The idea of venturing to the mainland just north of his island home of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), had been researched and contemplated by John Batman for some 10 years prior to his journey to Port Phillip on the ship ‘Rebecca’ in mid 1835.
The following transcripts are of just some of the many communications between John Batman, his associates, and, the various members of the governance, over the period from 11th January 1827 to 16th December 1839 – when the matter was ‘finalised’.
Many further appeals were to be made to the colonial government, as many were to see this transaction as unjust and unfair to John Batman and his family:
“Will the colonists of Victoria, generous above all nations, revise to do something to perpetuate the memory of Batman? Will they, at least, decline to feel a sympathy for his two remaining grandsons, still with us? Their mother, the favourite daughter of John Batman, has gone to her rest. More than once has she told me, when in her dying state, that her hope in death would be that something would be done for her boys in justice to Batman.
Without complaining that a lady who introduced immigrants had been rewarded with thousands of public money, and that distant friends of deceased explorers were so liberally favoured, it must be regretted that the descendants of the founder of the colony have been utterly forgotten, and that no stone of honour marks his grave.
The profits of this publication, devoted to the lads, can be but small; but surely old colonists will not, after this tale of the past, be slow to remember those who bear the blood of Batman.
– Source: John Batman, The Founder of Victoria by James Bonwick, published 1867
The succeeding transcripts demonstrate the many communications made, noting that there are so many more. They afford an accurate overview of the historical timeline of events and record the extreme effort made in an attempt to comply with, and communicate with, the British governance at the time. One can clearly see the change in the attitude of the governance, as the value of Batman’s discovery was revealed . . .
11th January 1827
Commencing in 1827, Batman and Gellibrand wrote to Governor Darling:
Launceston, 11th Jan. 1827.
SIR, — Understanding that it is your Excellency’s intention to establish a permanent settlement at Western Port and to afford encouragement to respectable persons to settle there, we beg leave most respectfully to solicit at the hands of your Excellency a grant of land at that place, proportionate to the property which we intend to embark.
We are in possession of some flocks of sheep, highly improved, some of the Merino breed and others of the pure South Devon, of some pure Devon cattle imported from England and also of a fine breed of horses.
We propose to ship from this place 1500 to 2000 sheep, 30 head of superior cows, oxen, horses, &c. &c. to the value of from 4 to £5000, the whole to be under the personal direction of Mr. Batman (who is a native of New South Wales) who will constantly reside for the protection of the establishment.
Under these circumstances we are induced to hope your Excellency will be pleased to grant to us a tract of land proportionate to the sum of money we propose to expend, and also to afford us every encouragement in carrying the proposed object into effect.
We have the honour to be sir
Your Excellency’s most obedt. and humble servants
The application was declined:
Colonial Secretary’s Office,
Sydney, 22nd March, 1827.
GENTLEMEN,—In reply to your letter of 11th January last soliciting a grant of land at Western Port I am directed by the Governor to inform you that no determination having been come to with respect to the settlement of that place it is not in His Excellency’s power to comply with your request.
I have the honour to be
Your most obedt. servant
11th June, 1835
John Batman arrives at the heads of the Tamar River near George Town, Tasmania upon completion of the expedition on the schooner ‘Rebecca’, to Port Phillip, which had commenced on the 10th May 1835:
25th June 1835
Subsequent John Batman’s expedition to Port Phillip during the months of May and June of 1835, the following is a transcript of the letter from John Batman to Governor Arthur, noting that Batman had returned from this colossal expedition just 2 weeks earlier, on the 11th June 1835:
Hobart Town, 25th June, 1835.
SIR,—I have the honour of reporting to your Excellency for the information of His Majesty’s Government, the result of an expedition undertaken by myself, at the expense and in conjunction with several gentlemen, inhabitants of Van Diemen’s Land, to Port Phillip, on the South Western” (Eastern in pencil in margin) “point of New Holland, for the purpose of forming an extensive Pastoral Establishment, and combining therewith the civilization of the native tribes who are living in that part of the country.
Before I enter into the details, I deem it necessary to state for the information of His Majesty’s Government, that I am a native of New South Wales, and that for the last six years I have been most actively employed in endeavouring to civilize the aboriginal natives of Van Diemen’s Land, and in order to enable the local Government of this Colony to carry that important object into full effect, I procured from New South Wales eleven original natives of New Holland, who were, under my guidance mainly instrumental in carrying into effect the humane objects of this Government towards the Aborigines of this Island.
I also deem it necessary to state that I have been for many years impressed with the opinion that a most advantageous settlement might be formed at Western Port or Port Phillip, and that in 1827, Mr. J.T. Gellibrand and myself addressed a joint letter to the Colonial Government of New South Wales soliciting permission to occupy land at Port Phillip, with an undertaking to export to that place stock to the value of £6000, and which was to be placed for a certain number of years under my personal direction and superintendence.
This application was not granted by the Sydney Government because the land was beyond the limits of that Territory, and the occupation of Western Port had been altogether abandoned.
It occurred to myself and some of the gentlemen who are associated with me that, inasmuch as the Sydney natives, who were living with me, had become well acquainted with the English language and manners, and had acquired habits of industry and agricultural pursuits, they might therefore be considered civilized, and as the available lands in this Colony were occupied by flocks and sheep, and fully stocked, it would be a favourable opportunity of opening a direct friendly intercourse with the Tribes in the neighbourhood of Port Phillip, and by obtaining from them a grant of a portion of that Territory upon equitable principles, not only might the resources of this Colony be considerably extended, but the object of civilization of a large portion of the Aborigines of that extensive country.
In pursuance of arrangements based upon these principles, I proceeded on the 12th May, 1835, in a vessel from Launceston, accompanied by seven Sydney natives, and proceeded to Port Phillip, on the South Western Extremity of New Holland, where I landed on the 26th May.
On the evening of our arrival at Port Phillip we saw the native fires at a distance of about five miles. I then made my arrangements for the purpose of opening an intercourse with the natives by means of those under my charge. I equipped them in their native dresses, and early in the morning we landed. I desired the natives to proceed unarmed and they preceded me a few hundred yards. When we had advanced within half a mile, we saw the native huts and smoke. My natives then proceeded quietly up to the huts, expecting that we should find the Tribe asleep, but when they had got to the huts it appeared that the natives had fled a few hours previously, leaving behind them their baskets and other articles.
I concluded from this that the natives had discerned the vessel, and had quitted their huts through fear; and as I thought it probable they might in consequence quit the coast for a season, I determined immediately to put my natives upon the track, and if possible, overtake them, and at once obtain their confidence.
