Henry Robert OAKES , 1788–1842 (aged 53 years)
He migrated to Van Diemans Land in 1824 with his family where he took up a 2000 acre grant at Eastern Marshes.
THE VAN DIEMEN'S LAND SOCIETY
(Sent to us for insertion from the pen of a contributer.)
On Saturday last the 16th instant, the 1st meeting of the Philosophical Society, which has lately been established in this colony, was held in the Court house. The Lieut. Governor having been invited to attend, entered the room at 3 o'clock, accompanied by Mrs. Arthur, who with several other ladies honoured the inauguration of the Society with her presence. We were glad to to see upwards of a hundred of the most influential individuals of the colony assembled upon this interesting occasion, and we cannot remember ever to have witnessed so respectable or numerous a meeting in the same place.—(Our esteemed contributor could not have been present at the late lectures at the Mechanics' Institution at which the same Court House was crammed to the last corner with both the most influential, and the most useful members of the community.)
The President, Dr. Henderson, having taken the chair, the Secretary proceeded to read over the names of the new members, elected by ballot on the day preceding, and to report the result of the deputation to his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, whose gratifying reply was read.
The Chairman then commenced reading an address explanatory of the objects and character of the Society. He began by taking a view of the benefits likely to be derived from the Institution; and proceeded to remark on the present state of the natural sciences, particularly as regards their nomenclature, suggesting an entirely new system for introducing one general and determinate form of expression by which those who collected new plants, animals or other curiosities, though themselves at a distance from each other, might infallibly be enabled to give the same name to their discoveries. Calling the attention of the Society to the importance attached to a scientific acquaintance with all that is connected with the soil —its productions and inhabitants, he gave a sketch of the geologicial formation of this isle, and explained the notion that he had formed from the inspection of several parts. From this he proceeded to make many original and instructive remarks upon the bo- tanical varieties already discovered in this country, and to point out the numerous subjects of natural history that encourage the researches of the philosopher at every step. He stated many concise and appropriate remarks which, it appeared, had occurred to him during his residence in other countries, but to which it would be impossible to do justice without giving an almost literal copy of the address. He concluded his very able address by recommending that, on the formation of a Museum and Botanic Garden, a plan perhaps similar to the one he had proposed should be adopted, as a means of affording the members of the same Society one uniform and determinate nomenclature.
Dr. Henderson's excellent discourse was received with simultaneous and unanimous applause, crowning by its success those arduous and meritorious efforts to which we are indebted for the creation of this promising Institution. We are sorry that we could not follow him more closely through the whole of the essay, but as it will be published amongst the proceedings of the Society, it will not be lost to the public.
After a short pause Mr. Frankland rose, —After, said he, the very interesting address which you Sir have just read, it would be superfluous to enlarge on the objects and advantages of this Institution, but at the same time I cannot refrain from congratulating the present company, and the country in general, on the formation of a Society so well calculated to elicit its capabilities and to promote its welfare.
Many persons there are who consider scientific research merely as the appropriate occupation of a particular class of men who are supposed to devote their time and minds solely to theoretical speculations, unconnected with practical advantages; but upon better consideration they would perceive that not only the principal changes in the relations of the world, but also most of our ordinary pursuits, and most of our comforts are the result of scientific discoveries, and that reflection should induce every resident in a new country, where the field for discovery is of course great, to turn his attention to such subjects as he may have the opportunity of investigating.
Our very residence in this island may be termed the offspring of science, for it was the progress of astronomy and navigation which led to its occupation. Without that progress the navigators of Europe would still be creeping timourously along the western shores oí Africa, dreading every gust of wind that might drive them out of sight of the known land marks. That ideal barrier, the torrid zone, would still be deemed an insurmountable obstacle, and the fables of ignorance would still paralyze every effort to- wards geographical discovery. But the progress of science induced far more glorious results: it rendered the most ungovernable elements the very instruments of the will of man. Bold spirits, armed with those powers with which science supplied them, launched forth, and discovered New Worlds! The great promontory of southern Africa was passed, and the vast regions of the east were at once opened to the flow of European ad- venture and European industry.
