Near midnight, on the 11th, we saw the red, revolving light of Sydney Light-house, and next day entered Port Jackson, and anchored in Sydney Cove. Much as I had heard of the progress and importance of this place, my astonishment was indeed great, when I saw a well-built city covering the country near the port. Not many days previously I had been reading the account of Governor Phillip's voyage to Botany Bay in 1787–8, and little did I think that, in forty-eight years from the first discovery of Port Jackson, a city, upon a large scale, could have arisen out of a wilderness so near our antipodes. In the account just mentioned it is stated that "from a piece of clay imported from Sydney Cove, Mr. Wedgwood caused a medallion to be modelled, representing Hope, encouraging Art and Labour, under the influence of Peace, to pursue the means of giving security and happiness to the infant settlement. The following lines, in allusion to this medallion, were written by Dr. Darwin."
"Where Sydney Cove her lucid bosom swells,
Courts her young navies and the storm repels,
High on a rock, amid the troubled air,
Hope stood sublime, and wav'd her golden hair;
Calm'd with her rosy smile the tossing deep,
And with sweet accents charm'd the winds to sleep;
To each wild plain, she stretch'd her snowy hand,
High-waving wood, and sea-encircled strand.
'Hear me,' she cried, 'ye rising realms! Record
Time's opening scenes, and Truth's unerring word.—
There shall broad streets their stately walls extend,
The circus widen, and the crescent bend;
There ray'd from cities o'er the cultur'd land,
Shall bright canals, and solid roads expand.—
There the proud arch, Colossus-like, bestride
Yon glittering streams, and bound the chasing tide;
Embellish'd villas crown the landscape scene,
Farms wave with gold, and orchards blush between.—
There shall tall spires, and dome-capt towers ascend,
And piers and quays their massy structures blend;
While with each breeze approaching vessels glide,
And northern treasures dance on every tide!'
Here ceased the nymph—tumultuous echoes roar,
And Joy's loud voice was heard from shore to shore—
Her graceful steps descending press'd the plain;
And Peace, and Art, and Labour, join'd her train."
In Sydney in 1836, all that was foretold in this allegory had come to pass, with one exception only, that of canals. It was always a country comparatively dry; and unfortunately the more wood is cleared away, the drier both climate and soil become, therefore it is unlikely that canals should ever be made there. This want of fresh water is the only drawback to the future prosperity of this mushroom city; which is now dependent upon a supply brought through iron pipes from a distance of several leagues. Mr. Busby, father of the resident at New Zealand, was the projector and executor of this aqueduct, but,—like many other really valuable things,—his useful work as ably planned as it was perseveringly carried on against uncommon difficulties, is but little appreciated, even by those who daily drink the pure water which it supplies.
It is difficult to believe that Sydney will continue to flourish in proportion to its rise. It has sprung into existence too suddenly. Convicts have forced its growth, even as a hotbed forces plants, and premature decay may be expected from such early maturity. Other rising colonies have advantages in point of situation and climate, which the country about Sydney does not possess; and if our government establishment should be withdrawn, from that day the decline of the city would commence, because its natural advantages are not sufficient to enable it to compete with other places in those regions, excepting while fostered by the presence of regularly paid government officers, troops, and a large convict establishment.
There must be great difficulty in bringing up a family well in that country, in consequence of the demoralizing influence of convict servants, to which almost all children must be more or less exposed. Besides, literature is at a low ebb: most people are anxious about active farming, or commercial pursuits, which leave little leisure for reflection, or for reading more than those fritterers of the mind—daily newspapers and ephemeral trash. It was quite remarkable to see how few booksellers' shops there were in Sydney, and what a low class of books — with some exceptions — was to be found in them. These few exceptions were the works usually called 'standard,' which some persons who buy books, for show as furniture, rather than for real use, think it necessary to purchase. Another evil in the social system of Sydney and its vicinity, is the rancorous feeling which exists between the descendants of free settlers and the children of convicts. Fatal, indeed, would it be to the former, if the arm of power were removed; for their high principles and good feelings would be no match for the wiles and atrocities of such abandoned outcasts as are there congregrated, and almost rejoice in their iniquity. Money is gained by such people by any and every means, save those of honest industry. By selling spirits, frequently drugged—by theft—by receiving and selling stolen goods—by the wages of iniquity—and by exorbitant usury—fortunes have been amassed there in a few years which would make an honest man's hair stand on end. But do such men enjoy their wealth? Does it benefit them or their children? No. Their life is a miserable scene of anxiety, care, fear, and generally penuriousness; they die without a friend and without hope.