. His wife, Lady Mitchell, survived him for many years.

In the Legislative Assembly of Victoria a proposal was made on 28 February 1860 that a pension of £200 per annum should be paid to Lady Mitchell

as an acknowledgement of the public services of Sir Thomas Mitchell in his discovery and exploration of the territory named by him "Australia Felix" now the Colony of Victoria.[32]

The proposal was not adopted.

The eldest son Livingstone was managing the Parkhall property.[33] In the Sydney Morning Herald of 15 December 1853 appears an advertisement under his name warning persons against

tampering with my engaged German immigrants, employing them on Sunday, hiring their wives, thus causing them to neglect their families and the men their work.

He married Catherine Macalister, sister of Captain Macalister. Richard was engaged in the office of the Crown Solicitor in Sydney. The other four sons had died. Of the daughters, Emily married Lord Audley whose baronetage was of thirteenth century creation. Alicia married Philip Dauncey and Camilla married J. F. Mann, a surveyor of English family lineage. Emily and Camilla were married at a double wedding at St. Mark's Church, Darling Point, Sydney, on 16 April 1857.[34]

Mann had been with Leichhardt on the abortive expedition of 1847: later, in 1844, he had accompanied Commodore Erskine in H.M.S. Nelson when Erskine went to proclaim a protectorate over Papua.[35] His son, G. V. F. Mann, was Director of the Art Gallery in Sydney for many years.

By his will Mitchell had bequeathed his property "Parkhall" to his son Thomas, who however had not lived to inherit it. After Mitchell's death it remained vacant for some years, and in 1867 was bought by Dr Jenkins who renamed it "Nepean Towers". It is now the Apostolic School of the Society of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and has been renamed "St. Mary's Towers".

The surveying instruments used by Mitchell were presented to the National Library at Canberra.

Plate XV. "Carthona", Darling Point: Mitchell's last home

Plate XVI. Mitchell in his later years

CHAPTER XV - Epilogue

Mitchell undertook to serve his country as a public servant. He accepted the threefold obligation defined by Bacon as quoted earlier in this volume--to serve the Sovereign or State, to serve fame, and to serve business. Serving the Sovereign or. State usually means for the public servant the faithful discharge of policies which serve the self-interest of the Ministers of State, which, in turn generally, but not always, means that the public servant is serving his own material interests. But the public servant is the servant of the public, that is, properly interpreted, the servant of the State.

The dilemma is clear enough: shall the public servant follow the dictates of his conscience and press for the policy which he knows will be right and best for the State and for the efficient discharge of business, even if he knows it will be against his own interests; or shall he complacently acquiesce in the decisions of a higher authority, and so serve his own interests even if he knows that the prescribed policy is inconsistent with the welfare of the people, and irreconcilable with his professional conscience. In either case fame is so elusive and unstable that its deliberate pursuit must always be an uncertain course. Bacon's own career provides an excellent illustration of the inevitable conflict between these three purposes. Very few in the past have succeeded, as Pepys seems shrewdly to have done, in finding the solution to this problem.

Under modern conditions a workable solution to this age-old problem has been devised, but in Mitchell's day this was not so. With patronage essential to advancement in the public service, with ultimate authority arbitrarily, often unjustly, exercised, the public servant who honestly wished to do his public service faithfully--and even, on a lower platform, serve his own interests--had no other course open than vigorous and persistent presentation of his opinions or his claims.

It is essential that these contemporary conditions should be remembered in estimating (if indeed it is possible to form any accurate estimate) the qualities and the public activities of this remarkable man, one of the most remarkable men in our national history. A man of strong character, intolerant of incompetence, impatient when opposed, these he was, as are most strong men., As a strong man usually is, he was sometimes right, sometimes wrong, sometimes wise, sometimes not so wise.

Instructed to carry out an impossible task, that of dividing the whole of the mainland east of the present boundary of Western Australia into delineated counties, hundreds, and parishes, he did, in fact, achieve so much of this task as was from time to time necessary to keep pace with advancing settlement.

Committed by his own declaration in 1828 to the necessity for a trigonometrical survey, which indeed would seem to have been indispensably necessary for the desired division of the country, he was adjudged twenty-seven years later to have failed in the completion of this task. This, however, is a matter of interpretation: the Commission was considering an exact survey from a measured base line with the sides and angles of all triangles carefully recorded in a progressive serial triangulation. This is the correct and established method, but over a continental area and with a limited staff this was an impossible task for Mitchell. The Commission itself declared that such a task was beyond the requirements and resources of the colony. He was obliged to make his trigonometrical survey by angles as from one prominent feature to another. It must reasonably be accepted that, under the prevailing conditions of uncontrolled expansion of occupation by pastoralist squatters, general feature surveys were all that was possible. The Commission recognized this and fully appreciated the value of this aspect of his work.

It may not be denied that the measurements and the fixation of points were not always accurate. A. C. Gregory, who was the first Surveyor General in Queensland, recorded in 1885 that about 1850 Mitchell began a trigonometrical survey of Moreton Bay and the Darling Downs:

but the imperfections in the measurement of the base-line on the Normanby plains by the use of hardwood bars of ten-foot lengths, the small size of the theodolites, and somewhat unfavourable selection of the trigonometrical stations, combined with the death of Surveyor Burnet, left the work in such an imperfect state as not to be of much value.[1]

It is difficult, however, to dismiss the suspicion that Denison's haste in instituting a searching enquiry into Mitchell's administration as one of his first acts within a few days of assuming the post of Governor was prompted by motives less innocent than a desire to secure efficiency in the Surveyor General's Department.

The roads which Mitchell plotted are still monuments to his skill as a surveyor, and the Victoria Pass provides an example of an executive officer trusting his professional skill in opposition to the autocratic instructions of the Governor--thus serving the State (or the business) instead of the Sovereign where a conflict was necessary.

As Surveyor General, as a public officer, the nation should always honour his name for the work which he did during a very difficult, critical period in our history. If it was severely criticized in 1855 by the standards of that period, it was, nevertheless, faithfully done according to the only standards that were possible under the earlier conditions.

It is possible to give differing verdicts on his explorations: his first and second expeditions added little to knowledge except to his own; the third and fourth expeditions made valuable additions to knowledge, and replaced speculation with certainty, over very large regions of the continent. It is probable that elements of professional rivalry were not absent from the motives inducing the first two expeditions; but the third and fourth were conducted with all the inspiration of the true explorer and at the express direction of a higher authority. His geographical acumen and prescience were of a high order, although exception must be made in respect of his pronouncements as to the fate of the Barcoo River, when other motives seem to have intruded. His prolonged absences on these expeditions in the pursuit of fame were inconsistent with sustained supervision of his department.

As to other aspects of his career, a rather more critical attitude is necessary. There is no evidence that he was popular, as Sturt was, with his subordinates in either the office or the field. His attacks on his deputy, Perry, seem as far as available evidence goes, to have been unworthy and without justification. He does not seem to have absorbed the basic principle of public service efficiency that the executive head of a department must work through his subordinates, accepting responsibility for official mistakes, and giving the fullest possible degree of responsibility and credit to his subordinate officers. On the other hand there is evidence that these officers did not invariably in the earlier years give evidence of a sensitive official conscience: in the later years many of his officers gave faithful and efficient service.

The final evidence--lamentably too final--of his tendency to do everything himself was his personal presence, in his sixty-fourth year, at the survey of a road through that rugged Clyde Mountain region: work which might well have been entrusted to his surveyors.

His petulant treatment of Sturt at the beginning and of Gregory at the end of his career can hardly be condoned, although the circumstances at the time should be remembered.

By contrast he maintained, throughout his life, an unbroken friendship with Hamilton Hume. He wrote to Hume in 1841 recalling that Hume had given him his first wide view of the colony from the summit of the Blue Mountains "and entertained me hospitably in your tent while I was still a stranger to the land of the gum trees". Again, in 1851, he wrote to Hume: "The public ought to esteem you as much as I do. The career of discovery and the path of truth all lead in one direction, as you have always shown your fellow colonists, and your old fellow-traveller and very sincere friend."[2]

His persistent defiance of successive Governors, his determined reliance upon Royal instructions as the basis of his claim for independent authority, and his sustained conflicts with the Colonial Office during his periods of leave in London suggest that obstinacy too often outran discretion.

It is difficult to understand his obstinate obsession, through repeated official contradictions and reprimands, that he was invested, directly by the King in person, with an authority independent of all established constitutional obligations. Even allowing for a natural fiery independence, and a deep and unconquerable conviction that he was always right, that what he was doing was, in spite of all opposition, the right thing to do, he was too intelligent to be unaware that in accepting a civil service position he had accepted certain obligations of duty to higher authorities; that he had, in that position, committed himself to the discharge of routine duties. Nor was it possible for him to be ignorant of the fact that the collective pressure of civil service officialdom is invariably too strong for the single individual to challenge.

