07 February 2009

In the Eastern Marches

Originally this area was settled by the French, who established several whaling and fishing ports on the coast. Tales of large tracts of reasonable farming land were brought home and some 100 French families had moved to the new land by 1661. Louis XIV then offered his "Wild Geese", the Scots and Irish followers of James Stuart, the opportunity to settle there. His plan had the merits of decreasing the amount of intrigue in play around his court and also removed a possible source of recruits from his rival Spanish and Austrian crowns. In 1691 the first colonists landed, led by one Terence Patrick O'Gabhain, a former captain in the Dillon Infantry. A sizeable contingent of French, mainly from Gascony and Burgundy, accompanied the Wild Geese on their migration.

The new colonists found the land to be both more fertile, but also more forbidding, than they had anticipated. For the Irish the large numbers of deadly snakes and spiders were especially daunting, but the area to the west of the mountains provided perfect land for growing wheat, barley and other cereals. The well watered coastal regions offered good land for dairy cattle and vegetable crops, such as potatoes and beet. In 1700 a Spanish ensign, John McArthur, was injured in a duel and forced to resign his commision. His family having managed crofters and shepherds, he brought some merino sheep with him from Spain and started wool production. The climate proved to be very suitable for such an enterprise and McArthur was soon joined by others.

The War of the Spanish Succession had an immediate impact on the colony. As the French treasury was being depleted by the war in Europe, taxes were being increased every time a new ship arrived from France. With no French troops to protect them, bar two companies of French militia guarding a penal colony at Port McQuarie ("The Devils Garden"), the settlers also had to deal with attacks from natives and raids by British and Dutch ships.

The settlers became restless. Very highly taxed, but with no benefits offered by France, dissatisfaction was growing.

In 1704 rumours started that the colony was to be transferred to the British crown as part of the war settlement. News of the successes of Eugene and Marlborough had reached the colony, so the rumours were believed. Two wealthy gentlemen from the RNS, Geoff Whitlam and Johannes Pietersen, started the rumours and then urged the colony to throw off the French crown and join the republic. In February 1705 the leading families asked the Governor for a reduction in taxes, hinting that refusal would see widespread unrest. The governor responded by bringing in four companies of troops, from French colonies in the Americas. The troops landed in December of 1706 and promptly arrested Whitlam, Pietersen and the men of the leading families around the capital, Roisoliel.

This sparked a general uprising. The colonists attacked the barracks and prison, freeing the men and causing some casualties to the troops. The governor was able to send a mesage to the penal colony at Port McQuarie, recalling the two companies of French militia based there as prison guards. The colonists withdrew when they landed.

Considering the uprising to have been broken, if not crushed, the governor gathered his six companies and planned his next moves. The hot summer months were considered to be inappropriate for European troops to conduct marches, so the governor paid the local tribes to raid the properties of those he considered to be the ringleaders. In doing so he inadvertently sent the natives against men who had been undecided about joining the rebellion. One of these, Murray O'Donnell, was an experienced senior officer, having served with both France and Austria. He promptly offered his services to the rebels and was accepted as their leader. Meanwhile Whitlam had sent messages to the RNS, asking for assistance.

The 4th (now McLeod) Regiment of Foot was sent to the colonists' aid in two ships, each carrying one battalion. One ship, the Khota Maru, struck the huge reef on the NE coast of the continent, half the troops being lost in the wreck. The rest made it ashore and began the long trek south, having running battles with both the natives and the forces of the Holy Kingdom, who objected to their passing through their lands. Short of weapons and ammunition, the troops were forced to surrender and were imprisoned, sparking yet more diplomatic turmoil between the the two nations.

The other ship, the Conchin, disembarked at Thirroul, south of Roisoliel, on 25th April, 1707. The battalion was met by O'Donnell and quickly marched north. On the march native scouts reported that the French troops, with a large body of unfriendly natives, were approaching. O'Donnell set up an ambush and the native scouts were able to dispatch their opposite numbers. Unwittingly the governor, the Marquis de la Perouse, marched into the ambush with five companies of troops and his two pieces of artillery. The RNS battalion, drawn up in the bush on the west of the road, stood up, advanced five paces and fired a devastating volley into the French column.

Losing 60 percent of their men, their CO and the governor, the French troops broke. The natives turned to attack but, immediately seeing the reality of the situation, all sat down and turned their backs to the carnage, signifying their having ceased hostilities. The French survivors were chased back to the capital, where an immediate assault of the governor's compound captured the remaining company of troops.