My natives followed the track which appeared to have been very circuitous, and after we had proceeded about ten miles, we at length saw a Tribe consisting of twenty women and twenty four children.
My natives then made to them some of their friendly signals, which it appeared were understood; and in the course of a few minutes, my natives joined the Tribe, and after remaining with them, as I judged, a sufficient length of time to conciliate them, and explain my friendly disposition, I advanced alone and joined them, and was introduced to them by my natives, two of whom spoke nearly the same language, and so as to be perfectly intelligible to them.
The two interpreters explained to them, by my directions, that I had come in a vessel from the other shores, that I was, although a white, a countryman of theirs, and would protect them, and I wished them to return with me to their huts, where I had left some presents for them.
After some conversation, the whole party, women and children, returned with me and my natives towards the huts, until they came within sight of the shore; they then stopt and hesitated in proceeding, and as I understood from the interpreters, were afraid I should take them by force, and ill use them as some of their Tribe had been already.
After the strong assurances on my part of my sincerity and friendly disposition, and that no harm should be done to them, they then proceeded to the huts, where I gave them a pair of blankets each, tomahawks, knives, scissors, looking-glasses, and I affixed round the neck of each woman and child a necklace.
As soon as I had distributed the presents, they were informed by the interpreters that they might depart and join their friends, and I left them and proceeded on board the vessel. They appeared by my conduct to them highly gratified and excited, and showed by their manners that the fullest confidence existed.
On the next and five following days, I employed myself in surveying the country, and although I saw several native fires, I abstained from intruding upon them, leaving the interview I had with the women to have its full effect upon the Tribes before I visited them again.
On the seventh day I proceeded towards the place where I had seen the fires, and where I had reason to believe the Tribes were and I sent my natives forward with the same instructions as upon the first occasion. We remained up the country all night and proceeded early next morning under the expectation of reaching the Tribes. After we had proceeded about seven miles we fell in with a native man and his wife and three children, who received my natives with apparent cordiality and informed them that the women to whom I had given the presents, although belonging to another Tribe, had communicated to them the reception they had met with from me.
I learned from this native where the Chiefs of the Tribes were stationed and also their names, and this man most readily offered at once to act as our guide, and take us to the spot. We then proceeded with the man his wife and children, towards the huts of the Chiefs, but it appeared that the guide took us past the spot where the Chiefs were, and some of the children having observed a white man, gave the alarm, and almost immediately we found the Tribe in our rear, advancing towards us with spears and in a menacing position. My natives with the man woman and children, then called out to the Tribe, and they immediately dropped their spears and other implements in the grass, and the two sable parties advanced towards each other, and I shortly followed them.
Some conversation then took place between my natives and the Tribe,—the object of my visit and my intentions were then explained to them, and the Chiefs then pressed me to proceed with them to see their wives and children, which is one of the strongest demonstrations of peace and confidence. Upon my assenting to this request the Chiefs then inquired of my interpreters, whether I would allow them to take up their implements of war, which I immediately assented to, and the principal Chief then gave me his best spear to carry, and I in return gave him my gun. We then proceeded towards the huts, and when a short distance from them, the Chief called out to the women not to be alarmed, and I was then introduced to the whole tribe, consisting of upwards of twenty men, containing altogether fifty-five men women and children.
I joined this Tribe about 12 o’clock and stayed with them until 12 o’clock the next day, during which time I fully explained to them that the object of my visit was to purchase from them a tract of their country, that I intended to settle among them with my wife and seven daughters, and that I intended to bring to the country sheep and cattle. I also explained my wish to protect them in every way, to employ them the same as my own natives, and also to clothe and feed them, and I also proposed to pay them an annual tribute in necessaries as a compensation for the enjoyment of the land. The chiefs appeared most fully to comprehend my proposals, and much delighted with the prospect of having me to live amongst them. I then explained to them the boundaries of the land I wished to purchase, and which are defined by hills to which they have affixed native names and the limits of the land purchased by me are defined in the Chart, which I have the honour of transmitting taken from personal Survey.
On the next day the Chiefs proceeded with me to the boundaries and they marked with their own native marks, the trees which were at the comers of the boundaries, and they also gave me their own private mark, which is kept sacred by them, even so much so that the women are not allowed to see it.
After the boundaries had been thus marked and described, I filled up, as accurately as I could define it, the land agreed to be purchased by me from the Chiefs, and the deed when thus filled up was most carefully read over and explained to them by the two interpreters, so that they most fully comprehended its purport and effect. I then filled up two other parts of the deed, so as to make it in triplicate, and the three principal Chiefs and five of the subordinate Chiefs then executed each of the deeds, each part being separately read over, and they each delivered to me a piece of the soil for the purpose of putting me in possession thereof, and understanding that it was a form by which they delivered to me the tract of land.
I have the honour of enclosing herewith a copy of each of the deeds executed by the natives to me, which I confidently trust will most clearly manifest that I have proceeded upon an equitable principle, that my object has not been possession and expulsion, or what is worse, extermination, but, possession and civilization; and the reservation of the annual tribute to those who are the real owners of the soil will afford evidence of the sincerity of my professions, in wishing to protect and civilize these tribes of benighted, but intelligent people; and I confidently trust that the British Government will duly appreciate the Treaty which I have made with these Tribes, and will not in any manner molest the arrangements which I have made, but that I shall receive the support and encouragement of not only the local Government, but that of the British Government, in carrying the objects into effect.
I quitted Port Phillip on the 14th day of June, having parted with the Tribes in the most conciliatory manner, leaving five of my natives with three white men to commence a garden near the harbour, and to erect a house for my temporary occupation on my return with my wife and family.
I arrived at Launceston after a passage of 36 hours, which will at once show the geographical advantages of this territory to Van Diemen’s Land; and in a few years I have no hesitation in affirming, from the nature of the soil, that the exports of wool and meat to Van Diemen’s Land will form a considerable feature in its commercial relations.
I traversed the country in opposite directions about fifty miles, and having had much experience in land and grazing in New South Wales and in this Colony, I have no hesitation in asserting that the general character of the country is decidely superior to any which I have ever seen. It is interspersed with fine rivers and creeks, and the Downs were extended on every side as far as the eye could reach, thickly covered with grass of the finest description, and containing an almost indescribable extent of fine land fit for any purposes.