The pursuit of fame was his repeatedly declared objective; he pursued it in too many directions, he would have gained it with less. He had all the qualities which command success but failed by demanding too much.

He has pronounced his own verdict: writing to his brother John three months before his death: "I seem doomed to be all my life between extremes."

The circumstances of the time should not be forgotten. The rapid evolution in the social system, with adjustments in official attitudes, both in England and Australia, presented difficulties of unusual complexity; the constant official conflicts, the deaths of his sons, his financial difficulties, must have disturbed his mind at times when 'quiet reflection would have been wise. 'Through it all the devotion of his wife should be remembered.

This is the perplexing enigma of this notable figure in our history. He was endowed by nature with unusual intellectual gifts. His published volumes provide evidence of intelligent reading over a very wide range; they contain more than sixty references to, or quotations from, classical sources (including Herodotus, Homer, Ovid, Virgil, Tacitus, Ossian), from Shakespeare, Milton, and Burns, as well as many quotations, all aptly used, from the Bible, from Spanish, Portuguese, and Persian sources, and many from unacknowledged sources.

He had great skill as an artist; he used written language with accuracy and emphasis, although not always with discretion; his physical restlessness urged him to continual action, while his mental alertness impelled him to ceaseless exploration in new fields of thought and action. He was, in intellectual qualities, ;o superior to most of his contemporaries in the colony that he was, for these qualities at least, respected then as he is still: ndeed, he could not otherwise have successfully defied the Colonial Office and the local Governors for twenty-seven years.

He was always conscious of, and never doubted, this superiority: :his egoism, however, contained within itself the defects of his personality--vanity, jealousy, insubordination: but his personality and character cannot be concisely or precisely defined, cannot be fitted neatly into any category; the record must speak for itself.



Earl Liverpool                            1809
Earl Bathurst                             1812
Viscount Goderich                         1827
Rt. Hon. W. Huskisson                     1827
Sir George Murray                         1828
Viscount Goderich (Ripon)                 1830
Rt. Hon. E. G. Stanley (Derby)            1833
Rt. Hon. T. Spring Rice (Monteagle)       1834
Earl Aberdeen                             1834
Lord Glenelg                              1835
Marquis of Normanby                       1839
Lord John Russell                         1839
Lord Stanley (Derby)                      1841
Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone                  1845
Earl Grey                                 1846
Rt. Hon. Sir J. S. Pakington (Hampton)    1852
Duke of Newcastle                         1852
Rt. Hon. Sir George Grey                  1854
Rt. Hon. S. Herbert                       1855
Lord John Russell                         1855
Rt. Hon. Sir W. Molesworth                1855

The Governors during the period covered in this volume were:

MACQUARIE                     1 January 1810 to 1 December 1821
BRISBANE                      1 December 1821 to 1 December 1825
DARLING                       19 December 1825 to 21 October 1831
LINDESAY*                     22 October 1831 to 2 December 1831
BOURKE...                     3 December 1831 to 5 December 1837
SNODGRASS*                    6 December 1837 to 23 February 1838
GIPPS                         24 February 1838 to 11 July 1846
O'CONNELL*                    12 July 1846 to 2 August 1846
FITZROY                       3 August 1846 to 17 January 1855
DENISON                       20 January 1855 to 22 January 1861

* Acting


Darling to Murray - 28 March 1831

If it should be asked why I did not represent Major Mitchell's proceedings, I will, Sir, frankly confess that I was deterred from doing so from a feeling that I had not received that support, which I conceived I had a claim to in other cases, and that every failure in this respect must tend more and more to weaken the Government and might induce others to follow Major Mitchell's example.

His ill and ungovernable temper render him an impracticable servant of the Government. I should have considered it my indispensable duty to suspend him from office; but as it was not impossible that some inconvenience might be occasioned at the moment, it appeared to the Council and myself the safer course to put up with the contumely we had experienced, rather than incur the responsibility of removing him.

I am constrained to observe, which I do with extreme deference and reluctance, that the injury is incalculable, which this Government has sustained by the course hitherto adopted on similar occasions. Had a different line been pursued I have no doubt I should have been spared the necessity of bringing Major Mitchell's name under your notice. I once more, Sir, entreat you to consider the peculiar nature of this Colony and the character and description of several of the indidivuals who have been sent out to fill appointments here.

If the local Government is not supported, but should be left exposed to the cavillings of every factious malcontent, or be subject without redress to the insolence and opposition of its immediate servants, a state of things will arise ere long, which may be regretted when too late.

You will not, Sir, I trust, impute to me a proneness to complain without cause. I some time since determined never to make another representation. The gross misconduct of some of the officers compelled me notwithstanding to bring their names under your notice...In the case of Major Mitchell I have used every possible forbearance and have remonstrated with him both personally and by letter without effect, which would hardly have been the case had he seen that I possessed any weight or influence: but fully aware of the contrary from the result of former representations, he appears satisfied that he incurred little risk in acting as others had done before him.

I have declined permitting Major Mitchell to return Home on leave. I did not suspend him from office only from an apprehension that some inconvenience might possibly be occasioned by his discontinuing to act: the same reason would prevent me granting him leave of absence: but there is still a stronger and I trust he will not be permitted to return Home, retaining his office, until the matter now at issue is determined.

Darling to Goderich - 26 July 1831

I cannot abstain from noticing the passage in Your Lordship's despatch in which you state that "the misunderstandings and dissensions" which have occurred in New South Wales render it advisable for the King's Service that I should be relieved. Surely, My Lord, you do not allude to occurrences now some years gone by: but if Your Lordship does allude to them may I not ask if it be just to make me responsible.

I have no desire to exaggerate the difficulties I have had to contend with nor do I lay any claim to infallibility. If I have erred, surely, My Lord, some allowance might have been made, if only in consideration of the persons I have had to deal with, men, I may say habitual drunkards filling the most important offices, speculators, bankrupts and radicals, while I have exerted myself strenuously to promote the views of His Majesty's authority.

If it be Your Lordship's will that I should be the sacrifice, I must submit.

Your Lordship has disgraced me in the very face of the people whom I have now governed for nearly six years. I can indeed hardly persuade myself that Your Lordship could have been aware of the ruinous consequences to my public reputation and private character. Had Your Lordship reflected but a moment, you would have seen that, by dismissing me from this Government, you at once stamped with the authority of Your Lordship's name as a Minister of the Crown, the gross calumnies published against me in the Colony and which were repeated and exaggerated in the House of Commons last year.


Gipps to Stanley - 26 July 1844

(Advises that Condell and Thomson had resigned from the Legislative Council and that Mitchell and Adolphus Young were elected to succeed them; Gipps comments):

But though the number of Government officers in the Council is thus increased by two, I scarcely expect that the Government will derive any additional strength from their having seats in it. I have incidentally had occasion already to shew to Your Lordship that the Surveyor General had (and I may say systematically) opposed himself to the views of Her Majesty's Government in respect to the administration of the Lands of the Crown and Mr Young is also understood to have pledged himself to the same course at the time of his election.

Gipps to Stanley - 18 August 1844

(Forwards correspondence and recalls having advised (26.7.44) of Mitchell's election, and continues):

Having, in my despatch of the 16th ultimo, noticed the systematic opposition offered by Sir Thomas Mitchell to the views of Her Majesty's Government in matters connected with his own Department, and further drawn Your Lordship's attention to the fact of his having failed to give his support to the Government, on the question respecting District Councils, which in fact involved the question whether one of the most important provisions of the Constitutional Act for the Government of the Colony should be maintained or set aside, I thought it right to inform Sir Thomas Mitchell that I had written such a Despatch; and I told him at the same time that the undisguised hostility, which he manifested at all times not only to my own measures, but to those of Her Majesty's Government, and even to the enactments of Parliament, in matters connected with the administration of the lands of the Crown, was in my opinion inconsistent with his duty as an officer of the Government, and might even endanger his situation since, when Her Majesty's Government were disposed to give up all control over the Crown Lands, it was most necessary that the office of Surveyor General should be held by a person who would adopt and carry out the policy of Government in respect to the management of them.

In my despatch No. 17 of 17 January 1844 I pointed out instances in which the evidence given by Sir Thomas Mitchell before a Committee of the Legislative Council showed how much he was opposed to the policy of Government; and similar instances might be adduced in more recent evidence given by him before another Committee, in the course of the present session.

