From The Settlement at Port Jackson (1793)

Watkin Tench had been away from England for four years when a ship appeared off Sydney Heads:

The distressful state of the colony for provisions, continued gradually to augment until the 9th of July [1791], when the Mary Anne transport, arrived from England…I was of a party who had rowed in a boat six miles out to sea, beyond the harbour’s mouth, to meet them: and what was our disappointment, on getting aboard, to find that they had not brought a letter (a few official ones for the governor excepted) to any person in the colony! Nor had they a single newspaper or magazine in their possession; nor could they conceive that any person wished to hear news; being as ignorant of every thing which had passed in Europe for the last two years, as ourselves, at the distance of half the circle. “No war;–the fleet’s dismantled” was the whole that we could learn. When I asked whether a new parliament had been called, they stared at me in stupid wonder, not seeming to comprehend that such a body either suffered renovation, or needed it. “Have the French settled their government?” –“As to that matter I can’t say; I never heard; but d––n them, they were ready enough to join the Spaniards against us.” –“Are Russia and Turkey at peace?” –“That you see does not lie in my way; I have heard talk about it, but don’t remember what passed.” –“For heaven’s sake, why did you not bring out a bundle of newspapers: you might have procured a file at any coffee-house; which would have amused you, and instructed us?” –“Why, really, I never thought about the matter until we were off the Cape of Good Hope, when we spoke a man of war, who asked us the same question, and then I wished I had.”–To have prosecuted inquiry farther would have only served to increase disappointment and chagrin. We therefore quitted the ship, wondering and lamenting that so large a portion of plain undisguised honesty should be so totally unconnected with a common share of intelligence, and acquaintance with the feelings and habits of other men.

–Watkin Tench, English, 1758-1833

‘Port Jackson Painter’, View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head, c1790. (National Library of Australia)

‘Port Jackson Painter’, View of the entrance into Port Jackson taken from a boat lying under the North Head, c1790.
(National Library of Australia)

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