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their tall slender branchless stems to the height of seventy or a hundred feet, and then forming a large canopy of leaves, each of which bends gracefully outwards and then downwards, like a Prince of Wales' feather, the whole tree strongly resembling a Chinese mandarin's umbrella.
The species of palm most frequently met with in the low grounds of Illawarra is the fan-palm or cabbagetree; and in some parts of the district there are grassy meadows, of fifty to a hundred acres in extent, quite destitute of timber, and surrounded with a border of lofty palms of this most beautiful species. Another species of palm, abounding in the district, and equally graceful in its outline, is called by the black natives the Bangolo. The cedar of Illawarra I have already mentioned; the nettle-tree, which is also met with in the brushes, is not only seen by the traveller, but occasionally felt and remembered, for its name is highly descriptive; and the sassafras with its odoriferous bark abounds in the jungles. The lofty eucalyptus and the iron bark-tree, the swamp-oaks and the weeping mimosas of the other parts of the territory, abound also at Illawarra ; and the undergrowth of wild vines, parasitical plants, and shrubbery, is rich and endlessly diversified.
The first respectable settler fallen in with in the district of Illawarra, in travelling from the northward, is Mr. Cornelius O'Brien of Bullai, whose neat cottage, situated at the foot of the mountain, stands almost on the sea-beach. From thence to Wollongong, a boatharbour where the military commandant of the district has his head-quarters, and where the colonial govern. ment intend to form a town, the distance is nine miles. The path usually followed by travellers on horseback is along the beach, as near the water as possible, the wet sand being as hard and firm as a turnpike-road. I found it very awkward, however, to pursue this path. with the young spirited horse from the interior which : I rode on my last journey to Illawarra : for as the sea was breaking heavily on the beach, it left him ever and anon to his great alarm up to the ankles in white foam, and I was therefore obliged occasionally to wade through the dry sand beyond the tide-mark, or to strike into the forest.
There are a few respectable settlers in the neighbourhood of the settlement at Wollongong, but the , majority are of a humbler order. It is evident, how- . ever, from the natural fertility of the soil, that the district is capable of affording both employment and subsistence to a numerous agricultural population; and as the pasture at Illawarra is generally deemed less favourable for the rearing of sheep and cattle than that of the more elevated lands of the colony, it is evident that . the formation of an agricultural population was just the purpose to which the district ought to have been appropriated, and for which indeed its immediate vicinity to watercarriage might have proclaimed its peculiar adaptation to incapacity itself. It is mortifying, however, to observe, at every step in the colony of New South Wales, fresh evidences of an entire want of foresight on the part of . the former rulers of the colony, or rather of a most un-. justifiable disregard of the best interests of the commu-:
nity. For, instead of reserving the fertile tracts of Illawarra for the settlement of industrious families of the humbler classes of society, on small farms of thirty to fifty acres each, to cultivate grain, roots, vegetables, fruit, vines, and tobacco, and to rear pigs and poultry for the Sydney market, the land in this district has in
great measure been granted or sold off by the former Governors to non-resident proprietors, in tracts varying from two thousand to five thousand acres each. These proprietors will naturally suffer their land to remain in its present wild and uncultivated state as mere cattle-runs, till the increase of the population of the colony, and the gradual extension of steam-navigation along the east coast from Moreton Bay to Cape Howe, shall have rendered every acré ten times more valuable than it is at present.
Nature, or rather the God of Nature, evidently intended that the territory of New South Wales should become a pastoral country, and be devoted in great measure to the rearing of sheep and cattle. But there are particular localities on its extensive surface equally well adapted for the pursuits of agriculture; and it was therefore the bounden duty of the colonial government, in time past, to have reserved such localities for the settlement and use of its agricultural population. There are sheep and cattle stations already three hundred and fifty miles from Sydney, and the proprietors of the stock at these stations experience little or no inconvenience from the distance ; but it would clearly be absolutely ruinous for an agriculturist to cultivate grain or potatoes for the Sydney market at one-third of that distance over-land. It was therefore impolitic in the highest degree to alienate so large a portion of the fertile land in the district of Illawarra, in the inconsiderate manner I have described. Nay, so much superior was the land in that district considered by agriculturists of the humbler classes in the colony, to land of fair quality in certain other parts of the territory, that during the years of drought there were instances of persons of this class actually abandoning the land which they had cleared and cultivated, and of which they possessed the freehold in other districts, to cultivate a few acres on lease in the district of Illawarra : for, independently of the inestimable advantage of watercarriage and the natural fertility of the soil, the vicinity of the ocean insures a more frequent supply of rain in that district than usually falls to the lot of other parts of the territory, while the range of mountains by which it is bounded to the westward shelters it from the blighting winds that proved so fatal to the crops of 1828, on the Hawkesbury and at Hunter's River.
It was the knowledge I had gained of these circumstances--So favourable for the formation of an agricultural settlement—that induced me to visit the district of Illawarra along with a colonial surveyor in the month of April last, (1833,) to ascertain whether the tract of land, which had unexpectedly fallen into my own hands in that district, was suited for the formation of an agricultural settlement of from fifty to a hundred families--these families to be carried out for the purpose either from the mother country or from the South of France, and to be settled in the district on ad
vantageous terms, under the clerical superintendence of a resident Protestant minister of their own communion. The tract I refer to is situated about eight or ten miles beyond the settlement of Wollongong, and consists of considerably upwards of two thousand acres of the richest alluvial land-bounded on one side by a beautiful lake of eight miles in length, and by a navigable creek, communicating with the lake and the ocean, on another. The Surveyor pronounced the land admirably adapted for the purpose in view ; and on riding over the district and observing various other tracts that would doubtless have proved equally suitable for such a purpose, but which are now lying entirely waste in the hands of non-resident proprietors, I could not help regretting that the former colonial governors had thus improvidently deprived the colony of the means of settling a numerous and industrious free emigrant agricultural population, in a situation in which they could not have failed to arrive in due time at a state of comparative independence, and in which their virtuous example would have proved of incalculable benefit to the convict-population of the territory.
Adjoining the locality I have just mentioned, there was a settlement of veteran soldiers formed by the late colonial administration; the issue of which, I am sorry to state, entirely confirms the remarks I have elsewhere made, in regard to the improbability of ever forming an industrious and thriving population out of such materials. At the distance of a few miles, however, in a different direction, a retired military officer has lately settled with his large family, on a farm or small estate