Sir Thomas Mitchell having now resigned his seat in the Legislative Council I have of course issued a writ for the holding of a new election at Port Phillip.

Mitchell to Parker* - 5 August 1844

The Governor having informed me, at the last interview I had with His Excellency, that he had mentioned or alluded to me in a communication to Lord Stanley having reference to the District Councils Bill, I beg His Excellency will be pleased to communicate to me the nature and grounds of any complaint he has thought fit to submit to Lord Stanley respecting my conduct in Council.

I take leave also to refer to other remarks of His Excellency on that occasion, and to beg that he will be pleased to define what support the local Government is properly entitled to from a Member of the Legislative Council, holding such a situation as mine.

[* Private Secretary to Governor.]

Parker to Mitchell - 6 August 1844

I have received, and laid before His Excellency the Governor, your letter dated yesterday; and I am directed by His Excellency to state to you, in reply, that he has at various times had occasion incidentally to mention to the Secretary of State the way in which you have opposed yourself to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in the administration of the Domain of the Crown in this Colony. In respect to your conduct in the Council, His Excellency has simply informed Lord Stanley that you failed to give your support to. the Government on an occasion when the question before the Council was, whether the Act passed by the Imperial Parliament for the Government of the Colony should be obeyed, or disobeyed; and, in reply to your request that the Governor "will define what support the local Government is properly entitled to from a Member of the Council holding such a situation as yours", I am directed by His Excellency to state that the Government does not assert any claim to your support as Member for the District of Port Phillip; but, in conformity with the rule which prevails throughout the whole of Her Majesty's Dominions, so long as you continue to hold the office of Surveyor General, the Government is entitled to your support in all cases involving any material measure of policy.

Mitchell to Parker - 9 August 1844

I have had the honour to receive your letter dated the 6th instant, in which you favour me with His Excellency's reply to my former communication; and, in reference to the second portion of that reply, and the Rule whereby it would appear that I, as Surveyor General, cannot act as an independent Member for Port Phillip, I beg leave to request the favour of information as to what the particular Order, Regulation or Despatch is, by which such a Rule has been established, that I may know how far it may be possible for me to perform my duty to my constituents.

Parker to Mitchell - 9 August 1844

I have laid your letter of this day before the Governor, and am desired by His Excellency in reply to state that the Rule referred to in my former letter simply is, that the Member for Port Phillip may act as he pleases, but the Surveyor General of New South Wales must obey and support the Government. His Excellency can give you no further information on the subject.

Mitchell to Parker - 16 August 1844

With reference to the enclosed letter, I request you will be so good as to ascertain and inform me, whether I am at liberty to lay the correspondence, which has passed between yourself and me, before the gentleman by whom this document is signed.

Parker to Mitchell - 1 January 1845

In returning you the document which accompanied your letter of 16th instant, I am desired by the Governor to inform you that the letters you allude to are papers of your own and that the discretion must remain with you as to the use you may make of them.

Stanley to Gipps - 1 January 1845

I have received your Despatch dated 26 July 1844 and numbered 158, in which you announce the election of the Surveyor General and of the Sheriff of New South Wales as Members of the Legislative Council of that Colony; and express your opinion that, on some of the more considerable measures of your Government, you cannot calculate on their support in the local Legislature, but may not improbably have to encounter their opposition. It is due to you that I should meet as distinctly as possible the questions, alike delicate and important, which this question raises.

In the first place, I regard as very doubtful the propriety of any public officer of the Crown holding a seat in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, except by Her Majesty's nomination. On that question, however, I reserve the expression of my further opinion until I shall be in possession of a report of your own views respecting it, which you will report to me as speedily as possible. In the meantime, you will inform the Surveyor General and the Sheriff that they are not to consider Her Majesty's Government as acquiescing in this combination, in their persons, of such employments, so that, if it shall eventually be decided to call on them to make their choice between their offices and their seats, they may not have it in their power to allege the want of timely notice.

The Surveyor General and the Sheriff must further be given to understand that they must immediately make that choice, if upon any question, which you may regard as involving the character or the good conduct of your Government, they shall be unable to render to you their zealous and cordial support in the Colonial Legislature.

The necessity of making such a choice could be avoided only by methods which I am well convinced those gentlemen would refuse to adopt, and in which Her Majesty's Government would not less certainly refuse to participate--that is, either by those officers neglecting their duty to their constituents, or by their acting in direct opposition to that duty as understood and appreciated by themselves.

If Her Majesty's officers think fit to assume relations and responsibilities disqualifying them for the support of Her Majesty's Representative, they are of course perfectly free to do so, but, having done so, cannot be permitted to retain their employment. Otherwise there would not only be an end of all concert and subordination in Her Majesty's service, but the sincerity and good faith of those by whom it is administered would be brought into serious discredit.

I am not forgetful that any general rules, which could be laid down on a subject of this nature, must require qualifications and exceptions, which it is not possible distinctly to foresee and to provide for. I refer to your own discretion the application to particular cases, as they may arise, of the general principle which I apprehend will be sufficiently clear for your own guidance, and for the information of the officers of the Crown serving under you.


Grey to Fitzroy - 4 December 1847

I have received your despatch No. 64 of 30 March last, reporting that with the advice of your Executive Council you had granted twelve months' leave of absence to Sir Thomas Mitchell, the Surveyor General to your Government, to enable him to proceed to England on urgent private affairs.

I transmit for your information copies of a correspondence with Sir Thomas Mitchell on the subject.

I regret that I cannot consider as satisfactory the grounds assigned by Sir Thomas Mitchell for his application for leave, particularly as he had recently been so long absent from his duties in the Colony; but, as you had thought proper to grant him that leave, and as upon the strength of it he had come to Europe, I did not consider it just to refuse to sanction his receiving his absent allowance during that period; although at the same time I have intimated to him that I should be unable to extend the period or to sanction the issue of half salary beyond the date at which the present leave will expire, even although the objects for which he has visited Europe should not by that time be completed.

Mitchell to Grey - 24 July 1847

Having arrived from New South Wales on leave of absence for one year, I have the honor to state that I left Sydney on 29 March last and to request that Your Lordship may be pleased to cause a communication to be made to the Colonial Agent General, and also to the War Office stating such particulars as may be required to enable those authorities to pay me my half salary as Surveyor General, and my half pay as an unattached Major.

Under-Secretary Hawes to Mitchell - 8 August 1847

In reply to the request contained in your letter to Earl Grey of the 24th ultimo I am directed by His Lordship to inform you that no despatch has yet been received from the Governor of New South Wales announcing the leave of absence which you state has been granted to you, but that, whenever such report shall have reached this Department, the necessary communications on the subject will be made to the Colonial Agent and to the War Office.

Under-Secretary Hawes to Mitchell - 27 September 1847

In my letter of 8 August last I informed you that no report had then been received from the Governor of New South Wales announcing your leave of absence. I am now directed by Earl Grey to acquaint you that such a report has now reached him, but that he learns from it that you have returned to England only on the ground of urgent private affairs.

Lord Grey directs me to observe that he cannot consider this as a sufficient explanation of the grounds on which you propose so long to absent yourself from your public duties. His Lordship regards the difficulty of acquiescing in such a plea as the more considerable, when he adverts to the great length of time during which you were absent from those duties on your last visit to England. Under such circumstances, he cannot sanction your leave of absence, nor direct the payment of your half salary; but he is ready to receive and consider any statement on the subject which you may be able and desirous to lay before him.

Lord Grey directs me to add that in his report of your leave of absence, the Governor of New South Wales has remarked that it is evident that, if the duties of the Survey Department can be conducted by the Deputy Surveyor alone without inconvenience to the Public Service, which was the case during the long period of your late exploratory expedition as it will be now, it will not be necessary, in the event of any vacancy occurring, that both the appointments should be filled up. Lord Grey would, therefore, wish to be informed what is your own opinion as to the necessity of maintaining both a Surveyor General and a Deputy Surveyor General on the establishment of the Colony of New South Wales.

Mitchell to Hawes - 15 November 1847

On my arrival in town this day, having left Malaga on the 2nd instant, 1 had the honour to receive your letter dated 27 September, to which I hasten to reply.

I beg to state for Earl Grey's information that the grounds on which I applied to the Governor of New South Wales for leave of absence were, first, that very unfavourable reports as to the state of my health had been sent to the Colonial Office; secondly, that my health had been affected by an attack of paralysis for the cure of which Dr Nicholson, my physician, recommended a sea voyage; and thirdly, that I had occasion to give to the public the details of a journey undertaken at the public expense. On these grounds I personally asked and obtained from the Governor of New South Wales leave of absence to come to England.