I have now finally to report that the following are the gentlemen who are associated with me in the Colonization at Port Phillip; many of whom will reside with their establishments at Port Phillip, and all of whom are prepared and intend immediately to export stock which will he under my general guidance and immediate superintendence:—
C. Swanston, Thomas Bannister, James Simpson, J.T. Gellibrand, J. and W. Robertson, Henry Arthur, H. Wedge, John Sinclair, J.T. Collicott, A. Cotterell, W.G. Sams, M. Connolly, George Mercer.
The quantity of stock exported this year will be at least 20,000 breeding ewes, and one of the leading stipulations will be, that none but married men of good character, with their families, will be sent either as overseers or servants, so that by no possibility any personal injury shall be offered to the natives or their families; and it is also intended, for the purpose of preserving due order and morals that a Minister or Catechist shall be attached to the establishment at the expense of the Association.
The Chiefs to manifest their friendly feeling towards me, insisted upon my receiving from them two native cloaks and several baskets made by the women, and also some of their implements of defence, which I beg to transmit. The women generally are clothed with cloaks of a description somewhat similar, and they certainly appear to me to be of a superior race to any Natives which I have ever seen.
I have the honour to be &c &c
27th June 1835
The following is a transcript of the Letter from the newly formed ‘Port Phillip Association’ to Lord Glenelg
27th June 1835
We have the honor of enclosing a copy of a report made by Mr Batman to His Excellency Lieutenant Governor Arthur, detailing the result of an expedition conducted at our joint expence to Port Philip on the South western extremity of New Holland for the purpose of effecting a concilliatory intercourse with the native Tribes in that part of the country and afterwards of purchasing from the chiefs upon equitable principles a portion of the Territory for pastoral and agricultural purposes.
We are fully persuaded that the perusal of the report will clearly demonstrate that our intercourse has been established by our means which permitted the most happy and philanthropic results, and that the portion of the country granted to Mr Batman as our representative has been obtained upon terms more equitable and just to the aboriginal possessors of the soil that any which the history of British plantations can produce.
We have not contented ourselves with merely purchasing the land in the first instance, but we have reserved to the Chiefs an annual Tribute payable for ever of the value of at least £200. By means of this annual Tribute the friendly intercourse with the natives must of necessity be kept up, and will lead to gradual civilization.
This tract of country is some hundred miles beyond the jurisdiction of New South Wales, but within the imaginary line leading from the Australian Bight to the Gulph of Carpentaria, and which defines the limits of Australia, – we might therefore have contented ourselves with this treaty with the Aboriginal Tribes and quietly have taken a possession of the land without any official notice either to the British or Colonial Governments, but in the first instance we were desirous of communicating the happy results which has attended the intercourse with the natives, and in the next place of at once apprizing His Majesty’s Government of the nature of Grants which have been obtained, and the terms under which the land had been granted because we feel confident that having obtained from the Chiefs of the Tribe, who are in fact the owners of the soil, a Title based upon equitable principles, the Crown will under your Lordships advice relinquish any legal or constructive right to the land in question, especially as the very destruction of our Title would be taking away from the natives the Tribute which is thus secured to them for ever.
We therefore with confidence appeal to your Lordship to advise the Crown to grant to us such rights as the Crown may be advised that it possesses to the tract of Land in question upon such equitable principles as your Lordship may consider the justice of the case requires.
We have the honor to be
Your Lordship’s most obedient humble servants.
J & W Robertson
29th June 1835
The formalisation of the ‘Port Phillip Association’ was affected by indenture, on the 29th June, 1835, between John Batman, Chap. Swanston, Thomas Bannister, James Simpson, Joseph Tice Gellibrand, John and Wm. Robertson, Henry Arthur, John Hilder Wedge, John Sinclair, John Thos. Collicott, Anthony Cotterell, Wm. Geo. Sams, and Michael Conolly, all described as ‘of Van Diemen’s Land’, and Geo. Mercer as of ‘Edinburgh‘ of the other part.
3rd July 1835
The following is a transcript from the Colonial Secretary of Van Diemen’s Land, to Batman:
Colonial Secretary’s Office,
3rd July, 1835.
SIR,—I am directed to inform you that the Lieut.-Governor having perused with much interest the account contained in your report “of the 25th ult., of your expedition to Port Phillip, is highly gratified with the very favourable opinion you have been enabled to form of the fertility of the adjacent territory; thus confirming the various statements which have been made respecting it since the first occupation of that country in 1803 by Governor Collins, and more especially by Messrs. Hovell and Hume, and Captain Wright, whose reports have long since been in the possession of His Majesty’s Government.
Though divided only by a few hours’ sail from the most fertile portion of Van Diemen’s Land, Port Phillip is not within the jurisdiction of this Government. His Excellency would, therefore, only observe that the recognition of the rights supposed to have been acquired by the Treaty into which you have entered with the natives, would appear to be a departure from the principle upon which a Parliamentary sanction, without reference to the Aborigines, has been given to the settlement of Southern Australia, as part of the possessions of the Crown.
The Lieut.-Governor will have great pleasure, however, in forwarding your report to His Majesty’s Government, and in representing the enterprise manifested by yourself, the respectability of the parties interested in the undertaking, and the humane consideration which His Excellency is informed it is their intention to extend towards the Aboriginal inhabitants of Iramoo, but which justice and humanity alike require as a preliminary in the occupation of every new country; but at the same time the Lieut.-Governor would remark, for the reasons he has assigned, that he considers it would not be prudent in the gentlemen associated with you to incur expense in any reliance upon a confirmation from the Crown of your title to the land under the agreement into which you have entered; an opinion which His Excellency cannot avoid expressing although he is very sensible that the colonization of the country you have examined would, on account of its proximity, be highly conducive to the prosperity of Van Diemen’s Land.
I am also to observe that in reference to the application of Mr. Henty to be allowed, under certain conditions, to locate a grant of land on the Southern Coast of New Holland, His Majesty’s Government declined to accede to his proposal, conceiving that to have done so would be to deviate from the principles involved in the Act for the Settlement of Southern Australia.
I remain &c. &c.
4th July 1835
The transcript of Col. Arthur’s communication to the Secretary of State:
The Right Hon. T. Spring Rice, &c. &c.
Van Diemen’s Land, Government House,
4th July, 1835.
SIR—I have the honour to enclose for your information the copy of a letter which I have received from Mr. John Batman, a settler in this Colony, who has recently visited the opposite Coast of New Holland,—examined a portion of the country in the vicinity of Port Phillip—and on behalf of an Association, of which it appears he is the agent, purchased 600,000 acres of land from one of the Native Tribes.
