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Art. I.—Two Years in New South Wales ; a Series of Letters,
comprising Sketches of the actual State of Society in that Colony; of its peculiar Advantages to Emigrants ; of its Topography, Natural History, Sc., 8c. By P. Cunningham, Sur
geon, R.N. 2 vols. 12mo. London. 1827. THE days are gone by when an author, to beget the serious
attention of his readers, deemed it a matter of indispensable necessity to procure the meretricious aid of laudatory epistles,' or commendatory verses,' from his very good friends and patrons. All that an author of the present time feels himself called on to do, is to state, in a brief preface, his claims to be considered competent to the task he has undertaken. Mr. P. Cunningham has modestly and satisfactorily acquitted himself of this duty: he has, it seems, made no less than four voyages to New South Wales, as surgeon-superintendant of convict ships, in which were transported upwards of six hundred convicts of both sexes,—whom he saw landed at Sydney without the loss of one single individual;a fact of itself quite sufficient to attest his judgment and ability in the treatment and management of a set of beings not easily kept in order. He has besides resided two years, at occasional intervals, in the colony, and has travelled over a considerable portion of it; he has enjoyed, he tells us, the society of the most thriving and respectable inhabitants of Sydney ;-and, lastly, he has had the fortune to be brought into contact, in a variety of ways, with the aboriginal natives.
With such opportunities of acquiring knowledge, and the talent of observation which he obviously possesses, it would have been difficult for Mr. Cunningham to produce any other than an amusing and instructive book.
We do not pretend to say that the perusal of his performance has added much to the knowledge of this colony which we had previously obtained from Commissioner Bigge's reports, and Wentworth’s recent volumes; but the information is conveyed in a more agreeable manner than in either of those collections, and in somewhat better taste than the latter of these gentlemen has thought proper to adopt:—not that we think there is much to be said in favour of Mr. Cunningham's style, which constantly sins against good taste and the sober march of narrative, by the too frequent VOL. XXXVII. NO, LXXIII.
introduction of low and vulgar phrases, hackneyed terms of the
fancy,' and coarse attempts at wit, not much calculated to please the generality of his readers, however indulgent they may wish to be in granting every allowance for the license of epistolary correspondence.
Our first impression was, and a more attentive perusal has not removed it, that Mr. Cunningham has rather overrated the beauties and advantages of this southern paradise, which ' a receptacle proves to spirits foul,' in assigning to it the palm of superiority over the United States of America and the Canadas, as an eligible asylum for an agricultural emigrant.' The reasons which he gives for this predilection are, that in North America there is no unlocated ground to be obtained within a thousand miles of the sea-coast; that wherever land is obtained, it must be purchased; that its produce must be sent by land and water-carriage from one to two thousand miles, before it reaches the place of exportation : wbile, on the other hand, in New South Wales, abundance of land may be had within from fifty to a hundred and fifty miles of the coast, upon terms neither irksome nor burdensome. Upon which we may observe that, if Mr. Cunningham had been as well acquainted with the British possessions in North America as he is with those in New South Wales, he would have known that, instead of a thousand miles from the sea, better land than any yet discovered in his favourite regions may be had on the coasts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the shores of the gulf and river of St. Lawrence, within one-tenth or even one-twentieth part of that distance, and on terms quite as easy as those he has so zealously extolled for their moderation.
Then, again, in America the forests are so dense that a cart can hardly pass them, while in New South Wales the land is so thinly timbered, that a carriage may be driven over it in all directions. This, no doubt, is an advantage for the new settler. In America, cattle require to be supported, in the winter, on hay; whilst the climate of New South Wales is so mild, that they may be fed through the whole of that season on the native grasses: and here too, we admit, is another advantage in favour of New South Wales. In America, moreover, labourers are so scarce, labour so dear, and agricultural products so low in price, that the settler, to obtain a moderate prolit for the outlay of capital, must perform all the field-labour by his own hands and those of his family; whereas, in New South Wales, labourers are plentiful and labour cheap. In addition to all those advantages, (and, perhaps, more important,) the healthiness of the climate of New South Wales is so remarkable, that there is no danger either of measles, hooping-cough, small-pox, ague, remittent fever, or, indeed, as our