I regret exceedingly to learn from your letter that Lord Grey feels more difficulty in acquiescing in my present plea when His Lordship adverts to the great length of time during which I was absent from my public duties on my last visit to England. I beg to apprise his Lordship that public duties then engaged my attention, partly in another branch of the service it is true, but for objects similar to that which now brings me to London, namely to give to the public the benefit of surveys, performed at the public expense. I admit that I consider the due and full completion of any public service entrusted to me, as being the most urgent of my private affairs, even although it involves the sacrifice alternately of my military half pay or half my colonial salary; but I cannot afford to lose both and maintain a very large family. I have been unable to receive either my half-pay or half colonial salary since my return to England on leave of absence; and the very serious inconvenience, indeed distress, to which I must be reduced may be imagined, if the issue of my half salary and half pay is not immediately sanctioned.

With respect to the question on which you request my opinion for Lord Grey's information as to the necessity of maintaining both a Surveyor General and a Deputy Surveyor General on the establishment of the Colony of New South Wales, I beg to observe that this appears to me to depend wholly on the nature of the duties to be required henceforth of the Surveyor General (Lord Stanley's letter to the Governor of New South Wales, dated 15 June 1833, is very particular on this point as to the past). According to the Royal instructions of 1825, extensive territorial divisions and reserves were commanded to be made, and, pursuant to a Commission under the great seal of the Colony, I made with my own hand a trigonometrical survey and determined the boundaries and contents of nineteen counties, marked out the great roads, and superintended their construction by upwards of two thousand convicts, and explored the interior to the Westward, Southward, and lastly to the Northward. It must be obvious that I could not be always present at the Seat of Government, where my Deputy signed for me official documents requiring my signature.

I know of no other service on which I have required that officer's assistance, besides that general superintendence of others employed under my written instructions: and, therefore, I could not object to such a diminution of my Department, if, as I am led to infer from your letter, my duty as head of the Survey Department may be performed at Sydney.

I have further only to add that my health is much improved by this visit to Europe, and that I have no desire to remain longer in England than may be necessary to enable me to bring out the work whereof Lord Grey has been pleased to sanction the publication.

Hawes to Mitchell - 3 December 1847

I have laid before Earl Grey your letter of 15th ultimo on explanation of the circumstances under which you obtained leave of absence from New South Wales.

In reply, I am directed to acquaint you that, as the Governor of New South Wales thought proper to grant you leave of absence for a period of twelve months, and as upon the strength of that leave you came to Europe, His Lordship will not, during that time, refuse to sanction your receiving your half salary, although he cannot but regard the grounds upon which leave was granted to you as far from satisfactory, considering that you had at a recent period been so long absent from your duties in the Colony. Under these circumstances Lord Grey cannot sanction any extension of your leave of absence or the grant of half salary beyond the date at which your present leave will expire, even although the objects for which you have visited Europe should not by that time be completed.

Mitchell to Grey - 8 January 1848

From the favourable manner in which my application for leave was received by the Governor of New South Wales, and the readiness with which it was granted, I did not anticipate those difficulties which Your Lordship appears to have felt in extending or even sanctioning that leave.

My preparations for returning to the Colony are not, therefore, in that state of forwardness, which enabled me by the utmost exertions to complete my arrangements until the present time.

However grateful I feel to Your Lordship for having sanctioned the original Leave of Absence, with the difficulty which you appear to have felt in granting that indulgence, I am still induced to hope that I may be excused for the interval that may elapse beyond the period of my original leave by Your Lordship's granting me an extension of two months, so that I might be fully prepared for embarkation by the end of next month.

Hawes to Mitchell - 17 January 1848

I am directed by Earl Grey to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th instant, in which you represent the difficulty you have experienced in completing your arrangements so as to enable you to return to New South Wales within the term of your present leave; and, under the circumstances which you have stated, Lord Grey consents to permit your remaining in this country until 1 March next.

At the same time His Lordship directs me to state that no delay beyond that period can on any consideration be permitted, and that he is still unable to approve of the original grant to you of leave of absence.

The following is a copy of a manuscript now in the Mitchell Library. It must be regarded as a draft, as it has not been possible to find evidence that it was actually sent as a letter to Grey. It has sufficient intrinsic interest to justify its reproduction here. There is no reference to it in official records.

London, December 1847

My Lord,

The tenor of two letters which I have received from Mr Hawes induces me to address Your Lordship and to express my great disappointment that the services I have endeavoured to render to my country should have procured for me so little favour in Your Lordship's estimation.

The circumstances under which I obtained leave of absence, and the objects of my visit to Europe, must be still too imperfectly known to Your Lordship since they are considered so unsatisfactory.

The journey of which I came to Europe to publish an account was undertaken at the expense of the Colony of New South Wales, and on the petition of the Legislative Council. At the sacrifice of half my salary I came to this country to give this new geographical matter to the public, and to develop the resources of a portion of the empire hitherto unknown--to contribute to botanical science--to enrich our gardens--to gather here amongst men of science such information as may enable my countrymen seeking a home in parts so remote, to employ their industry to good account.

My researches with these objects in view have been extended to other parts of Europe arid I could have hoped rather to have deserved Your Lordship's approbation, than only to have arrived at the unexpected discovery that the leave of absence granted me by the Governor and Executive Council of New South Wales has been disapproved by Your Lordship.

Time was when such services obtained for me marks of my Sovereign's approbation, academical honours, and from the Colony the gratuity of a double salary. I am not aware that the relations between England and Australia are so entirely changed that when I at length arrive at the successful completion of a service originating in Royal instructions, a service which I, a field officer of the Army, was invited to undertake twenty years ago, I should be ordered back in terms of disapprobation to the Colony I have so zealously served.

The knowledge I have acquired of the country at the public expense enables me to be useful to it here--in ascertaining the best means of extending to these regions the modern improvements of railways and steam power as applicable to the raising of water, and purposes of extensive irrigation, and so long as I might be able to render such service to the Colony, and lose half my salary, I could never have imagined that I should, by so desiring to benefit the Colony, be so unfortunate as to incur Your Lordship's displeasure.

At a time when various nervous diseases, paralysis, rheumatism and palpitation of the heart might have been alleviated by some acknowledgement of the services that induced them I have been under the necessity of pleading for that payment of my half salary--the want of which has embittered the days of this visit to England.

I am again informed that the grounds of Your Lordship's disapprobation of the leave of absence are that I had at a recent period been so long absent from my duties in the Colony. I beg to remind Your Lordship that that absence was sanctioned by Your Lordship's predecessor in office My Lord John Russell for a special purpose, and that it was never understood by me that in completing the plans of the battles in the Peninsula I should subject myself to banishment for life.

It was my ill-fortune to meet in the last Governor an Engineer whose professional jealousy of a man competent to assert his own claim to superiority in that branch of duty allocated to him made him an irreconcilable enemy. Thus he thwarted my views of more extensive exploration--afforded to a stranger the opportunity of reaping the advantage of plans I had originated--refused my son the position his labours in my office ought to have afforded him a preference in obtaining, and, when disappointment and official vexations by harassing my mind had paralysed my body, he permitted me to engage in a hazardous service.

My return, if I have been rightly informed, was unexpected, but I did return and to what? To learn that a youth, my Son, him for whom I had sought and who merited patronage, had perished among the Snowy Mountains of Australia.

Under such various causes of painful suffering it is not surprising health should have failed--and the invigorating influence of my native climate become requisite.

The present Governor saw my position and considerately granted that leave of absence which my partial blindness from ophthalmia and paralysed frame required--and to which my subsequent recovery is due.

As I trust these details will be sufficient to satisfy Your Lordship that my sojourn in this country apart from my family, except from considerations of health, is neither for my own interest nor gratification; and as I find that three months' additional leave of absence are necessary to enable me to take out the machinery of a wooden railway, receive vine cuttings (to be sent from Andalusia at the proper season), also some birds and animals only to be procured in the spring, I beg an extension of leave of absence for three months.

Sidelined at the beginning of this letter are dates 27 September 1847 and 3 December 1847. These are the letters from Hawes which have been quoted above.

In pencil, as a marginal note at the beginning of the draft, is this note: "I complain of the style of these letters. Having zealously performed my duty to my country I have now a second duty to perform towards myself. Before I quit this country, probably never to return, I find it necessary to enquire whether it is a principle with the Colonial Office that when an officer's services have been long and efficient, and his claims to consideration therefore the more, he is to be treated with more rigour and shown less indulgence as it may be most convenient to get rid of him. I cannot persuade myself that such a principle would be avowed by the Imperial Government of Great Britain."