The settlement of this district would unquestionably be highly advantageous to Van Diemen’s Land. Its extensive plains, and rich pastures are capable of supporting large herds of cattle and sheep,—and as the distance between the two ports might be traversed by a steam boat in about twenty-four hours, it might very rapidly be covered with flocks and herds from this Colony—indeed I have no doubt that the foundation would soon be laid for a very beneficial intercourse between the two countries.
It would afford me therefore, great pleasure were the facilities which might be afforded by this Government rendered availing in the settlement of this very valuable territory,—which might I submit, with a view to economy, be placed temporarily under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land.
As regards the request of the Association that their feoffment in the land in question by the Aborigines should be confirmed by the Crown, I am constrained, notwithstanding the great respectability of the gentlemen interested in the arrangement, to observe that it does not appear to me that it can be advocated on any valid grounds.
The land was taken possession of by Col. Collins for the Crown previous to the settlement of Van Diemen’s Land,—and subsequently, by Captain Wright in 1826, when a Military Post was, for a period, established there:—Messrs. Hovell and Hume, moreover, of whose journey I have an imperfect account before me—explored the country in 1824 and 1825.
It appears, also, from a comparison of the descriptions given by Messrs. Hovell and Hume,—and Mr. Batman, that they had met with several tribes in the same district, who distinguished it by different names,—a circumstance which would render the original ownership doubtful, even were it true in contemplation of law, that a migratory savage tribe, consisting of from, perhaps, 30 to 40 individuals, roaming over an almost unlimited extent of country, could acquire such a property in the soil as to be able to convey it so effectually as to confer to the purchasers any right of possession which would be recognized in our Courts of law.
In order, however, that the subject may be fully before His Majesty’s Government, I have thought it proper to transmit a copy of the Deed of transfer which was executed by the native Chiefs.
Mr. Batman is an enterprising settler—he has acted with prudence as well as humanity, in making it his first effort to conciliate the native tribe with whom he negotiated, and I trust that the good feeling which he appears to have established will be perpetuated—were a liberal grant of land given him in the country he has explored I think the gift would be well bestowed;—but as regards the confirmation of his treaty with the natives, I have plainly told him I could not hold out the slightest prospect of its being favourably considered; and the Colonial Secretary has addressed to him the letter of which the accompanying is a copy, wherein you will perceive that, I have refrained from encouraging the hope that the scheme of Association would be successful, so far, at least as the investiture of the land in question.
As the Company will probably proceed at once to take possession, and as other individuals may follow their example for the purpose of occupying the adjoining land on the sea Coast—I cannot, I most respectfully submit, be made acquainted at too early a period, with the views, which His Majesty’s Government entertain upon this very important subject. I have the honour to be, sir,
Your most obedient humble servant,
10th August 1835
The following transcript is of a letter from John Wedge to John Batman whilst on his surveying expedition to Port Phillip:
10 Augt. 1835
Your brother has written so fully to you that it is unnecessary for me to write at length to you, as I fully concur in what he has said.
I hope you and the rest of the Gentlemen will agree in the propriety of sending more provisions to be issued in daily rations to the natives this will, I am quite satisfied, make permanent the friendly intercourse you established on your recent trip I have written very fully to Simpson on this subject, in order that he may bring the matter under the immediate consideration of the Gentlemen at Hobart Town. I hope the supply will be sent without delay, as the stores that are here will not last any length of time. As I intend my letter to Simpson for the information of all concerned I have sent it open under cover to Connelly to be forwarded by him to Hobart Town in order that those at Launceston may be made acquainted with its contents.
Buckley, of whom your brother has given you an account, will be of essential service to us, and I hope that you and all concerned will do your utmost to back the Petition for his free pardon if it should be refused, he will probably take to the bush again and in that event there is no knowing the extent of bloodshed that might follow. As an act of humanity towards those who may reside here his free pardon ought to be granted especially when combined with the consideration of the probability of the utility he will be of in furthering our object in bringing these benighted beings into a state of civilization, and from darkness to the light of the Gospel.
It is unnecessary for me to add more than that your brother is exerting himself & doing all you could wish
Such a Voyage!!!
With kind remembrances to the old lady and her clutch
Yours very truly
J H Wedge
28th August 1835
The following transcript is a correspondence from Governor Arthur to Lord Glenelg dated 28th August, 1835:
Since I had the honour to address the Secretary of State on the 4th ultimo upon this subject—(Batman’s enterprise)—it has come out that the Association have made overtures to His Majesty’s Government through friends in England. The country they seek to possess is not within the Territory of Van Diemen’s Land, and I have therefore no right to complain of the course they have pursued;—on the contrary, I beg to do them the justice to say that they are a very respectable, and in respect of pecuniary matters, responsible body—but at the same time, I cannot avoid expressing the hope that this fine tract of country may not be ceded to them to be converted into a sheep-walk, and cattle-run by absentee proprietors.
I have not seen any copy of Sir Richard Bourke’s Commission, and therefore do not know whether Port Phillip is included within His Excellency’s jurisdiction—if it be, all that is proper will be, I am well persuaded, speedily done for asserting the rights of the Crown;—but if the country be not within the boundaries of the Government of New South Wales,—then I recommend that a military officer be sent from hence, as a Commandant, with a small detachment,—and that a surveyor,—a medical officer—and a missionary be employed under him, with a few convicts of long approved good character as mechanics and labourers,—to form the Settlement—to establish a friendly intercourse with the natives,—and to duly control any ‘Squatters’—that an accurate knowledge of the country may be gained, and all the necessary preliminaries adjusted for its occupation under such regulations as His Majesty’s Government may deem most desirable;—by this means, at a very trifling expense, which may be defrayed from our land revenue, the country may be occupied without those sad reverses which checked emigration to Swan River.
I have the honour to add in conclusion that I caused the Colonial Secretary to communicate with the corresponding Department in New South Wales on the subject of Mr. Batman’s expedition, but that I have not as yet received any official reply.
I have the honour to be my Lord
Your Lordship’s most obedt. humble servt.
1st October 1835
The following is a transcript of a letter from Governor Arthur to Lord Glenelg, dated the 1st October 1835:
In my despatch of the 4th July last No. 53 I reported the occupation of Dutagalla on the opposite Coast of New Holland by certain flock-holders in this Colony, and the probability of their being joined by others, in consequence of the limited extent of the pasture-lands of Van Diemen’s Land.
The proximity of this territory, and the circumstance that it presents great temptations to convicts to endeavour to escape thither, suggests the possibility that considerable advantage would accrue from giving the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land a concurrent jurisdiction with that of New South Wales throughout those districts, and from providing that, for the purpose of taking runaways, the warrants of the magistrates should be executed (there and in the Islands in Bass’s Straits) which might be done obviously without prejudice to the interest of the Government of New South Wales, though it, I now find, certainly includes Dutagalla within its jurisdiction.