The amelioration in the state of those nations of India which have become subject to England, is perhaps the most beautiful illustration of the practical effects of science that can be cited. These great countries which from time immemorial had been a prey to every species of intestine rapine and confusion are now, by the introduction of our institutions, resting in peace and security under the magic shield of their influence, and may, I think, be considered as gradually though slowly approaching the great era when they will embrace Christianity.
These, among many others, may be classed with the advantage which, as regards India, have sprung from the culture of science. Would that it were possible to trace her steps with equal satisfaction to this naturally favoured little island!
Science led to its discovery, but its discoveries instead of bringing blessings in their train have heaped ruin and destruction upon those children of misfortune, the Aboriginal owners of the soil—a people naturally amiable and intelligent, who with better treatment on the part of those who have come in contact with them, might have been rendered valuable friends, and have continued a happy nation! However, I should hope that there is yet time to restore that harmony which, but for the brutal inhumanity of white men, had never been broken; and surely no more glorious object could this Society propose to itself than that of acquiring to more intimate acquaintance with this much wronged people, with a view of ameliorating their condition, and of saving them from being extirpated from the face of that earth on which the Almighty had placed them!
Mr. Hone said, he was glad that his friend the Surveyor General had alluded to the Aborigines, as a subject towards which the inquiries of this Society might be applied. He lamented the estrangement which had taken place between Europeans and the natives, and remembered a meeting which had been held in the building opposite, (pointing to the Church) at which he had presided. Much had been said on that occasion, and much had been done since. He regretted that he did not see in this meeting an individual who had been active in procuring the assembly to which he spoke. He alluded to the Reverend Mr. Bedford, whose professional assistance he should be glad to see united with the exertions of this Society to- wards so desirable an object as the amelioration of the natives.
Dr. Turnbull remarked, that though Lavoisier by recasting the language of chemistry had given new life to that science, yet similar attempts had failed in benefiting equally the other branches of natural history. The President had endeavoured to supply this desideratum, on a new and unambitious plan, which certainly promised to be successful. He had declared war against the 30,000 arbitrary names of plants received in the nomenclature of botany, and had suggested the substitution of certain syllables and letters, of which might be compounded names expressive of the diagnostic marks of each particular plant. It remained for the President to apply these principles to the new plants discovered in the botanical investigatons of the Society, and should they work well in practice, most assuredly he will have conferred a great boon upon science. The opportunity was favourable the system could here be tried on neutral and untrodden ground.
Dr. Ross said, that he shared in the gratification which the Society must have experienced from the scientific and beautiful es- say that they had just heard; but he held a different opinion from their worthy President on one part of the subject on which he had enlarged. He alluded to the proposal of adopting a new form of nomenclature. He thought that the attention of the Society ought to be devoted in the first instance to the collection of facts, illustrative of the natural resources and productions of the island, rather than indulge in speculative schemes and new theories; that whatever new species might be discovered by the members would for many years to come readily find a place in the excellent classification which learned men had adopted in the old world. He denied, upon the testimony of his own experience and that of his pupils in England, that the study of Botany for instance could at all be compared to the labour of learning three languages. He acknowledged that like every other science it required labour, for nothing excellent in life could be obtained without labour, but in the case of Botany in particular, it was a labour accompanied with much pleasure; and a moderate acquaintance with the Flora of any country might easily be acquired, with the help of the beautiful arrangement and classically expressive terms of Linnaeus, in the course of a few months, in a single spring season.
In the evening the society met again at the Macquarie hotel, to entertain the Lt. Governor and other visitors at dinner. The company assembled in great numbers until half past six, when his Excellency, attended by his staff, arrived. In the absence of the Chief Justice and the Colonial secretary, whom circumstances prevented from attending, Captain Swanstin was prevailed upon to take the chair, and Mr. Frankland acted as vice.