The following abbreviations are used in this list of references:

Mit. Lib.--Mitchell Library: in each case when this abbreviation is used the reference is to an original manuscript or document in the Mitchell Library, made available by the courtesy of the Mitchell Librarian.

H.R.A.--Historical Records of Australia, edited by Dr F. Watson and published by the Commonwealth Government. All the references are to Series i of the Records.

R.A.H.S.J.--Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society

R.H.S.V.M.--The Victorian Historical Magazine, published by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria

P.R.O.--Public Record Office, London

Lang--An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales

Shann--An Economic History of Australia

Roberts--History of Australian Land Settlement

Jose--History of Australia

Dict. Nat. Biog.--Dictionary of National Biography

Mitchell--Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia

Geog. Soc. Qd.--Proceedings of the Geographical Society of Australia, Queensland Branch

Sturt--Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia

Napier--A History of the War in the Peninsula and the South of France



1. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 21. Certificate in the Register of Births and Baptisms: parish of Falkirk

2. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 21a

3. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 21c

4. Dict. Nat. Biog. "John Mitchell"

5. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 11

6. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 13

7. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 7

8. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 107

9. Mit. Lib. A. 295.1, p. 105

10. Mit. Lib. A. 295, p. 89

11. Bonwick. Discovery and Settlement of Port Phillip, p. 28


1. Johns. Australian Biographical Dictionary
Serle. Dictionary of Australian Biography
Dictionary of National Biography Australian Encyclopaedia

2. Oman. Wellington's Army, p. 196

3. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 21a

4. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 393

5. Evening News, 8 May 1890, as quoted in G. Nesta Griffith, Point Piper Past and Present, pp. 40-2

6. Challis. A Peninsula Roll Call: A Card Index of Officers: Deposited in the Library of the Royal United Services Institution, London
Boyle. The Rifle Brigade Century 1880-1905, pp. 114.15

7. Bryant. The Age of Elegance, pp. 18-19

8. Aldington. p. 163

9. Aldington. p. 120

10. Ward, S. G. P. "The Quartermaster-General's Department in the Peninsula". Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. xxiii, No. 96

11. Mir. Lib. A. 292, p. 202

12. Cope. History of the Rifle Brigade, p. 97

13. Aldington. p. 163

14. Mitchell. ii, p. 4

15. Napier. iv, p. 432

16. Mitchell. ii, p. 223

17. Aldington. p. 172

18. Mitchell. Tropical Australia, p. 245

19. Mitchell. ii, p. 190

20. Dict. Nat. Biog. "George Murray"

21. "Letters of Georgiana Molloy". Journal of the Historical Society of Western Australia, vol. i, pt. iii

22. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 201

23. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 13

24. Wyld. Introduction to Memoir annexed to an Atlas containing plans of the Principal Battles during the war in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France

25. Napier. vol. vi, p. 372. Appendix "Controversial Pieces"

26. Mit. Lib. A. 290, p. 201

27. Wyld. op. cit.

28. Clode. The Military Forces of the Crown. ii p. 109

29. Challis. op. cit.

30. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 393

31. Mit. Lib. A. 292.2, p. 15

32. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 393

33. Challis. op. cit.

34. Napier. op. cit. pp. 372, 373

35. H.R.A. xiii, p. 64

36. P.R.O. C.O. 201/230, 2598 N.S.W.

37. H.R.A. xiii, p. 64

38. ibid.

39. H.R.A. xiii, p. 66

40. H.R.A. xiii, p. 65

41. H.R.A. xiii, p. 64

42. Salier. R.A.H.S.J. xvii, p. 1

43. P.R.O. C.O. 201/188, 634 N.S.W.


1. Beaglehole. "The Colonial Office, 1782-1854". Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand, April 1941, p. 182

2. Martin. History of the British Colonies (quoted by Beaglehole)

3. P.R.O. C.O. 201/230, 2598 N.S.W.

4. Cumpston, I. M. Indians Overseas in British Territories, p. 8

5. Williams. "The Colonial Office in the Thirties". Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand, May 1943, pp. 155, 160