10th October 1835
26th October 1835
The following is a transcript of a letter from Mr George Frankland, Surveyor, to Mr Secretary Hay from Hobart Town, dated the 26th October 1835:
October 26th, 1835:
I have lately received an interesting account of the Port Phillip country from Mr. Wedge (who lately resigned his post in my department on Colonel Arthur refusing him a month’s leave of absence). The natives appear very tractable, and open to imbibe any habits that may be inculcated in them. To be sure they are not of the most amicable manners,—the feeding on the flesh of their enemies, and destroying their children on a principle of economy being amongst their ordinary practices. Mr. Wedge has been teaching them to make baskets, by rewarding the industrious with increased rations. This is all very well while it lasts, but the first outrage committed by a white man will destroy the friendly feeling and then superior force must be the social standard. What will the King’s Government do with regard to these volunteering settlers of Port Phillip? I fancy that they will be allowed to keep the tracts of land they have taken, on paying some moderate sum per acre.
They cannot long maintain themselves there without a government of some sort,—and I suppose you will send thither a resident and a small government establishment.
It promises to be a fine sheep country but although there are many large rivers, streamlets are few, and it cannot be termed a well watered country. Of fuel the greatest deficiency exists and it is plain that even the first inhabitants will suffer great inconvenience from this disadvantage.
In the following transcript, Governor Arthur is informed of the views of the Colonial Minister:
Without entering at present into the question of the right possessed by the Chiefs who were the contracting parties to the territory of which they agreed to dispose, or of the justness and fairness of the terms of the arrangement, I shall simply advert to the practical question at issue; namely—the expediency of confirming the grant to the Association.
All schemes promoting settlements by private individuals or companies in the unlocated districts of Australia have of late years been discouraged by H.M. Government, as leading to fresh establishments involving the mother country in an indefinite expense, and exposing both the natives and the new settlers to many dangers and calamities. And there is so much of prudence and of justice and I think I may add of humanity in this policy, that I do not feel disposed to depart from it in the present instance.
The conduct of Mr. Batman towards the natives has been such as to make me regret that I find it my duty not to advise H.M. to sanction the proceedings of that gentleman and his associates.
Your proposal of forming a settlement in the vicinity of Port Phillip and of placing it under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Van Diemen’s Land requires and shall have serious consideration. At present I shall only observe that it seems to me open to some very serious objections.
28th January 1836
The following transcript of John Wedge’s description of Port Phillip is forwarded by Governor Arthur on the 28th January 1836 to Mr. Secretary Hay:
Description of the Country around Port Phillip.
By J.H. Wedge.
In traversing the interior of the country my attention was directed to that part of it from the northern extremity of the Port, round to the westward, including Indented Head and embracing about forty miles inland. In describing the country I will take the several parts in the order which I examined them.
The Peninsula of Indented Head first attracted my attention—its extent is about one hundred thousand acres. It is bounded on the west by the Barwurn, a river discovered by myself, which empties itself into Bass’s Straits, a few miles to the westward of Indented Head, and in its course passes within about three miles of the western extremity of Port Phillip. The Eastern part of the Peninsula for about four or five miles from the margin of the Port, is a low and flat surface, the soil being light and sandy, and well covered with grass, thinly wooded with the honeysuckle, she-oak, mimosa and eucalyptus. The land then swells into low tiers, and alternates with beautiful hill and dale. On these hills the soil is of finer quality, and the grass more luxuriant than the plains; these hills gradually decline to the westward in gentle undulations, and terminate at the Barwurn, in some places in steep banks, varying in height from thirty to sixty feet. It is a great drawback to the availability of the Peninsula that the river Barwurn is subject to the tides, and is consequently salt up to where it is joined by another river, about three miles from the western extremity of the Port; otherwise it would be one of the finest situations for sheep-farming I have ever met with. On the Peninsula there are many small water-holes, which afford the natives a supply of water, but it is brackish and of bad quality, although I experienced no bad effects from the use of it. At the junction of the rivers, above alluded to, the one coming from the north-west is called the Yaloak by the natives; the other coming from the westward I have named the Byron, into which about ten or twelve miles up another stream falls, which I have named the Leigh. These rivers pass through very extensive open plains much further than the eye can reach, and from Buckley’s information at least one hundred and fifty miles to the westward. About fifteen miles in a south-west direction from the junction of the Byron with the Yaloak is a lake called by the natives Moderwarrie, the intermediate country being grassy hills (called by the natives Barrubull) of moderate elevation, thickly covered with she-oak trees; and around the lake an undulating grassy country thickly timbered extends to the westward. On approaching the coast to the westward, the country gradually becomes more thickly timbered, and the quality of the soil not so good. The coast hence tends nearly south-west to Cape Otway, the country being hilly and thickly wooded, and from its appearance I should not deem it fit for agricultural pursuits, although it not unfrequently happens that very erroneous ideas are formed by judging of the nature of a country by distant observations. Near the northern extremity of the Port, and about three or four miles from it, two rivers form a junction, the one coming from the north and the other from the eastward; and their united waters are discharged into the Port together. Both these rivers are navigable for vessels of about sixty tons, for five or six miles above the junction. There is a bar at the mouth of these rivers which precludes large vessels from entering—but up to the bar vessels of the largest burden can approach and find secure anchorage. The country between these rivers extending to the north forty or fifty miles, and to the east about twenty-five miles, to a tier of mountains, which range from the back of Western Port in a northerly direction, is undulating and intersected with valleys and is moderately wooded, especially to the east and north-east—to the north there are open plains. The soil is a sandy loam and is generally of good quality and in some of the valleys very rich—the surface is everywhere thickly covered with grass intermixed with rib grass and other herbs. I think very highly of this part of the country and consider it to be well adapted for agricultural pursuits. It will be desirable to form townships at the head of the Saltwater in each of these rivers. The liver coming from the eastward is called by the natives Yarrow Yarrow.
