The visit to the Australian Colonies, a Narrative of which is contained in the following pages, occupied a period of six years, terminating with 1838. It was undertaken, solely, for the purpose of discharging a religious duty. During its course, the writer kept a Journal, in which, having been trained to habits of observation, records were made, not only on religious subjects, but also, on such as regarded the productions of the Countries visited, the state of the Aborigines, and of the Emigrant and Prisoner Population, &c.
From this Journal, the Narrative has been prepared, regard being generally had, to the point of time at which the record, was made ; but this has sometimes been deviated from, in order to give a more concise and clear view of a subject, and to avoid repetition. A copious Appendix is added to the work, containing a variety of documents, connected with subjects introduced into the Narrative.
The writer was accompanied in this visit, by his friend George Washington Walker, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; who united in the service, under the belief, that he also, was called to this work. Under impressions of religious duty, the subject was brought before the meetings for discipline, of the Society of Friends, to which the writer and his Companion respectively belonged ; and they received Certificates of the unity of these meetings with them, in regard to their proposed visit. As these certificates are introduced in Appendix. A. further notice on this point is unnecessary here.
A feeling of Christian interest, on behalf of a company of Pensioners, emigrating to Van Diemens Land, induced the writer and his friend, to make the voyage to that Colony, on board a vessel, in which a number of these people were passengers. In the Australian Colonies, J. Backhouse and G. W. Walker visited a large proportion of the country Settlers, in their own houses, holding religious meetings with such of them as they could collect, almost every evening, in the course of their journeys. These journeys were generally performed on foot; this mode of travelling being the most independent, and giving the easiest access to that part of the prisoner population, assigned to the Settlers, as servants. In towns, meetings were held for the promotion of religion and good morals, to which the Inhabitants were invited ; and many visits of a religious character were paid to Penal Establishments. To avoid repetition, the particular notice of many of these visits and interviews, is omitted in the Narrative, generally when nothing occurred to inform or instruct, of a character different from what had been previously noticed.
For the purpose of conveying more distinct ideas on various subjects, than could be conveyed by words, three maps, with fifteen etchings, on steel, and several woodcuts have been introduced into this volume. The one, at page 158, was inadvertently entitled, by the engraver, "A Chain Gang going to work, near Sidney, New South Wales," instead of, "at Hobart Town, Van Diemens Land." In many respects, this plate would correctly represent the Ironed Gangs of Sydney, or any other part of New South Wales, as well as the Chain Gangs in Van Diemens Land, or the Penal Settlements of these Colonies ; but it was originally drawn from the Hulk Chain Gang, at Hobart Town. For this error, and a few others, that will be found in the volume, some of 'which are noticed in the list of Errata, it is hoped that the reader will make due allowance.
As dates are of considerable importance to be observed, in works on newly-occupied and rapidly advancing countries, those of the month and year have been placed at the heads of the pages. Should any extracts be made from this volume, the writer hopes that they may be accompanied by the dates, where these have a bearing upon the subject treated of.
The Settlements on the south coast of Australia have made rapid advances since the visits here recorded, but as the writer was, in great measure, cut off from communication with the Australian regions, by a subsequent sojourn in Southern Africa, he apprehends that he shall not render his readers a service, by going out of the line of his own observations, and commenting upon these changes, respecting which, he supposes, that the public are in possession of better information, from other sources, than he has it in his power to communicate. For a similar reason, he has refrained from observations on some modifications of the Penal Discipline, of New South Wales and Van Diemens Land, which are of recent date.
In the course of the Narrative, the term Savages is sometimes used in reference to the Aborigines of the countries visited ; but it is only intended, by this term, to designate human beings, living on the wild produce of the earth, and destitute of any traces of civilization; and by no means, to convey the idea, that these people are more cruel than the rest of the human race, or of inferior intellect. A hope is entertained by the writer, that this volume may convey a measure of useful information, and excite some interest on behalf of the Aborigines, and the Emigrant and Prisoner Population of Australia, as well as suggest important considerations, in connexion with the relation of man to his Creator and Redeemer. Under this hope, and with the desire, that the perusal of the work may be attended by the divine blessing, without which, nothing can be of any real benefit, the volume is submitted to the attention of the reader.