|The United States Exploring Expedition - Visit to Sydney
The manner in which the American squadron ran into and took up a berth in the harbour of Port Jackson shows that we have slumbered in the same false security with reference to our distant ports as we have too long done nearer home. Having a fair wind and charts upon which he believed he might depend; though it was a dark night, and he had no pilot, the American commander boldly ran in.
"At half-past ten o'clock p.m. we quietly dropped anchor off the Cove, in the midst of the shipping, without any one having the least idea of our arrival. When the good people of Sydney looked abroad in the morning they were much astonished to see two men-of-war lying among their shipping, which had entered their harbour in spite of the difficulties of the channel, without being reported, and unknown to the pilots. Our arrival was duly announced by an officer, and through him I was informed that the Governor, Sir George Gipps, would be happy to receive me at eleven o'clock.
"In compliance with this intimation, I had the honour of waiting upon His Excellency at that hour, in company with Captain Hudson and our Consul. I made my apologies for having entered the harbour in so unceremonious a manner, and stated the reasons why I could not tender the customary salutes. (In consequence of having so many chronometers and delicate instruments on board.) The reception I met with was truly kind ; every assistance which lay in his power was cordially offered ; and I was assured that I had only to make my wants known to have them supplied.
"A few days before our arrival it had been debated in Council whether more effectual means of fortification were not necessary for the harbour. The idea of this being wanting was ridiculed by the majority ; but the entrance of our ships by night seems to have altered their opinion. Had war existed, we might, after firing the shipping and reducing a great part of the town to ashes, have effected a retreat before daybreak in perfect safety !!!!"
Some fortifications for the protection of Port Jackson and the town of Sydney have been erected since the date of this American visit may have been in consequence thereof.
Commander Wilkes expresses his gratitude for his reception at Sydney by all the authorities and residents in the warmest terms- " It was gratifying in the extreme, and cannot be too highly appreciated." New South Wales, he informs us, is known in the United States by name only, and he therefore devotes several long chapters to the subject. in which both aboriginal and colonial inhabitants are very fully and fairly described. The conclusion with respect to our colonial system to which the American commander came, is frankly avowed, and, is our opinion, a just one.
"As our departure drew near, one and all of us felt and expressed regret at leaving such kind friends. In very many places and families we had found ourselves at home, and were always received with a kindness that showed us we were welcome. The seasons, with many other things, may be reversed, yet the hospitality of Old England is found here as warm and as fresh as ever it was in the parent land. It would be impossible to mention all those to whom we feel indebted for various kindnesses and attentions, or even to cite those from whom the expedition received many accessions to its collections. Notwithstanding I have mentioned many things that have struck us as requiring great reform, yet the whole impression on my mind is, that it is a glorious colony, which the mother-country and the whole Anglo-Saxen (sic) race may well be proud of, and that it ought to claim much more attention than it apparently does from the Home Government."
We heartily wish that a majority of his countrymen thought and observed as Judiciously and wrote and spoke as fairly as Commander Wilkes.
SG & SGTL 18 Oct 1845
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