We were glad to see assembled together upon this convivial commemoration of the society's establishment, members from all the influential classes of the community; and when Our Governor personally countenances, by his attendance, the congregation of so many different professions, and so much public talent, we cannot help taking from this an omen prophetic of success to the institution. Among the company we observed at the head of the table several members of the Legislative Council, Major Douglas and the officers in Garrison, the majority of the civil service, of the magistracy, and of the bar, besides many of those gentlemen who have visited our colo- ny from India, and a large proportion of our own body. A most substantial repast had been prepared. The tables which were arranged round the room were literally crowded with heavy dishes, and Mr. Cox had done his best to cover tbe table of our philosophers with the first specimens of our fish, flesh and fowl. We heard occasional complaints of the wines, but we attribute this to some recent desire of urging the future attention of the society towards promoting the cultivation of vineyards in the colony. The band of the 63rd regiment attended and enlivened the pleasures of the evening.
The usual loyal and patriotic toasts being drank, when the ladies were given, Mr. Oakes said, on behalf of the ladies, Mr Chairman, I rise to acknowledge the compliment that has just been paid, and to return thanks for the honour you have done to us," (a laugh.)
The health of Colonel Arthur was twice drank with great enthusiasm, first, as the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's land, and second, in his Excellency's capacity of a private gentleman, as the best friend of the colony, and life patron of the Institution.
Colonel Arthur then rose to propose a toast which he was sure would be received with pleasure. He observed, that when he was requested to become pa- tron of the Van Diemen's Land Society, and the objects of the institution were explained to him, he had great pleasure in complying with the application. Reflecting upon the arguments for and against the scheme, a very simple one satisfied his own mind that the institution ought to be encouraged, this was the conviction, that it might very probably do a great deal of good, but could in no way do any harm. His Excellency then proposed success to the Philosophical Society of Van Diemen's Land.
All the members present testified their thanks for this toast by the shouts with which they pledged it.
The chairman next proposed the health of Governor Darling, and the colony of New South Wales.
Ensign Darling shortly returned thanks on the part of his uncle.
The Vice Chairman, then, proposed a toast. We all remember, said he, that melancholy day, when standing upon the poop of the good ship, that danced beneath our feet, we strained our eyes to catch a last glimpse of our native land ; and not less so the many succeeding hours, which were occupied in looking over the bulwarks, and recollecting the many joys, from which we were quickly sailing away. Our hearts filled with these recollections, we then thought it impossible, that we could ever feel a permanent interest in any land but that of our early love. But these fears were changed to hopes, when we came and saw the richness and beauty of the country for which we had left our home, we found the soil productive of abundant harvests, the climate most congenial to our constitutions, the scenery magnificent and new, and the land altogether full of the most interesting curiosities. Who will deny, that his sensations, in making these discoveries, were joyous and at the same time preparatory to those of permanent interest in the place of his new residence? Such, I believe, are the feelings 0f all who hear me, and I propose to them a toast, which they will joyfully pledge, "Prosperity to the land we live in."
Mr. Mulgrave begged the Chairman to second him in a toast, which he was about to propose. The public had often witnessed the severe duties of their worthy Chief Justice, more especially at the present season. They had seen with admiration the constancy with which he had laboured for their rights, and the uprightness with which he had always settled them. They had also to congratulate themselves on the talents and honourable bearing of those gentlemen who form the bar of this colony, and he was sure they would gladly drink, "The Chief Justice and the Bar of Van Diemen's Land;"
Mr. Solicitor General Stephen said, that on the part of the Chief Justice, who was prevented by fatigue, incurred in the cause of the public, from attending himself, he returned thanks; and that, while returning similar thanks for his colleagues and himself, he felt that he could not too feelingly ac- knowledge the liberality of this company, who had so generously drank so awful a toast. (A laugh.)
When the health of the 63rd. Regiment was given, by the Chairman, Major Douglas, in returning thanks, wished that the Report might be true, that the regiments who came to these colonies, were to finish their foreign service in them without re- moving to India ; for, so pleased had he been with Van Diemen's Land, that he should prefer spending as long a period as possible in this country. (hear, hear.)