6. Carlyle. Reminiscences. Everyman's Library Series, p. 123

7. Williams. op. cit., p. 153

8. Bell and Morell. Select Documents on British Colonial Policy, p. xx

9. Williams, op. cit., pp. 144, 145

10. Beaglehole. op. cit., p. 185

11. Williams. op. cit., p. 148

12. Beaglehole. op. cit., p. 187

13. Mills. The Colonization of Australia, p. 13

14. McCarthy. The Four Georges and William IV, p. 327

15. Bell and Morell. op. cit. Introduction

16. Williams. op. cit., p. 152

17. Bell and Morell (quoting Greville). op. cit., p. xxxv

18. McCarthy. History of Our Own Times. i, p. 287

19. Froude. Oceana, p. 336

20. Bell and More11. op. cit., p. xix

21. Carlyle. Latter-day Pamphlets. "Downing Street"

22. Halevy. A History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century (1830-1841), p. 1

23. McCarthy. op. cit. ii, p. 369

24. Froude. op. cit. p. 331

25. Lang. History of New South Wales. p. 188

26. Watson. Historical Records of Australia. xii. Introduction, p. ix

27. Lang. op. cit. i, p. 241

28. Watson, op. cit. xviii. Introduction, p. 1

29. Lang. op. cit. i, p. 284

30. Watson, op. cit. xxiv. Introduction, p. xvii

31. Lang. op. cit. i, p. 351

32. Watson, op. cit. xxv, Introduction

33. Ellis. Lachlan Macquarie, pp. 455, 550

34. Lang. op. cit. i, p. 48

35. H.R.A. xvi, pp. 315, 402

36. H.R.A. xviii, p. 660

37. H.R.A. xix. Introduction, xix

38. -H.R.A. xxiv, p. 475

39. Merivale. Lectures on Colonization and the Colonies, Appendix

40. Report of Commissioner Bigge. p. 81

41. Williams. op. cit. p. 155


1. Ellis. Lachlan Macquarie, p. 275

2. H.R.A. xi. Introduction, p. v;xxvi

3. H.R.A. xiii. Introduction, p. v; xiv, Introduction, p. xvii

4. H.R.A. xvi, p. 870

5. H.R.A. xii, p. 144

6. H.R.A. xi, p. 655

7. H.R.A. xi, p. 555

8. H.R.A. xi. Introduction, p. xxv

9. H.R.A. vii, p. 240

10. Shann. p. 86 and others

11. Ellis. op. cit. p. 317

12. Ellis. op. cit. p. 493

13. H.R.A. xii, p. 379

14. P.R.O. C.O. 201/220. Darling-Goderich, 3 May 1831

15. H.R.A. vii, p. 478

16. H.R.A. viii, p. 331

17. H.R.A. viii, p. 305

18. H.R.A. Bligh. vii, p. 91; Macquarie. ix, p. 501; Darling. xii, p. 535

19. H.R.A. xii, p. 535

20. H.R.A. vi, p. 207

21. H.R.A. xi, p. 922

22. H.R.A. xi, p. 434

23. H.R.A. xi, pp. 95, 911

24. H.R.A. xi, p. 95

25. H.R.A. x, p. 541

26. Ellis. op. cit. pp. 431, 450

27. H.R.A. xi, p. 340

28. H.R.A. xi, p. 487

29. H.R.A. xi, p. 350

30. H.R.A. xi, p. 215

31. H.R.A. xi, p. 331

32. H.R.A. xi, p. 434

33. H.R.A. xi, p. 949; xii, p. 154

34. H.R.A. xii, p. 406

35. H.R.A. xii, pp. 379, 382, 389

36. H.R.A. xii, p. 406

37. H.R.A. xii, pp. 374, 454

38. H.R.A. xii, p. 455

39. H.R.A. xii, p. 535

40. H.R.A. xii, p. 713


1. H.R.A. xiii, p. 467

2. Australian (newspaper). 28 September 1827

3. H.R.A. xiv, pp. 48, 79

4. H.R.A. xiv, pp. 205, 209

5. H.R.A. xiv, p. 515

6. H.R.A. xii, p. 535

7. H.R.A. xi, pp. 334, 692; xii, p. 379; xiv, p. 295

8. H.R.A. xii, pp. 454, 535

9. P.R.O. C.O. 201/207, 3187 N.S.W.

10. Australian, 7 October 1831; Mit. Lib., A. 295.2, p. 19

11. Mrs. Mathews Journal, quoted by Saner. R.A.H.S.J. xxix, p. 88

12. Report Select Committee on Transportation, 1838, p. 82

13. Letter from Under-Secretary, Lands Department, N.S.W., 2 August 1951

14. H.R.A. xiv, p. 478; R.A.H.S.J. p. 159

15. Mit. Lib. 295.2, p. 107

16. Mit. Lib. Mann papers not yet indexed.

17. Mit. Lib. A. 291, p. 393

18. Mit. Lib. A. 291, p. 387

19. Report Select Committee on Transportation, 1838, p. 83

20. H.R.A. xiv, p. 625

21. H.R.A. xiv, pp. 81, 625

22. H.R.A. xiii, p. 178

23. H.R.A. xiv, p. 176

24. H.R.A. xiv, pp. 177, 180

25. H.R.A. xiv, p. 618

26. H.R.A. xiv, p. 471

27. Mit. Lib. A. 295, pp. 17, 21

28. Mit. Lib. A. 291, p. 355

29. P.R.O. C.O. 201/198, 483 N.S.W.

30. P.R.O. C.O. 201/198. Mitchell to Hay, 15 December 1828

31. P.R.O. C.O. 201/207, 879 N.S.W.

32. H.R.A. xv, p. 203

33. H.R.A. xv, p. 468

34. H.R.A. xii, p. 653

35. H.R.A. xv, p. 321

36. Mit. Lib. A. 291, p. 325

37. H.R.A. xv, p. 466

38. H.R.A. xvi, p. 131 if.

39. Mitchell. i, p. 8

40. H.R.A. xv, p. 327

41. H.R.A. xvi, p. 131

42. H.R.A. xv, p. 378

43. H.R.A. xvi, p. 32

44. H.R.A. xvi, pp. 131, 147, 185, 294

P.R.O. C.O. 201/224, 2112 N.S.W.

45. H.R.A. xvi, p. 188

46. P.R.O. C.O. 201/224, 2113 N.S.W.

47. Executive Council Minute, 10 March 1831

48. H.R.A. xvi, p. 127

49. H.R.A. xvi, p. 119 ff.

50. H.R.A. xvi, p. 219

51. H.R.A. xvi, p. 248

52. H.R.A. xvi, p. 771

53. H.R.A. xvi, pp. 125, 156

54. H.R.A. xvi, p. 127

55. H.R.A. xvi, p. 391

56. P.R.O. C.O. 201/224, 779 N.S.W.

57. P.R.O. C.O. 201/230, 2598 N.S.W.

58. P.R.O. C.O. 201/236, 3001 (or 3061) N.S.W.

59. P.R.O. C.O. 201/224, 1850 N.S.W.

60. P.R.O. C.O. 201/207, 882 N.S.W.

61. P.R.O. C.O. 324/87

62. P.R.O. C.O. 201/207, 3087 N.S.W.

63. H.R.A. xviii, p. 694


1. Rose. R.A.H.S.J., viii, p. 171

2. H.R.A. xvi, p. 464

3. King. Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts of Australia. ii, 231

4. Mitchell. i, p. 1

5. H.R.A. xvi, p. 466

6. Mitchell. i, p. 2

7. H.R.A. xviii, p. 454

8. P.R.O. C.O. 201/230, 2598 N.S.W.

9. P.R.O. C.O. 201/236, 3061 N.S.W.

10. R.A.H.S.J. ix, p. 176


I. Lang. i, p. 242

2. Lang. i, p. 243

3. Heaton. Australian Dictionary of Dates. "Land"

4. Roberts. p. 56

5. ibid.

6. H.R.A. xvii, p. 57

7. H.R.A. xvii, p. 114

8. Gov. Gaz., 22 May and 27 November 1835

9. Lang. i, p. 280

10. H.R.A. xviii, p. 156

11. H.R.A. xxi, p. 127

12. H.R.A. xvi, pp. 386, 390

13. H.R.A. xvii, p. 5

14. H.R.A. xvii, p. 142

15. H.R.A. xvii, p. 418

16. H.R.A. xvii, p. 559

17. H.R.A. xviii, p. 558

18. H.R.A. xvii, p. 419

19. P.R.O. C.O. 201/236, 1459 N.S.W.

20. P.R.O. C.O. 201/244, 2919 N.S.W.

21. P.R.O. C.O. 201/244, 52 N.S.W.

22. H.R.A. xvii, p. 596

23. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 39

24. Mit. Lib. ibid.

25. Barder. Story of St. Marks Church, p. 37


1. H.R.A. xvi, p. 345

2. H.R.A. xvi, p. 561

3. H.R.A. xvi, p. 391

4. H.R.A. xviii, p. 39

5. Havard. R.A.H.S.J., xxi, p. 391

6. Mitchell. Tropical Australia, p. 431

7. H.R.A. xviii, pp. 160, 214

8. H.R.A. xviii, p. 236

9. ibid.

10. R.A.H.S.J. xviii, p. 112

11. Mit. Lib. A. 292, p. 239

12. R.A.H.S.J. xvii, p. 1

13. Dowd. R.A.H.S.J. xxi, p. 262

14. Sturt. i p. 100

15. Information obtained by Surveyor A. W. Mullen by local observations: supplied by courtesy of New South Wales Western Lands Division.

16. Souvenir of the Sturt Centenary. (Published by Barrier Field Naturalists Club)

17. Journal Royal Geographical Society. vol. vii. pt. ii, p. 271


1. H.R.A. xviii, p. 159

2. H.R.A. xviii, p. 356

3. H.R.A. xviii, p. 286

4. H.R.A. xviii, p. 375

5. H.R.A. xviii, p. 356

6. H.R.A. xviii, p. 485

7. H.R.A. xviii, p. 507

8. Gov. Gaz. 21 January 1837

9. ibid.

10. Furphy (Collins). Such is Life. ch. ii, p. 65

11. Sturt. Expedition into Central Australia. i, p. 15

12. Hawdon. Journey from New South Wales to Adelaide, p. 38

13. Henty diaries. Kindly supplied by Mrs. W. Bassett in advance of publication by Oxford University Press of The Hentys: an Australian Colonial Tapestry

14. The extract from Francis Henty's speech is from a manuscript in the Public Library of Victoria

15. Mit. Lib. A. 296, p. 56

16. R.H.S.V.M. viii, p. 38

17. Mitchell. ii, p. 335

18. R.A.H.S.J. i p. 165

19. H.R.A. xviii, p. 356

20. Lang. p. 280

21. H.R.A. xx, p. 844

22. H.R.A. xviii, p. 590

23. Joyce. A Homestead History, p. 121

24. H.R.A. xviii, p. 590; Gov. Gaz., 5 November 1836

25. Executive Council Report, p. 63

26. Gov. Gaz. 21 January 1837, p. 61

27. H.R.A. xviii, p. 656; Gov. Gaz., 21 January 1837

28. H.R.A. xix, p. 43

29. P.R.O. C.O. 201/207, 1343 N.S.W.

30. Mit. Lib. A. 332; P.R.O. C.O. 201/236, 3467 N.S.W.

31. R.H.S.V.M. xxiii. 3, p. 127; Hawdon. Journey from New South Wales to Adelaide, p. 5

32. R.H.S.V.M. xxiii. 3, p. 127; Col. Sec. (Vic.) Records, 38/565, 568, 640

33. R.H.S.V.M. xxiii, p. 133, 134

34. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 21

35. R.H.S.V.M. xxiii, p. 131

36. ibid. xxiii, p. 144

37. ibid. xxiii, p. 152

38. ibid. v, p. 25


1. H.R.A. xviii, p. 507

2. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 39

3. H.R.A. xviii, p. 691

4. Australian. 29 February 1837

5. H.R.A. xviii, p. 625

6. H.R.A. xviii, p. 693

7. H.R.A. xviii, p. 694

8. H.R.A. xviii, p. 628

9. Select Committee of the House of Commons on Transportation, 1838. Report volume, p. 76

10. P.R.O. C.O. 201/267, 1757 N.S.W.

11. P.R.O. C.O. 13/35, 1540 S.A.

12. Mit. Lib. A. 292, p. 519

13. Mit. Lib. A. g., p. 68

14. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 15

15. Mit. Lib. A. 295, p. 227

16. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 131

17. P.R.O. C.O. 201/267, 2665 N.S.W.

18. P.R.O. C.O. 201/267, 1908 N.S.W.

19. C.O. 201/282

20. Letter from Registrar, Oxford University

21. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 21

22. H.R.A. xxi. Introduction, pp. viii

23. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 91

24. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 89

25. H.R.A. xix, p. 505

26. H.R.A. xx, p. 556

27. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 205

28. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 209

29. Meston. Geographic History of Queensland, p. 12

30. H.R.A. xxi, p. 590

31. H.R.A. xxii, p. 679

32. P.R.O. C.O. 206/62, Misc. Papers, 1841-45

33. Mit. Lib. A. 292, p. 41 -

34. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 15

35. Mit. Lib. A. 292, p. 539

36. R.H.S.V.M. p. 114

37. Mit. Lib. A. r. 79

38. Bowden. George Bass, p. 93; Banks papers, Mitchell Library

39. Lang. ii, p. 23

40. Mitchell. ii, pp. 359-68

41. Sturt. p. xxxv

42. Mitchell. ii, p. 144

43. Gould. Mammals of Australia. iii, p. 9

44. Information from the Australian Museum, Sydney.

45. Darwin. Voyage of the Beagle, under date 18 January 1836

46. Personal communication from Dr Charles Fenner


1. H.R.A. xxi, p. 48

2. ibid.