The country between the river coming from the northward and the western extremity of the Port, and from twenty-five to forty miles inland, is open and partakes more of the nature of Downs, the whole is thickly covered with a light growth of grass, the soil being in general stiff and shallow. About midway there is a river falling into the Port which comes from the north-west. I do not know whether it is navigable any distance inland, as I crossed it in the first instance about twelve or fourteen miles above the entrance into the Port, and in the second a considerable deal higher up at the foot of a range of hills which bound the plains on the north-west; about Station Mount (called by the Natives Villamanata) the country is wooded, with this exception and here and there along the shore of the Port, and along the course of the river just mentioned, the plains are quite open, as much so as the heaths of Cambridgeshire, and I have no doubt they will become valuable sheep stations for breeding flocks, although it is probable they are affected by the droughts in the dry summers; but there is no country without its disadvantages, and I do not think it will be worse, nor indeed so bad in that respect as New South Wales, as it is more exposed to the south and westerly winds, from which direction the rains come. And as far as my observations went very heavy dews are prevalent.
The country to the north and north-west of these is broken and hilly and I am inclined to think from its appearance, it is extensively adapted for pastoral purposes. There is a great deficiency of timber, fit for building and fencing purposes, the want of which will be seriously felt in this part of the country, whenever it becomes thickly inhabited. On the whole I think favourably of the country for the general purposes of colonization.
During all my wanderings in Van Diemen’s Land I never fell in with an emu in its wild state—this pleasure was reserved till my recent visit to Port Phillip; I saw there on several occasions, altogether about twenty in number; I had not before a conception of the stateliness and grandeur of these birds.
There is not many kangaroos in that portion of the country which I examined, but those I did fall in with are the largest I have ever seen, and they are very swift of foot.
There are large birds of the crane kind, and the wild goose, black swans, wild ducks and teals, in abundance and they are all with the exception of the quails, very wild and difficult to get at. There are wild native dogs which appear to me to be a description of small wolf, and I fear great watchfulness will be necessary to protect the sheep from their depredations.
In a postscript to the Governor’s Despatch, Governor Arthur remarks:
” . . . the plan of the country which Mr. Wedge has presented to me—it will afford the Secretary of State some idea of the fine tract of sheep-land upon which Messrs. Batman have ‘squatted’—and I have great pleasure in adding that another still more extensive tract of fine open country has been lately discovered, situated between Port Phillip, and Portland Bay, where Mr. Henty has established himself without so far as I know any authority.”
28th January 1836
The following transcript is from Governor Arthur to Mr. Hay, dated 28th January, 1836:
Narrative of an Excursion amongst the Natives of Port Phillip on the South Coast of New Holland.
By J.H. Wedge.
On landing at Port Phillip on the 7th of August, 1835, at the encampment of the party left for the purpose of maintaining the friendly intercourse which had been established with the Aborigines of that part of New Holland, I found seven families of the natives residing in their huts around. The greater part of their tribe was absent at the time on a hunting excursion; but a boy came down with the white men to welcome us on our arrival;—an old man (Pewitt) and his two wives were at the huts, together with some young girls, who had been promised in marriage to the Sydney natives left by the first party. I soon learnt that the most friendly understanding existed with the natives—indeed I scarcely needed this information, for it was evident from the light-hearted playfulness of the boy and the cheerfulness of the old man, and the vivacious loquacity of the females, who came and shook hands with me on my arrival. They were evidently desirous to inform me by signs that the families who inhabited the several huts were out hunting and that they would come home in the evening.
On the return of the various families with game which they had obtained during the day, the members severally welcomed me by a shake of the hand and a grin in their countenances devoid of suspicion.
The only married female of our party, and her four little daughters, with whom the natives were much delighted—particularly attracted their attention. Although they brought home with them a plentiful supply of provisions, consisting of various edible roots, kangaroo rats and calkeit (the young ants in a fly state taken from hollow trees) yet they soon began to importune us for bread and other things, not even excepting the cutlery, from this I inferred at once that to satisfy their newly acquired appetite for our food and other things which we brought with us, such as knives, tomahawks and blankets, was a sure way of conciliating them. In this conclusion at which I arrived, I was fully confirmed by Buckley, who gave me a general outline of the characters of the different natives as they arrived, one of whom (Murradonnanuke) he pointed out as more to be dreaded on account of his treachery than any of the other chiefs. As one of the main objects I had in view, besides examining the country was to make myself acquainted with the habits and dispositions of the natives, I devoted the first few days after my arrival to studying their characters;—for this purpose I went out hunting with them daily and spent the greater part of my time amongst them; I soon satisfied myself that with a little tact and management, there was no danger to be apprehended from them, although I learnt from Buckley that in the treatment of each other they were treacherous. To command their respect I found it was necessary to make them fully understand that it was in our power not only to minister to their wants and comforts, but amply to avenge any outrage. In impressing them with this idea, Buckley was of great use to us by making known to them the ample means we had of furnishing them with food, blankets, &c. and explaining the object we had in view in settling amongst them, and our desire to be on friendly terms with them, which was mainly compassed by evincing a confidence devoid of fear in our deportment towards them, and by abstaining from any act which might lead them to doubt the sincerity of our intentions. I learnt from Buckley that they were cannibals, his statement on this head was confirmed by the two youths who attached themselves to me during my stay in New Holland, and who accompanied me on the several excursions I made into the interior, but they do not seem to indulge in this horrible propensity except when the tribes are at war with each other, when the bodies of those who are killed are roasted and their bones are infallibly picked by the teeth of their enemy; of this custom they make no secret, and on being questioned, speak of it as a matter of course, and describe the mode of preparing the victim for the repast. Disgusting as is this practice, the process of which is too revolting to commit to paper, a still more horrible one, if possible prevails—that of the mothers destroying many of their infants at their birth—the cause by which they appear to be thus influenced is the custom the women have of nursing their children till they are three or four years old; to get rid therefore, of the trouble and inconvenience of finding sustenance for two, should a second be born before the eldest is weaned, they destroy the youngest immediately after it is born. Although this explanation was given me by Buckley—and I have no doubt this is in most instances the case, yet some women perpetrate the murder of their infants from mere wantonness, and as it would seem to us, (and which is found even in the brute creation)—a total absence of maternal feeling.
One woman in particular, the wife of Nullaboin I think, was pointed out to me who had destroyed ten out of eleven of her children, one of whom she killed a few days previous to my arrival at the port.
