CHAPTER VIII. THE EXTENSION OF SETTLEMENT
Baudin's expedition - Effect of French operations - Settlement at Risdon Cove - First Port Phillip Settlement - Foundation of Hobart - Settlement of Port Dalrymple - Napoleon's order to 'take Port Jackson' - Sea power and the security of Australia - The ASTROLABE at Westernport - Governor Darling's commission - Alteration of boundaries of New South Wales - Westernport and King George's Sound settlements - Whole of Australia claimed as British territory.
While Flinders was pursuing his explorations on the southern coasts of Australia in the INVESTIGATOR, he met in Encounter Bay a French vessel, the GEOGRAPHE, under the command of Captain Nicholas Baudin. It was known to him that a French discovery expedition had been despatched to Australasian waters, because, before he left England, a passport for its protection had been requested by the Government of the Republic and had been granted by the Admiralty. Nevertheless, the English navigator was much surprised to meet a foreign ship in these uncharted seas, and, being uncertain as to what her disposition might be, cleared the ship for action in case he should be attacked.
But Baudin was engaged in a perfectly peaceful, scientific mission, and no man less likely than he to lead an expedition with aggressive intentions ever commanded a vessel. Neither by training nor temperament was he the kind of officer whom the French Government would have selected had their designs been such as has sometimes been supposed.
The two commanders met in the late afternoon of April 8, 1802. Flinders boarded the GEOGRAPHE then, and again on the following morning, when he breakfasted with Baudin and had amiable conversations with him concerning their respective voyages. The French had left Europe nine months before the INVESTIGATOR sailed, and, had it not been that Baudin was singularly dilatory he might have forestalled Flinders in the most important of his discoveries. As one of the French officers said to him when they met again at Port Jackson, 'Ah, captain, if we had not been kept so long picking up shells and collecting butterflies at Van Diemen's Land, you would not have discovered the south coast before us.' As it was, the extent of fresh discovery made by the French was not more than about a hundred and fifty miles, from the mouth of the river Murray to Cape Banks, where Grant had come upon the coast in the LADY NELSON.
When the French expedition returned to Europe, the history of the voyage published at Paris was accompanied by an atlas containing a map upon which the whole coastline from Wilson's Promontory to the head of the Great Australian Bight was named Napoleon's Land ('Terre Napoleon'). French names were also given to all the principal geographical features of this great stretch of territory. Thus, Spencer's Gulf was named Golfe Bonaparte, St. Vincent's Gulf was named Golfe Josephine, and Kangaroo Island, which Flinders had discovered, was named, after the French Minister of Marine, Ile Decres. Flinders, at the time of the publication of this atlas, was held a prisoner in Mauritius by General Decaen, in the circumstances which have already been related, but the French officers knew that he had made these discoveries, and that his detention prevented the publication of his own work in advance of theirs.
In view of the bitter animosity and the jealousy existing between the English and the French during the Napoleonic wars, it was not unnatural that the appearance of Baudin's expedition in Australasian waters and the publication of a map with the name 'Terre Napoleon' upon it, should have given rise to the belief that the French Government intended to seize some portion of the continent for colonizing purposes. But such an inference is not warranted by the evidence. The reason for placing Napoleon's name on the map is not far to seek. Inasmuch as every other stretch of the coastline bore a name upon current maps, it was not unnatural that the French should desire to honour the ruler of their country by inscribing his name upon a portion hitherto without one, and the fact that they did so by no means implies that they entertained an intention of appropriating that region for colonizing purposes. It was a piece of courtiership, in recognition of the assistance which Napoleon had given in the equipment of the expedition.
Baudin's voyage was not political in origin, and he himself was not a naval officer. It was promoted by the Institute of France, a scientific body, for the study of a region of the earth in which French savants had for about half a century manifested much interest. There had been previous French expeditions commanded by Bougainville, Marion du Fresne, Laperouse, and Dentrecasteaux; and the purpose of Baudin's did not differ from that of his predecessors. Napoleon Bonaparte had been elevated to the head of the French Republic in 1799, after ten years of revolutionary strife, and he was, as he said, anxious to make his era illustrious not only for efficient government and brilliant feats of arms, but also for high achievements in science, art, and literature. When the Institute of France laid before him plans for a discovery voyage to the South Seas in continuation of other French voyages to the same region, he readily gave his assent and assistance. But neither the published history of the voyage nor the private papers connected with it which have since come to light justify the conclusion that he had any intention of settling a French colony in Australia, or that Captain Baudin made investigations with such an object in view.