3. H.R.A. xxii, p. 330

4. H.R.A. xxii, p. 849

5. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 21; H.R.A. xxiv, p. 743

6. H.R.A. xxi, p. 754 ff.

7. H.R.A. xxii, p. 393

8. H.R.A. xxii, p. 677

9. H.R.A. xxii, p. 679

10. H.R.A. xxii, p. 677

11. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 163

12. H.R.A. xxii, p. 777

13. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 196

14. ibid.

15. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 402

16. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 404

17. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 717

18. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 43

19. Port Phillip Patriot, 15 June 1843; 14, 18, 21 March 1844; 25 April 1844 Portland Guardian, 17 June 1843; Georgiana's Journal, 29 June 1843

20. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 698

21. H.R.A. xxiv, p. 163

22. H.R.A. xxii, p. 244; xxiv, Note 15

23. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 724

24. ibid.

25. Votes and Proceedings N.S.W. Parlt. 1844, p. 117

26. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 336

27. H.R.A. xxiv, p. 1

28. H.R.A. xviii, p. 380; xxiv. Introduction, p. vii

29. H.R.A. xxiv. Introduction, p. xii

30. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 709

31. H.R.A. xxiv, p. 743

32. H.R.A. xxiii. p. 726

33. Merivale. Lectures on Colonization and the Colonies, p. 653

34. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 21

35. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 103

36. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 309

37. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 21


1. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 245; Lang. i, p. 340

2. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 245

3. H.R.A. xxiv, p. 50

4. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 402

5. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 245

6. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 599

7. H.R.A. xxiv, p. 610

8. Letter in possession of Mrs H. 0. Lethbridge, of Narrandera, N.S.W.

9. Stokes. Discoveries in Australia during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, ii, 414

10. Mitchell. Tropical Australia, p. 5

11. H.R.A. xx, p. 844

12. H.R.A. xxiii, p. 246

13. H.R.A. xxv, p. 107

14. Mitchell. op. cit. p. 5

15. Chisholm. Strange New World, p. 297

16. P.R.O. C.O. 201/433

17. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 91

18. Sturt. Expedition into Central Australia. ii, p. 108

19. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 103

20. P.R.O. C.O. 201/431, 2738 N.S.W.; Mitchell. Tropical Australia, p. 410

21. Mitchell. op. cit., p. 332

22. Jose. History of Australia, p. 150

23. Gregory. Journals of Australian Expeditions, pp. 202, 210

24. Sturt. Expedition into Central Australia. ii. pp. 61, 73

25. Historical Studies Melbourne University. ii, No. 8

26. Mit. Lib. A. 296, p. 29

27. Mit. Lib. A. 296, p. 62

28. R.A.H.S.J. xix, p. 326

29. H.R.A. xxv, pp. 299, 316

30. H.R.A. xxv, p. 438


1. H.R.A. xxv, p. 438

2. H.R.A. xxv, p. 667

3. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 58

4. ibid.

5. ibid.

6. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 107

7. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 58

8. ibid.

9. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 59

10. Mrs N. G. Sturt. Life of Charles Sturt, p. 288

11. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 107

12. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 61

13. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 181

14. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 182

15. Georgiana's Journal, p. 174

16. H.R.A. xxv, p. 438

17. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 58

18. H.R.A. xxvi, p. 59

19. H.R.A. xi, p. 434

20. Mitchell. Tropical Australia, p. 426

21. P.R.O. C.O. 201/230, 2598 N.S.W.

22. Mit. Lib. A. 293, p. 615

23. P.R.O. C.O. 201/428, 773 N.S.W.

24. P.R.O. C.O. 201/433, 3424, N.S.W.

25. P.R.O. C.O. 201/433, 3426 N.S.W.

26. P.R.O. C.O. 201/442, 1072 N.S.W.

27. P.R.O. C.O. 201/431, 2738 N.S.W.

28. P.R.O. C.O. 201/432, 2759 N.S.W.


1. Jose. p. 109

2. H.R.A. xxiv, p. 354

3. Mit. Lib. A. 296, p. 56

4. P.R.O. C.O. 201/453, 11801 N.S.W.

5. Salier. R.A.H.S.J. xvii, p. 1

6. Information supplied by the Mitchell Librarian

7. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471, 140 N.S.W.

8. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471, 846 N.S.W.

9. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471, 1044 N.S.W.

10. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471, 1919 N.S.W.

11. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471, 6559 N.S.W.

12. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471

13. P.R.O. C.O. 201/471, 9549: 10547 N.S.W.

14. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 393

15. Mit. Lib. A. 294, pp. 307, 339

16. P.R.O. C.O. 201/453, 11808 N.S.W.

17. Mit. Lib. A. 295.2, p. 185

18. Mit. Lib. A. 294, pp. 390, 392

19. Mit. Lib. A. 63, p. 244

20. Mit. Lib. 827 M.

21. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 490

22. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 509

23. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 521

24. Mit. Lib. A.s. 35

25. Mit. Lib. A. 294, p. 481

26. V.P. N.S.W. Leg. Council, 1855, vol. ii

27. Mit. Lib. A. 296, p. 73

28. Letter to brother Frank. 15 June 1855. Archives, W.A.

29. P.R.O. C.O. 201/486, 770 N.S.W.

30. Robinson. Canberra's First Hundred Years, p. 6

31. Steele. R.A.H.S.J. p. 159
V.P. N.S.W. Leg. Council, 1851, vol. i

32. Letter from Clerk of Parliament, Victoria

33. Mit. Lib. Mann papers not yet indexed

34. Barder. Story of St. Marks Church, p. 323

35. Mit. Lib. Mann papers not yet indexed.


1. Geog. Soc. Qd. p. 150

2. Hume. An Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip, p. 11


The principal sources of the material contained in this volume are:

The Historical Records of Australia edited by Dr Frederick Watson and published by the Government Printer for the Commonwealth Government: Series i, vols. i-xxiv.

Original letters and manuscripts in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, principally the series A 290-A 296. A few manuscripts not in this series were used, these appear as references in their appropriate setting.

The official documents in the Public Record Office, London, mainly the New South Wales Series 201 (198-486); occasional documents consulted in the Colonial Office papers are shown by reference as they occur in the text.

Other original documents, not necessarily appearing in the text, but related to this period are in the Public Library of Victoria, and the Archives Depart. ments of the Public Libraries of Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia.

Lady Franklin's "Diary of a Journey from Port Phillip to Sydney 1839" is an unpublished manuscript in the National Library, Canberra.


House of Commons Select Committee on Transportation, 1838. No. 374.

House of Commons. J. T. Bigge's Enquiry into the Affairs of New South Wales, 1819-22.

Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales.

Executive Council Minutes, New South Wales.



The Australian from 1824

The Monitor from 1826

The Sydney Morning Herald from 1831

The Colonist from 1835


The Port Phillip Advertiser from 1836

The Port Phillip Patriot from 1838

The Herald from 1840


The Government Gazette from 1832


The journals of the following societies contain many articles directly or indirectly related to the subject matter of this volume:

Royal Australian Historical Society of Victoria

Royal Geographical Society, South Australian Branch

Royal Historical Society of Victoria

Royal Geographical Society, Queensland

Historical Society of Western Australia

Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand (Melbourne University Press)


NAPIER, W. History of the War in the Peninsula. London. Murray, 1828-40.

ALDINGTON, R. Wellington. London. Heinemann, 1946.

BRYANT, A. W. The Years of Victory 1802-1812. London. Collins, 1944.

--. The Age of Elegance. London. Collins, 1950.

BOYLE, G. E. The Rifle Brigade Century 1805-1905. London. W. Clowes, 1905.

OMAN, C. Wellington's Army. London. Edward Arnold, 1913.

