CHAPTER III. DAMPIER AND COOK
Cessation of Dutch explorations - Policy of Dutch East India Company - Dampier's first voyage to Australia in the CYGNET - His voyage in the ROEBUCK - Cook's voyages - Discovery of New South Wales - Botany Bay - Voyage of the RESOLUTION - Popularity of Cook's VOYAGES.
The Dutch having achieved so much, how was it that they did not complete the discovery of the whole of Australia? Why did the spirit of investigation which had animated Van Diemen flicker out when he was no more? The great Governor-General died in 1645, the year after Tasman's second voyage. The explorer himself lived on till 1659, but he was not again employed in discovery work, nor did he live to see his own brilliant exploits eclipsed by others of his nation.
The answer is that further voyages of discovery were discouraged by the managers of the East India Company, because they were expensive and did not produce immediate profits. Though the Dutch nation stood at the back of the Company, and though its managers and principal officers were appointed by the Government of the Netherlands, these managers themselves were commercial men. 'Merchants being at the helm, merchandise was accounted a matter of State,' wrote a contemporary.
Indeed, had Van Diemen lived a few months longer, he would have received a letter from the managers administering to him a chilling rebuke for the expense he had already incurred. Voyages to discover new lands did not increase the Company's profits. They cost money, and brought in no return. Van Diemen had hoped to pay for them by discoveries of gold and silver. There was plenty of both in New Holland, Van Diemen's Land, and New Zealand - mountains of silver and shimmering masses of gold, more than Solomon, Croesus, the Pharaohs, and the Grand Mogul together had ever dreamt of. But it had to be found; it was not lying among the pebbles on the beaches; and the black and painted savages who inhabited these countries knew nothing about it. They were not people with whom profitable business could be done. They were too low down in the scale of civilization even for barter. Why, then, bother about these remote and unremunerative countries? asked the commercial gentlemen in Amsterdam. There was sure profit, and plenty of it, to be made out of the nutmegs of Amboyna, the cloves of Ceylon, the rice of India, the pepper of the Moluccas, the cinnamon of Java, the silks of China, and all the other rich merchandise of the abounding East. Discovery was all very well, but it yielded simply nothing per cent.
Van Diemen would perhaps have been very angry - certainly he would have been sorry - if he had read the letter which came from the managers shortly after they received the news of Tasman's voyage of 1644; but he was dead before it reached Java, and was spared the knowledge of this official censure. 'We see that your worships have again taken up the further exploration of the coast of New Guinea in the hopes of discovering silver and gold mines there,' wrote the Company. 'We do not expect great things of the continuance of such explorations, which more and more burden the Company's resources, since they require increase of ships and sailors. Enough has been discovered for the Company to carry on trade provided the latter be attended with success. We do not consider it part of our task to seek out gold and silver mines for the Company, and, having found such, try and derive profit from the same, such things involve a good deal more, demanding excessive expenditure and large numbers of hands. These plans of your worships somewhat aim beyond our mark. The gold and silver mines that will best serve the Company's turn have already been found, which we deem to be our trade over the whole of India.'
There can be no doubt that some of the choice and ardent spirits among the Hollanders, in Europe as well as in the East, deeply regretted this relinquishment of all effort that did not bring in gain. Witsen, the principal director of the Company at the end of the seventeenth century, said in a letter: 'It is money only, not learned knowledge, that our people go out to seek over there, the which is sorely to be regretted.' But he and his like could not change the general disposition of his colleagues and countrymen. For the Dutch, henceforth, New Holland was simply a land which they sighted in voyaging to and from the East Indies. The vast coastline may have excited their curiosity, but did not prompt them to investigate the resources of the country. They never saw the coasts which were most inviting in appearance, those of the south and the east. They only looked upon the west and the north, and carried away impressions of sterility.
In 1688, while King James II was still reigning in England, the shores of Australia received a visit from a company of buccaneers who included an Englishman with a talent for picturesque writing and an inborn love of adventure - William Dampier. He and his companions on the CYGNET (Captain Swan) had been pursuing a career of sheer piracy in the China seas. They had stolen the very ship in which they sailed, and had committed such offences as would have justified the Spaniards, if they had been caught, in giving each of them sufficient rope with a noose at the end of it, and sufficient yard-arm accommodation, to end their most nefarious courses. But it would have been a pity if Dampier had met with that fate, since it would have deprived posterity of a very delightful book of travels. There were quite good reasons why the CYGNET should for a while get out of the way of ships which might be looking for her; so her company determined to sail to the quiet region of New Holland, 'to see what that country would afford us.'