The ambush was grandly titled the Battle of Bulli.

On 01 July 1707 the Eastern Marches declared their independence from France and on 14 July 1707 the Treaty of Union with the RNS was signed.

The many colonists of French and Basque blood, who had settled in the cooler southern highlands of the colony, at first ignored the move to independence. But tensions rose with the first attempt by France to reconquer the Eastern Marches and, in 1712, the French population decided to attempt to break with the RNS and re-establish their area as part of France. A sharp skirmish, involving a battalion of the 5th (Robertson) Regiment of Foot and two squadrons of the 4th Dragoons, decided the colonists to strike south, though honours were even between the two forces. The colonists were hopeful that they could seize the nearly empty coastal area between Port Eden and Lakes Entrance. The savage reaction to their incursion by the Holy Mormoan Kingdom was unexpected and few survivors made the return to the Eastern Marches. They were more surprised to be welcomed back, cared for and given new land grants, not realising the RNS government was using their plight in an attempt to divert King Louis' attention towards the Holy Kingdom.

France had at first refused to recognise her colony's independence. Three attempts to bring their colony back under the crown were made in 1710, 1713 and 1717. The first two fleets had the misfortune to try to run the northern coast of New Holland in the month of December, with the result that the majority of the ships were sunk in storms. The survivors who reached the RNS were given simple choices- the officers could remain as colonists or return to France. The troops could join the RNS forces and receive land grants or be sent to work in the Kimberly mines. Nothing is recorded of the fate of those who landed in the unoccupied territories, though an officer who made his way to Java reported that the natives were both fierce and cannibals.

The 3rd fleet, bearing six battalions of infantry and eight guns, landed at Port McQuarie on 01 June 1717. At first the fleet seemed to have totally surprised the RNS with their appearance. They suffered no opposition as they sailed into port and could see the citizens of the town fleeing to the hills beyond the port. But as the troops were assembling on the docks after disembarking, they were raked by cannister from four guns hidden in warehouses near the docks. At the same time three battalions, two from the 3rd (now Townsville) and one from the 5th (Robertson) Regiments of Foot, opened fire from the streets and warehouses. The French, weapons not yet loaded, tired from a long sea voyage and having taken many casualties, laid down their arms. The usual terms were given and a special clause, deleting any reference to the 3rd Regiment being present (the French were shocked and ashamed to see that the majority of the troops who fired on them were female), was agreed to.

At this disaster the French crown admitted defeat, acknowledging that retaining the colony was beyond its current means. But the provisions that the RNS supply troops to support settler parties when required (at the usual rate of hiring those troops), the penal colony at Port McQuarie remain in operation until 1750 and that French settlers and troops be allowed to pass through the Eastern Marches to settle other areas, were demanded.

The RNS reluctantly agreed, albeit with the proviso that French troop numbers be limited to one regiment of infantry at any one time, and the Treaty of La Perouse was signed on 26 January 1718. The capital of the Eastern Marches was renamed O'Donnell, honouring the victor of Bulli.

Current Political Situation

The People's Party currently holds power. The President of the Parliament is Kelvin Rapp, of whom it is said "that when KRapp speaks, that's what you hear!". As usual, the Party's "Let's have a spend up!" philosophy has put severe strain on the nation's coffers, so agents of the government have been sent to Europe in order to look for employment opportunities for the regiments. There are also rumours of tax increases.

Currently the mining companies and banking houses have the greatest access to the government's ministers, as they did under the former Conservative government. However it is understood that they have dropped their call to have slavery reinstated, in order to reduce operating costs and make their products competetive overseas, though at least one banking house is demanding that debtors be placed in indentured servitude.

The major religions are again pushing to have influence on the government and are seeking to overturn the "Missionary Laws", which allow citizens who are disturbed by missionaries/clergy/evangelists knocking on their doors to beat the offender 15 times with a rattan cane. They are also seeking to have their churches exempted from taxation (currently set at the business rate) and the right to build places of worship outside the designated religious enclaves (known as the "Miracle Miles" by the citizens). With the population apathetic to these moves and the politicians not wishing to allow religion more power than it has, these moves are unlikely to succeed.

Over all the population is cynical about politics. At the last election Gerald Dixon, a notorious bushranger and highwayman, was elected by popular vote in the Rostov electorate. He refused this "honour", saying he may be a thief and scoundrel, but he was not a politician. The government promptly doubled the reward for his capture.

No comments:

Post a Comment