CLODE, C. M. The Military Forces of the Crown: Their Administration and Government. 2 vols. London. Murray, 1869.

COPE, W. H. History of the Rifle Brigade. London. Chatto and Windus, 1877.


Books on the policy adopted by the Colonial Office in the administration of the colonies are numerous but they relate to the American colonies and India to a much greater extent than to the Australian colonies; the following are appropriate to the subject matter of this volume:

Cambridge History of the British Empire. "Australia". Cambridge University Press, 1933.

HALEVY, E. A History of the English People 1815-1914. 6 vols. London. Benn, 1924-47.

MERIVALE, H. Lectures on Colonization and the Colonies. London, Oxford University Press, 1928.

HALL, H. L. The Colonial Office. London. Longmans, Green, 1937.

BELL, K. N., and MORELL, W. P. Select Documents on British Colonial Policy 1830-1860. Oxford. Clarendon Press, 1928.

KEITH, A. B. Selected Speeches and Documents on British Colonial Policy 1763-1917. World's Classics Series. London. Oxford University Press, 1933.

CUMPSTON, I. M. Indians Overseas in British Territories 1834-1854. London. Oxford University Press, 1953.

FROUDE, 5. A. Oceana, or England and Her Colonies. London. Longmans, Green, 1886.

CARLYLE, T. Reminiscences (Norton Edition of 1887). Everyman's Library Series. London. Dent, 1932.

--. Latter Day Pamphlets. "Downing Street" and "The New Downing Street". Reprint edition. London. Chapman & Hall, 1903.

MCCARTHY, J. M. History of the Four Georges and William IV. 2 vols. London. Chatto & Windus, 1905.

--. A History of Our Own Times from the Accession of Queen Victoria to the Diamond Jubilee 1897. 3 vols. London. Chatto & Windus 1905.

ELLIS, M. H Lachlan Macquarie, his Life, Adventures and Times. Sydney. Dymocks, 1947.

MILLS, E. C. The Colonization of Australia. London. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1915.

ROBERTS, S. H. The History of Australian Land Settlement. Melbourne University Press, 1924.

--. The Squatting Age in Australia. Melbourne University Press, 1935.

SHANN, E. O. An Economic History of Australia. Cambridge University Press, 1930.

LANG, J. D. An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales. Fourth edition. 2 vols. London. Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle, 1875.


A comprehensive survey of the evolution of geographical knowledge as a result of successive explorations both before and after Mitchell's journeys is provided by the original records as written and published by the explorers themselves.

FLINDERS, M. Voyage to Terra Australis in His Majesty's ship Investigator. London. Nicol, 1814.

BOWDEN, K. George Bass. Melbourne. Oxford University Press, 1952.

OxLEY, J. Journals of Two Expeditions into the Interior of New South Wales in the Years 1817-1818. London. Murray, 1820.

HUME, H. A Brief Statement of Facts in Connection with an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip in 1824. Sydney. J. Moore, 1855.

KING, P. P. Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coast of Australia performed between the Years 1818 and 1822. London. Murray, 1827.

STURT, C. Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia during the Years 1828, 1829, 1830 and 1831. 2 vols. London. Smith Elder, 1833.

--. Narrative of an Expedition into Central Australia during the Years 1884, 5, and 6. 2 vols. London. T. & W. Boone, 1849.

Souvenir of ,the Sturt Centenary commemorated at Broken Hill August 1944. Published by the Sturt Memorial Committee of the Barrier Field Naturalists Club.

MITCHELL, T. L. Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia. 2 vols. London. T. & W. Boone, 1839. (Second edition 1839. Translated into Italian by E. Montazio, 1844.)

--. Journal of an Expedition into the Interior of Tropical Australia in Search of a route from Sydney to the Gulf of Carpentaria. London. Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1848.

EYRE, E. J. Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia and Overland from Adelaide to King Georges Sound in the Years 1840-1. 2 vols. London. T. & W. Boone, 1845.

STOKES, J. L. Discoveries in Australia with an Account of the Coast and Rivers explored and surveyed during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle in the Years 1837-1843. London. T. & W. Boone, 1846.

LEICHHARDT, L. Journal of an Overland Expedition in Australia from Moreton Bay to Port Essington. Sydney. W. Baker, 1846.

WILLS, W. A Successful Exploration through the Interior of Australia from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria from the Journals and Letters of William John Wills, edited by his father William Wills. London. Bentley, 1853.

GREGORY, A. C. and F. T. Journals of Australian Explorations. Brisbane. Government Printer, 1884.

THREADGILL, B. South Australian Land Exploration 1856 to 1880. Published by the Board of Governors of the Public Library, South Australia. The Hassell Press. Adelaide, 1922.

HAWDON, J. The Journal of a Journey from New South Wales to Adelaide performed in 1838. Melbourne. Georgian House, 1952.

CHISHOLM, A. H. Strange New World: the Adventures of John Gilbert and Ludwig Leichhardt. Sydney. Angus & Robertson, 1941.

LEE, I. Early Explorers in Australia. London. Methuen, 1825. (Contains an account of Allan Cunningham's journeys.)

FURPHY, J. Such is Life being certain extracts from the diary of Tom Collins. London, Jonathan Cape, 1937. Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1945.

Condensed surveys of these journeys of exploration are given in the Australian Encyclopaedia and in JOSE, A. W., History of Australia. Fifteenth edition. Sydney. Angus & Robertson, 1929.


JOSE, A. W. History of Australia. Fifteenth edition. Sydney. Angus & Robertson, 1929.

LANG, J. D. An Historical and Statistical Account of New South Wales. Fourth edition. London. Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle, 1875.

GRIFFITHS, G. N. Point Piper Past and Present. Sydney. Ure Smith, 1947.

McCRAE, H. Georgiana's Journal. Sydney. Angus & Robertson, 1934.

BASSETT, M. The Hentys. London. Oxford University Press, 1954.

BONWICK, J. Discovery and Settlement of Port Phillip. Melbourne. George Robertson, 1856.

BARDER, H. W. A. Wherein Thine Honour Dwells: The Story of One Hundred Years of St. Marks Parish Church, Darling Point, N.S.W. Sydney. D. S. Ford (printer), 1948.

DARWIN, C. The Voyage of the Beagle. Everyman's Library Series. London. J. M. Dent & Sons, 1906.

JOYCE, A. A Homstead History being the reminiscences and letters of Alfred Joyce. Edited by G. F. James. Melbourne University Press, 1942.

MESTON, A. A Geographic History of Queensland. Brisbane. Edmund Gregory (Government Printer), 1895.

ROBINSON, F. W. Canberra's First One Hundred Years and After. Second edition. Sydney. W. C. Penfold, 1927.


Dictionary of National Biography. London. Oxford University Press.

Australian Encylopaedia. Sydney. Angus & Robertson.

JOHNS, F. An Australian Biographical Dictionary. Melbourne. Macmillan, 1934.

SERLE, P. Dictionary of Australian Biography. 2 vols. Sydney. Angus & Robertson, 1949.

HEATON, J. W. Australian Dictionary of Dates and Men of the Time: Containing the History of Australasia from 1542 to May 1879. Sydney. George Robertson, 1879.

WORKS BY MITCHELL (other than the published accounts of his journeys of exploration)

Australian Geography with the Shores of the Pacific and those of the Indian Ocean. Sydney. J. Moore, 1850.

The Lusiad of Luis de Camoens closely translated with a portrait of the poet, a compendium of his life, an index to the principal passages of his poem, a view of the "Fountain of Tears" and original and annexed notes, original and select. London. T. & W. Boone, 1854.

Ninety Figures shewing all the motions in the Manual and Platoon exercises and the different firings, according to His Majesty's Regulations; Drawn from life. London. W. Clowes, 1825.

Outlines of a System of Surveying for Geographical and Military Purposes. "Origin, History, Description of the Boomerang Propeller." A lecture. London, 1853.

WYLD, J. Maps and Plans of the Principal Movements, Battles and Sieges in which the British Army was engaged during the war from 1808 to 1814 in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France. London. James Wyld, 1841. (Contains many drawings by Mitchell.)

WYLD, J. Memoir annexed to an Atlas containing Plans of the Battles, Sieges and Affairs in which the British Army was engaged during the War in the Spanish Peninsula and the South of France from 1808 to 1814. London. James Wyld, 1841.


GOULD, J. The Mammals of Australia. Published by the author. Printed by Taylor & Francis. London, 1863.

IREDALE, T., and TROUGHTON, E. A Check List of the Mammals recorded from Australia. Published by order of the Trustees of the Australian Museum, Sydney. Memoir VI. Sydney, 1934.


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