The Vice President said, that a body of brave and estimable men was on the point of leaving our shores. The ship that was to convey them to the country, whither their duty led them, was lying in our little cove, ready to loosen her sails. During their residence of four or five years, we had all, more or less, formed with them connexions of friendship or relationship ; and be trusted, that they would sometimes look back with regret to the period, which they had spent with us; and that, when they beheld the mimosas of the jungles of Belgaum, and when they saw the sublime Ghants of Goa. they would remember the wattles of Van Diemen's Land, and they would think of Mount Wellington and Ben Lomond. He was sure that all the company would wish, that every happiness and success might attend the 40th regiment, and that they might con- tinue to reap the glory, which characterised their earlier career.
With these feeling, he proposed the health of Major Turton and the 40th regt.
Major Douglas returned thanks, on behalf of his departing friends, passing a merited encomium upon the gallantry of the corps. During the period of his own residence here, he had always experienced the most cordial and frank assistance from all the departments of Government, whenever his military duties brought him into contact with them. His bearers knew the distressing circumstances, which now detained the head of the civil service in his own domestic circle ; and that would give a feeling of deep sympathy to the unanimity, with which all would drink "The Colonial Secretary and the Civil Service."
The health of the "Civil and Military Services of the Indian Governments" being drank,
Mr. Prinsep said, that though deficient in voice, he would return thanks, on the part of the Government, which he was proud to serve, and the community which he had the honour to represent. He had been much pleased at the meeting of the Society to hear his friend, Mr. Frankland, propose, as a subject for their inquires, the character and habits of the aborigines of Van Diemen's Land ; for he knew, that to the researches of similar societies in India was to be attributed that knowledge of the native Hindoo character, upon which the laws of India, so long framed from temporary motives, were now modelled. The colony might congratulate itself, for having, in its infancy, raised a monument, which elsewhere has ever been a sign of advanced age and mature intellect. He promised, on his return to India, to report in Bengal the hospitality he had himself experienced, and the many temptations the colony contained.
Mr Hone anticipated much good from the present Institution, and after calling to mind various associations of our native land, proposed as a toast " our much loved Home" which was drank with great applause.
Mr. Stephen said the bar being already drunk (great laughter) he would propose the Mercantile Interests of Van Diemen's land, we are indebted to commerce, said he, for the greatest part of our prosperity—for most of our comforts—for the luxuries we now enjoy. My friend, Mr. Frankland, had talked of the difficulty of gaining a permanent interest in this land, but I am sure that a prosperous commerce is most likely to give it.
Mr. Frankland explained, that when he described the mind of the emigrant as unwilling to feel a permanent interest in any other land than Britain, he could not anticipate the temptation of an interest of at 35 per cent. (great laughter)
Mr. Gordon then gave the 'Agricultural Interests of the Colony,'—Cheers.
Mr. Oakes, 'As a humble Agriculturist acknowledged the compliment. I am myself, said he, an example of the good results of agriculture ¡n this colony. I came here, a poor man, shattered in health and under this pleasant climate,—look at me now, a specimen of health and longevity,'—(much laughter). 'The riches of the soil have also saved me from poverty. I can assure you, gentlemen that from the produce of my farm alone I support my own family, and from my own farming establishment supply all their wants without spending 50 pounds a year in clothes for my children. Mr President, I have been called Major' (a laugh) 'though I have never been in the army; but I can only say, that were I a Major in reality, I would soon turn my sword into a ploughshare ¡n this land of farms.'—Applause and laughter.
Dr. Ross showing the public advantage inevitably arising from such institutions next proposed 'Literay Societies in all parts of the World. '
Captain Swanstin said, "Gentlemen, I am as yet but a stranger amongst you. I did not come to spy into the nakedness of the land, but even had I done so, and had found it barren and a desert, it would still have been the height of ingratitude in me, received as I have been received and enjoying as I have enjoyed so much hospitality, had I not viewed it with a partial eye, and in my descriptions to my friends in other countries, thrown over its nakedness a mantle of verdure. But, gentlemen, your island required nothing of this kind at my hands. I found it in climate, in variety of scenery and fertility of soil to exceed my warmest expectations. I came indeed somewhat prepared by the accounts of former visitors to enjoy a fine climate and to see a fertile country, but the reality has exceeded my expectation. I am sure that I cannot describe in more forcible language the anxiety I feel for the prosperity of the Colony, than by wishing that cordiality, unanimity, and liberality may ever reign throughout this Island.