Notwithstanding the increase of the tribes is thus kept down. Polygamy is common amongst them; few of the men having less than two wives and some of them four or more. The women as is the case with most savages are quite subservient to the men and are kept in excellent discipline—Chastisement promptly follows the least offence and a fire stick is not unfrequently the instrument of correction. The wealth of the men may he said to consist in the number of their wives, for the chief employment is in procuring food for their Lords. On one occasion I was witness to a scene that afforded me some amusement, although it was no fun to the four women concerned. My attention was attracted by the outcry of the women who were undergoing chastisement from their husband (Murradonnanuke) who punished them by throwing fire sticks at them in the most furious manner; on inquiring I learnt that the only cause of their offence, arose from the poor creatures not having brought home that evening a quantity of provisions sufficient to satisfy his insatiable appetite. In the regulations which prevail respecting their wives they have one which seems to have some connexion with, or similar to the Mosaic Law—on the death of a husband his wives, whatever be their number, become the property of the eldest of his brothers, or his next of kin. The men are jealous of their wives; should any intrigue be discovered, it would probably lead to the death of one or both of the offending parties, although if the husband receives what he considers to be an adequate compensation he is accommodating to his friends in allowing them the favours of his wives, and I have understood that these indulgences are always to be purchased by bestowing upon the husband a liberal supply of food. The women are not allowed to have a voice on these occasions, but must obey the dictates of their tyrants. I do not believe that infidelity is frequent amongst the women, unless sanctioned by the husband—during the whole time I was among them, I never observed any advances or levity of conduct, on their part, although it is not at all improbable that they are restrained by the dread of the consequences that would ensue were they to be detected in an illicit amour. In bestowing daughters for wives, they are promised as soon as they are born, and on these occasions the parents receive presents of food, opossum and kangaroo rugs, dubs spears &c. from the person to whom she is betrothed; and this arrangement is considered to be binding, although it sometimes happens that these promises are broken by the parents, especially when the man, who has received the promise belongs to another and distant tribe. When this occurs it creates a feeling of enmity, and it is not unfrequently taken up by the whole tribe, who make common cause with the aggrieved party. If therefore determined on being revenged they never lose sight of their object till they have satisfied themselves by a general conflict with the tribe to whom the offending party belongs, or it sometimes happens that the poor girl and the husband are singled out, and at the dead of night the unerring spear gives both a passport to that land where the inhabitants live without hunting. Their revenge thus satiated, again they become friends.
Although they are designated ‘savages’ in contradistinction to ourselves who are called civilized beings yet no people upon earth, in a state of nature so little deserve the appellation, if kind-heartedness has any influence in our minds in wiping away the stigma of our refined expression, which in this narrative is merely used for the purposes of description.
The men are prohibited from looking at the mother of the girl given them in marriage. This singular custom is observed with the strictest caution, on passing the huts of the mother-in-law, or any place where they suppose her to be, they carefully turn their heads in another direction, and evince great concern, if by any chance they should see her—although I am not aware of any penalty being attached to the offence save that of incurring the displeasure of the parents. On meeting with Nullaboin I took notice that a young girl who had just entered the married state carefully avoided to look at him for what reason I can’t divine, unless it was that the old man had been promised her first daughter. From inquiries which I made on the spot, I am induced to believe that feeling of enmity does not exist permanently amongst the different tribes, as it is terminated by a Battle Royal, something after the style of a row at an Irish Fair.
A short time previous to my departure a few men with their wives from an adjoining tribe came to that amongst whom I was living, with an invitation to join them in a conflict which they meditated with an adjoining tribe; they sent two or three young men to the tribe to the westward, inviting them also to join in their warlike excursion (or foray) on the occasion. I learnt that this hostile feeling had been created by one of these men having lost one of his eyes in a scuffle, with a man belonging to the Western Port tribe, this accident happened about eight months previously, and although the party who thus sought to avenge himself was the aggressor, having wounded his antagonist with a spear, he nevertheless had determined on having satisfaction, and had succeeded in inducing his own tribe and that with which I was living, and probably would influence the other also, to whom the embassy of the young men had been despatched to espouse the cause of his odd eye, in fighting for which some lives would in all probability be lost, and a few heads broken, without enabling him to see a whit the better. They also gave especial invitation to the seven Sydney natives, and requested they would take their guns with them. This of course I discouraged and I was not without hopes that they might be induced through the influence of Buckley to forego their intention of taking their revenge, although from what he said I concluded there was not much chance of such a result.
Buckley said the time of their meeting was very uncertain, that it might happen in a week or two, or it might be put off for some months, but that the collision was almost certain to take place sooner or later. In these conflicts it does not often happen that many lives are lost, seldom more than one or two, and frequently all return from the fight alive, and no other mischief is done, save a few heads broken, or an impression made on their coatless backs by a club or spear, so expert are they in avoiding the missiles of their opponents; all feeling of hostility ceases with the battle and cordiality again prevails till it is interrupted by the impulse of their feelings, which are extremely sensitive, in fact they are nearly as pugnacious as though their birthplace had been the Green Island.
Like others uncivilized and in a state of nature, they are astonishingly dextrous in the use of weapons employed by them in the defence of their persons, and in procuring food; and in tracking each other, as well as the kangaroo, and other animals they are very expert—the most trifling disarrangement of the grass, a broken twig or the slightest thing which indicates the direction of the object of pursuit is at once perceived by them, and they follow the track with ease at a brisk pace—on several occasions I witnessed their adroitness in this respect. In fact their perceptions in seeing, hearing, and smelling are surprisingly acute,—and in the pursuit of their game, they evince that patient perseverance so peculiar to man living in a state of nature.
Their food consists principally of kangaroo and other animals, fish and roots of various sorts, black swans, ducks and many other birds—and in fact there is scarcely any animal or bird that comes amiss to them—and many reptiles, amongst them a species of snake, come within their bill of fare. In their appetites they are quite ravenous and the quantity they devour at one meal, would astonish even a London Alderman, although they are not quite so fastidious in the quality of their viands.
I could not learn that they have any religious observances, and indeed from the information, I gathered from Buckley, I am led to believe that they have no idea whatever of a Supreme Being, although it is somewhat difficult to reconcile the fact of their believing in a future state, for they certainly entertain the idea that after death they again exist, being transformed into white men. This is obviously a new idea since they have become acquainted with us, and is an evidence that the friendly intercourse we have established with them, will by degrees operate upon their minds and gradually work an amelioration in their condition—of this being ultimately effected I entertain very sanguine expectations; and I think I am warranted in doing so by the result of the experiments I made to induce them to habits of industry, whilst residing amongst them. The men on several occasions rendered assistance in carrying sods for the erection of our huts, and many of the women were almost constantly employed in making baskets during the last week or ten days previous to my departure. In repayment for those and other services I gave them bread on the completion of their task, with which they were well satisfied and I have but little doubt if proper arrangements were made and attention paid that great progress might be made in a short time, towards establishing more civilized habits. Their whole time may be said to be devoted to procuring food during the day—all their thoughts seem to be directed towards ministering to their appetites, the women are the drudges of their husbands, and are seldom idle during the day, being for the most part employed either in getting the various edible roots, with which the country abounds, or in making baskets and nets and any other occupation dictated by their husbands.
Their habitations are of the most rude and simple construction, the materials with which they are made being the branches of trees laid with tolerable compactness and pitched at an angle of about 45 degrees—in shape they form a segment of a circle, and their size is in proportion to the number of inmates of which the family is composed.
In Conclusion . . .
There were many more correspondences between the founders of the colony of Victoria and the British governance, the last of which is best described in the following excerpt from ‘Early History of the Colony of Victoria’ by Francis Peter Labilliere, published in 1878, noting that John Batman died on the 6th May 1839:
Sir G Gipps, on July 30th, 1839, writes to the Marquis of Normanby, Secretary of State for the Colonies, with respect to Batman’s claim, which, the despatch states, had only resulted in the Government having “as an indulgence, consented to allow the materials of the houses, and everything else that is moveable to be taken away for the benefit of Mr. Batman’s family.”
The following copy of a letter from Batman is enclosed with the despatch:—
Melbourne, Port Phillip,
12th March, 1839.
To the Hon. the Colonial Secretary, &c. &c. &c., Sydney, New South Wales.
SIR,—I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 24th January last, respecting my letter to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State, applying to him to purchase the land at the minimum price, that I have made improvements upon, and where I now reside and have done so upwards of three years.
I herewith forward according to your request, copy of the letter addressed by me to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State, also copy of memorial forwarded through General Bourke applying for a grant of the above mentioned land, but which I found could not be acceded to, but that in all probability I might be allowed to purchase it without competition, and therefore applied accordingly.
I also have the honour of transmitting to His Excellency’s further information, a plan of the land and the improvements thereupon, as it was on the arrival of the Government here and as it is now.
I beg further to remark that I have imported at very considerable expense and trouble from Van Diemen’s Land and Sydney, upwards of one thousand fruit-trees of every description, which are now in a highly flourishing state and from which I anticipate much benefit to the Colony.
His Excellency will I trust perceive my case at the present moment to be one of greater hardship than it was prior to the present date, in consequence of the increase in the value of land at the settlement, thereby rendering me incapable of purchasing if such land is placed up to Public competition and from the various documents produced explanatory of my situation, I may perhaps venture to hope that His Excellency will take all the circumstances of my case into his most favourable consideration.
I have the honour to be, sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
(Signed) JOHN BATMAN.
A copy of Captain Lonsdale’s letter to the Governor, dated Melbourne, 6th May, 1839, is also given, in which nine queries respecting Batman’s land are answered.
In reply to the first it is stated that “in 1835 or the beginning of 1836, he,”Batman”, put up the wooden house he brought from Van Diemen’s Land upon the ground he now wishes to obtain”; to the second, that it was “included in the boundary described by the Association as the limit of their intended possession”, and that Batman had “received his share of the 7000l. equally with the other members”; to the third, that Batman has no actual right to have his case considered separately from that of the Association; he had, however, some sanction from Sir Richard Bourke, on his visit to Melbourne, for occupying the land, pending the consideration of his application for higher compensation, on the score of the extra exertion he had undergone and the improvements he had effected in establishing the settlement; to the fourth, that the value of the improvements was about 400l.; to the fifth, that “the house and about half of the stores were put up in 1835, or beginning of 1836, the men’s hut and barn in the end of 1836, and the remainder within two years, the gardens were formed in 1835 and 1836. The house is made of wood as also the kitchen, and are, therefore moveable”; to the sixth, it is answered that the land “is quite close to the South West extremity of the Town, in fact the end street runs through the original garden”; to the seventh and eighth,—”Some of the Town allotments which are in the immediate neighbourhood of this land have been sold at various and high prices, the upset price being 150l. per acre. From the position of this land I expect it would fetch as high a price as any of the Town allotments if it was laid out in the same manner”; to ninth, an answer is given explaining the plans sent; it is stated that Batman had occupied in the quarter indicated more than he could claim, “as part of it forms a portion of the Town of Melbourne”; and that the land “which would come within the meaning of the correspondence is the land on which the houses stand, the two portions marked on the plan No. 1, ‘Garden’, except that part which is in Spencer Street, and the portion marked in the same plan ‘Under Cultivation Fenced in’.
Captain Lonsdale concludes, “I beg to return your Excellency’s letter as you desire and the two plans, and to add that after a protracted illness Mr. Batman died last night.”
A copy of the minute of the Executive Council, dated June 7th, 1839, is also enclosed. After reciting the documents laid before the Council, including the preceding letter from Captain Lonsdale, the minute runs,—
“The Council, after perusing and attentively considering the various papers submitted to them by the Governor, are of opinion that Mr. Batman has not established any sufficient grounds for disturbing the question of compensation, to himself and the other primary settlers at Port Phillip, which appears to the Council to have been set at rest by Lord Glenelg’s despatch addressed to Sir Richard Bourke, dated 10th July, 1837. Under which circumstances they recommend that a communication be made to Mr. Batman’s representatives that his application cannot be complied with.”
A despatch to Sir Geo. Gipps, of December 16th, 1839, from the Colonial Office, then presided over by Lord John Russell, thus speaks,—
“I approve of your adoption of the advice of the Executive Council on Mr. Batman’s claims and of your having allowed the materials of the house and other moveables to be taken away for the benefit of the family of Mr. Batman. . . . before the land is given up to the Colonial Government.”
In a petition to the Queen, dated Melbourne, July 25th, 1848, and enclosed to Lord Stanley by Sir Charles Fitzroy in a despatch of September 6th, 1848, Batman’s widow, son, and seven daughters unsuccessfully applied for a grant of land at Port Phillip. They state that—
“John Batman in consequence of the exposure of his person, under all changes of weather and from sleeping many months in the open air, while engaged in traversing and exploring this country, contracted a disease which having confined him to his house and bed for two years, terminated his existence in May, 1839, at the age of thirty-nine years, leaving behind him a family of eight children, seven of whom are females of from eight to sixteen years of age and one boy seven years old.”
Batman and his family were certainly not generously treated. The Government—even after becoming convinced that the first founders of the new settlements had done good instead of pernicious work—seemed afraid of making even the most trifling concessions to them, lest these should be taken as precedents for other claims, which, from the exceptional positions of the founders, could not have been made out by any other persons.
As if to place salt on a wound, the government moved their offices into John Batman’s home on Batman’s Hill, so soon after his passing and without delay . . .
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