His Excellency then rose, and after passing some just encomiums on the Chairman, proposed- "The health of Captain Swanston.''
Before the cheering had become silent, the Lieutenant Governor again rose, and said he wished the Colony were stocked with 100 Settlers such as Captain Swanston, every year from India."
Dr. Brocke said the general mode of nomencla- ture adopted by scientific men was sufficient for all their purposes. He conceived that the utility of the proposed Museum would consist in supplying a place at which the nature of all curiosities would be examined and explained. Botany, he considered, a very simple science, within the reach of the earliest youth. He concluded his address by proposing the health of "Dr. Henderson, the Founder of the Society."
Dr. Henderson briefly returned thanks—to the gentlemen, said he, who have kindly supported me in bringing our infant Institution into its present state, I cannot but feel grateful, and more particularly to the few who first combined and assisted in the plan. Long may the Society flourish, and many Anniversary Meetings may there be. During my future residence in Hindostanne, your attention will be impressed upon my memory.
Dr. Ross pointed out the importance of education as a means of promoting the ends of the Society, and called upon the members generally to advance its interests in the colony. To education, said he, we must look for the young members who, when we are gone, will support the institution and perpetuate its advantages to posterity. For this reason I would have all Schoolmasters members by virtue of their office, and this leads me to allude to the admission of members generally. The Royal Society of London, which we propose to emulate, according to the rules of the late President, Sir Joseph Bankes, admitted none but those whom he chose to term real gentlemen of independent fortune. He excluded even the learned professors of law and physic, be- cause they take fees. It would be improper for us to follow such a precedent in Van Diemen's land, where consistent with the true character of English- men our best and most deserving settlers are either ploughmen or shopkeepers in the real sense of the word and the more nearly they approach that character the more eligible I think they ought to be as members of this Society, which in order to attain the glorious ends it has in view, will I trust embrace and constitute the main Society of Van Diemen's land. There are many deserving individuals though in the humbler walks of life, who would be valuable members, and indeed there is no saying how rapidly an industrious and deserving man in this thriving colony may arrive at opulence. There is now a certain gentleman who is embarking from London with Mr. Thomas Peel to the amount of 10,000 pounds. in his speculation to Swan River, and he is also sending stock to that place to the value of 50,000 pounds from New South Wales, and I dare say we should be all proud of him as a member of our Society at this moment, yet it is not long since that gentleman sold lolly pops in the streets of Sydney. We need not however descend so low in the scale of the agricultural or commercial interest as this, although I think these branches ought to form the broad basis on which the grand structure of our Society is to be erected. I beg leave to propose as a toast,—" The progress of education.''
Mr. Prinsep having proposed the health of the Vice President Mr. Frankland, in acknowledging the honour done him, feared that he was indebted more to the partiality of his friend than to any merits of his own; from the first moment of his setting foot on the Island it had been his ambition to see a Society of this nature formed. For in all his wanderings in Europe, in Asia, and in Africa, he had observed that the principal beneficial changes in the state of mankind were the result of Associations like this, for the Ascetic in his Hermitage, whatever the power of his mind might be, could not communicate their fruits to his fellow creatures. It was the intercourse—the collision of men's minds which elicited fire. With such sentiments, he felt proud of holding the office of Vice President to such a Society, and he begged to return his sincere thanks for the honour they had just done him.
On the health of the Members of the Legislative Council being drank, Mr. Anstey rose and in a neat speech, in which he said the bad speeches of the evening had so filled him with terror, and the good ones with despair, that in the name of himself and colleagues he would merely return thanks for the honour.
The health of Dr. Turnbull, the Secretary, whom circumstances prevented from attending, and sev- veral other toasts, more of a private nature, were afterwards drank, when the Governor rose to take leave, amidst loud cheering and the music of the Band. His Excellency retired at about half-past eleven.
The Chairman having accompanied His Excellency to the door, returned, and once again proposed "Colonel Arthur's health " which was pledged with the most rapturous applause. The company broke up before 12 o'clock.